You don't believe in me!
I don't.
What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?
I don't know.
Why do you doubt your senses?
Because... a little thing affects them.
A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats.
You may be a bit of undigested beef, a blot of mustard,
a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.
Why, there's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are.
Humbug, I tell you. Humbug.
Freeze program.
Very well done, Data!
Your performance skills really are improving.
Your courtesy is appreciated, sir.
But I do not effectively convey the fear called for in the story.
Well, you've never known fear, Data.
But as an acute observer of behaviour you should be able to approximate it.
Sir, that is not an appropriate basis for an effective performance.
Not by the standards set by my mentors.
- Your mentors? - Yes, sir.
I have studied the philosophies of virtually every acting master.
I find myself attracted to Stanislavsky, Adler, Garnov:
proponents of an acting technique known as the Method.
Method acting? I'm vaguely familiar with it,
but why choose such an old-fashioned approach?
Perhaps because it requires an actor to seek his own emotional awareness,
to understand the character.
But surely that's an impossible task for you, Data.
I have modified the Method for my own uses.
Since I have no emotional awareness to create a performance,
I am attempting to use performance to create emotional awareness.
If I can learn to duplicate the fear of Ebenezer Scrooge,
I will be one step closer to truly understanding humanity.
Capt Picard, please report to the bridge.
On my way, Number One.
Data, the moment you decided
to stop imitating other actors and create your own interpretation,
you were already one step closer to understanding humanity.
We had an emergency signal from the science station on Ventax II.
- What's the emergency? - Uncertain. It was interrupted.
- Contact re-established, sir. - On screen.
I am Dr Howard Clark, Director of the science station.
Thank you for responding.
- Mr. Worf, can you improve reception? - The trouble is at the source, sir.
Dr Clark, we are barely able to maintain communication.
Can you boost your power source?
I'm afraid not. It's under attack.
Under attack?
There's a mob outside trying to break in.
The planet is in chaos. Lootings, fires, mass hysteria.
These people are convinced their world is coming to an end. Tomorrow.
Please, we must have your immediate...
Space, the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.
Its continuing mission, to explore strange new worlds,... seek out new life and new civilizations,... boldly go where no one has gone before.
Captain's log, star date 44474.5.
Now at Ventax II, we are attempting to contact the science station,
which at last report was under siege by an angry mob.
They are transmitting again.
On screen, before we lose contact.
Enterprise! Do you read me? Emergency! We need help.
Dr Clark, we are ready to beam you and your team on board...
They're in!
Lock on to the science team, beam them aboard.
I've locked on to Dr Clark. I can't pick out the others.
It's a mess down there.
Then beam Dr Clark aboard by himself.
Mr. Worf, escort him to my ready room.
Aye, sir.
Number One. Try and make some sense out of this mess.
The people in Ventax Il live in an agrarian society.
- At least, they do now. - What do you mean, now?
A good anthropological question,
one we were studying before the...
..trouble began.
In the distant past,
the Ventaxian culture had achieved
an extremely advanced scientific level,
but a millennium ago they turned their backs on technology.
They reverted to a simpler life?
And remained that way for centuries.
The first contact was made by a Klingon expedition 70 years ago.
Since then, new technology has been available.
They simply are not interested.
Virtually no social problems to be found on this planet...
I would have described their society as idyllic until...
- Until what, Doctor? - It's hard to believe.
Several years ago, Acost Jared, the Ventaxian Head of State,
grew increasingly obsessed with the legend of Ardra.
Each day he grew more anxious. He'd talk about little else.
"Ardra is coming back."
"Ardra will be here soon."
"We must all leave before Ardra returns."
And... who is this Ardra?
For all intents and purposes,...
..the devil.
These people actually believe they've sold their souls to the devil.
- Riker to Capt Picard. - Have you located the science team?
- They're being held hostage. - Hostage?
There's a Ventaxian leader on the view screen, name of Acost Jared.
Jared, you must secure the release of my people.
How can you allow this?
