Second draft premise, "Where None Have Gone Before" | DianeDuane dot com

Second draft premise, "Where None Have Gone Before"

        General thoughts:  can Picard be strengthened somewhat?
        "Where None Have Gone Before" 
        The Enterprise stops at the planet Hamal V to pick up PETER 
        KOSINSKI, a Starfleet engineer, and a new piece of machinery 
        which has been designed for the Federation's starships by the 
        Hamalki, an alien species very talented at engineering.  The new 
        equipment, the "warpdrive booster", will increase all a 
        starship's warpspeeds by about 7%.  The booster drive is a 
        fairly simple addition to a starship's warp engines:  it's a 
        large box with a tiny black hole held in it in gravitational 
        stasis.  When installed with its apparatus in the warpdrive 
        engines, the black hole acts to "concentrate" the plasma stream 
        from the matter-antimatter reaction engines and increase their 
        Picard is delighted to have the booster, but even more pleased to 
        see Kosinski, his old roommate from the Academy.  Their 
        relationship is cheerful:  they tease one another affectionately 
        about their career choices -- Kosinski went into the sciences 
        rather than Starfleet. He's been on Hamal for a few years, and 
        has installed this booster on other ships.  "I like these 
        installation runs,"  he tells Picard:  "it's just about the only 
        time I get to see anything but three-foot-high glass 
        spiders...." (which is an accurate description of the Hamalki).   
        But there's also an undercurrent of somberness to him, and after 
        Troi says hello to him, Picard (while he's doing something else) 
        asks Troi what she thinks of Kosinski.  "He's got things on his 
        mind,"   she says.  "Nothing that will interfere with what he's 
        doing...but things on his mind."  This chimes with Picard's 
        thought.  He knows that Kosinski is no longer married, and has 
        thrown himself completely into his someone who knows 
        him, Kosinski seems to slip in and out of some private sorrow.  
        Meanwhile Riker "fences" a little with Kosinski and Data about 
        the booster.  He's not totally familiar with the principles on 
        which it functions, and his major concern is seeing that the 
        booster "performs as advertised", and doesn't adversely affect 
        his responsibility to turn over a functioning vehicle to Picard.  
        But Riker is perfectly aware of his own uneasiness, and is able 
        to laugh at it.  Data, for his own part, is eager to have the 
        booster online.  He's familiar with the principles of the drive 
        -- calls its equations "elegant".  "And are they accurate?"  
        says Riker.  Data looks at him affably, his enthusiasm 
        undampened, and says,  "If they were not accurate, they could 
        not be 'elegant'."  From Data's viewpoint, an increase in the 
        ship's speed means an increase in how much the people aboard her 
        can discover and experience, and that excites him.  
        The booster is installed, and works perfectly.  With it in 
        place, the Enterprise proceeds on course to her next destination 
        -- with a planned detour:  to take readings on something 
        extraordinary, an dying red giant star which is on the verge of 
        collapsing into a black hole.  

        While the Enterprise is in the neighborhood of the star, it 
        suddenly begins to collapse at a rate greater than 
        expected...contracting into a black hole.  Picard orders the 
        ship away at full speed and Kosinski pushes the warpdrive 
        booster for its last ounce of power.  But this isn't enough, and 
        the ship slows, stops, even though her engines are at 
        full -- then slowly begins to slip backwards.  They can't escape 
        from the gravitational pull of the star....they're being pulled 
        into it as if on a leash.  As the teaser ends, the Enterprise is 
        striving desperately to get away from the incipient black hole 
        before being sucked into it and crushed to subatomic 
        ACT I:  At the beginning of the act, the ship is still 
        struggling to get away from the dying star.  Kosinski is 
        fighting with the booster apparatus, desperately trying to get 
        some extra power out of it so that the Enterprise will need to 
        escape the collapsing star.  He gets it...but not quite the way 
        he wants it.  The close proximity of the immense gravitational 
        field of the collapsing star affects the booster's black hole, 
        causing it to increase the Enterprise's speed not by 7%, but 
        about seven hundred thousand percent.  When the smoke clears, 
        the Enterprise is safely out of the nova's grip...but is also 
        far, far from home, clear out of the Galaxy, hanging outside the 
        halo of globular clusters surrounding the Milky Way.  
