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Return to Part Seven of Hotel California - White Slavery


The hold of the ship was small, rectangular, dark and it stank. There were four metal slabs that stuck out from the walls, and a small washbasin and toilet in one of the corners. A massive door stood along one of the shorter walls, and it had made a hollow sound when it was shut and barred behind them. The only redeeming feature was that it was warm. It would have been too warm if the slaves had been wearing clothing more elaborate than sleeveless, thigh-length leather tunics. The electronic collars of the slaver had been exchanged for heavier ones of thick leather, with rings set in them. Matching cuffs were around their wrists and ankles.

They didn’t speak to each other for quite some time. Finally the Antari roused enough to say, “I hate Klingons.”

“What do they want with us, anyway?” the red-haired Human said, his voice quavering. “We’re not strong enough for their manual labor.”

“What do you think they want us for?” the other male, with dark hair and Asian features spat. “We’re sport. Amusement. Entertainment.”

The red-head shivered. “They’re a lot stronger than…”

“Not than Vulcans,” the Antari snapped. “I think if we survived him, we can…”

The Indiian made a soft sound of distress, and the dark-haired Human said, “Just shut the fuck up about it.”

“Who’s gonna make me, Roy?” came the bitter return. “You?”

“Without the keheil attack squad, yeah, I think I can!” he blazed.

“After those damn collars, what’s the most you can do to me?” she shot back.

He rose. “You wanna see what I can do to you, Spike?”

“Ooh, is big, bad, scary samurai gonna eat me?” she mocked.

His face twisted into an ugly leer. “I can make you enjoy it, even without the collar,” he taunted.

“Stop it,” the red-head pleaded. “For the love of god, just stop it!”

The two turned to him, both snapping “Shut up, Riley!!” Then they stared at each other, blinking. The Antari looked away first, the Human shuddering.

“What are we doing?” Ruth whispered.

“We can’t really be in the hold of a Klingon ship,” Sulu said, his voice uncertain.

“But we’re not in the theater, either,” Kevin put in cautiously.

“Bets?” Ruth replied.

“Then why can’t we see it?” Sulu challenged. “Why aren’t we looking at a screen?”

“This really isn’t supposed to happen,” Kevin offered weakly. “Everything I’ve read about them…”

“Yeah, well, everything you read about them obviously wasn’t nearly enough,” Ruth scowled. “Now not only are we stuck in the damned theater, we’re stuck inside the stupid dramas!”

“Ruth, you’re telepathic, how can this be happening?” Sulu asked.

“How the hell do I know? The drug the slavers gave me…”

“But there were no slavers, Ruth,” Sulu pointed out. “There was no drug.”

“Are we so sure about that?” Kevin put in. “When we were in the bar, our drinks were….”

“We were never in any bar, dipshit!” Ruth snapped. “We haven’t left this damned theater all fucking day!”

“Has it only been one day?” Sulu asked wryly. He glanced around the dank cell, and took a deep breath before moving to where Jilla sat, unmoving. He knelt next to her. “Jilla?” he said softly. “Honey, come on, snap out of it. None of this is real, none of it happened.”

She turned her head slowly, her eyes empty.

“Ruth, help me,” Sulu called.

Ruth moved to him and Jilla, taking the Indiian’s hands. “We’re still in the psycho-cin, even though we can’t see it,” she said. “There wasn’t any slaver ship, just like we weren’t vampires and there’s no such person as Cassie or Lady Meghan. We aren’t Ril and Dei or Raw-eth and Jillie or even a pair of traders.”

“I’m certainly not a big dumb barbarian,” Sulu put in, in an attempt at humor.

Kevin came over to them. “And I’m not Igor,” he tried.

Ruth frowned at him. “Like she’d understand that reference even if we were all in our right minds.”

“Igor is the traditional fictional servant of the fictional Count Dracula,” Jilla said tonelessly, “whose legend was based on the historical Vlad Tsepesh of Romania, circa…”

“What did you do, swallow a library computer?” Ruth said, covering her shock. Next to her Kevin and Sulu exchanged startled glances.

“The library computer is a database containing all of the unclassified information available to the crew of a Federation starbase or starship…” Jilla recited.

“Hon, what’s wrong with you?” Sulu said warily.

“I am currently within a feedback loop of the psycho-cin theater on Daruis IV,” was the emotionless answer.

“What the hell…?!?”

Jilla glanced up, and there was a helpless pleading in her eyes. “Hell; the mythological home of the Christina Satan or Devil and his supposed minions, called demons, and where, according to Christian mythos, those who have sinned against God are sent for eternal punishment.”

