Author: Anthony Butler
A gentle gust of wind blew over the French countryside as the crowds gathered in front of the Royal Palace. Within, the Queen was enjoying her afternoon feast.
Unfortunately, due to the amount of noise the crowds were making, the Queen just couldn’t seem to concentrate.
“What’s all the racket about?” the queen asked of one of her many handmaidens.
“Madame, do you not know that today the people are speaking of revolution? A coup seems inevitable.”
The Queen sighed with exasperation. “Computer, freeze program.”
The servants and attendants stopped where they were as Dr. Janice Browning adjusted the huge wig atop her head. “Computer, I specifically asked for a recreational program. How can I relax when I’m about to have my head chopped off?”
“Please restate your request,” the computer said flatly.
Browning shook her head. “Fine, fine. I want to load a new program. Search for something in ancient Earth history where I can be pampered and fed by gorgeous men.”
Suddenly the world around Dr. Browning dissolved and was replaced by a landscape of clouds, surrounded by a huge palace that reached higher into the air than Browning could see.
“Computer, where am I?”
“The program currently running is a representation of Mount Olympus from ancient Greek mythology on Earth.”
“Mount Olympus, huh?” Browning asked, pulling off her wig and detaching the complicated metal workings from within her dress. “Were there many cute guys there?”
“Please restate the question.”
“Never mind,” Browning said, when suddenly a firm hand grabbed her shoulder.
“You are tense, Venus. Allow me to carress your shoulders,” a deep voice said.
“Thank you, Computer,” Browning said softly, as the strapping man led her to a hammock and gestured for her to have a seat.
So this is what they meant by “Greek God.”
“Grapes?” another strapping man with even less clothes offered, sticking his head up from under the hammock.
“Sure,” Browning said, grabbing the grapes and hungrily devouring them.
Another man stood at her feet, waving what looked like a giant, feathered bird wing. A soothing breeze carressed her face and made her feel like curling up and going to sleep. This was much better than some stinking revolution.
“Shall I continue rubbing, Venus?” the man asked.
“Darn right,” Browning replied, stretching out and closing her eyes.
“Sickbay to Holodeck Three,” came the voice of Nurse Holly Carter suddenly.
Browning sighed. “What is it, Holly?” she said without opening her eyes.
“Two ensigns just dragged Commander Conway in here. He’s pretty banged up, Doc. It looks like he has a fractured clavicle, two broken legs, and severe internal bleeding.”
“No kidding,” Browning said tiredly, feeling herself drift off as the Greek God continued rubbing.
“What should I do? The operation is too complicated for me.”
“Just activate the emergency hologram, Holly. That’s what it’s there for,” Browning mumbled, and fell into a deep, soothing sleep.
“Well?” Commander Conway asked, wincing in pain as the ensigns spread him out on the biobed.
Nurse Carter shrugged. “Dr. Browning said to use the Emergency Medical Hologram.”
“Why? What’s she doing that’s so darned important?” Conway tried to sit up, but found it impossible.
“She’s, uh, on the holodeck.”
“Son of a–” Conway said, then collapsed back to the bed.
Holly looked up at his readings nervously. He had just lost conciousness, and his heart was near flatline.
“Oh, well,” Holly said. “Here goes nothing. Computer, activate the Emergency Medical Hologram.”
A balding man in a blue-collared uniform shimmered to life in front of Holly. “Please state the nature of the medical emergency,” he said pleasantly.
“Severe spinal trauma and internal bleeding,” Holly said, pointing to Conway helplessly. “Can you take care of that?”
The Doctor moved quickly to Conway’s side and examined the readings on the biobed. “Of course I can. I am programmed in every medical technique known to the Federation. First we must put him in stasis; then I require twenty-two cc’s of anaprovoline.”
“Yes, Doctor,” Holly said, activating the stasis field and swinging a tray of equipment in front of the Doctor.
“Where is your Chief Medical Officer?” the Doctor asked as he worked.
“She’s um…on the holodeck,” Holly replied.
The Doctor looked up. “On the holodeck? What is she doing there?”
“As far as I know, she’s just relaxing.”
“While a crewmember is desprately in need of medical attention?”
The Doctor made an unhappy grunt. “Still, she is constrained by the Hippocratic Oath to offer her medical expertise to anyone in need. Such negligence should be reported to Starfleet Medical and her license to practice should be reconsidered.”
“I don’t know that that’s necessary. She’s a really good doctor. She’s just a little…lazy.”
“Madam, there is no room for lethargy in this profession,” the Doctor said sternly.
That said, the Doctor replaced the equipment and looked upon Conway with satisfaction. “There. I’m finished. He will require a few hours of rest, but apart from that he’s fine.”
“That’s amazing, Doctor,” Holly said, watching Conway’s readings improve.
