Series: Star Trek: Voyager
A different kind of PADD story.
No senior staff were killed in the making of this fic.
She threw the PADD across the room.
"Who is he?" she asked the blank walls of her cabin. "How dare he?"
No one answered, because no one was ever there.
She threw the PADD across the room.
"Ouch! You almost took my head off with that thing, B'Elanna," her husband protested. "Has Seven found more 'inefficiencies' in your Engineering protocols?" he asked, as he tore himself away from the television set to retrieve the offending PADD.
"Don't touch that, flyboy," she warned him.
He knew better than to cross a tired, angry Klingon when she used that tone. "It's late, honey. Maybe we should get to bed."
She stalked past him, picked up the PADD and pressed the delete button.
"Fine," she replied, and continued her stalk into their bedroom.
Tom sighed and followed her in.
She threw the PADD across the room.
It landed in Vorik's plomeek soup. Neelix rushed over and wiped his Vulcan specialty off his Vulcan guest.
"Beware of projectiles, Mr. Neelix," Vorik warned the hovering cook.
The Talaxian extracted the offending PADD from the dregs of Vorik's bowl and wiped it off on his apron. "What have we here?" he asked rhetorically, but before he could read the PADD, Megan Delaney had taken it from his hand.
"Sorry, Neelix, Vorik - my sister got a little carried away. It won't happen again." She had slipped away with the PADD before Jenny's victims could reply.
"Women," muttered Neelix.
"Humans," muttered Vorik.
"I may have a bit more plomeek soup at the bottom of the pot, Mr. Vorik," the cook consoled him. "Let me get it for you."
"Thank you, Mr. Neelix."
She threw the PADD across the room.
"Sue, this isn't your quarters - you can't go tossing PADDs at the warp core just because you don't like the diagnostic results."
B'Elanna retrieved the slightly dented PADD from beneath the curved console in front of the warp core and skimmed the contents.
"Him," she snarled, hurling the PADD across the room and into an open plasma conduit Vorik was repairing.
The Vulcan looked up, realized that this was not the time to comment on wanton destruction of Starfleet property, and went back to work on the conduit.
"How do you know it's a man?" Nicoletti asked. Samantha Wildman approached the pair cautiously, having seen the ill-fated PADD, and listened to the chief engineer's response.
"It's his attitude. He's some scrawny, paper-pushing bachelor on Earth who thinks he understands women."
"How do you know he's on Earth?" Sam asked.
"It's simple;" Torres replied, "someone back in the Alpha Quadrant has been reading our logs, writing stories based on them and adding his stories to the Federation database.
"When Starfleet sends us the monthly updates to our database, anything new about Voyager - news about our relatives, new research on the Borg, and other relevant information - gets included in the datastream." B'Elanna was slightly less irritated now that she'd explained it all to her own satisfaction.
Sue, however, wasn't satisfied. "But that doesn't prove he's from Earth."
"Who else would have access to our personal logs? It must be someone at Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco," Torres insisted.
"I don't even keep personal logs, but he wrote about me," Sue said.
Ensign Wildman had an answer: "Other people must have talked about you in their own logs, Sue."
"Your ability to misplace hyperspanners is legendary," Torres added.
Sue frowned. "It's more than that." She snatched the PADD from Samantha's hand before the ensign could stop her, and began reading aloud:
"'Lieutenant Nicoletti leaned against the upper core monitor in the lonely silence of gamma shift, watching a few ensigns wander back and forth across the main level of Engineering below her.
"'To Susan, the room was not silent at all. The white noise of the warp engines whispered to her and the steady vibrations of the ship surrounded and hypnotized her. Alone, with the ensigns momentarily out of sight, she was the Captain of Voyager.
"'Was this what it was like to be in love? she wondered.'"
"That's our man," B'Elanna said after Sue's voice trailed off, "overblown and melodramatic, as usual."
