Slings And Arrows_ The Insolence Of Office - Part 2

Part 2

"No, sir," the new security chief said, almost apologetically. "But, you must admit, your VISOR does leave you uniquely vulnerable to- "

"Everybody has their vulnerabilities," La Forge snapped back. "Mine are no more 'unique' than yours or anyone else's!"

"Commander," the captain said, in a low yet sharp tone.

La Forge dropped his head and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Daniels. I shouldn't be taking this out on you."

After pausing a moment for the tension in the car to dissipate, Picard said, "We have three days before you have to give the admiral an answer. I will reach out to some acquaintances in the Judge Advocate General's office, and try to determine what your legal options might be."

"Thank you, Captain." La Forge said, allowing himself a small glimmer of hope as the turbolift car stopped. Picard said nothing in reply, and turned his face away from him as the doors swooshed open. La Forge was still able, however, to read the darkly pessimistic expression on the older man's face, and he felt his own feelings of hope dim.


Deanna was awakened the following morning, after a fitful night of sleep, by the scent of freshly baked cavat m.u.f.fins and kimden rolls drifting upstairs into her bedroom. After quickly washing up and dressing, she made her way downstairs to find her mother already seated at the head of the table in the house's informal dining room ("informal" because it was able to accommodate only twenty guests). Several bowls of whole and sliced fruit were spread out on the table before her, along with a steaming pot of tea and a chilled carafe of allira juice. "Well, good morning, sleepyhead!" Lwaxana sing-songed. "I was beginning to worry you'd sleep the whole morning away."

"Good morning, Mother," Deanna answered, walking along the length of the table and leaning over to kiss her mother on the cheek. "Are you feeling better this morning?"

"Oh, heavens, yes, much," Lwaxana answered, as Deanna took a seat and started to fill her plate. "There's nothing like being back in your own bed again after a long trip."

Deanna's hand froze in the middle of scooping uttaberries out of a large bowl onto her plate. "Yes," she said, trying to keep her tone as light as she could. "It was a long trip, wasn't it? Long and eventful."

"Hmm," was Lwaxana's only reply, as she suddenly became intensely interested in the bowl of hilreps in front of her.

Deanna waited patiently, but Lwaxana added nothing more, either vocally or telepathically. As a counselor and a psychologist, she understood that allowing a long lull in conversation was often the most effective method of encouraging a patient to start talking. But from her mother, extended silences seemed unnatural and frightening. "Why don't you tell me about your trip," she prompted neutrally.

"Oh, I don't want to bore you, dear," Lwaxana said, still fascinated by the fruit bowl.

"No, tell me, please. I'm sure it was fascinating," she said, trying to sound curious, but only casually so. "So few outsiders have ever visited Tavny."

"Oh, would you look at this," Lwaxana said, s.n.a.t.c.hing a hilrep from the bowl and thrusting it at Deanna. "Look at the size of that bruise! It's not bad enough this is all there was in the house for breakfast," she said as she gestured to the abundance of food before them, without a hint of irony, "but this...I don't understand what is wrong with Mr. Homn, how lax he's been lately..."

"Mother," Deanna said, quietly but forcefully, "you moved out. You haven't lived in this house for a year."

Her mother laughed as if that were the most preposterous thing she'd ever heard. "Moved out? This is my house. It's been my home for over thirty years. Nothing or no one could make me move out of this house."

She was so insistent in her denials that Deanna couldn't help but think, again, about Kestra. Her mother had been devastated by the death of her first child, who drowned at age six, when Deanna herself was just a baby. And she dealt with that devastation by denying it had ever happened, repressing the entire period from the girl's conception to her burial.

It pained Deanna to think that her mother had suffered another emotional trauma on the same level as the death of a daughter. Yet, it was becoming increasingly evident to her that her mother was not simply reluctant to talk about her year with Jeyal. And she was deeply worried about how her mother's mental state would manifest itself once she'd delivered Jeyal's son.

