Romancing the Stone: Stage II

"Diamond in the Rough"

by
Darrel W. Beach

Looking for story notes?  You'll find them in Chapter 1.


2

     The captain allowed everyone to sit before engaging discussion.  "Okay, people, we've got some serious trouble on our hands.  Everyone should know that one of our current priorities is to find a source of tellerium to keep the propulsion systems on-line.  Well, as of now it's our top priority.  Even as we speak, our power transfer rates are dropping because we haven't replaced our supply yet.  I shouldn't have to tell anyone what would happen if those rates fall too far."
     She didn't have to tell Tom.  Voyager would either become a gigantic paperweight on some alien planet or a lifeless hulk of metal adrift in space.  Neither option really appealed to him.
     "The good news, at least, is that we're currently on course to a planet where Neelix says we'll be able to obtain some tellerium.  However, of what Neelix has told me so far, Alsauria is currently under the rule of the Mokra Order, a militant faction that is mistrustful of off-worlders.  His contact is a member of the local underground resistance.  Considering our present situation, we might have to make an ugly bargain.
     "This mission is not going to be easy.  Everyone will have to stay on their toes to make sure the ship keeps running long enough for us to achieve our objective.  Harry, I want you and B'Elanna to work on ways to keep our power output levels stable until we reach the planet.  Once we're there, the lieutenant will accompany Neelix and I to the surface."
     Dissatisfaction blanketed Chakotay's expression, but Tuvok voiced the concern.  "Captain, I do not approve the idea of you visiting a potentially hostile planet."
     "I understand you're concern, Tuvok, but I'm still going.  This is too important for me not to go."
     "Then I must insist that I accompany you, Captain," he said.
     Janeway almost smiled.  "Very well then, Lieutenant.  If that's all, then everyone is dismissed."
     Everyone took a moment to look at each other before filing out of the room.  "Tuvok, could I talk to you for a minute?" Tom asked on his way out.
     Tuvok stopped and turned around to face him.  "What is it you wish to discuss, Mr. Paris?"
     "I -" Tom stepped aside to allow the rest of the senior staff to pass through.  "I wanted to thank you for assigning me with Lieutenant Calloway for those two weeks."
     "Curious," the Vulcan replied.  "At the beginning of your redress you were complaining that Lieutenant Calloway was an unsuitable supervisor.  I take your sudden reversal of attitude to mean that you have worked out your differences with her?"
     Tom smirked. "I guess you could say we've reached an understanding.  Anyway, I thought you might want to consider moving her to one of the day shifts.  I think she might finally be ready to make a change."
     "Indeed?"  Tuvok thought about the idea for a second.  "I shall take your suggestion under advisement, Mr. Paris."
     "Thanks, Tuvok," Tom beamed.  He returned to the conn, leaving the Vulcan to stare after him.

