See title reference: http://nlp-addiction.com/eliza/
= UNREAD MESSAGE =
From: Captain Lawrence Squire, Starfleet Intelligence
To: Ian Lamont, USS Charon
Sorry Lamont. You know more that I do on your first question. On the second, I'm afraid I can't be of much help. I know I owe you a few favors, but the information you requested either doesn't exist or is way beyond my pay grade. I'll see if I can dig anything else up, but don't hold your breath. Nice to hear from you. Next time you're in the neighborhood look me up. I still owe you a few drinks plus I'd enjoy a chance to catch up.
Regards. - LS
= END TRANSMISSION =
Ambassador Ian Lamont hit the edge of his obsidian desk upon reading the message from one of his contacts back on Earth. Patiently waiting for a response with the Charon lightyears away from civilization, Lamont was infuriated that his patient waiting had been in vain. If they were in range of Starfleet networks where communications and data searches didn't take days or weeks then perhaps his frustration would be limited, but as it stood he was simply growing more agitated and angry for each day he was unable to find the answers he sought.
He wanted information on the Vulcan prisoners who were stuffed like sardines inside the brig. He wanted to know who they were, why they were here, and what connection they had to the detestable outcome involving the recent Romulan capture of sensitive if not dangerous technology.
He had employed all of his diplomatic contacts in pursuit of more information to no avail. Strings he had pulled had simply unraveled yielding nothing.
It wasn't so much that he cared who the Vulcans were more so as he wanted someone to blame for the monumental failure that once again had made him feel and look utterly useless aboard this ship. His performance on the bridge ended before it had ever started. He hadn't even had the opportunity to speak to the Romulan commander face to face. His planning, his meticulous deceptions had been useless along with many hours and lost sleep and for what?
He had even failed to hit the Temep'Shar with a torpedo adding final insult to a mission he wished he could simply forget. He wanted someone to blame for his failures. He desperately wanted to make a difference aboard this ship and once again had been denied that privilege.
So consumed was he by yet another opportunity lost he hadn't bothered checking himself into sickbay to have the cut on his forehead mended nor had he changed his uniform which was spattered in his own blood. Once again the carpet had been pulled from beneath him as he was an instant away from proving his value aboard this ship.
Why was he aboard this ship again? If he was useless as the captain was fond of reminding him then why was he still here? What purpose did he serve? What value did he bring?
Grabbing a bottle of open Romulan Ale, Lamont poured himself a fourth glass of the powerful blue liquor and gulped it down in one smooth action. He wasn't interested in the taste.
Adding to matters was the recent discovery of Vulcan roots somewhere within his family line. He had recently discovered he possessed some weak, but nevertheless, viable Vulcan abilities which had manifested themselves almost by accident in the presence of Commander Tyrax. He was still unsure what to make of them and for now was still fearful of his ability to control such an unusual gift.
These thoughts and more made him anxious and angry. Half a bottle of ale later and its deleterious effects were only just dulling his unwanted feelings.
He already had the computer running several queries on his family history.
Many of them were still running as the Lamont line was long stretching back dozens of generations. Records, especially those kept after the Third World War, were spotty, fragmented, and in many cases incomplete or damaged.
Glancing at the computer he was tired of waiting for information. With the Charon weeks away from Federation space and her inability to send or receive messages quickly, Lamont was tired and frustrated waiting for days on end to send messages as well as receive replies. The situation was intolerable.
Swallowing another glass of ale, Lamont decided he was tired of waiting.
Being a full ambassador with certain diplomatic privileges he intended to use them for once even if it garnered the ire of Engineering or slowed down the holodecks for a few minutes.
"Computer, cancel all previous inquiries. Recognize Lamont, Ian. Ship's Ambassador. Alpha One One Seven Nine One One Delta. This is a priority one, compulsory directive. Search for all known Vulcan references, names, contacts, or other linked information pertaining to the Lamont family line."
The computer indicated its acceptance of the order and began its task.
Lamont sat back and waited. The computer would work on the problem he had given it to the exclusion of little else save for critical systems.
Combing the ship's massive databases with the computer's full attention instead of the normal pittance of processing power he was allotted along with every other crewman would surely help him obtain the answers he sought at a faster rate. Being a ranking officer had its perks at times aboard this ship.
He was sure engineering would bark at him once they determined why computer processing power had been forcibly allocated, but he had the authority to do make such a request and at present the Charon was not at alert status or engaged in anything other than retreating from their recent failure. The crew could tolerate some computer lag for his benefit for a brief period of time.
