“Star Trek: First Conflict”
By Hadrian McKeggan
Published February 25, 2002
“We will not surrender.” Said the Trill. “You will never take our world!” The Trill was in his thirties. Creases could be seen under his eyes, but the eyes were vibrant with courage and grim determination.
Another one of those, Captain Jean-Luc Picard thought.
Picard met the Trill’s defiant glare. “I never said we were going to take it.” He said, coldly.
Picard watched for a reaction. The Trill did not flicker. Definitely one of those, he concluded.
Picard paced across the bridge, his probing eyes locked with the Trill’s.
Know thy enemy and know thyself, and victory shall always be yours. The words echoed through the Captain’s mind.
“Your words are empty. Your statements meaningless.” Picard hissed.
“What are the orbital defence systems of Trill compared to the Imperial flagship? What are your glorious comrades to a firepower which could reduce this planet to a lifeless rock? There is no way you can succeed. There is no military victory to be won.” He continued.
Picard stopped, and his glare intensified. There was slight unease on the Trill’s face now.
“You hope to die a martyr, don’t you?”
Picard haughtily paused for a moment, like a man with an ace up his sleeve who is just waiting to use it.
“I can rob you of that as well.”
The Trill had no time to respond.
Picard’s eyes locked with Daniels.
The button was pressed.
A burst of quantum torpedoes flew out from the I.S.S. Enterprise-E and smacked down with a bang on a pinpoint on the Trill homeworld.
Seconds later, the Trill materialised on the bridge. Once uneasy, he was now surprised — and dreading the consequences.
“Lieutenant Daniels, take our guest down to the Interrogation Chamber.”
The Trill’s hand went down to his pocket and found — nothing.
“You really think we’d beam that up too?” Picard said with a sneer.
The Lieutenant, who was Tactical Officer, Security Chief and Head of the Captain’s Guard all in one grabbed the startled Trill by his arm and brought him off. The Trill struggled to get free, but Daniels held him in place.
“I’ll never tell you anything! You’ll have to kill me first!” The Trill screamed as he was pulled off the bridge.
Picard grinned wickedly. “Tell that to Gunian.”
Picard turned back. “Are the co-ordinates locked?” He asked, monotone.
“Yes sir.” Riker replied.
Data had located the precise location of the Trill leader during their conversation. Despite the Trill’s attempts to block it, they couldn’t beat an android like Data.
The shield system around his position had then been disabled and he was beamed up.
And now the Enterprise would reduce every single city on the Trill homeworld to rubble, one at a time.
“Good. You have the bridge, Number One.”
Another success. Another easy victory. Picard shook his head. Just how many acts of genocide did the Empire have to commit until the dissenters got the point?
An uppercut smacked Geordi full force. He collapsed, breathless, on the ground. “You need a holiday.” One engineer said. “A nice, long holiday...” He kicked him in the face. Another engineer kicked his leg. Another his chest. In moments they were all over him.
His blood spread out across the floor.
Geordi wheezed and turned over, back and forth, trying vainly to avoid the kicks. He had got optical implants so people would stop attacking him. It hadn’t worked.
“What is this?” The voice was emotionless, but cut through the air like a knife. The Engineers looked around.
Advancing on them, methodically, was Data. The programmed killing machine swivelled his head this way and that, taking in the room.
“We need Geordi alive. He is a good engineer.”
But Data didn’t add: He is a weak engineer with no ambition. He is a useful stop-gap.
He nodded down at Geordi, who was at present coughing up blood.
“You almost killed him. Be more careful next time.”
And he didn’t say: Or you will suffer his fate.
Not that it mattered if he said it or not. They got his message well enough.
He turned on his heel and left the room.
The Trill was thrown into the Interrogation Chamber. Aides strapped him into a semi-vertical desk in the middle of this almost totally dark room.
One light was on the ceiling, going directly at the Trill’s face.
“Leave us.” A voice said from the shadows.
Lieutenant Daniels and the others departed.
And the owner of the voice appeared from the shadows.
“You may call me Gunian. I’m an El-Aurian. Some people call us a race of listeners. And I am very interested in what you have to say.”
The Trill glared at Gunian, silent.
Gunian grinned. “One of those, eh? I like a challenge.”
And then she began.
Emotions. On a ship where “trust” was a word used by dead men, they were always carefully hidden.
That is, hidden to everyone but Deanna Troi, the ship’s Intelligence and Loyalty officer. No emotions were hidden to her.
And so she was a valuable asset and a dangerous foe.
She stepped into the Ready Room.
Picard looked up.
“Your report?” He said, concisely.
“Not much variables from last time, sir, but some significant developments. Ensigns Calloway and Gilbert feel the most negative in your presence.”
“Not surprising.” Picard said, disinterested.
“They’ve tried to add arsenic to my Earl Grey. They’re already in the Agony Booth for the maximum duration.”
The maximum duration meant death — but not a quick death, oh no. A long, painful, unbearable, agonizing death.
“Anything else?” Picard prompted.
“Ensign Hathaway feels very vehement when in your presence, sir, but nothing else to report.”
“I’ll have her executed immediately.” Picard said. “Thank you, Deanna. Where would I be without you?”
Troi wondered the same as she left.
Doctor Crusher sat in Sickbay and began to heal Geordi’s wounds. She was the quiet type. She didn’t say much, and she didn’t venture out of Sickbay.
But rumour had it that Lynch, the Enterprise’s last Chief Engineer, had once attacked her.
And that when he was suffering from a wound to the chest, he could have been saved...
She was not someone you would want to hold a grudge against you, regardless.
Riker entered the room. He was a forceful, burly man, used to getting his own way and killing those who thought otherwise.
He motioned to Geordi’s twisted body.
“Will he live?”
“He may.” Crusher said, not looking up.
“He better.” Riker said, with an undercurrent of threat.
“Why?” Crusher asked, turning around and up from her work.
“I wouldn’t want the best engineer to be permanently out of commission. It would affect the efficiency of the ship.”
So he said. But he meant he wouldn’t have a weakling to pick on anymore..
“Be sure he survives, Doctor. I hold you accountable.”
With that, Riker left.
Dead men can’t hold people accountable...
The screen bleeped in the Ready Room. It was a message from the Imperial High Command.
Picard was not on very good terms with the High Command. He was looked at as a kind of a hero by Imperial Propaganda and had good standing publicly.
That was part of the problem. Heroes wield influence. And such influence would not be in the best interests of the Admirals on-high.
Picard had asked to be promoted several times and had been turned down. Various reasons were given, but Picard knew the truth. He was too powerful already, and the Admirals wouldn’t let him become more powerful.
After a deliberate pause, which the Captain relished in every second of, Picard responded to the hail.
Admiral Hayes’s face appeared on the screen.
“Yes, Admiral?” Picard asked drearily. He never did care much for higher authorities, even if they weren’t blocking him. He’d obey them but do no more then that.
“We’ve detected a subspace anomaly just beyond Imperial space. Long range scans indicate it’s a wormhole of some kind. We want you to investigate.”
“The Enterprise? Admiral, any spacecraft could do that —”
“It is beyond Imperial territory. If it’s a threat, we need the best there.” Hayes made no effort to hide his sarcasm. “Be sure to drop off the Trill insurgence leader at Deep Space Five for further interrogation. Admiral Hayes out.”
“Merde.” Picard muttered bitterly. They were going to pointedly take away his glory of exterminating the Trill rebellion single-handed by having themselves perform the interrogation. After all, Starbase interrogations received news coverage and would downplay his importance greatly.
And not only would they do that, but they’d also send him to an insignificant anomaly while doing so.
They’d tried to curb his power for a long time, but they’d never gone this far.
He cursed again.
He’d make them pay...
Riker entered Astrometrics. The Astrometrics officer was present, tapping away at the console.
The 3-D screen showed the layout of a section of corridors on the Enterprise.
“Commander.” The officer acknowledged as he typed at his controls. Riker strolled up towards the ensign and looked over his shoulder.
“What are you doing, ensign?”
The Ensign looked up. “Well sir, I noticed an anomaly with one of the security cameras. It seems someone has inserted footage at the one facing the replicator in Calloway’s private quarters, during the time it shows him and Gilbert attempting to modify the replicators. There’s a slight disturbance here, sir —”
“There is no disturbance.” Riker said, bluntly.
“Sir?” The ensign said, looking up, surprised. The disturbance shown would be obvious to a first-year cadet.
“Can’t you see, the disturbance is right here —”
The last thing the ensign felt was a phaser pressed towards his back.
And then he dissolved.
Poor guy, Riker could already see himself saying. Didn’t take his recent break-up with Ensign Peterson well, and decided life wasn’t worth living. You know how it is.
Riker then deleted the evidence, and left the room.
Crusher, wearily, slumped into her bed and hoped the Captain didn’t call. A day of saving the near dead, terminating the living and fabricating evidence and symptoms can be quite exhausting, and she didn’t need Picard’s attentions right now.
She wasn’t the Captain’s Woman per se, but this was because Picard preferred it that way. The informality seemed to have an attraction to him.
But it made no difference. To resist his advances would mean execution. Officially, that could not be done, but people like Picard were very good at fabricating evidence...
She sighed and opened a book.
She couldn’t stand him. She never could. Not after what he did.
She had kept a low profile during the clashes on the ship. She’d reasoned you live longer that way — sure seemed so.
But she still had her own agenda...
“Captain on the bridge.” Riker said, matter-of-factly, as Picard entered and the ship dropped out of warp.
Picard sat down in his chair, and looked out at the swirling mass ahead.
“Long-range scans appear to be correct sir. The anomaly is a wormhole, but it seems to be a very small one.”
“Is it stable?” Picard continued.
“Yes sir.” Data replied. “Further scans would be necessary, but it seems that the wormhole is held by verterons and is stable, at least at this end.”
“At least at this end?” Troi asked.
“The Barzan Wormhole was stable on the Alpha Quadrant side but not the other side, for example. Further study would determine whether or not the other side is stable. But it seems not to be able to let anything larger then a shuttlecraft enter it, given its size.”
Picard snorted. He hated this type of mission. Genocide may be routine, but at least that was interesting.
“Data, prepare a shuttlecra-”
The wormhole collapsed. Or more accurately, it faded.
“Data? What’s happening?”
“I ... don’t know, sir.” Data replied. “It is as if the wormhole was never there.”
Suddenly, Data’s panel beeped.
“Sir, I’m detecting something else.”
“What is it?”
“An Imperial shuttle. At least, it looks like an Imperial shuttle. I’m getting some very strange readings from it. It’s headed our way.”
It was visible now, on the screen. A shuttle with wavy lines rippling over it as if it was some kind of jelly.
Picard, analysed its appearance visually.
“Whatever it is, it’s not one of ours.” Picard decided.
He turned to the Tactical Officer.
“Mr. Daniels, open fire. Aim to disable. It could be useful.”
“Yes sir.” Daniels said. A volley of torpedoes ripped out from underneath the Enterprise and hit the shuttle full-force. They exploded on the surface, but the appearance of the shuttle did not change a notch.
“The shuttle-like object is slowing down. I cannot be certain, but it seems to be disabled. Some kind of shield seems to have been let down, for I can read one lifeform.” Data observed.
“What kind of lifeform?” Picard asked.
“Presumably humanoid, but of an unknown species.” Data replied.
“Beam it directly to the cell.” Picard snapped.
The cell doors parted. Row upon row, column upon column, of prisoners where there.
Picard, accompanied by Daniels and another member of his personal guard walked past the starving political prisoners and other unfortunates without a glance.
