Alphabet Stories T-Z by Katarzyna Marcinkowska
All these voices... Have you ever wondered how it feels for a telepath to hear all those thoughts? As if it wasn't bad enough that I have to feel the emotions of others...
I remember my seventh birthday party. At parties, everyone is supposed to have fun, right? At least I thought so. Well, one of the participants didn't. She had a terrible toothache. Oh, of course both her parents and mine were trying to shield her pain but unsuccessfully. I couldn't even taste my own birthday cake! She thought so loud none of us could concentrate on playing or eating and eventually everyone left early.
Since then, it has only been getting worse. You see, every time I'm supposed to be happy, there's someone else whose bad feelings spoil everything for me. It feels like a dampening field. Or a cloud in the sky. You're exhilarated, you feel like the whole world has decided to give you a present and then... bang! Disappointment, anger, jealousy... you just pick one. I've had it all. Call it bad luck if you will. I consider it my curse.
And it's not all. There are the thoughts as well. Ugly, nasty thoughts. I meet someone new. I usually try and meet new people with no preconceptions, no expectations, regardless their race. I walk up to them, smile and I'm ready to instantly like them... until I hear their thoughts. Oh no, not necessarily directed at me, though that happens, too. Some people are just uncomfortable around mind readers and their thoughts at the moment are... well, you're better off not knowing, believe me. Anyway, even if a person is not prejudiced against telepaths, there are often other people around. *Look at that butt!* *Boy, is he stupid!* *Why is she grinning so idiotically?* I'm sick and tired with hearing all that fuss! I just can't stand it anymore!
What? Oh, of course I've been trained to block the thoughts! All Betazoids are, and from a very early age - otherwise we'd be a nation of freaks! No, it was fairly successful. You see, you can't just turn it off and on, no matter how well trained you are. Our brain just doesn't function like that. All you can do is learn to ignore it. At least, to some extent, that is.
Are all people like that? Well, what do you think? Can you recall your own thoughts in a group of people? You're not answering, I guess you see what I mean...
Oh, it's usually not that bad. Most people I've met are used to having a telepath around. However, sometimes... Well, unless you're specifically trained to do so, you're unable to shield your mind from a real telepath. Most people know that but they try nevertheless. That's just disgusting! Would you believe how many times I've heard thoughts like: *Go away!* *You're not here, you can't reach me!* What? Of course it's silly. And they know it, too. They just can't help themselves. Or they try not to think at all. It's even worse. Why? Because you can't help but focus on them. Oh, it's involuntary, just an instinct. Imagine you've been listening to some loud music for a while. Then, suddenly, the music stops and someone's whispering in your ear. See? You can't help but listen intently. No, they can't feel it. Non-telepaths are rarely that sensitive, although there have been some cases... I've never met anyone like that personally.
Yes, there are other people, too. Equally unbearable. Why? Would you like it if you were forced to listen to somebody's entire life story whether you're in the mood or not? For some reason many people assume we're all counsellors. Just because we can read their minds, they think we have all the answers for them. *What do I do to make him notice me?* *Why doesn't she love me?* *My mother abandoned me when I was only six,* aghhhrr! They don't even consider we have lives of our own.
I once tried talking to a person like that. I've listened to all he had to say, and think of course, and I started telling him about my problems. Wanna know what he did? And what do you think? He said goodbye and left! I never saw him again...
What do you mean by 'normal' people? I've just described all kinds of normal people to you! The only ones that are okay with telepaths are other telepaths, believe me.
Oh yes, of course. All these wonderful races we can't read! That's why I chose to be with you, my dear! Your mind is so absolutely, delightfully blank to me. I have no idea what you're feeling or even what you're thinking now. Would you care for a drink, honey? Or perhaps you'd like me to do oomax for you? Yes, yes, your lobes are just fascinating!
"Report!" The captain demanded once the turbolift door opened.
"No damage to the ship. Lieutenant Tarn has been hit by some unknown type of radiation, sir. He's in sickbay."
"You have the bridge, Number One," the captain turned back. "Sickbay," he snapped at the turbolift.
"What's wrong with him, doctor?"
"Nothing is wrong with me, captain. In fact, I'm better off than I've ever been before!"
