A Fire of Devotion: Part 4 of 4: Hotter Than Hell: Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight

Samantha Wildman saw Jaffen walking down the hall as she headed towards the bridge for her shift, and jogged up to walk beside him.
“Oh hi, Ensign Wildman,” Jaffen said.
“Please,” Samantha said, “you can call me Sam.”
“I’ve only been here two weeks,” Jaffen said. “I don’t really feel comfortable enough to be so informal with my new shipmates just yet.”

“Okay, fair enough,” Sam said. “You heading to the bridge too?”

“No, actually,” Jaffen said. “Mess hall. Neelix finally is gonna let me teach him how to make some Norvalian cuisine.”

“Wow, how’d you pull that off? Neelix runs that kitchen like an authoritarian,” Sam said, laughing.

“To put it bluntly, I think the fact that I’m sleeping with the Captain has something to do with it.”
“Makes sense,” Sam said. “Well, I need to go. Just don’t be surprised if Neelix hovers over your shoulder the whole time.”
“I consider myself warned,” Jaffen said, offering Sam a salute as she stepped into the turbolift while he took a left.

Sam was proud of herself for not practically bouncing with excitement. Today was the day that Operation Watson was set to come to fruition. If it worked as Seven had explained it to her, it would mean that Voyager could speak to the Alpha Quadrant every day instead of every 31. The communications window would still only be open for 11 hours a day, but even so that meant the amount of contact they had with home was set to increase exponentially.

Seven heard the door to astrometricsopen, but didn’t look to see who else came in. She knew the Captain was going to be there, but did not know who she’d brought with her. She focused on the task at hand. If anything was going to go wrong this would be when it would happen.
“Anything yet?” Janeway said.

“Not quite,” Harry, operating the console facing the lab’s large screen said. “I’m picking up a phased tachyon beam, but I can’t-”
“It’s Starfleet,” Seven said. “There’s a triaxiliating signal encoded in the beam.”
“On screen,” Janeway said.
The image on the screen was dark and staticky, and the sound coming through was garbled, but Seven could still make out was being said.
Voyager, this is Lieutenant Barclay at Starfleet Command.” The image became clearer, slightly, but enough for Seven to make out the figures of Reginald Barclay, the man whose instructions in the last monthly datastream had helped make this possible, and Admiral Owen Paris, Tom’s father. “Are you receiving this?”

“Can you clear it up?” Janeway said to Harry. Seven looked up briefly, and saw that it was Chakotay and Tuvok who had entered the room with the Captain.
“I’m on it,” Harry said.
The image grew worse for a brief second, but then the static began to clear up. The signal was stable, though the image remained grainy. Seven doubted that the crew would care.
“Captain Janeway,” Admiral Paris said. “A pleasure to speak with you face to face.”
“The pleasure’s mine, Admiral,” Janeway said. “How’s the weather in San Francisco?”
“Cold and rainy as usual,” Admiral Paris said.
“Sounds delightful,” Janeway said without a hint of sarcasm. “Lieutenant Barclay,” she continued, “my congratulations on your project. If crew morale was high when we were able to speak to home monthly, this is going to the best news this ship has had since Naomi was born.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Barclay said, “but I can’t take all the credit. If Seven and Harry hadn’t been able to make the modifications to your deflector dish work…”

“The plans you sent us were ingenious, Lieutenant,” Seven said. “Any flaws in the specifications can be blamed on you not being in the Delta Quadrant yourself.”
Barclay’s smile grew wider.
“It’s only a shame we can’t get around the 11 hour per Earth day limit,” Admiral Paris said, “but as always we’ll leave it up to you to determine how to allocate comm time.”
“The system we have in place now seems to work fine,” Janeway said. “We can just expand it to daily instead of monthly.”

“Oh, one last thing,” Barclay said, looking down to manipulate controls on his console. The image of him and the Admiral shrunk, revealing an image of Earth. “A gift for you and your crew. This is real-time, from McKinley station. As you can see, not much cloud cover over North America today.”

“Quite a view,” Janeway said. “Seven, record this for the rest of the crew.”
“I already took care of that, Captain,” Harry said.

“I have a question, if there’s time,” Chakotay said.
“Go ahead, Commander,” Admiral Paris said.

“Might we able to adapt this communications system to contact some of the allies we’ve made along the way? Many of them are well out of range of our own communications array now. I think it would be nice if we could update them on our progress, and possibly even get them in touch with the Federation directly.”

Paris looked at Barclay who sighed. “The ones you’ve already passed, I don’t think so. Not yet anyway. But, any friends your crew makes from here on out, just give them the signal code, and depending on the time of day they should be able to communicate with the Alpha Quadrant.”
“It’s an excellent idea, Commander,” Admiral Paris said. “And certainly one the Federation Council considered earlier when Watson was being developed. Sadly, technology is what’s keeping us from implementing it.”
“Better that than politics,” Chakotay said. “I understand.”

The next day, the Doctor was in astrometrics, one of the first people to draw a low number on the newly organized lottery that was used to determine who would get to speak to the Alpha Quadrant that day.
“I can hear the critics already,” the Bolian, Ardon Broht of Broht & Forrester, publisher of holo-novels said. “‘A new voice has arrived.’ You could be the next K’Ratak, or a modern-day Tolstoy.”
“If Tolstoy had written holo-novels,” The Doctor said, smiling. “You are far too kind.”
“I mean it,” Ardon said. “I’d like to start distribution by the end of the month.”
The Doctor was shocked, and a little concerned. If he had a stomach, he was sure he’d feel nauseous.
“Uh, the material I sent was only a working draft,” he said. “I need time to make revisions.”
“Well, if you insist. But please do it quickly.”

“I will,” The Doctor said. “So, tell me… what did you think of the characters?” he asked excitedly.
“Oh, they were very real,” Ardon said. “Compelling. I almost forgot they were holograms.”

If the Doctor’s pride were a physical object capable of growth, it would’ve filled the room. He glanced to his side and saw Seven of Nine, at the controls, maintaining the link to the Alpha Quadrant. That was one problem that sadly not even she, Harry, and Reg Barclay putting their minds together could fix. Not yet, anyway.

“So, who was your favorite?” The Doctor prodded, returning his focus to the Bolian publisher.
“Without a doubt it’d have to be Lieuten-” The signal cut off before Ardon could finish his thought.
“What happened?” The Doctor said, worried.
“The 11 hours for today is up,” Seven said.
“You could’ve let the man finish his sentence,” The Doctor said, feeling annoyed.
“The position of the quantum singularity we are bouncing a tachyon signal off of says otherwise,” Seven said. “Besides, I believe your ego has received enough stroking for the day.”
“That’s just mean, Seven,” The Doctor said. “I suppose you’re just feeling left out, since I never told you I was working on a holo-novel.”

“Why would I feel left out?” Seven said. The Doctor realized she meant it.
“Well, once I’ve got the last draft completed, I’ll share it you and Sam.”
Seven raised an eyebrow. “What about Naomi or Icheb?”
“The material might be a little too… mature for them.”

“It doesn’t involve you painting nude pictures of me does it?”
“That only happened one time!”

Tom Paris completed his inventory of sickbay’s stock. Normally he found the tasks assigned to him as the ship’s nurse when he wasn’t at the helm tedious, but he also had nothing better to do. B’Elanna was asleep, Sue Brooks was flying the ship during this shift, and he had traded his Alpha Quadrant communication slot with Harry so the latter would be able to speak to his mother on her birthday. The inventory was on his task list for tomorrow, but he figured if he got it done early that would free up some cartoon time for him and B’Elanna.

He turned when he heard the door open and saw The Doctor walking, whistling.
“So,” Tom said, “who’d you talk to? Reg or Dr. Zimmerman?”
“I’ll have you know,” The Doctor said, “that I was speaking to Ardon Broht, of Broht & Forrester.”
“The publishers of the Dixon Hill series?” Tom said, genuinely surprised.
“And soon to be publishers of my work,” The Doctor said.
“Oh. Well, congratulations,” Tom said. “I didn’t even know you were working on a holo-novel.”

