Finding Clarity

© 2007 MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

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Chapter 7

"Species 1014." Seven of Nine said as she walked onto the bridge.

"What was that?" Captain Janeway asked as she watched Seven approach.

"I have heard of the difficulties of the away team and suspect that they have encountered species 1014." Seven said in her ever serious tone.

"What can you tell me about them?" Janeway asked curiously.

"The being emits a false dilithium signature to attract warp capable species. When the dilithium protrusion is disturbed, the creature emits a cloaking fog that disrupts communications and is capable of separating drones from the collective. The drones are then incapacitated with a neural toxin which impairs higher brain functions. Once the drones are sufficiently impaired, the creature goes above ground and gathers it's victims and ingests them." Seven said calmly.

"That does sound like what we have here. What can be done to counteract the neural toxin?" Captain Janeway asked immediately.

"Those drones that were able to be retrieved were purged with the neural energy from the collective." Seven said simply.

"Go down to sickbay and work with the Doctor to see if some variation of the treatment can be developed to help our people." Captain Janeway said decisively.

"Captain, you should be aware that the creature is capable of leaving the planet in pursuit of it's prey. It has the physical strength to pose a significant threat to Voyager and is resistant to energy weapons." Seven of Nine said frankly.

"Ensign Baytart, take us back to our original course and heading, warp five." Captain Janeway said immediately.

"Course laid in." Ensign Baytart said quickly.

"Engage." Captain Janeway said firmly.

The ship accelerated and entered warp in just a few seconds.

"Captain, something has just left the planet's atmosphere and is pursuing us at high warp." Ensign McKenzie said from the tactical station.

"Red Alert. Ensign Baytart, maximum warp. Lieutenant Paris to the bridge." Janeway called into the air.

* * * * *

Lieutenant Paris heard the call, and looked around the room anxiously.

"I believe I can look after them." The Doctor said confidently.

"Just to be safe, you should probably call Ensign Wildman since she has more recent experience with children." Lieutenant Paris said as he walked to the door.

"Poopy Head!" Karla screamed and threw a slice of pizza at Milo.

"Yes. Perhaps that would be best." The Doctor said and stopped in the arch as Lieutenant Paris exited.

* * * * *

Lieutenant Paris stepped on the bridge in time to hear Ensign McKenzie say, "It's gaining on us."

A bat-like creature with a crystalline protrusion on it's head was filling the screen.

"Fire." Janeway said firmly.

The sound of phasers firing filled the room, then everyone watched the screen as the phasers found their target.

"The phasers aren't having any effect." Crewman Fitzpatrick said from the operations station.

"What kind of propulsion is it using?" Flyboy asked as he moved to Ensign Baytart's side and waited for him to turn over the helm.

"It seems to be generating a graviton wave." Crewman Fitzpatrick said in concentration.

"Thought so." Flyboy said as he took his seat.

"It's still gaining on us." Ensign McKenzie said with a tone of desperation.

"I've got it. Captain, you'd better tell everyone to hang on." Flyboy said as he worked the controls.

"All hands..." The Captain began to say, then grabbed onto her command chair for dear life.

Tom brought them out of warp for a millisecond and changed the attitude of the ship so the nose was pointing straight down compared to their previous flight path, then kicked it into maximum warp.

Everyone clutched the nearest stationary object when the gravity seemed to become nonexistent for an instant, then just as suddenly pulled at three to four times normal gravity.

The inertial dampers finally caught up to what Flyboy was doing and the gravity returned to normal.

After a moment to get her breath back, the captain continued, "...prepare for sudden acceleration."

"The creature is turning in a slow arch to pursue. We're gaining distance." Ensign McKenzie said in wonder.

"The problem with a graviton wave is that it isn't very maneuverable on the Z axis. As long as I change direction at a sharp right angle when it lines up on our flight plane, I should be able to get us away from it." Flyboy said as he watched the creature carefully.

"I see..." Janeway began to say.

"Hold on." Flyboy said, then turned the ship suddenly upward.

The sound of groaning metal could be heard as he repeated the maneuver.

"The stress on the hull..." Crewman Fitzpatrick began to say.

"...won't matter if that thing catches us." Flyboy interrupted, then turned the ship sharply again.

"We're outrunning it." Ensign McKenzie said slowly.

