Holodeck Two

Moira stood with Emerald before the door of the holodeck. The indicator light, for the first time in nearly two weeks, showed the holodeck unoccupied and functioning properly. "Computer, run program MO-87B, augment with POS1." A few seconds later, a chime signaled the status change of the holodeck and the well-modulated voice of the computer said, "Your requested program is now running. You may enter the holodeck."

The women stepped through the doors into a clearing in a grove of tall oak trees. It appeared to be mid-summer; around them, green leaves glistened from a recent rainfall. The sun was high overhead and shafts of light danced among the tree trunks.

Moira glanced around, searching. Padraig?

"I'm here," came the reply.

Moira spun around to face a young man with flaming red hair. His bright green eyes sparkled. He wore a Starfleet jumpsuit identical to Moira's, the pip on his collar showing the rank of Lieutenant. Moira stood transfixed, a fist pressed against her lips and tears gathering in her eyes.

"You did say you thought I was still a Starfleet officer," Padraig said with a smile. Two long strides brought him to Moira, and he gripped her tightly in a bear hug. "Oh, Moira, you can't imagine how much I've missed hugging you!" He loosened his hold, noticing the tears on his sister's cheeks and sensing the intense joy she had no desire to control. Wiping the tears away with the back of his hand, he whispered, "I know, my dearest and always favorite sister... but you didn't come down to my new home for a social visit."

Moira shook her head, and held one of his hands in both of hers. As she caressed the warm skin, she remarked, "Ye'll hae done a remarkable job o' programmin', Padraig. Sure an’ I'm impressed!"

Her brother smiled, tipping an imaginary hat in her direction. "I learned from the best." He turned to Emerald, extending a hand in her direction. "Hi, Emerald. I'm glad to be finally meeting you in the flesh... so to speak." Wiggling the fingers of his upturned hand, he continued. "I don't think you're going to get any psychic resonance from the holoprogram..."

Emerald felt the emotions from her Imzadi wash over her as Padraig made his appearance. Intense happiness, relief, and others flittered by so fast that she was unable to identify them. Emerald felt a warmth building up in her as Padraig turned to her.

"Uh, hi. It's uh, nice to talk to you directly finally, Padraig. I've, uh, been looking forward to this for a while." The warm feeling was spreading through her, and she felt herself trembling as Paddy extended his holographic extremity. She reached out gingerly to take his hand, and felt his presence behind the artificial existence. She felt something fall into place within her, as if a missing piece of a puzzle was found and locked into position.

As Moira and Padraig were linked, so were Emerald and Moira; and now she felt something within her discovering another link that she needed/desired/wanted. As she felt the pieces fall into place, both Moira and Padraig seemed to fade from her perceptions, and another reality began to form...

But Padraig didn't notice... yet. "She's hurt, Moira. I don't know if what we're doing to her is hurting her. But I think she's dying. And she wants revenge. She wants to hurt us, Moira. She wants to tear us into little tiny bits," his eyes widen in his earnest and he trembles before his sister and Emerald. He looks from one to the other hoping that one of them will have some miracle to perform that will save him.

"Maybe if we wait long enough, she'll die or something. Maybe she'll get weak and won't be able to hurt us. Then we can force her to do... well, I don't know," he looks down at his hands.

"I'm scared, Moira. But I'm trying to be strong." His eyes are glistening the way they used to when he was a little boy. Gone are the strong lines of hardship endured and of grim determination that marked him as an officer. The alien... she's reduced him in some way. She’s taken away his strength and his courage and left him as the little boy who was beaten cruelly by his father, frightened and terrified of the thing that he loved most. It is a terrible thing that he has suffered at her hands.

"I've tried to contact the entity in as neutral a fashion as possible since you contacted me. I think she's willing to talk and I've done my best to explain how to create an image of herself suitable to us on the holodeck. I think she wants to, er, 'possess' me for little bit in order to activate the holodeck systems to create something suitable for her to enter into. I don't know if I trust her though. She may not let go once she has me and she's pretty pissed off. Do you think she may use me as some sort of hostage?"

