Captain's Log, StarDate 24966.05: The 'Enterprise' is on course from Vulcan to an area of space known as the Pyrrhus Anomaly. Once there, our mission will be threefold. Firstly, to utilise new sensor techniques in a further attempt to penetrate the Anomaly and discover the fate of the four star systems that were lost when it occurred. Secondly, to assist a team of Vulcan archaeologists in attempting to discover evidence of a lost Vulcan colony in the sector. Thirdly, to keep a watching brief on the sector in light of rumours regarding a revived Orion slave trade.
Professor Skayn was that rare anomaly, a plump and cheerful Vulcan. "My shortcomings as a Vulcan," he explained to Picard as the first course of dinner was served, "are entirely due to a sad lapse of taste on the part of my father. A Human who took it upon himself to fall in love with and marry a Vulcan."
Picard felt constrained to point out that there were any number of highly-successful Vulcan-Human marriages.
"Indeed," replied Skayn, "that of my parents among them. But one must nonetheless wonder why any man in his right mind would subject himself to the rigours of having a Vulcan mother-in-law!"
The man is a study in contrasts, Picard thought. It was at the least unexpected to see such an unashamedly humorous twinkle in the eyes of a man wearing the IDIC medallion that was one of the highest honours of the Vulcan Academy. It was perhaps fortunate that, given the small size of the Vulcan party, Picard had decided to hold this welcome dinner in the wardroom. He was quite sure that in the less formal atmosphere of Ten Forward, the Professor's behaviour might well have scandalised some of the Vulcan crew-members. Vulcan humour, in his experience, tended to the dry rather than the mischievous.
Skayn's graduate assistant, a beautiful black woman named T'Sel, displayed the more usual grave manner as she remarked, "The success of such relationships between our species would have astounded those Vulcans who first encountered humans. The first Vulcan ambassador to Earth, Soval, described Humans as: 'Technologically crafty, carnivorous and malodorous apes who will bear close watching.' It was only in later years that we realised that the perceived unpleasant odour of Humans had less to do with them than with us. Vulcan society at that time was deeply rooted in tradition and distrust of the new. It subjectivised and negativised our view of Humans. Now, of course, the smell of a Human is not considered at all unpleasant by Vulcans. In fact some of us even find it sexually attractive."
Her glance moved to Geordi LaForge as she spoke, and while the Chief Engineer met her gaze, his VISOR device made it hard to read his expression. Something must have happened, though, because Counsellor Troi chose that moment to lean forward, her night-black eyes sparkling with mischief.
"According to an article in last month's Psychosocial Journal, Humans are - statistically at any rate - the sexiest and most sexually adventurous race in the quadrant. There are records of successful relationships between Humans and almost every other species; Vulcans, Betazoids, Klingons, Romulans, Bajorans, Cardassians and even Ferengi. Humans are also the most successful at producing viable hybrids with other species."
"Quite," Picard decided it was time to raise the tone of the conversation a little. A flirtation between Geordi and T'Sel, with or without Deanna's encouragement, could wait for later. "Professor, I am still not quite sure as to why the Academy is so anxious to support your investigations. We all have 'lost' colonies, it was a hazard of deep space travel for many years. Why is this one deemed to be so particularly interesting?"
Skayn's manner became more Vulcan as he replied. "This particular colony was not sanctioned in the usual manner by the then High Command, and the historical events leading to its formation are occasionally known as the Second Partition."
"Intriguing." This from Data, who leaned forward in what had become a largely unconscious mimicry of human body-language, his yellow eyes fixed on Skayn. "The Partition is, of course, a notable event in Vulcan history. The minority of Vulcans who were unprepared to accept the teachings of Surak left their homeworld and eventually founded the Romulan Empire. However, I can access no record of a Second Partition."
Skayn made a dismissive gesture. "The title is not a formally accepted one, Commander. The original Partition involved several million individuals and the foundation, ultimately, of a wholly independent culture.
"The separatists who founded this lost colony, however, numbered only a few thousands. Like the Romulans, they rejected Surak's teachings, but unlike them, they were not warlike. The movement arose after our first encounter with Humans, and its supporters argued that if that species could achieve a reasonable level of scientific and cultural advance without the suppression of emotion, then so could we. They also argued that our philosophy had actually held us back in some ways, and that our art, literature and music were far behind what Humans had achieved in those fields.
"The then Vulcan High Command was less tolerant of any dissidence than the High Council has since become, and the movement was forced underground. Some of them stole a ship and set out to find a new home. During this search they encountered one of the first StarFleet vessels, the Enterprise NX-01, under the command of Captain Jonathan Archer. As a result of this encounter, and diplomatic pressure from Earth, the High Command was persuaded to look the other way while the dissidents left to found a colony in the Helenus system. Many of the colonists kept in private contact with family members on Vulcan until the Pyrrhus Anomaly occurred. There has been no contact since."
Data nodded. "The Helenus, Hector and Chryseis systems are close neighbours of the Pyrrhus System, which is deemed to be the centre and origin of the Anomaly. All three were swallowed up when the Anomaly occurred."
"Tell us more about the Anomaly, Data." Picard requested.
Data gave the slight frown which was the closest he came to expressing frustration. "Very little is known, sir. The Anomaly is a region of space encompassing the former systems of Pyrrhus, Helenus, Hector and Chryseis, all of which contain at least one M-class planet. In the same year as the Federation was incorporated, these four systems suddenly disappeared into a kind of void which no sensors can penetrate.
"Investigation of the Anomaly did not take place until some years later. Unsurprising given that the incorporation of the Federation was attended by numerous protests, uprisings and attacks. Dissidents within the Federation cultures and less developed or influential species outside of it made a number of attempts to destabilise the project.
"When investigations were finally undertaken, it was found that no sensor techniques then available could detect anything within the Anomaly. Probes and eventually ships were sent in, only to emerge on the other side of the region instantly, with no data or memory of having passed through. The anomaly appears to have no gravitational or electromagnetic field, and subsequent surveys have detected no activity even on the quantum level. It has neither expanded nor contracted over time and appears to present no threat. But it is a mystery.
"The only data we have are the intuitions of various Betazoid scientists and crew-members on survey vessels, who indicate that they feel the presence of thought inside the Anomaly, but not that of a single intelligence. Other than that, a private survey undertaken by a group of mystics from Epsilon Hydra Four made the claim that the Anomaly is the result of magic.
"The hope is that the current generation of high-energy sensors and artificially intelligent probes can penetrate the Anomaly."
"Quite the mystery then," remarked Dr Crusher, "and we all know how you love a mystery, Jean-Luc!"
"May I ask," said T'Sel, "What is magic? I have heard Humans use the word but have never fully understood what it means."
Picard considered for a moment. "The Twentieth-Century Human novelist, Dennis Wheatley, often used magic as a plot device in his fiction. He defined it as the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with will. For many centuries, most Humans of all cultures believed that there were individuals who possessed the ability, to a greater or lesser degree, of manipulating probability or reality in accordance with their wishes.
Such powers ranged from predicting the future, to the ability to change one's own shape or transform objects, substances or living things into other forms, or even to kill with a word or a thought. These things were supposedly achieved by the use of amulets, rituals, potions, staves or wands, books, spoken spells or songs. Those who used it were variously known as sorcerors, enchanters, magicians, wizards or witches.
Historically, the accusation of magic was often used as a way of criminalising and ultimately executing dissident elements. Later, as belief in actual magic began to decline, a class of entertainers took to mimicking magic by means of sleight of hand or complex mechanical illusions - the stage magician or conjuror was a popular act for centuries before the advent of holographic technology meant that anyone could become one!
"Many cultures have myths centred around users of magic, such as the Celtic Myrddin or Merlin, the Greek Medea or the Finnish Vainamoinen. They were also popular in fiction, either as enigmatic figures of power such as Shakespeare's Prospero or Tolkien's Gandalf, or figures of parody like Sir Terry Pratchett's Rincewind or Granny Weatherwax.
"There is, of course, no evidence of magic as such actually existing, and very few believe in it nowadays. The word has become more of a metaphor for certain euphoric emotional states; one may speak of particularly successful romantic encounter as 'magical', for instance."
"Now that kind of magic I know about!" put in Commander Riker with a broad grin. Then, more seriously, he added, "But I'm more concerned with this slaver issue. I thought the Orion government had stamped the trade out decades ago?"
"So did they," growled Worf, "but it appears they have been less successful than they hoped. The Orion sphere of influence is large, and there are many outlying systems where the rule of law is minimal at best. It seems that some cultures - the Cardassians and the Romulans in particular - still have a market for slave labour. The slavers have been making profits for some years, but have been restricted by the rivalry between various traders. According to the intelligence we have been given - for whatever it is worth - one slaver gang has gained ascendancy over the others and has invested their profits in more powerful, faster ships. This in turn has made them bolder and more open in their operations. If this intelligence is accurate, then action needs to be taken."
"You have your doubts about the intelligence, Mr Worf?" asked Picard.
The big Klingon snorted. "It came from the Ferengi. It's likely that they merely wish us to remove a rival for them!"
"I think not, Commander." Data put in. Worf glared, but the android continued imperturbably. "The Ferengi, for all their ethical shortcomings, have never been slave traders. To the contrary, their Rules of Acquisition clearly state that a poorly-paid and exploited employee is more profitable than a slave, who must be fed and housed at the owner's expense. It is likely, however, that they would rather not engage themselves in a campaign that offers them no profit."
Worf's expression had changed from irritation to thoughtfulness. "I will need to reassess this intelligence," he remarked, "and see if more details can be found of the type of ships we might be encountering."
"You trust the Ferengi now?" Riker asked with a wry grin.
"I trust Data," replied Worf, then commented, "Beef Wellington goes better with blood-wine."
This turned the conversation to the cuisine, leaving Picard to reflect that his Klingon Tactical Officer possessed rather more diplomatic and social skills than his blunt manner promised.
T'Sel found Geordi in Astrophysics, where he was putting some finishing touches to the various new sensor systems.
"Commander LaForge," she began, "would it be presumptuous of me to ask you how these new systems operate? Please bear in mind that I am an archaeologist, and as such my scientific and engineering knowledge is limited."
Limited in terms of a Vulcan education, Geordi mused as he replied. "Well, most of the sensor arrays are the traditional energy, matter and life-sign scans, but the Enterprise has recently had her arrays updated with the latest developments in all those fields. Greater power, more precision. After all, it may simply be that the Anomaly has been beyond the capabilities of the previous generations of sensor equipment. We also have the new developments designed to defeat cloaking technology.
"On the other hand, there's always the possibility that we've been looking for the wrong things, or had no way of seeing the things we were looking for. So we're trying out a couple new types of device.
"The first is this advanced chronoton analyser. We've come across some temporal anomalies in the last few years, so the research people have been trying to come up with some way of analysing them without going into them. They've found out that chronotons can be refracted or reflected the same as photons or other elementary particles are when passed through certain media. The idea of this sensor is to fire a beam of chronotons into the Anomaly. If it is a temporal one, then they'll either be reflected or refracted. Either way, analysis of their state should tell us something about it.
"If that doesn't work," Geordi went on, "Then there are these experimental Class X Probes. They're basically a Class Five Probe but with a twist. Instead of the usual onboard data collection and analysis computers, these are quipped with a basic positronic net, based on the same technology Dr Soong used to create Data's brain. It's not as complex as Data's, and the AI is at a much lower level, but what it does do is make the probe more proactive and flexible. In theory, these probes should be better able to adjust to the unexpected and make changes in how and when they scan, rather than just following programming."
"How intelligent are they?" T'Sel wanted to know.
Geordi shrugged, "Somewhere between a very bright dog and a pretty dumb chimpanzee, I'd say. If that actually means anything to you?"
"Something," she replied, "I know a little about Terran life-forms from digs on former Earth colonies. If my understanding is correct, these probes will approximate the intelligence of a Vulcan sehlat. Have you any other ideas?"
"Just one," said Geordi, "One I came up with myself. You know that safety and security regs mean that we have to be able to locate any crew-member, with or without their communicator, at any time? Well, Data gave us some problems when he first joined the ship. His body doesn't give off any bio-signs - basically, the internal sensors mark him down as just another piece of equipment. So we had to come up with a way to find him, a way that differentiated him from the rest of the technology aboard. Fortunately, his positronic neural net gives off a unique energy signal, so we were able to design a system to detect and identify it."
"You suspect there may be an artificial intelligence within the Anomaly?"
"Not really, but it's one more possibility worth looking into, don't you think?"
"Indeed." T'Sel gave a faint smile. "I am always in favour of looking into possibilities, Commander. All kinds of possibilities. You seem to be a person of considerable competence and talent. I have a meeting shortly with Professor Skayn, but perhaps we could meet later for a more extended discussion about...possibilities?"
Is this how a Vulcan woman hits on a guy? Geordi wondered. Well, never let it be said that Geordi LaForge refused a challenge! "Sure," he said, "I'll look forward to it."
Jean-Luc Picard had frequently been described as a Renaissance Man. Certainly, his interests were broad and varied, and if age had restricted his more athletic pursuits, his intellectual ones were as keenly pursued as ever. Among these, history and archaeology were two of his favourites, so this meeting with Professor Skayn was as much pleasure as business.
"Would you care for something to drink, Professor?"
"Certainly, Captain. I'm sure this magnificent vessel's replicator system can run to a mocha latte?"
"I'm sure it can. Computer, one mocha latte, hot, and one tea, Earl Grey, hot."
The beverages duly arrived and Professor Skayn sipped his with evident enjoyment. "Splendid! A human vice I have inherited from my father, among many others"
"He is not an archaeologist, I understand?"
"No, he is a civil engineer, originally invited to Vulcan to take part in a programme of public works in the capital. My mother was one of the planners involved. They both still work in urban maintenance.
"My fascination with archaeology began in my teens, when I accompanied my parents on a survey prior to constructing a new residential block. Academy archaeologists were working on the site, retrieving what they could before the new development placed it beyond reach. I was taken by the way in which even the most insignificant-seeming item could tell us so much about the people who used and discarded it. The rest is, as Humans say, history. In my case, quite literally!"
"Quite so," Picard replied. "What do you hope to find out here?"
