No nearby stars.
No planets or moons or nebulae.
We zoom in closer, picking out a speck of dirty white dust drifting through the void, at the mercy of whichever unimaginably smug higher beings are lurking nearby.
Closer, closer, closer still…ah, it’s not dust, it’s a ship.
The blackness lightens a shade or two, and we’re inside the vessel.
A Klingon that isn’t Worf sits in the sharp spotlight of a room with no decoration. Opposite him, sitting behind the only desk are two people: a lanky, part-time sleaze with a black beard and a female betazoid in a lilac leotard.
Behind them, shadows creeps along the edges of the walls.
‘I don’t know anything about that,’ says the Klingon, keeping his ridges hyphen-straight.
‘Is that so?’ asks Riker. ‘Then maybe you can explain why you were in Engineering last night, asking questions, lurking…’
‘There’s no point denying it, J’dann, you were seen.’
Riker glances at Troi then back at the Klingon. ‘We didn’t say it was a ‘he’.’
‘We did not say you were seen by a man,’ repeats Troi.
‘Aghh, most of the crew here are men…lobotomised, puny men who never speak, but men nonetheless.’
‘Okay. How about this?’ says Riker. ‘You were overheard in Ten Forward saying, and I quote, ‘you, Vulcan, wouldn’t it be glorious if someone broke some cables in Engineering and made this junk fly to Romulus…get captured by Romulans…put all you humans in the same cell, naked, and make you fist each other while the-…’
‘You speak big lies. What is Ten Forward?’
‘The ships bar.’
‘The bar? You mean that place with the grinning purple thing serving the beer?’
‘Kahless’ elbow pads…you call that place a bar? I’ve seen dentist waiting rooms with more atmosphere.’
‘The point is…you were heard openly talking about sabotage…what do you say to this?’
J’dann looks towards the exit, but it’s no good. Worf is standing with his arms folded, trapping everyone else in the room.
‘I will not respond to baseless accusations.’
‘That’s your choice. But we’ve already contacted the Klingon High Council in Sacramento and they’re sending their fastest bird of prey to pick you up.’
‘They’ll never make it in time…’
J’dann folds his arms, shrugging.
‘Is there something else you’d like to say?’ asks Troi.
He mutters something in Klingon.
‘What did he say, Worf?’ asks Riker.
‘He said…he doesn’t speak to dead men.’
Riker stands up. ‘Worf, take him back to the holding cell.’
‘The one that looks like this place.’
‘Shall I inform the captain?’
‘No need. I’ll tell him.’
Worf takes the prisoner roughly by the arm and leads him to the door, pauses then turns back. ‘Sir, permission to strike the prisoner on the way?’
‘Permission to slap him?’
‘You can push him roughly into the turbo-lift or some walls…but no bruises.’
‘Thank you, Sir.’
Worf exits with the prisoner, leaving Riker and Troi alone in the room with no decoration.
‘What do you think?’
‘He’s very guarded. It’s hard to tell what he thinks…’
‘You’re useful, aren’t you?’
‘There was one thing though…one thought coming through intermittently…’
‘What was it?’
‘That’s all I could get. Sorry.’
‘You think he was working with someone?’
‘Okay, well…I guess we’ll just hand him over to the Klingons then.’
Riker turns, lifting his boot up and planting it on the chair. ‘Emzadi…’
‘No, not that.’
‘This room…do you feel it?’
‘I don’t know how to describe it…I feel like…it’s watching us somehow.’
‘You mean the camera?’
‘No, something else. It’s as if the room were alive…’
‘Here?’ Riker points at the grey walls. ‘It’s like a morgue, there’s no personality here whatsoever. Deanna, are you okay?’
‘You’re wrong. It does have a personality.’
‘Well, as much as I trust your feelings, until it starts killing people off, there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.’
Riker stands up, tilts his head to the right then walks out with a pad that may or may not have porn on it.
