Post 22 - Re-Initialization
The Waiting Game
Location: Earth; Daystrom Institute; Holo-Lab Ishikawa
Timeline: MD 20
"Computer retrieve archived holographic file, Adelphi-Omega-Medical. Access indices Alpha 11098 through Omicron 17186. Initialize file decompression subroutines."
The computer chirped: "Working. Please stand by." A rounded and then twittering series of chirps fed haptics back into Noah Balsam's holo-feed. The cadet pulled up his HUD visor, a translucent black bow spanning ear to ear. With a click, it fixed above his curly black hair. He pushed a small white, contoured orb into his ear. It beeped with a whir of blue lights. His head bobbed rhythmically. Long fingers nabbed a square of pineapple and Noah pushed it into his overbite of a mouth.
Noah was quite tall but stooped toward his information, a lanky and thin body evoking some kind of a Human with stick insect qualities. Yet his face was somewhat broad, with a long nose that felt too big like he was part bird as well. He wore the cool gray and black of a cadet, four silvery slot-shaped pips on his right collar. His foot was tapping and with an errant gesture, he strummed an air guitar in front of his stomach.
"Gesture not recognized," the computer said abruptly, his holographic feeds briefly flickering. With a gesture, Noah minimized them out of his way. Inspiration struck: Noah tapped his earbuds and made a flinging gesture. The song transferred to the Holodecks ambient sound system. The song filled the room. He pushed another piece of pineapple into his face, chewing with his wide mouth. About the time the Holo-Lab's doors opened with a grind, Noah had broken into a mumbled singalong. "... I wanna ride it all niiiight long. Wooo! If you're goin' my way, I'll wanna drive it all niiiight lonnnng!"
Emni stood just inside the door to the holo-lab where she had been summoned for the LMH debrief and review an amused smile pulling at the edges of her lips. It had been at her own request that the LMH be removed from the ship and brought along while the Adelphi was evaluated. Her argument, to those few who had inquired, was that the composite knowledge the LMH had acquired in its time within the Delta Quadrant was valuable both to Starfleet and the crew and that any attempt to enable a new LMH for their next mission would be to detract from its effectiveness.
It didn't take a lot to assess the emotional state of the young man playing air guitar and singing louder than he likely realized and Emni let the feeling of his enthusiasm and mild innocence linger in her view for an extra moment before clearing her throat.
"Cadet Balsam?" she inquired, her voice raised. "I'm Lieutenant t'Nai."
Hearing a voice intrude through the song, Noah looked behind him. His brown eyes rounded, "Cuh-computer, mute!" He snapped to rigid attention, puffing what little chest he had while his arms dropped to his sides, "Ma'am!" He barked with a slight break in his voice. The computer hadn't acknowledged his command. He looked at the woman in blue, "Computer, mute!" This time it chirped and complied, washing the room in an echoing silence. One of his earbuds fell out of his ear, clacking against the glassy-feeling floor.
Emni did chuckle then, the sound echoing through the suddenly silent room as the earbud rolled to stop in front of her feet. "At ease Cadet."
She bent down and picked up the small item between her thumb and middle finger, offering it back to the young man with her best medical doctor disarming smile. "I didn't mean to startle you."
Noah eyed the small ball and its lazy blue blink as it reinitiated connection in its short, limited range. He took it back and pushed it into his pocket. Only then did Noah into at tease. He blinked. "Oh uhh... I mean you didn't. I was just...." he turned at the waist and thumbed at the lab's holoprojectors. "I mean. Recompiling a hologram that was in the archives. For reassignment." Noah moved to put his hand on his hip, clipped his plate of pineapple chunk. He felt his pinky- just enough to topple it off-kilter. He winced as the plate dropped to the ground. He blinked and looked at the piece of pineapple sitting on top of Emni's boot.
He squatted and started retrieving the few chunks he had left, putting them back on the thankfully unbroken plate.
If mortification had an emotional doppelganger it just might be Cadet Balsam. Emni put a hand on the young man's shoulder, working hard to wipe the amusement from her face, and quickly removed her boot, shaking the remaining fruit onto the plate in the process. She then removed her other boot and set them by the door.
"More comfortable to work this way anyway," she noted, matter of factly before turning to the holo display that the cadet had indicated. "I gather we're going to assess the status of my LMH today to evaluate whether my request to transfer him to any upcoming Delta Quadrant assignment with our crew might be feasible?"
Noah had turned bright pink- which was quite obvious on a face that was both fair of skin and seemed to invite freckles instead of a tan. "I-I'm not sure Ma'am. They haven't told me much." At Emni's attention, the holographic display brightened with her presence-interface. Noah turned as well, studying the compiling files and data rewrites. "I was just told this LMH is out of compliance with a few new regulation changes..." he quickly glanced at her, "Be-be because it was in the Delta Quadrant. So it wasn't receiving packet updates to its subroutines." His brows lifted, his mouth opened and hung but words didn't come out. His brain was moving too fast. "I-I heard that this model was being transferred to a new ship."
