Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Below are images from "INFERNO", the 2016 adaptation of Dan Brown's 2013 novel. Directed by Ron Howard, the movie stars Tom Hanks:
"INFERNO" (2016) Photo Gallery
Thursday, March 16, 2017
If you have never read Agatha Christie's novel, "Taken at the Flood" or seen the 2006 television adaptation, I suggest that you read no futher. This review contains major spoilers.
"TAKEN AT THE FLOOD" (2006) Review
Written in 1948, Agatha Christie's novel called "Taken at the Flood" told the story of the Cloade family in post-war Britian, who depends upon the good will of their cousin-in-law, Rosaleen Hunter Cloade; after her husband and their cousin is killed in an air raid during World War II. When her controlling brother, David, refuses to share Gordon Cloade’s fortunate, the family enlists Poirot’s help to prove that Rosaleen’s missing first husband, Robert Underhay, might not be dead. Although the novel received mixed reviews when it was first published, it now seems highly regarded by many of Christie’s modern day fans.
Nearly sixty years later, screenwriter Guy Andrews adapted the novel for ITV’s "AGATHA CHRISTIE'S POIROT" series. However, Andrews set the novel in the 1930s, which has been the traditional setting for the "AGATHA CHRISTIE'S POIROT" series. In doing so, Andrews changed the aspect of Gordon Cloade's death, making it an act of murder, instead of a wartime casualty. This change also removed the ennui that a few of the characters experienced in a post-war world. Other changes were made in the screenplay. The character of Rosaleen Cloade became a morphine addict. She also survived a morphine overdose. Also, Andrews changed the fate of the story's leading female character, Lynn Marchmont.
I really wish that Andrews and director Andy Wilson had maintained the novel's original setting of post-war Britain. It would not have hurt if "AGATHA CHRISTIE'S POIROT" broke away from its usual mid-1930s setting to air a story set ten years later. Most adaptations of the Jane Marple novels have always been set in the 1950s. Yet, both adaptations of Christie's novel, "A Murder Is Announced" managed to break away from that decade and set the story in its proper setting - mid-to-late 1940s. By changing the setting and making Gordon Cloade a murder victim, Andrews and Wilson transformed the original novel's theme, which centered on how some of the characters took advantage of a certain situation to "make their own fortune". This theme brings to mind the story's title and its origin - a quotation from William Shakespeare's novel, "Julius Caesar". The movie also established a friendship between the Cloade family and Hercule Poirot. And if I must be honest, I find this friendship implausible. The Cloade family struck me as arrogant, greedy, corrupt, and a slightly poisonous bunch. I find it hard to believe Poirot would befriend any member of that family - with the exception of the leading female character, Lynn Marchmont. And she struck me as too young to be an old friend of his.
Despite my misgivings over the movie's setting and some of the changes, I must admit that most of the story seemed intriguing. Despite being an unpleasant bunch, the Cloade family provided the story with some very colorful characters that include a telephone harasser and a drug addict. Lynn is engaged to her cousin Rowley Cloade and it is clear that she does not harbor any real love for him . . . even before meeting Rosaleen's brother David. And instead of being a war veteran and former member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, Lynn is merely a returnee from one of Britain’s colonies in Africa. Actress Amanda Douge portrayed Lynn with great warmth and style.
But David Hunter proved to be the most interesting and well-written character in the story. I would go further and state that he might be one of the most complex characters that Christie ever created. David is blunt to a fault, arrogant and has no problems in expressing his dislike and contempt toward the Cloades. He does not make an effort to hide some of his less than pleasant personality traits and is a borderline bully, who is controlling toward his sister. The character provided actor Elliot Cowan with probably one of his better roles . . . and he made the most of it with great skill. When David Hunter and Lynn Marchmont become romantically involved, Cowan ended up creating great screen chemistry with Douge.
The mystery over Rosaleen Cloade's marital state proved to be rather engaging. One is inclined to believe both Rosaleen and David that she was widowed before marrying Gordon Cloade. But when a man named Enoch Arden appeared and claimed that Rosaleen's first husband is still alive, the audience's belief in the Hunter siblings is shaken. But when Arden is killed violently, David becomes suspect Number One with the police and Poirot.
I have already commented upon Elliot Cowan and Amanda Douge's performances in "TAKEN AT THE FLOOD". I was also impressed by Patrick Baladi's portrayal of Lynn's obsessive and intense fiancé, Rowley Cloade. Eva Birthistle was subtle and unforgettable as David's nervous and very reserved sister, the wealthy widow Rosaleen Cloade. And veteran performers such as Jenny Agutter, Penny Downie, Tim Pigott-Smith, Pip Torrens and a deliciously over-the-top Celia Imrie provided great support. I also have to commend David Suchet, who gave his usual first-rate performance as detective Hercule Poirot. If there is one virtue that "TAKEN AT THE FLOOD" possessed, it was a first-rate cast.
