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Do Photonics Dream of Holographic Sheep?

Posted on Jun 01, 2017 @ 3:54pm by Lieutenant Tomas' Vukovic
Edited on on Jun 01, 2017 @ 3:58pm

Mission: Section 31


Do Photonics Dream of Holographic Sheep?


Stardate: [2.17]0601.1030
Scene: Bridge

“Resistance is futile,” he said, his arms folded, gazing out at the passing stars.

The bridge was quiet. Gamma shift on the PANDORA. The murmur of various stations surrounded them, but their operators sat slumped in their chairs or on the floor.

“That's my line,” Tomas' Vukovic replied, stepping from the shadows.

Commander Gene McInnis shrugged without turning his attention from the
view screen.

“Times have changed,” he said.

Tomas' smiled in appreciation.

“Speaking of which, you're dead. You know that, right?”

This time the Bajoran did turn to look at him.

“Eugene McInnis surely is dead,” he answered. “I'm not him.”

“Good,” Tomas' said. “I'm not here for him. I'm here for you.”


Location: the DRACKNAR (pirate ship, unregistered)
Star Date: Three months prior to the previous scene
Scene: flight deck

“Where is he?” the Andorian captain demanded, his hand disturbingly
close to the handle of the knife in its sheath on his belt.

Tomas' knew from personal experience that the knife was not ornamental. He'd seen the current captain use it on the previous captain, a Klingon brute that had gotten drunk one time too many to suit his subordinates. The Klingon captain had had the unfortunate lack of grace to fall into a plasma conduit … with the Andorian's knife in his back. And hadn't THAT been a mess to clean up!

Without speaking, Tomas' tapped the control input and switched to tactical display. The DRACKNAR was snugged in tightly behind a tumbling piece of rock thanks to his careful maneuvering. Engines barely ticking over, he was holding position by thrusters alone. And the reason for that was approaching … relentlessly.

“Keep this rock between us,” the Andorian demanded.

“That's the plan,” Tomas' agreed.

“No active sensor sweep. Just passive.”

“I know how to avoid a Star Fleet sensor sweep,” Tomas' pointed out.

“Good thing,” the Andorian let his hand fall away from the handle of
the knife. “It's hell breaking in a new pilot.”


Scene: Bridge

Iconic. Captain Tim Layne thought as he stepped out onto the bridge of

The man was an icon, born, it sometimes seemed, to stand the bridge of a starship, to sweep the shipping lanes clear of pirates. He stood in front of the big chair, his arms folded as he gazed out the view screen intent on whatever was out there Once upon a time, he'd been Layne's friend, his captain. But not any more. Layne's friend was dead, buried on BAJOR years ago. This ... this was an homage.

"What have we got, MAC?" Layne drawled, the turbolift door closing behind him.

Cmdr Gene McInnis, ship's ECnsH (Emergency Counseling Hologram), glanced over his shoulder, a grin coming naturally to his open, wrinkle-nosed face. Tim Layne was often surprised by the authenticity of the holographic programming. He'd downloaded every visual file of the man he'd been able to locate, so the appearance was genuine and a tad eerie, since he looked exactly as he had back on the GATE. But Xana, Gene's widow, had provided him with her husband's logs ... and stories that never got as far as recording. The earliest iteration of the man had been a bit stilted and shaky, but gradually -- Tim had left the program running constantly -- it had become its own person.

And that's what sometimes freaked him out.

Even though 98% of what MAC was came completely proscribed by his programming ... that last two percent was more than a little spooky. He was a photonic life form now; he was what Gene might have been if he'd lived long enough to evolve in that direction. But sometimes he did things Gene would never have done in a million years, like pray to the Wormhole aliens, who, to Layne's knowledge, had never responded. He had begun as Cmdr Gene McInnis, once Captain of the EIDOLON, and was now something more ... and less. In the beginning, he'd been confined to the holodeck, then gradually adapted into the ship's neural net so that he could walk freely among fellow crew. Now upgraded with the latest in mobile holographic integrity hardware, he could even leave the ship.

But he was still only photonic. Light had its limitations.

The bridge of the PANDORA wasn't one of them. MAC had had to qualify to stand watch, just like any other officer. Despite his history, he hadn't been given a pass. Layne had made sure of it. It hadn't been easy. Refitting various areas of the ship a little at a time, had given MAC the ability to appear any place he wanted to be, but it took more work to allow him to interact with his environment once he was there. It had been the challenge of a lifetime for an engineer like Tim Layne, who did this kind of thing for fun. He'd started with some of the very same protocols he'd used in creating ORACLE back in the day, linking MAC's program to the ship's neural net so he could change his environment at will. There had been those with some concern over this. Who wants a computer program that can single-handedly run a starship? That had been tried before ... back in Daystrom's day, and it hadn't been a positive experience. There were safeguards that limited MAC's autonomy, but they were not obvious, nor were they injurious. MAC had never complained, though back in the beginning, he hadn't found Tim's sense of humor refreshing.

“I think we have a spook,” MAC replied, nodding toward the view screen.

“Report!” Layne barked.

