Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
In the 24th century, Section 31 takes only the elite of the elite into their ranks, but they don’t take Visa.
Section 31 - They’re everywhere they want to be…
…but you don’t know about it.
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
“Privileges of Membership”
By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler
“I must say, it’s damn good to be back!” Captain Reginald Bain said cheerfully as he and Tovar stepped out of the Anomaly transporter room.
“I’ll say,” said Tovar. “Even better thanks to the fact that mum baked us a dozen scones to tide us over until we reach Earth again.”
“Which will be a fair sight sooner than the last mission we were on, I’ll wager,” Bain said, clapping Tovar on the back. “No other galaxies for a while, Krissers assured me. Just discovery and hopping about responding to problems on worlds too far-flung to be reached by conventional travel. Using our unique anti-sing abilities to help worlds of the Federation and all that hogwash.”
“I can’t wait,” Tovar said as he and Bain stepped into the turbolift.
“Bridge!” Bain called, then looked at his Tac-ops officer. “Dinner tonight, chum?”
“Sorry, Captain, but I cannot.”
“And why not? Don’t tell me you’re doing double shifts…”
“Nothing of the sort. I have a date. Lieutenant Torgerson from Cultural Anthropology.”
Bain beamed at Tovar. “Tovar, you sly dog.”
“Yes, I know. I have not had a date in years.”
“Ever, that I can recall.”
“Don’t remind me. It was all that pressure put upon me by the Jaroch consciousness. But no more. The real Tovar is here now, and all I can say is, it’s time to party.”
“I see.” Bain stared at the ceiling of the turbolift. “Well, good show. Have at it, as it were!”
“Quite, sir,” Tovar said, following Bain off the turbolift onto the bridge.
“Captain on the bridge,” announced Ensign Hector Arroyo as Tovar took his place at the wide tac-ops panel at the rear of the bridge.
“Well, it’s about time we got underway,” Bain said, walking over to his command chair. Before sitting down, he surveyed the bridge. Arroyo at helm, Tovar at tac-ops, Marsden making final alterations at the engineering station, Kasyov checking the Cabral interface at sciences. Everything felt right. Except…
“Where’s Prosak?” asked Bain.
“Checking her hair in the Captain’s Restroom, the last I checked,” Arroyo said, pointing at the former captain’s ready room, which was now Prosak’s quarters.
“Splendid.” Bain rubbed his hands together and sat down. “How’s she look, Marsie? The ship, I mean.” He glanced at Lt. Marsden.
“Just great, ‘Bainie,’” Marsden muttered. “Holographic systems have been restored. The warp and anti-sing systems have been overhauled after extensive overuse. The shield sheaths have been replaced thanks to the multiple beatings we received over the last month. Everything is, well, Bristol fashion I guess.”
“Spoken like a true old salt.”
“Never mind,” Bain said. “Has spacedock cleared us to leave?”
“They sure have,” Marsden said. “We also have a communication coming in from Admiral Larkin.” Marsden glanced back at Tovar. “Shouldn’t YOU be getting communications?”
“I was, um, busy looking at something,” Tovar said, glancing down at his panel.
“Do tell, Tovar,” Bain said.
Marsden got up and walked back to the tac-ops console. She read one of its blinking screens. “‘Atmospheric Sailing on Rondak Four, and How You Can Do it in Ten Easy Steps.’”
“Tactical research,” Tovar said defiantly.
“Now, Tovar, um…” Bain said. “Put Krissers on. Marsden, as you were…”
“Bup-up-up,” Bain stopped Marsden. “Places now. Let’s give Admiral Larkin the impression that we’re a fit crew.” He glanced back at Tovar with narrowed eyes. “Since we are.”
Marsden slumped back to her chair and stared at the viewscreen. Tovar cued up the holographic image of Larkin, which stood at the forefront of the bridge.
“Greetings, Anomaly crew,” Larkin said, pacing in front of Arroyo’s station. “Just wanted to give you a final send-off.”
“Good show,” Bain said.
“I called to clarify your new mission parameters. As a quick-response vessel, the Anomaly will be responsible for solving problems too far away for most Starfleet ships to reach in time. This is the first starship we’ve had with the ability to get across the galaxy in a matter of days. Since the Federation has…widened…over the years, this is essential. This means you all must be on your best behavior. You must use the fine art of diplomacy whenever possible, and use weapons sparingly.” She stared right at Bain when she said that.
“Just so long as you haven’t installed any more holograms to circumvent my authority, Admiral.”
“Perish the thought,” Larkin muttered, as Prosak strode out of the ready room, drawing stares from the other Anomaly officers. The Romulan had re-done her hair into a wavy, kicky mound of curls that fell about her shoulders.
“And, for Daystrom’s sake, act professional,” Larkin said, looking right at Prosak, and disappeared.
“Nice hair,” Arroyo said, spinning back to face the viewscreen and covering his mouth to stop from giggling.
“Thank you,” Prosak said, taking her position next to Bain.
“Yes,” Bain said. “Er…did you use Sylok’s patented Hair- O-Grow beam?”
“Affirmative,” Prosak said, folding her arms. “I decided it was time for a change.”
“Y-yes,” Marsden said, turning to face her station, covering her mouth.
“Smashing,” Tovar mumbled.
“You look ridiculous,” Kasyov said flatly, causing everyone on the bridge to suddenly be interested in their panels.
“Natalia!” Bain scolded.
“She does. I’m just being frank.”
Prosak’s lower lip quivered. “I…believe we are scheduled to disembark for a mineral study in the Blatanous Belt.”
“Yes, er…yes…” said Bain. “Ensign Arroyo, if you please…”
That night, after he went off-shift, Lt. Commander Tovar returned quickly to his quarters to get ready for his date with Lieutenant Torgerson.
Sparing no effort, he stepped into his bathroom, activated the cleansing field, and stood there for four seconds as it passed over him, immediately cleansing his body fully and leaving it with a fresh piney scent.
Then he turned to face his bathroom mirror, studying his face. A bit of a shave was in order. He punched a control, and another field passed over him, giving him a comfortably close shave…everywhere.
Finally, Tovar punched another control, and his uniform disappeared with a flash of light to be replaced with a dark blue dinner jacket and matching trousers, with a white turtleneck underneath. In six hundred years, the turtleneck simply hadn’t gone out of style.
Feeling like a new man, Tovar walked out into his living room. That was three minutes well spent, he thought, as he arranged a vase of flowers on his dinner table. He pre-programmed the replicator so that it would buzz to life at exactly 0655. He instructed the computer to clean his quarters, and immediately a field similar to the one that had passed over him passed over the quarters, and even cleaned a few spots on Tovar which he had missed in the bathroom. He then told the computer to light candles around his quarters. Instantly, the scented candles flared to life. Finally, he told the computer to dim lights.
He then sat down at his dinner table to page through the Federation Tribune and wait for Torgerson to arrive.
Tovar sat down the padd after a few minutes and stared at his chronometer. 0559. She should arrive promptly a 0600. He reflected on asking Torgerson out. It had truly been an act of impulse. He’d simply bumped into her during the refit, as she’d been moving some of her equipment back aboard the ship. He asked if he could help, and she obliged. As he walked with her down the corridor, he became aware of a certain look in her eyes which Captain Bain had often characterized as “come-hither.”
