Chapter 24
Self Destruct


Captain Jean-Luc Picard felt like he was home; on the bridge of his ship. That he considered the Enterprise to be his true home, came as somewhat of a shock to him. The French provincial farmhouse in La Barre, France, was his past - This was his future. The realisation heartened him.

He had to admit that Kirk's plan was brilliant. They had decided on the Enterprise-D because of its superior twenty-fourth century technology. Of course the bridge was deserted. An illusion this complicated would be difficult enough to maintain without having to add people to the equation.

Kirk was looking around in wonder. "This is your Enterprise? She's beautiful!"

"Your Chief Engineer certainly thought so."

Kirk glanced sharply at Picard and then smiled. "Well, if Scotty gave her his seal of approval...."

Picard sat in his chair and indicated that Kirk should take the First Officer's position. When the other captain was seated, Picard turned to him. We can't make our victory too easy - otherwise he won't believe it's real."

"Don't worry, I haven't got a clue how anything works on this ship and Lien knows that. Lets go over the plan again."


Lien was breathing heavily by the time he had tracked down the two humans, and sweating profusely. It had not been an easy task. They had led him a merry dance and they had split up. The Vulcan was of no consequence. Lien has found him trapped within an alternate reality and left him there to fester. His prey were much more intelligent than he had given them credit for. They had stayed one step ahead of him the entire time. But this reality came as a shock to Lien. Unlike all the others, this was a Starship, and Kirk and Picard were waiting for him.

Kirk had a strange feral smile planted on his lips and even Picard looked smug. Lien advanced on them slowly, warily, taking in his surroundings with suspicion. Kirk did not wait for Lien to speak; he stood, planning his balled fists on his hips.

"Are you impressed Lien? Not only can we move through the nexus like you, but we can also leave it and go back in time to any point we want."

"Impossible! This is merely another illusion..."

Picard tugged at Kirk's arm and stage whispered, "Let him believe that Kirk. By the time he figures it out, it will be too late."

Lien shook his head in confusion. He glared at the two humans and tried to guess what their plan was. If they had really left the nexus, he was in trouble. He could not afford to spend any more time in this space. He also doubted that he had enough strength to transport all three of them back there. And why had they chosen to come out of the nexus at this point in space-time?

He stared at Kirk and his devilish smile accusingly. Kirk shook off the other captain's hand. "No. Lien, this really is the Enterprise. We have just tricked you into leaving the nexus and we know how weak that makes you."

"If this is real - where are your bridge crew?"

Damn, Kirk had hoped he wouldn't notice that. But Picard had the angle covered. "I ordered them to report to the auxiliary bridge and begin the saucer separation sequence. I don't need their help to defeat you, Lien. I have Kirk. Your biggest mistake was putting two Starfleet captains together. You really don't stand a chance against us both you know."

"We shall see." Lien began advancing on the two men, but Picard leapt to his feet and shouted, "Computer, erect a level 10 force-field around the intruder!"

A shimmer of gold coloured static appeared between Lien and his prey, accompanied by a faint metallic buzz. When the air cleared, Lien began to advance again, sure that their plan had failed and confident that even if the force field did exist, he would be able to pass right through it. He was wrong.

As he touched the shield, it flashed back into the visible spectrum and threw him forcefully back wards. He scrambled to his feet and looked at Picard with astonishment. The captain smiled broadly, "Do you believe me now?"

Kirk sauntered up to the force-field perimeter and fixed Lien with a look of pure loathing. "Beam him into space."

Picard sighed, "I can't."

Kirk whirled round and stared at the other captain in disbelief then he turned back slowly to stare at Lien again. "If you won't - I will. Computer, beam the intruder to a point 3.5 kilometres in front of this ship."

The computer's female voice seemed to hesitate before stating, Warning. Safety overrides in place. The specified co-ordinates do not meet with current humanoid survival parameters. Please re-calculate.

Picard laid a consoling hand on Kirk's shoulder. "It wasn't that I didn't want to do it, Jim. The computer won't let us beam anyone into space without a space suit. Sorry."

"Damn!" Kirk began pacing the bridge.

Lien relaxed visibly then began to laugh. "Face it Kirk - you don't know enough about this century's technology to defeat me. And Picard hasn't got the b...."

Kirk suddenly stopped pacing and glanced at Picard. A smile was forming at the corner of his mouth. "Computer, initiate Emergency Medical Hologram and transfer control to the bridge."

The short, balding doctor immediately appeared and turned towards Kirk enquiringly. "Please state the nature of the medical emergency."

"Doctor, we need to sedate this prisoner." Kirk said coldly.

