Pools of Shadow, Pools of Light
Two gazes locked upon one another, two men in the midst of a tempestuous verbal exchange; One, a so-called omnipotent and all-powerful being, the other, a French born starship captain. Both refused to back down even one measure from the other. They stood on the main recreation deck of the latter's vessel which traversed the vast distances between the stars.
The 'omnipotent' one appeared totally human, tall with thick lips, large expressive brown eyes, and an unruly shock of brown hair clinging above a wide forehead. He wore a red and black one piece uniform identical to his hosts'. After a pause, he continued his tirade.
"Oh you may not trust me, but you do need me. You're not prepared for what awaits you," the being known as 'Q' warned, a knowing edge crept into his voice.
The older man, balding, yet regal in aspect and carriage glanced out of the ten-forward arc of bay windows. His name: Jean-Luc Picard; one of the most famous, and most capable starship captains in the United Federation of Planets. Outside his ship, a glittering starfield decorated the cold vacuum of space. The solitary vessel was the storied and venerable Enterprise, flagship of the Federation.
Two more uniformed officers charged into the bar, intent on rescuing their captain from whatever force had brought him there unawares. The first officer, dark haired, bearded William Riker glanced at Q and at captain Picard, then motioned for the barrel chested Klingon security chief, Mr. Worf, to stand down.
"Ah, the redoubtable Commander Riker," Q said jauntily, his eyes slid over to Worf as the Klingon moved to flank him instinctively, "and Micro brain! Growl for me- let me know you still care."
The Klingon officer tensed in anger, but did not give Q the satisfaction.
Picard glanced back over his shoulder at Q then turned, his arms crossed defiantly, "Q!"
Q smiled smugly, "You think you are prepared? Let me tell you Picard. It's not safe out here! It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross." Q knitted his brows and glowered darkly, "but it's not for the timid."
"I don't know that we're prepared," Picard declared in his elegant British baritone, "but I do know that we are ready to confront it."
"Really?" Q cocked his head incredulously.
"Absolutely," Picard took a step forward, "that's why we're out here."
"Oh the arrogance," Q regarded Picard with contempt then turned to a dark-skinned woman who stood in the shadows, melding with the dim lighting of ten-forward, her bar. She wore a dark blue sequined dress and a strange circular cap shaped like a flat-topped mushroom. "They don't have a clue what's 'out here.'"
Guinan replied with a winsome smile, her sensuous lips pulled back from perfect white teeth, "they will learn, adapt. That's their great advantage," she said in rich musical tones that flooded the bar like a gentle wave lapping at the shore of a distant and tranquil sea.
Q gritted his teeth and glared back at her, "they are moving faster than expected, farther than they should."
"By whose calculation?" Picard interjected.
"You judge yourselves against the pitiful adversaries you have so far encountered. The Klingons, the Romulans, they are nothing compared to what's waiting," he paused again.
Picard blanched at Q's insinuation, while Guinan looked on impassively. Riker contained himself, but the muscles in his jaw and shoulders clenched tight. His eyes blazing, Worf uttered a throaty growl.
"Picard," Q began, ignoring the rest, "you are about to move into regions of space containing wonders more incredible than you can possibly imagine, and terrors to freeze your soul. I offer myself as a guide only to be rejected
out of hand."
Riker spoke for the first time, "I guess we'll just have to get along the best we can without you," he spat.
"What justifies this smugness?" Q asked. He rolled his eyes and tossed his head sarcastically.
Picard moved next to his first officer, "we're not smug, nor arrogant. We are resolute and we are willing. But more than that we are determined," the Captains voice rose defiantly during his pronouncement. He stabbed at the air with his index finger to punctuate each point, "your help is not required."
There was a short ghastly silence. Q narrowed his eyes at Picard.
"Well, let's just see how ready you are."
"Q!" Guinan cried out, "don't do this!"
Q waved his hand as one would to shoo away a bothersome insect. An odd rushing noise accompanied the gesture. A wave of energy struck the Enterprise which streaked off into space like a leaf caught in a hurricane.
