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, investigating the Romulan commander Sela's contentions that she is Tasha Yar's daughter and that her existence is my responsibility. The Doctor has warned me - as I had already deduced - that we are very likely dealing with a predestination paradox. Nevertheless I am determined to interfere with the history of the Enterprise-C incident as little as possible, lest I damage the timeline which I am here to preserve.
Picard watched as the TARDIS console central column rose and came to rest one last time. "Narendra III," announced the Doctor.
"Where? On the planet?" Picard resisted the impulse to snap his questions, as if to an Enterprise officer making an inadequate report. "How long after the battle?"
"The Enterprise-C's final battle isn't quite over," said the Doctor, working dials and switches - presumably locking controls down. "I'm hoping to give first aid to some of the Klingon casualties, and to persuade them that it's not an affront to honor to hide in the hills till the Romulans are gone."
"Since you happen to be here." But that was consistent with history as Picard knew it. These were the Klingons whose reports of the Enterprise-C's actions built the basis of the Federation-Klingon alliance. "Any suggestions on how to find Tasha?"
"It's not widely known in the Federation," said the Doctor, adjusting his hat, "but it isn't true that the Romulans never take prisoners. Surviving vanquished enemies are offered the opportunity to join Romulan society of their own free will, and are executed only if they refuse."
"That must be what happened - happens to Tasha," said Picard. "Though I can't imagine her going along of her own free will."
"Few do," the Doctor said. He shoved the door lever with the tip of his umbrella, and the doors swung open. "That's part of the reason it doesn't get around."
"Which in turn is why the rumors of prisoners at Narendra III were so easily discounted."
The Time Lord bowed Picard to the door. "After you."
Picard made his way toward the central square of the Narendra III colony, where a Romulan shuttle had landed, trying to avoid both Romulans and Klingons. It wasn't difficult; what few survivors there were in the thick of the colony had already been located and placed under guard at the square; and, as Picard moved in, the mop-up squads moved outwards. Hopefully they would be frustrated in their further searching by the Doctor's efforts, though under normal circumstances they would have discovered more wounded and non-wounded survivors the farther they ventured from the central target area.
Picard found a vantage point among the chunks of broken buildings where he could observe the proceedings when they started. Having only a vague idea what was going to happen, he didn't try to form any plan of action, contenting himself with being entertained by the insults and threats the Klingons heaped onto the Romulans.
Some twenty minutes after the squad had given up on finding any more prisoners around the perimeter of the compound, another group beamed in - the survivors of the Enterprise-C, with of course several Romulan escorts. Picard wasn't sure whether it was good or bad that Rachel Garrett wasn't among them. In fact there were no senior officers. Strategically, of course, that was for the best. Most of them, about a dozen, were in the contemporary Starfleet uniform, the maroon jacket dating from the Enterprise-A's time but worn without the undertunic or the belt. This only made Tasha Yar easier to pick out.
She was in the Starfleet uniform of her and Picard's time, but with the addition of a stylized sidearm belt that looked more decorative than functional to Picard. She had a cut in her forehead, just below the hairline, the blonde hair short as Picard remembered from his timeline but styled slightly differently. She stood straight as the other Starfleet officers, and walked as straight when the Romulans herded the humans into a group with the Klingons, but there was something different about her from the rest of them. There was a grimness to the determination in her face that the other Starfleet officers didn't match. Or couldn't. Only in some veterans of the Cardassian conflict had Picard seen that grimness in a Starfleet face before now.
The Romulans organized the prisoners into a formation, three lines of nine or ten each, mixing humans and Klingons, cuffing those wounded who had trouble standing. They were about fifty meters from Picard, and facing just away from him so that he could see their faces. When it was done a petty officer moved in front of them and spoke into a communicator. Two minutes later several officers beamed in, arriving in at-ease just between the petty officer and the prisoners. Picard almost whistled at the theatrics.
Before anyone spoke one officer moved toward the prisoners, starting at one end of the first line and slowly walking past each of them. Yar was second from the other end in the front, and when the Romulan got to her he stopped. He looked her up and down for several moments. Then he began to address the prisoners, speaking loudly enough that even Picard had no trouble hearing, but still looking at Yar.
"I am General Toranus," he said. Commander of the landing forces then. Toranus looked like a seasoned fighting officer: streaks at his temples above the pointed ears, girth slightly enhanced by a midlife decrease in physical activity level occasioned by duty or injury - Picard thought the general sometimes favored his right leg. "I am going to give you a choice."
"Firing squad or hanging?" asked one of the Starfleet officers. More than one Klingon spat on the ground.
"Death is one of two options you face," conceded Toranus unperturbed. There were murmurs and mutters now. Toranus ignored them, falling silent and continuing his staredown with Yar.
"And the other?" Yar finally said impatiently, boldly crossing her arms.
Picard could see Toranus' smile at what he must consider a victory, getting Yar to talk to him. "Come to Romulus and join our people."
The Klingons roared and the humans shouted. "As slaves and bed-toys!" one Klingon woman cried out over the rest of the noise.
"There is a probationary period of course," Toranus said when he could be heard again at all. He spoke no more loudly than before, forcing them back to silence so they could hear him. Yet to appearances he was still speaking only to Yar. "But citizenship is available to those willing to earn it. And the earning need not be entirely unpleasant." Certainly this last sentence was addressed to Yar particularly, and she knew it.
"'Unpleasant' for whom?" she shot back.
"It is time to choose," said Toranus. He drew his sidearm and walked - sauntered, though it made his limp more noticeable - back to the end of the line where he'd begun his inspection. He turned back to look at Yar as he pointed the disruptor at the Enterprise-C lieutenant there. All eyes, including Yar's, were on him as he fired point blank at the lieutenant, who dropped without a sound, without half her head.
Picard was instantly granted a finer appreciation for the Doctor's character. Traveling time at will and constantly witnessing history's atrocities - and yet standing back, fighting the impulse to step in and derail historical events that must be left to their natural course. No wonder, when the Time Lord could fight, he fought so implacably as to hardly ever lose.
On the other hand, the probability was that there was something here Picard needed to fight. How to find the balance between preserving the event's natural history and knowing when to step in? Picard had already considered this question, and had decided to make no move until or unless events were obviously deviating from Sela's past as he knew it - sketchy as that was.
But it was going to be hard.
Toranus moved on to the next prisoner in the front line, a Klingon colonist. He was one of those who'd had trouble standing when the lines were forming. Now he stood straight and attempted to look Toranus in the eyes - but the general was looking back at Yar as he shot the Klingon's eye, and brain, out.
Next in line was an Enterprise officer whose perspiration-sheened forehead belied his calm expression. As Toranus put the point of his weapon an inch from that forehead the officer said, "I'll go with you."
There was a cry of the man's name from someone in a rear row. Toranus looked at him, then looked back at Yar. Then he killed the officer anyway.
Yar turned away.
Someone - probably not a Klingon - behind them was stifling sobs, but Yar kept her eyes forward as Picard watched Toranus shoot the three Klingons and one human in the front line between Castillo and her. Then he walked up to her, and put the weapon to her forehead.
Picard could see her eyes. They smouldered with all the anger Picard had ever seen in the eyes of the Tasha Yar he knew, and more.
She wasn't going to back down.
She wasn't going to back down and Toranus was going to kill her.
"NO!" cried Picard, breaking cover and charging the tableau.
END OF CHAPTER 2
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