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A Second Life

Author’s note: the following jumps off from the point in the TNG 6th season episode “Tapestry” about four-fifths of the way through, after Picard has spoken with Riker and Troi in Ten-Forward.
Lieutenant junior grade Jean-Luc Picard stepped into the turbolift after having a frank discussion about his Starfleet career with Commander William T. Riker and Counselor Deanna Troi. It was clear to him that he was only a shadow of the person he once was.
He vented in the privacy of the turbolift, and yelled at Q to put an end to the charade. But like in Ten Forward, he received no response from Q. Picard would live out the rest of his days as an assistant astrophysics officer in Starfleet.
After the senior officer’s meeting in the captain’s ready room, Commander Riker walked down a corridor along with Geordi La Forge.
“Geordi, do you have a minute?” asked Riker. “It’s a personnel matter.”
“Sure,” said Geordi.
“What is your opinion of Lieutenant Jean-Luc Picard?” asked Riker.
“That’s weird, why would you mention him?” asked Geordi.
“Why is that weird?” asked Riker.
“Earlier today, he delivered a spectral analysis to Engineering. I was in the middle of a couple of other things. There was something causing a power spike in the starboard warp coil.”
“And, he actually took some time to make a few suggestions. At the time, it seemed like more of an intrusion. I think he suggested flushing the transfer conduits with trioxina. It didn’t seem like an appropriate course of action. I gently let him know that we would be able to handle it ourselves.”
“And the recommendation turned out to be a good one?”
“Well, no,” said Geordi. “But it happened that a few minutes later, one of my other diagnostic engineers made a similar suggestion. I gave it a little bit more consideration. In the end, we figured out the problem. But I started to wonder a tiny bit whether I was too brusque with Lieutenant Picard. He does fine work, but doesn’t often interject with his own thoughts. It was something new.”
“So he took some initiative?”
“I guess you could say that. Why? I know he’s trying to make full lieutenant this year. Is he showing some potential?”
“Not yet, but I’ve been looking through his personnel file,” said Riker. “He had promise. I’m not sure where he went wrong.”
“Let’s just hope we don’t have another Broccoli on our hands,” said Geordi. Lieutenant junior grade Reginald Barclay was a brilliant engineer who had some issues with his social interactions. It turned out he had a holo-addiction. It was a big enough distraction that Geordi’s performance review for Barclay once noted that the lieutenant was “always late, never gives his best effort, and just slides by.” Captain Halloway was not pleased. Barclay was transferred to an engineering research lab back on Earth. It was thought he would be happier there, especially since he would be allowed to work on his pet projects alone. Last Geordi heard, Barclay was running some pretty impressive experiments. Not everyone was cut out for teamwork, but Barclay could be quite brilliant when left alone.
“No,” said Riker. “I don’t think social awkwardness is Picard’s Achilles heel. He just doesn’t seem to have as much drive as he used to. He was an ambitious cadet. Sometime after graduating, he lost his determination. But it seems like something recently lit a fire under his butt.”
“After a few decades in uniform. It’s about time,” said Geordi.
“Oh, right. I was going to ask you. Do you have any roster slots in any of your engineering teams?”
“Not right now,” said Geordi.
“I see,” said Riker. “Well, please let me know if you get an opening for a junior officer.”
“Sure,” said Geordi. “You might try Data and his operations team. He’s got a small group, but maybe there’s something Picard could do.”
The two officers parted ways and Riker thought about what he should do with Lieutenant Junior Grade Picard.
Jean-Luc Picard sat down at his desk and reviewed more astrophysics reports. He shared an office with another junior lieutenant. A somewhat younger oceanography officer in her late-30s. She even had a doctorate! The office next to theirs belonged to the section chief, a lieutenant about Picard’s age, who was an expert in the field of paleontology. Picard suddenly noticed how many of the junior officers were incredibly knowledgeable in their fields.
Commander Riker stopped by the office. Riker was rarely in this part of the ship.
Picard got up from his chair.
“Commander Riker,” he said. He was surprised to see Will Riker here.
