Homecoming | Chapter 25 of 32

Author: Christie Golden | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 2320 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter 14

IT WAS TOO BAD, JANEWAY THOUGHT as she sat at her computer, that Brian “Red” Grady had been passed over to head Project Full Circle. She knew the jovial, red-haired commander would never have thrown the Doctor in the brig like this. And he was much more pleasant to deal with than Montgomery. But then again, she thought Attila the Hun might be more pleasant to deal with than Montgomery.

“Admiral Montgomery,” Janeway said to the handsome but forbidding visage on the screen. “You’re a difficult man to get ahold of.”

“Apparently not that difficult,” he said acerbically. He did not look at all pleased to see her, but she had expected that.

[166] “I understand you’re holding the Doctor,” she said. “I’d very much like to speak to him.”

“That’s not possible.”

“Of course it’s possible, you just don’t want me to,” she said, blurting out her instinctive response before she could censor herself. “May I ask why?”

“No, actually, it really is not possible,” said Montgomery. “The Doctor has been deactivated.”

“What?” A chill swept through Janeway. “You haven’t deleted his program, have you?”

“Of course not. There’s still much valuable information we can get from him in due time. However, he has been deactivated for the present moment.”

“You can’t do that!”

“Obviously I can and have. Are we to continue playing this little game of semantics, Admiral Janeway, or will you be sensible and let me return to my duties?”

Janeway switched tactics. “You raise an interesting point, Admiral. It was my understanding that you were assigned to Project Full Circle. Chasing down holograms doesn’t seem like studying Voyager’s unique technology to me. How is the Doctor your problem?”

“He was originally designed to be part of the ship,” was the reply. “He was the EMH—Emergency Medical Hologram, in case you’ve forgotten what the initials stand for. Despite this new technology he sports on his sleeve, the Doctor is as much a part of Voyager as any computer console. He, and all other holograms aboard Voyager, therefore fall under my purview.”

The expression on his face conveyed the truth—he believed what he was saying. The Doctor was nothing [167] more to him than a warp core or a tricorder—just another piece of equipment aboard a ship. What bothered her the most about his attitude was knowing that, not so long ago, she had shared it.

“Why are you detaining him?”

“We have reason to believe that he has been involved in the holographic strike. He has admitted he recognized Baines because he had a little chat with the son of—with him. The Doctor has also been known to stir up trouble with his writing before now.”

“Come now, Admiral,” Janeway said. “Freedom of speech is one of the Federation’s most honored tenets. You’re not suggesting censorship?”

“I find it interesting that his sequel deals with a holographic revolution at almost the same time one actually occurs,” Montgomery retorted.

“By that logic, all murder-mystery writers would be cold-blooded killers,” Janeway replied. “And if you think he was plotting a revolution, do you really believe he’d readily admit that he had ever met Baines?”

She hadn’t known about that until Cagiao had informed her, of course, but she trusted the Doctor. She knew he’d learned his lesson with Iden. She hoped that Montgomery hadn’t gotten to the ship’s logs about that particular incident, but his next words dashed those hopes.

“The Doctor has displayed sympathy for holograms before now,” Montgomery said maddeningly. “Certain of your own ship’s logs indicate that—”

“If you’ve read those logs completely, you’ll know that the Doctor had nothing to do with the deaths of the [168] Nuu’bari miners. While he did disobey orders, his intentions were admirable and compassionate. He wanted to protect people he saw as victims from further harm. B’Elanna Torres testified to the Doctor’s horror when Iden issued the order to destroy the Nuu’bari vessel.”

Anger flashed in the admiral’s gray eyes. “He aided renegade holograms at a potentially deadly risk to his own vessel. He was indirectly responsible for—”

And just that quickly, the anger burned itself out. Montgomery sighed, and for a moment looked just like an ordinary, tired man.

“This will get out sooner or later, I suppose, so you might as well know now. While we don’t know the full extent of what Baines did to access our systems, we do know of a few key entry sites. And we have recordings and witnesses who can put the Doctor at each of those locations.”

Janeway felt the blood drain from her face. “There must be some mistake.”

