|hermit9 (hermit9) wrote in elba_ii,|
@ 2007-12-02 08:22:00
06:00 hrs. Thecorridors and quarters were all still mostly silent but for theconstant lulling hum that was the litmus of security, the sound thatno one notices unless it's not there. No one likes it when it's notthere. Like a mother's heartbeat is that white noise of thrummingpower that radiates through the metal and whispers across thedoorways with calming reassurance. As necessary as the floor beneaththeir feet.
He had worked throughhis personal time the day before in preparation for today. Even nowhe sat at his desk with reports in front of him, the catsemi-conscious on his lap. Only another few hours and the game wouldbegin. If he didn't know better, he would have thought he wasanxious. He rose and went to the small vanity in his room. Theorange feline moodily stretched and followed as far as the doorwaywhere she sat and watched with indifference.
“What shall wedo today?” The rhetorical question was left appropriatelyunanswered by the air or the cat. “Elementary, my dear Spot,”he answered himself, and his yellow eyes met the cat's in the mirroras he took his pipe between his teeth and adjusted the brim of hisbrown plaid deerstalker.
Geordi appearedfrenetic, brimming with enthusiasm as they marched the now bustlingcorridor in full costume. He in his matching hat and coat, andGeordi in the typical trappings of a nineteenth century doctor, acharcoal suit, white shirt, and smart bow tie and links. “Youare going to love this one, Data. I think I might have finallythought of one that will stump you.” Data didn't know muchabout emotion, but he knew that Geordi knew that he would neitherlove nor hate nor enjoy or tire of the mystery he had planned forthem that day. However he had learned some time ago that constantlyreminding his friends of that fact was not only not necessary, butoften seemed to affect them emotionally in a negative way.
“I am lookingforward to it Geordi. Will the Doctor be participating in this one?” He referred to, of course, Dr. Moriarty. The clever character whohad proven too smart to be contained within the holodeck and withinthe confines of a hologramatic existence still lived in the ship'scomputer in a continuous simulation since his hijacking of the shipfrom the holodeck over a year ago. The captain had no contact withhim as far as Data knew, but Data would occasionally link with theholodeck just to check up on the fictitious villain. His crimeswere, after all, only in the imagination of Sir Arthur Conan Doyleand his readers, and not real events. His circumstance wasunfortunate and entirely the responsibility of the Enterprise crew. Data reasoned that he should be provided for. There was, of course,another Moriarty, and the possibility for infinite Moriarties. Thecanned ones that came with the Sherlock Holmes holodeck program andall the possible variations they could design into the character. Heoften played in their simulations. It limited the suspect list, butproving motive and means usually became more difficult. Geordiseemed to especially like utilizing that character for hisunpredictability.
“Well, I supposeit won't ruin the surprise too much to tell you. No, he isn't inthis one.”
“I see. And thecaptain?”
“No, he backedout last night. Said he had some work to do. Just you and me thistime. But I think we'll manage.”
“As do I, DoctorWatson,” Data said with his calm, steady voice as the holodeckdoor slid open before them.
“Now you're notgoing to cheat are you Data? No using modern methods, right?”he asked as if he almost suspected it of Data, but when Data met hiseyes he saw the slight teasing smile there.
“Of course not. I have restricted myself to only the methods, knowledge, andtechnology available at the time of Sherlock Holmes. Though I toomust assume these methods are enough to detect whatever mysteryyou've laid down.” Data actually found that aspect of theirgame challenging. His positronic mind balked at the restrictions ofthis subroutine. Using all available data and resources to find theanswer to a problem was as natural as, well. As natural as anythingwas for Data. To resist that actually took some extensiveprogramming and circumnavigating his protocols.
“Yep. I've madesure that it's possible, however improbable, for you to be able tosolve it using your mind and what will be available to you in thesimulation.” It was a carefully worded reply, and Data tooknote.
“Very well. Letus begin.”
He nodded. “Icall this one, Double or Nothing.”
