- Text Size +

Story Notes:

This final story follows "Walls of Glass" in the Star Trek: Beyond series.

FAMILY ALBUM      By: M. C. Pehrson


The battered ore barge was a derelict from Alpha Centauri that, like the man serving as her pilot, had seen better days. Bearded and unkempt, he sat alone at the controls, for there was no one else aboard and that was exactly how he wanted it. The ragtag freight company had hired him with few questions. Though he had the look of a fugitive, he knew ships. That was all that mattered to them, but the loner had his own agenda. There was only one reason why he had applied for the job, and it wasn't money. It was this region of space.

Be very careful, his employer had warned. That strange energy flux is traveling through the sector. Avoid the Nexus at all cost.

Now, as the pilot detected the anomaly on a long-range scanner, his pulse quickened. Ever so gradually it formed on the viewscreen, writhing with hypnotic energy. The pilot's mouth tightened and his hazel eyes burned with a look of obsession. Though a repeating message from a buoy warned him off, he held to his course and checked his instruments for the location of the Starfleet science vessel monitoring the Nexus. After coming this far he could not risk a tractor beam, so he veered slightly, putting the energy ribbon between the two ships. 

All set now. His long journey was coming to an end, and a happy home awaited him. Home. The word brought a twinge of regret as he recalled another, faraway place back on Earth, and the family and friends he had left behind. But weren't they also right here before him? And so much better and so much more! Only someone who had lived in the Nexus could understand its allure.

With his gaze locked on the seething storm of energy, the pilot forgot everything else. He set the speed at full impulse power, and the barge hurtled closer and closer. His euphoria mounted as the energy began to buffet the old ship, setting off alarms.

Arms outstretched, he shouted a rapturous welcome to the roiling Nexus. "Here I am! Come and get me!"

The barge was breaking up, tearing to pieces around him, and he found it exhilarating. Cold space rushed in, but he felt the delightful energy grabbing hold and lifting him out of the mortal time-stream...

...He was running barefoot in a field of clover...a mere boy...and from a distance came the sweet, familiar voice of his mother. "Jim! Jimmy Kirk, where are you?"


Sixty-seven years later, Captain Jean-Luc Picard stood on a rugged hillside of Veridian III and sighted the Nexus ribbon swirling like an angry cloud in the east. His solitary struggle with Dr. Tolian Soran had been unsuccessful and there remained nothing more for him to do. The scientist's probe was already launched, and with the collapse of the nearby star, the Nexus changed course, bearing down on them. Atop the nearby hill, Soran jubilantly awaited its arrival. Like a great flaming cloud, it filled the sky. Jean-Luc's skin prickled with dread as the tendrils of energy seized hold and wrenched him into a strange new existence.

...He was blind, spinning around, dizzy.

Gradually the sense of rotation eased, and he became aware of a cloth on his face-a blindfold. As he cautiously removed it, his bewildered eyes settled on a lavishly decorated Christmas tree. With a joyous sense of wonder, he gazed at the lovely room in which he found himself. Somehow he recognized the charming, old-world furnishings and knew the children who came running to embrace him, for this was his home. This was the family that he-a lifelong bachelor-had only dreamt about.

"Father! Papá!" they cried, and the precious sound of their voices stirred bittersweet memories of his own boyhood.  

Papá. It was the name Jean-Luc had called his French stepfather at Chateau LaBarre. Prior to his twelfth year, Jean-Luc had lived happily with his parents in England. But when his British father died, his mother Yvette returned to her childhood home in France and lent a hand at the family winery. They were all Picards-all but Jean-Luc, who bore his father's surname, Hillyard. When his mother wed the head vintner, a distant cousin, it had seemed natural for Jean-Luc to adopt the family name. Despite such changes, he remained very British and even boarded at historic Eton until he was old enough to enter Starfleet Academy. Summers and holidays at the Chateau had been a trial, for he did not like his stepbrother. Robert thought him arrogant, and Jean-Luc considered Robert rough and uncultured. In private, Robert mocked Jean-Luc's British ways and ridiculed his yearning to explore space. It had taken many long years for the two of them to reconcile their differences. And now, Jean-Luc suddenly remembered, Robert and his son René had burned to death in a house fire. Only today he had received the tragic news, but how distant it all seemed...

