Picard, the Next Generation

Transfer

 

Captain Hanlon called me to her office. Not a big deal, even during duty hours, we were real friends and although I was only the Quartermaster, she relied on my advice a lot.

“Mr. Picard reporting, sir.” I saluted smartly as I walked in.

She smirked and said “siddown” off-handedly as she finished whatever it was she was typing on her computer.

“Emilia, if you were to be transferred, anywhere in Star Fleet, would you prefer a battle cruiser, an explorer, a station or a planet?”

“What’s wrong with a transport ship?”

“You need a change.”

“Well, battleships are out. I have a big mouth that would get me in trouble in Ferengi, Kardasian or Romulan territories and all the other battleships aren’t doing anything exciting, so … too boring. I’d get bored real fast in a station or planet side, too. I guess that leaves an explorer, why, you kicking me out?”

“Maybe … just maybe.”

 

I knew Adrieanne Hanlon better than her mother did. I knew the tone of that maybe.

“Adrienne, why?”

“Your talents are wasted here. You should be an officer on an explorer.”

“We’ve been through this a thousand times. I don’t want to be an officer. The Fleet needs Non-Coms of my caliper more than they need another lousy lieutenant.”

“You are, unequivocally, the best Senior Petty Officer in the fleet, but you should attain more.”

“Why? I already make more than most first lieutenants. I don’t think I’d make that good a junior officer. I’m happy being a PO.”

“Well, never mind about promotions. Give a change of environment some thought.”

“OK … if you insist. If you’re going to kick me off this tub, then find me a nice explorer to run.”

She could see I wasn’t too happy about being transferred, but she smiled.

“Dismissed, Mister.”

I rose and saluted smartly again then went back to work.

She didn’t give me a hell of a lot of time to think about it. I got orders to transfer to the Enterprise at the end of the month.

 

Aboard the Enterprise

 

The second in command met me at the transporter pad. His name is Riker; a likable sort, about ten years older than me. If we get to be friends, it will probably be over poker and jazz. I read up on the command crew before I got here.

“Senior Petty Officer Emilia Picard requesting permission to come aboard, Sir.” and I saluted smartly.

“Permission granted, welcome aboard, Mr. Picard.” Riker was formal in the speech, but the salute was a little slovenly and he extended his big hand to shake mine directly from it. He flashed me a grin than went to what I assume was his usual “day face” which is slightly intense. When this guy is listening to you, you know you’ve been listened to.

“Thanks, Commander. I hope I can fit in fast. I usually do, but I’ve never had as large a department as I’ll have here. If I’m not being rude in asking, why’d the other Quartermaster leave?”

“His hitch was up, he has three children and they decided to go planet-side for a while. He took a position at HQ.”

“Nice promotion. Planet-side is better place to raise kids, anyway.”

“You come very highly recommended. I was a little concerned that you weren’t an officer, but your record and your recommendations wiped it away.”

“I’ll be candid with you, Commander. I’ve turned down a promotion six times already. I don’t want to be an officer. I’ve been very happy as a Non-Com. I have advantages that officers don’t have and I don’t see where I’m suffering any.”

“Fine with me, I happen to agree with a statement that was credited to you. The fleet needs more really dedicated Non-Coms. Well, here’s your office.”

We walked into an office that was the size of my warehouse aboard the K. M. Ellis, Adrianne Hanlon’s ship. There were about fifteen people working there already.

“May I have your attention?” Riker spoke only a little louder than his normal speaking voice, but he projected it all over the room; evidence that he was an actor.

“I’d like to introduce your new commander.” he began when he had their attention. “Senior Petty Officer Picard is very experienced and has all the same qualities of command that Lieutenant Briggs had. I trust you will find working with her as pleasant as you did working with Tom.”

That said, he turned and left.

“Well, first, don’t let the PO rank fool you. I know as much about my job as any officer. Second, I don’t know how things were done before, but I’m a stickler for ‘spit and polish’. I’m not, however, a person who chews people out. I tell you once, quietly, and it’s forgotten. Screw up royally and I might tell you in front of the whole staff, but it will be once and then I expect you to fix whatever is wrong and get on with our lives. I expect decorum at all times. I’m a real stickler for decorum. Whenever an officer enters this office, I expect the first person who sees that officer to announce, loudly, ‘Officer on deck’ and I expect work to come to a halt and attention to be attempted. It is up to the officer to stand us down, is that clear?”

“Yes, Sir.” rang out clearly and loudly enough.

“So much for formal speeches, now where do I sit, where do I stow my gear and what the hell is going on?” I finished.

These folks were readily available to me. We spent the day with me learning what each one did, the layout of the ship and where everything was stored. I took some time to get familiar with the computer and then, about dinner time, one of my people showed me to my quarters.

“Since you’re not an officer, you didn’t rate a suite. But the Non-Com quarters aren’t bad.” Ensign Martinez said. She was a bright kid, about 24, with an accent I loved, but couldn’t place.

She took me to deck 26 and to an inside room. 26D37 was the number on the identitag. The little pocket that held the name tag was still empty.

“Odd, they haven’t put your name up yet. It’s usually done the day before a new crew member gets here.”

“Maybe they thought it was a joke because my last name and the Captain’s is the same. Anyway, I’ll remember the room easily enough, it’s my birthday.”

“With the data work that goes into a transfer, I don’t think the print shop would think it very funny. Besides, they get your service number and all that junk, too. I used to work in the print shop. Your birthday? You don’t look old enough to have been born in 37.”

“I wasn’t born in 37; I was born on the twenty sixth of April, thirty seven years ago.” I laughed.

The door opened easily enough. The room was bare. Nothing on the walls, the bed had a plain white service cover, the table had no cloth and the chairs were chrome and leather. It looked like the lobby of a federation office building except for the bed.

“This place needs to be made to look like someone lives here.” Margo commented and I saw her shiver.

But it was about twice the size of my room on the Ellis.

“It will take me about a week to make this place cozy, but it’s a lot bigger than my old room. What’s the ship’s policy about plants in rooms?” I said to Margo as I checked out the bathroom.

“No problem. The only thing you have to get special permission for is an open flame. If you like to burn candles or need a smudge pot, you have to contact housekeeping and let them know. They have to adjust the Halon extinguishers and smoke detectors.”

“A little incense once in a while and maybe a candle light dinner on occasion, but I’m not into burning stuff all the time.”

“The computer has a listing of what’s available from housekeeping to dress up this place and there are art shows and stuff aboard ship all the time. We have a bulletin board on the shipwide net that announces all that stuff.”

“About this bulletin board … Is there a lock on privately transmitted letters, you know from one crew member to another?”

“Of course.” she sounded highly offended.

“The Captain or security can’t open a personal transmission?”

“Not without the receiver or sender there to give their voice print.”

“Ah … voice print lock … great.” I commented gaily as I familiarized myself with the location of the replicator and layout.

“Why do you ask? Do you like to eavesdrop?” she snickered.

It wasn’t worth getting insulted over, so I smiled.

“No. I have old friends aboard … real old. I wanted to surprise them.”

“Not even the Captain can open a private transmission. No one can without the sender or the intended recipient.” she answered me very seriously.

“Well, I think I’m going to lie down. I’ve had a lot to brain-digest. My trunk should be here somewhere.” I looked around again, realizing I hadn’t seen it yet.

“It may still be in stores. I’ll have it brought up.”

“Thanks, Margo.” I dismissed her with a friendly smile.

When the door closed behind her I told the computer to lock it and shut off the bell. I was going to sleep. When I woke I went to look for Ten Forward. I noticed my name tag was up and there was a porter-bot coming down the aisle with my trunk.

Ten Forward, the ship’s “bar” was well populated. There was a little combo on the stage playing some Vulcan coming-of-age themes. It’s very difficult to produce, but very relaxing listening. I admired the expertise of the musicians, especially since only one of them was a Vulcan. I drifted to the bar and just looked around.

“A glass of real Eighty-seven from the Picard vineyards to welcome you aboard.” a silky deep voice interrupted my examination.

I turned to see a beautiful dark skinned woman with a tight, but inviting smile. She had set the glass of white wine at my elbow.

“Why, thank you. Guess I missed the party since I came about a week after the general crew change.”

“Yes, but I’m sure everyone who is interested will make a point to make your acquaintance. I’m Guinnan. I run this place.” she indicated with only her eyes and that tolerant smile.

I snickered. “Just the bar or the whole ship?”

Guinnan only smiled tighter and shrugged non-committally.

“Well, if my former captain could confide in her quartermaster, I see no reason why this captain can’t confide in a bar tender. After all, isn’t that a traditional occupation of a confidant?” I smiled.

“In some societies, yes.” she replied with a slow drawl.

I liked this woman; she had a way of putting people at ease. But she was staring awfully closely.

“Ask it already. I’ve seen that look on ten faces today.”

“Are you related to the Captain?”

“Yes. I’m his niece, though he doesn’t know it.”

“Is it that long a story?”

“No. His brother, Emil, was a little too drunk to remember what he was doing when he spent the night with his childhood sweetheart. He was engaged to someone else at the time. She never told him until about a year before she died. Emil has accepted me. The family tie shouldn’t affect my effectiveness aboard this ship. I doubt that Emil has told his brother yet.”

“They are closer than they were a year ago, but you’re right, he probably hasn’t told him yet.”

I sipped my wine, it was very good, and watched the crowd for a while. Then I realized Guinnan was still staring at me quizzically.

“What is it, Guinnan?” I turned to her only slightly annoyed.

“Is that the story your mother told you, or do you know it’s the truth?”

My face must have fallen to my shoes. I didn’t have to say another word.

Guinnan moved just a little closer to my face, “Whatever you want the world to know, I think you owe it to yourself and to the Captain to tell him the truth.”

“Why do I have to tell him anything? My service records say I’m an orphan. Leave it at that.”

“Can you?”

Suddenly the wine was very bitter in my mouth and I didn’t want to be here. I turned from the bar and headed for the door. I couldn’t leave just at that moment, because the Captain came in with Dr. Crusher on his arm. Obviously they were on a ship-board leave at the moment; neither of them was in uniform. I saluted anyway, habit.

“At ease, Mister. Ah … you are the new Quartermaster, aren’t you?” the Captain greeted me.

“Yes, Sir.” I responded, at parade rest.

“Well, welcome aboard the Enterprise. How was your first day?” he greeted and extended his hand, which I took immediately. He has a firm, but not crushing, handshake.

“Exhausting, sir … I was just going back to my room to put my things away and get some more sleep.” I realized I was starting to blush.

“Well, don’t let me stop you.” the captain said smoothly and escorted Dr. Crusher out of my way.

I exited the room a little too fast, but not before I heard Crusher say, “Jean Luc, did you notice the family resemblance? Her name is Picard, are you related?”

It had never, before now, bothered me that I knew something about my origin that no one else knew, except my mother and she took it to her grave. It had never bothered me before the possibility occurred that I would have to confront Captain Jean Luc Picard. What I had told Guinnan was “the truth”, according to my mother, but I knew it wasn’t the real truth. Not all of it anyway. Now, aboard this ship, I was going to have to make some kind of public statement or have everyone and his uncle asking me questions. Maybe I should have gone to DS-9, I told myself. Then I could strangle the Ferengi that runs the bar and spend the rest of my career in the brig and not have to answer to anyone.

“Thanks a lot, Adrianne. If you’d left well enough alone and let me rot on that lousy tub of bolts, we would have all died happy.” I said to the mirror in my quarters.

I sat down at the computer and put the “dirty laundry” on the bulletin board.

            Stardate 2578.35 Ref: Senior Petty Officer Emilia Picard and her physical resemblance to our good Captain.

            O.K., so I look like the Captain, big deal! Yes, we are related. Reading this may well be the first he hears of it, too. He is my uncle. Here’s the whole sordid story so shut up and get back to work!

            My mother, Vitoria Elaine Saoborine, was the childhood sweetheart of the Captain’s older brother, Emil. By the time they were in their early twenties, Emil was engaged to a woman of his father’s choosing, not Vitoria. About a month or so before he was supposed to marry this woman, he got screaming drunk and showed up on Vitoria’s door step. They spent the night together. Nine months later I was born. Vitoria lived almost seventy keys away from the Picard vineyards. She did not go to the wedding. She never told Emil about his daughter and they never saw or spoke to each other again.

            My mother was dying of a very rare and incurable bone cancer. During her last two years of life, I contacted Emil and told him his old friend was dying and that she wanted he and his wife to come to her side. I didn’t realize at the time the woman Emil was married to was his second wife and also my mother’s friend. She had kept abreast of what transpired at the Picard vineyards. They attended my mother until the day before she died. During the course of her final days, my mother told Emil I was his daughter. He has accepted me, his wife and young son have accepted me. I doubt that Emil has told his brother he has a grown daughter, it is not like him to say such things. Emil Picard is a very private person, moreso than I have heard is our good Captain.

            That’s the story. Though this notice is public access, keep the story to yourselves. It’s no body’s business but my own, the only reason I made it public is that I hate telling it over and over again. The only “relation” I have to the Captain is genetic. There is no relation of family or friendship. Not yet, friendship. I hope my tenure here will allow the development of, at least, a professional friendship. It won’t have a chance, though, if this story is common scuttlebutt. Nuff said.

 

            Quartermaster, SPO Emilia Picard

 

There, that ought to give them about a month of gossip.” I said as I closed the file and mailed it.

I discovered this is an exceptionally tolerant crew. Within a week, I stopped getting looks and no one ever said a word. Even Guinnan never mentioned it again, though I would catch her looking at me sometimes. When she saw that I saw her, she just would smile, tolerantly, and go about her business. I tended to avoid Ten Forward unless I was with my crew.

By the end of my first month aboard the Enterprise, my fourteen man staff and I were a well integrated team. The decorum of the office had improved over the previous commander, but the efficiency increased by two percent as well. We all got along very well. I had no problem with the junior officers taking orders. I often made a point of giving thanks for an especial bit of work or praise of a new idea or way of handling things in front of the whole crew and almost never dressed anyone down where anyone could hear. There was only one incident where I lost my temper over an especially sloppy bit of work but I went into the little stock room with the offender and quietly explained how I hated lack of attention and that it was his responsibility to fix the mess, not someone else’s. It wasn’t exactly a chewing out, but by two days later, everyone knew what I had said and that, although I was steaming I hadn’t been harsh. Their respect for me grew even more. It came to the point where I had to remind them all not to fix my screw-ups but to tell me and let me fix my own.

My first work review with Riker was forty days after I arrived. He had nothing bad to say about my work; just the opposite, in fact.

“I didn’t really think it was possible to increase productivity in the Quartermaster’s office, Tom had it singing so well, but you have.” he told me with open admiration.

“That’s one of the advantages over an officer, of which I spoke in our first meeting, sir. I’m a ‘regular Joe’ like the rest of them. They believe me when I say we’re all in the Latium or the soup together.”

“How so?”

“Officers get chewed out by upper echelon then come down and chew out the enlisted. Well, they believe that since I’m a Non-Com, if a chewing out is in order, I get ripped raw and I really don’t have the authority to chew them out any worse. We’re in the same boat, so to speak.”

“Whatever it is you’re doing, it works great. Keep it up. Now, I want to comment on a personal matter as well.”

“Go ahead, Sir.”

“Do you always have to be so formal?”

“During working hours, yes, I ease off a little when on my own time, but, truthfully, sir, not much.”

“I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.”

“Was that the personal thing you wanted to comment on, Sir?”

“No. The notice on the bulletin board. That was risky and I, personally, appreciate the courage it took to do that.”

“Well, thank you sir, but it’s like I said in the notice. I don’t like repeating the story. It really isn’t anyone’s business but mine, and maybe the Captain’s. If he wants to explore any possible family ties, it’s up to him. He hasn’t approached me and I won’t approach him. I was twenty eight years old when I first met my genetic father. My mother had her own money. I lacked for nothing. I had a good childhood. The Picard family has contributed nothing to my character formation or my up-bringing. Why should I burden them with a demand for filial ties?”