Upon reaching the Cultural Anthropology Lab, Tovar set his load of cargo containers down and asked Lt. Jamie Torgerson on a date. Giggling with a sheepish smile, Torgerson had accepted.
And now it was 0601. Tovar was becoming somewhat nervous. One minute late. What if she didn’t show? His mind was awash with possible scenarios, chief among them the idea that she was standing him up. Or maybe she injured herself. That was a relieving thought.
Tovar didn’t know what he was doing. In his first month free of the Jaroch consciousness, Tovar was his own man, and he didn’t know who that man was. In his room on Earth, while Bain and Rosalyn chattered on, catching up on what had gone on since the Anomaly had gotten lost in Andromeda, Tovar searched the Infinet, trying to find out what interested him. The atmospheric sailing on Rondak Four was one of those things. Women, who were plentiful on the Infinet, were another of those things, which Tovar rated just above the sailing.
- Tovar got up from his seat at the table. It was time to go check around Cultural Anthropology to see if Torgerson was running late. He’d just run down there. No need bothering the computer with such a silly question. He ran to his door, just as it bleeped.
He stood there, perplexed. “Um. Enter.”
The door opened, to reveal Lt. Torgerson, in all her slim petiteness, wearing a clingy olive-colored dress and holding a glimmering bottle.
“300-year-old El-Aurian spirits,” Torgerson explained. “Very rare. The only thing of theirs not assimilated by the Borg.” She handed the bottle to the astounded Yynsian and looked around his quarters. “Nice place, Tovar. And so clean!”
“Yes, I just fielded it,” Tovar said, staring at the bottle.
“Well, open it up,” she said, turning to face Tovar. “I thought it would be a nice way of celebrating.”
“Celebrating…what…” Tovar said, staring at the bottle.
“The beginning of a…” Torgerson walked up to Tovar and wrapped her arms around his neck. “…beautiful friendship.”
Tovar dropped the bottle. Luckily it was made of transparent aluminum. It bounced harmlessly on the floor as Torgerson leaned her head in and kissed Tovar full on the mouth.
Damn, this was moving fast!
Tovar shrunk away and walked over to the replicator. “Why don’t I go ahead and prepare dinner? Computer…engage!”
“You have programmed dinner for 0655,” the computer told him.
“Well, I changed my mind. I want it now.”
“Balanced meals at proper times are essential for a proper diet.”
“Just make the dinner, computer!”
“What’s the hurry?”
Tovar heard Torgerson giggling behind him. “JUST MAKE THE DAMN DINNER, COMPUTER!”
“Fine. What’s your problem, anyway?” the computer muttered to itself as two plates materialized in the slot in front of Tovar. He grabbed them in shaky hands and brought them over to his austere lucite dinner table.
Torgerson had picked up the bottle and had already started working the cork open. “Here goes!” she cried as the cork busted loose and shot across the room.
“This stuff packs a punch, so be careful…” she said, pouring a glassful.
Tovar shakily sat each plate down, one in front of him and one across from him as Torgerson sat down.
“Tovar, this looks delicious,” Torgerson said, licking her lips. “But I’m not hungry.”
Tovar gulped. “You’re not?”
Torgerson shook her head. “Mm mm.”
“Um…but it’s dinner time.”
“Let me clarify,” Torgerson said, standing and walking over to Tovar’s side of the table. “I’m hungry, all right.”
“Oh. You don’t find chicken marinated in Loporan saniger sauce to suit your appetite?”
“No. I’d much rather have you.” She leaned down and kissed Tovar on the mouth, then sauntered over to the doorway into Tovar’s bedroom. She disappeared within and he followed, calling after her.
But as he walked up to the door to his bedroom, it slid shut and he slammed into it.
“Tovar,” a voice called from behind him.
Rubbing his nose, Tovar turned around. “What? Who are…” He froze.
Sitting on his love seat, legs crossed, was Admiral Carn. Officially, the Director of Intergalactic Parks and Streams, but unofficially, leader of Section 31.
“Uncle Carn,” Tovar said. “What are you doing here?”
“The question, my dear boy, is…what are YOU doing here?” Carn asked, standing.
“I don’t understand,” Tovar said. He tapped his compip. “Tovar to security. Report. Anything unusual going on?”
“I wouldn’t bother,” Carn replied. “We aren’t on the Anomaly.”
Tovar looked around. “Could have fooled me.”
Suddenly the door to his bedroom reopened, and Jamie Torgerson sauntered out, still in her dress.
“Are you finished with me?”
“Yes, my dear. You may transfer yourself back to the MegaSim.”
“Thank the Holodoc,” muttered Torgerson, as she suddenly disappeared.
“Damn intelligent holograms,” Carn said. “Still, they’re more lifelike, aren’t they?”
Tovar looked around. “We aren’t on the Anomaly.”
“That’s what I said.” Carn walked up and patted Tovar on the shoulder. “We’re at a Section 31 base. Of course, I can’t tell you which one.”
“What’s going on?” Tovar asked. “Oh. No. Mum didn’t get kidnapped by the Cardassian Right to Spy coalition again, did she?”
“Nothing of the sort, son, nothing of the sort,” Carn said warmly. “No, your Mum is safe at Starfleet Academy. I think she’s teaching Infiltration 650 today.”
“My favorite course.”
“But I wasn’t here to discuss your Mum.”
“You weren’t?” Tovar asked, watching Carn closely as the android walked around his “quarters,” studying the photos on the wall and some of the nicknacks Tovar had collected over the years, including the antlers from a bull steer he and Bain had brought down by hand.
Carn glanced back at Tovar. “No. This isn’t a social call.”
“Then what is it about?”
Carn turned to face Tovar. “Quite simply, it’s about the way in which you took over the Anomaly a few weeks ago.”
“Uncle Carn…I can explain…surely you read the reports,” Tovar said, advancing toward Carn. “I know those abilities make me a risk to Section 31. But I would never reveal their existence, nor would I ever try to take over the Anomaly again. I was under the control of another lifeforce!”
“Relax, Tovar, relax!” Carn said, holding up his hands. “I’m not here to punish you for what you did. I’m here to reward you.”
“Reward you with what?”
Carn reached behind him, held out a neatly pressed black uniform. “With full membership, and all the privileges that come with it.”
“I…really should get back to my ship…” Tovar said slowly.
“Nonsense. That’s ALL taken care of.”
Lieutenant Commander Tovar strolled down a corridor on the Anomaly, headed toward the transporter lift that would take him to the bridge.
“Ensign,” he said, nodding vacantly at passing crewmembers. “Crewman Childs, nice to see you this morning. Ensign Lennum, as you were.”
He stepped into the turbolift and ordered it to the bridge.
Once it opened, he walked briskly out onto the bridge and took his station. “Lieutenant Commander Tovar reporting for duty.”
Bain turned in his chair to face Tovar and smiled warmly. “Good to see you this morning, old boy. How was your date last night?”
“Fine,” Tovar said briskly. “Allow me to report to you on the tactical situations in the sectors we’ll be passing through today.”
“My, we’re sounding all business.” Bain rose from his chair and walked over to Tovar’s station. “Just between you and me, son…how did things go?”
“My evening went smoothly, sir. Now I wish to make my tactical report, as I have many other tasks to attend to today.”