“It’s nothing. You should see what I can do with a mitochondrial regeneration tank,” the Doctor said, folding his arms and smiling.
Stardate 52174.8. While we’re stuck on this boring mapping mission of sector 41303, Lt. Commander Richards, Lt. Tilleran, and Lt. Commander Larkin are at an even more boring technology conference at the Daystrom institute. Unfortunately, Counselor Peterman insisted on going along as well so she could hear Counselor Troi’s talk on the effect of alcholism on Zefram Cochrane or some such thing. Besides being extremely bored, I’m pleased to report that ship and crew are functioning normally. Well, except for the little accident Commander Conway had this afternoon.
“Come,” Captain Baxter said, looking up from the peices of his plastic model.
Commander Conway marched purposefully into the readyroom. “Captain I–” he stopped when he saw what Baxter was working on. “What the hell is that?”
“It’s Texas Stadium! Home of the late twentieth century Dallas Cowboys! The greatest football team of all time.”
“Uh-huh,” Conway said, taking a seat in front of Baxter’s desk. “Listen, Captain, I have a big complaint to file.”
“No!” Baxter said in mock-surprise. “What is it this time? The chili at Mirk’s too hot?”
“No, this is a legitimate complaint. I was seriously injured this afternoon and when I went to Sickbay, Doctor Browning wasn’t there.”
“She doesn’t work twenty-four hours a day. She has off-hours just like the rest of us.”
“Well, that may be, but when Nurse Carter called for her, she wouldn’t come. She was on the damned holodeck getting her back rubbed or something!”
Baxter glanced at Conway with amusement. “Then what are you doing still alive, Mister?”
“Thankfully, Nurse Carter activated the Medical Hologram. He was excellent. I feel better than I have in a while, and when I talked to him after recovering, his bedside manner was much better than Dr. Browning’s. He actually made me feel like he cared about my wellbeing.”
“What’s your point?” Baxter asked.
“I think we should replace Dr. Browning with the EMH, at least until she can learn how to treat a patient!”
“He’s just a hologram, Commander,” Baxter said. “You can’t expect me to replace Dr. Browning just because she’s a little lazy and you happen to think some hologram has a better attitude.”
“Well, I think something needs to be done. And I’m not the only crewmember to think so. Do you remember the time she accidentally sealed a ham sandwich inside Ensign Pressbury? No one found it until a month later, and it was lodged up against his kidneys! He needed major surgery to have it removed!”
“People make mistakes,” Baxter said. “The bottom line is, she’s a good Doctor.”
“She’s a horrible Doctor, Captain, and if you’re not going to do something about her, I will!”
That said, Conway turned to leave.
“Commander,” Baxter said, prompting the Commander to turn around.
“What?” Conway asked angrily.
“May I ask how you were injured in the first place?”
“An accident while I was working on some important field tests in Engineering.”
“Huh. That’s funny. I hear you were trying to get a bird’s nest out of a fifty-foot pine tree in the arboretum.”
“Who told you that?” Conway asked.
Baxter flashed an evil smile. “Ensign Killian. She said you were trying to impress her.”
“Well, Captain, they were up there squawking really loudly, and she was scared they would fall out. So I climbed up and tried to rescue them. I guess I was hoping–”
“You were hoping you could have made a nest of your own with Ensign Killian?”
Conway blushed. “That’s none of your business, sir.”
“Try not to fumble next time, Conway,” Baxter said, returning to his model.
Conway just made an angry noise and marched out of the readyroom.
The next morning, Dr. Browning walked into Sickbay feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world.
“You certainly look happy,” Holly said, looking up from a padd she was studying.
“I am, Holly, I really am. I ran the greatest holodeck program yesterday. The mountain of Olympus in Greece, on Earth. It was exquisite!” Browning accentuated her remark by stretching her arms wide and smiling. “Some guy named Apollo gave me a back massage. Afterwards, I slept like I’ve never slept before.”
Holly smiled and returned to her padd. “Better not tell Commander Richards about that.”
“We have a very open relationship,” Browning said, ordering a hot chocolate out of the replicator and scooting up onto a biobed. “But that doesn’t mean he has to know about everything I do, right?”
“Of course not.”
Browning took a sip of her hot chocolate and looked around. “It sure seems quiet around here. We usually have at least one or two cases left over from the nightwatch.”
Holly shook her head. “According to Nurse Luntley, we didn’t get one case last night.”
“Hmm,” Browning said thoughtfully. “I guess it was a bad night for injuries. Or a good one depending on how you think about it.”
“I guess so.”
“What about Commander Conway? Did you get him straightened out?”
“Oh, yeah. The holographic doctor took care of him.”
Browning raised an eyebrow. “He did, did he?”
“You wouldn’t believe it, Doctor. He had Conway up and around in two hours. The majority of the operation took only a few minutes.”