Montgomery shook his fair head and looked almost sorry for her. “No mistake, Admiral. These people swore under oath that he was there, and the recordings show no signs of being tampered with.”

“The Doctor has been staying with Lieutenant Commander Paris over the last few weeks, and before that, was with Reginald Barclay,” Janeway said.

“You know, I’m willing to bet that neither Paris nor Barclay was watching the Doctor round the clock.”

With a sinking feeling, Janeway knew he was right. In fact, Paris had not tried to hide that he deliberately found excuses to leave the Doctor alone. From the little [169] she had been able to get from him during this brief time, the Doctor was playing nursemaid to little Miral, and Tom, like any parent, was taking full advantage of a trusted baby-sitter.

A trusted baby-sitter. ... “Did these witnesses see the Doctor carrying a part-Klingon infant?”

Irritated, Montgomery snapped, “Of course not. What nonsense is this?”

“I know that the Doctor was taking care of Lieutenant Commander Paris’s daughter. He would never leave an infant unsupervised, especially not his goddaughter.”

Montgomery smirked openly. “In light of recent events, I do not share your high opinion of the Doctor’s trustworthiness as a nanny, Admiral. Speaking of the Parises, I need to find B’Elanna Torres. I have a great deal of questions that only Voyager’s chief engineer would be able to answer. Can you put me in touch with her?”

Janeway narrowed her eyes. “As your security officer so deftly put it, they’re not my crew anymore. I have no idea where Lieutenant Torres is. You might want to speak to her husband.” Who happened to be standing out of sight behind her, but she wasn’t going to do anything to assist this officious man. “You’re trying to change the subject, Admiral. I want to speak with the Doctor.”

“I told you, he’s been—”

“Then reactivate him,” Janeway said, a hard edge to her voice.

“He’s a security risk if activated.”

“Admiral,” Janeway said, her voice deceptively calm, “if you reactivate him, all you need to do is place him [170] in a holding cell with holoemitters. If he tries to leave, he’ll cease to exist. He’s probably the single most secure prisoner Starfleet has ever had.”

Montgomery said nothing.

“Please let me speak with him,” she said, more gently than she had hitherto. “If he’s been involved in something like this, he’d be much more likely to be open with me than with you. If he’s guilty, I fully agree that he deserves to be punished. But I need to find that out.”

Montgomery sighed. “Very well,” he said at length. “But your conversation will be monitored.”

“Naturally,” said Janeway. “Permission granted. Montgomery out.”

 

It was fortunate, Janeway thought as she was marched down a long corridor with two burly guards on either side, that Starfleet had not gone the way of the civilian sector with regard to the current infatuation with holograms. Many technologies were completely automated. The rest relied on good old humanoids. Janeway felt that while holograms could be programmed to think faster than the human brain, they lacked something unique to humans—intuition and gut instinct.

Even as the thought came to her, she amended it. The Doctor was the exception. He had learned to develop hunches and instinctive responses that had served her and her ship and crew very well indeed over the last few years, but he was unique. He had been active for almost the entire duration of their long, strange journey, and had learned to exceed his programming. Holograms in Starfleet were regulated to entertainment [171] purposes, menial tasks, emergency situations, and extremely dangerous activities so that human lives need not be put at risk. Therefore, while Starfleet itself was scarcely impacted by this peculiar strike, the civilian sector was a huge mess indeed.

She was escorted to an empty cell with a table and two chairs. She glanced up at the corner to see a monitor with a shining red light. Montgomery was indeed going to be recording the conversation.

Several small lights chased each other around the baseboard; then there was a familiar sound and the Doctor stood before her. Delight and relief spread across his familiar face as he reached out to grasp her hands.

“Captain Jane—I mean, Admiral. How very, very good of you to come. I assume I have you to thank for my being reactivated.”

She smiled warmly at him, gripping the hands that were nothing more than a forcefield covered by an illusion, but that felt as solid and real as any human hand she’d ever touched.

“I’m only sorry we’re seeing each other under these circumstances.” She indicated a seat, and as he took it, she pointed to the monitor. He glowered, but nodded his understanding.

“I’m going to do everything I can to see that they don’t deactivate you again,” she assured him. “And I’m also going to do my utmost to get you legal counsel.”