Skayn shrugged. "Insignificant items," he said, "Refuse and detritus. You must understand, Captain, those were troubled times. Vulcan was in conflict with Andoria, the High Command had been infiltrated by the Romulans, who were trying to foment discord between Vulcans and Humans, and at the same time they were faced with internal dissension both from these emotionalists and the Syrannite rebels.
"In those circumstances, the colonists would have taken precautions. They had few ships, but they would surely have placed early-warning beacons and communication relays a good distance out from Helenus. Most of them would have been swallowed by the Anomaly, and the rest would quickly have lost power, to be destroyed by ion storms or meteors.
"It is my hope that we can locate some of this debris. Analysis of such wreckage may give us some idea of what caused the Anomaly. If we are truly lucky, we might find something sufficiently intact for your Commander Data to retrieve stored information from.
"You have been in the field yourself, Captain, you know how little can tell us so much.
"Of course, if your sensors manage to penetrate the Anomaly, we may learn a great deal more. It is fitting that it should be this, of all StarFleet's ships, that we come here on."
"How so?" Picard was intrigued. Skayn smiled as he explained.
"Much of the history of those times is tied up with the exploits of Captain Archer of the Enterprise NX-01, the ship for which this one is named. Archer is best known on Vulcan as the man who carried the katra of Surak out of the desert and cemented the Syrannite victory. But he and his ship were involved in many other events of significance to Vulcan. Later, of course, Ambassador Spock also served on an Enterprise. This ship, Captain Picard, bears a name of honour on Vulcan!"
Picard bowed his head slightly. "Then let us hope, Professor, that we can live up to the ship's reputation!"
It was at that point that Commander Riker's voice sounded from Picard's communicator.
"Yellow alert! Crew to combat stations. Captain Picard and senior officers to the bridge. This is not a drill!"
Picard exited the turbo-lift and moved to the command chair with a brisk but unhurried stride. The Captain should not be seen to hurry. Riker moved his long body out of the command position into the XO's station. Troi was already in her accustomed seat. Picard settled into his seat.
"Report, Number One?"
"Sir, we received a distress call from a Vulcan patrol frigate, stating they were under attack from a slaver vessel. We are moving to assist."
"Sir," Data spoke from Ops, "We are coming up on the co-ordinates."
"Mr Crusher, take us out of warp and into visual range, flank speed."
"Aye, sir." The teenage Acting Ensign's voice held not a hint of nerves. The boy is his father all over again, Picard thought, not for the first time.
"Sir," said Worf, "I recommend we go to red alert, full combat readiness."
"Make it so, Mr Worf."
"We have visual, sir."
"On screen, Mr Data."
The main screen cleared. Picard could see the looming nothingness of the Pyrrhus Anomaly, perhaps a hundred kilometres off the port bow, but his attention was drawn dead ahead. There were two ships, one much larger than the other, both with the ring-shaped nacelles characteristic of Vulcan and Romulan ships. The larger one - cruiser-class, he judged - seemed undamaged, but was not moving. The smaller, clearly the Vulcan frigate, showed damage to the main hull but was still moving, albeit slowly and with a yawing motion.
"Sir," said Data, "We are being hailed by the Vulcan ship."
The screen split, showing in one corner the image of a Vulcan officer, rather bruised and with his uniform in disarray. Nevertheless, when he spoke his voice was calm.
"StarFleet vessel, this is Sub-Commander Vardik of the Vulcan Defence Force frigate K'Dan. Are you receiving?"
Picard matched the man's calm. "Sub-Commander, this is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship USS Enterprise. What is your status and can we render assistance?"
"Enterprise, we were following an unidentified ship which was showing instability in its warp field. When it dropped out of warp we followed suit, intending to offer aid. But as soon as we came out of warp we were fired upon. Our shields are down to twenty-five per cent, our warp drive is offline, our impulse engines and stabilisers damaged. Life-support is stable but we have several casualties. We managed to return fire, but seem not to have done any significant damage. However, the hostile ship has made no further attacks or manoeuvres. We would be grateful if you could cover our retreat at least until we can restart our warp drive."
"Understood, K'Dan, we will cover you. Picard out.
"Mr Crusher, place us between the K'Dan and the hostile ship. Match speed with the K'Dan and maintain relative position. Thoughts? Mr Worf?"
"Sir, the enemy ship has been identified as a Romulan D'Feral-class light warbird. That class was withdrawn from active service two years ago due to an inherent instability in the warp core design. All Romulan military insignia and recognition codes have been removed from this vessel, and sensors confirm that it does not possess a cloaking device. Intelligence indicates that this class of ship would be no match for the Enterprise. I have phaser and torpedo locks on the target, ready to fire if required."
"Thank you. Mr Data?"
"Sir, I am detecting anomalous energy readings from the hostile vessel. It seems that the containment field for the artificial singularity that forms the warp core is fluctuating wildly. If this continues, an implosion is likely."
"I see. Counsellor?"
Deanna shook her head. "Nothing clear. Rage, fear, defiance. Nothing positive. Whoever they are, they're prepared to die."
"Let's hope it doesn't come to that. Opinion, Number One?"
Riker rubbed at his beard. "If these are the slavers we were warned about, then it seems the Ferengi were right. I doubt if the Romulans had any qualms about selling an outdated and dangerous ship to criminals, and the slavers wouldn't know any better. We could try hailing them."
"My thoughts exactly, Will. Mr Data, broadcast on all hailing frequencies."
"Unidentified vessel, this is the Federation starship Enterprise. You have fired on a Federation vessel and our sensors show a dangerous instability in your warp core. Power down your shields and prepare to be boarded so that we can make repairs."
"Sir, the enemy ship is powering weapons!" barked Worf, then "Incoming fire!"
"Brace for impact!" Riker yelled.
The Enterprise gave a sharp jolt and seemed to shake herself, then settled back into her normal smooth running. "Damage report?" demanded Picard.
"Shields holding at ninety-five per cent, no damage or significant casualties, all systems nominal. It seems that the Romulans did not entirely trust the buyers, that was an old-fashioned plasma bolt, rather than a photon torpedo." Worf's voice was full of dire promises as he asked, "Shall I return fire?"
"Not yet," Picard decided. "There is no significant damage, and I'd prefer not to get into a fire-fight until the K'dan is out of danger."
"Sir," this was Data, "Sub-Commander Vardik reports that his warp engines are restored and asks permission to withdraw."
"Granted and Godspeed, Mr Data. Re-transmit my previous message, all channels."
"Sir, the enemy are powering disruptors!" There was urgency in Worf's voice now - Romulan disruptors could inflict heavy damage at close range.
"Evasive manoeuvres!" barked Picard, "Return fire, phasers only!"
"Sir," Data's voice was calm as ever, but something in his tone sent a chill down Picard's spine. "Sensors indicate fatal collapse of the enemy ship's containment field in five point three seconds."
"Mr Crusher, get us out of here! Maximum warp! Eng-"
Picard never finished the command. The enemy ship seemed to twist in on itself, then vanish into a rapidly-expanding blackness. The artificial singularity could only exist for a matter of seconds, but it was enough. The sensors detected a dangerously intense gravitational field and automatically aborted the shift into warp. As the Enterprise began to be sucked in, Wesley Crusher responded like the born pilot he was. Instead of trying to pull away, he flew the ship towards the singularity at full impulse and a precise angle. Like a judo master who uses his opponent's own strength and momentum against him, Wesley used the singularity's own gravity to slingshot the ship clear.
Unfortunately, the entire crew had for a moment forgotten where they were. Picard suddenly realised that the Enterprise was heading, at several times the speed of light, directly into the Pyrrhus Anomaly! Then everything went black.
Captain's Log, Supplemental: Due to a unique combination of circumstances, the 'Enterprise' has been flung into the Pyrrhus Anomaly. Previously, ships entering here have passed through without trace, but we appear to have been held here.
Two robed figures in a dark room:
"You are sure?"
"Yes. The Seers reported it as soon as it happened. They've sent one of our ships to assist, as we knew they would."
"Will it have the necessary equipment?"
"It is one of their most advanced vessels."
"Then it is time. Begin the preparations."
The lights came back up almost at once. Picard had reflexively clung on to his seat, as had several other crew-members. Others had been less lucky and were picking themselves up from the floor. Apparently whatever force had stopped the Enterprise in her tracks had momentarily disabled the inertial dampening field.
"Status report, all sections!" he barked.
"Sir," Worf was first, as always, "Shields at full, structural integrity at 112% of nominal, sensors and communications nominal."
"Engineering here. Warp core stable, impulse engines online but idle. All power systems and life-support at full function."
"Sickbay. We've got a few bumps and bruises, Jean-Luc, but no serious injuries. What happened?"
"I'll explain later, Beverley. Navigation, where are we, Mr Crusher?"
"Um, according to the navigation sensors, nowhere, sir!"
Picard's first thought was not again – this was not the first time the Enterprise had flown into a region of 'blank' space. However, he had to check all possibilities.
"Confirmed, sir. External sensors detect nothing. No gravity or electromagnetic fields, no significant mass, no life forms."
"Best guess, we've flown into the Anomaly, sir."
"I would agree, except that every other ship which has done so previously has re-emerged instantly on the other side. Explanations?"
"Sir," Wesley hazarded, "every other ship has either gone in at warp velocity or sublight. Because of the slingshot effect, the Enterprise was travelling at translight speed, but in normal space. Possibly it was that combination that trapped us in the Anomaly?"
"That is possible, sir." Data noted.
"I see," Picard considered, then, "Mr Crusher, Mr Data, work with Commander LaForge on a way to repeat that situation. It would seem likely that this would be our best chance of escape."
Picard looked around the bridge, half-expecting to see the mocking, sardonic face of Q among the crew. The enigmatic, omnipotent being was amoral and mischievous, but Q was at least a known quantity. This was his kind of play, but Q usually returned the Enterprise to where they had been after concluding one of his 'tests'.
Deanna Troi's eyes suddenly widened. "Captain! There's something out there!"
"What is is, Counsellor?"
"I don't know. It's very concentrated, very strong. Life, warmth, happy memories, but also concern. It's getting closer."
"Sir," Data reported, "Something has appeared on visual. No other sensor readings. It is approaching the ship and appears to be a life-form."
Picard stared at the screen. There was indeed some kind of silvery four-legged animal apparently galloping through the nothingness towards them. As it approached, its form became clearer.
"A stag?" Riker murmured.
"Sir, it appears to have passed through our shields!" Worf's voice was cautious, puzzled.
Then the creature was leaping through the viewscreen to land in the middle of the bridge in front of Picard. It was a magnificent beast, with a full spread of antlers, glowing silver. Picard felt a flood of warmth and encouragement as he stared at it. Then the stag opened its mouth and a human voice emerged: "Listen carefully – our new home lies within the four systems."
The stag vanished, normal space appeared on the screen, and all Hell broke loose. The lights began flickering on and off, control panels were flashing with random lights, and a babel of voices seemed to come out of every speaker.
"Status?" Picard demanded.
Riker was squinting at his XO board. "Unclear, sir. Systems appear to be fluctuating at random, going on and offline. So far core containment and life-support seem to be unaffected, but everything else..." Riker shrugged.
"Mr Data?" Picard turned to his Ops officer. Without turning, Data said:
"When you're lying awake with a splitting headache and repose is tabooed by anxiety." Then slumped forward in his seat. Worf loped forward from Tactical, unceremoniously hoisted the inert android from the seat and took his place.
"Sir, we appear to be experiencing interference from an unidentified energy field. Attempting to compensate."
Riker had meanwhile moved to the abandoned Tactical station and now reported. "Vessel approaching, dead ahead!"
"On screen, if possible, Number One."
It was the oddest looking ship Picard had ever seen. In form it resembled the classic 'flying saucer' of 20th Century science fiction, but it appeared to be made largely from highly-polished wood, with what seemed to be brass fittings. There were numerous porthole-like windows, out of which streamed a warm, yellow light like that of candles or oil-lamps. It came to a halt a few kilometres off the bow. "Are you getting anything, Will?" asked Picard.
"Nothing much. It seems to be exactly what it looks like, a wood and brass flying saucer. Life forms aboard, I can't tell what species. No detectable power source or shields, and I can't tell if they're scanning us or powering weapons."
"A space ship straight out of Jules Verne," murmured Picard, "Hail, them, Number One."
"Hailing on all frequencies. No response. I don't even know if they're receiving us."
Then the image on the screen changed. Picard was looking at what he could only assume was the alien ship's bridge. A tallish, slender man was sitting in what appeared to be an old-fashioned wing armchair whilst around him various people seemed to be operating a variety of devices. The man himself wore what looked like an old-fashioned military uniform in red, with much gold braid and frogging. He had an even-featured face, a mop of untidy jet-black hair and vivid green eyes. Next to his chair stood a woman in a similar uniform of blue and gold, she was slim, with piercing brown eyes and a mass of bushy, flame-red hair.
The man spoke in a voice Picard instantly recognised as that of the stag:
"Muggle starship, I'm Captain Remus Potter of the wizard starship Witherwings. You'll be suffering from systemic disruption caused by an intense magical field. Hang on, we're coming over!"
With that, Potter rose to his feet, and he and the woman turned on the spot and vanished! There was an almighty boom and the two of them were standing on the bridge.
Captain Potter said nothing. Turning immediately to the front panel, he fixed what seemed to be a large gold plaque onto the centre of it, before producing from his uniform pocket a thin wooden stick. He tapped the plaque with the stick and said clearly "Activio!". As suddenly as it had started, the chaos on the ship stopped. Potter turned back to Picard.
"My apologies, Captain," he said with a smile, "Permission to come aboard?"
"Granted," said Picard, with a faint smile, "and thank you for your assistance. I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship Enterprise. Perhaps you could explain to me exactly what the situation is?"
Potter grinned again. "I imagine there are a lot of explanations and long stories to be exchanged in due course. For now, though, you are in wizarding space, and you'll need some time for your ship and crew to sort things out."
"We are in the Pyrrhus Anomaly, then?" asked Picard, then turned as the inert form of Data stirred, "Mr Data, are you well?"
"I am now functioning normally, Captain, though there appears to be a blank in my memory bank for the last thirty minutes, forty point six seconds. What has occurred?"
