Union of Treks IV: The Search for Kirk… and then Some!
Author: Silk, Silk@magpies.net
The U.S.S. Enterprise meandered through space.
Picard sat in the center-seat. “Captain’s Log, Stardate 53019.9,” he began. “Space, the final frontier, these are-”
“What about other dimensions, sir?” Riker asked suddenly.
“Other dimensions? We haven’t explored those, either.”
“Fine. Captain’s Log, Stardate 53019.9,” Picard began again, “Space, other dimensions, the final frontiers-”
Data swiveled in his chair. “And the oceans, sir?”
“Yes, sir. Oceans on many planets still remain completely unexplored.”
“We aren’t the SeaQuest, Data! The Enterprise can’t explore under water.”
“But it is still a frontier.”
Picard sighed explosively. “Space, other dimensions and some oceans, the final frontiers. These are the voyages of the-,” he began.
“Sir,” Worf said, “hail from Starfleet coming through.”
Admiral Jakarta appeared on screen. “Captain Picard, greetings,” he said in his Jamaican accent. It seemed out of place. “How is the new ship treating you?”
Picard scowled. The Enterprise had been refitted with new Warp Engines and the Turbolift doors had been painted a pastel blue. It made the ship new in the eyes of Starfleet. “Fine,” he said. Picard had to admit though, he did like the pastel doors.
“Good. We have a mission for you.” Jakarta paused. “After long discussions it has been decided that Admiral Kirk’s corpse must be found and returned to Earth for full military treatment. There’s a lot of people here who want to give it a good kick in the side.”
Picard was appalled. “Starfleet intend to mistreat Admiral Kirk’s corpse?” he asked.
“No, Paramount does,” Jakarta answered.
“And when ye finished with it, I’d like a good kick or two myself,” a scottish brogue broke into the conversation. Out of nowhere, Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott appeared.
“Mr. Scott!” Picard exclaimed incredulously. “You’re not in this scene! You’re not even in this story!”
“Sorry.” Scott left, disappearing behind one of the walls of the set.
“Captain,” Jakarta said, “your orders are final. Find Admiral Kirk’s corpse and tractor beam it back to Spacedock.”
“Aye, sir,” Picard said a bit stiffly.
The transmission ended.
They were in chambers.
A starmap was on the portable viewer. Data stood by it, a pointer in hand; the android had gone through several difficulties of late. Finding it difficult to interact with his emotion chip, LaForge had had to experiment with it and the android until he could find a reasonable compromise. Now, Data experienced base emotions, although he was prone to depression. Still, he was as serviceable as ever, although on the odd occasion he lapsed into his attempts to emulate human behavior.
“Using the deflector dish Commander LaForge and I have been able to booster sensory emissions and filter through all the life-forms in the galaxy to isolate a tubby human mass,” Data explained, “which we believe may be found here.” He pointed out a star. “- Outside the Geldar system.”
“You were able to pinpoint Admiral Kirk’s corpse like that?” Picard asked, rightly astonished. “That’s extraordinary!”
“No,” LaForge said, getting up. “Unfortunately, our plan didn’t work so we closed our eyes and picked out a star at random.” He pointed out the star in question. “As we all know the Romulan ship Admiral Kirk was aboard jumped into TransWarp and was seemingly trapped there for all eternity, as far as we knew. Unexplainably, though, somehow – just recently – its warp capacity accelerated and it jumped again, this time into an interdimensional warp. Then it exploded, leaving an interdimensional temporal disruption in orbit around Geldar IV. Naturally, this interdimensional warp is something the like of we’ve never seen before.”
“Could Kirk’s ship have been burned up in Geldar IV‘s atmosphere?” Riker asked.
“Doubtful. Due to it’s warpier capacity, as I have explained, Kirk’s vessel would have caused a tear in the space-time continuum on explosion and emerged into an interdimensional warp, or hyperspace if you like. The resultant energy would have resulted in a powerful energy cloud – a cloud Starfleet theorists have named the Perplexus Cloud. Survivors could have been trapped in it.”
“Are you sure?” Picard asked.
“Definite,” LaForge said. “This entire new dimension was created by the Romulan ship’s power, especially by her shields which didn’t tend to fail whenever some itty-bitty thing went wrong.”
“So they’re not like ours?”
“No. As I’ve said, an entire new dimension would have been created by the Romulan ship just outside Geldar IV.”
“We hypothesize a seventy-eight per cent chance of a minimum eight subplots occurring on our way to Geldar IV,” Data went on.
“And what do we know about Geldar IV?” Picard asked.
“A Class-M planet,” Data said, “although unpopulated.”
“Not only that, but…” LaForge said, then he just stopped.
LaForge froze on the spot for several seconds, as if completely unaware of his surroundings. Then he began to look around, as if in taking in the scene for the very first time, although he’d been in chambers hundreds of times. His face seemed suddenly vacant.
“Yes, Mr. LaForge?” Picard asked. “Not only that, but…?”
LaForge continued to look around. He seemed utterly surprised by what he saw. “Not only that,” he went on, in a tone that didn’t sound like his own, and that was quite unconvincing, “but…but, it’s a really nice day also.”
Picard rose. “Commander, this is a Galaxy Constitution Starship,” he said sternly. “We’re on an important mission and you’re giving me weather reports! Why?”
LaForge looked around again. Then he said, “Oh boy.”
LaForge looked off into empty space, as if he was listening to something coming from there. “A joke, sir,” he said finally.
“We can do without the humor.”
“At Warp 7, it will take us approximately 28 hours and 32 minutes and six subplots to arrive at Geldar IV,” Data said.
“Make it so,” Picard ordered. “You’re all dismissed.”
