“How dare you! How dare you invoke civil liberties when your people trample on the principles the Federation stands for.”
Limis Vircona was viewing security footage of her confrontation with Section 31 agent Ziminske Aris two months ago. Ziminske had been caught working to devise a cure for a virus the secret bureau had unleashed on the Founders of the Dominion, and was promptly arrested. Having once professed her disdain for Section 31 as an organization within the Federation, of all Alpha Quadrant powers, believing it could play god, Limis had hoped to get more out of Ziminske. Her extreme interrogation techniques proved fruitless, and Ziminske was eventually killed while attempting escape when her shuttle exploded.
What was puzzling about this particular footage was that Limis had used her security authorization to disable all recording devices in the room after having dismissed all the security personnel stationed in one of Starbase G-6’s detention cells. So where did this video recording originate? And if it was a recompilation of deeply buried computer data, why were no imperfections in the video and audio quality apparent in the playback?
With Section 31, she knew, almost anything was possible. Limis stared at the freeze-framed image of herself holding the pin of a Bajoran earring to Ziminske’s nose ridges, threatening to see how good that particular alteration was, as Admiral Edward Jellico glared at her. “This is very incriminating evidence,” he warned, “considering Commander Ziminske escaped in a shuttle that was destroyed soon afterwards. ‘Killed while attempting escape’ is one of the oldest tricks in the book.”
Limis remained calm and collected, even as she had nothing to hide, knowing that under Starfleet rules of jurisprudence, this was not definitive evidence. “I shouldn’t have to remind you, sir
,” she said calmly, but firmly, while emphatically pointing at the wall mounted monitor in Jellico’s office, “that this incident does not
constitute evidence of murder.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Jellico plainly replied. “But the investigation is far from closed. I have tolerated your impulsive methods and your various off-book missions. And Admiral Ross even had you let you off the hook for the torture and murder of Mirren Hadar, having classified him an enemy combatant. And because you are so good at what you do, you will be allowed to remain on duty for the duration of the war. But if there is more to this evidence, I will see you brought before a court martial for taking matters into your own hands like this based on… delusions of a rogue organization within Starfleet. By your medical officer’s own accounts, Commander Ziminske acted alone.”
That’s a bald-faced lie,
Limis wanted to say to him. In that moment, she was glad that his counterpart in a parallel universe was dead and even more pleased that she had caused his death. His choice of words had suggested he was with Section 31 just like the other Jellico. And whatever additional evidence was being trumped up against Limis seemed like a convenient way for 31 to remove a recent source of annoyance.
“Whatever you say,” Limis acerbically shot back. “But I’m not there yet.” And with that, she made a quick beeline to the wide double-doors leading into the corridor.
“I haven’t dismissed you yet, Captain,” Jellico snarled.
Limis stopped and sighed while resisting the urge to make an obscene gesture her superior’s way. She took a deep breath and slowly sauntered out.
Jellico rolled his eyes and flung a padd on the desk while muttering, “Dismissed.”
Shinar sh’Aqba felt as if Chaz Logan was constantly looking over her shoulder. While she wasn’t demoted from the position of chief engineer, the mere presence of the Seventh Fleet’s senior engineer to oversee the reverse engineering of computer components that controlled automated weapon drones was still unnerving. The words “supervised duty” were constantly on her mind while she was putting the finishing touches on rearranging isolinear data chips and securing connections between an open ODN access port and alien circuit boards. That had been the case since her romantic interludes with Erhlich Tarlazzi had caused her to be late to many of her duty shifts. Even knowing that Logan was part of the salvage team dispatched to Minos, Shinar still felt that Logan was watching over her, waiting for the slightest little slip-up on her part.
She felt a slight pain in her forehead while she used a tricorder to scan the wiring connecting the ship’s optical data network to the alien circuitry to make sure the two normally incompatible computer systems would not overload each other. She continuously felt waves of dizziness and knots in her stomach, as if she would regurgitate her last meal. She took slow and deep breaths, hoping to ease the symptoms, if only temporarily. Even if she was ill, Shinar told herself she could not afford to miss any time from her duties.
Sh’Aqba returned to reality when she saw Logan pass by from the corner of her eye. She began working a portable console to check the status of the new circuit connections between the deflector and the transporter array.
“Are we ready to begin those field tests yet?” Logan inquired, while sh’Aqba was keeping her eyes on the monitor in order to hide her face from the other engineers in the room.
“Just one more adjustment,” sh’Aqba responded while gently brushing sweat from her brow. She stepped over to another open ODN port and used a tool to reinforce the connector cords used to make the alien technology compatible with Starfleet deflector emitters. She again became dizzy and lightheaded. She clasped the wall with one hand to try to regain her balance. “We’re ready.”
“Activating deflector,” Logan announced as he entered a set of activation commands at a nearby console.
Various consoles and circuits hummed to life. But as quickly as the modified deflector emitters activated, some of the circuits overloaded and quickly shorted out. Sh’Aqba groaned in frustration and grabbed one of the alien circuit boards, flinging it across the room.
“We were lucky we could reverse engineer the components into the captain’s yacht at all before they eventually fried everything,” Logan assured her. “And with fewer technological resources on the fly.”
Sh’Aqba was feeling even more disoriented with throbbing pains in her head and her antennae were almost like wilting flowers. Logan’s voice was sounding more like a distant echo. She clutched the wall again to try to keep her balance, but she quickly fell to the deck.