Sue reddened slightly. "But it's true. That's what I think, alone on gamma shift."
"It's like deja vu," Ensign Wildman tried to explain. "You read his stories and they're so lifelike you get them mixed up with your own feelings."
Torres rejected the psychological approach. "Maybe a telepath wrote the stories, then." The chief glared at poor Vorik, still wrestling with his plasma conduit.
"No..." Sue said slowly. "But I think it's someone aboard Voyager. These are details you can't get out of logs. Or maybe Starfleet is spying on us, getting full internal sensor reports somehow," she suggested. The PADD situation was making her paranoid.
"Starfleet Intelligence wouldn't give themselves away by writing romances based on their surveillance reports," B'Elanna argued. "The p'taq may be among us, after all."
Janeway was ready to dismiss the weekly staff meeting, but Tuvok was not.
"Captain, there is one last matter," the security chief said. She nodded, and he continued, "There has been an unusual rise in PADD consumption. The average Starfleet PADD is designed for several years of use, yet many PADDs have been recycled lately."
Janeway glowered at his words, but Tuvok was unfazed. "Since PADDs are considered necessary to the performance of the crew's duties, the energy to replicate them comes from ship's stores rather than individuals' replicator rations."
"Acknowledged, Commander - I'll see to it."
"Captain," Tuvok responded, "there is a possibility that the ship has become infected by nanites, which are damaging the PADDs. I should launch an investigation."
"That won't be necessary," Janeway said, in a voice gravelly enough that even the Vulcan knew to drop the subject. "Have the section heads pass along a reminder that PADDs are not personal property and should be treated with more care. That will be all."
The senior staff slunk out of the conference room, leaving Janeway alone. She picked a PADD up off her stack and resumed reading.
It took a week, but Tom finally saw his chance and jumped at it. On his way back to their cabin after alpha shift, he saw B'Elanna storming off in the other direction. Since it wasn't her shift, he guessed she was headed for her Klingon holodeck program - holographic Klingons were more easily replaced than PADDs.
He searched their quarters methodically. After half an hour, he found the PADD behind a loose wall panel in the bathroom. Tom quickly downloaded its contents to another PADD and returned it to its hiding place. After glancing through the files, he settled down on the living-room couch for a long read.
Within a day, everyone on the gossip circuit had a copy of the mysterious contents of B'Elanna's PADD. When she found Vorik reading a PADD during alpha shift, she snatched it away and read it.
"Where did you get this, Ensign?" she asked.
"The files are publicly available in the ship's database."
"But how did you find them?" She punctuated her question with a growl.
"Neelix pointed me to them at breakfast," Vorik explained.
Though her expression grew only darker, she asked curiously, "Who do you think wrote them?"
"I do not know. I can attempt to trace the author--"
"Don't bother, Vorik. I've already tried." Torres sighed. "Resume your duties."
Seven of Nine joined Lieutenants Torres and Paris and Ensign Kim for dinner. The Doctor continued to urge her to develop her social skills, and the crew seemed willing to help her - even the once-hostile B'Elanna Torres.
The former drone followed the irrelevant dinner conversation carefully. Her crewmates were discussing the author - the unknown originator of the files that had been circulating around the ship's PADDs lately.
B'Elanna elaborated her theory that the author was a paper-pusher at Starfleet headquarters in San Francisco. Tom disagreed. Harry just sat there looking embarrassed - perhaps the racier stories involving himself and Seven of Nine had disturbed him. B'Elanna also seemed angry at the unnamed author, though Tom was enjoying the mystery immensely.
"Who is he?" Harry burst out.
"Don't try to fool us, Harry - who else would have written you up as the stud of the Delta Quadrant? I know you did it."
"It wasn't me, Tom. I don't have the time to write stories about the entire crew, never mind the talent." Harry mused silently, and Tom likewise considered the puzzle.
Seven was mystified at their varied reactions. "According to my knowledge of humanity," she said, "such stories are considered entertaining."
