This fic was inspired by a post found on Kitty Unpretty’s tumblr (https://unpretty.space/)
The original post (which she reposted) is here: https://glumshoe.tumblr.com/post/616434540717670400/james-titbeauteous-kirk. The premise was:
i will kill a man just to see a Star Trek au fanfiction go on pause for half a chapter while somebody gets called over to the bridge, pauses the holodeck program that the au is being played out in, does the job they were called for, and then they come back and the fic keeps going as if that never happened.
The second thing that inspired the post was the song “Coffee Angel” on the album ‘Gravity & Grace’ (Kevin Fisher, writer), Tribe Productions 1997. To be found here: https://www.allmusic.com/album/gravity-amp-grace-mw0002389975
This has also been posted to my ao3 account: https://archiveofourown.org/works/23994367
Riker leaned forward and placed a finger across bearded lips to conceal his concern. “Less than thirty seconds to impact.”
The ensign at navigation was having far more trouble hiding their distress. “I’m trying the best I can sir, but it keeps compensating .”
Picard twisted to the side in his command chair. “Where in the hell is Commander Data?”
The doors to the turbolift whisked open. Data came in, moving with a precision and focus only an android could wield. The ensign fumbled his way out of the way as Data took control. His eyes darted over the instrument readings. “The object is using a D’jarbi-Bejan harmonics core, destabilizing subspace for over four hundred thousand kilometers. Compensating. Moving to a safe distance.”
The ship reacted with an almost audible whine and the bridge visibly relaxed as the object began to fall away from them. Data turned in his seat to face Command.
“Sir, may I suggest that a class two photon torpedo, modified with the equations entered into this console, will successfully detonate the object, removing it as a hazard to the sector.”
For a moment, there wasn’t an answer.
They were all trying to figure out why Data was wearing a tan, full length apron over his uniform, with a logo of a whale drinking coffee and the word “Pequod” proudly emblazoned across the whale.
Riker was, naturally, the first to comment. “Data. I…”
Data cut him off. “Captain, I apologize for my delay. I was taking recreation and the minimum direct distance between Holodeck 7 and the bridge took 2.7 seconds longer than anticipated.”
Picard waved off the explanation with a barely suppressed smile. “Recreation. Ah. Well, that’s fine, Data. I couldn’t have expected more. You were off-duty when this began.”
Data inclined his head. “With permission, sir, may I return to my previous activity?”
Picard nodded, perhaps a little more than he should have. “We seem to have wrapped up things here.” Picard looked around the room. No signs of distress. “You may retire if you wish.”
Data stood, took a moment to consider, and then turned to the ensign. “Please understand that your behavior was exemplary. This was an unprecedented situation.”
The ensign just nodded back. “Thank you, sir.”
Data then walked to the turbolift without further comment.
“What was that ?” Riker asked.
Picard pulled on his uniform to straighten it. He kept his gaze sternly ahead.
“We may never know.”
It was night shift.
Geordi was in the chair, contemplating the problem in front of him. Technically it wasn’t a first contact. The Gendarii had been encountered about a half-dozen times before. But they were a machine-organic hybrid that operated as a loosely-connected hive intelligence and right now there were six of their ships broadcasting across two thousand, four hundred and fourteen separate channels and they sounded agitated, but the universal translator was having a horrible time keeping up.
Communications shook her head. “Do you want me to rouse the Captain?”
Geordi shook his head. “No. We can handle this. Any word on Commander Data?”
The turbolift came open and Data walked in, balancing a perfectly foamed latte in a black ceramic mug in one hand. In the other was a PADD which had the history of the Gendarii, which he was quickly paging through. On the mug was the Pequod logo.
“My apologies for the delay, Geordi.”
Geordi gave the mug just the raise of an eyebrow and returned his attention to his friend. “No problem, Data. Do you think you can lend a hand sorting this out?”
Data handed the mug to the confused comm officer and requested her ear-receiver. Inserting it into his left ear, he contemplated the message for a moment and then began rapidly sorting through the messages. Even at his speed, it took him five long minutes to decode it.
Data straightened up and returned the receiver. He turned to Geordi. “Sir, the Gendarii are reporting a force-9 ion storm, originating from the Murasaki Sector, which will cross our current path in about two light years.
A look of shock crossed Geordi’s face. Above force-7, an ion storm could tear a ship apart. “Why haven’t our sensors picked up anything?”
“The Gendarii are currently engaged in something they call ‘The Migration’. While they will not provide details, it is apparent that they generate some sort of sub-space cloaking field to conceal their movements. At best, we would have recognized a small discrepancy in our navigation systems after we had passed them by.”
Geordi let out a small ‘hm’; “Which we probably would have relegated to a simple spacial flux or a small error in our own systems.” He thought about it a moment. “But what happened here? Why alert us at all?”
“They never expected to put anybody at risk of harm. We were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Geordi’s nod was brief and terse. “Helm, navigate us clear of the Murasaki sector, and log the storm and any information the Gendarii gave on its last reported position. Data, thank the Gendarii profoundly for their help and wish them– I guess ‘good luck’?– with their Migration.”
