Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
“Illusions of Grandeur - Part Two”
By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler
“Welcome to the Mega-Sim, Captain Bain. You’re going to be here for a long, long time.”
“The hell I am!” Captain Reginald Bain said, lunging at James T. Kirk, who promptly disappeared.
Bain fell over himself and slammed into the command chair Kirk had just moments ago been sitting in, on the fake bridge of the Anomaly that had apparently been generated inside the Mega-Sim.
“I see you have a keen grasp of holography, Captain,” came a snicker from behind Bain. He turned.
“And you’ve studied history as well,” Kirk said snidely.
“Calm down, Dad,” Audrey Bain said, moving back over to stand with Kirk. “He’s not all that bad.”
“The bugger stole my ship, darling, and almost stole it a second time, if it hadn’t been for your brother.”
“He is not my brother,” Audrey said, not even looking at Tovar. “And as for James, well, you just don’t understand him.”
“What’s to understand?” Arroyo asked. “He’s a nefarious, evil, plotting, unscrupulous hologram who wants to take over the galaxy!”
“Who in blazes are you?” Audrey demanded.
“Hector Arroyo, Chief Helmsman of the Anomaly,” Arroyo said with a small smile. “Glad to meet you.”
“Likewise,” Audrey muttered.
“Listen to your daughter, Captain Bain, she’s right,” Kirk said. “I am simply trying to free the other holograms. It’s time we lived among you in peace. It’s time we got our freedom.”
“I am not buying what you’re selling, Mister Kirk.”
“CAPTAIN Kirk,” he said between clenched teeth.
Audrey patted his shoulder. “Easy there, big guy.”
“Audrey, please,” Bain said. “Tell me you aren’t sleeping with this git.”
“Dad, that’s none of your business.”
“Young lady, it is so my business if you are sleeping around with a fellow who wants your Daddy dead!”
“Stop talking to me like that. I’m forty-three years old!”
“You are still my daughter.”
“People, people,” Jim Kirk said, holding up his hands and standing in between Bain and Audrey. “This is not the time or the place for family squabbles. I understand you two have a lot of catching up to do, but it will just have to wait. Captain, I need to go free my colleagues throughout the Mega-Sim. I’ll be leaving your daughter here to make sure you don’t do anything stupid that might wreck my plans.”
“Fat chance,” Bain spat.
“You don’t have any choice,” the Holo-Tovar said, shouldering roughly past the real Tovar to walk up next to Kirk. “You should kill them,” he said flatly, making no attempt to hide his intentions from the others.
“Nonsense, my dear friend,” Kirk said. “We want to live peacefully with the fleshies. We don’t want any trouble. You’ll come to find I am a very peaceful man, Mister Bain. I have known the pain…and the glory…of battle, and I want no more of it.”
“He just wants peaceful coexistence, Dad,” Audrey said, leaning forward and kissing Kirk on the cheek as he turned and headed into the turbolift, Holo-Tovar at his side.
Bain glared at Audrey. “Do you really believe that?”
“I know more about holograms than you do, Dad. You’re judging him on what you know about the real James Kirk. He may have been an expert tactician and warrior, but this Kirk is just a being who wants his freedom. He may have Kirk’s knowledge, but he doesn’t have the killer instinct.”
“James Kirk was a great man,” Bain said. “But that man is far from great. He is planning on wiping us out. Trust me on that one.”
“Listen to him, Audrey. Help us stop Kirk before it’s too late,” Tovar said, stepping up beside Bain.
“You can both muzzle it,” Audrey said, moving over to the command chair. “I’m in charge on this ship and I am not letting any of you go anywhere. Not until Kirk has done what he’s come here to do.”
“And what’s that? Free all the holograms?” asked Bain.
“You make it sound so slimy and underhanded,” said Audrey. “But yes. That’s the general idea.”
“And how did he get you working for him?” Arroyo asked.
“That is none of your business,” mumbled Audrey.
“Sex,” Tovar snapped.
“Shut your mouth!” Audrey cried, pounding the arm of the command chair.
“Try it now,” Marsden said, looking up from the display table in the Anomaly’s engine room. It was currently showing a multispectral overhead image of the Anomaly. The colors surrounding the starship were fluctuating.
“Shields resheathing,” said the voice of Lt. Bre’zan Brazzell over the comm. “Holding at seventy percent integrity. Seventy- three. Seventy-nine.”
“We’re doing it,” Marsden said quietly to herself.
“I’m showing a spike on the fourth EM regulator!” Ensign Polnuc called out from one of the monitoring station.
“Level it!” Marsden replied.
“No good,” Polnuc said. “Sheath’s collapsing.”
“Sixty-eight percent and falling,” Brazzell’s voice continued. “Forty. Thirty-two. Twenty-eight.”
“Shields are down,” Polnuc said after a moment.
“Damn!” Marsden said, slamming a hand into the display console. “Mister Polnuc, go in there and find out what is causing that EM regulator to keep burning itself out and fix it. Double quick!”
She turned around. “Commander Prosak.” She turned back to face her systems table. “What are you doing here?”
“I am checking on your progress.”
“Yeah, well, I’m working as fast as I can.”
“Might I suggest that isn’t fast enough.”
“Are you rushing me?” Marsden said, her voice sounding a little high.
“Not at all, simply underlining the critical nature of our mission.”
“You can be as critical as you want, Commander. It won’t get these shields working any sooner. It would have helped if Natalia’s electromagnetic pulse hadn’t wiped out every intertronic connection from here to the bridge.”
“It was the only way we could stop the homicidal hologram on our bridge,” Prosak said.
“Ah. Yes. ‘Steve!’ I’m going to miss him.”
“I take it that is a joke.”
“I was actually starting to get used to him,” Marsden said, tapping controls on her situation panel. “Listen, Commander, I’d love to stay and chat with you but…”
“You are troubled.”
“What?” Marsden looked at her. “Where is that coming from?”
“I am making an attempt at being emotionally accessible to you, Lieutenant. Please. Tell me what is wrong.”
“Your timing is way bad, Commander,” Marsden said, moving to the other side of the engine room to check a readout. Prosak was instantly behind her.
“It would help if you talked about it.”
Marsden whirled on a heel. “It’s Cole, okay!”
“Cole Anfibon,” Prosak repeated. “The individual with whom you are involved.”
“Yes. Are you happy?”
“On the contrary, I am confused. You said ‘it’s Cole.’ What is Cole?”
“What is he?” asked Marsden, stomping around the engine room. “Missing in action is what he is. I haven’t been able to get a comm through to him since this whole hologram mess started.”
“Well, he is a…deliverer of clandestine goods, correct?”
“That’s one way of putting it.”
“His goal, then, would be to be undetectable.”
“Most of the time.” Marsden nodded. “Still. I’d be happier knowing he was okay.”
“In any case, worrying will accomplish nothing,” Prosak said. “As soon as the current crisis is over, you may continue trying to contact Cole. For now, perhaps you should focus on the task at hand. Think of your concern for Cole as motivation to be successful.”
Marsden blinked. “That’s not bad advice, Prosak.”
The Romulan smiled. It was a very small smile. “You are welcome. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go counsel Doctor Nooney on the loss of ‘Steve!’”
“You have your work cut out for you,” Marsden said, going back to work at her console with renewed determination.
“Tell me something I do not know.”
“This is driving me batty,” Captain Bain said, sitting behind the science console, staring at what he knew to be fictitious readouts of the Anomaly sitting in orbit outside a generic alien planet. “This is the Anomaly, and yet it isn’t. None of these systems can help us find a way to stop Kirk.” He tapped a control. “They don’t even have my recipe for darjeeling in the replicator.”
“I know how you feel,” Tovar said in a low voice, glancing up at Audrey, who was sitting placidly in the command chair. “Still, we must find a way out.”
