About the Author
Kirsten Beyer is the New York Times bestselling author of many Star Trek: Voyager novels, including A Pocket Full of Lies, Acts of Contrition, Protectors, The Eternal Tide, Children of the Storm, Unworthy, Full Circle, and String Theory: Fusion. She is also an actor for theater, movies, television, and commercials. She lives with her family in Los Angeles.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Pocket Full of Lies 1
What were his exact words?” Seven demanded of Ensign Icheb.
The newly minted young officer paled, highlighting the irregular red blotches burning his cheeks. “Commander O’Donnell said that I should not set foot in Lieutenant Elkins’s engine room again without a direct order from Commander Torres or Admiral Janeway.”
The Doctor lowered his head to hide his amusement.
“And did you report this to Commander Torres?” Seven continued, simultaneously shooting the Doctor a warning glance.
“Not yet,” Icheb admitted.
“You should do so at once,” Seven suggested.
“I was assigned to assist the commander. I do not believe she will find this evidence of my obvious inadequacy helpful,” Icheb countered.
“Commander Torres is fine, Icheb,” the Doctor interjected. “I was with her a few hours ago. She is understandably exhausted, but not yet buckling under the stress of the inevitable sleep-deprivation the next several days will bring.”
“And she did order you to evaluate and rate the current operational efficiency of each fleet vessel’s engineering department,” Seven added. “She should know how those under her command are responding to your input.”
“They’re not the problem, Seven,” Icheb insisted.
Seven took the padd that rested on the table next to Icheb’s untouched breakfast plate and read silently for a few moments. When the Doctor had joined Seven and Icheb in Galen’s small mess hall for an early breakfast they’d had the room to themselves. The entrance of Lieutenants Benoit and Velth signaled that alpha shift was about to begin.
Icheb glanced toward Galen’s chief engineer, Benoit, who nodded in greeting toward the ensign.
Seven sighed, returning the padd to the table. “While it is true that Lieutenant Elkins might find strict adherence to Starfleet protocols tiresome, the inefficiencies you have highlighted here are all accurate.” As she continued, the Doctor reached for the padd and began to peruse it. “Regulations apply to everyone, whether they believe they know better or not. Lieutenant Elkins’s compliance is mandatory, not optional. And Commander O’Donnell should not prioritize placating the egos of those he supervises above requiring them to perform their duties appropriately.”
“Six hundred nineteen?” the Doctor gasped.
Icheb’s and Seven’s heads instantly turned in unison toward the Galen’s holographic chief medical officer.
“You cited Elkins for six hundred nineteen violations?” the Doctor asked.
“Each violation contains a citation to the applicable regulation,” Icheb noted.
“I see that,” the Doctor said. “But Icheb, surely the years you just spent at Starfleet Academy acquainted you with the chasm that exists between humans and perfection. Did it not occur to you to prioritize your findings and perhaps present Chief Elkins with a series of more manageable recommendations?”
“While onerous, the requirements Starfleet places on engineers to constantly monitor every system under their purview are both necessary and attainable,” Icheb replied. “Your Chief Benoit is proof of that. I found only twenty-six violations in his department and he accepted his review without question.”
“Galen is even smaller than Demeter,” the Doctor reminded the ensign, “and she hasn’t seen near the action in recent months that Commander O’Donnell’s ship has. Never mind the fact that Chief Benoit has access to dozens of highly specialized holographic engineers who are programmed to perform their duties to regulation specs and to do so without the need for rest or the inclination to complain when a task is mind-numbingly boring.”
“Be that as it may,” Seven said, “Icheb is performing an essential duty, and he should not be reprimanded for the failings of others.”
“Seven, do you want Icheb to succeed at his first assignment with the fleet?” the Doctor asked.
Seven appeared momentarily stricken. “Of course I do.”
“And have you heard him refer obliquely and directly to his perceived failures up to this point? He didn’t ask us to meet him this morning to lie to him, or worse, to shift the blame for the challenges he is now facing onto others. He knows he is not living up to his or B’Elanna’s expectations. Our job is to help him find a way to do that.”
Seven sat back. “What do you suggest?”
“For Icheb to be able to perform his duties effectively, he must gain the confidence of those he will interact with on a daily basis. Otherwise, his ability to function as Commander Torres’s personal aide will be severely limited.” Turning toward Icheb with sincere compassion, the Doctor continued, “I know it is difficult. We could talk continuously for days and barely scratch the surface of the challenges I have faced over the years in establishing realistic expectations of our fellow officers and developing mutually respectful and productive relationships. But you don’t have time for that. Commander Torres has just given birth. She needs you to function as her eyes and ears for the next several weeks as she recovers and sees to the needs of her family. Your job is to make her life easier and worry-free, not to nit-pick her subordinates into defiance.”