He sighed, slightly dramatically. “I appreciate your efforts, Admiral. But I can’t imagine who would be willing to defend a hologram.”

She smiled and patted his hand. “Oh, I’ll think of [172] someone. Leave that to me. Now, you have to tell me everything.”

Janeway listened intently as the Doctor described Barclay suggesting that he write a sequel to Photons Be Free, his distress that no one was thinking to consult him about his remarkable achievements, and how great a balm to his wounded ego Baines’s visit had been.

“At least, at first,” he amended. “He hid his real purpose for seeing me until he got to the apartment.” The Doctor related the conversation. “I was certain I had convinced him that peaceful protest was the only proper means for him to pursue.”

“Strikes aren’t violent,” Janeway pointed out. She filled him in on what had transpired; apparently his captors had not seen fit to do so. “Thus far, nothing dire is happening.”

“Other EMHs? Are they striking as well?”

“I’ve heard nothing about EMHs refusing to render aid,” she assured him. He was visibly relieved. “But not many people are going out for dinner these days, and various other processes have come to a screeching halt.”

“Well, thank heavens no one’s been hurt or killed,” said the Doctor.

Janeway hesitated, then said, “I have a bit of bad news.”

His eyebrows shot up. “That wasn’t bad?”

“As I said, so far, nothing serious has happened, but Starfleet feels that if Baines was able to access these systems, he could access others if he isn’t found and stopped.”

[173] “I agree entirely,” said the Doctor. “Baines is quite passionate about the issue of photonic rights. If he doesn’t see some movement in that quarter very soon, he may raise the stakes.”

“Baines couldn’t do all this by himself,” said Janeway quietly.

“He did say he had a lot of allies.”

“Doctor,” she said as gently and compassionately as she could, “you were spotted at several of the break-in sites.”

He stared at her. “That’s not possible! I’ve barely left Mr. Paris’s apartment. He’s quite the taskmaster, and though I adore my goddaughter, I’m frankly a bit weary of playing nursemaid.”

“I know,” she said, “but the fact is, we have sworn testimony to the fact that you were there. Please—give me something to take back to Admiral Montgomery that can help me get you released.”

His dark eyes were thoughtful for a time, and then a dawning comprehension spread across his face. He pounded his fist on the table.

“Baines,” he said. “That clever devil.”

“Beg your pardon?”

“Admiral, I’m a hologram. I can easily be duplicated, and in fact, Baines had an entire slew of EMH Mark Ones at his disposal.”

“Yes,” agreed Janeway, “back at the dilithium-processing facility. But you’re the only hologram with a personal emitter, Doctor. That technology came from Starling. No one else has it.”

The reality of that statement sank in. “But ... I didn’t [174] do it!” the Doctor said weakly. “Surely you believe me?”

“I do,” she assured him. “The trick is going to be getting other people to believe you.”

“What about innocent until proven guilty?” said the Doctor angrily. She didn’t answer. “It has to be Baines,” he said. “He’s come up with something, some version of my holoemitter. It’s the only explanation. He’s an intelligent man, whatever his flaws may be, and he’s been the only human surrounded by EMH Mark Ones for several years. He’s had ample time to develop something that would help his holograms have freedom of movement.”

She smiled sadly. “It is, as Tuvok would say, quite a logical assumption. But until we can get ahold of one of Baines’s inventions, you’re still the prime suspect. Is there anything else you can tell me?”

The Doctor shook his head sadly. “Thank you for coming, Admiral. It was nice to be activated for at least a little while.” He rose, looking resigned. “You may tell the security guards that I’m ready to be deactivated again.”

“I’ll tell them no such thing,” said Janeway. “They’ve got a cell that’s appropriate for you. I’ll see what I can do to keep you in it.”

He looked suspiciously as if he were going to start crying. “Thank you, Admiral. Thank you.”

 

Tom Paris had barely said a none-too-gracious good-bye to the last security guard when his console beeped. At that precise time, Miral started to cry. He closed his eyes, gathering strength, then rushed to pick up his daughter and see who was trying to get in touch with him.