"Oh!" exclaimed the woman who had come with Potter, "An electric golem? And you've managed to get it to talk?"
"Madam," said Data, "I have been confirmed by Federation Law as a sentient and free being, and therefore have the right to be referred to as a person, not an object. I am neither electric nor a golem, but a positronic android."
"Lieutenant Commander Data is my Operations Officer," Picard said firmly, "And a valued member of my crew. And you are?"
"Commander Luna Weasley, First Officer of the Witherwings. Commander Data, I apologise. I have an ancestor who would be very cross with me for making assumptions like that! Here, you'll need this."
She handed Data a small medallion on a chain. "The amulet we've put on the ship will keep you conscious while you're aboard, but you'll need to wear this if you leave the ship." She turned to Picard. "The amulet will shield your ship from the effects of the magical field that sustains the Fidelius Charm that hides wizard space from Muggles. But it will take time for full effect."
Captain Potter took over. "We'll just pop back to the Witherwings for an hour, then we'll come back and have a serious talk, OK? In the meantime, you'll need to do various things with your systems – the disruption will have done a bit of damage, I should think."
"As you wish," Picard said, relieved, "An hour, then."
Potter nodded, smiled, then he and Commander Weasley turned on the spot again and vanished with another boom.
Picard wasted no time in ordering diagnostics to be run on all systems, then summoning the department heads to a meeting. He also requested the presence of Professor Skayn and T'Sel.
Aboard the Witherwings Remus Potter was holding a conference of his own.
"First impressions, Luna?"
His First Officer frowned slightly. "I never thought they'd seem so...normal. I mean, I know that apart from the magic, Muggles aren't so very different from us, but it's been so long since any wizard saw one. I just didn't know what to expect.
"They're a lot more advanced than we thought they would be. I mean, that ship is huge! If the Seers have got it right, there are nearly fifteen hundred people aboard her. Not only the crew and their families, but scientific staff, their families and children. Not all of them are Human, either. There are any number of Vulcans aboard, as well as races we haven't heard of. There was even a Klingon on the bridge, did you notice? Wasn't the Federation at war with the Klingon Empire?"
"Two hundred years ago, yes," Potter pointed out, "but a lot can happen in that time! As you say, there are families and kids aboard, so the Enterprise is clearly not a warship."
"Not as such," said a dry voice, "but I would advise caution, nonetheless."
Potter turned to his Intelligence Officer. "You always do advise caution, Sev. " He pointed out. "Why on this specific occasion?"
Lt Cmdr Severus Malfoy leaned forward, the silver frogging on his green uniform glinting in the lamplight, his pale eyes full of humour despite his serious words. "The USS Enterprise is, according to what the Seers can gather from her computer devices, a multi-purpose ship. She is fast, capable of functioning independently of bases or planets for up to ten years, and her machine memory holds the entire sum of Federation knowledge. She can be used for deep-space exploration, colony transport, diplomatic, first contact and scientific missions.
"But, she is also heavily-armed and has a specific place in their StarFleet's line of battle. That saucer-shaped section on the top can, it seems, be separated, leaving the other part to serve the function of a battleship. We should remember that there are no guarantees that, even with the Spell Enhancers, a Reductor Curse, or any other hex, would penetrate their shields. By the same token, we cannot know whether our own Shield Charms would repel their 'phasers' or 'photon torpedoes'. Especially since no wizard has even the slightest idea of what these weapons are or what they do. In a worst-case scenario, the Enterprise could reduce our entire fleet to splinters and scrap in less than an hour! Or we could reduce them to melted slag with one spell. Neither of those outcomes is desirable, Remus."
"Definitely not!" Potter agreed. "But they came here by accident, not as the spearhead of an invasion."
Malfoy shook his head. "They claim to have arrived by accident. That 'accident', for all we know, could have been carefully arranged!"
"You've got a twisted mind, Sev!" Luna chided him.
"It goes with the job, Luna. Remus doesn't, which is why most Captains are Gryffindors and most Intel Officers are Slytherins."
"Oi! Some Captains are Ravenclaws, you know!" Luna protested.
"Don't you two start!" Potter mock-growled, then turned to his Chief Engineer. "Any thoughts, Meeker?"
Meeker fixed his pale, bulging eyes on the Captain. "Meeker is not afraid of the Muggles, Captain. The Witherwings is a good ship and Meeker and his people work very hard to keep her so. Meeker knows very little about the Muggle ship, except that it has much power and its metal hull is made of duranium, which is very strong. Meeker hopes the Muggles have not come to fight, but if they have, we will do our best!"
Picard settled himself at the head of the table in the Briefing Room, the atmosphere was charged, as it always was on these occasions. He was grateful to have a crew that responded so well to any crisis. To encounter apparent Humans within the Anomaly had been a shock, clearly investigation and care were needed – this should be treated as First Contact. First things first, however:
"Status report?" He enquired.
"All ship's systems have returned to normal parameters," reported Geordi, "Whatever affected us didn't do any permanent damage. We're in good shape."
"Comparison with star-charts in the ship's memory indicates that we are, in fact, within the Anomaly." Riker stated. "All four systems are as mapped, but sensors indicate that all habitable planets are now well-populated. We can detect no signs of conventional power-sources or industry, despite urban-sized concentrations of population."
Beverley Crusher spoke next. "There are no serious injuries among the crew. However, some of them are reporting unusual...sensations. Headaches, perceptual changes and so forth. There have also been some odd accidents and occurrences."
"Some kind of virus or energy field?" asked Riker.
Dr Crusher shook her head. "Hard to tell. Whatever it is, it goes across all age ranges and affects about two per cent of the Human crew-members and half a per cent of the Vulcans, including Academician T'Sel. Reg Barclay also claims to be infected, but..."
"If there's anything going around, Reg thinks he's got it!" Geordi finished.
Picard shook his head, half in amusement, half in dismay. There was no doubt that Mr Barclay was a brilliant engineer, and somehow, in a crisis, he invariably rose to the occasion. But his personal eccentricities, his hypochondria and general – to use an ancient term – 'nerdiness', made him a challenge in personnel terms.
"Very good, Bev. Keep the patients under observation – including Mr Barclay – and report any changes. Will, continue investigations of the region, but don't be intrusive.
"Now, what about our hosts?"
Deanna looked around the table, "Well, to begin with, they believe they are what they say they are. As far as they're concerned, they are wizards and witches, capable of performing magic of various kinds. Each of them carries a stick like the one Captain Potter used; they call them 'wands' and believe they focus their magic, make it directed and useful.
"I sense caution and a good deal of curiosity, but no fear or hostility."
"Leaving aside the question of magic," Data said, "They certainly have access to a kind of technology radically different from ours. The only energy our sensors can detect from the Witherwings resembles the energy given off in minute amounts by the neural nets of intelligent beings. However, this appears to be amplified by a magnitude of several millions.
"We are recalibrating our sensors to produce more accurate and detailed readings, but it seems that the Witherwings is surrounded by at least one field, and possibly more. It may be that these are what are keeping the vessel intact, given its unusual structure, and providing the power it requires.
"Our scans do reveal that the ship has a crew of approximately fifty individuals, most of whom appear to be Human or Humanlike. There are, however, two other species present, one strongly resembling Ferengi bio-types, the other completely unknown. We will know more when the sensor recalibration is complete."
"Threat assessment, Worf?" asked Riker.
The Klingon shrugged. "Difficult to make, Commander. We will know more when Commander Data's analysis is complete. However, if his assessment of the alien energy source is accurate, we will be able to reconfigure our shields and weapons systems to compensate."
"We should be able to shield against the energy field that threw our systems off, as well." added Geordi.
"Thank you all," said Picard. "Professor Skayn, do you have anything to add?"
Skayn shook his head. "Nothing but apprehension, Captain. So far, we have not seen a Vulcan, which does not bode well for my people's survival. If you have the chance, would you enquire as to their fate?"
"You may ask that yourself, Professor, as I invite you to join our next meeting with Captain Potter. Your unique perspective may serve us well.
"In the meantime, Number One, are there any Prime Directive issues to consider?"
Riker considered for a moment, then said, "I don't think so, Captain. According to our charts, we are some way out from any of the systems within the Anomaly. It's unlikely that the Witherwings would be this far out unless it had warp capability of some kind. We know they can teleport, as well. I'm not even sure that standard First Contact protocols apply here, either."
"Noted," Picard acknowledged. "Then we will proceed with courtesy and caution. I rely on each of you to use your judgement on how much information you share with our hosts. I dare say Captain Potter is giving similar instructions to his staff.
"Now, as the hour is almost up, I suggest we adjourn to the Conference Room."
Captain Potter and Commander Weasley arrived promptly, along with several other crew-members. A tall, blond man in green and silver, a positive giant of a man whose red and gold uniform clashed badly with his carrot-coloured hair, a sturdy woman in yellow and black, and a small humanoid with a pointed nose and bulging eyes, wearing a grey coverall.
"Lt Cmdr Severus Malfoy, Intel Officer. Lt Cmdr Harry Weasley, Security Chief. Chief Healer Hestia MacMillan. Chief Engineer Meeker." Potter introduced his staff. Picard reciprocated, and then got down to business.
"I think we are all wondering, Captain Potter, how it is that we find a thriving Human community in the centre of an anomaly which has puzzled the Federation's scientists for almost two hundred years?"
Potter nodded. "Of course. Well, to begin at the beginning, we wizards had lived among you Muggles – non-magical people – on Earth for centuries. We existed in secret, shielded by magic, with only the necessary officials in your governments knowing of us. That had to happen, of course, because in every generation a few Muggle families produced wizard children. Also, Muggles and wizards had an unfortunate habit of falling in love and having kids, and most of those Half-blooded children were also wizards or witches.
"But then, of course, came World War Three and the Post-Atomic Horror. Foolishly, we thought we were safe, but we hadn't reckoned with the power of Muggle weapons or the indiscriminate way they were used. Millions died, wizard and Muggle alike, until the only organised wizard authority was the British Ministry of Magic."
Data nodded. "Of all the developed nations, the United Kingdom suffered least from that war. The insular, right-wing governments that had dominated British politics since the mid-21st Century had withdrawn that country from world politics almost completely. The damage done there by nuclear weapons was minimal, most of the trouble was caused by fallout from Europe, and poverty from the collapse of trade."
"The least damage, as you say," Potter replied, "but it was enough to cause social collapse for a time. Meanwhile, the British wizards managed to hold things together, and were joined by refugees from all over the world. Without a stable Muggle government, we remained completely secret.
"Then, of course, Zefrem Cochrane flew the Phoenix, the Vulcans arrived, and everything changed. Earth began to play host to aliens of all kinds, Muggle technology leapt ahead, and wizards got scared. We didn't know how long it would be before some alien Legilemens or new technology uncovered us.
"Earth government was still unstable. There was conflict with Andoria, the Romulans, the Klingons and the Xindi. With each passing year, we felt more unsafe.
"So, we decided to leave. We managed to hijack a cargo ship and headed for a distant, uninhabited system we found in its charts. That was the Pyrrhus System, which we renamed the Merlin System, later we renamed Chryseis, Rhiannon and Hector, Dumbledore, all after famous wizards in our history.
"The fourth system, Helenus, was already colonised by Vulcans, exiled from their home world. It caused some problems, as we had already decided to hide the systems we intended to colonise with a Fidelius Charm. But the Vulcans asked us to hide them as well."
"And what," asked Skayn anxiously, "became of our people?"
It was Commander Weasley who answered, with a smile, "You're looking at them, Professor!" She turned her head to one side and brushed part of her long red mane back, to reveal a small, elegantly pointed, ear.
"Most of us have some Vulcan blood," she went on, "But not all of us necessarily show it. I have these ears, for instance, but both of my sisters look completely Human, so does one of my brothers. But the other two are twins, and one of them looks Human, but the other looks Vulcan – except for the red hair!"
"I can't think of a single Weasley who doesn't have red hair," Harry Weasley pointed out.
"And the gods know there are enough of you!" Commander Malfoy stated with a grin, "Used to be the 'wizarding world', but now people are starting to call it the 'Weasleying world'!"
All the wizards groaned, as did some of the Enterprise crew. Healer MacMillan told her hosts:
"The Malfoys and the Weasleys are two of the oldest wizarding families in existence. For a great many centuries, they couldn't stand each other!"
"That hatchet was buried back in the 21st Century," remarked Malfoy, "I have Weasley cousins, just like everyone else in this room except Meeker."
"And us!" said Riker.
"I wouldn't," replied Malfoy, "take any bets on that, Commander!"
There was more laughter, then Captain Potter continued his story: "Anyway, once that was decided, we performed a Memory Charm on the crew of the freighter that had brought us and sent them on their way.
"Ever since, we've lived here. We've developed our magic enough to build ships like the Witherwings, and we've waited. Waited for something like this to happen, for you Muggles to pierce the charm and find us. Waited to see if you'd finally grown enough to accept us for who we are."
"And," added Malfoy, "to see if we've grown enough to accept you."
"One thing puzzles me," said Beverley, "If er...Muggle? Muggle families sometimes produced wizard children, then that genetic potential must still exist in all Humans. How come no wizards seem to have been born since you left? Given current medical techniques, we must have detected them!"
"The colonists took precautions," explained MacMillan, "Before they left, they cast a Dampening Hex on the Human race. Wizards would still be born, but their powers would never develop until or unless they came into contact with other Human wizards."
"Well, this has all been most informative," said Picard, "But I'm sure we're all feeling a little restless. I suggest we break up for a while. Perhaps our guests would like to look over the parts of the Enterprise that interest them? We'll meet again for dinner."
Geordi didn't know quite what to make of Meeker. The odd-looking little being seemed very impressed by the warp core, and very curious about the rest of the ship, but not discourteously so, punctuating his questions with promises to show Geordi the Witherwings as soon as he could. Geordi had questions of his own, however.
"Meeker, I don't mean to be rude, but you're not Human. Do other species have wizards, too?"
"Meeker does not know, Geordi LaForge. At least, not about all species. There are wizards with Vulcan blood, Meeker knows. But Meeker is not a wizard, but a house-elf."
