A/N: Yay! Another chapter! No promises about any more (I guess I'll have to play it by ear and take it one chapter at a time?), but still! :D However, seeing as how I have no template to follow anymore (as you might call it), and everything from here on out is brand-spanking-new and original, there will, no doubt, be a shift in style when compared to previous chapters. Hopefully it's still enjoyable.
And just so you know, I did go back to Chapter 9 and tweak the times given. Because as it was, Data was supposed to present his revised report by 2200, and Tasha was supposed to meet Data at 2230 in Ten Forward, and half an hour seemed an awfully short amount of time for Riker to look over the new report and for Tasha's name to be officially cleared. Anyway.
Façades: A Mirror Universe Story
original premise by Pseudo Posthuman
In an almost-repeat of the previous morning, Will Riker sat behind the captain's desk, mulling over Data's report. "I see," he finally remarked. " 'Cover up,' you said?"
"It seemed a likely possibility."
"Hm. And you're positive this time?"
"Absolutely, sir. Romulan components were found in his security locker, and the anomalous sensor readings we experienced were eventually traced back to the console he was manning at the time of the attack on Captain Picard."
Will hummed again and stroked his beard thoughtfully.
"Speaking of the captain," Data continued, "might I inquire, sir, about the state of his health?"
Will jerked his eyes up at that, but after a moment, dropped them back to the PADD. Almost resentfully, he tossed it off to the side. "His condition's stable, but he has yet to regain consciousness. Dr. Crusher says he should make it, though."
Data nodded. "I am pleased to hear that."
Will looked back up at the android and narrowed his eyes curiously. " 'Pleased,' Mr. Data?"
"A turn of phrase, sir. I simply meant that, in light of recent events, the captain's recovery will reflect more positively on the rest of the crew than his death would."
At the explanation, Will simply let out a little grunt of agreement. He picked the PADD back up and gave it one more glancing over. "Well," he said, gesturing at the report and effectively changing the subject, "proceed, Mr. Data." A smirk came to his lips and he added, "It looks like Dr. Crusher will have some paperwork to attend to between her monitoring of the captain."
It was at 1800 hours, just as Tasha was about to get something to eat for dinner, that Commander Riker called her to the ready room. She acknowledged the order, and once the comm. had broken off, let out a shaky sigh. It was probably just as well; she'd been all nerves ever since yesterday and had barely been able to choke down any food since.
"Well," Will said when she entered, brusquely tossing a PADD down on the desk in front of her, "I guess you're off the hook, Lieutenant."
With some hesitation, she picked up the PADD. Displayed on its screen wasn't Data's report, as she'd been expecting, but a death certificate instead. For a Lieutenant Roland Hixon. One of her security officers.
Tasha blinked. "You mean you—?" She stopped.
"Found the culprit?" Will eyed her carefully, suspiciously. He leaned back in his seat, and it occurred to Tasha that he was really getting too comfortable in the captain's chairs. "Lucky for you, Mr. Data is more thorough with his investigations than you are with your security measures."
She was smart enough not to rise to the bait, and instead placed the PADD back on the desk. She set her jaw and clasped her hands behind her back. "Why wasn't I told about this?" One of the officers under her command, and she was only finding out about it now, after the fact? To say nothing of how, as head of security, protocol dictated that she be informed of all executions.
"I'm telling you now, aren't I, Lieutenant?"
So that was how it was going to be. Really, she shouldn't have been surprised. Will had always harbored some resentment toward her, and she suspected it was born from pure, old-fashioned misogyny. Aside from Beverly, who he grudgingly respected (more for her association with the captain than anything to do with her medical skills), and Deanna, who he almost feared, he seemed to have a very dim view of women. Really, it wasn't a surprise that he was trying to bully her and otherwise undermine her authority, what with the captain incapacitated and unable to countermand him.
Tasha suppressed an angry sigh and curtly said, "Yes, sir."
Will watched her for another tense moment, before finally snapping, "Dismissed." Tasha turned on her heel, and was about to stalk out of the ready room when he added, "But make no mistake, Yar—I've got my eye on you. You so much as leave a phaser uncharged, and I'll have your head on a platter."
"The time is twenty-two hundred hours and twenty-three minutes."
Seven minutes. Fucking wonderful. Tasha sighed and scowled at herself in the bathroom mirror. Almost defiantly, she tugged her uniform straight.
Fine. So she was being blackmailed into a date. That didn't mean she had to dress herself up like a doll.
Not yet, at least, she thought sourly.
Dread washed over her again, and she found herself staring worriedly at her reflection. She had the unmistakable feeling she was going to regret this. It was so easy to be afraid of the unknown, and there was so much unknown about Data… His creator, Dr. Soong, was probably the only one who ever truly knew how he worked, and he was dead.
