Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic
Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me.
“I had the weirdest dream last night.”
Geordi’s head had disappeared beneath a console, but his voice floated out, muffled only slightly. “Really? What about?”
Daystrom studied the pulsing warp engines of the Enterprise, then looked back down at the readouts at the engineering station he stood at. “I’m not really sure,” he said. “Something about being a machine, I think.”
Geordi snorted. “You’ve been hanging around in Engineering too much, Day. That’s a common nightmare among engineers. I personally dream about becoming a warp engine all the time.”
“Not that kind of machine,” Day said. “More like—I don’t know, a thinking machine. Like a computer, sort of. Artificial intelligence, maybe.”
“Like your father worked on?”
“Yeah, like those androids my dad was always trying to build.” Day grinned reminiscently. “He built three of the damned things before he gave up and had me instead.” He chuckled. “I never got over feeling he was disappointed to have a kid the regular way.”
“So you dreamed you were one of your father’s androids?”
Day squinted at the readout. “We’re still only at 96% efficiency here, Geordi.” He glanced down at his friend’s feet, sticking out from beneath the console. “I think that was it, yeah. Creepy, huh?”
“I dunno,” Geordi said. “I guess being an android could have its advantages.”
Day shook his head firmly. “I don’t think so. I can’t blame my mom for trying to get my father to stop building the things. I can’t imagine anything worse than creating an intelligence that could learn and grow but never feel anything. Or even worse, being that kind of intelligence. To me, that would be hell on earth.”
Geordi grunted noncommittally, made a last adjustment, and slid out from beneath the console. “Better?”
Day nodded. “97 percent.” He grinned. “That ought to make the captain happy.”
There was a perceptible flicker in his readings, and Day looked up. The steady pulse of the warp engine was flickering as well. “What the—“ he said, and felt the shuddering of the deck beneath him as the ship abruptly fell out of warp. He and Geordi exchanged puzzled glances, and Captain Picard’s voice sounded almost immediately over his combadge. “Commander Soong.”
Day hit his badge. “Sir?”
“He doesn’t sound happy at all,” Geordi said under his breath.
“I have a Klingon delegation that I’m quite anxious to get to Darbeii, Number One. What precisely are you and Lieutenant LaForge doing down there in engineering?”
Day scowled at his console. The adjustments they’d made had been minor at best. “We didn’t do anything that would cause this, sir.”
There was a pause, as Picard apparently spoke to someone on the bridge. Then his voice spoke again. “Perhaps you’d better report to the bridge, Number One.”
It was phrased as a suggestion, but Day knew his captain well enough to know that it was an order. At any rate, there was an urgent note in the captain’s voice that was at odds with his normal calm demeanor.
Day headed for the bridge at top speed.
The sound of Captain Picard’s voice awakened Data, who had of course programmed himself to wake up at such a summons. He sat up in bed and hit his combadge. “Sir?”
“We have an engineering problem, Mr. Data. The ship just dropped out of warp.”
Data’s dream rushed back into his consciousness, and he blinked in surprise. The very same event had taken place in his dream. That could not possibly be a coincidence.
I must have felt the ship drop out of warp, he realized.
And yet—he recalled he’d been dreaming about the same person, the Data-who-wasn’t, a commander named Daystrom Soong. He—Daystrom—had been in engineering, talking to Geordi. A perfectly normal, even mundane, setting for a very odd dream. Just like his last dream.
He responded without any perceptible pause. “What precisely is the problem, Captain?”
“Geordi’s not certain, Commander. He—“ Picard broke off for a moment. When he spoke again, there was a different note in his voice, a note of mingled interest and concern. “Perhaps you’d better come to the bridge, Mr. Data.”
“On my way, sir.”
As he entered the bridge through the turbolift doors, Data saw clearly why he had been summoned to the bridge. There was a large, shifting something on the forward viewscreen, blocking out their view of much of the surrounding space. He gazed at the phenomenon, intrigued, as he slid into his seat at Ops. He’d never seen anything quite like it before.
“Analysis, Mr. Data?”
Data studied the readings flashing rapidly across his console, then glanced back over his shoulder. Picard was seated in the central seat of the bridge, and next to him was perched the second-in-command, Commander William Riker. Behind them, at the engineering station at the rear of the bridge, sat Geordi. Data addressed the captain. “It appears to be a spatial anomaly, sir.”
Picard gave a slight, huffing breath, which for him indicated extreme annoyance. “Indeed, Commander. I rather suspected as much. But labeling it an anomaly does little to clarify the phenomenon. Can you be more specific?”