“But—” Seven began.
“And you,” the Doctor continued, “do our young friend here no favors in suggesting that he is not, at least in part, responsible for creating discord. Being right is important. But that’s not the only thing being asked of him anymore. He also needs to be sensitive to the feelings of his compatriots and to the reality that none of them are going to be willing to submit to the overly officious will of a green ensign. Learning does not end when one graduates, Icheb. The coursework changes, but the process continues.”
“You are suggesting that I lower my expectations?” Icheb asked. “They are no more than I demand of myself.”
“I am suggesting that you not use your abilities, or Seven’s, as the only means of measuring performance. You were both raised by the Borg, a species that believed perfection was attainable. Those you are now supervising in Commander Torres’s stead were not.” After giving this a moment to sink in the Doctor asked, “How many of the violations you presented to Lieutenant Elkins would you consider critical to ship operations?”
Icheb looked to Seven before replying, “Twenty-three.”
“The magnetic constrictor retuning . . .” Seven suggested.
“Twenty-two,” Icheb allowed.
“Take a revised evaluation directly to Commander O’Donnell as soon as possible, highlighting only critical suggestions for improvement. Apologize for wasting Chief Elkins’s valuable time and ask that the commander pass along your recommendations.”
“And if Commander O’Donnell refuses?” Seven asked.
“He won’t,” the Doctor replied. “He’s not questioning your position or authority, nor is he blindly defending his officer. He’s testing you. This is how you pass that test.”
“Is it your intention to give Icheb the same series of instructions in social skills you provided to me when I first came to Voyager?” Seven asked.
The Doctor’s program paused momentarily as it attempted to access memories that no longer existed. The immediate chagrin on Seven’s face indicated that this lapse had not gone unnoticed.
“Forgive me,” Seven said quickly. “I was referring to a series of interactions that began on stardate 51652.3. You were attempting to assist me—”
“It’s all right, Seven,” the Doctor interrupted. Much as he was growing to treasure Seven’s attempts to provide him with the data about their early years together that had been purged from his matrix in order to simultaneously rid it of a Seriareen consciousness determined to steal his holomatrix, this was not the time. “Icheb needs to get to work, and you have a meeting aboard the Vesta to attend, don’t you?”
“I believe the Doctor’s suggestions are valid,” Icheb said as he rose from his seat and collected his full dish of fresh fruit and utensils. “Thank you both.”
“You are always welcome,” Seven said. “Report back to me when you have spoken to Commander O’Donnell.”
“I will,” Icheb promised.
Seven followed Icheb with her eyes as he hurried toward the replicator to recycle his breakfast.
“He’s going to be fine, Seven. It will take him some time to adjust. But he’ll get the hang of it. You did.”
“It is still difficult to watch someone for whom you care deeply struggle.”
“Don’t try to take it away from him,” the Doctor suggested.
Seven turned back to face him. “I won’t.”
As they rose to begin their duties, the Doctor asked, “Did the social lessons you referred to actually help you become better acclimated to your life aboard Voyager?”
“They were extremely tiresome,” Seven replied honestly. “And yes, they did.”
The Doctor smiled. He could not help but believe that no matter how much data he had lost when Xolani had attacked his program, nothing essential had been taken from him.
Lieutenant Nancy Conlon was impatient for this meeting to end. Counselor Hugh Cambridge was the last officer required to sign off on her complete recovery from the incident of a few weeks prior that had left her briefly dead and temporarily comatose. Cambridge and the Doctor had done exemplary work. She was more than ready to return to engineering and get on with the rest of her life.
Cambridge sat opposite her in a deep black chair, his long legs crossed at the knee with one swinging idly as he perused her updated medical records. He spoke without lifting his eyes from the padd. “I see you have already resumed your normal exercise regimen.”
“The Doctor was concerned about some early motor weakness, but it has improved in the last several days,” Conlon reported.
“And the headaches?”
“Gone. And I don’t miss them.”
Cambridge nodded as he continued to read.
“What’s this about bananas?”
“Banana pancakes. B’Elanna introduced me to them a few months back and ever since I woke up I’ve been craving them. I was begging for them long before the Doctor rescinded my dietary restrictions. Even increasing my potassium supplements didn’t help. Lieutenant Neol took pity on me and snuck me a serving. The Doctor was not pleased.”
