The Light Bulb Series: “The Change” (The Next Generation)
By Peter Anspach
Galley Log, Stardate 43647.2, Second Assistant Food Engineer Kazhdan recording. I am programming the food synthesizers with the recipe for Bug ’N Fungus Casserole as we prepare to leave Starbase 12 and transport a high-ranking Ferengi ambassador to diplomatic talks on Tau Ceti 7.
Scene: The Bridge
Data: Pardon me, Captain.
Picard: Yes, Mr. Data.
Data: I have encountered a fact which I feel merits your attention. You are no doubt aware that, as a matter of routine, I check ship power consumption for anomalies every four tenths of a second. My last reading showed an abrupt drop in power of 60.14 watts in Ten Forward.
Picard: Thank you, Mr. Data. (touching communicator) Picard to Ten Forward.
Guinan: Oh, hi, Captain; it’s Guinan. I’m glad you called. We just had a light bulb blow out down here.
Guinan: Things are, well, you know, kind of dark. The people at the corner table can’t see their drinks.
Troi: Captain, while many people find a certain romance in darkness, others find it frightening, an embodiment of repressed thoughts and unconscious fears.
Picard: Thank you, Counsellor. Guinan, I want you to evacuate Ten Forward. Better yet, evacuate and seal off decks 8 through 12. We don’t wish to take any unnecessary chances. Have everyone who was on these decks report to Sickbay for a complete physical. Number One, you and Ensign Crusher draw up a plan for saucer separation, just in case.
O’Brien: (over communicator) Transporter Room 3 to Bridge. The Ferengi ambassador is now aboard, Captain.
Picard: Thank you, O’Brien.
O’Brien: Uh, I’ve been working now for twenty straight seconds, Sir.
Picard: Why didn’t you say so? By all means, take the next few days off.
Worf: I will now escort the Ambassador to his quarters.
Picard: Thank you, Mr. Worf.
Worf: If he attempts to sabotage the ship, I will prevent him.
Picard: Thank you, Mr. Worf; I don’t doubt it.
Worf: I might have to break both his arms, but he will be prevented.
Picard: Yes, thank you, Worf. Just go there. And after that incident with the Vulcan delegation, make sure your phaser is set on stun this time.
Riker: Captain, I’ve been checking through Starfleet records for information regarding light bulbs. It appears that the crew of the original Enterprise encountered a similar problem on Stardate 5187.8 when a light bulb blew in Engineering. They wound up travelling to Luminos in order to get a replacement.
Picard: Unfortunately, we’re nowhere near Luminos at the moment. But perhaps we are better equipped to deal with such a crisis than they were eighty years ago. (touches his communicator) Picard to Engineering.
LaForge: LaForge here, Captain.
Picard: Mr. LaForge, Ten Forward has lost a 60-watt light bulb. Have we the technical capability to replace it?
LaForge: Uh, actually, Captain, we’ve been experimenting down here with light bulbs for some time. Our preliminary work indicates that if we replace the 60-watt bulb with a 75-watt bulb, we could increase the photon emissions by as much as 25%. But before proceeding, I’d like to run a simulation on the holodeck.
Picard: Make it so.
Crusher: (over communicator) Dr. Crusher to Bridge.
Picard: Go ahead, Doctor.
Crusher: I’ve run complete physicals on all occupants of Decks 8 through 12, and they all check out normal. I’d like to run a physical on you next.
Picard: Uh, okay...
Crusher: And then you can give me one.
Picard: Beverly, I’m on duty.
Crusher: Oh, that’s all you ever think about. What about me? Even with our advanced medical technology, my biological clock is rapidly running out.
Picard: Yes, but—
Crusher: Besides, don’t you think Wesley would make an adorable stepson?
Suddenly klaxons sound, alarms ring, and warning lights flash.
Picard: Oh, thank God. I’ll have to get back to you later, Doctor. Mr. Data, report.
Data: The ship is experiencing a severe power drain emanating from Holodock 3. We are no longer able to maintain warp drive; ship now slowed to impulse power. Radiation shields inoperative. Forward section reports 47 injured by excessive radiation. Navigational deflectors inoperative. Outer hull breached. Captain, current energy consumption exceeds our total production capabilities; I estimate we will be unable to maintain life support in 4 hours 18 minutes.
Troi: (placing her hand on Picard’s arm) I sense you are disturbed by this information.
Picard: Why don’t you go find a regulation uniform or something?
Troi: I sense annoyance and displeasure.
Picard: (under his breath) One of these days I am going to strangle her.
Troi: I sense anger and hostility.
Picard slowly raises his hands...
Riker: Please, Captain! This situation calls for immediate action!
Picard: (recovering) Agreed. Assemble all senior staff in Conference Room 3 for an emergency meeting.
Scene: Conference Room
All senior officers are present, plus Guinan. As Picard begins to speak, Wesley wanders in. No one seems to notice.
