Back in the school

“Good morning, Seven,” Captain Janeway greeted.

“Good morning, Captain.”

“How are the repairs to our guest ship coming along? She mentioned that there’s a part that is burned out.”

“Yes. The part has suffered irreparable damage. I cannot reconstruct it. The only solution is to fabricate a replacement with a similar function but to do that, I’ll need to understand the intricacies of her engines.”

The captain nodded, offering a reassuring smile. “Take the time you require.”


“Take as much time as necessary, Seven, but ensure you fulfill your other responsibilities as well,” Janeway advised.


She trotted effortlessly behind Tuvok, finding the whole training ordeal rather juvenile, akin to a child’s version of playing tough. For someone molded to be a full-fledged Bene Gesserit sister, this running in circles and scuttling through maintenance corridors was child’s play.

Tuvok shot a glance her way. “This way,” he instructed, leading her into a network of cramped maintenance corridors where one had to crawl to make their way through.

Alathea followed, agile and unbothered. The nagging question of why the captain insisted on dragging her through Star Fleet training lingered in her mind. Was it for the sake of fitness? If so, the captain could have just said so, and Alathea would have continued her exercises. After all, she was already committed to staying in top-notch shape.

They navigated the maze of maintenance corridors, introducing a bit more variety with crawling and climbing ladders until they finally surfaced in the cargo bay where Alathea’s ship patiently waited.

Tuvok halted, casting a discerning look her way. “You appear to be in good shape.”

Alathea nonchalantly shrugged. The telltale signs of exertion were more clear on Tuvok than on herself.

“Alright, next stop: the holodeck. We’ll be practicing hand-to-hand combat.”

Alathea merely nodded, inwardly deeming it yet another futile exercise in time-wasting.


And indeed it was. Tuvok started a holographic program that Alathea dispatched in a mere two seconds. Perhaps it was time for her to impart a lesson to the Star Fleet crew.

“May I ask you a question?” she inquired, locking eyes with Tuvok.

He nodded.

“What’s the difference between the holograms here and your Doctor?”

“The Doctor is more complex.”

“So, just because the Doctor is more complex, you treat him as if he’s alive, but not this.” She waved toward her holographic adversary, who materialized again, unscathed.

“Yes,” Tuvok affirmed.

“So, in Star Fleet, the more complex something is, the more valuable it is?”

“No, that’s an oversimplification. You’re questioning the idea of accepting artificially created intelligence as our equal.”

“They can never be our equal.”

“Why not?”

“Because we create them.”

“So, you don’t believe that we can create anything worthwhile?”

Alathea blinked. This line of thought was unfamiliar to her. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

Was Tuvok onto something? Did the entire Empire believe that humans were incapable of creating anything of true value?

“Who created AI in your society?”

“I don’t know. We did not cover it in history.”

“Who is the most valuable human in your society?”

“The Emperor.”

“So, you have some kind of feudalistic system.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t you understand how societies are structured?”

“Yes, I do. There are only two kinds, one where humans are slaves to AI and the other, where we’re free.”

Tuvok nodded. “Fascinating.”


“Let’s continue with martial arts. The previous opponent was too easy for you. Computer, increase the level automatically to match the skill of the opponent.”

A chime echoed through the room. Tuvok gestured toward the holographic figure. “Whenever you’re ready.”

She dispatched this opponent in two seconds again; the computer chimed, and the opponent re-materialized.

“Level two.”

This one took four seconds.

“Level five.” The computer skipped a few numbers.

This opponent turned out to be somewhat engaging, but still a far cry from her level. The computer kept tallying up the levels, and opponents kept re-materializing with increasingly fancy footwork. Alathea let loose all her pent-up angst and frustration – every past humiliation at the hands of the Bene Gesserit, every ounce of irritation from being stuck in this absurd situation just because she hadn’t keeled over yet.

The numbers became an afterthought. Soon, a horde of opponents started popping up. With unbridled enthusiasm, she took them all on. After each chime, the amusement and challenge amped up. Some moves her opponents pulled were downright alien to her, but she picked them up on the fly, incorporating new tricks into her repertoire. The surge of adrenaline and the sheer exhaustion were positively intoxicating. A grin spread across her face; the whole chaotic dance felt oddly delightful.

And just like that, Alathea found herself unceremoniously on her behind, courtesy of a masterful kick from her holographic opponent.

“Computer, stop the program,” Tuvok commanded, and her opponent promptly dematerialized.

“That last one,” Althea said, slightly out of breath, “was a puzzle. Is it on par with a doctor?”

“No. It’s a narrow AI, designed for a singular function.”

“And what about that one you call Computer? The one pulling the strings?”

“That AI is merely a collection of narrow AIs, not integrated into a singular entity.”

“But together, they form something complex.”

“Every protein molecule in a corpse is complex. That doesn’t mean the whole is complex.” Tuvok clasped his hands behind his back. “Your fighting skills are impressive.”

Alathea blinked. Oops, she’d let the mask slip. Mother Superior always chastised her for lacking emotional control, and this time, her frustration and annoyance had taken the reins.

“Thank you. What level did I reach?”

“Didn’t you hear?”

“I tuned out.”

Tuvok nodded. “You hit 314. I suggest you keep honing your skills. You’ll have scheduled holodeck sessions for your practice. Feel free to design any program you’d like.”

“I have no clue how to create a program.”

“And that’s what we’re going to tackle right now. The rest of your training will be a crash course in learning.”



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