        Picard orders the ship to hold position so that everyone can 
        "catch their breath" and make their status reports.  Except for 
        their location, the ship's condition seems normal:  but there 
        are a few reports of minor system malfunctions, one deck on 
        which all the clocks seem to have stopped, a room down in 
        storage which seems to have suddenly become blue...  However, 
        these problems are more or less lost in the larger one.  The 
        Enterprise is tens of thousands of lightyears from home, so that 
        even on warp drive it would take her hundreds of years to get 
        back into Federation space.  
        Picard calls a conference of his officers in the Ready Room, to 
        examine the ship's options.  Riker is already arguing quietly 
        with Data:  "I thought you said the equations were accurate?" 
        "They were,"  Data says.  Riker looks at him speculatively for a 
        moment, and Data says,  "You know I am incapable of falsehood."  
        "Yes,"  Riker says,  "but what about error?"   -- Kosinski tells 
        Riker that he suspects the collapsing star of having damaged the 
        black hole in the warpdrive booster.  He hopes this isn't the 
        case -- especially since the booster is their only chance of 
        getting back home again.  Riker agrees:  using the unboosted 
        warp engines, even at warp 9, it would take them centuries just 
        to get back into the Galaxy!  They have to find a way to 
        duplicate the effect of the collapsing star on the booster's 
        black hole, so that the booster will shoot them back home again 
        at the same hugely increased speed.  Kosinski has several ideas 
        on how to do this.  Picard orders a course plotted back to the 
        Galaxy, and the meeting breaks up.  
        Kosinski goes to make the necessary adjustments to the warpdrive 
        booster, and Picard goes with him.  They talk casually during 
        this process -- two old friends catching up on old news.  

        Kosinski's news is sad, though he discusses it as if the details 
        were far away and happened to someone else -- the death of his 
        unborn son, some years back, of prenatal neurosarcoma, a fetal 
        disease that not even Federation medicine has conquered.  
        Kosinski's wife left him after it was discovered Kosinski was a 
        carrier of the disease, and the gene that causes it in one's 
        children couldn't be removed from him.  ...Kosinski becomes 
        embarrassed by his own revelations and leaves Picard as soon as 
        he reasonably can, saying only that he has to go set up the 
        timing of the warp run back home with the Conn officer.  Picard 
        looks after him, concerned.  
        Not everyone is necessarily somber, or frightened.  Geordi is up 
        in the bridge lounge with Data, looking out the windows at the 
        Galaxy.  He can barely describe what he sees:  a galaxy glowing 
        in shades of infrared and ultraviolet, and other colors of 
        radiation that humans have no name for:  all this in a view that 
        no human being has ever seen before (and indeed other people 
        drift in from the bridge to look).  It's a shame, says Geordi, 
        that the only way the ship could get out here was by 
        accident...and that it's going to have to leave so soon.  Data 
        agrees with him.   After all, the ship is about going to strange 
        places, seeing strange and wonderful things...."Problem is,"  
        Geordi says cheerfully, noticing Picard coming back in, "it's 
        about work, too...."   
        (M:  Can you add another beat between the last one and the next 
        one, or between the Kosinski one and the Geordi one?  The act 
        needs another, and I can't think of one.) 
        Picard takes his place on the bridge and is joined by Riker and 
        Kosinski, who have been setting up the timed run at warp speed 
        which should take them back home again.  Picard orders the ship 
        to go to warp speed with the booster online.  In a rush of 
        stars, as the timed run begins, the Galaxy grows huge in the 
        forward screens....   
