Le Morte d'Spock, c. 247000:
Mr. Spock gazed at the men from Earth, and he came to look at each of them in turn. But he was as a man who wakes up in a strange place and remembers not how he came there.
Anon he came to look at Captain Kirk, and finally did he speak. "My father says you are my friend, and my rescuer."
Captain Kirk was sore dismayed that Mr. Spock did not know him, but he only replied, "This would you have done for me."
Mr. Spock turned as if to leave, and Captain Kirk did know disappointment and sorrow. But Mr. Spock was only plumbing the depths of his spirit, for he knew he was not yet whole, and yet the balance of him was within his very reach of be but grasped it. And finally he turned back to Captain Kirk.
Mr. Spock asked, "Is the ship safe?"
"At your hand," said Captain Kirk, "were she and us all made safe."
"Captain," Mr. Spock said. "You are called Captain."
And Captain Kirk knew that his Quest had been successful.
"Data, station speakers," Picard ordered. When Data complied he continued, "Attention all station personnel. This is Captain Picard of the Enterprise. Romulans have infiltrated the station at Corridor 1 East, and are proceeding toward the laboratory. All personnel in the vicinity of the laboratory are to retreat to the control room. All other personnel are to retreat to the north or south, away from the Romulans. Do not confront the Romulans or you will be killed. There has already been one such death. Picard out."
Marcus, Stark and Troi were among those first to filter into the control room. Stark followed Marcus to the communications console where Picard, Data and Crusher were gathered; Troi followed Stark.
"Captain Picard, what is this?" Marcus demanded.
"This is an emergency, Doctor," Picard replied, noting the return of her fire. "These particular Romulans will stop at nothing to steal your project. Beck has been killed by them, and they are quite capable of killing us all to get what they want."
"Then why haven't they?"
"That we are not dead already means that their object is solely to gain possession of Project Easter and escape with it. Believe me, Doctor, the only way we will keep Easter secure from them is if the Enterprise should arrive immediately."
"You were right," Wesley said to LaForge.
They and Worf were gathered at Worf's station, where LaForge's computer analysis of the Enterprise's recent sensor logs was running. Suddenly Worf pointed to the console. "Look at this. A transporter beam."
"Commander Riker!" LaForge called. "You need to see this!"
Wesley bounded back to conn as Riker joined Worf and LaForge. "What is it?" Riker asked.
"Tomalak is running his cloaking device, sir," LaForge said urgently. "But it's a new model. Instead of just being able to render the ship invisible to our sensors, it can feed them false sensor data too."
"It is however unable to mask its own mu waves in that mode," Worf added.
Riker nodded. "That explains the conflicting sensor data we've been getting."
LaForge held up a finger. "There's more. Once we had an idea what we were looking for, we analyzed all the sensor data since Tomalak first appeared in our screens."
Worf thumped one point on the screen readout. "There. A cloaked transport beam. Tomalak sent an away team down to the planet under cover of his attack on the dome."
Riker shouted toward the front of the bridge. "Mr. Crusher! I want a course back to the station. NOW!"
"Plotted and laid in, Commander!"
"Best speed, Mr. Crusher!"
The Enterprise executed a 180-degree turn, leaving the warbird a clean escape to the Neutral Zone.
"Tomalak led us down the garden path to buy time for his away team." There was grudging respect in LaForge's voice. "There's probably another cloaked ship that's supposed to pick them up while Tomalak makes his getaway to the Neutral Zone, with us behind him all the way. Damn clever, these Romulans - huh, Worf?"
"Of course," said Worf.
Riker wasn't listening to them. "That'll teach me to ignore my instincts," he said.
"Long-range communications restored, Captain," Data reported.
"Hail the Enterprise."
Before Data could comply, the console beeped. "Incoming message, sir."
"Enterprise to Easter Station." It was Riker's voice. "Come in, Easter Station."
Picard flipped the responder himself. "This is Easter, Number One."
"Captain! There is a Romulan away team on the planet."
"Yes, Number One, we found them. Where are you?"
"Most of the way to the Neutral Zone, Captain. We've been on a wild goose chase, and I'm afraid I'm the goose."
Wesley responded. "Two point seven hours, Captain."
"Very well. We'll see you when you get here. Easter Station out." He made a throat-cutting gesture to Data to cut the channel.
"Why didn't you tell him about the trihraka?" Crusher asked.
"There's nothing he could do."
Picard noticed Crusher was watching him very closely. "The Romulans are going to win, aren't they?"
He didn't answer her; he was thinking about closing Pandora's box. "Dr. Marcus. What must the Romulans have in order to reproduce your work?"
