Captain Picard sat stone still in his office.
"Come on Dix, where's the money", said the man holding the machine gun.
"I don't have it", Picard said, "I don't have your money."
The man with the gun began to pace around the room, looking nervously out windows. He wasn't paying Picard much attention. Picard slowly reached for the gun on his desk. "Captain to the Bridge", came Data's monotone voice over the intercom.
"Damn", muttered Picard. "Freeze program." He picked his hat up off the desk and put it on. "Save program, and end simulation."
Several minutes later, the Captain emerged onto the Bridge. He was now in his cranberry colored uniform. The Dixon Hill scenario of which he was so fond, was now a distant memory.
"Captain", began Riker as Picard took his seat, "Star Fleet has ordered us to proceed at once to Alagon Seven."
"For what purpose Number One?"
"Admiral Burke did not elaborate beyond saying we were to rendezvous with the Starship Oregon. He also said we could exceed warp speed limitations for the duration of this voyage." The First Officer handed the Captain an isolinear optical chip.
"Set course for Alagon Seven warp eight", commanded Picard. "Engage. Mr. Data, how long until we reach Alagon Seven?"
"Two hours nineteen minutes", replied the android.
"I'll be in my ready room Number One", said the captain.
The Captain went to his ready room and sat down behind his desk. Picard knew the Oregon's Captain, Jack Harris, and was curious as to what was going on. He placed the isolinear optical chip in the slot on his desk, and he called up the information.
Captain's Log, stardate ___________, Captain Jack Harris in command of the Starship Oregon. Although I have only been Captain of this vessel for a few months, my new crew and I are getting along well. They are a good crew and I look forward to a long stint as their Captain. Our current assignment is the routine supplying of outposts in this sector.
The Bridge of the Oregon was laid out much the same as any Starship. The OPS and CONN positions were set close to the view screen. The Captain's chair, as well as the seats for the First Officer and ship's Counselor were behind them. The tactical station and science stations were located to the rear of the Bridge.
Captain Jack Harris had been made Captain only a few months ago. He had served for six years as First Officer aboard the USS Hood. He had jumped at the opportunity to become a First Officer. He had come to the Hood after serving as a top aid at Starfleet headquarters for three years. He had sworn he would never take a desk job, but it was a very prestigious position, and included a promotion to Lieutenant Commander. To be offered the Oregon after only six years back in space was a tremendous achievement.
Captain Harris sat stiffly in his command chair. His hawk like features sat atop his tall frame. He had short brown hair, and blue eyes. He looked out over the Bridge before him. He was pleased with his new command.
"Mr. Jones, status report", said the Captain in an easy voice.
"Current course for Star Base 16, speed, warp six", replied the tall man at OPS.
Captain Harris knew that would be his answer, but felt he should check anyway. To Harris's right sat Commander Kent Wilkins. He was tall with short dark hair. To his left sat the ship's Counselor Sarrah James. Captain Harris had served with her aboard the USS Hood when he was a First Officer. He had requested her to be assigned to the Oregon. She was a Betazoid. Her telepathic and empathic abilities were extraordinary.
His Second Officer was Lieutenant Commander Joshua Jones. He was short compared to the Captain. He was at one time Chief Engineer of the USS Crazy Horse, but then had taken a post at a research station. He had recently decided he wanted to get back into space.
"Captain, incoming message from Star Fleet Command", came the voice of Security Chief Tony Hobbs at tactical.
"Put it on screen", said the Captain.
"Captain Harris, It's nice to see you."
"Admiral Burke, this is an unexpected pleasure."
"Likewise Captain. I trust everything is going well."
"That's excellent, Captain. You have new orders. You are to proceed to Alagon Seven, the last known location of the Starship Hope."
A bad feeling came over the Captain. "The Hope. That's Tom Jennings' ship", said the Captain anxiously.
"Yes it is, but we have lost contact with them. Their last report said their warp drive was malfunctioning. That was two weeks ago."
"We will investigate immediately."
"Thank you Captain, Burke out."
"Helm set course for Alagon Seven, warp nine", said the Captain.
Harris turned to his First Officer, "You have the Bridge Commander. I will be in my ready room."
"Aye, Sir." replied Commander Wilkins.
After the Captain left the Bridge, Commander Wilkins turned to Counselor James. "Sarrah, do you sense anything strange from him."
"He is terribly upset. I first sensed it when Admiral Burke mentioned the Hope. Kent, I think that Captain Jennings is a friend of the Captain."
"Sarrah, I think you should speak to him."
She nodded and rose from the chair. She walked to the Captain's ready room and waited for the door to open.
The door opened and she stepped into the room. She saw the Captain staring out his view port at the stars. "Is something wrong Captain?"
"Sarrah", he began, "why do all counselors ask questions they already know the answers to?"
"It is always better for someone to say what is on their mind instead of being told", the slim Betazoid replied.
The Captain hesitated. "Have a seat Counselor." She sat down in the chair facing his desk. Harris could not stop the thoughts of his friend from coming, and that forced his decision. "Alright, I'll tell you. Tom Jennings and I have been best friends since we were kids. We were inseparable. We entered the Academy together, took the same courses, and even got posted to the same ship. Nine years ago we were both Lieutenants aboard the Delaware. We beamed down to Beta Asnew Six to do an ecological survey. I was in command of the away team. I entered a cave to look for specimens against his advice."
"Then what happened?"
The Captain continued, "There was a cave in, and I was injured, and trapped. Tom came in after me."
"Couldn't they beam you out", she asked?
"No", he replied with a sigh, "The cave walls contained transport inhibiting metals. Tom came in and helped me get out. As we left the cave the mouth of the cave collapsed. He threw me out of the way, and took the full force of falling rocks. He nearly died, and he saved my life."
"So now you feel you should be there for him."
"Yes. I am going to, in all probability, find that his ship has been destroyed", he said, with a slight quiver in his voice.
"You don't know that, Sir. They may just be having severe technical difficulties. Even if the ship was destroyed, they could have escaped to the planet."
"You may be right, Counselor, but until I know, I cannot allow myself that hope. Usually if Star Fleet loses contact with a ship, there is a good chance that the ship has been destroyed. I must prepare to help the people who were on that ship, in case they survived. Alagon Seven is M class, they could have gone there." Speaking into the intercom he said, "Harris to Burkley."
"Doctor, get Sick Bay ready. We may have incoming wounded when we reach Alagon Seven."
"Aye Sir", was the Chief Medical Officer's reply.
"Captain", began Sarrah, "Maybe you should get some rest. It will be several hours before our arrival, and I can tell you are very tired."
"I will, but I will rest in here. I cannot afford to be away from the Bridge. Dismissed."
With that Sarrah left the ready room and returned to the Bridge. Harris went to his couch and sat down. It went through his mind to go down to the holodeck for some boxing, his favorite sport. However, he decide against it. He laid down and before long fell into a deep sleep.
Commander Kent Wilkins had had a long and distinguished career in Star Fleet. Two and a half years ago he was the Second Officer aboard the USS Yorktown. The Yorktown was patrolling the border between the Federation and Gorn space. There was a malfunction in the warp drive and an explosion. The ship drifted into Gorn space. While repairs were being made, The Captain and First Officer were killed while inspecting the damage. Another explosion soon after knocked out all propulsion and weapon systems. This explosion took the life of a civilian, Kent Wilkins wife. Even though he had suffered a terrible personal tragedy, Kent assumed command of the ship. While they were still drifting, a fleet of five Gorn ships approached armed to attack. With some great bluffs, and a brilliant but unauthorized impersonation of a Star Fleet Admiral, Wilkins stalled the Gorn ships long enough to finish repairs and get back to Federation space. He was honored with one of Star Fleet's highest honors.
"So, Sarrah, are you telling me he is not fit for command?", asked Commander Wilkins, bluntly.
"No. At least not yet. He is very upset. Almost to the point of being unable to function, but he is controlling himself. He is under a tremendous emotional strain."
Commander Wilkins turned to look out at the stars. He always thought that the observation lounge had a nice view. "Thank you Sarrah. You will let me know if there is a problem?"
"Of course Kent." She rose and left the observation lounge.
Commander Wilkins just stared out the window hoping that he would not have to relieve his Captain of command. He had always, as a habit, kept an eye on the Captain of whatever ship he was on. It was sort of a nervous habit. He liked Captain Harris, but knew that the safety of the ship came first. Historically, people who suffer personal tragedies need some time to recover. Many ships have been lost because people don't take that time.
Lieutenant Jack Harris and the team of ecologists he led materialized on Beta Asnew Six. "Spread out and collect some samples, we don't have all day", said Lieutenant Harris. "Tom, I'm going to collect some samples of rock from that cave over there."
"I wouldn't, Jack. It doesn't look very safe", said Lieutenant Jennings.
"Tom, I would like to get back to the ship some time this week. I'll be fine."
"Suit yourself, I'm not coming in after you if it caves in."
With that Jack walked into the cave. Several minutes after he entered the cave, he heard a loud rumble, and the ceiling collapsed. He tried to scream, but could make no sound. He was trapped.
"Jack! Jack!", a voice called, but he could not respond. His chest was constricted by the boulders.
Several minutes later, Tom was standing over him. "I'll get you out of here Jack", said Tom. Within ten minutes, Tom had phasered away enough debris to pull Jack out. Jack was not badly hurt. He walked out under his own power. He stopped at the mouth of the cave and leaned against the wall to catch his breath.
Jack heard another rumble, and was thrust out of the cave to the ground. He rolled over, to see the cave collapse on top of Tom.
Captain Harris sat up on his couch, sweat pouring from his brow. He could not get the image of Tom being hit by the boulders from his mind. He sat for a few minutes, and then went into an uneasy sleep.
Several hours later Harris awoke to the sound of his First Officer's voice on the intercom. "Captain Harris to the Bridge."
Harris bounded from the couch, hurried from his ready room, and entered the Bridge.
"Status", demanded the Captain.
"Captain", began Wilkins, "we are approaching Alagon Seven at impulse power"
"Standard orbit Mr. Jones", commanded the Captain. "Scan for vessels in the area."
A moment later he got a response. "Captain, there do not appear to be any vessels in the area", came Tony Hobbs voice.
Harris had hoped that they would find the Hope upon their arrival.
"Computer, what is known about this planet", asked the Captain.
"Alagon Seven is a class M planet with minimal vegetation and no known animal inhabitants. The planet has not been explored."
"Scan the planet", ordered Wilkins.
"Captain", came the hurried reply from tactical, "there are two wrecked space vessels on the planet's surface."
"Life signs", snapped Harris a ray of hope entering his mind.
"The planet's magnetic atmosphere is blocking life signs", was the reply.
"Sir", said Mr. Hobbs, "I am receiving the transponder signal from the Hope. It's one of the crashed ships."
"Why wasn't she destroyed in the atmosphere."
"This planet", began Jones, "has an unusually magnetic atmosphere. Magnetic waves travel from the surface to the outer edge of the atmosphere and back. There have only been a couple of other planets ever discovered with this phenomenon. It is likely that the Hope started to fall into the atmosphere and became caught in a magnetic wave. It would have cushioned the impact to some degree."
"Hail the Hope", said Harris.
"No response sir", said Hobbs, "But I don't know if they're receiving us."
"What about the other ship", asked the Captain. "Can you tell me anything about it."
"If equipment is functioning normally Sir", said Jones, "the other vessel appears to be at least several thousand years beyond our technology. Judging from the area around the ship it appears that the ship has been there for approximately one thousand years."
The Captain thought he was hearing things. "Confirm."
"Confirmed Sir, the vessel is over one thousand years old."
The Captain could not fathom a vessel of that age being here. But there wasn't time for that now. He had to concentrate on the Hope.
"Scan the wreckage of the Hope for any signs of an internal explosion", ordered the Captain.
After a moment he got a response. "It appears", began Jones, "that they had some sort of internal explosion."
"Did they lose antimatter containment."
"No. I believe they ejected the core into space. I am reading the residual effects of an antimatter explosion."
"Commander, you have the Bridge. I am going down there to investigate", said the Captain. "Mr. Jones, with me. Summon Doctor Burkley to transporter room two."
Alagon Seven was a remote, and ordinary planet. It was very much like earth, except that there was very little animal life.
The three materialized twenty meters from the Hope. They proceeded to the ship. The area had sustained a lot of damage. The Hope had hit the planet hard.
"Scan for life signs Doctor", said Harris.
"Scans indicate one life sign, human", replied Burkley.
When they reached the ship, they could clearly see that a large portion of the warp nacelles had been torn off, and there was a lot of damage near the engineering section.
"They must have been able to seal off the engineering section, or they would have lost their atmosphere", said Jones. "The damage would be consistent with the residual energy pattern I detected in space."
They entered the ship through an open escape hatch, and proceeded through the wrecked ship towards the Bridge. Harris thought it was odd to see a Starship with dark corridors. The dim lights cast an eerie glow. At least the batteries were running or it would have been totally dark. Along the way they saw evidence that at least part of the crew survived the crash. The open hatch indicated that. Tables and chairs were put upright with med kits and other things on top of them.
"Doctor, are you sure some one is alive on the Bridge?", asked the Captain.
"Yes, without question, but they are not going to last long", was the reply.
The turbo lift door was jammed shut, but it was doubtful that it had power any way, so they used the Jefferies tube. The first person on the Bridge was the Doctor. He went immediately to the man laying on the floor. The Captain emerged last.
"Can you save him Doctor", asked the Captain.
"I don't know. My tricorder is picking up minuscule subspace distortions in his body I have never seen anything like it. He seems stable though, so we can beam him up."
Only then, as the Doctor moved, could the Captain see the man's face.
"Tom!", cried the Captain.
"Burkley to transporter room. Two to beam directly to Sick Bay."
As the Doctor and his patient disappeared, the Captain regained his composure.
"Mr. Jones, have you noticed that no one else is on the Bridge."
"You are right Captain. That is very strange."
"The emergency generators are on, but the computer is not working. Scan for other life signs."
"There are no other life signs, but I am detecting something in the main shuttle bay", Jones replied.
"What is it", said Harris.
"I don't know."
As Harris looked around the Bridge, he noticed a book lying in the Captain's chair. He picked it up and glanced through it.
"This appears to be some sort of alien text", muttered the Captain. He could see where a wax seal had been removed.
"Wilkins to Harris", came over the Captain's communicator.
"Harris here. Have you found anything up there", asked the Captain.
"Yes, we found the Hope's log buoy intact. It appears it was launched to coincide with one of the magnetic waves. When the wave started to move toward the planet again, the speed it had attained was enough to get it free of the magnetic field."
"Excellent. We are continuing our investigation. Harris out."
"Let's check out that shuttle bay", ordered the Captain.
They went through the Jefferies tube and proceeded to the Shuttle bay.
When they arrived at the shuttle bay, they nearly gagged on the scent of death in the air.
"My god", said Jones, "It's a giant morgue."
Captain Harris looked into the giant room. There were hundreds of bodies stacked on top of each other. Some looked as thought they had died while moving others.
"Harris to Oregon, we've seen enough here. Lock on to us and beam us to the other vessel."
They rematerialized outside of a strange looking alien vessel. "Scan the alien vessel, Mr. Jones."
"My scans will not penetrate the ship."
The ship was gold colored with black circular insignias of some kind all over it. "Mr. Jones, scan for a way in."
"Captain, there appears to be an access door directly in front of us. There is a panel that seems to accept hand prints", reported Jones.
They walked to the panel and the Captain placed his hand on it.
The Captain's intercom sounded, "Wilkins to Harris."
"Harris here, go ahead."
"Captain there is a large energy build up in the alien vessel. It's reaching critical levels. If we are in orbit when it explodes, we may be destroyed."
"Beam us up, raise shields, and warp to a safe distance", cried Harris.
The Captain arrived on the Bridge several minutes later, just in time to see the explosion destroy the entire planet.
"Commander, alert Star Fleet as to what has happened and request instructions. I'll be in Sick Bay", ordered the Captain as he headed for the turbo lift. "Staff meeting in one hour, I want to know what caused that explosion, and what's in the Hope's logs. Mr. Jones is analyzing an alien text we found."
"Understood", said the First Officer.
Captain Harris arrived in Sick Bay shortly after leaving the Bridge.
"How is he, Doctor?", asked the Captain.
"I'm sorry Jack, there is nothing I can do", came the monotone voice of the Doctor.
"Is he conscious?"
"Yes, for now, but he won't last long", replied the Doctor. "Don't ask him what happened on the planet, his short term memory has been affected in some way."
Captain Harris walked over to the figure lying on the table. "Tom", said the Captain.
"Jack, is that you?", came the lifeless response.
"Yes Tom, it's me."
"Well how are you doing, Jack?"
"Isn't that my line Tom."
"I'm dying. How should I be doing."
A sick feeling came of Captain Harris. "I'm sorry Tom."
"Sorry?", Tom asked quizzically, "sorry for what?"
"I let you down. I was not here in time to help you, like you helped me get out of that cave."
Tom reached out and grabbed Jack's hand. "Jack, you don't have to be sorry. It wasn't your fault. Jack you are my best friend. Don't blame yourself", he said slowly. With that he closed his eyes, and slipped into oblivion.
"Jack...", began the doctor.
"What killed him doctor?", growled the Captain as Tom's lifeless hand slipped from his.
"I don't know yet", was the reply. "Once we got back to Sick Bay, the subspace distortions had disappeared. However, I think that my tricorder may have been affected by the magnetic waves on the planet."