For a moment, Deanna considered probing telepathically into her mother's thoughts, to get an idea of just how deep her denial was. It would be a tremendous breach of ethics-not to mention almost certainly futile, given Lwaxana's exceptional telepathic talents versus her own lesser abilities. If it came down to it, though, she would have to try.

For now, though, she decided to try one last tack. She leaned across the corner of the table, took Lwaxana's hand in both of hers, and looked deep into her wide, dark pupils. "Mother, I understand this has to be difficult for you. But you cannot do this." Her mother's eyes seemed to lose focus, but Deanna gave her hand a tight squeeze to pull her attention back. "You cannot..."

Suddenly, her mother was on her feet, her hand was free, and she was out of the dining room. "Mother!" Deanna jumped up and followed after her as she walked toward the main foyer, and she quickened her pace when she saw her mother headed for the front door, reaching for the k.n.o.b. "This is too important to simply pretend it hasn't happened! You cannot run away from- "

Deanna stopped short when she realized her mother was not, in fact, attempting to walk out on her, but rather opening the door for a visitor she had sensed coming up the front walk. Now stepping into the house was a man Deanna did not recognize, though she did register his hairless head, pale complexion, and prominently ridged nasal septum, which clearly identified him as a Tavnian.

"Deycen! How nice to see you!" Lwaxana said brightly, before finally turning to acknowledge her daughter's presence again. "Deanna, this is Amba.s.sador Deycen, from the Tavnian to Betazed. Deycen, my beautiful daughter, Deanna. Deycen is the one who introduced me to Jeyal at a diplomatic reception at his"

Deanna's jaw literally fell open on hearing her mother so casually drop Jeyal's name. She thus found herself unable to say anything to Amba.s.sador Deycen, though the Tavnian took no offense. He spared Deanna only the briefest of looks before turning his sour expression back to her mother. "I've come to bring you back, Lwaxana."

"Isn't that funny?" Lwaxana said, answering Deycen's scowl with a light laugh. "Deanna and I were just talking about this very thing. No, I'm staying right here, in my own home."

"Your home is with Jeyal," he said, as if speaking to a small obstinate child. "He told me you had left without his knowledge, and I was to watch for you here. You're going to come to the with me, and I'll arrange for your return to Tavny."

"You haven't heard, then. Jeyal and I are no longer married."

"Oh?" Deycen replied, raising one skeptical eyebrow.

"I found a new husband," Lwaxana said, beaming. "His name is Odo, and he's the chief of security on a Federation-run starbase. Jeyal was a witness to the ceremony, and he let Odo's beautiful profession of love go unchallenged. You can ask him yourself if you like."

Deanna felt the beginnings of doubt starting to seep into the Tavnian's mind. "Why wouldn't he have let me know about this?"

"Well, if you had let a woman like me slip through your fingers, you'd hardly be eager to publicize it either, would you?" Lwaxana gestured with her arms to accentuate just how absolutely fabulous she truly was. "But I can see you still don't quite believe me. Go, call Jeyal. Go on, you can be a.s.sured I will still be right here whenever you want to come back and apologize for mistrusting me."

Deycen clearly didn't know what to believe now-as a product of Tavnian upbringing, he wasn't used to interacting with a strong and confident woman. But, even though his misgivings were plain to both Betazoids, he refused to betray them outwardly as he told Lwaxana, "You left your husband, who proclaimed his love for you, took you into his house, gave you a son. You dishonored him, and you dishonored all Tavny with your disrespect. I trust nothing you say. I will contact Jeyal, but until he tells me differently, you are still his wife, that is still his son, and you are still coming with me."

"I beg your pardon," Lwaxana said, dropping her charming smile and glowering at the Tavnian in a way that said she wasn't about to beg him for anything. "You are speaking to a daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed. Now, you will leave this house, and you will do so without me. And if you make me repeat myself, you'll be leaving without some other things you arrived with."

