In which Tom crashes a car, Harry dates a real cow, and Janeway is queen of the Sidhe.
Tom is tooling around Fairhaven on what is less a car and more an actual horseless carriage. Not very well, as it turns out. Once he crashes and gives some money to the town drunk, it’s off to Castle O’dell, which is said to be haunted by the Queen of the Faeries at night. Once the town drunk goes off, Paris has the computer fix his tire, but the drunk hears, and is also no longer programmed to ignore console commands. Side note, there’s a whole genre of short story where the narrator is an NPC in Skyrim talking about the insane dragonborn running around eating ninety million apples in the middle of a swordfight.
So Seamus the Drunk goes to tell the rest of the town, with some limited success. Mike Sullivan in particular doesn’t believe him and the implication of the rest of Paris’ friends, including Katie O’Clare. But this is a superstitious town, including having built-in legends of strangers coming into town and bewitching it. The legend seems to make the program somewhat unfriendly to ‘visitors,’ particularly if the characters aren’t programmed to ignore the standard comings and goings of the crew. Now, it also strikes me that always-on is something of an abnormal mode for a holoprogram. Vic’s eventually got there, but Vic was always aware he was a hologram. The Voyager crew have had a couple – the french pub, the tropical spa, and now this. Oh, and the Doctor. It seems like the longer a holoprogram is running, the more likely it is to pick up abberant, unexpected, or emergent traits.
Harry’s falling in love with another holoprogram, and Tom’s ribbing about it gives Torres the chance to tell us that the continuous use is causing maintenance problems. Tom’s planning to ‘help’ Harry by pranking him, probably incessantly until he dates a real woman and makes their working relationship awkward forever, so he follows Harry out to the date, and is stalked by Seamus and timid friend. While Harry spits cheesey lines, Tom pulls out a remote control and turns Maggie into a cow just as Harry leans in. They’re called away before he can turn her back.
The only person to go to is Father The Doctor, who is in the middle of waxing wroth in a sermon about loving thy neighbor. When Seamus brings Cow Maggie into the church he is no more amused than one might expect, but dead-set on covering up the reconfiguration. He resets her, but she retains some vague memories of ‘the strangest dream,’ which tracks as being led around town wearing a bell.
Seamus’ friend Milo has a story about Harry Kim changing the weather. Some other woman has a story about Katie O’Clare rescuing her daughter from a well, without a scratch on it. They even have stories of Father Mulligan vanishing, and they also notice that Neelix looks like a leprechaun.’ Sullivan tries to keep a lid on it, but the rumblings are about and it’s not easy to quell. Perhaps he’ll be able to do something on their date, where he gives her a copy of The Faerie Queene. He confronts her, gently, about the strange happenings and also some checking with friends in County Clare, which I would hope that procedural interpolation in the holodeck program would backfill for her but I guess not. When he gets overly intrusive, she ends the program.
Confirmation that the holodeck characters simply should not be capable of asking that question comes when she goes to ask Tom just what he did when building it. Or rebuilding it, after the Incident. He added some ‘bells and whistles.’ Indeed, engineering analysis determines that constant-run holodeck programs are just a bad idea unless you want them to develop sapience. Indeed, when Harry and Tom try to isolate individual characters for repair, those characters remain active. He panics for a bit, then hears them explain that there are filters designed to keep him from noticing ‘off’ elements and those subroutines are offline. Sullivan, as modified by Janeway, is smart enough to play along. Having been fooled by him into thinking they fixed it, they decide to copy-paste the same fix into everyone, which they have to do with the program running for some reason.
As soon as Sullivan is transferred back to the bar, he goes running to assemble the experts. Meanwhile, Tom and Harry did, in fact, double-check their work. Too late to stop him from talking, but in time to stop them from walking unaware into a lynch mob. In her self-pitying conversation with Chakotay about having a boyfriend who’s a hologram, she also drops that holoprgrams are somewhere in the range of a standard household bulb, but does it in really weird units. Who says “300 deciwatts” in place of ‘3o watts.’ Janeway, that’s who. His advice, since she can’t tell the truth, is to ‘get creative.’ Since this program doesn’t fit the science fiction paradigm, I’m sure she’ll go with the Sidhe one.
Sullivan and the Town Doc discuss his abduction experience, and later Tom and Harry sneak into the pub to begin programming. Once they show up, the town starts to muster and prepare. They have rifles, but are far more psyched about red twine, incantaions, and ashberries. When the call comes, the mob is loosed, and neither of them can even shout ‘computer, freeze program.’ Not because they don’t have time, but because they’re dumb. I can only issue the apologetic that maybe this is like Vic’s ‘adventure mode’ to them – an extra genre-savvy challenge that, since there’s not a hostile Hirogen force or negative space wedgie out there compounding things, should be enjoyed and played straight rather than cheated around. Of course, that attitude goes right out the window when Milo shoots the console, which disengages the safetys that didn’t prevent Milo from shooting the console. Now they freeze the program, but since the program is damaged they only get 62% compliance. When the exit also fails tocappear, they are herded away.
Apparnetly they can’t beam Tom and Harry out of the holodeck because there are ‘too many stray photons.’ Look, it’s nighttime in there. I just don’t have words for this one, I’m sorry. Seven advocates a security incursion, but the locals are also armed. Torres advocates pulling the plug, but that’ll wipe the program. Janeway refuses to wipe her boyfriend unless it’s the only option. Therefore, transport enhancers. The Doctor is the obvious choice, with his mobile emitter to isolate him from the holodeck malfunctions. Of course, they don’t know that his cover is compromised too.
Harry and Tom are tied up in a salt circle having berries thrown at them, when they stubbornly refuse to disappear because of the excorcism. Sullivan has their ‘box of charms’ – a datapad and tricorder, and various other tools. The Doctor takes this moment to burst in full of fire and brimstone, and uncover his mobile emitter. When they remove it, he reengages with the holodeck proper. So when Seamus tries to hypnotize him, his engagement in the program may make it work. Or he may be smart enough to play along like Sullivan did.
He tells them about Voyager, and once the hypnotism works they find in the book that a spirit’s true name will banish it. Of course, the Doctor has no name. Sullivan asks how he can get to the other world and survive it, and the Doctor indicates the mobile emitter. Janeway beams it to the bridge, and Sullivan with it. His judgement is that Voyager is ‘stranger than America.’ Janeway is backed into telling him the whole truth. And giving him a tour of the real world. Chakotay is, very clearly, jealous. But the way she fits it into his world is that her crew just enjoy hanging around Fair Haven. Sullivan is open-minded, but without him the townsfolk are building pyres.
Cue the diplomacy. Janeway takes Sullivan back to the town and he explains things. Once it’s all on the table, Janeway offers to leave if they want, and everyone holds hands and makes up. Sadly, there’s still the repairs to do, which means the program can’t be always-on. Janeway also decides to let this incident advance the metaplot, because it’ll be funny. She even gives Sullivan ‘A Conneticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court.’