Hoshi Sato materialized in front of Tripp Tucker and Malcolm Reed. It had been an uneventful beam-up. The two men were silent, and seemed to be appraising her. Tripp looked at her quizzically, and said, "Huh. Yanno, I think it looks better there."
Malcolm came closer. "Perhaps you're right."
"What looks better? Where?" she asked, a little scared. A few years before, she had been stuck in a pattern buffer for a few more seconds than anyone would have wanted. To her, it had felt like a day or more, and it had been frightening. She had been a bit delusional, and one of her hallucinations had been of her body breaking down and becoming translucent, and of no one listening to her.
"The, I think it moved a centimeter or so," Tripp said, "And it's an improvement."
"Well, it's not like the original was bad or anything," Malcolm said.
"What original? What?!" Hoshi asked, getting a little more scared.
"The birthmark on your face, Hoshi," Tripp said, "it's moved about a centimeter to the left."
Horrified, she ran to Sick Bay.
When she was out of earshot, Tripp turned to Malcolm and laughed. He said, "We got her good."
In Sick Bay, Doctor Phlox sprang into action when he saw Hoshi run in. "What's the trouble?" he called out, thinking of a thousand things that might be an emergency. Perhaps the Edosian slugs would be pressed into service.
"Did it move? Did it move?!" Ensign Sato was near hysteria.
"Did what move? What?" asked the Denobulan, maintaining his composure.
"My, my, oh, dammit, do you have a mirror?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Doctor, do you have a mirror?"
He rummaged around, "Ah, here it is."
She took it from him and inspected her face very carefully. Of course the birthmark had not moved.
Angrily, she looked at the doctor. "Oh, that was totally unfair!"
She ran out of Sick Bay, leaving the mirror behind on a counter. Phlox picked it up, smiled at his own reflection and then went over to the slug cage. "I suppose you can continue to relax, fellows. You're not on call today."
She got to her quarters and threw herself onto the bed, and cried a little. "Damn them! Damn them! Damn them!" she seethed.
There was a door chime. "Uh, come in," she said as soon as she had dabbed her eyes dry.
It was Malcolm. "I, uh, I am sorry," he said, "I had thought it was a harmless prank. I, for one, did not mean to distress you so."
"Uh, thank you. It's because of what happened a few years ago," Hoshi said, "I'm just kinda sensitive about Transporters, and being caught in them."
"I understand. My apologies to you." He left.
As Malcolm was walking down the hall of C deck, unbeknownst to him, or to anyone else, a tiny spatial anomaly hit the Enterprise. It passed right through deck plating and walls and even the thigh of a crew member. When it went there – because it was a bit of an energy pulse – it interrupted electrical impulses just a tiny bit. A heart skipped a beat. And a thought – in mid-think, no less – was altered, and judgment was mildly impaired.
And so, after the unfelt spatial anomaly – which was less than a nanometer long – had passed out of her body, Hoshi stared out the window for a moment. "Tripp Tucker," she said, "you've got twenty-four hours to man up and apologize like Malcolm just did. And if you don't, well, let's just say the payback will not be pretty."
Malcolm walked to his quarters and immediately contacted the night shift Communications officer. "Mister Masterson," he said, "I'd like my usual nightly call, please."
"Sure, coming right up," said Chip. While he was waiting for the connection to be completed, he added, "You coming to Movie Night in a couple of days? It's going to be fantastic."
"Uh, really?" Malcolm didn't want to make small talk; he just wanted to get to his call.
"Haven't you seen the notes I've been sending out, Lieutenant?" Chip smiled to himself. No one else seemed to be as into movies as he was, not even the guy who acted as a projectionist, Aidan MacKenzie. "I'm showing a really highbrow picture, The Seventh Seal. It's very cultured. You'll love it. Maybe your friend will like it, too."
"Perhaps," Malcolm said. Friend? Well, that was one word for her, but things were a lot more serious than that.
"Ah, here she is now. Remember, Movie Night. See you there. Masterson out."
"What was that all about?" she asked.
"Oh, well," Malcolm said, "Chip seems to think he's going to get this huge attendance at what is supposed to be a rather intellectual film."
"I wonder what kind of an audience he's expecting. A lot of those really intellectual movies can be," she said, "a little dry in parts. How are you?"