Back in Data'squarters, Spot lounged on top of Data's desk, an action that wouldhave gotten her sternly looked at and shooed with milquetoastferocity had Data been present to issue the punishment. She amusedherself for a while pawing at Data's computer and reading hispersonal journal. 'September 28th: Captain Picard hasissued new agendas for his senior staff members. Today I will behelping Geordi refit the plasma conduits. He hopes to improve engineefficiency within 2.786...' God that man was boring. She neverunderstood why everyone was just so fascinated by the guy. Possiblythe only thing more dull than Lt. Comdr. Data was being Data's cat. A problem, she decided as she hoisted herself up on furry limbs,stretched, and dug tiny scratches in Data's desktop, that she mustrectify.
What he needed was agood healthy dose of quandary. Everythinghe did was regulated, measured, and scripted down to the tiniestdetail. He probably symmetrized hisnostril hair. He needed something inexplicable. He needed a problemwith no solution. A conundrum to break that control, and nothing sotawdry as Geordi's little mysteries. And Spot. What did Spot need? Spot needed a good belly laugh. She hopped down off the desk andloped out the door toward the holodeck.
“I assure youthe method of my deduction is quite simple,” Holmes boomed ashe paced stiffly across the wooden floor of the Lady Beausoleil'sfine townhouse. Doctor Watson and the local constable looked on. “Today is Sunday is it not, Dr. Watson? The lady of the houseis wearing a fine dress of scarlet today, with no fewer than thirtytiny cloth covered shank buttons up the back, and a corset beneath,judging by the stiffness of her trunk.” The lady looked quitehaughty at her undergarments becoming the subject of Holmes'scrutiny. “She has mentioned twice before that her lady inwaiting has been ill as much as two days and has not been round to dothe cleaning, the truth of this evident in the light coating of dustupon the mantle piece. This being Sunday as it is, in this strictlyProtestant borough under the ecclesiastical leadership of the goodReverend Woodard who we met yesterday, a widow such as the LadyBeausoleil would be want to find herself away from the church thismorning or suffer the disparaging remarks of the rest of thetownsfolk, the populace upon which, as a widowed seamstress, thelady's income entirely depends. Barring that, she would have to beat hospital or tending some extreme emergency for such an absence tobe tolerated. But she was not. And the reverend being the sharp andprim man that he is, would not allow the lady dressed in such a wayinto his church. And even if he had allowed it, her appearance wouldhave caught someone's notice, which it did not. Nor could she havechanged her clothes with all of those buttons by herself in the timeit took us to get here from the scene of the crime this morning. That means that she was the only person unaccounted for while themurder was taking place. She had the motive, the means, and hergarments place her not only notat the church as she claims, but squarely in Mr. Tomkin's livingroom!” Data slapped his leather riding gloves in his own handfor emphasis.
“Inthe living room, sah?!” the Welsh constable exclaimed.
“Indeed. Observe the widow Beausoleil's left shoe. The small black bowthere by the buckle.” He pointed. “A trifle ofdecoration. Now observe the right. It is missing. I found a tinyscrap of the same black silk ribbon on the decedent's coat. If youcompare it to the other I think you will find it to be a perfectmatch. She may have in fact, kickedthe body to be sure he was dead.” The constable looked aghast.
Geordi always had ahard time staying in character while Holmes orated, sometimesslipping out to titter a little at Data's performance, but today helooked simply beatific. Whilethe lady flushed red and scowled, Geordie beamed at him from across the room against the banister, applaudingbriefly. Data was unsure why he seemed so happy to lose the gameonce again. It gave him pause, and he thought he should reveal therest of his evidence to the constable before he took her away.
“However,” Holmes started again, but he didn't get to finish because the ladylunged at Doctor Watson with a growl, producing a dagger from herskirts and plunging into his chest so fast, no one had a chance toreact, not even Data. Geordie hardly made a sound as Data caught hiscollapsing body. The constable seized the woman as she shrieked.
“You told me shewould get away with it! You didn't tell me you were going to frameme for it! You toldme he would never know! You told me you would take the blame Watson! Now Matilda has everything!”
But as Data lookeddown to his blind friend in his arms, he saw that Geordi could nolonger hear her. Data could not understand how the safety protocolscould have been disengaged when he had checked them just before theystarted the game. An instant later, his hand was almost to hiscommunicator beneath his costume to call Doctor Crusher to haveGeordi transported to sick bay. There may yet be a chance to savehis life, to revive him.
