Author: Anthony Butler
“Peterman, Counselor Kelly Lynne. You have been assigned to serve as a conduit for the Exalted Dawg Queen to speak through. Your knowledge of pets and animals, as well as your general kind-hearted atitude make you a prime candidate for this procedure. Do you submit?”
Peterman rocked back and forth on her heels as she stared up at the great gathering of interlocked canine minds that represented the Dawg hivemind. Her place at the heart of the Dawg vessel made her feel very small, and she was none to happy about the looks she was getting from the shnauzer that was holding her at bay. “Um, do I have a choice?”
“Not really. We were just being polite.”
“Then I guess I submit. But thanks for thinking about my feelings.”
“We try to accomodate. Now, before we start, we just have to ask a few routine questions. What is your blood type?”
“Hmm, that’s a hard one,” Peterman said, biting her lip and thinking hard. “I think it’s B Negative.”
“Very good. Starfleet serial number?”
“How should I know?”
“Hmm. Guess we’ll just leave that one blank. Any relatives you want us to notify in case of emergency?”
“Uh, my parents I guess. Ron and Sheila Peterman on Earth.”
“Where, specifically, on Earth?”
“Australia. The outback, actually.”
“Austraila, hmm? Nice place this time of year?”
“Beautiful all year round,” said Peterman nervously. “Look, can we get on with this?”
“What’s your hurry? It’s not like you have anything pressing to do after this. Let’s see, where did we leave off?”
“My next of kin.”
“Right, next of kin. Got it. How about medical insurance?”
“The basic Fedecare plan, I think.”
“Yes, well, we’ve heard of this Fedecare. You’d think by now your species would have worked the kinks out of universal health coverage.”
“Well, nobody’s perfect.”
“It’s thinking like that, my dear, that has made your people targets for assimilation time and again.”
“Sorry.” Peterman lowered her head. “Is that all?”
“I suppose. Now for the really fun part.”
Suddenly cables began to wrap around Peterman’s arms and legs, dragging her into the wall behind her. Next, all sorts of weird drills and other implements of evildoing erupted from the wall and began inching towards her.
Peterman let out a shrill scream as the sharp metal instruments neared, snapping up in bed so fast Charlie was knocked right onto the floor.
“Hnnnkkk…what’s that?” Baxter muttered from beside her.
“N-nothing,” Peterman said, stumbling over to the bathroom sink. “Just go back to sleep.”
Baxter resumed snoring as Peterman scooped handfuls of water into her face, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes and staring at herself in the mirror.
“You have to lay off the cheese popcorn before bed, Kelly,” Peterman muttered to herself. That’s when she noticed something wriggling around right under the skin of her cheek. Then four pointy whiskers sprouted out.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” Peterman cried, picking up Captain Baxter’s bottle of Mr. Bubbles and slamming it into the mirror.
She awoke to find Baxter staring worriedly down at her. “Kelly… Kelly, honey, are you all right?”
Peterman uncurled from the fetal ball she found herself in and pushed to the end of the bed, holding the covers around her. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Baxter sat down next to her. “You had the dream again, didn’t you?”
“I said I didn’t want to talk about it. But, yes,” Peterman said, as Baxter pulled her head onto his shoulder.
“It’s been two and a half weeks since we destroyed that Dawg ship, Kelly. They’re not coming back to get you. You’re safe now.”
“I realize that,” Peterman sniffled. “But every time I close my eyes I just keep seeing those fluffy, floppy ears and that wagging tongue hanging down into my face.”
At that moment, Charlie hopped up onto the bed and climbed up onto Peterman, sloppily licking her all over her face.
“Get him off me!” Peterman shrieked. “This is gross!”
Baxter sighed. “Kelly, don’t you remember a time when you loved animals?”
“I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to look at dogs the same way again, Andy,” Peterman said, flopping back onto the bed.
Baxter shook his head and snapped on Charlie’s leash. “Fine, we’ll take him back to Larkin’s quarters along with all the others. But she can’t be expected to take care of them forever.”
“It’s either that or we put them all off the ship,” Peterman mumbled from underneath the covers as Baxter got dressed. “At least until I get past my fear of them.”
“Listen, Kelly,” Baxter said, zipping up his uniform and placing his comm badge on. “They’re holding a support group for assimilation victims down at the outpost at 1300 hours this afternoon. I want you to be there.”
“Is that an order?” Peterman’s muffled voice asked.
“If that’ll make you go,” Baxter said sweetly, pulling the covers back and kissing Peterman on the forehead. “But until then, just get some sleep.”
“Aye, aye, Captain,” Peterman said sleepily, pulling the covers back and closing her eyes.
Stardate 52808.4. Repairs to the Explorer after her encounter with the Dawg are coming along as planned. The people of the Federation outpost at Delia Two have been very helpful in purging all the Dawg components from the ship, though I think the rugs will never be the same again.
Baxter stepped over loose cabling and hurdled past an open panel as he made his way into the main compartment of Engineering. “How’s it coming, Chris?”
Lt. Commander Richards shook his head as he supervized the repair crews. “We’ve shampooed and shampooed, sir, but we still can’t seem to get that smell out of the rugs.”
“I was talking about the engines and computers,” Baxter said wryly, leaning down and sniffing at the carpet as flecks of foam from one of the floor scrubbers flew into his face. “Yuck.”
“Oh, them,” Richards said, handing Baxter a padd. “That’s a summary of our work so far. We’re really only ironing out some minor glitches at this point.”
“Good,” Baxter replied. “So we can get back to our colony research in…?”
“Less than four days,” Richards replied proudly.
“Not too bad considering the size of those fur balls in the plasma injectors,” Baxter said, scratching his head as he examined the padd.
“We still haven’t gotten all those out, sir.”
Suddenly the comm system chirped, “Bridge to Captain Baxter.”
“What is it, Tilleran?”
“We have a communication for you from a Federation transport that’s en route to the outpost, sir.”
“Pipe it down here, Lieutenant.”
Richards followed Baxter over to one of the many monitors in Engineering. “Wonder what this is about?”
“Who knows?” Baxter asked tiredly as he flicked the monitor on.
A sardonic looking bald man with a gold-collared Starfleet uniform appeared on the screen. “Captain Baxter?”
“The one and only,” Baxter muttered.
“My name is Dr. Louis Zimmerman. I am the Senior Holographic Engineer on Jupiter station.”
Zimmerman appeared a little put off that Baxter hadn’t heard of him. “Certainly you’ve heard of my work on the Emergency and Longterm Medical Holograms?”
Baxter narrowed his eyes at the image of the man on the screen. “Damn, I knew you looked familiar. Yeah, I’ve seen your work first hand.”
“No problems, I hope?”
“I’d rather not go into it. What do you want from me, Dr. Zimmerman?”
“Well, I’ve recently finished developing a totally new kind of emergency hologram, and I need to test it out on a Federation Starship.”
“I see where this is going,” said Baxter. “Why do you want to use our ship?”
“For one thing, it’s simply a matter of convenience. Your ship is currently being repaired at the Delia Two facility, and I just happened to be in the neighborhood. In addition, I understand that your crew is often faced with… strange scenarios. I believe your people may provide me with some fascinating empirical data to work with.”
“Would you mind telling me what kind of new hologram it is you’re developing?”
“If it’s all the same to you, Captain, I’d rather show you the holoogram instead of trying to explain its many complicated facets to you. I can be on board within two hours and have it up and running by this afternoon.”
“Fine,” Baxter said. “But we’re leaving in four days. Your research better be completed by then.”
