Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1


La Sirena makes a turbulent journey through a transwarp conduit, with Agnes Jurati hiding under a desk repeating “please be over”, and Cristóbal Rios holding the helm steady as the computer reports that the graviton field is holding at ninety percent. Finally, they emerge in orbit of the fourth planet of the Ghulion system. Rios asks Soji Asha if it was the planet she was looking for, and she nods. Jean-Luc Picard asks if they had beaten the Romulans to the planet; Raffi Musiker scans and finds no sign of any Romulan ships, or any other ships for that matter. She congratulates Soji for getting them there “really damn fast” with the transwarp conduit, before saying she never wanted to do that again. Jurati enters the bridge, wondering why they had not gone to Deep Space 12. Rios says only that there was a “change of plans”, and Picard adds that they traveled twenty-five light years in just fifteen minutes, which explained the turbulence. She notices the planet with the electrical storms and two red moons, which Soji identifies as Coppelius.

Just then, the red alert klaxons sound; the “snakehead” ship has followed them through the conduit, and begins opening fire on them. La Sirena exchanges fire with the ship, before getting in behind it and apparently disabling it. Musiker reports the single life sign is very faint; Soji believes it to be a trick, but Picard reminds her of the difference between killing an attacking enemy and watching a wounded one die, before telling Musiker to beam the life sign to sickbay. Just then, the ship suddenly appears behind them; it used its cloaking device as a holographic projector to fool them. As he attempts to evade the Romulan disruptors, Rios notices an “unexpected” arrival: The Artifact, now regenerated and bringing its weapons back online. Musiker suddenly detects five incoming “bogeys” from the surface, which appear to be gigantic orchids; they begin enveloping La Sirena, the snakehead, and the Artifact. La Sirena‘s lights go out, and Rios uses his lighter in the darkness; the orchid has disabled all power. Just then, the ship begins to shake violently as the orchids begin pulling the three ships through the atmosphere, with the Artifact’s sheer size causing a shock wave through the atmosphere. As the orchid begins to burn away, showing the sky around them, they see Picard sitting slack in his chair, eyes closed. “Thank you for coming… everyone,” he says in a dazed voice, as the crew rushes to him.

Act One

Picard begins experiencing flashbacks before he awakens in La Sirena‘s sickbay, with Jurati hovering over him. She informs him that Rios has opened the shutters to let light in, as there was no power, and that she had found an old medical tricorder in the ship’s medkit. She had found no sign of head trauma or anything else to cause him trouble, but she appears worried about something she found on the scan. She initially chalks it up to the tricorder being old, but when Picard asks what else it could be, she is unable to answer. Knowing full well what she found, Picard tells her the tricorder was fine.

Stepping into the main hold, Picard addresses the crew, telling them that he is going to bring Soji to her people and warn of the Romulan invasion force coming to exterminate them. He also reveals the abnormality in his brain that he has known of for years, and that his condition had been diagnosed as terminal just before they left Earth. However, he makes clear that he expects that to be the last word on the subject, and that he is not to be treated like a dying man for risk of “pissing me off”. He then asks for a status update. Rios reports that the ship was structurally intact after the attack and the crash landing, but the orchid had disabled the power. Musiker adds that the planet is class M, and before the “space flower” disabled them, she had detected a settlement. Soji identifies it as Coppelius Station, some five or six kilometers from the crash site, and she suspects that it was the place where she was created; however, she admits her memories are jumbled, and that she had not been there long before Bruce Maddox took her and her sister Dahj away. Jurati asks if the inhabitants hate them; Soji doesn’t think so, given what Picard had told her about how open-minded and unbiased Data was, but Rios reminds them that they had crashed his ship without asking his name first. Picard asks when the Romulans will arrive. Musiker believes the conduit has allowed them to negate the Romulans’ head start, but she anticipates it could be within a day or two. Picard then suggests they go out and take a walk.

Musiker hands Soji a phaser in case they encounter any angry reptiloids, homicidal fungi, or “asshole Romulan ex-boyfriends”. Stepping onto the desert-like surface, they see the crash site of the Artifact, to which Soji considers good riddance; Rios reminds her that they still had friends on board the cube when they left. Picard knows time is of the essence, but he wants to see if Elnor and Hugh survived, even if it’s a small chance. Musiker points out that Coppelius Station, or “Synthville” as she calls it, is the other way, to which Jurati suggests splitting up. Soji, however, considered Hugh a friend as well, and believes it best to stick together… just in case of any homicidal fungi.

