Captain Picard looked around the briefing room of the Enterprise-D, as if in a daze. Commander Riker, Commander Data, Lieutenant Commander Worf, Counselor Troy and Doctor Crusher were all gathered around the table, eyeing him with differing levels of curiosity and concern. He could hardly blame them. He had only been unconscious for little under an hour, but in that time he had lived the better part of a lifetime in the place of another man.
Truth be told, he couldn't blame them for being worried. Half a century's worth of learned experiences did not just disappear over the course of a few days. He had only told it to Troy in the most personal conversations, but more than once he had woken up wondering where his wife had gone, for she rarely rose before he did. The only time he had ever experienced anything like this before was during his recovery from his experience with the Borg.
Yet while the sharpness of the memories, along with the disorientation, were around the same, the way he felt about it was not. Tearing his identity as a Starfleet officer apart from his identity from Locutus had been waking from a nightmare. Remembering horrific things that would haunt him till the day he died, over a hundred-thousand dead Starfleet officers.
His memories as Kamin were different though. Remembering them was painful, but not in the same brutal way that his memories of the Borg were. They were more melancholic than the terrifying and guilt inducing images of Wolf 359. And there was more to them than the depression, looking back on it was very bittersweet. An entire civilization was gone, but the lives they had lived before their deaths had been fulfilling ones. Full of those who had cared for each other and had enriched their lives.
"Captain?" Troi spoke up. Picard blinked. He had been sitting silent for some time.
Clearing his throat, he began to speak. "Starfleet has ordered the Enterprise to the nearest Starbase, Starbase 241. The Enterprise is in a rather unique position, as we are now in possession of the only records of a long dead civilization, ones that could potentially have a spoilage factor. As such, Starfleet wishes to do everything it can to replicate the records to as extensive a degree as possible."
"And until we arrive at Starbase 241, we are to be debriefed before any potential spoilage has time to take affect?" Riker said. It was less a question and more a confirmation of their orders. Picard nodded.
"Starfleet believes that, in this case, redundancy is the best approach," Picard said. "After all, the circumstances are unusual."
"While I fully agree with Starfleet's decision as the most secure way to preserve acquired information, I must question the defining of our situation as being unusual," Data interjected. "Considering the previous encounters the Enterprise has regularly experience, I feel that we have not established a sufficient basis for what could qualify as usual. Perhaps Starfleet meant unusual on the whole, but their wording does not imply that."
Picard smiled. For an android that struggled with the concept of humor, Data apparently had a gift for pointing out absurdism. He would have laughed if the situation had been different. "Let us say that they are unusual for the purposes of historical discoveries. Data raised his eyebrow in a thoughtful manner and nodded.
"And since this is based on my personal recollections, it'd be for the best if we started sooner rather than later." Picard doubted that this would truly be an issue. It would take years for the memories of Kataan to so much as dull, but he did not feel ready to mention that. Not yet. "The people of Kataan, the Katanians, had a civilization that was wiped out a thousand years ago when their star went nova."
His senior staff waited politely. They knew all of this already, and patiently awaited new information. "Technologically, much of their society was still agrarian, such as the village where I...where Kamin lived." There was a well suppressed flinch of surprise from Riker as he said this, but Picard still saw the edge of it. If the others had reacted to this slip, they had hidden it even better. "But there were signs of an industrial revolution that could not have happened more than a hundred years ago, in the larger cities. They had advanced to the point where they were beginning to experiment with early space flight."
"Such as the probe," Riker said. "It took a thousand years to travel a single light-year. That does hint that their space program was rather rudimentary, something they had only just begun with."
"Which is odd," Crusher interjected, "considering that the beam that gave the Captain these memories was quite advanced. The closest we can do is store a person's brain patterns on a computer, but it would take up a massive amount of memory, and even then there is no known way of safely transferring them to another person. This probe was tiny, and it was able to effectively transport them all into the Captain's mind. Not just memories, but experiences, years of practice in trade and arts. Starfleet is incapable of doing anything comparable."
"After a thousand years of age too," Riker said. "Georgie's been looking at it a lot the past couple of days, there are signs of wear and tear on it. Even in space, things break down. Radiation and stray bits of rock don't exactly play nice with electronics. Even then, it lasted."
"The probe was very much their last hope," Picard said. He had to actively make sure that he didn't say that it had been "our" last hope. He had come very close to letting it slip. The last thing he wanted was to make it look like Riker needed to take command of the Enterprise. "It was a secret government project, a project developed by a government who knew that their world was doomed. No doubt many resources that would have otherwise gone elsewhere were diverted into this project. They felt that securing a small part of who they were was something that they had to do." It was something that he had practically begged for.