“Where is it?” Picard snapped to the head of the security team already stationed in the room.
“There, sir.” And he pointed towards a cell in the corner.
Picard strode up to the being.
It was asleep — or looked like it was asleep. It looked humanoid.
As he approached, the thing’s eyes opened. It seemed a tad weary, and a bit curious, but no more.
It came upright on the slab in the cell qualifying as a bed, and then stood upright.
It walked towards the forcefield.
“You must be the captain. I’m sure you have many questions to ask me.” said Kes.
Picard’s eyes narrowed as he looked at Kes. "Who are you? Why are you here? And what is that ... thing outside?
Kes raised an inquisitive eyebrow. She is actually amused by this! Picard fumed.
“My name is Kes. I am an Ocampan, a race from what you call the Delta Quadrant. Have you heard of the I.S.S. Voyager?”
Picard thought for a minute.
“Hmm... that was one that was destroyed in the Badlands.”
“That’s the ship. Only it wasn’t destroyed in the Badlands. Somehow, the ship was thrown from there to my planet. They took me captive. I was stuck on that ship for three years before I managed to escape. That shuttle you see outside is one of the Voyager’s craft. It was damaged by an intense sub-ionic storm. My ship was pulled into a wormhole and I was barely able to get out of it — but on this side.”
“Is that all?” Picard queried.
He hit his commbadge. “Transporter Room, beam our prisoner directly to the Interrogation Chamber.”
Kes instantly appeared shocked — much to Picard’s amusement.
He wasn’t going to trust any stories on somebody’s say-so.
“What? Captain, what did I —” Kes protested as she dematerialised.
“The room is sealed.” Troi said. And she turned around to face Riker. Riker looked agitated. Her face was blank. Just because she read emotions didn’t mean it had to go both ways.
“That was close.” Troi said.
“Too close.” Riker replied. His eyes narrowed to thin slits. “You said we’d be able to poison the Captain without a hitch. It didn’t work. You said you’d be able to clear up the evidence without a hitch. And that didn’t work either.”
“Do you want to become captain or not, Will?” Troi snapped back. “This is the only way.”
“I don’t want to be dead.”
“You knew you were taking a chance when we started this.”
“So what should I do? Walk up to Picard and say that I’ve tried to kill him? Hmm?”
“No. We try again —”
“Not this time we don’t. You can try again. I’m taking my chances alone.”
Riker unsealed the doors and left.
Two heads are better then none...
Data stood in the shuttlebay as Kes’s shuttle was tractored in.
Or at least, seemed to be tractored in. The sensors still provided only inconclusive information.
It could have been independently flying on autopilot in the general direction of the tractor beam for all that could be determined.
Anyone other then Data would have been frustrated and irritated by such an enigma, of which virtually nothing could be determined for certain.
Which was why Data was doing this. He was patient. Very patient.
Visually, Data studied the shuttle with his careful and painstakingly precise eyes. Up closer, it looked a lot stranger.
The very metal was ripping like a wave, with pure white crescents passing through the object.
It looked surreal. But the truth often was stranger then fiction...
Data turned to the assembled team.
“I want you to scan every inch of that craft, with everything we’ve got, on every mode we’ve got.”
“That’ll take hours!” One protested.
Data stared at him. It was not an angry stare, or a malicious stare, just a ... stare.
Which made it far, far, worse.
“Precisely. Start immediately.” Data deadpanned.
They straightened to attention, saluted with a thump, and went right for the shuttle.
Data turned to his console to monitor and enhance their progress.
Geordi’s eyes fluttered open in Sickbay. He rubbed his head with a hand.
The pain was still throbbing through him. He groaned.
“You’re free to go.” Crusher told him. Granted, he still looked like he’d been run over a few times, but when it came to release, Imperial Sickbays were often very lenient.
More focus was placed on killing people.
Geordi looked up at Crusher in the most pleading face he could manage.
“I don’t want to go. Please, don’t make me go.”
She’d heard this before.
“You’ve been treated. You no longer need to be here.”
“Yeah, but couldn’t you make a reason? Like, say I have a fractured limb or something?”
“It wouldn’t be that far from the truth.”
Crusher shook her head. “I could, but I won’t.”
Crusher walked off. “No amount of pleading will get you that, Geordi. And you know that.”
Geordi sighed. “Yeah. I know.”
He stood upright.
“It was worth the try.”
Now, Geordi was never a violent guy by nature. That was another reason he’d been attacked so frequently in the past.
But even nice guys have their limits...
“Transporter Room to Sickbay.” the disembodied voice of the Transporter Operator said. “Doctor Crusher, are you there?”
“I’m here.” Crusher affirmed.
“Doctor, we are sending you a captured alien lifeform which has been through interrogation. Be sure to help repair its wounds.”
Kes’s maimed body materialised on a bed.
Crusher shook her head. She got more patients brutally attacked by members of the crew then from anything else.
Crusher then began working on her.
Picard stood in the Interrogation Chamber, flanked by Daniels and another member of the Captain’s Guard. The lights were now on, revealing a sparse, coarse, grey room with a now-empty central bed. Guinan, lost in thought, stood over that bed. She wore a concerned expression.
“What did she tell you?” Picard asked.
Gunian didn’t look up.
“Exactly what she told you.”
“So, she was initially telling the truth.”
Gunian turned away from the bed. She seemed distant, as she often did.
“She screamed, she begged for mercy, she fainted... she did everything that would imply that she was at the end of her rope and at the right times. But it didn’t feel right. There was something... wrong. Can’t put my finger on it. Somehow, she seemed to be acting the part extraordinarily well... but just acting.”
“She must have had a higher endurance level then she was letting on.”
“That’s what I thought so too. At first. So I kept on doing worse and worse to her. And the screams intensified. She seemed to be under tougher pressure. Blood started dripping out her nose. But her story didn’t change. And she still seemed to be acting when I reached the limit of what I could do.”
“We know little about her species.” Picard concluded.
“Yes. The reason lies probably in the nature of that species.” Gunian looked away, into nothingness, as if she saw something that wasn’t there.
“She’s more then she seems, Captain. Remember that.”
Picard nodded gravely. Gunian didn’t lie. If there was anyone he could trust on the ship, it was her. She never saw a reason to lie. She had lived a long, long time and no longer had any ambition for power or any ulterior motives, so it seemed.
The only thing she cared about was her work... but she pursued that with grim relish.
Geordi ate a meal in his quarters. His shift at Engineering was coming up soon, and he dreaded it.
Another day, another beating. He’d tried everything to stop them, and everything to circumvent them.
Once he’d simply brought a phaser with him and stunned any Engineers who approached him, but they had them too and, well, outnumbered him...
He sighed. He joined Starfleet because his parents had been in it... and found he’d inherited none of the viciousness of his father.
That was the problem all along, wasn’t it?
He was too much of a nice guy. Well, there had been another nice Chief Engineer. Argyle. And he ended up being torn apart by the combination of matter and antimatter in a matter of weeks.
And yet Geordi had survived for over a decade at his post.
But he wished he’d died.
Riker sat in his quarters and reflected.
There had been many decisions he’d made, in the past. Some he regretted. But all were vital.
He had advanced through the ranks as quickly as possible, blazing through a trail of corpses in one grand, calculated gamble.
That’s what his career was. A gamble. One great roll of the dice.
And, much to his chagrin, it didn’t always turn up sixes.
He had decided to higher the stakes and leap from first officer to captain of the flagship.
Picard was, after all, an old man. He was sure to be promoted in a few years or be deposed of natural causes. If all else failed, Mother Nature could be helped along...
Those were his thoughts when he joined the ship, well over a decade ago.
He had clung to the post, outright refusing other possibilities of commands, hoping that Picard would go soon.
But he didn’t. Nothing happened.
A decade and a half wasted. A decade and a half spent in deadlock.
He had to end that. Somehow. He just couldn’t stand it much longer...
The doors to Sickbay parted. Picard and his entourage entered in formation. Picard to the front, Daniels and the other security officer to his right and left.
“What is the status of the patient, Doctor?” Picard enquired as he marched over to the biobed.
“I’m unfamiliar with her species’ anatomy, and my tricorder is giving conflicting and confusing readings, but... she appears to be healthy.”
Crusher nodded down to her.
She was once maimed, mangled and barely living. There was not the slightest trace of a single bruise.
It was perfect. Too perfect.
“Stand back, Doctor.” Picard said.
Crusher looked around, surprised. “Stand back? Wh—”
“I said stand back!” Picard roared.
Crusher stepped away from the biobed.
“Computer, erect a forcefield over biobed 2-A, authorisation Picard Alpha-Tango-Marx.”
A flicker as it shimmered into place.
Picard whipped around to Daniels.
“Daniels, assign two of your best men to guard this spot at all times.”
Daniels nodded. “Yes sir.” He tapped his combadge. “Ensigns Nowan and Tarn, report to Sickbay immediately.”
“Yes sir.” Their voices said in unison.
“Captain, what’s going on?” Crusher asked.
“That thing is more then it looks, Doctor. I’m sure of it.”
And the sooner it’s out of my hands, the better.
Picard and his entourage marched out again.
Kes, as if on cue — and it seemed that she was — awoke.
She blinked at the light.
“You don’t like him much, do you?”
Crusher turned, slowly, to face Kes. “Could you repeat that?”
“Picard. You don’t like him much.”
“How did you —”
“You...” Kes squinted. “You want to ... kill —”
“How do you know this?”
Kes looked at Crusher with a faint smile, bordering on condescending.
Data stepped onto the bridge. A careful and methodical scan of the shuttle had brought absolutely no conclusions. They were as just as in the dark as when they had started.
If Data was an irrational human, he’d begin to believe the shuttle had a mind of its own and was deliberately blocking him. But to Data, there were thousands of more likely possibilities, like a complex sensor-shield.
It was then that he spotted Troi at the edge of the bridge working on a panel which, despite Data’s vast and precise memory, he’d never seen her use before.
He walked towards her.
“What are you doing?” He asked in his usual, monotone voice.
Troi turned from the console on the bridge.
“I was comparing emotional and security footage information.”
“You usually do that in your quarters.”
Data didn’t need emotions to be suspicious.
“The facilities on the bridge are more suited to this particular study, sir, as I have recently observed.” Troi protested.
“In what way?” Data probed.
“Well, for one thing, there is direct access to all security files from this computer here after entering the proper code. I have to collect and then store files from the system on the computer in my quarters.”
Undaunted, Data pushed her aside. “Let me see that.”
It was security footage.
He backed off.
“Proceed.” He said, and then walked across the bridge to his station.
Picard, entourage and all, walked onto the bridge.
He walked down to his seat and sat down as Daniels took up his post.
“Ensign, set a course for Starbase 290. Maximum warp.” Picard ordered.
The Enterprise, uneventfully, blasted off.
A moment of silence ensued.
“Where’s Commander Riker? Isn’t it his shift now?” Picard asked.
“Yes sir.” Data replied. “Commander Riker is five minutes late.”
Picard tapped his commbadge.
“Bridge to Commander Riker, respond.”
Nothing. Picard, annoyed and disturbed, repeated his message, and was again met with silence.
“Computer, locate Commander Riker.” Picard ordered.
“Commander Riker is in his quarters.” The Computer obediently chirped.
Picard’s brow furrowed.
“Data, get down there and find out what’s going on.”
“Yes sir.” Data said.
The door to Riker’s room slid aside. Data silently stepped in, and his gaze swept across the room, taking everything in as only an android could.
