Disclaimer: No-one is mine, I didn’t make them up and the characters, and the universes they normally live in, belong entirely to their creators and respective television companies (I assume).
All I will admit to doing is taking these characters and their universes and mixing things up a bit. Hope you enjoy.
As this is an AU story, some of your favorite characters or events will probably not appear or be mentioned.
Dates and chronologies used have been mainly taken from Wikipedia and cross-referenced against the various Star Trek reference sites - some dates contradict each other, so I have chosen to use those that recur most frequently. Wikipedia was also used for Willow's reading of the definition of the holodeck.
With much thanks to Joe P for making a few suggestions and having a few ideas as well as proof reading - any problems, blame him.
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Willow was starting to feel a bit happier.
Over the last few days she had been working on continuing her translation of Nathaniel Paris’ journal and some of the later entries showed that the young man was a lot more optimistic about his situation. Rachel Summers had been a great help to him … once they had got over their initial differences and stopped arguing. That had helped lessen some of Willow’s despair and guilt over things.
Still, she had been thinking a lot about home recently – the novelty of her situation was beginning to wear off and she was seriously thinking about how she could get back. Sure, she had become fond of some of the crew and would miss them, but they weren’t Xander and Buffy …… and then there was Tom …… she knew she could fall hard for him (OK, who was she kidding, she had fallen for him) but she had been holding back as she knew she had to get home somehow, someday, and didn’t want to do that with a broken heart (OK, who was she kidding, that was going to happen anyway).
If only her magic worked, she could just reverse the spell, go back home and everyone could carry on with their lives and temporal physics be damned - her head hurt as she tried to figure that one out – I mean if I went back, would I ever have been here at all? And if I went back to a time before I left, would Tom ever have known me? Would I remember him? In fact would I even remember that I forgot him? And if I went back to before I left, would I remember the future and could I change it? And if it has yet to happen is ‘remember’ even the correct word to use? … Her thoughts trailed off as her headache intensified …….
When she woke a couple of hours later, her head was clear and her attitude had changed. She had dreamt about Buffy and the “seize the day” conversation they had not long after they had first met … so that’s just what she would do – leaving Tom would hurt anyway. If she couldn’t remember him then what was she worried about, and if she could remember, she wanted to remember taking a chance and not have any regrets about what might have been.
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Tom sighed as he worked on the program changes. He needed to get it finished as Neelix was getting impatient and apparently had told all of the crew about Tom’s promise to him. Everywhere Tom went on the ship, he had to explain just what the “Can-can” was (he drew the line at demonstrating it) - seems like almost half the crew was craving some entertainment and distraction. This had been very scarce since the last holodeck incident when Willow came aboard.
As a favor to the “foreign” members of the crew, and especially Neelix, Tom had written some special dancing girls into the show. It had taken a lot of research, but he thought he had come to grips with the Talaxian concept of beauty, even though he didn’t quite understand it yet. “Well, as long as Neelix likes her, I guess its okay,” he laughed as he tried to finish up the program, not hearing the whoosh of the door behind him.
Willow bounced over to Tom and put her hands on his shoulders as she looked at the screen. “What ya working on?” she asked curiously. She wrinkled her nose as she tried to read the program code. “Brings back memories.”
“Memories? You know how to program?” Tom looked up at her, recovering from his initial fright at the unexpected visitor.
“You don’t know that I am …… well, was a hacker? Was pretty good at it too. What is this?”
“I still owe Neelix for that dinner, sorry again for that,” Tom’s grin faded as he thought back to the debacle of a few nights before, though fortunately the smell of pork and sage was now gone completely, “I promised him I would tweak up a holodeck program for him and a few friends as repayment.”
“Tell me about the holodeck again.” Willow remembered the concept from when she had met Captain Janeway but was still trying to understand exactly what Tom had been doing with that (and with her). “What is it? How does it work?”