Moira was surprised, certainly not by her brother's initiative, but at the level of success he had already achieved in communicating with the alien. She shook her head at Padraig's suggestion. "Captain Lucara’ll be quite firm in her desire te nae be endangerin’ th’ ship in any way. I know there’ll nae be any vital ship systems she kin be reachin’ through th’ holodeck computers, but she kin reach me... an' Emerald... through you. An' I donnae think I care fer that." She paused to consider for a moment. "If th’ three o' us kin nae communicate with her psionically, then I'll be reconsiderin’... only after clearin' it with th’ Captain, though." Moira sighed. "I kin nae afford te be trustin’ her that far... yet.

"So she's fair angry... will ye knowin’ why?"

The alien was strong. She knew what could shatter Padraig's ego with a single blow and dealt it mercilessly and with clear intention to do harm. If she could, perhaps she would deal such a blow to the entire crew... even Moira. Moira remembered well the image of her father... so huge and gigantic as he towered over her. She was so frightened that she could hardly move when that fierce hand swung down from so great a height as he, striking her hard across the face and throwing her prostrate upon the wooden floors of their home... floors that she had come to know far better than any maid that might have polished them... floors whose dirt had been the company of her tears, whose bits of grit and dust had nipped at her cheeks when they struck down upon them with a hard bounce. Oh, how she remembered it!

It takes a moment before Moira realizes that the alien is here... here in this room with them... here, summoning memories from a past that had been buried deep in her psyche, though she lied to herself about having conquered those demons of her childhood. And my, but she was powerful!

But so is little Mo. She knows that the alien is here and that these thoughts were not her own. The alien is strong, but she does not have the strength to actually control Moira's thoughts... only to send images and memories in a river of nightmares that could haunt her soul for years to come... to unravel the delicate framework of the mind that had learned to hide the shame and humiliation of a father's rage.

Moira was not Padraig. For all her father's rage, he never broke the stiff-lipped Moira, no matter what her size. The alien knew it. She knew that Moira was no one to be trifled with.

The memories stop. She's gathering her strength...

But for what?

Those memories... images from a childhood no child should have to endure... momentarily held Moira in their torturous grasp. But as swiftly as they arrived, Moira recognized them for what they were and began pushing back at them... building her wall of defenses against the alien's intrusion into her mind. As she had said to Akira, fear was a powerful influence on the human psyche. But these memories were merely that. It was the past; it simply was. Something her high school music teacher had said echoed in her mind... "Our past defines us, but it does not control us; not now, not in the future." The defenses of Moira's mind were strong, and the images fell away.

Padraig and Emerald were not so fortunate, however. Knowing that Padraig's mental barriers had never been as strong as her own, realizing that the shields of the mind had some foundation in the physical body and Padraig had no physicality to anchor his shields, Moira once again extended her own defenses to encompass her brother's mind. She sensed Emerald was shaking off the alien's influence as well, her feelings of shame being pushed away as she sought out the bond she shared with Moira.

Weaving a net of protection as her grandmother had taught her, she surrounded the clearing, encompassing her companions. Both Padraig and Emerald had seen her wards, but these were subtly different. These were meant not merely for keeping at bay the stray thoughts and emotions that bombarded a psi, but were meant to repel even a concerted effort at contact.

Sighing a prayer to the Goddess, Moira built her wall bit by bit. She used not only the light and sound of the wards previously seen by Emerald, but the archetypes of the very elements... the strength of the Earth, the flexibility of the Water, the intensity of the Fire, the endurance of the Air. Woven within it all was the Spirit... her request to the Goddess – a daughter's cry to her Mother for aid. Within these walls, even Padraig – so vulnerable without his own defenses – was safe.

When she was finished, Moira could sense the alien, light-years away and yet seemingly a presence just outside her wards. She sensed the alien's pain. There was no way to judge the intensity of that pain; after all, the alien was alien, different, unknown. Not knowing how many of her words could be understood, she concentrated on the emotions of serenity and compassion, respect and a willingness to help, all tinged with the tiniest bit of sadness at the way they had been treated. Then she spoke to the alien.

You hurt. Why?

"YOU BITCH!!!" roars a voice and suddenly Moira is kicked square in the back with a hard boot which throws her forward almost five feet before she slams into the ground with her head bouncing off the polished floors... no, it was the holodeck floor.