“Lieutenant Lipinski, so you think you can excuse us while I have a conversation with Lieutenant Picard?”
“Absolutely, sir,” said Lipinski. She smiled at Riker as she stepped out of the office and he smiled back.
Riker turned Lipinski’s chair to face Picard’s work station.
“Please, lieutenant, take a seat.”
Picard sat down in his own chair.
“I would like to discuss with you a possible temporary assignment,” said Riker. If he could find a new position for Lt. Barclay where the shy lieutenant seemed to excel, he was sure he could do something for Picard. At the very least, Picard was punctual, dedicated, and reliable.
Picard was intrigued. He had been certain that he would spend the rest of his life as a low-level assistant science officer.
“Now, I will say, this post is not very glamorous at all, but it is something that needs to be done. I will not order you to take this new post. As I told you before in Ten-Forward, you’re a good officer. I would hate to lose you on the Enterprise.”
“You’re transferring me off the Enterprise?” asked Picard, a little bit shocked.
“Only if you want this. I’ve been thinking about a position for you that might give you a little bit more visibility. A little bit more responsibility,” said Riker. “Unfortunately, we don’t have any positions onboard at this moment”
“So I would need to transfer to another ship.”
“Well…” said Riker.
Picard wasn’t happy with the development, but he wanted to hear Riker out.
“A few weeks ago, the Enterprise was tasked to re-supply two remote relay stations near the Klingon border. Relay Station 47 and Relay Station 194.”
“I remember that,” said Picard.
“You might also remember that while everything was fine at 194, RS-47 was found to be abandoned and in disarray. We found blood and signs of a struggle, but we never figured out what happened.”
Picard wasn’t exactly sure where this was going.
“Starfleet is having some trouble staffing RS-47,” said Riker. “Although we suspected foul play, there was no evidence to conclusively determine whether the Klingons were involved. We have some records that suggest a Klingon attack cruiser had harassed the station and even once locked its weapons on the station. The Klingon commander, Morag, insists that he is not responsible for the disappearance of our two Starfleet officers.”
Riker watched Picard to see how he was digesting this information.
“I’m going to cut to the chase. We need someone to staff the relay station. Thus far, we’ve been able to handle almost all of the comm traffic through RS-194, but that will change very soon when we have an expedition planned and three ships will be sending regular reports. We need RS-47 to be up and running at least at half-strength.”
“And you’d like to assign me to RS-47?” asked Picard.
“Only if you’d want to. We’ve been having trouble getting some of the more experienced communications officers to volunteer, as they are afraid of the proximity to the Klingon border and the recent suspicion that the Klingons were responsible for the disappearance of the former crewmembers. I saw in your file that you served as the communications officer on the U.S.S. Stargazer for a few years back when you were an ensign. I realize that position no longer exists on the typical starship and the communications relay is different technology than what you used many years ago. But you may be suitable for this position.”
“And you feel this might be a step up in my career ladder?” asked Picard.
Riker nodded. “I think it would be one of many steps that you would have to succeed at, but yes, it would be good for you to take this, Jean-Luc. It would show you are taking initiative, volunteering for duty that others feel is potentially dangerous. Like I said, it may not be glamorous duty, but it is an essential task. The downside is that I think I would have to assign you alone, as we are already having a hard time staffing. That might be less than ideal for you. But it should only be a 6-month temporary assignment. Afterwards, Starfleet Command is certain they will get appropriate relief officers. You would return to the Enterprise.”
“Who would take over at astrophysics?” asked Picard.
“I think we’d try to split your duties between three of your colleagues while you were on temporary assignment. Keller in astronomy and Michaels in quantum mechanics have agreed to the possible extra workload.”
Picard wondered if this meant that he was truly not that important. If he could just be re-assigned and others could pick up the slack, then maybe he wasn’t as essential and he wished he was.
“And after the temporary assignment, I will return to astrophysics?” asked Picard.
“Yes. But you will also be in line for promotion to full lieutenant. In addition, while it is hard to predict these things, there is a possibility that your current section chief might be promoted soon. In that event, you might find yourself as one of the candidates to replace him.”