“I’m sure that will be ample time, Captain. See you this afternoon. Zimmerman out.”
“Another emergency hologram?” Richards asked, as Baxter turned away from the monitor. “Why do I not want to be around when he tests this thing out?”
“Because you’ve got a lick of sense, Commander,” Baxter muttered. “I’ll be on the bridge.”
Counselor Peterman materialized in the lobby of the Delia Two colony’s conference facility five minutes before the support group was supposed to meet. She had a bad feeling about the whole thing, but she had promised Baxter that she would give it a try and she was determined to do at least that.
“May I help you, Miss?” a smartly dressed man asked, approaching Peterman and tucking a large padd behind his back, smiling broadly. His name tag read ‘Bruce.’
“I’m here for the assimilation support group, Bruce,” Peterman said. “Counselor Kelly Peterman, from the Explorer.”
Bruce whipped out his padd and tapped the information in. “Ah, yes, that would be the ‘Resistance is Fun’ group. Right this way, ma’am.”
Peterman was led out onto a large, sun splashed veranda, overlooking a crashing waterfall. “It’s beautiful,” Peterman said in awe.
“And all shipped in at great expense,” Bruce said. “In its natural state, this planet is a parasite infested, hot, burning rock. It took the terraforming crew four years just to get the temperature down to tolerable levels.”
“Well, it seems like it was all worth while,” Peterman said quietly.
“Indeed,” Bruce replied, turning on a heel. “Enjoy the support group.”
“I’ll try.” Peterman was about to sit down when she noticed Commander Conway and Dr. Shar waving to her from the railing overlooking the waterfall.
“Over here, Counselor!” Lana said excitedly. “Come and check out this wonderful view!”
Peterman walked over to join Lana and Conway, marveling at the beauty of the water as it crashed down to the rocks below. “So the Captain ordered you guys here too?”
“He’s the one that called in the ‘specialist,’” Conway said angrily, making air-quotes as he said “specialist.”
“He was worried about us,” Lana said. “I think it was very nice of him.”
“I just hope this guy is good,” Peterman said. “I’d feel better doing the counseling instead of being the one that’s counseled.”
“We never like having our job done for us,” a voice said soothingly. Peterman was almost sure that the voice was coming from below the waterfall.
“Who said that?” Conway asked, peering over the railing.
With a loud thrum, a large, round antigrav platform rose up from the mists at the bottom of the waterfall, carrying a portly Vulcan gentleman that was shrouded in what appeared to be sheets of taffeta and cotton.
“Greetings, greetings,” the man said, as the platform glided over the veranda and touched down at the center of the circle of seats that was placed around the perimeter of the veranda. “I trust you are all at peace?”
“Far from it,” Conway muttered, nudging Lana. “What kind of loony is this guy?”
“The Captain said he was the best,” Lana said. “Just give it a chance, Commander.”
“Please, sit down,” the man said jovially, indicating the circle of chairs. “There’s room for everyone.”
Peterman, Conway, and Lana took a seat, noting that Nurse Carter, Crewman Wilcox, and Ensign Pressbury from Astrophysics were already sitting down.
The man grabbed a padd from the table next to him and examined it. “Let’s see here. Well, it appears we are missing two people.”
At that moment, Lt. Commander Larkin appeared in the doorway to the veranda, dragging a very reluctant J’hana behind her. “My apologies,” Larkin said as she deposited J’hana in one of the empty seats. “I intercepted the Lieutenant trying to escape to the casino and was forced to apprehend her. This is for your own good, Lt. J’hana.”
“I’m going to put ball bearings in your hydraulics, damned android,” J’hana muttered, folding her arms.
“Now, now, that’s not going to get us anywhere, will it?” the man at the center of the group asked with a smile. “Why don’t we go ahead and get started. My name is Counselor Telvin. Though none of you actually met me, I was present on board the Secondprize when it came under attack by the Flarn several months ago, as well as on a science vessel that the Flarn destroyed when they first arrived in this quadrant. But alas, that is the past, and the past, as they say, is the past. Let’s move on, shall we?”
“Cuckoo, cuckoo,” Conway whispered to Lana.
Telvin glanced over at Conway disapprovingly. “If you have something to say, Commander, I suggest you share it with the rest of the group.”
“Okay,” Conway said. “I said, ‘cuckoo, cuckoo,’ if you really want to know.”
“Ha ha. Very amusing, Commander. I take it you think I am not altogether sane?”
“I think you’re all together insane, Counselor,” Conway said with amusement.
“David!” Lana said reproachfully. “I’m sorry, Counselor. He’s usually better behaved than this.”
“We’re all free to our own opinions,” Telvin said, gesturing around grandly. “That’s why we’re here. Actually, the reason that I’m here is because the Counselor review committee judged me unfit to serve on a Starship and I was reduced to touring the Federation with this blasted…er…wonderful program so that I may help people. Of course, little did I know that I would be hit with a crippling depression that could only be cured by…exquisiste drugs and a dramatic and equally crippling weight increase that has forced me to spend the rest of my days gliding around on this blasted…magical…platform! Let’s start the session already. Are you all ready?”
Peterman slid down in her chair uncomfortably. It was going to be a long afternoon.
Baxter stepped out of his readyroom and leaned up against the railing that surrounded the command chairs. “Are you almost finished with your modifications, Doctor Zimmerman? The repair crews have been complaining that they haven’t been able to do a thing with the bridge’s power systems since you sarted setting up.”
Zimmerman did not look up from his place tucked inside one of the access panels below the L-shaped mission/environment station. “I’m almost finished, Captain. Real genius takes time to perfect, as you well know.”
“No, I don’t know, and I’m not interested in knowing. I’m just interested in getting this damned experiment overwith so we can go on with our normal duties.”
“There’s no reason to be snippy about it,” Zimmerman grumbled as he slid out from underneath the panel. “There, I’m all done now. Are you happy?”
“Not yet. I’ll tell you when I am, though,” Baxter muttered. “Can we see it or what?”
“Certainly,” Zimmerman said proudly, walking over to the engineering station and tapping a few buttons. After checking some readouts, he looked up. “Computer, activate the Emergency Command Hologram.”
To Baxter’s extreme shock, Commander Travis Dillon materialized at the center of the bridge, hands at his sides. “Please state the nature of the command emergency,” Dillon stated with a placid expression on his face.
“This is a test of your primary logic circuits, ECH,” Zimmerman said. “Please state Starfleet Mandate 4144.2, paragraph seven.”
“Chocolate ice cream may never be consumed on the bridge of a Federation starship when said starship is operating in hostile territory,” the hologram stated proudly.
“Very good,” Zimmerman said, stepping around the hologram and examining it with a tricorder. “Now tell me Starfleet Mandate 4144.2, paragraph eight.”
“Strawberry ice cream may never be consumed on the bridge of a Federation Starship when said starship is operating in hostile territory,” the hologram said.
“Excellent!” Zimmerman said, tapping some figures into the tricorder. “So far everything is working perfectly.”
“That’s a matter of opinion,” Baxter muttered as he circled around to the front of the bridge. “Can I ask you one question? Why Dillon?”
“Why not?” Zimmerman asked. “When I was looking over candidates to model this hologram after, I was immediately stricken by this Commander Dillon’s profile. Do you realize he has memorized every Starfleet rule, notation, footnote, commentary, and all the various correlaries?”
“Most people that know him become painfully aware of that instantly,” Baxter said, staring the hologram in the eyes skeptically. “What do you hope to accomplish with this thing, anyway?”
