Another Piece of the Action by John Erik Ege - HTML preview
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.
STAR TREK:TNG “Another Piece of the Action” by John Erik Ege
EXPERIMENTAL HOME PUBLISHING
“Another Piece of the Action” edition 4, Nov 30th 2008 (edition 3, September 29th 2007, second edition was June 2007, and the first edition Feb 2006)
All Rights Reserved.
Licensing for this is pending and can only be considered fan fiction at this time. The author agrees to share this edition for the sake of editing purposes with the understanding that Paramount, the official owners of Star Trek related products, may revoke the sharing privilege. Comments and corrections can be directed to the author for story refinement.Author contact info:
John Erik Ege
214 907 4070
For this edition I would like to thank Mike Eden and Doctor Porter for their assistance in editing, providing comments, and all our dialogues of all things Trek. Their support, compliments, and criticism have helped me to stay focus on this project.
with love, always
“Another Piece of the Action” is book two in a completed trilogy. Editing versions of book one, “A Touch of Greatness,” book three- “Both Hands Full,” and book four- “Necessary Evil,” may be attained by contacting the author.
Tammas Parkin Arblaster-Garcia closed his eyes. He noted the time on his chronometer, provided by his neural implant, and ran some quick calculations. Admiral Leonard H McCoy would be dead just over seven hours now, which meant he had a window of about thirty more minutes in which he could still use the Kelvan technology to resuscitate and restore him to perfect health. The Kelvan ship was in the hangar bay and the control interface he required was in lock down. The technology was basically a computer console woven into a cloth bracelet. The bracelet’s fabric was a metallic-gold color which highlighted the only other noticeable feature, the silver button. When touched, the button became a conductor of a sort, connecting the computer to the nerves in the fingertip and from there establishing a direct connection to the brain of the user. An intellectual component was necessary to access the computer, a threshold below which one couldn’t access it at all. The minimum intellectual component might establish a connection but that person risked permanent brain damage. The person with sufficient intellectual capacity could access the computer and do miracles. Garcia met and exceeded this attribute, and it was not due to genetic manipulation, good luck, good nutrition, or even a proper education. He was Kelvan, not by birth, but by design. He was descendant from humans who were once Kelvan, and in an attempt to make him more Kelvan than human his neural structure had been modified. The neural map for the Kelvan physiology had been impressed on top of his human neural structure over a period of time starting from conception and ending five years after he was born in a series of procedures, each one building on the previous session’s work.
The procedures hadn’t been perfect, but it had sufficiently changed his psyche so that he could, through the use of Kelvan technology similar to a transporter, be converted into a Kelvan. The final test was actually transforming him into a Kelvan. Not only had he survived in Kelvan form, but he had full control over his Kelvan physiology. Converting a non-modified human into Kelvan form was a death sentence. The most obvious benefit of his being Kelvan was that he could use Kelvan technology. Wishes could instantly be manifested like magic. To the untrained eye it might seem as if a telepathic connection to the computer had been made and the will of the user was simply carried out.
But it was neither miracle nor magic. It was science. Science driven by pure intellect. In this particular instance Garcia’s brain would link to the computer in the bracelet,and then that computer was connected to the main computer on board the Kelvan ship, currently stowed on Hangar Deck 4. Information would swirl virtually around him, providing him with thousands of options, and then, at the push
of that one button, his choice would be instantly transformed into work. And the work Garcia wanted done was McCoy brought back to the living. An easy enough task, from the Kelvan perspective. No more difficult than dehydrating an organic creature to its essential ingredients and then the following reconstitution of the same entity. The creature never missed a beat or realized that anything had happened to it. To save McCoy all Garcia had to do was get the wrist control mechanism that was currently under lock and key and put it on. No, he didn’t even have to put it on. All he had to do was touch the button, allow his mind to interface with the Kelvan computer system, tell it to repair McCoy, and then press the button. It would be easier than making a wish and blowing out the candles on a cake.
The button was a fail safe. Total chaos would no doubt ensue had there been no button, no barrier between thoughts and reality. If all his thoughts were instantly manifested, every person in his sphere of influence would be in jeopardy of having Garcia’s will imposed on theirs. That wasn’t a good thing, especially if one of his fleeting thoughts happened to be inappropriate. As it was, Tammas was often prone to wild fantasies, tangents that kept him distracted, and the first time he had used the Kelvan device he had revealed some things about himself that he would have preferred to have kept secret. In particular, the Kelvan device amplified his OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, and ADD, attention deficit disorder. There had been so many options made available to him, so many possible details cluttering his mind, that he hadn’t been precise enough when he had used the Kelvan technology to save Riker’s Away Team. Sure, he had restored the team that had been reduced to their essential elements, minus the water, turning the polyhedra back into their original form. But the exception came when he rehydrated Lt. Commander Shelby. He brought her back wearing an outdated Star Fleet Uniform, specifically a mini skirt, tight blouse, and Go-Go boots. And he let her hair down. These were liberties he would not have taken had he been in his right mind.
Thinking of Shelby now, in the uniform McCoy would have recognized from his service days aboard the Enterprise, nearly took him too far a field. He had to struggle to stay focus. OCD and ADD were just two of the side of effects of the procedures that were performed on him to impress the Kelvan mental map over his developing human brain. Great intelligence often came with a price.
Tammas shook his head to clear the fantasy from his mind and forced himself to focus on his goal of saving McCoy. He opened his eyes and continued down the corridor. He was no stranger in the corridors of the Enterprise D. He was rarely stranger anywhere, given his celebrity status, but even more so now that he had recently been deemed a hero by some, including Picard, and a minor nuisance by others, including the likes of Riker. There was no argument that Garcia had recently made a name for himself in Star Fleet and touched a few lives in the process. He picked up his pace so as to avoid the potential for idle chat as he made his way for the armory where the Kelvan control bracelet was being kept. He didn’t have time for the interruptions. Still, he made an effort to acknowledge the people who met his eyes, offering a faint smile or nod.
Lt. Jenna D’Sora was on security detail to the armory where the Kelvan bracelet was being kept. She looked up from her desk as Garcia entered, the door closing behind him. She smiled. They had met once, briefly, passing in the corridors of the Enterprise. She had asked if he had needed assistance and had thrown him a casual invitation to be social together. He, of course, remembered the meeting. He remembered everything. A photographic memory had been another side affect of the Kelvan imprinting procedures, and contrary to popular opinion, having a perfect memory was not a pleasant thing because one rarely recalled just one particular detail. When trying to recall any specific item, a flood of information would accompany any one bit of data. It was not enough just to recall D’Sora; his brain gave him everything about that first moment as if he were still standing in that exact same moment of time. There was the smell of the perfume she had chosen that day, the quality of her voice, the people that were in the corridor at the same time, and the way she had looked at him. In addition to the background sounds, like doors opening or closing, the hum of life support, and the quality of the air, there was also the internal dialogue he had been thinking, his emotional state, the grumbling of his own stomach, which caused him to consider if he was presently hungry.
“Tammas,” she said, getting up and coming around the desk to greet him. “How are you doing?” “Honestly?” Tammas asked. He had remembered he hadn’t liked her on that initial meeting, and as he studied her he realized his feelings for her hadn’t changed. He didn’t know why he didn’t like her, and he didn’t know if his memory from the first encounter was influencing that, but he pushed his subconscious objections away. He had to deal with her if he wanted to succeed in his mission.
“Always,” Jenna said. Her expression suggested that she was surprised by his question.
“I was feeling a bit lonely,” Tammas said, shuffling his feet. “I was wondering if I might buy you dinner, if that’s the correct colloquialism for asking you out.”
“Well, yeah,” Jenna said, brightening even more, smile lines leaving her eyes. “Sure! I’m off duty in a couple hours.”
“Oh,” Tammas said, seeming sad. He let his gaze fall to the floor.
She chuckled. “It’s not that bad. You’re welcome to keep me company until then. I’ve finished my paper work. Just sort of waiting out the clock.”
“May I?” he asked, stepping closer to her.
“Well, sure, Tammas,” Jenna said.
“Call me Tam,” he said, stepping even closer to her. He was close enough to feel her body heat radiating off of her. “May I ask you something personal?” he asked.
Jenna nodded, leaning back against her desk. He was so close to her now that she wanted to hold her breath, but settled for restricting her breathing, redirecting it for fear of bad breath. “I would like that,” she admitted. She became aware of her hands trembling and gripped the edge of the desk.
With a finger on her chin, he turned her head gently back, his eyes locking on hers. His question came in the form of a kiss, his hands going to either side of her face. Her left knee came up a little, and her right leg moved to allow him to come closer to her. After kissing her, he pulled back just far enough so that she could breathe. They were sharing air and she no longer worried if her breath was bad. His wasn’t. It smelled and tasted like Spearmint. Her eyes remained closed as she absorbed the moment.
“What was the question?” Jenna asked, breathlessly.
Tammas kissed her again.
“Oh,” Jenna said.
Tammas kissed her, pushing her back towards the desk.
“Yes,” Jenna said. “I can see that.”
Jenna sat on the desk, not resisting Tam’s advances, lying back on the table, her legs coming up to hug him. He ran his left hand up her side, across her chest, her neck, and paused on her shoulder. His right hand was behind her neck, his fingers combed through her hair. He held her head tightly against his.
“Computer,” Jenna said, breathlessly. She had to turn her head slightly to speak, and she moaned a little when he bit her ear. “Lock the door so no one can enter. D’Sora, kilo prime. ”
“Acknowledged,” the computer responded, and on that Jenna began to return Tam’s eagerness seven fold. She became so hot so fast that Tammas almost couldn’t resist following through with this tangent. It would only be a delay of a few moments at best considering how hot they were, and how fast things were developing. But every moment counted. Tammas pinched the nerve in Jenna’s shoulder and she fell unconscious, as limp as a rag doll. He had executed the Vulcan nerve pinch flawlessly.
“Sorry,” he said, regaining control over his breathing. He took in the quiet, intimate details of her face before easing her head to the desk. He stood, straightening his uniform. He looked at Jenna’s unconscious body sprawled out over her desk and shuddered. He still didn’t like her for some reason. Not that that would have stopped him from sharing time with her under different circumstances, he realized. He then went to the Armory door and studied the lock. Clipping an illegal assistant to the side of the door, he was able to unlock the mechanism quickly enough, but when it opened it set off alarms. He was inside the armory before the force field popped into place and he had the bracelet on before the sleeping gas was released. His finger slipped to the button and he counteracted the drug in the air, turned off the force field, and left the armory all with a single push of the button. He could have just beamed himself to Sickbay where McCoy’s body was being kept in stasis, but no, he had to do it the dramatic way. Security guards met him in the corridor, phasers armed. He reduced them to their essential elements and walked on by. After that the rest of security got out of his way. Force fields came up and went off as he passed through them as if pushing through wet tissue paper. The lift didn’t respond, so he drew a circle around his feet, describing the circumference of a hole he was about to make. A hole that took him directly to the next deck when he pushed the button on the bracelet. He bent his knees as he landed on the next level, stood, and repeated the process until he was on the floor he wanted, plus four manhole size sections of the four decks he had cut through, stacked like pancakes. He paused to look up several decks. A security officer two decks up peeked over the edge and down at him, phaser ready, and gave a report via his com. badge.
Garcia turned and entered Sickbay. McCoy was in the exact same place. No one had moved him. No doubt McCoy’s coffin was still being prepared.
“Stop,” Worf said, stepping out into the open.
Garcia laughed and pressed the button. Worf’s phaser became a sword. Garcia held a similar one. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Garcia said, growling.
“So have I,” Worf said and charged.
Garcia blocked and twirled his sword as Worf passed, maintaining his orientation towards him. His confidence with the blade was evident in the way he forced Worf to retreat, up until one of his hallucination entered the room. She shook her head in dismay. She was dressed in her usual, shades of grey: a dark skirt, a lighter blouse with black trim, opaque but textured hose, and black boots. She called herself Duana.
“You have the power to destroy the turtle head, but instead you play games with him?” Duana asked.
It was enough of a distraction that Worf ran him through the chest with the sword, all the way to the hilt. Tammas gasped with pain. So did Duana, looking as if she were gripping an invisible sword that had impaled her chest. Blood filled Garcia’s mouth and spilled down his chin. He began to aspirate, drowning in his own blood. Worf lifted on the sword, drawing Tammas up and closer to him. Worf roared triumphantly in Garcia’s face.
Garcia screamed, coming full awake. He jumped to his feet as if the pain had been a charley horse that had woken him as opposed to the nightmare. His hands went to his chest, sweat pouring down his face. He sat back down on the bed. Jaxa Sito woke, assessed the situation, and began to comfort him.
“Shhh, it’s okay. It was just another dream, you’re okay,” Jaxa said, rubbing his back. CHAPTER ONE
The probability of there being two planet Earths, exact duplicates, is so close to being nil that no one, except perhaps for one particular Vulcan who was bored with his statistical analysis of the growth rate of competing bacteria in a lab class, had ever bothered to do the math. Until that is, a second Earth was discovered. Miri’s planet, named by Captain Kirk for the young lady he had the fortune of meeting, was found to be indistinguishable from the planet Earth. The inhabitants of the planet had sufficiently similar genetic structure that they could not even be deemed a new species. After a huge debate and years of research, the conclusion was a bit ambiguous. Some suggested that the race known as the Preservers were responsible. Others suggested a race even more powerful than the Preservers were responsible. After all, this was an exact duplicate of the Earth, all the way down to the same continental drift, as if Earths were being knocked out via a factory style replicator.
Some suggested that the duplicate Earth was a spill over from a parallel universe or an alternate time line. A few even suggested it was just a coincidence, even at the risk of violating all the known rules governing modern theories on Divergent Evolution. And fewer still called for a return to a deity paradigm, for finding two Earths was a scary enough event that it could only mean one thing: there was a God. Whatever the explanation, it was most definitely a cause for wonder. Shades of Adam Douglas wonder.
Unfortunately for the coincidence people, there were other examples of “mere” coincidences. Forget for a moment the odds that it was Captain Kirk who found Miri’s planet, as well as the planet now called Omega Four. (Technically, Kirk hadn’t discovered it, but he was there.) Forget for a moment that both planets had sought the development of a biological means for prolonging human life. And forget for the moment that these cultures developed so similarly that they had somehow created an exact copy of the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America. (And you almost have to forget that one, unless you believed in that old joke of throwing a million monkeys and typewriters together and with sufficient time one of them would reproduce the works of Shakespeare. Shakespeare was one thing, but two groups of monkeys knocking out a Preamble to the Constitution? Even on Earth the Constitution of the United States had been a rare event simply due to the fact it was difficult to achieve consensus between any two groups of people, much less two individuals. That was one reason why the European Union had so much trouble drafting a Constitution.) At any rate, finding Omega Four, and the Coms and the Yanks, compounded an already heated debate. Did this suggest that perhaps we, as complex individuals, even as isolated as we are as entities, were more common than randomly generated snowflake? (And maybe even snowflakes patterns were repetitious, but no one knew because no one had ever analyzed a large enough sample. (The argument against that being you might as well keep looking for a repeating pattern in pi.))
One scientist finally stepped forward to suggest a reasonable theory. Doctor Richard Galen, who disliked being referred to as Doctor, even though he had at least five doctorates, and several Masters to boot, one day put to print what many scientist had been too afraid to say: “Knowing what we know about biology and planetary evolution, a process we have proved beyond a shadow of doubt through various fields of research and endeavors, even going as far as reproducing such findings in the laboratory, it is unreasonable to believe that evolution alone can sufficiently account for the high number of humanoid species encountered in such a relatively small part of our galaxy.” He was simultaneously praised by some and denounced by others. As one of his examples, he offered the Iotians, a species that were so similar to humans in appearance that it is impossible to tell between them without a genetic sample.
After the submission of Galen’s paper, another student, sitting in a biology lab on Vulcan and thinking things incompatible with his lab goals, decided to cross reference the Iotians. In the cursory viewing he found highlighted “tags,” names likes James T Kirk and Spock, which to him suggested perhaps coincidence was an unlikely choice of word. Coincidence was also a strange word that might mean more than even he might suspect, which prompted closer scrutiny. Apparently, a hundred years before Kirk, the Starship Horizon had visited the Iotian planet, leaving behind some cultural contamination. By the time Kirk had appeared on the scene, the Iotians had completed a total makeover on themselves. They had modeled their society to resemble the gangster lifestyle of twentieth century Earth. (Could that mean Omega Four’s population had been visited by travelers who had left a draft of the Constitution?) Why any intelligent species would do such a thing as model themselves after gangsters was a curiosity. The Iotians were bright people, perhaps even a good deal smarter than the average human, their distant cousins. Smart enough, in some ways, to resemble idiot savants. Sure, savants could spit out huge prime numbers on request, and compute incredible sums at the blink of an eye, but when faced with applying it in a practical way they more often than not fell flat on their faces.
After thinking about this for a while, and based on his observations, this particular student wrote a paper, attached it to a Star Fleet application, and submitted it.
The paper was subsequently lost. Coincidence? Perhaps not, but when it finally resurfaced, it prompted another research mission necessitating another visit to Iotia prime to observe what had transpired since Kirk. The USS Minnesota, a Constellation Class Starship, under the command of a Captain George Heller was dispatched. The ship arrived at Iotia Prime three and a half weeks after being sent and took up a parking orbit on the opposite side of the planet’s only space station.
It was a primitive space station, and not an unreasonable thing to find in orbit, seeing it was just shy of a hundred years after Kirk’s visit. After all, they knew the Iotians were bright. In a hundred years after the Horizon encounter they had reformed their society from an agrarian culture to one of a gangster culture, with all the trappings of early twentieth century American culture, so it seemed reasonable that since Kirk’s visit they had figured out how to put people in orbit.
What Captain Heller and his crew didn’t expect was that the Iotians had developed working transporters and that they had been waiting for Star Fleet’s return. The first wave of intruders arrived on the deck of the Minnesota just prior to the Captain officially hailing the planet’s leader. The Iotian’s President appeared on the view screen just as the intruder alert klaxon began blaring.