     Leena frowned at the terminal in the security office, rereading the shift report.  What place did such petty theft have on a starship?  Starfleet provided everything.  One piece of data from the offender's profile glared out at her: he used to be one of the Maquis.  The fact that Leena had noted his former allegiance irritated her.  It bothered her more that two weeks ago she wouldn't even be questioning herself for noticing this information.  She hated to think her mind was so clouded with prejudice.
     The door's whistle distracted her obsessing.  She forgot about him altogether when she looked up to see Tuvok walk in.  She rose, stepping around the console to allow him access to the station, but Tuvok made no move to take the place behind the desk.  Leena stiffened, looking inquisitively at the officer.
     "Lieutenant, I wish to speak with you.  You have a half hour before your next duty shift, do you not?"
     "Yes, sir.  I wanted to double-check the duty roster and look over some of the event reports from the previous shift, however there is nothing here beyond the routine.  What did you want to talk about, sir?"
     "Please tell me your impressions of events during the past two weeks you supervised Lieutenant Paris."
     "The ship has been rather quiet recently, sir.  Those weeks were unremarkable except for the friction between Lieutenant Paris and myself.  We have since come to an understanding, so I don't anticipate further difficulty should we be assigned to work together again."
     "How would you characterize your relationship with the lieutenant?"
     Leena startled slightly.  What relationship? she wanted to ask, but then she reminded herself how precise Tuvok was.  If he had suspected them of any romantic indiscretions he would have phrased his question more explicitly.  She took a moment to gather her thoughts; Tuvok valued composure and she valued his opinion.  "It began adversarially, as you are aware, sir.  I believe Lieutenant Paris resented the reassignment, found the work tedious and considered me to be a petty martinet."  Tuvok raised an eyebrow at this description, prompting Leena to seek more neutral language.  "For my part, I was unduly prejudiced by the lieutenantís previous involvement with the Maquis and the rumours I had heard regarding the shuttlecraft accident on Caldek Three.  I allowed myself to become angry with his casual insolence."  Iíve done it again she thought to herself.  "Excuse me, sir, I believe 'insolence' is the wrong word, but that is how I saw it."
     "I find that it is frequently an apt description of Mr. Paris' manner," Tuvok replied.  Leena stifled a nervous chuckle.  "However, I am more interested in the means by which you reached this 'understanding' with the lieutenant."
     "Yes, sir.  Tom explained the circumstances of the shuttlecraft accident.  I was surprised by his honesty, insight, and remorse, as well as disturbed by Starfleet's cursory review of the incident.  I realized I had developed a habit of making reflexive judgements, based on prejudice.  Upon further introspection I decided that I had allowed my frustration with being here in the Delta Quadrant to overwhelm me.  I resented my crewmates and had isolated myself to a degree that interfered with my duty."
     "It is indeed dangerous to allow emotions to cloud one's reason.  I had intended that you might provide Mr. Paris with a beneficial example of self-discipline, but instead he seems to have prompted you to re-evaluate your own conduct."  Tuvok arched an eyebrow at his own comment as if disturbed by the irony.  "Although inadvertent, there is a useful lesson to learn from this incident with Mr. Paris.  An attitude of objective detachment is invaluable to a security officer."
     Not quite the lesson Tom outlined, I'm sure Leena commented to herself, amused.
     "How has this affected you interactions with Mr. Paris and the rest of the crew?"
     "Tom and I are on amicable terms, sir, though I am still somewhat wary of his motives.  I am also coming to know my own security crew better, in particular Julie McCormick."
     "Mr. McCormick is a very promising individual.  It would benefit both of you to encourage her training," Tuvok said in approval.  "What about Ensigns O'Donnell and Kayla?"
     Specifically, he was asking about the two former Maquis and her incident with them last month.  "I underestimated both of them, and, I think, treated them badly, sir.  They are still reserved with me, but things seem to be improving now," Leena replied.  When she thought of it, the only one who seemed to hold a grudge was Kayla.  The Bajoran woman seemed actively suspicious of her motives, but Leena suspected it was more of a case where their personalities conflicted too much.  Some people were simply destined not to like each other.  She didn't think it would be appropriate to single her out, so she said nothing.  "If I may ask, sir, why are you curious about my relations with my crewmates?  Has there been some complaint?"
     "Not recently.  Lieutenant, though I cultivate detachment I am by no means ignorant of the effects of strong emotions.  I consider it part of my duty to make a study of crew morale.  You earlier stated that you had isolated yourself from the rest of the crew because you had allowed your frustration to overwhelm you.  This is precisely what I had observed, which is why I granted your request for a transfer to duties below your capabilities; a choice, as you will recall, I strongly discouraged.  Mr. Paris believes you are ready to resume your former responsibilities.  I am attempting to ascertain if he is correct."
     "Tom asked you to switch my duty shift?" she demanded.  To her dismay, Tuvok cocked his head in that tiny bird-like gesture that meant she had caught his attention.
     "You suspect his motives?"
     Not frequently enough she thought ferociously.  Was Tom brown- nosing, or was he just hoping to get her into bed without having to sacrifice too much sleep?  It might be neither, she scolded herself.  She needed to calm down.  It might be so simple as Tom trying to help her career back on track now that he had taken her on as his pet project.  The prospect was insulting, but comfortingly innocent.  "I don't know, sir.  Perhaps," she confirmed, "but the important point is whether it's a good idea.  I had intended to ask to return to my former duties eventually.  While I was still considering the question myself, Tom seems to have concluded rather quickly that I'm ready now."  Am I?
     "Are you?" Tuvok prompted.
     Of course he would ask that!  "You've taken me a bit off guard, sir, how soon do you need an answer?"  She immediately winced at her response.  What a moronic thing to say she reproached herself.  How much time did she need skulking around checking equipment lockers before she decided she was ready to function?  "Actually, sir, I believe my resentment itself did not make me incapable, but I allowed it to dictate my withdrawal.  I am determined not to choose that course again."
     Tuvok was looking at her with a slight quizzical crease between his brows.  Leena wondered how much her face was broadcasting as she waited for his response.  "I believe you are determined, Lieutenant, and I have never doubted your abilities, only your will," he said finally.  Leena allowed herself a relieved smile.  "Please report to the security office tomorrow at 14:00 to go over your new duties."