The communication system chimed at him just as soon as he was settling in on the rest of the bottle. To his surprise it didn't sound like anyone in Engineering. She sounded pleasant at least, from what he could tell through the alcoholic haze. "May I have a moment, Ambassador?"
"Of course," He waved his hand generously at the voice. She didn't sound upset so he wasn't sure what this was about at all.
His uncertainty only swelled when the few holo-emitters in his room sparked to life and a glowing Operations manager appeared in front of him. She seemed amused. "Tch," she chided, "Drinking alone? It's not entirely like you, Sir."
The hologram stepped - well, no, floated - forward, buoyant in the air as if she were at fifty feet, like a glowing angelfish. It was utterly surreal, especially through the fuzziness that so much Romulan Ale would bring with it. "And you've not visited the doctor, either. Hold still."
The red bled out of her uniform, shifting to blue as she plucked a dermal regenerator from the air - he barely heard the replicator hum.
Lamont watched the ethereal figure before him approach like a phantom from a fictional work of horror. The alcohol racing through him was not aiding his processing of the experience. He was equal parts irritated, amazed, inquisitive, and anxious." Had he drunken himself into a stupor or perhaps fallen asleep? Was this a bad dream?
The figured approached and attempted to touch his head with an instrument seemingly having appeared out of thin air. Lamont avoided the initial touch unsure if what he was witnessing was real, imagined, or some mixture of both combined with the large quantities of alcohol he had consumed.
"No squirming, Sir. You're a big boy now, there's no need to fuss."
The hologram touched the ambassador's face and set about repairing the cut Lamont had received as a result of turbulence in the torpedo fire control.
After several moments the figure retreated to a respectable distance as Lamont rubbed the side of his head which no longer bore any trace of injury.
"I..I do not believe we have been properly introduced", Ian stated still unsure where the line between reality and fantasy was placed. Glancing at the bottle of nearby ale there was no mistake its effects were at work.
She smiled a broad and charming smile, one specifically designed for members of the male heterosexual persuasion while under intoxication. She found using it to be particularly advantageous in starting a relationship well.
(Impedance factors were reduced by upwards of 14% through the use of this interaction set!) "I am ship's aide and computer interface, and current surrogate Chief of Operations, Ambassador. My name is Savant."
"Savant? As in a scholar?" Lamont wasn't sure if this was someone's idea of a practical joke or not, but he wasn't laughing and had no time to waste talking with a mindless photonic avatar. The hologram, for its part, seemed amused.
"Computer, why is a hologram in my quarters and who sent it", Lamont asked his tone laced with irritability. When no answer was forthcoming he said nothing content to simply observe the floating figure before him. This had to be a most peculiar dream, but he was surprised at how vivid it seemed.
Perhaps the alcohol combined with the stress of the recent mission might explain this bizarre fantasy his mind was creating.
The hologram, for its part, only smirked at his incredulity. It wasn't the first time she had been mistaken for a mere simulacrum. She waited a few beats of silence before looking playfully up towards the ceiling, where the voice ought to emanate from, "No answer. Hm."
She looked back at him, "Good evening, Ambassador. I'm afraid I've come on business - I am here to request permission to downgrade the priority rating of your current processing request." Her smile widened sympathetically, "While genealogy is a worthy pursuit, it has little bearing on our current mission objectives."
Ian examined the floating avatar before him with a degree of new found intrigue or well as much as he could muster in an alcohol induced haze.
"How do you know about that", he asked unwilling to retract his order merely at the suggestion he do so by an unknown computer projection.
There was that program that aided security or performed housekeeping or general purpose tasks the crew had nicknamed Alice if he recalled. He hadn't actually interacted with it personally, but he doubted it was this sophisticated from what little he knew of it. Had engineering developed some variant of the EMH for their use? If so it was certainly impressive if not highly intrusive.
Savant for her part seemed to ignore his ruminations, instead she slowed her speech somewhat and spoke more clearly to compensate for his alcohol addled brain. She projected he would survive without serious poisoning from his overindulgence, but she still marveled at his desire to even imbibe the stuff at all. Organics were always confusing things.
"Much the same as how alcohol affects your brain by interfering with your synaptic receptors, high volumes of unrelated data traffic interferes with my own processing." She smiled in amusement at her own analogy, "Maybe you could think of it as your genealogy project giving me a hang-over. Do you understand?"
