Chapter 5.
A small cargo freighter emerged from the wormhole. Its four inhabitants were so tense that they scarcely registered the eerie feelings associated with its passage. The breeding and training of thousands of years on Vulcan and then Romulus and Remil had taken out expressions of emotion, and it would normally have troubled even this group to have been tense, but they were about to carry out a deed that would make them pariahs among their own people if it succeeded.
If it succeeded they would never see their own people again, on the other hand, so that was academic. They were a small group of fanatics, prepared to sacrifice their own existences in order to destroy those they saw as their enemies. However each of them had arrived at this irrationality, they were united now in a small group.
None of their emotions showed. With the typical calm appearance of their race, they went about their investigations in a businesslike way as soon as they appeared. First, they established that they were far in the past. Then they moved to warp speed to reach the outer limits of the solar system. They knew what they were after, and the search limited itself to several thousand searches.
"I have it!" called Revi exultantly. She swung away from the computer screen. "The computer has identified it. An hour's travel will bring us within sight of it."
"At last!" cried Dovor, and the other three Romulans gathered around her. Revi was a young woman, beautiful but for the air of fanaticism about her, which made her sour and humorless even for a Romulan. Pachek was also young, a male counterpart to Revi, with less glitter in his eye, but even less humor.
Dovor was an equally ruthless anarchistic fanatic, but age had given him a veneer of what passed for bonhomie among Romulans. He had, in addition to the plain consciencelessness of the two younger terrorists, a streak of sadism. In contrast to the three others, all younger, he dressed somewhat ostentatiously, in flowing garb. The others all wore very simple, stark dress, in itself an affectation. They saw themselves as the pure ones.
"Your studies of history have paid off," Dovor added to the woman gazing at the screen with glittering eyes. "Going back to your roots, as the humans say."
Sela turned angrily on him.
"Do not mock me, Dovor! I hate the taint of humanness. It will be a relief to cease to exist, taking my heritage with me. Let's get this done."
He smiled, with the satisfaction of a natural bully, at having touched her quick, but he returned to the command seat and issued orders. With a complement of four, this was probably unnecessary, but he enjoyed the power of command.
They settled back into their seats, and the ship began to move around. They were already in the earth's solar system, so they traveled only on impulse engines, looking for their objective. Although they were fixated on what they sought, they kept to their assigned tasks as well, scanning all about them.
"Dovor!" cried Pachek, the navigator, "We have company!"
"What is it?" asked Dovor.
"A small round starship," said Pachek. "I have not seen the shape before."
Dovor frowned. "Who would have had starships this far in the past?"
"Some race we have not heard of?" said Sela, also frowning.
"No, nothing so easy," said Pachek. "It has writing on it. It's a Federation warship!"
"There can't be any Federation.." began Revi, then stopped, embarassed at missing the obvious. "Well, obviously they are."
"They must have come through the wormhole!" Pachek supplied the obvious for her. "Blast them, how did they know? We've only been here a few hours!"
"That is immaterial," Sela said tightly. "They are here."
"Well that's the end of our little expedition," said Revi with a grimace. "We can't do anything with them watching over our shoulders!"
Dovor showed his emotion by rising to his feet.
"Damnation! We can't fight them and .."
Dovor's voice softened.
"We will have to surrender. We are no match for a fighter. But there is still hope. The game is not yet lost. Now, which one of you lily-livered cowards is going to betray me?"
They looked at him with interest.

Aboard the Pinball Wizard, everyone had come alive. It did not seem mysterious that they had beaten the Romulans here. Obviously they had had difficulty in obtaining a ship, or were held up somewhere, or had come by some devious and slow route. But they had arrived, and needed to be stopped. The three gunners jumped to their stations, and slid into place.
Ensign Mendon moved somewhat slowly. He noted it himself absently. His need to balance his breathing apparatus slowed him down a little. It was not something which had shown up in simulations, which generally started up with the gunners in place. He resolved to come up with a solution, if he survived this encounter.
Arrg sat behind his array, trying to brace himself mentally. I can do it, he thought, if I treat it as an intellectual exercise. I am not facing them. All I need to do is push the right buttons at the right moment.
Mary-Anne held the controls like the steering wheel of a car. It was far too early. They had not even come near yet, but she had to do something physical to relieve the tension.
"I have them, sir," said Data calmly, in the command area. "We will be with them in a few minutes. They are in a cargo freighter."
"A cargo freighter?" Riker frowned. "How the hell were they going to destroy earth with a cargo freighter? It's all weight and no weapons."
"They do have some small phasers, sir, but little else."
"Perhaps they hoped to sell them something," said Glock.
"I hardly think that would be an efficient way to wipe out a race," said Riker drily.
"On the contrary," said Glock, "it could be quite efficient. Sell a primitive tribe a nuclear weapon, and disappear before they use it."
"They haven't brought nuclear weapons," said Riker. "Or any weapons besides hand phasers."
"They could change history by just interacting with them," said Malcolm, who was still on the bridge. "They could just ask them what they did want, and sell them something sophisticated, and muck up history completely."
"The only things they could want would be things they knew about already," observed Deanna. "Which the Romulans don't have."
"One of the Rules of Acquisition," said Glock, "is that if you don't have what the customer wants you sell him the nearest thing that you do have."
"I'll remember that!" laughed Riker. "I'll be sure of what I want when I'm dealing with a Ferengi. The thing is, they don't have anything much at all. Only food."