“Well, even in our enlightened age, it still takes courage to expose the fact that you are unique.”

“But isn’t everyone, Mr. Riker?”

“Why don’t you join us at the next poker game?”

“Thanks, what are the stakes?”

 

 

Truth or Dare

 

Only a week after the review, things got really sticky again.

“Dr Crusher to SPO Picard.” came over my comm-link.

“Picard here.”

“Mister Picard, report to sick bay one at 1100 for a routine check up.”

“Begging the doctor’s pardon, I had a full check up only six days before I was transferred. Isn’t that good enough?”

“No. I do cross type matching on the entire crew so I know who is available to whom for tissue matching.”

“Doctor, I believe my tissue type and blood type are in that record.”

“Mister, do I have to make it an order?” she was annoyed.

“No, sir. 1100 hours it is.” I signed off.

“Shit!” I realized I said it too loud when six faces looked up to see what was the problem.

“We can handle the new invoice without you, Emilia.” Monahan offered.

“It’s not that, Peg. I hate doctors.”

“Who doesn’t.” she replied with a sneer.

Peg Monahan was a real Irish rose. She was even born in County Sligo. We were swim partners and she was teaching me the Klingon body-meditation. I didn’t have the nerve to join Lieutenant Warf’s own class.

“Ah, I guess I can’t put this off any longer. Let her poke and prick; bloody bunch of witches!” I mumbled and got back to work.

In the infirmary, Dr. Crusher had her pretty oriental nurse do most of the preliminary work. When it came for the DNA samples, I protested.

“Doctor, I have to speak to you in private, before this test. Please, it really is important.” I interrupted the nurse.

“In my office.” she looked back at me annoyed and walked ahead.

“I didn’t want anyone to know; now I guess I have to tell you before you find out for yourself and make it an official investigation.” I began, then couldn’t finish. My throat closed up.

“What are you leading to, Mister Picard?” she asked softly, discerning my discomfiture.

“It’s even harder to say, knowing you and the Captain are special friends. That your relationship is not just professional.” I mumbled, I couldn’t look at her.

“Is this something about you being Jean Luc’s niece?”

I didn’t answer except to shake my head in the affirmative. I took a deep breath and spit it out.

“Jean Luc isn’t my uncle he’s my father.”

I let that sink in for a time. After her face calmed down from the shock, she just sat, patiently, and let me tell it without asking questions.

“The story on the bulletin board is correct except that Jean Luc came to pick his brother up. He was the only one who had any idea where Emil might have been. My mother said it took her and Jean Luc two hours to get Emil in Jean Luc’s car. But when the pain would get to her, and she couldn’t think to lie, I got bits and pieces that make that story a total sham. There were enough inconsistencies to make me suspicious. She had been Emil’s sweetheart since they were very small children, but she always had a soft spot for his rebellious younger brother. She knew how demanding their father was and how it hurt Jean Luc to not be able to come up to his brother’s standards. That night, it didn’t take them two hours to put Emil in the car. It took two hours for Jean Luc to calm Vitoria down and keep her from committing suicide. They went to bed together. Emil was passed out cold the whole time. I gleaned this truth in bits and pieces from my mother so I tested it.”

“When?”

“Two days before my mother died, Emil was helping me change her medical equipment. He cut his hand, severely, on a broken piece of apparatus. I threw him a towel to staunch the blood while I went for the surgi-kit. When I had his hand healed, I said I’d throw the towel away. I didn’t. I took it to a friend of mine who worked in a bio-lab and had a double blind DNA done on it. I gave him mine, too. He told me the relationship between the two blood samples could be no closer than a generation removed. Emil was my uncle, not my father. He and Jean Luc have no other brothers.”

There was a long moment of silence.

“Emilia, he has to be told.”

“Why? Why change his life? It’s bad enough he thinks he has a niece he never knew. Look, I’ve already confessed to being a bastard relation, why can’t we leave it at that? He’d expect me to be a tissue match; I’m supposedly his brother’s child. Why does he have to know any different?” it wasn’t until I noticed my hands were trembling that I realized the prospect of facing him scared me to death.

“Because I know Jean Luc Picard much better than you do; he’d want to know. He’s wanted a family, but his career never allowed it. He’d want to know, Emilia.” she never lost her composure.

“Then you tell him. I don’t even want to know that he knows.” I answered sullenly.

I wasn’t crying. I seldom do, but I was drenched in sweat now and shaking all over. Dr. Crusher left her office for a moment and came back with a relaxant, giving it to me.

“I think you need to talk to Councilor Troi.”

“Why? I was perfectly happy before. If I’d never come to this ship, we would have all lived our lives in blissful ignorance.”

“That may be true, but you are here and you can’t change the facts or the past. I think you need to talk with Troi to see why it is you don’t want Jean Luc to know you are his daughter and to discuss with her the best way to approach the subject with him.”

“The best way? I told you. You tell him. His life did not affect mine at all growing up, why should mine affect him now?”

“Because you are his daughter.”

Troi came in.

“This would be better done in your office, Councilor; I think it’s going to take some time.” I said and got wearily to my feet. How I felt about the situation didn’t matter, I was being “ordered” by a superior.

I waited for Councilor Troi in the infirmary. The nurse handed me a cup of hot coffee.

“You look like you could use this.” she smiled as she handed it to me.

“Now that’s why I like nurses better than doctors. Nurses have an instinct for the right medicine.” I smiled back as I took it gratefully.

She walked away laughing.

Troi didn’t talk in the hall; it was a short walk to her office. She let me drink my coffee in peace.

“I suppose Dr. Crusher filled you in on most of the stuff.”

“Yes. Why do you think you don’t want the Captain to know he is your father?”

“He hasn’t made any approaches to me in the forty odd days I’ve been here, even knowing what I put on the bulletin board. If he isn’t interested in his niece, why would he be interested in a daughter he never knew he had?”

“Having been raised in a single parent home … ah, you were, correct?”

“Yes, my mother never married or took a lover. She had me and her work. She seemed content with that.”

“Well, having been raised in a single parent home, you may not understand how an absent parent may feel. I have counseled many divorced people and it hurts the absent parent …”

“But Captain Picard never knew I existed. None of the Picards knew until my mother was dying.”

“What kind of relationship do you have with Emil Picard?”

“Cordial. He respects me as an adult. He’s not too thrilled that I’m in Star fleet, but he has a personal vendetta against the service. He’d rather his baby brother was home, and now his daughter, but not everyone is cut out for tending grape vines. I hate vineyard work. I did it as a teenager for spending money. And it was my own vineyard, before you make any objections to the difference of ownership. My mother was a vintner as well. I got along very well with Amanda and Emilio, Emil and Amanda’s son. He thinks it’s pretty neat having a big sister all of a sudden, but we’re not close. I am not part of their family in reality. I haven’t written to Emil in six months now and I don’t call him father. If he’s made any provision for me in his will or any other way acknowledged my filial tie, I am unaware of it. I am treated as more of a friend than a child. And I like it that way. I didn’t need them when I was growing up and I don’t need them now.”

There was nothing negative in my tone, but the session with Troi took three hours and I was exhausted at the end, but she had convinced me to talk to the Captain and tell him the story. It was past the end of my shift, anyway, so I just went to my room. The computer was flashing. I had a private message. I opened it. It was from Captain Picard.

            Emilia,

            Councilor Troi tells me you and I need to get together and discuss this family relation business. She was very mysterious about it. I understand you have just finished a lengthy session with her. If you want to talk tonight, how about 2100 hours? Send me a private message with the time and place that is suitable for you. She suggested you not put it off any longer than necessary.”

 

I sent the message right away.

 

            Captain,if you can lay your hands on some real rye whiskey and excuse me from shift tomorrow morning until about noon, I’ll come to your quarters in an hour and a half. I don’t know how you’re going to feel about what I have to say, but I want to get blind drunk. If that is not a suitable time, then 2100 will be fine and if not in your private quarters, then somewhere else, equally private. This if for no one’s ears but yours.

 

I went and showered after I sent it. I decided to wear a “grubby” uniform. The uniform I would wear to move things in the stock rooms. It was an official uniform, but being a one piece loose fitting jumpsuit, it was more comfortable than my standard uniform. I was officially off duty and would be until 0800 tomorrow morning, but I just couldn’t bring myself to wear civilian clothes to meet the Captain. When I’d finished dressing I noticed my computer flashing.

            Emilia, 1800 is fine and also in my quarters. I’m working on the rye. I believe Guinnan has some real stuff stashed away for emergencies. Are you sure you don’t want Troi, Crusher or Guinnan here?

I didn’t bother with messages; I keyed my comm-link.

“Mister Picard to Captain Picard.”

“Picard here.”

“No, Captain. No witnesses. I’m on my way.”

“Understood. Picard out.”

I went to my replicator and ordered a double scotch synthahol. It didn’t give the buzz, but the burn was enough.

“O.K. Mémé … now, either it’s going to hit the fan or this is all a tempest in a teapot.” I said to the air and left my quarters.

Captain Picard was surprised to see me in a uniform.

“Aren’t you off duty?”

“Yes, Sir, but I’m quite comfortable in my uniforms, Sir.” I replied standing at attention just inside his door.

“Emilia, you are not a subordinate in my office, you are a young lady who is related to me, visiting with a family member. Relax.” his tone was inviting and gentle.

I went to formal parade rest.

“Emilia, come take this drink and sit down.” he handed me a rye on the rocks and smiled, though it showed his annoyance at being treated as separate.

I took a healthy mouthful of the liquor and let it burn all the way down before I sat, stiffly, in the chair he indicated.

“Now, what is the situation?” he asked gently, lounging against the back of his chair very at ease, but fully attentive to me.

He’s more handsome than Emil, I smiled to myself. Given the choice between them, I would have preferred Jean Luc to Emil for looks.

“What are you smiling about?”

“Probably the best way to get through this is just to tell you the truth and then explain it.”

“Go ahead, I’m listening.” he sat forward and gave me his full attention.

“Oh, God, this is hard. …” I took another mouthful of rye and swallowed it fast. “Captain … ”

He interrupted me, “Here, away from the crew, you may call me Jean Luc, after all, we are related, aren’t we?”

“Closer than you think. Jean Luc, I am Vitoria’s daughter, I didn’t lie about that in the bulletin board article, but I’m not Emil’s daughter …” I swallowed hard, it felt like a whole egg was stuck in my throat, “I’m yours.”

I don’t know what reaction I expected, but it wasn’t the one I did get. Jean Luc Picard only smiled slowly and sat back. He took a sip of his drink, thoughtfully, and looked off into space for a while.   “How long have you known?” he asked me.

“Six years … just after Vitoria died. You … you act like you knew.”

“I did.”

“What?” it was me who was shocked.

“Only since you put the story on the bulletin board. I know Vitoria and Emil weren’t in bed together that night. He was drunk as a lord when he arrived on her doorstep. He wasn’t inside more than five minutes when he passed out. I didn’t surmise where he was, she called me to come get him. I couldn’t get away immediately. Father was frantic, and furious. Estelle was hysterical; it took me almost an hour before I could slip away. By the time I arrived at your mother’s vineyard, Emil was well on his way to a drunken coma. She cried on my shoulder for nearly an hour.”

There was a long silence between us.

Softly, almost inaudibly, I asked, “Why didn’t you say something?”

“I thought, since you presented the slightly twisted facts and since Emil bought it, that you didn’t know the truth. I didn’t want to upset your life.”

I smiled, then laughed out loud.

“Captain, that’s why I didn’t want to say anything to you! I thought you didn’t know, that you wouldn’t remember that night. I didn’t want to put any demands on you!”

We spent two hours getting to know each other. He ordered food and we ate together. I told him about my mother and how I had quit Star Fleet Academy three weeks from graduation to take care of her. It took three years for her to die. In the end, she was in constant pain, but she refused the suppressors. She wanted her mind with her. I told him, right to the end, she swore I was Emil’s child, not his, but that the true story came out in enough clues that I had to have the DNA test done, when the opportunity presented itself.

“Well, what are we going to tell Emil?” the Captain asked.

“Why does he have to be told anything?”

“He may put you in his will.”

“If he does, it will be your share of the estate, anyway. I’m sure he won’t take anything from Emilio.”

“I hadn’t thought of that. I now have an heir. I guess I have to make a will of my own.”

“Jean Luc, forget it. I don’t need a legacy from the Picards. I have a legacy from my mother I don’t know what to do with. I’d sell the vineyard to the people who run it now, but they won’t let me. I’ve tried. I don’t intend to ever go back to France. Even if I settled on Earth when I retire, it would be the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, not France.”

We were silent for a long time.

“Captain, knowing your own daughter in on the ship, is it going to interfere in your command? I’ve heard some scuttlebutt about another crew member. You were in love with her and it affected your command. She left the ship.”

“In your case, Emilia, I don’t think it will. You seldom are in any more danger than the whole ship. Quartermasters seldom go on field assignments.”

“Good, because I like serving here, this ship has a good feeling to her. I like the crew, too. My staff is top-rate.”

“I’ve heard good things about you as well. Beverly can have her medical records. As far as the rest of the ship is concerned, let’s keep things the way you presented them.”

“That suits me just fine!” I raised my glass to toast the idea.

We sat in companionable silence for a while. Then we both started talking at the same moment.

“You first.” the Captain offered, ever the gentleman.

“I was only saying I should be going before I get drunk.”

“Very well, Emilia, I want to explore this relationship more … but slowly, of course, very slowly.”

“Jean Luc, why don’t we just get to be friends? If the old adage that blood is thicker than water holds true, once we become friends, the filial tie will come later. We’ve both survived this long without even knowing each other, why make an issue of it?” I thought my tone was reasonable but he must have heard something.

“Are you afraid to come to love me?”

I hadn’t expected that question at all.

“Why would I be afraid? From everything I know about you, Captain, you’re a good man. I’m proud to have your genes in me. I’m more proud to have you as my commanding officer. I have never had a feeling of disrespect for any of my commanders, but I have respected and loved some more than others. I have respected no one more than I do Jean Luc Picard. And, hey, he’s my father, too.”

“We’re talking about two different things here.”

“I don’t understand you, Jean Luc.” I really didn’t and my face showed it.

Jean Luc rose and moved away from the table. He beckoned me to come to him. I did without hesitation, thinking he wanted to move to the lounge or something. I was surprised when he embraced me. I stiffened.

“That’s what I mean. You’ve pulled away.”

I didn’t answer him. I stood in his loose embrace, board straight with my arms at my sides. I didn’t know what to say or what I was really feeling. Then tears came to my eyes.

He tried to hold me closer. I put my arms around his waist, but I felt so awkward. He let me go and led me to the lounger, sitting next to me, but at a distance. I relaxed a little.

“Your mother, was she an unaffectionate woman to you?”

“No. We were always hugging and cuddling. When I came home to take care of her, the first day I saw her in the hospital bed, I crawled onto the bed next to her and we held each other for hours. I often held her head or her hand when she was so sick. I cried with her when the pain was too much and I even yelled at her that she was being selfish for putting me through the pain of watching her. That was the only thing that would make her take her medicine sometimes. But I know I get my stubbornness from her, too.”

“Do you think you are afraid to get close to me because the thought of loosing me, eventually, will tear at you the way loosing your mother did?”

“No! The likelihood that I will stand by and watch you die slowly is very slim, Jean Luc. You’re a Star Ship Captain. The odds are that you’ll die in the line of duty and I won’t even know until after the fact. Or, since I’m in the fleet for life, you may die peacefully at home, retired, and I’ll be a million miles away in space somewhere. Again, I’ll only know after the fact.   No, it’s not that.”

We were silent for a little while.

“You gave up your first career in Star Fleet to care for your mother. Did you have a love interest at the Academy?” he asked gently.

“No. I’m too much of a tom-boy. I had plenty of carousing buddies, but not a love interest.”

“What about the time you spent home with your mother?”

