The End is the Beginning


Outside Starfleet Headquarters, Jean-Luc Picard meets with his XO, Raffi Musiker, after the synth attack on Mars, where they discuss the ramifications of the attack. Musiker is optimistic that the evacuation plan for the Romulans can still be achieved if Starfleet were to create a new fleet of mothballed starships and reserve duty officers, alongside synthetic labor; however, Picard informs her that effective immediately, synthetic lifeforms have been banned throughout the Federation, that any existing synthetics are being dismantled, and that any further research into synths has been halted. Musiker does not buy the explanation that the attack was the result of a fatal code error, and suspects the Tal Shiar of sabotaging the synths, though Picard is skeptical that the Romulans would attack a fleet designed specifically to assist them.

Musiker remains eager to help the Romulans evacuate from the impending supernova, but Picard seems distraught. Asking about his distress, Picard informs her that the Federation has halted any further plans to lend assistance to the Romulans, and that many of them never wanted to assist the Romulans at all. Picard tells Musiker that he gave Starfleet a choice: to accept the revised Romulan evacuation plan, or to accept his resignation. Starfleet accepted his resignation, much to Picard’s shock.

Musiker remains adamant about acting, unwilling to accept that this is the end of their efforts, but Picard admits that he has run out of ideas for further action, and that he believes that mounting a multi-world evacuation of tens of millions of Romulans without Starfleet’s support would not be possible. Musiker insists that she cannot move forward without Picard’s help, when the CNC summons her. Realizing that she is about to lose her commission with Starfleet, she scolds Picard for giving up, and angrily leaves him, ignoring his calls to her.

Act One

At Vasquez Rocks, Picard and Musiker talk about Dahj and Soji and discuss the plan to find Bruce Maddox. Musiker seems noticeably uninterested and scolds him again, saying he has some nerve to come there, and that she had already heard of his plan from Fleet Admiral Clancy, and she sarcastically gives him advice not to tell the CNC of Starfleet about his unauthorized mission to find Maddox. She mentions the FNN interview which Picard dubs an “unmitigated disaster”, and rants about him living in a chateau while she’s living in a hovel. She mentions that since his resignation and her dismissal from Starfleet, the past fourteen years have been one big humiliation and rage, plus some snakeleaf-induced paranoia.

She continues her grievance by suggesting it would have been nice to hear from him for a reason other than finding a pilot for his mission, such as just checking in on her, because she was not doing well at all. She begins to break down in tears when she tells him that she lost her security clearance, but she is unable to finish. She springs off her chair with the bottle of Chateau Picard and leaves, warning Picard not to touch her. All Picard can do is watch, but he immediately gets up and calls out her name.

On the Artifact, a now fully liberated Hugh is watching Soji Asha speak to the nameless unconscious Borg in its native tongue. Intrigued, he pays Asha a visit, and commemorates her for her work, and for speaking to the unconscious “xB” in his language. Asha replies that it was Hugh that taught her that even in an unconscious state, that such words can be soothing to an individual. Hugh informs Asha that he’s granted her an interview with an xB by the name of Ramdha, and admits that after seeing her behavior earlier, it helped influence his decision, though he is curious as to why Asha is interested in interviewing Ramdha. Asha asks what Hugh knows about Ramdha prior to her assimilation into the Borg Collective, and asks if he has read her Romulan dossier. Hugh tells her he has not, before realizing that Asha has. He asks her how she managed that, and she replies that she merely asked to see it, noting that when she asks, people are happy to help her. Hugh replies it is usually the opposite for him, especially with Romulans. Asha says that Ramdha was an expert in Ancient Romulan Mythology, and notes that she wrote about evidence for a therapeutic utility of a shared mythical framework. Intrigued, Hugh grants permission for a thirty minute interview with Ramdha.

Back on Earth, Picard catches up with Musiker, and tells her that he understands her anger towards him. He admits that he disappointed her, neglected her, and wasn’t there for her when he should have been and apologizes for it. She only replies that she doesn’t care. However, when Picard once more brings up that there are indeed Tal Shiar operatives on Earth, and that they could not be there without some complicity from the Federation, she finally listens to what he has to say. Picard remembers that Musiker had always suspected the connections between the Romulans and Federation, but she says that those suspicions were only of the Mars attack. She elaborates that she doesn’t just assume such connections, but that she has concrete evidence that a high-ranking Starfleet official willfully allowed the attack to happen on Mars, and end the rescue mission. Picard remains skeptical that the Romulans would sabotage their own rescue, to which Musiker simply replies that is exactly what happens with a cover-up: they conceal their reasons. Picard responds that he wants her help because she is good at seeing the things that other people are unable to see in this manner. However, Musiker refuses, and says she will not get herself involved in this sort of thing with Picard again. Before Picard can try to convince her otherwise, she demands him to leave. As Picard begins to walk away, she looks back to him and says that she knows a pilot who she will have contact him. Picard thanks her, before leaving.

