Star Trek: Picard (What Could Have Been) Episode 2: "What is Past is Prologue"
Author's Note: Thank you all for your positive and kind feedback to Episode 1 "O, Brave New World." Honestly, I had considered publishing Fan Fiction for many years but was concerned about how the fan masses would react to it. With your collective encouragement, I am continuing a "fanon" universe of what Star Trek: Picard/Destiny could have been with better planning.
The goal of this episode: As a lifelong Trekkie, I have noticed a trend in the success/failure of Trek-style storytelling. Around the second episode, there is typically an episode which serves as an in-depth character study. I wanted to put the story's characters into an episode in the vein of a "Naked Time/Naked Now" plot where all the characters' psyches are exposed while mixing a plot device which lives up to the "strange new worlds/civilizations" mantra for which Star Trek is famous.
Word Count Note: Since the chief purpose of this episode is to establish characters, the word count for this episode is longer than usual. My biggest gripe with the actual show is that all the new characters had no substance and functioned more like plot devices than actual people. Please know that most episodes will be closer to 25,000 words like the pilot was.
Cultural Note: As an Hispanic/Pacific Islander individual, one thing that has always gnawed at me about the Trek universe is the conspicuous absence of these cultures in both characters and plot. That is why the Chief Engineer is Miguel Sanchez and the Chief Medical Officer is Joseph Kakua. It is also why the Destiny is an outrigger class vessel.
The Polynesian cultural references in this episode are intended to broadcast my own lived experiences as a person of color for the educational benefit of the audience. It is not intended to be appropriation.
Legacy Characters featured in this story:
Picard: Guest Star: During pre-production of Season 1, James McAvoy expressed interest in appearing on the show as a younger version of Picard. Keep this in mind during the second act of the episode.
Data: Per Brent Spiner's request during pre-production of Season 1, Data is still technically dead but he will make an appearance in this episode using the episode's central plot device.
For the full set of rules/guidelines by which these episodes are written, please go to Episode 1, "O, Brave New World," Chapter 1.
Chapter 1: Shakedown
"Captain's Log Stardate 75003.5: After the turbulent evacuation of Romulan Star Empire from the Hobus Supernova, our refugee convoy is safely within Federation Space and making its way towards the Hokulea system at low warp. With the crew becoming accustomed to our newest passengers, this week feels more like a shakedown cruise than a resettlement effort."
Cadet Kenneth Nguyen stood awkwardly in the middle of sickbay with his mouth agape and his eyes staring into the overhead lights. Blistering bursts of pain rippled through his throat and sinuses. The cabin echoed with a single syllable that the young Cadet had held like a high note in a choral solo. Any time he faltered, Dr. Kakua swooped in to give his encouragement. "Come on, Cadet. Thirty more seconds."
He checked into Dr. Kakua's office because he wanted something for his bad breath. What he got was two painstaking minutes of gargling an ancient Hawaiian remedy by which Dr. Kakua staked his entire reputation. With fifteen minutes left, Nguyen sloped his head down slightly to prematurely spit but Dr. Kakua placed his hand on his shoulder. "You got this, Nguyen. If you can't handle a little gargling, how are you supposed to handle combat?"
Nguyen titled his head back up and remained in that stance until Dr. Kakua gave the order to spit out the mixture in the nearest wash basin. As the brown mixture swirled around the drain, Nguyen wiped his face with a nearby towel. "The second round stung worse than the first. Are we done now, Doc? All I wanted was a hypospray."
Dr. Kakua chuckled as he reached for his tricorder. "More accurately, what you wanted was a cure for bad breath." He opened the tricorder flap and began scanning Nguyen's neck. "Now, I could have given you the standard Starfleet medical treatment and you'd be back at the end of next week for another dose. The ship's central air system and isotopes from alien atmospheres hamper the effects of modern medicine."
He closed the tricorder and reached for the medkit hanging from his right shoulder. "So, what I did was cut you in on a little family medicine and gave you a permanent cure straight from my Tutu, herself."