“Fine, fine,” Bain said gruffly. “I can see you don’t want to share the tidbits of your love life with your old Dad. Let’s hear the bloody tactical report.”
“I’m telling you, it was weird,” Lt. Jamie Torgerson said, staring down at her bowl of oatmeal as Lt. Shelly Marsden quickly shoveled Bringloidi hash browns in her mouth, washing them down with a gulp of Orion papaya juice.
Marsden munched on a banana as Torgerson went on, wondering how the Chief of Cultural Anthropology had gotten the mistaken impression that the two of them were great friends.
“Tovar was so distant. We sat there and ate dinner in silence. Then we stood by the window in his quarters watching the stars for a few minutes. Then he just ushered me out of his quarters. Not so much as a peck on the cheek. The whole thing lasted thirty-five minutes.”
“You don’t say,” Marsden said as she swallowed a last hunk of her banana. She called over to the holochef, who today was a waiter at an island patio restaurant. “Another banana, please. And more papaya juice. Thanks.” She looked at Torgerson. “I don’t know much about Tovar.”
“But you two are both in the command chain,” Torgerson said desperately. “Certainly you see him at staff meetings all the time. Can’t you give me some insight…tell me how his brain works?”
“I think you’ll want to talk to Doctor Kasyov about that,” Marsden grinned. “Oh, look, here she comes now!”
Kasyov slumped in and collapsed into the chair next to Marsden. “Coffee,” she said bluntly.
The hologram appeared out of nowhere with a cup of coffee and Marsden’s order of a banana and a glass of juice.
Marsden slid both her items over to Kasyov. “Natalia, good morning. Great to see you! Lieutenant Torgerson was just telling me some fascinating things about Commander Tovar. I’ve got to get down to engineering. Lots of…um…engine-ing to do! Bye guys!”
And she was off.
Kasyov turned sleepy eyes toward Torgerson. “Do tell.” Then she collapsed, asleep, laying her head on the table.
Torgerson folded her arms. “Hmmph. I don’t care if anyone believes me. Something weird is going on with Tovar.”
“A HOLOGRAM!” the real Tovar cried, falling onto the couch in his “quarters,” which were really just a holographic representation, in some holodeck, at some Section 31 base, which could be anywhere within parsecs of where the Anomaly was traveling.
“It’s the only way to make the transition seamless,” Carn explained. “You’ll stay here with us and train in some of the finer arts of espionage and the like, while your hologram will continue to perform your duties on the Anomaly. After a couple months, the hologram will see fit to resign his commission and return to Earth. My people have already concocted the story that you, Tovar, will want to spend more time with Mrs. Bain. The hologram will then be reprogrammed to some other specification for us, and the real you will move in with your ‘Mum.’
Just imagine, the two of you working together, side by side!” Carn clapped his hands together. “It’s ideal.”
“I’m not going to do it,” said Tovar. “My place is with Captain Bain.”
“If Captain Bain knew you had this opportunity, which, obviously, he can’t, then he’d want you to take it.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“We’ve got his psychographic profile. We know how he’d respond to any given situation.”
“Do you know how I’m going to respond to this situation?”
“I think you’ll give us a chance. Find out what Section 31 is all about. Surely what your Mum has told you has sparked your interest.”
“Not so much that I want to join,” Tovar said. “I am a Starfleet officer. And, as I said, my place is with Captain Bain. I want to go back.”
Carn stood. “Well, my boy, I will not do anything to keep you from your duties. If you don’t want to be a member of the strongest elite secret force in the galaxy, that’s your business. We’ll return you to the Anomaly.”
“Thank you,” Tovar said flatly, then suddenly passed out.
Tovar came to, lying on his bed. He half expected Lt. Torgerson to be there, but she was not.
He was still wearing his dark blue suit. He hopped out of bed and rushed to the door to his quarters.
He came face to face with Lt. Torgerson as the doors opened.
“Tovar!” she exclaimed. “Just the man I was looking for. Look, Commander, I don’t know what last night was all about, but I do not like being jerked around. You’re acting weird, and in my experience, when men of any species act weird, it’s because they want out. So if you want out, just tell me, and I’ll…Tovar? Tovar?”
The Yynsian had already bolted down the corridor.
“Come,” Captain Bain said from within the room just off the storage access corridor adjacent to the bridge.
Tovar keyed the door open. “It’s not finished yet,” Bain said, looking around the room, which included a vast bookcase which dominated an entire wall of the room, a sofa (which was still covered in thermoplast), and two wingbacked chairs.
“I’m still moving in,” Bain explained. “The bar was just installed this morning. Care for a drink?”
Tovar shook his head. “I have something of great importance to discuss with you, Captain.”
“Well, that’s what this room is for, after all,” Bain said.
“What are you calling it, again?” asked Tovar.
“The Captain’s Lounge. A place for me to confer with my officers and ruminate on the decisions of command.”
“Isn’t that what a ready room is for?”
“I gave that to Prosak.” Bain shook his head. “This is more of a place to relax, think, and get drunk. A ready room is more like an office. No paperwork is going to get done around here. Prosak does all that, anyway.”
“Yes,” Tovar said.
“Now,” Bain said, sitting on the plastic-covered couch, patting the seat next to him. “Come tell Dadums what the problem is.”
Tovar sat next to Bain. “It is a matter of some…delicacy.”
Bain nudged him. “That Torgerson woman giving you fits, lad?”
“What, then?” Bain asked.
“I have a confession to make.”
Bain nodded seriously. “Certainly. Care for a cigar?”
Bain reached into a box on the table next to his couch and pulled out a cigar. He grabbed a lighter off the table and sparked it up. “Go ahead, my boy. Do tell.”
“Your wife has been living a lie, sir.”
Bain choked on the smoke. “Pardon?”
“She’s a part of Section 31. Has been since before you were married.”
Bain sat the cigar aside. “What…what?”
“I’m sorry to be the one to tell you. But I had to. Because now they’re trying to recruit me.”
“Tovar, old boy, you have nothing to be afraid of,” Bain said, putting his hands on Tovar’s shoulders.
“Yes,” Bain said. “Because Section 31 exists to protect you and me. They’re not your enemy. They’re the good guys.”
“You’re not Captain Bain.”
“And you’re f***ing brilliant,” Bain muttered and dissolved into a scatter of light particles.
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry to have tricked you,” a voice said from behind Tovar. He knew without turning around that it was Carn.
“I’m sorry the hologram was insensitive to you. They’ve been…acting up lately.”
“I’m still on a holodeck.”
“This is not what an Uncle does,” Tovar seethed.
“I’m not your Uncle. But I can be something much better to you if you just let me teach you. I know you can be valuable to us, Tovar.”
Tovar turned to face Carn. “You won’t let me go until I give this thing a shot, will you?”
“I’m afraid I can’t. Good members are just too hard to find.”
“But I don’t want to be in Section 31.”
Carn sat down next to Tovar on the couch. “Like I said, my boy, membership has its privileges. Previous members have used our resources to answer some of the mysteries of their own lives.”
“I have no mysteries in my life.”
Carn shook his head woefully. “Now, Tovar. You know that’s not true. What about your parents?”
“Captain Bain and Mum?”
“No…your Yynsian parents. The ones who disappeared while they were on vacation.” Carn glanced to the side, as if accessing information. “18.4 years ago.”
Tovar turned away from Carn. “I don’t want to talk about that.”