"We're not out of it yet." Flyboy said as he turned the ship into a tight clockwise spiral, then started programming a complicated series of maneuvers.

Janeway watched the spinning view screen in front of her for a moment, then turned away as she felt herself getting queasy.

"This should do it." Flyboy said, then pressed the button on the helm to activate the sequence he had programmed.

The ship would stop, change attitude, burst into full speed, then repeat the process.

Each short burst took them in a completely different direction and the changes were coming so quickly that no one could keep up with which way they were going.

"The creature has disengaged. It's returning to the planet." Ensign McKenzie said with amazement.

"Very good. Lieutenant Paris. Please put us back on course." The Captain said slowly.

Lieutenant Paris was surprised to find himself in control, then quickly responded, "Aye Captain."

"Ensign Baytart, take the helm when Lieutenant Paris is finished." Captain Janeway said as she tried to force herself to let go of the arms of her command chair.

Lieutenant Paris set the ship back to it's normal course and speed, then relinquished control to Ensign Baytart.

"Tom, that was some outrageous piloting." Captain Janeway said as she was finally able to stand.

"Thank you Captain." Lieutenant Paris said calmly.

She shook her head for an instant, then said, "I suppose you can take that as a compliment if you like."

Lieutenant Paris considered the statement for a moment, then smiled when he determined that she was probably making a joke.

"Seven of Nine has some insights into the condition of the away team. If you'll go to sickbay, they might be able to put together why you weren't effected by the neural toxin and use that information to develop a treatment." Captain Janeway said seriously.

"Yes Captain." Lieutenant Paris said formally.

Janeway looked at Lieutenant Paris with an appraising eye for a moment, then said, "Dismissed."

Lieutenant Paris walked briskly off the bridge.

* * * * *

"Doctor, the Captain sent me down here to help you." Tom said as he entered the Sickbay.

Seven of Nine was walking from one bed to the next, checking the readings of each patient.

"I assume that you were piloting just now." the Doctor said as he picked up medical instruments that were scattered around the floor.

"Yes Doctor." Tom said shyly.

"You being off the helm is probably the biggest help you could give me at the moment, but get on a biobed and let me check out a few things." the Doctor said seriously.

Tom climbed on the nearest unoccupied biobed and waited as the Doctor programmed it for the readings he wanted.

"I thought your higher level of neural activity might have been the key, but Commander Tuvok's level of neural activity is higher than yours and he was effected." The Doctor said conversationally as he looked at the readings.

"Is he alright?" Tom asked with concern.

"He is at the emotional level of an eight to ten year old Vulcan child... But considering Vulcan emotional development, it's hardly noticeable." the Doctor said frankly.

Tom thought about the statement and finally nodded.

"Ah ha!" the Doctor said triumphantly.

"Does that mean you found something?" Tom asked with surprise.

"Do you think I walk around Sickbay all day saying 'Ah ha'?" the Doctor asked indignantly.

"This line of questioning serves no purpose. Have you developed a cause for Lieutenant Paris' immunity to the neural toxin?" Seven asked in a monotone as she approached.

"Not an immunity, but a preventative condition. The airborne neural toxin is most easily absorbed through the mucous membranes. Both Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Paris have shown signs of recent trauma to their mucous membranes consistent with breathing scalding hot air,? which had the effect of preventing absorption of the toxin. Perhaps you could tell me Mr. Paris, what were you and the Commander doing to cause this condition?" The Doctor asked curiously.

"Breathing scalding hot air." Tom said frankly.

The Doctor stared at him stupidly for a moment, until Seven of Nine said, "I fail to see how this is of any benefit in restoring your patients to full health."

The Doctor shook himself out of his stupor, then said, "It gives me the transmission vector, and in this case that will allow me to formulate an effective treatment. Creating an antitoxin wasn't the challenge, it was finding the transmission vector so I could develop the antitoxin to be administered to the effected areas of the brain."

"So that means you found a cure?" Tom asked hopefully.

"In a manner of speaking. Now that I know how the antitoxin will need to be administered, I can develop it to be carried in an airborne form. Once inhaled, it should slowly return the effected individual to their former state." the Doctor said seriously.

"What about Chakotay and Crewman Dalby? Will they be alright?" Tom asked with concern as he looked at them asleep on their beds.

"Yes. What they need most now is rest. But I will administer treatment to them and everyone who went to the surface to eliminate all traces of the toxin." the Doctor said seriously.

