STF

Holodeck- Memories Of Time And Places Long Past

Posted Feb. 22, 2024, 6:57 p.m. by Lieutenant Commander Alexis Kane (Assistant Chief Medical Officer) (Jennifer Ward)

Posted by Lieutenant Commander Alexis Kane (Assistant Chief Medical Officer) in Holodeck- Memories Of Time And Places Long Past

Posted by Lieutenant Commander Dr. Solomon Kane (Research & Development) in Holodeck- Memories Of Time And Places Long Past

For the past few weeks, Kane had been busy after his ‘normal’ working hours. He hadn’t discussed what he was doing with Alexis… not that they had that kind if relationship. If he had thought about it, he probably wouldn’t have worried about it even then. Alexis was always buried in her PaDD reviewing a case or reading a new paper on some theory or advancement or another. Except when they slept. He was always with her, and made sure that the lights were on when she finally went to sleep.

But many hours had seen him on the holodeck. And the deck he was in was sealed and locked from any access while he was ended with… whatever it was he was doing.

A little over three weeks after the behavior started, Alexis got a message on her PaDD. Holodeck two. Tonight. 2200. It wasn’t signed, but it was obvious who it was from.

Kane, R&D

To say that Alexis didn’t notice his absence would be incorrect. She did, but such was the nature of his ‘extra’ assignments that it wasn’t unusual for him to work long hours, nor for him to not speak of it. This stretch was long than usual, but it wasn’t as if she didn’t see him, and they were always in each other’s ears. With all the time spent on Dalton, it wasn’t like Alexis didn’t have her own work to catch up on. Cmdr Walker hadn’t said anything about the sudden absence, but she wouldn’t give him reason to need to say anything.

It would be a lie to say that Alexis didn’t like all the reading and research and the mountains of work on her desk. She loved it. However, she would never admit she missed watching Lucy together after their shifts. Though she was absolutely certain, Solomon knew she did. Sitting in her office reviewing test results, the message flashed across her screen. I will be there.

At 2159, Alexis, wearing blue jeans and a soft knit peach sweater, pressed the controls for the holodeck knowing full well it wouldn’t open unless Solomon was ready for it to do so.

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

The doors slid open to reveal the standard black room with yellow grid. Kane was standing in the middle of the room with a PaDD of his own, tapping commands in as the doors slid closed behind Alexis.

He didn’t look up, but from the trademark cascade of hair covering his profile, he said “Hey. How goes the records reconciliation with Dalton?”

Kane

“I had to add a few test results from our trip here, to cover the diagnosis, but that was easy enough. You wiped that ship’s computer so there is no way to tell that we didn’t do the tests. She’s doing well, PT is happy with her progress, and she’s learning to pay attention to her bio-rhythms again. I don’t see why she can’t return to light duty soon, at least in an observation or consultation capacity. Until PT clears her, I wouldn’t allow her to handle experiments.” Alexis shrugged. Dalton was doing well, but her corridination and strength control needed to be refined a bit more before handling something that would require caution.

She was curious, and it was clear from the look she was giving him, but she also had endless patience.

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

Kane nodded, but said nothing for a minute. Then he exhaled deeply and said “Ok. Done.” He looked up at Alexis and said “Ok, so I was thinking a few weeks ago about your dad and everything that went down with your mom. And I realized that we weren’t really on equal footing. You and I went through the ugly s#!t that was your mom; but you only know my ugly s#!t secondhand from stuff I’ve told you. I don’t want that to ever cause a problem, so…” and tapped the PaDD and the yellow grid was replaced with an instantly depressing and claustrophobic city scape.

Alexis gave him a perplexed look. They couldn’t go back in time and they certainly couldn’t cross realities to go back. Alexis knew there were things she would never understand past an intellectual level. He wanted to tell her, and she would listen.

They were standing on the roof of an obviously dilapidated structure on a hill or rise, with he neighboring buildings directly attached. There was a haze all over and in the distance massive structures rose above the cramped, crowded, and dirty surrounding city. Advertisements in bright lights and garish colors stabbed the haze from the sides of buildings and floating billboards. Vehicles of types and makes Alexis had never seen clogged up skyway, and the streets below were crammed with pedestrians and ground vehicles. The sky itself was dark, light nightfall… but something about the place made it seem like the darkness never really went away. The overall technology level was obviously old… far older than Alexis had ever dealt with; and something about it seemed… ‘off’. Like nothing looked or was quite where it should be. Kane looked around and then took a breath.

“Welcome to New Detroit.”

Kane

It was dirty, filthy really, and reeked of … Alexis didn’t have a word for it. It was not as bright as she would have liked, but not so dark that she panicked. It was dark enough to make her desperately want to turn the lights on. She moved next to him, but turned slowly looking at it all. This was where he was born, without a family, even without a name when he was found or… left? He was forced into a gang, owned as a slave to the syndicate, survived a building explosion, was forced to learn Mandarin just to have a normal conversation. And it was here he joined the New Detroit Fire Department because it was the hardest job to get. They were elite and unique among this city. That was even in their own records of their version of this place. It was also here he left because he was tired of saving people for the destruction to just keep happening and then joined Star Fleet.