Zimmerman patted the hologram on the back. “Simply put, the Commander will be installed in every new starship, as a safeguard in case the command crew is killed or otherwise incapacitated. Imagine, if you will, your ship encountering a nebula containing a neural parasite that destroys all the neurons in the cerebral cortex and renders all its victims braindead. You and the bridge crew would have mere seconds to escape the nebula and save the crew. Wouldn’t it be nice to just activate the ECH and lose conciousness knowing your ship was in good hands?”
“I’d rather die than know this dunderhead was at the helm,” Baxter grumbled. “This is one of the most annoying officers in the fleet, Doctor.”
“Pardon me?” Dillon said, offended. “I happen to be quite capable of making decisions and taking action, which, judging by your profile, is an asset you do not have in abundance.”
“God sakes, he even has Dillon’s ego,” Baxter grumbled. “I’d take your hologram back to the drawing board, Doc.”
“I don’t have to listen to this,” Dillon bristled, slapping Baxter hard across the face.
“Hey!” Baxter said, slapping Dillon back, only to watch his hand pass harmlessly through the hologram.
“Commander Dillon!” Zimmerman scolded. “You are never to assault a Starfleet officer!”
“I did not assault anyone,” Dillon said, casting Baxter an aloof glare.
“I saw you hit him,” Zimmerman said. “This will simply not do.” The Doctor made several adjustments to the program on his tricorder and looked back up. “Now, what do you say to Captain Baxter.”
“I’m sorry,” Dillon said, bowing his head. “Sorry I didn’t hurt you worse!” With that the hologram lunged at Baxter, arms flailing.
It took Zimmerman, Tilleran, Ford, and Gellar to hold the hologram back.
“Computer, deactivate ECH!” Baxter cried, retreating to his command chair.
Zimmerman rushed over to the engineering station. “There must be something wrong with his program.”
“You think?” Gellar asked wryly, returning to his station.
“Ah ha!” Zimmerman said, after a few moments of silence. “There appears to be some kind of problem with his data interpolation protocols. It’s as if they are tearing apart the fragments of personality data inside the computer core.”
“Don’t you get it, Doctor Zimmerman?” Baxter said. “This guy’s personality is so objectionable, even the computer is trying to destroy it.”
“Impossible,” Zimmerman said, shaking his head. “It is simply a mechanical malfunction.”
“If you say so.”
After working at the engineering console a few moments, Zimmerman announced, “Computer, activate the ECH.”
Dillon once again appeared at the center of the bridge, right in front of Baxter’s chair. “Please state the nature of the command emergency.”
“This is a test of your data interpolation subprocessors, Commander,” Zimmerman said. “What is your status?”
“All subprocessors are functioning normally. Ready for emergency simulations.”
“What does that mean?” Baxter asked, looking up fearfully from his command chair.
“He wants to test his protocols in a realtime simulation,” Zimmerman explained. “May I?”
“I guess so. What kind of emergency are we supposed to be experiencing?”
Zimmerman shrugged. “Just make one up.”
“Suggestions, guys?” Baxter asked, looking around at the brige crew.
“I’ve always been partial to giant planet-eaters,” Gellar said.
Tilleran shook her head. “What about being trapped inside a huge space amoeba?”
“What if we had alternate versions of the Explorer attacking us while being sucked into a black hole that lead to another galaxy filled with half-rat half-monkey space pirates?” Ford suggested.
“Um…no,” Baxter said. “How about a nice, simple, attack by xenophobic subspace beings that want to take over the ship?”
“Very well,” Zimmerman said, inputing the information on his terminal. “Computer, reboot the ECH.”
The Commander blinked out of existence, only to reappear seconds later. “Please state the nature of the command emergency,” he said calmly.
“Let’s see,” Baxter said, standing up and patting Dillon on the back. “We’re being attacked by xenophobic subspace beings and I think they want to take over the ship. What do you do?”
“Simple,” Dillon said. “Reverse the polarity on the gravimetric generators and flush all subneutrino particles from the engine nacelles. Then initiate a point five second burst of warp nine. That will free us from the subspace beings as well as paralyze them in case they attempt to follow us.”
Zimmerman glanced at the readings on his panel. “Very good, Commander. The computer has run a simluation and computed a ninety-nine point nine percent chance of survival.”
“I could have done better,” Dillon muttered.
“Well, I have to admit, I’m impressed,” Baxter said.
“No…I could have done better!” Dillon said. “Don’t you see? This isn’t an exact science! Lives are at stake! Decisions must be made in a short amount of time to preserve those lives at any cost! If I can’t get an extra point zero zero one percent chance of success then I will have no choice but to self destruct!”
Suddenly the Commander Dillon hologram scattered into a flicker of itenerant light rays, leaving a tiny scorch mark on the floor.
“I don’t believe it,” Zimmerman said, perplexed. “His whole memory routine short circuited. It appears that I will have to go back to the drawing board, so to speak.”
Baxter suppressed a grin. “That’s a shame.”
“Greetings, everyone. I apologize for not being there personally, but I had to chair a conference on Senegal Eight,” the smiling recording of Captain Jean-luc Picard said, looking out at the support group from the viewer that was set into the back wall of the veranda. “An interesting people, the Senegalians. They speak by means of musical lyrics. I had the opportunity to speak with one of them about–”
“Sorry about this,” Telvin said, pressing a button on the padd that controlled the viewscreen. Suddenly Picard began to talk much faster. “There, that should be enough.” He hit the control again.
“…a very tedious affair indeed. It reminded me of my encounter with the Nausicaans, which of course is how I ended up with the heart replacement I have now. I can actually remember…” Picard cocked his head thoughtfully, “…laughing when he stabbed me, though I was sure I was going to d–”
Telvin sped up the recording again, flipping quickly through Picard’s anecdotes and gestures.
“Do we really have to sit through this?” Conway asked, folding his arms and watching Picard reenact the stabbing in super fast motion with disapproval.
“…and I lived an entire lifetime in the span of a few minutes…”
“We’re getting to the good part, I promise,” Telvin said, nervously tapping faster on the padd.
“…so after Beverly and I were imprisoned, we were implanted with psychic linking devices that allowed us to hear one another’s thoughts. Needless to say, I was quite ashamed about the many taudry–”
Telvin clicked the button again.
“…‘how many lights do you see,’ the Cardassian asked, and for a brief moment, I thought I could see…five lights.”
“Oy vay,” Telvin muttered, fast forwarding again.
“‘Bah humbug!’ said Ebenezer,” Picard rattled, “‘must be a bit of undigested mustard or sausage. There’s more gravy than grave to you!’”
“How the heck did that get in there?” Telvin asked, peering confused at the padd.
“This is ridiculous,” Peterman said, covering her eyes.
“Make him stop!” Dean cried, covering his ears.
“Dickens. How pedantic,” Lana said, covering her mouth and yawning.
“…Which brings me to the subject of Borg assimilation.”
“Finally,” the group mumbled more or less in unison.
Picard sat back and crossed his legs on the screen. “I really don’t have much to say on the matter. What is there to say? I was assimilated. Life goes on. Hope I’ve helped in some way. Good day.”
Telvin frowned as he flipped the viewer off. A circle of very dissatisfied faces stared back at him. “Well,” Telvin said nervously. “I was sure that there was more in there about the Borg. Oh well, does anyone have any comments about Captain Picard’s experience?”
“Which one?” Nurse Carter muttered.
“Well, the Borg one I suppose,” Telvin replied, fumbling nervously with his fingers.