Captain Heller grimaced, signaling for the communication officer to put the President on hold while turning to his security officer to receive an explanation. A second wave materialized out of thin air, in a manner not unfamiliar to anyone with transporter technology. Three of these people appeared on the bridge, in full space gear, carrying explosives.
“Wait,” Heller said. “We come in…”
Captain Heller never finished his sentence because at that very moment most of his ship evaporated due to an uncontrolled mixing of matter and anti matter. This was the direct result of an intruder in engineering, also wearing a space suit, who decided a suicide was better than getting caught. He had figured that blowing him-self up would puncture the deck, venting the atmosphere and crew into space, and his comrades could study the ship afterwards. What he hadn’t known was that the illuminated tube behind him was a warp core, or what that warp core contained. He was gone before the searing white light registered on his eyes. There were some splintery fragments of the starship remaining in orbit, which would continue to spread until a very thin ring of debries circled the planet. The particles and fragments were of such insignificance that even the Iotians wouldn’t be able to backwards engineer any new technology from their recovery.
Four Star General, Louis Hammon came to a halt in front of the President’s desk. He casually inhaled through a cigar and blew smoke towards the ceiling. “You wanted to see me, Mr. President?” he asked, not bothering to remove the cigar, speaking out the side of his mouth
“Put that out,” the President commanded. “Haven’t you heard, smoking kills?”
“I happen to know the Sergeant General,” Hammon said. “It hasn’t stopped him from smoking.”
The President shook his head sadly. “Well, what do you have to say for yourself?”
“Ooops,” Hammon offered, flashing a smile, consistant with his general aire of sarcasm and lack of concern about most things in general.
“Ooops?!” The President shot back. “The first Federation ship to come within transporter range in a hundred years and all you can say is Ooops?!”
“We’re viewing the tapes, Mr. President,” Hammon assured him. “We’re pretty sure it was an accident.”
“Do you think we got enough information on those tapes to backward engineer warp technology?” the President asked.
“Probably not,” Hammon admitted. “We only managed to get fourteen people aboard, and none of them came back with technology. At 1245, Houston time, we observed via satellites the approach of the Starship. At 1248 we had trained all available ground based telescopes on the ship. The first wave beamed in at 1313 Houston time. At 1315, the whole thing disintegrated. We’re about to launch two capsules to sift through the debris for anything salvageable, but given the extent of the damage, it’s not very promising.”
The President threw a pen down on the desk and cursed. “Without warp technology, we’ll never break out of this Starfleet enforced quarantine. And by the time we figure out warp drive on our own, there won’t be any planets left to colonize. Damn Kirk. Damn his New Deal. And damn Starfleet.”
“With all due respect, Mr. President, you’re speaking blasphemy and treason. I’m sure it’s not all that bad,” Hammon said.
“All that bad? The Federation has been abducting our people for experiments over the last hundred years, plundering the galaxy of all its resources, and it’s not all that bad?” the President asked. “Can you tell me something that might make me feel better?”
“I doubt it will make you feel better, but I think you should know that I don’t think the Federation has been abducting our people,” the General said.
“What do you mean you don’t think the Federation has been abducting our people?!” the President asked. “Of course they have been abducting our people. Kirk clearly said that the Federation wanted a percentage, and they obviously weren’t talking money because no one’s come asking for it.”
“Haven’t you wondered why there is never any evidence left at these UFO sightings and abductions?” the General asked.
“Because they use transporters!” the President said.
“Well, yes, Mr. President, I believe transporters are used in the abduction cases,” the General said. “But we seem to be dealing with two different technologies, which possibly means two different aliens. The ship that we boarded in orbit resembled the Starship Enterprise that Kirk arrived on. They appear to have made some advances, if our telescopes are any judge, but they are still using technology that isn’t so far advance that we can’t comprehend it. Now, the UFO’s on the other hand, we can’t even get a good photograph of one. And if we accept the stories of these little gray aliens, then, I realy think we’re dealing with two different sets of entities.”
“And what do you propose to do about this?” the President asked.
“Nothing,” the General said.
“Nothing?” the President repeated, forcing himself to take in a deep breath. He stood up, leaned on his desk till his knuckles went white, and then in a surprise burst of emotions he tossed everything that was on his desk to the floor. The dial tone on his phone became the prominent sound following the crash, and he reached down and picked up the phone, jerked the line free from the wall, and tossed it at a book shelf. In his rage, he failed to notice a loop in the line that had snagged his hand, jerking the phone back at him so that it hit him in the gut, before falling towards the floor, dangling just at his shins as he tried to extricate himself from the line. He kicked the phone away, nearly tripping on the notebooks that had only recently lay on his desk. He surrendered his anger and dropped to his chair, sulking.
“Mr. President, with all due respect, there is little that we can do. Whether it is Star Fleet or a new visiting alien, we simply do not have the technology to go up against them at this time. And quite frankly, if they really wanted to wipe us out as a species, well, there’s nothing we could do to defend ourselves,” the General said. “All we can do is to continue with our research. Perhaps we can figure out what went wrong with our boarding of the Star Fleet ship when we’ve analyzed all the data.”
“I don’t like this. I don’t like not having control. What do I tell the people? Just lay back and enjoy the probe, because there’s nothing you can do about it?”
“I say we stay with the general line,” the General said. “There are no UFO’s or alien abductions taking place. The media will continue their misinformation campaign about sleep paralysis theories and mass hysteria. Meanwhile, Star Fleet maintains minimal contact while we continue to advance our technologies.”
“You know, we can’t wait another hundred years for a Star Fleet contact. We’re running out of resources,” the President said. “We have enough oil reserves to last thirty years, and after that, this world will grind to a halt.”
“I find that hard to believe,” Hammon said. The president didn’t try to alleviate his concern. “What about alternative energy? Wind? Solar? Hydroelectric? Nuclear?”
“Oh, we’ll be able to keep the elite of our nation comfortable for some time,” the President agreed. “But when you have at least one billion spoiled, middle class and want-to-be elites, and fourteen billion poor, you can expect the transition to complete poverty is not going to be a pleasant one. War, famine, pestilence, chaos… Imagine your worst nightmare and multiply it by a factor of ten, and you’re still off by a thousand.”
“The Federation will never let it come to that,” Hammon said.
“Please. Don’t tell me you are one of those Kirk groupies, are you? All Utpoia, all the time? Kirk will save us?” the President said, mockingly.
“No, Sir,” Hammon said. “I believe in hard work. We knew transporters existed, we put our brains and resources to the task, and we built transporters. Granted, they still need some fine tuning, but we wouldn’t have gotten a toe hold in space if it weren’t for them. We certainly wouldn’t have got our space station built without it. And, we have our brightest minds working on warp drive. I believe we’ll figure it out. I do admit that I believe the Federation is going to help us, or maybe has been secretly helping us all along. There must be a reason for the Long Silence.”
“I’ll explain the Long Silence. We’re on our own down here. It’s sink or swim, survival of the fittest,” The President said. “Don’t you read and understand The Book?”
“Yes, Sir. But if you will permit me some speculation,” Hammon said. “I bet it doesn’t take them another hundred years to discover what happened to their latest ship.”
“You better be right. For all our sakes, you better be right, and you better figure out what went wrong up there, because we can’t afford to be stuck on this little planet much longer,” the President said. “Dismissed.”
Tammas was unable to return to sleep. He lay there, in the dark, listening to the silence. It wasn’t utter silence. “Space would be even more silent.” It was an obsessive compulsive thought that he immediately recognized and squashed with the words, “Cancel that.” He took an audible inventory of his surrounding. There was the hum of life support, the ticking of an antique clock, and the snoring of a companion sleeping beside him that were noticeable without effort. Less noticeable, to most people, was a high pitch hum which was possibly an energy conduit running the length of the far wall. He focused on the most obvious sound coming from the companion. The rhythm of her breathing was anything but a calming influence. Her name was Jaxa Sito and she was not a quiet sleeper. Both her inhalation and exhalations were accompanied by small, little squeaky noises. Anybody else might have considered the whimper like sounds cute, but to Tammas they were annoying, and almost as distracting as his own thoughts. In between each different set of noises was a rhythmic silence that kept him alert in anticipation of the next auditory event. Had she been drumming her fingers on a desk he would have asked her to stop, but how do you ask someone not to make noises in their sleep? For all he knew, he made noises in his sleep, but then, he didn’t keep himself awake with those noises so it was irrelevant. He tried listening to her from a medical perspective. What was it about her anatomy and physiology that produced these sounds? Were they idiosyncratic, or did all Bajorans make these noises in their sleep? He wondered.
He tried to focus on other things. He could feel her body’s heat radiating away from her. She was warm, which was a pleasant sensation considering that the air temperature of the room was a bit chilly for him. It was chilly enough that he had given in to his temptation to tighten down the edges of the blanket and hide his head. He didn’t like re-breathing his own air, so he kept his mouth and nose free and took the cool air into his lungs. He could feel Jaxa’s breathing against his neck but he couldn’t smell her breath. She was under the sheet. He could feel her arm draped over his chest. The linen had the fresh, clean smell that all Star Fleet linen had after being replicated. Various scents could be added on request to fill aromatherapy needs, and in this case there was just a hint of lavender. Jaxa suggested it might help him relax, provided everything else she did to help him relax was insufficient to bring on sleep.
Jaxa rolled over to her side of the bed, putting her back to Garcia. She took the covers with her, pulling them tightly around her. Tammas stared towards the ceiling. Not that he could see the ceiling. There was no window in this room, which belonged to Ensign Kellogg. She and Jaxa had doubled up, and Kellogg had offered the bed to Jaxa so that she could get some quality rest. Tammas was technically assigned to Selar’s quarters, but given their questionable status he hadn’t returned. How could he, he asked himself, still be technically married to Selar, but biologically bound to Princess Simone? It drove him crazy wondering which one of them would draw him into a Pon Farr ritual first, or if one bond superceded the other, or if their clocks had been reset when Selar had transferred his bond to Simone in order to save his life. It was all Vulcan craziness!
How did life get so complicated? How did he end up here? he asked himself and then had to define what “here” meant. Did it mean here with Jaxa? He had been walking aimlessly and had bumped into her. One thing led to the other and… Perhaps “here” meant on the Enterprise. He and Jaxa had been on a training exercise on the USS Chance, which had been destroyed. He and the surviving crew had been rescued by the Enterprise. Or maybe “here” was more abstract, such as in the sense of what he was feeling and thinking. He was lonely, even though he was with Jaxa. He was mourning several losses: his sister Jovet and his biological father McCoy. Was he really feeling loss because McCoy died, or because it was the idea of McCoy being dead? They had had a relationship, but it hadn’t been a father son sort of relationship. What were they? What could they have been? The question was now irrelevant. No one lived forever. “So, why prolong it. Just step into an airlock and…CANCEL THAT!”
“You know, if you put a pillow over her head, we could get some sleep,” came a voice from the dark. He hadn’t heard the voice since Simone had used the Kelvan technology to teleport him to the Enterprise. He couldn’t see her face in the dark to confirm it was who he thought it was, but he was confident it was Duana, one of his recurring hallucinations. He felt her snuggle closer to him, opposite side of Jaxa. He unconsciously moved away from her. That act caused Jaxa to fall out of bed.
Jaxa sat up groggily. “Computer, lights.”
Her eyes adjusted. Tammas was at the end of the bed, urgently dressing. She didn’t see the two other women in bed with Tam, since they were his hallucinations. Duana was the dark one, in dress and hair. Ilona, wore shades of white and had blond hair.
“What’s wrong?” Jaxa asked.
“I got to go,” Tammas said, ignoring his two hallucinations that were stretched out on the bed to either side of him.
“Why?” Jaxa asked, standing. She draped the sheet around her, more to keep warmth in than to avoid exposing herself. “Did they call you for something?”
As Jaxa sat next to him, the two hallucinations moved to accommodate her. Duana put her chin on Garcia’s shoulder, flashing a smile at him. “And I thought she was annoying when she was sleeping,” Duana said.
“I told you he was with her,” Ilona said.
Ilona was Duana’s alter ego. Or were they his alter egos? He didn’t know what to think, but he was going to go be medically re-evaluated. He sat back down on the bed to put on his boots. Jaxa dropped a side of the sheet in order to put a hand on his back.
“You’re acting strange. I’m worried,” Jaxa said.
“Strange?” Tammas asked.
“Did I do something wrong? Are you angry with me?” Jaxa asked.
“This isn’t about you,” Tammas said, standing.
Jaxa grabbed his arm. “Tell me something.”
Tammas paused. What should he tell her? That he’s crazy? Tell her that he is hallucinating? If that rumor got about it would spell the end of his career in Star Fleet. He took her hand and placed it on his chest near his heart.
“Jaxa,” Tammas said, hunting the right words. “I’m sorry I woke you…”
“Woke me? You pushed me off the bed!” Jaxa said.
“I did?” he asked, trying to recollect. He did. “Oh, I’m sorry. It must have been another nightmare. And, I really need to go to do something physical to walk it off so to speak. It’s not you.”
“I could help you with the physical part,” Jaxa offered.
“Tramp,” Ilona muttered.
He sighed. “Maybe later. I just need to walk. Alone,” he emphasized looking at his two invisible side kicks. He turned back to Jaxa. “Okay?”
“You’re going to turn that down?” Duana asked. “We could make it a foursome…” “No,” Tammas and Ilona said simultaneously. His eyes met Duana’s eyes.
“Tammas?” Jaxa asked, her concern level rising again.
“Lingering dream thoughts,” Tammas said. “I’ve got to go.”
Tammas exited the bedroom, only to find the living area dark. When the bedroom door closed, he had to navigate the apartment by memory. Duana said something distracting and he stumbled, catching the coffee table with his boot, going instantly to the floor.
“Ouch, that’s going to smart,” Duana said.
Ensign Kellogg rose from the couch, propped up on her elbows. “Jaxa? Is that you?”
Tammas stood. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Garcia?” she asked, falling back to the couch while simultaneously pulling her blanket up to her neck.
“Maybe she’d like to join us?” Duana asked.
“No!” Tammas said, and then to Kellogg, “I mean, yes, I’m Garcia.”
“Like everyone wants to sleep with him,” Ilona said, with evident sarcasm.
“What are you doing in my quarters?” Kellogg asked.
Jaxa entered. “Sorry, he was visiting me. I’m sorry we woke you.”
Kellogg dropped back to the couch. “Try to be more quiet.”
Tammas ignored his unwanted companions and offered an apologetic smile to Kellogg. “Sorry.”
“It’s alright,” Kellogg said, and rolled over to face the back of the couch.
“Have lunch with me later?” Jaxa asked.
“Okay,” Tammas agreed, accelerating his departure.
Once in the corridor Tammas breathed a sigh of relief. The brightness was full, solar-day spectrum and brought a bit of comfort. Day shift people were about, doing day shift tasks. D’Soto was passing, nodded pleasantly, until she noted the room he was exiting. Was it envy that crossed her face, Tammas wondered, or was he projecting?
“Isn’t she the girl from your dream?” Duana asked.
“Better keep it a dream, Tam. She’s high maintenance,” Ilona added.
Tammas orientated himself and headed for the nearest turbo-lift.
“Where are you going?” Duana asked.
“The holodeck, if I know Tam,” Ilona said.
Tammas started walking faster. The hallucinations increased their pace as well. He accelerated even though he knew it was useless. You can’t out run yourself. What was the old joke, he asked? Where ever you go, there you are.
“No, really, where are you going?” Duana asked.
The turbo lift arrived simultaneously with his arrival, opening to allow an occupant egress. She nearly spilled her coffee on him. He stepped back to allow that person passage, apologizing. “It’s okay,” she said, pausing. “I’m Nancy Kyle, primary teacher. We haven’t met, but I’ve heard a lot about you. Would you mind being a guest lecturer in one of my classes?”
“Everywhere we go,” Ilona shook her head in disgust.
“Sure. Can I coordinate with you later?” Tammas asked.
“Oh, yeah, I’m sorry,” she said, a little embarrassed to have stopped him and held up the lift.
“It’s okay,” he said, offering a smile, and touching her shoulder lightly.
Two people had remained in lift. Lt. Commander Riker and Lt. Worf waited patiently, sort of. Worf scowled while Riker attempted a smile. Tammas wondered which one was the most sincere gesture. He held his breath, considering if it might not be better to wait for the next lift. For a moment he even thought of following Ms. Kyle, and not just because she was less intimidating than the two of these almost legendary figures before him. They were both powerful individuals, and his rivals for the love of Troi. All three of them were in love with her. Duana pushed him into the lift and the doors closed. There were now three people in the lift, plus two hallucinations. For Tammas, there was hardly room to breathe. Worf and Riker seemed less patient.
“Aren’t you going to introduce me?” Duana asked.
“Where to?” Riker asked.
“How about your place,” Duana asked, pressing herself against Riker. “You’re so tall. Did you know he was so tall, Tammas?”
Tam’s eyes nearly tracked to Duana, but instead, he rolled his eyes, almost simultaneously with Ilona offering the same gesture, only her disgust was more real.
“Um, sickbay,” Tammas said.
“You’re not going to tell them about us, are you?” Ilona asked.
“Are you alright?” Riker asked.
“Yes,” Tammas answered Riker.
“You can’t do that,” Ilona argued, as if the “yes” was for her. “They’ll lock you up in a straight jacket.”
Tammas wondered if it was significant that his hallucination was attracted to Riker. He dismissed the tangent his mind began to run on and unconsciously began to whistle. It was a nervous, nonchalant little whistle as if trying to impress innocence even though he felt as if he were caught red handed, a fist in a cookie jar. The lift came to a stop and the doors opened. Tammas backed out of the lift, looking at Duana and trying to will her out of the lift. He had no control over the hallucination. He became more aware of Riker and Worf staring at him. He offered the Vulcan hand gesture with a wave. The doors closed, with Duana still in it. Riker shivered.
“Is it my imagination, or is he acting weirder than usual?” Riker asked Worf.
“It is hard to tell with him,” Worf muttered.
Tammas stood in front of the turbo lift doors staring at them. Should he call the lift back and tell her to get out? No, that wouldn’t be suspicious behavior. Not at all, he thought sarcastically. He turned and headed for sickbay.
