Inspired by the ST: TNG novel "Metamorphosis" by Jean Lorrah.
(Historian's note: this takes place midway through the seventh season.)
Data's dream program sputtered to an abrupt halt as the insistent beeping of the intercom woke him. He sat up, and then thought better of it.
Consciously reacting as a human would in a similar circumstance, he lay back down and rolled onto his stomach, reaching over and activating the intercom. Face half-buried in the pillow, he slurred his voice and groaned, "Yeah?"
On the Bridge, Will Riker blinked and glanced over at Deanna Troi, who was beginning to smile. "Uh," he said, "are you all right, Data?"
Data sighed. Still slurring his voice, he managed to sound very upset. "Fine, sir. Whaddaya want?"
Troi's smile became a grin. Her shoulders began to shake. Riker, now definitely concerned, asked, "You seem a bit...."
Data dropped the irritation act, though he kept the slur. "I am fine, Commander. What is it?"
"Didn’t your alarm go off, Data?" Riker had intended it as a tease, but his concern drove the banter out of his voice.
Data raised his eyes to the alarm. "Apparently not, Commander." He sat up, studying the chrono. "No, sir, it did not. And I deliberately neglected to set my internal alarm." He cleared the slur from his voice. "I was studying what it would be like to wake up solely from an outside source. It is nearly time for my duty shift. I shall be there in fifteen minutes. Data out."
Riker shut off the channel and leaned back in the chair. "Fifteen? Isn't that a little long?"
Troi laughed slightly. "For him, maybe. Not for us. He needs to do this, Will. He's experimenting again."
Riker shook his head. "It must be awful. To be so human, and yet not be at all." He shook his head again. "I wonder if he'll ever know what it's like to be fully human."
Troi sighed. "He strives for it. He may never achieve it, but he keeps trying. That alone makes him all the more human."
Riker nodded. "I know. But still, I wish he could know what it's like, even for just a little while."
As the two of them spoke, they didn't realise other ears were listening.
Data stepped out of the sonic shower and stood there, hoping to feel the cold on his bare skin. But of course, he couldn't.
He frowned as he pulled on his uniform. He seemed to sense something. Something akin to... disappointment?
Data shook his head and dismissed the thought. "Humans feel disappointment," he reminded his reflection sternly as he ran a brush through the brown hair that had been disheveled in the shower's sonics. "You cannot feel disappointment. Or happiness. Or sadness. You are not human."
Putting the brush down, he stared into the mirror. "Look at you. Your skin is too pale, your eyes are gold. Perhaps some cosmetic correction is in order." He shook his head. "No, that would not help." He addressed his reflection again. "You betray your artificialness every time you move, every time you open your mouth."
He seemed to hear a voice say, "But is it all that bad? You have instant access to any records you want. You do things at three times the speed of a human, and you are ten times as strong!"
Data nodded. "This is true. But to be human, even if it were for one day, I would give all this up." He then whirled around, looking around the room. "Who spoke to me? Who is in here?"
"Your student in the humanities,” the voice chuckled, “comes to repay a debt."
Data raced into his living quarters, to find a grinning man sitting on his couch. "Hello, Data," he chuckled.
Data slammed his combadge. "Security to Commander Data's cabin! Q is here!"
Q smiled at him. "That won't help, Teacher. It's deactivated."
Data lowered his hand. "What do you want here?"
"As I said, I'm merely here to repay a debt. Three years ago, you taught me what it was like to be human. Really human. I'm here to repay you."
Data held up a finger. "I told you then, as now, I do not wish for you to make me human. You gave me the gift of one-time laughter instead."
Q stood. "So you don't want to be human? That's not what I heard you say a few minutes ago."
Data opened his mouth, and then closed it again. "You misunderstood me. Your making me human would be an illusion. It would not be me. I am an android. That is all I will ever be."
"Don't be too sure." Q held up a hand to ward off the protest. "You don't want to be human. You just wish to know what it's like to be human. That's different. Somebody else has wished you could know what it was like. So your wish is a shared one." Q smiled. "And shared wishes are almost always granted."
Data frowned. "What?"
"Human mythology, remember? Genies, faery godmothers, and the like?" Q's smile grew bigger. "Who do you think inspired those tales?"
Data's eyes widened. He found himself with no rebuttal.
Q held up a hand, and then raised it over Data's head, palm just touching Data's brown hair. "Data. Android second officer. Beginning tomorrow, you shall be human for one week." He lowered his hand to rest it on Data's shoulder. "But not the way you think." He smiled.
