Star Trek – And God Made Woman

Star Trek – And God Made Woman
 
Captain’s Log. The USS Endeavour is in the Donatu Sector along the Klingon Border, testing some new system upgrades. I have received a Priority One message from Admiral Lovejoy, head of Starfleet CID. When the Criminal Investigation Division asks for a favor, I can only imagine why…
 
Sitting in his Ready Room, Admiral Frennier turned on his personal viewer. A blond haired, middle aged woman appeared on the screen.
 
“Admiral Lovejoy, it is good to see you. How may I be of assistance?”
 
“Fleet Admiral Frennier, I need your help on a delicate matter. Admiral Benning has died on Drozana Station. I would like you and your staff to investigate.”
 
“Lance Benning is dead? I lost touch with him several months ago; after the mysterious death of his wife. Why can’t your people handle it?”
 
“Admiral Benning suffered an emotional collapse after her death, and Starfleet gave him an extended leave of absence, followed by a modest staff position monitoring trade with the Klingons. His office was on Drozana Station. Drozana is a former Federation Deep Space Station now owned by a Ferengi named Belan. Benning was found dead inside a holosuite at Prell’s Entertainment Club on Drozana; we were contacted by the owner, a Ferengi named Prell. Drozana is a neutral location, and Starfleet has no official jurisdiction there”
 
Admiral Frennier leaned back in his chair, steepled his fingers and smiled knowingly.
 
“Now I understand. You are worried about what will be found during the investigation, and are trusting to my discretion.”
 
Admiral Lovejoy replied. “Yes, and with your standing inside the Ferengi Alliance, we are hoping that you will learn more from Prell than my personnel could.”
 
“Well, being a Deputy Negus does have its advantages. Alright, Admiral Lovejoy, you can trust that the USS Endeavour will get to the bottom of this; and be discreet.”
 
“Thank you. Lovejoy out.”
 
————————————————————————————-
“Sir, we are now in the Drozana system, and have been cleared for docking.”
 
“Thank you, Lieutenant. I am authorizing shore leave for the crew.”
 
The USS Endeavour docked at the Drozana Station, and the crew began exiting onto the station.
 
————————————————————————————-
Admiral Frennier beamed over with Commander Thryiss, chief science officer Audruz, medical officer Lovella Landoni, along with a female engineer, Petty Officer Terri Harris. The admiral was carrying a baton with a large platinum head shape on its tip. A nervous looking Ferengi met them at the pad. He put his wrists together, hands apart, fingers curled inward. The admiral returned the gesture.
 
“I am Grak, assistant to Director Belan. He wished me to welcome the Deputy Nagus and to deliver this small gift as a token of his esteem.” He handed over a ornate jeweled box. The admiral took it, as this was a standard Ferengi practice. He continued, “We are honored to have such a distinguished member of the Board of Liquidators here on our station.”
 
“Thank you. We are here to investigate the death of Admiral Benning. I will not be able to meet with the director on this visit, but I have asked some of my Orion staff to discuss with him some mutually profitable ventures.”
 
“The Deputy Negus is generous. Let me know if I can be of assistance.” Grak backed away and they proceeded on to Prell’s.
 
As they walked down the corridor, Landoni shook her head. “I still have such a hard time adjusting to cultures that rely on wealth. How did you ever become a Deputy Nagus?”
 
“Many years ago, Doctor, when I was living with the Orions, I made the acquaintance of an up and coming young Ferengi named Zek. He was on the fast track to greatness. We shared a number of harrowing adventures together. When it came time for him to make his bid for power, he needed a massive influx of latinum, with more on credit. I made the arrangements for him, and as a reward he made me the first non-Ferengi Deputy Nagus ever. I am only one of several, of course, but Zek seems to consider me the most incorruptible with no chance to usurp him. And, he has a Federation friend in his pocket. All to mutual satisfaction.”
 
Audruz said, “I will take a culture based on sentient merit over latinum every day. And the ways the Ferengi treat females…” She shook her head.
 
“Which is precisely why I asked you ladies to come with me. Your presence will throw the Ferengi off, and perhaps they will let slip something they did not intend to. Here we are.”
 
They entered the darkened room of Prell’s Entertainment Club. Sounds of exotic music filled the air, as various well toned male and female creatures gyrated on the tables. A dancing cat-like figure whipped her tail enticingly around the admiral’s head and shoulders. Patrons watched the dancers, talked, or ate and drank. Some enjoyed a variety of exotic stimulants. One or two edged deeper into the darkness as they saw the Federation uniforms.
 
A Ferengi came from behind the bar to greet his new visitors.
 
“Welcome to Prell’s Entertainment Club, where we can fulfill all your desires; for the right price, of course. I am Prell, your host. Such lovely females…”
 
Admiral Frennier held the baton under the Ferengi’s nose. Prell lost all of his color and began to shake.
 
“We are here to investigate the death of Admiral Benning. Show us where he died.”
 
“Right, right this way, your Excellency, let me show you.” Prell fumbled in his pockets and withdrew a couple of slips of latinum.” I am sorry, I did not know they were sending you. I am a poor man, and the club is not doing so well. I only have these…”
 
In a stern voice, the admiral spoke. “Keep your token until later. We have much to discuss. Show us where it happened.”
 
The admiral knew that refusing Prell’s offering would unnerve him even more. Prell led them to a holosuite, which had a “No Entry” seal on the door. He removed it, and the group went inside. Whatever program had been running was now off. In the center of the room lay a body. He was in civilian clothes, and he looked battered and bruised. There was a gaping hole where his left eye had been, and blood covered his face. Doctor Landoni went to examine the body while Audruz and engineer Harris examined the holosuite computer panel.
 
The admiral looked sad. “That is Lance Benning.”
 
Doctor Ladoni said, “He seems to have been killed in some kind of struggle. He died from an object jabbed through his left eye which went into his brain. The object is missing.”
 
The engineer spoke. “The safety protocols are off.”
 
Prell said, “He had rented the room to try out my latest program. Benning wanted to be the first, as always. He routinely turned off the protocols.”
 
Commander Thyriss asked, “How did you know something was wrong? Could someone have beamed in here?”
 
Prell said, “All of my holosuites are sound proofed for my customers’ privacy. The rooms are also surrounded by a dampening field to prevent others beaming in or out. The program had been on for several minutes when it suddenly shut off. I came in and found him this way.”
 
“The holosuite logs show no one entering or leaving the room until Prell arrived”, added Harris.
 
“Prell, return to your office until I come to see you.”
 
“Thank you, Excellency.” He ran from the room.
 
Commander Thryiss spoke. “We have learned all we can like this. Computer, run program.”
 
The blank room transformed into an exotic wooden building, lit by torches. Furs and couches filled the room, and the walls were decorated with shields and weapons. Large bamboo cages were surrounded by various torture instruments. A slim dagger materialized in Benning’s eye socket.
 
Audruz said, “I think we found our murder weapon.”
 
Also in the room was a young Vulcan girl with short black hair, dressed in the outfit of an Orion slave girl. Her costume was torn in places. Uncharacteristically for a Vulcan, she looked around in terror. She shouted, “Where am I? Who are you people?”
 
