It was a routine day on a routine mission, and Picard was frankly bored. Q was gone on some sort of job, his bed was empty, and the space they were traveling through was unaccountably dull. He’d retired to his ready room on an excuse, leaving Riker tapping his feet on the bridge. Jean-Luc was sipping tea with his feet up when two things happened simultaneously.
The intercom whistled, and Q flashed into the ready room with a broad grin on his face.
Accustomed to both occurrences, Picard smiled and put down his feet. “Hullo, love. Can it wait a moment?”
Q’s eyes danced and he nodded. “Go ahead, you know how impatient he gets.”
Jean-Luc snorted and tapped his comm. “Picard.”
“Captain,” Riker’s voice came back. “We’ve picked up an anomaly on sensors — relatively small, very short range. Request permission to change course and investigate.”
Picard eyed Q suspiciously. “Specify, Number One.”
“Appears to be a small vessel, sir.”
“Out here?” Picard set down his tea. “Course deviation approved. I’ll be just a minute.”
He tapped his comm again and stood up. “Well, Q?”
“Just don’t say I never gave you anything, Johnny.” Q was practically licking the cream from his face.
“As if I would. But what is it, Q?” Jean-Luc crossed the room to stand in front of his husband. Q crossed his arms, still grinning. “A Preserver artefact?”
Q shook his head and bent to kiss Jean-Luc lightly. “You should recognize it when you see it. Or should I say, when you see him.... I think you’ll like it. But just now I’m right in the middle of solving a major temporal anomaly, and he’s just one small detail.”
Picard laughed and pulled Q into a hug, patting the fine ass. “Off you go, then. Will you be home tonight?”
“For dinner. And dessert...” The entity vanished in a dramatic flash. Picard considered that. It had been a while since Q had used such a pyrotechnic display in his presence. Q must be feeling extremely pleased with himself.
Picard paced onto the bridge, glanced around, checking his crew. “Report, Commander.”
“Sir.” Riker lifted himself out of the centre seat and waved a hand at the forward view screen. “Not a ship, as we thought. Little more than a pod. Perhaps even a life-support unit. We’ll be within tractor range in four minutes. Permission to bring it aboard?”
Picard frowned. “Yes, but use every precaution, and have a medical team standing by.” His executive officer frowned.
“But what would a life-support pod be doing out here?”
Picard glanced at Riker. “Q just made an extremely brief visit. He’s been away for a few days, working on some kind of time anomaly, and he’s found this in the course of his work. You know we don’t interfere in with each other’s jobs, usually. An exception inspires me to extreme caution.” Riker’s eyes widened.
“Yes, sir. Interesting. Q didn’t indicate..?”
“Q referred to the object as he, Commander, and as something we had lost. He was in a bit of a hurry, and I have no idea what sort of time anomaly he was referring to. He seemed to think he’d be home this evening, and perhaps we can get some further information from him then. Meanwhile, let’s bring it onboard. If there’s one thing we do know, it’s that Q wouldn’t knowingly endanger this ship or crew, but please use the usual bio-scan and weapons detection — Q was rather rushed.” He headed toward the turbo lift. “I’ll go down myself and see what it, or he, is.”
“Understood sir.” He turned to give the orders as the turbo lift doors closed behind the Captain. Glances were exchanged all around the bridge. The crew were well aware that their Captain’s omnipotent husband could be doing anything at all, though this was the first time since he’d been aboard that Q’s information had been openly cited as the reason for an operational order.
The object was some sort of life-support pod, Picard decided, staring at it from behind the force field as it floated toward the deck in the grip of the tractor. Perhaps four meters long and two high, cylindrical. Matte black, certainly not designed to be noticed in the vastness of space. Beverly pushed up beside him. “You requested a medical team? What’s the nature of the emergency?”
“I only wish I knew, Doctor,” Jean-Luc replied. “It’s a gift from Q, apparently. I’m to recognize it, or him, when I see it... or him.”
Crusher stared. “And he didn’t give you any more information than that?”
“He was in a hurry, Beverly.” Crusher sighed.