Commander Riker was lying on his bed. And it would have looked like he was sleeping.
If he didn’t have had a knife in his throat.
Picard stepped into Riker’s quarters, Lt. Daniels and the other security guard flanking him as always.
Picard glanced at Riker’s corpse disdainfully. His hands were clasped around the knife — given the absence of a knife in his holster, most likely his own — and the blade stuck right through his neck. Data had his hand at his mouth, his brow furrowed. Picard knew that this supposed expression of complicated thought was a deliberate fake designed to set people at ease, but it presumably told him something about what Data was thinking.
Or rather, what Data wanted him to think he was thinking...
“Suicide.” Picard muttered. He didn’t have much of a problem with that. After all, people who committed suicide were usually the type who would die sooner or later anyway. It was usually a messy cleanup job, though.
Data looked up from the corpse.
“No sir.” Data replied. “But that is what they want you to think.”
“Explain.” He commanded.
“Normally, when someone dies their grip tightens on whatever they are holding, the so called ‘grip of death.’ When examining Riker’s hands, I noticed that they were not tightly holding the knife as I had expected, but were loosely lumped over it with the impression and arrangement of being holding... as if he had began holding it after the knife had cut his throat. And that is not all. I examined the wound which the knife caused... there are actually two. Some of the areas punctured, like here —” Data pointed his finger to a semi-swollen part of the neck “— would not have been punctured from the position and direction the knife was thrust the second time. Riker could not have stabbed himself twice with such near precision... but someone could have stabbed him a second time, this time with his hands around the knife, to give the impression that he had been stabbed. Finally, and perhaps most importantly...”
Data strode away from the corpse to the centre of the room, and motioned to the carpet. Picard walked forward and saw:
A stain of blood. Ever so slight, but distinctly recognisable. “He must have been killed here. And then the corpse was moved to the bed to make it look more convincing.” Data finished.
“Excellent work, Data. We’ll begin the investigation straight away.”
Picard and his routine escort began to leave the room.
“Could I speak to you for a moment, sir?” Data asked from behind them. “In private?”
Picard turned around, slowly, and faced Data. “Daniels, go on ahead to the Ready Room. I’ll be with you in a moment.” Picard said, absently.
Daniels nodded, and he and the other security officer departed.
“With Riker dead, the Enterprise will require a new First Officer.” Data said in his usual, monotone voice.
Picard, coldly, looked Data in the eye. Data was useful. He kept the crew in line, and he did it awfully well.
But there was also something... wrong... about him. He’d once hijacked the ship and brought it to his old master, the ruthless warlord and ex-despot Noonien Soong. Although it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that Soong was responsible for bringing the Enterprise to that location and letting Data go to the surface of the planet, the circumstances of his death were... suspicious.
No one really knew what lay beyond that face, more of a suitable mask then anything else, and those cool, yellow, lifeless and yet inquisitive eyes which seemed to know everything.
Data had no emotions, or so he always said. But did he count ambition as an emotion?
“I’ll have to discuss that with the Imperial High Command.” Picard said, choosing his words carefully. “It’s their responsibility. No doubt they could find a suitable candidate...” He trailed off.
Data looked colder then before — if that was possible. Calm, blank, but cooler. And that was much more terrifying.
“I know of a very good candidate, sir.” Data said. Again, in a monotone voice with a blank expression.
But there was something about it...
But Picard hadn’t got this far in Starfleet by crying like a baby at the first problem he saw.
His forceful gaze met Data’s lifeless stare. He was the superior officer, after all, regardless of Data’s superior prowess. And he was as sure as hell going to make himself be felt.
“I’m sure you do.” Picard said, slightly more coldly. “I will recommend him or her to the Imperial High Command.”
Picard turned to leave.
“Sir.” Data said as he left. “It is standard protocol” — emphasis was placed, but more a raising of a monotone pitch then anything else — “that when the First Officer dies, the Second Officer takes his place.”
Picard stopped in his tracks, and shuddered slightly. There was no way to avoid it. At least, for now.
“You are hereby appointed as Acting-First Officer, Mr. Data. Until the Imperial High Command says otherwise.” He then strode out.
He’d make sure they did.
Gunian sat, absent minded, in her Interrogation Chamber. The room was pitch black, but she had long learned every crevice off by heart. She glanced towards what she knew was her bucket of scalding oil.
And then cast her gaze towards the knives and other “cutlery” in all their entirety.
Gunian had been many things. The wife of countless kings and emperors, presidents and prime ministers. The regent of any number of inept child rulers — for she had always outlived her husbands, and her near-immortality was not always the reason. She’d even taken office officially every now and then, though it wasn’t half the fun.
There was a reason that Guinan had a reputation for general apathy towards ambition and promotion.
She’d been there. Several times. Even power could get boring...
So she had decided to retire to a nice, private and easygoing life. Like torturing. There were so many different ways to extract information from people...
Light shafted into the room in one abrupt motion, slicing and dissimulating the darkness. Guinan blinked and looked around.
And Data stepped in.
“Commander.” Guinan said in her usual, deceptively easygoing, way. “What can I do for you?”
“I need your assistance.”
Picard stood in his Ready Room, his routine guards flanking him, and snorted. Starfleet had insisted that the Enterprise remain at the area of space where the wormhole used to be — allegedly, to investigate the unusual nature of its disappearance. As if that excuse was fooling anybody...
Picard looked out at the stars drifting by. Stars. Most of them had planets. Some of those planets were inhabited. And not all were well defended.
Space. The Final Battlefield, Cochrane had called it. Out here, Picard sometimes felt like a wolf amongst sheep. Sure, sometimes those sheep had some teeth. But the wolf’s were longer and unequalled.
That’s what he was out here for, wasn’t it? Out here he could look at countless billions of stars ... and sneer. He felt like master of every one.
The door slid open behind him. He could see her reflection in the glass.
“Troi.” He said, and turned around. The Intelligence and Loyalty Officer stiffened to attention.
“I have searched the minds as you asked, sir.” She stated. “The one who feels most vehemently hostile to Commander Riker seems to be Geordi.”
Picard turned around, and sat down at his desk. “Daniels.”
The Lieutenant nodded, and he walked out.
Troi turned to leave. “I didn’t dismiss you, Commander.” Picard said icily.
Troi stayed were she was. Yes, he hadn’t asked. And she knew he didn’t want her to leave anyway, she could sense that.
It was worth a try, though.
Troi turned to face him. Picard stared at her with an air of superiority and impassivity.
And beneath that, Troi knew, no matter how hard Picard tried to hide it, was a slight sense of disturbance and vulnerability. He didn’t like people who could sense his emotions. It unveiled every weakness, lay bare every stratagem.
What was it Sun Tzu had said, that favourite saying of Picard’s? Troi thought.
Ah, yes: Know thy enemy and know thyself, and victory shall always be yours.
She won half the battle every time.
Daniels hauled Geordi into the room and threw him onto the floor. The Engineer, dazed, stood upright, and met Picard’s glare.
“Captain, what’s going on?” He asked.
“Mr. LaForge, it is not permitted to kill an Imperial officer without the consent of the Imperial High Command or unless the officer committed crimes against the state. The punishment for killing an officer without these reasons is death.”
Geordi nodded. “Uh, yes sir.” Picard noted that Geordi’s expression seemed to indicate that he didn’t know where this was going, but he didn’t like it. Sweat trickled down the Engineer’s face. He swayed uneasily.
“Mr. LaForge, did Commander Riker commit crimes against the state?”
“What? You don’t mean...” Geordi trailed off as Picard’s eyes narrowed. “I didn’t do it, sir—”
“He’s lying.” Interjected Troi.
“Troi? What... what are you doing?” Geordi said, aghast.
“We know what you did, Geordi. There is no need to deny it.”
“Troi! You said —”
“Enough!” Troi interrupted, and then turned to Picard. “As you can see, sir, Mr. LaForge is clearly guilty of Commander Riker’s murder.”
Picard glanced at Troi, and then back at Geordi.
“Continue, Mr. LaForge.”
“Aye sir.” Geordi responded, but continued to look at Troi.
“Troi, you said you’d tell him.”
“Tell me what?” Geordi looked back at the Captain. Any Imperial Captain made himself hard to ignore, and Picard was certainly no exception.
“Sir, Commander Riker was trying to kill you. Troi told me about it...” His voice wavered, faltered, and broke off.
“And?” Picard pressed. Geordi swallowed.
“We decided to kill him. Both of us.”
Picard store, poker-faced, at Geordi.
“What evidence do you have for this, Mr. LaForge?”
“Troi told me that she knew.”
Picard looked up at Troi. An empath he was not, and Troi went out of her way to hide her emotions, but Picard had an eye for this type of thing. He had to, if he was to dispose of all possible threats whenever possible. She looked uneasy.
She looked towards him. He knew that she knew what he was feeling. It didn’t matter.
“Mr. LaForge, if this is indeed the case, then why did you have to give the impression that Commander Riker had committed suicide?”
Geordi grimaced. He was hoping it wouldn’t come to that, but there was no way out with Captain Picard.
“Well... um... sir, Troi said that y-you w-wouldn’t accept, uh...” Geordi fidgeted with his collar. “That you wouldn’t, um, believe her and that, um, we had to kill Riker anyway, uh, for your own good, um, sir.”
Geordi had good reason to be afraid.
“So, you’re telling me that I wouldn’t have believed something just on Troi’s say-so? And, for that matter, she’d go out of her way to help me and not tell me at the same time? What the hell do you take me for?“
Picard lurched up upright and flung his fist right into the engineer’s face. Bone met bone, and Geordi yelled in pain. The Engineer fell back onto the floor in a disorganised heap.
“Lieutenant, take Mr. LaForge to a cell and have him detained there until further notice.” Picard commanded.
The ever-obedient Daniels grabbed the dazed Geordi carelessly, draped him over his shoulder, and left.
Picard and Troi locked eyes, steely.
Troi looked into the Captain’s face, and past it into the key of his soul: His emotions. She sensed suspicion towards her, but just how suspicious she couldn’t be sure.
He spoke first. “A very... interesting... opinion.” Picard said with an ever-so slight undercurrent of threat.
“He is most certainly an accomplished liar.”
“Then why did you wish him not to speak?”
“The case was proven. I did not see the need to.”
There was more to it. Picard knew that. And Troi knew Picard knew, and she didn’t need telepathy for that.
“You are dismissed, Troi.” Picard decided.
Picard tapped his commbadge.
“Picard to Daniels.”
“Daniels here, sir. What can I do for you?”
“Mr. Daniels, put a twenty-four hour surveillance on Commander Troi.”
Picard didn’t take any chances. People that did died very quickly.
Troi stepped into her quarters and sat down on her bed.
Life hadn’t been easy growing up on Betazed. As an annexed Imperial colony, it had enjoyed all the privileges of Terran rule, such as depraved officials, a starving population and occasional massacres.
But she had something the oppressors never had, telepathy.
While the masses starved, hundreds of Betazoids became assistants to Imperial officials and many more had travelled abroad to the Klingons, Romulans, and others.
And Troi had learned that the few that use their gifts carefully survive.
She’d then went through working for a series of officers. They tried to dupe her, but she ended up duping them.
Until she’d been assigned to Riker, in whom she’d finally found her match in subterfuge. They had broken after they realised they could never truly dominate each other, and went their separate ways.
But then they’d ended up on the same assignment. On the same ship. Sometimes, it seemed advantageous to work for a coherent goal. Sometimes it didn’t.
Now, those times were over.