"It’s a little complicated to explain." Tom tried to think of what to say, so she would understand. "I have a basic tech manual here, somewhere," he said as he took a book off the shelf above the terminal. "Here, read this, it might make some sense."
Willow opened to the beginning and began reading out loud. “The holodeck is an enclosed room in which objects and people are simulated by a combination of replicated matter animated with weak tractor beams as well as shaped force fields onto which holographic images are projected. Speakers and fragranced fluid atomizers simulate sounds and smells.
The feel of a large environment is simulated by having the participants suspended on force fields which move with their feet, keeping them in one place (a virtual treadmill); perspective is retained through use of sound damping fields and graviton lenses which make objects, people and sound appear more distant. The effect is ultra-realistic simulation of environments, with which the user can interact …”
Willow began to fidget as she tried to fathom the futuristic technology. "Tractor beams? Force fields?" She raised an eyebrow at Tom.
Seeing Willow’s pained expression, Tom took the book from her. “Well, that’s the thing that got you here, well part of it at least – you did most, I guess. Remember how your house was messed up? Not enough stairs? Bathroom in the wrong place? That’s because I had programmed the scene that way.”
“O..K.. and you programmed me?” Her eyes widened.
“In a way - it’s like an alternate reality. At a certain point you turned into you.” Tom laughed, “That didn’t sound quite right. Let me try this, there was holo Willow, which was the one I wrote, and then real Willow. Which is you.”
Willow smiled and pinched herself. “Yup, I’m me.” At the back of her mind she made a mental note to discuss Tom's 'Willow' programme with him sometime. Soon.
Tom searched for an analogy in 20th century terms, “ Basically, the holodeck is like a television studio, the programs are the shows and the characters the actors. Only, you can participate in the shows.” He watched Willow to she if she understood now.
“Ohhh, I think I have it now. I’m a TV star?!!” A huge grin came across Willow’s face. “Imagine, little ole me a TV star!” She struck an exaggerated pose.
“What I am doing now is writing a TV show for Neelix and his buddies. It’s set in Sandrine’s. That’s a bar back on Earth that I used to hang out in. They want to experience a wild night out, a little diversion, so to speak.”
“Can I try?” Willow eyed the keyboard. “I’ve been to some wild bars before.” She smiled hopefully at Tom.
"Well, I don't know," he hesitated, not wanting to hurt her feelings. But he just couldn’t resist the cute, pouting redhead next to him. Well, she was a hacker … and she is a whiz at codes, yeah, she’ll figure it out quickly, he thought to himself.
“Okay, but be very careful, these programs can be tricky. And don’t do anything to the first code grouping, that’s the most important part. I’ll check it over when you’re through.”
Tom stood up and offered Willow the chair. “I have to go to the bridge for a little while, duty calls, I’ll be back in about an hour or so. Now don’t forget what I said about the program………”
Willow jumped into the seat and gave Tom a salute. “Aye, aye sir,” she replied, grinning at the look he shot back at her. “Well, this is a ship, isn’t it?……….”
Willow began to think of all of the wild bar scenes from movies she had seen in the past. She laughed as she thought of a Wild West saloon, now that would be a good time for the guys, poker, whiskey, beer and dancing girls. She studied the codes for a bit and when she was satisfied that she had the gist of it, she began typing.
Five hours later, Tom returned from the bridge, ready to apologize for the delay, only to find Willow curled up sound asleep on one of the couches. He walked quietly through the room and over to the terminal. He studied the coding onscreen, checking Willow’s work. “Doesn’t look like she changed too much,” he thought as he scrolled quickly through the program, ”nothing obvious, at least.” Over-tired and satisfied that all was okay, he saved the program to the storage chip and removed it from the terminal.
He smiled at Willow as she snored softly away on the couch. After covering her with a blanket he set off to the galley to find Neelix and tell him the good news.
