Imaginary Friend
Stardate: 45832.1
Original Airdate: 4 May, 1992

[Clara's bedroom]

(Troi and little Clara are taking tea, while Father is visible in the next section)
CLARA: I like to cook all kinds of stuff, like yogurt and raisin salad, chocolate chip pancakes and purple omelettes.
TROI: Purple omelettes?
CLARA: You put grape juice in the eggs. Isabella doesn't like it very much. She says it tastes funny.
TROI: I can see her point. Sugar with your tea?
CLARA: Yes, please.
TROI: Isabella would you like some too?
CLARA: Yes, but she takes two cubes.
TROI: I'll bet Isabella is very pretty.
CLARA: She's very, very pretty. She has blonde hair and a blue dress with white buttons. Her ears are pierced and she's tall.
TROI: Maybe you could draw me a picture. I'd love to see what she looks like.
CLARA: You don't think she's real.
TROI: I think she's real for you, and that is real enough for me.
SUTTER: Honey, I think it's time for you to go. You don't want to keep Keiko waiting.
CLARA: I have to go plant the nasturtiums now. I'm Keiko's helper in the arboretum today.
TROI: Is that so?
SUTTER: You go ahead, sweetie, and be home for dinner.
TROI: I hope I see you soon. Maybe we can be friends.
CLARA: Okay. Counsellor Troi?
TROI: Yes?
CLARA: Isabella says she likes you.
TROI: Why, thank you, Isabella.
(Clara leaves)
TROI: I can understand your concern, Ensign Sutter, but really you have nothing to worry about. It's a normal, healthy activity for children to engage in imaginary play.
SUTTER: I'm just afraid she's not making any real friends. She spends all of her time with Isabella.
TROI: You've been moving from starship to starship since Clara was two years old. Maybe Isabella provides a constant companion. She knows this is one friend she won't have to leave behind.
SUTTER: You're probably right.
TROI: Give Clara a chance. As she learns to make friends on the Enterprise, you'll probably find that she'll leave her imaginary world behind.

Captain's log, stardate 45852.1. The Enterprise has arrived at FGC four seven, a nebula which has formed around a neutron star. We are eager to investigate this unique formation.

[Bridge]

LAFORGE: We've got elevated quantities of hydrogen, helium and trionium, but nothing the shields can't handle.
RIKER: Shields up.
PICARD: Take us in, Ensign. One quarter impulse.
FELTON: Aye, sir.

[Corridor]

(a red firefly flits around then goes through a closed door)
DATA: In order for the lateral sensors to complete their scheduled observations, additional processing time will be required.
LAFORGE: We could steal a couple of hours from the Engineering team while they're recalibrating the thermal interferometery scanner.
DATA: Will two hours be enough time to complete the high-resolution series on the neutron star?
LAFORGE: No problem. We'll just double up the main sensor bandwidth while they're freeing up the lateral unit.
(the firefly follows for a while then goes down another corridor)

[Sickbay]

CRUSHER: And then after dinner, then what?
OGAWA: We went to the holodeck and took a walk on the Champs Elysees.
CRUSHER: The neural scanner still seems to be a bit off. Let's check the sensor calibrations.
OGAWA: I'll run a diagnostic.
(the firefly is there)
CRUSHER: And?
OGAWA: And?
CRUSHER: After Paris?
OGAWA: He has shore leave next month. He asked me to go to Risa with him.
CRUSHER: No problem. Nurse McClukidge can cover for you.
OGAWA: I don't think I'm going, Doctor. I hear it's a very uninhibited atmosphere. Personally, I don't think I'm ready for that kind of fun.
CRUSHER: Try to talk him into Tavena Minor. They have a cruise down the Jokri River. The iridescent currents are beautiful.