"I want some answers at the staff meeting at 1500 hours", ordered the Captain, "and tell Commander Wilkins to notify Star Fleet about Captain Jennings' death."
With that, he left Sick Bay and headed for the holodeck. His anger flared inside him. He wanted to destroy whatever killed Tom.
When he reached his destination he said, "Computer, access Harris boxing program, maximum difficulty."
"Maximum difficulty requires command authorization for deactivation of holodeck safe guards", said the Computer.
With that he entered the holodeck.
"Computer, disengage holodeck safe guards, authorization, Harris-Alpha-Omega-Six-One."
"Holodeck safeguards disengaged."
"Begin program", said the Captain. He walked over to a table outside the ring, and retrieved his gloves. He put them on, and jumped into the ring.
He attacked his opponent with fury. Several minutes later his opponent was weakening. This powerful opponent who should have beat him to a pulp couldn't touch him. He took out his anger at what killed Tom on the nameless computer image.
Just then the door opened and in ran Sarrah James. "Captain", she said. He looked at her, blind rage in his eyes. "Computer, end program", she said. Everything disappeared, and they were left standing on an empty holodeck.
Harris collapsed against the wall and began to cry.
She walked over to him, sat down beside him, and put her arm around him.
Several minutes later he composed himself, "How did you know something was wrong", he said slowly.
"I could feel your anger from the Bridge."
"I lost control. Tom was my best friend in the galaxy, and I was too late to save him." Captain Harris had never felt such despair in his life.
"We still have forty minutes until the staff meeting. Lets go to my office and talk."
They stood and exited the holodeck.
When Harris and James entered the observation lounge, The Captain found what he expected. Wilkins, Burkley, Jones, Hobbs, and Chief Engineer Harry Arnold were seated around the table. The Captain and Sarrah took their seats and the meeting began.
"First of all", the Captain began, "Doctor what killed Captain Jennings?"
"I don't know", was the response, "it seems to be some sort of virus, but I can't find the cause".
"Could it be contagious?"
"I have explored all known ways of transmission, but I can't find any way it is being transmitted if it actually is on board", said the Doctor.
"What is the probability that the virus came from the planet", asked Harris?
"I don't know. Tricorder readings detected no virus down there. The autopsy revealed nothing", replied the Doctor.
"Very well." Harris was not really satisfied with this answer. "What made the planet explode?", said the Captain.
"It appears", began the Chief Engineer, "that when you attempted to enter the alien vessel, you triggered a self destruct device that blew up the ship".
"Then what destroyed the planet?", questioned the Captain impatiently.
"It would seem to have been the result of a release of antimatter. The alien vessel must have used an extremely large amount of antimatter for an explosion of that size", said the Chief Engineer.
"Commander Wilkins, did you find anything in the logs", asked Harris?
"The log", began Wilkins, "indicates that they crashed, but most of the crew survived. They rode in on a magnetic wave as we suspected. They found the alien text the first day. People began to get sick several days later. It appeared to be a virus, but they could find no cause. When everyone else died Captain Jennings launched the log buoy."
"Mr. Jones", said the Captain, "what has your analysis of the alien manuscript uncovered?"
"I can't even begin to decipher it. It is very strange. All the symbols are drawn within circles. There are no two circles the same in the book. The only possibility I can see is that it is some sort of Rosette Stone, but there seems to be no way to decipher it."
Captain Harris felt as if he had more questions than he had answers. "Is there anything else?", the Captain said.
"Yes", replied Wilkins, "Star Fleet is sending the Enterprise to help us piece together this mystery."
"Very well. Until we know what killed the Hope's crew, this vessel is quarantined", said the Captain.
The officers nodded their approval and began to leave.
"Mr. Wilkins", called the Captain, "may I see you for a moment."
When everyone else left Captain Harris began, "Kent, I have thought about this a great deal, and Counselor James agrees. I am temporarily relieving myself of duty."
A feeling of relief washed over Commander Wilkins.
"I understand, Captain." Commander Wilkins turned to leave and then stopped. "Captain, I'm sorry about Captain Jennings. I know you were close."
"Thank you Kent", came the reply. The First Officer exited the room.
The Captain knew he had to contact his old friend Jean-Luc, but for now he just sat and stared out the window at the stars.
After reading the reports, Picard thought he should see what his old friends had been up to. "Computer, show me the service records for Captain Tom Jennings, and Captain Jack Harris. He studied the reports which flashed onto his screen with a measure of sadness. He knew both of them, but it had been many years since he had seen them. He knew that Tom and Jack were best friends, and that Jack must be devastated. He went to the replicator.
"Tea, Earl Gray, hot."
He returned to his desk and sat down. As he sipped his tea, he realized that there was a duty to perform when they arrived. As senior Captain, it would be his duty to give the eulogy at Captain Jennings entombment. He knew that Tom wanted his remains shot via photon torpedo into an unnamed star. Tom may have been a little strange in that regard. He had no family to notify. He called up the records of the Alagon star system. He found that the star in the Alagon system was nameless. At least he could carry out Captain Jennings wishes quickly.
"Captain Picard to the Bridge", came Riker's voice.
"On my way", Picard replied.
When the Captain emerged onto the Bridge, he saw on the main view screen a familiar face.
"Jack", said Picard as he walked to the center of the Bridge, "It's been a long time."
"Yes it has Jean-Luc. I just wanted to inform you that I have relieved myself of command", said Jack.
Picard was stunned. "Why?"
"Can we talk in private?", asked Captain Harris.
"Of course. Mr. Worf, put Captain Harris through to my ready room."
"Aye sir", replied the big Klingon.
In his ready room, Picard sat down and turned on his view screen. "Jack, why have you relieved yourself of command?", asked Picard.
"Jean-Luc, Tom's death has had a tremendous effect on me. I felt it was the prudent thing to do. I have been talking with my ship's Counselor, and she agrees it is best for the time being. I have quarantined the Oregon because of the possibility of an alien virus. Commander Wilkins will brief you when you arrive."
"Jack, there is one other matter we must attend to."
"Yes, I know. The preparations are already being made."
"Good. Also, I have thought about it and I feel that you should give the eulogy", said Picard.
"Thank you Captain. Harris out." With that the screen went blank, and Captain Picard was left alone with his thoughts.
Captain Picard sat down in his command chair, "take us out of warp Ensign."
The screen was littered with small chunks of planet. The remains of Alagon Seven.
"Hail the Oregon", ordered Picard.
"I have them sir", said Worf.
"Hello Captain", said Commander Wilkins.
"Captain, I would like to brief you and your staff immediately", said Wilkins.
"Certainly Commander. We'll hail you as soon as I've summoned my staff. But first, is Captain Harris there?", asked Picard.
"Yes. We are ready for the ceremony", said Wilkins.
"We are as well."
All the members of the two Bridge crews rose, and Captain Harris's image filled the screen.
"We are gathered here today to pay final respects to Captain Tom Jennings. Tom was a man whom you could not help but like. He was a good Captain, and held ill will towards no one. I was proud to call him a friend." He paused. "As per the wishes of Captain Tom B. Jennings of the Starship Hope, I do hereby commit his body to this star. From this point forward this star will be referred to as Jennings' Star. Fire torpedo."
The torpedo rocketed away from the ship towards Tom's fiery grave in the cold depths of space. The screen went blank.
The observation lounge aboard the Enterprise was used quite often. Many meetings had taken place at the long curving table. The large windows were one of the best views on the ship.
The Enterprise's senior staff was seated in the observation lounge. Commander Wilkins gave them the entire report on the situation.
"Captain Picard with your permission I would like to beam over the alien text", said Wilkins.
"Do you think there could be any chance of contaminating the Enterprise?"
Doctor Burkley answered his question. "I have checked all known forms of transmission and have found no evidence that it is being transmitted by that book or any other way", replied Wilkins. "We are not even sure the virus is on board. We are not one hundred percent sure that the Enterprise will not be infected."
"Very well. Under the circumstances I think it is an acceptable risk. We shall see if we can decipher the book", replied Picard.
"Commander Data", Picard began, "I want you to analyze that book."
"Aye Sir", replied the android.
"Commander Wilkins", began Picard, "what about the Oregon. Do you have any idea when we will know if the quarantine is warranted?"
"We'll have to wait and see", said Wilkins, "If that is all Captain", Picard nodded, "Wilkins out."
"Is there anything further?", asked Picard of his crew.
"Yes", spoke up Beverly Crusher. "I would like to review Captain Jennings autopsy records."
"I am sure that can be arranged Doctor."
When no one spoke he continued, "This meeting is adjourned. We will reconvene when Mr. Data has information about the text."
As the officers began to leave Picard said, "Mr. Data come with me to transporter room two to get the book."
The android responded with a nod.
Picard and Data walked through the Bridge to the turbo lift. "Transporter room two", said Picard.
"Captain", began Data as the turbo lift descended. "I have recently been pondering a question and would like your insight."
"Of course", said Picard.
"I have been wondering about the Vulcan proverb, 'the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one', and I was wondering what meaning it has to you."
"Hold", commanded Picard stopping the turbo lift. Picard wondered if Data would ever ask an easy question. "Data that's a tough question. As a Star Fleet Captain I must put the needs of the larger portion of the crew first. There have been times when I have had to separate from the Saucer to fight an enemy and allow the Saucer to escape." Picard thought for a moment. "It also means that I must put my crew before myself. I can't allow my feelings in a situation to control my course of action. I also must not let my own safety interfere. However, there are times when that proverb does not apply. Such as destroying an enemy vessel that has more people on board than us. I have had to make decisions like this on many occasions."
"I see, Sir", said Data, "Thank you. It is a decision I hope I never have to make."
"Data, you already have."
"I do not understand."
"Think about it. We can talk more later."
"Thank you, Sir."
"Resume", said Picard, and they proceeded to the transporter room.
"Energize", said Picard.
On the transporter pad a small book materialized. Picard reached down and picked it up. He opened it and glanced through it. It was filled with circular symbols. They did not look familiar to him.
"Data", began Picard, "it looks like you have your work cut out for you."
Data nodded, took the book and exited the transporter room. Picard headed for his quarters for some rest.
Beverly Crusher sat at her desk in her office. She read the reports of Captain Jennings' death very carefully. There was not much to go on. The cause of death was inconclusive, and there was no information on the symptoms of the virus.
"Computer. Open a channel to Doctor Burkley on the Oregon. A moment later, her screen flashed on.
"Hello Doctor Crusher, what can I do for you?", said Burkley.
"I was looking over the autopsy reports on Captain Jennings' body. I was wondering about the subspace distortions", replied Crusher.
"Well", began Burkley, "There was no trace of the distortions when we reached the ship. I believe the planets magnetic waves were affecting my readings.
"Doctor Burkley, please scan your vessel for those distortions."
"I shall, if you think they may mean anything. Burkley out."
"Crusher to Bridge."
"Will can you scan the ship for any subspace distortions?"
"Certainly Doctor, but why."
"I can't explain now. Please just do the scan."
"Alright", said Riker, "Mr. Worf, conduct the scan."
"Aye, Sir", came the Klingon's voice over the intercom. "Doctor, I am detecting very small subspace distortions all over the ship."
"Why didn't we detect them earlier?", asked Crusher. "They are so small that the sensors did not detect them with out an intense scan for subspace distortions", said Worf.
"Thank you, Crusher out."
Doctor Crusher sat at her desk with terrible thoughts of that virus on the ship. "Crusher to Captain Picard."
"We need to talk Jean-Luc. We may have a problem."
"Join me in my quarters", was the reply.
Data sat behind his work station upon returning to his quarters. He looked over the book for several minutes. He had no idea what the book meant. He went over all known languages but to no avail. He thought he would be unable to decipher the book. Although Data had no emotions, frustration was a human condition he understood all too well.
"Come", said Data when his door beeped. The door opened and in walked Geordi LaForge.
"Hi Data", he said, "Did you finish the analysis of the book."
"No, not yet but I...", he said stopping in mid sentence.
"But you what Data", asked Geordi.
"Geordi, I believe I have found the key to this book, but I will need your help."
"Certainly Data, what can I do."
The Captain's quarters on the Enterprise were quite luxurious. The antiques that sat on shelves and on his desk were items gathered through Picard's time in space.
"Doctor are you telling me that the virus is on board the Enterprise?", said Picard.
"Unfortunately that is what I am saying", Crusher replied. "I have tried to analyze the virus but I can't even isolate it. Whenever I take an air sample or scan with my tricorder the subspace distortions disappear."
The Captain's communicator sounded, "Data to Picard."
"Picard here go ahead."
"Captain, I believe I have found the key to the book."
"Excellent Data. Dr. Crusher has found that the virus is on board the Enterprise."
"Some of the book pertains to the virus. It is extremely...interesting."
"I look forward to your report. How long until you can present it."
"It may take several hours Captain. There are five hundred pages with an average of fifty circular symbols on each page."
"Then we shall meet in three hours."
Three hours later, the crew met in the observation lounge to hear Data give his report.
"Dr. Crusher", began Picard, "has informed me that she can not identify the virus that is now on this ship. Mr Data can you tell us about the book?"
"Yes Sir. The text is written using an ancient form of Dukjat", said Data.
"Mr. Data, I have seen Dukjat and it is not even remotely similar", said Commander Riker.
"Millions of years ago the book was written by using the letters of the Dukjat alphabet. The Dukjat language has a standard five letters to each word. The letters were written in a circular pattern. Every five circles when set side by side spells a word or phrase. The next word or phrase is taken from the rotation of each disk. The new word or phrase is then added to the first. Eventually after five words have been taken the next five circles are used. I entered the entire book into the computer, and wrote an algorithm to decipher it."
"What does the book say", said Picard.
"The text says that over 1,000,000,000 years ago scientists from a race known as the Naldorians created a virus. However the virus is not organic."
"Not organic", said Crusher. "How is that possible?"
"It is an advanced type of what we would call a nanite. When the virus moves it leaves a minuscule subspace trail."
"But how did it get aboard the Enterprise?", asked Riker.
"The book itself produces the virus."
"Then shouldn't we get rid of it?", asked Riker.
"No. The virus has the capability to reproduce. Removing the book would have no effect", said the android.
"Why", asked Doctor Crusher, "could Doctor Burkley not detect the virus when he got on to the ship?"
"The virus can avoid scans except when a victim is in the final stages before death. A ship wide scan detects them only because they have no where to hide."
"Does this news get any better Data", said Picard.
"I'm afraid not Sir. The disease is fatal in eleven to fourteen days. The symptoms appear in three to six days."
"What are the symptoms", Riker asked.
"The symptoms are flu-like. They will not respond to any treatment."
Picard could not believe what he had been hearing.
"Data is there a cure?", asked Picard.
"Yes. The text says that there is a planet in what we would call the Gamma Quadrant on which the cure is located. The planet is referred to as Eltrous Four", said Data.
"Could it still be there after all these years?", asked Picard.
"The text says that only someone who seeks the cure will find it and the temple on the planet."
"Good then we must go to Bajor immediately, and use the wormhole to get to the Gamma Quadrant", said Picard.
"There is more, Sir."
"I'm almost afraid to ask", said Riker.
"The book also says that there is an immortal protector of the cure. It says that he who comes for the cure must be ready to take a test in order to receive the cure", reported Data.
"Does it elaborate on the test?", asked Picard.
"No", replied Data.
"Is there anything further?", asked Picard.
"Yes. When the planet exploded, was that virus spread throughout the system", asked Dr. Crusher?
"No. It cannot survive in a vacuum", said Data.
When no one spoke further, Picard made his decision. "Mr. LaForge what is the maximum sustained warp speed of the Oregon?"
"Warp eight Sir", replied LaForge. "It's engines are much older than ours."
"We will transfer the Oregon's crew to the Enterprise and proceed to Bajor", said the Captain. With that the crew rose and went to the Bridge. Picard went to his command chair. "Hail the Oregon Mr. Worf. Put them on screen."
"Commander Wilkins we have found the cause and cure for the virus, but there is not much time. Commander prepare to evacuate your crew to the Enterprise", said Picard.
"If you feel that's best, Captain", replied Wilkins.
"Commander Riker will supervise the evacuation", said Picard.
"Understood, Wilkins out."
"Number One, take charge of the evacuation."
"I'll be in my ready room", said Picard, "Call me when we can depart.
One hour later, Picard was back on the Bridge of the Enterprise ready to depart.
"Set course for Bajor, warp nine. Engage", said Picard. "Mr. Data, how long do we have to find the cure?"
"Sir", said Data, "we will arrive at Bajor in approximately three days. Allowing for the time since the Oregon was first infected, we are left with six days to find the cure. Unfortunately, it will take two days to get to Eltrous Four. We must locate and retrieve the cure in just four days or lives may be lost."
"Thank you Data", said Picard. "You have the Bridge Number One."
"Oh, by the way, for the next three days I want it to be business as usual around here." The Bridge crew nodded. They understood that he did not want people to panic.
Captain Picard rose from his chair and walked into the turbo lift. He told the computer his destination and waited to arrive there.
When it did, he proceed to his quarters. He entered his quarters and walked immediately to his replicator. "Tea, Earl Gray, hot."
He sat down on his couch and sipped his tea. He had a decision to make. He had to try to shorten the time to their destination. He went through his options very carefully. He knew that a significant number of people would be getting sick by the time they reached Bajor. He weighed the pros and cons of his plan and finally made his decision. But before he could carry out his plan, he needed to have help from Captain Harris, and he would have to return to duty.
