Blue States Highway/Red States Run
Of course he knew not to even think about cruising into a red state. He wasn't that innocent. But CalTech Johnny didn't yet appreciate the subtleties. That was probably good, or he might never have agreed to go with us.by Morgan DashC
alTech Johnny was in the back seat, asking a lot of questions. Dorie Dorie was driving, the Lemon Kid rode shotgun, and I was left to babysit Johnny. I'm Alice the Borg.
We have these colorful names because we are the Blue Blaze. Sometimes we're known as Blue Berets, especially in the Red Zone. It doesn't matter what we're called. What matters is what we do to keep the Blue States safe. Johnny was new to the gig though, so we had to clue him in.
"You're locked up in that lab, Johnny," the Lemon Kid explained. "You don't know."
"But don't worry," I said quickly. "We've done this before."
"As long as we don't take unnecessary chances," Dorie said calmly, "we'll be fine. Just stick to the plan."
We were heading north up the 5, with LA behind us, just starting a long and dangerous journey.
"I don't get it," Johnny said again. "They need me in Boston. Why can't we just fly?"
"Cause we'd have to cross the Red Zone, and we can't anymore," I said, trying not to sound like I was talking to a child. "We're all on No Flyover lists."
"But don't you guys have your own jets?"
"That's classified," I said.
"On this mission," Lemon Kid explained, "we have to stay under the radar."
"We're getting out of commuting range," Dorie said. "Everybody stay sharp."
Poor Johnny. We needed his computer geek expertise but he'd been so sheltered he didn't realize that nobody traveled in the states more than an hour's drive from home anymore. It could get just too weird, and maybe lethal.
Of course he knew not to even think about cruising into a red state. He wasn't that innocent. But CalTech Johnny didn't yet appreciate the subtleties. That was probably good, or he might never have agreed to go with us.
Fortunately Johnny couldn't keep his eyes off a screen for more than two minutes straight, so he was already scrolling data on his laptop when Dorie spoke.
About a minute later I noticed Johnny's face was all scrunched up.
"What's the matter?"
He frowned over his laptop, fingers whirling. "I can't get on the Bluenet."
He looked over at me. "Inhibitors in the car?" He sneered and hit his keyboard again. "I can get around that."
"I'm sure you can," I said. "But don't."
"Why not?" he said. "This is a Blue highway, isn't it?"
"Yeah, but the skies have ears," I said. "We don't want to get marked on some Red Zone security screen. They hone in on those signals. You know the old saying, every downlink---"
"---is an uplink, yeah I had parents, too. It's an obsolete notion."
"Not really. Trust me."
"Well, what I am supposed to do?"
"Look out the window. Count the cars. Live in the moment."
"Well, I can work on the intermix ratio. I've got the data. "
"Whatever makes you blue."
Ten hours out and we were in full space capsule mode. We carried food and water rations, and we had our tube and bag systems for waste. Most of us would wind up constipated but that goes with the tour. We had to make a minimum of pit stops to avoid local suspicion, on account of our Red States haircuts. Unfortunately it was getting to be the same in the Blue States as in the Red: the safest place was the highway, as long as you kept moving.
Now it was getting dark. Time to make the switch.
"Listen up everybody," I said from the driver's seat. "We're stopping and getting out of the vehicle. Take your gear because we're not coming back."
I'd given them a few minutes warning to gather their stuff, and their wits.
"We're still in the Blue Zone," I reminded them, "but we're strangers, so don't make anybody nervous. Think blue."
A minute later I pulled the Prius into to a Starbuck's lot. "Okay," I said, "here's the drill. When I tell you, go in the front door. We've got twenty minutes for lattes and whatever else you need to do. Then when I get up, you follow me. We'll be exiting through the side door, into our new vehicle. But sit tight for now. I'll make sure our agent is inside and everything's cool. Dorie Dorie, you're with me."
"Don't forget to hold hands," Lemon Kid reminded us.
It went smoothly, although prying CalTech Johnny from the Starbuck's satellite link was a task. I exchanged keys with our contact working there ("our behind-the-counter intelligence agent," the Kid called him), and soon we were in the minivan and back on the 5. Now we really couldn't stop again until we were out of the Blue Zone. Being seen getting out of a non-hybrid could get you in a nasty confrontation real quick.
After we'd all taken our turns in the back, changing into our Red Zone outfits, complete with bullet-proof vests under the short-sleeved white shirts Johnny and the Kid wore, and the frilly white blouses Dorie Dorie and I wore with our stretch pants, we settled down for a lot of droning highway.
I checked out our full array of sensing and jamming devices. We even had a rotating series of license plate numbers on the vehicle's radio signature. Under Patriot Act X these signatures were monitored, along with the frequency the radio was playing, everywhere in the Red Zone. We had a list of acceptable talk stations for each location---keeping the radio set correctly was the responsibility of whoever was riding shotgun. Nobody actually listened, of course. The speakers were switched off, and we all had our personal devices if we wanted to listen to anything.
Not that we were planning to spend a lot of time in the Red Zone. If we were lucky, almost none at all. But it was a treacherous trip, we had to be ready. And we had a schedule. Everything depended on meeting it.
It was a long trip, too. We were trained for it, though. All of us except Johnny. So it wasn't too surprising that after 17 hours or so, he started fussing.
"I don't get it," Johnny was whining again. "Why do we have to go way up to Washington. Why can't we just cut across. We don't look that different."
I guess the rest of us felt really old at that moment. We knew what could happen, all those hundreds of miles. We'd heard too many stories, and lived a few. We'd all lost too many friends.
"Well, maybe if you're successful in Boston," I said to Johnny softly, "someday we will be able to go that way again."
"You mean the Star Wars thing?" Johnny asked.
I drew in a breath. Even referring to the project was classified. The Lemon Kid whipped his head around and he glared at Johnny, hard.
"Sorry," Johnny said, and meant it.
He was only half right anyway. Sure, when Red Command moved the White House to Terre Haute and took over the missile system---they called the whole thing missile "defense" now--- it was enough to make a blue stater's blood curdle. And whether CalTech Johnny knew it or not, that's why we were on this mission to take him to Boston. They wanted him on the team to develop a virus or something that could neutralize control of those missiles and whatever else Red Command was cooking up. So that made this trip dangerous for sure.
But riding in the Red States had been perilous long before now. They didn't need guided missiles; a mobile mob listening to talk radio giving out suspicious license numbers could make things hot all on its own.
We were all the way through Washington, just about to run out of Blue State highways. California and the other bordering Blue States still had a good relationship with Canada, but just to be on the safe side, we had to arrive at the border station for a particular shift, when we knew the particular border guards on both sides would let us through without a hassle. They weren't Blue agents or Blue Blaze operatives or anything, just sympathetic. The kind who acted tough but looked the other way during the retinal scans .
Thanks to some of the Lemon Kid's fancy driving, we got to the border on time.
"So now we're in Canada," Johnny said. "No worries, right?"
"You're thinking of Australia," Lemon Kid quipped.
"You know what I mean," Johnny said. We just keep going until we reenter the Blue Zone."
"We could," the Kid said, "except for the Friendly Neighbor Rule."
"Crap," Johnny said. "I forgot."
But fortunately we hadn't. The Red Zone negotiated a separate agreement with Canada requiring a time stamp for every vehicle entering from the former United States. All the Red States enforced what they called the Friendly Neighbor Rule, which said that visitors could stay in Canada a maximum of twelve hours. After that, Canadian police were supposed to detain the violators, and anybody re-entering the Red Zone after more than 12 hours was subject to arrest.
It was a little revenge against the semi-cooperative Canadians and a blatant attempt to stop Blue Staters from doing exactly what we were doing---driving across Canada to get from one Blue coast to the other without driving in the Red Zone. Since it was impossible to get from western Canada to the Minnesota border in twelve hours, we would have to cut across to the Red Zone for part of the journey.
So that meant the most elaborately planned part of our mission was still ahead. All told it was about 22 hours from Vancouver to the next blue border in Minnesota. We could get by, barely, with one short crossover into the Red Zone. Normally we might just take our chances on a straight run, but we had to get CalTech Johnny to Boston, and an arranged crossover was considered less risky. Though not by much.
So we placed two of our best undercovers at the Montana border station near what used to be the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park. Now there's no glaciers anymore and anything with "International" and "Peace" in it is considered unpatriotic in the Red Zone, so it's become the Waterton Mountain Flag and Fun Park and Chapel.
We'd pose as tourist couples. Me and Lemon Kid were plausible, and Dorrie Dorrie and Caltech Johnny might pass. But we were never going to be as invisible as I'd like us to be, not with Johnny looking like the geek genius he is. So we planned a real short visit to the Red Zone, over and back, just to get our time stamp re-set. We were even working on a backstory about a quick return to retrieve our dog, mending a sore leg at a kennel in Canada.
I guess I let myself be distracted by nailing down the finer points of the plan, because it was the day before we'd get to Waterton that I made my mistake.
It started because CalTech Johnny was looking so worn out and pathetic. When Dorie Dorie suggested Johnny could use some fresh air and exercise, I gave in. We could all use some of that. Our in-vehicle yoga and isometrics were supposed to keep us sharp, but some walking seemed a good thing. We might need our legs before we were done.
We found an isolated spot, with some trees and a nice size pond to walk around. My mistake was not keeping up with the others. I needed to use my supercell away from the vehicle for a secure channel BlueSat call to report in. I was also trying to figure out what breed our imaginary dog should be. Red Zone psychology is sometimes hard to figure out.
I stuck close to the minivan for security and did my work, while the others walked around the pond. They were supposed to be back in a half hour, and they weren't. I was about to get officially upset when I heard them coming. But it was only Dorie Dorie and Lemon Kid. They both looked awfully pale for just returning from a long walk but that wasn't my first concern.
"Where's Johnny?" I asked them.
"He's not back?" Lemon Kid said. "We left him sitting under a tree with his laptop, and went back that way to pick him up but he wasn't there. We figured he came back on his own."
They looked at each other.
"He was on a hill above the pond." Dorie Dorie said.
"That's all we need," I said, getting up. "A drowned genius."
It took us twenty minutes to find the place, then another ten to find Johnny. He was out cold in a tangle of brambles a few feet short of the water. We had to hack through to get to him, then be real careful getting him out of there. It turned out he had nothing worse than a twisted ankle, some bruises and a cut on his scalp. But we had to treat him and get his head on straight, and walk way too slowly back to the vehicle. By the time we got back on the road we were more than three hours behind schedule.
We made up some time but not enough. We were going to miss the shift our operatives were working. As mission leader I had to decide what to do. If we stayed over a day to catch the shift, we'd screw up our whole schedule.
"We can keep going and take a chance crossing into North Dakota," Lemon Kid suggested. "There are a couple of low profile border stations there."
"We'd be over time," I said, rechecking my calculations, "and we'd probably be arrested on the spot."
"Then why not stay on this side until we're on a Blue Zone border," Dorie Dorie said. That was the most tempting possibility. But lately Canada was getting nervous about Star Wars too, and they were starting to enforce the Friendly Neighbor Rule on their side.
"No, we'll have to take a chance with the Montana station," I said finally. "Over and back will be especially tricky, but that's our best choice. Get ready."
I was more or less counting on our undercovers to improvise, once they realized we weren't going to make it on schedule. Either that, or we'd have to do some persuasive acting at being invisible. Or as Lemon Kid insisted on saying, "Better Red than dead."
In the hour before we got to the border, things were pretty tense in the minivan. I was the last to crawl in the back and change. When I climbed back up in my olive green pants suit, I looked at Lemon Kid for my reality check. He was wearing a starched white shirt and pressed bib overalls. He looked me over solemnly and arched an eyebrow. " Are you Bluish?" he said, his voice melodic and intimidating. "You don't look Bluish."
We all broke up at that, and so we were fairly loose when we got to the station. The Lemon Kid was at the wheel and I rode shotgun. We kept CalTech Johnny way in the back, where he might pass for a surly teenager. Even the Red Zone had those.
Just before I pulled up to the border station window, I stuck a paperback copy of Red Badge of Courage on top of the dash. The guard saw it right away. He ran through the usual questions, then asked casually, "Have you read that?"
"No," Lemon Kid said, "but I saw the movie."
The guard turned away and gave no sign he'd heard. But when he turned back he waved us through.
We had a half hour or so on the main highway south, then we would loop back to the border. I would have preferred a nice quiet ride but Johnny had climbed into the back seat and was breathing down my neck.
"Were those like passwords?" he whispered.
"Sort of," I said. "More like code."
"'Have you read that?'" he mumbled to himself and then brightened. "Read! That was it?"
"It's not real subtle," I admitted, "but it's a default under certain circumstances."
"Like when you're crossing at the wrong place or the wrong time."
"'No, but I saw the movie,'" Johnny repeated, laughing. "Hooray for Hollywood."
When we got back to the border, the same guard asked us the same questions, like he'd never seen us before. I thought he had to be one of our undercovers pulling an extra shift but I later learned he wasn't. He was a Blue Blaze Irregular, an underground group that was gaining members in the Red Zone. We got back through. We had our new time-stamp and we were good to go.
We hadn't been in the Red Zone long but Johnny had his eyes opened. "I heard it was real poor there," he said now. "But I thought it was propaganda."
I shrugged. "Europe can't stand them and they have no Pacific ports."
"Yeah, but all that oil they fought everybody for."
"Not much left."
"And all that funny money," Dorie Dorie added.
"But it's like those Great Depression photos," Johnny said. "They've got nothing but discounters, fast food, shacks and churches."
"Maybe they like it that way," I said.
"I don't know." CalTech Johnny was dubious. "And they kicked us out?"
"Go figure," I said, managing not to sigh.
I took an uneventful turn driving, then sacked out in the back seat. It should have been smooth sailing but I had a major surprise coming. It started when something woke me up. I can't say what it was. Something just didn't feel right.
I raised my head up, looked at the highway sign, then waited till the next one and looked harder. Adrenalin was pumping hard.
"Red alert!" I all but shouted. "Break out emergency kits." As I scrambled to put on my Wal-Mart name tag, I glanced forward. We were back to our original configuration, with Dorie Dorie driving and Lemon Kid beside her. They were both staring ahead, stony-faced.