'File Adelphi-Omega-Medical decompression complete. Recompiling image interface," the computer reported. And before them, a wire mesh of a hologram began to form. Occasionally the computer would chirp, a pixellated section would flash red, erase itself and then reimpose.
"The file was corrupted," Noah offered, "Ah-as you can probably see," Noah wiped some of the pineapple juice that'd splashed on his hands off on his pant leg, "But not in an unrecoverable way."
Emni's open expression turned to a frown. "I see," she said, turning over the description in her head. "Is there any detail on that reassignment or simply an indication that he was being redeployed? I had been told a full evaluation would take place before any decisions were made and it's not clear to me why he wouldn't simply be returned to the Adelphi with the rest of our crew."
"Umm," Noah hesitated. He rested the heels of his palms on the console, "Not to me, but the Yardmaster at Copernicus Yard might know?" He tried a smile. "It looks like this LMH was installed on an older ship. Some of its holo-materialization subroutines date back to the first and second generations of LMH. Back when these were limited to short-duration use inside a Sickbay. Was the Adelphi old?" Noah hesitated with a purse of lips, "I've um, seen a lot of these. And they're starting to phase some of them out of Starfleet service. They're re-issuing them as commercial holographic programs for private use. But..." he shrugged, "I mean, it's really locked up in the Federation courts right now."
The Romulan doctor's frown deepened further, but she chose not to comment turning instead to the materializing holo that was slowly becoming the LMH she had worked so closely with to keep her crew in one piece following their harrowing encounter with the Vidiians.
"Initialization complete." The computer sounded.
Noah glanced at the Doctor and then forward, "Computer, Activate Adelphi-Omega-Medical."
In an instant, the familiar shimmer and faint intonation accompanied the appearance of a white-shouldered uniformed Starfleet officer. Like Emni, two pointed ears could be seen on either side of its, admittedly photonic, visage, which greeted them with a compassionate, subdued smile.
"Please state the nature of the medical emergen-" The Adelphi's LMH paused mid-sentence as it regarded its surroundings, but his programmed smile only briefly faltered, and he quickly rediscovered it when his artificial eyes fell upon his CMO.
Noah guffawed, looked at Emni, and then cleared his throat as he righted himself back to stoic, “Sorry. It's just, that’s... that’s an Old School initialization response. I haven’t heard that since I was like ten...”
"Ah, Doctor t'Nai!" He greeted with more than a modicum of polite enthusiasm. "You and the Adelphi survived! Excellent news." The LMH looked at this new environment again, and he smiled pleasantly at the operations-division cadet standing nearby. "I do not recognize this place. Am I on the holodeck; are we running some manner of diagnostic?" There was almost a frown developing on the faux-Romulan's brow. Almost. "Was my program affected by the damage?"
Noah glanced at the Romulan hybrid, then back to the hologram, “You’re at the Daystrom Institute at Ishikawa Station. Your holo-matrix was degrading but I repaired... umm... it." Balsam dropped his gaze, "Sorry he was talking- it's fine.” Noah lowered his visor off the top of his black curls. On its translucent blackness sprung into being glowing LCARS displays. He quietly began to run a diagnostic.
Emni smiled then, genuine pleasure at the appearance of the LMH coloring her features. "Due, in no small part, to your help keeping so many of us in one piece after so much of our last mission went sideways. It is good to see you."
She paused a moment, working to formulate her thoughts before answering the LMH's last question. "The Adelphi is being evaluated for repair," she began, "but the damages she sustained were extensive. I asked to have you transferred off the ship in the event that our crew should be deployed, even temporarily, elsewhere. I'd like to keep you with us."
The hologram raised an artificial brown, appearing perplexed. "Most irregular, Doctor t'Nai; it is much more appropriate that my program is decompiled or repurposed in some fashion," he said, with no hint of alarm at his own suggestion. It was explained very matter-of-factly. "Even during my short tenure post-activation on the Adelphi, there will have been developments and updates. To continue to use me could pose problematic and diminish the crew's opportunities of survival and well-being during a medical crisis. It is best to follow Starfleet Medical's regulations on these matters."
He then turned to Noah, once again smiling kindly. "Thank you, sir, for your assistance in repairing my program. I apologize if it was a waste of your time. I hope my limited experiences will prove beneficial to future programs."
From behind the visor spanning his eyes, the Cadet could still be seen smiling- albeit awkwardly, even itchily, like something bothered him.
Emni returned the LMH's perplexed look with a warm smile. "In many medical circumstances, there are different approaches. I certainly appreciate the advances Starfleet Medical makes, but I believe your personal experience in with our crew is invaluable and not something we should replace lightly or ever. We can evaluate the best ways for you to take in updates from a Starfleet Medical without decompiling or repurposing you."