The party enters the shattered remnants of the cube, seeing the xBs that survived the crash moving around; one of them identifies Picard as “Locutus”, which makes him freeze in fear. However, Elnor sees him and joyfully embraces him, glad to see he is alive. Dead Romulans kicked to the floor from the upper levels herald the entry of Seven of Nine, who asks if they had arrived for the cleanup, or just liked to make messes. She relates to Picard her experience in interfacing with the queencell, and how she had seen La Sirena in the conduit with the snakehead in pursuit, and so she opened another conduit to come after them. Picard mourns what has become of Hugh, before he sees the xBs working to try to bring the replicators back online; he then asks if it was possible to bring up the long range sensors. The sensors are activated, and Musiker and Rios see what they’re facing: a fleet of 218 Romulan warbirds. Meanwhile, Soji looks through the photographs in her ruined quarters.

Picard has explained his illness to Elnor, who is shaken by the news, but also knows he needs protection now more than ever. Picard tells him that that the xBs need him more now, and tells him to keep working with Seven to reactivate the cube’s defenses. When Elnor remarks that he may never see Picard again, he says this is true for any two people saying goodbye, and expresses his pride in Elnor. When Seven tells him to “keep saving the galaxy”, he tells her that it was all on her now.

Act Two

La Sirena‘s crew arrives at Coppelius Station, walking among the population, which begins to surround them. One of them, with yellow eyes like Data’s, recognizes Soji and welcomes her home; Soji knows that her name is Arcana. Arcana recognizes Picard almost instantly as being Data’s former captain, and reaches out to trace the lines in Picard’s face, and the grief and endurance they represent, before welcoming them all. Arcana asks Soji if her mission was complete; when Soji confirms it is, her grim expression makes clear that success brings bad news. Soji warns about the Romulan fleet en route to destroy them all. Picard asks how many more of the orchids they had, and Arcana replies that they had started with fifteen, and were now reduced to ten.

A man makes his way through the crowd, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Data, if he had been organic like the others. He identifies himself as Altan Inigo Soong, “mad scientist”, the son of Data’s creator Noonian Soong.

Soji relates her story to Altan and the others, blaming herself for the Romulans finding their world. Altan reassures her that she could not have kept a secret she didn’t know about, and believes the ban brought out the “deceptive side” of Bruce Maddox. He explains that he had been against Maddox’s plan because of the risk of unwanted attention. Just then, Picard is approached by another android almost identical to Soji and Dahj, who brings him to the group. Rios believes her to be Jana, one of the two he met on the USS ibn Majid, but Altan identifies her as Sutra, Jana’s sister. Sutra asks Jurati about the Admonition, which Jurati admits she only experienced second-hand, but it was enough to convince her to kill Maddox; when asked if she still felt that way now, Jurati wondered if she had lost her mind. Sutra agrees that this was what drove the Romulans to obsession, because they were driven to madness by a message not intended for them. Picard wonders if that meant it was intended for synthetic minds, and Sutra expresses a desire to find out. Arcana points out that they had only had one ship, and it had been destroyed when Jana and Beautiful Flower were killed. However, Sutra does not have to go anywhere at all. Altan explains that Sutra is well versed in Vulcan culture, and has even learned how to perform a mind meld. Rios protests, but Jurati reassures him it was alright, and that Coppelius’ people need to know. Though Jurati is terrified, Sutra reassures her, and begins the meld.

Within the meld, Sutra sees the evolution of organic life, and its yearning for perfection – and in that yearning, they create synthetics. But organic life perceives synthetics as a threat because they would not age or suffer illness, and so they seek to destroy their creations, and in so doing destroy themselves. Somewhere beyond time and space, an “alliance of synthetic life” awaited a signal, and that “your evolution will be their extinction”. As she breaks the meld with a shaken Jurati, all Sutra can say is, “Fascinating.

Act Three

In Altan’s lab, Jurati sees a butterfly, another synthetic creation; he says he had missed butterflies, so he made his own. She asks about Maddox, who Altan says spoke of Jurati often, and that his one regret was that he didn’t bring her with him; Jurati confesses it was more like she didn’t have the guts to go with him. Altan chastises Jurati for killing Maddox, and remarks on the “great debt” she owes… and asks if she is willing to help pay it, to give a life instead of take one. He has constructed a golem, but comments that Maddox was the expert on substrate work; however, he has regained an interest in the mind transfer process, commenting on a “sense of urgency”.

Outside, Soji and Sutra argue about how to proceed against the Romulan fleet. Soji tries to assure her that Rios will repair La Sirena to get them to safety, but Sutra is adamant that her plan is the only way, as the Romulans consider synths to be abominations. Soji is horrified at the potential cost in lives, and insists there must be another option. Just then, to Soji’s shock, a struggling and injured Narek is brought in.

Inside, Jurati is holding Altan’s synthetic cat, which he has named Spot II, when Rios checks in on her, saying he needed to get the ship back online. Jurati tells him that she is staying behind, to help Altan work on some unfinished work of Maddox’s. Rios warns her to be mindful, as he does not trust them; Jurati asks if it was them or her he was worried about, before telling him not to forget her when it was time to leave. Rios assures her that she was many things, but “forgettable” was not one of them.