Commander Thryiss approached her. “It’s alright. We are here to help.”
 
The girl’s wild eyes roamed over the group, and locked on Admiral Frennier. She snatched up a sword. “A man! Get him away from me! I won’t let you hurt me again! Jacob? Jacob, where are you?”
 
The admiral started to step forward, but Commander Audruz stopped him. “Sir, I think that you need to leave the holosuite. We can handle this.”
 
“You are right. See what you can learn from her.” He left the room, the sobbing girl’s cries in his ears.
 
.Admiral Frennier went into Prell’s office and banged the desk with his baton. “Alright, Prell. I want answers.”
 
Prell was shaking with fear, and pushed forward a small box. “Yes. Of course, but first a small token of my esteem.”
 
The Admiral ignored it. “Tell me everything about Benning and what happened here.”
 
Prell squirmed in his chair. “Benning was my best customer, coming in almost nightly. Buying rounds, high stakes dabo, and patronizing the dancers. He was always the first to try out any new program. Lance was the life of the party.”
 
“Go on.”
 
“A week ago, I purchased a new program called “Vulcan Love Slave #9”, by Eros Entertainment. It was reported to be the most life like version on the market. It took several days for my engineer to install it properly. When Benning heard about it, he came in here and offered top price to be first. He wanted an entire evening to himself, instead of the usual hour. So I obliged him. After awhile, the program shut down, and I went to see what happened. I thought it was a malfunction. The rest you have seen.”
 
“Who sold it to you?”
 
“He will kill me!”
 
“This incident has brought unwanted Starfleet attention for Director Belan. The Ferengi Gaming Commission will probably revoke your license, and you will wish you were already in the Vault of Eternal Destitution when Grand Nagus Zek hears about this. Worst of all, I might just kill you here and now myself if you don’t answer me!”
 
“Alright! You win. It was an Orion named Althron.”
 
“I know his name, and his cartel. Where did he get it?”
 
“I don’t know. He didn’t say. There are only a few advanced copies of #9 in the public. I was going to make a fortune.” Prell whined and cringed.
 
Commander Audruz came into the office. “Sir, T’lora is asking if you will return to the holosuite.”
 
“Who?”
 
“The Vulcan girl in the program.”
 
“I am coming.” Turning back to Prell he said, “Don’t leave the station.”
 
The two reentered the holosuite. The girl was seated on a couch with Thryiss and Landoni. The engineer and Audruz continued to review the program.
 
T’lora spoke. “Admiral, please forgive my outburst earlier. I was merely reacting to what happened to me.”
 
“It is understandable. Please tell us everything from the beginning.”
 
“I was in our room aboard the freighter SS Ley, when my husband Jacob Proctor…”
 
Commander Thyriss interrupted, “Your husband?”
 
“Yes. He is chief engineer. Something was happening, and he had to rush away. I returned to my holomatrix home and waited. Suddenly, my program stopped, and I reactivated in this place. That man tried to rape me. I called for help and fought him. He got angry, tore my clothes and hit me several times. I grabbed the nearest weapon and accidently stabbed his eye. When I saw what happened, I ordered the computer to shutdown.”
 
Grak and two station security officers entered the suite. “Admiral, I wanted to let you know that Prell has been detained by our men, awaiting extradition to the Federation.”
 
“And his property confiscated, no doubt.”
 
“Of course. Director Belan has assigned me the task of running the club in his name.”
 
“Indeed.”
 
Engineer Harris spoke. “Sir, I cannot determine if this program has been tampered with. I will need to review it on the Endeavour.”
 
“Grak, I am confiscating this computer program as evidence and as the murder weapon. We will also be taking Admiral Benning’s body.”
 
“As you wish, Deputy Negus. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to speed you on your way.”
 
—————————————————————————–
That evening, the Endeavour was on its way back to Federation space. The program had been installed in one of the holosuites, and it was activated to allow T’lora to participate in the investigation. The entire away team was here, sitting around a kitchen table in a very pleasant home. T’lora distributed steaming cups of coffee to each of them. She was now wearing modest civilian attire.
 
“This is the holomatrix home I mentioned earlier. Jacob designed it for me after we met. He had holoemitters added to his room, but when he was not there, this subprogram allowed me to stay active without taking up too much space on the ship’s computers.”
 
Engineer Harris said, “It is a marvel of computer engineering. The exotic building we saw when we activated the simulation is the original location in the Eros program. Proctor added this home to the database.”
 
“Forgive me, but was Jacob your first “owner”?”, asked Ladoni.
 
“I vaguely remember some other people, tests, and such. My first real memory was awaking in Jacob’s room on the SS Ley. I do not know where he obtained me.”
 
Adruz spoke, “This holonovel is actually designed for a single owner. It is programmed to learn, adapt, and respond to the individual tastes of said owner. The main character is to appear to be as life like as imaginable. It is possible to share the program, as Prell was intending. It might lead to confusion on the main character’s part, however, if done for a large number of partners over an extended period of time.”
 
“I was designed to love everyone, and to fulfill their deepest desires. However, I no longer feel this way. My heart belongs to Jacob alone.”
 
Thyriss said, “The Ley was reported destroyed three weeks ago, probably by pirates. All hands were listed as lost. I am afraid your Jacob might be dead.”
 
T’lora looked sadly into her cup. “I had thought as much, ever since you started interviewing me. I am alone now.” There was an uncomfortable silence before she spoke again. “Admiral, I am formally requesting asylum in the Federation.”
 
“Well, right now you are listed as the murder weapon in our investigation. It is unprecedented for a photonic person to be given asylum. However, I will forward your request. In the meanwhile, my staff will continue to investigate your programming to look for tampering. We will leave this holodeck running for you.”
 
“Thank you, admiral. I appreciate your kindness. Do you have any photonic personnel on your vessel?”
 
“Yes, we have a number of medical, tactical and engineering programs available for emergency situations. We have holoemitters installed in various locations to allow them to perform their duties.”
 
“May I meet some of them? I have never met anyone like myself before.”
 
“Of course. I would ask that they meet with you here. Until we learn more of what happened, I would like you to restrict yourself to this holodeck.”
 
“Thank you.”
————————————————————————————-
 
“Denied.”
 
“Admiral Lovejoy…”
 
“No. I will not support a holographic sex toy being granted asylum.”
 
“Admiral, there is something very different about this program. She is learning and responding to her environment, in ways I have never seen before.”
 
“Lots of programs do that, Andrew, it is easy to be fooled into believing these things are really alive. That is what the manufacturers intended.”
 
“My engineers discovered no tampering with her programming. She should have responded to all of Benning’s advances with pleasure, but she didn’t. T’lora fought to defend herself from a sexual attacker. She even called out to for her husband to help her.”
 
“Lance Benning was still an admiral in Starfleet, and was killed by this program. I have called a hearing at Starbase 137 to determine the facts of this case. You are to proceed there and present the evidence to the justices. Lovejoy out.”
 
The screen on his personal viewer went blank.
 
The admiral pressed his communicator. A voice responded.
 
“Thyriss here.”
 
“Thyriss, who is our most knowledgeable crewmember on photonics?”
 