“This is really not a good idea,” Ilona persisted. “Tammas, talk to me.”
Doctor Crusher looked up as he entered and smiled, letting him know she’d just be a moment. She wrapped up with her patient and then greeted him. He had already made himself comfortable on the bio-bed and was observing some of the read outs on the display behind him when she approached.
“Are you feeling alright?” Crusher asked.
“I would like a complete physical examination,” Tammas said.
Doctor Crusher smiled. “We just did a full evaluation on you after we got you back. You’re in perfect health.”
“I want you to do it again,” Tammas said, reclining back. He looked up into her face, wondering what her hesitation was all about.
Doctor Crusher complied, shaking her head a little. She produced a medical tricorder and began running general sweeps. Ilona scrutinized Crusher’s procedures. Her eyes wandered from the tricorder to Crusher to Tammas back to Crusher. Ilona’s eyes lit up with sudden anger.
“You’re in love with the Doctor, aren’t you?” Ilona accused.
“No!” Tammas snapped.
“No what?” Crusher asked.
“You can’t lie to me. I’m in your head. Tam, she’s old enough to be your mother!” Ilona commented. “You’re friends with her son, Wes.”
“Um, no…” Tammas tried to focus on Crusher. “Scan my head.”
“You’re perfectly healthy,” Ilona said. “She won’t find what you’re looking for.”
“It would help me if you tell me what we’re looking for,” Crusher said.
“I’m experiencing a headache,” Tammas said, his eyes locking with Ilona’s eyes. “A really annoying headache.”
“A headache?” Crusher repeated, extremely surprised. She could count on her hand how many headaches she had treated in her entire career, minus the ones that were symptoms of a concussion. Medical science had cured migraines and sinus headaches. “It might be stress related. Can you tell me specifically where you’re head is hurting?”
The door to Sickbay opened and Duana entered. “Oh god, that man is so fabulously delicious,” she said, pretend swooning to the bio-bed next to Tammas. Tammas tracked her with his eyes. Selar was approaching from that side so that it appeared to Crusher that Tammas was just looking to her.
“It’s possible that the level of telepathic activity you have experienced lately is giving you the headache,” Selar offered. “Ever since Simone transferred my telepathic link with you to herself, you have had several mild and uncontrolled bursts of telekinetic episodes, which, in the untrained, can result in fatigue, irritability, and miscellaneous aches and pains.”
Duana propped herself up on her arm, looking at Tammas. “Don’t you just love Riker?”
“No!” Tammas snapped.
Selar raised an eyebrow.
“I mean, no,” Tamms said, an auditory level more appropriate to Selar’s suggestion. “I think it’s something else.”
“Even so,” Doctor Selar said. “You might counsel with Simone and allow her to perform a mind meld. Her mental discipline is second to none, and now that she is technically your bond mate, and you seem to be having trouble finding your new equilibrium, a mind meld with her might facilitate a quicker return to normalcy.”
“Thank you, but I have enough people in my head for the time being,” Tammas said. “What I need is some solitude.”
“Your recalcitrant behavior suggests that you are not experiencing as much distress as you would have us believe,” Doctor Selar said, crossing her arms as she might with an argumentative child.
“How dare you,” Garcia snapped at her. He turned to Crusher. “Doctor Crusher, will you give me something to help me sleep? Something that will block the REM state?”
“No,” Doctor Crusher said, pocketing her tricorder. “I find nothing wrong with you. Nothing that warrants drug therapy, anyway.”
“Told you,” Ilona said.
“Look,” Crusher said. “You’ve been under a great deal of stress. Why don’t you go speak with Counselor Troi, or meditate, or go exercise? Or a combination of the three. But most of all, give your self some time to mourn and cope.”
Tammas frowned, but pushed himself off the examination table. “Fine, I’ll go exercise,” he said, ignoring Doctor Selar as she gave him that look that only she could give him. If he hadn’t known any better, he would have sworn she was pouting. For just a brief moment he wanted Doctor Selar back in his life, but the impulse fled as soon as he was out of sickbay and out of her presence.
The song stuck in Garcia’s head as he departed Sickbay was “Old Man River,” a version sung by Ray Charles. As he approached the doors to holodeck three, the song in his head had shaped the idea for a music session. Unfortunately, the holodeck was occupied. It was currently running a program known as 47-C. “What is forty seven C?” he asked.
“Cliffs of Heaven,” the computer responded.
Garcia was curious. “Is this a closed session? May I enter?”
“You may enter when ready,” the computer answered.
The doors to the holodeck slid open, with a sound that suggested they were much heavier doors than the standard ship’s door. He had wanted to inspect the doors, but he was instantly distracted by the beauty of the program. The combinations of colors and lights from sky, earth, and water were so captivating he forgot that he was on a Starship traveling faster than light. He walked down the beach, staring up at the tremendous drop. Natural erosion had sculpted such features into the cliff as to have made it seem that it was done by an artist, but then, the human mind always wanted to make something more out of random patterns than was warranted, Garcia told himself. A girl was coming out of the ocean, shaking water from her hair. The sea was emerald blue with streaks of green. The girl smiled and waved. Sand clung to her wet feet. Who ever programmed 47-C hadn’t missed a beat.
“Hello,” she said. “You interested in doing some diving?”
Garcia looked at the cliff, looked to the girl, and then back to the cliff. “You jumped off that?” he asked.
“I did,” she confirmed. She offered her hand. “My name is Kristin.”
Garcia shook hands with her, forcing himself to maintain eye contact. “Tammas, but you can call me Tam.”
“So, are you in for a jump? You can change behind that rock if you like. I’ll wait,” Kristin said.
“Alright. Computer, Arch. I need a contemporary swimming suit,” Garcia ordered. The trunks appeared and he excused himself to go change. He chose to change behind the rock not out of modesty, but because he wasn’t sure what Kristin’s customs were in regards to public nudity.
“Strange, I had heard rumors that you weren’t so reserved,” Kristen said.
“You heard that?” Garcia asked.
“Is it not true that you went naked to classes at the academy?” Kristin asked.
“Oh, bloody hell. Did Wes tell you that?” Garcia asked, pretend fuming.
“Not directly, no. I heard it from a friend of a friend,” Kristin said.
“And what else have you heard?” Garcia asked.
“You mean beside the hero talk going on?” Kristin asked.
“Please, I’m not a hero,” Garcia said. “I was just doing my job.”
“In my book, that’s one definition of a hero,” Kristin said.
Garcia returned from behind the rock and modeled his new trunks, purposely changing the subject.
“Nice,” Kristin said. “Are you sure you’re up to this? It’s one thing to say you can do it from sea level, but another thing to actually do it from up there.”
“Um, I’ve actually dived from higher,” Garcia said, starting up the path. She looked skeptical, but walked side by side with him. He noticed she was squinting when she looked at him due to the position of the sun, so he moved to her other side. She stepped up onto a rock and stretched, enjoying the breeze at this altitude. The sun was behind her head, producing a halo effect. She was quite beautiful, on top of the world, perfect posture, the idealized beauty as if sculpted from Greek poetry.
Kristin smiled at him, fluttering her eyes. She was a goddess ready to fly. “Are you going to stretch? Or are you just going to watch me?”
“Are those my choices?” Garcia asked.
Kristin laughed. She jumped off the rock and patted him on the stomach. “You, my friend, have a reputation for being a lady’s man.”
“I wouldn’t have such a reputation if I weren’t so particularly good at it,” Garcia said.
Kristin laughed again. It was melodious laugh, rich with tones colored by both mirth and joy. She hugged him, looked up into his eyes, noticing how warm his hands were against her hips. In truth his whole body was warm, as if he had a fever. “What would you say if I were to tell you to go jump off a cliff?”
“Well, I’d say I have one handy, right behind me,” Garcia offered.
“You’re quick,” Kristin said.
“How do you know?” he asked, pretending to be shocked.
Kristin barked a laugh, understanding the double meaning. “I meant quick witted,” she corrected him. More serious, she asked, “Why are you here?”
“The doctor told me to get some exercise,” Garcia said.
“No. Why are you here?” Kristin asked.
“I don’t understand the question,” Garcia said. “With you on the holodeck? Here on the Enterprise?”
Kristin took his hand and led him to the cliff’s edge. “Look at the immensity of it all,” Kristin said, the breeze whipping her hair back.
“It’s an illusion,” Garcia said.
“Pretty convincing illusion,” Kristin said. “Are you afraid?”
“Yes,” Garcia admitted.
“Of illusions, me, or the fall?” Kristin a sked.
“Of the illusion of falling for you,” Garcia offered.
“Quick,” Kristin said, chalking a point in the air. “I think I got you figured out. You’re going to jump because you’re afraid?”
“Yes,” Garcia said.
Kristin kissed him. “See you at the bottom,” she said and then she tossed herself off the cliff. In Garcia’s mind Kristin paused in midair, head up, arms swept back like wings, and then she folded, orientating herself in a head down position to complete the dive. In real life, she was falling the moment she left the cliff but her dive was executed perfectly. She disappeared into the ocean and surfaced a few meters away. She waved up at him, screaming with joy.
Garcia followed her, observing the cliff face rushing by before plunging into the ocean. The change in sounds from falling through the air to water, bubbles rushing against the ear, was always a startling effect. He was pleased with the warmth of the water, for it reminded him of home. He opened his eyes and took in the seascape, corral reefs, clown fish, and sea horses. He wanted dolphins. What he got instead was Kristin. He swam to her and touched her as he surfaced in front of her.
“Not bad, for a rookie,” Kristin said. “Again?”
“Sure,” Garcia said. They swam to the beach. Garcia was intrigued by her mannerisms as she made small talk. Her eyes lit with joy as she described her work on the Enterprise and again at the mention of particular shipmates. She laughed at everything, but drew very serious as she mentioned a friend who had died during the conflict with the Borg.
“Were you here when the Borg…” Garcia asked, and regretted it instantly.
“No,” Kristin said, but the look on her face was enough to know that she remembered exactly where she was that day, and it was a day she would never forget. It was an expression Garcia had seen all too often when ever the topic of the Borg arose.
“I’m sorry,” Kristin said, bringing herself back to the here and now. She forced herself to laugh. “Right now, I’m okay, and I’m happy. Are you happy?”
“At this moment?” Garcia considered. “I am. It must be the company.”
“Umm, flattery will get you everywhere. Triple flip,” she announced, kissed him on the cheek, and jumped off the cliff again. She didn’t quite finish the third flip before she hit. It wasn’t a good hit, either.
With the safety override on, the computer would have instantly aborted the program the moment Kristin had injured herself. Unfortunately, Garcia had instinctively known she needed help and had immediately jumped in after her. Due to their close proximity, the computer chose not to abort the program while he was in mid fall, for obvious reasons, and the moment he was in the water, he had maneuvered to Kristin’s aide. The moment he touched her, the computer override recognized that the emergency was being handled and aborted the shut down procedures. Garcia surfaced, dragging Kristin up and towards the shore. “Computer, end program. Medical emergency, two to beam directly to Sickbay,” he yelled.
The program disappeared around them, leaving the two of them above the floor, suspended by tractor beams. They were slowly lowered to the floor before the transporter began to engage. Since the water had been holographic matter, the instant the program went off, the water in Kristin’s lungs disappeared, but the damage had already been done. He leaned in to give her the first series of rescue breaths, oddly noting the discontinuity of the room. The black room with yellow grid lines was broken by his uniform that was folded up in a corner, but he barely had time to process it as the transporter wave took hold of them. An instant later, they were in the Enterprise’s medical facility. Garcia was already in the process of CPR when a nurse came up behind him, just a moment shy of Doctor Crusher hustling in from the direction of her office.
“She landed wrong,” Garcia said, between counts of chest compressions.
“Keep breathing for her,” Crusher said, opening her tricorder. “Nurse, hypo spray of cordrazine, ten CCs, also get a cortical analeptic and a cortical stimulator ready.”
Crusher got down on her knees, putting the tricorder on the floor beside her. “I’ll take over chest compressions. Nurse?! Where’s that stimulant?”
The nurse was suddenly there, injecting it into her arm. Crusher waved Garcia to wait. “Okay, she’s back,” Crusher said, pocketing her tricorder in her smock’s pocket. “Help me get her to a bed.”
Garcia picked Kristin up. Crusher moved with him, supporting Kristin’s head. They set her down gently and Crusher began another series of scan. “She pulled a ligament in her neck. Shoulder’s out of alignment.”
“Shall I help you set it while she’s still unconscious?” Garcia asked.
Crusher nodded and the two of them worked together to pop the shoulder back into place. Kristin sat up, suddenly full awake, and in agonizing pain. She was disoriented and didn’t know whether to gasp for air or scream. Garcia eased her back to the bed, “Easy, you’re alright. Take in deep breaths. Easy.”
Crusher brushed her patient’s forehead. “That’s good. Just keep breathing deep. Relax. I’m going to give you something to reduce the pain.” Crusher retrieved a specific hypo spray from the tray the nurse was rolling up and when she turned back, she noticed that Kristin was no longer showing signs of distress from pain. Garcia was applying pressure with two fingers, pushing in on several nerves, pressure points.
“Wow, what did you do to me?” Kristin asked.
“And can you teach me that?” Crusher asked.
“Yes, but it’s a temporary fix. If that’s Terakine for the pain, I would recommend one quarter the dose, or you can wait until she begins to experience discomfort again,” Garcia said.
“I’d rather not feel that again, thank you,” Kristin said to Doctor Crusher. “Tam, what happened?”
Garcia chuckled. It sounded forced. “You tucked when you should have rolled,” he said.
Doctor Crusher administered 5cc’s of Terakine and Kristin visibly relaxed, literally melting into the bed, falling more towards Garcia side than Crusher’s. She suddenly seemed to have puppy dog eyes and a warm, friendly smile that suggested intoxication. Her eyes locked on Garcia’s eyes and her mouth made an O, like she had considered blowing a kiss but stopped to breathe. “That’s good stuff, Doctor,” she said, gripping Garcia’s arm. Her eyes started to drift.
“I need to know, for statistical purpose, what program you were using,” Doctor Crusher said. “And was the safety features on?”
“47-C,” Garcia and Kristin said simultaneously. Kristin laughed and squeezed Garcia’s hand.
“Safety feature were on,” Garcia said. “I don’t know why it didn’t abort the program. I can look into it, if you like.”
“Let’s do it again?” Kristin asked, yawning.
“Anytime,” Garcia said. And held her hand till she went to sleep. Doctor Crusher motioned him aside. “Yes?”
“I thought you told me you were going to exercise,” Crusher said.
“Cliff diving doesn’t count?” Garcia asked.
“It wasn’t what I had in mind, no. Cliff diving is an adrenaline rush which will give you an immediate high, and given the depth of your recent low, I think a steady paced exercise that would have slowly brought you back to a more temperate mood more fitting. Your goal is to be stable, not bipolar,” Crusher said. “You’re more likely to rebound now than…”
“I get your point,” Garcia snapped.
Crusher sighed. “I’m sorry. I could have been more specific with what I expected from you. And, I guess it’s a good thing you were with Kristin. You saved her life.”
“We’ll keep that between you and me, eh?” Garcia said.
“No, I have to include it in my report,” Crusher said. “Let me know if you find out what caused the Holdeck safety protocols to malfunction.”
Garcia nodded. He took a moment to observe that Kristin was indeed sleeping peacefully before departing Sickbay.
The only thought on Garcia’s mind was determining what had gone wrong with the Holodeck safety protocols. He was halfway down the corridor when his curiosity to the unusual amount of stares he was receiving brought awareness to the fact that he was naked. He had not specified a real suit versus a holographic suit! He quickened his pace toward the holodeck, and his awaiting clothes, meeting the smiling faces that greeted him on his way with an equally warm smile. Breathe, he told himself. No one cares.
His clothes were still waiting for him when he arrived on the holodeck. He had been happy with Kristin present, but now he was sinking back into a mood. The mood grew fowler when he suddenly realized why the holodeck safety features hadn’t kicked in. Had they kicked in the moment Kristin was hurt, he would have been hurt when he crashed into the deck, as opposed to an ocean. Jumping off the cliff had been real, there was actually a fall involved. He and Kristin had walked the path to the top of the room. As they had gone up, holodeck water filled the floor. The fall was no greater than from a high dive, but it was still as fall, enhanced by graphics flowing around the diver. Crusher was wrong about his quick thinking saving her life. His quick thinking had imperiled it! Had he waited, the program would have aborted, and Kristin wouldn’t have drowned.
He punched the wall, regretted doing that, and slid to the floor, nursing his wound. Nothing was broken, at least. Sighing, his thoughts returned to his original idea on coming to the holodeck. Exercise. He really needed to work off some steam. He just wasn’t in the mood for exercise. What he wanted was music. Music was the therapy he most often chose to change his moods. He ordered up a River boat, the Mark Twain, and headed down the Mississippi. It wasn’t the first time he had taken this trip and all the characters were in play from his saved files he always carried with him. Ray Charles was playing the piano at the lounge when he entered. Without fanfare, a waitress brought Garcia a non alcoholic drink. The waitress was one of Tam’s regular holodeck girls, the one he had assigned to play Terra Tarkington, a character from an old Sci-Fi novel he had found. She seemed to recognize his mood and left him to work it out with Ray, who was just finishing a song. As coincidences occur, it just so happened that the song was the very song that Tammas had been hearing in his head about an hour ago. It wasn’t really a coicedence, Garcia knew. The program selected at random from a list Garcia had provided it; the odds of it being played were fairly good.
Ray took a sip from a drink and smiled. “You’ve been away for awhile,” he said to Tam. That comment was based on the disparity between present time and the last time the program had been activated.
“Yeah,” Garcia agreed.
“Feeling kind of down, are you?” Ray asked.
“Aren’t I always feeling down when I come to see you?” Garcia asked.
“All you have to do is change the song in your head,” Ray said, tickling the simulated ivory keys. “Change your theme song, change your life.”
“I was hoping you might help me with that,” Garcia said, accepting the guitar that Terra brought him. She always seemed to know what he needed. So did Ray. Of course, he made them this way. “How about Save the Bones for Henry Jones?” Ray asked.
