"You know it strikes me," she says a little later in the night, "that you seemed to have strategically missed out stories of our young pilot."

"Oh really?" I chuckle to myself, having known her for long enough to know when she is baiting me.

"Really. Maybe if you knew some of Tom's stories, you wouldn't be so hard on him." She throws me a glance as she clears away our clutter for the night. "Yours or mine?" Kathryn holds up a padd.

"Mine." I watch her toss it to one side of the table. The nightly routine of 'the halving of the clutter' has always amused me. Even in her messiness Kathryn Janeway has needed some sort of order. I think in many ways that's why she's thrown for a loop out here. But then, even chaos has some sort of order.

"It's not me being hard that Tom has to worry about." I took our dishes over to the recycler. "Tom's always going to have infantile transgressions on his shoulders. I think it's something they fed to you fleet brats; gives you an overactive conscience."

I can feel her death stare from the other side of the room.

"And anyway," I say quickly, "Tom's got enough to worry about with B'Elanna keeping him in check ..."

Playing on the Conscience
by Vicki Firth

One of the most exhilarating aspects of being a pilot was the sensation of having several hundred thousand tons of starship move smoothly and powerfully through the stars at the touch of a fingertip.

The dullest part of being a pilot was having your ship sitting at full stop in space.

Or worse yet, in spacedock. Where Voyager was now.

It was incredibly good fortune, Tom knew, for Voyager to have come across a fully outfitted space station which had the facilities to undertake much needed repairs on the ship. Unhappily, while in spacedock, he had little more to do at the helm than compile never-ending reports comparing the ship's energy usage with respect to distances travelled at various warp speeds, and other such scintillating data as that.

After being a desk-jockey for a week, Tom's mood was fast becoming rather surly.

He sighed, ran a hand through his hair, and keyed up another archived flight plan onto his monitor.

Before the data appeared on the screen, his gaze was drawn to an unbelievable appearance just to the right of his hand. He ran his other hand across his eyes and then looked again to make certain he was seeing correctly.

His eyes widened when he realized they were not deceiving him.

Standing atop his helm station just centimetres from his hand was a stocky little man, eyeing him intently. Little was the accurate description for this being, as he stood no more than five centimetres in height. He appeared to be a "he", looked like a human male in fact, except for the large feathery wings growing from his back. He was round-faced and squat, and wore a very garish surfer shirt which did not flatter his portly form in any way. His cuffed brown trousers were the exact same shade as the fedora hat, akin to those popular with men during the early part of the 20th century, which sat upon his head.

'You must be a holographic projection,' Tom thought and reached out a finger to the man, assuming he would be able to pass his hand straight through it.

Instinct made him pull his hand away when the little man fluttered his wings and alighted from the course of the probing finger.

"Hey watch it, kiddo! You could hurt me with those big paws of yours, you know! I ain't made of steel, buddy!"

Tom's eyes widened as he heard the image speak to him. The little man scowled as he fluttered over top of Tom's control panel and then came in for a landing on the opposite side.

The pilot spun around quickly to see if anyone else on the bridge had been watching this interaction but the rest of the crew appeared occupied at their respective duty stations.

Chakotay noticed him looking around the bridge.

"Do you need something, Tom?" he asked.

"Uh, no," Tom replied and swung back around in his chair. Evidently no one else had heard the little man speaking to him. But how could that be? Tom had heard him plain as day.

He looked again at the little man, who was still standing beyond the helm controls and was tapping his foot impatiently.

Tom bent his head to look the being straight in the eye.

"What are you?" he hissed quietly, hoping no one would notice him talking to his helm.

"*What* am I?!" the little man said indignantly, obviously feeling put out at being referred to as an object. "I'm not a "what," I'm a "who!" And who I am, is your good conscience, Tommy-boy!"

Good Conscience was fairly shrieking at Tom now, expounding his point by smacking his fist into his palm repeatedly.

Tom craned his neck around to gaze at his crewmates again. With the way the thing was carrying on surely someone had overheard him. But still no one looked like they had noticed a thing.

"My good conscience?" he whispered back at the little man.

"Yeah, you know, it's my job to try and keep you on the straight and narrow. And let me tell you, it's not a very easy job!"

"Oh, right!" Tom said audibly.

"Tom?" Chakotay questioned from behind, having heard this remark.

Tom turned in his chair once more, this time with a grin on his face.

"Okay, you got me. Good joke! Whose idea was my 'good conscience?'"

All faces on the bridge were now staring at him. All wore identical expressions of puzzlement.

"Come on, somebody confess. A holographic representation of my good conscience? That's a good one." He scanned the faces around the bridge once more. Everyone continued to look at him blankly.

