A/N: For those of you used to the update rates on my Narnia fics, this one is progressing slowly. Of course, I had a bit of burnout after attempting Nanowrimo for the first time too. Thanks again to my muse and Beta-reader Straitjackit... (I'll make a Trekker of her yet! Oh well, I hear her Dad is a Star Trek fan and is helping her with the Trek specific stuff! Thank you, Sir!)
Over a thousand of the United Federation of Planet's greatest living medical minds were gathered in this one room. Facility staff were scrambling all through the convention hall like so many worker ants. An apt description considering their insectile heritage and appearance. The Andorians were complaining that the air was too warm, some of the human guests were begging for blankets, the Tellarite contingent wanted larger chairs, and at least one species had complained of feeling euphoric and asked that the partial pressure of oxygen in the atmosphere be reduced by half.
Standing on a transparent aluminum stage at the front of the auditorium, a tall, rotund Andorian swept his gaze back and forth across the room with the hypnotic regularity of a metronome. His voice rising and falling in time with his movements.
"…And so, at its core, the disease referred to as The Phage encountered by the Voyager crew in the Delta Quadrant carries the earmarks of genetic enhancement tampering…"
Of those thousand great minds, those who weren't grousing were bored. If it weren't for the extreme interest in the upcoming speaker, most of them would have drifted away from the conference already to explore the social life of this year's host planet.
In the twentieth row of the floor level, a short, wiry, balding man sat. His attention raptly focused on the speaker. Two seats over, an exotically attractive woman sat. Her Klingon brow, head ridges and steely focus giving the impression that she too was deeply in tune with the speaker droning on the stage.
Between them sat a tall, athletically built human male. The shock of brown hair atop his head mussed throughly from slouching in the seat. Like a small child at a recital, he kept fidgeting in his seat, to the occasional annoyance of his two companions.
Leaning over to the man, he whispered in a somewhat less than hushed baritone voice.
"Gee Doc, and I thought you could be boring."
"Mr. Paris," The lightly built, balding man turned to scowl, "I'd appreciate if you did not disparage the speaker when they are clearly building a premise based upon one of my papers."
At that same moment, B'elana backhanded Tom Paris on the left arm.
"Ow!" Tom hissed under his breath.
"Tom, behave!" In the hushed, serious tone that B'elana often used to discipline their quarter Klingon young daughter.
"We are here as the Doctor's guests to witness his first presentation to the Federation League of Hippocrates."
At his wife's scolding, Tom slumped back into his seat. Arms crossed, he absentmindedly rubbed the bicep where she'd hit him.
"Okay, but when they refer to our excursion, do they have to make it sound like it's already etched in the history books?" With an undignified pout, he surrendered to B'elana's will.
Polite applause rippled outward unevenly through the auditorium as the Andorian speaker concluded his presentation. At the podium, he dipped his antenna in acknowledgment then stepped from the stage. A rather harried looking human, wearing a replica 20th century tweed suit and a blue standard issue lab smock, hustled to the center of the stage.
Mopping his flushed forehead with a handkerchief from the breast pocked of his jacket, he paused to gather in a few deep breaths.
"Before our next speaker, there are a few housekeeping notes. The facility staff asks that participants please not leave active experiments unattended on the main convention floor. It seems that a blue, mutagenic goo is attempting to take over the display of the Altair Medical Research Institute."
A loud bustling came from one of the upper balconies as the AMRI representatives bolted for the door.
"Also, a hovervan, registration &-2361, has been left parked on the roof lot beyond it's allotted time. The driver is asked to please remove it to the designated parking zone."
Clearing his throat, his harried demeanor morphed into that of a master of ceremonies. General lighting in the auditorium reduced as a single spotlight focused in on the speaker. On the back wall of the stage, holo-images of famous Federation and Pre-Federation doctors from the many worlds appeared, regressing to infinity as if representing the mass of sentient existence moving forward.
"Fellow sentients..." In the control booth, the sound tech pumped the bass and reverb on the speakers. "Over the years, as the Federation has grown, this body has welcomed many new species to make presentations before us. Today, it is my honor to introduce our first presentation by a self-aware holographic program! Presenting his thesis on the life-cycle of the Delta Quadrant Ocampa, the USS Voyager's Emergency Medical Holographic Program! Doctor…" The host bowed and waved his arm to the podium.
Standing beside Tom and B'elana, the Doctor smiled broadly and waved at the applauding crowd.
With a huge grin, Tom clapped him on the shoulder. "Knock 'em dead, Doc!"
Moving off carefully through the mass of curious and well wishers, he approached the stage. Hovercams drifted above the throng, documenting the historic moment for playback on hundreds of worlds.
As he passed the front row, there was a blinding blue-white flash, followed by an abrupt, high pitched, and multi-tonal whine. With a mass scream, those closest to the explosion began bolting for the exits.
When the panic subsided, it was as if the Doctor was never there.