Seeing it made the things he had told her more vivid, but she’d never really experience it the way he did. It was just light and energy images. Something about it though was not right. Alexis couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was. It couldn’t be an error in his program. She turned again, slowly, trying to figure out what it was. Something Solomon had mentioned once came to her suddenly - The Uncanny Valley. “It’s like the mathematics of the universe is off by one trillionth. Not enough to destroy it, but enough to make it not right.” Alexis hand slipped into his and she looked up at him, “Is this how you feel all the time?”

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

Kane wasn’t looking at her, he was looking out over the city. “Yeah…” he said. He was quiet a moment and then looked at her. “Except with you. Thats how I knew you were special. The first time you walked into the lab… I felt it. Like… a harmonization of some kind. I knew that you and I were matched somehow. I don’t know how… don’t really care. All I know is that wherever I am or what I am doing, it’s never quite right. Except when I am with you. Even here…” and he looked out over the city. “When I made this… I made it down to the very last detail. I made this place like my New Detroit. So where you see it as ‘not right’, I saw it as exactly how it should be for me.” He looked back at her and said “Except right now, it’s not. I see it like you do. Twenty minutes ago? I saw like I always had… through my perception of it. But as soon as I ran the program with you standing here, I saw it.” and he grinned. “Weird, huh?”

Kane

“It’s an interesting observation. If I left, do you think you would see it as you always had?” It would be an interesting set of observations to study. Alexis knew that wasn’t the point of the simulation though. Alexis eyes scanned the cityscape again. “I’ve never seen a city with this level if technology but also so polluted.”

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

“Yeah… it was a real garbage dump. Some places, literally. You want to take a look around?” He looked at her and said “I have the program set to ignore you. Nothing you say or do will effect the simulation in any way. You can just watch and listen, if you like. But I can show you how it was… living here.”

Kane

Alexis wasn’t thinking if it as a dump, but more the extreme lack of responsible leadership that allowed the city to become like this. It was, or the New Detroit in her reality, was a Federation world. Who was caring for the people here? She squeezed his hand for a moment, then she nodded once. “Show me.”

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

Kane nodded and took her hand. “Okay. If it gets to be too much, just end the program, okay?” he said. “This building is one of three apartment buildings. As far as quality goes? They are considered not at all bad. Keep that in mind as we go downstairs. And yeah… stairs. No elevators or lifts. Not that there would be enough power to run ‘em even they were installed.”

“Okay.” Though the likelihood of that happening was slim. Alexis may not be as tough as Solomon, and she was certainly sheltered, but she was just as stubborn and determined. She followed him inside and to the stairs. The phrase ‘not enough power’ was a stark reminder of how different this place was, not that Alexis needed the reminder.

He led her inside and to a stairwell. The stairs were concrete and covered in graffiti. He led her down the stairs, and the lower they went, the more crowded the place became. People were sleeping in hallways and on the stairs themselves. More than a few of the ‘apartments’ they could see had no doors. Most of the lighting in the halls came from either far too bright or far too dim lighting in the ceiling. A few of the forms on the floor and stairs seemed like they had perhaps not moved in a very long time.

As they came to one landing, a teen was sitting down and leaned against the wall. A needle protruded from his arm below a piece of rubber tubing, and his arm was discolored and swelling. “Hijack. It was a nasty drug that the Syndicate created and tested here in New Detroit. Super addictive and highly lethal.” Kane said as they walked past the form.

Alexis looked at the young teen, eyes narrowed in horrified study. She’d heard of the Syndicate doing such things, they still did. She read reports and had seen a few patients at Star Fleet Medical, but she’d never seen anything like this first hand. The teen on the verge of dying, the bodies, the rundown state of the not all bad building. It was consciencenable.

Soon they came to the front door, transparent aluminum broken and shattered in the frame. Kane led Alexis out and onto the street. From here, nothing of the view they had from the rooftop was visible. It was humid, and the air clung to them like some kind of parasite. The smell was wholly disconcerting. People, vehicles, rotting garbage, and all manner of raw waste fought a battle for supremacy… but sometimes, just for a moment, there was the smell of something truly wonderful. Food of some kind, but it was quickly swallowed by the overwhelming stench of so many crammed together.

Kane led her to the left and down the crowded street. True to his word, Alexis simply passed by or through the masses of foot traffic. They had not gone far when someone screamed. Everyone froze and all eyes looked at the source: a human woman in her mid-thirties. He companion, a human male of about the same age had a look of shock on his face; and then he simply fell face-forward onto the concrete side walk with a sickening crunch. The handle of a blade protruded from his back. As soon as he hit the ground, two figures moved forward and in an instant had emptied the dead man’s belongings into their pockets and they disappeared into the crowd. The crowd, for their part, simply moved again… people stepping over the body as if it was a particularly noxious bit of trash. Kane took Alexis’ hand and pulled her down the street. The last view of the seen was the woman, the dead man’s companion, staring down at the figure the city had already forgotten.

