I like to cook all kinds of stuff. Yoghurt-and-raisin salad.
Chocolate-chip pancakes and purple omelettes.
Purple omelettes?
You put grape juice in the eggs. Isabella doesn't like it.
- She says it tastes funny. - I can see her point.
- Would you like sugar with your tea? - Yes, please.
Isabella, would you like some?
Yes, but she takes two cubes.
I'll bet Isabella is very pretty.
She's very, very pretty.
She has blonde hair and a blue dress with white buttons.
Her ears are pierced and she's tall.
You could draw a picture. I'd love to see what she's like.
You don't think she's real.
I think she's real for you and that is real enough for me.
Honey, time for you to go. You don't want to keep Keiko waiting.
I have to go plant the nasturtiums.
- I'm Keiko's help in the arboretum. - Is that so?
Go ahead, sweetie. Be home in time for dinner.
I hope I see you soon. Maybe we can be friends.
- Counsellor Troi? - Yes?
Isabella says she likes you.
Why, thank you, Isabella.
I understand your concern, Ensign Sutter.
But you have nothing to worry about.
It's normal for children to engage in imaginary play.
Yeah, I'm just afraid she's not making real friends.
She spends all her time with Isabella.
You've moved from starship to starship since Clara was two.
Maybe Isabella provides a constant companion.
She knows this is one friend she won't have to leave.
You're probably right.
Give Clara a chance.
Once she makes new friends on the Enterprise,
you'll probably find she leaves her imaginary world behind.
Captain's log, star date 45852. 1.
The Enterprise has arrived at FGC-47,
a nebula which has formed around a neutron star.
We are eager to investigate this unique formation.
Elevated quantities of hydrogen, helium and trionium.
- Shields up. - Take us in.
- One-quarter impulse. - Aye, sir.
In order for the sensors to complete their observations,
more processing time is required.
We could steal a couple of hours from the Engineering team.
Is two hours enough to complete a high-resolution series?
No problem. Just double up the main sensor bandwidth.
And after dinner, then what?
We went to the holodeck and took a walk on the Champs Elysées.
The neural scanner still seems off. Let's check the calibrations.
I'll run a diagnostic.
- And? - And?
After Paris?
He has shore leave next month. He asked me to go to Risa.
No problem. Nurse McClukidge can cover for you.
I don't think I'm going. I hear it's very uninhibited.
I don't think I'm ready for that kind of fun.
Try to talk him into Tavela Minor. They have a Jokri River cruise.
The iridescent currents are beautiful.
See, Isabella? You have to stick your finger into the soil,
as far as it will go.
I'm making a hole for the seeds.
Now they need to be watered.
But the baby seeds are very small.
We mustn't give them too much to drink.
Is anybody there?
- Hello. - Isabella?
Hello, Clara.
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.
Isabella. How come I can see you?
Is something wrong with how I look?
No. It's just I've never seen you before. Not for real.
Well, now you can see me for real. Doesn't that make you happy?
Yes. It's wonderful.
Can we go now?
We'd better finish planting the seeds.
I'm tired of planting. Let's do something else.
- Like what? - Like...
I would really like to explore the ship.
We'd better finish planting first. I promised Keiko.
We can finish later. Let's go look around.
- I'd better ask my daddy. - Your daddy won't mind.
We can tell him later. Come on.
What will we call this nebula?
FGC-47 doesn't have the proper ring to it.
Why don't we call it Sutter's Cloud?
The rotational period of the star is 1.35 seconds.
That's long. Get a reading on the particle flux.
I was thinking along the lines of the La Forge Nebula.
It's got a majestic sound.
Given the selections, I prefer FGC-47.
- What was that? - We hit something.
The shields registered an impact. The sensors show nothing.
Forward velocity is down by 0.2 percent and dropping.
Engineering, report.
Something could be wrong with the shields. We're checking.
- Systems are normal, sir. - Did we hit something?
Shields say yes, sensors say no.
This is very strange.
Ensign, give me a breakdown on the shield-energy conversion...
Where did you come from?
I'm Clara Sutter. That's my daddy.
Clara, you can't be here now.