“There wasn’t time for me. I looked up a few old school chums, girlfriends; all the boys I knew in school were married or off on careers. There wasn’t much time for socializing. When I could get a break from Mémé, I went to the spas and had myself pampered.”

“Then there’s never been anyone in your life for whom you have had strong feelings except your mother?”

“I … guess not … now that I think of it. It never mattered to me, either. I love everybody.” I finished with a smile.

“At a distance.” he replied very seriously, a slight look of pain in his eyes.

That made me blush.

“Perhaps you should go, now. We can talk about this another time.”

He put out his hand to help me up. I didn’t let go right away.

“Jean Luc, I am proud that you are my father, even if I’m not a very affectionate person.” I whispered and clung to his hand with both of mine.

He only smiled; a beautiful, angelic smile, genuine with warmth and encouragement.

I let his hand go and left his quarters.

 

 

The Center of the Onion

 

Life aboard the Enterprise was good. My crew and I came to be friends and I received two citations from the Captain during two particularly hectic relief missions we flew. They were posted on the wall of my office for everyone to see, because, as I told them, it was a group effort, not just my creative Quarter-mastery that accomplished the task.

It was almost three months later that I received a private letter from Councilor Troi asking if I wanted to talk about my relationship with the Captain. She admitted to me that it was his suggestion that she contact me. I made an appointment to talk about whether or not we wanted to talk about it.

“He still thinks I’m standing back too much. I’ve made some very close friends among the women in my crew, but, Captain Picard may have a point. My closest male friend here is Commander Riker, and we are gambling buddies, more than anything. The respect and reliance that we have for each other as crew members is very strong. He has confided in me as he would the other crewmen he knows, but there is not the closeness that I have with Martinez and Monahan. I … I’m not sexually attracted to women, Councilor. I don’t have sexual feelings for any of my girl-pals, but … I don’t have any close feelings for any of my male co-workers, either. Probably my strongest feelings, what could be called affection, are for the Captain and …” suddenly I felt embarrassed to confess there was someone else for whom I had strong feelings.

“Who else, Emilia?” she asked softly.

“Lieutenant Commander Laforge.” I felt myself blushing. “We were at the Academy at the same time, before I had to leave to care for my mother. Jorde is a lower classman of mine. He was a freshman the year I was a senior. I … I used to pick on him. Mercilessly, but I do believe he thought it was good natured, for I had occasion to defend him, as well, and he knew it. Jorde and I talked. We talked about everything. I guess, outside of my own flight wing, you could say Jorde and I were best friends.”

“Have you contacted him since you’ve been aboard?”

“Sort of … I’ve sent him messages … teasing. He’s sent a few back, in the same vein.”

“Have you been together?”

“No. I haven’t asked to see him and neither has he to see me.”

“Why not?”

“I guess I’ve just been trusting to luck.” I knew it was a lame answer, but I really couldn’t say why.

“But you’ve played poker with the command crew a few times. Have you been aware that Jorde usually plays with us?”

“I know he plays, we just kept missing each other.”

“Has it been chance, Emilia, or have you been avoiding him?” she asked softly and leaned forward.

I didn’t answer her. I really had to think about that for a while. I really didn’t think I had been avoiding Jorde, but I had to admit to myself that I was.

“Emilia, I want you to call Jorde right now.”

“Why?”

“Invite him out for a drink after shift. Re-acquaint yourselves.”

I felt really stupid, but my heart began racing and my hands were trembling.

“Emilia, do you realize you are having a fear response?”

“Yeah, and I feel stupid. Why should I feel this way? Jorde is my friend. I think we were very good friends.”

“Did something unpleasant happen in the last week you were at the Academy that could have colored all your memories of that time?”

It wasn’t until she said the word ‘unpleasant’ that I reacted to what she was saying. Then, I got cold, really, really cold. I began shivering fiercely and couldn’t explain it. Without my really knowing what was happening, my hands balled into fists and came up under my chin.

“Emilia, you look like someone being attacked. Were you attacked before you left the Academy?”

“M … my body … seems to think so … but I don’t remember anything.”

“Do you think Jorde knows anything?”

“You … you’d have to ask him, Councilor. You have my permission to ask.”

Troi helped me calm down, without exploring the reaction. She ordered a hot cup of herbal tea and made me drink it until my body relaxed again.

“If something bad did happen, it could explain why I don’t want to get too close to men, if that is my problem.”

“Yes, it could explain it. It may also help you deal with other issues you have been hiding. Emilia, this could open a flood gate for a lot of things you have been denying to yourself; such as resentments, fears and hatreds. If we discover what this is, we have to face the probability that we will have a lot of work to do.”

“Councilor, if something terrible happened to me just before I left the Academy, it may explain why I don’t want to be an officer. After all, I went through the training. I actually would have graduated as a Lieutenant JG, because of my grades and performance. I resigned Star Fleet. The three years I spent caring for my mother were hell, but I had no consideration for anything else, once I settled her estate, than to re-up with Star Fleet. They would have given me my Lieutenant’s status, but I refused. I wanted to enlist, but they insisted on the PO status, at the very least.”

“That’s reasonable. In three years, you would not have forgotten your leadership training. Star Fleet would want to take maximum advantage of the training.”

That was the last I heard about it for a month. Troi did still insist I invite Jorde out for a drink. His reaction was to say it was about time. We really had a good time.

Apparently Councilor Troi did her investigation without disturbing me. She did have me sign a search release and she subpoenaed my Academy records. When it was time to talk about it with me, she told me she was going to have the Captain and Jorde there.

“Why?”

“For support.”

“Look, I don’t want the Captain to know my sordid past. It isn’t necessary.” I said almost angrily.

“Emilia, it may embarrass you for your Captain to know you have been victimized, but your father should know. And Jorde can shed some light on the subject. I’ve already spoken to him concerning the case. He asked to be there when I covered it with you … as your friend.”

“You’ve already spoken to him? Why?”

“He’s a material witness.”

“Well if you think it best, Councilor, I’ll comply but I’m not comfortable with it.” I sulked.

Our appointment was for the beginning of the day of a regularly scheduled three day ship-board leave for me. Councilor Troi said I might need the extra time to adjust and not have to go to work right away.

“You know, Troi, this is a lousy way to spend a week-end.” I quipped when I entered her office. I was the first one there.

“I know, but it really will be better to have the time to work through your emotions and not have to worry about your professional facade.” she said softly, but seriously.

“Was it that bad?” I asked, interested, as I sat on the sofa.

“Let me start with a quick statement, and we’ll work through it from there.”

“From the look on your face and all this preparatory nonsense, let me guess. I was raped and wiped it from my mind.”

“That was the least of the problem.” her answer was soft and her dark eyes fully on me, full of sorrow.

That scared me. I sat and thought on it for a while, waiting for Jorde and the Captain to come. Old habits die hard, when they entered Councilor Troi’s office, virtually together, I rose to attention.

“At ease, Emilia.” the Captain said and sat down next to me on the sofa. Jorde took my hand and sat on the other side.

“Now, first of all, Emilia, Jorde and I are here as friends and family concerned about you, not as military superiors. Please relax.” Picard reminded me with a reassuring smile.

“Thanks, Jean Luc. This is difficult enough for me, but Councilor Troi knows me well enough to know I probably need the support.”

Then she began the whole sordid story based on the reports she read. I found myself taking Jean Luc’s hand as well as Jorde’s and squeezing them bloodless as I listened to the tale unfold of an Academy flight wing which would have won top honors but their best pilot quit. In retaliation for leaving them with a second string pilot and only three weeks to reassign and train for their final flight test, the entire wing, consisting of seven men and one woman, me, went on what was supposed to be a ‘farewell’ picnic and turned into a vicious beating and gang-rape. The gardener was the one who found me. Jorde was the first person to see me when they brought me back. I was delirious and semi-conscious. When my eyes opened and I saw Jorde, I panicked and accused him of having been involved. He was exonerated by the inquiry board, but when I recovered from the beating, I didn’t leave the Academy through channels, I simply left my hospital room, went back to my barracks, packed and walked out the main gate in civilian clothes. I went to Reaj, Iceland and finished recovering from the beating there, then went home to care for my mother. I was dismissed from Star Fleet, in absentia, with an Honorable Discharge under medical exemption.

“So, the fact that the wing were all in full dress uniforms, as your report says they were, making it obvious that I was attacked by two JG Lieutenants and five Ensigns is likely the reason I don’t want to associate with junior officers. No one on this ship lower than a Lieutenant Commander is even a passing acquaintance of mine, except Margo Martinez. Of the officers I call friend, Jorde is the lowest in rank.”

“It also explains why you won’t get close enough to any man to be emotionally hurt. These men were your closest companions, your lives depended on each other, and they betrayed you in the most vicious and demoralizing way.” Troi summarized softly, her own eyes misted with tears.

Then I started to remember it, myself. Up to that moment, I heard it as though it happened to someone else. I didn’t own it. But when she finished speaking, I began seeing faces and the viciousness of the attack. I began remembering which of them I had admired most. I began to remember that James Beckman had been a passing love interest and that he was the one who incited the attack. I began shaking violently; remembering to the degree that my present circumstances faded and all I could do was relive that awful two hours.

Jorde and Jean Luc didn’t know what to do. Jorde tried to hold me and I fought him off. Councilor Troi told the men to get away from me and they all left me alone on the couch, remembering. When my trembling and crying began to subside, Troi came to me with a warm blanket and a gentle, nurturing embrace. When my eyes finally focused on Jorde, I reached for him and croaked, “I’m sorry, Jorde.”

He sat next to me and took my hand, then I turned into his embrace and cried bitterly against his shoulder.

“It’s O.K., Emilia. I wasn’t offended. I didn’t take it personally.”

“Why did you say that, Jorde?” Troi asked him softly.

“When they brought Emilia to the infirmary, I was the first person she saw as she started coming around from the initial coma. She accused me of having been her attacker. I had been working in the infirmary all afternoon. There were two dozen witnesses that I was there. I knew it was just the magnitude of what happened.”

Jean Luc spoke quietly, “Emilia, there is no statute of limitation on rape. The entire wing was prosecuted for the attack, but if you want to level personal damages against anyone, they can still stand trial for it. Troi, you didn’t happen to find out what had become of the boys did you?”

“Yes, I did. I thought Emilia would ask. All six of the seniors were dismissed from Star Fleet with open criminal records, they, all seven, spent thirty days in rehabilitative confinement. The junior, Tylor Mordek, was reassigned to the Merchant Marine. He is working a transport on regular routine in the Deneb system. He never achieved any greater rank than Ensign.”

“I remember. I remember Mordek tried to stop them. … They bullied him. Mordek is a Denebrian, he’s very small. … He tried not to hurt me, but they threatened him. He … he did what he was told, but he was as careful as he could be. He threw some punches at me but made sure they largely missed.” I stammered.

“He turned states evidence against the rest of the flight as well.” Troi provided.

I spent almost three hours with Troi, Jorde and the captain, explaining what I remembered, being counseled and comforted. When Troi said I had to go rest, I felt totally drained and I didn’t want to be alone. Jorde had to go on duty in two hours, but he offered to stay with me. Troi said it would be a good idea. She had us transported to my quarters, to save the embarrassment of walking the halls, my face was a ruin from crying. Jorde made me another cup of herbal tea, one designed to help me sleep, waited while I showered and dressed in warm pajamas and then he tucked me in bed. He sat in a chair where I could see him and he could see me, watching until I fell asleep.

Troi and I counseled about this for three weeks before I felt I could get past it.

“Do you have any idea where Beckman is now?” I asked her as we were “cleaning up”.

“No. He claimed to be an independent prospector, at his last registration, which was three years ago.” she supplied. “We have a registration for him at DS-9 last week; he went to the Gamma quadrant.”

“Do you think he heard about the investigation?”

“He may have. If he had friends in the Judiciary Adjunct of Star Fleet, he may know the investigation has been opened again.”

“Beckman has friends everywhere. He’s Admiral Alexander Beckman’s son.” I told her.

“Would you want to prosecute him if you could?”

“No. … I’d rather beat the Muldavian tar stew out of him, now that I know better how.” I smirked, then straightened and talked more seriously, “But, I’m a firm believer in the fact that justice is a universal truth. He’ll get his, sooner or later. I can be satisfied with that.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Jorde and I have talked it all out. I bear none of them any malice, except Beckman, and he’s not worth the effort. Jorde and I are getting close again. I’ve talked to the captain as well. I think he and I are also getting closer. I guess this business with the beating put me off men and I hid it from myself. I find it hard to believe that Terrans could do that, in this century. That kind of gender violence is so rare now.”

“In this case, I believe the goal was not gender supremacy but just an attempt to hurt you in the most vicious way he could. You were going to make him look bad to his father. I’ve done a profile on Beckman. He’s had this achievement problem from early in his educational career. He has equated his academic achievement with his father’s love in a proportional quality. You’re pulling out of the wing when you did was not viewed as your need to care for your mother but an attack on his attempt to please his father.”

“The man is sick.”

“Yes, but, he made you sick for many years. His goal was achieved. It’s good that you came here and this has all been exposed. It may have warped your entire life.”

We were silent for a long time.

“Troi, it has warped my life. This business about staying a Non-Com all my career; it’s because I distrust all Lieutenants because of what they did to me. I don’t want to be on an equal level with junior grade officers. There is still the ruling in Star Fleet that existed in the military of old Earth that officers are not to mingle with Non-Coms and the enlisted personnel. I know Riker and the command crew break that ruling by letting me in the poker games, and I see it broken everywhere on this ship, but it still is there to protect those who need to be protected by it. We were all the same rank at the time, but their punishment would have been more severe if I had been enlisted. Staying a Non-Com kept me safe. I’m not vulnerable to them.”

“Do you still feel that way?”

“I don’t know. I guess the only way I’ll find out is to accept a promotion.”

“Have you topped out your compensation scale?”

“Long ago, now, the only time increases I get is pension and time off. I don’t take the time.”

“Why not?” she seemed genuinely shocked. “You haven’t taken a holiday in six years?”

“No. I have no desire for vacations. There hasn’t been anywhere I’d rather be than working and no one I’d rather be with than my crew.”

“Well, that may change now that you are freed of this fear of men. Besides, there’s no reason you can’t take a ski trip with Margo or visit the old homestead with Peg Monahan. You can take vacations with your girl-pals, you know.” she said cheerfully.

It was something to think about.

 

 

Promotion

 

The opportunity to change my status from Non-Com to officer came within the next forty days. We were doing a routine exploration forty light years from the Kardasian demilitarized zone when the ship received a distress signal. A wandering meteor shower had seriously impacted a Kardasian outpost. They were in a shambles and the weather changes and seismic disturbance of the one hundred or so impacts of two megaton rocks was causing more damage. Every available ship was being requested for immediate help to evacuate people, equipment and data.

The Enterprise was the first Federation ship on the scene. There was a Kardasian war patrol ahead of us. The two captains spoke and began trying to come up with a plan. The war patrol had almost no cargo space. They couldn’t take much, but they had eighty gigs of computer space available for the scientific data that the outpost had been gathering. This negotiation was on the ship-wide comm-link. I called up to Picard.

“Captain, let me go aboard the Kardasian ship and see what I can do about rearranging their computer space. They can take the scientific records and proprietary equipment; we can take the wounded and other personnel. I already have loading bay seven in operation as a makeshift hospital.”

“Who is that?” the Kardascian commander demanded.

“My Quartermaster.” was all Picard responded.

“We don’t have time to play games here!” the Kardascian scolded, angrily.

“Then stop wasting precious time and let me aboard! Every second you spend getting huffy, another of your countrymen dies, Captain!” I blurted.

Picard and the Kardascian were both shocked silent for a few seconds, as a matter of fact there was total silence on both ships, but my bluster won out. The Kardascian captain gave the coordinates of his computer center and our ship beamed me from my office to theirs. I didn’t touch the controls of the computer at all; I looked over the shoulder of the man who was handling things. I asked to see the records I wanted and showed him where he could stow things that were taking up precious space in their tiny cargo bay and how to store non critical items as a data pattern in the replicator memory. We stuffed it as full as we could get it, then I directed them how to upload as much data without hardware as possible.