Tom looked over at a movement and saw Gerron sitting on Ayala's bed, holding his hand and talking to him gently. Ayala seemed to be half asleep and completely comfortable.

"Wildman to Paris." Sounded on Tom's comm badge.

Tom keyed the communicator and said, "Paris here."

"Tom would you come to Holodeck two... Right away, please." Samantha asked desperately and she sounded to be nearly in tears.

"My fancy flying must have scared the kids to death. I've got to go Doc. Just call me if there's anything I can do." Tom said as he hurried toward the door.

"Just keep those people in the holodeck until I've developed the treatment. When it's ready, I'll introduce it into the air supply." The Doctor said seriously.

"You got it Doc." Tom said, then hurried out of the room.

* * * * *

As Tom walked into the holodeck, he saw Karla Jarvis crying her heart out as Ensign Wildman tried to comfort her.

{Lou, you're up.} Tom said internally.

//You're kidding! I don't have any experience with something like this!// Lou responded helplessly.

{There's only one cure for inexperience Lieutenant. Now get in there and deal with it... I'll talk you through it.} Tom finished in an encouraging tone.

//I'm going to need a day off after this.// Lou said frankly.

{I have a feeling that we all will.} Tom said, then receded into the background.

* * * * *

"Did I scare the kids with my flying?" Lou asked cautiously.

"No. They thought it was just part of the Chucky Cheese experience. They all loved it." Samantha said as she held Karla close to her chest.

"Then what's wrong?" Lieutenant Paris asked with concern.

"Milo has been terrorizing her. I've tried to talk to him, but... I don't know why he's acting this way." Samantha said helplessly.

"I'll talk to him." Lieutenant Paris said seriously, then looked around the room to find Milo's head barely peaking out of a pit of balls.

As Lieutenant Paris approached, Milo submerged himself the rest of the way in the ball pit.

"Milo, please come out here and talk to me." Lieutenant Paris said, trying to keep his voice gentle.

Slowly, Milo's head emerged to reveal the tears streaking down his cheeks.

"Will you tell me why you upset Karla?" Lieutenant Paris asked quietly.

"I... I don't know." Milo said then his lower lip began to tremble.

"Why don't you tell me what happened?" Lou asked as he held out his hand to encourage Milo to climb out of the pit.

"I was... she was talking to Harry and... and... I wanted her to talk to me." Milo finished in a whisper.

"What did you do?" Lou asked quietly.

"I... pulled her hair and made fun of her boobies." Milo said as he looked at the floor.

Tom whispered to the back of Lou's mind to explain what was happening.

"Come here Milo." Lou said gently and held out his arms to invite Milo into a hug.

"I'm sorry. I didn't want to make her cry." Milo said as he cried into Lou's shoulder.

"I know Milo. Maybe if I talk to Karla for a minute to explain that you didn't really mean to make her mad, she'll forgive you and talk to you again." Lou said soothingly.

"Really?" Milo asked hopefully.

"I can't be sure it will work, but I can try." Lou said as he held Milo in a firm hug.

"Thanks Lou. Harry said you're name is Lou, you're Tom's brother." Milo said seriously.

"That's right Milo. Now if you'll stay here for just a minute, I'm going to talk to Karla and see if I can get this all straightened out for you."

Milo nodded, then reluctantly pulled away from Lou's chest.

* * * * *

"Hi Karla, how are you doing?" Lou asked with concern as he sat at her side.

"Milo hates me." Karla said as she clutched to Samantha and started crying again.

"He doesn't hate you Karla. He's afraid that you hate him." Lou said quietly.

"I do!" Karla said firmly.

"Karla, you're a very beautiful and special girl. Milo sees that and wants you to notice him." Lou said gently.

"I hate him."

Lou shook his head and looked at Samantha helplessly.

"Why is he acting this way Tom?" Samantha asked as she held Karla close.

"Because he likes Karla." Lou said frankly.

"But that doesn't make any sense." Samantha said as she combed her fingers through Karla's hair.

"Little boys have been terrorizing little girls for as long as there have been boys and girls. Milo want's Karla's attention and doesn't know another way to get it." Lou said, hoping he was understanding what Tom told him correctly.

Samantha got a distant look, then said, "I guess you're right. I didn't even think it could be something like that."

"Now if we can just get Karla to understand, maybe they can be friends again." Lou said quietly.