It's Sean, huge and powerful as she had always remembered him. "YOU KILLED THEM!! YOU KILLED THEM ALL!! NOW DADDY'S GOING TO PUNISH YOU!!!"

Padraig screams and throws his hands up, but they crumple like twigs under the fierce blow of the enraged madman that snaps out a broad hand that whips the poor boy's head backwards and he falls to the ground wailing and sobbing.

Oh, such a rain of blows of unbridled rage, pounding and pounding and pounding upon the poor boy before Sean raises up and, taking his shiny black boot with its hard edges, he rears back and kicks the boy's face in with so brutal a blow as to make poor Moira wince.

"I HURT!! he roars, "BECAUSE YOU KILLED THEM!!! AND NOW I'M GOING TO HURT THE ONES YOU LOVE!!!" Such rage... wrath... a fire so hot that it threatens not only to consume this image of her father, but everyone in the room. There is so much rage that not even the over-sized figure of her father can express all of it, and he throws his arms spastically, and winces his face, and whips his head about like a dog gone mad in his attempt to release his rage through this instrument called a body. And the lion's share of that potent emotion pours its typhoon of anguished blows upon poor Padraig.

Moira had tumbled to the floor... no, to the ground. Her shoulder hit hard, and she immediately knew she'd have a nice bruise there later. Her forehead was scraped; she could feel a lump forming, and winced as she wiped away the blood. Her back hurt; a rib was perhaps cracked, or at the very least dislocated. As she rose, she saw what appeared to be her father once again beating Padraig... worse than anything Sean had actually ever inflicted on his helpless children. "NO!!!" she screamed. "Computer, end augment program POS1!" She hoped that by dissipating Padraig's physical form the alien would be forced to deal with her. That was fine.

"Unable to comply. Access to programming parameters locked out," comes the cool reply of the computer.

She looked at the alien's recreation of Sean. Moira had no doubt that it was born fully from Padraig's memories. But Padraig's memories were slightly different from Moira's, and she had seen Sean at Padraig's funeral. She doubted Padraig had yet overcome the shock of death to have seen their father then. This simulation bore no resemblance to Sean's current reality. When she had seen Sean last year, he had looked older than she could have ever imagined... white-haired, stooped, and frail from the four strokes he had suffered in the previous two years. Moira no longer feared her father... or her memories of him. She only felt sad, and pitied him for the years he wasted and alienation he caused in all his children.

Ignoring her pain, Moira flew toward the alien, grabbing at a wrist as she had done so many times before as a child... only this time she was an adult. She was bigger, stronger, more in control; fearless – not with a child's self-centered fearlessness that the world couldn't possibly hurt her, but with an adult's realization that she was in control of her life, and she chose to interact with this alien.

STOP IT!! she yelled as she dug her fingers into the alien's wrist, her mental voice louder than any she had ever produced before. So loud, in fact, she wouldn't be surprised to find that even non-psis could hear it.

Reaching for Sean's flailing arms is like trying to catch a tornado but remarkably, Moira's hand clenches tightly to one massive wrist. As he whirls upon her with his teeth spreading wide he snatches Moira's wrist in the same swift way that she had snatched his.

Suddenly, his teeth begin snapping tightly together. Opening and closing as he draws Moira's hand out and stretches the fingers. Snap, snap, rattle the teeth as he brings her long thin fingers to their crunching madness. His mouth is opening painfully wide and then snapping together with such a frightful sound from the pain that they promise. Lust and glee melted with her powerful desire to make Moira suffer.

Moira understood the rage, though. Somehow, someone – whether it was the Eclipse or the pirate vessel or someone else entirely – had killed others that this alien held dear. Was it her offspring? Her mate? Both? Neither? Moira hoped they could get to the point of finding out just what happened, but they'd never get there if this alien tried to kill them all. Calling up her memories of Padraig's physical death, she projected the associated emotions toward the alien... profound sadness, emptiness, loneliness, the physical pain of a soul being torn apart... The intense wash of emotions seemed to hold the alien for a moment... that was long enough.

She had known rage, she had known hatred, but this creature was something beyond those emotions. It was simply madness that Moira was sensing from this creature, it was sheer malevolence. It was an evil, a desire, a very lust to cause anguish.

