Chapter 4.
Mary Anne Smith was in her quarters when there was a peep from the intercom, signaling that there was to be a message.
'Aha, Big Brother is about to speak!' she thought, and said aloud, 'Speak, O Big Brother!'
'All personnel, this is an important message,' came the voice of Commander Riker. Mary Anne immediately became more attentive. 'As the Captain informed you, the Enterprise is to undertake a mission which will entail some danger. Consequently we will leave all families of crew at Starbase 44, and will take a minimum crew. It may be that we will be using a starfighter crew, of from ten to twenty personnel, and for that we would like volunteers specializing in combat, weapons maintenance, starfighter operation and astronomy. For reasons we will explain later, we would like to take a number of non-human personnel. Any persons wishing to volunteer for starfighter crew please report to room 411 in fifteen minutes. Riker out.'
'Well, that's me,' she mused. 'They picked out all my specialities.'
Mary Anne had joined Starfleet in the hope of adventure, so she quickly jumped to her feet, but as she had also joined in the vague hope of finding Mister Right, she stopped to check her appearance and brush her hair. A mission in a small crew with the delectable Commander Riker! She whistled cheerfully as she strode down the corridor to the turbolift.
In Engineering, acting Ensign Glock looked up at the speaker where the message was coming from. He glanced at Commander La Forge.
'Excuse me, Commander La Forge,' he said, 'do you think I should volunteer for that?'
'Well, it's up to you, Glock,' answered Geordi. 'You're only on the ship as a sort of work experience from the Academy, but it's the sort of thing you'd be facing when you graduate.'
Glock swelled inwardly a little at the word 'when'. As a Ferengi, not a member of the Federation by race, he had been surprised to be accepted, along with a few comrades. He found himself more surprised each time he passed a barrier, and Geordi's simple use of the word gave him heart.
The Ferengi found the customs of Starfleet confusing, and they found him confusing at times. But they were used to having to accept unaccustomed behaviour, and he had been impressed by their willingness to pass over his constant social gaffes. But then, his mission was to learn about other peoples. He had struggled a bit in Engineering. His poor sight was a disadvantage, and his acute hearing not particularly useful, but this was all part of learning about all aspects of starship life. Later in his course, he would decide in what area to specialise.
'It would be interesting,' he said after some thought. 'As for the danger, a lot of people think we Ferengi are cowardly because we weigh up the profitability of our actions all the time. But we would never have got where we are if we were cowards. From that point of view it would be good public relations. And I am non-human, which makes me valuable for some reason. And I joined Starfleet to experience new things. I think I'll go.'
'You can volunteer,' said Geordi, 'but they decide if you go. I'll be going, so I'll put in a word if I think the job suits you.'
Ensign Arrg sat quietly in his room. He had quickly given up spending time in Ten Forward. It was more comfortable to be alone in your room. He had brought a holodeck program which would simulate home, but was resolved not to use it unless he became unbearably lonely. Some few besides Guinan had tried to be friendly, but were put off by his manner. He could not help it, and he was painfully shy.
This mission intrigued him. If they went in the starfighter he would be thrown in close proximity with a small group. Hope sprang eternal that it would bring him some friends, although he had managed to avoid it every opportunity so far. The thought of some possible danger thrilled him. His people were not used to actually being in danger, and he did not deeply consider the possibility that he might have to use a weapon against someone. He was also definitely non-human, and this gave him a chance of being selected. He had a history of not being selected for small groups.
At Room 411 there was a gathering of about thirty. Since virtually everyone aboard had the same aspirations for adventure, all those qualified were there. She noted that there were not very many non-humans. The Enterprise tended to be human-run. Most starships tended to be predominantly one race.
At this stage all that was happening was the taking of names. She found herself lined up between Ensign Mendon, a Benzite who always had to wear a special breathing apparatus, and a dark human.
'Hi, I'm Mary Anne,' she said to them. 'I'm mainly a biologist, but I'm qualified in the things they want too. Isn't it exciting? I wonder what the mission is?'
'I'm Malcolm,' said the human. 'I'm in Engineering. Mister La Forge hinted we might be trespassing in Romulan territory, so it could be a bit dangerous.'
'The Neutral Zone?' she queried. 'What about the treaty?'
'I don't know,' he said. 'If we get selected, I suppose they'll tell us more.'