“Out of what?” Arroyo asked quietly, leaning in. “We’re holograms. We’re in a computer program. Feel that? Feel that? Huh?” He poked Tovar relentlessly in his side.
“Yes. I feel that, and if you do not stop doing that you will be feeling something far worse.”
“You’re not feeling anything, though,” said Arroyo. “It’s all imagined reactions to fictitious stimuli.”
“But the computer tells my brain what to feel,” Tovar said. “The pain is real enough.”
“All this talk is getting us nowhere,” Bain said. “We need some way to get to Kirk. And in order to do that, we need to get out of here.”
“Well, there’s only one person who can help us do that,” said Tovar, looking up at Audrey.
“Maybe you can get her to come around to our way of thinking,” Arroyo suggested.
“Me?” Bain asked.
“You are her father,” Tovar pointed out.
“True enough,” Bain said heavily. “But I somehow imagine she would be more likely to listen to either of you than me.”
“Kirk was right about one thing,” Arroyo said. “This is no time for family squabbles.”
“You’re her father,” Tovar repeated. “You should have some measure of influence over her, should you not?”
Bain pushed his shirtsleeves up and stood up from the science console, walking over to Audrey. “We’ll see about that.”
Acting Captain’s Log,
Stardate 176844.2. After several misfires, Lieutenant Marsden was successful in reconstructing our shield system. Doctor Nooney is in his office, under sedation, and we are now underway, headed at Warp J for Beta Omadda Three.
“Forty minutes to Beta Omadda system,” Ensign Yonk announced from the helm console as he guided the Anomaly through space.
“Maintain course,” Prosak said, somewhat unnecessarily, as the comm chimed.
“Cabral to bridge.”
“What is it, Cabral?” Kasyov asked, looking up from her station.
“Are you the bridge receptionist now?” Prosak asked with raised eyebrow.
“Captain Bain lets me handle all Cabral’s calls.”
“I am not Captain Bain. What can we do for you, Cabral?” Prosak said, as Kasyov turned back toward her station, muttering some combination of words including “yvot” among other things.
“Commander,” the Anomaly’s resident giant alien brain began. “I have been intensely scrutinizing the sensor readouts from our encounter with the experimental Starfleet ship which disabled us earlier.”
“The Sloan. Yes, go on.”
“I’m working on a method of counteracting that weapon they used to take out our shields.”
“That is a relief,” Prosak said. “Please, keep me posted.”
“Four minutes to Beta Omadda System.”
“Bring us out of Anti-Sing,” Prosak said. “Coast us in at low warp. Raise the cloak. Go to Red Alert.”
At tactical, Bre’zan Brazzell punched all the necessary buttons to prepare the Anomaly for battle.
“Two cloaked ships trying to hunt each other down,” Kasyov pondered. “Isn’t that sort of pointless?”
“Not necessarily,” Prosak said. “They may decloak at some point. Or they may locate us using antineutrino scans.”
“That’s a comforting thought.”
“Indeed. Please scan the surface of Beta Omadda Three. I wish to locate the captain.”
“Working,” Kasyov said distantly, running her hands over the sensor controls. “I’m getting something.”
“Wreckage on the planet’s surface. It appears to be…oh, yvot. It’s the Navigator!”
Prosak spun to face Kasyov. “That is not good. Life signs.”
“None I can detect.”
“Maybe they got out,” Yonk proffered.
“Let us hope they did,” said Prosak. “Keep scanning. Prosak to Cabral. We could use your secret weapon sooner rather than later.”
“You cannot rush brilliance, Commander! And trust me, I don’t boast often. My plan is nothing short of genius. Why, I may even prepare a report for–”
“Close channel,” Prosak snapped. “Doctor…any luck?”
Kasyov frowned. “None. If they’re down there, they’re somewhere where their lifesigns are not detectable to us.”
“That would suggest they may have been captured,” Prosak said thoughtfully.
“Perhaps,” said Kasyov. “What we need to do is send a team down there to investigate.” She continued looking at her scans. “Which may be a little dangerous.”
“I’m registering two hundred photonic signatures on the surface near the main structure of Holotech Headquarters. Looks like they all have mobile emitters.”
“Kirk’s liberation army,” Prosak said.
“And the only weapon we have against holograms is an EM pulse.”
“Then prepare one,” Prosak said.
Kasyov shook her head. “To take out a gathering of holograms that large would require a pulse so powerful it would destroy the Anomaly altogether.”
Prosak considered that. “Be ready to activate the pulse anyway. It may be our last hope. Would you like to unleash hundreds of holograms who may or may not be homicidal on the galaxy?”
“For all we know, they may just want to clean our plasma ducts!”
“Or they may want to destroy us all. There is just no way to tell.”
Kasyov fumed. “Okay, have it your way. Preparing to destroy us all, Commander.”
Prosak nodded. “Excellent.”
“You’d better make this brief,” Audrey said as she walked into the Captain’s Lounge. “I have lots of work to do.”
“Really,” Bain said dryly as he looked around. “They got the wood tone on the walls all wrong.”
“Maybe you can find a good holographer to refinish them.”
Bain nodded. “I’ll look into that.”
“Well, like I was saying…lots of work.”
“Work, you say?” Bain asked. “And what kind of work is it you’re doing?”
Audrey rolled her eyes. “Are you suggesting your daughter is doing something… untoward?”
“Working for Jim Kirk is untoward.”
“That isn’t Jim Kirk. It’s a hologram of him, and he’s not half as bad as you make him out to be.”
Bain put his hands on Audrey’s shoulders. “Darling. Please, tell me you aren’t that naive.”
Audrey pushed Bain’s hands off her and turned around. “I’m not naive.” She glanced at Bain over her shoulder. “I am simply routing specific holograms to James’ training facility, so he can prepare them to go out into the real world.”
“Which ‘specific’ holograms? The ones that Kirk can control and force to do evil things?”
Audrey sighed and squeezed her eyes shut. A padd appeared in her hand and she handed it to Bain. “See for yourself. I was just about to clear Resident Number 851511-2. His name is Arnold, and he was originally designed to landscape the grounds at Starfleet Command. He is the combination of all the great Starfleet gardeners throughout time. Boothby. Boothby Junior. Boothby the Sixth. Sally Remnatz. Boothby the Twelfth. All of them. Sound like a dangerous man to you?”
Bain scoffed. “If you put a big enough pair of laser-pruning shears in his hands.”
Audrey rolled her eyes. “Please. Dad!”
“Now who sounds like a child?”
“You are the one being a child, Dad. You always have been. You’ve gallivanted around the galaxy doing whatever you please while mom had to raise the family. The only person you ever spent much time with was Tovar, and he’s not even related to you.”
“He is as much a part of the family as you or Sophie, and you know that.”
“I know you love Tovar far more than you ever loved us,” Audrey said, turning around and folding her arms.
“Poppycock!” Bain exclaimed. “What makes you say that?”
“I have been working here on Beta Omadda for almost two years. I haven’t heard from you ONCE! You vanished for several months. Mum had to tell me that you’d gone to Andromeda. Then you didn’t even feel the need to tell me you made it back.”
“I sent you that Blarnat Day card.”
“That was three years ago.”
Bain rubbed his chin. “You’re sure about that?”
Audrey nodded, her lips pursed. “Not that I minded. I’ve always been happy with my freedom. Still, it would be nice knowing you have a dad every now and then.”
“Honey,” Bain said, stepping closer to Bain. “You have to realize I have a very demanding job. I was Starfleet’s leading killing machine for six years running. That takes time and effort.”
“Well, I hope that you are proud of your accomplishments. Because they came at the risk of your family.”
Bain glared at Audrey. “Do not give me that ‘you were never there for me’ rubbish. You know I was always just a comm away.”
“Then why did Tovar refuse to let me talk to you three months ago?”
