Disclaimer: I obviously don't own the idea of Harry Potter or Star Trek, or any money making forms of them.
A special thanks to Chereche, who acted as a soundboard and beta for this fic ^_^
Picard reclined in his chair and closed his eyes. The last three days had been extremely busy, hectic actually, but good. Very good.
Eleven Borg Cubes and four Spheres had been liberated through the beacon in the recent bout, bringing the total force of free-Borg in the immediate sector to Sixteen Cubes and four Spheres. However, that number paled to the total Borg vessels that had been liberated. According to One of Seven, their number now stood at 7,563 vessels across the galaxy.
Twenty-four hours after Ian had used the beacon, Picard formalized an alliance between the Enterprise and the Liberated Borg (as they were now called). One of Seven remained their appointed leader and Forix was now the official liaison between the Enterprise and the free-Borg. Forix had needed to stay in sickbay for a day after he had been beamed off the beacon, but fortunately no permanent harm had been done. Pulaski wasn't sure exactly how, but Ian's telepathic abilities had damaged a few of his Borg implants — hence the nosebleed. Ian had felt horrible, but Forix assured him it was worth it and that he was honored to have been able to act as the link between freedom and a portion of the Hive mind. The beacon itself, however, had been severely damaged after the command had been sent out, confirming Ian's warning about how his powers did not often mix well with technology. Fortunately, the damage Ian's powers caused had not extended beyond the beacon.
Picard smiled. The Liberated Borg were understandably grateful, and were diligently showing their thanks by helping improve almost all the systems of the Enterprise, even while they repaired their own vessels damaged in the battle.
LaForge was ecstatic. In a few weeks, they would be able to go to warp 9.9, greatly reducing their travel time to Federation space. Deanna was especially grateful for that bit of news.
Leaning back in his chair, Picard's thoughts turned to Ian. Things would have been very different if it hadn't been for him. So different Picard decided not to think further on the subject; instead, he gave a sigh of relief. He only wished Ian hadn't needed to risk himself as he had.
Ian had recovered from his 'attack' that had started on the beacon, and it was soon discovered there were two factors that had contributed to his breathing difficulty. The first was his magic. It had conflicted with the suit's functions, damaging its life support system, but the second factor was by far more serious — his lungs.
The consequences from the circumstances of his birth were now evident. His lungs had not developed properly, and unfortunately technology was not enough to completely reverse his condition. Pulaski had explained that his airways and the air sacs in his lungs were not as large or as elastic as they needed to be, meaning that when put under stress or overworked, they would become easily damaged. This would lead to inflammation and, if untreated, scarring – which worsened the condition. To help mitigate this, Pulaski prescribed some inhalers and started him on a regimen that she hoped would improve his lung function by 25 percent by the time he completed it.
Picard made sure to tell Pulaski to keep him updated as much as she could on Ian's condition.
Ian was physically five years old now, entering Ten-Forward with his mother.
"Can we sit over there?" Ian asked, pointing to a table in front of the large window.
Lt. Worf was seated there, drinking his prune juice alone.
Deanna smiled and nodded, quickly leading them there.
"Hello, Lieutenant. May we join you?" Deanna asked as they stopped beside the table.
Worf glanced at Ian and found he was grinning up at him. "Er, certainly, Counselor."
The lieutenant hadn't had much interaction with Ian, other than his times on the bridge, and opportunity for chat had been nonexistent in those instances.
Deanna and Ian sat down, Ian happily taking the chair right across from the Klingon warrior.
Ian looked at Worf and Worf suddenly felt apprehensive. Ian looked like a child but definitely wasn't, and after all that had happened, Worf didn't know what to think about him. He knew Picard trusted him, and Worf quietly admitted to himself that he trusted Ian as well — at least where it came to protecting the ship, but other than that. . . . He just didn't know. It was all too extraordinary.
"You know, I had been a Klingon once," Ian said before Worf could come up with anything to say. "It's comforting to know that the Klingon people have prospered so. During my time, we were so busy fighting and killing each other I feared. . . ." Ian shook his head. Deanna placed her hand on his shoulder, feeling a brief spike of turbulent emotions concerning his past life.
"If I may ask, what years did you live?" Worf asked once his surprise was replaced by curiosity.
"I'm sorry, I don't remember any dates," Ian said.
"Do you remember any details that may help identify the time in which you lived? Do you know of Kahless? Do you remember what your name was?" Worf asked, searching for any information that may provide a clue.
Worf wasn't searching for proof, for he already believed that Ian had lived through previous lives. He just wanted to learn more about Ian and his character. What better way than to learn about his life as a Klingon?
"Yes, Kahless the Unforgettable. He was one of my ancestors. As for my name, I was Mur'Eq, son of K'Dhan," he answered.
"Emperor Mur'Eq?" Worf whispered, his eyes widening.