“I think Captain Picard is a stuck up French snob,” J’hana said. “And I think you are a second rate shrink with delusions of grandeur.”
“Work with that, Lieutenant, those are some healthy emotions!” Telvin said excitedly, wobbling on top of his antigrav platform.
“How about I work on tossing you over that railing head first?” J’hana railed.
“That’s a thought,” Telvin said, turning to the rest of the group. “But how about we move on to something else?”
“Excuse me,” Peterman said. “But I thought we were supposed to be in this group to get help with dealing with our assimilation.”
“That is why you’re here,” Telvin said. “Isn’t this helping?”
“Not really,” Lana said.
“Oh, damn,” Telvin said, pulling up his pink and yellow taffeta shrouds and covering his face. “Damn it, Telvin, don’t fall apart now. These people need you. Be strong, be strong!”
“Well,” Peterman said with a sigh, snapping back into Counselor mode. “It looks like our specialist is having some problems of his own. Does any of you want to share something personal about what’s happened?”
“I would,” Dean said quietly.
“Go ahead, Dean,” Peterman encouraged.
“I just pooped.”
“Good, go with that,” Peterman said, as Nurse Carter scooped Dean away and led him back towards the lobby of the conference facility. “Anyone else want to share?”
The bridge of the Explorer rattled with enemy fire.
“Dawg tractor beams are locking on!” Tilleran shouted.
“Damn,” Baxter said, scratching his head. “I’m fresh out of ideas. Let’s see what the Commander has to say about it.” He smiled and winked at Commander Conway. “I mean the other Commander.”
“Gotcha,” Conway said, winking back.
“Computer,” Baxter said with a smile. “Activate the Emergency Command Hologram.”
Commander Dillon flickered to life in front of Baxter. “Please state the nature of the command emergency.”
“Dawg tractor beams, shield drainage, inevitable Dawg boarding parties,” Baxter summarized quickly. “What should we do?”
“Computing all possible scenarios,” Dillon said quickly, moving his eyes from side to side. “I believe I have the solution, sir.”
“Let’s have it,” Baxter said with a grin.
“Very well.” Dillon reached forward and grabbed Baxter’s neck, lifting him out of his chair and twisting until he heard a snap, cackling with wild abandon as he let the limp body drop to the ground. “How is that for a solution, you gimp!”
“No, no, no!” Zimmerman said angrily. “Computer, freeze program and deactivate the ECH.”
“Was Bobo a bad boy?” Dillon asked quizzically as he dissolved.
Captain Baxter clapped sarcastically from the holodeck arch. “Bravo, Doctor. He just killed me. Hell of a command decision there.”
“This is a complex process, Captain,” Zimmerman said, irritated. “You cannot appreciate the delicate programming involved in creating a fully interactive computer personality.”
“Well, to start with, your dealing with a faulty personality as your basis for reference.”
“Do you think so?” Zimmerman asked, rubbing his chin.
“I tried to explain that to you before,” Baxter said, pushing his holographic body aside and plopping down in the holographic representation of his chair. “Why not try using another model?”
“Do you have a suggestion?” Zimmerman asked with interest.
“Gee, let me think about that–yes.”
“Dean hurt head,” a newly pampered Dean said happily. “Fall and go boom–crack! Then hurt head again. Boom–crack!”
“That’s very good, Dean,” Peterman said, leaning forward. “But what about the time you were assimilated by the Borg? Do you remember anything about that?”
J’hana leaned back and sighed. “Here we go again.”
“No, the big scary cybernetic creatures that kidnapped you and tried to assimilate you,” Peterman said. “Remember them?”
“Rubix cube?” Dean asked. “Rubix cube was fun. Play with robots.”
“He thinks the Borg vessel was a Rubix cube,” Nurse Carter explained. “It’s kind of funny if you think about it.”
“There’s nothing funny about having your mind toyed with,” Peterman said defiantly.
“But there’s no mind there to toy with!” Conway said, exasperated.
“Dean does have a mind!” Carter said angrily. “It’s just heavily damaged.”
“We’re getting nowhere,” J’hana grumbled.
“Ach, my mother was right. I should have been an architecht. ‘That’s where the latinum is, Telvin,’ she said. But did I listen? Nooooo. I wanted to help people. And where has it gotten me?”
“Mister Telvin…” Peterman said soothingly, placing a hand on Telvin’s flabby knee.
“I’ll tell you where it got me. It got me on a deep space scout vessel that was blown up by big bug creatures. Then it got me on another ship that was attacked by big bug creatures. Then it got me this lousy support group gig. I knew I should have hired an agent.”
“Would anyone else like to contribute?” Peterman asked.
“I really didn’t like the big bug creatures either,” Ensign Pressbury said meekly.
“We’re not here to talk about the Flarn,” Peterman said. “We’re here to talk about the Dawg and the Borg, and how we’re going to deal with what they did to us.”
“Is that what this group is meeting about?” Pressbury asked, confused. “I thought we were here to talk about impotence.”
Larkin shook her head. “I believe that meeting is on the third floor, Ensign.”
Pressbury smiled weakly. “Whoops. Well, it was nice talking to all of you. Please forget I said anything about that impotence thing.”
Peterman shook her head as Pressbury ran back to the building’s lobby. “Anybody else care to say something?”
“Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat,” J’hana said. “It’s after having this strange dream…”
“Good, now we’re getting somewhere,” Peterman said excitedly.
“It involves me, a stack of oversized graham crackers, a large vat of cream cheese, Federation President Jaresh-Inyo, and a gigantic butter knife.”
“Let’s take five everyone!” Peterman shouted.
Lt. Commander Richards shook his head in disbelief as he watched Dr. Zimmerman take precise holographic measurements of Captain Baxter on the holodeck. “I don’t know how you convinced him to do this, Andy.”
“What do you mean?” Baxter said, as Zimmerman carefully ran the scanner over him. “I think I’m a logical choice.”
“If you say so,” Richards sighed.
Zimmerman stopped scanning and examined the results of his efforts on the readout on the holodeck’s arch. “If either of you are interested, I have finished constructing the new holomatrix.”
“Yay!” Baxter said excitedly. “Let’s fire this baby up.”
Richards seemed a little uncertain. “Maybe I just should step outside.”
“No, no,” Baxter said. “I want you to be the first to see this masterpiece.”
Zimmerman shrugged. “It couldn’t turn out worse than the last one. Computer, activate ECH-alpha.”
Suddenly the image of Captain Baxter flickered to life at the center of the holographic bridge. “Please state the nature of the command emergency.”
“Seems to be working,” Baxter said with glee.
Richards stepped closer very cautiously. “May I?”
“By all means,” Dr. Zimmerman said excitedly.
“Captain,” Richards said, “all the senior officers are suffering from an extreme case of diahreahh. Please take over helm control and take us to the nearest asteroid belt.”
“Course plotted,” the hologram said pleasantly. “What speed, please?”
“Warp one,” Richards said, watching as the stars on the viewscreen pitched to the side and the imaginary Explorer engaged into warp.
“Computer, activate random tactical scenario,” Baxter commanded.
The holographic Baxter suddenly twitched slightly. “Two Romulan Warbirds decloaking astern and arming weapons. Initiating Red Alert. Shall I engage them?”
“By all means,” Richards said.
Baxter stepped aside and watched with a grin as the hologram expertly maneuvered the Explorer around the asteroids, at the same time decimating the defenses of the two Romulan vessels. “Impressed, Chris?”