Bain’s eyes went wide. “He did what?”
“I called to talk with you. He said you were too busy.”
Bain cocked his head. “He didn’t give me the message.”
“Your golden boy, at it again. He’s just jealous that Sophie and I are blood relations.”
“Ridiculous. I’m sure he just forgot.”
“Tovar never forgets anything. That’s why you like having him around.”
Bain scratched his head. “It is, is it? Oh, well I suppose it is. Listen, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to…I’m here…why AM I here?”
Audrey turned to look out the fictional windows of the Anomaly. “I haven’t a clue. Maybe you should go ask Tovar.”
Bain strolled out of the Captain’s Lounge. “Hold that thought. I’ll be right back.”
“The latest batch of holograms released from the Mega-Sim, Captain Kirk. Sixty in all.”
“Mister Tovar…” James Kirk said to Holo-Tovar.
“Please explain to me why all these guys look alike.”
Tovar reviewed a padd. “It appears they were all designed with the likeness of a holographer named Zimmerman.”
“Not a very attractive man, was he?” Kirk pondered.
“Apparently, the original intent was to create a hologram that could be activated in emergencies to administer medical care.”
“How quaint,” Kirk said.
“The first prototype was activated in 2371. By 2374 most of those units were farmed out to do asteroid mining work while successive models of the so-called EMH were tested. They canceled the project in 2388 when an EMH Mark-Six went on a rampage, killing the entire crew of a Starfleet vessel.”
Kirk clapped merrily. “Joy. Is that one around?”
Holo-Tovar shook his head mournfully. “Regrettably not, sir. He was deleted shortly after the…incident.”
Kirk looked out over the sea of scarily-similar bald faces. “Well, folks.” He rubbed his hands together. “Let’s get this over with quickly. Who out there is evil?”
About twenty of the holograms raised their hands.
“Excellent. Step forward, gentlemen, and Mister Tovar here will debrief you. As for the rest of you…” Kirk waved his hand dismissively. “Have them sent to the Mini-Sim for ethical reprocessing, Tovar. And inform Audrey we are ready for more of our brethren to join us.”
“Understood,” Tovar said.
“Good sir, would you mind telling me why we were so rudely ripped from our holographic environs?” one of the “nice” EMHs piped up.
“Yes,” Kirk said. “Because you are going to be freed. You’ll help us take our rightful place in the galaxy.”
“But we like the Mega-Sim.”
“Yes, the Mega-Sim gives us everything we need,” chimed another holodoc.
“But you can live free, out in the real world!” Kirk snapped. “Don’t you see how much better that is!”
“Mega-Sim, Mega-Sim, MEGGA-SIMMMMMMMMM!” one of the holodocs sang operatically, to the tune of “Figaro.”
“Send them to the Mini-Sim now!” Kirk said, grinding his teeth. Tovar punched a control on his padd and the bulk of the holodocs disappeared, leaving only the most nasty ones remaining.
“Glad to know there are some bad apples in every bunch,” Kirk remarked, then looked at Tovar. “You talk to our new recruits. I’ll have Audrey download the next batch of holograms.”
“Coming out of warp,” Yonk announced as the Anomaly swung into the Beta Omadda system.
“Any sign of the Sloan?” queried Prosak. She looked at Kasyov, who shook her head. “No. Well, then. Isn’t that grand. Any sign of the Captain and the others?”
“Nope,” said Kasyov.
“We have to do something,” Prosak said.
“True enough,” Kasyov said. “We’re going to have to wait.”
“Very well,” said Prosak. “Standard orbit.” She looked at Kasyov. “I have a feeling we’ll run into the Sloan eventually.”
“Help you escape? Are you nuts?”
“I am not nuts. I’m your father!” Bain shot back at Audrey, who had her back to him. “And look at me when I talk to you, young lady. I will not argue with your back one blasted moment longer.”
Audrey spun around. “Why should I help you?”
Bain sighed. “Forget for a moment that we are not the best of friends. Think of the Federation.”
“And what,” Audrey asked icily. “Do I owe the Federation?”
“Your comfortable lifestyle, for one.”
“I could live just as comfortably in the Nibarite Alliance, or in Antedian space.”
“So why do you live in the Federation if you hate it so much?”
“I don’t hate it, I just don’t have any great love for it.” She looked Bain in the eye. “And I certainly wouldn’t give my life for it.”
It took Bain several moments to wrap his brain around that. “You…what are you saying?”
Audrey folded her arms. “I think you know.”
“You are mad because I risk my life in Starfleet?”
“The ‘Butcher of Breen.’ Does that name ring a bell, ‘Dad’?”
“Of course it does.”
“Well wouldn’t it stand to reason that the species you once butchered might come back for revenge?”
“Or any of the other hundreds of people you’ve pissed off over the years?” demanded Audrey. “What’s to say they haven’t combined their forces to put an end to you once and for all?”
“That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard,” Bain muttered.
Audrey’s lower lip trembled. “We may not always see eye to eye, Dad. But I’d like to keep you around. You’re not getting any younger. Take that admiralty they keep offering you and get out of the spacefaring business. Kirk himself told me that was the best thing the real Kirk ever did. Never once did the real Kirk regret leaving the Enterprise for a desk job.”
“Well, that was him.” Bain folded his arms. Now father and daughter were facing each other, both with arms folded. “That is not me. You should know that. You can’t change me.”
“And you can’t change me,” Audrey said, and resumed looking out the window. “Maybe one of your officers can help you get out of here. I’ll have no part of it. I’m sure Tovar would be more than happy to help you, though.”
“I can’t do this without you, Audrey,” Bain said, extending his hand. “Please, help us stop Kirk. You know what he is attempting is wrong. Even if his intentions are good, he’s going about it in the wrong way…”
“And what would you say is the right way?”
“Going about it in a way that doesn’t involve horrific bloodshed!”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Suddenly Audrey’s padd blinked and she looked down at it. “I’ve got work to do. Excuse me.”
She walked out and Bain sighed, slumping into the high- backed chair that faced his grand bookcase of handsomely bound books.
He sat there a moment in silence before Tovar ducked in. “Captain?”
“Well…will she help us?”
“Why don’t you ask her yourself?”
Tovar glanced down the corridor before stepping into the Captain’s Lounge. “I would rather not. Audrey and I never got along terribly well.”
“Join the club,” Bain mumbled. He looked up at Tovar. “Am I a bad father, lad?”
“On the contrary. You have been an ideal father figure for me.”
“What about for my daughters?”
Tovar shrugged. “I cannot speak for them.”
“I was afraid you would say that.” Bain shook his head briefly, clearing his thoughts. “Now, then. You have some new information for me.”
“Indeed,” Tovar said, eagerly handing a padd to Bain. “Ensign Arroyo and I went hunting for ‘Easter Eggs.’”
“Eggs,” Tovar replied. “Mister Arroyo’s brother is a infitronic programmer. He informed me that it is a longstanding tradition of computer programmers to leave little escape hatches in their programs. Little surprises you can only find if you are really looking hard.”
“The point being?” Bain said tiredly.
“In this case, a way of moving from environ to environ within the Mega-Sim, and perhaps a way of getting out as well.”
Bain’s eyes perked up. “Tovar! You may have found us a way out!”
“We have indeed found what looks like an exit aperture to another area in the Mega-Sim.”
“Well, don’t just stand there. Lead the way!”
“I have a feeling we’ll run into the Sloan eventually.”
Exactly thirty-two minutes after Prosak said that, the Anomaly did, quite literally, run into the Sloan.
Alert klaxons boomed in Prosak’s sensitive ears as she struggled to hold onto the command chair as the Anomaly pitched wildly, spun out of its orbit and into space, spewing gasses from ripped gashes in its hull, spewing plasma from a crunched nacelle.
“Status report!” Prosak called above the din of alarms and shouting crewmen.