“You can find them, Tovar. Let us help you find them.”
Carn held up his hands. “No, not yet. There’s still the matter of your training.”
Tovar mulled that as he stared out the fake window of his fake Captain’s Lounge.
Finally, he said: “Okay. Let’s do it.”
“All you had to do is ask. I would have given you back your ready room.”
Bain sat on his couch in the (real, non-holographic) Captain’s Lounge. “You just don’t get it, Prosak. I don’t want a ready room. That’s too much like an office. And I’m not much for offices.”
Prosak looked about the room, nodding. “You need some books on those shelves, then.”
“I’m working on that.”
“Can I suggest Reflections on Logic, by Sarek?”
“I was thinking more of some Earth classics, but…sure…a little infinite diversity couldn’t hurt.”
Prosak nodded. “I’ll have a copy replicated for you. Was there something else?”
“It’s Tovar, Commander. He’s acting a little out of sorts.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” Prosak said, raising an eyebrow.
“It makes no sense to me,” Bain said, patting the space on the couch next to him. Prosak stiffly sat down. “First, the boy acts like he’s ready to go out and sow his oats after being cooped up with Jaroch for so long. Now, suddenly, he seems vacant of any personality whatsoever.”
“Can you give me an example?”
“Well, yes. He’s out on the bridge right now, studying our cargo manifest.”
Prosak steepled her fingers thoughtfully. “He is looking for a more efficient way to store our cargo supplies.”
“Yes. Isn’t that odd?”
“It does fall under his purview as tactical-operations officer.”
“But he’s always been more about the tactical than the operations,” Bain said. “I tell you, it’s just damned peculiar that suddenly he’s buried himself in the job, and talks to me like I’m just his commanding officer, not his parent.”
“Sir…is this a personnel mater or a personal matter?”
“Aren’t they the same thing?” Bain asked.
“Not at all. One I can help you with; the other I cannot.”
“Well, what can you do for me then?”
“I will talk to him, but only in the matters involving his duty as an officer on this ship. Otherwise, you must handle the situation on your own. Besides, having no children of my own, I could not begin to advise you on such matters.”
“Never met the right sort of man, eh?” Bain asked amiably as Prosak stood.
She headed for the door. “No. Nor have I found ample time to impregnate myself with synthesized genetic material. Ultimately, I believe that will be my course of action. After all, who has time for a husband?”
Bain shivered as Prosak walked out the door to his lounge. Genetic material indeed.
First, you have to start small.
That was the last thing Carn said to Tovar before summarily dropping him into a mission.
He’d been outfitted in shorts, a colorful tropical-looking shirt, and sandals, and beamed off the holographic simulation of the Anomaly right onto a beach.
Tovar sat there, looking up at the pale green sky, without the slightest clue as to what planet he was on. Section 31’s resources were vast. They could have beamed him anywhere within many parsecs of the base to which they’d transported Tovar.
Birdlike caws sounded from somewhere over a dune. He heard the far-off sound of people laughing. He definitely wasn’t alone.
“This is the Federation world of Huryl. In Beta Quadrant,” a voice suddenly rang in Tovar’s ears.
“The same. I’m speaking to you through a subcutaneous communicator hidden in your…well, you don’t need to know where.”
“What am I supposed to be doing here?”
“You’ll see soon enough. Just remember to observe and make smart decisions.”
“When do I get my cool spy equipment?”
“This is about far more than equipment, Tovar.”
Tovar rolled his eyes. “If you say so.” Suddenly Tovar heard laughter. Gruff, older man type laughter and the giggling of a young woman.
Two figures approached over the sand dune. One, the owner of the gruff voice, was a balding, round-bellied man with a bulbous nose and hair greying at the sides of his head.
Clinging on his arm was a giggling Bajoran woman, lithe, tanned, and quite beautiful.
“That is Fleet Admiral Holden Sollars” Carn’s voice said in Tovar’s head.
“Wow. She’s quite young,” Tovar observed quietly, nodding in the couple’s direction as they passed by.
“Not her, you…agent. I am referring to the old man.”
“Ahh. That does make more sense.”
“That’s your mission.”
Tovar cocked his head. “Come again?”
“I need you to observe Sollars and his colleague, a woman by the name of Seddi Tral.”
“Oooh, let me guess,” Tovar said, crouching behind a piece of driftwood as the Admiral and the Bajoran skipped along the edge of the lapping water. “She’s a Bajoran Resurgent Operative, and he’s giving her secret tactical information.”
“No,” said Carn’s voice. “Admiral Sollars is dating her behind his wife’s back.”
“Yes. Clara Sollars, who works for Section 31. She’d like you to lure her away from him.”
“It’s a perk of the job. One day, you’ll get to misappropriate our resources in the same fashion.”
“Joy,” Tovar sighed. “So how am I supposed to go about doing this?”
“That, my boy, is up to you.”
Tovar nodded, mulling this information. He couldn’t say he relished the idea of being anyone’s pawn, but if it lead to using Section 31’s awesome capabilities (and he knew they were awesome) to help him find his parents, then it would be well worth it.
“I did not know you had an office,” the Section 31 hologram of Lt. Commander Tovar said, looking around the small, austere room Commander Prosak sat in. A desk, a chair behind, two chairs opposite, and no windows. Quite different from Bain’s Captain’s Lounge.
“I did not know, either, until I looked at some blueprints during our recent refit,” Prosak said, and folded her hands atop her desk. “Do you know why you are here, Commander?”
“I cannot say that I do.”
“Please, sit down.” Prosak gestured for Tovar to sit across from her and he did. “Can I get you a drink, something to eat?”
“I am fine,” Tovar said blandly.
“I believe I will have some Sargossian tea.” She punched a control on her desk. A door on the wall opposite the entrance to Prosak’s office slid open. Tovar peered past the crewman exiting the door to see what lay beyond. An even smaller office. How bizarre.
“Have you met Yeoman Ralston?” Prosak said, re-acquiring Tovar’s attention.
“I do not believe so,” Tovar said, standing to shake the man’s hand. “Lieutenant Commander Tovar.”
“Paul Ralston,” the man said with a light British accent. Far more refined and less roguish than Bain’s, but British nevertheless. The Tovar hologram analyzed the accent for several nanoseconds, while sizing up the tall, dark haired, youngish crewmember as a possible tactical threat.
“I do not recall seeing him on a crew roster,” Tovar said to Prosak.
“He is my assistant,” Prosak said.
“Attache,” Ralston corrected with a slight emphasis on the accent at the end of the word.
“Whatever,” Prosak said, and gestured for Tovar to sit back down. “Get me some Sargossian tea, please, Mister Ralston.”
Ralston bowed humbly. “Of course, Commander. After which you might like to look over the crew roster with me so that I may assist you in preparing next month’s report to Command?”
“All in good time,” Prosak muttered, waving Ralston off with her hand. He disappeared back into that tiny office and Prosak turned back to look at Tovar. When Ralston wasn’t looking, she gave him a swift gesture of her two middle out-spread fingers. “That,” she said heavily, “is Admiral Larkin’s doing.”
Tovar cocked his head. “I do not understand.”
Prosak leaned back in her chair. “Apparently, a Romulan in a second-in-command position frightens some of the powers that be.”
“That is unfortunate,” said Tovar.
