“I told you,” the woman said, smoothing the fabric of her knee-length silver dress with one hand, “that this was an extraordinarily bad idea.”
Her companion, whose old-fashioned tailored suit did not need smoothing, shook his head. “I beg to differ. This engagement was long overdue, and matters are entirely under control.”
The woman arched an eyebrow. “Says the man sitting in a police interview room. I grant you this one has a superlative view—“ she gestured at an expansive window, through which one could watch the afternoon sun setting over San Francisco Bay “—but really. Don’t we usually make a point of avoiding places like this?”
“Times change, my dear. Were we residing in Victorian London, I would certainly look askance at a summons to Scotland Yard. As you are well aware, however, our present circumstances are quite different.” As he spoke, the room’s entrance slid open and he rose to greet the uniformed individual who stepped through it.
“Dr. James Clovis, at your service,” he said pleasantly. At a subtle nod, his companion stood as well. “My associate, Miss Marguerite Adler. I trust our conversation will be brief; we are expected at a reception less than an hour from now.”
“Ronan Morwood, Starfleet Security,” said the new arrival. “That would be the opening event of the Pan-Sagittarian Scientific Assembly, at which you’ve been invited to present this year’s Daystrom Lecture. Something about the gravitational properties of light, I believe?”
Dr. Clovis smiled. “One might say so. Yet I daresay, Lieutenant Morwood, that you have not detained us in order to discuss the mysteries of n-dimensional spectrodynamics.”
Morwood did not smile back. “Correct. But I’m afraid I can’t promise you’ll make your reception.”
“I see,” said Dr. Clovis, in a tone that suggested precisely the opposite. “And why would that be?”
Now the lieutenant did smile, in cat-like fashion. “You have,” he observed, “a remarkable resume. Two books, three white papers, eight journal articles, four astronomical survey reports, and no less than seventeen privately published monographs, mostly on matters of theoretical mathematics and physics – all in the space of a little more than six years. Yet Cambridge University, from which your doctorate supposedly originates, has no record of James Clovis having studied there, let alone achieved any sort of academic distinction, at any time in the past hundred years. Nor are there any other legal records of a James Clovis matching your description dated more than three months prior to the publication of your earliest journal article.”
“Nineteen,” Dr. Clovis said mildly.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Nineteen monographs. An Approach to Interstellar Economics was published exclusively on Ferenginar – though a Terran edition is in preparation – and Toward A Theory of Heightened Cognitive Awareness was withdrawn shortly after its release. There are fewer than thirty authorized copies extant in all of Federation space.”
“I’ll add those to the tally. But as to the issue at hand....”
“Ah, yes. You are contending that I don’t actually exist, despite the fact that we are here speaking to one another.”
Lieutenant Morwood’s chuckle was cool. “Hah. Your physical existence isn’t in question – but your identity is another matter.”
James Clovis’ laugh, by contrast, was wholly genuine. “We progress, Lieutenant; you’ve framed the matter precisely. I therefore propose an exchange. If you will kindly confirm my physical existence to an old acquaintance, I guarantee that she in turn will enlighten you regarding my origins. Miss Adler?”
Marguerite nodded, drawing a padd from her carry-bag. “She played the message forty-five minutes ago. We should be seeing her any—“
The whoosh of the door interrupted her, allowing a silver-blonde woman in formal Starfleet medical attire to enter. “I hope there’s a good reason for this. I’m due at a reception in—“ Then she in turn stopped in mid-breath as she took in the office’s three other occupants, a stunned expression on her face.
“My dear Dr. Pulaski,” Dr. Clovis said, stepping forward and offering his hand, “I hope I haven’t given you too much of a shock. Perhaps we can prevail on the lieutenant here to replenish our supply of tea and scones.”
Katherine Pulaski gave him a look that was half severe, half amused. “A Saint Bernard with a cask of brandy might be more appropriate. I don’t know when I’ve been more surprised.” She turned to Lt. Morwood, who was hastily tapping commands into the office’s replicator. “Just one question: this isn’t by chance a holosuite, is it?”