Kane

The stench was awful and the brief whiffs of the food only seemed to make it worse. The press of the crowd was enough to make the most even keeled person claustrophobic. What stopped Alexis from hurrying toward the man, was the fact she knew it was a hologram. That didn’t stop the flinch of watching people scavenge off the man like vultures with a rotting carcass. What was worse was the way they just stepped over the man and not one person tried to help the man’s companion. As emotionally removed as Alexis could be, she was disturbed by it. She didn’t say anything. What could she say? It was awful and inhumane? Solomon knew that, and it felt hollow and disrespectful to state the obvious.

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

They walked on, through the press of people. Kane kept hold of Alexis’ hand the entire way. There was something about the way he held it, though, that was different. It was almost as if… as if he was holding onto her afraid she might slip away. Or maybe it was he was afraid he might slip away. He led through a truly labyrinthine maze of streets and dilapidated structures, each one seemingly a urban hell from which there was no escape for anyone. And the looks on the faces of those around them reflected that hopelessness.

Alexis held his hand, returning the intensity, and walking closely to him. It was hellish with seemingly no end in sight. Each block seemed worse than the previous. There was some new degradation. Even with the proof in front of her, she couldn’t imagine how a child, any child, could survive and grow up in this. It was giving her a whole new perspective on her husband.

They turned onto another street and suddenly the crowd just vanished. Not that the program removed them, but the people simply seemed to melt away from where they were walking. The block was no different from any of the other dozen or so blocks they had walked down, with the exception that the power here seeming stable… a fact that seemed so much a part of the city behind them that it was almost shocking when they stepped onto a street that wasn’t lit by flickering lights and the aura of gaudy advertisements and signage.

But here.... here it was brightly lit. The street was clean. And the buildings along this stretch were in god repair. “So here is where those than can choose to live.” Kane said. “It’s not that the area is any better or worse, but it has one thing that the area we just came through doesn’t have in it.” and he pointed up and to the right.

There, on the corner of the next block up, stood a structure that was was positively emblazoned with light. The massive building must have been almost eighty stories tall, and it had so much activity around it, it seemed like the central core of a beehive. Ground vehicles moved around it while other vehicles with flashing lights on top stayed still. All kinds of flying vehicles moved quickly to and fro around the structure. As they got closer there was a large wall, almost twenty feet high, blocking the road just before the building. On top of the wall were towers… and between the towers were something that Alexis had probably never seen in person… projectile guns. Large ones. And they weren’t stationary, either. They swept back and forth in a seemingly chaotic rhythm. Set in the wall in the middle of the road was a massive metal door. Next to it, a smaller, humanoid-sized door stood. And in front of both stood a dozen large figures in red armor with white helmets with some kind of decal on the side and massive rifles in their hands. It took a moment to get closer, but then the decal on the helmets was clearly visible and familiar to Alexis. It was identical to one of Kane’s tattoos: the crest of the New Detroit Fire Department.

At first it reminded Alexis of the Sanctuary Zones of the early 21st, but much much worse. The defenses around the building made her pause as they walked. The wall, the massive guns, the soldiers and their weapons. The building behind was massive and busy, but it seemed like an ivory tower after the rest of the city.

“New Detroit Fire Department Special Operations Command and Control Center. This is where I worked… where I lived before Star Fleet.” he said softly as he looked up at the gigantic building.

Kane

Alexis recognized the symbol immediately. That and his words gave her a new perspective on what she was seeing. Everything he had told her and what little she found about NDFD in this reality told her that they were good people, worked hard against an impossible situation. The question was out as she looked at the building and security. “Why would people threaten you?”

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

Kane looked at the facility, a sense of determined pride in his eyes. “Because they don’t have, and we do. Food. Clean water. Medical supplies. Hell… hope. We are… were… set up and designed to be the absolute best New Detroit had to offer in search and rescue, medical support, fire fighting. The cops were a joke, even to themselves. And the criminal organizations always tried everything they could to buy us… bribe us… blackmail, coerce, threaten, and kill us. But they couldn’t get us. Oh, here and there they’d take one of us somehow. But there were thousands waiting for that spot.” He look3d around and said “This place is the embodiment of ‘If you don’t rake care of yourself, you’ll never be able to help anyone else.’.” he said. “If we were sick… or hungry… or broke… then we could be manipulated by outside agencies. But we weren’t, so they couldn’t. Oh, we knew how good we has it. And we have back absolutely every single bit we could. But it was never enough. We could only save those we could. And for every one we saved, a hundred suffered. But they kept coming. In droves. More and more people crowding into a place that didn’t have enough to begin with. And all we could do to help was put band-aids on the bullet wounds.”

Kane

Alexis didn’t say anything. She just stared at the building and then looked over her shoulder back the way they had came. It was such a stark difference. One large building shinning building. An air vehicle drew her attention. Alexis imagined the building and cleanliness just around it, probably looked like a band-aid amongst the festering wound of the city. “Show me the rest.”

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

“Come on. I’ll show the ‘best’ view.” Kane said, and he led her past the guards and through the door.