“She’s tied into the psycho-cin database,” Ruth said, awed.

“How did that happen?” Sulu asked, his voice more than worried.

“I don’t know,” the Antari replied, blinking. She looked around her. “But I’ll bet it’s the reason we can’t get out of it.”

“But Indiians aren’t telepathic, they aren’t even empathic…” Kevin managed.

“She wasn’t like this before,” Ruth mused. “It has to have something in the last scenario…”

“We didn’t have a transition,” Sulu said, his arm protectively around Jilla. She had laid her head on his shoulder, trembling. “Could that have something to do with it?”

“Try asking her,” Kevin suggested. Ruth scowled at him. “Well, what could it hurt?”

The Antari took a deep breath. “Okay. Jilla, why are you tapped into the psycho-con database?”

“Unknown parameters,” she answered, tears starting in her eyes. “Unexpected data in file 261 Beta.”

“What does that mean?” Sulu said.

Ruth frowned. “It’s an error line from a program code,” she said, “but without the coding itself, it’s meaningless.”

“Can you get the entire code from her?” Kevin asked.

“You see any statboard or paper around here that I could write it down on for analysis?”

“Jilla,” Sulu said quietly, “Can you tell us why we can’t get out of here?”

“Unknown parameters. Unexpected data in file 261 Beta,” she repeated helplessly.


“Wait!” Ruth cut in. “Jilla, give screen interface exit parameters!”

“Exit…” Kevin began.

“The way out!” Sulu replied, cutting him off.

“Exit parameters off-line,” Jilla nearly sobbed. “Unexpected data in…”

“Yeah, file 261 Beta,” Ruth sighed in frustration.

“Why her and not you?” Kevin asked. “I mean, you’re the science officer, you’re telepathic, why wouldn’t it hook into…”

Ruth thumped her hand to her forehead. “Because I’m a telepath!” she cried. “My shields wouldn’t allow it. But Jilla’s sensitivity got overloaded. She shut down!”

“And that somehow triggered some kind of access to the main controller of the psycho-cin,” Sulu continued with mounting excitement.

“Okay, let me think,” Ruth said and began pacing. “Unexpected data. Unknown parameters. The program ran into something it didn’t expect, and it doesn’t know what to do with it. So it – and us – is stuck in a feedback loop, endlessly replaying the same code over and over…”

“But it’s still drawing on the headsets, so it keeps selecting its primary storylines,” Sulu rejoined.

“Except now, we’re the primary story line,” Ruth continued. “For some reason, it kept focusing on us, getting more and more personal until it’s now caught here with us.”

“And Jilla’s the interface,” Kevin stated in frank wonder. “Can we use her to reset the program?”

“I don’t know,” Ruth replied. “I don’t have any idea what’s stored in file 261 Beta.”

“File 261 Beta contains all the random elements necessary to create fantasies congruent with input from file HDS 010 A,” Jilla reported, her expression becoming hopeful.

Ruth seized on it. “What is contained in file HDS 010A?”

“Alpha and beta wave storage from theater headsets,” Jilla said crisply.

“Alpha and beta waves?” Sulu said “Brain waves?”

“That’s how the headsets work,” Kevin supplied. “They record the unconscious brain wave activity of the patrons.”

“So something in the brain waves is giving the programs unexpected data,” Ruth mused. “The brochure said there wasn’t anything harmful to…”

“No, it didn’t,” Sulu interjected. “It said certain races might be able to detect the working of the headsets; a slight tingling, it said. Has it ever been tested with keheils – or Indiians?”

“All program functions verified with Human psychic abilities,” Jilla said.

Oy geveult,” Ruth sighed. “We’re the problem! Me and Jilla overloaded the program!”

“Wonderful,” Kevin muttered. “So we can’t get out as long as you’re here, and the program is locked up until you’re not here.”

“There’s gotta be a way to reboot this thing,” Ruth said. “There has to be a way to get out of the program from within the program.”

A loud, metallic sound interrupted their conversation, the heavy door scraping open.


The Klingon language was harsh and unintelligible to them. Ruth’s telepathic ability was obviously still convinced it was inoperative. When they stared blankly at the ugly brutes, one of them grabbed Ruth’s arm, the other Sulu’s.

“Kevin, keep talking to Jilla!” Ruth said quickly.

“Even if you don’t understand her answers, remember them!” Sulu added.

“I’m not the big, dumb barbarian,” Kevin replied with a frown.