A flash of light, and he was gone.
Data found himself trembling. He activated his combadge. "Data to Bridge." Without his controlling it, his voice actually squeaked.
"Bridge. Riker. What's wrong, Data?"
"Commander, I think you had best come down here. I was just visited by Q."
Seconds later, Picard, Riker, Deanna, Geordi, Worf, and Beverly all converged on Data's cabin. Beverly ran her Feinberger over Data as he told his tale, and compared her results with Geordi. She addressed Picard. "He's all right. Unchanged."
Picard nodded. "And he told you that you would be human tomorrow?"
Data nodded. "For one week. I know an android has no emotions, sir, but... I think I am afraid."
"Worried, perhaps?" Deanna asked gently.
"He has a right to be," Picard sighed. "Q's gifts never come without a price."
Data looked at the floor. Riker moved to his side. "Don't worry, Data. We'll make sure you'll be all right." He touched Data's shoulder.
A visible discharge of energy leapt from Data to Riker. Riker's hand was shocked from Data's shoulder, and he cried out. Beverly was instantly at his side, scanning his hand as Geordi scanned Data.
Riker held the injured hand close and looked at Data, startled. "Data, what --?"
Data shook his head. "I do not know, Commander!"
Geordi smiled a little. "Relax, Commander. I'm reading nothing but a slight surge of static electricity inside Data's system. When you touched him...." He shrugged.
Beverly nodded. "That correlates with my readings. You've just sustained a slight electric shock. You're fine."
"A slight surge?" Picard gasped. "That was visible!"
Geordi shook his head. "Visible or not, that’s what it reads as."
Picard's eyes narrowed. "Well, with Q involved, you never can be sure."
Data looked at Picard. "We will be sure, sir. Tomorrow morning. Security will not do any good -- Q can pop in and out at will."
"He's right," Worf growled. "Still, I recommend a small contingent around Mister Data till morning."
Picard nodded. "Make it so, Mister Worf. Don't worry, Data. We'll take care of this. And if you do become human tomorrow, we'll help you through the week."
Data looked at the smiling, nodding faces. "Thank you, sir. May I go on duty now?"
"Of course. I think we all should. Dismissed, the lot of you."
The rest of the day went uneventfully. At Picard's insistence, Data went to bed as usual and activated his dream program. He made especially certain to activate his internal alarm.
No dreams came that night. There was just a short period of blackness.
Suddenly a shrill, high alarm cut through the blackness. Data sat bolt upright, forcing his eyes open. They felt gritty, and heavy. His brain felt fogged slightly, and a big yawn surprised him.
And he felt the surprise!
Suddenly Data realised he was being awakened from a deep sleep. He was feeling fatigue...and emotions!
Q kept his promise, he thought. This is what it is to be human!
He reached to turn off the wailing alarm. But it was not on the left side of his bed. Data turned, to find it yelling at him from the right side. Odd, he thought, deactivating it. It even looked different -- round, instead of his square one!
Who has switched chronos with me? Data thought. He looked around. Wait... this is not my bedroom!
With the chrono shut off, the lights in the room came on automatically. Data swung his legs out of the unfamiliar bed and stepped into the bedroom. He looked down at himself. He usually slept in his uniform, but now he was in pajamas: blue silk pajamas that fastened at the waist, revealing a chest full of curly black hair.
Data's eyes widened. This was getting stranger by the minute. A different room, different clothes, now a forest on his chest! Was this being a human male?
He raised his hands. They were peach, and the hairs on the wrists and arms were short and black. The fingers were long and slender, but seemed... different... in some intangible way Data couldn't pin down.
Of course they are different, he told himself. They are human hands! But why are the hairs black? My hair is brown -- it would stand to reason these hairs would be brown....
Data raised the unfamiliar hands to his forehead. The nose felt broader, the eyes set further apart. Sighing, he laid both hands over his nose and mouth.
His eyes flew wide open. Under his hands was the thick, coarse hair of a beard.
Data felt a hammering in his chest, and realised it was his heart. He practically flew to the bathroom, activating the light as he did so.
Gazing at the reflection in the mirror, his head suddenly felt as if it could fly off his shoulders. He sagged against the doorjamb to keep standing against the weakness in his knees.
Pale with shock, Will Riker's face gazed back at him.
Data's hands gripped the doorjamb so hard that, had he his android strength, it would have buckled. The blue eyes of the reflection gazed at him with the same intensity he had seen Riker use in crisis situations. Only now they were glazed with a touch of panic.
