A group of small children ran past Captain Picard and his away team as they met with the Chieftain of the Anoushkain people. These sprite-like youths laughed happily as they threw a large rubber ball at one another. It was one of many toys sent by the Federation in an attempt to help the young Anoushkains to recover and gain a sense of real childhood. Captain Picard watched them and smiled. These young ones had already spent too much of their youth digging through rubble for loved ones and picking through trash for food.
Once they had numbered into the millions, but political wars had brought heavy casualties, causing doctors to become overworked and at times scarce. With no one to tend the infirmed disease began to run rampant. With emphasis on weapons and more soldiers, less and less people were available to grow food or raise livestock causing widespread starvation. Eventually the population of Anoushka was reduced to a mere 20,000 or so. Now trying to rebuild their society, they had gone back to using their hands to build and create, from everyday textiles and food production to hand crafted items such as jewelry and art. Still, they could not completely do it on their own. Before the wars began they had achieved warp technology and been in contact with the united Federation of Planets, though never a member. Now the Federation offered their support by sending whatever supplies were necessary to help them rebuild.
United Earth was particularly sympathetic to the plight of these people. It remembered well its own last great World War and the death of 600 million humans. Using eco-terrorism, nuclear weapons and genocide various governments did their best to wipe out the human race. They might have succeeded too, were it not for a few brave individuals who sought to save lives rather than destroy them. Earth was still trying to recover when Zefram Cochran made his historic flight and caught the attention of the Vulcans.
Seeing a society so reminiscent of its own, the earth government was only too happy to lend aid and bring the difficulties of the Anoushkain people to the Federation’s attention. On this occasion the Enterprise had been sent to deliver the provisions and despite his first officer’s objections, Captain Picard chose to take a personal interest in the mission and meet with the Anoushkain leader, Duna. They spoke together for quite some time and Picard was most impressed with their progress. The soil was improving all the time and nourishing food was once more being harvested. Better shelters were being built and more schools were opening. A few of their people were beginning to study medicine and assist with the Star Fleet doctors. At times they were able to handle less serious illnesses and wounds on their own. Captain Picard was pleased to see how far they had improved. He assured Duna that he would give a glowing report to Star fleet and the Federation.
As the other officers prepared to beam back up to the ship, the captain started to join them only to stop when he heard a small sound like a dove call out to him. He turned and saw an old woman slowing coming towards him. This tiny woman had hair of the purest snow white and her deeply tan skin only enhanced its brilliance. This woman was Duna’s mother, Bohlale. The captain had met her when he first arrived on the planet and recalled that when she saw him, her eyes had grown wide and almost glowed. Her gnarled hands carefully took his. Her fingers gently moved along every line then carefully turned his hands over and studied every fine detail there too. Once again her eyes took on a glow as she began to speak to him.
“Things of the past do not always stay there. You have been presented with many different directions in your life and chosen as wisely as you could. Along the way you planted a seed from which will come to you the rarest flower with a mighty spirit. Cultivate the blossom carefully, Captain. When joined with the long bow, two arrows will be fired leading to a harvest beyond your imagining.” She then reached into her hair and took from it a hand carved bone comb inlaid with sparkling blue gems and held it out to him. “Take this for your little one.” He started to object and tell her that he had no children, but stopped. In this culture it was a grave insult to not accept a gift. Graciously he took it from her then with a polite bow told her ‘thank you’.
Beaming back on board the ship, Captain Picard headed to his quarters to put the comb in a safe place. As he walked he looked it over and marveled at its craftsmanship. The bone was from a creature called a herensuge that was reptilian. When it was time to die the beasts travel to a particular place not unlike earths mythic elephant graveyard. From there the Anoushkains harvested the bleached bone and carved it into many tools and items. This was a treasure indeed.
Returning to his quarters he took the bone comb and placed it on a shelf where it could be displayed. His mind returned to what the old woman had said and it troubled him. What had she meant? Perhaps she was referring to seeds of good work and that everything that he had his crew accomplished would be remembered, but somehow that didn’t seem to fit.
“Bridge to Picard.” Said a crewman over the comm system.
“Picard Here.” He answered swiftly, rather glad to put aside the words of Bohlale.
“You have a personal message from earth, Sir.”
“Put it through to my quarters.”
Sitting down at his desk and looking at the computer screen, he was momentarily surprised. He had expected to see his sister-in-law Marie or his nephew Rene, but it was neither. He found himself looking into the face of an acquaintance from years ago, Dr. Charlotte Cashile. Prior to commanding the Enterprise he been in a relationship with her sister, Solenne, a very close relationship. When it was over he had lost touch with Lotte (no one called her Charlotte) and couldn’t imagine why she was seeking him out now.
“Dr. Cashile, it’s been at least five years. I hope you and your husband Frederick are well.”