        ACT TWO:  After a rocky and scary flight through a veritable 
        blizzard of stars, the ship drops out of warp...and the results 
        are not good:  the screen shows (and Conn confirms) that the 
        Enterprise has come out all the way across the Galaxy, and this 
        time MUCH farther away from home, on the other side.  Nor is the 
        ship's general status as positive, this time, as it was after 
        the last warpspeed run.  Some people feel extremely strong and 
        confident...others are terrified for reasons they don't 
        understand.  Crewmen begin seeing strange things -- walls that 
        begin to shimmer:  doors that open out onto places that aren't 
        there (such as fire escapes).  Here and there communications 
        between people come out in gibberish, or backwards.  And these 
        occurrences seem entirely random:  nor are they reproducible -- 
        they just happen.  Causality seems to be reversing (or, on a 
        local scale, breaking down). In other places, walls go 
        completely transparent, crewmen's whims are granted without 
        Sickbay begins to fill up with distressed people, and first 
        Crusher and then Troi find themselves knee deep in bizarre 
        problems, the strangest of these being many people who are 
        manifesting physical symptoms in their bodies for conditions 
        that they don't have.  Privately, Troi takes Crusher aside and 
        tells her that she has problems of her own:  she's beginning to 
        feel everyone's stress more acutely than usual, as the bizarre 
        experiences produce much higher-than-usual anxiety levels in the 
        crew.  "Can you cope?"  says Crusher.  "I'd better,"  says Troi.  
        Crusher is concerned about Troi, and tells her so -- not only 
        for her own sake, but because if she gets a sense that the 
        Counsellor's judgment is being affected by the conditions 
        they're suffering, then she will have to move to remove her from 
        duty:  a Counsellor whose advice is "contaminated" can bring a 
        whole ship to ruin.  But Troi insists that she's all right, and 
        for the moment Crusher takes this as correct.  
        The hallucinations aren't just striking anonymous crewmen.  
        Kosinski in particular hallucinates his son, the son he never 
        had, quite strongly.  He knows it's a hallucination, too, and is 
        terrified (and griefstricken all over again, over a grief he 
        thought he had laid to rest.)  He doesn't tell anyone else about 
        this.  (Or does he tell Crusher?)
        This incident severely colors the meeting he has with Picard and 
        Riker on the bridge, as they try to decide what the best thing 
        to do is now.  Kosinski is half afraid that the stress of this 
        situation is unhinging him.  Picard thinks Kosinski is fine, but 
        suggests he go see Crusher if there's a problem...and then they 
        get down to business.  There seems to be nothing to do but try 
        again to get home.  
        Kosinski is very concerned about this, since he strongly 
        suspects that all their problems are due to the "derangement" of 
        the booster's black hole by the collapsing star from which the 
        Enterprise escaped.  If this is so, Kosinski tells Riker and 
        Picard, then they're carrying their problem with them, and this 
        kind of thing will happen again and again until the problem is 
        corrected.  Yet they can't get rid of the warpdrive booster:  
        it's the Enterprise's only ticket home.  Kosinski says there are 
        a couple of ways to reverse or cancel the effect when they use 
        the booster again, so that they can get safely home.  But 
        there's no way to test which way is going to work except by 
        trying each one in actual warpflight.  
        No one is particularly happy with this situation, especially 
        Riker, but Picard points out that there's no choice:  as Riker 
        mentioned earlier, the warpdrive without the booster would take 
        literally centuries to get them home.  They simply have to use 
        it with the booster, and hope for the best.  If they don't get 
        back at least into intragalactic space, they're condemning 
        themselves to a slow death far out in the black nowhere.  
        This decision made, and the meeting broken up, Picard has a 
        hallucination himself. As he heads into his quarters, he sees a 
        sexy Beverly Crusher come slinking in.  Picard confronts her in 
        surprise, and finds that she has no face -- then finds that 
        she's not there at all:  she's vanished.  He's distressed and 
        concerned by this bizarre vision, and unsure what it means.  (M:  
        do you think this implies a scene in which Picard goes to talk 
        to Troi about it, because he can't talk to Crusher?  Troi is 
        very cool and professional with him, and gives him, as gently as 
        possible, her assessment of the situation:  that the vision may 
        be symbolic of Picard's inability to confront Beverly's 
        sexuality as part of her self.  Picard doesn't like hearing 
        this...but he has to admit that there may be something to it.) 