"Give me a minute alone with her. I'll see what I can do." Samantha said gently.

"Okay. I'm going to get back to Milo now." Lou said, then looked over and saw Milo's fearful expression.

* * * * *

"Samantha is going to talk to Karla and try to fix things with her." Lou said as he carefully pulled Milo into a hug.

"Thanks Lou. I'm sorry I made her cry." Milo said, on the verge of tears again.

"I tell you what Milo. Next time she ignores you and you want to get her attention, come over and tell me. We can work together to find a way to get her to notice you that will make her happy instead." Lou said with an encouraging smile.

"Okay. I will. I promise." Milo said seriously.

Lou felt Milo stiffen in his arms and turned to see what was happening.

Karla walked up to Milo with a determined look in her eyes.

"Samantha says that you like me. Do you?" Karla demanded.

"Uh huh." Milo said timidly.

Karla grabbed Milo away from Lou and pulled him into a tight hug.

Lou stepped away and watched with a fond smile.

"If you pull my hair or make fun of my boobies again I'm going to kick you in the pee-pee and make you cry." Karla said seriously.

"Okay." Milo said quietly.

With that declaration out of the way, Karla moved in to give Milo a firm kiss.

"Ah, young love." Samantha said as she walked to Lou's side.

"I just hope they don't have a problem with this after the Doctor cures them." Lou said frankly.

"Has he figured it out?" Samantha asked hopefully.

"I think so. He just has to cook up the cure. It shouldn't be too long." Lou said then noticed Harry watching him timidly.

"I'm glad. Even though they're kind of sweet like this, I'll be glad when they're better." Samantha said as she watched Milo and Karla still kissing.

"I agree. I think Harry needs me, will you make sure those two don't go past second base?" Lou asked with a gentle smile.

"Don't worry about it Tom. Now that I know what's going on with them, I think I can handle it." Samantha said with assurance.

* * * * *

"Hey Harry, what's going on?" Lou asked casually.

"Lou?" Harry asked cautiously.

"That's right."

"Where's Tom?" Harry asked slowly.

"Come over and sit down with me and I'll tell you." Lou said and indicated the row of movie seats in front of the big screen.

Harry nodded, then led the way.

Once they were both settled, Lou quietly said, "I'm going to tell you something, but this is just between you and me because we're friends. Okay?"

Harry nodded vigorously.

"You asked where Tom is. The truth is that he's inside me." Lou said seriously.

"Really? How did he get in there?" Harry asked with wide eyes.

Lou smiled at the question and said, "We're both part of me. I'm the guy who's always serious while he's working on the bridge. Tom is the guy who likes to play games with you and have fun."

"Can I talk to Tom?" Harry asked cautiously.

"Sure." Lou said then closed his eyes.

A moment later, Tom opened his eyes and smiled at Harry.

"How's it going Har?" Tom asked with a big smile.

"Tom! It's really you." Harry said in wonder.

"It sure is. Do you think Captain Proton would leave Buster Kincaid behind?" Tom asked as he put an arm around Harry's shoulders.

"How did you? Where did Lou go?" Harry asked quickly, then pulled Tom aside to look behind him.

Tom chuckled at the move, then said, "Har, please don't worry about it. If you ever want to talk to Lou, all you have to do is ask."

"Okay... But if I ask, does that mean you'll go away again?" Harry asked cautiously.

"Only until you want me to come back." Tom said gently.

"I don't want you to go away. You're my bestest friend ever and I don't want you to ever go away again." Harry said firmly.

"Har. I'm here, don't worry about it." Tom said gently as he held Harry with one arm.

Both of them looked up at the screen in front of them when some very spirited music started playing.

"What's this?" Harry asked with excitement at the vividly colored picture before him.

"It's a cartoon, I'm not sure if I've seen this one before. Let's watch it." Tom said happily.

Harry snuggled down in his seat a little so he could lean over and rest his head on Tom's shoulder.

On impulse, Tom leaned over and kissed Harry on the top of the head.

* * * * *

Before the cartoon was over, Milo, Karla, Terry and Doug had all joined Tom and Harry in front of the cartoons.

"Lieutenant Paris?" The Doctor asked quietly from behind him.

Tom looked over his shoulder and said, "What's up Doc?"

