NOTE: This article was originally posted on Usenet flight-sim group in January. Some knowledge of Star Trek would help to enjoy the humor.
EXT. TWENTIETH CENTURY EARTH. A DISGRUNTLED MAN GETS UP FROM HIS
COMPUTER AND PULLS A CD OUT OF THE CD-ROM DRIVE. HE TAKES THE CD
AND PLACES IT, ALONG WITH THE OTHER MATERIALS, INTO HIS CLOSET.
EXT. MUSEUM ARCHIVES. A DR. LIGHTFOOT IS SITTING AT HIS DESK WHEN HE IS STARTLED BY A KNOCK AT THE DOOR. ENTER GEORDI LA FORGE.
LA FORGE (EXCITED): Dr. Lightfoot! It is great to see you again!
LIGHTFOOT: Why Mr. La Forge. What a pleasant surprise. Are you enjoying some vacation time?
LA FORGE: Yes. I am just in the neighborhood because of a recent symposium I attended on ancient technology. It's fascinating to study those old computer systems!
LIGHTFOOT (CHUCKLES): Well then my friend, perhaps you would like to see this . . .
LIGHTFOOT GOES OVER TO A STACK OF OLD PAPERS AND JUNK. AFTER
RUMMAGING THROUGH, HE FINDS HIS ITEM.
LIGHTFOOT: Ahh, here it is. Take a look at this Geordi. This is a rare find indeed.
LA FORGE: What is it Doc?
LIGHTFOOT (SMILING): Don't recognize it eh? This is an old earth computer program. The packaging has long since deteriorated, but this disk has not. (POINTING) Look here Geordi. If you look hard enough you can make out
LA FORGE (STAMMERING): Fal. . . Fal . . . Falcon?
LIGHTFOOT: Good job. The title is Falcon 4.0. What you are looking at my friend is a piece of ancient history. This dates back to the late twentieth century.
LA FORGE: Wait, don't tell me. I remember now. This is an old form of
entertainment. This is a game that people used to load and play on
LIGHTFOOT: Correct my friend. What you are looking at is useless today, but back then was probably quite enjoyable. (HANDING CD TO LA FORGE) Here, I want you to have it.
LA FORGE: No Doc, I can't.
LIGHTFOOT: I insist my good friend. You always come to visit this crusty old man, and I want to thank you for it. Please take it. Besides, you've been studying about ancient technology. This can be a little reminder of what they used to enjoy.
LA FORGE: Thank you Doc. I'll take this with me back to the Enterprise and see if Data and I can make it work. This can be like a little hobby for me.
LIGHTFOOT: Great idea Geordi. I would not get my hopes up though. These things don't often work as advertised.
LA FORGE: It's just a game Doc.
CAMERA MOVES TO A CLOSE UP OF THE CD AS THE INTRO MUSIC BEGINS TO PLAY. "Space, the Final Frontier . . ."
FADE IN TO DATA'S QUARTERS. DATA IS SITTING AT HIS COMPUTER WORKSTATION AND PETTING SPOT HIS CAT. THERE IS A SOUND AT THE DOOR.
DATA: Come in. (ENTER LA FORGE) Geordi, it is good to see you.
LA FORGE: Thank you Data. Guess what I've got?
DATA: I believe you want me to engage in a ritual game. I do not know what you have, but I am suppose to take a guess anyway.
LA FORGE: Um, right Data.
DATA: You have a Liptonian Swamp Frog.
LA FORGE: No Data, I don't. It's ok, forget the guessing part. I visited Doc Lightfoot and he gave me this.
LA FORGE HANDS THE CD OF FALCON 4.0 TO DATA
DATA (LOOKS INQUISITIVELY): I believe this is an ancient storage medium called a compact disk.
LA FORGE: Yes Data. What you are holding is a late twentieth century game that people used to play on computers. It is called Falcon 4.0.
DATA: What do you propose to do with this?
LA FORGE: I've been thinking Data. I believe I can replicate an old computer and try to play this game. Would you like to give me a hand?
DATA: I believe I would.
LA FORGE: Great! I will see you at 19:00 in the holodeck.
INT: THE HOLODECK. LA FORGE AND DATA ARE INSIDE SITTING AT A COMPUTER DESK.
LA FORGE: Ok Data. I have researched the information we need to get this CD to work. We must first replicate a computer from that period of time. (SPEAKING TO THE COMPUTER) Computer, create a personal computer from the late twentieth century that has a CD-ROM drive.
COMPUTER: Affirmative. There are several models to choose from. The 386, the 486, the Pentium, the Pentium II . . .
LA FORGE: That's it. Give me the Pentium II.