Troi reflected. Telepathy had always been a buttress. But it was also harmful. She had never really developed the other senses that humans master so well for similar situations, such as hearing and seeing. It had been a double-edged sword, even if the edge pointing towards her was much more blunt by comparison to the outward edge.
On the other hand, she’d long refined the usefulness of that telepathy. She made herself indispensable to her superiors. She manipulated them, and made them dependent if possible.
If not, well... what difference does one more corpse make?
Sometimes, she wondered what exactly she wanted to achieve. First, it had simply been to leave a hellhole. She’d done that. And then she’d advanced steadily up through a section of the Imperial hierarchy.
Where would she go now?
She wasn’t sure... but she was sure she would go were she could prove herself... indispensable.
Picard was looking out into the depths of space when Data stepped in, now pointedly wearing a red collar.
“What is it, Commander?” Picard asked uninterested, seeing Data’s reflection off the window.
“Myself and Gunian have conducted a detailed investigation into who the possible killer of Commander Riker might be.”
Picard turned around, interested. “Continue.”
“Firstly, we examined the possible motives. Several members of the crew have had contact with the Commander that has been less then pleasant. We have narrowed down the amount of people who were seriously abused by the Commander to 34.”
Data handed Picard a PADD. Picard looked over the PADD. Geordi’s name was there, but then, it had reason to be. Riker had been attacking him for years.
Picard glanced up, and Data proceeded.
“We then examined the people who could possibly gain from Riker’s death. Technically, that category would include everyone beneath him in rank on the chain of command...”
Picard certainly knew that one such officer had come off rather handsomely.
“...but there could, of course, be many more stands to gain, if Riker knew what someone didn’t want him to, for example.”
“Finally, we examined the course of the murder. It was carried out with the intention of making it look like a suicide, thus with a clear indication of the wish to deceive someone.
“However, any person committing this act, presumably clever enough to falsify it as suicide, should have realised that the telepath Deanna Troi would still have been able to sense his or her emotions thus rendering the falsification nothing more than buying time...”
Picard was suddenly a lot more interested.
“Which leads to three conclusions. One, the person or persons responsible for this act were not crewmembers and have left the ship. Two, Deanna Troi was actively involved in the murder. Three, Deanna Troi was the sole culprit.”
Troi was strapped onto the chair, and the aides departed.
Troi looked up into that sole light above her, casting light on her and nothing else, and then frantically around the room.
“What’s happening? Who are you? Why are you doing this?”
“Around here, I ask the questions.”
A figure melted out of the darkness as it stepped into the light.
“Besides,” said Guinan, “I think you know the answers already.”
“You don’t mean...” Troi paled. “No.”
“What have I done? What did I ever do to deserve this?”
“That’s what I’m here to find out.” Guinan began to circle her with an air of superiority and a distinct feeling of pleasure.
“Perhaps,” she continued, “if you told me everything now I might not hurt you.”
That was a lie. Guinan always hurt her patients.
And Troi knew that.
“You think your telepathy gives you an edge, don’t you?” Guinan said as she circled like a hawk. “Always giving you an advantage over other people.”
Troi didn’t respond. Guinan stopped and looked her in the eye.
“Tell me, Deanna... what am I feeling?”
“Very well, I’ll tell you. Self-assured. Confident. And, well, just a little bit eager.”
Anyone passing by a matter of seconds later would have been nauseated at the high-pitch screams.
Thus, the information had been extracted. Troi and Riker had went their separate ways after a failed attempt to kill Picard. Troi, fearing Riker knew too much, tried to kill him, and got Geordi to do it for her.
Those were the facts. But Picard had decided, officially, this operation had been done alone by Troi.
He couldn’t have Geordi die. As a weak, ambition-lacking officer he was a superb stopgap.
Picard didn’t trust many people. In fact, he didn’t trust anyone. But Troi was one of those people who had come closest to trust.
And she’d betrayed him.
For that, she must be punished.
The doors to the cell room slipped aside. Picard, silent, made his way for Troi’s cell.
She looked up. Exhausted, beaten, and with a cut on her forehead. He knew she knew. But she looked too tired to care.
The force field flickered and fizzled away.
Picard stepped in, and then lunged for Troi.
He grabbed her by the hair and pulled her upright. She offered no resistance.
With one hand he clenched that ball of hair. With the other, he unsheathed his knife.
The knife flew through the air and sliced through Troi’s neck as if it were air.
Troi’s body collapsed onto the ground. Picard dropped the head, and it fell onto the lifeless corpse.
He wiped the blood off his knife and put it back in his boot.
It had been done.
The time was soon approaching when they would act.
And when they did, it would be devastating.
Admiral Hayes’s face appeared on the screen in Captain Picard’s ready room.
Coldly, the two glared at one another.
A tense silence ensued. Both sized each other up for what both knew was, despite all outward appearances, a contest of wills.
“I read your report.” Hayes said, breaking the ice.
Neither man needed to say which report. The report Picard had filed relating to the death of Riker, the subsequent investigation ... and the promotion of Data.
“You do understand that the promotion to First Officer must be approved by the Imperial High Command.” Hayes stated, still ambiguous.
“Yes sir, I do. But a temporary arrangement was made.” A pause, as Picard rethought his next move.
Was it really such a good idea?
He wasn’t sure, but it was worth a try. And those who were too hesitant never became Captains.
“However, sir, I recommend that Commander Data retains his current post. In the time allotted he has shown an excellent capacity to be a first officer.”
This was bluff. Data had shown an excellent capacity ... but what Picard attempted to imply was that he was also loyal — a trait prized by commanders of their first officers over all others.
And, of course, Hayes wouldn’t let someone loyal to Picard be the Captain’s First Officer, not if he could prevent it and undermine Picard still further.
But it all depended ... did he see through it, or not?
“I see.” Hayes said tersely. “We have already overviewed the matter here at Imperial High Command.”
“We do not share your ... confidence ... in Commander Data’s abilities. After some discussion, we have decided that Commander Reynolds is a more appropriate choice.”
Reynolds. Picard knew him. He was Admiral Hayes’s aide ... undoubtedly very loyal, but not very bright.
But even a spy from one of his bitterest enemies was preferable to Data.
“Captain, on behalf of Imperial High Command I request you make all speed possible to Deep Space Five for your First Officer.”
Hayes permitted himself to look slightly smug, oblivious of just how much he’d helped his nemesis.
“What about the unusual nature of the wormhole?” Picard commented snidely.
“We are sending a science vessel to conclude that investigation, given the ... exceptional ... circumstances. Admiral Hayes out.”
Picard tapped his commbadge. “Bridge.”
“Data here, sir.” The android’s monotone voice echoed over the commchannel.
“Commander Data, set a course for Deep Space Five, maximum warp.”
“Have we received new orders, sir?”
“We have indeed.”
“Oh? And Commander Data ... could you join me in my Ready Room?”
“I see, sir.” was his only reply.
Picard usually relished in such the demolition of an opponent’s ambition. Despite attempts by them to suppress it, there was usually some sign of their defeated nature which he could detect, whether they liked it or not.
Some simply lost all sense. Others became vain. Some bode their time for a comeback, but even then their need for vengeance could be clear.
But Data ... Data was just blank. No nothing. Not even nothing.
He could have been told the price of a foodstuff, for all Picard could get out of his reaction.
Symbolically, though, Data took off his third pip and placed it on the table.
But what did symbolism matter to an android? What did such emotional attachment matter to a purely rational and logical mind?
There was no emotional impact either, external or internal. Data honestly did learn form his failures, but there was no emotional sting like there was to all others.
“Dismissed.” Data turned and exited.
Picard sighed deeply.
The sooner he got rid of him ... the better.
Geordi, almost gingerly, stood at the door to Engineering.
He’d rather be in the cell.
He sighed, and shook his head bitterly.
He’d leave the Imperial service altogether, if he could. But the last engineer of the Enterprise to do that was Logan. The shuttle he boarded crashed a day later under more than suspicious circumstances...
He stepped towards the doors. They parted, and Geordi was greeted by:
The Engineers were all busy at work, seemingly oblivious of him. Or maybe wanting to be oblivious.
One Engineer looked up — and then hastily looked down.
Fear. He was afraid. Of me, Geordi realised.
The Captain had absolved Geordi of guilt for killing Riker, but some truths are unquenchable. It had become a rumour.
And Riker had been the lead person taunting Geordi. What would happen to the next?
Geordi permitted himself to grin. It had taken well over a decade, but he’d done it.
He’d finally cowed his enemies.
Geordi walked over to a station and began giving orders.
But he wasn’t about to get any time to enjoy his new-found luxury.
“Warning. Decompression in Engineering. Warning.” The male voice of the computer blared over the room.
The engineers ran for the doors. Locked.
“Computer, open the doors!” Geordi barked.
“Unable to comply. Command level codes required.”
Command level? The only person with codes like that is... but ... but why?
He tapped his commbadge. Nothing.
He moved over to another console — but, fast running out of air, he collapsed. He choked and gurgled. He wheezed, and the breath took his life with him.
The rest of the engineers were already on the floor, choking, gasping, in vain trying to survive.
When they were all dead, the doors parted.
Doctor Crusher and Kes entered.
Picard barged onto the bridge. “Report!” He snapped as he came up.
“We lost all contact with Engineering.” Data responded as he returned from the Captain’s Chair to Operations.
“Merde.” Picard muttered resentfully. There could only be one reason for that... a conspiracy. Picard didn’t like conspiracies. They wasted so much time, manpower and equipment.
And then there was the mess. Oh god, the mess.
“Mr. Daniels, assemble a security team and get down there at once!”
“Captain!” Data protested.
Picard, somewhat gingerly, turned around. “Yes Data?”
“As Acting-First Officer —”
“Commander, you were relieved.” Picard reminded him.
“I am Acting-First Officer until Commander Reynolds comes onboard, sir. And I have proven myself to be very capable in combat.”
Picard eyed him suspiciously. He couldn’t trust Data... and Data could be easily looking for an excuse to defect to whoever was down there.
“It is the privilege of the Captain to decide who heads a mission. I have selected Lt. Daniels. Would you like to be detained for insubordination, Commander?”
Picard turned around. “Daniels, assemble your team now.”
“Yes sir!” Daniels said and raced out of the room — partly because of urgency, partly because of fear.
The air pressure flooded back into the room.
“Alright. We’re in Engineering.” She turned and eyed Kes. Crusher would normally never side with anyone, under any conditions.
But this was hardly a normal situation then, was it?
But Kes was telepathic. She knew everything Crusher was thinking. She could use that against her...
And she used it for her. Kes’s offers were enticing, even to Crusher, usually had apathy.
And, more importantly still, it gave her a chance to finally get her revenge...
“What do we do now?”
Kes didn’t say anything. She closed her eyes and concentrated. There was no strain. She looked ... serene. As if asleep but standing up.
Her eyes opened. And the warp core began powering up...
“Sir, we’re changing course!” Reported the Ensign at CONN.
Picard whirled around. “Reverse!”
“Already doing so, sir.” Data said as his hands moved in a blur of furious work across the panel.
And as suddenly as it started, he stopped. “I cannot, sir. The command codes required have been transferred to Engineering.”
“How the hell?”
Data’s console beeped, and again his hands rippled across the surface in a movement almost too fast for the eye to see.
“They are attempting transfer control of the ship to engineering.”
Only a minute later, he added “Hmph.”
“Hmph?” Picard asked.
“Sir, this is most intriguing. Whoever is down there isn’t just able to keep up with my attempts, but has successfully deduced every time my next action.”
