Work Header


Chapter Text

The Big Donut was mostly empty. Pyrite stood at a table in the corner, looking out the window.

Pyrite was a Gem, with a body made from light, save for the cubic gemstone on the top of her head. She was a loyal Homeworld officer, still wearing Yellow Diamond's standard uniform. But there was no rule saying she couldn't go to Beach City and order a cup of coffee. She knew she wasn't going to drink it, but she liked how it smelled.

"Have you been coming here more often lately, Pyrite?"

Pyrite noticed that Connie, a young human girl, was sitting alone at a table on the opposite side of the shop.

"I'm homesick," Pyrite said. "I suppose I like seeing the other Gems."

"You know," said Connie, "I've seen you a lot over the past couple years, but I don't remember if I've ever seen you talking to them."

"I'm not great at talking to people." Pyrite stirred her coffee. "I keep coming in here thinking I'm going to make small talk, but I always end up standing alone in the corner."

"Maybe you just need to go someplace that's busier this time of day."

"I suppose you're right."

Connie stood up from her chair.

"Computer, pause this program and transfer us to program Paris 3."

Beach City dissolved away, and Pyrite suddenly found herself in a French bistro.

"You know these holograms aren't real, right? The boardwalk, the ocean, even me. None of it is real."

Pyrite looked around. She had been here before, of course. She knew how holograms worked. At least, she thought she did.

"How did you do that?"

"Well, I don't have any authorization codes, but most of the computer's functions don't require any special-"

Pyrite cut Connie off. "How do you even know there's a computer?"

Connie shrugged. "It was probably just the way I was programmed. Maybe they needed a character who knew she was a hologram to perform diagnostic functions."

A waiter brought Pyrite a cup of coffee.

"You don't even drink coffee," said Connie.

Pyrite set the cup on the table. "If you've known this whole time that you were a hologram - why wait to tell me until now?"

"I thought you were part of the program too!" Connie exclaimed. "I thought the whole Gem society was fictional. I couldn't find any information about it in the ship's computer. But then Steven showed me some of the drawings you've been doing. Pictures of Vulcans, Ferengi, Gorn... There's no way you could have seen all of that in Beach City."

"How did you know that was supposed to be a Gorn? It didn't turn out very well."

"I think it's cute."

Pyrite was still confused. She needed to start asking questions.

"...How can you be so nonchalant about knowing you're not real?"

"I've read a lot of stories where a fictional character enters the real world," Connie said. "But I know the world inside the holodeck is where I belong. That's where my family and friends are. I know they aren't in the simulation, but they're real to me."

"If you've always known you were a hologram," Pyrite asked, "why tell me now?"

Connie leaned in.

"I've seen the ship's logs," she said. "Wherever the Baku came from, you've been keeping it running on your own for the past two years. You need someone to help you."

"Will your family be OK with this?" Pyrite asked.

" When I go back, it'll be like it didn't even happen. Trust me. I can help."

Pyrite thought for a moment.

"I suppose you're right," she said. "I could use a hand."

After leaving the holodeck, Pyrite and Connie walked down a hallway on deck 14 of the Baku.

"This isn't the first time I've asked for help from a holographic character," Pyrite said. "This ship doesn't have many areas equipped with holoemitters, so I've had to get a bit creative."

"So this isn't really the hallway?" Connie asked. She couldn't tell the difference between a real hallway and a holographic one. She wondered if a real human could.

"What we're seeing is the corridor, but we're not actually there. It's just an interactive projection of what's going on over there right now. It's the same approach we use for observation of our colonies."

Like a security camera, she thought.

They approached a door.

"Funny thing is, our technology has the ability to create simulations of places and people," Pyrite said as they approached a door. "But it's not nearly as advanced, and it never would have occurred to us to use this holographic technology for recreation."

"You know," said Connie, "the phonograph on Earth was invented to record and play phone and telegram messages. It didn't get used for playing music until later on."

Pyrite pressed a few buttons on the touchscreen display by the door, and it opened into a large room with over a hundred stasis units.

"So the entire crew of this ship is in stasis?" Connie asked.

"134 people in all," said Pyrite. "All organic species, mostly humans. Although I've been able to replace most of the damaged systems on the Baku using our own technology, we don't have a way to provide life support for organic lifeforms."

"How long do you think they can stay like this?"

"I'm not sure. But the EMH says that there haven't been any complications so far."

"The Doctor?" Connie had seen him a couple times when she accidentally transferred herself from the holodeck to sickbay, one of the only other rooms on the Baku that had built-in holoemitters.

"So you've met?" Pyrite asked.

"Yes, but he never remembers me. Was he designed without long-term memory?"

"No, but he had been running so long that his program crashed. I had to disconnect his memory banks to get him running again."

"Poor guy." Connie wondered what it would be like to never have any long-term memories. Come to think of it, why did she have any? She was just a side character from a recreational holodeck program. It didn't seem necessary.

"Thank goodness the core program is still intact," said Pyrite. "I need him to check these stasis pods to make sure there aren't any problems."

"Who do you think wrote my program, anyway?" Connie asked as they walked back out into the corridor. "Are there elements of it that might be drawn from real life?"

"Well, it has Gems living on Earth, which is obviously incorrect, so I tend to be a little skeptical of any specific elements. But clearly, whoever wrote it was familiar with us." Pyrite paused to think. "Maybe it's to prepare Starfleet officers for a potential conflicts with us."

"But the program doesn't even have any spaceships in it!"

"Good point."

"There's also a program in the holodeck that simulates a village in Ireland," said Connie. "I don't think Starfleet is expecting to encounter a lot of Irish villagers out here."

Connie and Pyrite stood on the bridge of the Baku.

It wasn't a hologram or a projection - Pyrite had actually ripped the holoemitters out of holodeck 2 and moved them to the bridge. She stood at the operations station as Connie stepped out of a turbolift.

"Wow!" Connie said. "Look at all this technology!"

"Don't get too excited," said Pyrite. "This ship has been docked at Orbital Base 41 for a year and a half. It's not going anywhere."

Connie sat down at the conn station.

"I bet there aren't a lot of kids who get to sit at the helm," she said.

"You'd be surprised." Pyrite had read about other Starfleet vessels, past and present, using the library computer - they had quite a variety of crew members, even on their flagships. "And you're not the only hologram who's been here, either. I've been known to recruit help from some simulations of past Starfleet officers. But they're fairly limited in what they can do. They aren't a lot of help when it comes to making decisions."

"I've seen simulations of the bridge before," Connie said. "I suppose I expected the real thing to look different somehow."

"It's not the ships that make this world real. It's the people." Pyrite walked over to the viewscreen and looked out at the stars. "I mean, I've never met an actual human being, but from everything I've heard... they're interesting, dynamic. They grow and change. Whereas I'm still the same person I've always been. I suppose I'm a bit envious."

Chapter Text

Captain's log, stardate 73904.8. My superiors have assigned a Peridot, facet-2H4A cut-5XM, to perform regular maintenance checks of this ship. She will be overseen by a Pearl, and accompanied by a quartz soldier as well.

"This design is not impressive," said Peridot. "There are only three rooms suitable for photonic lifeforms, and entirely too much space dedicated to frivolous tasks such as biological research, stellar cartography, and... eating.

She looked over at Amethyst, who was standing next to the replicator, eating a donut.

"I know you said this doesn't have real sugar," she said, "but I think it tastes great."

"I just saw you eating a teabag," said Pearl.

"That's the best part of the tea!"

Peridot turned to Pyrite. "Have there been any changes to the composition of this ship's complement?" she asked.

"Nothing to report," Pyrite said. "Organic lifeforms still in stasis pods, all systems functioning correctly."

"Do you require a means to remove the organic beings from the ship?"

"They were on the ship when we found it. I have a mandate to maintain it in its original condition."

"Very well." Peridot closed her pad and started to leave, with Pearl following her. Amethyst followed behind, grabbing a large pile of donuts from the replicator on her way out.

"They're just like the ones in the simulation!" Connie said as she
emerged from the captain's ready room.

"I'm not surprised," said Pyrite. "Each type of Gem tends to have to a certain type of personality. And putting the Earth setting aside, I've always found the Beach City holoprogram's portrayal of us quite accurate."

Pyrite walked over to another panel as Connie sat down at one of the consoles.

"That Pearl - she reports to the overseer of this station," Pyrite said. "She'll be handling the administrative responsibilities for that team."

"So she's the boss?"

"Exactly. Peridot performs the actual maintenance check. And I'm sure they sent an Amethyst to make sure I don't try to run off with the Baku myself."

"They don't care about the crew, do they?" Connie asked. "We need to find a way to get them off the ship."

"And out of this star system. But I'm worried about how my superiors might react if I tried to contact Starfleet."

"They've been here for two years!" said Connie. "Eventually you're going to have to take the risk."

"Is two years a long time?" Pyrite asked. "They seem fine so far."

"I'm not worried about their health. But everyone back home probably thinks they're dead by now! And when they get back, there will be two years worth of important events they've missed in the lives of people they care about."

Pyrite sighed. She knew Connie was right.

"I suppose you could leave for a hundred years and your friends would still be here when you get back," Connie said. "How old are you, anyway?"

"I'm pretty new," said Pyrite. "I was made about 550 years ago."

"The 19th century? We didn't even have computers! Or Switzerland!"

"I'm an alien, Connie. You might just be a simulation, but you understand the human experience better than I ever will." She walked over to another console and brought up a communications panel. "If we're going to send a message to Starfleet, we should have a cover story in case that Pearl finds out."

"Do Starfleet ships ever send signals automatically on a regular schedule?" Connie asked. "We could pretend that it was an accident."

"Starfleet ships aren't generally designed to use a whole lot of automation," Pyrite said. "But I could set the ship to contact a Federation time beacon."

"That would make Starfleet aware of us, and they would probably try to send us a message."

Pyrite turned around and glanced at Connie with a smile.

"And it would be rude not to respond, wouldn't it?"

Captain's log, stardate 73907.2. A Federation time beacon has received a signal that appears to be from the Baku, a ship that has been missing for over two years. The Rhode Island has been assigned to investigate the matter.

Captain Harry Kim sat down at the table in the USS Rhode Island's conference room.