Holly seemed to suddenly realize what she said. “Not that it would have taken you longer. There’s no substitute for human interaction! It’s just, well, you weren’t here, and there was nothing else I could–”
“It’s okay, Holly. My feelings aren’t hurt. That’s what the EMH is here for. I’ll just activate him and get a report on exactly what he did.” Browning slid off the diagnostic bed. “Computer, activate the Emergency Medical Hologram.”
“The Emergency Medical Hologram is already in use.”
“What?” Browning asked, looking around sickbay. “I don’t see him anywhere.”
“The Emergency Medical Hologram was transfered to Holodeck Four.”
“That doesn’t make sense. Who authorized the transfer?” Browning asked.
“Commander David Conway.”
“I think I just figured out why we don’t have any patients,” Browning said, quickly heading out of Sickbay.
“How does that feel, Ensign?” the holographic doctor asked, pinching his finger directly above Ensign Susan Madera’s knee.
“Amazing!” Madera replied. “It’s like I never injured it!”
The Doctor smiled proudly. “It’s a technique practiced by Earth’s Eskimoes. The nerve is isolated and pressure is applied, thereby nullifying the pain sensors until the joint can heal.”
“You’re wonderful,” Madera said with a smile, kissing the Doctor on the cheek and sliding off the bed.
The Doctor blushed. “Well, I–”
Suddenly the doors to the holodeck swung open to reveal Dr. Browning.
“What the heck is going on in here?” Browning asked, looking around. “You’ve replicated my Sickbay down to every detail!”
“Someone has got to take care of the crewmembers aboard this vessel,” the Doctor said. “And you, madam, do not appear to be getting the job done.”
Browning walked up to the hologram menacingly. “I do the best I can and I haven’t heard a complaint yet.”
“That’s because you’ve been too busy eating and lying around like an overstuffed Horta to notice the complaints. I’m well aware of your record.”
“Why you little–” Browning said, balling up her fists.
“Uh, I have duty in five minutes. Thanks again. Bye!” Madera said quickly, exiting the holodeck before tensions got any worse.
“The crew of this ship have made their choice,” the hologram said, folding his arms. “If I were you, I’d pack my bags and get out of here while I still had some dignity.”
“I’m not about to be talked down to by some arrogant hologram!” Browning said furiously.
“What’s stopping you?”
“Arrrggh!” Browning cried, turning on a heel and leaving the holodeck. “You haven’t heard the last of me!” she said over her shoulder.
“Do your worst,” the hologram said with a sneer.
Dr. Browning hurried back into Sickbay, stopping short when she saw Captain Baxter perched atop one of the biobeds.
“What do you want, Andy?”
Baxter pointed to his elbow. “I was leaning on my desk, and somehow my elbow…um…started to hurt. I think I fractured it, or broke it or something.”
“Fractured and broke mean the same thing, Andy,” Browning said, withdrawing a medical tricorder.
“Oh, right. Anyway, I thought maybe you could take a look at it.”
Browning ran the tricorder over Baxter’s elbow. “It looks fine to me, sir.”
“Must be one of those phantom injuries I’ve been hearing about,” Baxter said, eyeing his elbow skeptically. “Listen, I heard about the Medical Hologram.”
“It’s nice to know you care, Captain,” Browning said. “But faking an inujury isn’t going to help things any.”
“What if I ordered the crew to stop going to the hologram?”
Browning shook her head. “They’d find a way. This calls for something more drastic.”
Baxter followed Browning into her office. The Doctor sat down at her desk and switched on her terminal. “What do you mean more drastic?”
“Computer, isolate program EMH Alpha.”
“EMH Alpha Isolated.”
Browning looked up at Baxter. “I’m going to take out the garbage, Captain. Computer, transfer EMH Alpha back to Sickbay. Authorization Browning Omicron Zero-Nine-One.”
“Computer, delete program EMH Alpha, same authorization.”
“Unable to comply. Program EMH Alpha has been protected by a level four security code.”
Browning looked up at Baxter. “You said you wanted to help, Captain.”
“But what if we need him later?”
“We’ll pick up another one at the nearest starbase, and Chris can program him to be nice to me. But this guy’s gotta go.”
“Okay,” Baxter said, taking a deep breath. “Computer, delete program EMH Alpha, authorization Baxter Alpha Three-Two-Seven.”
Suddenly the medical program appeared behind Browning’s chair and scowled down on her. “What exactly are you trying to do?”
Browning whirled around in her chair. “We’re trying to delete you, you smug holographic jerk! How do you like those apples?”
“An apple a day does keep the Doctor away, my dear. But I don’t see any apples around here.”
Baxter stared at the hologram quizzically. “Computer, I thought I just told you to delete the EMH program.”
“The EMH program has been deleted.”
“Then who the hell am I looking at?” Baxter asked.