But Isabella wanted to see Engineering.
I don't care about Isabella. Go back to our quarters.
- But, Daddy... - Our speed is still dropping.
I hear you. I'm increasing power.
But velocity isn't consistent with engine output.
Something is increasing the drag coefficient.
- We can't find the source. - We may have to leave the nebula.
Give me a couple of minutes.
Clara, now.
I'm sorry.
Why do you keep disappearing like that?
The grown-ups don't believe I'm real.
When they're around, I have to be invisible.
Wait here.
The drag coefficient continues to increase.
Velocity has fallen by 12 percent.
Velocity is increasing.
Speed stabilized at one-quarter impulse.
- Great. What did you do? - I did nothing.
The problem seems to have corrected itself.
Where did you go?
There was something I had to do.
I have no explanation.
We seemed to hit something, then started losing speed.
But there's nothing to hit.
Could a damping field cause us to lose velocity?
We have simulated fields but have not reproduced the same drag.
We still don't know why it corrected itself.
It seems a unique phenomenon. One that hasn't been recorded.
- Do we stay and check it out? - Might be dangerous.
Since we only experienced it once,
it is impossible to estimate risk.
I'd like to stay here and collect samples of the gaseous matter.
See what it tells us.
Agreed. Collect your samples, Mr. La Forge.
We will proceed with caution. Dismissed.
What's in here?
That's the door to the cargo bay. We can't go in there.
Let's go someplace with a lot of people.
Isabella, why are you so serious lately?
What do you mean?
You haven't even smiled once today.
- You're my best friend, Isabella. - Why?
I don't know. We do things together and we trade secrets.
Does everybody have a best friend?
If they're lucky. Before I had you, I didn't have one.
Why not?
Every time I made friends, my daddy's job would change.
We'd move to a new ship. It takes time to make a best friend.
- How long? - Depends.
With you, not very long.
You always listened to me, even when I was sad.
Clara, I'm glad we're best friends.
- Race you. - OK.
Ready, set, go.
This area is not designated for children. Are you lost?
Where are you supposed to be?
We're only playing. We're sorry.
Return to your quarters.
And we will forget this incident.
Thank you.
Come on.
I've configured the magnetic coil to collect gaseous matter.
Activate the emitter.
The fractionator is on continuous.
We'll collect from eight random sections.
That ought to give us a reliable measure.
Commander, I understand you had a parent in Starfleet.
Two of them.
My father was an exozoologist, my mother a Command officer.
They must have been posted to a lot of assignments.
That's putting it mildly.
We were always on the move,
some of the time together, sometimes separately.
I never knew if I'd be stationed
with my father while he studied in the Modean System,
or in the Neutral Zone with my mom.
- Was that hard? - I don't see it that way.
It must've been disruptive if you couldn't make friends.
Well, some aspects of my childhood were less than ideal.
But, to me, it was one long adventure.
Children are stronger than you think.
As long as they know you love them, they can handle anything.
Thanks, Commander.
No, it's a Samarian coral fish with its fin unfolded.
I believe you see the effect of the dynamic processes
inherent in the motion of rarefied gas.
First it was a fish.
- Now it's a Mintonian sailing ship. - Where?
Right there. Don't you see the two swirls forming the mast?
I do not see it.
It is interesting that people find meaningful patterns
in things that are random.
I have noticed that the images
sometimes suggest what they are thinking about at that moment.
Besides, it is clearly a bunny rabbit.
Looks as though someone's lost their way.
Excuse me.
Hello. Are you looking for someone?
No. I brought Isabella to see ten-forward.
I see.
Ordinarily, we only let you in with a grown-up.
But since you brought Isabella, you can be my guest.
- Won't you join me? - Thank you.
Now, how about two papalla juices with extra bubbles?
Just one, please. Isabella isn't thirsty.
- One juice. - You aren't like other grown-ups.
They don't think Isabella's real.
Most grown-ups have a hard time with things they can't see.
Because they get preoccupied by other things.
Like what?
Like how much fuel it takes to power a ship,
or whether we should go to one star system or another,
or whether little girls should go to bed at seven or eight.