"Well, the equipment in the lab would be helpful, but those designs and everything else they'd need to know are in the records in the database. All my notes - all the way back to the Genesis days - all the software that drives the equipment, is there."
"These records - are they accessible to only to the terminals in the lab?"
"You can access it from here. If your security code is Alpha-One or better. But only from here or the lab."
"That is probably why they are headed for the lab," Data suggested. "It is closer to the dome wall than is the control room."
Picard nodded to Data and turned back to Marcus. "If the Romulans captured merely the equipment, could they recreate the work?"
"No. They'd have to have either the records or the willing cooperation of myself, and a telepath from a race with a life-memory technique unless there are Romulans who have preserved the katra discipline from the time before they left Vulcan."
"Are there backups of these records anywhere else but this station?"
"No. Originally Federation Security policy wouldn't allow it, and even after the political situation changed it never got revised. Well, the original Genesis equations are out there, but ..."
Picard considered that carefully, for it meant grave consequences of the plan he had formed. He looked at Troi, who looked back in innocent incomprehension of all going on around her. "Kirk's hot potato seems to have fallen square in my lap."
Marcus was again provoked by Kirk's name, despite her admissions to Picard in the replimat. "Well, Captain, here's your chance to practice some of those lofty Starfleet ideals you learned from your idol. Or can it be that you don't trust the Romulans with the power of life?"
Looking at Troi, Picard said, "I don't even trust myself with that power." And he made his decision.
A decision, he believed, James T. Kirk could not have made.
"Data," said Picard. "Wipe all the records."
Data hesitated, long enough for even organic senses to detect, then began the task. But there was a wordless, strangled cry from Crusher.
"You don't have the authority!" Marcus objected.
"I have every authority," Picard said, almost without inflection. "It is my sworn duty to keep the peace in the Federation. And while Easter exists, the Federation will not know peace."
To Picard's surprise Marcus objected no further. Despite her ambivalent personal feelings for James Kirk, Marcus had always trusted the institution of Starfleet; and Picard, unknowingly, had echoed the words of that trust used by Marcus herself on that long-ago day when the Reliant, under the command of Khan, had seized possession of her work, even as the Romulans were attempting now.
But then Picard turned to Crusher, almost reluctantly. Not without sympathy, he said, "There are, after all, some things Man was not meant to know. I am sorry."
Crusher turned away, unable to respond.
"Data, how long?"
"Thirty seconds until all records are irretrievable," Data replied.
The Romulans burst into the laboratory.
"We have succeeded," said the leader. "This Picard is a coward after all. Find the records and drain them into our memory banks."
The Romulans each walked directly to a particular bank of duotronics and hooked equipment of their own into them.
"There is unexpected resistance," said the subleader after a moment.
"Yes," said the leader. "Overcome it."
"It is a purging process!" cried the technician, almost before the leader had finished speaking.
The leader looked up. "You are certain?"
"See for yourself. The records are gone."
"The records are gone," came Picard's voice over the room's intercom. "I ordered them destroyed. You have lost."
"Picard!" The leader called the name half in anger, half in admiration. It was a very Romulan thing to do.
"If you attempt to take Dr. Marcus I shall kill her first," Picard continued. The Romulans heard consternation from the others in the contol room, but Picard did not respond to them.
"Picard," called the leader, "I apologize for believing you a coward."
"Your objective no longer exists. Go back to your own world. We will not hinder you."
"You must know that to live in defeat is contrary to our honor." The leader and his collegues were already gathering in military formation.
But Picard apparently did know Romulan honor, and like a soft human couldn't witness honorable sacrifice without arguing. "Your honor compels you steal life from others, or in failure to take it from yourselves. Is it not less cowardly to live, and bring life to yourselves and others?"
"If you think me a coward, Picard," the leader suggested, "then I challenge you to follow me in this journey."
He raised his hand to a device at his neck. All the Romulans glowed as if caught in a phaser beam, and disappeared.
Picard turned from the comm and sank wearily into a chair.
"Captain, each of us makes his own choices," Stark said. "Do not feel guilt at their deaths." Picard just waved him politely off, more affected by by his own choice, which was the greater concession to Death.
Marcus would not be put off. "Why," she asked him, "doesn't it bother me that you would have killed me if necesary?"
Picard, with an effort, put his attention to her question. "Perhaps because you aren't really alive. You've spent your life on life for others, and now you feel it's been wasted."
Marcus considered that. "Perhaps."
"It's never too late," Picard offered.
Marcus smiled. It was the first smile Picard had seen from her, but for her triumph at the laboratory. "Perhaps," she said.
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