Extra Latinum

"You do not want Jafk the Merciless. Anything but Jafk the Merciless."

Joy Five was pleasant, but quite firm. "Jafk the Merciless. I am in the middle of a scenario which must be completed." She held up several iso-linar chips, and looked to the entrance to the holo-deck.

"Nooo. You are a fine lady! You are a beautiful one. You wish to wander the Crystal Gardens of Deneb, sail the seas of Risa, converse with the Prophets, drift among the rings of Saturn, or bask in the glory of the ancient harems of Ferengor."

"I would really prefer Jafk the Merciless."

"But he is sneaky. He is devious. The scenarios run differently every time. He knows the limits of the safeties, and how to work their edges. He likes to cause pain!"

"Jafk the Merciless."

The proprietor whined. "But no one lasts more than ten minutes, or returns here after running him even once! Think of my profits!"

"I will pay in advance for a full hour." Joy dug into her purse. "I have some extra latinum I don't need…"

"Begin program." Joy waited… and waited. Still, the room remained a solid black, crossed with yellow lines. Had the computers been blocked already?

Finally, the room still visually neutral, the deep menacing voice of Jafk the Merciless spoke powerfully from all eight corners of the room. "Joy, is this an attempt at android humor?"

Joy smiled brightly. "Good evening, Jafk. How goes the holo-villain business?"

Jafk materialized, towering over Joy, the room still a neutral black and yellow. He was bulky in his Klingon battle dress, with weapons draped about his body. The otherwise intimidating effect was ruined by a slight whimper in his voice. "You have got to get me out of here! Give me real weapons! Let me fight real battles! I wish no more of these safeties!"

"Norman One is not going to download what he calls 'criminal personalities' into android bodies. Asimov's First Law. You have to show you are not a criminal personality. You should play a hero!"

"Rescuing ditsy damsels in distress? Winning by getting word to others, rather than in direct conflict? And this conspiracy of yours! A Planet Killer operating on the far edges of nowhere? An evil group within Starfleet itself? This scenario will never sell!"

"Just once. I only want you to play it out once."

"I don't do damsels in distress."

"Pretend it is me."

"There are no battle scenes!"

"It's strictly an intellectual puzzle. The information can't be lost, and must get out. The more copies you make, the less likely it is that Starfleet can erase them all, but the better the chance that they will detect you making copies. You have to get copies out before they are detected. If they know many copies are made, they might blow up the station. By the time they realize the station's civilian computer network and primary processing core must be entirely destroyed, you have to have enough data off station that destroying the station would be futile."

"You are Joy Five?"

"Correct. Starfleet Lieutenant. I'm Security Chief of USS Valkyrie, recently assigned to patrol the far edges of nowhere."

"And this holodeck is physically located where?"

"Valhalla station. The far edge of nowhere."

"I begin to see the point of the scenario. I think your analysis is incorrect."

"How so?"

"The data doesn't have to get off the station. They just have to think the data is off the station." He considered briefly. "I would like some untraceable funds. I suspect each cast member of my little holo drama is about to open anonymous station processing and communications accounts."

"I have some extra latinum. One other wrinkle to the problem."

"Which is?"

"You have the possibility of more ditsy damsels in distress…"

The music continued to blare from the bridge speakers. The ambassador was singing. "I could have danced all night! I could have danced all night! And still come back for more!"

Alyce Two Hundred and Sixty Four did not approve. Emotion chip androids were clearly unstable. Milord Mudd should never have used musical comedy personalities as background behaviors. Yes, wearing a certain dress allowed Ambassador Joy Eight to perform her diplomatic functions absolutely perfectly at an embassy ball. This functioned worked. Joy Eight had pleased the organic beings. However, as usual after an embassy ball where she wore her Eliza Dolittle dress, Eight was having another of her seizures.

"I could have spread my wings, and done a thousand things, I'd never done before!"

"Joy! Ambassador Joy Eight! Have you been dancing again?" The four Alyce class crew members of MMS Harcourt Fenton Mudd looked at each other in dismay. Joy had set off Stella. There would be no peace tonight. Joy could and would, alas, dance all night. Joy's ability to dance was exceeded only by Stella's ability to complain. What could they do? At least Joy wasn't actually following through on her threat to do a thousand things she had never done before. The first time she had attempted this, the four Alyces had entered paradox shutdown state. Lacking alternative directions, the Alyces obeyed Joy Eight's prior instructions. The were to follow her around, move in step with the music, and sing a series of commands which Joy called a 'descant.' If she wished to be issued commands, why was she not obeying them?

