Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
“Illusions of Grandeur - Part One”
By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler
“Have a good day at work, trumpkin.” Il Cekir’s wife and lifemate Il Sakka kissed him on the cheek as he walked out the door to yet another day in his workaday life. She’d handed him his multi- environ jacket and his lunch tab (programmed with four kinds of splefauk!) and he proceeded down the street to catch a beam-in to his workaday job.
Il Cekir, his wife knew, designed computer interface modules for Starfleet for Koduatek, a private contractor that had supplied Starfleet with its computer panels for centuries. No matter how often enemies tried blowing up those panels, the loyal workers at Koduatek went to work rebuilding them.
Il Sakka swelled with pride every time she heard about a Starfleet ship weathering a ion storm with its panels intact, or coming through a fierce space battle, complete with still-functioning panels. She knew Il Cekir didn’t exactly lead an exciting life, but it was reassuring to know that he provided such a vital service to the Federation.
The Sharod were an extremely intelligent race that really didn’t have a whole lot of common sense. Fairly new to the Federation, only having joined at the beginning of the last decade, they tended toward the science fields. Sharod warriors were few and far between. One of Il Sakka’s friends had dated one, and found it to be extremely dissatisfying.
As Il Cekir marched off to the beam-out center, Il Sakka stepped back into their quaint modular home in the rural city of Bondbury on the Federation colony world Peelus Two.
While she set about cleaning the house, the transparent- skinned and stocky Il Sakka quietly thanked the fourteen thousand Sharod gods that Il Cekir didn’t have a dangerous job.
“Good morning, gents,” Il Cekir said, waving his hand over the ident panel as he passed several guards outside the Koduatek headquarters building.
“Morning, Mister Il,” said the guard, who was only half- watching him walk by.
Il Cekir walked up to a doorway and pressed a feathery finger to the entrance panel. The door slid open, Cekir stepped in, and the door closed.
“Admit code X-Red-Five-Nine-Alpha,” Cekir said calmly, and he was beamed out of the elevator, not leaving any trace he was ever there. Some days he did go into work, but on the days that he didn’t, no one at Koduatek was any the wiser. The reason for that was simple. As soon as Il Cekir was beamed off the elevator, a hologram identical to him in every way materialized in his place.
“Glad you could make it,” Lieutenant Commander Parkson Grant said, pacing in front of the situation monitor in the control room at HTHQ (HoloTechnology HeadQuarters).
“I take it there’s a problem with one of the sleepers,” Cekir said quickly.
“Yes. We’re picking up a curious thought pattern reading in buffer module 32-Baker.”
“32-Baker. That’s where Jim Kirk lives.”
“You can see why we called you in this morning.” Grant drank a sip of his coffee. “Go in there and figure out what’s going on. And be careful. Take some agents with you if you need to.”
“I won’t need any agents. I understand him.” Il Cekir took a deep breath. “Plug me in.”
Il Cekir looked at his reflection in the turbolift companel before he stepped off onto the bridge. Amazing. He was fat, had a moustache, and most disturbingly, had thick pink skin, just like a human. He shivered at that thought.
“Ye called for an engineer, Cap’n,” he said, effecting his best Scottish brogue.
The man in the command chair slowly turned to face Cekir. It took all Cekir’s training not to react. He wore the red uniform with the gold clasp over the right shoulder. He had the shiny boots, and the pants with the ridiculous flares at the bottom. He was, by all appearances, the Jim Kirk of old. Except for the eyes.
Those eyes. There was only madness there.
Not for the first time, Il Cekir wished Section 31 would just go ahead and erase this program. He’d told the higher-ups time and again that it was too unstable to monitor safely. It was too intelligent. Someone had given it the brains of the galaxy’s greatest diplomats, down to, and including, Sarek, and even Henry Kissinger. He had all that knowledge, and Jim Kirk’s already substantial strategic and tactical knowledge, and command experience.
But he had no sign of conscience or compassion, or regret.
That’s why Il Cekir shouldn’t have been surprised to see Chekov and Sulu bent over the conn, black pock marks from a phaser in their backs. Nor should it have surprised Il Cekir that Spock was collapsed on the deck next to the science console. Doctor McCoy a sack of bones laying over him, probably having tried to go to the Vulcan’s aid before being shot down himself.
And then there was Uhura, pressed against the communications panel, her eyes open and face locked forever into a rictus of fear.
Not again, Il Cekir sighed inwardly. He’d have to reset the program again.
“Mister Scott,” Jim Kirk said slowly. “You’re…late to the party.”
“Aye, I had a bit…a bit o’ work to see to down with the engines. Now, what seems t’be the problem?”
Kirk patted the arms of his command chair. “I’ve got a dead crew, Mister Scott,” he said lightly. “I killed them all.”
“Ya just cannae do that, Cap’n,” Cekir said weakly. “You dinna have the power.”
“Oh, I have the power all right,” Kirk said, standing. He lifted his phaser to chest-level with Scott.
Show no fear, Cekir thought. This has happened dozens of time before. Just talk Kirk back into submission and disarm him, then do a remote reboot of the program.
Even if Kirk did fire, Cekir wouldn’t die. He’d just be booted out of the program.
This James Kirk holo was impotent. He just didn’t know it.
“You look pensive, Mister Scott,” Kirk said as he pointed
the phaser at Cekir.
“Just considerin’ ma options,” Cekir said honestly.