        He tries to talk to Beverly about this later, and finds that 
        she's no more comfortable about the situation than he is.  She 
        too has had a hallucination:  one of seeing her husband's body 
        being brought in to the bridge of the ship he commanded long ago 
        -- but the face of the body in the hallucination turned out to 
        be Picard's....)
        And to Picard's surprise, what's making Beverly uncomfortable is 
        not what he thinks.  Picard says to her that he wonders whether 
        people's secret fears are expressing themselves in these 
        visions.  But Beverly tells him that as far as she can tell from 
        her many talks with the crew, this isn't the case.  What the 
        crew is experiencing are projective hallucinations:  you see not 
        what own your fears, whims, and so forth are, but the images and 
        ideas that other people have about you.  Her own hallucination 
        leaves her wondering what Picard is really feeling about 
        her...and his hallucination makes her wonder what she really 
        feels about Picard.  They part for the moment with the issue 
        unresolved.  Picard goes to take the ship out on its next warp 
        boy, his son, whom we saw earlier.  But this child seems 
        real:  people whom he passes in the hall react to him.  Calling 
        for his father, he goes wandering off through the ship looking 
        for him:  a lost child who we're not sure even exists....  
        ACT THREE:  The conn officers lay in a course for home again, 
        and Kosinsky recommends to the Captain an approximate time -- a 
        minute or so -- that the ship should remain in maximum warp to 
        stand at least a fighting chance to make it back into the 
        galaxy.  He warns that if trends that they've seen so far 
        continue, the instrumentation may suffer and give the same kind 
        of "false readings" that people's minds seem to have been 
        giving:  also, the "breakdown of reality" already being 
        experienced on the ship will probably get much worse.  Picard 
        notes this, warns the crew of what's coming up, and then gives 
        the order for the Enterprise to go into warp again.  
        The effects this time are immediate and terrible.  Instruments 
        give meaningless readings or stop functioning completely:  
        around the ship, physical changes are reported...rooms go 
        missing, leaving solid walls where their doorways were:  other 
        rooms seem to grow and become filled with landscapes that they 
        can't possibly contain.  Some rooms come back inside other 
        rooms, seriously scaring everyone involved.  The hallucinations 
        come back, too, worse than ever:  people come out of them with 
        the physical effects of the hallucinations showing in their 
        bodies -- burns if they felt themselves in fire, black eyes if 
        they were having a fight, and so forth.  But while they're in 
        them, most of the hallucinations are so bizarre that people just 
        want them to stop, and the only way to stop them is to drop out 
        of warp!  
        The Bridge crew is as badly afflicted as the rest by this.  
        Tasha vividly reexperiences a horrible moment of hiding and 
        terror from the hellworld from which she was rescued:  the 
        situation is peculiarly horrible for her, since she so craves 
        order, and this problem is one she can't shoot or armwrestle.  
        She and Conn, deep in a hallucination of his own, beg Picard to 
        abort the run, just stop this!  But Picard holds them to the 
        timed run, though he's suffering as terribly as everyone else 
        is.  When the ship drops out of warp again, Riker says,  
        "According to our calculations, we should be back in our home 
        galaxy now..."  ...but even if this is true, it doesn't do them 
        any good.  The ship is going crazy around them:  the physical 
        changes that started on this warpdrive run persist and continue.  
        Of all the Bridge crew, Data is handling himself best amid all 
        this madness:  he is unaffected by the hallucinations that have 
        been plaguing everyone else -- to Riker's very mild annoyance.  
        "If you can keep your head while all around you are losing 
        theirs,"  Riker remarks,  "it may mean you don't fully 
        understand the situation."  "But at least I have my head,"  Data 
        Kosinski has been suffering as much as anyone else, and looks 
        haggard, but hopeful.  "That was very close,"  he said.  "We 
        almost got it right that time.  I know what compensation 
        adjustment to make now:  one more time will do it."  "Or kill 
        us,"  says Riker.   But he and Data go to work together to 
        adjust the warpdrive booster for the last warp run. 
