by Bruce W. Thompson
Earth. July 10, 1999.
Sunlight filtered in through a window, glinting rainbow beams off the smooth, curving spine of a Klingon bat’leth.
The bat’leth hung– somewhat incongruously– on the wall of a modestly furnished den. Four paneled walls. A simple desk. A chair. A primitive computing device. Assorted desktop clutter– pens, paper, an empty stoneware mug. There was nothing to distinguish this den from any random den in any random house on the planet.
The door opened. A man stepped into the small room.
His name was Ronald D. Moore. He was a writer. Of television. Or– more accurately– he had been a writer of television. Until very recently.
Moore’s footsteps were muffled by the plush carpeting as he crossed the den to the desk. With a casual motion, he slid the chair out from under the desk and angled his knees to sit. Just then, his eye caught the light gleaming from the alien weapon on the wall. He hovered there frozen for a long moment, sighed and eased back up into a standing position. He straightened his shoulders, then stepped across the room to the bat’leth.
A look of profound sadness colored his features.
He gazed at the bat’leth. He lifted one hand to touch it, hesitated, then gently rested the hand on the wall, inches from the weapon. He closed his eyes and hung his head, lost in thought…awash in memories.
Suddenly the silence was broken by a voice from behind him.
“What’s the matter, pally?”
Moore’s head snapped up and he whirled around.
It was a salamander.
Incredulous, Moore gaped at the mind-bending sight. Perched on top of the desk, a mud-brown, two-foot tall salamander sat cross-legged, using the business end of a blunt pencil to pick its tiny teeth. “W-who are you?” Moore gasped. “What the hell are you doing here?” He glanced quickly around the room, looking for a hidden microphone or marionette wires– anything that would help him reconcile his sense of disbelief with the apparently very real amphibian before him. “How did you get in here?” Moore wasn’t used to being caught off-guard.
The salamander shrugged and spoke again, casually, as though a salamander with the power of speech was a most ordinary thing. “Hey, I dunno, buddy boy…I’m a figment of your imagination.” It uncrossed its legs and leaned forward. “You tell me.”
“My imagination?…” Moore asked. He wasn’t used to being confused either. He didn’t like it.
“Sit down, kid,” the salamander said. “Let’s hash this over. Maybe we can figure out what’s makin’ you sing the blues.”
Tentatively, Moore took his seat. He sat stiffly in the chair and looked across at his strange amphibious visitor. For a long silent moment, they regarded each other. Moore had never cared for salamanders, especially the type that appeared from nowhere and started talking to him. Nervously folding his arms, he said, “What do you want?”
The salamander smiled and folded its arms mockingly. “What do you want?”
“Great,” Moore said sardonically, “an imaginary, talking, and cryptic salamander… Lucky me.”
The amphibian shrugged again. “Look pally, you’re the one cryin’ in your synthale here, not me. You don’t wanna talk about your problems, it’s no scales off my snout.” It slid off the desk, landing on the carpet with a moist plop. “See ya ‘round, kid.” The salamander spun smartly on its fins and headed for the door.
“I wasn’t crying.”
The salamander stopped. “What did you say?” it asked, turning around.
Moore’s head had tilted forward, obscuring his expression. His shoulders had slumped and his whole body looked as if the very life had been drained from it. “I wasn’t crying,” he repeated darkly.
The salamander stepped slowly toward him. “It’s okay, buddy,” it said softy. “I hear you’ve been through some changes lately.”
Moore nodded. “Changes…yes.”
The salamander now stood at Moore’s side. It gently placed a foreflipper on his shoulder. “Tell me all about it, pally. It ain’t gonna do you or me any good festering inside you.”
Moore lifted his head slightly. “I…I don’t really know where to begin…”
The salamander sighed. “The beginning’s usually a pretty good place, but hey, you can name your own poison, pally.” Hoisting itself back to its perch atop the desk, it thumbed an amphibious thumb behind
Moore toward the bat’leth. “What’s with the kooky pig-sticker, kid?”
“What…?” Moore looked over his shoulder in confusion. “Oh,” he said as his gaze fell upon the weapon on the wall, “that’s a Klingon bat’leth. It was a…gift.” Sadness welled up from deep within his eyes. “But it’s…more than that, really. I’ve sort of begun to think of it as a…reminder.”
Two beady salamander eyes blinked at him. “Reminder? Of what?”
“Of things I’ve done. Of where I’ve been,” Moore said softly. “Of where I may never be again.”
