Captain’s Log, Stardate 43989.1. The Enterprise has arrived at Jouret Four in response to a distress signal from one of the Federation’s outermost colonies. The nine hundred inhabitants of the New Providence Colony are thought to be direct descendants of the founders of the Hegemony, a confederation of several near-Earth solar systems settled in the twenty-first century by retired corporate executives who had become despondent that there was nothing more on Earth for them to conquer. Rumor has long had it that some of the executives, with the aid of experimental longevity treatments and advanced cybernetics, remain alive to this day. Whether or not that is true, the descendants of these pioneers are renowned throughout the Federation for their innovative thinking, powerful ambition, and keen intellect. Their loss would be tragic indeed.
Homer Simpson scratched his rump and belched loudly, the sudden noise all the more jarring in a silent landscape devoid of bird or insect sounds.
Standing with the away team inside the crater that had been the New Providence Colony, Will Riker sized up the five unlikely survivors of the colony’s devastation. A spiky-haired boy in T-shirt and shorts, obviously unaffected by his family’s recent traumatic experience, was gleefully performing skateboard stunts along one wall of the crater. The boy’s mother, whose blue beehive hairdo might well have been the height of fashion on Jouret Four (although Riker really didn’t care to speculate on that topic) held a placid infant in her arms. A girl stood nearby, clutching a saxophone, which appeared to be all that she’d been able to save from the destruction of the family’s home. The father seemed surprisingly unconcerned, however, with his attention focused entirely on simpler things.
“Donuts?” Homer inquired hopefully. “The kind with chocolate sprinkles is my favorite.”
Although Riker’s first inclination was to explain to this boorish colonist that a Starfleet commander’s duties did not include serving as a waiter, he restrained himself after considering what the unfortunate family had endured. Perhaps the pitiable man’s donut obsession was his way of trying to cope with the ghastly trauma. No doubt Deanna would be able to help in that regard.
“Mr. Simpson, for now, please try to stay focused on this investigation. What can you tell us about your attackers?”
“They took everything. Even my beer,” Homer lamented, his lower lip quivering as if he might be about to break down in tears.
Finding no help there, Riker glanced toward the other family members. Bart, with a perfect somersault off the crater wall, glided to a halt near the away team. Tugging a sticky candy bar from his pocket, the boy began to speak.
“They were a bunch of cool dudes in black leather, man, with awesomely radical body piercings.” Bart stuffed most of the gooey chocolate into his mouth and went on talking as he chewed. “But they wouldn’t tell me where they had their piercings done. In fact, they wouldn’t talk at all. Bummer.”
That rather eccentric description confirmed Riker’s suspicion that the Borg had been responsible for the attack.
“Thank you, Bart. We appreciate your cooperation in talking about the details of what happened, especially so soon after the tragic loss of your fellow colonists.”
Bart gulped the last bit of candy and shrugged.
“Yeah, well, most of them were dorks anyway, man.”
Cooing contentedly to the plush purple sehlat she’d found in a toy bin, little Maggie explored the counselor’s office, paying very little attention to the conversation between her mother and Deanna Troi.
“No, Mrs. Simpson, I’m afraid we don’t have a chaplain of your denomination aboard the Enterprise, but there is an extensive library of recorded sermons available on the holodeck. You and your family will feel right at home attending virtual church services with a holographic congregation.”
“Hmmff,” was Marge’s less than enthusiastic response to that suggestion, as she grabbed Maggie by the collar and yanked her away from a brightly speckled Klingon carnivorous fern in the corner, whose tendrils were definitely becoming too inquisitive.
Not surprisingly, the baby responded with an indignant screech, and Marge, after trying without success to soothe her with a pacifier, eventually just picked her up and left, explaining that it was about nap time.
Troi reviewed her files on the new arrivals for a few minutes before she headed over to Ten Forward, where Riker would be meeting her shortly. All in all, she thought, the Simpson family shouldn’t have much trouble adjusting to life aboard the Enterprise. Indeed, they had dealt with the shock of their Borg encounter surprisingly well. Marge could provide needed help in the Enterprise’s child care center, while Homer would surely make himself useful as a power systems engineer. And of course, the Simpson children, who seemed intelligent and resourceful, couldn’t possibly be any trouble.
