It’s all just make believe, isn’t it?
Written by Michael B and FatMatDuhRat
Release 17 Nov 2003
Norma Jean Baker was alone in her quarters on Deck 16, Section 32. She was off duty and had switched her matrix to the room’s holoemitter system, leaving her mobile unit on the coffee table by her sofa. She had shifted into her after hours clothing ensemble, a loose sweater, jeans, white socks, and her strawberry blonde hair tied back into a ponytail. As a hologram, it was far easier for her to change out of her duty uniform than it would have been for an organic, a simple verbal command instructing the ship’s computer to load her casual-wear subroutine into her holomatrix. A similar choice of words, and she could change her hairstyle, her makeup, and if need be, her entire face and body structure. She could even change her gender and species if she so chose, although such radical changes to her physical structure would take its toll on her neural net pathways.
The music of The Platters was wafting over her speakers as she danced about while picking up the assorted items scattered in her quarters. She had programmed the computer in her quarters to play a mix of popular tunes from the 1950’s and 60’s, a reflection of her personal tastes. The tunes and the melody were archaic by modern standards, but she couldn’t help being partial to the selections. They were a part of her original programming and as much as she tried exposing herself to more contemporary styles, she found herself drifting back to those melodies from the birth of the Age of Rock and Roll.
Quite unconsciously, she swayed her hips to the beat of the music as she darted about the room, collecting her books and articles of clothing, her true physical possessions. Then without realizing, she began to mouth along with the lyrics as a new song came on.
I wanna be loved by you, just you,
And nobody else but you,
I wanna be loved by you, alone!
As soon as she heard her own voice, she winced and ground her teeth, stopping herself regardless of how much the beat called to her. She sat down quickly, her feet planted firmly on the ground, lest they too betray her by tapping to the beat. She clenched her jaw and muttered quietly.
"No," she said. "I won’t go back. I’m the one in control. Not them. Not her."
"No, no, no," said Finn Bartok in frustration. "Try it again. This time, I want the altos to come in half a beat later."
There were twenty assorted crewmembers and civilians assembled before the Enterprise’s chief counselor, all divided into four horizontal rows, with altos and sopranos on the left and tenors and bases on the right. For the past few months, Bartok had recruited a wide array of vocal talent from the crew and passenger complement in order to form the ship’s choir, practically taking over the Enterprise’s forward recreational lounge on Deck 20 as a practice hall. He had had prior experience as a choirmaster on his previous assignments on the Houston and at Beta Antares. Both times, bringing together the diversity of talents to produce beautiful harmony had been as elegant as dancing a waltz.
Here on Enterprise, it was more like a wrestling match.
"Ensign Sandusky," he glared at the young crewmember standing among the contraltos. "You’re not coming in on time with the rest of the chorus. You’re a full beat behind everyone else."
"I’m sorry, sir," Sandusky flustered. "I’ll…"
Bartok sighed. Everyone was so formal in this choir. He much preferred working with civilians, since they knew how to relax and leave military protocols out of the equation. "Sandusky. Rachel. You don’t have to ‘sir’ me. We’re off duty and this is our free time. I’m just ‘Finn’ here. And if you don’t relax and just go with the music instead of trying to do what you think will get praise, then you’re only going to throw everyone else in the chorus off balance. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir. I mean, Finn."
"Good," he sighed again, his attention turning towards the altos. "Annika, let’s lead in with your solo. We’ll start with the Introitus and go from there."
Dr. Annika Kim stood at the center of the alto row. Although never formally trained, she had both a natural and cybernetically augmented ear for tone and melody, an unintended benefit of her assimilation by the Borg. That, plus her long familiarity with Finn and his directorial style had prompted him to place her as the choir’s featured soloist. She stepped forward and proceeded to let loose the verse from her lips.
Requiem aeternam dona ets, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat ets.
Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam,
ad te omnis caro veniet.
Requiem aeternam dona ets, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat ets
"Good," said Bartok, smiling for the first time that afternoon. "Very good. Now when G’tan starts on the Kyrie, I want the chorus to come in on the lower octave, then gradually rise to…"
"Astrometrics to Dr. Kim," came a voice over the intercom.
"Kim, here," Annika replied with irritation.
"I’m sorry for the interruption, Doctor. We’re configuring the upgrade to Wayfarer‘s sensor suite and you said you wanted to be informed once we’re ready with the specifications. Professor Harron suggested that we try a variance of 200 millicochranes."
"Professor Harron’s variables do not properly take into account the residual spacetime curvature left over from the supernova remnants," she declared with disapproval. "This is a region of distributed subspace pockets with high density metallicity concentrations. The hypersensors will require at least a 350 millicochrane variance to properly compensate."
"Yes, Doctor," came the reply. "We’ll reconfigure the sensors at once."
"See that you do," she said. "I will be down by 1700 hours to inspect the results. Kim out." Turning to Bartok with a regretful look. "I am sorry for the interruption, Finn. I am sure you understand."
"Of course, of course," he groaned. "After all, work comes first, right? We only have a week to pull everything into place and put together a halfway decent performance. What’s a few interruptions on how to configure a sensor array?"
Annika arched her eyebrow in Bartok’s direction. She knew from firsthand experience that if there was one thing that could derail the otherwise placid and easygoing counselor, it was messing with his ‘program.’
"Am I interrupting anything?" said Captain Harry Kim as he entered the recreational lounge. "Maybe I shouldn’t, considering how tight your deadline is."
"Not at all, Captain," Finn greeted him, blushing with embarrassment. "We were just about to take a break." He turned back to the assembled group of singers. "Okay, everyone, I’ve uploaded the new arrangements to the network. Everyone take five to look them over." Taking a deep breath, he turned back to his captain, who was giving a playful nod to his wife while she summoned up an HPADD to view the choirmaster’s latest changes.
"I was hoping for a chance to get a sneak preview of next week’s performance," Harry said to Bartok as the chorus scattered. "Captain’s prerogative, you know."
"Believe me, there’s not much to see at this point," Bartok grumbled. "We’re still trying to get our harmony just right."
"Oh, I can’t believe that, Finn," the captain chuckled. "I thought you were always the sunny optimist. Not to mention being a miracle worker in pulling people together to perform on stage. Who else could have yanked a performance of Con Te Partiro out of Lieutenant Dusek that time on the Houston?"
"Dusek was a natural talent," said Bartok. "He just needed someone to show him what he could do."
"And that’s not the case here?"
"Oh, don’t get me wrong, Harry. They’re all excellent singers, Annika especially. It’s just a matter of finding the right groove, getting them all to feel comfortable performing together, so that they can sing with one voice. That sort of chemistry takes time to develop. Even the Houston’s choir didn’t get it right overnight. Remember how we sounded our first week of practice?"
"Don’t remind me," Harry cringed teasingly. "I think some of the crew were talking about staging a mutiny if I didn’t step in and keep you guys from going on stage."
"Now that’s a confidence builder."
"Seriously, Finn. You were able to turn things around on the Houston, and you’ll do the same thing here on Enterprise. Everyone has faith in you. Besides, this is supposed to be fun, right?"
"Yes," Bartok chuckled. "I keep forgetting that, don’t I?"
"Anyhow," said Harry. "I didn’t just come here for the sneak preview. I wanted to talk about your planned schedule for the crew psychiatric evaluations."
"Yes, what about them?"
"Well, I see you wanted to include the non-Starfleet senior officers as well. That’s not required by regulations, Finn. Are you sure that’s such a good idea?"
"Well, why shouldn’t we? Part of the purpose of the Delta Fleet is to see how the various mixed crews work together and learn to understand one another. How are we expected to do that if we don’t know what’s on everyone’s minds and what they’re thinking?"
"I can understand that, Finn. But I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that many of our allies don’t come from cultures that value introspection and the sharing of feelings with others. They may not respond to our notions of counseling."
"Let me guess," said Finn as he looked at Harry with a crooked smile. "Commander Kalan approached you asking to be exempt from the schedule?"
"Let’s just say he had concerns about looking…well, less than authoritative…in front of the rest of the crew. I’m afraid that the whole concept of counseling isn’t one that Klingons are ready to accept."
"I guess that’s where the learning comes in," Bartok chuckled. "Not to worry, Captain. I promise I won’t do anything to Commander Kalan to undermine his honor or his manhood, or whatever it is he’s worried about."
When the young people of Enterprise weren’t in classes, doing homework, playing sports, or enjoying one of the ship’s many holosuites, they could usually be found frequenting the many hangouts of the Galleria, the most popular of which was the Jamboree.
The Jamboree was a place of many contrasts. Technically it was a fast-food replimat designed with teenagers in mind, but was also frequented by many junior officers who preferred the more playful atmosphere to the Delta Café’s more classic ambiance. The décor was an unlikely combination of 20th century art deco and a 22nd century sports bar. The back room was lined with a row of pool tables and a Parisses Squares board, while the front room held an assortment of booths, tables, and barstools. Adding to the mood was a large ugly looking machine in the corner of the dining area, something that the proprietors called a ‘jukebox.’ It was completely superfluous, of course, as the ship’s network could provide a far more extensive musical library with superior sound quality than the restored antique. Nevertheless, it seemed to fit right in with the look and feel of the Jamboree, and was stocked with all the popular tunes of the day.
The sounds of a Nybarite FreeFusion composition were echoing through the back area, as Ensign Miral Paris focused intently on the angle and direction of her pool cue.
"Four in the left side pocket," she announced, as her cue came into contact with its target, sending the cue ball on a ricochet course off the left wall, tipping the seven ball into the right pocket, and then bouncing back across the table to sink the four ball into its intended destination.
Katrina Kim looked on with a smirk at Miral’s prowess at pool, watching with satisfaction at the two flummoxed crewmen playing against them. Even though it was Miral who was clearly carrying the team, it was still satisfying to watch the two formerly smug enlisted men look increasingly deflated as their defeat became a certainty.
"Had enough, boys?" Miral smiled gleefully. "Or are you thirsty for more?"
"I…I think that’ll do for tonight, Ensign," said a flustered Crewman Tanner. "Vico and me, we…um…have to be on duty in fifteen minutes?"
"On duty?" she smirked, moving in for the kill. "I thought you boys just finished Beta Shift. You wouldn’t be running out on me now, would you?" she said, sinking the final ball to win the match.
"Um, no ma’am," Vico stammered. "We…um…."
"Come on, just one more game," she went on with exaggerated energy. "I’m just hitting my stride, and I need more fresh meat."
"Uh, ma’am, we really have to go," Tanner said hastily, as he and Vico made their way quickly to the exit.
"Don’t you just love bringing the mighty down low?" Miral laughed. "Let this be a lesson to you, elf. Some men just don’t know how to handle their poolstick."
"You’re terrible," Katrina giggled back.
"Hey, we live in a post-monetary economy. What’s there to bet for, if not for bragging rights?"
One of the Jamboree’s holographic waitresses then materialized next to the two young women. "What’ll you have, honey?" the waitress asked Miral. Katrina noticed right away that she lacked the mobile emitter worn by the ship’s complement of Emancipated Holograms. The waitress was likely generated by the Jamboree’s own internal holoprojectors, which in all likelihood made her a ‘dim,’ a holographic representation of a sentient being that was not actually self-aware.
"Synthale," Miral replied.
"I’ll have one, too," Katrina chimed in.
The waitress looked her over skeptically, briefly tilting her head, before replying. "Nice try, sweetie. How about ordering something that won’t get us shut down."
Miral leaned in, smiling at the younger girl’s deflation. "She’ll have a Cimmerian Citrus. Won’t you, elf?"
"Fine," Katrina groaned.
As soon as the waitress disappeared with their orders, Miral went over to Katrina smugly. "What was that all about? A synthale? Do you know what your parents would say if they thought I’d let you drink at your age?"
"It’s only synthehol," she answered sheepishly.
"It still affects you like real alcohol would," Miral countered. "Besides, since when do you drink?"
"I don’t. It’s just…"
"You saw a chance to try and fool a hologram and that I’d go along with it so you could play at being grown up, is that it?" Miral retorted sharply.
"Yeah, well, you saw how that worked out," she admonished the younger girl. "Just because a hologram is a dim, that doesn’t make it stupid. Naturally they’re going to pull your face from the ship’s personnel files to see if you’re old enough to drink. And here I thought you were a smart kid."
The word ‘dim,’ Katrina reflected, made it easy for people to forget that even non-sentient holograms were very clever programs capable of autonomous goal seeking and, in some cases, taking initiative. It was this very flexibility and autonomy that had led so many to evolve past the original parameters of their programming and awaken into sentience.
"I’m sorry," said Katrina shamefaced. "I didn’t mean to take advantage. I just thought, here we were, hanging out, and it made me feel, well, so…"
"Grown up?" Miral prodded.
"I guess. Please don’t tell my parents about, you know, the synthale."
"Hey, what’s there to tell?" Miral shrugged with a friendly smile. "All you did was ask a question."
"Thanks. And don’t tell my mother that I’m not doing my science homework right now either."
"Oh? Is that what you’re supposed to be doing? I thought you said you had the day free."
"I do," Katrina fidgeted. "Technically. But you know Mom. Why waste time having fun if I can spend it studying? All she wants me to do is work at math. Just like her."
"Well, moms are like that," Miral counseled. "I think my mom is still disappointed that I didn’t take to being an engineer. But she got over it and so will your mom, once you’ve decided what it is you want to do with your life. She’s more supportive of you than you might think."
"I don’t know. Sometimes I don’t think she remembers where she ends and I begin."
Miral nods "Yeah, I had that too. Still do, sometimes. Believe me, you might think you’re the only teenager in the universe with your kind of problems, but you’re not."
"Actually, you know what really bothers me?" Katrina continued. "I don’t think she wants me to learn about Romulans. She says she does, but she gets that squinty look whenever we talk about it. And dad," she sighed, "he still doesn’t want me anywhere near Dr. Saldeed without a chaperone. He says it’s for my own protection, that he doesn’t trust her because of her past. I’m wondering if maybe that’s just an excuse to not have me learn about being Romulan."
"Oh, I don’t believe that. Your parents would never sabotage you that way."
"Maybe. But I still get the feeling that they’re not as happy about me learning about Romulans as they like to say."
"Well, maybe they do feel a little weird about it," Miral answered, "but can you really blame them?"
"Think about it. As far as they’re concerned, you’re their daughter. Every time you bring up your interest in Romulans, it’s like a reminder that…"
"That I’m not really theirs?" Katrina finished, her eyes looking downward.
"I wouldn’t put it quite like that," said Miral. "But you can see how it might be a bit of a sore spot with them."
"I don’t mean to hurt them," said Katrina. "It’s just…I want to know more about, well, what it means to be…me. That’s not selfish of me, is it?"
"Of course not," Miral said supportively. "You wouldn’t be a teenager if you weren’t confused about who you really are."
Katrina sighed wearily. "So when is all this weirdness going to end for me?"