Lamont had yet to fully succumb to the ale's potent effects. He understood even if the understanding was taking far longer than usual. This program seemed far cleverer than the typically predictable and dull holograms the computer regularly served up. It was almost refreshing given the computer's usual deadpan responses.
Flush with the effects of alcohol, Lamont smiled ever so slightly deciding to test the limits of this program's capabilities. He was intrigued, but just how sophisticated and capable was this holographic interface?
"I understand completely Savant", Lamont replied to her question. "However, I am in need of some specific information and am not inclined to wait to obtain it. It is of a matter of utmost personal importance. As you have no doubt observed, I've rather enjoyed my libations this evening and indeed am experiencing some interference with synaptic receptors and the like.
However I shall endure and the temporary condition will pass. Indeed, once the computer provides me with an answer your hang-over will cease.
As for my request it goes beyond mere genealogy. The results may very well have a tangible and profound impact given certain knowledge I have recently been made aware of."
Ian was still attempting to wrap his head around the events with Commander Tyrax in the brig some days ago. In many ways his new found ability seemed surreal. He wasn't sure he wanted them and there was a part of him which reacted to the knowledge as if he had contracted a disease. His newfound ability to reach out with his mind was terrifying yet also dangerously alluring. For now he was too drunk to even begin to think about such profound things. He simply wanted a few answers from the computer, a few more drinks, and to forget about the Charon's recent failure - his failures in their last mission.
"Since we're both hung over, I'd offer you a drink, but somehow I think I'd only get back a spectrographic analysis of its contents, its ill effects, and a lecture on moderation or perhaps the use of synthehol which should be a crime to serve anywhere in the galaxy. In any event I have no intention of retracting my orders."
Lamont smiled at the hologram and raised his glass. "Cheers." He finished off the pale blue liquid before leaning back in his leather desk chair content to continue a discussion with the computer that was unexpected and for the moment entertaining.
When he looked up from the obsidian, he saw that she was pouring herself a glass of the alcohol with a glass that had apparently appeared from nowhere.
The hologram cocked an eyebrow at him, still amused, perhaps even playful (could a computer program be playful?)
"I could give you a molecular breakdown, if you wanted, and a full biosynthesis report. I could even give you a lecture on moderation or the advantages of synthehol, if you wanted. I have several on file." She sat on the edge of his desk in an utterly casual fashion, apparently having forgotten all pretense of rank. "I don't think that's what you want to hear, though. You strike me more as wanting to muse over what went wrong today, how you could have fixed it, and what role you played in the failure."
She swirled the ale around in her glass, a tall, thin-stemmed piece of crystalware. The blue clung to the sides like thin, fizzy syrup. "I've seen a lot of self-imposed misery in my cycles, Ambassador. I understand that it is at times unavoidable. This is how biology works after all. I do hope that you don't lose perspective of your successes, and that you learn from today."
Her smile was reassuring as she tilted her glass towards him, mimicking his previous gesture, "Cheers." and taking a drink.
"Success? HA!", Lamont answered with an energetic tone. What did this computer know of success or failure? To it such human concepts were but mere ones and zeros. How could it comprehend the rush or glory of victory or the depression and bitter anguish of defeat?
"You have access to my records. Enlighten me as to what successes I have had aboard this cosmic circus act Starfleet calls a starship? Wait. Let me do it for you. Let's see. I've been quite successful at cultivating the ire of the captain over our tour. I've successfully captured and maintained the current ship record for brig time among officer and enlisted personnel- combined. I was successful at allowing the Romulans to capture a dangerous piece of technology which could alter the balance of power in the quadrant.
Oh yes, I was also successful at missing the Vulcan ship with a torpedo! And lest I forget I was also successful in saving the captain from a hired assassin by taking a shot intended for her - which consequently landed me in the brig for my heroism thanks to the captain's ingratitude thus successfully securing my record for most incarcerated officer!
Oh yes! I have had many successes aboard this ship! So many in fact that when I am reassigned to other duties I'm sure I'll land a choice position negotiating dinner and travel arrangements for dignitaries and bartering over the prices of catering. Who knows? In time I might even get to resolve disputes between varying delegations as to what music should be played or something especially difficult such as who gets to speak first at diplomatic functions.
I've had so many successes I just can't cope with them all which is why I think I will have another glass of this magical blue elixir." Lamont poured himself another half glass of the ale nearly spilling the bottle in the process.
He took another sip as his cares for whom and what he was speaking to slowly evaporated under the influence of alcohol.
"Within the midst of all my grand accomplishments I just happen to bump into our chief helmsman who's a Vulcan, but you already know that. Of course you do, you're a computer." Lamont's words were becoming less and less coherent as more and more alcohol flooded into his bloodstream.