Howard, my friend, you know how I abhor all acts of violence,
but events are out of my control.
I'm Capt Picard. Is there nothing you can do?
As the hour of Ardra's return approaches, fear grips my people.
It has been 1,000 years. The prophecies have come true!
Ardra's arrival is said to be heralded by the shaking of cities.
There has been a series of geological tremors on the planet.
Minor quakes. Nothing extraordinary.
- Poorly timed. - There is more.
For several nights there have been visions of Ardra,
just as the contract said would occur before her return.
- Visions? You mean dreams? - No.
She has appeared. I myself have seen her.
Jared, tell your people if the hostages are released,
I am prepared to offer Federation assistance
should this... this "Ardra" return.
I'm afraid it will not matter.
They know your weapons are useless against her, Captain.
I will make enquiries about the hostages.
The innocent should not suffer for our sins.
But I can make no promises.
This situation is deteriorating.
People are reaching anxiety levels that could lead to suicide.
Mr. Data, what do we know about this Ardra?
She is a cornerstone of Ventaxian theology.
It seems Ardra came to Ventax Il
and promised 1,000 years of peace and prosperity for a price:
upon her return, she would enslave the entire population.
Ventaxians consider it bad luck to speak her name out loud.
There are ancient scrolls concerning Ardra stored in the Atheneum vaults.
Scholars study them.
They've been of little public interest until recently.
I should meet Jared. He's our best hope for release of the hostages.
- I'll have him transported on board. - No. I'm going down there myself.
You risk being taken as an additional hostage.
Mr. Worf, you and Data will accompany me.
Mr. O'Brien can keep a lock on us. He can pull us out if necessary.
- Yes, sir. - Counsellor, I want you to come too.
Captain, you shouldn't have come. Your life is in danger here.
Calm your people. There is no reason for panic.
No reason?
If these tremors have led to this hysteria over Ardra,
let us reassure them.
We have scanned the stress patterns of your planet's crust.
The quakes do not pose any kind of threat.
No, no, no, the threat is from Ardra! You cannot understand.
If you can at least help us to locate our people.
She is here.
Nonsense. It is only...
Time's up.
I'm disappointed.
I expected my tenants to take better care of my property.
Ardra, most powerful one, I am Jared, leader of Ventax ll.
I take responsibility for all that displeases you.
Please, do not punish my people.
Punish? Who said anything about punishing?
I merely expect your end of our contract to be upheld.
Thank you.
Don't talk like some ancient prophet: "thee", "thou", "most powerful one".
It was appealing for a few centuries but I bore easily.
And stop cowering. When I want you on your knees, I'll let you know.
Much better. A fine example for the others. Who would you be?
Capt Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise.
Keep up the good work.
First, we'll need an accounting of all you've accumulated for me.
This form will give guidelines for a full census of the population,
with emphasis on productivity and economic forecasts.
- Who are you? - My, you are forceful, aren't you?
Good. I like my men forceful. At least at the start.
You're not managing to intimidate me.
That's alright. I like a challenge.
A planet has been terrorized because of the suggestion
that you're going to enslave the population.
Well, it's true. Of course I wouldn't put it so melodramatically.
It's just a standard contract with an unusually long term.
So you purport to be the mythic figure Ardra?
I have many names, my pale friend.
I am Mendora in the Berussian cluster, Torak to the Drellians.
The Klingons call me Fek'lhr.
You are not Fek'lhr!
Ah, but I am.
I am the guardian of Gre'thor,
where the dishonoured go when they die.
But here on Ventax Il I am called Ardra.
I negotiated a contract with these people ten centuries ago today.
Oh, you doubt me. A non-believer.
Really, Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise!
No doubt you have travelled the galaxy,
encountered a diverse universe of creatures.
Is there no room for the likes of me?
I've met many more credibly called the devil than you.
The devil! Now, there's one I haven't heard in a long time.
You claim you visited here 1,000 years ago and negotiated a contract?
- That's correct. - I would like to see that contract.
The scrolls of Ardra, Captain.
A long-winded description of a simple business arrangement.
