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"I hate you, Counselor."
Deanna Troi betrayed no outward reaction to this vitriolic outburst. It was, after all, part of her job, allowing herself to be the focus of her patients' unguarded emotional releases, and then to help them recognize and redirect them in healthier ways.
She had to admit, though, it was still jarring to hear such blunt invective from this particular patient. "Data, I know you don't really mean that," she told him in a quiet, soothing tone.
Data's expression almost instantly shifted from anger to regret. "You are correct; I do not." He turned his head and looked up directly at her. "You are one of my dearest friends, Deanna. Please, forgive me."
Troi smiled kindly down at him where he lay on her couch. Normally, she preferred to conduct her sessions sitting face-to-face, in a more conversational manner. But Data had discovered this anachronistic arrangement in a Sigmund Freud holoprogram he'd consulted some years back, shortly after discovering his dream program, and it was the one he tended to favor. "Of course I forgive you, Data," she assured him. "You know you are allowed to say anything you want here. But obviously, there must be something bothering you, for you to express yourself in such a way."
Data hesitated, and then slowly answered, "I do not wish to insult you, Counselor. However, I do believe these sessions are no longer of any help to me."
Again, Troi withheld any reaction. She had been counseling Data semiregularly since shortly after he installed his emotion chip, and while she was very proud of how much progress he had made in the intervening year, it had not always been a particularly harmonious affair for either of them. They were both exploring new territory -- Troi had no idea how best to counsel a patient who had lived an entire life without emotions, then suddenly had them granted him. This was not the first time Data had expressed the opinion that their sessions were unproductive. However, this was the first time it had seemed so unmotivated and surprising to her. "Why do you say that?" she asked.
"At the conclusion of our last session, you suggested that I recall some personal memories from prior to the installation of my emotion chip, in order to examine how those memories are now -- metaphorically speaking -- colored when viewed through the prism of my new emotions."
Troi nodded. "And?"
"And...I feel this is unproductive. I am unlikely to travel backward in my own personal timeline, or to re-experience any of the events of my life. I see no merit in such exercises."
"We all learn from experience, Data," Troi said. "You know that. And we learn how to deal emotionally with new situations the same way. You have a life rich with experiences, and you also have the capability to recall them with greater clarity than any organic being. You should take advantage of that."
"Why?" Data sat up then, turning to face the counselor as he posed the question. "Why should I? Is it not correct that, for most of your patients, your goal is to help them get past the emotions associated with past events?"
Troi shrugged slightly. "That's somewhat simplistically put, but yes."
Data nodded as if he had just scored an important point. "My past is already free of emotional injury. Why would you wish to create for me similar problems where none previously existed?"
Troi tilted her head. "What 'problems' have I created, Data?" she asked, looking him straight in the eye.
Data turned his gaze away from hers, looking instead down at his own lap. "It should not hurt," he said in a strained whisper.
"What shouldn't?" Troi prompted.
Data hesitated before saying, "I did as you asked, and chose as the subject of the exercise Lal's life..." A sob wracked the android's body. "...up to and inclusive of its end. This provoked a profound sense of misery within me, one which has been constant for the last fifty-two hours, forty-two minutes, zero seconds."
Troi got up from her chair and moved to sit on the couch beside him, placing one hand on his back.
"You're grieving for her, Data. Even though Lal died six years ago, you haven't had the capacity to mourn until now. It's a perfectly natural reaction."
"But it is not, Counselor," Data said, a flash of irritation crossing his face. "It is not natural; it is technological. I did not experience emotional pain six years ago, thus bypassing the need to undergo the process of overcoming that pain. Why should I now grieve, so long after the fact?"
"Everyone grieves differently, Data, and elapsed time is irrelevant," Troi said, remembering how her own mother had finally come to terms with the loss of her first child more than thirty years after her tragic death. "We mourn because we love. It's all part of having emotions." She paused, studying Data's downturned expression. "Surely you must have discovered some more pleasant emotions while you were reflecting on your time with Lal?"
Data hesitated, and then, almost as if in spite of himself, smiled. "Yes. There was the first time she recognized me as her father. I am not referring to simple visual identification..."
"I understand," Troi said, smiling to encourage him to continue.
"She was in our quarters, and when she saw me enter, there was a specific, unique reaction. I had noted it at the time, but had not fully recognized the meaning behind that look. She...loved me." Data lifted his head then, beaming at Troi. "And I loved her."