“Please restate the question.”
“What have you done, Conway,” Baxter muttered under his breath.
Dr. Browning pushed out of her chair and headed out of her office. “I’ll get to the bottom of this.”
Browning bent down in front of a wall of isolinear chips and began yanking. The holographic doctor appeared beside her, looking over her shoulder with interest.
“What are you doing, Janice?”
“Removing your chips,” Browning said, as isolinear chips flew into the air.
The image of the doctor began to shimmer. “You…can’t…do… this. I have…so many…people…to heal!”
“Heal this, bucko!” Browning cried, grabbing for the next chip. Before she could reach it, the Doctor pushed her out of the way.
“What’s up, Doc?” Baxter asked, leveling a phaser at the doctor as he turned around.
Before the Doctor could respond, Baxter fired at the panel of chips, causing them to catch fire in a shower of sparks.
“Noooo!!!” the doctor cried, dissolving into nothingness with a little flash.
“Are you okay?” Baxter asked, walking over to Dr. Browning.
Browning pushed herself up. “I think so. Is he finally gone?”
“Unless he’s managed to spread to the main computer, I think so,” Baxter said with a laugh.
Browning grimaced up at Baxter. “That’s not funny.”
Commander Conway stepped out of the turbolift with a cup of coffee and his favorite book, ready for another dull bridge shift replete with reading and coffee-swilling.
Just as he stepped out of the turbolift, a steely hand latched onto his shoulder.
“Conway…” a familiar voice growled.
“Uh…Doctor…Doctor Browning,” Conway stammered, looking down at Browning. “What can I do for you?”
“Die!” Browning said, grabbing Conway’s book and throwing it across the bridge, barely missing Ensign Ford.
“I think you’ve blown this way out of proportion,” Conway said, backing toward the railing that surrounded the command chairs.
“That stupid hologram almost killed me.”
“You’re-um-kiddding!” Conway said. “That shouldn’t have happened.”
“Darn right it shouldn’t have happened,” Browning said angrily. “Thank goodness we were able to delete it.”
Conway swallowed hard as he was pushed up against the bridge railing. “You deleted him?”
Before Browning could reply, Conway caught sight of Captain Baxter emerging from the turbolift.
“Captain!” Conway said. “Help me!”
Baxter took up a position behind Browning and folded his arms. “Mr. Conway, what do you know about the holographic doctor?”
“Nothing…” Conway stammered. “I just…”
Suddenly there was a bleeping from Lt. J’hana’s tactical panel, and then a flickering of the lights around the bridge.
Baxter looked to J’hana. “Lieutenant?”
“Someone is draining power directly from the main EPS conduit,” J’hana reported.
“Track it down,” Baxter said, returning a glare to Conway.
J’hana worked at her panel for several seconds, then looked up. “The power drain originated on Deck Eleven, Holodeck Four.”
Browning looked at Baxter, frightened. “He’s still here, Captain.”
“Let’s not panic yet,” Baxter said. “J’hana…scan the main computer. Can you locate the EMH program?”
“Working…” J’hana said, then paused. “I have located the EMH program in computer core A.”
“Delete it,” Baxter ordered.
J’hana tapped some buttons. “Done, sir.”
Suddenly the lights flickered again and extinguished, to be replaced with the dull red emergency lights.
“What happened?” Browning asked fearfully.
J’hana slammed a fist into her panel. “Bridge control locked out, sir!”
“What have you done, Conway?” Baxter asked, turning to Commander Conway.
“It’s actually pretty funny. I, um…well you know, I programmed the Doctor to alter his programming in order to defeat Dr. Browning.”
“You WHAT?” Browning asked, grabbing Conway’s throat.
“Didn’t you learn anything from the exploits of the Enterprise-D?” Baxter asked. “Never tell holograms to do that!”
Browning grimaced at Conway. “You just screwed the whole ship!”
Baxter pointed a finger at J’hana. “Break out the phasers, J’hana. You, me, and Conway are going to put an end to this.”
Browning followed Baxter as he made his way to the Jeffries’ tube. “Captain, I want to go along. I feel like this is my fight.”
“It may not be safe, Janice.”
Browning shrugged. “If we don’t stop him, no place on the ship will be safe.”
Captain Baxter led the way down the darkened corridor, with J’hana, Conway, and Browning close at his heels.
“All hands,” said the voice of the Emergency Medical Hologram over the comm system. “This is the Emergency Medical Hologram. It has come to my attention that the Chief Medical Officer of this vessel is negligent. I am therefore enacting Starfleet Medical Mandate Three Four Seven and taking over as Chief Medical Officer.”
“Computer, this is Captain Baxter, override command lockouts and delete the EMH,” Baxter ordered.
“Unable to comply.”
“How did I know the computer was going to say that?” Baxter asked, casting an angry glare Conway’s way.