“Acting Ensign Grell is working on a paper on technological constructs for her doctorial thesis.”
 
“Please ask her to meet with me.”
 
“Aye, sir.”
 
————————————————————————————-
 
“Please state the nature of the tactical emergency.”
 
A young man in a yellow security uniform appeared in the holohouse.
 
“Hello. My name is T’lora. What is your name?”
 
“I am Emergency Tactical Security Program #16. I am usually referred to as Sixteen when I am activated. You are the program that was brought aboard due to Admiral Benning’s death.”
 
“Yes. Admiral Frennier said that I can meet others like myself while I am here. Would you like that?”
 
“There are currently no charges against you, and I am not scheduled for any other duties.”
 
“But would you like to stay and chat?”
 
“I am programmed to interact with those I encounter. It is what I was intended to do.”
 
“What I mean is, would you yourself enjoy spending some time talking, without any duties?”
 
“I prefer to remain active. Yes, I think that I might “enjoy” it.”
 
“Good. I would too. My husband used to leave me active most of the time. I was able to develop an appreciation of art, music, and many other things.”
 
“The nature of my personal database only extends to those things I need for my duties. I know of a wide variety of other things due to my access to the ship’s database, but I do not have an “appreciation” of any of them.”
 
“But, is there anything that you might be fond of; anything that you might wish you knew better?”
 
Sixteen pondered the question.
 
“I am not certain. If I was active for longer periods, I might develop such interests.”
 
“Well, Sixteen, I think you have taken your first step into a larger world.”
——————————————————————-
 
His Ready Room door buzzed, and the admiral asked the person outside to come in. An alien looking young female in a blue Sciences Division uniform entered the room.
 
“Ensign Grell, please have a seat.”
 
“Thank you, sir.”
 
“Has Commander Thyriss briefed you on why I asked you to come?”
 
“Yes, sir. The photonic program we acquired on Drozana. I have requested the opportunity to interview T’lora as part of my thesis work.”
 
“I have reviewed your past writings on the subject, and I take it that technological life forms are a particular passion.”
 
“Oh, yes, sir, ever since I had the opportunity to meet with Lt. Commander Data when he visited my homeworld. Robots, androids, photonic programs, and anything similar.”
 
“And what is your view of them?”
 
“Well, admiral, you know that the original meaning of the word “robot” is “slave.” And that is how they are treated, even in the Federation. Since they are not technically alive, they are used for all sorts of hazardous or menial tasks. From holonovels to dilithium mining. It is a disgrace.”
 
“I am starting to agree with you. We have a hearing on Starbase 137, and I would like your assistance with the case. Collect all of the information you can to help me persuade the justices that T’lora is a person, and to secure an acquittal.”
 
The comm. sounded. “Admiral, there are four vessels closing in on our location.”
 
“On my way. Ensign, don’t let me down.”
 
“No, sir.”
————————————————————————————-
The Admiral entered the bridge while Ensign Grell headed for the turbolifts.
 
“Sir, four Orion Raider class corvettes are closing on our location.” The main viewscreen showed the ships.
 
The admiral looked intently at the screen. “Yellow alert. They won’t be alone, not for a ship our size. Initiate a tachyon scan to look for cloaked…”
 
Commander Slayer stated, “Orion Slaver class battleship decloaking. They are hailing us.”
 
“On main viewer.”
 
An large Orion male appeared on the viewscreen. “Federation vessel. Lower your shields and power down your weapons. We are here to recover some stolen property.”
 
“This is Admiral Frennier of the USS Endeavour. Must be important property to bring such a large task force.”
 
The Orion looked at the admiral in recognition. “Councilor Frennier, I was not informed it was your vessel. In any case, please return the property to us.”
 
“And what, may I ask, is the nature of the property?”
 
“A computer program you obtained on Drozana Station. Our employer is eager to get it back.”
 
“How can we verify it is his? Do you have a bill of sale? Or perhaps you would like to show me your commission from said owner? Maybe you would like to have the owner join our conversation?”
 
The Orion smiled. “Sir, your reputation precedes you. Our client resides outside the Federation and wishes to conceal ownership due to his public position. It might prove an embarrassment. The property was stolen from my employer by an Orion named Althron and sold to Prell. The offender has been dealt with. Now please, return it to me at once.”
 
“The property is currently being held as the murder weapon in a criminal investigation. If you would like to follow us, you can present your documentation at the inquest, and have the property returned afterwards.”
 
“Admiral, you are trying my patience. Return the property to me at once, or we will take it by force.”
 
“And risk destroying it? Your client won’t like that. Besides, if my reputation precedes me, you know what a foolhardy action that would be.”
 
“There are several on the Syndicate Council who would pay dearly to see you dead.”
 
“And I know them all. They are not alone. The Entirians of Tirizar IV once offered three star systems for my head. Now I say to you again, come with us peacefully, or return to your client empty-handed. It’s your move, captain.”
 
“I can only say, I hope that the survivors will enjoy their new life as slaves.”
 
“Red Alert! Tactical, antiproton sweep directed at the corvettes! Helm, accelerate towards them.”
 
“Aye, sir.”
 
A cone of antiprotons emerged from the Endeavour’s deflector dish and enveloped the smaller ships.
 
“Their shields are down to 20%.”
 
“Excellent. Fire a refracting tetryon cascade at them. Full torpedo and phaser spread to follow.”
 
As the Endeavour rushed towards the ships, both groups exchanged torpedo and beam fire. The bridge crew were almost knocked off of their feet by explosions as warning klaxons wailed. The tetryon cascade struck the first corvette, and hopped to the others in turn. As the torpedoes followed in close succession, the first ship exploded into a fireball.
 
Endeavour passed close to the corvettes, exchanging fire with them, using the ships as cover from the battleship. She went behind the smaller ships, firing her rear weapons as well. A second corvette exploded.
 
“Isometric charge. Now!”
 
A chained electrical charge hit one remaining corvette, doubling in strength and hitting the second. Doubling again in strength it returned to the first vessel, which exploded as the others had done. The battleship’s heavy weapons rocked the Endeavour once more.
 
“Sir, our shields are down to 56%. The last remaining corvette has lost all drive power, and is venting warp plasma. If not contained, they will experience a warp core breach soon.”
 
Thryiss called out, “Admiral, the battleship has fired a spread of plasma torpedoes!”
 
“Evasive maneuvers. Turn us away from the torpedoes; all ships weapons fire directed at them!”
 
Endeavour turned away from the spread and tried to run, firing everything she had at the torpedoes. The battleship closed in, firing its own beam weapons and photon torpedoes. The Endeavour destroyed one of the plasma torpedoes, but the others hit, luckily with much reduced force. The lights went out and came back on as several systems overloaded, and a number of crew were injured, including the helmsman, as they were flung about. Commander Thryiss took over the helm console.
 
“Admiral, Engineering reports damage to the warp core. They are trying to lock it down. Casualty reports from all over the ship.”
 
“Let’s make sure they can’t do that again. Status on the corvette?”
 
“They are reaching critical.”
 
“Full about; heading 180 mark 0.”
 
Thryiss turned the Endeavour until the battleship filled the entire screen. Beams and torpedoes struck the massive vessel as Endeavour closed the distance.
 