“That’s just the beginning of it,” Logan was saying through all this. “We’re not sure if the technology can be replicated…” His voice trailed off once sh’Aqba fell to the deck with a thud.
“Sh’Aqba,” he gasped. He raced over to her limp body and kneeled down to feel her forehead as other engineers nearby were standing and watching with concerned looks on their faces. Her forehead felt very warm as if she was experiencing a high fever. Logan then tapped his combadge to call for immediate assistance. “Sickbay. This is Logan. I have a medical emergency in deflector control.”
Aurellan Markalis had never been on very many dates during her lifetime. And so anything classified as a date with any male suitor seemed very surreal. Perhaps it was also the mood set by the slightly dimmed lighting in her quarters, the flames from the two candles perched on the glass table in the center of the living area and the soft jazz music playing in the background. Both were out of uniform. The Mark III was dressed in a suit consisting of midnight blue trousers and a matching jacket over a black buttoned-down shirt.
Aurellan was wearing a form-fitting, but still very modest-looking, red dress that extended down just below her knees, where her legs were covered down to her feet with a pair of red stockings. Complemented with a pair of flat-soled maroon shoes, it was an outfit that the replicator files described as “sexy without showing a lot of skin.”
She still felt a measure of embarrassment being on a dinner date with a hologram. That was one way that the desperate and the lonely sought companionship, but the experience seemed ultimately artificial. Like a story she read during her childhood, Aurellan was now the girl in love with a robot. But the EMH-Mark III was no ordinary hologram. In addition to serving as a permanent member of the medical staff, he had also been programmed to interact with the rest of the crew on a personal level. Though he could still come off emotionally distant, arrogant, and sarcastic, he was far more personable than the previous EMH models. And that helped Aurellan to see this EMH as more of a person, who looked at various forms of human social idiosyncrasies through the eyes of an outsider, rather than a computer program.
“This was still a little excessive,” the EMH remarked as he moved around barely eaten food on his plate with a fork. “It’s not as if I need holographic food to sustain my program.”
“True,” Aurellan replied with a smile as she took small sips of white wine. “But it’s preferable to you staring at me and counting how many times I chew.”
“Couldn’t the ship’s reserves be used for something more productive?”
Aurellan grinned in amusement that the Mark III still behaved in a lot of ways like a sophisticated computer program. “Your holo-matrix contains eight redundant memory buffers to give you as many new subroutines as are needed,” she explained while letting the last of the wine drip out of the bottle into her glass.
“Still seems dishonest.”
“Let’s hope you don’t need seven hundred one
terraquads of new medical subroutines,” Aurellan quipped. She raised her glass in a toast. “To a lovely evening with a wonderful man.”
The EMH raised his glass and they clinked their glasses.
The mood still seemed artificial and her words forced. As swept up as Aurellan was in the elation of her surroundings, she still got this sense that the holographic doctor was simply doing what she wanted of him.
“Speaking of new subroutines…” He stood up, circled the table, and extended his right hand towards Aurellan. “May I have this dance?”
That caught her by surprise. “I don’t dance,” she protested with a nervous grin.
She gently set aside the napkin in her lap, stood up, and took slow steps towards the Mark III. The nervousness gave way to joy, elation, and adoration as she clasped her left hand on his right hand and set her right hand on his left shoulder. She felt a wave of euphoria across her body when he placed his free hand on her right hip. Her blue eyes twinkled as if she was a teenage girl around her first crush.
They held each other close as they moved in a slow clockwise motion. Aurellan rested her head on the hologram’s chest while he wrapped both his arms around her shoulders. She felt no heartbeat in his chest, but in that moment, he wasn’t a hologram to her.
Aurellan stared into the EMH’s eyes and caressed his cheek with one hand. Their heads inched closer together, and they kissed. As their lips remained pursed against each other’s, the comm chimed.
said a feminine voice on the speakers. “You’re needed in sickbay.”
Aurellan pulled herself away from her companion with a mortified look on her face, as if someone had walked in on her and the EMH having sex. “I’m on my way,” she said, with a slight stutter. She pushed a button on the desk to close the channel, but then froze, as if not certain what to do next. “I’ll change into uniform while you go to sickbay first,” she instructed the EMH. And before he could speak, she entered a command on the keypad to transfer his program to sickbay.
Markalis manically paced into the sickbay’s primary intensive unit where the Mark III and a Denobulan female nurse were examining sh’Aqba on one of the main biobeds. The holographic doctor was preparing an intravenous pack while instructing the nurse. Once he had finished setting up the equipment, the nurse gave him a padd that was in her hand. He consulted the padd while handing Aurellan a medical tricorder.
“Severe dehydration,” the EMH said while Aurellan scanned the patient with the tricorder. “Body temperature five degrees above normal. I’ve prepared a set of differential diagnoses. Turrelian fever. Possible parasitic infection.”
Aurellan looked up from her tricorder while seemingly oblivious to the holographic doctor’s hypotheses. “She’s pregnant,” she confidently stated.
“Or she’s pregnant,” the EMH repeated with a partial shrug.
Aurellan sighed, feeling tempted to disable some of his vocal subroutines.
Note: The final scene of this chapter was meant as a parody of the differential diagnosis approach depicted in most episodes of the medical drama "House", starring Hugh Laurie, who "plays" the EMH-Mark III in this series.