Nyugen frowned. "You get medical advice from a ballet dress?"
Dr. Kakua shook his head with a chuckle as he opened the kit's outer pouch. "No, no, no. Tutu means 'grandmother' in Hawaiian. She was also in charge of taking care of us when we were sick." Dr. Kakua nudged his head towards the collection of tropical roots and leaves on the nearby counter. "When I was a little younger than you, I had the same problem. I used to have terrible breath. It could clear the room. My uncles used to call me 'Joey Pilau' which is Hawaiian for 'rotten.'"
Nguyen sheepishly frowned as Dr. Kakua pulled out a penlight from his pouch. "So, Tutu got some roots and leaves from her garden, mashed them up into a paste, added some Hawaiian salt and had me gargle it two times. After that, I was 'pilau' no more. I became the man I am today: 'Joey Nohea' or 'Joey Good-Lookin.'"
He instructed Ngyuen to open his mouth. After a brief inspection of the Cadet's tonsils, Dr. Kakua nodded in satisfaction. "It's looking good, crewman. Tutu's remedy has done it again."
Nguyen's face lit up in eager gratitude as he turned to thank Dr. Kakua. "Thanks a million, Doc. Is there anything you need? You want me to help you clean up?" Dr. Kakua nodded and instructed him to get some containers from the nearby cabinet. Nguyen retrieved two transparent aluminum canisters in double time. "Outstanding work, Cadet." Dr. Kakua divided the roots and leaves into the separate canisters. "I can see why you're Starfleet Academy material: you follow instructions extremely well."
As Dr. Kakua placed the containers into a nearby stasis chamber, he genially asked. "By the way... you've been aboard this ship for six months, why did your breath become such an issue now?" Almost by instinct, Nguyen snapped to attention as he would have back at the academy. "That was before we got our new batch of crewmembers. I've got to make a good impression."
Dr. Kakua chuckled softly as he programmed the stasis chamber computer to re-accept the specimens. "Oh, really? I didn't know an addition of two people to the ship's manifest qualified as a 'new batch."" Nguyen's military composure softened as he defended his reasoning. "We have Jean-Luc Picard on this ship, now." Ngyuen stepped closer to Dr. Kakua to emphasize his point. "He's a Starfleet legend. If I can make a good impression with him, I'd be set for life." Kakua nodded. "I suppose that's one way to get ahead in this racket."
The wry expression on Kakua's face compelled Nguyen to further defend his reasoning. "Seriously! The man has saved Earth and the Federation more times than I can count. Whenever the Klingons -aka the toughest people this side of the galaxy- need a favor, they call him. He's the only person I can think of who could have pulled off the…"
Suddenly the main doors slid open and Edala, Picard's young Romulan aide, made her way through the hatchway with a padd in hand. With military precision, she delivered the padd to Dr. Kakua and introduced herself. Nguyen's eyes widened as his jaw slackened slightly. He had seen Edala a few times before but only in passing. Now, he was seeing her conducting her duties with the same standard of professional excellence to which he held himself. His eyes focused on the curled bangs over her barely perceptible Romulan ridges as Edala indicated that the padd contained Picard's medical records.
When Edala caught his gaze, Nguyen's voice lost its strength. He attempted to smoothly shift his gaze towards the medical readout behind her but the gesture was as inconspicuous as a phaser barrage from orbit. In that fleeting moment, his thoughts frantically clashed on what he should do. Finally, as Edala returned her focus to Dr. Kakua, Nguyen decided to stand at attention and remain silent.
As Nguyen imagined himself under inspection back in the academy barracks, Dr. Kakua looked over the padd's gleaming crystal screen. "Everything seems to be in order, but, why couldn't these records just be transmitted to my office?" Edala's response was precisely measured. "Because of the Ambassador's age and high security clearance, it is customary to favor a physical but secured delivery over subspace transmissions lest the signal gets intercepted by unauthorized personnel."
