As an exercise, I've decided to write a prose version of The Best of Both Worlds, to develop my style and technique without needing to worry about the need to figure out plot. I've based this on the script for the episode (so if there are a few differences in stardates etc, that's why), and I've expanded on some scenes based on what was cut from the script. I've also created a few new scenes as well. I'm hoping that I've managed to capture the same feel as the episode. I'd love to hear your feedback! Teaser It had been the same for the last few nights. Always dark and hot, a vague sense of something chasing him as he ran down narrow corridors. Cold fingers just behind him, brushing against his uniform tunic, grasping, trying to pull him back into the darkness. And the voices… Whispering, chattering, but always just beyond his hearing. And then he’d stumble and fall and turn to face his pursuer, but always at that point he’d wake up, his sheets drenched in his own sweat. This night was no different. When Picard woke, he lay in his bed for a moment, composing himself, ignoring the discomfort of the sweat-soaked sheets. Over the years, he’d become quite skilled at pushing his emotions away, into the deep recesses of his mind. For the benefit of his crew, of course. Never let them see that you are anything but completely confident. Always act like you know exactly which path to take. If they saw that you were unsure, they’d lose faith, lose confidence, and in space, that could be fatal. Picard sighed, then pushed the sheets away. He swung his legs off the bed and pushed himself to his feet before heading towards the bathroom. He shrugged his pyjamas off as he entered, leaving them on the floor, then he activated the sonic shower, standing naked under the beam. He leaned heavily against the wall. Perhaps he should speak to Deanna. He checked the chronometer on the wall. Oh four hundred. He sighed again. Perhaps she’d have time for a quick chat about this before he went on duty. “Bridge to Captain Picard.” Worf’s deep voice pulled him back to reality. If he was being called from the bridge, he thought wryly, duty wasn’t going to wait for him. The only bad thing about being a starship captain was that he was never off duty. Picard turned off the shower. “What is it, Mister Worf?” “We are receiving a transmission,” Worf stated. “It is unintelligible, but seems to originate in the Jouret system.” “Could it be from our colony?” “Unknown,” said Worf. “However, the transmission is not coming from any of the planets.” “Acknowlged,” said Picard. “Have the conn set a course to intercept at warp eight and try to unscramble the transmission. I’m on my way.” Leaving the bathroom, Picard replicated a fresh uniform and walked out. Just as the door hissed open, he pulled his shoulders back and lifted his chin. To project confidence. * Picard stepped out onto the bridge before the turbolift doors had opened completely. “Report.” At Ops, Data turned to face him. “I’ve been analysing the transmission,” he said. “While I have not yet been able to determine the content, I have determined that it is from a Federation source. The computer is currently running the transmission through a fractal decryption pattern, which should be complete in a few hours.” “Mister Worf?” “I have been attempting to contact the colony since we received the transmission. I have had no luck. Ivor Prime reports that a data link with Jouret IV was broken approximately half an hour ago, and they haven’t been able to re-establish it. I’ve kept long range sensors concentrated on the Jouret system, but they have not detected anything unusual.” Picard turned to the conn. “Ensign Rager, how long before we arrive at Jouret IV?” “Fifteen hours, seventeen minutes, sir,” she said. “Increase speed to warp nine.” “Aye, sir.” Even with the Enterprise racing towards the Jouret system at warp nine, it would take them almost ten hours to reach it. Time seemed to pass slowly. This was the one thing that Picard hated. The waiting. Sitting with nothing to do, but fully aware of some looming emergency, the time seemed to drag out. And the closer the time for action came, the longer it seemed to drag out. It was enough to drive one mad. After two hours, Picard was contemplating going to his ready room, to rest, maybe try to get some sleep. He’d need to be alert when they reached Jouret IV. True, it could be something as simple as a damaged reactor that cut off power to the colony’s communications system, and that last garbled message had been a call for repairs, but in Picard’s experience, things were rarely so easy to deal with. There was an old expression: hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. And while he was hoping that the Enterprise would reach orbit and be greeted by a colony that needed a new part for their reactor, he was preparing for anything, from a medical emergency to taking the Enterprise into battle with a