“It’s been more like six.” She was trying to act pleasant, but he could see that something was wrong. Her eyes were red and slightly swollen, clearly she had been crying recently. “The last time we were celebrating my sister’s . . .” At the word ’sister’ she could no longer speak and her eyes immediately filled with tears. The grief she had been trying to hold back poured out as though a dam were breaking in her heart.
“What’s happened, Lotte?” He asked. She took some deep breaths in an attempt to calm herself.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. “ She said softly as she tried to get herself under control. “Solenne is . . .” She wiped her eyes with a handkerchief before continuing. “Solenne is dead.” As Lotte’s grief came out in her tears, Captain Picard sat forward, stunned. This didn’t seem possible. Commander Solenne Bennett was a vibrant, healthy woman, how could she have died.
“How . . .” He started to say.
“I don’t know. All they said was that there had been an incident and that they were sorry to inform me that she was pronounced dead as of star date 45985.67954993951. The matter is still under investigation and I would be informed of their findings as soon as it was complete.” To say that Captain Picard was shocked by this news was an understatement and he knew well that ‘incident’ could be anything.
Thinking of Solenne brought back numerous warm memories as well as a few bitter ones. They had met when she was one of the science officers on his previous ship the USS Helios. What had started out as a professional relationship quickly and unexpectedly blossomed into a deeper and more intimate romance that lasted for more than two years. Since their parting he had tried very hard to banish his memories of her, but never succeeded. “I have some contacts that should be able to tell me what happened as well fill me in on the investigation. I will be happy to relay anything I learn to you.” He assured her.
“Have they not contacted you about Rayna? I tried to find out where she is but nobody will tell me anything. It’s like she’s vanished.” Lotte looked at the captain pleadingly. “I thought surely they would have contacted you about her.” This statement puzzled Captain Picard. He had never heard the name before nor had been in contact with anyone on Regula 16.
“I’m not aware of who this Rayna is, nor why they would be contacting me in regards to her? How is she involved in all this?” At his look of bewilderment Lotte was dumbstruck.
“I thought . . .” Suddenly a realization swept through her and she placed her hand over her mouth momentarily stunned and unsure of how to proceed. “Oh my God, Solenne didn’t . . . she didn’t tell you. I thought . . .” She looked at the bewilderment on his face and knew she was going to have to explain everything. “Jean-Luc, Rayna is . . . your daughter.” At the words, Captain Picard’s eyes grew wide and shock swept across his face.
“Daughter.” He echoed, his face becoming a bit pale.
“I assumed you knew because she told me that she was going to tell you before the Enterprise left space dock. She has your last name and Solenne told me that she was rewriting her will so that if anything were to happen to her, Rayna would be given into your custody. I assumed that you two had discussed it.” He looked so stricken that Lotte felt almost ashamed. “I’m so sorry Jean-Luc, this was not how you should have found out.” He sat there in silent contemplation for a moment before speaking again.
“When the child born?”
“May 15, 2364.” Her birth was five months after they had left space dock. A painful realization came to him as he suddenly recalled the last time he saw Solenne. She had sought him out with the intention of discussing a matter she claimed was of importance. Hurt by the way she had left without a word, he had been unwilling to listen to her. There had been a very short exchange of cold words and the reason for the meeting never came up. In truth, he hadn’t really let her say much before dismissing her from his sight. He could suddenly see the mistake he had made and a deep regret filled him. He prided himself on his ability to listen. It was a skill that had served him well and made him an accomplished diplomat when the occasion called for it. That last meeting with Solenne he had refused to listen. She must have thought I didn’t want her or the . . ., he stopped his thoughts there. “Are you alright, Jean-Luc?” Lotte asked, bringing him back to the moment.
“Lotte, you have my word that I will be contacting Regula 16 and looking into this matter immediately.” He assured her, composing himself. “I am deeply sorry for your loss. Your sister was . . . a very remarkable woman.”
“Yes she was. I never understood what happened between you two, but I know she never stopped loving you or hoping that someday things could be reconciled.” At this, The Captain was silent a moment. He had loved Solenne very much . . . he still did.
“The child . . .” He started to asked, but he was still somewhat in shock and Lotte could tell.
“You have a beautiful little girl with a very bright mind. You should be very proud.” At this encouragement he nodded.
“I will be in touch with you soon again.” He assured her. She smiled, relieved to hear this.
“You take care Jean-Luc and please keep in touch, 6 years is too long.”
“I will.” He signed off then stood and walked to the window. The old Anoushkain woman’s words came back to him with vivid recollection. Along the way you planted a seed from which will come to you the rarest flower with a mighty spirit. If he had been suddenly confronted with the Romulan fleet, he would have been less shocked. Why hadn’t listened to Solenne that day? Why in four years had she not contacted him and told him. He would have been there for her . . . for the child. This was something he could never have imagined. He felt so many emotions. He was angry at Solenne for staying silent all this time and sadness at her loss. He felt exhilaration mixed with fear at the prospect of this new life. He need to go to the bridge and set a new course, but before he left his quarters he whispered softly to himself, “Rayna.”rt writing here ...