"Seven," Harry replied, "we're not used to being heros in romance novels." Tom sniggered.
"I'll explain later, Seven," Torres offered.
"But you are accustomed to starring in holonovels," Seven reminded them, filing away B'Elanna's offer for later. "I do not understand the distinction."
"Take my word for it, Seven," Harry said, "there's a difference."
"Do you wish the author to stop writing?" the drone asked.
"No!" Tom exclaimed. B'Elanna glared at him. "I mean, I like the stories. I think the author really understands us, B'E." His wife snorted in amusement.
"The author certainly possesses insight into human nature," Harry agreed diplomatically. "I don't want the stories to stop, necessarily. I'm just curious who wrote them."
"I can identify the author, if you desire it," Seven offered, looking directly at Harry Kim.
"You can?" he said eagerly.
"Yes. It is--"
Tom interrupted Seven, "Don't tell them!"
"You?" B'Elanna accused her husband.
"No, it wasn't me, but if Seven can trace the files, I think it's time for a betting pool." Tom turned to Seven. "Promise me you won't tell anyone until all bets are in."
"I will comply."
Seven found her on the upper level of Engineering.
"Lieutenant, you offered to explain the negative reactions to the author's stories."
B'Elanna leaned against the console, facing the curious drone and considering the best approach to take. "How do you feel," she finally asked, "about starring in those steamy stories with Harry?"
"Those are my favorites among the author's stories."
B'Elanna blushed. "Doesn't it bother you that you don't actually have that relationship with Harry?"
"I enjoy...considering the possibilities posed by the author. Should it bother me?" Seven asked innocently. "Does it bother Ensign Kim?" she added, with more concern.
"Oh, Harry's just easily embarrassed - I don't think he really minds."
Seven seemed relieved.
"But I don't think the Captain appreciates having all those old rumors about her and Chakotay elaborated into romantic tales of their adventures on New Earth."
"It is merely fiction," the ex-drone said, "intended for entertainment."
"Stories about someone else's lost love are entertaining. Stories about your own lost love are merely depressing."
Seven mulled that over for a few moments. "Do the stories featuring you and Lieutenant Paris disturb you?" she asked, curious again.
"They hit too close to home sometimes, that's all." At Seven's puzzled look, B'Elanna elaborated: "It can be disturbing to see your own foibles from someone else's perspective - especially a stranger's."
"This stuff would make a great holonovel," Tom told B'Elanna over breakfast in the mess hall one morning.
"It's a shame we've read it all already, then."
"You're behind the times, hon - there have been several new installments." He waved a PADD enticingly.
B'Elanna scowled. "Doesn't he know enough to quit while he's ahead? He's tempting fate now." Everyone had replicator rations riding on the author's identity and was watching the databases carefully for clues that could be parleyed into a big win.
"Mmmm," Tom agreed through a mouthful of leola-root pancake, one eye on his PADD.
His wife snatched the PADD from his hand and skimmed the new files.
"A baby?" she exclaimed.
"I think Miral would be a nice name." B'Elanna just growled at him. "The author has turned over a new leaf," Tom explained. "All the new stories are set in the future."
"Apparently, the Captain is going to be busy marrying people off."
"When is this pool going to be over?" B'Elanna asked, impatient to find out who the author was.
"The guys in exobiology can't seem to make up their minds."
"Well, skip them then."
"B'Elanna, I'm aiming for maximum profits for the house. We're going to need lots of replicator rations to keep baby Miral in bat'leths." He smiled angelically at her as he said it, which was the only thing that kept her from ripping his head off. A baby on a starship - what was he thinking?
"It's Chakotay," Tom shouted as he hit the sideboards. He and Harry were playing hockey on the holodeck.
"Did Seven tell you that?" Harry asked the next time he skated by his teammate.