“All this just for volunteering for a 6 month stint at a relay station?” asked Picard. He was wondering whether there was really more to it. Perhaps it was significantly more dangerous than appeared. Although, as Captain Picard from a previous timeline, he already knew that a shapeshifting alien was to blame for the previous crew’s disappearance, not the Klingons. He thought about suggesting that to Riker, but then thought he would look a little bit insane as he would not be able to explain his suspicions. He also wondered whether Riker was overselling the assignment to get him off the Enterprise. Although Riker was a good person, Picard knew he could be a little tough with his subordinates on occasion.
“Like I said, these are only possibilities. I can’t promise you will be pushed up to section chief. I can say your promotion to full lieutenant will look a lot more likely. Even if you remain in astrophysics, it would be nice to be promoted, right?” asked Riker. “In addition to you showing that you are willing to task yourself to a duty station that is seen as dangerous, it will also show your self-reliance. Your ability to be a self-starter, since you will not be supervised on a daily basis or even weekly basis. Showing initiative is important and this would put that on your personnel file.”
“I see,” said Picard as he thought about it.
“You don’t have to answer me right now,” said Riker. “I’ll come back tomorrow. If you take it, that would be great. If not, that would be fine as well. Like I said, I don’t want to lose you on the Enterprise. At the same time, I don’t see any openings in any of the departments here for a long while. If you don’t take this, I don’t see a viable way to recommend you as a candidate for your section chief’s position, if it should even open up.”
Riker got up and headed toward the door.
“Thank you for your thoughts, Commander,” said Picard.
“Not a problem,” said Riker. “I do hope for success in your future.”
Jean-Luc Picard emptied one of his personal bags as he unpacked in his new quarters. Riker had reassured him that Picard’s old quarters would be kept for him for his return, although Picard didn’t very much care. They weren’t the Enterprise’s captain’s quarters which he had been used to for the past few years.
There was a brief going away party for Jean-Luc. His officemate and his section chief had wished him good luck and a safe stint on RS-47. There were vanilla cupcakes involved. Other members of the sciences division came to wish Jean-Luc a safe assignment, although they did not all know him very well.
Jean-Luc was a little surprised that it didn’t really phase him how small the relay station was. Perhaps in time it would. He had thought it might feel as if he were serving on a small shuttlecraft for 6 months. Maybe it still might. But the station was a little bit roomier than a shuttle. Perhaps a Danube-class runabout. The station had four main rooms, and a small shuttlebay.
After he unpacked, he walked into the communications control room. It was fairly large. This was what he was in charge of. The commanding officer, of a station of one.
He chuckled briefly at the thought.
“Well, you wanted a command,” said Picard to himself. “Here you are.”
He suddenly received a communication from the Enterprise.
“Lieutenant Picard,” came Riker’s voice.
“Here, Commander,” said Picard.
“I hope you will have a productive and safe stint at 47,” said Riker. “The Enterprise is about to head off.”
“Acknowledged,” said Picard.
“One extra thing,” said Riker. “We were able to assign an additional crewman to 47, but his stay will be only about a month or so before he is to be rotated to 194. We’re beaming him over now.”
Picard watched as a Starfleet crewman beamed into the communication control room.
“Good luck, Jean-Luc,” said Riker. “See you in 6 months.”
The comm channel then went dead.
A young man in a blue sciences division uniform walked over to Picard to introduce himself.
“Crewman First Class Simon Tarses, sir,” said the young man.
“Picard. Jean-Luc Picard.”
The two of them shook hands.
In the next two weeks, Picard fulfilled his duties reliably and thoroughly. Nothing too spectacular. Just make sure the messages got to where they were intended to go. He was a 24th century mailboy.