        Meanwhile, the child we saw come out of Kosinski's 
        room is still wandering in search of "his father", becoming 
        progressively more frightened at the strange things going on.  
        Wesley meets him, and is a little confused at the sight of 
        someone he's never seen before -- in a community of a thousand, 
        every face becomes familiar in quite a short time -- but when 
        the boy tells Wesley that he's CARL, Kosinski's son, Wesley 
        takes him in hand.  The two of them go off to find somewhere 
        stable amid all the strangeness....but they never get there:  
        heading down one shifting hallway, Carl abruptly disappears.  
        Shaken, and badly in need of reassurance that things are going 
        to turn out all right, Wesley goes to find his mother.  
        Troi, meanwhile, is having more and more trouble handling the 
        "spillover" from the emotions of the crew as a whole.  The crew 
        of the Enterprise are by and large brave people, but they are 
        not prepared to have reality itself breaking down around them, 
        and the levels of fear and anxiety on the ship are tens, perhaps 
        hundreds of times what they should be -- a situation that 
        neither Troi's training nor her expectations has prepared her to 
        have to handle.  She is not hallucinating herself, but once 
        while Crusher is assisting her with a hallucinating crewman, 
        Troi passes out from the sheer pressure of the surrounding 
        crewpeople's terror.  She recovers quickly, but Crusher takes 
        her aside and braces her again on whether she is going to have 
        to relieve Troi of duty for the duration of this crisis.  "You 
        can't keep the people around you on an even keel while you're 
        pushing overload yourself,"  Crusher insists.  "But that's my 
        job," says Troi.  "And if you relieve me, it's going to be only 
        a matter of time before you have to relieve everyone else in the 
        place as well, from the Captain on down.  I'm needed, and you 
        can't be everywhere!"  Crusher reluctantly agrees...but she 
        tells Troi that if she has another collapse, the CMO is going to 
        exert her authority and not bother with any more arguments.  
        They part company, with Troi very disturbed but determined not 
        to crack under the strain, no matter how bad it gets.  
        Data and Kosinski are still working together to complete the 
        calculations, and it becomes apparent that Kosinski is becoming 
        almost too worried to work:  his son is on his mind.  "This is 
        terrible,"  Kosinski is muttering,  "I brought him into this 
        awful situation, I have to get him out of it, I have to get him 
        home!"  Something occurs to Data:  on a hunch, he checks the 
        ship's computers and finds that not only did Kosinski's son not 
        come on board the Enterprise with him...but he doesn't even have 
        a son!  The calm accusation enrages Kosinski:  when he begins to 
        shout angrily at Data, Picard, overhearing, is astonished by 
        what his old friend is claiming.  "Of course you don't have a 
        son!" he says:  "Pete, what's the matter with you?"  Kosinski 
        goes for Data, and Picard half-angrily, half-reluctantly orders 
        him taken away and restrained.  As Kosinski is taken away 
        screaming that they have to find his son, Picard and Riker look 
        at one another in great unease.  This man is the one who has the 
        best chance of figuring out what's wrong with the warpdrive 
        booster and getting them home.  If he's gone crazy...what chance 
        does the Enterprise have?  
        ACT IV:  The turmoil on the Bridge quiets, but the situation is 
        no less desperate.  The ship's machinery, systems that can't 
        fail, are failing:  the computers, the nervous system of the 
        ship, are one by one going down.  People's speech is coming out 
        in gibberish again, more so than before, so that slowly it's 
        becoming a fight to communicate.  Riker and Data are working 
        furiously on the bridge to try to hold things together and 
        complete the calculations for the warpdrive booster:  Crusher is 
        giving Picard a report on Kosinski's condition.  At this point 
        Wesley comes into the bridge and overhears what Picard is saying 
        to Crusher about Kosinski not having a son.  "But he does,"  
        says Wesley:  "I've seen him!  He was looking for his dad!"