Troi sits for a few seconds longer, alone.
There’s a whistling sound, like wind coming through the cracks in the walls…it doesn’t get any louder, but it’s persistent, persistent enough to make Troi look under the desk.
‘Hello?’ she says, her voice shaking a fraction.
‘Hello?’ Firmer this time. ‘Is anyone here?
The whistling stops.
Troi gets up and rushes out of the room, forgetting her own pad of bullshit.
On the wall behind the desk, letters appear, in black, as if being written by hand. First an ‘H’ then an ‘E’ then an ‘L’ then an…
Worf escorts J’dann back to the holding cell which has no posters or pretty things or drinks bar, a room that is almost indistinguishable from the ships VIP guest quarters.
But they’ve arrived too fast, so Worf pushes J’dann back out, saying it’s the wrong brig, they need to walk a bit more.
‘You miss being around another Klingon…’ says J’dann smirking.
‘Move,’ grunts Worf, barely forming the word.
As they walk through the corridors, other crew members stop and glare at the Klingon, some of them muttering. Luckily, there’s a microphone in every panel on every wall in every corridor, so we know exactly what they’re saying.
‘Fucking Klingon scum…’
‘Should be put out the airlock…’
‘If Worf wasn’t around…’
‘Beam the piece of shit to season 1 episode 9…’
‘Worf looks like a peanut today.’
‘I hate space.’
Worf hears one or two, but ignores them. He knows it’s not against him, not really. They’re just angry that there was a saboteur aboard and no one knew anything about it.
The other crew members dry up and the two Klingons walk alone.
‘This ship is so depressing…so bleak…’
Worf doesn’t look at him.
‘Grey, grey, grey, grey…even that autistic kid wears grey. You do know there are other colours, right?
They reach the turbo-lift and Worf shoves J’dann in, making sure he hits the wall hard, but not so hard it leaves a mark.
‘I am not an owl,’ replies Worf calmly.
‘That hurt, traitor…’
Worf growls and the Klingon growls back. He looks around the turbo-lift, rubbing his arm then turns back to Worf.
‘You know, your name is not mentioned on the home world…’
Worf stares straight ahead.
‘It’s as if you don’t exist…’
Worf listens to the whooshing sound of the turbo-lift changing direction.
‘It must be hard…being a ghost…having no house…not being able to headbutt people at parties.’
Worf stares harder.
‘Yeah, it must be real hard…being a dick.’
Worf doesn’t even blink.
‘Kahless’ neck hair, it’s like talking to a pencil case.’
The turbo-lift stops and the doors open to reveal yet another template corridor full of insanely bright ceiling light and grey walls.
Worf pushes J’dann forward, vaguely towards the door to the holding cell room a few metres ahead.
‘It’s strange…Klingon ships have almost no lighting, but…somehow these corridors creep me out more…it’s like being trapped in a ship with no personality…no soul.’
‘Ah, finally, you speak. I thought perhaps your human masters had cut out your tongue.’
‘I said, quiet.’
‘Listen…if you can get me a ship, I can have a word with someone…I know a guy who knows a guy who sucked off Gowron once…if you help me get out of here, I can…’
Worf punches J’dann hard in the nose then, quick as a leopard, grabs him by the throat and pins him against the depressingly grey wall.
‘Hey, get off me…’ protests J’dann.
‘The Klingon High Council will put you to a slow death…I only wish I could be there to see it.’
‘You are lucky you have these moments to reflect on what you’ve done…soon you’ll be hanging upside down with a spike through your neck.’
Worf releases J’dann’s collar and throws him into the holding cell. He looks toward the control panel, but there’s no one standing next to it.
‘No back up, huh?’
J’dann bends down, does one push up, feels tired, sits down on the metal bench and smiles. Worf is busy checking under the control panel for the security guy, but eventually gets back up and notices the prisoner’s face.
‘Why so smug?’ he barks.
‘This ship…of yours…’
‘What of it?’