Just past the wall was a massive assembly area. Emergency vehicles of all shapes and sizes were being stocked, reloaded, remained, and cleaned. In the center of the yard was a giant iron drain cover. As vehicles landed or rolled in, hatches and tail gates and doors were opened and crews wwith large hoses sprayed a mixture of water and disinfectant inside. The smell was… intense. As they walked past, rivulets of dark-tinged slurry washed out of the vehicles and down the drain. Bits and pieces of expended medical waste, including bits of flesh and… was that a hand?… flowed through the grate and out of sight.

The sight was disturbing, and despite the overpowering smell of disinfectant, the idea of all that medica biological waste being washed down a giant drain came close to making her feel ill.

Kane led her inside the front doors and into a giant waiting area. Rows and rows of seats were filled with individuals of a myriad of species. Past them was a large counter topped with transparent aluminum, behind which sat other members of the NDFD. It took a moment to register, but all of the dozen or so seated individuals had some kind of permanent injury: missing ey, arm gone below the elbow, burn scars all over their face. “Intake for those can walk here for help.” Kane said as they moved past the counter and through six security checkpoints to some elevators.

They took the elevator all the way up to the 87th floor. Stepping off, they were in a non-descript hallway with a single door at the opposite end. He led her to it and through it. Past the door was a flight of stairs that went up to another door. Moving up and through, they stepped onto the roof of the building.

Their first view of the city was informative, but this one was all-encompassing. From this height, the entirety of the city was visible. And there was only a single term that could describe the view… sprawl. As far as they could see was nothing but block after block of cramped, crowded, and oppressive city-scape. A major difference in this view, though, was the visibility of areas of glittering towers and obvious wealth. The silvery metallic spires thrust up from the near blackness of the surrounding city like needles piercing dark flesh.

Kane pointed at the spires off in the distance. “That’s the corporate sector. Whole place is surrounded by hundred meter high walls and pulse cannons. Everything you see around it? That’s what exists off the scraps that fall from those towers. That’s the seat of the Colonial government. Two hundred ‘elected’ officials who represent all the different districts and sectors in the city. At the time this was, I know of three of them who had ever been to the places they represented. And I never met anyone who ever voted.”

Kane

Alexis was exceptionally smart. She could have done anything she wanted, but she loved Medical science and being a doctor. She genuinely cared about people, even if she she was totally academic about it.

The gleaming spires took on a sinister visage. They really were like needles piercing flesh, but with drugs and not medication. Even all the way up here, the rank smell of the city reached them. This wasn’t even existing. “How did you survive this?” Alexis was certain she would not have.

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

Kane shrugged as he leaned on the guardrail that ran around the roof’s edge. “First I got really mean. Second I got really good at reading people. But most of all… I got really lucky. There are millions of people down there. A lot of them meaner than me. Smarter than me. More tenacious than me. But luck isn’t on their side. They are born with the deck stacked against them, and nothing changes for as long as they live.” He looked out over his former home. “You know the median age down there, with all of those people, is forty-six? I met a some people in their fifties… a couple in their sixties… never anyone past that. Not even Vulcans. But over there?” and he jerked his chin at the spires. “Well over a hundred.”

Kane

Alexis made a very rude and derogatory gesture as she walked over to lean on the rail next to him. “That’s… I don’t think I know a word to describe that. Nothing seems to quite cover it.” People in this tower were healthy and cared for, but they really weren’t escaping it at all. Alexis didn’t know what to say, she wasn’t sure she should try.

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

“Nope.” Kane said as he stared out over the scene. “Thirty years after this day… thirty years and all of this is gone.” He turned his head to look at the spires. “There were three nukes. One was in the basement of this building. Another was in the reservoir. The last one was in there. And I like to think that it was the last one to go off… so those bastards saw what was coming and had time to realize that none of their power or blood money would get them out of this.”

Kane

Alexis had studied, briefly, the nuclear age of Earth (as standard history). WWII and WWIII. She had been curious about the medical ramifications and when she learned about Chernobyl, she had convinced her father to take her. Chernobyl would still not be safe for several hundred years. The devastation, the biological changes of the flora and fauna had been a very real slap in the face of the distruction and hatred humanity was capable of. Alexis would not have wished that date on anyone.

Seeing New Detroit, the reality of it, along with the stories Solomon had told her, she (thought) she could understand why he felt that way. She would not wish that on those people packed like too much trash barely existing below, but she hoped those behind their wall and pulse cannons finally paid for their crimes.

What was really heart breaking was knowing it wouldn’t end there with the bombs. Someone else, another Syndicate boss, would rise to power in the loss of this colony, and it would just keep happening. The Orion syndicate was still very much active in 2400, and showed no signs of stopping.

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

Kane shook his head and then took a breath. “Anyway… it’s not like I’ll ever get back here, even if it did still exist. If I ever even wanted to, which I really don’t. Separate realities… one fate. Kind of weird. Like… this place was too rotten for any reality.”

Kane

Alexis slipped her hand into his again and stood there with him. “Different specific choices might have been made, but in the end all actions and inactions have consequences. The probability of the same outcome median, the exact same circumstances, very low, but not improbable.” She looked back at the door leading to the stairs. “NDFD did good work in both realities. Maybe it was just a band-aid on the bigger problems, but it mattered to those that walked in or called for help.” A soft sigh sounded in his ear as she looked back at him. “I wish I could tell you that this reality doesn’t have places like this.”