"What happened?" I asked as calmly as I could. "How did we get off course? Something happen to the GPS?" This was a frequent problem if you got too close to the Red Zone. Some of their radio stations had powerful jamming transmitters. But at the moment we weren't too close to the Red Zone. We were in it. Somehow we were in the Red State of North Dakota.
Dorie Dorie glanced at me in the rear view, then across at Lemon Kid.
"We thought you'd sleep through this," she said. She looked at me again. "Another half hour and we'd be back in the Blue."
Now CalTech Johnny was awake and listening hard. Evidently there were two of us not in the know.
"What's this all about?" I asked.
"Me," said the Lemon Kid. "It's about me. I haven't seen my children in four years. Not since I got indicted for unholy speech and corrupting the souls of minors for my lecture on James Joyce."
Then I remembered. Lemon Kid was teaching college in the Red Zone when he fled to the Blue. I never knew exactly where. We weren't supposed to know too much about each other before we became Blue Blaze.
"But you're risking the mission," I said, not bothering to point out that he was also risking our necks.
"I know," he said sadly. "But a calculated risk. I planned it so you'll be in and out in an hour."
That's when I heard Dorie Dorie swallow a sob.
"You're staying," I said finally, looking at Lemon Kid. "You're not coming with us."
"We'll pick him up on the way back," Dorie Dorie said, not quite holding back tears. "We'll do a meet-up at International Falls."
"Is that what you told her?" I asked the Kid, then looked at Dorie Dorie looking at me in the rear view. "And you believed him?"
They were both silent. I didn't doubt that Lemon Kid wanted to go back with us. But the chances of getting across to Minnesota on his own weren't very good.
"We're almost there," Lemon Kid said quietly. But then he stared at his hand-held and frowned. "We're being scanned," he reported, the emotion of a moment before gone from his voice.
"Source?" I said, leaning forward to look.
"Behind us, a quarter mile."
"Consistent with a pick-up truck."
"Shields!" I cried. Lemon Kid switched them on from the panel that popped out from under the dash. If we were lucky the scanners wouldn't detect them at this distance, or their suspicions would become certainty. But if they got any closer, we might need the extra layer. The shields had some success repulsing bullets with sonic waves, but mostly they confused tracking sensors, and if an adversary vehicle got behind or beside us, the sound waves could discourage the human occupants from getting closer.
"They're moving up, faster," Lemon Kid reported.
"Increase our speed," I said to Dorie Dorie. We might look like a Red Zone SUV but we had considerably more horsepower. Unless our pursuers were specially equipped Red Guard, we could outrun them if necessary.
"Okay," I said. "They're definitely pursuing. Evasive maneuvers."
Dorie Dorie nodded and glanced at the readouts. Now the GPS really was down.
"I remember this road," Lemon Kid said. "There's a class 2 cutoff coming up."
"Sounds good," Dorie Dorie said. "Which way?"
"To port. Right past that used car lot."
Dorie Dorie nodded.
"Once you're on it, be ready for a quick left," the Kid said.
A dextrous 45 degree turn and we were shooting down a two lane asphalt, coming up fast on a feeder road. "Starboard," Lemon Kid said calmly, and we were careening towards a huge parking lot, leading to an equally huge low building.
"It's a War-Mart," Dorie Dorie said with awe.
We'd only heard about these places but we knew the Red Zone was supposed to be full of them. War-Marts sold surplus from the Iraq, Iran, Syria and Mexico campaigns, plus a lot of cheap knockoffs. We'd heard the uniforms were becoming a Red Zone fashion. Under other circumstances I might have been tempted to buy some outfits for future missions-camouflage in both senses. But we weren't going to be doing any shopping.
"I had no idea they got this big," CalState Johnny said.
"This used to be a whole shopping center and office park," Lemon Kid said. "An electronics campus, some town houses, all gone. Looks like the road configuration is the same. I think I can get us through this."
The Kid was always cool under pressure but he outdid himself this time. Dorie Dorie was totally in synch. She made every turn flawlessly, including all the double-backs, as Lemon Kid signaled them with his finger. In maybe twenty minutes we'd run the maze several times, and we were out again, on another two-lane.
We were all quiet for awhile, getting used to a straight road once more, while Lemon Kid studied his hand-held. "We're clear," he said finally.
A little farther down the highway Lemon Kid made his hand signal again and Dorie Dorie turned down a side road, considerably more slowly this time. We were in a quiet corner of the woods when she pulled off the road. The Lemon Kid got out. He came around to my side. I got out, too. It was a sunny cold day.
"You're about an hour from the Blue Zone border," he said. "Stay on this road and you should be okay." He handed me a scrap of paper. "Memorize this number and call it if you have a problem. There's an active Irregular cell near here. They'll help you."
I nodded. "Good luck, Kid," I said.
"Catch you on the flip-flop," he said. I smiled. It was an old trucker's term from the CB radio era. We learned it at the academy.
I didn't watch him walk away into the woods. I opened the driver's door and told Dorie Dorie I'd start my shift at the wheel. She nodded and got out but didn't look at me. She had to realize there wasn't much chance any of us would see the Lemon Kid again. But he's a resourceful guy. You never know.
Once we were on the road, I glanced back at Dorie Dorie. "Before you fall asleep," I said, knowing it was unlikely she would, " I have to ask you."
"I know the regulations," she said. "Ask."
"Was Lemon Kid in contact with his family here?"
"Not the wife," Dorie Dorie said quickly and firmly, then more quietly, "the oldest son. He's on his own now. Lemon Kid didn't say but I think his son is a Blue Blaze Irregular."
I nodded into the mirror. "Do you know his Red Zone name?"
"No," she said.
"Not the son? Not the Lemon Kid?"
"No, neither," she said a little more forcefully. " I know nothing about his Red Zone life you don't know: he's an exile, he has a family somewhere near these coordinates."
"Okay," I said finally. "Get some sleep." We all knew more than I was comfortable with, but not even Blue Berets can sacrifice every bit of our humanity, or being Blue has no meaning anymore.
I looked over at CalState Johnny beside me. He was wide-awake and weirded out. I needed to calm him but I hoped he wasn't going to ask anything indiscreet. But he was still sorting out our little chase scene. He hadn't even gotten to Lemon Kid yet.
"So back there, was that the Red Guard?" he asked.
"Maybe," I said. "But don't call them that. Out here they expect to be called Homeland Security."
"Right," he said. "If it wasn't them, who would it be?"
"Could be just about anybody," I said. "All they need is a radio and some surplus electronics."
I waited for a joke about what they might have mounted on their gun rack, but that would have come from Lemon Kid. Didn't take long to start missing him.
Johnny knew enough not to ask about him. Not then anyway. Sure enough, we were in the Blue Zone in an hour. After that it was just a matter of time and miles. We crossed Minnesota, skirting Lake Superior, drove down through Michigan, crossed into Ontario and back into the Blue Zone at Buffalo, where we exchanged our minivan for a Janus, the new Detroit-made hydrogen hybrid. It was a little tense at first, but one long night me and Dorie Dorie got to telling Johnny stories about the Lemon Kid, and we all laughed a lot.
The next morning it was better. The three of us were especially gentle with each other, and CalTech Johnny even took a couple of turns at the wheel. He was quiet and thoughtful as we crossed western Massachusetts. Somewhere around Northampton he opened up.
"This has been some ride," Johnny said. "I guess I never really thought about the Red Zone much. I remember my grandmother telling me stories, about people with Blue States tags getting jailed on phony traffic charges in Red Zone small towns, and Red Staters being refused service in Blue State restaurants. But it never bothered me that I couldn't visit the Red Zone. I've been everywhere else in the world, and at home I've got the beach, the lab, whatever. I couldn't understand why anybody would even want to go to the Red Zone. But there's some beautiful country there. Different. It's too bad."
Soon we were cruising into Cambridge. We delivered CalTech Johnny to the Blue Blaze hq at the Harvard Azure office. Our contact there was a woman called Barton Clare. Johnny was hustled off pretty quick. Good thing we'd said our goodbyes in the car.
In fact the whole transaction was so quick I didn't know what to say. I just mumbled something about looking forward to a little shut-eye before we turned back.
"You'll be here longer than that," Barton Clare said. " We have to find you a couple of companions---male ones." She smiled at me. "We can't be sending two women across the continent. Talk about your red flags in the Red Zone."
I guess I didn't look too happy. "Hey, it's not so bad," she said, grinning. "Our world champion Blue Sox are in town this week. Or you could take a shuttle down to New York, catch a Broadway play."
"I heard Broadway's not the same since they lost the Red Zone tourists," Dorie Dorie chimed in.
"True," Barton Clare said. "It's not the same. It's better."
Dorie Dorie looked at me.
"Yeah, sure," I said. " Sounds good---a few days of R & R in the eastern blue."
Dorie Dorie smiled. She seemed relieved. I was doing it for her. Me, I could use some sleep. But we're always needed. You can't let yourself get too soft, and still serve your country in the Blue Blaze.Home
by Morgan DashHow can the future be different from the past? How did the Star Trek universe come to be?"We had to change," she insisted. "Not just change our technology, and let it change us. We had to change ourselves. We had a chance to do it right this time. And that's what we had to concentrate on. Before we were ready to go out there, we had to change, down here on earth, and in here." "But I didn't come here to talk about Henry," Lily Sloane said. "I came here to talk to you, the Captain of the Enterprise. You are the future now, Jonathan. And there are a few things you really need to know about the past."A philosophical fiction set in the 22nd century world of the first starship Enterprise, as seen on Star Trek: Enterprise.
Vulcans!" Jonathan Archer shouted. " I want no Vulcans within a mile of the place, do you understand?"
The young ensign moved a step back in spite of herself.
Captain Archer had turned away so he didn't see her reaction, but he felt it. "I'm sorry," he said, though he still sounded exasperated "I feel strongly about this."
"Yes, sir. You just surprised me."
"Well, I surprised myself." In fact the feeling had been building all day. He'd known about the ceremony even before arriving on Earth, but it had been only one event among many on the schedule. After a crowded week of meetings and briefings at Starfleet, he was already looking forward to a few much needed days of vacation that would begin after the ceremony tomorrow.
Of course he was pleased and proud that his father was being honored with the first Cochran Warp Pioneer Memorial Prize, even if Henry Archer wasn't alive to accept it. But until he had to focus on the event itself, Jonathan Archer, in his fourth year as Captain of the Enterprise, viewed it mostly as a convenient way to see family and friends all at one time and in one place. It would give him more time for his long-planned and solitary excursion, hiking and white-water kayaking in the Greater Yellowstone Wilderness.
So when Ensign Savio arrived in his temporary office at Starfleet Headquarters to brief him on the particulars of the ceremony, Captain Archer was prepared to listen with polite but minimal interest. At first, only the young woman's fresh energy attracted his attention. He marveled at the light of youth that illuminated her, despite her best efforts to match her nondescript uniform with no-nonsense short hair, and no jewelry or other adornment even within the bounds of regulations.
At first he listened with a mixture of amusement and admiration as she described the agenda and the guest list with an enthusiasm she couldn't quite conceal. But when she got to the seating arrangements, he felt his amusement turn quickly to something uncomfortably like anger.
Even when she began naming the Vulcan officials who would attend, he was calm. The presence of a high-ranking Vulcan official or two was simple courtesy, perhaps even meant as a sincere gesture to honor Henry Archer for his steadfast work on the Warp Five Project. But as the names kept coming, he wondered if there would be any Vulcans left in their compound at Sausalito, or perhaps even in the western hemisphere of Earth.
Then as Ensign Savio showed him the seating chart, and he saw that the front row of dignitaries---and a major portion of the most prestigious section of the observers-seemed to be mostly Vulcan, Archer exploded.
"No Vulcans!" he heard himself shout.
He realized almost immediately that the violence of his outburst had been fueled by his thoughts that morning, as he hiked alone on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. Growing up, it had been a favorite excursion he had shared with his father. Then when he was old enough to go on his own, he would challenge himself by taking the only ferry to the island that ran on Sundays, then hiking the trail that wound up one side of the island and down the other, returning to the starting point in time to catch the one ferry back.
This morning he found that even after his long months of relative confinement on Enterprise, he could manage the circumperambulation with time to spare. But as he walked, passing through dark bowers of fragrant trees to sunny meadows of golden brush and wildflowers, he naturally found his thoughts turning to his childhood. And he remembered again the frustrations he sensed his father was experiencing then concerning the Warp Five Program's progress. Perhaps because Henry Archer did not overtly blame the Vulcans for not sharing what they knew, his son Jonathan felt it all the more acutely.
The Vulcans had been the first extraterrestrials to formally introduce themselves on Earth. A small science ship had made first contact with Zephran Cochrane himself, shortly after his first experimental warp drive flight. They became the Earth's contact with the galaxy, and with its future. But when it came to the Earth's own explorations of that galaxy, the Vulcans were profoundly discouraging. Jonathan had grown up believing that the Vulcans were deliberately holding them back, and he watched his father suffer in silence because of it.
Now Captain Archer realized how the renewal of those old feelings had been building up, though he had not been aware of the power they still carried. After all, his experiences as Captain of the Enterprise had shown him the better qualities of Vulcans, especially in the person of his first officer. Still, his overall opinion of them hadn't been changed so much as been tempered.
Certainly he had learned that there sometimes was a fine line between judgment and prejudice. But he should not have dismissed so easily those old feelings that arose this morning, as his outburst proved. Especially since he also understood that for a Captain, uncontrolled shows of temper could be costly, though sometimes such expressions could be strategically employed.
Now however he had to relieve Ensign Savio of the conflicts she was clearly experiencing. "I suppose that's impossible," Archer said, in his more usual calm voice. "We can't keep the Vulcans a mile away, especially since that would put them in the Bay."
Ensign Savio dared a half-smile. The ceremony was being held on Costanoa Island, which was quite small. To change the mood, Captain Archer offered a reminiscence. " You know, my father attended a ceremony on that island---when they renamed it after the tribal people who were the original inhabitants of some of the islands in the Bay."