Just then, there was a thump and a clatter, causing Deycen to spin and look around behind him. There he saw Mr. Homn, just inside the front door, a half-dozen cloth mesh bags overstuffed with groceries dropped at his sides. Deycen, like most Tavnian males, was relatively tall-close to one hundred and ninety centimeters, by Deanna's visual estimate. As such, he was clearly unused to being towered over, as Mr. Homn was doing at that moment.

Deycen looked from Homn back to Lwaxana. "If I discover that you are misleading me, woman, you will regret it." This threat lost much of its impact as he turned back toward the door and actually cowered as he rushed past Homn, nearly tripping over a loaf of kaseton bread in his haste to leave.

"Well," Lwaxana said as Homn closed the front door behind the departed amba.s.sador, "now perhaps we can have a proper breakfast, hm? Come, Mr. Homn."

Lwaxana turned and headed back toward the dining room, leaving Homn to gather up his bags, and leaving Deanna struck dumb by the conversation she'd just witnessed. After a moment's hesitation, she started after Lwaxana, quickly falling even and matching her slow, weighted gait. "Mother..."

"Yes, Little One?"

Deanna shook her head in exasperation. "I've been trying since I got here to get you to open up and talk to me about Jeyal and Odo."

"Yes, I know," Lwaxana sighed. "It was so wearisome, dear."

"Mother!" Outrage and relief warred in Deanna's mind. "I thought...I was worried that you..."

"That I was repressing unpleasant memories again," Lwaxana said, giving her a small, sad smile. "No, dear, I'm afraid the entire last year is crystal clear in my mind." They reached the dining room, and Lwaxana sighed as she lowered her pregnant body back into her chair. "I'm sorry, dear, I just...I'm finally home, in my own house again, here with my wonderful, loving daughter, and...I just wanted to cherish the moment, and not think about what's past. You can understand that, can't you, dear?"

Deanna felt a mild sense of deja vu. "Yes, I understand," she said, as she lowered herself into her own chair. "But...what about the future?"

"Well, that's a lot harder to avoid thinking about," Lwaxana admitted, as her hands went to her belly. She seemed lost in thought as she slowly caressed her bulging midsection. "Your father had wanted us to have another child," she finally said.

Deanna felt a jolt of surprise at that unexpected revelation. "You mean, after Kestra died?"

Lwaxana flinched at the mention of her first daughter, then nodded. "He thought it would help things if we...Well, I don't know for certain just what he thought; I would tune him out immediately any time he broached the topic. Poor man-what he must have gone through, dealing with my denial on top of everything else." Lwaxana paused, lifting the napkin from her lap to daub at the corners of her eyes. "But, I couldn't even bear to think about it. I was so worried about you, protecting you. Even with all those memories locked away like they were, I knew that protecting two children at once wasn't something I was capable of."

"It's hard to believe you ever questioned your capabilities," Deanna told her.

"I do project a very convincing air of confidence, don't I?" Lwaxana managed a tiny smile, then she sighed and dropped her head again. "Part of me wonders if I shouldn't have stayed with Jeyal."

Deanna was taken aback by that admission. "Why would you say that?"

Lwaxana took a deep breath, and then explained, "On Tavny, the male children are taken away from their mothers and raised exclusively by other men. When I realized I was pregnant, and Jeyal told me about that custom...I have to admit, Deanna, my first reaction was relief. I wouldn't have to be responsible for raising another child at my age. I wouldn't have to worry, if my attention wandered for half a second, that something terrible would happen.

"But then I thought about Kestra, and about the other children Ian and I never had and never would,...and I realized that this- " She lightly patted her stomach. "- was a gift. I had to get my son away from Jeyal." The strength and determination now crept back into her voice. "I couldn't let this last chance just slip away from me."

The room fell silent then. Mr. Homn entered, carrying several more bowls and plates piled with market-fresh food. He and Lwaxana exchanged silent nods as he gathered up the over-ripened hilreps and headed back into the kitchen.