“I believe the term ‘safe traveling’, would be most appreciated.”
Geordi smiled “Then let’s do that.”
Data relayed the message as the course changed. The Gendarii vanished back into the dark.
Data recovered his latte from Communications and frowned.
“Is there a problem, Data?”
“This beverage is now 2.5 degrees cooler than optimal. I will have to make another.” He looked thoughtful. “Would you like it, sir?”
Geordi scratched the side of his head, puzzled. “Sure, Data. Thanks.”
Data gave him the latte and walked purposefully towards the turbolift. Geordi took a sip. “Data, this is delicious!”
Data turned, allowing just the hint of a smile, the appropriate response for praise. “Thank you, sir. I would like to think she would have liked it.” And without further explanation, he left.
When the day shift came, Riker found Geordi tapping on the empty mug. He raised an eyebrow and gave Geordi a look. Geordi smiled. “I have no idea.”
When Data arrived on the scene, he was still dripping wet. Doused even. And dressed in the apron again.
But Rythian psi-worms, mindless when separated but a hostile aggregate when joined together, wouldn’t wait for someone to dry off. They needed to be contained before they got in the Jeffries tubes, or before enough of them congregated to release those psychic waves of nightmare imagery they were so famous for.
Everyone with an esper level of 7.5 or higher, including Counselor Troi, had already been evacuated to the other side of the ship. Data, whose positronic brain was unaffected by the worms, was ideal for getting to those clumps which were becoming dangerous, while a dedicated xeno-zoological team, led by Beverly Crusher, were processing and separating the others.
She ran into him just as he was pulling apart two clumps to prevent re-integration.
“Data, you’re wet.”
“I am. I apologize if this is making the task more difficult.”
“No, you’re fine, but Data…” Beverly frowned, “– why do you smell like tea?”
“There was an incident with one of the 20 gallon iced brewing stations. It… complicated things.”
“I… see.” Beverly didn’t see at all. She help open a containment bag for the first handful. “And… everything’s okay with you?”
Data tilted his head with that distinct puzzlement of ‘why are you asking?’
“I am fine, Doctor.” He placed the second handful of worms in a second container. “And I hope all is well with you.”
Beverly nodded. “Yes, I…” she contemplated Data one last time. “Everything’s fine.”
She turned and left with the worms and a number of unanswered questions.
“Earl Grey, hot.”
Data looked up from the register. Captain Picard, dressed as private detective ‘Dixon Hill’ gave him the slightest of smiles.
“I hope I’m not disturbing you. I just wanted to see what was taking up so much of my senior officer’s time.”
“Your tea, sir. Do you want alta, sedici, or mondo? We also have vast, but I am afraid we have run out of one liter cups.”
Data moved from the register to the Bezzera and began the process of heating up the water for tea. Picard looked around at the very diverse clientele.
“So this is what you do. A coffeehouse. The perfect place to observe people at a distance. And on la Rue de St. Urbain. Vous avez beaucoup de clients francophones?”
Data pressed milk into the steamer, foaming it. “Quelques. I hope you do not mind an Earl Grey latte, sir. It is what is on the menu.”
Picard nodded his assent. The bells on the door chimed as someone entered. Data straightened, becoming fully alert. “She is here.”
Picard turned to see a woman come shuffling into the cafe. She had the hunted look of someone who expected to be judged and from the patchwork clothing she had on, and the almost black stains dotting her outfit, there was plenty for the more flush customers to judge.
She managed to find her way into a corner and pull up her purse. She rifled through it, looking for change, coming up with nothing.
Instantly, instinctively, Picard pulled away from the counter, intending to help. He was surprised to find his arm gripped tightly. He turned, concerned.
“Please sir. If anyone except me approaches her, she will leave.”
Picard gave Data a quick, confused, nod of confirmation.
“Your tea, sir.”
Picard took the tea and took a seat as close to the woman as he could without being conspicuous. The tea was an odd delight. Obviously lacking some of the subtler undertones found in naturally grown tea, it was an unusual combination of light spices that indicated a culinary expertise Picard wouldn’t have expected from his chief operations officer.
Picard noted the same mug in Data’s hand that he had left with Geordi. It was full now, exquisitely crafted foam topping a drink with notes of caramel. As Data approached the woman, Picard noticed him adopting an even more professional attitude, which struck him as odd, since wasn’t part of the point of this exercise learning more about humanity?
“Hello Kathee.” Data’s voice was softer than normal. “Kathee with two ‘e’s.”
“Hello, angel.” The woman smiled.
“I just had a customer turn this down. Would you like it?”
The woman’s eyes lit up, almost on the verge of tears. “I’d love it.” He set it in front of her and stepped back. She took the mug gently and took a sip. Her look was transcendent. Then, she let out a small bark of a laugh that caught the disapproving glance of a couple of customers.
To Picard’s surprise, Data glared them down. Kathee hadn’t noticed. She was wiping away a couple of tears and she sighed. “These mistakes seem to happen pretty often.” She tapped the cup. “When you’re around.”