The entire team was gathered in the small command deck, except those few needed to man weapons elsewhere. Malcolm headed off back to engineering in case a battle ensued. Beverley Crusher had come in case of injuries, but now it looked as if she would be superfluous. With her was Lieutenant Selar, not only for medical assistance, but as a non-human. Worf manned the main weapons console, and Data the sensory apparatus. Deanna Troi sat by Will Riker, her face sombre.
In their weapons bays the three gunners could follow all communication on the screens, but could hear only sound from the bridge, while sound was switched on. Mary Anne, in fact all of them, sat alertly, aware that this might be their last day. For her, it was the first time.
"How romantic," she thought sardonically, "to die with my new unrequited love."
It quickly became clear to them that there was no danger, and all three relaxed, but stayed put until given instructions to go off alert.
The freighter had given no sign that they had become aware of the approach of the starfighter. They continued to fly through space, with Dovor quickly explaining his plans, and waiting as long as possible before being contacted.
"Send a hailing signal, Mister Worf," ordered Riker, and Worf pressed an appropriate button. A combination of common signals was programmed into the computer, so that the dialling of a number would send off a specific message.
"They are responding visually, Commander," Worf reported.
"On screen," said Riker, and the screen showed the bridge of a run-down cargo vessel, with a minimum of equipment. It appeared to have been stripped down. Whether this had been done deliberately for the trip, or whether they had obtained a shell of a ship and had not bothered to fully fit it out was not apparent. Two figures could be seen in front of the communication module, and two others were distant in the background.
But it was not the room which aroused interest so much as the woman standing just behind the man in charge.
"Sela!" said Data in surprise.
"Yes, Mr Data?" asked Lieutenant Selar, who was not expecting to be called upon at this stage.
"No, Lieutenant, I was referring to the woman on screen, whose name is quite similar to yours. I had not expected to see her here. It was an exclamation of surprise."
"I did not assume you capable of surprise, Commander," said Selar.
"Oh, yes. One always has a selection of expected events in view. When an event occurs not within those parameters, surprise is an appropriate response."
Worf stared at the screen. He had seen Sela before, but had not recognised her as Tasha Yar's supposed daughter. She did not look at all alike. Her skin was a different color, her hair differently shaped, her manner different. It was difficult to discriminate humans based only on facial features, even after being raised among them. He sighed.
"Mr Data," interposed Riker, "for the moment please keep to minimum responses. We need to find out what is going on."
He addressed the screen.
"This is Commander Riker of the Pinball Wizard."
Where do they get these names? he thought.
"You are trespassing in Federation territory, Captain..?"
"Dovor. Captain Dovor you may call me if you will. I must agree that we are within range of earth, as you call it, but hardly Federation territory. The Federation does not yet exist."
"We know you plan to destroy humanity," said Riker angrily. "We will not allow you to succeed."
"Destroy humanity?" asked Dovor with a puzzled look. "What with? We are here illegally, I grant, as far as the Romulan government is concerned. We intended -intend, if you will allow us, - no, I don't suppose you would - to harvest some of the valuable minerals from this system before other explorers arrive. We have brought a cargo ship, not a destroyer."
"I might believe that if Sela wasn't with you," replied Riker. "She's too big a wheel to be on some penny-ante poaching trip."
"I think I grasp the gist of your comment, Commander," said Dovor. "Sela wanted to come out of curiosity, both scientific, and to have a look at the planet from which half of her heritage has sprung."
"One last look," commented Sela with a cold smile, "before I go back to Romulus forever."
Riker switched off the sound and looked around.
"They are nervous," commented Deanna Troi quietly. "I think he is lying."
"But what are they doing?" Riker asked in puzzlement.
Aloud, he switched on again and spoke to Dovor. "I'm going to ask you all to beam over here. I want a team to inspect your ship."
"Tch! And to look at all our private belongings? Ah well, if it must be. We will be ready in a few minutes."
Dovor switched off.
"Do we have everything necessary?" he asked. The other three patted the weapons they were wearing, and smiled. He secreted a small radio transmitter in a ring, then reestablished communication.
"They have a Betazoid with them," observed Revi.
"Then we must endeavour to tell only the truth," said Sela.
"As always," smiled Dovor.
"We are ready to beam over, Commander," he said, and the four of them were carried to the transporter room of the federation vessel.
"Is there somewhere we can leave our weapons?" he asked smoothly. Worf was covering them all with a phaser. They removed their sidearms, and Glock, acting as transporter operator, collected them.
"Keep them safe for us," remarked Pachek as he stepped off the platform. The four visitors followed Riker to the command deck.
After they had left, Geordi La Forge came into the transporter room. Only Glock remained.
"Have I missed the visitors?" asked Geordi.
"They just left, sir," said Glock. "They left their weapons for us to put away."
Geordi didn't much worry about missing visitors. He preferred to socialise with his engines. He knew how they thought and behaved. But he was curious about the Romulans. He had had only bad experiences with them.
"Why would they wear weapons for a visit like this?" asked Glock. "They would just have to take them off."
"Perhaps it's some sort of Romulan formality," said Geordi.
"I dunno," said Glock, scratching his jaw. "Anyways, let's do as we were asked, and park them somewhere safe."
"I know just the place," said Geordi.

In the command area the four Romulans sat easily. The room was becoming crowded, as it had already been comparatively full, and the three weapons personnel had rejoined the main bunch. Beverley Crusher quickly scanned the newcomers.
