UES Enterprise. Orbiting Herroton.
Captain's Log, 28th November 2151. Supplemental.
Despite the...incident at reception, the Denobulan party have agreed to remain on the Enterprise. Much of the credit for this must go to Dr. Soong himself, who has spoken to the Denobulans on our behalf. Not only does he not seem upset by the assault, he appears to be almost amused by it. I'm curious as to why, but don't want to press the matter at the moment. The situation is still potentially fragile, so Lieutenant Sato, Commander Tucker and myself will remain with the party to try and smooth things over.
To get answers, I've despatched Commander Hernandez to talk to the Professor.
When the Enterprise was modified for it's new role, extra storage space was considered to be more useful than a dedicated brig. The events of the first mission had proved that concept wrong, and a detention centre had been added during the recent repairs. This was the first time it had been used. There was an outer chamber, with a desk and a couple of chairs for visitors, and two small cells next to each other. The front wall of each was transparent aluminium, allowing permanent observation of any prisoners, though the wall between them was solid steel, giving a modicum of privacy should the other cell be occupied. A couple of bunk beds, a lavatory and a sink were the only furnishings, all exposed surfaces rounded off or padded where possible to minimise risk of injury.
There was a female crew-member---not a marine, one of the ship's regular security staff---on duty as Hernandez entered. The XO dismissed her, telling her to wait in the nearby crew lounge until needed. She then took one of the chairs and placed it in front of the occupied cell. For one crazy mixed up moment she considered putting the chair the wrong way round and straddling it whilst conducting her interview, but common sense prevailed.
She tapped the button to activate the intercom. "So. How's your hand?"
Polly Partridge was sprawled decorously on the lower bunk, eyes closed. Her right hand was bandaged, hints of purple healing accelerant gel showing around the edges, her glove lying beside her. After a moment she spoke. "Sore."
And that seemed to be that. Hernandez settled down into the chair. Getting Partridge to talk was not usually a problem. Getting her to shut up was the trick most times. This would require a different approach. "Doctor Arik Soong. I've been racking my brains but it's no good. I'm sure I know the name from somewhere but I just can't place it. So where have I heard of him?"
After a protracted pause, Partridge spoke. "He's a geneticist. Noble prize winner. A brilliant mind. Quite, quite brilliant. His work on DNA resequencing is...beautiful. There's no other word for it. Moved me to tears."
"A brilliant mind, eh?" Hernandez asked laconically. "Guess that means he's almost as good as you."
"Better than me, much better." was the surprising reply. Partridge went on to add "Of course, it is
his speciality. But speaking honestly, his is one of the few minds I can honestly look up to. Make a note in your diary Maria, I don't make that admission often."
"Hmm-mm. So what exactly is your
"Omniscience. However, I've not answered your question. I've told you who he is, but not where you know the name from. Three years ago he made the headlines. He publicly questioned our current stance on the use of genetic engineering,suggesting that Augmented humans might well be beneficial to---"
"Whoah there!" Hernandez interrupted. "That was him
? Damn, I thought he looked familiar, but had no idea! Yeah, yeah I remember now. He was arrested, wasn't he? They found he'd been doing experiments on live embryos or something."
"No!" Partridge said sharply, holding up a hand for emphasis. She winced, it'd been her injured hand. For the first time in the conversation she opened her eyes. "No, he hadn't. What he had
been doing was running computer simulations, modelling the effects. But there was never any
evidence that he'd been experimenting for real. However when you put scientific illiterates in charge of investigations, conclusions are leapt to. Yes, he was arrested, though no charges were ever brought. The damage had been done though. No university or research group would touch him after that. Too much bad publicity, especially if you include the death threats and fire bombings. There's a lot of people who are a bit touchy on this subject. I'd heard he'd left Earth, and gone to Vulcan. I had no idea he was here until we got the list of guests. That caught me be surprise, I can tell you."
Hernandez folded her arms. "Alright. That's where I know him from. But what about you? What's your connection to him?"
"Come now Maria, you know the answer to that." Partridge said, closing her eyes again.
Hernandez opened her mouth to insist that no, she didn't know the answer, then thought better and closed it again. The professor, she realised, was challenging her to work out the answer for herself. And she wouldn't do that unless all the appropriate facts were already available. A university tutor? A work colleague? A relative maybe?
Hernandez shook her head. No, I don't know enough about her to conclusively say that for certain. They're obvious guesses, plausible, but with no evidence to support them. The only thing I do know is...
She slapped her forehead in irritation, the answer so obvious she was annoyed it had taken her so long. "Sunnova---! Damnit, he was in that photograph you showed me! The Institute. Of course."
The corners of Polly's mouth twitched upwards. "The Institute." she confirmed.