Dr. Kakua playfully parried Edala's by-the-book response. "Oh, yes, the long term effects of daily Earl Grey tea consumption should be classified 'top secret.' Otherwise, the Federation fails." He then whimsically smiled as he addressed Edala's befuddled expression. "Don't worry, I'll keep these files under proverbial lock and key. No one else will see them." He finished the promise by putting his finger to his lips. The gesture sparked a smile across her face. "It's okay if your nurse sees them, too." She pointed to Nguyen. "My nurse?!" Dr. Kakua turned to Nguyen with overexaggerated panache.
For five painstaking seconds, everything in sickbay orbited Cadet Kenneth Nguyen as he stood staring at the young Romulan before him. The Cadet who excelled at zero gravity combat training and decompression simulations now found himself completely vulnerable. Finally, a well placed cough from Kakua brought Nguyen back to his senses. "Nurse? Oh, no, ma'am. I'm not a nurse. I'm an Officer Candidate in Starfleet." Violent tremors pulsed through Nguyen's hand and fingers as he reached out to introduce himself. "Cadet Kenneth Nguyen, I'm in the third year of the command training program."
"Oh," Edala's response conveyed more inert understanding than being impressed. As the two shook hands, Nguyen decided to up his demeanor by enthusiastically promoting his accomplishments and goals. "I'm an expert marksman with a phaser and a master strategist. One day, I hope to be recruited by Starfleet Special Forces and eventually make it to the Federation Security Council."
Edala responded with a fleeting but endearing grin. "I admire your ambition, Cadet. I, too, have similar ambitions. I hope to become a Romulan Senator or whatever elected position is available once the resettlement is completed." In those moments, Nguyen still held Edala's hand. An icy twinge kept all his fingers wrapped around Edala's hand. A fleeting thought of complementing Edala on her strong grip raced through Nguyen's mind. Before he could speak however, Edala let go and Nguyen's quivering hand flopped back to his side.
Edala harnessed her many years of diplomatic training in extending pleasantries to the young cadet. She then turned to Dr. Kakua and instructed him to delete the records upon their departure. As Edala smartly made her way out of sickbay, Nguyen finally conjured up the words to speak. "When-when will that be, ma'am?"
Edala spun on her heel. "Our stay on the Destiny is indefinite, Cadet. So, that means we'll have lots of time to exchange notes on our lofty career goals." Her eyes then flashed a twinkle which Nguyen would struggle to interpret all day. Before Nguyen could respond, Edala disappeared behind the sliding hatch.
Nguyen lost track of the moments he spent staring at the entrance to Sickbay. Only Dr. Kakua's crescendoing chuckle brought him back to his senses. "You know, if you stay in that position for five more seconds, you technically qualify as catatonic. But I don't blame you. I remember the first time I met my first adult heart throb, too." Nguyen turned a stupefied eye towards the surgeon and answered with a monosyllable which distantly resembled the word "What?" Dr. Kakua chuckled as he looked at the young cadet square in the eyes. "Maybe you should be my nurse. Your strategy as a Cassanova leaves a lot to be desired. I can give you some pointers."
Nguyen sheepishly looked at Dr. Kakua who patted him on the shoulder. "It was really that bad?" Dr. Kakua shrugged as his mind tried to delicately construct a diplomatic answer. "My military jargon is a little rusty, but I'm pretty sure what I just saw fell somewhere between a 'Fugazi' and a 'Charlie Foxtrot.'"
The hair at the nape of Nguyen's neck stood straight at attention as he heard the two most demoralizing of martial acronyms. "Whoa, wait a minute, Doc." Nguyen defensively turned to the surgeon. "I wouldn't go that far. I wasn't expecting to have her come through the door. That was the first time I'd ever gotten a chance to talk to her. If anything, it was an ambush."
Dr. Kakua chuckled. "Well, now I know why you wanted me to treat your halitosis." Desperate to change the subject, Nguyen earnestly met Kakua at his desk and shook his hand with both of his. "Thank you for that, by the way. You have no idea how much I appreciate it." Dr. Kakua affectionately shrugged. "No pilikia, Cadet. It's no problem at all. Anything I can do to get Starfleet's youth off to a good start."