She noticed Ensign Arrg in the line, within a large space as usual, and thought, 'Whew! I hope we're not working together!'
Once they had registered they sat in rows, and when all were finished, Commander Riker addressed them. He was the only senior officer present.
'Not all of you will be going,' he said, 'but I'll let you know something of what's happening. First, some personnel will be chosen because we need them, and they know already, the medical staff, chief engineer and so on, but we will need a few more. I need to warn you that we are going into the Neutral Zone, which is Romulan territory.
'We think - I emphasize, think - that the Romulan leaders are prepared to look aside as we go, but if we are wrong, and they do confront us, it might be a case of self-destruct. That is a pretty fearful scenario, so if you don't like that idea, take your name off the list.'
'Excuse me, Commander,' asked one of the crew, 'but would that mean we would blow ourselves up?'
'We'd abandon the ship, and destroy it,' said Riker. 'Some of those with sensitive knowledge might stay with it. Getting captured by the Romulans may not be much better than being killed!'
There was some discussion, and a few humans with families aboard withdrew their names. They were reluctant to do so, not only because they were intrigued by the mission, but because they felt that to withdraw after volunteering might be a bad mark on their record. Riker could see their thinking, and said, 'No record will be kept of those who decide not to go. It will be as if you never volunteered.'
The group temporarily went off, while Riker took the list off to confer with the senior staff who would be going.
An hour later, those who had been chosen were re-convened. As Mary Anne entered the room she bumped into a crew member just leaving, and dropped the book she had been carrying. Malcolm, who was just behind her, picked it up for her.
'A hard copy book!' he said. 'These are pretty rare now. You must treasure it. It's a Romance, isn't it?'
Mary Anne snatched it back, her face scarlet. 'Thank you,' she said.
'They have a pretty long history,' he said, 'for a line of books that all have the same plot!'
'They're not all the same!' she said indignantly. 'They take place in all different time periods.'
'Why do you like them?' he persisted, more for the sake of continuing the conversation. 'The heroine is always a helpless virgin, who meets this terrible rake and reforms him. It doesn't happen, you know.'
'You seem to know a lot about Romance novels,' she said haughtily.
'I have four sisters,' he said with a smile. 'I know all about them. The hero has to appear early, and so on.'
'He's supposed to appear on page two or three,' she agreed with a grin.
Like most briefing rooms, Room 411 was rather austere. It was small, and the furnishings consisted of a small table, around which a group could sit, and small chairs designed to fit under the table rather than to be comfortable. There was a short straight section for the group leader to occupy, and spread out papers if necessary, but the rest of the table was elliptical, so that the group could sit around it with no feelings of 'pecking order.' A small screen was framed into the wall. The small group sat quietly, still not sure why they had been gathered together.
'I have gathered you here for a pre-mission briefing,' Commander Riker said, sitting in the appropriate place as he spoke.
He glanced around the table. Apart from himself, Beverley Crusher and Deanna Troi, the other humans were Geordi La Forge, Malcolm French, and Mary Anne Smith. As well, there were Data, Worf, Lieutenant Selar, Glock, a Ferengi fresh from Starfleet Academy, Gr'h Arrg, the Tarkassian, and Ensign Mendon, a Benzite. Mary Anne Smith had taken a seat next to Arrg, he noticed with approval. Arrg looked displeased, but Guinan had explained that Tarkassians had no way to look pleased that we could recognize.
'We have made an attempt to include a number of crew with no human background,' he added. 'I'll explain why in a moment. The mission will be to go through a wormhole, if it is too small for the whole Enterprise, and possibly try to stop an attempt to destroy earth.'
'Possibly, Commander?' asked Ensign Mendon. 'If there's an attempt, we should certainly stop it!'
'I meant possibly in the sense that there may not be such an attempt. There is a rumor that an attempt is being made, Ensign,' replied Riker. 'It doesn't seem all that likely, but we can't take the chance that the rumor is false. I'll explain further later, but the essential thing is that we are going into the past. If they do succeed in destroying the earth in the past then all of us who are human, or part human, would cease to exist. Those of you with no human background might be left to take over the ship. Perhaps to try to undo the damage somehow, or perhaps just to avenge us.'
