Laura was walking home from school with Mary when she saw him standing alone in a field. His clothing was the most unusual she had ever seen. He was wearing what appeared to be a one-piece outfit made out of a type of material she had never seen before. His hair was very short, and he wore it in an unusual style. Laura had to blink a couple of times to make sure that she wasn't imagining things.
"Hi, you must be new around here. I'm Laura Ingalls, and this is my sister Mary."
The boy smiled uncertainly. "My name's Wesley. Wesley Crusher."
"So where are you from, Wesley?"
"Where's that?" Laura was totally baffled.
"It's a starship. My mom is the chief medical officer, and I'm an ensign."
To Laura, he may as well have been speaking Chinese.
Wesley suddenly thought of something. "Hey, what year is this?"
"Eighteen eighty-two." Laura was truly puzzled. How was it that Wesley didn't even know what year it was?
"Oh. Of course." Wesley laughed with relief. "Well, that explains a lot, then."
"What are you talking about?"
"The way you're dressed, for instance."
Laura looked down at her dress. "What's wrong with the way I'm dressed?"
"Nothing. Nothing at all," Wesley said quickly. "I know this is going to be hard to believe, but I'm actually almost five hundred years younger than you. You see, I'm from the future. The twenty-fourth century, to be exact."
Laura's mouth dropped open, and she suddenly felt too weak to stand.
Wesley extended a hand in assistance. "I'm terribly sorry. I didn't mean to alarm you." His voice was full of concern.
"That's...that's okay," Laura managed to stammer. "But how could that be true?"
"In the twenty-fourth century, it's possible to travel through time as well as through space," Wesley gently explained.
Laura was too overwhelmed to respond. Wesley gave her a friendly smile. In spite of everything, he did seem to be a very nice boy, she thought.
"Why don't you come home with me and stay for dinner," she suggested.
"Why, thank you very much," Wesley said politely.
"Ma, Pa, this is Wesley. He's from the Enterprise," Laura said by way of introduction.
"I never heard tell of any such place," Pa stated flatly.
"It's a starship. He's from the future. In the future they can travel through time as well as space," Laura explained.
"Is that so?" Pa asked skeptically. He surveyed Wesley very closely from head to toe. Then he nodded appreciatively.
"That is some fancy get-up you've got on there."
Wesley didn't know whether that was a compliment or not.
"Why don't you stay for dinner. Ma's got some tasty vittles ready. Later we can talk some more about this Enterprise of yours."
"Thank you, sir."
"So tell me, Wesley, do your parents know you're here?" Pa asked after dinner.
"There's only my mom, and yes, of course she does."
"So, why don't you tell me some more about this Enterprise."
"I'll be happy to. Our mission is to explore new worlds and seek out new civilizations, and also to promote peace, harmony, and understanding between all sentient beings, both humanoid and artificial life forms. We belong to the United Federation Of Planets, which seeks to establish-"
"Whoa there! Back up a minute. Did you just say 'artificial life forms'?"
"Yes, sir, I did. In fact, one of my very best friends is an android. His name is Data and he's a Lieutenant Commander on the Enterprise."
"Now hold on a minute. That's crazy talk. Man cannot create life. Only God can do that."
Wesley was rendered speechless. How could he explain to these nineteenth century humans that Data and beings like him, although not human in every respect, were indeed capable of independent thoughts and actions, and so were considered to be, in their own way, 'alive'?
"I'll bet you're tired. Why don't you rest up some while the girls do their homework," Ma suggested.
"Thank you, ma'am, but I'm fine." Wesley was profoundly grateful for the change in topic. He helped Ma clean up after dinner while Mary, Laura, and Carrie did their homework. Then he entertained baby Grace and helped Pa with some of his chores.
"I've got an extra pillow and extra blankets if you'd like to stay the night," Ma offered.
"Of course he's going to stay the night. I'm not sending a boy Laura's age out into the dark and cold with nowhere to go," Pa said.
Laura overheard what her father said, and she felt her heart beat faster with excitement. Although she had only just met Wesley, she liked him and wanted to get to know him better. He was so different from any boy she had ever known. More intelligent and sophisticated, certainly, and there was also another quality she saw in him that she couldn't quite put her finger on. She sensed that Wesley would treat anyone he came into contact with with dignity and respect, no matter who they were or where they came from. To Laura that seemed to be a very rare quality, and it was one that she admired very much.