(( Mysterious doorstep, Abandoned city, Surface of Ring 42 ))
Sera: Greeter. Are there others like us? ::as there was nothing of note to try to interact with other than grass and sky – and thus far they had revealed nothing to her.::
Greeters: Of course, there are. I believe my prior statements clearly defined that there are others here in the afterlife.
Sera: When will we meet them?
Greeter: Meet them? Why would you want to do this? This is YOUR afterlife.
Kettick blinked in surprise. Now, that was... well, he hoped his companion would forgive him for co-opting a typically Vulcan catchphrase, but he could not find a more appropriate word than "fascinating".
Sera:: This is not my afterlife. My people do not believe in such a place as this…and my comrade…Ensign Kettick, does not believe in a ‘life after death’ at all.
Greeter: ::nodding in a serious manner:: This is so. However, it was determined that if the setting was adjusted to your specific version of… Sha’ka’ri? Is it? That this reality would not be comfortable to your companion.
Kettick: And thus, this is neither of our afterlives, which would contradict your previous statement.
Kettick's delivery was still close to expressionless, but someone familiar with the Remmilian would have detected a bit of an edge to it.
Greeter: This place can be whatever you desire it to be. Would you care to be back on your home planet, in personal service to your Queens – hailed as a vital and necessary part of your societal whole? Or perhaps would you like to be in charge of it all; try something new?
The offer left Kettick speechless, as if his brain nodes had all shorted out at the same time. Apparently, without the limitations of his body, he was able to feel whole new range of emotions, or perhaps the simulation was tailored for a Vulcan's notoriously passionate temperament.
Fortunately, Sera picked up the slack while his mind decided what to do with this new development.
Sera: Then I would like a different construct than this field.
Greeter: Yes! That is the mindset to have – No offense, but with your collective intellects, you two took long enough. What environment do you desire?
Sera: Starfleet Academy, San Francisco, Earth. ::Glancing towards Kettick:: It would be familiar, and there could potentially be more to engage with than what we have here.
The Remmilian engineer was visibly still shaken, and in fact almost shaking, but agreed with the logic.
Kettick: I... would concur. Familiar grounds would facilitate our research.
The green fields and blue sky shimmered and morphed into something more familiar to the two officers. They stood in the quad of the Academy. Students and faculty bustled about their day, seemingly oblivious to the two new faces amongst the crowd.
Sera: The library would be a logical starting point. They have public displays that perhaps will be usable to access. I am concerned at what might be discovered. Our greeter has used a particularly sophisticated self-awareness.
They walked across the green space towards the library building. Within a few minutes they all had walked through the doors into the grand space, illuminated by numerous windows and soft lighting, and over to the public computer displays.
Sera: I am uncertain if this will work, Ensign Kettick. :: Tapping on the touch panel and bringing up the coding interface for the screen ::
Kettick: I am confident in your abilities.
The greeter studied the two new additions with an expression of vague suspicion.
Greeter: What are you doing?
Sera: I am attempting to interface with the software core of this simulation.
Greeter: :: Aghast :: Why would you desire to do this?!
Kettick: You encouraged us to shape this environment to our desires. We are attempting to comply, in the manner we are most familiar with.
If, as Kettick suspected, this program read their surface thoughts, he knew that all he transmitted right now was honest, factual information. And if, as he suspected, it was limited in what it could glean, then it would not detect the undercurrents.
Sera: Unless this is a prison and not an entertainment program, I believe I have found the source coding for this simulation…however…this is…taxing.
Kettick looked at his fellow Engineer with mild concern, but in a heartbeat, he could see on her expression her fatigue melt away, replaced by determination.
Just as suddenly, they were no longer in the San Francisco premises, but in an even more familiar setting.
Sera: The computers in this room should work for you, if I have correctly understood the basic functioning of this simulation, Ensign Kettick. The program is quite detailed, and the scope is massive, quite unlike any of our holodeck interfaces.
I will assist to the best of my abilities. However, as one of our
illustrious predecessors may have said, I'm a Remmilian maintenance
engineer, not a computer bug. :: He turned towards the Greeter :: Traditional Starfleet crisis-quipping. A very interesting practice, once you understand its purpose.
The entity seemed to be caught flat-footed.
Greeter: ... What?
Kettick moved towards one of the consoles, opened a guest session (with false credentials involving an insulting and quite rude user name) and started typing away, while he responded casually.
Kettick: I haven't the faintest idea. My best working hypothesis is that it acts as a psychological weapon. Trying to parse the sheer comedic absurdity of it would force the enemy to consider how efficient we would be if only we devoted all our mental resources to the task.
Greeter: Surely you cannot be serious? We can make your greatest desires come true. Even those you do not even realize you have! We just need to read them into your mind, after all.
Kettick: I might disagree here. I believe you greatly overstate your capacity to read and compute our thoughts. To be more specific, and to quote a former colleague of mine, I would surmise that you are "more full of it than a Malon export vessel".
In a way that would not be possible for his real face, the traits of Kettick's avatar morphed to reveal a very human expression. Apparently, over the course of the discussion, his emotions had oscillated between primal horror and white-hot rage, and had found a very unhappy medium.
Absolute, all-encompassing contempt.
Kettick: Not only you believed that a member of an eusocial species would enjoy his afterlife better away from others, which is already dense enough that I wonder how light manages to escape from you, but you decided to go and one-up this initial mistake by proposing that I spend the eternity lazing about in a power fantasy where I usurp a place I do not belong to. And *that* is so far past insulting that I would need to create wholesale a new religion to define its correct level of blasphemy.
The Greeter seemed about to protest, when Kettick cut it short:
Kettick: By the way, each and everyone of us is a
vital and necessary part of our societal whole, and has about as much need to be hailed for that than the common and equally vital self-sealing stem bolt, you glorified replicator menu. You should consider yourself lucky that I was in charge of my very specific side of this coordinated task, because if I know her well, the second thing Ensign Sera has done was to create a backup of your code for safekeeping.
The bemused avatar turned towards the Vulcan Engineer.
Kettick: The first thing being of course to cut you from any control over what she is doing while I monopolized your limited computing power with my pointless ranting.