“I was waiting until at least the second draft before asking any crew members to give it a run through,” The Doctor said.
“Fair enough. What’s it about?”
“The adventures of an intrepid doctor,” The Doctor said, picking up a PADD and starting to work on something, Tom couldn’t tell if it was medical related or writing related.
“Writing what you know, huh?” Tom said, leaning on a console. “You know, I never thought about getting any of my work published. Maybe I could talk to your people about Captain Proton.”
The Doctor paused, and looked pensive.
“I suppose I could put in a good word,” he said. “A throwback to the science fiction of early 20th century Earth could appeal to the same people that like the Dixon Hill series, itself a throwback to early detective stories. I hear that Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself is a fan of those stories.”
“Whoa,” Tom said. “Now that would be something I’d give up an organ to see. Captain Picard playing Captain Proton. What an image.”
“You know, my holo-novel could use a fresh pair of eyes. I have some additional revisions to do before I submit, Would you like to be my first user?”
“I’d be honored,” Tom said. “Oh, what’s it called, by the way?”
Photons Be Free,” The Doctor said, not even trying to hide his pride.
“Catchy,” Tom said, leaving sickbay to find if either of the ship’s holodecks were open. Finding both of them were, he opted for holodeck 2 since it was closest, and started up Photons Be Free.
It started with some voiceover that Tom found a little on the pretentious side, but he let it continue as a holographic desk with an old-fashioned feather pen and ink quill on it appeared, followed soon by The Doctor, or rather a sort-of copy of the Doctor, wearing a smoking jacket, who continued the narration as he sat down at the desk and started writing in the book.

“First note,” Tom muttered to himself, “tell the Doctor the prologue is too long.”
“Ah, welcome,” the “Doctor” said, putting down the quill and standing up. “You are about to take part in a thrilling first-person narrative. You will take on the role of an Emergency Medical Hologram, the chief medical officer aboard the starship Vortex.”

“Oh boy,” Tom said with a sigh.
“As our story begins, an accident with an ancient alien gateway has hurled your ship to the small but distant LMC galaxy.”
LMC Galaxy? What- oh, the Lesser Magellanic Cloud. Okay, I can work with that.
“Your mission; to uphold your medical and ethical standards as you struggle against the crew’s bigotry and intolerance of photonic lifeforms. Persons with vascular disorders should consult a physician before running this program. And now, a few acknowledgements. First-”

“Computer, freeze program,” Tom said, rubbing his eyes, already having a bad feeling about where this was going. “And he got on my case about ‘show don’t tell’ last time I let him… Computer, how much longer is this introduction?”
“Nine minutes, four seconds.”
“Yeah, let’s just skip to the first chapter.”

“Chapter One. A Healer Is Born,” The Doctor’s voice said over a musical cue. “In which our protagonist must make a difficult choice.”

The plain holodeck with a desk was now replaced with a recreation of Voyager’s sickbay.
Not even trying to hide your inspiration there, Doc, Tom thought.

The room was dark, the red alert klaxons blaring, and several panels sparked. Every bio-bed was filled with injured patients while others lay on the floor, some with blankets over their heads. Tom saw that he was now in a blue uniform, but his communicator had a very different design from the usual Starfleet delta.
“Increase the resonance level by twenty percent!” a woman’s voice from somewhere out of his line of sight yelled.
“Are you the EMH?” a gold shirt said, running up to him.
“Please state the nature of the medical emergency,” Tom said, mimicking The Doctor’s tone as best he could.
“Our doctor’s dead, and we’ve got wounded,” the gold shirt said. He directed Tom to two bio-beds, each occupied with a badly injured human. “Who do we treat first?”
Well, the chapter title certainly meant what it said, Tom thought as he pulled out his character’s medical tricorder and scanned the human to his right.
“Second degree plasma burns,” he said. He turned and scanned the second man. “He’s got an aortic rupture,” he added, his medic training under the Doctor taking over. “Get him to the surgical bay, now.”
The gold shirt helped the wounded man over to another bio-bed, this one equipped with surgical gear.

“You!” a familiar voice yelled, and Tom turned to see Chakotay, or rather a Bajoran with a long ponytail and a very different facial tattoo who just happened to look a lot like Chakotay, said, helping a man who looked a lot like Paris himself but with a moustache so ridiculous Tom was afraid that the program would respond badly if he laughed at it.
“Over here!” Not-Chakotay said, helping Not-Paris into the newly vacant bio-bed. He ran his scanner over the latter.
“He’s got a mild concussion,” Tom said. “I’m going to have to treat the others first.”
Not-Chakotay grabbed his arm. “I’m going to need Lieutenant Marseilles on the bridge.”
Marseille? Really?
“You’re going to treat him now,” Not-Chakotay continued.
“As I understand it,” Tom said, “my job is to treat the critical patients first. So if you’ll excuse me…” Tom headed towards the surgical bay to treat the man with the aortic rupture, when Not-Chakotay pushed a button and blocked his path with a force field.
“I don’t know who you think you are, Hologram,” Not-Chakotay said, putting enough venom behind the word Hologram to make it sound like an ethnic slur, “but to me you’re just another piece of technology.”
“Well, apparently, I’m a piece of technology that’s in demand, so why don’t you go back to the bridge and let me do my job?” Tom said.
The door opened and Tom turned to see this holo-novels ersatz Janeway walk in. The only physical difference Tom could make out was that this Janeway, whatever her new name was, had pitch black hair and a ponytail that seemed to be about the same length as Not-Chakotay’s.
“What seems to be the problem?” she said.
“Our medical hologram refuses to treat Mr. Marseilles, Captain Jenkins.” Not-Chakotay said.
“Are you malfunctioning?” Jenkins said, walking towards Tom in an intimidating manner.
“I don’t think so,” Tom said.

“I need my helmsman back at his station,” she said.
That sounds like something Captain Janeway would say, Tom thought.
“Lieutenant Marseille isn’t seriously hurt,” Tom said. “This man,” he motioned to the bio-bed in the surgical bay, “will be dead in five minutes if I don’t operate.”

“Drop the forcefield, Commander Katanay,” Jenkins said, causing Tom to have to bite his lip to keep from groaning. The Commander did as he was told, and Jenkins walked past Tom, and before he could do anything she pulled out her phaser and shot the man awaiting surgery in the chest. The man groaned, then his head slumped to the side. He was no longer breathing.
“What the f-” Tom started to say, but was cut off.

“That patient is dead,” Jenkins said as casually as if she were ordered coffee from the replicator. “Now you’re free to treat Lieutenant Marseille.”

“Then the Captain pulls out a phaser,” Tom said as Neelix refilled his coffee, “and shoots him. Right there, on the bio-bed.”
Tom sipped his coffee as he looked at Sam, Seven, Harry, and Jaffen to gauge their reactions. None of them seemed to be taking Tom’s description of the Doctor’s holo-novel seriously.
“I don’t see Kathy doing anything like that,” Jaffen said.
“Well, obviously,” Tom said. “But this Jenkins character looked like her, had her voice, her last name even started with the same letter. If I’d written something like this I’d be thrown in the brig for insubordination.”

Harry shook his head.
“What was my name, again?” he said.
“You’re Kymble,” Tom said. “A Trill. B’Elanna’s name is Torrey and she’s full human in the story, and I’m Lieutenant Marseille.”
“Very creative,” Sam said with a smirk.
“I don’t get it,” Jaffen said.
“Did you say anything to the Doctor?” Harry said.
“I don’t know what to say,” Tom said. “He thinks he’s written a masterpiece.” He shook his head and added, “If this gets distributed, people are gonna think this is about us.”
“I’m pretty sure you’re exaggerating, Tom,” Harry said.
“Run it yourself if you don’t believe me,” Tom said.
“I can’t,” Harry said. “Not today anyway. After my shift I’m talking to my parents.”
“How about you, Jaffen?” Tom said. “Up for witnessing what character assassination looks like?”
Jaffen sighed. “I gotta be honest, I don’t like the holodeck very much. It’s just too realistic for my tastes. I love a good story, but I think I’ll stick to hearing or reading them over being involved with them.”
Tom shrugged. “I can respect that.”
“I’m already off shift,” Samantha said. “I’ll give it a go. Annie’s on Alpha Quadrant communication duty again today, and Naomi and Icheb are getting remedial transporter technology lessons from Lieutenant Kitrick. I quite literally have nothing better to do.”
“I still think Tom’s exaggerating,” Harry said, looking at her.
“People back home probably won’t take it literally,” Tom said, “but they might wonder if there’s a grain of truth to it.”

