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"A mission well done, Lieutenant," the captain said.

"May I say-may I- "Permission to speak freely granted, crewman."

"Sir, since that incident when you-defended me-all those years ago-I've been torn. Those accusations made me feel like a perpetual alien, neither human nor Romulan, someone no one dared trust. The things you said were the right things, sir, but they didn't totally hit home until- "Until you met a certain person?" Picard said, smiling.

"Yes, sir," Tarses said. "I met someone equally torn between two worlds."

Kio sar-Bensu, lately named ruler of an entire planet, who had set her power aside in order to fulfill her quest for knowledge, only smiled.



"Well, what about you, Kio sar-Bensu?" the captain asked, smiling.

"I'm thinking of going to school on Earth for a while, Captain. Starfleet Academy, if they'll have me."

Tarses looked wistful. Undoubtedly he was calculating how long it would be before Enterprise returned to this sector. Quite some time, alas. Picard glanced down at the blank padd on his desk.

"Mr. Tarses, this duty roster says you're due for some shore leave." The young crewman looked confused.

"But, sir, I just had a week on-" Kio nudged him.

"Oh. Oh! Thanks-I mean, thank you, sir!"

After the two left, there seemed to be no one else waiting.

The computer told him the former High Shivantak of Thanet wanted a word with him.

"On screen," Picard said, and he was looking into the face of a man who had changed a world.

"A metaphoric End of Days," the Shivantak marveled. "So simple, yet so brilliant, Captain. Thank you for all you did."

"I did very little, Your Radiance. It was you who executed the plan and spoke so eloquently to your people. It was your wise words that set an entirely new society in motion. But I would like to know something-did you know that when you set off the Bells of Shivan-Sare, hydraulic engines would kick in and transform the towers into plazas and the plazas into towers?"

"I had an inkling of it, Captain. But with all such things-you never know what will happen until you push the button."

"I suppose one can never underestimate the power of faith."

"No indeed, Captain Picard. And faith can remain powerful even when we do not take so literal a view of our holy books."

"Ambassador Straun seems to have reached a similar conclusion."

"I regret having had to lie to him and to so many others. My former position required mastery of the greatest magic of all-the art of illusion."

"The world is web of shadows, spun by a master of the dark," said Picard. It was the very opening lines of the Holy Panvivlion. "Are you that master?"

"You are quite the scholar, Captain. Let us just say that-for a brief moment-to quote again from one of your planet's sacred texts-I was the Great and Powerful Oz."

Picard could not help smiling a little. "Adieu," he said softly, as the former god-king's image dissolved into blackness.

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