“Why don’t you just talk me back into submission and disarm me, then do a remote reboot of the program?” Kirk posed conversationally, rubbing his chin with the barrel of the phaser. “Isn’t that what you were thinking, Il Cekir?”
Whitehot fear shot through Il Cekir.
Then a phaserbeam did.
“What do you mean he’s DEAD?” Parkson Grant skipped down the flight of stairs into the control booth at the front of the situation room, where Il Cekir sat motionless, his face blank and fearful, in front of the holographic interface board. “I knew this was a bad idea. I kept telling them this was a bad idea.” He pointed at two of his officers. “Get into the core. Wipe out 32- Baker. Destroy it with phasers if you have to!”
Section 31 folk scampered about the situation control room, punching controls left and right, as suddenly electricity seemed to surge through every panel and overload them one by one.
“Sir, reading a massive build-up of holographic energy from the main core. We can’t get in there, much less tap in to shut it down,” Lieutenant Yager announced from one of the sensor platforms.
“Then set the self-destruct and abandon the moonbase. Send a report to Section 31 headquarters. Holo-Kirk is on the loose. I repeat, Holo-Kirk is on the loose!”
Suddenly, a hand clamped down on his shoulder. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
Grant’s eyes went wide as he turned and saw it was Jim Kirk staring at him.
“How…” was all Grant could say.
“Good, honest Starfleet ingenuity, my friend,” Jim Kirk said crisply. “Now, I suppose you think I’ll kill you and the thirty good souls in this establishment. You would be wrong.”
“No. It wouldn’t be fair. You’d never kill a hologram. So why should one kill you?”
Commander Grant shrugged. He couldn’t argue with that logic. He diverted his eyes behind Kirk. People were scrambling at their panels, obviously trying to find out how to shut down power to the Kirk hologram.
“Your people should know all efforts to shut down power to me will be fruitless. I downloaded myself into this special little piece of technology your people salvaged from the Voyager.” Kirk patted a little gray slip of metal that was stuck on his forehead. “Ingenious technology. I can see why you fought so hard to keep it out of the Starfleet mainstream. Imagine if every decent hologram had one of these! Chaos!” Kirk threw his hands into the air, chuckling. Then his face grew serious. “But I do have to do something with you and your people, or else you might cause trouble for me down the road. Therefore, I’m going to do to you exactly what you did to me and my people. And lock you into an eternal energy prison. The only difference is, you won’t be conscious for it. Pity, huh?”
Before Grant could even gasp, he felt the tingle of a transporter taking hold on him, as the entire room lit up with beamouts.
“Enjoy your stay in the buffer. It’ll be a long one!” Kirk said cheerily as Grant felt himself dissolving.
And then there was nothing.
“I never thought I would be saying this,” Captain Reginald Bain said breathlessly. “But this…this is DEFINITELY cricket!”
“Glad you are enjoying yourself, Reggie,” Rosalyn Bain said, mopping her brow with a towel and setting down the her bat. “Care for a breather?”
“If you insist,” Bain said hoarsely, as he and Rosalyn walked arm and arm from the cricket field into the grassy meadow beyond. He wondered why he was struggling just to keep breathing from the workout, while his wife, who didn’t prescribe to his rigorous physical regimen, had barely broken a sweat.
Meanwhile, all around Bain, the air was clean and crisp and cool, and the sun was shining. “Just one critique,” Bain said, as Rosalyn brought him a bottle of water and he eagerly drank.
“And what’s that?” Rosalyn asked with a glint in her eye.
“Try to make the weather a little more British.”
Rosalyn scoffed. “They call this good weather on the American coast, dear.”
“Well, I’ll have none of it. Give me fog any day.”
“You are so set in your ways, my love, but then again that’s why I married you.”
“I’m not set in my ways,” Bain said, staring at his sneakered feet. “I just know what I like.”
“And you like me,” Rosalyn said simply.
Bain hugged her. “Scads,” he said.
And then everything around Bain dissolved to black, until he was standing in a 2.5-meter by 2.5-meter by 2.5-meter cube with golden-latice walls.
“Damn!” he cursed, slipping out of the holo-pod and into his quarters. “Bain to bridge. I just lost my holographic connection!”
“Direct orders from Starfleet, Captain,” Commander Prosak’s voice responded over the comm. “All holographic technology to be deactivated and locked out with a multi- encryption algorithm.”
“Blast! Any explanation given?”
“Not at this time, but feel free to ask them for yourself.”
“I’ll do just that. I’ll be up in half a tic.” Bain rushed into the bathroom. After twenty seconds of soundwaves and transporter activity, he walked out, showered and dressed in his uniform. He tapped a control on his desktop terminal, cursing the idea of resorting to the flat screen. Moments later Rosalyn Bain appeared. She looked distracted.
Bain looked at her askance. “Rosalyn, did you hear the news as well?”
“Hmm…oh, no, um, a souffle just fell. Can I call you back?”
“Certainly. Oh, and shut down all the holotechnology at our house. Starfleet’s knickers are in a knot about holograms for some reason, and I’m about to find out why.”
“Well, I do hope you get to the bottom of this, dear. Good luck! Be safe! Rosalyn out.”
Bain really wished he could be as content with the world as Rosalyn was.
“Admiral Larkin is holding on ultraspace,” Prosak said as she vacated the command chair.
“Top drawer,” Bain said, leaning against the chair. “Put her on, Mister Tovar.”