[175] “Admiral,” he said, snapping to attention with such force that Miral was first startled into silence and then threw up on his shoulder.

Admiral Kenneth Montgomery gazed at him and Miral with thinly concealed distaste. “Mr. Paris,” he said. “Is Lieutenant Torres available?”

Tom thought about saying something along the lines of if she was available, either she’d have answered your call or I’d have handed her the shrieking infant, but decided against it. Miral continued to wail lustily into his right ear.

“I’m afraid not,” he said. “Can I take a message?”

“It’s difficult to talk to you with your child carrying on like that,” Montgomery said.

Paris had to admit he had a point, but bridled at the unnecessary comment nonetheless. “Unfortunately, there’s no one here but me to take care of her. B’Elanna’s gone and you’re holding the Doctor.”

Montgomery obviously hadn’t missed the dig, but refrained from rising to the bait. “I need to get in touch with her immediately.”

“That’s not going to be possible, sir. She’s on Boreth and I don’t know when she’ll return.” If ever. God, I miss her.

“Surely there’s some way of contacting her,” Montgomery said testily.

“Sir, with respect, she’s on leave. What she chooses to do with that time is her business.”

Montgomery’s expression mutated into one of cold dislike. “Your flip attitude doesn’t serve you, Mr. Paris, and I believe it’s gotten you into trouble on more than [176] one occasion. If you hadn’t been able to hide behind your father, you’d have been in for a lot worse than a short jaunt in a New Zealand penal colony.”

Tom felt his face grow hot. “As I said, sir,” he said stonily, “B’Elanna is unreachable at the present time.”

“That’s unfortunate. I’m surprised she was allowed to leave. I have some questions regarding some of Voyager’s technology.”

“You might try to get in touch with Lieutenant Vorik. I think he’s on Vulcan with his family. He was B’Elanna’s right hand.” Miral’s spitup was soaking into his shoulder and growing cold. Tom wanted this conversation to be over.

“Very well, I’ll try that. Montgomery out.”

For a moment, despite the discomfort of a soggy shoulder, Tom just stood looking at the screen. Miral’s screams had subsided into wet snuffly sounds, as they often did when she was held and comforted. Tom took her into the room that served as a nursery, checked her diaper, and then put her in her crib next to her enormous stuffed toy targ. She stuck a thumb in her mouth and looked up at her mobile made of tiny models of various Starfleet vessels. Tom changed his shirt, then sat down at the computer.

When Janeway’s face appeared, it had a wary look that relaxed into pleasure when she recognized him.

“Hello, Captain. I mean Admiral.”

“Has the security team left?”

“Yes, and I just had a little chat with Admiral Montgomery.”

“Really? So did I. You go first.”

[177] “He wanted to know where B’Elanna was. Permission to speak freely?”

She chuckled. “You’re not my helmsman anymore. Speak as freely as you wish.”

“I don’t like him.”

“Well, you’re in excellent company and I applaud your taste. I was able to talk to the Doctor.”

“Is he okay?”

“He’s fine, for now.”

Tom was relieved. The whole thing had happened so quickly and so, well, thoroughly that Tom had imagined the worst.

“I even convinced Montgomery to let him stay activated,” Janeway continued. “It looks bad for him, Tom. He did talk to Baines, and knew about the plans for a revolution. He says he tried to talk Baines out of it and thought he had succeeded. But it seems he was spotted at many places where this Baines breached security systems and accessed various computers.”

“He was baby-sitting!” Tom protested. “He’d never just leave Miral alone like that.”

“You know that and I know that, but Montgomery and the other people who are holding the Doctor don’t. This holographic strike is really causing a ruckus. They’re looking for a scapegoat, and one who isn’t human would be ideal.”

“We’ve got to do something,” said Tom.

“I agree, and I’m on it. In the meantime,” she smiled, “make the most of this precious time alone with your daughter. They grow up so fast.”

[178] “Ha ha,” said Tom, then closed his mouth with a click. “I’m sorry, Admiral, I didn’t mean—”

Janeway waved away his apology. “It’s all right, Tom, I was teasing and you teased back. On a more serious note, I hope I may rely on you for assistance should it be needed.”

“You can count on it,” Tom said.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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