So their heads get so full,
they forget about things that are important to you and me,
like imaginary friends.
If they don't understand, how come you do?
Maybe because when I was your age, I had one.
You did?
- What was she like? - It wasn't a she.
- What was he like? - It wasn't a he.
It was a Tarkassian razor beast.
It had dark brown fur and gold eyes and huge spiny wings.
It would fly past so fast, nobody could see it but me.
It sounds scary.
It was, especially when he smiled.
But the best thing about him
was that I could curl up on his furry belly
and he had the softest purr you ever heard.
It put me right to sleep every night.
I tell you, that razor beast was a good friend.
So is Isabella.
- Hello, Clara. - Hello.
Clara, Isabella and I were just having a conversation.
Would you and Isabella like a walk?
I guess so.
- Bye. - Bye, Clara.
Bye, Isabella.
You haven't been here long, maybe you don't know,
but ten-forward is usually for grown-ups.
I know that.
I didn't wanna go, but Isabella wanted to see it.
If Isabella is making you do things you know are wrong,
tell her it's not acceptable.
I try to but she doesn't listen.
Deck 32.
Clara, do you want me to talk to Isabella?
It's not nice to get Clara to do things
that she isn't supposed to.
She's over there.
From now on, I want you to ask a grown-up
before you go to any place that's off limits.
What does she say?
She said...
Clara, please tell me what Isabella said.
She said, "You'd better leave us alone."
I'm concerned at the turn this is taking.
Clara is doing inappropriate things and blaming them on Isabella.
She came into Engineering. She said it was Isabella's idea.
I don't think it's serious.
We should make an effort to get her involved with real friends.
The children's centre has a ceramics class.
- Why don't I take Clara? - She'd like that.
I'll see if there's any room left.
In the meantime,
you should make yourself more available to Clara.
Let her know she doesn't have to rely on Isabella to talk to.
Counsellor, thank you.
Are you mad at me?
I'm sorry I got you into trouble.
- That's OK. - Are we still best friends?
Here, you can help me put this together, if you want.
Clara, why are grown-ups so mean?
They're not mean. They're just more serious than we are.
Sometimes I wish they would just go away.
- You do? - Yes. I don't like them.
I'm bored. Let's go back to Engineering.
We're not allowed there.
I thought we were best friends.
- We are. - Why won't you play with me?
- I told you. - You always listen to grown-ups.
- You don't care about me. - That's not true.
I thought we'd have fun once you could really see me.
I thought you'd like me.
Let's go to Engineering, Clara. Just for a little while.
No one will know. It'll be our secret.
If they find us, we'll tell them we got lost.
- Who is it? - Counsellor Troi.
- Hello, Clara. - Hi.
I came to ask if you'd like to go to a ceramics class.
Can Isabella come, too?
No. Let's do something with Isabella another day.
Well, OK.
Sir, as we move deeper into the nebula,
sensors indicate the levels of helium and trionium continue to rise.
- Can the shields handle it? - We are within tolerance levels.
- Mr. Data? - Shields have registered an impact.
But the sensors show nothing out there?
There is no indication of anything nearby.
Forward velocity is dropping. Down by 0.4 percent.
Can we go to warp speed?
Until we determine the cause, I would not recommend it.
Forward velocity down by 1.1 percent.
Increase power to impulse engines.
Aye, sir. Impulse engines now at full power.
We are no longer losing speed. Forward velocity is steady.
The drag coefficient is present but it has stabilized.
Bridge to Riker. Check with La Forge.
See if he found anything in the sample.
On my way, sir.
- Any luck? - Yeah. Look at this.
We tried radiating it with everything we could think of.
We didn't find anything until we subjected it
to a high-frequency warp field.
We think this is what we ran into.
Do you know what it is?
We think so, now that the sensors can read it.
A highly cohesive form of plasma, a strand of energy.
We figure it's part of a network of larger strands.
When they come into contact with our shields,
the resonant effect creates the drag coefficient.
- Anything like this on record? - No, sir.
Do you know how many there are?
No, but if we run the warp field through the deflector,
we could radiate a field outside.
