Romancing the Stone: Stage III


Darrel W. Beach

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


     Leena grit her teeth and hung on for dear life as the deck yawed and pitched under her feet.  She held back a cry of pain when her shoulder, already dislocated, bumped against the bulkhead.  Unconsciousness threatened to overtake her, but she would have none of it.  The ship needed defending, and as long as she could breathe she was determined to do her part.
     The Kazon were attacking again, the fourth time in the last two weeks and the second in three days.  Leena knew that Voyager was not standing up well this time; they were still trying to repair the damage caused during the last battle when the Kazon struck again.  She was in the process of evacuating one of the repair teams right now.  If the ship needed to divert emergency power, it wouldn't be safe to work on any hull breeches.  "Come on, move it!  We have to seal off this deck now!"  As she herded the engineers through the Jeffries tube the ship shuddered and groaned in response to another salvo.  A shiver ran down her spine at the sick sound.
     It was moments like these that Leena wished she had never visited Julie in Sickbay, or even given Tom the benefit of a doubt for that matter.  Every time she faced mortality Leena's conscience bothered her to a greater degree.  Now she was reaching a crossroads.  Voyager was taking suffering blows from the Kazon, and regardless of effort she couldn't assure herself that they would make it out of the battle alive.  It hurt her to think that way, but never before had they been forced to fight in such a weakened condition.  If the worst happened she would die knowing that she had deceived everyone, including herself, and all because Tom wouldn't tell her why he was so skeptical of the Threshold theory.
     It just didn't seem fair.  She had a right to be upset with Tom.  A relationship meant honesty and openness between partners.  Tom had helped her with a few personal problems, so why wasn't she allowed to reciprocate?  No matter what her feelings for him were Leena couldn't simply ignore that double standard.  What made it so hard for men to express their feelings?
     The last of the repair crew ducked into the access hatch.  With a final sweep of the corridor Leena followed him in, being careful not to hit her head against the frame as the ship jostled again.  She had to find out the secret Tom was keeping from her if she was ever going to reconcile her feelings one way or the other.  How to do it when Tom wasn't speaking to her, however, was a whole new problem.

     Leena had hoped either Captain Janeway or Commander Chakotay held a few keys to deciphering Tom's behaviour; they were the only people on the ship who had any past dealings with him prior to Voyager.  Neither one proved very helpful, although neither one had much time to talk to her; both were quite preoccupied with contacting various sects of the Kazon in an effort to open negotiations for a treaty.  Between the captain's suppositions about his family history and Chakotay's introspection on his stint as a member of the Maquis, though, there was nothing about Tom that Leena didn't already know.  She was left completely to her own devices.
     Leena walked gingerly into the security office but relaxed when she did not see anyone.  There would be fewer complications.  Part of Tom's personnel file had a security access lock attached to it.  Although she wouldn't look out of place in the office, she didn't know if she could explain to anyone why she was accessing restricted records.  She chewed her lip anxiously as she brought up the relevant file directory.  There was a chance her authorization codes were high enough to access the protected data, but she wouldn't risk accessing the files from her quarters.  Lt. Tuvok would have questions for her if she failed to get in.  At least by using the security office she might have an easier time trying to convince someone that she was only doing her job.
     She felt a little uneasy about the extra time needed to open a connection into the security archives.  The necessary authorizations and data encryption increased the chances of someone walking into the office by chance and catching her.  When the interface finally cleared she breathed a small sigh of relief.  The toughest part was done, but the task was far from finished.  She pulled up Tom's file and began to read.  It included information from his incarceration in New Zealand.
     "Identification...cell designation...counselling rehabilitation assignments...."  Leena rifled through several screens of data.  Nothing seemed too far out of the ordinary, yet she had a feeling she was missing something.  Then it hit her.  The number of records in Tom's medical health report seemed unusually high compared to his time served.  She opened the report and carefully reviewed it.  Work-related injury.  Work-related injury.  Recreational injury.  Work-related injury.  There were several such entries, ranging in severity from minor to serious.  "Oh, my god."
     Now she knew why Tom was so hesitant about returning to the Alpha Quadrant.