"TAKEN AT THE FLOOD" could have been a first-rate movie. But I believe that both Andrews and Wilson dropped the ball in the movie's last thirty minutes. Their biggest mistake was adhering closely to Christie's original novel. I am aware of some of the changes they made and I had no problems with some of them. However, the other changes really turned me off. But despite these changes, they managed to somewhat remain faithful to the novel. As as far as I am concerned, this was a major mistake.
In the novel, David Hunter ended up murdering Rosaleen Cloade by giving her a drug overdose. Poirot managed to reveal that Rosaleen was merely his sister's former housemaid, who became an accomplice in a scam to assume control of the Cloade fortune. Andrews' script changed this by allowing Rosaleen to attempt suicide and survive. Instead, Andrews allowed David to be guilty of murdering his sister and brother-in-law in a house bombing featured at the beginning of the movie. Worse, Poirot claimed that David had deliberately impregnated the false Rosaleen and forced her to get an abortion in order to control her. Poirot also hinted he was behind the fake Rosaleen's suicide attempt. How he came to this conclusion is beyond me. In other words, Andrews' script transformed David Hunter from a swindler and killer of his accomplice to an out-and-out monster. In the end, he was hanged for his crimes.
Both Christie and Andrews' handling of the Cloade family proved to be even more incredible. Mrs. Frances Cloade had recruited a relation to call himself as Enoch Arden and claim that Robert Underhay was still alive. Another member of the Cloade family recruited a Major Porter to lie on the stand and make the same claim. Later, Major Porter committed suicide.
The murder of Enoch Arden proved to be an accident. In other words, Rowley Cloade discovered that Arden was the relation of his cousin-in-law, Mrs. Frances Cloade, reacted with anger and attacked the man. Rowley's attack led to Arden's fall and his death. Then Rowley proceeded to frame David by deliberately smashing in Arden's head in order to make it resemble murder. Upon Lynn's revelation that she was in love with David Hunter, Rowley lost his temper and tried to strangle her. Poirot and a police officer managed to stop him. One, Rowley was guilty of manslaughter, when he caused Enoch Arden's death. Two, he was guilty of interfering with a police investigation, when he tried to frame David for murder. And three, he was also guilty of assault and attempted murder of Lynn Marchmont. Once Poirot discovered that Arden's death was an accident caused by Rowley, he immediately dismissed the incident and focused his attention on David Hunter's crimes.
In the end, Rowley was never arrested, prosecuted or punished for his crimes. Frances Cloade was never questioned by the police for producing the phony Enoch Arden in an attempt to commit fraud. And the member of the Cloade family who had recruited Major Porter was never prosecuted for attempting to perpetrate a fraud against the courts. The only positive change that Andrews made to Christie's novel was allowing Lynn's rejection of Rowley to remain permanent. In the novel, Lynn decided that she loved Rowley after all, following his attempt to kill her. She found his violent behavior appealing and romantic.
I sometimes wonder if Christie became aware of her negative portrayal of the upper-class Cloades, while writing "Taken at the Flood", and became determined to maintain the social status quo in the novel. And she achieved this by ensuring that the lower-class David Hunter proved to be the real criminal and no member of the Cloade family end up arrested or prosecuted for their crimes. In other words, Christie allowed her conservative sensibilities to really get the best of her. Aside from the permanent separation between Lynn and Rowley, Andrews and Wilson embraced Christie's conservatism to the extreme. And it left a bitter taste in my mouth. No wonder "TAKEN AT THE FLOOD" proved to be one of the most disappointing Christie stories I have ever come across.
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Below is a list of popular historical novels that are a part of a series:
LIST OF HISTORICAL FICTION SERIES
1. The Forsyte Saga (1906-1921) by John Galsworthy - Nobel Prize winning author John Galsworthy wrote and published a series of three novels and two interludes about members of an upper middle-class English family between the 1870s and 1920s.
2. Poldark Saga (1945-2002) by Winston Graham - Set between 1783 and 1820 is a series of twelve novels about a former British Army officer and Revolutionary War veteran, his struggles to make a new life and renew his fortunes following his return to Cornwall after the war.
3. The Asian Saga (1962-1993) by James Clavell - This series of six novels centered on Europeans - especially the Struans-Dunross family - in Asia and the impact of both Eastern and Western civilization between the the early 17th century and late 20th century.