“Computer, endprogram,” came the mirthful voice, and Watson and the screamingwoman, the constable fighting to hold on to her, the twin sister andalso apparently the real murderer, Matilda Tomkin, the room, andeverything else disappeared, revealing LaForge standing in thecorner, grinning.
“Well, what didyou think? I finally got you didn't I?”
Data blinked as heprocessed the results of the game they had played for the better partof the day. He could not find fault. “Very well played,Geordi. Your interpretation of our rules could be consideredstretched, but as I did not specify that you were not allowed to usemodern technology to win, I can not find you in error.”
“And you didhave the ability to detect the double. I didn't make him perfect.”
“YesI did. All I would have had to do was quiz it to find out that itwas not you, but I failed to detect his imperfections or evenconsider the possibility that Watson could have been in on it.”
“Exactly!” He sighed heavily. “Data, you have no idea how good it feelsto know I finally beat you. I've been trying for years.”
“Iknow,” Data said with quiet stoicism.
“He did what?” Riker let his card hand drop to the tabletop.
“He made aduplicate of himself, switched the copy in for himself during thegame at some point when my back was turned, then killed the characteroff, revealing the real villain.” Geordi was not in attendanceat the poker game. He usually played, but not tonight.
Riker showed hissurprise with a simple gesture of the brow beneath his alwaysperfectly stolid expression. “I can't believe Geordi would dothat.”
Data detected notincredulity in his voice but resignation and interpreted it to meanhe disapproved of Geordi's actions. “It was a legal tactic. There was no stipulation against it in our rules.”
“Maybe not,but...it was still a horrible thing to do. Didn't you think he wasdead?”
“Yes, I did,”he said honestly.
“CommanderLaForge does have a competitive streak, Number One. He is afterall a very young chief engineer.”
“That's true,but I've never heard of him going so far. I'm glad he didn't do thatto me. I would have been tempted to lay him out,” Rikergrumbled.
“I have amystery for you Data,” Guinan chimed in after a long silencethat seemed all the longer for her sudden jump back into theconversation. The other three paid their full attention. “Aguy walks into a bar and he asks the bartender for a glass of water. The bartender pulls out a phaser and aims it at the guy's head,”she said slowly and carefully, and then paused to glance around thesmall table. “The guy says, 'Thank you.' Thebartender says, 'No problem,' and then the guy leaves. Whydid the guy thank the bartender for aiming a phaser at his head?”
Data blinked a fewtimes and his brow creased in that way he had seen so many times whenhumans were faced with a question they could not answer. “Itdoes not appear that I have enough information to answer the riddle.”
“Well that's thepoint of a riddle Data. The answer is the bartender cured hishiccups.”
Riker grinned. “Youhave to think outside the box,Data.”
Datamouthed the phrase and scowled again. Picard and Riker seemed tounderstand just fine, and the captain's eyes twinkled just a littlewhen he glanced at Guinan and took a sip of his drink. “ShallI deal again?” Data asked softly of the small group. As if inanswer, Spot leaped up onto the table andsniffed at the deck of cards.
“Spot. You arenot allowed on the table,” he said mildly.
Guinan pet the catperfunctorily. “Sure. I'll play one more,” sheresponded. “I'm feeling lucky,” she said through a slysmile. The other two nodded and Data picked the cat up off thesurface of the table with two hands. She left a claw in the felt andRiker winced as Spot was placed back on the floor leaving behind ascar on the tabletop near the deck of cards.
Datadealt the four of them five cards each at a speed a little too fastto be mistaken for normal, (sometimes emulating the humans in everydetail only serves to annoy them that he is not using his abilitiesto their fullest.) and with the placement of each card precisely ontop of the one before it creating four little fans on the table top. “The game is five card stud.”
Thecaptain and Commander Riker both folded with the first round of betsand leaned back in their chairs. The bet was up to seventy five whenGuinan called and revealed a full house. Data spread his cards andshowed four deuces.
Guinanscowled and retracted as if the cards were a snake. “That'snot right. I don't feel lucky very often, but when I do, I alwayswin,” she mumbled. The others tossed their cards in a pile andData shuffled. Data watched her in his peripheral. She still seemedquite frozen in deliberation about it. Suddenly she said, “Doubleor nothing.”