Data wrenched his gaze away from the reflection. He lurched out of the bathroom and back into the bedroom. "C-Computer," he said weakly. It was a greater shock than he imagined, hearing Riker's voice say the words his mind formed.
The computer chirped, and Data added, "Time?"
Oh-eight-hundred. You have a meeting with Counselor Troi in one hour.
"I do?" Data gasped. "No... no, Commander Riker does. Computer... what is the meeting for?"
The information is not available.
Data moved to Riker's closet. He found a clean uniform and struggled into it. He then walked into the hallway, trying to mimic Riker's stride.
Data walked three doors down, trying to appear nonchalant. He nodded at the security guards and pushed the buzzer.
Silence from within. Then a too-familiar voice called, "Come?"
The door slid open and Data walked in, letting it close behind him.
From the bedroom came, "Who's... who is there?"
Data took a deep breath and forced a smile. "You keep using contractions, somebody is going to suspect."
Data suppressed the shock he felt at seeing his own face and form suddenly appear in the bedroom doorway. The golden eyes were huge. The pale hands were trembling. "Data," his own baritone whispered, fear tingeing the voice into a hard edge.
"Sit down, Commander." They walked to the couch and sank onto it. Riker leaned back into the couch and shut the golden eyes.
"How are you feeling?" Data asked.
"Hollow inside. No feelings, only the memory." He opened his eyes and looked at Data. He smiled, and Data felt a chill go through him. It seemed for a split-second Data was facing Lore.
The moment passed, and Data was able to concentrate on Riker's words. "I'm gonna kill Q."
Data felt a ripple of amusement. "You shall have to stand in line, sir."
Riker's smile became larger. "Uh-uh. I outrank you, even in this body." The smile faded as he realised what he'd said. "The captain was right. Q's gifts always come with a price."
"This one is too high." Data realised the powerful surge inside him was anger. "I never asked to be human. I never asked for this at all."
”I don't blame you, friend." The golden eyes glazed over for just a second. "Man, it's 8:15! I need to fill you in on a few things."
Data sat up. "Sir?"
"You're gonna have to pretend to be me. We can't let anybody know."
"But Q said...."
"He said he'd make you human. I'll just say he didn't, that he lied, and that'll be the end of it! Now look, you're meeting Deanna in 44 minutes. Here's what you need to do...."
Data paused a second before ringing Deanna's doorbell. She triggered the doors and smiled at him. "Will! Good morning! For a second, I thought you weren't going to make it!"
Data forced a smile. "I would have called," he said, entering her cabin. "Shall we get down to business?"
Deanna laughed. "What business? We were just going to eat breakfast before my first appointment arrives!"
"Oh... yes. I forgot. Would you mind ordering, Couns -- Deanna? I am afraid I am still... sleepy."
She frowned at him. "You seem it. You're usually not so... fogged."
He smiled at her.
Deanna laughed slightly, assuming she was being teased. Then she moved to the replicators. "Two orders of eggs; one scrambled, one poached. Two English muffins with butter and preserves, one apple and one scromberry. Two bowls of plain oatmeal, and two cups of black coffee."
The meals arrived. Data carried them to the table, giving the poached eggs and apple preserves to Deanna.
"That's yours," she corrected. Apologising, he switched the plates. "Will, are you sure you're all right?"
"Fine," he said, taking a huge drink of the coffee.
Suddenly he lurched from the table, half-screaming as the unexpected heat scalded his mouth and throat.
Deanna was at his side in a flash. "Will! What happened?"
"I did not expect..." he gasped. "It was so... hot!"
She frowned. "But you like it boiling! Will, what's going on?"
He smiled weakly. "Nothing, Deanna. I am... simply not myself today."
"I noticed," she quipped. "Come on, Will. This is me, remember. I don't buy it."
"You are going to have to," he said, walking over and sinking onto her couch.
He looked up at her. "Because it is the truth."
Riker was pacing back and forth in Data's cabin. Every now and again, he would check Data's internal chronometer to see how much time had passed. He was concerned about going up to the Bridge. He knew he possessed all of Data's abilities now, but he was unsure of his own acting skills. Could he really seem to be Data?
The door buzzer made him jump. He cleared his throat unnecessarily. "Come in," he called, hearing Data's baritone waver a bit.
The door slid open and Picard walked in. He sized the android up with a glance. "Nothing happened."
Riker shook his head. "No, sir. Q obviously lied to us. As you can see, he didn't make me human at all."