I did away with their wars, famine and economic ruin
and provided 1,000 years of paradise.
My terms were clearly stated.
They went into this with their eyes open.
You'll find everything is in order.
You won't mind if I don't take your word for it.
Jared, with your permission, I'd like Mr. Data to review these.
It is no longer my decision, Captain.
I have intrigued you, haven't l, Picard?
I am only here to secure the release of the hostages.
Hostages? Is this true?
Yes. Panic gripped the people as the time of your return drew near.
Yes, I do have that effect on people.
See that the hostages are released. Now.
Let us not cloud this with bit players, Picard.
You will not leave because you find me irresistible.
Advise Dr Clark the hostages are being released.
This is Clark. You did it! Thank goodness.
Goodness had nothing to do with it.
Three to beam up. Mr. Data will remain on the planet surface.
I want a complete report on the contents of these documents.
I refuse to abandon this planet to that woman.
Could she be another refugee from the Q continuum?
For that matter, could she be Q?
- Q wouldn't bother with contracts. - Or economic forecasts.
I noticed that, too.
I had the impression of being in the presence of a... a flim-flam artist.
But her powers?
Her powers are, at the best, unclear.
Think about it. Transporters can make things appear and disappear.
The illusion that she can transform into a Klingon creature
could be created by holographic projection.
And creating a minor tremor
could be the result of a tractor beam projected onto the tectonic plates.
We could recreate all of these events.
She just dresses them up and delivers them with dramatic flair.
Like a magician.
- Exactly. - She has a very focused mind.
It was virtually impossible to sense any deception. Or anything else.
Magicians will never let you see what's up their sleeve.
She must be tapping into some power source to produce those effects.
Number One, I want you and Mr. Worf to run scans of this star system.
Look for a ship, a base of operations,
anything that could generate that power.
Mr. La Forge, accompany Dr Clark back. Trace the origin of these tremors.
Your chair offers a lovely view of my planet.
Come, sit with me.
Either leave my bridge or I will remove you by force.
By force?
You disappoint me. You didn't strike me as that sort.
But by all means... try.
Mr. Worf.
I was really hoping you'd try it yourself.
Transporter room three,
lock on to the intruder and transport her to the planet surface.
Aye, sir.
Ensign, put up the shields until further notice.
- Yes, sir. Whatever you say. - We are not impressed by your magic.
I pity you.
We live in a universe of magic, which evidently you cannot see.
My pale friend. Have you finished examining the contract?
- I have, sir. - Report.
The contract agrees to deliver the people of Ventax Il
into the personal servitude of Ardra after 1,000 years of peace.
I have compared it to the laws governing the planet.
The language is correct in every detail.
Such speed and accuracy. You're much too talented to be human.
- I am an android. - Android! Of course.
How wonderful. An unexpected bonus.
- Bonus? - Yes.
When the contract came to term, I gained clear title to the planet.
Anything on the surface, in the air or... in orbit.
So you see, the Enterprise belongs to me now as well.
The contract could be interpreted in that way, sir.
Captain's log, supplemental.
Although I consider this woman's claim upon my ship an empty threat,
it has inspired my determination to expose her for the fraud she is.
You wished to see me, sir.
Yes, Mr. Data.
A wise man once said, "There is a sucker born every minute."
Barnum, sir. PT.
I've been examining the dynamics of what used to be called
the con game.
Quite fascinating. Worthy of your study, Data.
Sir, do you believe Ardra is, to use the vernacular, a con artist?
Yes, I do, Data.
And I believe it is our job to out-con the con artist.
Sir, I must point out that the Ventaxians
did have 1,000 years of peace and tranquillity as promised by Ardra.
We can only speculate what happened 1,000 years ago.
Maybe a Ventaxian leader saw the destruction of his society at hand
and conceived this "contract of Ardra" to motivate change.
Or maybe there was an Ardra who is the basis for this mythology.
Who knows?
The point is that somehow a fundamental theology was created
which transformed this society,
but, in the process of change, created this latent fear
which has been passed down through generations.