But then, Sean hears something. Water, the sound of water... breaking upon the rocks... a sea of some sort. His head turns as his grip loosens and he listens, listens to the sound. It's as if he's never heard it before. That sound...

"Mhari, be careful!"

Padraig only laughed. "Ah, she'll never get it right! All she's got is a couple of toolies for parents. You can count that she'll no be good with milking."

"Hush up, Paddy!" scolded Gloria. "Mind how you’re flying, it's much too close to the water."

"Aye, princess, you like it, don’t you?" Mhari's eyes grew wide as her tiny little fists clung to Gloria's tunic. Padraig swept the hover craft up in a powerful motion and Gloria and Mhari screamed together before Padraig spun them over on their heads and brought the hovercraft back down right side laughing all the while as Mhari clapped her little hands and squealed and Gloria smacked him upside his head.

"Don't do that, Padraig!"

"Moira," comes a hollow voice from Padraig. She can hear it too; it's like they're there. Padraig's beaten and broken face stares horrified into the memory of faces that he had tried to wipe clean from his mind. There's something coming from Sean. She's killing him. Maybe she doesn't know it. Maybe she's just listening to the memory. But whatever she's doing, if he relives this moment... Padraig will die.

"Moira... kill her," his voice is barely a whisper. He's paralyzed with the reliving of a nightmare in which he was the monster, the destroyer of everything he loved. Was it not enough to have lived it once, that he should live it over and over in his mind?

But for poor Padraig, death had come knocking... twice.

Moira could see the scene that played out before Padraig's eyes. But there was something wrong... Mhari hadn't been with them when he and his wife had died. Padraig, stop! That'll nae be how it’ll hae happened. Donnae let her be trickin’ ye like that. She paused for a moment. Sure an' ye died, an' so did Gloria... but so did near te fifty other people. Donnae ye remember, Paddy? Mhari's safe with Kate now. ‘Twasn't yer fault, Paddy... ‘twas a computer malfunction. Donnae ye remember? That'll nae be what happened!!

Looking the alien in the eye, maintaining her grip on the alien's wrist, Moira said calmly, "I want te help ye. But I kin nae help ye if ye donnae stop hurtin' me." The part of her that was Padraig cowered in terror; the part of her that was Emerald struggled to escape from a living hell. But the part that was Moira was strong and confident. "I know ye’re angry, damn it, an' I know ye want te hurt somethin' back fer th’ pain ye’ll be feelin'." Fierce determination blazed in Moira's eye. "But if yer goin' te be hurtin' me, ye bloody well better be tellin' me jus' what it’ll be that I’ll supposed te hae done!" She squeezed "Sean's" wrist harder. "Now – by th’ Lady! – ye'll stop this an' talk te me!"

From the look in his eyes, there is some recognition, an awareness of sorts. The look softened for the barest of moments. This last torture of hers was costing the alien some of her strength. But it’s clear that she’s relishing in Padraig's anguish. She has clearly heard Moira. She clearly understands that Moira believes herself to be innocent of harming any that she has loved. But she knows that Moira is not. And Moira knows that the alien knows firmly that this ship is indeed the cause of her anguish. Moira understands that the alien has great power here, while her time remains, and that she means to balance the scales of justice with her little time.

Moira's attention returns to the alien, and she senses the attention of the entity... It seems to be listening to her now, but what can she say that will make a difference? She almost wishes that the counselor was here, but Lucas seemed far too intent on destroying the alien because of her very evilness. Moira had to admit that the malevolence she perceived was near to overwhelming, and yet she had to wonder if the alien's evil was inherent or brought on by the madness of her loss. She knew the anguish she had felt at Padraig's death... if it had been a child of her own soul... she knows it would have been magnitudes worse.

"Aye," she said finally, nodding. "Ye want us all te pay fer yer pain. Keep th’ cycle o' hurt an' retribution goin'." Her voice was low. "An' another o’ our ships’ll be along te search fer ye – or others like ye – an' like as not they'll destroy what they donnae understand." Again, Moira paused. "Ye hate us. An' sure there be those among us who'll be hatin' ye right back. Donnae it look like there'll be no way te stop this?" Another pause, searching for a spark of sanity in "Sean's" eyes. "But ye know there’ll be a way, do ye nae?

