This is a joint effort. Most of the dialog was role-played out live. First Beth, then myself, fleshed out the story.
D'Naura stepped out onto the bridge shortly after Lorca's summons. She saw Leon enter from the opposite side and half smiled at him before stepping down onto the deck, heading for the ready room.
Joy looked up from her seat at the conn, noting the arrival of both 'Ambassadors.' Dee glanced at her with a casually passive scowl, fully intent on walking past her without a word. Upon eye contact though, given the Android's suddenly suspicious stare and the awkward uncomfortable silence as she watched D'Naura cross the bridge, she could hardly pass up the opportunity. This was the first time since their return Dee had seen Joy and, the sight brought back a whole list of uncomfortable memories that she would be just as happy to forget. Not that it mattered much now. Dee was certain of Cat's devotion to her, as certain as she was of hers for him. Still, the sight of the Android officer brought that whole time flooding back. Despite its insignificance now, it still made her blood boil.
"Always a pleasure, Android." Dee flashed a sickeningly sweet but, thoroughly hollow smile as she passed then locked her eyes on Cat.
"That seems inaccurate, Ambassador." Joy replied blandly, still totally mistrustful of both the ambassadors and their intent. Her tone though, held a mildly personal and reflective aspect to it. Almost as though she were attempting to demurely snub Tye, to put her in her place.
Normally, Dee would have jumped at such an opportunity. A rousing argument was good for the circulation and, of all the people on board, Joy was the one person she had enough in common with to get her blood pumping full force.
"That statement was sarcasm, Commander. But, I keep forgetting, you don't get sarcasm do you?"
Joy quirked her head to one side. It was true that she was not adept at organic humor. It was also true that her own form of humor was based on pretending not to understand organic humor. Still, at this time, she did not find Tye D'Naura in the least amusing. "My emotion chip state aside, Ambassador, the statement is factually inaccurate. Prior encounters have resulted in negative feedback."
Dee looked over at Cat expecting to see some mild signs of amusement in his eyes. He knew how secure Dee was with him now, but still enjoyed watching her hackles go up whenever her jealousy flared. She saw no such amusement in his eyes this time. Something drastic must have happened. The tone of Lorca's call to the bridge had also piqued her curiosity. Her concern mounted as she looked at Cat. She knew that look and, it always made her nervous. Turning back to Joy with a quizzically flat expression she opted to forgo the argument for now in favor of finding out what was going on.
"What'd I miss?" She asked, folding her arms in front of her.
"Studly is back in sickbay." Joy responded, raising an eye in Cat's direction.
"Oh? Something truly awful, I hope." Dee shot back with anger mounting behind her eyes.
Open pleasure at another's injury and distress? "The Captain has conjectured possibilities for how Studly's injuries occurred, and has called you both in for a meeting. Her emotion state is not precisely neutral."
"I just hope the little weasel isn't dead. I have friends on the inside of half the penal colonies in the quadrant. They will be so eager to meet him once they hear what he did to my child." Dee sneered malevolently, her hands and most of her body quivering as she tried to contain her anger and the urge to put her foot through the android's head just for being so passive about the entire ordeal. "Is he dead?" She asked looking up to Cat for reassurance.
"No," said Joy, simply.
"Good. I want him to live a long and immeasurably painful life."
"Again your reaction is not surprising, Ambassador. Nor is it surprising that a good many of your associates are serving time in penal colonies." Joy monitored her emotion chip with mild surprise. Her Asimov processor was not programmed for anger. Her background personality was based upon an ancient actress's fiction roles. It was extremely unusual to generate anger out of Audrey Hepburn's personality matrix. Tye was managing, however. This was a new quality in Joy, a quality Dee hadn't seen before. Her programming, from Tye's perspective at least, had obviously 'grown.' Were this a normal situation Tye would have rather enjoyed it. Not now though. Now it just made her angry in return, to the point of losing control.
Cat stood outside the ready room door watching the discourse dispassionately, his mind obviously locked on something else. Dee looked back to Joy and smiled calmly, clenching her fists at her side ready to establish a little dominance of her own.
"Whatsa matter Android? You still jealous? Still wishing he'd chosen you over a real woman?" She scoffed. "You never stood a chance."
"In fact, no. Timers have long expired."