The captain turned to see his friend smiling confidently.
"How so?" He inquired.
"Well..." the lieutenant replied enthusiastically. "I understand so much more now..."
"Captain," the doctor was clearly concerned. "This radiation has increased the production of neural transmitters in his brain by over 500 %. The presynaptic membranes have increased permeability to match it! And that's not all - the corpus callosum, the connecting bridge between both sides of the brain, is so active that the hemispheres are essentially acting as one. It's not only his intelligence, that has been enhanced, sir. It's creativity, resourcefulness, inspiration, imagination... He's far more evolved than any other known human being!"
"I suggest we confine him to quarters and post security guards, captain!" The first officer suggested.
The captain turned his chair to look at him.
"May I ask why? Has he done something wrong?"
The commander looked baffled. "Well, no sir, but... we know similar cases from our history. Lieutenant Commander Garry Mitchell from Kirk's Enterprise, Lieutenant Barclay from Enterprise 'D'..."
"What's your point, commander?" The captain didn't seem willing to indulge his first officer.
"Well, sir, every record says they all turned against humanity. With all that superpower they claimed they could enhance the human race but in the end..."
"That's pure speculation," the captain interrupted impatiently. "Lieutenant Tarn hasn't done anything wrong and until he does, he is to be treated with respect, like any other member of the crew. Is that clear?"
"I'll speak to him. Dismissed."
"How do you feel?"
"I feel just great, sir!" Tarn grinned happily. "There is so much I can do now!"
"Relax, Tarn," the captain slowed him down. "You're aware of what they say? Absolute power corrupts absolutely..."
Tarn laughed out loud. He was being a little more laid back than usual but still far from showing any disrespect.
"I know, captain," he said, struggling for breath. "That was the first thought that came to my mind when I realized what happened to me."
"And?" The captain asked patiently.
"I know why they're afraid. Honestly, sir," he got serious. "I can see why it is so tempting, with all the new possibilities opened up. But it's a question of character. I see absolutely no reason why I should make others 'happy' against their will. I promise you, captain, I may be presenting you some options but I'm not going to act on them without your authorisation."
"That's good enough for me, lieutenant. Dismissed."
"Captain, we are receiving a distress call!"
"Federation ship USS Cruiser, sir. They're under attack."
"Plot a course, warp nine. Engage! What's our ETA?"
"Four hours, sir."
"Captain," lieutenant Tarn said through the commlink. "If you allow me to modify our warp field, I can bend subspace and take us there in ten minutes!"
The captain looked around his bridge crew. The expressions were sceptical, at best.
"Is it safe?" He asked through the commlink.
"Captain!" The first officer exclaimed.
"That's all right," the captain relied somewhat nervously, observing the space round them curl and twist wildly. Then, in a split second, they emerged on the other side of what seemed like a giant wormhole and saw the USS Cruiser evading phaser fire and dodging torpedoes from a Cardassian Galor cruiser.
"Target their weapons! Fire torpedoes, maximum yield, full spread!"
"Captain, I can modify the phasers..." Tarn began.
"Do it!" The captain yelled, without waiting for him to finish as the ship rocked under the enemy fire. Two minutes later, the enhanced phaser fire destroyed the Cardassian ship's weapon array.
"We've got to think about a more efficient way to utilize your new abilities, lieutenant," the captain said thoughtfully.
"What do you mean, sir?"
"Waiting for me to approve each of your moves is slowing you down, isn't it?"
Lieutenant Tarn looked warily at his commanding officer.
"Do you have any specifics in mind, sir?"
"I don't know," the captain shrugged. "You tell me."
"My ESP level has also been increased, sir" Lieutenant said slowly. "I can establish a direct mind link with you during emergency situations, if you wish."
"Excellent!" The captain enthused. "We'll be able to communicate a instantly!"
"Uhm... it might be dangerous, captain."
"My mind is now much stronger. If we're linked that way you may not be able to assess the situation objectively anymore."
"But you will, lieutenant?"
"Yes, sir. But it will be my judgement, not yours."
"Oh, but I trust you completely, lieutenant!"
"Why do you wish to resign from Starfleet, lieutenant?"
"Admiral," Tarn was thinking how to explain things. "I am no longer fit for duty," he said finally.