The salamander crooked its head up at the bat’leth. “Wow, symbolism. Crazy!”
Ignoring Moore’s angry glare, it continued. “Hey, speaking of places to be…ain’t you supposed to be somewhere else? I heard you were gonna enter the lair of The Evil One and hold him in check. I thought that you were supposed to put the kibosh on the spread of salamanders like me throughout the Franchise. I was just down in The Evil One’s pit spawning, uh I mean, visiting relatives… It’s like happy hour in Salamander Town! What the hell happened, pally?”
“I…I…failed.” Moore’s face had puckered up like the Homecoming Queen in the kissing booth at the county fair. Defeat tasted bitter indeed.
“Go on,” prodded the salamander.
Moore grimaced. “I couldn’t stand against The Evil One. He’s grown too strong and his power reaches far… Much farther than I
dared dream.” In spite of himself, Moore shuddered. “He’s entrenched himself into every nook and cranny of The Franchise. You can practically smell him in the air. I’m afraid that even now he’s whispering sinister ideas in the ears of his superiors, using his dark powers of persuasion to influence their judgment. Either that, or he’s somehow gotten ahold of certain ‘incriminating’ photographs… I can’t think of another reason for this madness!” Moore swiveled his chair around to face the bat’leth on the wall.
He slowly looked up at it. “For maybe the first time in my life…I’m afraid,” he admitted. “Afraid for the future of The Franchise. A great many good people have worked long and hard to see The Dream preserved.”
“Including you?” asked the salamander quietly.
“Yes. Including me.”
Moore rose to his feet, bringing his eyes level with the bat’leth. Again he raised his hand to touch it, then hesitated, his fingers hovering inches from the weapon.
“You can still…go back,” said the salamander from behind.
“Go back?” Moore wondered. “What are you talking about?”
“Pick up the bat’leth,” the salamander urged. “Go back to the fight. Beard The Evil One in his den.” The amphibian’s voice had taken on an odd, distant tone. “Hold fast against the salamanders!”
“What’s the matter with you?…” Moore said, turning.
The salamander was gone.
The desk stood empty, with not so much as a soggy butt mark to indicate the salamander had ever even been there. Moore rubbed the back of his neck in bewilderment, wondering if he had been dreaming.
He shook his head, trying to clear it. This is damn peculiar, he thought. That crazy lizard didn’t know what the hell it was talking about. Salamander or no salamander, he knew he would never be able to go back. Never be able to return to the fight. That part of his life was over. Over and done with.
“Why are you trying to deny who you are?”
A female voice split the silence behind him. Moore spun around, coming face to face with another sight that threatened his sanity.
“Seven of Nine?!” Moore choked.
“Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero-One, to be precise,” said the silver clad woman before him. She stood, statuesque to distraction, in front of the bat’leth, the light from the window now arcing twin beams from both the weapon and the ocular implant ringing her left eye.
Moore squinted against the glare, uncertain he could trust what his eyes were revealing. “What are you doing here? How can you possibly even be here??”
Seven gazed at him coolly. “Because I should be in the Delta Quadrant aboard the starship Voyager?”
“Umm…n-no,” Moore stammered. “Mostly because you’re supposed to be a fictional character!”
The former Borg drone cocked an amused eyebrow at him. “Fictional is a relative term,” she said. “Especially when dealing with multiphasic temporal anomalies. And transdimensional interspatial displacements. Or quantum subspace fluctuations. Or even…”
“Stop, please!” Moore pleaded. Technobabble made his head hurt.
“As you wish,” Seven said. She stepped closer to him. With a withering glance, she repeated her original question: “Why are you trying to deny who you are?”
Moore flinched. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Why did you leave so abruptly?” Seven pressed. “You had just begun your work with us. Your initial offering seemed to hold great insight into my exploration of humanity.” She took another step toward him. “I was hoping to continue that exploration with you. To gain deeper insight into what this new human ‘collective’ means for me.” The slightest hint of vulnerability tinged her features. “Now, with…other hands controlling my fate, I fear I will remain mere…” She paused, then demanded, “What is the term?”
“Window dressing?” Moore offered. “Cheesecake? Blatant sex appeal? Ratings fodder?”
“I was thinking of the expression ‘a pale imitation of myself’, but thank you anyway,” Seven said, with more sarcasm than politeness. “So– your explanation for your rapid departure?”