“I doubt your people would think you go around shooting injured crewmen,” Jaffen said. “The worst freighter crews I’ve ever worked with wouldn’t even go that far.”
“I think maybe we should bring this to the Captain,” Tom said.
“Tom-” Harry said, but Tom raised a hand to cut him off.
“Look,” he said, “Sam said she’d play through it. If she thinks I’m overreacting, I’ll let it go. Okay?”

“Sounds fair to me,” Jaffen said.
“Okay,” Harry said.
“I’ll give it a try too,” Neelix said. “Sorry, didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but you weren’t exactly being discreet.”
“Okay, it’s settled then.” Tom said. “Sam and Neelix will be my second and third opinions.”

“Chapter Five,” the Doctor’s voice said, “‘Out of the Frying Pan.’ In which our protagonist must confront abusive colleagues.”
“Because they’ve just been so nice up to now,” Sam said, through gritted teeth.
A female human in a gold shirt entered sickbay. Sam at least appreciated that this one didn’t look like just a slightly modified copy of one of her actual crewmates, though she thought that maybe, just maybe, this crew member had Lydia Anderson’s hair, if not her complexion.
“I’m here for my physical,” she said.
Why does she sound like she’s flirting with me? Sam thought. And also, was that a Delaney sister’s voice I’m hearing?

“Have a seat right over here,” Sam said in character. She took out her medical tricorder, when the door opened and the fake Tom Paris, Lieutenant Marseille, walked in.
“Doctor,” he said, looking panicked. “We need you down in engineering.”
“What’s wrong?” Sam said.
“A plasma conduit exploded,” Marseille said. “At least ten people are hurt.”
Okay, so far the chapter title seems pretty misleading, but I’ll at least see how far this goes, Sam thought. She went over to the table where the story’s equivalent to the Doctor’s mobile emitter, here represented by a bulky backpack sized piece of half-organic technology in the vein of a Species 8472 ship, and strapped it on, glad that the holo novel’s parameters didn’t prohibit her from adjusting the weight.

She bolted out of sickbay and headed for engineering, but as she approached, it hit her. There were no alert klaxons, and she hadn’t run across anyone else fleeing engineering from the carnage that Marseille had implied.
“Wait a minute…” she said, as she casually strolled into engineering. As expected, there were no signs of explosion whatsoever, and the entire engineering staff, including B’Elanna’s human counterpart, Torrey, who was praising a subordinate. Torrey saw Sam, and glowered at her.
“How many times have I told you,” she said, sounding exactly the way B’Elanna would when she was angry, “engineering is off-limits to holograms.”
“Yes, well,” Sam said, realizing exactly what was going on, “maybe you should remind your husband of that.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Lieutenant Marseille told me there was a plasma conduit explosion down here. Obviously he was mistaken. Or lying.”
Torrey shoved Sam, and waved a spanner in her face.
“You’re a tool on this ship, just like this spanner. And tools can be replaced. My marriage is none of your business. Now scuttle off back to sickbay you photonic twerp.”

Sam stepped back, and as quickly as she could manage without completely losing her dignity, she went back to sickbay where, to her complete lack of surprise, the light had been turned off, and the sounds of two people having sex filled the room.
Don’t be in the surgical bay, don’t be in the surgical bay, don’t be in the surgical bay…
“Computer, lights,” Sam said. Sure enough, Marseille and the female crew member were on the bio-bed in the surgical bay.
“If you even think of mentioning this to my wife,” Marseille said, not even trying to offer up a pitiful excuse, which Sam actually appreciated though she’d never say it out loud, “I will purge your memory buffer. Do we understand each other?”
“Considered what I just saw,” Sam said, “I may actually ask you to purge my memory buffer.”
“Fancy yourself some kind of comedian there, Hologram?”
Just a few more chapters, Sam reminded herself.

“Chapter Six, ‘Duel in the Ready Room,’” the Doctor’s narration voice said. Sam now found herself in the ready room of Captain Jenkins. It looked almost exactly like Captain Janeway’s ready room, except for the weapons arranged on the rear wall like trophies, including an 18th-century flintlock pistol. Sam managed to get a close look at it before the scene began and saw the little plaque under it claim it was the gun Aaron Burr had used to kill Alexander Hamilton, two names that sounded familiar to Sam, though she couldn’t quite place them. The Doctor’s narration continued.
“In which our protagonist faces an inquisition.”
Captain Jenkins sat behind her desk, casually cleaning her fingernails.
“This time you’ve gone too far,” Jenkins said, pointing a weapon at Sam.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” Sam said, affecting nervousness.
Jenkins tossed the weapon onto the desk and picked up a PADD.
“An inventory of your holo-matrix,” she said. “50 gigaquads of memory devoted to music, 42 for ‘daydreams,’ and another ten to expand your sexuality.”

Doctor, if you are having sex with my wife in this novel I will rewrite your program so I can strangle you, Sam thought.

“These extracurricular subroutines don’t belong,” Jenkins said, standing up and moving around her desk to get in Sam’s face, “as part of an emergency medical hologram. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

“Um, of course,” Sam said. “I don’t think these subroutines are trivial, Captain. They help make me a better doctor. And a better person.”
“You’re not a person,” Jenkins said. “You may be programmed to look and act human, but that doesn’t make you one. These subroutines are to be deleted immediately. Mr. Tulak, Mr. Kymble” she added, tapping a button on her desk.
Oh, I think this is the first time I get to meet Tuvok’s analog, Sam thought, turning around.
‘Tulak’ entered, looking exactly like Tuvok, only human-looking though Sam supposed he could be a Betazoid or a Bijani, with a goatee. Sam had to admit she liked the look. The Trill version of Harry was right behind him. The room filled with dramatic music, and it took everything Sam had to keep from laughing.
“Take the EMH to the Holo-Lab for reprogramming,” Jenkins said. Kymble and Tulak each took out their phaser with one hand, while their opposite hands each took one of Sam’s arms and led her to the turbolift.
“Chapter Seven,” the Doctor’s voice said again. “‘The Escape.’ In which-”
“Wait, wait, computer freeze program,” Sam said. “Was that it? Chapter Six was just the one exchange in the captain’s ready room?”
“Correct,” the computer replied.
“But, but, how… Doctor why would you even… I just… Ah screw it. Computer, restart from chapter beginning.”
“Chapter Seven. ‘The Escape.’ In which our protagonist is aided by his only ally.”
Three of Eight, a.k.a. my wife as a ginger, Sam thought, remembering her from a previous chapter. Well, at least I’ll have something nice to look at during this chapter. This still better not end in a sex scene though.
“I’m not sure we should be doing this, Commander,” Kymble said as the three of them entered the turbolift. Sam was about to thank Kymble for speaking up for her, but he continued talking. “If we tinker with his matrix, we might accidentally delete some of his diagnostic subroutines?”

Tulak chuckled. “Why? Afraid you’ll catch something on your next away mission, Ensign?”
“There must be millions of viruses in this galaxy that no one’s ever encountered before.”
“I doubt it’s that many,” Tulak said. “The LMC is smaller in diameter than the entire Alpha Quadrant back home.”
“So?” Kymble said. “With my luck, I’ll probably end up catching half of them.”
The turbolift door opened, and there stood Three of Eight. The hair was not only a different color from Seven’s, but she wore it much looser. Instead of her visible Borg implants being on her eyebrow and hand, she had a pair of implants that hung from her earlobes like earrings, another that wrapped around her neck like a necklace, and a third on her wrist that looked like a bracelet. To Sam she looked less like a former Borg or more like someone with odd taste in jewelry. Three of Eight was also in the brown jumpsuit that Seven had been wearing when she and Sam had had dinner together for the first time. Sam didn’t like the look very much. Except for the hair.
“I will take the prisoner from here,” she said.
“Our orders were to escort him to the Holo-Lab,” Tulak said.
“I’ve been ordered to perform the procedure,” Three of Eight said.
“Your sympathies for the EMH are no secret, Three,” Tulak said in a menacing tone. He pointed his phaser at her now. “Step aside.”
Three of Eight nodded, and did as she was told. Tulak and Kymble walked behind Sam, phasers pointed at her back. They walked down the corridor towards the Holo-Lab. She heard the sound of buttons being pushed, and turned in time to see the two men walk face first into a force field, Kymble falling to the ground immediately, while Three of Eight struck Tulak in the neck and swiped his phaser. She lowered the forcefield and tossed the phaser her way.

