Aboard the Starship U.S.S. Marathon
Captain’s Log, Stardate 4949.4. In anticipation of celebrating Ensign Margaret’s birthday, I’m leaving my first officer in control of the bridge while my science officer, my first medical officer, and I enjoy a holonovel of Margaret’s choice.
“Commander Evelyn, report.”
“Everything is running smoothly, Captain, even the Magnascopic Fusion Array, which never works. You’re free to take a break. I really do wish I could join you.”
Something in Commander Evelyn’s tone made Captain Alexis pause. “Commander, you say that almost as if you’d prefer staying on the bridge. Why is that?”
Evelyn gave her a smile that seemed to say ha-ha and turned to her console.
The Captain raised her eyebrows. When Evelyn continued to ignore her, she shrugged and walked away. “Keep me posted of any emergencies, Commander.”
“Will do, Captain.”
The turbolift let Captain Alexis out on Holodeck 4, where Lieutenant Commander Andrea Lee and Doctor Faith were waiting for her. Ensign Margaret came dashing down the corridor from another turbolift.
“Looks like we’re all here,” Andrea Lee said. “Computer, start Holodeck program Margaret Fun.”
They entered the holodeck to a sunny suburban street somewhere on Earth.
Faith took a deep breath. “Ah, what a beautiful day. I think I’m going to like this holonovel.”
With a shout, Margaret took off down the street.
The others gave each other quizzical looks, then followed her.
Captain Alexis stopped. “Well, that’s odd,”
“What is?” Andrea Lee and Faith turned as Alexis indicated something behind them. Across the street, in this ordinary, sunny summer neighborhood, was a blue house without any doors or windows.
“A program malfunction or part of the story?” Faith wondered.
Andrea Lee lifted her scanner. “I’m not seeing anything wrong. It must be part of the program. Ensign Margaret!”
Margaret came skipping back. Andrea Lee nodded at the blue house. “What’s that?”
Margaret hopped around and danced in circles at the same time. “Oh! Oh! It’s one!”
“One?” Andrea Lee wondered. “Should we investigate?”
“We keep moving!” Margaret said.
The others shrugged and followed Margaret as she danced off down the street again. Andrea Lee kept her scanner out in search of other anomalies that weren’t registering on her scanner.
“Does anyone find it odd,” Alexis said, pointing at something above them, “that that bird is flying backwards?”
Faith pointed at a pink house. “Or that tiger on the windowsill?”
“Or that the sky has suddenly turned green,” Andrea Lee said.
“Yikes!” said Faith. Sure enough, the sky had gone from blue to sea-green, changing everything to a strange, sickly color.
Andrea Lee lifted her scanner to scan the sky.
“Yikes again!” said Faith as Andrea Lee’s arm disappeared and her scanner crashed to the ground.
“I’ll say yikes!” Andrea Lee said, feeling her shoulder. “Just what kind of holonovel is this?”
Faith took out her medical scanner and ran it over Andrea Lee. “I don’t see anything wrong. According to these readings, your arm is still there. It’s just invisible.”
“It might register as still here,” Andrea Lee said as she bent to retrieve her scanner with her left hand, “but I can’t use it. I don’t feel it at all.”
“And if it’s still there,” Captain Alexis said, “why does that tree suddenly have our science officer’s right arm?”
Across the street, a tree was waving at them.
“That’s not me,” Andrea Lee said. “Or rather, if it’s my arm, I’m not waving.”
The arm disappeared and reappeared on a different tree. Faith and Andrea Lee both scanned.
“It’s a hologram,” Andrea Lee said as the arm moved to another tree. “The doctor’s right. It only looks as if my arm has left me and is waving at us. It’s just inconvenient because I can’t control it.”
They paused at the curb and waited for a car to pass. Faith turned her head to follow it. “There’s no driver in that car.” She looked more closely. “No, there is! In the backseat. The steering wheel is in the back of the car.”
