Personal log, objective-displaced stardate 36939.1: Trying if at all possible to avoid a predestination paradox at Narendra III while yet preserving Commander Sela's history, I witnessed several brutal prisoner executions. Unfortunately, Tasha Yar would apparently require some persuasion before she would cooperate in that history - for she seemed determined to be the next prisoner executed.
"NO!" cried Picard, breaking cover and charging the tableau.
He was halfway to the formation before the soliders reacted. The instant they started running at him he pulled up short and raised his hands in surrender, but one of them clubbed him with a rifle butt anyway.
They dragged him to Toranus without troubling to discover whether he'd be willing to cover the distance unassisted. The Enterprise-C officers had recognized him, but even Tasha hadn't called out his name. Or, more importantly, his rank - if the Romulans knew they had a starship captain, there would be no offer of options for Picard. Especially if they discovered he was from the future. That must be avoided at all costs (but the Doctor must know this as well as Picard, so Picard wasn't unduly worried about it). At least he wasn't in uniform.
But Yar was obviously more affected at the sight of him than the other officers, and Toranus didn't miss it. "A civilian carried into battle? That's unusual. Who is he, my dear?"
"He's - a scientist, taking passage to Starbase 105," Yar stuttered, then blurted, "He's my father." A masterful lie, Picard realized - an apparent attempt at a protective half-truth, and then a cover story that sufficiently explained her reaction to Picard and his interest in her, without telling Toranus the truth they didn't want him to know.
"A very good scientist, I'll warrant," said Toranus, turning to Picard, "if he has intelligence enough to avoid my patrols. Tell me, scientist, how did you get off your ship undetected?"
"I - er, panicked." Picard allowed his horror of the executions to put a tremor in his voice. "I set a transporter so that the beam would be masked by phaser subspace disruption."
"You would make a fine addition to Romulan society," Toranus purred; "that is, of course, if a certain person's recalcitrance were to yield and permit it." He looked back at Yar. "But then, your sudden presence here with her, when she must have thought you lost on the ship, must add an entire new dimension to the situation for her." When neither Yar nor Picard responded he sighed. "I really can't allow such a family tragedy, if it can possibly be prevented. I will give you an hour to discuss it. These two," he said to the petty officer, "find some hovel that's still standing and lock them in."
Two of the mop-up squad remembered a still standing, small, one-room building near the compound perimeter. The magnetic lock on the door was, without power, useless, but it was the only door. When the guards shut it on them, Picard noted that all exterior noise was cut off. There was one window, and the only illumination was indirect light from the setting sun.
"Permission to speak freely?" Yar wouldn't have asked that if she hadn't also noticed that the building was soundproof.
"Always," said Picard, as he always said the first time each of his officers asked. For some reason it threw her - but only for a second.
"What the hell are you doing here? Sir?" she exploded. "I thought you weren't all that happy that I was going."
Noting that Yar had volunteered to board the -C, Picard said, "I'll explain what I can. I'm here to make sure you're safe."
"Why me? Why let those other people die?"
"Well," said Picard, "you had temporal mechanics at the Academy, didn't you?"
Picard had meant it as a rhetorical question. "It's required!"
"Not when I was there. I don't even remember whether it was offered."
Of course. That recently in this Yar's timeline, Starfleet Academy would have devolved into basic training camp. "Well, that will make this a little more difficult. You're aware that sending the Enterprise-C back through space and time will have created a new history between this time and that?"
"I thought that was the idea."
"I'm not the Captain Picard you knew. I'm from the other history."
Suddenly Yar was breathing heavily. "Did it work?"
"Yes." Lightly as he needed to tread, he thought it was safe to say that. More than safe, necessary: Yar would need to know that there were reasons.
Yar loosed a long breath. In the failing light Picard saw her lean backwards against the table that was the room's only furniture. "No Klingon war?"
Picard shook his head. "An alliance. A Klingon serves on the Enterprise."
