A Perfect Moment - part 4

The Doctor

It isn't everyday you activate yourself in the Delta Quadrant in order to respond to a request to remove an in-growing toenail only to find yourself gazing at the Earth before lunch.

We wouldn't be here now if it weren't for my superior medical skills. I've lost track of the number of times I've been the one to pull us back from the brink of disaster, I don't know what they'd have done without me. I'm the unsung hero of this whole adventure, from EMH to action hero, I should write a book. I've battled aliens to liberate the ship - oh, just a few times now, been to the Alpha quadrant twice already and in my spare time treated aliens and medical conditions that the Doctor's whose knowledge made up my programme had never even heard of.

The whole of me is so much more than a sum of my programme and my subroutines.

I can leave sickbay, come and go as I please; I am as close to defining my own existence as it is possible for a creature dependant on programming to be. All of this in the last six years, and what have they done in the Alpha Quadrant in this time? Replaced my programme, rendered me obsolete. What fates await me here? Does Starfleet have room for a hologram who has it's own emitter, who has done so much more, been so much more than was intended of it... and wants to carry on growing? What will happen if the answer is no?

When I remember that first instant of activation I think of the chaos and destruction that surrounded me and the way my programme struggled to understand where I was and what was required of me. I can remember how the crew was then as well, Mr Paris, angry and hurt and trying to hide it behind a fašade of world weariness, Mr Kim trying to look as though he'd seen it all before and not quite pulling it off. I remember the first time I found out B'elanna was the Chief Engineer, imagine my alarm at the prospect of allowing a Maquis terrorist to tinker with my subroutines. I'm not the only one who was younger then, who was different.

Despite my pleas that 'I am a Doctor not a' whatever, I have in fact been so much more; teacher, pupil, friend, lover. I have felt pain and anger; been prey to dark emotions and I have survived. These are not qualities to be removed by the mere whim of some Starfleet bureaucrat.

The Captain says I am worrying unnecessarily, that she won't let them take away the essence of who I am, and I believe that she will fight for me. I know, better than most, how determined, how stubborn she can be and I've pulled off medical miracles on her damaged body often enough to know what lengths she's prepared to go to for the sake of her crew. I know that she regards me as a sentient member of this crew, a relationship born out of necessity that has evolved into trust and perhaps a little, hesitant understanding. But there are a lot of relationships like that on board this ship.

I'm watching one now, watching the subtle interplay of currents between the Captain and the Commander as they contemplate the image of Earth on the viewscreen before them. I wonder if they realise how they effect each other on a physiological level, how their passionate disinterest in each other is wasted on someone who can read temperatures and hormone levels? This is a crew of secret romantics and sentimentalists, most of us have watched them over the years, hoping that their close friendship might evolve into something else. To coin a phrase, 'I'm a Doctor not a matchmaker,' but... they are perfect for each other.

And so, according to the Admiral, everyone is free to go. I wonder if that includes someone that Starfleet could properly regard as their property? But presumably that's something the Captain and Commander can discuss. Not that I have anywhere to go - but I suspect I won't be the only one with that little difficulty to face. There's a contradiction in my response to this moment, I wanted to be here so I could say to Starfleet, 'look at me, look what I've done, what I can do,' but I'm afraid as well. I have earned the respect of this crew, this family, the powers that be at Starfleet have no reason to regard me as anything other that a glorified tricorder.

As the Captain orders Mr Paris to assume a standard orbit I realise that that is true for all of us. Is Starfleet ready for who we are now?

TBC - in part 5