Several numbers later, Garcia was feeling much better. He thanked Ray for the tunes. Ray just shook his head and smiled. “You just come back and see me any time you feel the need to change that sad song in your head.”
“I will. Thanks, Ray,” Garcia said.
As Garcia stood, Terra came to take the guitar from him. “You got time for me?” she asked.
“Always,” Garcia said. “I need a good workout.”
“Running, jumping, climbing exercise or, something a little more intimate exercise,” Terra asked, stepping in closer, teasing him just a little.
“Why not both,” he asked her. “If you reward me for hard work, I might actually do more hard work.”
Terra laughed. “And here I was thinking I had the hard part, always waiting to be rescued. So, what shall it be this time? Held for ransom by a squadron of Klingon soldiers?”
“Oh, nothing that strenuous; this time around. Just sufficient effort to get my heart rate up,” Garcia said. “I know. Computer, access my saved file on the Great Train Robbery. Safety protocols off.”
“Ah,” Terra agreed. “We never did finish that one. I’ll be waiting.”
Terra and the Riverboat faded and Garcia suddenly found himself on a train. If he remembered his goal correctly, he had to get to the front of the train, crossing over the top. Climbing, running across a moving train, and jumping cars were just varieties of exercise, made much more fun by the scenery and drama. The rocking train helped develop balance. The wind in his face and sensation of motion got the blood flowing. There was nothing like the sense of speed and the threat of falling to ones death to move the heart. Better than lifting weights or running on a boring, old treadmill. Just getting out and doing things was better exercise than working out in a gym. Natural setting to please the eyes. Fresh air to fill the lungs. Full spectrum lights to stimulate the skin and help the body create vitamin D. Since he couldn’t get “out” and go rock climbing or swimming, the holodeck’s would have to do. And, in reality, the human brain couldn’t distinguish between the illusion the holodeck offered and the illusion reality offered.
Before he could cross the top of the train, he had to sneak up on, and incapacitate, a bad guy. Even with the difficulty level at its highest, Garcia quickly dispatched his opponent. He slid the door open and looked out. The ground directly beneath was a blur with speed. Getting to the top of the train was easy enough. A little jump, grab on, swing leg up and over, and then he was up. Walking down the train was a little more difficult than he had anticipated due to the wind. The train rocked back and forth as it moved down the track, traveling about 90 kilometers an hour… Or, 60 miles an hour, according to the train’s gauges. It felt much faster, especially when the train rounded a corner. He had to drop and lay flat as the train went under a tunnel. He stood up as he came out into day light. The train rocked hard and he tumbled. It was a good tumble, except for the fact that he rolled himself right off the top of the train. He just barely grabbed hold of the side, and pulled the finger nail off his index finger on his left hand, which smarted so much he almost let go of the train. He was about to pull himself back up for a beautiful recovery, but something impeded his progress. That something was a tree. Apparently, the one, solitary tree on the whole damn prairie had to grow right up next to the track. A tree that harbored some sort of grudge, and had waited there in that one spot, growing, waiting for the day it could exact its revenge on some unsuspecting human.
The tree had grown near enough the track that it would have been able to reach out and grab Garcia had it wanted to, but instead, it simply opted for brushing him off the side of the train, like a multi-bladed windshield wiper throwing off an unwanted bug. The branch that cleaned him from the train broke some ribs and his right arm in the process. A lower branch broke his knee cap, spinning him so that when he hit the ground- he hit it head first. The fall to the ground broke the other arm. He blacked out for an unknown length of time. When he came to, he found it peacefully quiet. No sounds of a rumbling train, part of him shaded by the tree. He could see black blobs circling over head, and wondered if he were seeing spots. His vision cleared long enough to make out the vultures, and he thought to himself, “Nice touch.” He blacked out again. When he came to the next time, he stayed conscious long enough to discover how much pain broken arms and ribs could cause. Blacking out was bliss.
Lt. Barclay paused outside the holodeck. He looked around as if to see if anyone was watching, went through his work schedule in his mind, and decided he had the time and the inclination for a bit of “comfort” play. He stepped up to the control interface and was about to instruct the computer as to what sort of distraction he wanted. He felt a tinge of disappointment as he noticed the holodeck was already in play, decided his “quicky” would have to wait, and started to leave. He paused, returned to the holodeck to inquire who was using it. Learning that it was Garcia, and “the Great Train Robbery,” he asked if he could join in. The computer had no objections, and the game was not marked for privacy. Still, as a courtesy, Barclay used the paging system. When it failed to elicit a response from Garcia, Barclay turned to leave. He, probably better than anyone, understood how embarrassing it could be when someone walked in on your fantasy univited. Then again, he wondered as he paused, his curiosity getting the better of him, how often does one get to join in on a “Garcia adventure” with Garcia himself! Though he knew too well the dangers of intruding, he simply couldn’t resist. There were legends about Garcia’s holodeck creations, for they were all tied into his novels and other lines of fiction, available to anyone who wanted to take the time to download them off the InterStellar Net, as opposed to creating their own stories.
Without further ado, Barclay entered the holodeck and stepped out onto a gravel road. He walked down the road until he came upon a railroad track intersection. He looked both ways, wondering where the train was. Had Garcia already stolen the train? And where would one take a train after stealing it? He wondered. He shrugged and turned to leave. Out of the corner of his eye he saw someone lying in the shade of a tree.
“Garcia?” he called out.
No response. Well, that wasn’t unusual. Even he had been caught napping in a holodeck. Of course, he had been caught in a more compromising position, his head resting on the lap of a facsimile of Doctor Crusher. He moved closer to Garcia, growing more concerned the nearer he got. He quickened his pace with each step so that when he finally realized something was truly wrong he was running. The obvious clue was one of the arms twisted into a non-human position. He stopped and knelt down beside Garcia, one hand reaching for Garcia’s neck to measure a pulse, his other hand activating his comm. badge.
“Medical emergency, holodeck four,” he announced.
Garica woke to a bustle of activity all about him. He tried to sit up, but Doctor Crusher shoved him back down to the bed. It was probably not a shove that knocked him back to the bed, but it felt like it. Then again, judging by the look on Doctor Crusher’s face, it might well have been a shove. She didn’t even bother to tell him to lie still. He didn’t have the strength to resist or even try to get up again. He orientated himself, trying to get a clearer idea of his situation, turning his head to get a view of the scanner Crusher was holding.
“Lie still,” she ordered. The tone in her voice seemed to confirm his suspicions that she was not happy. She continued to scan. She nodded to the nurse who began gathering up her instruments. She first removed the cortical stimulator and a cortical analeptic drip dispenser that was a package deal, set to cure a combination of issues for head injuries, such as edema reduction, neural monitoring, and arterial tissue repair. Once those two items were removed, the buzzing in his head subsided.
“Alright, sit up, slowly,” Crusher said, aiding him as he made the effort. “Look at my finger, follow without moving your head.”
Garcia complied with her instructions, glancing at her eyes for signs that she was satisfied that he was healed. Other than the ringing in his ears, he felt normal. She finished examining him. He smiled at her. She scowled back.
“What the hell do you think you were you doing?” Crusher demanded, not returning his smile. “Are you trying to kill yourself?”
That wasn’t the response he had expected. The door to sickbay opened and Captain Picard strolled in. On either side of him were Garcia’s hallucinations. He felt suddenly very tired and looked away.
“Doctor?” Picard asked.
“He’s fine, Captain,” Crusher said.
Duana was tapping her foot, arms akimbo, and saying, “tsk, tsk, tsk.”
“Garcia, until further notice, the holodeck is off limits to you,” Picard said.
“But…” Garcia began
“Excuse me?” Picard interrupted the debate before it even started.
“Don’t you realize if you kill yourself you’ll also be committing two counts of murder?” Ilona demanded. “We’re real people.”
“Sorry. I understand, Captain,” Garcia said.
“You still haven’t answered my question. What were you doing?” Crusher asked.
“Exercising,” Garcia said.
“You know, sex is a better exercise than jumping trains and climbing mountains,” Duana offered. “And safer.”
“You obviously haven’t seen some of his partners,” Ilona said to Duana.
“If Barclay hadn’t found you, you’d be dead,” Crusher said. “Now, you obviously have some issues. I want you to tell me what’s going on.”
“I’m just trying to work off some steam,” Garcia said, only partly telling the truth.
“I could help you with that,” Duana offered.
Ilona slapped the back of her head.
“Ow!” Duana complained.
“When you come in here wanting me to find something wrong with you, and then I don’t, you go and create something! That suggests to me that there is something wrong,” Crusher said.
“Did you find anything?” Garcia asked.
“No,” Crusher said. “There’s nothing wrong with you… Physically.”
“Told you,” Ilona said.
“Garcia,” Picard said. “I’d like you to go speak with Counselor Troi.”
“Alright,” Garcia said.
“Now,” Picard said.
Garcia frowned. “Computer, is Counselor Troi available?”
“Negative. She’s currently with a patient. Next available is 1400 hours.”
“Please schedule me in,” Garcia said. He looked to the Captain. “Okay?”
“Sufficient for now,” Picard said. “Carry on, Doctor.”
Picard departed sickbay as quickly as he had strolled in, but the force of his presence still lingered. There was no doubt that Picard was in charge of this ship. And Garcia admired him so much that he felt embarrassment for having gotten on his bad side. Crusher crossed her arms and stared at Garcia.
“May I go?” he asked.
Crusher stepped aside and motioned towards the door. She returned to her office, still a bit agitated. He gave her a half hearted smile as he departed. His hallucinations followed him.
Outside of sickbay, and only after making sure there was no one present to witness, he turned to them. “Please leave,” he said.
“But we have no where else to go,” Duana said, surprising Garcia with a movie quote that he thought only he was privy to. They had access to his meomory!
“Where do you go when I don’t see you?” Garcia asked.
They both shrugged.
“Fine, you stand right there while I walk that way? Okay?” Garcia asked.
They actually complied with his request. They were still standing there when the door to the lift closed. He almost felt badly for being so harsh to them, but then he canceled that line of thought. On a lark, Garcia went to Data’s quarters, hoping to find him present. Data was home and invited Garcia in. He found himself assaulted by six songs playing simultaneously at a volume that caused him to squint in pain. Data quickly eliminated all the music.
“I’m sorry if the selections were not to your liking,” Data said.
“No worries, Data,” Garcia said, inspecting the room. There was a painting in process of a tunnel with a light at the end, a tunnel made of rolling clouds and lightening. The passage to the after life? He wondered. Does Data even wonder about such things? There was a glass sculpture on the table, which Garcia intuitively hated, and with no logical reason to do so, he moved on. A general science tricorder lay on the corner of the desk.
“May I get you a drink? Or perhaps some food. Or maybe I should inquire directly into the nature of your visit?” Data finally prompted, getting up. “Would you like to sit down?”
Garcia nodded at the last and sat down. Data returned to his seat. The moment Garcia was comfortable, a cat jumped into his lap.
“Now, Spot, you were not invited…” Data began, standing to chase Spot away.
“Its okay, Data,” Garcia said, automatically petting the cat. “I love animals. Animals and children tend to gravitate towards me. And I seem to do so much better with them than I do with adults.”
“I have noted that those who Spot instantaneously likes tend to be good people,” Data said, taking his seat again. He seemed relieved that Garcia was a cat person.
“Well, good is a qualitative term that I wouldn’t use to describe myself,” Garcia said. “I’m just a man.”
“I would have to argue against that statement,” Data began, prepared to list his observations.
“That I’m just a man, or that I’m good? Data, even bad guys have loyal pets, and that only demonstrates how unbiased animals can be. But that’s not why I dropped by. I have a line of inquiry for you,” Garcia said. “If you have time to indulge me, that is.”
“Certainly. I will endeavor to answer your questions,” Data said.
“Are there any computer programs that can be down loaded from a computer into an organic brain and still function?” Garcia asked.
“The organic brain or the computer program?” Data asked.
“Both,” Garcia clarified. He showed no amusement on his face for he knew Data was attempting to be precise, not funny.
“Interesting concept. I am not aware of any programs of that nature. Can you elaborate on what you are looking for?” Data said.
“Well, I want you to speculate,” Garcia said. “For example, if a person who has a neural implant were to connect to a computer network, could that brain absorb a program and run it, process it, or use it outside of a computer framework?”
“I do not know,” Data said. “It seems reasonable that such a program could be devised. I have seen, and personally witnessed, an organic personality transferred to a computer system,” Data paused at this, as if remembering something personal. “So, it seems reasonable to conclude that the reverse is also possible. There are a number of examples of computer systems that use organic memory modules to store data. Since it does not violate any known rule of software programming, I suspect it would be possible to create software that could take advantage of an organic brain. It would, of course, require very specific codes, meaning it would probably be species specific, and maybe even host specific, given the variation in neural pathways. The software would also need to run in the back ground, such as in the subconscious mind, otherwise it might interfere with normal brain functioning.”
“The old paradigm claimed that humans use less than twenty percent of their conscious brains, so theoretically, there’s brain power left over to operate any number of programs?” Garcia asked.
“I suppose that would depend on the nature of the program,” Data said. “A virus program, for example, could theoretically continue to replicate itself in the brain until all other functions became suppressed in order to fulfill the needs of the virus program. This would no doubt kill the host organism.”
“Alright, let’s say the software exists that can work inside a human brain. If a person unwittingly has a program downloaded into his head, how would one go about deleting said program, or turning it off?” Garcia asked.
“Another interesting question,” Data said. “Unlike computer memory, which can be deleted and the space utilized again and again, organic memory does not facilitate the easy removal of data. Once it is in the permanent memory area, it is much harder to delete. That is partly due to the fact that memories are not stored in just one location. Bits of memory go all over the brain. Even our best memory erasing techniques are not perfect. It would be better to call them memory suppression techniques because of the difficulty in completely eliminating a memory. You might erase the visual image, for example, and maybe even the sound, only to find that the smell has remained intact. And that one sensory clue has the potential of aiding in the reconstruction of the erased components. Even a complete memory can remain intact with just the links to that memory erased. However, even though the links to that memory are gone, which effectively means the memory is gone, the potential for establishing new connections to the memory exists. Consequently, erasing a computer program would be problematic, because it would surely have built in safe guards to guarantee that it would still run even if brain damage occurred. Why the sudden interest in such programs?”
“Data, can you keep a secret?” Garcia asked.
“I am capable of respecting confidentiality. However, I must warn you that if the secret you wish to share with me violates any conditions, such as the possibility of you, or someone else, coming to harm, or deals with an illegal act, I would not hesitate to inform the proper authorities,” Data said.
“That’s reasonable,” Garcia agreed, chuckling. “Do you remember when I first accessed the Kelvan technology to save Riker’s Away Team?”
“Yes,” Data said. “If you remember, I was present.”
“For lack of a better description, I think when I accessed the Kelvan computer a program was downloaded into my brain,” Garcia said.
“You did act strangely afterwards, however, I believe Doctor Crusher has determined that your odd behavior was a combination of stress and the influence of a telepathic nature,” Data said.
“I wish you were telepathic, Data,” Garcia said. “I would love nothing more than to mind meld with you and let you take a peek at my brain.”
Data blinked. “You have a neural implant, do you not?” he asked.
“Yes,” Garcia said.
“I am certain I could access your neural implant, and perhaps from there I can directly monitor your brain functions,” Data said.
“And you could discern the difference between regular brain wave patterns and thoughts from an artificial program?” Garcia asked.
“It is possible,” Data said, getting up. He accessed a hidden compartment in the wall and retieved several items. He paused, looking perplexed. “Of course, it is highly likely that all I will find is normal brain wave patterns. There are no known procedures established to search for artificial programming in an organic host. However, the advantage of linking directly with my positronic brain over that of the ship’s computer is that I am sentient, adaptable, and should be able to identify anomalies more readily.”
Data returned with his items. He opened a tricorder and scanned Garcia’s head. The neural implant was on the left side of the brain. He placed a small device against Garcia’s temple and activated it. He plugged a mirror component directly to a port on his own temple. Both had blinking lights that began to synchronize.
“I am now accessing your neural implant,” Data said, his eyes looked up and to the left. He looked at Garcia and stated: “Your implant is working within established design parameters. The number of neurons that have directly connected to the devise, and their vitality, indicates frequent use. I am now going to attempt to make a neural map…”
Data shifted his head a bit to the left. He was feeling something. He blinked. He felt as if he were petting Spot, only, he wasn’t holding Spot. Garcia was holding Spot. He smiled and forced his hand to be still. “This is interesting. This is pleasant. This is more than pleasant. I am experiencing a feeling. Emotions? No. I am feeling your feelings. I could always discern tactile sensations when holding Spot. I knew how much pressure I could safely apply. I could measure her warmth with my hands, and note the oscillations of her purring, and describe the frequency, but I never really felt this. This is wonderful. Oh, Spot! I can experience feelings for you vicariously through Garcia. I love this,” he shouted, and then, speaking in baby talk, he added: “Spot, I love you.”
Data closed his eyes and continued to ramble. “This is amazing. I now have full access to all your sensory perception. Smell? I should program Spot’s litter-box to clean more frequently! Gee, Spot, that is some pretty powerful stuff over there. I can see myself sitting next to you, Garcia. Is this what bi-location feels like? I have never had an out of body experience before. This is strange. I can see with my eyes and with your eyes…”
Data shivered and his head tilted. “I now have access to more information. Garcia, have you just mind melded with Spot? I am seeing through Spot’s eyes? I can feel you petting her. This is amazing. I never… Spot? I can discern an actual feeling from you. It’s not so much words, but… Spot? Spot! Is this love? Garcia? Am I experiencing love? Spot loves me? I am over whelmed.”
The door opened to Data’s quarters and Counselor Troi walked in. “Data! What are you doing?”
“Counselor Troi!” Data responded. He did a double take. “This is strange, Counselor. I do not see you with my eyes. I do not see you with Spot’s eyes. In fact, you are not here. Garcia, I have discovered the roque program that was downloaded into your brain. This is fascinating.”
“Data! Stop this at once, you’re killing him,” Counselor Troi pleaded.