4. The Raj Quartet (1966-1975) by Paul Scott - Paul Scott wrote this four novel series about a group of Europeans during the last five years of the British Raj in India.
5. Flashman Papers (1969-2005) by George MacDonald Fraser - Journalist George MacDonald Fraser wrote a series of novels about the exploits of a cowardly British Army officer during the Victorian Age, between 1839 and 1894. The Harry Flashman character was originally a minor character in Thomas Hughes' 1857 novel, "Tom Brown's School Days".
6. Beulah Land Trilogy (1973-1981) by Lonnie Coleman - This three-volume series told the saga of a Savannah belle named Sarah Pennington Kendrick and her years as mistress of a Georgia cotton plantation called Beulah Land, between the early Antebellum Era and the late Gilded Age.
7. The Kent Family Chronicles (1974-1979) by John Jakes - Also known as "the Bicentennial Series", author John Jakes wrote a series of eight novels to commemorate the United States' 200th Bicentennial that centered on the experiences of the Kent family from 1770 to 1890.
8. American Civil War Trilogy (1974; 1996-2000) by Michael and Jeff Shaara - Michael Shaara wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, "The Killer Angels" in 1974, which was about the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. A few years after his death, his son Jeff wrote both a prequel (set during the first two years of the war) and a sequel (set during the war's last year); creating a trilogy of the three novels.
9. The Australians Series (1979-1990) by William Stuart Long - Set between the late 18th century and the late 19th (or early 20th) century, this literary series followed the experiences of the Broome family in Australia and other parts of the British Empire.
10. North and South Trilogy (1982-1987) by John Jakes - John Jakes wrote this literary trilogy about the experiences of two families - the Hazards of Pennsylvania and the Mains of South Carolina - between 1842 and 1876.
11. The Savannah Quartet (1983-1989) by Eugenia Price - The four novels that make up this series is centered around a Northerner named Mark Browning who moves to the birthplace of his Savannah-born mother and his relationships with his family, friends and neighbors between 1812 and 1864.
12. Wild Swan Trilogy (1984-1989) by Celeste De Blasis - Set between 1813 and 1894, this literary trilogy focused on a young English immigrant named Alexandria Thaine, her two husbands and her descendants in England and Maryland.
13. Outlander Series (1992-Present) by Diana Gabaldon - This current literary series focuses upon a World War II nurse named Claire Randall, who embarks upon a series of adventures after she travels back in time and fall in love with an 18th century Highland warrior named Jamie Fraser.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Here is new VOYAGER fanfic in which the show's favorite Vulcan deals with Harry Kim's penchant for practical jokes. Set during the series' Season 7:
"HOLODECKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES"
FEEDBACK: It would be nice to receive some. Please, no flames.
SUMMARY: Harry Kim goes too far in his campaign of practical jokes against Tuvok. Set in early Season 7. Spoilers to "Repression", "Unimatrix Zero" and "Body and Soul".
DISCLAIMER: Sigh! All characters and etc. pertaining to Star Trek Voyager belongs to Paramount, Viacom and . . . well, you know who.
NOTE: The ritual of Tal'loth was first mentioned in the Season 3 episode, "Displaced". As for the Desert of Tulak, I'm sure no such place exists. Even in the Trek universe. Or possibly the Temple of Surak. But I'm not sure about that.
"HOLODECKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES"
Bridge duty finally ended for Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok of the U.S.S. Voyager. As much as he found his work satisfying, the Tactical Chief looked forward to the two hours he had reserved to be spent inside Holodeck Two. Two hours of meditation in the Temple of Surak.
Upon reaching his destination, Tuvok entered Holodeck Two and ordered the computer to initialize his program - Surak Delta Phi Tuvok. The holodeck's black-and-yellow grid immediately transformed into a familiar location on Vulcan. The Temple of Surak. A mecca for many Vulcans who traveled there to meditate and pay to the philosopher Surak, the very one responsible for introducing logic, reasoning and the suppression of emotion to the Vulcan race.
Anticipation filled Tuvok. He took a deep breath and strode into the stone-constructed temple. Then he proceeded along the dark passageways, until a corridor led him to a large enclave. The Meditation Hall. There, disciples came to learn new practices of meditation. Tuvok halted beside a robed attendant. The latter's hood fell back, revealing the smirking image of Voyager's Chief Medical Officer. "Please state the nature of the emergency," it squeaked. Over and over again. "Please state the nature of the emergency."
Tuvok heaved a very unVulcan-like sigh. Irritation and annoyance threatened to overcome his calm demeanor, but with great effort, he kept these emotions at bay. His suspicions were another matter. The Security Chief had a pretty good idea who was responsible for this "latest" joke.