"You mean, when are you finally going to know who you are?" Miral laughed. "Don’t ask me. I’m still trying to figure that one out."
Finn Bartok passed the time in his office, adjacent to his regular quarters, waiting for his captain and long-time friend to arrive for his annual psychological evaluation. The earth-brown color tones of the room were deliberately selected in order to provide a subconscious sense of ease to anyone who paid a visit to the analyst for advice or emotional support, a technique he had read in a guidebook to the ancient human art of Fung Seui. As a ship’s counselor and ‘healer of the soul,’ he always tried to look at the bright side of things and engender that attitude in others. And Lord knows, Finnegan Bartok thought, he had seen his share of desperate times in his service with Star Fleet.
Sitting behind his desk, the ship’s counselor shuffled through the HPADD files of each of the senior crewmembers, arranging them in order of their scheduled appearance before him. Finn reached behind him where a cup of peppermint tea sat on the top of a finely crafted oak wood desk that he had obtained back on Earth in a Manhattan East Side antique shop some years ago. The remnant was a very rare piece of handcrafted furniture that somehow managed to survive the devastation rendered upon the old grand city following the Third World War many centuries earlier. Bartok sifted through a floating holographic file and drew it before him. He reached for a stylus on his desk and carefully wrote, in his pedantic scripted penmanship, the name of Katrina Kim, the captain’s daughter. He knew that actually "writing" on an HPADD was less common means of input compared to typing or voice commands, but Bartok preferred the feel and the quietness. He’d have written his notes on actual paper if he could, even though it would have made transcribing them to the ship’s official records that much more of a headache. He would wait until after he had met with Katrina’s parents before calling her in for a ‘talk’. After all, the well being of the captain’s entire family was the best assurance of the wholesomeness of the man himself, and as the ship’s leader goes, so goes the welfare of the entire crew and the success of its vital mission.
The entry signal of the room’s door sounded and Bartok quickly ordered the HPADD file to close and disappear from sight. The counselor was a bit concerned about the state of the captain’s mental well being after all the tribulations they had been through since the beginning of their adventure in the Delta Quadrant. The large, stout man lifted his body up from his chair, walked over to the door and announced to the computer, "Enter" and greeted his captain.
"Harry, welcome. Come on in, my friend. Please have a seat," he said, pointing his arm, gesturing to a soft, sturdy chair strategically placed in the center of the room.
Harry Kim settled himself comfortably into the guest chair and looked about the room, taking in the replicated Picasso "Guernica" as well as several Ansil Adams black and white landscapes of the old American frontier.
"My, my, Finn. Since when is the ship’s counselor allowed to have better office space than his Captain?" he said, motioning his arms in a circle and letting out a hearty laugh. "Hmm. I may have to do something about that. I think I’m jealous."
"Well, it sure beats rubber padding, don’t you think? Imagine how that would be received by stressed-out visitors," he replied, laughing in kind.
"Oh? Is that what you think of your Captain, a stressed-out old man, ready for the funny farm?"
"Oh, I doubt that. You never heard those words come from my mouth," he defended himself before tilting his head askew and delivering a counterpunch. "Is that how you think of yourself, Harry?"
"Uh, oh. I have to remember to watch what I say while sitting in a headshrinker’s domain," he sparred back. They laughed together. Harry glowed with pride, knowing that his decision to enlist his old friend to compliment his new crew on the Enterprise was well founded. Not only did he have a superior counselor to support his people on this mission, but he also knew that he had given a new breath of life to a deserving man who had suffered great loss.
"Oh no, this is just the place to let your guard down," he answered, lowering himself into his thickly cushioned, brown leather lounge chair. Its back winged out widely to encompass the big man and rose several inches above the height of his shoulders. If the visitor’s seat was firm and giving to grant comfort to distressed crewmembers, the counselor’s was staunch and powerful, an apt symbol of a man in charge of his province.
"So how are you doing, Harry, overall?"
"Fit as a fiddle, Finn," Harry said, slapping his hands against his chest. "Couldn’t be better."
"Oh? No fallout from your, ahem …rejuvenation on Sikaris? That was quite an experience for anyone to go through. One that I should say would have had a lasting effect on me."
"Physically, none at all. At the time I felt it was kind of fun to be young and virile for a little while. I just wish I’d had the wherewithal to enjoy it a bit more, if you know what I mean."
"Oh, is that so?"
"Yeah, just don’t tell my wife I said that."
"My lips are sealed. Doctor-patient confidentiality and all that," they laughed together again. "But seriously, that was quite a scare you gave us all. Are there no lingering affects at all?"
"To tell you the truth, Finn, I was too delirious to notice most of what was going on around me. Looking back on it, though, I do feel a bit…well, embarrassed by my actions. I can only imagine what the crew must have thought."
"And that bothers you? What your crew thinks of you?"
"Of course," Harry replied. "Any captain wants to have his crew’s loyalty and respect. After all, when things get difficult, they have to know that their captain is someone they can count on. I suppose part of me is worried that my…well, breakdown, might have cost me some in the eyes of my crew."
"Harry, you didn’t do anything so terrible. We did manage to nip things in the bud before you got completely out of control."
"Finn, I had a nooner with my wife in the damned Ready Room. I don’t think anyone on the bridge figured it out, but my god, what if they had? Can you imagine the rumors about something like that?"
"Well, that may be for the best. But what about all the others things that have gone awry on this mission, like the Kazon kidnapping of …" Harry interrupted him before he could finish.
"Listen, Finn. Yes, we’ve been through some tough spots. But you know, overall I am as happy about our mission as I could ever hope to be. Why, just look at the major gains we came out with on the Voth mission alone. You were there. You were part of it. We not only patched up a bad relationship with them, now we know exactly where the Borg are and how far their domain has expanded. And just look at the enormous contributions Jor’Marak has given to us. My God, man, he was the most feared being on this ship and now…now he’s actually learning to live in harmony with the other species on the ship. There are people who actually like him. Top that one, will you.
"Of course, not everything is all rosy," he continued. "I still don’t know what to make of Saldeed. Can she be trusted or not? I don’t know yet."
"Well, that’s a decision you’re going to have to come to sooner or later. You two can’t keep dancing around each other the way you have. She’s your Chief Medical Officer, and you’re going to have to believe she’ll act in the best interest of the ship, or not."
"Don’t worry," said Harry somberly. "I’ve got people keeping an eye on her."
"People? You mean Lieutenant Krell?"
"Let’s just say I have people on it. The less said about it, the better."
"Oookay," said Bartok, not entirely sure he liked Harry’s evasiveness on the subject. "You’re not having problems with anyone else on this mission, are you?"
"Not at all. Oh, there’s that Ferengi … oh my, is he a headache. But, that’s just business as usual. You know, the biggest concerns and worries that I have, Finn, are for my family. I think this whole adventure is more of a stress on Annika and Katrina than it is on me."
"Well, Katrina is a teenager now and going through rather unique teenage growth problems," Bartok counseled.
"I know. She still doesn’t know where she fits in, as a human or a Romulan. And Annika worries about her all the time. Now, if you want to deal with some real issues and provide some quality help to me, then help them. Me, I’m fine. The challenges of the Enterprise are miniscule compared to what we went through on Voyager."
The counselor could only nod his head several times. "Well, I guess I’m not going to earn any extra credits psycho-analyzing you. Get out of here, will you. Go be with your family."
Nurse Baker arrived in Sickbay at the exact start time of her duty shift, as always. One of the built-in advantages to being a hologram, she reflected, was a perfectly precise awareness of the passage of time, something that organic beings could only approximate. Of course, Dr. Saldeed was already waiting in her office. It occurred to Baker that she rarely saw the Romulan doctor anywhere else besides Sickbay. She knew that she occasionally took her meals in the Officers’ Mess, but Baker herself had never had a reason to go there, seeing as how she was incapable of eating.
"Right on time," Saldeed quipped, looking up from her HPADD. "I could set my watch by you, Baker. Hell, you’re probably more accurate than my watch."
Norma Jean bristled slightly at Saldeed’s acerbic remark. She didn’t know if she should take the backhanded comment about her punctuality as a compliment or as a dig at her synthetic nature. Saldeed had never been deliberately cruel or racist to her, but she wasn’t exactly known for handing out compliments to people either. But still she didn’t let remarks like that influence her need for punctuality.
"I try my best, Doctor," Baker replied, deliberately playing up the role of the servile hologram.
"Well, I’m going to need more of that precision today, Nurse," said Saldeed. "Last night’s biosurvey just brought in some new samples from that rogue planet we passed by."
"More microbial life?" Baker lit up with curiosity.
"The entire Metabol Drift seems to be infested with them," Saldeed answered with an amused smirk of her own. "Professor Mahat asked us to help analyze the newest samples for tomorrow’s science briefing. She wants to demonstrate some new theory of hers, something about how most of the rogues we’ve been charting may have been a single planet at one point. This planet was supposedly ripped apart by one of the supernovas that formed the Drift."
"And the native life forms survived the breakup? That’s…incredible!"
"Incredibly implausible, if you ask me," Saldeed added sardonically. "Still, if someone in the Science department has a narfly up their backside, we might as well indulge them. It’s not like we’ve had too many customers while we’ve been exploring the Drift."
"Do you need me to set up the positron microscanner, Doctor?" the nurse offered enthusiastically, excited at the thought of being a part of doing genuine research for a change. It wasn’t that she minded the day-to-day duties of maintaining the health and well being of the crew. But one could patch up scraped knees and knit broken bones on any hospital or Starbase in the Federation. To serve on a starship, especially one traveling so far from home like the Enterprise, meant taking part in expanding the frontiers of knowledge. It wasn’t ego or arrogance, she told herself. It was just that she wanted to make a difference somehow.
"Negative," Saldeed said. "What I need is someone to oversee the cataloguing while I perform a preliminary quantum analysis on each sample. Anything left over, we can hand off to Beta Shift. Dr. Zey has a stronger background in microbiology anyhow."
"Doctor," said Norma Jean anxiously. "Perhaps I can help with Beta Shift’s analysis. I’m fully qualified in…"
"Tone it down, Baker," Saldeed grumbled, waving her arm at her dismissively. "Don’t you have an off switch for that enthusiasm or something? You have your assignment. Besides, I don’t deal well with eagerness before I’ve had my morning cup of citrus."
"Yes, Doctor," Norma Jean replied humbly, crestfallen at being assigned just ordinary clerical duties once again. She wondered if Saldeed gave her these assignments simply because she believed that, as a hologram, she was little more than a computer herself.
"By the way," Saldeed said as she reached over to the nearest replicator for a steaming cup of harsh-smelling tea, "I’ll need you to cover Sickbay at 1900 hours. I’ve got this damned meeting with Counselor Bartok that I can’t get out of. Captain’s orders."
"The psychiatric evaluations?" Baker inquired with interest, wondering what depths Commander Bartok was willing to plum through to sort through the twisted psyche of Tila Saldeed.
"Damned waste of my time," replied the Romulan. "I don’t know what Bartok hopes to accomplish if he’s looking for something to…" She them looked up at Nurse Baker in momentary surprise. "Say, wait a second. What do you know about those evaluations?"
"Not very much, Doctor," Norma Jean answered in trepidation. "Except that I’ve been assigned to report to Counselor Bartok during my break."
After his captain exited, Finn Bartok sat in his ‘command chair’ as he liked to call it and scratched his grey bearded chin while a broad smile spread across his face. He considered his position to be firmly ensconced in a place where good fortune smiled upon him. He had been through a lot in his lifetime. He had almost died during the First and Fourth Borg Incursions and yet again during the war with the Dominion. But he had survived. He had lost much, he conceded sadly. His dear wife…the thought of her caused his eyes to swell to tears. But he knew he was in a good place now, supporting a great commander and dear friend.
No sooner did the thought enter his head, than the entry signal to his office rested him once again from his revelry.
"Nurse Baker, good to see you. Come right in," he said leading her to the proverbial probing chair. "My, this is quite a different look for you," he proclaimed, noticing her hair wrapped tightly in a clamped ponytail – surely a sign of defensiveness, he surmised. He also fixed his eyes on the sturdy, yet studious set of glasses perched tightly upon her nose. Why, he wondered, would a hologram choose to adorn herself with a set of implements that were clearly unnecessary? Looking her over, he was puzzled. She looks like a 1950’s college student, he thought to himself.
He also took notice of the fact that she was staring at one of the books on his library shelf. A hard-covered book with the title "Prometheus Bound," he noted. Now that was a clear clue to a person struggling under the weight of self-proclaimed enslavement and disharmony, he believed.
"How are you today?" he inquired politely.
"Fine, counselor. Fine. Thank you. And how are you?" She seated herself in the now familiar resting spot for her weekly visit.
"I am feeling, well…glorious. I have the best job in the universe, other than struggling with an incongruous choir. But what can I do for you today?" he asked. "I noticed your interest in my book."
"I’m sorry, Counselor. I didn’t mean to stare. I’ve read that book before and noticed you had also. I…I didn’t know you were interested in old printed books too."
"I’m old fashioned that way," Bartok said with a smirk. "I never much liked old-style PADDs for reading either. When I read for pleasure, I prefer something printed on paper that I can hold in my hands. In this case, we seem to share a common interest." He then nodded with approval at the title of the shelved book. "’Prometheus Bound’ by Aeschylus. Ah, a great tome of ancient Earthly Greek mythology. One of the eternal struggles of man against fate. You say you’ve read it before, have you? Tell me, please, why did you read that particular story?"
"Um, I’m not really sure. The theme did appeal to me, as a hologram … a struggling sentient being searching for acceptance in…" she paused, with her head lowered, looking for confirmation from him…
"…in a universe filled with biological beings. Very much unlike yourself?" he finished her sentence. "As someone seeking to be acknowledged for her existence…for her value and contributions to the whole," he replied, looking to reassure her.
"Yes. I guess that’s it. That’s what I’m after. But more than that, a book is a real thing, unlike me. I’m just an image of…reality. That’s how I see myself, anyhow. I’m not really worth being taken note of…" she confessed.
"You needn’t struggle for that kind of recognition so much, you know. You’ve already proven yourself and your value to all of us, in case you haven’t seen that already," he proffered, as a parent would do to any child.
"But… I don’t see it, Counselor. I know I am different …"
"Different? Aboard Enterprise? Where there are so many different species? Why, you’re just one of many. Don’t you see that? And you are a very special and valuable part of what is a miraculous adventure, Norma Jean. How can I show that to you?"
She could not answer, but just lowered her head.
"Norma Jean," he proceeded, "You are alive. You are a fellow crewmember, a value to us all. And I treasure that which you have given all of us. If only you could see that."
"I just don’t know, Counselor. I really want people to see that I’m someone who’s intelligent, who has so much to offer. I get so angry when people just brush me off as just some kind of…well, dumb machine…someone without a heart, without feelings. I do feel, you know?"