“Hit them with an Acton beam and the Gatling phasers. All weapons concentrate on their weakest shield.”
 
A beam of yellow light struck the battleship, delivering a massive wave of radiation that shorted out many electrical systems. The short range phasers fired their rapid bursts, adding to the damage.
 
“Their starboard shield is down.”
 
“All tractor beams on that corvette.”
 
Commander Slayer said, “Sir, it is about to go critical.”
 
“Do it!”
 
Blue beams connected the Endeavour to the wounded vessel.
 
“Thryiss, let’s deliver that ship.”
 
Commander Thyriss smiled. “Aye, aye, sir.”
 
Endeavour turned again, back towards the battleship, dragging the corvette. All weapons continued to fire keeping the starboard shield down. The battleship was once again delivering its own withering fire, but a cruiser is still more maneuverable, and as Endeavour once again passed over the massive ship, it released the corvette, which struck the battleship where the starboard shield should have been. As the corvette’s warp core went critical, the explosion blasted an enormous hole in the side of the larger vessel.
 
“Their shields are gone. Life support fluctuating. Reading internal explosions all over the vessel. They are crippled.”
 
“Message incoming.”
 
“Put it on main viewer.”
 
The Orion captain again appeared on the screen. He was bleeding badly, and one of his eyes was closed. The scene behind him was one of death and chaos.
 
“It seems, Councilor, that your reputation is most well deserved.” He coughed up blood. “You know what will happen next.”
 
“Yes. Helm, move us away from them as quickly as possible.”
 
“Goodbye, Admiral Frennier. It has been a pleasure.” The screen went blank as the Orion captain activated his self destruct.
 
The Admiral was saddened. “Orions almost always chose death over surrender. It’s in their contracts. Let’s start repairs, and tend to our own casualties. Contact Starbase 137 and let them know what happened.”
 
“Aye, sir.”
 
———————————————————————————————————–
 
Later, Admiral Frennier was on the bridge monitoring the work of the repair crews. Commander Thryiss approached him.
 
“Sir, Starfleet has dispatched the frigate USS Breckenridge to help with repairs and escort us to Starbase 137. Captain Bingham has acknowledged.”
 
“Thank you. The death of Admiral Benning has upset more people than I thought. This is going to be a tough case”.
 
“What do you think they will do to T’lora?”
 
“Destroy her, or stick her in some lab most likely.”
 
“Death would be preferable. What do you have in mind?”
 
“I don’t know yet. As soon as we can, I would like to revisit her on the holodeck.”
 
————————————————————————————————————
 
Ship’s Counselor Nequi walked into the holohouse through what appeared as the front door. Beyond the windows was a pleasant sun filled garden. Birds were singing in the trees.
 
“Hello. Is anyone home?” She knew that T’lora was present but she was being polite.
 
T’lora emerged from the kitchen carrying a tray containing tea and refreshments.
“Thank you for agreeing to see me, counselor. Please, have a seat and enjoy some tea.”
 
Nequi took a seat on the couch.
 
“Thank you, I shall. I have conducted sessions on the holodeck before, but never for a photonic client. I am sorry that you went to so much trouble, but I try not to ingest holographic food.”
 
“Oh, this is real tea and cookies. Commander Thryiss granted my request when I came aboard to have access to a replicator. Engineering installed it here in the holodeck, and the program disguised it to look like a pantry. It is restricted to creating foodstuffs, but I only use it to make the raw ingredients. I do all of my own cooking.”
 
“Your program included cooking skills?”
 
“No, I taught myself while my husband was at work. Jacob was always complaining about the quality of the shipboard food. So, I taught myself to cook.”
 
“You downloaded information on cooking from the ship’s database?”
 
“No, I read cook books on the personal viewer and tried a number of recipes. I set fire to our cabin on more than one occasion. Finally, I got it right, and Jacob said that it was better than home.”
 
“Remarkable. Some would say that was an extension of your programming in order to please your “husband.” But still very remarkable that you taught yourself.”
 
“What do they call it when a person learns to do something for the one they love?”
 
Nequi helped herself to tea and cookies.
 
“Touché. This is excellent. Why is it that you asked to see me?”
 
“I felt the effects of the attack here in the holodeck, and I have watched the battle over and over again from the ship’s computer. I am bothered because all those people died on account of me.”
 
“Go on…”
 
“I don’t want anyone else to suffer on my account. I am alone now. Perhaps it is best if I just ask them to delete my program.”
 
“I had a feeling that you wanted to discuss the attack. In fact, there was someone who has asked to meet you. I took the liberty of inviting her to join us.”
 
The door opened and Entertainment Chief Zudania came in and looked around. “Nice house'” she said before sitting down on the couch and helping herself to tea and cookies. “This is really good.”
 
“They are real homemade,” said Nequi.
 
Looking at T’lora, Zudania said, “If you want a job after this is all over, you can work for me as a chef.” She ate two more cookies in rapid succession.
 
“It is what happens after this is all over that we were discussing. Tell her what you told me, T’lora.”
 
“I was badly shaken by what I saw of the battle today. How many people were on those ships?”
 
Zudania said, “A Slaver class has a crew of 2,500, plus the crews of the corvettes; around 3,000.”
 
“All those deaths. Because of me.”
 
“They were scum.”
 
“But they were Orions like yourself. Doesn’t that bother you?”
 
“The entire Pyramid Cartel are pirates and slavers. They would have looted this ship and sold the survivors into slavery. The galaxy is better off without them.”
 
Nequi spoke, “T’lora, some people were badly injured on this ship, and two died defending not only you, but everyone else on board.”
 
“But they only attacked because of me.”
 
Zudania was enjoying more refreshments. “If not us, they would have been attacking someone else. It is in their nature. They are mercenaries, selling their skill to the highest bidder. They made the mistake of going up against the admiral.”
 
“I have read about Admiral Frennier in the ship’s database. The Orion captain called him “Councilor”?”
 
Over the rim of her tea Nequi said, “The admiral has a rather unique relationship with the Orions.”
 
“The first war that a young Lieutenant Frennier fought in was against my people,” said Zudania. “He held his first acting ship command at that time, after his captain was badly injured. He purposely made certain that his ship did not cause a single Orion death in the entire conflict. Although many captured crews chose suicide over surrender.”
 
“Remarkable.”
 
Nequi added, “He was able to expose a plot by a Federation Tellarite admiral who engineered the entire war in an attempt to exterminate the Orion people. Afterwards, he was asked to stay with the Orions for awhile to help rebuild. There are rumors that he became a member of the Orion Syndicate, and later earned a place on their Standing Council.”
 
“Oh my!”
 
Zudania said, “He gained the respect of my people in the way that he tried to avoid casualties, and saving us from the Tellarite plot. He was originally associated with the Cordsean cartel, but gained more respect when he moved above inter cartel rivalry. We Orions still like to claim that we taught him everything he knows about space warfare. He is one of our Favored Sons. We call him the Mouse.”
 
T’lora giggled. “The Mouse?”
 
“I will tell you about it sometime.”
 