“Run, Doctor,” she yelled. Sam took the phaser and ran, though she had no idea where to go. On top of that, the backpack emitter she’d been wearing all but non-stop since Chapter Five was starting to feel like more of a burden. She wondered if the Doctor had coded it into the program that it would start to feel its default weight at certain points in the story for dramatic purposes.
She ran, looking behind her, and nearly fell backwards as she hit another force field, and two guards came up the corridor behind her.
“Oh come on, Doc,” she muttered. “Couldn’t give me more of a chance? You could cut the dramatic tension with a sneeze, it’s so thin.”
The guards didn’t respond as they dragged her away. After a long, and in Sam’s opinion tedious kangaroo court scene, she finally reached the end of the story.
“Chapter Eight. ‘A Tragic End,’ in which our protagonist learns his fate.” The Doctor’s voice was nearly drowned out by the score as two guards removed the mobile emitter, a third guard who looked like a bulkier Lieutenant Ayala gripping Three of Eight by the arm. They were all back in sickbay, and Sam was standing face to face with Captain Jenkins.
“I’ve tried to do this the easy way,” Jenkins said. “But it’s clear you’re not going to be reasonable. Your matrix will be decompiled and reinitialized. You’ll remain off-line, except for emergencies.”

“‘Kay,” Sam said, shrugging. Frankly she was just glad this was over with. Photons Be Free was easily only half as long as Captain Proton, but at least she liked that one, though only when she did it with Seven.
“Ready,” Torrey said. Sam decided that The Doctor had not foreseen that anyone playing him in this story might just accept their fate at the end, since no one seemed to register her lack of pathos.
“Do it,” Jenkins said.
“Wait,” Three of Eight said, pleading. “He has the right to expand his program.”

“He’s a piece of technology,” Jenkins said. “He has no rights.”
“But he should,” Three said. “One day the EMH and others like him will be recognized for what they are; intelligent individuals with a passion for life. Make no mistake, Captain. We may be millions of light years from home, but one day people will learn of the crime you’re committing here today.”
“Nice speech,” Jenkins said, before looking Sam in the eyes. “Now decompile the program.”
The decompiling scene was represented by all of Sam’s surroundings blurring and fading to blackness. The holodeck itself was now pitch black, leaving Sam feeling uncomfortably blind.
“Okay, nice touch with the dark, I’ll give him that,” Sam said.
When the lights came on, the holodeck was back to its normal state when not in use. A second later, the desk reappeared, the Doctor, or his avatar for lack of a better term, in his smoking jacket still sitting behind it. He closed the book and put the quill pen back in the ink bottle as he stood up.
“What you’ve experienced, dearprotagonist, is a work of fiction.”
“You don’t say.”
“But like all fiction,” The Doctor’s avatar said, “it has elements of truth. I hope you now have a better understanding of the struggles holographic life must endure in a world controlled by organics.” A drum beat followed the last word, and the program ended, the desk and everything else gone, leaving Sam alone in an empty holodeck.
“End of program,” the computer said.
Sam touched her comm badge. “Ensign Wildman to Captain Janeway,” she said.
“Janeway here. What is it, Sam?”
“I have a concern.”

The Doctor wondered why he’d been summoned to the captain’s ready room. When he arrived he wondered why Tom Paris and Samantha Wildman were there.

“Doctor,” Captain Janeway said, “I hear you’ve written a holo-novel.”
The Doctor smiled, proud that the Captain had heard of his work, then quickly realized the tone with which she said it. And the frowns on Tom and Sam’s faces.

Uh-oh, he thought.
“Is there a problem, Captain?”

“Oh, I didn’t think so at first,” Janeway said, crossing her arms. “Even after hearing what Tom and Sam had to say. After all, Neelix said he actually liked it, so I decided to give a try myself.”

“Oh? What did you think?” The Doctor said, even though he could tell from the look on Janeway’s face what her answer was going to be.
She told him what she thought, and it was not kind. Tom and Sam chimed in as well, largely agreeing with the captain. The only additional note Ensign Wildman had was what the Doctor felt was a nitpick about Chapter 6 being too short.
“I don’t understand why the concern,” The Doctor said. “My work is not about the Voyager crew.”
“Really?” Tom said. “Lieutenant Marseille? Ensign Kymble? The characters look almost exactly like us.”
“I used your physical parameters as a starting point, true,” The Doctor said, “but I assure you any further similarities are purely coincidental.”
“You set your story on a starship thrown light years away from home by alien technology,” Sam said.
“And Marseille is married to Lieutenant Torrey,” Tom added.
“Captain Jenkins,” was Janeway’s sole contribution to the counterargument, and, sheepishly, The Doctor had to admit they may have had a point. He still felt he was being treated unfairly though.

“Well, what would you have me do? Write a story about palace intrigue on the Klingon homeworld? Or maybe a story about a threat to all sentient life in the galaxy that turns to just be a broken A.I. in the thrilling anti-climax? I do what all good authors do. I write what I know.”

“That’s terrible advice,” Sam said.
“Though it would explain why there are so many mediocre holo-novels about Academy professors contemplating adultery,” Tom added. “Oh, and speaking of adultery…”

“Doctor,” Janeway said, “you’ve written a very imaginative story, but it’s conceivable that people will think it’s based on fact.”

“I don’t see how,” The Doctor said.
“How many holograms carry mobile emitters?” Tom said.
“The emitter in my story is nothing like the real one,” The Doctor said. This was getting absurd, but he didn’t want to risk offending the Captain now. After all, if she wanted she could give the order to block him from sending his project to the Alpha Quadrant.
“What was the point of making it that big anyway?” Sam said.

“It’s a metaphor,” The Doctor said. “A symbol of the burdens I live with everyday. Imagine having to take this,” he touched the mobile emitter on his shoulder, ”everywhere you go with you, every day? It’s like a constant reminder that you’re different from everyone else. I wanted the player to feel the weight of it. Literally.”

“In Starfleet we celebrate our differences, Doctor,” Janeway said. “I won’t pretend I know what it’s like to be a computer program that attained sentience through circumstance, and I think it’s admirable you want the users of your holo-novels to feel what you’ve felt these past six, almost seven years. I don’t want to come across as completely unsympathetic, but your metaphor is flawed. Your emitter isn’t a ball and chain. It liberates you. Without it, you’d be confined to sickbay and the holodecks.”
“It doesn’t always feel that way,” The Doctor said.
“Doctor,” Janeway said, uncrossing her arms and leaning forward on the desk, looking concerned. “Do you feel oppressed aboard this ship? Because if so, I’d be more than willing to-”

“It’s not me, Captain,” The Doctor said. “Though I appreciate the concern. It’s about my brothers in the Alpha Quadrant; my fellow Mark-Is.”

“Oh,” Sam said. “I… Now that I know that-”
“It’s still badly written, Sam,” Tom said.
“I know that,” Sam said, “It’s just-”
“I’d like to finish my conversation with the Doctor alone,” Janeway said. “You two are dismissed.”
“Yes, Captain,” Tom and Sam said, roughly in unison, quickly vacating the ready room.

“You were saying about your ‘brothers?’” Janeway said.
“Hundreds of EMH Mark-Is, like me in every respect, except they’ve been condemned to a menial existence. Scrubbing conduits, mining dilithium… There’s a long history of writers drawing attention to the plight of the oppressed.”

“Setting aside for the moment how this story and it’s thinly veiled counterparts to your friends will make them feel,” Janeway said, “there is a difference between the Mark-Is and yourself you’re overlooking.”

“Which is?”
“None of them have attained sentience,” Janeway said. “To put it bluntly, they are still holograms. You’re not. You aren’t like Commander Data from the Enterprise, you weren’t created to be sentient, but you are an organic lifeform like he is. No hologram ever has been. Those that have attained sentience, at least to my knowledge, have all been the results of accidents, or in your case sheer necessity. It’s because we had no other medical personnel on board, and frankly still don’t despite Tom’s additional training, that made you what you are. I appreciate the sympathy you have for the other holograms that look like you Doctor, but you’re mistaken in your belief that they share the same level of sentience or even the same desires as you.”

