Chapter 2.
Long fairways lined with large and beautiful trees could be seen from the clubhouse of one of earth's foremost courses. In some cases those who compiled holodeck programs put together composite courses, so that one might play on eighteen superb holes from eighteen of the greatest courses recorded, but whoever had compiled this one had opted for a simple recording of one great course. Just like, thought Captain Picard, the earliest Greek dramatists had written plays which were a continuous flow of time, a unity.
He had not tried them, but the composite courses, as he instinctively felt, were somewhat unsettling. If you crossed fairways you would find yourself on a part of the course which you would never come across later, and your subconscious would tell you after a while that something was awry. Sensitive people could get something akin to seasickness. You might be within sight of the sea at one time, yet another hole would have a desert ambience. Still, some people liked that sort of thing. The program belonged to Doctor Crusher, who did not.
Once the Enterprise was on its way the Captain had some free time until the arrival at Starbase 44. The holodeck was a good place to unwind after the tensions of setting out on a new journey. Golf was a pleasure he had tried very infrequently, but it was fun to explore these programs in good company. Data had expressed an interest when he and two others had decided to try the program.
The program came with its own golf professionals, and Data had listened impassively as an instructor had shown him how to play. When the construct had offered to hold his arm to guide him, he had replied, 'That is unnecessary. I will emulate what you show me.' The instructor had then quickly run through the grip, basic strokes and various clubs. Data thanked him, and said, 'I am ready to begin.'
He now stood with Picard, Will Riker and Counselor Deanna Troi. All were dressed in 'period' golf clothes which Picard had found by computer search, from a magazine called 'Punch', and had had created by the replicators. The drawings had been nicely colored in by pastel. They were starlingly loud, but Picard assured the others they were authentic.
'Some of the old-timers really went in for bright clothes, didn't they?' asked Riker.
'Yes,' agreed Deanna. 'I really enjoy the seventeenth century dresses. All bustles and crinolines.'
'But not too good for golf,' said Riker. 'These trousers are strange.'
'Called plus-fours,' said Picard. 'They were four inches too long, so they could be tucked into the socks, and kept out of the mud.'
Deanna was dressed the same as the men, since Picard had not found a drawing of female clothing, and assumed it was the same. His love of archaeology and history did not cover this period well. He liked the really old days.
'I shall access the rules of golf,' said Data.
'Don't bother, Data,' said Riker hurriedly. He did not know the rules well, and Data was sure to pull everyone up on every little rule if he knew them. 'The idea is to try to get the ball in the hole on the green in par. Each hole has a par value. It's four on this one.'
'Very simple,' acknowledged Data. 'The best games often have very simple rules.'
They wandered down from the clubhouse. Picard had been talking, as usual, about archaeology, and the others, as usual, had politely failed to listen. They had found that the occasional 'My goodness!' or 'Oh, really?' sufficed to keep Jean-Luc enthusiastic, while they concentrated on whatever they were doing, in this case, playing golf.
'You know so much about so many planets, captain,' said Deanna. 'I suppose the archaeology of earth is old hat to you?'
'Not at all,' said Picard, swinging inexpertly at his drive. It bounced a few times and stopped just short of the mown fairway, in light rough. 'There are so many earth legends whose basis is unknown. Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle and so on. But earth has been comprehensively studied, so these are unlikely to become any clearer. In the twenty second century we were able to survey all of the earth's surface, below as well as above sea, so no mysteries of that sort remain. We have done all of our physical tests of the surface. But on other planets so many mysteries remain.'
'So nobody knows why the legend of Atlantis or the Bermuda Triangle began?' said Riker with half interest, more to make conversation.
'Oh, theories are easy,' replied Picard. 'An anomalous number of ships and aircraft went missing in an area, so it became a mystery region. There were many possible rational or statistical reasons possible. In the case of Atlantis, a number of civilisations are known to have vanished suddenly, probably from natural cataclysms. One of these probably gave rise to the legend.'
Data watched the first three hit their tee shots.
'What was your strategy in projecting your ball into that group of trees, Commander?' he asked Riker. 'I understood that the aim of the game was to project the ball into the hole on the green, in regulation, or par, figures. As par on this hole is four you will find that difficult to achieve now.'
'Play your ball, Data,' said Riker, with a forced smile. 'I will explain my strategy later. It is illegal for me to discuss my manner of play with you during the game.'