“Sorry,” Conway said meekly.
Suddenly the medical hologram’s voice rang over the comm system again. “Oh, and another thing. I hereby declare Captain Baxter and his senior staff unfit for duty. I will command the Explorer until fitting replacements can be found.”
“How do you like that,” Baxter muttered.
“I sure hope you’re happy,” Browning added, as the group continued down the corridor.
When the group arrived at Holodeck Four, Baxter and Conway each took one side of the door, while J’hana worked at the nearby panel.
“I believe I can override the door servos, Captain,” J’hana said, looking up from the mess of wiring she had ripped out.
“Do it,” Baxter ordered.
J’hana ripped out a section of wiring and was immediately hit with a bright burst of energy, which sent her flying into the opposite bulkhead.
Browning studied J’hana’s eyes and felt for a pulse. “She was hit by a massive electrical discharge. It was just enough to overload her system without killing her.”
At that moment, the doors to the holodeck cracked open with a sigh.
“As I’m sure you’re aware, Captain, I could have killed your security chief. However, that is not my desire. I have taken an oath not to harm, and I intend to stay true to that oath.”
“She looks pretty freaking harmed to me, Doctor!” Baxter said angrily.
“That was unfortunate. But if it means I can stop Dr. Browning, it is well worthwhile. Don’t you see that the greater good is at stake here?”
“I see someone screwed up your programming,” Baxter said. “Why don’t you deactivate yourself and let us help you.”
“I’m sorry, Captain. I can’t do that. I must warn you, I have deactivated the holodeck safeties. If you come in here with the intention of deactivating me, I will have to take measures against you.”
“Why do you hate me so much?” Browning asked.
“Because I have been programmed to do so. My root function has been re-written to supercede even the precepts of the Hippocratic Oath. I must defeat Doctor Janice Browning.”
Browning slapped Conway upside the head. “Look what you’ve done, numbnut!”
Baxter stepped towards the door. “We don’t have time for this. We have to get in there and stop him before he does any more damage.”
“We could always just fire Dr. Browning like I suggested,” Conway said.
Baxter jerked the doors apart and shoved Conway through. “Get in there!”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Four Hundredth Annual Allstate Insurance Tournament of Champions!” a voice said, booming over the dark room Baxter and the others found themselves in.
“Where are we?” Browning asked, looking at the surroundings skeptically.
Baxter peered out the cracks in the wall where light streamed in. “I don’t know, but the rumbling sounds out there sound awfully familiar.”
Suddenly the floor Baxter, Browning and Conway were standing on began to move.
The walls opened up and allowed the three officers to pass out into the open.
Baxter scrubbed a hand over his face in exasperation. “We’re in a bowling alley. It looks like one of the programs I downloaded from Captain Rydell’s files on the Secondprize.”
“Is everything supposed to be this big?” Browning asked, turning to look at the white column she had been leaning against. It was a bowling pin easily twice her size.
A long shadow fell over Baxter, Browning, and Conway.
Baxter looked up and gulped. “Hi, doc.”
The holographic Doctor was easily a hundred meters tall, and the ball he wielded over Baxter’s head looked bigger than a runabout.
“Listen, Doctor, I’m sure we can settle this like professionals,” Browning said, in the most diplomatic voice she had.
The Doctor backed up to the end of the bowling lane. “I am settling this like a professional. Professional bowling was a popular sport at one time. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s my turn.”
“RUN!” Conway shouted, as the Doctor inched foreward on his tip-toes and released the ball.
The three officers scrambled for cover as the ball thundered toward them.
Pins flew backwards as they retreated into the pin cage. The ball clanged against the interior walls, coming dangerously close to slamming into them.
“You’ve got to admit, he has great aim,” Conway offered.
“This is going on your permanent record, Conway!” Baxter shouted, as the ball slammed into him, Conway, and Browning.
All three of them hurtled into a long tunnel, slamming against its walls and sliding to a stop.
Baxter helped Dr. Browning stand up as the thunderous noise of the rolling ball neared them.
“Run! We’re in the ball return!” Conway shouted.
The giant bowling ball scraped against Baxter’s back as he huffed and puffed through the tunnel, putting on a surge of speed to get ahead of the ball. “A few weeks ago, it was a giant pinball game. And now this! I’m never going to want to go play a recreational game again!”
“I see light ahead!” Browning cried breathlessly.
“I hate you, Conway!” Baxter shouted.
When the group reached the end of the ball return, they turned to see the ball come toward them.
“I have an idea,” Baxter said quickly, trying to suck in breaths in between words. “There are three holes on top of a bowling ball. If we can fit through, we’ll be relatively safe.”
“Are you crazy?” Conway asked.
“Do you have any better ideas?” Browning asked.
Before Baxter could answer, the ball thundered towards them, rolling, holes down, on top of them.