Data was skeptical of this Deanna’s intentions, but he couldn’t ignore the warning signs. Data focused on Garcia through his own eyes. Garcia was visibly shaking. He was no longer petting Spot, but gripping the cat tightly. The cat wanted to escape, but was unable. The tremor in Spot’s tail seemed to match the frequency of Garcia’s shaking.
“Trying to disengaged. Unable to comply. I am afraid. Interesting. I am actually experiencing fear. Garcia, I am unable to separate our consciousness,” Data said.
“Data! Do something,” the Counselor Troi facsimile urged.
“Counselor, you should call Doctor Crusher immediately,” Data said.
“Data, you know I can’t do that,” she said.
Data shivered. “You are not real. Hallucination? No. Rogue program. State the nature of your mission.”
“Data, call for help now.” Counselor Troi said.
Garcia fell out of his seat, still holding onto Spot. Data fell to the floor as well, his posture mirroring that of Garcia’s posture. Garcia held Spot. Data held his tricorder. Data lay on his side looking across at Spot and Garcia. Garcia eyes seemed dazed, unfocused. But Data could still see with those eyes. He could see himself looking at himself. He was literally looking back at himself through Garcia’s and Spot’s eyes. It was like looking into infinity, two mirrors side by side. He could see Troi’s legs. She knealt down into his line of vision and yelled at him to do something. At that moment Geordi La Forge strolled in.
“Data, I thought you were going to meet me…” La Forge stopped. He saw Data, Garcia, and Spot on the floor, and the three of them all appeared to be having some sort of epileptic seizure. “Data?! La Forge to sickbay. Medical emergency in Data’s quarters. Use a site to site transport, I need you now!”
Crusher appeared a moment later and immediately knelt down, as if getting her tricorder closer would speed up the process of gathering inoformation.
“What can I do?” La Forge asked.
“Don’t touch Garcia!” Crusher snapped and then hit her comm. badge. “Doctor Selar, I need you. STS,” she said, indicating site to site. She didn’t have to add ASAP, because the quality of her voice told Selar she was needed yesterday.
Doctor Selar appeared. She quickly ascertained the situation. It wasn’t the first time she had seen this phenomena with this patient. She was tempted to reach down and perform an emergency mind meld, but the last time she had done that it had changed the course of her life. And his. She would gladly do so again, but now that Simone was the carrier of his primary bond, a member of the Royal family tracing itself to T’Pau, she could not intervene in this instance. Not with Simone so near by. At the same time, she realized that she wanted Garcia back. She wanted to be one with him again. Was she actually missing him? She hesitated.
“Selar?” Crusher asked.
Selar shook herself out of it. “Can you terminate the link with Data?” Doctor Selar asked, forcing herself to be professional, cold, detached. She squashed all feelings for him, which normally wouldn’t have been difficult, except for Garcia’s influence on her. He was still influenceing her! she realized.
“Not at this time,” Crusher said. “Data’s brain is providing life support to Garcia’s vital organs. Data, what were you thinking?!”
“A mind meld is necessary,” Selar said, hitting her comm. badge. “Selar to Simone. Please report to Data’s quarters, STS!”
“Can’t you do this?” Crusher asked.
“She is a stronger telepath than I, and she has been more rigorously trained for these sorts of… situations,” Selar said. Selar didn’t see the need to add that Simone and Garcia were now one, and the type of intervention Garcia needed would require her touch.
Simone materialized in Data’s quarters. “Why have you disturbed my meditation?” Simone demanded, before her senses caught up with her. She suddenly knew why she had been summoned and why her meditation session had been so difficult. Simone dropped to her knees and touched Garcia’s face. The tremors stopped almost instantaneously with her touch. Data sat up and shook it off.
“Do not disconnect us yet,” Data warned.
Simone looked to Selar. “We are stable enough to transport to Sickbay,” she said, Garcia simultaneously uttering the same words.
Crusher tapped her badge again. “O’Brien? Lock on to my signal and beam everyone in my presence to Sickbay,” Crusher said. A moment later they were on the floor in Sickbay. “Data, can you lift Garcia to a medical table?”
“I believe so,” Data said. He stood, experienced his first moment of vertigo, and found himself being steadied by Geordi. “Thank you, Geordi. I feel very strange.”
“I can move Garcia,” Geordi offered.
“No!” Crusher, Selar, and Simone said simultaneously. Crusher continued: “No one but Data touches him. Data, put him on the table.”
“Of course, Doctor,” Data said.
Data knelt down and picked Garcia up.
“Slowly,” Selar said, ignoring the look of jealousy that crossed Simone’s face. She could see Garcia’s emotions had affected Simone as much as they were currently affecting her.
Data slowly lifted Garcia from the floor, giving Simone time to stand without loosing physical contact to the patient. She followed Garcia as Data moved him to the bed and set him down. Garcia still held Spot. Simone closed her eyes for a moment, and when she finally opened them, she spoke to no one in particular.
“Data can now safely remove the cat,” Simone said. “It is asleep”
Data transferred the cat to the next bed, petting it gently. “Poor Spot. Rest easy, baby.”
“I can’t believe a robot has a pet cat,” Ilona said.
Data snapped to attention. In an addition to the Deana Troi that only Garcia could see, there were two new females, dressed in complementary clothing. The blond was wearing white and the brunette was wearing black. The first connection that popped into Data’s mine was a Ying Yang symbol.
“Who are you? More programs?” Data asked.
“Who’s who?” Geordi asked, looking to where Data was looking. “Who are you talking to?”
“Then that confirms it. You do not see them.” Data said.
“See who, Data?” Crusher asked.
“Counselor Troi,” Simone said. Garcia spoke the same words simultaneously, but softer. “Duana and Ilona.”
“You see them?” Data asked Simone.
“No,” Simone said. “But Garcia does.”
“There’s not room for you here,” Duana said, angrily. She got right in Simone’s face and screamed, “Get out!”
Ilona actually hit Simone.
Simone’s head tilted with the blow and when she turned her head back, her lip was swelling and bleeding. She stood, one hand remaining on Garcia face, her other hand came up to ward off another blow. “You will not hit me again. You will leave this body at once.”
“No, he is ours. You can’t have him,” Ilona said.
“Sleep!” Duana said. “Tam, go to sleep.”
“Garcia, you must resist,” Simone said.
“Yes, Garcia,” the invisible Troi said. “Sleep.”
“We will resist you,” Simone said.
“Sleep!” Ilona said, her voice sounding like a song.
“We will resist,” Simone, Garcia, and Data said simultaneously.
A new presence entered. “Data, don’t do this. I’m afraid.”
“Lal?” Data asked. “How is this possible? You were terminated. I downloaded your programming into mine…”
“Sleep,” the four girls, Duana, Ilona, Deanna, and now Lal, sang out.
Doctor McCoy came to Garcia’s side, medical equipment in his hands. The chorus of “sleep,” was as pleasant as angels singing a lullaby. He brushed Garcia’s hair. “I told you to leave my katra alone, but no, you had to go ahead and drag this out, didn’t you. You just can’t let me go,” McCoy said, preparing an old style hypo spray. “Here, this will help you sleep,” he said.
“Pa Pa?” Garcia asked, looking up.
“Sleep, son, we’ll talk about it later,” McCoy said, and administered the sedative.
Garcia went to sleep. Data and Simone collapsed.
Data self activated, sat up, and looked around. Geordi was beside him, and suddenly, so was Doctor Crusher. Picard stepped closer. The real Counselor Troi was right behind him, at least, all his senses told him that it was the real Counselor Troi. Riker stood behind her.
“Data? What were you thinking?” Picard demanded.
“Just now, I found myself going through a diagnostic routine, observing I have two hours, ten minutes before the start of my duty shift, wondering about Spot…” Data would have gone on had he not been interrupted.
“Data!” Picard snapped. “Why did you try to link with Garcia’s neural implant?”
“Garcia approached me to discuss the theoretical plausibility of a computer program being down loaded into an organic brain, suspecting that he had actually acquired one from the Kelvan computer he had accessed. Together we were investigating the possibilities,” Data explained.
“You could have killed him!” Crusher said.
“And yourself,” Geordi said, obviously more concerned about Data than Garcia.
“I’m extremely disappointed with you, Data,” Picard said. “You have exercised very poor judgment in this instance…”
“I did not anticipate the technical difficulties that occurred, or I would have sought assistance in the experiment,” Data said.
Geordi shook his head. “Technical difficulties?! Did it ever occur to you that there are no established procedure for the kind of stunt you pulled?”
“I have accessed various sorts of computer components over the years…” Data began.
“But none attached directly to a human brain!” Crusher objected. “The transfer rate of his neural implant wasn’t designed to match the speeds you’re capable of attaining.”
“The difficulties that we experienced were not due to an error on my part, but rather were symptoms created by the artificial program operating in Garcia’s brain,” Data explained. “I believe that the program utilized a safety feature designed to prevent anyone from tampering with its programming.”
Counselor Troi alerted Doctor Crusher to the fact that Simone was waking. She sat up slowly, taking on the posture of not only a Vulcan, but of a Vulcan Princess. She frowned. She touched her jaw and lip.
“How are you feeling?” Crusher asked.
“Psychosomatic bruising?” Simone asked, rubbing her jaw.
“Apparently,” Crusher said. “He must have one tough program operating in his brain.”
“There is only one program,” Simone said. “A Counselor Troi software package that was programmed to bring Garcia to the Kelvan base. It has already fulfilled its purpose and is merely running freely in the background of his consciousness.”
“If there is only one program, then who were the other two people you mentioned?” Crusher asked.
“Fully developed personalities,” Simone said. “The people from your past would consider Garcia to be possessed by entities or spirits.”
“So, what do we do, exorcise them?” Riker asked.
“I assure you, it is not possession, as you think of it,” Simone said. “There is a phenomena that sometimes happens during mind melds where various personality traits from the participants merge and become a new entity in their own right. The more participants, the higher the chance of forming new personalities. Typically, these personalities only survive the duration of the mind meld session, but in rare instances, they take up residence in one or more of the participants. In Garcia’s case, there are two very distinct personalities sharing his space, possibly more.”
“Is there a cure?” Picard asked.
“You can terminate the personalities,” Simone said.
“Isn’t that murder?” Troi asked.
“Technically, yes,” Simone said.
“What are the other options?” Crusher asked.
“Well,” Deanna stepped up to the plate. “If we treat Garcia as if he had a multiple personality complex, it might be possible to integrate the extraneous personalities into his own psyche. Since this is not a classic multiple personality issue, any resistance of any of the personalities involved would make things difficult, especially if Garcia is the one that is resistant. He may not want to incorporate their essence into his own. The other option would be to teach him new coping strategies.”
“If he is unable to learn to cope,” Doctor Selar said. “He will go insane.”
“I’ve known Garcia for a long time. He is extremely resilient,” Counselor Troi said. “I hope so,” Simone said. “He and I are now linked. My life may depend on his well being.” “Data,” Geordi interrupted. “Right before you and Simone blacked out, you mentioned Lal’s name.”
“Indeed,” Data said. He looked to Picard. “As you know, in an effort to save Lal’s programming, I downloaded her files into mine. Apparently, while my mind was merged with Garcia’s, duplicate files were created and saved in his brain. I am speculating at this, but I believe that the Troi program in his head used this as a tactic to distract me long enough to severe the connection between us. It worked. I was completely taken off guard.”
“So, in addition to himself, he has four complete personalities inside him?” Geordi asked, whistling.
“There may be even more than that. I heard Admiral McCoy’s voice,” Simone said. “Garcia must have mind melded with the Admiral before he died in order to save his Katra.”
“No. Garcia didn’t perform a mind meld with the Admiral,” Doctor Selar said. “I was present when the Admiral died. There was no physical contact between them.”
“But they did share an active bond,” Counselor Troi said. “The bond between the two of them already existed. It was established before anyone knew Garcia was capable of telepathy, before he had established personal boundaries of his own.”
“That may explain the Admiral’s presence in Garcia’s thoughts,” Simone said.
“Just how many personalities can a brain hold?” Riker asked.
“The potential is theoretically infinite,” Counselor Troi said. “Think about it. When you dream, the dream characters all have their own personalities. They aren’t just cardboard character cut outs that your mind creates. They are those personalities. True, they are in essence you, but they are complex models that fully represent the true nature of the personalities being emulated. Our brains are social supercomputers specifically designed for us to observe, model, and predict the behavior of others. Most people do not use this capability to its fullest. Like any tool, it has to be developed. In this instance, though, instead of being relegated to just the REM state, Garcia’s extra-personalities are obviously able to be conscious and active during his normal wake cycle. And, given the nature of his psychic training, which I helped develop in him, he would be particularly sensitive to their presence.”
“Speaking of the devil, your patient seems to be waking, Doctor,” Riker said.
Counselor Troi shot Riker a look to tell him she didn’t appreciate what he had said, and he understood what she meant by that look. Doctor Crusher came around to Garcia’s side. She helped him as he sat up, his hand reaching for his head. He smiled faintly.
“I was just having the strangest, non-lucid dream about you, Doctor,” he began, and then stopped himself, blushing. He was now quite aware of everyone staring at him.
“How are you feeling?” Crusher asked, updating her medical scans now that he was awake and apparently functioning normally.
“I’m feeling rather odd,” Garcia said.
“Define odd,” Doctor Selar prompted, crossing her arms.
“I have a craving for feline supplement twenty five,” Garcia reported.
Deana burst out laughing and then covered her mouth. Riker watched her, amused. He liked seeing her happy and laughing, but he was enjoying this opportunity to mockingly scold her more. Geordi shook his head sadly.
“What do you remember of how you came to be here?” Doctor Selar asked.
“I don’t know how I came to be here. I went to see Data,” Garcia said, struggling to piece something together. “I just remember going to see Data. No, I remember his music being too loud. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Crusher said. “It’s probably for the best.”
“When you’re feeling up to it, come by my office so we can chat. My whole day has been freed up just for you,” Deanna said, patting his leg.
Garcia looked around at the faces staring at him. “What?”
Four Star General Hammon’s limousine accelerated after passing through the main gate to the air force base. The flags on the front of the car whipped as it raced to the hangar. Outside the hangar, two Captains, one aide, and a man in full space gear stood waiting. The space gear on the man was ergonomically designed to be comfortable even planet side, in vertical lift offs while experiencing additional G’s, and in space, regardless of temperature. The man wore it out of necessity. He would spend the rest of his days in his suit.
The limousine pulled up to the waiting men and the General stepped out. They all saluted. Hammon noticed the reflection of his secretary exiting the car in the visor of the helmet of the man wearing the space gear. Hammon wondered where the spaceman’s eyes were. Were they facing straight ahead, or was he admiring the legs of his secretary as she slipped out of the car before standing and then straightening her skirt? He felt sorrow for the mutant behind the space mask, for it had once been his best friend. The line of business they were in took a toll on a body, and genetic mutations had been one of the trade-offs for the convenience of having one’s atoms disintegrated and reassembled at a distant place. His friend, now only known as“Jay”, was a pioneer in astronautics, and though he had countless lift offs under his belt, his fame came for being the first Iotian to be transported from one place to another using their own transporter design. The first one that lived, that is.
“General,” Captain Romano said. “Our capsules are sifting through the debris field from the Federation ship. We found nothing worth salvaging, yet.”
“I don’t expect you will,” Hammon said. “That was a pretty massive explosion. Do we have any idea of what caused it?”
A raspy voice issued from the front speaker of the chest plate on the space suit. “We believe it was a matter antimatter explosion,” Jay said.
“Please,” Romano said. “Your ideas are complete speculation. General, mixing matter and antimatter to produce energy is completely impractical. We can barely produce enough in the lab to fill a test tube and when we do it has a very short life span. Just the power necessary to generate the magnetic fields to isolate the stuff in a vacuum chamber makes it cost prohibited. For them to have sufficient amounts of antimatter to cause that large of an explosion would require an energy output greater than, well, greater than anything we can do. We’re talking about generating more energy than our sun can radiate in a solar year.”
“Using your own formulas, you’d have to be able to generate more energy than the total sum of energy available in the known universe to generate a warp field,” Jay argued. “And since we know the Federation is doing it, either your theories are wrong, or there is more to physics than we currently understand.”
“Nonsense,” Romano said. “We know all there is to know about physics. The search for a grand theorem and the quantum math projects are dead end tangents that are a waste of our time. They just don’t make any sense. General, it’s more likely that the Federation ship was carrying nuclear weapons.”
“A nuclear weapon detonation inadequately explains the huge amounts of energy released in that explosion,” Jay said. “It would have taken thousands of our conventional, tactical nukes to generate that kind of blast.”
The General looked to the Captain who had remained neutral. “What’s your take on all this?”
“Our best science agrees that they are not trekking from star to star using conventional energy sources,” Captain Elmont said. “If they are indeed warping space, the amounts of energy generating capabilities required for doing so are still light years beyond anything we have. We have some hope for cold fusion, but no one has managed to get that to work.”
“And no one will as long the oil industry continues to buy off, or kill, scientists that start dabbling in alternative energy sources,” Romano said.
“And you have the gall to criticize my theories?” Jay asked. “You’re a paranoid, unpatriotic, little freak…”
“Freak? I’m not the one stuck in a suit! And paranoia is healthy, thank you very much. A little paranoia might have kept you out of a transporter, and you could still be walking around like a real man” Romano snapped. “Besides, Kirk did say he was coming back.”
“He never said he was coming back,” Jay argued.
“Hello? He said the Federation is moving in and that they want their cut,” Romano said. “That implies they’re coming back to get it.”
“If they take their cut, our economy will collapse,” Jay said.
“Enough!” Hammon snapped.
“You think I don’t know that? I’m as patriotic as the next person,” Romano said. “But to deny that the oil corporations are driving us towards extinction…”
“Did you ever think that perhaps it is our greed that is driving us towards extinction?” Miss Eliot asked.
The men seemed momentarily caught off guard by the secretary’s observation. General Hammon sighed. “Dismissed, gentleman. Jay, let’s go to the lab and see what you have for me. Miss Eliot, you can take the rest of the day off. Thank you.”
