Rolling his eyes heavenward, Pope Jean-Luc Picard turned to see his latest audience. Please, he prayed, not another Hubbard's Witness.
A creature bowed reverently to him. It was remarkably similar to every other race he had ever met -- two eyes, two legs, two arms, two ears, and so on -- except that it had an intricate design of some sort on its forehead, probably glued on by a costumer in a hurry. "I greet you, Your Holiness," it said in a human-sounding but slightly affected accent.
"So I see," observed Picard wryly (as usual). "Is that the insignia of your order I see upon your forehead?"
"This? Oh, no, it's just what happens when you piss off a costumer with a glue gun and a couple of spare yards of lace. You see, he was in a hurry..."
"As a matter of fact, so am I. State your business, please. Better yet -- " He tapped the communicator on his mitre. "Archbishop O'Brien, one to be assumed bodily into heaven."
The communicator sighed wearily. "Your Holiness, that's the fourth -- "
"Want to go for five?"
"No, sir. Understood, sir." The lace thing glowed briefly and reappeared on the forward viewscreen, shrieking noiselessly.
We are en route to a star system known as Bethlehem, where Starfleet Intelligence assures us we will meet a creature of great wisdom and compassion. And why not? It's not as if they've ever been wrong in the past...
The bridge of the Enterprise hummed with activity as junior officers carrying datapads strode importantly through, pretending to be getting things done.
"Your Holiness, we're approaching the Bethlehem system now. There are some signs of life on Bethlehem 3, but not on the other worlds. Shall I put her in a parking orbit, sir?"
"Let there be parking."
"Aye, sir." Ensign Redshirt winced, trying to keep a straight face despite Picard's God complex. "There she is -- Bethlehem 3, on screen."
"You see that little dot next to that other dot?"
"Oh, for the love of Q -- Will you just magnify it?" I am going to harm that ensign, thought Pope Jean-Luc Picard savagely.
"Aye, sir." The planet floated majestically in space. Somewhere just out of sight, the music swelled.
"Cardinal Riker, have you chosen your away team?"
"With Your Holiness' permission," began Riker, "I have. I'll be taking Brother Worf, Sister Deanna, and... oh, what the heck, let's bring Ensign Redshirt."
"Agreed. He was beginning to piss me off anyway. Er, I mean, I'm sure he will be a valuable addition to your away team."
Brother Worf, wearing the simple cassock of a Jesuit priest, frowned. "Your Holiness, this ensign is not --"
"-- is not your concern, my son," Picard finished smoothly.
Worf looked briefly like a badass about to snap, then remembered his vow of obedience. "Forgive me," he growled.
Picard nodded, then said to nobody in particular: "Bridge to Engineering. Send down the away team. To the planet, I mean," he added hastily. The transporter beam glistened moistly, warmly, and the away team faded out, smiling.
A hot wind blew across Bethlehem 3 as the away team arrived on the hilly surface with a gasp. "Cardinal, I sense a tingling in all of us," reported Sister Deanna Troi.
The Cardinal smiled. "Archbishop O'Brien has been working on that St. Teresa algorithm, I see. Supposed to be good for away team morale."
Worf scanned the horizon, squinting into the three -- aw, heck, let's make it seventeen -- suns of the Bethlehem system. "It appears that these hills were formed by gravity tides alone."
"Then let's not wait around for the next half-sunset, guys," said Ensign Redshirt. "We've got a child to find. I'll bet it's over in that village we beamed down right next to."
"I give the orders around here, Ensign," Riker said. "To the village. I'll bet we find the child in there." As he strode off briskly, the rest of the team exchanged glances.
"Something's funny around here," Worf growled.
"And it isn't that last gag," Troi added.
"Wait a minute," exclaimed Ensign Redshirt, "I've got it! We're in a fanfic! And since Troi is in it, too... that means I'm gonna get laid!"
Worf readied his phaser.
"...or die a horrible death," concluded the ensign meekly.
Sister Troi smiled. "Let's worry about that later. We have a plot to attend to. Shall we join the Cardinal?"
Furry puppet-beasts pushed through the crowd in the marketplace. High on a pedestal, a small boy exhorted the crowd at the top of his squeaky little voice.
"Blessed are those whose planets are dying, for they shall be taken to the nearest starbase after a last-minute rescue. Blessed are those with unusual foreheads, for they shall have bit parts and live on residuals. Blessed are those who wear red shirts..."
Ensign Redshirt brightened considerably at this.
"...no, just kidding, they're screwed."
A puppet-beast stampeded through the crowd, knocking over pyramids of exotic fruit and trampling Ensign Redshirt, who survived but then asphyxiated under a pile of exotic fruit.
"You see?" continued the boy in his budgerigar-like voice. "I'm always right because I'm very smart. Also wise and compassionate."
Cardinal Riker and the rest of the away team started two more stampedes, converging at the foot of the pedestal.