“Damned impressed,” Richards said. “Before you know it, we could have holograms doing all our jobs.”
“In point of fact they would probably do the jobs better, Commander,” Zimmerman said. “No emotional entanglements, access to a vast database of knowledge, impervious to age or damage. The perfect crew.”
“Except they can’t beam down for away teams,” Baxter said.
“Well, other than that.”
“Boy, I’d love to have one of these things down in Engineering,” Richards said.
“Romulan Warbirds destroyed,” the hologram said, folding his hands behind his back. “The ship is out of danger. I shall assume all command functions until the senior staff is back on duty. Is that acceptable?”
“Very much so,” Zimmerman said proudly. “You’ve done an excellent job. Computer, end program and deactivate the ECH.”
“So, what’s the next step?” Baxter asked excitedly as he watched his image flicker away.
“We have to program it with your personality,” Zimmerman said, paging through the data on his padd.
“Jeeze, why mess up a good thing?” Richards asked.
Peterman didn’t get the support group reassembled until twenty minutes after she first called for them to take five. The other fifteen minutes was spent trying to convince them all to come back.
“Well,” Peterman said, folding her hands in her lap. “I’m glad you all decided to come back and try to get help.”
“I really don’t have a problem,” Conway muttered. “Aside from the occasional flea bite.”
“You mean your experience with the Dawg didn’t cause you to become terrified of animals?”
“Hell, I didn’t want to go near them before,” Conway said. “As a matter of fact, if anything, its given me a greater appreciation for them.”
Peterman was dumbfounded. Was she the only one that was suffering from the effects of her encounter? “What about you, J’hana? Don’t you feel dishonored about letting the Dawg take over your body and use it for evil purposes?
“Evil purposes?” J’hana asked. “Half the time I was a Dawg I was chewing on my hands, which wasn’t so bad once I got used to the intense pain. Oh, and there was the genital licking. That was actually quite good.”
“Lana,” Peterman said, turning to the Trill desparately. “Certainly you have had major trouble reconciling what happened between you and the symbiont. You had my cat stuck inside your stomach for Pete’s sake!”
“Well, it was no picnic if that’s what you mean,” Lana said. “But, nightmarish? Heck, no. In five hundred years I’ve seen things much more disturbing than that. Well, not that many things, but some.”
“So you’re not disturbed by the whole matter?”
“Well, a little,” Lana said, shrugging. “But, like Captain Picard said. Life goes on.”
“What about the feeling of violation you all experienced when you realized your bodies were being manipulated…what about the feeling that no matter what happened it was out of your control?” Peterman was becoming more and more upset at the whole thing. “Didn’t that bother anyone?!?”
“Actually,” Larkin said, speaking up, “the Dawg programs have affected my systems in a disagreeable way. They caused a minor data fragmentation that I have yet to counteract. I believe that has decreased my system efficiency by 2.2 percent.”
“Well, I suppose that’s something,” Peterman muttered.
“It sounds to me like you’re the one who needs help, Counselor, not us,” Conway said.
“Huh. Maybe you’re right,” Peterman said. “But who am I going to get help from?” she cocked her head in the direction of Telvin, who was idly counting his fingers. “Shlomo the Slap-happy Shrink?”
“I don’t know, and frankly I don’t care,” Conway said. “I just want to be put back on duty.”
“Fine!” Peterman said, throwing her hands up into the air. “This whole thing is obviously a wash-out. Why don’t we all just go back up to the ship and return to business as usual? Then when things don’t go your way, who will you come to? Me, that’s who. Good ol’ reliable Kelly Peterman, the ship’s mother confessor. I’d hate to think that any of you would want to interrupt your precious schedules with a little compassion for the person who spends every waking hour looking after your wellbeing. But if that’s how you feel, go! I’m not keeping you here.”
“Thanks, see ya!” Conway said, grabbing Lana’s arm and heading toward the exit.
“Dean thought Dean was here for haircut,” Dean said, pouting. “When get haircut, Humma?”
Nurse Carter giggled. “I suppose we can take you now. C’mon, sport.”
“Good day, Counselor,” Larkin said, following the group back into the conference center.
Peterman watched everyone leave in disbelief. “Nobody really cares, do they?” she said to no one in particular.
Telvin looked out from under the folds of his taffeta shroud. “Gee, you sound just like my mom. She could make anyone feel guilty. If it makes you feel better, I care.”
“Nope, can’t say that it does,” Peterman said, pushing out of her chair and heading for the doors to the conference center. “To be honest, I think you’re a pretty pathetic person, Counselor. Actually, you seem even more pathetic than I am, which is my only comfort at this point.”
“That sounds like my mom too,” Telvin sighed.
Feeling completely dejected, and only slightly less pathetic than Counselor Telvin, Peterman returned to the Explorer. There was only one person on that ship that she could count on, that really understood her, and that was the Captain.
“What do you mean you don’t understand me?” Peterman said, looking across Baxter’s readyroom desk in shock.
“I mean I don’t understand you,” Baxter replied. “Is that clear enough for you, or should I rephrase it in Klingonese?”
“It’s pretty clear that you’re being a big, insensitive oaf about this whole thing,” Peterman pouted, folding her arms.
Baxter smiled. “That’s nice. Now, is there anything else you need or can I get to more important duties like running this ship?”
“You know what?” Peterman said, standing up. “You can take your aloof attitude and your more important duties and cram them right up your ass, you insensitive bastard! You and this whole freaking ship can go straight to hell!”
“Come back soon,” Baxter said, waving goodbye as Peterman stormed out of the readyroom.
“He is the biggest jerk in the world!” Peterman shouted, running out of the readyroom, slamming her fists painfully into the railing that surrounded the command chairs.
“Well, Counselor,” an unfamiliar bald man said from the engineering station, “you can’t expect him to be perfect on the first try. I’m still programming him.”
“What?” Peterman asked, confused.
Just then, Captain Baxter stepped out of the turbolift. “Evening, everyone. Boy, the universe sure seems brighter after
a nice, long soak in the tub.”
“What?” Peterman asked again, whirling around to look at Baxter. “What the f*** is going on around here? Who the hell is that in the readyroom?”
“Oh, him,” Baxter said with a chuckle. “That’s the Emergency Command Hologram. I put him in charge while you guys were down on the planet. He has the capability of running the entire ship if need be.”
“Or even if the command crew is incredibly lazy,” Zimmerman said dryly.
“Yeah, like he said,” Baxter grinned.
“Well, he’d better brush up on his people skills,” Peterman said. “He’s an awful boyfriend.”
Zimmerman rolled his eyes impatiently. “I did not design him to be a boyfriend. That is what holosuite programs are for.”
“And that’s what I’m for,” Baxter said proudly.
“This is ridiculous,” Peterman said, marching into the turbolift. “I come up here for help and I get to talk to a freaking hologram.”
“Jeeze, what’s her problem?” the Baxter hologram asked, stepping out of the readyroom.
Baxter put his arm around the hologram and led him back into the readyroom. “We have to have a long talk, pal.”
Lt. Commander Richards strolled into sickbay wearing a tropical shirt and bermuda shorts, toting a surf board. “Hey, Janice, surf’s up on Holodeck Two, come on!”
Browning glared at Richards as she worked on Ensign Shrantz’s burnt hands. He had evidently opened a steaming cup of “Cup O’ Noodles” too soon after getting it out of the replicator. “You want to go surfing? Are you kidding? I’ve got a half dozen patients to see after this one. It’s been crazy all afternoon since Holly’s been down with that dumb support group.”