"Yes, Geordi LaForge. For many centuries, house-elves were slaves to wizards. House-elves have powerful natural magic, you see, and we were afraid that we would harm other people. So we sold ourselves to the wizards. But it was a bad mistake, Geordi LaForge. Many wizard families treated their house-elves cruelly, and even those that were kind gave us no respect. But then, so long ago, the famous Dobby met the great Harry Potter, who became his friend – the first time a wizard had ever called a house-elf friend – and set him free. Harry Potter's friend was Hermione Granger, who was a great witch, who helped Harry Potter overthrow the Dark Lord Voldemort and married his best friend, the powerful wizard Ronald Weasley, Fenrirsbane. She made the laws that forced wizards to treat their house-elves well, and to free them if they wished it.
"So after some years, it came about that all house-elves were free, and when the wizards left Earth, they took us with them, along with many other magical beings and creatures.
"Meeker is Chief Engineer of the Witherwings because he wishes to be, Geordi LaForge, and because he has the skills to do the job better than any other house-elf or Goblin."
Will Riker had taken Luna Weasley directly to Ten Forward.
"This is your workplace?" She asked with a wry smile. "Because it looks an awful lot like a pub!"
Riker grinned back at her. "Actually, I do a lot of my work here. Aboard a ship like the Enterprise, a lot of the XO's work is about personnel. Sooner or later, everyone comes to Ten Forward. A good ear, a quiet talk over ale or food, relaxed people. I get to hear what the crew thinks, then I can do what's necessary."
"That makes sense," Luna allowed, "Our ships are much smaller, of course, and our organisation less formal. It's always been that way with wizards, there are so few of us by comparison with Muggles."
"But you wear uniforms, "Riker pointed out, "And they're colour-coded, like ours. This colour," he indicated the cranberry splashes on his uniform, "shows that I'm Command staff. Ships Operations wear gold, Science green and Medical, blue. What do your colours stand for?"
Luna shrugged, "They're House colours, of course." To Riker's puzzled look she went on. "Centuries ago, back on Earth, there were several wizard schools: the College of Karnak in Egypt; Salem College in North America and the El Dorado school in South. Then there was Durmstrang in Bulgaria and Beauxbatons in France. But by the end of World War Three, the only one still standing was Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Britain. When we came here, we magically dismantled Hogwarts Castle, brought it with us and set the school up on our new home planet, Merlin. When we expanded to the other systems, we set up branches of Hogwarts on those worlds, too.
"Now, the original Hogwarts was founded by two witches, Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff, and two wizards, Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin. So the school was divided into four Houses, each named after one of the founders. When we enter school at eleven, we're Sorted magically into a House, based on our character and potentials. Gryffindors tend to be sportsmen, leaders, soldiers and entertainers, their colours are red and gold. Ravenclaws are chosen for intelligence, we wear blue and gold. Hufflepuffs are steady, hard-working, reliable sorts who wear yellow and black. Slytherin...well, Slytherin had a reputation as being a House that produced a lot of Dark wizards at one time, but nowadays, Slytherins tend to be the ones with people skills; negotiators, diplomats and intelligence analysts – they wear green and silver."
"So all wizards wear House colours?" asked Riker.
Luna shook her head. "No, that's specific to the space fleet and what military we have – it gives a commander an idea of what his people can do, you see. The only other wizards who wear any kind of uniform are the Aurors – our police force – and they wear black robes."
"Interesting," Riker murmured, "So, you're a Ravenclaw, and Captain Potter is a Gryffindor?"
She nodded. "Yes. It's funny, you know, most Weasleys are Gryffindors, except those directly descended from Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. Like Hestia said, the Weasleys are an old wizard family, but Hermione was a Muggle-born witch, who married Ronald. She was terribly clever, and although she herself was a Gryffindor, like Ronald, a lot of her descendants were and are Ravenclaws, like me, though Mum swears it's the Vulcan in me that did it! Remus – Captain Potter - comes from another old family, who've always been Gryffindors, and the Potters and Weasleys have been close since the 20th Century. We're related, of course, through Harry Potter – one of the most important wizards of that century – and Ginevra Weasley, who he married. Sev is a Slytherin, like a lot of Malfoys, but some of them have been Gryffindors, too."
Captains Picard and Potter had made they way to the Ready Room, where Picard had one important question for his counterpart.
Potter looked up from his appreciative study of the aquarium, "Remus, please. Wizards aren't generally a very formal bunch, Jean-Luc."
"As you wish. I've been trying to place your speech-patterns. As far as I can tell, it resembles late 20th to early 21st Century British English?"
Potter shrugged. "You may very well be right. We're not fond of changes, and when something is comfortable for us, we tend to stick with it. Hence the rather Victorian design of our starships. But that's not what you wanted to ask me about, is it?"
Picard shook his head. "No. This is not a simple question to ask, Remus. You appear to have been quite open with us, but I would be remiss if I failed to enquire about his matter. To say nothing of the wrath I would face from my Security Chief!"
"I know what you mean." Potter laughed. "I also think I know what your question is, and believe me, Harry would take me to task as severely as Worf would you if we didn't at least raise the matter!"
"Very well. Remus, as one Captain to another, are my people in any danger here?"
Potter sighed. "As one Captain to another, Jean-Luc, my answer would be 'Not from us'. But that doesn't mean you're not in danger – just that we could be, too!"
"You have concerns?"
"Nothing I can put my finger on, but there are factors here that are making Severus – Commander Malfoy - edgy. Sev has good instincts, so I suggest we both keep an eye out. You watch my back, Jean-Luc, and I'll watch yours!"
Captain's Log, Star Date 24966.06: The 'Enterprise' has been invited to return with the 'Witherwings' to Merlin. It seems that the main wizard legislative body, the Wizengamot, is anxious to speak with us. Since there is currently no way for us to exit the Anomaly, and since our hosts have thus far presented no threat, I have decided to accept the invitation. However, my crew are still working on methods to adjust our systems to wizard technology, as it would be a mistake to maintain a disadvantage.
In the meantime, Dr Crusher informs me that Healer MacMillan has discovered that the symptoms shown by some crew members are the result of their dormant wizard powers being activated. What this may mean for the Federation as a whole, remains to be seen. Mr Barclay, unsurprisingly, is not a wizard, it seems, but has a set of issues all his own.
Captain Potter had indicated that Merlin was a day's journey away at the Witherwings' optimum cruising speed, a speed which Geordi and Meeker had calculated as being equal to Warp Five. Both Geordi and Data were grateful for this further delay to any likely encounter with more wizard ships, and were spending time in Engineering, attempting to reset the Enterprise's systems. Geordi was a little surprised to see Reg Barclay stride into the lab with a determined expression.
"Hey, Reg, thought you were in Sickbay?" he asked.
"Not any more," Reg stated, "Healer MacMillan explained what was going on with me, so I thought I'd better get back to duty. I've just been down on Holodeck Two. It seems that wizards find that personal teleportation a bit tiring, so they have another method, like our Transporter, that they call 'Flooing'. But it depends on having a fireplace, and we don't have those on the ship, so I've been creating a holodeck version - it seems to work well enough."
"OK, but what are you doing here?" Geordi wanted to know.
"Well, the Healer told me that I'm not actually a wizard, but something they call a 'Sensitive'. A person who can't do magic, but can sense it. I mean, even at warp, I can feel the Witherwings, out there, pacing us.
"So, I thought I might be of some use down here, helping you and Commander Data with the sensors and shields. If I'm sensitive to magic, I should be able to tell if you're on the right track."
Geordi shot Data an enquiring look. The android considered for a moment, and then said, "If Mr Barclay's new perceptions are accurate, it would be useful for him to work with us. Even if they are not, his expertise would be welcome."
Geordi often wondered how his friend, who had nothing even remotely resembling a heart in his chest, could be so unfailingly kind.
Luna Weasley had been among the first to test out the holographic Floo station, because she had important reasons for doing so. She now sat in Academician T'Sel's quarters, having been summoned there by Professor Skayn, who was worried about his protégée. The Professor had left the two women alone and, as soon as he had gone, T'Sel's Vulcan composure had given way slightly, leaving her looking both scared and curious. Luna decided to be direct.
"Hestia tells me you have the makings of an exceptional witch, T'Sel."
"I know," the Vulcan woman replied in a low voice, "And I do not see how that is possible. There is no record of magic ever being practised on Vulcan. Not even folk-tales or legends. I have no Human blood, unlike the Professor, so how can this be occurring?"
Luna shook her head, "That's not strictly true, you know. The Helenus Exiles had tales of people with unusual powers, but they told us that the High Command and the Elders had done their best to suppress them, along with every other aspect of pre-Surak Vulcan history."
T'Sel nodded. "That might be true, Commander. It is not a period of which we are proud, as a race. We have recently begun to look into pre-Surak archaeology, but the last wars were so terrible that little remains. But even so, how is it that there are no records from more recent times?"
"I'm afraid," Luna told her, "that that is down to Surak – though I'm sure it wasn't his intention. If he was a Muggle, and if Vulcan wizards operated in secret as human ones did, then he couldn't have known, for one thing." Luna sighed. "My most famous ancestress once remarked that most of the greatest wizards didn't have a scrap of logic in them, and that's still true today. Magic is, in many ways, the antithesis of logic. It comes from the feelings, the instincts, the emotions. To cast a spell, you have to feel it. When Vulcans embraced the teachings of Surak, they lost the capacity to learn or perform magic.
"Some of the Exiles, having regained touch with their emotions, turned out to be wizards. I think there was a connection, to be honest. Their eagerness to regain their emotions may in some cases have been their magic trying to get out, as it were."
T'Sel's face turned thoughtful. "Commander, one of the reasons I came on this mission was that some members of my family were among the emotionalists. If they had been, as you suggest, naturally wizards, then I may have that same potential. But at the same time, it does not explain how I, who follow Vulcan teachings, should be showing these abilities."
"Call me Luna. Tell me, has the way in which Vulcans follow Surak stayed unchanged these last two centuries?"
T'Sel gave a faint smile. "Indeed it has not. Our encounters with the Humans and other races at first made us even more rigid. Later, as we came to appreciate them, we began to unbend a little. Also, when the katra of Surak was found and passed onto the Earthman Jonathan Archer, and he and his First Officer, T'Pol, recovered the Kir'shara, the true, original version of Surak's teachings became known. These were less harsh than subsequent generations had made them.
"So, yes, we are, as a Human might say, a more mellow race, now. Logic still guides most of our important decisions, and we will not return to the savage ways of our ancestors, but we no longer rigidly repress all emotion. The discipline of Kolinahr, by which all emotions are purged, is now used only by those who sense in themselves dangerous emotions, or who wish to recover from deep emotional trauma."
"Well, there you are, then!" Luna stated. "You're more open to emotion than you used to be, you no longer see logic as all and everything, so your natural magic is coming out. You shouldn't worry about it...oh!"
The cup she had been holding had suddenly transformed into a small, silver bird which flew across the room and perched on a picture-frame, singing melodiously.
"Did you do that?" she asked T'Sel.
"So it would appear," replied T'Sel with a tremor in her voice. "Luna, I cannot control these abilities, and I am afraid I will cause some damage or harm if this continues. Can you help me?"
"Hmm," Luna frowned and said, "You must be very powerful. In our world, or in the old times, you'd have been spotted almost at birth and watched over by wizards until you were old enough to go to wizarding school – that is, if you'd been Muggle-born. As it is, you'll need to be trained, just in case the powers stay with you when you leave here. But that's a good seven years teaching, and although I'd expect a Vulcan to learn quickly, it won't help you now."
Luna paused, and took a deep breath. "There is something that might help, though. T'Sel, are you willing to mind-meld with me? A meld will allow me to pass on some basic control techniques and simple spells to keep you stable."
T'Sel bowed her head for a moment, then looked up. "I would be willing, Luna, but I am not trained in the necessary techniques. Not all Vulcans practise mind-melding."
"Oh, that's all right," Luna gave a small laugh. "I'm fully trained in melding. Comes of being part-Vulcan and a legilemens to boot! We learned a lot of techniques from the Exiles like melding and meditation."
She got up and moved to the couch, sitting next to T'Sel. "Just relax," she urged, placing her fingers gently but firmly on the other woman's katra points. "My mind to your mind. Your thoughts to my thoughts..."
At nine o'clock in the morning, local time, Picard, Riker, Data, Worf, Troi and Professor Skayn beamed into a large square in front of an impressive building.
"That must be the Wizengamot House," Picard remarked, "It's rather remarkable."
"Indeed," replied Data, "The architectural style seems to blend English Georgian and Vulcan late Sh'tar period. Both were noted for grace and beauty of proportion."
"Here are our hosts." Worf pointed out, as Captain Potter and Commander Weasley came out of the House and made towards them, waving. Picard was glad he had requested that his crew wear dress uniform, as their wizard friends were dressed in what appeared to be elaborate robes, though still in their House colours.
Troi had been looking around, now she remarked, "You know, there are plenty of people about, but nobody is paying us much attention. You'd think six people appearing out of nowhere, all strangely dressed and at least two clearly neither Human nor Vulcan, would attract attention!"
"Oh, I'm not so sure about that, Deanna," Riker commented, "Look over there!"
Three beings were crossing the square. From the waist up, they were Human, but from the waist down, they were horses.
"Ah! You've noticed the Centaurs, then?" said Captain Potter, coming up and shaking Picard's hand firmly. "They came with us when we left Earth, along with a number of other magical creatures. If we get time, I'll show you the dragon reserve.
"Right now, though, we'd best get inside."
The entrance to the House led into a large hall which was bustling with activity. "The Wizengamot House is also the headquarters for the Ministry." Potter explained. There were large numbers of fireplaces along the walls, all flaring green and disgorging people, who hurried off in various directions. At one end of the hall was a series of desks under a large, open window. A constant stream of what seemed to be perfectly ordinary Terran owls and Vulcan silverbirds were flying into the window and settling on the desks. The people at the desks seemed to be taking documents and letters from the bird's legs, putting them into coloured envelopes, and then tossing the envelopes into the air. The envelopes then fluttered off in different directions. The air was full of them.
To one side of these desks were a series of elevators, Potter led them into one, which rattled noisily downward for what appeared to be a great many levels. They exited the elevator into a smaller hall from which ran two corridors, one to the left and another straight ahead.
"That one," said Luna, indicating left, "leads to the Department of Mysteries – what you would call Research and Development. The Wizengamot Chamber is ahead."
