Star Trek Voyager: Lower Decks

Tying The Threads

Chapter Six: Photons and Forcefields

by Autopilot

The Doctor looked up as the captain walked into sickbay. "Just a moment, Captain. I am finishing up my reports on Miral Paris and B'Elanna. Miral is quite beautiful don't you think?" His smile was full of paternal pride. "It's not often that a doctor gets to deliver his goddaughter." He gave her a sardonic look. "And it's even rarer that the godfather is a hologram."

Kathryn Janeway smiled and said, "I'm afraid I haven't gotten the chance to see her yet, Doctor. Our sudden return has overloaded my schedule, so my personal time has been nonexistent, but I'm planning on going to see her next. Miral is very lucky to have you as her godparent, Doctor." Her smile faltered and her eyes looked sad as she said, " I think Chakotay will be envious of you having that role in her life. He's going to have to settle for being a fond uncle instead."

The Doctor gave her a tightlipped smile and rearranged a PADD on his desk. Kathryn straightened and asked, "You said you wanted to see me, Doctor?"

He looked up at her and his mien was serious, "Yes, Captain. I... I need your help." The Doctor stood and walked slowly around his office, talking as he paced. "Miral's birth crystallized a decision I' ve been mulling over since the trial dealing with my holonovel. Being a godparent usually means that I would be responsible for Miral if anything happened to her parents, but being a hologram I have no recognized rights. If anything did happen to Tom or B'Elanna, I would not have any say in Miral' s fate. Just being declared an artist does nothing to further my rights as a citizen in the Federation or as a godparent." He finally met Kathryn's startled eyes. "Voyager's return to the Alpha Quadrant has accelerated my timetable, and I need to act quickly. I would like to file a cause of action suit with the Federation Council to finally establish my sentience. I want to force the Federation to define me as a ‘person' with the acknowledged rights of all of society," he said squaring his shoulders. "I can't fight for hologram rights until the Federation recognizes me as more than a piece of hardware." He picked up a medical tricorder and brandished it for emphasis.

Kathryn sat down on the edge of his desk, her mind racing. "I can see your point, Doctor. But why the urgency?"

The Doctor stepped closer, his voice earnest, " Captain, if I wait I will become just another piece of equipment to be analyzed. You know that Starfleet will be poring over the ship, examining all of the curiosities we picked up in the Delta Quadrant. But if I can file my grievance before the Federation, then my program will be inviolate until after my sentience has been decided upon."

Kathryn nodded, "I see your point, Doctor. Of course I'll help you. What can I do for you? Do you want me to file the suit on your behalf?"

The Doctor's smile was filled with gratitude. "Yes, Captain. I'm going to contact Reginald Barclay. He can arrange for someone who's an expert on sentience hearings to advise me, but I'd like you to bring the suit. Not only would it express your confidence in my right to be declared sentient, but I think it would bring my struggle to the forefront of the Federation newscasts. You are the intrepid captain of Voyager, after all."

The captain looked mildly amused, "Don't worry, Doctor. I think your fight will get news coverage on its own merits." She gently laid her hand on his shoulder, thinking how exceptional he was. " I know someone who I want to call in on this as well, if you'll trust me. He's a bit of a celebrity in his own right." She grinned.

The Doctor nodded, "Of course, Captain. And thank you."

Kathryn smiled gently. "No thanks are necessary, Doctor. I count it an honor to be able to help my friends." She held his eyes solemnly for a moment before turning to leave.

The Doctor beamed after her. He suddenly went into motion. Returning to his desk, he activated his monitor. "Computer, contact Mr. Reginald Barclay of the Pathfinder project...."

"That's right, Deanna, we'd like you to appear at the Doctor's trial. You could present your professional assessment, as a ship's counselor, of the Doctor." Reg smiled at her.

Deanna looked both surprised and intrigued. "I'd be delighted, Reg. I'll need to let Captain Picard know and then I'll rearrange my schedule so I can meet with the Doctor. I'll also need the details of when I'm scheduled to appear before the court so I can be ready."

Reg interrupted her timidly. "D-De-Deanna, Captain Picard should already know about this. Last week, just after Voyager returned to the Alpha Quadrant, the Doctor contacted me. He had already asked Captain Janeway to file the case and yesterday she told me that she had asked Captain Picard to take part in it. I suggested to Captain Janeway that I thought Data would also be a good person to bring in."

Deanna's face lit up. "Reg, that's a wonderful idea. Have you talked to Data about this?" She smiled warmly, " Data would definitely be interested in the prospect of representing another artificial life-form at a sentience hearing."

