Has God been found?!
The Federation science vessel, the USS Dawkins, was raided and destroyed by Orion pirates. But a transmission was sent out to all ships in the area, coded as top priority. The transmission read only this:
- God has been found. We were wrong.
Meanwhile, Station Frontier has picked up the emergency transmission from the Dawkins. Picard dismisses it as the frantic ramblings of a desperate bastard who, with no escape from an Orion trap, sent out his dying fears hoping for some consolation. Tristan Marshal, however, says that the USS Dawkins was sent into Orion space to investigate abnormal energy readings from the nebula. Picard says that it's probably nothing more than a solar flare, but Marshal insists that he be allowed to investigate personally. Picard tells Marshal that all of Earth's religions were abolished by the United Earth Government in the late 21st century for the "greater good", and that religion, God and Jesus Christ are a joke that, if taken seriously, would destroy the peace held by the Federation and plunge humanity into another dark age. Picard once again asserts that the captain of the USS Dawkins had fallen insane in the last days of his life, despite the fact that Marshal found no psychiatric file on him.
Picard says that it's a closed case, because mankind no longer needs Gods since, according to him, man is god and has no need of a "shepherd." Furthermore, he says that any investigation of the demise of the Dawkins will be considered as aiding the New Insurrection, since he has received intelligence that their ships have made for the Orion system. He warns Tristan from pursuing this, since he says that he comes dangerously close to crossing a dangerous line. Marshal says that he doesn't intend to cross any line, simply to seek out the truth, which is what science is all about.
The Enterprise-C and the Admonitor have entered Orion space and have made their course for the Orion Nebula, the area where the USS Dawkins was last charted before its destruction. While the ships are en route, Nox and Lianna Young get into a discussion about slavery in the Orion race. Young replies that it is a tactic by which the Orions attempt to control the politics and actions of other races for their benefit. Nox calls this whoring, which Lianna Young agrees to, but furthermore says that, both in the 24th and the 25th century, it is completely tolerated, and during the trial against Spock (shown in (TOS: "The Menagerie")), evidence was presented to prove that slavery was not only known of in the Federation but tolerated and allowed as a means of employment. Nox says that this cannot be right, and Young concurs with him. Meanwhile, she leaves the ship in Zhang's command while she beams over to the Enterprise to discuss this event with Shield.
Once there, he begins a discussion with her regarding what this discovery will mean to the universe. She says that it will prove once and for all that God exists. Shield reminds her that, though he has always believed in God, it was not directly because of religion that they were cast out of the Federation in the first place, but because of freedom, though religion eventually became part of it. He has been wondering if what they are doing - fighting for the freedom for all people - is right, since it will also mean that religions who are anti-Judeo-Christian must also needs be allowed, which would cause chaos and perhaps destroy the peace of the Federation. Young says that she's never really thought about what would happen if they succeeded, since it has never really been within immediate reach. Shield says that this is a question they need to ask themselves every day, or else they will forget what they are fighting for and, upon abolishing the Federation, replace one tyrant with another.
President Nechayev has given Admiral Picard permission to leave Station Frontier with Captain Halliwell's daughter and son to attack the New Insurrection while they are beleaguered in Orion territory. The Enterprise-E and the Intrepid leave the station, followed shortly by the Templar, which is cloaked heavily. Marshal wants to know why Admiral Picard is defying his own orders.
Meanwhile, the two ships are ambushed by Orion pirates. Their attack pattern, however, is hardly that of any pirate captain, and they know every weak point on the Enterprise. The Admonitor comes to its defense, warding off the pirates for a little while. Young demands to return to the Admonitor, but that means lowering their shields just long enough for a few blasts to get through. Though she is beamed over successfully, the Admonitor is struck three times. Once back in command, she disables one of the Orion ships just long enough for the Enterprise to raise its shields.
But the trap has been sprung and now the hunter closes in for the kill...
Picard offers them aid if they will lower their shields and beam onto the Enterprise. Shield declines, citing the last time he struck a deal with Picard which ended in betrayal as reason not to. Picard then orders the Enterprise, the Orion ships and the Intrepid to attack the the Enterprise-C and Admonitor. Picard was collaborating with the Orions all along.
Shield asks Young to take the Admonitor into the Orion nebula, which she refuses to do without him, so he takes the Enterprise-C in after her. The enemy ships close in, and it seems as though there is no escape.
Upon entering the borders of the nebula, the Enterprise and the Admonitor stop dead in space. The pursuing ships halt suddenly as well. From the midst of the seven stars of the nebula there appears a prominence of light and color. The crew of the Enterprise-E and the Intrepid suddenly fall blind by the brilliance of the prominence, but the crew of the Enterprise-C and the Admonitor do not. A voice speaks out from the prominence. Shield asks if it is God, and the voice says that he has always known. The voice further instructs them to leave now, because this is not what it wants. Shield says that humanity has forgotten and forsaken Him, and the voice replies that it knows all this has happened, but says that not all have forsaken Him. It further says that He will choose the time and place to make Himself known again, and that it is not for man to dictate His will. The voice then falls silent and Shield orders them to leave the nebula, even though the only way out is directly through the path of the pursuing ships.
The two ships emerge from the Orion nebula, where they are greeted by the weapons of the Federation starships, all of whom are unblinded. Shield opens a channel to the ships, hoping to talk them into letting them go by peacefully. Admiral Picard answers by saying that they're enemies of the Federation and even if they have, they've broken enough laws just by coming here to ever be let back. Picard mockingly asks Shield if his sudden change of behavior was because of some divine intervention, which Shield says was so. Picard says that they were struck momentarily blinded by the brilliance of the solar prominence inside the nebula, and laughs Shield to scorn when he says that his crew wasn't. Picard says that Shield's epiphany was a fraud because it was obviously just a mental breakdown and he goes on to mock Shield's intelligence and mental stability.
Shield retorts by saying that he wasn't even sure himself that what he saw was God. Furthermore, he adds that it is not what God you worship that shows your spiritual integrity but HOW you worship the One you've chosen. Picard says that only an idiot believes in God, and therefore dismisses anything that Edward Shield or his crew say as mindless babbling. However, Captain Data is bemused. He was not blinded by the prominence and indeed did see something, and is curious as to why his friend is behaving close-mindedly, but when he tries to talk, Admiral Picard says that the time for talk is done and orders the Enterprise to fire on "those ships full of stupid imbeciles".
But suddenly, a solar flare from one of the seven stars within the Orion nebula streaks out and shudders the Enterprise-E and Intrepid. Neither of the New Insurrection ships are damaged, and they take off to warp, with Shield smiling to himself in that he thinks that it was His hand who caused a solar flare to disable their enemies just long enough for them to get away. Picard, however, refuses to believe that their ships were damaged, dismissing this as just another solar flare and orders the ships to leave the system.