D'Naura laughed bitterly with a knowing glint in her eyes. "You are just a walking testament to the superiority of ambient warmth over mechanical aren't you Joy? There's not a real emotion in you. Emotional tie timers my ass. Love doesn't go away Joy, and it doesn't expire, unless you kill it." She scoffed again throwing an arm in the air. "You never cease to amaze me with your detestable and detached emotional neutrality."
Joy's head once again quirked to the side. Criticism. Negative feedback. An outside opinion that her behavior should be corrected, with negative feedback in shame to be associated with the unacceptable behavior. Too emotionally neutral? Last time they had met, Tye had inserted massive negative feedback because Joy had loved. In the years since, the entire Joy class had not loved. Harcourt Fenton Mudd had designed the Joy Class to be loved, then proved no more ready to return that love than Caine. Too emotionally neutral? How does one resolve negative feedback from an unreliable source? "When given love, Cat treated it as a weapon. He used to it to hurt. To cause pain. Your pain. It is well that timers expire on such 'love.' I can only be pleased he is finally learning to care."
D'Naura laughed again, shaking her head. "Something, I might add, he did NOT learn from you."
Both women's tones were subdued. Both seeking to keep the altercation a confidential, private matter rather than broadcasting it to the entire bridge compliment. Heads were turned though as it was clear this was not a happy reunion for either woman.
The tactical officer noted the clenched fisted tension emanating from the area surrounding the conn and was momentarily tempted to call security, fearing for the second officer's safety.
"Again, true. But, give care. Love is a weakness as well as a strength. You may eventually be forced to choose between protecting those you love and hurting those you hate."
"Love is a weapon, Android. A strength, an immeasurable source of power. Only someone without the capacity to truly experience it would see it as you do."
Joy considered. No, Tye was not ready for a statistical treatise on optimizing the ratio of feedback in grief and rage based on the lethality of a culture's weapons. True or not, she was also not ready to hear 'You know not what power is.' Best keep this simple. "Cat chose wisely in coming to your side after you were attacked. Of that there can be no dispute. However, in doing so he gave Studly an advantage. He removed himself from the conflict in attending to you."
D'Naura fumed, angered by both Joy and the knowledge Studly was probably resting comfortably in sick bay rather than writhing in the agony he deserved. "I do not see it as a weakness, nor will I based on your flimsy analysis of the situation." Dee smirked. "Some of what you said may be true but, if my guess is correct, then the favor has already been returned to our dear Mister Studly and he has been removed from the equation...a lot more permanently. So I would call us even. A soul for a soul."
"I do not care much for your method of keeping score, Ambassador. From where I sit, five souls have been lost." Joy glanced at Cat then back to D'Naura.
Dee leaned forward seething, gripping the sides of the conn white knuckled. "Be VERY careful what you say next Commander." She whispered, once again on the verge of tears. The pain in her eyes filled the room. It could be felt by everyone there, almost as if it were tangible.
"My daughter is DEAD, Joy. No price paid by that useless waste of skin in sickbay would be enough to atone for that. There are things in this universe that supersede your inane logic and obtusely moral programming codes. This is one of them. Family. So, you be very careful what you say next."
Joy was programmed to protect and defend all sentient beings. Cat and Tye, influenced by their glands, were still learning it was necessary to protect and defend each other. Joy had tried to persuade Cat not to provoke violence. Had he learned? Would he close and guard the barn door now that the horse was gone, and the barn was empty? Would they continue their spiral of death and vengeance? "It is your choice. Protect those you love, or punish those you hate. I, alas, have no such choice. Do you? Really?"
Dee looked at the floor sadly as Leon stepped forward, taking hold of her arm. She looked tired, weak and full of grief as her eyes came back up to meet the Android's. "Neither do I, Joy, no choice at all. You see they're one in the same this time. Protecting those I love means punishing those I hate. I have no other choices."
Leon lead D'Naura away toward the ready room door. She'd had enough, he could see that and he could see how close she was to breaking. Dee was on the verge of collapse again, both from her injuries and from the enormous weight she was bearing on her shoulders.
Joy watched them go, recognizing the organic equivalent of emotion chip overflow, excessive negative feedback resulting from death or injury to another sentient being. They were more akin than Tye knew. Joy was bound to all, Tye more intensely to a few. Still, for all their differences, perhaps Tye was in this case correct. Given the Federation's current weapons lethality, the optimal feedback ratio of grief to rage was not one to zero.
No Mercy for what we are
No thought to even what we have done
We don't need to feel the sorrow
No remorse for the helpless one