‘I was wrong, there is a personality here.’ J’dann closes his eyes and pulls the Klingon version of a Sissy Spacek face. ‘I can hear it…hear them…’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘Many have perished here. On this ship.’
‘Shut up, traitor.’
‘Many more will meet the same fate.’
‘I do not believe in fate.’
J’dann opens his eyes and smirks. Worf continues, even though no one’s asking.
‘Fate is for children and people with no work ethic. It does not grant anything. It does not make leaders or great men. It is a silly thing. An empty thing. There is diligence and there is thoroughness, and everything else is irrelevant.’
‘Your words are meaningless, Ghostie. Leave me. Go to your fate.’
Worf opens his mouth, but his brain hasn’t caught up yet so he closes it again and strides out of the room.
He walks about a corridor and a half before he realises he didn’t turn the forcefield on…
He runs back to the holding cell, phaser drawn, the other hand tapping his badge. It’s already been a minute, he thinks, the traitor’s probably close to one of the cargo bays by now.
‘Worf to security…’ he says, re-entering the holding cell and firing instinctively at the cell wall. ‘Security…’
A voice comes from his badge. ‘Security here…’
‘Sir? Are you okay?’
Worf lowers the weapon and lets it hang loosely at his side.
‘Sir, do you need assistance?’
He stares at the burn mark where his phaser beam struck the wall, and then the other thing…the traitor.
‘Kahless’ forehead…’ He taps his badge even though he’s already connected. ‘Security to holding cell 4.’
He taps his badge again. ‘Worf to Doctor Crusher…’
‘You better get down to the holding cell.’
‘The cheap one with no posters.’
‘On my way.’
‘Why, what’s happened Worf?’
‘I do not know.’
‘No. I…just hurry.’
‘Okay, mystery man. I’ll be there in five.’
Worf tucks the phaser back inside his belt and stares ahead into the holding cell. There’s the burn mark that he’ll have to explain to the Captain later, and then there’s the thing next to it…the Klingon traitor sitting with his back straight against the wall, his head twisted all the way around so it can see the letters behind him, letters that weren’t there before…letters written in bloody [or very wet crayon] Romulan script. Worf holds up his tricorder and switches to ‘translation’ mode. The result comes up, super fast:
Your life force in the name of an empty heaven
Night. Or day. No way to tell.
Picard stands with his arms on the rails circling the warp core. Geordi presses some buttons on a pad then points it at the anti-matter coils.
‘Far as we can tell, it’s inconclusive.’
‘Are you sure, Lieutenant?’
‘For the next twenty minutes, yeah. Inconclusive, no doubt in my mind.’
‘But you suspect sabotage?’
‘There is also the possibility that one of the parts just eroded and blew up,’ says Data.
‘So it may not be sabotage?’
‘It’s possible. We won’t know for sure until we get in there.’
‘Get in where?’
‘The warp core area.’
Picard looks around and sees a screen sealing off the warp core area.
‘Are you okay, Captain?’
Picard rubs his eyes. ‘I must be tired…’
‘Lack of sleep?’
‘When will you be able to get in there, Geordi?’
‘Assuming the vacuum cleaner doesn’t break down, about 49 hours. But that’s just the beginning. It could take another 49 hours just to pinpoint the right debris.’
‘Argh. I need answers people. One Klingon is dead and I don’t know why.’ Picard checks his watch. ‘And I’ve gotta meet Admiral Satie in Transporter Room Two in ten minutes.’
Picard nods. ‘She’s coming out of retirement to sniff out more saboteurs…can’t say I’m best pleased about it, but she’s an admiral, I’m just a Captain.’
‘We’ll review the explosion footage again, Sir, see if there’s anything we missed.’
‘No delays, Geordi. You have half an episode.’
‘Would be great if we had a two-parter…’
‘You have your orders.’
Picard walks out of Engineering and into a deserted corridor. He doesn’t notice for a second or two, but then he looks up and realises he’s completely alone.