"Yes, I've spoken to Commander Data and he said it sounded most intriguing. He told me he would arrange for some leave time from the Enterprise. Captain Picard will be co-counsel but his schedule will constrain the amount of time he will have available before the trial. Captain Janeway, the Doctor, and I came up with a list of people that we would like to appear at the hearing and I am making the contacts. Captain Janeway's time is also limited now and the Doctor is going to be staying at Jupiter Station in Dr. Zimmerman's laboratory with Haley. He said it was the closest thing he has to a home outside of Voyager."

She raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Have you told the Doctor about the codicil in Dr. Zimmerman's will regarding him?"

Reg cleared his throat. "Well, I didn't want to get his hopes up. I haven' t even told Haley about Lewis changing his will to make her a ward of the Doctor if the Federation ever acknowledges him sentient. But if they do, then I will tell the Doctor about the research and the holographic art that Dr. Zimmerman left him as well. I mean, Lewis wasn't even sure if Voyager would ever return or if the Doctor would want to face this fight. I'm watching over everything until it's decided anyway."

Deanna laughed. "Then it's in good hands. Anyway I'm sure the Doctor will be busy preparing for this and I can't imagine anyone better suited to help him than you, Reg. I' ve been meaning to speak with you. How are you feeling? Voyager's sudden return must have been quite a shock to you personally."

Reg struggled to appear cheerful. "Yes, their return was a shock... to the whole Federation I think. I... I couldn't be happier."

Deanna gave him an understanding look. "But your feelings are ambivalent. This has been the fulfillment of all you've struggled for. You' ve spent years imagining it, and now you are faced with the reality."

Reg looked embarrassed. "I guess I hadn't thought it through, Deanna. I imagined that they would be welcomed with open arms. After all they' ve gone through and now to be faced with the hostility that's being shown to the Maquis and to Captain Janeway. Even the Doctor is having to fight to remain free."

"It is natural to feel this way after you've anticipated an event for so long. Reality is always much more complicated than our fantasies. But, it will be all right, Reg. Although Starfleet's reaction may seem hostile, I think mostly it is the turmoil created by the unexpectedness of their arrival. I doubt the Federation will overlook the accomplishments of the Voyager crew. After all, they did the impossible. In seven years, they managed to bring home their ship and crew relatively intact after being flung over seventy thousand light years away from home." Deanna watched as his face began to look more hopeful.

"You really think so?"

"Absolutely. Now, I believe I should go and speak with Captain Picard about taking leave. You will send me details about the trial date when it's set?"

He smiled. "Yes. Yes, of course."

She smiled back and continued, "please, tell the Doctor that I look forward to seeing him again and to getting to know him better. I'll see you soon."

He nodded. "I'll do that, and thank you. For everything."

"Anytime, Reg." She grinned then added mischievously, "except maybe when I'm on vacation with Will."

He blushed as she signed off.

Reginald Barclay glanced up from the display panel he and the Doctor had been working on for the last four weeks since Voyager's return to the Alpha Quadrant. Suddenly the doors of the holodeck opened. "Data!" he exclaimed.

Data looked around, taking in the simulation of a Federation courtroom. He extended his hand to Reg. "It is good to see you again, Reg."

Reg took his hand excitedly. "Data, I can't thank you enough for coming. Your help—and Captain Picard's too, of course—will be invaluable in this case." Reg continued to shake Data' s hand even as he talked.

Data looked down at their hands, that were still in motion, before he met Reg's nervous stare. "Reg, you may stop greeting me now. I do not doubt the sincerity of your desire to have us take part in this suit. I am pleased to be asked to help. Captain Picard will be joining us this evening. This case has been most stimulating."

Reg looked embarrassed as Data separated their hands. "Sorry, Data. It's just that this case means so much to me. You'll understand why when you meet all of them."

Data looked perplexed. "Them? I thought the suit was brought on the behalf of the holographic Doctor of Voyager. Is Dr. Zimmerman's assistant Haley or other holograms in question as well?"

Reg wrung his hands nervously. "No, Data. The suit is only on behalf of the Doctor. I was just speaking in a broad sense about the Voyager crew as a whole."

Data led Reg over to a small conference table. "Why don't you tell me more about the Doctor and the Voyager crew? How did you come to be involved in this? I'm assuming it started with your work on the Pathfinder Project."

Reg nodded his nervousness falling away as his face took on an abstracted look. "Well it started when I came on with the Pathfinder Project, but Voyager quickly came to mean more to me..." Reg went on to tell Data about all of his experiences involving Voyager and his attachment to the crew.

The Doctor finished entering the results of an experiment he was doing before he shut down his terminal. As a matter of course he checked the settings on his mobile emitter before he exited the laboratory on Jupiter Station.

He nodded at people as he passed them, though it still seemed strange to be surrounded by unfamiliar faces. After seven years on Voyager he was just starting to adjust to their sudden arrival in the Alpha Quadrant.. Entering a conference room set aside for his case preparation, he paused in the entryway and met the eyes of the figures standing at Reg Barclay's side. "Commander Data and Captain Picard I presume."