The holographic doctor pulled out his medical tricorder and scanned their captive. A moment later he flipped the tricorder shut and shook his head. "I am afraid that will not be possible. This being is unknown to medical science. In order to sedate him, I would first have to conduct a complete blood chemistry and anatomical analysis."

Kirk scowled at the doctor and raised his hands in supplication. "Just give him a triple dose of whatever you have available."

The doctor stared at Kirk as though he were a lab rat that refused to enter the maze. "I am sure you are aware that could kill him. Killing my patients is not part of my programming. Do you wish me to begin the analysis?"

Picard shook his head and stepped forward. "That will not be necessary. Computer end program."

The doctor dissolved into the air. Kirk leaned closer to Picard (although they were still close enough to Lien for him to overhear) and sighed. "Strike two. That leaves us only one option."

"Self-destruct?"

Lien threw himself towards the force-field only to be thrown back again with equal force. He glared at the two men in confusion. "You can't be serious? You'll die. Isn't that what you've been trying to avoid all along?"

Picard favoured him with a sympathetic smile. "But you'll die with us and humanity will survive. That's what we wanted all along. Computer, initiate Auto-Destruct Sequence Alpha, authorisation - Picard, Jean-Luc, four-seven-alpha-tango."

The computer replied, Identity verified, awaiting confirmation.

Kirk stared at Lien until he was forced to meet the captain's eyes. "Computer, confirm auto-destruct sequence alpha, authorisation - Kirk, James T, three-two-gamma-delta."

Identity verified. Awaiting final confirmation.

Kirk glanced enquiringly at Picard who shrugged slightly. The seconds ticked by and the computer repeated its request for final confirmation. Suddenly the bridge doors parted and a tall figure strode towards them.

He glanced up at the speaker overhead and said, "Computer, confirm auto-destruct sequence alpha, authorisation Riker, William T, two-five-sierra-tango. Enable."

Identity verified. Self destruct in 10 minutes.

Picard turned to fix his first officer with an icy glare. "I thought I told you to report to the battle bridge, Mr Riker?"

"Yes sir, but you need three command line officers to blow up a Starship, as you well know."

Picard clapped Riker on the shoulder and smiled, "Indeed I do. Thank you commander."

Kirk was shaking his head and laughing. At their puzzled expressions, he shrugged. "This predilection for disobeying direct orders, it must be a universal flaw with the genetic make up of first officers."

Their mutual commiseration society was cut short by Lien, now shaking with rage, "You're all mad! You have fought me for your lives, and now you would destroy yourselves in order to kill me. It makes no sense!"

Kirk walked up to the force field until he felt the static buzz against his face, "Of course it makes sense, Lien. Our sacrifice ensures the survival of mankind. If we were afraid to die for so noble a cause, we wouldn't be Starfleet Officers."

Self-destruct in 7 minutes, stated the computer flatly. Lien pushed himself as close to the force field as he could. The two men appeared to be standing almost toe-to-toe. "You are an imbecile, Kirk! An inferior, weakling, lunatic! How has your puny race survived so long without blowing itself to pieces? All you know is violence. I'm doing your Universe a favour by destroying it. Look at you. I can read it in your eyes. You want to tear me apart with your bare hands, don't you, Kirk?"

Kirk took a step back and said quietly over his shoulder "Lower the force-field, Jean-Luc."

"Jim, no...."

"He's not going anywhere - he's too weak. Lower it Picard. NOW!"

At Picard's quietly spoken command, the force field dropped in a shimmer of static. The computer tried in vain to inject a note of sanity.

Self destruct in 5 minutes.

Kirk launched himself at Lien. The two men rolled across the deck, grappling for each other's throats. Kirk managed to pin the Q beneath himself, and smashed a fist cleanly into the other man's jaw. But Lien's arms were longer, and he locked his hands firmly round the captain's throat.

They rolled again, and Kirk broke the chokehold kicking out as he scrambled to his feet. Lien avoided the flying foot and wrapped his arms tightly around Kirk, squeezing the breath from him.

Kirk gasped and struggled against the constricting arms but couldn't break free. His vision began to cloud, but he managed to bring his elbow back sharply once, twice and then a third bone-crunching time into Lien's rib cage.

The Q staggered back, clutching at his injured ribs. Kirk threw himself at the Q again, this time leading with his foot. They both went down in a tangle of legs and arms. Kirk forced Lien face down on the deck and took a handful of hair. Tugging the other man's head up he hissed against his ear, "Time's up."

The computer was calmly announcing, Self destruct in 10 seconds ...9 ...8 ...7

Lien twisted frantically and screamed, "No!!!"

...6 ...5 ...4 ...

There was a flash of light and Lien was gone. Kirk looked up at Picard who met his eyes without fear.

...3 ...2 ...1

Both men smiled.

 

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