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LtCmdr Rennyn- Holonovela

Randal Shayne

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((Holodeck - USS Darwin-A))


::Some time during the leave, Ren Rennyn found time to get in a holodeck for a relaxing bit of nonsense.::


::One day years ago, near the Starfleet Academy campus on Earth, on a whim, Ren picked up a copy of Winds of Change, a cheap romance holonovela in a delightfully over-the-top old Terran style. Something about the program’s stylistic excessiveness appealed to the Trill, who occasionally reveled in the melodramatic himself. There was no end to the campy, over-dramatized characters and situations Winds of Change had to offer.::


::The glamorous woman currently shaking Ren by the lapels of his evening jacket was example number one.::
Janet: No, Bruce! No! Can't you see that I love you?!


::Ren Rennyn gently but silently pulled the edges of his tuxedo from Janet's clutches. Her sequined magenta evening gown with absurdly layered ruching rustled as she followed him onto the mansion's moonlit veranda, where Ren threw himself dramatically against the stone banister.::


Rennyn: Don't you see that we can never be together? I made a vow to Gina, Janet. For better or worse, I'm married... to your twin!


::Ren enjoyed the program with its sensationalized, stagy style. Set on 20th century Earth, it followed the histrionic lives of its exaggerated characters in a fictional town called Generic City. There were personal intrigues, corporate power plays, torrid love affairs and sometimes murders. His character Bruce had gone from fashion model to business executive to perfume designer to cop in just a few levels of the game. Generic City was rife with career opportunity.::


::On the veranda, Janet reached him, her eyes shining tearfully, her bosom heaving with fury. Ruby nails gleamed in the moonlight as she slapped his face, hard. The crack stunned him, as he watched her face turn to cold fury.::


Janet: Your vow won't mean anything when Gina is DEAD!


::Janet stormed off, and Ren stood quietly, listening. The program continued to run, but nothing else happened. Canned nighttime sound effects surrounded him. The lush, nearly tropical foliage surrounding the veranda gave no fragrance, and didn't look quite real. He went back into the lavish mansion, blinking at the garish lighting that shone off gold and crystal fixtures. All was quiet.::


::He’d hit the dead end again.::


::Ren had been playing Winds of Change for a number of years, minus the breaks he took when his own life started to feel every bit as over-the-top as this recreational world. For a while, he was in and out of love with a mixed up Vulcan who sort of loved him too, but they never could get it together. There was Rover, the talking purple space cloud who wouldn't stop interrupting his every moment, until he too went away. Then there was Navin, or the memory of him, and the threat of his evil Borg doppelganger who might come back to haunt Ren some day, to throw his whole life right off the track. Or it might just be in his imagination. Yes, Ren was one brain surgery and a dastardly moustache away from from being a holonovela character himself.::


::Between all that, and his Starfleet adventures, too, Ren didn’t always have the time or the energy left to spend figuring out the mystery at the heart of Winds of Change. Still, he'd spent countless hours playing this simulation again and again, but this was all the further he ever got. Janet slapped him, walked off into the night, and then… nothing.::


::Alone on the veranda in the cool night air, Ren undid the tight bowtie and stretched in the luxurious yet constricting jacket. Bruce’s cousin Devin had designed it in Chapter 2 as part of the launch of his new fashion line, “Devin-aire.”::


::The computer recognized this as Level 4: Janet's Threat. The index said that next should be Level 5: Debbie's Gold. He didn't know what the plot of Level 5 might be. He couldn't figure out who Debbie was. Nothing he did or said seemed to unlock it. Again and again, Janet slapped him, threatened Gina's life, and that was it.::


::Ren had tried everything up to now. He'd let Janet leave and waited patiently for something else to happen. He’d run after her, only to find that she had disappeared. He'd run into the mansion and thrown himself dramatically on a divan and tried to cry big, fake tears, but no one ever showed up to notice. Nothing worked. It was if the game was stuck at that moment. He couldn't get to Level 5. And he couldn't stand it anymore.::


::Ren refused to look through the programming code to find the next plot point subroutine. He was determined to find the thing he was supposed to do to unlock the next step, without looking at the code or getting any external help.::


::He wandered through the mansion into the front hall, where a grand staircase ascended in glory. Janet had pushed her mother down those stairs in Level 1, he remembered fondly. That was where it all began.::


Rennyn: Computer, replay Chapter 4 from the beginning of the veranda scene.


::The mansion’s interior dissolved, to be quickly replaced by the veranda he’d just left. Janet materialized in front of him. There wasn’t much he hadn’t tried, but Ren had the afternoon free. Why not take a few more slaps to the face in the name of progress?::


Janet: Your vow won't mean anything when Gina is DEAD!


::As Ren’s stinging face caused him a twinge of regret for not shutting down the program and going home to a good book, Janet stormed off again. Ren called after her.::


Rennyn: Please don’t go!


::She went.::


Rennyn: Computer, restart again from the same spot.::




Janet: Your vow won't mean anything when Gina is DEAD!


Rennyn: I AM Gina!


::She looked at him like he was crazy, and left.::




Janet: Your vow won't mean anything when Gina is DEAD!


Rennyn: Computer! Why was the slap harder that time!?








::Furious at himself and furious at the programmer and furious at the whole game, Ren called with all his might.::


Rennyn: JANET!


::Something changed. For the first time, Janet stopped and turned around. She was perfectly framed in the doorway, the lighting hit her perfectly, and her tear-streaked face appeared softly in a gauzy haze.::


Rennyn: I was wrong to say no. I will run away with you, after all.


::Janet smirked condescendingly, her perfectly arched eyebrow rising in unison with the corner of her hot pink lips.::


Janet: You lost your chance, Bruce. The ship has sailed, and you missed the boat.


::Then she turned and made her normal exit, the one he’d seen dozens of times.::


::Ren looked around. It wasn’t exactly progress. But it was a response. Had it changed anything? He waited for someone else to appear. He waited for something to happen. No, it was still the same dead end.::


::Maybe the point of Winds of Change was to make you feel defeated. Maybe it was to see how many players would beat themselves up trying to move forward. Maybe there was a subroutine sending metrics back to the sadistic designers on just how many times he let himself be slapped in the face before he gave up.::


::Ren wasn’t a quitter, but this was ridiculous. Slipping off his couture jacket and slinging it over his shoulder with one finger, he called for the arch and slunk away through the night. As he looked back one last time and call for the program to save and close, Ren didn’t quite see something sharp and metallic gleaming in the dark behind the topiaries that lined the mansion’s formal garden. A mysterious watcher in the night was about to threaten him.::


::Instead, the stalker disappeared along with the rest of the program. Next time, on Winds of Change, Ren Rennyn was going to have a whole new challenge to face.::


LtCmdr Rendal Rennyn
Ops Officer
USS Darwin NCC-99312-A


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