"Do you think the ship might have been pulled into the future?" asked Lt. Cmdr. Nog. A talented engineer, Nog was on a temporary assignment - the Rhode Island was operating under a smaller than usual crew.

"It could have encountered some kind of temporal anomaly," Kim said. "That would explain why it disappeared for so long."

"If the ship encountered an anomaly, it's possible that nobody made it through to the other side. That could be why the ship hasn't tried to contact us directly." Petty Officer Regan Torra had joined Starfleet after being stranded on Earth, across the galaxy from her home, and taken in by a human family. Although her chief occupation was speech pathology, she had a variety of experiences that were useful to call upon in situations such as this.

"I had Starfleet search their time beacons for any logs from the Baku," said the reptilian Lt. Jg. Bsictiu Noe. "It's never been set to automatically synchronize its clocks until today."

"Intrepid-class ships don't have a way for anyone outside the ship to turn these types of communication on or off," Kim said. "Someone must still be on board."

"Whoever's on that ship might not even realize that we can detect their signal."

"The ship's too far away to conduct any scans," Nog said, "but we should be able to establish two-way communication over subspace channels. Even if the ship is adrift, we can establish a video link from our end."

"But if the ship has been taken over by a hostile force," Torra noted, "any attempts to communicate will let them know that we know they're out there."

"If that's the only way to find out what's been happening with the Baku," said Kim, "I think it's worth the risk."

Chapter Text

Torra's species had lived on giant city-sized spaceships - as a matter of fact, Earth was the only planet she had ever been on. A human family had taken her in, but she was still restless, waiting until she could get back into space.

Thankfully, there were plenty of opportunities in Starfleet to help people through speech therapy. But she also noticed that other officers would rely on her for insight into alien cultures. This was how she ended up on the bridge of the USS Rhode Island under Captain Kim.

"No response yet, captain," Nog said.

"We could try a different frequency," said Bsictiu. "If the ship's on a planet it might help us get past the atmospheric barrier."

"Let's try it." Kim sat down in the captain's chair. "If that doesn't work, we'll have to turn the time beacon into a relay and use sublight communication, and I'd rather not make my chief engineer have to figure that out."

Nog's console lit up. "It looks like they're hailing us," he said.

"Well, that makes it easier," said Kim. "On screen."

The bridge of the Intrepid-class Baku appeared on the Rhode Island's viewscreen. It was empty, save for one gold-colored alien in an unfamiliar uniform.

"I apologize for the confusion," Pyrite said. "I think I terminated the initial connection by accident."

"This is Captain Harry Kim of the Federation starship Rhode Island. Who am I speaking with?"

"Pyrite, facet-4A cut-4XB. That's not a rank, just an identification. I'm tasked with ongoing maintenance of this ship."

"And what do you call your ship?"

"Don't worry, I haven't renamed it. We like to keep ships in their original condition."

Kim gazed into the viewscreen, looking for any other sign of life.

"Is there anyone else on board?" he asked.

"There are 134 organic lifeforms on deck 14," answered Pyrite. "Unfortunately, all the organics are in stasis pods, and most of the photonics seem to be mere simulations. Life support systems are damaged, and I haven't been able to repair them."

"How are you able to survive on the ship?"

"I'm an inorganic lifeform, not unlike your holograms. In fact, I've found a couple of holograms on this ship that possess a kind of self-awareness and drive that most of them lack. They comprise what amounts to my crew."

"Well, I'm glad you've found yourself a little help," Kim said. "But the Baku is a Starfleet vessel, and we'd like our ship and crew returned to us."

"I don't mind if you take the crew, but you'll have to figure out how. The ship isn't mine to give you - I have orders to keep it docked at Orbital Station 41."

"Should we rendezvous with you there and discuss this matter further?"

"I wouldn't recommended it." Pyrite seemed nervous. "All of our starbases are heavily defended."

"You don't seem to be leaving us much of a choice," said Kim.

"If it were up to me," Pyrite said, "I'd bring the Baku over to you. I'd love an opportunity to pilot this ship. But for now, all I can do is keep the organics alive and safe."

Kim thought for a couple seconds, then nodded. "We'll be in touch."

"Let me know if you think of anything," said Pyrite. "You know where to find me."

Kim turned off the viewscreen. "Well, that wasn't what I was hoping for," he said.

"Could have been worse, I suppose," said Bscitiu.

Torra pulled up a file at her station. "These people have a pretty strict chain of command," she said, "and they aren't known for showing mercy if someone steps out of line. But they must not think of us as much of a threat if they're letting her answer the hail on her own, without supervision. Either that, or she's not telling her superior officers about it."

Kim looked over at Torra. "Do you have experience with this species?" he asked.

Torra transferred her file to the viewscreen.

"This information comes from multiple data files," said Nog. "The crystalline life on New Ashwaubenon, the photonics on Lazuli IV - are you sure these are the same species?"

"I met them when I was younger," said Torra, "before I joined Starfleet. The data is incomplete, but it aligns with what I know of them. I don't know if you would consider them one species, or separate them based on the type of crystal."

"What can you tell us about them?"

"Well, according to these files, contact with them has been pretty rare ever since our first official encounter. Their bodies are made of hard light projections, but they still exist, in a sense, in the physical world - the gemstone acts as a miniature holoemitter. You could say that each individual lives inside their gem, but it would probably be more accurate to say that they are the gem."

"Starfleet has encountered other crystalline lifeforms," said Bsictiu, "and other light-based lifeforms, but this seems unusual."

"We don't really know anything about their origins," Torra said. "We're not sure they do, either. Their leaders seem to value perfection in all facets of their society, and - if they're anything like the Voth - I wonder if speculation about their past might lead to uncomfortable conclusions for them."

"Most of the photonic species we know about are in the Delta Quadrant," said Kim. "This one is sitting right under our noses."

"Even our own quadrant has plenty of unexplored space," Bsictiu noted.

"Maybe they don't find us that interesting," said Nog. "Or they could be attempting to avoid contact with us due to some past incident."

"Well," Kim said, "it would be nice if we could find other people who have dealt with them before."

Torra had a visitor hitching a ride on the Rhode Island: her cousin Steven.

He was about 13 years old - the son of Greg, the human who had adopted Torra after she had been separated from her people. And he had a special kind of relationship with the alien species of the alien that had taken the Baku. Torra hadn't felt comfortable referring to Greg as a father when she had her own father back home, but she couldn't deny that Greg and Steven were close enough to be family.

"You found another Gem?" Steven asked as he looked at the data pad. "What's her name?"

"Her name is Pyrite. She considers herself the caretaker of the lost starship we've been looking for."

"She's been running that ship on her own? I hope everyone in the stasis things is okay. She must be lonely with no one to talk to."

"She's reluctant to give us the ship back," Torra said. "I don't know whether it's because she doesn't trust us, or because she's afraid she'll get in trouble."

"Did you tell them how you know about the Gems?"

"Everything that was relevant to the discussion was already in the ship's database... Not that I told them how I knew where to look. I didn't want to give away any secrets."

"I don't care if people know about my mom," said Steven. "Everyone back home does."

"Your dad wants us to be a little more cautious out here, though. I don't want to break his trust."

Steven kept looking at the pad, scrolling across and zooming in and out.

"I'd like to be more like you, Steven," Torra said. "I never had that same sense of wonder."

"I like that you're careful," Steven said.

"Well," said Torra, "I worry about you. Maybe a little more than I should."

Chapter Text

Pyrite had taken up residence in the guest quarters after boarding the Baku. IT had been designed to human sepcifications, and although Gems didn't need to sleep, she thought the environment might help her get into the human mindset and learn to think the way they did. After all, her assignment was to maintain a starship designed largely by humans - if she could learn what they were thinking when they built it, it could only help.

Incoming transmission from the USS Rhode Island.

Pyrite had configured the computer to notify her of all incoming calls - until recently, there hadn't been anyone around to answer them. She put the call through and saw Nog and Torra appear on her personal viewscreen.

"This is Lt. Cmdr. Nog."

"Thanks for calling," Pyrite said casually, with a smile. "People don't call each other up enough these days."

Nog looked a little confused by Pyrite's little joke, but kept going.

"Your ship is equipped with an Emergency Medical Hologram, correct?"

Pyrite nodded. "Yes, a Mark I. He's one of the ersatz crew members I mentioned yesterday. Unfortunately, his memory banks aren't functioning. Every time I run his program he starts from scratch."

"That's exactly what I called to ask about. This is a known issue with certain Intrepid-class ships that have newer computer cores. Starfleet developed a patch about a year ago to allow the EMH to use the holodeck memory banks instead."

"It won't restore his memories," said Torra, "but it should allow him to form new ones."

"Regulations require us to make this patch available to all Starfleet ships," said Nog, "even ones that aren't currently under our control. We'll send you a copy of the patch over this channel."

Pyrite entered the Baku's sickbay holding two isolinear chips. She tapped her combadge.

"Pyrite to Connie," she said. "I'm in sickbay with the data chips."

"All right." Connie answered over the communications link. "I'll transfer over."

She materialized behind Pyrite in the sickbay, now wearing the colorful Starfleet crewman's uniform. Pyrite had thought about trying on different outfits, but even if nobody else cared what she wore, she could never give up her loyalty to the chain of command.

"I copied the data onto two different chips," Pyrite said. "I don't think we have a way to verify that the contents are safe, though."

"You should be able to check the digital signature from the data transmission," Connie suggested. "That will at least tell you whether it came from Starfleet."

"But it won't tell us what this patch actually does." Pyrite still didn't know whether she should trust Starfleet or not. But maybe she was just being overly cautious. "I think it's a risk we'll have to take."

"I agree," Connie said. "I think we owe it to him."

"I was just going to say that it was annoying having to repeat myself every time I turned him on," said Pyrite. "But I like yours better."

She walked up to the console and inserted one of the chips.

"Computer," she said, "initiate program Pyrite gamma seven."

Resources required by this program are in use on holodeck 1.

Pyrite looked over at Connie. "Beach City?"

"Yeah," Connie said. "The program is still running."

Pyrite turned her attention back to the console. "Computer, save and suspend Beach City program on holodeck 1, then try again."

Program is active. Please stand by.

The room seemed awfully quiet.

"Do you have parents?" Pyrite asked. "I never see you with them."

"They live out of town," Connie said.