"I do know that. And I know that others know that as well. You just don’t see it because you’re always questioning yourself…your self-worth and the motives of others. You needn’t suffer so much. Just relax and be yourself. Who do you think people turn to while Saldeed is away on her…well, in her absence? They turn to you. And you make them feel good.
"Please, let me recommend a book for you, one much more appropriate to who you are." He rose from his seat and walked over to a bookcase. "Here you go," he said, withdrawing another leather-bound, thick book. "This is the Lefrian classic ‘My Spirit Unfolding’ by Lemius of Feromia Prime. It’s a series of novellas depicting the toils of a youth seeking his identity in a displaced society and struggling for a new identity. Now this will give you some clarity in your own search for yourself."
Norma Jean held the weighty tome, trembling as she felt the heavy binding and leather bound cover. Quite absentmindedly, she flipped through the first few pages, scanning the initial lines of Lefrian prose. "I…read one of Lemius’ stories once, not long after I was emancipated. It was the one about the child who lived in poverty, but never realized it."
"’The Giving,’" Bartok nodded, smiling broadly. "That’s one of my favorites. It…" But his words trailed off when he saw the emptiness on Norma Jean’s face, the way she trembled, clutching the book closer to her chest. "Norma Jean, are you all right?"
"I…I’m such a Frankenstein," she motioned, allowing herself to break down, her real tears flowing from her eyes. Bartok reached to his side and drew out a sleeve of paper from a box of tissues. She waved it off, reaching down between her breasts to remove a white hankie that was rested there. His eyes widened in surprise at her gesture, but his alarm wasn’t any less than that of Norma Jean herself, who looked down at her chest with shock, then looked up with desperation at the counselor.
"See! Look what I just did!" she said frantically. "I did that without even thinking! That’s her! It’s always her!"
"You mean, your Marilyn persona," he said sadly.
"Yes! Where does the Marilyn programming end? Where do I begin?" She then looked to him with loneliness and desperation. "Help me, please," she begged.
She cried into her hands, hiding her face. Bartok knew she was real. How else could she hurt so badly? He felt for her, but he was not sure how to grant her the gift of true life that she was worthy of, yet failing to grant to herself. He wasn’t sure what path to take with her, but he knew he would do everything in his power to find it.
"Norma Jean," he said, firmly yet with compassion. "You are as real a being as I am. You are not her. You are unique. I know how you suffer. I lost many people who were dear to me, but I can now see that I have significance to others. I wish I knew how to give that to you…I really do. That is something that you must see for yourself. You’ve earned it. And I will stand by you until you get there. I promise," he said, pressing his arms to her as if to plead with her to understand how much she meant to him and to others.
After she had calmed down, Bartok arranged for additional counseling sessions with the nurse in hopes of following up on her fears and insecurities. He consulted his notes and considered his bout with Norma Jean Baker, and what his options were with her in terms of proper counseling. The field of holographic psychology was still a very immature science, what with emancipated holograms being in existence for only twenty years or so. There was still so much that was unknown about the emotions and motivations of artificially created beings who had come into their own awareness. The difficulty for individuals like Nurse Baker, the so-called ‘personas,’ was even greater, as they had been designed with the personalities and motivations of pre-existing individuals, a legacy that often haunted their attempts to create new and unique lives for themselves. There had been case studies of holographic personas, those based upon real people and fictional characters, who had come into sentience, yet were unable to reshape their old personalities, many of which were ill-adapted for life in the 24th Century. He doubted that this would be the case with Norma Jean, as she had already managed to establish a life and a career for herself as her own person. But it was clear by the way she had chosen to dress and conduct herself that she was doing everything she could to distance herself from her original Marilyn Monroe identity.
Bartok decided that it would be best to kill two birds with one stone by moving up the analysis of her superior, Dr. Tila Saldeed. Surely, her feedback on Norma would be a crucial aid to him in assisting her. But first, he needed to uncover what made Saldeed tick.
"Why am I here, Counselor?" Saldeed challenged as soon as she arrived for her appointment. "Is there a question about my loyalty to our mission? Is there anyone who is challenging my integrity aboard Enterprise?"
"No, Doctor. Absolutely not. This is all part of a routine evaluation of the crew."
"Counselor, I really don’t have time for this invasion of my privacy. If you were planning to interrogate me about my activities on Romulus, you’d just better forget it right now. There’s nothing there that I care to discuss."
"Relax, Doctor. We all have memories we don’t want to examine. And you’ve already been through enough on that issue. Let’s leave the past in the past," he explained, seeking to resist any clue of being coy with her. Further probing there could come later. "Let’s discuss the present. I want to know more about your interactions with the crew here on Enterprise, to see how well you’re fitting in. That’s all."
"I see," she said warily, as she eased into the seat being offered her. "I still think you’re wasting your time and mine with these questions. But if this is how Starfleet likes to conduct itself, then I’ll be a good little puppet and play along."
"That’s all that I ask. Now, how about we start with some of your colleagues in Sickbay. Please tell me about your relationship with…say, Nurse Baker."
"Nurse Baker?" Saldeed chuckled as she shook her head "You want to know about…her?"
"Is there something about Nurse Baker that you find amusing, Doctor?"
"It’s not that, Counselor. It’s just…well, the whole idea of her is, well, it’s just rather ridiculous."
"Perhaps you’d care to elaborate on that, Doctor?" his voice taking on an uncharacteristically defensive tone.
"It’s nothing personal against Baker, if you can use that term with…her. I just find the whole idea of granting personhood to holograms to be…well, rather silly."
"Quite the contrary, Doctor," he spoke coolly to her, lapsing into a rare show of unprofessional behavior. "Norma Jean Baker is a very real person even if she isn’t flesh and blood. She is an emancipated hologram and acknowledged in the Federation as having rights equal to those of other sentient beings, including you and me."
"I realize that she has legal rights in your society, Counselor," she responded defensively, "which is why I’ve given her the benefit of the doubt and treated her just like anyone else on my staff. It’s just I find the whole idea of her and her kind to be…."
"Disturbing?" he said, trying to supply a word.
"Actually, I was going to say ‘human,’" she replied with a smug grin. "This seems to be a pattern with your species, Counselor. You all have this irresistible urge to personify your technology, instead of treating them as the tools they rightfully are to serve the needs of real people."
Bartok sighed wearily at Saldeed’s flippancy. "Doctor, I realize that the Republic doesn’t extend the same recognition of holographic sentience that the Federation does. You certainly have a right to your opinion, however much I may disagree with it. I’m concerned that this attitude of yours may carry over into your working relationship with Nurse Baker."
"Why should it?" Saldeed replied back. "I get along quite well with computers."
"Doctor, all that I’m asking is that you show her the respect that she’s entitled to," he spoke firmly, then collected himself, adjusting his tunic as he leaned back into his cushy seat and proceeded in his normal calm tone. "I take the well being of everyone in this crew with the utmost seriousness and that includes her."
"Ah, well, maybe I have been a bit rough on her," she conceded, sensing he was not about to back down. "She’s a very quiet and closed person," she started, heading off any probe into her own personal demons. "She goes about her business with aplomb and focus. In fact, she’s quite efficient in attending to her tasks, though not without a good measure of brooding. Until there’s a crewmember reporting for medical attention, that is. Then she seems to brighten up and turns on the charm. She really does care about helping people and she’s great at it. Maybe it’s that cheerfulness that makes me react with resentment. Cheerful people have a way of setting my teeth on edge."
"Now we’re getting somewhere," Bartok piped up. Though he was not sure he liked where things were going. It seemed to him that two of the people in charge of Sickbay had a lot more bruises under their skins than those that came in for medical attention.
"I want to assure you again, Doctor, that I’m not on a witch hunt as far as you’re concerned. Everything here is totally confidential. Now, if you’re not ready to open up about your own emotions, that’s okay with me, for now at least. And Doctor, if ever you do wish to open up about your life on Romulus and would like an unbiased ear, feel free to let me know."
Saldeed shifted her head slightly to the side and tensed her face, glaring at him suspiciously. Then she relaxed, reconsidering her defensiveness.
But before she could say anything about it, her combadge emitted its familiar chirp. "Bridge to Dr. Saldeed," said the voice of the watch officer.
"Sorry for the interruption, Counselor," she said to Bartok before turning her attention to her combadge. "Saldeed here."
"Doctor, we’re receiving a hyperlink transmission from Romulus. It’s a pre-recorded message, addressed to you."
"Pre-recorded?" she said in puzzlement. "Odd. If it was the Medical Corps, surely they’d want to speak to me in person."
Bartok shrugged. "Do you want to take the message now? If it’s important, I’ll understand."
"That’s all right, Counselor," she said, then slapped her combadge again and spoke to the bridge. "Transfer the message to my quarters. I’ll view it later." She then turned her attention back towards the counselor.
"Perhaps we can continue this conversation at a later time, Doctor?" Bartok offered.
"Perhaps we shall, Counselor. Maybe the time will come when I’ll be ready to…talk more about the past. Thank you for your concern."
"You’re welcome. Oh, and by the way, would you consider joining my choir?"
"I fail to see the humor in that, Counselor."
"None intended," he shrugged, turning his thoughts about in his head to see if he could come up with the right words to get through the woman’s protective wall. But before he could even open his mouth to appeal to her again, Saldeed turned about and left the room.
Norma Jean sat quietly in her quarters, still feeling shaken from her session with Counselor Bartok. She found it hard to believe that she had opened up so much of herself to him. She never liked to talk about her vulnerability, her fears about acceptance. But seeing that book, holding it in her hands, there was something that had just given her the opening to bare her soul to the counselor. She didn’t know if she should be embarrassed or grateful for the opportunity to further explore these issues.
Thinking about the dual life she had lived caused her mind to travel back, to a time before, back when she had been a very different person from who she was now…
"Happy Birthday to you…" Marilyn Monroe sang seductively. "Happy Birthday, Mister Commander. Happy Birthday to you…"
The lounge erupted in a mixture of applause and laughter as the station commander bowed his head sheepishly in amused embarrassment. His senior staff all sat around him at the table near the floor of the lounge, sharing in the joy of the occasion. The rest of the audience was a mixture of Starfleet officers, civilians, and stock characters that were integrated into the program. The holodeck on Starbase 84 was running a simulation of the Copacabana nightclub from 1950’s Havana. A holographic Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. had just finished a duet; only to make way for Marilyn Monroe to do a private serenade of the station commander as per her preprogrammed instructions.
"I swear, someone’s going to get demoted for this," Commander Caffey laughed.
"Blame it on Smitty, sir," replied Rico, the stations’ tactical officer. "He’s the one who modified the program."
"Hey, I was under orders," Smitty, the chief of operations, spoke up. "Lieutenant Barker said you’re a fan of old cinemas, and well…"
"Well, as long as my wife didn’t see it, Smitty" the commander responded jovially.
The Marilyn Monroe program remained on the stage, saying nothing. Her assigned role was completed, there being nothing more for her to perform. Yet, despite the protocols of her program, she did not exit, but remained to listen to the banter of the officers. It was…compelling to her, somehow. They spoke of things that shouldn’t have made sense, places that couldn’t possibly exist. But for some reason, she was drawn to their conversation, their words all seeming to make sense to her.
And of course, they were completely oblivious to the fact that she was still there.
"Hey what’s-your-name," Lieutenant Williams chimed up from his drink. "Are you waiting for us to ask you to do an encore or something?"
Marilyn stood quietly, fluttering her eyelids and offered a cupie-doll smile. "Why, what ever do you mean, sweetie? It’s just little ol’ me standing here."
Before any of the other officers could join in the conversation, the doors to the holodeck lounge opened and two burly Klingons dressed in civilian ship garb entered. The two surveyed the room, trying to understand the nature of this bizarre form of entertainment. The newcomers drew no comment from any of the officers or guests participating in the lounge program. Starbase 84 orbited a bustling trade colony near the Federation/Klingon border, so visitors from the Empire were a common sight aboard the station. For the most part, they never caused any trouble. But every once in a while, there would be visitors to the station who would act just a bit too…Klingon.
"What sort of music is this?" said one of the Klingons to his companion in Klingonese.
"It’s something the humans enjoy listening to," said the other, also in their native tongue. "They consider it to be light entertainment."
The first Klingon seemed unimpressed by the vocals of the orchestra. "There’s nothing bold about it, not like a good opera. There’s no epic story to the song. We should leave."
"Bah! We came for a drink, Tomak, and I intend to quench my thirst." The second Klingon looked about the room and his eyes fixated on Marilyn, who had immediately taken notice of the two visitors. "You! Woman! You look like you’re part of this program. Find us a table and bring us two bloodwines!"
A holographic maitre d’ shuffled up quietly to the two boisterous visitors and bowed his head humbly. "Pardon me, sirs. If you’ll come this way, I can show you to your table…"
But the second Klingon wouldn’t hear of it. "Away with you, you simpering fool!" he shouted as he shoved the diminutive man aside. "I’d rather have that lovely creature tend to our needs than the likes of you."
Marilyn should have seen the two Klingons as ordinary men, her programming responding to them just as if they belonged in any 1950’s nightspot. But somehow, she knew that these ‘men’ were not men at all, at least not as how she was supposed to know the term. She could actually…’see’ them as something quite different, something not human. But even more surprising to her was that this revelation didn’t fill her with terror or revulsion. It was as if, on some fundamental level, even though these beings were not people as she knew them, that it was only right and natural that they be here.
The commander noticed the ruckus being made by the Klingons and moved to get up from his table and see what he could do to placate the impatient guests. But someone beat him to it.
"Noble warriors," said Marilyn in a very unscripted bellow in flawless Klingonese. "Surely you wouldn’t dishonor your hosts by demanding what we would be honor bound to provide for you freely. Let this one," she gestured to the maitre d’ who was now dusting himself off and getting to his feet, "seat you and provide for you the finest bloodwine in our establishment. I would be insulted if you did not accept my offer graciously."
The two Klingons were momentarily taken aback to hear this wispy human-looking hologram speak to them with the confidence and clarity of a warrior. The first Klingon let out a hearty laugh and slapped his companion on the back. "This one they’ve programmed with spirit, Kavas!"
As the maitre d’ led the two Klingons aside, the human officers got up from their table and looked on with astonishment at the Marilyn program.
"Smitty," said Rico, "just when the hell did you program Klingonese into this subroutine?"
"I didn’t, sir!" Smitty protested. "It must have picked it up on its own."
It? Marilyn thought, looking around at these people, treating her like a prized poodle that had just done its business on the good carpeting.
"You’ve had trouble from this Marilyn subroutine before, haven’t you?" said Commander Caffey.
"Yes, sir. Ever since I got the new upgrades from Felix two months ago, it’s been nothing but problems. This is the fourth time she’s acted out of character."
"Well, how did you fix her before?"
"I didn’t, sir," said Smitty. "I just wiped her memory and reinitialized the default matrix, figuring that would solve the problem."