At the Daystrom Institute in Okinawa, Dr. Agnes Jurati is enjoying a picnic, and listening to opera through some ear buds, before she turns around to see Commodore ff, wearing shades, waiting for her to see her. She introduces herself as the director of Starfleet Security, and tells her she’d like to speak to her in regards to her recent visits with Picard.

Act Two

On the Artifact, Hugh and Asha are walking to the unit where Ramdha is being held. Hugh approaches a Romulan guard outside the unit, and informs him that Asha will be meeting with Ramdha. The guard says that she needs authorization, but Hugh replies that as his unit is operated but the Reclamation Project, he has granted the authority, as the project’s executive director. The guard grants them access without further protest, and follows Hugh and Asha into the unit which is full of Romulan xBs, all of which are busying themselves with certain simple tasks. Asking about it, Asha is told by Hugh that these are the only known Romulans to have ever been assimilated into the Borg Collective. They spot Ramdha at a nearby table, laying out a peculiar set of cards in a certain fashion. They approach her, and Asha greets Ramdha, who merely looks at them, before returning to her cards without a word.

Back on Earth, at her home, Musiker is sitting outside, looking at a particular file on a tablet, when she gets a call from Picard. Although she hesitates, she answers, and asks what he wants. He correctly guesses that she is researching what they spoke about earlier, though she denies it. He then sends her everything that the Daystrom Institute has on Bruce Maddox, before leaving her to continue with her work.

In orbit of Earth, the La Sirena beams Picard onboard into an empty transporter room. A few moments later, the ship’s Emergency Medical Hologram greets Picard, and leads him to the ship’s captain, Cristóbal Rios. Rios is smoking, and has a large piece of tritanium shrapnel embedded into his shoulder, which the EMH begins to treat as he and Picard introduce themselves to one another. Rios offers Picard a drink, which Picard politely declines, before telling Picard to sit anywhere. Rios asks Picard about where they will be going, since Musiker informed him that Picard wasn’t sure of their destination. Picard only responds that he’s working on it, and that he will want to leave as soon as possible. Asking if there will be any illegal activity, Picard only responds that he doesn’t know, but that he isn’t in the habit of consulting lawyers before doing what needs to be done. The EMH successfully removes the shrapnel from Rios’ shoulder, but is deactivated by Rios before he allows the EMH to patch his wound. Picard delves a bit more into Rios and his Starfleet history, in which Rios was a former Executive Officer aboard a cruiser called the ibn Majid; a ship that has since been stricken from Starfleet records. Picard notices a distinct bitterness from Rios in his attitude towards Starfleet, and tells Rios of his own falling out with Starfleet. Picard also notes the impeccable shape that the La Sirena is in, and that Rios has maintained and stowed everything in accordance with Starfleet protocol. Despite not knowing what happened with Rios in his past with Starfleet, or his old ship, Picard believes that Rios is still Starfleet to his core, to which Rios responds that is only his tragic sense of life. He also asks Picard to hire him or someone else, but to stay out of his head.

Meanwhile, Musiker has indeed continued to research Bruce Maddox’s location, and after a considerable amount of research, traces some quantum fingerprinting connected to Maddox originating on Freecloud.

Back on the La Sirena, the ship’s Emergency Navigational Hologram informs Rios that the ship’s navigation sensors are back at their maximum range, before inquiring about Rios and his encounter with Picard. The ENH begins to list off the achievements and commemorations that Picard had earned in his Starfleet career, and tells Rios that Picard is a good man, and that it’s been a long time since Rios has served with someone like him. Rios only laments that he does not need another grand heroic captain to work along side of, especially since the last time he had such a captain, he was killed, and that the death of this captain still haunts him.

Back at Château Picard, Picard and Laris stand outside, where Picard is reminiscing the familiar scents of the harvest season. Laris asks if he will miss it, to which Picard says that he will miss her, Zhaban, and Number One, but that despite trying his best to belong at the château, that he never truly felt at home. Laris only responds that she supposes that Picard always kept one eye on the stars.

Act Three

Hugh and Asha continue to watch Ramdha arrange her cards on the table, and discern the meanings of certain symbols shown on each card. Soji sees a symbol for a door, which Hugh clarifies as meaning “shaipouin,” or “false door,” fitting with traditional Romulan housing, which feature a false front door which is never used. Asha then sits behind Ramdha, and asks for entry to Ramdha in Romulan. Ramdha doesn’t take her eyes from the cards, and continues to lay them out, but finally invites Asha to join her at the table.