"So I was remembered. I'm not sure how I feel about that." Ian frowned before shaking it off. "No matter. I'm here now. I'm no longer Mur'Eq, although I must admit that what I learned as a Klingon has remained with me."
"I'm sorry, but I don't know much about Klingon history," Deanna said, looking to Worf.
"Mur'Eq was a member of the Klingon Imperial Family and the Klingon emperor who introduced the use of blunted bat'leths for practice in order to make sure 'his warriors kill their enemies and not each other'," Worf explained.
"It's very weird to hear my words said back to me lifetimes later," Ian admitted pensively.
"It is strange to know you were once a Klingon emperor," Worf returned.
Ian smiled. "I wonder how rusty I am with the bat'leth."
Worf couldn't help but smile as well, oblivious to Deanna's growing apprehension. Her son, with a bat'leth?!
"I'm sure Mr. Worf will be happy to help you find out," Guinan said, walking up to the table. "So, what can I get you two?" she asked, looking at Deanna and Ian.
"Two chocolate cheese cakes and two glasses of milk please," Deanna answered, grateful for the distraction.
Guinan quickly obliged and returned a moment later; however, instead of returning to her work, she took a seat with them.
"So how are things?" Guinan asked, her eyes gliding over them all.
"Better than what could have been expected a few days ago," Deanna said after taking a bite. "But I think, considering everything, we should be asking you that question."
Guinan straightened slightly. "Yes, I must admit seeing Borg drones — or rather former Borg drones — coming and going throughout the ship has been . . . different."
Guinan glanced to a corner of the room, where a former-drone was in a quiet but clearly enlightening discussion with two members of the Enterprise's engineering crew. She then turned her eyes to Ian.
"The El-Aurians have a lot to thank you for," Guinan said. "As Pyrra, you gave my people freedom and, according to some, our longevity. And then as your current self, you triumphed against our greatest enemy by avenging and freeing their victims. You are certainly a master of masters."
Ian had long since given up feeling embarrassed when people thanked him, but he still sometimes found it difficult to reply to such heartfelt words. After a moment, he found the words to speak, but then he paused, bringing his fingers up to his temple with a grimace. At the same time, Guinan frowned and stood up.
"Q," she stated, annoyed.
A flash of light answered Guinan and their eyes were drawn to a figure that appeared in the rafters of Ten Forward.
Q hopped down, but he didn't appear all that amused as he walked toward them.
"'A master of masters'," Q sarcastically quoted. "Yes, I suppose being the Master of Death could be deemed as being a master of masters."
Deanna stood up and placed her hand on Ian's shoulder as Worf rose to his feet as well.
"Worf to Captain Picard, Q is in Ten Forward," Worf stated, tapping his combadge.
Q waved his hand dismissively as he continued forward. "I won't be staying here long anyway."
Guinan glared at him, raising her hands with her palms open and her fingers spread apart, as if to attack while she began to move between Q and Ian.
Without a word, Ian calmly lifted his hand in motion to Guinan. The message was clear: take no action. But as soon as he had done that, Q snapped his fingers.
Everyone except Ian and Q vanished in a flash of light and reappeared across the room. In the next instant, Q was smirking and standing directly in front of Ian. Ian raised an eyebrow as Q snapped his fingers again. . . .
Q, for the first time in front of witnesses, looked utterly bewildered.
"Oh, I think you might be staying here longer than you anticipated," Ian stated as he finally stood up, confident in the wards he had placed around them.
Q took a step back as Captain Picard and Commander Data entered Ten Forward.
"I may not be an entity like you, but as you said, I am the Master of Death." Ian looked to his mother and the others before looking back up at Q. "You look down on mortals, as if being immortal gives you that right, but really, it's you who are limited. You have never seen death as they have, accepted the reality that one will not always be alive — at least in the way one has always known. You have never experienced Death's grip."
Before Q could react, Ian's hand took hold of his wrist, and a cold rushing sound roared around them all as Ian's black eyes turned bright green.
"Let me help you experience that which you and the Continuum fear most," Ian said, his voice oddly distant. Ian's hand tightened around Q's wrist. "Perhaps then you will treat all life with dignity."
Suddenly, lights on the Enterprise flickered. Safety limits were exceeded and shutdown of the warp drive immediately went into effect as alarms blared. Data twitched as the ship went to Red Alert.
Q fell to his knees with a floundering gasp as his gaze drifted to the side. His eyes widened, although from horror or astonishment, no one could say.
Picard moved to step forward, but before he did, Ian let Q go.
Q collapsed onto the carpeted floor, as undignified as anyone had ever seen him, shaking. Out of breath, Q leaned heavily on his quavering arms as he slowly looked up at Ian from the floor. "What . . . what did you do?"
"I took you to afterlife's doorway and briefly let you peek through," Ian stated.
"How? What did I just see?" Q asked, confused.