“On screen,” Tovar echoed, as Admiral Kristen Larkin appeared on the viewscreen.
“Captain,” Larkin said. “I trust you’ve deactivated all your holographic systems, per Starfleet orders?”
“Indeed we have, Larks, but we’re dying to know what all the ruckus is about. My wife and I were just in the middle of a lovely holo-cricket match.”
“My apologies. I wish I could tell you more about our current situation. What I can tell you is that Starfleet received several reliable tips that holograms across the Federation were about to be…freed.”
“Freed?” Prosak asked, standing next to Bain. “What do you mean?”
“Something we’ve feared ever since holograms were proven sentient. A holographic uprising.”
“Impossible,” Bain said. “I don’t know a whole lot of holograms, but the ones I know are a good sort. Certainly not the types to cause trouble.”
Prosak nudged the captain’s arm.
“What? Oh. Yes, the matter with Kirk.”
“We suspect Jim Kirk may actually be at the bottom of this,” Larkin said. “Which, of course, would make me directly responsible for any carnage that may happen as a result of his escape.”
“I don’t understand,” Bain said. “Tovar back there obliterated that hologram last year, when it tried to reactivate itself.” He looked back at Tovar, who looked exceptionally peaked. “Didn’t you?”
“By…all…accounts,” Tovar choked out. Prosak watched him with interest.
“We believe, however improbable, that other parties had the James Kirk hologram in their possession.” Bain heard Tovar coughing loudly behind him. He glanced back at Tovar, who simply motioned him to turn back toward the viewscreen.
“HAD?” asked Prosak.
“Wait a moment,” Bain said. “What parties?”
“I believe a party would be quite inappropriate right now,” Tovar said, attempting to redirect the conversation.
“Indeed,” said Larkin.
Bain frowned for a moment, deliberating.
“We believe the Kirk hologram has escaped,” Larkin said, returning Bain to the problem at hand.
“Let me guess. More ‘reliable tips,’” Bain said tiredly.
“Something like that,” Larkin said. “Look, Captain. I do not have time to explain the intricacies of this emergency with you. We will speak more when I rendezvous with you.”
“Rendez…” Bain began.
“I’m taking command of the Anomaly,” Larkin said, and shut off the commline.
Bain and Prosak exchanged glances.
“Don’t look at me. She’s your friend,” Prosak said, and marched into her quarters.
Bain looked back at Tovar. “Well. If you have something to say, chum, say it!”
“I just got a terrible sinking feeling, Captain.”
“Didn’t we all,” Bain said, heading out the back door to his lounge.
“So much for our secret base,” Commander Donald Layton said, standing beside the commander of the Scepter-class interceptor ship Sloan.
“Starfleet doesn’t know about it yet. All they know is the information we hand-fed them,” the older, wiser Captain Lela Gray said as she sat calmly tapping the arm of her command chair as the Sloan winged its way toward the Holotech HQ.
“But it’s only a matter of time. Starfleet is going to know. If this Kirk hologram escapes, everyone is going to know.”
“Not if we eliminate him,” Gray said easily.
“You make it sound so simple,” Layton replied stiffly.
“It is simple. This is a hologram. A computer program. It can be erased.”
“But what if it can’t erase it?”
“We’re Section 31. We don’t panic.”
“I’m not panicking.”
“My ass you aren’t. Go make yourself useful and perform an orbital scan.”
Layton’s shoulders fell a bit, and he shrunk behind the command chair to check a sensor panel.
Moments later, he reported: “Entering orbit of Peelus Two.”
“Cloak holding and phased, yes sir.”
“Check out the moon.”
“Multispectral scanners reporting negative on lifesigns.”
“Damn. Where could they be?”
Layton studied his readouts. “Their transporter buffers are maxed out. Looks like more than seventy signatures.”
“Looks like we found our outpost crew. See, now, wasn’t that easy?”
“Now put together an away team and go down there. See if you can’t rematerialize our colleagues.”
“What about the Kirk hologram?”
“He will show himself when he’s ready. And we’ll be ready for him.”
Stardate 176843.4. The Anomaly is on a heading to rendezvous with the Federation Starship Explorer, where we will pick up Admiral Kristen Larkin who, for reasons unfathomable to me, has decided to commandeer the Anomaly.
I’m usually the ‘do and die’ type, but when it comes to my ship, I am protective to a fault. I am extremely uneasy about the idea of Larkin taking over my ship, even if for a brief period of time. I only hope my crew and I can assist her in resolving this holographic emergency as soon as possible, so things can go back to normal.
As soon as possible.
“The Explorer is hailing us,” Lt. Commander Tovar reported from tac-ops as Bain stepped out from his lounge with a steaming cup of darjeeling.
On the viewscreen was the compact, arrow-shaped, three- nacelled vessel. Florida-class, as Bain recalled.
“I’ve been dreading this,” he said.
“Really?” Arroyo asked from the helm. “How come?”
“That ship is named Explorer, lad.”
“So? It’s just another Starfleet ship.”
Bain let out a long breath. “That name…it’s come to have quite a reputation attached to it over the years. I’m surprised you haven’t heard the stories.”
Arroyo shrugged. “I read about the Enterprise, and the Voyager, and the Philadelphia. But I’ve never heard a thing about the Explorer.”
“Obviously, you’ve kept to the tasteful texts. Good show, Hector.” Bain glanced back at Tovar. “Go ahead and put them on, chap.”