“Very well. Medical staff to full alert,” she continued, tapping her comm. “Unknown trauma en route. Stay on this circuit.”
“Acknowledged,” came the crisp voice of the duty nurse. Crusher fell silent beside Picard, waiting as the pod settled to the deck and the decontam team rushed forward. Several minutes passed while the crew checked for any kind of unwanted microscopic passenger, then the leader dissolved the containment field and hurried over to Picard, undoing his mask as he came.
“Captain, Chief Petty Officer Smith, sir. There are no recognized radiations, viruses or bacteria on the exterior, and the interior scans show only one life form. Humanoid, but in extreme systemic suppression. Deep sleep, sir. The sort of thing we used to use – ”
Picard, impatient, interrupted. “I am familiar with the term, Chief. What is your procedure?”
“Well, we recognize the door mechanism, so... Full filter beam for the ship as we open it, sir, and medical... Oh. Hullo, Doctor Crusher. Medical team standby, sir.”
“Very well. Open it. I will go in.”
The Chief stepped back a pace. “Sir? That is unwarranted risk, sir.”
“Noted. I will go in.”
“I’m coming with you, Captain,” Beverly said in her tough- doctor voice. “My help may be required as soon as the seal is broken.”
Picard hesitated, then nodded. “Let’s go then. Filters on, Chief. Stretcher crew standing by, and secure corridors to sickbay. Doctor?”
As they strode to the ship Beverly tapped her tricorder on Picard’s arm. “Q?”
“Yes. Apparently he ‘found’ whatever... whoever is in here, and brought it to us for a ‘present’.”
Beverly shivered. “Oh, goodie. A Q present.”
“Doctor Crusher, please avoid disparaging my partner. He would do nothing to harm this ship.”
Beverly bit her lip and subsided. Picard stood still as the door was fiddled with and at last opened. He noted the flinching reactions of the decontam crew as a wave of slightly steamy air shooshed out of the pod, and felt Beverly move beside him. When the retracting door stood full open he pushed out a breath. “Any contaminants?”
“Nothing showing, sir,” a voice called. He nodded and reached for the slightly raised door frame, then pulled himself up carefully and listened before helping Beverly up into the dark interior.
It was tiny, inside, he could tell by the muffled nature of the sounds from the deck rebounding on whatever was within. Picard called for a hand lamp and waited while Beverly operated her tricorder by feel, peering at the little display. “Yes, one humanoid... can’t tell if it’s human with such low life signs. Right in front of us, Jean-Luc. Centimetres in front of us.”
Picard reached back into the bright shuttle bay for the lamp, and brought it up to shine around the interior.
It’s like being inside an egg, he thought. The walls were curved about them. No controls visible anywhere, no lights, no screens. In the centre of the space, a hand’s breadth in front of them was a raised pedestal, coffin shaped. The top of the coffin reflected the light back, and he moved close, aiming the lamp through the top.
“Oh, mon dieu,” he breathed, peering inside. “This man has more lives than a cat.”
“Jean-Luc?” Beverly stepped forward and peered through the clear top of the casket. “Is that who I think it is?”
“It can’t be... but it is. It’s Kirk.” Picard unconsciously pressed his hand against the glass. “Jim T. Kirk. And he looks about 18 years old.”
I originally wrote at the head of this story: “I hate Generations. I have always hated Generations.” This story was my way of getting K/S back into the universe after the debacle on Veridian III and the second killing-off of Kirk. Since Picard was there, this seemed like a natural way to go.
I had also become addicted to the wonder P/Q of Varoneeka, and so Big Black took advantage of that.
Black was published in 1999 on ASCEM. There were three sequels to this one: Onto the Deep Blue, Amid the Great Greys, and Beneath the Azure Skies. The four were published together by Beyond Dreams Press as a printzine around 2004, with a new story, Beside the Emerald Sea, which was written just for the printzine and slotted in between Blue and Grey. I was very proud. Don’t know if Jenna and Dusky managed to sell many, but I was still very proud, and loved the original cover art by T’Guess.
Once again, my beta was my darlin’ old Bacchus, although Dusky did a fantastic edit for the ‘zine.