"Much better now that I see you," Malcolm said, "But how are you? That's a lot more important."
She patted her stomach. "Still getting kicked a lot."
A day went by, and there was still no apology from Tripp. Hoshi found herself obsessing over it. She saw Travis at lunch and steered him into an empty lab afterwards. "What's up?" he asked. "Why the secrecy?"
"I have, uh, it's a delicate matter," she said, "I'm a little peeved at Commander Tucker."
She told him, and then added, "And I gave him some time to apologize and no dice."
"You should prank him back," Travis suggested.
"Exactly what I was thinking," Hoshi said, "anything you think he might be, I dunno, really looking forward to?"
"I've seen him talking to T'Pol a lot lately, and it's not about work," Travis said, "He asked her to Movie Night."
"I wonder if he's trying to get back with her," Hoshi mused. Then she suddenly thought of something, "Can, uh, can I count on you to help me?"
They were back on the Bridge, and all Travis had to do was keep an eye out. Hoshi would do everything else.
"Steady as she goes, Mister Mayweather," said Captain Jonathan Archer. That region of space was fairly empty and there were apparently no other ships around. It was a welcome change from recent battles.
"Captain," said Malcolm, "I'm picking up a small spatial anomaly."
"I see it, sir," Travis said.
"How big is it?" asked the captain.
"Less than one hundred meters," said T'Pol, the Vulcan at the Science station, "and it appears to be an isolated anomaly."
"Hoshi, are there any ships in the area?" the captain asked.
"Huh?" She quickly covered up what she'd been doing. "Uh, no, sir. We aren't being hailed by anyone."
"Then let's just steer around it," Jonathan said.
"Yes, sir," said Travis.
Hoshi looked back at her work, and saw that there was a glaring imperfection. And then she realized – that would be better. The addition of a few imperfections would practically guarantee than any suspicions about the origins of the prank would be deflected away from her. She smiled to herself and added some deliberate imperfections. After perhaps an hour, she was done.
Movie Night was about to get a lot more interesting.
Malcolm was back on his nightly call. "How many kicks today?"
"Uh, twenty-four. No, wait, twenty-six. Ow!" she said to her own swollen belly.
He chuckled a little at that. "Perhaps she'll become a dancer."
"I was thinking," He said, "would you like to do something a little bit different? You could watch The Seventh Seal at home tomorrow night, at the same time that I do, and then we could talk about it afterwards?"
"Doesn't Chip have his own discussion?"
"Well, yes, but I was thinking we could have our own."
"Oh," she said, "well in the interests of full disclosure, I should tell you that I've seen it."
"Oh." There was disappointment in his voice.
"But that doesn't mean I can't see it again! Besides, I'm tired and life is full of distractions these days. So it's probably better if I already know it."
"So you'll, you'll do it?" he asked, a little anxious. He definitely knew where he stood with her, but every now and then he would get a little insecure – his issue, not hers.
"Of course," she said, smiling. "I'll even dress up. After all, it'll be a date."
"A date it is." Whew.
Hoshi and Travis stood together near the Enterprise's media storage cabinet, near the Mess Hall. "Just a few more seconds," she said.
"Okay," he said, looking around a little nervously. "Uh, what did you do to the film?"
"I just interspliced it with some scenes from a travelogue about the Southern United States."
"Florida, like where Commander Tucker's from?"
"Texas, actually. Ah, there, all set."
They beat a hasty retreat. Movie Night was to start in an hour.
There was one last message from Ensign Chandler Masterson on everyone's PADD – Come to Movie Night! Bring a date and stay for the discussion! Who says art and culture are dead on a starship?!
Despite Chip's entreaties, Movie Night was relatively sparsely attended. Hoshi sat in the middle, but moved closer when she saw Tripp come in with T'Pol. I gotta see your face, she thought to herself.
Malcolm took a seat near the back, next to Doctor Phlox. A few MACOs sat nearby, male and female, including Corporal Cole, who gave a friendly wave. Captain Archer sat near the front with Travis, and the two of them made small talk about spatial anomalies. Chef Slocum was there, and Jenny from Engineering, but that was about it.