Who the hell is doing this? Picard thought.
There wasn’t a person on the ship who could move as fast as Data. And there was no known lifeform in the galaxy that could predict all of his next moves and act accordingly...
Crusher watched the room. Lights blinked in harmony. Panels were opened and closed. The warp core drummed steadily along. Everything was operating in perfect order.
Except no one was operating it...
“How ... how did you do that?”
Kes turned around to face Crusher.
“I am more then I seem.” Kes replied cryptically.
Crusher narrowed her eyes. If she could run the entire engine room by thinking, then why would she need her help to get out from a mere forcefield and Starfleet personnel?
“I wanted to pass unnoticed as long as possible.” Kes replied, reading Crusher’s thoughts.
“Do you know what you intend to do next?”
Kes nodded. “I will not need you. You may carry out what you desire.”
As if on cue — for indeed it was — one of the panels busted open and a phaser rifle floated out of it until it reached Crusher.
She handled it carefully. “I’ll be back.”
She pulled open a panel for a Jefferies Tube, and slid in.
There were twenty-one of them in total. They stood outside the door.
“Scan the room.” Lt. Daniels hissed a whisper as they reached the door to Engineering.
“Why do you think that will work?” One of the other security officers asked. “They couldn’t do it from the bridge.”
“Whoever is in there might have just disabled the sensors of the bridge, and not simply blocked all sensors. It’s worth a shot.”
“I suppose so.”
The other security officer obediently nodded and flipped out a tricorder.
“The room seems to be technically sound. There’s breathable air, and no booby traps.”
“One... I think.”
“Give me that.” Daniels said impatiently, and he snatched the tricorder.
But the other officer was right. There seemed to be a humanoid form in there, and it was standing upright, but there were no other readings... as if there was some kind of sensor shield between them and the definition.
Daniels had seen these readings before... and they could only apply to one person...
“Bridge to Security Team.” Picard’s voice said over the com.
“Daniels here, sir.” Daniels whispered. “Keep your voice down please, sir.”
“Lieutenant, I advise strictest caution... whoever is in there can think faster then Data and our computers. Consider them highly dangerous.”
“We know who it is, sir. Kes. She’s alone.”
“I see.” Picard’s voice said. Daniels tensed. Picard didn’t use that tone of voice unless something very, very serious had gone wrong.
“Do you know how she got out of Sickbay without being detected?”
“No sir ... but I don’t like the looks of this.”
“Neither do I, Lieutenant. Neither do I. Deal her with extreme caution. Understood?”
Daniels looked around at his team. “Right. You heard the Captain. Phasers on vaporise.” Daniels looked down at his tricorder.
“She’s in the centre of the room. Fire at that direction the moment those doors part, understood?”
They nodded in union. Daniels crept over to the door, and silently placed a timed explosive next to it.
He then ran in the opposite direction down the corridor, and the other security officers followed him.
He stopped and turned around. The bomb exploded into a fiery ball.
But the flames, as soon as they begun, dissipated... and no damage was done.
Daniels cursed violently.
“What do we do now?” One of the security officers asked.
“I have no idea.”
The doors to Engineering parted.
Kes was standing facing them.
“Fire!” Daniels bellowed — but he and all the others were thrown aside by an unseen force.
Their stomachs exploded. Their limbs severed. Their throats contracted in on themselves.
When Kes was satisfied that they were quite dead, she began to walk down the hallway.
It was time... to bring the war to them.
“Sir — we’ve just lost the life signs of all twenty-one members of the security team.” Data reported.
“Kes has left Engineering.”
She’s a one-man army, and a dangerous one at that.
“Can we beam her into space?” Picard asked, snappy and to-the-point.
“We can only barely detect her as it is, sir. We can’t take any direct action against her.”
“Lock off all entries in and out of that deck. Seal off all Jefferies tubes.”
“There are people on that deck, sir.” The CONN Officer piped up.
“There won’t be very soon.” Picard commented grimly. “Mr. Data?”
“Depressurise the deck.”
Another Starfleet officer fell onto the floor and died a bloody death.
Kes methodically prowled through the corridors.
She had been an innocent girl, once. Living on the world of Ocampa with the pacifist Kazon.
True, she had seen the frequent brutal subjugations the Ocampans inflicted on their peace-loving neighbours, but that wasn’t important. They had been Kazon, after all.
Until she saw Voyager. A ship from a far more sadistic and Machiavellian world, and with a ruthless paranoid emotional wreck — but a very efficient officer - called Kathryn Janeway, as her commanding officer.
She was stolen from her homeworld by them. She was used and manipulated. She became Neelix’s slave.
And she had learned what was necessary to get along in this world. She had enlisted the aid of Tuvok, who was always looking for a chance to undermine Neelix.
And she had discovered that Ocampans had a thing they never knew they had.
In time, she became like them. Sadistic. Ruthless. Callous. But from that time on, she was above them.
She used her power to her advantage. First, she subjected Neelix. Then she betrayed Tuvok.
And it was not long before she ripped across the ship in a blaze of vengeance before escaping, personally unharmed.
Another officer fell to the ground, choking in spasms as his life ebbed from his body.
But Kes was not the reason.
She felt air, slipping away... sucking out of the room.
She raced for the nearest exit as fast as her legs could carry her — faster, actually.
The door was ripped open by sheer force of will, and she ascended the turbolift.
“Decompression complete.” Data said at his console.
Data checked the readings. “She’s entered the Jefferies Tubes.”
“Is there any way we can stop her?”
He didn’t like what he had to do next.
It was, after all, very damaging to his reputation.
But he had to do it.
“There is only one option.”
Guinan sat, quietly, in the Interrogation Room, and reflected.
The door opened from behind. Shafts of light poured into the darkness.
Guinan didn’t even bother to turn around. “Kes.” She said, nonchalant.
Kes stood at the doorway for a moment.
“No resistance, I see.”
“Would it have been any good?”
Kes chuckled. “It would have been more fun.”
“Lights.” She then commanded, and Guinan’s chamber of horrors was revealed in all its grotesque glory.
Pile upon pile of various, intricate methods of torture, from scalding cauldrons of oil to water to be slowly dripped right between the eyes.
Kes eyed it contemptuously.
“None of this hurt me.”
“But you would have done anything which could hurt me.”
Guinan didn’t respond.
“Oh? So ‘That’s my job’ doesn’t work for you?”
Kes’s eyes flickered over to Guinan.
“You get pleasure out of this, don’t you?”
Kes waved, generally, around the room at the various devices of pain.
“It must be fun to be the executioner... but it’s no fun to be the victim.”
“These may not be able to hurt me... but they can hurt you.”
Kes closed in on Guinan.
Guinan looked up at her. Kes paused, and lifted Guinan mentally into the chair she had tortured thousands upon thousands.
And she began.
Despite all her serenity and wisdom, Guinan could feel pain like any other normal being.
And what she felt as life was coaxed away from her defied all her expressions...
“Sir, this seems an ... extreme course of action.” Data commentated in understatement.
“Kes has proven herself very dangerous and adaptable Mr. Data. This is our best choice left.”
“She’s still on Deck 14, correct?”
“Good. She won’t get here in time then. Seal all doors along those corridors, Mr. Data.”
“That won’t do much sir...”
“It will delay her. Now make it so!”
“Yes sir. Locking doors.”
“Have the other preparations been made?”
“They have, sir.”
“Mr. Data ... separate the saucer.”
“Mercy! I beg you, be merciful!” An Imperial officer pitiably wailed.
But Kes showed no pity. His stomach fluctuated as if being torn from the very core - which it was — and the man screamed in intense pain as life was forced out of his body.
A phaser blast came from behind, but was redirected harmlessly. Kes did not even turn around as the hastily assembled security force was gutted.
She strode towards the door. It was locked, as she expected. She smashed it open —”
And faced the deathly cold of space. The vacuum ruthlessly sucked out air. Kes struggled to regain her balance and grabbed a hold of something.
She felt her lungs begin to suck inward and she narrowly dodged out of the way of a less fortunate Imperial officer flying off into the abyss.
She closed her eyes and concentrated, hard. Part of the wall was ripped off and flung towards the empty chasm — but was too big to fit.
It disintegrated a second later as the forcefield was activated, sealing the breach. Kes got herself back on her feet and breathed in some fresh air.
It was all too obvious what they had done.
Picard watched the screen as the Enterprise-E’s saucer section moved away from the stardrive.
Picard savoured the stardrive for a moment as the saucer flew away. It will be the last time I see her.
“Shields up. Red alert.” Picard commanded.
“Yes sir.” Data responded.
“Power all weapons.”
“All weapons powered, sir.”
“Take us about.”
“Taking us about sir.” The CONN officer said.
Phaser beams, seemingly harmless streaks of light, shot across the chasm of space and smashed onto the stardrive.
“The Stardrive’s hull integrity has dropped to 79 percent, sir.” Data reported.
Again, the beams shot out of the saucer and smacked onto the stardrive.
“58 percent, sir.”
The phaser beams lit the sky — but passed right through.
And then it hit him.
“Data, fire directly in front of us!” He shouted.
And, for a moment, there was then two stardrives. Quantum torpedoes, fearful to behold, screamed out of the stardrive and slammed on the saucer’s shields, the shockwave shuddering throughout them.
And at that same moment, phaser blasts seared out of the saucer and smashed into the stardrive’s shields.
“Back us away, full impulse!”
“Aye sir!” The CONN Officer said.
“Status report!” Picard barked.
“Shields at 74 percent!” Data replied.
“They’re not pursuing.”
“No sir.” Data responded. “Although they have superior weaponry and speed, we did heavily damage their hull integrity. Since Kes is presumably working on her own, it would be hard or at least take a long time for her to repair the damage, even with her powers.”
Picard nodded, and clasped his hands. He thought.
“Data ... is there anywhere nearby were we can cloud our signature?”
“There is a rogue planet in this sector, sir. Class-J. The saucer could cloud its signature by entering the atmosphere.”
“How far away is it?”
“At full impulse, we could arrive there in twenty minutes.”
“Make it so. Mr. Data, you have the bridge.”
Picard stood up to leave.
“Sir, may I ask why you are excusing yourself from the bridge?”
“No. You may not.”
Picard sat, tense, in the Ready Room. There were some things which he would never dream of doing, unless absolutely necessary. There were some things he would only do if it was the only option in a life or death situation, and he wouldn’t do it if there were other options even if their chances were slimmer.
Asking Admiral Hayes for help was one of the latter. He’d rather die then do so...
Well, he’d rather let his crew die, anyway.
Admiral Hayes’s face flickered onto the screen. “Captain.” Hayes said, angrily. “You are late! Reynolds is waiting to board your ship for the past hour.”
Picard kept a steely poker face. “There is a reason for that, Admiral.”
“Oh?” Hayes asked, in no way hiding his annoyance. “It better be a pretty damn good one.”
“The alien being which we had found at the wormhole escaped from Sickbay. The being is extremely powerful and, it seems, nearly omnipotent. After overpowering and killing my Engineering staff, it proceeded to kill a large Imperial detachment sent to deal with it and has foiled all other methods at stopping it. We were forced to separate the ship, and the being is now in possession of the stardrive. We require your assistance to overpower her.”
Admiral Hayes’s attitude changed instantly. He grinned smugly. “Can’t handle a single, unarmed girl, can you Jean-Luc?”