COMPUTER: There are several processor speeds to choose from. (LA FORGE ROLLS HIS EYES)
LA FORGE: Give me, uh, let's say a 400 mhz.
THERE IS A BRIEF PAUSE AND THEN THE APPEARANCE OF AN IBM CLONE
PENTIUM II COMPUTER WITH CD-ROM DRIVE AND MULTIMEDIA SPEAKERS.
LA FORGE: Wow Data, look at this thing. Amazing anyone could do anything with it.
DATA (HANDLING): I believe this is a "mouse?"
LA FORGE: A crude interface, but then again things have changed a lot since then. (SLIPPING IN CD) Ok, here we go.
MINUTES GO BY AS THE GAME LOADS.
LA FORGE: Oh wow these things are slow! How did people put up with this kind of stuff? Ok it looks like we are ready. I believe I just click on this icon here and that should launch the game.
THE GAME LOADS AND GOES THROUGH THE INTRODUCTORY ANIMATION.
LA FORGE: Data, this is a flight simulator! Incredible. Did you see those old planes?
DATA: It appears to be a simulation of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
LA FORGE: We are going to need another interface to play this. Computer, we need a joystick setup that is compatible with this Pentium II.
COMPUTER: There are several models to chose from: 2 axis, 4 axis, with throttle. . .
DATA: I believe you want a HOTAS setup. Allow me. (ADDRESSING HOLODECK COMPUTER) Computer, give us a Thrustmaster F22 Pro joystick and throttle.
LA FORGE (LOOKING PUZZLED): Thanks Data.
THE COMPUTER REPLICATES A THRUSTMASTER HOTAS SETUP.
LA FORGE: Great! Now we are talking. I believe we are looking at the user interface here. What we need to do is find a section of this game that will let us practice flying. Ah, here we go. Under this Tactical Engagement section there appear to be some training missions. Hmm. Let's try this one called "takeoff."
ABOUT AN HOUR LATER
LA FORGE: It may be old twentieth century entertainment, but that was fun. I think we are going to have to really challenge ourselves tomorrow though Data with that section called Campaign.
DATA: I will do some more research tonight Geordi and see if I can find us some instructions.
GEORDI: Thanks Data. I'll see you tomorrow at the same time?
DATA: I will be here.
INT. THE HOLODECK. LA FORGE, DATA, AND RIKER ARE SITTING AT THE COMPUTER AND RIKER IS FLYING INSTANT ACTION.
RIKER: Ha! Take that!
LA FORGE: Commander you are doing great in Instant Action. You must have shot down 20 planes by now!
DATA: Commander Riker has engaged 12 aircraft, firing four AIM-9M missiles and using the vulcan cannon.
LA FORGE (SARCASTICALLY): Yeah, thanks Data.
RIKER (SHOUTING): There goes another one!
LA FORGE: Data did you find anything regarding the instructions?
DATA: In a brief search of ancient USENET postings, I found many references to the campaign portion of this simulation. It appears that there was a significant problem in the program's code in this location.
LA FORGE: That's hard to imagine. Everything has been going well so far in these other sections. Let's take a look. (PATTING RIKER ON THE SHOULDER) Um Commander, can we fly some now?
RIKER (STARING INTENTLY AT THE SCREEN): What?
LA FORGE: Commander, we would like to do some further testing . . .
RIKER: Oh, ok. (LAUGHING SHEEPISHLY) I was kinda getting into this thing.
LA FORGE: We noticed.
RIKER GETS UP FROM THE SEAT AND LEAVES THE HOLODECK. LA FORGE SITS IN FRONT OF THE COMPUTER AND CLICKS ON CAMPAIGN. AFTER CHOOSING A MISSION, HE BEGINS TO FLY. AT A LATER POINT IN THE MISSION NEAR SOME HEAVY ACTION TOWARD THE FLOT. . .
LA FORGE: Data, this thing is slower than NCC 1701! It's virtually unplayable!
DATA: If the reports were correct, I believe the campaign module is "hosed."
LA FORGE (SURPRISED): Data?
DATA: A term used in many of the posts I read concerning the campaign. I believe this means that the campaign does not work correctly. The discussion on this topic became quite heated. A curious development during this time was an inordinate amount of posts with the word "PLONK." I believe an attempted solution was something called a "patch."
Click to continue
LA FORGE: A patch. (THINKING) Yes, a patch! Data, were you able to find anything more on this patch?
DATA: I was only able to find one such patch. It is patch version 1.03.
LA FORGE: Well then, let's load it up.
LA FORGE HAS THE HOLODECK COMPUTER MAKE A DISK WITH THE 1.03 PATCH ON IT. HE INSTALLS THE PATCH AND AFTER DEALING WITH SEVERAL INSTALLATION PROBLEMS, HAS FALCON 4.0 RUNNING AGAIN. HE ENTERS THE CAMPAIGN AND IS FLYING ANOTHER MISSION.