The Starfleet officers stared open mouthed at the blur of stars streaking past the ten forward bay windows. This speed was obviously far beyond the capabilities of their ship.
The saucer shaped, gull winged craft spun wildly. Its crew and passengers struggled in vain to control it for a few terrible minutes. With the superstructure groaning around them and the computer controls hopelessly locked, the utter futility of their actions began to panic even the crew of the mighty Enterprise.
Suddenly, the ship came out of the spin on its own and stopped. The stars reduced from bright streaks in the heavens to familiar glowing orbs.
Picard tapped an exaggerated triangular shaped badge in his right chest, "bridge, this is the captain, all stop."
"Answering all stop," came the reply, a youth's voice.
"Status," Picard barked.
Another voice came over the intercom, smooth, clipped, and precise. "According to long range scans we are not in the milky way galaxy. No nearby systems are recognizable."
"Can you estimate our location?" Rikers' eyes rolled upwards unconsciously as he answered the intercom.
"Negative commander, I will need to go to stellar cartography and initiate a mapping program." The second voice cut off curtly.
"Thank you Mr. Data, wait until Captain Picard or I return to the bridge."
"Affirmative commander." Data signed off.
Riker turned to Q, "why?"
"'Why?' Why, to give you a taste of the wider universe. This is a test of," Q paused then grinned crookedly, "of your bonds of 'fellowship,' because even your precious Federation is insignificant compared to some things in the universe."
He turned to Picard leaving Riker blinking in confusion; "Con permiso Capitan. The hall has been rented, the orchestra engaged. It's time to see if you can dance." With a flash, Q disappeared.
"Head to the bridge, I need you at tactical. Begin scanning the area."
"Aye sir," The gruff Klingon exchanged nods with Commander Riker then headed for the turbolift at a trot.
Picard turned to Guinan. She stood near one of the windows gazing silently. A binary star system loomed nearby, crowned a large dull brown planet and several of her moons.
"Guinan, do you have any idea where we are?"
The bartender closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She seemed to retreat inside herself yet still aware at the same time.
"I don't know," she mumbled.
Picard moved closer, "You don't know what? Guinan, please you must tell me."
"Don't know if I should tell you."
Riker's eyes widened, "she's in a trance."
She smiled, eyes still closed, "yes and no Will. I imagine for you it's like visiting Earth and taking a breath of her air after a long, long time away from home."
The captain took her arm gently, "Have your people been in this galaxy before?"
"Only in legend," she exhaled slowly and opened her eyes.
"If you can tell me anything..." Picard's eyes bore into hers.
Forgive me! Guinan sighed softly, "all I can say right now is that if Q did what I think he did, then our arrival will be a great disturbance no matter what you decide to do."
"But where is here?" Picard grated in a harsh whisper.
"Not only where captain, but when."
Picard gaped at her for a moment then at the desert world below. He tapped his comm badge, "Mr. Data, status report."
"Sir it seems that the system closest to us is a binary star system, supporting one class M planet orbited by two moons. There are six other uninhabitable planets." Data's clipped diction ended suddenly.
"Any signs of life Data?" Riker asked.
"Affirmative commander, the class M world shows human and multiple alien life signs along with advanced technology. There are currently two small and one large craft of unknown design in orbit. I am detecting one major spaceport, a half a dozen cities and numerous smaller settlements. The exact population is difficult to gauge, but sensors detect a multitude of species numbering into the millions of individual life forms. Predominant life form readings are human."
"My God," Picard breathed. "Humans? Here? In a completely different galaxy?"
"I think this qualifies as a first contact situation Captain," Riker nodded toward the turbo lift.
"Of course number one, let's go." Picard turned to Guinan once again, "if you can think of anything else, don't hesitate to call me."
"I'll do that Jean-Luc," Guinan smiled. They trotted away, and she whispered softly to herself, "may the force be with you."