Data frequently found it difficult to explain things to Captain Picard. If he tried to keep his statements short and to the point, Picard demanded more information. If he tried to provide more detail, Picard frequently cut him off in exasperation. It was really quite bewildering. Nevertheless, he did his best to be more precise.
“Readings are spotty at best,” he said. “It is several light-years across—two point... no, three—“ He hesitated. “The anomaly seems to be shifting. Every nanosecond its borders alter.”
“Interesting,” Picard said. He walked up, stood next to Data, and looked intently at the screen—another habit he had that had long puzzled Data. It was as if the captain believed that if he stared at something long enough he would somehow perceive something the sensors had missed. Which was, of course, ridiculous. “I assume that explains how it suddenly seemed to pop out of nowhere.”
“I do not believe that it ‘popped out of nowhere,’ sir.” Data frowned as he studied his instruments. “I believe this may be an interspatial phenomenon.”
“Explain yourself, Commander.”
Data examined the readings and struggled to find words to describe something that, to his knowledge, had never been directly observed before. “An interspatial phenomenon. A phenomenon that bridges two generally separate and discrete spaces.”
Picard looked down at him, and his forehead wrinkled. “Are you trying to suggest this thing may be a bridge between universes, Mr. Data?”
“These readings suggest that may be the case, sir.”
Picard glanced back up at the viewscreen, where the bluish-white light of the anomaly seemed to writhe eerily against the backdrop of normal space. Long glowing filaments stretched out from the main mass of the phenomenon, twisting and coiling before abruptly popping out of existence again. “When its borders alter, then—“
“It appears to be shifting back and forth between the two universes it bridges, yes.”
Picard frowned. “Two parallel universes, Commander?”
Data lifted a shoulder in his best imitation of a humanoid shrug. “I spoke imprecisely, sir. ‘Parallel universe’ is an inexact phrase at best. A more accurate term might be quantum reality. The concept of quantum realities dates to the mid-twentieth century, when Hugh Everett proposed the relative-state metatheory, popularly known as the ‘many-worlds theory.’ Experiments on the nature of light, called ‘double slit tests,’ showed that the possibility of what light could do affected the outcome of the tests. This suggested that all possibilities exist at once, and Everett postulated that all the possibilities for every action exist as parallel universes or quantum realities. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that all the possible outcomes of any given quantum interaction are realized.”
Data glanced up at Picard and saw dawning exasperation on the captain’s face. He cut his explanation short. “Since there are an infinite number of possilities, there is theoretically an infinite number of quantum realities, or parallel universes. They do not share the same spacetime, however, so they cannot be accessed, and thus each seems to its inhabitants be the one and only universe. The term parallel suggests they never intersect, just as two parallel lines can never cross.”
“But they can be bridged.”'
“In a manner of speaking. A phenomenon called the Einstein-Rosem bridge, thought to be an area that touches two quantum realities, exists in a black hole. But one cannot cross through it at our current level of technology, since the gravitational forces are too great. This phenomenon, on the other hand—“ Data nodded toward the viewscreen. “It may serve the same function as a line drawn at right angles between two parallel lines. It may connect our universe to the next nearest one.”
“Which may be quite similar to our universe?”
“Or may not be. Simply because physicists believe quantum realities are extraordinarily similar does not necessarily suggest they will be. I am afraid that such theories fall into the realm of speculation, Captain.”
Captain Picard looked down at him. “Stepping back out of the realm of speculation, Commander, precisely why have we lost power?”
Data consulted his console. “The phenomenon is draining our power, sir.”
“Somehow I knew you were going to tell me that,” Picard muttered. He frowned at the phenomenon as if it had issued a personal insult. “If it’s shifting back and forth between the two universes it connects, then will it eventually shift back into the other universe entirely?”
“Since it just ‘popped out of nowhere,’ that would seem to be a reasonable hypothesis.”
“Then once it shifts entirely out of our universe, will we regain power?”
“It depends. At the rate it is draining our dilithium crystals, we have four point—“ Data noticed Picard’s thinly veiled irritation and hastily corrected himself. “About four and a half hours before we will be unable to return to warp.”
“Can we back away from that thing at impulse?”
“Impulse power is down as well, and draining even more rapidly.”
“So we’re stuck here.”
"It would appear so, yes.”
Picard nodded. “Commander La Forge,” he said to Geordi. “Go down to Engineering and see if you can find some way to restore power.”
“Aye, sir,” Geordi said, heading for the turbolift doors. Picard turned back to Data.
“Continue to monitor that anomaly, Commander Data.”