The senior crew began to depart; Data approached LaForge.
“Geordi, are you all right?” he asked.
“Who?” LaForge asked.
LaForge looked away into empty space, as if listening to some imaginary friend. “Oh!” he said suddenly. “Oh, of course, Data, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?” Data asked.
Data nodded and left.
LaForge looked away into empty space again. “What am I doing here?” he asked nobody in particular.
They were back on the bridge.
“Captain,” Worf spoke up, “we are reading some sort of computer anomaly.”
“What is it?” Riker asked.
“The Enterprise is reading an alternate computer signal. Unable to lock in on it, sir.”
“With all the new systems which have been incorporated into the Enterprise, Captain,” Data said, “the computer may have developed a schizoid embolism.”
“A schizoid embolism?” Picard was suitably impressed with terminology he had no chance of comprehending. He opened a connection. “Engineering; Mr. LaForge?”
“Who?” LaForge’s voice came back. “Oh, yes, Captain?”
“We’re reading some sort of alternate computer signal up here. I want you to run…”
“A Level 1 Diagnostic.”
“A Level 1, sir?” Riker was impressed. “Not a Level 2?
“No, a Level 1.”
“We’ve never done one of those before.”
“Yes, sir. LaForge out.”
“A Level 1 Diagnostic,” Riker said in awe. He grinned.
“Captain, scanning a derelict ship directly ahead,” Worf said.
“One; very faint.”
“Ensign Ro, take us out of Warp.”
The Enterprise slipped out of Warp. A small ship suddenly loomed ahead of them. It certainly looked a derelict; it was nothing more than a battered shell really.
“Captain, scanning the dissipation of a temporal anomaly,” Data said.
“Dissipation?” Picard frowned. “You mean we’re not going to run into it?”
“No, sir. It has just disappeared.”
Riker’s grin broadened. “A Level 1 Diagnostic, sir,” he said. “It seems nothing’s going to stand in our way now.”
“Mr. Worf, open a hailing frequency.”
“Hailing frequency open, sir.”
“Derelict vessel, this is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise, please respond.”
“Tell them we’re running a Level 1 Diagnostic, sir,” Riker told him.
Picard frowned at him as the derelict failed to answer.
“No response, sir,” Worf said.
Picard turned on the Klingon. “We’re in the twenty-fourth century, we’re surrounded by all this advanced technology, they don’t answer and you have to tell me they’re not responding?” he said stiffly.
“Number One,” Picard said, “take an away team to investigate the ship.”
“Captain, may I remind you that we’re on a mission,” Riker said. “And that we’re running – not a Level 2 – but a Level 1 Diagnostic!”
“Commander Riker, there may be somebody in trouble. I think that is of paramount importance. Now, make it so.”
“Yes, sir. Data, Worf, with me.”
Riker, Data and Worf left the bridge.
Picard turned to Troi. “Counselor, are you sensing anything?” he asked.
“That I’m every thirteen year old male Star Trek fan’s fantasy?” Troi asked.
“No, sir. The life sign is at peace. I’m not reading anything from it.”
“Fascinating,” Picard said.
“Chief Kelso,” Riker said to the Transporter Chief, “Energize.”
Kelso, who wasn’t even worthy of a line, activated the transporter.
Moments later, Riker, Data and Worf materialized in the derelict ship. They found themselves in a small chamber which was almost completely bare.
But on a table lay a solitary Borg.
Riker examined it; it appeared unconscious, but its chest was rising and falling rhythmically.
On another table lay a small metallic box with two slits on the top and a lever on one side. Data was studying it with his Tricorder.
Everything else in the ship looked completely uninteresting.
“Intriguing,” Data was saying, consulting his Tricorder. “This metallic box configures with no known technology we have ever encountered before. Extremely primitive, in itself, and yet fascinating in its construction. I believe it is some sort of antique from Earth’s past. It could be of immense sentimental and historical value to Starfleet historians.”
“Mr. Worf, recommendations?” Riker asked.
“That I be beaten up in order to establish just how bad a security officer I am,” Worf suggested.
“You need a girlfriend, Worf,” Riker said. He opened a connection and told Picard what they’d found.
“What a strange mixture,” Picard’s voice sounded. “Bring them aboard, Commander, so that we may continue with the main storyline and I can frown and pace some.”
“What are you doing now, sir?”
“I’m frowning while sitting down.”
Data picked up the box.
“Yes, sir. Transporter Chief Kelso,” Riker said, “four to beam aboard. Energize.”
Moments later, the derelict ship was empty.
In Engineering, Barclay was concerned. And for once, he wasn’t concerned about himself, although he still retained a wide degree of his own fears. (One of his worst was that he was afraid of being afraid). But at the moment, it was Commander LaForge who concerned him. Barclay watched as LaForge stood in one corner of Engineering and had a conversation with nobody at all.
“But that’s crazy,” LaForge was exclaiming. And then he stopped, as if he were listening to some unheard response. “They’re completely incompatible!” LaForge said. Pause. “A 92.4% probability?” Pause. “I think you’re wrong. Go back and ask Ziggy to check on it again.”
Barclay turned and walked away, resolving to talk to the Captain in the very near future.
Picard was looking at the Borg. “Well, Doctor?” he asked.
“The Borg function primarily on energy,” Crusher said, “which this one seems to be starved of.”
“But how did it get aboard a derelict ship with what Data describes as an Earth antique.”
Data held the box in one hand and up at eye level. “Captain, I have completed a preliminary study of this box with my Tricorder and I am scanning the existence of primitive positronic pathways supplied by a nominal energy force.”
“But what does that mean?”
“I cannot be certain yet, Captain. But if I may be permitted to take this box to my quarters and study it further?”