"Really?" Ensign Savio smiled gratefully. "That's wonderful! It used to be called Alcatraz, is that right?"
"Yes," Captain Archer said, moving towards the window that looked out on the Bay. "It used to be a prison where the worst criminals were incarcerated. They called it the Rock. For years no one escaped from Alcatraz."
He turned to see Ensign Savio smile and nod, but her fascination with this history, or her ability to fake it, was waning.
But about the Vulcans," Captain Archer said, turning again to the window. " The Vulcans could have helped my father realize his dream, but they didn't. They could have easily shared just a little more of what they knew, and he could have built a ship like the Enterprise. So at a ceremony honoring what my father managed to accomplish in spite of them---I don't think it's appropriate for them to be so prominent. Or so many."
"I understand, sir," Ensign Savio said. "Perhaps we can substantially reduce the number who attend the ceremony itself, and invite them instead to the reception afterwards?"
Captain Archer nodded. "Good solution, Ensign," he said. But he glanced again at the seating chart on the table between them. "Just get them out of the front row."
"Yes, sir," the Ensign replied. "I believe we can justify that on the basis of protocol. Unless the Vulcan Ambassador decides to attend---well, we'll figure it out."
"Thank you, Ensign. I'm sorry to have dropped this on you at the last minute."
"That's quite all right, sir," Ensign Savio said, as she gathered up the charts and prepared to leave. "It was the purpose of this briefing."
"Well, then," Captain Archer said, "I'll see you tomorrow morning."
After Ensign Savio departed, Archer gathered the briefing papers he'd accumulated from the past week at Starfleet Headquarters---papers he didn't intend to examine for the rest of his stay---and prepared to go.
The sun was hovering at the horizon and about to drop into the Bay. One of his cousins had organized a family dinner at his favorite restaurant in North Beach. He would be just in time for a sociable aperitif.
Archer looked up to see a man standing in the doorway, looking a little shaken.
"Commander Wentworth," he said dryly. "You look like you've seen a ghost." Wentworth was the senior liaison officer assigned to Captain Archer. Since Archer wasn't always patient with bureaucracy, the job had required the frequent deployment of his formidable sense of humor. But he was not smiling now.
"You have a visitor, Captain Archer," he said, with an unusual note of formality, and maybe a bit of fear.
"Now?" Archer said, hoping it wasn't some Starfleet admiral he was going to have to offend by leaving anyway. "I'm afraid I can't stay. I'm expected---"
But Archer didn't finish his sentence. He glanced up and saw her in the doorway, walking slowly but resolutely towards him. At first he couldn't believe his eyes. Then he realized that Wentworth's tone wasn't expressing fear, but awe.She
had to be well past a hundred years old, but her features were unmistakable. He hadn't seen her since he was a boy, but like anyone else who had lived on Earth during the past half century, he recognized her immediately.
"I'll try not to keep you too long, Jonathan," she said, her strong voice deliberately loud. "But I've got something important to say. And at my age---and with you warping all over the galaxy---I don't know if I'll have another chance."
"Dr. Sloane," Commander Wentworth announced unnecessarily. He hesitated a moment, obviously tempted to remain and witness history---for anything that Dr. Lily Sloane did or said was automatically historic---but finally he bowed slightly and reluctantly left the room, closing the door behind him.
Jonathan---for already in her presence he was Jonathan, Henry Archer's eager young son---watched her walk across the room with slow but firm steps. It was as if history itself was moving towards him. Young Lily Sloane, orphaned by the war and its brutal aftermath, had been at Zephran Cochrane's side when he built and tested the first rudimentary warp drive. She had helped him scavenge the materials and assemble the components, as they replaced a deadly warhead on a disused guided missile with Cochrane's warp engine. More than anything, Jonathan's father had often said, she had kept Cochrane on course, with her own stubborn brilliance and energetic resolve.
Transforming a missile meant to wreak destruction with the engine that helped turn the earth into a planet of peace had been an expediency then, but ever after was an unforgettable symbol.
And after Cochrane's warp flight, she was with him to discover that this amazing feat, which revolutionized science as they knew it, was but a primitive first step in the eyes of many civilizations on other worlds, beings for whom traveling in a manner that most earthlings considered impossible was an everyday occurrence.
Jonathan was standing, and though something in her bearing told him he should refrain from offering assistance, he did break out of his mesmerized reverie to adjust the chair opposite him at the table where Ensign Savio had unfolded the seating chart for tomorrow's ceremony. When she reached him she nodded, waved his hand away and seemed about to sit, when she stopped, touched his arm and looked searchingly into his eyes.
He returned her gaze. Yes, these were the same eyes he had shyly looked into when he was a boy, and his father had introduced the great Dr. Sloane, founder of the Sloane Institute, whose own contributions to warp theory and technology were as essential as Cochrane's in the elder Archer's own work.
She studied his face with a focused gaze that seemed to immediately soften. Then she nodded slightly and spoke in a clear voice. "Yes, you've been out there," she said. "I can see it in your eyes." Then she sat down.
"I can't be at the ceremony tomorrow," Lily Sloan began, even before Jonathan was settled again in his seat.
"Oh, I'm sorry," he said, even though her name hadn't appeared on the guest list so he hadn't expected her.
"I told them that months ago," she said. "I had a prior commitment---a damn committee planning the next planetary conference---crappy work, but necessary. This afternoon I saw the opportunity for a short recess, so I took it to come here. We resume in the morning."
Archer didn't know what to say. Her presence was still a little overwhelming. "That you took the time to come here this evening, "he said finally, "is as great a tribute to my father as any ceremony could be. Thank you."
"I respected Henry Archer," Lily said. "I admired his work, and I liked him. He was a good man and a good father. That's what he cared about most-his engines and his family."
Jonathan was just starting to relax, perhaps to reminisce, when Lily leaned forward towards him.
"But I didn't come here to talk about Henry. I came here to talk to you, the Captain of the Enterprise. You are the future now, Jonathan. And there are a few things you really need to know about the past."
Archer was momentarily startled. Could the rumors be true? Did something untold happen in Montana on the day that Zephran Cochran and Lily Sloan changed the course of human history, and was he now going to hear about it? There were still some anomalies about that first warp flight, glossed over in the standard histories. By now the whole set of events was clothed in the symbols of popular myth.
Cochrane himself had hinted several times that the story was incomplete. Lily Sloan had always deflected those questions. Could it be that Jonathan was now going to learn what really happened?
"I've got a few friends in Starfleet," she said, which Archer knew was a definite understatement. "So I hear things. And I hear you've been blaming the Vulcans for holding us back. You think it's their fault we didn't build these new warp engines sooner."
Jonathan tried not to turn crimson. "I did blame them," he said finally. "But I haven't...well, I haven't made a point of it recently. I don't think I've said anything about it for a few years. Until today, actually."
"So you still believe it."
Archer sighed. He couldn't deny the feelings that had recently surfaced. "Yes, I guess I do. They held back what my father needed to build the warp five engine. He might even have seen the Enterprise launched."
"With a different captain," Lily noted, and smiled. But the smile quickly faded. Her look now was serious, though it softened as she looked into Jonathan's eyes again, until he returned her gaze.
"I came here to tell you that it wasn't just the Vulcans who held us back," she said. "It was me."
Archer's surprise didn't entirely distract him from the mesmerizing effect of Lily's eyes. In them he saw incredible determination, and something else he had learned to recognize. He didn't an easy name for it, but one word did occur to him: compassion.
"I can't tell you what I did," she said. "It would be pretty boring anyway. Just a bunch of little things over the years. I didn't subvert anybody. I persuaded them. I told them why we had to slow ourselves down, just a little. Now I'm going to tell you why I did all that."
Lily turned her gaze to the window, and the sky over the Bay, displaying sharp colors softening and merging in indescribable contours that changed by the moment.
"When it's sunset in one place," Lily said softly, "it's sunrise somewhere else. My mother used to say that." Then ruefully, as she turned back to him: "A hundred years ago."
"I tried to tell your father what I'm going to tell you," she resumed briskly. "More than once. I think he understood what I was saying, in a general way. But engines were his business. He was focused on the task, on the problems. Above all every scientist just wants the answer."
"But you," she continued, "you've got a different role. By now you must realize how complicated it is. You're a starship captain, and you're a Starfleet officer. And you're the first human being that some beings out there have ever seen. For all intents and purposes, out there you are the human race. You're the representative of this planet. You carry our past and you are shaping our future. So it's important that you really understand this."
"I don't know what you're getting at yet," Jonathan replied. "But I'm listening."
Lily sighed. "First of all, a lot of the Vulcans have been condescending assholes. There's no denying it. But not all Vulcans are like that."
"I know," Archer said.
"Your first officer," Lily said. "I've heard about her. And you've met others. But the Vulcans we knew and didn't love-the best you can say is that they were a learning experience. No beings, however civilized, can escape themselves. Not even a very old civilization like the Vulcans. Self-examination is essential-that's absolutely the first requirement, especially when the stakes are so high---when you're dealing with other worlds as well as with your own. It's a lesson we had to learn, and learn quickly."
Unexpectedly, Lily laughed. "Warp engines, warp drive!" she said. "'If warp five is possible, why not warp six?' 'How fast would you get to the stars at warp seven?' 'Could a ship someday go from one end of the galaxy to another?'" She smiled at Jonathan. "That's all you talked about the last time I saw you."
"I was pretty young," Jonathan said, remembering.
"Yes, you were," Lily recalled. "You were building a model of a ship that could reach warp ten!"
"I was? I guess I had quite an imagination."
"At least when it came to spaceships," she said, laughing again. "But by that time I wasn't working on propulsion systems or warp theory or any of that anymore. I hadn't been for a long time. I left that to younger minds, like your father. No, I had other work that was just as important. And at that time, it was even more important. It was essential. It was crucial. And because of my particular history, it was work that I had to do."
Archer rummaged through his recollections. " You were involved in philanthropy?"
Lily laughed again, harder than before. "That's what they called it," she said. "People in those days paid a lot more attention to what you said if they thought you were going to give them money."
"But let me back up a little," she said, visibly marshaling her concentration and her energies. "After those famous days in Montana, I knew if I was going to be able to help Zef and the other scientists working on warp, I'd have to go back to school. I'd had three years of university before the war, and in Montana I used to dream about them. I wished I'd treasured them more. So when I got the chance to go back, I took it. "
"It was wonderful to be back," she said, her face alight. " But of course it was different. A lot had happened. I was there to learn science---and take it seriously this time. But I knew it was important to learn more. To learn... other things. The war showed me that. The tragic things that happened afterwards, the way society broke down, the way fear and intimidation were the rule, and people subjugating other people. Sometimes using their knowledge, their science, to do it. And of course, meeting the ETs, the Vulcans who landed in our Montana camp after their sensors picked up the warp signature from Zeph's first flight. And...well, other things that happened at that time."
Archer saw an opening to ask her about that, but it quickly closed.
"And I realized that the meaning of the place had changed, at least for me," she said. "The university. The universe-city. Now that meant something, very very practical."
"But even the university was just getting back on its feet," she said, speaking faster now. "The riches Zeph pretended he was working for when we built the drive didn't materialize, which was no surprise. But it did mean I had to work my way through school. One of my jobs was helping to restore and catalog the contents of the university library. There were disks, tapes, something called microfilm you probably never heard of, and lots of books. The books actually turned out to be the most important, because you didn't need half a dozen different obsolete technologies to read them. Most of the machines to access information were broken and nobody had made parts for them for years. I imagine it was like that at the other universities trying to revive themselves."
"Access to all those books and a job that meant I could read them---it was an opportunity I was ready to take," she continued. "I read, and I took what courses I could in philosophy, literature, psychology, social science, history---learning history was very important, someone once told me, and he was in a position to know. History was part of him---that impressed me. It was one of the things about him that impressed me."
She stopped, sensing what Jonathan was about to ask.
"Never mind who he was!" she cried. "Listen to what I'm saying! History! If you don't know history, you are condemned to repeat it! And why is that? Habit! Some people call it human nature, some call it our way of life or the way things are, but it's habit all the same. It's very deep, very powerful habit. A lot of it is in our genes, in our glands and in our heads, and certainly it is in our society---our group behavior---and our institutions."
"All right," she said, catching a breath. "What does this have to do with warp drive? Everything. Everything."
Jonathan looked at her. Her eyes were closed. "Would you like something?" he said. "Some tea, or coffee?"
"Tea would be nice, thank you. And why don't you tell Commander Wentworth to call ahead and say you'll be late? I'm afraid I'm being long-winded about this, but I am just getting to the important part."
Jonathan had risen, not sure now who would still be around. "I'll see if he's still here---"
"He's here," Lili said, opening her eyes.
In fact, Archer surprised Wentworth just on the other side of the door. Wentworth smiled appealingly, and didn't even try to let on he wasn't eavesdropping. He was already assembling cups and saucers for the tea. "She doesn't miss anything, does she?"
"That's for sure," Jonathan said in a near-whisper. "She's either psychic or very wise."
"Maybe there's not much difference," Wentworth mused. "She's sure seen a few things."
" Exactly what was she doing after her warp research? When I was a kid?"
"By then she'd been head of the Cochrane Foundation for years and years. All those patents from Cochrane's group eventually were worth a fortune, and she traveled all over the world. And she did get a lot of attention, but it wasn't all because of the grant money she was giving away. She was apparently a very passionate, very persuasive advocate. Government leaders, business leaders, everybody listened to her. They say she talked as if she had already seen the future."
Jonathan nodded, thinking that over. Wentworth handed him the tray: two cups, a pot of tea, and a basket of blueberry muffins. "She likes these," he explained. "It's noted in the protocol database."
"You don't miss much either," Archer said, grinning.
Wentworth shrugged but was smiling. "You'd better get back in there. I'll call the restaurant."
"Thanks, Commander. Why Dr. Lily Sloane slowed down the warp five program. This should be interesting."
smell blueberries!" Lily cried. "I do like visiting Starfleet Headquarters."
" I hope you like the tea just as much. It's Darjeeling I think." Jonathan poured her a cup, and one for himself.