Cambridge chuckled. “I bet he wasn’t.” Finally setting the padd aside, the counselor looked up at his patient and said, “Which just leaves the most important question.”
“Nothing,” Conlon said simply.
Conlon shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you. The last thing I remember, I was in the main holodeck, reviewing the most recent access logs. The next thing I knew, Harry and B’Elanna were arguing over my bed.”
Cambridge shook his head. “Obviously we have no baseline for a case like this. You are the only person on record who has ever survived Seriareen possession and the expulsion of that essence.”
“All I had to do was die.”
“And that doesn’t bother you?”
“Given the alternative, no. Besides, I’m in good company: Lieutenant Kim, Admiral Janeway. The dead don’t often stay that way on this ship, do they?”
“Some do,” Cambridge replied. Conlon detected a faint note of genuine regret from him. “Of course your death took place under medical supervision. You were revived the moment the Doctor could confirm that Xolani had left your body.”
“Isn’t it a good thing that I don’t remember? Yes, the idea of it is traumatic to think about, but it’s almost like it happened to somebody else.”
“Except that it didn’t. You and I have talked at some length about how your refusal to fully process some of your past experiences left you nearly paralyzed in the face of overwhelming tragedy.”
“And I agreed with you and decided to do that work here.”
“I would have thought this incident might have set you back a bit, perhaps created a certain amount of anxiety at the reality of your own vulnerability.”
“I know how lucky I am, Counselor. I’ve come to really love my life here on Voyager and the people I serve with. I’m trying to stay focused on the positive things that fall within my control.”
“A good strategy,” Cambridge agreed. “But, and this is a big but, I would not be the least bit surprised if in the future your subconscious finds ways to force this trauma into your conscious mind. I want to see you on a weekly basis, just to check in. I want to hear about any unusual dreams, anxiety, anything at all that just feels off. It’s possible you may live the rest of your life without the memory of a few days that anyone would be glad to forget. It’s just too early for me to believe that will happen.”
“Works for me,” Conlon agreed.
“Very well, Lieutenant,” Cambridge said, rising from his chair. “It’s time for you to get back to work.”
Conlon smiled in genuine relief. “Yes, it is, sir.”
Captain Regina Farkas stared across the table at Commander Liam O’Donnell, Demeter’s captain and one of the Federation’s most accomplished botanical geneticists. His hair had begun its retreat from his forehead years earlier and the dark brown tufts left above his ears and circling the back of his head were generously flecked with gray. His eyes, however, danced merrily when they met hers. He seemed to be in a good mood. This was rare in Farkas’s experience, but enjoyable. It lent an air of youth and vitality to O’Donnell.
“Commander, you asked for this meeting,” Admiral Janeway reminded him from her place at the head of the table. Captain Chakotay was seated at the admiral’s right hand, the Galen’s Commander Clarissa Glenn at her left.
“I did,” O’Donnell agreed. “I was hoping Seven would join us before we began.”
On cue, the doors to the Vesta’s large briefing room slid open and Seven entered.
“I apologize for my tardiness,” the statuesque mission specialist said, moving briskly to the empty chair beside O’Donnell.
“It’s all right,” Janeway assured Seven. “We’re just getting started.”
“If you would turn your attention to the data now appearing on your personal screens,” O’Donnell began as the small interfaces imbedded in front of each seat at the conference table were activated—a design standard to the Vesta-class ships—“you will find a list of several species that were added to our database during our most recent visit to New Talax.”
“Ambassador Neelix has been busy,” Farkas noted.
“Thankfully for us, he takes his role as the Federation’s ambassador to the Delta Quadrant quite seriously,” the admiral said.
“And Neelix has no qualms about seeking far and wide for new trading partners,” Chakotay added. “His latest report offers intelligence on several species tens of thousands of light years from New Talax.”
“Has he made contact with these species?” Seven asked.
“Not so far. But he offers his trademark hospitality to everyone who comes in range of New Talax and as a result, he hears all sorts of fascinating rumors.”
“I’m intrigued by several entries here,” O’Donnell said, refocusing their attention, “but the one I’m most curious about are the Nihydron. They’re referenced in Voyager’s database, although apparently you never made contact with them during your first visit.”
Admiral Janeway was already cross-referencing the entry on her personal screen. “They were grouped with a few other species, including the Rilnar, Zahl, Krenim and the Mawasi whose territory fell within an area of disputed space.”
“It’s almost hard to believe we ...
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