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PNPC Lt Sky Blake & LtCmdr Tristam Core, "A holographic step.&

Sedrin Belasi

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((Holodeck, USS Mercury))

::It had been a tedious process, clearing up the Mercury. The fact that it had barely made it to DSX in one piece showed just how skilled the Engineers that put her together in the first place actually were. But now, it was Tristam's Engineering department fixing her up, getting her into a stable condition.

::The Oracle class ship's situation reminded him of how he had been stuck in a medical facility, doctors constantly working over him. The Mercury was in just as bad a shape as he had been. The only difference is that Tristam didn't know how the Mercury had gotten into this situation in the first place.::

::The ship stable enough to have more than two teams aboard, the Rodulan had gotten to work on the holograms. They hadn't been causing any trouble recently - a few had reactivated somehow, and instead of making a nuisance of themselves, they actually assisted with repairs. Some of his teams hadn't been aware they weren't the real people, and something told Tristam that it was probably better that they didn't know. But their kindness didn't mean he didn't have to deactivate them. Until he could work out their reason for existing, he couldn't fully trust the programs.

::Surprisingly, the majority had accepted that.::

::Tristam was up to his final few holograms. The plan had been to deactivate the operating ones, shift them onto a hard-drive separate from that of the computer core. Some of the holograms had been pretty nice to talk to, others were . . . less happy about the situation.::

Blake: Take one step towards the console and I'll fire.

::Tristam froze up, his hand clenching the PADD with the holograms details, flashing back to the situation with Rahman occurring only days before. Glancing up, he took a good look at the phaser in her hand. Type two, by the looks of things. Tristam couldn't make out what setting it was on, but he wasn't at all keen to find out. He dropped the PADD, putting his hand up in front of him, taking a step away from the console. He was cautious - he didn't want to die today, after everything that had happened, all because a hologram decided that she wanted to blow him to bits.::

Core: Okay. What are you going to shoot me for?

::She seemed to hesitate a little, eyes hard on the Rodulan and eyes blinking back tears.::

Blake: I read my file.

::Uh oh.::

::Having heard about Alpha team's dealing with her, Tristam did that too. Sky Blake, previously holding the rank of Lieutenant Commander prior to resigning from Starfleet. Pretty interesting record, in Tristam's opinion. Blake had been all over the place behavioral-wise right up until her first-born - a daughter; Faith Blake. To make matters more interesting, Blake had apparently been pregnant with Faith whilst on board the Mercury, but Tristam couldn't see a baby bump on this holographic version.

::Had the Mercury taken that away in it's bid to do whatever it had wanted to do?::

Core: Was it a good read?

Blake: After the Mercury, Lieutenant Commander Sky Blake served at the Embassy of Duronis II - Chief of Security, USS Avandar - Chief of Security, Second officer and Acting First Officer for a short period of time, and then on the Vigilant back as Security and Tactical. Resigned on stardate 239103.03, citing the need to spend more time with her growing family.

::*Growing* family.::

::Tristam, remaining silent, could see more cracks in her composure, the hand clasped around the phaser shaking a little as she tried to regain her own composure. He frowned a little - how did the Mercury's computer lose control over its own holograms? Was she *programmed* to do this? Better yet, how had she managed to access her own file when her credentials shouldn't have been recognized? Had the Mercury changed that too? Reinstated Blake's old Lieutenant credentials?::

Blake: A few dents and bruises, but an otherwise great record. And a great woman, too, apparently.

Core: I'm sure she was.

Blake: Did you know I had a family?

::This was rocky territory here. As it was, the hologram was already unstable - open *that* can of worms, and she might just all out break.

::Then again, Blake breaking herself could just be the malfunction he needed to hit the deactivate button on that console . . . ::

Core: Yes. A daughter - Faith, I think her name was. You were due to be married to Lieutenant Sabor, Vulcan Armory officer aboard the Vigilant.

::There was another pause as this sunk in, and Tristam took a different route - to either talk her down, or push her towards self-malfunction.::

Core: What do you remember? Before everything?

::It was a silly assumption, thinking that the hologram may share some of the actual Blake's memories, but it was worth a shot. Maybe the Mercury knew more than it was meant to – maybe Blake was quite detailed in her personal logs.

::She took a few seconds to respond, her eyes finally removing themselves from Tristam, glancing around the room in an effort to form words.::

Blake: I was . . . on the asteroid. We were inside the cave, and I was first to be beamed aboard. That was stardate 238902.08. I remember arriving in the transporter room, and then demanding to be beamed to the Bridge . . . but after that . . . it's . . . ::There was another pause.:: I don't remember getting onto the Bridge. I remember waking up in my office, knowing that we had intruders aboard.

::That explained why she was wearing a long field jacket - a very dusty long field jacket. It was relatively reasonable to assume that her character had been "borrowed" from the transporter log from that stardate. The Mercury must have tweaked certain things.::

Blake: I just . . . accepted that . . . that the new one was in command, and that we had a job to do. I didn't even question were any of them were – Tallis, Reed, Ba'Eli . . . Parker . . .

::Saying that last name caused her some form of pain, Tristam could tell. Parker. Why did *that* name ring a bell. Was it from her file? A recent message on the subspace notice boards? One of the online forums message?::

Core: I'm not familiar with Parker.

Blake: Mercury's First Officer. Or, at least, he *was*. He's FO at the Duronis II Embassy now.

::*That* was where he had heard the name - the Mercury's crew history, and a complaint about the armament of the ship. Blake was under the impression that it was early, early 2389. Where was Tristam at this point in time? He would have been on DS17, coming off his medical leave.

