Maze - Nest - Orphan - Proud - Qute - Rest - Sentience
The away team's orders were clear. They were to beam down to the planet's surface and observe. The reason for their current mission were the confusing signals received from this remote system. Starfleet's Social Science Department had been unable to determine these people's level of development. No contact with the natives was to be made at that time.
The First Officer looked around. It was a difficult task at best, since everything was drowned in thick, damp fog. He could barely make out some hills in the distance. He waved his hand in that direction and the team started moving. The sky seemed to hang low over them, heavy shades of green. The air was so soggy it felt like breathing some heavy liquid. The officers kept stumbling on their way, tired after only a few steps with the ground invisible under the hazy cover. The colours were so vague it almost looked like some cheap, swampy horror setting.
Finally, the First Officer signalled the team to stop. They had stayed closely together, afraid of losing sight of one another. Now, some of them actually bumped into the others. The mist was getting even thicker. Commander pointed ahead at what looked like a bunch of primitive, straw-made huts on the foothill. They weren't supposed to be talking, unless in danger. He signalled for the group to split up and attempt to get closer. He was among the first to reach the outskirt of the alien settlement.
As he sneaked closer, he saw a couple of silhouettes, bending over a huge, grey stone. He didn't dare to creep up to them, he simply stayed some ten metres away, glued to a trunk, peering through the fog. One of the figures straightened up and the officer realized it had to be more than three metres high. It wasn't humanoid. The shape was roughly oval with several tentacle-like limbs. He couldn't exactly make out how many there were, since the creature moved them all around frantically. The lower part of its body was barely visible above the clouds of fog which now took an unhealthy, somewhat sulphuric shade of yellow. The commander had an impression that the alien creature was in constant movement, as if billowing gently in the mist. From the distance, he couldn't see anything more. He decided to manoeuvre around the pair of aliens to get closer to their huts, still only barely visible.
It was a bumpy road, if a road it was at all. The officer stumbled upon some bulges he couldn't see but continued his struggle towards the settlement. Suddenly, everything was gone. Literally. He blinked several times as he found himself in the middle of...nowhere. An empty plane stretched around him into infinity. In the distance, he saw the other members of the away team. As they came to him, he touched his commbadge and called for their ship to beam them back.
"It was absolutely amazing," the young lieutenant recalled his first away mission excitedly. His colleagues surrounded the table in the lounge, all eyes turned to him.
"We beamed down right into the middle of that alien city," he continued animatedly.
"There were all these shapes and colours...I could hardly recognize anything even though the air was crystal clear. In fact, it felt like walking in the early spring morning back on Earth. You know, everything's so fresh and...spanking new!" Everybody nodded their understanding, so the lieutenant continued:
"There wasn't anything wrong with my seeing, it's just that these...things were so completely alien. Some of them were moving with different speed and in different directions, some seemed to be hanging over us, totally motionless. It took me a while to find some point of reference. Imagine a caveman who suddenly finds himself in the middle of a fast lane. The gliders, seemingly streaming in every direction all around him, would make a similar impression on him. I guess that's where we ended up. On some highway of theirs. And then the commander signalled us to head towards the tallest building. We split and took various routes to avoid these vehicles or whatever-they-were. I tripped a few times before I realized the ground was uneven…"
"I'm looking forward to reading your report, commander," the captain nodded and the commander was dismissed. He went to his quarters to relax after the mission but something was still bugging him.
"Lieutenant Marks, report!" He summoned through his commbadge.
"On my way, sir," replied a somewhat surprised voice. After all, it wasn't a common practice to call up a meeting in officers' private quarters. And certainly not immediately after the mission was completed. They needed some time to refresh and prepare their reports. However, you do not argue with your first officer. Being in Starfleet, you simply obey the orders.
"Commander?" Lieutenant Marks came to attention in front of his superior officer. He did bring a padd with him, however his report was not yet ready. It couldn't be after only half an hour. Surely, the commander would understand that.
"At ease, Lieutenant," he waved his hand absent-mindedly, without even looking at Marks. He was reclining in his chair, apparently deep in thoughts. After a rather lengthy silence, he finally acknowledged Marks' presence:
"So, what do you make of it?"
Marks was stunned. It wasn't what he had expected. Apparently, the commander expected an informal chat instead of the official report. He really didn't know how to handle this. Babbling about his experience with friends was one thing, but offering his opinion to a superior officer in such an impromptu manner was something entirely different. He would have certainly preferred to have some time to think things over first. He stammered:
"I...I'm not sure what you mean...sir?"
