The pins-and-needles feeling of transport eased, and Captain Picard’s vision returned. He took a moment to get his bearings, looking over the large excavation site a few kilometers from the Potomac River. Picard had read about the excavations of the old United States capital in one of his archaeological journals. He wondered idly why he had been called here, and why he had been ordered to bring Data along.
Two of the archaeologists approached them. The one in the lead was a woman approximately Picard’s age, medium height with a round, smiling face and greying black hair. Slightly behind her and to the left was a taller, younger, straw-haired man with a
harsh expression. “Captain Picard?” the woman asked, shaking his hand firmly, “I’m Emma Peel, the senior archaeologist on this dig. This is Dr. Illya Kuryakin, our expert on political history.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Peel. I’m familiar with your work; archaeology is a hobby of mine. And of course, Dr. Kuryakin, your knowledge must be invaluable in an excavation of such a politically-significant site.” Kuryakin nodded in curt acknowledgement of the compliment.
“I suppose your wondering why we’ve brought you here.” Peel said. She started walking back toward the excavation site, and gestured for the others to follow. “We’ve made a find of potentially enormous significance, a find suggesting that we have vastly underestimated the technological level of Earth’s 20th century.”
They walked down an ancient set of stairs with a faded red line down the middle. “As you know,” Dr. Peel continued, “this city, known then as Washington D.C., was the capital of the United States of America, one of the most powerful nation-states in 20th century Earth. We have discovered several sets of offices buried deep underground. We believe these are the offices of a covert intelligence organization of the mid-Cold War era.”
At the bottom of the stairs, a set of doors, much like turbolift doors, slid open. As the doors slid shut behind them, Picard turned back to look at the door, and shook his head in
confusion. He recognized the design from his Dixon Hill holodeck program, but he could not understand why the doors leading to the stairs were painted to look like a 20th century elevator!
Picard dismissed the peculiarity and returned to the conversation, following the red line down the corridor. He surmised, “These offices were used to spy on the other major power of the day, the …” he searched for the name, “Soviet Union?” A set of steel doors folded open from the center, revealing another set of steel doors a few feet down the corridor.
“No.” Kuryakin interjected, “Although most intelligence activities of that time were focused on the Soviet Union, this one was not.” The next set of steel doors slid open to the side, rather than folding out from the center as before, and revealed yet another set of steel doors. “You see, the espionage business was a bureaucracy of sorts, existing for the sake of existing, and proliferating far beyond need. CONTROL, as this organization was known, was formed specifically to deal with a private espionage and terrorist organization: KAOS.”
The third set of steel doors lifted upward. Picard braced himself for the possibility that it would reveal yet another set of steel doors, but it did not. This time, it revealed a wall with
bars painted on it, not particularly convincingly. Peel and Kuryakin took this irrationality in stride, so Picard tried to ignore it. “CONTROL and KAOS.” he mused, “I’ve never heard of
those organizations before. What do the initials stand for?”
“As far as we can tell,” Kuryakin replied, “nothing at all. The two organizations co-existed relatively peacefully, both fully aware that without the other, they would all be unemployed. So while each tried to thwart the other’s schemes, neither ever seriously contemplated eliminating the other.”
The bars slid aside, revealing a small booth marked “TELEPHONE.” Dr. Peel picked up the narrative. “The CONTROL office we have found seems to have been largely abandoned by the late 20th century, but continued to be maintained by … well, maybe you’d better see that for yourself.”
Dr. Peel squeezed into the elevator with Picard, picked up the telephone, and placed a coin it. The floor of the booth promptly slid downward like a turbolift. Picard sighed in amazement at the barbaric paranoia of these people. The lift then returned to the
upper level, bringing down Kuryakin and Data.
Peel opened a door marked “FILE ROOM.” Inside was an enormous room filled with filing cabinets. In the middle of the room, a man stood over an open drawer with a file in his hand. At first, Picard thought he was one of the archaeologists, studying the files. Then Picard realized that he wasn’t moving.
Picard took a closer look at the man. He was tall, broad- shouldered and square-jawed, with glossy black hair and dark, brooding eyes. He was wearing a business suit in the style of the late 20th century. “Mr. Data, analysis.” Picard requested.
Data pulled out his tricorder and did a quick analysis on the motionless man. “Remarkable.” Data breathed.
“Is he human?”
“No, sir. He is an android. Or, perhaps robot is a more accurate description. His construction is not as sophisticated as my own.”
Peel noted, “Now you see why we wanted Mr. Data to take a look at this find.”
“Yes.” Picard murmured, “This is far beyond 20th century technology as we know it.”
The robot made a creaking noise. It sounded like he was saying, “Er-ka.”
“Er-ka?” Picard asked, “What does ‘er-ka’ mean?”
Peel sighed. “We’ve been trying to figure that out for weeks now. That’s all he does. He just stands there and occasionally says ‘er-ka.’ We didn’t want to move him until Mr. Data had a chance to look at him in the setting where we found him.”
“Er-ka” the robot repeated, “Erl-ka”
Data commented, “I believe he is trying to say ‘oil can.’“