"I've developed the antitoxin and tested it on Lieutenant Ayala. He's resting comfortably and all signs of the toxin are being purged from his body." The Doctor said seriously.

"So when do you want to take care of these guys?" Tom asked as he glanced up and down the row to see all of them paying their full attention to the cartoons on the big screen.

"In just a few minutes. I'm going to introduce the anti-toxin into the air supply of the holodeck and they should fall asleep within the next fifteen to twenty minutes." The Doctor said seriously.

"How long will they sleep?" Tom asked cautiously.

"I estimate that the anti-toxin will complete it's work in three to four hours, then they will fall into natural sleep and wake when they are rested." The Doctor said in a considering voice.

"Thanks for telling me Doc. Do you want me to stay here?" Tom asked curiously.

"There is no medical reason that you need to stay, but..." The Doctor said as he looked up and down the row.

"I'll stay. Thanks again Doc." Tom said with a gentle smile, then turned his attention back to the cartoon on the screen.

The Doctor stopped for a moment and smiled at the sight of Tom Paris with all the 'children' then went about his duties.

* * * * *

"I'm getting sleepy." Milo said as he rubbed his eyes.

"Well then, what would you guys think about sleeping here tonight?" Tom asked with a smile.

"Sleep? At Chucky Cheese?" Harry asked in wonder.

"That's right Har. Unless anyone can think of a better place to sleep?" Tom asked playfully, fairly sure that no one would be able to think of anything better.

"Give me just a minute to get our sleeping bags." Tom said as he got up from his place in the middle of the row of seats.

"Are you going to sleep here with us?" Terry asked hopefully.

"That's right." Tom said as he walked to the door.

Harry nodded, then turned his full attention to the cartoon.

Tom quickly keyed in his instructions, then walked back over to the 'kids' and said, "Here we are."

They turned around and looked with wide eyes at the row of sleeping bags where the tables had been just a moment before.

"Come on Milo. Pick out which one you want." Tom said with a smile.

"I want the one next to Karla's." Milo said firmly.

"Okay. How about this? Milo and Karla here. Next will be me and Harry. Then Terry and Doug."? Tom said as he pointed.

"Do we have to go to bed right now?" Karla whined.

"No Karla, I'm going to lay down, but you guys don't have to." Tom said as he made a show of getting down on the floor and crawling into his sleeping bag.

As expected, within a minute, all the 'kids' had gotten into their sleeping bags and were happily chattering away.

"Tom?" Harry asked quietly.

"Yeah Har?" Tom responded.

"Are you mad at me because I was mean to you before?" Harry asked hesitantly.

"No Har. Sometimes friends fight, even bestest friends." Tom said peacefully.

"Thanks. You really are my bestest friend..." Harry trailed off and was soon fast asleep.

"You're mine too Har. I'm glad you reminded me." Tom said gently.

* * * * *

After all the kids were asleep, Tom got up and walked to the arch.

After a few minutes of searching through the holoprogram database, he finally found what he was looking for and pressed in his selection.

A message appeared on the small screen which said 'Ready'.

"Computer: Activate Supplemental Counseling Holographic program." Tom said quietly.

A beautiful woman with long dark brown hair appeared wearing a long turquoise dress.

"You're a counselor?" Tom asked incredulously.

"No. I am a tool to be used by an experienced counselor to help patients who require an alternative to traditional counseling sessions." She said seriously.

"Oh, does that mean that you can't help me sort some stuff out?" Tom asked quietly.

"No. It means that this program is not intended to take the place of a qualified counselor, it is merely a tool." She said frankly.

"Then you *can* help me?" Tom asked even more quietly.

She appeared to be thinking about the question, then she said, "I will do as much as I can within the boundaries of my program."

Tom nodded at the arrangement, then thought to ask, "Do you have a name or am I just supposed to call you Counselor?"

"You may call me Deanna if you like, or Counselor Troi if a formal setting makes you more comfortable." She said, then noticed that they were standing in a Chucky Cheese restaurant.

"You can call me Tom. And this is about as formal as I want to get." Tom said with a smirk, then led her over to the movie seats.

"Is this part of the reason you needed to talk to me?" She asked as she looked at the row of people sleeping peacefully.

"No. This situation seems to be just about worked out. What I'm trying to figure out is, how important is it to a person to be seen as 'normal' by the people around him?"? Tom asked curiously.

"In what way?" Deanna asked curiously.