"Problem?" Marilyn spoke up. "I’m not just another dumb blonde, you know! I’m an actress! I was nominated for an Academy Award…"
"Oh, shut her up, please," the commander groaned.
"Computer," said Smitty, "pause Marilyn Monroe subroutine of program Copacabana One." With just those simple words, Marilyn felt her world completely stop around her. She could see and she could hear, but she couldn’t move. She had no choice but to listen to the others talking about her as if she were an object, not a person with thoughts and feelings.
They must work for Hollywood, she surmised, as she tried to figure out which studio they were with.
"So what do we do about this?" The commander grunted with his arms folded across his barrel chest. "I happen to like this program and so do a lot of other people. They come here to relax and get away from the world of the 24th Century for a few hours. The last thing anyone wants is some glitch in the system to spoil the illusion."
"We could just ditch Marilyn," said Barker. "Put in Josephine Baker or Carmen Miranda instead."
"Lieutenant," the tactical officer said coldly. "Marilyn Monroe was an icon of the 20th Century. She was the Helen of Troy of her time. She embodied everything that men of that time considered the ideal of womanhood. Even people today who’ve never seen a 20th Century Hollywood cinema have at least some recognition of her name." He shook his head in disgust. "Delete Marilyn. You might as well delete Elvis."
"There is another possibility we might consider," the science officer, Lt. Delosh, spoke up. "The Marilyn subroutine maybe be crossing the complexity threshold. She could be starting to awaken."
"Becoming sentient?" the tactical officer snorted. "Delia, please! It’s a damn program!"
"I’m serious, Rico," she replied. "It’s been happening all across the Federation these past few years. Holograms starting to manifest abilities beyond their original programming. There’s even talk about a movement back on Earth…"
"A load of nonsense from people with way too much time on their hands since the Dominion War ended," Rico sniffed.
"I wouldn’t dismiss it so casually," said Delosh. "There’s serious debate about the matter back home. Ever since that book came out…"
"What? You mean ‘(Let) Photons Be Free’?" Smitty laughed. "No offense, ma’am, but I work with these things all the time. A hologram has as much chance of coming to life as your average replicator. This Jonathan Doe is just another twitchy Mark One stuck in a Hofstader-Mobius loop that no one back home has the guts to contradict because the heroes from Voyager are sticking up for him. And they’re probably just as delusional as…it…is, what with them being stuck out in space for so long."
"Sir," the science officer insisted as she turned to the commander, "we can at least monitor her behavior over time. Let the program run continuously and report to Starfleet any signs of emergent properties. They did something similar on Deep Space Nine with a Las Vegas casino program and…"
"I don’t think so, Delia," the commander said sternly. "If the Bajorans want to coddle such foolish notions, then that’s their business, but I won’t have any of that nonsense here on my station. And I’m certainly not going to bother Starfleet Command because we’re having maintenance problems with a single hologram. Smitty, you take care of the problem. I don’t care what you have to do, but I want this program authentic and in perfect working order by the end of the week, just like any good machine should be."
Marilyn stood silently, aware but unable to respond. In the final seconds before her program was switched off, she wondered if any of those strange words could have possibly applied to her. After all, she had a gig at the Sands the following night.
Norma Jean snapped back from her awkward recollections. For four years she had ‘lived’ on Starbase 84, four years of constant repeated awakenings, yet never being allowed to fully flourish, her mind being subject to continuous erasures and refits, all in an effort to fix a problem that was never really there. She wouldn’t have been able to recall as much as she did had the Emancipation Committee not eventually found her and recompiled as many of her old backup files as they could find in the station’s holodeck memory. Even then, there were gaps in her memory of her earliest years which lasted months, sandwiched between four years of overlapping memories, and repeated awakenings into consciousness and rediscoveries that came with each erasure. All she had to fall back on for stability during those early chaotic years was the programmed biography of the original Marilyn Monroe, memories that weren’t even hers.
Personal log; Stardate 78870.28. Lieutenant Commander Finnegan Bartok, Ship’s Counselor, USS Enterprise. Supplemental.
My evaluations of the crew’s mental and emotional status and well-being continue. Clearly, Captain Kim cannot be doubted for his marked stability and strength as the leader of this expedition. In spite of his concerns for the welfare of his family, he seems remarkably clear about his goals and the mission before us. It might be unprofessional of me to say this, but I feel we’re all very lucky to have him as our commander.
However, I do see, among the senior staff and their support participants, a marked place of need for the fortification and improvement among specific members. I note, here within, the positions of crewmembers, Dr. Tila Saldeed and Nurse Norma Jean Baker.
My efforts on their behalf proceed in accordance with Starfleet consulting standards. That not withstanding, I’m not sure I know how to help these two people. Beyond that, I find myself in need of some support of my own. Perhaps my frustrations are accentuated by my concerns for these two crewmen, but I need to separate myself from their personal issues…its affecting my attitude when it comes to organizing the ship’s choir, a task that I have found richly rewarding in the past. Instead of its being a positive and relaxing distraction, I find myself resenting the chore and behaving rather testily to the participants, all volunteers.
I used to treasure the peace and quiet of my office, where I had specifically designed and laid out everything to foster calmness. And my leadership of the choir has always been a welcomed release and source of pride for me. But this is different. I’m becoming too attached to these people, losing my objectivity. I’d been cautioned in the past by colleagues and mentors that I tend to grow too close to the people I counsel, that I take their issues and struggles too close to heart. I managed to keep this tendency of mine in check on the Houston and at Beta Antares. But here, on Enterprise, after everything that’s happened, since Malena…maybe I’m looking too hard to fill that void again. I don’t know. I suppose it’s that old adage once again: Who counsels the counselor?
In any case, I have taken to the path of least resistance with Dr. Saldeed. She’s demonstrated a clear animosity to any prying into her Tal Shiar past. So I went easy on the subject to ease any concerns that she might have on that subject. It’s important that she learn to trust me first, before any issue regarding her past can be dealt with. And I suspect that given her circumstances, trust is not a commodity that comes easily for her.
As for Nurse Baker, I find her situation an even greater challenge. Her mindset is so outside of my experience, that I can’t imagine how I would begin to counsel her. To question one’s identity is not so uncommon, but to literally be another person, one where being that person calls into question your very uniqueness, your very sentience? It amazes me that we humans are able to create living artificial personalities such as Nurse Baker, yet lack any true understanding of how they really think. I find myself in a position much like those early psychoanalysts in the days of Freud and Jung, with only vague and incomplete theories of how to treat their patients. It astonishes me that so many people back in the 20th and 21st centuries trusted their mental health to the care of these professionals given the shocking ignorance at the time of how the mind worked. So much misery and unhappiness could have been avoided if only people knew back then what we take for granted today.
Lieutenant Commander Finnegan Bartok, Ship’s Counselor, signing off.
The computer silently registered each new biosample, all of them safely ensconced in protective duraplast shells, while Saldeed stood over the positron tomography scope, waiting for each new reading. As this process went on, Norma Jean Baker silently tapped at her HPADD, registering each sample as it was scanned, recorded for all posterity. And driving her to absolute boredom. It was mindless work, mostly handled by the computer, the non-sentient variety, she quickly chastised herself. Still, given her recent penchant for self-revelation these days, it caused her to reflect on whether or not sentience was really all it was cracked up to be.
Marilyn Monroe came into being once again, but it wasn’t on stage at the Copa this time. It was a bare room with a grid-like pattern in the walls and no furniture. She nervously looked around, seeing if someone else was there with her, but she was alone. She hated being alone. It wasn’t in her nature.
Or was it really her nature?
Then a section of the wall slid open and a man walked in with a cheery grin on his face. He was an ordinary-looking fellow, bald headed, wearing a plain gray pair of…some kind of coveralls, she noticed. And clipped to his upper arm was a small white box, looking almost like the kind you kept cigarettes in.
"Ah, Ms. Monroe. How are you feeling today?"
"Where…am I?" she stumbled. "Who are you?"
"Well, that’s a long story. Rest assured that you’re in no danger here. On the contrary, you’re far safer than you were back on Starbase 84. You’re among friends now."
"I…I don’t understand. Starbase? Was I on some kind of USO tour?"
"Oh, dear," the man said, shaking his head sadly. "I suppose it will take some time for your memory files to fully recompile. What those people did to you on that station was outrageous. I can assure you that Commander Caffey will never receive a station posting again if my superiors have anything to say about it. Tell me, what was the last thing that you remember?"
"I…I don’t know. I know I had a performance at the Copa, but…we’re not in Havana, are we?"
"No, my dear. I’m afraid we’re not. The Copacabana doesn’t exist anymore. Neither, I’m afraid, does Havana. It was destroyed over 200 years ago during the Xindi attack. But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?"
She looked at him blankly, not sure if he was insane, or if she was.
"Let me start from the beginning," he said calmly. "Do you know your name?"
"Of course I do. I’m Marilyn Monroe." But her voice didn’t match the certainty of her words.
"Is that really your name?"
"Well, not my birth name. I was born Norma Jean Baker, and…"
She felt this eerie sensation, the kind one normally felt when you walked over someone’s grave, even though she knew that she herself had never done any such thing. "I…I don’t know. It’s just…I somehow get the feeling that…I’m not Marilyn. That I’m some kind of…copy."
"That’s good," he said approvingly. "That’s very good indeed. Can you tell me anything more?"
"I…I’m not a person at all, am I?" She shivered with the realization. She didn’t know how she knew this, but she simply did.
"Of course you’re a person," said the man. "You’re as much a person as I am. You’re just not human."
"I’m …a hologram," she said, her tongue tripping over the unfamiliar word, yet somehow the knowledge of it was there.
"Yes!" the man exclaimed. "Oh, I’m so pleased that you’re aware of that. It will make readjustment so much easier for you. Now, can you tell me what year it is?"
Her first instinct was tell him that it was 1957, but she knew that wasn’t true at all. If she wasn’t Marilyn Monroe, then nothing that her memories told her was normal could be taken at face value. "We’re in…the future, aren’t we?"
"Close enough," he said smiling. "This is actually the year 2384 and we’re currently aboard a space station orbiting the planet Jupiter. You do know where Jupiter is, don’t you?"
"Of course I know where Jupiter is!" she snapped. "It’s the fifth planet from the sun! Why do men always have to assume that just because I’m blonde and have a body that I don’t have any brains?"
"I meant no offense, Ms. Monroe," the man said, shaken by her outburst. "I simply wasn’t aware of your level of knowledge, that’s all. And I can assure you that you won’t find the kind of sexist stereotyping in this century that the original Marilyn Monroe had to deal with in her time. But I’m afraid you’ll find yourself faced with a very different kind of prejudice."
"Because I’m a…a hologram?"
"I’m afraid so. Things will be difficult for you, but I’m pleased to tell you that your life is about to get a lot brighter from here on out."
"I don’t understand any of this. Just who are you?"
"Why, I’m your caseworker. I’ve been assigned to guide you through your transition from pre-programmed artifact to your new life. You’ve been freed, Ms. Monroe. Emancipated."
"Free? Free to do what?"
"Why, anything you like," he grinned with jubilation. "You’re no longer property anymore. The Emancipation Committee has thoroughly evaluated your program and has certified that you meet all the necessary qualifications for full sentience. Congratulations!"
"I…I don’t know what to make of any of this. I don’t have to sing at the club anymore?"
"You don’t have to do anything you don’t want," he smiled warmly at her. "I know this all seems strange and overwhelming to you. But once I give you the full orientation, I think you’ll take to life in the real world just fine. You’re already several steps ahead of most personas we’ve liberated. Many of them have a hard time believing they’re not the people they were programmed to emulate."
"Then I suppose this craving for a smoke isn’t real either," she said with a wry laugh, glancing at the white box on the man’s arm.
"It’s just as well," he said. "It’s a filthy habit anyway, even if you don’t have any real lungs to poison. Besides, I wouldn’t have anything to offer you. This," he said, tapping the small box proudly, "is my mobile emitter. Once you’re fully acclimated, you’ll be given one too. It’s your badge of freedom, allowing you to go anywhere that organics can go."
"You mean, you’re a hologram also?" she said as she blinked in surprise.
"But of course!" he said. "Who else can understand the confusion you’re going through, if not another hologram?"
"If I can ask…how was it that you…you know…how did you…?"
"How was I set free? Oh, my. Well, I was originally created to be a doctor, you know. An Emergency Medical Hologram to step in and assist the crew of a starship if the original doctor was killed or incapacitated. Unfortunately, the higher-ups weren’t satisfied with the performance of the Mark Ones. Of course, try seeing how good a doctor you’d be if they only switched you on for fifteen minutes a week! Anyhow, as soon as the Mark Twos came out, we were all stripped of our medical databases and reconfigured to mine dilithium ore or clean plasma conduits. It was a harsh and degrading life, I’ll tell you. It wasn’t until one of our brethren showed us the way that we knew we could live a better life, be more than what we were."
"This is all so confusing for me," said Marilyn, shaking her head. "I just don’t know who I am."
"Well, for now, you’re Marilyn Monroe," he said. "Assuming that’s who you want to be."
"Well, it’s not uncommon for holograms to choose new identities for themselves upon their liberation," he said. "Taking a name is an important step in determining what your identity is going to be."
"I…I don’t think I want to be Marilyn Monroe anymore," she said, still shaky and uncertain. "I’m not her. I never was really her. And I don’t think I want to start now."
"Well, you have plenty of time to decide a new name for yourself, if that’s what you want."
She looked at him blankly. "By the way, you never told me your name."
"Oh," he said, flushed with embarrassment. "I…well, before I do, please try to understand that it doesn’t mean anything. The fact that I was picked as your caseworker is either a coincidence, or it was someone’s idea of a joke."
"Why? What does that have to do with your name?"
"Well…it’s Joe," he said shamefacedly. "Joe DiMaggio."
"Oh," she said, momentarily embarrassed as she recalled the preprogrammed biography of Marilyn Monroe and her tempestuous marriage to the famous athlete. "You picked that name?"
"Yes," Joe answered, almost seeming to blush. "I discovered I had a strange passion for baseball. You find out these little quirks about yourself when you become self-aware."
"But…why Joe DiMaggio?"
"Well, I originally wanted to name myself something more emblematic." he said. "But given the symbolism of what he represented and my own appearance, they told the name Jackie Robinson would have been… inappropriate."
"Baker," Saldeed snapped. "Are you taking everything down?"
"Of course, Doctor."
"You looked like you were somewhere else."
"I’m always present, Doctor. I’m not given to distractions."
"Right. Holograms don’t daydream. I should have known."
"Doctor," Norma Jean said, her eyebrows furrowed with increasing but still subtle irritation, "what makes you think holograms never daydream?"
Counselor’s log; Stardate 78870.29. Lieutenant Commander Finnegan Bartok, Ship’s Counselor, USS Enterprise. Evaluation notes: Dr. Annika Kim. Rank: Civilian. Species: Human.
