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 efficiency. 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 work....to 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 particles.... 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 reason.... 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 run.... 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 says. 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 him. -- 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 any. 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 around." 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 severely...so 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 it...no 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.