Once they were alone again, Deanna reached over the table and took her mother's hand. "Mother...why did you never say anything? All your letters, they all painted rosy pictures of your new life on Tavny. If you were so unhappy, if you wanted to get away from Jeyal, why didn't you turn to me for help?"

Lwaxana gave her an indulgent smile. "What could you have done, dear? Come riding to Tavny with phasers blazing, like one of your Eastern heroes?"

"Western," Deanna corrected automatically. "And no, should have at least come to me on the Enterprise once you did leave."

"That would have been the second place, after here, Jeyal would have thought to come looking for me," Lwaxana said. "Besides, could you imagine Jean-Luc's reaction if he were to see me in this state? Oh, the rage of jealousy he would fly into!"


Lwaxana raised a questioning eyebrow, as if challenging Deanna to deny Picard's deep-seated and long-suppressed desire for her. Then she shrugged and said, "I went to Deep s.p.a.ce 9 because I know Odo has his own sense of justice. He believes it's a universal constant, regardless of who makes the law or who has the power to enforce it. He understood Tavnian law was unjust, and he did all he could to ensure the wrongs done to me were set right. Jean-Luc, on the other hand, is a Starfleet officer."

Deanna's brow furrowed. "What does that mean?"

Lwaxana tilted her head and looked at her daughter askance. "Little One, remember, I left the Federation. Just like those Marquee people on the Carda.s.sian border."

"Oh, Mother," Deanna said, shaking her head and not bothering to correct her misp.r.o.nunciation of Maquis, "that is a different situation altogether."

"Is it? I submitted myself to Tavnian custom and Tavnian rule. Leaving Jeyal was a violation of Tavnian marriage law. And Jean-Luc, bless his heart, would have felt an obligation to follow that Primary Direction of yours, and to give in to Tavnian authority."

Deanna was about to deny that there was any possibility of such a scenario playing out that way. But the words died in her mouth as she realized her mother's concerns were not entirely unfounded: in matters of marriage, Federation law did, in fact, always defer to local planetary law. Given that the United Federation of Planets included cultures and species that wedded in pairs, trios, and quartets of mixed genders, same genders, varying genders, and no genders, it would have been impossible to do otherwise.

But still..."You're not giving Captain Picard enough credit. If you needed his help, he would have found a way to help you. We would have found a way."

Lwaxana shrugged. "Perhaps," she said, lowering her eyes and picking at the cavat m.u.f.fin sitting on her plate.

Deanna just stared at her and said nothing, letting that one word hang in the air between them-along with its implied follow-up, perhaps not.

Lwaxana lifted her eyes to meet her daughter's glare. "Deanna, please. I chose to turn to Odo for help. And Odo helped me. Try to be happy for that."

"I am," Deanna said. Though happy was about the last word she would have applied to her emotional state at that moment.


The first emotion Data ever experienced was anger.

His brother Lore had used the emotion chip that he had stolen years earlier to broadcast anger and other negative emotions into Data's positronic brain, and then played upon that murderous rage to turn him against his friends, forcing him to violate his most basic, hardcoded sense of right and wrong. The incident had been so disturbing to him that, once he overcame Lore's influence and reclaimed the emotion chip, Data had intended to vaporize the final gift his father ever gave him. He had been willing to forgo ever feeling any emotion ever again, in order to avoid re-experiencing that kind of dark anger ever again.

And even after a year of experiencing, developing, and refining the new emotional aspect of his being, anger still disturbed Data on a very deep level-not only in himself, but in others as well. Which created a deep conflict within him when he entered main engineering and witnessed the scene being created by his friend, Geordi La Forge.

"I am still the chief engineer here, aren't I?" Geordi bellowed at his staff. The ship's matter/antimatter reactor had fallen silent, and his uncharacteristically angry voice filled the ship's cavernous, multileveled engineering section. Data counted eleven others present, all standing stock-still and mute, like a herd of grazing animals hoping to avoid drawing the attention of the predator who had suddenly appeared in their midst.