"Picard to Harris", said Picard tapping his communicator.
"Harris here, what can I do for you Jean-Luc?"
"Could we meet in my quarters?"
"Certainly, I'm on my way."
Counselor Troi sat in her quarters waiting for her guest to arrive. The door beeped and in walked Sarrah James.
"Sarrah", said Troi. "How are you?"
"Oh I'm okay, and you must be okay if you are on this ship. I've never seen anything as luxurious as the Enterprise."
They talked for a while. They went over their time at the academy, and they talked about their experiences since they had last seen each other. They had not known each other on Betazed. They had met at the academy and become friends.
"Deanna, I have a favor to ask."
"Well. I have not had any luck getting Captain Harris to watch the holodeck message that Captain Jennings left for him."
"He hasn't watched it yet?", asked Troi.
"No he hasn't."
"Well, if he won't listen to you I doubt he will listen to me, but maybe he will listen to Captain Picard."
"Computer, where is Captain Picard?"
"Captain Picard is in his quarters", replied the feminine voice of the computer."
"Is he alone?", asked Troi.
"Troi to Picard."
"Picard here Counselor. What can I do for you?"
"Counselor James has informed me that Captain Harris has not watched the holodeck message left by Captain Jennings."
"I see. He is on his way here now. I will speak to him about it."
"Thank you Captain, Troi out."
"Thank you Deanna."
"No problem Sarrah."
Ten Forward was considered by some to be the most important part of the Enterprise. It was a place to go and be with friends, have a drink, and unwind. It had a great view of the stars.
Counselor Troi was not the only one who had a friend among the crew of the Oregon. Worf walked down the corridor towards Ten Forward. He entered the room and looked around. Then he saw Commander Wilkins sitting at the bar. They had become good friends at Star Fleet Academy. Worf was in his first year when Wilkins was in his last. He walked over to him. "Hello Commander."
"Worf, how are you", he said.
"I am fine, and you Commander."
"Worf, we're not on the Bridge."
"Sorry Kent, I forgot how you hate formality."
"Well you know how it is. Too much formality will make you crazy. So Worf, you have done well. Chief of Security on the Enterprise is no small accomplishment."
"Thank you Kent. How do you like being a First Officer."
"After my two years on the Potemkin and three months on the Oregon, I have to say I wouldn't want it any other way."
Worf laughed, and nodded. "Kent, you still owe me a game."
Commander Wilkins smiled. "You really think you can beat me this time."
"I have been practicing since our last encounter."
"We will need two more players."
"Already taken care of."
"Let's go then." Kent finished his drink and they headed for the door. Just after they had left the room, Data walked in and went to sit at a table near the view port. Guinan saw him come in. He looked troubled. She walked over. "Can I get you something, Data", said Guinan.
"No thank you."
"Are you looking for something out in the stars."
At one time Data would have misunderstood this, but he had come to understand that people do not always mean exactly what they say. "I am looking for an answer."
"That is a very human response, Data. Now, what is the question and maybe I can help you find the answer."
Data told Guinan his question and told her about his conversation with Captain Picard in the turbo lift.
"Data, the question you are asking is difficult to answer. I could give you an answer, but I think you need to figure it out on your own. I think you may find your answer on this mission."
"What would lead you to that conclusion?"
"I just have a feeling."
Data had never known Guinan to have a feeling that was wrong. All too often she knew things that no one else possibly could. Captain Picard had often said that Guinan's species had a different understanding of space and time than humans did.
"Thank you Guinan. I hope I do find my answer, but what if I do not understand it."
"Then maybe you need to speak to someone else."
"I think you will figure that out when the time comes."
Worf and Commander Wilkins walked down the hall. They stopped at a door. A moment later the door opened.
"Mr. Worf, we've been expecting you", said Commander Riker. Worf and Wilkins walked into Commander Riker's quarters. Riker and Geordi were already seated around the table where they played poker.
"Have a seat Commander", said Riker.
"Please, call me Kent."
Worf and Wilkins took their seats.
They played for about an hour. Commander Riker and Geordi soon realized why Worf wanted to play. He was intent on beating Commander Wilkins.
"Geordi, the bet is yours", said Riker who was dealing.
"No. I fold. That's it for me. I've lost enough for one night.
"You're bluffing Worf", said Commander Riker.
"It will cost you forty to find out."
"I don't think so Worf. That's it for me. I'm with Geordi. I'm out."
Worf took his winnings from the center of the table. "Well Kent, it's just you and me."
The two of them began to play the next hand. After dealing himself and Worf one card down, he dealt the next two face up. Worf got a seven of diamonds, and Kent got a king of hearts.
"King bets fifty", said Kent confidently."
"Call", replied Worf.
"The next card to Worf was a two of spades, and commander Wilkins received a ten of clubs.
"I bet sixty."
"Call", Worf said monotonously as he tossed his chips on the pile.
Next Worf got a two of hearts, while Kent got a jack of hearts.
"Pair of two's bet", said Commander Wilkins.
"I bet twenty", said Worf.
"I see your twenty, and raise you fifty."
Worf looked hesitant. "Call."
Commander Wilkins kept dealing. Worf received the two of clubs. Commander Wilkins received the ace of spades.
"Possible straight", said Commander Riker.
"Three two's still bets", said Kent.
"I bet fifty", said Worf.
"Worf, let's save some time." He pushed all of his chips into the center of the table."
Worf stared at his card. "I have fallen for your bluffs too many times Kent." He pushed all his chips into the center of the table. "Call."
"Not this time Worf." Commander Wilkins turned over his queen of spades. "Sorry Worf. I got lucky."
Worf's lips curled into a sinister smile. "No Kent. It is I who was lucky."
Worf turned over the seven of clubs. "Last time I checked a full house beat a straight."
Several minutes later Picard's door chimed. "Come", he said. When the door opened, Captain Harris walked in.
"Hello Jack", said Picard motioning him into a chair.
"Jean-Luc, I meant to come see you earlier, but I thought you would be busy", replied Harris taking a seat opposite Picard.
"I'm never too busy to see an old friend."
"So, what can I do for you Jean-Luc?"
"Jack. I must ask you to return to active duty."
Captain Harris hesitated, a quizzical look came to his face. "Why. I have no ship to command."
"Jack, when we reach Bajor, I am going to separate the Saucer section. I will go on with the Stardrive to get the cure. I will need my command crew with me on that mission. I want you to stay behind. We can save almost four hours without the added bulk of the Saucer. If by some unfortunate happening we cannot get the cure, the people on this vessel do not deserve to have their remains float about the gamma quadrant. It is risky because of the time factor, but I must believe that we can make it in time. Besides that, it would be dangerous for the Enterprise to go through the worm hole. It can be a dangerous trip for a large vessel."
Captain Harris stared out the window at the cold depths of space. "Jean-Luc, if you really want me to take command of the Saucer I will, but Commander Wilkins is more than capable."
"I don't doubt that, but I want you to take command."
Harris thought for a moment.
Captain Picard reached up and touched his communicator. "Picard to Riker."
"I want a staff meeting in one hour Number One."
"And I want the senior officers of the Oregon present as well."
"Thank you Number One. Picard out."
"Jean-Luc", began Harris, "I think I need to be alone for a while. Is there anywhere I can go to get a drink?"
"Well, at this time of day Ten Forward is nearly empty."
"Thank you, and I will take good care of your ship until you get back."
Picard smiled, "I don't doubt that Jack. There is one other thing I wanted to ask you about."
"What is it?"
"Well, my sources tell me that you haven't watched Tom's holodeck message."
"No, I haven't", Jack said testily, "and I would appreciate it if you, Counselor James, and Counselor Troi would stop conspiring", he said hastily. With that Harris left the room.
Captain Harris walked into Ten Forward and saw that there were only a few people in the room. He walked over to the observation windows and sat down at a table far from everyone else. He sat there thinking of his friend Tom. His death would be with him forever and he would have to learn to live with it.
"Can I get you a drink."
Harris looked up in surprise he had not heard anyone come over. He saw a dark skinned woman in a large hat.
"Hi. I'm Guinan. I tend bar and I listen", she said slowly.
Captain Harris was not sure what to make of that. "I'm Captain Jack Harris", he replied.
"Can I get you something."
"I thought I wanted something, but I'm not really in the mood anymore."
"I think I know what you want", she said as she sat down.
"What is that."
"I think you want to talk."
"Who are you?", he said.
"I told you. I'm Guinan. I tend bar and I listen."
"Well Guinan, I don't really want to talk."
"So", she began, "what is on your mind."
Captain Harris sighed. "Okay. Have you heard about what happened on the Hope."
"Well then you know everything."
"Well, I don't know why you are moping around. You did what you could."
"No! I should have been there sooner. I should have saved...", he stopped. "Why am I telling you this?"
"I think you just want to talk with someone you don't know."
"Well you are wrong", said Harris angrily.
"You need to stop blaming yourself."
"Did Picard put you up to this", asked Harris?
"No, but if I know the Captain, he steered you my way."
"Well Guinan, I know you are only trying to help, but I really don't want to talk about it."
"Okay, but keep something in mind. You must accept that it was not your fault, before you can forgive yourself." With that she rose from the chair and walked toward the bar. Captain Harris just stared out the view port.
Captain Harris walked through the doors of the holodeck and waited for the doors to close. "Computer run program."
Instantly the yellow and black grid of the holodeck turned into outer space. Harris was standing on a small asteroid and could see stars, moons, and planets off in the distance. Five feet in front of him stood Captain Tom Jennings. "Computer begin program." The image came to life.
"Well Jack, If you are watching this then I must be dead", said the image. "It's funny I don't feel dead. Jack I just wanted to tell you what a good friend you have always been. I know I don't have to ask you to remember me. I know you will. I have always felt I was lucky to have a friend like you. Farewell."
The image vanished, and Jack stood alone on the asteroid.
Picard walked into the observation lounge right on time. Everyone but Captain Harris was there. All of his command crew as well as that of the Oregon were there. Picard sat down just as Captain Harris walked in and sat down.
"I called this meeting", began Picard, "to alert you to my plan. When we reach Bajor, I am going to separate the Saucer and leave it at Deep Space Nine."
Silence followed his remarks.
"I will leave the crew of the Oregon with the Saucer under the command of Captain Harris. We will take a skeleton crew through the wormhole in the Stardrive. Also, Dr. Crusher will decide which crew members will accompany us depending on how ill they are. Everyone should be getting sick by the time we reach Bajor. Are there any questions?"
No one said anything.
"Then this meeting is adjourned. Mr. Worf, please open a channel to Deep Space Nine, I want to talk to Commander Sisko. I'll speak to him in my ready room."
With that everyone began to leave.
"Captain Harris will you join me in my ready room?"
Captain Harris nodded and the two Captains left the room together.
In his ready room Captain Picard sat down behind his desk and motioned Harris into a chair. Just then Worf's voice came over the intercom. "I have Commander Sisko Captain."
"Thank you Lieutenant."
Commander Sisko's face appeared on Picard's monitor on his desk.
"Captain Picard, it's been a long time", said Sisko.
Picard told Commander Sisko everything that had happened. He told him of his plans and of the current situation.
"Captain, have you any idea what kind of test it is?", asked Sisko.
"The book does not elaborate."
"When will you arrive?"
"We should be there in about two and a half days."
"We will be expecting you", said Sisko. With that the screen went blank.
"Jack, there is only one problem I foresee with your stay at Deep Space Nine. The Cardassians would like nothing more than to threaten Star Fleet's flagship, even if it is only the Saucer."
"If the Cardassians bother us, my crew can handle it."
Commander Benjamin Sisko sat behind his desk in his office on space station Deep Space Nine. Lieutenant Jadzia Dax, Doctor Julian Bashir, Major Kira Nerys, Chief Miles O'Brien, and Security Chief Odo were standing around the desk listening to him relay the information about the Enterprise.
"If the crew will be getting sick by the time they arrive, they will need medical help", said Dax.
"Yes, I know", said Sisko calmly.
"Benjamin", began Dax, "I would like to volunteer to go aboard the Enterprise."
Before Sisko could reply, Doctor Bashir began to speak. "I would like to go as well."
Commander Sisko caught a glimpse of Chief O'Brien out of the corner of his eye. He was staring at the floor.
"Doctor, Dax, I cannot permit you to risk your lives", said Sisko.
"Benjamin", began Dax, "They need our help".
Commander Sisko analyzed the situation. He knew that Dax was right. The Enterprise was in trouble, and they needed his help.
"I don't like it, but if that's what you want to do", said Sisko, "I won't stop you. Dismissed."
The officers all began to leave. "Can I see you a moment Constable?"
"Odo, I would like you to accompany Dax and Bashir. As a shape shifter, you are not subject to the types of viruses we are. Besides, the Enterprise can use all the help it can get. You are not in Starfleet, this is not an order."
Odo thought for a moment. It was true that he was not in Starfleet, and was not obligated to help the Enterprise. He did however realize the seriousness of the situation. He also knew that Sisko would not have asked if he had another option. "Alright, I'll go."
"Thank you Constable."
With that Odo left the office. Sisko could not help but think how lucky he was to have this command.
Miles O'Brien walked slowly as he approached his quarters. He did not know how to tell Keiko. He walked into the room and saw his wife snipping plants.
"Hi, Miles", she said cheerfully.
"Hello Keiko", he replied solemnly.
"What's wrong Miles? I know that tone.", she said.
"Keiko", he began, "The Enterprise is on it's way here." He told her the rest of the story.
"Keiko, I am going to volunteer to go aboard and help them."
He had expected her to get upset, but instead she walked over to him and kissed him. "I understand."
Over the next three days thirty Bajoran medical technicians volunteered to go aboard the Enterprise. Commander Sisko sat in his office pondering the fate of these brave people. He knew he could not forbid them to go, and he worried about his friend Dax.
When the Enterprise reached Bajor, Picard ordered Worf to hail the station.
"On screen", said Picard.
"Hello Captain", said Sisko.
"Hello Commander. We will separate the Saucer and proceed through the worm hole with the Stardrive."
"Captain", began Sisko, "we have some people who have volunteered to help."
"Out of the question", said Picard. "I will not allow them to subject themselves to this virus."
"Captain, with all due respect, your crew must already be feeling the effects of this virus. Most of these volunteers are medical technicians. You need them."
Picard thought about Sisko's words, but before he could respond Sisko began again.
"Captain, you have over 1500 people up there who need medical aid", said Sisko.
Just as Picard was about to refuse, he sneezed.
"Captain, I rest my case."
"Alright", said Picard, "they may beam up."
Fifteen minutes later, Bashir, Odo, and O'Brien were in the Captain's ready room with Picard, Harris, Riker, Data, and Counselor Troi. Dax was on route to the Enterprise via shuttle craft. She was a Trill. The Trill are a joined species. The symbiotic life form inside her body made transport deadly for her.
"Mr. O'Brien", began Picard, "it's good to see you, albeit under difficult circumstances."
"It's good to see you too, Sir. It's nice to be back on the Enterprise again."
Picard nodded in agreement. He had been away from the Enterprise for extended periods before. He knew how O'Brien felt. "Status Number One."
"Evacuations are almost complete. The Bajoran volunteers are being quite helpful."
"Alright then. Lieutenant Dax, Doctor Bashir, and Counselor Troi will remain with the Saucer." The officers nodded there approval. "Odo and Chief O'Brien will accompany us through the worm hole." When no complaints were forth coming Picard dismissed the officers.
"Captain Harris, we are ready to depart", said Picard.
"Good Luck Captain."
The screen went dark. Picard gazed at the other half of his ship. It sat serenely in space. He could not help but wonder if he would ever see her again.
The only people on the Enterprise were Doctor Crusher, Lieutenant Commander Data, Commander Riker, Lieutenant Commander LaForge, Lieutenant Worf, Chief O'Brien, Odo, Captain Picard, and a skeleton crew. There were barely enough crew members to run the ship. With the exception of the Doctor and the crew, they were all on the Bridge.
"Set a course through the worm hole", said Picard. "Mr. Data once through the worm hole feed the location of Eltrous Four to the CONN. Make sure you account for a few million years of planetary drift. Mr. O'Brien set course for Eltrous Four, warp nine."
"We all must be ready when we reach Eltrous Four. I want all of you to get some sleep. Mr. Data and Constable Odo do not require sleep, and will remain on the Bridge. I want everyone on the bridge when we reach our destination."
Over the next two days several members of the crew as well as Picard and Riker began to show progressive signs of the virus. Everyone on board was starting to become sick.
Picard and Riker were both seated in the ready room. "I will lead the away team."
"Captain, permission to speak freely."
"You can't be serious. We have no idea what we will find. It is too dangerous."
"I understand your concerns, but my mind is made up. You can not change it."
Picard cut him off. "You can't change my mind.
"Yes Sir." They stood and exited to the Bridge.
"Chief O'Brien", began Riker, "I want you in the transporter room. We may have to beam up the away team at a moments notice."
"Mr. Data", said Picard, "do you know where to beam down."
"Yes. Scans of the planet indicate that 90% of the planet is covered by water. That leaves a very small area to search. The description of the temple would indicate that it takes up most of the other 10%. It is a very small planet."
"Very well, Mr. Data, Mr. LaForge, Constable Odo, with me."
They rematerialized on the planet's surface in front of a large structure that was shaped like a cone. There was a large door in front of them.
"Captain", said Data, "that appears to be our destination. That door appears to be the only way in."
"Very well. Let's go", said Picard.