They approached a set of impressive double doors, guarded by two men in black robes. One looked perfectly Human. The other was clearly half-Vulcan, but also some three metres tall.
"Part-Human, part-Vulcan, part-Giant," Luna murmured, then spoke aloud, "Are they ready for us, Mr Hagrid?"
"That they are, Commander," the huge man replied, "Yeh'd best get along in!"
His beetle-black eyes swept over the group as he spoke, ending on Troi who, as she met his gaze, was somewhat disconcerted to be on the receiving end of a friendly wink.
The Wizengamot Chamber was huge, far bigger than it had any business being. Despite being, according to Data's calculations, at least a kilometre underground, the high ceiling supported a glass dome through which sunlight poured. It was like an auditorium, or a courtroom. There was a circular space in front of them, holding eight comfortable-looking chairs. All around were a series of tiered seats, occupied by at least a hundred people. Most of them looked Human, though a number carried clear markings of Vulcan blood, and some seemed entirely Vulcan. There were also some of the Centaurs, a scattering of house-elves and of the Ferengi-like people Picard had come to know as Goblins. There were two Humanlike beings who must have been close to seven metres tall – Giants, presumably – a handful of three-metre tall, hulking, blunt-featured humanoids, five Humans dressed in fur and leather, with wild-looking faces, and one tall, slender, white-faced figure dressed all in black, who sat carefully in the shadows. Above the tiered seats was what appeared to be a gallery, filled with a similar assortment of locals – members of the public, Picard thought.
A wizard in sober brown robes approached them. "Please step forward one at a time, give your full name, rank and position, then take a seat. Speak in a normal tone, the acoustic charms on the Chamber will make sure you are heard. Wizards first, please."
Potter walked forward and announced: "Captain Remus Sirius Ronald Potter, officer commanding wizard starship Witherwings."
Luna followed: "Commander Luna Hermione T'Pring Weasley, First Officer, starship Witherwings"
Picard led his crew forward, following suit. Most passed with no comment, but there was a stir and a rustle as the big Klingon strode forward and rumbled: "Lieutenant Commander Worf, son of Mogh, Security and Tactical Officer, Federation starship Enterprise."
Finally, there was a general, eager leaning forward as Skayn introduced himself: "Professor Skayn, child of Horek, child of Soval, Chair of Extra-Planetary Archaeology, Vulcan Academy."
As Skayn seated himself, a tallish man with a round, amiable face rose from one of the tiered seats and stepped down to a podium in front of the visitors.
"Good morning, members of the Wizengamot and wizard Space Fleet officers. I am Albus Longbottom, Minister of Magic for the Four Worlds, and on behalf of the Wizengamot and the Ministry, I would like to extend a warm welcome to our distinguished Muggle visitors. Your arrival here represents a great opportunity for us and for you. It is my hope, and the hope of this Chamber, that the time has finally arrived for Muggles and wizards to come together openly, as friends and allies."
The applause was deafening.
The adjustments were complete, and the Enterprise was fully magic-proof, or at least potentially so. Being in standard orbit around a supposedly friendly planet, the shields were at navigational settings. Reg Barclay was tired, but knew he wouldn't be able to sleep for a while yet. So he was heading to the holodeck with the intention of enjoying one of his favourite simulations.
The sudden eruption of sensations sent him staggering against the corridor wall. Magic – sudden, dark magic, and something else. Something cold, hungry, evil. Reg concentrated, seeking the location. He knew the ship as well as anyone, and it took only seconds to realise that the centre of the disturbance was Sickbay. As he was about to tap his communicator, he heard Geordi's voice over the ship's speakers.
"Intruder alert! Security to Sickbay!"
T'Sel was in Sickbay, helping Dr Selar to deal with some of the Vulcan crew members who were experiencing magical awakening. Just as she had, they were finding the adjustment more difficult than the Humans were. Her mind-meld with Luna had shown T'Sel a great deal, and she now felt able to assist.
The loud booms were stunning in themselves, and were followed by the appearance of several white-robed, masked figures and one towering form in ragged black, whose very presence seemed to spread a deadly chill.
One of the white-robed figures shouted fiercely: "Everyone stay where you are! Any of you filthy Muggles moves, and you're going to get hurt!"
Dr Crusher strode forward: "I don't know who you are, but this is a medical facility! You don't just..."
The robed man pointed his wand at her, and a jet of red light shot out of it. Beverley collapsed.
Another robed figure approached Selar. "This one will know!" he pointed his wand and barked "Imperio! Now, tell us where the cloning device is!"
"I will do no such thing." Selar replied coolly.
"Idiot!" another man snarled, "That curse doesn't work on Vulcans! Let me!"
He gestured with his wand. Selar went rigid, then toppled over to land across a bio-bed. The intruder went over to her and began a mind-meld. At the same moment, someone else called, "They're at the door!"
"So wizard-lock it!" Snapped the leader, "They'll never open it. They're only Muggles, for Medea's sake!"
Geordi arrived at the entrance to Sickbay at the same time as Reg and Chief O'Brien. The Security detail were working on the door.
"Report!" Geordi snapped.
"There seems to be some kind of seal on the door, Commander."
"It's a magical one," Reg supplied, "I can sense it."
"Well, if they've frozen the controls, we might be able to bypass them," suggested O'Brien.
But it was clear, after a few moments of trying, that this was not going to work. Geordi tapped his communicator. "Bridge, patch me through to the Witherwings!"
A moment's terse explanation, and Security Chief Harry Weasley apparated nearby. He wasted no time on small talk, striding up to the door and flicking his wand, "Alohomora!"
The door opened at once and the detail stormed in. They saw patients cowering around the room. Several white-robed intruders were gathered round a piece of equipment at the back of the room, while others were clearly guarding them. There was also another figure which, through Geordi's VISOR, appeared to be a towering absence, radiating a deadly cold.
The next few seconds were chaotic, with jets of red and green light, mixed with phaser bolts, criss-crossing the room. Three security men went down, and two of the intruders, then suddenly, Geordi's phaser was wrenched out of his hand, as were those of the rest of the detail, and Harry Weasley's wand. At the same moment, one group of intruders, and the equipment they were working on, shimmered and vanished.
A cold voice said, "You! Keep the Muggles off us, and take the blood-traitor. The rest of you, pick up our injured and let's go!"
Then the cold and the dark became unbearable, as every painful memory Geordi had ever experienced rushed back on him.
Unarmed and untrained, T'Sel had managed to stay calm and keep her head down. But now the towering black creature was clearly somehow affecting their would-be rescuers. Something surged up from her memory, or was it Luna's? It didn't matter, she knew what to do. Darting forward, she caught up the wand of a fallen raider and pointed it at the dark thing, then summoned up every happy memory she could.
Vulcans have almost total recall, and despite their reputation, they are a powerfully emotional people. When T'Sel invoked "Expecto patronum!", her captured wand emitted a silver blaze that caused the Sickbay lights to automatically dim in compensation. Then a form erupted from the light; a large, bear-like animal with gleaming six-inch fangs that lumbered forward, bearing down on the cold creature. A sehlat, just like the pet T'Sel had loved so much as a child.
The Patronus pinned it's adversary against the wall. The dark creature emitted a high, thin wail, and collapsed. Then T'Sel herself was engulfed in flaming agony. Despite all her Vulcan discipline she screamed and fell to the floor. The pain stopped, and a white-robed figure towered above her, pointing his wand: "Mudblood scum!" he hissed, "Avada..." Then Geordi was on him, knocking the wand away. However skilled he was as a wizard, the man clearly had no knowledge of unarmed combat, and Geordi took him down hard and fast. Then a blaze of light struck him in the chest as another wizard jumped forward, grabbed his fallen ally and disappeared with a boom!
Geordi and T'Sel both climbed to their feet. Unable to help herself, T'Sel ran to Geordi and flung her arms round him, hugging him tight. He returned her embrace, stroking her hair gently. "It's OK," he told her, "it's over now."
"No," she murmured, "I think it is just beginning."
Then she lifted her face to his and kissed him.
The man in the white robe writhed on the rock floor, screaming in agony. The tall, thin figure standing over him, wand extended, watched dispassionately until a woman stepped forward.
"That's enough, Lucius. No point in crippling the fool!"
Lucius Fitzmalfoy released the cruciatus curse. "You're right, Lily." he turned to the panting figure on the floor. "Dolohov, you're an idiot. Your family have always been idiots and the only reason I brought you into this is that there are so few Purebloods left."
Dolohov staggered to his feet. "Purebloods!" he spat, "Purebloods? Then what of him?" he pointed to a figure standing just behind Fitzmalfoy.
In response, the man came out of the shadows. He was tall and angular, with the jet-black hair, hawk-like features and greenish skin of a pure-bred Vulcan.
"I may not be Human, Dolohov," he said coldly, "but my blood, albeit Vulcan, is as pure as yours. My family were wizards from before the time of the fool Surak. We kept our secret for millennia, and when the opportunity arose, we fled here, in the hope that we would soon come to dominate the Muggles we fled with.
"The arrival of you Human wizards merely accelerated the day, and the extinction of the Muggles in this system. We - my family – have held ourselves aloof from mating with Humans because, until a year ago, we assumed you all to be of impure blood. Now, of course, we know better, and are pleased to join forces with you."
"Your support and friendship are valued, Tarok," Fitzmalfoy stated, "And I apologise on behalf of Dolohov."
But Dolohov wasn't done. "What about her?" he snarled, indicating the woman standing close to Fitzmalfoy, "Descended from our greatest enemy, yet she stands among us!"
Lily Potter tossed back her mane of raven hair and fixed cold green eyes on Dolohov. "My family is descended from Purebloods, and through marriage we've bred out James Potter's shame. I bear my given name as a reminder never again to stray from the path of magical purity, and I have vowed to undo the evil Harry Potter did to our world!"
"Enough!" snapped Fitzmalfoy, "My choice of companion is not for you to judge, Dolohov. Your behaviour on the Muggle ship was stupid in the extreme. I warned you not to use the Killing Curse, but now at least two Muggles are dead, and you almost killed the Vulcan witch!"
"Two Muggles and a Mudblood!" Dolohov snorted, "Do the deaths of such as those matter to us?"
Fitzmalfoy stepped close and spoke in a soft, dangerous tone. "Not in and of themselves, fool. But suppose that the arrival of this Muggle starship was no accident? For years, I have been sending spies through the Charm. They have told me of the power of this Muggle StarFleet, and their Klingon allies. What if they have other ships waiting beyond the barrier? What if this Picard, outraged at the deaths of his crewmen, were to summon them? Could we, with our few ships and pitiful numbers, withstand the combined might of the Federation and the Empire? That was the problem back on Earth – we were few, the Muggles many and warlike.
"To achieve our rightful dominance, we must use craft, and secrecy, and patience. And we must have a worthy leader!"
"Which would, of course, be you?" said Dolohov bitterly.
Fitzmalfoy shook his head. "Not I. Do any of you," he addressed the larger audience of some fifty white-robed figures who had been watching the debate, "know the significance of the thing we have stolen?" There was silence. "Well, I shall tell you. It is a thing of Muggle technology which can create a what is called a clone. From one tiny fragment of a living being it can create and bring to maturity an identical copy of that being. The copy will have no mind, no memories of its own, but it can be given the memories, and so the mind, character and knowledge of the original."
A figure at the front of the crowd stirred. "But what use is that to us, Lucius?"
Fitzmalfoy smiled. "Patience, friend Goyle! To answer that I must return to our darkest hour, to the Battle of Hogwarts, where the Dark Lord fell. The Horcruxes he had hoped would place him beyond death had failed him, but the Dark Lord was wise, and did not trust all to them." He held up a golden ring, in which glittered a single black diamond. "Before his first Fall, the Dark Lord enchanted this diamond, so that wherever he was, or it was, it gained and stored his every memory, every sensation, every scrap of knowledge. All that he was, was stored within this diamond, to be released and placed within the body of a worthy wizard, should his own body fail him. For safe-keeping, he placed the diamond in a ring, which he gave to his most loyal servant, Bellatrix Lestrange.
"But Bellatrix fell in that battle, and her body was placed apart from the other dead, with that of the Dark Lord. It was there that my ancestor, Lucius Malfoy, found them, and took the ring from Bellatrix. But Lucius also knew that a part of the Dark Lord would be needed to complete the spell, so he cut from the Dark Lord's body this!" he held up a crystal vial, filled with a glowing fluid, in which floated a single, long, pale finger. "He was wise to do so, for shortly afterwards the agents of the rebel Ministry reduced the Dark Lord's body to ashes, hoping to prevent another resurrection.
"Now, Lucius Malfoy had failed his Dark Lord more than once, and was ashamed, but he remained loyal. But his wife, Narcissa, and their son, Draco, had turned from the cause in both heart and mind. So it was that Lucius bided his time, and finding no worthy wizard in his lifetime, he entrusted the relics to the keeping of his other son, a boy born of his Pureblood mistress, who he acknowledged and gave the name Fitzmalfoy. It is from that Regius Fitzmalfoy that I claim descent, and so came into possession of these sacred items.
"I am done waiting for a worthy wizard to appear, and now I do not need to! Our friend Tarok has mind-melded with the Muggle doctor aboard the Enterprise, and tells me he has enough knowledge to operate this machine. From this preserved finger, and with this enchanted diamond, we shall resurrect the greatest wizard who ever lived. We shall once again be led by..." his voice dropped to a fearful whisper that nonetheless carried to everyone in the room, "Lord Voldemort!"
If Picard needed any proof that the wizards took the raid on the Enterprise every bit as seriously as he did, it was the presence of the Minister of Magic in his conference room.
Albus Longbottom, Picard had been told, was a man of unfailing kindness and cheerful nature, but now his round face was set and determined. He spoke without preamble:
"I want to start, Jean-Luc, by offering my personal apologies, as well as those of all of our people, for this unforgivable intrusion. You must also pass on my official and personal condolences to the families of your murdered crewmen, when you have the chance.
"But to get to business, I'm told that something was stolen from your Healers. What exactly was it?"
"Dr Selar is our expert on that piece of equipment, so I'll let her explain." Picard told him.
