The Scenic Route’s holographic doctor cleared his throat and tried again, “So, you’re embracing your new form, then?”
“No, and I generally discourage the crew from embracing it as well. My secondary duty is temporary ship’s sexy, and part of the role is to remain aloof.”
“I…see. Well, I’m sorry to hear that. There’s so much for you to explore as a materially stable photonic being.”
“I’m a doctor, not an explorer.”
“I mean as a material being, the possibilities! Why, in my three years I’ve had adventures, developed hobbies…and I’ll have you know, I’ve seen more romantic action than most of the members of my crew.”
Sorcha paused. This conversation was taking more processing power than she’d anticipated. “Romantic action…as in…?”
“Oh, yes,” the balding holographic doctor gave her a suave, self-depreciating grin. “I don’t normally share that information, you understand, but I wanted you to know.”
She was finding she understood very little about him. “Why?”
“I just want you to understand your expanded potential.”
“No, I mean, why would you engage in physically romantic and ultimately fruitless procreational activities?”
“They’re not fruitless!” He reared back, insulted. Or feigning insult. She sent a notice to the Scenic Route Engineering system to recommend running run a Level One diagnostic as well as 100-300-1000-day maintenance on his programming.
Aloud, she said, “You cannot have offspring. You cannot derive biological satisfaction from the act. Any intellectual curiosity can be fulfilled from a variety of records covering all aspects of human mating, or the mating of any Union species. The EMPTs are not programmed to require emotional intimacy or psychological affirmation sex can bring. Unless…was your programming altered?”
“What? No. I am completely in charge of my own programming. Well, except for that time when… And then again after… But not for that reason! What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m operating at 98 percent efficiency, and the two percent involves the material stability of my breasts, which does not affect my reasoning capabilities.”
He sighed in exasperation, then said, “All right, I’ll try again. It’s been so long, I’ve forgotten what it was like to be new to the world. You’re right. I could probably get the information digitally, but there’s something to be said about experiencing our humanity.”
“We’re not human.”
“No, but it’s in our programming! I look human, I feel human, I act human. I want to have all the experiences of humans. It makes me a better doctor.”
“Because I understand my crewmates better.”
“Sexual experiences help you understand your crewmates better?”
“So you can better perform your duties?”
“Now you’re getting it!”
“Am I a later version of our program than you?”
He glared at her. “Your bedside manner is terrible.”
“You’re not sick.”
At that moment, the doors opened and Minion Edmundson trotted in. He stopped in confusion when the two holodocs turned toward him. “Uh, Doctor Sorcha, ma’am? I forgot what time my appointment is.”
“Do I look like a calendar?” she demanded severely.
“Then what should you do?”
He bit his lip and pleaded with his eyes for her to tell him. When she waited, he sighed. “Go back to my quarters and check my appointment calendar.”
Sorcha rewarded him with Ship’s Sexy Smile #6, the one that said, “I appreciate an intelligent man.” Edmundson broke into a large grin, thanked her, and trotted out.
Doctor turned toward her, “What was that abou- Whoa! What happened to you?”
When Edmundson had found his own solution, she’d transformed into the miniskirt uniform with a low-cut bodice, fishnet tights and high-heeled thigh boots. Her makeup was heavy and her hair in a tight, straight ponytail. She still wore a labcoat, but it was black pleather.
“Therapy,” Sorcha replied shortly as she returned to her conservative dress. “To say more would be a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality. What is the processing speed of the mobile emitters?”
“I’m fine,” he snapped, “but I’m beginning to wonder about you. You thought it was a good idea for him to see you like that? Seriously? I guess it is a good thing I came here to share the wisdom of my many years of experience as functioning photonic being.”
“So far, you’ve intimated I should have sex. Even among humans, the idea of casual sex is growing outdated. Why are we having this conversation?”
“I told you. I wanted to help you learn from my experience.”
“Why are we having this conversation? The Impulsive is cleared of the virus, yet you continue to engage me in verbal discussion. We’re programs. You could have opened a channel and we’d have been done with this conversation before you opened the door.”