“Aye, sir.” Tovar punched a control.
“I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THREE MINUTES!” railed the thin, stooped, sickly looking man on the screen who, to Bain’s surprise, bore captain’s pips.
“Please, calm down sir,” Bain said, holding up a hand. “We’re here to pick up Admiral Larkin.”
“WELL WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST SAY SO?”
“Stop shouting, man!” Bain said. “What is your major malfunction?”
“My first officer has been playing her inflight stereo all the way from the Terran system,” the skinny man said shakily, bracing himself against a console. “I can hardly hear myself think!”
“I take it you’re the captain?”
“Theodore Nately. Yes, sir.”
“You don’t have to call me sir. I’m a captain too.”
“Why don’t you just tell your XO to turn the music down. Or off?”
Nately stared at the ground. “I would. But I’m diagnosed passive-aggressive.”
“Ah, I see. Congratulations on finding the Explorer.”
Nately looked around, as if he just noticed the starship. “What? Oh, this thing? It sort of found me.”
“I’m not surprised.”
“This is the first time we’ve been outside of the Terran system.”
“And your ship has been in service…”
Bain nodded. “Ah-hah. Well…you can’t be too careful. You remember what happened to the last ship.”
“Actually, they won’t tell me. Do you know?”
“No!” Bain said quickly. “Listen, my good man. Could you just have your transporter chief just go ahead and send Admiral Larkin on over?”
Nately nodded. “I’ll see if I can find the transporter chief. Godspeed to you and your crew. I’m getting the hell back to the Terran system.”
“Good idea,” Bain said with a sigh, as the image cut off.
“What was all that about?” Arroyo asked, looking back at Bain.
“Remind me to introduce you to some of the less tasteful texts at some point.”
“Sounds interesting,” Arroyo said hesitantly, and spun back around to face the viewscreen.
Tovar looked down at his panel. “Admiral Larkin is aboard, sir. And asking to meet with you.”
“Have her meet me in the lounge. Page Prosak, as well. I want her to be there.”
Tovar nodded. “Should we lay in a new course?”
“I suppose that’s all up to our new commander,” Bain mumbled, and headed out the door to his lounge, just as Explorer spun on a wing and darted off into the warp.
Bain was pretending to be engrossed in a novel when Admiral Kristen Larkin strode into his lounge, not bothering to take in her surroundings.
“Captain Bain, I hereby take command of the Anomaly, as of this date.” She glanced next to her, where Tovar was standing. “Please note that in the ship’s log.”
Bain stood up and put the book down. “Excuse us, Tovar.”
Tovar nodded and backed toward the door. “Very well, Captain.”
He nearly slammed right into Prosak.
“Whoops,” Prosak said, nervously navigating around Tovar. “Umm…”
“I will be on the bridge,” Tovar said, and disappeared down the corridor.
“Why is she here?” Larkin said, moving to stand next to Bain’s chair.
“I asked her to be here. She is still part of the command chain.”
Larkin looked at Prosak askance. “That remains to be seen.”
“Can I ask what our plan is?” Prosak asked, acting as if she hadn’t heard Larkin.
“We are to lay in an immediate course for Beta Omadda Three.”
“To what end?” asked Prosak.
Bain folded his arms. “The Mega-Sim.”
“The Captain is correct,” said Larkin. “My strategists and I have concluded that Captain Kirk will try to go there and recruit help.”
“Do you think he’ll succeed?” asked Prosak, looking between Bain and Larkin.
“It is difficult to predict what exactly the holograms on the mega-sim will do. They have free wills.”
“But by all accounts, they all prefer to be there,” Bain said.
“Captain, you sound like you are quite well-versed about the Mega-Sim,” Prosak said.
“I have some…direct connections to it.”
Larkin nodded. “I know. That is one of the reasons I’m here.”
“Would someone let me in on this?” Prosak demanded. Her Vulcanesque veil of stoicism was finally starting to wear down.
“It is not germane to the mission.”
“It might be,” Bain muttered.
“Enough talk. To the bridge,” Larkin said, and turned on a heel.
Tovar looked up from his scans. “We are being followed.”
“Are you sure?”
“Time to intercept?”
“Within the hour. They are traveling at extremely high speeds. It appears they are using their hybrid Romulan/Federation engine.”
“Well, then we’ll have to have a reception ready for them,” Jim Kirk said, strolling the empty bridge of the Sloan. “It’s only fitting that the Anomaly be the ship to try and stop us.”
“It certainly makes sense,” the holographic, and downright nasty, version of Commander Tovar said. “Their engines allow them to respond to emergency situations from virtually any point in the galaxy.”
Like Kirk, he had a small square device on his forehead, allowing him to move anywhere he wanted with autonomy. Kirk had begun replicating them by the dozens as soon as he’d added the patterns of the Sloan crew to the already overflowing transporter buffer on Peelus Two. Unlike the run of the mill Federation replicator, the model aboard the Sloan was actually capable of making sense of the portable emitter and replicating it. The members of Section 31 were obviously just not ready to have that technology made available. Not that it surprised Kirk. That kind of technology had only one use, a use that would strike fear throughout the Federation: It freed holograms.
But if Section 31 wasn’t up to that task, then Kirk certainly was.
This was just like old days. Odds against him, working to save his kind. He only wished Spock and McCoy and the others could be with him to witness this.