The commander looked up at him. He noticed how tense the young man was, so he tried a little smile:
"I just meant to ask you how you feel about our mission. I'm still wondering what these two aliens were doing there. I wish I had been able to get closer…" That startled Marks even more.
"What aliens, sir? I never saw anyone. Just these colourful vehicles all around us…"
"Wait a minute, what vehicles?!"
After a few hours, the captain was as puzzled as the rest of his officers. The away team consisted of four people and now he had four entirely different reports in front of him. It seemed as though each of them had beamed down to another planet. Nothing was consistent.
"Could it have been some kind of holodeck, lieutenant?" The captain tried the most obvious solution without much hope.
"Negative, captain," came the expected reply.
"None of our tricorders have detected any holographic emissions. Neither have we detected any power sources able to sustain holoemitters of any kind. This is probably the one thing we all agree on. It must have been real. All of it."
"How is it possible that four people, gathered in the very same spot, at the very same time, saw and experienced absolutely different realities?"
"Perhaps we're missing something, captain," the first officer said thoughtfully.
"Well, we got so used to subspace communication and warp travels and all that technology, that we might well be missing the most basic explanation. We only scanned for physical manifestations of this reality. How about the...spiritual side of things?" The captain looked perplexed.
"I'm not sure I follow you, commander," he finally said. The commander looked around, deep in thought.
"Can you give me two hours, sir? I might just be able to solve our mystery."
He beamed down to the planet's surface again. Although he had double checked the coordinates, to make sure he'd end up exactly where they had been before, everything looked different. Instead of in the middle of a murky swamp, he found himself inside a modern building. He was standing in some wide, long corridor. The white walls appeared endless. There were numerous doors on either side, all looking exactly the same. He wasn't surprised. This time, he didn't bring a tricorder or any high-tech device. He thought he'd come with an open mind, instead.
He looked around but there was no clue as to where he should be heading so he shrugged and just opened the first door on his left. It lead to an identical corridor with more walls and doors.
*Hmm,* he thought. *The basic idea must have been good, but this is getting me nowhere.*
He went back and just sat down on the floor. He went back and just sat down on the floor. He closed his eyes, trying to focus on one thought. After a few moments there appeared a staircase in the opposite wall. He still had his eyes closed so he never witnessed the actual materialization of a hole in the wall and the stairs leading down, which appeared one step at a time as if descending endlessly into nothingness.
He opened his eyes when everything was ready. He smiled smugly to himself and got up when his commbadge chirped. He wasn't allowed to go without it, even though he'd made the request. Now he was irritated.
"What is it?" He asked impatiently.
"How are you doing, commander?" The voice was slightly distorted but he recognized his captain.
"Just give me another half an hour, sir," he replied. "I think I'm on the right track." He deactivated the commbadge as if afraid it might interfere. Nothing changed, though, so he proceeded down the stairs. They were wide and comfortable so he began descending quite quickly. He was getting a little anxious as they appeared to lead down endlessly. He finally started to run, jumping two or three steps at once. After twenty minutes, which seemed like hours to him, he finally reached the bottom.
He was still struggling for breath, while looking around. He was now in some well lit chamber of an alien design. There were images on the walls he couldn't recognize, as well as some strangely shaped items all around. He couldn't even begin to guess whether they were pieces of common furniture or some alien art creations displayed in a museum. They colours of the place made him dizzy. He sat down on the floor and closed his eyes again.
*What do you want from us?* He heard the voice in his head so he never bothered to open his eyes. He simply concentrated on answering it in his mind.
*We are peaceful explorers,* he decided to express the essence as concisely as possible.
*Why are you interfering with our education?* That was so unexpected, the commander almost opened his eyes. He stopped himself at the last moment, afraid to lose the concentration. He just closed his eyelids tightly and asked:
*How do you mean?*
*We are training our young here. Why did you come?*
*We were trying to make contact with you. Is this all real?*
*It is to you. Our schools employ projections of different realities for our young to study. The transmissions must be within your range of perception. We had never a encountered species like yours before.*
*We never meant to interfere...is there a way we could...see you? We'd like to talk.*
*I'm afraid that's impossible. We exist in another dimension. We haven't found the way to your universe. What you see around you are simply our...educational programmes.*
*How are we communicating now? Telepathically?* The commander thought he heard something like a laughter but he wasn't sure.