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

“But it certainly does.” Kane said. “One thing I have learned through all of this alternating realities and times is that large groups of individuals tend to be complete s#!t. An individual? They can be alright. A pair? Fine. But anything over, like, ten… and everything just goes to crap. Doesn’t matter species, culture, technological advancements… the bigger the group, the crappier they are to one another.”

Kane

Alexis looked over the city, and she realized there was no nature, no flora or fauna. Just people and their trash and waste and politics. “My father tells his students a quite from an old science fiction movie. ‘A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals…’ He says nature shows in how animals survive better in smaller groups. There are exceptions, but the social structure is extremely rigid. He says humanity has forgotten that, and we pay the price for it.”

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

“Some of us do.” he said, with another jerk of his chin towards the spires. “Some of us pay the price for others who never have to pay anything.” He chuckled. “I remember something from a history book. It said during the late 20th and early 21st centuries on Earth, billionaires were funding this kind of private race to get people to space. And I remember someone said ‘Billionaires want to get to space because they know guillotines need gravity to work.’ I f&<king love that response.”

Kane

Alexis grinned. She could see Solomon saying that himself. “Problem is, all celestial bodies have gravity. It would catch them eventually. Maybe after someone shoved them out an airlock.”

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

“One can hope.” Kane said. He stepped back from the railing and said “Well… there you have it. My ‘formative years’, in all their glory.” He looked out over the city and sighed heavily.

“What a s#!t hole.” he said, and shook his head.

Kane

It really was horrible, it was hard to wrap her mind around the total lack of humanity in this place. Then add to it the ‘wrongness’ of it from her perspective. Alexis put her arms around him and hugged him for a long moment. It was comfort and understanding. “Where next?” There on the holodeck or elsewhere, it was up to him.

Lt. Cmdr. Alexis Kane, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

Kane was quiet a moment and then said “C’mon. Follow me.” He led her back through the door, down the stairs, down the lift, and out of the NDFD building. He took her hand and walked with her in silence. They walked for what seemed like ages, twists and turns and sometimes going down alleys that seemed like dead ends just to go through doors and through buildings to get to another street. After walking, they turned onto a side street. It was dark. No streetlights, no lights in the windows of the tenements and row homes on the street. The only lights were those from the flashing ads plastering the sky and what spilled over the tops of the buildings form outside the street. All the power here seemed to be out. They walked in the middle of the street, past burned out vehicles and rundown, derelict buildings until they came to a building where Solomon stopped.

It was dark too dark. It didn’t matter that Alexis knew it was just a holodeck. Her hand tightened almost painfully in his, and with a strangled labored sound she was pressed against him, but she kept moving. A second later a blue white light emitted from her closed hand. He said the program would ignore her, so it would probably ignore her light too.

The building was dark, like the rest, but it also seemed far worse than it’s neighbors. Multiple floors had collapsed in on themselves and the external walls were bowed out, seeming likely to collapse at any moment. Twisted metal supports, blackened by something far hotter than a normal fire, jutted out of the rubble. Kane sighed. “This is where I first lived. Where I was named. I was here till I was ten… and then somebody burned the building to the ground.”

Kane

Alexis stared at the building. How could you keep children in a building like that? How could you let anyone live in a place like that. She leaned against him, slipping an arm around him. She went to speak and then shook her head. Alexis had never wanted to have children, and Solomon said he hadn’t either. She didn’t think she would make a very good mother. He’d said there were a lot of unwanted kids he would take before he’d bring more into the universe. She understood now. She couldn’t see the business, the rich, sector from here, but her head turned toward the direction with disgust. There was plenty of money there to help. She looked back at the building, “Do we go inside?”

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

Kane shook his head. “Can’t. See… this was one of the older buildings in New Detroit. So old it had a basement with a furnace in it. Winters here sucked. Wind would come in off the lake about twenty miles from here and cut right through you it was so cold. Average temp in middle of was below negative twenty Celsius. When the building was burned, they started the fire in the basement. Because of that… the whole place fell into the hole.” He turned and looked at her. “They did it during a blizzard.” and he looked back at the building.

Kane

He could see it, her brain processing the numbers. The temperature, wind chill, ages of the children, the negative impact of the squalor on their health, the sanitation, the structure of the building, the temperature and explosiveness needed for the fire to collapse the building. Then, glancing around and calculating the likelihood of someone taking in at least one of those children. There weren’t options for those kids. Her thumb gently traced over the scratchy bird tattoo. “That’s when you joined the gang?”