“See to the resumption of our course to Geldar IV, first.”
“Aye, Captain.” Data left with the mysterious box.
“And you, Doctor, enlist the help of Mr. LaForge and attempt to revive the Borg,” Picard said. “It would be interesting to find out how it managed to get all the way out here.”
Picard and Riker left the Infirmary.
Picard and Riker were in the Turbolift. Picard was concerned.
“I’m concerned,” he said, just to prove he was concerned.
“Concerned?” Riker asked.
Picard nodded. “Concerned,” he affirmed.
“Concerned about what?”
“I’m concerned about the storyline,” Picard told him. “It was weak to begin with, and we really haven’t established a strong plot thrust. Even the sub-plots haven’t come through yet.
“Perhaps we should run a Level 2 Diagnostic on the plots in this story, sir?”
“There’s no need to get carried away, Number One. The dialogue’s also a concern. It concerns me how it inane it is. Kind of like the Original Series first movie.”
The Turbolift opened onto the Bridge and Picard and Riker stepped out.
“Status?” Picard asked, sitting himself down.
“You have just come out of the Turbolift and sat down,” Data said.
Picard frowned. “Is that an attempt at humor, Mr. Data?”
“Yes, sir. I apologize.” Data rose and approached Picard. “I request permission to attend to the mystery of the box now, Captain.”
“Why?” Riker asked.
“Commander, I am unique in all the universe; I am an android. I was one of only two of Dr. Soongh’s creations – and originally I was the only one, but when storylines ran dry Lore came into existence. – At any rate, for as long as I can remember, I have been alone. But that box may represent primitive Earth’s culture’s first attempt at the creation of artificial intelligence. If so, perhaps I am not alone-”
“Yes, yes, permission granted, Data,” Picard said.
“Thank you, Captain.” Data left the Bridge.
“Whine, whine, I am alone,” Picard mimicked. “Stupid android. He’s developing a complex.”
“It’s gotten worse since he’s incorporated the emotion chip.”
“Captain, hail from Starfleet,” Worf said. “They are requesting we rendezvous with a Security Clearance Class A scout vessel to receive a special guest star.”
“Make it so.”
Worf left the bridge.
The Borg was revived, thanks largely to Barclay. LaForge seemed to have no idea what he was doing so it was up to Barclay to take the initiative. The Borg opened his eyes.
“Where am I?” he asked.
“You’re aboard the Federation Starship Enterprise,” Crusher told him. “We’ve prepared an energy socket for you.”
LaForge looked away suddenly. “About time!” he exclaimed.
“I’m sorry, Commander,” Barclay said, “but we were working as quickly as we could.”
LaForge turned back from empty space to look at Barclay. “Oh, sorry. Just thinking aloud. I think I’ll…go over there.”
Barclay looked at Crusher. “Commander LaForge is acting extremely peculiarly,” he said.
“I noticed,” Crusher conceded. “I think the worst may have happened.”
“You don’t mean-”
“Yes.” Crusher’s tone said it all. “Another virus!”
Worf waited with a security team as the door to the Federation scout vessel banged open and Mister Spock appeared in the doorway.
Worf frowned. After Admiral Kirk’s death, Spock had rigidly applied further self-discipline to control his emotions. Now, he stood in the doorway of the shuttlecraft, his face set as if chiseled from stone, his body decked out in black robes.
“Why,” Worf said, “it’s you, Mister Spock.”
“As usual, Klingon, your powers of observation are astonishing,” Spock said, coming down from the scout vessel. His voice was passionless. “Take me to your Captain immediately.”
“Follow me,” Worf said gruffly.
Barclay came off the Turbolift and onto the Bridge. He approached Picard.
“Mr. Barclay, can I help you?” Picard asked.
“A moment, sir,” Barclay said, reaching into his ears and pulling out two earplugs. “We have revived the Borg, sir.”
“You came all the way up here to tell me that?”
“No. I am also concerned about Commander LaForge, Captain. He is acting peculiarly. Doctor Crusher is examining him now.”
“Peculiarly?” Riker said.
“Yes, sir. Doctor Crusher believes he may be affected with a virus.”
“A virus aboard the Enterprise?” Picard said. “That would mean it’d be incredibly contagious.”
“Captain, I recommend we self-destruct the ship,” Riker said fearfully.
“Let’s have a talk with Commander LaForge first.”
Picard and Riker rose and started toward the Turbolift. Barclay stopped them just moments before the doors would have opened for them automatically.
“A moment, sir,” he said, putting in one his earplugs.
“What are you doing, Barclay?” Riker asked.
“I have Sshhnaphobia,” Barclay told them.
“What?” Picard asked.
“A phobia of the sounds the doors on the Enterprise make when they slide open,” Barclay said. “It drives me into hysterics. So I need the earplugs so I won’t hear the sound.” He put the other earplug back in.
“An obsession with the holodeck,” Riker said as they got into the Turbolift, “a mortal fear against being transported, and now a phobia about the sounds the doors make – Captain, just how the hell did Barclay get into Starfleet?”
“The same way you did, Commander. With a goofy grin.”
The rest of the trip was made in silence.
Crusher spoke in a secluded corner with Picard and Riker. “Physically he’s fine, although his mind seems to be radiating strange neural waves,” the Doctor told them. “And he keeps asking me about the personal lives of Worf and Deanna.”
“Is it some sort of known virus?”
“An unknown virus?”
“How can you tell?” Riker asked.
“I would have been able to recognize a virus I’d never seen before.”
Picard frowned; then he approached LaForge. “How’re you feeling, Commander?” he asked.
“Mr. Data found a box he believes may be a primitive positronic brain. I want you to assist him in his examination of it; then I want you to speak with Counselor Troi.”