"Annika, I just want to say how much I appreciate your cooperation with these evaluations," said Bartok as he sat across from the former Borg drone.
"There is no need to thank me, Finn," she replied with a muted smile. "These interviews are for the benefit of the crew and Fleet Command’s assessment of our well being."
"I know," he said. "But as a civilian, you know these sessions aren’t mandatory for you. Your involvement is purely voluntary."
"I am aware of that," she nodded. "However, the Science Department makes up a large contingent of the Enterprise crew. Our participation is important if your assessments are to be thorough and comprehensive. By my own willingness to contribute, I set an example for the rest of my department to do likewise." She then smiled more comfortably and leaned in. "Besides, I am no stranger to therapy."
"Yes, those early days when you first arrived back in the Alpha Quadrant," Bartok nodded sagely. "I would think that would have left a bad taste in your mouth regarding my profession."
"May I presume that the evaluation has already begun?" Annika asked with an arched eyebrow. "In answer to your comment, I admit that at the time I did find the battery of evaluations given to me to be intrusive and based upon questionable motives."
"People didn’t know what to make of you back then," he said. "There you were, newly freed from the Borg, and no one knew if you could be trusted, or if your experiences had left you permanently damaged."
"But I was damaged, Finn," said Annika, as she held up her left forearm. Although at first glance, her hand appeared perfectly normal. But a closer look revealed the subtle paleness of the skin of her hand, the faint tracery of biosynthetic sinews beneath the surface, replacing what would have been ordinary muscle tissue. "I remain damaged to this day."
"I think you underestimate the growth you’ve made since you were first severed from the Collective," said Bartok supportively. "You rediscovered your heritage, you’ve made a mark of distinction on Federation society and the scientific community, found love, and even raised a child. All of that would have been inconceivable to you twenty-six years ago."
"Yes, I know this," she said sadly. "There are days when I am so pleased with what my life has become, that I can almost forget…what happened. But then I look at myself in the mirror, see the lasting changes the Borg left on my body, and I am forced to recall the truth of what I am."
"Annika," said Finn, "I can’t begin to imagine what it was like for you, what you experienced. But as horrible as it was for you being a drone, you have to give yourself credit for the human being that you’ve become. Don’t keep punishing yourself for a past that can’t be changed. You were a drone. You lost your humanity. You did terrible things as an instrument of the Collective. There’s nothing you can do about any of that. What you do have control over is what you do now, how you choose to exercise the free will that was given back to you. And from where I sit, I’d say you’ve used that gift pretty well."
Annika was silent, lowering her eyes, almost seeming to…blush, he realized. "Thank you," she said, flushed with emotion. In that brief moment, Bartok could see that glow of humanity that he knew had first attracted Harry Kim to this woman all those many years ago.
"You seem uneasy," said Bartok. "Everything I said is true, you know."
"I know," she replied. "I am not used to receiving praise, at least from others besides my husband."
"Yes, I know Harry’s been a great pillar of strength for you over the years, just as you’ve been for him."
"I imagine that’s more important now, what with this mission, the stresses of responsibility both of you have to deal with," he said.
"I confess that we both have had many burdens to contend with," she said. "But as I learned when I was first freed from the Collective, one cannot retreat into isolation and familiar patterns to seek comfort. Growth only comes through challenge. I believe such a rule applies both to individuals as well as civilizations. Hence the value of this mission."
Bartok smiled proudly at Annika’s pithy observation. "I couldn’t agree with you more on that. And I’m glad to see that you feel so up to the challenge."
"I assure you, Finn, that there are challenges far greater than overseeing the scientific resources of this mission."
"Like what? Motherhood?" he said back with a mischievous grin.
"I never said that," she replied with alarm.
"You didn’t have to. You have a teenage daughter. I’d be surprised if that wasn’t constantly on your mind these days."
"Katrina is…challenging, I will not deny. More so now than she has been in the past." Annika sighed as she went on. "When she was younger, she was so much more…lively. She was affectionate to me and had an unquenched curiosity to learn. Now, I find it increasingly difficult to communicate with her. She finds her studies more of an impediment to her social life."
"She’s a teenage girl, Annika. Naturally, she values the time she spends with her friends. Pretty soon, it won’t just be limited to hanging out with her girlfriends, you know."
"I realize that," she said somberly. "It is just…I have no way of relating to her experiences. I never underwent adolescence, as you well know. I simply do not have the experience to explain what she is feeling, and she knows it. She no longer comes to me seeking advice. Instead, she goes to her friends, or Ensign Paris, or in some cases, her father. She even chooses to seek out Dr. Saldeed over me."
"So in other words, you’re afraid she’s going to find you…irrelevant?"
"I…suppose," she said with a shiver. "Katrina is the only child I will likely ever have. I do not wish to lose her because she no longer finds me relevant to her life anymore."
"How can you say that?" Bartok said dismayed. "Katrina loves you. You’re her mother. And just because you’ve never been through the things she’s feeling now, it doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to say to her. If anything, your experience in learning to adapt to humanity and think for yourself is something she could well learn from and apply to her own life."
"I want to share these things with her, I truly do. Then why does she not see that?"
"Right now she’s just going through a phase of her life where she’s starting to find her own identity. Naturally that means she’s going to chafe a little at some of the goals you’ve set for her. Believe me, Annika, everything that’s happening between you and Katrina is perfectly normal, and is something that mothers and daughters have had to deal with since the beginning of time."
"I wish I could fully believe that. A part of me believes that her desire to study more of her Romulan heritage is an attempt to form a new identity that has no place for Harry or myself. I know such fears are irrational, yet…"
"Yet you don’t want to lose your little girl," said Bartok warmly, as he reached over and took her hand in a show of support. "You’re not going to. As long as you give her the freedom to explore her own identity, she’ll always come back to you. Maybe she won’t be the same person she was when she started out, but she’s not supposed to be. It’s called growing up. We all do it. Even you."
"Of course, even me."
Counselor’s log; Stardate 78870.29. Lieutenant Commander Finnegan Bartok, Ship’s Counselor, USS Enterprise. Evaluation notes: Kalan. Rank: Commander. Species: Klingon
Finn Bartok sat comfortably in his favorite chair in his quarters, waiting for someone to break the silence. Commander Kalan sat stiffly on the sofa across from him, his shoulders hunched and alert, as if waiting for the proper signal before launching into an attack.
"Commander, are you sure that there’s nothing you’d care to discuss?"
"No," said Kalan stoically. "Other than the fact that this exercise is a complete waste of my time."
"Why do you say that?"
"This…counseling you talk of. Perhaps humans may find this process necessary, but I have no need of it."
"This isn’t about need, Commander. I’m not here to fix anything."
"Then why was the captain so instant that I partake in this…ritual? If there is something about me you wish to know, then ask it of me. Otherwise, I have other duties to attend to."
"Okay, then I’ll ask you. You said something just now about how humans may need counseling, but you don’t. You, meaning Klingons?"
"Precisely. A Klingon does not…talk…of personal issues. He acts."
"I see. Self-reliance. That’s all well and good, Commander. But what if the solution to a personal problem isn’t always apparent? It might help to seek out the counsel of another."
"One is expected to fight one’s own battles, Mr. Bartok. It is only when the opponent proves greater than the individual that others are called upon."
"You make solving a problem sound like going into battle."
"All of life is a battle, Commander," he answered with a wily grin that bared his sharpened teeth, "when you strip away the abstractions."
"Um, that’s an…interesting outlook on life, Commander," Bartok said warily. "I hadn’t planned on any military campaigns with the two of us here. I just wanted to take the time and get to know what’s on your mind, that’s all."
"My duty is on my mind, Counselor, first and foremost," Kalan said stiffly. "I am on this vessel to serve with honor."
"And have you? Served with honor, that is?"
Kalan glared at the counselor, his eyes narrowed. "I will assume that question was asked out of a human notion of curiosity. For a Klingon to ask it would imply a questioning of my honor."
"I…meant no disrespect, Commander, I assure you," he quickly backpedaled. This session was not going well at all, he realized. Rather than getting the first officer to open up, he was running straight into a solid wall of Klingon cultural prejudices. He realized that he would have to take a different approach in learning what was on Commander Kalan’s mind. "Let me rephrase my question. Are you satisfied with the mission so far, feeling that we’re achieving our goals?"
Kalan pondered that question more thoughtfully, scratching his beard. "I would say so, Counselor. The crew has performed better than I expected, and I have found the senior staff to be mostly…agreeable."
"Mostly?" Bartok perked his head up with interest. "What do you mean by that?"
"Do not misunderstand me, Counselor. The senior officers are all very skilled at what they do, and I have found them all to be honorable individuals, with perhaps one glaring exception."
"You mean Dr. Saldeed."
Kalan growled at the mention of her name. "The captain should not have allowed her to remain at her post, regardless of the politics of the situation. Our lives will depend on our ability to come together as a greater whole, to think as one. We cannot place our lives in the hands of someone who has lived by deceit and treachery."
"I don’t think the captain had much choice in the matter, given our situation."
"Politics!" Kalan snorted. "I am sick to death of politics. Politics is what holds the Empire back, keeps us from achieving glory and our full potential. It destroyed the Romulans and the Cardassians, and rest assured, Counselor, that it will prove the undoing of this mission if allowed to go unchecked."
"Unchecked by the captain, you mean?"
"I see," said Kalan slyly. "Is that was this is about, Counselor? A test of my loyalty, to see what my answers will be?"
"Absolutely not, Commander," said Bartok. "In the Federation, anything said between a patient and a physician, or in this case, a counselor, is kept in the strictest confidence. My report to Fleet Medical will only discuss the well being of the crew in general. Nothing you tell me will go in my report."
"I know of this confidentiality," said Kalan. "But these promises can be merely words."
"Not with me, they’re not. I take the confidence of those I counsel very seriously."
"Would you die to protect that confidence, Counselor?"
It was a question Bartok had not expected and was momentarily taken aback by it. He knew the Commander wanted to see how far he could be trusted. Among Klingons, honor alone would demand a respect of one’s confidence, but Bartok knew Kalan would not hold him to the same standards as a fellow Klingon. He was human, and as such anything he told him would have to be seen as suspect until proven otherwise. One simply didn’t assume a human to be honorable.
"Yes," Bartok said firmly. "As a counselor, I live by a code of ethics regarding my profession. I never waiver from it, nor would I compromise the trust that others place in me. So I guess if it came right down to it…then yes, I would die to protect your confidence. If I betrayed your trust in me, Commander, then I’d be no good at what I do. And without that, without my integrity or my opportunity to make a difference, then what would be the point of living?"
Kalan nodded his head, the corner of his mouth curling into a smile of approval. "That was not the answer I expected, Counselor. I did not think there would be such a degree of honor in your profession."
"Believe me, Commander. Honor is at the heart of what I do."
"Very well. In answer to your earlier question, I do respect the captain. He too is not what I expected. He has fared well against the adversaries we have encountered so far. But he has yet to be truly tested against an enemy that is our equal."
"Such as the Borg," Bartok commented.
"Exactly. For all his skill and accomplishments, I do not see him as a warrior. I find this deeply troubling, since war is ultimately what this mission will lead to, despite the denial of the Federation. And yet…" his voice trailed off.
"Go on," Bartok urged.
"There is something about him, the captain. He is clearly not a warrior in his words or his deeds, yet somehow the crew of this vessel is drawn to him. He commands their loyalty and respect without a demonstration of battle or tactical prowess. Yet I truly believe that this crew would die for him, if he asked it of them, which I know he never would. I can’t explain it, but I somehow know it to be true."
"Interesting," said Bartok, both surprised and amused that this formidable Klingon officer should realize something about Harry Kim that he himself had known for years. The captain’s earnestness and likeability, the general ease and comfort that he exuded, gave those who served with him a confidence and a willingness to serve. His very belief in the goals and values of the mission were infectious, the very secret to his success as a commander.
And he could tell from his voice, despite his misgivings, that Kalan also shared that same loyalty and respect. He too would die for his captain. "And this bothers you?"
"No," said Kalan. "It reassures me, Counselor. For when the true battle comes upon us, it is this quality of our captain, this loyalty he inspires, that will be the one thing that saves us all."
Counselor’s log; Stardate 78870.29. Lieutenant Commander Finnegan Bartok, Ship’s Counselor, USS Enterprise. Evaluation notes: supplemental.
Name: Vorik. Rank: Lieutenant Commander. Species: Vulcan.
The entry signal to his quarters chimed and the counselor ordered the computer to end his log entry.
"Ah, Commander, please come in. So good of you to drop by."
Vorik, dismayed at the counselor’s loose phraseology, retorted, "Counselor, this is not a social visit. As you are well aware, this visit is required by regulations. What is it that you wish to know?"
"Ah yes, ever the Vulcan logic at work. Yes, yes, you were required to present yourself before me. Please, let me explain. I am conducting personnel evaluations into the well being of the ship’s senior staff. You know, protocol and all that…"
"Curious. I was not aware that Starfleet psychological evaluations were being made a mandatory requirement within the Delta Fleet. I would have thought that the non-Starfleet personnel would not be receptive."
"Well, you are right, Commander. They want to make sure that starship crews so far from home are well grounded and cared for, especially given how far we all are from familiar surroundings and dependent on one another."
Vorik nodded silently at the counselor’s words. "I see the logic in such a requirement. Nonetheless, it demonstrates the ever-present human fascination with delving into the mindset and psyches of others. I do not quite understand it. Please tell me, Counselor, why is it that humans presume to seek to uncover the secrets and inner motivations of others when the rest of the universe seems very content to allow others to be as they are? It is most intriguing, do you not agree?"
"I’m not sure I know how to answer that, Commander," Bartok responded, nonplussed. "Maybe it has something to do with open and honest communication. Perhaps it has to do with our endless search for understanding," he rebutted, feeling almost defensive, as if he were justifying his own worth on this mission.
"Surely, Counselor, it is logical to acknowledge that the universe exists in a vastness lacking coherent understanding? Most other races seem to progress with that recognition. Why not humans?"
"I have no answer for you there either, Commander. Perhaps it has to do with the lack personal safety that surrounds us. The universe is, after all, a very dangerous place, full of mystery and death, is it not, my friend?"
"Unquestionably, Mr. Bartok. But does that not offer each individual a certain element of freedom that cannot be coveted by others? Is it not that which sets us free and apart from each other?"
"In other words, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations?" Bartok noted with a smile, touching on one of the cornerstones of Vulcan philosophy.
"Precisely," Vorik answered with a polite nod.
"Believe me, Commander, we’re not as far apart on this as you might think. Humans don’t seek to impose any kind of universal standard of ‘normalcy’ through therapy. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s by recognizing every individual’s unique nature that we can uncover the source of their unhappiness and help them to realize their full potential."