"There is an old Klingon saying," Worf said. "The most tragic warriors are those who have earned song, yet none know it. To be forgotten when we deserved to be remembered is the most horrific fate that we can imagine. It is understandable." Picard nodded sadly. He had a good feeling that Worf was thinking of his Discommendation. Even though the Klingon's honor and titles had been restored to him, Picard doubted very much that Worf would ever forget the feeling of not even being able to speak to other Klingons without a ritual happening beforehand. In a way, the fate that had befallen this race was much like Discommendation in terms of how the galaxy almost never knew of their existence, albeit to a much greater degree. And he knew first hand just how terrifying it felt.
"Indeed," he said. "And they had much to be remembered for. Their governmental system was a highly democratic one. An alliance of city states and smaller villages unified under a council, a representative from each settlement standing on it. It was highly participatory, encouraging local leaders and experts to run. They had no organized religion, but they were semi-spiritual, particularly to the concept of hope. And they badly needed hope."
He took a deep breath. Everything that had lead to the downfall of Kataan, that had lead to the death of those he had once called family. They were most certainly the bitter part of his bittersweet memories. "There was a drought that began fifty years before the end of their civilization. At first it was a slow gradual thing, something that appeared to just be a change in weather patterns, but it continued to grow worse over the years."
He remembered studying the drought, trying to find a solution, wondering why the sapling in the town square was still surviving. "The sun was decaying, radiation was beginning to flood the planet, killing the bacteria on the planet and exacerbating the crop shortages created by the drought. Food had been stockpiled for years beforehand, the only thing stopping a famine from breaking out, but even then strict rationing was enforced."
"And the Katanians?" Riker asked. "How did they react?"
"They...didn't know," Picard said. "The council did everything that they could to keep it secret. When Kamin stumbled upon it, they tried to hush him up, eventually revealing that they had known the planet's fate all along when he refused to stay quiet. They were trying to let the Katanian public live out their lives in peace."
"And this was considered the moral choice?" Data asked, sounding as though he did not understand. "Permitting the Katanian people to live in, I believe the term is, blissful ignorance?"
"It was by the Katanian government," Picard replied sadly. Even now there was a small part of his mind screaming that he should have made knowledge about the radiation killing the planet public He had to keep reminding himself that Kataan's atmosphere had been stripped away nearly a thousand years before he had been born.
"They should have had the right to face their deaths head on," Worf said, the faintest trace of disgust in his voice. "I doubt any of them were properly prepared to die." Picard didn't agree with the Klingon angle he knew Worf was approaching this situation from, but he did feel that people put affairs in order when they knew the end was coming. Affairs that they would have otherwise put off on the basis that they would be able to get to it latter. How many millions of Katanians had been blotted out with incomplete lives?
"This government," Troi said, looking at Picard with eyes that suggested that she knew what was going on inside his head, "was it well liked?"
"By the majority of people. There were some who didn't care for it, but that's true of nearly every government. Even the Federation isn't flawless, some think that the way of life promoted by it is one to be avoided." His mind wandered to his brother, who refused to even have a replicator in his house. In a lot of ways, he felt like his brother reminded him on Kamin, both of them being more down to earth than he was. Should he tell his brother about this? He had shared his experience with the Borg with Robert, albeit during an emotional breakdown.
"But overall the government was rather popular," Picard said.
"I think we should perhaps take a quick break," Troi said suddenly. "We seem to have a good outline of the Katanians, when we return we can move onto the finer details." Picard nodded, giving his approval. His senior staff slowed rose to their feet and filed out of the briefing room. Before she left, Troi stopped by Picard. "If this is all moving too fast, we can stop at anytime."
He gave a small smile. "Thank you Councilor, but I'm handling just fine." She smiled, looking as though she doubted him, and left as well.
Picard remained where he was seated and looked down at his lap. The flute that had been in the probe was lying on his lap. Slowly, be picked it up. Closing his eyes, he placed it to his lips. His wife. His daughter. His son. His grandson. His friends. All of them came rushing back in a great flood. And a slow sad song filled the room.
Author's Note: Writing this one felt...weird. Almost sacrilegious. I'm more of a DS9 person than a TNG person, but even then there's a certain level of respect that classic Star Trek demands. That's probably why I don't really write Star Wars stories as much as I used to, the same thing is there. It's weird, I have no problem writing Garrus, but the second I start writing Data I keep asking myself "is this right? Am I doing the character justice?" It didn't help that the request was of easily one of the most moving TNG episodes out there. Still, I like to think that I did the best that I could. It's a bit short, but that's because I feel like there's only so much I can go into on this subject before I overstay my welcome.
Also I based that statement by Crusher on storing brain waves and the stupid amount of space it would take on the DS9 Our Man Bashir, where they had to empty every last computer on Deep Space Nine to store the brain patterns of five people. And this much more primitive nation manages to get around 40-50 years of an old man's life onto a much smaller and less advanced probe. They were on point it seems.
I would like to thank my Patrons, SuperFeatherYoshi, xXNanamiXx, Ryan Van Schaack, RaptorusMaximus, and Davis Swinney for their amazing support.