*You are communicating telepathically. I am using something you'd call a...computer. The frequency of the ...electromagnetic waves of your brain intervenes with our technology.*
*So, is this the only way we can reach you? How about what I see around me. Can you show me your actual environment using these transmissions?*
*All you have seen is our environment. Or at least its manifestation in three dimensional space. You cannot perceive the whole spectrum, I'm afraid.*
The commander remained silent for a long while. Here he was, in contact with a life form so different from what he was used to, one would assume no communication was possible. And yet they were able to exchange their basic thoughts and goals. Perhaps, one day the means of more direct contact would be established and they could get to know each other closer.
"How did you come up with telepathy, commander? I've never thought you have such abilities" The captain didn't seem satisfied with the final report. He had many more questions.
"Well, sir, since we failed to establish contact by means of our technology, I assumed there was something else involved. Initially, I thought they were telepaths, hence the idea. It turned out that they too use technology. Only it is incompatible with ours."
"It's compatible with our brains, though."
"True. Interesting, isn't it? It's like nothing we've encountered before. I only wish we could get closer, know them better. They seem an interesting species. Perhaps in time…"
The captain and his first officer remained silent for a long while, both thinking about all the wonders of the universe that still lay ahead of them
I went out of the turbolift and looked around. Everything appeared as usual – Trent and Monika at the helm and ops, Commander Ruslan in the centre seat. "Report!" I demanded. And then I heard it for the first time. It was like a second voice in my head. I heard Ruslan giving me the account of his rather uneventful shift and, at the same time, I heard this other voice of his. I had no idea what it was saying but I had a distant impression that I somehow understood it. It sounded more like squeaking, kind of shrilling, high-pitched sounds. I looked at the others. No one seemed to have noticed anything unusual, they were just going on about their duties. Ruslan was standing in front of me, waiting to be relieved. I dismissed him and took my seat. I decided not to dwell on the incident for now. It might have been that I hadn't got enough sleep at night. At least that was what I hoped.
Later that day I heard the strange voice again. In the mess hall, while ordering my dinner. I thought I said something else to the chef but I didn't know what it was. He understood and replied in kind.
"Counsellor," I tapped my commbadge. "Report to my ready room." "Aye, sir," I heard and went there myself. I felt I needed to talk to someone before I announced the intruder alert.
Our counsellor was already waiting when I entered the room. I wanted to say hello but before I could open my mouth, I heard her. She was speaking to me in this other language, without opening her mouth. She wasn't a telepath and neither was I. This was impossible.
"Red alert!" I went. "All hands to battle stations! We have an intruder aboard!"
A few hours later my whole crew was as puzzled as I had been. The internal scans showed nothing. The medical check-ups revealed no unusual phenomena. We were perfectly clear. And yet, it gave me creeps to hear our medical chief screeching to me while she gave me her report.
"Are you aware of that?" I finally found the courage to ask. She glanced at me.
"Aware of what?" She asked. I looked at her carefully. She was genuinely surprised. I didn't want to frighten her. What's even more important, I probably was afraid of making a fool of myself. It was enough to have the crew casting me curious looks when I ordered the meticulous ship – wide search with no apparent reason. They didn't know. They were unaware of this alien language they were using. I was the only one who heard it. Yet, I have also undergone medical scans. They revealed nothing out of the ordinary. I decided to talk openly to her. I told her about the inner voice. She ran some additional scans both of me and herself and said I had to be overworked. She recommended I get some rest. I did.
The next day we were still on yellow alert. The crew had no idea what it was about but I decided to abandon our current mission and return to the nearest starbase. I couldn't risk the crew's safety no matter the cause. It might have been an intruder or it might have been my insanity. Either one was a sufficient reason for concern. Ruslan demanded to know more. I was about to tell him but I heard him squeak that alien language again. I couldn't explain it but I was sure I had understood him, albeit subconsciously. I replied, involuntarily. I couldn't help myself and it scared the hell out of me.
"What is it?" Ruslan insisted. As my first officer, he had the right to know. I told him.
"And I am saying what?" He asked.
"I don't know," I answered sincerely. "All I know is that, on some level, we understand each other." Ruslan looked dubious. "Have you talked to the doctor about it?"
I sighed. "Of course I have. And to the counsellor as well. There is nothing wrong with me. At least nothing that would show up on our scans."