"They aren't carrying anything. The captain has a radio in his ring, but there won't be anyone to send messages to here."
"They are tense, but.. upbeat," said Deanna quietly to Riker. She was leaning close to him so they could not hear her. "I don't understand it. Did they want to be captured?"
"Nothing makes sense so far," he admitted quietly. "But we can stop them doing anything now."
She had a sudden sensation of... disappointment, and glanced around to see Mary Anne watching her whispering to Will. Oh, she thought, so that's the way the wind blows. Will has an admirer.
"Who is this Sela, anyway?" Malcolm whispered to Glock. The two had come to the bridge as they were not needed elsewhere, and, as all the "enemies" were there, made some extra backup.
"I dunno," whispered Glock back.
"She is a Romulan who claims to be the daughter of one of our crew who was killed some time ago," interposed Worf, who had overheard them. "That is impossible, as Tasha Yar never had a daughter, and would have been no older than Sela any way. The others consider she bears a strong resemblance to Tasha but I cannot see it. Her hair is a different color, her complexion is different. Perhaps her facial features are similar. Humans seem to rely heavily on these for recognition."
"I suppose we do," smiled Malcolm.
"You would probably get a better idea if you saw her with her clothes off," offered Glock.
"I have never seen Tasha Yar naked," said Worf in an offended tone, "and I am unlikely to see Sela so."
"Oh, bad luck," commiserated Glock. He assumed other races had the capacity of the Ferengi to find females of any race attractive. They were the chauvinists of the galaxy. Their own women had no rights, were allowed to wear no clothes, and were quite subordinate. As a result all the less subordinate females of the Federation became immediately attractive. Ferengi men persisted in the faith that all women found them attractive in spite of considerable evidence to the contrary, and no evidence in support. This was a single blind spot in an otherwise perceptive race.
They had never really grasped the fact that the women they met always wore clothes. It was reasonable that people would wear uniforms - once they had got over the mind-blowing idea that females might actually have jobs and rank - but they assumed that women in civilian life would dress like their women.
That Worf would find only Klingon women attractive would never have occurred to him. He interpreted the disapproval in Worf's tone as disappointment.
"Well, I suppose we'd better be off for our look at the enemy craft," said Malcolm. "You can run the transporter for Geordi and me, Glock?
"No worries, mate," said Glock, and Malcolm smiled. "You're learning all the important things."
Geordi and Malcolm beamed across to the freighter, with Glock operating the transporter. The ship was surprisingly empty.
"Boy, the Romulans believe in Spartan living!" muttered Geordi. He moved around the ship examining things.
"The only things they seem to have been using are the computers," he said. "They are pretty good for a freighter, but nothing else seems out of the ordinary. They don't even seem to have used the replicators much. They have spider webs in them! Too immersed in their work to eat much! Or clean them! They don't have transporters, and they haven't used the tractor beam in quite a while."
"It all seems stripped down," said Malcolm in puzzlement. "Why would they have a freighter with no transporters? How could they collect stuff?"
"They have very little food, and no amenities," said Geordi. "Either they intended this to be a very short trip, or they didn't intend going back. This is weird. Sela is a pretty big wheel on Romulus, I hear. She could afford a better set-up than this!"
"Romulans don't think much about comfort," said Malcolm doubtfully. "Maybe they find it easier to sit and contemplate with nothing around them."
"Well, there doesn't seem to be anything suspicious here," said Geordi at last. "Let's go back."
He pressed his communicator.
In the meantime, Commander Riker interrogated the Romulans. In a larger ship, he would have taken his guests to a ready room for a private interview. Ordinary rooms were at a premium, however on a starfighter, so Riker interviewed them on the bridge.
"So, Captain, you are here on a scavenging mission?" asked Riker. "Have you found anything?"
"I can honestly say, all we have done so far is some preliminary surveying. We have done nothing to harm anyone. We had no intention of harming any human being." Dovor could not keep a note of self-satisfaction out of his voice.
"I think he's pleased to be telling the truth," said Deanna quietly, "but he is still tense. It is very difficult. Romulans are almost as good as Vulcans in suppressing their emotions."
Riker chewed his lip. He preferred action. If he had known this mission had been going to be a lot of jawing he would have left it to Picard. Or Spock.
"Is Mr La Forge with you?" asked Sela suddenly.
"Geordi?" Riker responded in surprise. "How do you know him?"
"We met once, but I doubt he would remember me." She smiled secretively.
"Geordi is in Engineering. In fact he is Engineering," said Riker. "We brought a minimal crew in a small craft to stop you."
"Stop us what?" asked Pachek. "We have done nothing." He spoke in an amused way, with a ray of arrogance flickering through his wall of impassivity. Riker decided immediately that he did not like him, and that there was something unusually cold-blooded about him. A detached part of his mind thought, how can such hot-blooded people seem so cold-blooded? But he did not allow his prejudices to affect his behaviour. That was one of the first lessons in the Academy, and he was long past that.
Lieutenant Selar spoke to Riker. "Commander, should I try a mind meld? They are Romulans, so it would be difficult but I could try."
Riker knew that Vulcans did not favor mind-melding, and that it would be particularly distasteful to Selar to mind-meld with a Romulan, but he agreed. Distaste was a mild reaction, and a Vulcan would allow nothing more.
"Anything," said Riker. "Do it in sick bay. Beverley will help you if you need it. Maybe to sedate them. Dovor seems to be the leader, so try him first."