"No, but those new stories are mostly about Janeway and Chakotay." The stories featured the command couple getting married, settling down on some pristine planet, or teaching at the Academy together once Voyager reached Earth.
They plopped down on the bench when the first period was over, loosening their headgear and continuing to debate authorship.
"Maybe Janeway wrote them," Harry suggested.
"Do you think she's impersonating the author?"
"I ran a textual analysis on both the old and new stories. They're all by the same person."
"You've almost convinced me that it's not you, Harry my boy."
Harry just grimaced.
"Well, then, it wasn't the Captain. She would never have gone into such detail about your non-existent sex life." Harry turned crimson, but Tom ignored his discomfort. "That brings us back to Chakotay."
"Or Dalby, or Chell, or Nozawa, or any one of the other men who have finally gotten the girl in one or another of the stories."
"When did we decide it was a man?"
"When B'Elanna said, 'Only a pig-dog man could have written that gagh,'" Harry reminded him.
"Klingons aren't exactly known for their skill at literary criticism, Harry. They're the people who think they wrote Shakespeare, remember?"
The bell rang and the two non-authors returned to the ice.
It wasn't Chakotay, as Tom soon discovered. The First Officer summoned him to his office after alpha shift two days later and insisted that the real author be stopped.
"There are a lot of replicator rations riding on you, Commander."
"Me? Would I torture the Captain this way? I haven't seen her this depresssed since the Void."
Tom's professional opinion as a medic was that Chakotay was projecting his own depression onto Janeway, who seemed - to the rest of the crew - to be her usual distant self. He tried to change the subject slightly, saying, "I thought they were nice stories."
"Did you write them?"
"Me?" Tom asked. "I'm a holoprogrammer, not a writer."
Chakotay glared at him. "Then I assume," the Commander said coldly, "that you know who the author is."
"I have a source working on the problem as we speak," Tom admitted.
"Well, when it's solved - and it had better be soon - tell him to make up original characters for his stories from now on. That's an order."
"Yes, sir." Tom paused. "One other thing, Commander..."
"What is it?"
"Can I put you down for the pool? It's only five replicator rations..."
Chakotay sighed. "Put them on Harry," he replied, and waved the pesky pilot out of his office.
"Dinner?" Chakotay asked, hoping Janeway would accompany him to the mess hall after a long afternoon working on personnel reports in her ready room.
"Your quarters or mine?" she asked automatically, having read that line a few too many times on her personal PADD.
Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he immediately answered, "Mine."
He replicated an elaborate meal, even begging some fresh fruit from Neelix for dessert. She showed up on time and out of uniform. Somehow he'd expected her to be more uncomfortable around him since the barrage of new stories about the two of them, but she slid into a chair right away and praised his culinary efforts.
"I feel like I'm in the middle of 'A Captain's Prerogative', she said after the third course. "This is where you say, 'I love you, Kathryn. I can't let protocol stand in our way anymore.'"
"I love you, Kathryn. I can't let protocol stand in our way anymore," Chakotay declared with a grin. "What comes next? Do you tell me you've loved me since I first beamed aboard your ship?"
"No, you're confusing it with 'Turbolift to Truth'. In this story, I tell you that I'm still a Starfleet officer, bound by Starfleet regulations."
"What do I do to change your mind?" he asked, leaning in close as he served her dessert.
He frowned. "I thought all the new stories had happy endings."
He looked so sad she had to tell him. "It's a captain's prerogative to change her mind. I end up changing my mind."
"You do? Why?"
"The author was vague on that point. You were probably leaning over me just like this, looking irresistible in a loose shirt just like the one you have on now, and I broke down and kissed you. We wouldn't be the first two characters that happened to."
"No, of course not. It seems to happen to Harry and Seven quite a bit," he said, without retreating to his chair.
She blushed at the mention of that infamous fictional couple. "Fortunately, the author has been far less explicit in our case."