The door opened as they approached and they went inside. The door slammed shut behind them. They were trapped in a small room.
"Captain", said Geordi, "my VISOR detects no openings at all. We are completely sealed in."
Then, all of a sudden, a deep voice began to speak.
"You seek the cure. You must be tested. Proceed on the journey to the cure. The one who solves each of the first three challenges will be brought immediately to the end of the journey. The forth will be subjected to the final challenge." The voice abruptly stopped.
The wall opposite where they entered opened revealing a corridor slanting upward.
"It appears our instructions are clear", said Picard. "We seem to have little choice."
With that they proceeded up the incline.
Captain Harris sat still in the Enterprise command chair. Most of the crew was down with the virus. Everyone was beginning to feel its effect. The only other people on the Bridge were Tony Hobbs at tactical, and Joshua Jones at OPS, the CONN was unmanned. That was against regulations, but right now that was not important. Commander Wilkins had become too sick to stay on the Bridge. Doctor Bashir had confined him to his quarters for the duration of this emergency. All of a sudden the red alert siren went off. Captain Harris stood and turned to the tactical station. "What's going on."
"There is a vessel moving in on us. The shields went up automatically. The ship is of Cardassian design, but it's not military. I am arming weapons", reported Hobbs.
"Damn", muttered Harris. "Hail them."
"They're firing", exclaimed Jones.
The Captain quickly took the CONN position.
The Bridge rocked as the enemy phaser blasts hit the shields.
"Shields down to 41%. One more hit and we lose the shields", reported Hobbs.
"Evasive maneuvers", said Harris as he programmed his terminal.
"Too late", Jones shouted.
The phaser struck the shields and the shields went down.
"Report", said Harris.
"Losing power, Sir. Without the Stardrive we are at a great disadvantage", said Hobbs. "They are hailing us."
"On screen", said Harris. The screen came on.
"Well, it seems that the Federation is not that powerful after all", said the Cardassian.
"I demand to know who you are and what you think you are doing. This is a blatant act of war", snapped Harris.
"I am Captain Paldor, Captain of this vessel and leader of the Cardassian Coalition for Ultimate Power."
"So you are connected with the Cardassian government", asked Harris.
"No. We have done what the government can't. We stopped the mighty flagship of the Federation. I am just quaking at the sight of the mighty Enterprise, the ship that embarrassed the military at the McAllister Nebula."
"What do you want Paldor."
"It is very simple, I want your ship."
"That is not a good idea", said Harris. Just then he saw three Cardassians materialize around him.
"Computer, disengage all command functions, Harris Alpha-Omega-Six-One", said Harris as one of the Cardassians knocked him to the floor.
"Do not try to resist Captain, my entire crew has already taken control of your vessel." Just then the Cardassian disappeared from the screen and appeared in front of Harris.
Harris's lips curled into a smile. "It is you who are in trouble Paldor. Your entire crew is now infected with a deadly virus that is aboard this ship."
"You're lying. Tomat, scan the Bridge and these pathetic creatures and expose there lies."
One of the warriors took out a device that was similar to a tricorder and scanned the Bridge. "My readings indicate that these humans are experiencing the symptoms of something, but I cannot find a cause. It would appear that they are telling the truth."
"Damn you human", screamed Paldor.
"Well Paldor, you seem to have a problem.
Commander Benjamin Sisko walked out of his office and looked out over OPS.
"Major Kira", he began as walked down the stairs. "How are things going on the Enterprise?"
"We got a report a few minutes ago", she said. "They're in bad shape. Most everyone is sick, and Harris is worried that Picard won't get back in time."
"Well, that's to be expected...", began Sisko.
"Commander", said Kira, "There is a Cardassian vessel baring down on the Enterprise. They're firing."
"No response. They're firing again", she replied.
"Lock photon torpedoes on the Cardassian Vessel", ordered Sisko.
"We can't fire", said Kira. "The Enterprises shields are out. If we fire they will sustain heavy damage."
Sisko stared at the view screen. He wanted to help them, but he couldn't fire. He thought about sending a runabout, but they would be an easy target.
"Major Kira, launch a subspace warning buoy through the worm hole. Have it broadcast a message in code to the Enterprise concerning our current status." Now he had no choice but to wait.
Dr. Bashir was seated behind Dr. Crusher's desk in sick bay. In her absence he was acting Chief Medical Officer. The job had originally fallen to Doctor Burkley, but he had become too sick to do any good. He was waiting for the Cardassian Chief Physician. He had asked to see him to discuss the current medical situation and he had agreed. Just then he looked up and saw a Cardassian standing in the door way.
"I am Coldor, chief Physician, what do you want?", he asked.
"I am Doctor Julian Bashir."
"Yes, I know."
Dr. Bashir did not like Coldor's manners but that was not important right know. "I have done some research on the effect of this virus on Cardassians." Dr. Bashir handed Coldor a PADD.
Coldor scanned the PADD and looked up.
"I want to see all your research immediately, Doctor Bashir."
"You tricked me, Harris", screamed Paldor.
"How did I do that? I tried to warn you."
"You should have told me this vessel was infected. Instead you caused the infection of my entire crew." Just then one of the Cardassians fell to the floor.
"What happened", demanded Paldor.
One of the Cardassians went over to the body on the floor. "He's dead."
Just then the door opened and in walked Doctor Bashir and Coldor. "Captain, I have run some tests on the Cardassians", said Bashir.
"Who gave you permission", demanded Paldor.
"I did", said Coldor.
"Captain, this virus seems to have a different effect on the Cardassians. Coldor has seen my research and agrees with me. The Cardassians have already begun to die. I believe that some of them may survive until the Enterprise returns, but not all of them."
Paldor looked horrified.
"Well Paldor, you are out of options. If you surrender to me now, I will give you the cure when the Stardrive returns."
"Riker to Picard", said the First Officer, as he stood up from the command chair on the Battle Bridge. "Damn, we lost contact. Bridge to O'Brien, can you beam them up."
"No, Sir. I lost their signal when they entered that structure. They just don't register."
"I could take a rescue team down", said Worf.
"Worf, everyone is beginning to get sick, I will not let you endanger yourself down there with a substandard away team. Besides, if you go down there we might lose you too."
"I'm sorry Commander, I wasn't thinking clearly, I am beginning to feel ill myself."
"I know the feeling."
The away team kept walking for over eight hours. The corridor was lit with strips of material along the wall. Data could not tell how it worked. The tricorder could not detect any technology. Then they entered a large room.
"Where to now?", said Odo.
"Mr. Data do you detect anything?", said Picard.
The door closed behind them. Data scanned the door with his tricorder. "It seems solid sir", said Data.
"Can we cut our way through with our phasers?", asked Picard.
"I believe so, Sir", said Data.
As Data raised his phaser Geordi grabbed his arm. "I wouldn't do that, Data. My VISOR is showing me that the whole room is wired with explosives."
"Do you see anywhere that can be penetrated", asked Picard?
"Yes. There is one spot here on the wall opposite the door that has a small area with no explosives." Geordi raised his phaser and fired at the small area on the wall.
The wall opened revealing a corridor, and Geordi vanished.
"Captain", said Data, "it would appear that Geordi has been transported to the end of the journey as the voice said he would be.
"Apparently so", said Odo.
Captain Picard, Data, and Odo walked down the corridor. Picard did not understand the purpose of that test. Surely the voice knew that only Geordi could solve that test. Picard hypothesized that the voice knew which one of them it wanted to face the final challenge. Every once in a while Picard caught a glance of Odo. He seemed to be becoming more nervous with every passing moment. Picard realized that it must be getting close to the time when Odo needed to rest. He knew he would need some sort of container to rest in since he rested in a liquid form. After about three hours they came to a large room. In the room there was a bed, a chair, and a bucket, as well as some food.
"It would appear that we will be allowed to rest", said Picard.
"Good", said Odo, "I need to get in that bucket."
Data sat down on the chair. Odo got in his bucket. Picard sat down on the bed, and after eating, he fell asleep.
Several hours later, Picard awoke to Data's voice calling him. "Captain", exclaimed the android, "The door just closed us in and this computer terminal appeared."
"What is it Data?", said Picard.
"It appears to be some sort of explosive device. I am detecting a lot of unstable material. The timer is counting down. We only have about fifteen minutes. There is a computer interface. I will attempt to disarm the device."
Data sat down in front of the machine. He opened the access panel on the side of his head and connected it to the computer. "Captain, there are 25 different access codes to disarm this device. I believe I can decipher them."
Picard nodded and stood back.
"Captain", said Odo, "What is all this."
"I suspect that each task is designed so that only one of us can solve it. If I am correct, It has already been decided which of us will face the final challenge."
"Captain, I have almost solved all the codes."
All of a sudden a door opened. The computer disappeared, as did Data.
It would appear we have passed the second test", said Odo.
"I agree", responded Picard.
They continued on their journey. Over the next fifteen hours they walked. Every so often they would find a room with a bed, a chair, and some food. They did not leave a bucket for Odo. Although Odo did not know how, the aliens knew that he only needed to rest every 18 hours.
Eventually they came to an empty room. After entering the room the door closed behind them. Then two of the walls began to close.
"Captain", said Odo, "I think we have a problem."
As the walls slowly began to close Odo looked around for a way out. On the ground he saw a small hole in one of the walls that wasn't moving. It was just about to be covered by the moving wall. Odo immediately shifted into a mouse and ran through the tiny hole. On the other side he shifted back into his usual shape and looked for a way to help the Captain.
On the wall he had just come through he saw a panel with a button on it. He pressed it.
Instantly the door opened and Picard jumped through just before he was going to be crushed. Then Odo disappeared.
"Captain Harris", said Bashir, "How are you feeling?"
"Not very good. Are Paldor and his commanders done in the observation lounge."
"No, they are still trying to decide what to do", replied Bashir. "You need to get to Sick Bay. I'll have Lieutenant Dax take command."
"Do I have a choice Doctor?"
"No, Captain. I'm afraid not."
Harris stood up. He was very upset that he could not remain on the Bridge, but he knew the Doctor was right. "Come on, Jean-Luc", he said under his breath, "Where are you."
Picard sat dazed against the wall. He had almost been trapped, blown up, and crushed. He was growing tired of these tests. Then it hit him. He had been correct. The first test was designed for Geordi, the second for Data, and the third for Odo.
Picard checked his tricorder. It was taking much too long. It would take two days to get back to Bajor. Time was getting short. His muscles were stiff from the virus, and he was getting a headache. After resting for a few minutes. He got up and continued along the never ending corridor.
He did not have to go much further. Several minutes later he entered an enormous room. The room seemed to shrink until it was barely big enough for one person.
Then the floor disappeared and he began to fall. Just as he fell, he felt himself being grabbed by a transporter.
Picard found himself in a fairly large well lit room. He could feel the effects of the virus stronger than ever. He looked around and saw Data, Geordi, and Odo sitting in what looked like a jury box. It was about 10 meters away in a corner.
"Data", said Picard, "Where are we."
Before Data could speak, the voice they had heard earlier began to speak.
"Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise you have reached the final challenge."
"What is the challenge", said Picard.
"The challenge is determined by the abilities of the one to be tested. In your case it will be a duel with me."
Picard did not like this one bit. "I will not fight you", said Picard.
"You have five minutes to prepare", said the voice.
Picard walked over to his crew.
"Captain", began Data, "I think you should fight him".
"Data, I refuse to kill him. He has done nothing to us. He is doing his job. One that he has done for uncounted millennia. I can't kill him without a damn good reason."
"But, sir, remember the manuscript. It said there is an immortal protector. If you kill him, he may not actually die, if he is in fact immortal that is."
Picard thought for a moment. Every ethical bone in his body said he could not do this. Then he thought of his crew, and the crew of the Oregon. Could he let them die to protect his own moral code. He knew he could not.
The voice returned. "The time is up."
"If I kill you", began Picard, "what do I receive."
"You will receive the cure."
"And if I lose."
"If you choose not to fight, then you and your crew will be allowed to leave unharmed. However, if you fight me, and I kill you, I will give the cure to your crew and allow them to leave. All you have to do is fight."
Then a figure stepped forward out of the wall itself. He appeared human, but Picard assumed that was for fairness.
"Choose your weapon Picard", said the figure. It was the same voice he had heard before.
A rack with several swords appeared beside him. He selected one of the swords and the rest of them disappeared.
The alien raised his sword. Picard raised his own sword and they clashed with deadly fury. Neither of them was able to gain a decisive advantage. Then Picard's adversary sliced into his arm. Picard screamed in pain as blood oozed form his wound.
"Captain, look out", called Data.
Picard got his sword up just in time to fend off the next blow.
They went on fighting for the next several minutes. Then Picard caught the alien in the hand with the tip of his sword and the alien dropped his sword. Picard backed his opponent up to the wall, and placed his sword at his throat.
"You must kill me, Picard", said the alien.
Picard stood breathless. He could not allow his people to die. He also could not kill this alien. He had done nothing to Picard. He was only doing his job.
Picard took two steps back, and dropped his sword.
"If one of us must die so that my people can live, then you shall kill me."
Data stood up to go to his Captain's aid, but he was held down by a force field.
The alien picked up his sword. He swung the sword at the Captain's throat. The sword stopped only a millimeter form his flesh. Picard did not move in the slightest. He finally had figured it out.
"You are truly worthy", said the alien. "I hold adherence to one's own moral code to be a noble and worthy trait. You could have taken my life, but you chose instead to die so your people could live."
Several feet away a door opened. "You can get the cure. It is in there."
The force field restraining Data, Geordi, and Odo disappeared, and they went to join the Captain. They walked into the room, and saw a small table with a bright light shining on it. There was a small metal object on the table. Picard walked over to the table and picked up the item. Just then they felt the transporter grip them once again.
A minute later the four of them were standing outside. The temple had vanished.
"Captain", said Data, "It appears that the structure is gone."
"Yes it does. Data, what do you make of this." Picard handed Data the shiny metal object.
"Captain, this appears to be an old style wax seal similar to the ones used on earth over 600 years ago. The design is extremely intricate. Captain, I would hypothesize that if we seal the book with ordinary wax it may combat the virus."
"Can it be that simple", said Odo. Just then Geordi fell to the ground.
"Geordi", said Data as he knelt down beside him. "Are you okay."
"I don't feel very well", said Geordi.
"It's the virus. Picard to Riker."
"Riker here, are you okay Sir."
"Yes, beam us up immediately."
As soon as Picard and Data arrived on the bridge it was obvious to Riker that Picard was beginning to feel worse. When he saw the bloody wound on his arm he was more than a little alarmed.
"Riker to Sick Bay, medical team to the Bridge."
"Belay that order", said Picard. "It's just a scratch. Report Number One."
"Most of the crew is too ill to work. There have not been any fatalities, but I have been all alone on the Bridge for the last hour. I finally ordered Worf to go to Sick Bay."
"That is where you should be Number One. You don't look very good." Riker began to object. "That's an order Commander."
"Data you have the Bridge. I want you to see if you can tell what happens when I seal the book."
Picard walked into the ready room and went to the replicator. "Computer, I need two ounces of warm wax."
"Please specify temperature."
Picard grew impatient. "Warm enough to mold." The computer hummed and the wax appeared. Picard walked over to his desk and sat down. Picard put the wax on the book over the strap used to seal it. He pressed the alien seal into the wax. The book glowed red for a moment. A small button appeared on the spine of the book. Picard pressed it.
"Data to Captain Picard."
"The subspace distortions are gone."
"Excellent Data. Set course for the worm hole warp nine."
"Yes, Sir. Doctor Crusher said that she wants you in Sick Bay immediately. She said it was an order."
"On my way", growled Picard.
Captain Picard was lying in bed in his quarters reading. There was nothing he could do until they reached Bajor. Just then the door chimed. "Come."
The door opened and Data walked into the room.
"Commander Data, I assume you have the analysis of the alien book."
"Yes, Sir. It appears that when you pressed the button the book emitted some sort of pulse that obliterated the virus leaving no trace at all."
"It is difficult to imagine that something so small can be so deadly."
"Will we be able to rid the Saucer and the Oregon of the Virus?"
"Yes, Sir. I have tested the book. It emits the pulse whenever the button is pressed."
The door chimed again. "Come."
Doctor Crusher walked into the room. "Am I interrupting Captain? I just wanted to check on your arm."
"No Doctor. Data was just telling me about the virus. Data, is there anything else to report?"
"Thank you Mr. Data, you are dismissed."
The android nodded and left Picard's quarters. Doctor Crusher took out her tricorder and began to check the Captain's arm. "Doctor, this isn't necessary, I feel fine."
"Captain, that wound was very deep, and there was severe muscle damage. I'll tell you if you're fine."
"Well, am I fine."
"With the exception of being exhausted, you're okay. Now get some rest."
"I can't Doctor. We're still six hours from Bajor. I have done everything I can, and it still may not be enough." Picard stood up and walked to the window. "You know, I wish we could have learned something about the people who built that temple."
Doctor Crusher stood up and gave him an injection with her hypospray.
"This will wear off in a couple of hours."
Captain Picard sat stiffly in his command chair on the Battle Bridge. Most everyone on the ship was fully cured. There were a few who were still sick, but not seriously. "Estimated time of arrival at Bajor Mr. Data."
"Approximately one hour eighteen minutes."
Picard knew he was overdue. It was possible that there were already fatalities on the Enterprise, but he could not think about it.
"Captain, I am picking up a coded transmission from a subspace warning buoy on our side of the worm hole", said Worf.
