CHAPTER FOUR

Captain Jean-Luc Picard strolled the length of one of the lower corridors of the Enterprise. He made certain not to move too quickly, he was in no hurry this morning to assume duty. Whenever he did appear to be making haste for the bridge, he had noticed that most of the officers he would pass would think that there was an alert of some kind.

Fortunately for the sake of everyone's emotional well-being, Picard had managed to curb his habit of walking at a quick pace unless there really was some kind of emergency. Silently, he accepted the thanks of his crew, new and old.

Too bad he never did get back to that holodeck program.

After all the excitement concerning Captain Bairnson, Picard found himself too weary to return to the world of Dixon Hill and solve the murder he had left behind. Not to mention the fact that he had completely forgotten who it was who killed Johnny LaRue anyhow.

Oh well, something for another time.

Picard turned upon hearing his name being called out.

Sprinted at leisurely pace to catch up with him was Counsellor Troi. Picard smiled pleasantly at her as she came up the corridor to stand at his side. When she had finally caught up with the Captain the pair continued down the corridor side by side.

"What's the hurry Counsellor?" wondered Picard.

"I just thought you'd like to know," she said. "Captain Bairnson appears to be making excellent progress."

"Splendid. Does he know who he is yet?"

"Well," she said with a slight hesitance, "he knows his name."

Picard knew that look on the Counsellor's face all too well. After all this time together, the Captain had become quite good at reading what was on the mind of one of his crew from the expression on their faces. Perhaps the mind-meld Picard had experienced with the Vulcan ambassador Sarek had something to do with it, but in any case, he could tell when someone was voluntarily holding back information from him.

Troi should have known better being a telepath herself. Besides, what did she have to fear from him after all the years they had served together? What was it that she couldn't tell him to his face?

"I'm afraid," Troi began after a moment, "that knowing his name hasn't helped him to remember the circumstances surrounding how he came to be here."

Ah, that was it.

Perhaps as Captain, Picard had often asked his crew to perform the impossible and as a result of their success, he always expected the immediate response to a given problem situation to be the correct one. Beverly had told him that in matters involving the human mind, such immediate results were not guaranteed, and that the only healer in mental illness was time.

Besides, what was the rush in learning how Bairnson had come to be here, anyway? There didn't appear to be any immediate danger to the man, Picard's ship or his crew. In fact, if the grapevine on the Enterprise was accurate, the Captain had come to be quite the topic of off-duty conversations in Ten Forward. And it wasn't often that one visitor generated more interest in the crew than an entire ship full of visiting medical delegates.

Picard nodded simply his understanding to the Counsellor.

"But you may be interested to know," Troi began again, "that he's made a friend aboard the ship."

"Really?" said Picard with no little surprise.

Only three days since being pulled from a frozen slumber aboard a malfunctioning shuttlecraft, and already Bairnson had someone he could confide in aboard the Enterprise. Picard smiled inwardly to himself. Perhaps his new friend would be able to help him remember.

"Who?" asked Picard.

Troi smiled somewhat mischievously at the captain. "Ensign Ro," she said with a slight giggle.

"Ensign Ro?" Picard replied with shock, stopping dead in his tracks. The Counsellor also halted and was looking at the captain as though she had just revealed the punchline to a joke that had completely gone over the captain's head. Had he really heard the Counsellor right? The sometimes troublesome ensign from the planet Bajor, had warmed up to the Enterprise's mysterious visitor?

"Ensign Ro Laren?" he repeated incredulously.

Troi nodded, her grin increasing in width.

The more Picard thought about it, the more it made a peculiar kind of sense. The two had a few things in common: they were both Starfleet officers; they were both kind of alone. But there was one thing which, at least to Picard, seemed to be the one element which would really have brought them together: a sense of displacement. Bairnson in time and Ro in place. Situations stranger than that had brought people together in the past.

Besides, Picard had always thought that Ro could use a few more friends on the Enterprise. She was a fine officer who deserved a lot more than the cold shoulder she often received from the other officers aboard the ship. Perhaps associating with this lost-in-time Captain would help her to better relate to her fellow officers.

