The Farther Shore | Chapter 21 of 35

Author: Christie Golden | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1879 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter 12

DR. JAREM KAZ materialized on Voyager, and smiled pleasantly at the guard who had transported him.

“Welcome aboard, Dr. Kaz.”

“Thank you.” Keep it brief, he thought. Maybe Gradak had had a knack for this sort of thing, but his heart was racing at the subterfuge. He was certain that at any minute he would be discovered. And yet, mixed in with the trepidation was something else. He suspected it was ... excitement.

He’d familiarized himself with the layout of Intrepid class starships so that he wouldn’t waste precious time or call attention to himself. When he strode into sickbay and saw Data and the Doctor, he felt a visible rush of relief. Then he did a double take.

“Doctor, you look different,” he said, and then, “Of [145] course. If you kept your usual appearance, they’d know something had happened.”

“Our feelings exactly,” said the Doctor, “although it does take some getting used to.”

“Have you been able to find anything yet?” asked Kaz.

The Doctor scowled. The expression did not suit the younger, pleasantly featured face of the present EMH.

“Not a thing. Well, nothing useful anyway. Commander Data has been useful in sifting through the ... ah ... data.”

“I imagine you would be,” said Kaz. “I was able to download almost everything I know about the virus thus far. If anyone checks, they’ll see that there has been a download, and that will alert them that there’s been a leak. Which will probably lead them right here.”

“The entire operation is risky, Doctor,” Data said. “I am certain you did everything you could to minimize the chance of discovery.”

“I hope so,” said Kaz. The door hissed open. All three of them turned quickly to see a tall, dark-haired woman enter.

“I’m Lieutenant Commander Susan Taylor,” she said. “You’re obviously Commander Data. It’s an honor to meet you, sir.” She extended her hand and Data shook it politely. “And you must be Dr. Kaz. I’ve heard of you as well.”

Numbly, Kaz shook her hand. He noticed that she completely ignored the EMH.

“Commander Watson alerted us that you were on board, and I thought I’d render what assistance I could.”

Kaz felt the blood drain from his face. Fortunately, Data stepped in smoothly.

[146] “We appreciate the offer, Lieutenant Commander. However, our work is highly classified. It is doubtful the regulations even permit your presence here, considering the nature of the data presently on the computer screens.”

Kaz saw her eyes instinctually dart toward the screen, and then she deliberately averted her gaze.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” said Kaz gently. “If there’s anything that we do need, we’ll be sure to let you know.”

“I’m here to serve, sir.” With a quick smile, she turned and left. The door hissed closed behind her.

“She didn’t even look at me,” said the Doctor, bridling. “Did you see that? I might as well not have been activated. Hmph. And you wonder why Baines gets hot under the collar on behalf of holograms.”

“Don’t take it personally, Doctor,” said Kaz. Something was nagging at him. Something wasn’t right here. He began the transfer of data from his padd to Voyager’s computer.

 

Lieutenant Commander Susan Taylor had been in Security for eight years now. She was no starry-eyed ensign who could get bowled over by celebrities. And yet, when Watson had informed her that no less a personage than Commander Data was on board ... well, she had to find an excuse to meet him.

She was disappointed but not surprised that they wouldn’t let her assist them. The Trill doctor also seemed very pleasant, and easy on the eyes. It really was a pity she couldn’t stay and help. Not the mention the fact that all eight of them here were getting a bit [147] bored. It would be good to be actively involved in helping the Federation fight the newest threat.

Ah, well. She supposed that with Data, who could process information as fast as any computer, Dr. Kaz, a leader in his field; and an EMH, they had all the hands they needed.

Taylor slowed, came to a stop in the corridor.

An EMH ...

 

“Oh no!” cried Kaz.

“What is wrong?” asked Data.

Kaz turned frantically to the Doctor. “Doctor ... Because of your portable holographic emitter, you were able to leave Voyager.”

“Yes, so?” said the Doctor.

“They never replaced you,” said Kaz. “There is no EMH on Voyager!”

It took a second for the import of his words to register on Data and the Doctor. Then the Doctor’s eyes grew huge.

“Computer,” the Doctor said, “deactivate EMH.”