"May I ask why you think so? You've got a clean bill of health and from what your captain says, you've become an invaluable member of the crew."
Tarn sighed. "That's exactly the problem, sir."
"Explain," the admiral demanded.
"Well, the fact is that I have practically assumed command. The captain relies on me so much he doesn't make his own decisions anymore. I appreciate his trust but..."
"You think you're still underestimated, lieutenant, is that it? You want your own ship?"
"No, sir, I don't! I just wish things were back to normal. The amount of responsibility is... overwhelming."
"With your enhanced mind, lieutenant, that shouldn't be a problem!"
Tarn shook his head. He couldn't help it. He walked out of the admiral's office as a new captain with orders to assume command of the new Federation flagship.
*Sometimes it's not power that corrupts,* he thought sadly. *Sometimes it's those who crave for that power...*
"I haven't done anything wrong, have I? I haven't hurt anybody."
The captain shook her head. She wished she didn't have to have this conversation but... it was the right thing to do. At least that's what she thought it was. Now, looking at the pathetic officer in front of her, she wasn't so sure anymore.
"It's not only about what you've done. It's what you can do. With all that mental power, you are potentially dangerous to us." She tried to explain. The young ensign didn't seem to understand.
"Listen to yourself, Captain!" He exclaimed, almost forgetting the ranks. "Potentially dangerous? So now it's Starfleet policy to eliminate potentially dangerous people? What kind of attitude is that?!" He got up and started pacing the room nervously. The captain watched him for a while before she replied.
"We're on a deep space mission, ensign. It would be months before we reach the nearest starbase. My primary concern is the safety of this ship and her crew. I can't afford the risk..."
"So, why not kill all the Betazoids on board? Or Vulcans? If you're so afraid of telepaths..."
The captain looked at him carefully. He was a handsome young man, full of energy and eagerness to fulfill his duty to the best of his abilities. And yet, he was a serious threat to the crew.
"None of them is half that powerful," she said finally. "And they have all been trained to use their mental powers." She sighed heavily. "Do you remember what you did to Lieutenant Garrett?"
"Let's go for a stroll!" The ensign got up from the sofa and gallantly offered his arm to the young lieutenant. She smiled at him and accepted. This holodeck program was real fun. They had had a delicious dinner (holographic or not, it was exquisite), they danced a little and now he was asking her for a walk in the park. She had missed Earth already, it was nice to feel at home again.
"I like the smell of the air," she remarked as they got out of the building and crossed the street. The fresh fragrance of the spring air just after the storm was absolutely realistic.
The ensign nodded and put his arm around her as they were walking. Garrett hadn't really planned for this to be a romantic adventure, she just wanted to relax a bit, but it was turning out quite nice.
They wandered among the trees. The park was almost empty at this time of the day. She felt his arm tighter around her shoulders. They stopped. Garrett looked at her companion and realized he was going to kiss her!
"Don't!" She moved away. "I don't want this to happen! Computer..." She never finished the sentence. Suddenly, the world around her spun and vanished for a second.
She felt his arm tighter around her shoulders. They stopped. Garrett looked at her companion and realized he was going to kiss her! She got closer to him and closed her eyes in sweet anticipation.
"I didn't harm her!" The ensign shrugged. "It was just a moment. She would have liked to kiss me anyway, I just made things happen a little faster."
The captain looked at him with disbelief.
"You altered that woman's mind!" She said. "You have no way of knowing now whether or not she would have come to like you enough to let you kiss her. What you did was..." she paused, looking for appropriate words. "Outrageous! Even more so, if you fail to see that!"
The ensign didn't answer. She sat there for a while and then she said:
"And how about that incident with the Romulans?"
"Hail them!" The bridge was at red alert, people working frantically at their stations. The ship was under attack by a Romulan Warbird.
"No response, sir! They're powering weapons!"
"Initiating evasive pattern Delta 4!"
The Federation ship veered away from the enemy fire but not for long. The menacing D'deridex changed its course and was firing again.
"Target their weapons!" The captain was adamant not to destroy any lives if possible. She wanted to disable the ship and try to solve the problem peacefully...
The bridge rocked heavily under fire. When the captain got up from the floor, the main viewer showed a Romulan Warbird.