Datastopped shuffling and noted that it was the second time that day hehad heard those particular words ordered in exactly that way. Helooked at the other men. “Go ahead. You two pretty muchcleaned me out anyway,” Riker said. The captain put his handsup in acquiescence.
Datadealt Guinan and himself five more cards each. She scowled againwhen she looked at her cards. She revealed three of a kind. Threetwo's, a jack and a nine.
Dataput down a straight. Ace through five.
Rikerturned to his captain with darting blue eyes. “All four two'sare on the table again. What are the odds of that?” he saidoffhandedly.
“Theodds of it happening would not give us the most accurate picture inthis case, however, the probabilityof any four of one kind of card in a fifty-two card deck with tencards drawn would be 546 over-”
“Idon't know if I can stomach any more of those card games that startdefying the laws of probability.” Riker leaned back in hischair a little defensively.
“I'mwith you Number One. Though as long as we don't start predicting theoutcomes, I think we'll be alright. Good luck or bad.”
“Nono. I'm telling you. I've never lost a hand when I was feelinglucky Jean-Luc. Something is off here. Double or nothing, again.” She gestured at the table and Data shuffled and redealt in a matterof seconds. She didn't even bet, just turned the cards over with aslide and flip to the bottommost card. Shehad nothing but a pair of two's and a sampling of others. Dataturned over his to reveal a full house. Two's over jacks.
Everyonelooked at Data. He looked at the deck.
Thecaptain smirked in a way Data had only witnessed him do six othertimes. “Mister Data. Have you been cheating?” he asked,though Data suspected he did not ask the question completelyseriously.
“Fivetwo's Data?” Riker seemed similarly amused.
“Nosir. I do not know how this deck became tainted,” he said andscanned the entire deck in under three seconds, finding an acereplaced with a two which explained why he did not notice a changein the thickness of the deck before.
“Itseems Mister Data has a competitive streak too,” Guinan saidwith a slight cock to her head and purse to her lips.
“Hey, Data,”came the voice over the com.
“I am hereGeordie.” After his guests left, Data consulted the shipscomputer and began devouring all texts on file that contained thewords “outside the box” and crossreferencing them with his own memory. By morning he believedhe had quite an in-depth understanding of the colloquialism and itspossible application to Guinan's riddle.
“Are youfree? I've finished the newest Holmes mystery.”
Datawas surprised. It had only been a day since the last game. Itusually took Geordi about a month tocomplete a mystery.
“Iwill be available at 11:00 hours.”
“Great!” Data could hear the grin on his friend's face.
“Whendid you create this new mystery?”
“It'sone I've been working on for a while. Winning yesterday must havespurred me on to finish it finally. Stayed up most of the night. Beating you once...I'm willing to call that a fluke. If I can do itagain, then I'll call it a victory.”
“Ok, Data. Sameas always. This is Doyle's universe. No other cases were used forany background information, including ours. So, naturally, Watson isstill alive and Holmes doesn't speak Vulcan.”
An hour in and Datahad a sturdy case file brimming with suspects and a large amount ofevidence, half of which he believed to be falselyplanted. This was an intensely complex story.
Holmes paced the dimlylit study with his hands clutched behind his back, pipe cupped in theleft, legs stiff, chin nearly to his chest. Watson stood in asimilar pose off to his right, and two men and a woman in periodcostumes, cg characters, waited pensivelyoff near the fireplace which crackled and poured heat into the roomrealistically. “Based on previous experience,” he saidin that booming Holmes voice, “I must assume that the level ofour game play has stepped up,” and Geordi looked up, shocked tosee Data slip halfway out of character like that. He never talkedabout the game while playing it. It was both disturbing andgratifying. He couldn't put a finger on why it disturbed himexactly, perhaps in that instant he seemed just a tad more human thannormal, but it was always gratifying to see the ways in which Data'smind grew and responded to new things. It felt a bit like heimagined teaching a child would be like. But Data had neveraddressed the mystery before, had never addressed Geordi as he woulda villain before this. He had always addressed the characters withhis deductions. It gave Geordi a little chill. “I must assumethat, although the rules for me restrict my play to within the realmof Sherlock Holmes, you are not similarly restricted, but I must alsoassume that you want there to be a possibility for me to solve themystery or there would be no point to playing. Therefore I mustexpand my list of suspects to include anyone who you, the creator,could possibly involve. Furthermore I must consider what otherelements you are capable of introducing from the real world thatwould still be detectable by me here.” Then he became pureData again. “You realize this creates a mild paradox, Geordi?” And Geordi got the idea that he wasn't going to win this one.