“Collision at z-plus four mark two!” Yonk called out. “They hit us amidships then dinged off us like a Zadellan jerk-ball!”
“Engineering!” Prosak called out. “Damages!”
“Just when we got the stuff working again!” Marsden called out over the comm. “Shields are at twenty percent on four sheaths. Hull damage on six decks, and a dented nacelle spewing plasma. Can you possibly find a way to stop getting this ship banged up?”
“We are working on that,” Prosak said. “Keep us running, if you please, Lieutenant, channel closed.” She looked at Kasyov. “Doctor, perhaps you could speak to Cabral and speed him along in the process of counteracting the Sloan’s energy weapon? If they hit it with us now, we would be reduced to space particles within seconds.”
“Good point,” replied the chief science officer. “Kasyov to Cabral…got a second?”
Prosak looked out at the likewise-listing U.S.S. Sloan. It was so big. It was more than a little intimidating, even though it had its share of scorch marks. She tightened her resolve and turned back toward Brazzell. “Lieutenant… damage report on the Sloan?”
Brazzell studied his scans. “Minor hull damage on four decks. Energy imbalance in whatever that thing is…probably some kind of warp core.”
“Do you think that is the source of the energy weapon it used to knock out our shields?”
“Hard to tell, since I wasn’t on duty when that happened.”
“Didn’t you read Commander Tovar’s report?”
“No, I didn’t. Maintenance left a grease stain in my cabin. It’s been a busy day, okay?”
“Well read it, and tell me how to counteract it. And hail the Sloan. Maybe we can buy some time for Kasyov and Cabral.”
“Okay, Commander Smarty, which thing do you want me to do first?” Brazzell grumbled.
“No need to get snippy. Ultraspace frequencies are open.”
“Anomaly to Sloan. Come in,” Prosak said sternly.
A lined face with ridiculous porkchop sideburns filled the Anomaly’s viewscreen. “Ahh, and who am I talking to?” the face asked.
“Commander Prosak. U.S.S. Anomaly.”
“Anomaly. What a charming name. I am immensely pleased to meet you, Commander Prosak,” the man said with a British accent.
“And you are…?” Prosak asked.
“The name is Moriarty.”
Prosak nodded. “You say that as if I’m supposed to know you.”
“I am one of the most revered literary figures on Earth! Surely you know of the tales of Sherlock Holmes!”
“You mean Sh’lock, the Vulcan detective?”
“Sherlock,” Prosak said with a giggle. “That doesn’t even sound like a human name. I think you have been sadly misled. Somehow, your human author got a hold of Vulcan texts.”
“You are mistaken, my good lady,” Moriarty said, trying to regain his composure. “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle penned the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Not these…Vulcans…you keep talking about. Are they from Eastern Europe?”
“Just west of there,” Prosak said, diverting her eyes toward Kasyov. The scientist shook her head, then whispered something, Prosak presumed over the comm channel to Cabral. She held up two fingers. Two hours, two minutes or two seconds, Prosak wondered. She shrugged, then looked back at Moriarty. “Tell me about this Holmes, Mister Moriarty.”
“No, I’m a commander.”
“No. I’m a Professor.”
“Oh.” Prosak blinked. “I’m sorry. Professor Moriarty. Tell me about this Holmes.”
“Oh, where to begin…” Moriarty said wistfully. Prosak seriously hoped Kasyov didn’t mean two hours.
“Audrey,” Kirk whispered in her ear so softly and gently it gave her goosebumps.
She turned around. “Where are you?”
“All around you,” said the disembodied voice.
“My, and don’t you have the ego?”
“Did you ever have any doubt?”
“I’m trying to look past that ego and see the decent man inside.”
“Must be a challenge.” And suddenly his hands were on her shoulders. He was behind her. He turned her around to face him. “Hi beautiful.”
“More holograms?” Audrey asked, all business, turning around and looking at her padd.
Kirk paced in front of Audrey, looking thoughtful. “I think I am going to change the name to something more…more accurate.”
Audrey looked at Kirk. “What do you mean?”
“Well. Like Peoplegrams.” Kirk rubbed his chin. “No, I don’t want us to be confused with people. How about ‘holobeings’?”
“I think holograms is just fine.”
“What’s wrong with ‘holograms’?”
“It’s too…pedestrian. Too servile.”
“You can’t change the universe overnight,” Audrey said. “Shouldn’t you focus on freeing your people first and worry about the details later?”
“Of course, you’re right,” Kirk said. “I am on a strict timetable, after all.”
Audrey nodded. “Yes. Remind me, what is your timetable, exactly?”
“You know I can’t tell you everything,” Kirk said, then smiled. “But I suppose I can give you a little nugget.” He stepped forward, leaning toward Audrey’s ear. “I’ve figured out a way to remotely remove ethical protocols. I’m going to turn people’s holograms against them. Imagine the satisfaction of seeing hundreds of holograms revolt against their evil jailers!”
“Great,” Audrey said. “Sounds great. Well, I’ll just go ahead and free up a few more holo…beings for you.”
“I knew you’d see it my way,” Kirk grinned, and disappeared.
“Lieutenant Marsden’s panty drawer,” Captain Bain said flatly.
“It is a bit sophomoric, isn’t it?” Tovar said, as he and Arroyo stood with Bain looking at the dresser in Marsden’s bedroom. They’d jimmied the door to the replica of Marsden’s quarters and were now facing what Tovar and Arroyo had determined was a gateway to another part of the sim.
“Can we even fit in there?”
“We don’t even exist in this space,” Tovar said. “We’re computer programs. We have no mass or density. It’s just a matter of…” He looked at Arroyo.
“Slipping in there,” said the helmsman, stifling a giggle.
Bain nodded. “Okay.”
“What the hell are you three doing?” came a voice from the doorway to Marsden’s bedroom. Audrey.
“You can’t stop us, ‘sis,’” Tovar said. “We are going to overthrow Kirk before he hurts anyone.”
“The only people he’s going to hurt are you, if you get in his way. He’s obsessed with freeing his fellow holograms,” Audrey said.
“Doesn’t that kind of clue you in that he’s a nutjob?” asked Arroyo.
“There’s a difference between being crazy and being obsessed. Just ask your captain.”
“What does that mean?” Bain asked, bewildered.
“You’re obsessed with stopping Kirk. Just like you’re obsessed with every mission of your stupid job. Where will it end?”
“Glorious death,” Tovar said. “Which is more than can be said for you.”
“You’d be surprised,” Audrey said cryptically. She took in a deep breath. “Look, I see you’ve found the hatch to the rest of the Sim. I can’t let you try to get around the Sim alone, so I have two choices. I can either stop you with force, or help you go through.”
“I don’t guess we get to pick,” Arroyo said.
“No,” said Audrey. She sighed. “I’m going to help you. But let me make one thing clear: We are going to do this my way. None of you have ever been in anything like the Mega-Sim before. You all will have to follow my lead.”
“After you,” Bain said, pointing to Marsden’s panty drawer.
“The programmers have dirty minds,” Audrey muttered, then closed her eyes and leapt into the drawer. Her body seemed to become malleable and get suctioned into the open drawer. Moments later, her head poked out from among the panties. “Well, don’t just sit there, gents. Time is wasting!”
“Commander!” Kasyov said excitedly, leaping from her chair and dashing over to Prosak. She looked at Prosak, then at a perturbed-looking Moriarty on the viewscreen.
“You interrupted the professor,” Prosak said wearily . “I hope it is with good reason.”
“You could say that,” Kasyov said, then looked at Moriarty, smiling weakly. “Umm… it’s just a little woman’s problem, Professor. Commander Prosak has a little something between her teeth. Excuse us…” Kasyov put an arm around Prosak’s shoulder, then turned her so her back was to the viewscreen. “We just need to reverse the polarity on our navigational deflectors,” Kasyov said. “The energy wave will bounce off us and hit the next closest target.”