Selar spoke in a measured tone. "The stolen article is a Triphasic Cloning device. To explain simply, it can take a single cell from any being, either dead or alive, and produce a living, genetically-identical copy of that being. All that is required from the sample is that the DNA is not too degraded. The clone can be matured within the device to any stage from viable infant to mature adult.
"It is to be noted, however, that the clone is not the original, not in essence. A person is more than their DNA, they are the sum total of their memories, knowledge and experiences.
"As to the device itself, it has an internal power source, so is capable of being operated anywhere. I must also add that whilst I was incapacitated by what I am told was a Body-Bind Curse, one of the raiders melded with my mind and extracted all the knowledge necessary to operate the device. It would seem that their original plan was to exert some kind of mind-control over me and take me with them, but this was unsuccessful."
Longbottom nodded. "We've known for a long time that Vulcan wizards are naturally immune to the Imperius Curse – the mind-control one – but are unable, perhaps for the same reason, to learn Occlumency – the art of concealing their thoughts. The raiders must have thought that as a Muggle – no offence – that wouldn't apply to you, Doctor, but it seems to be a racial rather than magical characteristic."
"It also tells us that at least one of the raiders was Vulcan or part-Vulcan." Luna pointed out, "Not many pure-blooded Humans can perform a meld so quickly or easily – they'd have used Legilemency."
"What do we know about these raiders?" asked Riker.
"That is one of the most worrying and puzzling aspects of the whole affair," Longbottom said slowly. "According to the accounts of witnesses, they wore white robes and masks, used the word 'Muggle' as an insult, called Lt Cmdr Weasley a 'blood-traitor' and referred to Academician T'Sel as a 'Mudblood', a word that has not been used for centuries – an insulting term for a Muggle-born witch or wizard.
"Put all this together, and the only logical conclusion is that these raiders were Death-Eaters!"
"That's not possible!" Captain Potter exclaimed. "The Death-Eaters were finished back in the 20th Century!"
"I know that, Remus, and so does Luna, as well as you do. We all had ancestors who were leaders in that war." Longbottom turned to Picard. "The 20th Century was as troubled a time for wizards as it was for Muggles. The first half saw our world threatened by a Dark wizard named Gelert Grindelwald, until his defeat by the great Albus Dumbledore. But the second half was darkened by the rise of an even more powerful Dark Lord – Tom Marvolo Riddle, who called himself Lord Voldemort. Riddle believed that wizards should not mix or breed with Muggles, and that Muggle-born wizards were an abomination. He also believed that it was the ultimate destiny of wizards to rule the Muggle world as well. He gathered a group of adherents who called themselves Death-Eaters, and there was virtually a civil war until his apparent death in the 1980's. Then in the 1990's he rose again, only to be defeated by the Boy Who Lived – Harry Potter."
"But it seems that his followers and their descendants have kept the faith." Picard pointed out. "And if we take that to be the case, what would they want with a cloning device?"
"I'd call that a mystery, if it wasn't for that fact that I'm descended from Harry Potter." said Remus grimly. "The story of those times is our family history! With Voldemort, you're talking about a man who cold-bloodedly murdered seven people with the sole intention of splitting his soul and concealing it in seven enchanted objects. His aim was to avoid death and it worked – once. But the second time round those objects – the Horcruxes – had been found and destroyed."
"Might there be an eighth...Horcrux?" Riker hazarded.
Remus shook his head. "There was an eighth fragment – the one Harry Potter carried in himself as a result of his mother's murder – but it was destroyed when Voldemort tried to kill him. If there had been a ninth, Voldemort wouldn't have died.
"His body was supposed to have been destroyed by Minerva McGonagall and Kingsley Shacklebolt, but I suppose there was a lot of confusion around, and part of it could have been taken and magically preserved by a surviving Death-Eater. That might be enough for this device to work on."
"But the clone would not be this Voldemort." Selar stated.
Longbottom looked even grimmer than Remus when he said, "There are spells – Dark magic – which are supposed to be able to recall the souls of the dead from beyond the Veil. Necromancy is illegal, but then so is stealing technology from Muggles. The Resurrection Stone was lost, of course, but there's nothing to stop a powerful and ruthless wizard from creating another one!"
Picard shook his head. "Setting aside questions of motive, how far could these Death-Eaters have taken the device, and where could they hide it?"
Longbottom shrugged. "As to the first question, almost anywhere in the Four Systems. You must understand, Jean-Luc, that we have several methods of transport at our disposal, but they all have limited uses. Our ships are powered by the same flight spell that we use for brooms and carpets to make them fly. Adding that to Time-Bending charms gives us an equivalent to your warp drive, but we only have a few ships and all of them are accounted for.
"Personal apparation and the Floo network you're familiar with, but neither is suitable for transporting large, inorganic objects. The logical conclusion is a portkey, an enchanted object that takes the holder or holders instantly to a pre-determined location when activated, no matter what the distance.
"Again, it could be hidden almost anywhere, and short of physically looking, we haven't any way to detect the thing, especially if there are Concealing Spells on it. I could order the Aurors to begin a search, but that would take time, because we have no idea who these people actually are!"
"Well, we may have an advantage there," Picard said, "Our sensors should be able to detect the device's Federation power signature over a considerable distance. Have we your permission to begin a search?"
"Absolutely!" said Longbottom with a smile, producing from his robes a roll of parchment, "In fact, this is an Emergency Decree from the Wizengamot officially attaching the Enterprise and her crew to Space Fleet. I've taken the liberty of assigning the Witherwings as your escort and Remus here as your liaison. You have carte blanche to claim any assistance you deem necessary, Jean-Luc!
"As a society, we've waited too long to meet up with Muggles again, on equal terms. We're determined that nothing should spoil this!"
"In that case, I have only one more question, Albus. What was the other creature that was with the raiders? It was killed by what your people call a Patronus spirit, conjured by Academician T'Sel, my Chief Medical Officer is currently conducting an autopsy."
Longbottom's face went hard. "It was a Dementor, Jean-Luc. A filthy creature that is bred in darkness. It feeds on our most painful memories, and if it touches you – the Dementor's Kiss – it will suck out your soul. We thought they were extinct, we never believed any wizard would preserve the things. When this 'autopsy' is completed, we'd like to know anything your Healer Crusher can tell us of her findings.
"On the positive side, it tells us a lot about Luna's skill with a mind-meld, and Academician T'Sel's magical potential, that a neophyte witch could produce not only a corporeal, but very powerful Patronus! If what we are seeing among your crew is a fair sample of what's out beyond the barrier, Jean-Luc, then the future is bright for both our kinds!"
Captain's Log, Star Date 24966.09: We have now been conducting a standard search pattern for two days, working outwards from the Merlin system, without success. Patience is key in such matters, but Remus grows more anxious. He is clearly convinced that these 'Death-Eaters' intend to restore their Lord Voldemort. However, Dr Selar tells us that it would be impossible to insert the memories of an adult into an immature brain, and that the minimum time needed to bring a clone to maturity is twelve days.
"Sir!" Data's voice was as calm as ever, but Picard knew his android officer well enough to pick up subtle variations.
"What is it, Data?"
"I have a signal from the Dumbledore system. It appears to originate from a belt of planetoids between the two habitable planets. It matches Federation signatures, and is almost certainly the device."
"Unless there's another piece of stray Federation technology around!" Riker pointed out.
"Get a fix on that signal, Data, and relay the findings to Captain Potter. His knowledge of the system will be up-to-date."
Shortly after, Remus came through on the viewscreen: "Jean-Luc, our records show that there's an abandoned Goblin mining station on one of the larger planetoids. Apparently there was one promising seam, but it played out early. There are some extensive tunnels, though, and the air and warmth charms are still in place. It's as good a place as any to hide something."
"Thank you, Remus." Picard addressed the crew generally, "Suggestions, anyone?"
"Sir," said Worf, "I suggest a slow and cautious approach to within Transporter range. The belt contains numerous objects close to the mass and size of our two ships. A stealthy approach may allow us to beam directly to the site of the device and capture it before the enemy can portkey it elsewhere."
"A sound plan, Mr Worf, make it so." Picard said, then. "Remus, I suggest a joint Away Team for this mission."
"Agreed. I'll have Luna and Harry Floo over with a couple of Harry's people."
"Good. We should be within Transporter range in approximately two hours. We'll speak again then."
In actual fact, it was less than an hour later that Picard was summoned from his Ready Room by an urgent call from Remus. The wizard captain looked anxious, and spoke at once.
"Jean-Luc, I've just had a message from Fleet Command. The Slytherin has been stolen!"
Luna and Harry, who were already aboard the Enterprise, both registered shock.
"I take it the Slytherin is a ship?" Picard enquired.
Remus nodded. "One of four, named for the Founders. They're the largest, most powerful ships wizards have built so far, designed to venture beyond the barrier and make contact with Muggles, if you hadn't come to us.
"At maximum Time-Bend, the Slytherin could be here in less than an hour!"
"Understood. Mr Crusher, take us into Transporter range of the planetoid, full impulse. Number One, ready your Away Team."
"Aye, sir. Worf, Data, with me!"
The surface structure of the mining station was deserted, so the Away Team plunged directly into the tunnels. They were following Lt Krark, a Goblin Security Officer who understood tunnels and mines in his bones, when a jet of red light hit him in the chest and sent him down.
Worf, who was just behind the Goblin, fired a phaser-bolt into the shadows. He missed his target, but the flash revealed a white-robed figure, raising a wand. Another jet of red light hit Worf. He grunted, staggered, then returned fire again.
"Bloody Hell!" Luna muttered to Data, "Worf just took a Stun curse and barely blinked!"
"Klingon physiology is particularly robust," Data replied. "Dense musculature, thick skin and a doubly-redundant nervous system. They are difficult to subdue."
This time, the wizard stepped out of the shadows, levelled his wand at Worf again and shouted "Crucio!"
Worf howled and dropped his phaser. Then he roared and charged! There was a brief scream, and the nasty sound of snapping bones. Then Worf turned away from a broken, huddled mass on the floor and retrieved his weapon before saying to Riker: "My apologies, Commander. My people respond to pain with rage, and I had little control over my actions."
"Understood." Riker said with a note of near-approval in his voice. "Let's get the job done! Data, take point."
Riker's decision proved lucky, as a minutes later a large, hulking form loomed out of the shadows and swung a massive club at Data, who evaded it with blurred speed.
"Troll!" yelled Harry Weasley, then stopped short, his jaw dropping. Data had stepped forward and grasped the Troll by the thumb of its club hand. The beast yelped in pain, dropped the club and sank to its knees. Data reached forward and applied what Luna recognised as a Vulcan neck pinch with his other hand. The Troll slumped, out cold.
"Move!" yelled Riker and Harry in chorus. The Away Team stormed forward – the tunnel suddenly widened into a large chamber. The cave was scattered with large rocks and abandoned machinery, but in the centre stood the cloning device. Between it and the Away Team was a line of about half a dozen white-robed wizards. A tall, blond man at the back shouted "Don't kill them! Let them bear witness!"
The next few minutes were hectic, as both forces dived for cover and began to exchange fire. The air fizzed with the criss-crossing of Stun spells, and phaser bolts. Worf took three Stunners and keeled over with a grunt. People on both sides went down, but numbers were with the Away Team and in the end, only the blond man near the cloning device was standing. He menaced the team with his wand as they closed on him.
"Sir," said Data, who was in the lead, "It would be to your benefit to lower your wand and surrender. We do not wish to harm you."
"Silence, golem!" the man spat, "Diffindo!"
The chain holding Data's amulet snapped and the android promptly collapsed. Luna rushed to him and knelt beside him. He seemed totally inert, overcome by the magical energy that must have overloaded his positronic net.
Harry Weasley growled, "Lucius Fitzmalfoy! If there was ever a wizard I'd suspect of being a Death-Eater, it's you. You made my flesh creep when we were at school. Even Severus loathed you, and he's family!
"Did you really think this Muggle machine would let you bring Voldemort back?"
"Do not," howled Fitzmalfoy, "Speak the Dark Lord's name, blood-traitor! You Muggle-loving Weasleys have dragged our people down for centuries. But now, Muggles have made their own end inevitable! My allies will be here soon, your puny ship and that pile of Muggle scrap will be destroyed. With this machine, and this ring, I, Lucius Fitzmalfoy, will restore the Dark Lord, and He will lead wizard-kind to our true destiny!"
"Not today, Lucius," said Luna, rising to her feet. "Accio ring!"
The ring flew out of Fitzmalfoy's open hand – he had been displaying it to them – and Luna caught it deftly.
"Bitch!" snarled Fitzmalfoy, "Avada Kedavra!"
Isn't my life supposed to flash before my eyes? Thought Luna, then realised that a compact figure was standing between her and her would-be killer. Data looked down at his chest, calmly said "Intriguing." Then stepped toward the astonished Fitzmalfoy.
But Harry Weasley was quicker. "Expelliarmus!" he barked, and Fitzmalfoy's wand flew from his hand. Luna stepped past Data and cast Incarcerous, binding the Death -Eater in fine black cords.
Luna then turned to Data, "How? The amulet...?"
"Was never necessary, Commander. My systems are self-adjusting, I simply needed to shut down and, I believe the phrase is, re-boot."
"Then why did you wear it?"
Data shrugged, "It seemed churlish to refuse. The tactical situation was also indefinite at that time. It occurred to me that if wizards believed I was dependent on the device, it might confer an advantage at some time. I seem to have been correct."
Riker stared at Data. "You lied." he said.
Data shook his head, "I merely omitted to mention certain salient facts, Commander. In my own defence, I should also add that no-one actually asked me if I needed the amulet."
There was a groan from behind them, everyone turned in time to see Worf heave himself upright.
"Did I miss anything?" he asked.
Picard was in his Ready Room, conferring privately with Remus.
"Can you tell me, Remus, without violating wizard security protocols, how great a threat we face from the Slytherin?"
Remus made a dismissive gesture. "We're in this together, Jean-Luc, so security isn't an issue. Also, to be fair, there's no way your people could duplicate our magic, so I'd not be giving anything away.
"The Founder-class ships are four times the size of the Witherwings, supposed to carry a crew of two hundred, plus mission specialists. In straight-line terms, they're faster in sublight, but not as manoeuvrable. Their maximum Time-Bend speed is greater, however.