"Red alert! Raise shields!" She ordered, heading to her seat.
"Sir, they're powering weapons!"
"Target their main bridge!"
"I want them destroyed. Now!"
"These were clearly not my thoughts, ensign." The captain still felt deep remorse over the incident. It happened so quickly that only after a while she realized something had gone wrong. "Over fifteen hundred people died on that ship," she sighed. "We could have disabled their systems and let them live if it wasn't for your intervention again."
"They were Romulans!"
"Does that make any difference?" The captain shook her head. "They were living beings and we destroyed them all because you felt like tinkering with my mind! Can't you see what's wrong with you?"
The ensign sat down again. He fixed his blue eyes on the captain's face and stared at her intently for a long while. Finally, he spoke.
"So now you decided to destroy me? May I ask what right do you think you have to just kill me?"
The captain knew she was safe behind the forcefield that was surrounding her side of the desk but she still felt uneasy under his scrutinizing look.
"I don't intend to kill you," she said softly. "All I'm proposing is to shut down your program. When we get back, we'll have a team of engineers look into your matrix to see what went wrong. They might be able to restore you, eventually."
"Might?!" The ensign shouted. "They 'might' be able to restore me?! They never created me to be sentient in the first place! What I've become is your responsibility, Captain!"
The captain nodded.
"That's right. That's exactly why I have to put an end to this before you do any more harm." She paused and looked at the young ensign one last time.
"Computer, end program," were the last words the Emergency Engineering Hologram heard.
Captain's log - day one.
We have landed successfully and established the research outpost. Thanks to our latest cloaking technology, we were able to settle close to the target group of aliens we are going to observe. Everything went well and we're preparing to run the first scans of the settlement.
At first glance, the society appears to be quite primitive. Some of the groups started experimenting with antimatter but most of them just seem to live their everyday lives in small, separate settlements. They're built like simple networks. The aliens use some kind of vehicles for transportation. We'll have to investigate their propulsion systems. From what I can tell, they're absolutely unlike anything we've seen before. They emit some sort of gas into the atmosphere, probably helping to maintain the specific climate inside the settlement. I wonder if the natives can live outside of them.
Captain's log - day two.
Our doctor is excited about the first samples of the natives' tissues. My people have gathered some in one of the places nearby. The aliens apparently go there to have the specific part of their epidermis removed. We know too little of their culture to establish if it's done for health purposes or, perhaps, it's some kind of religious ritual.
So far, we've been able to establish how they acquire food. Seems they have a particular bartering system, although we haven't found out what use they have for certain items. They look like small parts of their clothing, being made roughly from the same material, but they're too small to conveniently serve the purpose of making clothes.
"Captain! Look what I've found!" The young lieutenant was so excited that she failed to report properly.
"What is it?" Her commanding officer smiled generously.
The woman approached him and handed him a small artefact. It looked like a representation of one of the aliens. Strange shape. They had large heads, their limbs were disproportionally long and the joints seemed all wrong. This one was slightly different. The head was even bigger but at least the limbs were more regular.
"Do you think it's another species?" The captain rolled the figurine in his hands. "Perhaps an image of their god?"
"We need to investigate more but I suspect it's a religious artefact," the woman confirmed.
"Very well," the captain nodded and gave her the item back. "Proceed, lieutenant."
Captain's log - day five
The last few days were rather hectic. We managed to gather enough data to begin the comparative research. Nothing checked out. We're beginning to suspect that this species is too unlike all the others we've encountered, that we'll have to study them closer. One of the ensigns has already volunteered for a reconnaissance mission. I see no other option than to agree.
"I'm walking through one of their streets," the ensign reported through an open comm link. Making him look even remotely as one of the natives had been a daunting task but with some effort, they achieved a satisfactory result.
"There are some sort of transparent doors all around," the ensign continued quietly, so that the natives couldn't hear him. So far, no one had been paying attention.
"Try walking through one of them," the captain suggested.
"It's a big room with a lot of people inside," came the next report.
"What are they doing?"
"Most of them are... bent somehow around some sort of pulpits. There are some colourful substances placed on them. The natives are manipulating them with some tools and..."
