Check out our latest Fleet Action!

 

Part of USS Endeavour: To the Dark House

To Your Hunt

Ready Room, USS Endeavour
March 2399
0 likes 21 views

‘Whisky. Islay single malt, to be precise.’ Rourke put the tumbler on his desk in front of Torkath.

The Klingon picked up the amber liquid and had an experimental sniff. ‘This is what we drank last time?’

‘That was a Speyside. This is more peaty.’

‘Hm.’ Torkath lifted the glass. ‘To your hunt, then.’

‘I was going to drink to the mission you just helped me with.’

‘Why? That’s done.’ Torkath had a sip, and nodded approvingly. ‘The hunt to come? That needs fortune and support.’

‘I don’t know what our next move is. That’ll depend on what Intel have to say about this apparent location of the Wild Hunt base, and the rest of Commander Valance’s report. Until then, we recuperate and take stock.’ Rourke took a slug. ‘And drink whisky.’ The King Arthur and the Vor’nak had returned to Endeavour only an hour ago, Valance’s initial report read and sent up the chain not long after. ‘Which means I have to ask the awkward question.’

‘Dakor.’ Torkath sighed. ‘He is always a question.’

‘He attacked you.’

‘More than that, he attacked me while Mo’Kai agents tried to kill your officers, and kept me from protecting them.’ The Klingon examined his half-empty glass. ‘I owe you an apology.’

‘Don’t give me that “I dishonoured you by failing to protect your people” crap; everyone’s alright -’

‘No.’ Torkath did not look up. ‘I hid something from you and Commander Valance, because I thought it was not relevant. Because I am ashamed. My brother is a Mo’Kai sympathiser. If not outright their agent. It is why I raced to intercept him before your confrontation escalated. I did not think he would attack, but I offered your people protection in part because the Mo’Kai are strong in this region.’

Rourke let out a slow breath. ‘What are you going to do?’

‘This is the first time he has acted so brazenly. I will inform my father, but…’ Torkath shifted his weight. ‘He is ill. Very ill indeed.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘Thank you. It is no way for a warrior like him to die. But if I am honest, it would be better if he died sooner rather than later. As he lingers my brothers squabble. For their own dominance, over the future of the House, over the weakness of the Empire and the ascension of the Mo’Kai and our relationship with the Federation. And our vassals and followers fracture between us.’

Rourke nodded. ‘What can I do?’

‘Very little,’ said Torkath, and finished his drink. ‘Deliver a shattering blow to friends of the Mo’Kai. Pour me some more whisky.’

He did so, jaw tight. ‘Is there a risk your house will fall in with the Mo’Kai when your father dies?’

‘I doubt it. When he dies, I or Gotarn will rule, and keep the house loyal to the Empire. But without my father strong enough to make and enforce a judgement, dissent will fester in our space and along this border.’ Torkath picked his glass back up. ‘I would have warned you, but you are not in this region long.’

‘No,’ Rourke agreed. ‘When the Wild Hunt are finished, I’m done with Endeavour.’

‘And what then?’ Torkath squinted. ‘Passing on your wisdom at the Academy is the work of men longer in the tooth than you, or those of hearth and home. You have always been a warrior, Matthew. Perhaps not in the Klingon sense, but you have always marched forth and vanquished enemies.’

‘I had my last battle.’ Rourke frowned. ‘This one wasn’t my choice.’

‘We rarely get to choose them. And if you could, which would you? I thought you left to lick your wounds, and that was your right. Did you slink off to die, instead?’ Torkath sipped his drink and peered across the desk. ‘Am I speaking to my friend’s ghost?’

‘I’m not -’

‘If you go back to Earth, speak to your daughter and be her father. Surround yourself with family and comrades and uplift the youth with your wisdom. Anything else is finding a hole in which you can wait out your life.’

Rourke blew out his cheeks, then had some whisky. ‘Brutal as always, Torkath.’

Torkath gave a toothy grin. ‘If you wished for diplomacy, you should have spoken to Starfleet.’

‘You brought this up!’

‘Because you have been surrounded by Starfleet who will not give you the truth you need.’

Rourke thought about Sadek and wasn’t sure he was right. But he’d avoided this topic with her, too. ‘This crew expects their captain to come back. Going back to Earth is an inevitability, in that case.’

‘Going to Earth may be. Going back does not have to be.’ Torkath finished his second whisky and set it down. ‘I had best be going. The Vor’nak will need to ensure Dakor and the Roghtak do not cause more chaos.’

‘Then good luck to your hunt, as well. Family is… hard.’

‘It is. But Dakor is not my only brother who seems wayward.’ Torkath gave him a pointed look as he stood up. ‘Reflect on this, Matthew, and make sure you know your own path. That, after all, is all I ask of you: to move forward.’