Revi and Pachek looked at each other with what might have been relief, but it was too faint for Deanna to feel.
"Sedation will not be necessary," said Selar. "A conscious mind is preferable."
"It will not be necessary," agreed Dovor. "I will cooperate."
Lieutenant Selar looked at him speculatively. It would be even less pleasant for him to undergo melding than it would be for her to do it. He was being remarkably cooperative.
Dovor and the other two visitors left with Worf and the two doctors, but Sela lingered.
"May I have a word with you, Commander Riker?"
"Of course. I am very interested to meet you at last. I would like to believe you are Tasha's daughter, you look so much like her, but I can't see how. Can you tell me what this is all about?"
"I have a certain reputation among my people for my hatred of humans. When these others came up with their scheme they invited me to join them, because they assumed I would sympathise with them."
"So there is a scheme!"
"Yes." Sela smiled grimly. "You have all the clues. What is the main feature of a cargo ship? A tractor beam."
Riker looked, and was, baffled.
"Were you going to move the earth? That's impossible."
"No, something smaller. May I use your starmap? I need to find... Ah! If you use the computer to track the path of this comet I think you will find that it intersects that of earth." Sela easily took over the controls of the computers. Riker was uncomfortable letting her do so. She was a prisoner, a suspected terrorist, and could quickly do some damage. But she simply brought up a picture of a dark ball of matter.
"Data, is this true? Will the comet hit the earth?" Riker was all attention.
Data replied, "The computer will need a few moments to analyse the path of the comet, and to read in and analyse the path of the earth." He took over the controls, and concentrated for a few minutes while all movement seemed to stop on the bridge.
He sat back and said, "Yes, the comet will collide with the earth, in.."
Subprogram Brevity broke in, and he stopped.
"The comet doesn't seem that large," said Riker thoughtfully. "Could it destroy the earth?"
"No, it is about twenty to thirty kilometers across," said Data. "I will measure it more accurately later. It could have a devastating effect by raising a cloud of matter into the atmosphere of the earth, and cutting off sunlight. If sufficient light were cut off, life might become extinct."
The words, "In fact.." had sprung to his lips before the subprogram prevented them.
"You have never seemed friendly to earth," Riker said to Sela. "What caused this sudden change of heart?"
"When they spoke to me they intended to destroy humanity. They assumed my hatred would lead me to support them. They overlooked the obvious. I hate humanity because I am half human, and humanity betrayed my mother. But if humanity is destroyed in the past I will cease to exist myself. I do not hate you that much."
That's odd, thought Deanna. That was a lie, but everything else seems to be true.
"So you altered its path with the tractor beam?" said Riker tensely.
"I personally did nothing, Commander," she replied calmly. "I merely accompanied them."
Riker's communicator shrilled.
"Riker here," he said automatically.
"Lieutenant Selar here," came her voice. "Dovor fought me, but I did get some information. He was going to divert a comet.."
"Thank you, Lieutenant," Riker interposed. "You have confirmed what we have learned here."
"But, strangely enough, he seems to think of all this as some sort of experiment where he was not sure of the outcome. He repeated that no human would be hurt by what he had done, and he was telling the truth."
"That's not what we hear here," said Riker. "Lock them up, and come back here."
He turned to Worf.
"Can we alter its orbit so it will never intersect with earth?"
"The simplest method seems to be to destroy the comet," replied Worf.
"Possibly not," interposed Data. "If the comet were blown apart its centre of mass would still be the same. Over time the parts would flow back together, reconstituting the comet. Altering its orbit would be simple, and we could try orbits until we found one which never intersects that of earth."
"Very time-consuming to do trial and error," said Worf. "Simpler to crash it into something big. Like Jupiter, or the sun."
"Do it!" said Riker.
"Mary Anne," said Deanna, as Mary Anne was leaving the bridge. She caught her, and said, "I hope you don't mind my commenting, but I had my shields down during the interchange, and I felt your... disappointment when I was whispering to Commander Riker. Will and I used to be close, but we decided to go our own ways. I was just whispering about the Romulans, not sweet nothings."
Once again Mary Anne went pink.
"Thank you for telling me," she said, "but it was just... daydreaming."
"Well, it depends on what you are dreaming about," smiled Deanna. "If you were after fun, I don't think Commander Riker would become involved with someone under his command. That would be unethical. He wasn't ready for marriage when I was with him, but who knows now? You would have to follow him though. He has his ambitions."
"I'm not.." Mary Anne paused to get it right. She was acutely aware that Deanna was a superior officer. "I don't have any ideas. He's just a good-looking man. I don't.. expect anything."
"That's all right," said Deanna. "I thought I'd let you know the lie of the land, so to speak. I don't usually go around picking up everyone's emotional reactions. I just had my shields down then."
"Thanks for telling me," said Mary Anne.
"At least we can gossip about the men, together, then," said Deanna with a laugh. "You and I and Beverley. We girls have to stick together."
Mary Anne smiled weakly. She was just as likely to get into a gossip session with two of the most senior officers on the Enterprise as she was to fly around the outside of the starfighter, but she could not disagree. Deanna was a bit overpowering. Her position as Counselor put her in a unique position to mix with anyone, but Mary Anne felt that Doctor Crusher might not concur with Deanna on this.