“We need the hardware to retrieve this data.” the Kardascian computer tech complained.

“The hardware is replicatable back home, the data is not.” I reasoned with him.

We found some rather creative places to piggyback data. We managed to get everything they wanted in only an hour’s time. It was an auspicious thing because the central data complex was bombarded with a massive earthquake just as the last technician was beamed up to the Enterprise and the entire structure of the research center was flattened in seconds.

By the time we were done with the work aboard the Kardascian war cruiser, enough ships had arrived to off-load everyone from the tiny, virtually destroyed planet. A total of six ships in all headed for deeper Kardascian space. I would have returned to the Enterprise as soon as the data was uploaded, but the storage was unstable and the Kardascian technician needed my extra set of eyes to continuously massage the data to keep it vital. I had to ride all the way back to the next outpost with them and wait until they had arranged an appropriate place to store the scientific data, then monitor the off-load to planet-side computers until things aboard the war patrol could be restored to normal. I wouldn’t admit it to anyone, but I made a friend of that particular Kardascian.

When the report reached Star Fleet Command, there was a lot of hub-bub. The entire command crew of the Enterprise was called together, including me, to hear the report from them.

“The effort of the Enterprise in the recent rescue mission of the Kardascian scientific community had been reviewed. Everyone aboard the Enterprise is to be commended for their part. Dr. Crusher, please convey the grateful thanks of the Kardascian government to your entire staff for their efforts on behalf of the many wounded members of that community.” Admiral Kono intoned, reading from his script. Kono was in charge of the negotiations between the Federation and the Kardascian Empire. It wasn’t an easy truce.

“We have been informed that there is a special citation that has been offered by the Kardascian government. Would Senior Petty Officer Emilia Picard please rise.”

Every head in the room turned to me. Captain Picard sitting with his back to the screen smiled reassuringly and nodded slightly. I rose and stood at attention.

“Mister Picard, the Kardascian government has gone to very great detail to describe how you saved all the scientific data from the planet and they made an especial note of the fact that you did not read any of the data you saved. You do understand, Chief, that what you allowed them to save may have been military intelligence?”

“Yes, Sir, my duty at the time was not to decipher the date only save it. This was a rescue mission, not an opportunity to press a military advantage, Sir.” I replied with a strong voice, but the attention was getting to me.

“The Kardascians are well aware of your attention to that fact. Also, somehow, they were aware of your general feelings about the Kardascian government. Both these things taken into consideration, Mister Picard, it was noted that you comported yourself in the execution of this rescue with the utmost professionalism and with a sensitivity to the Kardascian way of doing things. In appreciation of your efforts they have offered you the Kardascian Order of Merit. You are the first Terran, ever, to receive an honorarium from the Kardascian government. It is equivalent to our own Citation for Excellence.”

“Thank you, Admiral Kono. Please express my appreciation to the Kardascian Government. Tell them I understand the honor and I will endeavor to continue in my career with the same level of professionalism, Sir.”

“Chief Picard, the Federation is also grateful for your efforts. Your discretion in this rescue has gone a long way toward creating a sense of trust between two factions not easily trusting of each other. In our own recognition of your efforts and your professionalism, Star Fleet is prepared to offer you a promotion … to Lieutenant Commander.”

I was speechless. My decorum wavered and I looked to Picard and Troi who both were beaming with pride and encouragement. I looked at Jorde who gave me a thumbs-up and Riker who nodded, emphatically, that he thought I should accept the offer. Now it was on the line. The rank was in order with my service. If I had accepted my lieutenancy when I signed on, six years ago, with the meritorious promotions I had already received, this would be the next promotion, anyway. But I was skipping three grades in actuality. My crew was behind me, here. It was a moment of truth. I knew Kono knew my record of refusing commissions. Even he looked hopeful that I would finally accept the offer.

I had to clear my throat twice before I had enough volume and a stable enough voice when I finally answered, “Thank you, Admiral Kono … I accept the offer.”

Decorum was totally lost. The entire command crew of the Enterprise cheered while Captain Picard walked the length of the conference table to put the studs on my collar.

“Well done, daughter.” he whispered in my ear just before he stood back and saluted me.

I returned the salute to him and to Admiral Kono, then had to busy myself with shaking hands and accepting well wishes from my fellow command crew members. I was genuinely surprised to find tears in my eyes.

When the excitement and party were over, I found myself alone in the conference room with the captain.

“Well, Lieutenant Commander Picard, what else is going to change around here?” he asked me with the widest grin I’ve ever seen on his face.

“Sir?” I was genuinely puzzled.

“Are you going to tell your father about your promotion?”

I smiled. “He knows, but yes, I will tell Emil. We’ve been getting more personal in the last few months, Jean Luc.” I grew pensive and serious for a moment.

Jean Luc became serious as well. “What is it, Emilia?”

“He told me, in his last letter, that he believes he can not be my father, and that means you must be, for there is no denying I am a Picard.”

“How did he come to the conclusion that he is not your father?”

“He said he’s been going over that night in his mind. He’s come to the conclusion that he was too drunk to have made love to Vitoria. He told me it was only possible that you and she were together before you brought him home.”

“Has he expressed any feelings about his conclusion?”

“No. Neither about discovering he must be my uncle not my father or how he feels about you having made love to his girl. The only thing he said is that I should discuss it with you.”

I found myself blushing.

“Why are you embarrassed? I’ve known for months.”

“I don’t know. I could read no negative emotions in his discussions, yet I feel … as though I’ve hurt Emil. I sense he feels betrayed, but by whom, I don’t know.”

“He loved your mother very much. He almost defied my father and married her. Almost. Emil never defied my father.”

Jean Luc was sad and a little angry about that.

“You think your father’s overbearing ways stifled your brother, don’t you?” I asked gently.

“Yes. Yes, I do. Emil seemed always to gauge what he did against what Father thought of it, not against what his heart really wanted to do. I suppose he is happy, now, being a vintner, but he had such a difficult adolescence. What about you, Emilia, was your adolescence difficult?”

“No. Nothing was difficult for me, ever. There was always an element of fun in my life. I’m sure my mother cried and was lonely for the love of a man, but the only two men she ever loved were unreachable; Emil with his wife and his own responsibilities and you with your career. She was the strong silent type, you know. Nothing phased her hard competent exterior, and she really was almost as competent as she put on. I never saw her weaknesses until I was ready to venture into the world.”

“Perhaps your idyllic upbringing is why the attack was so completely devastating to you.”

“Good guess. I had no empirical evidence, up to that day, that anyone could be so cruel. Beckman almost had me fall in love with him, did you know that? We were quite a team. But, I think I always knew his leadership was based on that mean streak. When I appeared to take his leadership star away from him, he dropped the facade and the pure cruelty that was in him spilled out. The others have to be accountable for their own weakness, but James did influence them all. He even influenced me, I think. If it hadn’t been for James, maybe I wouldn’t have teased Jorde as cruelly as I did.

“I never made fun of his blindness; it was other things about him … his innocence mostly. You know, Jean Luc, I still see that innocence in him. He’s just naturally a trusting person. I know his parents were both career officers, but Jorde must have had a very loving upbringing, in spite of having grown up ship-board.”

“He’s a good man.”

We were silent a long time.

“Jean Luc, what would you think if Jorde and I …” I was too embarrassed to finish the question.

Jean Luc laughed. “Your captain doesn’t interfere in ship-board romances. He trusts his crew not to become so involved with each other as to endanger the ship. Your father thinks that if the two of you find a genuine affection for each other, you should pursue it.”

I had to laugh at myself. “This romance stuff is hard. It’s not that Jorde and I have ever said anything to each other, it’s just that we’re so comfortable together.”

“Has he kissed you yet?”

I looked at him, shocked and bemused.

“Now is it my captain and friend who’s asking or my father?” I chuckled.

He thought about that a while, a pixieish grin on his face. “Both.”

“Well, no. Not really I guess we’re still more buddies than paramours.”

Now Jean Luc sat forward in his chair and took on a serious expression.

“Emilia, are you sure of Jorde’s feelings, or are you reading into it?”

“I don’t think so. He hasn’t tried to kiss me, yet, but I think he wants to. There have been moments when we’ve come really close. He’s hugged me, in excitement, in ways you don’t hug a buddy. We haven’t talked about the two of us becoming romantically involved, but we have talked at length about the attack. He seems to think I’m still scared off because of what Beckman and the others did.”

“Then you need to talk about becoming involved. Your relationship, more than others, needs a lot of verbal exchange. You need to make sure you always tell him what you’re feeling and be sure you understand what he is feeling.”

“Thanks, Péré …” I said softly.

Jean Luc was startled. He put his hand out to me and I rose, he did too, and we embraced. This time I didn’t pull away. When we broke, I noticed there were tears in his eyes.

“Aw, gees, Captain, don’t go getting all soft and mushy on me!” I teased.

His response was to hug me again, then he shoved me slightly away and saluted smartly.

“Dismissed Lieutenant Commander Picard … get some sleep. There are going to be more changes, but we can work into them.”

I straightened my uniform, came to full attention and saluted him smartly. Then I made a very formal retreat.

In my quarters was a bouquet of roses. There was a note.

I knew you wouldn’t stay down long, once you knew what was blocking you. Congratulations. Jorde.

 

 

The Next Era

 

The changes of which Jean Luc spoke included a change of assignment aboard the ship. I had spent my second career, to this point, as a Quartermaster, but my initial induction had been to specialize in navigation, pilot and reconnaissance. I was informed that I would be re-assigned aboard ship to the Command Crew as a navigator as soon as I could choose a suitable replacement to command the Quartermaster’s office. I really wasn’t happy about this, but, the Captain was always right. I would have to hold a discussion with my entire staff.

My first day as a commissioned officer was strained. When I arrived for work, Monahan loudly announced “Officer on deck” and the entire room came to bolt-upright attention.

“Alright, I know I made the rule, but enough is enough … as you were.” I didn’t sound as nonchalant as I wanted to.

Monahan saluted smartly before she sat down again.

“What the hell was that supposed to mean, Monahan?”

“Sir?” she asked sweetly, turning to give me her undivided attention.

“Look, just because I’m a bloody damned officer, now, doesn’t mean things down here have to change that much. You’re not making this any easier. I figured I couldn’t turn down a promotion that came from the Admiralty. If it had just been the Old Man, I might have, but I’m not in the habit of saying no to bloody Admirals!” there was more venom in my voice than I wanted.

It was Martinez who put it right.

“Cut the slag, Peg. Emilia, we know you couldn’t have turned this one down. The whole ship saw what happened. Captain Picard had it on shipwide viewers. We’re mostly happy for you. Your talents are wasted down here. You’ve got the leadership ability to reach Captain if you want it. And I know Captain Picard would do everything in his power to see to it that you get there, if that’s what you want. Peg is just miffed because now that you’ve been commissioned, you won’t be able to be her friend any more.”

“Now that’s filter dust, Peg, and you know it. What we do on our off time is nobody’s business but our own. We can still be friends. It might have been different if we weren’t the same gender. We both know how to do our jobs and our personal lives don’t interfere.”

“Yeah, after all, you’ve been dating LaForge. Nobody said anything about that.” Peg added cheered.

“And I’ve played poker with Riker. So what … the no fraternizing ruling has largely become a dinosaur.”

Everything hung in suspense for a while, and then they all came forward to congratulate me. When the first hub-bub was over I did my own congratulating because my people had done some very creative shifting to get enough room for extra hospital beds in storage room seven. I had my own commendations to hand out and one of them was for Peg.

“O.K., Monahan, you want to be a snot-nose about my tacks, well, girl …” I pulled the card out of my pocket with her Warrant Officer’s tacks on it and handed them to her, “Here’s your own. You’ve been promoted to W1 and you’ll have OCS classes to attend two days a week for the next thirty days. Depending on how you do, that W1 becomes a set of Ensign’s tacks in ninety days.”

She was dumb-founded. Decorum was totally lost, she hugged me. I let it go and hugged her back.

“O.K., people … now, as if all these promotions haven’t confused things enough, I have been informed that I have thirty days to replace myself. Command decision has come down that the new rank requires I go back to what the Fleet spent two million credits to educate me for. I’m being reassigned to the Navigational section.”

There was a low murmur of concerned voices. Again, Margo put it all in perspective.

“Do you want the reassignment?”

“Well … yeah. I trained for navigation at the Academy when I was there. It really is my first love, but I’m bloody damned good at buying. That’s why I signed on as a Quartermaster when I came back. But, yeah, I want to switch.”

“Then we’re happy for you. Go for it, Emilia.” and they all joined in the cheer for me.

Well, at least I knew they wouldn’t resent my going, now all I had to do was pick my replacement. That was tough. I decided to talk to Riker.

I called him when we were both off duty. He said I should come to his office. When I got there, he had a bottle of synthetic Scotch on the table and two glasses.

“You know who does more than their share of the work, Emilia.” Riker said, smiling, after we’d talked of other things for a while.

“Yeah … all of them … believe me, Commander, this is not easy. The three senior crew members, by time as well as rank, are all dedicated, competent and almost equal in rank. Giyaz has been an Ensign for a year, Martinez has been an Ensign for a year and a half, but she was in the Printing section before she came to the QM office. Monahan just received her W1 and will be an Ensign in six months or less. Martinez actually outranks Giyaz but I’m not sure she can handle the pressure of total control in another emergency like the Kardascian rescue. She’s competent and innovative, but not as much under pressure. Giyaz isn’t as innovative. I don’t know if they’ll follow Monahan. She can bully them until they will, but why make her go through the pressure if it isn’t necessary?”

“You’re really stewing about this.” he said in genuine surprise.

“Riker, I’ve never had to choose my own replacement and continue to serve on the same ship. I have to live with this decision!”

He poured me another shot of Scotch.

“Look, you have it narrowed down to three. Tell them and let them battle it out. You might be surprised what they say.”

“You come from the ‘throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks school of management, don’t you?” I said, more into my glass than to him, but he heard me and shrugged, giving me one of his pasted ‘I’m-such-a-son-of-a-bear’ smiles.

I did as he suggested and the three of them settled it. Monahan backed out almost right away. She said learning to be an officer would be too demanding for her to do justice to the post of Quartermaster. She’d wait a year or two. Giyaz and Martinez worked it out. Martinez got it.

We had a party with the combined quartermaster crew and the command crew. The captain ordered that it be in civilian clothes so that rank would not be an issue. Most of my crew were enlisted. We celebrated the passing of authority to Martinez and my moving to the Navigational section. Captain Picard presented me with my formal Sciences uniform as a token of my new position, a gift from my “uncle”. On it was pinned the Kardascian Order of Merit. Everyone oohed and ahhed over it. I had to admit it was a beautifully designed medal. By the end of the evening, Jorde had managed to escape with me to the botanical garden, alone.

“Well, rank doesn’t separate us any longer, Emilia.” he opened the conversation as he handed me an orchid.

“Was it ever an issue between us?”

“You tell me. It was the impression I got, even from the silly notes.”

“Did you really get that impression from me?” my voice sounded as hurt as I felt.

“Yes. Of course a lot of it was what happened at the Academy. I sometimes wonder, still, if you’ve forgiven yourself for accusing me.”

“Yes, Jorde, I have.” I took his hand and made him look at me when I said it. I didn’t let him go, though I was silent a long time.

“Jorde, do you realize you are the only man I have ever had any genuine affection for?”

“No. And that’s not true, either. There’s the captain and Riker.”

“Jorde, Captain Picard is my father and Riker is my drinking buddy. That’s not what I mean.”

“I thought the Captain was your uncle.” he was stunned.

“We’re not talking about that. We’re talking about us.”

“Yeah, we were, but I want to digress a moment. Captain Picard is your father?”

“Yes.”

He sat silently for a while.

“Jorde, does that change anything between us?” my voice was trembling.

