In Orbit of Planet Terra Prime
Stardate 57392.9 (January 4, 2381)
“Have you made any progress in accessing the Bajoran Orb, Admiral?”
Picard glanced at Data as he tapped more variables into the control panel. “I’m afraid not, Mr. Data. Perhaps only an actual Bajoran can tap into whatever energy powers this orb.”
“Such a supposition is not supported by the available evidence,” Data countered. “On Deep Space Nine, both Captain Benjamin Sisko and—“
“I’m aware of recorded non-Bajoran orb encounters, Data,” Picard snapped. He instantly regretted it. “I’m sorry, Data. I’m afraid I lose my temper quite often these days.”
“Understandable, Admiral,” Data replied without emotion. Well, of course.
“I’ve been engaged in this task for three months now,” Picard said, leaning on the workbench upon which the orb rested. ‘I’ve called in every crew person with even a hint of psionic ability. But without an actual Bajoran, I fear that I will never be able to exhaust all avenues of speculation.”
Data was, as always, unmoved. “Have you attempted accessing Bajoran Database 1432?”
Picard nodded. “Of course.” The admiral threw his PADD down on the workbench. “Nothing.”
The door chimed, and both Picard and Data looked up. “Enter,” Picard said quietly.
Picard’s former first officer, now officially named the captain of the Enterprise
, entered the workspace. Picard had known the man for nearly twenty years, and had trusted him with his life many times over. And now, in this place of exile, Captain Worf was one of Picard’s closest confidants.
“Admiral,” Worf grumbled, ignoring the android. “We have completed sensor scans of the sector.” The Klingon, fitted now with a prosthetic arm, handed a PADD to the admiral. “As of now there is still no evidence of any spacefaring species within sensor range.”
“On the other hand, we have thirty-eight class-M planets,” Picard remarked. “So there is plenty of room to expand in the coming centuries.”
“It would appear so, sir."
Picard continued scanning the report. “Have you made any progress in selecting a breeding partner, Number One?”
Worf grunted. “No, sir. I’m afraid my duties have precluded such a…personal endeavor.”
Picard handed the Klingon the PADD. “I’m afraid it’s not so personal, Captain. Quite frankly, we need to introduce as much variety into our gene pool as we possibly can—and soon.”
“Mr. Worf,” Data said, “Have you considered mating with any of the—“
“Computer, freeze program,” Worf barked. The android froze.
“Something wrong, Captain Worf?” Picard said nonchalantly as he once again picked up the PADD containing all information gathered on the mystery Bajoran orb.
“I apologize, Admiral,” Worf said quietly. “It simply…bothers me to carry on a conversation with a simulacrum of a lost comrade.”
Picard nodded. “My apologies, Captain. I sometimes use Mr. Data as a sounding board for my more… unorthodox theories.” He glanced back at the frozen android. “Computer, end program Picard-47.”
Fleet Log, Stardate 57395.2: Under Captain Worf’s capable leadership, efforts to refit the remaining vessels in the fleet have proven quite successful and should be complete by the end of the year. Captain Gomez reports the planetary habitats can now accommodate one hundred more personnel. Captain Gomez estimates that the Terra Prime colony will be self-sufficient and able to comfortably fit everyone in the fleet within just three years.
I’m afraid I have not made any significant progress on accessing whatever might be contained inside the Bajoran artifact so inexplicably uncovered on Terra Prime three months ago. The odds of such an artifact turning up in a galaxy almost three million light years away is quite literally astronomical…
Jean-Luc Picard scanned the orb with a tricorder for what must have been the thousandth time. Probably a very low estimate
, he thought bitterly. Picard half-seriously considered firing a hand phaser at it, just to see what would happen. But while satisfying, that would probably have been…unwise.
Picard put the tricorder down and rubbed his face. He considered starting up the Data program, but thought better of it. Perhaps Worf was right to be bothered by the idea of talking to a simulacrum of someone that was now several lifetimes away. It was an example of holding on to the dead past, and letting go of that past was something Picard had been exhorting all of the Milky Way exiles to do for the last six months.
