Disclaimer - Paramount...snort...
Another Doc story!
This would never have been written if I hadn't read Dr Jekyl's *wonderful* 'Sunset'. Without a doubt my favourite Doc author.
It had not occurred to anyone that a hologram might need shore leave.
Five years. Five years since he was activated, and his name had never once been put forward for even a few hours of shore leave. Perhaps it was his own fault. Perhaps if he had been able to decide on a name it would have appeared, he would have seen it posted on the computer.
He didn't believe much in self-denial and rejected the ridiculous idea out of his database.
Whenever the ship came upon an appropriate class planet which had friendly or no natives at all, everyone was invited to partake of a little R and R. Human, Talaxian, Klingon, Bolian, Vulcan and the other numerous races that composed their crew. Some declined - more often than not the Captain did, still sticking to her self-imposed notion that she couldn't relax simply because she was in charge.
Everyone was invited, coerced, nudged.
Except him. Except the token hologram.
Free to toil in sickbay day after day, year after year - they all seemed to blur together now - but never once receiving recognition in any other form than a 'thanks'. Didn't they understand how much more he needed? He had some of the galaxies greatest medical minds inside him. He needed so much more than the four walls and the arbitrary freedom that the mobile emitter provided him with. The thing had become a blessing and a curse; allowing him to beam down to planets for emergencies, but never used to beam down to a planet just because he wanted to, just because he wanted to experience something other than bulkheads and consoles, hyposprays and beige carpeting.
So he had gone to Commander Chakotay and requested some shore leave.
The Commander had tried not to look surprised and even managed it passably well, but the Doctor's optical sensors were far more able to decipher the minutiae of facial expressions; the barest shifting of the eyes, the slightest tightening of the features before he smiled.
"Of course Doctor. When would you like to beam down?"
He was all too accommodating then. Quite pleased to rearrange other peoples schedules so that the Doctor could go when he wanted to. Progress? He didn't dare hope.
It was done, authorised. As he left the Commander's office, the Doctor noticed that he reached for a PADD and was typing something in. He could just imagine what it read:
'Note to self - invite the hologram next time.'
He couldn't even produce a smirk at the thought.
Now he stood on the cliff-edge of the planet they had been orbiting, staring at the vista. The sea was different here than in the holoprogrammes and pictures of Earth he had accessed. Greener, more translucent. He wasn't sure why he had expected it to look like Earth, the planet had no special meaning for him. His entire life before Voyager had consisted of a single room inside a research lab on a space station a quadrant away.
The surf was calm, at odds with the holoprogrammes he had experienced. The sea was almost soothing, waves crashing only out of necessity and for once not seeming to be reflecting his mood. Not for the first time he considered what it would be like to take a step off-
"You look lonely."
The voice belonged to the native he had met when he had beamed down. She was named Juneta and like all her race was predominantly humanoid, the largest difference being the magnificent wings that arced from her back. It was the first time he had personally encountered a race that was capable of independent flight without the aid of technology and had to admit that he found their physiology fascinating. He did not ask her about it. He did not ask for permission to scan her, to see exactly how it was possible that she could fly. Even for something that extraordinary he would have to wait because he would not sacrifice a moment of his time here. He had come to the cliff to avoid the crew, to avoid those who spoke with contradictions and insincere platitudes.
Maintaining his view of the horizon, he began to speak. "I was just wondering what it would be like..."
"To?" She urged.
She would probably understand the sentiment, but not why he did. He knew from the talk aboard Voyager that the Lamati were particularly proud that they could travel without technological assistance. He was a hologram. He was the culmination of everything they weren't proud of.
Yet he continued. There wasn't any way he couldn't.
"To step off. To be completely free."
Dramatically she peered over the edge herself. "That would not free you from the problems that you face."
"I don't mean that I'm going to commit suicide-"
"I know that," She teased, something that he thought could be a smile passing over her face. "Then why don't you? I understand that you're a hologram. You would survive the fall, correct?" There was no censure in her voice; perhaps a little expectation.
Lifting his shoulder he nodded towards the emitter. "This is what allows me to exist outside of our sickbay. If it got damaged..." He let the implication linger. She could figure it out for herself.
"I see," was her response and they resumed their view of the sea together.
A short while later he heard movement and - assuming that she had left - sighed in relief. A human reflex that he had acquired in his misguided attempt to become more like them.
Something touched his shoulder. Then another something touched his shoulder.
"Do not worry Mr Doctor," Juneta whispered. "You will enjoy this."
As his feet began to lift from the ground, he decided to believe her.
Moving away from the cliff and over the edge the full implication of the situation set in and he was struck by a sudden fear. What if he fell? What if his emitter were damaged? What if-
"I can practically hear your subroutines yelling at each other. Just enjoy it." She advised him, still maintaining a smooth and slow course.
Swallowing, he looked down. He had never seen his feet dangling before. Focusing on the sea he watched as it whizzed by, small waves crashing together, unknown species of birds resting comfortably on top of the water.
The further they travelled, the more he enjoyed himself. She flew faster, her wings flapping - loud and comforting - behind them. He allowed himself something he had never had the opportunity to do before - to embrace utter sensation.
Dipping down suddenly towards the sea Juneta told him nothing but he trusted her. Angling off just before they made contact with the water, she flew above the surface faster and faster, letting the spray play against his face, the light wind blowing around him. He smiled.
Just as suddenly as she had dipped she jerked them upwards towards the sky, somehow flying even faster. Closing his eyes he felt the wind intensify but not to disturbing levels; it merely felt as if he were cocooned by something comfortable, the arms of a friend.
They flew faster, higher, him embracing the sensation of the sun - the *real* sun - on his skin. His stomach was surging. He knew the physiological aspects of pleasure and excitement and the effects they would have on particular humanoids, but he couldn't possibly feel it himself. He was a hologram. He didn't have the biological capacity to produce adrenalin.
It felt like it. It felt so much like it.
Tipping his head back and letting the wind pass through the little hair he had, he laughed.
They flew up, down, sideways, between a flock of birds...
It was as they passed the cliff again to see some of the natives looking at them that Juneta spoke. Or, more accurately, yelled. "Do you begin to comprehend it Mr Doctor? Do you feel the glory of it?"
"Not loud enough," She retorted, angling to the left. "I can barely hear you."
It was almost bursting out of him. "YES!!"
She laughed and it *was* glorious.
They continued flying and he continued shouting words that were understood by no one but made so much sense when he yelled them. This was so right. So perfect.
It came to an end when she began to slow and came to a stop. Disappointed, he opened his eyes. Then smiled.
Watching as the two Lamati who had been on the cliff-edge came nearer, he lifted his arms silently and then grinned as one grabbed each arm and Juneta lowered herself until she had her arms wrapped around his waist. "Are you ready, Mr Doctor?"
"I'm more than ready, Ms Juneta."
Chuckling, she gave him a quick squeeze before signalling the beginning of their journey with a loud flap of her wings. Immediately all three began thumping their mighty wings, their combined strength propelling him faster and higher.
He rose up, up, arms spread wide to embrace the sky as it hurtled towards him, blues and greens whizzing by. In one of his more fanciful moments he suspected that they could propel him far enough to see Voyager herself.
For the first time in months the thought of that name didn't produce a frown.
He was completely free.
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