Mary Anne felt a shiver. Dying was all very well, if you had a religious belief, and perhaps if you didn't. But never to have existed? Beside her, Malcolm noticed that she was wearing a subtle perfume which she had not worn before. Wearing a perfume for a briefing? He noticed then how she was giving all her attention to Commander Riker, and he smiled to himself.
' 'They' is pretty vague, Commander,' said Malcolm. 'Who are 'they'?'
'Renegade Romulans, Ensign,' replied Riker. 'And we're going into Romulan territory to stop them, if necessary.'
'So the first problem is surviving a trip through Romulan territory!' exclaimed Ensign Mendon.
'That may not be a problem,' said Riker. 'The Romulans may be happy for us to solve the problem.'
'If you cease to exist,' observed Selar, who had been considering the problem, 'we may have no memory of you. This might make our presence in the past somewhat puzzling. Perhaps we would see the wormhole and decide to pass through it, so returning to our own time.'
'The Romulans would still be there in the past,' said Riker, a little unsettled by her calm acceptance of such a possibility. 'Maybe you would end up having a battle with them. They would probably attack.'
'If our memory had gone, we might not know there is a wormhole to return through,' speculated Ensign Arrg. His voice had a menacing ring to it that made the others cringe a little. 'We would simply be, and not know why.'
'Which is how we always are,' remarked Ensign Mendon philosophically.
Deanna said nothing. It was an intriguing prospect, of finding themselves in an unknown place and time, with no idea why they were there. She of course, would not be there, since she was half human, but the idea was like something from a holonovel, where amnesia was a continually used plot device. She felt it curious that nobody present seemed to be alarmed. Perhaps nobody regarded the probability of discorporation seriously. Was there a better word than 'discorporation' for ceasing to have ever existed?
'It opens up the prospect of a number of temporal anomalies,' observed Data. 'If the humans on the trip disappeared, or ceased to have existed - and that would include myself since I am of human construction - would the mission itself ever have taken place?'
'So we might not be there at all?' mused Glock. 'I might be at home and never heard of Starfleet, or replicators.'
'Replicators?' echoed Beverley. 'Are they such a big thing?'
'Do you know what replicators have done to the Ferengi economy?' groaned Glock. 'Everything becomes recyclable. Only things with rare atoms remain valuable, when a replicator can rearrange atoms and molecules any way you like.'
'Back into the past,' mused Malcolm French. 'What an opportunity for research!'
'Forgive the thoughts of a stranger to your race, Commander,' said Glock, 'but is it easy to destroy a planet?'
'I can't take the prospect all that seriously myself,' admitted Riker, 'but that's what we are going to investigate. If the threat proves non-existent, or if we neutralize it, there might be some chance of looking around afterwards. Don't forget, it's a wormhole. There is always the possibility that it will suddenly cease to exist, and we'll be stranded there.'
Glock shuddered at the thought. Alone in the universe without another Ferengi! He internally gritted his teeth, and resolved to be brave.
Mary Anne had not asked any questions, but was intrigued by all the speculation. This was her first important mission, if it did turn out important. But the prospect of a trip to the past was irresistible, apart from the chance to study a wormhole! And of course to be proximate to the dashing Commander Riker!
'In any case,' added Riker, 'this is all predicated on our having to use the Starfighter. If the whole Enterprise goes through, there will be a lot more of us. Specifically, on the starfighter, your assignments will be Counselor Troi on the bridge, to help in negotiations, if any, Commander Data at the helm, Lieutenant Commander Worf in charge of weaponry and sensors, Doctor Crusher and Lieutenant Selar in sickbay, Commander La Forge and Ensign French in engineering, Ensign Glock on photon torpedo alert, as well as transporters, tractor beams and so on, and Ensigns Smith, Mendon and Arrg on phasers. The Ensigns will be rostered on duties such as meals, and all of you were selected because you had interests in astronomical surveying, biology and so on. I hope that the whole Enterprise can go on the mission, but if not we'll meet again in hangar six. You'll be called.'
As they were leaving, he added, 'If it turns out that the mission is a dud, we will still stay as long as seems safe, and we'll use your skills to have a look at the planets and stars of the past. We could be a while, so bring along something to pass the time, holonovels, cards, holodeck programs, and so on. I hope some of you are poker players.'
When the others left Glock went with Malcolm French towards the Engineering area. French spoke to him.