“Practice what you preach, Picard,” the admiral mumbled to himself. Perhaps he should simply delete the Data program altogether.
But the urge to call Data back was hard to resist. How many times had Picard given the android counsel onboard the Enterprise-D
, each time learning something new himself? How often had Picard marveled at how far the android had come, at how much potential there was for him to grow?
, Picard thought to himself with a slight shiver of cynicism. Where the biggest problem was whether or not the damned holodeck would try to kill you.
How he so deeply missed those times, though. How he missed sitting in that luxurious command chair, flying through space and meeting every challenge head-on. They had been legends—and rightfully so.
But that ship had been destroyed, and the Federation hadn’t survived much longer. ‘All good things must come to an end, Jean-Luc,’ Q had whispered in his ear.
“Sorry, Data,” Picard said to himself. “I think—I know you would understand.”
The slight hum of the ship’s engines was the only reply.
“Computer,” Picard said, closing his eyes. “Delete program Picard-47.”
“Program deleted,” the computer replied, without emotion. Well, of course.
Picard breathed deeply and opened his eyes. There. He had done it. Data was now safely in the dead past, in a past that was now spinning in space three million light years away.
And still, the orb sat on the workbench, silently mocking him with the secrets it contained. Picard did not know what to do about it, and the feeling was unpleasant. This was a mystery that nagged at him. In his younger days, before the coming of the Dominion, such a conundrum would have been a pleasure to slowly attempt to solve—and Picard would have been satisfied even if the problem had proven insoluble.
But not now.
Picard’s hand slowly moved towards the phaser holstered at his hip.
“No, damn it,” he muttered. “Don’t even think about it.”
But the orb continued to mock him with its silence. There was only so much scanning a man could do. Picard found himself gripping the phaser in his hand.
“A low setting,” Picard whispered to himself. “That is where I'll begin.”
Picard took aim and fired at the orb. For three seconds, the energy beam engulfed the artifact, and…nothing.
Three times Picard fired his weapon, setting the level higher each time. The phaser had no effect. Amazingly, the orb wasn’t even singed from the blasts.
The admiral finally set his phaser on the highest setting. If fired at a corporeal being at this setting, the energy beam would immediately vaporize the entity into its composite atoms. Firing the beam at a Bajoran orb could do exactly the same.
For a moment, nothing happened. Picard had just about holstered his weapon when suddenly—there it was! The orb began to radiate gorgeous red light. The holodeck was awash in a red glow as Picard found himself holding his breath. It was beautiful
. Wisps of energy hurled themselves out of the orb in a chaotic frenzy, and suddenly Picard was thrown back by a shockwave.
“Target the lead Jem’Hadar ship,” Picard interjected. “Attack pattern Picard-Zeta-Three.”
“Ready phasers, sir.”
Picard held up his hands to block out the red light, slowly growing in intensity.
“Captain Jean-Luc Picard, you lead the strongest ship of the Federation fleet. You speak for your people.”
“I have nothing to say to you, and I will resist you with my last ounce of strength."
“Strength is irrelevant. Resistance is futile. We wish to improve ourselves. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service ours.”
“Impossible. My culture is based on freedom and self-determination.”
“Freedom is irrelevant. Self-determination is irrelevant. You must comply.”
“We would rather die.”
Death is irrelevant Death is irrelevant Death is irrelevant Death is irrelevant Death is irrelevant
A small creature scurries quickly through a Jeffries Tube. The Enterprise’
s internal sensors have not yet been completely repaired after suffering extensive damage in battle, so the creature will likely not be detected and reported to the appropriate crewmembers.
It is an Earth field mouse. Stopping briefly, the mouse sniffs the air. Scrubbed oxygen. It continues its journey along the Jeffries Tube, slowly making its way to Main Engineering.