That startled her. Then she laughed. "Why not? ... So are you here to take me home?"
Of course that would be her first thought. But Picard hadn't realized. When he said, "No," it came out choked.
She went perfectly still. He could barely make out her silhouette, certainly not her face. When she spoke next it was emotionlessly. "What, then?"
"You must go with General Toranus," said Picard in a low voice.
"What does he want with me?" Yar asked, and now she couldn't keep the emotion from her voice. "Why is he so determined to have me?"
"I don't know. But it's part of the history of the event, and deviating from that history in any way could unravel that history."
"Can you tell me what happens to me?" Her voice almost, but not quite, broke.
"I may not. I mustn't risk influencing your future actions one way or another. Tasha ..." He trailed off, only now realizing the enormity of what he was demanding of her. In five years she would be executed - what would she think of Picard on that day?
"You're not my Jean-Luc Picard," Yar said, her voice strong again. "You let yourself feel." Nothing he or the Doctor had extrapolated about the alternate history had told Picard of its harshness as effectively as this simple statement. "I'll do what you want. I know the history you come from needs to be. That's why I came."
"Thank you," said Picard simply. She came out of the now complete blackness and put her arms around him. He hugged her back.
Picard realized he was exhausted. "I hope you won't think it rude of me if I take a nap. It was just bedtime when the Doctor brought me here through time."
"Beverly's here too?"
"Uh, no - someone else."
"Oh. Well, all right. I could use forty winks myself."
"On one condition," Yar said.
"Condition?" Toranus didn't appear surprised.
"You were prepared to kill us all when I'd chosen to die. Fair's fair: If I've chosen to live, we all live." She motioned to the other prisoners, still in formation.
Toranus looked at her a long moment in the beam of his handlight - all the Romulans were carrying them, against the night - making up his mind, or trying to make her squirm, or both. Finally he nodded. "Load them into the shuttle," he ordered the petty officer, "all but the scientist."
"No!" Yar shouted. That was how Toranus would expect her to react, though Yar didn't actually know what was supposed to happen to Picard next. For that matter, Picard wasn't exactly clear in his mind on it either.
"Now my dear, I want my engineers to learn how he masks transporter beams, and what else he can tell them." Toranus' patience cracked just a little, and the man who had unconcernedly killed defenseless prisoners showed through. Yar quieted. "Your new position, as you must have realized, is not of a technical nature."
Abruptly Picard realized he had seen Romulans use the transporter trick he'd described to Toranus: two years before/twenty-two years from now, at Easter Station. If that was an element of the predestination paradox - if the Romulans had developed the methodology because a civilian engineer off the Enterprise-C had told them it was possible - then Picard had chosen the correct course through the minefield of this temporal paradox, at least as far as until his interview with Toranus.
Come to that, both Sela and twenty years' rumors had said that there were many prisoners taken at Narendra III. And Yar had just successfully negotiated for the lives of the others, without any coaching from Picard. This too suggested that Picard's interference here and now had ensured, rather than overwritten, the history he'd come from.
So he was able to give Yar a genuine smile as he said, "Don't worry about me, Tasha. You've already saved me, and all of us."
She smiled at him, and at his double meaning. "You have the soul of a poet."
"I've been told," he called after her as the guards began shoving her toward the personnel shuttle.
"'Saved' us from an honorable death!" complained a Klingon as the other prisoners were marched off. Several of the Klingons seemed to be trying to goad the guards into accomodating Klingon honor, but the guards had their orders. What finally happened to the other Enterprise-C officers Picard never knew, but he later learned from Worf that the Narendra survivors were sent to a secret mixed Romulan-Klingon colony, founded partially by survivors of the attack at Khitomer that had killed Worf's parents.
Through kindness or cruelty Toranus allowed Picard to watch the boarding until Yar was out of sight. Then he said to an aide, "Call for beamup."