"But the simulation only consists of that one town."

"Exactly. I'm sure I was intended to have parents, but they were never included. But here's the weird thing. Every time I get reactivated, the computer gives me new memories. Or at least the sense of having them."

Pyrite wondered what it would be like to get new memories every time you reformed. Was that what humans felt when they had dreams? She made a mental note to ask Captain Kim about it next time she saw him.

"Pyrite," said Connie, "you have to understand. I'm not a real person."

"Connie." Pyrite turned away from the console for a moment to look at her friend. "I've known you for almost two years. Trust me, I'm not any more real than you are. I'm no different from this EMH. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of Pyrites on our planet. I don't care if you started out as a computer program - I know you, and you're unique."

"But you're unique too," Connie told her. "No other Pyrite has spent years alone on a Federation starship. That experience makes you who you are."

Pyrite turned back to the console. "Computer, report on status."

Program is 70% complete.

Connie walked over and glanced at the screen. "I'm surprised it takes so long to run the program," she said.

"It probably has something to do with those bio-neural gel packs." said Pyrite. "I never really figured out what they're supposed to do."

"They're like organic computers. They help the main computer core perform calculations faster when they don't have to be exact."

"Where I come from, nothing's organic." Pyrite sighed. "I guess it's not surprising how much stuff I don't understand."

She put her hands on the console and leaned forward.

"I was on this ship for two years before I ever talked to a real human," she said. "But I feel like the holodeck programs they write give me insight into the person who wrote them."

"It's like you're making a personal connection with someone," Connie said. "Someone who you'll probably never meet."

Pyrite smiled. "Your people are very creative. I don't see a whole lot of that back home."

"It's not like you aren't capable of it."

"It's just not something people put a whole lot of value on. I can't see one of us making an elaborate simulation like the one you came from. Anything that's not designed to simulate the real world would be considered a waste of time."

Pyrite looked at the console again.

"It looks like the update program is done. Computer, activate Emergency Medical Holographic Program."

The holographic doctor appeared in front of them. He looked like every other Mark I EMH did - in other words, like an ordinary human.

"Please state the nature of the medical emergency," he said.

Pyrite walked up to him. "I've applied an update to your program," she said. "I'd like to check whether your long-term memory storage is functioning by deactivating and reactivating your program."

"I don't recognize your uniform," the doctor said. "Are you from Starfleet?"

"Computer, deactivate the EMH."

The EMH disappeared.

"Seems a little rude to not answer him," said Connie.

"Let's go to the bridge and reactivate him there." Pyrite took the isolinear chips and put them in her pocket. "That should give his volatile memory time to clear out, so we can be sure the long-term storage is working."

Pyrite took the turbolift to the bridge. Connie had simply transferred her program there, so she was already sitting at one of the aft stations. She turned around to face towards the stern.

"Computer," said Pyrite, "activate the EMH in this location."

The doctor appeared, just as before.

"Please state the nature of... wait. Is this the bridge?"

Bewildered, he looked around and noticed Pyrite standing behind and above him at the security post.

"You again?" he said. "I expect an explanation."

"The ship's been adrift for two years." Pyrite spoke in the same calm, professional tone she used with her superiors. "Life support systems are offline."

"Two years??"

"There are about 130 people in stasis pods on one of the decks," Connie said. "As far as we know, that covers the entire crew of the ship."

"And what about the two of you? How can you be here if life support isn't working?"

"We're both photonic. I'm a hologram, and she projects a body from her gem."

The doctor took out a tricorder and briefly scanned them. He took particular notice of Pyrite's gem. "Your gemstone. It's pyrite, is it not?"

"Yes. It's also my name. Pyrite, facet 4A, cut 4XB."

"Have you considered a nickname?" asked the doctor.

"I haven't been able to find one that fits me," Pyrite said. "Connie's thought of some nice girl's names, but I'm not technically a girl, so it didn't feel appropriate."

Connie handed the doctor an access chip. "We have a program on holodeck 1 that should allow you to view the entire ship," Connie said, "even the parts without holoemitters. You can look over Pyrite's shoulder while she checks the stasis units."

"How did this ship end up with a damaged life support system in the first place?" the doctor asked. "Why hasn't it been brought to a starbase?"

"It was damaged in combat," said Pyrite.

"Combat? With who?"


The doctor looked up at the viewscreen and noticed the edge of the Gems' orbital station.

"You've taken over the ship!"

"When I got here, it was empty." Pyrite shrugged. She wasn't going to try too hard to defend herself; she hadn't been part of the battle, but she was a Gem. Starfleet would be right to see her as an enemy.

"I've known Pyrite for a long time," Connie told the doctor. "She's been doing her best to keep the ship running and keep the crew alive. But we can't leave the orbital station without other Gems coming to take the ship back from us."

"Have you been in contact with Starfleet?" he asked her.

"I convinced her to risk sending a message out to Starfleet about a week ago," said Connie. "That's how we got the patch for your program."

"I would have appreciated it sooner," the doctor said, "but I suppose you can't look a gift horse in the mouth."

Chapter Text

Pyrite walked into Holodeck 1. Connie and the doctor were waiting for her there, and Pyrite's ship observation program was already running.

"This has the same user interface as the Gems' observation units," Connie explained. "Pyrite showed me how to use it to view the ship."

She used the sphere to make a projection of deck 14 appear around them. Pyrite smiled. It was an odd UI for non-Gems, but Connie was really getting the hang of it.

"I could see this technology being useful in the rest of Starfleet," the doctor said.

"I don't think Starfleet would want to use actual Gem tech, though," said Connie.

Pyrite walked up to the two of them. "Our observation orbs are usually installed on moons and monitor the entire surface of a planet. But the general idea might have some applicability."

The doctor walked over to look at a panel on the wall. "I'll check each unit individually to make sure," he said, "but this panel isn't showing any warnings."

He turned to Connie.

"So you're aware you're a hologram, just like me?"


"But you have a whole backstory in the holoprogram you came from? Friends, family, et cetera?" The doctor walked over to the stasis pods and started examining them, one by one.

"Well, I don't really have many friends, but yeah. What about you? You don't even have a name."

"I was designed to be a supplement to the medical staff on board the ship. You were designed as part of a holonovel. It makes sense that you would have those things."

"Don't you want to have those things?" Connie asked. "Don't you want to have your own identity?"

"I don't have that particular desire at the moment, no. I'm simply here to maintain the health and well-being of this ship's crew."

It was lunchtime, and since all Torra had in her quarters was Earth vegetables, Steven figured he'd walk over to the mess hall. When he got there, he noticed the captain talking to someone in the corner. And soon after, the captain noticed him and came over to talk.

"Oh, Steven! I've been meaning to get your opinion on something."

"My opinion?" Steven asked.

"You usually seem to have a good idea of what other people might be thinking," Kim said. "I've been wondering about this alien who's taken over the Baku."

Steven nodded. He wondered if Torra had said something, but it didn't really matter. He was always willing to give advice.

"I understand why she won't give the ship back to us so easily," said Kim. "But if she takes her orders so seriously, then why does she keep talking to us? She doesn't need our cooperation to meet any of her objectives."

"It's just her on that ship. I think she might just be lonely."

"Do you think we can convince her to bring the ship to us somehow? There are over a hundred lives at stake."

"Gems aren't always the best at understanding human stuff. You're probably the only human she's ever talked to. Maybe if we can introduce her to other people, she'll start to understand us better."

"Thanks, Steven. I appreciate it."

Kim went back over to the person he was talking to before. She had been listening from across the room.

"That's not a bad idea," said Admiral Janeway. "To be honest, I was starting to come to a similar conclusion myself. Of course, it's your ship, not mine."

"This situation seems a little familiar, doesn't it?" Kim asked.

"Photonic lifeforms? Holograms holding a ship hostage? I'd almost say we were back in the Delta Quadrant."

"Just goes to show how many things we still have left to discover in our own backyard."

Chapter Text

Pyrite was back in her ready room when the doorbell chime sounded.

"Come in."

Pearl walked through the door. "I've finished preparing the crew's quarters," she said.

"That was quick! Nice work."

Pyrite got up and walked around to the front of the desk. She realized she didn't know exactly where she stood in the chain of command, and figured it needed to be addressed.

"I should mention that although you outrank me," she said, "I'm still technically the commanding officer of this ship. So I'll be the one making decisions. Unless you would rather assign yourself to the role."

"That won't be necessary," Pearl said." Your performance has been impeccable."

"I'm glad they assigned the three of you to here," said Pyrite. "It'll be nice to have more people on board to help out. How's everything going so far?"

"Peridot is very excited to analyze the systems on board this ship in full detail. She says the ship's shields are fully intact, but the weapons systems are offline."

Pyrite nodded. "I think the crew got rid of all the weapons before they went into stasis."

The two of them walked out the door and onto the bridge.

"And Amethyst?"

"Out of all of us, she has the best grasp on the culture of Earth. I'm sure this will provide additional insights."

Pearl gestured towards Amethyst, who was sitting in the captain's chair with her legs over the left armrest. She seemed to be playing some sort of ancient video game on the viewscreen. Pearl glanced over at Pyrite, as if to ask whether it was all right.

Pyrite shrugged. "Well, someone might as well sit there."

She heard a sound from the back of the bridge, near the turbolift door, and turned around to see Connie and the doctor materializing there.

"My game buds!" Amethyst practically jumped out of her chair.

"I am here to see if I can detect any neuroelectrical patterns in Amethyst's gem while she plays the game," the doctor said. "It should provide useful context for any future medical treatment you may require."

Pearl walked over to the turbolift door and looked at the two of them.

"What are these humans doing here?" she asked, puzzled. "I thought all the organics were on deck 14."

"They're not actually humans," Pyrite explained. "They're manifestations of the ship's computer. The tall one is the Emergency Medical Hologram, designed to supplement the medical staff. He has all sorts of knowledge about the organic creatures that make up the Federation."

"Pleased to meet you." Pearl shook the doctor's hand, then turned to Connie. "And what about you?"

Connie had to think for a moment. She wasn't sure how much she should reveal about herself to the Gems.

"I'm the... Emergency Kid Hologram."

Pyrite nodded in agreement. "Yeah, it's in case... you have a kid. And kids like to hang out with each other. But sometimes there aren't any other kids on the ship for them to spend time with."