Picard blinked. "In all the years he's tormented us, I've never known Q to lie. Misrepresent the truth, yes, but never an outright lie."
Riker blew the air out of the unfamiliar cheeks. "Well, he did this time. As you can see, I'm still an android."
Picard's face lit up as he smiled. "Are you? I can see an android, but I hear a human."
Riker's head snapped around. He asked, "What?"
"Don't you see, Data? You're responding emotionally. I've seen fear, relief, frustration, and now confusion on your face and in your voice. And it seems you've picked up the ability to use contractions overnight. Q may not have made you physically human, but he certainly made your responses human!"
Riker closed his eyes, feeling relief wash over him. He realised it was a false impression, because in this form he had no emotions, but it felt good nonetheless. "That must be it," he agreed. He forced a smile, hoping it looked like Data's. "I guess he didn't lie after all."
Picard's smile grew larger. "Welcome to humanity, Mister Data."
Riker's smile froze. "Thank you, sir."
Picard's faded. "Is something wrong? You seem agitated."
Then his combadge chirped. "Troi to Picard."
"Picard. Go ahead."
"Sir, I'm concerned about Commander Riker. We had a breakfast meeting, and he seemed very frightened. Very unsure of himself."
Picard frowned. "That doesn't sound like Number One."
"My point, sir. The body is Will Riker's, but the impressions I receive from him are like none I have ever sensed before. I've never felt such a level of fear."
Picard nodded and turned to Riker. "Mister Data, do you have any--" His voice died away and his eyes widened.
The man Picard thought was Data stood there, arms folded. The hands were tucked under the armpits, with only both thumbs visible. His face was thoughtfully wary. He was gazing at Picard, head tilted slightly, body at attention.
Picard recognised the body language immediately. "Oh my stars," he whispered. "Number One?"
The golden eyes flew wide open. The arms immediately unfolded and flew behind the back. "Sir?" the baritone asked, squeaking just a bit. "What did you call me?"
"Counselor," Picard asked, "is he still there?"
"Yes, sir," she responded. "Why?"
”Where are you?"
"Keep him there. Picard out." He took a step toward the android. "You're not Data, are you?"
Riker chuckled. "Of course I am, Captain. What makes you--"
”That's enough!" Picard snapped. "A person's body language is as distinctive as a fingerprint. While I was talking to Deanna, you moved without thinking about it. You are Will Riker, aren't you?"
"No, sir!" But the body language of denial was totally Riker. "I've been... copying it, and --"
"Number One, that's enough." The android fell silent. Picard stared into the golden eyes and saw them soften, then lower. "I'm right, aren't I?"
Very slowly, Riker nodded. "Q made Data human. By putting me in here."
Picard's hands clenched into fists. "I'll kill him."
Riker raised his eyes. "He said it was only for one week. We've just got to hang on till then."
"Come on. We've got to get to Deanna's cabin."
Picard and Riker walked into Deanna's cabin, to find her seated beside Data on the couch. One of her hands rested on his arm, the other was rubbing his back. Data sat slumped forward, hands clasped between his knees.
Catching sight of them, he lurched to his feet. "Sir!" he gasped. "Mister... Mister Data!"
Riker shook his head gently. "He knows."
The blue eyes closed as Data slumped back down onto the couch. The relief coming from him was almost palpable, even to a non-empath.
Deanna walked over to Picard and Riker. "What's going on?" she said softly. "What do you know?"
Picard opened his mouth to answer, but Riker laid a hand on his shoulder. "Let me," he said. Picard nodded and stepped aside.
The android stepped forward. Without saying a word, he laid his hands on Deanna's shoulders, then slid them down her arms and took her hands. The golden eyes bored into hers. "You can't sense me," he said softly, "but I'm in here."
She frowned, confusion etching on her lovely features. "You... used contractions. You aren't Data! Who are you?"
The hands returned to her shoulders. The android leaned closer and whispered in her ear, "Remember the Falls on Betazed?" Before she could react, he embraced her and kissed her.
Her eyes involuntarily closed. Memories flooded over her. Oh, yes, she remembered the Falls. The long, romantic summer nights. The man she almost married, who kissed her like she had never been kissed before.
Exactly the way she was being kissed now.
Deanna cried out, pulling away from the embrace. One hand flew to her lips, the other to her throat as she stared at the android. Then her glance jerked to the slim, bearded man sitting on her couch, watching her.
Very, very slowly, she turned to look in the golden eyes. Her eyes were huge as she reached a hand out to touch the pale features.