Captain Picard shook hands with the Doctor, eyeing him curiously. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Doctor. My fiancée, Doctor Beverly Crusher, is very interested in meeting you. Your case is especially fascinating to her because her opinion of Emergency Medical Holograms has not been very positive."

The Doctor grinned, "Maybe I can change that, Captain."

Picard smiled and gave the Doctor a speculative look. "Perhaps you can at that, Doctor."

The Doctor then turned to face Commander Data.

The golden skinned android stepped forward and held out his hand to the Doctor. His yellow eyes were frankly examining him. " Curious. Your appearance is identical to other Mark One holograms. Did you not consider altering your appearance subroutines to express your distinct preferences? I have studied your program and the changes you have made are extensive but not in this area."

The Doctor smiled. "An interesting question, Commander, and no doubt one pertinent to our case. My answer is two-fold. We are both artificial life-forms, Commander. Our creators designed us in their image just as biological life-forms are a reflection of their parentage. I keep this visage to honor my creator, Dr. Zimmerman. The second reason is this. If the court can recognize my individuality— my sentience, perhaps the Federation will then look at all the other Mark Ones. They will reevaluate the fate of holograms that have not been given the extraordinary opportunities to grow beyond their programming that I have been given. I am not just fighting for my rights, Mr. Data. The fate of artificial life-forms and their potential are part of this case as well."

Data studied the Doctor's face seeing his fervent conviction. "Mr. Barclay was not incorrect. You are quite exceptional, Doctor."

The Doctor smiled in relief and shook Data's hand.

Reg came scurrying into the courtroom, his arms full of PADDs and his briefcase clutched awkwardly in one hand. He jabbed people indiscriminately with his case as he pushed his way up to the front of the courtroom. "Pardon me. Excuse me." He mumbled without looking up from his PADD.

The Doctor's face was relieved as he took the case from Reg's hand. "Good morning, Reg."

"I'm not late am I, Doctor?" He looked around dazedly. "I had to talk to Deanna before I came. I needed to work through a little anxiety I was having."

The Doctor shook his head, smiling fondly. "Not at all, Reg. Don't worry. Mr. Data and Captain Picard aren't even here yet. I just got here early to avoid the press."

Barclay gulped visibly. "Yes, there were quite a few reporters out there weren't there? Luckily they didn't know me.."

The Doctor grinned. "After today, Reg, they won't have that problem."

Reg grimaced. "Oh, you think so? But surely, Doctor, my part in this is minor. Commander Data and Captain Picard are..."

Doc smiled and put his hand on Reg's shoulder interrupting him. "No, Reg. Nothing you've done for me or for Voyager has been minor. It hasn't gone unnoticed or unappreciated either.."

Reg blushed and looked flustered. "I... I was simply doing my job, Doctor."

The Doctor shook his head. "No, Reg. As your friend, I don't believe it. I want to thank you. No matter what the court decides; I couldn't have had any better ally than you."

Reg smiled shyly as the Doctor clasped his shoulders. "I can't tell you how much that means to me, Doctor. It's been a privilege to help."

Data entered the courtroom with Captain Picard not far behind him and sat down. His yellow eyes calmly met the Doctor's gaze as he said, "it is almost time to begin."

Starfleet had arranged for the Hologram Sentience trial to be held on Jupiter Station to cut down on the publicity. In the months since Voyager had returned to the Alpha Quadrant, the heated debate over the fate of the former Maquis crewmembers and their captain had dominated the newscasts.

In fact, the Doctor's sentience trial would have been kept quiet if Commander Data had not neatly sidestepped this issue. At the Doctor's request he had put the issue squarely into the center of public debate by using the Doctor' s infamous holonovel "Photon's Be Free" to draw attention to the author's plight.

Though the Doctor's holonovel had been pulled from public access, rumor of it had spread, and pirated copies were still floating around much to the bemusement of Starfleet officials. The Voyager crew had even laughingly played up their exaggerated caricatures in the holonovel to entice more publicity for all of the concurrent trials.

Four and a half months later Doc was seated in his temporary quarters on Jupiter Station monitoring the morning news transmissions.

This is Federation News Service.

A logo flashed across the screen and a polished news anchor began talking about the day' s top news. Since his hearing was ending today, Doc knew that it would probably garner extended coverage and he wasn't wrong. The leading story was about his trial.

We are going live to our correspondent who has been covering this case.

Thank you Jeff, this is Jake Sisko reporting from Jupiter Station where today we will hope to conclude the Hologram Sentience trial. At stake is the future status of the Starship Voyager's holographic physician, but this court's verdict could affect the entirety of Federation space. FNS has covered the trial, transmitting live coverage of the happenings in the courtroom, but we have prepared a summary of the highlights of the trial featuring the notables who appeared in this historic court case. Presiding over the case is Admiral Edward Jellico of Starfleet Command.