* * * *
Ensign Harry Kim sat at a table inside the Mess Hall, studying the food on his plate. On it was a new dish that Neelix had created. The Talaxian called it Napenean soufflé. Exactly where it got its name from, Harry had no idea. Nor did he want to know. The dish suited the young Ops Chief just fine, as long as it tasted delicious and he remained ignorant of the main ingredients. Then again, one of Harry's personality traits was his curiosity.
"I see that Neelix gave you a sample of his latest culinary creation," a smooth voice commented. Harry glanced up at the sight of his two best friends, standing beside the table. Both Tom and B'Elanna held dinner trays.
Harry greeted the married couple. "Yeah. He calls it Napenean soufflé. I keep telling myself that I shouldn't worry what's in it, as long as it tastes good. But I can't help wondering."
"Don't," B'Elanna replied. "You don't really want to know." She and Tom eased into chairs opposite Harry. "Just follow your first instinct and eat it. And hope that it tastes good and won't upset your stomach."
Cautiously, Harry broke off a forkful of the soufflé and placed it in his mouth. A delicate combination of creamy egg filling and lightly spiced mushrooms and sausage exploded in his mouth. "Hmm!" he exclaimed, chewing. "This is delicious!"
Both Tom and B'Elanna followed his example and reacted in the same manner. "You're right!" Tom added. "This is great! Neelix has really outdone himself, this time."
The three friends continued to enjoy their meal, when a shadow fell upon their table. Tom glanced up. "Tuvok! Care to join us? You should try Neelix's new dish."
"Some other time," the Vulcan coolly replied. "At the moment, I am here to discuss another matter. Someone," his dark eyes glowered, "has made changes to my holoeck program. Again."
Tom immediately protested, "Look here, Tuvok. I haven't been near your . . ."
"I am quite aware that you are not the culprit, Lieutenant." Tuvok's eyes shifted toward Harry. "My suspicions lie elsewhere."
Aware of the looks directed at him, Harry kept his eyes fixed upon his plate. But reminders of his little "additions" to Tuvok's Surak program drew a spate of giggles from him.
"Do you find something amusing, Ensign Kim?"
Harry's laughter died down. A smirk remained fixed on his lips. "Okay, Tuvok. You got me. I was the one who tweaked your program."
A sigh left B'Elanna's mouth. Tom responded with an "Oh Harry!"
Tuvok's temple, much to Harry's amusement, began to throb. Disapproval poured from the former's eyes. "Ensign, time and again, I have asked you to keep your hands to yourself and not 'tweak' my holodeck programs."
"C'mon Tuvok!" Harry protested. "Where's your sense of humor?"
"I am a Vulcan, Ensign. I do not have a sense of humor." Tuvok sniffed. "And even if I were not Vulcan, I would find your . . . sense of humor, infantile. In the meantime, please do not meddle with my programs again." He squared his shoulders and marched toward the exit.
The three friends watched the Security Chief's retreating figure. Then it was Tom's turn to heave a sigh. "Harry, Harry, Harry! Don't you think these practical jokes on Tuvok are getting a little old?"
"What are you talking about? It was just a joke," Harry exclaimed. "Besides, Tuvok should be used to them by now."
B'Elanna placed her fork down on her plate and gave Harry that stern look reserved for the engineers who served under her. "If Tuvok was so used to your jokes by now, Starfleet, we wouldn't have just experienced that little complaint from him. Now would we?"
"Well, maybe it's time someone got through that Vulcan façade of his." Both Tom and B'Elanna first stared at each other and then at Harry. He did not care for the knowing gleam in their eyes. "What?" he demanded. "Why are you two looking at me like that?"
"Harry," Tom said, "what's going on? This can't be about Tuvok being Vulcan, can it?"
Outrage flitted across Harry's face. "Of course not!" he protested. "What do you think I am? A bigot?" Privately, he could not believe that Tom and B'Elanna thought he was capable of such bigotry. After all, he was a Starfleet officer.
B'Elanna continued, "Then what is it? Why do you keep playing these stupid practical jokes?"
"They're not stupid. They're fun! Hell, it was Tom who introduced me to playing jokes on Tuvok in the first place."
B'Elanna glared at her husband. Who immediately cried out in protest. "What? All right! I admit I was the one who started the whole thing. But I've stopped. Remember?"
"Why?" Harry demanded. "It's fun putting Tuvok down a peg or two. Besides, he deserves it." His last remark drew stares from his two friends. Harry immediately found himself regretting his words. "What I mean is . . ."