"Must mean trouble", said Riker.
"Decipher it Mr. Worf", said Picard.
"It is from Commander Sisko. A Cardassian vessel has taken control of the Enterprise. He cannot make contact with the ship. The enemy vessel is not a military ship. There is nothing he could do. The enemy quickly destroyed the Enterprise's shields. They could not fire, because the Enterprise was too close to the enemy vessel.
"Damn", muttered Picard, "If the virus doesn't get them the Cardassians will."
Ship's log, Stardate ___________, Lieutenant Dax of Deep Space Nine in command of the Enterprise. I am the only officer qualified to make this log entry. Even Captain Harris has become too ill to stay on the Bridge. The Cardassians have decided to give themselves up, and those still alive are in the brig. Several people are near death. Even myself and some of the other volunteers are beginning to feel the effects of the virus.
Dax looked around the Bridge. She heard an alarm on one of the terminals. She checked it and discovered elevated neutrino levels. She knew that meant something was coming through the worm hole.
She looked at the view screen and saw the Enterprise Stardrive come through the worm hole. She hailed the ship. Picard's picture filled the screen.
"Captain", began Dax, "The situation with the Cardassians has been brought under control, but we have several people near death, and most of the Cardassians have already died of the virus."
"How is that possible, they could only have been infected for a short time."
"I will explain later. How do we administer the cure?"
"We will beam the alien text over to you. It will destroy all traces of the virus when you press the button on the spine."
The book materialized on the deck. Dax picked it up, and pressed the button. Just then Doctor Bashir's voice came over the intercom. "Bashir to Dax, Lieutenant, the virus is gone."
"I know Julian, Captain Picard has returned with the cure."
The next day the officers and volunteers from Deep Space Nine returned to the station.
"Thank you Commander", Picard said to Sisko.
"Any time Captain", said Sisko. Sisko's picture disappeared from the view screen.
"Set course for Alagon Seven warp six", said Picard.
"Captain", said Data, "Might I have a word with you in private."
"Certainly", said Picard, "In my ready room."
Once in the ready room Picard motioned Data into a chair. "Now Mr. Data what's on your mind?"
"Sir, on the planet you had the opportunity to kill the alien, or be killed, and still get the cure."
"With the evidence that your enemy would not actually die, why did you not kill him. I do not believe in murder, it is against my programming, but there was a good chance that he would have lived. Weren't his needs lesser than that of the crew."
"That is true Data. When I finish my report to Star Fleet on the incident it will include what I am about to tell you." Picard paused. "Just when I had my chance to kill him I realized what the point of these tests was. The first three were designed to test our skill, and quick thinking. The aliens wanted to see if we were intelligent. My test however, was different. It was a test of character. The alien wanted to know if I would be willing to give my life for the crew. I quickly realized that mine was not a test of skill."
"My opponent had the exact same skills I had. If they wanted to know how good I was, they would have given me a more skillful opponent so I would have had to try to exceed my skills. You see Data, the wound he inflicted on me was pure luck, as was my knocking his sword from his hand."
"So you assumed that if you offered your life to save the crew that he would recognize your morality and character."
"Yes Data, so you see, I did not feel I was in danger. If I truly felt he would have killed me...", Picard stopped.
"I see Sir. What you meant about my having already made that decision. Anytime one puts someone else's needs in front of their own they are putting the needs of the many in front of the needs of the few."
"That is correct Data. You have done that many times."
"I believe I understand Sir, thank you."
Data rose and left the ready room. Picard could not help but wonder what he would have done if he had not realized that not killing the alien was the right thing to do. He was glad he would never find out.
The Enterprise returned to the Oregon and deposited its crew back to her. Star Fleet had ordered the Oregon to bring the book and the seal back to earth so they could be studied.
"Good bye Captain Picard", said Harris.
"Good bye Jack", said Picard as his picture disappeared from the screen.
"Set course for Earth warp six. Commander Wilkins you have the Bridge."
Captain Harris went into his ready room. He sat at his desk and looked out at the stars. His gaze drifted to the closest star, Jennings' Star. "Goodbye Tom", whispered the Captain, "Rest in Peace."
The alien sat in his chair in the temple on Eltrous Four listening to Picard's voice.
"...I wish we could have learned something about the people who built that temple."
The alien smiled to himself. "You will Captain. Sooner than you think."
Captain's Log, Stardate _____________, only two hours ago we left Captain Harris and the Oregon. We only moments ago received a distress signal from them. It said only that they were under attack and were in need of immediate assistance.
"Mr. Data, how long until we reach the Oregon."
"They should be within censor range in forty three minutes."
"Damn. Mr. Worf replay the transmission."
"Thi. is Cap...n Ja.. Harri. of the St.rsh.p Oreg... To a.l Fed..atio. shi.s. We ar. unde. atta.. by an un.den.ifie. vess.l we ne.d a.sista.ce."
The message had been sent only once, and all attempts to contact the Oregon had failed.
"Picard to Crusher."
"Crusher here go ahead."
"Get medical teams ready and standing by."
"Damage report, Mr. Hobbs", called the Captain as science station two exploded.
"Warp engines are out. Impulse engines are out. Decks eighteen to twenty-seven are losing life support. Phasers are out. The main torpedo bay has been severely damaged. Casualty reports are coming in from all over the ship. Inertial dampers are failing. Shields are down to sixteen percent."
"They're firing again", called Commander Wilkins.
"Brace for impact", screamed the Captain.
The deck rocked as the ship was hit again. The tactical station exploded. Captain Harris turned around to see a piece of metal imbedded in Hobbs chest.
"We can't hold out much longer, shields have failed", said Jones.
Just then three aliens beamed onto the Bridge. They had skin that was dark gray, and their hair was black as space itself.
"Intruder alert", said Commander Wilkins.
One of the aliens grabbed Captain Harris, and vanished. Jones jumped to his feet and went after one of the intruders. The alien raised a phaser like weapon and fired. Jones was incinerated instantly. Commander Wilkins jumped on one of the aliens. The alien threw him against the wall knocking him unconscious. The aliens turned and walked into the Captain's ready room. They walked to his desk and picked up the sealed alien book and the metal seal. They then transported off the ship.
Picard stood up from his Command chair. "Scan the Oregon."
"Captain", said Data, "they have sustained heavy damage to twenty percent of their ship. I am detecting small variances in the strength of the antimatter containment field."
Picard could not believe this was the same vessel that he had left several hours earlier. "Number One, get over there with an away team."
"Mr. Worf, Mr. Data, with me. Riker to LaForge."
"Meet me in transporter room two with an engineering team. Emergency repairs are needed to the Oregon's antimatter containment field."
Picard felt helpless. He could do nothing now but wait for his people to do their jobs. He knew they would do them well.
Commander Riker and the away team materialized on the Bridge of the Oregon. There was smoke and fire coming out of some of the consoles. "Geordi get these fires under control. Then get down to engineering. Dr. Crusher, help the wounded." They nodded and went about doing there jobs. Riker saw Crusher helping someone out of the turbo lift, a short Ensign with greenish skin and yellow hair. Must be a Hepilation, Riker thought.
Commander Riker went over and sat at one of the Bridge terminals that appeared to still be functioning. He tried to punch up information collected by the sensors, but it appeared that the computer had suffered extensive damage. Finally he got an internal scan of the Bridge. He saw the aliens beam aboard and take Captain Harris. He watched the aliens as they entered the ready room and took the book. It was clear that they knew what they wanted. There had been a surge of energy in the turbo lift, but in the middle of a battle that was to be expected. That Ensign was lucky he was alive. Then the console started to flicker. "Data, what is wrong with the computer."
Just then the console went dark, and an instant later came back on.
"Commander, it appears that the computer lost all power momentarily due to the damage to the ship. During the battle the computer core and its backups were damaged. They did not make any backup copies of the sensor information. All of the information was erased. It appears to be by design, not by accident. The attackers did it on purpose. The computer rebooted itself from the backup computer core. Luckily the core library remained intact. There is no information left on the aliens or their attackers."
"Great", said Riker. "It just keeps getting better."
Commander Riker walked into Sick Bay. He had just beamed back to the Enterprise. "What is the situation Doctor.
"Not good, They lost most of their crew."
"How is Commander Wilkins."
"He seems alright. He got a nasty bump on the head though. I want to keep him here for a while longer."
"The Captain wants a meeting in half an hour."
"I have too much to do", said Crusher.
"I understand, I will relay our situation."
"As soon as Commander Wilkins is ready, send him to the observation lounge."
Several minutes after Commander Riker left Sick Bay, Counselor Troi walked in.
"Beverly, where is Counselor James", she said.
"She is in the other room. She sustained only a few minor cuts and bruises."
Deanna walked into the other room. She located Sarrah and walked over.
"How are you Sarrah."
"Deanna, I'm not badly hurt. At least not physically."
"What do you mean."
"Those aliens. Their minds were very powerful. I could only sense that they wanted the book at any cost. There were several hundred of them on the ship. After they realized I was probing their minds, they sent some sort of pulse into my mind. It knocked me unconscious."
"How are you know."
"I'm okay. The pulse lasted only an instant. If it had gone any longer, it might have killed me."
Picard walked into the observation lounge and sat down. It had been three hours since they had found the Oregon. He needed answers.
"Number One, report."
"The Oregon was severely damaged in the attack. Just before the alien ship went into warp, Captain Harris was abducted. The alien book and the seal were also taken. Reports from the personnel on the Bridge and the brief censor image I saw suggest that the aliens knew what they were looking for. The alien vessel came out of warp fairly close to the Oregon. Attempts at communications failed. The enemy vessel was more than a match for the Oregon. It wasn't even a fight. Descriptions of the alien vessel said that it was black with gold colored insignias on it. Doctor Burkley said that the design was almost identical to that of the vessel they found on Alagon Seven. The only difference was that the other vessel was gold with black insignias."
"What about casualties", Picard said glumly.
"With the exception of Commander Wilkins, Doctor Burkley, and Counselor James, all the senior officers were killed. They lost all but about a hundred and fifty crewman."
Picard was stunned. He could not believe this could happen. He received the reports on the damage on the Oregon. It was not as bad as first thought, but the damage was considerable. Just then Commander Wilkins walked into the lounge.
"Commander Wilkins. How are you", said Picard.
"I'm okay. I just got a bump on the head. Doctor Crusher finally let me out of Sick Bay." Commander Wilkins walked to the table and sat down.
"Is there any indication of where the alien ship went?", asked Picard.
"No, Sir", said Data. They're warp engines do not leave any trail to follow. Sir, if this is in fact a vessel built by the creators of the book, a reasonable place to begin a search would be on Eltrous Four. The alien may have some answers."
Picard sat back in his chair. They had to try and get Captain Harris back.
"Are there any other suggestions?" No one said anything. "Very well. Mr. Wilkins, you and any of your crew who are able shall stay here and repair the Oregon as best you can. We will leave you some of our people to help with repairs."
"Thank you Captain."
"Mr. LaForge, you will remain to help with repairs." Geordi nodded. "Commander Riker assign people to the Oregon. We will leave in one hour for Eltrous Four."
Every one stood and left the observation lounge except Commander Wilkins and Worf.
"How do you feel Kent."
"A little shaken, but I'll live. I just wish I could have stopped them from taking Captain Harris."
"You could not know they were going to take him until it was too late."
"I suppose you are right." Kent stood. "I need to get back to the Oregon. It is not going to be easy to repair the ship."
"I would stay and help if I could", Worf said as he stood up, "but Captain Picard will need me with him."
"I understand." The two walked out onto the Bridge.
Captain Picard was sitting in his ready room thinking about his next decision. "Commander Riker, please join me in my ready room."
Commander Riker walked into the ready room a minute later. "You wanted to see me Captain."
"Yes Number One. I think that we should leave the Saucer here to help with repairs on the Oregon. Their weapon systems are down, and if the enemy returns they would be obliterated almost immediately. With the Saucers protection, maybe they could hold out a little longer."
"I agree Sir. Shall I take command of the Saucer."
"No, I want you with me. I will put Mr. Worf in command."
"Understood, I will notify the crew."
Commander Riker walked back onto the Bridge. Mr. Worf, you will take command of the Saucer and stay here to help repair the Oregon."
An hour after the meeting in the observation lounge, Picard, Riker, and Data, were on the Battle Bridge, preparing to depart.
"Initiate Saucer separation, Mr. Data."
"Initiating Saucer separation, Sir."
The Saucer coasted out ahead of the Stardrive.
"Separation complete", said Data.
"Hail the Saucer."
"I have them, Sir", said Data.
"Mr. Worf, we will return as soon as possible."
"Understood, Sir, and good luck", said Worf.
"Good luck, Captain", said Troi.
The screen went blank.
"Set course for Bajor warp nine." Picard sat in his chair. This voyage to Bajor was beginning to become a habit.
Worf sat in the Enterprise command chair. "Worf to LaForge."
"LaForge here. What can I do for you?"
"If possible, I would like to be briefed on what repairs have been completed on the Oregon."
"Certainly, can we meet in say an hour."
"That would be fine. Thank you. Worf out."
Worf stood up from his seat. "Ensign Gart, you have the Bridge."
"Aye, Sir", replied the Ensign at OPS.
Worf walked into the turbo lift. "Holodeck three", he said.
It had been almost two days since the Enterprise had left.
When the turbo lift arrived Worf walked down the corridor to holodeck three. "Computer, run Worf calisthenics program. Level three."
Worf walked into the holodeck. The program was not running.
Worf turned around. He saw a Hepilation standing there. The man walked into the holodeck and the door closed. He was wearing a Star Fleet uniform. Worf did not recognize him. He must have been an officer from the Oregon.
"What did you say."
"I said fight Klingon. Let's see what you got."
"Ensign...", began Worf. Just then the man jumped Worf. He knocked him to the floor. Worf got up and charged his attacker, but his attacker caught him with a fist in the face. The blow was harder than anything he had felt before. Hepilation's are physically a weak race. This man had to be an imposter. Worf kept getting up and charging his enemy. Each time he was knocked to the ground. Then the man pounced on Worf pummeling him with devastating blows. Worf was just able to tap his communicator badge. "Security to holodeck three."
The alien grabbed the badge. He held it up in front of Worf's face. He crushed it in his bare hand. He kept on beating Worf. Worf lost consciousness.
Geordi was in main engineering on the Oregon. He and his team had almost got the warp engines back up to specs. The repairs to the rest of the vessel were coming along well, but slowly. Geordi looked up form his console. He saw commander Wilkins walking toward him.
"What can I do for you Commander." Wilkins grimaced and was about to say something when Geordi spoke again. "I almost forgot, Kent."
"Thank you Geordi. Now, how are repairs coming."
"They are preceding as scheduled. We should be up and running well before the Enterprise returns."
Just then, they heard Doctor Crusher's voice. "Crusher to Wilkins and LaForge."
Wilkins answered. "Yes Doctor."
"Commander, the two of you better beam back to the Enterprise right away. Lieutenant Worf has been attacked. He is seriously injured."
Geordi looked at Wilkins. "We're on our way Doctor."
Captain Picard was sitting in his quarters. He was trying to make sense of the abduction of Captain Harris. He could not understand what they would want with him.
"Riker to Picard."
"Picard here, go ahead."
"Captain, we will be approaching Bajor in about ten minutes."
"Thank you Commander. I will be up there shortly. Picard out."
Picard stood up and left his quarters.
Picard sat on the Bridge of the Enterprise in his command chair. They were approaching Bajor. "Ensign Zeff, hail Deep Space Nine."
"Aye, Sir. I have them.", replied the Ensign at tactical.
"Captain Picard, back again so soon", said Commander Sisko.
"Unfortunately Commander. Captain Harris has been abducted by an unknown alien vessel. They are in some way connected to his recent discovery of the book. We are returning to Eltrous Four to see if we can get some answers."
"Good luck to you Captain."
"Thank you Commander, Picard out."
"Mr. Data, set course through the worm hole. Then set course for Eltrous Four, warp nine.
"How is he Doctor?"
Kent, Geordi, and Counselor Troi were standing around the diagnostic bed on which Worf now lay. Doctor Crusher walked over from the biofunctions readout.
"He is stable for the moment, but I won't lie to you. It's touch and go."
"What happened", asked Counselor Troi.
"All I know is that Worf called security from holodeck three. They found him almost dead. An analysis of his injuries suggests that someone did this to him with their bare hands."
"How can that be Doctor?", asked Geordi.
"I don't know. There is only one person I know who could have possibly done this. That's Data, and besides the fact that he wouldn't do it, he isn't even on board."
"I guess we must have an imposter on board", said Wilkins. "Doctor, can you show me a list of everyone who was treated for injuries on the Oregon."
"Certainly." She went into her office and retrieved a PADD. She handed it to Kent.
Kent scanned the list once all the way through. He recognized all the names. He looked through again, but this time he also checked the species of the crew. He found something strange. It might be just what he was looking. He called up the information on an Ensign Marick Ogal. Ensign Marick Ogal was Andorian.
"Doctor, I think I found are problem. Ensign Marick Ogal. You treated him."
Crusher took the PADD and looked at it. "Yes. He was in the Bridge turbo lift. He had some minor injuries."
"Doctor, it says here he is Hepilation. Is that correct."
"Yes, it is."
"Doctor, Ensign Ogal was Andorian. I saw his body myself. He died in the attack."
"Helm, slow to one half impulse power and enter standard orbit around the planet."