“Yes, Captain.” LaForge got up and left.
Picard turned to Crusher. “What about the Borg?” he asked.
“We’ve managed to revive it,” Crusher said. “Lt. Barclay took it to Engineering. They’re trying to give it a sense of individuality like they did with the other Borg we once found – Hugh.”
“Have they given this one a name?” Riker asked.
Crusher nodded. “Bjorn.”
“Carry on. Number One.”
Picard and Riker left for the Bridge.
LaForge entered Data’s quarters.
“What’ve you got, Data?”
Data displayed his box. “I believe this may be a primitive positronic brain.”
LaForge laughed. “Data, that’s a toaster.”
“A toaster. It makes toast. Watch. Get me a piece of bread.”
Data synthesized one in the food slot and passed it to LaForge. LaForge put it in one of the box’s slits and pulled down the lever. The slits glowed faint orange. Moments later, the bread popped back up to show it had now become a piece of toast.
“Intriguing,” Data said. “It seems the box does have some sort of intelligence.”
“But it’s just a toaster. We used them…I mean Earth people used them back in the twentieth century.”
“But I clearly saw a sign of intelligence; you asked for a piece of toast and it gave it to you. Impressive for ancient Earth technology.”
“But that’s its job, Data.”
“Clearly it has fulfilled its programming.”
“But that’s all it…forget it, Data. I have to speak with Deanna.”
LaForge left, leaving Data to experiment with the toaster.
“Captain,” Spock was saying, “Starfleet has instructed me to assist you in your search for Admiral Kirk.”
“Try not to take this personally, Spock,” Riker said, “but we don’t really need your help. Why does Starfleet think we do?”
“The clause in my contract says they do,” Spock said. “It demands I be given some screen time.”
“Captain!” Worf said. “Scanning the approach of a vessel.”
Picard turned to the viewer.
“It’s the Borg, sir!” Worf exclaimed.
“Doctor Crusher has told me you have been feeling a sense of confusion lately, Commander,” Troi was saying. “I can also sense it, although it is unfocused. Would you care to elaborate?”
LaForge seemed unsure of himself. “I feel just fine,” he said without conviction.
LaForge looked away suddenly and Troi seemed to sense something.
“A problem?” LaForge asked.
“It’s almost as if another presence has entered these quarters,” Troi said, looking around. “A presence that is having lurid thoughts about me.”
“You’ve got that right,” LaForge said under his breath.
“What was that?” Troi turned to him.
“Nothing. Tell me Counselor, what do you think about the Wookie?”
“You know, the big guy with the funny head?”
“Is that his name?” LaForge asked. He looked away again and seemed to gain sudden conviction. “Yeah, Worf, Worf, that’s it. What do you think about him?”
“Worf is a fine officer. Why do you ask about him?”
“I’ve noticed that just lately…just, recently, he’s been making googoo eyes at you.”
“A Klingon making googoo eyes?” Troi asked skeptically. She almost laughed. “I haven’t sensed it in him. All I’ve sensed in him are his usual aggressive feelings.”
“I’m sure he feels something for you,” LaForge tried to convince her. “Maybe you should try talking to him.”
“I’ll consider it,” Troi said. “But at the moment, we’re discussing you.”
LaForge got up. “I really can’t talk in this formal atmosphere,” he said. “Maybe if we spoke later, in the bar-”
“Yeah, Ten Forward. At twenty hundred hours.”
“Fine,” Troi said, “if you feel that will help you.”
“I think it will help…both of us.”
“The Borg are hailing you, Captain,” Worf said.
“Captain Jean-Luc Picard-” the Borg began, but Picard was determined to take the initiative from the outset.
“Borg, we understand the reason behind your arrival,” he said thinking of the Borg they had rescued.
“Understanding is irrelevant,” the Borg said. “We have arrived to extol demands from you.”
“We will be-”
“We are sick of approaching to threaten vessels and civilizations to be heralded by hopeless theme music,” the Borg said. “We want something with atmosphere, something motivational, something like the Klingons have in the movies.”
“If-” Picard began again.
“The next time we encounter each other, we will be heralded by theme music to chill your sickly human forms.”
The Borg ship departed.
“You really handled them, sir,” Riker said.
Picard ignored him.
“A fascinating exchange,” Spock said.
“And they didn’t even mention the Borg we have,” Riker said. “I thought they’d come to demand his return.”
“These subplots are getting out of hand,” Picard said. “Number One, you have the conn.”
“Where are you going, sir?”
“To frown in my ready-room.”
Riker took Spock on a tour of the ship. Inevitably they ended up in Engineering where Barclay introduced them to their Borg.
“We’re attempting to give him a sense of individuality,” Barclay was saying. “The Borg are completely-”
“I know about the Borg, Lt.,” Spock said.
“But I’m explaining it for the benefit of the reader who might not know. Each Borg is part of a conscious whole – the Collective, they call it. Last time we found a Borg, we managed to give him his own sense of independence and novelty.”
“Borg, identify yourself,” Riker said.
“I am Bjorn,” the Borg said.
While the exchange went on, Guinan watched secretly from a corner.
Data continued to experiment with the toaster. Ultimately, as with all toasters, a piece of bread got stuck and he tried to pry it out with a knife. There was a flash and a jump of sparks. Data felt a short thrill go up his arm.
He picked up the toaster, believing he had ruined it. But a scan with the Tricorder revealed it was still working.
Almost smiling, he took it to Captain Picard.
Picard was drumming his fingers on his tabletop when the door-signal chimed and Guinan came in.
“Guinan, what a pleasant surprise,” he said. “Come in. Sit down.”
Guinan did so.
“Now, what can I do for you?”