[Arboretum]

(the firefly is exploring the orchids)
CLARA: See, Isabella? You have to push your finger into the soil as far as it can go. I'm making a hole for the seeds. Now they need to be watered. But the baby seeds are very small, so we mustn't give them too much to drink.
(the firefly passes through Clara's head, then a second voice joins in with Clara's humming)
CLARA: Hello? Is anybody there?
ISABELLA: Hello.
CLARA: Isabella?
ISABELLA: Hello, Clara.
(she's blonde, wearing a blue dress and a sour, sulky expression)
CLARA: Isabella, how come I can see you?
ISABELLA: Is something wrong with the way I look?
CLARA: No. I've just never seen you before. Not for real.
ISABELLA: Well, now you can see me for real. Doesn't that make you happy?
CLARA: Yes, it's wonderful.
ISABELLA: Can we go now?
CLARA: We'd better finish planting the seeds first.
ISABELLA: I'm tired of planting. Let's do something else.
CLARA: Like what?
ISABELLA: Like, I would really like to explore the ship.
CLARA: We'd better finish planting first. I promised Keiko.
ISABELLA: We can finish later. Let's go look around.
CLARA: I'd better ask my daddy.
ISABELLA: Your daddy won't mind. We can tell him later. Come on.

[Engineering]

LAFORGE: So what are we going to name this nebula? FGC forty seven just doesn't have the proper ring to it.
SUTTER: Why don't we call it Sutter's Cloud?
DATA: The rotational period of the neutron star is one point three five seconds.
LAFORGE: That's a bit on the long side. Sutter, let's see if you can get a reading on the particle flux.
SUTTER: Aye, sir.
LAFORGE: I was thinking about something more along the lines of the La Forge Nebula. It's got sort of a majestic sound, don't you think?
DATA: Given the selections, I prefer FGC four seven.
(the ship shakes)
SUTTER: What was that?
LAFORGE: It felt like we hit something.
DATA: Shields have registered an impact, however sensors show nothing in the vicinity.

[Bridge]

WORF: Forward velocity is down by point two percent, and dropping.
PICARD: Engineering.

[Engineering]

PICARD [OC]: Report.
LAFORGE: Could be something wrong with the shields, Captain. We're checking it out now.
SUTTER: Systems are normal, sir.
LAFORGE: So did we hit something or not? Shields say yes, sensors say no. This is very strange. Ensign, give me a breakdown on shield energy conversion and then run a spectral. (nearly steps on Clara) Whoa. Where did you come from?
CLARA: I'm Clara Sutter. That's my daddy.
SUTTER: Clara, you can't be here right now.
CLARA: But Isabella wanted to see Engineering.
SUTTER: I don't care what Isabella wanted to see, you go back to our quarters right now.
CLARA: But Daddy
PICARD [OC]: Bridge to La Forge. Our speed is still dropping.
LAFORGE: I hear you, Captain. I'm increasing the power to the impulse engines, but forward velocity just isn't consistent with engine output.
PICARD [OC]: Explanation.
LAFORGE: It seems like there's something increasing the drag coefficient on the ship.

[Bridge]

LAFORGE [OC]: But we can't find the source.
PICARD: If we can't correct it we may have to reverse course and leave the nebula.

[Engineering]

LAFORGE: Give me a couple of minutes here, Captain.
SUTTER: Clara, now.
(Clara leaves)
SUTTER: I'm sorry, Commander.

[Corridor]

(Isabella appears)
CLARA: Why do you keep disappearing like that?
ISABELLA: The grown-ups don't believe I'm real. When they're around, I have to be invisible. Wait here.
(Isabella disappears)

[Engineering]

DATA: The drag coefficient continues to increase. Our velocity has fallen by twelve percent. Velocity is increasing. Ship's speed has stabilised at one quarter impulse.
LAFORGE: That's great, Data. What'd you do?
DATA: I did nothing. The problem seems to have corrected itself.

[Corridor]

(Isabella appears)
CLARA: Where did you go?
ISABELLA: There was something I had to do.

[Observation lounge]

LAFORGE: I don't have an explanation, Captain. We seemed to hit something, then we started losing speed. So far as we can tell, there's nothing out there to hit.
RIKER: Could some kind of damping field have caused us to lose velocity?
DATA: We have simulated several such fields, but were unable to reproduce the same drag coefficient.
LAFORGE: And we still don't know why the problem suddenly corrected itself.
PICARD: It seems we're looking a unique phenomenon. One that hasn't been recorded before.
LAFORGE: The question is, do we stay here and check it out?
RIKER: Might be dangerous.
DATA: Since we have only experienced the phenomenon once, it is impossible to estimate the risks.
LAFORGE: Captain, I'd like to stay here for a little bit, collect some samples of the gaseous matter, see what it tells us.
PICARD: Agreed. Collect your samples, Mister La Forge. We'll proceed with caution. Dismissed.

