The last sparkles from the transporter died away. Alathea blinked, looking around dazed. Seven, already approaching Icheb and his father, seemed to have the whole situation under control. Alathea, however, was in uncharted territory, and not just because she’d never used the transport before. She needed to check are all her parts there. Computers might make a mistake.
“It’s time to return to Voyager,” Seven said with a tone that could rival the enthusiasm of a black hole.
“I am staying here tonight,” Icheb declared as if this were the most natural thing to do in the universe.
“They don’t have a regeneration unit,” Seven pointed out, her eyebrows raised like a Bene Gesserit’s archivist’s stack of paperwork.
“We’re going to have to install one, eventually. Might as well do it now,” Icheb’s father added, as if discussing the installation of a regeneration unit was as casual as deciding what type of sandwich to have for lunch. Alathea’s truth sense tingled. Something was off here. She felt like she had stumbled into a cosmic farce, one where the punchline was still being delivered by a three-headed bureaucrat after a wait in a hundred-meter-long line.
“As far as I’m aware, he hasn’t decided to remain here yet,” Seven said.
“But he has asked to stay tonight,” Icheb’s father said.
“Return with us to the ship. We’ll prepare a regeneration unit,” Seven said.
Alathea couldn’t help but grimace. Teleporter again. Why did Seven want her to go at all? All this transporting! If she was planning to bring Icheb’s father on board, Alathea could tell the truth right there, without going through this darn machine twice.
They materialized in the transporter room closest to the cargo bay, and both Seven and Icheb’s father rushed off the platform even before the sparkles had completely vanished. Alathea stayed, examining herself. So far, everything checked out.
This time, both Seven and Leucon went so far ahead that Alathea had to jog to catch up with them. And she could jog with no problems. All her parts had to be here. And she didn’t feel any different. Annoyed with the unnecessary ride to the planet. But that is normal for her. In the end, she found them in the cargo bay.
“What kept you?” Seven said.
“Transporters are still new to me.”
Seven stopped and stared at her. “Explain.”
“The Empire considers transporters to be something evil because they require computers to be run. So we have none. And the principles of it are scary, very scary if you grew up in a religious society. The transporter kills you and makes another copy of you, starting with quarks inside your atoms. I have to get used to all that. That’s all.”
“Religions are stupid. I thought you agreed with that.”
“I do. It’s not that we believe in that crap. Despite that, I wonder what about the soul?”
“That’s irrelevant,” Seven said, continuing with her monitoring.
Alathea looked up, meeting Leucon’s eyes.
“Did they save you from the Borg, too?” he asked
Alathea tilted her head. “No. Before meeting Seven, I never saw a live Borg.”
“Then your people are fortunate.”
“Why are you saying that?”
“Borg took my son,” Leucon answered, and her truth sense tingled. Borg did not take Icheb. What happened?
Seven interrupted him. “I’ve adapted this neural transceiver to interface with the portable regenerator. It has enough power to complete one full cycle.”
“We’ll have to devise a way to recharge it.”
“If Icheb decides to stay.”
The man packed away the portable gadget and faced Seven. “My wife and I appreciate everything you’ve done for our son. It’s obvious you care about him.”
Alathea focused on him. He emanated controlled aggression, and she could even read a bit of disdain towards Seven. It was like watching a Gammanian trying to compliment a Feydaking on their fighting skills.
“He’s a unique individual,” said Seven.
“Yes, he is,” Leucon said, his words dripping with an awkward mix of gratitude and distrust.
Alathea felt a familiar tingle of truth sense. There was more to Icheb than mere father pride would push the man to say his son was unique.
“To get him back is…” He turned away, “well… a miracle.”
He’s lying. He was not happy that Icheb came back. That’s interesting.
“How was he taken?” Seven asked.
The man stood silent for a second, and Alathea took a step closer. Neither of them noticed her moving. The man held Seven's attention, and she remained captivated by him, as if under a spell. She focused on a man. Did he know some Facedancers techniques?
“Since the Borg first attacked us, we’ve taken great pains to hide whatever new technology we develop,” he started with the truth.
“So that passing cubes won’t be attracted to your planet?” Seven supplied.
Masterful, he was engaging Seven in his story—a lying principle worthy of masters, but useless against Bene Gesserit. Bene Gesserit usually gets silent on purpose, with controlled body language and facial expressions. That is the only way to stop someone else from doing cold reading and weaseling out the info you want to keep secret. The man, unaware of Alathea’s scrutiny, continued to spin his tale, yet little did he know that Bene Gesserit's silence was the most thunderous response in the vast symphony of deception.
He was attempting a delicate dance of deception, not realizing he was performing a waltz with a Bene Gesserit, who had mastered the art of the tango in secret society galas across the universe.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t always been successful,” he said, still speaking the truth. Then he moved past Seven, and his body language changed, becoming more indicative of deception. Alathea put herself into a full-truth trance.