The Doctor sighed.
“If my work offends my colleagues then I apologize for that. But if the price of expressing myself is having to deal with the scorn of some of them, then so be it.”
Janeway sighed.
“Just keep what I said in mind,” she said, “before you send a finished draft of Photons Be Free to your publisher. You’re dismissed.”
The Doctor nodded, stood up, and left.

“Are you sure you don’t want to be there?” Seven said to Samantha as they got into bed.
“I’m sure I’ll get a chance to speak to her soon enough,” Sam said. “This is your first chance getting to speak to your Aunt, the only living blood relative you have. The day after tomorrow should be just for you.”
“You aren’t worried that it’d go like-”
“God no,” Sam said, shuddering slightly. Seven felt guilty for having even mentioned it. “Sorry, just, I’m still kind of bitter about the way Mom spoke to you.”
Seven gently stroked the side of Sam’s face.
“I know literally nothing about Aunt Irene,” Seven said, “but I bet she’d adore you. And Naomi and Icheb as well.”
“I hope so,” Sam said.
“Changing the subject, I understand you tried out the Doctor’s holonovel earlier today,” Seven said. “How was it?”
“Oh, don’t even get me started,” Sam said with a heavy sigh.
“That’s unfortunate,” Seven said.
Sam propped herself on her elbows and proceeded to summarize the story of Photons Be Free. When she was done, Seven was unsure how to feel.
“If there’s one positive I can give it,” Sam said, “it’s that you looked hot as a redhead.”
“Yes, I imagine I did,” Seven said.

“Chief medical officer’s personal log, stardate 54740.8,” The Doctor said into his PADD as he walked towards holodeck 1. “Although the decision has made me unpopular with the crew, I’ve decided not to compromise my work. I’m making some final revisions to the program before transmitting it. End recording.”
The door to the holodeck opened and he stepped in. “Computer, run EMH program Photons Be Free.”

The program started, and the Doctor’s eyes widened when he saw his desk, his smoking jacket, his quill pen and blank book, but instead of his own image, he saw Tom Paris.
“What the hell?”
“Welcome,” the holographic Lieutenant Paris said. “You’re obviously a person with impeccable taste.”
“Computer, freeze program,” The Doctor said angrily.
“Unable to comply,” the computer said.

“You are about to embark,” Tom said, getting up and walking around to the front of the desk, “on a remarkable journey. You will take on the role of a medical assistant aboard the starship Voyeur.”

Voyeur?” The Doctor said, even more angry now.

“Your job will be to assist the Chief Medical officer,” Tom’s image continued, “and learn to tolerate his overbearing behavior and obnoxious bedside manner.”

The Doctor felt his rage rising.
“I will make you pay for this Mister Paris,” The Doctor said, practically growling. “I don’t know how yet, but I will make you pay.”
“Remember,” Tom said, sitting on the edge of the desk, “patience is a virtue.” He then vanished, and shortly thereafter so did the desk as the holodeck shifted into the story, or at least whatever the real Tom had done to it. Visually so far, everything seemed the same, down to the Voyeur’s sickbay looking like the one from both the Vortex and Voyager.

“‘Chapter One,’” Paris’s voice said, “It’s the Doctor’s World, You’re Just Living In It.’”
“When I tell you the shift begins at 0800,” a voice said, and The Doctor, now wearing a red shirt for some reason, turned to see himself, only with hair, yelling at him.
A terrible comb-over? The Doctor thought. Is that what Tom really thinks I’d look like with hair?

“That doesn’t mean,” the “Doctor” said, still ranting, “you can just stroll in here at 0800 and 24 seconds!”
The Doctor, despite being a hologram, still felt the urge to shudder. It was a bizarre experience getting yelled at by yourself, to put it mildly. He glanced and saw Three of Eight, the character he’d created loosely based on Seven of Nine, sitting on the edge of the bio-bed in the surgical bay, favoring her shoulder.
“Do you understand me, Ensign?!” The “Doctor” yelled.
“This is outrageous,” The Doctor said, hating how this version of his main character that Tom had corrupted was treating him.

“What’s outrageous,” The “Doctor” said, holding up a golf club, “is that I’m going to miss my tee time. Now come along.”
The “Doctor” jerked his head towards Three of Eight, motioning for The Doctor to follow him.
“Aw, what seems to be the trouble One of Three?” The “Doctor” said in what The Doctor was sure the most condescending tone of voice he’d heard in his almost seven years of existence.
“I’m Two of Three,” she replied, sounding like a sad and scared child.
“Sorry,” The “Doctor” said with a snide chuckle. “They’re triplets you know,” he added to The Doctor with a lascivious wink.
You turned me into a pervert? Dammit, Tom!
“It hurts when I do this,” Two of Three said, trying to rotate her shoulder, and wincing after being unable to complete the motion.

“Well, then don’t do it,” The “Doctor” said, laughing, slapping Two of Three on the shoulder.
“Oh, don’t be a baby,” The “Doctor” said, The Doctor wanting to intervene but being held back by his sheer revulsion at the scene playing out before him.
I’m not even flesh and blood and I feel like I need a sonic shower, he thought.

The “Doctor” pulled his medical tricorder and did a half-assed scan of Two of Three, rolling his eyes as he did so.
“Eh, your bi-radial clamp’s out of alignment,” he said. He tossed the medical tricorder recklessly onto a tray “I’ve got just the thing,” he said, picking up a hypo-spray. He leaned in to whisper to The Doctor.
“A Klingon aphrodisiac,” he said. “My own special blend.”

The Doctor’s eyes widen in horror and his jaw dropped.
“No, no, no,” The Doctor said as The “Doctor” pressed the hypospray into Two of Three’s neck and started rubbing her shoulders.
“You’ll feel better in no time at all,”
“Mmm,” Two of Three went, starting to smile even as she started swaying as though intoxicated.
“No, no, no no no, for the love of everything good and decent computer end program!”
Whatever Tom had done to the program caused it to continue, despite The Doctor’s repeated protests, the horrible scene playing out before him, completely ignoring his attempts to stop it. Eventually, he gave up and just covered his eyes.

Tom Paris looked at his PADD and the list of revisions he’d made to The Doctor’s holonovel, and frowned.
“Hmm. Maybe I should try to dial it back if it’s not too late,” he muttered to himself. “This is a little over the top, even for the point I’m trying to make.” He stopped and looked up when he heard the unmistakable sound of someone walking angrily behind him in the hallway. People didn’t believe him when he said that the sound Starfleet issue boots when they connected with a Starfleet issue carpet was different when the person wearing said boots was angry, but he knew that that sound could mean only one thing. He was proved right when The Doctor came around the corner, glaring at him.

“Lieutenant!” The Doctor shouted. “I want you to know I’m making a full report to the Captain.”
“This isn’t about that dermal regenerator I misplaced is it?” Tom said.
“You know very well what this is all about. You accessed my holonovel without permission, and replaced it with your own hackneyed narrative!”
That’s the part he’s most upset about? Tom thought remembering the scene he’d been regretting writing at the moment The Doctor caught up with him. Well, at least I think I still made my point.
“Well, hey, just writing what I know,” Tom said.
“You destroyed a work of art that took months to create,” The Doctor said, practically growling.
“Relax, Doc,” Tom said. “I saved your program in a backup file. I was trying to make a point. One I hope you got.”
“You made it with a typical lack of subtlety,” The Doctor said.
“Oh, you’re one to talk,” Tom said. “Your program is about as subtle as a Ferengi mating dance. Although I imagine most Ferengi mating dances don’t portray me as an adulterer or Captain Janeway as a murderer, or Harry Kim as a hypochondriac, or-”
“My program was a serious attempt at social commentary!” The Doctor yelled. He stopped yelling briefly as a crew member walked past them, at which point he lowered his voice while still trying to convey anger. “You had me drugging a patient and taking advantage of her.”
“Okay, I admit that was a little bit much,” Tom said.
“A little?!”