“If I had use of my arm,” Andrea Lee said, “I’d scan the Osmotic Energy Rate. This could be a malfunctioning holonovel.”
“We could try raising the Environmental Containment Flow,” Faith said. “That might force the Holographic Guidance Panel to replicate everything and correct these anomalies.”
“We don’t know if these are anomalies,” Captain Alexis replied. “For all we know, this is exactly right. Let’s keep going.”
As they crossed the street, a stretch limousine drove by. On its roof was a woman with a baby stroller containing an enormous pink iguana.
“I just thought of something.” Faith shooed away a flying teacup. “Remember how Commander Evelyn mentioned the Magnascopic Fusion Array? How it’s always malfunctioning? Maybe its malfunctioning affected the hologrids.”
Alexis tapped her combadge. “Captain to bridge.”
“Evelyn here, Captain.”
“What’s the status on the Magnascopic Fusion Array?”
There was a pause. “Working within normal parameters, Captain,” Evelyn answered.
“Check the hologrids. Are they functioning within normal parameters?”
“Everything looks fine from here, Captain. Is there a problem?”
“We’re still determining that. Stand by.” She turned to the others. “We need to find Margaret.”
Shifting her grip on her scanner, Andrea Lee touched her combadge with the pinkie finger of her left hand. “I’ll never take my right arm for granted again,” she remarked. “Lieutenant Commander Andrea Lee to Ensign Margaret. Answer please.” When the ensign didn’t reply, Andrea Lee scanned for her. “She’s here somewhere. Guess we’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way.”
They started down the street calling, “Ensign Margaret! Ensign Margaret!”
Faith indicated something in the sea-green sky. “Wait.” They all stopped. “What’s that strange cloud rolling swiftly over the horizon?”
Both she and Andrea Lee scanned it.
“It’s not organic,” Faith said. “No lifesigns at all.”
“Wow. Well, according to this,” Andrea Lee said, “it’s a cloud filled with...”
The cloud was directly over them now.
“And scanners!” Faith shouted as combadges and scanners clattered down around them.
They ran into the nearest doorway, except it wasn’t a doorway. It was a yawning, red opening wafting hot air. Like a mouth.
A tongue shot out, and they ran screaming into the storm of communication and analytical devices.
“Margaret!” Andrea Lee screamed. “Where are you?!”
Margaret came dancing down the street carrying a huge purple and yellow striped mushroom over her head for an umbrella. In her red hair were tangled green vines with orange flowers.
“Exactly what holonovel is this, Ensign Margaret?” Captain Alexis asked.
“It’s Wacky Wednesday!” Margaret caught a combadge from the air and ate it. “Wacky Wednesday! Wacky Wednesday!” she sang. “Find twenty wacky things and you win!”
“Ooooh!” the three officers said together.
“Find twenty wacky things,” Captain Alexis said.
“And you win,” Faith said.
“It’s a game!” they all said.
“We’ve found more than twenty things already,” Andrea Lee said.
“You have to count,” Margaret caught another combadge and popped it into her mouth. “They don’t count unless you count them. Out loud.”
Andrea Lee caught a combadge and scanned it. “It’s not registering as anything.”
“Uh-huh,” Margaret said. “They taste like cookies.”
Doctor Faith caught a scanner and scanned it with her medical scanner. With a shrug, she took a bite. “Mmmm! Chocolate!”
“Well,” Captain Alexis said, “if we want to finish the book, we should start counting. Twenty things, Ensign?”
“Twenty things each,” Margaret said. “It doesn’t count if someone counts for you. You have to count to twenty all by yourself.”
“Well, let’s split up and start counting then,” Alexis said. “By the way, happy birthday, Ensign.” She picked a direction and headed off. “One,” she said as a winged shoe flew by. Lieutenant Commander Andrea Lee’s arm waved at her from a chimney top. “Two...”
“You know, this is actually kind of fun,” Faith said. “I might do something like this for my birthday. But I think I’ll pick a different holonovel.”
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