“One morning, about four years ago, Icheb heard me talking about a new fertilization array we’d constructed in the lower field. He wanted to see it. I told him I’d take him the next day. But he was impatient, the way boys can be. I never even realized he’d wandered off when the alarm sounded. It turns out the Borg were just as interested in our new technology as Icheb was. They took him and assimilated everyone in the area. Oh, if only I’d kept a closer eye on him.”
Alathea smiled. The man was a masterful liar. Parts of the story were true, but Icheb didn’t wander off. Something else happened.
“Icheb has a mind of his own,” Seven said.
He sold the story to her.
“But still...” the man continued. “It’s hard not to blame myself. Your parents must’ve felt the same way when they lost you.”
It reminded Alathea of fishing. Masterful baiting, hooking, reeling in. Liars like that didn’t exist in the Empire. At least, they were not trying such stuff in front of Bene Gesserit. He was reading Seven and adjusting his story to her reactions. This man forced her to activate all her truth-saying training. He was like a school example of a liar. It was almost impressive, like watching Feydakins riding sandworms. A feat no one tried with the new worms, the ones that had a piece of Leto’s consciousness in them.
“My parents were with me when the Borg attacked.”
“I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like for them, watching their daughter being assimilated, helpless to defend her?”
He glanced towards Alathea, meeting her blank, truthsayer stare. She could see that he was recalculating his story because Alathea didn’t show any emotions. He reminded her of an actor her truth sense teacher brought once—a pure master liar.
“It’s important that Icheb regenerate for six uninterrupted hours,” Seven changed the topic.
“I understand.” The man’s response sounded rehearsed and shot a glance toward Alathea.
She was unnerving him.
“He may resist. He doesn’t like to waste time. I have had to contend with his lack of patience as well.”
The liar succeeded—not only did Seven ask nothing, but she shrugged off even Alathea’s warning glances that the man lied to her about how Icheb was taken. It was as if a Spacing Guild Navigator convinced a Fremen that sandworms enjoyed spa days in the deep desert.
Seven called Alathea into astrometrics early in the morning. She didn’t bother changing from her pajamas; whatever Seven wanted, she intended to make it short.
As soon as the door to astrometrics opened, Alathea regretted her choice of pajamas. Captain was there, and she didn’t waste time on small talk—one glance at Alathea’s pajamas, a brief smile, and a question.
“So, Seven tells me you were there when Icheb’s father was talking about how Icheb was assimilated.”
Alathea glanced from Seven to Captain. “Yes. And I told Seven then that he lied about the event.”
Captain raised an eyebrow, taking in Alathea’s casual attire. “Well, I hope your fashion-forward sleepwear didn’t overshadow the truth-telling.”
Alathea smirked. “If only my pajamas had the power of the Spice, Captain. Then, perhaps, I could have influenced the conversation with a bit more flair. As it stands, they only have the power to make a statement... or elicit a few raised eyebrows.”
“Are you sure he lied?”
“Yes. Leucon is a masterful liar, but it is obvious he never encountered the truth-sayers. He played with Seven’s emotions like she was a Baliset. It was fun to watch.”
“Can you tell me anything more?”
“Icheb is unique in some precious way. But I don’t know which one. Subjects never came close to answering. They are hiding the technology from the Borg.” She glanced from Seven to Captain. “But see, for me to fully function as the truth-sayer, you have to listen to me during questioning and change your questions in the directions I tell you. Otherwise, I cannot uncover the truth. I do not read minds, Captain.”
“Thank you. You may go. You seem busy,” Captain grinned.
Alathea cleared her throat, “Ahem.”
“No need to explain. Rest is important.” The grin widened.
Alathea could feel the heat in her cheeks. The best course of action was to get out of there fast. She bowed slightly and ran away back to her quarters. Sleep was out of the question now, but at least she could change out of these blasted pajamas. Her Holtzman drive project would nicely put her out of the Captain’s way for the rest of the day.
The next night, the blaring battle station alarm rudely interrupted Alathea’s beauty sleep. She squinted at the communicator.
“Computer, what is going on?”
“We are engaging the Borg.”
Alathea sprang up, fully awake, casting a doubtful look towards the closet where her Bene Gesserit robe hung. No way was she rushing to the bridge this time. She’d wait until the captain called if she even bothered. Alathea flopped back into bed, pulling the covers up to her chin.
The database on her ship told her she sent a message through the Borg to the Empire, and then they came and rescued her. But she didn’t know what that meant. Did it imply that the Empire attacked Voyager and killed everyone here? That despicable Beli would do that. The database didn’t have that information. What it had was that Alathea used the Atreides battle language. The database was there to instruct her on what to do, not to answer her questions. As usual with the Bene Gesserit.
Maybe the captain could handle the Borg this time alone. Perhaps she wouldn’t remember that she could use the Borg to contact the Empire. Why did I show her that message in the first place?
Another jolt almost threw her out of bed. She grabbed the surface to steady herself, half awaiting the captain’s call. But the red alert lights went off.
“Attack is over.”
Taking a breath, Alathea lay down.
Good, the Empire would have to wait a bit longer.