LA FORGE (FRUSTRATED): Data? What has happened to the enemy airplanes? They are just flying around and ignoring me now?
DATA: It appears as though the patch may be "hosed" as well.
LA FORGE: Well, maybe it has helped with the framerate. Let's see. (LAFORGE CONTINUES TO FLY TOWARD THE FLOT) Oh man! This is horrible. The campaign is just killing the framerate on this machine.
DATA: I believe a patch is suppose to be a helpful thing?
LA FORGE: Well I sure thought so as well. It seems that this one is not helping at all.
LA FORGE GOES DEEP INTO THOUGHT.
LA FORGE: Data . . . I have an idea. Let's have the holodeck computer scan and load this program. We can then have it simulate the game. We can jump into F-16's instead of trying this on this old computer!
DATA: Geordi, I do not think this is a good idea. Old programming code like this can be very volatile.
LA FORGE: Naw Data. This will work fine. I will have the holodeck computer scan the CD and then we can put ourselves into the real planes! (ADDRESSING THE HOLODECK COMPUTER) Computer, scan the CD-ROM drive and load FALCON 4.0.
COMPUTER: Scanning complete.
LA FORGE: Computer, take the campaign code from this simulation and then match it to known database information on the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Make for us two F-16's with which we can interface the campaign.
COMPUTER: Compiling complete.
LA FORGE: Computer, run the simulation.
THE HOLODECK TRANSFORMS INTO A FLIGHTLINE TAXIWAY WITH LA FORGE AND DATA IN F-16 FIGHTING FALCONS.
LA FORGE (IN COCKPIT): Data! This is amazing!
DATA (IN COCKPIT): I believe the seat is angled at 30 degrees.
LA FORGE: Ok Data, advance the throttle slowly and taxi onto the runway.
LA FORGE (SMILING): I believe you are getting the hang of this Data.
A LOUD MONOTONE FEMININE VOICE STARTLES LA FORGE
TOWER CONTROL: Cowboy 1 this is Mandumi tower. You are opposite traffic; clear the runway!
LA FORGE: Oh no! I forgot to get clearance from the tower. Arrrgggh! And she won't stop speaking either!
DATA: Let's hurry and takeoff.
LA FORGE: Good idea Data! Going to afterburner! Yeehaa!
AS THE AIRCRAFT CLEAR THE RUNWAY THERE IS A LOUD VOICE AGAIN.
TOWER CONTROL: Cowboy 1. You're out of line Mr.. Report to the SOF when you land!
DATA: Geordi. I believe I should say here that that woman is quite annoying.
LA FORGE: Yes Data.
LA FORGE AND DATA FLY THEIR WAYPOINTS TO THE STRIKE AREA. AS THEY APPROACH THE FLOT THERE IS A SUDDEN MASSIVE LURCH AND BRIEF LIGHT
LA FORGE: Data! What was that?
DATA: I do not know.
LA FORGE: Something is wrong! Computer, end simulation. (NO RESPONSE FROM THE HOLODECK COMPUTER. LA FORGE IN A LOUD AGITATED VOICE) Computer! End simulation! (NO RESPONSE). Data, we have a big problem here.
INT. BRIDGE. THERE IS RAPID ACTIVITY AND SOUNDS OF PEOPLE TALKING. THE LIGHTS ARE DIMMED AND SYSTEMS ARE BEGINNING TO MALFUNCTION. ENTER PICARD FROM THE TURBOLIFT.
PICARD: Number one, what is going on?
RIKER: Captain, I am not sure. We are experiencing a ship-wide failure of systems. It appears that something is eating up our computer resources.
PICARD (Agitated): Eating up resources?!
RIKER: I'm not sure sir, but something has taken control of the main computer and has put such a heavy load on it that other systems are failing.
PICARD (ADDRESSING THE COMMS): Mr. La Forge! What is going on!
LA FORGE (ON SPEAKER): Captain, I'm not sure what is going on, but it appears to be tied to the simulation we are running in the holodeck.
PICARD: Simulation? What are you running down there?
LA FORGE (ON SPEAKER): Sir, we are running an old flight simulator called Falcon 4.0.
RIKER (CONFUSED): Geordi? You are running that on a replicated computer?
LA FORGE (ON SPEAKER): Not anymore Commander. I had the holodeck computer load the game and then simulate F-16's for myself and Data.
PICARD (ABRUPTLY): Geordi, end that simulation now!
LA FORGE (ON SPEAKER): Sorry Captain, I can't do that. The computer will not respond. Data and I are trapped in these planes flying around in this simulated war.