Shelby glanced up from the data display and scowled at the small group surrounding her in Engineering, none of whose fatigued brains seemed capable of constructing anything that remotely resembled useful ideas about the Borg.
She tried again to get a productive discussion going. “One theory is that their systems are decentralized, with redundant power sources located throughout the ship.”
“That is a reasonable conclusion,” Data replied. As an android with no requirement for sleep, he was, of course, unaffected by the late hour. “Borg technology has given each member of their society the ability to interface and function collectively. It is likely that they have constructed their ship with the same philosophy.”
At least the android was agreeing with her, although Shelby didn’t see much point to his abstruse discussions of Borg philosophy. Of course, given the assembled company, the discussion wasn’t likely to stay overly intellectual for long. Barely able to restrain a sigh, Shelby glanced over at Wesley Crusher and Homer Simpson.
“You knock out one generator,” Wesley piped up, annoying Shelby with yet another obvious comment, “and another one takes over without interruption.”
“The nuclear power plant on Jouret Four was designed the same way,” Homer put in, scattering chocolate sprinkles all over the floor as he stuffed yet another replicated donut into his apparently insatiable maw. “We had four redundant reactors, just so there’d never be an interruption of power in case someone happened to, uh, drop a donut down an intake valve.”
La Forge, who looked just as frustrated as Shelby felt, didn’t even attempt to hold back his loud exhalation of disgust, although he did try to make it look more like a yawn.
“I think we’d better call it a night,” Riker finally said.
Before we all strangle Homer Simpson and Wes the wonder twerp, Shelby thought.
Picard, feeling like a caged animal, paced the bridge as the Enterprise approached the last reported location of the invading Borg ship. It wouldn’t be long before the Enterprise would engage this formidable foe in a combat in which survival, let alone victory, seemed almost impossible. But the fate of the entire human species would turn on what was to happen here . . .
A beep came from the tactical console. Worf looked up.
“Sir, reading unidentified vessel just entering sensor range. Bearing two-one-zero, mark one-five-one.”
“Hail them, Mr. Worf.”
The silence was just about what Picard had expected.
“No response, sir.”
“Move to intercept.”
Wesley Crusher, at the helm, immediately complied. The bridge officers’ faces took on expressions of grave solemnity as the ship approached the most deadly foe known to humanity. All of them realized that this would be a pivotal moment in galactic history.
Then the comm beeped.
“Ten Forward to Buddy Home,” a boy’s high voice announced.
Children, Picard thought in exasperation. Somehow, they always managed to be in the way with their frivolous chatter and pointless play. Why Starfleet Command had ever allowed children aboard starships was beyond his comprehension.
“Stay off the comm, mister. You’re interfering with vital ship’s business. This is the bridge. There’s no Buddy Home here!”
Wes, despite his best efforts, couldn’t quite repress a chuckle.
Shrill alarms blared in Engineering as the Borg ship’s cutting beam sliced into the Enterprise’s hull. Now that the shields had failed under the enemy’s relentless attack, the Enterprise was virtually defenseless, and Engineering would soon be exposed to the vacuum of space. Geordi La Forge, supervising the evacuation of his personnel, remained at his post as the emergency bulkheads began to drop. Within seconds, Engineering would be completely sealed off from the rest of the ship.
La Forge could see that Homer Simpson was going to have a problem. The rotund power systems engineer, who obviously hadn’t done any running since his childhood, panted in exhaustion as he approached a rapidly closing exit. With a final burst of energy, Homer frantically threw himself to the floor and managed to roll under the thick metal just before it struck the deck.
La Forge, rolling to safety at the same time, noted as he got up that the closing bulkhead had neatly sliced off the last few hairs on Homer’s balding head.