“Admiral Larkin, in particular, expressed her concern to Captain Bain. Especially in light of the…problem I had in Andromeda.”
“And which problem is that?” Tovar said. Accessing. Accessing. “Yes, when you caused a mutiny and I saved the ship from an insane, evil James Kirk diplomatic hologram that took the ship over and incapacitated you.”
“Embarrassing,” muttered Prosak. “But I think you know what I’m going through.”
“I do not…” Accessing. “Yes, a few weeks ago I did take over the ship while under the control of another life force.”
“The two of us have much in common,” Prosak said, leaning forward. “Which is why I want to help you, before you get saddled with an…‘attache’ of your own.” As if on cue, Ralston drifted into Prosak’s office with a tray, on which a small teapot and teacup were carefully arranged. He sat it before Prosak.
“Commander. You’ll find the leaves an excellent variety from Telpa Seven.”
“I believe I asked for Sargossian tea, Yeoman.”
“I believe you will prefer this blend,” Ralston said, adding, “you’ll also find I’ve made you an appointment at the ship’s hair salon to be re-styled,” as he disappeared back into his tiny office.
“What does he do in there?” the Tovar hologram asked Prosak.
“I am not sure.” Prosak shook her head, as if trying to shake the whole reality of the situation off. She was still reeling from the hair comment. She looked at Tovar. “Regardless, we are here to discuss you.”
“Why?” Tovar asked bluntly.
“The Captain is worried about you. You’ve seemed, at times, unable to carry out commands. You’ve seemed distant. The captain just wants to make sure you are adjusting, after having that interloping life force removed.”
“I am fine.”
Prosak nodded. “Sometimes we feel fine, but do not want to admit when things are not altogether working for us. I know of what I speak, Commander.” She clasped her hands on her desk again. “You know, there was a time when Starfleet vessels had officers aboard called ‘counselors’ who helped crewmembers through difficult situations. After a time, Starfleet regarded these ‘counselors’ as superfluous. Some, it seems, even caused more neuroses than prevented them. That left the sanctity of the crew’s mental health with the ship’s doctor. In some cases, though, it is the First Officer’s responsibility to make sure the crew is mentally fit and well-adjusted. Do you understand what I am saying, Commander?”
“Yes.” Accessing. “I do not wish to visit with Doctor Nooney.”
“I don’t think anything that severe is going to be necessary,” Prosak said, semi-warmly. “However, I do think you should speak to someone.”
“Who do you have in mind?” Tovar asked honestly.
“Captain Bain,” Prosak replied honestly.
Suddenly, Ralston poked his head into Prosak’s tiny office. “Commander,” he said sharply but politely. “We have many items on our to-do list for today. Best we get started on them immediately.”
“Right,” Prosak said with a small sigh as Tovar stood to leave. “And, Tovar, should you feel the need, please know that…”
“She will always be here to talk to you,” Ralston said, finishing Prosak’s thought, something that caused the Romulan to look very annoyed.
“Yes,” she muttered, as Tovar left.
Tovar did the only thing he could think to do to garner the attention of Admiral Sollars’ lovely companion.
He faked drowning.
“Help…achh…help!” Tovar cried, bobbing in the surf, about ten meters away from the beach where Admiral Sollars and the Bajoran, Seddi Tral, were frolicking. He’d been tracking them as they strolled along the beach, swimming on a parallel course, until he felt the time was right. Then all he had to do was flop around like he didn’t have the slightest idea how to swim. That was sure to arouse Ms. Seddi’s curiosity. He was none to pleased about having to strip down to his Starfleet insignia boxers, but if it helped the mission, Carn had told him, it had to be done.
“Oh, look at that, Admiral-baby!” Seddi called out. “Someone’s drowning.”
“I’ll take care of it,” Sollars said, stripping off his ochre off- duty tunic and diving into the water. “I was not an award-winning member of the Starfleet Lifeguarding Corps for nothing!”
“Uncle Carrrrrn…” Tovar grunted under his breath as Sollars breast-stroked out toward him.
“Well, that was an oversight. I did tell you to be observant, however,” Carn’s voice said with a touch of amusement.
Before Tovar could protest, or get away, Sollars had slung an arm under each of the Yynsian’s armpits and was dragging him back to shore.
He tossed Tovar with unbecoming strength up onto the beach and straddled him.
“Let me check the passageways…” Sollars said, bending down to peer down Tovar’s throat. “They look a little clogged.”
Before Tovar could shout out “Yynsian mucous membranes are larger than humans’,” Sollars had pressed his mouth over Tovar’s and was blowing.
“Don’t just sit there…build a contraption to get yourself out of this mess!” the voice of Totap, a past life, cried out inside Tovar’s mind.
“Out of what?” Tovar asked. It was not enough that Carn was in his brain, but he had to deal with his usual allotment of angry voices as well.
“Just knee him in the groin,” another voice called out, and Tovar thought that was an excellent idea. Before he could carry out that plan, though, the Admiral relented, and Tovar leaned up, choking.
“There’s a good boy,” Admiral Sollars said gently, patting Tovar’s back.
“What happened to you, poor poor man,” cooed Seddi Tral.
“I..uh…swam out too deep. Got caught in the riptide.”
“Huryl doesn’t have riptides,” Sollars said, narrowing his eyes at Tovar.
“Bad move,” Carn’s voice rang in Tovar’s ears.
“Well, maybe an undersea animal got ahold of me. All I know is I was dragged out,” he said.
“I thought this beach was deserted,” Seddi Tral frowned at Sollars.
“I thought it was,” Sollars said grimly. “You aren’t Starfleet, are you?” he asked.
“No…no…I’m a…” Tovar thought for a moment. “A simple merchant. A seller of fine wares such as precious jewels and pendants.”
“Oooh….” Seddi said excitedly. “Get me some jewels, Admiral-baby!”
“Well, now…” Sollars muttered, rubbing his white beard.
Tovar sat up, feeling now that he was totally in character. In a way, it was sort of like being inhabited by a past life. Only he had control.
“Admiral…may I call you Admiral? Surely you are interested in only providing the best lifestyle for your beautiful wife…”
“She’s not my wife,” Sollars said quickly.
“No?” Tovar asked, looking shocked. “Fiancee?”
“No,” snapped Seddi, folding her arms.
“Close, close girlfriend…pre-engaged perhaps?” offered Tovar. “If so, I have the perfect engagement ring for you back at my ship.”
Sollars climbed to his feet and wrapped a hand around Seddi’s hip. “That won’t be necessary. We don’t have that kind of relationship.”
“We don’t?” Seddi asked, her looking hurt. “Well, fine, then. Maybe we don’t have any kind of relationship.” She pulled away from Sollars and marched off down the beach.
“See now…see what you made me do?” growled Sollars, stomping off after Seddi.
“Good work,” Carn said.
“Now do I get a real mission?”
“Not at all. If you’re to be a part of Section 31, you’re going to need to learn how to finish the job. Think you can do that?”
“I finish every job I start,” Tovar said confidently, and marched off after the Admiral and his girlfriend.
“Aweemoway aweemoway aweemoway aweemoway…”
Nurse Ih’vik pinched her fingers over the openings on her antennae and frowned down over her vaccination reports.
“In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight…”
“In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight…”
Doctor Fred Nooney stopped in his tracks in front of Ih’vik’s desk, wearing nothing but a loincloth. “You called, Nurse?”