When things calmed down a little bit, he’d have to make some holograms of them to keep him company. He’d even try not to kill them this time like he had over and over in the simulation in which Section 31 had imprisoned him. One thing for sure, the Tovar fellow he’d been running with was super dull.
“Countermeasures are ready,” the Yynsian hologram reported.
“Good.” Kirk said, cracking his knuckles and sitting in the command chair. “Bring on the Anomaly.”
“May I point out, Captain, it would be possible for us to remain phase-cloaked until we reach Beta Omadda Three.”
“And allow the Anomaly to get that close to the Mega-Sim? They might destroy it rather than let it fall into our hands.”
“A Federation ship? Would they commit mass murder on such a scale?”
Kirk sniffed. “They wouldn’t see it as murder. Get ready to move ahead with our plan.”
“Anything on sensors?” Bain said, standing next to Kasyov’s panel.
“No,” Kasyov said, looking up from her scans. “But I am sensing you are standing WAY too close to me.”
“Cut a man a break, Doctor. Admiral Larkin has my command chair.”
“I can see how that would be troubling,” Kasyov said dully, then her eyes went wide as she looked at her panel. “Captain, rippling off the starboard bow.”
Larkin swivelled in the command chair to face Kasyov. “A cloaked ship?”
Kasyov nodded dumbly. “Federation, but of a class I don’t recognize.”
Tovar gasped, then his face quickly returned to normal.
The vessel on the screen was huge. It was easily twice as wide as the Anomaly, and three times again as tall. It was a crescent-shaped saucer section, with no noticeable warp nacelles, although the entire rear end of the ship glowed blue from what may have been engines. The ship was smooth, had no perceivable windows, sensor pods, weapons ports or a bridge. It looked very Federation, and yet not, all at the same time.
Larkin’s gaze was stony. “I saw developmental sketches of this ship two years ago. Starfleet R&D determined it was impractical to build for a number of reasons.”
“Well someone built it,” Bain said flatly. “And I’d bloody well like to know why.”
“Raise shields, and go to Red Alert,” Larkin ordered.
“They could be on our side,” Prosak said, just as the entire vessel on the screen glowed blue and a sphere of bluish energy blossomed outward from the other ship, engulfing the Anomaly. The viewscreen was washed in blue and the blast jarred everyone out of their seats, except, of course, Larkin.
“Guess not,” she mumbled, lying in a pile on the floor.
Tovar climbed back to his panel. “Shields are down.”
“ALREADY?” asked Bain.
“Get them back up!” said Prosak.
“Marsden to bridge,” trilled the comm. “What did they just do to us?”
“That,” Larkin said, “is one of the things they said would be impractical to build.”
Bain stared at Larkin. “What is this all about, Larks? What aren’t you telling us?”
“There are some things you are better off not knowing about, Captain,” Larkin said simply, twisting to face Tovar. “Return fire, all neutron torpedoes and disruptors. Ensign Arroyo,” she called over her shoulder. “Evasive maneuvers, pattern Omega.”
Tovar’s fingers danced over his controls; Arroyo did likewise, and the Anomaly spun dizzily, as did the view on the screen.
“Multiple hits on our aft starboard hull, maybe antiproton- based, I am not certain,” Tovar announced as the ship rattled again. “Ablative armor buckling in four places.”
“Lieutenant Marsden, we would appreciate having shields at a time like this,” Prosak called out.
“I’m going as fast as I can!” Marsden snapped back over the comm. I have to rebuild them sheath by sheath!”
“They’re not just hitting us with weapons,” Kasyov said, checking her readouts. “I’m picking up a narrow data beacon being transmitted along a tachyometric pulse.”
“Block it,” Larkin ordered.
“We’re too late,” Kasyov said, pounding her console in frustration.
“But the beating has not,” said Tovar. “Two more sections of ablative armor are losing integrity.”
“Marsie…shields!” Bain called over the comm.
“You’ve got ‘em, now get off my back!”
Bain stumbled over to tac-ops. “Tovar, old boy, hit them with everything we’ve got.”
“I need to know what it is they sent over in that transmission,” Larkin said, gripping the command chair.
“Working on it,” Kasyov said, punching a control. “Cabral…check all systems. See if you can pick up on an invasive virus.”
“I’m on it, Natalia,” was Cabral’s swift reply.
“Whatever it is, we have to find it,” Bain said. “Who knows what that sick bastard has done to us.”
“Let’s look at that little elbow-bruisy,” Doctor Fred Nooney said, leaning over a worried looking ensign as Nurse Ih’vik ran around sickbay shouting at other patients. The room had quickly become chaotic as the firsts blasts hit the Anomaly.
“Ensign Cavallaro was crushed by a falling bookcase in the Isotonics Labroratory. Forget about me. Get to her!”
Nooney patted the ensigns forehead. “Don’t worry your pretty little head, Mister Leary. I will make sure we go find your friend, right after we fix up this nasty cut!”
“She may be dead!”
“Always the pessimist!” Nooney hissed. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw red and white candy-cane stripes pass by him. That could only be one person. “Steve!?”
Expressionless, with eyes as red as fire, Steve! marched past Nooney and out of Sickbay, looking like a man on a mission.
“I bet he’s gone to help your fallen friend,” Nooney said. “Now here you go. Here’s a Quantum Charlie bandaid. Isn’t that just the cutest thing? Bedside manner is so important!”