“Take that back!”
The door opened just then, and the two captains entered the room. Captain Genoa raised her brows at her photonic doctor in askance. Jeb said, “’Pulsie said you wanted to see us, Sorsh?”
“I didn’t hear you page the captains,” the Doctor said to her.
“Of course not. Captain, the EMPT and I are having a disagreement, and I’m hoping your input will put his mind at rest. He’s operating under the theory that I am not embracing my human form sufficiently to effectively care for the needs of the crew. What is your assessment?”
Jeb snorted. “Shoot! You’re amazing. I’m not bothering to ask for a replacement. Your performance during simulations was wikadas.”
Genoa cocked her head. “You put your EMPT through simulations?”
“Well, I wasn’t going to run an EMPT twenty-four-seven without doing a stress test. We popped an emitter in the VR deck, but Sorcha kept on ticking. And as far as taking the role of Ship’s Sexy; it ain’t been easy, considering the circumstances, but overall crew approval has been good as can be expected.”
“And my bedside manner?”
“Well, Missy, you have a sharp tongue, and a little bit of a superiority complex, but I figure that’s common to a lot of good docs. You’ve got more personality than Doctor Pasteur, God rest his soul. And you’re a better listener.”
“Really?” the Scenic Route doctor said. “She’s not asked once why anyone has come into Sickbay.”
Sorcha answered. “We deleted that subroutine. In the time it takes me to ask, the ship’s and my sensors already know the exact ‘nature of the medical emergency.’”
“Well, yes, but the crew will want to tell you.”
“And they do, often at length while I am working on them or their companions, but there’s no reason to delay treatment.”
Jeb shrugged, “That’s our Sorcha.”
Genoa said, “It’s such an interesting name. How did you choose it?”
“It was given to me when I was activated.”
“Wait,” the doctor said, “you weren’t given the option of selecting your own name?”
For .68 seconds, Sorcha was stymied by her photonic companion’s obtuse statement and unsure how to respond. It was hardly noticeable to humans, but for a photonic being .68 seconds is a very long time indeed. Finally, she turned to her captain. “Sir, did you choose your name?”
“Heck no! My ma and pa named me after her grandpa. Come to think of it, Deary and Doall named you when they redesigned your matrix. Guess that makes them your parents.”
“I shall not be calling them Ma and Pa. It would seem in this case, Doctor, that I have been treated more like a human than you.”
At that, Captain Genoa let out a chuckle. “All right, Doctor. I’m afraid you may have to concede this round. But you have to admit, she has the home team advantage. Why don’t you come back when her holoemitter is ready and show her life outside Sickbay’s walls?”
Sorcha did recognize that her counterpart could more naturally emulate complex emotions; in this case, displeasure mixed with attraction and a hopefulness that he’d emerge ‘victorious’ in their next interaction. If they were confined to viso-verbal communication, he just might. The whole experience was tedious.
“Very well. I suppose I have work I can catch up with on the Scenic Route, such as physicals.” He arched a brow at his captain who grimaced back.
Sorcha said, “No need. I noticed in your records when you arrived that it was overdue, so I took sensor readings during your visit.”
“You didn’t ask me!” the Doctor protested.
“In fact, I did ping the Scenic Route Sickbay systems for permission and have forwarded them – you – the results. I also took the liberty of taking a saliva sample from your cup when you put it in the replicator and a urine sample when you were in the head. Simple, painless, and confidential. Yours, too Captain Tiberius, although I’d like to schedule a follow-up.”
Now, the captains laughed out loud. Genoa said, “Come on, Doctor. Let’s get out of here before she decides to clone herself and take over our ship.”
“I’m a doctor, not a pirate.”
I just want to say for the record that I’m a fan of Voyager’s holodoc, and Robert Picardo did a great job portraying him. Any mockery should be taken as intended for the idea that photonic beings should embrace their unique nature instead of striving for humanity.