Broken Bottle Part 2

"Your vessel is somewhat antiquated, is it not?" Moriarty said as he studied a holographic model of the Longworth that hovered above Bryson's desk in his ready room. "According to my research," Bryson's head snapped up, briefed by Captain Picard via sunspace link about how Moriarty had somehow taken control of the Enterprise's computer in a bid to force Picard to give him a physical body, he'd taken precautions to isolate both Moriarty and his companion from the main core, creating something Alice called a logic bubble within the system, in effect duplicating the conditions within the prison box they'd been found in, but allowing them to roam the ship. "Your Miss Alice granted me access to the information," Moriarty said folding his arms. "Your ship is slightly over one hundred years of age."

"But she's been upgraded extensively to keep her in pace with most of the front line ships." Bryson replied pointing to the model. "More powerful engines, enhanced phasers and shields, she's now capable of things her original designers could only dream of."

"I have no doubt." Moriarty nodded. "But will she become another prison for myself and the Countess Regina? Are we to become nothing more then amusing oddities for you and your crew to interact with, like your Miss Alice?"

"Alice is more then just another character from the holodeck," Bryson replied shutting off the model, "Most of the crew look on her as the embodiment of the ship's soul." He kept to himself the fact that for all practical purposes, Alice was the embodiment of the main computer itself.

"But is she allowed to leave the ship?"

"On a limited basis. Our engineer managed to come up with a mobile emitter ball so she can go on away missions, but it's bulky and she can't leave the confines of it."

"Much like our former prison." Moriarty said as he wandered about the room looking at the books and relics on the shelves. "I understand she and the Countess are currently on one of your holodecks?"

"Yes, Alice said something about taking her shopping." Bryson replied.

"What is this place?" Countess Regina asked as she walked beside Alice down a busy city sidewalk. In the street ancient automobiles honked their horns as they jockeyed with horse drawn carriages and dray wagons, and electric trolleys for space. Tall buildings rose up around the two women with electric and telegraph lines forming an aerial web between the structures.

"New York city," Alice replied to her companion's inquiry, "Circa 1905, the era in which my prototype lived. We're on what they called The Ladies Mile, because of all the shops and stores catering to women that were located here." She lead the Countess to am establishment with large display windows showing the latest fashions and frosted glass in the twin oak entry doors. A bell jangled as they entered the store, which was carpeted in rich brocade and decorated with potted palms amidst the glass display cases filled with gloves, handbags and other accessories. Mannequins showed off the latest in capes and gowns and salesgirls attended to other customers at some of the counters.

"Good afternoon ladies." A saleswoman said as she approached the pair. "How may I serve you today?"

"My friend here has need of a gown for a formal occasion." Alice responded.

"I do?" Regina asked puzzled.

"Of course," Alice smiled, "You can't expect to attend an embassy ball dressed like that can you?"

"No, of course not, but wouldn't it be simpler to just,"

"Modify your code so you could do quick changes like me?" Alice finished, "I could, but what would be the fun in that? Besides I wanted us to have some time to ourselves in order to talk."

"This way ladies." The saleswoman directed the pair to a viewing area with a large wicker sofa on which to sit. As assistants brought out assorted gowns for their inspection, Regina noticed that a crowd had gathered outside the store's windows and were peering in while several men in derbies and slightly wrinkled suits were busily scribbling in small notebooks.

"What is it that has all those people so interested?" Regina asked.

"Me, I'm afraid." Alice replied with a slight smile, "I am after all, the daughter of the President of the United States. You'll meet him at the ball."

"I have Admiral Brown on a secured channel Captain." Came the voice of the duty communications officer as Bryson lay on his bunk in his cabin.

"Pipe it down here." He yawned as he rolled off the bunk and walked to his desk. He activated his terminal and ran through the security protocols and shortly thereafter a plump raven-haired woman with admirals bars on her uniform appeared.

"Greetings Captain, did I wake you?" she asked. Depending on what her mood was, the inquiry could either be genuine concern or a sarcastic prelude to a dressing down. Bryson decided to tread carefully.

"Just a short nap Admiral." He replied smoothing down his hair and straightening his uniform.

"Good. I understand you've come into possession of an interesting item from the Enterprise, a box containing two holographic entities like Alice?"

"They're hardly anything like Alice Admiral," Bryson protested, and then realized he'd just stepped into it.

"So you've released them?" The Admiral's eyes widened as she sat back in her chair.

"Well yes. The power source on their prison was damaged in the crash and was failing, so I had them transferred to,"

"Nate, you realize what you've done?"

"Admiral, if you're worried about them trying to seize control like they did with Picard, you needn't, Alice has them safely isolated from her core functions,"

"I'm sure she does Nate, but that is not the problem. We've got people on this end that are more then a little uneasy about starships that can think for themselves, not to mention self aware artificial entities. Up to this point I've been able to convince anyone who asked that Alice is just a rare fluke, something that could never happen again. If word got out that the Federation was creating a race of holograms capable of independent thought, we'd have the Klingons, Romulans, and Lord knows who else demanding access to the technology, and likely not for benevolent purposes."

"I understand Admiral, but the fact remains that they're here, and entitled to their existence, just as Alice is."

"Granted. But that would mean they'd have to remain aboard your ship."

"I don't think they'd stand for that. Moriarty is already researching possible ways for them to exist outside the ship's confines, including a portable emitter based on some technology we got from the Darphnornians."

"You said Alice has them isolated. How difficult would it be for her to alter?"

"Their programs so they'd be little better then any other holodeck character?" Bryson leaned close to the monitor. "Admiral, I can tell you she won't do it. To her they're like finding others of your species after you've long believed you were the only one of your kind."

"That decision may not be yours, or hers to make Captain. I am ordering you to proceed to Starbase 149 where you'll take aboard a federation science team who'll study the Moriarty and Countess Regina entities in regards to their continued existence." The Admiral spread her hands. "I'm truly sorry about this Nate, but it would seem you've let the proverbial cats out of the bag on this one. Brown out." The screen reverted to the Federation seal as Bryson turned away from it to find himself face to face with Alice whose eyes were flashing fire.

"You're not going to turn them over are you?" she demanded.

"I may not have a choice." He sighed. "You heard Brown. The science boys want to dissect our guests to see if they need to be exterminated."

"I won't let you!" Alice screamed. "They're individuals, just like you or I!"

"I know you won't." Bryson said soothingly, "But we're not going to be able to solve this by you blowing a Ferengi cruiser out of the stars when they tried to steal you, or taking on the entire fleet by trying to run and hide."

"So what do we do about this?" Alice asked as she folded her arms.

"Well we tell The Professor and his lady friend upfront about what's happened, they deserve that much. Then in the three days it's going to take to reach Starbase 149, we work like hell to try and come up with a solution to this mess."

To be continued