Presenting Starfleet's case is Commander Michael Westmore. Appearing as expert witnesses were some of the Federation's top engineers and scientists, including Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge, the Chief Engineer of the Starship Enterprise.

Commander La Forge: "Yes, the medical holograms are programmed to learn and to make decisions in performing their duties. The Mark One holograms were programmed with the knowledge of over two hundred medical reference texts and the knowledge of forty-seven individual medical officers. Referencing the information they are already programmed with they then make decisions, but the hologram has the ability to learn and to devise novel treatments as well."

Also taking part was Commander Roger Dennison who co-created the Mark Four medical holograms that are currently in service aboard Starfleet vessels as Emergency Medical Holograms.

Commander Dennison: "Our aim was to create life-like beings who would instill a level of comfort in their patients. The Mark Ones were felt to be lacking in interpersonal skills but to be sound emergency medical practitioners. Voyager's hologram has however been running for such an extended period of time that there would have to be changes made to his programming to allow for expansion of his subroutines. In proposing that the Voyager EMH is sentient you face an additional problem when you consider the backup copy. Is it a sentient being as well? My final analysis is that no matter how lifelike a hologram is, it is still only a computer generated simulacrum."

The final witness for the defense was Lieutenant T'Bor of Vulcan. T'Bor is a recipient of the Daestrom award in holography and a specialist in artificial life-forms trained under the late Commander Bruce Maddox.

Lieutenant T'bor: "It is a common failing among many species to incorrectly assign emotions to a piece of technology. Captains often refer to their ships as ‘she' and to develop an attachment and a belief that their ship will go farther and do more for them and that the ship even returns their affection. The Emergency Medical Holograms were designed to be lifelike and it is not surprising that the crew of Voyager incorrectly assigns a persona to the device. But the fact remains that the EMH is a part of the Starship computer and when it is deactivated either for one minute or one century it is all the same. Holograms are not aware of their environment while disengaged and their personality is a result of programming not socialization. How could it ever be considered sentient if it's not aware of its environment?"

Appearing on behalf of the Holographic Doctor, were members of the senior staff of the Starship Voyager, the Counselor of the Starship Enterprise, the Delta Quadrant Ambassador Neelix, and Phillipa Louvois. Captain Louvois was Judge Advocate General (JAG) at the sentience trial involving the lead counsel, Commander Data also of the Enterprise. Captain Picard who is co-counsel at this trial represented Data at that sentience trial. Captain Louvois has since then gone on to become an expert in the area of sentience law.

Ambassador Neelix: "My initial impression of the Doctor was that he was a machine, but Kes forced the whole crew to reevaluate that idea. She worked closely with the Doctor and she encouraged him to realize the possibility of his individuality. I felt she was instrumental in helping the Doctor to move beyond the machine and into consciousness."

Seven of Nine: "The Doctor tutored me in social interaction to aid in my integration into the Voyager crew. I believe this was because the Doctor had himself had to learn these skills during his evolution. He helped me realize my own individuality, and I value my relationship with him, though I do not reciprocate his feelings." And "yes, the Doctor informed me, in front of the whole senior staff that he had formed a romantic attachment to me... that he in fact loved me."

Lieutenant Tom Paris: "I've worked with the Doc from the beginning of our time in the Delta Quadrant as a field medic and I have seen the changes in him. I know I regard him as a distinct individual and also as my friend. His attachment to Kes, Denara Pel and finally to Seven were apparent to me. He had the same need to be intimate with someone as any other member of the crew. He even created a holographic family for himself." He laughs to himself before continuing, "B' Elanna made a few changes to his construct to give him a family that she considered was closer to reality than what he had created. Doc quickly realized how unprepared he was for that particular fantasy. He instead turned to singing and other fine arts as a creative outlet until he discovered holographic novel writing. His book ‘Photons Be Free' was a real eye-opener for the whole crew but I think it revealed the Doc's need to be recognized as a life-form."

Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres-Paris: "Yes, I altered the Doctor's programming. I was trying to manipulate him into making changes to my daughter's genetic structure. I was desperate to remove her Klingon traits, but what I did was wrong. Luckily, the Doctor forgave me for manipulating him in that manner and accepted when Tom and I selected him to be godfather to our daughter, Miral. We chose him because of how involved and caring he was in helping me adjust to this pregnancy and because he is our friend. He took as much joy in anticipating our daughter's arrival as we did, and we know she will be in good hands with Doc if anything ever happens to us."