Nguyen glanced at the display on the other side of Dr. Kakua's office. "Should I schedule an appointment for next week?" Dr. Kakua jauntily waved his hand. "Countless generations of Kakuas have taken the treatment once and have never needed a follow up. But, if it makes you feel better, you can drop by. Maybe I can help you with your strategy for the next time you meet Edala."
Dr. Kakua stared at Nguyen in the eye with the sympathy of a younger brother. "In the meantime, Cadet, do yourself a favor and back off from your mission for a little bit. Call it a 'strategic retreat.' I don't want to scrape you off the deck because she visited the bridge and you decide to hyperventilate." Nguyen nodded slowly and noncommittally acknowledged the advice. As he made his way towards the main doors he turned back to Dr. Kakua for a rebuttal. "But, to paraphrase the American General Douglas MacArthur: backing off is not a retreat, I'd just be advancing in a new direction."
Nguyen then strutted out of the sickbay with the same dead set composure of a soldier heading to the front lines. No one knew when he would see Edala again and this time he wanted to be ready.
As the doors hissed shut, Dr. Kakua chuckled and turned to his stasis chambers. "Cadet, with that kind of optimistic doubletalk, you're the perfect candidate for Starfleet Special Forces… or public office."
Captain Ukweli's Quarters
"Excellent tea," Ambassador Jean-Luc Picard raised a cup of shaah tea and toasted his host who sat on the other side of the black slate table. Between them rested two platters of cuisine from Mogadishu, Captain Shani Ukweli's hometown back on Earth. The first was a hearty plate of Surbiyaan Hilib Adhi which was a mixture of lamb, rice, and caramelized onions. A stack of Malawah, Somali sweet pancakes, rested on the second plate. An arrangement of tropical fruits orbited the two plates.
Ukweli smiled as she raised her shaah glass to return his toast. "I am thrilled that you approve. Although I may be an unfathomable distance away from my home, it does my heart good to know that a little piece of it sustains me every day." Picard nodded and took another sip of the spice tea. "Indeed."
Picard traced the undulating waves of light which danced across the table's polished sheen to the sloping windows above him. He spared a few moments to survey the fleet of battered Romulan vessels with whom the Destiny had made its narrow escape from the Hobus supernova. He focused on the civilian vessels because they bore the deeper wounds caused by their long diaspora. Anytime the turbulence of warp speed seemed to tear a civilian transport apart, the vessel sank into the nearby warp field of a hulking warbird nearby. Tendrils of light branched out from the warship as crucial welds were applied to the crumbling vessels to keep them space-worthy for the next stint of their trip.
When repairs were completed to a medium sized freighter, Picard finally spoke. "We need to expedite our treaty process with the Wakai people as much as we can. Those civilian vessels aren't long for this galaxy." Ukweli nodded as her fingers traced a series of command prompts on the edge of her table. "I absolutely agree, Ambassador."
Suddenly, a holographic model of the planet Hokulea 4 materialized over the Somalian breakfast dishes. Seconds later, a series of summative reports emerged from the illuminated globe. During those moments, Picard briefed Ukweli on their mission profile.
The Hokulea star system was an M class planet in the Romulan Neutral Zone. The Wakai people are the unified inhabitants of the planet. Their civilization became the dominant species on the planet thanks to cohesive cooperation within its members. They were also galactically renowned for their generosity amongst outsiders, including the occasional spacefaring traveler. The Wakai's amicable quality secured Hokulea 4 as the frontrunner for Romulan resettlement. Ukweli's lips turned up into a smile at this news.
Suddenly, images of the Wakai people appeared on the screen which twisted her smile into a foreboding frown. A parade of images ranging from wood thatched huts, multi-ruddered canoes, obsidian knives to crudely woven fish nets materialized and vanished in succession. The Wakai people were countless millennia away from spaceflight.
