"I sense nothing unusual, Captain," Counsellor Troi said. "It's almost as if there's nothing there."
"Explain," said Picard with practised irritation.
"If I may make a suggestion, sir," said Data from his position at Ops. "Perhaps that is because there is nothing there."
"Sir," Riker began, "we've been patrolling this sector for a week, and have found nothing." It was part of the first officer's job to state the obvious and point out what everyone already knew.
"Nothing to write home about," Data interjected.
"Pardon?" asked the captain, turning to face the android.
"Slang, sir." came the reply. "I trust I have used it correctly?"
No answer was expected, and none was given. Every officer returned to his or her contemplation of the view screen, except the two at the back. They were poking imaginary buttons on their consoles in an attempt to look busy.
"I've got to find a way to boost engine efficiency!" Geordi LaForge cried in an exasperated tone. "It's only 115% above normal operating capacity!"
"Sir," Ensign Wesley Crusher said, "I think I know a way. All we have to do is re-align the power couplings like this, re-direct the anti-matter flow to the port nacelle, build three more power conduits, and access panel C-473 in Jefferies tube L-298 at junction 4A. There, we have to re-program the ship's replicator circuits to serve only Feline Supplement 23 and Tea, Earl Grey, Hot. Then all we need to do is re-configure the power grid to these complex parameters which only I am smart enough to understand."
"You know," murmured an awed Geordi as he stared at the diagrams Wesley had produced, "It just might work. But we had better erect a level 10 force-field around the warp core in case our tampering and jury-rigging causes a containment breach in the matter/anti-matter reactors."
"Yes sir," Wesley replied, and they went rushing off in opposite directions to start working.
Back on the bridge, no one had moved a muscle, except Troi. She had to check her hair at intervals. Data was doing complex and pointless calculations on his console. He hadn't moved a muscle either, since technically he didn't have any. The beeping buttons used for calculating made him sound busy. Other than that, the only sounds were the annoying beeps made by useless consoles. Picard would have had them removed long ago, for sanity's sake, but they were standard equipment on Starfleet vessels. No alien would want to take over a ship that made such irritating noises. By now, however, all of the bridge officers were immune to the effects. Starfleet training at its finest.
"Doctor, shouldn't you be in sickbay in case there's a medical emergency?" Picard inquired of Crusher. "Someone might stub their toe on an invisible lump caused by an imaginary spacial anomaly."
"Yes sir," she answered. "Actually, Ensign Boralis is scheduled for extensive surgery to remove a small sliver from his left thumb." With that, she stood and left the bridge.
"Captain, request permission to walk around in the corridors in case something unusual is waiting to be found," Data asked. "I might be able to find that imaginary anomaly you mentioned."
"Good idea, Data," Picard replied. "Permission granted."
On cue, a Replacement Ops Officer walked out of the turbo-lift to take Data's station when he left. Replacement Bridge Officers were standard equipment on starships, and could appear out of the figurative woodwork in any situation. They appeared most often when a bridge officer went on an away mission, of course, but they were for other occasions too.
Data's aimless wandering took him past sickbay just as Ensign Boralis was leaving after his surgery. As Boralis reached the doorway, his skin began to glow. Data stopped and looked at him, intrigued.
"Ensign, your epidermis just luminesced. You have not been making any unscheduled trips to the Delta Quadrant without proper authorization, have you?" Data asked the glowing ensign. "Perhaps it would be best to return to sickbay so the doctor can perform many useless scans."
"Yes sir, right away." Boralis replied. He turned around, took one step, and the sickbay doors hissed shut behind him. Sickbay again.
The large sickbay was empty except for medical staff, and of course, Boralis. Doctor Crusher and Nurse Ogawa stood over a bio-bed. From where he was standing, Boralis couldn't see who was on the bed, but since the two were obviously busy, he sat on another bed to wait.
"Twenty cc's cordrazine!" Crusher ordered. Nurse Ogawa grabbed the first hypospray she saw, which of course held exactly what Crusher wanted. She then glanced at the monitors.
"Still no vital signs," Alyssa reported.
"Thirty cc's," Again the blind grab, again the right hypospray.
"No response," Alyssa said.
"Neural stimulator. Now!"
Curious, Boralis approached the bio-bed. It was empty. That explained the lack of vital signs. He sighed sympathetically. It must be very hard to revive an imaginary patient. Crusher heard him sigh and turned.
"You're glowing again," she stated. "Let's run some more scans."
Crusher and Boralis both knew that the scans were unnecessary. His species glowed at intervals of exactly 12.486 hours. It was a cleansing cycle, so they never had to shower. A lack of glow would have warranted scans, but right now, the scans would give them both something to do.
Back in the corridor, Data continued his aimless wandering. He walked quickly, looking straight ahead as if he was on an errand of utmost importance. Other officers passed him at exactly the same pace. Starfleet regulations. All officers must appear to be occupied at all times. Only civilians and off-duty officers were permitted a leisurely pace. Those of lower rank were also generally expected to nod to their senior officers.
Unconsciously, Data's positronic mind had mapped out the most efficient way of passing every room on the ship. His feet had now carried him to Ten-Forward, which was where his friend Guinan was to be found. She was always there, unless she was off giving advice to someone, but she never slept. She had to be available to advise the captain or Data at any hour. The doors hissed open as he approached them, and he would have walked straight to the counter, except that Guinan was near the window. He altered his course accordingly.