"What do you mean?" B'Elanna asked sharply. "I was right, wasn't I? You do have some grudge against Tuvok."
Harry shook his head. Tom and B'Elanna's reactions were not what he had expected. What happened to them? Did marriage ruin their sense of humor? "What's with you guys? This is Tuvok we're talking about? Yyou know how annoyingly superior he can be."
"Annoying or not, I thought he was your friend," B'Elanna said. "After all, he did try to help you with your crush on that hologram."
Tom added, "And he taught you how to play Kal-toh."
Harry had enough of the guilt trips. He thought B'Elanna and especially, Tom would appreciate his practical jokes. Apparently not. What a shame that Mezoti was no longer aboard Voyager. She would have enjoyed the jokes.
"I think you two have really lost your sense of humor," the young Ops Chief retorted. "I'll see you later." He stood up, picked up his tray and marched toward the nearest recycler. Harry never saw the looks exchanged between his two friends.
* * * *
Once again, Tuvok made his way along Deck, toward Holodeck Two. Today would be his second attempt to meditate in the Temple of Surak. Unlike yesterday, he was only able to reserve only one hour of holodeck time.
Tuvok paused before Holodeck Two's doors. Suspicion of further tampering of his program by Ensign Kim rose in his mind. "Computer, who was the last person to enter Holodeck Two?"
"Ensign Larson used Holodeck Two on Stardate 54261.3," the computer responded in its usual dry voice.
Relief flooded Tuvok. That meant that Ensign Kim had not . . . Another thought occurred to him. "Computer, when was the last time the program Tuvok Delta Phi Surak was accessed?"
The computer replied, "Tuvok Delta Phi Surak was last accessed on Stardate 54260.5." The very day and time the Security Officer had last entered the holodeck. Satisfied that he would not find his program tampered by Ensign Kim, Tuvok entered Holodeck Two.
Once again, he ordered the ship's computer to initiate his Temple of Surak program. And once again, the holodeck grid transformed into the temple on Vulcan. Tuvok surreptiously glanced around for any deviation. Although the computer had confirmed him as the last person that accessed the program, one could not be completely sure.
Utilizing the same caution, the Security Chief made his way inside the temple. He encountered the usual acolytes and disciples. Upon reaching the Meditation Hall, he paused. Careful observation of the robed attendant revealed no changes made by Ensign Kim. There seemed to be no sign of the EMH or anyone else's image. Good. Tuvok allowed himself a brief sigh of relief, took a robe from the attendant and entered the chamber.
He found an empty spot between two disciples and squatted on the floor. Ahead was the altar. A large gong rose from it. Two robed figures entered the hall and walked toward altar. One of them was the Oracle of T'Kol. The second figure announced the beginning of a new session by striking the gong. The oracle threw back a hood and the next thing Tuvok knew, the Oracle of T'Kol had transformed into a Klingon, bellowing Klingon opera.
Anger - genuine anger that Tuvok had not experienced since his mind meld with Crewman Lon Suder, nearly threatened to overwhelm his usual stoicism. But Tuvok was a Vulcan and with great effort, he squelched this latest threat to his emotions. However, he refused to deny one thing. Ensign Kim had finally gone too far.
* * * *
On Voyager's Bridge, Harry stood behind the Operations station, glancing at his computer console. A soft laughter escaped his lips. The console displayed a monitor, showing the interior of Holodeck Two. And Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok's reaction to his latest practical joke.
Harry chuckled again. Everything happened just as he had planned. Aware of the Security Chief's legendary paranoia, Harry suspected that Tuvok would check on who had last accessed the Surak program. And the young ensign made sure to delete any record of that person's identification. Namely himself.
Watching the monitor, Harry noticed how Tuvok's temple throbbed repeatedly. A sure sign of the latter was barely controlling his emotions. Life can be so wonderfully fulfilling at times. Harry thought it was a shame that neither Tom nor B'Elanna could see this. Or appreciate his joke. Harry allowed himself another chuckle.
"Find something amusing, Harry?" the First Officer's voice softly interrupted.
Harry's laughter immediately vanished. He quickly switched off the monitor, gave a slight, embarrassed cough and murmured, "Sorry, Commander. Just remembering a joke that Neelix had told me."
Dark eyes coolly bored into the young officer's. "Would you like to share it with the rest of us?"
"Uh . . . no. I mean . . ." Again, Harry coughed. "I guess not. It's a bit inappropriate, if you know what I mean. It won't happen again."