Chip stood at the front of the room. "Welcome to Movie Night! I am your Movie Guy. Tonight we have Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. Watch for all sorts of symbolism, particularly in the chess scenes. And the film is in Swedish, with English subtitles, so feel free to talk amongst yourselves. We ready?"
"Ready!" came the answer from the back.
"Okay, roll it, Aidan."
The doctor talked a bit, in between bites of popcorn, but Malcolm didn't mind. "The knight," Phlox said, "he must be representing humanity."
"Possibly," Malcolm said, "but it might also be that he represents health, given that the plague has come to Sweden."
Tripp surreptitiously took T'Pol's hand. She looked up at him, gazing into his eyes. For them, the film was all but forgotten, although she did say, "I appreciate your taking the time to explore an entertainment that you thought I would enjoy. It is … very mature … on your part."
"Anything for you," he said to her, gently kissing her hand.
Hoshi smiled as she watched. Wait for it, wait for it.
On the screen, the chess board came out again.
Payback time had arrived.
There was a clattering sound as the popcorn bowl hit the floor. The captain and Travis just stared, open-mouthed. Malcolm swallowed hard. Phlox laughed nervously. T'Pol got up – even Vulcans could get annoyed, it seemed. Tripp followed after her. Jenny put her hand up to her face. Corporal Cole blinked several times. The male MACOs clapped – the movie was suddenly very, very interesting to them.
Chip turned white as a sheet.
When Jonathan had regained his wits, there was moaning on the screen as a young girl in a cowboy hat frolicked with all manner of men and women. The girl was only wearing a cowboy hat, and no one was playing chess or speaking Swedish anymore, as 1970s style clothes flew off in every direction.
Jonathan stood up, fast. "Masterson! MacKenzie!" he yelled.
Aidan had not been paying attention but he snapped to. Realizing that some pornographic travesty was on the screen in place of the Bergman masterpiece, he fumbled around until he'd shut off the film. Chip just sat there, holding his stomach, trying not to throw up. Surely his career was over.
The moment of deathly silence that followed terrified him almost as much as the sentence that came directly afterwards.
"In my Ready Room! Right now!"
In his Ready Room, Jonathan glowered at the two men. "What the hell were you thinking?"
"Sir, I, I …." Chip stammered.
"You even have those sorts of films on the ship?"
"Yes, uh, sir," Aidan said, "but we never bring them out for Movie Night."
"Well it looks like you made an exception!" Jonathan was livid. A vein was sticking out of the side of his neck and it was pulsing.
"But, uh, we didn't …." Chip tried again.
"I don't wanna hear any excuses! Dismissed!"
Tripp was trying to catch up to T'Pol. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" he called out after her, "I had no idea it was like that. Chip said it was gonna be really intellectual. I had no idea he was sellin' us all a bill of goods!"
She turned back to look at him. "Reconciliation was a poor idea. Kindly do not follow me back to my quarters."
Back at his quarters, Malcolm made his call without help from Communications. Neither Hoshi nor Chip seemed to be on duty. "You're early!" she said. She was wearing a pretty dress and there was a ribbon in her hair. "I've still got the film going."
He looked at her oddly. "Did you, uh, what did you think of the, of the sex scenes?"
"The, the scenes of sexual encounters," he said, "they seemed to be rather out of place with the rest of the story, but I was thinking, perhaps they were meant to symbolize life, or laughing in the face of adversity?"
"Malcolm," she said, peering directly into the screen, "there are no explicit sex scenes in The Seventh Seal."
"Really," she said, "it's a film about a knight and Death and a bunch of actors and some chess-playing."
"No, uh, girls in, uh, ten gallon hats? No group scenes of debauchery?"
He thought for a second. "Mister Masterson – I, uh, I get the impression that he didn't know. He hyped the film as an intellectual exercise. I think this; this insertion of explicit material isn't his fault at all."
"I don't understand," she said.
"I, I have to go. I shall call tomorrow. And I love you, of course. You look beautiful. But right now, there's been a grave injustice. Mister Masterson, and I believe also Mister MacKenzie – I believe that they've been set up."
"Go!" she said. "I'll talk to you tomorrow, love."
Jonathan was alone in his Ready Room, considering how to dictate the reprimands when there was a door chime. "Come in," he said, feeling tired and annoyed.
