"THANK YOU, HENRY STARLING"

by Suz (suzvoy@tesco.net)

Disclaimer - "You are formidable prey," Hirogen Alpha said as he was assimilated by the Para-Borg.

Set near the end of "Future's End, Part 2," definitely before the last scene.

*

There is a perfect memory that I have. There have been many wonderful and many heartbreaking moments since I have been activated; some that I will never be able to forget and some that I want to erase from my programme. I will not, in memory of her. She made me promise once that I would never let myself become less than I am.

This memory will stay with me always.

*

The doors to the mess hall hiss open and someone steps inside. The room is dark and empty except for the two of us; it could well be anyone. Mr. Neelix, popping in to get an early start. The captain, looking for another drop of caffeine. Ms. Torres, giving in to some midnight craving.

I know who it is. The sound of her footfalls are as much a part of my programme as the subroutines that allow me to exist. I know them well. I know her well.

"I wondered where you'd gone to," she teases in that gorgeous, melodious voice.

The smile that has been on my face for the past twenty-three minutes grows bigger. "I was feeling a little peckish," I retort.

She is smiling, softly. I have still not turned around but I know she is smiling, softly.

Standing next to me comfortably, she follows my gaze and almost sighs. "They're beautiful, aren't they? Every day I make the time to spend at least a few minutes studying them and know how blessed I am to have been rescued from the Kazon, and live so close to something that used to be so far away. I can never thank Neelix enough for everything he's done."

My thoughts echo her words. Swallowing, I speak of something else. "This is the first time I've seen them. On Jupiter Station I existed in a single room with no windows, nothing for me to look out of." I suppose it didn't matter, then. I was just a hologram, then. "Then on Voyager...I was confined between sickbay and the holodeck. I'd seen some version of them on the holodeck due to radiation or Denara being on board," I chuckle lightly to play the moment off but then I realise who I'm talking to. "But mostly I remained in sickbay, with only you to keep me company." I say nothing about the crew's alienation of me, of how long it has taken them to treat me as an 'individual' - they are still not entirely successful. She has long known my thoughts on that subject.

"The holodeck never prepares you for the real thing," she tells me gently, almost chiding.

"Yes, I know." I know. I know. "Funny...over two years on board and this it the first time I see them. Is that some kind of record?"

She laughs lightly. "My father used to tell me that they were gems that hung in the sky, that some day I would be among them and when I gathered enough I would wear them as a necklace and all the Universe would stare at my glory." She pauses. "He had a habit of hyperbole."

"And for telling a good story," I add, wanting to say more but instead continue staring through the viewport.

After a few moments I speak again. "It is difficult to imagine how I haven't seen these before."

She looks up at me. "Then we owe Mr. Starling a debt of gratitude."

It is the only thing she could have said to move my gaze from the viewport as I turn to look at her. "How so?"

Reaching up with a gentle hand, she touches the emitter. "Not only did he give you this...your mobility...but - more importantly - he gave you the stars."

How can she be so wise for one so young? My smile that only vanished for a few seconds reappears and I look out at the stars once more.

Lowering her arm she resumes the study with me. There's something almost awe-inspiring about it, even for a hologram. Especially for a hologram, for one who has been so limited in where he can go, if not in what he can do thanks to her encouragement.

I am gazing upon the stars for the first time, and she is with me. This is a perfect memory.

Her hand touches mine and squeezes gently. Somehow, the perfect memory has become even more so.

Thank you, Henry Starling.

*

That is it. That is what I think of every time I remember her and her kindness. Perhaps it's a malfunction with my memory buffer, but the sound of her footsteps is the last thing I hear every time I am deactivated.

That is my perfect memory.

What is yours?

FINIS


Story © 1999 by Suz. Reproduced on the Official Robert Picardo Home Page with permission of the author.

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