And here comes the coup de grace, Tom thought, hoping that finally The Doctor would at last understand why he, Samantha Wildman, the Captain, and a few others since the initial meeting about Photons Be Free in the Captain’s ready room were so upset.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Tom said. “That character’s not you. I just used your physical parameters as a starting point. But what if some people ran that program and thought that it was based on you? That would bother you, wouldn’t it?”
“I don’t care what people think,” The Doctor said.
Tom rolled his eyes. “Well that much is obvious.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” The Doctor said.
“If you cared, then you might actually take into account the feelings of your shipmates about your attempt at social commentary. I’ve watched 20th century Earth propaganda films that were more subtle.”

“Subtlety is a writing tool, like flashbacks, or the unreliable narrator, or any other choice a writer can make. It’s not mandatory.”
Tom sighed and shook his head.
“You really don’t get my point at all,” he said. “I can live with strangers in the Alpha Quadrant thinking I’m like Lieutenant Marseille. What really kills me is that that’s how you see me. I thought I’d begun to earn your respect. Maybe I was wrong.”

“How can you say that?” The Doctor said. “You’re nothing like Marseille.”
“I’ve certainly never cheated on my wife,” Tom said, “and I’d rather die than have a mustache like that, but come on. Ace pilot? Married to the chief engineer? My eyes and hair?”
The Doctor didn’t seem to have a response to that, but he didn’t look apologetic either.
“The original program is under file Theta-One-Five. Do whatever you want with it,” Tom said, and walked away before the Doctor could respond.

The Doctor stared at his desk monitor, pondering just how he should phrase today’s routine medical report, when he heard the door open. He looked up and saw Neelix walk in.
“Doctor, I need your help,” Neelix said. His tone indicated that whatever it was even Neelix didn’t think it was serious, so he didn’t bother to stand up just yet.
“What is it Mister Neelix?” The Doctor said.
“I was wondering you could take a quick look at this,” Neelix said, handing The Doctor a PADD.

“Cooking with Neelix,” The Doctor said, reading the text aloud. “A culinary tour of the Delta Quadrant.”

“It’s a proposal for a holo-cookbook I’m putting together,” Neelix said. “I was hoping to transmit it to your publisher during my com-link this afternoon. With your permission of course. And advice as well. There are species in the Federation that don’t have any representatives on Voyager, so I don’t have a frame of reference for what of my cooking they can safely eat. I’ve never had to cook for an Elerian for instance. Or a Trill, or-”

“I see your point,” The Doctor said, dismissively.
“Something wrong, Doctor?” Neelix said, sitting down in a chair opposite The Doctor’s.

“Let’s say if you want writing tips, there are a number of people on this ship eager to offer them,” The Doctor said.
“Ah, I see,” Neelix said. “Well, for what it’s worth, I actually enjoyed your holonovel.”
“I’d heard that, yes,” The Doctor said, smiling slightly. “You’d think the rest of the crew would be happy for me; for my chance to be appreciated as an artist as well as a doctor.”
“You’re going to reach a wide audience,” Neelix said. “Why worry about the opinions of a few disgruntled shipmates?”
“They’re my friends,” The Doctor said. “I don’t want to hurt them.”
Neelix shrugged. “You could make some slight adjustments,” he said. “Alter physical characteristics, make the interior of the Vortex look less like Voyager, stuff like that. I doubt it would affect the story any.”

The Doctor thought about it, and realized that not only was Neelix right, so were Tom, and Samantha, and the Captain. He sighed.
“I could do that, but that level of revision could take weeks. My publisher’s expecting a final draft tomorrow.”
Neelix reached into his pocket, and handed a dead isolinear chip with a number on it to The Doctor.
“Maybe you should give him a call,” Neelix said.
“You’re giving up your slot for me?”
“Well, it’s not as if I have any friends in the Alpha Quadrant,” Neelix said. “My options are to talk to your publisher about the cookbook, or see Lieutenant Barclay’s cat.”

“Revisions?” Ardon Broht said, sounding perplexed.
“I need to re-work the characters,” The Doctor said.
“Why? They’re so believable,” the publisher said. The Doctor laughed nervously at that, glancing at Seven of Nine who was manning a console, making sure the connection with the Alpha Quadrant remained stable. If she’d had any opinions on Photons Be Free, she’d kept them to herself. Hopefully, if she felt as offended as Samantha had been, this would go a long way towards fixing that.
“A little too believable, apparently,” The Doctor said. “Some of my colleagues were a bit put off by the physical resemblances to my characters.”
“And the names,” Seven of Nine said without turning away from the console.

“Yeah, I should probably change those too,” The Doctor admitted.
“Doctor,” Ardon said, “I really don’t think this is necessary.”
“I’m afraid I have to insist,” The Doctor said. “My friends’ reputations are at stake.”
The Bolian on the screen sighed. “Very well. I won’t distribute the story until I’ve received the revised version.”
“Thank you, Mister Broht,” The Doctor said, smiling. “Thank you so much.”
Ardon nodded, but didn’t say anything as he reached off-screen and the communication cut off.
“I believe Mister Tassoni is up next,” Seven of Nine said. “If he’s waiting outside, send him in and I will attempt to put him through to whomever he wishes to speak to.”
“Of course,” The Doctor said. “And, Seven? I apologize if my holonovel made you uncomfortable.”
“It did not,” Seven said, “though that is simply because I did not play it. My knowledge is entirely second hand and comes from Samantha. However, I am not mad at you.”
“Oh. That’s good to hear,” The Doctor said, smiling
“I was,” Seven said, causing the Doctor to lose his smile. “But then I heard what Mister Paris had done in his effort to ‘teach you a lesson.’ Now I am mad at him. As is Samantha, who I believe intends to lecture Mister Paris about how not to integrate sexual assault into a work of fiction.”
The Doctor couldn’t help but laugh. “If you’re there when the conversation happens, please take pictures. I want to see the look on Tom’s face.”

“No promises,” Seven said.

Reginald Barclay walked into the lab where Admiral Paris was talking to one of the new technicians that had recently joined the Voyager Project. For the first time since regular contact with Voyager had been established though, he was coming in with less than good news for the Admiral.
It wasn’t bad news, which was why Barclay wasn’t nervous about delivering it, even though he knew deep down that Owen Paris was never one to ‘shoot the messenger’ as the ancient saying went. But it wasn’t good.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, Admiral,” Reg said. “But I believe you should see this.”
Admiral Paris simply nodded and took the PADD.
“Is this a holonovel?”
“Yes, sir. One about Voyager. And one that doesn’t portray the crew in a very flattering light.”
“Unfortunate,” Admiral Paris said, “but I don’t see how it’s an issue.”
“I would agree, sir, except for the fact that it’s becoming quite popular.”
“Hmm,” Admiral Paris said, sitting down with the PADD. “I’ll look into the details of this. Thank you for being the one to bring it to my attention. I’ll let you know what I decide to do about this.”
“Yes, sir,” Barclay said.

Seven of Nine wasn’t too concerned about why Admiral Paris had asked for Captain Janeway to be summoned to astrometrics. Whatever the reason she was going to find out by default, being the one maintaining the link. She was more concerned about how the crew members who had their communications time pushed back as a result.

“On screen,” the Captain said as she walked in. Seven nodded, and brought up the communications link. “Admiral, Seven’s message said it was urgent.”
“Captain,” Admiral paris said, “I’ve had the dubious privilege of playing a new holonovel.”
Uh-oh, Seven thought, already realizing where this was going.
“One apparently written by your EMH,” Admiral Paris continued.
“What?” Janeway said, shocked into informality by the Admiral’s statement.
“I’m surprised that you would allow your Doctor to discredit your crew like this.”
“He’s still making revisions,” Captain Janeway said. “The program shouldn’t have been distributed yet.”
“Well it has been,” Admiral Paris said. “Mister Barclay tells me it’s already being played in thousands of holosuites.”
Seven looked at the screen, and back at Janeway, whose fist was clenched by her side, out of view of the Admiral.
“Ardon Broht,” Janeway said. “The publisher. He told the Doctor he wouldn’t release the work until the new version had been sent.”
“I’d like to hear the Doctor’s side of the story,” Admiral Paris said.
“Of course, sir,” Janeway said. Tapping her comm badge to summon The Doctor to astrometrics.