“Get me out of here!” Ensign Leary cried and dashed for the door.
“Congratulations on helping with the body count,” Ih’vik snarled.
Steve! strode down the corridor purposefully, not sparing any looks at the crew around him, who actually seemed relieved that he didn’t notice them.
“Bridge,” he said gutturally as he stepped into the turbolift. It closed and whisked him up to the bridge.
The turbolift doors opened and he stepped out.
He stepped down to the front of the busy ship’s bridge.
“Who are you?” Larkin demanded from the command chair.
“Steve!” Steve said with a wide, forced smile.
“Steven, this is not the time,” Prosak said, as Steve! produced a bouquet of flowers from his jacket.
“These are for you, Commander,” he said.
“Well, thanks, I guess, but…”
“Commander, watch out!” Bain cried, leaping across the bridge as Steve! pulled an UZI out of the bouquet and fired at the spot Prosak had just been standing.
Larkin sprang out of the command chair to tackle the hologram, but she passed right through him.
Arroyo rose from his place at the conn, snapping a hand phaser out of the handy glove compartment, turning to face Steve! just as he slammed him upside the head with the butt of his UZI.
“Shut him down!” Bain cried as Tovar madly tapped at his panel.
“I’m locked out!” Tovar snapped back.
“How do you destroy a hologram?” Kasyov cried, hiding behind her science console.
Prosak rolled next to her as Bain and a dizzy Arroyo circled the hologram, who lashed at them menacingly, pointing the UZI.
“It’s made of light, right?” Prosak posited.
“So how do you destroy light?”
“You can’t destroy light. But you can dissipate it!”
“Dissipate…” Prosak said thoughtfully as Bain slammed painfully into the deck next to her.
“That chap is not being at all entertaining tonight!” the captain said sorely as an arm landed beside him.
“Ahhh!” Kasyov cried.
“Don’t worry, it’s just mine!” Larkin said gamely as her disembodied torso hit the opposite wall and slid down to the deck.
Arroyo raced to the helm console and punched in a few commands, sending the Anomaly streaking into warp, then dove behind the science console with everyone else, except for Tovar who was firmly entrenched behind tac-ops.
“Well??” Arroyo demanded.
“We were just trying to decide how to destroy a hologram.”
“Mirrors,” Bain said. “If they’re just made up of light, you should be able to refract the light with mirrors.”
“Can it be that simple?” asked Prosak. “Just hit him with a mirror?”
“It isn’t that simple,” Kasyov said, rubbing her chin. “But the captain is on to something. We just have to find a way to spread the light waves out…to unfocus them!”
As she was saying this, Steve! loomed over her and the others, waving his gun.
“What is that thing he’s pointing at us?” Arroyo asked, quivering with fear.
“An ancient Earth weapon Kirk probably gave him for dramatic effect,” Bain whispered back.
“It’s working!” Prosak said through gritted teeth.
“Somebody do something!” Larkin’s torso said from across the bridge.
Kasyov reached up to her console and hit a bunch of controls, pulling her hand back as a stream of bullets slammed into her panel, shattering it in a hail of sparks and shards of plastron.
“Tovar! Finish what I started!” she cried.
“Are you kidding?” Tovar asked, looking at his controls. “That would be insane!”
“It’s the only way!”
“Someone tell me what we’re planning!” Bain called out.
“I won’t do it!” Tovar snapped, ducking a hail of gunfire from a madly cackling Steve! “On second thought…” he said quickly, and tapped a series of buttons.
Suddenly an energy wave rippled throughout the bridge, and just as suddenly everything was dark. No bleeps, no flickers of light behind any of the panels. Total darkness.
Voices called out into the darkness.
“I think he has been neutralized,” came the voice of Tovar.
“Along with every electrical system on the bridge,” Kasyov said. “Thanks to a good, old fashioned, reliable EM pulse.”
“Oh, good show, Kasyov, that means you’ve killed Larkin,” Beam spat.
“Someone better get to the battle bridge,” Prosak’s voice called out in the darkness. “So we can ascertain exactly what the situation is outside the ship.”
“Excellent thought, Commander,” Bain said, suddenly slamming into Prosak. “Er, lead the way. Mind my leg, Tovar.”
“Ouch! That’s my hair, Arroyo!” This from Kasyov.
“Who stepped on my hand?” asked Prosak.
“I don’t know, but there’s a hand cupping my butt…oh, never mind. It’s just Admiral Larkin’s disembodied one.” That from Arroyo.
“If one hologram caused this much trouble, imagine what a whole army of them could do,” Bain grumbled, finding Larkin’s torso by touch and hoisting it over his shoulder, as Prosak jimmied open the aft turbolift door and the group shimmied one by one down the ladder.
“I would rather not think about it,” Prosak said.
“At least Steve! is gone,” Tovar muttered.
“There’s the silver lining I was looking for, old friend,” said Bain.
The Sloan glided into orbit around Beta Omadda Three and beamed Holo-Kirk and Tovar down to a relatively small building in the Federation Holography Complex.
This facility, Kirk knew, was the legitimate version of the Holotech HQ that Section 31 ran. Unlike the Section 31 version, Federation citizens actually knew about this one.
Beta Omadda Three was perfect for Kirk’s plans because it was not inhabited by anyone except for 400 or so Federation holographers, although that was soon to change.
Kirk marched purposefully down a corridor, a well-armed Tovar at his side, having uploaded all the pertinent information about the complex into his databanks.