When Geordi didn't get an answer to his seemingly rhetorical question, he fixed his gaze on the engineer standing closest to him-a young, red-haired human woman Data recognized as Ensign Inge Eiger-and stepped directly in front of her, pushing his face within centimeters of hers. "Aren't I?" he repeated.

"Yes, of course, Commander," Eiger answered, staring back at him in wide-eyed bewilderment. She, like all but one of the gathered engineers, had served under La Forge for only a few months, and clearly had no idea the normally genial chief engineer was capable of such wrath. For that matter, neither did Lieutenant Barclay, the one holdover from the EnterpriseD currently present. He had recognized La Forge's behavior as being so atypical, he had felt it inc.u.mbent to alert the bridge. Barclay shot a sideways glance at Data from the far end of engineering, expecting him to step in and defuse the situation.

But Data found himself as frozen as the others, as La Forge continued to rage. "Then explain to me why the warp core was taken offline when I never signed off on doing so!" he demanded of the young officer. Eiger's mouth opened, but no words came out of it.

"But you did, sir," another voice answered. La Forge spun away from Eiger and toward Lieutenant Paul Porter. The deputy chief engineer pulled himself up to his full height and continued, "During the Algenib II mission. You said, the next time we were at a starbase, we should do a full physical inspection of the plasma inject- "

"An off-the-cuff comment I made a month ago is not authorization!" La Forge snapped.

"I'm sorry, sir," Porter said, controlling a slight wavering in his voice. "I was just trying to show some initiative, sir."

"There's a difference between initiative and insubordination, Mister! Do you want to run this engine room, Porter?"

Before Porter had to answer, Data managed to screw up his courage and step forward from his spot by the corridor doors. "Excuse me, Geordi. Could I speak with you privately for a moment?"

La Forge spun and glowered at him. "Kinda in the middle of something here, Data," he said, practically snarling.

Data nearly let himself be cowed, but held steady. "What I need to talk with you about does take precedence."

For a moment, La Forge fumed silently. Then he turned back to Porter. "We are at a security summit. The last thing we need is for some flag officer to come aboard and find this ship is not at one hundred percent readiness." He turned to address the entire section. "Get the core back online," he barked, before turning and leading Data into the small enclosed alcove set aside as his office. Once the doors slid closed behind them, Geordi turned and said, "I wish you wouldn't undermine my authority in front of my people like that, Data."

Data noted his emotion chip generating a feeling of indignation in response to that. "Geordi, I am your friend, but I am also second officer of this ship. Your behavior just now was completely unprofessional and unacceptable. Had I not extricated you from that unnecessarily confrontational situation, you would have been the one to undermine your own standing with your staff."

La Forge gaped at Data as if physically struck. Then, he dropped into one of the chairs in front of his desk, and put his head in his hands. "You're right," he muttered. "Dammit. I can't believe I'm letting him get under my skin like this."

"You are referring to Admiral Hayes?" Data inquired, his own emotionalism ebbing along with La Forge's.

"Yeah, I'm talking about Hayes. Look at this." La Forge reached over to turn his desktop computer monitor around and tabbed a sequence of keys on its base. Data read what appeared to be a random list of Starfleet facilities off the screen: Deep s.p.a.ce 2, Starbase 86, Efros Station, Starfleet Engineering Academy-Triex Annex, and several others. "What is the significance of this list?" Data asked.

"Hayes sent it to me," La Forge said. "These are my possible new postings if I refuse to cave in to him."

Data considered that with a degree of incredulity. He looked at the list again. "These positions do not seem to be suitable to an officer of your experience and ability."

"No kidding they don't," La Forge said, letting the anger return to his voice. "Every one of those positions was last held by someone with at least five fewer years of service than me. And all but one of those officers is leaving for better positions."

"And the one exception?" Data asked.