Tom stood up and gestured to the now empty helm control.

"Someone figured out a way to project an image calling itself my good conscience onto the helm here. It was just speaking to me."

"I didn't hear anything," Chakotay said slowly.

"The bridge would not be the appropriate place for such pranks to be played," Tuvok commented sternly.

Tom shot Harry a pointed look.

"I don't know anything about it," Harry said, throwing up his hands. "Honest."

Chakotay took charge. "Harry, see if you can find any evidence of a holographic projector on the bridge. Tuvok, scan for any anomalous readings. Maybe we have some sort of alien influence at work here."

"It's not an alien," Tom protested. "Not looking and sounding like he did. He was too comical."

"Are you saying you have a funny good conscience?" Harry quipped, eliciting numerous grins from around the bridge.

Tom gave him a dark look and started going over the helm control looking for the holographic projector. He couldn't find any evidence of one. Nor could Harry. Tuvok's scans turned up negative.

"We'll continue to look," Chakotay said. "While we're at it, why don't you take an early lunch? Get off the bridge for a while."

"I'm not imagining this!" Tom protested. "But fine. I could use something to eat right about now."

He left the bridge but instead of hitting the messhall, he decided to head for the holodeck. He didn't feel especially social at the moment. Initially, he'd been vaguely amused by his 'good conscience,' but when no one had been willing to admit to setting up the joke, he'd become annoyed. Maybe some solitary time in Sandrine's with the pool table would help him relax and put him in a better frame of mind.

Tom racked the balls and then made a nice, clean break. He leaned over the table once again, lining up his shot, picturing the angle and trajectory of the ball in his head. He drew back the cue and then sent it forward with a firm thrust. But instead of hearing the satisfying crack of cue ball hitting coloured, he heard the horrifying grate of his stick tearing across the felt-covered slate.

Good Conscience waved his wings lightly to take himself out of the path of the cue ball as it rolled slightly to the side.

"Tsk, tsk, Tommy. Losing your form?"

"Look, you were a good joke, but the joke's over. Now would you mind getting the hell out of here and letting me finish my game?"

"Sorry, no can do, kiddo!" Good Conscience said brightly. He waddled over to where Tom's cue stick had run along the table. "Lucky miss, you didn't tear the felt." He brushed some of the chalk the cue had left on the table off of his hands. "As I said, I can't leave you. I'm a part of you. We're a team, you and me!"

Tom gritted his teeth. "You are NOT my conscience. You're a holographic projection!"

"Call me what you will, but I think you know that even you have a good conscience."

"Fine!" Tom said sharply. "Call yourself what you will. But I know you don't exist. So if you want, you can continue to play your little game, and I'm going to go ahead and finish mine."

He bent down to line up another shot.

"Noooo, Tommy, don't bank it into the corner, bank it into the side!"

"Shut up," hissed Tom.

He drew back his cue to take his intended shot, but at the last possible moment he shifted the angle so that the cue ball sped swiftly in the direction of the annoying little projection.

Good Conscience waved his wings and rose effortlessly out of the way.

"You see what I have to put up with!" the little man said in an exasperated tone, drifting down to the table once more. "That temper of yours gives me plenty to do, let me tell you!"

"I give up," Tom huffed, throwing his cue stick on the table and exiting the holodeck.

He made it into the turbolift and then down the corridor en route to his quarters before he had another unwelcome visitation.

"We were talking about your temper," Good Conscience said, suddenly appearing and hovering in the air right in front of Tom's face. He pointed accusingly at the pilot. "It's been getting the better of you lately and Tommy-boy's been a bit of a grouchy boy. Even with your friends! Even with that little honey of yours! Ya gotta treat a dame right, buddy, if you want to keep her around."

Tom groaned. "B'Elanna! *She* created you, didn't she?!"

"When will you get it through that noggin of yours that *nobody* created me! I'm a part of you, pal-y. I think you've just created what your eyes are seeing."

"Hey, I'm bored and brain dead, but I'm not quite that far gone yet," Tom protested. "B'Elanna's got to have a hand in this somehow."

"And when would she have found the time?" Good Conscience asked. "You of all people know how hard she's been working."

That was true, as B'Elanna was supervising both the refit of Voyager's hull and repairs and upgrades to the ship's engineering systems.

Tom sighed. "Okay, let's say for a moment that I am actually standing in the corridor having a conversation with my good conscience. What do you want from me?"

"Me?" Good Conscience placed both hands atop his heart in surprise. "It's not what I want from you, it's what *you* want from you. And take it from me, you want to lose this nasty mood you've found yourself in and get back in better spirits."