Data frowned at his readings. “My ability to monitor it is compromised by the distance we are currently maintaining, sir. I would suggest that getting closer to it might provide us with a wealth of valuable scientific information.”
“Unfortunately, Commander, the engines are simply not cooperating.”
Data tilted his head as he contemplated the problem. The phenomenon was unique, fascinating, rare-- far too valuable a find to waste. They needed to learn every bit of information they could about it. That was, after all, one of the main purposes of their mission. “We must not allow this opportunity to go to waste, sir.”
Picard sighed. “Perhaps a probe, Data?”
“I doubt a probe will work, sir. I believe the power will be drained from it, rendering it useless.”
Data rapidly entered information into the keypad of his console. “Launching probe now, Captain,” he reported.
Thirty-two billion nanoseconds—slightly over half a minute-- later the signals from the probe abruptly cut off. “The probe has ceased transmitting information,” he stated.
Picard frowned. “Any other suggestions, Commander?”
Data stared thoughtfully at the anomaly. “What if I were to take out a shuttlecraft?”
Picard settled back in his command chair and regarded him curiously. “Perhaps I’m missing something here, Commander, but if our impulse engines have failed, surely a shuttlecraft’s won’t work either.”
Data turned in his seat and faced the captain. “Based on my readings from the probe, I believe the engines will be able to emit one burst of energy before it is absorbed by the phenomenon, sir. If the shuttlecraft is aimed in the correct direction, inertia will keep it heading toward the anomaly at a constant speed.”
“And what will keep you from sailing right on into the anomaly?” Riker inquired.
“My readings indicate the Enterprise will have sufficient energy to activate a tractor beam for the next one-point-five hours,” Data said. “I could take readings up until that time, then you could prevent the shuttlecraft from advancing further and bring it back to the ship.”
“It’s too dangerous,” Riker objected. “Suppose one of those tentacles were to cross through the shuttlecraft?”
Tentacles was an imprecise but oddly descriptive word, Data thought, realizing Riker was speaking of the filaments of light that occasionally flickered out from the anomaly. “I do not believe the filaments pose any danger,” he said earnestly.
“It still sounds risky,” Riker said. In his personal life he was not averse to risk, but as the second in command he was notably cautious about sending crewmembers into danger unnecessarily.
“Perhaps it is,” Data acknowledged. “But we have the opportunity to investigate an entirely new phenomenon at close range, sir. Such an opportunity must not be squandered.”
Riker looked at him a long moment. Beneath his dark beard, his mouth twitched. “Data,” he said at last, “have you ever heard the expression, ‘Curiosity killed the cat?’”
“Yes, sir,” Data said, wondering what the peculiar idioms of the English language had to do with the anomaly. “However, I have never understood precisely what it means.”
“Obviously,” Captain Picard said with a wry smile. He shrugged. “Very well, Commander. Make it so.”
“What the hell is it?”
Commander Daystrom Soong dropped into one of the chairs that occupied the center of the bridge, next to Captain Picard, and addressed his question to the science officer, Lieutenant Commander Bruce Maddox. Dark-haired, tall, and blocky, Maddox was from the human colony Paloma, where radiation-induced mutations had caused the human population there to have life spans rivalling those of Vulcans. He was past fifty years old but appeared barely twenty-five, somewhat to the annoyance of Day, who was extremely conscious of his already-receding hairline.
"I don’t know, sir,” Maddox said, his fingers racing as he struggled to draw up information from the computer’s library which might help. “Some sort of anomaly... the computer’s not much help in identifying it. Looks like something that’s never been seen before.”
Day frowned at the thing on the viewscreen. The Enterprise had run across more than one temporal-spatial anomaly on its long mission, and this one looked about like the others to him. Big. Disturbing. Dangerous.
He decided not to worry about what the thing was, precisely, and asked what he considered to be a more relevant question. “Why aren’t our engines working?”
“It’s draining our power,” Maddox answered. “Warp as well as impulse. I’d guess that thing feeds off any power that comes its way.”
“How do you propose we get away?”
“Uh...” Maddox sighed. “I don’t see a way right now, sir. Maybe Engineering can come up with something.”
Day hit his combadge. “Geordi. See if you can figure out a way to get us out of here.”
As Geordi acknowledged, Captain Picard rose in his seat and headed toward the viewscreen. “Fascinating,” he said, to the bridge at large. “It’s beautiful. But what precisely is it?”
“I think it’s spatial in nature, rather than temporal,” Maddox volunteered. “At least I’m not reading any temporal fluctuations. But spatially—“ He hesitated. “There are definitely some quantum variations.”
“Meaning?” Day said sharply.
“I think it might be a kind of gateway. Something that leads to another universe.”