Ian raised an eyebrow. "The afterlife is beyond mere existence. It is of an essence beyond your understanding."
Q looked down and closed his eyes. "It was . . . astonishing . . . and horrifying."
"I imagine it would be for someone like you," Guinan retorted.
Q frowned but didn't challenge her comment.
"Riker to Picard, there has been a major power fluctuation in the ship's systems. Is everything alright?" Riker asked, speaking from the bridge.
"Standby, Number One," Picard said, glancing at Q who was still trembling on the floor at Ian's feet. "Ian?"
"I'm sorry, Captain. I don't like doing that, but in this case it was necessary," Ian said, his green eyes slowly darkening back to Betazoid black. "He'll be fine in a moment," he added with a nod toward Q.
"And you?" Deanna asked, concerned as she could sense deep emotions of longing and loss from him.
Ian smiled sadly. "Glimpsing eternity gets harder each time for me, especially since I will never be embraced by its peace — at least not until Life is done with me." Ian turned his attention back to the Captain, before frowning and focusing on Data.
Picard quickly followed his gaze. "Data, are you alright?"
Jerkily, Data turned his head. "I-I am damaged."
"Worf, help him to Engineering," Picard quickly ordered.
"Aye, Captain," Worf answered, immediately by Data's side.
"Wait," Deanna said, stepping around Q and continuing forward. "I . . . Data, you are feeling. You're confused."
"What?" Picard asked.
"I don't understand it either, Captain, but that's what I'm sensing from him."
Data jerkily put his hand on his chest and took in several short gasps, as if overwhelmed—which he clearly was. "I do not—I do not understand. Processing. Difficult."
"Worf," Picard urgently directed as he tapped his combadge. "Picard to LaForge, Worf is bringing Data to you. The power that affected the ship has affected him as well."
"Understood, Captain. Almost all the systems were impacted in some way," LaForge answered as Worf helped Data out of Ten Forward. "What happened?"
"Ian . . . did something to Q," Picard supplied. "Is there any damage to the ship's systems?"
"Nothing serious as far as we can tell. Just a few overloaded terminals. Fortunately, safety protocols went into effect and prevented sensitive systems from being damaged. We will begin running diagnostics to be sure though."
"Very good. Picard out," he said before looking back at Q.
Q was still sprawled out on the floor, but his breathing had eased.
Deanna stepped beside Ian as Q slowly sat up. Guinan continued to stare at the fallen immortal with disdain. Picard tugged the front of his uniform down as Ian lifted his hand, as if removing something.
Q immediately turned his eyes to Ian.
"You can go now," Ian stated.
Q didn't need to be told twice. He vanished without a word.
Picard tapped his combadge. "Picard to Bridge. End Red Alert. Everything is alright now. The power fluctuation was caused by Ian. Q . . . received a lesson."
"Sir?" Riker asked as Red Alert stopped.
"We'll have a staff meeting in an hour. I'll explain then. Please check with One of Seven to make sure their systems were not affected. Let them know we will be discussing what had happened with Forix soon," Picard said.
"I'll be in Engineering. Picard out."
Picard, Ian, and Deanna entered Engineering to find LaForge diligently working on Data. Worf had returned to the Bridge before they had arrived.
"LaForge?" Picard asked.
A portion of Data's skull was open, revealing circuits and tiny flashing lights. LaForge was scanning the area with a tricorder. Data seemed to be awake and aware, but . . . uneasy?
"I've repaired the damage I could find, but so far I cannot determine how or why he is . . . feeling," LaForge said. "Hopefully once the full diagnostic has completed we will know."
Picard looked to Deanna and Ian. Deanna gave a short nod and moved closer.
"Data, I can feel your confusion, uncertainty and fear, but know that these feelings will pass. Whether this change is permanent or not, you won't feel like this forever," Deanna said gently, placing her hand on his shoulder. "And we'll be with you every step of the way."
"I . . . appreciate that, Counselor," Data said before blinking several times.
"You're feeling relief and gratitude," Deanna supplied as Ian stepped forward.
"I didn't expect anything like this would happen, I'm sorry," Ian said.
"Despite how I currently . . . feel, part of me is . . . very happy to be experiencing that which I have always wondered. I am closer to humanity than I have ever thought possible, and for that I thank you," Data said.
Ian smiled softly. "I'm glad."
The Enterprise systems had all been checked and repaired, and Picard was taking a moment to wind down before calling it a day.
"Tea, Earl Gray, hot," he said, standing before the food replicator.
No longer in his uniform, but in some light colored night clothes, he took a seat on his couch and eased back. After taking a sip, he slowly exhaled.
LaForge had finished examining Data and found a localized portion of his neural net pathways had somehow been altered by Ian's magic. He wasn't quite sure how the change contributed to Data suddenly having emotions, but there was no doubt that they were there, and the fact Deanna and Ian could sense them was even more extraordinary.