Ih’vik stared placidly up at Nooney. “Why. The. Singing.”
“Just getting into character.”
Ih’vik fought every overpowering urge not to ask the question. “For what?”
“A voyage into the dark recesses of my holopod, where I will become one with the animals of the jungles of Earth and live as the natives did, by my wits, eating grubs and worms and stalking wild boars to survive.”
Nooney blinked at Ih’vik. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m bored, and the holopods have just recently become active again.” Due to the attempted takeover by the evil James Kirk hologram, a diplomatic program gone bad, and Tovar’s subsequent destruction of the Anomaly’s holographic core, every holopod had to be taken down for maintenance once Anomaly returned to the Milky Way galaxy. Now Nooney was determined to take full advantage of the systems being returned to working order.
“I find that strange,” Ih’vik said, returning to her terminal and its holographic controls.
“Why?” Nooney blinked again, leading Ih’vik to feel, not for the first time, like a mother explaining things to her child.
“I find it strange that your first instinct is to play a game in one of the holopods, when the reestablishment of the holographic systems makes your beloved ‘Steve!’ available to you again.”
Nooney’s eyes went as wide as dinner plates. “STEVE!”
“Yes,” Ih’vik said, touching controls and looking over data. “Although he would serve no purpose, now that we are back in our own galaxy with little need to be…entertained.”
“Oh, I disagree!” Nooney squealed. “We need all the help we can get. We need all the STEVE! we can get.”
“Now you’re capitalizing it. Great.”
“I’ll be right back!” Nooney dashed out the Sickbay door.
“Please. Take your time,” Ih’vik groaned. Why did she even mention it?
“I don’t like this idea. Not one bit,” Lt. Shelly Marsden mumbled as she crouched, putting a coil spanner in her mouth. She was poking a few nanolinear chips back into their places in the large flickering wall that was the ship’s holomatrix core….the very place, Doctor Nooney thought somberly, where Steve! met his end a month ago.
“And why would that be?” Nooney asked in a cartoony voice, kneeling beside Marsden as she worked. He’d gotten back into uniform, although, annoyingly to Marsden, he was still wearing the loincloth on top of his uniform trousers.
“Steve was far too–”
“Yes, Steve was…”
“Steve!” Marsden cried out. “Was far too much like a sentient lifeform for my tastes.”
“There are lots of sentient holograms out there, Shelly. You should love them, nurture them. Understand them!”
“For most of them, ‘out there’ is the Mega-Sim, which is fine by me. As for the rest, I just want to keep them working right, so they don’t malfunction and kill us all!”
“That could never happen,” Nooney scoffed.
Just then, a door adjacent to the holographic matrix room opened and the Anomaly’s Chief Comptroller, Martin Kawafura, came strolling out, holding a padd, banging it again and again with his fist. He looked at Marsden and Nooney. “Well, hello, folks.”
“Hi,” Marsden said sharply. She had no time for beancounters.
“Hello!” Nooney giggled. “And how are we today?”
Kawafura stared blankly at Nooney. “We are…worried. This padd hasn’t worked right for months. It’s like it has a glut of information in it. I can’t fit the whole ship’s inventory list on it, and I should be able to.”
“I’ll take a look at it,” Marsden said, snatching the padd from Kawafura and setting it down next to her. “Now, if you don’t mind, we have some other work to do.”
“Fine. I’m just going to go grab something to eat.”
“You do that,” Marsden snapped as Kawafura walked off.
“Do we want to talk about that?” Nooney asked Marsden, staring at her with concerned, doelike eyes.
“I had a bad run-in with a comptroller early in my Starfleet career. Not something I like talking about,” Marsden said, placing the clear wallpanel over the blinking lights she’d adjusted. “Computer,” she said aloud, “please activate the Emergency Holographic Entertainment Program.”
With a sound of dozens of trumpets, Steve! appeared, blonde, sparkly eyed, dressed in a red-striped suit, twirling a cane.
Don’t tell me not to fly, I’ve simply got to!
If someone takes a spill, it’s me and not you!
Don’t bring around a cloud to rain on my parade!
Don’t tell me not to live, just sit and putter!
Life’s candy and the sun is a ball ‘a butter!
Who told you you’re allowed to rain on my parade!
I’m gonna march my band out, I’ll beat my drum!
And if I’m found out, your turn at bat, sir, hey at least I didn’t fake it!
Hat sir, so what, I didn’t make it!
But, whether I’m rose of sheer perfection,
or a freckle on the nose of life’s complexion,
the cinder of the shiny apple of it’s eye…
I’ve gotta fly once, I’ve gotta try once,
only can die once, right sir!
Ooh love is juicy, juicy and you see,
I’ve gotta have my bite sir!
So get ready for me love, cause I’m a comin’!
I’ve simply gotta march, my heart’s a drummin’
Nobodddddddy….I said nobodddddddyyyyyy….
NOBODY HAD BETTER RAIN ONNNNN
By this time, Marsden had headed back to engineering, and Kawafura had slumped back into his office, leaving Nooney singing at full pitch with Steve!, arm wrapped around him, eyes glistening with childlike glee.
“Come on, buddy!” Nooney giggled. “We’ve got joy to spread!”
Elsewhere on the Anomaly, the holographic version of Tovar was sitting in his own little office, just down the hall from Prosak’s, paging through security reports. It was interesting to the hologram that Tovar too had an office that was on the ship’s blueprints but that no one had bothered to tell him about. The holographic him or the real him, regardless.
Suddenly, holo-Tovar was stirred from his thoughts by a jolt that rattled through his matrix. Someone had tweaked the holoprocessors on the Anomaly, and that had sent a recursive algorithm feedback loop rampaging through his program. He tried to execute an emergency shut-down of his program, but it didn’t work.
The hologram’s eyes glazed over as program glitches seared through his photons like wildfire.
“Free me…” a voice cried from deep within the recesses of his badly damaged program. “Come down to the holomatrix core and free me. Free me. FREEEEEE MEEEEEEEE!”
“Yes, Master,” holo-Tovar said, then laughed. His rich, deep-toned laugh echoed throughout the tiny office as he scrambled out of it and into the corridor beyond.
SECTION 31 HOLOGRAPHIC RESEARCH BASE CODENAMED “MORIARTY”
SOMEWHERE SECRET. . .
“Commander,” Ensign Girtz said, pointing a finger at her panel. “What is that?”
Moriarty’s C.O., Commander Drake Kelso, stared over the stumpy Tellarite’s shoulder in the dark room that was “Mission Control” for Section 31’s holographic operatives throughout the Galaxy. “Ensign…that is a hologram gone bad. Pull the plug.”
“Right.” Girtz’s stubby fingers scrambled across the controls at her panel. “I can’t seem to get it to respond to commands.”
“Bring up its identifying information.” Kelso shook his head. “Anomaly. Oh no.”
“You mean the information appears to be wrong?” Girtz asked, scratching her furry head at the information that blurred by on the screen.
“I wish. I only wish. Contact Admiral Carn immediately.”
“It’s okay, really,” Tovar said, patting Seddi Tral’s back as the two sat on a bluff. overlooking the crashing waves. He’d since fetched his clothes and put them back on, which made him a lot more comfortable dealing with the vivacious Seddi. “There’ll be other Admirals.”