“I … I guess it doesn’t have to.”

“No, it doesn’t. Genetics makes him my father, but serving with him these last six months had made him my friend. That’s more important. He’s your friend too, Jorde. I know that. … I’ve already talked to him about us. He thinks it’s a good idea that we explore where this relationship can lead, if we let it.”

“Was that advise from your friend or your father?” he smiled.

I really couldn’t tell if he was teasing or serious.

“Why does it have to be a difference?” I was completely serious.

Jorde looked at me and touched my cheek tenderly before he answered very softly.

“Because a friend wouldn’t be concerned about a mixed marriage, but a father might be.”

“Jorde, we’re both of purely Terran stock. Race doesn’t mean anything any more. … Now, if I were interested in Warf it might be different …” I began to tease.

“Oh, yeah, I can just see you and Warf. That’d be a match made in a bar-room!”

“Nah … for that it would have to be me and Riker.”

We both laughed until we couldn’t breathe. Our recovery time was a little too long.

“Jorde, did you mean it, about maybe getting married?” I didn’t look at his face when I asked him, I was looking at his hand holding mine.

He gently tilted my head up so that I would look in his eyes.

“Yes, I did. I’m not going to rush anything, but, it’s just possible it could come to that.” he said softly.

Our faces drifted together and our first kiss was every story-book image of the innocence and wonder of a first kiss.

 

 

The Price of Heroism

 

My first six months as a navigator were exciting, even in their routine. I was very nervous about starting. It had been almost ten years since I had even looked at star maps. I took two weeks to re-acquaint myself with the subject of astronavigation before I began my first “official” day of work.

Being on the bridge almost every day with Captain Picard gave me a much better understanding of the man. I came to admire him even more than I already did. It helped bring us closer as a family as well, for he saw, first hand, my dedication to my work and how I treated the people with whom I had to work.

He wasn’t above taking full advantage of a serendipitous situation, either. I came to admire his shrewdness and diplomacy. Example, the view given of our bridge can be as narrow as only the captain’s face or as wide as the entire bridge. When we had to deal with Kardascians, for any reason, the Captain most usually used the wider screen and found himself with reason to stand just behind the navigational station. I was ordered to have the Kardascian Order of Merit on my uniform at all times, so the view the other ship had of our bridge was always of this Terran Light Commander who looked remarkably like the Captain wearing a Kardascian medal, and minding her navigational station with quiet purpose.

It had occurred on more than one occasion that the Kardascian’s commented on the fact that I jumped several grades in the one promotion. I’m sure they knew the ranking order of the Federation Star Fleet and knew how far I had advanced in one jump. It gave them cause to consider how they dealt with the Captain. He confided to me that at least one Kardascian had made a comment about the family resemblance.

“Do you think he has the impression that the Fleet practices despotism?” I asked Jean Luc over dinner.

“It would not change relations between our two species if he did. Gul Amal is a very minor player.”

“Yes, but all Kardascians are spies. His opinion will be transmitted back to the home world and they will investigate the issue and look into the possibility of using it to their advantage. Besides, how much do the Kardascians talk to the Romulans? They would use every advantage they possibly could. I read the report of how they tried to use against the Enterprise and the Federation the fact that one of their high echelon people was the daughter of your Lieutenant Tasha Yar.”

“It didn’t work worth a damn, but I take your point. I don’t think the issue will be raised. There are many three or more generation families that have been totally devoted to the Fleet. Despotism isn’t really an issue. We just happen to be commissioned family members on the same ship. It happens.”

“And it’s less of an issue than some could make of it, because the only data anyone can get on us is that I am your niece. That’s not worth leveraging.”

“Medical records could prove otherwise, but that shouldn’t become a problem for us.”

Forty-five days after the first anniversary of my arrival aboard the Enterprise, the relationship of family between Jean Luc Picard and me came to a critical stage. We were on a routine exploratory mission when we received a very faint signal. We immediately traced the signal and found ourselves facing a space phenomena that was previously unrecorded.

There was a cloud of meteorites and free gasses such as would have been an atmosphere. Apparently we had found an exploded planet. The distress signal was coming from somewhere within the mass. We circled it several times, from every angle, to see if we could get a better fix on the signal but it was fairly obvious the signal was coming from dead center of the mass. We had a command strategy meeting about it.

“The details we can glean from the signal, Captain, indicate either a surface station that managed to remain intact and viable or a ship is located near the magnetic apex of this mass. The movement of the meteorites is occasionally erratic. That is indicative that some of them are independently magnetic. There is a large quantity of lead and other minerals interfering in scanner and transporter function. If we are going to attempt to rescue the survivors, we are going to have to fly in.” Mr. Data summarized the situation.

“Captain, I have Ensign Martinez’ report on examinations of the available equipment and we currently have nothing aboard which has the maneuverability to deal with this phenomena. My recommendation is that we obtain a Federation Ranger, a fighter plane. With the possibility of atmosphere, we need something that has faster maneuverability than a shuttle and carries more fire power.” Riker added to the report.

“Mr. Riker, how long will it take to have a fighter shipped to us?”

“At least three days, sir.”

“Captain, based on what we could glean from the transmissions, those people don’t have three days.” Data interjected.

“Captain, if I may?” I requested.

“Go ahead, Mr. Picard.”

“Captain, I’ve taken the liberty to inquire of the Quartermaster and also took the initiative to authorize the construction of a Ranger here aboard ship. It should be ready in seventeen hours.”

“I was unaware that we had the engineering expertise for a surface to space construction.” the Captain commented and looked at Jorde, our engineering expert.

“Yes, sir, we have the expertise, the designs and Martinez provided the equipment.”

“Fine. We’ll have a ship in seventeen hours, but who will fly it. … Mr. Riker?”

“That might be the other catch, Captain. According to the roster there are only six people qualified for a Ranger.”

“And they are?”

“Lt. Warf, myself, you, Chief Donalson, Lt. Sarn and Lt. Commander Picard.”

“I’m disqualified by time, Commander. I haven’t qualified in a Ranger for several years.” the Captain admitted.

“Neither have I, sir, so I also am eliminated.” Riker replied.

“Chief Donalson is pregnant, Sir.” Dr. Crusher provided, reading from personnel files.

“That disqualifies her from this mission.” the Captain added.

“Sir,” Warf began, “I am listed as qualified on the Federation Ranger, but my actual combat experience has been with the Klingon equivalent, not a Ranger.”

Dr. Crusher provided another bit of bad news. “Lt. Sarn is probably not fit for such a mission. He recently had an accident in the bio-lab and is not physically at optimum capacity.”

“What objections can you put to this scenario, Mr. Picard.” the Captain asked me, somewhat dejected.

“The only possible thing I can think of, sir, is that I’ve never actually flown combat, but, I have flown a Ranger through a meteor shower before.”

“How recently?” Riker asked.

“A year ago … I had to use a Ranger to fly medical supplies through a meteor shower to a scientific station, from the Ellis. It was one of my last duties before I was transferred.”

“Well, it looks like you get the job, Mr. Picard. Good Luck.” the Captain said, decisively. “This meeting is adjourned until one hour before the mission is ready to launch. Arrange everything and report back here then.”

As everyone was shuffling to leave the Captain stopped me a moment.

“Emilia, wait.”

“Sir.” I responded and stood at attention while the room emptied.

“At ease … Emilia, come, sit down.”

“Jean Luc, I know that worried expression. I’ve seen it on Adrianne’s face a hundred times. This is a dangerous mission, but, please, don’t let my father stop me.” I pleaded softly as I sat beside him.

“Yes, your father is worried, but your Captain has confidence in your ability and in your integrity. You would not have volunteered a positive report if you honestly felt you couldn’t do it.”

“Thank you, sir. When I was just a quartermaster, it didn’t make much difference. Now, you have the dilemma which caused your lady-love to leave the ship. Are you sure, Captain … Péré, that you can command me into danger without compromising your own integrity?”

He covered my hand with his own and looked steadily into my eyes.

“We’ll both find out when you get back.”

But he wasn’t smiling.

“Captain … seventeen hours is enough time for me to train Warf on the Ranger. I can have a simulator built in an hour on holodeck seven. And based on the last mission I flew, I can have him ready to fly when the Ranger is ready … if you’d prefer.”

I couldn’t look at him when I said it. This is why I became a pilot and I was giving up a challenge I knew I could win.

He rose and pulled me up and embraced me.

“No. If you want to train Warf, just because it would be a good idea to have those available to retrain and maintain readiness, then you can do it after the mission.” he released me and held me at arm’s length. “There are other, more important things you need to be doing now. Attend to your duty, Commander.” His face was set in his “Captain” expression.

I backed away from him and saluted smartly with a warm smile.

“Aye, Captain.”

“Dismissed, Lt. Commander.” he replied, all business.

The Ranger was ready with two hours to spare so Jorde and I went over every system in the ship sixteen times. It was working perfectly.

“I’m still not sure running through a busted up planet is the ideal situation for a shake-down cruise. We can test until our eyes pop out, but without actual stress conditions, we are not going to find everything.” Jorde fussed.

“Well, we do have two hours. Why not take her out into space and see what she can do?” I answered after checking the after burner array for the seventeenth time.

“Clear it with Riker and the Captain.” he commented, absently as he rechecked the retro rocket linkage.

I keyed my comm-link.

“Light Commander Picard to Commander Riker.”

“Riker here.”

“Commander, Commander Laforge suggests we take an open space shake down on the Ranger before I hit the rocks.”

“Good idea. Give us a launch window and Data will track you from the bridge.”

“Aye, Commander, Picard out.”, then to Jorde I smirked, “Satisfied?”

“I’ll worry less when you get back and I’ll be satisfied when this whole mess is history.” he grumbled, checking the aileron cable linkage for the seventeenth time.

The worried expression on his face was too good to pass up and I kissed him, not caring that there were three other crewmen in the room. Jorde wasn’t in any hurry to make me stop.

“You’d better get a pressure suit, just in case.” he said as he pushed me toward the staging area.

“Yes, mother.” I teased.

The shake down was totally uneventful, which is what we wanted. I put the little fighter plane through everything I could think of. I even skimmed a nearby, intact, planet to get a feel of the atmospheric resistance. She checked out fine. When I arrived back on the shuttle bay, there was an ovation of over fifty people, including the Captain.

“Well, that was some very impressive flying, Lt. Commander, very impressive.” he smiled, proudly.

“Thank you, sir.” I beamed back, though the ovation startled me and I was blushing.

As we walked back to the conference room, Jorde moved very close to me and, surreptitiously, took my hand. I leaned close to his ear.

“Having seen me fly, do you feel a little better?”

“A little.” he whispered and squeezed my hand.

All the plans and preparations were in order. We knew there were only two people to be rescued from the mass and I could stow them both in pressure suits along the fuselage of the Ranger. We equipped the fighter with a portable transporter in case I couldn’t land and physically remove the survivors. I carried some medical supplies and a few other things we thought would be needed and while we were conferring, the shuttle bay crew rearmed what I had tested so the fighter was fully armed.

Again, Captain Picard asked me to wait before leaving the conference room. Everyone filed out very quickly.

“As your Captain, I know I don’t have to tell you to be careful and not take any unnecessary chances, Emilia, as your father … I can’t help it.”

“Captain Picard, please don’t get all mushy and maudlin on me. This is hard enough.” I tried to stay stiff and in mind of my mission but the look on his face was melting my heart.

He bucked-up and came to me with an official Star Fleet Commanding Officer’s handshake.

“Good luck, Lieutenant Commander Picard.” he said and then saluted me.

I returned the salute, smartly, turned on my heel and walked out. I wouldn’t let myself think about the way he looked as he watched my receding back. I wouldn’t allow myself to think of anything but my mission.

It was hairier than we could possibly have thought. I tried, to the best of my ability, to keep a running dialog going with Data. I think he must have learned about forty new “imprecations”. No one on the bridge would have guessed I had such a foul mouth! But I was lucky that by the time I found the shuttle at the core, I hadn’t soiled my pants!

I kept a running dialog of visual observations as well as what my instruments were telling him.

“Data, if I run into this much resistance coming out, I may run out of ammunition. Do you think you can focus the phasers and help cut me a way out?”

“Warf and I are working on it, Emilia.”

I found the source of the distress signal was a very battered and leaking personnel transporter. The ship was a huge shuttle craft. It was tractored to what was left of the magnetic core of the planet; a ball of molten stuff only about a league across. Their life support had failed except in one small compartment. That’s where the two survivors were, but that compartment was leaking, slowly. The only thing keeping these two alive was that the entire bulk of the rest of their ship was between them and the core.

“I have no where to land. The shuttle is twice my size, but its spinning. I’m having trouble maintaining altitude from the core. Data, advise … if I blast the core and release the magnetic pull, what are our chances of surviving?”

If I did, the debris would begin to spin off into space. The exploded planet would begin to fully disintegrate as it should have in the first place and I would have an easier time getting out of here. But the Enterprise would be bombarded with megaton rocks and may have to pull back. I might run out of fuel before I could reach her and my own tail would be battling those same megaton rocks traveling at mach two. But there was no way I could lock onto those two the way things were now.

“Captain says go for it Emilia.” Data’s words were strange for him, but I didn’t hesitate to comply. I had one photon torpedo left. I armed it and launched it at the core, then backed away on a trajectory with the shuttle.

It was a calculated risk, but it paid off. When the core shattered, everything began to fly away. I matched speed with the shuttle, which had stopped its yaw roll, and called down to the survivors.

“Are you two still there?”

“Thank the Bright Beginning someone heard us. We’re still alive. Only two, please, can you get us out of here?” a very young male voice replied.

“Have you got room to maneuver into pressure suits?”

“Just barely.”

“I’m beaming over two suits. Get into them and lock down. This is going to be a very bumpy ride. When you are ready, lie prone.”

“Affirmative.”

It seemed like forever, but was actually only two minutes on the Ranger’s chronometer when they called back.

“We’re ready.”

“Seal up and activate the suits.”

“Understood … activate.”

The sparkle of bodies appearing behind me filled my view shield for a second and I had to pull a sharp roll immediately to avoid a boulder the size of a small building. My passengers were thrown around roughly, but I heard two healthy exclamations, which told me they were both conscious.

“Find whatever you can to hold onto and anchor yourselves. Be careful of cabling.”

“Understood.” came from two voices.

“On our way out, Enterprise.” I radioed back and fired the aft burners.

I flew the sickest course I had ever flown in my entire life. We almost made it out when a boulder the size of a small space cruiser ripped off my left wing just above the after burner. It didn’t affect my vacuum flying, but I was still in atmosphere and we began to roll crazily.

“I’ve lost a wing, Data. I’m loosing maneuverability. Can you lock on us yet?”

“No, still too much electromagnetic interference.”

“Shoot me a path.”

“Trying.”

We wormed our way out with little else to hinder us. I was now on the opposite side of the cloud from the Enterprise. I had to maintain speed because I had a boulder the size of the Enterprise dish on my tail and it was gaining on me. Once we hit vacuum I could pull away at an angle, but in the meantime, this crazy rock was rolling right behind me.

“Data get over here! I need some big fire power now!” I shouted in my comm unit.

When we finally hit vacuum I picked up speed and threw the starboard after burner into overdrive and pulled away from my pursuer at a sharp left angle, but it wasn’t fast enough and the rock sheered off my tail. I lost all pressure in the cabin and my aft burners. We went into an uncontrollable tail over nose rotation.

“No navigation, repeat no navigation, Data, get us the hell out of here!” I screamed to the Enterprise trying desperately to key the wing burners to slow the rotation.

The Ranger was being battered by hundreds of watermelon sized chunks of stuff, some of them almost familiar as manufactured articles. I almost had the rotation stabilized when I heard one of the passengers scream, then two things happened at the same instant. A huge rock the size of a Klingon Deathbird with one, very long, sharp point crashed through my view shield and headed right for my face and I felt the tingle of a transporter. The normal loss of input I experience during transport came on the thought of “Filter Carb, that thing’s ripped my suit.”

