18 Perseus Unbound: A Hologram's Introspective
Spectral scan one hundred to seven hundred fifty nanometers of the electromagnetic spectrum. Blinding irregularity, burning shapes. Narrowing band from four hundred to seven hundred nanometers. Adjusting optical focal and aural input processing. Fluctuating hum of a power conduit. Erratic electronic feedback pulses. Rectifying visual processing. A shape: a hand phaser. A medical tricorder. A vocoder. A mobile emitter. An arm. My arm. My body. My head. Oh, my head! I'm a Doctor, not a conga drum.
“Computer, what happened?”
Antonio Salieri was born August eighteen, 1750 in Legnago, Venice.
“You don't say.”
The EMH sat up and tapped his communicator. “Doctor to bridge. Doctor to engineering. Doctor to Perseus. Doctor to Alpha Proxima Station. Doctor to whoever? Hello? Can anyone hear me?”
He sighed and took up the vocoder. “Perseus Unbound: A Hologram's Introspective; Voyager Emergency Medical Hologram, installment nineteen. I had intended this record to be a running commentary of the historic Perseus Trial from a hologram's perspective; another of my humble contributions to medical posterity. However there seems to have been...a slight hitch. I'm alone, trapped in a Jefferies tube, out of communicator contact with the ship and station; I venture forth, once again, apparently, to ascertain the condition of the Voyager and her crew. Unlike my last solo venture involving quantum slipstream, I have no other crew, humanoid, hologram or otherwise, to render me assistance. The main computer is unresponsive. Power seems to be fluctuating. I remember...”
The Doctor struggled, opening the hatch to a flickering junction and a ladder descending into darkness. “I remember being trapped. The Perseus had successfully arrived at Alpha Centauri C. I had just received an automated update from Starfleet, containing a communique from Doctor Retych at Starfleet Medical. There was an intruder alert. The next thing I knew, the sickbay computer started locking down; I had barely just enough time to activate my mobile emitter and slip into a Jefferies tube before the entire deck experienced a power surge, which seemed to reset my sensory parameters. Other than that I would appear to be in stable condition. As for the ship and crew – so far it is yet to be determined. I am receiving no responses.”
The EMH took a hesitant breath and descended into the darkness.
The hatch opened into flickering darkness, and an unsteady nose of a hand phaser protruded. The EMH emerged in Astrometrics, which he found, with great relief, unoccupied. The viewing wall appeared to be cycling through vast amounts of stellar data files at a rate impossible to apprehend. He tried the station interface. Again, unresponsive.
“After obtaining entry to Astrometrics, I am unfortunately still unable to access ship systems or figure out who – if anyone – is in control of Voyager,” he told his vocoder. “However at the very least I will continue this voice record in the hopes that it will lead to evidence that may eventually exonerate Lieutenant Commander B'Elanna Torres – and clear her name...or service record.” He paused. “That is, if anyone in Starfleet ever finds this narrative.”
The EMH watched the screen blurring through encyclopedias of sensor readouts, star systems, and space sectors. He activated his tricorder and made some adjustments. After a time, he closed it. “My medical tricorder is ill-equipped to process the astrometric visual data in any useful manner. I need some kind of processor that can analyze visual data. The LCARS system might but as near as I can tell, it is currently undergoing some kind of... computational flux. My holoimager could at least capture the images, but it would take months to go through so much data. Besides, Lieutenant Commander Kim still has not seen fit to return it to me after borrowing it. I'm beginning to think he has no intention of doing so.” He paced while he pontificated. “What I need is something that can both capture visual information and translate it into analyzable data. Then I might be able to ascertain any patterns that could provide me a clue about what is happening to the ship. Hopefully without revealing my presence to any hostiles aboard ship. Unfortunately the only tools I can operate around here are my own two eyes.”
He studied the viewscreen. Then he studied his mobile emitter.
“I am attempting to optimize my optical matrix,” he narrated, as he accessed the mobile emitter controls. “I should be able to attenuate it to use my own eyes to capture the streaming data on the screen; then it's just a matter of using my own sensory-cognition matrix subroutines to filter the data and look for any patterns. That...should...do it.”
He blinked. Suddenly the interface panel on the Astrometrics station appeared to flicker in slow motion. He brought his attention to the viewscreen and could now see every image, every sensor report, every star, planetoid and nebula, focus into absolute clarity and detail. His holomatrix filled with teraquads of information, neatly organizing itself into millions of mathematical facets.
