On a Lost Story
I have on my desk a composition book.
It dates to 2001. There are things in it like notes from that year’s Shore Leave, directions to my friend Jason’s house in Arlington, notes from the Electronics Boutique vendor show in Las Vegas that year. Random stuff.
It also has the first few pages of a Star Trek short story I wrote for the Strange New Worlds contest that year. I remember the story, but I don’t have the final draft any longer; it was lost thanks to a computer virus and I didn’t have a back-up.
Here’s how the first draft began:
“Memories of Tomorrow”
Looking out from his darkened cabin across the saucer, Jean-Luc Picard decided solitude suited him. In the week since the Enterprise‘s destruction on Veridian III and his crew’s rescue by the Farragut Picard had remained secluded in his cabin save for one brief visit by Deanna Troi and Beverly Crusher which ended with him ordering them to leave after they had tried unsuccessfully to assess his mental state. He had spent the five days since that obtrusive visit reading his antique edition of Shakespeare or studying the warp-smeared stars as they streaked past the Farragut, pondering the fate that lay in store for him, somewhere ahead, on Earth.
His reverie was broken by the unwelcome call of the door chime. He ignored it, continuing his survey of the stars, his heads neatly clasped behind his back. Twenty seconds later the door chimed again, and again Picard ignored its call, hoping that his visitor would realize Picard had no interest in receiving visitors and leave. This hope, however, proved incorrect as the door chimed a third time, and with a sigh of resignation Picard said, “Come.”
Picard did not turn from the window as he heard the doors swish open, his visitor enter, and the closing of the doors. The room stayed silent for several moments, until Picard broke the silence by saying, “Guina.”
Guinan came up beside him. “How did you know?”
He shrugged. “Any of the rest of the crew would have said something.”
“What about Data?” she asked. “Surely he could have stood by, saying nothing.”
Picard shook his head. “His emotion chip gives him a propensity towards babbling. He paused. “Only you could be content in silence.”
Guinan looked about the room. “Why keep the cabin so dark?”
Picard nodded towards the windows. “It makes it easier to see the stars. To see what lies ahead.”
“For yourself? Or for this ship?”
“For both.” He paused, then continued when Guinan didn’t press for an explanation. “Life is about moving forward, meeting one’s destiny, and confronting it. That destiny always lies ahead, for everyone.”
“Maybe,” Guinan said. “But that assumes that life is a linear progression, from one point to the next. You have personal experience that it’s not.”
Picard turned to look at Guinan, the first time since she had entered his cabin. “You mean the Nexus?”
“What happened to you there?” she asked, answering his question with a question.
“Don’t you know? You were there.”
Guinan nodded. “Partly. But I am also here, much more real than that shadow-self that you encountered within the Nexus. While that self may have been real to you, to me it exists more as a dream, and at best I get impressions of the Nexus from my other-self, not full-fledged experiences.”
“So,” Picard said, “you don’t know about our encounter in the Nexus?”
Guinan shook her head. “I know it happened. It know it was, for you, a decisive moment. Beyond that, I have only fragmentary images, like shards of glass. In time I might recall more, but even then those memories would be tinged with my own perspective, seen from the world I inhabited within the Nexus and not the world you created.”
“How can that be? You were there, in my mansion, in my vision. You were there.”
“No, you saw me there because that’s where you were. Not because I was there.”
Picard scowled. “But I saw Kirk’s cabin, I saw his uncle’s farm. I didn’t — couldn’t have — imagined those. They were his visions in the Nexus, not mine.”
“Jean-Luc,” said Guinan, “I don’t understand the Nexus, perhaps I never will. It’s one of those things that should just be accepted.” She paused and studied Picard’s face for a moment. “You’ve given this some thought, haven’t you?”
Picard nodded slowly. “I’ve wondered if all this –” he gestured expansively “–might only be another vision within the Nexus. That I imagined you, that I imagined James Kirk, that I imagined leaving the Nexus and returning to Veridian III. That everything I’ve experienced since entering the Nexus might be nothing more than another vision.”
“And if it is?”
“Then how can I ever be sure of anything? Descartes’ ancient dilemma of distinguishing dream from reality takes on new meaning, and if matters within the Nexus are merely dream within nested dream, the nothing is real. Nothing can be real!”
Some of this sets my teeth on edge, and I had to fight my urge to fiddle with the text as I typed it up. In my defense, this is a twelve-year-old handwritten draft. I’m a vastly different writer now than I was then. Notice I said different, I didn’t say “better.”.
Based on where this is in the composition book, I think it was written on the National Mall in mid-July 2001. After Shore Leave I went to DC for a few days to visit with friends, one of whom was having a birthday. My friend Jason and I went to see Shrek on that trip. I also spent a day at the Smithsonian, and I remember sitting on a bench near the Castle watching the world and writing.
These six handwritten pages did not lead into the phildickian territory suggested by the final paragraphs. Rather, it played out like the excretable Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Suspicions” — Guinan quizzes Picard about what happened in the Nexus and on Veridian III, specifically why Picard decided to leave the Nexus to go back to Veridian III, and Picard reveals a secret, that due to “All Good Things…” he has memories of his future and he was trying to prevent Kirk’s death. But as a result of his attempt to change the events he “remembered,” Kirk died in a different way and the Enterprise was destroyed. The idea, basically, was to offer some reasons why the future of “All Good Things…” didn’t come to pass.
Obviously, “Memories of Tomorrow” didn’t sell. I never sold a story to Strange New Worlds. Just as well.