“Yes,” hesaid hesitantly. “In order for you to gather a list ofpossible suspects you must use your knowledge of the real world, butin order to prove it you can't use that knowledge. I...thought you'dappreciate the fact that it is so close to the problem faced by realinvestigators encountering privacy laws and rules about evidenceretrieval, things like that,” he shrugged.
“Indeed I do. It is fascinating,” Data replied with an earnest nod. The restof the characters stood around, oblivious to the conversation as theywere programmed to be, except for Professor Moriarty, who, like everyversion of the character, was always too smart for his own good. Even as Geordi smiled at Data, he kept his eye on Moriarty, lookingfor changes in his projection that might indicate he was up tosomething other-worldly. “So, to answer your question, Watson,my list of suspects includes: Andrea Baptista, Mr. Mitchel, Mrs.Mitchel, Sarah Ducharme, Captain Picard, Professor James Moriarty,and you.”
Geordie chuckled andshook his head.
“That ispreposterous. I've had nothing to do with this and you know itHolmes!” Moriarty growled from beside the mantle.
“I agree,”Picard said from behind Data, and he turned to face him.
“Sir, I was notaware you would be joining us this-”
“I don't seewhat I've done to merit your suspicion,” he interrupted.
“Me either,”Captain Picard said as he stepped into the room and stood a few feetfrom the other Picard.
“Um. Data?”Geordi said, and when Data turned back to him, it was clear by theway he looked from one to the other that he was not sure which onehad been there originally and which one was newly appeared. It waswhen the second Moriarty crept in from the library and seized Geordithat he became aware that there was something wrong.
The other Moriarty didwhat came naturally and took hold of the other Geordi before he couldhave reacted, and both Geordis were held around the chest with knivesat their throats.
“Data,”the other Geordi said lowly and carefully. The Moriarty holding himseemed willing to let him speak. “This isn't part of thesimulation.” The real Geordi was faintly shocked to hear thatcome out of the mouth of someone that wasn't him. The cold bladeagainst his neck seemed to chill him all through his body and hedecided that he didn't like Moriarty anymore.
He had a horriblerealization just then. It was entirely possible that Data wouldthink that this was part of the simulation, that Geordi intended thisto happen, that the fear on his face was an artificial glaze ofpixels.
Data leaned vaguely inthe direction of the other Geordi..
“Don't moveHolmes or I'll slice his throat,” the one on the left growled.
“Computer, endprogram,” Data called into the air. Nothing happened. “Security to holodeck three.” There was no response. “Data to the bridge.”
A green log in thefire began whistling in the dense quiet. It whistled “Pop!Goes the Weasel.”
“Data, I don'tknow what's going on, but if the computer isn't responding then thesafety protocols may not work either,”the right-hand Geordi said and swallowed hard around the knife blade.
Spot entered the roomjust then and jumped up onto the edge of a small table. Data spareda glance to look for the second but did not see her. He took acautious step toward the right-hand Geordi and the right-handMoriarty responded by tightening the blade flush to Geordi's skin andsaying, “I swear to you Mr. Holmes if you do not back away andallow me to leave I will slice him and throw him into the fire like asuckling pig!”
Data lunged at theleft-hand pair, easily disabled Moriarty and freed Geordi in oneswift motion that left the engineer spinning a little. He leanedagainst the fireplace mantle for a secondand jiggled his visor just a little. When he turned back to theVictorian study, everyone else was gone except Data and Spot. Shegot down off the table and leaped into Data's arms.
Spot's densitysuddenly increased in a simple curve, Geordi could see, increasing rapidly at first and then leveling off in the lastfew seconds. At the same time, her fur became skin and clothing, acaptain's red uniform, and her eyes turned brown and shark-like.
“Really, Data. I thought you were capable of so much more. Iam sorely disappointed in you,” Qshook his head, cradled as he was in Data's arms. Data stood theentity on the floor immediately.