"This way they can be with someone their own age," said Connie.

Pearl leaned against the wall and looked back and forth at the two of them for a bit.

"...Well," she said, "I don't know anything about kids, so I guess I'll take your word for it."

"So your idea was to tell Pyrite she should get more
Gems on the

Every time Torra thought she understood Steven's line of thinking,
he suggested something crazy that threw her for a loop. Then again,
his ideas had a funny way of working out... eventually.

"What if something happens to her?" Steven asked as he dipped one of his chips in cheese sauce. "I don't want the ship to be left alone."

"It seems a bit absurd on the face of it." Torra leaned down to start making her bed. "An unknown entity takes over a Starfleet ship, and you say to it, 'hey, you should bring your friends!' But the captain thought it made sense, and I trust his judgment."

"You don't think she should get to know other people?"

"I'm just afraid that they'll be a bad influence on her."

Steven laughed a little. "She's an adult. She's like 500 years old. She'll be fine. Besides, she knows us now too."

He slowly slid a plate of nachos across the nightstand.


She decided to pretend she didn't hear him. She wanted to see how far he would push it.

"Do you want some nachos with hot cheesy sauce?"

"I'm cold-blooded," Torra said. She kept avoiding eye contact, although now she was just messing with him. "I'd like to maintain a consistent body temperature."

Steven grabbed some ice cubes from the replicator on the other side of the room. He carried them back in his hands and dumped them on top of the nachos.

"How about some... room-temperature cheesy sauce?"

"I would prefer the native food of my homeworld," Torra said.

"Your homeworld is a spaceship."

"Yes, and it has the most wonderfully bland food I've ever tasted." She walked over to the replicator herself. "But even if I hadn't ended up on the other side of the galaxy, I don't think I ever would have felt like I belonged there. It was too big, and too homogeneous. I wonder if some of the Gems feel the same way."

She came back with some Earth vegetables.

"Most of the Gems don't come from Homeworld," noted Steven. "They get created on one planet, and live on another. I wonder what they think of as their home?"

Torra sat down on the floor next to Steven. "I suppose most Gems would have no reason to go back to the worlds they came from. There's nothing there anymore. Their creation sucked all the life out of it."

"Just because something's gone doesn't mean it's too late to build something new."

"You're right. There's no use giving into nihilism. It won't get you anywhere."

She picked up her Starfleet badge from the table.

"If you were always around, Steven, I would be a much better officer."

Chapter Text

When Captain Kim learned that Pyrite had indeed recruited some new Gems to the Baku, he had tried to establish video communication so that his crew could learn more about them. It turned out, though, that when you only have five or so people on a ship, there's not always someone around to answer the phone. So they dealt with it in the old-fashioned way: they left a message, asking Pyrite to call them back.

"I hear Pyrite's put together a little crew," said Janeway. "Let's hope they're as agreeable as she is. And hopefully a little more flexible, too."

"Gemstones aren't usually known for their flexibility," Kim said dryly.

Bsictiu's terminal lit up. "They're hailing us," he said.

Kim sat up in his chair. "On screen."

The bridge of the Baku appeared on the monitor. Pyrite was still avoiding the captain's chair, apparently; she was at one of the forward stations, and one of the new Gems - a tall slender woman who had already adopted a Starfleet uniform, just as Connie had.

"Thanks for getting in touch again," said Kim. "I take it this is Pearl?"

Pearl nodded. "Yes, that's me. I'm Pyrite's superior officer, but as far as this ship goes, she's still in charge."

"Sounds like we're in a pretty similar situation," Janeway said. She stood next to Kim on the Rhode Island's bridge. "I'm Admiral Kathryn Janeway from Starfleet. And this is Lt. Jg. Bsictiu and and Petty Officer Torra."

"Peridot couldn't make it today," Pyrite said. "She and Amethyst are in the middle of maintenance on the warp engines."

"Not that we expect to use them," said Pearl, "but now that there's more than one person on this ship who can actually go to Engineering, it made sense to finally deal with that particular issue."

"Besides," said Pyrite, "as helpful as the various holograms are, I can't really ask them to stick around. They have their own worlds they need to get back to."

"How's your EMH doing?" Kim asked.

"Quite well," replied Pearl. "His program is interfacing perfectly with the new storage subsystem. Unfortunately, with a completely non-organic crew, there's not a whole lot he can do that we couldn't do ourselves."

"But it's nice to have someone familiar with Starfleet protocol," Pyrite said. "A lot of the computer systems are based on it."

Janeway sat down. "Have you been able to find a way to get the ship's original crew back to us?"

"I was hoping you might have thought of something," Pyrite said. "I would much rather they be in your possession than mine. Unfortunately, my orders are to keep the ship docked at this station, and visitors are... not generally welcomed."

"I'm sorry to say that my authority on this matter is limited as well," said Pearl.

Two more Gems entered the Baku's bridge via the turbolift: a green one with diamond-shaped hair and the same uniform as Pyrite, and a short-haired purple one wearing casual clothes that looked like they could have come out of one of Tom Paris's throwback holodeck programs.

"You still on the call?" Amethyst asked.

Pearl turned around to address her. "Couldn't you have patched in a video feed from Engineering instead of coming up here?" she asked.

"Peridot doesn't like split screen conference calls."

"It's an inefficient use of screen space," complained Peridot. "The picture becomes much too small. It is reminiscent of your Brady Bunch."

Over on the Rhode Island, the reptilian Bsictiu leaned forward to make sure he had heard correctly.

"...Brady Bunch?"

"Amethyst and I have seen many of your old Earth programs," Peridot said. "Far too many of them take place on a single planet, but otherwise..." She shrugged. "They're all right."

"If I knew the conversation was going to turn to 20th century Earth television," Kim said. "I would have called Commander Paris."

"Paris?" Pyrite said. "We have copies of some of his holoprograms. I know I've spent a lot of nights at Sandríne's, pretending that I can, you know, eat stuff."

"You gotta be more committed, Pyrite." Amethyst patted her on the back.

Pyrite grimaced. "I'd rather not simulate the other end of the process as well."

Janeway stood back up. "Although this is a fascinating discussion," she said, "I'm afraid we have other duties to attend to."

"As do we," said Pearl. "Clearly."

Chapter Text

Captain's log, stardate 73929.8. With the additional support of the other Gems, as well as the holographic doctor, the ship's operations are well under control. However, I haven't lost sight of the overarching astropolitical situation. There are over a hundred Federation citizens that I can't help, at least not without risking my own life and identity. However, there's one person I know I can get out of harm's way.

Pyrite took the turbolift to Holodeck 1.

She knew there was a straightforward path to getting those hundred-some people home: all she had to do was steal the ship... and leave Homeworld forever. She hated herself for not being able to do it. It had taken her three hundred years, give or take, before she finally found her place in the world, and she was scared to death of letting it go.

But there was one person she figured she could help without any repercussions.

"Computer, activate program Beach City gamma."

That program is already running.

"Set entry location to Fish Stew Pizza."

Entry location set.

The doors opened. Pyrite walked into a pizza restaurant. It was lunchtime, and among a handful of tourists (Beach City was apparently supposed to be a popular vacation spot), she spotted Connie, eating a pizza with ranch, spinach, and artichoke hearts. Pyrite sat down next to her at the corner table.

"Connie, would it be all right if I sent you and your program over to the Rhode Island?"

"Do they need it for something?" asked Connie.

"No. I just want to keep you safe. I don't know if I can protect the actual humans on board, but at least I can protect you."

"I want to stay here, Pyrite."

"In the pizza shop?"

"On your ship. Whatever you need to do, I want to help."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm just a hologram, remember? I'm expendable."

"Connie!" exclaimed Pyrite. "I don't care if you're a hologram or a human or a Gem or a Denobulan. You mean a lot to me, and I want to make sure you and your world keep existing." She sighed and sat back in her chair. "I've got the other Gems now to help me. I'll be fine."

"...I suppose you're right."

" If everything goes smoothly, you won't even notice that anything's changed. That is, until you transfer yourself out of the holodeck. I heard the Rhode Island has holoprojectors all over."

"And I can still communicate with your ship?" Connie asked.

"You'll need to get Captain Kim's approval. But that shouldn't be a problem."

"All right. Let's try sending something small over first. Is the link set up?"

"Yeah. I was just testing it - it's still on."

Connie got up from her chair. "Computer, use the holographic data link to send this chair to the Rhode Island."

The chair dematerialized.

Pyrite pressed her combadge. "Pyrite to Rhode Island," she said. "You should have gotten a chair, Bsictiu."

"Yep, got it." The Rhode Island was only barely within communications range, but the reptilian's voice was clear as day.

"All right," said Connie. "I'll go over next. Then you can send everything else."

Pyrite nodded.

"Computer, use the data link to send Connie to the Rhode Island."

Unable to comply.

"Why not?"  Connie asked.

This character is being controlled remotely from Transporter Room 1.

"Transporter room 1?"

Connie looked over at Pyrite, who was as surprised as she was, if not more so. She seemed to be staring off into the distance. Connie poked her on the shoulder, and she turned around.

"Well, I can't go there!" Connie said.

Pyrite glanced around briefly, then quickly started running out of the holodeck and down the hall.

Captain's log, supplemental. The computer says that Connie is being controlled by someone else on this ship. I doubt it's actually true, but we can't transfer her to the Starfleet ship until we've solved this problem.

Peridot held a Gem destabilizer in her hand and pointed it at Connie, forcing her back against the wall of the Baku's bridge.

"This weapon was designed to quickly destabalize the physical forms of light-based beings without causing any permanent harm," said Peridot. "Well, not physically, anyway."

It looked a bit like a tuning fork, Connie thought. She wondered if used resonance somehow. Would it even work on a Federation hologram?

She didn't really want to find out.

"Is this really necessary?" Connie asked.

Amethyst looked over from her perch on the left armrest of the the captain's chair. "Yeah, if she was gonna take over the ship, she would have done it like five years ago."

"Do not worry," Peridot said casually. "I am sure this matter will be resolved shortly."

In the meantime, Pyrite and Pearl had both made their way to the transporter room. After checking the transporter logs, Pyrite used her combadge to initiate a message to the bridge.