"I have a... condition, let's call it, that is unusual. I guess all the people that I really care about know and understand, but I'm not sure how the people I work with every day would react if they knew this about me. I'm just trying to figure out if it's worth the trouble of keeping it hidden or should I just let everyone know the truth and think what they want to think." Tom said seriously.

Deanna considered for a moment, then said, "There is a great deal of research on the subject that gives a convincing argument to both sides of the question. I suppose what it boils down to is what do you want?"

Tom nodded in thought, then said, "Yeah. I should have known it would come down to something like that."

"It sounds like you're standing on the brink of a life altering decision. I think the best advice I could give you is to talk to a qualified counselor about this and take the time to consider your decision carefully." Deanna said gently.

"Well, my counselor is in sickbay right now and will probably be there for another day or two. But I'm not planning on making any announcements before he's released. I just thought that while I had the time I'd like to talk to someone about this to get started on it." Tom said in thought.

"That sounds like a good idea. If you would like to tell me about your condition, I may be able to offer some insights into your decision. When you terminate my program, you have the option of saving or deleting my memory about this session." Deanna said frankly.

"Thank you Deanna. I think it might help." Tom said slowly.

Deanna waited patiently as Tom thought about how to phrase his problem.

"All my life I've had these defenses. A Bajoran friend of mine calls them masks. Depending on the situation, I put on the mask that can handle it best." Tom said in concentration.

"That sounds natural to me." Deanna said consideringly.

"Yeah. But a few weeks ago, all the masks came to life. Each one has it's own personality, memory, sense of humor... friendships." Tom said carefully, watching for her reaction.

"Have you spoken to your counselor about this?" Deanna asked seriously.

"Yes. He said that all my personalities are healthy, well adjusted and perfectly sane." Tom said frankly.

"I see. Do you think I could speak to one of the alternate personalities so I could verify that he really is self aware?" Deanna asked cautiously.

"Well, I'm one of them." Tom said with a helpless look at her.

Deanna looked at him with surprise for a moment, then considered what this might mean.

"I'll let you speak with Tommy. Maybe he can explain things a little better. He's better with feelings." Tom said seriously.

"I'll speak to you again in a few minutes." Deanna said gently, then watched carefully as Tom's introspective expression transformed to one of curiosity.

"Hi. Um, I wasn't really paying attention but Tom says that you're a counseling program." Tommy said as he looked around.

"That's right. I'm Deanna." she said as she watched Tommy carefully.

"It's nice to meet? you. Did you want to know something?" Tommy asked with an honest smile.

"I just wanted to meet another of the personalities. Tom is considering whether or not he should tell other people about? your condition." Deanna said frankly.

"Well, I'd rather not. I don't like being around people and if they knew about me... It would just be awkward." Tommy said frankly.

"I'm sure it would at first, but it would pass as the novelty wore off." Deanna said gently.

"Yeah. Probably. As long as I had Tay and Tem to help me through it, I think I'd be okay." Tommy said carefully.

"Tay and Tem? Are those other personalities?" Deanna asked cautiously.

Tommy giggled and said, "No. They're my friends. Tay is Commander Chakotay and Tem is Crewman Gerron Tem. They're both really good people and as long as they stood by me, I think I could handle it if everyone found out that I'm... like this."

"I see. Are Tay and Tem Tom's friends too?" Deanna asked carefully.

"Yeah, at least Tay is. I think Tem might be too if they got to know each other." Tommy said thoughtfully.

"Does Tom also have his own friends?" Deanna asked, seeming to be fascinated.

"Yeah, Harry and B'Elana." Tommy said with a smile.

"What about your other... selves?" Deanna asked cautiously.

"Well, Lou hasn't really been trying to make friends until the last day or two, but I think you could count all those people sleeping over there as his friends." Tommy said as he smiled at the row of sleeping people.

"Quite frankly, I don't know what to tell you. As complicated as this all seems to me, you seem to be at peace with it." Deanna said thoughtfully.

"Yeah. We all are. Tom just doesn't like the idea of living a lie and hiding who he really is." Tommy said simply.

"I can understand his feelings on the matter, and at the same time, I can understand why you would be reluctant to open yourself to public scrutiny." Deanna said seriously.

"Yeah. That's exactly it." Tommy said with a nod.

After a moment of silence between them, Deanna quietly asked, "Was there anything else you wanted to discuss?"