Well, that's interesting, thought Mary Anne, as she went back to her room. The Commander doesn't mind a bit of fun! Right out of the book! Can Mary Anne capture the elusive heart of the handsome rake, Commander William Riker, and reduce him to domesticity? Does she want to?
She passed Malcolm.
"Hi," she said. "I'm sorry for getting offended before. I do know the difference between fantasy and reality, though. It's like being in a lottery. You know you won't win when you buy a ticket, but that little number in a computer means you can daydream."
"I shouldn't have said it," he answered. "Would you be interested in a look at my holodeck program?"
"You didn't buy it from Glock, did you?" she laughed.
"No, it's just a walk through a part of Australia."
"Well, I brought a game of basketball," she said. "If I play your game, you have to play mine later."
"Deal!" he said. "I sort of feel sorry for the Romulans. They had nothing for entertainment on that tub, not even a pack of cards."
"Nothing to seduce their women with?" she said merrily.
The Pinball Wizard located the comet, and Data steered towards it on impulse engines. From close up it was larger than Data had thought, though in relation to the size of the earth still quite small. It was quite rough in shape, about sixty or seventy kilometres across at its widest point, and a blue-white color. This far from the sun it gleamed palely against the backdrop of stars.
It was so far from the sun that it had virtually no tail. As it moved closer in its orbit the sun would transform some of the surface ice into a spray of gas pouring out thousands of miles away from it. Some of this would be lost, but as it moved out into deep space again most of the gas would slowly drift back under gravity's tiny pull, until the next sweep near the sun.
The humans never failed to be thrilled by the spectacular sights of the various astrophysical objects they encountered. Riker looked in awe at the comet from close up. He felt again as he had once felt standing at the foot of a huge glacier somewhere in Alaska. The tiny ball of the Pinball Wizard seemed insignificant in comparison, but what it lacked in size it made up for with technology.
Worf operated the tractor beam, with the aid of the ship's computer, and gently changed the path of the comet. All of them watched the viewscreen avidly, not least Sela. Deanna watched her with a troubled expression.
There was little to see. The tiny tail continued to point away from the sun, and the comet began to get smaller slowly as they pulled away from it.
"How long until it hits something?" asked Riker anxiously.
"About three days," replied Worf. Data opened his mouth to give an exact time, but closed it again.
"It will impact on the planet Jupiter," added Worf. "It will have a negligible effect. The planet is too big."
"Can we afford to stay here that long to make sure it hits?" asked Riker.
"The wormhole still appears to be quite stable, sir," answered Data. "We have no obvious need to hurry back."
Deanna spoke to Will Riker. She was disturbed, but could not put her finger on the reason.
"Sela was certainly quite happy to see you move the comet. That's reasonable, I suppose. But there is a suppressed excitement in her. Her reactions are not quite.... right."
"Well, she has succeeded in foiling the others," said Riker, feeling that he had the hang of the situation again. "And it is exciting to see a comet crash onto a planet. Are we recording everything for the boffins?" he asked Data.
"Everything we have learned is in the computer," said Data, "and everything visual is being recorded."
Will Riker began to relax.
"How is the wormhole, Data?" he asked again. Data replied again that it still appeared stable.
Riker called all the crew together, and told them, "We seem to have things under control, but I'd like to hang around until we see that comet actually hit the planet."
"What comet is this we're talking about, Worf?" asked Geordi.
"A comet which was going to impact on the earth," replied Worf. "We have diverted it, and it will now crash upon the planet Jupiter."
"Wow, lucky they noticed it!" said Geordi to Malcolm, as he headed back out to his domain.
"We have a few days to wait, everyone" Riker said. "Let's get the ship in perfect shape again. The duty rosters can begin from now. Sela, I'm afraid I am not going to be able to leave you alone, but you have the freedom of the ship. I'll have to have at least one of the other women stay with you until we get you back to Romulan space."
"The freedom of the ship?" she asked quizzically. "What is there to do on a Federation starfighter?"
"We have a library," answered Deanna with a frown. "The computer system is quite extensive, downloaded from the Enterprise, and so the replicators can create thousands of books. And there is the holodeck."
"You have a holodeck on a starfighter?" asked Sela, surprise for once breaking an expression through to her face.
"There is a lot of just plain traveling, even on a starfighter," said Beverley Crusher, who had just reentered with Lieutenant Selar. "But in fact it has a medicinal use. Crewmembers suffering combat trauma can be de-traumatised in some familiar or soothing surroundings."
"Romulans would not require such a thing," Sela replied. "All this can be done with the mind. Pain can be shut out. Fear can be denied."
Worf nodded approvingly.
"A starfighter just has to be small enough to enable maximum shielding," added Riker. "In space, size means nothing, beyond making as small a target as possible. As most of the weaponry naturally has to be at the perimeter, there can be a lot of excess space in the center."
Worf also spoke. "A primary function of the holodeck is for combat training. Various planetary surfaces can be replicated, and fighting simulated. Crew-members' reflexes can thus be kept finely honed."
"I feel like I am in a room of schoolteachers," smiled Sela. "While we are in the area, could we have a look at earth? I must confess some curiosity after all. One look at my heritage."
"We can look from afar," said Riker, "but we can't land. Any contact between us and early man could change history, and we've just gone to some trouble to avoid that!"
Sela opened her mouth to comment, but stopped. Never say more than you have to, she thought. You don't know. Maybe Dovor will tell them - eventually.
"Can't we put down somewhere where there are no people?" asked Deanna.