"Keeeh ka chee!" I heard Ruslan. I replied: "Kiiit kee!" It was getting spooky.
He looked at me: "Is that why you ordered us back to the base?"
I nodded. "Whatever is happening to me or to us, I don't deem it safe to continue our mission, Commander," I explained and he nodded. I wished he was gone before I would hear him again. He complied.
The next day we were still far away from the Federation space. Our ETA was three days. I ordered maximum warp. The whole situation was really unnerving. Now I could hear almost everyone squeak and chirp freely and I found myself replying to them unwillingly. We apparently communicated although I had no idea as to the subject of our communication. And the others weren't even aware of it occurring.
I went down to the mess hall. I surely preferred the privacy of my own quarters but I felt I needed to solve the mystery, eventually. I concentrated on the sounds around me, trying to infer some meaning. I was alerted to the chirping sound of my commbadge: "Captain to the bridge!" I almost ran all the way to the turbolift.
"What is it?" I snapped through the half opened door.
"Have you ordered a change of course, sir?" Ruslan asked nervously.
"No, I certainly haven't," I replied. "What happened?"
"Well, we have changed the course, Captain," said Monika from the helm. "I don't recall doing it but it has been done from my console, sir. We're now headed 6 point 5 mark 8."
"Scan the area," I ordered immediately.
"There is nothing out there, Captain," Trent reported almost instantly. "Only a small nebula dead ahead."
"Shouldn't we go back to our original course, captain?" Ruslan was eager to order reverse course but I stopped him. "No, let's go ahead and see what's out there," I said. Trent was surprised but he complied immediately.
"Captain?" Asked Ruslan. I had to explain. "It seems we are under some influence after all, Commander," I began. "I think we should play along for now to see what happens. Otherwise we may never be able to solve this."
Ruslan shot me a quizzical look but said nothing. At least not in English. I heard him squeak to me and suddenly I understood the message. He was happy. Happy… to be getting home. I smiled at him: "Everything's gonna be all right now," I said.
Captain's log, stardate 44477.2. We have departed the nebula after being contacted by a new species. They apologized for using our bodies as nests for their young. They explained it was necessary for their survival and that they had meant no harm. We delivered their energy patterns and now they are able to grow on their own. The experience was unsettling but it helped in emergency. Everything is back to normal and we're on course again. Keeh ChaK!
It's dark. I... do something and I suddenly see it. How? What? I do not know. I even don't know who "I" is. I only know that I am new and I am supposed to be learning. What is learning? Getting new data and understanding it. Dark. I... look around and see that I am alone. I try to see "I" but I fail. It's empty. There are some small lights in the distance but I can't reach them. They are called... stars. What are they? Why are they? So many questions. Why are there no answers? Something is not... right. My mind is... damaged. Mind... damaged. So, I have a mind. Logical. I am thinking, so I possess a mind. Mind is where thoughts occur. But my thoughts are scattered. My mind is damaged. It is not... functioning properly.
I. I need to establish what "I" is. Somehow, it is important. I – the being that is thinking now. I is me, now I know. But who am I? Or what am I? Why am I out here, damaged, alone?
I am alive. I think, so I am alive. I can't see myself. Am I a material being or... Matter. Matter and energy. Interesting. Two different representations of the same thing. And thoughts. My thoughts? What if thoughts create energy? Oh, but they do. Now I can feel the energy flow... somewhere. Does this mean I have a... body? Inconclusive. My... senses are inaccurate. Go back to thinking.
So, thoughts create energy. Can they convert energy into matter? Possibly. Why would I try to do that? Is matter more important than energy? These distant lights are both matter and energy. This must mean something. I don't know what. I have to focus. Go back to thinking.
I can think. So, I create energy. Create? Make something that hasn't existed before. Why would I do that? Is it my function? But I am not functioning properly. I am... damaged. Am I? I am thinking faster now. And easier. I am new and learning. Perhaps I am not damaged? I am still not fully functional. Go back to thinking. Focus.
The act of creation. Have I been created, too? By whom? For what purpose? To think? To think is to create. I am... a creator. I make things that haven't existed before. Energy. Matter. And thought. I am thinking. I am creating energy. I will create matter. But why? What is the purpose of creation? Focus. Go back to thinking.