The General and Jay entered the hangar and headed towards a lift that required three forms of identification to operate. They took it down fifteen levels and exited the lift. It was a silent affair. The only audible noises came from the whine of the lift motors, a brushing sound that occurred as they passed each floor, and a slight wheezing sound emanating from Jay’s suit. The General wondered how much longer the man would live. The General followed Jay into a room where a number of technicians were studying recorded data or live telemetry from the capsules currently in orbit. Occasionaly radio chatter from the men in orbit and the control room’s response were heard over an intercom.
There had been individual terminal and technician assigned to watch over each of the men beamed up to the Federation Starship. These technicians were called Angels, because they were always watching over your shoulder and advising. Jay led Hammon over to one particular station where the ‘angel’ had just sneezed into a tissue and disposed of it in a small metal bin beneath his desk. Jay pulled a chair over for the General, but he remained on his feet.
“Show me what you got,” General Hammon said.
“Yes, Sir,” the angel said, the nasal qualities of his voice almost comical. “As you know, we sent two task forces up, Blue and Red teams. The plan was to materialize them at strategic points near the hull, plant explosives, detonate them, and vent the air into space.” The man sneezed, moaned a little, and then continued. “We had hoped this would eliminate opposition and give us free reign of the ship. The helmet cam feed we’re viewing here is from Blue Five, a corporal Amass. He arrived in this corridor, planted the explosives on the floor, moved the appropriate distance from the intended hole, and secured himself to a wall. You can make out the first people responding to his presence on this part of the screen right before he detonates the explosives.”
The general waited for the rapid decompression of the deck but nothing happened. There was an explosion, he saw the Federation men fall, but they had not been sucked out into space as he had expected them to be. Blue Five detached himself from the wall and went back to examine the hole he had made. He was looking at the hole, extending a hand to touch it. When the area of the hole illuminated with a blue field of light, he quickly jerked his hand back, startled. And then the screen went blank.
“What happened?” Hammon asked.
“The ship blew up,” Jay said.
“Because of that? I don’t understand what you were showing me,” Hammon said.
“Play that last bit again, with the audio,” Jay instructed.
The feed rewound and started up normal play. Blue Five was extending a hand towards the hole. “There is some sort of force field that is preventing the loss of atmosphere. I can’t even push my hand through…”
Hammon looked up at his face mirrored in Jay’s helmet visor. “A force field?! That’s incredible.”
“Mark, show him the feed from Blue Seven,” Jay instructed.
The technician blew his nose, and then punched up the new video. “As you can see, Blue Seven, a Corporal Sims, has just arrived,” Mark said, the nasal quality of his voice indicating he was feeling worse. He froze the video and pointed to a cylindrical object that stretched from floor to ceiling, and perhaps continued on up at least another deck. When the video resumed rolling, it pulsated with light. “We believe this to be an energy conduit of some sort. We’re almost certain that the explosion that destroyed the ship initiated here. As per protocol, no team members are allowed to be captured. The men in this section immediately attempted to over power Sims. He didn’t even have time to draw his weapon. This icon at the bottom of the screen indicated that he has just armed his suit explosives, simultaneously with all the charges he brought up with him. Standard suicide plan. Take out the enemy, vent everything and everyone out into space, leaving us with technology to examine.”
“So, he blew himself up,” Hammon said, nodding.
“Not yet,” Mark said. “Notice he managed to pull his weapon free here, and fired off several rounds. He staggers back towards the cylinder, still firing randomly. Notice the line of fire moving across the wall and then… Nothing. Our best guess is that when Singer’s bullets pierced that cylinder the whole ship blew up.”
“Matter antimatter?” Hammon asked.
“It would explain a lot,” Mark said.
“But how can they hold that much antimatter?” Hammon said. “Can a human live in the presence of a magnetic field required to hold that much antimatter in a stream?”
“Remember the force field?” Jay asked.
Hammon nodded. “We need force fields! Can you backwards engineer that from just seeing the video?”
“It took our scientist nearly seventy years to make a working transporter!” Mark said. “And we still don’t have all the bugs worked out of that. The genetic mutations of just twelve transports is enough to put a man in the grave. And the accident that grafted Jay’s space suit to his skin still occurs one out of a thousand transports.”
“But we built it,” Hammon argued. “And it works. And we did it purely on theoretical principals. So, force fields are a possibility.”
“You’re asking a cave man to build you a toaster without a concept of electricity!” Mark said. “And you’re forgetting that Kirk left behind technology that we were able to work with. That was a tremendous aid towards building the communication grid we now have and that communication grid made transporters possible.”
“Surely a force field generator is easier to build than a transporter!” Hammon argued.
“You just don’t understand what’s all involved here!” Mark complained. “And neither of you seemed to have even seen the most interesting feature of the video I just showed you.”
“Well, educate me,” Hammon insisted.
“They have artificial gravity,” Mark said.
Hammon blinked. Mark sighed heavily at their lack of vision.
“To get gravity on our space station, we had to spin it. It’s not really gravity. It’s centrifugal force. The Feds aren’t spinning their ship. They’re producing gravity, and if they can do that, they can certainly influence inertia.”
“So?” Hammon asked.
“Without the ability to eliminate or decrease inertial affects, your space flight is restricted to extremely slow acceleration and deceleration maneuvers, and limited turning capabilities,” Mark said, and saw they were still not getting it. “They’re working on quantum principles so far above us that we’re still throwing stones. Even if I could accelerate a ship to the speed of light, with out some way of dampening the inertial forces the ship would literally implode. And don’t say you can build a ship that can withstand the kinds of accelerations we’re talking about here. Because even if you did manage that trick, with materials I can’t even begin to imagine, if you accelerate too quickly, or stop too quickly, or make a sudden turn, all that’s left of your passengers are going to be blood smears on the wall, just like a fly hitting the windshield of a car,” Mark said, and sneezed vehemently three times in a row before he could catch his breath. He cleaned himself and sighed. “Backwards engineer force fields, indeed. You might as well ask me to invent a cure for the common cold, something, I might point out, we never had until the Horizon came along.”
“So, what do I need to do to make this possible?” Hammon asked.
“Get me one of their ships to examine,” Mark said. “Get me one of their crew members. Maybe we can get one of them to throw us a bone.”
“Jay?” Hammon said.
“In order to transport them we’ll need a way to lock onto their people. Perhaps a projectile weapon modified to shoot identifier tags so that our transporters can lock onto them long enough to beam them out,” Jay said.
“Now that I can build you,” Mark said.
“Great. Let’s do that. As for the ship, how many holes do you suppose we have to make before their force field generator fails?” Hammon said.
“It’s hard to say,” Mark said. “The only thing we really have to do is prevent them from leaving. If you can cripple their ship, without blowing it up, we can continue sending up teams all day long until we finally capture them all or they surrender. Either way, if you get me enough of their technicians, I am certain we can learn something from them.”
“We have ways of making them talk,” Jay agreed.
“Alright,” Hammon said. “We continue with our original plans of scuttling the next ship, in hopes of preventing its departure. Meanwhile, Jay, I want you to start training a new assault team to go in and try to capture as many of the Feds as you can.”
“Yes, Sir,” Jay said, and he pivoted and walked off.
Hammon asked Mark to show him more video.
It always surprised Garcia just how Spartan Deanna Troi’s office was. The subdued lighting added to a minimalist feeling. Of course, that same lighting had a relaxing affect, and the knowledge that he and Deanna were alone in this setting canceled out the counselor’s intentions for the calm environment. Her office offered too few things for him to focus on as a distraction from her penetrating eyes. The votive candle helped. He sat uncomfortably on the couch, waiting for her to start lecturing, or asking questions. He could imagine all the things she was about to say, along with all the things he wanted to hear. She didn’t say anything for a long while. She was, however, the first one to break the silence.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Deanna asked. Her voice indicated that she was hurt.
Garcia sighed and looked at his boots. “I don’t know.”
“I can’t accept that,” Deanna said.
He nodded. She was right. He did know. “Fear. I have enough issues, don’t you think? I don’t need schizophrenia on top of everything else. That would spell the end of my career in Fleet.”
“Not necessarily,” Deanna said. “First off, you don’t have schizophrenia, simply a rare case of mind meld induced multiple personality. Secondly, even if you did have schizophrenia, there are treatments for it. It’s rare a condition these days, but the success rate on the cure is so close to a hundred percent that most everyone goes on to lead a happy, productive life.”
“People already treat me strange, what do you think they’re going to say if they think I’m crazy on top of that?” Garcia asked.
“Did you ever read the story of John Nash, a famous mathematician who suffered from schizophrenia?” Deanna said.
“The beautiful mind guy?” Garcia asked. “Yes, I’m familiar with the story, and I don’t believe there is a comparison here. We’re talking Star Fleet. Who’s going to put me in the command chair if I’m sitting there talking to myself?!”
“Did it ever occur to you that maybe you don’t belong in the command chair?” Deanna asked. “Star Fleet needs people they can trust. You’re not acting like someone who is very trust worthy at the moment.”
A micro expression of anger flashed across Garcia’s face. It didn’t go unnoticed by Deanna. She waited for him to sort through his thoughts.
“I am a licensed medical doctor and psychotherapist,” Garcia said. “I didn’t see the need to come to you. A brain with schizophrenia has identifiable artifacts, none of which appeared on any of my brain scans. I was unable to find evidence of any type of mental disorder that would be caused by a physical aberration, or any other known condition to explain my experiences. I went to Doctor Crusher several times, and she could not find any evidence of anything wrong. If neither of us could find anything, then…”
“But you didn’t tell us what to look for,” Deanna said.
“Look, Deanna,” Garcia said, picking up one of the cushions and hugging it to him. “I know everything Crusher knows. I know everything you know. I know every question you’re going to ask me before you ask, I know every medical line of inquiry, and the answers just all boil up to one thing…”
“Yeah,” he said, quietly.
“You’re not crazy, Tam, but not coming and sharing this with us is crazy behavior,” Deanna said. “Maybe I don’t have any immediate answers, and at the moment, neither do you. But together, with your smarts and my smarts, we are more likely to solve this than you or I might as individuals. You know the drill; thesis, antithesis, synthesis. This can only happen through a dialogue, a dialectic process.”
Garcia didn’t respond. Deanna sighed and out of the blue said: “You need to change your theme song.”
“Mph,” Garcia grunted. “Synchronicity. Ray was just telling me the same thing…”
“You’re willing to talk to Ray but not to me?” Deanna asked.
“Ray is a holodeck program,” Garcia offered. That didn’t seem to help his case any.
“You know what song is playing in my head?” Deanna asked. “Desperado, by the Eagles. This is the song I hear as I sit here looking at you.”
“I’m not familiar with this one,” Garcia said, using his implant to retrieve the data from the computer.
“Really?” Troi asked. “I thought you know everything?”
Garcia shot her an angry look. “I don’t know everything,” Garcia said, looking over the file that had downloaded into his implant. “I should know this song. Wait, I know this, but it wasn’t the Eagle’s version.” He could read the musical score and lyrics faster than he could play the song in real time. His response was visceral and immediate. He didn’t try to hide the tears forming in his eyes.
“You don’t have to do this alone,” Deanna said.
“Apparently, I’m not alone,” Garcia said, pointing to his head. “Before, you were just a latent telepathic bond that sometimes whispered to me loud enough to send shivers down my spine, but now, I got this Deanna program running around in my head.”
“It’s not me,” Deanna said.
“You or imagination, it’s all the same to my brain,” Garcia said. “Hell, for all I know the computer program may have been designed to tap into that bond we share to flesh itself out and make it a more credible facsimile. Or better, it might actually be an exact copy of your brain and psyche when you were abducted by the Kelvan, which was then down loaded directly into my head the moment I tapped into their computer system to save Riker.”
“All of that may be true, but since it is in your head, it derives some, if not all, of its energy to operate from you,” Deanna said. “You’re going to have to learn to function with this. Now, one option, obviously, is to ignore it. The other is to interact with it.”
“I hadn’t seen the Deanna program since I rescued you,” Garcia said, musing. He wondered if Data had reactivated it, or it had just been running in the back ground. “The more obtrusive hallucinations are the Duana and Ilona personalities.”
“They’re not hallucinations,” Deanna corrected. “You need to recognize that and decide how you are going to interact with them. They’re as real as I am, the only difference being is that they are sharing your brain. They haven’t attempted to take control of your body, have they?”
“No,” Garcia said. “But I can feel them when they touch me.”
“That’s because they fire off the neurons in your sensory perceptions,” Deanna said.
“So, how do you explain the bruising if my confrontations with them become physical?” Garcia asked.
“Psychosomatic reactions,” Deanna answered.
Garcia forced a sigh. “Duana is strongly attracted to Commander Riker,” Garcia said. “I almost started to think that I had some latent homosexuality in me.”
Deanna laughed, covered her mouth, and continued to laugh through her hand. Garcia shot her a look that suggested he didn’t approve. He threw the pillow he was holding at her. She caught it, set it down, moved to the couch and touched his shoulder. “I’m sorry. It’s very obvious to me that you’re heterosexual, but since you brought it up, it wouldn’t harm us to explore this a little because the number of partners you have gone through sometimes suggest that you are trying to over compensate for some hidden facet of your subconscious that you are keeping suppressed. Obsessive Compulsive Disorders are more often than not the symptom of some form of thought suppression, and we have been working on your OCD for a long time. You’ve improved a great deal in controlling your OCD impulses, but I can see just how much energy you employ to keep that control. What would life be like if you didn’t have to work so hard at all of this thought suppression? What do you think you might learn if we were to explore this?”
Both of these questions went right to the back of his brain to sort later. His focused stayed with the Riker tangent. “So, you’re saying that I might be gay?”
“No, I didn’t say that,” Deanna corrected. “What I am saying is that you are not as open about discussing sexuality as you make yourself out to be.”
“I would be more than happy to demonstrate my heterosexual nature to you,” Garcia offered.
“You might as well get over these childhood fantasies you hold for me, because you and I are never going to be an item. We are friends, and I can help you with any number of issues you may be dealing with, but it will never go beyond a professional friendship level,” Deanna said. “Is that clear?”
“I don’t see the point of discussing anything with you at all when you’re so quick dismiss my feelings,” Garcia said.
Deanna shook her head and gently said, “No. I’m not dismissing your feelings. I’m telling you they’re not mutual.”
Garcia massaged his forehead. In the back ground he could hear Duana singing, “I’ve been alone with you inside my mind… Hello, is it me you’re looking for. I can see it in your eyes. I can see it in your smile. You’re all I ever wanted and…” “Shut up!” Garcia yelled at Duana, startling Deanna. Tammas shivered, trying not to loose his train of thought. “You can’t lie to me, remember. You’re in my head. You have been for a long time. Much longer than the Deana program, and I don’t believe that the program has been basing its behavior patterns totally on my expectations or fantasies. I believe it tapped into that bond we share.”
“It may have,” Deanna said. “And yes, I don’t deny having entertained the idea of a relationship with you. But this is not the time or place. I can clearly see that you require my friendship more than anything else.”
“I think I should be able to decide what I need,” Garcia said.
“Yeah?! Because lately you have certainly done so well at demonstrating you have that ability. You’re not being true to yourself. What is it you’re hiding? What is about Tammas Parkin Arblaster-Garcia that you don’t want anyone else to discover?” Deanna asked, and when he turned his head from her, she gently redirected his face back. “I have wondered if it dealt with the loss of your parents, or seeing the war on your home world up close and personal. I have wondered if it dealt with the fact that you were sexualized too early. I have wondered if the psychic bonds before you developed boundaries contributed to your OCD. But the more I try to get to know the real you, the more I think there’s something about you that you don’t like and you have to control it so fiercely, spending so much energy on it, that it’s preventing you from living as healthy as you could be living.”
“You’re saying I’m not healthy?” Garcia asked.
“Are you?” Deanna asked.
“Compared to whom?” Garcia demanded.
“I’m not asking you to make comparisons, I’m asking you if you think you are healthy,” Deanna said.
“Well, let’s see. Other than being an alien in a human body, in a world where I rarely fit in, mixed with OCD issues, attention deficit issues, bouts of depression, pressures of having recently, and single handedly I might add, saved the Universe as we know it, pestered by what I thought were hallucinations, constantly turned down by my first true love, not able to see my second love for fear of death, and consequently unable to see the daughter from that relationship for similar issues, forced to marry a Vulcan who wanted nothing to do with me other than professional courtesy, which ended recently in a divorce by default because my marriage bond was passed off to someone else as easily as trading baseball cards, survived the destruction of the USS Chance, lost a sister and some friends in that, was just barred from the holodeck by Captain Picard, my one source of stress relief mind you, I’m soon to bury a biological parent, who never really wanted to be a father to me but had had his sperm stolen by the same alien invaders I recently condemned to extinction by spoiling their plans to take over the galaxy, and I accidentally mind melded with Data’s cat, Spot,” Garcia said, taking a deep breath. “I think I’m doing fairly well for today. Don’t you?”
Commander Riker’s voice broke over Garcia’s comm. badge. “Garcia, report to Captain Picard’s Ready Room, at your earliest convenience.”
Garcia stood, gave a quick smile to Deanna, and headed for the door. “This has been so productive. I don’t know why we don’t do it more often. Thanks for your time, Deanna.”
The door closed behind him. Garcia sighed and his shoulders slumped. He turned to go back and apologize, fought against it, and then headed straight for the Bridge. Shouldn’t keep the Captain waiting, after all, or so Guinan had warned. He had no idea what the Captain wanted with him now. Was Picard going to evaluate his performance to date and send his recommendations back to the Academy? Garica forced himself not to panic. Though Picard had that ability, there was no known animosity between the two of them. Then again, there were only so many ways for Picard to write a report explaining how Garcia incapacitated the crew and stole a shuttle.
Riker glanced over at Garcia as he stepped off the tubrolift and onto the Bridge, nodding and continuing with his conversation with a tech. Worf seemed to sneer a little, but he obviously assumed Garcia knew the way. He did, and he didn’t tarry to take in the scenery. Picard didn’t look up as Garcia entered, merely asked him to be seated. Instead of taking the seat, as prompted, Garcia went over to the aquarium and took a closer look. Picard set a PADD down, gently on his desk, leaned back in his chair, and studied the young cadet for a moment. Garcia turned and made eye contact.