“Artificial or natural?” Day demanded. They’d recently suffered through an extremely unpleasant ordeal when an alien species had utilized spatial ruptures in order to kidnap crew members and experiment on them. The thought that this thing might be a similar sort of weapon on a grander scale was disturbing.
“Uh—natural, I think. It’s not very regular—see how it keeps changing? I think a created phenomenon would demonstrate a lot more regularity.”
“Is it a wormhole?”
Maddox shook his head. “No, a wormhole is by definition a hole in the fabric of our spacetime. I think this is more like a bridge, going between two different spacetimes. But—“ He turned to the captain with exasperation. “I just can’t get good enough readings from here, Captain. We’re too far out.”
“What about a probe?” Picard suggested.
“It won’t get far before it quits working, I think. Its energy will be depleted too fast. But a shuttle might work.”
“How?” Day asked. “If its impulse power won’t work—“
“Just one burst of impulse power would do it, sir. Inertia would keep it going. And unlike a probe, a shuttle has shielding that would probably protect its systems to some extent. We could get it back with a tractor beam.”
Day thought that sounded like a harebrained idea, but Captain Picard was nodding. “Excellent notion, Mr. Maddox. If you--”
Day stood up. “Just a minute, sir. This sounds dangerous. If you think it’s a good idea, I should be the one to go in that shuttlecraft.”
Picard turned and regarded him with a wry twist of his mouth. Day’s fierce determination to never let his subordinates go into danger unnecessarily was legendary, and occasionally set him and the captain at odds.
“This seems like something the science officer would be better suited to, Number One,” Picard said mildly.
Day refused to back down. “I have a background in science too, sir. I am perfectly capable of taking the required readings and transmitting them back to the ship. And you may require the services of Commander Maddox to figure out how to get away from this thing. I should be the one to go out there, Captain.”
Picard locked eyes with him a long moment, then, slowly, nodded.
“Make it so, Commander,” he said.
When Data awoke, he experienced a long moment of disorientation—something he had never in his life experienced before. He blinked hard in an attempt to rid himself of the strange feeling of confusion that had gripped him.
He had been dreaming again.
But he didn’t remember going to sleep. He was lying down, but he didn’t appear to be in bed. In fact, he realized slowly, he was in a shuttle. Sprawled on the floor, in an extremely undignified position. Surely he hadn’t gone to sleep here.
Slowly, it came back to him. He’d gone out in a shuttlecraft to get better readings on the phenomenon, and as he approached, one of the long filaments had unexpectedly uncoiled in his direction. With thrusters down and no way to steer, he had been unable to maneuver the shuttlecraft out of its way. It had struck the shuttle with a violent impact, sending sparks flying from the console and jolting him out of his chair. His last memory was of hitting the floor, hard. Evidently the impact had somehow knocked him unconscious. But that didn’t explain how his dream program had been activated.
He got to his feet, brushing himself off as he did so. He noticed one of the access panels on his head had been opened by the force of his collision with the floor, which might explain how his dream program had been turned on. He attempted to close the panel but discovered the cover had been snapped off. It lay on the floor, a patch of his dark brown hair with it.
Not being programmed for vanity, it did not bother him to have part of his internal workings showing. He sat down in the shuttle’s seat and spoke.
“Enterprise, this is Commander Data.”
There was no response. Clearly communications were out. Data attempted to access the shuttle’s computer, but it was damaged beyond repair. Fried, as Geordi would have remarked. In fact, he realized, most of the shuttle’s systems were down, including life support. In moments he would use up the remaining available oxygen. Fortunately he was not dependent on oxygen.
The shuttle’s systems failing him in his quest for information, he did the next logical thing and looked out the front window of the shuttle.
He was no longer traveling toward the anomaly. Evidently the filament’s impact had sent the shuttle tumbling in a new direction. A view of the smooth white hull of the Enterprise filled most of the window.
As he watched, a greenish light reached out from the saucer section and snared the shuttle. A tractor beam. Within moments he would be back aboard his ship.
With inhuman patience, he sat and waited.
Data’s shuttlecraft was guided back into the shuttlebay by automatic systems that were fortunately still working. He doubted the ship had sufficient energy left to attempt a transporter beam, and wouldn’t really have cared to be on the receiving end of such an experiment.
The back end of the shuttle refused to open automatically, so he pulled the manual release, pushed the door down, and stepped out of the shuttle. As he strode around the end of the shuttle he came to an abrupt stop, experiencing the closest sensation to shock he’d ever felt in his life.
He had nearly collided with Tasha Yar.
Read Chapter 3 here.