by Rada Dengar
-=Holodeck Two, USS Serendipity=-
-=Holodeck Two, USS Serendipity=-
Rada Dengar was rarely a man to be found indulging in holodeck fantasy. Experience had taught him that fantasies almost inevitably followed a twisted, perverted path to the destruction of all he held dear, and he found little relaxing about that.
However, this mystery gift was beginning to drive him slightly crazier than he could afford to be seen acting, and he lacked even the most basic idea of where to begin looking to discover its origins.
All things considered, especially those things which happened to be that he was an alien on a twenty-fourth century starship, the odds were not greatly in favour of that mystery being revealed at nine in the morning in a quiet London restaurant early in the twentieth century. Nonetheless, that was where he found himself today.
Strange looks and hushed laughter abounded as he entered, and the bell on the door drew many eyes to his direction. Whispers began amongst the waitstaff and the seated customers alike; men in women dressed in suits, dresses and funny hats, all apparently considering this perfectly normal attire for the consumption of a meal which he’d generally eat in his pyjamas.
Rada paid little attention to their chattering, though he did begin to think that just maybe he should have changed out of his Starfleet uniform before he came. He had the impression that he may as well have shown up covered in tinfoil for how well he’d fit on.
He didn’t wish to have to replicate some twentieth century clothes though and have further records of this bizarre personal activity be generated. The alternative would simply have been to use holographic clothing and there was no way he was risking that. It was all too easy to forget as a red alert was called and to rush outside to discover that free from the holodeck’s guidance, you’re really just wearing a small white pear of underwear in front of the Captain, Chief of Security or some sort of senior clergyman.
Still, he reminded himself that he was really just dealing with computer algorithms and that he should give their electronically generated heuristic opinions of him the same weight one would when a locked door beeped rudely and wouldn’t let them in. So he continued to move in, contemplating deleting a woman with a particularly cruel chortle.
Quickly though, he found himself intercepted by a rather pale gentleman who seemed to be himself suppressing a chuckle.
“Excuse me, Sir…This is a private establishment. I don’t think it likely you have a reservation…”
“I’m here to meet someone,” Rada explained, surveying the room in front of him then smiling as he recognised the face he was looking for. It was a face attached to the head of a stout bearded man, who for all the food on his plate was fussily examining his eggs to ensure they were both exactly the same size.
“Ah, and who’s that…?”
“That’s him,” Rada answered, beginning to move inward much to the pale gentleman’s irritation.
As he approached, Rada realised he’d been noticed, as the stout man’s face registered first surprise, to be replaced by a slightly awkward polite smile.
“I need to talk to you,” Rada said, taking the seat across to him to the stout man’s clear confusion and distaste at his meal being interrupted.
“Ah of course, my friend,” the man said insincerely, and Rada could tell that he was taking stock of his rather unusual clothing and more particularly of the bizarre and tortured mind that would choose to wear it. “So tell me, if you please, what it is you wish to be talking about?”
“Well, I know you’re a great detective...”
The man shook his head, and continued again to examine his eggs with his fork.
“No…?” Rada asked, wondering if he’d chosen the wrong program. “What do you mean, no?”
“I mean, no,” the man retorted quickly. “A great detective, I am not. I am in fact a detective entirely unique. I’m unsurpassably the greatest that ever lived. To say I am great is the most extreme of understatements.”
The man punctuated his statement by letting his fork fall and clatter onto the plate, as it became clear the eggs just didn’t measure up.
“I’m sorry…” Rada said, hoping he hadn’t offended him. “I didn’t mean to…”
The man sighed with irritation.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said, as he signalled for the waiter to come, take the offending food away, and try again. “I suppose if a man wishes to talk about how great I am, he can be forgiven for a little inaccuracy. It is perhaps best, is it not, to preserve a little modesty?”
Rada shrugged his shoulders awkwardly. “That’s actually not what I’m here for.”
“Ah, then you are here to make use of my detective’s mind? Perhaps you wish me to prove my greatness to you?” The man sounded like he was taking this as a challenge.
“I can pay you,” Rada said, knowing it’d be easy enough to have the holodeck make him some money.
“No,” the man replied, his voice losing intensity. “I don’t think so.”
“Oh, I’ve no doubt you could afford to pay. A man who dresses like that is either extremely stupid or quite wealthy, and the stupid find it harder to locate me.”
“Then what’s the problem?” Rada asked, noticing the man was barely even looking at him.
“The problem is I don’t take cases just for money,” he explained, looking longingly at the empty place setting before him. “First, you must capture my interest. So then tell me, what great mystery have you brought for my mighty mind to grapple with? A murderer that disappeared into thin air? A man seen dancing at a ball an hour after time of death?”
“Actually, it’s a children’s book.”
“A book?” the man furrowed his brow. “I see, and who did this book kill?”
“No one. Actually it just showed up.”
“By a body?”
“No, in the mail.”
“And it indicated someone would be killed?”
The man blinked once in confusion.
“I don’t think you quite understand what I do…”
“I want to know who sent it,” Rada explained, quietly leaning in as if not wanting anyone to overhear.
Realising that really was all Rada wanted, the man was clearly not amused. He began to scowl.
“Have you tried the return address?”
“There wasn’t one.”
“I see. So you come here, and you interrupt my meal,” he gestured towards the table where his meal had been, then remembering the waiter had taken it he pointed at him instead, “for this?”
“Perhaps I should have gone to someone else,” Rada muttered.
“I’m certain you should,” the detective answered, his food finally being placed in front of him again, but the eggs now looking even worse. He sighed and looked up to Rada again. “So, why didn’t you?”
“Because you’re supposed to be the best,” Rada replied, slightly despondent at the ridiculousness of being in a situation where a fictional character in a holodeck fantasy was refusing to cooperate. “At least that’s what I was told. Personally, I hadn’t even heard of you.”
Now the man looked offended. He leant back in his chair and fixed an incredulous stare onto Rada.
“Haven’t heard of me? Where have you been living? The moon?!”
Rada simply shrugged his shoulders, and contemplated the man this hologram was based upon.
“I’m starting to wonder, actually, if your reputation wasn’t exaggerated anyway. I mean, if you can’t even find out who sent a book…”
The man only continued looking offended for a half a second, before he suddenly smiled slightly, seeing exactly what Rada was doing.
“Won’t, not can’t,” he replied, warming to his guest all of a sudden. “But since I like you, and since it appears I’ll be stranded here several hours waiting on some decent eggs, I’ll give you a hint to help with your inquiries. Always ask the victim.”
“The victim of the great book sending of 2389?”
“Well, it works best for murder,” the man replied, indicating for the eggs to be taken again.
“That probably makes interviews harder.”
“Yes, but in some cases more pleasant,” the man retorted, though it was clearly not meant to be taken harshly.
Rada paused, contemplating this information. Finally he looked to the detective again.
“But what if the victim doesn’t know?”
“It doesn’t matter. You don’t ask him what he knows. Ask him who he is. Only that will determine why someone would want him dead.”
“Or to own a children’s book?”
“Yes, exactly,” the detective confirmed. “To find out who sent that book, you must first find out what it is about you that made them want you to have it.”
Rada stopped again a moment to think about this.
“Thanks,” he finally said, although he still wasn’t really sure how this helped him.
“No problem at all,” the detective answered, as Rada stood up from the table. “Oh, and just one more thing.”
“What’s that?” Rada asked.
“A good detective trusts no one to be completely honest with them,” he added without a hint of humour. “Don’t forget that.”
Rada nodded that he wouldn’t.
Lt. Commander Rada Dengar
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012