::Not that it was all that important. He needed Blake to drop the [...] phaser in her hand so that he could walk away with all his limbs intact. Before he could get another word in, however, she started speaking again.::

Blake: I *died*! Over *three months ago*!

::Tristam looked down at his feet. So the hologram had found that small piece of information at the very bottom of her file, too. That dreaded word in red writing. “Deceased”, it had said. It probably even stated cause of death, but Tristam had been quick to close the file as soon as he saw the red.::

Core: I'm sorry.

::He couldn't think of anything else to say, and he knew nothing that would have put the hologram to ease. Tristam didn't know the real Sky Blake. He knew that Sky Blake was a Brekkian Betazoid hybrid. She was born on Brekka. Her parents were scientists. She had a daughter, and possibly another child. She was due to be married. She had been 28 years old when she died. But he didn't know *her*. What he knew of her on a personal level was coming from this hologram – this only remaining walking and talking reminder that she was once a person, and not just a file in the Starfleet database.

::Because of this hologram, he knew that Sky Blake's green eyes were one of her most striking features. He knew that her hair was not naturally blonde, and that she may once have been a brunette. They were small details, very easy to miss when skimming a personnel file.::

Blake: I died of a brain aneurysm. ::she paused, and laughed once.:: After years of getting beat up, stabbed and shot at, I die of a brain aneurysm.

::It was as if she was simply born to die.::

Core: I'm sorry.

Blake: Stop saying you're sorry! You said you don't know who I am! That you've never met me!

::He must have just missed her when he was posted on the Vigilant. He now suddenly wished that he had left DS17 a few days earlier, that he hadn't procrastinated and deliberately missed his first transport, so that he could have possibly met her. Just for this specific moment, so that he could talk holo-Blake down, comfort her in some sort of way.::

Core: You're right. I've never met nor seen you my entire life. ::pause:: But I know you – this . . . version of you. May-maybe that's why the Mercury made you.

::Tristam didn't know what he was doing, making the words up as he went along, hoping they'd form something that'd make Blake drop her phaser or at least back off a few steps.::

Blake: You're saying that my ship brought me back as a hologram because it missed me?

Core: It's a possibility. The Mercury couldn't bring you back in person, so it brought you back the best way it could. In holographic form. To let you do your job, like you did back in 2389. Maybe to give you a second chance, maybe as a form of nostalgia. Maybe you were the only one that could have done the job you did, the only one with a strong enough mindset.

Blake: You mean the only one to bully other holograms into that sensor pod.

::Well, that at least explained a few of the "dead" holograms.::

Core: You didn't know. You weren't supposed to know.

Blake: And that makes all this easier, does it?

Core: It was supposed to. You weren't supposed to know about the real Blake – you were made to assume her position, believe you were her, copy her attitude, looks, anything about her that made Skyleena Blake. It's all a piece of a very large puzzle, one that we're still trying to put together.

::Finally, she dropped the phaser, and it was then that Tristam realized that the phaser hadn't been powered at all.::

Blake: So what now? After everything I've done? Blown up parts of my own ship, killed people - real and holographic and deceived your crew. What's to become of me?

::Tristam sighed. Her admission of blowing up bits of the Mercury made his arm ache.::

Core: Your program wasn't designed for self-awareness.

::None of them were. Over the last several hours, he'd watched a few holograms corrupt themselves just at the thought of them being sentient. But Blake seemed to be handling it pretty well. He'd have to check her actual readings before any real assumption could be made, though.::

Core: I don't think taking the place of real Blake would be wise, either.

::No, that would just end in a lot of conversations he didn't want to have to participate in.::

Core: I can keep you on the Garuda, work something out for you.

Blake: You can do that?

::She seemed rather skeptical, and Tristam gave her a slight shrug of his fully functioning shoulder.::

Core: I'm Chief Engineer of a Galaxy class starship. I think I'm up for a few personal privileges. Especially after this week.

::Actually, he really kind of deserved a medal after putting up with all the destruction the Garuda has brought him. But really, what was to become of Blake? Of all of the holograms? It didn't feel right to leave them on a hard-drive, orders from the higher-ups or not. They were, after all, beings. He frowned a little at his own thoughts - thinking about holographic sentience made his head hurt, especially since many people were willing to put forward just how easy it was to compare a hologram with that of a hyperspanner. He gave a slight huff before he delivered his next words.::

Core: I know it might sound offensive, but if I made you a personal project of mine - no one else involved whatsoever, I think we could make this work.

::But for what? How was this any use at all for him and the holographic Blake? He might as well just put her image in a picture frame, stand there and admire it - it'd do more good than any sort of project he thought of that he could involve her in.::

Blake: What, me be a side project, just waiting for you to show up every day and turn me on? Sit there and stare at me, wondering how to "fix" me?

Core:::shaking his head.:: Not fix you.

::She stared at him, crossing her arms.::

Blake: *What*, then?

Core: I don't know. But you fixed yourself somehow. The command to protect the Mercury is probably still there, sure, but you're not directed at the wrong people anymore - otherwise you would have shot me first chance you got. Maybe there's something in this universe that you could do.

::There was a pause between them as she processed what he said, tightening her arms.::

Blake: Why? Why do you have this . . . hope? You don't even know me.

Core: I'm an Engineer. When somethings broken, we fix it. If its running at top performance, we keep it there. If we fail at something, we keep trying until it kills us. It's just what we do.

Tbc . . .
LtCmdr Tristam Core

Chief Engineer
USS Garuda

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