"Sir, am I disturbing you?" Malcolm asked.
"Uh, no," Jonathan said, "Computer, pause."
"It's, it's about this evening's, uh, entertainment."
"I'm not following you, sir."
"I've already had two complaints from women who were at the film, and one of the MACOs wanted to know if they could borrow the film for a Bachelor Party."
"Sir, I, uh, my girl was also watching the film at home tonight. And, um, it was our idea, we were going to both watch and discuss it afterwards," Jonathan was peeved, so Malcolm cut to the chase, "and she tells me that her copy of the film doesn't have any explicit scenes. It's, the, uh, I think there are two films that were somehow cut together. One of them probably truly was The Seventh Seal – she said it's supposed to have chess in it, and it did. But the other part is clearly not a part of it at all! Whoever, well, whoever did this, it appears that they made sure to match the volume and the other film is black and white or perhaps it was originally color and it was converted to black and white in order to match the first one, and then they kind of slipped the additions in. Sir, I don't think either MacKenzie or Masterson knew about this at all."
"You may be right," Jonathan said, thinking it over, "someone may be framing them."
After Malcolm had left, Jonathan began to dictate. "Captain's star log, October fourth, 2159. I've been confronted with an interesting problem. Someone has been involved in a juvenile prank. Now, it's mostly harmless, and the ship is not in any danger. But some crew members have been offended unnecessarily. And two crewmen were accused – possibly falsely – by me. They almost had official reprimands posted in their personnel records."
He sighed before continuing, "Because this is a matter of people's livelihoods, I need to take some action. This is a starship, and we've got a war going on, for God's sake! The crew needs to act maturely. I am not above a little fun but this went a bit too far. I have a semblance of a plan to see if I can ensnare the culprit. Because now that I've been thinking it over, I suspect someone very specific. But I need more proof."
The next morning, after fitful dreams, Chip got into uniform. He looked at the Ensign's insignia on the side of his arm. Would that be gone by the end of the day? He engaged Communications. "Masterson to MacKenzie. Uh, Mac? Can you come over to my quarters for a sec?"
Aidan was looking as distraught as Chip was. "So you're telling me," Chip said, "it was not you?"
"No! Oh, c'mon, Chip! I know better than that. Helluva way for the captain to learn we have a few pornos stashed away, eh? But, really, we're all grown-ups. You and I, we don't show those things at Movie Night."
"What do you think happened?" Chip asked.
"Someone got into the media storage bin, I'm figuring. It does not help that we don't lock it, but we never had occasion to before now. Anyway, someone got in, fiddled with the movie, and then put it back. I am guessing they needed an accomplice in order to keep an eye out. Then I grabbed what, to me, looked like the right file and the rest, as they say, is history."
"Okay," Chip said, "but who would have the motive to do such a thing to us?"
On the Bridge, it was nearing the end of the day shift. It was almost time for MacKenzie to come in and relieve Reed, and Masterson to relieve Sato. "Hoshi," Jonathan said, "get me the shipwide intercom, please."
"Right away, sir. Uh, go ahead."
"All hands, this is the captain. By now, you have probably heard what happened at Movie Night. This cannot stand. We need to remain in fighting readiness. Childish pranks will not be tolerated. That is all."
T'Pol arched an eyebrow slightly and then shook her head. Humans. Such antics were particularly foolish during the Romulan War. She gazed at her screen. There was another small spatial anomaly.
Jonathan paused and then said, "Hoshi, contact Tripp and have him take command for a little while. Also, call Mister MacKenzie and Mister Masterson, and have them come to their shift early. And I want you and Malcolm to stick around as you are their respective department heads."
"Of course, sir."
Travis swallowed hard. All he had done was cover for her two times – while she had worked on the film and then when she had put the altered film into the media storage cabinet. This really was going too far. Was someone going to lose their rank over this? He barely heard T'Pol when she told him that there was another anomaly, and he'd need to change their heading slightly in order to avoid it.
"You, you wanted to see us, sir?" Aidan asked. He tugged at his collar. It was the captain; T'Pol; his boss, Lieutenant Reed; Chip and Hoshi. It seemed almost silly to have the meeting taking place in the Ready Room, seeing as all of those people were there. Might as well have it in the damned Mess Hall, and broadcast it on the shipwide intercom.