"Stolik dla pana?" One of the natives approached the ensign.
"Captain?" The ensign was unsure what to do. Unfortunately, the universal translator wasn't as universal as they hoped it to be, since it's been unable to decipher the aliens' language so far.
"Back away, slowly," the captain whispered through the comm link.
"I'd like to investigate some other places," the ensign suggested once he was safely back in the street.
"You're feeling up to it?" The captain made sure.
"Proceed. Try another door."
The ensign gathered all his courage and entered another room. This one was smaller and there were only a couple of the aliens inside.
"There are a lot of items placed along the walls," the ensign continued to report. "There is one alien on the other side of a small wall, talking to the others. They are looking at some of the items.
"Some kind of... vessels?"
"Perhaps that's one of the places they conduct trade?" The captain suggested.
"I don't think so," the ensign slightly shook his head. "They don't seem to have anything in exchange... wait!" He came closer and saw one of the aliens pull out a small, flat object. The ensign observed the other native put it into some kind of device and... handing it back. The couple then took one of the vessels and walked out of the room.
"Czym mogę służyć?"
The ensign didn't wait longer and rushed out back into the street.
Captain's log - day ten
The aliens are still a mystery to us. We don't even understand their social structure yet. Having been unable to translate their language, we cannot understand their daily routines. From what we've seen so far, they live in small communities, comprising of two to four different races. Some of them live alone but it's never the smaller ones. The doctor postulated they might be their offspring but it seems highly unlikely. There are no great genetic differences between the races but they look so different, we're still puzzled.
Observing their activities is fascinating but doesn't reveal much. Further missions weren't more enlightening than the first one. We saw aliens engaging in all sorts of strange activities. One of the most commonly spread appears to be watching some kind of screens. They either do it while pushing buttons on flat padds attached to the monitors or just watch the screens idly. Since their senses are so different than ours, we can't even see what they see on them. We also have no clue as to the purpose of the devices. We suspected some kind of communication devices but they hardly speak while watching them. Might be some sort of telepathic link but we can't tell.
The only word we've been able to understand of their language is "Człowiek". Our translator claims that the word should sound "Human." Apparently, that's how they call themselves.
"Ship. Life no. Danger."
The alien's words certainly made some sense but in the first contact situations, the captain liked to have absolute clarity. He glanced at the communications officer. The man shrugged.
"We can't have anything better than that. Their language is simply too different from ours. The universal translator just won't cope with all the syntax and other grammatical subtleties. Nouns -and little beyond that - is all we can hope for."
The captain nodded with disappointment. He turned back to the main viewscreen.
"From what I understand, your life support systems are failing. Do you require assistance?"
the alien confirmed eagerly:
"Assistance. Yes, assistance. Help. Systems. No work."
"Your systems are in pretty bad shape," the chief engineer shook his head sadly. "It's not just the life support. Your main computer seems to be having major problems as well."
The alien gave him a blank look. They were sitting at one of the tables in the mess hall. The engineer had taken the tour of the alien ship and now they were back for some more tools and equipment. Apparently, the alien had just as much trouble understanding them as they did trying to figure out his language. The engineer sighed and tried again:
"Systems no good. Computer failure. Big," he said slowly, feeling stupid. But the alien nodded.
"Repairs no?" He said with raising intonation.
"I'll try," the engineer waved his hand. "No promise."
"What happened to your crew?" The captain wanted to know.
"Death. Small patrol. Big ship. Weapons fight. Me," the alien was trying to explain. The captain nodded.
"We'd like to retrieve your computer logs if you don't mind," he tried but the alien apparently didn't understand.
"Computer logs. We see," the captain repeated patiently.
"Yes," the alien agreed simply.
"Well, what do you make of it?" A few hours later the captain asked his science officer who had downloaded the alien data base.
"I don't know what to think, captain," he admitted. The translation is so crude, one can read many things into it."
"Your best guess, Lieutenant," the captain urged.
"You know, sir, it's either they stole it or it's been stolen from them..." One look at the captain's face told him it wasn't a good moment for joking, so he immediately added:
"I'm not sure if they attacked the other ship or they had been attacked. The fact is, he's the only survivor and his ship is crippled beyond repair. At least for us."