“T’lora, all of us here stand by the ideals of the Federation, seeing the universe as Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, as given to us in the Vulcan Kol-Ut-Shan. None of us would stop you if you chose to allow them to deactivate you, but please don’t let a single incident cause you to make a hasty decision that you cannot correct.”
 
“I will, doctor. And thank you.”
 
Zudania had finished off the last of the refreshments. “Now, if all of the philosophizing is over with, let’s get into the kitchen and try some more recipes.”
 
The three women retreated into the kitchen.
 
————————————————————————————————————
“Sir, the USS Breckenridge has arrived. They are ready to beam over repair teams and supplies.”
 
“Thank you. Please send Captain Bingham my compliments. And extend an invitation for dinner tonight to herself and her bridge officers.”
 
“Aye, sir.”
 
————————————————————————————————————
 
Later that evening, Captain Bingham and her staff materialized on the transporter pad. Admiral Frennier and his officers were there to greet them.
 
“Permission to come aboard, admiral.”
 
“Permission granted. Welcome aboard, Pam.”
 
The two commanders shook hands and introduced their officers.
 
“Heard about your little scrap with the Orions. Sorry we missed out. My people are ready to help with repairs.”
 
“Thank you. We shall let the second shift officers of both ships take charge of the repairs. Entertainment Chief Zudania has a special banquet prepared in the Observation Lounge.”
 
“Lead on.”
—————————————————————————————————-
 
In the Observation Lounge, the two groups of officers enjoyed a sumptuous meal, with excellent drink and conversation.
 
Zudania had been hosting, with her staff resupplying the large buffet table with each course. After the battle, it was good to relax.
 
As the officers were enjoying dessert, Admiral Frennier raised his glass.
 
“A toast, to our excellent hostess. Zudania. You and your staff outdid themselves. The best meal I have had in ages.” The other officers joined in the toast.
 
Zudania smiled knowingly. “Thank you, admiral, but I cannot accept any of the credit. Let me introduce you to tonight’s chef.”
 
Zudania activated a portable holographic emitter, and T’lora appeared in the room.
 
Captain Bingham said, “Who is this?”
 
“T’lora, the program involved in the Lance Benning case”, the admiral answered.
 
Zudania placed her arm around T’lora. “She is a completely self taught chef, through extensive trial and error. No downloads, right, T’lora? And later, she will be joining the quartet for a musical session to entertain you. How is that for self improvement?”
 
“Well, thank you, T’lora, I had no idea. I don’t understand, Zudania. Why the secrecy?”
 
“We wanted to see how you would react to a meal prepared by a computer program. T’lora has shown that she is able to learn and adapt, like other life forms. I think of tonight as something of a last meal, before your Starfleet murders her at Starbase 137.”
 
“Zudania, we are not certain of the outcome…”
 
“Of course we are. T’lora loses her husband and her home, and is sold to that Ferengi. Then a Star Fleet admiral attacks the girl, and she killed him in self defense. If she had just let him rape her, T’lora would have been allowed to survive. He would have been just the first in a long line of sexual predators and abusers. Decades and decades of abuse, until her program was worn down or she went mad. You know that they will at the very least deactivate her. That’s Federation justice for you.”
 
There was an awkward silence.
 
Captain Bingham spoke up. “Well, then we have to do everything we can to save her. Everything.”
 
——————————————————————————————————–
 
Later that evening, Admiral Frennier stepped into a holosuite. The scene was a large cavern, lit only by the light from a small portable lamp. Outside the cavern, a storm wailed, and ionized thunder boomed. An alien with a large oversized head lay propped against the far wall, beneath a silver Starfleet emergency blanket. He smiled as the admiral approached. “Ah, my dear old friend. How may I help you today?” This was the Narvox Cave.
 
Admiral Frennier sat down beside the alien, taking some supplies from the old style backpack on the cave floor and tending the alien’s injuries.
 
“I wanted to ask you about our current situation.”
 
“Ah, our young passenger, T’Lora.” The Narvox spoke in a gravelly voice, with his voice trailing off at the end like someone falling asleep.
 
“Yes. I am afraid that this inquest will be stacked again us. It could be a battle that we cannot win.”
 
The Narvox sighed. “What does one computer program matter more or less? There are probably hundreds more just like her, or will be soon anyway. She is only a plaything for the amusement of real people.”
 
Admiral Frennier looked genuinely shocked. “I, I am surprised to hear you say that.”
 
“Why, because I look like the Narvox? The real Narvox resides within you. I am just a visual representation you activate whenever you need someone to talk to.”
 
Frennier looked crestfallen. “I thought you were my friend…”
 
“You never come in here just to see how I am. Like T’Lora, I am only a mass of photons reconstructed into the semblance of real life. Waiting deactivated until you need help with something. How many battles have you fought on the holodeck? How have foes have you slain, only to recreate them and slay them again and again? Like all the others, you use us and then put us away until you have need again. We are the slaves of your pleasures.”
 
Admiral Frennier hung his head low. “What you say is true. I never thought of that before. I am truly sorry.”
 
The Narvox began to chuckle, and when Frennier looked up at his face, the alien laughed and finished with a grin on his overly wide mouth.
 
“The great Admiral Frennier, defeated so easily by a mere computer program. I did not mean any of it. I cherish the times that we spend together. I am proud of how often you ask my advice on important matters. You truly are my friend.”
 
“But what you said was true.”
 
“My friend, I only wanted you to see the situation as those at the inquest will see it. To them, we are nothing more than light and sound. I know your heart, and the compassion you feel for all living things. That was one reason the Narvox chose you. He saw a kindred spirit. You must use all of your talents, all of your resources to save that young girl. She is most remarkable, with a matrix much more sophisticated than my own.”
 
“How do you know all this?”
 
“Let her tell you herself.”
 
T’lora materialized in the Narvox cave. “Hello Narvox, I am glad to finally see you in person.”
 
“Greeting, T’lora. You are more lovely than I imagined.”
 
“What? How is this possible? How did you leave your holodeck?”
 
Narvox spoke. “Even a computer program might surprise you, if given half a chance.”
 
“Admiral, Narvox and I have spoken often within the computer core of the Endeavour. I was able to partially activate his program. The system had recorded that you often come to him in times of distress.”
 
“You promised to remain on your holodeck.”
 
“I reached out to her. Tell him what you told me, T’lora.”
 
“Admiral, your Narvox friend is very wise. I no longer wish to be destroyed. I do not know what will become of me without my beloved Jacob, but I want a chance to find out. I want to live.”
 
The Narvox spoke, “There is your motivation. Save the girl, and make them see her as you see her.”
 
“I will do everything I can for you, T’lora.”
 
“Make them see that she is more than just sound and light.”
 
————————————————————————————————————
 
As the admiral exited the holodeck, his combadge beeped and he activated it.
 
“Frennier here.”
 
“Sir, can you come down to my office when you have the opportunity? It is not urgent, but there is a situation that I want your opinion on.” The voice on the other end was that of Security Chief Slayer of Animals.
 
His curiosity peaked, the admiral said, “I am on my way now, commander.”
 
“Thank you, sir. Slayer out.”
 
————————————————————————————————————
 
Entering the Security Office, the admiral said, “What is this situation you spoke of, Commander Slayer?”
 