"There is an old tale," said Data, "where a man travels back through the past and steps on a butterfly, and so changes history. The story was not factual, as the man returned to a future with the same people, and history greatly changed. The most likely change would be nothing at all, but if a chaotic disturbance were initiated, the ripple efect would ensure that the future was totally different, so that the people were not the same. It is safer not to do so, though I find the probability of such a ripple effect infinitesmally low."
"Perhaps you might like to look at earth in the holodeck," smiled Beverley. "We do have my golf simulation with us, and Captain Picard's horse-riding module."
"What is golf?" asked Sela.
"It is a game involving physical coordination, where one attempts to strike a small ball and drop it into a hole in the least number of strokes," said Lieutenant Selar.
"You're familiar with golf?" asked Riker in surprise.
"In my spare time I often try out the open access programs of the holodeck, in case any are of interest. Golf is a game with some appeal to a Vulcan."
"I didn't think Vulcans were interested in... pleasure," said Riker, awkwardly.
"A common misconception among earth people," replied Selar. "We believe in total emotional control, certainly, but if there were no pleasure there would be no motivation to do anything. All pleasure in life derives from doing something well, or from contemplation of philosophical ideas."
"Well, that's a Vulcan view," grinned Riker.
"Our people still hunt, for example, but no longer kill," she continued unperturbed. "The pleasure arises from tracking and touching the animal, in other words the use of skill. Humans observe the same ritual sometimes and then photograph the game, so we are not entirely different. In fact my people and yours interact fairly comfortably because we are not dissimilar in some ways. We have even been influenced by you in a number of ways."
"How is that?" asked Deanna.
"We have copied the ritual of smiling," said Selar, her face remaining impassive. "It exercises the facial muscles, as well as serving to acknowledge some particularly adept wordplay."
"Jokes, in other words," said Beverley.
"Not really," answered Selar. "A joke depends on an unexpected outcome to a story. A Vulcan would normally have considered all possible outcomes to the story, and would be unlikely to be surprised. We smile rather at clever wordplay."
"I have never seen a Vulcan smile," said Riker.
"That does seem likely," said Selar.
"I wonder if Vulcans know the expression, 'Taking the Mickey?'" whispered Malcolm to Mary Anne.
Sela had been listening to the interplay without comment, but now she broke in.
"How can you accept this dilution of your heritage?" she asked tightly. "Centuries of development polluted by the human infestation!"
The others looked at her in surprise. Her normal impassivity had slipped to reveal the hatred which festered within her.
"We choose to change sometimes," said Selar calmly. "Where humanity is seen to have something worthy of consideration, we consider it. Some of our number have even chosen companions of their race. Vulcan was perhaps becoming a bit sterile, lacking development. Many regard our mingling with other races to be a benefit. Others do not."
"I can't understand you, Sela," said Riker impatiently. "You say you are Tasha's daughter, which is impossible. But if you are, why do you hate her so?"
"I do not hate my mother. She was a slave, and I only knew her four years. But she was just a prisoner of war, spoils if you will. The Captain of the Enterprise sent her to an ignominious death. Earth has spread like an infection through the galaxy. Romulus had a perfectly developed philosophy of life, settled over millenia. The Federation is like a cancer, altering everything it touches till it dies."
"Romulus has chosen not to mingle too much, so it should not be too infected," said Lieutenant Selar. "In any case, the Romulans are an offshoot of Vulcan. You have already digressed from our philosophies."
"Millenia ago," said Sela. "We have evolved our own ideals."
"Not involving morality too deeply," said Selar drily, "though you have managed to lessen your natural emotions. That is something which arouses our curiosity."
"Lessen?" Deanna enquired in surprise. "I would have thought the Romulans much more emotional than the Vulcans. Infinitely more, even!"
"Our - curse, if you like, is that we are extremely emotional by nature," replied Selar. "All Vulcans spend their lives learning to suppress emotion. Complete subjection of emotion is our ideal. In those few cases where a Vulcan has failed to achieve this there is a complete breakdown of inhibition and a terrible outcome.
"The Romulans still follow many of our philosophies and practices, but their natural emotions have obviously atrophied. They have often allowed their emotions to overwhelm them without unduly dire consequences."
Sela had recovered her composure. She changed the subject.
"Perhaps a look at earth through your program would be a way to pass time," she said graciously.
Riker and Data accompanied the three women, Riker because he could think of nothing which required a captain's attention at the time, and Data from curiosity about Sela, who did look so mysteriously like Tasha Yar.
They reached the holodeck, and Riker called up the modified program, as Data was playing. Immediately they were standing on a beautiful golf course. Sela looked around with a reluctant flow of pleasure at the scene. She had seen equally beautiful scenes on other planets, but each planet had a special beauty of its own, if it had any beauty at all.
The fairways rolled away, wide and grassed like carpets. Various birds chirped in trees, or grazed around them as if oblivious to their presence. Her mind registered that of course they were, being only computer simulations.
"This is your program?" she asked Beverley Crusher.
"I've had it for years," Beverley answered her. "It was Jack's. My husband's. I learned the game from him. We went to a real course during our honeymoon. Of course, I couldn't play then, but I grew to love it."
"Its beauty is different from that of Romulus or Remil," said Sela quietly. "It is softer. The beauty of Romulus is dramatic and overwhelming."