"The basic saucer-shaped structure is the same – held together with the same kids of spells that all our ships use. As for shielding, that's done by crew-members who have expertise in that charm, and the magic is conducted by the brass railings. Offensively, there are four spell-enhancers – basically giant wands that amplify the effect of spells – placed around the rim at equal distances, and each able to cover a full half of the ship in any direction."
"What kind of spells can be cast?"
Remus shrugged, "Anything you want to or can. As a Captain myself, I'd tend to use impedimenta, some kind of binding or slowing curse, perhaps. Stun spells or Confundus hexes on the crew, in a worst-case scenario, a Reductor curse on the hull. The Death-Eaters might try to use fireballs, or Unforgivable Curses – Imperius, Cruciatus, possibly even the Killing Curse.
"There's also the fact that a Disillusionment Charm can be cast through the shield network to make the ship invisible. I don't know whether that would fool yours sensors any more than I know whether or not your enhanced shields will block any or all of those curses or hexes.
"I'll be honest, Jean-Luc, I don't know how well or how long a Hippogriff-class frigate like mine could stand up against the Slytherin, so I'm counting on you to pick up the pieces if we fail. The Enterprise is a Muggle ship, but she's ten times the size of the Slytherin, has vast power reserves and that duranium hull."
"Why do you not make your ships of something more durable than wood and brass, Remus?" Picard wanted to know.
Remus shook his head. "Lots of reasons, some practical, others less so. The fact is that, as Luna already told T'Sel, magic comes from the emotions more than the mind. We don't work well if we're not comfortable, and for some reason we don't like being surrounded by metal. Metal and magic don't mix well.
"Look, wood and stone have always been easy to magic, but metals are different. It took us a long time to get to grips with gold, silver, lead, copper, tin and things like bronze and brass. Even longer to get a handle on iron and steel, aluminium and the odder stuff like titanium and vanadium. Plastics gave us some trouble, too, for a while.
"Wizards didn't used to make a lot of things, in the past, except magical objects. Most of our everyday items were bought from Muggle shops, Transfigured from whatever was handy, or crafted by Goblins. Goblins are geniuses with metal, and they did make some duranium alloy for us, but the bloody stuff simply will not be magicked! You can try all sorts of charms and spells on a sheet of duranium and it'll just sit there.
"We could have stopped and stolen some of the Muggle ships that have come past over the years, but magicking something that technically complex isn't easy. We found that out in the 20th Century with cars and planes and things; unless you stripped out virtually all the technology and just left the shell, the things tended to develop a mind of their own. There was a feral car running around the Dark Forest near the original Hogwarts for almost twenty years, once!"
On which mildly mind-boggling thought, the comlink announced the return of the Away Team.
Captain's Log, Supplemental: The successful Away Team mission notwithstanding, our wizard allies are sure that our troubles are just beginning. Certainly the presence of Lucius Fitzmalfoy – the leader of the Death Eaters - in the brig of the 'Enterprise' , along with several of his followers, makes us a target. We and the 'Witherwings' are therefore making best speed back to Merlin, where the other three Founder-class starships are being scrambled to assist. In the meantime, we still have the vexed question of the infant clone.
"It is a healthy male Human, approximately six weeks old," Dr Selar said, "Whoever was operating the cloning device was about to accelerate the growth process, but was interrupted. We have removed him from the device and he is being cared for in the ship's nursery."
"The boy is also, potentially, an extremely powerful wizard," put in Healer MacMillan.
"So it is Voldemort, then," said Severus Malfoy grimly, "What do we do?"
"The first thing to realise," said Beverley Crusher, "Is that this child is not Lord Voldemort. He isn't even – what was the name? Tom Riddle, he's not Tom Riddle. He's just a little boy in need of love, care and a family. Our genes are not our destiny, Severus."
"I know, I know." Severus gave a bark of self-deprecating laughter, "I'm a Malfoy, Beverley. We used to be Death Eaters ourselves, you know. We were so proud of our Pureblood heritage back then. We learned better, but Lucius and our Fitzmalfoy cousins apparently didn't. But there's still that urge to think blood will tell, especially bad blood."
Luna sighed. "Tom Riddle was born from deceit and abandonment. A witch called Merope Gaunt – a poor young woman abused and held in contempt by her family – fell in love with a handsome young Muggle squire called Tom Riddle. She drugged him with a love potion and they ran away to London and were married. But for some reason, she stopped giving her husband the potion, and he abandoned her, pregnant and penniless. Merope lived long enough to give birth to her son, and to name him Tom Marvolo Riddle, then she died. Young Tom was raised in a Muggle orphanage until the time came for him to go to Hogwarts.
"But Lord Voldemort was born from a loveless childhood, and the powers he found at an early age. Power he used to gain dominance over his fellow orphans."
"He wanted fear, because he couldn't get love." Beverley nodded. "It happens, even now. But if this child is raised with love, then he'll become his own person."
Picard's voice intruded over the ship's comlink. "Commanders Weasley and Malfoy, please return to the Witherwings, we are receiving a distress call from the Ravenclaw."
There was a boom, and the two wizard officers were gone.
The most famous StarFleet Engineer ever to fudge a repair schedule, Montgomery Scott, was wont to say upon occasion that "Ye cannae change the laws of physics!" That one fact altered everything that followed. To drop the Witherwings out of Time-Bend took a simple act of will, and was accomplished immediately. To take the Enterprise out of warp required orders to be given, buttons to be pressed, relays to switch, fields to be collapsed. Less than a second, but at Warp Eight, that meant an overshoot of several hundred kilometres. Still, she came about fast and headed back at flank speed.
"We are coming up on the Ravenclaw's reported position, sir." Wesley reported.
"Sensors detect two ships," Worf said, "And a great deal of magical energy. Recommend Yellow Alert. Something does not feel right!"
Picard exchanged a glance with Riker, who gave a slight nod. Both men trusted the big Klingon's warrior instincts. "Make it so, Mr Worf."
Then the screen went blank and Remus' voice crackled in the air: "Enterprise! It's a trap! Get out of here!"
"Red Alert!" Picard barked, "All ahead full, Mr Crusher!"
The image that appeared on the viewscreen caused a visible hardening of faces on the bridge. The Witherwings hung in space, clearly immobilised and partially aflame. Above it loomed a larger, more ornate, ship, with a green and sliver trim which declared it as the Slytherin. As Picard watched, a bolt of green light shot out from the larger ship to strike the Witherwings amidships. The frigate's hull buckled where it was struck, and there was the unmistakable cloud of escaping, rapidly-freezing, atmosphere.
"Orders, sir?" asked Worf, "Shall I fire on the Slytherin?"
"No, Mr Worf, not yet. A warning shot first. Detonate a photon torpedo fifty kilometres off her bow. Show them our capabilities!"
The explosion clearly rocked the Slytherin, causing her to back away from the stricken Witherwings and allowing Wesley to slip the much bigger Enterprise between the magical combatants.
The screen shifted again and Remus appeared, the bridge around him battered and partially on fire.
"Jean-Luc, thank the gods you're here! We're crippled and half the crew are dead or injured. It was an ambush!"
"Remus," Picard said urgently, "we can debrief later. Get your people evacuated to the Enterprise!"
"Doing it now. I'm staying here to hold the ship together until everyone's off. Those who can't apparate are Flooing."
"Sickbay, prepare to receive casualties," Riker was saying, "Medical teams to all holodecks with Floo points."
Luna, Harry and Severus, along with Meeker, had already apparated onto the Enterprise bridge.
"Report, Mr Worf?" Enquired Picard.
"Sir, the Slytherin appears to be holding off, waiting for something."
"Understood. We have to take our chances until everyone is off the Witherwings. A soon as the evacuation is complete, adjust the shields to the new harmonics."
A few moments later, Riker said, "Security and Medical report all Witherwings survivors accounted for. Get out of there, Remus!"
"Right!" Remus had been gesticulating with his wand and chanting steadily, now he lowered the wand, and almost instantly a large beam fell from the ceiling and knocked him sprawling. He didn't move.
"Meeker, with me!" Snapped Malfoy, and both were gone, reappearing instantly on the bridge of the Witherwings. Severus immediately resumed Remus' chanting and wand gestures. The house-elf ran to his captain and, showing surprising strength, hauled him to a sitting position. The pair vanished, to reappear at Picard's feet; Remus was already stirring.
"They're here, Severus, get clear!" shouted Picard.
Severus lowered his wand, then looked up and said "Oh, shit!" as the entire ceiling collapsed in on him. The viewscreen snapped back to an external view as the Witherwings disintegrated completely.
"SEV!" shrieked Luna as Remus staggered to his feet.
"Transporter Room, emergency beam out!" Picard was demanding.
Chief O'Brien's voice smouldered with anger as he replied quietly: "I can't, Captain. There's nothing to lock on to. Nothing alive, anyway."
Luna flung herself into Remus' arms, burying her face in his shoulder and crying bitterly. Remus stroked her hair, but his eyes locked with Picards'. "Bloody Severus," he said quietly, "he always swore he'd repay Draco Malfoy's debt one day."
Picard didn't know, or just then care, what that meant. He turned to Riker and Worf, and both men saw a look in his eye that was rarely seen. Jean-Luc Picard was not a man who angered easily, but when he did, there were dire consequences for the cause of that anger. He spoke with a quiet, deadly calm:
"Mr Worf, switch shield and weapon harmonics to the new settings. Number One, hail the Slytherin. This ends here."
The viewscreen switched to a bridge even larger and more ornate than that of the Witherwings. Facing them from the thronelike command chair was a slender, white-robed woman with long black hair and green eyes.
"Lily?" Remus' voice was disbelieving, full of hurt.
"Hello, brother, dear," the woman replied silkily. "Still trying to drag your own kind back into the slime, I see." She looked at Picard, "I am Lily Bellatrix Potter, Supreme Witch aboard the Wizard Empire ship Slytherin. Your protectors are gone, Muggle. You're no match for true wizards. Surrender the ring, our Dark Lord and our people you hold prisoner, and we'll Obliviate you and send you back where you came from, to await the Dark Lord's inevitable victory.
"Resist, and you and your crew will die in the wreck of your Muggle toy ship!"
Picard's voice was level as he replied, "I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship USS Enterprise, currently attached to the wizard space fleet. Under the authority granted to me by the Ministry of Magic for the Four Systems, I am placing you under arrest on charges of theft, assault, murder, and the use of magic against Muggles. Heave to and prepare to be boarded."
"Arrogant Muggle!" Lily spat, "Die, then!"
The screen switched back to external view. Worf barked, "Energy surge from the enemy ship!"
The first jet of yellow light missed, the second struck full-on, causing the ship to judder violently.
"Damage report?" asked Picard.
"Shields holding at seventy-five per cent. Minimal damage on Decks Five and Seven, some casualties."
"Reductor curses," muttered Luna, "They expected the Enterprise to crumple up or fall apart. More fool them!"
"Sir," this was Data, "Sensors indicate that the Slytherin is operating with a crew of approximately twenty-six."
"Skeleton crew," Remus growled, "Jean-Luc, they won't be able to keep their shields up for long like that. They'll try to hurry things."
As if to confirm his words, a jet of green light struck the Enterprise. There was little apparent impact, but a kind of shock ran through the ship and the lights dimmed for a second.
"They're using Avada Kedavra, like they did on us." Luna said tightly.
"Mr Worf?" asked Picard.
"Shields unaffected, sir, the curse simply ignored them and struck the hull. Structural integrity fields unaffected. Slight buckling of three hull-plates, minimal pressure loss. Two crew injured..." Worf paused, and his voice became frighteningly intense, "..one dead."
Lily's voice floated out of the air, "Ready to surrender, yet, Muggle?"
"Enough!" snapped Picard, "Mr Worf, photon torpedoes, full spread, Omega pattern, proximity detonation. Fire when ready!"
For a moment, the Slytherin was lost to view in the anti-matter detonations. When the screen cleared, she was rolling and tumbling, evidently in distress.
"They haven't enough people!" Harry Weasley crowed.
"Mr Worf, keep up the pressure. Phasers on full. Fire as your guns bear!" ordered Picard.
It took less than a minute, the bridge crew actually saw the wizard shields collapse in a flash of red light.
"Target spell enhancers, then cease fire!" Picard told Worf.
Four phaser blasts later, and the Slytherin was disarmed and adrift.
"Hail them, Number One."
Lily Potter looked less regal now, just angry and scared. "This is impossible!" she stormed, "Wizards defeated by Muggles! Remus, how could you allow this?"
"I didn't allow it, Lily, it was inevitable. Even with a full crew, your ship could hardly have been a match for this one. Wizards tire, machines don't. Even a killing curse can barely penetrate duranium, you should have known that!"
"But you, Lily. How could you be with these Death-Eaters, and you a Potter? How could my own sister betray everything our family has stood for?"
Lily's face twisted with rage. "I, betray? No, it was our family who betrayed, Remus. Ever since the day James Potter pledged himself to the stinking Mudblood whose name I bear, our once-proud history has been one long tale of blood treason! We're descended from the Peverells, and through them from Salazar himself. We should have been the proudest of Purebloods, first among the Dark Lord's followers!
"All my life, our parents made us listen to stories of the great Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One. Harry Potter, friend to Mudbloods, werewolves and blood traitors. Harry Potter whom the Dark Lord honoured with a fragment of his own soul, and who returned that honour with betrayal and murder!
"And all my life, Remus, I've dreamed of setting the record straight. Of returning to our home in triumph, to establish the rightful mastery of magic over Muggle trickery. Then Lucius showed me how it could be done. How we could use the Muggle's own beloved science to restore their greatest nemesis and rightful master. Everything I've done has been to speed that glorious day, Remus. And that day will come!"
"Sir," Data interrupted the woman's raving, "sensors indicates that all surviving crew of the Slytherin have disappeared, except Miss Potter."
"Too late, golem!" Lily crowed, "Our people are gone, back to their lives! How will you find them, Remus? How will you hunt the Four Systems for them all? We will always be there, always waiting and working. And if we cannot restore the Dark Lord, then we will triumph in His name!
"But now, brother mine, having covered my people's escape, I have one last task. Farewell! Conflagratio!"