     "I still think we'd be better off designing a new shuttlecraft," Tom argued, flipping the padd around to face his two friends.  "We can take advantage of the transwarp engines by constructing an optimally aerodynamic body."
     "That's fine if you want to use up at least six months to build one, not to mention all the resources that would go into it," B'Elanna said.  "It would be a hell of a lot more efficient to just refit the engines into the Cochrane.  It was already designed for travelling at high warp velocities."
     "I have to agree with B'Elanna," Harry added.  "The captain would never consent to us building an entire shuttlecraft from scratch, not for what she considers a low priority research assignment."
     Tom didn't like it, but he knew when he was outmatched.  He sighed in defeat.  "All right, fine."
     B'Elanna smirked.  "You just want to have your own shuttle, don't you?"
     Tom feigned offense.  "Definitely not!  Voyager could always use another shuttle."
     Harry and B'Elanna exchanged glances.  "Right," she cynically answered.
     Before Tom could reply the door chime sounded.  Nonplussed, he looked to the door, then back at Harry and B'Elanna.  "Excuse me a minute," he said, standing.  He walked over to the door and pressed a control to release the door's locking mechanism.  He froze when the doors slid open.  Calloway was staring right back at him.
     The moment of shock quickly passed, and Tom's expression darkened.  "What do you want?"  To his interest Leena looked almost afraid of speaking.
     "Is it all right if...I was wondering if I could talk to you for a few minutes.  Are you busy?"
     "Yes, as a matter of fact, I am," he retorted.  "I'm very busy."
     "Don't be rude, Tom," B'Elanna called from behind him.  Tom wasn't aware that they had been talking loud enough to be overheard.  "We were just finishing up anyway."  She suddenly appeared behind his shoulder and spoke directly to Leena.  "Harry and I can leave you two alone, if you want."
     "Thank you, Lieutenant.  That's very considerate of you."
     "Hey, now wait a minute."  Tom faced B'Elanna indignantly.  "Since when did you start making my decisions for me?"
     She completely ignored him.  "Come on, Harry, why don't we start installing the transwarp engines into the Cochrane?"
     Tom watched, open-mouthed, as his two formerly closest friends stepped around him and out the door.  "Later, Tom," Harry said over his shoulder as he disappeared down the hall.
     Tom was incensed by their desertion, and the person responsible for it was standing in front of him.  "You must really enjoy putting things to an end."
     "Tom, please, don't be like this."  Leena shifted uncomfortably. "I know I was treating you unfairly and I'm sorry."
     "Spare me your apologies, Calloway.  I've accepted the reality that nothing I do will ever appease you."
     "That's only because I didn't understand.  Now, I do."
     A sense of foreboding gripped Tom.  "What are you talking about?" he asked uncertainly.
     Leena checked over her shoulders to make sure no one would overhear.  "They beat you, didn't they, the other prisoners?"
     The feeling of ice water ran over his skin.  He snatched Leena's arm and yanked her through the doorway.  She squeaked in surprise as she found herself flung halfway across the room.  "How the hell did you find out about that?"
     "So, it's true," she said once she regained her composure.
     "I didn't tell anyone about that, not even the captain."
     "I read the medical reports in your prison file and put two and two together.  There's no way a pilot with your classification could be so clumsy as to experience the number of accidents you did."  She leaned against the back of a chair, looking hesitant to sit.  "No wonder you're reluctant to return home; you're worried that they'll start abusing you again if you're forced to go back to New Zealand."
     "That file is supposed to be restricted."  Tom became furious when he realized the magnitude of her invasion of his privacy.  "What right did you have to access it without my permission?"
     "Do you really think you'd have given me permission when you wouldn't even tell me about it yourself?"  She sighed.  "Look, I'm sorry.  I should have asked first.  Neither one of us has been acting very maturely the last two weeks."
     "I don't believe you!  Security officers are supposed to prevent people from breaking into protected files, not do it themselves."
     "Well, what else was I supposed to do?"
     "Keeping your nose out of my business would have been a good start.  There are some things about my life I'd prefer people didn't know.  I have no desire to become the object of pity to everyone."
     "So it's better that you be an object of scorn instead?"
     The argument rested on that for a few moments.  Tom wanted to tear a strip off her for carelessly disregarding his privacy, but depression sapped his spirit.  Leena really hadn't changed at all since the day he met her.  She was still driven, still more concerned with chasing facts than facing reality.  He sat down on the sofa before his legs gave out.  "Why are you doing this to me?"
     "Tom, I didn't do it to hurt you.  I...I think I've developed feelings for you."
     She sounded so serious Tom couldn't help but laugh.  "You're a lousy liar, Calloway."  He looked up quickly, hoping to catch the embarrassed expression on her face.  It wasn't there, however.  Leena looked just as serious as she had sounded.  Tom instantly sobered.  "You mean that."
     "The only lie I've told was the one I was telling myself."  She bowed her head, embarrassed.  "The idea of us being together scared me to death.  It's no secret that you've played around.  I was worried that I'll just be another one of your toys that gets tossed aside when you're done playing with it."
     A tense moment of silence passed.  Tom wasn't sure how to respond.  Then Leena looked up, and her eyes entranced him.  "I thought it would be easier if we didn't get too close, but every time I looked for more faults you showed me something more attractive.  I still think you're trouble, but I find myself thinking that you might be worth it."