 

When I woke up it was too dark to be the transporter pad. I looked at the view before my eyes and realized I was in an operating theater. I tried to clear my throat and nothing happened.

I tried to wiggle my fingers and couldn’t tell if it worked. Then I realized I didn’t feel anything. Not the weight of a blanket, not my own breathing, not the breeze that always circulated in this room, nothing. I couldn’t even feel my eyes blinking, though I knew they were. I did feel the tear streak from the corner of my eye into my ear.

But I wasn’t alone long. The pretty oriental nurse came and leaned over to look straight in my face.

“You’ve been very seriously hurt, Emilia. Lie still. You are in a paralysis field. Dr. Crusher felt it necessary to insure you did not upset the very delicate apparatus that is giving your body time to heal enough for more surgery. Don’t be frightened. You’re in good hands.” she smiled and wiped the tear from my cheek.

She left and Dr. Crusher came. She explained that the spike of rock that crushed my view shield also crushed a third of the left side of my chest. My collar bone was shattered, most of my ribs were pulverized, my lung was a total loss, my left shoulder joint was a total loss and she thought there might be spinal damage, which is why she had me in the paralysis field. The damage narrowly missed my heart and aorta. I was a real mess.

“It’s going to take a lot of time, Emilia, but if you co operate with me, you’re going to be fine.” she whispered and wiped the new tears from my face.

I wanted, so much, to know my passengers were safe. Since I couldn’t move anything but my eyes, I tried asking in Morris code. She didn’t catch on right away.

“Ah!   That’s Morris code. It’s been too long since I took basic radio. Let me get Jean Luc.” she said and zipped away before I could object.

I emphatically didn’t want to see the look on my father’s face when he saw me like this. I squeezed my eyes closed in horror.

“I’m here, Emilia.” I heard his gentle voice, full of concern.

‘God, no. Not the pitying, grieving father. Please, not that.’, I thought to myself.

“Lt. Commander Picard, Dr. Crusher tells me you want to communicate in code with your eyes. What is it?”

Being my captain not my father, O.K. If you can be brave, so can I. I opened my eyes and looked at him.

Jean Luc was smiling slightly. There was a warmth and welcome in his eyes. No pain.

I blinked out ‘Are my passengers safe?’

“Yes. They were badly frightened and a little battered. The female screamed when she saw the rock sitting on your chest, but they have seen you will be cared for and recovering. They’re alright and back with the rest of their own people.”

‘Who are they?’

“We only found that out yesterday. Your mission ended eleven days ago …”

He had to stop for the look of shock on my face.

“It’s alright, Emilia. You’re going to be fine. Beverly assures me you’ll be just fine.”

When my face calmed again he continued.

“Your refugees were the crown prince and princess of a planet-wide empirical society. The royal court was the last to leave the home world which suffered some internal catastrophic upheaval and broke apart. That transport had the entire court on board; forty or more people including some children. They were all dead before you arrived except the prince and princess. The entire data of their history was in the prince’s belt, too. Not only did you save their royal family but the entire precious history of a race.

“Emilia, they want to honor you when you are fit. We broke the Prime Directive in our rescue, but this race had near space flight and was aware there was other sentient life available. The planet you skimmed on your shakedown was their new home. They have voted to request Federation membership.”

‘I’m glad it wasn’t for nothing. At least they got out alive. Was there anything left of their shuttle?’

“We managed to tractor the shuttle out. It was very badly battered and unflyable. The Iaghnash have taken back the shuttle and it has become a memorial to their lost families and world. They could not take more than a few of their native animals so dozens of species are now extinct.”

Dr. Crusher made him leave, then. The little conversation had tired me.

My recovery took three months before I was allowed to get out of the paralysis field. I had seven surgeries in that time. My condition was so critical I was kept asleep most of the time. When I was moved from the paralysis field into a null gravity bed, I was allowed to be awake more. My right hand worked just fine so I was given a remote control for the ship’s library and Jorde, Riker, Data, Monahan, Martinez or Jean Luc would come and sit with me as often as they could, trying to keep my spirits up. It was hard for all but Data not to show me how my condition alarmed them, but I would have lost my mind without them. Crusher would not allow a holographic head set. She said the involuntary muscular contractions that went with the virtual reality would upset my healing. All I could do was sit and read. I had physical therapy for my three remaining working appendages, but it was very carefully geared to prevent movement of the left upper quarter of my body.

Crusher was very pleased with my recovery. She turned off the life support after forty days even though she wouldn’t let me out of the field. In bed, she kept me mildly restrained to remind me not to move too much, but I was getting weak.

After the first three months, I was sent to Starbase Twenty for physical rehabilitation. I wrote Data a letter telling him he wasn’t going to be the only android aboard when they let me back. My bone structure was replaced with mecho-synth fiber, the same structures as Data’s skeleton. My weight changed from 242 Kg to 289 Kg. A new lung was grown from the dregs of the old one, and I worked very hard to rebuild the muscle tone I lost from the almost six months of enforced inactivity. It was a full year before I was released to active duty again.

There was no question of whether or not I would return to the Enterprise. A meritorious promotion to full Commander was no surprise, either.

The Iaghnash had their opportunity to congratulate and honor both myself and Data, who guided us as much as he could. Their “Award of Life” was a beautiful medallion of gold laced Latinum and nearly ten centimeters across. It was too big to wear on an everyday uniform, so they also had one made that was only four centimeters. I was very proud of the accomplishment and surprised beyond decorum to learn that the Prince and Princess I rescued, though fully mature for their own race, were the stature and appearance of ten year old children! From their new home world I was ferried back to the Starbase and released from there ten days later.

I was supposed to ride a shuttle to the ship, but I talked Star Fleet into replacing the Ranger we had built.   That became scrap metal in a very short time in that meteor shower. Flying myself back to the Enterprise was the best part of the recovery.

 

 

Reprise

 

The flight deck of the Enterprise barely had enough room for the Ranger to land, it was crowded with people. I unbuckled and popped the canopy and as it rose, so did a cacophony of cheers and applause. I stood to find the Captain and go through the formality of requesting to come aboard and had to wait almost five full minutes for it to be quiet enough. It was one of the more embarrassing moments of my life.

When decorum was finally restored, the Captain and Riker stepped forward, to the foot of the exit ladder.

I saluted smartly, “Request permission to come aboard, Sir.”

“Granted, Commander Picard … well done!” the captain replied, returning my salute just as smartly then grinned hugely while I exited the plane and jumped from the wing to the deck.

I shook hands with Riker and the Captain, then Jean Luc pulled me into his arms, in front of the entire crew, who cheered.

“Captain, please …” I whispered when I could breathe, “the crew is waiting to be dismissed.”

“Damned the crew, Emilia … I just need to hold you … to assure myself you’re fine.” he whispered back, his voice choked with emotion.

“You’ll bend my new skeleton, Péré, a little decorum, please.” I whispered, hugging him back, fiercely. I hadn’t realized, myself, how this near death experience had changed my feelings for him.

When he finally let me go, Riker spoke.

“There is to be a reception in your honor in Ten Forward at twenty six thirty, Commander.”

I rolled my eyes and took my personal bag from the flight deck attendant who retrieved it from the Ranger.

The crew was filing out but Martinez, Monahan and Giyaz came forward to greet me. I was thrilled to see Lieutenant’s tacks on each of them.

It took me nearly an hour to get to my quarters. The only concern I had was that I hadn’t seen Jorde. I knew he was still aboard. I shouldn’t have worried.

When I opened the door to my quarters, there was a huge bouquet of white roses on my table. I closed and locked the door, turning off the bell and threw my bag on the sofa. As I moved forward to smell the roses, Jorde came out of my bed chamber with a delicate pink orchid in his hand.

“Welcome home, Commander.” he spoke softly, smiling as he approached.

I gently touched his hand, taking the orchid from him and smelled its vanilla delicacy before I looked into his face, my eyes clouded with tears.

“Thank you, Jorde, for the constant stream of letters. I’m not sure I would have made it through the first six months of rehab without your encouragement.”

He smiled, shyly, and brushed my cheek with his fingers. I leaned into that caress like a new born seeks its mother’s breast. That gentle caress bloomed into a passionate embrace and kiss that obliterated the universe for an eternity of two minutes. That first embrace became the prelude to two hours of release and reacquaintance in my bed chamber. By the time the desperation had worn out of our need to be together, it was time to dress for the reception. It was twenty five forty.

“I don’t want to face this reception, Jorde. I’d rather stay here and be with you. Heroism is made too much of. I was just the right person in the right place at the wrong time. I’m not a hero. It was a calculated risk.”

“This reception is as much for the heroism of facing your rehabilitation as for the risk of the rescue. Play it down all you want, Emilia, it doesn’t change anyone’s perception of you.”

We showered and dressed, in formal uniforms. I put my Kardascian Order of Merit and my new Citation of Excellence (from Star Fleet Command) on my dress uniform along with the formal Award of Life and Jorde and I walked together to Ten Forward.

A standing ovation met me at the doors of the bar and I forbore my associates, friends and crew members making a fuss. I was proud of the way Jean Luc maintained his distance and decorum. That distance was always within easy reach. The party lasted until oh one hundred when Guinnan chased everyone out except the Captain, Jorde and me. She called us to the end of the bar closest to the observation window.

She pulled a bottle of Saoborine champagne from under the bar and opened it; pouring four glasses.

“To the next generation of Picards.” she saluted me.

“Well, if it weren’t for Emilio, it might have been the last generation of Picards.” I quipped, but looked lovingly at Jorde.

“Oh, I think LaForge is a wonderful name, and it may be in the genealogy already.” Jean Luc teased.

Jorde blushed. “It may be a little premature to be discussing wedding plans, Captain.”

“Maybe, but … is there to be an engagement toast?” Guinnan asked.

This time, Jorde and I both blushed.

“Oh-oh … hasn’t he proposed to you yet, Emilia?” she asked me, shocked.

“Not in so many words.” I replied, really embarrassed and reached for his hand.

“You’re a little ahead of the game, Guinnan. You don’t usually make that kind of mistake.” Jean Luc teased her.

“Not too far ahead.” Jorde murmured.

We all looked at him.

Jorde squared his shoulders and took a cleansing breath.

“Emilia, I was waiting for a package to arrive from my father. I sent for a ring which had been in the eldest son’s family for eleven generations. It’s mine, now. It would have been your engagement ring.”

“Jorde …” I couldn’t think of anything to say.

Guinnan pulled a ring off her own hand and gave it to Jorde. “This will do until the right ring arrives.” she said gently.

Jorde took my hand and put the ring on my finger. He went to one knee and asked, “Emilia, will you marry me?”

“Yes.” I replied without hesitation and pulled him up to melt into his arms.

“Well, we’d better all turn in. Emilia, Jorde and I are all on first shift. We have a full day’s schedule then an engagement party to plan.” Jean Luc said, happily then stifled a yawn.

Fitting back into my routine took three days, during which I didn’t see Jorde at all except at staff meetings. I returned Guinnan’s ring the next day.

My sixth day back on the job we received orders to run a recovery mission along the Kardascian demilitarized zone. One of our science satellites went astray after a vagrant meteor struck it. We had to snatch it before it crossed into Kardascian hands. The Enterprise raced to the rescue, but we received a broadcast from a Kardascian border patrol when we were still three light years out.

“Ah … the famous Picard family, greetings Captain Jean Luc Picard and Commander Emilia Picard.” the Gul sneered.

I found my hands getting static where they rested on my console.

“You have me at a disadvantage, sir, I do not recognize you.” our captain drawled.

“No, I am not so impressive that the enemies of the Kardascian Empire would know me. I am Gul Hanup. This … satellite you are chasing. What was its focus?”

“The astral energy fluctuation of Rekorma’s Nebula.”

“Ah, you watch the winking of the stars.”

“As does the Kardascian scientific community.”

“Ah, … I see … but now this satellite is gaining data as it swirls toward my ship.”

“If your ship is in its trajectory, perhaps you should consider moving, though we intend to capture the damaged Federation property before it crosses the neutral zone.”

“I am sure … if, however, you do not retrieve your property and it does cross into Kardascian space, it will be treated as the spying device it is and I shall first destroy it then turn my guns on the Enterprise!” the Gul was almost shouting.

“Your … warning … is noted, Gul Hanup. There will be no cause for hostilities. Now, by your leave, I do have a ship to run.” the captain bowed slightly and ordered the communication cut.

“Pompous bastard should have to kiss a Bajoran’s feet.” I mumbled as I worked the stress out of my hands.

“What was that Commander Picard?” the captain asked, obviously having heard.

“Sir?”

“What did you just say?” he asked in a normal inquisitive tone but the eyes set on my face were a clear warning.

“I was muttering imprecaution’s against that Kardascian, sir.” I responded and blushed.

“You’d be wise to keep your personal prejudices to yourself until this mission is ended. The Kardascians have been known to spy on the conversations aboard the bridges of other ships.”

“Aye, Sir.” and I turned to my station with my face burning.

As we came into position to tractor the gently tumbling satellite, Data discovered the nature of the damage made that impossible without crushing the station.

“We could try to net it.” I suggested.

“No. There would be the same problem and then also the problem of a cargo net big enough to snare it.” Data supplied.

“Perhaps we can attract the computer and down-load and let it be destroyed.” Riker supplied.

“No. That was a very expensive piece of machinery. If we can salvage any of it, it would help.” Jorde supplied from his data scanner.

“Captain, it’s only the spin that is causing the problem for the tractor beam, maybe I could fly out, match the pitch and use the tractor on the Ranger to hold it steady enough for the Enterprise tractor to vector in and retrieve it.” I suggested.

“I don’t want you in a fighter plane this close to Kardascian space. Any pilot but you, Emilia., your award doesn’t protect you from the Kardascians, it makes you a target.”

“Why would they have to know the pilot was me?” I was truly confused.

“Voice print.” Data answered.

“What?”

“They monitor sub-space chatter for voice printing.”

“Fardles.” I swore under my breath.

“Captain, this particular satellite has a manable compartment. If we could get someone inside to correct the yaw, then we could tractor it in.” Jorde commented as he examined his computer screen with the schematics of the satellite.

“How big a compartment.”

“It is rather small … some one under 300 kg and no more than four and a half meters in height.”

“Do we have anyone who can handle the navigational and engineering requirement who fits the physical requirement?”

“Only one, sir.” Jorde replied, guardedly.

“Who?”

Jorde only looked at me.

“Mr. La Forge?” the captain asked again.

“The only person we currently have trained in both the engineering requirement and has the navigational skill is Commander Picard, sir.” he said and looked down as soon as he spoke.

“Well, looks like I can’t avoid putting you in danger, Commander. But, inside the satellite is better than in a Ranger. The satellite is unarmed. The Kardascians could not possibly make a case for an act of aggression.”

“No, only execute me as a spy.” I quipped and saw the pained look on his face.

“This is not a time for humor, Commander.”

“Captain, stop trying to second guess the Kardascians if we get in, get it done, and get out before the satellite crosses the neutral zone, there is no problem at all. Let’s just get the job done.” I replied, perhaps a little too hotly. I got a look from everyone at the table. “Look,” I began to defend my attitude, “while we’re sitting here deciding what to do that thing is rolling toward the Kardascian frontier at mach twenty. We have six and a half hours to recover it before it crosses into the neutral zone and only two hours more before it is in undisputed Kardascian space. I don’t think this Gul Hanup will wait for it to cross into their undisputed territory before he blasts it out of the sky so getting it back into our control before it hits the neutral zone is of paramount importance, especially if someone is going to be aboard.”

“Point taken … Data, get the transporters locked as best as possible on the command area of that thing. Picard, I want you in a pressure suit. Even if there is an atmosphere in there, it may be corrupted due to the buffeting this machine has taken. Dismissed.” the Captain said and rose from the table.

We all filed out. Data, Riker and La Forge walked with me to the transporter room.

“Have we any data on whether anything aboard that bucket works?” I asked the air.