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

He shook his head. “No. Not right away. Me and a few others took shelter in a sewer runoff tunnel. We lived there for… oh… six months or so. We’d go out during the day and beg or steal or do odd jobs for people. We’d come back at dusk, pool everything we got, and split it up. I was ten… Joyce was eleven… Kard was thirteen… Sophie was I think eight. Sophie didn’t make it through the winter. Joyce went out one day and we never saw her again. Kard and I managed for a few months, but…” and he shook his head and looked at the ground. “Just couldn’t do it on our own anymore…”

Kane

Ten. He was ten. At ten Alexis was taking college classes for dual credit through a distance learning program. She was studying in her father’s office at the Academy, with access to the library and resources. Her only struggle had been decidingvwhat to study next. The disparity between their early lives was never more apparent to her. If Alexis thought about such things, she would be shocked he even looked twice at her. She was spoiled and pampered compared to to him.

From what Alexis had seen of the program, and she jnew Solomin wasn’t exaggerating, no one could make it on their own in this place. Joyce’s disappearance sent oily dread through her. None of the possibilities that Alexis could hypothesize were good outcomes. The way he spoke though, it wasn’t hard for her to know that was his family. “What happened to Kard?”

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

Kane looked up at the ruined building. “He got really good at being in a gang.” Kane said softly. He looked at her and said “When I left after about two years, I never heard from him again. Managed to get through school, through the NDFD exams and physical tests. Not a word.” He looked back at the building. “Six months on the job, and we get called to a multiple casualty scene. Twenty or so from one group got rolled on by about forty from another. Didn’t recognize the colors or patches… gangs came and went so fast it was impossible to keep up except for six or ten really big ones. Anyway, there’s about fifteen laying in the street. Projectile weapons were the most common choice in New Detroit, so it was bullet wounds, not phaser burns. So we’ve got fifteen wounded in the street, and forty or so exchanging fire on both side of the street.” He turned and looked back at Alexis fully.

“All NDFD Rescue Ambulances had door mounted, rotating barreled, gatling miniguns.. one on each side. Our standard operational protocol was to do a fly over and announce we were landing to help the injured. We’d make a pass and announce it over the loudspeaker. Then we’d wait ten seconds and come in. If anyone was still fighting, or if they fired or attacked us, we’d strafe the area with both guns, both sides. We’d land, the medical team would go out and the door gunners would lay down covering fire. Anyone got close got six thousand rounds of depleted uranium per minute in their face. Anyway… we land. I’m on medical rotation- we switched from gunner to pilot to medic on a weekly basis- so I go out and start triage. I hear yelling from my right and look over and there’s Kard, charging at one of the medics… huge knife in his hand. The Syndicate had bounties on all the NDFD personnel, so if you could bag one of us you’d be doing ok for a while. I see Kard about ten meters from one of my team…” and he looked back at the building as his voice trailed off.

“Damn minigun sawed him in half.”

Kane

There was a sharp intake of breath. Alexis almost cussed in Mandarin. She moved to stand in front of him. She held on to his hand, and the other touched his cheek as she looked up at him. After a moment she pulled him to her and held him.

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

Kane held her back, but said “Really. It’s okay. Lex. Besides… not like that happened here, right?” There was a bit of resentment in his voice, though. “For all I know, in this universe, Kard got out of New Detroit and went on to live a long and happy life. Hell, he may even have had kids. Who knows? ‘Sides… it was a looong time ago.” He looked down at her and gave her a rare smile. “I am pretty f×<king old, after all.” and he chuckled.

Kane

Alexis gave him a curious look when he held her back, not really understanding until he spoke. She wished she could make it better for him, but he wouldn’t be who he was if the past could be changed. He, most likely, wouldn’t be here with her now. They were just memories.

His wife had no poker face at all, but she did try not to smile too much. “Oh, did I tell I’m adding another specialization to my certifications? Geriatrics.”

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

Kane shrugged and said “Probably a good idea, since your husband is pushing three hundred.” and then he gave her a half-smile. “And the way you climb on me sometimes could cause me to break a hip, sooo…” and then he grinned at her; but it didn’t quite meet his eyes.

Kane

Alexis knew he wasn’t okay being here in this program with the memories. She didn’t know what to do about it though. She was never good at that kind of thing, but she tried. She thought she was getting better (at least with him), but some days she wondered if Solomon just let it go when she didn’t succeed. He wasn’t the type, but he was very gentle with her in his way. Comfort and humor hadn’t helped, and she was never super great at flirting. This didn’t seem the time, even with his comments. She held on to his hand and grinned back at him slightly.

They could leave any time he wanted. He wanted to show her, share it with her, so she would stay till he was ready. She didn’t know if she should ask about some of the stories he’d told her, or if she should simply stay quiet and wait and listen. She was frustrated though that she didn’t know what to do for him. “Where did you go after you left the gang?”

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

Kane looked back at the burned out building and took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “C’mon… I’ll show you.”

He led her away from the darkened streets and back into the press of the throngs of the crowded masses. They weaved their way through dozens of streets, alleys, and building hallways. More than once they stepped over a figure that may or may not have been breathing.

They soon emerged onto a street that was more residential than anything. In the middle of the block was a metal gate set into a tall, brick wall. On an metal black set into the brick, words read Kandalian Community School. “Here. This is where I went after I left.” Kane said looking through the gate. Past it was a small courtyard before a set of large, wide, stone steps leading up to a set of metal doors. “I made them let me in. Sat on the steps for four days. Never left. Finally they let me in.”