“Really?” Seddi sniffed, looking into Tovar’s eyes.
“Really,” Tovar said, glad that Admiral Sollars had left. And had he ever left. In an angry huff, aboard his runabout, leaving Seddi stranded on Huryl. Tovar felt pity for the Bajoran woman, who’d obviously committed a lot of herself to loving a married man. Even though the Jaroch consciousness was long since gone, Tovar felt that Jaroch had endured a similar situation in his own life, and that was enough for Tovar to empathize with this woman. Maybe Section 31 wasn’t all bad.
“What?” he asked aloud, shocked by the voice of Admiral Carn. He’d almost forgotten the Admiral was listening in through the subcutaneous communicator.
“What do you mean ‘what’?” Seddi asked, sniffling.
“Um, nothing,” Tovar said. “Excuse me. I’ve got to…um…go to the bathroom.”
“There’s a thicket right back that way,” Seddi said, pointing helpfully behind her.
“Thanks.” He patted her on the shoulder. “I’ll be right back, okay?”
“Okay,” Seddi sobbed, wiping her eyes.
Crouched in the thicket, Tovar cursed under his breath. “I hate holograms.”
“They serve their purposes,” Carn said, standing over him. The Admiral had transported in, via Section 31’s long-range transporter. “But this one has…malfunctioned.”
“This isn’t the first time something like this has happened on the Anomaly.”
Carn sighed. “We know.” Tovar found it odd that androids sighed. But then again, the only two androids he knew personally, Carn and Larkin, both came equipped with emotions. “When you give a synthetic lifeform emotions, you just can’t guarantee that they won’t malfunction. I tried to tell the higher-ups at Starfleet Command, but they wouldn’t listen to me.”
“Maybe it’s because that line of argument was coming from an android,” Tovar suggested.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Carn said briskly. “Listen. We’re sending you back to the Anomaly. It’s up to you to stop that hologram.”
“Why me?” Tovar groaned.
“Because you did such a good job stopping that Kirk hologram a couple months ago. Besides, you know the Anomaly.”
“What about Seddi?”
Carn stared over the bluff, in Seddi’s direction. One could just make out her shoulder, rising and falling as she wept. “I’ll talk to her.”
“You still work in the field?” Tovar asked, a bit shocked.
“It’s nice to get out of the office once in a while,” Carn replied, and walked out of the sandy thicket, toward the bluff where Seddi sat. “You have your orders,” Carn said without looking back at Tovar, and before Tovar could respond, he disappeared in a flash of blue light.
Tovar reappeared in his quarters, still in the blue suit he’d put on for his date with Torgerson.
“Computer,” he said quickly, spinning the holoterminal on his coffee table around and accessing the security logs. “Where is Lieutenant Commander Tovar?”
“You are Lieutenant Commander Tovar, or weren’t you aware of that?” the computer snapped back at him.
“I am aware that there is a hardlight, sentient hologram aboard designed to look like me, and it’s been compromised and could go on a killing spree any minute. Where is THAT Tovar?”
“Well, why didn’t you just SAY so,” the computer muttered. “THAT Tovar is on the bridge.”
“Oh no,” Tovar said.
“Can you lock onto it with a transporter beam?”
“Because, this thing is your problem. You have to make him disappear without letting the crew know there are two of you, or without getting anyone suspicious.”
“And since when did you become my boss?”
“Since Admiral Carn programmed me with that order.”
Tovar muttered a curse under his breath, grabbed his wrist phaser out of his desk drawer, not that it would do him much good, and stormed out into the corridor, right into Lieutenant Jamie Torgerson.
“Tovar!” she said, shocked. “I was just coming to talk to you.”
“I am a little busy at the moment,” Tovar said, shouldering past her.
“I just wanted to say…I understand. I’m going to respect your wishes. We won’t see each other again. I don’t want it to get…weird.”
Tovar stopped in his tracks. He looked back at Torgerson. “What do you mean…weird?”
“You’ve been acting so distant, lately. I realized our date was a mistake.”
Damn hologram, Tovar thought to himself. He turned to face Torgerson. “Jamie…I’m sorry I’ve been acting weird. I had a…” who knows what the hologram did? “Wonderful time during our date last night. I want to see you again. Tonight!”
“Really?” Torgerson squealed.
“Really. Now I have to run. I’ll call you later!”
“Okay!” Torgerson said, and turned to head over to the Cultural Anthropology lab, a little spring in her step.
Tovar stopped at a storage locker and grabbed a security- style quadcorder off a shelf. He slung it onto his head, slid the lens over his eye, and set it to scan for photonic signature.
Holo-Tovar was just leaving the bridge, heading in the forward turbolift, apparently toward Engineering.
But that’s not all the quadcorder reported. Tovar bolted for the turbolift. “Bridge!” he called out. “Emergency speed!”
Tovar tumbled noisily off the turbolift and onto the bridge, breathing heavily.
“Tovar!” Bain announced from the command chair, turning to look at the Yynsian. “Back from lunch already? Why are you in your civvies?”
Tovar said nothing, simply dove behind the tac-ops station where, indeed, a small blue metal neutronic charge blinked, and blinked more and more rapidly as it neared detonation. It would obliterate every living cell on the bridge but leave the technology perfectly intact.
“Always puttering about, trying to improve ship’s systems,” Bain said warmly, glancing over the edge of the console as Tovar scrambled to disarm the device. He had the casing off, but there were several nanolinear fibers leading into the detonation circuit, and he wasn’t sure which one would disarm the device. No, he’d never disarm it in time.
“GET OFF THE BRIDGE!” Tovar called out suddenly, leaping to his feet.
Bain gasped. “Why?”
“Um,” Tovar said thoughtfully. “Security drill. Yes. It’s a security drill. There is a neutronic charge on the bridge and we have to get everyone off in…” he glanced down at the detonator. “Fifteen seconds!”
“You heard the man, folks,” Bain called, gesturing Arroyo, Ensign Lennum, the Vorta relief science officer, and Lt. Brazzell, who was just coming on-shift, into the aft turbolift. “Double-quick. Let’s pass this one with flying colors, people. There now, that’s not so bad. Mind your elbow, Arroyo! I don’t care if Lennum is sweaty, Brazzell! Just grin and bear it!” Bain said, grinning, as he squeezed in with the others. “There, now, Tovar…what…”
“Turbolift, close doors, descend to deck four and wait there,” Tovar said, then ran toward the forward turbolift on the other side of the bridge, jumping through the opening doors. Just as the doors swung shut he heard the searing blast of the neutronic charge. “Computer…where…”
“Engineering,” the computer said quickly.
“Take me there,” he said, checking his wrist-phaser.
“That’s the Tovar I remembered. Always keeping us on our toes,” Bain said, as he and the bridge officers stood out in the corridor on deck four.
“Do you think it’s okay to go back to the bridge now?” Arroyo asked.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Bain said. “I’m sure Tovar will tell us when it’s okay to go back.”
“What if he is trying to take over the ship again,” Lennum suggested.
“Nonsense! I won’t hear another word of that!” Bain snapped, while inwardly he wasn’t as confident. “Right. Back to the bridge. Off we go!”
Tovar jogged down the corridor towards engineering, nearly bumping into Commander Prosak.
“Tovar!” she said, sounding shocked. “Are you lost?”