Data answered, “The electronics aboard the satellite have responded to us, but not the navigation. We are, as I speak, attempting a controlled burn to stop the forward momentum, but have not, as yet, had any success.”

“What position do I need to assume to make sure I don’t materialize with my foot in the bulkhead?”

“As tight a knot as you can make of yourself. With the way that thing is tumbling, there’s no way of knowing how you will end up oriented. It’s not a very spacious compartment.” Jorde answered me.

“Wonderful.” I quipped as I headed for the pressure suit lockers. Just before I sealed the suit I thought twice about removing my medals. Jorde was standing with me and he stayed my hand from removing them. He handed me a data chip case.

“If it gets too hairy in there, pull the data chips. If we loose the satellite, at least we won’t loose the data.”

“Understood.” I sealed the case inside my pressure suit pocket.

Before I could leave the locker room, Jorde pulled me close and kissed me passionately. “Come back.” he whispered then got out of my way.

I boarded the transporter pad and pulled myself as tight as I could get, then there was darkness.

The next sensation was being gouged in the back by a sharp corner then bounced off my head on another. “Lights!” I shouted and a dim, sickly, green illumination came up.

I was upside down. I reached out in both directions and stopped my rotation. Actually I started, rotating with the machine instead of being static against it. I got myself straightened and heard Data’s calm voice in my comm-link.

“Status report, Commander Picard.”

“Getting oriented to the machine. You weren’t exaggerating when you said this was cramped. I arrived upside down and have to … squeeze around … to get … ah … in the seat. O.K. I’m seated.”

“The navigational display should be to your left hand.”

“Got it …. red lights … hold on … the data screen is showing that the gyro is not functioning. Can I access the gyro compartment?”

Jorde’s voice came over. “Yes, above you to the right behind a magnetically locked panel. The deactivation device is below the panel.”

“Got it … Good thing you guys had me wear a pressure suit, there’s a hole the size of my head in the bulkhead and I can see stars if I look, which I won’t because it makes me dizzy. Here we are … There’s a piece of debris in the compartment, it’s jamming the gyroscope … Got it. How do I get this thing started again?”

Data answered. “Counter clockwise.”

I gave the little machine a quick spin and it took off on its own.

“Working.”

“Close the compartment and attend your navigational array.” Data commented.

The lights were going green one by one. “We have navigational control.”

“See if you can ease the yaw by thirty degrees.”

It took almost an hour to get the little station running flat, but we did it. The maneuvers also slowed its forward trajectory.

“You’re still moving to fast to tractor, Emilia.” Data commented.

“The thrusters are almost empty but if I turn them all on at once and force a retro maybe I can slow it enough, but it’s a last ditch effort.”

“Captain said not to risk it. Try a half burn first.”

I did, it didn’t make a significant enough difference and the remaining half would have as little effect.

“Now what? What’s my eta the neutral zone?”

“Forty seven minutes.”

“I think it’s time to dump this bucket.”

“Affirmative.”

Whether or not the Kardascians knew what we were talking about, I didn’t care. Data understood I intended to download what was in the satellite computers and get out of there.

“Ten minutes, Emilia.” Data warned me.

The shipboard computer was “skipping” and much of the data was getting garbled.

“Locked.” I reported. “Get me out of here.”

I took the moment before the transporter beam caught me to do something very unorthodox. I sealed my pressure suit from the helmet, opened the port and swallowed the encapsulated chip. I wasn’t even sure in my own mind why.

When the transporter finally let me be sensible again, I knew I was in deep trouble. I wasn’t on the Enterprise.

“I protest this intrusion on Federation business. Please return me, immediately, to my own ship.” I called out to the total darkness around me.

There was no response. I keyed my comm-link.

“Picard to Enterprise.”

Static.

“Commander Picard to Commander Data, acknowledge.”

Static.

I pulled my legs into a tailor style where I had been sitting.

“Fine … I can wait. Obviously I have nothing else to do until you choose to reveal yourselves.”

I wondered what was happening on the Enterprise.

 

 

In the Hands of the Enemy

 

I don’t know how long I sat there in the darkness in the pressure suit. I opened the vent to see if I could breathe the air. I could. I shut the suit down but didn’t do more than open the vent. Finally my darkness was flooded with blindingly white light and I would have been blinded by it except for the face shield of the suit.

“That wasn’t particularly bright.” I mumbled.

“Do you take all Kardascians to be stupid, Commander Picard?” the voice of Gul Hanup sneered.

“No. It was just not a very logical thing to do, try to blind someone wearing a space suit. Unless you are unaware that the face shield of a Federation space suit will tint automatically against solar flair or any sudden change in luminosity.” I kept my voice very even, though I was getting angry just knowing the Kardascians had somehow captured me.

“Your dislike of the Kardascian Empire is widely known, Commander. How it is that the High Command should award you with the Order of Merit is beyond me, but then, I don’t give orders I only take them.”

“Don’t we all? Why am I here, Gul Hanup?” I rose from my perch and faced the man, who was almost as small as me.

“You were snatched off the spy machine your Federation launched into Kardascian space.”

“Firstly, the satellite had not yet crossed the neutral zone out of Federation space. Secondly, it is not a spy machine, it was a scientific devise designed to collect information on the emanations of a nebula. Thirdly, your having taken me against my will from a Federation satellite that was yet in Federation space is an act of war and I don’t think your High Command will be very happy with you.”

“Quite the contrary, Commander Picard, High Command will be most pleased that they will have the opportunity to perform the ceremony that goes with the award of the Order of Merit. As you are to be my guest all the way back to the Kardascian home world.”

“Again, Gul Hanup, I protest. I decline your ‘invitation’ to visit the Kardascian home world and I demand that you return me to my own vessel.” it was getting really, really hard to maintain decorum. What I really wanted to do was strangle the little toad.

“That is not possible.” he turned and walked to a door and bowing slightly indicated that I should exit it before him.

I stared a long time then sat down right were I had been and folded my arms across my chest.

“You may either walk with your dignity intact, Commander Picard, or I will have you dragged out of here. It is your choice.”

I turned slightly away from him. Then the total nervous disruption of a phaser set on stun washed over me and the room was total darkness again.

When I woke I was in bed. I was naked in bed. I was naked and strapped to the bed with a light blanket over me.

“Hanup!” I bellowed.

He appeared before I had to bellow again.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I kept my voice calm, though I was far from it.

“Keeping you, comfortably, until we reach the home world. You are already hundreds of light years inside Kardascian space. There will be no rescue from the Enterprise. No rescue from the Federation, at all.”

“Don’t count on it.”

“Be a good little guest and you may get to enjoy this trip.” he sneered.

“Fuck yourself.”

“What does that word, ‘fuck’, mean?”

“It is the act of procreation.”

“Physically impossible for a Kardascian male.”

“Die trying.”

“Ah, you Terrans, you are so amusing.”

I tried my bonds but I couldn’t move very well. When my struggling ceased, Hanup ran his hand heavily up my blanket covered thigh to the apex. He was watching my face intently. I went totally passive. My voice was equally passive.

“Terran women do not like to be touched in a manner that would be called, by us, erotic, without an invitation. That, in case you didn’t know, Gul Hanup, would be considered an erotic touch. Do it again and the first chance I have, I’ll rip your hand off and feed it to you.”

“I think in the three weeks it takes to get you to the home world, you will change your mind about my touching you.” Hanup was not smiling. The sentence was delivered in a rather conversational tone but there was no doubting the look on his face was purely threat.

By the time we reached the Kardascian home world, the Enterprise was there waiting with three other Federation Reliance class ships.

A landing party was beamed aboard Hanup’s ship; Data, Riker, Warf and two security men, armed to the teeth and looking for me. When they found me, Riker had to look away.

“We’ve come to rescue you, Emilia.” Data said softly.

“I knew you’d come sooner or later. I’m almost ready to go … one thing first.” I told him as I pulled the robe I was wearing more civilly closed over my abused body.

I walked to Hanup who was sitting passively on the edge of his bed.

“I told you, the first day we were en route to your home world that I would do something the first chance I had. I’ve changed my mind about that. Is that camera still rolling?” I asked him and pointed to a video camera that was sending live pictures of what he was doing to me back to the Kardascian home world.

“Yes.”

“Good.” I sat on his lap and turned my ruined face to the camera.

“Good citizens of Kardascia. Women of the Kardascian Empire, listen to me. If you have ever harbored the desire to get out from the tyranny of your husbands and masters, there is a way. Take the courage and the responsibility of taking back your lives and souls from these monsters who call themselves your masters. Watch very carefully, ladies.”

I pushed Hanup down on his bed and threw open his robe. I stroked his body to arouse him. He wouldn’t move because I had him totally confused with my aggression and because there were five Federation phasers aimed at him. When I had him fully erect I looked to the camera again.

“This is the road to freedom, ladies.” and I latched my three quarter inch finger nails into a large nodule on the bottom of the shaft of the Kardascian male’s genital and twisted until the nodule came off in my hand.

I showed the bloody bit of tissue to the camera and dropped it to the floor stomped on it and crushed it totally to mush.

“Liberate yourselves and liberate Kardascia!” I shouted over Hanup’s high pitched screaming.

Then I quietly walked, as best I could, to my rescuers and said, “Get me out of this hellhole.” and collapsed against Warf.

 

 

Punishment or Hero Again

 

When I woke again, I was in the Enterprise prison sick bay. I knew it was the prison sickbay because of the restraint field around the care bay.

“Why am I in prison?” I asked the air.

“On orders from Command.” Crusher’s voice came back to me and shortly she appeared.

“What happened, Emilia? Why did you emasculate Hanup?” Crusher asked, bewildered as she gently brushed my hair out of my face.

“Why? To destroy the Kardascian Empire. I had to show the women of Kardascia how to win their rebellion. Hanup was stupid enough to tell me how to do it.” I replied flatly, my eyes closed. I really couldn’t think rationally yet.

“It wasn’t necessary, Emilia. He was going to be executed for an act of war. He had no right to snatch you away from us the way he did.”

“What happened?”

“The Kardascian ship put a transporter beam, reinforced with a tractor beam, on you at the same moment that the Enterprise did. If we hadn’t broken off our attempt to beam you aboard, the Kardascian’s may have succeeded in killing you.”

“I would have been better off.”

“What did he do to you?” she whispered, tears in her voice.

“Did you do the medical exam?” I asked sharply, opening angry eyes to regard her.

“Yes.”

“Then why are you asking? There should have been enough anatomical damage to give you a clue.”

“That couldn’t have all been done … with his body?”

“No. A very great deal of it was done with mechanical apparatus; the Kardascian idea of normal interrogation procedures for female prisoners. Kardascian women are at the mercy of their sexual responsiveness, did you know that? Hanup was fool enough to tell me that, too. He’d never met a woman with as much ‘stamina’ as he put it. He had no concept of over stimulation or what it does to the human body. He tried to intimidate me with sex. It took me about four days to figure out if I stopped fighting him, he’d give me the means to destroy him.”

“He attacked you every day?”

“For three weeks, Beverly. Every day, seven and more times a day.”

“Oh, God.” she whispered and hugged me.

I let her hold me for a long time, but I didn’t respond to her. When she finally let me go I asked, “So, I suppose I’m to be court marshaled for inciting a civil war in the Kardascian Empire.”

“No. You’re under arrest for excessive use of force in a diplomatic maneuver.”

“A diplomatic maneuver! Whose bright idea was that bilge?” I flared at her, though I kept my hands on the bed.

“Admiral Kono’s.”

“Go away, Beverly. I want to be alone.” I said sullenly and turned over in my bed.

“I have to ask you what the obstruction in your digestive system is.”

“You haven’t taken it out yet?” I turned back to her startled.

“No. I want to know what it is, first.”

“The data chip from the satellite.”

“You did not turn it over to the Kardascians?”

“I’m not a traitor … stupid, vindictive and impetuous, yes, a traitor, no. I swallowed the chip before you all tried to beam me off that bucket. Hanup never even knew I had it.”

“You’ll be prepped for surgery in five minutes. That chip is the major part of your defense if it is still readable.”

“Should be, it was encapsulated.”

Beverly Crusher started to leave.

“Beverly … what’s the date. How long have I been unconscious since the rescue?”

“Only seventeen hours.”

I lay back and closed my eyes. It wasn’t enough time for anything to be happening, yet. I have no idea how many of the Kardascians were watching that transmission. But I did some fast calculating. If ten women saw the transmission and talked to only two women each, in a year the entire Kardascian population will know how to do it. If they begin trying it in two days time, by the end of next year there will be too many Kardascian women to make the race viable without some major changes in how they conduct their government. Even the Empress might have real power instead of being a puppet they parade out for the outside world. But it was too soon to tell.

My surgery for the removal of the chip was over in less than an hour. While she was in there, Beverly corrected some other damage to my mesentery and bowels. I was conscious during the operation and the look on her face told me there was a lot more damage than anyone would have thought at first. She put me to sleep again before I was taken back to my cell.

When I woke again, someone was in my cell. I knew they were there before I opened my eyes.

“If you’re not a nurse or a doctor, go away.”

“Can’t …I’m your attorney.” the deep voice answered me.

“I don’t need an attorney.”

“Yes, you do, Commander. There are some very serious charges facing you and the proper defense can get them all dropped.”

“You want a defense? Look at my medical history … my complete medical history and psychological profile. That’s all the defense I need.”

“Not for inciting a civil war in another society.”

I rolled over to look at him. My lawyer was a Vulcan. The darkest Vulcan I had ever seen.

“Are you genetically only a Vulcan?”

“Yes.”

“I’ve never before seen a black Vulcan.”

“This skin pigmentation makes up thirteen percent of the total Vulcan population. The racial origin is from the western equatorial region.”

“So … what charges am I facing now?”

“Inciting a civil war and excessive use of force during a diplomatic assignment.”

“First, I was not on a diplomatic assignment, I was a prisoner of war and second the answer to the charge of inciting a civil action is guilty as charged. I did it with malice and forethought.” I replied calmly. I actually didn’t feel upset and there was no reason to bark at a Vulcan, it wouldn’t have affected him, anyway.

“Why?”

“Because the Kardascian government is tyrannical to its own female population and I can’t stand slavery. Because that son of a Kalesparian sand worm raped me repeatedly for three weeks and laughed in my face, but the stupid horse’s ass told me how to destroy the male gender of his own species and I made sure every Kardascian female who wanted to use that information had it.”

“What do you mean, destroy the male gender?”

“In the Kardascian species, Mr. … ”

“HJend.”

“Forgive me but I can’t pronounce the ‘h’ and ‘j’ together. Mr. Jend, the female Kardascian is a sexually immature male. The difference between the females and the males is that gland I pulled off Hanup. Without extensive hormonal therapy a male Kardascian, without that gland, reverts to a female Kardascian. The Kardascian government treats their females as second class life forms. I have given the women a means to create more upheaval in the Kardascian Empire than any force from outside could hope to do. Subjugation needs only one tool to rise above its slavery and break free.”

“You learned about this metabolic reversal from Hanup?”

“Yes.”

“Then Gul Hanup is a traitor to his own cause.”

“That’s an excellent way of looking at it. Other than that, the thirst for revenge might be a defense, if you lean toward the sexually subjugated syndrome as a cause. After all, I’ve been raped before.”

“I have your complete medical and psychological profiles. Now, the excessive force charge …”

“I was not on a diplomatic assignment; I was kidnapped off a Federation satellite that was still in Federation space at the time of the abduction. Having been kidnapped from our own space and flown across theirs is an act of war on the part of the Kardascians and it makes me a war prisoner. What I did to defend myself is not unreasonable.”

“I will use the act of war as your primary defense.”

“Whatever.” I quipped and rolled over again, trying to get some sleep.

I was informed my trial would be delayed until Dr. Crusher released me from medical care and declared me fit for full duty. I was released from the Prison Sick Bay in five days but confined to my quarters aboard ship. Confined, but not isolated. Everyone and his uncle, so it seemed, wanted to see me.