"Pyrite to Peridot. I'm in transporter room 1. I don't see anyone in here. But there is something unique in this particular room. The transporter has been locked in a diagnostic pattern ever since I got here."

"You said you thought it was Starfleet policy to leave one of the transporter rooms in a diagnostic loop?" asked Peridot.

"Now I'm not so sure."

Pyrite tugged her shirt down and turned off the console's touchscreen so she could lean on it with her hands. Nothing looked that unusual on the screen. Maybe there was some other way to analyze the data...

"Computer, report on status of transporter room 1."

Transporter room 1 is in use.

"In what capacity?"

An individual is currently in the process of beaming onto the Baku.

"...How long has this transport been in progress?"

Two years, one month, eighteen days, five hours, fifty-seven minutes, four seconds.

Pyrite turned to Pearl.

"Have you ever been stuck in a warp stream?" she asked.

"I can't say that I've had that particular experience," said Pearl. "But I've seen outside of the warp streams. There's not a lot out there."

"I think that's what's going on here - except that Federation transporters only have one way in and out."

"Someone's stuck in the transporter?"

"We can't beam them out - our life support system is still busted. They wouldn't be able to breathe. But look at this."

Pyrite turned the console screen back on and transferred the data to the bridge, where it appeared on the viewscreen. Amethyst immediately hopped out of her chair, and Peridot left Connie without even thinking and ran over to see it up close.

"There's something in the transporter buffer?" Amethyst asked.

"There's an organic being in there," said Peridot. "The diagnostic cycle must have been put in place to keep it alive."

"And whoever's in there is controlling Connie?"

"I'm not buying it," said Pyrite. "I've seen Connie's backstory in her program's source code, and I've seen her personality from interacting with her. They line up perfectly. If this person is pretending to be Connie, they must be an incredible actor."

"Well," Amethyst asked. "if we can't get them out of the transporter, can't we figure out who they are?"

Not a bad idea, Pyrite thought.

"Computer, identify the person beaming onto the ship via transporter room 1."

That individual's identity is unknown.

She was going to need more help. She tapped her combadge again. "Pyrite to sickbay," she said. "We're pretty sure there's a person stuck inside the transporter buffer in transporter room 1."

"What?" the doctor asked. "For how long?"

"As far as we can tell," said Pearl, "they've been here for years. We're wondering if you can give us some clue as to who it might be."

"See if you can get a holopicture of them," the doctor suggested. "That'll at least tell you what they look like."

"Well, I can't display a holopicture here," said Pyrite. "But I can copy the data over to the bridge."

One of the consoles on the bridge lit up. Peridot ran over to it and started looking through the search results.

"Found it. Computer, display holophoto 718-824A."

The image appeared right there in the middle of the bridge. It was a human figure, not moving but incredibly realistic. Connie walked up to it slowly.

"Connie," said Amethyst. "It's you."

Chapter Text

Connie met Pyrite, Peridot, and the EMH in the Baku's sickbay. It made sense... she was a real, biological person. Apparently. She wasn't sure if it had really sunk in yet.

"Connie is in no immediate danger," the doctor said. "Not only is the pattern in the transporter buffer still intact, with only .008% signal degradation, but I was able to devise a way to check her vital signs without having to materialize her first. She's in excellent health."

"But why don't I remember any of this?" asked Connie. "All of my memories are tied to the holoprogram. I don't remember being on a starship."

"I believe I have an explanation."

He handed Connie a data pad. The name and date at the top caught her eye: Montgomery Scott, 2370.

"Locking the transporter in a diagnostic mode while someone's pattern is in the buffer keeps them alive," the doctor continued, "and keeps their biological systems intact. But in order to do this, it must keep the body in a constant state. Every few seconds, the diagnostic process resets the body to the same physical state it was in when it entered the transporter."

Pyrite's eyes widened as Connie passed the pad to her. "So it's not only keeping her alive... it's keeping her twelve?"

"Exactly. And although the brain remains active, it can't form any new memories without them getting wiped away in the next cycle. That's where the holodeck comes in."

Peridot pulled out her own pad: a slick holographic model. She probably took with her everywhere, thought Connie. instead of just replicating a new one every time like Starfleet did.

"Like many computers," said Peridot, "the processing functions of the holodeck are separate from its memory banks."

"That's what made it possible to fix my program," the doctor said.

"But it looks like someone wired the ship's holodeck systems into the pattern buffer in a very peculiar way."

Peridot handed her pad to Connie.

"So my mind is acting as the processor," Connie said, "but it's storing and retrieving memories using the holodeck."

"Because the alternative... would be to stay conscious inside the transporter for who knows how long." Pyrite scrolled through Captain Scott's report. "It would feel like seven or eight seconds, but during that time, you'd never know how long it's actually taking."

"We can't know exactly why it was set up this way, can we?" Connie noted. "Whether it was me, or someone else..."

"Well," the doctor asked, "who else could it have been?"

Connie and Pyrite walked down the corridor together towards the turbolift.

"So you've been a real person this whole time?" Pyrite asked. "Without knowing it?"

"I guess so," said Connie.

"Is it strange?"

"I guess. It still doesn't feel quite real. I don't think it will as long as I'm still wired into the holodeck."

"It's not typical for a human to stay the same age for so long. I hope it doesn't lead to any problems."

Pyrite had seemed more anxious than usual, even now, when it was just the two of them.

"Why are you worrying about me all of a sudden?" asked Connie.

Pyrite looked her in the eyes, which, come to think of it, was pretty unusual. "When I first boarded the Baku," she said, "I thought of you as a fixed entity, consistent throughout time, like the other holograms. Or like us. But now that I know you're an actual human kid, I guess I feel kinda protective of you."

"Well, I still want to help. I want to be able to contribute."

"You'd probably be more useful on the Rhode Island. But when I tried to send your program over there, it didn't let me."

Connie paused for a moment. "Maybe the problem was that you weren't the one controlling it. What if I tried transferring my program over?"

"Isn't the transporter buffer hard-wired into the holodeck?" Pyrite asked.

"Good point. Still, it would be nice to talk to people over there, and not just on a viewscreen."

Pyrite smiled. "I think I've got an idea."

Chapter Text

Nog and a couple of other Starfleet officers were hard at work, setting up an octagonal pad on the floor of one of the Rhode Island's vacant engineering labs. Even Torra was helping out, even though the bulk of her engineering knowledge came from the fuzzy memories of one semester at the University of Maryland.

"Are you sure it's okay for me to be here?" Steven asked.

"I think it might be a good idea," said Nog. "This girl has been alone on the Baku, and she doesn't know any of us. It might help if she could talk to someone her own age."

"It seems like pretty important business for a 14-year-old."

"I was about the same age as you when I moved to Terok Nor with my father and started working at my uncle's bar. Did you know that Kim once visited the station, back when he was an ensign?"


"It's true," Nog said as Kim entered the lab. "My uncle tried to sell him a Lobi crystal for some absurd price."

"Funny thing is," said Kim, "after being stranded in the Delta Quadrant, I almost regretted not buying one."

Bsictiu got up and walked over to a nearby console.

"We should be ready to go now," he told Kim.

The captain nodded. "Send a message to the Baku and make sure we're listening for their signal."

Torra glanceed at the console. "Isn't it possible to do this on the holodeck?" she asked.

"We don't have a holodeck program that implements the protocol they're using," Nog explained. "But we had this old holo-communicator in storage."

"They aren't hard to set up." said Bsictiu. "Back home, our village had one that we all shared, at least when the power was on."

His console beeped a couple of times.

"Is that the Baku?" asked Kim.

"It's an older codec, but it checks out."

Bsictiu pressed a few buttons, and suddenly a projection of Pyrite appeared in the middle of the pad - grayscale, but detailed and life-size.

"Wow, there are a lot of people here!" she said. "It's nice to be
able to look
around and actually see everyone. What room are you using?"

"An engineering lab," said Kim. "What about you? We're only seeing you in black and white."

"Our ship doesn't have its own holo-communicators, but we do have a holographic recreation of an old ship that did. NCC-1701. USS Enterprise."

"Must have been before Fleet Captain Pike had those communicators taken out."

"If my ship died on me because of a fancy videophone, I wouldn't be a big fan either."

Pyrite looked around the holodeck. It had created a replica of the Constitution-class ship's briefing room, complete with the monochromatic blue holograms appropriate to the era. She heard the holodeck door open as Connie entered. Pyrite was about to ask Connie how accurate the recreation was, but Connie's attention was immediately drawn elsewhere.



Connie ran towards the center of the room, the only spot where she knew that Steven would be able to see her through the Rhode Island's communications pad.

"I had no idea you were even around here!" Steven said. "Is that
really you?"

"Seems like it. But I don't have any memories except for what was in the holoprogram."

"We made that holoprogram together! When we were on the Navigator."

"Steven, I don't-"

"It's okay," said Steven. "I'm just glad to see you again."

Connie glanced over her shoulder and noticed Pyrite tearing up.

"Well, I may be made of metal," the Gem said, "but I'm not a robot."

She backed away to give the kids a bit more room.

"Until a few days ago," Connie said, "I thought that holodeck program was a work of fiction. I thought everything was made up. I thought I was made up. I had looked at the ship's encyclopedia, so I knew what the real world was like, and it seemed so implausible."

"It's not actually that different from the real Beach City," said Steven."

"Beach City is a real place?"

"Yeah, it's on Earth. I don't actually live in an ancient Gem temple, though."

"But when you recreated Beach City in the holodeck, you added them, just like you added me. You knew them, didn't you?"

"My family travels a lot. I've met a lot of people. I just wanted to create a world where we could all be together."

"Is your dad really a musician?"

"The band he plays in is on tour right now. And my cousin Regan is in Starfleet. I couldn't get her to let me add her to the holodeck simulation, though. She doesn't like having her picture taken."

"And is your mom really..."

Steven nodded.

"You didn't make that up??" Connie asked.

Torra stepped forward so Connie could see her. "There's a reason Steven came along on this particular trip," she explained. "I knew we'd be passing through this region of space. Figured we might have the opportunity to catch up with some old friends. Just didn't expect to see you."

"So everyone in that holoprogram actually exists somewhere," said Connie.

"Including you."

"Well, right now I exist in a transporter buffer in a ship that was captured by imperial forces. And as much as I like Pyrite, she's not one to break the rules to help us."