But still, it was peculiar to think that someone like Ro Laren would just flock to someone like Bairnson out of the goodness of her heart. There was probably more to it than he realized, but at the moment it hardly seemed to matter. As long as it made them both happy, Picard saw no reason for the relationship not to continue as it was.

"To each his own, Captain," said Troi.

"Indeed," Picard replied.

He hoped that the tone of his voice was enough of an indication of his approval to Troi. Together the pair continuedon down the corridor until they reached the turbolift that would take them to their day's duties on the bridge.

Captain Jack Bairnson was also strolling the length of one of the ship's corridors. Like Picard, his pace was leisurely, but not because he feared the crew of this ship would think that there was an emergency going on. He reasons were much more basic.

He was lost.

This Enterprise was by far the biggest starship he had ever seen in his life. No ship from his own time could match her in size, speed, or performance. Just knowing that was enough to make him uneasy. If the Federation was able to build a ship like this, what would the Federation's enemies have been to come up with that could match her?

Enemies.

Something stirred slightly in Bairnson's mind. Like when he heard the name Enterprise for the first time. Could one of the Federation's enemies have had something to do with why he was here? His mind raced to try to remember the political situation of his day.

It probably wasn't the Klingons. The Federation had been able to reach a detante with the warrior race years before he had graduated from Starfleet Academy. It didn't make sense that the Klingon Empire, struggling to restructure itself would attck a representative of the one power in the galaxy that was willing to help them.

Could it have been the Orions? No, not their style.

The Tholians? Nobody had even heard from them in the last twenty years.

The Gorn? They had pretty much left the Federation alone since that incident on Cestus 3.

The Romulans?

It was then that Bairnson turned his attention to the direction in which he had been travelling. He glanced quickly about him noticing the maroon carpeting of the floor, the shiny black panels that lined the creme-colored walls, the bright yellow lights which bathed the corridor in a warm glow.

Where the hell am I? he asked himself.

There were officers in different-colored uniforms passing him on all sides. Some didn't even bother to notice him, others shot the Captain a quick puzzled glance. Bairnson wasn't certain how to deal with these people yet.

Fortunately, at that moment a piece of his memory returned. Something that one of his instructors at the Academy had taught him to do when confronted by a situation like this. How did it go? "Always look like you know what you're doing. Your crew will never know the difference and in time, you'll figure out what you're supposed to do."

Bairnson quickly changed his expression from a befuddled gape to a stern face that demonstrated confidence and composure. At least he hoped it.

He made another quick survey of the corridor, and to his relief saw a large metallic door only a few feet away from him. With an exaggerated spring in his step, Bairnson paced towards the door. As he stepped up in front of it, the metallic barrier parted and Bairnson stepped through the now open portal.

As the doors closed behind him, Bairnson made another quick visual inspection of the room he now found himself in. It was slightly larger than his quarters, lined with panels, and on the far end a series of tiny stairs which led to a large, open, cirular area divided into six pie-cut segments. Bairnson sighed with relief. Like a sickbay, he'd recognize a transporter room in any century.

"Can I help you, sir?" a masculine voice said.

Bairnson turned and noticed a stocky man with curly blonde hair standing behind a console. He was wearing a yellow uniform and was staring quizzically at the Captain.

"No, Mister..." said Bairnson.

"O'Brien, sir," replied the man.

"O'Brien," repeated the Captain, adding with a nonchalant shake of his head. "Just inspecting the ship."

O'Brien nodded and returned his gaze to the console. For several moments, Bairnson paced the length of the transporter room not knowing what else to do. He tried several things to make himself look important. Running his index finger along the wall as if looking for dust that shouldn't be there, glancing over O'Brien's shoulder as though checking that his calculations were correct.

Finally, the Captain sighed. It was no use trying to disguise it any more.

"Uh, listen," Bairnson began. Though there was no one else in the room, he leaned in closer to O'Brien and almost whispered in his ear.

"I'm little embarrassed to say this, but I'm lost."

O'Brien glanced up into the Captain's eyes. Bairnson searched for the humor in them that was bound to show at his expense. However, O'Brien's eyes were not reprimanding in any way, but kind and understanding. He smiled pleasantly.

The fact that O'Brien did not burst out laughing at him encouraged Bairnson to explain further. "You see, I was heading to sickbay, and well, I kinda got sidetracked and ended up here."