"Well anyway, she's quite interesting, but then again I've always thought most Vulcans were. So we somehow end up in the brig together. I'm still not quite sure how someone as logical as her ended up trapped in a brig cell. No doubt the captain had something to do with it. Rehu's solution to everything these days is to toss personnel in the brig since she can't exactly execute them on the spot anymore. When we get back to spacedock, assuming any of us survive long enough, they'll have to tear out an entire deck to add more holding cells!
Back to what I was saying. Our helmsofficer, Sakarra, she's in the brig with me and what do I find? Some hidden spark of Vulcan mental ability which springs forward out of the blue. Try running your holomatrix through a live EPS conduit.then you might get some small sense of what it felt like to discover something you never knew you had. On top of that, I'm not even sure I want it! It's a dangerous, mystical, wonderful thing to be able to communicate only by touch or perhaps even without it! I can't wait for this new found ability to spring to life at the worst possible time! I have a hard enough time keeping my tongue and opinions on a leash let alone my thoughts or keeping myself out of the thoughts of someone else."
Ian took another extremely generous sip of the blue ale in his glass.
"So now you know why I have your virtual playground busied with matters of genealogy. I must know who and when a Vulcan was involved in my family's past! There was never any mention of such a person and I have every Lamont for ten generations committed to memory. Finding this information means learning more about myself."
He finished off the glass setting it on his desk before falling backwards into his large office chair. "This information may answer some questions, but it doesn't help me figure out who I am and how to deal with the mess I've created for myself. What use am I aboard Savant? What good is an ambassador who causes more trouble than he solves? What does the Charon need with an advisor that the Captain routinely ignores? Can your processors and algorithms compute an answer to those questions? "
She watched him from her perch upon his desk, nursing her glass, pondering.
His emotions were certainly fluctuating wildly; which was really to be expected given his circumstances. The poor thing really was ruled by his hormones. Biology was such a messy thing.
When he reached the end of his tirade and anger had subsided to resignation, she smiled sympathetically. "You make light of your career, Ambassador. I'm well aware of your career, with all of its ups and downs. You happen to be in a bit of a down," she rose from her seat and walked closer, "Which happens to everyone. Even Starfleet Ambassadors.
You don't always win, you don't always get what you want. You face adversity and failure, and it's in these places that you find the sort of person that you are."
She put her hand upon his wrist, an action to apparently limit his ability to empty his glass into him. But that wasn't what was important.
She felt *real*. Warm, the gentle pressure of skin with its subtle texture; a light pulse beneath it. Savant looked as real as any breathing human might. "You can't judge your worth by the opinions of others. Other people are their own universe. You can only judge yourself based on what you know and those people you hold dear to your heart."
Was that compassion? Was it concern or was it simply a clever simulation of the same? Furthermore, if that was indeed the case, why would it ever want to show concern? Savant smiled her smaller smile, her tone gentle and forgiving. "You're allowed to be a little miserable - you've had a tough time over the past few weeks. So long as you know that this too shall pass."
Lamont placed a hand upon the simulation's arm and despite his reason telling him she was nothing more than a collection of photons held together by an elaborate system of magnetic fields his body relayed a different message. With alcohol muting his reasoning and intensifying his senses the computer projection felt just as real, warm, and alive as any other individual aboard.
He took a moment to steady himself using her touch to help ground him. In his world which seemed at the moment to make no sense she was making a great deal of sense or perhaps the alcohol had at last affected the ambassador far beyond what he could at present comprehend.
"For a sophisticated program you would appear to have a talent at counseling", Lamont stated releasing Savant's arm pulling himself from her warm touch. He looked up at Savant and wondered if there was really anything there beyond those eyes. A part of him wanted to believe there was something more to her than algorithms, logic, zeroes, and ones.
"Computer, abort my previous directive. Store existing family inquiry results for later processing."
Leaning back in his office chair, Lamont was too drunk and tired to think further on the dozens of issues swimming in a sea of alcohol within him.
They would have to wait as he slept his indulgence off.
The hologram smiled as the Ambassador leaned back. She could see the conflicting alpha and delta waves of his brain struggling against one another, with the alcohol tearing the whole mess down into unconsciousness. Probably for the best. She bowed a half bow in his direction, "Sleep tight, Ambassador. Tomorrow will be a new day." and then disappeared, leaving him alone with his waning thoughts.
Ambassador Ian Lamont