'We haven't met but I've seen you about,' he said. 'We always seem to be on different shifts. I'm Malcolm. I gather we might be together in the weapons and engineering department.'
'I'm Glock,' he answered. 'I can't say I'm enthusiastic about this expedition, but I felt that volunteering for it would help me to advance in Starfleet.'
'I don't think they'd hold it against you if you knocked it back,' said Malcolm. 'The chance of being lost in the past would be more disturbing if you were the only one of your race. For me, if we were stranded, I'd be able to go to earth, and spend my days alone in Australia. Being a part of the land would be enough for me.'
'What is Australia?' asked Glock.
'It's a continent on earth. It's where my people came from,' answered Malcolm.
'But could you go there?' asked Glock. 'You might cause some temporal aberration.'
'I shouldn't,' admitted Malcolm. 'This is all a bit remote, of course, but I'd just have to not interact with other people. The wild man of the bush. If we do get stuck in the past, I suppose we'd have to make some change to history somehow. A stray starfighter would have to be noticed eventually.'
'Yes, but you'd be close to home,' nodded Glock. 'Not me.'
'You're the first Ferengi I've seen in Starfleet,' remarked Malcolm. 'Doesn't that make you feel a bit lonely?'
'I do miss Ferengi company,' he admitted, 'but a few of us started in Starfleet together. The Ferengi are basically businessmen, you know?'
'I've heard,' replied Malcolm with a grin.
'Other races tend to despise us a bit because of our commitment to business and profit,' said Glock. 'It's quite unfair. We have a very successful empire, if I may call it that, and it is based on very strong principles of honor.'
'The Rules of Acquisition,' nodded Malcolm.
'Ah, you are familiar with them!' said Glock with pleasure. 'They have an unnecessarily negative reputation. Anyone with whom we trade is welcome to peruse and learn the Rules, and then they will be on an equal footing. Is it our fault if noone does?'
'Of course not!' agreed Malcolm cheerfully. 'Although rumor has it that they are not actually in print, only in the heads of the Ferengi.'
'But any Ferengi would be willing to write them out, for the right price!'
Riker, who had just come into the room, listened in amusement.
'How much per rule?' he asked suddenly, and the two swung around.
'I didn't see you come in, Commander,' said Malcolm.
'I was looking for Geordi,' replied Riker.
'Well,' said Glock, 'in this case I would pass some along for free. My benefit would be in currying favor. Not all transactions have to be in latinum.'
'That seems somewhat unsubtle,' remarked Riker.
'Ah!' said Glock, 'So currying favor is something that tends to be done subtly in hu-man society! I learn something already.'
'You didn't know that?' asked Riker.
'No,' said Glock. 'In Ferengi society it is understood that you get nothing for nothing. Any gift is expected to be paid for, and the most obvious way is in favor.'
'Well, if you go giving presents to your shipmates,' said Malcolm, 'all you'll get is a thank you. Buying friendships is something most humans grow out of in the first year of school!'
'And that is why we decided that some of us should join Starfleet,' said Glock. 'One of the rules is, Know how to think like your client. By joining Starfleet we can learn more about the hu-mans and Vul-cans and other races, and so trade with them more effectively.'
'So your joining Starfleet is basically to learn something about us,' said Malcolm.
'Don't misunderstand me,' said Glock. 'We are an honorable people. Joining Starfleet means embracing all of its ideals and living them. That's another rule: A deal is a deal. While I am a Starfleet officer I will be doing my best to be the best damn officer in it!'
'Couldn't ask more than that,' agreed Malcolm, offering his hand, and shaking that of Glock.
'Thank you,' said Glock. 'It is hard at times. I've been on the ship six months, and I haven't asked a female to take off her clothes yet! But the most stressful thing is playing poker with the other crew.'
Malcolm forebore to ask him why.

As the Enterprise flew through the empty ranges of the Neutral Zone and Romulan space, they anxiously scanned for Warbirds or science vessels. Worf suddenly exclaimed, and watched his console carefully. The long-range scanners had detected the signature of a Romulan ship, but it had faded and left, not just abruptly disappearing.
'They may have detected us, sir,' said Worf. 'Shall I go to yellow alert?'
'No, Commander,' replied Picard. 'If they had seen us they would have cloaked. The fact that their signal faded slowly indicates they have left.'