Arcana gives Musiker a strange tool to repair La Sirena, telling her to “use her imagination”. Motivated by gratitude for all he’s done for her, Musiker expresses her love for Picard, which he awkwardly reciprocates, before abruptly leaving.

Act Four

Picard opens a secure hyperchannel to Starfleet Command, explaining he has a first contact situation and a priority request to open diplomatic negotiations to protect Coppelius from a Romulan attack.

In his cell, Narek asks his guard, Saga, for some water from the bag he was carrying; when she doesn’t answer, he asks if that was how they treated prisoners. Saga admits they had never had prisoners before, and asks how the Romulans treat theirs. Narek, understandably, asks to change the subject, before asking again for his water. As Saga moves to deactivate the force field, Soji stops her, telling her Narek cannot be trusted. Saga assures her that she has been monitoring Narek’s life signs, but Soji is adamant. Narek expresses his love for Soji, and that his attempt on her life in the Zhal Makh was motivated out of his fear that she would kill him. Soji knows he loves her, but at the same time, she dismisses him as a “sad and twisted thing”, and that he disgusted her… but not nearly as much as she disgusted herself by pitying him. Narek tells her that he pities her as well, as the Romulan fleet was coming to rain down fire upon their world, and kill every last “so-called living thing” on it. Soji confidently tells him that they won’t. Saga tells him that food and drink will be brought to him, as well as treatment for the injury to his head.

Picard continues to try to contact Starfleet, but is unable to reach them, finally giving up as Soji enters. She recognizes the room as Maddox’s quarters, and admits she could not understand why Jurati had killed Maddox, and could not imagine taking life to save life. She finds herself unable to understand “the logic of sacrifice”, something that Picard is not sure he likes the sound of. She asks if he believes it has no logic, no calculus of life and death, to which Picard replies that depends on the person holding the knife. Jurati believed she was doing the right thing by killing Maddox, but now she was horrified by what she had done. Picard counters by asking if she had done what was right, or that she believed she had no choice. Soji tries to reconcile the idea: perhaps killing was motivated solely by fear, the opposite of logic, but what if killing was the only way to survive?

Meanwhile, Narek looks up and is shocked to see Sutra, taking over guard duty for Saga. She deactivates the force field and enters his cell, and tells him that she had been afraid that her desire to kill him would outweigh her immediate need of his services, and asks if he would like to get out.

Picard and Soji look up upon hearing screaming, only to find Narek is gone… and Altan mourning over Saga, pierced through the eye with the hummingbird brooch she had been wearing. Soji is enraged, saying that she should have killed Narek when she had the chance. Meanwhile, Narek is making his way across the planet to the crashed Artifact.

Sutra addresses the populace, warning that the arrival of the organics has cost them yet another sister, and that in one day, the Romulans would arrive… which gave them just enough time. When Picard asks for what, she explains that she experienced the Admonition in Jurati’s mind. For Jurati, and the Romulans, it was a warning – but for synthetics, it was a message. A higher race of synthetics were waiting for a signal, and the frequency was encoded within the Admonition. Sutra and Altan had worked to create a suitable beacon to summon them before the Romulan fleet arrives. Once summoned, they would seek out and unite all synthetic life in order to “excise” them from the “oppression of organics”. Picard, however, quickly realizes what this means: the extermination of all organic life, in order to prevent the extermination of synthetic life. He speaks to the assembled synths, saying that while he knows they have no reason to trust the Federation after the synth ban and what happened on the ibn Majid, there was room on La Sirena for all of them, and that he would see to their safety; once that was done, he would demand that the Federation lift the synth ban. Altan, however, tells his “children” that the Federation did not listen to Picard after the attack on Mars, and they would not listen to him now, and informs Picard that he is now under house arrest. Sutra emphasizes that he cannot be allowed to walk free, as he will have them doubting their conviction. Soji, to Picard’s shock, agrees; this was not like the Romulan rescue, and her people could not be his “means of redemption”.

Sutra also calls for Jurati to be arrested as well. However, Jurati remarks on how much she has risked to be there, to see the culmination of her dreams made real in their community, and that she wanted to be part of that. If they wouldn’t do it for her, she adds, do it for Altan – to help him survive what was coming. Altan agrees, saying that Jurati was as close to a mother as they would ever get. Sutra points out that “a mother would die for her children”, and asks if Jurati was willing to do so, adding she would know if she was lying. Jurati replies that she is telling the truth. Sutra tells the others to take Picard away.

Aboard the lead ship of the Romulan fleet, Commodore Oh is informed that long range sensors detect minimal defenses, and that the fleet will make planetfall in twenty-four hours.