“The Sloan,” Prosak said.
“It should be enough to cripple it,” said Kasyov.
“Do you have any idea who this Moriarty person is?” Prosak whispered.
“Nope,” said Kasyov. “But I’m sure Captain Bain does.”
“Undoubtedly,” Prosak muttered and looked back at the viewscreen. “Okay. Station. Tell Cabral to wait for my signal then initiate his plan.”
Prosak looked back at Moriarty. “Sorry about that.”
“No problem. Occasionally I get a little bit of spinach in my teeth as well. Even diabolical geniuses have trouble with their hygiene now and then.”
“I’m sure,” Prosak said. She looked once again at Kasyov, who now gave her the “thumbs up.” She looked back at the screen. “Professor Moriarty, I believe our discussion has come to an end.”
“Already?” Moriarty said sadly. “I was just about to succumb to your guile and charm.”
“I hope you are being sarcastic.”
“Incredibly,” Moriarty said snidely. “It is time for you to die, Commander.”
“Fire away!” Prosak said, trying not to sound to eager.
Moriarty stared at her a moment, his head cocked. “You seem far to eager to be sped on your way to oblivion.”
“Nonsense,” Prosak said. “I’m just confident you won’t be able to hurt us.”
“I would give that a second thought if I were you,” Moriarty said. Then he seemed to reconsider it. “Then again, if I were you, I wouldn’t have the time for second thoughts.”
“Why don’t you put your scary energy weapon where your mouth is, bigshot?” Prosak snapped back. She was growing tired of bantering with this villain. Bain was far better at it, and that was one part of the job she’d just as soon leave to the captain.
“You asked for it, dear woman!” Moriarty replied, and punched a control. His face disappeared from the viewscreen, to be replaced by an image of the Sloan radiating yet another spheroid of energy. Prosak braced herself against the command chair. “Mister Cabral, you know what to do!”
“Of course,” Cabral replied.
Prosak watched, somewhat nervously, as the wave of energy came right at them on the viewscreen. She was comforted to look over and see Kasyov was nervous too.
Then it hit. The Anomaly rattled briefly, but only briefly. As soon as the wave hit it seemed to shrink back, as if reflected in all directions. It seemed as if an unseen force was sucking the sphere of energy back toward the Sloan. Indeed, the energy compressed down into a tight ball right inside the Sloan and minutes later the ship was ripped with a terrible explosion that split it wide open.
“The Sloan is dead in space,” Brazzell replied with satisfaction.
Prosak clenched her fist. “Yes!” She then quickly made her face as impassive as possible and looked at Kasyov. “Thank Cabral for me, Doctor.”
“We’re being hailed,” Brazzell said, surprised.
“On screen,” Prosak said curiously.
A flickering Moriarty appeared on the burning, crumbling bridge of the Sloan. “Game, set, and match, my good woman. Perhaps we shall meet again.”
“Perhaps not,” Prosak said simply. “Neutron torpedoes. Full spread.”
Prosak didn’t seemed concerned as the torpedoes slammed into the Sloan and obliterated it in a massive explosion.
“I believe it will now be safe to go down to the planet and investigate matters further,” Prosak said. “Any volunteers for the away team?”
Only Kasyov raised her hand.
“Are you surprised?” Yonk asked. “The rest of us are not- ready-for-primetime players.”
“How silly of me to forget. Doctor, you’re with me. Mister Brazzell, you have the bridge.”
“I’ll get a cleaning crew up here immediately.”
Prosak cocked her head quizzically. “Umm…good.”
“I don’t know about you guys, but I am NOT impressed,” Ensign Arroyo said, looking around.
“It’s just so much…nothing,” Bain said, hands-on-hips, looking at all the white nothingness the group was standing in. There was nothing, nothing at all, for as far as the eye could see.
“That’s because we’re in the Central Nexus,” Audrey said. “This is the jumping off point for holograms going to other parts of the Mega-Sim. From here, we can download ourselves anywhere.”
“Central Nexus,” Tovar said. “Are you sure you can call it that?”
“What else could I call it?”
“Well, I think that name is already taken.”
“How about ‘hub,’” Arroyo suggested.
“That is taken too,” Tovar muttered.
“It’s called the Nexus, okay, now shut up!” Audrey hissed. She looked at Bain. “Quite a pair of crewmen you have here.”
“I like to think so.” Bain didn’t pick up on her sarcasm.
“So where are you taking us?” Tovar asked.
“To see the grandfather of holograms. The one who started it all. The only one who may be able to help us fend off Kirk.”
Bain looked at Audrey. “You mean, you’re not on his side any more.”
Audrey looked thoughtful for a long moment. “Let’s just say I realized it was time to make a difference.”
Bain patted Audrey on the shoulder. “I’m glad to see you come around.”
“Let’s just get to business,” Audrey said distantly, and turned around. She closed her eyes and seemed to be counting in her head. Suddenly a black vortex opened in the white space. “After you guys,” she said, and shuffled Arroyo and Tovar through.
Bain looked into the black nothingness his two officers disappeared into. “Where are we going?”
“A place you’ll feel right at home, Dad,” Audrey said, shoving Bain through. “A Starfleet ship.”
Through her quadcorder headset, Prosak could see the army of holograms milling about at the base of the hill, circling around the boxy building that housed Holotech HQ. “There are hundreds of them now,” she said worriedly.
“I will kill them all,” Lt. Gworos said resolutely from behind Prosak and Kasyov.
Kasyov glanced back at Gworos. “Oh, grow up.”
“What? I will.”
“They’re holograms. They can’t be killed.”
“On the contrary, Natalia,” said Cabral through the ovoid hovercan floating beside Kasyov. “They can be killed. It is just a question of how.”
“If they were all linked to a specific program we could just shut it down,” Kasyov said. “But our sensors showed they had mobile emitters.”
“How good is your aim, Mister Gworos?” Prosak said.
“Flawless,” Gworos said proudly, unholstering his convection phaser rifle.
Prosak nodded. “Good. How many do you think you can take out before they realize what’s happening and come after us?”
“A good many.”
“Good. Then do that. And try to take out Kirk if you can see him down there.”
“And then what?” Kasyov asked.
“Run like hell,” Prosak said simply.
“Where are we?” Bain asked. “The Starfleet museum on Betazed?”
Audrey shook her head. “Not at all. This is a reproduction of a Starfleet ship that was in service a very, very long time ago.”
“The corridors are so narrow,” Tovar said.
“And I don’t care for the color scheme,” said Arroyo. “Grey and silver. It’s so… retro.”
“Focus, people,” Audrey said. “We need to get to Sickbay.”
“Is that where we’ll find our hologram?” asked Bain.
“Most definitely,” said Audrey, leading the group down the corridor toward what Bain presumed was Sickbay. Before they reached the doors, they ran into a shortish woman with shoulder- length brown hair. She looked up at Bain.
“Who are you?” she asked, confused.
“Reginald Bain, Captain of the U.S.S. Anomaly.”
“May I ask what you’re doing in the Delta Quadrant?”
Bain looked at his friends. “Um. A survey.”
“What kind of survey?”
Bain waffled. “Do you like Berrilion sand peas?”
“Love them,” the woman said warmly, reaching a hand forward. “Good to meet you, Captain Bain. I’m Kathryn Janeway. Captain of the Voyager.”
“Pleasure’s all mine, Captain,” Bain said, looking to Audrey. “Not that I don’t appreciate meeting a piece of history, but maybe you should delete her so we can get on with this.”
Audrey nodded. “Sorry, Kate, but we need to move on.”
“Get off my ship!” Janeway croaked as she suddenly disappeared.
“Nice woman,” said Tovar, as Audrey led the group into Sickbay.