There’s a humming noise coming from the wall nearest to him.
He moves closer and runs his hand along the edge until it gets to a monitor. He looks both ways and then presses some buttons. A camera image comes on. Worf and Riker are in a locker room…a holo-suite locker room…rubbing themselves dry with a towel. Picard presses another button and zooms in on Worf’s chest…the drops of sweat or water running down the middle…
‘Ah wah wah wah wah…’
A tiny Klingon in a jumpsuit comes cycling down the corridor on a kiddie’s bike. The stabilisers on the left side hit Picard on the ankle just as he’s switching off the cam-feed.
‘Ensign…I mean, child…what are you doing?’
Alexander stares up at him, frozen with fear.
‘You’re Worf’s son.’
Alexander nods slowly.
‘But…is this season 5?’
‘It can’t be…can it?’
Picard looks back at the monitor. It’s blank. He turns back. ‘Well, son of Worf…perhaps your father didn’t tell you…it’s considered creepy for children to wander freely around the ship. Also, I despise children.’
Alexander takes his hand off the handlebar and wipes it on his jumpsuit.
‘Oh, it’s okay, I don’t despise you. Actually, your father is one of my favourite crew members. A very terse man, but brave too.’
Alexander nods again.
‘Child, are you okay?’
”Okay, very well. I have to go and meet one of those guest star people. Make sure you don’t cycle near the VIP quarters, understand?’
‘Good, a voice at last. Farewell, young man.’
Picard turns and walks down the corridor towards the transporter room, or towards the edge of the Paramount set. As soon as he’s out of sight, he heads over to the director next to the playback monitor.
‘Did we get it?’
‘Did we get the shot? Was it okay?’
The ensign stares at him…then realises he’s staring and returns to fixing the cables he was working on when the Captain started talking. ‘I’m sorry, Sir…I’m not sure what you mean.’
Picard looks at him, at the cables, at the corridor. ‘Where am I?’
‘Are you okay, Sir?’
‘Excuse me, Ensign?’
‘Are you okay, Sir? Do you need Dr Crusher?’
‘Why would I need her?’
‘I don’t know. You seem…’
‘I’m perfectly fine.’ Picard looks around again, nodding for no real reason. ‘As you were, Ensign.’
Picard walks off down the corridor, wondering why he stopped to talk to that Ensign. No…more than that…what did he even say to him? He can’t remember a word of it. As if someone flicked a switch in his brain and sent him forward to a different event.
The Ensign goes back to work, telling himself not to look at the Captain in case he’s looking back at him. He focuses on the cable, using his laser to cut open the cover.
A small trickle of blood comes out of the cable and runs onto the Ensign’s finger.
He checks both sides of his hand, looking for the source.
Alexander rides past on his bike, breaking the silence with more ‘awah wah wah wah’ noises.
When the ensign looks back…the blood is still there, dripping slowly, methodically onto his tricorder.
Picard stands next to Chief O Brien in Transporter Room 1. There’s an awkward silence broken only by an intermittent humming noise somewhere within the walls. Picard tries to trace it, but it seems to be everywhere.
‘Is that normal, Chief?’
‘The noise coming from the walls…’
‘Oh that. Yes, Sir, it happens daily. You get used to it.’
‘I’ve never heard it before.’
‘If you spend 8 hours a day in here, you’ll hear it.’
Picard nods, looking around the room. It is truly a bleak place. Nothing horrific to see, but horrific because of that. He looks back at O’Brien and tries to visualise his duty roster. Could one man really be forced into this place for 8 hours a day? What would he do in here?
‘The admiral is ready to transport, Sir.’
O’Brien pushes the lever forward and Admiral Satie materialises out of nothing, along with a tall alien woman and a betazoid male who looks like a regional manager.
‘Captain, it’s wonderful to be here. Show me to engineering and tell me how the warp core was fiddled with.’