Picard: Mr. LaForge, what is the nature of this problem?
LaForge: Well, Captain, I’m not sure. I fed the light bulb simulation program into the holodeck computer and suddenly a massive bulb appeared emitting radiation over a much broader spectrum than normal. Fortunately, my VISOR has a failsafe, and no permanent damage resulted, but no one can go in there now. What’s worse, we can’t find any way to shut it off.
Picard: (sharply) Ensign Crusher! Why did you say ‘oops’ just now?
Wesley: Uh, well, I guess it’s kind of my fault, Captain. I had a free half-hour before coming on shift and I decided to augment the holodeck computers, so I created a new operating system. I guess I just sort of forgot to tell anyone. Oh, that reminds me; tell everyone to put on full protective body armor the next time they step into the shower. I think I may have increased the water pressure a little too much.
Picard: Indeed. Is there anything else I should be informed of?
Worf: (growling) I believe there is something you should know: I met with resistance while escorting the Ferengi ambassador to his quarters. In what he later tried to pass off as a mistake, he attempted to travel in an unauthorized direction and I was forced to fire several warning shots into the base of his skull.
Crusher: (alarmed) Was your phaser set on stun?
Worf: (not at all happy) Yes. When he recovered, he claimed that his nerves were unsettled and maintained he needed a drink. I informed him that drinks were available in his quarters; I even recommended a Klingon favorite, Up’chuk-Gnau. However, as an obvious ploy to gain access to the sensitive areas of the ship, he said only a bar would present a suitable atmosphere. Frankly, Sir, I distrust his motives.
Riker: Captain, this could be serious! If the ambassador is not in a good mood, the negotiations for the NALTSAT treaty on Tau Ceti 7 could be a disaster.
Picard: Indeed. If the Ferengi do sign the Treaty of Not Acting Like Total Schmucks All the Time, Federation-Ferengi relations will be vastly improved. However, if they fail to sign NALTSAT, it could spell disaster. Guinan, I’ve asked you here since Ten Forward is your concern. What do you suggest?
Guinan: Well, you know, in these situations my people would always just stick in a new bulb.
Picard: Too risky. We haven’t completed the holodeck tests.
Guinan: (rolling her eyes) Okay. Then maybe someone could find a temporary way to brighten the mood.
Picard: Excellent suggestion. Mr. LaForge, start an investigative team on it right away.
LaForge: Uh, actually, we’ve had two teams working on it independently ever since the possible need arose. We could rechannel the pulse energy conduits into the magnetic containment units and through use of the focusing generator coil materialize a small self-contained warp bubble in the area of the missing bulb. If we apply torque with a charge from the matter/antimatter absorption chamber, the warp bubble will spin and theoretically generate a modified light spectrum similar to that of the defective bulb. Alternatively, we could put in a few ferns to liven up the place.
Picard: Do as you think best, Mr. LaForge.
LaForge: Right. (touching communicator) LaForge to Engineering. Send Yang and her team to start work on the pulse energy conduits.
Picard: Mr. Data, we need to figure out how to switch the holodeck bulb off right away. You and Mr. LaForge and Ensign Crusher get on it immediately and let me know if you come up with any solutions. Mr. Worf, post a perimeter guard around Ten Forward; make sure no one enters until it is safe to do so. Number One, see to it that the ambassador is kept happy. Counsellor Troi will assist.
Riker: And you, sir?
Picard: I’m going to lie in bed and listen to classical music.
Crusher: Want some company, Jean-Luc?
Picard: (quickly) No! I mean— I would, but I need you in Sickbay to... tend to sick people. Dismissed.
Scene: Outside the Ambassador’s Quarters
Riker and Troi approach and activate the door chime.
Voice Inside: Enter if you must, detestable scum.
They enter and meet a Ferengi in an ambassadorial sash.
Riker: Can we get you anything, Ambassador Yutz?
Yutz: I was going to demand a visit to the bar, but another idea has presented itself. If the Commander would leave, I would like to engage in a, shall we say, private conversation with the Counsellor. A very private conversation. (leers at Troi)
Troi: (aside to Riker) I wish my empathic ability worked on Ferengi; I cannot sense his intentions.
Riker: (aside to Troi) Look, why don’t you go find a regulation uniform and let me take care of the ambassador?
Troi: But I did change my uniform!
Riker: Well, yes. I suppose going from cheerleader to aerobics instructor is some sort of improvement, but it’s still not regulation.
Troi shrugs and leaves.
Yutz: Where is she going? I demand you drag her back to me!
Riker: (angrily) Sorry, Yutz, no deal!
Yutz: Then I insist on a visit to the bar immediately.
Riker: I’m afraid that’s out of the question. Perhaps there is some other deviant way you can be amused.
Yutz: No, Commander. I want either the bar or the Counsellor or the treaty is off. Decide!