"Well, I'm partial to Earl Grey but it'll be fine," she said, and looked at him playfully. "And you prefer coffee, I believe."
"Yes, I usually do," Archer said, as he returned to his seat.
" Commander Wentworth is not the only one who can read a profile," she said, and smiled broadly. Archer felt the power of that smile. Between her charm and her passionate eloquence, he could imagine her being very persuasive.
After a few sips of tea and a bite of muffin, which she appeared to thoroughly enjoy, Lily Sloane resumed her narrative.
"While I was back at the university, the world began to change," she said. "The Vulcans helped us reorganize. They said that some kind of world government was only logical. But we did it for the oldest reason in the world: fear. We knew there were technologically superior beings on other planets, and if they wanted to invade us, we figured we didn't stand a chance against them unless we pooled our resources and were united."
She sighed. "It was the same lousy reason the nation-states got started. Sure, there were idealistic words, but there always were. They didn't mean as much as fear, ambition and maybe avarice. But it got us started at least."
"In a way the war helped the process. There were fewer people in the world, fewer mouths to feed, and not that many governments, so putting together something new was easier. And the lessons of the war and the aftermath were fresh. There wasn't as much posturing that could lead to violence. There was a passion for real justice, for the protection of individual rights."
"But we were facing more than the possibility that others would come here to our planet. We now had the means to start going out there. And we knew from the Vulcans that there were a lot of intelligent life out there, and a lot of planets with societies even they had not visited. Put those two things together---our ability to go out and the knowledge that there are others who can come to us--- and all of a sudden the future looked like it was going to be very different from the past."
Lily stopped, and nodded vigorously. "Yes---that was something people said a lot when I was back at school. 'The future is going to be very different from the past.' And smart-mouth that I was, I would say, 'oh really? Maybe not.' And when I heard myself say that, I had a very very powerful thought---it came to me in-in a voice, not my voice---and this voice said, it has to be. The future has to be very different from the past
"It took me a bunch of years more before I really understood what that meant. But once I figured it out, I began to talk about it. And then I began to do something about it. And one of the things I knew I had to do---one of the really difficult things--- was slow certain things down."
"Like the warp five program." Jonathan said.
"Good, you're listening!" Lily said. "Not everybody listens to old ladies go on like this. But not exactly---the warp five program hadn't even started yet. But yes---that kind of thing. I started with myself. It was hard, but I knew I had to leave warp research behind. I knew others would do it, but at that time I was almost as focused as your father would be, so it was difficult for me giving that up. Still, I knew I had to put my energy and my influence where it was most important. I had to help us change."
"We had to change," she insisted. "Not just change our technology, and let it change us. We had to change ourselves. We had a chance to do it right this time. And that's what we had to concentrate on. Before we were ready to go out there, we had to change, down here on earth, and in here." She thumped her chest with alarming vigor.
"We had to change our behavior," she said emphatically. "What does that mean? It doesn't mean we don't have human passions. I'll tell you what it means. I once saw a man change his behavior, completely, in no more than a minute. He went from someone consumed with rage and the need for revenge---so consumed that he couldn't see how irrational he was---to a man who gave that all up, and made very different decisions. And all it took was a metaphor. Something that jolted him back to a lifelong habit of self-examination. Once he saw himself from that perspective, he changed his behavior immediately. And all it took was Moby-Dick
"I'm sorry, I'm not following you," Archer said. "Moby-Dick?"
"That's not important. I really am beginning to prattle. What's important---what impressed me so much---was his habit of self-examination. And his--- associates--- were like that, too. He showed me that he was still human like me, he still could fool himself, and let his unconscious run things while he thought he was being completely rational and conscious of what he was doing and why. But he knew that this could happen. He knew he could fool himself. And he recognized when it was happening. And he changed. Without self-recrimination or denial. Do you understand how rare that is?"
She stopped and there was silence. The room was getting dark. Jonathan gently dialed up the lighting to about the level of candlelight.
"I understand how hard that is," Archer said at last.
"Yes, and now that you've been out there, you probably understand a lot more. But that's what the future has to look like. Self-examination, and all the tools there are to make that work, can't be rare anymore. People have to do it. It has to be standard procedure. On starships, for example. And other institutions have to incorporate it, and whole societies must teach it and believe in it. That's what I came to believe, a long time ago."
"So how does a conscious species change?" she said, after taking a long sip of tea. "Individually, by developing the tools of consciousness. To learn to observe the balance between consciousness and the unconscious, between head and heart, instinct and intelligence. And culturally, you build that approach into institutions. So it becomes the expected procedure. So people know it's not weird. But why is this so important? History."
It was like an urgent whisper, a deep hiss, the way she said it: history.
" We were about to embark on the greatest era of exploration humanity ever had," she said, with a note of wonder at the memory. "We've barely begun it now. But it was very, very important that we began it right."
"What is the history of exploration?" she said. " The real history---not the romance, the heroic tales. Yes, there were brave explorers. But what came next? Exploitation. And conquest."
"If you're talking about the naval explorers of the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, for instance, that's certainly true," Archer said. "They were essentially the employees of nations and companies that wanted to lay claim to the riches and the lands they found."
"Yes, exactly," Lily said. "But they didn't see it as exploitation. They didn't see conquest as an awful thing. When they encountered tribal peoples, they believed---or they convinced themselves to believe---that they were saving their souls by destroying their cultures, stealing their land and even enslaving them. And if these others got in the way of progress, they invoked the right of conquest.
"But we don't believe any of that now." Archer said.
Lily laughed. "Good! Then I was at least partially successful. But not believing it, and not doing it anyway, are sometimes two different things. Your ego says you don't believe it, but you invent very sound reasons for doing it anyway, even if you call it something else. Liberation maybe."
She polished off a muffin, and took a long hard look at another.
"So before we ready to explore other worlds, we had to change our own world," she continued. "We had to know a different approach would work. Just setting up guarantees to ensure the peace wasn't enough. Or creating systems to create sustainable abundance and share it. We had to change how we looked at our lives. We had to at least start to believe that we didn't need the threat of starvation, or the temptation of riches, as a motivation to be productive. We didn't need to drive ourselves crazy trying to get more, if we knew we would always have more than enough. If we could get rid of those notions, those habits that was reinforced by culture---if we could blunt those impulses, we might see conquest a little clearer."
She stared at Jonathan. "Don't let your tea get cold," she said. "It's pretty good, even if it isn't Earl Grey."
Archer nodded and quickly took a long sip.
" At first, after the war," Lily recalled, " we had such a broken- down world that working for a better one was natural and necessary. But once we got out of the habit of working for money, once we got out of the habit of believing it was natural and the only way society could work, then we were open to changes we needed to make."
"I still don't understand what this has to do with warp and slowing down," Jonathan said.
"Because change takes time. And even if those tiresome Vulcans repeated it long after it ceased to be true, for a long time it was true: we weren't ready."
She pushed away the tea cup in front of her bent forward across the table. " We weren't ready to be explorers, and not invaders. We weren't ready to confront new civilizations on new worlds, until we stopped thinking of them as places we could plunder. And we really had to stop acting as if people different than us are monsters automatically out to kill us. Or if they happened not to be as technologically advanced, as not as good as us, as savages and subhumans who need us to save them."
"Sounds like how the Vulcans thought of us."
"It does a little. But they're nothing compared to what the Europeans and their descendants in the Americas did to the indigenous peoples when they 'discovered' them. Or how the Europeans first thought about Africans, or the various groups in the Middle East and Asia felt about each other over several thousands of years. The people they found---they weren't even people, they didn't have souls. That's what they thought, or told themselves. And so they could dispossess them, kill them, enslave them. And they did."
Lily brushed away an escaped blueberry. " And when the advanced countries began competing, they managed to find all kinds of monstrous things about each other, to justify going to war."
" Now those kinds of impulses---fear of different people, the desire to be on top and hoard as much as you possibly can-maybe they had survival value at one time. But when environments change, you'd damn well better change, too, or you won't survive," she said. "And speaking of environments! Think about how humans treated their own planet. For centuries---long past the time we had ignorance as an excuse---we used up everything, destroyed what we found, and created wastelands where there had been an intricate ecology that made this planet work. We hacked to pieces, burned up, dug up and poisoned everything that supported our lives. While we were pursuing our innocent dreams, we created nightmares, and then we headed for the next unspoiled frontier, and when we got there we'd do it all again."
" Can you imagine what would happen if we took that attitude to the final frontier?" Lily was almost whispering now, but it only made her words more emphatic. "Can you imagine what would happen if we took these attitudes into space?"
"Is that the human legacy? One ruined planet after another? You've seen some of the civilizations out there. Do you want humanity to be in the same category as the destructive species you've encountered? Is that what we want to become?"
"We had to take a long hard look at ourselves," Lily said softly. "We had to finally learn from our mistakes, and we had to learn how to keep on learning, keep on looking at ourselves."
She looked out at the lights playing on the dark bay. "And first we had to prove to ourselves we could change, by changing how we do things on our own planet."
Lily stood up, so she could see the stars through the upper half of the window. "We had to change our institutions and our expectations of what human progress really means. We had to change deep within ourselves, and because each of us can only change so much, we had to teach our children these things, and let a few more generations get the hang of it."
"We started with compassion. We started with eliminating poverty, which we had been fully capable of doing for at least a century before the war. But finally we did it. And things started falling into place."
She looked for a moment, then sat down again.
"It all takes time," she said, in an even voice. "It all took time."
"So do you think we should have waited even longer?" Archer said finally. " I wouldn't say this to many people, but sometimes I've wondered."
Lily shrugged. "No, we're out there now, and the challenge should be good for us. We're not perfect and we never will be. Humanity is about getting better. We'll make mistakes. "
"I know. I've made a bunch of them."
"Yes, but you've done wonderful things, too. I'm glad we waited for you, Jonathan." She smiled, but then her expression unexpectedly hardened. " Now I'm not saying there aren't real monsters out there. There are monsters out there. Or at least there are powerful beings who will try to do us harm. You know it, you've seen them. And I know it, too. Believe me, I do. But if we act like they are all monsters, we won't know when we're really in danger and when we actually are not. We can't tell the good guys from the bad guys. And we can't tell when they change from one to the other. Because, you know, they do."
"I remember our first year on Enterprise," Jonathan said. "Some people say we were too naïve, expecting to be welcomed everywhere we went."
"Sure you were naïve, why not? But you learned. When you went out after the Xindi weapon you had to figure out how to deal with danger, with a threat to our planet. And you did. But you did something else. You found friends. You wouldn't have been able to do what you did if you hadn't found friends. If you hadn't made friends already."
"The Andorians. Yeah, they saved our butt."
"No, you saved your butt when you showed them they could trust you. We're going to be out there for a long time. More and more planets are going to know where we are. We're going to need friends. And the kind of friends we'll need are honorable, dependable and ethical. So that's what we've got to be. That's the class of beings who are going to survive, and create a future worth living in. Just like we've started to create here on our own little planet, which up until just a few decades ago was an ungovernable, unholy mess."
"You know, Dr. Sloane, I think maybe you did get through to my dad about this. Because now that I've heard you talking, I do remember him saying something like this, in his own way. He never understood the Vulcans. But I think he did try to tell me that maybe it was all for the best. Because we really did have some growing up to do."
"Of course you didn't agree with him," she laughed. "You wanted your warp five ship for your tenth birthday! Well, you had some growing up to do, too. We all did and we all still do. Even me. And call me Lily."
" All right, Lily, if you answer one question."
"And what's that, Jonathan?"
"Well, you probably know from my reports---even though they're supposed to be top secret---that I had a few experiences with a man from the future."
"Yes, I believe I did hear rumors about that," Lily replied, a twinkle in her eye. "Well, I always say that a promise is a promise, past, present or future, and I try to keep mine. So I can't answer any questions about any rumors you may have heard about me and visitors from the future. But I will say this. We know that all life on this planet is interdependent. It's all one vast web of life. And we're beginning to suspect that everything in our lives---even out there in space---is interdependent. So maybe our interdependence links us not just across space, but across time."
"Why Lily, that's the most graceful evasion I've ever heard," Archer said as they both rose. "Then again, it's something else to think about."
"A charmer like his father," Lily said. "Commander Wentworth!" she called out suddenly. "I'm ready to go!"
"Yes, Doctor," said Wentworth, suddenly appearing at the door. "Your shuttle is waiting."
" Now don't be afraid to hug me," she said to Archer. "These old bones won't break." They embraced, both facing the window full of stars. "Goodbye, Jonathan," she whispered. "You be careful out there."
Dr. Lily Sloane took the arm of Captain Jonathan Archer, and together they walked out of Starfleet Headquarters into the moist cool night air. Commander Wentworth was waiting with a hovercraft to escort her to her shuttle. She turned to Archer once more.
"And take care of that ship of yours," she said. "That Enterprise. It's a name I'm very fond of."
Archer tried to express his thanks, but she waved him off. And as she was about to be whisked away, Lily got in the last word.
"Now go eat your dinner," she called out to Archer. "You're way too skinny." She turned to Wentworth. "All right, Commander. Let's see what this little contraption can do."Home
by Morgan Dash"It's not the darkness that kills
," the voice said to him in seeming intimacy, "it's the cold
." He checked his sensors and then his memory for the source, but discovered he could not access either.
"Unamuno, he said that", the voice added. "One of the miners." He realized then that the voice was not speaking in Federation Standard. His first sentence had been in the Terran language called Spanish, and the second in another Earth tongue, English.
Then the voice made a different sound. It was---could it be---what Captain Riker would call, a chuckle?
What was funny? He seemed always to be asking that question. The answer that occurred to him best fit the facts. Perhaps there was a pun involved, a double meaning in the English language only. Probably the word "miner," which when pronounced could also be "minor." Either it was funny because they were quite different, or because they both applied in different ways. Was this Unamuno a minor poet perhaps? A miner in some metaphorical way? His database was not responding.
That he recognized wordplay somewhere in his positronic matrix would have registered as a step forward towards understanding humans, but he was more concerned with a more proximate problem. He could not locate any of his linguistic circuits, nor for that matter his sound processing assembly. In fact, he could not find any diagnostic or monitoring systems that would indicate he even had a positronic matrix.