He kept up his contact with his officemate and his section chief back on the Enterprise. He spoke with his officemate about once a day and with his section chief just a couple of time since he was posted on 47. Sometimes, when the communications consoles weren’t too busy, Picard would look over some sensor analyses from the Enterprise to try and help out the three scientists who were assigned to cover his workload for the time being. He was able to provide some assistance on two reports. In his other free time, he would try to enjoy some novels from the 20th century. Picard joined Tarses for a meal at least once a day in the crew lounge.
“So, what could you have possibly done to get yourself punished and sent to this remote station to perform mundane tasks?” asked Picard.
“Were you punished?” asked Tarses.
“Not exactly,” said Picard. “I volunteered.” He said the last word in a little bit of a sarcastic tone, but wasn’t sure if Tarses picked it up.
“I volunteered as well,” said a smiling Tarses. He was not being sarcastic.
In their conversation, Picard learned that Simon Tarses had wanted to serve in Starfleet since he was a child. He enlisted as a crewman and became a medical technician under Dr. Beverly Crusher. A couple of years ago, Tarses had gotten caught up in an espionage incident. It was eventually discovered that Tarses was actually one-quarter Romulan, instead of one-quarter Vulcan as he had stated on his Starfleet entrance application. Although he was found to not have been involved in the espionage, lying in his documentation was punishable by discharge from Starfleet. The JAG prosecutor decided not to press any charges and instead, Tarses received administrative reprimand and a demotion to crewman.
“You made it back to crewman first class,” said Picard. “That’s good.”
“Only after I agreed to take a three month stint on the Klingon border. One month here and then two months on 194,” said Tarses. “Even though my specialty is medical technician, they said they couldn’t rotate any communications technicians out here for a while.”
Picard nodded.
Picard wondered whether RS-194 was currently only staffed with one officer. He checked quietly and found out that there were currently two, but that the junior officer there was scheduled to rotate back to a shipboard billet in a few weeks.
Picard’s thoughts were interrupted.
“Sir, it looks like we’re being approached by a Klingon attack cruiser. She’s hailing,” said Tarses.
Picard tapped a blinking light on his console.
“I am Commander Morag of the Klingon Defense Force, captain of the I.K.S. Qu’Vat. With whom am I speaking?”
“I am Jean-Luc Picard, the officer in charge of this station.”
“And what, may I ask, is your mission, Officer-in-charge Picard?”
“We’re a communications relay station,” said Picard.
“If I find out you are spying on Klingon communications across the border, I will obliterate your station,” said Morag.
“Noted,” said Picard. “Now, if you’ll please vacate Federation space.”
Morag grunted disapproval and then closed the communications channel.
Picard wasn’t phased. Although the station clearly had no weapons with which to defend itself, he didn’t seem alarmed. At least, not on the outside.
Simon Tarses, surprisingly, also wasn’t very frightened.
“Are you okay?” asked Picard.
“Yes, sir,” said Tarses. “Typical Klingon bullying tactic. If they had meant to destroy us, they would have.”
Picard was surprised at how confident and calm the young man was.
Dr. Beverly Crusher’s final report on the mystery at Relay Station 47 was one of the rare instances in which the case was left open. Or, by now, the more appropriate label was that the case was left cold. She was not able to figure out whether the cellular residue found at RS-47 was the remains of one of the officers. Since the station’s shuttlecraft was missing, the Enterprise’s senior staff presumed that one of the officers stole the shuttlecraft and ran away after killing the other officer. The question was, which of the officers was dead, and which ran away. It was always possible that perhaps the two officers together killed someone, and then both of them ran away. Perhaps a Klingon was involved in some way. The last theory would be that both officers were killed, and a Klingon stole the shuttlecraft. There were too many questions surrounding this incident.
Commander Riker asked Crusher and La Forge to meet him in shuttlebay one.
“When did they deliver her?” asked La Forge.
“Just a couple of hours ago,” said Riker.
“And it was abandoned?” asked Crusher.
“So they say,” said Riker. “Although, that seems highly unlikely. I don’t think there is a habitable planet anywhere near here within the shuttlecraft’s range.”