heavily armed fleet of Romulan warbirds. Data’s console beeped softly, breaking the boredom that had stifled the bridge. “The computer has finished, sir,” said Data. “I believe that the message may be intelligible.” “Play it, Mister Data.” A burst of static came over the speakers, then, barely audible through the white noise, a voice. “…is Commander Hawth … eneral distress … acked by alien vess … to defend! Please assist, repeat …” The transmission ended abruptly. “Records indicate that a Commander Hawthorn is in command of the outpost,” said Data. Picard ignored him. “Ensign Rager,” he said, “increase speed to maximum.” * Captain’s log, Stardate 43994.1. The Enterprise has arrived at Jouret IV in response to a distress signal from one of the Federation’s outermost colonies. The Enterprise had been conducting long range scans of the system for fully five hours before they entered it, and as they grew closer, sensors picked up an emergency log buoy. The distress signal was coming from it. The Enterprise headed straight for the fourth planet, but sensor scans revealed nothing. In this, Picard was not surprised. This close to the Romulan neutral zone, secrecy was of paramount importance, and the fourth planet had been chosen because it’s atmosphere produced a great deal of interference, rendering all but the most basic sensor scans useless. And so, with no way to ascertain what had happened from orbit and the colony remaining completely silent, Picard ordered an away team. William Riker was the last of the team to enter the transporter room. Picard had given him his orders on the bridge before he left. Nothing fancy, just beam down, find out what happened and beam back. No more than ten minutes. And if they couldn’t find out, then Picard would order another away team, heavily armed. There would be no risks taken today. So, when Riker came in, the rest of the team – Geordi, Data and Worf, were already standing at the foot of the transporter platform. “Anything from the surface?” Riker asked. It was a long shot, yes, but he had been holding out hope that somehow the Enterprise had managed to establish contact, or someone on the planet had been able to repair whatever damage they’d experienced. Worf’s expression told him otherwise. “No sir. There have been no communications from the colony for over twelve hours.” “Sensors picking up any signs of life?” Worf shook his head. “None.” Riker turned to O’Brien, a question look. “The surface environment is safe for transport, Commander,” O’Brien told him. Riker nodded, and the away team stepped up onto the transporter pad. “Energize,” he said. * The away team materialised on what was supposed to be a grassy field, the town square in the middle of the colony. But the sky was dark, with a thick cloud of dust hanging on it, and the ground itself was covered with dirt, soil and rocks, some larger than the prefabricated houses that the colonists had lived in. Riker coughed and kicked the ground with his foot. The layer of dust was fairly thin, and where he had kicked it away, he could see grass, still green, just starting to lose its colour and turn brown. He guessed that however the ground had gotten this coating of dust, it had happened at the same time that contact with the colony was lost. Riker looked around. Wherever he was, it wasn’t the colony he had been expecting. Standing in the town square, he should have been seeing the village off to the east, and the science labs, colony operations and the fusion reactor to the west. But there was nothing. He tapped his combadge. “Mister O’Brien, verify these are accurate coordinates for the New Providence colony.” There was a slight pause as O’Brien double checked. “Coordinates verified, sir,” he said. “You’re at the center of town.” Riker glanced at the rest of the away team. Geordi was looking around, and even though there was concern on his face, Riker knew that the blind engineer was using his visor to try to find some indication as to what happened. Worf was standing in a ready stance, prepared for action, his hand hovering within reach of the phaser on his hip. And Data had a tricorder in his hand, performing scans. Riker nodded his head, an unmistakable follow me gesture, and he lead the way through the rubble and boulders to the west. It was awkward going across the littering of small stones. As they stepped around a larger than average boulder, they stopped short. Stretching away from them into the distance, was a huge great chasm, a great rip in the surface of the planet. As though the crust itself has been scooped out and carried away. And, as bizarre as this was, Riker had seen it before. Eight thousand light years away, having been flung far from Federation space, the Enterprise had encountered this exact same phenomenon. Riker’s blood ran cold. If what had happened in system J-25 had happened here as well, then it could mean only one thing. The Borg had reached Federation space.