'Very well,' Data replied. 'An appropriate distance for my first shot would seem to be two hundred and ninety metres, and then a second stroke of two hundred and forty six metres should leave me at an appropriate distance to take two putts.'
He struck the ball two hundred and ninety metres.
After Riker had dropped his ball out of the rough and played short of the green, and the others had hit their second shots, Data struck his second shot two hundred and forty six metres. When they had all reached the green he carefully two-putted from ten centimetres distance.
'Data, I don't think you quite have the concept of this game,' said Deanna. 'The idea is to sink the ball in the least possible number of shots, not necessarily exactly par.'
'Ah,' said Data brightly, 'I wondered why Captain Picard had taken seven strokes, Commander Riker eight, and yourself nine. Is it permissible to have one's tee shot go straight in the hole, thus achieving the aim in one stroke?'
'I think we are going to regret introducing Mr Data to this game,' said Captain Picard, after Data's tee shot on the next hole landed squarely in the hole three hundred and forty metres away. Fortunately at that stage the captain was summoned on his communicator.
'Picard here,' he said.
'Captain, there is a message for you from Starfleet,' said Lieutenant Commander Worf.
'I'll take it in my ready room,' he replied. 'I'm sorry, everyone,' he said to the others, 'but I will have to miss the rest of this game. please continue without me.'
He called up a door, and left the holodeck. The door faded again, and the remaining three players prepared to continue.
'Data,' said Riker, as they arrived at the green, after an embarrassing number of strokes, 'the essence of golf is chance. No matter how good the player, there is a chance that some random effect will divert the ball. A gust of wind, a fallen branch. Computer, program change, authorisation Riker. After the player has hit his stroke, introduce random changes to the conditions of play.'
After a moment's thought he added, 'Make the random changes greater after the best player has hit.'
Query, said the voice of the computer. How is the parameter, Best Player, defined?
'The best player is Commander Data,' replied Riker.
'Why, thank you, Commander,' said Data. 'That should not be true, as this is my first lesson. I shall play less well.'
'Not necessary, Commander,' replied Riker cheerfully, and lined up his tee shot. As his ball traveled through the air the breeze changed direction slightly, the contours of the ground altered slightly, and his ball rolled under a bush which appeared out of nowhere. His cheerful demeanour changed to a scowl.
Deanna hit, and her shot traveled straight, but not very far, and rolled into a bunker which suddenly moved a metre sideways.
She gritted her teeth, and said, 'Computer. Program change. Authorisation Troi. The introduction of random changes shall only occur after a player's first stroke has exceeded one hundred and twenty metres.'
Data teed up his ball and struck it. It headed straight for the green, but a violent squall suddenly blew up, and torrential rain fell, drenching them all. As the ball would have reached the green the hole suddenly changed from front left to back right. In fact it did not, the sudden wind shortening its trajectory, so that it fell short, and in the rough.
Water dripping from his head, Data observed, 'What an interesting game! I had thought it a game of skill, but it is equally a game of chance. It does seem curious to completely change the conditions of play after play has begun. It seems curious also that the changes in conditions are greater for the better player.'
'It is called handicapping, Data,' said Riker. 'I believe it was introduced almost as soon as the game was invented early in the twenty first century.'
'Yes, there is a reference to handicapping in the rules,' agreed Data, quickly finding the relevant file and doing a word-search. 'It seemed to be a numerical thing, but as usual these things are easier to understand when one is given a practical example.'
'Handicapping has evolved since the rules were written down,' said Riker with a smile, as he brushed the water from his brow. 'Computer, save changed program as a separate program, for use by Commander Data - and of course ourselves. Name Data Golf game 1. Doctor Crusher might not appreciate us changing her original program,' he added to Data.
'I will remember to use the version which has my name,' agreed Data.
'Shall we continue?' asked Deanna. 'This hole looks interesting. We have to hit the ball across a small bay. Luckily the holodeck can produce an infinite number of balls.'
'One will do,' said Riker optimistically, and unprophetically.
In the meantime, Picard had reached his room, and still dressed for golf, activated his personal display. The features of Admiral Beaufort appeared.
'What can I do for you, Admiral,' asked Picard.
'Something curious has come up,' said the Admiral hesitantly. 'Have you heard of Ambassador Spock?'
'Certainly,' answered Picard. 'In fact we have met.'
'You are aware that Ambassador Spock has gone to ground on Romulus, in an attempt to teach his - disciples - Vulcan ways?'