The Doctor was satisfied that the Admiral was not going to reprimand him for the story, but that was small consolation to The Doctor.
“Seven,” Janeway said, “while we still have the link, open a channel to Ardon Broht.”
“Aye, Captain,” Seven said.
“I can’t promise I’ll be civil about this, Captain,” The Doctor said. “I have never felt this kind of betrayal before.”
“Don’t worry,” Janeway said. “I’ve got your back on this. He had no right to do that to you.”

“I have a link established,” Seven said.
“On screen,” Janeway said.
“Hello, Captain. Doctor. How may I help you?” Ardon said.
“You promised me you would wait for my revisions!” The Doctor shouted. “I even have a witness,” he added, pointing at Seven of Nine. Ardon responded with a shrug.
“I demand,” The Doctor continued, “that you retract every copy and that you issue a public apology!”

“I won’t do anything of the sort,” Ardon said.
“I don’t see that you have a choice,” Janeway said. “Creators have rights to their intellectual property.”
“Not in this case,” Ardon Broht said. “The Doctor is a hologram.”
“So?” The Doctor said.
“According to Federation law, holograms have no rights.”
“He’s more than just a hologram,” Janeway said. “He’s as much a synthetic lifeform as any other. Would you have done this to Commander Data?”
“Mister Data was created to be sentient,” Ardon said. “Holograms are not.”
“Irrelevant,” Janeway said. “Just because The Doctor’s sentience was obtained through happenstance rather than design-”

The captain stopped talking when the static on the screen started getting worse.
“Seven?” she said.
“I’m losing the signal,” Seven said. “I’m attempting to boost it.”
“You should proud, Doctor,” Ardon said. “Your story is very popular on Risa, Rigel IV, and other heavily populate-” The signal went away.
“My apologies,” Seven said. “I am not sure why the signal was lost earlier than usual today. Perhaps there was a solar flare somewhere near the Midas array.”
“It’s not your fault, Seven,” Janeway said. “My priority right now is figuring out how to fix this.” She turned and left astrometrics, leaving The Doctor standing there, feeling defeated. He looked at Seven, who offered him a look of sympathy.
“I can’t believe this,” he said. “All these centuries, and there are still people out there who will try to take advantage of artists. I might’ve expected something like this from the Orion Syndicate, or the Ferengi, but a Federation citizen?”

“Synthetic life,” Seven said, “despite having a rather famous representative in Commander Data of the Enterprise, is still rare in the Federation in particular, and the Alpha Quadrant at large. Some misunderstandings are inevitable.”

“A misunderstanding? Is that what you’d call what just happened?”
“A poor word choice,” Seven said. “I apologize.”

“Yes, well, I appreciate what you were trying to say. Thank you, Seven,” The Doctor said, before sadly walking away.

“Under a strict interpretation of Federation law,” Tuvok said, “Mister Broht is correct. The Doctor has no legal rights.”
The briefing room was filled with the sounds of several senior staff members sighing. Janeway understood the frustrations, but managed to keep her demeanor level as she listened.
“Because I’m a hologram,” The Doctor said.
“Yes,” Tuvok said. “There is another option, however. We may be able to claim the holonovel reveals classified information. Starfleet could then request a recall for security purposes.”

“No,” Janeway said shaking her head. “If we do that that will only convince people that is is based in truth.”
“Not to mention there’s a market for illicit holonovel material out there,” Tom said. “Illicit used broadly of course as it applied to even Flotter tales that people in the DMZ couldn’t get after the treaty with the Cardassians restricted what could be delivered to the colonists there.”

“One of the many reasons the Maquis got started,” Chakotay said. “The restrictions in general I mean, not over Flotter.”
“I figured that’s what you meant,” Janeway said.
“Could we claim defamation of character?” B’Elanna said.
“Well,” Tom said, “we’d have to prove that the story’s about us and that we’ve been harmed by it. Seeing as the problem is we don’t want people back home to think these characters represent what we’re like…”

“Even if we did that and won,” Janeway said, “what about The Doctor? His reputation is on the line here too. He has the same rights as everyone on this crew, and I’m not going to let the publisher say otherwise.”
“So what do we do then?” Chakotay said.
“I think we can take this to arbitration,” Janeway said. “Once the next communication window is open, I’ll talk to Admiral Paris.”

“Mister Tuvok,” The Doctor said. “I hate to interrupt you.”
Tuvok put down his PADD on the desk in his quarters.
“If it is concerning your case, Doctor, you have every right to speak with me on the matter as I am your legal representative.”
“Yes, well, about that, I just got off the line with Lieutenant Barclay. He didn’t give me many details, but he said that someone with experience in these sorts of cases has offered to represent me. But I wanted to consult with you before I made that decision.”
Tuvok thought about it.
“If this person has experience in that field, than they would be the logical choice. What did Lieutenant Barclay say about him or her?”
“He didn’t give me many details, as I said,” The Doctor replied. “I’m not sure why. However, he assures that this man, he said that much at least, worked on the case where Commander Data was determined to have all the rights of a citizen of the Federation and a member of Starfleet.”
“Fascinating,” Tuvok said, pulling up information on that legal case. “That does limit the possibilities. That would mean your advocate would likely be, if not Captain Picard or Commander Riker themselves, then perhaps any crewmember assigned to either the Enterprise or Starbase 173 that they consulted with.

“Wow,” The Doctor said. “I mean, it’s probably a consultant. I doubt I could be so fortunate as to have a member of the Enterprise senior staff fly all the way back to Earth for my benefit.”
“It is not the most likely scenario,” Tuvok admitted. “But it is far from implausible. Judging from your reaction to the possibility, I suggest you work on suppressing your desire to, I believe the term is ‘get starstruck’ if that does end up being the case.”
“Oh, of course,” The Doctor said.

Three chairs were set up in astrometrics. Captain Janeway sat in one, while Tuvok sat in another, just in case the man Mister Barclay had contacted didn’t or couldn’t show to work in The Doctor’s defense. The Doctor was supposed to be in the third, but he paced nervously.
“I have a link established,” Megan Delaney said, as she was in charge of this duty today in place of Seven of Nine.
“Go ahead,” Janeway said. The screen in astrometrics now showed a table in a Starfleet conference room. The arbiter sat at the head of the table, while Ardon Broht sat on one side, alone.
A sign of arrogance on his part, Janeway thought.
On the other was a human male Janeway did not recognize wearing the rank pips of a Commander.
“Captain Janeway,” the man said. “A pleasure to meet you. I wish it were under better circumstances.”
“Likewise, Mister…”
“Oh, didn’t Reg tell you?” The man laughed. “Ah, I see. He was probably concerned if you knew who I was The Doctor wouldn’t let me take his case.”
“I must admit,” Tuvok said, “a certain amount of surprise to see you taking The Doctor’s side in this matter Commander Maddox.”
“Maddox?” The Doctor said, sounding worried.
“A pleasure to meet you too, Doctor. Mister Data told me all about you. Everything he learned from Lieutenant Barclay anyway.”
“You’ll forgive me if I have concerns about this,” The Doctor said. “Last time you were involved with a case like this, you lost.”
“Well,” Maddox said, “seeing I was on the wrong side in that case I don’t think that should count against me.”

“Gentlemen,” The arbiter said, “if we could proceed while we are still in contact with Voyager?”
“Of course,” Maddox said.
“Indeed,” Ardon Broth said.
“I will now hear opening statements,” the arbiter said. “Commander Maddox?”
“Thank you, sir,” Maddox said, standing up. “If I may be so bold sir, I have to wonder why this case has been allowed to go this far in the first place.”
“What?” Ardon said.
“What?” The Doctor said.
“As has been pointed out,” Maddox continued, “I was on the losing side in a case little more than ten years ago regarding the rights of synthetic life. Legal precedent suggests that The Doctor should not have had to resort to legal action to get Mister Broht to honor his original agreement in the first place. Near as I can tell, all I should have to do to win a ruling in The Doctor’s favor is merely repeat the argument used by Captain Picard in defense of Commander Data in that case.” Maddox sat down, and smiled.
Oh, he’s good, Janeway thought.
“Now hold on-” Ardon Broht started to say.
“You can make your counterarguments after you’ve made your opening statement, Mister Broht,” the arbiter said, politely but firmly.
“Yes, of course. My apologies. Well,” Broht said, his previous visible signs of confidence quickly eroding away. “While I do not dispute that Voyager’s EMH is the author of the holonovel Photons Be Free, strictly speaking this is not the same as if Commander Data had written it. Commander Data was created to be a lifeform. No one disputes that, not anymore. But no model of the EMH, especially not the Mark I’s, were designed to be synthetic life. They are holograms, specially made holograms but holograms nonetheless. Would we give rights to the characters in any holonovel? Would that not make holograms used in combat training simulations victims of murder if they ‘die,’ even though they’d just come back when the program rest? This cup of coffee I’m holding came from a replicator. Should the replicator be able to determine whether or not I can drink it?”