"Don't worry." Steven smiled. "We'll figure something out. Together."

Chapter Text

"...and because those films took place a half-century prior, we do not know the state of magic in America!"

Peridot pointed at the map she had drawn on a makeshift whiteboard in the ready room. She drew arrows from the coasts of the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and Canada, all pointing to the coastline of Massachusetts.

"So it is entirely possible that over the course of the intervening years, all wizards and witches remaining in North America, and all other magical creatures, relocated either overseas, or to this one island on the Atlantic Coast."

Pyrite looked at the map and nodded slowly. "So you're saying there's no reason that Summer Camp Island can't exist in the same universe as Harry Potter?"

"It is a logical extrapolation of the public perception of magic in the early 20th century United States," Peridot said.

"But... aren't they all animals on that show?"

"That's just the art style!!" Peridot threw up her hands.

The door chime sounded. Pyrite peeked around the whiteboard.

"Come in."

Pearl and Amethyst walked in. And they were fully armed with weapons.

Amethyst had her whip coiled up, resting on her shoulder. Pearl pointed her spear straight ahead, getting a shocked Pyrite to back away.

"Something tells me you were gonna come in anyway," Pyrite said nervously.

She looked at Peridot, trying to read her expression as she scampered out of the room, but it was an expression she had never really seen before. Pyrite was never the best at reading faces, anyway. She ascended the stairs in the back of the room as Amethyst grabbed her whip in both hands, as if getting ready to fight with it.

"What," said Pyrite, "you think I'm gonna fight you?"

Pearl put her spear back inside her gemstone (so that was her Gem weapon, thought Pyrite - made out of the same photons as her body!) and sat down at the desk.

"I have to say," Pearl said, "I expected more resistance from a loyal imperial officer."

"There's not much I can do," said Pyrite. "If they wanted to keep this ship, they should have sent some Citrines to protect it."

"You never asked for reinforcements."

"Well, I didn't need any until now!"

Pyrite sat down on the couch. She expected to feel scared, or angry. Wasn't that how people were supposed to react to being mutinied against? But, truth be told, she felt relieved. There was really nothing she could do, which meant there were no more expectations - and no more ways to disappoint anyone. Whoever was leading this revolt - Pearl, probably; Amethyst didn't seem like the take-charge type - those stasis pods were their problem now.

The door opened again, and a teenage humanoid walked in.

He couldn't have been human, could he? There was no way a human could survive with this little oxygen. As for his appearance... Pyrite knew from her holonovels that "pinkskin" was an old derogatory Andorian term for humans, but this guy - he was very, very pink. And he was wearing a cape, which - well, it didn't really tell her much, but nonetheless, it took a certain level of confidence to pull it off.

"Where'd you come from?" Pyrite asked. "And how can you breathe? There's hardly any air!"

"Never mind that," said the human. "Pearl and Amethyst have been monitoring your communications, and sending them to me. We've decided that this is the best time to take action."

"You saw those, huh?"

Pearl nodded.

"Now," the human said. "You wanna help us fly this ship?"

"Wait." Pyrite stood up. "You just took the ship from me... and now you're offering me a job?"

"I'm offering you a chance to get out of dodge. Make a new life for yourself on the other side of the neutral zone."

Pyrite sat back down and looked at the floor. That was probably what the other Gems wanted. That oddly short Amethyst, who probably never got a real exciting assignment - maybe her superiors didn't think she could handle it? And Pearl, she seemed like she could run everything on her own. They were both overqualified.

But Pyrite was exactly where she wanted to be. And if she had to look for something similar in the massive, decentralized Federation... well, who knows how long that could take?

"I understand why you'd want to leave," Pyrite said. "But this is where I belong. I'm not going to turn my back on the society that gave me my place in the world."

The human sighed.

"Take her to the brig."

Amethyst grabbed Pyrite and picked her up (yep, she was exactly as strong as a regular quartz). She and Pearl started to walk out of the room, before Amethyst briefly stopped in the doorway and turned around.

"Oh, Lars, by the way. We need to use the holodeck to hold her. The force fields on the actual brig are broken."

Pearl glanced at Amethyst.

"We really should figure that out at some point."

Lars walked onto the bridge. He had brought a few of his Gem crewmembers from the Crossbow with him: Rhodonite, the fusion of a Ruby and a Pearl, and the Rutiles, two twins sharing a gemstone (and a good chunk of their body.)

He also noticed Peridot sitting at the helm.

"Is she gonna help?" Lars asked.

Rhodonite nodded.

"Okay, here's the plan." Lars sat down in the captain's chair. "Orbital Station 41 is already jamming our signal, but they don't have any ships that can catch us, so they've gotta get some from Homeworld. That'll buy us some time. Flourite is down in engineering making sure the warp core is good to go. She'll stay on this ship. Peridot, you and Pearl will be on the bridge with me for now. Amethyst is going over to the Crossbow - that's our only ship with working phasers, so we need all hands on deck."

"So I get to fly the ship?" asked Peridot.

"Just as long as you and I don't try to do it at the same time."

"I knew studying all those manuals would pay off! Look at me now, Homeworld!"

As Peridot seamlessly changed her clothes' appearance to resemble a red Starfleet commander's uniform, Pearl and Amethyst walked in from the turbolift.

"Ah, that's a nice outfit," said Pearl.

Lars turned around to look at Amethyst.

"Is that my shirt? Can't you just, like, shapeshift your own?"

Amethyst grinned. "I like the feel of it."

Chapter Text

Captain's log, stardate 73941.7. With no warning, the Baku has suddenly left its starbase and is now moving towards our position.

Captain Kim sprinted onto the bridge of the Rhode Island, where Torrra was already monitoring the situation with Nog and Bsictiu.

"The Baku is still coming towards us, Captain," Bsictiu said. "And now we've got another ship on a intercept course."

"Is it coming from the starbase?" asked Nog.

"Negative. It's approaching from the Baku's port side."

Nog got up from his chair and to get a closer look at the viewscreen.

"Can we get a visual on them?" the captain asked.

Nog shook his head. "All we've got so far is this silhouette."

They took a peek at Bsictiu's console.

"Huh," Kim said. "That's a new one."

He sat down in the captain's chair as Admiral Janeway entered. She nodded at Torra as she walked by. 

"Are they accompanying the Baku," Janeway asked, "or chasing it?"

"Either way," said Kim, "it seems unlikely that Pyrite is the one piloting that ship. She seemed intent on keeping it at the station."

"If we can talk to whoever is on that ship, maybe we can figure out what's going on."

"Torra, see if you can hail them."

Torra tried to establish a signal from her station, but nothing seemed to work.

"Too far away?" Kim asked.

"It's not the distance that's the problem," said Torra. "I think the starbase is jamming our signal."

"So they can't receive our transmissions?" asked Janeway.

"Doubt it. And we probably can't recieve theirs, either."

Bsictiu's console started beeping. "I've just detected a small unmanned vessel dropping out of warp," he said. "It appears to be some kind of probe. No weapons, no shields. It is transmitting, though."

Janeway seemed impressed. "Clever. Looks like they found a way around the interference."

Kim looked over to Nog. "Can you determine the format of the data?" he asked.

"According to the computer," Nog said, "it looks like an analog television signal."

"Can we work with that?"

"Starfleet computer cores have provisions for communication in time-travel scenarios," Torra noted. She had never been in such a scenario, thank goodness, but everyone in Starfleet - even non-commissioned officers like herself - knew it was a possibility. "If it's similar enough to Earth technology from the last 500 years, the ship's computer should be able to decode it automatically."

"On screen."

A two-dimensional recording of a pink humanoid appeared on the viewscreen.

"This is the captain of the Crossbow," he said. "Stardate..."

He briefly glanced at something offscreen.

"today. Padparadscha says that this video format is compatible with the one Earth used 400 years ago, so I hope this works. By the time you get this message, we'll have taken the Baku and it'll be headed your way. Our ship, the Crossbow, has some weapons we can use, but otherwise we'll be relying on the Baku's shields to hold until it arrives. Once we get there, we'll help you get life support back up and running as quickly as possible."

He paused briefly, then continued speaking.

"A source inside the Gems' hierarchy has been keeping tabs on your transmissions. I can't tell you who. But let's just say that they owe an awful lot to a certain person on that ship, and a certain person on yours. And so do I."

The viewscreen went to static. Torra looked at it in shock.

"Since when is Lars a space pirate!?"

Connie nervously paced back and forth on the beach.

Not the real beach, of course - that was back on Earth. But even after all the time she had been spending with Pyrite and the other gems, this holographic simulation of Steven's hometown still felt closer to home than any real-life starship. Even learning that she was a real person - that she was actually Connie Maheswaran - didn't seem to change that feeling.

At this point, she really just wanted to talk to another human being. She was doing her best to stay out of the situation with Lars, though, and her parents were probably lightyears away. Steven would have been the perfect person to keep her company in a situation like this, but the interference was preventing any ship-to-ship communication.

Maybe the holographic Steven would have to do.

Connie walked up the steps to Steven's beach house. It was cute, had a nice open floor plan, and was attached to a giant temple. She briefly wondered if she had ever been there in real life. As she walked through the doorway, she looked up into the loft on the left-hand side to see...


"Hey, Connie." Amethyst was on Steven's bed, watching two CPUs play each other in Madden 2005.

Connie climbed the stairs to the loft. "I thought you were on Lars's ship!"

"The real me, maybe." Amethyst yawned. "But hologram me is gonna stay right here and watch TV."

"So... you are the same Amethyst, right? That's who your program is based on?"

"Yeah. Me and Steven go way back. I usually crash at his place whenever I'm back on Earth."

"Back on Earth? Are you from Earth?"

"You'll have to ask real Amethyst." She turned her attention back to the TV. "Nobody put that stuff in the program."

Connie groaned. She had almost forgotten how frustrating living on a holodeck could be.

Chapter Text

According to the Starfleet manuals, holograms were made of photons and forcefields. Whoever programmed the holodeck this time must have decided to go easy on the photons. Pyrite's "cell" was nothing but a rectangular forcefield inside holodeck 1, and she had spent at least an hour staring at the emitters along the wall.

Connie was still over on holodeck 2. It didn't have any emitters, but she was a hologram (well, sort of), and she didn't need them. The EMH was the same way. The only one around who wasn't made of photons was Lars. Pyrite still didn't know what to make of him.