'Yes,' agreed Picard. 'My encounter with him was in fact on Romulus, an adventure not without interest, as he might say. Go on.'
'Spock has heard of an attempt by a band of renegade Romulans to... well, he says to wipe out the human race.'
Picard was all attention.
'From anyone but a Vulcan ambassador, one might take this as a joke,' he replied, 'but Spock would not say something like that lightly. But, wipe out the human race? We are spread over a large sector of the galaxy. We are even beginning to evolve differently on some planets! How could it be done?'
'Apparently the Romulans have discovered a wormhole in their territory which goes through time as well as space. Spock does not know details, but it appears to be some time before earth had space defences.
'The discovery of the wormhole was disseminated throughout the elite ranks of the Romulans, and some star charts published.
'The Romulans do have a sense of honor, even though they are basically a bunch of psychopaths - this is a secure line, I hope - and the idea of wiping out a race is abhorrent to most, but apparently a small group with a hate for humanity have taken off and run through the wormhole. Presumably they are from the group with access to details about what was found there.'
'My experience with the Romulans has not led me to believe they are that bad,' said Picard, mildly amused by the Admiral's apparent prejudice, which would never be allowed to influence his behaviour, and probably was only a bit of hyperbole. 'But you believe this group may, in fact, be psychopaths?'
'Yes,' said the Admiral. 'Or presumably, the Romulan High Command thinks so. I suspect that they have let the information leak out. I suspect the leak to the underground may have come from the highest levels. Even the High Command would not want Romulus associated with such a deed.
'Strangely, the conspirators seem to have only a small ship. Romulan security is quite good, and it would have been impossible for them to have stolen a heavily armed vessel.'
'Possibly a small ship is necessary to enter the wormhole. But can the past be changed?' asked Picard. 'Would not some other timeline be created?'
'It seems not,' replied Beaufort. 'Many years ago the first Enterprise crew traveled back in time - not in a Federation ship, I might add - and brought whales back to earth. Their presence and activities had to change history in at least some minor ways, but they came back to this same timeline. Earth had not had whales, and now we have them again.
'One change we do know. They gave a formula for plastic to a man in the twentieth century. He is in the history books as its discoverer, but he could not have been. There exists a paradox. Whoever really discovered it has been cut from history.
'Of course, we had no objection to the crew doing all this. There was no prime directive involved anyway, as we can presumably do what we like to our own race. If they hadn't interfered the earth wouldn't have survived, and there would be no records to read, correct or otherwise!'
'Where is the Enterprise involved?' asked Picard.
'Your mission to Starbase 44 brings you in proximity to the area of the Neutral Zone. This is a bit tricky diplomatically. The ambassador from Cardassia will be a bit miffed that he has to wait, but you are the closest starship at the time. We have to balance our probabilities here. If the mission turns out a red herring, we will have set back our peace plans with the Cardassians for nothing. But can we take the chance?'
'I see what you mean,' said Picard.
'Ambassador Spock has left the Neutral Zone, and is at Starbase 44 already. He has the coordinates of the wormhole. He could just beam them to you, but you will need his guidance to get you through Romulan space undetected. All the same, if the top brass did leak the information, I don't doubt they would look the other way while you traveled through. It's deep into Romulan territory, in the Neutral Zone, but it seems to be a remote area without a population. We recommend that you drop off most of your complement at the starbase, and take a skeleton crew.
'Basically, follow them, and stop them if you can. Otherwise, we humans may simply blink out of existence! If at any time you still exist, presumably they have still not succeeded!'
'This may need a small, fleet warship,' said Picard. 'I have no idea what size ship may fit through this wormhole. We can pick one up at Starbase 44 on the way. This is a tricky one. We must also consider that this may be an elaborate trap to catch a starship in Romulan territory in breach of treaty.'
'We doubt it,' said the Admiral. 'They know that you would have to abandon the ship and have it self-destruct. They would have a group of select prisoners, but that would seem an unnecessarily elaborate charade. The Romulans are very chary of time-travel. They may want us to take all the risks.'
'I don't fancy surrendering to the Romulans,' said Picard. 'They are not kind jailers. It might have to be a self-destruct. Still, as you say, that seems an unlikely scenario.'
'By the way, Picard,' said the Admiral, 'is that your pyjamas you are wearing?'

On to Chapter 3, or go home.