Just as he disappeared, the doors to sickbay opened and Taylor stepped in. Gone was the pleasant, attractive woman they had just spoken to a moment ago. This woman was all business, and had a phaser leveled at them. Slowly, they put their hands in the air.

 

“Status report,” asked Watson. He was eating a replicated breakfast of steak and eggs while Lieutenant Janssen stood rigidly at attention.

“Team B has been notified and will report for duty within the hour.”

[148] Still chewing, Watson nodded. There was no need for the team to report immediately. An hour to shower, dress, and eat something wouldn’t hurt anything. He took a sip of tea.

“Where are the Voyager crew members at the present time?”

“Harry Kim is on the bridge. Commander Data along with Dr. Kaz are in sickbay. Admiral Janeway, Commander Chakotay, and Lieutenant Commander Paris are presently in the turbolift. Commander Tuvok, Ensign Jackson, and Lieutenant Moore are in Cargo Bay Two.”

Watson paused in his chewing. “What’s Janeway’s destination?”

“Unknown, sir.”

“Cargo Bay Two is where most of the Borg technology is located,” Watson said, thinking aloud. He pushed the plate away, his meal half-eaten.

“Well, sir, that would make sense if they are working on the Borg virus,” said Janssen hesitantly.

“Yes, it does make sense,” Watson agreed, rising and taking a final swig of tea, “but I still think I’d feel better if I had someone in there with them. Report to Cargo Bay Two, Janssen, and give me updates on the hour.”

“Yes, sir. Anything else, sir?”

“That’ll be all. Dismissed.”

Janssen snapped to attention, then turned and left. Watson was sorry that Montgomery hadn’t been so insistent about no contact. Watson had a couple of questions he wished he could ask.

In the meantime, his instincts were still telling him that something was very wrong.

* * *

[149] “Keep them up where I can see them,” Taylor said, her voice crisp. Kaz was only too happy to oblige.

“What seems to be the problem, Lieutenant Commander?” asked Data.

She didn’t answer, only tapped her comm badge. “Taylor to Watson.”

“Go ahead.”

At that instant, the Doctor materialized immediately behind Taylor. Kaz kept his gaze rigidly on Taylor’s face so as not to give the game away, but she had heard something. Fortunately, the Doctor was faster. He grabbed a hypospray from a tray and pressed it to her neck just as she turned around, and she collapsed limply into his arms.

“Taylor? Report.” It was Watson, his voice coming from the comm badge. Easing Taylor to the floor, the Doctor tapped the badge, ending communication.

“Computer, alter EMH’s vocal patterns to replicate those of Lieutenant Commander Susan Taylor.”

“Completed.”

The Doctor touched the badge again. “Taylor to Commander Watson.”

Kaz stared, then started to grin. The Doctor was indeed speaking with Taylor’s voice.

“Watson here. What’s going on, Taylor? Any problems?”

“Negative, sir. I thought that perhaps you might want me to assist our guests in sickbay.”

“Are you there right now?”

“No,” lied the Doctor. Kaz hoped that Watson hadn’t asked the computer the same thing.

“Then yes. Keep an eye on them. Something’s wrong [150] here, but I can’t put my finger on it. Is there anything suspicious in their behavior?”

“Negative, sir,” said the Doctor, still speaking with Taylor’s contralto voice. “Everything seems pretty much by the book.”

“Hmm. Well, stay there. Let me know if you do notice anything that looks ... odd.”

“Will do, sir. Taylor out.” The Doctor ended the message and then exhaled. “That was too close.” He frowned at the sound of Taylor’s voice issuing from his lips. “Computer, restore the EMH’s standard vocal patterns.”

“Doctor, that was brilliant!” exclaimed Kaz.

Picking up Taylor, the Doctor smirked slightly. “Thank you,” he said in the voice of the standard EMH. “I’ve had a lot of practice. She should be out for several hours.”

“Practice?” queried Data.

The Doctor gently laid the unconscious lieutenant commander into a cadaver drawer, removing her phaser as he did so. The drawer with its contents would slide back into the bulkhead. Kaz winced. Even though Taylor would be fine, he hated the sight of a living being in a cadaver drawer.

The Doctor looked slightly discomfited. “I had a great deal of time in my cell,” he said, sounding embarrassed. “I ran through several possible scenarios. You know—fighting my way out of the prison, rescuing Seven of Nine, what to do if I were to be discovered on Voyager.”