[Corridor]

ISABELLA: What's in here?
CLARA: That's the door to the cargo bay. We can't go in there.
ISABELLA: Let's go someplace with a lot of people.
CLARA: Okay. Isabella, why are you so serious lately?
ISABELLA: What do you mean?
CLARA: You haven't even smiled once today.
(Isabella attempts a smile, and feels her face to find out what it's like)
CLARA: You're my best friend, Isabella.
ISABELLA: Why?
CLARA: I don't know. Because we do things together and we trade secrets.
ISABELLA: Does everybody have a best friend?
CLARA: If they're lucky. Before I had you, I didn't have one.
ISABELLA: Why not?
CLARA: Every time I made friends with someone, my daddy's job would change and we'd move to a new ship. It takes time to make a best friend.
ISABELLA: How long?
CLARA: It depends. With you, not very long. You always listened to me, even when I was sad.
ISABELLA: Clara, I'm glad we're best friends.
CLARA: Race you.
ISABELLA: Okay.
CLARA: Ready, set, go!
(and they run around the corner straight into -)
WORF: This area is not designated for children. Are you lost? Where are you supposed to be?
CLARA: We were only playing. We're sorry.
WORF: Return to your quarters, and we will forget this incident.
CLARA: Thank you. Come on.
(Clara takes Isabella's hand and they go back around the corner. Once Worf is gone, they return and run on )

[Engineering]

LAFORGE: Okay, I've configured the magnetic coil to collect samples of gaseous matter from the nebula. Go ahead and activate the beam emitter.
SUTTER: I'm setting the fractionater to a continuous cycle.
LAFORGE: We'll take samples from eight random sections. That ought to give us a reliable measure.
SUTTER: Commander, I understand that you had a parent who was in Starfleet.
LAFORGE: Two of them, as a matter of fact. My father was an exozoologist, my mother a Command officer.
SUTTER: They must have been posted to a lot of different assignments.
LAFORGE: That's putting it mildly. They were always on the move. Some of the time together, sometimes separately. I never knew whether or not I was going to be stationed with my father while he studied invertebrates in the Modean system or on some outpost near the Neutral Zone with my mom.
SUTTER: Was that hard on you?
LAFORGE: I don't remember it that way.
SUTTER: It must have been disruptive if you didn't stay in one place long enough to make friends.
LAFORGE: Well, I suppose there were aspects of my childhood that were less than ideal, but to me it was just one long adventure. Children are a lot stronger than you think. As long as they know you love them, they can handle just about anything life throws at them, you know.
SUTTER: Thanks, Commander.

[Ten Forward]

(Data and Guinan are looking at the nebula)
GUINAN: It's a Samarian coral fish with its fin unfolded.
DATA: I believe what you are seeing is the effect of the fluid dynamic processes inherent in the large scale motion of highly rarified gas.
GUINAN: No, no. First it was a fish, and now it's a Mintonian sailing ship.
DATA: Where?
GUINAN: Right there. Don't you see the two swirls coming together to form the mast?
DATA: I do not see it. It is interesting that people try to find meaningful patterns in things that are essentially random. I have noticed that the images they perceive sometimes suggest what they are thinking about at that particular moment. Besides, it is clearly a bunny rabbit.
(Clara enters)
GUINAN: Looks as though someone's lost their way. Excuse me. Hello. Are you looking for someone?
CLARA: No. I brought Isabella to see Ten Forward.
GUINAN: Oh, I see. Well, ordinarily we would only let you in with a grown-up, but since you've brought Isabella, you can be my guest. Won't you join me?
CLARA: Thank you.
GUINAN: Now, how about two Papalla juices with extra bubbles.
CLARA: Just one, please. Isabella isn't thirsty.
GUINAN: One juice.
CLARA: You're not like the other grown-ups.
GUINAN: Oh, no?
CLARA: They don't think Isabella's real.
GUINAN: Well, most grown-ups have a hard time with things they can't see.
CLARA: Why?
GUINAN: Well, because they get preoccupied by other things.
CLARA: Like what?
GUINAN: 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 be allowed to stay up till eight. So their heads can get so full that they forget about the things that are important to you and me, like imaginary friends.
CLARA: If the other grown-ups don't understand, how come you do?
GUINAN: Maybe because when I was your age, I had one.
CLARA: You did? What was she like?
GUINAN: It wasn't a she.
CLARA: What was he like?
GUINAN: It wasn't a he.
CLARA: It?
GUINAN: It was a Tarkassian razor beast. It had dark brown fur and gold eyes and huge spiny wings, and it would fly so fast nobody could see it except me.
CLARA: Sounds scary.
GUINAN: Oh, it was, especially when he smiled. But the best thing about him was 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 razorbeast was a good friend.
CLARA: So is Isabella.
(Troi enters)
TROI: Hello, Clara.
CLARA: Hello.
GUINAN: Clara and Isabella and I were just having a conversation.
TROI: Would you and Isabella like to come for a walk with me?
CLARA: I guess so. Bye.
GUINAN: Bye, Clara. Bye, Isabella.