Doctors from ten different worlds were still fighting to get out of the exit door at the end of Aisle C. Ten rows in front of that melee, an attractive brunette took a deep breath to focus herself then turned her deep, black eyes on her companion.
"Reg, what just happened?" Her thick Betazed accent reasserting itself as she concentrated on blocking out the panicked emotions of the hundreds of people fleeing the auditorium.
As a Starfleet Counselor, Deanna Troi-Riker had been looking forward to studying the reactions of the assembled crowd to the presentation by a new and unexpected sentient lifeform. Now she was trapped in a classic case of mass panic propagation in a crowded environment.
Looking about, she studied the room. Without reaching out her empathic senses, she could distinguish between the civilian and Starfleet Doctors in attendance. While the civilians were fighting their way up the aisles to the exits, Starfleet trained personnel were climbing over the seatbacks to get to the point where the Holographic Doctor had disappeared.
Standing, Reginald Barclay's right hand was clenched in a fist behind his back. His left hand was tangled in his thinning light brown hair. Above a narrow face, lines creased his forehead as he stared at the point of the flash. "From here it looked like the holo-emitter blew out."
Deanna looked over at him and rested her hand on his shoulder. "Holotechnology is your specialty Reg. Is there something we can do?"
Barclay dropped into his seat and began blindly reaching around underneath it. Grasping the strap of a medium sized bag, he pulled it up into his lap.
"Where's my tricorder?" He started digging through the bag, setting various gift-wrapped shapes on the floor. "Ahhh…Found it."
Barclay started playing his fingers over the controls as if it were a pocket sized musical instrument, occasionally muttering the word "interference".
After about half a minute he started blindly walking across the auditorium towards where the Doctor had disappeared. He was so totally focused on the tricorder that he did not notice the various, panic stricken people who brushed by him on their way out the door.
With a shake of her head at his single-minded focus, Deanna swept the gifts into the bag and followed him down the aisle.
On the other side of the auditorium Ezri's fair skin paled as she watched the panic develop and spread. In spite of that fear, she focused herself on the event that had triggered the panic. "Julian, he was a hologram, is there something we can do?"
Bashir also had his tricorder out, but instead of scanning the floor area, he was scanning the ceiling. As he watched the readings, he detected a flicker of movement indicating a vehicle departure from the roof.
"Damn!" He tore his eyes off of the scanner to look at the dark, shadowed ceiling of the auditorium. " Come on, we've got to get to the security center!"
"But..." Ezri spun towards where the sentient hologram had disappeared. "What about the Doctor?"
Her query fell on empty space as Julian had already bolted for the nearest exit. Somehow, he managed to wiggle and worm his way forward and through the doorway.
Caught in the press of people trying to escape from the conference hall, Ezri barely caught up to him in the hallway where he had a security guard cornered.
As she ran up, she heard him rattling off commands into the guard's com unit.
"Priority alpha security alert." Bashir hurriedly rattled of a string of clearance numbers to establish his authority to call such an alert. "Lock down the security computers and dump their records to secure storage."
Julian handed the bulky civilian com unit back to the security guard. Still intensely focused he drilled the young man with his eyes. "You understand my authority?"
The guard nodded.
"Good, I need directions to this facility's security office. Stat."
With the instructions relayed and directions in hand, Ezri was hauled off on another whirlwind run through the convention center's corridors.
"B'elana, help me look." Tom Paris was prostrate on the floor where the Doctor had last been seen, feeling around under the seats for the Doctor's mobile emitter.
"Please, everyone step back carefully!" B'elana underpinned her words with a Klingon growl.
With their undivided attention, she calmly proceeded to give out instructions.
"We are looking for a small device, about so big," she held her finger and thumb apart, "it is gray and slightly trapezoidal in shape. It is very important that we find it."
"Will everyone please turn off your tricorders!" Reginald Barclay's voice boomed over the crowd.
"Why?" A perturbed voice shouted back.
Reg closed his eyes and shook his head. "Sir, as a doctor, would you let an engineer perform surgery on you?"
"Then please, turn off your tricorder so I can do my job." Barclay answered.
Tom tore his imploring gaze away from his wife. "Reg! Can you tune that to look for the Doc's holoemitter?"
Deanna joined B'elana in trying to get the crowd to step back and turn off the various tricorders that were interfering with Barclay's.
Reginald's fingers danced across the controls as he reset the device to seek out the specific resonance signature of the Doctor's emitter. Immediately, the tricorder began beeping.
"I'm getting something, over this way." Barclay set off through the crowd like an out of control bulldozer, once again totally focused on the instrument in his hands. Tom, B'elana, and Deanna strung out in a line behind him.
Reg skidded to a stop as the display resolved the signals it was receiving. "Tom, this doesn't look good, I'm getting four separate readings, none of which are large enough alone to be the emitter."
Tom and B'elana exchanged horrified glances. "Where?" They asked together.
Following Barclay's directions they collected up the scorched pieces of metal.