"It's quite understandable, sir," said O'Brien with a smile. "What with you being new to the ship and all. Keiko's always saying that this is the only ship in the fleet that you could get lost on while looking for the john."

Bairnson chuckled slightly. O'Brien was only the fifth person he had met while on the Enterprise, and apart from Ro Laren, he had to admit that he liked O'Brien the best. The man had a warm-hearted nature and a kindly face. And his lilting Scottish brogue made you feel welcome, no matter how strange you were to the ship and its customs.

If all the officers aboard the ship were like O'Brien and Ro, then maybe this wasn't going to be such a bad experience after all. In fact, there was something about O'Brien that reminded Bairnson of someone else he once knew. Now who was it? Oh yes! Crispin. Doctor James Alistair Crispin, his former Chief Medical Officer from the Enterprise-B. How could he ever have forgotten him?

"Well sir, if you're willing to wait," said O'Brien after a moment. "Doctor Crusher will be here any minute. She's coming to greet the final delegates to the medical conference."

"Fine by me," said Bairnson with no little sense of relief. O'Brien chuckled.

The medical conference was about the biggest topic of conversation that Bairnson had heard on the ship. Apart from himself, of course. The Enterprise had arrived at Pollux 2 that morning and Bairnson had to admit to himself that he was curious to see some these delegates for himself.

So far, not one of them had turned out to be a psychiatrist or memory expert of any kind. How ironic, he thought. On ship full of doctors and not one of them able to help me with my problem. Bairnson supposed that was the reason why Picard and Crusher had both insisted that he continue to see Counsellor Troi.

Apparently, she was the one everyone on the ship went to see about their personal problems. Bairnson couldn't recall if he had had a ship's counsellor aboard his Enterprise, but now that he had seen it in action, he could see where it might be a pretty good idea. For others anyway.

Bairnson shook his head to himself. While he did find visiting the Counsellor a desirable experience, she was doing little to help jog his memory. Although she was doing wonders for his libido.

Bairnson glanced up again as the doors to the transporter room opened once again. Beverly Crusher paced into the room. She was looking a little different than when Bairnson had last seen her. Her hair was combed immaculately, she had touched up her makeup and was now wearing what Bairnson guessed to be the formal equivalent of the uniform worn by all the Starfleet officers aboard the Enterprise.

She noticed Jack Bairnson standing beside O'Brien's console and came towards him. A smile curled her lips. "Hello," she said with some surprise. "I wasn't expecting to see you here."

Bairnson was quite taken by the way she looked, but as she came closer to him he noticed something else. A sweet aroma that seemed to follow her wherever she went. Some kind of perfume, thought Bairnson.

"Well, I..." said the Captain with some reluctance.

"He was inspecting the ship Doctor," O'Brien interjected.

Beverly nodded with a smile and turned back to face the transporter bay.

"Thank you," Bairnson whispered.

"Any time, sir."

Bairnson heard an audible chime emanate from O'Brien's console. The transporter chief touched a red pad in response to the hail. They were ready to transport the delegates on Pollux 2. This was what Bairnson had been waiting for: the chance to see this ship's advanced technology in operation.

Beverly called for O'Brien to energize the transporter beam. Bairnson watched with fascination as O'Brien moved his hands across the panel, touching a few colored pads here and there. Finally he brought his hand above the bottommost corner the far right side of the console. With one swift motion, O'Brien moved his hand upward along the length of the console.

A series of orange lights followed the motion of his hand and within moments, Bairnson heard the familiar chiming feedback that the transporter device was bound to cause. He glanced up to see three figures gradually forming within the transporter bay. Within seconds, the sparkling, bluish outlines were replaced clearly and distinctly by three humanoids.

As Doctor Crusher stepped forward to greet the delegates, Bairnson sighed disappointedly to himself. For all intents and purposes, this Enterprise's transporter was no different from the device that the Captain had been familiar with.

"Something wrong, sir?" asked O'Brien.

"I dunno," replied the Captain. "I guess I was just expecting something a little more... spectacular."

"Transporter technology hasn't changed much in forty years, sir. 'If it ain't broke, why fix it?'"