"Yer dyin'. If there’ll be a way fer us te help ye, jus' tell me. An' if there'll nae be a way... well, I'll bless ye in th’ name o' th’ Lady an' ye'll know ye'll be again with yer... beloved ones." Compassion and, yes, love – for all creatures are children of the Goddess and deserve that – washed over the entity.

"Is there naught we kin do te help ye?"

Poor Padraig was crippled under the stench of death that hangs about him now. His mournful eyes are peering into the nightmare that was his reality, a dream from which he could not wake himself before the final blow fell. Worse, to hear the screams and shouts and the tearing of his body once more; he is done and she turns now to... sister...

As Sean turns, Moira can see the glowering hatred that burns the tortured soul of this entity.

"Aye, lass, ye' kin help me, yet." His hand reaches gently toward her face. "Ye'll help me like a gud li'l girl, won't ye'? Ye'll do wha' Da says, yes?" It was so strange a thing to have her head wrapped in the gigantic hand of her father, to feel herself being drawn to him, his eyes leering at her womanly figure. Though that... that leering wasn’t exactly something new.

But then, something breaks in those eyes. Even this last torment was beyond the entitiy’s capability to perform. Sean's eyes close and those of another open. Moira can feel the alien's remorse. Guilt begins to swell in her as passion is sated and sin is the aftertaste. The hand falls from Moira and the figure of her father stands tall with his shoulders squared and his head turned to the heavens.

Tears well up in those eyes, something no mere program could have conjured. And the broken spirit turns to face his daughter.

"No, you cannot save me, my child. But there is something that you can do, to rest my soul. If you truly care, then you will find it not in my heart... but in yours..."

"Warning, power failure on holodeck two," warns the computer as Padraig vanishes. The room's illusions fade into the yellow and black etched lines of the holodeck but still the alien stands before Moira in the figure of her father. Their eyes meet. The alien is in earnest.

Moira stands for just a moment with the alien... alone on the stark holodeck, tears in both sets of eyes. The alien chose to remain in Sean's form... on purpose? As she disappeared, Moira whispered so softly, so gently, "Aye, Daddy... I forgive ye." A blink, and the alien presence was gone. "Rest in peace in th’ arms o' th’ Lady..."

The room is plunged into blackness and Moira hears the call from the bridge demanding a report through her communicator. Emerald's body breathes softly on the floor nearby but she doesn't appear to be conscious.

Padraig's spirit is alone now. The alien is not here anymore but somehow, Emerald isn't quite completely here either. Only Moira and Padraig remain. Whatever entity it was, she has departed from Padraig whether because his soul could no longer hold so great a force as she, or out of mercy.

Padraig was there... without the alien to torment him further... quiet, healing, relieved. But Moira couldn't sense her Imzadi. She dropped to the floor in the darkness, tears still streaming from her eyes. She thought she heard Lucara's voice... maybe... from somewhere far away. But Lucara wasn't important. Imzadi? Emerald... where are ye? Oh, Paddy, if I've lost her... She didn't finish the thought, merely knelt on the cold floor and cried.

As the holodeck systems shut down, Moira is a bit – but only a bit – surprised to see the lighting systems go down. The computer's usual ready light indicating that it was awaiting commands also went off, and there was only the sound of the ventilation systems keeping the warm air. Thankfully, the holodecks were on deck eleven and there was probably little chance of bleeding too much heat into space.

But as the gravity shuts down in the region, Moira finds herself with little to grab hold to inside the holodeck as she drifts off the floor. Somewhere to her left, she can hear Emerald's breathing.

But as hard as she searches with her thoughts, she can't pinpoint where Emerald is. There are a lot of excited people heading her way, however. She can sense the medical team, as well as a few security teams, en route.

Total darkness. And that pesky artificial gravity is gone. Again. Moira groaned. Null gravity was not her favorite environment. Null gravity in complete darkness with nothing to grab onto was even less special. Emerald? Em, kin ye hear me?? Moira tries not to move... just waiting for security and medical.

© Kelly Cunningham, Ian Ralph and Dan Woo