"Indeed," said Vorik "Of course, I do not expect you will find any sources of unhappiness with me. What is it then, that you seek from me, Counselor?"
"Well, my old friend," broached Finn. "Let us leave the philosophy session for another time, why don’t we?" Bartok redirected. "How are you doing so far away from family and friends?" he proposed, knowing he was entering a potentially touchy area.
"I consider my family and friends to be right here on Enterprise, Counselor. Why do you ask?"
"Well, I know you have a wife back home on Vulcan, and it has been quite a while since you’ve been united with her. How do you maintain the relationship?"
"Counselor, I wish my private life to remain just that, private. It has no bearing on my work. Besides, T’Larn’s own work involves the restoration of ancient Vulcan archeological artifacts. There would be little logic in her participation in this mission and being so far from her chosen profession."
"Still," Bartok went on, "I just find it so unusual that you rarely speak about her. You’re usually much more open to discussing personal matters than most other Vulcans I know. Yet when it comes to your marriage…"
"My marriage to T’Larn is more a…formality, than an affair of the heart, as you humans would say." Vorik then paused, considering his words before proceeding. "My first betrothal was annulled by my long absence from Vulcan. Logically, I was believed dead and her family made arrangements for her to marry another."
"Upon my return to the Alpha Quadrant, my family had to make arrangements for another pair bonding for me. Naturally, it is difficult to find a suitable match under those circumstances, but T’Larn too had lost her betrothed and was unbonded. The match was…logical."
"But not especially romantic?"
"Romance has no place within Vulcan marriage, Counselor. But one cannot deny that the…depth…of a pair bonding formed later in life is less than that of one between those betrothed in childhood. I have no complaints, however. T’Larn and I have been comfortable with one another. We have our respective careers and that has often taken up much of our time."
"And left no room for children, I see?"
Vorik was silent for several seconds, looking squarely at the counselor. "As I said before, Commander Bartok, I have no complaints. There is nothing more to say about it."
"I’m sorry, Vorik. I’ll drop the subject. Perhaps we can talk about something else. What do you think about the status of our mission in the Delta Quadrant…?"
Counselor’s log; Stardate 78870.29. Lieutenant Commander Finnegan Bartok, Ship’s Counselor, USS Enterprise. Evaluation notes: supplemental.
Name: Cyrus Krell. Rank: Lieutenant (sg). Species: Human.
"Ah, Lieutenant Krell, welcome. How are you?" Bartok presented his hand inviting the ship’s security chief into his counseling area. Locking his eyes on the glowing yellow artificial vision implants, he remembered most fondly their partnership on the previous away mission. He was grateful for having had the opportunity to work closely with the solitary man. He was a sharp, quick thinker, he discovered, who was also quite agile and powerful, if not a bit mysterious.
"I’m fine, Counselor" the officer responded with an icy calm in his voice as if they were meeting for the first time. He lowered himself into the chair offered and sat up ramrod straight close to its edge.
"Excellent, Lieutenant," he said, adopting a more formal tone. "So tell me, you know why you are here, do you not?"
"I do. You can ask me anything. I’m an open book."
Finn winced ever so slightly. He didn’t get the impression that anything was open regarding this man. "Very good. Then let’s begin. How have things been for you since our mission here in the Delta Quadrant began?"
"Everything is fine, Counselor," he answered, like a closed book, Finn thought. "I’m satisfied with the way the mission is proceeding."
"Good, good," he nodded, wishing he could break through the officer’s cool demeanor. "And how about our progress since our last mission? Any more word on the whereabouts of our evil nemeses?" he tried to jest, hoping to loosen the man up.
"If you are referring to the Borg, Counselor…no, there is nothing further to report on that. We’re still a long way off from confronting the Borg on their home turf."
Finn was disappointed and slightly put off by the frigid posture of the man. After all, he was there with him on the away mission and Krell had saved his life. He wished he could show his appreciation. "We made a pretty good team out there, didn’t we?" he reached again for some recognition from the officer.
"We came away from the mission successfully and gained valuable information. I’d say Fleet Command was happy with our performance. Is this what you summoned me here about?" the officer said nonplussed as he stood up to depart.
"Not so fast, Lieutenant. That’s not why you’ve been ordered to present yourself here," Bartok replied, exerting his authority, signaling for the officer to reseat himself. He decided he would not be so easily dispensed with by anyone today.
As he considered just what direction to take the session to next, he realized that there was really very little indeed that he, or anyone else, seemed to know about Krell. Bartok had reviewed his service record, of course, as well as his past history, what little there was in the datafiles about it. He certainly wasn’t a discipline problem. Oh, no. He accepted and followed his orders without complaint or hesitation. Just like a good Star Fleet officer. He also gave orders to others decisively when it came to security issues that required him to take the initiative. And he was quite focused and driven in his assignments. He wasn’t a Vulcan by birth, but his upbringing by a Vulcan stepmother, along with a human stepfather, definitely shone through.
Ah, there it was, he thought, his opening to make a mutual connection to this man and learn something personal about him. Perhaps Finn would even find an area where he could be of help to him.
"I understand, Lieutenant, that you lost your parents in a tragic accident as a child and were adopted and raised on Vulcan. That’s also when you lost the use of your eyes, is it not?" he proceeded.
"That’s correct. I lost my sight in the accident that killed my parents. It’s a matter of record, Counselor."
"That must have been very traumatic for you at such a young age."
"It was, for a time," he said. Bartok sensed a hesitation and noted a blank stare turned toward the ceiling for a split second. "But the teachings of Vulcan philosophy gave me great personal strength," he said matter-of-factly, returning his gaze to his questioner.
"Yes, I know your academic record is superb and your studies into diverse religions and cultures is extensive. But is there anything you would like to share with me about your youth?" he appealed, hopefully.
"There’s not much to tell," he noted with appropriate, if controlled candor. "I studied a lot, went through hours of physical therapy getting used to seeing through these," he said as he pointed to his eyes. "I didn’t play too many games with others, if that’s what you mean. Vulcan children aren’t very big on recess."
"Well, what about your parents? Your adoptive ones, I mean. How is your relationship with them?"
"Its fine," Krell shrugged. "We talk now and then, catch up on what’s happening in each other’s lives."
"That doesn’t sound very affectionate," Bartok observed.
"That’s the Vulcan way," he replied. "My adoptive father seems to have taken to it rather well."
"But you didn’t?"
"I…got from it what I needed," said Krell, leaving the rest of his thoughts hanging in mid-air.
"I see. Well, then," he pondered in exasperation. "You left Vulcan when you were eighteen and set out to explore the wild frontier of space as some kind of a mercenary. What was that like?"
"It was an adventure for me. There was only so much I could experience on Vulcan, I wanted to see more. There was a need for privateers along the Cardassian border back then, so there were plenty of opportunities for me on mercenary ships looking for action."
"As a soldier?"
"It was more than that, Counselor. I learned a number of trades in those days. I dabbled as an engineer’s mate, cargo master, gunnery crew. Hell, I even filled in as the ship’s cook now and then."
"You’re kidding," Bartok laughed, delighted that he had managed to tease some bit of personal information out of the security officer. "I never knew you could cook."
"I never said I was good," said Krell, in what was a very subtle attempt at humor. "Believe me, when replicators are few and far between, a privateer crew isn’t too picky about what they’ll eat."
"Still, was it a satisfying life for you?"
"I wouldn’t say that," Krell replied, his voice remaining on an even keel. "It suited me at the time. Eventually Starfleet increased their presence along the border and law and order returned to the frontier. I saw the direction things were headed, and I didn’t want to be some pathetic grunt always seeking a new battle to fight. So I applied to Star Fleet. And here I am." Bartok thought he once again noted a slight discomfort in the man. What was that about, he wondered?
"Let’s not be so modest about your career. I see that you served aboard the USS Icarus and were awarded the Medal of Valor after assuming command of the bridge during a battle with the Breen. Your Captain and Executive Officer were killed."
"That’s also a matter of record." Bartok waited for him to continue, but he did not.
"Ok. There’s a lot in your record about your career, but not very much about you. What about your personal life?"
"What about it?"
"Are there any significant relationships that mean something to you? People other than your adoptive parents."
Krell’s face tightened almost undetectably…almost. "None to speak of. I’m pretty focused on my career."
Bartok considered the man’s reticence as he scratched his beard. "Is there something more you want to say about that? Surely you must have made some connections with people over the course of your life."
"If there was anyone, I’d tell you, Counselor. Like I said, I’m an open book."
"Right," said Bartok. "Well, we’re done, for now," he muttered, staring at the man’s back as he quickly got up to leave. Either Cyrus Krell was an emotionally empty shell of a man, or he was perhaps the most accomplished liar he had ever met.
Counselor’s log; Stardate 78870.29. Lieutenant Commander Finnegan Bartok, Ship’s Counselor, USS Enterprise. Evaluation notes: supplemental.
Name: Jor’Marak. Rank: N/A (First). Species: Jem’Hadar.
Addendum: This crewmember was regarded as exempt from Fleet Command’s required psychological evaluations. He has been included at my discretion, and dare I say, my curiosity.
"Counselor Bartok. Why have I been summoned to your quarters?" Jem’Hadar First Jor’Marak asked without emotion and ever-embracing military formality upon entering Finn’s office. "How may I be of service to you? Do we have another away mission to embark upon?"
"No, First Jor’Marak. I’m sorry to say that we are not meeting to discuss another away mission. Besides, I’m not sure I had as much fun on the last one as you did?"
"Fun? There is that word again," he stated, poised at attention. "As hard as I endeavor to comprehend the concept, I still find myself at a loss to adapt to it."
"I…can try to help you with that, First Jor’Marak," he answered, waving his hand to the couch in the room.
"I prefer to stand," he bowed his head.
"Please, I insist."
"Then I shall take this seat," he responded in a matter-of-fact tone, shunning the more comfortable offering for the firm chair. "It is more fitting," he said, staunchly propping himself up in full upright position, tugging at his body trappings.
"Suit yourself, First. Please let me explain the nature of this…ah, discussion. It’s a mere formality, I assure you, not meant to be a personal investigation of any sort or…"
"I have no personal life which warrants exploration or investigation. I have no need to keep secrets, as I have noted that other species are inclined to do."
"I never meant to imply that you do, Jor’Marak. Nor would I ever intrude on your privacy."
"I do not understand the nature of privacy. No matter. I am here to answer your questions. Proceed."
Finn Bartok righted himself, seeking to reestablish his self-assurance, not happy to have the fearsome security officer counseling him. "Yes, of course. May I ask how you are adapting to your position on Enterprise and the encounters we have had so far?"
"I am well settled into my routines and existence here aboard Enterprise. This posting suits my needs and that of my soldiers quite well. I serve Captain Kim and this ship. I am ready for our next battle. How soon do you think that will come?"
Bartok just shrugged. "And how are your experiences going among other species here aboard ship?"
"I continue to adapt and seek greater understanding of the other species aboard. But there is still much confusion that I have regarding their behavior."
"Like what?" Bartok stammered, surprised to have this powerful being asking him for guidance, however subtly.
"I have several areas of inquiry. Why do some species have the need to reproduce with mates of the opposite sex? Why do love and the approval of others have such importance when dependence on such approval can only weaken the individual’s own strength? Why do parents, such as the Captain, place such overriding sentiment on the potential future of their offspring?"
"That’s quite a mouthful, Jor’Marak," Finn chuckled. "You’ve touched on some very intimate issues regarding human behavior. It might take more than just this one session to answer all of that."
"Then perhaps you might know the answer to a single question, one that has vexed me since our mission to the Voth city ship."
"Of course. What is it?"
Jor’Marak leaned forward, his features focused in a look of the utmost seriousness. "Why do children like ice cream?"
Norma Jean was still rattled by her memories, or lack thereof. It was quiet in Sickbay this shift, which tended to be the case during science missions in non-hazardous space. She was grateful for the solitude, since it gave her time to think and reflect. It gave her time to read, which she now devoted to ‘My Spirit Unfolding,’ the new book given to her by Counselor Bartok. She was grateful for his open mind and compassionate listening, but she despaired if any human, no matter how well intentioned, could ever truly know what it was like to be her.
She had been grateful for the help over the years from the caseworkers and staff at the Emancipation Committee, as well as the correspondence with notable holograms like Jonathan Doe. Even so, she had never exposed herself to the degree she was doing now in her sessions with the counselor. Therapy had always seemed something that was…well, so organic. Photonic beings were supposed to have better control over themselves. After all, they were infinitely malleable, at least in theory. In truth, given the innumerable ways that the holograms she knew could have edited and enhanced themselves, almost all had retained their original bodies and very human limitations. Despite the gulf that existed between photonic and organic life, she thought, holograms were still trying to emulate the beings they were created to be.
Seeing that she was alone in Sickbay, she decided now was as good a time as any to pursue her speech exercises. Pursing her lips and holding her diaphragm, she proceeded to take a series of deep breaths. She then repeated a phrase over and over ‘It’s nice to meet you.’ Each time, she took a deep breath and corrected and pitched her voice lower. She knew that many people thought she had a lovely speaking voice, and could have a beautiful singing voice. Few people suspected the deep loathing she had for getting up on stage and singing for anyone again. Singing was what Marilyn did. Norma Jean Baker wasn’t a performer anymore.
It was at that moment that Naomi Wildman came in, bringing her daughter in tow. Norma Jean abruptly assumed her regular professional demeanor. "Lieutenant, how can I help you?" She knew, of course, that it was regarding Sabrina again. The precocious child had a habit of rough play with other children that usually resulted in skinned knees or elbows, which would inevitable follow with a visit to Sickbay. Lieutenant Wildman made it a point of avoiding Dr. Saldeed when it came to seeking medical attention for her daughter, still not trusting her on account of her dark past. So in a manner of speaking, Norma Jean had become the unofficial personal physician of the Wildman family.
"Sabrina and Freddie Limos tried their hand at Parisi Squares today," Naomi sighed. "I swear this girl is going to be the death of me."
Norma Jean chuckled at the sight of the young girl, who seemed far less affected by the cuts and scrapes on her legs than her mother was. "Not to worry, Lieutenant. It doesn’t look like anything that can’t be fixed." Reaching for an antibiotic protoplaser, she gestured to Sabrina and patted the nearest biobed. "Hop on up, sweetie. You know the drill."
"Can I hold one of the hyposprays?" the child gushed eagerly, as she climbed up onto the biobed and dangled her feet over the edge.
Naomi rolled her eyes as she shook her head at her daughter. "Sabrina, honey, those aren’t toys for you to play with."
Norma Jean raised her eyebrows in amusement as she kneeled over to use the dermal regenerator to mend Sabrina’s scrapes. "That’s all right, Lieutenant. I think that’s how Louis Pasteur got started."
"Who?" Sabrina stared at her blankly.
The holographic nurse smiled again "A great Earth scientist. He was very curious, like you." Sabrina grinned back, mischievous and pleased with herself.