"We could tow his ship back to his home planet, sir. It's only ten light years off of our present course. If we leave him behind, he might not make it home on his own."
"How about he send a distress signal? Won't his own people come and get him?"
"Possible, but we can't be sure," the officer shook his head. "His communications systems are down and there's no way for us to know the proper frequency."
"Well, have the alien give it to you," the captain replied impatiently.
"He doesn't seem to understand," the lieutenant sighed. "All I've managed to get from him are the coordinates for his home planet."
"Set a course," the captain agreed reluctantly. Something about this alien didn't sit well with him.
"Water?" The alien didn't understand.
It was becoming tiresome. The crewman assigned to see to their guest's needs was having trouble. He took the glass from the table and mimicked the act of drinking. There was no way for them to establish what the alien ate, and he never agreed to a medical check up. He was humanoid - that was all they knew about him. Since the detour to his planet was going to take a few days, he at least had to have some water.
"Drink," the crewman repeated and gestured for the alien to try.
Instead, the alien drew some device from his uniform and scanned the liquid.
"It's not like we're trying to poison you," the irritated crewman muttered.
"Leave me alone!" A young woman in an engineering uniform yelled for the second time.
The alien finally backed away. He couldn't explain to this woman that he had only wanted to ask her a question. She didn't react to his inquiry so he tapped on her shoulder, thinking she might have not noticed him, busy with her work.
He hung his head down and walked away, slowly. The atmosphere around him was getting tense and there was nothing he could do about it. He decided to spend the rest of his journey in the quarters assigned to him.
"You finally had your chance to examine the alien, doctor," the captain said a few days later, when they finally got rid of their strange guest. "Have you found anything you'd like to share with us?"
The doctor looked baffled.
"Well, sir, perhaps you've noticed the tension running rather high recently?" The captain nodded.
"Does it have anything to do with him?" He asked.
"In a manner of speaking. You see, his sweat glands produce certain chemical that causes irritation and elevated adrenaline levels. Had he stayed longer, we might have had some serious fights on our hands. I don't see how our filters hadn't detected it..."
"Are you ready with your final report about the aliens?"
On the planet's surface, the conference was about to begin. Doctor Quinn, who just came back from his reconnaissance on the new species, nodded calmly.
"I can give you a synopsis now," he looked at his young assistant. "They're technologically underdeveloped, true, but that's not the main reason we shouldn't be contacting them again any time soon.
"What is it then?"
"Well, they're even more impatient than you, my dear friend," the doctor smiled. "They're an extremely violent race and they're having trouble containing their emotions. They claim to be open to other cultures but it's not exactly how they behave. My opinion is we should give them another hundred years or so..."
"Captain, we've got to help them out!" The young ensign almost demanded. The captain smiled slowly. He was rather old for a starship captain. In fact, it was his last mission. He knew he was leaving a well-trained crew. Including this ensign.
While on their routine assignment, they picked up some faint life signs on the surface of the third planet in this insignificant system. Procedure required they investigate. What they found was a wrecked shuttle of an alien design and five individuals, struggling to survive in this, apparently hostile for them, environment. What the ensign advocated was taking them aboard and help them find a more suitable planet.
"I'd like to talk to them first, if you don't mind," the captain replied half jokingly. The ensign nodded.
"We have no memories prior to the crash, Captain," one of the aliens shook his head sadly. "We've been here for many days now but none of us can recall what happened. We don't even remember who we are..."
The captain sipped at his coffee absentmindedly. The five aliens were sitting around the long table in the conference room, discretely monitored by both the senior staff and two security officers.
"How about trying to retrieve your shuttle's logs?" The first officer offered after a moment's silence. "Surely, they must contain some data on the place of your origin?"
Another alien nodded eagerly. They didn't seem to have any command structure.
"We have tried to repair the main computer. It was the first thing we attempted here, besides looking for food and water. Unfortunately, we just don't know how..."
"Perhaps you could assist us?" Yet another of their guests spoke up. "You have some marvelous technology..."
"I don't understand it, Doctor," the captain said a few hours later, after the aliens had been given a thorough medical check-up. "You claim you can't find any residual signs of trauma in any of them. How's that possible?"
The doctor put away his tricorder and looked at the captain.