Ruth and Sulu were dragged from the cell, the metal door clanging loudly behind them. The Klingons pulled them through corridors that were just as dark and smelled just as bad, then they were tossed into what looked like a stateroom, though much more Spartan than anything either were used to seeing on a starship. There was a large but simple bed, a desk, weapons on the wall, and a large chair with its back to the doorway. As they got back to their feet, the chair swiveled to face them.

“I’ve seen this in about a hundred of Bwana’s bad detective movies,” Ruth whispered.

The figure in the chair was hidden shadow, but his hand reached for a button on the deck and a light came on, illuminating his face.

“Don’t let it be Spock,” Ruth was muttering under her breath. “Don’t let it be…”

“Commander Kang?” Sulu said.

The man was handsome as Klingons went, his face aristocratic and intelligent. “Lieutenant Sulu,” he acknowledged with a nod, then gazed at Ruth. “I’ve never met an Antari before,” he said. “You are?”

“Lieutenant Ruth Valley,” she answered, the relief in her voice clear.

“May I ask what you were doing as merchandise in a slaver’s hold?” Kang asked politely.

“You wouldn’t believe us if we told you,” Ruth sighed.

Sulu threw her a look. “We – were shanghaied, Commander,” he said. “We’re still in a drama,” he whispered to Ruth.

“Maybe that’s the problem,” Ruth returned. “Maybe if we stopped playing along with it…”

“I assure you, this is no game,” Kang said. “I did you a favor by purchasing you, and I expect it to be repaid.”

Sulu straightened. “Takeda, Sulu; Lieutenant; serial number…”

“I already know that, my dear boy,” Kang said. “And Miss Valley has given me her name and rank. Your companions are?”

“Riley, Kevin Thomas, Lieutenant. Majiir, Jilla, also Lieutenant,” Sulu replied crisply.

“Roy, cut it out. We’re not here…”

“And this place is not hot,” Kang broke in with a smile. “I’ve read much about Terran literature.”

“Oh good. Maybe you know this one. A man walks into a bar…”

“Ruth, what are you…?” Sulu hissed.

“This place isn’t hot and we aren’t here,” Ruth said. She turned to Kang. “You’re not here, either. This is a psycho-cin, a form of public entertainment in the Federation that is seriously fucked up – and has seriously fucked us in the process.”

“Such language,” Kang tsked. “You’re clearly not the lady I had assumed you were.”

“And you’re not the Klingon who fought an energy being on the Enterprise either,” Ruth retorted. “Like I said, you’re not real.”

Kang’s urbane smile remained. “Perhaps you would care for a demonstration of just how real I and my ship are?”

“Commander,” Sulu began warily.

“If I am not, as your lovely companion contends, real, whatever I do will cause you no harm whatsoever,” Kang interrupted. “And if I am, then so was your – alteration – at the hands of the slavers, and I am in no danger from the Antari’s alleged power.”

Ruth smirked. “And I’m supposed to get all shivery with the logic?” she asked.

Kang frowned. “Does logic have that effect on your species, Miss Valley?”

It was ludicrous enough to make Sulu snort. “No, just her,” he said, and Ruth elbowed him in the ribs. Then she said, “say it.”

“Say…” he began, then his eyebrows rose. “That’s your line.”

“But you know what I’m talking about, don’t you?” Ruth prodded.

“What does that prove, other than I know you pretty well?”

“No proof. Just evidence. Say it.”

The helmsman cleared his throat. “Push,” he said with a grin. “Push, push.”

“What is this nonsense?” Kang said, his voice clearly displeased.

“It doesn’t matter,” Ruth replied airily. “You’re not here.”

The Klingon hardened, and depressed another button on his desk. “Take them for questioning,” he told the guards who entered.


Jilla gazed pleadingly at Kevin, obviously unable to initiate speech on her own. Kevin wracked his brain, trying to come up with a question that might reveal something important, or at least pertinent. Unfortunately, his brain seemed to be stuck on worrying about Ruth.

“Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I hope she’s all right,” he murmured.

“Program parameters do not allow actual harm to come to viewers,” Jilla responded, and she reached for Kevin’s hand.

“Thank the good lord for that,” Kevin breathed. Then a thought occurred to him. “Jilla, we tried to stay uninvolved, but we kept getting pulled back in. Why?”

“This program is designed to create believable synapse responses in viewers,” she answered. “The more emotion presented via the headsets, the more accurate the experience for said viewers.”