* *

‘…so I’m thinking, “Oh, shit, we just sent the XO off to die in ritual combat,”’ Cortez said, beer in hand, ‘and then she moves like a shot, quicker than you can see, stabs Korta in the arm, flips him down… total badass.’

‘And I missed it?’ Drake said, incredulous. ‘You made me patch up the King while you, the Chief Engineer, wandered off to just watch the trial by combat?’

‘Perks of rank, I guess,’ said Cortez, airily taking a sip.

‘So let me get this straight.’ Kharth leaned across their table in Endeavour’s lounge. ‘You had reason to believe this Korta was a terrorist but the only way you could do anything about it was in formal combat?’ She rolled her eyes. ‘Klingons.’

‘See, this is why you weren’t brought along,’ Cortez pointed out. ‘Or there’d have been a hate crime.’

‘That’s because I’m Romulan. Not because I’m sarcastic.’

‘If Klingons stab you for being sarcastic, that’s not a hate crime,’ said Drake. ‘Those are just consequences.’

Kharth rolled her eyes, fighting a smirk. ‘Anyway, Cortez, when did you become the XO’s big fan? I thought she hated you.’

‘They got drunk together on the Klingon ship,’ said Drake, knowing full-well that nothing of the sort had happened. He did know something was worth teasing, though.

‘No! I got drunk with the engineer. She just got me to bed.’ Cortez paused, and flushed. ‘I mean. ‘Cos I was drunk -’

Kharth lifted a hand. ‘I don’t want to know. Klingon space changed you.’

‘You’d have hated it,’ Cortez said.

I hated it,’ said Drake. ‘You got a cool adventure with a Klingon dinner party and a Klingon ritual combat and negotiating with Orions. I got stuck on a runabout for a week and almost blown up.’

‘With Thawn, no less,’ drawled Kharth.

Drake shifted his weight. ‘Yeah, well, she’s alright.’

Kharth narrowed her eyes. ‘Klingon space changed you, too.’

‘Sometimes first impressions can be deceiving,’ chattered Cortez. ‘Sometimes to change that you need risks to life and limb, or to watch them being a total badass in form-fitting armour -’

Definitely don’t want to know.’

But Drake had spotted someone else enter the lounge, and grabbed his drink. ‘Catch up with you later.’

‘You two used to be fun!’ Kharth called after him.

There had been no chance to talk on the flight back from T’lhab, so this was the first time he’d seen Thawn outside of a confined space since the fight. He caught her at the bar, bouncing onto the stool next to her. ‘Buy you a drink?’

She looked startled. ‘Uh, I’m meeting Elsa in about ten minutes…’

‘Then you have to drink something for the next ten minutes. It’s not like I’m actually paying for it. And you can put up with me until then.’ He waved down the bartender, and she ordered anyway. He glanced over and looked at the loose collar of her uniform. ‘Did you just come off a shift?’

‘Of course.’

‘Valance said she wouldn’t schedule us in for another 48 hours after the mission.’

‘I had work to catch up on.’ She took her small glass from the bartender with a polite smile and had a sip. ‘I don’t need you lecturing me on how much I work; I’ll get enough from Elsa.’

‘Yeah, well, she’ll be right.’

‘Did you want something?’ While she sounded pointed, she’d lost the edge of a week ago. It was almost, if he dared think it, playful.

‘We just spent the last week in the same box. I think I’m getting a little separation anxiety now we’re out, that’s all.’

‘Then you could do a bridge shift.’

‘Before I gotta? I’m not that anxious.’ But his grin sobered. ‘Just thought maybe we should talk.’

‘Talk?’

‘C’mon. The whole telepathic near-death thing.’

She stirred her drink. ‘I thought I explained that.’

‘I get it. It’s like a mental hand-hold. But it’s like…’ He squinted at her. ‘I dunno if you’re different or if I’m just seeing you different.’

Thawn looked at her glass, then let out a slow breath. ‘Both. It’ll be both, Drake. You don’t go through something like that without understanding the other person better. We’ve been inside each other’s minds, if only for a moment.’

‘But I didn’t learn anything – like, I know exactly as little about you as I did before.’ He paused, then blew out his cheeks. ‘Except I realise you aren’t pissed at me personally, so much as pissed at… at anyone after what happened to Pierce. And I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry I’m in his seat. So I guess I realise you’ve not been being an asshole to me.’

‘I have,’ she said quietly. ‘But I’ve realised that’s not fair.’

Cortez had, he thought, probably been onto something about taking a second look after a bad first impression.

‘Sounds to me,’ said Drake, lifting his beer, ‘that you and me are due a fresh start.’

Her smile was tight, but sincere. ‘I’ll drink to that, at least.’

