The captain’s usual cup of Earl Grey tea sat on the corner of his desk, grown cold and forgotten, as the list of names went on scrolling up the black screen on the first anniversary of the Borg attack at Wolf 359.
Thousands of names, bright glowing clumps of pixels, stark abstract symbols entrusted with the daunting task of representing an enormity of devastation that seemed almost beyond the capability of the human mind to comprehend. Each represented an individual life, a person who had once laughed, loved, hoped, and dreamed of the future. Casualties. A word so sterile, bleak, and thoroughly inadequate.
Picard reached up, almost without thinking about it, and touched the side of his face where the implants had been. The scars were gone now, the physical damage skillfully repaired, leaving him, to all appearances, entirely back to normal.
But those had been only the visible scars.
It would take several hours to display the entire list of names, he knew, on screens throughout the Federation. A time for silent reflection on the value of each unique soul, each life so callously destroyed by a single-minded enemy that cared nothing for liberty, social progress, or diversity of culture or opinion. An enemy that sought to crush all sentient beings into its own narrow, obedient, joyless existence. An enemy that could never triumph, precisely because of its total inability to understand all that made life worthwhile.
The names continued to scroll. Picard remained at his desk, his gaze fixed on the screen as he recognized, here and there, the names of classmates, junior officers he had trained, enlisted personnel who had served under his command at one time or another. So many names. So much more than casualties.
He would never forget.
Author’s note: This story was written on September 11, 2002.