“The Borg you have in Engineering; I’ve been watching it.”
“We’ve had this discussion before, Guinan.”
“This one’s different, Jean-Luc. I feel it in him. He’s a killer. We have to destroy it.”
“Guinan, you’re being presumptuous.”
“I’m not. This one’s not just an ordinary Borg; it’s not a Borg you’d meet on any Borg ship. It’s a Borg’s Borg, a top of the line Borg, one of the Borgs that originally Borged its way across the Galaxy. And meanwhile, your Engineering staff are teaching it tricks. I really feel its different.”
“You’re being ridiculous.”
The door opened and the Borg came in carrying slippers in its mouth and a book in its hand. Riker and Barclay stood watching in the doorway.
The Borg dropped the slippers at Picard’s feet and put the book on his table. “For your comfort and relaxation, Captain,” the Borg said and headed for the doorway.
Barclay patted the Borg’s head and Riker gave it a snack. The door slid close, cutting them off from Picard’s ready-room.
Guinan looked pointedly at Picard as he put his slippers on.
“I still don’t see your point, Guinan,” Picard said innocently.
“Kill it, Jean-Luc.”
“No. It has a right to exist as does any other living creature.”
Guinan got up and coldly stalked from the room as Data came in carrying his toaster.
“Captain,” Data said, putting the toaster on the table, “I believe I have discovered a new life-form.”
“Then this box is artificially intelligent?”
“It would seem so. An error on my part saw to an unforeseen power surge which could have destroyed the box. It may also have destroyed me, if not for the insulation protecting my positronic pathways. And yet my point is the box showed a sense of self-preservation and protection of itself. I believe it warrants further study.”
“Make it so, Commander Data.”
Data nodded and left the ready-room with the box in hand, leaving Picard to reflect on having the best crew in Starfleet.
When Worf entered Ten Forward he saw Troi sitting alone. He went up to her; she looked back at him mysteriously.
“Have you seen Commander LaForge?” the Klingon asked. “He asked me to meet him here for a drink at twenty hundred hours.”
“He asked me here for the same thing. Sit down, Worf.”
Worf sat down.
Troi looked at him and probed his mind; she sensed lust there, but she sensed it from everybody aboard the Enterprise concerning her. That’s what you got for wearing a tight bodysuit with a low-cut bodice instead of an uniform for four seasons. But was there more there? She couldn’t tell.
Violinists suddenly appeared out of nowhere and began to serenade them. The barman, a nobody of no consequence and no future acting career, rushed over to them and laid a tablecloth on the table, a bunch of roses and two candles. Then he quickly left.
“This is most peculiar,” Worf said.
Troi didn’t think so. Was LaForge trying to play the matchmaker? The answer seemed a certain yes.
“And these musicians are most irritating,” Worf said. “I would get up and smash their instruments over their heads if it were not for the fact…”
“For the fact one of them would probably beat me up,” Worf finished sheepishly.
Troi rested a comforting hand on Worf’s own. She looked into his eyes and was struck by the sense of tenderness there; under the steely glint, the desire to maim, kill and dominate, to destroy and devastate, to pound and hammer, to twist heads off and pull out people’s spines, there was a touch of tenderness. Troi had never seen it before and was struck by it.
Maybe LaForge had something here.
“Well?” LaForge said in his quarters.
Al looked at his handlink. “They get together,” he said triumphantly. “You did it, Sam. Against a ninety-five point six per cent probability of viewer acceptance, you managed to put Worf and Troi together. Boy, is he in for a good-”
“Al! Why haven’t I leaped?”
“I don’t know. It’s just dropped. There’s a ninety-four per cent chance you should leap- no, it’s dropped again.”
“Are they going to break apart?”
“No, they’re together! It’s something else, Sam. Something else is going on.”
“What’s going on?”
“I don’t know!” Al exclaimed.
“Well go back and ask Ziggy why I haven’t leaped.”
Al nodded and disappeared through his portal.
“On final approach to Geldar IV,” Data said.
“Exit Warp,” Picard said, “standard orbital approach, preliminary scans of Geldar IV, everybody look self-important.”
Geldar IV was another bloody red planet, but it was marked by areas of striking azure blue.
“Scanning a colony on the far side of the planet, Captain,” Worf said, “and wreckage of an old Starfleet vessel – the Simpson.”
“But the Simpson was lost over two hundred years ago,” Riker said. “Could it be there were survivors, and they founded a colony?”
“Why do we even bother asking?” Picard asked. “It seems every time a ship’s lost they’ve founded a colony somewhere. Do they have communicator ability?”
“Yes, Captain,” Data said. “And it seems they have already scanned us.”
“Is there any sign of the ship Admiral Kirk was aboard?” Spock asked. “Or the energy Perplexus Cloud?”
“Nothing as of yet, sir.”
“Interesting,” Picard mused. “Hail the colony.”
“They are hailing us,” Worf said.
A dazzling blonde beauty appeared on the screen. She wore a simple, revealing toga. Riker was impressed. Picard was taken aback. She looked a bit like Denise Crosby.
“Welcome, travelers,” she said. “I am Savanna.”
“I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the United Federation of Planets. I immediately wish to inform you that you should not construe our presence here as threatening-”
“But of course, we trust you, Captain Picard. We once came from the Federation ourselves until we were marooned here. Since, we have lived in an utopic state.”
“How many of you are there?”
“Several hundred. We do not concern ourselves with trivialities, Captain. We live in peace and happiness. Perhaps you yourself would care to visit us and discuss the reason for your arrival.”
“Of course. We will arrive shortly.”
“We await your visit.”
The viewer flickered off.
“Counselor, did you sense anything from her?” Picard asked.