“And since it was pulling scenarios designed for our emotional responses…” the Irishman mused. “How can a viewer disengage from the synaptic responses?” he asked.

“All connection with the interface will be terminated one the headsets are removed,” Jilla replied.

“But we can’t seem to do that, either. Why is that?”

“Insufficient data. Unknown parameters in…”

“Yeah, yeah,” Kevin cut her off. He thought for a few more minutes. “We tried to leave the theater, but we couldn’t – because the program was already looping,” he said. “When did the loop start?”

“Time index of last known good configuration, 1423 local hours,” Jilla responded.

“Hell, that was less than half an hour after we came in,” Kevin groaned.

Jilla stared at him, her eyes clearly trying to tell him something, but he couldn’t for the life of him figure out what it was.


Ruth was chatting quite happily with the Klingon who had a hold of her arm. Sulu tried to follow her lead, but it was more than difficult when all of his senses told him they were about to undergo a Klingon interrogation. Repeating, ‘it’s not real, it’s not real’ inside his head didn’t seem to be doing much good. He tried to imagine circumstances where he and Ruth would simply be taken back to Kevin and Jilla, but his usually brilliant imagination was failing him. All he could come up with was nasty sexual encounters, and he most certainly did NOT want to project that into the matrix of the psycho-cin. He was well aware that the blatant and public sexuality of the slaver ship had been mostly his fault – now that he knew all of it was either his doing, or Kevin’s, or Ruth’s – or even Jilla’s, no matter how subconsciously.

There has to be a way off a Klingon ship, he told himself. Maybe a rescue – after all, we told the slavers we were Starfleet, and Kang certainly knows we are. He took a deep breath. Okay, imagine the Enterprise swooping in and crippling the engines and demanding our safe return.

He thought about that long and hard, trying to keep his mind focused on it even as he and Ruth were brought to the Klingon’s Security Section. Then he realized it might work better if Ruth were thinking it too.

“Hey,” he called, “isn’t it about time for the Captain to rush in with the cavalry?”

Ruth turned her head. “I was thinking more about us overpowering these schmucks and getting to the transporters.”

“What about Kevin and Jilla?” Sulu asked.

“Kang wants to see them, too,” she returned. “We see them being dragged to his office and they help us.”

“What’s wrong with being rescued?”

“That’s still a drama waiting to happen. WE have to do something within the program, remember?”

“Getting up and walking out didn’t work,” Sulu reminded.

“Because we weren’t conscious of it,” Ruth replied. “This time we are.”

Sulu shrugged. “Worth a shot,” he said.

“More than a shot, Roy. Believe we’re rebooting the program and we will.”

“You’re the computers expert,” Sulu agreed.

He changed his focus. The guards are careless, he thought, because we’re clearly crazy. Kang has called for Jilla and Kevin. We’re about half-way between the cell and his office, so…

On cue, two more guards passed them, heading for the detention cell.

“Spike, it’s working!” he cried.

“Keep concentrating!” she called back.

They’re dragging Kevin and Jilla out now…they’re coming down the corridor…

The Klingons returned, pulling Kevin and Jilla with them.

…Kevin looks up, catches my eye…

The Irishman did, and Ruth shouted, “NOW!” Sulu braced himself and gave the guard who was holding onto his arm a hip-check, throwing the man to the deck. He saw Ruth flipping her guard, and Kevin gave a harsh jab into his Klingon’s abdomen, then executed a good throw over his back. Jilla’s guard fumbled for his blaster, and Jilla kicked it away, then gripped the spot between his neck and shoulder. He went down without a whimper.

“Let’s go!” Ruth shouted, and sprinted down the corridor. Sulu grabbed Jilla’s hand, and they and Kevin ran to catch up with Ruth.

“Where are we…?” Kevin gasped.

“The transporters!” Ruth called gleefully. “They’re just around that curve!”

“How do you…?”

“Because that’s where she wants them to be,” Sulu answered with a grin, his own adrenaline making him giddy.

When they reached the transporter alcove, Ruth grasped Jilla and pushed her to the controls. “You’re the engineer,” she said. “Beam us to the Enterprise!”

“Too many parameter options in file 261 Alpha,” Jilla gasped breathlessly.

“The Enterprise!” Ruth repeated. “Captain James T. Kirk, First Officer Spock, Dr. McCoy, Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, Chief of Communications Uhura….”

Jilla’s hands moved rapidly, and they all piled onto the disks. The cross-hatched beam took hold just as the Klingons burst into the alcove.


Go to Part Nine of Hotel California - The I.S.S. Enterprise

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