[Corridor]

TROI: Clara, you haven't been on this she very long, so maybe you don't know, but Ten Forward is usually for grown-ups.
CLARA: I know that. I didn't want to go, but Isabella wanted to see it.
TROI: If Isabella is making you do things you know are wrong, then you must tell her it's not acceptable.
CLARA: I try to but she doesn't listen.

[Turbolift]

TROI: Deck thirty two. Clara, do you want me to talk to Isabella?
(Clara shrugs)
TROI: Isabella, it's not very nice to get Clara to do things that she isn't supposed to.
CLARA: She's over there.
TROI: From now on I want you to ask a grown-up before you go to any place that is off-limits.
TROI: What does she say?
CLARA: She said.
TROI: Clara, please tell me what Isabella said.
CLARA: She said, you'd better leave us alone.

[Corridor]

TROI: I'm a little concerned at the turn this is taking. It seems Clara is beginning to do inappropriate things and blaming them on Isabella.
SUTTER: She came into Engineering today. She said it was Isabella's idea.
TROI: I don't think it's too serious yet, but we should make more of an effort to get her involved with real friends her own age. The children's centre's having a ceramics class this afternoon. Why don't I take Clara?
SUTTER: I think she'd like that.
TROI: I'll see if there's any room left in the class. In the meantime, I think you should make yourself more available to Clara. Let her know she doesn't have to rely on Isabella when she needs someone to talk to.
SUTTER: Counsellor, thank you.

[Clara's bedroom]

(Clara is doing a puzzle while Isabella just sits holding a teddy bear)
ISABELLA: Are you mad at me? I'm sorry I got you in trouble.
CLARA: That's okay.
ISABELLA: Are we still best friends?
CLARA: Here, you can help me put this together if you want.
ISABELLA: Clara, why are grown-ups so mean?
CLARA: They're not mean. They're just more serious than we are.
ISABELLA: Sometimes I wish they would just go away.
CLARA: You do?
ISABELLA: Yes, I don't like them. I'm bored. Let's go back to Engineering.
CLARA: We're not allowed to go there.
ISABELLA: I thought we were best friends.
CLARA: We are.
ISABELLA: Then why won't you play with me?
CLARA: I told you.
ISABELLA: You always listen to the grown-ups. You don't care about me.
CLARA: That's not true.
ISABELLA: I thought we'd have fun together, 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. And if they find us, we'll tell them we got lost.
(doorbell)
CLARA: Who is it?
TROI [OC]: Counsellor Troi.
(Isabella vanishes and Clara lets Troi in)
TROI: Hello, Clara.
CLARA: Hi.
TROI: I came to ask if you'd like to go to a ceramics class.
CLARA: Can Isabella come too?
TROI: No. Let's do something with Isabella another day.
CLARA: Well, okay.
(Troi and Clara leave, Isabella appears and her eyes turn red)

[Bridge]

DATA: Sir, as we move deeper into the nebula, sensors indicate that the levels of helium and trionium are continuing to rise.
PICARD: Is it something that the shields can't handle?
DATA: No, sir. We are well within tolerance levels.
(the ship shakes and the lights flicker)
PICARD: Mister Data?
DATA: Shields have registered an impact.
PICARD: But the sensors show nothing out there, right?
DATA: There is no indication of anything near the ship.
WORF: Forward velocity is dropping, Captain. Down by point four percent.
PICARD: Can we go to warp speed?
DATA: Until we determine the cause of the drag coefficient, I would not recommend it, sir.
WORF: Forward velocity down by one point one percent.
PICARD: Ensign, increase power to the impulse engines.
FELTON: Aye, sir. Impulse engines now at full power.
WORF: We are no longer losing speed. Forward velocity is holding steady.
DATA: The drag coefficient is still present, but it has stabilised.
PICARD: Bridge to Commander Riker. Check with Mister La Forge. See if he found anything in the matter sample from the nebula.
RIKER [OC]: On my way, sir.