“I had to leave. I was…given no choice,” Moore said. “Besides, I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”
Seven was insistent. “It is my business. It is Captain Janeway’s business. It is Commander Tuvok’s business. It is the business of Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Paris. It is the business of all of us on Voyager who would have benefited from your assistance.”
She took one last intimidating step toward him, then whirled around and stalked toward the bat’leth. She placed her implant-studded hand on the weapon. “Why are you trying to deny who you are?” she restated. She nodded her head at the bat’leth. “You can still go back.”
Moore turned his back on her. Turned his back on the bat’leth. And all it represented. “No, I can’t,” he said quietly.
“She’s right, you know.”
Moore’s head snapped up. A new voice had replaced Seven of Nine’s– a man’s voice, and a most familiar one at that. He turned quickly around. “Julian?!”
Doctor Julian Bashir, late of Starbase Deep Space Nine, now occupied the spot next to the bat’leth. “It’s good to see you again,” he smiled, stepping forward and extending his hand in greeting.
Moore gawked at Bashir’s outstretched appendage for a dumbfounded moment, certain someone must have spiked his morning coffee. He grasped the hand, its apparent warmth and solidity holding precious little reassurance. “What are you doing here?”
“Why are you trying to deny who you are?” Bashir asked.
“Oh, not you too?” Moore groaned.
“I’m afraid so,” Julian said with an impish grin. “Psychoanalysis isn’t my strong suit, but I’ve recently begun…spending more time with our station counselor and I think I’ve picked up a few tricks of the trade.” He gestured toward the chair. “Have a seat. Why don’t you tell your friendly doctor all about it?”
“All about what?” Moore crossed his arms and stood, obstinately refusing to sit.
“Why are you trying to deny who you are?” Bashir repeated. Waving off Moore’s objections, he continued. “You know, I spent years pretending to be something I wasn’t. Denying my true abilities. Hiding behind other people’s notions of what is and is not normal. Finally, you helped me to see that I had to accept the fact that I was genetically enhanced. You showed me than I even had to learn how to embrace that fact.” He paused and rested a hand on Moore’s shoulder. “I had never really known peace until I came to terms with who I really am.” He looked Moore squarely in the eye. “Don’t deny yourself that peace. Don’t deny who you are.”
Moore shook his head. “Julian, it’s not that simple. I just can’t fight that fight anymore. The odds are stacked too high against me. The enemy is too strong.”
“Suppose Davy Crockett had said that at the Alamo?” Bashir asked, turning to face the bat’leth. “Do you suppose he and Travis and Bowie stopped to ask themselves if the odds were in their favor? Or if Santa Anna’s army was too powerful to face?” He put his hand on the weapon. “Do you suppose they thought the price was too high?”
Moore flopped heavily down into the chair, burying his head in his hands. “I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore.”
“Why are you trying to deny who you are?”
Bashir’s clipped, cultured accent had suddenly vanished, replaced by a deep and booming voice. It was a voice Moore knew well, perhaps better than his own. Even before he raised his eyes, he knew who would be standing there.
“Worf.” No other acknowledgment was necessary.
“Ron Moore.” The Klingon responded in kind.
“I don’t guess I should waste time trying to figure out how you can be here?” Moore said, resigned now to the strange series of visions.
“No,” Worf agreed. The Klingon reached up and plucked the bat’leth from its perch on the wall. Unlike the near reverence with which Seven and Bashir and even Moore himself had treated the weapon,
Worf handled it with utilitarian calm. He deftly executed several swooping maneuvers, then tucked it neatly under his arm. “Nice weapon. Good balance,” he said.
“I’m glad you approve,” Moore said. A smile almost creased his face, but it quickly faded as he noted the easy manner in which Worf cradled the bat’leth.
The Klingon fixed Moore with an intense stare. “I am told our time together has come to an end.”
Moore averted his eyes, somehow suddenly ashamed. He was afraid he was blushing, which was probably not the most warrior-like of reactions. “I…I suppose so.”
Worf nodded. “I understand.”
“You do?” Moore had grown used to having his motives questioned. This matter-of-fact acceptance caught him by surprise.
“Of course. After the Enterprise-D was destroyed, I felt it was time for me to move on. To walk another path, away from Starfleet.” Worf turned and returned the bat’leth to the wall with a fluid movement.
“But,” Moore considered, “you came back to Starfleet. You served on Deep Space Nine for years.”
“True,” Worf said, still with his back to Moore. “An interesting observation.”