Rising from his thoughts, he accepted a glass of wine from his beautiful wife. The children went to their presents. Ornaments on the tree sparkled like stars, candles glowed atop a dining table, and a mouth-watering aroma of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding drifted from the kitchen.

Young René Picard entered the room. René...alive and well! Overflowing with happiness, Jean-Luc hugged his nephew, then went to a window where the snow was drifting down peacefully. The scene was...almost...perfect.

Yet an inexplicable sense of displacement made him mutter, "This is not right."

Turning, he found a dark-skinned woman gazing at him.



From time to time Jim Kirk revisited his boyhood, but in actuality, time had no meaning here. He had shed the rough, bearded image of an ore barge pilot. Clean-cut and vigorous, he alternated between his beloved Starfleet uniform and clothes more suitable for other adventures. Life was perfect and there was no end to it. He wooed women, fathered children, and sent them off on careers of his choosing. His real-life children, Tru and Sam, always made him proud, and as many times as he repeated a scenario, each day seemed fresh and new.  

Now, awash in contentment, he breathed deeply of the fragrant mountain air before splitting some wood for the fire he would enjoy with Antonia this evening. He positioned a chunk of pine on his chopping block and picked up his axe. Strange, how good it felt swinging the blade. It struck dead center, as always. With a satisfying crack, the wood easily split and fell to the ground.


It did not take Jean-Luc long to ask Guinan, "Can I leave the Nexus?"

"You can go anytime, anywhere," she answered with the certainty of one who had found her own way out of the Nexus, long ago.

Though he did not understand the forces at work here, a wondrous feeling made him want to stay with his newfound family forever. But he knew that he couldn't stay. Lives depended upon him. He must return to Veridian III and keep Soran from launching the probe that destroyed the entire Veridian system. Only this time, he would bring help. Somewhere here in the Nexus was a man equal to the task-a famous man who had turned his back on reality in order to reclaim the pleasures of this place.

Jean-Luc had scarcely formed the thought when he found himself in a wooded mountain setting.

Thunk...thunk...thunk. The rhythmic sound drew him to a clearing. There by a rustic home, a solitary man was splitting wood. Silently Jean-Luc stared at the man's vintage Starfleet uniform. Then he caught a clear look at his face.

"Kirk!" he exclaimed aloud. "James T. Kirk!"

Jim heard a voice, and turning, discovered a slim bald stranger with a commanding presence. The stranger wore an unfamiliar uniform, but the insignia was that of Starfleet.

"Beautiful day!" Jim said in greeting.

"Yes," the man responded with a marked British accent. "It certainly is."

Jim hoisted the ax and nodded toward a pile of wood. "Would you mind?"

The stranger came over and positioned a round on the chopping block. Jim cleft it in half.

"Captain," the man spoke hesitantly, "I'm wondering...do you realize..."

An acrid odor caught Jim's attention. "Do you smell something burning?" Dropping the ax, he headed for the house, then paused to say, "Come on in. It's alright. I live here."

With a feeling of awe, Jean-Luc followed Kirk inside. Somehow he had to recruit him, but Kirk refused to stand still, bustling into the kitchen, fiddling with an antiquated toaster. Standing apart from the activity, he introduced himself. "I'm Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Enterprise. I'm from what you would consider the future-the 24th century."

A woman called from upstairs. "Come on, Jim, I'm starving! How long are you going to be rattling around in that kitchen?"

Kirk didn't answer her. Instead, he glanced at Jean-Luc. "What are you talking about? The future? This is the past...the day I..." His voice trailed off. He cracked peculiar-looking eggs into a pan.