     B'Elanna waited patiently for the doors to the captain's quarters to open.  Never before had she thought to bother the captain during her off-duty hours, but she felt this news was too important and sensitive to use the ship's comm systems.
     "Come in."  Janeway was pleasantly startled when her chief engineer entered the room, but immediately became concerned when she saw B'Elanna's expression.  She set down her book and got out her easy chair to address the situation with the same serious manner.  "What's wrong, Lieutenant?"
     "We're not going to make it to Alsauria in time, Captain.  At present the reaction rates are at 58% of normal.  The reaction assembly is under control, but the plain truth is that we're using up too much power."
     "Would it help if we cut speed again?"
     B'Elanna shook her head.  "The savings we'd get from generating the warp field would be negligible compared to how much energy will be used in the extra time it'll take to reach Alsauria.  Our best solution is to start shutting down all non-essential systems to minimize the power drain."
     Janeway held her chin in thought.  "All right, do it.  Cut power and life support to all non-essential decks, and take the replicators off-line for starters.  I'll have Chakotay make up a list of other areas we can divert power from as well.  If that isn't enough to give us enough leeway, let me know and we'll try to work something out."
     "Aye, Captain."  B'Elanna nodded, turned on her heel and left quickly.


     Leena watched the activity on the bridge from her standby position.  It felt like an eternity since she last stood here, ready to assume Lt. Tuvok's place at the tactical station.  Tuvok's new duty assignments surprised her, as well as his new staff rankings.  As if to signal his confidence in her to the whole department, Leena found her name slotted first among all chief assistants, putting her second behind the Vulcan in terms of departmental authority.  From the standpoint of seniority and experience the choice made sense, but Leena still felt flattered.  Tuvok was going out on a limb by bestowing her such a huge responsibility with little time for readjustment.  A tingle of anticipation tickled her extremities despite her best efforts to control her emotions.  This wasn't the first time she stood on this spot, but it had been a long time.  She just needed a little confidence in herself to justify the Vulcan's faith.  Leena drew upon her inner strength to quell her nervous energy.  She would prove herself to Lt. Tuvok and Captain Janeway that a year spent hiding from the world hadn't affected her abilities.

     Voyager finally limped its way into the Alsaurian system.  Tom, like many of the officers, had been on edge for the last 36 hours.  System after system went off-line around him as B'Elanna and Harry desperately worked to save power.  They couldn't get that tellerium fast enough, in his opinion.  "We're dropping out of warp now, Captain, and switching to impulse drive."
     "Thank you, Lieutenant.  Janeway to Torres, you're clear."
     B'Elanna's voice came in clear over the comm line.  Aye, Captain, taking the warp control system off-line now.
     Tom watched his flight control panel as the appropriate controls went dead.  "There she goes."
     "All right, Tom, lay in a course, one-quarter impulse.  Neelix says the Mokra Order has established an orbital sensor net around the planet, so we'll take up a position behind their moon.  If we're lucky they won't notice our arrival, but if they do we shouldn't startle them by going in too fast."
     "Understood, Captain.  I'm taking her in, nice and slow.  We'll achieve orbit around the far side of the moon in approximately one hour."
     "Fine, that should give us plenty enough time to prepare.  Tuvok, I want you, B'Elanna and Neelix to meet me in my office in five minutes for one last debriefing.  I want to make sure all our options are covered.  Commander, you have the bridge."  Janeway retreated into her ready room even as her orders were acknowledged.

     Leena felt her confidence slip at the captain's orders.  She hadn't known that Captain Janeway would be part of the away team.  No, that wasn't entirely accurate; Leena knew the captain would want to lead the negotiations for the tellerium.  She just hoped the negotiations wouldn't take place planetside.  With the captain gone, that left Commander Chakotay in charge.  The Maquis.
     Leena mentally kicked herself, angry for allowing her prejudice to resurface.  Commander Chakotay had the qualifications to be the executive officer.  He had graduated from the Academy, command level experience, and understood Starfleet protocols as well as anyone.  She just had to get over that one detail, the one where he defected from Starfleet to help lead a band of marauders bent on starting a war with Cardassia.
     "Lieutenant Calloway, I will turn control of the tactical station over to you now."
     Leena's head snapped up to face her superior.  She could not avoid blushing.  "Aye, sir.  Good luck with your mission."
     The Vulcan nodded and retreated to the captain's ready room. Leena again glanced at the first officer.  She steeled herself for the next few hours, reminding herself that this assignment was temporary.  Certainly she could stand to receive his orders for a couple of hours.

On to Chapter 3...


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