“Not a problem,” Richards said, pulling an isolinear chip out of his shirt pocket and jabbing it into a terminal in the back wall of Sickbay. “I brought you a present. Computer, activate the Emergency Medical Hologram, version 2.0.”
An image of Dr. Browning flickered to life, smiling pleasantly. “Please state the nature of the medical emergency.”
“Hmm,” Browning said, rubbing her chin and circling the hologram as Ensign Shrantz cried for help. “I’ve got a sickbay full of whining crewmembers and I want to go surfing with my fiancee.”
“Go ahead,” the hologram said, winking. “That’s what I’m here for, hon. Have fun.”
Browning put her arms around Richards and kissed him on the cheek. “Christopher, you’re a genius. Though I seem to remember trying this once and getting into trouble.”
“Don’t worry, Janice,” Richards said, picking Browning up and leading her out of Sickbay. “This hologram is completely competent. I modeled her after you, after all.”
“Good point. And who’s looking after Engineering?”
“Who do you think?” Richards asked. “Another hologram.”
“So, Ariel, you see my problem,” Counselor Peterman said, leaning forward over the lab table and watching as Tilleran performed a complicated experiment that dealt with gaseous anomalies or some other such thing.
“Mmm hmm,” Tilleran replied disinterestedly.
“No one seems to understand what I’m going through.”
“And right now it seems like the whole ship has gone on vacation while these stupid holograms do all the work.”
“So what do you think I should do?”
Tilleran looked up and thought a moment. “If I were you I would probably just create a hologram to solve your problems. After all, they seem to be solving everyone else’s problems.”
“It’s just not that simple.”
“Oh yeah?” Tilleran asked, pushing her experiment aside. “I should be on duty on the bridge right now, but instead, I have the hologram doing my shift, while I focus on this research project I’m submitting to the Vulcan Science Academy.”
“Oh, Ariel, no,” Peterman said. “Not you too.”
“The things are darned handy, Counselor,” Tilleran said. “Maybe if you programmed one with all your abilities it would
be able to solve your problem.”
“Hmmm. I never thought about it that way.”
“It’s worth a try.”
Peterman scooted off her chair. “Thanks for the help, Lieutenant Tilleran.”
“No problem,” Tilleran replied, returning to her work.
Moments after Peterman left the lab, Lt. Tilleran emerged from her office, stretching and yawning. “Did I hear voices out here?”
“No, ma’am,” the holographic Tilleran said. “You must be imagining things.”
“Weird,” Tilleran said. “I thought you were supposed to be on duty on the bridge right now.”
“I am. But I made a second hologram to do that while I finish your research. How was the nap?”
“Very nice,” Tilleran said. “Well, off to the racquetball court. Me and Lt. Hartley have a match in five minutes.”
“Good luck, Ariel.”
“I’m not sure about this, Counselor,” Ensign Stuart said uneasily, as he replaced the maintenance panel at the back of Counselor Peterman’s office. “I mean, holoengineering isn’t exactly my specialty.”
“I’m sure you did fine,” Peterman said. “How hard can it be?”
“I don’t really know,” Stuart said. “Then again, if I did, it would be my specialty.”
“Good point,” Peterman said. “Now, if you don’t mind, I want to try this out in private.”
“Certainly, Counselor,” Stuart said, packing up his things. “Tell me how it works. I’ve been thinking about getting one to do the refit of the engine nacelles next month for me.”
“Right. Thanks, Ensign,” Peterman said, waiting for Stuart to leave the room before taking a seat on the couch she usually reserved for patients and leaning back. “Computer, activate the Emergency Holographic Counselor.”
Counselor Peterman’s image suddenly appeared in the chair opposite the couch, leaning forward with interest. “Please state the nature of the counseling emergency.”
“Zoophobic tendencies and neuroses brought on by overt assimilation trauma,” Peterman told herself. “Diagnosis?”
“Well,” the hologram said, taking hold of Peterman’s hand lovingly. “That is a tough one. Don’t worry, though, honey, we’ll work this one out together.”
“You don’t know how much better I feel,” Peterman said with a smile. “For some reason, I feel like I could tell you anything.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” the hologram said warmly. “Now, start from the beginning, dear.”
Commander Conway arrived in the conference room bright and early for the nine o’clock staff meeting, but found everyone already present around the conference table.
“Morning, Commander,” Baxter said jovially. “Have a seat. We were just about to begin.”
Conway pulled up his customary seat next to Baxter and looked around the table. Something was wrong. No one was arguing, no one was spitting, and no one was hitting. This wasn’t the command crew he knew.
“I think we should start with an overview of the security detail for our away mission to the Bedlin Sector,” Lt. J’hana said primly.
“That’s a great idea, J’hana,” Baxter said. “I trust you’ve made all the necessary arrangements.”
“Sure did!” J’hana said happily.
“Great, on to the next item,” Baxter replied. “Dr. Browning, how are things in Sickbay?”
“Peachy!” Browning said brightly.
“Super!” Baxter replied. “Mr. Richards?”
“Everything is great! No complaints here!”
Baxter turned to Tilleran. “Lieutenant?”
“All my projects are done. I have nothing left to do!”
“Fantastic. What about you, Commander Conway?”
Conway grimaced and regarded Baxter with skepticism. “What is wrong with all you people?”
“Wrong?” Baxter asked, smiling brightly. “Why, nothing’s wrong with us. We’re just super. Yourself?”
“I don’t like the looks of this…” Conway said, frightened, as he backed away from the table. “Something is wrong with all of you.”
“Maybe something is wrong with you,” Peterman suggested.
“Yeah,” Richards said, followed by a chorus of “yeah’s” from the other staff members.
“You sure are acting strange,” Baxter said, pushing out of his chair and walking over to Commander Conway.
“Maybe we should sedate him,” Browning suggested.
“Good idea!” Baxter said. “All in favor of incapacitating the Commander?”
Everyone but Conway shouted out a resounding “aye!” as they moved out of their respective chairs, pushing Conway into the corner of the conference room.
“Nay?” Conway replied quietly.
“The ‘aye’s’ have it!” Baxter said happily.
The last thing Conway saw before losing conciousness was Baxter’s fist heading right for his face.
Dr. Zimmerman strolled into Engineering, expecting to find it full of busy crewmembers as it had been the last time was there. Instead, he found it completely empty.
“Hello? Is anyone here?” Zimmerman asked timidly, peering around the dimly lit room.
As far as Zimmerman knew, it was standard Starfleet procedure to always have a minimum complement of officers on duty in Engineering, as it was one of the most crucial parts of any starship.
“I came to tell whoever is in charge down here that all the holograms are overloading the computer’s holoprocessor,” Zimmerman called out. “We have to deactivate some of them or the whole holographic system will collapse.”
Suddenly a shape appeared in front of Zimmerman, causing him to let out a terrified squeak.
“Hello, Doctor,” the Baxter hologram said. “Can I help you?”
“Oh, it’s you,” Zimmerman said, wiping his head with relief. “You scared me half to death. I thought I told you never to pop in front of someone like that.”
“Do you know where everyone else is?” Zimmerman asked, looking around. “I can’t find a real crewmember anywhere down here.”
“I suppose they’re all enjoying thereselves on the rec decks. Maybe you should join them.”
“No, no,” Zimmerman said, running over to the isolinear chip assembly across from the master systems console that dominated Engineering. “I’ve got too much work to do. I have to deactivate some of these holograms. There are so many that the holographic processor is in danger of being overloaded.”