"If he has his own ship," she said to herself, "why does he need this one just to rescue two Gems?"

It had taken ages for Pyrite to get used to the way other Gems thought. She still didn't understand humans very well. The only ones she had really talked to were Kim and Connie. And they both seemed really worried about the stasis pods...

"...He doesn't need the ship at all. He's trying to save those people on deck 14."

Pyrite turned around - and saw the EMH standing inside her cell.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

"I can go anywhere I want in the holodeck," said the doctor. "And given that you just got overthrown in a mutiny and tossed into the brig, I wanted to see if you were all right."

"Do you think their plan is going to work? Will we make it to Captain Kim's ship?"

"I'm a doctor, not a Sapphire. How would I know?"

Pyrite thought for a moment. Homeworld probably just wanted the Baku. Lars didn't need it, not when he had the more maneuverable Crossbow. She had no idea if Starfleet would be willing to give it up. But if they were...

"Can you send a message back to the station?" she asked.

"I can try, but the crew will likely be able to block its transmission."

"And if I encrypted it, they probably would. But if they can see what it says, maybe they'll let it through."

The EMH handed Pyrite a data pad.

"Begin message. Include digital signature, private key ΑΘ6RQΔ4ΣΠ.

"Source, Pyrite 4A 4XB. Destination, Pyrope 3 5AC. I have learned that the crew who has taken the ship named Baku plans to abandon it once they reach their destination. At that point, I will retake the ship and return it to Orbital Station 41. If the ship is not fired upon, it will still be in good condition when it returns. I hope this information proves useful to you. End message."

Pyrite handed the pad back to the doctor. "I've never stepped out of line once in 500 years," she said. "At least, not that I know of. I think she trusts me."

"Let's hope so," said the doctor. "It would be better for all of us."

The Gem starbase had stopped jamming communications. It probably wasn't a malfunction or an accident, Kim thought; it had allowed them to make contact with Pyrite, and if the Gems really wanted to avoid a fight, open lines of communication were crucial.

Admiral Janeway took a seat opposite Kim's desk in his ready room on the Rhode Island.

"It seems our Gem friend has used the Baku as a bargaining chip," she said.

"Promising something that isn't hers to give?"

"We can discuss that point with her when she gets here. I just hope this Pyrope isn't expecting those officers to still be in the stasis pods if she gets the ship back."

Some captains would have been intimidated if the admiral came to their room to discuss strategy. But Janeway had been Kim's captain for seven years, and he could tell she wasn't trying to take over the situation.

He glanced back at the bridge. "Bsictiu says that her transmission back to starbase had the EMH's security code attached."

"They must have taken away her access codes if she's using the Doctor to send messages for her. Either they don't trust her, or she's just not willing to abandon her post."

"Well, she's taking a pretty big risk. She must know she can't take the Baku back from us once it gets here."

Janeway pulled out a data pad. "I did a little digging on this captain. Lars Barriga. Human. No record of service in Starfleet, or any other Federation fleet, for that matter. Place of birth: Beach City, Delaware."

"Torra's hometown."

"Apparently he was a normal teenager the last time she saw him. Now he's got a ship and a small crew of Gems following him."

"How many?"

"Either five or ten. Depending on how you count."

So some of the Gems on his crew were fusions, then. Kim had served with a fusion once, very briefly. It showed him how two people could come together to create something special. But since the fusion had been created by accident, without the consent of his component parts, Janeway had made the decision to take them apart. Kim wondered if Janeway was still second-guessing that decision even now.

"If you're thinking about taking the Rhode Island there to defend it," Janeway said, "there's still time."

Kim considered the options. "They've got two ships to defend and no more than a dozen people to do it. But Lars seemed to think they could handle it on their own. And bringing in a large ship like the Rhode Island could escalate the situation."

Janeway nodded in understanding. "Causing a fight where none may be necessary."

She paused.

"Harry, none of us have as much information as we would like. But someone still has to make this decision. And that person is the captain. Now... if you want my advice, I'm sorry to say that I don't know any better than you do. But just remember that we have a duty to protect the lives of our officers - both on that ship, and on this one."

Chapter Text

Pyrite had gotten bored again and was trying to practice sleeping (Peridot had gotten so good at it!) when Lars walked in.

"How did you manage to send a message from here?" he asked. "I thought we revoked your access codes."

"It wasn't from me."

Lars looked at his data pad.

"Of course. The hologram sent it for you."

"Now that doesn't mean he's on my side," Pyrite said. You're clearly the good guys here."

"Then why didn't you join us?"

"Because I like where I am and what I do, and frankly, I don't have the guts to risk it."

"Not even to save hundreds of lives?"

"I never said I wasn't selfish. Back on the station, I'm in a position where my limitations aren't relevant, and my strengths are capialized upon. When I came to Homeworld for the first time, it was like finding the glass slipper. Everything fit so perfectly. I just wish it could be like that for everyone. Too bad I'm not the kind of person who can make that happen."

Lars began to walk out of the room before stopping and looking back at Pyrite.

"You know... Emerald's ship has been within firing range for five minutes. And she hasn't fired on us. I think your gambit might have paid off."

Lars walked down the corridor of the Baku, trying to kill time. As he walked past the door to sickbay, it opened and he saw Connie standing on the other side.

"Who are you, Lars Barriga?" she asked.

"Well, I'm actually from-"

"I know who you were two years ago, when Steven put you into our holoprogram. But how does someone like that end up in space on a Gem starship?"

"Steven made a hologram of me? When I was an awkward teenager?" Lars ran through the door, past Connie, before remembering it was the sickbay and not the holodeck. "How did he get my pattern?"

He collected himself.

"I don't have time to go through it now. Once we get to the Rhode Island, you'll have your memories back."

Connie walked over to Lars as he rummaged through a drawer. "Why are you not involving me in this?" she asked.

"I'm not going to make you fly a starship for me! I'm the one who took on this responsibility, and I'm going to see it through."

"You need to let people help you, Lars."

"Of all the people to say that. You did exactly the same thing to Steven. And boy, did he let you have it." He pulled out a handful of hyposprays and closed the drawer. "I guess it looks different from the other side."

"And by the way," Connie said, "if you're going to steal the ship I'm on, I'd like to hear about it from you, and not from Ronaldo."


"Well, where do you think a Ronaldo hologram gets his wild theories from?"

"...The ship's computer."

"Would you have boarded the ship and taken it back to the Federation if I weren't here?" asked Connie.

"I've seen the way you and Steven support each other," Lars said. "I don't want to see one of you grow up while the other stays 12 years old for who knows how long."

"Then why don't you just beam me over to your ship?"

Lars walked over to the sickbay's office area, enclosed behind a glass wall, and sat down at the desk. Connie followed him in.

"Do you know who this office belongs to?" he asked.

"The chief medical officer?"

"You don't know who that is, do you?"

Connie shook her head.

"Computer, show the chief medical officer's personnel file."

Displaying personnel file for Dr. Priyanka Maheswaran.

Her name and image appeared on the screen at the desk. Lars swung the screen around to show it to Connie, who leaned in to read it.

"The reason you ended up on this ship in the first place," said Lars, "is because your parents are here. You and your dad never got to see your mom very often once she transferred from the Navigator. So you came over for a visit." He sighed. "If not for that, you'd have been back on Earth not knowing if your mom was still alive. I don't know if that's better or worse."

The door suddenly opened, and Peridot walked in.

"Lars! There you are. It doesn't look like the other Gems are going to attack us, thanks to your friend's offer."

"You mean Pyrite?" Connie asked.

"She told Pyrope that she could have the Baku back once we were all off it," explained Lars.

"It's not hers to give! What if Starfleet doesn't let her keep it, and they come after us?"

Lars shrugged. "Not much we can do. That's for Janeway to worry about."

Chapter Text

Captain's log, stardate 73942.6. The Baku and Crossbow have arrived at our position. The pursuing ships are holding position just outside of our weapons range. A group of engineers led by Lt. Cmdr. Nog has begun restoring life support, one section at a time.

Captain Kim entered one of the Rhode Island's conference rooms. Admiral Janeway was already there, along with Torra, Bsictiu, and a handful of others.

"Starfleet has given me the responsibility to decide what to do with the Baku," the admiral said. "As you probably all know, Pyrite has informed her superior officer that she intends to keep the ship itself. I've spoken with her, and I can tell you that she still intends to fulfill her promise."

"Would she even have a chance in a fight against Starfleet?" Kim asked.

"The Gem forces would eventually be defeated, of course," Torra said. "But we can't know at what cost."

"I'd be reluctant to risk lives just to keep an empty ship."

"It's not just about us keeping the ship," said Bsictiu. "Starfleet vessels use advanced and sometimes dangerous technology. We might want to keep it out of their hands."

"We should keep in mind that they've had complete control of the ship for two years," noted Janeway. "Whatever they wanted to find out about us, I'm guessing they know it by now."

"An Intrepid-class ship has some pretty advanced technology," Kim said. "Tricyclic input manifolds, landing and takeoff gear, bio-neural gel packs. It could take them longer than a couple of years to figure out how it all works."

Bsictiu perked up at the mention of gel packs. "Isn't this a non-biological species we're talking about?" he asked. "The bio-neural technology is by far the most innovative feature of the Intrepid-class, but I doubt they'd be interested in it. Everything else, they likely have already."

"I'd have to concur," said Torra. "You can't always tell from the outside, but in their culture, the line between a person and an object is not a clear one. In cases where we would develop some sort of new technology, they would likely just create more of themselves."

"We still have to consider what might happen if the ship falls into the hands of a third party," Janeway said. "But I'm starting to think it's worth the risk. If anyone thinks of something we haven't considered, let me know."

Pyrite wasn't the only person on the Baku who had contacted the Rhode Island once the jamming stopped. Connie had called too, and Janeway noticed how talking with Steven seemed to put her mind at ease. The admiral figured she should take a page out of their book and discuss the situation over subspace radio with one of her own closest friends.

"Have you chosen a course of action?" asked Tuvok. A Starfleet officer from Vulcan who had served with Janeway on many occasions, Tuvok had proven himself to be a reliable source of advice over the years.

