nsync in black and white

Fiction by Pen . . . . . not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment



Ensign Sue's lower lip began to tremble. "I don't know, Captain. They were just part of my program, only there was the red alert and when I got back to Holodeck Three they were already gone, so I assumed the emergency override had shut down all non-essential programming."

"Yet," said Captain Picard, "here they are." Two young men, obviously human. The tall one—dammit, why was there always someone Riker-sized around the place, Picard thought irritably—looked completely bewildered. The other, the normal-sized one, by which Picard meant, not outrageously taller than himself, was gazing at the viewscreen with an expression of rapture.

"Would somebody please get these two some clothing!" Picard snapped. "And send Doctor Crusher to my ready room! Gentlemen, Commander Data, Ensign." They followed as he strode through the obedient door and demanded tea, Earl Grey, hot, of the replicator.

It had been a trying day already, yet another bloody space anomaly, and really, wasn't it about time someone classified these things so that they weren't anomalies any longer? According to Data the Enterprise had at one point been everywhere in the universe at once, which was disorientating to ordinary mortals even if Data seemed to take it in his stride. And now there were two people on board his ship who had no right and no reason to be there. Boybands, indeed! Frivolous irrelevancies that had become extinct, what, three or four centuries ago, turning up on the Enterprise because a silly girl had been reading too many stories from some ancient archive?

Data, impervious to his captain's mood, was doing arcane things with his tricorder. The bewildered one eyed him nervously, and the one with the eyes tried to see the readings. Picard repressed a sneer.

The arrival of Beverly Crusher, with medical tricorder, and a crewman Picard did not recognise, with garments of an indeterminate colour between grey and beige draped over his arm, gave him a chance to finish his tea. Dr Crusher, wearing that smug little smirk that meant she was enjoying herself, examined the interlopers, then they got dressed.

They looked at one another, and shrugged. "I guess we've both worn worse," said the smaller one, in an unexpectedly deep voice.

"Don't you have anything in, like, denim?" said the big one, looking like a labrador puppy that had been refused access to somebody's lap.

The wardrobe-supplying crewman brandished a miniature calibrator. "I'm sure we can—"

Picard coughed.


Once Ensign Sue and the wardrobe crewman had been dismissed, Picard turned to his senior staff. "Doctor? Commander?"

"Oh, they're human," Crusher assured him. "In perfect health."

"That's good to know," said the one with the eyes, with what seemed to Picard to be a quite unnecessary inflexion in his voice.

"Except for a minor disfunction of this one's heart muscle," Crusher continued. "It's a trivial matter, though. Otherwise, they're fine."

"Where are we?" The tall boy's anxiety was obvious. The other one patted him gently on the arm, then gripped his hand.

"Nick, it's okay. At least, I don't know exactly how this happened, but we're in space. In a spaceship, I mean. I guess we must have somehow traveled through time."

"I believe that hypothesis to be incorrect, Captain," Data said, calmly. "It appears that I was inaccurate earlier today when I informed you that the Enterprise occupied the entire universe at one moment. In fact, the Enterprise occupied the entire universe at every moment."

Picard was getting a headache. Perhaps it was time to take up Admiral Nechayev's offer of a nice, quiet desk job back in Starfleet Headquarters. Riker would be delighted. "Go on, Commander," he said wearily.

"I believe that the computer recognised these two humans from the holoprogram set in motion by Ensign Sue, and assumed them to be part of the normal complement of the ship's crew, sir." Data paused, with concern wrinkling his pale gold forehead. "I will speak to Geordi about the malfunction. It may be necessary to institute new holodeck safeguards in case any other ship should encounter the same anomaly."

"Do they ever?" said Picard. It seemed to him that the Enterprise encountered every anomaly in the galaxy, sooner or later, but he had yet to hear of another ship following them.

"Sir?" And now Data was confused.

"Never mind." Picard took a deep breath, stood, tugged his uniform briskly into place, and held out a hand to the newcomers. "I'm Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the USS Enterprise, this is Lieutenant Commander Data, my Second Officer, and Doctor Beverly Crusher, Chief Medical Officer."