“This cafe is very busy. It makes it statistically probable for more mistakes to occur. I am glad, though, that they do not go to waste.”
Kathee slapped the table lightly. “Well, me too, angel. Me too.”
That seemed to be it. Data went back to the bar and back to serving customers. The women seemed lost in thought. She drank the coffee, each sip bringing a smile to her lips. And then she left, slipped out without a word.
Picard got back in line to return his mug to the counter. Data took it without comment. Picard opened his mouth to say something, but it was cut off when the simulation suddenly shifted into an abnormally high speed.
Data frowned. There seemed to be a hint of sadness. “It is tonight.”
Picard looked around as the cafe cleared of people, pulling on coats and scarves. Every opening of the door let in a sharp cut of windy winter air. “What is tonight? What’s going on here, Data?”
Things slowed down. No customers, just a couple of staff, including Data. The rest were closing the place down and cleaning up. “It is set on a random timer. There is no way to anticipate it.” Suddenly, Data became animated. “Captain, I have to complete my tasks here or the scenario will abort, but you are not a part of this. Find her, please. Quickly.”
“Find who? Kathee? Data, what is going on?”
“There is no time to explain. She will be in a field. It is randomly placed so I do not know the exact location. Please find her.”
Picard shook his head and left.
The night outside was a killing cold and Picard pulled his lapels up against the weather. He wasn’t even sure what he was looking for. He went over the scenario so far in his head. Data assumed he had enough information to succeed so it had to be included in things he had already seen.
The time period. Somewhere between the twentieth and twenty-second century, probably closer to the former. The look of the people showed a disparity in society. Some people who had enough for a hand-crafted beverage; some who had to take what they got. Early 21st then or late 20th. Before the hard times taught people the lesson of taking care of one another.
In this age, they still allowed people to go without shelter. Given how the others were looking at Kathee, she was likely one without a home. That still left a lot of alleys to look through. But her clothes. The black stains. That indicated something possibly industrial.
It took him a little time to reorient around Montreal, to pick up where they kept maps and what they meant in the vernacular of the day, but he rapidly found the light industrial segment, within walking distance of the cafe.
Once there, no fires spotted. No human habitation. For a moment, he doubted his own assumptions until he saw it: a set of cardboard boxes, seemingly discarded but actually crafted into a very flimsy shelter.
He went over and checked inside. More boxes–used as pillows and blankets for a makeshift bed. Scraps of bread and wrappers with the distinctive whale emblem of the Pequod coffee chain. If she was not here, she would be nearby.
Then he spotted the field.
There was nothing to indicate that it was significant but based on Data’s information, he moved towards it swiftly. The stars glittered brightly in the crisp clear sky and a half-moon shone down to lend a glittery silver cast to everything.
She was in the middle of the field.
In the killing cold, dressed in only a patchwork.
Picard raced across the field to get to her. As he grew closer, he could see her mouthing a prayer: “Je prie Dieu mon âme de garder.” Again and again.
He knelt by her side; she was suffering from hypothermia. Had been for a while. “Reste avec moi, jeune fille.” He placed his coat on her.
Data was coming through the field quickly.
She saw him, through eyes clouding with death.
“Thank, you my angel.” She whispered. “Merci et bonne vie.”
Then she stopped. Picard closed her eyes for the last time.
For a moment Data’s expression seemed peeved, frustrated, until it dissolved into a resolved sadness.
“Is this how it always ends?” Picard’s tone was gentle.
“I know the obvious solution.” Data pursed his lips in irritation. “Confine her. Change society so that they will not leave her outside to have this happen.” He turned to Picard. “I cannot change the parameters like that.”
Picard stood up. “Then’s what the point , Data? Why do you keep going through this?”
“I would think that would be obvious, sir.” Data tilted his head. “For connection .”
Picard was frustrated, if only for a moment. ” For connection ?” And then it passed. “Of course. For connection. To connect with someone who is an outsider. Whose path, alone, will always lead to this. Oh, Data…”
Data looked down at Kathee’s body. “What did she say, Captain? At the end?” He looked back at Picard. “I always note that she is saying something but I can never make it in time to hear what she is saying.”
Picard looked down at Kathee. “She was praying. A children’s rhyme. ‘I pray the Lord my soul to keep.’ And then she thanked you, specifically. Her angel. Merci et bon vie . Thank you and good life.”
Data considered it. “I suppose she got her wish.” He looked to Picard. “I will close this down, sir. Thank you for coming to check on me.”
Picard hesitated, looking for something to say. For once, he had a loss of words, no way to bridge the gap and connect. Data understood the feeling.
Finally, he simply called up the holodeck arch and left, leaving Data to his task.
Data’s voice sounded firm and calm. “Computer, please save scenario tango-bravo-gulf 739159 and all accompanying parameters. Authorization, Data 0-0-0-3.”
He took one last look back at Kathee.
“Merci, Kathee. Merci et reposez-vous bien.”