Then he remembered. His last word, spoken to the afterglow of his transported Captain: goodbye.
Then aiming his phaser at the thalaron weapon seconds from its deadly use, and firing. His last recorded sense perception was of the waves of energy blowing him apart.
So it is likely, he reasoned, that he had no positronic matrix to monitor. Yet he had apparently retained something that seemed to be consciousness. But what was it? And where was he? And were those questions even relevant? But above all, he realized, he wanted to know about that voice.R
allis tried to keep his eyes fixed on the pulsing stars under their closed lids, but instead he stared out at the darkness that surrounded him. If he could not keep his eyes closed he could not sleep, and this was his first sleep period in days. True, the narrow hammock slung across a corner of the cargo hold where he worked was not very comfortable. Still, it was at least quiet now, not only here but in the rest of the ship. Repairs that could be made while still in space were completed, and the Valdore was on its way home to Romulus.
His were not the only restless eyes on the ship, he knew. Even many with softer beds in crew quarters would be sleeping fitfully, if at all. No one could be sure what they were returning to, or how they would be welcomed. The sudden, violent rise of Shinzon, and his even quicker and more violent fall, had shaken the Romulan Empire. He left a power vacuum which Romulans, even more than nature, abhored. Donatra, who commanded the Valdore and confronted Shinzon, was in a strong position to seize the reigns, and her rivals on Romulus would surely know that. The crew had to be ready for anything.
But it wasn't thoughts of their fate, or Donatra's, that kept Rallis awake in his obscure corner of the warbird. His mind and emotions returned obsessively to another powerful Romulan woman. He had served Sela, as his family had served her great family for generations. His thoughts were of her.
Where was Sela tonight? Rallis wondered. Was she still huddled somewhere in the caverns below the capital, dazed and lost? He could not bear it. This was the image that haunted him as he stared unseeing into the darkness.I
t is dark here, wherever here is. An absence of almost all light-certainly those are not discernable stars. More like fireflies. But what are fireflies?
"How sad", said a voice. "A being destined to live a thousand years, to be a beacon of hope and a reservoir of wisdom for generations, blasted to atoms to save a puny old human."
This time he knew the voice: it was his. But not his.
"Yeah, so what? You scattered my atoms, too, why should I try to keep you company? We're fragments passing in the night."
But this isn't true, he knew. We are forever linked. All the sons of Soong. And even---
"Yes, Data. Don't worry. It's just another journey. Another exploration. Just another strange new world.""Sometimes these days I find myself wondering
," he heard Captain Picard say, "what we're really doing out here."
Yes---he remembered Captain Picard saying that, not long ago.
But now he has an answer. Why hadn't he accessed it before? "I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."
He was quoting someone named John Muir, though he was not sure who this person was. But the words seemed to come to him. And evoked an immediate response.
"So what? What's it get you? Didn't you learn anything from me?"
"What should I have learned, Lor?"
"To listen to me once in awhile. You can't escape me. And you wonder why you can't have fun. Goodbye..." His own voice mocked him with his last word, and added, "but you can't say goodbye to me."R
allis tumbled out of his hammock, restless and anxious. He was afraid, but not for himself. For her. For Sela.
She of the golden strength, the flaring, hungry, ice-blue eyes. Once she had commanded fleets, dared to defy the Federation, determined to fulfill her destiny and restore the supremacy of the Romulan Empire. To make her noble family proud, and her homeworld secure.
It seemed incredible to him now when he thought about it, but as children, he and Sela had played together. They always knew, in a vague way, that she was of noble birth and he was not. That his family had served his for generations. But lost in their games, in the stories they created together as they acted them out---although of course she always was the leader---they had shared a world equally.
Those golden hours were imprinted on his soul. They were the basis for his loyalty that would never change. His loyalty went beyond tradition, which itself was all but eroded, as temporary alliances and easy betrayals became all too common in recent Romulan politics. His was a loyalty of the heart.
He did not want to be here on this wounded ship, making its cautious way back to Romulus, more or less victorious. He had been ordered to report to this strange vessel in the secret revolt against Shinzon. Of course Donatra's minions didn't really trust him, since he had served Sela so long, even if, in recent years, at a distance. So even though he had been highly prized for his technical abilities in Sela's fleet, here he was consigned to monitor an empty cargo bay. He would have been among the shock troops to board Shinzon's vessel if the battle had gone that way. He was expendable.
Shinzon! All of this was because of Shinzon! The rumors concerning his origins had exposed the cloning program of so long ago, that had once been a high state secret, and since had simply been forgotten. Its intent was to replace important Federation officers with clones that were loyal to Romulus. Several such clones were attempted, and for awhile it appeared that only one had survived: Shinzon. He was said to be the clone of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Enterprise. But the program was abandoned by a new praetor, and the boy Shinzon was left to die in the Reman mines. Presumably the other clones had died there. The rumors varied wildly on how many there had been, and the persons they were created to replace.
For awhile there was no new gossip, but just a few weeks ago a new rumor swept the capital. There was another clone still alive, created later than Shinzon, also of a Federation officer, also from the Enterprise. But this clone had not languished and become disfigured in the black pits of Remus. She had grown up in the golden light of Romulan nobility, secretly adopted into one of its most important families. Because of her high station and great power, the rumors began as fearful whispers. But they were so spectacularly scandalous that they soon were so loud that even Sela learned of them.
The last time Rallis actually saw her was the day she announced she would prove these rumors false. Without hesitation, her eyes flashing and her lithe body in full stride, she set off to examine the most sensitive records that only her unassailable position enabled her to access. But even that was not enough. Sela was required to call in solemn debts to her and her father before she triumphantly descended to a secret vault of records in the caverns under the capital, that even she had not known existed.
When she did not return, everyone knew immediately that the rumors were true. Sela was not the daughter of a great Romulan general and his captured human consort. Her DNA was fully human. She was nothing but a clone of a Starfleet lieutenant, Natasha Yar.
Of course, Rallis had known she was motherless. The story then was that Yar had died giving birth to her, the implication being that a part-Romulan child was too much for a puny human body. Sela was told that the marriage of her parents had been kept secret, but others had a different view of the general's relationship with the captive from the Enterprise.
Much later, when Sela began telling the story of her mother's attempted escape with her in tow, and her own role in foiling it, Rallis dismissed it as the usual mythmaking of rising figures with great ambitions. He had no idea that Sela herself believed it. Though the plan to infiltrate the Federation that led to the cloning of Picard and Yar had long been abandoned, others within the then-current Romulan government saw the opportunity to stiffen the resolve of the clearly talented and amazingly charismatic Sela. So they implanted that story in her memory with a variation on brain control techniques Sela would soon try to use on yet another Enterprise officer, Geordi LaForge.
That attempt failed, but the longer and more controlled alterations in Sela worked completely. She became so convincing when telling this version of her past, that Rallis noted even some in his own family who knew better began to believe it.
That Sela looked exactly like Yar and nothing like her supposed Romulan family predisposed many to believe the clone story instantly. Sela was utterly disgraced.
Stories came to Rallis of Sela wandering through the caverns like a spectre, moaning and shrieking like a wraith. He begged for more information on where she might be. He wanted to go to her, to rescue her. To tell her it did not matter that she no longer had power or wealth, that she no longer had a family, or even the right to her own name. It did not matter how she came into existence. That she existed, that she was who she had become, this was the only important thing.
He wanted to find her, to serve her, even if it meant deserting his unit in the Romulan military. Together they would find a way to restore her power, her rightful place earned by deed, not breeding.
But before he could act he was sent to this dark pit in the bowels of the Valdore, to wait for the opportunity to be killed at Donatra's convenience.
But even here he found a way to serve Sela. In one bold move he had acted to provide for her a treasure that would be the key to her reemergence, so the Romulan Empire would once again admire and honor and follow her.
Yes, he had seen the opportunity and seized it. But as he prowled the dark silent cargo bay, the only sound the dull echoes of his own furtive footfalls, the recollection stopped him dead. He stood in the corner, near the locker he obsessively returned to, not quite believing its contents even now. Then he buried his face in his hands, and another sound reverberated through the dark emptiness: his own anguished cry.
Because he had come so close, but he had failed. He had failed, utterly and completely.T
he confusion was gone. Suddenly he was immersed in clarity. Every thought and image was sharp and distinct and vibrant, yet all so clearly connected that it seemed he could perceive in multiple dimensions.
It did not matter that he hadn't solved anything about where and even what he now was. Some alternatives had occurred to him. He could be under alien influence, for instance. Downloaded into a computer of unknown origin and design. Of course there was the little matter of the explosion.
If he had in fact been blown apart into scattered atoms, then he was indeed in an intriguing situation. He had pondered this before. If there was an afterlife---and of course he knew all the descriptions from all the cultures in all the worlds on record---he had wondered if an android could attain it. Or was this a separate one? If the universe ultimately was a web of possibilities, which he was inclined to believe it was, then an android heaven was not much more absurd than Sto-Vo-Kor. The experience of this odd form of consciousness might even suggest he had a soul, as humans called it.
But he found such speculations fading as a very different kind of clarity seemed to inhabit him.
"Father, what is happening to me?"
"I expect you are in a sense reviewing not only your own life in depth," Dr. Soong's kind voice suggested, "but those of many others, whose memories---whose stories---are stored within you."
"Yes, that is it! Processing is becoming a kind of---coalescing. I have your story, too. I am comparing the patterns. They yield such...insights...of general application, and yet, each is wholly its own."
But he could not find the words, and notably he did not feel the immediate need to do so. He was absorbed in a new aspect of experience. For in addition to the memories of events, it seemed all the emotions connected with them were also revealed to him. For all the encounters of his life, he recalled not only what he and others said and did, but what their emotions were in response to him. And from that point he also perceived all the feelings and actions that resulted from these encounters, echoing from person to person, time to time, on every level of existence.
It was almost more than his matrix could handle, though evidently his consciousness was at least as complex in this unnamable state as that formerly enabled by his positronic array.
"Each experience is unique because each moment and each person is unique," he reported, " and yet..."
And yet? There was a unity---not just the myriad connections and relationships he could not quite calculate or fathom, but an identity of some kind, as if the universe were indeed singular, but not as a single vessel for a collection of forces, no, it was something...else...
But something else was happening. A clamor, a noise. A fuss, somewhere close. Its gravity distracted him.
He tried to hold on, but he was being pulled. Everything sped past---Why is the sky black? We are not invaders. We are explorers. You know of course that thought is the most powerful force in the universe. I rather think that time is a companion, that goes with us on the journey. Resistance is futile. Speak for yourself, Captain---I plan to live forever. Tell him he is a pretty cat, and a good cat. Flirting, laughter, painting, family, female, human. Thank you for my life. That is the exploration that awaits you-charting the unknown possibilities of existence. Let's see what's out there: engage! Glad to meet you, Pinocchio. You jewel!
Tasha's voice. Her smile. He had not known, not so completely...
He did not want it to go. He had not learned enough."Who looks outside, dreams
," said a voice with a Swiss-German accent. "Who looks inside, awakes."
"Yes, I know that!" Data cried out with something alarmingly like emotion. "I want to stay but I cannot!" The noise, the clamor was driving him out, was forcing him away. He tried to run, but was blocked by an even greater noise, a huge rattling. It was drawing him with it, like compressed air suddenly rushing into space.
Then he realized: the rattle was a call. He was being called? Should he answer it? It meant that he was needed. He saw that in the bright faces, shining in the light, smiling at him, saying farewell. Saying in their eyes and their shining faces that he would see them again. Yes, he would go. There would be plenty of time. He would return there, and he would be back here. He was always in both places, after all.
For now his attention was on the rattling. And the darkness becoming dimness, becoming a different, tempered light.R
allis had surprised himself with his own sobbing, but now he stopped, shocked. For he was hearing something else.
Could it be his impulsive act, borne of his desire to rescue and to serve Sela, had not been futile?
It had been in the midst of battle. The Valdore and another warbird had pursued Shinzon's massive Scimitar and found it attacking the Federation's flagship, Enterprise. Donatra had announced herself to its Captain Picard as an ally in the fight, for she was desperate to stop Shinzon before he began a genocidal war which would make the Romulan Empire the pariah of the galaxy, threatening its very survival.
But the Scimitar was too strong, and Shinzon too wily an opponent. He destroyed the other warbird and crippled the Valdore, leaving them hanging ominously still a short distance away.
Amidst the smoke and screams of the wounded, frantic orders filled the air. They must restore the Valdore's functions before Shinzon decided to finish them off this still target.
Rallis was alone in the cargo hold, automatically accomplishing what he had been trained to do in such a situation: check all systems in his area, prepare to report when asked, and otherwise await orders. But even as he ran through his short checklist, he knew he would be the last on the ship to be asked to report.
He had already ascertained that main environmental systems were down, but that emergency life support was functioning, but then he knew that from the fact that he was still breathing. Basically all that was left to check was the cargo hold transporter. On Sela's ships, Rallis had been a transporter officer, known for his instinctive skills as well as his technical knowledge. But except for routine resupply, the cargo transporters were ignored. Few ever thought of them even being there.
He saw without much interest that his transporter circuits were undamaged. But when he noticed that his was the only functioning transporter on the ship, the idea came to him like lightning.
Quickly he scanned the Scimitar. With the Valdore's low power, he could not get much of a fix on the Scimitar's bridge. But there was a huge energy reading elsewhere on Shinzon's ship. He surmised it was the much-rumored ultimate weapon that Shinzon possessed, and was now evidently powering up to use on the Enterprise.
The weapon did not interest him, but the life signs near it did. There were two, both apparently human. One had to be Shinzon. The other was probably from the Enterprise. But which one was Shinzon?
The life signs of one began to fluctuate, to fade. The other was strong but stationary, as if standing over his adversary in triumph. That was more likely to be the brutal warrior Shinzon.
Rallis knew he must act quickly. Even in the chaos aboard the Valdore, he could divert power to his transporter for only a moment before being noticed. They probably didn't realize he knew how. They doubtless didn't know he had the skill to push the limits of this transporter's range. He set the targeting scanners as precisely as he could, but this transporter was built to move bulk, so it was powerful but tricky to focus.