‘Admiral…wouldn’t you like to go to your quarters first?’
‘No, no…I’ve been out of action for too long. Engineering, please.’
‘As you wish.’
‘By the way, these are my aides. I forget their names.’
Picard nods and escorts the Admiral out of the transporter room. When they’re gone, O’Brien stares at the door for three minutes before saying ‘what?’
The humming noise in the walls changes rhythm, introducing a percussive beat.
‘Can’t do that…’ says the Chief.
The transporter starts up, making the traditional energising noise, but no one appears on the pad.
O’Brien stares in horror.
Back in Engineering, Geordi and Data tell the Admiral the exact same thing they told Picard twenty five minutes earlier.
‘So it was sabotage,’ says Admiral Satie.
‘We can neither confirm nor deny this at the present time.’
‘95% certainty it was sabotage then.’
Geordi and Data look at the captain.
‘I believe the word Geordi used was inconclusive…’
‘In my experience, Captain, and in 98% of all recorded cases, the word inconclusive almost always turns out to be sabotage.’
‘Yes, well, we won’t know for sure until they can go inside the warp core area.’
‘But until then, we may operate under the assumption of sabotage.’
‘Admiral, I think…until we have clear evidence, we must leave the warp core incident out of our investigation.’
‘Of course, Captain. We shall proceed with due diligence.’
‘Shall we grab some afternoon tea?’
‘Midnight tea then?’
‘As you wish.’
‘So, Captain…now we’ve established it’s almost certainly sabotage, who do you suspect are the co-conspirators?’
Picard lifts up his cup of Earl Grey and looks around the room, unsure whether they’re in her quarters or his.
‘Admiral, as I have said seventeen times, we cannot be sure that there are any. It is more than likely that the Klingon was working alone.’
‘The Klingon who was somehow murdered in his cell.’
‘Yes…I admit, that is perplexing…’
‘As far as I’m aware, someone’s head cannot be twisted around all by itself, therefore, he was murdered. And who would have an interest in murdering him?’
‘Admiral, I think it’s in everyone’s interest that we remain sceptical. The brig security feed confirms that no one entered the cell, and the ship’s sensors tell us that the Klingon was the only life sign in there.’
‘Until he was murdered…’
‘Yes, possibly. Look, it’s difficult to argue that it wasn’t murder…but we have seen many odd things over the years…there’s a chance that it was some alien or preternatural force that accidentally attacked him…or was trying to make first contact…’
‘On a ship of over 1,000 people, this force chose to make contact with the one man who’d just been arrested on charges of sabotage and collaboration with the Romulans.’
‘Admiral…my point is-’
Picard is interrupted by his com badge, the doctor telling him to get down to sick bay fast.
‘Not now, doctor, I’m debating.’
‘Trust me, Captain. You need to see this.’
‘Okay, on my way.’
On the way to Sick Bay, the corridors are strangely empty.
Picard spends most of the time dreading the turbo-lift, the idea of standing next to the admiral and trying to make small talk. The admiral doesn’t seem to share his nerves. She’s smiling and saying hello to each door they pass.
‘Admiral…are you okay?’
‘Of course, Captain. It’s a tradition in my family. Let all the people know that you are here by saying hello to their front doors. For if they know I am here, they know that they are safe.’
‘I believe most of the crew is currently on shift…’
‘They will hear the trace of my words later…’
‘Err…yes. Look, the turbo-lift.’
The doctor is right, it is something they need to see.
The Klingon suspect who had his head twisted 180 degrees the other way is now sitting up on the bio-bed, eyeballing a cereal bar with a total look of disgust.
‘It cannot be…’ says Picard.
‘That’s what I said,’ replied Dr Crusher, stroking Nurse Ogawa’s hair, ‘but apparently it can. Don’t ask me how.’
‘I walked in, he was holding it in his hand. Said he got it from the replicator, but that’s impossible, cereal bars are banned…and he doesn’t have authorisation.’