We'd be able to see for ourselves. Let's do it.
Alexander, I thought you might like a partner.
This is Clara Sutter. She's new here.
Clara, meet Alexander Rozhenko.
I'm making a cup for my father. Wanna help?
Go ahead.
Well, you're supposed to put them in a row.
Like this.
Clara, would you like some clay of your own?
Here, honey.
I've never made a cup before. How do you make the round part?
Well, it's easy.
You take a big piece of clay and push your hand into it.
Warp-field generators standing by.
Captain, we should illuminate any strands within 2,000 kilometers.
- Proceed. - Initiating field generation.
It is an irregular lattice composed of 47 million strands of energy.
With this many of them, the effect on our shields could cause a problem.
Ensign, take us out of the nebula.
It may be difficult. I detect a significant number behind us.
- Do your best. - Aye, sir.
Hot chocolate.
Computer, I need my appointment schedule for next week.
Kryonian tigers aren't so scary. I saw one once.
You did?
My father took me to the zoo on Brentalia.
All the tiger did was lick my hand. And he smelled funny.
- I think we need more water. - I'll get some.
- Isabella? - Clara!
- I didn't do it. - Who did?
It was Isabella.
- I don't see anybody. - She's invisible.
I spent two weeks on that. That was really mean.
I didn't do it. I didn't.
There's no such thing as invisible people. You're lying.
Isabella, stop!
Why were you being so mean to me?
Why did you do that to my friend?
Because you ran away from me. You left me alone.
I had to do everything by myself.
You're scaring me.
I was going to protect you.
I liked you. But now I don't care.
Now, when the others come,
you can die along with everyone else.
- Status, Mr. Data. - At our current speed,
we will clear the nebula in 12 minutes, four seconds.
Continue the sensor sweep.
I want all the information we can gather.
Captain, forward velocity is down by 0.6 percent.
Velocity down by 2.4 percent.
Mr. Data?
We are moving through a dense concentration of strands.
Can we go to warp?
Stress on the hull would be too great.
Captain, the density appears lower off the starboard bow.
Ensign, bring us to 030, mark five.
Aye, sir.
Forward velocity holding.
Steady as she goes.
- Something wrong with the cake? - Excuse me?
I see you with a piece of untouched chocolate cake.
I assume something's wrong with the cake or with you.
I'm sure the cake's fine. I've just been thinking.
Let me guess. The girl with the imaginary friend?
I'm wondering if I'm doing the right thing.
How so?
Well, I know the best thing is to wean her from her fantasy.
And she did make some new friends today.
But I can't help feeling I'm taking something from her,
something precious,
a part of childhood she'll never have again.
Well, I'm not sure about that.
I was just telling Clara about my imaginary friend.
You have an imaginary friend?
A Tarkassian razor beast. It protected me.
I knew as long as that razor beast was around, nothing could hurt me.
Over the years, his body kind of faded away, but the idea stayed.
I don't seem to talk to him as often.
- You still talk to it? - Yeah.
When I'm afraid or I get confused or a little scared.
I don't think you have to give up an imaginary friend.
- Ensign Sutter to Counsellor Troi. - Go ahead.
Would you come to my quarters? It's Clara.
I'm on my way.
She won't even go into her room.
She's terrified Isabella will hurt her.
Your father tells me that Isabella has been saying bad things.
What did she say?
She said they're going to kill everyone.
- Who's going to kill everyone? - The others, like her.
Did she say why?
I know you're very frightened.
Sometimes, what we imagine can be as scary as something real.
But I promise you,
there is no way Isabella can harm you or anyone on this ship.
But she's not imaginary any more. She's real now.
I can see her.
- You can see her? - Yes.
If I go with you and hold your hand, will you go into your room?
I think so.
We'll make sure Isabella isn't anywhere around, OK?
Come on.
Do you see anybody?
Let's look under the bed.
Is she there?
OK. Where else?
Is she behind here?
Maybe Isabella's gone home.
Let's see. Anything here?
Maybe Isabella knows that you've got new friends now.
In fact, I'll bet she doesn't come as much any more.
What about in the closet?