Passing an entrance to the ship’s arboretum, Wesley Crusher heard the mournful wailing of a saxophone from within. After a moment, he identified the genre as an ancient musical form known as ‘the blues.’ He glanced inside and saw the little Simpson girl — Lisa, he recalled — sitting on a bench, the shiny brass instrument seeming to dwarf her.
She saw him at the same time and rose hastily to her feet, setting aside the saxophone. “Oh, Wesley, I’m so very glad you’re here! Everyone is saying that the Borg have kidnapped Captain Picard and that they intend to destroy all of human civilization. But I won’t be afraid, Wesley, as long as you’re here to protect me.” And then Lisa grabbed him around the waist and squeezed, with surprising strength.
Wes cautiously inhaled, pondering how best to dislodge the little girl as he recovered his breath. He didn’t want to be cruel, of course, but the last thing he needed was a neurotic pre-teen developing a crush on him.
“All of the officers are doing their best to protect the Enterprise, as always,” Wesley informed her. “And I really have to be going. I might, uh, be needed for more duties at any time.”
Not very likely, he admitted to himself, but Lisa wouldn’t know that.
Instead of letting go of him, though, she just squeezed harder. “You look so strong and handsome in that uniform, Wes. I’m going to marry you when I grow up.”
Just where was a red alert, Wesley thought, when you really needed one?
Bart zoomed along a corridor, crouching low on his skateboard and grinning evilly as several crewmen jumped out of his way to avoid a collision. Just ahead, he saw his destination. Sickbay, where rumor had it that a rescued — and thoroughly Borgified — Captain Picard, also known as Locutus, was being kept under tight security. Of course, there was no such thing as security that Bart Simpson couldn’t manage to get through.
He got off the skateboard, tucked it under his arm, and approached the security officers who were standing guard at the sickbay door.
“I hurt my knee,” Bart told one of the guards, trying to look as small and pitiful as he could. The bright sheen of blood on his right knee corroborated the story. It was really just an old scab that he had been picking, but the guards would have no reason to suspect anything.
“The doctor can’t be disturbed right now. A temporary first aid station has been set up on deck ten for minor injuries like that.”
“But it hurts!” Bart wasn’t quite blubbering, but he was pretty sure that he looked suitably pathetic. “Please. I won’t bother the doc at all. The nurse should be able to fix my knee in a minute.”
He was careful not to smirk when one of the guards foolishly took pity on him and opened the door. “Go ahead, son, but make sure you stay out of the doctor’s way.”
Walking into sickbay with a ridiculously exaggerated limp, Bart approached the nurse on duty, who was a tall and dark-complexioned young man. The few seconds that it took for the nurse to apply a dermal regenerator to Bart’s bleeding knee provided plenty of opportunity to gawk at what had become of Captain Picard.
“You will become one with the Borg,” Locutus, who was still sporting the full array of cybernetic attachments, dismissively informed a scowling Worf. Turning toward Will Riker and Beverly Crusher with a mechanical whirring sound, the altered Picard declared, “You will all become one with the Borg.”
Bart watched the creepy scene in fascination as Locutus continued, “The android Data, a primitive artificial organism. You will be obsolete in the new order.”
Taking a step toward the boy, Locutus raised an arm that ended in weird mechanical gadgets instead of a hand. “A thoroughly useless human child. Your family unit has been deemed unworthy of assimilation.”
With a sneer, Bart, still holding his skateboard, vaulted up to stand on the nearest bio-bed. He made a rude gesture in response.
“Eat my shorts, Locutus.”
“Get out of my sickbay,” Beverly Crusher snapped, glaring at Bart. She turned back to Locutus and, still looking quite infuriated, jabbed the Borgified Picard with a tranquilizing hypospray. “Take him to your lab, Data.”
Bart launched his skateboard off the bio-bed and whizzed toward the sickbay door at his best approximation of warp speed. He turned to say a few more words over his shoulder.
“Don’t have a cow, Doc.”