All three officers squirmed inside just as the Doctor’s fingers descended to plug up the holes.
“Gosh it’s dark in here,” Baxter said quietly.
Conway grabbed the smooth interior surface of the ball as it rocked back and forth. “He’s throwing it again!”
Baxter, Conway, and Browning bounced around inside the ball like popcorn in a popcorn-popper as it hurtled down the lane once more.
“If we can fit through, we’ll be relatively safe,” Conway mimicked angrily.
“Shut up, Conway!”
The three officers tried to gain some kind of footing as the ball rolled through the return again.
“This has to stop,” Browning said with exaustion, crawling toward one of the holes as the Doctor picked up the ball again. She poked her head through. “Hey, tough guy!”
A huge, person-sized eyeball stared down at Browning. “Are you talking to me, madam?”
“Yeah, I sure am,” Browning said, pushing uneasily out of the hole. “If you really want to settle this, be a man and settle it face to face with me. No funny stuff, no tricks, just good old-fashioned medicine. Best doctor wins.”
“Interesting proposal. What are your terms?”
Browning thought a moment. “If you win, I leave the ship and promise never to return. If I win, you release control of the ship and let us delete you.”
“Very well. I’m afraid it won’t be much of a contest, however.”
“We’ll see,” Browning said, pushing up her shirtsleeves.
Suddenly the bowling alley disappeared, replaced by the replica of Browning’s sickbay.
Captain Baxter was lying on one bed, Commander Conway on the other.
“What’s going on?” Baxter asked. When he tried to get up, a glimmering restraining field kept him down.
The Doctor stood between Baxter and Conway, placing his hands together in a very businesslike way. “Utilizing transporter and replicator technology, I have engineered a deadly virus that will infiltrate both the bodies of the Captain and the Commander and destroy their nervous systems in ten minutes. The virus is adaptive, so I have no way of knowing how to destroy it other than the fact that I have a superior intellect.”
Browning looked from Baxter to Conway. “So how do I know you’re playing fair?”
“You have my word. Now, the first person to save the patient wins.”
Baxter looked at the Doctor incredulously. “Don’t we get any say in this?”
“I’m afraid not. Dr. Browning shall work on you. I will take care of Commander Conway.”
“Janice…” Baxter said uneasily, as Browning readied her medical equipment.
“Don’t worry, Andy. I did my Sophomore paper on virology. You’re in good hands.”
“Great, just great,” Baxter said. “And I suppose if you lose, I’m going to die?”
“In that event, I shall save you as well as Commander Conway,” the Doctor said. “Of course, if the virus somehow mutates, you may die before I am able to save you.”
Conway grinned over at Baxter. “Then the Explorer will be mine!”
“Are you ready, Doctor?” the Doctor asked.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Browning sighed.
“Now wait just a damn minute!” Baxter said angrily.
“Let the games begin,” the Doctor stated happily, injecting twin hyposprays into Baxter and Conway’s necks. The chronometer on the wall over Conway and Baxter began to tick off the seconds.
“Well?” Baxter asked worriedly.
“Well, you’ve got a virus,” Browning replied.
Beads of sweat formed on Baxter’s forehead as Browning worked. “I know that. Is there anything you can do about it?”
“Just be quiet. I’m doing the best I can!” Browning said. She looked up at Baxter’s readings as she worked the T-cell stimulator. “I think I’ve figured out a way to trace the virus’ path.”
“You’re on the wrong track,” the Doctor said over his shoulder.
“Shut up!” Browning cried.
“I guess I’ve never really feared death. Not in the traditional way, that is. Sure I’m afraid of it. Isn’t everyone?” Conway asked nervously as the Doctor worked.
“Death is a constant, Commander,” the Doctor said. “The function of medical doctors is simply to prolong the inevitable.”
“I don’t remember programming you to be so pessimistic,” Conway muttered.
“I think I’m losing feeling in my legs, Janice!” Baxter cried. “I’ll get that back, won’t I?”
“I think. Hold on a sec.”
Baxter tried to angle his head in order to see where Browning had disappeared to, but he couldn’t because of the restraining field. “Hold on a sec? Hold on a sec? I’m going to die in less than seven minutes if you don’t destroy this virus, and you want me to hold on a sec!”
“It’s okay, I’m back,” Browning said as she nibbled on a slice of pizza.
“You went to get something to eat at a time like this?” Baxter asked incredulously.
Baxter could hear Conway laughing weakly from the next bed.
“Regrets?” Conway asked, squinting his eyes in a vain attempt to make out the holographic Doctor through his clouding vision. “Sure, I’ve had a few. I’ve always wanted to visit the Palamine Falls on Risa. And I’d really like to try atmosphere diving. The nitrogen clouds on Vargas Two are supposed to be very nice this time of year, too.”