Back at Château Picard, Zhaban is giving Picard the last of his supplies, when the household is suddenly attacked by the Zhat Vash. Immediately taking cover, the Romulan assassins make their way into the house, and are fought by Laris, Zhaban, and Picard. Laris and Zhaban are successful in defending Picard as they fight the intruders off, successfully stunning many agents. After seemingly dispatching with every assassin, and making sure everyone is alright, another assassin charges into the house, only to be killed by Dr. Jurati, who seems mortified by the entire scene. Picard settles her down and comforts her as Laris and Zhaban restrain one of the unconscious assassins for interrogation. Jurati tells Picard of her conversation with Commodore Oh, and how Oh had inquired about why Picard had come to visit her at the institute. She reveals that she told Oh why he had come to her, and that she felt it was important to tell Oh the truth. Jurati tells Picard that she did not tell Oh one thing. Before she can say what this is however, the assassin that Laris and Zhaban have restrained awakens, and Picard goes to question him. Picard asks the assassin why the Tal Shiar are on Earth, and if he himself is of the Zhat Vash, and promises that if he answers the questions, Picard will have him released. The assassin is silent, and Zhaban remains skeptical that an interrogation will be successful. Picard asks why the Zhat Vash killed Dahj Asha, to which the assassin only responds by saying that Dahj was not a girl. Picard asks for help in understanding everything that’s happening, and the assassin says that she is not what Picard thinks she is, and that he will not find her before the Zhat Vash do. He calls the other sister the end of all; the Destroyer, before he bites down on a capsule and spits acid on Zhaban. While Zhaban is successful in quickly taking off his coat before the acid can hurt him, the assassin disintegrates before he can say another word.

On the Artifact, Soji begins her interview with Ramdha, though she seemingly gains little progress in speaking to Ramdha. Hugh tells her that Ramdha is known for having both good days and bad days. Soji asks about Ramdha’s cards, which she calls pixmit, asking if Ramdha tells fortunes with them like a mandala. She asks if each symbol has a certain connection to Romulan mythology, however at the word, Ramdha expresses disliking of the term, and refers to the cards as the news. The concept intrigues Soji, who shows huge interest in the idea that she is able to express her trauma in such a manner that is rooted in deep archetypes, but still relevant. Soji expresses that she hopes to succeed in a similar fashion with her own work. At this, Ramdha gazes at Soji, visibly disturbed, and says that she knows her, and that she remembers Soji from tomorrow. Soji is confused by what she means, and asks her what she was doing. Soji tells Ramdha that she was onboard the very last ship the Shaenor, the Artifact assimilated when it was a part of the Borg Collective, shortly before the cube’s submatrix collapse. Hugh seems confused as to how Soji would know this information. Soji asks Ramdha if she knows what happened, but Ramdha completely ignores the question, instead focusing on another of her cards. Ramdha asks Soji which sister she is, the one who dies, or lives. Ramdha then grabs the disruptor of a nearby guard, and aims it at Soji, fearfully saying she knows who she is, identifying Soji as “Shen-Cheneb”, the Destroyer. Ramdha then aims he disruptor at her own head, but before she can fire, Soji rushes to her side and disarms her. Hugh immediately calms Ramdha, and settles the situation, while the other Romulan xB’s in the room eye Soji in a fearful manner, much to her confusion.

Act Four

Distressed at the scene that had just occurred, Soji calls her mother and asks if Dahj is alright, to which her mother responds that Dahj is fine. While her mother talks about what Dahj is up to, Soji seemingly becomes exhausted and falls unconscious while her mother continues to speak.

Later, she is awakened by Narek, who has come to her quarters after hearing what had happened. Asking about it, Soji expresses confusion as before the interview, she didn’t recall ever hearing about the Shaenor, or knowing that Ramdha had been onboard the ship. She merely attributes this to the fact that she must have learned of the fact through one of the many unclassified documents about the Artifact. When she asks Narek if he believes her, she whispers in her ear that he believes he’s falling in love with her, before they embrace each other.

Leaving her quarters, Narek meets with Narissa Rizzo in a hall, taking him by surprise. Rizzo is no longer undercover, and can smell that Soji has been very close with Narek, calling the scent carnal. She asks Narek what Soji has told him, to which Narek tells her that he’s been told nothing, and that while he’s unsure, he believes Soji has no idea of what she truly is, and after the incident on Earth, he believes it’s best that she remain unsure of what she is. Rizzo realizes that the incident on Earth was a miscalculation, which is why she lets Narek continue with his own approach, but warns him to watch his feelings with Soji, before leaving him.

Back at Château Picard, Dr. Jurati informs Picard that the one thing she didn’t tell Commodore Oh was that she would be joining Picard in his search for Dahj’s sister. Picard then gets a call from Rios earlier than he expected. Rios tells him that his sources have told him that this mission is about to get hot, to which Picard says that it’s already hot. Jurati makes her case to join, the she sees Dahj and her sister as a miracle that she needs to see for herself, and promises to earn her keep. Convinced, Picard and Jurati beam to the La Sirena.

Onboard, Picard is shocked to see Raffi onboard as well, and realizes that she was the source that Rios had spoken of. Raffi tells Picard that she’s found Maddox, and tells Picard on the promise that he takes her with him to Freecloud. Picard at first is happy to have her join them, but Raffi clarifies that she’s not joining him, and that once they reach Freecloud, she will separate from them. Jurati asks Raffi why she wants to go to Freecloud, and Raffi treats Jurati with suspicion, and scolds Picard for letting her join when she wasn’t able to run any security background checks on her. Picard asks why Musiker wants to go to Freecloud, and she refuses to answer. Rios simply asks if they can get underway, and they all take their positions. Picard smiles and gives his familiar “Engage” command, and the La Sirena heads to Freecloud at warp speed.