There were quite a group of them on the tee. Riker, Deanna, Beverley, Sela and Selar, and Data. The first tee was a raised platform of green, sweeping off to a long fairway. On either side it had rough, over which could be seen the sea on both sides. The course sat on a peninsula.
"The program can produce over a hundred different courses, from quite different climatic zones," said Deanna. "But this is a nice one."
"This is a slightly modified version of your program," whispered Riker to Doctor Crusher. She looked at him with raised eyebrows, but he added no more.
"The game is normally played with four players," said Beverley, when all were gathered. "In reality that is for safety. Being hit by a golf ball can seriously damage you. But as this is a simulation we can't come to harm, so does everyone want to play?"
"I will watch," said Sela. "I don't know how to play, in any case."
"Oh, that's easy," said Beverley. "Subprogram Professional, please."
Suddenly a smiling teacher was with them. "Who wants to learn?" he asked.
"Not I," said Sela. "I would want to learn nothing from a human!"
"No problem," replied Riker. "Computer, alter professional to Romulan form."
The professional immediately changed to a Romulan. The computer was sufficiently well programmed that not only was the appearance, but the manner, Romulan. Instead of a friendly, helpful manner, demonstrating and perhaps guiding, he informed Sela of the correct motions, and the correct methods, briefly demonstrating each.
Fortunately she was dressed in loose clothes, and was able to swing easily. She dropped a couple of balls and hit them easily - and perfectly - about two hundred metres. Riker, Deanna and Beverley watched with down-hearted amazement.
"So the idea is to hit the ball into that hole where the flag is," asked Sela. "It seems simple."
"It is to be done in the least possible number of strokes," added Data.
"Of course," retorted Sela, "there would be no point to the game otherwise."
"Oh?" said Data, digesting this information.
Sela lined up her ball and hit it straight down the center of the fairway, about two hundred metres. Lieutenant Selar lined up and hit it about ten metres further. In both cases the wind suddenly changed after the stroke, but the strokes were so well hit it had minimal effect. They both noticed, however, the subtle changes in the configuration of the fairway. Sela considered that perhaps earth was subject to a lot of seismic disturbance. This did not seem to gel with the gentle curvature of the scenery.
"I have had more practice than you," Selar offered to Sela. "No doubt you will be equaling me soon."
"I have no intention of playing more than one game," replied Sela. "When one has conquered a skill, what point is there in repeating it? Is it my imagination, or did the configuration of the fairway change during our strokes?"
"Commander Riker?" invited Selar.
"Oh... No," he said, deliberately misunderstanding the question. "The rules allow only four players at a time. Beverley, it's your game... and Deanna?"
Deanna said hastily, "Commander Data is just learning the game. I think it should be him!"
"Thanks, Will," said Beverley drily.
She took out her driver and hit about one hundred and thirty metres, slicing into the rough. Sela watched closely, but there was no movement in the terrain, and the light breeze stayed steady.
She was still frowning in puzzlement as Data lined up and hit. So was Lieutenant Selar.
As Data's ball flew from the tee a squall blew up. A tornado moved across the fairway sending his ball into the rough. Rain pelted them, and they had difficulty keeping their feet. The green moved twenty metres, and sandtraps disappeared and appeared in other places.
"What in the name of Beshnir is happening?" gasped Sela, struggling for breath in the wind. As his ball stopped moving, the conditions returned to normal, though reconfigured. The breeze dropped and the sun shone again. "Is this typical earth weather?"
"It is a concept called handicapping," explained Data, unconcerned at the water dripping from him. "The conditions are made a little more difficult for the best player."
"How does the computer know who is the best player while you are still playing?" asked Sela curiously.
"Commander Riker has defined me as the best player," replied Data, "Not unreasonably."
Suddenly Sela grinned.
The logical part of her mind thought, I'm smiling. Why? Because we humans have played a joke on Data! The smile froze on her face and disappeared.I am not a human! she thought stubbornly
"I have played enough of the game," she said sullenly. "This view of earth will suffice."
The others were somewhat taken aback by this interplay of emotions on her normally impassive face, but did not comment.
She left the holodeck, with Deanna and Selar accompanying her, and retired to the room she had been allotted. Lieutenant Selar shared the room, and they made very quiet roommates. Nevertheless, over the next two days, bored, or feeling the need for exercise, she did play one or two complete rounds - very well. They used Beverley's original program. Selar matched her impassively, while Deanna and Beverley went around feeling somewhat humiliated.
Beverley actually commented so on one of the rounds.
"But you invented it," said Selar. "We may be better at it than you, but neither of our peoples has invented a similar game. It is a very good way to exercise while enjoying both pleasant surroundings and the opportunity for contemplation."
"We would be better at any game requiring skill and coordination," observed Sela. "But it is true. Earth people have a skill in invention, probably necessary to overcome your shortcomings. Perhaps we, Vulcans and Romulans, that is, spend too much time contemplating what is, rather than inventing new things."
"Thanks," said Beverley drily again.

Mary Anne came across Revi sitting in a chair, doing nothing.
"Hi," she said, and Revi looked at her. "I'm just going off to try a game of basketball. If you're bored, you might like to try it."
"What does 'bored' mean?" asked Revi.
"Well, it means you have nothing to do, and you start to get, oh, jumpy."
"But one never has nothing to do," replied Revi. "One is always either doing or thinking."
"Oh, well, if you or your boyfriend feel like a game, you're welcome anyway."
"What is my 'boyfriend'?" asked Revi in puzzlement.