“Unsurpassable contentment and happiness. She was not at all alarmed by our presence.”
“Number One, Data, Spock and Counselor, with me. Doctor Crusher, meet us in Transporter Room #3. Mr. Worf, maintain scanners until you find some trace of the Perplexus Cloud. And until I return, you have the conn.”
“Yes, sir,” Worf said.
Picard led the others to the Transporter room.
They materialized in a beautiful glade surrounded by trees. The glade was filled with straw huts with pointed, thatched roofs. They were formed in a horseshoe shape, except for one which sat smack right in the middle of them all, and another that rested behind it out of alignment with the others.
The people around them were all dressed in togas; they were perfect human specimens. The males were tall and had muscular physiques while the women were alluringly voluptuous. Every one of them had a mesmerizing smile.
“Hello, Captain,” Savannah greeted them.
Picard inclined his head and proceeded to introduce his away-team. “It must be a long time since you have seen other humans,” he said when he had finished.
“Yes, of course. But we have never wanted for anything. We have been perfectly happy to live here in solitude. As you see we have founded a small community.” Savannah gestured to the huts. “We have stores, although we barter instead of use money, and those huts further down there are our dwellings.”
“What about that hut in the middle, and the one behind it?” Riker asked.
“Oh, they’re nothing. They’re empty.” Savannah directed her gaze at Picard. “Perhaps you would sup with us and discuss the reason for your arrival?”
Savannah led them away.
Picard and the others were brought to one of the larger huts where they sat crosslegged around a short table. Savannah sat opposite them with two men, one of antiquated years but still with a note of vigor about him, the other younger and rugged looking.
“These are the village leaders, Glar and Jonconore,” Savannah introduced them.
Another man brought a platter bearing a decanter and many earthen mugs.
“A drink?” Savannah asked.
Not wanting to offend them, Picard said, “Thank you.”
The man placed a mug in front of them all and poured in each a red liquid that smelled like wine. Picard tasted it. It was delicious.
“We have come in search of a man,” Picard said.
“You are the first strangers to pass through here,” the old man, Glar, said. “No others have walked through this peaceful community.”
“He was dead, so logic dictates he would not have walked through here,” Spock said.
“We still have not seen him,” the other, Jonconore, said.
“What of an energy cloud?” Spock persisted. “Have you scanned one?”
“Yes – long ago – but it did not remain. It appeared to move off beyond the capacity of our sensory array.”
“As to yourselves, we have the means to take you back to Earth,” Picard said. “We could-”
“We are happy here, Captain,” Savannah said. “This is now our home.”
Picard’s combadge signaled. “Excuse me. Picard here.”
“Captain,” Worf’s voice rumbled, “long range scans have failed to detect the Perplexus Cloud. But Lt. Barclay believes we can booster sensory emissions further through usage of the deflector dish.”
Picard frowned. “Make it so.”
“Yes, sir.” Worf paused. “One more thing, sir. I would recommend you return to the Enterprise as soon as possible.”
Picard caught the warning in Worf’s voice and rose. “You must excuse us, Savannah,” he said.
“Of course. But feel free to return at any time.”
The away-team transported back to the Enterprise.
They were in chambers.
“One of our bio-technicians,” Worf was saying, “was brutally murdered. I thought it prudent not to advise you while you were away on the planet, Captain.”
“Who was it?” Picard asked.
“His name was John Connor. We found him mutilated, as if by a sharp object.”
“Are there any suspects?” Riker asked.
“As we have introduced only two special guests aboard the ship,” Worf said, “I believe it must be one of them. – Either Mr. Spock, or the Borg.”
“But Mr. Spock was on the away-team,” Troi said, “so it must be the Borg.”
“But the Borg assimilate,” Crusher put in. “They don’t kill.”
“I will question the Borg shortly,” Picard decided. “But what about the colony on Geldar IV? What can we tell about them? Are they really long lost humans, or some sort of alien?”
“They’re not aliens, sir,” Crusher informed him.
“Your Tricorder tells you that?”
“No, my eyes. You know all the aliens in this series are identifiable because they have little scars on their faces, Jean-Luc,” Crusher said. “These people have unblemished faces.”
“But they seem incredibly happy,” Riker said. “Almost unnaturally so.”
“I sensed great happiness in them,” Troi said. “They were in an euphoric state.”
“Narcotics?” Spock suggested.
“The Tricorder didn’t reveal a narcotic dependency,” Crusher said.
“Maybe it has something to do with that hut in the middle of their settlement,” Riker said. “Savannah shied away from it when I questioned her about it.”
“It seems we’ve revealed a greater mystery than the disappearance of Admiral Kirk’s body,” Picard said. “Can this human colony really exist, without want or need, without pain or care? Number One, take a small away-team to investigate that hut in the middle of the settlement. Perhaps something in there can give us a clue to their contented existence.”
“Yes, sir,” Riker said. “What about you?”
“I’ll have a talk to our Borg.”
Riker, Worf and Crusher materialized just outside the center hut at the dead of night. They wore black to disguise themselves.
“Come on,” Riker said, leading them into the hut.
What they found shocked them all.
The hut was empty.
“Assimilation!” Picard exclaimed. “Assimilate the human race.”
“I do not wish to assimilate the human race,” Bjorn the Borg said.
“Then kill them!”
“I will not kill anybody,” the Borg answered innocently.
“The Borg confronted us. They didn’t want you back. Why?”
“I don’t know.”
Picard thought the Borg was lying.
“Let’s get out of here,” Riker said after a search of the hut revealed it really was empty.
But suddenly, lights illuminated the doorway and Savannah, Glar and Jonconore stood there. “What are you doing here?” Savannah asked politely.