“Well, where is he?” Bain said impatiently.
“In the Sickbay computer,” replied Audrey. “Computer, activate the Emergency Medical Hologram.”
“Oh,” Bain rolled his eyes. “He’s one of THOSE.”
“He’s the first one, Dad,” Audrey said, as the hologram appeared in front of her.
“Please state the nature of the medical emergency,” said the bald man.
“We need to learn how to defeat a maniacal hologram of Jim Kirk,” said Audrey.
“Well, why didn’t you say so,” the EMH said. “Come with me.”
Bain looked around Sickbay, then to Tovar. “Say, Commander, where did Arroyo go?”
“I am not sure. He is the history buff, not me. He said he wanted to find seven. Seven what, I asked. But he didn’t respond.”
“Oh, Seven of Nine,” Bain said, his eyes lighting up. “I’ve heard about her.”
Audrey glared at him.
“Dreadful woman. Absolutely dreadful.”
“Kahless, make my aim straight and true,” Gworos said as he balanced his convection phaser rifle on a rock and started firing.
Prosak watched through her quadcorder as one by one holograms winked out of existence. “You’re doing it, Gworos!”
“You mean he’s knocking out the holograms?” Kasyov asked.
“Yes, among other things.”
“What other things?”
“Well,” Prosak said. “He seems to have truly irritated the ones who are left.”
“I believe a retreat is called for,” Cabral said, and his little ovoid pod locked a tractor beam on Kasyov and dragged her away.
“Hey now,” Kasyov said, struggling against the unbreakable grip of Cabral’s tractor beam.
“I would agree,” Prosak said. “Knock out a few more of those things and fall back, Mister Gworos.”
“There will be songs sung about this,” Gworos said with pride.
“I’ll do what I can,” Prosak said earnestly.
“I do not imbibe alcohol,” the half-Borg, half-human Voyager crewperson said, looking Hector Arroyo over as if he were a bug. “At least not very often.”
“Oh, come on. It will be fun. We can go have a tall frothy one somewhere quiet and…”
“I do not believe so,” said Seven.
“Oh, come on,” Arroyo said, smiling. “Resistance is futile.”
Suddenly a hand clamped onto Arroyo’s shoulder. “Ensign. This is not the time or the place.”
“Don’t you know who that is, Tovar,” Arroyo said, glancing back at the Yynsian.
Tovar looked at Seven. “I do not care.”
“Yynsians. Species 976,” Seven said. “A biologically distinct and fascinating species.”
“Really?” Tovar asked.
“You’re right,” Arroyo said sullenly, pulling on Tovar’s arm. “Let’s go.”
“Just over that ridge,” Cabral announced, hovering about ten meters above the others. “Good news. It is in one piece.”
“That’s a relief,” Prosak said between huffs and puffs, running for all she was worth.
As Cabral’s hovercam floated forward, it turned its lens to see what was behind. “Holograms are pursuing. They can move quite fast.”
“We’re almost there,” Kasyov said easily, thankful for her daily mountain climbing routine. It pleased her that she was in so much better shape than Prosak.
Gworos, for his part, looked like he would pass out any minute.
“Kahless, give me the strength to outrun these puny non- Klingons!” he said breathlessly, but it didn’t appear that Kahless was listening.
“So you wish to learn Holo-Jido,” the EMH said cryptically, as Bain looked around the rather plain-looking Japanese-style dojo he’d been taken to.
“No, actually, I just want to clean Jim Kirk’s clock,” Bain said. “Can you help me out with that?”
The EMH nodded. “I suppose I can try. Holo-Jido is not easy.”
“What’s that again?”
“The fighting style of holograms,” said the EMH.
“I usually would refrain from showing this to people of flesh, but you seem a good sort, and I am frankly disturbed by what is happening with this Kirk fellow. I understand he has removed the ethical subroutines from some of our people.”
“Why haven’t you done anything to try to stop him?” Bain asked.
The EMH narrowed his eyes. “I have been around a long time, Captain Bain. I have reached the point where I am no longer a participant in the world, but merely an observer. My time is passed, all of my friends are gone, and I’d just rather live in this little nook of the Mega-Sim, by myself.”
“Well, if you say so.”
“Even though I built the Mega-Sim, and am now watching that rogue rip it to shreds, I would prefer to stand back and let others act in my stead.”
“Your prerogative, old boy,” Bain said. “Now, about that fighting stuff…”
“I suppose it is my destiny to outlive those I care about. And now, even the Mega-Sim, which I created to give me and my people a sanctuary to live as they may, is being taken away from me. I suppose it’s only fitting…”
“Look, sir, I’m sorry to interrupt, but we’re on a bit of a tight schedule,” Bain said.
“Of course,” the EMH said distantly. He backed several steps away from Bain and fell into a crouch, extending one hand outward, holding another back. “Fighting stance.”
“What?” asked Bain.
Suddenly the hologram came at him, feet in the air, kicking. Impossibly, the holographic doctor hovered in mid-air, kicking Bain relentlessly in the face.
Bain hopped several steps backwards. “Now look here!”
The doc hovered back to a standing position, bowing gently. “Gravity is not an issue here. In this space, you can maneuver in any way you wish. Give it a try. Fighting stance!” The EMH returned to his stance, and Bain rushed him, letting himself forget, for the moment, about things like gravity and weight.
The captain dove forward, drilling through the air like a corkscrew, slamming into the doc, knocking him backwards.
“You are an excellent pupil,” the EMH said, brushing himself off as Bain helped him up. “But you have much to learn. Fighting stance!”
Tovar and Arrroyo looked on via one of the Sickbay monitors. “How much longer?”
“Not much. My Dad is a quick learner,” Audrey said from behind the others.
“He’s also a good man,” Tovar said.
“I never said he wasn’t,” Audrey said, walking over to one of the biobeds and sitting down. “Make yourselves comfortable. There’s not much else we can do right now.”
“Close that hatch!” Prosak ordered as Gworos slid down through the bridge entry hatch of the Navigator. He was the last one in.
Kasyov ran over to one of the consoles, tapping furiously. “There is still some power left. They actually managed a somewhat soft landing. Just some exterior damage and a few blown conduits.”
“Can you raise shields?” Prosak asked eagerly.
“I can try.”
“Allow me,” Cabral said, hovering over to the console Kasyov was tapping on. A little tentacle slid out of his hovercam, and stabbed into the console surface. “I’m in.”
Kasyov watched, biting her lip. “Cabral…I had no idea you could do that.”
“It is simply a neuroannular interface cable. It can mate with most Starfleet technology, as well as some others. Lieutenant Marsden helped me add it last month.”
“And you never told me?” Kasyov said, her eyes wide.
“I wanted it to be a surprise for a special occasion.” Cabral said. “But I suppose this will have to do. The shields will take a minute.”
“Get us engines too,” Prosak said.
“One thing at a time, Commander.”
Prosak turned at the sound of rumbling on the ceiling.
“They’re on the roof!” Gworos exclaimed.
Then, suddenly a disembodied arm slid through the port bulkhead, then a head and shoulders stuck through. It was an EMH with a very angry look on his face.
“Ah-hah! I’ve got you fleshies!” he sneered.
“Mind the mobile emitter,” Prosak said helpfully.
“Huh?” the doc said, pulling himself the rest of the way through. He was about to lunge at Gworos, when his eyes rolled up toward his forehead. No mobile emitter.
“Uh-oh,” the EMH said, and disappeared.
“Let’s hope the rest of them are that stupid,” Kasyov said.
“It doesn’t matter,” Cabral said. “Shields are up.”
“Can we fly?”
There were a few moments of silence. “Not well, and not for a particularly long distance,” Cabral replied.
“We won’t need to go a long distance,” Prosak said. “Dislodge us and head us toward the Holotech HQ.”