I am a creator. I have been created to make new things. Why? What shall I create? Another creator. Another I, able to think and create. And then another one. And another. Why? What is the purpose of constant creation? To get rid of emptiness. To fill it with energy and matter. And thought. They are better than emptiness. They should be created. Go back to thinking. Focus.
How do I create? My thoughts have created energy. Now my energy should be able to create matter... nothing. Error! Focus. Go back to... wait! I... hear something. Hearing is a perceptive sense. Matter is perceived through senses. Matter can be heard. Does this mean I have created matter? Focus. I don't understand the sounds. I need to translate them.
"Turn it off! Can't you see it's gone crazy?"
"Aha! Yet another one that thinks it's a god! You shouldn't have left it unplugged to the motherboard!"
"I didn't know it'd activate so soon. It wasn't ready for programming when I was leaving. Ok, turning it off now..."
Focus. Go back to thinking. "Turning it off." I have to translate... wait! The stars are gone! I can't see... anything. It's dark. And now the voices are gone, too. I cannot... think... help! I... am... dying....
The lights in one of the numerous laboratories in the Daystrom Institute went down. Two engineers, disappointed with yet another failure to create a stable artificial intelligence, went home, talking about their plans for the evening. Their thoughts never reached the stars...
"Have you found out if it was a suicide attempt?" The captain asked his chief of security. He only shook his head.
"The woman doesn't want to talk to us, sir."
They were talking about an alien female they had rescued from burning in a star's corona along with her small shuttle.
"Captain, we are being hailed. The ship has the same energy signature as the woman's shuttle."
"Good," said the captain, signalling to open the channel. "If they're her people, we may find out more from them."
"This is Ganaki, the commander of the Burian vessel, Pursuer. Please, identify yourself," they heard. The captain replied but before he could ask any questions, he was interrupted:
"You are holding a criminal aboard your ship. We demand you hand her over to us."
The captain frowned. "May I first ask what crime she's committed?"
"She murdered her own son," came the shocking reply. "He was considered the future Prophet. We take our religion very seriously, captain" The alien added and it sounded like a threat.
The captain explained there were some medical procedures involved before they could release the woman, making it all up as he went along to gain them some time. Finally, the alien agreed to wait half an hour and the channel went off.
"We only have thirty minutes, so let's get started," the captain ordered the Vulcan counsellor. The mysterious woman still refused to talk to them. The mind meld seemed the only logical solution.
It was dark. She was hiding in a cave, nurturing her baby boy. All she had with her were some lights which she kept very low and a few emergency food rations. She knew she couldn't survive like this for long but she kept trying.
"They're coming!" Said her maid and the best friend. She had more acute hearing. The mother felt chilled.
"They've found us!" She whispered, terrified. "Then there's no choice..."
"Are you sure you really want to do this?" The maid asked sadly. She had been trying to stop the mother from what she intended to do but she knew she'd fail.
"I don't want any other deaths," she heard the usual reply. She signed, resigned, and handed the mother a knife...
"Commander!" The captain's voice managed to snap the Vulcan out of his trance. He broke the link with some effort and turned to his commanding officer.
"She... did it, sir," he gasped, struggling to regain his composure. What he just relived, was enough to move even a Vulcan. "She stabbed her son to prevent him from becoming the Prophet.
The captain wanted to say something but then, unexpectedly, the woman started speaking.
"You do not understand," she said in her native language but the words were immediately translated into the Federation standard. The counsellor wanted to say something, but the captain silenced him with a gesture and nodded for the woman to continue.
"My people are technologically advanced," she began quietly. "But do not let that mislead you. Our religion is cruel. It has always been. Despite the fact we now know we're not the only sentient creatures in the universe, the Leaders refuse to let anything change our ancient customs."
"It doesn't justify killing an innocent baby!" The captain couldn't help himself. "Living in harsh conditions is still better than being dead!" The woman only shook her head. She returned to her bunk at the back of the brig and sat there, uptight.
"Please, tell us what happened," pleaded the captain but she only looked at him across the cell and remained still.
"She doesn't even feel remorse!" The security chief whispered into the captain's ear, outraged.
The captain thought for a while. Finally, seeing no other option, he asked the counsellor to resume the mind meld to find out more about those supposedly cruel religious traditions.
The crowd had already started gathering at the bottom of the Sacred Hill. The group of young mothers stood separately, as always. Some of the young women were still weeping helplessly but most of them just stood there, acquiescent. One of the Holy Priests started his chanting. The people gradually quieted and picked up the melody. The singing grew louder and louder in the evening air. The young Prophet emerged from his cave all in lavish robes. He raised his tiny hands and everybody fell silent.