A silent Locutus stood inside a newly constructed device in the center of the laboratory, with much of his Borg armor removed. Beverly Crusher monitored his vital signs while Miles O’Brien, across the room, kept track of Data’s positronic brain activity with equal vigilance. A cable led from Data’s head to the improvised machinery that surrounded Locutus. Deanna Troi was standing nearby.
Data began to speak.
“I have gained access to the Borg collective consciousness. The inhabitants of the cube seem to be in great disarray, which is why they have halted their approach to Earth. Their computer system has begun to experience severe malfunctions, evidently the result of poorly compatible software that they assimilated on Jouret Four. Their internal communications have become incoherent, consisting of little more than distraught drones pitifully babbling about ‘the blue screen of death.’” Data paused for a moment. “I do not understand the reference.”
“Oh, the pain,” Troi moaned. “Oh, the horror.”
Unexpectedly, a metal cover that had been attached to a nearby ventilation duct came loose and fell to the deck with a ringing thud. A small and very grimy boy slid out of the duct behind it.
“Doc, you gotta disconnect the android dude, like, right now! The computers in the New Providence colony were using Windows X-ARGH, and the Borg assimilated Bill Gates along with the other colonists, you know.” Bart Simpson stared earnestly up at the doctor as if he expected her to fully appreciate the extent of the danger.
“I told you to stay away,” Beverly Crusher began. She abruptly cut her tirade short as Data’s body jerked and twitched. His android eyes began to glow a hideous blue.
Data intoned, “A fatal exception has occurred at . . .”
Yanking the cable out of Data’s head, the doctor transferred her ire to the unfortunate Miles O’Brien. “You’d better be able to fix this!”
Marge Simpson, sitting across from her husband at the captain’s table in the banquet hall, took a moment to reflect on her many blessings. The Borg ship had self-destructed, saving the Earth from the twin perils of assimilation and Windows. Captain Picard had recovered from his ordeal, and the valiant Data had been fully repaired. After a thorough refit, the Enterprise had once more ventured forth among the stars, transporting the Simpson family to a rendezvous with the ship that would be their new home. In recognition of Homer Simpson’s accomplishments, several of the Enterprise’s officers had graciously agreed to attend a banquet in his honor.
“Oh, Homie, I’m so proud of you.” Marge beamed. “Chief engineer on such a wonderful starship. It’s exactly what you deserve. I’m sure we’ll be very happy living here, with our new friends. And Geordi La Forge was so thoughtful, recommending you for the position.”
Sitting next to Homer, the Pakled captain raised a beer can in a toast to the newest officer aboard his ship. “We have a smart engineer. Now we can go fast!”
Homer appreciatively clanked his beer can against the Pakled captain’s. “This is a fine ship, Captain, and the food selection in the replicators can’t be beat! Although it’s not the Enterprise, I’m proud to serve with you.” Putting down his beer, Homer again dug his fork into the delicious prune cobbler that he had been enjoying.
“We look for things to make us go,” the Pakled captain murmured.
At the next table, Lisa, dressed up in her Sunday best, stared at Wesley with big, soulful eyes that kept filling with tears. “I don’t know how I’ll be able to stand being away from you, Wes. Promise me that you’ll comm me every day?”
Wes, shifting uncomfortably in his seat, looked as if he couldn’t wait for the banquet to be over so that he could return to the Enterprise. “Well, uh, that might not always be possible, Lisa. My duties as an officer are so demanding.”
Across the room, Bart, wearing a T-shirt and baggy pants, strutted along with seven identically dressed Pakled boys following him. He was in the midst of expounding upon his preferred fashion trends. “Dudes, you gotta wear your pants low, see, so that when you tell authority figures to eat your shorts, they can see what’s on the menu.”
The Pakled boys nodded solemnly and tugged their pants even lower, exposing most of their underwear.
Marge, thinking that both Bart and the Pakleds could use some additional moral guidance, touched the overflowing handbag on her lap reassuringly. It was crammed full of isolinear chips that contained holographic sermons. Those Pakleds wouldn’t remain heathens for long — not if Marge could do anything about it.