Kaz tried not to grin. “I’m sure I’d have done the same thing,” he said sincerely.

“Do not be embarrassed, Doctor,” Data said. “Rehearsing possible scenarios is an honored and respected way of preparing for the unknown.”

[151] “Thank you,” said the Doctor. “If I may say so, I think I bought us some time and some safety insurance so that we can work undisturbed.”

“What if Watson comes to check on us?”

“Computer,” said Data, “program the EMH to be deactivated whenever a humanoid is within three meters of the sickbay door. Also, replicate a hologram with the features, vocal patterns, and personality of Lieutenant Commander Susan Taylor. Consult her personal logs and ship’s logs for information.”

After a moment, the computer said, “Completed.”

“Activate Taylor hologram.”

An exact replica of Susan Taylor materialized next to Kaz. She smiled pleasantly. “What can I do to help you, sir?”

“Stand by the door, Lieutenant Commander, and please don’t interrupt us.”

She nodded. “Certainly, sir.”

“Holograms are amazingly useful things,” said Kaz.

“Yes,” said the Doctor, “we certainly are. The information you brought has been downloaded, Doctor Kaz. Now the real work begins.”

 

Holograms, thought Covington, are amazingly useful things.

While her drones were of course dearest to her heart, she also had a special fondness for the hologram that had helped her become the Queen she was today. Humans were far too complicated. They had their own agendas, and while she could play upon those agendas to manipulate them, she still preferred people who were more than flesh.

[152] Brian Grady, for example, had an agenda that coincided with hers. At first, all he had wanted was acknowledgment for his skill and contributions. When he continued to not receive enough to assuage his ego, he had begun wanting more. Brenna Covington could provide it, or so she told him.

“Picard turned it down,” she had told him early on, with the memories embedded in the program that had been used to create her. “He couldn’t see that this was truly the best of both worlds. Human and machine, each better than the other could possibly become separately. Power such as neither alone has ever tasted.”

She had rolled over onto him, her lips a mere centimeter from his, and whispered, “A queen needs a consort.”

He had tangled his fingers in her hair then, and kissed her with a passion she had never before experienced with him. Later, as she became more and more Borg and less human, Grady had pleased her by finding as much delight in her altered body as he had before—perhaps even more.

Now, though, he was pressing to push ahead. He seemed to feel that the Starfleet bumblers were actually getting close to uncovering their secret. She had replied, scathingly, that if they were getting close to anything it had been his fault, for not leading them far enough astray. He had vowed to redouble his efforts, but it was becoming dangerously clear to Covington that “Red” Grady was more than ready to claim his own throne.

Perhaps he was right. Perhaps she did need to push up the timetable.

[153] She would need some heightened adjustments in order to do so.

A few years ago, they had wanted to get rid of this version at headquarters; download it and ship it off to some dilithium processing plant somewhere. She had fought back panic. She had worked for years with this doctor. While the information could always be downloaded, she had developed quite a cordial relationship with it. And it was her understanding that the new EMHs had something in their system that prevented their ethical subroutines from being deleted.

That would not serve her purpose at all.

So she had gotten Trevor to help her create a false trail, so that it would appear as if the EMH had been removed. He oversaw the downloading of the new one, so that if anyone got a bruise or a bump on site, they could go to the new, younger-looking, African-appearing EMH to get treatment.

The older EMH could only be activated by a code phrase that no one but she, Grady, and Blake knew, to minimize accidental discovery.

The door hissed open. “Computer,” she said, “Invoke security precautions Covington 486-Delta.”

“Complying,” replied the computer. She heard a mechanism inside the doors activate, and the familiar sound of a force field springing up around the circumference of the entire room. No one could enter. Even if someone tried to transport in now, they wouldn’t be able to.

She smiled as she formed her lips around the words that would summon her photonic friend:

“Brave new world,” she said.

[154] He appeared, smiling pleasantly. She had grown fond of his balding pate, his slightly superior attitude, his smug smirk. The other versions were much pleasanter than he, but he was unique as far as she was concerned. He had helped make her Borg.

“Your Majesty,” said the EMH Mark One, and she felt warm inside at the term. “How may I assist you today?”

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

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