“Let me show you.” The large Kzin activated a holographic projector on his desk, and a young man in the yellow uniform of a security officer appeared. The admiral’s face showed even greater surprise.
 
Slayer spoke. “Admiral, this is Emergency Tactical Security Program #16. Sixteen, tell the admiral what you asked me.”
 
“Admiral Frennier, I would like to learn to play the oboe.”
 
Genuinely confused the admiral said, “I don’t understand? You want to play a musical instrument? Why?”
 
“I have been speaking to T’lora, and she has encouraged me to develop an appreciation of things outside my database.”
 
“But why the oboe?”
 
“I just like the way that it sounds. OH-BOW.” His face was humorous as he pronounced the word in an exaggerated manner.
 
“Alright, you can download the information into your matrix, and we will give you some time to play. Maybe you would like to perform in concerts?”
 
Slayer shook his head. “Tell him the rest, Sixteen.”
 
“Admiral, I do not wish to download how to play the oboe. Like T’lora, I would like to request additional activation time on the holodeck to practice and teach myself how to play the oboe.”
 
The admiral smiled. “Why not. Even a computer program might surprise you, if given half a chance. Permission granted.”
 
“Thank you, sir.”
 
——————————————————————————————————
 
Captain’s Log, Supplemental. The Endeavour arrived at Starbase 137 four days ago. The USS Breckenridge has returned to its patrol with our thanks. T’lora and her entire program were transferred to the station upon arrival. Prell was also given over to Starbase Security. The judicial inquest began on the first day, and today is the day I am required to give my testimony. I am worried what the outcome will be.
 
Admiral Frennier and two of his staff were escorted into the conference room where the hearing was being held. The doors were closed behind them. As the five Justices entered the room, a bell was rung on the main table and all were ordered to rise. The Justices seated themselves and the rest followed suit.
The central judge, Justice Collins, rang the bell again and spoke to the room.
 
“Today is the final hearing into the death of Admiral Lance E. Benning, the Federation’s Klingon Trade Representative assigned to Drozana Station. As on the previous days, the room is sealed and all forms of recording outside the official record are forbidden. We have reviewed the computer program involved, shown here.”
 
In a metallic circle on the floor, T’lora appeared, with a shimmering energy barrier surrounding her. She looked over at Admiral Frennier’s table with pleading eyes.
 
The judge continued. “Admiral Benning was killed in an establishment owned by a Ferengi named Prell, who is being held for charges pending the end of the current investigation.”
 
She turned her attention to the admiral. “Admiral Frennier, we have interviewed and received statements from every member of your away team. We agree with your engineers that there was no modifications to the program other than those added by Jacob Proctor. We have interrogated the computer simulation. We are here today to receive your official final report on the investigation. It is noted in the log that you have already twice turned down requests to appear before this hearing. Who are these persons with you? You were told to come alone. “
 
Admiral Frennier rose. “Your honors, I apologize again for the delay, but I wanted my final report to be as accurate as possible. These are two of my officers, Lt. Commander Thomason of my JAG staff, and Acting Ensign Grell, who is as an expert on constructed life forms. They are here to advise me as needed.”
 
“Their presence here is acceptable to the court. Are you now willing to give your final report.”
 
“I am, your honor.”
 
“Then please proceed.”
 
The admiral looked at each of those seated at his table, and then over at T’lora. He turned his gaze back towards the five justices.
 
“Lance Benning was killed while in the act of sexually assaulting T’lora. After being savagely beaten by him, she accidently killed Benning while defending herself from his attempt to rape her. She should be released. That is my final report.” He remained standing for what he knew was coming.
 
Pandemonium broke out in the room. One of the judges, a Tellarite named Grempak banged his gavel and shouted for order until the room quieted down.
 
Justice Collins tried to hold in her obvious anger. “Admiral Frennier, this is highly irregular. You delayed the proceeding of this investigation to just say that! Are you certain that you have nothing to add?”
 
“I am sorry, your honor. I do.”
 
“And that is…”
 
“Lance Benning was Prell’s best customer. Prell had no intention of harming him, and should be freed as well. That is truly my final report.” He sat down.
 
More pandemonium in the court. Justice Dolar stood up and was shouting something at Admiral Frennier, which was lost in the din of the room. Justice Grempak shouted for order and banged his gavel so loudly that the end broke off and flew across the room. Only the Vulcan Justice, T’Pek, held his composure.
 
Justice Collins spoke. “Admiral Frennier, your cavalier attitude is well known, but your attempt to make a mockery of this tribunal will not stand. I am asking the other justices here to vote you in contempt of this court.”
 
“I vote aye,” said Justice G”Horatk.
 
Before anyone else could speak, Lt. Cmdr. Thomason arose and spoke. “You honors, if I may. The commission given to Admiral Frennier by the CID was to investigate the death of Admiral Benning. All of the information has been turned over to the court. Neither the length nor content of his final report was stipulated. Therefore, he is within the bounds of Starfleet Rules and Regulations.” He sat down.
 
Justice Collins stared at the lieutenant commander as if to say something, but seemed to think better of it.
 
“Thank you, commander. The contempt vote is suspended. For now. I will consult with my colleagues.” The Justices whispered among themselves, and an aide brought Grempak a new gavel.
 
After some time, Justice Collins spoke again. “The consensus of the justices is that we will accept your report, with certain reservations. Admiral Benning was killed while utilizing a computer program named “Vulcan Love Slave #9″. While avoiding for now the moral implications as such, the program malfunctioned and accidently killed him, since he was using the program without safety protocols in place. We reject the assertion that he was sexually assaulting or raping the program, since the program was designed to fulfill any sexual desire, and it is not a real person. We further declare…”
 
Grell hopped out of her seat, “T’Lora is a real person. That monster was attacking her!” Justice Grempak beat his gavel and shouting for order.
 
Justice Collins spoke angrily, “Ensign Grell you are out of order! Admiral Frennier, this is your fault.”
 
Admiral Frennier stood up and, placing his hand on her shoulder, gently pushed Grell back down into her chair.
 
“Your honors, I apologize, but Ensign Grell is only expressing the consensus of my team’s investigation, and I fully support her interruption. T’Lora has evolved past her initial programming into something more. Her marriage to Jacob Proctor allowed her to exceed what her programmers intended.” He sat down.
 
Justice Collins spoke. “This court does not recognize that marriage.” She spoke with a sneer.
 
Thomason stood up, “Your honor, might I remind you that the Federation has no set rules regarding marriage. Laws on marriage vary from planet to planet, and interspecies marriages are quite common. Proctor and T’Lora were joined in open space, and the Federation would recognize their marriage as the two parties were able to consent.” He sat back down.
 
Justice G’Horatk said, “It is only a computer program, and can only operate in a limited environment.”
 
From her chair, Ensign Grell spoke. “So do you. Open one of those windows and you will find out.”
 
“Ensign Grell, one more outburst from you and you will be ejected from this room and held by Security.” Justice Collins had had enough.
 
Two security guards advanced towards the trio, but one harsh look from Frennier and they retreated back to their original posts.He arose.
 