The Klingons had recently delivered the shuttlecraft Verne to the Enterprise, after Starfleet made an official inquiry as to why a Klingon Defense Force ship was harassing a Starfleet relay station in Federation space. Starfleet Command also accused the Klingons of killing the crewmembers and stealing the shuttlecraft. The Klingon commander of the cruiser which harassed the former crewmembers admitted that he beamed onto the station and when he found nobody there, he tried to steal some encrypted Starfleet communications. He did not kill anyone or steal the shuttlecraft. The shuttlecraft Verne was found several days after the Enterprise arrived, but Klingon High Command thought it prudent to keep it hushed in the exact event that it would raise suspicion that the Klingons were responsible for the crew’s deaths.
For now, Starfleet still had no convincing evidence that the Klingons were behind the disappearances of the former crew of RS-47.
“What do you mean they are gone?” asked Morag. He was slightly annoyed and his lieutenant was clearly at least a little bit frightened.
“The female Starfleet officer, and two Klingons. They just… disappeared.”
The junior lieutenant from Relay Station 47 was found on the shuttlecraft Verne, along with her pet dog. She was imprisoned for crossing into Klingon territory, possibly on a mission of espionage. Then, a few days ago, the facility where she was held reported that they could no longer find her or her animal pet. Two of the Klingon guards were also missing.
“The scene investigation techs were able to find traces of cell residue in two separate places. They are analyzing it now,” said the lieutenant.
“Cell residue?” asked Morag.
“Yes, we think it is what remains of our Klingon guards.”
“What is the lead investigator’s theory?”
“It’s a little bit far-fetched, but we think this may have been a bio-chemical weapon Starfleet was developing. Lure us into capturing one of them, and when they are in Klingon custody, release the toxin. We’re not sure if it spreads through the air or by contact.”
“Cunning,” said Morag, with disgust but also a little bit with surprising admiration. While poison was a coward’s weapon, he did not think the humans would be so proficient in killing.
Simon Tarses’ five weeks at Relay Station 47 were up. A small civilian transport just arrived to pick him up and ferry him to Relay Station 194.
“It was a pleasure serving here with you,” said Tarses.
“You were a good assistant,” said Picard. Although Picard had said such things to many junior officers in his former life as a starship captain, he imagined that this was the first time Lieutenant Junior Grade Picard had ever said such a thing.
“Good luck with section chief,” said Tarses.
“Good luck to you as well.”
Simon was beamed off the relay station and the civilian transport went into full impulse, leaving Picard all alone on RS-47.
Picard took a peek into Simon’s room, to make sure everything was squared away in the event Starfleet found another officer or crewman to assign here. To his surprise, he found a sketch left on the table. Everything else in the room was neat and Tarses appeared to have taken all of his other personal effects with him.
Picard opened the sketchpad, and found a sketch of two officers standing together. It was Picard and Tarses. In the background was the communication control room. Picard made a mental note to get the sketch back to Tarses, but later found a note addressed to him.
“Dear Lieutenant Picard,
It was an excellent short assignment here on Relay Station 47. You are one of the few officers who did not seem bothered my by partial Romulan heritage. You were great company to talk to and I can tell you will make a good section chief back on the Enterprise. If I am re-posted there, I will make a point to visit you. Please keep this portrait as a souvenir of my time here. I have two others in my main sketchbook.
Ex astris scientia,
Flipping the page, Picard also found a couple of drawings of microorganisms. One looked to be some sort of paramecium. He took the two sketches and the note, and brought them to his own quarters.
“Something new?” asked Commander Riker.
Dr. Crusher had asked Riker to meet her in sickbay. She showed him the duplicate of her hand. Riker was confused.
“What is it?” asked Riker.
“It’s my hand,” said Crusher. She explained that while examining the cellular residue for the 10th or so time, she accidentally came into contact with it. Having touched her hand, the residue started to take the shape of her hand. She believes that the residue is not the remains of Lieutenant Rocha, the former senior lieutenant in charge of RS-47. It is some sort of shapeshifting life form that feeds off other organisms.
Riker wasn’t sure if the Relay Station 47 mystery just got solved, or just got deeper. Probably a little bit of both.