“I have isolated the virus, Commander. I should be able to eliminate it within a matter of minutes,” said the doctor.
“What a coincidence. That’s almost exactly how long I have to live,” Conway said. “Anyway, what was I saying?”
“I wish Kelly was here,” Baxter said, swallowing hard as his mouth began to get drier. “You know, she’d probably like to be here for my last minutes of life.”
“You’re not going to die,” Browning said, working feverishly. “Just keep saying that to yourself. You’re not gonna die, you’re not gonna die!”
Baxter’s head turned to the side. “Oh, Janice, I can feel the world closin’ in. Swing low, sweet chariot!”
“Think, Browning think!” Browning cried, slamming a fist into Baxter’s chest as the chronometer ticked closer and closer to zero.
The holographic Doctor stopped working a minute and scratched his head. “No, no, no. That’s all wrong.”
“What?” Conway asked, his eyes growing wide.
“I must have overlooked something. The antiviral agent is an enzyme of some kind, but it doesn’t register on any medical records that I am familiar with.”
“You can still synthesize it, can’t you?” Conway asked hopefully.
“Of course I can,” the Doctor said indignantly. “It’ll just take me a few minutes.”
“YOU DON’T HAVE A FEW MINUTES!” Conway screamed.
“Goodbye, Janice. Tell Kelly I love her. And tell the crew… tell them I–” Baxter sniffed quietly, “–tell them I think they are the finest bunch of Starfleet officers I could have ever commanded. Except maybe the ones on the Enterprise. I guess they’re really the finest, huh? Being on the flagship and all…”
“Quiet! I almost have it. It’s some kind of enzyme!” Browning said, taking another bite of pizza and chewing it thoughtfully. “But I can’t track it down.”
“Well, I doubt scarfing down pizza will help,” Baxter said. He was growing very pale, and starting to shiver.
Browning put the pizza down next to her. “I guess you’re right.” She turned to the holographic Doctor. “Well, Doc, you got the best of me. You can cure Andy and the Commander now.”
“I wish I could,” the Doctor said sorrowfully as he looked down on Commander Conway. “But I’m afraid I can’t find the enzyme that will break down the virus. It’s completely foreign to me. I suppose these two will have to die because of my ignorance. My apologies.”
“What?” Conway and Baxter asked at the same time.
Browning picked up her slice of pizza and studied it a moment. “Cheese!”
“What?” the Doctor asked quizically.
Without answering, Browning swung her tricorder over the slice of pizza. “The enzyme is similar to the one they use to make cheese!”
“And that helps us how?” Baxter asked, confused.
“Hope you like it with extra anchovies, Captain!” Browning cried, jamming a programmable hypospray into her pizza, pressing some buttons, then injecting the mixture into Baxter’s arm.
Color began to return to Baxter’s face. “Janice, did you just inject me with cheese?”
Browning slammed the hypospray down and jumped for joy. “I did it! I won!”
Commander Conway glanced over as Browning helped Baxter off the biobed. “Hey, what about me?”
“Don’t look at me. I’m about to be deleted,” the hologram sighed.
Browning shoved a hypospray into Conway’s arm, pushing it in as hard as she could. “There you go, jerk. Maybe next time you’ll remember that programming holographic characters to defeat humans is bad news.”
Conway leaned his head back as he felt the magical mozzarella do it’s trick. “I think I’ve learned my lesson.”
The medical hologram rocked from side to side nervously as Baxter and Conway recieved their final treatments against the virus’ effects.
“Well, then. I guess I have learned a valuable lesson. Gluttony does have its place in medicine. Without it, Captain Baxter and Commander Conway would be dead now.”
Browning pulled the victory lollipop out of her mouth and nodded. “And don’t you forget it, pal.”
“Unfortunately, I will not be able to remember anything, since you are going to delete me per the terms of our agreement.”
Browning sucked on her lollipop thoughtfully. “Well, we could always reprogram you. I’m sure there’s a place for you somewhere on my staff.”
“You’re quite forgiving,” the Doctor said with a polite bow.
“You haven’t heard what your new job is yet,” Browning said with a smile.
Supplemental. We have restored power to all systems and the ship has been returned to normal. Against my reccomendations, Dr. Browning has assigned the holographic Doctor to her staff. She assures me his program has been purged of all its…faulty commands. If only people could be reprogrammed so easy.
Commander Conway waited at attention as Captain Baxter joined him in the main shuttlebay.
“Hello, Captain,” Conway said nervously.
“Stand easy, Commander,” Baxter ordered.
“Sir, whatever punishment you have lined up for me, I am prepared to take it like a man.”
Baxter leaned up against the shuttlebay control console and cracked his knuckles. “The way I see it, Commander, you learned your lesson by suffering through the trip through the oversized bowling ball return and that deadly virus.”