        Troi reacts to this with astonishment.  "Captain," she says,  
        "this is the first experience or hallucination that any two 
        people have shared.  We've got to find that child -- or whatever 
        it is.  He's the first really concrete physical manifestation of 
        this altered reality....and we may be able to find out from him 
        how to get out of it!"  
        Picard orders Tasha to take a security detail and find the 
        child, then asks Crusher to let Kosinski out of restraints.  
        When Kosinski gets back to the bridge, Picard apologizes, then 
        tells him that they have an interesting problem to deal 
        with.  It's at that point that Tasha arrives with Carl Kosinski.  
        The son runs to the father like any lost and frightened little 
        boy finding his dad again -- and Picard and Troi and Crusher 
        move them both into the Ready Room and sit down to talk to the 
        child.  He is indeed a manifestation of the unreality going on 
        around them -- a perfectly normal, full grown eleven-year-old.  
        But he's a manifestation with an eleven-year-old mind, one that 
        has no memories that date back further than today:  he can tell 
        them very little that's of use to them.  All he knows is that he 
        was looking for his dad, and now he's found him.  
        In the middle of the interview, Carl starts to fade out as he 
        did with Wesley, and Peter grabs him and holds him tight and 
        says,  "No, you're real, you stay!"  And he fades back in and 
        becomes firm and real again.  
        Troi turns to Picard and says,  "This may be the solution to our 
        problem.  We've been acting as if none of what we've been 
        experiencing was real.  Once we accept it as real, though, make 
        it real by believing in it, we can affect it, we can do 
        something about it!"  
        Kosinski and Riker and Data look at one another.  "We can use 
        that," Riker says.  "The reality variables in the equations -- "  
        They hurry out of the Ready Room to get to work -- Kosinski 
        going last, reluctant to let go of his son.  
        To Picard, just before he joins Riker and Data, he says,  "If 
        this works -- he'll probably disappear again."  
        Picard nods, looks at his old friend:  says,  "Well?" 
        Kosinski pauses for a long long moment, looks back at the Ready 
        Room, then around at the Bridge -- and goes to get back to work 
        with Data and Riker.  
        They're working against time.  The computers are going down, one 
        after another.  Orders are coming out in gibberish, parts of the 
        ship keep turning up where they shouldn't and then relapsing.  
        The crew are losing the ability to understand one another.  
        Data, Riker and Kosinski are finally reduced to communicating 
        by numbers, the pure language of mathematics, working out the 
        new equations on the console screens.  Finally they arrive at 
        the right numbers and are ready to lay them into Connn.  Either 
        they'll work...or the ship will probably explode trying to 
        execute them.  Riker speaks to Picard to tell him this, 
        manages to get the few words out.  Picard answers:  gibberish 
        -- and sits down in the helm in utter shock.  He has lost the 
        ability to command his crew...who now can't even understand 
        -- and the whole ship rocks as if it's been hit:  all over the 
        ship reality wavers wildly, then settles again.  Picard says,  
        "Thunder and lightning, what was that??" -- and it's in English.  
        Apparently the dissolution of reality has been set back a 
        little.  And they find out why when they see the tiny, shining 
        Enterprise that has abruptly appeared in the Bridge, hanging in 
        midair.  In astonishment they gather around it.... 
        ACT V:  
        They begin analyzing the small ship, which they immediately 
        notice seems to be having the same problems with reality that 
        they are -- parts of it shimmer, waver, reappear.  It's also 
        perfectly identical to the Enterprise, in miniature -- right 
        down to the warpdrive booster in its engine room. "Life signs?"  
        someone asks, fascinated.  There's no way to tell:  the sensors 
        still functioning on the bridge aren't delicate enough to detect 
        Data suggests that this miniature Enterprise is a "mirroring" of 
        the ship herself, another function of the altered reality...but 
        this one has possibilities:  they might be able to use it for 
        something.  They might even be able to use it to get them home.  