Scene: Outside Holodeck 3
LaForge and Data are waiting for Wesley to approach.
Wesley: Sorry I’m late, guys. I was just adding Tarellian plague viruses to the air circulators to test my new filtering system.
LaForge: Uh, that’s swell, Wes. Look, do you think you can remember what you did to the holodeck computer?
Wesley: Sure. Let me see if I can undo it. Computer, execute retroactive backup system.
Computer: Full program not available due to routine archival purging. Sectors 1473 through 1651 of system data salvaged.
Wesley: Access and execute, priority 3 alpha. This should reduce the illumination levels, but won’t quite turn off the bulb.
LaForge: But will it be safe to enter?
Wesley: Gosh, I don’t know. I didn’t do any documentation.
Computer: Warning. Total life support failure in two hours.
Data: It would seem that there is only one sure way to find out if we can enter. Computer, open holodeck door.
The door opens and all instinctively cover their eyes as blinding white light pours out.
Scene: Ambassador Yutz’s Quarters
Yutz: Well, Commander? I await your decision.
Riker: Tell me, Yutz, drinking and women; is that all that exists of Ferengi culture?
Yutz: Why, no. We also enjoy vandalism and gambling.
Riker: Gambling? You mean like dice and card games?
Yutz: Why, yes. I myself am considered a master gambler. Do you play the game of poker?
Riker: Poker? Hmm... sounds interesting. How do you play?
Scene: Holodeck 3
LaForge, Data, and Wesley are standing around a giant light bulb, squinting.
LaForge: There must be something we can do to stop it. Data, try feeding pulsed interface loops into the computer at variably spaced intervals. Wesley, try to overload the master relay circuits. I’ll work at stabilizing the main output projectors.
Scene: Captain’s Ready Room
Picard enters with a yawn and wanders over to the replicator.
Computer: Warning. Power drain increasing. Ten minutes to total life support failure.
Picard: Tea, Earl Grey, hot. (A cup materializes. He takes a sip, then touches his communicator.) Mr. LaForge, we have less than ten minutes until life support failure. Are you having any success?
LaForge: Negative, Captain. Yang has the warp bubble set up to replace the light bulb, but we can’t activate it until we disable this one. Other than that, we’ve made no progress. We put five high-ranking Starfleet theoreticians to work on the problem, but that was no help.
Picard: Couldn’t they find a solution?
LaForge: We don’t know. The last we heard, they took a coffee break and couldn’t find their way back to the conference room. With your permission, we’ll ask for a new batch and try again.
Picard: Make it so. But bear in mind we haven’t much time left. Oh, by the way, I’ll be in my ready room reading a book if you need me.
Scene: Holodeck 3
Geordi nods, and turns to his companions.
LaForge: Data, Wesley, any progress?
Wesley: Not on this problem. But I just got a nifty idea about something else! Can I go play with the warp core containment field?
LaForge: Okay, but your mother said to be back in time for dinner.
Wesley rolls his eyes, nods grudgingly, and dashes off.
LaForge: What about you, Data?
Data: What about me?
LaForge: Have you made any progress with the pulsed interface loops?
Data: No. But it occurs to me that perhaps we should treat this in the manner of an ordinary light bulb. It has been my experience that most cease to function when turned on and off in rapid succession. The program for the holodeck bulb is likely to contain similar design limitations. Perhaps they could be exploited to our advantage. For example, although we cannot completely shut this simulation off, we could vary the power and hope for similar results.
LaForge: That could be tricky. If we don’t hit the right frequency, the power surges would destroy the ship instantly.
Computer: Warning. Five minutes until total life support failure.
LaForge: Computer, what frequency would be necessary to blow out the giant light bulb?
Computer: Insufficient data. The holodeck simulation is a unique phenomenon. There is no object on file to serve as a model for calculation.
LaForge: Extrapolate from theoretical database.
Computer: 1.7794832 megahertz.
LaForge: Got it!
Scene: Ambassador Yutz’s Quarters
Data enters, then takes on a quizzical look.
Data: Commander Riker, may I inquire why you are attired in the Ambassador’s ceremonial sash?
Riker: Later, Data.
Yutz: (exploding in anger) Enough of your dirty cheating, hu-man! I demand you take me to the bar immediately!
Riker looks at Data who nods.
Riker: Right away, Ambassador. Mr. Data will escort you.
Scene: Captain’s Ready Room
Picard is sipping his tea and reading a book when the door chime activates.
Picard: Come. (He doesn’t look up.)
Riker: Uh, Captain?
Picard: Must you interrupt, Number One? I found this twenty-first century edition of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables at our last stop. Too little attention is paid to the artistic merits of classic French literature. For example, take Voltaire. Now, in his—
Riker: Uh, Captain? About the problem with life support...
Picard: Oh, of course; has it failed yet?
Riker: No, sir. We managed to avert the crisis.
Picard: Well done, Number One. (returns to his book)