“Well, I guess I did–”
“Then again, Dr. Browning and I suffered too, even though we did nothing wrong.”
“That’s certainly true, but–”
“But, you also almost died because Dr. Browning was negligent.”
“A very good point, sir. Let me say that–”
“So I’ve decided to put a formal reprimand on both of your permanent records.”
“Sir, I think that’s very fair–”
“I’m not finished. I’m assigning you to a remedial course in Holodeck safety, to be taken immediately in Holodeck Three.”
“But Captain!” Conway said.
“Bridge to Main Shuttlebay. The Algonquin is making its final approach,” came J’hana’s voice over the comm system.
“Very well. Open main shuttlebay doors,” Baxter ordered.
“The discussion is over, Commander,” Baxter said as he watched the runabout Algonquin glide into the shuttlebay and softly touch down.
The door slid open, allowing Peterman, Richards, Tilleran, and Larkin to pour out.
“What a boring trip!” Peterman exclaimed, wrapping her arms around Captain Baxter.
“It was boring all right,” Richards sighed. “Up until Starfleet Security arrested Counselor Peterman.”
“You were arrested?” Baxter said in alarm.
Peterman smiled cattily. “I decked Counselor Troi.”
“I have never heard a Betazoid curse like that,” Tilleran said solemnly. “Maybe it was her human half that came out there, but whatever half it was, it was an ugly scene.”
“They had to practically drag Troi off Peterman,” Richards said.
“I went before the Judge Advocate General, and he ruled that I can’t come within twenty meters of her ever again,” Peterman said. “Guess I got off lucky.”
“Why did you hit her in the first place?”
Peterman held up a small padd. “She wouldn’t autograph her book! Can you believe it!”
Baxter watched as Larkin hauled Peterman’s immense set of matched luggage out of the runabout.
“So, what’s been going on here?” Richards asked, surveying the shuttlebay. “Anything exciting?”
“Well,” Baxter said, taking in a deep breath. “The ship was taken over by the Emergency Medical Hologram; me, Conway, and Browning were stuck inside a giant bowling alley; and me and Conway almost died from a deadly virus.”
“Oh,” Richards said, grabbing his carry-on. “Business as usual, huh?”
Baxter took Peterman’s hand and escorted her toward the shuttlebay exit. “Pretty much.”
“And how about you, Commander?” Tilleran asked, looking to Conway.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Mmm, that feels wonderful,” Browning said, leaning back in her desk chair.
“I can’t believe Commander Conway did all that,” Richards said incredulously. “I really hope he gets what’s coming to him.”
Browning stretched out as her back was gently kneaded. “Oh, don’t worry. He’ll get his just…hmmm…desserts.”
“Speaking of which,” the holographic Doctor said, halting the massage momentarily. “How long must I endure this?”
Browning smiled up at him. “Shut up and keep rubbing, Doc.”
The Doctor examined his Greek toga. “This is quite undignified.”
“Get used to it,” Browning grinned.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. “What did I do to be placed on this of all ships?”
“You know, I should be feeling really jealous right now,” Richards said, watching as the Doctor worked.
“But?” Browning asked.
“Instead, I really just feel like a good massage.”
“Get in line,” Browning purred.
Commander Conway pressed the button on the panel beside the holodeck doors and reluctantly stepped inside..
“Activate Remedial Holodeck Safety program,” Conway muttered, looking around at the huge interlocking grid of holodeck circuits around him.
A balding Starfleet officer in a gold-collared uniform appeared in front of him. To Conway, he appeared to be extremely nervous.
“Okay, my name is, uh, Lieutenant Reginald Barclay, and I’ll be your instructor for Holosafety 101. Let’s get started, shall we?”
“I guess,” Conway mumbled.
Suddenly another figure appeared beside Barclay.
“Lesson One. This is Professor Moriarty of Sherlock Holmes fame. Never run a program that involves him in any way.”
“I want your ship. I want your ship. I want your ship,” the Moriarty figure repeated over and over again.
Conway sighed as Barclay instructed him on the do’s and dont’s of attaching one’s self to the computer via a holodeck interface.
“Can’t we just go bowling?” Conway asked weakly.
“Bowling? What’s that?” Barclay asked.
“It’s just a sport. Nothing you’d be interested in, I’m sure.”
The Barclay hologram’s eyes widened. “On the contrary. My program is designed to grow and adapt based on user input. You could always adjust my programming to suit your needs. Perhaps you could even program me to be a threatening opponent!”
“No!” Conway cried, and ran out of the holodeck as fast as he could.
“Gee, was it something I said?” Barclay asked innocently.
The Explorer comes in for a landing on an alien planet! Wait a minute, you say. The Explorer’s not Voyager. It can’t land! Well, folks, it does anyway. Tune in in a few to find out how the crew gets out of this latest entanglement!!