Alexis grinned slightly and her brow went up. “That’s what you did at the Academy too. Sheer stubbornness works for you.”

He looked at her and then jerked his head to the left. “C’mon.” and he led her down along the wall until they came to an alley filled with trash cans and refuse. They walked down the alley and he stopped in front of a dumpster. He reached and grabbed it, pulling it away from the wall on the opposite side of the alley from the school. A part if the wall had been broken, and a small recess- barely large enough for a fully grown adult- was visible. Kane knelt and looked in, then looked at Alexis. “This was my place. I lived here for about four years. The while time I was in school.”

Kane

Alexis knelt down next to him and looked inside the recess. It wasn’t very big, it would have been cold in winter unless the buildings heat ducts ran near where the recess was. It was completely hidden by the dumpster. Alexis supposed it was safer than other places, as long as no one noticed Solomon coming in and out. The neighborhood looked slightly better than others, not as crowded, but she didn’t mistake that for safety. For all she knew that made it more dangerous.

She had a heartbreaking image of her husband, at 12 years old, digging through the dumpster for food or anything else that might help him survive. This recess wasn’t the whole story though. He would have had to do something more. Her thumb rubbed over the back of his hand. She knew he had belonged to the syndicate at one point, and only escaped because of an explosion that killed the people who claimed to own him. “Was there anything or anyone you liked about the school?” She wasn’t looking to brighten his mood, or find a silver lining. Nor was she seeking a specific answer to ease coping with his reality. It was simply a request, an offer, for him to keep talking, to show her more if he wanted to do so.

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

“I liked school… the learning part of it.” he said. “I didn’t like all the B.S. that came along with it. The social stratification. The cliques. The judgement. Amd I was the only street rat in the school, so I caught shit from the other kids at first.” He looked away from the hole in the wall and back at the school. “But… I’d been on the streets for years by the time I here. I knew how to take crap and send it right back. And I knew how to fight.” he said with a grin.

Kane

Alexis brow went up, “You know how to fight? I don’t believe it.” She grinned, “They probably hated you were smarter than all of them.” Even if he wasn’t brilliant, Solomon wouldn’t have waisted the opportunity he took for himself on just average grades.

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

“I did okay.” he said nonchalantly. I was the only student to take the Capstone exams for Fourth Years in my second. The school just about lost their shit trying to explain to all these parents why their kid wasn’t the one setting the curve anymore. Actually had a kid’s dad jump me right over there.” and he pointed at the front of the alley. “He called me trash. I called him an ambulance.”

Kane

Alexis just shook her head but grinned at his turn of phrase. “Sounds like something my mother would have done if someone got better grades than me. Well, not the fighting part.” Alexis had faced her share of bullies growing up though. She could almost understand why the parents were upset though, a good education was a chance to get out of this place, or at least survive a bit better. That was no reason to degrade a child though. “It always surprises me what people take as personal insult that is not connected with them.”

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

Kane nodded slightly in agreement. “It’s weird, ya know. I didn’t have anything, and I didn’t really get ‘offended’ by the insults and the jeers and stuff. Hell, that dad only caught these hands because he came after me. He could’ve said whatever he wanted and I wouldn’t have given a single f^<k. But him and his kids… they had just enough to make them believe that they were more important than most everybody else. And I’ve seen that same attitude all over… in multiple universes, too.” and he chuckled slightly. “Somebody scrapes by for so long and then, when they finally get a step up, they use it to step down on the people they used to be.” He looked down the alley and shook his head. “Universal truth, regardless of the universe, is this: people are ashamed of and to be poor. And that’s just a really crappy reality.”

Kane

“My mother is like that. Always climbing, always trying to show how perfect her life is. The Federation is the same. Talking about how far we have come from our individual societies, how we are above such things, we don’t use currency,” Alexis rolled her eyes at that, “How we come in to improve others’ lives. But really we are just trying to make them conform to our standard and make them grateful for what we might give them one day. Star Fleet is just the vehicle with which to do it.” The Federation may not use violent tactics (usually) but they still bullied their way. “Before the Romulan star went nova, we explored and ‘shared’ and helped, but the Federation turned reticent and selfish some time around then. They stopped thinking about helping others, and became selfish.” Alexis shrugged, “It probably started long before that, but that was the first really big picture incident that pointed to how our society changed.”

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

Kane snorted. “And another difference between here and there…” he said, referring to his alternate-universe origin. “The Federation there was a selfish, self-centered organization far earlier than that. Star Fleet was the purest form of that. All of this?” and he gestured around them. “This is what the Federation built. This is the fruits of their ‘exploration’. Find a habitable planet, drop a flag on it, drop some people on it with the promise of a ‘brighter future’ and ‘endless opportunities’… and then forget about them for a few generations.” He scoffed and shook his head. “I always knew Star Fleet was a lot less than their propaganda. I knew that we were supposed to have a Fleet presence here, but the ‘resources were never available’. But I didn’t know exactly how bad it was till I got sucked into Intel. Amd let me tell you… Intel there and Intel here are pretty damn similar. And that ain’t a compliment.”