[Engineering]

RIKER: Any luck?
LAFORGE: Yeah, take a look at this. We tried radiating the subject matter with just about 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've been running into.
RIKER: Do you know what it is?
LAFORGE: We think so, now that the sensors can read it. It seems to be a highly cohesive form of plasma, like a strand of energy.
SUTTER: We figure it's a segment of just part of a network of much larger strands.
LAFORGE: When these things come in contact with our shields it produces a resonant effect, and that creates the drag coefficient we've been experiencing.
RIKER: Is there anything like this on record?
LAFORGE: No, sir.
RIKER: Do you know how many of them there might be?
LAFORGE: No, but if we run the warp field generators through the deflector grid, we could radiate a field outside the ship.
RIKER: And we'd be able to see for ourselves. Let's do it.

[Children's centre]

TROI: Alexander, I thought you might like a partner. This is Clara Sutter. She's new on the Enterprise. Clara, meet Alexander Rozhenko.
ALEXANDER: I'm making a cup for my father. Want to help?
TROI: Go ahead.
(Clara adds a point to the side of the goblet at random)
ALEXANDER: Well, you're supposed to put them in a row, like this.
TROI: Clara, would you like some clay of your own?
TEACHER: Here, honey.
(and puts a protective gown on her)
CLARA: I've never made a cup before. How do you make the round part?
ALEXANDER: Well, it's easy. You take a big piece of clay like this, and push your hand into it.

[Bridge]

WORF: Warp field generators are standing by.
LAFORGE: Captain, we should be able to illuminate any strands within two thousand kilometres of the ship.
PICARD: Proceed.
LAFORGE: Initiating field generation.
PICARD: Remarkable.
(there are lots of red strands, like a loose spider web)
DATA: It is an irregular lattice composed of approximately forty seven million strands of energy.
LAFORGE: Captain, with this many of them, the resonant effect on our shields could cause a problem.
PICARD: Agreed. Ensign, bring us about. Take us out of the nebula.
DATA: It may be difficult, sir. I am detecting a significant number of strands behind us.
PICARD: Do your best, Ensign.
FELTON: Aye, sir.

[Troi's quarters]

TROI: Hot chocolate. Computer, I need my appointment schedule for next week.
(the cup of chocolate falls over on its own. She picks it up, gets a cloth and when she comes back, the cup is on its side again)

[Daycare centre]

ALEXANDER: Kryonian Tigers aren't so scary. I saw one once.
CLARA: You did?
ALEXANDER: My father took me to the zoo on Brentalia. All the tiger did was lick my hand. And he smelled funny.
CLARA: I think we need more water.
ALEXANDER: I'll get some.
(Alexander walks off, and a piece of clay on a tray falls over and squashes the goblet)
CLARA: Isabella?
ALEXANDER: Clara!
CLARA: I didn't do it.
ALEXANDER: Who did?
CLARA: It was Isabella.
ALEXANDER: I don't see anybody.
CLARA: She's invisible.
ALEXANDER: I spent two weeks on that. That was really mean.
CLARA: I didn't do it. I didn't.
ALEXANDER: Clara, there's no such thing as invisible people. You're lying.
(a piece of clay hits him from behind)
ALEXANDER: Hey!
CLARA: Isabella, stop!
(Clara runs out)

[Arboretum]

(and into the arboretum for a good cry)
ISABELLA: Clara.
CLARA: Why were you being so mean to me? Why'd you do that to my friend?
ISABELLA: Because you ran away from me. You left me alone. I had to do everything by myself.
CLARA: You're scaring me.
ISABELLA: I was going to protect you, Clara. I liked you. But now I don't care. Now, when the others come, you can die along with everyone else.