Troi matched Data's smile, and continued to listen as he carried on, without any further prompting, in his fond reminiscence of his android daughter. As she listened, Troi reflected on how truly remarkable it was to witness the evolution Data had undergone. She had been there when he first decided to create Lal -- or rather, to procreate -- and had also been there when the young android felt her first emotion, which tragically had been interpreted by her positronic brain as a malfunction. She remembered worrying at the time that Data would abandon his own goal of becoming more human, and was grateful not only when he did not do so, but that the friendship between them had deepened from the experience -- to the point now where he could freely say he hated her.
At the end of their hour, Troi extracted a promise from Data to continue the memory recall exercise with some different experiences. He was still clearly apprehensive about doing so, but agreed nonetheless.
Once Data was gone and Troi was alone in her office, she let loose a long, weary sigh. Data was the last appointment of a full day that had begun with an emergency visit from Reg Barclay, and she wanted nothing more now than to get out of her uniform, curl up with a bowl of chocolate ice cream, and just tune out the rest of the universe for a few hours. "Computer, end non-interrupt mode," she said after retrieving her treat from the replicator. "Play any waiting messages."
The computer acknowledged the request with a series of beeps as Troi fell into her chair and kicked the boots off her feet. Then the first message began: "Deanna."
Troi nearly spilled her ice cream in her lap at the sound of that voice. Worf.
"I need to speak with you. Contact me on Deep Space 9 as soon as you are able." The message ended before Troi could get up and check the image on the monitor, to convince herself her ears weren't tricking her. She had not seen or spoken to Worf in over a year, since their visit to Betazed, during which they had ended what they'd both come to realize was an ill-conceived romantic relationship. He had decided to take an extended leave of absence from Starfleet then, and went to stay at the Klingon monastery on Boreth. He had returned several months earlier, following Chancellor Gowron's invasion of Cardassia, when he was offered the position of strategic operations officer aboard DS9. Yet, even though the Enterprise had been at the station just months earlier, shortly after the bombing at the Antwerp Conference, Worf had made no effort to contact her. In fairness, she had contrived of her own reasons not to leave the ship while they were docked at DS9.
And now, from out of the blue, this cryptic message. What did it mean? What did he want?
Of course, she could have answered those questions by responding to the message and asking. She just wasn't all that sure she wanted to do that. While their parting was civil enough, it had come in the midst of a whirlwind of chaos, both physical and emotional...
Troi roughly pushed those memories away, and then chuckled as she considered what Data might say if he were here to see her struggle with her own unpleasant recollections. Setting her jaw determinedly, Troi slid into her desk chair and tabbed the tabletop monitor to send a return message.
Moments later, the screen image switched from the Starfleet logo to the face of her former par'machkai. The first thing that struck Troi was the command-red accents of his jumpsuit uniform, and how well the color suited his dark, serious face. The second thing she noticed was that he seemed...well, happy was a bit too strong a term to apply to the taciturn Klingon, but he gave the impression of being satisfied with the latest turn his life had taken. "Deanna," he said. "It is good to see you."
"It's good to see you, too, Worf," Troi said automatically, and mostly truthfully. She avoided mentioning the Enterprise's last trip to the station. "How are you?"
"I am well. And yourself?"
"Fine, thank you." There was an awkward pause. "I got your message."
"I assumed as much."
Troi grinned at that, being one of the few people who would have recognized this as a display of Worf's sense of humor. Then his expression very subtly shifted.
"I have what may seem to be a strange question. Particularly considering all that occurred between us on Betazed..."
Despite herself, Troi asked, "What is it, Worf?"
"Deanna...when is the last time you spoke with your mother?"
Troi blinked. That was, undeniably, a strange question for him to ask; Troi could not conceive of any reason Worf would have to ask it.
Then he explained.
And Troi found she still had trouble comprehending it.
* * * Captain's personal log, stardate 49710.1:
A final report has at last been issued by the Special Commission investigating the Leyton Affair, as Admiral James Leyton's conspiracy against the Federation government has come to be known. Few have been spared criticism for their actions -- or lack thereof -- during the events of three months ago, from the leaders of the United Earth civil government to President Jaresh-Inyo himself.
But the harshest admonitions were leveled at those in the highest echelons of Starfleet Command, who allowed a single member of their ranks to nearly bring down the presidency and spark a civil war within the Federation. Eight more high-ranking admirals have tendered their resignations, in addition to those who had previously done so since the conspiratorial plot first came to light. I can only hope that those who now assume positions of leadership are able to restore the integrity of this institution, as well as the public's trust in it. While Admiral Leyton manipulated the Federation's fear of an attack, the threat of such an attack is still very real, and Starfleet must be able to answer it.