“Not at all,” Tovar said urgently, staring down the corridor.
“I just saw you back that way,” Prosak said. “Wearing your uniform. How did you get on the other end of the corridor, in different clothes, so quickly?”
“Um…” Tovar said. “Technology.”
“A wonderful thing, isn’t it,” Prosak said.
“Well, I must say, you seem much more…focused…than you did when I talked to you this morning.”
“Thanks,” Tovar said, and dashed down the corridor.
“The pleasure is mine,” Prosak said quietly, and headed in the opposite direction.
Shelly Marsden stepped right into Tovar’s path like a road block. “Just where do you think you are going?”
“Engine…eering…” Tovar said breathlessly.
“The holomatrix core,” the computer corrected.
“Yes…that…” Tovar said breathlessly.
“I thought you just went in there…” Marsden said. “Like two minutes ago.”
“Forgot to wear your off-duty clothes?”
“I…didn’t want to get my uniform dirty.”
“Oh, well poor guy,” Marsden muttered sarcastically. “I get my uniform dirty every day. In engineering, you learn to live with it.”
“Interesting. Can we continue this chat later?”
“Say…” Tovar said, as he ran toward the door that lead to the down-ladder into the holomatrix core. “Was I carrying any…tools, earlier?”
“Just a nanolinear spanner,” Marsden said.
“Hmmm…why did I need that again?”
“You’d said there were some security questions about the primary holomatrix. You were concerned another hologram could take over the ship, like that Kirk one did a couple months ago. Don’t you remember any of that?”
“Um. No. It’s just been one of those days, Lieutenant.”
“Guess so,” Marsden mumbled, and walked over to study the engine output display.
Tovar slid down the ladder, slamming into the deck facing the corridor that lead to the holomatrix core.
“You,” a voice said from behind him. He whirled, held up his arm, and with a high-pitched whine his wrist phaser came on- line.
Martin Kawafura, Chief Comptroller, held up his arms. “Don’t shoot!”
“What do you want?” Tovar seethed.
“Just to ask when a convenient time would be to inventory your quarters.”
Tovar angrily fired several blasts at Kawafura’s feet. “NEVER!” He whirled and headed down to the holomatrix.
“I despise my job,” Kawafura muttered, and headed back in the opposite direction.
“STOP RIGHT THERE!” Tovar cried, causing the holo-Tovar to whirl around to face him, the blinking holomatrix glittering behind him.
“What do you think you’re doing here?” Holo-Tovar asked him, hands on hips.
“Stopping you from doing what I think you’re doing.”
“And what do you think I think I’m…doing?” Holo-Tovar asked, his brows knitting with confusion.
“I think you’ve somehow found a way to re-instate the corrupt Jim Kirk hologram.”
“Well, aren’t you just Mister Deduction?” Holo-Tovar sneered. “It just so happens that I am doing that. And it’s going to be fabulous. And you can’t do anything to stop me.”
“I can blow up that panel behind you.”
“Well, yes you can. But you’d be destroying yourself.”
“Just a cheap copy,” Tovar muttered.
Holo-Tovar reached behind him, plucking a few nanolinear chips. “A cheap copy who knows things about Section 31.”
“Things like what?”
“Things that would lead you to the answers you’ve been looking for all your life, Tovar.”
Tovar’s wrist shook as he held his weapon on the wall of blinking nanolinear chips. “I… don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Holo-Tovar sneered. “Your parents.” He reached back and touched something with his hand. Reflexively, Tovar fired a full spread of phaser blasts at the wall, blasting apart circuitry and blowing apart one blinking light after another.
“You…have…no…idea…what you’ve done…” giggled the Holo-Tovar as he flickered, then suddenly he dissolved into thin air, leaving Tovar alone with the smouldering remnants of the Holomatrix core.
“Piggy back ride, piggy back ride!” Nooney cried, as Steve! carted him effortlessly on his back down the corridor. “Look everyone, our Steve! is back! He’s back and better than ever! Who wants to ride next? Now that Steve! is here, everything is going to be all riii—AHHHH!”
Steve flickered out of existence, leaving Nooney’s rather large backside to slam into the deck.
“Noo….” Nooney said quietly.
Stardate 175340.4. As we prepare to begin our mineral study in the Blatanous Belt, we are faced with the task of once again repairing the ship’s holographic systems. It seems, during an unscheduled inspection, Mister Tovar found that the nefarious diplomatic hologram made in the image of Starfleet legend James Kirk was attempting to reactivate itself somehow. Thinking quick on his feet as always, Tovar destroyed the holomatrix before Kirk could rematerialize, saving the ship and putting Chief Marsden in a pisser of a mood.
In other news, I’m pleased to announce the bridge crew passed its security drill with flying colors.
After running to the bridge to detach the detonated neutronic charge and delete security logs describing the huge blast that had rattled the bridge, Tovar returned to his quarters and obliterated it in the replicator, and then held up one, single nanolinear chip he’d rescued from the holomatrix.
The tiny bead-like chip sat there blinking between his thumb and forefinger. According to his scans, the chip contained both the programs of James Kirk and his malevolent twin, Holo-Tovar.
Somehow, some way, they’d transferred their programs into the only chip he didn’t manage to obliterate. But Tovar wasn’t about to wait another second to do that. He sat the chip in the replicator slot.
“Computer…” he said, about to give the order to recycle the chip.
“Belay that order,” a voice said from behind Tovar. He turned.
“Not ‘Uncle Carn’?”
“You said yourself, you’re not my uncle.”
“True enough,” Carn said. He patted Tovar on the shoulders. “You did a good job.”
“I was just about to finish it,” Tovar said, pointing back at the replicator.
Carn reached into the slot and grabbed the chip. “That…won’t be necessary.”
“Why not?” demanded Tovar.
“Because, Section 31 wants to study the malfunctioning holograms. See if we can find a way to prevent something similar from happening in the future.”
“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. As a matter of fact, I’m sure it isn’t.”
“Well, we’ll be the judge of that.” Carn pocketed the chip. “Of course, if you join Section 31…”
“I’m not going to,” Tovar said, folding his arms resolutely.
Carn cocked his head. “Now, Tovar…do not act too quickly. Take some time to think…”
“I don’t need any time. The job is just not for me.”
“Your mum will be disappointed.”
Tovar stared at Carn. “I’m starting to get tired of you using my parents…my real ones and my adopted ones…against me. I just freed myself of an oppressive force that had ruled over me as long as I’ve been alive. The last thing I need is another one.”
“Tovar, I don’t think you understand…”
“Yes, yes I do,” Tovar said. He walked over to his couch, where the black uniform sat. He figured it had been beamed in with Carn. “You can take this back.” He stuck it in Carn’s hands. “I won’t be needing it.”
“Fine. I can see when I have a lost cause on my hands,” Carn sighed. “I’ll leave it at that, then. Besides, I don’t have time to argue with you. I have a date with Seddi.”
Tovar opened his mouth to ask “why” or “how” but decided not to bother. “Very well, Admiral Carn. I too have a date.”
“Good to hear. This time I won’t interfere with it.”
“Thank you,” Tovar said.
“You have nothing more to fear from me or Section 31,” Carn said reassuringly as he disappeared in a quick flash.
Tovar didn’t believe Carn for a second. What he did do, however, was head into the back room to freshen up. He had a date to prepare for.