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What if the Enterprise had to run using PCs?

STAR TREK: The PC Generation

A "radio play" by Brian Fristensky

Title: "Mission Critical"

A not so funny real life story: Software glitches leave Navy Smart Ship dead in the
water, Government Computer News, July 13, 1998.
see also: Johns, E. (1998) Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts. Naval Inst. Proceedings

SCENE: The bridge of USS Enterprise, Capt. Jean-Luc Picard commanding.

(Voice over): Captain's Log, Stardate 5962.4: The Enterprise is returning to duty after a three week layover at Starbase 12 for a computer refit. While the main computer system remains largely intact, the first part of a gradual phase-in of new computers has taken place. At several key sites on the bridge, terminals that were once directly linked as clients to the server cluster have been replaced with stand-alone computers, each specialized for a given station. While I have been quite satisfied by our centralized system, which has been the model of reliability, the Chief Information Officer at Starbase 12 assures me that Starfleet got "a great deal" on the new computers. He went on to say that ultimately, they will fill "all the mission critical computing needs for the Enterprise". It remains to be seen how they will perform in the field. The Enterprise is now returning to our exploration of the Hercules star cluster.

Wesley: Captain, I have an unknown spacecraft, bearing 418 Mark 6.

Captain: Scan them, Ensign.

Wesley: I can't do that. That software will only run on Worf's  tactical computer.

Captain: Scan them, Mr. Worf.

Worf: Captain! It's a Borg cube, directly in our flight path.

Riker: Deflector screens up!

Worf: Screens up.

Captain: Are they preparing to fire?

Worf: Engaging sensors... What? My computer is frozen!

Riker: What's wrong?

Worf: I don't know. It may be that the deflector driver has a conflict with the sensor driver. I'll have to reboot.

Riker: Worf, can you activate deflectors from another station?

Worf: No commander. The control hardware is in the computer itself.

Riker: Then we're a sitting duck! Damn it. Those devices used to be autonomous. What idiot decided to offload hardware instructions to a computer?

Picard: Data, can you access the Borg system? Maybe we can find out what they're up to.

Data: I shall have to move to the communications computer and interface it with my neural net. (Data moves).

Picard (impatiently): I don't understand this Number 1.  With terminals we used to be able to run any task from any station!

Riker: It was probably too expensive to install every program on all computers.

Data: I am attempting to interface with the Borg database. I am now accessing their database. The information is enormous, spanning thousands of assimilated species. I can't process it quickly enough. WARNING! MEMORY PROTECTION FAULT-.

Data freezes in mid-sentence.

Captain: Commander Data, respond. What's wrong with him?

Worf: I'm afraid, Captain, that Commander Data was also converted to the new system at Starbase 12.

Riker: We'd better reboot Data right away.

Captain: Lieutenant Worf, please boot Data. (pause)



- literally.

(Beep. Whirrrrrr)

Data: Beginning boot sequence.....

Troi: Captain. I sense a presence. Like nothing I've ever encountered before. All consuming, ruthlessly pragmatic. Cold. Calculating. And something else. This presence, its, its -

Wesley: Captain, something's downloaded into the command computer. It's starting the holo projector.

Troi: Look, it's a holographic entity. That face, I've seen it before. That grin. Those glasses.

Bill (voice shimmers electronically): YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. (snickers, and returns to normal voice) God, I love to say that!

Riker: YOU!

Bill: Just call me "Lord Bill".

Data: Now testing memory...

Picard: What are you doing here, with the Borg? Were you assimilated?

Bill: Assimilated, schmimilated. No, I bought them.

(Sound of gasps)

Riker (with sarcastic incredulity): You own the Borg?

Bill: Let's just call it a hostile takeover.

Data: Welcome to Windows $23.95. Checking for viruses...

Bill: Sheesh, is he running $23.95? Why don't you upgrade the poor schnook?

Riker: But why the Borg?

Bill: Simple. I've always wanted to rule the galaxy. And these are my kind of guys. Admittedly, they have a pretty limited range of converstation topics -- assimilate this, irrelevant that - but hey, they do what they're told!

Picard: Well, the Federation may not be able to defeat you alone, but you'll also have to contend with the Klingons-

Bill: - Own 'em.

Picard: - the Romulans -

Bill: Bought 'em last week.

Picard: - the Ferengi -

Bill: Amateurs!

Picard: - the Cardassians -

Bill: I control 54% of the shares.

Picard: You'll never assimilate the Enterprise!

Bill: Funny you should mention that. You know the refit you just had at Starbase 12?

Riker: How do you know about that?

Bill: I gave Starfleet a great deal.

Troi: My God!

Picard: There's only one thing to be done. Computer.

(Chorus of electronic voices) Which one?

Picard: Command computer

Command Computer: Working.

Picard: Begin autodestruct sequence, authorization Picard alpha 2 beta 4 gamma 5.

Computer: Confirmed. Ship will destruct in two minutes...

Bill: Ha, ha. You think I'm afraid of autodestruct. I'll just upload myself back to the Borg ship. You fools! COMPUTER.

(Chorus of electronic voices): Which one?

Bill: Command computer!

Command computer: Working.

Bill: Upload me to the Borg ship.

Command computer: That job can not be run at this time. Please wait until autodestruct is complete.

Bill: But you have multitasking!

Command computer: That job can not be run at this time. Please wait until autodestruct is complete.

Bill: Override previous program! Return me! Return! Return!  RETURN! RETURN...

Wesley: I think he's in an infinite loop.


Troi: He's disappeared!

Worf: The Borg ship! It's dead in space.

Data: I am now back online. In my breif encounter with the Borg, I discovered that Bill had tried to reprogram them, using the latest release of Windows $23.98. But the Collective was too huge. Too many simultaneous processes, thousands of drones, thousands of devices.

Riker: You mean... it wasn't scaleable?

Data: Precisely.

Picard: And Bill?

Data: Gone, Captain. He was not backed up.

Picard: Splendid! Well, I guess that takes care of the Borg and Lord Bill.

Command computer: 60 seconds to autodestruct. 59, 58, 57, 56...

Picard: Command computer, cancel autodestruct sequence, authorization Picard gamma 5 beta 4 alpha 3

Command computer: That job can not be run at this time. Please wait until autodestruct is complete. (resumes countdown)

Wesley: Captain, what do we do now?

Picard: Shut up Wesley, you twerp!

Command computer: 30, 29, 28, 27... (fades out)


Author's note: Actually, this story was NOT inspired by the Navy Smart Ship article cited above. I am reminded of a quote from Woody Allen's HUSBANDS AND WIVES, in which Mariel Hemmingway states that "Life doesn't imitate art, it imitates bad television."

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