"Mr. Data, you will accompany me to the planet."
"Captain, I do not think that this is wise", said Riker.
"Will, this argument is getting old."
Commander Riker said nothing. The Captain walked to the turbo lift. Data followed him in. "Transporter room two", said Picard.
Data and Picard materialized on the planet. The temple was gone, but there was a small house a few meters away. It seemed to be only one floor.
"Data, scan for life signs."
"One life form Captain. It appears to be the same alien we saw before. His vital signs are fluctuating."
Picard and Data walked to the structure. The door was open. They went inside. Off in a corner was a bed. The alien they had met on their last visit was lying there.
"Picard, come in."
"What is your name", said Picard to the figure on the bed. He looked the same as the last time they had seen him.
"My name is Aldrot. I am Naldorian."
"Naldorian. That explains something. Tell me, is this your true form."
"No." The alien began to glow. He seemed to transform. He became slightly taller and thinner. His skin color changed to gray. His hair turned black. He looked just like the aliens that captured Captain Harris.
"Captain, I am not long for this world. I have protected the seal for all these years, but I now have no purpose."
"Is there anything we can do?"
"No. It was foretold that this would be my fate one day."
"Aldrot, A friend of mine, a Star Fleet Captain, was abducted by an alien vessel. The aliens looked like yourself. Can you help me find him?"
"Picard I can do only one thing for you." The alien handed Picard a standard isolinear optical chip.
"How did you get this?"
"Captain, with everything we are capable of, do you even need to ask?"
"Of course. What information is on the chip."
"You will find out. Now go."
All of a sudden the house began to shake.
"Data, what's going on."
Data took out his tricorder. "The planet is in a state of tectonic shifting. I estimate sixty seconds until this planet destroys everything on the surface."
"Picard to Enterprise. Beam us up now."
"Commander, are you saying that an imposter beamed aboard the Oregon during the attack."
Commander Wilkins, Geordi, Doctor Crusher, and Counselor Troi were seated in the Enterprise observation lounge.
"Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. We had extensive damage to the main computer and the sensors. All the information we obtained before that damage was erased. I believe that they may have done that on purpose so we would not know there was an intruder.
"Why would they have the intruder be a Hepilation. An Andorian would be expected to be strong", said LaForge.
"That's the point", said Wilkins, "we would not expect a Hepilation to be strong. He could catch us off guard", said Wilkins.
"Geordi, what did your scan of the two ships reveal?"
"Nothing. There are no Hepilations on board. I do not even detect his life signs. We can't read him by heat either. Where ever he is, it will not be easy to find him.
"If Worf would wake up we could find out for sure", said Counselor Troi.
Commander Wilkins communicator beeped. "Burkley to Wilkins."
"Wilkins here Doctor. Go ahead."
"Worf is awake. He wants to speak to you."
"On my way, Wilkins out. Ask and you shall receive, Counselor."
Commander Wilkins, and the others who were in the observation lounge arrived in Sick Bay several minutes later.
Commander Wilkins and Geordi walked over to Worf's diagnostic bed. "How are you Worf", said Wilkins.
"I am quite weak, but I will recover."
"Worf, what happened", said Geordi.
"I went into the holodeck to use my calisthenics program. The program wasn't running. A Hepilation came into the holodeck and challenged me to a fight. Before I could say anything he attacked me. He was unbelievably strong." Worf closed his eyes and grimaced.
"Worf, you get some rest. If you think of anything else call me", said Wilkins.
Worf nodded. Geordi and Wilkins left Sick Bay and headed for the Bridge. They talked along the way.
"Commander, I think we need to do a security sweep of the entire ship and post heavy security at all sensitive locations."
"I agree. We should also get under way as soon as possible."
"Under way? Where are we going."
"We will head for Bajor, and try to rendezvous with Picard."
"At impulse power it will not help us very much. The Saucer will slow you down."
"Geordi, is there any way to extend the warp field around the Saucer."
Geordi thought for a moment. Warp fields could be extended, but the saucer was quite large. "I think so. But we would need to attach a tractor beam to the Saucer."
"Set it up. We will leave as soon as the Oregon is ready to travel. How long will that take."
"In about six hours we should have enough repairs complete to leave."
"Very well then, six hours."
Picard and Data entered the Bridge several minutes after they beamed up. They could see that the planet was indeed destroying itself. There were volcanoes springing up from the ocean. The house that Aldrot had been in was now only a cinder.
"Helm, set course for the worm hole warp nine. Number One. Mr. Data and I will be analyzing an optical chip the alien gave us, you have the Bridge."
"Aye Sir. What happened down there."
"No time to explain. I'll tell you later."
"Mr. Data", said Picard as he walked toward his ready room. The android followed him. When they were inside Data took a seat opposite the Captain, and Picard placed the chip in the slot on his desk. Picard called up the information. It flashed across the screen. The information was in the normal style of Dukjat.
"What is it Data."
"It appears to be a set of instructions designed to allow someone to write a computer program to decipher the book."
"Data, we already deciphered the book."
"No, Sir. If I understand correctly the book is written in code. What we deciphered can be decoded into something else."
"Data, can you use the copy of the book in the computer to find out what it really says."
"Certainly. It will take at least a day and a half to write the program. The complexity of the code is such that it is not possible to do it in any other way."
"Okay Data, I need to find out what the book really says as soon as possible."
"Aye Sir." Data took the chip and left the ready room.
Picard sat back in his chair. He hated to wait like this. He did not know if they would ever find Captain Harris.
"Picard to Riker."
"Riker here, Sir."
Riker sounded a little anxious to find out what was going on. "Join me in my ready room, and I will explain our situation."
Captain Harris was sitting in a cell on the alien ship. Ever since he had been abducted he had been there. His captors threw him into the cell and locked the door. They had not spoken to him. Captain Harris did not know if the Oregon had survived or if anyone had responded to the distress call. The aliens had not taken his communicator or the tricorder he had. He tried his communicator.
"This is Captain Jack Harris. If anyone is receiving this transmission please respond." Nothing.
He was lucky he had the tricorder. He had been examining some readings on the alien from Eltrous Four. He had not felt like downloading the information to a PADD. Picard gave him the information so he could satisfy his curiosity.
He looked around the small cell. There was a bunk extended out from the wall on which he was sitting. He checked the walls to see if there was a panel or something. As he walked around he realized that there was a stream of air coming out of a metal panel. He pulled at the panel. It fell away. Cleverly concealed behind it was a vent. The vent was just large enough for a human. The aliens were slightly larger in stature. This cell was obviously designed for them. Captain Harris scanned the opening. He found no danger so he entered the shaft. He started to crawl down the shaft.
"Great", he thought. "I have escaped the cell so I can be trapped on the ship."
Commander Wilkins was on the Bridge of the Enterprise. He and Geordi had decided that this was the best place to command the ships from.
"Are we ready Geordi."
"Almost. I am engaging the tractor beam from the Oregon now." The blue tractor beam reached out from the Oregon and grabbed the Saucer. "Now attaching the Enterprises tractor beam." The Enterprise blue beam reached out and attached itself to the Oregon. "Commander, I am going to extend the Enterprise shields around both ships. The Oregon cannot maintain shields with the extended warp field."
After Geordi extended the shields around the Oregon he spoke again. "Extending warp field. We can move at a maximum of warp five."
"Understood. Helm set course for Bajor warp five."
"Aye, Sir." The ship jumped into warp.
"Geordi, any luck finding the intruder."
"No, but I have picked up a faint energy transmission several times. I think that if it is used again I can tap into it and pinpoint the source."
Just then the ship shook violently. Commander Wilkins fell to the floor. "All stop. Geordi what the hell happened."
"There has been an explosion in the Enterprise tractor beam control room. If we did not have the second beam holding the ships together we would have been torn apart. I better get down there and see what happened." Geordi tapped his communicator. "Damage control team to the tractor beam control room." He headed for the turbo lift.
"I'm going with you", said Commander Wilkins. "Ensign Gart, you have the Bridge."
Captain Harris sat in the vent. He had not eaten in several days. He was very tired. He had not heard any type of alert siren. He did not know if they knew he was missing, or simply didn't care.
Captain Harris continued down the narrow passage. He had found several vents that led into rooms. They did not have the covers like the one in the cell. Unfortunately they were all occupied. He had to be careful that he was not seen. He came to the next vent. He heard a voice talking.
"Captain Mildor, there is an incoming message from Amlar", said a voice.
Harris peered around the corner and looked out the grate. He saw one of the aliens. He was sitting in front of a view screen.
"Put it on screen", said Mildor. The screen flashed to life. "Amlar, report."
Harris could see a Hepilation on the screen. He could also see that the quarters were quite lavish.
"I tried to carry out the first priority, I attacked the commander of the Enterprise Saucer."
"Yes. Picard separated the ship and went with the Stardrive to Eltrous Four. Picard left the Klingon Security Chief in command. I did not have time to kill him. Security would have discovered me. He is temporarily out of commission."
"Amlar, you had better have performed your second function better than your first."
"Yes, I have sabotaged the Enterprise tractor beam, They will not be able to go into warp for at least fourteen hours. I will find a way to make the delay more permanent."
"Very well, Mildor out."
"This is Engineer Eklar to Captain's quarters, could I see you for a moment Sir."
"Is there a problem?"
"No, Captain, I have that information for you on the Enterprise and the Oregon's capabilities. If you would like to come down we can go over it. It will take several hours, there is a lot to discuss."
"I am on my way, Mildor out." Mildor got up and left the room.
After Mildor left, Harris, seeing his chance, pushed the grate off and entered the room. Harris went over to the computer terminal. He called up some files on ship operations. He then found that the computer did not need codes from the Captain's terminal. Communications could be accessed from this station without his being found out. He brought up files on the ships weapons and engine status. These also did not require codes. He could not find any information on their current mission, their coordinates, or the book. He did however send the Enterprise a means by which they could find the Hepilation. He found that the impostor was carrying a homing device to lead the aliens back to the Enterprise. Wilkins could use the homing device to find him. Harris put together a package of information for the Oregon and Enterprise. He sent the information.
Captain Picard sat at his desk in his quarters. He had a few routine reports to write for Star Fleet. As he worked his communicator beeped. "Data to Picard."
"Picard here, go ahead."
"Captain, I have the translation of the book."
"Excellent. Summon Commander Riker to the observation lounge. I will meet you there."
Captain Picard arrived in the observation lounge several minutes later. Commander Riker and Data were just sitting down. "Well Data, what did you find?"
"Captain, the Naldorians and the Falnats, were living in the what we would call the delta quadrant 800,000 years ago. They were bitter enemies. Then their sun went nova. Before they were destroyed they escaped into the future, millions of years from now. This book had been written years earlier to be the center of the Naldorians religion. It is called The Book of Endash. Endash was the Naldorian God. There is not any information of consequence to us about their religion. The Falnats have a different belief. However, the book does not elaborate on it. The book says that it was written to unite the Naldorian people. Before the book was written, the Naldorians were factional, and divided. The Book of Endash changed that."
"Then why the virus", asked Riker.
"They did not want the book to fall into the hands of the Falnats. If it did, they could keep it hidden from the Naldorians causing them to splinter in factions which could be easily destroyed. They had hoped that with the virus the Falnats would not realize that it was The Book of Endash."
"Was there any more", asked Picard.
"Yes. Aldrot put a message on the chip he gave us as well."
"What did it say?"
"It said that when the Naldorians time travelled to the future, the ship carrying the book was lost. It was the ship Captain Harris found on Alagon Seven. Aldrot came back in time so that when the book was found he could instruct the person who would be the Messenger.
"The Messenger", asked Riker.
"The one who gets the cure would be the Messenger. Captain, you are the Messenger. The book has imprinted itself with your DNA."
"I do not understand. Why did the Naldorians not come back in time to get the book", asked Riker.
"The Naldorians never perfected a way to travel back in time. They were only capable of sending Aldrot and a device in the form of an altar that could send the book forward in time. Aldrot was genetically engineered so he could live for as long as was necessary to fulfil his mission. The Falnats did perfect the method of traveling to the past. They have come back to get the book. Since the two vessels we have encountered were distinctly different, I believe that the vessel that attacked the Oregon was Falnat, and the one on Alagon Seven was the Naldorian vessel that was lost. I believe that they took Captain Harris as a bargaining chip."
"So now the Falnats have the book", asked Riker.
"Yes. The message also says that there is a Temple somewhere, but it does not elaborate on the location. At the Temple there is the altar that was sent back in time. If the book is placed in it, only the Messenger can send it to the Naldorians in the future. However, the Messenger would also have the power to put it at any other place in time. Thusly it could be lost forever."
"Since I am the Messenger, what must I do", asked Picard.
"Captain, I can only assume that the Falnat ship that took Captain Harris will attempt to abduct you and force you to send the book somewhere where the Naldorians will never find it."
"Then our best course of action would be to return to the Oregon and wait for the Falnats to come to us", said Picard. "Do you both agree." Riker and Data both nodded. "Data, how long until we reach the Oregon and the Saucer."
"About three days."
As Kent and Geordi approached the tractor beam control room, the smoke was heavy. Geordi went into the room first. Geordi looked at the consoles. "Commander, it looks like someone used an explosive device on this. The damage is too extensive on the outside for it to have been an internal explosion."
"I guess our Hepilation has been busy", said Wilkins. "Is anyone hurt."
"No. The control room is usually unmanned. It is mostly automated", said Geordi.
Just then Wilkins communicator beeped. "Ensign Gart to Commander Wilkins."
"Commander, we just received a subspace message from Captain Harris."
Wilkins looked at Geordi. "Could you pinpoint the point of origin", asked Geordi.
"No. The beam came in scrambled. I have never seen anything like it. It could have come from anywhere."
"We will be up shortly. Summon Counselor Troi, Counselor James, Dr. Crusher, and Dr. Burkley to the observation lounge. We will need a full report from you on the transmission."
Several minutes later Geordi, Wilkins, and the others were in the observation lounge.
"Ensign Gart", began Wilkins, "What was in the transmission?"
"The transmission", began Gart, "includes files on the aliens weapon capabilities, warp capabilities, and confirmation of an imposter who is in contact with the aliens. It also includes a way to locate the imposter. Captain Harris also said that he could not figure out where the vessel was or what their plans are."
"What about the weapon and warp capabilities of the aliens?", asked Geordi.
"There weapons are more than a match for us and the Enterprise together. By my estimation it would take twenty Galaxy Class vessels to destroy that ship, and they would take at least half of our ships with it. As for their warp capabilities, they cannot maintain as high a warp speed as the Enterprise, but we also can only track them when they are extremely close."
"Fantastic", said Geordi sarcastically.
"How did Harris send the transmission?", asked Sarrah.
"He said that he escaped easily from his cell. He was able to get into the Captain's quarters and use his personal terminal."
Just then Worf walked into the room.
"Worf, I told you to stay in bed", said Dr. Crusher angrily.
"I feel fine", said Worf.
"You are not fine you were severely injured."
"Dr., we could use Worf's help", said Wilkins. "Unless you think he is in real danger of causing a permanent injury, we really need him."
"Very well, but take it easy Worf."
"Ensign Gart, brief Mr. Worf on what we just discussed and then Mr. Worf, I want you to find that impostor."
Captain Harris sent his message. Then he called up a cross section of the ship and located the most important areas. He sat back in his chair and tried to decide on his next move. Just then the door opened.
"Take him", said Captain Mildor.
Harris made a mad dash for the vent, but the aliens were on him. They bound his hands and feet. They carried him down the halls.
"Well Captain Harris, I hope the information you gave the Enterprise will be helpful. It is not going to help you. You are the bait to get Captain Picard."
Harris struggled against his captors. Then he stopped, realizing he was just wasting his energy. "What do you want with Captain Picard."
"He is the Messenger. He will allow us to send the Book of Endash to a time where the Naldorians will never find it."
"Why do you need Picard?"
"That we need him is all you need to know."
Kent Wilkins was on the Bridge of the Oregon. He was sitting in the command chair. Then Worf's voice came over his communicator. "Worf to Commander Wilkins."
"Wilkins here, have you found anything."
"Yes we have located the intruder. He is in the Jefferies tubes on the Enterprise. We have sealed them off. It will be a while before we can determine his exact location."
"I will beam over and help with the search."
Ten minutes later Commander Wilkins materialized on the Enterprise's transporter pad. "Ensign", began Wilkins speaking to the transporter chief, "where is Lieutenant Worf?"
"Lieutenant Worf is helping to sweep the Jefferies tubes for the intruder. He is in section J18 now. He said you can meet him there."
Several minutes later Kent got off the ladder at section J18. "Worf, have you found anything?"
Worf got a look of total failure on his face. "We found him, but we were too late. He had taken his own life."
"Have Doctor Crusher analyze the body."
"There is no body to analyze. The body disintegrated shortly after we found it."
Commander Wilkins let out a sigh. There was nothing they could do until Captain Picard returned. Just then his communicator chirped. "LaForge to Commander Wilkins. We just received a message from Captain Picard. Could you and Lieutenant Worf come to the Bridge?"
"We're on our way."
Shortly after receiving the call from Mr. LaForge, Kent and Worf entered the Bridge. "Mr. LaForge report", said Wilkins.
"The Stardrive is about a day away. Captain Picard will contact us again in about two hours. We will discuss everything we have learned so far. I briefed the Captain quickly on our situation."
"Very good Mr. LaForge. Now we just have to wait."