RIKER TURNS ASIDE TO PICARD AND SAYS OFF COMMS
RIKER: Captain, if the holodeck is not responding, they might be in danger.
PICARD (ON COMMS): Geordi, is there any possibility that you might be in danger? The computer failure might have disengaged the holodeck safeguards.
LA FORGE (ON SPEAKER): That is a possibility Captain. Data and I will be sure to keep flying and be careful here. We don't have to worry about enemy AAA, SAMS, or aircraft because the campaign code is broken.
PICARD (SOMEWHAT RELIEVED): Good. We will work on it from up here. (LOOKING AT RIKER) Number one, get your best computer staff up here on the double. I want an answer to this immediately.
Riker: Aye aye, Sir.
INT. BRIDGE. FOCUS ON RIKER SITTING AT A COMPUTER STATION WITH PICARD BEHIND HIM.
PICARD: Report number one.
RIKER: Captain, from the best that we can tell, this simulation they are running down there is incredibly complex. The campaign code has multiple threads and a massive memory leak. Every second that it runs it is eating more and more resources. I estimate we have about three more hours before it completely shuts down the main computer.
PICARD: Do you have a solution?
RIKER: I believe so. In doing some research on the program I found that it was known to have many "bugs" in it. What this means Captain is that all Geordi and Data have to do is find one of those bugs and exploit it. When they find a bug it will cause the game to immediately shut down in what is called a "crash." This will release the computer system and we can then restart the main computer and wipe the simulation from memory.
PICARD (HOPEFUL): Excellent work number one. (SPEAKING TO COMMS) Geordi, the simulation appears to have many "bugs" in it. All you have to do is find one of those bugs and it will cause the simulation to "crash." This will then release the computer.
LA FORGE (ON SPEAKER): Thank you Captain. I will work with Data to find a bug and get us out of this thing.
INT. HOLODECK. TWO F-16'S ARE FLYING IN CLOSE FORMATION.
LA FORGE: Data, do you remember reading about any bugs?
DATA: There were several bugs that were tied to the avionics modes. With a certain sequence of pushing buttons on the MFD displays we might be able to cause one to happen. The only problem is that when we do, the game will immediately stop and that could be dangerous to us.
LA FORGE: That's a chance we have to take Data.
LA FORGE AND DATA BEGIN TO PUSH BUTTONS ON THE MFD DISPLAYS AND CALL UP DIFFERENT RADAR MODES AND SUBMODES. SUDDENLY THERE IS A CRASHING SOUND AND THE SIMULATION QUITS. THE F-16'S THAT LA FORGE AND DATA WERE IN IMMEDIATELY DISAPPEAR AND BOTH FALL APPROXIMATELY SIX FEET TO THE FLOOR OF THE HOLODECK.
LA FORGE (IN PAIN): Owww man that was a nasty fall. Are you ok Data?
DATA: Yes, I am fine.
LA FORGE: Well, I'm glad one of us can say that.
PICARD (ON SPEAKER): Good work Mr. La Forge. We have regained use of the computer and are initiating a restart.
LA FORGE: Thank you Captain. I'm sorry about all of this. I had no idea that this program could wreak this much havoc.
ONE DAY LATER
INT. CAPTAIN'S READY ROOM. PICARD, LA FORGE, AND DATA ARE SITTING AND TALKING.
PICARD: Geordi, this whole event amazes me. How could a twentieth century computer simulation bring a Starship's computer to its knees?
LA FORGE: Captain, it appears that the programmers were part genius and part madman. In an effort to be cutting edge for their time they designed the campaign code with future computer hardware in mind. This meant that the campaign had the ability to dynamically adjust itself to whatever machine it was on. The more system performance a machine had, the more resources the simulation would use. Along with this was a massive memory leak that consumed resources. While this type of coding is pure genius, in its present code state it meant that no matter what machine ran it, the simulation was virtually unplayable.
PICARD: Well Mr. La Forge, I am glad that we survived this little incident. Perhaps you should consider another hobby.
LA FORGE (SMILING): I don't know Captain. This simulation stuff had kinda grown on me. I was thinking of looking in the archives for Falcon 5.0.
PICARD: Whatever you do Geordi, just be sure you keep that program out of the main systems.
GEORDI: Aye Sir.
EXT. THE STARSHIP ENTERPRISE CRUISES NORMALLY THROUGH SPACE.
Ed. Note: The 1.04 patch is in testing and should be released next week. It will not include a higher resolution cockpit or a fix for the 2d cockpit slowdown issue (which is related to the way 3d boards generate 2d graphics). These latter improvements will follow in the next patch. Otherwise, the patch is a huge improvement and broad in scope, and the memory leaks are also being addressed. Watch for more soon.