"Oh, my stars..." she whispered. "W-Will?"
A small smile touched the thin lips. "Sorry about that, Deanna. It was the only way I could think of to convince you I'm who I claim to be."
"But... how...?" Then her eyes narrowed. "Q. This is how he made Data...." She walked over and sat down beside Data. "I'm so sorry, Data."
"Don't be," Data said. "You did not know and I could not tell you." He looked at Riker.
Riker shrugged. "So it was a bad plan. I guess it's on to Plan B."
"'Bad plan'?" Picard asked.
Riker shrugged. "I told Data he had to pretend to be me. I told him nobody could know what happened to us."
"So what's Plan B?" Deanna asked.
"I..." Riker looked at Data. "I don't know."
"I do," Data said. He stood up and pulled his tunic down. The action was so like Riker it made Deanna and Picard blink. "We tell the truth. We don't announce it, but we take our proper places on the Bridge and just do our jobs."
Riker frowned. "But they'll all think we've gone mad!"
"Then let them think it!" Data exploded. "Q did this to us, right? That'll be our explanation!"
"My, my, my," a too-familiar voice chorused behind them. "I didn't expect this. You're not supposed to be fighting, Teacher. You're supposed to enjoy being human!"
Data's eyes narrowed. He whirled to face Q. "I am supposed to what?" He grabbed Q by the collar of the Starfleet Commander's uniform he wore. "I cannot enjoy this! This is not me! You made me human, but imprisoned Commander Riker in an android body!"
"The price is too high, Q!" Picard snapped. "Reverse this -- now!"
"I can't," Q croaked, pulling at Data's wrists. "Do you mind, you're choking me."
Data tightened his grip. "I'll do more than that if you don't reverse it, now!"
Instead, there was a flash of light. Data found his hands suddenly empty and Q sitting on the couch, smiling at them.
"Now," Q said, smiling. "The reason I can't reverse it is I put a time limit on it. One week. It'll reverse on its own then. Till then...." He spread his hands. "I'm powerless. So, Teacher, you'll just have to live with it for one week." He turned to the android. "I'm truly sorry, mon ami," he said, not sounding sorry at all. "But, c'est la vie!"
He grinned and vanished.
"Q!" Picard and Riker screamed.
Deanna laid a hand on Data's shoulder. "I'm sorry," she said again.
Data squeezed her hand. "It is all right, Counselor," he said. "It is only for a week."
"Yeah," Riker groaned, the longest week of our lives!"
Picard sighed. "All right, everybody. We'll regroup on the Bridge in fifteen minutes." He addressed the reversed duo. I'd suggest you use that time to get ready for duty."
"Aye, sir," they chorused as he left Deanna's cabin.
Picard sat on the bridge, idly chewing on a thumbnail. This was beyond anything he'd ever had to deal with. True, he once had been turned into a child, yet he had remained fundamentally Picard. What Riker and Data was going through was a perversion of their very identities.
Still, that was just par for the course where Q was concerned.
At last, Picard made a decision. He lowered his hand and said, "Attention, all hands."
The computer automatically piped him through to all decks, and he began his message again.
"Attention, all hands. We have experienced a visit from Q. He has adversely affected Commander Riker and Mister Data. The difference is physical, immediately obvious, and may prove distracting. You are hereby ordered to treat them exactly the same as you always have." He paused, and the smile on his face reflected in his voice. "As I have every confidence you shall. Picard out."
The sound of a turbolift opening made Picard turn. But it was merely Deanna entering the Bridge. She came and sat beside him. "Captain."
"Counselor. Where are --?"
She smiled. "In Data's cabin. Data is experiencing some... difficulty... and Will is helping him."
Picard frowned. "Difficulty?"
The smile widened. "He has to adjust to being human, sir. Little things we take for granted are all brand new to him. Will is making sure he doesn't forget anything."
As if on cue, the doors slid open again. This time Data and Riker came out. Data went to Ops, Riker to his seat beside Picard.
At Navigation, Ensign Gates glanced over at Data for a second. She then sat bolt upright and whirled to face him, wide eyes registering the 'difference' Picard had spoken of. "What in the..." she gasped.
Data turned to face her, smiling Riker's charming smile. "It is still I in here, Ensign," he whispered. "Do not worry. It is only temporary."
Gates felt her face growing hot. "Sheila," she whispered.
Data frowned. "What?"
"My name is Sheila." Gates smiled at him. "Please call me that."
Data turned back to his board, chuckling. "We go through this every shift, Ensign."