But if he was successful he would have the greatest prize he could possibly present to his Sela. His eyes left the transporter as he fixed his disruptor on a high stun setting. He would stun Shinzon the moment he materialized. He could imprison him in one of the larger lockers, while he rigged a more permanent force field to confine him. He could easily steal the drugs necessary to keep him sedated from under the noses of harried medical personnel. He had done something like this before, and Sela had been very pleased.
Sela would have Shinzon, the key to the Reman resistance. And no matter who began to emerge as the new Romulan leadership, she would be the hero of the hour. Such was her strategic genius that Rallis couldn't even guess how she would use his gift to her, but he knew it would be glorious.
But just as Rallis locked onto the human life sign he hoped was Shinzon and energized the beam, his readings began to fluctuate, and the Scimitar suddenly exploded.
Rallis did not realize until later what an immense explosion it had been. Everything and everyone on that massive ship was reduced to a shower of debris. There was nothing left of the Scimitar but wide spirals of small fragments and slowly tumbling shards. And whatever had been confined within the beam in time.
He watched in dismay as the atoms scattered and coalesced in the matter stream solidified in the cargo bay. He had failed. He had not captured Shinzon, alive or dead. He hadn't even captured a human from Starfleet, or even a piece of one. Somehow he had managed to transport nothing but a barely connected heap of bent and singed machinery.
He stared at it. Parts of it had a vaguely humanoid form, so his settings had not been off by that much. Then he realized: he had somehow rescued the broken remnants of Shinzon's android, the one he found and somehow employed as a spy on the Enterprise, if the rumors were true.
But as exhausted and deeply disappointed as he was at that moment, Rallis was still Romulan, and he knew he had to keep his secret. The smoldering form looked too hot to touch yet, so he turned his attention to erasing the transporter log. The Valdore command and control systems were still mostly inoperative, so it was a relatively easy task.
Then he gathered up the heap of machinery and placed it carefully in an empty locker. No use damaging something that could be salvaged. Perhaps he could think of some way to use it, to Sela's advantage.
But in the long dark days since then, Rallis had thought of nothing. He had only become more and more morose and despairing. He was tortured with images of Sela, needing help, but with no one to aid her. He seemed to hear her crying out to him----
But suddenly there was another sound. He was again in the corner of the cargo hold, near the locker where he had hidden the machinery. He had not looked at it again, afraid to again be rebuked with his failure. Yet somehow he often found himself in this spot near it.
The shiver caught him, and his eyes widened. He heard a rattle, a rasp. It seemed to be coming from the locker.
He didn't want to open it, but he was still fearful of discovery. He must silence it before it grows louder. His quivering hand moved to open it---and he jumped back, blinded by a sudden flood of light.
He looked around. It was only the cargo bay's ordinary lights suddenly coming on, although they all appeared to be at full intensity. He must have left the controls that way when he tested them, and power to those systems had only just been restored.
Just in time to give him a heart attack. He laughed to himself, and opened the locker.
Only to involuntarily jump back again. Something in it was moving. As his eyes adjusted to the light and he gazed at the object, his mind began to put together patterns and forms. Yes. The part of it that was moving could very well be a hand. But it was damaged, and that was causing the rattling sound.
Rallis watched, fascinated. Was some kind of internal self-repair program at work? The hand, if that's what it was, continued to twitch and flex.
Suddenly he was excited. If this could be made to function again, or even if its information storage could be tapped? It might provide invaluable information on the Remans, perhaps even information on Shinzon that might be helpful to Sela.
Rallis peered deep into the machinery. Suddenly he saw, very dimly, two points of light. Their source seemed to be lodged behind two slits in the metal.
He leaned closer and then jumped back. Eyes? Were they eyes? Was it possible there was even something like life behind them?
Suddenly, strangely he felt a cascade of emotion. What was this exactly---a damaged machine, or a badly wounded being? Did it perhaps even feel pain?
He was a soldier and used to pain and death. But he was also used to taking care of wounded enemies, for they were soldiers as well. But what was this? He didn't know what to do exactly. Except he must keep it hidden. And keep it alive, if that is what it was.
Rallis looked carefully at the circuitry that crossed the interior of the locker. It appeared intact. He walked quickly to the control panel. Sometimes perishable items, or items requiring controlled temperatures were stored in these lockers, so they had their own rudimentary environmental controls.
Rallis adjusted the settings and activated the unit. He returned to the locker, and was finally able to look into the lights he took to be eyes.
"I will need to hide you in this locker for the duration of the voyage to Romulus," he said. "Then I will get help for you. In the meantime I have set the environmental controls. When I shut this door they will be activated. I have provided some interior light. Not very much, because the illumination is tied into the heating circuits. But it will moderate the temperature inside as well."
He began to seal the locker, then hesitated. " It should keep you warm," he said finally, and nodding slightly, he closed the door.Home
a Star Trek: The Next Generation
by Morgan Dash
Captain Jean-Luc Picard materialized on an Enterprise-E transporter pad looking tanned, fit, and very annoyed. Another shimmer of color formed into another Starfleet uniform beside him. It was an attractive young woman, a Lieutenant, and she was talking.
Waiting to greet their Captain and his guest were Commander Will Riker, Counselor Deanna Troi, Doctor Beverly Crusher, Lt. Commander Worf and Commander Data. They watched as the Captain strode forward so fast that he practically leapt off the platform. But his companion was just as quick and was instantly at his elbow again. She slowed him down, then stopped him, as he was forced to listen to her low voice next to his ear.
Counselor Troi sensed confusion, some of it coming from herself. The young Lieutenant was not the person they were expecting to arrive with Captain Picard. They were there as senior officers to formally welcome the new president of the United Federation of Planets.
But it was Captain Picard's emotion that dominated. He was exasperated to the point of fury.
After a series of quick nods, he moved forward, no longer listening to the still unidentified officer. This did not even slow her down. She continued talking.
"Mr. Worf!" the Captain said in an unusually loud, though familiarly stentorian tone. " Please escort Lieutenant Tolliver to the quarters we have prepared for the President, and answer any questions she may have on arrangements that might affect his security."
"Mr. Worf is in charge of security for this mission," he explained to the Lieutenant, and turning swiftly to Worf he said, "This is Lieutenant Tolliver---" then he nodded towards the assembled officers and said loudly, as if to indicate an all-inclusive introduction by means of volume-"everyone. You can all introduce yourselves later. Mr. Worf, you are dismissed."
With his own nod of understanding, Mr. Worf hustled Lieutenant Tolliver off without delay. The Captain watched them leaving and when he was sure they were gone, he virtually collapsed into a seated position on the transporter pad.
They all looked at him in some surprise. But Will Riker was already hiding a smile.
"Captain," he said, innocently. "You're looking well."
"Yes," Dr. Crusher said. She was sure Riker was being ironic, but she saw it as an opportunity to be soothing. "I'm glad to see you got some sun."
"That island on Trianth 4 must have been as idyllic as advertised," Riker said. "Even with the conference going on, I hope you had a restful week."
"It was a week from hell," Captain Picard said, "and your smirk tells me you know it, Number One."
While Riker stopped trying to suppress a grin, Counsellor Troi decided it was time to state the obvious.
"You do seem a bit upset, Captain," she said softly.
"Oh, I'm sure that Betazoid sensitivity isn't required to see that, Counsellor." He took a breath and began to explain in a tone he was struggling to keep on an even keel.
" Lieutenant Tolliver is the Starfleet liaison officer in charge of presidential protocol, and she has additional responsibilities for his security. She insisted on inspecting his quarters and reviewing our procedures before allowing the President to beam aboard. Which is, of course, all quite reasonable. Inconvenient, but reasonable. However, she was also assigned to brief me on this mission. And in all my years in Starfleet, I have never been subjected to a briefing that was less brief! She has been chattering at me all week. Restful? I was assaulted by a constant, rapid-fire presentation of all the diplomatic and political news and quite a bit more of the gossip, concerning every inhabited planet in every system we will come within a hundred light years of passing on our way to Earth."
Riker grinned. "That lovely Lieutenant? For a week?"
Picard shook his head. "Lieutenant Tolliver is very bright," he allowed, " she's a diplomatic specialist, and she talks very fast. So I have learned in excruciating detail about every squabble, every incident of back-stabbing, pretentious posturing and war-mongering, and every back-room deal. And of course, there's the Federation news we may have missed being so far out in space, so she brought me up to date on every incident, every memo, report, debate over amendments to clarifications of regulations---every rumor, every incident of Federation Council in-fighting and Starfleet paranoia. It was, it was--"
"Hell?" Riker suggested.
Deanna noticed that their barely suppressed smiles were infecting the Captain's mood, and he was beginning to relax.
"Well, welcome back, Captain," Riker said, and their smiles were now all quite open.
"Thank you, Number One," Picard said, his smile a little more rueful than theirs. Springing easily to his feet, he added, "It's good to be back. And I trust that Lieutenant Tolliver is in much better hands now with Mr. Worf."
"Oh, brother," Doctor Crusher said.
The annoyance, the confusion were gone now, but as the others followed Captain Picard out of the transporter room, Deanna sensed something else. It was quite strong. An acute sense of dislocation, and a sudden swirl of chaotic feelings.
The source of these emotions was behind her.
She turned to see Commander Data still standing in the same spot he had been when the Captain beamed aboard. He was staring at the empty transporter pad. She was amazed to see that, despite the android's built-in pallor, Data actually looked pale.
Realizing she was staring at him, Data started forward. And stumbled. He almost fell.
"Data?" she cried. "Are you all right?"
Data stopped and looked at her. The tilt of his head meant he was rapidly calculating all the possibilities of his situation, and ranking all the conceivable causes, influences and outcomes in order of likelihood, to explain what was happening to him. Yet his eyes also looked bewildered. And his mouth--what was happening to his mouth?
"No, Counselor," he said finally, in a voice that seemed to come from farther away than usual. "I am not."
* * *
Noticing even small changes in an officer's demeanor was something Captain Picard considered part of his job. But even though Lieutenant Commander Data could surprise him with his latest experiments in trying to understand or emulate human behavior, the Captain was still getting used to the idea that Data could have moods.
But having given permission for Data to continue employing his emotion chip during routine missions, he realized he was going to have to learn to cope with an android with mood swings.
Though the Enterprise was currently involved in transporting the newly elected Federation President from the Trill homeworld to Federation headquarters on Earth, it was a complex rather than a dangerous mission. So it was not until the first staff meeting after his return from the Trianth 4 conference that he had occasion to notice the differences in Data's behavior.
"So President Songe is finally aboard, and has suffered no mishaps in the four hours he's been with us," the Captain began smoothly, glancing amiably around the glowing white table of the Enterprise-E observation lounge. Scanning his padd he continued, "I understand Lieutenant Tolliver has expressed concern about some of our passengers."
He looked over at Commander Data, but receiving no response, the Captain continued. "One is a medical case, I believe."
"Yes, Captain," Dr. Crusher said. "He's a patient we are transporting to Earth. "
"He's to be treated there?" Picard inquired.
"Yes. At the Taylor Institute."
"Yes, I see it now in your report. David Dieghan, ESA Syndrome." Picard was surprised. "I haven't heard that diagnosis for a long time."
"Extended Space Aversion is actually not as rare as you might think," Beverly said.
"Fascinating," Picard said, leaning back. "We do tend to forget what an alien environment space really is."
"It's true," Counselor Troi added, " Almost everyone who spends long periods in space has some problems adjusting, but some have unusual difficulty. They go from being highly agitated to being almost paralyzed, as if they were hypnotized. This tendency was noticed in the first long space flights in the twentieth century. They called it 'space rapture.'"
"That's a lovely name," Data said. "Space... rapture."
It took a moment for the others to absorb their surprise at Data's uncharacteristic comment, but no one knew what to say about it.
"And it was a twentieth century woman who studied ESA and developed the first treatments," Beverly said, covering their discomfort.
"Ah, yes, Dr. Gillian Taylor, of course," Captain Picard said. "The twentieth century woman who returned with Captain James T. Kirk to the twenty-third century, along with two humpback whales."
"I remember reading about her," Commander Riker said. "Stands to reason she would see space travel differently."
"She was a girlhood hero of mine," Dr. Crusher said. "One of my role models."
" "And Mr. Deighan ?" Picard inquired.
" He had an acute attack on his way to Trianth 4," Counsellor Troi said. "He's a planetary geologist, and he was going there to map the remote northern continent."
"And as a planetary geologist, he can't simply avoid space travel," Picard inferred.
"Exactly," Doctor Crusher said. "He needs sustained and concentrated treatment, and the Taylor Institute is the best place."
"Well, that seems reasonable. Still, it is something of a coincidence that he came aboard at the same time as the President, and needs to go to Earth. Lieutenant Tolliver is right to be concerned. Let's keep an eye on him. And what about these other two---"
But the Captain stopped abruptly as he watched Data rise and walk out of the observation lounge, without apparent urgency, but simply as if the meeting were over and he had been dismissed.
Once again they were all too startled to speak.
"Is there something I should know about Mr. Data?" the Captain said finally.
The others looked at one another.
"Actually, I'm running a full diagnostic on him as soon as I get back to engineering," Geordi said quietly.
"It seems Data had an-unsettling--emotional reaction," Troi said.
"How long ago?" Picard asked.
"This morning," Beverly said. "In the transporter room, when he was there for your arrival."
"An emotional reaction? His emotion chip was activated?"
"Yes, sir," Troi said. "Data wanted to experience the emotions of a homecoming."
Picard looked puzzled, and then looked skeptically at Troi.
"Are you saying he had a reaction to seeing me?"
"No, sir," the Counselor said. "To seeing her."
"Lieutenant Tolliver, sir," Beverly said. "The pretty young woman who beamed over with you."
"Lieutenant Tolliver?" Picard repeated. "But Data has never seen her before."
"That's right, Captain," Counselor Troi agreed. "I'm afraid it was love at first sight."