"Yes, I did," Jonathan said, "I was rather impressed, actually."
"Im-impressed, sir?" Chip asked, trying hard not to scratch his wrist, an old nervous habit of his.
"Yes. Whoever spliced those two films together knew a lot about movies. They knew to not make a continuity break, so that the film wouldn't jump when it switched over. They knew to match the volume level. They knew how to make the second film black and white, because I suspect that second film was originally in color. Do you, uh, other than yourselves, do you know of anyone who would have that kind of specialized knowledge?"
"That sounds a bit technical," Malcolm interjected, "I don't wish to accuse anyone, but could it have been someone in Engineering?" Tripp was sitting in the Captain's Chair on the Bridge. Could he have done it?
"I don't know, sir," Chip said, "I, uh, I don't wanna take the fall for this, for something I didn't do. And Aidan is definitely innocent, too. But I don't wanna accuse anyone. Not without being real sure of things."
There was a Communications chime and all six heads turned as one. "Come in," Jonathan said.
It was Travis. "Uh, sir, I have a confession to make." Hoshi swallowed hard.
"Yes?" Jonathan asked. T'Pol cocked an eyebrow.
"I was a part of it," Travis said, "and I'm, I'm sorry. I covered during, uh, during the, um, the alteration of the original movie and then when it was put into the media storage bin. Masterson and MacKenzie, they, uh, they weren't involved at all. I'm sorry, fellows. I didn't think you would get into quite so much trouble."
"Travis," Jonathan said, "if it's not them, then who is responsible?"
Travis gazed at Hoshi. C'mon, tell them. Get it off your chest. "Uh, that person is in this room, sir."
"Well, it's not you and me, and it's not MacKenzie and Masterson. And I doubt that it's T'Pol," Jonathan said, "So that leaves Malcolm and Hoshi. Care to give us another hint?"
"I don't like being a snitch," Travis said, "C'mon, will you just tell them?!"
The seven people in the room looked around at each other.
"Sir," Hoshi finally said, after some uncomfortable silence, "it was me. I did it. Don't, um, don't punish anyone but me. Even Travis isn't really guilty of anything. I got him to go along with me. I, uh, I did it to get back at Tripp for a prank he pulled but I went too far."
"T'Pol, could you please have Commander Tucker join us in here?" Jonathan asked. T'Pol left and Jonathan turned to Hoshi, "This won't go on your record. I know you were just trying to have some fun. And God knows things have been tough here lately. But really! Dragging Travis into this! You owe both him and Tripp an apology."
Tripp walked in with T'Pol. "Wanted to see me, Cap'n? We got a few more anomalies out there. Phlox reported in; he said one of 'em seems to have hit his Derellian bat and he almost got bitten. And that's an animal that has never acted up, he says. I gotta wonder what'd happen if any of us was ever hit by one. Would it change our personalities, even for just a few seconds?"
"I will investigate that theory," T'Pol said, and her eyes said to Tripp, but I won't investigate anything else with you.
"Actually, once we're done here, I'd suggest perhaps contacting Doctor Phlox, and asking him if he can find an anomaly hit on Hoshi here," Malcolm suggested. She glared at him a little, so he hastily added, "It does seem a bit out of character for you, Ensign. And we are seeing all sorts of size anomalies. It makes sense that some would be rather tiny indeed. Could a very, very small one, perhaps less than a micrometer in length, change a crewman's personality temporarily, or present itself almost like a stroke?"
"That is a logical possibility," T'Pol said, "I will inform the doctor at once." She departed.
"Hoshi has something to say to you," Jonathan said to Tripp.
She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry about the movie getting all messed up. It was all my fault, all my idea. I wanted to get back at you for the crack about the Transporter. And Travis, I, uh, I apologize. I shouldn't have gotten you involved in this at all."
"Travis, what were you thinking?" Jonathan asked. He was more surprised than annoyed now, and was beginning to smile again.
"She just said she was splicing The Seventh Seal with some American travelogue, sir."
"That was no travelogue," Jonathan said, "Just what was the name of that second movie?" he asked Hoshi.
"Debbie Does Dallas."