A young ensign at sensors jumped like he'd been hit with a cattle prod. Layne had acquired his quarterdeck voice from serving in engine rooms next to the cacophony of warp drive anti-matter mixing chambers.

“Sir!” the ensign piped. “We had a clear trail here, but it disappeared a few minutes ago. We think the target went silent and drifted into this asteroidal mass.”

“Why do you think it drifted here, MAC? Could be she has stealth capability.”

MAC shrugged. “Call it a hunch,” he said. “Our initial contact was a small vessel, fast, maneuverable, but too small to support actual cloaking tech.”

“How you handling the search?”

“Pinging the hell out of the neighborhood,” MAC admitted.

“Not very subtle,” Tim drawled.

“If you're looking for lions,” MAC said, “you beat the bushes.”

Layne studied the revenant of his old friend. The original had grown up on BAJOR, had never been to TERRA until his Starfleet Academy days, and had never gone back. He wondered where he'd picked up the tidbit about an animal he'd likely never seen.

“You been cross-referencing again, MAC?”

“I get bored. Hunting tactics interest me.”

Layne smiled and took his seat in the big chair. MAC moved to stand at his side.

“Something of note,” Layne commented. “Sometimes those beating the brush got eaten by the lions.”

“Noted, Captain, sir,” MAC grinned.


Location: the DRACKNAR
Scene: Flight Deck

This was not the plan.

Tomas' scowled at the sensors as the starship swept past them, its sensors banging off everything around them. The face he wore was blandly human and forgettable. It was part of the job, being forgettable.

“Did they see us?” the Andorian hissed, his antenna focused on him.

“Unknown,” Vukovich snapped.

They'd been picking off the strays among the miners working this asteroidal field looking for exotics to harvest for the benefit of rich folk who would never know where they came from. It was good cover for him, hiding amongst a pirate crew while keeping tabs on this sector of the outer rim for Section 31. Besides, a missing miner or two? Who was going to care?

Starfleet, apparently, Vukovich thought.

The ship they'd sent had become a real problem of late. The USS PANDORA wasn't easy to evade. And they had a bad habit of singular success against the various pirates plying their illegal trade in the sector. There was somebody smart on that ship, and Tomas' had a couple of ideas who that someone might be. Layne, in all probability. The man was not afraid to get bloody if the situation warranted. But there was something else ... something Vukovich couldn't quite lay his hands on. Tactics he almost recognized.

"Unknown why?" the Andorian leaned over his shoulder, his antennae writhing.

"Because we're reduced to passive sensors. That ship out there is pinging the hell out of everything. It's like ringing a big damned bell. We're trying not to be part of that."

The Andorian wasn't altogether happy with his explanation, but apparently Vukovich's current plan worked for him, too. Of course, this wasn't really his plan either.

Vukovich was an infiltrator, an agent provocateur. It had started during the Dominion War where he'd managed to sabotage a goodly number of the attack ships trying to take the GATEWAY STATION. Someone had guessed those weren't accidents. And someone was very thorough. They'd found him sitting at a cafe', sipping coffee. They'd sat down without being invited and spoke his name. His real name. Not the name he was currently using as a tourist from BAJOR. He was certain it wasn't the body that had given him away. That had been perfect.

A perfect copy of someone on the dead list. As a BORG/Human, he'd had certain abilities, but when he'd crossed paths with a rogue BORG Queen and tried to assimilate her while she was trying to assimilate him ... all kinds of craziness had transpired. Every bit of him was cybernetic now, right down to his cellular structure. He was an accidental occurrence, something the BORG Queen had hoped for herself. He was the equivalent of a BORG/FOUNDER, able to change shape at will for short periods of time. He only looked human when he wanted to. It made him perfect for the job.

So Section 31 had made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

He'd been working for them ever since. In fact, this little outing among the pirates had been a way for Section 31 to keep tabs on the growing problem out in the dark. Pirates caused all kinds of difficulty, and the Section didn't want anything like that interfering with whatever plans they were making. Currently, he looked like an ordinary human. The man he'd copied for this job was in custody ... at least that was what he'd been told. More likely dead. Section 31 didn't pull punches, and it didn't bother him overmuch.

"Time to go," the Andorian nodded at the receding image of the starship.

"I'd wait a little longer if I were you," Tomas' said. "That ship has a lot bigger sensor range than we do."

"Keep the asteroid between us and them," the Andorian said. "We'll be
gone before they double back in their search pattern."

Vukovich shrugged, and turned back to his console.

“Well, if that's how you want to play it, let's get a little camouflage while were' at it.”

He altered the ship's slight EM field, dialed it back to attract rather than deflect the surrounding asteroidal dust. Heavy in ferrous content, the dust and pebbles drifted right up against the DRACKNAR, forming a rocky coating. Tomas' spun the ship about on thrusters and gave it a single short nudge directly away from the starship and the rock it had been hiding behind. In addition, he set the small vessel into an erratic tumble to further confuse any possible sensor scans. He hoped it made the ship look like just another rock going its way.

“Hope you don't suffer vertigo,” he grinned at the Andorian.