* * *
As Geordi LaForge traced the last pathway in his positronic net, Data once again considered turning off his emotion chip. He didn't believe that this strange swirl of powerful feelings had yet affected the performance of his duties---although he had been getting some strange looks from his fellow officers. Still, he was endeavoring to integrate emotions into his life, and it was necessary to try to deal with even the uncomfortable and confusing ones. After all, that is what humans have to do.
"That does it, Data," Geordi said. "The diagnostic is complete, and I'm not finding anything out of the ordinary. No problems at all."
"That confirms my internal diagnostic, " Data said. "The sensations Dr. Crusher calls 'upset stomach' and 'lightheadedness'--do not correspond to malfunctions or anomalies in my autonomic systems--in my body. Similarly, my distraction, inability to concentrate on anything but--" and here Data almost stammered--"but Lieutenant Tolliver, do not seem to be produced by malfunctions of my positronic net."
"So they aren't in your head, either," Geordi said. "They're in your heart."
"But I have no heart, Geordi," Data said softly. "Unless you are referring to my emotion chip."
"I guess I am, kind of," Geordi said. He left the display panel and started walking. Data knew from experience he was not to ask Geordi where he was going, but simply to follow beside him.
"I have never understood why humans refer to their hearts when discussing emotions," Data said.
"I don't either, really," Geordi said. "Except that it's in the center of your body, and it connects everything. And emotions can have all kinds of mental and physical effects, as you are discovering. But maybe it's simpler than that. Maybe that's just where people feel it. Where it hurts."
They were standing near the glowing warp core. Data turned towards it as Geordi scanned the status screens.
"But emotions are so complex," Geordi continued. "And the heart is about more than physical or emotional processes. When we say somebody has heart, or has a good heart, we're talking about things like courage, tenacity, empathy, generosity. I don't know whether those are emotions or not, but people see evidence of these qualities in someone's behavior. In your behavior, Data. Despite what we know about your positronic systems, everybody on the Enterprise has believed for a long time, that you have heart. Because we've all seen it."
"Thank you, Geordi," was all Data could sort out to say from a thousand speeding thoughts and emotions.
"But that doesn't get to your problem now," Geordi said. "What it sounds like to me is--you're in love. Probably for the first time, which is why all this is so unfamiliar."
" That is Dr. Crusher's diagnosis as well. But I only saw Lieutenant Tolliver once, for a few moments," Data said.
"Sometimes that's all it takes," Geordi smiled.
"So what would a human in love do now?" Data asked, surprised by the odd pitch of his own voice.
"Well, you could try to actually meet her," Geordi said. " Get to know her a little, and see if your feelings stay the same. But maybe you should get used to the feelings first. Sort of explore them. Test them out."
"I think I understand. I have learned from the data base of literature and song on the subject that there are numerous gradations of attractions. Infatuation, for example, could fit the profile of my feelings. One test of infatuation is the degradation of emotion over time, while true love is defined by long duration, as in the famous line, "at first I thought it was infatuation, but ooh it's lasted so long."
Heads turned towards them from all over Engineering as Data loudly warbled his song reference.
"Yeah, Data, something like that," Geordi said. "You really should talk to Counselor Troi about this. "
"I will do so," Data said. "But if you do not mind, I think I will stay here awhile and admire the warp core. The colors suddenly remind me of the sunsets on Omnicron Theta."
* * *
The next day everything seemed normal on the bridge of the Enterprise.
"We're on schedule, Number One?" the Captain inquired as the morning shift began.
"Yes, sir. We should arrive in the Terran system in two days."
"No further concerns raised by Lieutenant Tolliver?"
"She has asked a lot of questions about the reception for the President tomorrow night."
"She is very thorough," Counsellor Troi observed.
"Lieutenant Tolliver is very accomplished," Commander Data said enthusiastically from his ops position. "She has advanced degrees in diplomacy and Federation history, and she was posted for two years at the Federation embassy on Bajor. Her monograph on the relationship between the Kriosian system and the Klingon homeworld is considered definitive. She also enjoys swimming and the poetry of Iloja of Prim."
The officers all stopped in their tracks to listen to Data. They were also trying not to either stare or laugh. When Data noticed this, Captain Picard decided to explore the situation in private.
"Mr. Data, would you join me in my ready room?"
Once he was sitting behind his desk and he had indicated a degree of informality by inviting Commander Data to also be seated, Captain Picard began the conversation quietly but seriously.
" Data, I hope you have not been accessing information on Lieutenant Tolliver improperly."
"No, sir," Data said. "I used no special clearances." He paused. "Captain, my emotion chip does not prevent the operation of my ethical subroutines, nor any of my other processes."
"Yes, Data, but..." Picard sighed. " When humans are in the grip of strong emotion, falling in love for example, they may behave contrary to their usual ethical standards. As Starfleet officers we have a particular responsibility to make sure we do not abuse our power. Consider it a caution rather than a doubt."
"Yes, sir. It is true that my systems are sometimes functioning asynchronously. "
"I find myself doing and saying things before I have fully analyzed them. It is only later that I discover these actions and words were inappropriate. I am...surprising myself."
Picard smiled broadly for the first time in days. "That certainly sounds familiar. It's very much a human experience. And it's not altogether a bad thing."
"But is it a good thing?"
"It can be, Data. Surprise is a kind of emotion. It can humble us at times. And it can energize us, our blood seems to flow faster, and it is a delight of the mind as well. It is a kind of built-in motivation for learning, a reward for curiosity. And dealing with the unexpected is a major part of our work out here. Or it used to be, before we became a shuttle craft for Federation officials. What else have you been experiencing?"
"Counselor Troi suggested I try to express my emotions creatively, in art forms. So far I have mainly done so in writing poetry. The results have been quite different from my previous work."
"Yes, sir. But I believe my poems have declined in quality."
"What makes you think that?"
"I no longer understand them. For example, in the time that it would normally take me to write a minimum of 100 lines, I produced only two, and they are incoherent."
" Do you recall them?"
"Of course, sir. 'If she is lost in the fragrant stars/My heart will pale to a hobbled beat.'"
"Interesting, Data," the Captain said.
"But how can stars be fragrant? Or a heart pale?"
"They are images, Data, the ambiguous stuff of metaphor. 'Fragrant stars' suggests flowers, someone lost or obscured in a field of flowers perhaps. Flowers suggest color, as in the heart turning pale. And there are many associations for 'a hobbled beat', along with the sounds of the syllables---limitation, muffled drums, a horseback search through those fields---it's a feast for the imagination. And it is in the imagination of the reader or the audience that the poem comes alive."
"Really, sir?" Data said. "I am once again...surprised."
"The inner exploration, Data. It's quite an adventure."
"Yes, sir. But I am concerned that you might be concerned about my reliability. Perhaps I should deactivate my emotion chip."
"I don't think that's necessary. You need to learn how to monitor your emotions, and how they may be affecting your thought processes and behavior---I'm sure Counsellor Troi has told you that."
"Yes, sir. We talk about that frequently in our regular counseling sessions."
"Good. Well, this mission isn't presenting any particular difficulties. I don't see any need to deny you this experience."
"Thank you, sir. May I ask you a somewhat personal question?"
" Yes, Data, but please don't ask me for advice, or about my...experiences."
"No, sir. What I would like to know is, does it disturb you that I am attracted to someone you dislike? Do you think less of me because of it?"
Picard smiled. "Not at all, Data. I don't really know Lieutenant Tolliver, despite my uncomfortable time with her. But we all know that these...attractions... are so...mysterious. And very individual. When it comes to love, viva la difference!"
"Ah, a proverb," Data responded. "There seem to be many proverbs and sayings associated with this phenomenon. I have even overheard several employed by members of the crew I do not know but who comment on this situation to each other. Some of which I would not repeat."
Captain Picard cleared his throat, and rose from his seat. He had hoped that invoking an easy cliché would have signaled the end of their conversation. But then something occurred to him.
"Data, may I ask you a personal question? Have you actually spoken with Lieutenant Tolliver?"
"Not really," Data said, and touched his hands to his face. "Am I blushing, sir?"
"The physical manifestations of emotion are another challenge," Data said. "But to answer your question more completely, I will be speaking with her in the near future. In fact, tonight."
"Yes, sir. We have a date."
"Well done, Mr. Data." Captain Picard was visibly pleased. "Well done."
* * *
"Dinner in his quarters," Counsellor Troi said, "then a walk in the holodeck. Data was still trying to choose the environment for the simulation when I saw him in the afternoon."
"You mean you haven't seen him since?" Doctor Crusher said. The two officers were going through their morning exercise routine in the gym.
"No, and I may not get to talk with him before the reception tonight. He's going to be busy all day with preparations. He'll be coordinating with Lieutenant Tolliver."
"You mean he's working with her all day, too?"
"I wonder how it went last night. There's not as much for a couple to do on the Enterprise E as there was on the 'D'. What did they do after the holodeck?"
"Beverly, I have no idea."
"I hope he didn't ask Commander Riker for advice."
"He probably did. And Geordi."
"Between the advice those two would give, there's no telling what happened."
"Maybe they would cancel each other out," Deanna said, joining Beverly in her laughter. "And Data and Lieutenant Tolliver just let the evening unfold."
"You know," Beverly said, no longer laughing. "I hope so. Data deserves some love in his life."
"He does," Deanna agreed. "He really does."
* * *
The large reception area on the Enterprise E was beginning to fill. Commander Riker and Lieutenant Worf were sampling the punch while Worf kept an eye on the people filing in, and the security details at the entrances, trying to look unobtrusively formidable.
Commander Riker spotted Data across the room, in the company of Lieutenant Tolliver. Worf saw his smile and followed his glance.
"Look at how she looks at him," Riker said approvingly. "I'd say his date last night must have been a success."
"Yes, she does seem very attentive." Worf said. "Of course, they are involved in making sure the reception goes smoothly."
"Yes, but---look at how she looks at him."
Worf allowed himself his equivalent of a grin. "Commander Data does seem to have made a conquest," he said. He and Commander Riker lifted their glasses in Data's direction."
"What are you two toasting?" inquired Counsellor Troi, who had just entered with Doctor Crusher.
"Oh, the happy couple," Commander Riker said. Deanna and Beverly looked.
"They do seem to have hit it off," Beverly said.
"You certainly look lovely tonight," Commander Riker said to Counsellor Troi.
"Thank you, Will." Deanna smiled up at him .
"As do you, Doctor," Riker quickly added.
"Yeah, right," Beverly said. "Thank you."
But none of them could keep from gazing across the room at Data and Lieutenant Tolliver.
"They're so cute together," Deanna said. "Look---did Data almost drop something?"
"He's got it bad, all right," Beverly said, appending a sigh. "Look how he looks at her."
"Who looks at whom?"
"Captain!" Commander Riker said.
"We were remarking on...the couple," Beverly said, indicating them with a nod. Captain Picard looked across the room.
"Ah, yes. Well, anything that keeps Lieutenant Tolliver busy is certainly good for my morale."
"Does anyone know Lieutenant Tolliver's first name?" Beverly asked.
"I thought Lieutenant was her first name," Riker responded to stifled laughter.
"You are looking especially fetching tonight, Doctor," Captain Picard said to Beverly Crusher.
"Thank you, Jean-Luc."
"And you as well, Counsellor."
"Of course, Captain."
At that moment, Lieutenant LaForge, the last of the senior officers, arrived.
" Ah, Geordi, good. Now," the Captain began, gaining the attention of the group with one word, "the President is due to arrive in about twenty minutes. Senior officers will assemble in fifteen minutes outside this entrance to escort him."
"Very good, Captain," Riker said crisply.
Picard surveyed the room once more. "Looks like there will be a decent crowd," he said, nodding in approval.
"There should be," Counsellor Troi said. "Everyone aboard was invited."
"Everyone who Lieutenant Tolliver approved," Worf added. His admiration for her scrupulous attention to security was offset by his annoyance that she questioned his own procedures. So his tone was non-committal.
"My star patient is coming," Beverly said brightly. "Mr. Dieghan is excited. And lots of people in a familiar informal setting should be good for him."
"Good," the Captain said. "I'm looking forward to meeting him." His eyes sweeping across the room stopped and held, and he could not suppress a smile.
"Look at how she looks at him!" he said softly.
* * *
A half hour later, their grand entrance accomplished, the senior officers of the Enterprise were clustered near newly elected President Destes Songe. A reception line had formed and he was greeting everyone who desired to meet him, exchanging pleasantries and laughter.
At his side was Lieutenant Tolliver. Her high color made her look more vibrant than ever, Data observed, although he also felt a sense of loss. Her attentions until now had been focused on him, on their conversation, activities and later their tasks as they prepared for this reception. But ever since the President had arrived, she had barely glanced at Data.
To an extent, this was to be expected, of course. President Songe's safety, comfort and general welfare was her prime responsibility. But it did not require such total attention. If anything, her focus on President Songe was more intense than her remarkable attentiveness to him had ever been. And since they assembled outside the door for the President's entrance, she had not even glanced Data's way.
Now there she was, at the President's elbow, glowing. She laughed at every witticism, and looked up at him with rapt attention when he seemed to be saying something more serious. Under the pretext of hearing better what those in the reception line were saying, she managed to move even closer to the President's person. There was now no space at all between their bodies, as they greeted each person as if they were a couple.
Data noted these feelings, and monitored strange physical manifestations. He realized that he suddenly felt cold without cause, for he registered the external temperature as unchanged. Then he began to feel hot. This also had no external cause.
When Data began feeling his systems slowing down, though only by an infinitesimal fraction of a second, he considered deactivating his emotion chip. He did not feel that experiencing depression was appropriate if it compromised his functioning in a public situation.
But it was at that moment he had to move aside to permit stewards to pass among them with glasses for an official toast. As he took a flute of champagne for himself, he glanced back towards Lieutenant Tollier. The President was in earnest discussion with someone---Liam Diegham, the geologist being transported to Earth-while the Lieutenant was asking the crowd to let another steward through with the tray that held, among others, the President's drink. He did not take alcoholic beverages, Data knew. As a Trill, the President was a combination of the host (Destes) and the symbiont inside him (Songe.) Destes liked to drink, the President joked (many times, according to the records) but Songe did not. So his glass contained a Trill fruit juice, chilled with ice from the northern continent of Trianth 4.