In that vein, I am heartened by the recent appointment of Admiral Jeremiah Hayes, a well-renowned and highly decorated veteran of the service, to a key position in Starfleet Strategic Command. Admiral Hayes has called a number of ship commanders, myself included, to a summit at Starbase 19 to discuss the many perils the Federation presently faces. I look forward to a frank and informative assessment of the challenges we need to be prepared to meet in the near future.
* * *
"Then, there are the Ferengi."
Captain Picard looked up from the padd in his hand and arched one eyebrow at his security chief. "The Ferengi, Mr. Daniels?"
Lieutenant Pádraig Daniels met the captain's skeptical look with his own expression of utter seriousness. "Yes, sir. You know firsthand what the Ferengi are capable of."
Picard cocked his head as he considered the younger man sitting across his ready room desk from him. Curious that he would play that card now, the captain thought to himself. "Yes, but the attack on the Stargazer was nearly twenty years ago," he said, raising the padd on which he'd listed the catalogue of current defensive concerns already covered in this briefing. "As a current threat, I hardly think the Ferengi rise to the level of -- "
"Sir," Daniels said, unapologetically cutting the captain off, "Starfleet Intelligence has determined that Grand Nagus Zek's health has been in serious decline, and predict that leadership of the Ferengi Alliance will change hands within the next five years. In recent years, yes, the Alliance has decided a nonaggressive stance toward the Federation was the most profitable one, and we've only seen occasional assaults by rogue independent operators. But if a new Nagus were to decide to put his full resources into a military offensive, they could cause considerable havoc for us, particularly along the Cardassian and Klingon borders."
Picard resisted the urge to smile. "You present a compelling case, Lieutenant," he said. Daniels was the only one of his senior staff who had not previously served with him on the Enterprise-D, and had only been in his position for a few months, replacing Linda Addison -- who'd never had the chance to report for duty, as she was murdered and replaced by one of the shape-changing Founders of the Dominion. Yet he had made the post his own, with the same level of confidence Worf had shown when he also was forced to step into a role formerly held by a fallen colleague.
"Very well." Picard tapped a stylus on the screen of his padd. "We go back to worrying about being eaten by the Ferengi," he said, with just the hint of a sigh.
Daniels nodded, and glanced down at his own padd again. "Next: the Orion Syndicate."
"Lieutenant, I do appreciate your thoroughness, and your willingness to consider all possible contingencies. However, you've briefed me on close to a dozen potential threats this afternoon," Picard said, holding up his padd for emphasis, "presenting them, I presume, in what you consider the order of diminishing concern -- starting off with the possibility of further Changeling infiltration, and working your way down."
"Giving you the most vital information first, yes, sir."
Picard nodded. "And we've covered the Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Maquis, Tzenkethi, Breen...yet I can't help but notice that there's a very glaring omission from your list of our most dangerous enemies."
Daniels seemed to pale a bit, indicating that he knew full well which enemy he was referring to. "I...there was no new intelligence available. I didn't want to...bother you with..." The security chief trailed off, realizing how very patronizing he must have sounded.
Picard scowled. "Mr. Daniels, I know we have not served long together. But the one thing you need to know about me is, I am not a man who needs to be pussy-footed around. I know I was assimilated by the Borg; there is no point in your trying to avoid reminding me of the fact. Your job is to protect this ship, not my psyche. Am I understood?" "Y es, sir. I apologize, sir."
Picard nodded sharply, indicating the matter was thereby resolved. "Now, then. Let's continue."
Daniels' answer was interrupted by the sound of the chime at his ready room door. Picard held up his index finger to the lieutenant and said, "Come."
The door opened, and Troi entered. Picard automatically rose to his feet as he noted the look of deep concern on her face. Rarely did he ever see the
normally poised counselor as agitated as she was at present. "Counselor?"
"Captain, forgive me for the interruption, but I need to talk with you."
Picard turned to Daniels, who had already risen, and was in the process of gathering the several padds he'd brought in and spread across the captain's desk. "We can continue at your convenience, Captain. Counselor," he added with a nod to Troi, just before heading out the door.
Once the door slid closed, Picard asked, "What is it, Counselor?"
"It's my mother."
The muscles of Picard's jaw and shoulders involuntarily tensed at the simple mention of Lwaxana Troi. The Betazoid ambassador-at-large had been a regular guest aboard the previous Enterprise, and each time she visited, she seemed to bring with her her very own unique brand of chaos. The initial thought in Picard's mind was that the counselor's mother had scheduled another visit to his ship, and that he needed to find a way to avoid her.
That selfish line of thought was cut short as Picard considered the look of haunted concern on Troi's face. "Is something wrong? Has something happened to your mother?"