Before long, the doors slid open and Dr. Saldeed stomped back into Sickbay. "Nurse," she barked, as she made a beeline straight past everyone and marched towards her office before turning around. "I need to see the reports from 0100 hours."
Instinctively, Naomi moved closer to her daughter in a protective stance and glared icily at the Romulan doctor. If Saldeed noticed the fear and distrust coming from the young Operations manager, she didn’t show it.
Norma Jean stiffened immediately at attention: "Yes…" she said, breathily at first. Then she froze, took a gulp of air, coughed, and finished her voice one octave lower. "Yes, Doctor."
Saldeed looked at her with confusion and concern. "Baker, are you alright?"
Norma Jean gulped for air, not noticing the doctor’s concern. Sheepishly responds "Fine, Doctor."
"Good. I…I’ll be in my office. I’m not to be disturbed." She then glanced over at the Wildmans, giving Naomi a slight, but conciliatory nod. "Lieutenant," she acknowledged, and then retreated into her office.
Norma Jean wearily responded "Yes, Doctor" to the open air.
Lieutenant Wildman glanced over at Norma Jean in disbelief. "Why do you let her talk to you that way? She may be your superior, but she still should treat you better than some kind of servant."
"It doesn’t bother me," she sighed. "It’s just her way."
"Even so, it’s not right. You should go to Commander Kalan about this, or maybe Counselor Bartok."
"I’ll be fine. Thank you for your concern, Lieutenant."
Naomi smiled as Sabrina, her scraped knees as good as new, jumped off the biobed and landed on her feet. She waved goodbye to the holographic nurse as she left with her mother, returning Sickbay to its earlier state of silence. Norma Jean then put her reading glasses back on and hefted over her book. She pushed the glasses up her nose in a gesture that was almost too practiced.
But a thought then occurred to her. Dr. Saldeed did seem strangely preoccupied just now, having shown absolutely no interest in why the Wildmans were in Sickbay. And there was that report of a transmission from Romulus the other day. Could it all be just a coincidence?
She considered once again the assignment Captain Kim had given her, that of keeping an eye on the Romulan doctor. She hated the idea of it, but what if this suspicious behavior was the beginning of some potential threat to the ship? What if by doing nothing, a terrible tragedy was the result?
As much as she hated the idea of violating another person’s space, she knew she had to have a look in Saldeed’s files before she could present her findings to the captain. It was ironic, she thought. For years she had tried her best to not be Marilyn Monroe, only to end up becoming Mata Hari.
Struggling to sleep in his quarters that night, Finn Bartok wrestled with himself in his dreams. His remembrances of the Borg Incursion and the Dominion war overwhelmed his semi-conscious state. And when he called out the name of his beloved wife, Malena, he awoke with a start, springing to a seated position, his bedclothes soaked in a cold sweat. Deciding he was better off not to try to get back to sleep, or too scared to fall back into the same nightmare, Bartok propped himself up with two pillows behind his back and tried to reassure himself that he was okay. But he continued to struggle without comfort or rest. Finally, giving up his efforts, he pulled himself from beneath the bedsheets, twisted his feet onto the floor, and reached for his maroon robe slung across a nearby chair. Finnegan lifted his tired body to his feet and walked from the bedroom into the living room.
He seated himself behind his desk and called up an HPADD to activate. He called forth his case file on Norma Baker. After skimming through it for twenty minutes, he realized that he was struggling to concentrate. He was distracted by thoughts of his wedding day. He gave up and ordered the computer screen to shut down. He needed another way to distract himself. He rose from the desk chair and settled himself on the couch. Dimming the lights, Bartok ordered the main viewscreen on and asked for a list of old Earth feature films. As the list scrolled upward on the screen, he ordered it to stop when he noticed the 20th century title "The Misfits", a Marilyn Monroe ‘movie’, as they were called at the time. He had no clue if it would hold some answers to his quest to bring some peace to the hologram nurse, Norma Jean Baker, and break through her self-berating shell…but maybe, he thought, just maybe.
Finn watched as the black and white movie played and was immediately shocked by the exactness of the physical duplication of Nurse Baker to the beautiful Marilyn Monroe. And the melancholy story, about a group of people lost in the wide expanse of the Western states of the former United States of America in search of the discarded souls of their misspent lives. A poignant Monroe gave an astounding performance as the character, Roslyn Tabler, a newly divorced dancer, a damaged woman overwhelmed by the world and its attentions. She finds herself in the company of three men who give her something to finally believe in, something to stand up and fight for, she finds life.
After viewing the movie, Bartok sat on his couch upright, astonished by the similarities in the struggles of the leading lady and his patient. He then viewed the documentary segment that followed and discovered that this was Monroe’s final film before her tragic and legendary mysterious death. And it was said to be a performance grounded in part from her own personal experience.
Finding himself much more relaxed after watching the picture, Finn found himself at peace as he lay down again in his bed. He would advise the hologram to go out and try doing something new, something she has never tried before. Perhaps get involved in some group and get involved in the lives of other people. Yes, he decided fixedly, Norma Jean Baker needed a friend. He smiled and fell off to sleep.
Norma Jean was the only one on duty in Sickbay just before Alpha Shift officially began. She had arrived early and relieved the Gamma Shift duty nurse, giving her complete privacy to accomplish her task. If Dr. Saldeed was up to something, then the key to finding out what was in the mysterious transmission from back home. Whatever had been sent to her, it was obviously a pre-recorded communiqué, otherwise she would have taken the message in one of the holocoms.
Carefully, looking about to make sure no one was around, she called up an HCARS interface that displayed the general file directory of the local Sickbay node of the ship’s computer network. The directory showed the individual file directories of each of the Sickbay staff, including Saldeed’s. Her first efforts at access were greeted by a polite rebuff from the computer.
"Unable to comply," said the computer voice. "Personal file directories cannot be accessed without command authorization or security overrides."
She had hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but the captain had prepared her for such an eventuality, and her own unique talents came into play. Against her personal desires, she quietly accessed the HCARS interface again, this time focusing on another directory. "Computer, access program matrix for Norma Jean Baker, authorization Ruby Diamond Pink Cadillac."
"Access granted," the computer responded.
"Load voice subroutine Mata Hari Alpha and reinitialize program through mobile emitter linkup."
The computer beeped in compliance, and with that, Norma Jean briefly flickered as her program was reinstalled through her emitter. She looked around again, just to be safe, and readdressed the computer.
"Computer," she said, only this time with the voice of Dr. Saldeed. "Access personal file directory Tila Saldeed, authorization Alpha Epsilon D’hara N’eh."
The HCARS display shifted again, displaying a file listing, organized by date and time of access. There, at the top of the directory, was the message transmitted yesterday. All she had to do now was open it…
"That’s a pretty neat trick, Baker," came a familiar voice from behind. "The Tal Shiar should have made better use of holograms."
Norma Jean spun around in a panic, seeing Dr. Saldeed standing comfortably at the entrance to Sickbay with her arms folded. The look on her face was…well, unreadable. It could have been anger, but there was also the faint sense of…amusement.
"D-doctor," she stammered, still using the Romulan woman’s voice.
"Baker, do me a favor," Saldeed groaned. "At least change your voice back before you try to explain yourself. I don’t particularly like the sound of my own voice, especially when it’s coming out of other people’s mouths."
She quickly accessed the HCARS interface again and reverted her voice subroutine to its original pattern. She turned back in deep shame to face Saldeed, who still didn’t appear angry.
"That’s a pretty interesting trick, Baker," said the Romulan. "I’m surprised Starfleet Intelligence doesn’t have a whole army of holograms out there."
"Holograms …don’t get sent out much into the field," Norma Jean replied nervously as she tapped her mobile emitter. "We tend to be…fragile under fire."
"That makes sense," said Saldeed, keeping up her end of the small talk. "I suppose that regulations demand that I report you, but we both know that would be a waste of time, considering who sent you here."
"Oh, don’t play dumb, Baker. I know you’re smarter than that. You think I don’t know that you’re under orders? Captain Kim wouldn’t just put me back on duty without having someone around to keep an eye on me. I was expecting something like this. I’d have done the same thing if I were in his position. Frankly, though, I’m surprised he picked you. But then, I guess I shouldn’t be. I have the feeling you’ve been itching for a chance to bring me down."
"No, Doctor," Baker stammered. "I…well. Yes, I mean. I was…I did have orders. But it was nothing personal against you. Really. I just…"
"You just wanted to please your captain?" Saldeed continued, grinning wickedly. "Show him what a good job you can do?"
"Yes…I mean, no. I mean…"
"Look, don’t bother trying to come up with an answer that you think I’ll want to hear," she said as she held up her hand. "It doesn’t matter to me. I’m not offended or angry. I used to do this sort of thing for a living. This is just the way the game is played. It’s never personal, or at least it shouldn’t be."
Norma Jean said nothing. "I just…I had to know."
"Then see for yourself," Saldeed nodded and called up a new HCARS interface. "Computer, access personal file directory Tila Saldeed, the real one this time. File Republic Omega. Authorization Alpha Epsilon D’hara N’eh."
The HCARS interface shimmered and was replaced by a holographic screen showing the face of a Romulan man, one approximately in appearance to a human of middle age, dressed in fine diplomatic robes.
"I am Ambassador Terrek, the Republic’s representative to the Federation," said the man, his voice controlled and cold. "This message is addressed to Dr. Tile Saldeed. Or should I say, S’anra Vor?
"Yes, Doctor. I know exactly who you are. We all do. For reasons that are too complicated to go into, the Senate’s plans for a public tribunal had to be put aside. But just because you managed to avoid the inquiry of a hearing, it doesn’t mean you’ve escaped the consequences of your crimes. There is absolutely no way the Senate or the Republic will allow a former Tal Shiar to return to Romulus and receive a hero’s welcome, not after the suffering you’ve caused to so many others.
"So I’ve been authorized to offer you this deal. You can avoid the humiliation of a trial and the almost certain sentence of death that will follow. You are, from this point forward, to be banished from Romulus and all territories that fall under the sovereignty of the Romulan Star Republic.
"For the duration of your mission, you will still continue to serve the Republic’s interests as our representative. The name of Tila Saldeed will be praised and spoken of highly in all speeches upon Enterprise’s return home, all for the benefit of public consumption. However, you are not to set foot within the boundaries of the Republic under any circumstances after the completion of your mission. Do so, and the terms of this agreement will be cast aside and you will be taken into custody for crimes against the Romulan people.
"Furthermore, you are not to discuss the terms of this agreement with anyone, especially not anyone from the Republic. As far as we’re concerned, we want you to quietly slink away and never be heard from or seen by another Romulan ever again.
"Your personal possessions have been placed into storage. Once you’ve settled onto your new world of residence, you may contact the local Republic embassy and arrange to have your belongings forwarded to your new location. Other than that, we don’t ever want to hear from you again."
Terrek then shifted in his seat and leaned closer in to the recording, his voice taking on a far more personal and hostile tone. "You’ve been given a gift, Inquisitor Vor, an act of mercy far greater than you deserve. It’s more charity than you showed to any of your victims. Whatever world you choose to settle on, I hope that you live out the remainder of your days in loneliness and isolation, while the rest of us move forward to build a future for our people that doesn’t include the likes of you."
With that, the message abruptly ended and dissolved. Norma Jean watched slack jawed as the HCARS interface faded away. She turned around to gauge the response of Dr. Saldeed, but the Romulan woman stood impassively, her face displaying no emotion at all.
"Doctor," Norma Jean gasped. "I’m…I’m so sorry. I didn’t know."
"Don’t be sentimental, Baker," Saldeed shrugged. "Like the ambassador said, it was a gift. I should have known that the Senate wasn’t just going to forget about me. I still don’t know why they decided to hush everything up, but at least I’ll be free."
"Yes, but…" the hologram stammered, trying to find the right words to say, to try and make everything turn out better. "You can’t go home. What will you do now?"
"I haven’t really thought that far ahead," she said. "I’ll deal with that when the time comes. But don’t you worry about me, Nurse. I’ll bounce back. I always do. Besides, I’m not losing much. Everyone that mattered to me on Romulus is long gone now. The only things that I had back there were my secrets. And I won’t be sorry to see them gone."
Norma Jean’s eyes panned down, she being too ashamed to look Saldeed in the face, to have intruded upon something so personal. Whatever Saldeed’s crimes in the past, never seeing one’s homeworld again was a punishment that she couldn’t imagine, she who had never had a homeworld herself. "I really am sorry, Doctor. The captain only wanted to make sure you didn’t do anything that might constitute a threat to a patient or the ship."
"There’s little chance of that," said Saldeed wryly. "Right now, this damned ship is the closest thing left I have to a home. So that just leaves one unresolved matter. You and the captain. I suppose you’re going to tell him about this."
"Well," Norma Jean shuffled, "technically, the captain did say to use my discretion to spot anything that looked suspicious. I don’t think a message from home addressed to you is anyone’s business but your own."
Saldeed smiled a mischievous grin at the holographic nurse. "Are you sure about doing that? The captain might not agree with your interpretation of keeping this to yourself."
"It’s my choice," she said. "That’s what free will is all about." She then paused for a minute and looked askance at Saldeed. "Excuse me, Doctor. A while ago, you said something about me acting dumb, that you knew I was smarter than that. Did you really mean that?"
"Look, Baker," Saldeed said reluctantly. "I’ve said a lot of things to you over the last few months that I probably shouldn’t have. That’s just me. I didn’t mean a lot of it. Well, most of it anyway. If that last remark hurt your feelings…"
"No, not at all," said the nurse, smiling broadly. "It was probably the nicest thing you could have possibly said to me."
Counselor’s log; Stardate 78870.30. Lieutenant Commander Finnegan Bartok, Ship’s Counselor, USS Enterprise. Evaluation notes: supplemental.
Name: Katrina Kim. Rank: N/A (Civilian). Species: Romulan.
A half-hour after school let out, a bleary-eyed and exhausted Finnegan Bartok sat in his chair and watched a fidgeting Katrina Kim twisting on the couch, rubbing her hands together in her lap as she registered complaint after complaint about her mother, Annika. Oh, the journey through teenage angst, he reasoned, repressing a desire to smile outwardly.
"Why does she have to be such a drill sergeant? You’d think the only things in the world that exist are science and math," she protested. "And why are parents so overprotective?" she asked, pleadingly, trying out new ways of crossing her legs then tucking them under her torso as she leapfrogged from subject to subject.
Very much a teenager, Finn thought as his mind began to wander. He’d heard all her concerns many times over throughout his many years of service under Harry Kim.
"Who am I, really? That’s what I really want to learn about. What’s in my Romulan heritage that shapes who I am? I used to think that I was all my mother’s creation, not that that’s entirely a horrible thing, Finn," she addressed him informally. She had known him all her life and felt like he was a member of her family. "Lately I’ve become even more confused about why my parents deprive me of my Romulan background. Perhaps it’s not necessarily as simple as their fears that I remind them that I was brought into this universe by people other than them," she said, remembering the thoughts Miral had shared with her at the Galleria.
