The Zimmerman Factor

By Laura Schiller

Based on Star Trek: Voyager

Copyright: Paramount

(Note: This story is based on the episodes "Life Line" and "Equinox" and may not make sense without them.)

Dear Haley,

I'm glad to hear that the old man is finally recovered. Tell him from me that I'm still waiting for his answer to my letter. Not that I expect much from him in the way of common courtesy, but still – he might try.

I'm functioning within acceptable parameters, thank you for asking. It's been more than the usual string of disasters out here; suffice it to say, Seven and B'Elanna have gone over my matrix with a fine-tooth comb, and they assure me everything is in order. Which is fortunate, as we've added five new members to the crew. Starfleet officers from the Equinox, Voyager's fellow castaway. You may have heard of it on the news.

As to your own news, I'm glad you thought to ask me for advice. Not only because, thanks to my experience, I feel uniquely qualified to give you such advice, but because you and I were, after all, made by the same hand (if not precisely in the same image). I consider you family, and as such I hope you will forgive me for being completely straightforward.

And on that note: My dear, you can do better.

Not that I'm disparaging Mr. Barclay, far from it. From what I observed of him during my month at your lab, he seemed like a good-natured, if rather eccentric fellow. And of course, my crew is grateful to him for defying his superiors as he did in order to establish contact. Also, I do agree with you that Dr. Z's reaction, as you describe it, seems unnecessarily harsh. Coffee is the deuce to clean out of a computer console. However, I'm obliged to remind you that your friend does, in fact, have a history of holoaddiction in his Starfleet medical file. Can you be sure – completely sure – that his interest in you is not the result of a relapse, and his interest in Counsellor Troi entirely therapeutic?

We holograms are vulnerable, you know. Especially to talented engineers. The more I think about this, the more I begin to wonder if Dr. Z had a point in overreacting.

Please don't tell him I said that.

Regarding your own feelings, though, all I can say is: They are as real as you allow them to be. Never mind what Zimmerman told you; it is possible for our kind to fall genuinely in love. If he didn't mean for that to happen, he shouldn't have made us self-aware. You tell him that the next time he pulls out the omniscient-creator card. And tell Reg that, if I ever find he's altered your program without your permission, or overstepped your boundaries in any way, I will personally commandeer the MIDAS array, go back to the Alpha Quadrant, and hunt him down.

You asked me how it felt for me to fall in love. Frankly, I'm not sure this is any of your business. I would ask you how you guessed … but then, I suppose it must be painfully obvious to anyone who knows me. Except to her. The Borg aren't exactly known for their people skills.

All I can say is that I'm concerned for your emotional well-being. A broken heart, even if only metaphorical, is something no physician (or engineer) can repair. But Reg is a good man, and if he truly respects you as a sentient being – if he really loves you – it's absolutely worth the risk.

If, mind you.

I'm still convinced that no man in the universe is good enough for you, let alone a forty-year-old bachelor with a speech impediment whose only friends are Dr. Z, a counsellor and a cat. But, far be it from me to try to dictate your personal life. I gave you my advice, but the choice is entirely yours.

With my warmest regards from the Delta Quadrant,

Emergency Medical Hologram, Starship Voyager (Mark One)

P. S.: I never pictured you as a Sinatra fan. It must run in the family.

P.P.S.: But whatever you do, next time I visit Jupiter Station, don't let me hear any pre-industrial American folk songs. Honestly. I can't abide them.