"Come down here," barked Brother Worf. "Now."
"Please," added Sister Troi.
The boy clambered down to ground level, now looking up at the away team. "Hi! I'm Wesley Christ," he said. "Are we going on your starship?"
Cardinal Riker looked uncomfortable. "What makes you think we have a starship?"
"You're wearing Starfleet uniforms," Wesley pointed out.
Riker laughed. "You're right."
"I'm always right," Wesley said. "My mom was conceived without error, so I can't make any mistakes -- ever. Pretty cool, huh?"
Worf narrowed his eyes. "Cardinal, I think we made a mistake."
"Nope," Wesley Christ assured them. "I'm coming with you."
Worf reached for his phaser.
Pope Jean-Luc Picard stood up and brushed off his uniform, then strode across his quarters. "Computer: Blood of Christ, hot."
The replicator grunted, ignoring the usual joke, and synthesized a pitcher of sangria. Pouring a glass, the pontiff of the Enterprise smiled. This was going to be a relaxing day after all.
His communicator chimed.
"Your Holiness?" came the voice of Archbishop O'Brien. "I hate to bother you, Your Holiness, but --"
The Pope sighed. "Yes?"
"Cardinal Riker's team is back, minus the ensign."
Picard exulted quietly, thrusting a fist into the air. "I'm sorry to hear that," he said in a mournful tone. "Please send a copy of the usual condolences to his family."
"Already done, your Holiness. But the Cardinal brought back someone else -- and he's 'improving' my transporter console as we speak."
"There!" a voice squeaked over the communicator. "I've rechanneled the tachyon flux to transmit matter in four extra dimensions. Now you can transport 20% faster!"
"Wesley," came the Cardinal's voice, "it's already fast enough."
"I know, but now it's 20% faster."
Picard cut them off. "No more improvements for now. I'd like to meet this Wesley in 10-Forward. Say, in a few minutes?"
"I'll see to it, Your Holiness."
Guinan, a visiting rabbi, closed the door of the dishwasher and saw two feet sticking out from underneath. She tapped the one on the right. "So what's wrong with the dishwasher?"
Wesley Christ popped out. "Nothing that a little micro-soldering couldn't improve," he said brightly. "I saw some coagulated tranya blocking the drain, so I recalibrated the --"
"Wesley H. Christ!" said Troi. "I thought you had specific instructions not to improve anything."
Wesley grinned sheepishly. "I was right about the tranya, though. I'm always right. I'll probably save you all some day."
"We'll see about that," Troi said. I wish I didn't have to humor this little prick, she thought. "The Pope would like to meet you now."
Troi escorted him to Picard's table. The pontiff waited for Wesley to bow reverently.
"Pleased to meet you, Jean-Luc," said Wesley Christ. "I'm sure we'll make a great team."
Picard smiled indugently. This little prick is really getting on my nerves, he thought. "Actually," he pointed out amicably, "I'm the pontiff, and you're a child, so we're not likely to be on any teams together."
"You'll be taking orders from me soon," Wesley said. "I'm going to save you all."
The pontiff's face fell like a cantilevered metaphor constructed by the firm of Dennis Miller, Frank Lloyd Wright and Moe Howard. "Now look here, you little prick -- "
A klaxon cut him off. Off-duty crew members staggered to the floor as the camera shook. "Warning," an evenly modulated voice said. "Gravitational field has shifted. Graviton flux now at 80% of safe maximum."
"Iscariot," Wesley said. "It's our 13th sun -- it does this sometimes. I'll start improving your warp drives so we can get out of here."
"You're not going to improve anything else," Picard said. He addressed the intercom system. "Brother Worf, will you come to 10-Forward, please?"
"Aye, sir." Shortly the doors slid open as Worf rushed in, phaser drawn.
"Brother Worf, set phaser on 'crucify'."
"With pleasure, sir."
"But I'm going to save you all," protested Wesley Christ. "I said so, and I'm always right. Troi, help me!"
Picard nodded to Worf, who squeezed the trigger. Wesley was pinned to the hull by a magnetic field.
"Archbishop O'Brien, would you please beam this Christ character into the heart of Iscariot?"
"Gladly, Your Holiness."
Wesley Christ called out, "Troi! Troi! Lama sabachthani?" Then he was engulfed in a beam of golden light which transported him into the heart of the threatening sun -- 20% faster.
"Your Holiness," came a voice, "Graviton flux has returned to normal. The 13th sun appears to have been altered."
"Oh, it's an altar, all right," agreed the Pope merrily. "And Iscariot would seem to be pleased with our sacrifice."
Rabbi Guinan passed drinks around the table. She raised her own cup, filled with Romuschevitz, and proposed a toast: "To the little prick!"
"TO THE LITTLE PRICK!"
Thanks to my fellow noders for inspiring this -- it's all your fault. And thanks especilly to Team Jet-Pope, who urged me to go for it. It's especially your fault.