Riker was all innocence. “We just thought we’d come for a look,” he said. “Since it was so late, we didn’t want to disturb you.”
“You could have asked,” Jonconore said, approaching them – but rather unthreateningly.
“You’re not going to hit me, are you?” Worf asked.
“No. We do not believe in violence.”
“We’ll just return to our ship, then,” Riker offered, waiting for some objection.
“You could stay the night in our settlement,” Glar said.
“Are you making us stay?” Crusher asked.
“No. We wouldn’t force you to do anything.”
“Then we’ll go,” Riker said. “Do you mind?”
“No, of course not,” Jonconore said. “We’re not intending to hold you against your will.”
Riker opened a connection and moments later, he and the away-team were back on the Enterprise. Riker headed straight for Picard’s ready-room, where he found Picard interrogating the Borg.
“Commander?” Picard said.
“The hut was empty,” Riker told him. “But we were also discovered by Savannah, Glar and Jonconore.”
“You got away?”
“They let us go.”
The Borg looked around without seeming interest.
“They let you go?” Picard said, curious. “Strange. A perfect community – happiness, contentment, without want, and when we investigate and they discover us, they let you go. What are they hiding?”
“I don’t know, sir,” Riker said. “But consider this. They live like primitives, but they were able to scan and contact us. So there must be some technology.”
“Perhaps in another hut?”
“Their behavior is most strange. We’ll wait, then investigate the hut behind the center hut at oh-four hundred hours.”
“Yes, sir,” Riker nodded and left.
“Borg,” Picard turned back to Bjorn, “did you kill bio-technician John Connor?”
“How do I not you’re not lying?”
“You may ask me.”
“Are you lying?”
“How do I know you’re not lying about that?” Picard’s combadge signaled and he answered it promptly. “Picard here.”
“Captain,” Data’s voice sounded, “the Level 1 diagnostic has isolated a temporal frequency.”
“A temporal frequency?”
“Yes. The alternate computer signal we are reading comes from another time.”
“Can you isolate it any further?”
“Who’s receiving the signal?”
“Somebody aboard the ship.”
“Can you isolate who?”
“Make it so.”
Picard closed the connection and looked at the Borg. “Ultimately, your people are going to come asking for your return,” he said. “I am prepared to offer you asylum.”
“It might start a war,” Picard tried to point out. “It might cost thousands of lives.”
“I accept your asylum, Captain.”
“The Enterprise could be destroyed in the process of granting you asylum.”
“I maintain my acceptance.”
“We could be killed.”
“I am sure you will do what is necessary, Captain.”
“So you’re staying?”
Picard frowned. Guinan was right. This was a most peculiar Borg. He just hoped Bjorn wouldn’t get them all killed.
Riker, Worf and Crusher materialized by the other hut in the very early hours of the morning. There was not a sound in the settlement. Quietly, they entered the hut.
It was empty.
They searched the roof, the floor, the corners, but found nothing.
Light suddenly illuminated the doorway and Savannah, Glar and Jonconore stood there. “Commander, you have returned,” Savannah said.
“We were interested in how you managed to contact us,” Riker fumbled, “seeing there’s no technology in this settlement.”
“The wreckage of our ship,” Savannah said. “We’ve kept the computers operational. As I told you before, these huts are empty.”
“Then why do you keep them here?”
“Because maybe someday somebody will occupy them.”
“Is there something you’re looking for in particular?” Jonconore asked.
Crusher exchanged a look with Riker then said, “The euphoria which lays over this settlement, is it natural?”
“Of course,” Glar said. “We’re happy. We’ve got nothing to complain about.”
“You use no aids in sustaining your happiness and contentment?”
“No, we’re just happy,” Savannah said.
“I think we should return to our ship,” Riker said, then added darkly, “unless you want to stop us?”
“No, why would we stop you?” Savannah asked.
“Just come at a reasonable time next time you visit,” Glar said.
“Ah hah! So you don’t want us here!” Riker accused.
“Not at four in the morning,” Jonconore said.
“You’re hiding something!” Riker went on.
“No we’re not. You can look at anything you want,” Savannah said.
Riker was at a loss before offering, “You don’t think we’ll look, do you? You’re relying on reverse psychology.”
“Feel free to look at anything you want.”
“But not at this time?” Worf put in.
“You’ll awake everybody if you have a look now,” Glar said.
“We’ll just return to our ship then,” Riker said. He waited for opposition, but Savannah, Glar and Jonconore just watched expectantly. Riker lifted his hand to his combadge slowly but the others just continued to look at him. Riker thought he saw Glar move and drew his phaser. “Freeze, Glar!” he roared.
“But I haven’t moved yet,” Glar protested.
Riker tapped his combadge. “Transporter Chief, three to beam up,” he said. “Energize.”
The away-team was taken off Geldar IV.
“They’re hiding something, Captain!” Riker exclaimed in chambers. “They have paradise. It’s unnatural. They almost stopped us from leaving.”
“But you got away?” Picard asked.
“Thanks to Commander Riker,” Crusher said.
“What’s overtaken them?” Picard asked.
“Perhaps they intend to capture the Enterprise and spread whatever has overwhelmed them across the galaxy?” Worf suggested. “Happiness and bliss all over!”
“That could be disastrous,” Picard said. “Commander Riker, Counselor Troi, Commander Data and LaForge and Doctor Crusher with me. We’ll just confront them about what they’re doing. We’ll put a stop to this if it’s the last thing we do.”
Picard and the others materialized in the settlement. Savannah was waiting with Glar, Jonconore and others. Most had primitive phasers pointed at them.
“So you’re intentions never were friendly,” Picard said. “You intended to kill us all along.”