Just this morning, Data and Denise (for that was Lieutenant Tolliver's first name) had spent over an hour making sure the constituents of this drink were on hand and ready, and that the drink itself would be prepared correctly and delivered without fail for the main toast of the evening.
But Denise did not even exchange with him so much as a glance acknowledging the success of their labor.
Data moved closer and into the semi-circle being formed by the Enterprise senior officers in front of President Songe. Captain Picard took a last glance around to make sure they were all ready, flutes and glasses in hand, and was about to speak.
But Lieutenant Tolliver, who had moved to the far edge of the semi-circle to face President Songe, suddenly bolted forward. Like lightning, her right arm reached up to the President's raised glass. She grabbed his wrist with her left hand, bringing it down to her eye level. Then with her right hand she reached into his drink and deftly plucked something out. She held it up to the light, and turned it. At first everyone was shocked. But those closest to her saw that what she held was not an unusually large piece of ice, but a fragment of glass.
A collective gasp turned into a murmur, as those farther away learned what had happened. The President looked at Lieutenant Tolliver as if seeing her for the first time, blinked, and then smiled reassuringly. His hands now being free, he led the applause.
"It looks like a piece of a broken champagne flute," Doctor Crusher said. "How did it get in the President's glass?"
"It's inexcusable!" Lieutenant Tolliver cried. "It was small enough to swallow! Not only the Destes host but the Songe symbiont could have been injured. I will conduct a thorough investigation of this extremely serious incident."
Data had taken the glass with the President's fruit juice and was examining it. He turned to Lieutenant Geordi LaForge.
"Geordi, what do you see?"
Thanks to his VISOR, Geordi LaForge could "see" in many ways humans could not, including variations in heat and density that could identify the signatures of chemicals that comprised specific substances.
"It isn't just the large fragment," Geordi said. "There's some crushed ice in there, but most of what appears to be ice is glass."
"I concur with that analysis," Data said.
"Then this is much more serious," Lieutenant Tolliver said. "Someone here has made an attempt on the President's life."
"Who on the Enterprise would do that?" Commander Riker said.
"I intend to find out," Lieutenant Tolliver said.
"I believe that is my function," Lieutenant Worf said, restraining his voice into what was for him a calm tone. "I am responsible for security on the Enterprise."
" I'm afraid that where the President is concerned, I supercede you," said Lieutenant Tolliver.
"A cooperative investigation would seem to be in order," Captain Picard stated.
"No, Captain," Tolliver quickly said. "This is a Federation matter of the highest priority and I will be in charge of the investigation. Besides, this ship's security is something that I must investigate."
Now Lieutenant Worf was no longer restraining himself. "Are you accusing me of something, Lieutenant?" he bellowed.
"This is not the appropriate place or time for me to answer that question," Tolliver said coolly. "But I certainly am concerned that a potential assassin almost succeeded, and that certain obvious suspects were allowed access to this gathering."
"What obvious suspects?" Worf said with heated sarcasm.
"That man there, for one," Tolliver said, her arm extended and her finger pointing. "Being transported for treatment of a condition that causes delusionary behavior, and yet here he is, standing next to the President of the Federation, at the very moment his life is threatened."
All eyes turned to Liam Dieghan. His eyes were wide with surprise.
Two security officers who had moved forward and had been watching the crowd, now quickly positioned themselves on either side of Dieghan, and were poised to take him into custody if that order was given.
"I want that man held for questioning," Tolliver commanded, and the security officers seemed about to obey.
"This has gone far enough, Denise," Commander Data said calmly but loud enough for everyone to hear.
"I beg your pardon, Commander Data," Tolliver said coldly, with pointed emphasis on his formal title.
"Mr. Dieghan is not responsible for the glass in the President's drink."
"And how would you know that?" Tolliver said. "Android intuition? He had access, he is unstable and he was recently on the northern continent of Trianth 4, and was the courier who supposedly brought aboard the fabled pure Trianth ice. I'd say someone who didn't take a long hard look at him would be incompetent."
While Tolliver and Worf glared at each other, Data spoke again, just as calmly as he had before.
"Mr. Dieghan is not responsible for the crushed glass in the President's drink," Data repeated. " I regret to say I believe you are, Denise."
"What?" Captain Picard said. "Mr. Data, I hope this is reason and not emotion speaking."
"I cannot necessarily separate the two at this moment," Data said. "But I believe my judgment is sound. I have been reviewing everything I have seen for the past several hours. As you know, Captain, I retain a visual record that I can examine at will, and I can subject any part of it to various forms of analysis through my tricorder, which provides access to the ship's computer. I have analyzed the last several hours in several ways. First, I focused on the steward carrying the President's drink. No one tampered with what appeared to be crushed ice in transit from the galley. When Denise---Lieutenant Tolliver accused Mr. Dieghan, I immediately focused on his movements since entering. He did not appear to have access to the galley or the storage area at any time."
"Oh, please, Data," Tolliver said. "Do you think this wasn't planned in advance?"
"Because Mr. Dieghan is a patient under observation, the computer has a complete visual log of his movements on the Enterprise," Data continued. "His periods without supervision were all spent in his quarters. Further, I have accessed the transporter logs, and verified that the ice he brought from Trianth was indeed chemically consistent with ice, and there is no trace of glass or any other foreign substance. The ice was in fact remarkably pure."
"What about the storage? And the galley?" Commander Riker inquired.
"Both of those areas were monitored for this mission. Records show that Lieutenant Worf secured the Captain's approval of this unusual precaution."
"Yes, he did," Captain Picard said. "Because of the President being aboard. What do those logs show?"
"There was no visible attempt to tamper with the ice in either location, not in the days since we left Trianth 4, and specifically not in the last several hours."
"Then you're saying that while Mr. Dieghan didn't do it, there isn't evidence of anyone else doing it either," Geordi LaForge said quietly.
"Not directly," Data said. "But there is evidence supporting my supposition that Denise---that Lieutenant Tolliver--- is responsible."
"What? That I wouldn't spend the night with you?" Tolliver said mockingly.
"That is an interesting interpretation of our date last night," Data said, "but my evidence is more specific, though it is circumstantial."
"Mr. President, this is improper procedure," Tolliver said quietly. "I feel like I'm in the midst of a lynch mob."
"That's a pretty insulting observation," President Songe said. "I don't think Captain Picard and the Enterprise crew should be characterized that way. This is not a trial, as I'm sure everyone here knows. Let Mr. Data finish his report and then Captain Picard and I will decide how to proceed."
Captain Picard nodded his assent. "Go ahead, Mr. Data," he said.
"There is no visual evidence of anyone tampering with the ice in the galley. But there is also a short gap of approximately 15 seconds in the security log. The galley was monitored with a portable system. It has a self-test mode which takes it off-line for 15 seconds. There are only a few people who know the code that initiates the self-test. One of them is Lieutenant Tolliver. Further, according to the time index of the gap, compared to the time index of the recording of my day, this gap occurred within the time this afternoon that Lieutenant Tolliver and I were in this room checking various systems, and she excused herself from my presence to 'powder her nose.'"
"That's your evidence?" Tolliver said. "It's as pathetic as you are. It proves nothing."
"What I have presented so far is circumstantial, I agree," Data said. "But so far I have only been concerned with the crushed glass that replaced the crushed ice."
"That's right," Geordi exclaimed. "There was that shard, that bigger piece that Lieutenant Tolliver saw, that started this whole thing."
"Correct, Geordi," Data said. He found it oddly comforting that his friend seemed to be on his side. This observation led to a new train of thought, perhaps a new insight into...
"Mr. Data," Captain Picard said sharply. "We are waiting."
"Sorry, Captain," Data said quickly. "I replayed my visual recording of the period in which the drinks were served for the formal toast. It shows Lieutenant Tolliver handling the President's drink for approximately 2.75 seconds. While I have been describing my prior investigations to you, I have subjected the recording of these seconds to a spectral analysis, which shows that the shard of glass was added at that time. And an enhanced version of what I saw at that moment shows that Lieutenant Tolliver indeed placed the shard of glass in the President's drink."
"Enhanced version?" Tolliver spat. "That would never be admissible in any court."
"But, Data," Doctor Crusher said, "assuming you're right, why would she replace the ice with crushed glass, and then add that shard when she risked someone seeing it?"
"Notice how she talks about me in the third person, like I'm not here," Tolliver said darkly. "Looks like Doctor Crusher has a crush on you, Data."
"I can answer your question only with a theory, Doctor," Data said. "I would surmise that Lieutenant Tolliver never meant to do harm to the President. She planted the shard so that she could legitimately notice it before the President could attempt to imbibe."
"So she could appear to rescue the President," Commander Riker said.
"I think the conspiracy is now evident, Mr. President," Tolliver said.
"But why the ground glass?" Counsellor Troi inquired.
"To make it appear to be an attempted crime rather than an accident," Data offered. "This possibility occurred to me when I recalled a comment Lieutenant Tolliver---Denise---made to me last evening. She stated that she hoped to impress the President, but there were so many other officers of higher rank with greater access to him, it would take something really big to get his attention."
"I did not say that," Tolliver said.
" I can provide the exact time index if you like," Data said. "And the place and circumstances."
"You're twisting what I said in confidence," she said. "You're a bitter boy, Data."
"I think we've heard enough for now," President Songe said.
"I agree," Captain Picard added.
"But don't break up the party," the President said. "What do you say, Captain?"
"Lieutenant Worf, please confine Lieutenant Tolliver to her quarters while the President and I confer," Captain Picard said. " Doctor Crusher, take charge of your patient. To be fair, Mr. Worf will assign a security officer to monitor his movements. Everyone else, make yourselves available to answer questions. Otherwise, standard security procedures in preparation for an investigation, Mr. Worf. And as much as I'd like to accede to the President's wishes, I think we've all had enough excitement for one evening. Ship's company is dismissed. Guests please proceed to your quarters."
Captain Picard waited until the President exited, escorted by two of Worf's best security officers. He watched as everyone else began leaving. As he turned to go he saw Data pass Lieutenant Tolliver and the security detail escorting her. He noted that they did not look at each other.
* * *
A week later Captain Picard summoned Commander Data to his ready room.
" I spoke with the President this morning." Captain Picard said, as he carried his cup of Earl Grey to his desk. "He's just moving into his office in Paris. Lucky man. He sends his regards and commendations to you, Mr. Data. Though unofficially."
"I gather no charges are being brought concerning the incident on the Enterprise," Data said.
"No. Your evidence, including the visual logs you provided, and your theory were convincing enough that Lieutenant Tolliver will be relieved of her responsibilities. But the President felt that a trial would be complicated, and no purpose served."
"I understand, sir. Her defense would say I was seeking revenge for thwarted desire."
"Something like that perhaps. But if she had no real intent to harm, criminal penalties seem inappropriate. There will probably be an administrative hearing at some point." Sitting now, Captain Picard waved Data to the seat opposite him.
"So have you discussed all this with Counsellor Troi?" the Captain asked. "Your feelings about all this, I mean."
"Yes, sir, I have," Data said. "Or as Counsellor Troi would say, I have begun to discuss it. Would you like a summary, sir?"
"Well, if you don't consider it prying, I am curious..."
"Yes, sir. It was a curious situation. The evening before the reception, on the date I had with...Denise. I discovered something most curious. After approximately 1.36 hours of conversation, I concluded that I did not like her. She was very ambitious, with no thought of others except how to "play" them, as she put it, and her interest in the world around her was limited to what affected her directly, her career in particular. I tried not to impose judgments on her, but I found that emotionally, all of this just...turned me off."
"However," Data continued, "and this is the part I find most curious, although I realized I did not like her, I was still attracted to her. In fact, in some ways, I was more attracted to her than ever."
Data paused for a moment and looked carefully at Captain Picard.
"You are not laughing," Data said. "When I mentioned this to Commander Riker, he found it very amusing."
Picard smiled. "I assume that's because he recognized that particular combination of contradictory feelings."
"Yes, that is what I concluded. But he was laughing so hard I could not get him to explain."
"But Data, if you still had feelings for her, wasn't it difficult to consider her a suspect?"
"It was," Data said, "and it was not. As I have analyzed my feelings since, I believe that when she stopped paying attention to me and started focusing her attention on the President, I felt jealous. So when the incident occurred, I was predisposed to think badly of her. However, at the same time, I felt guilty because of this feeling, and I felt that if I could prove she was not involved, she would like me again. But these contradictory feelings turned out to all motivate me to investigate the possibility that she was involved. Does this make sense?"
"For human beings, yes. We operate on mixed motives far more than we allow ourselves to know or believe."
"However, my feelings also blinded me to possibilities I might have considered earlier. For example, although I realized she was ambitious, I did not realize she could be dishonest to such an extent. And I am afraid that I did not see that her attentions towards me, while flattering, were meant to distract me."
"So you have in a sense experienced the most painful of the possible consequences of love," Captain Picard said softly. "Betrayal."
A long silence passed between them.
"I think I have understood one thing more," Data said finally. "It occurred to me while I was reporting my findings at the reception. I realized that the support of my friends gave me a warm feeling. I then understood why I asked you whether you thought less of me for being attracted to someone you did not like. It was because I value the insights of my friends, and I know they want only the best for me."
"It is certainly so that your friends here on the Enterprise want only the best for you," Captain Picard said, as he stood and walked behind his chair. "But you can't let the judgment of your friends substitute for your own judgment, particularly in relation to other people. We are all fallible, and we are none of us you. There have been many wonderful and lasting relationships, including marriages, between people that others fervently believed were unsuitable for one another."
" I see your point, sir. But I also find some solace in having experienced this series of perplexing emotions knowing that I had the concerned support of my friends."
"I see," Captain Picard said, and smiled. "Well, Data, you may have had a disappointing initiation in one kind of human love. But you seem to have found emotional meaning in another kind---the love friends have for one another."
"Yes, sir," Data said. For a moment he was unaccountably silent. "But I believe," he finally continued, "that I will take my emotion chip off-line for awhile. I will, as they say, give it a rest."
Data stood up and faced the Captain. "If there is nothing further, sir, I will return to my duties."
"Nothing further, Mr. Data. Dismissed."Home