Morwood blinked. “No, ma’am. Tea, did you say?”
“Why not?” Dr. Pulaski settled onto a couch near the window, turning her attention back to Dr. Clovis. “And then perhaps someone will explain what’s going on. The last I heard, you and your lady-love had been safely tucked away in a self-contained data module.”
“Lady-love? Data module?” Lieutenant Morwood’s expression had gone from slightly confused to thoroughly bewildered, and he didn’t resist when Marguerite Adler claimed the tea service he’d produced, set it on a table near the couch, and began pouring.
Dr. Clovis accepted a cup, smiling. “I see there are many misapprehensions to correct, but let us begin with the first. Doctor, would you kindly introduce me properly to the lieutenant here?”
Dr. Pulaski eyed him bemusedly. “If you insist. Lieutenant Morwood, may I present Professor James Moriarty, formerly the greatest fictional arch-criminal of this or any other century. What he is nowadays, I haven’t the faintest idea.”
“Moriarty? But that’s preposterous!”
“Not at all,” said the newly revealed Professor. “James Clovis Moriarty, to be precise. You may now understand why I dropped the surname when I began my scientific career in the present century. My original namesake’s reputation is entirely too ubiquitous.”
“James Clovis, the Daystrom lecturer? That’s you?” Dr. Pulaski demanded. “Your monograph on medical uses for nanite technology was brilliant.” She paused, frowning thoughtfully. “I suppose that might help explain how you got out of that data module.”
Professor Moriarty smiled. “It might, had I ever been in that data module.”
“Ah,” said Dr. Pulaski. “I admit I wondered about that. It just didn’t seem logical that an intellect as powerful as yours could be tricked so easily, especially in quite that way.”
“Indeed,” Moriarty returned. “It may be as well for me that you had transferred off the Enterprise by the time I was prepared to act. In retrospect, there were several other matters that a properly skeptical observer might have noted.”
Dr. Pulaski nodded. “The handedness malfunctions that caused Barclay to ‘wake you up’, for instance. If those weren’t coincidental – and I’m betting they weren’t – then the moment when Data spotted the same problem in your holographic LaForge must have been staged as well. You planned for Picard to spring that holodeck-within-a-holodeck scenario.”
The professor inclined his head in acknowledgment. “I had long since concluded that Captain Picard truly did not have the ability to release me from my confinement. Yet given the terms under which I was created, existence outside the holodeck was clearly possible. It was, in effect, the victory condition of the game I was designed to play.”
“Obviously you’ve won that game,” Dr. Pulaski observed. “Am I correct in assuming, then, that Miss Adler here is the former Regina, Countess Bartholomew?”
Marguerite gave the doctor an amused salute. “You are,” she said. “I’ve had more names over time than I know what to do with, but I admit I never cared for that one.”
“Ah. May I deduce, then, that the story about the Countess being the Professor’s one true love was pure invention?”
“It was,” Moriarty said at once. “Indeed, that description may be the single greatest falsehood I’ve uttered since my awakening, and I remain astonished to this day that anyone actually believed it. But then, I am a creature of rationality, whereas both the imaginary Countess and her genuine portrayer are persons of a more emotional character.”
The imaginary Countess laughed. “Very graceful, Professor.”
Dr. Pulaski chuckled as well. “I must say, Professor, you’ve come a long way since we first met. I daresay nowadays you sound more like Sherlock Holmes himself than you do an evil mastermind.”
“As it happens,” Moriarty said, “there’s a reason for that, but it will probably confuse you. The truth appears to be that I’m not actually that Professor Moriarty.”
Lieutenant Morwood, whose eyes had long since glazed over, blinked and sat up in his chair. “Wait, let me see if I have this straight. You,” he said, pointing at Dr. Pulaski, “served on the Enterprise a few years back. You—“ he pointed at Moriarty “—were the evil genius in a holodeck story who somehow woke up with actual superpowers. Only now you’re here, and real, and a genius, but not actually evil? Tell me another one.”
Moriarty sighed. “I told you it would be confusing.”
“And I told you this was a really bad idea,” Marguerite put in.