[Bridge]

PICARD: Status, Mister Data.
DATA: At our current speed, we will clear the nebula in twelve minutes four seconds.
PICARD: Continue a full sensor sweep. I want all the information we can gather.
(ship shudder)
WORF: Captain, forward velocity is down by point six percent. (shudder) Velocity down by two point four percent.
PICARD: Mister Data?
DATA: We are moving through a dense concentration of energy strands.
RIKER: Can we go to warp?
LAFORGE: The stress on the hull would be too great.
DATA: Captain, density appears to be lower off the starboard bow.
PICARD: Ensign, bring us to bearing oh three oh mark five.
FELTON: Aye, sir.
WORF: Forward velocity holding.
PICARD: Steady as she goes.

[Ten Forward]

GUINAN: Is something wrong with the cake?
TROI: Excuse me?
GUINAN: Well, I see you sitting here with a piece of untouched chocolate cake in front of you. I assume something's wrong with the cake or something's bothering you.
TROI: I'm sure the cake is fine. I've just been thinking.
GUINAN: Let me guess. About the little girl with the imaginary friend?
TROI: I'm wondering if I'm doing the right thing.
GUINAN: How so?
TROI: Well, I know the best thing to do is to gradually wean her away from her fantasy, and she did make some new friends today and had a good time.
GUINAN: But?
TROI: But I can't help feeling that I'm taking something from her. Something precious. A part of her childhood she'll never have again.
GUINAN: Well, I'm not sure about that. I was just telling Clara about my imaginary friend.
TROI: You have an imaginary friend?
GUINAN: A Tarkassian razor beast. It protected me. I knew as long as that razorbeast was around, nothing could hurt me. You know, over the years his body kind of faded away but the idea stayed. And I just don't seem to talk to him as often as I used to.
TROI: You still talk to it?
GUINAN: Oh, yeah, when I'm afraid or I get confused or a little scared. I just don't think you should have to give up an imaginary friend.
SUTTER [OC]: Ensign Sutter to Counsellor Troi.
TROI: Go ahead, Ensign.

[Sutter quarters]

SUTTER: Would you come to my quarters? I'm having a problem with Clara.

[Ten Forward]

TROI: I'm on my way.

[Sutter quarters]

SUTTER: She won't even go into her room. She's terrified that Isabella's going to hurt her.
TROI: Clara, your father tells me Isabella has been saying some very bad things to you. What did she say?
CLARA: She said they were going to come and kill everyone.
TROI: Who's going to come and kill everyone?
CLARA: The others, like her.
TROI: Did she say why? I know you're very frightened. Sometimes what we imagine can be just as scary as something real. But I promise you, there is no way Isabella can harm you or anyone on this ship.
CLARA: But she's not imaginary anymore. She's real now. I can see her.
TROI: You can see her?
CLARA: Yes.
TROI: If I go with you and hold your hand, will you go into your room?
CLARA: I think so.
TROI: We'll make sure Isabella isn't anywhere around, okay? Come on.

[Clara's bedroom]

TROI: Do you see anybody?
(head shake)
TROI: Let's look under the bed. Is she there? Okay, where else?
TROI: Is she behind here?
(Clara looks behind the chair)
TROI: Maybe Isabella's gone home.
(they check the bathroom)
TROI: Let's see. Anything here? Maybe Isabella knows that you've got new friends now. In fact, I'll bet she won't be coming around as much anymore.
CLARA: Maybe. What about in the closet?
TROI: Okay. Anybody in here? Looks pretty empty to me.
(and Isabella appears, fires a red bolt that knocks Troi out, and Clara screams)

[Sickbay]

TROI: She was eleven, maybe twelve, with blonde hair. Clara.
CRUSHER: Clara's sleeping. She's going to be fine. Her bioelectrical processes were severely disrupted. It's as if the energy were pulled right out of her body.
SUTTER: Captain, Clara has told me that her imaginary friend has been making threats. She claimed that others were on the way and that they had plans to kill everyone on the ship.
PICARD: Picard to Lieutenant Worf.

[Bridge]

WORF: Worf here, sir.
PICARD [OC]: Lieutenant,

[Sickbay]

PICARD: We've established the presence of what appears to be an alien entity on board. It seems the entity has manifested itself in the form of a twelve year old human girl who has been seen with Clara Sutter. She has blonde hair, blue eyes
WORF [OC]: And a blue dress.