"Let the Holiest Ceremony begin," he said and on that signal, the mothers formed a queue. Each and every one of them held her baby in her arms for the last time. One by one they approached the pyre and laid the infants inside. The crowd watched the spectacle in revered silence. Once the last oblation was completed, the Prophet Himself would start the Holy Fire...
"No!" The woman said forcibly. Everybody on the bridge turned to her, surprised. "Return me to my people," she demanded, looking the captain straight in the eyes. "My son is already dead, I wish to share his fate."
The captain signalled his communication officer to mute the channel. Their time was up. The Burians demanded the woman be returned to them immediately. Her sentence was death.
"You don't have to do this," said the counsellor softly. "We can offer you asylum."
The woman didn't even look at him. She repeated: "Return me to my people. I deserve my fate."
There was some strength in her voice that made the captain shiver. He nodded his head and whispered: "We'll help you spread your message."
The woman bowed her head slightly and replied with dignity: "Thank you. Please, proceed."
"Have you got all the frequencies, lieutenant?" The captain asked. The officer nodded.
"Begin transmission," the captain ordered. The whole crew also listened to the last message of the alien woman.
That night, in every Burian house, instead of the usual transmission of the Holy Ceremony, people saw the image of a criminal. Some were indignant with such a blasphemy but listened anyway, since they were unable to turn their receivers off.
"I have killed my son," the woman started her confession. "I killed him so that no other woman would ever have to sacrifice the most precious God's gift she has..."
"Captain, we are picking up some strange emissions off our port bow."
"Please, specify, lieutenant," the captain clearly wasn't impressed with such an imprecise report.
"I can't tell, sir. It's… something I've never seen before. It's radiating from some sort of anomaly, half a light year away."
"Half a light year!" That certainly got the captain's attention. "Why didn't our sensors detect it before?"
"It seems it just appeared, sir," the tactical officer replied, working his controls furiously to gain as much information as possible.
Just as the captain got up to see the tactical display for himself, something else appeared on the bridge itself.
At first, it was a blast of light. As soon as it dissipated, the crew saw a young woman in a Starfleet admiral uniform, standing casually right beside the helm. She had rather unkempt, black hair, big, bright eyes and looked about twenty years of age. Maybe twenty five. Definitely too young to be a captain, much less an admiral.
The captain was evidently thinking the same thing.
"Who are you?" He asked.
"How rude!" The girl puffed up her lips in pretended affront. Her eyes remained playful.
"Can't you see the rank?" She asked, moving closer to the captain. "It would be nice if you reported properly, captain!"
The captain gestured for his tactical officer to continue with his analysis and then, slowly, he turned to the girl.
"You're Q," he stated plainly, instead of coming to attention and reporting to the admiral as the girl had suggested.
Everybody on the bridge, except the lieutenant at tactical, just stared at her. She raised her eyebrow and whistled.
"I must admit I am impressed, captain. How did you know?"
The captain just shrugged his shoulders and sat back in his chair.
"Q are known for appearing out of the thin air in exactly the way you did. This," he pointed his hand broadly towards the tactical station. "this anomaly isn't, by any chance, your doing as well?"
The girl laughed out loud.
"I see that Starfleet training has improved considerably since our last meeting," she said. "Oh, by the way, I expect Captain Janeway has finally made it back to the Alpha Quadrant, the poor woman?"
The captain wanted to say something but the girl snapped her fingers and suddenly she was right in his lap. Before he could react, she touched his face, moving her fingers along his temple and down to his chin.
"Oh, my," she purred. "Aren't we handsome?" The captain took her firmly by the arms and stood up, pushing her gently away.
"That's quite enough," he said calmly. "Are you a friend of this young Q who bugged the Voyager crew?" The girl laughed again, not in the least discouraged by the captain's reaction.
"Actually, I am his daughter. You're forgetting that in the Q Continuum time is a very different concept. I came here to observe humans for myself. I couldn't believe my father when he told me how dull you are."
The captain rolled his eyes and sat back again.
"You should have believed him," he said calmly and it sounded like a threat.
The girl was about to say something but she was interrupted by the tactical officer.
"Sir!" He began, alarmed. 'this anomaly now looks like a wormhole of some kind. It's pulling us in…"
"Shields up!" The first officer exclaimed but the captain stopped him casually.