"Ambassador, I would be remiss if I did not bring up the possible breaching of the Prime Directive at this point in the briefing." Ukweli's voice then carried a more sobering tone. "The Wakai people's lack of advanced space technology clearly disqualifies them from contact with the Federation. Although we are in a desperate situation, we cannot allow the Wakai's culture to be contaminated or exploited by our interference."
Picard nodded knowingly. "I admire your passion, Captain. Ordinarily, I would agree with you. However, the Federation Council has granted a special provision to the Prime Directive in this case due to our unique circumstances…" He looked over his briefing data to highlight the key segment for his colleague to read. "...and the fact that the Wakai have already formally made contact with a spacefaring civilization."
Ukweli cocked an eyebrow. "Which one?"
Picard smirked as he enlarged the relevant data set with his hands. "The Ferengi Alliance."
Ukweli rolled her eyes. "Oh, God!"
Picard highlighted one of the floating brackets with his finger as he explained. "Apparently, it was one of Grand Nagus Zek's favorite places to visit before he retired." A hovering picture depicted a landing party of Ferengi walking along a pristinely white sandy beach. With Ukweli inspecting the image, Picard continued. "Other than Risa, of course. They apparently tried to harvest an indigenious mineral to manufacture a line of anti-aging cosmetic products."
The product replaced the image with a floating tube of blue gel. Ukweli peered towards the tube in an attempt to read the blocky Ferengi script on the label. After a few moments of struggling, Picard translated the advertisement. "Discover the secret to immortality: thirty bars of latinum per jar." Ukweli scoffed. "Leave it to the Ferengi to charge a fortune for a fake immortality cure. It's funny that I never heard about that."
Picard politely replied. "Ferengi don't like to discuss failed business ventures. The bigger the loss, the less it's discussed. Not to mention it allegedly turned customers' skin bright blue."
Ukweli nodded understandingly. "Even still, if the Wakai made contact with the Ferengi, I guess the Prime Directive is a moot point. I don't even want to think of the existential secrets the Ferengi might have told them."
"Indeed," Picard then highlighted the southern hemisphere of the holographic globe. "The Wakai have agreed to let our Romulan guests settle along the southern and eastern hemispheres. There are secluded areas where both parties can live without disturbing each other."
He highlighted one of the lagoons from the digital map. "Our diplomatic envoy assured the Wakai that the Romulans' presence would not interfere with their hunting trails and fishing spots. Once we have a treaty in place and resettlement begins, the next phase of resettlement will be infrastructure. I have a contractor in mind to manufacture habitat modules when that time comes."
An incredulous expression overcame Ukweli's face. "These people are just going to give us everything we want without asking for anything in return? No wonder the Ferengi took advantage of them."
"Not quite," Picard pointed to another summary bracket. An image of an underground cavern materialized before Ukweli with massive stalagmites jeweled with twinkling blue crystals. "Before we can receive the Wakai's boundless generosity, we must participate in their most sacred ritual: the rite of manawa'ole."
Ukweli cocked her head incredulously. Picard gave a non-committed sigh and a disclaimer that what he was about to say came second hand from the Ferengi. "Apparently, chosen members of our delegation will be asked to journey with the Wakai elders down into an underground cavern called Aina'kua or 'the land of the gods.'"
With the push of a button, the floating globe was sliced in half revealing webs of blue light springing from its center. "The radioactivity from the planet's core apparently has some regenerative properties on carbon based matter. Some of that radiation comes to the surface through geologic vents. The cavern of Aina'kua has the highest concentration on the entire planet. That would explain why the gods reside there."
Ukweli nodded thoughtfully while inspecting a cross-section map of the planet hovering before her eyes. Picard sighed as he concluded his report. "Apparently, if the gods are pleased by our presence, they will show their favor by rejuvenating our bodies with metaphasic radiation."
Ukweli locked her jaw as she carefully selected her next words. "And, if they are not pleased?"
Picard shook his head. "In that event, the only contingency plan I have is that we would have to scout out a new planet for resettlement. Considering radiation is involved, there's no guarantee what our condition would be in the event of our failure... if we're even fortunate to return at all."