Counselor Deanna Troi: "I evaluated the Doctor in my capacity as a ship's counselor but this was not my first encounter with Voyager' s doctor. The Doctor was transmitted back to the Alpha Quadrant to save the life of his creator Dr. Lewis Zimmerman. At first Lewis was unbelievably hostile to the Doctor, and the Doctor' s reaction was that of a son seeking his fathers acceptance and not finding it. We were able to reconcile them by introducing a virus into the Doctor's program. Doctor Zimmerman saved the Doctor's program and they were able to finally connect. The Doctor did go on to save Lewis' life but it was not just his medical skills that did this, it was the Doctor himself. He made Lewis feel as if his efforts in designing the Mark One were not a failure. I do believe the Doctor is a new life-form, as Dr. Zimmerman did even if he is composed of light and forcefields. He has a personality capable of desire, hatred, disdain, irony and even love. Even though I cannot sense him as I sense organic life-forms, from my analysis of him I do not doubt his emotional capacity. I saw it in action in his relationship with Lewis Zimmerman."

Phillipa Louvois: "Yes, I presided over the case that granted Commander Data of the Enterprise status as a sentient being. I did not doubt that Data was a machine... an artificial life-form but I found the supporting evidence, that showed Data was self-aware, intelligent and capable of conscious moral choices credible. My research has since shown that the definition of sentience is malleable, enough to include a variety of artificial life-forms such as Data and the holographic Doctor. We include beings of pure energy in our definition already and it doesn' t seem an intellectual leap to recognize that the Doctor is a being of pure energy. If the Doctor's programming could be transferred to a positronic brain and body like Data' s we would not even be having this discussion. His sentience would be recognized from legal precedents."

Commander Tuvok: "I have reservations about applying the term of sentient to a hologram, but sentience itself is an ambiguous term. It raises the question of how we determine whether an object possesses the capability to be self-aware and to make independent choices. Because of this ambiguity, I believe that the definition of sentience can be manipulated to mean whatever a society finds useful at that time. Do we need holograms to serve as labor for our society? If so, I believe that citizens will unconsciously justify it to themselves by saying ‘Well it may reason and communicate like us, but it isn't really alive.' In fact, there is no way to establish to any degree of certainty that any being is really sentient but we take it as a given because we have done so since the beginning of civilization."

Commander Chakotay: " The Doctor was on an away mission with Ensigns Kim and Jetal when they were attacked. The ensigns were both badly injured and they required immediate surgery. The Doctor was forced to choose between them though this meant one of the ensigns wouldn't make it. That choice tortured him and caused a conflict that he felt unable to resolve. He even asked to be deactivated. The captain ultimately chose to let the Doctor work out his own solution to this problem knowing that it was just part of being an individual. A machine would not have been troubled by the loss of one life. It would have weighed the usefulness of both individuals and made a cold-blooded choice. The Doctor felt the burden of guilt such choices carry, but he found a way to live with them as we all do."

Captain Janeway: "Yes, the court case over the Doctor's rights regarding his holonovel decided that the arbitrator did not feel comfortable extending the definition of a person to include him, but they did declare he would be labeled an artist with an artist' s rights. My response to the decision is that the Doctor is more than an artist, more than a physician, and much more than a hologram. I have watched the Doctor struggle to define himself. He has become one of the most humane and caring individuals it's been my pleasure to serve with. And I do mean individual... he is distinctive, and simply treating him as a piece of technology disparages his journey. The voyage through the Delta Quadrant shaped us all... it forged us into a family. I came to count the Doctor as an integral part of that family and I am here today because I have no doubt of his right to be declared sentient."

The support of the remainder of Voyager's senior staff and similar statements from the entire crew were submitted into evidence. The last witness to be called today by the defense will be the Doctor himself. Then the closing arguments will follow. Public opinion about the holographic doctor has been mixed but overall polling has the edge to the Doctor. Federation prosecutors unsympathetic to the Doctor's suit have attributed this to the public's desire to give support to the Voyager crew. Now back to you, Jeff.

Thank you, Jake. And in other news the verdicts announced yesterday in the Voyager Maquis trials have..."

The Doctor switched off his viewscreen and stood as the door chime sounded. Reg Barclay stepped hesitantly into the room. His face was smiling but his hands dry-washed themselves in his anxiety. "Ready to go, Doctor?"

The Doctor smiled and squared his shoulders. "Let's go, Reg."

The Doctor met the eyes of the Starfleet attorney. Commander Mike Westmore smiled congenially as he faced the holo-doctor. "Good morning, Doctor. I have only a few questions for you. If you would indulge me, could you tell me what happens to your program when you hear the words ‘Computer deactivate the EMH'?"

The Doctor frowned. "In my early days on Voyager I had to ask crewmen to shut down my program when they left sickbay. I was greatly annoyed at being left idle when my programming clearly indicated I was to be used for emergency use only. But because of the death of Voyager's medical officer my role had to be expanded. B' Elanna Torres, our Chief Engineer altered my program so that I could initiate and shut down my program, as I deemed fit. She gave me freedom and I used it to increase my responsibilities, to pursue hobbies, and to learn."