     Leena felt the anxiety knot in her chest as she stood there in the middle of Tom's living room.  She had finally exposed what she had been denying all this time, and Tom wasn't saying a thing.  Maybe I waited too long.  I pushed him away so many times, but he always came back for more.  I just assumed he'd keep coming.  "I understand if you're still upset about what I did, but I only wanted to help you the same way you've helped me."
     He turned away, unable to look at her.  His silence was crushingly painful.  It didn't look like he would ever forgive her.  No second chances for Leena Calloway.  She supposed she deserved that, though, considering how she'd treated him.  She emitted a heavy sigh of defeat and turned for the exit.
     "You weren't exactly right."
     Leena stopped before the door opened, but didn't turn around.  "About what?"
     "About New Zealand, the penal colony."
     A swell of emotion caught in Leena's throat.  She turned around.  He was still sitting, looking away.  "You weren't beaten?"
     "No, I was beaten, all right."  He finally turned back to her, and their eyes locked.  "But it wasn't just the other prisoners."

     Leena's face drained of all colour at his announcement, not that Tom could blame her.  It had come as a complete shock to him as well when he first learned of it - a very painful lesson, at that.  "But...that's not possible.  They're Starfleet officers."
     Tom gave her the offer to sit before she fell over.  "Funny, I was thinking the same thing the first time they decided to 'help' me with one of my work assignments."
     She shook her head in disbelief.  "But why?  I mean, the other inmates I could understand, but the guards?  Why would they do that?"
     "I'm surprised you don't know the answer to that already.  These two guys were very loyal to the Federation, and they didn't take too kindly to the fact that I was a Maquis who used to be a member of Starfleet.  They'd always handle me a little more roughly than the other guys whenever I was put on their watch.  When they caught a couple of guys taking a few rounds out of me, though, that's when they decided to get in on the action themselves.  They'd make sure to look the other way for a little while or they'd hand it out themselves in a secluded area, and they threatened that they'd have me put in solitary if I ever spoke to anyone about what was going on."  Tom shivered at the recollection.  "Those four months were a nightmare.  I think the doctors got suspicious about the frequency of my visits and did some of their own checking, because all of a sudden I never saw those two work on the same shift again."
     "Oh, god, Tom, I'm sorry.  It must have been awful."
     Leena looked ready to sweep him into a gushing embrace.  It was tempting, but this was definitely not the way he wanted it to happen.  "Don't," he snapped coldly, holding a hand up to stop her.  "You wanted to know the truth, so I told you.  I'm not looking for pity or sympathy.  I just want to forget it happened.  You got me?"
     To her credit, Leena kept her emotions in check, though he was sure she would cry if allowed the opportunity.  "Of course."
     He nodded, trustful of her word, and stood up.  "I'll see you to the door."
     She lifted herself up somewhat reluctantly and once again walked to the exit.  "You don't know how much your confidence means to me, Tom."  She stopped as the doors opened and looked deep into his eyes.  "I'm glad you gave me this chance."  She took a step toward him and placed a soft kiss on his cheek, then left the room.  Tom was still blushing furiously when the computer decided he wasn't leaving the room and automatically closed the doors.

On to Chapter 7...

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