Hernandez sat back, mentally reviewing what the other woman had told her all those months ago. The Institute, a privately backed education scheme, taking the very brightest of Britain's children and giving them the best possible start in life. Education experts from around the world were hired to monitor the children's progress, developing tailor made curricula. Polly had been admitted at the age of four, and within two years had qualifications a school leaver would aspire to. That had been before the funding dried up, and Partridge had found herself transferred to what she referred to as an 'absolute dump of a school', in reality one of the most prestigious and renowned boarding schools in the country.
And Arik Soong had been one of the experts. When she'd seen the photo of Polly and her classmates, she'd found something familiar about one of the adult supervisors. Obviously she'd recalled enough of the Soong scandal to recognise his face, even if his identity had eluded her. "Well, I've had a few teachers I'd like to punch in the face."
"Ha! Quite the opposite, Maria. I loved the guy. Loved him to bits. He was...I'll not say like a father, 'cause that'd be disrespectful to my dad, but certainly like an uncle. That's what I called him. Uncle Arik. I've got a fair few uncles too, but none of them knew much about science, so he was the one I could talk to about that." She sighed. "And then, when it all fell apart...that was it, he was gone. Just a job for him. Just a job.
I learnt, a few years later, that although the Institute had shut down, somehow they'd found funding elsewhere. Not enough to keep the whole thing going, but several of my classmates were still getting the benefits. And Doctor Soong had hand picked them, and was practically running the show. He'd picked them Maria, and he hadn't picked me
. Why not? Wasn't I good enough? Smart enough? I don't know, I just don't know. Those few times I've seen him since, I've asked him and not gotten a straight answer. All I do know is...I feel betrayed
Hernandez nodded slowly. "That's understandable, I suppose. And did you hit him the last time you met?"
A chuckle "No, that's a new one for me. I've had sharp words before, but never anything like that. No. The last time we met...almost exactly four years ago. I think I was getting over it. Certainly felt less angry around him. And then...Look at me Maria. I'm gorgeous, sexy, talented, charismatic---"
"Immeasurably modest." Hernandez added wryly.
"That too. I've got a body a woman half my age would envy, an IQ so high they're having to rewrite the scale, six doctorates...six doctorates! I have six doctorates! No one has six doctorates! Except me, and that twentieth century quantum physicist who disappeared mysteriously. Pity about him, his string theory showed promise."
"Is there a point to this, or is it just time to feed the ego again?"
, Commander, is that I differ from the ordinary to such a degree that I enter realms of sheer awesomeness impossible to describe using conventional language, and that can only be expressed through higher mathematics. Or possibly expressionistic dance. And that of course is wonderful and sublime and majestic, and it remains so right up until the moment a certain big gobbed idiot starts blathering on about how great it would be to start genetically modifying people again."
"Yeah. So of course the scientifically illiterate press start digging up all they can on him, and find out about the Institute, and wouldn't you know it, one of his old pupils is completely fantastic, so she must be modified herself. Never any proof, but the sort of person who believes such crap doesn't need proof. The absence of proof is all the proof they need. 'Why, that just shows there is a conspiracy working to cover it all up!' And so the rumours fly." She sounded bitter.
Hernandez had heard such tales about Polly herself. She'd acted to discourage the rumour-mongering, but had to admit she wasn't really sure what to believe herself. A short sighted tone deaf cowherd with a propensity to travel sickness didn't sound like one of the uber mensch
, but factor in everything else and it suddenly became plausible. "It's not like it's ruined your career though, has it?"
"No, but it caused me a lot of hassle at the time. And I'm getting a bit fed up with having to defend myself from anyone with an agenda. Yeah, it's just a nuisance really, but it's one I would rather live without. And I guess I've had a lot of anger over that festering away, right up until the moment I saw him again. I'm ashamed to admit it, but punching him was a very
satisfying experience. Right up until the moment the pain hit, anyway. Oh, how is he? Seems strange to say this now, but I do hope he wasn't hurt."
"Bit of a nose bleed for a while, but it's cleared up now. You did yourself more harm than him. If you are going to go round punching your old teachers, you ought to learn to do it properly."
"No chance of that." Polly said. "I liked a lot of my teachers. And the ones I didn't like, I killed off years ago."
There was a time when Hernandez would have frozen for a moment before realising it was a joke. Now she just shrugged. "Oh, that's alright then. C'mon, let's get a quick coffee, then the Captain wants you to publicly apologise to Doctor Soong." She stood, and tapped in the unlock code.
"That's fair enough." Partridge said, swinging her long legs off the bed. She stretched. "Damn, these mattresses are uncomfortable."
"It's a brig, not a luxury hotel."
"In that case, they're too comfortable. Hey, you know what this place needs?"
"I don't want to know. Seriously, I don't---"
"A rack. A big, wooden, medieval rack. There's not much room here but if we get rid of that desk---"
"Shut up. I know you're only saying this to annoy me, so just shut up. Don't forget your glove."
"Thanks. Oooh. How about an Iron Maiden? Plenty of room for one of those,"
"Polly, as executive officer I have certain powers. I could, for example, prohibit any
footwear that does not have a permanently flat heel. Safety reasons."
"I'll shut up."