Picard shook his head.
Data seemed to be handling things as well as could be expected, although only time would tell how he would adjust to experiencing emotions.
The Enterprise was back on course to Federation Space, and though it would take a little over a year at warp 9.9, Picard took comfort in the knowledge that they would be accompanied by at least one liberated Cube the whole time.
Suddenly, his darkened cabin filled with a flash of white, and before he could blink the spots from his eyes, he knew what it meant.
"Ah, good evening, mon capitaine," Q said dramatically.
Picard narrowed his eyes, deciding to be silent.
Q deflated slightly, annoyed and resigned at the same time. "I have come to congratulate you, Captain, for succeeding where many others would have failed. I must say the Continuum is impressed."
Picard lifted an eyebrow. "I sincerely doubt you have come here to simply congratulate me. What do you want, Q?"
Q raised a hand to his chest. "You wound me, Jean-luc. I want nothing."
"That has never been the case before," Picard stated, undaunted and utterly unconvinced. "I know what you wanted at the start of all of this. You wanted appreciation, acknowledgement." Picard took a sip of his tea before putting it aside. "Well, I suppose I will now grant that. You did the right thing, even if you did it for the wrong reason and expected a different outcome. I will admit you have given humanity what we needed most: a kick in our complacency, so thank you."
Q blinked, surprised for a split second before he recovered, but Picard had seen.
"I trust you know you and your crew were very fortunate," Q said offhandedly. "Fortunate to have the Master of Death as a member of your crew."
"We are fortunate to have Ian onboard," Picard agreed, "But the same could be said of Lt. Worf, Cdr. LaForge and Cdr. Data, and every other member of my crew. I doubt we would have succeeded if any of them had not acted as they had. So saying we were 'very fortunate' is a moot point. We succeeded because we worked together."
"Careful, Picard, you're beginning to sound complacent," Q warned, although his tone wasn't quite derogatory. "The universe is wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross, but it's not for the timid or the overconfident."
"If I didn't know that before, I know that now, Q. You can be sure of that."
Q smiled. "Good," he said, lifting his hand before pausing. "Oh, and please tell your mortal immortal that the Continuum will be watching him, in this life and his next."
At that, he snapped his fingers and disappeared in a flash, sending the Enterprise careening through space back to where he had snatched them from.
Ian looked up at his mother.
He knew she had fought back tears of joy when they learned they were back in Federation Space, but part of him wondered if it wouldn't have been better to have returned to Federation Space on their own. She had already sent messages (with Picard's full backing) to some of the most prestigious scientists studying aging in hopes that they would be able to help slow his quickly advancing years. Perhaps it was selfish on his part, but he didn't want to waste time looking for a solution when there was none to be found.
He didn't quite know how or why, but he knew there was no changing his 'condition'. He would age quickly and meet death faster than all of his previous lives and there was nothing science could do to postpone it. Sure, it wasn't fair and he wished things were different, but it was just the way it was. However, for his mother's sake, he wouldn't stop them from searching.
Ian looked back to the screen, reading the message from Yuli Wazani, the thirteenth house member who had tested his prodigal standing. She had sent him profiles on other Prodigal Telepaths who she hoped he would be able to help or at least provide encouragement and emotional support. Ian was happy to oblige and looked forward to getting to know every single one of them. He only had so much time to live, what better way to spend a portion of it?
"What are you doing, Ian?" Deanna asked.
"Replying to Ms. Yuli. I should be able to speak with two Prodigals this weekend," Ian said.
Deanna smiled, taking comfort in the knowledge that no matter how long Ian happened to live, his life would be lived to the fullest and in the best way possible.
As soon as the Federation was informed of the Enterprise's return, things got moving quickly.
The alliance Picard had made with the Liberated Borg was brought to the leadership of Starfleet and quickly recognized, thanks in part to Forix and the other former-drones who had been onboard when Q knocked the Enterprise back to Federation space.
Forix was made an Ambassador and plans were underway to build a long distance subspace communication relay so they could send word to the Liberated Borg they had unfortunately been forced to suddenly depart from. Other Borg technology was quickly brought into study programs and it would only be a few years before all Starfleet vessels were given upgrades. But that was only one of the changes to come.
Meanwhile, Ian would remain on the Enterprise despite efforts of scientists to convince him to leave so they might better help slow his aging. He had no desire to leave the place of his birth and, with his mother's support, wanted to live out his days among Picard's crew.
And he would, going where no wizard has gone before.
A/N: Yes, this is the end. I might eventually write a sequel or some kind of epilogue, but life has recently gotten a little busy and I need to devote my time to things other than fanfiction.
Hopefully this ending was satisfying enough and didn't leave anyone feeling too bummed.
Again, thanks for all the reviews ^_^
Merry Christmas/Holidays and Happy New Year!