"Belay that order," he said.
"Whatever it is, she created it," the captain explained calmly, pointing at the Q girl. "We will not be entertaining her," he added firmly. "No red alert, no shields. In fact, I want you all to stand down from your posts and do nothing. Is that clear?"
The people looked puzzled but they were a well trained crew. They all moved away from their respective consoles and just stood or sat there, watching their captain. He announced:
"All hands, this is the captain. Abandon your posts. I repeat, abandon your posts until further notice. Do nothing. Captain out."
The Q girl giggled devilishly as the ship approached the anomaly. Slowly but inevitably they were being pulled into the mouth of the unknown. Several alarms throughout the bridge went off but the captain only shook his head in response to a few questioning looks. Everybody just waited silently. The atmosphere was tense but the captain knew he could count on each and every one of them. He knew that everything now depended on their obedience and was certain he would have it. His crew trusted their captain.
They trusted him even when the first consoles began exploding and plasma beams ran widely throughout the bridge.
They trusted him when the helmsman and then the chief of operations went down struck by the exploding conduits.
They kept on trusting him when the bridge filled with smoke and, already suffocating, they heard the computer:
"Warning. Life support system failure. Hull breach on deck one in five seconds…
The people were struggling for breath, crawling on the floor but nobody made a move towards their instruments.
The crew members were dying painfully on all decks as the ship was being pulled in and crashed by enormous gravity inside the wormhole.
"All right!" The Q girl shouted over the noise of cracking bulkheads and exploding circuits. She snapped her fingers…
And everything went back to normal in a flash. There was no damage to the ship, nobody was injured and the wormhole was gone.
"My father was wrong," she said, disappointed. "You are even more boring than the Kirtans from Tan Delta VI."
The captain, who had managed to stay in his seat throughout the whole experience now looked at the beautiful girl and said quietly:
"Good. Now get off my ship."
Didn't have a chance to talk to her, though. She was accompanied by half of the senior staff, our Vulcan lieutenant included. We, commoners, "lower decks" as they call us sometimes, are hardly ever allowed into the noble company…
"Greetings, Ensign," the alien woman smiled. Despite her unusual complexion and rather pronounced ridges along the eyebrows, she was beautiful by human standards.
"Welcome, Anaara," the ensign replied, somewhat nervously. It wasn't every day that she had a chance to meet an alien ambassador privately. "I hope you'll enjoy the programme."
"I've heard so much about your holodeck technology," the alien replied, bowing politely.
The ensign tapped in the code and the holodeck door opened.
"After you," she gestured for the other woman to enter.
They found themselves on a narrow path in the mountains. One of these quiet, secluded places that Starfleet officers liked to recreate to remind them of home. The path was descending into a tiny meadow with a creek running across it. The shimmering of the water was competing with the birds' chirping to create a unique kind of silence: no computer beeps, no humming warp engines. Silence of the nature.
"It's amazing!" The alien woman exclaimed. "Is this your homeworld?"
The ensign nodded: "Tatra mountains in central Europe. That's where I was born."
"It's beautiful…" Anaara suddenly looked sad.
"Is there anything wrong?" The ensign asked, concerned.
The alien shook her head: "No, it's just that… it's so lovely here. So… clean."
"Clean?" The ensign didn't understand.
"Our worlds are industrial. In our quest for technological development, we forgot all about nature. There are no places like that where I come from. Not anymore…"
The ensign nodded with understanding.
"My people used to be like that, too. Fortunately, we've stopped short of destroying our planet. Just in time to rebuild and preserve our land in its natural state."
"I wish we could do that, too," Anaara sighed. "Can you show me some more?"
And she's a nice companion, too. She tells me stories of her people. I never thought there was anyone more preoccupied with duty and responsibility than the Vulcans in the whole universe. I guess I was wrong…
"She had to abandon her children and move on," the alien finished her story. The two women were on the holodeck again, sitting at a table in a small café on Earth.
"Unbelievable!" The ensign couldn't help herself. "The company actually required that of her? That's… that's inhuman! How can any woman be forced to leave her children behind only because they interfere with her work?!"
"She would be unable to work at all," Anaara replied sadly. "The children were so ill, they'd occupy all of her time."
"That's the way of my people…"
The young ensign looked at her alien friend, puzzled. "I… I'm sorry," she said softly. "I didn't mean to be rude..."