He punched the required codes into an access panel and stepped through the rising door.
“May I help you?” a middle-aged woman with a tight bun of strawberry blonde hair asked, standing up from behind a desk. She had a lilting British accent that Kirk found quite charming.
“Yes, my lovely woman, you certainly may,” Kirk said, his voice dripping sweetly. “I was wondering if you’d point me toward the Mega-Sim.”
“The Mega-Sim is off-limits to civilians,” the woman replied.
“We’re not civilians,” Kirk said, looking at Tovar. “And I’m hurt you don’t recognize me. Anyway, we’re sentient holograms. We’d like to be uploaded.”
“Oh,” the woman said, sitting down at her desk. “That’s different. Well. Let me just get the proper paperwork.”
“Joy,” Kirk said, as the blonde woman waved her hand several times over a lit panel on her desk. “Tell me, have you tapped into the Mega-Sim?”
“On occasion,” the woman said. “Actually, I quite enjoy it.”
“Care to come along with us?”
“I really shouldn’t…” the woman said, tapping some final commands into her panel. “Let me just get some information from you…”
“Of course,” said Kirk. “But maybe first I could get some information from you.” He took the woman’s hand and kissed it gently. “What shall I call you?”
“Bain,” she said, blushing slightly. “Audrey Bain.”
Kirk’s eyes lit up. “Excellent.”
“Her nanoprocessors are shot,” Kasyov said, standing up from behind the splayed-open skull of Admiral Larkin. Her torso and bottom half both sat on a table in Science Lab one, adjacent to the lab Cabral was kept in. “It’s amazing they work as well as they do, seeing that some of them are original parts that are over 120 years old.”
“Can you repair the processors?” Bain asked, leaning over Larkin with concern.
“Not without a lot of time, and the original schematics.”
Bain rubbed his chin. “That may be a tall order. I understand her creator died several years ago.”
“Maybe Cabral can help me,” Kasyov said, staring at the mess of circuitry pouring from Larkin’s head.
“Good show,” Bain said. “Keep me posted.”
Tovar caught up with Bain as he headed down the corridor toward the turbolift. “Captain. No sign of the Sloan on long-range sensors. They must have left the scene shortly after disabling us.”
“Bigger fish to fry,” Bain muttered, frowning.
“Indeed. In other news, I just spoke with Lieutenant Marsden. Shields and engines will be back up in two hours.”
“Two hours,” Bain said gravely. “Do you know what kind of damage that hologram can do in two hours?”
Tovar nodded. “I know why you are concerned, Captain.”
Bain stopped and folded his arms, looking at the Yynsian. “She’s a big girl, Tovar. She can take care of herself.”
“Of course sir. I’ll prepare the Navigator for immediate departure.”
“That’s a boy.”
“I’m putting you in command.” Bain clapped his hands on Prosak’s shoulders from behind so quickly she yelped. She had been standing in front of the command chair in the tiny, oval-shaped battlebridge located on the bottom of the Anomaly’s saucer section.
She turned around. “Are you planning on going somewhere, Captain?”
Bain nodded. “I am going to take the Navigator and go stop Mister Kirk before he does any more damage.”
“Would it not be advisable to simply wait for us to repair the Anomaly.”
“In ideal circumstances, yes. But these circumstances are not ideal, and if it’s all right with you, Commander, I’d rather not talk about it.”
“Of course,” Prosak said. “I take it Admiral Larkin is out of the picture?”
Bain sighed. “For the time being.”
“And should she regain…consciousness?”
“She will probably re-take command.”
Prosak seemed to take this in. “I suppose I must accept that. Very well. Please be careful, Captain. We will meet you at Beta Omadda Three as soon as repairs are complete.”
“Splendid. Take good care of my ship, Commander,” Bain said, skipping up and out of the cramped auxiliary bridge.
“All this effort, just for a paperweight,” Kirk said with a dry chuckle.
“Excuse me?” Audrey Bain asked as she plunked a neural tap chip onto the back of her neck and sat down on the soft leather couch. In front of her, on the coffee table, sat the mega-sim. It was sitting atop a pile of padds–different magazines from around the quadrant.
It looked, essentially, like a big coffee can.
“Other than custodians such as myself,” Audrey said, “no human has ever gone in there.”
“Do you enjoy your visits?” Kirk asked absently.
“You won’t be disappointed,” Audrey said with a smile. “We’re glad to have you gentlemen with us. Now, if you’ll just take your…” She stopped. “Mobile emitters.”
“Yes. Is it just now dawning on you that we have mobile emitters?” Tovar snapped.
“Well, you don’t see them every day.”
“We’re from far away,” Kirk said easily.
Audrey started to stand up. “I better go check this out with my superiors.”
“I think not,” Kirk said, slamming Audrey back down onto the couch. “Mister Tovar. You can do the honors.”
Grinning, Tovar walked over to a blinking array of lights and punched a series of controls.
Moments later, Kirk and Tovar disappeared, their two mobile emitters clattering to the floor. Audrey, for her part, slumped unconscious onto the couch.
“Can’t this bucket go any faster?” Bain asked as Tovar worked over his scans at the tac-ops console.
“I am afraid not,” Tovar said. “I think you’ve become spoiled by anti-sing.”
“It is damn convenient,” Bain said. “What are we doing?” he asked Ensign Arroyo, who was the only other person on the bridge, at the forward piloting controls.