"And how do I do that?"

"Re-lax, man! Take it easy! Don't get so uptight about the fact that you can't be playing the hero daredevil guy flying this big tug around right now. Do your job, and go with the flow. Trust me kiddo, because if you trust me, you're trusting yourself. Oh, and make sure you're extra nice to that sweet dame of yours."

"Okay, I'll go with the flow." Tom mimicked Good Conscience's gesture of sweeping his hand out to the side. "Does that mean you'll go away now?"

"If that's what you want, buddy. Ain't no skin of my back. I could use a bit of R 'n' R myself, with what you like to put me through!"

"Great! Then go. Please. I'm calm and I'm happy now, see?" Tom made his point by grinning foolishly at Good Conscience.

"Be cool, baby!" Good Conscience said with a wink.

"Now go!" Tom waved his hand in the general vicinity of Good Conscience. The little man deftly avoided being swatted by fluttering out of the way.

"Go! Go! Go!" Tom commanded, now waving both hands frantically in front of him.


He whirled around to find Chakotay walking down the corridor towards him. The first officer was close enough to him that he could not helped but have overheard the last few words Tom had issued to his conscience.

"Are you okay?" Chakotay looked a bit worried.

Tom cringed at the look. "Yeah, I'm fine." Chakotay did not look convinced. "A bit tired, maybe. I've been up to my ears in those reports," he added lamely.

"They can get a bit tedious," Chakotay said, giving him a consoling look. "Why don't you take the rest of the day off. You're pretty much up to date anyway, right?"

"Well, yeah," Tom said, surprised.

"Take the day off, relax, get some rest. I'm sure you'll feel a lot more like yourself tomorrow."

Tom felt a lot more like himself already, just knowing he was getting a one day reprieve from the reports.

"Thanks Chakotay," he said genuinely. "I think taking the rest of the day off will do me good."

When Chakotay turned to head back down the corridor after Tom had entered his quarters, he saw B'Elanna round the corner, a cunning smile gracing her lips. She went over to the bulkhead and took off the plating, then removed a small object from within.

"Now why do I suddenly think you have something to do with Tom's strange behaviour?" Chakotay asked, crossing his arms in front of him.

B'Elanna turned her smile to him while replacing the bulkhead plating. "Why ever would you think that, Chakotay?" she asked sweetly. Too sweetly.

"Spill it, Lieutenant. That's an order."

"You're no fun," B'Elanna pouted. But she opened her palm to reveal a miniature remote holographic projector. She pushed the switch and the image of a slightly disreputable looking little man with wings appeared in the air.

"What's this? Hey now, I don't belong to you two! Where's Tommy-boy?"

B'Elanna switched the holographic projector off and grinned. "That's Tom's good conscience. It's been following him around all day."

Chakotay's lips twitched. "That's Tom's *good* conscience? What's his bad conscience look like?"

B'Elanna shuddered. "I don't want to know."

"You began this prank this morning on the bridge, didn't you?" Chakotay asked.

"Yes," B'Elanna said, her face animated as she divulged the details of her ploy. "I hid the projector within the helm control and temporarily remodulated the sensors so it wouldn't be picked up. I got the Doctor in on it, and he implanted a micro transmitter in Tom's ear a couple weeks ago when Tom went into sickbay with a cut on his head. So only he could hear his 'good conscience.'"

"It was really starting to get to him, you know."

"I know!" B'Elanna grinned wickedly. "But hey, it got him the day off! And as it happens, I'm also free for the rest of the day, so we can finally spend some time together."

Chakotay gave her a dark look. "Well, now that I know all the details I could recall him to duty. And I could put you on report for pulling such a prank on the bridge."

"But you won't," B'Elanna said merrily. "I know you appreciate a good joke, Chakotay."

"Besides," she continued, tossing the holographic projector into the air and catching it, then offering Chakotay a sly grin, "you wouldn't want a disappointed Klingon on your conscience, would you?"

* * *

I have trouble delivering B'Elanna's last lines because Kathryn is laughing so hard. I'm not worried about betraying B'Elanna's confidence... or embarrassing Tom Paris. And besides, even if I were, it would be worth it just to see her laugh like this.

"Well Chakotay, at least they are a resourceful crew!"

"Yeah. And the last I heard B'Elanna and Harry were planning to plant one in the kitchen. Something about subliminally suggesting more Betazoid cakes...."

"Oh! Maybe I should enlist them to suggest coffee while they're at it."

"Oh great... because that's just what you need. More coffee!" I offer her my hand and pull her up from the couch.

"And you have a better idea, Commander?"

"Hmmm....maybe." I reply, following her into the bedroom.

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