Kane

“Our Federation may have always been that way. I don’t know. My view of Star Fleet is influenced by my dad. His ideals, his duty, his perception of things that he shared with me. Though I was smart, I was still his child.” Alexis crossed her arms over herself and stared into the middle distance. “I hate Intel. I wouldn’t save them even if I could.”

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

Kane thought for a minute and then said “I would.”; but there was an iciness to his statement that left no doubt that the subjects of his ‘saving’ would probably have been far better off with whatever fate he pulled them from. He looked at her. “I ever tell you how I got into Intel to begin with?” he asked.

Kane

“That’s not saving them. That’s just keeping them alive,” Alexis shook her head but it wasn’t an objection to what his tone suggested. “Here? Because they’re sadistic controlling b@st@rds. There? You never said if you were or not.” Alexis could surmise that he had been, given his familiarity with it all and some of the things he had said, but they had never discussed it.

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

Kane walked over and sat down on a trash can and looked up at the sky. It was a haze of blue and brown smog, but every so often the light of a star or nearby flying vehicle broke through just for a second.

Alexis sat on a crate next to him, her gaze focused on him as he looked up. It was an exercise in mental gymnastics to picture him as a child in this place, and how it shaped the man he had become. How easily he could have become someone else.

“So I was a Tactical and Medical Officer on a ship. The Chernov. We encountered a unknown vessel and when we hailed it all hell broke loose. Keep in mind, this was almost two hundred years ago. Anyway, the ship hammered us and we all got captured. Bastards spent almost a week touring us and trying to get us to spill secrets. Me and the XO didn’t break. Found out our captors were Cardassians.... yeah, those Cardassians. Me and the XO fought back, kicked some of their assessments, and just when we were about to escape… the program stopped. Turns out we, the whole crew, had been gassed and put into a simulated reality. Precursor to this.” and he gestured around at the ‘holodeck’. “Well, I lost my shit and beat the crap outta rhe Intel Agent running the program. Got tossed in the brig. While I was locked up, here comes Intel. Tells me they could use someone like me blah-blah-blah. After I refused. I was volun-told I was joining. It had a plus side, though. I hot to kick the crap outta the Agent that tortured my shipmates again.” and he chuckled.

Kane

Alexis’ face reflected the disgust and horror she felt at his story. Not that she didn’t believe it, nor did she doubt Intel wasn’t capable of such actions. She knew that first hand. But the willful torture of a person went against everything she believed in… well maybe she couldn’t claim that anymore, after what they did to Soulis. “I take it, their only purpose was to find recruits? They weren’t actually trying to find a spy or protect the Federation. They were…what? Simply bored?” Alexis shook her head, “They are no different here. Did everyone make it through what they did to them?” Survive was not quite the same as living through it.

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

He shook his head. “And that’s the kicker. See, there we hadn’t met the Cardassians yet. We wouldn’t for another hundred years or so. But that Intel group had recieved news and information from someone from the future. They had told them about the Cardassians. And this guy was seeing how Fleet personnel would respond to them. And no… we had a few quit Star Fleet all together afterwards.” he added with a clenched jaw.

Kane

Her brain didn’t short circuit, but Alexis had no comment. There was none. Who was the enemy and who was the good guy was subjective to sides, but it was almost a universal norm that people trusted their society to be the good guys. In a big picture sort of way. It was taught at a young age. And humanoids had a primal instinct to band together for protection against predators. Those predators weren’t supposed to be in the group.

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

Kane took a deep breath and sighed. “You know… you’d think that shifting realities would be a monumental thing. Nothing socially would be the same or consistent from one universe to the next. But from what I can tell? Star Fleet Intelligence is a bastard and a liar no matter what reality you are in.”

Kane

“Those seem to be essential skills for which they recruit. If the person does not have them, they certainly cultivate and refine them to be even better at it.” Alexis had been backed unto a corner by Intel. You either learned to play their game and become like them or you became controlled by them. She was lucky Solomon decided he liked her. “Wouldn’t it be novel if Intel was actually real intelligence, where they shared what they knew to make things better for everyone, not just the chosen few?” She laughed, but it was self-deprecating. Alexis was not a ‘dreamer’ and that what’s the statement sounded like. The comment was more sarcastic.

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

“You’re confusing ‘intelligence’ with ‘science’.” Kane said. “Science is there to help us. Intelligence is there to keep us complacent.” He exhaled and then said “There’s one more place I can show you today, if you want. But I’ll tell you up front… you won’t like it.” He looked down at her and said “Up to you.”

Kane

She wasn’t really confusing them. Just contemplating how things would alter given different circumstances, but he was correct. Alexis slipped her hand into his. There wasn’t really anything to like about this place except for the NDFD, but even that had harsh elements that made it unpalatable as she recalled how they hosed down the interior of the vehicles. The extra warning did not escape her though. This was Solomon’s life, his history, his reality. What had shaped him. He wanted, or maybe needed, to share this with her. Alexis wouldn’t shy away from it. She looked up at him, “Show me.”

Lt. Cmdr. Kane, AMO

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