Like she would be, if she didn't go through with this. While her name was currently (tenuously) clear, she had no doubt that Data could just as easily 'find' further 'evidence' that would condemn her irrevocably if she chose to skip out on their date tonight.
Tasha sighed again, bracingly, and raised her chin at herself. She'd risen to full lieutenant and head security officer on the Imperial flagship—not an easy feat for a woman, and especially not for one who refused to sleep her way up in rank. She could do this.
With a brisk breath, she left her quarters and headed to Ten Forward.
Data was already there, as she'd expected, and upon entering, she suddenly wished she'd had the foresight to arrive early. At least then she could have chosen the table—preferably in a corner, or at least along the wall. As it was, Data was seated in the middle of the room, and she hated the fact that they would be so visible.
But he'd said he wanted her to be seen with him, so what had she expected, really?
"Well?" she said, coming up to the table, resisting the urge to defensively cross her arms. The 'I'm here, what do you want?' wasn't said, but was clearly implied.
Data gestured to the seat across from him. "Will you sit?" he asked. So polite, so deferential, as if he hadn't blackmailed her into this in the first place. She wanted to slap that mild non-expression off of his synthetic face.
With a breath, Tasha sat—'slumped' was maybe more like it—down into the chair. She had to relax. He wanted this to look like a date, and it would be hard to make anyone believe they were even meeting as friends if she kept glaring daggers at him.
"I understand Lieutenant Hixon was executed," Data said, by way of starting conversation. Tasha jerked her eyes up to his.
"As if you didn't know," she said, too low for anyone else to hear.
It wasn't exactly that she mourned Hixon's death. He'd been an ambitious sort, who made no bones about the fact that he'd been angling for her job, and had tried to worm his way into her pants on more than one occasion—either to curry her favor, or to get close enough to get her out of his way. But still, the fact of the matter was unsettling. If Data was willing to kill to get her—that was what the execution amounted to, didn't it?—what else would he be willing to do?
Perhaps Data had chosen Hixon on purpose, because of his past advances toward her. An android shouldn't have been capable of jealousy, but then, an android shouldn't have been capable of anger, either. But if the incident in her quarters yesterday was any indication…
"You could thank me," he said, matter-of-factly.
"For clearing my name after you set me up in the first place?" she demanded. "Thank you, Commander. Thank you so much."
Data frowned, both at her sarcasm and the more formal use of his rank, but a waiter came up before he could say anything. He ordered a White Risian, and Tasha ordered a lemonade. She didn't trust herself to get drunk around him again, and certainly not now, circumstances being what they were.
After the waiter had gone off to get their drinks, she swallowed her anger and leaned forward over the small table. Ten Forward was as raucous as ever, some trumpet-driven number blaring over the comm. speakers, but she still didn't want to risk being overheard.
"Did he really do it?" she asked lowly.
"Did who really do what?"
"Hixon. Did he really try to kill the captain." A part of her needed to know. Because if it had been Hixon, if he had been guilty… Well. It wouldn't make Data seem kinder, but it would make him seem less cruel, less unpredictable. Less dangerous. He'd always been a stickler for following the rules, but now… It was hard to tell if her fear was warranted, or if recent events had simply made her paranoid.
The android tilted his head. "You saw the report, did you not?"
"No," she admitted darkly. "I only saw the death certificate. Riker still seems to have it out for me. I don't know if he really believes your report."
"He has no reason not to believe it," Data pointed out. "Why should I lie?"
Why, indeed. She stared at him for a moment, trying to find an answer to that question, but his expression was as opaque and unreadable as ever.
"Lieutenant Roland Hixon—" he started to say, but it was at that point that the waiter came back with their drinks. Tasha bolted back in her seat, afraid of how her posture—leaning on her arms, body shifted forward, eyes focused intently on the man across from her—might have been misread, and gulped down a mouthful of lemonade without tasting it at all. Data gingerly swirled his White Risian and took a very precise sip. With some hesitation, Tasha leaned forward again, though not as much as before. Data, if he noticed, didn't comment on it.
"Lieutenant Roland Hixon," he began again, "was found guilty of unauthorized usage of Imperial munitions, attempted assassination of a commanding officer, fabrication of sensor readings, and attempted incrimination of a superior officer." Meaning her. Tasha fidgeted with her drink. It wasn't exactly a straight yes or no, and that worried her for some reason. Data seemed to pick up on her discomfort and leaned forward a little, himself, asking, "He had expressed a desire to serve as Chief of Security multiple times, had he not?" Tasha jerked her head up, staring at his yellow eyes.