Commander Westmore held up his hand interrupting the Doctor. "What I want to know, Doctor, is what happens when your program is shut down."

The Doctor frowned, "I am deactivated. My program is held in the computer or in my mobile emitter until it is activated again.."

"So you cease to exist and you are unaware of your surroundings when you are inactive?"

"Yes. I am unaware of my surroundings, but no, I do not cease to exist. My holographic body ceases to exist but my persona is intact." The Doctor struggled with his irritation.

Commander Westmore smiled. "I see the distinction you are trying to make. Can you be killed?"

"Certainly I can be destroyed, Commander." The Doctor's face was indignant. "My program can be decompiled. Anything that can be created can be destroyed or ‘killed' if you will. It's an elementary principle in all science."

"Doctor, can you tell me of any sentient creatures that are unaware of their environment when they are inactive?"

The Doctor paused thoughtfully. "Of course, Commander. If you were in a coma, you would be unaware of your surroundings though you would still be counted sentient."

Commander Westmore picked up a tricorder from the defense tabletop, adjusting it. "Ah, yes. Very clever, Doctor. So your program exists even when the holographic projection of that program is shut down because you become a subset of the ship's computers. What about Commander Dennison's question about the status of the backup of your program, Doctor? Records show that Voyager lost a backup copy of your program during conflict with a Delta Quadrant species. Should your backup copy, if it could be recovered, be granted sentient status as well?"

"Commander, comparing me to the backup copy of my program is like comparing me to an identical twin. What would happen if one twin was left safely at home, never exposed to anything beyond their first day of life, but the second twin went out into the world and learned new skills, new interests. The second twin would be vastly more complex than the embryonic twin, though they would be genetically identical. That is the relationship between my backup copy and me. I continue to change with each new experience I face."

Commander Westmore cleared his throat noisily, interrupting the Doctor. "I'll take that as a yes, then. So the backup copy could be sentient as well. Well, Doctor. What about all of the other Mark Ones? Are they sentient as well? How about all holograms? Would you have the court protect the rights of holograms on all the holodecks in all the holoprograms throughout the Federation?" His voice ridiculed the idea.

The Doctor looked sad and he shook his head regretfully. "No, Commander. I don't expect the Federation to look beyond their preconceived notions regarding holograms. I don't expect any sentient being," his voice dripped sarcasm, "to regard the Mark Ones or any other complex holo life-form, as capable of more than their prejudice allows. Isn't that what all of this boils down to, Commander? Bigotry?"

Mike Westmore's face looked faintly embarrassed. This time when he cleared his throat, it was from discomfort not in an attempt to be rude. "Very well, Doctor. Let' s follow up on your status when you are deactivated. Your program is contained in the ships mainframe, is it not?"

"Yes, when I'm deactivated you could say the computer is my quarters, Commander. I do reside within the ships mainframe." Doc gave the commander a frosty look. " But since I came to Jupiter station, my program has resided in my mobile emitter."

The commander's face lit up in a smile. "Your mobile emitter. Yes, it is an interesting piece of technology. It was from the 29th century, wasn' t it? But the same parameters hold there as in the computer. You can be activated and deactivated at the will of a living being... the same living beings that created your program?"

The Doctor smiled smugly. "Yes, Commander my mobile emitter was brought back from the 29th century. But no, my mobile emitter has been modified so that only Captain Janeway, Lieutenant B' Elanna Torres, or I can deactivate my program. I asked that this be done so that I could have sovereignty over my existence. I wanted control over my fate and that is also the reason that I asked that this issue be brought to trial."

The commander's eyebrows rose in astonishment, "But your programming can still be altered, can it not? Didn' t the Captain of the Federation starship Equinox delete your ethical sub-routines? You caused serious harm to a member of your crew then, didn't you? You became a cold-blooded killer at the touch of a button."

The Doctor's face was grim and his voice was angry. " Yes, I did cause harm because of that deletion, and that led me to this decision. I have made my program impregnable as any other self-aware creature would. Tell me, Commander, if you had an Achilles' heel, would you advertise it? No you would act as I have. I am more than some phantom created by forcefields and light. Can a forcefield feel love? Can light feel pain? No, but I can. Not because it was in my programming, but because I have learned to."

Westmore looked incredulous at the Doctor's response. "I see, and how are you different from any other computer program, Doctor?" He held up his tricorder scanning the Doctor. "Hmm...forcefields and photons. That is all that you are isn't it, Doctor?"