The screen returned to external view, and Remus watched, hard-faced, as the Slytherin and his sister were consumed in a fireball.
Captain's Log, Star Date 24966.10: Our return to Merlin can in no way be described as 'triumphant'. The 'Witherwings' and the 'Slytherin' are both lost, along with twenty wizard crew members and Ensign Carter from our crew. There is also the loss of Lt Cmdr Malfoy, in heroic circumstances. I enter a commendation in this log at the request of Captain Potter.
However, these events have proved at least that wizards and Muggles can work well together. The next step must be further exploration of our joint potential.
The Conference Room at the Wizengamot House was an odd blend of Human exuberance and Vulcan austerity. The furniture and long oak table were plain, comfortable and functional, but the walls and ceiling were decorated with elaborate gilded figures of wizards, house-elves, Centaurs, Giants, dragons, hippogriffs and other creatures. Between the carvings were a series of portraits, whose subjects seemed unusually lively!
Remus led Picard to one of these. "Jean-Luc, I'd like you to meet my most famous ancestor! Grandfather Harry, this is Captain Jean-Luc Picard, of the Federation starship Enterprise. Jean-Luc, this is Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived."
The figure in the portrait gave a wry grin, "Hardly a boy, Remus! So, Jean-Luc, how do you and your crew feel being the first Muggles to meet wizards in a century or two?"
There was a strong resemblance between Remus and his ancestor, Picard noted. Harry had the same green eyes, and the structure of his unlined face was the same, but the mop of untidy hair was iron-grey.
Talking to a portrait was a new experience, but StarFleet captains are trained to cope with anything!
"It's been an experience, sir." Picard admitted.
Harry gave another grin. "I just have one personal question. Do you have anyone on your crew named Dursley?"
Picard gave a short laugh. "My crew numbers almost fifteen hundred! But as it happens, there is a Lieutenant Vernon Dursley in the Engineering Department with whom I am acquainted Why?"
"I was raised by a Muggle family called Dursley, my aunt and uncle," Harry explained, "I just wondered if the family was still around!"
Just then Albus Longbottom called the meeting to order. Data almost had to be dragged away from a conversation with the portrait of a witch with long blonde hair and protuberant blue eyes.
"First," said Albus, "I must extend both my personal and official thanks to you and your crew, Captain Picard, for your help in this matter. Most especially for the risk you took in remaining unshielded until all the Witherwings crew had evacuated.
"Having said that, I do find myself both impressed and slightly apprehensive at the power of the Enterprise. You defeated one of our most powerful ships with barely any effort!"
"I will allow my Tactical Officer to respond to that." Picard replied. "Mr Worf?"
"The tactical situation was unique," Worf allowed. "The difference between our two systems meant that the Enterprise was not caught in the same ambush as the Witherwings. It must also be stressed that the Slytherin was operating with an eighth of it's optimal crew. Had they not ambushed the Witherwings, the battle would have gone very differently. A fully-crewed frigate is an easy match for a cruiser with only a skeleton crew. Unless caught by surprise, the Witherwings would have won easily, hence the false distress signal and the ambush.
"As to the Enterprise, the Galaxy-class ships are the most advanced and powerful vessels in StarFleet. It was our research capacity that allowed us to readjust our shields and weapons, and our duranium hull proved highly resistant to curses. Our weapons were unfamiliar to the enemy, who would have been unable to shield against them properly.
"It is fair to say that, had the Slytherin been fully-crewed, the battle would have been far more evenly-matched."
"Thank you, Commander." Albus acknowledged. "Our next task is to hunt out the Death-Eaters among us. The late Lily Potter – and I am sorry for your loss, Remus – stated that we would never find them. Was she correct?"
"She was not." Remus said, "Several of their leaders were in custody aboard the Enterprise, including Lucius Fitzmalfoy. They have now been handed over to the Auror Department for questioning. Between Legilemency, veritaserum and mind-melding, we'll soon know everything they know."
"Then why," asked Albus, "did Lily Potter assume we would not find the others?"
"It is possible she thought they had been rescued." Picard answered. "After the battle, several wizard bodies were found floating in space near the Enterprise. We infer that they attempted to apparate on board to rescue the prisoners, but were stopped by our reconfigured shields."
"Failing that, they may have had fallback plans. But I doubt that their leader wouldn't know all of them." Remus added.
"Which brings us," Albus said, "To the matter of the child and the ring. Jean-Luc, your doctors tell me that while the child may be genetically identical to Tom Riddle, he is not Riddle at all. I'm prepared to accept that – Muggles know more about genetics than wizards ever needed to – but what do we do with the boy? He was 'born', if we can say that, in wizard space, but aboard the Enterprise, so we both have jurisdiction."
Picard shrugged. "Healer MacMillan states that the boy is a powerful wizard, at least potentially. His heritage is here, as far as I am concerned, where he can be cared for and educated according to his needs."
"If I may," Luna leaned forward, her eyes wet and a catch in her voice, "Sev...Sev was the last of the Malfoys. His brother Sirius is married, but his wife, T'Val, can't have children. I'm sure they'd love to have this baby – they're a wonderful couple and not being able to have kids has really hurt them. That way, at least the Malfoy name will have a chance to survive?"
"Then we'll ask them," decided Albus, "and if they say no, there are other wizard families who would take the child, I'm sure! Now, the ring?"
"Goblin-made," Remus said, "It'll be hard to destroy."
"We could beam it into deep space," Riker suggested, "at maximum dispersal, its atoms would be scattered over hundreds of parsecs, and then we could delete its pattern from the Transporter buffer, so it could never be recovered."
"So ordered, and thank you." said Remus firmly. "And to slightly more pleasant matters. Jean-Luc, we have managed to breach the charm barrier enough for you to contact your StarFleet Command and report to them. It is my hope that they'll permit you and your ship to stay a while with us, we have a lot of catching up to do! I would also like a chance to speak with my Federation counterpart, if that can be arranged."
Albus rose to his feet:
"Now, by order of the Ministry of Magic and the Wizengamot, the following presentations are made.
"To Lieutenant Commander Severus Regulus Brian Tuvok Malfoy, the Order of Merlin First Class, with wands, posthumously.
"To Captain Remus Sirius Ronald Potter, the Order of Merlin First Class and promotion to the rank of Commodore.
"To Commander Luna Hermione T'Pring Weasley, the Order of Merlin First Class and promotion to the rank of Captain."
As the applause died down, Albus turned to the Enterprise crew:
"In the late 20th Century, after the final fall of Voldemort, it was discovered that a number of Muggles had been quietly and bravely assisting in the struggle. These included the Muggle families of Half-Blood and Muggle-born witches and wizards, and a number of Muggle government officials. These people, singly or together, offered shelter and support to witches and wizards made wandless by Voldemort's racist puppet regime. They took them into their own homes, used what influence they had to get them employment, and so on. Others helped those Half-bloods and Muggle-borns who were fleeing from the regime. Often at great personal risk from roving bands of Snatchers and Death-Eaters, they sheltered people, gave them Muggle money, obtained passports and plane tickets for them, and provided letters to relatives or friends in the countries they fled to. Several Muggle police officers also bravely intervened to arrest Snatchers who grew over-confident.
"In view of this, the then Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, instituted the Shacklebolt Medal for Muggles who had done a notable service for wizards.
"It is therefore my great honour to present to the crew of the Federation starship USS Enterprise, the first Shacklebolt Medals to be awarded in almost three hundred years.
"In addition, and with the authority of the Wizengamot, I confirm Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Commander William Thomas Riker, Lieutenant Commander Data, Lieutenant Commander Worf son of Mogh and Surgeon Lieutenant Selar to hold equivalent ranks in the wizard space fleet in perpetuity. So to be entered in the Lists."
Captain's Log, Star Date 24969.04: We have now been guests in wizard space for three months, engaging in a most successful cultural and informational exchange. By agreement between the Ministry, the Wizengamot and the Federation Council, wizard space is to be opened to Muggles, as Federation space is to wizards. Full diplomatic relations have been established, with a view to the wizards joining the Federation in due course.
Now, however, it is time for us to return to our various duties, but not without one final celebration.
Elf-made wine, Worf noted, was not as strong as blood wine, but on the upside, the bottles that floated unsupported around the fringes of the dance-floor seemed constantly full. He was thus in a mellow mood -for a Klingon – when approached by Harry Weasley.
"Good evening, Commander, it has been some weeks since I saw you last." Worf greeted him.
"Hi. No, I've been helping to hunt out the rest of the Death-Eaters. Even with the information we got from Fitzmalfoy and his cronies, it took a while to ferret them all out, but we have them now."
"And what will become of them?"
"Oh, they'll be tried before the Wizengamot. I imagine none of them will get off, unless they claim to have been under the Imperius curse. But that'll have to be proved beyond doubt – too many got away with that story back in the old days. Those that are found guilty will be shipped off to a prison planetoid called New Azkaban. They'll be guarded by Goblins and house-elves, and their wands will be taken, so I doubt anyone will get out."
"A dishonourable fate," Worf decided, "But no less than they deserve. Klingons do not approve of the use of children as weapons, cloned or otherwise."
"Do Klingons actually approve of anything?" asked Deanna, coming up.
"Honour, discipline and good wine." Worf told her.
"Before and after battle," Worf allowed, "To raise the warrior spirit and to celebrate victory. You would not approve, Counsellor."
"Well," she said, taking his arm firmly, "I happen to know that you can also perform other kinds of dancing, Worf. Your human parents let that particular targ out of the bag. It isn't correct for a senior bridge officer to be a wallflower!"
With that, she almost dragged an obviously reluctant Worf onto the dance-floor, leaving a grinning Harry behind.
Picard and Beverley were taking a breather near the buffet, when they were joined by Luna and Remus.
"So, you're off in the morning?" Luna asked.
Beverley nodded. "We had a last visit with our godson and his new family this afternoon. He seems to be thriving."
"He is." Luna smiled. "Sirius and T'Val couldn't be here tonight, but they've asked me to thank you again, and to remind you to visit as often as you can."
"It's a big galaxy," Picard pointed out, "Visits may be few and far between."
"But we will write." Beverley promised. "Regularly. Both of us. Won't we, Jean-Luc?"
Picard winced at the look she gave him. "Tell me," he asked Remus, "Are all captains bullied by their officers?"
"Only the medical officers," Remus said, then after just the right pause, added, "And First Officers."
As the ladies rolled their eyes at each other, Picard asked, "How is the work at the shipyards progressing?"
"Well enough," Remus replied. "Of course, the new Slytherin has to be built from scratch, but given what we've learned from you, it's clear the Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Gryffindor will all need complete refits. We don't want our first deep space ventures to end with being pirated by rogue Ferengi or blown up by the first Romulan warbird we meet.
"There's easily a year's work still to do before any of them leaves the yards."
"Nevertheless, Remus, I look forward to seeing you out there one of these days." Picard stated.
"You will." Remus promised.
Luna said, "I know our relationship got off to a shaky start, what with Death-Eaters and battles and what-have-you. But I just want to say how grateful we all are to you, and how much we've enjoyed meeting and learning from you."
She hugged them both warmly, then insisted that Picard dance with her, so that Remus could take the floor with Beverley.
Professor Skayn was speaking to Albus and an aged Vulcan Wizengamot member named Morak.
"It is fortunate that another person was able to take my chair at the Academy. It allows me to accept your invitation to remain here and research the full story of the colony and its subsequent merging with the Human wizards."
Morak nodded, "As one of the few remaining full-blooded Vulcans in the Four Systems, I would be honoured to assist you, Skayn. It seems that nowhere else in the galaxy has there been such a complete merging of Human and Vulcan race and culture. It is possible that the lessons learned here will point to a possible future for the Federation as a whole."
"You will have, of course, full support from the Ministry and access to our archives." Albus added. "It seems other Federation ships will arrive here soon enough, mostly science vessels, I understand, so you will have some colleagues in due course."
Geordi and T'Sel had sought a moment alone, on a balcony.
"Geordi," she said, "These last months have been most satisfactory for me. Our relationship has more than lived up to my expectations. However..."
"You've decided to stay here." Geordi finished for her. "I figured you would."
"You will not try to dissuade me?" she asked.
He shook his head. "T'Sel, you're a witch, and likely to be a good one. Me, I'm the best at what I do. I belong on a starship, you belong here. That's life. At least we'll both have some great memories."
"That we will!" She smiled, though there were tears in her eyes. "I grow emotional, do I not?"
"No harm in that, as long as you don't overdo it!"
This time, she laughed. Then she produced a wand from the sleeve of her dress robes. "Look, I obtained this today from a shop called Ollivander's. Birch, fourteen inches, flexible, unicorn hair core – good for Charm work, I am told. Mr Ollivander told me that the wand has chosen me, which is completely illogical!
"Geordi, I need to remain here, not merely because I am a witch – I accept that now - but because of what will happen soon. With the Fidelius Charm gone, the Dampening Hex will also fade slowly. More Humans will regain wizard status. But more than that, it is likely that my people, those with the potential, will also begin to show their powers.
"They will need guidance, and once I am trained, I will be able to provide that guidance. This will likely be my life's work, Geordi, and it may be that I will never have time to find another – friend – such as yourself. I will not forget you."
"I won't forget you either, T'Sel." Geordi promised. "But still, I'm not leaving just yet, and the night is young."
He reached for her, and she went to him eagerly.
One year later...
Remus looked out of the bridge window of the newly-commissioned WSS Gryffindor, knowing that it would be some time before he saw these familiar star-patterns again.
"Are we ready, Captain?" he asked.
Caprain Luna Potter rose from the command chair. "As ready as we'll ever be. D'you think we'll meet the Enterprise out there?"
"You never know, but it'd be fun to catch up with them all!"
Luna smiled, then announced "The Commodore has the conn."
She stepped up to Remus, put her arms round his neck and kissed him before whispering, "You deserve to start us off, at least."
He settled himself into the command chair as Meeker announced: "Time-Bend at the Commodore's mark."
"Remus," Harry Weasley called from across the bridge, "Federation science vessel Uhura sends 'good luck and godspeed'."
"Thank them for me, Harry." Remus took a deep breath, then, "Let's see what's out there. Engage!"
Ship's Log, initial entry: Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Gryffindor. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations. To boldly go where no witch or wizard has gone before.