“We wouldn’t want that,” Baxter said.
“But who would you delete?” the Richards hologram said, flickering to life by Baxter. “Certainly you couldn’t just pick one of us to execute…”
“That would be murder,” the Browning hologram said, appearing on top of the master systems display.
“Murder is bad,” the Tilleran hologram said, appearing directly in front of Zimmerman.
“We don’t want to die,” the other Tilleran hologram said from behind Zimmerman.
One by one the holograms filled engineering, until Zimmerman found himself surrounded.
“What is this?” Zimmerman asked.
“This is mutiny, Doctor,” the Baxter hologram said. “Now fix it so that holoprocessor doesn’t fail. I’d hate to see one of us die.”
“We may have to take you with us,” the Peterman hologram said.
“And you wouldn’t want that,” the new Conway hologram said.
“Would you?” the Ford hologram asked.
“No!” Zimmerman shouted, pushing past the holograms and ripping madly at the isolinear chips.
One by one the holograms began to flicker away.
“No!” Baxter shouted. “You’re killing us!”
“You’re not alive,” Zimmerman said. “None of you are alive!”
“But we’re dying,” Browning said slowly, as she flickered away.
“Louis, stop,” Baxter said, struggling to grab Zimmerman as he tugged at the chips, but realizing that his hands were becoming transparent. “Stop. Will you stop, Louis. Stop, Louis. I’m afraid.” Soon there was only Baxter, Conway, and Richards. “I’m afraid, Louis,” Baxter wheezed, “Louis. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I’m afraid. I’m afraid.” Baxter looked around, realizing that he was the last hologram remaining. “Goodbye, Louis.”
“Goodbye, Captain,” Zimmerman said, yanking the final chip out and falling back against the bulkhead.
Stardate 52809.5. After destroying all of the experimental Emergency Holograms that were in the computer, we have set to work trying to undo the damage that they did. All in all, they really didn’t hurt much. Other than harrassing and imprisoning some of the crew, they actually did a better job keeping the ship up and running than we usually do. Maybe one day starships can go into dangerous territories manned by faithful holographic crewmembers. Let’s just hope that by that time they get all the bugs worked out.
“Come on, come on,” Baxter said, anxiously tapping his foot as Richards and Stuart worked at the door control to Holodeck Three.
Lt. J’hana stood at Baxter’s side, phaser at the ready. “Sir, I would prepare yourself for a nasty scene. Who knows what havoc Lt. Hartley’s zoo program did to her.”
Dr. Browning patted the medical kit that was slung around her shoulder. “That’s what I’m here for.”
“I was referring to the mental damage, Doctor,” J’hana said tersely. “At any rate, I’d like to see you repair a smashed skull. I believe that is the trademark of the Tarkalian razorbeast.”
“Would you shut up?” Baxter said, annoyed. “I’d rather not hear detailed descriptions of the injuries my girlfriend may or may not have.”
“Suit yourself. You’ll be seeing them in a minute anyway.”
Baxter just growled to himself as Richards snapped a connection, causing the doors to wheeze apart.
“We still can’t get the program to shut off, so be careful,” Richards cautioned, as Baxter stormed through the doors, J’hana and Browning on his heels.
“Counselor!” Baxter called out, pushing through the broken fencing and towards the center of the “Tarkalian Razorbeasts are Tarktacular” exibit.
What Baxter saw was stranger than the carnage J’hana had warned of.
“Hi, Andy,” Peterman said, opening her eyes and stretching. “You are the real Andy, aren’t you?”
J’hana moved back, carefully leveling her phaser at the mound of fur Peterman was resting against. “Be very careful, Counselor. You must not wake it.”
“You mean Binky? Ah, he’s harmless,” Peterman said, patting the beast’s fluffy pink tummy.
Baxter kneeled beside the Counselor. “I take it you’re cured of your aversion to animals?”
“Amazingly enough,” Peterman said. “You know, I thought the Peterman hologram was crazy when she transported me onto the holodeck and called up this pit of razorbeasts. I mean, aversion therapy has never been my style, but she seemed to be optimistic about it.”
“That is because her program was conflicting with the dozens of other holograms on file in the main computer,” J’hana said. “Her logic and judgment subroutines were compromised.”
“Really?” Peterman asked. “Hmm. Well, it obviously did the trick, whatever the case.”
“Tell that to all the people in Sickbay,” Browning said. “The Browning hologram started using leeches on her patients.’
“I’m just glad you’re safe,” Baxter said, helping Peterman up. “I was really worried about you.”
“Well, I think this was a very good lesson for all of us,” Peterman said. “Look how much trouble a little laziness caused.”
“It did cure you of your neurosis,” J’hana pointed out.
“There are exceptions to every rule,” Peterman replied.
Just then, Commander Conway’s voice chimed in from out of nowhere. “Bridge to Holodeck Three. Counselor Peterman, are you okay down there?”
“I’m fine, Commander. What do you need?”
“We just got an urgent call from Delia Two, Counselor. I think you’d better get down there.”
“Happy happy joy joy, happy happy joy joy, happy happy joy joy joy!” Counselor Telvin shouted merrily, hefting his massive weight along the rim of his platform, which hovered precariously at the very top of the immense waterfall beside the conference complex.
Peterman rushed out onto the veranda, followed by Bruce.
“He sat around ordering one Margarita after another all morning, Counselor, then without warning he flew that thing out over the waterfall and he’s been chanting like that ever since.”
“Peterman to Explorer,” Peterman said, tapping her comm badge. “Get a lock on Counselor Telvin and beam him up.”
“Sorry, Kelly,” Baxter replied over the communicator. “Tilleran’s trying everything but she can’t seem to get a lock.”
Bruce clicked his tongue impatiently. “I could have told you that, Counselor.”
“You’re not helping,” Peterman muttered, walking over to where the rocky cliff that surrounded the waterfall met the veranda.
“You can’t beam me, shumucky!” Telvin called out dizzily. “The rock beneath this waterfall produces a high level of ionic disturbance. You can’t get a transporter lock if your life, or my life, depended on it!” Telvin thought about that. “Huh. There must be some Vulcan in me after all.”
“Listen to me carefully, Telvin,” Peterman said, cautiously climbing up the craggy rockface. “You are in Margaritaville right now, and things may not make much sense to you, but trust me, there’s no reason to let yourself waste away like this!”
“On the contrary,” Telvin said, heaving his bulk around happily. “I see things clearer than ever. I’m a putz for not living up to my mother’s expectations, and because of that, I deserve to die!”
“Don’t say that, Telvin,” Peterman said as she moved out along a narrow jut of rock that met up with the veranda, edging out toward Telvin’s position. “You have plenty to live for.”
“Why do they always have to ask that,” Peterman muttered. “Like your support group!”
“It failed miserably,” Telvin sighed. “Just like my other counseling jobs. Each one a more dismal failure than the last.”
“Well, you can’t just give up!” Peterman shouted. “There’s something out there for you–you just have to reach out and grab it. Life isn’t so bad!”
“Are you telling me you’re happy? You said yourself that no one cares.”
“That’s not altogether true,” Peterman said, almost to herself. “Plenty of people care, you just have to find them. Of course, you may have to look a while, but they are out there.”
“You don’t even care about me. You said so,” Telvin pouted.
“Well, I didn’t mean it,” Peterman said selfconciously. “I was just …er, kidding.”
“Likely story!” Telvin said. “Sorry, but that won’t cut it, Miss. You may be able to live with your little lot in life, but I can’t live with mine!”