Anybody in here? Looks pretty empty to me.
She was 11, maybe 12. Blonde hair. Clara!
Clara's sleeping. She's going to be fine.
Her bioelectrical processes were severely disrupted.
It's as if the energy was pulled out of her body.
Clara told me that her imaginary friend has been making threats.
She claimed that others were on the way
and they had plans to kill everyone on the ship.
- Picard to Lt Worf. - Worf here, sir.
Lieutenant, we've established the presence of an alien entity.
That the entity manifests itself as a 12-year-old human girl,
who was seen with Clara Sutter.
- Blonde hair, blue eyes. - And a blue dress.
- Yes, sir. I have seen her. - When?
Two days ago, near Engineering. She was with Miss Sutter.
Security alert, Mr. Worf. Keep a good lookout.
- She insisted on talking to you. - It's about Isabella.
- What about her, Clara? - Her feelings were hurt.
She said she liked me and she liked being with me.
She was my friend.
She only got mean when I stopped paying attention to her.
Did she say when the others were coming?
Thanks, sweetie. Go back to bed. We'll handle this.
- But, Daddy... - Clara.
If we need your help again, I hope we can count on you?
Yes, Captain.
- Capt Picard to the bridge. - On my way.
- Report. - Our speed is down by 22 percent.
Strand density is ten times what it was.
We can't take much more.
All stop.
Sir, something is moving toward us, bearing 103, mark 024.
On screen.
It appears to be an energy vortex of complex patterns.
Possibly a life form.
Red alert.
It is in contact with our shields.
Shield strength dropping to 75 percent.
- 72 percent. - It's feeding off our shields.
Mr. Data, remodulate our shield frequencies.
Aye, sir.
No effect.
Shield strength at 64 percent.
We've got eight minutes before it drains our shields.
Any ideas?
Don't you want to talk to me? I'm not mad at you.
We know you've been on this ship for some time now,
and that you're posing as Clara's friend,
and you've been threatening her.
We can only assume there is some connection between yourself
and the life forms attacking this ship.
You're obviously an intelligent being.
There's no reason to hide from us.
Talk to us.
Or can you only communicate by threatening a child?
I'm scared, Isabella.
Who are you?
I came to determine whether you are a threat to us,
and to examine the purity of your energy sources.
Energy? Is that why you're draining our shields?
Yes. The emissions from your field generators are far richer
than our normal sources of energy.
Picard to bridge. Report.
Shields at three percent. We're diverting all power.
If it's energy you want, we can provide it.
- You needn't destroy us. - You should be destroyed.
You are cruel, uncaring creatures.
- What makes you say that? - The way you treat Clara.
How have we mistreated her?
You wouldn't let her do what she wanted, go where she wanted.
You mean where you wanted?
What difference does it make?
Those places were inappropriate, even dangerous.
I wouldn't have let anything happen to her.
We didn't know that. We didn't know if you were real.
All we knew
was that her imaginary friend was frightening her, threatening her.
That was only after you told Clara not to be my friend.
I understand.
You are seeing this ship, all of us, from a unique perspective.
From a child's point of view.
It must seem terribly unfair and restrictive to you.
As adults, we don't always stop to consider
how what we say and do shapes the impressions of young people.
But if you're judging us as a people
by the way we treat our children,
and there can be no better criterion,
then you must understand how deeply we care for them.
Our children don't understand what might be dangerous.
Our rules are to keep them from harm, real or imagined,
and that's part of the continuity of our human species.
When Clara grows up, she will make rules for her children
to protect them, as we protect her.
Please don't hurt us.
If you still want to be my best friend,
I'd like that very much.
Status, Number One.
We're clear. Full warp capability in 20 minutes.
Inform all sections, we will leave this area in one hour.
Mr. La Forge, drive the warp engines to full power.
Direct an energy beam out into the nebula.
Aye, sir.
I came to say I'm sorry I frightened you.
That's OK.
And I misled you. I wasn't really your Isabella.
- For a while you were. - I never had a friend before.
I'm sorry I have to go away.
Do you think you'll ever come back?
- I hope so. - So do l.

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