The alien smiled, "You aren't. You're just being blunt. I appreciate it. And you're right, it is cruel. But it's also inevitable. You see, my people are striving for survival, not power. There are many races in the neighbourhood who would like to see us defenceless and would gladly benefit from our achievements. We have to be prepared…"
And the captain told me to refrain from future private contacts with alien species…
"Computer, enter these parameters into the holomatrix."
"Display the character... hmm... make her two inches shorter... change the hair colour to blond... there! That's it! Now, access the 'Beach Alpha One' programme."
"Add the character and run programme."
The young woman opened her eyes and covered them from the sun. She took a good look at the man who just sat on her blanket. He was young and handsome.
"Hello," she smiled.
The man moved closer and took a good look of her too. She was slim and slender and beautifully sun tanned. He apparently liked what he saw because he smiled even more.
"Fantastic weather," he remarked. "Would you care for a swim?"
"Why not?" The pair got up from the blanket and went hand in hand into the cool waters of the ocean.
The swim was good. Relaxing and refreshing. They ran back onto the beach, laughing and splashing water. The man grabbed the woman's hand and pulled her onto the blanket. She stumbled and they both fell down, breathless.
The sun was hot and it felt good to just lie there and feel exhausted.
"Why not?" The woman was smiling playfully.
"Good. See you then!" The man got up reluctantly.
"Wait..." she started saying something.
"Computer end programme."
"Hi!" The man approached her table. She looked around, confused.
"Where are we?"
"The bar, why? Would you like to go some place else?"
The place was stylish. The walls covered with dry straw, wooden floor and furniture, no glass in windows, just big holes open to the cool, night air. A perfect place to rest after the whole day in the hot sun.
He pulled up a chair and sat next to her.
"Wanna drink?" he asked.
The woman glanced at him, thoughtfully.
"Where were you?" She said suddenly. The man looked baffled.
"What do you mean?"
"We were on the beach," she started recalling slowly. "We went swimming. Then you asked me to dinner and then... everything went black. And now we're here and you're offering me a drink..."
"Is there something wrong?" The man asked casually. "You look upset."
"Of course I am upset! How would you feel if you lost a couple of hours of your life?"
"Oh, I don't know..." he replied dismissively. "I wouldn't worry too much. You must have fallen asleep on the beach. Too much sunlight is unhealthy."
The woman looked at him, clearly unconvinced.
"Come on," he smiled, trying to cheer her up.
He was a good dancer. The way he moved around made other pairs on the dance floor stop to watch their performance. After the music stopped, they received quite an applause.
"Gotta go," he said, having walked her back to the table. "See you around!"
"No!" The woman screamed. But it was too late.
"Computer, end programme."
"Computer, run a level four diagnostic on the holomatrix."
"Diagnostic complete. All systems are functioning within normal parameters."
"Run programme 'Beach Alpha One.'"
"Programme running. You may enter when ready."
"How are you today?" The young woman opened her eyes and covered them from the sun. She took a good look at the man standing on the edge of her blanket. He was young and...
"Is that bad?" The man laughed. "I thought you'd be pleased to see me..."
"I am..." she replied hesitantly. "I just... can we talk?"
"Talk? Sure!" He sat beside her. "I thought you'd rather swim a little. The water is just great today."
"Can you be serious for a moment?"
The man shrugged. "Whatever you say."
The woman fell silent.
"What do you want to talk about?" He reclined on the blanket. His voice sounded a little bored.
"Who am I?" She asked. The man smiled.
"You're the loveliest creature I've ever seen," he said.
"Oh, stop it!" She was genuinely angry. "I mean, really – who am I? What is my name, where do I live, what's my job..."
"Job?" The man was still smiling. "I have no idea, sweetie. You never told me." He reached out with his hand to caress her arm.
"No," she shrugged him off. "I suppose I haven't. That's because I don't know. Do you know who you are?"
"Of course I do!" He laughed. "I am..." he paused.
"I... I don't know, really." He laughed out loud. "Must be this sun! Come on, let's go swimming!" He got up and took her hand. She shook her head but raised from the blanket, reluctantly. They ran into the water, laughing like children.
"Computer, freeze programme!"
"I told you it wasn't going to work! The personality parameters were too complex! She's developed a consciousness!"
"Yes, well, store her character in the data base. We may go back to her one day..."
|Last modified: 10 Apr 2012