“Security toholodeck three,” Geordi said, tapping his communicator withsomething a little stronger than mere annoyance on his face to coverthe receding adrenaline jitters.
“You spent anhour in here and you hadn't yet figured out that it was Baptista whodone it? I just looked at the program editor. It was spelledout right there in the afterward.”
Data reluctantlyaddressed the entity. “The point of a mystery is to solve it,not simply read the solution.” Geordi envied the android'scool.
Q scoffed andmeandered around the hologramatic study swiping imaginary dust fromthe spine of a book or the brass statuary. “Oh Data. You justaren't any fun. Here I thought you'd supply me with some realentertainment for a change and either allow Geordi to be killed or atthe very least manage to figure out that I was the one behind it. Iwas positively magnanimous with my clues. I thought my brain wouldmelt at the very tedium of leaving them they were so glaringlyobvious.” Geordi gritted his teeth and reminded himself thatthere was little to be done about the pretentiousness of theomnipotent.
“I did suspectyour influence.”
“Now that isn'ttrue, Data. You never listed me among your suspects,” Q saidwith a cheeky smirk.
“For the game,no. But past incidents have forced me to count you among my chiefsuspects in any investigation on the ship. By reason of...”and he paused in that way that only Data can, the whip-quickrecalculation of every subtle nuance of the situation, a maneuverthat would make any normal human stutter and stall, “...thebody of evidence suggesting that you could be at the bottom of anyevent that takes place.”
“Well, I can'targue with that now can I,” he purred and Data nodded once.
The security teamcould be heard fighting with the door to the holodeck, though Dataand Geordi both knew that they would not be opening the door until Qwas quite ready for it to happen.
Geordi decided to tryto appear unflappable and disinterested in Q's opinions or even hispresence. “How did you know that I was the real Geordi, Data?” Change the subject. That at least did puzzle him.
Data pulled a shortlength of black ribbon from Watson's front coat pocket where it beeninconspicuously hanging. And for a momenthe was Holmes again, the light nasal quality coming back to anoverconfident voice. “When the simulation began, I was surenot to take my eyes off of you, just incase you decided to duplicate yourself again. Then, when I had theopportunity, I slipped this into your pocket to mark you as the realone, playing the odds of you loading a premade hologram against theodds of you having the computer scan and duplicate you. I was alsobetting that if Q was involved, that he would use the same imagestored in the holodeck memory in order to keep you confused as well.”
“Ah, MisterData. You're becoming a real betting man, there may be hope for youyet,” Q drawled.
Geordi ignored himcompletely. “And how did you figure out that Q was behindthis, that it wasn't part of the game? That I wasn't trying to trickyou again?”
“I did not.” Data was Data again and spoke with mild solemnity.
“What do youmean? If you didn't know I was really in trouble, why didn't you letit go? I could have been another double. I could have programmedthe whole thing.”
“Because I wouldnot risk your safety to win a game,” he said simply.
And Geordi paused in shock,then hung his head, feeling heat come to his cheeks. “Data. I'm...I'm sorry. I really didn'tthink about it when I made that scenario.”
“It is quite allright Geordi.”
Q disappeared andreappeared between the two of them, now in his Q Continuum attire. “Well, this is all very touching, but I'm afraid it's also veryboring and I must be off.” He put a finger to his lips. “Maybe I'll see what Guinan is up to. I always liked her. Marvelous brilliant woman, you could learn a thing or two from herData. Then again she never liked me much, did she...saucy wench.” Q was sneaking away in a purple cloud of smoke, arms raised like aconductor, when Geordie stopped him. “Q.” He looked up,annoyed at the interruption. “Where's Spot?”
He dropped his armswith a huff. Then he wound up with one robed leg rising beneath hisjudiciary gown and threw a baseball squarely at Data's chest. Cheering followed by home run organ music erupted when Data caughtthe ball against his chest. The ball transformed into Spot, sixteenclaws in Data's uniform shirt, and Q disappearedentirely.
The door slid open andthe security team bustled in impotently and confused. “Well, Idon't know about you Data, but I think I've had my fill of theholodeck for a while.”
Data nodded. “Ithink Spot has as well,” he said and cooed at the nervousfeline.