“I trust you’re feeling well,” Picard said.
“I’m fine, Captain,” Garcia said, suppressing the urge to answer with sarcasm, “Yeah, we’re all fine, here.” He frowned a little. He wanted to apologize for all the problems he had caused Picard, but he held back, so as not to appear as a babbling fool in front of the man he had immense respect for; respect bordering on idol worship. Was he a Picard groupie the same way some of his music and literary fans were Garcia groupies? Garcia took the seat in front of the Captain’s desk.
“Would you like something to drink? Tea perhaps?” Picard asked.
Garcia smiled at the gesture. He had given the Captain headaches and here he was reaching out to him. “Whatever you’re having would be nice, thank you.”
Picard ordered up two cups of tea, Earl Grey, and carried them over from the replicator. He returned to his chair. In some ways, sharing tea with Captain Picard reminded Garcia of the time he had had tea with T’Pau. Garcia couldn’t help but see Picard as royalty, though Picard would probably argue against that comparison.
“I just received a message from Vulcan,” Picard said. “Sarek’s estate has requested that I notify you that you will be representing them at the funeral.”
The Captain’s choice of words were not a mistake. He wasn’t being asked to represent the Sarek estate, he was being told to. It was pretty much a done deal. Still, Garcia shook his head in protest. “No,” Garcia said, almost pleading. “Sarek needs to be present.”
“They didn’t say it, but I suspect Sarek is not well enough to travel,” Picard said, drawing on more than intuition. He had never been quite the same since he had mind melded with Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan, but then, no one was ever completely the same after a mind meld. Of course, no one was ever the same after meeting with Sarek mind meld or no. He was an incredible force for good and peace that influenced everyone that came into contact with him.
“So why haven’t they contacted me?” Garcia asked. “This doesn’t make sense. What about Spock? He should be here. Have you heard from him?”
“No,” Picard said. “I have asked some friends at Star Fleet to help locate him, but so far no one seems to know where he is.”
Garcia rubbed his forehead.
“I know this isn’t a pleasant thing to do, but it has to be done,” Picard said.
“I know,” Garcia said, his eyes going to the window, momentarily loosing himself in the stars streaking by. “I just really wanted to see Sarek. A security blanket, I guess. I always feel so calm when he’s around.” It was a statement that wasn’t actually true, but that was more than the Captain really needed to know. Besides, Garcia wouldn’t know how to explain that his last days around Sarek had been filled with emotional turmoil and frequent episodes of bickering. The bickering wasn’t as bad as between Sarek and Spock, but it was conflict none the less.
“Do you remember the first time we met?” Picard asked. “You were in some sort of legal trouble and McCoy made it his duty to attend to you personally.”
Garcia was flooded with the memory. He pushed through the conflicting emotions of that chaotic moment in his life, sorting through the people he had barely paid attention to, and sure enough, there was Picard in the back ground. A Picard almost unrecognizable now, speechless before one of his own heroes, Ambassador Sarek.
Garcia chuckled in contrast to the emotions he was re-living by calling up the memories of that day. “Yes,” Tammas said, surprised. It was a time before Picard was even on his radar screen, before the ‘Picard maneuver.’ “We’ve come full circle. Small Universe. Who would have thought?”
“Touched by greatness,” Picard agreed, toasting his tea cup. “Synchronicity is a very interesting phenomenon, which has almost a surreal quality to it that hints at a greater reality beyond that which we understand.”
How does that line go? Garcia thought. Ancient weapons and hokey religions are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid. Would Picard even be familiar with it? “I think I understand what you are saying, but I hesitate to put a supernatural or paranormal spin on events that are probably nothing more than coincidence.”
“In my experience, coincidence happens too frequently for there not to be some influence beyond what are senses perceive,” Picard said. “After all, one scientist suggested that not only is the Universe quierer than we think…”
“It’s stranger than we can think,” Garcia chimed in, avoiding the English word for ‘strange.’ “That doesn’t necessarily mean we should subscribe to superstitious rituals or belief system.”
“Nor rule them out,” Picard offered, enjoying the philosophical banter.
“There’s always been a certain segment of the population that buys into superstition. I’ve always considered superstitious beliefs to be a biological quirk similar to obsessive compulsive disorder,” Garcia said. “I’m hoping one day there will be a cure for that, too, since education and science alone doesn’t seem to be sufficient to eliminate the phenomena completely. At the same time, I recognise that people can find comfort in rituals and traditions.”
“Such as funerals,” Picard said.
Garcia frowned, but nodded.
“If there is anything I can do to be of assistance in this matter,” Picard offered.
You could let me use the Kelvan technology to revive McCoy, he wanted to scream. He forced himself to let go of that tangent. McCoy had forbidden it. Death was a part of life, McCoy had said. He felt McCoy’s hand on his shoulder, and heard McCoy’s voice saying, “It’s okay. I’ve had a good run.” So have I, Garcia answered the voice in his head: “Does that mean I should quit now?” No answer. Even Duana and Ilona failed to comment. He observed Picard watching him.
“Thank you, Captain,” Garcia said, resigned to his fate. He placed the empty tea cup in the saucer. A tiny clink broke the stillness of the room, a subtle quiet. Subtle because it wasn’t complete silent. It was the gentleness of that clink of cup against saucer that made him take inventory of his auditory environment. He identified a slight cycle in the hum of the life support system, almost a melancholy rhythm, like plangent waves of an ocean on a gray day. A beat that said life goes on. There were also the harmonic frequencies of various electronics that were almost imperceptible due to familiarity. “I suppose this is just one of those duties I have to attend to.”
Picard nodded. “It’s never an easy duty,” Picard agreed. “Neither is telling a family member that someone has died under my command. Which brings me to the other reason I wanted to visit with you. I was wondering if you might perhaps escort Captain Janeway to see the Garcia family, to facilitate her duty.”
Picard was referring to the death of Jovet, his sister. Her family, the family that had adopted him before he had been forced to live with Sarek, had yet to be informed of their loss and Janeway would no doubt take advantage of this opportunity to tell them in person. Returning home was going to be bitter sweet.
“Of course,” Garcia said. “I would do anything for her. Did she think I wouldn’t?”
“No, no,” Picard assured him. “She doesn’t even know that I intended to ask you. I just know how difficult this is and I was thinking, since I’ve been on the Enterprise, I have always had Counselor Troi by my side to facilitate these sorts of affairs…”
“I’ll offer to introduce Janeway to them as soon as we arrive,” Garcia said, standing. “Thank you for your time, Captain. All of this,” indicating the tea with his hand, “and our talk means a lot to me.”
Picard stood up and extended a hand. Garcia shook it. There was a sudden, noticeable downward shift in pitch coming from below the floor, accompanied by a harmonic resonance in the deck plating that caused it to vibrate, perhaps from an energy conduit that ran below them. Garcia noticed that Picard had observed the same phenomena and that he seemed unconcerned.
“You heard that, uh?” Garcia asked.
“Terminal sequencer,” Picard explained. “As we pass down through warp three, it vibrates at 440 cycles per second and actually vibrate\s the deck plate below my desk. You could tune an instrument to it. It’s just an idiosyncrasy of this particular ship. Never heard it anywhere else. It’s the most noticeable in my Ready Room.”
“You have perfect pitch?” Garcia asked, surprised. “So do I.”
“I know,” Picard said. “We’ll be in orbit shortly. You should go see Captain Janeway.”
“Of course,” Garcia said.
“One hundred and six,” Tammas mumbled to himself. One hundred and six times he had been transported in his life time, as he and Captain Janeway materialized planet side.
It was raining at the Garcia estate as they beamed in. The conversion back from energy to matter was a process that reassembled the humans from inside to out, but it was a process that happened so quickly that it had the appearance of being instantaneous. The energy necessary to reconstitute the human beings was sufficient to force out a significant volume of air and even redirect the rain drops so that there was no fusion of arriving matter with the matter that would have been occupying that space.
Cadet Tammas Garcia wasn’t happy that it was raining. It was raining harder than what the sensors had told them it would be. He was one of those who hated transporters and so coming out into a storm only fueled his paranoia of the technology. No one scientist would ever say, with a hundred percent guarantee, that materializing in a storm would not cause “water on the brain” or that his human DNA might be fused with say that of a randomly passing insect. He knew the old movie “the Fly” was just a movie, but he also knew there were dozens of cases of odd things occurring when transporter technology was utilized. Given the current understanding of quantum flux theory, reducing an object to energy and then hoping the conversion back to matter would be flawless every time just seemed ludicrous. Sure, they placed odds on it, like an incident happening one time out of a trillion. The odds were purportedly better for someone to win a lottery or get struck by lightening. Of course, his argument was that those odds increased when you actually buy a lotto ticket, or stand on a golf course in a thunder storm swinging a five iron.
“Are you sure about this?” Captain Janeway asked, unawares that the source of his anxiety was an issues with transporters and not their mission. The rain didn’t seem to bother her one bit. Her hair was being blown about by the off shore breeze and she was holding it out of her eyes. “This is completely my duty. You don’t have to be here.”
“Yes, I do,” he said. It really was a mission to him, as he had not been home since he was forced to relocate by McCoy and Spock due to his mental health issues.
“So, you grew up here?” Janeway inquired, hoping to reduce the tension in the air.
“Not really. I just spent a couple of seasons here,” Garcia answered. “But I still think of it as home. If you were to follow that ravine over there, you would find my secret cave hideout, from which I launched myself into space.”
“What do you mean?” Janeway asked.
Tammas told her the story as he led the way down the peer. She met the story with some incredulity, but also a bit of humor.
He remembered with exacting clarity the first time his feet had met the wood of this peer. He had run the length of the dock, watching the water rising and falling, entranced by the shadows cast by the sun shining through the space between the slats. He had ended up running off the edge and drowned. It had been the first time he had drowned, and he thought it strange that once he got past the actual breathing water bit, the experience hadn’t been too unpleasant. Perhaps it was due to shock. He remembered being surrounded by angels, the water itself had become light. Of course, there hadn’t been angels. They had been dolphins that had come to his rescue, but he had never met dolphins before that encounter, and those were the days before he had learned to maintain the boundaries of his consciousness. In rescuing him, the dolphin consciousness had merged with him, and perhaps they would have all been lost had they not had clear boundaries of their own. The dolphins had seemed to him less like separate entities and more like the characters manifested in a dream, fluid and seamless.
There were no dolphins playing here today, which was some relief to him. It was hard to be sad around dolphins, and he felt as if sadness was the appropriate emotion he should be showing. It seemed inadequate simply to be wearing dress uniform. He should be in black. He should be crying. He reached out his hand to ring the door bell just as the door opened.
“I told you someone was here,” Natalia yelled back into the house, drawn to the door by something she couldn’t quite put a finger on. Then her eyes locked on Garcia’s eyes, and she brightened like the day would have had the clouds parted and allowed the sun to shine through. The sun was still there, shining down on them, but you’d have to get above the clouds to fully realize that. For just a moment, she was the sun, the mother that had adopted him, and he felt as if he had come home.
Natalia instantly embraced Tammas, laughing and crying out of joy. Her embrace flooded him with a warmth that he hadn’t felt since he was last here. The warmth and the smell of her took him back to his childhood, and the memory was so real that he felt small, his arms embracing around her knees, where as now, as an adult, his hands lighted behind her shoulders. Juan was suddenly behind her trying to figure out what all the commotion was about and then he saw Tammas. Tammas had a look on his face as if he were trying to comprehend the hug, which made Juan laugh.
“Welcome home, son,” Juan said, equally happy.
“Why didn’t you call?” Natalia asked, backing up to take in his face. She examined him with her eyes and hands, touching his cheek and then wiping the rain off his forehead. “You are so handsome. If it weren’t for those holograms you sent us, I wouldn’t have recognized you. Come in. Both of you, come in. Who is your friend?”
“Doctor Garcia, this is Captain Katharine Janeway,” Tammas said.
Natalia almost seemed cross. “So formal? Tammas, you can still call me mom,” Natalia said.
“Are you coming in?” Juan asked.
“Of course, they are,” Natalia said, dragging Tammas by the arm. “I’m just so happy to see you. Why didn’t you call? Are you hungry? Captain? Are you hungry?”
“Mom,” Tammas interrupted her. “We need to talk. It’s serious.”
Natalia measured Tam’s statement and came up with the only conclusion that her mind could process. “Oh my god,” she said, hugging Tammas again, beginning to cry. She surprised Janeway with a hug of equal intensity. “I’m so happy for the two of you. So, when is the wedding?”
“Mom!” Tammas said, shocked, and a little embarrassed. Janeway barely managed to conceal a smile at his discomfort. “We’re not getting married. She’s my Captain.”
“So, they don’t let Captain’s marry cadets?” Natalia asked.
“Mom, Dad, please, sit down,” Tammas said. “Captain Janeway and I are here on serious business.”
“Okay, okay,” Natalia said. “Can I at least get either of you a drink?”
“No, thank you,” Captain Janeway said.
“Mom,” Tammas said.
“Okay,” Natalia said, guiding them down into the living area. She and Juan sat on the couch, leaving the chairs for Janeway and Tammas. Janeway sat on the edge of her chair, almost Vulcan discipline shining through the straightness of her spine. Tammas walked over to the piano. He was surprised they hadn’t moved it. He lightly pressed down on the keys, and looked down over the dining area and out through the large plate glass window and into the sea.
“Tam, are you okay?” Natalia asked. “You act like there was a death.”
“Admiral McCoy died,” Tammas said. “I am here on a funeral detail, per McCoy’s last request.”
“Oh my god,” Natalia said, coming to the edge of her seat. Juan took her hand in his. “How? When? It hasn’t been on the news.”
“They haven’t released it yet,” Janeway said. “McCoy didn’t want a media stampede at his funeral. A few dignitaries will be arriving over the next couple of days to attend the funeral.”
“He wants to be buried next to his wife,” Tammas said.
“Of course,” Natalia said. “Tam, this is your home. I hope you will stay with us while you’re here. And Captain, our home is open to you as well. You may use my daughter’s room.”
“Mom,” Tammas said, a hint of sadness leaking through. “There’s something else.”
Natalia looked to Tammas for an explanation, and when none came, she turned to Janeway.
“Doctor and Mr. Garcia,” Janeway said, not thinking about how difficult a duty this was, but wondering if there were any better way to say what she had come here to say. “I am here to inform you that your daughter, Jovet, was killed while under my command.”
Natalia’s grip tightened on Juan’s hand, but she didn’t cry. Not then. The only sound in the house was that of the rain against the dome roof. It sounded like rain on galvanized-steel. Tammas stared out at the sea, not wanting to look at his foster parents. He wanted the dolphins. He wanted them to bring his happiness and childhood back to him. But there was only the sea, dimly lit by the grey skies above. He could see all the tiny ripples that each drop of rain cast on the ocean surface. Ripples meeting ripples, touching, melding, and passing through the others so it was difficult to discern where one might have started and the other ended.
“How?” Natalia asked.
“Is it not sufficient to know that she’s dead?” Tammas asked, turning back to face his foster parents.
“Tam,” Janeway said, trying to soften him a bit.
“Do you want to torture yourself on the facts?” Tammas asked.
“Tell me what you know, Tam,” Natalia insisted.
Tammas closed his eyes. “Star Fleet hasn’t sent the letters yet, informing the families of their deceased. There will be quite a few letters when they go out. They will be precise and to the point. Just simple, hard, cold facts. Your letter will no doubt be accompanied by a medal or two,” Tammas said. He opened his eyes, and he met Natalia’s stare. “But even with all that, it won’t tell you the story. It won’t tell you about her bravery, her compassion, and her sacrifice. Even as good as I am with words, I will never be able to adequately capture the pure desperateness of our situation. We have recordings of the dialogue between us, official transcripts of everything that transpired on the Bridge. We have the testimony from one of the eleven people she saved. We know that she lingered in an effort to rescue or comfort someone who may have been beyond saving. We know that before the warp core breeched that she had access to a functioning escape pod. And I personally felt her life force extinguish when the ship was destroyed. A part of me literally died that day. And, not just because I failed in some way, but because of the bond that she and I shared.”
Natalia got up and embraced Tam. “It’s okay, son,” she said, seeing how much this pained him, as if she knew he was blaming himself.
Tammas shook his head, trying to push her away a little. “No!” he said, extricating himself from her hug. He didn’t want affection. “No, it’s not okay. I still feel the emptiness and I would do anything to get her back.”
“I believe you,” Natalia said. “Tammas, don’t blame yourself. She chose her career, she knew the risks.”
“Did you hear what I told you? Jovet’s dead,” Tammas said.
Natalia sighed. “I heard. I’m still processing it. I don’t know what to think yet. What to feel. But I see that you seem to be feeling it enough for all of us, so right now, this moment, tell me what I can do to help you?”
Tammas pulled himself up straight. Maybe Jovet had been right. Maybe she hadn’t been jealous just because he came into her life, but rather she hated him because he had been so needy that he had indeed stolen her family. He knew Natalia was sincerely concerned for him, but he had perhaps expected her to be at least a little angry at him as well. He had actually hoped she would blame him or hate him but instead she reached out to him with kindness. He decided he should stand on his own two feet instead of accepting her love.
“I didn’t come here for you to comfort me,” Tammas said. “I came here…” He had to process what he had come here for and found he couldn’t quantify it. He met her eyes, and found the compassion almost unbearable, and he knew it was because he had survived and Jovet hadn’t. This was a clinical manifestation of a psychological process that required time, and perhaps therapy, and something he was going to choose to ignore for now. He had too much on his plate to do.
“I’ll be alright,” Tammas said. “If you’ll excuse me I have a few things I have to take care of. I just wanted to introduce you to Captain Janeway.”
“Tam? Will you be coming back? Dinner tonight?” Juan asked, standing.
“We’ll see. Captain,” Tammas said.
Janeway stood, and he could see that she was angry that he was leaving. He was failing her. He was failing in this mission. It just made it that much more imperative that he flee.
“Tam,” Natalia called to him as he climbed the stairs towards the door.