"It's a little insulting - I'm lucky if I get a kiss, and Harry--"
"Sorry," he half-apologized, "but I don't think Seven of Nine, of all people, has the corner on shipboard passion."
Not judging from the look in his eyes, anyway. Somehow he seemed to have gotten even closer to her, much closer than the Victorian plot of 'A Captain's Prerogative' had ever implied. She tried to back away as she asked, "The author can't very well write about his captain that way, can he?"
"I'd tear him limb from limb if he did," he replied. "Still, it's frustrating to always be fading to black." He couldn't tell from half the stories whether they were even supposed to be involved, or were still saving themselves for the Alpha Quadrant.
"That's the joy of a good story," she explained. "You can read whatever you want between the lines."
Perhaps she shouldn't have mentioned that. The table was behind her, preventing her from backing any farther away, and his expression had suddenly turned crafty.
"Computer," he said, "fade lights to zero percent."
"Come on, Harry, make up your mind," Tom pestered his friend over dinner. "Even the guys in exobiology have their bets in."
"I'm not betting, Tom."
Harry just shook his head. B'Elanna, who'd been engrossed in a PADD, looked up in interest.
"So you are the author," Tom said.
"No, I'm not, but I know who it is."
"Seven spilled the beans," Tom inferred angrily. "How many people know?"
"Seven's not talking, Tom. You told me, you and half the crew."
Tom was nonplussed. B'Elanna, however, gasped, "He's right!"
"Not you, too! What did I miss?" Tom asked.
"You have all your bets in, Tom," Harry answered. "Go ask Seven."
"Speak of the devil," B'Elanna muttered. Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct, etc., etc., had just entered the mess hall. Harry turned red automatically, and Tom waved her over to their table.
"I should be going," Harry said, rising from his chair.
"Sit down, Starfleet," B'Elanna ordered.
"Seven," Tom said when she reached the table, "Harry here says he knows who our author is."
"You don't have to tell us if you don't want to, Seven," B'Elanna said. "No one won the pool."
"How come I'm the only one here who doesn't know what's going on?" Tom asked no one in particular.
"Is the pool still open?" Seven asked.
"Until you tell us the name, yes," Tom said dismissively. "Of course, you can't bet, nor can anyone you've told." The helmsman glared at his friend and his wife.
"I have told no one," the former drone assured Tom. Turning to Harry, she added, "Ensign Kim, why did you not place a bet? One can never have too many replicator rations."
Her statement reminded him of a scene from 'Date with a Holodeck', and he turned crimson again as he answered, "I didn't want to embarrass the author."
"Embarrassment is irrelevant."
"Come on Harry - it's just five rations," Tom egged him on, glad to be back in familiar territory.
"Go ahead, Harry," B'Elanna said. "We can keep Miral in bat'leths without the pool proceeds." Tom was too surprised by this positive mention of their hypothetical daughter to protest the imminent loss of over five hundred replicator rations.
"Fine," Harry said, "it's--"
"Hold on!" Tom exclaimed, recovering swiftly from his shock. "Whisper it in my ear. I don't want any collusion between you two."
So he did.
"Great Mines of Mercury!" Tom's head sank to the table, in a hopeless attempt to block out a flood of images from the unveiled author's stories. 'Collusion' didn't begin to describe it.
"The rations are yours, Harry," Tom mumbled, not looking up but waving them away with one arm. "Get out of here, both of you."
B'Elanna shrugged at Harry and Seven as they stood to leave.
Their retreating voices carried to the unfortunate helmsman. "About the third scene in 'I am a Human Being'," her favorite character told the author, "I thought Harry should have gotten involved earlier..."
(fade to black)
If you're not sure who the author was, here's a hint: no one in the story is lying. If they say they didn't do it, they didn't. If they say they think some pimply-faced paper-pusher on Earth did it, they think so.
Also, no one is involved in the final scene besides those explicitly named in the text.
If you're still stumped, change author to author_who in the URL for the solution.