Sandrine’s was packed to the ceiling, standing room only. Glasses clinked and smoke wafted through the room. Apparently, most of the Galley crew and Engineering had some free time and took up Neelix’s invitation to join him for some much needed fun. A real morale builder, as Neelix had put it. And morale was building to a fever pitch as the night wore on . Neelix knew that Tom said the program still had to be tested but he was just too excited and they needed a break after the latest encounter with the Borg … and as morale officer …. well why not?
The emcee took the stage to the hoots and jeers of the crowd, made up of regulars and the rowdy Voyager crew. “Monsieur’s et Mademoiselles, s’il vous plait, welcome to Sandrine’s and, for the first time ever, Madame Buffet’s Can-can Dancers!!”
The crowd went wild as the music started and the girls appeared onstage. The Voyager crew surged toward the music, spilling beer and pushing the now irritated regulars aside. Neelix made his way to the front of the stage, the whiskey and beer now entering his bloodstream.
A huge grin appeared as he saw the Talaxian beauty in the middle of the chorus line. “Lieutenant Paris, I love you!” he yelled as he watched the high kicks and short skirts swirling.
As the dancing became faster, it became increasingly evident that something was wrong.
The men of Voyager began climbing on the tables and tried to dance along, some slipping and falling to the floor, and others falling through tables that collapsed under the weight of the drunken revelers. Meanwhile, the women of Voyager were busy fending off the attentions, and gropes, of frisky locals.
Neelix stood at the front of the stage, his gaze transfixed upon the Talaxian girl, who was winking and smiling at him as she danced. His blood began to boil with passion for her. It had been such a long time since Kes had left. Emboldened by the mixture of human alcohol and the Talaxian version of testosterone, Neelix decided that he had to have the beautiful girl that was dancing before him so suggestively. As he reached out to touch her black-stocking clad leg, a burly bouncer, who was watching from the side of the stage, quickly forced his way through the crowd. When he attempted to pull Neelix away from the girl, another crew member threw a punch.
Soon all of Sandrine’s had erupted into chaos.
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Willow woke up as Tom returned from the galley. “Where did you go?” she asked sleepily, rubbing her eyes.
Tom sat on the edge of the couch. “Handed the chip over to Neelix. He just couldn’t wait. The guys are probably having a good time as we speak,” he chuckled.
“Oh, did you fix my boo-boo? I didn’t know how…”
“Boo-boo?!” Tom exclaimed, “what’s a Boo-boo?”
Willow thought, “Umm, it means error, mistake….”
”I didn’t catch any 'boo-boo', what did you do?” Tom questioned with a feeling of foreboding, bringing the program details up on screen.
“I accidentally deleted something in the beginning but I couldn’t remember what it was and couldn’t replicate it.”
“Oh Damn! The beginning is what activates the safety protocols - that’s what keeps the users from getting hurt by the holographic characters and stops the alcohol being too strong or having the same effects. This could be bad…really bad……”
“Can we fix it? Or is it too late?” Willow asked, starting to get upset. “Please don’t be angry with me, I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Tom looked at Willow, as if I could ever be angry with you, he thought. “Come on,” he said as he grabbed her hand and pulled her up off the couch and out the door.
Willow looked at the arch of the holodeck warily. “The last time I was in there I ended up 400 years, and goddess knows how far, from home…”
“It will be fine. I’m with you, I promise I won’t let anything happen to you..." Tom looked deep into her green eyes, "ever.”
Willow’s heart skipped a beat when he said the word ‘ever’. “Maybe I am doing the right thing after all,” she thought to herself, smiling, as Tom lead her through the arch.
“Oh my! Where are we?” Willow looked around incredulously as Tom pulled her out of the way of an oncoming taxi.
“Marseille… France… Earth, well, sort of. Sandrine’s is just down here,” Tom gestured toward a neon sign down the street. They ran down the sidewalk to the front of the building, stopping as they heard the yelling and crashing noises mixed with music coming from inside.
“Oh no, this doesn’t sound good…at all,” Tom said worriedly.