Chakotay nodded and returned his attention to the console at the Science Station. Harry surreptiously activated the monitor to the holodeck for another glimpse at Tuvok's discomfort. Unfortunately, Holodeck Two was no longer occupied. Harry was not completely disappointed. At least he had managed to witness the fruition of his latest practical joke. With that thought, he allowed himself a private smile.
* * * *
The turbolift slid open. Just as Harry stepped inside, he heard a voice cry out, "Wait for me, Harry!" It was Tom, who joined the younger man. "So, you seemed awfully chipper, today. Was Neelix's joke that funny?"
Harry's mouth stretched into a smile. "Computer, Deck 6." He turned to Tom. "Have you ever known Neelix to tell a funny joke?"
"Then what was with the . . .?" Tom stared at his friend. His blue eyes narrowed. "Harry, have you been up to something, lately?"
"Well, if you must know . . ." Harry's smile transformed into a smirk. The turbolift's doors had just slid open at Deck 2, revealing a grim-faced Tuvok. The Vulcan paused momentarily at the sight of the Operations Chief, before he entered the turbolift. He commanded the computer to take him to Deck 5.
The smirk remained fixed on Harry's face. "Good day, Commander," he greeted. "Missed you on the Bridge. Were you off duty, today?"
Tuvok's body stiffened. "I don't report for duty until the Beta shift, Ensign." Spotting Tom, he gave the pilot a polite nod. "Lieutenant." Tom responded quietly.
"So, were are you headed?" Harry continued.
A pause followed. Tuvok replied in a tight voice, "To my quarters, Ensign. Why do you ask?"
"Oh nothing. I thought you had reserved Holodeck Two for this time." Harry turned to Tom and winked. The pilot responded by rolling his eyes.
Tuvok gave Harry a long, cool stare. "Yes, I did. Unfortunately there was a computer . . . glitch."
It took all of Harry's efforts not to burst into laughter. A smile even threatened to tug the corners of Tom's mouth. "Oh, what a shame," replied in an innocent voice. "Would you like me to take a look at your program? Maybe fix that glitch?"
Another silent moment followed. Tuvok stared at Harry for what seemed like eternity. "Thank you, Ensign," he coldly answered, "but I have no need for your . . . assistance." The lift stopped at Deck Five. "Good day."
The moment the doors slid shut, Harry burst into laughter. "Did you see his face? Tuvok looked as if he was about to have an aneurysm. You should have seen his reaction inside the Holodeck."
"So that's what you were laughing about," Tom said.
Harry took one look at the pilot's face and his laughter died. The usually gregarious Tom looked somber. "Oh c'mon Tom! Don't tell me you didn't find that funny? You almost smiled a minute ago."
The turbolift stopped at Deck 6. Both officers stepped out and marched toward Harry's quarters. Tom sighed. "Harry, Harry, Harry! I didn't realize you were smirking over another practical joke on Tuvok. I can't believe that you're still at it. When are you going to stop?" Disapproval radiated from his blue eyes.
"When I feel like it," Harry replied defiantly, his good mood spoiled. "Why do you have a problem with that?"
"Look Harry, I'll admit that Tuvok can be a stiff sometimes. And irritating. But who isn't on this ship? And to be honest, I rather like the guy. For some unexplainable reason, I have less trouble getting along with him than I do with . . . say, Chakotay." The two friends came upon Harry's quarters. "Remember when Tuvok cleared me of murder about six years ago? I told him back then I was a friend whether he liked it or not."
Harry retorted, "He was only doing his job as Security Chief. Besides, if he had thought you were guilty, you would still be experiencing those images the Benari gave you. Or you would be dead by now."
"At least he gave me the benefit of the doubt. Like you and the Captain. Hell, hardly anyone else did."
Harry's quarters loomed before the two friends. The younger man punched in his authorization code and the pair stepped inside. While Tom headed straight for the sofa, Harry walked toward his replicator. Contemplating on Tom's response, he realized he would never understand the pilot's relationship with Security Chief. It seemed odd that two men with such opposite personalities and who constantly sniped at each other could develop a friendly relationship. Whether that relationship was private or personal, Harry had no idea.
While Harry replicated two cups of coffee, Tom continued, "I noticed in his Insurrection Alpha program that Tuvok had not cast me as one of the crew who joined the Maquis uprising at the drop of a hat, unlike poor Neelix."
"What's the point of all this?" Harry found Tom's "tribute" to the Vulcan Security Chief a little hard to take. He handed the other man a cup of coffee and settled on the sofa with his own.