The EMH turned away from the screen. “The data would appear to have no discernible pattern. Rather, it seems to be a cycling through all information from the Astrometrics data banks – including much that was mapped during Voyager's journey through the Delta Quadrant, data from the Perseus slipstream trial, and – new readings being taken from our...current trajectory. Which presents a small problem. Either Voyager is traveling at slipstream velocity, or I've been unconscious for twenty years. A case of Rip Van Hologram.” He rubbed his eyes, took a deep breath, and took a closer look. “Neither proposition is particularly comforting. But that's not even the worst news.” The EMH began to fiddle with his mobile emitter's controls in order to restore his optical matrix. “According to readings, the Voyager crew still appears to be aboard ship. However, none
of them is moving from their present locations. Which means the entire crew is either incapacitated, or...dead
He finished his command sequence. “There we are.” He reached for his phaser and tricorder. And missed.
“I seem to have slightly misaligned my visual acuity parameters.” He tried again, and knocked the equipment off the console. “A small adjustment should do the trick.” He reached for his mobile emitter - and hit air instead. When his fingers found purchase, he tapped a few switches. Suddenly his eyesight skewed and burned with brightness. “Ow!” He stumbled towards the door. It opened for him, emitting a searing light. He blindly turned away. “No problem,” he told his vocoder. “Just a slight visual misalignment.” Then the EMH straightened his posture, squinted, and promptly walked into the wall. “How embarrassing.” The Doctor then felt his way out of Astrometrics and into the passageway.
Sitting in the corridor, the EMH furiously fumbled with his mobile emitter. Suddenly his eyesight went blank. “Oh no! I can't see! I can't see! I can't - ah well, at least that's better.” He rose. “Although temporarily disabling one's eyesight might be an insurmountable obstacle for some, I'm fully confident I can proceed with greater alacrity than if I were being distracted by conflicting visual information.” He felt his way along the wall. “Besides, a little temporary blindness might help me to refine my sensitivity towards visually-impaired patients. Not that I'm not already fully equipped with the requisite understanding. Still, it never hurts to improve.”
He barked his shin on an open panel.
“It doesn't...hurt...at...all.” He limped. “What a time to have activated Lieutenant Vorik's new tactile feedback subroutines. Ow.”
Feeling his way down the corridor, his hands found something warm and soft. It was a person. The EMH drew back. “Hello? Crewman?” He tenuously reached out and felt for a pulse on the neck. What he grabbed instead was, upon inspection, a breast. “Sorry. I was ah, feeling for your pulse. Sorry. Ensign Gillian.”
Discovery of a few other crew affirmed the Doctor's assessment. The crew were still alive, but being suspended in some kind of catatonia. Without use of his tricorder or the computer, he found himself surprisingly at a loss for any diagnosis more specific than that – considering he had no idea of the event which rendered the crew in this state. His internal processing of the Astrometrics imagery, however, continued to reveal new information piecemeal. “Nothing in the Astrometrics data seems to explain this phenomena,” he told his vocoder. “Nor how Voyager, now at warp and possibly in a quantum slipstream – is not only equipped with that capability, but is, I'm disturbed to say, now on a direct course –” he slumped into a corner “- for the heart of the Delta Quadrant.”
What the Doctor couldn't understand, and neglected to record, was why there seemed to be a sensor echo – of the slipstream reading originating from Alpha Centauri C.
“I'm stumbling through the dark, quite literally,” he said. “Why Voyager is being stolen remains a mystery. How it was stolen, I have no idea. Who stole it – remains to be seen. In fact everything remains to be seen by me at this point.
“One image keeps turning up - a single red sun, alone in darkness.
“The crew's mental state – is it somehow related to the effect interfering with the ship's bioneural network? That might explain why my mobile emitter, and portable equipment like tricorders are still able to function. It's only speculation at this point. I need to get back to sickbay and analyze a member of the crew. If I can even do that without the use of sight. Whatever is happening here...” he opened a Jefferies tube hatch and climbed inside, “the intruder or intruders require a ship. But not just a ship. This
The Doctor froze. He heard breathing. Heavy breathing.
The Doctor spun. Someone clawed his uniform and knocked him to the bulkhead. Pinning him with inhuman strength, they grabbed his head with both hands. They were breathing frenetically and doused in sweat.
It was the vicing grip of - a mindmeld.