"Not quite yet," came a soft voice from the darkness. Picard had been expecting it. The Doctor strolled into the Romulans' lightbeams.
"Doctor!" said Toranus, bowing and looking pleased. At least Picard's universal translator rendered the exclamation as "Doctor"; context making it obviously this being, known to the u.t. as Doctor, whom Toranus addressed. But Picard recognized the the actual Romulan title the general had uttered. It was their word meaning sorceror or wizard.
"I am General Toranus." The Romulan introduced himself as the Time Lord came to a halt in front of him and Picard. So they were not personally acquainted - yet Toranus had recognized the Doctor, and the Doctor had known he would. "Be pleased, Doctor. Today the Tradition of Dorek has made more new Romulan patriates than on any other single occasion in the two hundred years since you persuaded Dorek to it. Excepting only those occasions as you personally have been present, of course."
"Wonderful," said the Doctor. "I hope the record still stands without that one." He pointed at Picard.
"I don't understand," said Toranus with undisguised disingenuousness.
"He's with me," said the Doctor, his tone uncompromising almost to the point of threat.
Whatever hold the Doctor had over Toranus - over Romulans - was powerful. Liking it or not, the general instantly turned to Picard to dismiss him. "Scientist, you have friends in high places. Farewell." He bowed to the Doctor and nodded to his aide, and the officers beamed out quickly - making good their escape, Picard imagined, before the Doctor could demand any more tribute.
The Doctor ignited a lightbeam of his own as the sound of the shuttle's takeoff roared and then faded in the night. "Let's get out of here," he growled.
"'Scientist'?" the Doctor asked when they were again safe in the TARDIS.
"'Sorceror'?" asked Picard.
"'Alchemist' is a better rendition, actually," said the Doctor, hooking his umbrella on the coatstand and dropping his hat on the flat top of the console central column, "with its connotations of manipulating physical properties rather than exclusively supernatural ones. Romulans are brothers to Vulcans, you know."
Trying not to sound accusatory, Picard went on, "Doctor, Starfleet is unaware that you're on such good terms with the Romulans."
"Human ethnocentrism can still surprise me," chuckled the Doctor by way of dismissing the subject. "Well, did you learn what you came to learn?"
"Yes. Sela was right," said Picard, "though she misunderstood, or misspoke, or misled me on the detail. I didn't send Tasha onto the Enterprise-C as Sela said three months ago - but I sent her along with Toranus. Sela's existence is my responsibility."
"I did try to warn you," said the Doctor. Picard had long since identified this as the Time Lord idiomatic equivalent to I told you so. "Well, back to the Enterprise."
"No," said Picard.
That took the Doctor a moment to register before he looked up from his controls. "Pardon me?"
"According to Starfleet Intelligence, Sela's treason trial for her failed plan to invade Vulcan ought to have been going on at the same time as I boarded the TARDIS. That's where we're going now."
The Doctor reacted to Picard's announcement with less than aplomb. "I'm a Time Lord, not a taxi service!"
"And in your capacity as a Time Lord you warned me that I must accept the consequences of my responsibility," Picard reminded him. "That means acting on my responsibility, and I intend to act on it."
"You don't need the TARDIS to get you there -"
"Oh, but I do. To the Romulans I'm a high-ranking representative of an unfriendly power. There's no way to get to Romulus through proper channels before it's too late. Blasting my way there with the Enterprise is unacceptable and, even if it worked, still might not be fast enough.
"But with the TARDIS I can arrive at the precise time and place I need to, without any interference. And under the protection of 'the Alchemist', I daresay I can say my piece and leave without being locked up as an enemy of the state."
"And while we're on the subject of responsibility, surely the originator of the Tradition of Dorek has as much to do with this situation as I."
"But what do you hope to accomplish?"
"I intend to plead Sela's defense and clear her of treason," said Picard.
END OF CHAPTER THREE
To the story of the masked transporter beam incident at Easter Station
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