She pushed herself back in her seat and took another gulp of lemonade, nodding affirmatively. Her name was clear; that should have been good enough. She shouldn't press the matter. Even if it hadn't been Hixon, and the real perpetrator was still at large, it was Captain Picard who would be at risk, not her. She'd simply been dragged into this mess out of convenience, because it had been an easy way for Data to get her under his thumb.
Fucking android, she thought, her irritation at him returning. She took another drink and fairly slammed the glass down on the table. She couldn't even get drunk with him around. She'd been reduced to ordering lemonade, when by all rights, she should have been indulging in a Samarian Sunset or a Long Island Iced Tea. Hell, even a glass of wine would have done, and she hated wine.
Data had been sipping his way through his drink, and after setting it down, suddenly stood and extended his hand to her. "Dance with me, Tasha?"
"What?" To say she was caught off-guard by the question was a bit of an understatement.
"Dance with me."
She could only blink at him, shaking her head in a vague apology. The music had changed to a jazzy piano number. "I…I don't know how to dance," she stuttered out.
"Then you are refusing?"
Despite how his face remained utterly polite, it was impossible to miss the underlying threat in his words. She braced herself with a breath, muttered, "No," and reluctantly placed her hand in his. He pulled her up and led her to a small, empty bit of the floor, off to the left of the bar.
"It is very simple," Data said. "You simply place your one hand here…and your other hand here…and follow the music and my lead." And with that, he put his hand on her back, pulling her closer, fingers splayed out across her skin like a brand. The body language was clear; he was practically announcing his claim to anyone who might be watching.
She was awkward at first, and, in a way, grateful that she had to concentrate on her legs so much. Trying not to trip over his feet (or her own, for that matter) was a welcome distraction from his arm around her and his body in front of her. But the better she got at following the music, and in turn, his steps, the harder it became to ignore the other things, and the tenser she became. They'd garnered something of an audience—which wasn't surprising, considering that Ten Forward was more prone to hosting brawls than balls—but was unnerving all the same.
She was too warm. She wanted to run, fast and far, and maybe end the sprint with a jump into a cold pool, but his arm felt like a metal clamp around her. Basically was a metal clamp around her.
Oh, God. What had she gotten herself into?
"Do try to relax, Tasha," Data remarked, mildly breaking the silence. "Anyone watching would think you are not enjoying yourself."
She stiffened even more out of pure reflex, but then took a slow, long breath, trying to force the tension out of her muscles. "…So where did you learn to dance, anyway?" she asked. Perhaps conversation could be a stand-in for clumsy footwork.
"Would you believe from Dr. Crusher?"
She pulled back a little to look at him, honestly surprised. "Beverly?"
"She is quite the performer, our dear doctor. Though," he added, "I understand that some of her talents are not…suitable for polite company, as is said."
Tasha swallowed, not sure she wanted to know the details. Or even wanted to know how he knew the details. "So why did she teach you how to dance?"
"There was an away mission—you might remember, to the Cardassian outpost?—where I saved her son from losing his other eye. She owed me a favor," he concluded simply.
Tasha's brow furrowed. "And so you asked for dancing lessons?" Data nodded. "Why not…well…?" She trailed off uncomfortably.
That subtle smirk seemed to play about his lips as he picked up her meaning. "From the Captain's Woman? I may be a machine, Tasha, but even I have a sense of self-preservation."
As she contemplated that statement, the music swelled. Without warning, Data dipped her back over his arm, and she gasped, reflexively tightening her hold on him. She stared up at him, heart pounding, her face mere inches away from his. His gaze dropped to her mouth, that smug non-expression still playing about his lips, and she honestly thought he might kiss her, right then and there in front of everyone in Ten Forward—but it was then that the red alert klaxons started blaring, and Will's voice came bellowing over the comm. system.
"All hands to battle stations! Two Klingon birds-of-prey off the starboard bow!"
A/N: Ahhh! I kind of wish it wasn't so heavy on the Data/Tasha scene, but that's why people are reading this story, right? Because they like the pairing and want to see it? ^^'
Anyway, I've kind of written myself into a corner, here. DX If anyone has any ideas as to what should go down with the Klingons, PLEASE let me know—I kind of feel that this story is more of a collaborative effort than anything (partially because I feel weird and kind of wrong about "claiming" it as my own, since…yanno…it wasn't my fic or even my idea to start with). To my delight, I've finally kind of got an idea about what to do with the kid, Sinba (kind of). I've updated my previously-mentioned LJ post, so, as before, if you're curious and/or want to help, feel free to check it out. (The url can be found at the bottom of Chapter 9.)
Also, in case you missed it, I just recently posted a related one-shot, that focuses on mirror!Ishara and mirror!Lore. (What can I say? I had head-canon that wouldn't leave me alone. ^^)
Last but not least, thanks for reading!