"It's possible the crash took place earlier than what they're telling us. In a year or two, it's conceivable that they would heal completely. I don't know enough about their physiology to be certain. It's curious, however," he continued, "that I have found no physical evidence of the crash. No scars, no old wounds - nothing. It's as if the crash had never occurred or, they must have been well protected."
"Some kind of force field? They don't have this kind of technology... and why would they be lying to us?" The captain added, shaking his head. "I want to investigate it closer before I let them on my ship. Thank you, Doctor," he smiled, realizing who he was speaking to. "Let me know if you find anything interesting," he finished and left the sickbay.
After a couple of hours of further questioning the mysterious group of aliens, the first officer handed the captain his report. Knowing the old man's habits, he began relying it as soon as he placed the pad on the captain's desk.
"They were very surprised, sir," he started. "One of them said it might have been longer than two or three months as they originally claimed. At the beginning, they weren't concerned with keeping records of the passing time as there were more pressing matters - such as survival. And they hoped to be rescued soon. After they realized they weren't going anywhere, they decided it would be pointless to start without knowing the exact date of their crash. We also haven't been able to retrieve any data from their shuttle. The main computer is fused."
"I'm not sure if I believe everything they're saying, Captain," the first officer summarized the report with his personal opinion, just as the captain expected. "However, I don't see how they might pose any danger to the ship. I recommend we take them along and see if we can find them a more suitable place to live, as Ensign Cantoro suggests."
The Captain smiled at the mention of Ensign Cantoro. He was three months out of the Academy, as young and energetic as any of them, freshmen. Maybe a little strong-willed but that wasn't necessary a vice. Might indicate a brilliant career.
"Captain?" The first officer probed.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Number One. I drifted for a second," the captain shrugged. He, too, was once a young, promising ensign.
"Proceed," he finally agreed. "Sweep the area with long range sensors to see if there are any inhabited planets in the vicinity. If we don't find anything, we'll have to get them back to the Federation space. Five individuals, all male at that, are hardly sufficient to start a colony."
"How do you like it here?" Ensign Cantoro wasn't just being nice. The first chance he got, he invited the aliens to the mess hall. As a member of the away team that first encountered them, he felt personally responsible for their well being aboard his ship. Besides, they were the first real aliens he had ever met. Seeing a Vulcan or even a Klingon was nothing compared to the first contact with a previously unknown race. Even if that race currently comprised of only five people.
"We were assigned separate rooms..." began one of the group (the ensign seriously considered giving them names since they didn't have any).
"Well, of course," Cantoro smiled proudly. "The guest quarters should be comfortable."
The aliens looked at each other. Finally, one of them said shyly:
"We'd rather stay together... we're not used to not seeing each other."
Ensign Cantoro gave them a puzzled look.
"You mean you never parted? Not even for hunting?"
All the aliens shook their heads in unison.
"We've been together since we can remember."
"Captain to the bridge!" The hasty voice of the tactical officer left little doubt that the matter was serious. Even more convincing was the sudden jolt that followed.
"Status!" The captain demanded, tapping his commbadge already on his way to the nearest turbolift.
"We're under attack, sir."
"This is a Federation long range patrol ship, we mean you no harm," the captain repeated through the open channel. "Please respond!"
"Sir, the energy signature matches that of the alien shuttlecraft," the science officer reported.
The captain nodded.
"We have five of your people aboard. Please, cease fire!"
"They're standing down their weapons," the tactical officer nodded. "They're hailing us."
"Why have you abducted our children?"
After short negotiations, the group of aliens was handed over to their parents. It turned out that the Lempards, as they called themselves, had a rather particular way of raising their children. Shortly after they were born, they were sent to some barely habitable planet in an automated shuttle, rigged to crash. If they survived a specified period of time, they were taken back home and educated.
"This is so... so..." Ensign Cantoro was at a loss for words. "Inhumane!" He blurted out finally.
The old captain smiled.
"Precisely, Ensign. That's what seeking out new civilizations is all about..."
"I'll have to talk to the captain again. We're headed towards the planet but somehow I don't think he's gonna do anything."