'They may have seen us, but are going to ignore us,' said Riker. 'Either way, it looks like we can proceed unhindered.'
'We are being hailed, sir,' interrupted Lieutenant Commander Worf suddenly. 'It is a voice communication.'
'Let's hear it, Commander,' said Picard.
The voice of a Romulan echoed in an unnatural cheery greeting. 'Enterprise, how pleasant to see you visiting us. Have a good trip. I'm sure all will go well, Commander Riker. Don't worry, be happy. A member of the Romulan High Council wishes you well. No need to reply.'
There was a moment of astonished silence on the bridge. Picard broke it.
'Were we scanned, Mister La Forge?'
'If they did, we didn't detect it,' came the voice of Geordi La Forge.
'That's odd,' frowned Picard, 'it must be someone who knows us pretty well. What was that, don't worry, be happy?'
'It's the name of an old song from the late twentieth century,' said Will Riker, bemused. 'I almost recognise the voice. It's that Tribune I had a confrontation with a while ago, I think. He must be guessing I'm aboard.'
'Well, obviously the Romulans are not going to hinder us,' said Picard doubtfully. 'Let us proceed.'
The Enterprise had traveled at warp one, enough to cover enormous distances, but not too fast to be able to watch for stray vessels around them. Now they accelerated up to warp six. The entry into empty space was an interesting experience in a way. Most of their travel was inside stellar space, and at warp speed a flow of stars past the windows made streaks. Here the stars were so far off they were barely moving. It had the added advantage that any foreign vessel - well, they were the foreign vessel here - any Romulan vessel would stand out easily.
Most aboard had little actual experience of a normal wormhole, but they knew much of the theory. They stared with interest through the windows of Ten Forward and other places at the area in space which contained it, impressed that it was there, huge, and they could not see it. There was some analogy with the coral reefs that ancient ships encountered under earth's seas, to those with mariners in their ancestry.
The computer simulation of its appearance derived from high energy radiation showed on the viewscreen, but nobody on the bridge had gazed at it too long. To them, after the analysis of its size and stability, it was simply a door. The question, of course, was it a safe door?.
'The Enterprise would not fit through,' said Data, after examining the instruments briefly. 'The wormhole is too small. However the starfighter would fit through comfortably.'
'What is the status of the wormhole at this time, Data?'
'Our measurements indicate that it is likely to exist for many days yet, perhaps weeks, but it is starting slightly to spin. We can determine its likelihood of continuing to exist by a measure of eccentricity in its precession. In this case...'
'Thank you, Data,' said Picard, 'but the details of the matter are not necessary at the moment. Some days should be adequate to determine if there is a problem, and deal with it if so. Commander Riker convene your team on Hangar Six.'
Before they left he had a final word with Riker.
'Will, I know I don't have to say this, but I will. You will have to take whatever action seems appropriate, and since we have no idea of the threat I can't offer much advice. But apparently you are going to be in the vicinity of earth in past times.
'Whatever you do, stay away from earth itself. Resist all temptation to actually have a look at earth in the past. If possible, I suggest you stay as far away as possible, but we know nothing of the circumstances. You could possibly orbit from a discreet distance, but any contact with people could have a disastrous effect on history.'
'That's assuming we still have a history,' said Will, hoping he was joking.
'More important, do we have a future?' said Picard. 'We need to take no chances, even though the whole thing seems tenuous.'
The starfighter had been prepared for combat. It was not particularly small, though compact, and had highly specialised equipment. Its shields were first-class, and it was capable of firing in any direction. As a combat vessel, it had extensive medical facilities, and recuperation areas. In this case it was also prepared for lengthy travel. It was capable of accommodating anywhere up to twenty people, but could be operated by as few as four.
Picard had told Riker, 'Will, I'm not going to stay here once you have gone. If your mission is successful, set out back to the starbase, and we'll wait for you there. There is no point in inviting an incident, as would happen if the Romulans turned up. I don't really expect this mission to involve much, but who knows. The starfighter is fitted out with some recreational material for the journey back afterwards. If nothing else, your team can take some photographic and other records of earth in the past, and the other planets.'
In the starfighter Riker briefly addressed the group.
'We are all going on the mission,' he said. 'It might be a good idea to quickly get to know each other if you haven't met before. All of you should know me by now, and you may know Counselor Troi, Commander Data, Commander La Forge, Lieutenant Worf, and Doctor Crusher.