A somber haze hung over the table thicker than the holographic readouts for the next several seconds. Finally, Ukweli spoke. "I suppose that's what makes away missions so exciting." Picard nodded timidly before he spoke. "Quite frankly, if the Ferengi participated in the ritual and emerged unharmed, that certainly bodes well for us. The gods' standards surely can't be that high."
The two leaders shared a chuckle for a moment. Suddenly, a siren began to wail throughout the ship as crimson flashes started to bleed into the ship. Ukweli activated her combadge and signaled the bridge.
Before anyone could respond, the entire convoy was engulfed in a blinding flash of light and fire. Tremors struck the Destiny's hull which sent the breakfast dishes cluttering about the cabin. In the chaos, Picard dismissed the confidential intelligence hovering over the table with the push of a button. With another command, he hailed the leaders of the Romulan refugee fleet.
Finally, the sneering countenance of the Romulan Admiral I'ban materialized in the neighboring chair. Save for his translucent complexion and his flickering appearance, I'ban behaved as if he were a third person sitting at the table. After taking his bearings, I'ban turned to Ukweli with blazing fury burning behind his eyes. "Destiny, one of our civilian freighters tragically lost containment of its warp drive. The strain of fleeing the supernova caused too much damage."
The enraged Romulan then turned to Picard. His words pierced the air in a rapid fire barrage. "Eighty civilians have lost their lives. Two hundred more are suffering radiation burns due to improper shielding from the blast." He paused for effect as Picard absorbed the information with a reverent nod. "Our supplies are almost exhausted. The remaining fleet will barely make it to the Hokulea system. Per our agreement, you must make preparations for the civilians to immediately land upon our arrival to the planet."
Picard gave his condolences before speaking. "We are in the process of expediting Starfleet First Contact procedures as we speak. As this world is unknown to both of us, we must execute strict protocols to ensure minimal harm is delivered to both us and the indiengous people through our relations."
Picard glanced at Ukweli before delivering his ultimatum. "I ask for twenty-four hours which will allow us to establish proper diplomatic ties with the Wakai before your civilians can land."
I'ban sneered at Picard. "Who are you to give demands like this, Picard?! You are but one Federation vessel against a squadron of Romulan warbirds. What's to stop us from destroying your vessel and taking the planet for ourselves?"
Picard returned the Romulan's sneer with an undaunted steely-eyed stare. "Because I am the Federation's leading diplomat and your Praetor's daughter is my aide representing him in official capacity. If you harm us, you will not only face the collective wrath of the Federation but you will also receive a humiliating discommendation from your own government." Picard confidently sat back in his chair to deliver his final verbal blow. "Honestly, I can't imagine which would be worse."
I'ban softened his intimidating demeanor before speaking. "Fine. You will have your twenty-four hours." The Romulan turned to Ukweli to deliver his parting threat. "But if we are delayed so much as a minute beyond that, we will open fire on your vessel." He turned back to Picard. "I'm sure the Praetor would understand our reasoning if five thousand of his loyal subjects were denied life-saving shelter because the Federation decided to waste time with pointless protocols."
The taunting frame of the brusque Romulan admiral disappeared in a flicker of static.
After a heavy sigh, Picard knelt down to pick up one of the cracked dishes that struck the deck during the warp core breach. "Well, it was a lovely breakfast while it lasted. The least I can do is clean up my plate."
Ukweli placed her hand on Picard's shoulder. "You don't need to do that. Computer, execute housekeeping protocol." With a preprogrammed chime, the computer complied. Before Picard could reply, all the dishes, food, and stains from spilled shaah tea disappeared in a widespread transporter beam.
Picard nodded approvingly. "Impressive. I wish my vessels had that feature."
Ukweli curtly replied. "It has its advantages. Especially when the fate of the ship is on the line."
She then gestured for the two of them to head towards the bridge. "We have two hours before we arrive in the Hokulea system." Picard nodded. "Plenty of time to build an ironclad diplomatic strategy."
Ukweli smiled. "You read my mind, Picard."