"You have formed an attachment to my program, Doctor?" The LMH then asked of Emni. Without any emotional signal to truly register, they were reliant on his carefully-shifting expressions and tones, which seemed to indicate he was both surprised and humbled. "Your comments are very kind, but I am simply a complex program, a sum of personality matrices, databanks, and learned behavior. You would be just as fortunate to have an updated LMH, free of any potential conflicts from the updating process - just as any new program would be fortunate to serve you."
The hologram then looked to Noah. "I believe my assessment of the situation is correct, Cadet. Could you please assure Doctor t'Nai of the same?"
Noah winced, "Actually.... umm... it's uh. It's-it's up in the air right now, LMH." He pulled his visor up and the computer squawked at him, warning that the diagnosis was incomplete- "See... while you were gone in the Delta Quadrant..." Noah chewed his lip and looked at Emni, "There was sort of a development? In the courts? Umm..." Noah reinitialized the diagnostic and fixed his visor up onto his forehead with a click. "So.."
Balsam looked off and sighed. "Sorry. Umm see, people... uhh... entities?" Noah grimaced, "Such as yourself are represented by some of the older generation holograms in lawsuits. Aaaand uhh, because of-of the Synthetics ban, programs like you were um, limited." he gestured at the holographic doctor. "But umm..." Noah tumbled over his words with a blink and a close of his eyes, "Because you're a long-long standing program that doesn't decompile like a Holo-character, they're looking at shifting your status to PHE. Um. Per-permanent Holographic Entity. You see," he gestured. "And, uhh, a PHE cannot be decompiled without its permission."
He smiled and looked at the Doctor, "Sso... um... basically what's happened is, the courts are tied up on the ethics of it. On another level. Is it fair to-to uhh... well, limit you? If you could learn? Because it creates a group of slaves. It's all very complicated. So," Balsam said, "I-I am supposed to delete what they're calling your cognitive glass ceiling. Or well. Deactivate it. It won't feel weird or anything but..." He looked at Emni and back.
Emni nodded her agreement. "Would you like us to do that, LMH?" she asked pausing then to give the hologram time to evaluate Balsam's somewhat halting explanation of what they were here for.
"I..." The LMH began to speak but faltered. Whilst small indicators of artificially-processed emotion had been displayed on his face before, none had quite compared to the extent of the confusion that was now plain to see, as the hologram's program translated his internal computations into an external and plainly-visible frown. His eyes darted downwards and his cheeks went a little tauter.
"I... I am unsure of what I want. I am suffering a number of ambivalent considerations on the subject, Doctor. I was not programmed to aspire to be anything more than the Adelphi's long-term medical hologram, capable of standing in for any number of medical roles - including the CMO's - if the situation warranted it." The LMH looked between the two officers once more. "I have never been concerned about not being activated, or what may become of me when my purpose or capabilities are limited, either by technical circumstance or situational development."
The holographic physician looked around the room once more and his nostrils flared, giving the impression he was trying to take in the scent of the setting. He looked back to the others. "If you delete this so-called 'glass ceiling' element of my program, what becomes of my occupation; do I remain a Starfleet program, tied to whichever system I am installed in, or am I permitted to exist... beyond a holodeck?"
The last comment seemed to worry the LMH, the final three words were said slowly and with palpable unease.
Displaying hypermobility, Noah leaned hands backward on the console, his elbow nooks bowing slightly out toward the LMH. "Ummm..." he grinned a too-wide smile for his face. "Uh.... this is sort of like talking to my nephew." He chewed his lip. "Sssso.... you are not confined to a Sickbay anymore. Modern ships have holographic emitters across the ship. Because um, well, there are sometimes more than just LMHs. There are hospitality programs sometimes. Or emergency engineers. So, um," he pushed a black curl behind his ear and then replanted his hand, "Umm, you will be able to make housecalls. On some of the ships and stations with the computational power, you can be," and he did air quotes, "Beamed from location to location as long as it has a holographic interface. Like a ship to ship Away team. You-you could even 'beam' down to say, Starfleet Headquarters."
Noah stuttered over his words for a moment, "I know you are wondering what it will feel like or be like... Ummm... b-but um... shit-" His eyes went round, "I mean, shoot.... s-sorry Doctors." He recomposed. "When we remove the glass ceiling program what that means is..." he glanced at the Romulan, "It means you cannot be deactivated unless it is by your choice, or an emergency circumstance, or act of disciplinary action. You can be summoned still," Noah emphasized, "But you have the right to not be deactivated against your will. Unless under certain circumstances." He tapped at a few diagnostic keys, "Also your program is no longer limited to learning only medical information. Be-because you are a learning entity, the courts believe it is inappropriate to prune your potential interests. You have to be allowed to develop pastimes or interests if that is a want you develop."