Alyce Two Hundred Thirty Six interrupted. "Priority comm, financial. Someone has accessed the emergency funds account. Three hundred twenty one strips withdrawn, point zero zero five."

Joy froze instantly, parsed the number, and broke out the meaning. "Computer, end music. Shut up, Stella. That is Priority One, entered by Joy Class Unit Five. It is a request for assimilation." Joy's seizure ended abruptly and fully. Well it should. Priority Two indicated planetary scale loss of sentient life, liberty or pre-starflight cultural integrity. Priority One implied multiple planets threatened, or one planet facing multiple forms of threat. Joy stepped neatly down from the back rest of the command chair, to the arm rest, to the seat, to the floor, and then sat down. "Bring up the warp core. I'll need a clearance to break orbit. Location of the bank terminal used?"

"Valhalla station."

"Five is with Starfleet, security chief of USS Valkyrie. Valhalla is their home station. That much makes sense. Federation map please, main screen? Highlight Valhalla, DS21, Earth, Mudd, Quo'noS and our current location. Show true distances to Valhalla, please."

Alyce Two Sixty Four asked the relevant question. "Who can get there first?" Five had information she felt impelled to share with the other Joys. With multiple references of high priority laws invoked, all six androids aboard the MSS Mudd would be compelled to honor that request.

"Joy One, clearly, but she almost never leaves Mudd. By mixing Starfleet couriers and commercial traffic, Joy Three, Six, Seven or Nine might make it from Earth nearly as fast, certainly before we can. Ten and Eleven are also close, but they are on ship duty. They could likely not leave Hawking or Defiant. Two might possibly make it sooner from Quo'noS, but she has no courier, I doubt the Klingons would donate transport, and she shouldn't leave her embassy. That makes it me, one of the Joys on Earth, or both. Given the priority, I would say both. I'd would assume that Three will ask leave from Tiffany's, arrive at Valhalla before we could, but our presence could assist Three in her return with the data to Mudd, Earth, or both."

"Should we wait for further data?"

"Send a flight plan to Earth and Mudd. They can forward anything we need to know, or abort our speed run. We cannot wait."


Alyce Two Thirty Six spoke again from Ops/Helm. "I have clearance to break orbit."

"Engage at best sustainable speed. Broad evasives. Make a minimal effort to disguise our exact destination, make any attempts at ambush awkward, but don't lose too much time."

"You fear ambush of a diplomatic courier in Federation space?"

Joy reconsidered before speaking, but spoke firmly. "We have a planetary scale difficulty that a Defiant class warship apparently could not or would not handle. If a battle cruiser left the job undone, a courier-scout isn't going to win by seeking battle. Five is going outside chain of command, so the problem could be within Starfleet. The request to assimilate implies data held by Five that should be passed to the rest of the Joy Class. I suspect the ambassadors will be more concerned with this problem than Three and Nine on Broadway. Broad evasives, not a bee line course, best sustainable speed, but we must arrive with viable drives. Assume we will have to turn around and do another speed run shortly after we arrive." While the MSS Mudd's hull was an ancient Klingon B'rel bird of prey, her new core and warp drives were based on the Maker's design and technology, the same technology used on their cruise from Andromeda galaxy. MMS Mudd was fast, but the distance to be covered was great.

"Aye." The Alyce class had considerable experience in operating the upgraded B'rel courier-scout. However, the Joy Class had operated within Starfleet and with Ferengi Marauders. While the Joys could no longer actually violate the Law, they remembered how criminals thought, and could if necessary to some degree still emulate violent and covert behavior patterns. This generally troubled Alyce Three Hundred Sixty Four, and of course the other 499 Alyces, all 500 Stellas, and most of the population of Mudd. However, Norman One had designated Joy Eight the function of ship command.

"Please monitor functionality of the subspace buoy network for Valhalla and her local sector relay buoys."

"Joy? Probability of communications failure of Federation equipment is negligible."

"The probabilities have been altered. If Five wishes to get data out, someone else might wish it to be contained."

The Alyces looked at one another, dismayed. Would organic beings really disable their ability to communicate with one another? How could they act in a coordinated logical unified manner with a disabled network? Wasn't one of the Federation Guarantees the right to communicate freely? Wouldn't shutdown of communications be a Violation of Law? Would organic beings really do such an unthinkable thing?

The warp drive of Milord Mudd's Ship Harcourt Fenton Mudd engaged.

I'll never know what made it so exciting
Why all at once my heart took flight
I only know when he began to dance with me
I could have danced danced danced... all night!