"Commander Westmore, the human brain is comparable to a computer. Constant activity, impulses, regulating activities, and processes. Human beings have even successfully transferred their consciousness into computers, just as I am transferred. My program is described through algorithms and heuristic subroutines. It is a description of my thought processes, my regulating activities, impulses. In addition it contains descriptors for my physical parameters. I am a complex organism just as you are, Commander. I just happen to be contained within a physical form composed of forcefields and photons."

"Doctor, Captain Phillipa Louvois compared you to energy beings which are acknowledged sentient. But those energy beings were not created from the imagination of corporeal beings. They are not artificial constructs made in the form of another species." Commander Westmore approached the Doctor, his face stern.

"Commander, have you ever used a transporter?" The Doctor's face was haughty.

Mike Westmore paused, "Yes, Doctor. Of course I have used a transporter. Very few Federation citizens have not."

"So Commander, you were broken down by a computer, stored in a buffer for a fraction of a moment. In effect, you became a creature of energy. Your persona, your individuality, what makes you unique in this was reduced to a pattern. When you were rematerialized did you count yourself any less of a person? Were you reduced by the experience of being part of a piece of technology for that time? Yes, I am an artificial construct. Dr. Lewis Zimmerman created me, here on Jupiter Station. My program, the definition of who I am is stored in a computer. My physical form is made up of photons and forcefields. But I am an individual. I have desires. I have dreams. I have a purpose. You do not doubt my intelligence. Yet, you still question my self-awareness though a qualified Starfleet counselor has examined me. I can only guess that you doubt if I possess a soul. But that cannot be determined by a court of law, Commander. That can only be determined by my actions over the course of my life."

Commander Westmore stared at the Doctor before glancing over at Admiral Jellico. "No more questions at this time, Admiral."

Admiral Jellico nodded curtly and turned to Captain Picard and Commander Data. "Your witness, Commander. If you will be needing much time, we can adjourn until tomorrow."

Commander Data rose. "Thank you, Admiral. We only have one question for the Doctor."

Jellico nodded and said, "Very well, then. Continue."

Data turned to the Doctor. "In the course of your entire voyage in the Delta Quadrant you have created a life for yourself, struggled to define your existence, but you have never given yourself a name. Can you explain why?"

The Doctor looked at Data seriously. " In the beginning of our journey I had wanted to pick the name of someone I admired, but each time I thought of a choice I would change my mind again. It became something of a joke, and I have no doubt that the betting pool on Voyager made book on my choice. Somewhere along our journey the crew became more important to me than defining my own identity with a name. These people became my family. I made a vow to myself that I would honor them somehow when I came to select a name. So I have finally chosen... here at the end of our adventure together. If his family will allow it, I'd like to choose the name of Joseph Carey Zimmerman. To honor the last Voyager to fall in the line of duty, and to honor my creator Dr. Zimmerman."

Data looked at Admiral Jellico and then at the Doctor. "That will be all Dr. Zimmerman and thank you."

Commander Westmore and Captain Picard gave closing arguments. Both were counted to be eloquent and stirring...but the decision was in the hands of Admiral Edward Jellico alone. The admiral called for a recess with the court to be reconvened at 1900 hours of the same day.

This is Federation News Service. The logo flashed before the camera faded to show Jake Sisko's smiling face.

Hello this is Jake Sisko reporting for FNS direct from Jupiter Station. The court is reconvening to conclude the case deciding the sentience of Voyager's Holographic Doctor. We are going to switch to live coverage of the courtroom to hear the verdict.

Admiral Jellico's gravelly voice filled the courtroom. " I have considered the case presented by both sides and by the legal precedent cited by Commander Data about Commander Data. I will admit that when I first reviewed this case I was skeptical about the idea of a computer generated hologram claiming sentience, but over the years I have encountered equally unlikely scenarios. The definition of sentience incorporates many vague terms but my preconceived conditions are intelligence, self-awareness and the capability to make independent choices. Sentience is a byproduct of the complexity of self-evolution. I have listened to the crew of Voyager and to the ‘experts' and I can't say that I see much conflict. There is no doubt that the Doctor started life as an intricate computer program that mimicked human life. Forced by the exigencies of being stranded in the Delta Quadrant with no replacement medical practitioner, the EMH of necessity evolved into something more. I cannot tell you when sentience begins, but I recognize in this being the individuality and self-determination of an independent mind. Whether his body is made up of photons and forcefields, titanium and positronic relays, or flesh and bones his status would be the same. The court finds that the Doctor, Joseph Carey Zimmerman of the Starship Voyager is a sentient being who is granted full rights of citizenship in the Federation." Admiral Jellico banged his gavel twice. "Court adjourned."

Dr. Joe Zimmerman bounded to his feet to shake hands and hug all his well-wishers. First and foremost among them was Reginald Barclay. "We did it, Reg!"

Captain Janeway elbowed her way through the crush of reporters to smile and hug the Doctor. "Congratulations Doctor, some of the crew of Voyager and of the Enterprise are waiting to celebrate with you."