“You underestimate her greatly, Admiral. Perhaps, had you not insisted on the Enterprise remaining out here this folly would have been prevented —”
“Don’t worry, Jean-Luc. We have three ships stationed here, including my flagship. I think that will be all we need to overpower a child, don’t you, Jean-Luc? Or should I send the Armada?”
Had they been in the same room, Picard would have not been able to prevent himself killing the Admiral there and then.
The humiliating fact that Picard needed him — and that Admirals did kill officers for insubordination — was the only thing keeping him in check
“Three ships will be sufficient, Admiral.” He said dryly.
“Good. We’ll sort out your problem, Jean-Luc. Don’t worry. Everything will be fine. Admiral Hayes out.”
One of these days...
Kes entered Engineering and walked over to a panel.
Repairing the breaches herself would be virtually impossible. She made breaches, not fixed them.
She gave a quick look over the power supplies and positioning. She could always give more power to the forcefields acting as replacements.
So she began doing so, closing down the systems that weren’t necessary. Like life support beyond engineering, for example.
Her hands flew over the console as she entered in her commands.
She’d learned a thing or two about Engineering from Torres, when that Human-Klingon hybrid thought Kes might be a worthy tool.
Underestimating her, as so many had.
These systems and the systems of the ship were different and more advanced, but she could still use them.
And where she couldn’t, and where the simple functioning of the ship required a larger crew, she could use her power.
It wasn’t perfect, but it worked. It had worked before.
And it would work again.
Soon, her mission would be complete...
Crusher slid through the Jefferies tubes. She gripped the phaser rifle close.
She gasped a moment for air, and then lunged towards another set of steps.
After climbing throughout half the ship, she was exhausted. But there was a force, almost unseen, that kept driving her on.
More powerful then the fear that had kept her suppressed for so long, it was anger, it was the lust for vengeance.
She could remember the traumatised look on Jack’s corpse. The look of utter fear, coming as life was drained out of him. She could remember the cuts around his throat, embedded from fiercely tugging fingernails.
The official report had said it was an accident. She knew better.
For years prior, Jean-Luc Picard and Jack Crusher had been bitter rivals. They had contested for the same posts, the same ranks, and the same prestige.
They had even contested over her.
Jack, ultimately, had been the winner. He had a way of knowing what people — his superiors, and her — wanted, and giving it to them. An eye for psychology Picard never had.
But Picard, in turn, had something Jack had never had. He was more conspiratorial. More brutal. More forceful, and more demanding. He was also one known to hold grudges, grudges that ran deep and very bitter.
It had only been a matter of time when things came to a head.
Picard and Jack had been alone when the accident occurred. All sensors had been conveniently malfunctioning. Besides Jack’s corpse, Picard’s testimony was the only one.
But even with the information staring at her in the face, she could not reveal it.
All it had taken was one forceful, silent, piercing glance from Picard to tell her what her fate might have been.
But Crusher too was not one to forgive easily.
She knew, someday, somehow, her opportunity would arise. As blade met blade in the endless contest that was Imperial service, sooner or later the chance would come.
And it had come now.
Crusher slid through another hatch.
Jack had not been the only thing Picard had taken from her.
The other was Wesley, her son. Even from an early age, Wesley had been the model Imperial child. His first words had been the name of the Emperor and not his father.
But it was Picard who had truly wrenched him away from her.
He had made the boy his own. Brainwashed him. Indoctrinated him. It was not long before he was utterly impartial to the fate of his father and his living mother.
He was out there somewhere now, as an omnipotent being. Probably much like the devious and brutal Traveller he had joined, as opposed to the placid Q, but omnipotent nonetheless.
There was a lot of rage in Crusher. And it had continued to steadily build up over the years, until she had become used to it.
As if it was a part for her.
And it was now she intended to release all her rage and fury on one man.
She looked at the sign on the Jefferies Tube.
She’d got there. She slid the tube slightly, ever so slightly, open...
The repairs, such as they were, were completed. Kes walked over to the sensors, to detect the position of the Enterprise.
Undaunted, she checked for ion trials.
There was one leading into the atmosphere of a nearby gas giant.
She smirked slightly, and walked over to a panel and began tapping in information.
Crusher could see the bridge through the slit.
“Captain, the stardrive is powering up.” said a voice she knew to be Data’s. "It’s going to maximum warp, and it’s headed in our direction.
“When will Hayes’s fleet arrive?” She could hear Picard ask.
She strained to hear where the voice was coming from, and re-angled herself. She moved a bit to the side, peering out to see if she could see the Captain.
She missed Data’s reply, but he evidently said it as Picard responded:
She could see the Captain’s chair, but not him. She angled about.
Picard glared at the viewscreen.
“How long until the stardrive is here?”
“At this rate, sir? Around one minute.”
“Merde.” Picard said bitterly.
“Sir, given the amount of time it has taken Kes to repair the ship, I believe that her job may be primarily rerouting the shields. If we disable them, we still stand an excellent chance of surviving.”
“That’s a very big if, Data. CONN, prepare for a full impulse through the atmosphere.”
“Through, sir?” The CONN officer asked.
“You heard me, Ensign. Stay within the atmosphere and get away from our current position. We may still loose them.”
Crusher took a deep breath. She knew that chances were, after she did this, she would die.
But she still would have gotten her revenge. She still would have killed him.
Besides, it was too late to second guess herself.
She moved slightly... and saw him.
That typically arrogant face now worn by creases of concern and intense concentration, but it was him.
Kes had finished enhancing the sensors, rendering the planet’s atmosphere fully penetrable.
There was something to be said about traveling the Delta Quadrant...
The stardrive dropped out of warp.
As she expected, the saucer was far from the last position she could have predicted with Imperial sensors.
But no matter.
She locked all quantum torpedoes and other weapons on the saucer.
A volley of torpedoes ripped out from the stardrive. Crusher squeezed the trigger of her phaser rifle and shot right at Picard.
The torpedoes rammed full force onto the Saucer. The bridge lurched, twisted and coiled violently.
Consoles exploded and their hapless operators were thrown to the ground. Data was among them.
Picard grabbed a hold of the railings and stood upright.
A phaser beam lashed out from the Jefferies tube, but as the owner and ship shook missed its target, the Captain, completely.
The shaking then finally stopped.
Picard took out his phaser, set it to maximum, and vaporised the Jefferies tube.
Within was Crusher.
They locked eyes, for the last time. Picard knew that betrayal came from every corner. And yet somehow, he’d never really expected Crusher to be one of them.
But even though he didn’t expect it, it certainly didn’t come as a surprise.
Crusher fired at Picard but he nimbly ducked — and fired.
Crusher screamed in pain as her atoms disintegrated.
One less traitor...
Picard stood grimly upright. He kicked Data’s prone body.
It seemed almost funny, somehow. Data had survived so much, so many times. Had been ruthlessly and brutally efficient at talking — or forcing — his way out of anything.
And he’d died without the least bit of grace.
Ensign Perim strode up replaced the android at the Operations console.
Picard sat back into his seat.
Perim’s console beeped.
“Captain, three starships have just dropped out of warp.”
And from the screen Picard could see an Akira-class starship, flanked by two Defiants, swooped down on the stardrive.
Wisely, it retreated at maximum warp.
“They’re hailing, sir." Perim added.
“Captain Picard.” Admiral Hayes said. “The cavalry has come to your rescue. You needn’t worry, we’ll sort this out for you. And tell me if you need any more help in restraining defenceless prisoners. Nobunaga out.”
The screen again changed to the stars as Hayes’s three ships disappeared in pursuit.
And Picard found himself hoping that Kes would win...
Well, preferably just kill Hayes...
Kes jammed all transmission frequencies as the stardrive raced through space.
She wasn’t about to let them do that again.
She checked the sensors.
The stardrive was in the lead, but the others were gradually gaining on her.
But she still had a few tricks yet.
Admiral Hayes from the Akira-class Nobunaga watched as he closed in on his prey.
To his left stood, anxiously, the ship’s Captain. Captains hated being deprived of their commands, and this one was no different.
He squirmed nervously. Hayes resisted the temptation to chuckle — although he was fond of kicking someone when they were down.
“Entering firing range in five...” the voice of the Tactical Officer echoed across the bridge.
Hayes snapped back to the present. He glued his eyes on the ungraceful hulk that was a Sovereign-class’s separated stardrive.
“Four...” The Tactical Officer continued.
“Three ... Two ...”
Suddenly there was a flash.
And the Stardrive disappeared.
“What the?” Hayes roared. “Track them!” A suddenly enraged Admiral barked to the Operations Officer.
“I’m trying sir!” The officer protested.
“They’ve... They’ve gone to transwarp!”
Hayes stood. Slowly, he descended from the centre of the bridge. His movement was slow and methodical, timed to increase his command of their mortal fear.
The Operations Officer looked around from his console. Beads of sweat trickled down his face.
“You didn’t tell me they had that.”
“Sir, normally they don’t —”
“Normally, Lieutenant, civilians do not hijack Imperial property. If the ship had transwarp, regardless of its design specifications, you should have known simply by scanning it.”
“But Sir... I didn’t think —”
“That’s right. You didn’t think. The Empire needs officers who can.”
In a fluid movement, Hayes un-holstered his phaser and vaporised the officer.
Hayes turned to the Captain.
“Captain, I believe you have been an Operations Officer? A very good one, I recall.”
“Uh...” The Captain cleared his throat. “Yes sir.”
“Good. Get in the chair. And you better be better than your subordinate.”
Hayes ascended back onto the centre of the bridge and sat down at the Captain’s Chair. Gingerly, the Captain sat down on his former officer’s chair and began to operate the panel.
“The stardrive has gone to transwarp.” Hayes continued, as if nothing had happened. “Can you triangulate the course?”
“Yes sir.” The Captain said, and his hands darted across the console. He was, after all, very motivated.
“According to my readings...” He broke off, confounded.
“Captain?” Hayes pressed.
The Captain turned around, fearful.
“They’re headed this way!”
Normally Picard didn’t drink while he was on the bridge, but the tenseness was beginning to get on his nerves, as was his relative helplessness.
Kes was beginning to foil Hayes just as she had foiled him. In less grave circumstances, he would have laughed out loud.
As it was, he just laughed on the inside.
Laid back in his chair, he sipped his Earl Grey. The Nobunaga, and her Defiant-class escorts — which Picard knew to be the Hamlicar and Xenophon — hung uncertainly in space. Even the ships, with their slow, vague movements and directions, seemed cautious and baffled as Picard knew their officers within must be.
And in an instant, this almost unmoving scene was suddenly and surprisingly altered.
For it was then when the stardrive — his stardrive — came inexplicably hurtling back.
It was then that the Nobunaga and her escorts swerved to avoid an utterly unexpected onslaught.
It was then when the stardrive, rather then lash out full force with its weaponry, careered headlong into its target, an inexorable force sweeping through the galaxy as if nothing ever known or ever will be known could possibly stop it.
It was then that the stardrive crashed right into the Nobunaga.
Metal smashed against metal. The two ships smashed into one another, twisting and tearing, whirling and hurling, crumpling as if they were no more then paper, and then ending their dance of death with a detonation, collapsing into a cataclysmic but eerily silent fireball.
That was too easy. Was the first thing Picard had thought. Kes could have easily run away. She wasn’t about to turn around and give up her life for no apparent reason other then destroying the Nobunaga.
“Ensign Perim, hail the Hamlicar and Xenophon. Inform them that Kes...”
“...might be onboard one of your vessels.” Perim’s voice sounded over the bridge of the Hamlicar.