‘Oh-ho,’ he laughed as they tapped glasses. ‘You do lighten up. Listen, while you’re on it, you know we have these clothes called civvies; you traditionally wear them when off-duty. I know discovering your uniform loosens is a big step, but now you’ve made it this far…’

* *

Valance found Airex in one of his remaining science labs. ‘Another diagnostic on those atmospheric sensors?’

‘A necessity,’ he said tautly, ‘with anthropology turned into Rourke’s War Room.’

‘CIC.’

‘Oh, my mistake. Combat Information Centre.’ He tapped a screen. ‘I’ve had to make significant reallocations of my department’s resources. Not everything is running as well as I’d like.’ But he straightened, and gave an anxious smile. ‘I hear the mission was a success.’

‘Probably. We haven’t confirmed the intelligence.’ It would have been a lot, she thought, to go through for nothing.

Airex nodded and returned to his work. ‘How were the Klingons?’

‘The usual,’ she sighed. ‘I… you may have been right.’

‘I often am, you’ll have to narrow it down.’

‘Bringing my baldric. I got further as a Klingon warrior than I did as a Starfleet officer.’ She folded her arms and leaned against a console, scowling at nothing.

‘That’s hardly a surprise.’ He didn’t look up. ‘You were dealing with other Klingons. In an environment where I cannot imagine being the outsider conferred much advantage.’ He glanced at her. ‘It rarely does.’

‘It’s not how I wanted it to happen. We’re a Starfleet crew, we were on a Starfleet mission, and for all my years in Starfleet the most valuable talent I had to bring was being a Klingon.’

‘Why do you view that as a weakness?’ Now he frowned at her. ‘You’re an officer of many skills. You didn’t succeed because you walked onto that station with forehead ridges, you succeeded because you knew how to handle the culture of our closest allies better than anyone on the ship.’

She shifted her feet. ‘Lindgren helped.’

‘Elsa Lindgren helps everyone on board be better. Captain MacCallister relied on her constantly. Besides.’ He straightened. ‘You said I was right. Stop arguing with me now.’

‘I said you were right, not that I liked it.’

He tossed his hands in the air. ‘I don’t know how to explain to you that you’re a well-regarded officer on Endeavour for many reasons, and hardly any of them have anything to do with your Klingon heritage and knowledge.’

Valance let out a slow breath. ‘Cortez said much the same.’

Airex set his hands on his hips and cocked his head. ‘She did, did she?’

‘Don’t look at me like that.’ She rolled her eyes. ‘I had her, Lindgren, Thawn, and Drake on the mission. Who else was I supposed to talk to?’

‘I see that; you’re so generally eager to discuss your personal problems,’ he drawled. ‘Especially when you had the old man’s confidante to hand. I understand why you talked to someone you’ve just met who’s put you on the back foot repeatedly.’

‘I – she -’ Valance’s shoulders slumped. ‘I misjudged her. Not just thinking her racist, but she’s… astute, good with people… kind.’

Airex watched her. ‘I’m glad you had that support. You don’t easily… neither of us easily show ourselves to others…’

‘No.’ But Valance’s frown deepened, and she looked at him. ‘Which is why I’m here. Because you gave me that PADD, and I used the information on it. It turned out it was enough to convince a whole ship of Orion pirates to fight to rescue the King Arthur. Dav…’ She winced. ‘Who or what are the Myriad?’

His jaw tightened. ‘I said you shouldn’t ask questions.’

‘It saved the mission, it certainly saved Thawn and Drake’s lives. It’ll get out, because Cortez and Lindgren saw it and while they’re discreet, it’s now a secret with legs.’

He looked away. ‘I expect you’ve examined Starfleet’s databanks on the topic.’

‘No. No, I asked my friend.’

‘Then as my friend… drop it.’ His gaze returned to her. ‘I promise you that there’ll be no retribution for using the name, nothing like that. There’s no hidden price, no fallout. No consequences.’

‘I’m not asking out of fear.’ Valance grimaced. ‘I won’t lie about it, either. ‘

‘Then I’ll handle that when asked.’

‘You mean you’ll lie to Rourke.’ She cocked her head. ‘But not to me.’ He just met her gaze, and Valance sighed. ‘Alright. You told me not to ask questions.’

Airex’s shoulders slumped. ‘Thank you. I’m glad it helped.’

‘It did. Like I said, it saved Drake and Thawn’s lives, probably saved the entire mission. If we both had to do things we weren’t comfortable with to succeed – to get this information on the Wild Hunt – then at least we’re not alone.’

‘No.’ Airex grimaced. ‘And we’re a step closer to finding these bastards.’

And nowhere closer, Valance thought as she saw his expression close off, even after all these years, to really showing ourselves to each other.