Picard and Riker entered the bridge moments later and took up their respective positions. Captain Picard's chair sat nestled in the center of a crescent of crew stations running around the rear of the bridge, including tactical and science. To his right was the first officer's chair and his left the ship's counselor, Deanna Troi; a striking brunette and half Betazoid empath. To his front left sat Lt. Commander Data, Starfleet's only android officer, and on his front right was dark haired, soft featured teenager, acting ensign Wesley Crusher at the helm.
"Mr. Worf what can you tell us about those craft?"
The huge, dark-skinned Klingon straightened visibly at the tactical station above and behind Captain Picard. He bent to his task immediately tapping the touch screens on his console. The bony crown of his forehead merged with his tightly knitted brows as he worked, which only enhanced his fearsome visage.
"Without an active scan I have limited information Captain, but they have very high energy readings. They appear to use Ion drives for sub-warp maneuvers and emit an easily traceable exhaust," Worfs bass voice rumbled.
"What about their sensors, can they detect us?" Riker cocked his head to the side and glared suspiciously at the planet.
"I do not believe so commander, not at this range. We are receiving low power sensor emissions from them, but at this distance we most likely appear as background noise," Worf pronounced with confidence.
"Mr. Data, do they appear to have developed warp drive at least?" Captain Picard leaned back in his seat.
"Doubtful sir, their power signatures, while strangely high for their size is more consistent with a fusion reaction than a matter/anti-matter warp core. None of the vessels are equipped with nacelles capable of generating a subspace field." Data turned around in his seat and faced the command crew. His golden skin stood out stark against his slicked black hair and his black and gold uniform.
Picard exhaled softly and even the stolid, bearded Riker traded reassuring glances with his former love, Counselor Troi.
It seems this new galaxy isn't as frightening as Q made it out to be. "Ensign Crusher, take us into a standard
orbit, one half impulse. Data, begin to analyze their communications, I want to be sure we can talk to them once we get there."
"Aye captain," both Wesley and Data spoke at once. They glanced at one another then Wesley stifled a laugh, while Data simply looked confused.
Commander Riker and Captain Picard grinned at the bridge crew's antics, and the tense atmosphere evaporated.
"Captain, I suggest that we send a probe into the system to determine these aliens' reactions. We do not know if they will perceive our presence as a threat," Worf said. He gripped the rail in front of his station and leaned over emphatically.
"Counselor?" Riker nodded in Deanna's direction, "your thoughts?"
Deanna paused, crossed one leg over the other, placed her hands on her knee, and leaned forward, exposing her cleavage thoughtfully, "we can assume that with humans and so many other species coexisting on one planet and with such high technology that they would not find our arrival shocking on a cultural level. It suggests an open, intelligent, and peaceful society."
"Still, the Enterprise itself may provoke unforeseen reactions. We know nothing of their political organization; we are alone here," Worf argued.
Commander Riker craned his neck back and raised an eyebrow in mock surprise at his tactical officer and head of security, "I never thought I'd see the day you came out in opposition to 'gun boat' diplomacy Mr. Worf." The Commander's little joke elicited some polite laughter from around the bridge.
Worf ground his teeth, "A cunning warrior will always-"
The rest of Worf's retort was lost when a hammer headed, bulky looking vessel at least the size of the Enterprise rushed almost straight at them at an incredible velocity. Before anyone could react, it braked just as suddenly; the ship continued to lumber toward the Enterprise over the horizon of the desert planet at sub-light speed.
"Where the hell did they come from?" Riker barked, "Why didn't they set off the long range sensors or the proximity alarm?"
The red and white spaceship sped closer, growing in the foreground of the Enterprise main view screen.
Data opened his mouth to reply, but just as quickly as before, a huge wedge-shaped vessel arrived in the same manner as the smaller ship. This gigantic craft sported an upright conning tower flanked by twin globes jutting out of the aft dorsal section, and a huge hangar bay located on the underbelly. It arrived and opened fire on the smaller vessel, spitting green bolts of energy from all over the forward arc of its superstructure.
"Yellow alert, shields up!" Riker bellowed.
Captain Picard levered himself out of his chair in a fugue of awe, his eyes riveted to the screen.