Bairnson nodded with an understanding smile. O'Brien was right, of course. Starfleet had hit upon a good things decades ago when they came up with the transporter, and even though more than a hundred years had passed since its inception, it was still basically the same as it had always been. How does one improve upon perfection?

Bairnson glanced up again in the direction of the transporter bay. He carefully inspected the three delegates who had materialized aboard the ship. They were as diverse a group as one could have expected to find. One was a Vulcan female dressed in the traditional gown of a scientist. Another was from a race whom Bairnson had never seen before. He was kind of tall and thin with almost sticklike arms and legs. His high, sloping forehead and bald top were the color of ashes left over after a fire.

O'Brien explained to the captain that he was a Ytoxen, a race whom the Federation had only recently encountered. His world was being devastated by a plague which the Federation hoped to help cure before admitting them as a new member. He had specially been invited to attend the conference by the Surgeon General and the Federation President himself.

Bairnson lost track of what O'Brien was telling him after that. His attention suddenly focused on the third being in the group.

He was decidedly older than the other delegates, about eighty, Bairnson guessed. His round head possessed a tiny amount of white hair that would have been described as a "dusting of snow." The man's stocky build and somewhat abnormal height, almost kept Bairnson from realizing that he was human.

Bairnson gazed deeply at the older man's wrinkled features. He studied the eyes, the mouth, the nose; everything that he could see. There was something familiar about him. Bairnson could swear that he had seen this man at some other time in his life. When he was younger, and slightly thinner, and not so weathered by life and time.

Doctor Crusher began to lead the delegates out of the transporter room. The doors opened and the Enterprise's Doctor led the other delegates out the open archway and into the corridor. Bairnson had to know. He quickly thanked O'Brien for his time and dashed out the still open doorway.

Bairnson followed the delegates for several moments, listening to every bit of dialogue exchanged by each member of the group. He paid particular attention to the large old man whose face seemed so familiar to him. With each new word the man spoke, Bairnson began to realize more and more who he was.

The slightly cocky way in which he swaggered about as he walked, the loud, boisterous voice which seemed to compliment the size of his girth. The slightly off-color remarks he made as the group continued down the hall. Beverly laughed at his jokes, but only out of courtesy. The Vulcan's expression never changed and the Ytoxen found the whole process rather curious.

That was it! The jokes. Bairnson knew who he was finally!

"Joe?" he called out.

The big man stopped in his tracks. The other three members of the group noticed his sudden halt and also stood a moment.

"Joe Vitro?" said the captain once again, approaching the large doctor.

Vitro slowly turned around to face the man who had called out his name. Bairnson was smiling with joy at the sight of a familiar face. He quickly came up to face the man who was considerably taller than him.

"You don't know how relieved I am to see a friendly face," said Bairnson extending his right hand to Vitro. "I was beginning to think that..."

The silence that met Bairnson's ears was deafening. It was only then that he noticed the expression on Vitro's face. Stern and cold, like the faces of one of the presidents carved into Mount Rushmore. Vitro did not extend his hand to Bairnson in kind, but kept them closely to his sides, balled into nervous and quivering fists.

The rest of his face tried desperately not to show it, but the perspiration of his forehead was only part of the giveaway. Bairnson could see it in his eyes. They were wide, the pupils dilated to their fullest extent. Joe Vitro looked not like a man who was happy to see an old friend, like one who suddenly found himself cornered by a hungry lion with no means of escape.

"Joe?" said Bairnson with concern. "Are you alright? It's me, it's..."

"Beverly," Vitro interrupted through clenched teeth. "Get him away from me!"

Bairnson stared wide-eyed with confusion at the burly doctor as Beverly quickly dashed up beside him. Her face betraying the concern she felt.

"Doctor Vitro," she said. "What's wrong? What's the..."

"Get him the hell away from me, Beverly!" exclaimed Vitro forcefully.

Beverly shot a quick, confused glance at Bairnson who could only stare back at her dumbfounded. She then took Vitro by the arm and with a concerted effort, led him away from Bairnson.

Bairnson could not even speak for a moment. He just stared wide-eyed, mouth gaping as Doctor Crusher led Doctor Vitro and the other delegates back down the corridor. A few seconds later, Vitro stopped the group again. He turned to face the captain once again.

"You're dead!" Vitro cried out. "You have to be! Or else it was all for nothing!"