The Andorian swallowed nervously and deliberately looked away from the
view screen.

“Once we're clear, I'll give you the nav coordinates for the next destination.” He didn't look back as he strode off the flight deck.

This was the plan.

Infiltrate and follow the rat down the hole. The PANDORA was making that difficult, but not impossible. And if the PANDORA was just pretending, and really had his ship dead to rights ... well, he could just be paint on a wall if it came to that.


Scene: Bridge

“Anything?” Layne queried.

The officer at sensors shook his head. “No, sir. Lots of moving rock. Nothing else.”

“Try looking for something that isn't there,” MAC offered.

“Another 'hunch,' MAC?” Layne raised his eyebrows.

MAC gave him a photonic shrug.

“That's odd,” the sensor operator muttered.

MAC turned back to the disply.

“I've been running comparisons between our sensor runs, to see if anything's changed since our last pass. Some of it is pretty ordinary. Rocks bang into each other after all. But this area had a lot of fine debris … almost sand. And it's … gone.”

MAC grinned at him, and Layne grinned right back.


Location: Dreyton 2, mining colony
Scene: the market

It hadn't been all that hard slipping away from the DRACKNAR. Man of a thousand faces and all that. And it had been none too soon. The PANDORA had come in like a bat out of hell, and he'd gotten the recall notice from the ship, which he ignored. They broke dock and went to warp just ahead of the federation starship. There was enough shipping traffic to give the RACKNAR cover, and it made its getaway, though without resupply. That was going to hurt later, Tomas' mused.

But it wasn't his problem.

He found a comm kiosk, slipped in and closed the privacy shield. He touched his left hand to the comm input slot, the place made to order for his BORG enhanced access point. The unit blinked rapidly for several seconds, the screen lit in a flare of light, then went black. Tomas' disconnected, opened the kiosk and slipped away.

The message was in microburst form. His enhancements downloaded it to
his central processiong core, decrypted it, and played it back to his visual cortex. It was Edgerton … in person.

“New assignment, agent. Locate photonic life form aboard USS PANDORA,
code word MAC. Terminate. Priority.”

Terse. Even for Edgerton.

The dock readouts showed the PANDORA coming in to dock. Well, that was
serendipitous, Tomas' thought.


Scene: Bridge
Time: current

Tim Layne had seen some crazy stuff in his days as master of the USS PANDORA, but by the time they'd managed to get past all the obstacles the infiltrator had set up and get to the Bridge, he expected the worst … and didn't get it. He wasn't sure what it was exactly that he did get, but it wasn't what he'd figured.

“...but the Ferengi in the gorilla suit has to go,” MAC finished as the turbolift doors whooshed open.

“Stop! Stop! I can't stand it!” the infiltrator leaned against a console half doubled over from laughter.

“What in the name of Johnny Cash is going on here?” Layne demanded, his phaser on the intruder, backed by two members of Security just beside him and loaded for bear.

“Captain!” MAC waved. “Just entertaining our guest.”

“I just bypassed about twelve levels of hassle locking us out of the bridge,” Layne pointed out. “And cleared the anesthezine gas as well. I think I've got an explanation coming.”

The intruder wiped his eyes as he continued to chortle. Then he took a deep breath and his appearance shifted, becoming familiar … far too familiar.


Tomas' sketched a salute before fading back into laughter.

“Turns out that Mr. Vukovic was here on a mission from Edgerton … to
take me out.”

“Does he know?”

“That Edgerton is dead? Yes, now he does. And that ended his mission. So I've been telling him jokes to pass the time while you worked your way through all the creative roadblocking he did to get us to this point.”

“You could have just left the bridge, MAC.”

Tomas' waved a small device in his hand, tossed it to MAC who handed it to Layne.

“It's a photonic trap of sorts,” Tomas' offered. “Keeps the unit isolated from its base. You'll find his primary database is mined. That way I'd get him here, and you'd never get him back on line without rebuilding the entire system, chip by chip.”

“Months of work,” Layne gritted his teeth.

“Think how I feel,” MAC grinned.

Layne dropped the phaser to his side, motioned the security officers
to stand down.

“Tomas' Vukovic, you are under arrest for the attempted murder of a
photonic crewperson, one MAC, our emergency counseling hologram.”

Tomas' sighed. “Well, at least the food will be better.”


Location: TERRA, Max Security Prison, Utah Prefecture
Scene: Maximum Security, Cell #7734

“How in bloody hell did you wind up here?”

He knew that voice.

He pocketed the rubber ball he'd been bouncing off the wall and sat up in his bunk, swiveling about to look through the force field at Xana Bonviva.

“Just lucky I guess.”

Someone set a chair down, and Xana took a seat.

“I've read the file,” she said.

“Then you already knew how I got here.”

“Wanted to hear it from you. Been awhile.”

Tomas' snorted.

“You ready to get back out in the world?”

His eyes narrowed.

“What … exactly … do you have in mind?”


NRPG: This is all back story, ladies and gentlemen. Bringing Tomas' up
to the present.


Kenneth Field
@Tomas' Alexei Vukovic



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