"Pachek," replied Mary Anne. "You and he are always together. I just assumed you were in some sort of relationship."
"You mean sexual?" said Revi, amused at the idea. "Romulans do not engage in occasional sex. We still retain the tradition of Pon Farr."
"Oh, like the Vulcans? I didn't know how much you kept of Vulcan ways."
"It is logical to retain what is good. It enables us to control our population in a sensible way. You humans breed like insects and have to keep spreading." She had been about to say, "like a plague," but thought this might be impolitic, and would only tend to hasten their execution. "That is why we have cut off communication. We will not be overrun."
"You don't spread out?" said Mary Anne. "What if you find new territory?"
"If we were to discover a new and attractive territory we might send out a party to live there. They would then breed up to a suitable population, and stop at it."
"Is that how Romulus and Remil were begun?"
"The Romulan people evolved, and left," said Revi with a toss of her head. "We had found a new world, so we began it." The thought filtered through her mind that even the names of their two worlds had been foisted on them by the humans. The unpronouncable original Romulan names had been supplanted by their Federation nicknames. Another impurity allowed to live on!
"How are your relations with the Vulcans now?" asked Mary Anne curiously.
"How are your relations with the cave-dwellers from whom you descend?" asked Revi in return. While Mary Anne hoped this was not a reply typical of all Romulans, she read into it a possibility that they might be in paleolithic times.
"How do you know so much about human history?" she asked.
"Sela has enlightened us of some of your history while we traveled," said Revi. "It is well to know.." She was about to say "..your enemy," but decided this might also be somewhat tactless, so she finished the sentence smoothly, "..as much about the universe as one can. Perhaps it would be of interest to see your game. No knowledge is wasted."
They entered the holodeck, and Mary Anne initiated her program. A team of humans and a team of Romulans appeared, and Mary Anne explained the rules. They played for a few minutes, and the Romulans were ahead.
"There seems to be no intellectual side to this game," said Revi. "It involves simply physical skill."
"It's a very good way to keep fit," said Mary Anne defensively.
"Romulans have developed a set of aerobic exercises which are practised at a set time. It has been scientifically designed for maximum effect over centuries. All Romulans are therefore at maximum fitness."
"But what do you for fun?" Mary Anne asked, before thinking, What a dumb question.
"Our 'fun' is the attainment of self-perfection," said Revi. "That is, of course, the quest for it. This is frivolity, which we.." She thought "despise" is probably also tactless. "..refrain from."
"And you never form temporary sexual relationships?" asked Mary Anne. "I don't myself, but it seems to be a general human trait."
"Sexual relationships are an indulgence of emotion," replied Revi. "We allow only the Pon Farr, for the purpose of maintaining our race. Your race's predilection for occasional lapses of emotional restraint must make service on a starship difficult? It must reduce discipline."
"We have had to deal with that problem," agreed Mary Anne. "There are rules."
"We have no such spontaneous pairings," said Revi.
"Well, the great Mills and Boon empire will never spread to Romulus," said Mary Anne, and had to explain the reference. Revi wondered how it was possible that a race so undisciplined in emotion had ever left the surface of the planet.
Mary Anne lent her a Romance novel, which she read quickly, anxious to widen her knowledge of the enemy. Mary Anne had to explain to her the concept of 'fiction', as Revi was totally baffled by the idea at first. She found it interesting, and indicating moral degeneracy in the race. It did not occur to her that even 'fiction' might bear no relation to reality.

Riker normally quite enjoyed his game of golf, but was somewhat intimidated by the fact that Data, Sela and Selar could all thrash him comprehensively. He and Deanna came down to the holodeck as Mary Anne and Malcolm were leaving.
Malcolm was sweating deeply, while Mary Anne was still bouncing around on the balls of her feet, barely perspiring. They had each been playing with teams of greats from the recent past, but Malcolm had cheerfully been out of his depth. The game was keyed to the real players, so that the ability of each player's team was related to his or her ability, which meant that the men had been comprehensively trounced by the women.
"Hi, Mary Anne and Malcolm," said Deanna. "We're just going to have a game of golf. Care to join us?"
"Can't, sorry," said Malcolm, "I'm just back on duty."
"I'd love to," said Mary Anne. "I'll just get changed."
"Well, isn't that nice," thought Deanna in amusement. "Our little love triangle all together!"
A few minutes later, the three stood on the first tee. Mary Anne, noted Deanna, had not only showered, but had quickly had her hair done, wore a subtle perfume, and was wearing a slightly more provocative dress than was the norm for the game. A new course had been summoned up, with Beverley's original program, and they swung clubs to warm up, which Mary Anne hardly needed.
"Thank god I'm not playing with those machines," Riker thought.
He lined up, and hit an ordinary shot about ninety metres. It landed in a sand trap. He groaned. Sand traps were not his speciality. Deanna lined up and hit about a hundred and thirty metres. It landed in the middle of the fairway. Mary Anne lined up.
"Oh, look, I'm in a bunker too," she said. Riker scowled. Her bunker was about two hundred and thirty metres away and she hit her shot out of the bunker about another hundred metres, while he took three shots to get out.
Eighteen holes later they departed, Riker barely civil.
"Well, a rake is one thing," thought Mary Anne, as she flung her clothes down on her bed. "A male chauvinist pig is another! But then, that's what they are like in the books! But I couldn't just play badly and lose!"

On to Chapter 6, or give it away for now.