Personal log, displaced-objective stardate 36939.0: The Doctor and I have traveled in the TARDIS back in time, to Narendra III during the last battle of the Enterprise-C ...
While the Doctor locked the TARDIS up, Picard surveyed the late-day landscape, from the hill on the edge of the colony where the timeship had landed.
It was devastation. Though there was a Romulan personnel transport shuttle just landing now for mop-up, the blackened, burning buildings and disportionately large ratio of corpses to mere wounded were characteristic of a space attack on an all-but-undefended outpost. Picard understood what the Doctor had told him about Romulan prisoner procedure - he himself would rather die than become one of a people who would do such a thing.
"Tasha and any other survivors from the Enterprise-C will be brought down and gathered with any Klingon captives to be made the offer en masse. The prisoners will probably be gathered in that central clearing," said the Doctor, indicating where the shuttle had landed. If this comment seemed a little detached, it was more than compensated for by the Time Lord's tone as he moved off: "I'll catch up with you. I have work to do."
Left alone, Picard moved off himself. He too had work to do - a task he had been unable to begin for three months, waiting for the Doctor's next visit to the Enterprise ...
"Guinan to captain. Please join me in Ten Forward."
Picard had just finished changing into sleepwear for the evening but immediately pulled it off, and grabbed the first items to come to hand from his meager non-Starfleet-issue wardrobe. Guinan was fully aware that Picard generally attended Ten Forward only for all-ship functions, so if she was calling him there she had to have a good reason. Not that Guinan ever failed to have a good reason for what she did.
People always seemed pleased to see him when he did make a rare simply social appearance. They smiled and waved, but then turned back to their conversations or games, leaving Picard able to proceed to the bar unimpeded. "Good evening," he said to Guinan as he took a seat.
"Captain." Guinan had a steaming cup of Earl Grey waiting. Knowing her, it was fresh rather than replicated.
"Thank you. Though considering the caffeine content of this, I suspect the reason for your call means I won't be going to sleep any time soon."
"Maybe not." Guinan smiled.
Picard took a sip. Fresh. "Should I be worried?"
"Only in the 'careful what you wish for' sense. Unless I'm mistaken, we're in for a visitor."
Sure enough, even as she spoke the sound started, the noise of a Time Lord time-travel capsule materializing. The Police Box exterior of the Doctor's TARDIS appeared in one corner of Ten Forward, at the starboard end of the line of observation ports. The Doctor emerged, with his traveling companion Ace, now a young woman rather than the teenage girl she'd been when she and Picard had met, but still wearing a pony tail and that disreputable-looking jacket. The Doctor was still in his seventh incarnation, a little man with a receding hairline, wearing a mismatched suit and carrying an umbrella. (Rather than the tall, burly, boisterous boor he had been when he and Picard had met.)
The crew burst into spontaneous applause in appreciation for the time-travelers' actions the last time they were on the ship. The Doctor tipped his hat and smiled. Ace clasped her hands and waved them over her head in the manner of champion athletes.
Ace allowed herself to be surrounded by admirers, but the Doctor saw Picard at the bar and made his way there. "Permission to come aboard? Oh, thank you, Guinan." A second fresh cup of tea.
"Permission gladly granted," said Picard.
"It's a pleasant surprise to see you here," the Doctor said to him.
"Guinan knew you were arriving."
The Doctor snorted, turning to the bartender. "That's more than I did. Are you on better terms with the TARDIS than I am?"
"Just girl talk," said Guinan, moving off to serve another crewmember.
"So, captain," said the Doctor after sipping his tea, "I thought it'd been several registration number suffix initials since an Enterprise captain felt compelled to check up on me as soon as I dropped in."
"Quite the reverse. Guinan called me because there's something we think you can help me with. Logic suggests there's a temporal anomaly involved."
"The Federation Department of Temporal Investigations can't help you?" asked the Doctor, a bit disingenously, Picard thought.
"The DTI was formed more for the sake of analyses of existing data than on account of any present capability or desire on the Federation's part to aggressively investigate or initiate temporal anomalies ourselves." And the Doctor knew that as well as Picard did.
"Well, you recall the history of the Enterprise-C." The Doctor nodded. "Somehow one of my officers, Tasha Yar -" The Doctor nodded again; he'd known Yar before her death at Vagra II. "- was on duty on the -C at the time of its destruction at Narendra III."
The Doctor double-took. "Only a time anomaly could account for that ... Captain Garrett and her crew arguably achieved more for Federation-Klingon relations than even the Khitomer conference," he went on seriously. "I don't like to imagine a history where the -C didn't play out its final hand - but suppose it fell through a wormhole at that battle?"
Picard mulled that over. He didn't like it either. "The Klingons would have assumed they ran in cowardice."