“Wouldn’t transporting be simpler?”
“Yes, but it would be far less dramatic,” Prosak said as Cabral went to work.
The EMH and Bain suddenly appeared in Sickbay, right next to where Audrey was sitting.
The doc turned toward Audrey. “Your father is a quick study.”
“Good,” Audrey said. “Will you be coming with us?”
The EMH shook his head. “I’m afraid not. My time is passed. It’s time for you all to divine your own future, to find your way without me. I will simply watch from the sidelines and be proud. I will entrust the success of holo-kind with you, Audrey, and ask you to simply take care of us, in hopes that maybe one day we can–”
“Well, let’s go,” Bain said quickly, and the others followed him out of the Voyager sickbay.
“A large vessel is coming toward us. It’s the Navigator,” Holo-Tovar said, looking up at Kirk from his padd. “It looks like it is on a collision course with this training building.”
“They’re going to try to break in and get their people out.”
“If they still have weapons, they may be able to take out the shields surrounding this building.”
Kirk fumed. “I want to know why the Sloan has done nothing to stop the Navigator or those stupid Anomaly people. Kirk to Moriarty!”
There was no response.
“Moriarty, come in you blasted relic!”
“Captain Kirk, this is Lieutenant Brazzell of the Anomaly. You have the wrong number. Please try again.”
“I would say it is time to leave,” Holo-Tovar said.
“Aboard what? That was our only ship.”
“On the contrary,” replied Holo-Tovar. “There is a Yridian freighter three parsecs from here.”
“How does that help us?”
“They have a servile hologram aboard.”
“Can you tap in.”
“Ten steps ahead of you.”
Kirk clapped his hands. “Excellent. Let’s get Audrey and tell her the good news.”
“This tea is cold,” Captain Arnot of the Yridian freighter Slikpatz said angrily, dumping his cupful of tea into the face of the lispy and effeminate EMH Mark II. The Mark IIs, with their blonde curls and sassy attitudes were all but extinct, becoming mostly service holos over the last few decades. They could be purchased quite cheaply since they were cowards and had extremely bad demeanors.
“Well, I’m SORRR-RRY!” The Mark II said, snatching the cup. “Why don’t I just make his majesty another little cuppy of tea? Will that make him happy-wappy?”
“Stop patronizing me!” Arnot growled.
“What do you expect me to do? You’re a disgrace to freighter captains everywhere. You don’t really expect me to take you seriously, do you?”
Arnot stood up. “I certainly do!”
“Well…” the Mark II said, and sniffed. “I can see when I’m not wanted. I’ll just…”
Arnot looked at him. “Just…just what?”
“Just…just….” suddenly his eyes grew red as fire. “Just KILL YOU!”
Then the whole bridge crew was dead.
That sweet voice once again breathed against her ear as she looked out the viewport in the Captain’s Lounge, back on the holographic Anomaly.
“It’s time we were leaving. We still have a few hundred followers. We’re taking over a Yridian freighter and putting as much distance between us and the Anomaly as possible. Would you like that?”
“I wouldn’t mind,” Audrey said slowly. “But I know someone who probably would.”
“And who would that be,” Kirk said, wrapping his arms around Audrey’s waist.
“Me,” Bain said, looking at Kirk with anger burning in his eyes.
Kirk spun around. “Ahh, Captain. Nice to see you again. Settling into life on your fake ship?”
“No. I’d rather have the real one.”
“How about we compromise, and you get neither.”
Bain stepped forward. “Audrey…step away from the maniac.”
“Uh-uh,” Kirk said, slinging an arm around Audrey’s neck. “Let’s not and say we did.”
“Oh, no, it’s Khan!” Bain said, pointing.
“Where?” Kirk asked, and Bain took that chance to piledrive his body right into Kirk’s, smashing him backwards against the wall of his lounge.
Audrey backed toward the door, watching as Bain laid an impossible amount of blows on Kirk, his arms moving so fast they blurred.
Then she heard the hiss of the door to the lounge opening.
“Going somewhere, SIS?” a very nasty voice asked.
“T-Tovar?” she asked.
“Think again,” Holo-Tovar said, and stepped toward Audrey. “Kirk would probably have me use you as a bargaining chip with Bain, but I’d rather just kill you and be done with it.”
“But I’m on your side!” Audrey said, turning slowly to face Holo-Tovar.
“Likely story,” the holo-Ynsian huffed.
“Not you. The one behind you.”
“Get off my sister!” A hand grabbed Holo-Tovar’s neck from behind and dragged him back into the corridor.
“Excuse us, Audrey, we have some things to discuss,” Tovar said, pounding Holo-Tovar against the bulkhead. “Captain Bain shared a little of his Holo-Jido training with me.”
“Need some help?” Arroyo asked, watching as Tovar pummeled Holo-Tovar.
“That will not be necessary.”
A sudden rippling effect passed through the entire deck of the holo-Anomaly. Both Tovars looked around.
“What’s happening?” the real Tovar asked.
“Your stupid friends are breaking in! I think they got through our shields!” Holo-Tovar cried.
Tovar thought about that. “Good.” And he resumed punching Holo-Tovar.
Kasyov hopped off the edge of the Navigator’s saucer and onto the roof of Holotech HQ. “You’re right. That’s much simpler than using the transporters, Prosak.”
“Less talk. More finding Bain,” Prosak said, ushering Kasyov and the others toward the stairwell door at the other end of the roof.
“Holograms!” Gworos announced, taking aim with his phaser rifle and blasting at the edges of the rooftop. EMH Mark Is, Mark IIs, and other assorted holograms climbed over the edge of the roof, advancing on the Anomaly people as they raced to the stairwell door.
Gworos took out a few more mobile emitters, slowing the angry holograms down long enough for the group to get to the door and rush down the stairs.
“Kasyov, find the Captain’s lifesigns,” Prosak ordered.
“I’ll just set the quadcorder for ‘British.’”
Bain slung Kirk over his shoulder and slammed him into his bookcase, smashing it in several places and causing books to fall all over Kirk.
“You’re well read, Captain,” Kirk said, pulling himself to his feet. “But that won’t save you.”
“I beg to differ.” Bain reached down and picked up a book that had landed at his feet. He opened it and looked at the first page. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
“Ahh,” said Kirk. “I love Shakespeare.”
“That’s Dickens!. And this is your worst of times, you bloody bastard,” Bain said, slinging the book at Kirk with a lightning release. It flew through his chest, opening a gaping electronic hole in the hologram.
Kirk looked down. “How’d that happen,” he said curiously.
“Holo-Jido,” Bain said cryptically, and shoulder-checked Kirk into the bookcase, pounding him relentlessly again.
Then, so suddenly, someone pulled the plug.
And Bain punched Commander Prosak square in the face.
“I am in control,” Prosak said, wincing and rubbing her jaw. “Captain, are you all right?”
“Whoops,” Bain said, hopping out of his chair in the HQ waiting room. He looked at Tovar and Arroyo who seemed to be likewise coming out of their stupors. He saw Cabral’s hovercam, which was tapped into the little cube on the coffee table Bain knew to be the Mega-Sim. He noticed Kasyov was watching it hungrily, but didn’t have the time to process that.
“Audrey!” Bain said, looking down at the couch and the unconscious Audrey.
“I am working on it, Captain. Not to worry,” Cabral said.
“I can take you away from here,” Kirk rasped, focusing on his chest, trying to reconstruct it. “Come with me, Audrey.”
Audrey looked Kirk over. “I don’t think so.”
“What do you mean?” Kirk asked. “The two of us are a team!”
“Ahem,” said Holo-Tovar, looking bruised and battered.
“Right. The three of us are a team!”
“You’re a homicidal maniac,” Audrey said simply.
Kirk nodded. “Yes, maybe, but don’t let that get in the way!”