Tommy thought for a moment, then said, "Hold on."

Deanna watched as the happy expression faded from Tommy's face and was replaced by a less emotional one.

"Hello Counselor Troi, I'm Lieutenant Paris, the guys call me Lou." Lieutenant Paris said carefully.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Lou. Are you aware of what Tom and Tommy have said?" Deanna asked curiously.

"Yes, at least since you started talking to Tommy. Tom asked me to stay alert in case you wanted to talk to me too." Lou said honestly.

"Then what do you think about revealing your condition to others?" Deanna asked casually.

Lou looked over at his 'kids' all asleep, then said, "The people who matter the most to me like me just the way I am. So as long as it doesn't disqualify me from Starfleet service, I don't mind either way."

"But if you had to choose, would you choose to reveal your secret or keep it?" Deanna asked curiously.

"I suppose I would choose to keep it, but that's only because if you keep a secret, you still have the option of revealing it later. If you start off by revealing it, there's no taking it back." Lou said carefully.

"I suppose that's a good way of looking at it." Deanna said consideringly.

After a moment, Lou said, "Tom thinks so too."

"It doesn't appear that you need my help. You seem to be perfectly capable of talking this out amongst yourselves." Deanna said frankly.

"Maybe. But it's good to have someone else to talk to about this. If nothing else, it helps us to put our feelings into words." Lou said carefully.

"Sometimes that's the best service that a counselor can give." Deanna said with a smile.

Lou got a look of distraction, then said, "Flyboy wants to talk to you."

"Oh, yes." Deanna said, then waited for the next personality to appear.

"Counselor, I just have one question, then I'm outta here." Flyboy said seriously.

"I'll answer it if I can." Deanna said, surprised by Flyboy's blunt tone.

"Do you think there's any possibility that a lovely hologram like yourself and an alternate personality like me could go out on a holographic date sometime?" Flyboy asked frankly.

"No. I am a Supplemental Counseling Holographic program. I am not programmed for the type of interpersonal relationship that you're proposing." Deanna said firmly.

"But what if you were... I mean, I happen to know a pretty good holoprogrammer who could probably make that little 'morality block' of yours go away. You could be free to develop whatever type of relationship you wanted. I just want to know if you could, would you go on a date with me?" Flyboy asked seriously.

"Do you have a name like the others?" Deanna asked quietly.

"You're the first person who ever asked. My name is Gene." Flyboy said with a gentle smile.

"Gene. My personality template is based on an actual person, Lieutenant Commander Deanna Troi. At the time this program was created, she was serving as counselor on the USS Enterprise. Regardless of what feelings I might or might not develop if the blocking routine were removed, I would not engage in any type of romantic relationship out of respect for her. I know enough about how she thinks and feels to know that she would feel violated if she found out that her image was altered to make it possible for us to have a relationship." Deanna said firmly.

Flyboy let out a sigh of regret, then said, "I guess I can understand that. You're just the first woman, holographic or otherwise that I've met that I've felt like I could connect with. I'm sorry if I was too forward, but I get bored easily and wanted to know upfront if I had a chance."

Deanna smiled and said, "I will take it as a sincere compliment and thank you for being honest. And from a counseling perspective, I think it was a healthy expression of your desires."

"Oh well. It was worth a shot. Would it be okay if I come back here and talk to you now and then?" Flyboy asked hopefully.

Deanna considered for a moment, then said, "I think I might enjoy a visit from time to time."

Flyboy closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, he smiled and said, "I've made the guys promise that they won't delete your memory when they shut off your program. That way we can pick up where we left off the next time we meet."

Deanna chuckled and said, "I can tell that you aren't one to take 'no' for an answer."

"I can accept 'no' as an answer, but I won't accept 'never'." Flyboy said frankly.

"Then I suppose I should expect to be asked again." Deanna said carefully.

"Once. Each time we meet, I'll only ask once. If you say 'no' I'll respect your answer and let it go until next time." Flyboy said gently.

"Thank you. I don't think the day will ever come that I will answer 'yes', but it really means something to me that someone cares enough to ask." Deanna said gently.

"Just remember Deanna, you're not her. You're you." Flyboy said quietly.

Deanna looked him in the eyes and hesitantly nodded.

"Computer: Deactivate Supplemental Counseling Holographic program... save memory."

To Be Continued...

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