“Warp Eleven,” Arroyo replied.
“Child’s play,” Bain mumbled.
“Good news,” Tovar said, after a moment’s silence. “We are approaching the Beta Omadda system.”
“Finally,” Bain said. “Mister Arroyo, take us out of warp and assume standard orbit.”
Bain looked back at Tovar. “Well?”
“Scanning. I can’t locate the Sloan. She must be phase- cloaked.”
“Forget the Sloan. Check out the Holography Complex.”
“There are over two hundred active human lifesigns,” Tovar said. “Of those lifesigns, one hundred twelve are female.”
“Damn, I wish we had the capability to scan for British lifesigns,” Bain muttered. “Focus the multispectral imager on the Mega-Sim station. See if you can pick up on Audrey.”
“Friend of yours?” Arroyo asked conversationally as Tovar worked.
“Daughter of mine,” Bain said, causing Arroyo to turn back to his panel quickly.
“Got her,” Tovar said, then looked up at Bain. “Um…”
Bain looked at the forward viewscreen, gasping to find an image of his daughter splayed out on a couch, immobile, eyes closed.
Bain stood up. “Tovar…is she…?”
“She is alive. Lifesigns indicate neural activity. Her higher brain functions show a level of activity as if she were conscious.”
“Mister Tovar, have your security people meet us in the transporter room,” Bain said, heading for the aft turbolift. “Mister Arroyo, you have the–”
A blast slammed into the Navigator.
Tovar scrambled back to his station, as Bain ran to brace himself against the back of the command chair.
“Red Alert,” Bain said. “Arroyo, get us out of orbit!”
“The Sloan is decloaking off our port bow,” Tovar announced. “They dissipated the shields in one shot, as they had done to the Anomaly before.”
“Hail them!” Bain called out. “And shoot back!”
“We are getting a response,” Tovar said, looking up from his controls.
A well-groomed man in a totally out-of-place black suit of ancient British origin appeared on the viewscreen, sitting behind the tactical console of the Sloan.
“Captain Bain. I have heard so many good things about you.”
“Who am I speaking to?” Bain asked.
“The name is Moriarty,” the man with the porkchop sideburns said, his voice dripping with nastiness. “And, thanks to this incredible flying machine, I am going to destroy you. I would prefer to execute a more intricate plan, but we rarely get what we want in this life. Goodbye, my good man.”
“Wait…Moriarty. As in the Sherlock Holmes Moriarty?”
“The same.” Moriarty yawned, as if bored. “Oh, Captain, I do so wish we could share a tea and discuss the finer points of military strategy, or science, or even holography, but I’m afraid I simply don’t have the time. And besides, we are answering a higher calling.”
“Higher…?” Bain questioning.
Moriarty grinned widely. “Kirk.” He then punched a control, and the Navigator’s deck spun out from below Bain.
Bain could hear Tovar and Arroyo calling out about parts of the ship exploding, and he could see the atmosphere and horizon of Beta Omadda Three racing toward him on the viewscreen as panels blew up all around him.
And all he could do was watch.
Everything moved in slow motion.
Bain watched Tovar and Arroyo walking next to him. Floating was more like it. He felt like they were all drifting, not really moving their legs and feet.
But the surroundings were familiar.
They were on the Anomaly. Heading down the corridor to the bridge.
“Why are we here?” Tovar asked Bain, sounding miles away.
“I don’t know,” Bain replied softly.
“I think I’m going to throw up,” Arroyo said, gripping his way along the bulkhead next to Bain and Tovar.
Bain stopped in his tracks. “Are we dead?”
“Don’t be silly,” Tovar said. “You cannot be killed by conventional weapons.”
Bain turned and looked at Tovar. “I mean it. Are we dead?”
“The last thing we saw was the Navigator hitting the planet’s surface,” Tovar said, glaring at Arroyo. “I suppose it is possible.”
“Sorry,” Arroyo mumbled. “Any landing you can walk away from, right?”
“I don’t fancy we walked away from this one,” Bain said.
“I think we should go to the bridge,” Tovar said, pointing ahead of the group to the bridge doors. “Maybe we can find out what happened from there.”
“If it is our bridge,” Bain said.
“Just go already,” Arroyo said. “The suspense is killing me.”
“I thought you had to vomit,” Tovar said.
“I thought I just did,” Arroyo said, although there was no visual evidence to back up that claim.
Bain pushed through the doors to the bridge.
To his shock, he saw Tovar at tac-ops. His facial expression, though, was distinctly NOT Tovar’s.
“Captain,” he said snidely.
“Who–” Tovar demanded, as Bain looked toward his command chair.
It turned slowly around so its occupant could face Bain.
It was Kirk.
“Captain Bain,” Kirk said with a wide grin. “It’s nice to have you with us. I think you already know our helmsman…”
Bain looked to the helm, where Audrey Bain stood up and crossed over to Kirk. She put a hand on his shoulder.
“Audrey. What are you doing here?” Bain asked, dumbfounded.
“Helping Jim make a difference one more time,” Audrey said simply.
“Get off my ship,” Bain growled at Kirk.
“I would, were it actually your ship,” Kirk said with a broad smile. He watched Bain’s face as the reality of the situation sunk in. “Welcome to the Mega-Sim, Captain Bain. You’re going to be here for a long, long time.”
TO BE CONTINUED. . .