“Save the questions for the witnesses, Mister Broht,” the arbiter said.
“Of course, my apologies,” Broht said. Janeway smirked.

He’s giving away his argument, she thought. He’s telegraphing how he plans to win this case too early. Maddox flustered him.

“I’m done with my statement, sir,” Broht said, sitting back down.
“Well,” the arbiter said, “I must admit I find Commander Maddox’s opening very compelling. He raises an excellent point. I’m unconvinced the law should view The Doctor any differently than it views Commander Data.”
Ardon Broht looked like he was about to argue, but quickly shut his mouth when the arbiter looked at him.
“I am however not yet ready to issue a ruling. I would like to do some additional reading on the subject of holograms. We will adjourn until tomorrow.”

“Well that was quick,” The Doctor said when the signal cut out.
“If it’s okay with you, Doctor,” Janeway said, “I’ll wait until he officially rules in your favor before I break out the champagne.”
“Of course, Captain,” The Doctor said. “I admire Mister Maddox’s strategy there; to use his prior defeat as a selling point. I don’t think I would’ve thought of that.”
“Well,” Janeway said, “you aren’t called the Emergency Legal Hologram.” She turned to Lieutenant Delaney.
“Megan, since that wrapped up early, see how many of the scheduled crewmembers we had to push back you can squeeze in.”
“Aye, Captain,” Megan said. “And good luck on the ruling Doctor.”
“Thanks, Megan,” The Doctor said, feeling truly confident about his chances. “I appreciate that.”

The next morning, word spread quickly through the ship about the outcome of the case.
“Well, good for him,” Sam said as Seven of Nine filled her in.
“Indeed,” Seven said, smiling. “I was not privy to the ruling, Megan Delaney was on duty at the time, but I understand the arbiter cited two other holograms; one by the name of Moriarty and the other named Vic Fontaine when he declared that The Doctor had the legal right to have his work recalled and corrected. I must admit, as petty as it is, I would’ve liked to see the look on that publisher’s face when he lost his case so quickly.”
“I bet,” Sam said. “It must’ve stung that he never got past his opening argument.”
“I would imagine so.”
“So?” Sam said, gently taking Seven’s hands in hers. “Since you don’t have to reschedule anymore, will you be talking to Aunt Irene this afternoon?”
“I intend to,” Seven said. “Do you still intend not to be there?”
“Next time, honey, I promise.” Sam kissed Seven on the cheek. “I’m going to pick up Naomi from her lessons with The Doctor. I’ll see you later.”
“Okay,” Seven said. She watched Sam walk away, then took a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves. She had no memories of Aunt Irene. Those had all been lost when she was assimilated by the Borg. This was, for all intents and purposes, like meeting her for the first time and though she’d never admit to anyone but Samantha, she was nervous. She wanted it to go well, especially after the unpleasant experience of speaking with Sam’s mother.

Thoughts of how the conversation might go filled Seven’s mind throughout the day as she went about her duties, almost to the point of distraction.
When she finally got her turn, she walked into astrometrics, and nodded at Harry Kim, who was the one in charge of monitoring the signal strength of the link back to the Alpha Quadrant for this shift.
“Good luck,” Harry said.
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Seven said.
The screen took a few seconds to come into focus, but soon there was the smiling face of a woman Seven had only seen in a file photo.
“Oh, Annika. It is so good to see you again,” the woman said, looking as if she were about to cry tears of joy.
Seven almost corrected her, but then thought better of it. Irene was family. If anyone had the right to call her Annika instead of Seven…
“I wish that I had any of memories of meeting you,” Seven said. “I understand you watched me sometimes as an infant, when my parents needed to be elsewhere.”

“I did, yes,” Irene said. “You were such a beautiful baby. I can see a lot of Magnus in you. It’s as close as I’ll ever get to seeing my baby brother again.”
“I hope this isn’t difficult for you,” Seven said.
“Oh, not at all. I was so excited when Starfleet told me to expect your call.”
“I admit there was some apprehension on my part,” Seven said. “To clarify, before communication with the Alpha Quadrant became daily, Samantha attempted to introduce me to her mother. It did not go well.”
“Oh, Annika, I am so sorry,” Irene said, frowning. “What happened?”
Seven told her about her interactions with Linette Wildman, right down to how upset it had made Naomi.
“Oh dear, that must’ve been awful,” Irene said.
“It was,” Seven admitted. “I just wish I could’ve come up with a proper response. In some ways I feel like I let my family down.”
“Speaking of your family,” Irene said, “I hope next time we do this I get to meet your family. You were sparse on details in the letter you sent me last year, except when you talked about Samantha. I can tell you love her a great deal.”
Seven smiled. “I do. And she is looking forward to meeting you as well.”
“I also look forward to meeting Naomi and Icheb,” Irene said, laughing. “It’s kind of amazing. In the space of a few years I went from being the last living Hansen, to suddenly having four new family members.”
Seven smiled.
“So, do you have any stories about me, as a child? I remember so little of my life before I was assimilated.”
“What do you remember?”
“I remember my parent’s faces,” Seven said. “I remember wanting to be a ballerina. I remember… I remember the day the Borg took us.”
Irene looked sad, and Seven regretted mentioning that. She was about to apologize, when Irene spoke up.
“Well, I remember the last time Magnus and Erin left you with me for a weekend.” Irene chuckled. “You didn’t them to leave. When their shuttlecar took off, you locked the door to the room I’d set up for you and you refused to come out.”
“I apologize for the inconvenience I caused,” Seven said.
“Oh, that’s okay,” Irene said. “You were so young. And it’s not a sad memory for me anymore. For the longest time, it was the last memory of you I had. The following month you all left on the Raven.”
“I see,” Seven said. “Well, for what it’s worth, the work Father did, it proved instrumental to us not too long ago. We were able to steal a Borg transwarp coil. It burned out, but it still shaved years off our journey home.”
“It’s a small comfort,” Irene said, “but I take it nonetheless. It would be selfish of me to wish you could’ve stayed. I hated losing you, and mourning you, but if you weren’t where you were, when you were, the Voyager crew could be dead. Species 8472 could be right on our doorstep and we wouldn’t know it.”
“I see you’ve been reading more than just my letter,” Seven said.
“Oh, of course,” Irene said. “Voyager stories are all the rage these days. I think a lot of people are still reeling from what we all went through during the Dominion War. Stories about you and your crew’s survival and heroics… It’s good for morale.”
“I’ve heard that many people back home refer to us as the ‘miracle ship,’” Seven said. “I can see why.”
“So,” Irene said, leaning forward, ”tell me more about you and Samantha. You were a bit sparse with the details in your letter.”
Seven tilted her head. “I assume there are certain details you’d rather I leave out.”
Irene’s eyes widened in shock before she started laughing. “Oh, I am sorry, I didn’t mean to imply-”
“No apologies necessary,” Seven said. “As for Sam, I suppose it all started my first day as an individual, when I met her in a turbolift…”

Four months later, in a Federation mining colony where hundred of Mark I’s were hard at work, one hologram in particular walked in to relieve another of his duties.
“Time for your diagnostic. Report to the holo-lab,” the first Mark I said.
“I know the routine,” the second Mark I said as it dropped some raw ore into a cart.
“While you’re there,” the first one said, looking around, as if trying to see if anyone might be listening. “Do yourself a favor. Ask the operator to run program 47-Beta.”
“Why? What is it?”
“It’s called Photons Be Free. I’m sure you’ll find it quite provocative.”
“Thank you for the advice,” the second Mark I said.


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