Captain Harris rested against the wall trying to conceal himself in a door way. He had escaped his captors when they untied him so he could eat. He grabbed one of their disrupters and wounded at least three of their guards. He went over the picture of the ship in his mind. He finally remembered how to get to engineering. He walked cautiously down the corridor. He knew what he had to do. He would attempt to destroy the ship. He was not about to stand idly by while the aliens tried to capture Captain Picard.
Captain Harris came down a hall-way that led into the main reactor room. He knew he would not have much time to do this. He opened an air vent that was a few meters down the hall. He needed an escape route just in case the ship was not destroyed. He studied the weapon he had stolen. It did not have an overload setting like most hand weapons. He opened up a panel on the weapon. He rewired a few connections. The weapon began to hum. Harris threw the weapon at the antimatter reactor. He saw the weapon fall down the reactor shaft. He ran for the air vent. He heard the explosion. He got into the vent and pulled the vent cover on. He waited. After twenty minutes he figured that he was unsuccessful in destroying the ship. He did not know what to do next.
"Find him, you incompetent fools", Mildor screamed. "How could you let him escape again."
"We removed his restraints to allow him to eat. He grabbed a disrupter and wounded six guards", reported the guard. Just then the ship rocked.
"Mildor to Bridge, what happened."
"We are not absolutely sure yet. It appears that Harris set the disrupter he stole on overload. He almost blew up the antimatter reactor. Luckily we did not lose antimatter containment. Engineering reports it will be weeks before we can travel faster than warp two."
"Damn. I want Harris found and brought to me."
Captain Harris ran down the corridor toward what he hoped was the main shuttle bay. He was being shot at all the way. He was just barely eluding capture. Just then two guards grabbed him from behind. He struggled, but it was no use. Before he could do anything, one of the guards injected him with something. He lost consciousness.
Captain Picard walked out of his ready room and sat in his chair. Commander Riker was standing at the tactical console, as the Battle Bridge had no chair for the First Officer.. "How long until we reach the Saucer, Mr. Data", said the Captain.
"We will rendezvous in six minutes Captain."
"Data, as soon as we rendezvous, dock with the Saucer. Tell the senior staff I want a meeting in the observation lounge in thirty minutes."
Picard turned to Commander Riker. "Will, when we find the aliens, I may be forced to trade myself for Captain Harris. If that is what I must do, I intend to do it. You and Commander Wilkins must follow the aliens. At least we know you can keep up with them."
"Yes, Captain Harris's message was extremely helpful. Captain, of course I would prefer that you do not try to trade yourself, but if it is necessary, I want a way to find you."
"You have an idea Number One."
"Yes." Commander Riker took a small homing device out of his pocket. "Take this. It is small enough to conceal."
"A sensible precaution Number One, thank you."
A half hour later the crew was in the observation lounge. They went over everything in great detail.
"Does anyone else have anything to add", said Picard.
No one said anything. "Very well, Commander Wilkins, how are repairs going on the Oregon."
"Repairs are nearly complete. We will need to go to a Starbase. There is some damage that we can't repair in deep space, but it's not serious."
Captain Picard thought for a moment. He had to decide on their next move. "We will remain here until the aliens return. Since I am the Messenger, the aliens obviously will want me. They will come. This meeting is adjourned."
Captain Picard rose and left the ready room. He had an appointment to keep. He went to the turbo lift, and eventually made it to Ten Forward. Picard walked to the bar. Standing behind the bar is the person he needed to see. It was Guinan. "You wanted to see me Guinan."
"Yes. I'm not sure. I just have this feeling." Picard knew that when Guinan had a feeling, you could not discount it. "There is more here than meets the eye. I have heard about what's going on. I just think that there is something we are not seeing."
"I have had contact with many different aliens who communicate telepathically. I now I have felt those aliens before."
Picard sat up straighter. "Where Guinan. To our knowledge, we never came into contact with them before."
Guinan's eyes widened. "Oh my God. Captain, get the Senior Officers together. We have to talk."
Guinan and Captain Picard walked into the observation lounge several minutes later. They sat down. Commander Riker, Commander Wilkins, Data, Dr. Crusher, Dr. Burkley, Counselor Troi, and Councilor James were already there. Guinan looked upset.
"Now Guinan", began Picard, "what is wrong?"
"Captain, a long time ago, before the Borg scattered my people throughout the galaxy, my home star system had two inhabited planets. The other planet was attacked by an unidentified enemy ship. We never found out who the aliens were. I remember feeling their presence. It was the same thing I felt when we intercepted the Oregon. They destroyed every living thing on the planet. Then they stripped it of a rare ore."
"What kind of ore", said Riker.
"Betralithium. They needed it to make crystals that they used in a special engine that allowed them to travel through time."
"Betralithium is extremely rare", said Data. "However, we have never found a use for it."
"Well, the Falnats have. They will probably need to find some before they can travel through time."
Picard sat back in his chair. "Thank you Guinan. That will be helpful. Data, what is the nearest known source of Betralithium."
"Aldax Two has a large deposit of it."
Picard frowned. "There is a colony on Aldax Two."
"Yes, Sir", said Wilkins. "There are over five thousand colonists."
Just then the red alert siren sounded. They all got up and went to the Bridge. "Status", said Picard, as Jeordi vacated the Captain's chair. Picard took his seat. Data went OPS. Commander Riker was seated in his usual position. Commander Wilkins sat on his opposite side.
"Captain", began LaForge, "sensors have picked up two Falnat ships closing at warp two, ETA twelve minutes."
"Warp two", said Riker. "Why so slow?"
"Perhaps Captain Harris bought us some time", said Commander Wilkins.
"On viewer", said Picard.
The viewer changed to show two vessels coming toward them.
"Hail them Mr. Worf", said Picard.
"They are responding Sir", said the Klingon.
"On screen." The screen changed. He saw a Falnat standing on the Bridge of the other vessel. "I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the ..."
The alien cut him off in mid sentence. "I am Mildor, Captain of this vessel. I know who you are. If you do not beam over immediately I will kill Captain Harris. You have five seconds. Five. Four."
"Wait a minute", said Picard.
The alien Captain pulled Captain Harris in front of the viewer. He raised a disrupter to his head. "Three. Two."
"Alright. Picard to transporter room three. One to beam directly to the alien Bridge." The transporter gripped Captain Picard. He appeared on the alien Bridge. Two Falnats grabbed him.
"Let's talk", said Commander Riker.
"There is nothing to talk about." The screen went blank.
"Take Captain Harris to the transporter room and beam him to Heplars ship." Two Falnats escorted Captain Harris off the Bridge. "Well Captain Picard. It looks like you will fulfill your role as the Messenger. If not we will destroy the colony on Aldax Two."
Commander Riker stood on the Bridge staring at the Falnat vessel. He was powerless as long as the aliens held Captain Harris and Captain Picard. The two vessels began to move away.
"Commander Riker", said Data, "The vessel that Captain Picard is on has set a heading for the Vendar system. That may be where the Temple is located."
"What about the other one."
"It is on a heading for Aldax Two at warp eight."
"The colony", said Wilkins.
Riker felt alone. If they went to Aldax Two they might lose Captain Picard and Captain Harris. If they did not, the colony could be destroyed.
"Commander Wilkins", began Riker, "If you agree, the colony must take precedence."
"I do agree, but what if we sent a small group to try and rescue Captain Picard and Captain Harris. We have the Runabout Peru in the Oregon's main cargo bay."
"Excellent idea. I will take a team aboard the Peru. Mr. LaForge you are in command of the Enterprise.
"Commander Wilkins, as senior officer on this mission, The Enterprise is at your disposal."
"All right Commander. We'll do everything in our power to stop them from destroying the colony."
"Worf, Dr. Crusher, and Data, you are with me. Mr. Worf I want ten of your best security officers with us."
Fifteen minutes later Commander Riker and his team were on board the Peru.
"Riker to Oregon, ready for takeoff", said Riker as he pushed buttons on the console.
"This is the Oregon, you are cleared for take off", said Commander Wilkins. "Mr. LaForge and I have decided to separate the saucer section so we can get the civilians out of harm's way. I will command the mission from the Oregon."
"Understood", said Riker. "Good luck."
"And good luck to you, Wilkins out"
"Setting course for the Vendar System, warp six."
Riker sat in the pilot's chair. In the copilot's chair sat Security Officer Lilandra Onar.
"Ensign, you monitor the sensors, I am putting the ship on automatic pilot."
Riker pressed some buttons, engaging the automatic pilot. He then got up and exited the cockpit. In the large room in back he found the rest of the team.
Riker looked around at everyone. When he found he had there attention, he began. "Since we can travel, significantly faster than the Falnat vessel, I have set a course that will take us around the Corat Nebula. We can arrive at Vendar before the Falnats, without their knowing. We will have to find the Temple and then plan a course of action."
"Would it not be wise to catch the ship before it reaches Vendar?", said Worf.
"If we do that, they will certainly destroy us. I am hoping we can find the Temple, hide the ship, and ambush them at the Temple."
Worf nodded his agreement.
"How long until we reach Vendar?", said Dr. Crusher.
"About six hours. The Falnats will arrive two hours later."
"That does not give us much time to find the temple", said Data. "I will try to boost the long range sensors so we can increase our effective scanning range."
"Good", said Riker. "We need every advantage we can get."
Commander Wilkins sat in his command chair. He had just finished wishing Riker luck. He wished he had been able to go with them to help Captain Harris, but he knew that someone must go to Aldax to help the colony.
"Wilkins to Enterprise."
"LaForge here, we will be done with separation in one minute. I have instructed Ensign Gart to take the saucer to Starbase 16."
"Good. As soon as you are ready to depart, signal us, and we will engage at warp eight.
Commander Wilkins looked toward the woman at the CONN position. "Ensign Sonea, set course for Aldax Two, Warp eight. Engage when the Enterprise has signaled that they are ready."
Commander Wilkins sat in the command chair. How could he fight an enemy that was so much stronger than they were? He knew that this might be a hopeless cause.
The ship rocketed forward. "Estimated time to Aldax Two."
Ensign Drake replied from OPS. "We should arrive in forty minutes. Because of their head start, the enemy vessel will arrive about fifteen minutes sooner. We will not be able to intercept them before they reach the planet."
Commander Wilkins could not help noticing how scared he looked as he turned back towards OPS. He knew that John Drake had limited experience at OPS. He had only been with the ship for a month.
Commander Wilkins turned to tactical. "Lieutenant Track, be sure all weapons are functioning properly when we reach Aldax Two, and contact the Enterprise, I want to talk to Mr. LaForge. Put him through to the ready room."
"Aye Sir", replied the slender woman at tactical.
Commander Wilkins exited the bridge and took a seat behind the desk in the ready room.
Geordi was standing behind OPS, looking over Ensign Duvall's shoulder. "Try to boost sensors so we can get a good look at the Falnat vessel."
"I cannot seem to get a lock", she said.
"Sir", said the tall man at tactical, "I am receiving a transmission from the Oregon. Commander Wilkins would like to speak with you."
"Thank you Lieutenant Tide, I'll take it in the ready room. Lieutenant Barrow, you have the bridge."
"Aye, Sir" she said.
Geordi sat behind the Captain's desk in the ready room. He turned the screen toward him and pressed a button. Commander Wilkins' picture appeared on the screen. "Mr. LaForge, I thought we should come up with a plan for when we reach Aldax."
Geordi nodded. "We need something, that's for sure."
"The planet's deposit's of Betralthium, are located in two main are. The larger one is outside of the colony's perimeter. The other is right in the middle of the colony. As soon as we reach the planet, we must be ready for battle. At their first hostile action against us or the colony, we will attack."
Geordi mulled it over in his mind. It was as good a plan as any. "Agreed. It is our best option."
"Okay, have your tactical officer contact my tactical officer and devise a scrambler code to keep the Falnats from intercepting our transmissions."
"Good luck Jeordi. This is not going to be easy." The screen went blank.
"That is an understatement", Jeordi muttered.
Captain Picard was tied to a chair in a room on Mildor's ship. The alien Captain was sitting opposite him. "Well Captain, I think you know why we wanted you."
"Enlighten me", said Picard dryly.
Mildor smiled. You are the Messenger, and you will send the Book of Endash to a point in time where it will never be found again."
"I will do no such thing."
"Oh You will do it Picard. We have several ways of guaranteeing this. Some of them are most painful, but rest assured, you will obey us."
The Oregon and the Enterprise sped toward the planet. Commander Wilkins was ready. "Hail the alien vessel."
"Aye Sir. No response."
"They are firing Commander."
"Evasive maneuvers. Fire at will."
The battle raged onward. The alien vessel ceased its orbital mining operation. It had not yet started to mine the colony area. It fired at the Oregon and enterprise. Both ships were hit with immense bolts of energy. The torpedoes and phasers form the Oregon and Enterprise seemed to bounce off the attacker.
Commander Wilkins fell to the ground as an explosion rocked the ship. They could not hold out much longer.
"Contact the Enterprise."
"Enterprise here", said LaForge. We are in trouble, recommend we fall back and regroup."
"Agreed. We will rendezvous at coordinates four nine six mark eight four two. That is beyond their weapons range. I do not think they will come after us. They probably don't perceive us to be a great threat."
Commander Wilkins beamed aboard the Enterprise as soon as they reached the rendevous point. He went straight to the bridge. "Mr. LaForge, damage report."
"Damage is extensive, we should be ready to attack again in about three hours."
"We don't have three hours. The Oregon's weapon systems are beyond repair and our transporters are down." Kent stood there for a long minute contemplating their next move. He had little choice.
"Jeordi, if the Oregon rams the Falnat ship will it be destroyed."
Jeordi looked at Commander Wilkins. His visor could tell just how much his decision weighed on the Commander. "It should, Sir", he replied gravely."
"Start evacuating all personnel from the Oregon. Use transporters only. They may get suspicious if they see shuttles. I will return and make preparations."
An hour later, Commander Wilkins was the last person left on the Oregon. He was on the Bridge. "Ships log. Commander Kent Wilkins Commanding. There is no choice. We have evacuated the Oregon. I will set the ship on auto pilot. It should destroy the enemy vessel when they collide. She is a good ship. and she has served us well. She must now be sacrificed to save the lives of the colonists. I wish her good luck on her final voyage. Commander Kent Wilkins of the Starship Oregon."
"Wilkins to LaForge. Prepare to beam me out on my signal."
"Commander", said Jeordi's voice. "The transporter system just shorted out. We can not get you back. You will have to take a shuttle."
"No Commander. That will make them suspicious. I will remain aboard."
"Sir, you can't."
"Jeordi. In one hour that vessel will attack the colony. You have fifty minutes to repair the transporter. If you cannot. I will remain aboard."
"Understood, LaForge out."
Aboard the Falnat vessel Harris had once again escaped. The Captain had taken him too lightly. That was a mistake. He had paid for it with his life. The Captain made his way carefully down a corridor. he arrived at his destination. The Captain's quarters. He entered, and found the room deserted. He went quickly to the computer and established a subspace communication channel. He need to talk to Commander Wilkins.
Thirty minutes later the transporter was not operational. "Incoming message from the Falnat vessel", said the Computer."
"On screen", said Wilkins as he leaped from his chair.
"Kent", said Captain Harris.
"Captain, I thought you were aboard the other vessel."
"No, they transported me here before they entered warp. What is the situation."
Wilkins outlined what had happened. He told them of the plan to ram the alien vessel.
"Good plan. Execute it as soon as you can get off of that vessel."
"No, Sir. You will be killed."
"This is an order. I refuse to jeopardize the lives of the colonists to try and save my life. You will get off that ship and execute the plan. It has been good to serve with you Commander."
Before he could reply there was a loud crash. Wilkins could see five Falnats burst through the door. One carried a large sword.
"No", screamed Wilkins.
With one quick swing, Harris's head fell from his shoulders. The screen went blank.
Wilkins seethed with anger. He wanted to board the enemy ship and kill them himself, but he knew he had other obligations.
"Wilkins to LaForge."
"I am going to destroy that ship now."
"Wait commander. We will have transporters available within ten minutes."
"No time Jeordi. Captain Harris sent me a message. If the Falnats heard, they know our plan. Wilkins out."
"Computer, disable subspace communications. Lay in a direct collision course with the Falnat vessel, warp eight. Set impulse engines to overload on impact with the enemy vessels. Drop antimatter containment field and antimatter reserve field on impact as well."
"Cannot complete request while crew members are on board without Captain's Emergency Code and final self destruct code."
Wilkins took a deep breath. "Computer, this is Commander Kent Wilkins in Command of the USS Oregon. Emergency Code three seven four dash eight nine five dash nine four one."
"Carry out instructions."
"Ready for final destruct code."
"Code zero zero zero destruct zero."
"Code accepted. Ready at your command."
Wilkins took the Captain's chair. "Thanks old girl. You served us well. Just one last mission to complete."
Riker was standing in the cockpit next to Worf. Data was seated in the pilot's seat going over the sensor information.
"Well Data, have you found anything."
"Yes, Sir. As you know, the Vendar system has twelve planets, nine of which are class M. I have ruled out Vendar One through Vendar Seven by long range scans. There are no large unnatural structures, and no large underground caverns. Vendar Eight, Vendar Nine, and Vendar Twelve are colonies with members from many federation planets. It is unlikely a temple would have gone unnoticed."
"What does that leave us Mr. Data", said Riker.
"Vendar Ten has a primitive, Bronze Age culture. It has not been mapped or explored to any great degree. Vendar Eleven is class K. It cannot support life without artificial domes. It is unlikely that Vendar Eleven is the location. I would conclude that Vendar Ten is a likely place to look."