Data, from your own experience of performing Ebenezer Scrooge,
you're aware of how fear can be a powerful motivator.
Indeed, sir.
The spirits used fear to motivate Scrooge to reform his character.
And in the hands of a con artist fear can be used to motivate obedience,
capitulation, the exploitation of innocent people.
That is what I believe has happened here and I intend to prove that.
I need to find a loophole,
some way of challenging the validity of this contract.
The language of the contract seems chosen to avoid any loopholes.
Check it again,
and every Ventaxian legal precedent for the last 1,000 years.
- We'll talk in the morning. - Aye, sir.
Picard to bridge. Intruder alert.
- Picard to bridge. - I've arranged for a bit of privacy.
Just the two of us.
This is becoming very tiresome.
Oh, come now, Picard. You know you find me tantalizing.
Give in to your desires.
You know, there's nothing about you I find tantalizing.
On the contrary, I find you obvious and vulgar.
Easily fixed.
I can be your ideal woman, Picard. Prim and proper.
And chaste, until I succumb to your charms.
Or do your fantasies turn toward a professional woman,
one, perhaps, who wears a Starfleet uniform?
Perhaps I could even be...
Someone close at hand, yet unattainable.
I can do anything for you, Captain.
Anything you could ever imagine.
A night that would light fire in your dreams until you die,
and you would reject me?
Oh, yes.
- You shall regret that. - I think not.
Oh, but you will.
Capt Picard?
Captain, I wasn't expecting you here.
Neither was l.
- La Forge to Enterprise. - Go ahead.
Worf, Capt Picard is here. You'd better transport him back.
- The Captain? But l... - It's alright.
Ardra somehow transported me here. Will you beam me to my quarters?
Aye, sir. We're locked on to you.
Transporter is malfunctioning.
Some sort of interference. Checking.
Just have Data fetch me in a shuttle. And have him bring along a uniform.
- Did you say uniform? - Yes, I did!
Aye, sir.
Mr. La Forge and Dr Clark have made no headway.
Cmdr Riker and Lt Worf have picked nothing up on their scans.
I have found a precedent in Ventaxian law which may be of interest.
It involves a contract dispute over services rendered
by a Klingon craftsman on the construction of a Ventaxian home.
Because the dispute involved an alien culture,
the parties decided that arbitration, not the courts, should resolve it.
Both sides chose an arbitrator.
It is the only known case involving an alien claimant.
That's exactly what I needed. Well done.
Shuttlecraft One to Enterprise. Prepare for docking sequence.
Proceed, Shuttle One.
Enterprise. Enterprise, do you read me?
Enterprise, come in!
I cannot locate the ship anywhere within one light year of the planet.
I don't believe Ardra can transport it a light year away.
Keep hailing them. Repeat on all frequencies.
Hey, I think we've found something here.
There's a jump in Z-particles just at the time the Enterprise disappeared.
- Where? - It was too brief to pinpoint.
But it could suggest a hidden power source.
We need to find that source if we are to defeat this woman.
If you can get her to perform a few more magic tricks,
we might be able to track it down.
I trust you have a bit more respect for me now.
- What have you done to my ship? - I've done nothing with your ship.
My ship is safely in my possession.
I do not recognize your claim on the Enterprise.
Nor on this world, for that matter.
In accordance with Ventaxian legal precedent, I call for an arbitration.
An arbitration? There's nothing to arbitrate.
Oh, but there is. You're a fraud.
I intend to prove you could not have effected the changes on this planet.
Do you not believe your own eyes? Your ship is gone, Captain.
An illusion. Magicians have been making things disappear for ages.
You underestimate me.
But then, most people do, until it's too late.
If you are who you say you are, you have nothing to lose.
And nothing to gain.
I already have possession of this planet and your ship.
I am prepared to offer an added incentive if you win.
A trip to the ruins of Ligillium.
The Zaterl emerald? You know where it is?
Yes, I do.
You are too clever, Captain. But I have enough jewels.