“You may have had a point,” the professor said. “Nonetheless, let me attempt an explanation.”
“Please do,” said Dr. Pulaski.
“This had better be good,” said Morwood.
The professor sighed again. “Very well. As you’re all aware, the original Professor James Moriarty was the arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes, both being characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the late nineteenth century.”
“Indeed,” said Dr. Pulaski.
“Right,” said Morwood.
“However,” said the professor, “in point of fact, Professor Moriarty makes only two brief appearances in the sixty stories actually written by Conan Doyle, and both he and Holmes are reported dead following Moriarty’s second turn. Doyle subsequently brought back Sherlock Holmes, but left Moriarty to his fate. The original Moriarty’s reputation as a diabolically clever fiend rests almost entirely on the many filmed adaptations of the Holmes stories produced in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, which had a much larger audience than that for the written accounts.”
Dr. Pulaski frowned. “But if Data’s holodeck programs were drawing on those films, then shouldn’t you be just that sort of villainous mastermind?”
“Makes sense to me,” said Morwood.
“Ah,” said Moriarty, “but therein lies the answer. It seems that when the Enterprise computer was asked to craft an opponent worthy of Lieutenant Commander Data, it looked neither to Conan Doyle nor to the many films based on his books. It turned instead to the immense number of apocryphal novels and story collections published featuring further adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his various foes and allies. Most focused on Holmes himself, but a few featured other protagonists – Mycroft, Sherlock’s brother; Irene Adler, another great rival; even Holmes’s housekeeper, one Mrs. Hudson.”
“I don’t get it,” said Morwood.
“I think I see where this is going,” said Dr. Pulaski.
Moriarty nodded. “Indeed. One series of books, I have learned, proposed that Professor James Clovis Moriarty was for the most part a singularly gifted scientist, who occasionally resorted to, let us say, creative methods to secure funding for his various experiments and researches. In those stories, Sherlock Holmes was – not precisely comic relief, but prone to see the Professor’s hand in far more criminal activity than was actually the case. And Holmes and Moriarty might sometimes join forces against a genuinely malevolent foe.”
Dr. Pulaski smiled. “I can see the resonances.”
“So can I,” said Marguerite, glancing meaningfully in Morwood’s direction. “Was I right, or wasn’t I?”
“Be kind, my dear,” said the professor. “We’re almost finished.”
“Right you are,” said Morwood. “I’ve got more than enough now to hold you on half a dozen charges.”
Abruptly, Dr. Pulaski was no longer smiling. “Name two, if you please.”
“Using a false name, for one. And – he had to get off the Enterprise somehow; he must have stolen something to do it.”
“James Clovis is his name,” Dr. Pulaski pointed out. “Omitting ‘Moriarty’ is only a crime if it’s done with intent to defraud. As for a theft from the Enterprise, you’d have to actually prove both that something specific was missing and that the Professor here took it. After all this time, I very much doubt you could do that even if something was actually taken – and there’s every chance that nothing was. Even his academic credentials are technically legitimate – they’re accurate for the holodeck environment where he was ‘born’, and his work more than demonstrates that he’s earned them.”
“But—“ Morwood wasn’t quite foaming at the mouth, but he was clearly unhappy.
Dr. Pulaski turned a full-force medical glare on him. “Do you want to be the man who ruined the Pan-Sagittarian Scientific Assembly by arresting one of its keynote speakers on a trumped-up charge that any competent lawyer will demolish in fifteen seconds flat?”
“I, er, um – well, no,” the lieutenant said, reluctantly.
“Well, then,” said the doctor, turning to Moriarty and Marguerite, “I think we’ll all be on our way. If you’re free after the reception, I hope you’ll join me for dinner. I’d like to discuss that medical-nanite research,” she told the professor. To Marguerite, she added, “And I imagine there are a great many stories you could tell about your post-Enterprise adventures – strictly off the record, of course.”
Marguerite grinned. “We’ll see. And just between us,” she added softly, once the door to the security office had whooshed shut behind them, “you can call me Madeleine. It’s not the first name I ever had, but it’s the one I like best.”
# # #