“What is it you want this time?” asked Picard.
The Klingon attack cruiser returned to harass Picard and his relay station. This time, Picard sent out a distress signal. He wasn’t sure why the Klingons were so interested in the small communications relay.
“It dawned on me, officer-in-charge Picard, you wear a blue Starfleet uniform,” said Morag.
“That’s correct. I do,” replied Picard.
“That makes you a scientist, right?”
“It does.”
“And… what type of science do you do?” asked Morag. There was genuine curiosity in his voice. “Communications relay science?”
“Not quite,” said Picard as he shook his head. “I’m officially an astrophysics officer. I’m temporarily assigned here.”
“Astrophysics,” said Morag, a little bit of disbelief in his voice. “Tell me, Picard, do you conduct science experiments on your station?” Morag was somewhat confident that there wasn’t actually a science lab in the small station. But he wanted to see Picard’s reaction to the question.
“No,” answered Picard. “Why are you asking these questions? What does this have to do with the Klingons? You’ve crossed into Federation space once again. Why?”
Picard was a little bit nervous now. He hoped it wasn’t visible, but he had a bad feeling about this encounter.
Unbeknownst to Picard, Morag was here to avenge the death of one of his cousins. In total thus far, four Klingons had disappeared and were presumed dead.
“Do you know what I think?” asked Morag.
“What would that be?” asked Picard.
“I think you are no astrophysics officer or communications officer,” said Morag. “I think you are a biological weapons scientist in Starfleet.”
“Come again?” asked a puzzled Picard.
“I think you are a part of a biological weapons research program at Starfleet. I think I’m going to destroy your tiny outpost, Officer-in-charge Picard. And I think you’ve breathed your last breath.”
Before Picard could answer, the channel was cut off. Picard watched a sensor display indicate that the Klingon cruiser had fired its phasers full blast at the small station.
Picard opens his eyes to find himself in the bright white limbo where he was after he had allegedly been killed on an away mission.
“Mon Capitan,” said Q. “It’s a little soon to be seeing you here again.”
Picard was dead once again.
“I gave you something human beings never get… a chance to change something in their past for a better life. Yet you didn’t take advantage of that. Such a shame.”
“I don’t understand, what was the point of this whole charade?”
“The Jean-Luc Picard you wanted to be, the one who didn’t fight the Nausicaan and get stabbed through the heart, never understood how fragile life was, and how important each moment can be. So he never took initiative. He never seized an opportunity when it was presented. He played it safe his entire life. He would have lived many more years with a real heart beating in his chest, living out the rest of his life in relative safety.”
“Then why am I here?” asked Picard.
“Because you changed, mon capitan. You saw the ‘safe’ you, and didn’t like it. So you took on a risk. You accepted a potentially dangerous post near the border of the Klingon Empire where the former crew was presumed to have been killed. Now, that doesn’t sound like the safe person you wanted to be. That sounds a little like the reckless youth who got stabbed through the heart by a Nausicaan.”
“Surely there must be a balanced midpoint between reckless youth and a life avoiding all risk?” insisted Picard.
“Yes, there is. And you eventually found that balance later in life. But make no mistake, mon capitan. Your experience with the Nausicaan was crucial in forming your personality. It is a part of who you became. It is a part of who you are.”
With that, Picard all of a sudden found himself face to face with a tall Nausicaan once again. This time, he wouldn’t back down. He would stand up for his friends the same way he did in his original timeline. A fight ensues, and Picard is stabbed through his heart by a Nausicaan blade. As he sees the blade come out of his chest, he laughs.
Picard is then on the operating table in sickbay aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise-D. Dr. Crusher tells him is going to be okay.
Later, after he has recovered, he is talking with Riker. Picard isn’t sure if the whole thing was just a dream that many who experience near-death situations have claimed to have. Or perhaps it really was Q’s doing. Either way, he is glad to have come to the realization that although there are some things from his youth that he wasn’t always proud of, those experiences probably helped shape him into the man he is today.

Read more from The Next Generation and Vincent Chia.
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