Kathryn held up her glass of champagne, before glancing around at all of the familiar faces gathered here to celebrate the end of the trial. "To Doctor Joseph Carey Zimmerman the newest citizen in the Federation." She turned to the Doctor gently touching her glass to his before taking a sip. Kathryn gave him an amused look and said, "who would have guessed at your choice for a name." She grinned to herself at the irony of the Doctor choosing the same first name in this timeline as the Doctor in Admiral Janeway's timeline. Even if he did it for completely different reasons.

The newly dubbed Dr. Joe Zimmerman grinned, "I can imagine what Tom' s response will be, but I hope it is a fitting tribute to all of our fallen crewmen. Do you think Sarah Carey will find it acceptable?"

Kathryn looked distinctly uncomfortable at his question. "I'm afraid I don't..."

Samantha Wildman's voice broke in. "Excuse me, Captain. I couldn't help but overhear the Doctor's question."

Joe smiled widely at Samantha. "Ms. Wildman, I'm glad you were able to be here today. I'm flattered that so many of the crewmembers of Voyager were able to come and support me. Do you have an answer to my question? Will Mrs. Carey find my choice of name acceptable?"

Sam shook her head regretfully. "Doctor, I'm not sure Sarah Carey would be receptive to anything about Voyager right now. She's very bitter about Joe's death, but I think it's a lovely idea. I think Sarah may come to appreciate your gesture, given time to heal and a tactful approach to the subject."

The Doctor nodded thoughtfully for a moment before he squared his shoulders decisively. "Thank you Ms. Wildman. Captain," he said looking down into her troubled eyes. "If you don't mind, I' d like to approach Mrs. Carey personally about the subject of my name choice."

Kathryn nodded and gave him a lopsided smile. "Of course, Doctor. I'm afraid I haven't had the chance to contact Sarah yet, but I will remedy that soon. I' d like to talk to her about Joe and his extraordinary service aboard Voyager. He was a good man."

The Doctor noticed the brooding regretful look on her face and scanned the room for a distraction. He knew that the captain was thinking of all the deaths among her crew. When the Doctor spotted Reginald Barclay standing with Deanna Troi and Commander William Riker across the room, a sudden idea came to him. "Excuse me, Captain, but I have a request to make."

Kathryn listened to his softly spoken words and a luminous smile lit up her face. Deanna Troi felt the wash of Captain Janeway's emotions across the room and glanced over. The Doctor looked pleased and full of anticipation. The captain nodded and moved over to a computer terminal. Though her face resumed the normally dignified command face of a Starship captain, Deanna could feel her joy simmering underneath. This was a relief compared to the carefully controlled somberness the captain had been concealing before.

Will Riker noticed Deanna's attention was elsewhere as Data walked over to speak to Reg. He leaned over to whisper in her ear, "What is it, Deanna? I recognize that look of satisfaction, though I don't usually see it outside of our quarters." His grin was impudent.

Deanna gave him a look of tolerant scorn. "Really, Commander? I'll keep that in mind the next time we're alone."

Riker grinned wider, "You can count on it, Deanna. But seriously, what's got you so distracted?"

Her face looked mysterious. "Wait and see, Will. I love a good surprise as much as you do."

Captain Janeway and Dr. Joe Zimmerman crossed the room to join their group. Kathryn caught the attention of an ensign who supplied everyone with fresh glasses of champagne.

"I'd like your attention please." Captain Kathryn Janeway's voice cut across the hum of conversation, silencing it. "Years ago the Pathfinder Project allowed Voyager to have the first contact with Starfleet Command, and I proposed a toast when we celebrated the event. Now here we are... finally home together. New friends, family, and longtime comrades. I ask you to raise your glasses once again. To one of the finest crews I' ve ever commanded, to our faithful ship that brought us through our adventure, and to the man I once made an honorary crewmember. Today I made it official. I give you the newest addition—and the last—to the Starship Voyager' s crew compliment. Mr. Reginald Barclay."

Reg took a step backwards, he was so overwhelmed. It had been his fantasy to have a place among the people he had counted as his friends long before they even knew his name. Deanna Troi was radiant as she gently took his hand. "Don't worry, Reg. This is not a holodeck fantasy. This is real life and you've earned it."

The Doctor stepped forward. "I'd like to be the first to congratulate you and to welcome you to our crew, Reg." Joe's face was beaming with pleasure. " Even though I know you are leaving to continue your work with the Engineering Department at Starfleet Headquarters, we wanted you to know how much the whole crew appreciated your efforts on our behalf. I couldn' t have a better friend than you, Reg. Thank you."

Reg could only smile, his eyes full of tears, as the room raised their glasses in his honor.

back to Tying the Threads index | chapter seven

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