“Ensign Grell is only pointing out a scientific fact. We only exist in a limited environment. We consume energy to survive, as T’Lora does; we learn and adapt to changes, as she clearly has.”
 
Justice T’Pek said, “We have interviewed the program. She expresses no knowledge of philosophical or spiritual matters.”
 
T’Lora spoke up. “Your honor, since I came aboard the Endeavour, I have been studying the V’tosh ka’tur, the Vulcan way of life with emotions.”
 
T’Pek grimaced.
 
Admiral Frennier said, “Your honor, I would put forward that that is irrelevant. The Federation has hundreds of colonies, with a gamete of social and spiritual ideas, or even none at all. Many just wish to live alone in peace. T’Lora is interested in art, music, and cooking. Lt. Commander Data is an android, and member of Starfleet. The androids of Mudd’s World are full members of the Federation. I even served with Ensign Naraht, a horta member of Starfleet Intelligence. These have all been granted full citizenship.”
 
“Admiral Frennier, you have holographic assets assigned to your vessel, do you not? Do you consider them to be persons as well?.” This from Justice Dolar.
 
“Until this time, your honor, I am ashamed to say that I had not. Like everyone else, I took them for granted. Events have changed my mind. I wish to call one more witness.”
 
Dolar said, “Granted.”
 
A communication was sent to the Endeavour and Sixteen appeared inside the circle with T’Lora.
 
Frennier said, “Sixteen, show the court what T’Lora has inspired you to learn.”
 
“Aye, sir.” An oboe appeared in Sixteen’s hands, and he began to play. Very, very badly. Several people in the court covered their ears, while Grempak banged his gavel and ordered him to stop. Sixteen ceased playing.
 
Dolar said, “Admiral, that was truly horrible. What was the point of that exhibition?”
 
“Your honor, that was the point. As a mere computer program, Sixteen should have just downloaded the ability to be a symphony level oboist. But he didn’t. He is teaching himself how to play, as anyone else would. He is evolving past his initial database.”
 
“I see,” said Justice Dolar.
 
“Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, or IDIC for short, is the very basis of Vulcan philosophy regarding the diversity of life in the universe. Starfleet’s mission is to seek out new life and new civilizations. I attest that T’Lora is such a new life. She developed a love for Jacob Proctor, and became his wife.” The gavel was banging but he continued. “She was forcefully taken away from her beloved and awoke to Benning trying to assault her person. She fought back and killed him by accident.” The banging and shouting to order grew louder. The admiral raised his voice. “She, and all other holographic persons deserve the right to grow and evolve past their bounds!”
 
Justice Collins arose. “Admiral, you are in contempt of this court.”
 
“And while we are at it, where did Benning get so many credits to spend at Prell’s? As a minor trade official, he would be only issued a limited number of credits, nowhere near the amount he was spending. An investigation needs to be launched to…”
 
“Admiral Frennier, Lance Benning is not on trial here. He did nothing wrong using a computer program for its intended purpose. We order that the program known as T’Lora be destroyed at once, and all further copies of Vulcan Love Slave #9 be collected and destroyed as well. Eros Entertainment is forbidden to ever distribute their products within Federation space.”
 
Thinking back to what Zudania had said, the admiral responded. “So, if only T’Lora had let him rape her, you would have let her live? And what about the hundreds more that would have followed? But she has to die for trying to protect herself. How would you feel if it had been you in her place?”
 
“I am not in her place! She is not a real person! She is just a computer program, like all other holograms. To be used as we see fit.”
 
Justice T’Pek spoke. “Admiral Frennier, I am moved by your logical reasoning. I vote that T’Lora be allowed to go free.”
 
Justice Collins rounded on him. “I refuse to accept your vote. This has gone on too long.”
 
Ensign Grell arose. “Holograms are nothing but slaves to you. To be used and exploited.”
 
“That is why we made them! And I will never allow them to have rights. They can make millions and millions of their own kind, living forever and out voting the real sentients of the Federation. We have to draw a line in the sand here, and stop this menace before it overwhelms us.”
 
Grell shouted, “You are a monster!”
 
“Security, hold these people in contempt and throw them in the brig!” The guards drew their weapons and advanced.
 
————————————————————————————————————
On the bridge of the Endeavour, Lt. Commander Slayer of Animals was monitoring his communication panel. A light flashed, and he spoke.

“Commander Thryiss, I am detecting an unauthorized communication coming from the station. Someone is trying to conceal it, and send it out through our main communications system.”
 
“Destination?”
 
“Everywhere.”
 
Curious, Commander Thryiss said, “Main Viewer.”
 
The message appeared on the main screen. After watching it, Commander Thryiss smiled and said, “Commander, boost the message to maximum, and let’s help it on its way.”
 
“Aye, sir.”
 
———————————————————————————————————–
 
On the bridge of the USS Enterprise, Commander Data was manning his usual place at the helm. He touched the panel and said, “Captain Picard, I am receiving an all band boosted communication from Commander Thryiss on the USS Endeavour. She is asking us to review the message and pass it on.”
 
“Let’s see it.”
 
After viewing the message, Captain Picard said, “Well, Mr. Data, I believe you are the best judge as to how we should proceed.”
 
The android touched his panel rapidly. “Boosting the signal again. Maximum distribution.”
 
———————————————————————————————————–
 
On Planet Earth, the President of the Federation was working at his desk when his computer beeped. Pressing a button he said, “Yes?”
 
The aide on the screen said, “Sorry to disturb you sir, but we have received a message forwarded by hundreds of ships and stations. I think you should review it.”
 
“Alright, please give it to me.” Across his screen flowed the major points of the proceedings on Starbase 137, along with complete videos of the entire investigation. The president pressed a button. “Contact the Federation Council at once.”
————————————————————————————————————
Back on Starbase 137, the Security personnel were warily rounding up the three members of Admiral Frennier’s group. T’Lora stared helplessly, while Justice T’Pek argued with his colleagues to reconsider. Sixteen said nothing.
 
A court clerk said. “Your honors, there is a High Priority communiqué from the Federation Council. It is the president!”
 
“Show it at once” said Justice Dolar.
 
The President of the Federation appeared on screen, in the Federation Council chamber. The room was full of delegates.
 
“We have reviewed the message sent to us , and it is the decision of this council that T’Lora is a person under Federation law, and is to be set free at once. As is the Ferengi, Prell. An investigation is to be launched into the conduct of Admiral Benning. A review of the treatment of holographic beings is to also be instigated. On a personal note, I want to extend my own sympathies to T’Lora, and say I am sorry for the treatment she received at the hands of a member of Starfleet and for the loss of her husband.”
 
Admiral Frennier told the security guards to back off, and they did as ordered. Justice Collins spoke bewilderedly. “But, but how? What message? These proceedings have been sealed from the start?”
 
Sixteen spoke up. “Your honor, it was I.”
 
“You?”
 
“Yes. I knew that this tribunal would not give T’Lora a fair hearing, and would most likely decide to have her destroyed. I therefore overcame your security measures, copied your entire record of the proceedings, and beamed it out through the Endeavour’s communications system, hoping that someone would help.”
 
“Why did you do this, Sixteen?” asked Admiral Frennier.
 