Guinan was exercising her amazing talent of looking busy while doing nothing but staring out the window at passing stars. Ten-forward was empty of patrons at this time of day, so she didn't really have anything to do. She sensed Data's approach, and turned.
"Hello, Data," she said in her famous calm quiet tone. "What can I do for you?"
"I am looking for an imaginary anomaly," was Data's reply. "Have you seen one?"
"Yes and no," Guinan answered cryptically. "It depends entirely on your definitions of 'imaginary' and 'anomaly'. Scientifically, no, I haven't. What about you?"
Data would have been surprised if he had been capable of it. Guinan seldom answered a question with anything less than a riddle. Despite that, he decided a response was in order. All of this passed through his positronic brain in a fraction of a nano-second, and in another half-nano-second he had formulated an appropriate reply. Guinan didn't notice the pause.
"Not so far, but I still have 32 decks to visit. There is an extremely minute possibility that I may find what I am looking for."
"You know, Data," Guinan said thoughtfully, "I think you already have." And with that, she went back to her contemplation of the infinite diversity of space. Data took her cryptic comment to be an end to the conversation, and departed.
"I'll be in my ready-room. Commander, you have the bridge," Picard stated some time later. Without waiting for the nod of response, he stood, straightened his tunic with the famous "Picard Maneuver", and went to his ready-room.
Livingston swam idly around his fish-bowl. The view of the stars was dizzying at warp. As he watched, Picard entered the room and headed straight for the replicator. Tea, Earl Grey, Hot, the lionfish thought to himself. That was exactly what the Captain ordered. Livingston would have rolled his eyes if he could have. How predictable. He let out a bubbly sigh.
Picard was sipping his tea when he heard the door chime. He put down the blank padd he had been pretending to read. "Come!" he called.
The door hissed open, and Data entered. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
Picard hadn't been expecting the android, but protocol required the question. "Yes, of course. Sit down," he said, indicating the chair across from him. Data sat.
"I have nothing to report, sir," Data reported. "I have found nothing of interest whatsoever."
"I'm sure there wasn't anything," Picard reassured him. "I know you used the most efficient search pattern." He sighed in disappointment, but quietly. Even Data's advanced auditory sensors barely heard it.
"Yes, sir. I did."
"Thank-you, sir." The android stood and returned to his post on the bridge. Livingston sighed again. The captain ignored him.
In the meantime, Geordi LaForge and Wesley Crusher had completed their modifications, and engines were running at 125% above normal. Now they were bored again. The procedure had turned out to be irritatingly simple, and no critical conditions had occurred. The warp core was still intact, and the plasma manifolds weren't emitting steam. Geordi sighed. Problems that endangered the ship were SO much fun. Oh well, he thought. Maybe next time.
Spot sat in her quarters grooming herself. She was exceedingly well behaved when she was alone. There was no point in lying on Data's workstation if he wasn't there and trying to use it. Hiding behind the furniture was no fun if Data wasn't there to try and play with her. How boring. And she had finished eating the Feline Supplement 23 Data had left for her.
The catnip mouse lay forgotten in the middle of the floor. Since it didn't move on its own, it wasn't worth the effort of playing with. All of her toys were boring. None of them moved by themselves, and they were all boring, traditional cat toys. Spot wanted a real mouse to play with. Or her own workstation. No one considers the cat, she muttered to herself.
"Red Alert! All hands to battle stations!" Lt. Reginald Barclay sat up. Another dream. The door chimed again. That must have been what woke him up.
"Uh, c-come in," he stuttered. It was Lieutenant Worf. "Y-yes sir? C-c-can I, uh, h-help you?"
"No," came the ruff reply. "Not unless there's a problem you need my help with. I am not required on the bridge for another 20 minutes."
Barclay could tell that Worf was bored. Everyone was bored these days. Nothing had happened, and the Klingon must be getting restless.
"I'm, uh, s-sorry, sir." Barclay mumbled. Worf left without comment, and headed for the bridge. Barclay went back to sleep.
The corridors were virtually empty. The next shift started in 15 minutes, so no one had left yet. Having nothing to do made Worf irritable. He paced back and forth outside Barclay's quarters a few times, and proceeded to search for the longest route to the bridge.
Suddenly, a targ appeared in front of him. His childhood pet! It snuffled around for a moment, and then vanished again. Worf sighed loudly. Too bad the whole incident was his imagination. Or a memory, perhaps, that he wanted to re-live. Chasing the hog-like creature would have been fun. The Klingon shrugged and headed for the bridge. Officers were starting to appear, and he wanted to look busy and important.
Guinan watched the stars. Change was coming, she could feel it. And about time, too. She felt the Enterprise slide out of warp, and a planet appeared in front of her. It sparkled blue, indicating either vast fields of dilithium crystals or sapphires, or a heck of a lot of water. Large oceans were the most likely.
The planet was Beta Aquilaria VII, primarily an ocean world. The inhabitants were barely humanoid amphibians, and bore a strong resemblance to large frogs. A very peaceful society, they had chosen not to travel beyond their star system. They had discovered warp technology, but used a modified form of the energy for protecting their ecosystem rather than as a propulsion system for their ships.
Although they weren't xenophobic, they preferred to stay on their home planet. Visitors became honoured guests of the gentle, friendly, generous, and very hospitable Aquilarians.
Guinan knew that this was the end of the monotony. An interesting development. The crew would enjoy this, and shore leave was probably offered. Guinan smiled knowingly, and replicated more synthehol. Ten-forward would soon be full of happy officers. She would be prepared.