Two days ago we picked up a distress signal. It wasn't from the planet's surface. It was from a ship in high orbit above it. They claimed that a huge asteroid was on its way to the system and it was on a collision course with the planet. Well, our calculations confirmed it to be accurate. In a few months there will be just a huge field of floating debris in place of a beautiful - and inhabited - planet. The crew requested our help. The captain responded and promised to see what we can do. I just know he will only shake his head sadly and order us to resume course. Prime Directive!
"Captain, we can't just leave the entire population to die!"
"I'm afraid we have to, Ensign. There's nothing we can do about it."
"Yes there is! We can destroy that asteroid. Sir', it's still far enough from the system. We can blow it up to pieces and then just vaporize them one by one with our phasers!"
"I'm not talking about the technical side of the problem. I'm talking about moral implications of such an action. The Prime Directive..."
"With all due respect, sir! The Prime Directive can't possibly apply here. The alien crew told us the planet's inhabitants are their direct ancestors. It's not like they're completely unaware of the universe out here! They know that part of their society lives among the stars now."
"That's true. However, it's not all that simple. The Prime Directive doesn't allow us to interfere with the natural development of any culture..."
And he went on like that for the next half an hour. I could have just as easily read the whole General Order text or have it read out by the computer. The man doesn't understand anything!
"Who are you?"
"What do you mean 'from the future'? What future?"
"Ahh... hmm... twenty ninth century is a long time ahead of us. Why would anyone from there... I mean then, be interested in what we're doing today?"
"So, you have traveled all this time back to convince me that we should just sit here and do nothing while the entire population is being wiped out of existence?"
"Okay, but we're here and now. How can we be sure what's going to become of them in the next couple of decades, save half a millennium?"
"I see... well, destroying the Borg isn't necessarily such a bad thing. Are you sure they'd attack us afterwards? The whole galaxy?"
"What new orders? Why?! Captain! We can't be saving them! You've said it yourself! The Prime Directive..."
"I'd be happy to discuss my orders with you, Ensign, but right now is not a good time. Fire torpedoes, full spread!"
"Well? What is it, Ensign? You seem to have changed your mind quite radically. Now, before I throw you to the brig for insubordination, I'd like to hear your reasons. Indulge me."
"Sir, I had this conversation with a man from the future..."
"From the future, you say? Interesting. When did it happen?"
"Just an hour ago, Captain. He appeared in my quarters and started explaining why we should let them be. I mean, let them die."
"Well, he said that a few hundred years from now, they will develop technology that will allow them to beat the Borg. He said they will become so driven by that victory they will not stop until they take the whole galaxy. Federation will cease to exist."
"That is indeed very interesting. Now, perhaps you wouldn't mind telling me what this man looked like? Was he human? Was he wearing a uniform that might be considered, even remotely, as something Starfleet would be using in... what was that, five hundred years?"
"I don't know, sir."
"Think about it. During your tactical training you've seen images from the future. The real members of Starfleet time ship. Was he anything like them?"
"Well, he wasn't human. In fact, I don't think I'd ever seen his race before. And his clothes didn't look like any kind of uniform at all. Then again, in five hundred years..."
"Yes, Ensign. A lot can happen in five hundred years. Undoubtedly. But, not what he told you. Look at this display, please. Does it look familiar?"
"Why, yes, sir! That's exactly..."
"Is this the man you've been talking to?"
"I'm not sure, Captain. But he's certainly the same species. Even his clothes are similar."
"Very well. You see, Ensign, this is an example image we got from our friends on that ship. It's a picture of one of their enemies. They are adamant to destroy the whole system. In fact, we've been able to determine that they had altered this asteroid's course so that it would hit the planet. Originally, it would have passed by in sufficient distance, at best causing some light tremors on the surface. So, as you can see, we have learned it wasn't a natural disaster after all. And, since the aliens actually asked us for help, the Prime Directive really doesn't apply."
"Are you saying, sir.."
"What I'm saying is that you have been manipulated. Not only you, by the way. The holograms of a person allegedly from the twenty ninth century have been played throughout the ship."
"Yes. However, only you reacted so... passionately. Other officers contented themselves by delivering reports to their superiors. Report to the brig now, Ensign. Three weeks for insubordination and failure to report properly."
|Last modified: 10 Apr 2012