'You may not know Lieutenant Selar,' he added. 'She will be part of the medical team with Doctor Crusher. By the way, if I don't pronounce your name right, let me know. Ensign French will be in Engineering with Mister La Forge, and they will basically be responsible for mending anything that does not work as well. Ensign Glock will be responsible for photon torpedo maintenance as well as manning them in battle. Ensign Arrg..'
He broke off as a deep-throated snarl emerged from Arrg's throat, and his fangs showed as his lip curled. The sound made everyone's flesh crawl. Some shivered irresistibly.
What did I say? he thought. Is he going to attack me? Everyone looked at Arrg, while drawing back a little.
'What's the problem, Ensign?' he asked, drawing himself together.
'You said to let you know if you mispronounced our names,' said Arrg, wishing he could curl up in embarrassment. None of this showed in his demeanour. 'That's my name.' He repeated the growl. Their skins crawled again. 'But it's all right if you call me Arrg. I don't mind at all.'
He stopped in confusion. To the others he appeared to be glaring about in challenge.
'Oh,' said Riker, after a moment. 'Oh, well, I think I'll stick to Ensign Arrg. I don't think I could quite manage your real name. Um, Ensign... Arrg, Ensign Smith and Ensign Mendon will be similarly responsible for a photon torpedo launcher each. The Ensigns will also be rostered for kitchen and cleaning duties, as I said. For now, I suggest you go to your positions and become familiar with them. The orientation of this ship may take a bit of getting used to, especially until we get into a place where it can have its own gravity.
'You all know your jobs. I have no idea what it's like to go through a wormhole, but be prepared for some disorientation. When we sight the enemy, treat this as a combat situation. Be ready to obey every order instantly. If you are asked a question, answer briefly and succintly. If you can manage that, Data,' he finished with a grin.
'Certainly, Commander,' answered Data in surprise. 'I am quite capable of brevity in an answer should the situation require it. I have a great capacity for condensation of information into a nutshell, as the expression has it. Precise will be my watchword during this mission.'
'Right,' said Riker, smiling. 'I'm insulting you all by going through this. You all know your routines. Let's go.'
The group spread out. They had had a fairly brief familiarization with the new vessel, and each was curious and excited at the chance to learn something. Mary Anne slid into her seat and fingered the controls of the phasers. They seemed normal in their configuration. She uttered a few 'Pow! Pow!s' as she pretended to fire.
Ensign Mendon sat in his chair and simply looked. He had studied this new design already, and knew where everything was. He felt no need to finger everything.
Ensign Arrg moved into his turret, and spread himself around. This was going to be his home, he felt, so he would move in. He knew his presence would disturb the others, so he intended to keep to himself as much as possible. On a ship this size the only way to do that was to stay in your 'office.'
He carefully took out a large phial which looked fragile, but was actually almost indestructible. He put it next to the door on a shelf, ready for him to refill the smaller phial in his pocket whenever he left. He turned his attention to the phasers. He shared Riker's worry. Would he really be able to fire a weapon in combat? He was the first to break away from Tarkassia to try his luck in the larger world. It turned out that this was where his abilities supposedly lay, so he must succeed!
Riker, Data and Deanna were the only ones in the small control room -hardly a bridge - as the doors rolled open, and the atmosphere was drawn in by invisible force fields. The fighter rose from the hanger and soared towards the wormhole. Its shields were on full, as Data endeavoured to stay exactly at the invisible center.
The crew experienced for the first time the unsettling feeling of timelessness as they traveled for an uncertain time. As the Romulans had done previously, Data noted the fact that no passage of time had registered on either the ship's or his own chronometer. He felt no passage of time, but the others had that curious idea that they had been traveling for months, but arrived as they had started. No beards had grown, they were not tired.
Once out into real space again, all the humans were able to identify the familiar star configurations, and Data soon traced the position of the earth's solar system. They moved towards it at warp speed, and dropped back to impulse when they neared it.
'Let's scan for ion emissions,' said Riker. 'They may be cloaked, but they can't hide completely.'
'It is particularly easy to scan here, Commander,' said Data, after he and Geordi had spent some time over their respective instruments. 'There has not been recent space travel in this area. There is no trace of any ion emissions whatsoever. The Romulans are not in this area.'