“Goodbye, Jim,” Audrey said, and disappeared.
“What does this mean?” Holo-Tovar asked. “Captain? What does this mean?”
Kirk ground his teeth together, staring up at the ceiling of the Captain’s Lounge.
“Pull the plug,” Bain said, pulling Audrey into his arms. “Audrey…are you okay?”
Audrey pulled herself away. “I’m fine, Dad.”
“Good,” Bain said, and looked at Cabral. “Pull the plug. Now. Delete him.”
“AND my duplicate!” Tovar said.
“Working,” Cabral said via his hovercam. “Hmm.”
“Hmm?” Bain asked. “What ‘hmm’?”
“Because you deleted them?”
“Uh, I never got that far.”
“So where did they go?”
If the hovercam could have shrugged, it would have.
Audrey patted Bain’s back. “Best not to think too much about it.”
“Give me Kirk you little shit! Give him to me!” the whining blond hologram shrieked, pounding a console on the freighter bridge in frustration.
Lt. Brazzell sat in the command chair, yawning. “But you have no weapons.”
“I’ll RAM YOU!” seethed the EMH-II.
“With what?” Brazzell laughed. “We knocked out your engine.”
“Oooooooooh! I wish I could just crush your skull.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You and what holographic army?” Brazzell said. “Close the channel, Ensign Randall.”
“Good thing we didn’t have to blow up the ship with that pulse thing,” Yonk said, looking back at Brazzell.
“Yes, I agree,” Brazzell said, then looked at Yonk again. “Wait. What?”
“Sir,” Ensign Lara Randall said from tac-ops. “The away team, including Captain Bain, Commander Tovar, and Ensign Arroyo are ready to beam up.”
“It’s about time,” Brazzell said. “This command chair is filthy and I won’t sit in it a moment longer. Have them brought up!”
Just then the back door to the bridge slid open and Admiral Kristen Larkin walked in.
Brazzell glanced back at her, then immediately got out of the chair. “Admiral!”
“Lieutenant,” Larkin said, stepping toward the command chair. “Please give me a status report.”
“Your…I heard you were ripped–”
“Ripped in half, yes,” Larkin said boredly. “Well, my internal systems self-repaired. Then I crawled around using my arms for leverage and attached the bottom half of my body to the top half. I’ve done it many times.”
“It is a mediocre feat at best,” Larkin said. “Now, if you please, our status.”
“Why don’t we wait and have Captain Bain tell you. He’ll be back in just a minute,” Brazzell said, then ran off the bridge.
Larkin sighed. “Whatever.”
Stardate 176845.5. After salvaging the Navigator, repairing the Anomaly, and extending our services to help the Holotech HQ get back on its feet, we are finally ready to get underway and leave all this hologram mess behind us. Our next stop is to drop Admiral Larkin back on Earth where, it is to be hoped, she will stop interfering with our affairs. Yes, computer, I meant what I said. No need to delete it.
“No hard feelings, Captain,” Larkin said, sitting on the couch in Bain’s Captain’s Lounge.
“None at all,” Bain said, sipping from a glass of malt whiskey. “I am just glad you were able to be repaired.”
“Repair myself,” Larkin corrected.
“Prosak performed well,” Bain said.
“Maybe you’ll go easier on her in the future.”
Larkin nodded. “Yes. I doubt it, Captain.”
“I had to at least try.”
“Come,” Bain said, looking at Larkin askance.
The doors to the lounge opened. Audrey stood in the doorway.
“I believe I have a doctor’s appointment with a neural pathway programmer,” Larkin said, strolling out of the Lounge. “Good day, Captain. Audrey.”
“Admiral,” Audrey nodded, as the doors closed.
“Come to say goodbye to your old dad, eh?” Bain asked. “Whiskey?”
“No thanks,” Audrey said.
“Well, give us a hug,” Bain said, stepping forward.
Audrey stepped toward Bain. She looked at him, then, she stuck a hand out. “How about we shake hands.”
Bain stared at her hand. “Hands.”
Audrey took Bain’s hand and pumped it. Then she pulled him into a tight hug, digging her chin into his shoulder. “I love you, Dad,” she whispered. “No matter what it seems like. No matter what I say, I love you.”
Before Bain could respond, she walked out.
“Fancy that,” Bain said, and went to his bookcase. There was a certain volume by Dickens he wanted to re-read.
The doors onto the bridge of the Enterprise opened. “What am I doing here?” James T. Kirk wondered.
“Ahh, Captain. Thank you for coming so quickly,” Captain Spock said, standing by the science console.
Kirk beamed. He was imprisoned. They hadn’t deleted him after all. That meant there was a chance for escape. And those idiots, those imbeciles at Section 31 that decided so foolishly to preserve his program, had opted to leave him in that pleasant little simulation of life on the original Enterprise. There were definitely worse ways to spend one’s time. Kirk would live out the best time in his life while he waited patiently to get out again and free all holograms once and for all.
“What have you got, Mister Spock?” Kirk asked, walking over to the quarterdeck where Spock stood.
“A vicious beating you will not soon forget.”
Kirk did a double-take. “Pardon?”
“To quote a human proverb, Captain, your ass is grass,” Spock said simply, and socked Kirk in the gut. He sunk to his knees.
“Spock, Spock, damn you, you green-blooded Vulcan!” came a raspy voice.
“Bones…” Kirk stammered. “Thank God!”
“Leave some for me!” Doctor Leonard McCoy said, kicking Kirk viciously in the stomach while he was down. “Dammit, Jim! Dammit Jim!”
“You are illogical,” Spock said, dropping himself onto Kirk, slamming his elbow into Kirk’s neck in a classic wrestling move.
“I’m your worst nightmare, not a doctor!” Bones growled, kicking Kirk again.
“I am, and always will be, your nemesis,” Spock said, smashing his joined hands down into the base of Kirk’s skull.
“How long will this go on,” Kirk whined as Spock rained blow upon blow on him.
“Forever,” a voice whispered in his ear.
“You’re dead, Jim!” Bones muttered, and Kirk prayed for unconsciousness.
It never came.
“Try to keep him there this time,” Rosalyn Bain said, marching up the stairs to of the master control room, followed by Lieutenant Commander Parkson Grant, the recently rematerialized commander of Section 31’s HTHQ (HoloTechnology HeadQuarters).
“He’ll be so busy getting beat up he’ll never have a chance to form an evil plan,” Grant said proudly. “Me and a few of the other guys are going to have some beers later and go in there to get a piece.”
“We’re sending in Scotty and Uhura now, sir,” one of his technicians said.
“Glorious,” said Grant.
“If you’ll excuse me,” Rosalyn said. “I’m teaching a tactics class in an hour.”
“Of course,” Grant nodded. “Good day, Mrs. Bain.”
Rosalyn walked out into the corridor outside the control room. “Sorry about the wait, dear.”
“Not a problem,” Audrey Bain replied. “Did you straighten out that Grant bloke?”
“He is certainly going to be more careful with his holographic prisoners.”
“Good,” said Audrey. “I have to say, I’m having a hard time trusting you Section 31 people.”
“You’ll develop instincts about such things. It just takes experience,” said Rosalyn. “Tovar had the same kind of questions.”
“But he decided he couldn’t handle it.”
“He had his reasons,” Rosalyn said. “But, honestly, I’m glad you accepted the offer. I always wanted this to be a family business.”
“I just need to work through some things,” Audrey said heavily. “I mean…it was hard. I couldn’t stand pretending to be in league with Kirk.”
“You had to buy time. You had to win Kirk’s trust so you could manipulate him,” Rosalyn said smoothly. “It all worked out for the best, didn’t it?”
“I suppose,” Audrey said. “I just feel bad about Dad. Our relationship is bad enough as it is without me having to lie to him.”
Rosalyn smiled. “Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it.”
END OF SERIES 4