“I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment,” Tammas said. “But I’ll come back. I’m just going to take a walk along the beach.”
“Tammas, it’s raining,” Natalia pointed out.
“It’s okay,” Juan said, patting her on the shoulder. He accompanied Tammas to the door. “May I walk with you?”
Tammas shrugged and went outside. The door closed, blocking out Janeway and Doctor Garcia. The door opened just long enough to reveal the quiet inside as Mr. Garcia exited the house to join Tammas on the pier. He had paused only long to get a slicker. They walked together for a ways in quiet, taking in the sound of light rain on the sand and gentle ocean surf. Wet sand clung to their boots. The rain had subsided enough that it wasn’t unbearable to walk through, but it made the day seem cooler than it was. Tammas picked up a shell and skimmed it across the water. It skipped seven times before giving in to the water, sinking.
“Haven’t lost your touch, I see,” Juan said.
“It’s a game. I’m good at games,” Tammas said.
“Yes, you are,” Juan said, hoping Tam would bite at the double meaning.
Tammas didn’t bite. “Where are the dolphins?”
“Oh? They’re exploring the south part of Edson reef,” Juan said.
“Star?” Tammas asked.
“Yes, she’s out there,” Juan said. “I know she’ll be happy to see you. She asks about you frequently. The holograms are simply no replacement to seeing you in person with echolocation. If I’m not mistaken, Star is giving a reading tomorrow at the University. Her essays have become quite popular, you know.”
“What time?” Tammas asked.
“Fourteen hundred,” Juan said.
They walked around a pile of seaweed that had been brought in by the tide, and had been drying over a couple days, judging by the amount of green lost. Several crab like creatures scurried to and fro, as if protecting their dinner.
“So, what’s your next move?”
Tammas paused. “I don’t understand.”
“Are you through with Fleet? Would you like to come home and rest? Maybe go to Vulcan and try to purge your emotions?” Juan asked.
“My emotions are just fine, thank you,” Tammas snapped.
Juan laughed. It was a good natured laugh. “Do you realize, this is the first time we have had a conversation, and the first time you have ever raised your voice to me?”
“Sorry,” Tammas said, looking down.
Juan shrugged. “I like hearing your voice, and hearing you stand up for yourself. Now, answer the question.”
“I’m not going to quit Fleet,” Tammas said. “I can’t quit. As bad as it got, I performed my duties, and people depended on me. I depended on them. It was a mixture true interdependence. I owe it to the people who didn’t make it out alive. I owe it to the people that did make it. We got out of there because we were a team. I like that feeling of belonging. I just wish…”
“That you could have saved everyone,” Juan said, nodding. He understood that feeling very well, having served in Star Fleet. “Even James T Kirk lost people.”
Tammas nearly said, “Never anyone important to him.” Instead, he simply nodded.
“You got to ask yourself: Would you do it all again? Exactly the same?” Juan asked.
Tammas sighed. “Yeah,” he said. “I probably would. Unless, knowing what I know now, I could go back and change it.”
“You’re not thinking…”
“Of going back in time and changing it all?” Tammas asked. “I’ve entertained the idea, yeah. But this is when I decide I have to let go and trust in a higher power. I don’t know enough. The repercussions for changing the past is too dangerous.”
“Great answer. Text book perfect. That will get you past the Star Fleet exams,” Juan said, with just a touch of sarcasm. “I expect you’ll do well.”
“If I had the power, right now, I’d go back in a heart beat and rescue her,” Tammas snapped. “And I would do the same for Admiral McCoy. Damn the consequences, full speed ahead. God, I hate being human.”
Juan hugged him. “But that’s what makes you so interesting.” 888
“There is no more difference in the reasoning capabilities between humans and dolphins than there are between human males and human females. There are categorical variations in any intelligence, slightly different ways of storing and retrieving information, and dolphins have access to some specialized capabilities like echolocation, but we can still reason. In the dark ages, before humans gave us computers, we were just as primitive as any human tribe of hunter gatherer status. We had wars between pods. We stole females from other pods. We even excommunicated members of our pods for going against group think. So if you have an idyllic ‘Flipper’ model in your head, then you’re still projecting on my kind as you have in the past.
“One of your philosophers, Karl Marx, said that life determines consciousness. He was very clear that it was not the other way around. Being raised an American gave you a certain perspective on life, just as being raised in China or Russia gave you an opposing view on life. Just as being born male and female gives you a different perspective on life. Life determines consciousness. In the same breath, Marx also noted that the essence of what separates human from all other animals was his industry. Well, if his first maxim is true, then the second can’t be. Biological constraints prevented dolphins from having industry. You can’t smelt ore or develop writing in an aquatic environment. We haven’t hands or feets, so our consciousness was quite determined, as we were stuck in a generational mode in the transfer of knowledge.
“Life determines consciousness, consequently, it determines culture. Hands and opposable thumbs have facilitated the ability to write, a skill that dolphins would have never acquired in their natural state. Because of this ability to write, to suspend abstract ideas of culture throughout time past the limitations of oral histories, humans have fared better than the creatures that could not pen their knowledge to paper. The ability to write, sharing vast wealth of knowledge, is what raised the human IQ higher than the dolphin’s IQ, not a deficiency in dolphin intellect. So, because my ancestors couldn’t read “Of Mice and Men,” we were considered lesser beings. Because we couldn’t form your speech, or you emulate ours, we were considered barbaric, incapable of communicating or comprehending even basic concepts of wants and needs. Because we didn’t build cities, and construct weapons to better fight our wars, we were just animals.”
There was a dramatic pause as Star sank to the bottom of her tank. She rested at the bottom for a moment and then surfaced to take a breath, spraying more water than necessary from her blow hole just for effect. The tank she was in was hardly bigger than a hot tub, and was transparent so that the audience could see her. The dolphin continued its reading, the computer translating for her.
“Imagine with me. In your mind, go back to a time before man could write. You would find humans no better off than any other primate, if not a little worse off. Until the invention of clothing, humans were just as restricted by their environment as any ape. Restricted to temperate climates with an abundance of food and water. The gorillas and chimps all teach their young which plants to eat and which plants to avoid. A baby chimp reaches for the wrong plant, the mother chimp slaps its hands. The human child reaches for the wrong plant, the human mother watched. If the kid didn’t die, the mother would probably eat the plant, too. If the kid did die, the mother and the clan would cry to the gods, lament, and blame a mystical adversary… which when you think about it, makes the chimp a much more practical beast than man, and a damn shame they never learned to write. Had the chimps developed writing, we might have a better appreciation of the raw pharmaceutical vale of nature today. Humans observed and recorded chimpanzees using various plants to medicate various conditions, but until 1998 AD no one had considered bringing the plants into a lab to see what sort of medical value it might have.
“On Earth, in the year 2005 AD, using sophisticated recording devices and computer studies, scientist actually discovered that dolphins had names for each other. Now, they didn’t use the word NAMES, for that would have been anthropomorphic. They called it, audio identification labels,” Star paused because of the chuckles from the audience. The laughter created an interesting three dimensional image in her mind. “I’m not making this up. Go and read the journals of that time. It would tell you that each dolphin could discern the blips and clicks and respond accordingly. If they were hunting in groups, and the formations needed to tighten up, a general call could be made and the group would respond accordingly. If an individual dolphin was called on for a specific task, the leader could call it by name, designate the task, and it was done. And that dolphin would always respond to its audio identification label, regardless of which dolphin uttered it. Humans witnessed this. They recorded it. But it was insufficient evidence, at that time, to suggest that dolphins might be sentient.
“The interesting thing is, though dolphins and whales have been deemed sentient by the new definitions and criteria that humans today observe, nothing much has changed in our relationship to each other. Computers have opened up new worlds to dolphins, giving us the ability to record our histories, our thoughts, our hopes and dreams, but still we live on the fringe of society. There are a few humans who work closely with us, who understand us, but most people who come to the waters are just tourist, passing by. We’re cute, we’re a novelty, a passing fad. I think the best example that demonstrates that we’re not social equals is when we hear your children say, ‘Can we get one as a pet? We can keep it the pool…’ Sure, kids love us, they want to be around us, but rarely have we heard a parent explain to the child that we’re sentient beings and are entitled to the same liberties that all sentient beings are afforded, as outlined in the United Federation of Planet’s Charter, and our local Constitutions. Because we can not speak without the aid of computers, because we can not travel on the land, and intermingle with you, and write, and quarrel and play, we are denigrated to second class citizens. We must wait on you to repair our computers when they fail. If we have medical needs, we must rely on you to administer aid. And mind you, I understand well the practicalities of not having hands and opposable thumbs. But this goes beyond not being equipped to perform surgeries, or to help do maintenance on a Star Ship. When the call for interstellar war goes out, do you consult the dolphins? Do you consult the whales? When was the last time the Federation Ambassadors held a pow wow on the beach, or in the waters where we might participate, allowing us to contribute in real time, as opposed to seeking our input after the fact, after the decisions have been made?
“Don’t think that I’m complaining. Our lives have greatly improved since the invention of the Universal Translator, and the computers that help mediate our two people’s social exchange. It just isn’t enough to say our cultures are different. It is true that we don’t care as much for your politics. It is too serious most of the time, and too empty of meaning and intention the rest of the time. But we love games and we love your company. I only want to suggest to you that we were meant to be together, interdependent on each other. We have learned from you and you can learn from us. Take more time to play together, to swim, fish, and love more. Our cultures and paradigms are strengthened through communication, through sharing. Make no mistake, we are dependant on you to maintain our current world view, for the technology is not yet at the point were it completely maintains itself, and replicates itself, and guarantees equal representation and mediation under the law, and equal distribution of resources. If you pollute the waters, we are at your mercy. If you hunt us, or hunt the fish to the point of extinction, we are at your mercy. If you leave the world and never come back, we are at the mercy of nature, for we can no more rise to the stars without human intervention than humans can appreciate the depths of our songs and souls that we openly lay bare to you without us to guide.
“We have always come in peace to you. We understand our limitation and our place, but by no means are we lesser beings, or any less favored by nature or god. We are dolphins. We are what we are, just as you are what you are. Together, though, we become more than the sum of our parts.”
Pandemonium. Standing ovation. It was one thing to read dolphin transcription, but another to hear the dolphin in its own language, while the computer translated it. The University President came on stage and thanked Star. He then opened the floor up for questions. A person in the third row was acknowledged. He stood.
“My name is Mike Cordo,” the student said. “Anthropology major. You mentioned in the previous essay that standard evolution theory no longer applies to humans. Can you explain what you meant by that?”
Star took a moment to hear the question translated into dolphin speak. She nodded, a human gesture. “Hello, Mr. Cordo,” she said. “As you know, Darwinian Evolution is survival of the fittest. As a species, humans are no longer subject to that rule. Every member of society is now guaranteed a minimum level of subsistence. Food, medicines, clothing, shelter, education, and even entertainment. You have laws that guarantee equality so those who are stronger or smarter can’t dominate. Economics is no longer a measure of a person’s status. Procreation goes unhindered by the forces of nature that once dominated your species. Biologically speaking, human evolution has slowed so much it might as well be at a stand still. What is evolving is society. More people and cultures are interacting, alien races are contributing to your social knowledge. Consciousness is evolving.”
“But Darwinian rules are still in effect,” Cordo protested. “I completely disagree with you that economics is not a factor in reproduction and suggest to you that there is still a class divide. For example, the smarter people tend not to reproduce as fast as the people with lower standards or lesser education. People are not equal. As for procreation being unhindered, I would suggest you haven’t been to a bar and seen natural selection in process. Even sociologists, such as Tammas Garcia, have confirmed the old cliche that all we’re doing is breeding mediocrity, continually lowering the standards of human potential. De-evolution can be measured in human populations.”
Tammas Garcia winced. His first impulse was to feel empathy for the man, who was obviously very smart, but probably lacking in female companionship, suggested by the bitter tone. Tammas wanted to believe he was reading more into the man’s speech than was warranted, but then again, his first impressions were usually correct. But his second impulse was anger for being misquoted so badly and he decided to let the man sink or swim on his own arguments.
“I don’t believe Garcia was arguing for mediocrity as much as suggesting that people are capable of accomplishing much more than what we see in society,” Star said. “The average citizen on Earth in 2005 AD had a third grade reading level. The average American and European had an average of a sixth grade reading level. The average reading level of citizens today is 11th grade. That’s an improvement and we continue to improve in stride. But the best evidence that we’re not simply producing mediocrity is Star Fleet. Never has a finer group of people been assembled in the history of humanity, and, I want to remind you, it isn’t limited to humanity. We really need some new terminology to discuss the gestalt of intelligences that comprise our society.”
The next person asked what sort of improvements would dolphins like to see in computers. That was easy. More automation and more artificial intelligence. He expressed wonder at why humans are so reluctant to allow computers to take over more functions than they currently do, and asked why hasn’t Artificial Intelligence blossomed. Technically, Artificial Intelligent machines should be as plentiful as humans, and their absence suggested something curious. Further, Star speculated that the day that computers become so advance that a dolphin could go up to it, order up a starship that is dolphin friendly, and go to another planet, all without human participation, is the day that dolphins will be on equal footing with the humanoids. And the mediator of that eventuality, the true liberation of cetaceans, would be computer intelligence.
“Or your enslavement,” someone protested.
“Some would say you are enslaved to your technology right now,” Star pointed out. “Without today’s technology, you couldn’t maintain the populations that you do. You can not return to the original state of hunters and gatherers and expect to escape extinction. Humans still suffer from egocentrism to some degree. It is no longer man against nature. I would say, it was never man against nature. To prosper, one has to recognize interdependence upon ones ecosystem and ones technology. It is man with man, man with nature, man with machine, and man with alien that has made it not only possible to survive, but to prosper beyond anything once imagined. And, if I might be allowed to quote Tammas Garcia as well, we, everyone not just humans, have only scratched the surface of what is possible.”
Why did they keep bringing him into it, Tammas wondered. Of course, Star was his friend, so it would not be surprising for the dolphin to quote from Tam’s work. Hell, Garcia was always quoting someone else, so he could hardly complain. He just wished the quotes would stay in context. The next person actually got booed. He had made the point of saying if it hadn’t been for zoos, and traditions of keeping dolphins in research facilities and theme parks, such as as Sea World, that dolphins might have become extinct, just like the hump back whale. There was some tension that followed that statement, but Star handled it well. She nodded with agreement, but then pointed out that it is a known fact that humans would be equally extinct had it not been for alien species like the Preservers who reportedly captured and relocated people.
Star added, “And there is evidence suggesting that it may not have always been with human consent. But, as you point out, if it’s for the benefit of the species being relocated, that makes it alright to do with them as you please. You might as well let the Borg have you because they only want to improve the quality of your life.”
Garcia’s impulse nearly caused him to contribute to the conversation, but he decided against it and simply listened to it as it played out. Star entertained several more questions. One of Star’s best responses was, “What’s so great about being human? You didn’t see the Borg chasing after us, now did you?” That drew some laughter. Star was always polite and still assertive of her point. When it was all said and done, Garcia quietly made his way towards the stage, through the crowd of people that briefly gathered there to offer thanks, or just say “hi.” Star welcomed everyone. Garcia waited for the remaining stragglers to get their fill of Star before finally approaching. On recognizing him, Star nearly came out of the tank, shouting joyously as only a dolphin could. Tammas hugged Star.
“I’m surprised you didn’t quote from, ‘So long, thanks for all the fish,’” Tammas said.
“Oh, that would have been too cliché,” Star said. “Come in the tank and let me see you!”
Tammas kicked his boots off and jumped over the tank wall. It was good to be in the cold, sea water, even though it was a confined space. The University director nearly came unglued and started to protest but then he realized who it was and that Star wasn’t complaining. He continued his conversations with the department chairs.
“The others would be happy to see you? Shall we return?” Star asked.
“Absolutely. May I?” Tammas asked, hitting his comm. badge. “Garcia to Enterprise. I’d like to request a site to site transport…”
O’Brien did the honors. In less than a heart beat, Garcia and Star were in the ocean, in sight of the Garcia’s estate. It was a good thing he came prepared to get wet, he decided. Star was so happy to “see” him that Garcia could feel his body pulsing with the echolocation, a dolphin sense that was better than vision. It felt almost like being in a night club with the base turned up too loud. Suddenly, the sensation increased seven fold, and then he realized it was because he was surrounded by dolphins. They surfaced, sprayed water, pushed up against him in the same manner a cat would display affection by brushing up against a leg. He dived with them, swam, twirled, danced, and he suddenly felt renewed in spirit, able to face the world. After an hour of hard swimming, he accepted Star’s invitation to drag him back to the dock. Once there, he pulled himself up and sat for a moment, his clothes hanging heavy on his body as the water drained.
“How long will you be staying?” Star asked.
“I’m heading for Vulcan after the funeral,” Garcia said.
“Funeral?” Star asked.
Garcia told her the news that had gone public earlier that morning. Apparently Star had had a valid point about being on the fringe, for no one had informed them of the Admiral’s death. The Garcia’s hadn’t even informed him about their daughter’s death. Tammas hated being the bearer of bad news. Star and Jovet had been just as good of friend’s as he and Tammas. Jovet had certainly spent more time with Star than Tammas had.
“I will remember her,” Star said.
Garcia approached the podium and looked out at the people in an attendance. He was surprised at how bright the sun and how clear the sky was. He was hoping the rain would last, mirroring the way he felt. His eyes met Deanna and he felt her sending him love. He looked away, swallowed, and started reading from an item that McCoy had sent him, long ago.
“The Station, by Robert J Hastings,” Garcia began.
“Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. We're traveling by passenger train, and out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hills, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.
“But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There will be bands playing and flags waving. And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering ... waiting, waiting, waiting, for the station.“However, sooner or later we must realize there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.
"When we reach the station, that will be it!" we cry. Translated it means, "When I'm 18, that will be it! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it! When I put the last kid through college, that will be it! When I have paid off the mortgage, that will be it! When I win a promotion, that will be it! When I reach the age of retirement, that will be it! I shall live happily ever after!"“Unfortunately, once we get it, then it disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track.