        Kosinski looks interested at this.  Data,  he says,  is 
        suggesting that since the two black holes -- the one in the 
        large Enterprise's engine room, and the one in the small one -- 
        are essentually the same entity, and congruent, their best 
        chance might be to run one of them into the other.  If this 
        happened, one of the two black holes would then return to its 
        original origin-state -- the space and time of its creation, 
        i.e. Federation space.  The other would probably cease to exist.  
        "How do we know which one is going to do which?"  says Picard.  
        Kosinski shrugs.  "We don't,"  he says,  "but, Captain, we're 
        ceasing to exist as it is.  This at least lets us go down 
        swinging.  And it's a far more reliable and predictable method 
        than the one we were thinking of trying."
        They therefore try to move the little Enterprise into the Engine 
        room -- but it won't budge.  No force they can bring to bear on 
        it will move it.  Frustration starts to build again -- there's 
        no telling how long this "ticket home" will remain real:  
        Kosinski is afraid it will fade out like Carl almost did.  
        And people in the bridge start slowly speaking gibberish again 
        Picard looks at the little ship, which Tasha and several other 
        people are vainly trying to move, and says abruptly,  "No.  It's 
        the same as with the boy.  We're trying to force this reality to 
        behave like the one we're used to, to go by our rules rather 
        than its own.  We have to adapt to it, not the other way 
        Kosinski looks up and says,  "Instead of moving it through the 
        Enterprise...why not move the Enterprise around it?"  And Riker 
        looks at him in excited comprehension.  "If Mohammed won't go 
        to the Mountain -- "  
        "Do it,"  says Picard.  "Get that little ship down into the 
        Engine Room."
        The Connn officer hurriedly programs her console, and begins the 
        process of slowly rotating, pitching, and yawing the whole 
        Enterprise around the tiny object...moving the ship around it, 
        so that the little ship makes its way down the corridors and 
        toward the engine room.  Reality starts to waver again, more 
        seriously.  "Hurry it up!"  says Picard,  "don't worry about the 
        walls, put it through a few of them if you have to, just get 
        that thing down into the engine room while we have time!"  
        Reality continues to break down more and more much 
        so that the crewmen pacing the little ship and feeding the Connn 
        officer instructions on which way to move, have to drop out.  
        The only one able to cope with the conditions so close to the 
        engine room, where nothing seems solid or reliable any more, is 
        Geordi:  only his augmented vision can even see the little 
        Enterprise any more, let alone tell where it's really safe to 
        step and where a floor only seems to be.  Even Geordi is 
        struggling to see as the little ship makes it into the engine 
        room proper:  the whole place is a maelstrom of swirling colors 
        and visions and sounds.  But Geordi manages to hang on long enough 
        to give the Connn officer the final instruction that pushes the 
        tiny Enterprise into the warpdrive booster and the black hole:  
        while up in the Bridge, Kosinski holds Carl tight for the last 
        time -- 
        They merge.  There is a tremendous explosion, everything goes 
        crazier than it has been...and the Enterprise finds herself 
        floating in open space, not far from the Hamal system where the 
        mini-black hole for the drive was generated.  Amid the general 
        celebration, Picard turns to comfort his old friend -- and 
        thinks better of it, and stops.  He watches Kosinski open his 
        eyes to confirm what he's feeling, to make sure he's not still 
        hallucinating...and find his son still in his arms:  clinging to 
        him, scared by what's been happening, but definitely there.  
        The Enterprise drops Kosinski and his son head back on Hamal.  
        Of all the strangenesses the ship has experienced, he only 
        remains.  Picard doesn't understand one does...but he 
        wishes his old friend and his new son well as they leave.  
        Everyone is bemused about it as the two depart.  Data wonders if 
        whether perhaps the child survived reality, when all the other 
        hallucinations did not,  because this "love" thing he keeps 
        hearing about is stronger than reality itself.  Though one of 
        the Bridge crew, perhaps Ops, is listening to all this with 
        "half an ear":  he looks around, on hearing this conversation, 
        and says,  "What child?....", never having seen Carl at all.  
        Bemused, Picard shakes his head and orders their next course 
        laid in...far away from collapsing stars.