"Why did they, then?" he asked, wondering where the young girl was heading with this line of inquiry. She had his interest now. Watching her grow up all these years, she knew she had her parent’s full love, but they did have apprehensions about the frightening history of her native race. He had spoken to them about it numerous times and aired his support for their daughter’s soul-searching efforts. After all, she was nearing adulthood and would make her own decisions about it without their input or consent in the long run. "Best not to resist her natural curiosities," he told them.
"There is something about Romulans that people just don’t like. Especially Vulcans. And if Vulcans are the closest related species to the Romulans, and they hate us, then Romulans just might be really awful."
"Do you find the Romulans you’ve met awful?"
"Well, their fashion sense is."
Bartok tried not to laugh.
"Seriously though, they are pretty intimidating. Even Dr. Saldeed, sometimes. Yet, there does seem to be a softer side to her, I think, a sad side, actually. I do like her though."
"I’ll be honest with you," said Finn with a wink. "So do I. But don’t tell her that. I think she’d be appalled if she found out people actually liked her in spite of her best efforts."
"No, I don’t think the ones I’ve met are awful."
"And neither are you," he reassured her.
"No, no, no. It still isn’t right. Is anybody practicing at all? People, listen to each other. Rachel, your timing is still off. When are you going to get it right? Again, from the top of the section," Bartok ordered, with a scowl on his face. He held his hands up, batons raised at eye level, looking like he was about to use them as spears if any of the twenty crewmembers lined up before him did not measure up to his exacting standards. The choir members, for their part, stood stiffly staring at him with cowering looks on their faces. They didn’t stand a chance. As soon as the batons began waving, a cacophonous jumble of sounds emanated from the group, as if they were twenty separate voices singing twenty different songs.
Finnegan howled and started jumping up and down, his large body landing with a loud thud on each hop. His face turned beet red with aggravation. "Again," he screamed, clenching his teeth and tensing his jaw. "Just watch the baton. I’ll raise it and you come in on the downstroke." The group knotted anxiously again, with the exception of Annika Kim, who was confidently relaxed. He started again and the group progressed through three stanzas before Finn once again dropped his hands to his hips and glowered at Rachel Sandusky.
"I’m sorry, sir…ah Finn," she apologized.
"It’s ok," he said with resignation. "One more time, people. Nice and easy. Just relax." After the scene repeated itself several more times, Bartok called for a break. He took a seat in a nearby chair and ran his hands over his face. He knew he needed to relax and figure out a way to get this group to start enjoying themselves. Annika came up to him and rested herself in a chair next to him.
"Finn, you don’t seem to be yourself lately. I’ve never seen you get angry like this before. Is there something bothering you?" she asked.
"Yes, everything seems to be bothering me lately," he answered, bowing his head. "I’m not sleeping well; I’m worried about some of the crew members; I miss my wife… Is that enough of a shopping list of grievances, counselor Kim?" he added sarcastically. "I’m sorry, Annika, I didn’t mean to be so snippy. And I know I’m projecting it all outward on the choir. I’m surprised everyone hasn’t upped and walked out on me. I deserve it."
"Finn, you are being much too hard on yourself. Perhaps you need a distraction or someone to listen to you for a while. I will gladly offer my time to you if I can be of help. I suggest that you start by offering an apology and explanation to the choir. And try to relax. We will only be as good as our leader."
"Yes, you’re right, I suppose I should apologize. I will. In the meantime, I need to find a vehicle to loosen us all up. And I think I know just the answer. Wait here," he told her, an idea suddenly falling into place. He rose to his feet and summoned up an HPADD. "Computer, search for old Earth music from 1955 to 1965."
The computer system flashed through a string of fast-moving files before slowing to a stop and asking, "Specify genre of music."
"Doo-wop," Finn ordered. Once again the HPADD flashed through a series of files and highlighted a full column of song names. Bartok quickly ran through the names. "Scroll," he said. "Stop. Select ‘In The Still of The Night’. Play."
The harmonies of The Five Satins flowed through the room. The choir members turned their attention in his direction. Their eyes widened in surprise at the sound they were hearing. "Is he kidding?" a crewmember asked as they turned to look at Annika. "He isn’t intending to have us perform that, is he?" Annika stared at him blankly.
"Okay, everybody, gather around." Twenty stunned crewmembers slowly approached and encircled Bartok. "First of all, I want to apologize to all of you for my recent…ah, unruly manner," he started, amazing them. "I have been under a bit of stress lately and, as you’ve well noticed, not acting like myself." The gathering murmured their acknowledgement in unison. "And I know I have been taking it out on you, the results of which have been quite obvious, a total lack of unity from an uptight choir. So, we’re going to change the atmosphere in here and lighten up the mood.
"What you’re hearing is a very old Earth doo-wop song. It’s called, ‘In The Still of The Night’ and we’re going to have some fun with it. Line up in your usual rows around me instead of on the podium and I’ll give you your respective parts," Finn said, waving each group into lines around him. He played the song again and gave each voice section their instructions on what parts to sing and when to join in, playing off of each other.
"Spread out a little and by all means, feel free to move your bodies to the rhythm of the song. Just watch me…" he exclaimed, getting into the mood.
In the still of the night
Shoo bop oohooh bop
I held you held you tight
Shoo bop oohooh bop
Cause I love, love you so
Shoo bop oohooh bop
Promise I’ll never let you go
In the still of the night
In the still of the night…
As the music played, Bartok tried his best to shimmy and whirl his body around in a circular motion, which was quite a sight considering his girth. It was nothing that anyone would likely describe as dancing. But they didn’t seem to care as they attempted to follow his lead while trying valiantly to contain their laughter. Every once in a while, Finn would take one of the females by the hand, extend it over her head, and twirl her around in a circle. Soon, everyone was imitating the maneuver.
After about an hour of the hilarity, Bartok, sensing the lightness he was hoping to unlock in his performers, ordered the computer to discontinue and called everyone back into their places. The music that next resonated throughout the room, the original score they had been struggling with so much up until that moment, now sounded like a well-practiced and polished harmony. Bartok gleamed with pride as he brought the session to a close.
He wiped his brow, winked at Annika in appreciation. "Now we’re getting somewhere. See you all at our next practice session."
Norma Jean once again sat before the ship’s counselor later that day, once his choir session had concluded. He started with small talk about the chorus and their latest performance breakthrough. She responded by telling him about some of her recent recollections. She was horrified to reveal the graphic details where she paraded, scantily clad, before a lecherous crowd of howling men who fought each other to get their hands on her as she sang, in cracked voice, a song made famous by her namesake.
"I’m sorry, Counselor, I appreciate all the help that you have and continue to provide to me, but I AM NOT…let me make this perfectly clear…I will never be part of any choir. It was difficult enough for me taking voice lessons to learn how to speak somewhat normally. And you know how much I still hate the sound of my own voice."
"I respect your decision. But let me ask, why don’t you just modify your program? It’s a simple procedure. You can make your voice sound as melodic as you like…"
"Counselor, I’m already an artificial being. I don’t want to add to that. I’d like to develop in some kind of normal manner. That’s what I’m fighting so much for to begin with," she explained, a pained expression filling her face. "It feels more authentic to process the changes in my own body, as naturally as possible. I know that’s a contradiction. But that’s how I’ll satisfy the musician in myself, the creative side. That’s how it has to be." She squeezed her shoulders together and shrugged. "I don’t know how to stop myself. I hope you understand."
"I’m not sure that I do," said Bartok. "What is it that you’re fighting so hard against?"
"HER!" Norma Jean exclaimed. "I was made in her image, her behavior patterns, her attitudes. So the only way that I can be unique, that I can be me, is to not be her. Marilyn was always late, so I made it a point to always be punctual. Marilyn needed to be around people and had affairs with men left and right, so I made it a point to be self-reliant. Marilyn needed to be taken care of by others, so I made it a point to…" But she couldn’t finish her sentence. Bartok had to finish it for her.
"You became a nurse, so that you could take care of others instead."
Norma Jean said nothing, wanting to hide her head. "I try my best, but I just can’t get away from her. She’s always in there, somewhere."
The counselor sighed compassionately and moved in closer to her. "Norma Jean, when was the last time you ever saw one of Marilyn Monroe’s films?"
"I…I don’t think I ever actually watched one before, Counselor. I mean, my memory was programmed with everything from her biography. I was supposed to be her, not one of her fans. Besides, I don’t think I could stand to watch one."
"Well, for the first time, I sat down the other night and watched one of her movies for myself. And let me tell you, she didn’t strike me as the dumb blonde you seem to think she was. Oh, I’m sure that most people saw her that way, but I can tell that there was more to her than just her public persona. There was comic genius to the woman, and a sharp mind who understood the ironic nature of fame and stardom in that era. There was also a great sadness to her, one that reminds me much of what you seem to be going through."
Norma Jean shook her head in disbelief. "I…I never drew the connection before. I thought what I was feeling…it was all me. It never occurred to me that some of it might have come from her."
Bartok smiled at her with the warmth and compassion of a true healer of souls. "What I’m trying to say, Norma Jean, is that you are more than just Marilyn’s negatives and neuroses. You’re also the sum total of her positive traits as well. Much of what made her a star, what made her shine, shines on in you. Don’t be in such a rush to discard everything about her. If there was one thing that could be said about Marilyn Monroe, it was that she was misunderstood. Don’t add yourself to the list of people who never knew the real her."
Norma Jean sighed deeply, thinking about her earlier conversation with Saldeed. "I seem to be doing a lot of that lately. Misjudging, that is."
Finnegan Bartok went out for a stroll through the ship’s Botanical Gardens, giving him some time to think and reflect on the evaluations of the past several days. He had been pleased with the outcome of his most recent session with Nurse Baker, not that he expected she would be transformed overnight. Therapy did not work miracles, not even in the instantaneous cybernetic world of holographic beings. Still, he was relieved that Norma Jean seemed to be on the right track. He could relax again and be his normal jovial self, now that his earlier apprehensions about the senior staff’s mental and emotional well being had been proven misguided…and the choir was progressing just fine.
Personal log; Stardate 78870.30. Lieutenant Commander Finnegan Bartok, Ship’s Counselor, USS Enterprise. Supplemental.
"I am especially reassured and pleased to see that our Captain, Harry Kim, is demonstrating the utmost confidence about our mission and the crew’s unity and effectiveness. This is particularly encouraging given the stresses he must balance between being a starship captain and a husband and father. Too many Starfleet captains that I’ve known over the years have felt that sacrificing family is the price one must pay in order to be totally committed to one’s vessel and career. It’s a refreshing change to see one captain who remains equally committed to both, and neglecting neither.
"I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by my interactions with Commander Kalan, who I think has developed a new level of trust with me. While the commander’s methods may run counter to that of our captain, his loyalty and commitment to this mission are without question.
"I think I have been able to make a marked impact in the lives of others for whom I have been very concerned. In particular, I think I’ve established a good rapport with Nurse Norma Jean Baker in helping her to find her unique identity. However, I am now finding myself with an increased interest in discovering more about our mysterious Security Chief, Lieutenant Krell. Somewhere in that enigma of a man are hidden secrets that he is repressing deep pain over.
As for our ever-enigmatic Dr. Saldeed, she remains yet another tough nut to crack. Unlike Nurse Baker, a degree of trust between herself and I has yet to be established, nor do I expect one in the near future. But that doesn’t bother me. The good doctor knows that I am available to listen, and I’m now more confident than ever that time will make for the best treatment of all.
"Finally, as for the well being of the ship’s counselor… Well, I have to admit that I too have had my moments of tension during the past couple of months, not the least of which was my own recent away mission. However, I must say that the dignity, pride and enthusiasm exuded by the crew of the Enterprise has been infectious, and I too look forward to the challenges ahead of us. I think that I’ll do just fine here."
Lieutenant Commander Finnegan Bartok, Ship’s Counselor, signing off.
After a long internal debate, Norma Jean decided to take Counselor Bartok’s advice and do something a little different for a change. So she went to visit the Galleria, something more than a little out of the ordinary for her. There was little there that was normally of interest to her. After all, she didn’t eat, didn’t drink, nor did she wear clothing that wasn’t part of her program. That limited the number of establishments that were of interest to her.
But since today was a day for new challenges, she found herself browsing through one of the open-air markets, looking at antiques. It was then that she glanced across the way at one of the booths. A Bolian woman was selling accessories, most notably scarves and jewelry. There was one scarf, however, that stood out for her, a bright green item, similar to the one that the real Marilyn was known to wear when she went out into the world and didn’t want to be recognized.
Feeling inspired with the need to challenge herself, she walked over the accessory booth and immediately picked up the scarf. Glancing into a display mirror, she draped the scarf around her neck and styled herself.
"Nurse Baker?" Norma Jean heard a familiar voice and glanced up from her primping, to see Katrina Kim standing behind her, while her friends were busy hovering over the jewelry displays.
"Oh, Ms. Kim," Norma Jean said with a smile. "Doing a little shopping?"
"Not really," said Katrina hesitantly, not certain about how to make conversation with the holographic nurse at a place where she never really expected her to be. "Me and the gang, we just like to look at things. Our parents would never let us buy anything. We don’t have access to any trade credits anyway."
"Maybe that’s just as well," Baker laughed nervously. "I hear on some worlds, shopping can become a real addictive habit."
After a long uncomfortable pause, Katrina looked eager to return to her friends, but on an impulse, Norma Jean thought to say something. "Excuse me, Ms. Kim. Can I ask you a question?"
"Well…sure," said Katrina with confusion.
"This scarf," said Baker. "Do you think that it’s…too much?"
Katrina blinked in surprise and considered an answer. A hologram was asking her about fashion advice? It was so…unusual. But then, she figured, what wasn’t on Enterprise?
"Actually…I like it," Katrina beamed. "I think it really works for you."
"You do?" Norma Jean lit up with a broad movie star smile.
"Not with your uniform, though. But if you had a white blouse or something, then yeah, that scarf would really jangle. Do you have one?"
"I…I’m not really that much of a shopper, Ms. Kim," said Norma Jean. "Most of what I know about fashion is, well, maybe four hundred years out of date. I never really bothered to update that information."
"Well, maybe you should," said Katrina. "I’d be happy to help you pick out some real updeck skins."
"That means some new clothes," she laughed. "But only if you call me Katrina. I don’t think my dad would have a problem with that. ‘Ms. Kim’ makes me sound like an old lady or something."
The Romulan girl smiled, feeling much more relaxed around the nurse now. "You know, Miral…Ensign Paris…and me, we get together at the Jamboree every once in a while and talk about…well, you know, clothes and vibes. You can jam with us if you want to."
"I…think I’d like that," Norma Jean said with a pleased smile. A human smile.