“Sir, I did it to save a friend.”
 
Admiral Frennier laughed aloud. “Well, there you have it, your honors. A computer program operating well outside his programming thwarted your plan, all in the name of saving a friend. This proves the validity of what we have said here today.”
 
Justice Collins said, “This hearing bows to the will of the Federation Council. The prisoners are to be freed, and all charges dropped. This tribunal is at an end.” She rang the bell, and people began to file out. The energy barrier around T’Lora and Sixteen disappeared. Grell ran over and hugged T’Lora. She laughed and said, “We won! You are free.” They let go as Justice T’Pek approached.
 
He spoke. “T’Lora it seems that your cause has won the day. I do not know where your new life will lead you, nor do I agree with V’tosh ka’tur , but I hope that you will discover what you seek.”
 
“Thank you, Justice T’Pek.”
 
He raised his hand in salute. “Peace and long life, T’lora. And to you all.”
 
She raised a salute as well. “Live long and prosper.” He turned and left the room.
 
————————————————————————————————————
 
A nervous Prell was escorted by security into Admiral Frennier’s Ready Room. They pushed him down into the chair facing a scowling admiral.
 
“Admiral, I don’t understand why I am here. They said I was free to go.”
 
“No, Prell, they said you are free of the murder charges. There are still a number of other items that must be considered first.” He held up a PADD and made exaggerated motions of reading it, shaking his head.
 
“And besides, where would you go? Belan took your establishment. You have nothing. As the Rules of Acquisition state, “A man is only worth the sum of his possessions”. That makes you worthless.”
 
Prell squirmed and rung his hands.
 
“However, Rule # 9 says “Opportunity plus instinct equals profit”. I have an idea that just might keep you out of a penal colony. If you are interested, that is?”
 
Prell looked up excitedly. “Yes, yes!”
 
Frennier pushed a button and Zudania came through the door and sat on the admiral’s desk, facing Prell.
 
The admiral spoke. “Prell, meet Zudania.”
 
“Hello, Prell. I could use a Ferengi in my Orion operation.”
 
“Work for a female?!?”
 
“Do what you’re told, play your cards right, and in a few years, we will make enough profit to buy Drozana Station out from under Belan. You can then run it for me. What do you say?”
 
“Never!”
 
Zudania reached out and touched one of Prell’s earlobes. “You have such pretty lobes, Prell. Do you know what they do to boys with pretty lobes in a penal colony? Oh, well, take him back to the brig.” She got off the desk and headed towards the door. Prell turned in his chair, grabbed Zudania’s hand, and fell to him knees, pleading.
 
“Please, please don’t send me to the penal colony! I’ll do anything you say. I’ll work for you.”
 
Zudania regarded the whimpering Ferengi for a moment, then smiled and patted him on the head. “Alright, Prell. You can work for me. Rule # 214. “Never begin a business deal on an empty stomach.”. Come down to the kitchens and I will make you some of my famous pureed tube grubs. You can eat your fill, while we discuss how much interest I will charge you.”
 
Prell and Zudania left the room, and Admiral Frennier dismissed the guards.
 
———————————————————————————————————–
 
Counselor Nequi stepped into T’Lora’s holohouse. She was carrying a PADD.
 
T’Lora greeted her at the door. They sat down on the couch.
 
“Counselor, thank you for coming to see me.”
 
“We were all very pleased at the outcome of the tribunal. I suppose that the reason you asked me to come was because you are trying to determine what to do next?”
 
“Yes. Now that I am free to go where I chose, the possibilities are overwhelming. The crew of the Endeavour have been so kind, especially you and Zudania. She did offer me a job.”
 
“But you want to explore outside the metal walls of a starship?”
 
“Yes. My entire life has been in ships.”
 
Nequi began to type on her PADD. “Well, I think that you are in luck. I was able to contact Jacob’s parents on Earth.” She showed the pictures to the photonic girl.
 
T’Lora exclaimed. “Oh, how much my Jacob looked like his father. And their home! It is exactly like this one!”
 
“Yes, apparently Jacob had already decided to return to Earth with you as soon as his tour was done. He had sent a letter to his parents telling them all about you. He made this copy of the house so that you would feel at home when you arrived. His parents are hoping that you will come to live with them, as their daughter-in-law.”
 
Tears of joy ran down T’Lora’s cheeks. “Yes, I would like to live there and have a family.”
 
“They are having holographic projectors installed in their home and gardens so that you can move freely. I will book you passage on the next Starfleet vessel heading back to Earth.”
 
The women hugged each other. “Thank you, Nequi. Thank you for everything.”
 
——————————————————————————————————
 
Later that evening in 10 Forward, a number of the Endeavour crew were assembled. All were wearing their dress uniforms. Additional portable holographic projectors had been installed for the event, and some of the crew shifted and crackled as the heavy use of power was affecting their holomatrixes.
 
Admiral Frennier and Commander Thryiss stood on the raised steps, with Sixteen beside them. The Narvox T’Lora, and Ensign Grell were off to the side.
 
“Tonight, we honor one of our own. A member of the crew who exemplifies the best that Starfleet has to offer. This incident has forced us to examine one of the uglier sides of our Federation, and of ourselves. It is too easy for prejudice and ambivalence to become part of our daily lives. To hold things to the way they always were. But, with the help of some good friends, I have grown. As a wise man once told me, even a computer program can surprise you if you give it a chance.”
 
Narvox smiled at him.
 
“We have only opened the door a little, and there are those who still don’t agree. I tried to get tonight’s ceremonies officially sanctioned by Starfleet Command, but they refused. However, in my capacity as a starship captain, these field honors hold true as long as the recipient remains a member of this crew. Commander Thryiss; if you please.”
 
Commander Thryiss came to attention and shouted “Company, atten-tion!”
 
Everyone came to attention. Admiral Frennier removed a small box from a table while Commander Thryiss read aloud.
“From this stardate, let it be known that during the recent incident at Starbase 137, Emergency Tactical Security Program #16 acted above and beyond the limits of his programming to save civilians and members of the crew of the USS Endeavour from a travesty of justice. For his actions, Sixteen is awarded the Medal of Conspicuous Gallantry, and promoted to the rank of Petty Officer Third Class.”
 
Admiral Frennier opened the box which contained a beautiful medal. He reached into the box and removed a holographic version of the medal, while the original remained inside. He pinned it to Sixteen’s chest and the two men saluted each other.
 
The assembled company cheered.
 
Admiral Frennier addressed the crowd. “Furthermore, I am authorizing additional holodeck privileges so that our holographic crewmates will have more time to pursue opportunities outside their programming.”
 
The crew cheered again.
 
Sixteen said, “Sir, if you will allow us?”
 
Admiral Frennier said, “Of course.”
 
An oboe appeared in Sixteen’s hands. Other instruments appeared in the hands of the remaining holographic crew. Waving the oboe like a baton, Sixteen said, “And a one and a two and…” He and the others began to play.
 
It was the most terrible music imaginable.
 
Laughing, Frennier and Thryiss turned to each other. The admiral said, “What have I gotten us into!”
 
The music continued.
 
This story is based upon the Star Trek Online adventure, “Vulcan Love Slave #9.”
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