If you wish this foolish arbitration, I will choose my own prize.
And what would that be?
By all rights your body is already mine, but I want more.
I want your heart, your mind, your soul,
and I want you to give them without resistance, of your own free will.
So, do you still wish to pursue this most dangerous game?
I agree to your terms.
Oh, Picard, I will enjoy you morning, noon and night!
But we must agree to an arbitrator.
Very well.
I choose Mr. Data. Any objections?
- Mr. Data is a member of my crew. - Of my crew.
And he's an android. He is incapable of deceit or bias.
He has no feelings to get in the way of his judgement.
Ardra, before he responds,
may I have a word in private with Capt Picard?
Sir, I request you reject me as an arbitrator.
- Why? - Ardra is right.
I will perform my duties without bias or sentiment.
I cannot guarantee I will deliver a verdict in your favour.
Data, where else on this planet can I find someone she cannot intimidate?
Sir, I will have to follow the rules of conduct for a Ventaxian jurist.
I understand. You'll make a fine judge.
1,000 years ago our planet was dying.
Overcrowded city states warred unceasingly with each other.
Air and water were polluted with industrial waste.
There was a constant threat of starvation and epidemic.
Then what happened?
And then... you came.
Objection. There is no evidence
this woman ever visited the planet 1,000 years ago.
And I suppose you want a 1,000-year-old witness?
That would be acceptable.
Jared, does the contract specify how you would know me when I return?
Yes, by the date.
Anything else?
By the shaking of the cities and by the visions.
All of these occurred on schedule?
- Yes. - Thank you.
Your Honour, I submit that I have established my identity
as stated by the contract.
Capt Picard, my interpretation of Ventaxian law
suggests that under these circumstances this is acceptable.
Objection overruled.
- Your Honour... - Sir...
I have ruled. Please sit down.
- You may proceed. - Thank you, Your Honour.
When I first set foot on Ventax II, what did I offer your people?
According to the scrolls, you offered 1,000 years of peace and prosperity
if we surrendered to you at the end of the term.
And why do you think they would strike such a bargain?
We had nothing to lose. There was no hope in sight.
- Until I came along. - Objection!
I withdraw the observation.
No further questions.
Your Honour, nothing in this proves that Ardra had the power
to affect the lives of the Ventaxians.
My opponent has failed to prove her case
and I move that her claim be dismissed.
I find no cause to invalidate the contract at this time.
The arbitration will continue.
Your Honour...
Capt Picard, as a new visitor to my planet,
has been a consistent doubter of my abilities.
I would like to ask him a few questions, if I may.
It is highly irregular to question the opposing advocate.
But I see no reason to deny it. Proceed.
Please do not take any offence. You know how fond I am of you.
- Objection. - Sustained.
Refrain from expressing personal affections for your opponent.
You do not believe my powers are real?
No, I don't.
Then, sir, may I ask you to explain... this?
- You are out of order. - Or this?
You will refrain from making your opponent disappear.
Or this?
Can you explain it, Picard?
Any more disruptions and I will rule you in contempt of court.
Is that understood?
I am sorry, Your Honour.
But can you explain it, Picard?
Yes or no?
I rest my case, Your Honour.
The decay rate of these Z-particles makes it hard to trace the source.
I'm correlating their trajectories. They're beginning to align.
I have coordinates!
34 degrees north, 62 degrees east
at an altitude of 210 kilometres.
That would put it in orbit above the western magnetic pole.
Running visual scan.
This time, I don't buy the magic. Something's gotta be there.
Jared, you've described the history of your people
before and after Ardra's first visit.
But I'm a little unclear about the change itself.
Did Ardra simply... snap her fingers
and transform the planet into this paradise?
No. The changes occurred over a long period of time.
Did she form the government that so peacefully ruled this planet?
No. Historical records indicate a council was convened
to assess our options.
They draw up a new constitution, which the population later ratified.
I see. So she advised this council?
- No. - No?
Then she must have destroyed all your weapons.
No, our leaders did that.
And they signed a treaty of non-aggression.