Troi answered that question with a loud, humorless laugh. "Something has happened, yes. More than a few somethings." She started to pace the small office, pulling nervously at the fingers of one hand with the other. "Thank heaven Worf, being Worf, had to check the station's comm traffic records. Otherwise I never would have known..."
Picard held up a hand to stop her disjointed narrative. "Counselor, known what?"
"Known anything!" Troi shouted. "I'm only her daughter; why should I know anything?!"
Picard moved to lay his hands on her shoulders as she dropped her head, embarrassed by her outburst. "It's all right, Counselor," he said as he guided her over to the couch across the room from his desk. Once he had her seated, he moved to the replicator and ordered Yridian tea, a beverage she had recommended to him in the past for its soothing properties. He placed the warm china cup in her hands and lowered himself beside her as she slowly sipped at the drink. "Take your time," Picard said as he waited for the counselor to regain her usual calm. "Perhaps you should begin at the beginning."
"The beginning, yes." Troi took a deep breath, then exhaled, as if forcibly expelling the tension from her body. "I've never told you that my mother remarried last year, have I?"
"No, you haven't," Picard said with surprise, more at the fact that Troi had never mentioned such a thing than at the news itself. Lwaxana had been on the hunt for a new husband for almost as long as he had known her.
Deanna scowled as she nodded. "She met Jeyal at a diplomatic reception on Betazed, where he was negotiating some trade agreement for the Tavnian government. She knew him for two weeks, in which time he'd convinced her to give up her ambassadorship and move back with him to Tavny. By the time word got to me on Earth, they were already halfway to the Umani Sector!"
Picard tried to think of what he knew of the Tavnian people, and realized it was very little: they were an unaligned race the Federation had first made contact with fifteen or so years earlier. They were described as a very traditionalist culture with strictly defined behavioral codes, particularly in terms of gender roles, in which the Tavnian males held complete dominance. He would have been hard pressed to think of a less suitable match for the irrepressible Lwaxana Troi. "I take it the marriage has not been going well?"
"Well, I never heard a word of complaint. All of her letters were about her beautiful new house, the gorgeous weather, the wonderful food and music...and all the while, she was virtually a prisoner in her own home. Heaven only knows how she finally managed to get away from him."
"But, she did get away?" Picard asked.
"She got off Tavny, yes, but Jeyal came after her. She ended up on Deep Space 9." Troi's scowl seemed to deepen. "The Changeling security chief there..."
Troi nodded. "I guess they'd become friends when she made a diplomatic visit to the station three years ago. He...convinced Jeyal to annul their marriage, and then put her on a transport back to Betazed."
"My," Picard said, trying to make sense of Troi's story. He understood now how Worf managed to play a role in it, and he could understand how learning all of what had befallen her mother after the fact would have upset the counselor. But it didn't quite explain the degree to which she clearly was still agitated. "It all sounds very harrowing; however, it does seem as if your mother's crisis has resolved itself."
Troi shook her head. "There's one part I haven't mentioned." Picard nodded, and waited patiently as the counselor brought herself to say whatever it was she hesitated to reveal. Finally, Troi said, "She's pregnant."
Picard blinked slowly. "'She,' who?" he asked, certain that he must have missed the mention of some other female in the counselor's narrative.
"My mother is going to have a baby," Troi said, enunciating each word carefully. "My mother may have already had her baby, en route to Betazed. And if Worf hadn't checked and called me, I still wouldn't have the slightest inkling that I was about to become a sister for the first time in my memory."
Picard fought to stay focused on the counselor's words, and not on the image of Lwaxana Troi that had appeared in his mind. "And Lwaxana still hasn't contacted you?"
"No, she hasn't, Captain. And I can't help but worry...with the trauma she's just been through, on top of the pregnancy, on top of her age, on top of everything..." Troi looked up from her half-emptied teacup into Picard's eyes. "Captain, I need to be with her."
The captain did not even hesitate. "Picard to bridge."
"Hawk here, sir," came the response from the ship's conn officer.
"Lieutenant, prepare to change course, for Betazed. What would our ETA be at warp five?"
"Approximately three hours, twenty-one minutes, sir."
Picard saw Troi's reaction to that, and said, "Set course and engage at warp six. Picard out." He then offered Troi a small smile as he took the empty teacup from her and they both stood. "The conference on Starbase 19 is scheduled to run three days. If you need more time than that, we'll make accommodations."
"Thank you, Captain," Troi said, beaming gratefully as Picard saw her to the door.
Picard nodded, and at the threshold briefly debated whether or not to voice the sentiment that had naturally come to his mind. In the end, he decided to dismiss any concerns that Lwaxana might misconstrue his words.
"Deanna," he said just before she stepped out of his ready room, "please give your mother my best."
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