Beverly turned Vitro away from Bairnson once again and slowly began to lead him back down the corridor. The other delegates followed closely behind. Bairnson watched the four doctors slowly pace down the corridor until they finally disappeared around a bend.

It was all for nothing? thought Bairnson. What was that supposed to mean?

Vitro's cry had not been one of hostility, but more one of anguish and despair. Perhaps even guilt? If he's feels guilty, then he must know what happened! Much though he wanted to race down the corridor and catch up with Vitro, he realized that the Doctor obviously wanted nothing to do with him. For a moment, Bairnson felt depressed. Depressed that perhaps his one hope of discovering how he got here, had now vanished forever.

Then, an idea.

If Vitro was alive and knew what had happened to him, maybe there were others who did as well! It was a chance he had to take, and with a newfound sense of purpose, Bairnson dashed back down the corridor in the direction he came. Back to his quarters.

The doors parted and Jack Bairnson stepped through the open portal and into his plush accommodations. He brought the light level in the room up to an illumination with which he was comfortable and darted over to his desk. He swiveled the small, desktop computer terminal until the screen side was facing him. He touched a small red button in the lower right hand corner of the device.

The screen glowed to life and within a few seconds, the female voice of the Enterprise's main computer spoke to Jack Bairnson, requesting instructions.

"Computer," Bairnson began. "Are you able to access Starfleet service records from the Federation mainframe on Earth?"

"Affirmative," the voice replied after a few seconds.

Bairnson smiled. "Computer, get me the service records for the following officers of U.S.S. Enterprise. Construction number NCC-1701-B."

Bairnson then picked up the record of the Enterprise-B that Ro Laren had given him. He opened the cover and quickly flipped to the page which listed the crew roster for the ship under his command. He read the names that seemed the most familiar to him. Commander D'nadrY'Gar, Lieutenant Commander Janet Sunset, Lieutenant Commander Ryan Alex Johnson, Doctor James Alistair Crispin, Lieutenants Saallak, Curtis Winston, and Thuroq Mirgant.

Bairnson instructed the computer to produce the service records for those officers. There was silence as the computer worked to carry out his instructions. While Bairnson waited, he looked down on the names listed on the duty roster.

Joe Vitro was on there somewhere, and he wanted to see it in black and white print for himself. Strange, he wasn't in the medical section like Bairnson had thought. He read a little further. Then he saw it.

Lieutenant (j.g.) Joseph Vitro, Engineering.

Engineering? Vitro was an engineer?

"The information you requested is now available," chimed the computer voice.

That was fast, Bairnson thought. "Alright Computer, readout the information to me. Limit your reports to current ranks and whereabouts."

The computer voice was silent a moment as it processed Bairnson's new request. After a moment, it spoke. "Commander D'nadrY'Gar. No information available..."

"Stop!" snapped Bairnson. He stared at the screen of the terminal on his desk. Addressing it as if it were a green cadet on their first deep space assignment.

"Explain lack of information regarding Commander Y'Gar," he then added.

"All files concerning Commander D'nadrY'Gar have been deleted," said the computer voice in its soft, feminine monotone.

Bairnson nodded comprehendingly. "Continue."

"Lieutenant Commander Janet Sunset: No information available. Files deleted," said the computer. "Lieutenant Commander Ryan Alex Johnson: No information available. Files deleted..."

"Stop!" snapped Bairnson again. This was getting ridiculous. Was he going to have to go through every single name on the roster before he got an answer? What if it turned out that Joe Vitro was in fact, the only one who knew what had really happened to Bairnson?

"Has the information on every single officer that I've requested," he said, the frustration in his voice rising, "just disappeared?!"

"Negative."

Well. Wasn't expecting that. "Alright, give me the names that you do have."

The computer was silent once again for moment. "Lieutenant Thuroq Mirgant: Current rank: Commander. Current assignment: Executive officer, U.S.S. Monitor."

Mirgant.

Yes, that was a name he remembered very well. The Andorian officer who had started Bairnson's "Old Hickory" nickname aboard the Enterprise. The helmsman who once admitted to admiring him from afar even though she knew that he was betrothed to another.

If there was anyone who could and would tell Bairnson what had happened, it was her.

She owed him that much.