Jean-Luc said, "We're caught up in some sort of temporal Nexus. You first came here as the result of an accident...when you were trying to save the Enterprise...but you somehow managed to get out. Don't you remember? Don't you want to go home again?"

"Home? This is home." The scrambled eggs went on a plate, alongside the toast.

Jean-Luc's thoughts strayed to his own endearing Nexus family. Fresh from the blissful Christmas scene, he could not imagine how Kirk could have deserted a real-life family to return here. Then he remembered Guinan. On the Enterprise, she had told him that at one time, even she would have done anything to get back into the Nexus.

He tried not to judge Kirk harshly. "Captain, look-I need your help. We have to go back to a planet-Veridian III. We have to stop a man called Soran. Millions of lives are at stake."

Carrying the breakfast on a tray, Kirk started upstairs. "I was like you once-so worried about duty and obligation, I couldn't see past my own uniform. And what did it get me?"

Frustrated, Jean-Luc followed Kirk. If he himself could resist the Nexus, why couldn't Kirk? "It seems to me that you abandoned duty and obligation toward your family in favor of your own selfish pursuits."

Kirk did not seem to be listening. "This time, I'm going to walk up these stairs and tell Antonia that I want to marry her."

"You did marry her," Jean-Luc informed him.

Kirk reached the bedroom door and swung it open. Together they entered not a bedroom, but a horse stable.

Kirk took the abrupt change of scene in stride. "This is my uncle's barn in Idaho. On the day I met Antonia, I took this horse for a ride. My legs were paralyzed then, but I still managed it, all on my own..." He smiled like a mischievous boy. "I always did find a way."

"What you did," Jean-Luc said with asperity, "was walk out on your wife and children. It's been almost seventy years. Do you have any idea what you've missed? Antonia is dead, as well as your son Sam. Your daughter Tru has grown old and you have scads of grandchildren you've never seen. How I would have loved a family of my own, while you...you had everything, but threw it all away."

Kirk sobered. Grabbing a saddle, he readied the horse and rode off. Jean-Luc quickly saddled another horse and went after him. As before, the mere desire to find Kirk seemed to bring them together.

Kirk sat atop his idle mount, looking back at a wide cleft in the ground. He said, "I must have jumped that fifty times-always thrilled the hell out of me, but not this time. Because it isn't real. Nothing's real, is it? Nothing here matters..." His voice dropped and he seemed to struggle with himself. "What have I done?" After a moment of silence, he spoke again. "You said my son is dead? Sam's gone?"

Jean-Luc nodded. "He served as a police officer in Chicago. He was killed in the line of duty. Come back with me," he urged. "Together, we can stop Soran. We can make a difference. Then you can go home to your daughter before it's too late."

"Tru," he said under his breath.

The horses shifted in the day's pleasant warmth and nibbled at the grass.

Now that Jean-Luc had Kirk's attention, he told him Soran's deadly plan to implode a planetary system's star in order to divert the Nexus and enter it.

Kirk said, "Why did this Soran go through so much trouble? Why take lives? All I sacrificed was an ore barge."

"Soran said the Nexus destroys ships."

"But it won't let you die; I'm proof of that...twice over. The Nexus plucked me right out of the damaged ships. This Soran may be bright, but he doesn't have the guts to risk his own life."

"He's deranged," Jean-Luc said, privately wondering at the state of Kirk's mind after so many years in this place. Would he be capable of meeting any real challenge?

Kirk studied him. "So you're the captain of the Enterprise. The odds are against us and the situation is grim. If Spock were here, he would..."

Jean-Luc interrupted. "I am acquainted with Ambassador Spock. He would expect you to set aside your personal comfort and rise to the occasion, as he has in his work among the Romulans."

Kirk's eyes widened. "Ambassador? Among the Romulans?"

Once more, Jean-Luc nodded. "In the real world, life goes on."

You must login (register) to review.