Tom took a sip of coffee. "The point is . . . maybe you should ease up on Tuvok. He's not that bad. Really. And besides, he's been through a lot, lately. Getting assimilated by the Borg, his . . . uh, Tarkalian flu. And getting brainwashed by that psychotic Bajoran vedek to start . . ." Tom broke off. Realization gleamed in his blue eyes. Much to Harry's dismay. "That's it, isn't it?"
"What?" Harry demanding, dreading Tom's answer.
The pilot's eyes narrowed. "These practical jokes. They have something to do with what happened after that Bajoran vedek brainwashed Tuvok into reviving the Maquis aboard ship. Especially when Tuvok was investigating the attacks upon the Maquis."
"I have no idea what you're talking about." Harry flushed, aware of the unconvincing tone in his voice. He tried to dismiss Tom's accusations. Tried and failed. Memories of Tuvok's interrogation and admission of accessing his private mail returned. And so did a familiar anger.
Tom gave the younger man a shrewd glance. "So, this unrelenting string of practical jokes toward Tuvok has nothing to do with . . ."
"Nothing at all," Harry added firmly. He finally managed to push the offending memory from his mind.
Okay." Tom shrugged. "But if it does, just remember. Tuvok was only doing his job. You remember those words, don't you Harry?"
* * * *
Maybe Tom was right, Harry decided after his friend left. It did seem pointless to get even with Tuvok for nothing. After all, Harry was a Starfleet officer. He that as Voyager's Chief Security Officer, Tuvok had every right to access private correspondence in regard to an investigation. Maybe he should end the practical jokes. Put the? incident behind him. Perhaps suggest a game of "?" to signify the end of hostilities.
"Mr. Kim", a deep voice called out, interrupting Harry's reverie. It was Tuvok. "I had asked you for the status on the data from the ship's sensor array."
Harry's mind jumped back to the present. A quick glance around the Bridge revealed the Vulcan Second Officer seated in the Captain's chair. There was no sign of Captain Janeway or Commander Chakotay. "Uh, I'm sorry, Commander," Harry replied. "What did you say?" A few snickers could be heard on the Bridge.
"Data from the sensors array, Mr. Kim," Tuvok repeated. "I am waiting for the status."
Coughing nervously, Harry reported that the array was operating at 100 percent. "The external sensors have detected a Class 'J' nebula, located five light years away."
Tuvok commented dryly, "Thank you, Ensign. Perhaps you should run a diagnostic on all of the ship's sensors." Something resembling a sardonic note (or so Harry thought) crept into the Vulcan's tone. "Perhaps this will keep your mind focused on your duties . . . and not on insignificant matters."
More snickering from the other crewmen followed. Along with a snort from a certain person at the Conn. A simmering anger replaced the embarrassment inside Harry. Any thoughts of regret, an apology or a game of Kal-toh flew from his thoughts. As far as he was concerned, Tuvok was toast.
* * * *
The moment his shift on the Bridge ended, Harry rushed toward the turbolift and headed for Deck 6. Holodeck Two. He had already formed an idea for a new practical joke. One that would transform Tuvok's Surak program into a Captain Proton adventure and keep the Vulcan trapped inside the simulation during the latter's scheduled time. Harry allowed himself a smile. Yes, that sounded like a fine idea.
Upon reaching Holodeck Two, Harry entered and headed straight for the computer console. He ordered access to Tuvok's Surak program. "That authorization code is no longer in effect," the computer's voice chirped.
Harry smirked. Nice try Tuvok, he thought to himself. This was the Vulcan's second attempt to block Harry's access into the Surak program. The Operations Chief felt certain that any security measures created by Tuvok could be bypassed. "Computer, please state the last holodeck program filed by Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok. Authorization code, Kim Alpha Seven."
The computer responded, "Unable to comply. Private authorization code is required for that information."
So, Tuvok wanted to play rough. When it came to Voyager's computer, Harry considered himself master of this game. Undaunted, he set about creating a brief program to hack into Tuvok's new code. It did not take long before he finally succeeded.
"Computer, state the last program filed by Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok using the following decompiling system." Harry punched in a few codes.
The computer complied. "Last file saved by Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok is T'Pel Gamma Phi Six."
Harry ordered, "Initiate T'Pel Gamma Phi Six and open the narrative parameters."
The holodeck grid transformed into the familiar stone temple of Surak. Another smile touched Harry's lips. But it disappeared, along with the temple. In a blink of an eye, the young ensign found himself standing in the middle of a flat, dry landscape with no temple in sight. "What the hell?" he murmured, confused. A humanoid materialized before Harry. It was Tuvok. Or a holographic simulation of the Vulcan. "Tuvok! What the hell is going on?"
"Good day, Ensign Kim. You are about to participate in the ritual of Tal'loth," the Vulcan coolly replied.