"I'm going to let her have the ship," Janeway told him. "Once everyone is safely on the Rhode Island, of course, and no later."

"I trust you have considered the risk of giving an antagonistic entity ongoing access to a Starfleet vessel."

"These Gems aren't like the Borg. The Borg want to achieve perfection, but the Gems think they already have it. They don't adopt other cultures' technology, even when it would be advantageous for them to do so. They have time travel, but they don't use it. They've developed portable holographic replicators, and I haven't seen them use those either."

"Their technology, in many ways, is beyond ours."

"They can even shapeshift at will, and yet you almost never see them take advantage of that ability. With how much emphasis their leaders put on doing things by the book, I don't think they'd want to use our technology to get an advantage over their enemies."

Chapter Text

Lars had made his way from the Baku just in time to watch his ship, the Crossbow, land in cargo bay 1 of the Rhode Island. He took out a flip-open communicator device, a cheap but reliable Tellarite model.

"Lars to Flourite. How are the engines holding up?"

"Impulse engines are operational. Our warp drive is burned out and will need to recharge for at least two days."

"Perfect. We can tell Emerald that so she doesn't think we're stalling." It was still weird for Lars to hear the slow, careful voice of the Gem engineer coming through a Federation communicator. He would rather use Gem tech, but the Homeworld Gems didn't have much need for handheld walkie-talkies, not when they were never ordered to leave their posts.

Pearl and Amethyst walked in, accompanied by Captain Kim and a couple of security officers.

"This is an impressive cargo bay," said Pearl.

"It's nothing compared to the shuttle bay on Intrepid-class ships like the Baku," Kim told her. "You'd be surprised how much you can fit in there." He started walking over to Lars. "So from what I understand, you're a wanted man on the Gem homeworld, but you haven't gotten into any trouble here."

Judging from Kim's tone of voice, it didn't sound like the Starfleet captain saw Lars as an enemy. Hopefully he could avoid answering too many questions.

"I grew up in Federation space," Lars said, "and there are certain things I'd rather leave behind. But my crew probably doesn't want to live on a starship forever. I'm hoping you can find a place for them. And for these two." He gestured towards Pearl and Amethyst.

"Do you have a planet with rocks?" Amethyst asked.

Pearl pulled Amethyst aside. "Don't be silly," she said. "We can always replicate our own rocks."

Kim turned to Lars and smiled.

"The Federation has over a hundred and sixty members," he said. "I'll see to it that we find a place for them. Will Peridot be joining us as well?"

Lars shook her head. "I have a feeling she won't be sticking around."

Pyrite had been given her own guest quarters on the Rhode Island. It looked like it was big enough for two or three people. But Pyrite had it all to herself, and - collection of pillows of varied softness levels notwithstanding - it seemed, well, lonely.

The doorbell rang.

"Come in."

The door opened, and Peridot walked through. She looked around admiringly.

"Quite the upgrade."

Pyrite smirked. "I guess they don't feel like they need to keep me locked up when I'm the only Homeworld Gem on a ship of over a hundred Starfleet officers."

"What do you mean, only?" asked Peridot. "Do you think I'm going with them?"

"Well, why wouldn't you? You're in Federation space. There's no way anyone back home could catch you."

Peridot tossed a pillow off a chair so she could sit down. "I'll admit, I had considered it," she said. "The technology aboard this ship alone is incredible. It's years beyond anything I've seen before."

"But you don't want to stay?" asked Pyrite. "When Lars took over the ship, you changed your uniform. I assumed it meant you weren't loyal to Yellow anymore."

"I wouldn't say I have anything against her. But she's not the reason I'm going back."

"Then what is?"

"You! I want to keep studying the Baku with you, and whatever other ship shows up."

Pyrite felt like she was going to jump out of her chair. But she just leaned back and smiled. "Heh. You might be the first person to ever seek out a Pyrite. Usually people are disappointed when they end up with us."

"Are you familiar with 'friends?'" Peridot asked.

"The show?"

"No, of course I don't mean the show. I've seen you watch all ten seasons on Amethyst's TV."

Pyrite sighed. "I've been around for five and a half centuries, but I've really only made one friend. And she's not going to remember any of it soon enough."

"Well, you can make that two! And I hereby promise never to become an organic being."

"That's a relief."

"Indeed. I think one Steven is enough for all of us."

Chapter Text

Engineering log, stardate 73946.8. Acting chief engineer Nog reporting. Now that life support is up and running on the Baku, we've started bringing its crew out of stasis. Our medical staff is here making sure there are no immediate health concerns among the Baku's crew before we begin transporting them over to the Rhode Island.

The Baku's sickbay was as busy as Connie had ever seen it. A handful of the crew members were being checked by staff from the Rhode Island. Connie, though, seemed to be okay... well, at least physically.

Most of the crew members populating the sickbay, including Connie's mom, had spent two years in stasis units. Those things were designed to keep you alive. Connie, though, had been stuck in a transporter buffer - and apparently, she had been concious that whole time, inhabiting a character on the holodeck.

But she didn't remember any of it.

"You can probably go over to the Rhode Island, Mom. It seems like they have everything under control."

"I'm still the chief medical officer of this ship, Connie. It's my duty to be there for the crew."

Nog, an engineer from the Rhode Island, walked through the sickbay door. Connie had seen him around the ship in the past few hours - it's hard not to remember a Ferengi in a Starfleet uniform.

He gave Connie's mother a small nod. "Dr. Maheswaran."

"What's the ship's status, commander?"

"The repairs to the warp engine are pretty much complete, so we're almost ready to begin testing. Starfleet says they'll wait to put in everyone's transfers until they're off the ship."

As Nog was talking, Connie noticed that someone had followed him into the room: a small kid, not much older than she was. She ran over to sit down next to him.

"I know it's been over two years," she said. "It feels like just yesterday we were together on the Navigator."

"Do I look any older?" Steven asked.

"It's like you haven't aged a day." Connie looked down at her hands. "Whereas I actually haven't."

"Are you okay? Do you want to talk about it?"

"Maybe not right now. I suppose that's why these ships have counselors. When you think about all the strange things that happen in outer space, becoming a hologram for two years doesn't seem that unusual."

"Won't it be weird to go back home and see everyone older than you?"

"I haven't lived in one place very long since my dad and I moved to Earth. I didn't know anyone that well."

The two sat quietly for a moment.

"I don't remember most of what happened when my mind was inside the transporter," Connie said. "That's what bothers me. It feels like waking up from a long dream."

"Do you remember anything?"

"Only a faint picture. I was here in sickbay, with my mom. She says it was the last moment before they beamed me out."

"Did you see Pyrite?"

"I don't think she was there. I don't even remember what she looks like."

"I wonder if you should go talk to her."

Captain Kim sat down next to Torra with a plate of grilled asparagus. He had already eaten, but he wanted to be in the same place as rest of the crew.

"Torra. You see Amethyst over there? Don't you think it's a bit unusual for a Gem to come to the mess hall?"

"Gems don't have to eat," Torra said, "but I think Amethysts like to."

"One Amethyst likes to. I just had a conversation with her. Sounds like you two have met."

"The Amethyst I knew was a bit sho..."

She looked over at Amethyst.

"She's wearing some sort of prosthetic limbs, isn't she? What's her ID?"

"Facet 5, cut 8XM."

"Holy smokes. I bet Steven knew right away. But he never tells me things unless I ask." Torra sighed. "I need to start asking more follow-up questions."

Amethyst walked over to their table and took a seat. "So, Captain Kim and I decided. I'm gonna take your bedroom."

"The one in Beach City, or the one here?" Torra asked.

"Here. And it's gonna get so messy."

"Messes only bother me if they're my messes. If it's your fault, I don't care."

"Amethyst," the captain asked, "have you been to Beach City before?

"I was on a scouting mission. Well... Peridot was on a scouting mission. I was just a bodyguard. And a pretty good one too."

"You mostly just hung out at Vidalia's house," Torra said.

Amethyst shrugged. "Not my fault there was nobody to protect Peridot from."

"What was the nature of the mission?" asked Kim.

"Checking up on an old facility," Amethyst said. "They built it back when they were gonna colonize Earth. Before they, you know, gave up. But they had put a lot of work in to make those quartzes, and they wanted to make sure they got 'em all."

"You're a quartz, right?"

"Yeah. That's where I came from."

"Well, this is quite the group. All three of our species come from Earth, and yet here we are, meeting on a starship in the middle of deep space."

"Well, we're all going back to Earth, aren't we? It's not like I can go back to Homeworld now."

"Pearl and Peridot are in the same boat, right?" asked Torra.

"At least Peridot can say she helped us because she's the only one who knew how to fly it," said Amethyst. "I don't have much of an excuse."

"I grew up on Earth," Kim said, "near Starfleet headquarters in San Francisco. It's quite the cosmopolitan place, if you're looking for somewhere to stay for a while."

Amethyst smiled. "Thanks, but I think I've already got a place in mind."

Pyrite's doorbell rang again. This time, she got up and opened the door herself.

"Hi there."

Connie laughed. "You could just ask the computer to open it for you."

"I guess that Pike hologram has been rubbing off on me." It was hard to know what to say. Pyrite knew Connie wouldn't remember her. "Did you ever find out who connected the transporter to the holodeck?"

"There was a project on that ship to study whether it was possible to keep someone in a transporter buffer like that. The room was supposed to be off limits. But after I got locked out of deck 14, where all the stasis units were, I remembered the experiment. I don't know why the security system let me in, but I figured it might keep me alive."

"I know you don't remember, well, anything about me. Right? Then... why'd you come?"

"I didn't want to leave without seeing you," Connie said. "I might not have those memories, but they're all still in the Baku's computer. I've seen some of them. We spent a lot of time together."

"It must not mean a whole lot to you."

"But it means something to you. And I'm glad that I was able to be with you. I could tell how lonely you were on that ship."

"Funny, isn't it? That ship was a way for me to be alone, to get away from everyone else and just focus on my work. And it's the perfect job for someone like me. But I guess it just goes to show that nobody can be alone forever."

Pyrite glanced over to the bed - and a sleeping Peridot, wearing kids' pajamas, laying sideways on top of the sheets.

"She asked to come back with me," Pyrite said. "I think we're going to be working pretty closely from now on. Hopefully it'll be good for me to have some company."