The Captain raised both of his eyebrows in astonishment. “Ridiculous! We just saw them blow up —”
“Captain, we’ve just seen the alien being in question do a series of frankly astounding feats, including ones that would have required a much more advanced understanding of technology than we have.” Picard interjected. “We must assume she planned something for this contingency —”
The screen blanked out.
“What? What happened?” The Captain of the Hamlicar said, turning around to his CONN Officer. “Get Captain Picard back on the screen!”
“I’m trying, sir,” she protested. “It’s like all the power...”
Her console went dead. Then another. Then the bridge.
“What in the name of the Emp-”
He did not live to finish.
The doors to the Hamlicar’s bridge burst forth, smashing through the bridge. One part knifed right through the Captain’s head, chopping off half of it.
The First Officer and the other officers immediately reached for their phaser rifles as a seemingly innocent girl stepped out of the exhuming wisps of smoke as they licked around the wreckage.
Inhuman, detached, as if it was all an unimportant dream, she stepped onto the centre of the bridge.
Phaser beams burst out at her and were deflected by an unseen power.
Then consoles started to explode. Seats were uprooted and hurled across the room. The grisly carnage of inexplicably moving furniture ripped through the unfortunate Imperial officers.
Those that survived fell to the ground in unbearable agony and in a few short — but so painful there were no words for them — spasms, died.
Then the lights and all power were restored. Kes, still as if in a dream, strode to the nearest console and began to work at it.
First, she jammed communications once more. The Federation might be this easy to beat, but why try yourself unnecessarily?
“I’m unable to raise the Hamlicar, sir.” Perim said.
“That’s because they’re all dead," Picard stated, quietly and matter-of-factly.
He was already realising what Kes was doing.
“How are those repairs coming?”
“The shields are back to seventy-percent norm, sir.” Perim stated.
“That’s good enough. Get me the Captain of the Xenophon.”
“He’s on, Captain.”
An anxious looking officer flickered onto the monitor. He’s barely a child. He shouldn’t be commanding a starship... but then, Hayes chooses blind obedience over skill and ability any day. Or should I say, did choose.
“This is Jean-Luc Picard —”
“We can’t raise the Hamlicar!” The other Captain interjected. “Can you?”
“What the hell is wrong with her?” He interjected again, clearly very antsy.
“Captain, let me finish.” Picard snapped commandingly. His glare pierced the young man, and after a fearful whimper he was silenced.
“That ship is now under control of the alien you were sent here to destroy. Destroy the ship at all costs.”
“But there may be —”
“I’m a Fleet Captain. I outrank you. Will you not accept the orders of your superiors?”
Again, he was cowed. Hayes also likes people with no spine.
“N-no, sir. Of course not.”
“Good. Enterprise out.”
“Power all weapons and the shields. CONN, get us out of this cloud, maximum impulse.”
A chorus of ayes were murmured across the bridge.
The saucer of the Enterprise shot out from the planet and swooped back into the normally blissful abyss called space.
The Xenophon flung itself towards the Hamlicar — but Kes drew first blood.
The pulse cannons barreled out of the Hamlicar and smacked full force onto the Xenophon, sending it spinning.
The Hamlicar swung about to a superior position, but the Xenophon quickly stabilised itself and let loose lethal cargo of its own, which poured out in excess from the ship.
Kes, having seen the blast coming, dove the Hamlicar vertically to avoid it — but it was too late.
The searing pulses scorched right onto the Hamlicar’s shields. The Hamlicar whipped about for another punch —”
But suddenly buckled and careened as the full might of the saucer’s armoury ripped loose like a plague from the Saucer and smashed right onto the Hamlicar.
The blasts burst through, sending the Hamlicar reeling. The ship, almost completely adrift, tumbled through space.
The ship dipped from its uncertain descent as Kes struggled to re-stabilise it — but then the Xenophon vengefully soared down.
The pulses vibrantly barreled out of the ship and flew through space, pounding onto her target and whirling a just re-stabilising Hamlicar deeper into despair.
As Kes’s commandeered craft continued to spin madly out of control, the saucer sliced elegantly through space on its side as only a saucer truly can, caught it from behind and fired.
Again, the bursts smashed onto the Hamlicar, and again it spun helplessly out of control.
But then it jerked madly — like before, only this time to a rhythm. Kes gave up on stabilising the Hamlicar and she threw the ship through space, trashing wildly against its own precarious inertia and its inadvisable speeds.
It was an action which would normally be used for suicide runs.
And for once, Kes did not defy the norms.
Both the Xenophon and the Enterprise saucer, uncertain of what exactly Kes was trying to do, cautiously moved back.
And it wasn’t until the still madly spinning Hamlicar careened towards the Xenophon did they realise what was going on.
Too late, the Xenophon swung to avoid.
Too late, the Enterprise saucer let loose everything it had on the Hamlicar to stop it.
And then the inevitable happened. The sister ships collided, tearing and twisting, bursting at the seams and disintegrating, and finally imploding and exploding into a grisly fireball of death.
It wasn’t Sun Tzu, but the phrase “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” was very applicable to that moment.
Of course, such philosophical statements were the furthest thing from Jean-Luc Picard’s mind.
“Seal off the bridge!” Picard bellowed. “Perim, scan for all non-identifiable humanoids, with whatever you can use, and I don’t care how improbable it might be!”
An instant chorus responded obediently to Picard’s order.
He could see Kes’s pattern clearly now. She had frankly superhuman powers, she had extremely advanced technology, she had a depth of ruthlessness which rivaled his own — but she also followed a familiar pattern.
And patterns, as Napoleon Bonaparte could easily tell you from experience, can be one’s undoing.
And Picard certainly hoped it would be so here ...
From the bowels of the Saucer, Kes prepared to put the final phase of her plan into motion. The Starfleet assistance Picard had called upon had greatly interfered, but in the end, it had merely delayed.
And it was now time for her to complete the task she was here for.
“Bridge sealed off, sir. I’ve detected one unidentifiable humanoid on deck 2.”
Just as I thought, Picard reflected. It was at least some reprieve to know that he was right, that Kes had repeated her strategy a second time.
But it didn’t help that he didn’t know of any really effective way to counter it.
He would give it his best. And hope it was enough.
“Transfer control of this systems to not be overridden without my access code. Remove life support and add methane in all decks but this one.”
“Yes sir.” Perim replied. Her hands sped up her console. A red light flashed.
“Sir—” she began, not turning around, realising as Picard did that time was truly of the essence — “I can’t lock life support and the communications systems. Someone has already —”
“— taken them.” Picard finished. “Merde.”
He had suspected that Kes would take such a move. But it dwindled his chances considerably.
But Jean-Luc Picard never went down. Not without a fight.
“Finish locking the rest, Perim, and do it quickly!” He snapped, urgent but calm.
As he should be. Had he been irrational, as he well knew, things could only get worse. Admiral Hayes’s arrogance had got the better of him, and Picard didn’t want to let any of his emotions do the same.
For a moment, but only a moment, he glanced down at Data.
Had Data not been currently dead, he would have envied him. Data’s utter lack of emotion and sheer rational, logical thinking had given him the ideal traits for any Imperial officer.
After all, there was little wonder that Vulcans were one of the most successful non-Human species of the Empire — no, not just one. The most successful.
What Picard wouldn’t give to be like that, right now most of all. For one thing, his nerves wouldn’t be half as shaken as they were now.
“I’m trying, sir, I’m trying.” came Perim’s reply. She was deep in concentration and clearly very strained. Her hands darted up the console, moving in spurts of rapid gestures as they rippled across the console like a wave.
She was fast ... but she was no Data.
But that was not what concerned Picard.
The question was ... was she faster then Kes?
Did Kes’s many powers permit her to be a speedy typist as well or would Perim’s abilities be sufficient?
Either way, there was an important duty Picard had to perform. Life support was no longer in their control and there was no telling what Kes would do with it.
Picard got up out of his chair and strode right across the bridge. He walked towards his ready room, and unhesitatingly, stepped inside.
He walked over to a cupboard on the far side. It was duly locked, requiring his fingerprint and voice identification.
He gave them, and opened it.
Within were spacesuits — one for every member of the bridge crew.
It never hurt to be prepared for such contingencies such as these. The ruthless Tiberius Kirk, whose callousness and brilliance were extraordinarily legendary, had had such several preparations of his own and they had come in handy for the fearless commander on many occasions.
Picard took out the one he had designated for himself and threw it onto the ground. He picked it up and began to put it on.
Unlike the other spacesuits, which were of a “one-size-fits-all” variety, Picard’s spacesuit had been specifically tailored for him by the insidious barber by the name of Mot.
It had taken Picard a considerable period of time to debug the suit, but Mot’s tailoring skills was excellent and once clear of Mot’s little “additions,” it was an excellent space suit.
But far more importantly, it had two hours worth of extra oxygen. Rank had its advantages.
Picard slid on the head-piece, thus finishing the space-suit. He then reached into the cupboard, and grabbed the pile of other space-suits.
He locked the cupboard and then walked out of the Ready Room back into the Bridge.
He dropped the spacesuits on the ground.
“As you already know, Kes has control of life-support. Put these on before she begins to tamper with it.” Picard snapped tersely.
The bridge crew rose from their stations and walked over to the spacesuits, which they began to pick up and put on.
He would have brought phasers for them to use as well, but previous experience with Kes had shown that they were effectively worthless.
Picard walked over to the Operations console.
He tapped at it and located the location of Kes.
She was operating one of the computer consoles on the hallways, directly beneath the bridge.
And what am I going to do about it? Hell, what can I do about it?
Not at a damn thing. At least ... not yet.
The ball was in her park, for now. It was her move. Picard could only hope he’d be able to counter it.
As he waited for Kes to act, he reflected.
Before this mission, even genocide, which had previously always had been something he’d delighted in, had become boring.
Everything had settled into a somewhat dull routine, lightened only by his bitter confrontations with Imperial High Command — and even then, since they were the ones in power, he rarely came off on the winning side and when he did, they were simply not aware of it.
He had wanted to get away from that tedious routine.
Now he didn’t know what he’d give just to be exterminating a species again.
“Sir!” Perim called, while putting her spacesuit on.
Picard turned around, looking up from the Operations console. This better be good.
“I have an idea.”
“Hey!” An Imperial officer called. “You’re not allowed to —”
He promptly slumped down, as if hit with a tranquiliser. He was dead before he even hit the floor.
Kes would have had him writhe in agony as his life was gradually sucked out of him, but she didn’t have the time.
And she had bigger fish to fry.
Kes continued to rapidly type at the computer console. She was not able to obtain what she wanted there, but she knew that the bridge would be the place.
She remembered when she first caused havoc to a ship on this scale. That ship was the I.S.S. Voyager. For one short, succulent moment as she departed from the ship, she had allowed herself, in a fit of avenging fury, to send the entire vessel into pandemonium with her powers.
It had been extremely enjoyable. But back then, she had only begun to truly realise her powers. She had done it on a more juvenile level. Just blasting everything to hell with no real plan of any sort other then to bust the ship and move on, with no real tempering or selecting of the powers she implemented — she often just threw them all in one area at once, to catastrophic results. And of course, she did not have a mission then.
Ultimately, this lack of control and motive proved that in the long run her parting shot had little affect on the I.S.S. Voyager. She had held the ship in a grip of fear, and she had sent a lot of equipment to hell — but she had not followed it up. When she had moved on, the crew had picked up the pieces. And recovered.
When she had next encountered that wandering starship it was in as good repair as ever.
