(Author’s note: This story is set during Part 2 of “Farpoint Station” and was written in December 2001, when it was unknown whether or not Osama bin Laden had been killed by US forces in Afghanistan.)
Q snapped his fingers, and the scene changed abruptly.
A rocky, snow-covered mountain range loomed just below thick clouds of a uniformly drab gray. A biting wind howled along the slopes. From somewhere not far away, explosions thundered. Shrieks and war cries could be heard, very faintly.
A coatless Captain Jean-Luc Picard kept his arms at his sides instead of crossing them over his chest, unwilling to give his abductor the satisfaction of seeing him flinch before the weather — even if he felt like a block of ice already. This planet, whatever it was, certainly didn’t have much to recommend it.
“What is this place?”
Q, looking quite pleased with himself, fluffed the white curls of his barrister’s wig. “Don’t you recognize your home planet, mon capitan? This is Earth. To be precise, Afghanistan, December 2001. It’s the final exhibit in the prosecution of you and your crew for the crimes and depravity of your species.”
While Picard was trying to recall just what he’d learned in a long-ago Earth History class about that particular location and date, Q shook his head pityingly, the white curls bobbing.
“What’s the matter, have there been too many wars on this pathetic chunk of rock for your puny brain to remember them all? Or has the cold wind frozen your cranium? We are witnessing the last stand of the most notorious gang of terrorists in the planet’s history.”
Picard turned his head to follow Q’s pointing finger and saw a group of men, with long beards and turbans, squatting in a trench with various assorted firearms all around them. The terrorists saw Picard and Q at about the same time, and they began shouting as the barrels of several automatic weapons swung immediately in the captain’s direction.
“Beardless and godless infidels, servants of Satan! Die and meet your damnation, enemies of the true faith!”
Rapid fire rang out. Much to Picard’s surprise, the bullets visibly slowed down as they approached, breaking harmlessly apart into multicolored bursts of light just as they were about to strike him. Almost like a historical combat simulation on the holodeck with the safeties engaged, he thought.
“I assure you that this is, despite a few minor alterations, what your limited mind would perceive as reality,” Q informed him. “I’m being mindful of courtroom protocol. It would be entirely unacceptable for the prosecution’s exhibit to shoot the defense’s advocate.”
The terrorists gave up on their guns and began to hurl grenades instead, which also exploded in mid-air with an impressive light show.
An unusually tall figure burst forward, wielding a long and very wicked-looking knife. The others made as if to follow, but as they left the trench, they suddenly found themselves frozen in statue-like poses, completely immobilized in mid-step.
The knife-wielder lunged to within a few meters of Picard before Q stopped him just as effectively, with his bearded face twisted into a fiendish snarl.
“Jean-Luc Picard, meet Osama bin Laden, the ringleader and chief sociopath of these fine specimens of humanity. If you’d care for a brief explanation of what he calls his heroic deeds, I’m sure he can provide one.”
Q gave the immobile figure a sharp nudge with his foot. “Confess your crimes.”
Bin Laden, his mouth now freed from the paralysis that still gripped the rest of his body, began to shout furiously. “Curses upon you, demon-spawn! O mighty Allah, I implore You to intervene, to defend Your true believers everywhere! Smite the blasphemers, the evildoers, and all those whose acts harm Islam!”
The whine of an incoming missile could be heard, just an instant before it struck the motionless group of terrorists beside the trench. Body parts and blood spattered everywhere, staining the snow in a gruesome tableau.
“Let it never be said,” Q proclaimed with a grand gesture, “that Allah does not answer prayers appropriately.”
Another gesture silenced Osama bin Laden again, halfway through an elaborate curse involving Q’s mother and a leprous camel.
“I don’t think we’re going to get much information out of this berserker, Jean-Luc, do you? Fortunately, his crimes are sufficiently described in Earth’s history to permit the court to take judicial notice of them. To put it briefly, his glorious accomplishments include hijacking civilian airplanes and using them as missiles to strike office towers, also filled with innocent civilians.”
Q pointed in the direction of a clump of rocks not far away. Bin Laden suddenly appeared next to the rocks, seconds before another bomb struck the ground about twenty meters from him. The shock of the blast threw the terrorist to his knees, but he appeared unhurt.
“Tsk, tsk. My aim seems to be a bit off today,” Q observed.
With another gesture, Q transported Osama bin Laden to yet another rocky ridge just as a bomb hit that exact spot, vaporizing him instantly.
“Dead solid perfect,” Q crowed.
Picard’s lips tightened, but he said nothing.
“I know what you’re thinking, mon capitan. That instead of summarily executing this sack of dung, I ought to have turned him over to the authorities for a proper trial, in accordance with your lofty principles of justice.” Q smirked. “But you see, history records that his body was never found, and it wouldn’t do to change the timeline, after all. Terrible things start to happen when you change the timeline, as you will no doubt discover if your pitiful species survives long enough.”
Q paused for a moment as if reconsidering. “Of course, I did commit a slight error in courtroom procedure by not allowing cross-examination of that witness. If you wish to question him, I can resurrect him temporarily.”
The scene was already ghoulish enough, Picard thought, even without an attempt to question the uncooperative corpse of a resurrected terrorist. “That won’t be necessary.”
“Very well,” Q said. “The prosecution rests.”
He vanished and, now garbed in a judge’s black robes, reappeared almost instantly, seated on a nearby rock formation resembling a bench.
“The defense may present its case.”
Picard considered his next move. He could demonstrate the extent to which humans had evolved from savagery to civilization. He could show Q examples of truly heroic deeds, as well as of the myriad small acts of kindness and trust from which the fabric of human society was woven. But he had his doubts as to whether that would make much of an impression upon his self-appointed judge.
“I believe, Your Honor, that when the prosecution’s evidence is insufficient, the customary procedure is for the defense to request a judgment of acquittal at the close of the prosecution’s case.”
Whatever Q might have been anticipating, that wasn’t it. The smirk left his face as he replied, “The court will entertain a motion for acquittal.”
“Your Honor,” Picard continued, “is it not true that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the hijacking of travelers who had done him no harm, with hundreds of innocent civilian passengers aboard their craft, including children? For no reason other than his disagreement with their moral values?”
“As previously mentioned.” Q sounded impatient. “Surely you won’t try to argue that such acts are not among the most heinous of crimes?”
“I wouldn’t even think about arguing that.” Picard paused for dramatic effect. “However, it seems ironic that this is precisely what the Q Continuum has done to the Enterprise.”
Q shifted uncomfortably on the improvised bench, the robes rustling around him as if he were a large hen disturbed while brooding on its nest.
“The court will take the defense’s motion under advisement,” he huffed.
Later in sickbay, as Beverly Crusher treated the captain for a mild case of frostbite, she shook her head. “Osama bin Laden, huh? I remember writing a report on his crimes for history class. How did you ever manage to convince Q that the human race wasn’t deserving of destruction?”
“Let’s just say it had to do with the definition of terrorism.”