William Riker had a hangover that could have gutted a bear. In an effort to woo the affections of a particularly attractive Deltan dignitary, Abrexa Kos Nek Tor priestess of the Fifth Order of Tak'pek, he'd agreed to take part in a night of Deltan revelry. "Revelry" in this case consisted of imbibing a truly nightmarish quantity of supposedly ceremonial alcoholic substances, and a truly astonishing display of advanced sexual pheromones. Rumors of their prowess had, of course, reached his ears. Every man in Starfleet had, at one point or another, blushingly discussed the prowess of Deltan women that was denied them by the vow of celibacy taken by all Deltans who entered into active service within Starfleet.
A night with a Deltan woman was the crown jewel of all carnal pleasure. The adolescent dream of a million men across the galaxy, it had been just within his grasp.
To say that he was angry about being recalled to the Enterprise on a priority one alert, abruptly teleporting him away from what promised to me a most memorable weekend without warning, would have been a gross understatement. William glowered at the crewmen he passed, shouldering his heavy duffel bag and trying not to think too hard about the smooth skinned Delta beauties lounging on the artificial beaches of the Vulcan moon base.
"Today of all days," Riker grumbled. "Of all the luck."
He rubbed at the fabric of his uniform, smoothing it out where it creased from having been shoved into the bottom of his duffel bag, and tapped his neck to check that his rank pins were still firmly fixed in place as he walked into the turbo lift. A dark-skinned hand shot out, catching the closing turbo-lift doors as the man it was attached to squeezed into the lift with a heavy box balanced on his shoulder.
Will smiled and stared into the golden visor on the man's face, "Need a hand Geordie?"
"Thanks commander," The Chief Engineer nodded, shifting the silver container to a more stable position between both hand. "But I've got it."
Will peeked into the box, starting at the curious device inside. A mess of odd blinking lights and crystals flashed within, twittering with an odd whine of shifting parts. "What is that?"
"Just a project of mine, I was working on it when I got the call." The Lt. Commander pointed at the largest crystal in the center. "It's a Vulcan puzzle, the crystals have to be properly arranged before the bottom of the box can be opened and you can collect the prize."
"What's the prize?" Will tapped the side of it with a finger, eliciting a hollow echo.
Geordie shrugged, "You're not supposed to know till you open it up, but they're all supposed to be meaningful to you personally. You take the item out and replace it with something that matters to you along with an explanation why it matters."
"How Vulcan of them," William snorted.
"They're just giving them away in the Vulcan conservatory," Geordie nodded. "I'm sure I could get ahold of one for you if you're interested."
"I've got enough mystery in my life for now," Riker shook his head. "Any idea what the recall is about?"
"You know as much as I do Commander," Geordie rubbed at the back of his head. "Just that the Captain wants us ASAP."
The lift's dull whirr of movement stopped with a gentle clicking of magnetic breaks, belying the speed at which they'd sped along the ship. Will nodded, waving for the Chief of Engineering to walk ahead of him, "Let's not keep him waiting then."
The Bridge Crew was hard at work as they crossed the bridge, the assembled crewmen only pausing briefly in their duties to acknowledge the presence of their superior officers. William returned their greetings as he pressed the chime to Captain Picard's study, entering the room at the Captain's harsh reply of "Enter."
Picard's ready-room was like the Captain himself, neat, ordered, and without excess. Beyond a small stack of Data-pads and a glass case holding golden replicas of famous ships in starfleet the only furniture in the room was a wide table and a few squat chairs that had a clear view of a large and particularly ill tempered Lion-fish by the name of Livingston. The Lion-fish swam about in his plexiglass bubble as the Captain presided over meetings, staring down the Captain's officers with regal disinterest.
Livingston's fishy gaze was today spread between the entirely of the Enterprise command staff. Riker took his seat at the table, exchanging a curious look with Deanna Troi. What on Earth was this about?
Seemingly reading his mind Picard spoke, "Now that Commander Riker, is here this emergency meeting can be called to order. My trip to the Vulcan Archeological Institute has resulted in an unfortunate complication that must now be dealt with. A complication that nearly cost me my life. "
"At the Archeological institute?" Worf replied in dry disbelief. "You found near fatal danger at a library?"
"Yes," The android Data interjected with his standard, matter of fact, dispassion. "A man with a sword attempted to cut the Captain in half."
"A man with a sword tried to murder you in the Vulcan archives?" Riker repeated the words slowly, testing them against his tongue in a probatory effort to make sense of them. It was Vulcan for God's sake. People didn't litter on Vulcan, let alone attempt to murder each other with broadswords in places of learning.