Well, then, let's move on to the environmental gains.
How were they accomplished?
We shifted our economy from an industrial to an agrarian base.
It was more ecologically sound.
But Ardra must have purified the polluted water and air?
No, the record shows there were a series of initiatives,
covering everything from atmospheric contaminants to waste disposal.
Did she not even pick up one piece of trash?
Ardra had left Ventax Il before the reforms began.
Forgive me, but it sounds as if,
with a lot of courage, hard work,
your ancestors changed this world
all by themselves.
Objection. The advocate is drawing conclusions.
Sustained. I will draw my own conclusions, if you do not mind.
No further questions.
Just two questions.
Is there any doubt in your mind, any doubt at all,
that without me the terrible conditions here would have continued?
You are under oath.
No doubt at all.
Then, as former head of state for the Ventaxian people,
you agree that I fulfilled my part of the bargain?
Yes, Ardra.
Thank you.
What more can be said?
Both sides agree the terms of the contract have been fulfilled.
Capt Picard, do you have any further evidence?
I believe my associate may be bringing the answer to that.
I request a recess.
- Hi, Data. - Geordi.
One hour recess is granted.
Mr. La Forge, my reputation as a litigator,
not to mention my immortal soul, is in jeopardy.
Whatever's gone on here gave us what we needed.
- Have you found their power source? - A cloaked ship.
- She has a Romulan cloaking device? - More likely a bad copy of one.
- We found it on a wavelength scan. - The Enterprise?
Exactly where it's supposed to be.
Ardra extended her cloaking shields around it, set up a damping field.
I've isolated the frequency and penetrated it.
- Can you make contact? - Already have.
This is what I want to do. But we have less than an hour.
You're a wise and experienced leader. I assume you trust your senses.
I would say so.
And your senses tell you this woman is the most powerful force on Ventax?
Then what would you say if I told you that she has no powers whatsoever?
We have seen her powers here.
That's right. And you will again.
Oh, yes. Ardra's magic!
Jared, would you believe me if I said I could steal her powers
and perform the same magic acts as she does?
I'm sorry, Capt Picard, but you are not Ardra.
No, that's true. I'm not Ardra.
But I can create tremors, just as she did.
I think he deserves some leeway. Overruled.
- But that will be enough, Captain. - Of course.
Ardra, would you stop the tremors?
Of course!
- Is something the matter? - I like the tremors.
Well, I don't.
You recognize the same old bag of tricks?
What about this one?
Come back, Ardra, if you can.
No? Fine. Allow me.
- Of all the impudence! - Impudence?
Impudence is pretending to be Fek'lhr of Klingon!
Your leeway has run out.
Your Honour, I appreciate your indulgence. Allow me to explain.
A team from the Enterprise has taken control of this woman's ship,
now in orbit around Ventax ll.
- Thanks for your help, Number One. - Glad to be of service, sir.
They've been monitoring me,
executing a prearranged program on her ship's computer,
an ingenious combination of force-field projection,
holography and transporter effects.
Ardra controls her "magic" literally by the blink of an eye.
Centuries-old technology.
An implant which lets the movements of her eye
choose and activate each illusion.
Ardra once told us that she is known by many names.
At least in that she was honest.
Her crew admitted that she is known by 23 aliases in this sector alone.
You had no right!
Deceiving innocent people with her petty schemes for years.
Ventax Il offered her the greatest opportunity of her nefarious career.
She learned of the myth of Ardra, studied it,
and so expertly played on your fears
that your people were ready to virtually surrender to her.
Your Honour, under the circumstances, I believe it is only fair
that I release the Ventaxians from their obligation.
And I will let them keep the peace they have.
And I will just be on my way.
With the advocate's withdrawal, the contract is dissolved.
This arbitration is adjourned.
Thank you, Captain. You saved our lives.
No. As I've tried to tell you, you saved your own lives a long time ago.
Congratulations, sir.
Your Honour.
You would have had a lot more fun if you'd lost.
Till we meet again, Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise.

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