Of course, the Voyager was not really a fair analogy, anyway — the ship’s crew had continually repaired her to such proficiency that some Delta Quadrant inhabitants had resolutely sworn that Janeway had divine powers. Not that the way she acted would ever refute that anyway.
But Voyager or no Voyager, her attack had clearly been far less efficient then it was now. Her first attack would have had far less permanent damage. But practice had bred perfection. Even if they stopped her now, the blow she had dealt to the Enterprise-E and her crew was severe. It would take months to recover — if they recovered at all.
Interrupting Kes’s musing, phaser beams shot out of the walls, slicing right at her.
She deflected them — but they continued to pour out, a stream shooting at her from all directions.
She concentrated, hard, and the phaser beams were all continually deflected, as if an unseen shield surrounded her body. But they were coming from so many places — and all at once.
It was almost too much to bear, and she knew she couldn’t bear it for ever.
With focused determination, she deflected one phaser beam so that it would destroy the location of another.
It worked, but the concentration temporarily loosened her hold on one of the others which hit her.
She fell to the floor, losing all concentration for a moment — but the phasers all flew above her. She looked down.
She was lucky. It had just singed her thigh. She could feel the throbbing pain but tried to ignore it.
Instantly, the phasers lowered to aim at her and she, in a semi-prone position on the floor, fought them off again with her mind — making this time sure that she did that to all of them, and the phasers hit each other.
“Another two phaser arrays have been disabled.” Perim said as she monitored the progress of her plan.
Its sheer simplicity therein had laid its brilliance. Ultimately, Picard knew, it would only delay Kes — but that would both frustrate and irk her, and, hopefully, that would begin to effect her from a mental point of view and her could use that against her. Picard could foresee that she was the type who would go to high places.
If we get out of this alive, Picard darkly reminded himself.
“She’s disabled another two.” Perim barely paused before: “And other. We only have four left.”
“Make that two.”
Perim didn’t bother to turn around — time was of the essence.
“They’re down. Implementing —”
There was a sucking sound which drowned out Perim.
Picard knew that sound. There goes the oxygen, he thought grimly, and he quickly slid down the visual part of the headpiece and switched to his supplies.
For a moment, the utterly oxygen-lacking bridge was eerily silent.
And then came the methane.
Kes ran down the corridor, leaving the console for good as phaser fire from all directions on the walls shot out at her.
Not wanting to fall into the same trap twice, Kes ran as fast as she could and deflected all phasers which shot at her.
She reached the Jefferies Tubes and bent down to pull it open, still deflecting whatever came her way.
She slid inside and closed it shut — but not before another blast hit her arm. She cursed and rubbed it.
Nothing. It was numb.
She cursed again and she looked around the tubes. Recalling the direction she needed to go, she grabbed onto one of the bars and began her ascent.
Soon, it would be over, she reminded herself.
The green methane gas, though harmless thanks to the spacesuits, was an irritation. With the thick green gas floating across the length and breath of the bridge, Picard could barely see beyond his face.
“She’s in the Jefferies tubes, sir.” Picard heard Perim say over the spacesuit’s commlink.
“Do you have the set up ready on the bridge?” Picard asked.
Picard thumbed his phaser. He was ready. But only a short while before, he had thought it would have been useless to be so.
But now, had a purpose.
And maybe he’d come out on the top after all.
With a blast, the methane began to suck out. Picard ducked behind his chair as the crewmen throughout the bridge dashed for cover.
With another burst, oxygen flooded back into the bridge.
And the Jefferies Tube door creaked open.
And everyone opened fire. The phaser beamed rebounded — but only barely.
No doubt we’ve caught Kes by surprise.
They shot again, and from the corner of Picard’s eye he could see Perim’s hand lift up and hit the Operations panel.
Kes jumped out of the Jefferies Tube and deflected the blast again. Then she, whipped around to the officers that she could see and thanks to her power they slumped down instantly.
With a sweeping gaze to the back of the ship she spotted out the officers and with but a thought their brains suddenly broke all connections from their bodies.
It was a relatively painless death, but it was a death, and Kes didn’t have the luxury to do anything more.
And, with that action, she killed nearly the entire bridge crew. The exceptions were Picard and Perim.
But she could also hear a sucking noise as oxygen was drained out from the bridge. Kes lunged across the bridge towards the operation console — and she realised something else.
Gravity was gone. Kes rapidly failed, but quickly got her balance. As if she were swimming, she swept down for the console.
Perim and Picard both fired at her at once. She deflected Perim’s beam and by her sheer speed she just avoided Picard’s.
And with a swift thought, Perim’s brain ceased to function and the now lifeless Trill collapsed onto the deck.
Kes floated downwards towards the console and from a vertical position began to work at it.
She doesn’t know where I am, Picard realised. She may not even know that I am here.
He intended to use that to his advantage.
Picard set his phaser on overload, and then flung it at her.
The phaser spun through the silent void as the seconds ticked down. It hurtled towards its target.
But Providence it would have it somehow, in someway, for some reason, Kes looked up in its direction as she gasped vainly for air.
And that millisecond changed the fate of everything. With an effortless thought Kes pushed the phaser back towards its owner, and at a greater rate it was flung through the void.
His failure by chance, Picard struggled to avoid the rapidly approaching doom.
There was a burst as oxygen flooded back onto the bridge, and it was soon accompanied by a second burst as the phaser smacked right onto Picard’s suit and exploded.
The headpiece was disintegrated, Picard’s skull was ripped in two, and the corpse of the most vindictive and ruthless Imperial captain of the day crashed onto the floor, smacking there with a heavy thud as the spacesuit came to the ground.
Kes breathed a sigh at relief at her narrow escape.
The bigger they come, the harder they fall.
She began to type at the console again.
She’d get gravity online, but first, she had to complete her mission.
It was then that she was bowled aside and wheeled away from the controls. She hit the viewscreen, and as she rebalanced herself she saw who attacked her.
When Data had been on the floor, he had not been — as Picard assumed — dead, or, to be more accurate, “permanently disabled.”
But he had been severely damaged, and it had affected his co-ordination. His internal systems had been gradually reconstructing the damage from the inside.
And now it was complete.
Kes had seen Data before, and she had heard of his ability from Dr. Crusher — but nothing truly prepared her for this.
Data, far more experienced in operating in gravity-lacking environments then his Ocampan opponent, lunged right at her.
She pushed herself away from the viewscreen but he was faster.
He grabbed her and held her hard.
She struggled to let go but Data’s superhuman strength held her.
Pain welled through her as the fingers began to bore into her flesh.
She screamed and kicked the android, with a sudden burst of energy after which she would have got loose from any human being.
But Data was not human.
The kicks went almost unnoticed to the android and he, with his cold and emotionless skill, prepared to tear Kes’s flesh.
Kes then used a burst of her power to push Data away from her. Data was flung away and she broke free.
Data was not surprised in the least, and re-orientated himself quicker then any human ever could.
Kes wanted to choke him. She couldn’t. She, to her woe, realised that most of her power techniques required the opponent to have organisms which she could burst, contort, or simply damage.
Data had no organs.
The android flung himself across the bridge again, hurtling with silent precision in Kes’s direction.
A chair was uprooted from its console and flung at Data. He caught it and threw it at Kes.
Kes barely dodged out of the way. Data grasped the nearby railings and like a shark propelled himself right back into the fray, flying towards Kes.
Kes shot away and with her mind pushed the advancing Data back.
Data changed his course and threw himself at her again.
Ocampan against Android, mind against matter. The two were locked in a battle of wills.
Kes tore three chairs from their locations and they shot across air to interest with Data.
As if performing an act, Data’s two arms struck out and grabbed two of the chairs as they whirled towards him, and he ducked to avoid the third.
The third hurtled and then wheeled around again, right back on target. It shot towards Data but the android kicked it with his foot.
It spiraled away and broke onto the wall and now began to randomly float.
With his hands, Data crushed the backbone of the two he held and released them before shooting towards Kes again.
But this time he came so fast he even caught the Ocampan off-guard.
Kes turned to move — but it was too late.
Data went right for her, and his mechanical hands gripped her throat.
With his impassionate face staring down on her, Data began to choke Kes.
His hands bore into her neck. The metal fingernails pierced the skin and blood trickled outwards.
She gasped for air and screamed in unbearable pain. Her arms and legs flayed wildly but in the utmost futility.
Dazed and dying she groggily looked to the ceiling.
Her screams began to trickle down to a mere gurgle as saliva dripped down from her mouth.
Then it occurred to her.
Data was an android. He was not human, but he was made to be pretty similar to one. To operate as a humanoid, he must have mechanisms inside him to do that — no matter how little they might resemble the human body.
Crucial systems, without with he could not live.
And Kes focused all her energy and all of her power on that one goal.
Mechanical noises began to erupt from Data. A metallic chortle, a groan. A computerised beep. Electricity began to spark off at random locations along his body.
It was then that Data’s fingers broke Kes’s neck entirely. Kes’s body began to drift away as Kes’s head remained firmly in Data’s grip.
Then Data jolted. His arm exploded off with an electric surge and his eyes — grimly lifeless before, with a seeming impression of malicious intent, became blank, dull beacons which might have been little more then paint.
The corpses of Data and Kes aimlessly floated through the Enterprise-E’s saucer as the saucer itself floated aimlessly through space.
There had been a reason why Kes had gone through that wormhole like she did. There had been a reason she caused so much carnage, slaughter and suffering before meeting a fitting end.
Seven of Nine, after all, had only been the first. The Borg had deployed Seven of Nine to the I.S.S. Voyager. She had seemed to have been a drone disconnected from the Collective, but had been in reality a surveillance piece to be used by the Borg to collect all the information they could before striking.
It had proved a remarkable success, even though the drone had been lost. So the Borg had decided to deploy these devices on a far larger scale. They began to use them everywhere. And it didn’t even have to be known they were drones. Seven of Nine had had her technological enhancements removed and interacted with the I.S.S. Voyager crew like a real person — even if a great number of things needed to be cleaned out — and if it could be done once, it could be done again.
The Borg were deep into their construction of these when they met Kes. She was alone and aimless, wandering through space and seeking a purpose. The Borg tried to assimilate her. A few cubes blew up for their efforts.
So a pact was struck. For Kes, ultimately, wanted power. Picard had sold himself during the first Borg invasion of the Terran Empire for the hope of a senior posting in the Borg hierarchy, and only the discovery that no such post was available — or even existed — and the determined rescue efforts of Riker had dragged him away.
But Kes was allowed to be the co-Queen. Bettered only by the Queen herself, who was merely an embodiment of the collective mind of the Borg.
In exchange for such power, the Borg wanted hers. But she was intelligent. She would not give it to them, but she was willing to use it for them. The Borg were planning once again to try and assimilate the Terran Empire, and they decided that they should employ her here like they had employed all their Borg agents.
They created a wormhole — in reality, a transwarp conduit in disguise — instructed her on Borg technology and means of communication, and sent her on her way in her altered Terran shuttle that she had stolen from the I.S.S. Voyager.
Her mission was to collect the most important information she could and send it to the Borg.
It also included killing one Captain Picard, who had deftly thwarted the previous two Borg incursions, if at all possible. The Borg may have despised individualism, but they knew dangerous individuals when they saw them.
Kes had collected the information available from the bridge, which was not available anywhere else in the ship, and sent it to them just before a resurgent android and kicked her out of the way, so her mission was mostly a success.
It had also been the first conflict. It was the opening shot. It was a Saguntum, a Pearl Harbour. It was, though none in the Terran Empire, including those who fought it, knew, the first battle of the war.
The Borg were coming...