"Near enough," Beverly Crusher shook her head. "It is a miracle that I was able to save Doctor Sakran from bleeding to death. I've never seen a wound quite like it, except perhaps in the fallout of people suffering severe disruptor wounds. The arm was not simply cut. Six centimeters of cells from where the blade made contact were damaged on a sub-atlomic level, rendering them wholly impossible to heal. Whoever made that weapon designed it to confound every single machine in my surgery. He's been sent to the Vulcan medical research center on Mae'nar City. Hopefully they'll be able to do something."
"Where the hell did he come from?" Riker exclaimed. Disruptor weaponry was illegal within the federation, and with good reason. Wounds inflicted by disruptor weapons consigned someone to a slow and excruciatingly painful death.
"Are you perhaps familiar with the Pillar of Antiea?" The Captain stood, motioning for commander data to activate a view screen mounted next to Livingston's tank. It flickered to life, displaying a still image of a four meter monolith of jet black stone.
"No," Riker turned to Troi for confirmation. "I've never heard of it."
The councilor pursed her lips in thought, "It's an old proverb isn't it? For what cannot be understood? Finding meaning in the pillar?"
"Figuratively yes," Data replied. "But it is in fact a physical pillar, predating any known living civilization in known space. Theorizing that it was some form of archive of knowledge the Vulcans transported it back to their home world for more To date, no previous archeologists or scientist has every been able to access the pillar's internal systems."
"No previous archeologist?" William queried. "I assume that is no longer the case?"
"Yes," Captain Picard chuckled dryly. "The secret of the Pillar has… presented himself. It would seem that the Pillar was some sort of life support system for some unknown form of humanoid, a warrior if ever I've seen one."
"Your attacker came from the Pillar?" Deanna gasped. "He's alive? But, that proverb - the pillar - they're thousands upon thousands of years old."
"Older," Data nodded. "But it's impossible to say precisely, the Antiean sector essentially a giant trans-warp minefield of unstable space - the Antiean's destroyed themselves with temporal side effects of their trans-warp energy manipulation. Any attempts to age artifacts from the ruins of Antiea are purely speculative. I could be thousands, millions or billions of years older than we can measure."
"Is it even from this time?" Geordie queried. "Heck is it even from this reality? Trans-warp devices are wildly unpredictable."
"It's impossible to know, the side effects from temporal or inter-dimensional travel are virtually indistinguishable from each other even in the immediate aftereffects thereof." Data shook his head. "It has been far too long to determine that."
"The question isn't where he came from, it's what to do with him now that he's here." Jean-Luc sighed. "We have heavily armed, angry, confused and probably frightened man in the Vulcan archives. He is trapped in a room only accessible via teleporter and is doubtless under the impression that he is our prisoner."
"Is he?" Worf grunted.
"Is he what Worf?" Deanna asked in confusion.
"Is he our prisoner?" The Klingon tapped the display screen, shifting the image to a summary of the Vulcan archeologist's wounds along with a security camera's footage of the giant's rampage. "This man crippled one man in an attempt to kill three. He is by your own admission violent and dangerous. Do we not have an obligation to enforce the laws of the federation?"
"This is a first contact situation," Troi replied, scandalized by the idea. "There is always an inherent danger in that."
"He does not seem particularly interested in making contact," Worf pointed to the screen as the Giant tried to cleave the Captain in half, slicing through thin air and leaving a meter long gouge in the stone floor.
"We will not be arresting anyone Lieutenant Worf." Jean-Luc sighed. "We are not arresting someone for laws they have no reason to understand or obey."
"But what do we do with him precisely?" Doctor Crusher sighed. "You have to admit that he's not especially friendly Jean-Luc."
"I suspect that some of the confusion stemmed from his injures and waking up in a new setting," The Captain replied. "He was evidently quite injured."
"Only apparently so," Data shook his head as he passed the doctor a data pad. "My initial estimate of his injures was based upon a flawed scan of his physiology. His armor is designed to disrupt handheld scans of any type. I needed to make use of the Enterprise's main scanners to get an accurate profile of his physiology."
Beverly stared at Data's assessment, "Redundant organs, fused ceramic skeletal structure, cybernetic brain implants, mechanical superstructure to hard-wire his nerves to his armor… this reads like a list of theoretical procedures from a meeting of the Starfleet Medical Conference."
"Indeed. I theorize that the man's biology was engineered rather than a product of natural evolution." Data nodded. "The bellicose nature of the pillar's artwork and the apparent similarity of the pictographs with the armored individual would tend to suggest that he is a soldier of some sort."
"A difficult opponent indeed." Worf grunted. "A society that strong would be a formidable enemy."