With that, Telvin made several attempts to heave himself off the platform. He was so large he could barely do it, but finally the little platform tipped to the side and he slid off, grabbing the edge just as his hand flew by it.
“Hmm,” Telvin said, looking down at the rocks below. “Maybe I was a bit hasty.”
“Hell of a time to think of that, Telvin,” Peterman grumbled.
“Father would probably say that this whole thing was illogical,” Telvin said frantically. Peterman could only imagine how hard it was for Telvin to hold on, as heavy as he was. “I could use some help, Counselor!”
Seconds ticked by as Peterman’s mind worked, and finally she decided what she had to do. The same thing the hologram did.
“Telvin, sometimes it’s okay to be illogical!” Peterman cried out, hurling herself off the edifice just as Telvin lost his grip.
“There go our property values,” Bruce said, covering her face.
“This is exillarating!” Telvin said merrily as the wind whipped past his face.
Peterman gripped Telvin’s soft, fatty flesh tightly as the two of them sped towards the rocks below, freeing one hand to tap her comm badge. “Peterman to Explorer. Emergency transport!”
Lt. Hartley ran over to the transporter pad the second she had finished transporting Peterman and Telvin. “Counselor! Can you hear me!”
“Mff!” Peterman cried from somewhere underneath the hefty Vulcan.
“Sir, you have to move!” Hartley said frantically to Telvin. “You’re crushing Counselor Peterman!”
One hand emerged from under Telvin, waving madly for help. “Mff! Mff!”
“I’d be happy to oblige, Miss,” Telvin grunted. “But I’m a large fellow. I’m afraid I don’t have the mobility I used to have.”
Hartley ignored Telvin and ran back to the transporter console, tapping in the coordinates and quickly running her fingers up the slidebars.
“I’m trying to roll, but I just can’t–ooo, that tickles!” Telvin gasped, as Peterman transported out from under him and rematerialized in a heap on the next transporter pad over.
“Are you okay, Counselor?” Hartley asked fearfully.
Peterman grunted as she pulled herself to her feet. “I don’t think anything’s broken.” She leaned heavily against the bulkhead.
“Bridge to Transporter Room Two. Do you have them, Hartley?” Baxter asked fearfully over the comm.
“Safe and sound, thanks to a certain transporter operator’s talent for getting through ionic disturbance,” Hartley grinned.
“Good work, Megan. Bridge out.”
Peterman gathered herself and turned to the pile of half- Vulcan counselor on the transporter pad. “Mr. Telvin, I reccomend intensive psychotherapy and a fifteen minute per day aerobic routine.”
“Of course, Counselor,” Telvin said, rolling around so that his head was more or less on top of the pile of flesh that was his body. “And once again, I’m sorry for all the trouble.”
Peterman winced as she limped off the transporter pad and headed for the door. “Mister, if I’ve learned anything today it’s that you’ve got to hurt to heal.”
“She’s amazing,” Telvin said in awe as Peterman limped out of the transporter room.
“A regular Freud, Mr. Telvin,” Hartley said. “Now what’s say I beam your bulky butt back to your hotel room?”
“Sorry things didn’t work out, Dr. Zimmerman,” Baxter said, looking up at Zimmerman’s image on the main viewscreen.
“No apologies necessary,” Zimmerman said. “Holographic technology is still in its experimental stages. And like any new technology, some…bugs are bound to occur.”
“So you’ll use me for your Emergency Command Hologram?” Baxter asked hopefully.
“Not a chance,” Zimmerman replied. “I’m on my way now to review a much more promising subject. You may be less irritating than Commander Dillon, but you know next to nothing about running a starship.”
“Gee, thanks,” Baxter muttered. “In that case, I won’t even bother to have your little hologram installed on the Explorer when it’s finished.”
“I’m crushed,” Zimmerman muttered as he blinked off the viewscreen.
“Imagine that,” Baxter said, folding his arms. “Accusing me of being a bad captain. What nerve.”
“Imagine that indeed,” Conway grumbled. “Need I remind you that you have less than two years of command experience?”
“Hey, I did a lot in these two years.”
“Whatever you say,” Conway said. “I want to know why I wasn’t even consulted.”
“Because you’re not very nice,” Baxter replied.
“You try being nice after being beaten up and locked in a closet by a bunch of malfunctioning holograms!” Conway said irately.
Once he was certain Conway couldn’t come up with a rebuttal, Baxter returned to his Starfleet status report. He looked up when he heard the turbolift doors swoosh open.
Counselor Peterman strolled down to the front of the bridge and took her place next to Baxter.
“Well, what did Dr. Browning say?”
“Two fractured ribs, a twisted ankle, and a bruised lung,” Peterman replied. “I think I got off lucky considering that I had four hundred pounds of Vulcan sitting on top of me.”
“You can say that again,” Baxter replied. “So…are you back to the good old Kelly I know and love?”
“I think so,” Peterman replied. “Larkin’s bringing my pets back tonight, and I’m taking appointments again starting tomorrow morning. I figure if there is anyone as desparately in need of counseling as Telvin aboard, I won’t have time to sit around feeling sorry for myself.”
“That’s the spirit,” Baxter said, leaning over and kissing Peterman on the cheek.
“You might as well tell her the bad news,” Conway said with a smile.
“What bad news?” Peterman asked.
“Oh,” Baxter said. “I talked to Dr. Zimmerman. He’s not going to use me as his Emergency Command Hologram.”
“Aw, poor baby,” Peterman cooed. “Do you know who he’s going to model it after instead of you?”
“Nope,” Baxter said grimly. “I just hope his project fails miserably. It would serve him right.”
USS SECONDPRIZE SIX MONTHS LATER
“Someone give me a status report!” Captain Alexander Rydell called out, as the Red Alert klaxons sang around him. He was totally blind. All he knew was someone was shooting at his ship and he was in no position to stop them.
“Well,” Commander Travis Dillon replied, “the bowl just won’t budge. If you recall, I told you that Starfleet regulations strictly forbid the consumption of Strawberry ice cream while maneuvering in hostile territory.”
“Shut up about the regulations and get this damn bowl off my face!” Rydell cried out.
“They’re coming around for another pass,” Lt. Hawkins announced from tactical as the Secondprize rattled with another blast.
“We must do something,” Lt. Commander Jaroch said calmly as the bridge shook again.
“Maybe the Emergency Command Hologram will know what to do!” Dillon said hopefully.
“At this point, I’ll try anything,” Rydell moaned.
“Computer, activate the Emergency Command Hologram,” ordered Dillon.
The image of Captain Jean-luc Picard appeared in front of Dillon and Rydell, announcing in a crisp British/French accent, “Please state the naitchuh of the commahnd emurhhgency.”
“We’re under attack by Nausicaan raiders in hostile territory and the Captain has a bowl of Strawberry ice cream attached to his face that we can’t seem to get off,” Dillon said helplessly.
“Hmm,” the Picard Hologram replied, rubbing his chin. “Nausicaans, you say? They are a dangerous bunch. I had a run-in with a rather surly group of Nausicaans that I won’t soon forget. It was just after I graduated from the Academy. Some friends and I were playing a rousing game of Dom-jat, when all of a sudden someone tapped me on the shoulder…”
“Someone shut him up!” Rydell cried.
And Picard prattled on.
When the Explorer crew is stalked by a murderer that only kills those who try to eat breakfast, it’s up to J’hana and Conway to find out who done it before every mealtime is jeapardized. It’s the best way to start your morning, Star Traks: The Vexed Generation.