“Kill you?” Savannah asked incredulously. “We didn’t care about you. We were perfectly happy! But something had to be wrong with that. You couldn’t understand why anybody could be so flawlessly happy. You had to harass and pester us. You had to believe we were doing something wrong! Why?”
“You can’t overwhelm us,” Picard said. “The human spirit won’t be dominated.”
“Dominated?” Savannah screamed. “We were perfect hosts to you. We offered to show you whatever you wanted to see. Don’t you understand? We were happy and because we were so happy you thought there must be something wrong. There’s nothing wrong!”
“They’re unstable, Captain,” Crusher said, consulting her Tricorder.
“No doubt a cost of their perfect happiness,” Picard reasoned.
“There was no cost!!!” Savannah wailed. “We were happy just because we were happy!!! Nothing else.”
“Let’s kill them!” Glar said.
“Really slow, though,” Jonconore agreed, approaching them. He took LaForge’s VISOR off his face. “At least we might learn something from this technology.”
LaForge didn’t fumble around blindly.
“So it’s technology you’re after!” Riker said.
“NO!!!” Savannah screamed. “We’re just…forget it!”
Quicker than any human, Data disarmed Glar. In their tussle, a fight ensued as the away-team took the opportunity to leap for the initiative. Phasers were thrown about and groped for. LaForge looked on, without his VISOR, not sure whether to get involved or not.
A transporter beam shimmered suddenly and Bjorn the Borg stood there. He took hold of Picard and pushed a phaser to his neck. “You will all stop what you are doing,” he said.
Everybody stopped fighting; LaForge hardly noticed a phaser come to land by his feet as he turned off to stare into empty space.
Bjorn the Borg shimmered and shifted shape; the Borg was gone now. In his place stood a blue-uniformed man, lean and hard-muscled, with short dark hair. “Excuse me,” he said politely, “but are any of you the legal guardian of John Connor?”
“That’s what you’re here for, Sam!” Al cried out. “To stop this!”
“Don’t you get it? When you leaped, you caused a temporal disturbance and this Terminator came out of our time with you,” Al said. “You haven’t leaped because you’re meant to make sure he doesn’t change future history because he isn’t meant to be here. You have to destroy it!”
LaForge picked up the phaser which had landed by his feet. “Don’t move,” he said.
“No, Commander LaForge!” Picard cried out, seeing a VISORless Geordi.
“Commander!” Riker warned.
LaForge fired with perfect accuracy, despite the fact he was meant to be blind. The Terminator dissipated in a glow of flame.
Picard looked at Laforge, completely astonished. “Without your VISOR, how could you see where to fire?” he asked.
LaForge grinned and Sam leaped.
“Where am I?” LaForge asked.
Picard’s combadge signaled.
“Captain,” Worf’s voice sounded, “a ship is approaching. It is the Borg!”
“Beam us up.”
Picard and the away-team returned to the Enterprise.
“On viewer,” Picard ordered, approaching the viewscreen.
The Borg ship approached to the theme of Baby Elephant Walk.
“They are hailing you, Captain,” Worf said.
“This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard-” the Captain began.
“Captain Jean-Luc Picard of U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-D, prepare the people below for assimilation,” the Borg said.
“They are still three minutes outside transporter range,” Data told Picard.
“We have to stop them before they reach the planet,” Picard said. “Number One, take an away-team over and see what you can do to stop the Borg.”
“Aye, sir. Data, Worf with me.”
“And myself,” Spock put in.
“I have a contract to fulfill.”
“Yes, sir,” Riker conceded.
Hardly a minute later, Riker, Spock, Data and Worf were pacing the halls of the Borg ship. They knew the conventional ways of slowing the Borg down, but no ways of stopping them. Until…
“Look at this,” Data said, pointing out an interface socket in one of the walls.
“It’s how the Borg get their energy, isn’t it?” Riker asked.
“But each Borg belong to a conscious whole. Perhaps we can inject some alternate command within the interface.”
“But how do we interface with the computer?” Riker asked. “And how do we interpret a command through the interface? We can’t do it.”
“But perhaps I know who can,” Data said.
Moments and one request later, Data had his toaster in hand. He connected it to the computer interface but nothing happened. The theme of Baby Elephant Walk continued. “Stop the Borg,” Data told the toaster.
“I thought you told the Captain this box was artificially intelligent, Data,” Riker accused.
“I believed it was. It protected itself when I erred- of course, I need a piece of metal.” Data looked around then decided to use his combadge.
He activated the toaster and dropped the combadge into one of its glowing slits. There was a flash of sparks and an explosion of bright light. The Borg ship shuddered. Data took the toaster up in his arms but he didn’t need a Tricorder to tell him it was dead. The power surge had killed it.
“It sacrificed itself for us,” Data said.
“Away-team,” Picard’s voice sounded over Riker’s combadge, “we’re scanning the Borg ship is about to self-destruct. Prepare to transport.”
They transported a moment later.
“Captain’s Log, Stardate 53101.6,” Picard began, “we have defeated the Borg and completed each subplot. The settlement upon Geldar IV has been cautioned and noted for its utopic behavior. Starfleet have been well cautioned against its unwarranted happiness. And yet…yet…?”
“Yet what, Captain?” Riker asked.
“And yet we never completed our initial objective,” Picard said. “To find Admiral Kirk.”
Riker was grim. “You do know what that means, don’t you, sir?”
“Yes. This will never be our own genre while there is any question about Kirk.”
“What do we do, Captain? What do you suggest?”
“What more can we do?” Picard asked. “People love Kirk, if only to hate him.”
“Then this will never be our own genre,” Riker said.
“Never is a long time, Number One,” Picard said gravely.
The Enterprise continued forlorn through space.
July 29th, 1994.