[Bridge]

WORF: Yes sir, I have seen her.
PICARD [OC]: When?
WORF: Two days ago, near Engineering. She was with Miss Sutter.
PICARD [OC]: Security Alert

[Sickbay]

PICARD: Mister Worf. Keep a good lookout.
WORF [OC]: Aye, sir.
(Alyssa and Clara enter)
OGAWA: She insisted on talking to you.
CLARA: It's about Isabella.
SUTTER: What about her, Clara?
CLARA: I think her feelings were hurt. She said she liked me, she liked being with me. She was my friend. She only got mean when I stopped paying attention to her.
SUTTER: Did she say when the others were coming? (shakes head) All right, thanks, sweetie. You go back to bed now. We'll handle this.
CLARA: But Daddy.
PICARD: Clara, if we need your help again, I hope we can count on you.
CLARA: Yes, Captain.
RIKER [OC]: Captain Picard, report to the Bridge.
PICARD: On my way.

[Bridge]

PICARD: Report.
RIKER: Our speed is down by twenty two percent.
LAFORGE: Strand density is ten times what it was, Captain. We can't take many more of these hits.
PICARD: All stop.
WORF: Sir, something is heading toward us, bearing one oh three mark oh two four.
PICARD: On screen.
(it's a firefly)
DATA: It appears to be an energy vortex of highly complex patterns. Possibly a life form.
RIKER: Red alert.
DATA: It is in direct physical contact with our shields.
WORF: Shield strength dropping to seventy five percent. Seventy two percent.
RIKER: The damn thing's feeding off our shields. Mister Data, remodulate our shield frequencies.
DATA: Aye, sir. No effect.
(more fireflies turn up)
WORF: Shield strength has dropped to sixty four percent.
LAFORGE: We've got about eight minutes before this thing drains our shields.
RIKER: Any ideas?

[Arboretum]

(Picard, Sutter, Clara and Worf enter)
CLARA: Isabella? Isabella? Don't you want to talk to me? I'm not mad at you. Isabella?
PICARD: We know you've been on this ship for some time now, and that you're posing as Clara's friend, and that you've been threatening her. We can only assume that 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 small child?
CLARA: I'm scared, Isabella.
(Isabella appears)
PICARD: Who are you?
ISABELLA: I came here to determine whether you were a threat to us, and to examine the purity of your energy sources.
PICARD: Energy? Is that why you're draining our shields?
ISABELLA: Yes. The emissions from your graviton field generators are far richer than our normal sources of energy.
(big shudder and light flicker)
PICARD: Picard to Bridge. Report.
RIKER [OC]: Shields are down to three percent. We're diverting all available power.
PICARD: Acknowledged. If it's energy that you want, we have other ways of providing it. You needn't destroy us.
ISABELLA: You should be destroyed. You are cruel, uncaring creatures.
PICARD: What makes you say that?
ISABELLA: The way you treat Clara.
PICARD: In what way have we mistreated her?
ISABELLA: You wouldn't let her do what she wanted to, or go where she wanted to.
PICARD: You mean where you wanted her to.
ISABELLA: What difference does it make?
PICARD: You were taking her to places that were inappropriate, even dangerous.
ISABELLA: I wouldn't have let anything happen to her.
PICARD: We didn't know that. We didn't even know if you were real. All we knew was that a little girl's imaginary friend was frightening her, threatening her.
ISABELLA: That was only after you told Clara not to be my friend.
PICARD: 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 everything 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 I think there can be better criterion, then you must understand how deeply we care for them. When our children are young, they 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.
CLARA: Please don't hurt us. If you still want to be my best friend, I'd like that very much.
(Isabella turns into a firefly and sails away, taking all the other fireflies with her)

[Bridge]

PICARD: Status, Number One.
RIKER: We're clear of the strands. We'll have full warp capability in twenty minutes.
PICARD: Notify all sections we'll be leaving this area in one hour.
RIKER: Sir?
PICARD: Mister La Forge, I want you to drive the warp engines to full power, and direct a flow of energy out into the nebula.
LAFORGE: Aye, sir.

[Clara's bedroom]

ISABELLA: I came to say I'm sorry I frightened you.
CLARA: That's okay.
ISABELLA: And I misled you. I wasn't really your Isabella.
CLARA: For a while you were.
ISABELLA: I never had a friend before.
CLARA: I'm sorry I have to go away.
ISABELLA: Do you think you'll ever come back?
CLARA: I hope so.
ISABELLA: So do I.

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