TNG/X-Men 3 crossover, Picard, rated PG.
Summary: A young boy’s desperate quest to save his people from a forced “cure” for their differences leads him to seek advice from Jean-Luc Picard.
A haunting melody from a world one thousand years dead filled Jean-Luc Picard’s ready room. The captain sat motionless at his desk with his eyes half closed as he held the ancient flute to his lips. Scenes from a life that had never truly been his own passed through his mind. He had taught his son Batai how to play this song on the flute when the boy had been nine years old. He could almost see Batai standing there beside the desk, attentive, silent, listening raptly to the music.
The boy’s shadowy silhouette flickered, breaking the illusion. Picard blinked twice and focused more clearly on the spot where he had been looking. Something was still there, a faint outline of a child’s figure; this was not his imagination. He carefully set down the flute in its metal case and spoke in a commanding tone.
The shape flickered again and gradually became more solid, until it resolved into a gaunt young boy with unkempt dark hair and badly bitten fingernails. The boy’s hands twitched nervously at his sides. His gaze darted around the room with the startled, apprehensive air of a rabbit suddenly driven from the cover of the underbrush.
“I’m sorry, sir.” His voice was high, stammering. “I know I shouldn’t be here. I, uh, didn’t mean to cause trouble. It’s just that, well, there aren’t a lot of safe places for us mutants, and you reminded me of my teacher, and I just wanted to listen to the music for a few minutes and…”
“Perhaps you should start by introducing yourself,” Picard suggested, putting a merciful end to the boy’s lengthy apology. “What did you mean when you said that you are a mutant?”
“That’s what people like me are called. What we were called. I know we don’t exist in your time.” The boy’s lower lip quivered, and he looked as if he might be about to cry. “I’m known as Shift because I have the ability to move from one future timeline to another. I’ve been searching through so many timelines, hundreds of them, trying to find one where my people haven’t been wiped out–trying to find a way we can survive–but I don’t think there is one. It doesn’t matter where I look; we’re gone without a trace.”
“What species are your people?” Picard asked.
“Human. Like you. Just like you.” The boy quickly brushed the back of his hand across his eyes and stared defiantly at Picard through his damp lashes, as if expecting to be contradicted. “In my time, nobody understood that it was possible to have a different sort of brain and still be human. If a person’s mental abilities weren’t the same as everyone else’s, they called it a terrible disorder that needed to be cured. Destroyed. Eradicated. Like we were rats or something. I looked in your history files and found documents about conquering an epidemic that gave some people extraordinary savant skills but made them socially maladjusted. I don’t even know if those documents were talking about mutants. We weren’t the only neurological minority group being described as a plague, as a burden on society, and forcibly cured of our differences.”
A pale reflection of the boy’s hand, as he dropped it to his side, gleamed for a moment from the polished surface of the flute. Picard remembered the harsh light of a doomed sun, the glare and the shadows, the resolute faces of a proud people who knew that they had no means of escape and yet sought to preserve the memory of their race.
He rose from his chair, took a few steps around the desk, and placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder. Once again the image of a frightened rabbit came to mind, as he felt the thin, exhausted figure trembling under his touch.
“In all of these timelines, you and your kind will not be gone without a trace, as long as there is just one person who understands–one person who honors–what you are and were. Whatever the outcome of your struggle may be, the memory of your people will live on, and you may yet find a way to prevail.”
A faint smile touched the boy’s lips. Picard thought again of Batai, dead for a millennium, and for an instant he felt that the nova had taken him also, as the child’s slight form dissolved before him…
He could not remember why he was standing next to his desk. His thoughts were filled with half-forgotten images, as if he had been dreaming. A boy, a melody, a lost race. He glanced down at the flute and felt an unexpected touch of comfort and warmth welling up from somewhere deep within him, taking the place of the sorrow that he had thought would never end.
The door chime intruded upon his quiet reflections.
A young woman with striking red hair entered the room, walking with a confident stride. Ensign Firewind, a recent graduate of Starfleet Academy, was a Mutant, he recalled. The rare abilities of Mutants made them highly prized as officers, and they could be expected to serve with distinction. There was something else about Mutants that he felt he ought to remember, but it didn’t quite come to mind.
Picard reached down and closed the lid of the flute case, thinking about change, and memory, and time.