The proximity alarm blared for a moment before a rapid series of finger taps from Commander Data on his control board silenced it. "These vessels did NOT arrive from Subspace. The relative speed overwhelmed the ability of the proximity alarm to react."
Ensign Wesley Crusher spoke up: “The second approaching vessel is more than sixteen hundred meters long, and twelve times our mass. Their energy output is more than ten times that of our warp core reactor. Life signs, approximately-fourty-six thousand? All human…" The youth’s voice trailed off into the stunned silence on the Federation flagship’s bridge.
"Tactical analysis Mr. Worf," Picard's voice was a harsh whisper.
The alien behemoth came on inexorably, blasting away at the smaller vessel and shrugging off the few red bolts sent in return. The red blasts exploded in violent bursts of energy just short of the battewagon's hull, but the green bolts slammed into the smaller ship. Each shot hammered through the shields faster than they could recharge and left ugly scorch marks on the hull.
"Sixty independently operating energy weapon emplacements firing a high energy plasma bolt, sixty other energy weapons of an unknown type, ten tractor beam emitters arranged around their main hangar, primary and independent bridge shields, their hull is made of an unknown alloy, but scans indicate it is several times stronger than our duranium hull." Worf glanced up from his readouts with a look of shock on his face, "power output of their main energy weapons-estimated at 10 isotons per shot, I could be mistaken they are emitting massive ECM jamming."
The gargantuan vessel came on steadily to fill the main viewer; its prey was only a small sliver in the foreground.
"She's a monster," Picard whispered.
"Ten?" Commander Riker looked alarmed, "Our shields won't last long under that kind of bombardment."
Commander Riker thumbed mentally through his catalog of uneven engagements in Federation history, the experience of Captain Robau of the USS Kelvin was the only one that seemed to fit. A deep, queasy, empty feeling gathered in his gut.
"Let us all hope it does not come to that number one, Mr. Data open hailing frequencies-"
Worf's touch screen lit up accompanied by an electronic chime, "Captain, we are being hailed," he glanced up at Captain Picard and added, "by the leading vessel, audio only."
Picard nodded curtly.
"Unknown vessel, this is Captain Antilles of the Tantive IV. We are a consular ship carrying representatives of the Republic on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan. We request your help. We are under attack by the Imperial sta-"
A rapid fusillade of green bolts struck the Tantive IV amidships erupting in a massive fireball, and the static filled transmission cut off.
"Captain, the Tantive IV's shields have collapsed. They are losing power." Data tapped out a few commands as he spoke.
Captain Picard stood up and strode into the center of the bridge dramatically, "Captain Antilles, this is Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship Enterprise-"
Data glanced up at his commanding officer, "transmission jammed Captain."
Picard stepped between Data and Wesley; the veins in his shiny bald head were already bulging in anger. Who are these 'Imperials'? Wantonly assaulting a diplomatic vessel one tenth their size, Mon Dieu! I can only imagine Captain Antilles' desperation.
"Helm, bring us to heading one-two-five-mark four, nose to nose with the 'Imperial' vessel, open a hailing frequency."
"Captain we may be interfering in a situation we know nothing about-"
"I know Number One, but we have no time to discuss this now, you'll have to trust me," he turned back to Wesley, "Ensign, do it."
Wesley glanced into his Captain's eyes then bent back to his task, "Aye sir."
There is no fear in his voice. My God was I ever that young? For an instant Picard went back to that terrible battle all those years ago aboard the Stargazer, her bridge shattered, her Captain slain.
A short high pitched tone, "Channel open Captain," Data said.
"Imperial vessel, this is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship Enterprise. We ask that you cease your attack upon the Tantive IV, and open a dialog with them. We offer to serve as intermediaries, in the interest of preserving innocent life. We mean you no harm. Does this sound like a reasonable course of action to you?"
An awful silence descended and everyone watched the massive battlewagon loom larger and larger on the main view screen, waiting, hoping for a reply.
Last edited by cmdrjones on 2012-02-19 10:22pm, edited 2 times in total.