"Lance Bass, in sink," said the one with the eyes, which seemed to be sparkling even more brightly than before. "And this is Nick Carter, of the Backstreet Boys. He's a little confused right now."

Data's eyebrows performed the curious little dance they did when he performed a deep search of his memory. Bass's eyebrows wiggled too, apparently in sympathy.

"I regret, Captain, I am unable to identify our visitors from my internal database." Data looked as discomfitted as an emotionless android could be expected to look. "Perhaps the ship's computer—"

"Did we alter history, Commander?" Picard interrupted, horrified, "when we removed these two men from their proper time and place?"

Now Data looked as worried as an android could look. His head twitched. "I do not believe that to be the case, Captain," he replied carefully. "The computer appropriated our Mr Bass and Mr Carter from a particular instant because it exactly matched the holoprogram. However, our visitors were also present in other, later, instances through which the Enterprise simultaneously passed, so I believe the probabilities are in favour of their having remained in their own time." He paused. "If I may be permitted to examine the main Starfleet database..."

"Look," Bass said impatiently, "we're musicians, we sing in pop groups, we're not significant figures in world history, or anything. We were just having some private time together, and the bedroom disappeared, we were in a huge black room with a yellow grid on the walls, so we tried to find out what was happening, got into the elevator and ended up here. Out there, I mean." He waved vaguely towards the bridge. "Never mind about that—where and when, exactly, are we?"

"We are on a heading towards the Orion nebula, and it is—" Picard caught himself, there was no sense giving these people the stardate, it would mean nothing to them, "—the twenty-fourth century," Picard replied.

Bass's grin lit up the entire ready room. "Fantastic!" he exclaimed.

Nick Carter fainted.

* * *

This had to be the coolest bar in the universe, Lance decided.

The two of them were sitting at a table in 'Ten Forward', next to a huge window, and Lance was staring at the stars hurtling past. He couldn't imagine ever getting tired of the view.

Nick had his back to the window and was being careful not to look behind him.

It had taken three days to convince Nick that this was real, and that they weren't going to be able to go back. All in all, Lance thought, his beloved was taking it well. Nick hadn't ever experienced anything like this before, the total uprooting of his life for a completely different existence. Possibly it helped that there was no Jane Carter in the twenty-fourth century. Lance figured, privately, that it also helped not to have Nick's brother and sisters there. For the first time in his life Nick had no-one pressuring him, pushing him to be a success or pulling him to be a savior.

Lance took Nick's hand and gave it a little squeeze. Nick smiled. Yes, there was already a brightness in his blue eyes where there had been shade, before. "This is going to work out, you'll see," Lance promised.

"It's just... so weird. You know, not having, like, anything I'm supposed to be doing."

"I think that means you can do anything you want," said Lance. It was what Dr Crusher had said, as she fixed his heart while they waited for Nick to come out of his faint. Dr Crusher seemed very taken with Nick. She liked having someone to mother. Apparently she had a kid not much younger than they were, but he was away at Starfleet Academy.

Starfleet Academy. There was so much Physics, so much Math, to catch up on first, but—

"Yeah," said Nick, and Lance came back to the conversation with a jolt, "only... I don't know what that is."

"There must be something. Something you never had the chance to do, because of Backstreet?" In that other life, the one they'd been yanked out of, Lance's dream of getting up to the space station had apparently not come true. His other self had gotten to do all kinds of cool stuff, and seemed to have had a pretty good life, but he'd never been out among the stars, like this.

"I dunno. I just wanted to sing, I guess."

"You could work for me."

They looked up, startled by the silent arrival of the stately Guinan. She placed two more drinks in front of them, and then sat, looking interestedly at Nick. "While you figure it out. Place could always use another entertainer. Plus you could tend bar, between times."

"You're offering me a job?"


"Like... intergalactic bartender?"

"We don't usually travel between galaxies," she said calmly.

Relief spread over Nick's face at the prospect of being kept busy. "Okay. I mean, thanks. Uh, when do I start?"

She patted his hand gently. "Why don't you go replicate yourself a guitar, and do a little practice first?" She detached herself from their table as unobtrusively as she'd arrived.

Nick gazed around the near-empty lounge, and began to smile.



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