"You seem to forget every shift, Commander."
Data opened his mouth to remind her of protocol, then realised he was being teased. He shrugged slightly, smiling. "And you seem to forget my name as well. Let us make a pact. If you will call me Data, I shall call you Sheila."
"It's a deal," she chuckled, turning back to her board.
Riker, who had inadvertently heard the whole exchange, finally chuckled.
Data turned to him. "Commander, remind me later to show you how to turn down the audio gain so you do not eavesdrop on private conversations."
Deanna turned the chuckle into a cough. Picard just smiled at the pair.
Riker nodded. "Noted. Seems you're not the only one who's got a lot to learn."
Data nodded and turned back to his board.
Picard turned his attention solely to Riker, suppressing the shock at seeing pale android features above the cranberry uniform. "Number One," he whispered, "how are you?"
Riker shrugged. "Hollow. There's emptiness inside where emotions should be." He shook his head. "I'm having to run on the memory of how I normally react. Data's reactions keep threatening to take over."
"And what reactions are those?" Deanna asked.
"I have to keep forcing myself to use contractions. I have to consciously remind myself to laugh, to smile... even to frown. It gets frustrating." Riker shook his head again. "And his sensory perceptions are all heightened. Way beyond what I'm used to. So I'm having to sort out all those impressions. Not to mention the wealth of information that gets thrown at me every nanosecond." He ran a hand along his mouth and chin, a nervous habit that had made the transfer with him.
Data, overhearing, had turned from his board again. "Sir, adjust your perceptions so your subsystems do the sorting for you. Tune the sensory perceptions down to human level. And place a command lock on my strength so you don't hurt anybody."
Riker gestured at Data. "You see? I am not even used to being able to adjust things that are constant in my human body!" Picard winced at the missed contraction, and Riker blinked. "I forgot to use one, didn't I?" At Picard's nod, he added, "That proves my point. Data's unique perceptions are overwhelming."
Data humphed. "Yours are no easier to adjust to, sir."
"Captain?" Gates broke in. "Reading a vessel dropping out of warp."
"Confirmed," Data said, turning back to his board. He then looked over at Gates. "Romulan."
"Shields up!" Riker ordered. "Red Alert!"
And the ENTERPRISE rocked.
"What was that?" Picard demanded. "Were we fired on?"
"No, sir!" Data said, fingers flying over his board with a speed still faster than human norm, but just slower enough than his android speed to frustrate him. "Unknown at this point!" Then, dropping his voice, "Sheila, I need help."
"Yes, sir," Gates whispered back, linking up with his board and keying in half the instructions. Together, they managed to get the process back to Data's normal speed.
"Got it!" Gates crowed.
"Captain," Data reported, "the ship was rocked by aftereffects of an explosion in the engine room of the Romulan ship."
"But that wouldn't rock us," Deanna protested.
”It would if it was big enough," Gates added. "It seems to be less of a mechanical problem--"
"--And more of a phase variation," Data finished. "Almost like the warp bubble that imprisoned Doctor Crusher three years ago. It looks as though they may have been trying to duplicate that incident--"
"And they blew out their engines in the process," Gates took over again. "They're crippled and their core is going critical."
"Open a channel!" Picard ordered. Standing, he said, "Romulan vessel! This is Captain Jean-Luc--"
A fuzzy picture of a Romulan woman appeared on the screen. "Captain," she interrupted, static distorting her voice. "We are not in your territory by choice. Our scientists were working on a new warp drive, and it has malfunctioned. We need your help... our core is...."
"We are aware of the situation," Picard interrupted in turn. "How much time do you have?"
"Seconds," came the terse response. "We hereby seek asylum aboard your ship for the time--" picture and sound dissolved into static.
"Transporter room!" Picard snapped. "Get the crew of that ship over here! Transport their commander directly to the Bridge!"
Exactly one second later, the woman Picard had talked to materialised on the Bridge.
Exactly two seconds after that, the Romulan ship exploded.
"My crew!" the woman exclaimed.
"Data?" Riker asked.
Data shook his head. "Only ten, Commander. There just was not time to get any more." He turned to the woman. "I am sorry."
She closed her eyes. "Captain, you did your best. On behalf of my crew, I thank you. Now, I have a question. Are we to be your prisoners, or can you take us home?"
”What is your name?" Deanna asked.
"I am Subcommander Tryshon."
"Subcommander Tryshon," Picard repeated with a sigh. "To be honest, I don't know."
Continue On to Part Two