Harry exclaimed, "The ritual of what?"
"Tal'loth. Since you have developed a fondness for Vulcan holographic simulations, I have decided to create this particular one. For your enjoyment." Tuvok strode forward. "This is the Tulak Desert on Vulcan. This is where I once participated in a Vulcan survival ritual. The very same ritual you are about to take part. I hope you will enjoy it."
"Wait a minute!" Harry cried. "I'm not going to take part in any survival ritual! Computer, end holodeck simulation!"
The computer's voice responded, "Unable to comply. The T'Pel Gamma Phi Six program is programmed to end in exactly two hours after its initiation. Only a private authorization code from Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok can end the program."
"Computer, end this program. Authorization code, Surak Beta Delta!"
"Unable to comply. A vocal authorization from Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok is required."
Desperation dominated Harry's voice as he cried to the holographic Vulcan. "Tuvok! Do something! Order the computer to end the program!"
Tuvok coolly replied, "I am not programmed to do so, Ensign Kim. Please enjoy your holodeck time." He began to dematerialize.
* * * *
Tom stepped off from the turbolift and strode along Deck Six's corridor. Recalling Harry's dash from the Bridge, he suspected that another practical joke was about to be plotted against Tuvok. Especially after the Vulcan had humiliated Harry on the Bridge. Tom intended to stop the Ops Chief, but a summons from Seven required his presence in Astrometrics.
As he approached Holodeck Two, Tom found Voyager's Tactical Chief standing outside. "Tuvok," he exclaimed, "what are you doing here? Holodeck time already?"
"I am here to . . ." A blood-curling scream from inside Holodeck Two interrupted Tuvok. Tom immediately recognized the voice. Harry. He rushed forward to enter the holodeck, but Tuvok grabbed hold of his arm and stopped him. "I would not, if I were you, Lieutenant. Ensign Kim is already in the middle of his holodeck recreation time."
Tom frowned. "What are you saying? Harry never said anything about reserving time for the Holodeck, today." Another scream followed. Tom attempted to free himself from the Vulcan's grip. "Tuvok! Let me go! Harry's in trouble!"
"I assure you that Mister Kim is in no danger. Especially since he is capable of moving ten times faster than the Tulak Desert worm," Tuvok responded.
The Vulcan continued, "A common native of the Tulak Desert on Vulcan. Granted, its appearance may be considered intimidating at 12 feet long and its bite is dangerous," Tom glanced sharply at the older man, "but the worm does not pose any threat, due to its slow movement." A scream from inside the holodeck punctuated Tuvok's remarks. "Of course, there is more than one worm."
Speechless, Tom found himself wondering how Harry ended up in a holographic simulation of a Vulcan desert. "I . . . uh, why would Harry . . .?"
"Apparently, Ensign Kim had access to my new Vulcan survival course program," Tuvok replied. One of his brows quirked upward. "While attempting to access my Surak program."
Tom blinked. "Survival course?"
Tuvok nodded. "The ritual of Tal'loth. I took part in it long before I had participated in any survival course at the Academy. And since Ensign Kim seemed curious about my holodeck programs, I thought he would also enjoy the Tal'loth ritual."
Tom stared at Tuvok. The latter's stoicism remained firmly in place. Yet, Tom thought he had detected a touch of smugness in the Vulcan's dark eyes. He finally understood. Tuvok had finally decided to teach Harry a lesson about practical jokes.
A fourth scream emitted from inside the holodeck. Tom and Tuvok exchanged looks. "Exactly how long will Harry take part in this uh . . . survival course?"
Tuvok's second brow formed an angle. "Unlike Seska, I have placed a time limit in the holodeck program." He paused. "At least three hours."
Three hours in the Vulcan desert, dodging 12 feet long worms that can bite. Poor Harry. Tom shook his head and smiled. That ought to finally dampen his friend's penchant for practical jokes.
The two officers walked away from Holodeck Two. Tom asked, "Say Tuvok, what if I had continued with the jokes. Would I be facing desert worms in the holodeck?"
Dark eyes stared pointedly at Tom. "Do you really require an answer, Lieutenant?"
Tom felt a wave of relief. "No," he said, shaking his head. "No, I don't." Thank God B'Elanna had weaned him off practical jokes. Then he added, "You know, I didn't realize that Vulcans were capable of revenge."
Tuvok's brows rose higher. "I assure you, Lieutenant Paris, we are not. Revenge is an illogical and unnecessary trait. What Ensign Kim is experiencing is merely a lesson in respecting another's possessions."
Tom allowed himself a smile. "Of course, Tuvok. Whatever you say."