"Deterioration of Federation-Klingon relations. Possibly war. You were pretty evenly matched a quarter-century ago - such a war could easily drag on for decades." The Doctor was staring off into the distance. Picard had an odd suspicion he was drawing on some source exterior to himself for the alternate history scenario. "Starfleet begins a slow evolution from the Federation's exploratory arm into its military defense. Tasha is rescued from her colony world by this Starfleet, joins it, serves on the Enterprise -"
"Which, as flagship of the Federation battle fleet, never goes exploring to Vagra II," said Picard. "Barring battle casualty, she could still be on the Enterprise, even now." And Worf would not.
"Apparently. But it's a time wormhole which captures the Enterprise-C," the Doctor continued. Picard nodded. "Garrett and her crew meet Picard and his crew. Garrett and Picard realize that the -C must return. But the -C is damaged and its complement down. Tasha goes with it, to better its chances of lasting long enough to impress the Klingons."
"And she is subsequently captured by the Romulans after the battle."
The Time Lord was suddenly mopping tea off the bar with a handy cloth.
"She had a half-Romulan child named Sela," Picard continued, "who betrayed her in an escape attempt five years later. Tasha was executed. Sela is now a Commander in the Romulan fleet - and the image of Tasha, but for the Romulan ears and coiff. We first met about three months ago when the Romulans were promulgating a Klingon civil war. And she claims the entire muddle is my responsibility, for having sent Tasha onto the Enterprise-C."
"I don't see how the baby can be dropped at your door," said the Doctor. "If you ordered Tasha onto the Enterprise-C in its alternate future, it must've been within the scope of her Starfleet duty to be there. If it was her own will, it's certainly not your fault. The same if it was some third party's doing. And in any case it was an alternate-timeline Picard, so it still wasn't you - any more than if it had been Picard of the 'mirror' universe."
"That's what Spock said, in so many words, when he and I encountered Sela last week."
"In more words, I'll wager."
"And that's how I'd feel about it - but for one thing."
"Guinan also claims that it's my responsibility."
The Doctor looked sharply at Guinan, back for the wrapup of Picard's story. "What do you know?" he asked her.
"Know? Nothing, really. But I can feel it. Somehow, our Jean-Luc Picard is at the root of it all."
The Doctor frowned. Picard knew that frown. The question was as good as answered - though the heavens fall. "And you want to go back and check it out," said the Time Lord.
"I think it's necessary." The Doctor nodded, and poured the rest of his tea down. Picard's was already gone. He tapped his commbadge. "Picard to Riker."
"I'm going off in the TARDIS with the Doctor; the ship is yours. I should be back quite shortly. Maybe even before you can log the change of conn ..." Picard and the Doctor rose from their seats and headed toward where the TARDIS was parked.
"Understood," replied Riker, though not without his usual exasperation for when Picard frustrated his duty-driven desire to keep the captain out of danger at all times.
"Ace," called the Doctor as he and Picard passed the celebration, "back in a second." He probably meant it literally.
"Bring me something, Professor," Ace called back, after taking a long moment to, Picard was sure, decide whether to demand to come along. He was surprised Riker hadn't at least suggested the same thing for himself. But the very fact that Picard was going off in the TARDIS must have communicated something of the unusualness of the situation to both of them.
Picard followed the Doctor into the Police Box exterior of the time ship. He already knew that the TARDIS was "dimensionally transcendental", bigger on the inside than the outside because its door was an interdimensional interface, like C.S. Lewis' wardrobe. The double doors opened immediately on the control room, a circular space of a diameter some five times a Police Box's diagonal width, with circles inset in the walls and more modest interior door on the wall opposite. The hexagonal mushroom-shaped control console stood in the center of the room.
The Doctor strode to it and moved a lever, and the double doors shut. "You realize, of course," said the Doctor before working the console any further, "that what we probably have here is a predestination paradox, like Tasha's presence on the Enterprise-C in the first place."
But Picard had had three months to think about it. "My curiosity about my part in Sela's origin is driving me to investigate it; the investigation itself is not unlikely to bring about those actions of mine that made me 'responsible' for it."
"And you're ready to face the consequences of all this, whatever they are?"
"When history since the Enterprise-C's final battle could be at stake, is there another option?"
The Doctor nodded, then frowned again. This was a frown of unease.
"Is something wrong?"
"No ... just a touch of deja vu. The last time I set off in the TARDIS with a starship captain to learn a young woman's origins, I discovered quite a bit more about my own origins than I had bargained for."
"Surely there can't be any surprises for you in the present matter."
"For me, certainly not," said the Doctor. "Next stop, Narendra III."
The time rotor, a cylindrical construction in the center of the free-standing console, now began moving up and down like a piston. Their time journey had begun - and that distracted Picard from his immediate thought about the Doctor's last comment: why had the Time Lord emphasized the word for rather than me?
END OF CHAPTER 1
To the story of Doctor's discovery of Saavik's origins
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