|The Next Generation|
The Enterprise has finally got away from the well ploughed space lanes and is doing a security survey near the neutral zone. "I smell Womulans" chuckled Captain Elmer Fudd. It's your birthday, collect $10 from all the other players, and Riker unfortunately is not playing monopoly. What he is playing is his trombone in 10-Forward, and he is playing it badly.
The merriment is cut short as the Enterprise has been probed and Picard wants an away team beamed down to investigate. Riker, Worf and Geordi beam down into a gas filled cave. Bad move guys. They never bother to check the atmosphere before leaping in, and as this one has lots of H2S, SO2 and other toxic gasses, so it may be their last. Just for fun, the Enterprise can't get a transporter lock and we look like kissing goodbye to some annoying characters.
Riker wakes up in sick-bay, and the first thing we notice is that Beverly's hair has changed. This doesn't mean much as the members of Starfleet have never been particularly fashion conscious anyway. What does mean a lot is that way that Bev calls him Captain Riker. Oh, no, not again. Alternate reality alert - not that this is a bad thing I must add, the best TNG episodes have been like this.
16 years have passed, and Riker still has his beard. While this has stoically remained the same, there have been many other changes. Geordi no longer has his visor, there is a Ferengi serving on the bridge and Data is now the first officer. At least it is a little more plausible than the ST movies where we end up with a ship full of captains and admirals. The notable exception to the bridge personel is Picard.
A Romulan warbird unlocks. Red Alert! I don't think so. This is the future and as we all know, the future is a strange place. This particular warbird has Admiral Picard and Counsellor Troi on it, and they are in the final stages of signing a treaty with the Romulans. Even more strangely we discover that Riker initiated it, and so he most complete it.
To completely top off surprises for laughing-boy, he has a son, who he named Jean-Luc in the ultimate attempt to suck-up to Picard. Since he made captain I guess it worked. The mother is not Troi as we all expected, but another ship's counsellor named Min. Unfortunately she's dead. She isn't the only dead thing around, the ship's computer is doing a fair immitation of it as well. Do Wes's mistakes increase in proportion to his age?
Romulan Ambassodor Tomalak (now where have we heard that name before?) says that the final treaty must be signed at Outpost 23, the old heart of the Federation's intelligence operations near the neutral zone. I smell a rat here somewhere. Picard says that it is ancient history, but engaging reality filters captain...
There seems to be no record of Riker's wife, and when it is found, it is only small sections with limited details. Riker is getting suspicious. Worf doesn't know his history. Data can't do lightning calculations. It's got to be a simulation, and Riker knows it. The simulation ends leaving only Riker and Tomalak. Aha, a Romulan plot after all! Using neural scanners and a holodeck they created this fantasy. But if they could get all this from his mind directly, why the elaborate ruse?
Riker explains that the main fault in the simulation was that his "wife" was only a holodeck fantasy that he once had. How many other crew members have done this? Geordi definitely. Wes almost certainly as it is the only way he can get near babes. Several bit part characters. Troi in a parody I once read. What is it? Holosex, past-time of the future!
Will gets locked up with... Jean-Luc his son! Well the person who was used to model his son on, lets call him Ethan. They manage to escape captivity a little too easily and so we...
Take 2. It wasn't the naughty Romulans after all it was the kid all along. He wanted someone real to play with - I don't think he made a great choice all things considered. After his family was destroyed he was safely put in the cave with the machines that can create any reality he wanted. Of course...
Take 3. He isn't a kid at all. He is a BEM of the insectoid variety, and goes back onto the Enterprise with Riker. Do the Federation "aquire" the technology from the planet to surplant their own? Of course not, they leave it there kindly for the Romulans to have. What nice guys.