'That's odd,' said Riker. 'The Vulcans were around quite a while ago. They should have left some trace.'
'By recent, I meant within a month or so, commander,' replied Data. 'The Vulcans would not necessarily have spent long periods in space.'
Riker considered. 'It's a relief that no problem exists. We could go straight back, but now that we're here let's gather some information. We'll work our way in. We won't go too close to earth, though.'
This sensible idea was received neutrally by the non-humans, but all the humans and part-humans longed to get close and have a look.
The ship cruised slowly through the outer reaches of the solar system, taking photographs and records of the outer planets, and spent a part of a day pottering around in this way. Mary Anne spent most of her time excitedly scanning the surfaces of the planets, and comparing them with the files. She also took readings of the sun, as she had an interest in astrophysics. She longed to step out on Earth when they got near, but realized it was impossible.
She knew Malcolm felt the same, and they talked over their meal about what earth might be like. They were slowly working their way inwards, and were nearing Mars.
'I can't wait to see it,' she said. 'Will it be before or after they nearly killed it with pollution? If we could get some information on it at that time it would be historically invaluable.'
'I'd like to see Australia,' he said. 'While it still had towns all over it.'
Will Riker entered the room at that moment, and her gaze drifted to him. She lost the thread of the conversation.
'You're not really fancying him, are you?' asked Malcolm. 'He has a bit of a reputation as a ladies' man. I guess he does fit the profile from your novels.'
'That's ridiculous!' she gasped, reddening. 'I just looked because he... came in. He means nothing to me.'
'Just as well,' he said. 'This idea that a rake will change his spots when he gets married is nonsense. If a man fools around before he's married, he'll fool around after.'
'How dare you call Commander Riker a rake!' she said hotly. 'He's a gentleman.'
'Just a bit of hyperbole,' said Malcolm with an embarrassed grin. 'But I think you might be competing with Counselor Troi. I think there might be something between them.'
Mary Anne fell silent, and changed the topic.
Great, thought Malcolm. About the first time you've spoken more than a sentence to a pretty girl, and you've convinced her you're a drongo.

On her way to check out her turret (and retrieve her book) Mary-Anne noticed Arrg's door was still shut. She decided to bite the bullet and try to socialize. She knocked.
Arrg nearly fell off his chair in surprise at having a visitor. He looked more ferocious than ever as he opened the door, but Commander Riker had warned them about his demeanour.
'Hi,' she said, 'I just thought I'd drop in and be sociable. I noticed you've pretty much stayed in here. Just tell me if you want me to go away.'
'No,' he said hastily, 'no! Stay! I felt my presence might.. disturb people, so I've stayed here.'
'You can't stay here all trip,' said Mary Anne. 'We know you have an.. unusual behaviour pattern. We'll adjust to it.'
Arrg was pitifully grateful. He showed it by rolling his eyes and curving his face into a terrifying appearance. In spite of knowing he was harmless, Mary Anne had to steel herself to smile at him. They exchanged a few words of gossip, and she turned to continue on her way. The phial caught her eye.
'What a lovely phial!' she said. 'May I open it?'
Arrg was not too keen, but he was desperate to oblige, so he said yes. She opened it, and exclaimed, 'It's perfume! It's beautiful! Could I have a little bit?'
'Well, I could spare a bit,' said Arrg. 'I brought a lot.' Mary Anne got a small perfume bottle from her room, which she had managed to empty since first meeting Commander Riker. She refilled it.
'Why do you have this?' she asked curiously. 'You don't wear perfume. We'd have noticed.'
'Actually, it's an anti-pheromone,' he said. 'I need to wear it. I sort of cancel it out, so you don't notice it.'
'Oh, that's interesting,' she said, wondering what he meant. 'Anyway, I'm expecting you to be with us for dinner, instead of hiding away in here!'
'Yes, ma'am,' he said, and she smiled to herself as she left, thinking, At least you get to be a surrogate mother.

'Commander,' said Data suddenly over the intercom, 'there is an ion trail. A ship has come through the wormhole in the last day or so.'
'Don't tell me we got here before them!' exclaimed Riker, after he had moved quickly the short distance to the bridge.
Data thought to himself, I was not going to do so, as it seemed self-evident.
'Let's find them!' said Riker.

Chapter 5, or home page.