‘Did anyone come here, twist his head back around?’
‘Doctor, I need answers.’
‘Answers to what?’ shouts the Klingon. ‘I’ve been in this cell for over 24 hours, you have no evidence to convict me with, therefore I demand to be released.’
Picard looks around the room and sees he’s not in sick bay anymore, he’s in the brig. Admiral Satie is at his side, glaring at him, confused.
‘What is happening here?’
‘We’re interrogating the spy,’ says the admiral.
‘Lies! I’m no spy, I’m a language exchange. Where is your evidence?’
Picard closes his eyes, counts to three then opens them again. They’re still in the brig, the Klingon is still shouting at him.
‘Look…I think it’s best if we take a break. Admiral, perhaps if we…’
The door swooshes open and Worf walks in, carrying a hypo-syringe.
‘What is it Lieutenant?’
‘Sir, I have found the method this Klingon used to transmit the data to the Romulans.’
‘Injection, data into amino acids, bloodstream, Romulans take out blood, read data, treachery.’
‘Excellent work, Lieutenant Worf,’ says Admiral Satie, clapping.
‘Do you have anything to say for yourself?’ Picard asks J’dann, whose eyeballs have tripled in size.
‘Klingon blood has become like milk since we started hanging out with the Federation. The Romulans are strong. Their ships are intimidating. They euthanize blind kids.’
‘You’re admitting your guilt?’
The Klingon looks at the captain, then at Worf, then at the admiral.
‘He doesn’t need to admit it, Captain, we have the hypo-syringe, but his strange outburst only confirms my suspicions. The Romulans are his allies, and they may be here on this ship at this very moment.’
‘On this ship?’
‘Yes,’ Admiral Satie says quickly, clasping her hands together. ‘That makes perfect sense. Dress up as a human, or a Vulcan…and infiltrate the Enterprise. Work with this Klingon spy, sabotage the warp core…god knows what else…Captain, I need a list of all crew and guests immediately.’
‘Hang on, Admiral…don’t you think we should take a breath and think about this for a min-…’
‘Delay only helps our enemies, Captain. I hope you are with me on this?’
It’s only a brief flash of mania in the Admiral’s eyes, but Picard catches it. He takes a dramatic breath, straightens his uniform.
‘You are with me, aren’t you?’ she repeats.
‘Of course. Worf will assist you with the list. Tomorrow morning.’
‘That may be too late…’
‘It’s the best I can do. Besides, I think we could all do with a little sleep, don’t you?’
‘Very well, Captain. I’ll remember this.’
The Admiral walks out of the brig, followed by Picard and Worf. When they’re gone, J’dann sits himself down on the metal bench and leans his head against the wall.
The humming noise returns, steady and…
The admiral removes her cloak and stands in the middle of her quarters.
‘Lights to 25% brightness.’
The lights are dimmed.
‘Music. Theme from ‘Lisa and the Devil.’ Low volume.’
The music starts.
Admiral Satie puts her right foot forward and draws a half circle on the carpet. Then she starts to move, treading with careful steps in an outwardly-arcing spiral. When she reaches the wall she stops, puts the palm of her right hand flat on the wall and waits for a line of blood to dribble out.
‘Romulans created this wall. Romulans created this ship. Romulans created the Captain. Romulans created his adversarial manner. Romulans created opposition. Romulans created me. My will. My challenge. My…success.’
The line of blood runs half a metre down the wall then loops up, outlining a full circle around the Admiral’s hand. From within the circle, the wall breaks into strips, narrow, thin strips that wrap around her hand, making her moan a little.
‘Romulans are with you now. Romulans are with you to help you be against them. Romulans are in the conduits of this ship. Romulans are deep inside the Captain’s brain. Romulans accelerated his hair loss. Romulans painted the corridors grey. Romulans expect you to fail.’
She pauses, opens her eyes.
‘I can do this, Daddy.’
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2…