Willow tried to peek in the window, when all of a sudden a body came crashing through, followed by a chair. Looking down at the man on the sidewalk amongst the broken glass, Willow raised an eyebrow and retorted, “Doesn’t look too good either.”
“We better go in, you stay behind me, ok?” Tom cautioned Willow, as Ensign Roberts staggered to his feet and grinned at them.
“Shoor lootenant, I’ll shtay right behind you,” Roberts slurred, then promptly fell to the ground again.
“Not you .. oh never mind …” Tom rolled his eyes at the fallen man who was struggling to get up again. He reached for Willows’ hand and she grabbed the back of his shirt with her free hand, following close behind. They cautiously entered the chaotic bar, sidestepping broken furniture and unconscious revelers. They quickly scanned the brawling crowd for Neelix, finally seeing him being held around the neck by a huge ugly fellow. Tom left Willow by the door and went to assist his friend, thinking after all, this was his fault for not checking the program better. “Stay here,” he warned, “I’ll rescue Neelix.”
Lieutenant Morrison shouted to Tom above the crowd, “We can’t disengage the program - it's not responding – and the safety protocols are off line!” Morrison held a towel against a bleeding head wound, but was still grinning happily as a glass of beer was slid along the bar to him.
Willow ducked to avoid a mis-aimed punch before turning and kicking her attacker in the stomach, bracing herself as his friend moved towards her brandishing a broken bottle. She felt the adrenalin kick in and the thrill of the fight as she kicked the new assailant's legs out from under him.
Tom was distracted by a group of men who were hassling the Delaney sisters and moved to help.
Willow decided to rescue Neelix as he was turning a rather worrying shade of purple. Running and leaping onto the thug’s back, she began pummeling him until he eventually loosened his grip and let go. Neelix gasped his thanks before grabbing a chair and cracking it over the man’s skull. Willow grinned at him as they looked around for who to tackle next.
She almost missed the glint of light on steel as a man moved towards Tom, a switchblade in his hand. She screamed his name in fear and subconsciously raised her hands chanting in Latin. A burst of light emitted from her fingertips.
Tom blinked, “What the hell just happened?” He looked around the now almost barren holodeck - all that was left were the Voyager crew, bruised and bloodied as they were, and Willow. Everyone had stopped and now all eyes, including Tom's, were on the little redhead standing by the arch.
Willow blushed and shrugged her shoulders at Paris, lifted her hand and, pretending it was a gun, blew some imaginary smoke off her finger. “Howdy, pardners. I guess there’s a new sheriff in town.” She gave an embarrassed giggle.
The look on Tom’s face suggested she had a little explaining to do …
Captain’s Log – Supplemental
The Doctor has reported an unusually high number of visits to sickbay today. He states that most injuries are minimal, mostly small cuts and bruising. Also, some are exhibiting symptoms of temporary post-alcohol sickness. I have ordered Mr Tuvok to interview those involved in whatever went on, but I do have doubts that we will ever know the truth.
Surprisingly, the mood of the crew has improved greatly over the last 24 hours so I am loathe to take further action.
Mr Chakotay has also reported that Holodeck 2 is non-functional at the present time. He says it appears as if a very strong electrical charge has damaged some circuits. He is unsure whether or not the problem can be rectified in the near future. A check of the log shows that no one was scheduled to use that particular Holodeck within the past few days.
My suspicions are that Mr Paris may have had something to do with this but there is no concrete proof. I also suspect this may also have had something to do with the doctor’s busy day.
On a happier note, I have noticed today that most of the crew have begun to accept our young visitor, Ms Rosenberg, and seem to be treating her with a great deal of kindness and show her an amazing amount of respect. Most interesting though, is the way she has started to address Neelix as “pardner” and the increasing use of the term “howdy” by the crew. It is quite unnerving to say the least, as it makes it feel like the ship has transformed into Dodge City. I almost expect someone to turn up on the bridge in a cowboy hat………….