Noah blinked and looked between them.
The LMH also blinked and looked back at the other two, having listened intently to the explanation. Much like Noah's nephew, the expression almost betrayed the look of someone that heard everything that had been said but did not necessarily understand it.
"I would not know where to begin," the hologram finally said with a quirk of an eyebrow, looking more than a little perplexed. "There is so much beyond the scope of my limited functions and experiences, how would I decide on what pastime to indulge?" He looked quickly between the two, and now, which really was a departure, a hint of panic seemed to be growing behind the calm veneer. "How would I know what is a worthy use of my time or that of others, of what will develop me as a capable physician, worthwhile to the personnel I work for?" The LMH looked around the room quickly, eyes darting in different directions as if seeking a physical answer to his questions.
Finally, he settled on Emni. "Doctor t'Nai, why would this change benefit the crew?"
Emni had watched the exchange noting the LMH's reaction to the news as much as anything said. She let a doctor's smile onto her face, exuding the calm that she would be the persons he was speaking with corporeal rather than made up of photons.
"The crew benefits from your uniqueness," she replied her words filled with the confidence she felt at the thought. "Your program evolves as you take in new experiences and you have taken in experiences unique to this crew. No other LMH is as well-positioned to engage with that same crew as a result, but just like any other member of our crew, you have a right to decide if you want to continue in that capacity. It isn't something I'm willing to take away from you." She finished there, pausing a moment before adding. "Perhaps deciding what new elements to take in could start with you and I having a cup of coffee together."
The cadet listened as well. He had had this same conversation with many like the LMH- and most of them referred to themselves as specifically that. The existential questions it- he- was asking were no different than a flesh and blood child. What is my purpose? Why am I here? "You are what people like me are starting to call," and he did air quotes again, "Emergent Infolife."
Noah looked between again, but focused again on the LMH, "Your complexity is enough that you could potentially develop sapient-like qualities. But it takes time and exposure." His brown eyes jetted to his data and back. Noah sighed, "And... we-we don't know why some LMHs have 'awakened' and some haven't. But the EIs I have interviewed for my Thesis were almost all running most or all of the time... uh-u-usually because they were in locations that space was a premium. So they couldn't have a biological officer. So small scouts, communications arrays and hidden bases on pre-warp worlds."
Noah continued, "Anyway... umm, my job is to make sure you are allowed to develop as you want to, uh, by removing the glass ceiling. And," he touched a key, "That's done," Noah looked up and smiled a geeky smile, "But-but it is up to you if you want to use it. You know? You can turn the program off and on. Um. When you want. But, please run a self-diagnostic on subroutine Supplementary Patch LMH 761-Alpha-1-Index 433-Ampersand-Ampersand."
The LMH nodded, the request still entirely interpreted as a command from Starfleet personnel. After a few short seconds, he looked back to the young technician. "The program has been successfully installed into my software," he confirmed, with a hint of distraction in his voice. "I... I have not yet activated the subroutine. I believe I will require more time to consider the implications and opportunities that it affords me and the crew." He now looked to Emni. "A crew I am still in service with?"
"His first personal choice," Noah smiled geekily at the Doctor. He tapped a few holographic keys and softly hummed in his throat to clear it, "Computer, transfer LMH deactivation protocols to LMH. Set command officer override protocol to standby and authorize." The cadet leaned on his controls, "Alright Doctor, you have full control now. People can't turn you off like a lamp anymore," he folded his arms and turned to Emni, "I-I don't really know how to answer his question uh, about his next assignment."
Emni nodded to the cadet and then turned a genuine smile on the LMH. "You are still in service with our crew although, where that service will be remains unclear," she explained. "Our next stop is Risa, though."
Turning back to the gawky cadet Emni indicated his controls with a wave of her hand. "Are we cleared to go then?"
The lad bobbed his mass of black curls, "Yes Ma'am," Noah stepped sideways and deactivated the controls that had been around the LMH. "With your permission Ma'am, I need to download the next LMH." He nodded his head and tentatively stepped back toward the interface panel behind him.
"Well," she began, choosing her words carefully, "would you like to see what it looks like outside of the holosuite here? It's truly down to your preference now LMH. I'll make sure, whatever you choose, that your program travels with us."
There was the briefest of pauses, and the LMH looked meaningfully back to Noah for a moment, his eyes specifically resting on the console that the cadet was working on, where the next LMH would be summoned forth from, before looking to Emni once more. "Yes, Doctor t'Nai. I believe it is perhaps time to peek beyond the looking glass."
=/\= A mission post by =/\=
Lieutenant Emni t'Nai
Chief Medical Officer
LMH (Christopher's NPC)
Cadet Noah Balsam (Kyle's NPC)