"I would estimate that it was not a common procedure in the general population." Data replied. "Or even in their regular armies."
"What makes you say that?" Asked Troi.
"Because he's been chemically gelded by all the implants pumping super-steroids into his blood stream," Beverly replied in disgust. "Most sentients tend to value the ability to pass on their genes."
"They did this to their people?" Riker blinked, "To themselves? Willingly?"
It implied nothing good about the race in question. Genetic modification never quite seemed to work out, a race would exaggerate certain traits to the detriment of others based upon cultural presumptions then the supposedly superior race would almost invariably turn upon their creators. The ban on genetic modification following the Eugenics Wars had saved the human race from further lunacy and the indignity of another "super-race" of humans.
"We are getting into the realm of baseless speculation." Jean-Luc interjected. "What we know is that he is here, now, and that something must be done."
"Have the Vulcan's attempted any contact with him telepathically?" Deanna suggested speculatively. "They are capable of communicating mentally."
"Entering the mind of an unknown species was deemed to be illogical." The Captain replied. "And given our apparent similarities with the being, as well as our own experiences with conducting first contact operations, it was decided that we were best suited for communicating with him."
"I it is reasonable to assume that the reason the Pillar has not opened till now is due to the absence of a sufficiently similar genetic profile to that of Humans." Data speculated. "On examination of the Archive's records, he is the first human to approach the pillar. Having anyone but a human conduct this procedure seems, on balance, to be unwise."
"Can we teleport him on to the ship? Put him somewhere where we can try to talk?" Deanna mused. "We need to have him somewhere that he feels comfortable, so that he understands that we are not his enemy."
"We can not allow him on this ship with those weapons Captain." Worf interjected. "He has already demonstrated a willingness to use them to inflict fatal harm."
"I could probably isolate his weapons with the teleporter." Geordie whistled as he looked over the scan of the man's armor. "But the armor is staying on. He's got that hard wired to his nervous system. I'd be nervous to even try taking it off him with his permission - let alone yanking it off him. It could paralyze him for all I know."
"That would greatly simplify the process." Worf sternly appraised.
"Worf!" Deanna yelped, scandalized at the casual suggestion of brutality.
"I only meant to imply --" The Klingon began.
"Yes Worf we understand you meant well." Jean-Luc rubbed the back of his head speculatively. "The trouble is that I fear that should we disarm this man, this soldier, without first gaining some measure of his trust, then we are his adversaries. He will perhaps be a compliant prisoner but he will no less be a prisoner. No, that will not do."
"You can not mean to bring an unknown armed man onto this ship Jean-Luc." Doctor Crusher replied incredulously. "One amputation is enough for today."
"Beverly this man is a living piece of history, a virtual treasure trove of culture and learning that can be appreciated by generations to come. We must at least try to make peaceable contact with him. We simply must." Jean-Luc sighed. "We just need to figure out a way to approach him without him feeling threatened. We need him to feel like he's in control. If only there was a way for me to be safely in the same room as he is."
"Actually -" Geordie strung out the word speculatively, "I might have just the thing for this. It's a bit of a long shot… but it would allow you to accomplish what you want without exposing yourself to an excessive level of danger."
"What are you suggesting Lt. Commander LaForge?" The Captain steepled his fingers, observing the Engineer speculatively.
"Well, we want him to feel at ease, which means we can't just teleport him out of there without his permission. Which means we'll need to send someone in person to speak with him, which we can't do in person till he's agreed to disarm himself. So we need to be in the room with him, without ever actually entering the room, if you get my drift." He held up his right hand, "So what what we do is teleport him onto a holo-deck simulation that perfectly mimics the room the pillar was being researched inside of -" he held up his other hand, "And broadcast images of ourselves in a mirrored simulation from another holo-deck room. I'll up the integral fields of the room so that even the disruptor blade can't cause too much harm."
"I cannot stress enough that I would prefer we disarm him, Captain," Worf reiterated. "But if he must be armed, I want to prevent him from escaping into the rest of the ship. As your Chief of Security I must insist that we place additional guards near the exit of the holo-decks to prevent any unfortunate incidents."
"I'm with Worf on this one Captain," Riker agreed emphatically. "This is going to end badly if we're not prepared."
"Very well Commander, make it so." Picard nodded.
"Well then Geordie." Riker clapped his hands together, grinning from ear to ear despite his hangover. "Let's get ready for our new guest. I suppose that new toy of yours will keep for later."
"Commander, something tells me that the prize in my box is going to be something of a let down by comparison." The Lt. Commander joked.
Livingston said nothing, just watching in fishy disapproval as the two men stood and left, preparing the ship for the Giant of Antiea.