First I was ordered to keep appointments with Councilor Troi. Beverly Crusher paid me a visit once a day to chart my progress to health. Since I couldn’t attend classes with the crew, Lt. Warf took it upon himself to be a private physical trainer and visited me in my quarters every three days. Jorde stopped by every chance he had, though I wouldn’t touch or talk to him more than cursory greetings. I tried to return his ring, but he refused to take it.

Then there was the captain of the ship and my father. Jean Luc came as each from time to time. The captain reported on the progress of what transpired in Kardascian space and my father just sat staring at me, staring at him from across the room. I wouldn’t let him get close.

“Emilia, this has got to stop. Talk to me!” he almost cried when we had played this routine for a week.

“I have nothing to say to my father. It happened. You had no control of the situation; I had no control of the situation.” I replied in a flat tone from my chair by the table. I always sat in the very straight backed chairs. “You’ve been a Kardascian prisoner, Jean Luc; you know the kind of mind games they play. All of my interrogations were sexually oriented … all of it. For a race that doesn’t understand their own sexuality very well, they are amazingly knowledgeable about how the human female body works.”

“You … you haven’t touched anyone since we got you back.” Jean Luc commented, rubbing his face, wearily, with both hands as he leaned back on my sofa.

“Wrong, I touch Warf.”

“In combat … is fighting the only thing you have left of yourself?” he asked from a strained face, but it didn’t touch me emotionally.

“Ask Troi, she’s the expert in psyches.”

“I will, as your Captain, but as your father, I’m asking you, Emilia.”

I just stared at him.

Troi hit me, as soon as she sat down, with a question that finally got through to me.

“Why do you think Jorde and your father betrayed you?”

“I don’t.” I said with no emotion.

“Yes, you do. That’s why you want to break the engagement and why you won’t open up to the Captain.”

“I am in denial and reserve from the ordeal. It’ll wear off when this mess is over.”

“No, it won’t. You have to break down this wall, yourself, Emilia. You put it there, not Gul Hanup. You. You are, very subconsciously, blaming all the men aboard this ship for not rescuing you sooner.”

“That’s illogical.”

“Yes, it is. It’s purely emotional. And you are a Terran, not a Vulcan.”

“I don’t hate Picard.”

“I didn’t say you hated him, I said you blame him.”

“What’s the difference?”

“The level of guilt you feel for your own actions.”

That stung. It stung deep. For the first time since I’d been aboard the Enterprise again I began shaking. I began shaking, and then tears began streaming from my eyes. I just sat looking at her with a horrified expression and shook. When I began making little mewling noises she called for Beverly, Jean Luc and Jorde.

Beverly Crusher arrived first. Through the long ordeal of my recovery from the meteor, Beverly Crusher was more than my doctor, she acted like a mother. Seeing her now, even though she held a tranquilizer spray in her hand, it was the mother I saw and I raised my hands to her.

When Beverly put her arms around me, it broke. The terror of what I had been through finally broke from my body and I screamed in her arms and held on. Troi came to us and held us both, trying to buffer Beverly and letting me run the course of my emotion.

Jean Luc and Jorde came in at the same moment. Troi told them to wait a moment until I was ready. It took me more than five minutes to be aware of them.

“Péré?” I wailed and reached for him.

He came and enfolded me and Beverly, kneeling beside my chair.

I pulled my arm from Crusher and hugged Picard. When my wailing subsided to bitter sobs, Troi motioned for Jorde to come and touch me. I didn’t unlock my arms from Jean Luc, but I snared Jorde’s hand and held it to my face.

I never would have believed that I could grieve like that for more than an hour. Crusher finally did give me the tranquilizer.

“Deanna, how did you know the problem was that I couldn’t forgive myself?”

“It’s a common syndrome with some rape victims. Having capitulated and not died is twisted in their minds as having co-operated and maybe even having invoked the attack. The pain and fear is turned inward, to self loathing. It … it was the only thing I could think of that we hadn’t already discussed.” she smiled weakly.

“Thanks for keeping trying.” I said on the verse of sleep, holding tightly, still, to both Jean Luc and Jorde’s hands.

“When she is fully asleep, you both can leave, but I will be monitoring her.”, Crusher told them softly. “When she begins to wake, I want you here with her, Jean Luc. Deanna will not be far away.”

It was another three weeks before Beverly Crusher pronounced me fit for duty and my trial began. It was perhaps the shortest trial in the history of Star Fleet.

Although his specialty is not judicial, Admiral Kono was on the review board of my court martial. The Enterprise was ordered back to Star Base One. Most of the crew had been given leave, but the day my trial started, everyone was aboard the ship, near view screens. My trial took place in the Captain’s ready room. On the advice of my lawyer I wore a dress uniform but not my Kardascian honor.

“Commander Emilia Picard, you are charged with the excessive use of force against an unallied race during a diplomatic procedure. How do you plead?” the Adjutant read from a data card.

“Not guilty under article 27 of the Intergalactic Codes of Conduct. My client was not on a diplomatic endeavor, she was, at the time, a prisoner of war.” HJend replied.

The board reviewed the charge and the plea. It took about three minutes for a piece of paper to be passed to the clerk.

“The decision of this board is that the defendant is not guilty under article 27 of the Intergalactic Codes of Conduct.”

“Commander Emilia Picard, you are charged with inciting a civil war in the Kardascian Empire, how do you plead?” the Adjutant read the second charge.

“Guilty as charged, but with explanation.” HJend replied.

Kono now interrupted the proceeding.

“Gentlemen of the Court, the charge against Commander Picard is dropped on the advisement of the Kardascian Empirical throne.”

“What?” the Judge turned on Kono, in disbelief.

“I have here a communication from her Imperial Majesty, the Empress of the Kardascian Confederated Empire. It reads: ‘The trial to be held for the purpose of restitution to the Kardascian Empire against one United Federation of Planets Star Fleet Commander Emilia Picard is to be foregone. The Kardascian Empire does not want restitution from this personage, from Star Fleet Command or from the United Federation of Planets. The Empire of Kardascia wants the incident forgotten. Further diplomatic attempts between the United Federation of Planets and Kardascia are dependant on this demand being met.”

“It is not on behalf of the Kardascian Empire that this charge is being brought. Commander Picard is in complete violation of the Prime Directive and every code of protocol the Fleet has ever enacted!” the judge fumed at him.

“Then I respectfully suggest that if this trial is to continue, it will have to have all mention of the species against whom the action was taken be stricken from the record.” Kono replied, cold and impenetrable.

The board took almost ten minutes to discuss the question and finally capitulated on the condition of Kono. I leaned over to my lawyer and asked him if a case for mistrial could be made on my behalf became the entire board was composed of human males.

“What difference does that make?”

“The nature of the wounding.”

“I do not understand.”

I was a little embarrassed to tell him, but my life, or at least my career in Star Fleet was on the line here.

“Jend, human males are inordinately attached to all of their reproductive organs. The fact that I emasculated the Kardascian is more the point than the wide sweeping effect it had.”

“That charge was already dismissed.”

“No, the violence of what I did was dismissed as an expedient of war, but exactly what I did is the issue here.”

“I will consider it.”

“Commander Emilia Picard, you are charged with inciting a civil war in the society of an alien race. How do you plead.” the clerk re-read the charge.

“Not guilty.”

“Produce your defense, Mr. HJend.” the senior judge declared.

HJend then quickly detailed my entire psychological profile and the data I had gleaned of the Kardascian physiology without mentioning the species by name.

“As you can see, sirs, under the conditions, Commander Picard can be classified as insane at the time of the attack and the fact that her retaliation on her captor was broadcast to the entire population of the society is an unfortunate incident brought on by that society who had been broadcasting her torture for several days. The fact that her retaliation caused a civil war was not directly a matter of her forethought but a matter of coincidence.”

The panel conferred for no more than five minutes when the piece of paper was passed down to the clerk.

“The defendant will rise.” the Adjunct declared.

I rose to my feet and stood at attention, but my hands were sweating profusely. I thought I was going to be court marshaled for sure.

“The decision of the court is … not guilty. The defendant is release to duty. Dismissed.”

The cheer that went up from our compliment of nearly two thousand members was audible through the bulkhead of the ready room. The senior judge rang the bell and called the board to adjourn. Captain Picard came around from the end of the board and shook hands with my lawyer then turned to me.

I was still standing at attention, staring at the wall just above the senior judge’s head.

“Emilia? Emmy, it’s over. You’re free.” Picard whispered.

It took an effort but I finally turned my eyes to him. They were full of fear.

“The trial is over, Emilia, you’re free to go.” he whispered again.

“Péré? … Hold me.” I squeaked.

HJend stood by, realizing I was not emotionally well, and asked if he should have us transported to Sick Bay.

The captain replied no, and sent HJend out of the room. It took less than five minutes for us to be alone. Kono had watched me a long time, but when he realized something was wrong he, also, left. I stayed at attention until the room was empty.

“Everyone is gone, Emilia and the recording devices are shut off.” Jean Luc told me softly.

Only then, did I collapse into his arms. He held me close for a long time and let me tremble without words.

“It’s over, Emilia. Even if the Kardascians want to bring it up again, you can’t be retried.”

“I … I really thought my career was over.” I stammered.

“You were exonerated. It’d done. It’s over.” he assured me.

The lock of the Ready Room buzzed.

“Identify.” Jean Luc called out.

“Laforge.”

“Enter.”

Jorde slipped into the room and relocked the door. He saw the concern on Jean Luc’s face; I was standing with my back to the door in my father’s arms.

“Emilia?” he called to me softly.

I turned to him and put out my hand for him to come to me.

We embraced a long time.

“It’s O.K., Em … You have a chance to start over again.” he tried to reassure me.

“I don’t know. Jorde, I don’t know. This type of incident keeps haunting me. First my career was ended before it started by a rape, now this. Will I ever have a normal life? All I ever wanted to be is a pilot. Why does life have to be so complicated?”

“Captain, I think she still needs some time off.” Jorde turned to Picard, his face seamed with worry.

“No. No, more time to think about it I emphatically do not need. Captain, I have to return to duty. When you fall off a horse you have to get right back on or you’ll be afraid of it for the rest of your life. Please, put me back to work as soon as possible.” I turned to him with determination in my eyes.

Picard smiled. “Now that’s the cocky pilot I saw get out of a Ranger instead of limping home in a shuttle. Done. This ship will be setting sail again in three days. Commander Picard you have first shift. You’ll be taking us out of port and back into action.”

“Aye sir.” I saluted him smartly, with the first genuine smile I’d had since I got back from Kardascia.

In Ten Forward that afternoon, there was a huge party. Again, I was congratulated on surviving a bad situation, but it was more subdued. I still jumped like a burned cat whenever anyone touched me from behind, so most just saluted their congratulations from a distance.

Admiral Kono was there and offered to tell me the private part of the official letter.   The broadcast was viewed by nearly a third of the Kardascian Empire at that moment. A prisoner had never, voluntarily, addressed the audience before, so I had everyone’s attention. My “disclosure” so affected the Kardascian Empire that radical changes began the very day of the broadcast. There were thirty thousand emasculations in twenty four hours and the government had to move fast to prevent any more. Even the women who committed the “crimes” were aware that if it happened to too many of the men, the race would be in danger of extinction. On those planets held captive by the Kardascians were the broadcast was heard by enslaved races, there was massive upheaval. I had given the Kardascian’s slaves the tool to free themselves, for Kardascian women were not as physically strong or as prone to the sick tortures of their male counterparts. The empire was in turmoil.

“Admiral, you, yourself, do realize that if I hadn’t done this, it still would happen, someday. The women of Kardascia would have discovered this for themselves, someday.”

“Yes, Commander, I am aware of it, so is the Empress. It was getting harder and harder, she confided to me, to keep this bit of information secret. What Hanup did not tell you was that not all Kardascian women are only immature males. Their race has genetic predetermination, just like ours. The drawback is that only that one, exposed gland is the difference between their females and their males.”

“What eventually happened to Hanup?”

“He was executed for treason.”

“Couldn’t have happened to nastier guy.”

“If knowing he died in pain would soothe you any, then be as soothed as you can be. The Empress, herself, told me it took him seventeen days to die, screaming in agony the whole time.”

“I don’t wish that on any living creature. Living knowing he gave me the tool to destroy his own race would have been torture enough to make me happy.”

There was a protracted silence.

“Commander Picard, …” he began embarrassed.

“Yes, Admiral?”

“Perhaps you had best read this, yourself.” he finally blurted and handed me a paper letter and a sealed box.

The letter was from the Empress of Kardascia. The hand was hard for me to decipher, at first, and there was a lot of rambling nonsense about duty and honor and the expediency of war but the gist of the whole thing was that I received from the Kardascian crown, another honor.

I opened the box and found another medal. This one bore a family crest on a purple ribbon. It was, effectively, an order of family tie. She had accepted me into her own family as a duchess, or something like it.

“Hot Crystals! Do you believe this? Admiral, did you know what this is?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t believe this.”

“Emilia, the current Empress has been trying to change the tone of the Kardascian Empire all of her reign. She has only twenty Federation Standard years left of viable life. You have accomplished more in your one act of revenge than she had managed to accomplish is fifty years of rule. Her appreciation of your instinctive act runs so deep as inclusion in her family is the highest honor she can pay you. Please, believe her sincerity. Wear the order at all times that it is possible you will have to interact with Kardascians. With your next encounter, it could save your life and the lives of those with you.”

“Does this thing have any political power in Kardascia?”

“Considerable.”

With that said, I folded the letter into the box and closed it again. I stood staring at it a long time.

“I can’t give this back, can I.” it wasn’t a question.

“That would be a politically very stupid thing to do, Emilia.”

“Who would have thought that a dyed in the wool Kardascian hater would end up its most important emissary?”

“That you are. You are the foot in the door for the Federation to end hostilities with the Kardascians.”

“Only on the condition that they free their slaves.”

“I’m working on it, Emilia. I’m working on it.”

With that, the Admiral excused himself and Jorde and I strolled to the bar.

 

 

Life Goes On

 

“So, we have a career getting another jump-start, when will the wedding plans go forward?” Guinnan quipped quietly, never one to mince words.

“I think there is some relational therapy that will have to be endured, first.” Jorde said softly.

“Maybe less than you think, Mr. Laforge.” she told him.

“We haven’t even kissed since I got back, Guinnan.” I said, embarrassed.

“What are you waiting for?” she looked at me in a peculiar way, then that Mona Lisa smile took her face. “Get back on that horse, girl.” and she walked away.

I looked at Jorde. He looked at me.

“How does she do that?” I asked him as our faces grew closer, very slowly.

 

Two months in space and no one would have guessed I had ever done anything other than fly this bird.

Three months in space and the normal routine of leave came round to Jorde and I at the same time. We elected to go home, to France, and introduce my fiancé to my uncle. Emil and I had a long talk and had all the emotional and legalistic things ironed out. He was happy for me that I knew Jean Luc was my father and that we accepted each other. I showed Jorde my own orchards and he convinced me, with a little more persuasion from my landlords, that I should keep the property for our children.

One month back on the Enterprise and there was a wedding that required Shuttle Bay One for the ceremony. Not only was the entire crew of the Enterprise in that bay, (a skeleton crew was recruited from elsewhere to keep the bird in the air) but the Iaghnash royalty, Admiral Kono, half the recovery staff of Star Base nine, the rest of the Picard family and Jorde’s father were in attendance. In our new married couple’s quarters there was a message tape lying on the desk. It bore the seal of the royal house of Kardascia.

I had never before even seen a picture of the Empress, but the old Kardascian woman in this tape had to be her. She congratulated me on my marriage. Wished me well and told us there were titles and lands on the Kardascian home world that waited my footprints, should a peace treaty be signed between the Federation and the Empire.

Jorde and I served the Enterprise for six more years before that treaty was signed. There were two new members of the next generation of “Picards” and La Forges who were the first humans to set foot on their own lands on the Kardascian home world.

End.

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