Before Moore could speak, Worf continued. “I have enjoyed the years we spent together. You have brought me much honor and I thank you. I would be proud to fight at your side.”
Moore’s voice almost broke as he said, “Thank you, Worf. That really means a lot to me…”
“However, you are too short to be an effective warrior,” the Klingon cut him off. “You should stick to tasks more suited to one of your…stature.”
“Is that the famous sense of humor Jadzia was always complaining about?” Moore asked.
“Perhaps,” Worf said. “But perhaps there is also something to be said for destiny.” He ran his hand along the leathered hilt of the bat’leth and turned his head slightly toward Moore. “You should speak with someone who knows what his first, best destiny is. And always shall be.”
“…Worf?” Moore blinked. The Klingon was gone.
Moore stood and took two hesitant steps forward toward the bat’leth, then froze. He felt a tingling on the hackles of his neck. He knew he was no longer alone in the room. And moreover, he knew for certain who it was that had joined him. He didn’t even have to turn around to know. He said the name slowly, deliberately–
“James. T. Kirk.”
“The one and only,” came the smiling, oh-so-familiar voice from behind him.
Gulping, Moore forced himself to turn. It was Captain Kirk, all right. He looked older than Moore expected. A bit shorter, perhaps. A fair sight broader than in his heyday, to be sure. But the unique combination of this man and that uniform he wore– the sheer force of his personality and aura of command…the undeniable chemistry he embodied– still could fill a room like nobody’s business.
Moore decided to play it cool. “Aren’t you dead?” he asked.
“Am I?” Kirk grinned knowingly. “I guess I’m just too pig-headed to realize it.” He half sat, half leaned, one-hipped against the desk and folded his arms across his chest. “So, are we having a…fascinating day?”
“You could say that,” Moore nodded.
“What are you going to do?” Kirk, as always, cut to the chase.
Moore knew exactly what Kirk was talking about. He turned to face the bat’leth. “There’s nothing I can do. I can’t go back. That’s simply not a possibility.”
“Hmm,” Kirk said, noncommittal. “A wise man once told me there are always…possibilities.”
“But The Evil One is too powerful!” Moore protested. “Sometimes it seems as though I am the only one who still remembers The Dream…
That I’m the only one still fighting for what’s good and right and true!…”
Kirk stood and drew closer to Moore’s side. “So you’re facing a hopeless struggle? Against impossible odds? And it seems like the galaxy itself stands opposing you?”
Kirk put his hand on Moore’s shoulder. “Sounds like fun!”
Moore had to smile. “Doesn’t it?” Then he shook his head. “But I can’t go back. I’ve done my bit for king and country. Let someone else fight the fight. It’s time for me to stand down.”
“Besides which, the Franchise owes you one?” Kirk asked.
“Something like that,” Moore said. He stepped close to the bat’leth. “I just can’t see a compelling reason for me to return to the battle.”
Kirk came forward and tenderly placed one hand on the weapon. “How about this–” he offered, “because while you’re there, you can make a difference.”
“I remember someone once saying that one man can not summon the future,” Moore said.
“But one man can change the present,” Kirk recalled. He stepped in between Moore and the bat’leth, turned and put his hands on Moore’s shoulders. “I can’t order you to do this. It’s your choice, your decision.” He cocked his head back toward the bat’leth. “Just remember what’s at stake.” His eyes searched Moore’s for a moment.
Moore returned Kirk’s stare. After a long pause, he nodded solemnly. “I will.”
Kirk released his grip on Moore’s shoulders, giving them a friendly pat as he did. “I have to go,” he said. “Somewhere I’m sure there’s a universe or two in need of saving.”
“And you’re just the man to do it?” Moore asked.
Kirk winked. “It’s a living!”
And– just like that– he was gone.
Moore was alone.
Shaking his head, he crossed the room to the desk. He sat in the chair and expelled a long breath. He didn’t know just what he was going to do yet, but he knew he had a lot to think about.
The angle of the sunlight had changed enough so the beams reflecting off the bat’leth now hit his eyes in his seated position.
He gazed across the room at the weapon, which seemed to glow from within as the shimmering light danced across it.
He pondered the future.
“When will you be back?”
“Maybe a year… Maybe…yesterday…”
Captain Benjamin Sisko
My impressions as to why this story failed to pass the Strange New Worlds test…
What, are you nuts??!?
Talking salamanders! ‘Nuff said!
Have a lovely day.