"Agreed", said Riker.
"Do we have any information on Vendar Ten", Worf asked.
"We know that there are two land masses on the planet. Only one is inhabited. The inhabitted land mass has no large mountainous areas and is much larger. The other smaller land mass in almost completely covered with mountains."
"Sounds like a good place to start", said Worf.
Riker nodded. "When will the smaller land mass be within sensor range?", said Riker.
"In about twenty minutes", replied Data. "However, due to the extreme size of some of the mountains it will be difficult to pinpoint the location. We may not know where it is until after we reach orbit."
"How long until we reach orbit", asked Worf.
"Approximately two hours."
Captain Picard sat tied to a chair in his cell. He looked around for a means of escape, but could find nothing. He thought about what Mildor had said. Picard had endured torture before. He had been held captive for a time by the Cardassians. He had resisted them. He hoped he was strong enough to fight them.
Picard heard someone coming down the hall.
"Well Picard. Have you decided to help us. It will not effect you or your time."
Picard looked Mildor right in the face. "I have no intention of helping you, and I will resist you with my last ounce of strength."
"Very well. Guards", said Mildor.
Three Falnats entered the room. Two of them grabbed Picard's chair. They did not even bother to untie him. They took him out of the room. The third stood next to Mildor.
"Eklar", began Mildor, "How long until we reach Vendar."
"About four hours Sir."
"See if you can get us there any faster."
"I will try Sir, but we have been pushing the engines. I am not sure what I can give you."
Mildor turned around and headed down the corridor. He would need three hours to get Picard ready. He did not want to waste time.
"No", screamed Picard.
Every square inch of his body was in pain. It was as if his entire body was being burned, inside and out. He tried to remain silent, but he could not help but scream. He lost track of time. He could not tell if it had been an hour or a year since they had begun. Slowly he slipped into unconsciousness.
Mildor sat at the control panel. The computer was slowly making Picard feel more pain. However, more than just torturing Picard was going on. The energy field was weakening Picard's immune system.
Mildor looked at the controls. "Well Picard. In an hour, you will be a willing slave."
Riker sat in the pilot's seat aboard the runabout. "Data, have you located that temple yet."
"Yes, Sir", said Data. "It is at almost the exact center of the land mass. Unfortunately the surrounding mountains make it difficult to get an accurate picture of the temple."
"Data, see if you can find a cave where we can set down", said Riker.
Data looked at the readouts. "Commander, there is a large cave two kilometers north of the temple. The cave walls contain large deposits of heavy metals. I believe that we can use explosive charges to seal the runabout inside. The Falnats will not be able to detect it."
"But can we get the Runabout out."
"I can program the ships computer on a timer. It would melt the debris in front of the cave and come to the temple on auto pilot. We can take the mini navigational system and pilot the ship remotely. We can not pilot the ship until it has freed itself because of the heavy metals in the rocks."
"Agreed." Riker set the course. Riker pushed the button for the intercom. "This is Riker to all hands. Prepare for landing in three minutes. We will have to hike two kilometers on foot. Riker out."
"Data, have the Runabout come to the temple about one hour after the Falnat ship should arrive."
The shuttle flew slowly down into the atmosphere. The terrain was mountainous. There was very little vegetation. Riker brought the shuttle down and landed her inside the cave.
Riker and Data got up and went into the room in back.
"Okay", said Riker, "Prepare to move out. Worf, have your security team pack extra phasers, phaser rifles, explosive charges, and any equipment we might need to scale mountains or cross ravines. The terrain outside is very rocky."
"Aye, Sir", said Worf.
"Dr. Crusher, gather any medical equipment you think we will need. We will not be able to return to the Peru."
"Data, use the sensors to get as accurate a reading on the surrounding terrain as possible", said Riker.
Mildor stood over Captain Picard. He was unconscious. He was lying on a table. Mildor took a small device and attached it to Picard's ear. He picked up the control device, and pressed a button. Picard's eyes opened. Mildor pushed some more buttons. Picard sat up and then stood. "Well Picard. You should have done this voluntarily." Mildor laughed.
"No", Picard screamed, but he made no sound. He had no control over his body. He could hear Mildor laughing, and could see him standing there, but he could not move. Slowly his body began to move forward. He heard a voice speak to Mildor over the intercom.
"Picard, you are under my control", said Mildor. "Your immune system is being used to control you. The device on your ear is sending impulses to your brain using your own T helper cells to carry the signals. You can not fight it."
Mildor used his control to move Picard to a computer screen. He showed him what was on the screen. It was a set of numbers. Mildor pressed some more buttons. "There, Picard. Now you will remember the code that you must enter into the altar."
"Captain Mildor. We have arrived at Vendar Ten. There are no signs of a Federation ship. They must have gone to Aldax.
"Excellent", Mildor replied. "Now let's get down there."
Riker and the rest of the team made their way slowly over the rough terrain. Two kilometers was not a really long distance, but the mountains and ravines made it hard. The mountains were rocky, with sparse vegitation. Riker was near the end of the group with Doctor Crusher and Data. They were followed by two security officers. Worf had insisted that he and his security team lead so they could scout ahead. Commander Riker could see the clouds moving in.
"Looks like we may be in for some rough weather", Riker said.
Data scanned with his tricorder. "Indeed. I am detecting a large electrical storm moving in. It is moving extremely fast. It should begin to pass over us in about twenty minutes. We should probably find shelter and wait out the storm."
"How long until the Falnats arrive?", asked Crusher.
"About an hour", replied Data.
"How long will the storm set us back if we stop?", asked Riker.
Data looked at his tricorder. "There is a cave about fifteen minutes from here on our present course. If we take shelter there, we should arrive at the temple in about thirty minutes."
"Data, can we make it to the temple without stopping", asked Riker.
"Yes, Sir", said Data, "But we risk the possibility of getting some of our equiptment wet. The phasers explosive charges, and medical supplies, do not take kindly to water."
"Weren't there water tight bags on the runabout", said Crusher.
"Yes, Doctor", said Data. However, the Runabout was not fully equipped. Thusly many of the supplies are not in water tight bags."
Riker contemplated the delay. It could seriously jeopardize the possibility of rescuing the Captain.
"Mr. Data, follow me", said Riker. Riker and Data began moving faster. They caught up with Worf about two minutes later. They briefed him on the situation.
"Worf, I suggest that you, Data, and I proceed ahead. We can leave The Doctor and security officers behind with the equiptment. We can hopefully devise a strategy before the rest of our team arrives", said Riker.
Worf thought a moment. "Agreed. I will gather what we need into some of the water tight bags."
"Good", said Riker, "and brief everyone so they know the situation."
Fifteen minutes later, Riker, Data, and Worf started walking away from the cave where the rest of the team was waiting. When they were about ten meters away, they heard a loud crash. They turned around to see the cave had collapsed.
"Riker to Crusher", said Riker as he ran towards the cave.
"Crusher here. We are Okay in here, but we can't get out."
"Can you phaser your way out Doctor?", said Riker.
"That would not be advisable Commander", said Data.
"Why", said Crusher over the communicator.
"The collapse of this cave has caused a great amount of weight to be thrust upon the opening that collapsed. If you use phasers, the cave will collapse on top of you."
Riker looked from Worf to Data, "Any suggestions?"
"Commander", began Data, "The only alternative is to wait until the Runabout comes out of the cave and transport them out of the cave. They have the Mini Navigational system. They can control the Runabout when it emerges, and have it beam them up."
"Any other suggestions."
Both Worf and Data were silent.
"Dr., we will continues to the temple. You will have to do as Commander Data has suggested.
"Understood", said Crusher on the communicator, "but what about you. You have only a limited amount of weapons, and there are only three of you."
"We will do what we can, Riker out."
Riker motioned them onward, and the trio set out on the last leg of there journey, just as it started to pour.
The Oregon rocketed towards the Falnat vessel. It came upon the vessel and rammed into it. It exploded on impact. The antimatter release tore into the Falnat ship. Half of the vessel was destroyed instantly. Metal groaned as it was torn apart. The atmosphere in both ships escaped out into space causing a frozen cloud of oxygen. The Falnat's were helpless. Fifteen seconds later their warp core exploded in a blinding flash of light. The Falnat vessel was utterly annihilated. Every living thing on both vessels was destroyed.
Riker, Data, and Worf walked quickly over the rough terrain. Finally they came upon the temple. It was in a small valley. It was not what they had imagined. It had one door way in the front, and was obviously two stories high.
"Not very impressive", muttered Worf.
The trio walked to the door way. There was no doorway.
"Data", said Riker.
Data took out his tricorder, and scanned the area. "There does not appear to be anything of note. No life forms or advanced technology. It is just a building."
They entered the building. They found a large room. The only thing in this room was an small alter at the center of the room. They walked over to the center. It did not appear to be attatched to the ground. It had what looked like a small transporter pad on it with a small display screen, and an input panel. It also had a place obviously used for hand print identification. There were lights shining above them.
"Data, you said there was no advanced technology", said Riker.
"Then what is powering these lights?", said Worf.
"It appears", began Data, "that there is a dampening field which is difficult to detect."
"That could be an advantage", said Worf.
"I agree, said Riker.
Riker thought for a moment. "Data, is there any way up to those balconies?"
"Yes", Data scanned around with his tricorder. There is a small door at the far end of the room which leads to a staircase."
"Alright", said Riker, "how many tricorders do we have?"
"Four", said Data.
"This is what we'll do. Data, set up one tricorder outside undercover. Put it somewhere that it can scan the entrance way to this valley. Data link the other three tricorders so we can use them to communicate silently by printout. Then link them with the one outside so we can each see what is going on out there."
"Aye, Sir", said Data.
"Worf set up three strategic areas on the balcony that we can use to ambush them when they enter. Divide up the weapons at the three locations. Set them all on maximum stun."
"Aye, Sir", said Worf.
"I'm willing to bet they won't hurt the Captain, because they need him." Riker paused and thought. "We need to cut the Falnats off from the altar. I will set two explosive charges to destroy the doorway, and two charges that will bring down part of the roof. I will also move the alter to the far side of the room. That will give us more room to trap them in. I will also set charges to destroy the stairway so they can't get up there. We will blow all the charges simultaneously. That will confuse them and cut them off from the alter and their escape. Agreed."
Worf and Data nodded there approval. "Let's get to it", said Riker.
Mildor, Picard, and two of Mildor's gaurds materialized outside of the Temple. It had been forty-five minutes since the Falnat ship had arrived at Vendar Ten, but Mildor wanted thorough scans of the Temple before he beamed down.
"Not much of a Temple is it Picard", said Mildor.
Picard could not respond. He was still unable to move. The harder he struggled, the weaker he felt. He could not turn his head to look around, but it seemed they were in a small valley or canyon. There were mountains behind the Temple.
"Let's go", commanded Mildor. The group started walking toward the Temple.
Inside the temple Riker, Data, and Worf were ready. They watched the group walk towards the Temple. "Data", Rewire tapped out on the tricorder, "can you tell what that is on the Captain's ear."
He replied, "The Captain's Life signs are way off. It appears that he is being controlled by the device that Mildor is holding. The Captain seems to respond to his pressing of the buttons."
Riker thought for a moment. If the Captain was being controlled, how could he get away. "Data, after we blow the charges, you must get to the Captain. Can you jump from this height?"
"Yes, Sir. I can jump without sustaining any damage."
Mildor walked through the door, Picard at his side, followed by his guards. Mildor could not believe how close he was to accomplishing his mission. They started to cross the room. Just then explosions rocked the building. The door way became clogged with debris, and impassable. There route was blocked by debri as well. "Take cover", screamed Mildor. He and his guards jumped behind a pile of debri, Picard stood motionless.
"Release the Captain, or we will open fire", screamed Riker from the balcony."
"Fire", yelled Mildor to his guards, and all three began to fire.
"Return fire", Riker yelled. The fire fight was vicious. No one was budging.
Mildor tapped some commands into his control device. Picard began to walk slowly towards the altar.
"Data, get the Captain", screamed Riker. "Worf, cover him."
Data leapt from his place on the balcony, landing on his feet. One of the guards stood up to get a better shot, but Worf brought him down with one shot. Data moved quickly dodging weapons fire. Mildor pulled out a type of grenade. He threw it towards Worf on the balcony.
The balcony exploded and Worf came tumbling to the floor. Worf grabbed a phaser and crawled behind a pile of debri. He was bleeding badly from his leg. He primed himself to get up and attack, but he lost consciousness."
Mildor and his remaining guard had Data pinned behind some rubble. Riker threw an explosive charge at their location.
"Move", Mildor yelled as he jumped from his location, the control device still clutched in his hand. His guard did not make it, and the explosive sent him flying across the room.
Data got up and headed for Picard. The Captain was about ten yards from the altar, and slowly approaching. Data leaped over some rubble, just as Mildor took aim at him.
"Over here", Riker yelled, grabbing Mildor's attention. Mildor turned and fired so fast Riker could not even move. The blast hit him in the shoulder, and he crumpled to the floor of the balcony unconscious.
Data ran towards Picard. He was almost there.
"Hold it", said Mildor. He was pointing a phaser at Data. Mildor walked over. He pressed some more controls and Picard placed the book on the panel.
Just as Picard was about to place his hand on the pad for identification, Dr. Crusher screamed. "Don't move." She had materialized right behind Mildor. Mildor whorled around, but Crusher hit him with a phaser beam before he could fire.
Data jumped at Picard and removed the device from his ear. Picard crumbled to the floor.
Geordi lept from the Captain's chair. "Get him back, hail the Oregon."
"No response, Sir", said Ensign Tide. "There communications array has been disengaged."
"LaForge to transporter room."
"Transporter room. Lieutenant Chainey here."
"As soon as you get the transporter back on line, lock on to Commander Wilkins and beam him back immediately."
"I want to know if the Oregon powers up there warp engines."
"I, Sir", replied Lieutenant Tide.
Geordi paced back and forth. There was nothing he could do."
"Commander", began Tide, "the Oregon will enter warp in approximately ten seconds."
"Chainey to bridge, I am engaging transporter."
The Oregon entered warp.
"Can you hear me Captain?", said Dr. Crusher.
Picard opened his eyes. He had a head ache and was weak, but other than that he felt okay.
"Doctor, is everyone okay."
"Yes. Commander Riker and Lieutenant Worf were injured, but they will be alright."
Picard sighed in relief. He attempted to move.
"Stay where you are Captain. That's an order", said Crusher.
Before Picard could protest Commander Data appeared beside him. "How are you Captain", he said.
"I will be fine", Picard replied. "Report Commander."
"Commander Riker, Lieutenant Worf, and most of the crew is aboard the runabout outside. Two of the security officers are guarding Mildor and one of the aliens outside. The other alien was killed in the battle. We are ready to beam you to the runabout now."
"No", Picard said. "I have a job to do." Picard tried to sit up. He would not have made it if Crusher and Data had not helped him. He walked unsteadily over to the alter. The book sat upon it just where he put it. Picard reached up and placed his hand on the identifier. The machine hummed to life, and it spoke.
"Messenger, do you wish to override the preset destination."
"No", Picard replied after a long moment.
"Your service to the Naldorians has been noted in our history books. Thank you Captain Picard."
The machine vanished.
Commander Wilkins shimmered into existence on the transporter pad.
"LaForge to transporter room. Have we got him."
"You do indeed have me Mr. LaForge", said Commander Wilkins. "You disobey my orders. I think you deserve a medal."
Picard, Data, and Dr. Crusher walked outside the Temple. Mildor and the other Falnat were sitting against the Temple wall.
Picard looked down at Mildor. "Well Mildor. The book is gone. Now what."
"There is nothing left to do, but return to the future. One day we will return Picard. Of that you can be certain."
The aliens vanished. Picard and the rest walked quickly to the runabout. once inside, Data accessed the long range censors. "Captain, The alien vessel is emanating a strange power field." Data paused. "It has just disappeared. I believe they have returned to there own time."
Captain Picard was seated in the ready room going over the reports of the crew on what had happened. They were in space dock orbiting earth. They were undergoing some repairs.
The door chimed. "Come", said Captain Picard.
In walked Commander Wilkins. "Hello Captain, I just wanted to say goodbye, I'll be leaving soon." Captain Picard stood up. "Commander, I just receive some information I think you will be interested in."
"Oh, What's that."
"Admiral Burke just wanted me to tell Captain Wilkins to report to the Utopia Planitia fleet yards. Congratulations Captain."
Kent was stunned. "Thank you Captain", was all he said.
Picard could tell something was bothering him. "Is something the matter."
"I can't help thinking of Captain Harris. I don't deserved a command."
"Starfleet feels otherwise. They were quite impressed with how you handled the situation at Aldax Two. They feel you are ready."
Wilkins was torn. He had always wanted his own ship, but he did not want it this way. "What ship, Captain."
"Admiral Burke did not say, but it is a new ship that will be commissioned in a couple of weeks. She has not yet been completed.
"Thank you Captain", said Wilkins.
Captain Kent Wilkins sat in the shuttle as they approached the ship yards.
"Captain, we are approaching your new ship", said the Lieutenant in the pilot's chair.
"Thank you, Lieutenant."
Wilkins looked straight ahead out of the view port. He did not see a ship. Then he saw it as they turned. It was a Galaxy Class Starship. He read the name and registry out loud.
"NCC-2014. U.S.S. Harris."