Hollow Truth

by Heather Dunn

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"Observe," Suzcecoz said, addressing the congregation of crewmen and gesturing toward the room around them. "My latest creation."

"Right," Hawthorne replied, glancing about. "It's a holodeck. What about it? Didn't you have rooms like this back in the Manhattan Academy of Magic? And back in Castle Shieltas before then for that matter, I think?"

"But this is my latest design! It is far more advanced than my previous attempts," Suzcecoz pointed out. "Watch."

Without even touching the controls, a holographic representation of a flying carpet appeared beneath their feet, and images of flying through the clouds and other creatures appeared around them. Birds swooped past them, and a dragon came so close that several of the crewmen got nervous about it.

"Okay?" Hawthorne said skeptically.

"See? It's psychoreactive. The neural interface allows better control over the program than the control panel alone does, although it can still be accessed by that manner in case something goes wrong with it or if the neural interface is having difficulty connecting to someone's brain for some reason."

"Right, and this is new how?" Hawthorne said. "The Manhattan Academy of Magic, again, had rooms which based their contents upon what the people inside them wanted, did it not?"

"Yes, yes, but those were heavily resource-intensive and extremely susceptible to minute changes in thought," Suzcecoz replied, waving her hand dismissively. "I have greatly improved the power efficiency and the control algorhythms to better create a workable simulation. The holographic simulation will continue upon its specified course until it reaches the end of its program, is terminated in some way, or explicitly altered by its users, and will not change merely because one of them had a stray thought."

"Which was what the original holodeck did in the first place," Hawthorne commented dryly. "So how is yours better precisely?"

"The original holodeck whose technology I procured from the Star Trek universe had numerous limitations and a complete lack of a neural interface," Suzcecoz said. "This severely limited what sort of programs it was capable of producing. For instance, it had difficulty with any magical simulation whose control was not based strictly in verbal or somatic components. Likewise, unlike the original design, my version is far more stable and less prone to random malfunctions at inopportune moments."

"What, a holodeck that doesn't malfunction every other episode?" Hawthorne said. "Imagine that!"

"I probably shouldn't just call it a holodeck, though," Suzcecoz mused. "It's not quite the same thing, after all. It's far more advanced and intelligent. I know, I'll call it the Safety Room."

"Safety Room?" Hawthorne repeated dubiously.

"Well, sure, why not?" Suzy said. "Who would want to use something called a Danger Room?"

"Right, maybe you should just stick with the holodeck name," Hawthorne said with a smirk.

"I believe that people will find the technology very useful for practice simulations for their magical abilities, technological skills, piloting, as well as entertainment purposes such as games and interactive movies or novels. Also, I believe it will be used for pornography. Everything is used for pornography at some point or another. Likewise the adaptive artificial intelligence will prove most useful for dating and sexual simulations..."

"Uh-huh," Hawthorne said, smirking all the more broadly.

Suzcecoz deactivated the simulation and turned to the crew members again. "There are twelve holodecks located in various points around the ship, and more may be added later as necessary. Do enjoy and let me know if there are any issues with them. Have a nice day."

"These holodecks are great," Glitch commented as she strapped herself in to a flight simulation.

"If you say so," replied the red-shirted man in the co-pilot's seat. "They seem a bit too realistic to me."

"Oh, come on, Ernie, relax a bit," Glitch assured him, powering up the simulated spaceship and easing it into a takeoff. "What could possibly go wrong?"

"Don't say things like that," Ernie said nervously. "They're always a sign that something is about to go disastrously wrong!"

"Pssh," Glitch said, flying the ship into a corkscrew between some buildings. "Look, nothing bad's gonna happen even if I crash this thing into one of those buildings. None of it's real. It just looks real. It's just a holographic simulation."

"Uh, right, if you say so," Ernie said, fidgeting. "Oh, my, look at the chronometer, I have access shafts I have to clean!"

"Oh, keep your pants on, don't you know how to have a little fun?" She steered the ship up and out of the atmosphere, heading for a nearby asteroid belt at high speed.

"Why am I here again? Did you really need my help to 'test' this out?" Ernie said.

"Naturally," Glitch insisted. The fast little ship shortly reached the asteroid belt, and Glitch flew recklessly between the rocks, narrowly avoiding colliding with one or another of them.

"Uh, Glitch?" Ernie said uneasily, staring out the viewscreen at the bits of space debris around them. "Is it just me, or are some of these asteroids rather interesting-shaped?"

"You don't say," Glitch commented, slowing down to take a better look at them. Several of them looked as though they had smiley faces on them, while others appeared to have a rather phallic shape. "Probably just another glitch, or the programmer's weird sense of humor." She shrugged and flew on.

Glitch hadn't been aboard the Eyes of Truth for very long, but she already rather liked it here. There hadn't been nearly so much technology to play around with back on Anda. The place had seemed so very backward and medieval at times, really, aside from a few redeeming bits. Technology had always been her forte, however, and she was quite happy to have found a great outlet for that in taking up a position as one of the junior engineers on board the Eyes of Truth.

"Look out!" Ernie screamed as one large chunk of rock came slamming into the side of the ship at high speeds. Glitch hadn't seen it coming, it had just popped into existence right next to them, and it knocked them severely off-course and out of control.

"What the hell?" Glitch muttered as she tried to get the ship under control. "Computer, freeze program."

"Error," the computer's sultry feminine voice replied promptly. "There has been a fatal malfunction in the primary holographic projection relay. Unable to safely terminate program."

"Oh for crying out loud," Glitch muttered, trying to gain access to the holodeck systems via the neural interface. The glitches that had been her namesake for years, a growing nuisance in recent times, had caught up with her again apparently.

Alarm systems were blaring around her, whether part of the simulated ship or the holodeck itself she wasn't sure, nor really cared at the moment. She did, however, finally manage to get the systems under control and shut down the program. The simulation vanished around her, and there was a dull thump as Ernie's broken and bloody body dropped to the floor.

"Damn it all," Glitch muttered, then said aloud, "Medical emergency in Holodeck 3."

A medical team quickly arrived to transport Ernie to the infirmary. Commander Fitz, the Chief Engineer, shortly showed up as well to inspect the damage. "What happened here, Ensign Glitch?"

"The holodeck malfunctioned," Glitch explained. "I'm not sure what went wrong, but I was able to get it under control and shut it down, though."

"Well enough," Fitz said. "I'll have to have a team investigate and see just what went wrong and patch it up to make sure it doesn't happen again. You were lucky you were able to get it under control. Good work."

"Thanks," Glitch muttered unenthusiastically as she stumbled out of the holodeck. She didn't want to mention that this sort of thing seemed to happen around her far more often than random chance would indicate for fear that she would be blamed for it. Usually the glitches were pretty harmless and amusing, but sometimes, all the more often lately, they were getting dangerous and downright deadly. Well, she'd just have to be more careful about it, she thought. One way or another. It simply wouldn't do to get thrown off this wonderful ship when she had barely arrived here.

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