Story suggested by Shelby Vick

"Starfleet has sent a message of malignant beings in this sector," Picard announced. "Riker, that is why I called this meeting with you, Worf, Data and Deanna. We should use all possible information we can gather to determine what course we should use --"

"Malignant indeed!" an unseen voice declared. The words echoed in the small ready room, as the air beside Picard began to shimmer. Worf whipped out his phaser and fired.

Q shimmered, materializing in midair. "That was a stupid move my Klingon friend," Q said menacingly, bobbing a forefinger up and down, and simultaneously bobbing a floating Worf above his dropped phaser.

"Let me go," growled a livid Worf. "Fight me like a man and I'LL TEAR OUT YOUR THROAT!"

"To even aim a weapon at a member of the continuum is punishable by death," replied Q. "But to fire that weapon means I can do with you what I please. How 'bout I leave parts of you scattered on a hundred different planets."

Captain Picard who would've normally shouted his objections at Q for the unannounced intrusion, chose diplomacy instead and gingerly approached Q with his hands extended in front of him. "Q, set him down. He is Klingon. His reactions are more attuned to danger than a human's. When you suddenly appeared next to me he thought I was in danger by a hostile entity and fired before he saw who or what you really were. I implore you, Q, please do not kill my security officer. . . . I need him."

"Oh but Jean-Luc, this act cannot go unpunished," responded Q arrogantly. He lowered Worf to the floor. "Since you wish to save your Klingon crewmember you will all share in his punishment; but . . . what will it be?"

"For an advanced being to seek revenge on a lower life form is imperfect and would nullify your reputed superior intelligence," commented Data.

"Data," said Picard.

"Yes Sir?"

"Shut up."

"Yes Sir."

"There are many options open to me," said Q. "H-m-m, there had been a fairy tale many years ago. Now what was it?"

"Klingons do not have fairy tales," barked Worf, balling his fists.

"Stand down, lieutenant," said Picard.

"Yes Captain," grumbled Worf. Cautiously he bent down, retrieved his weapon, and returned it to his belt.

Deanna tapped Picard on his shoulder. "I sense the other officer's anxiety with Q's inability to decide on our shared punishment, Captain."

Overhearing her statement Riker bellowed. "Alright, Q, it's time for you to hit the road. We're tired of all your foolishness."

"Not yet, not yet. I think I might have something. . . . RIKER! You did it. 'Hit the road', as in yellow brick."

"What are you babbling about, Q," asked Picard.

Q turned his head to look at Picard. "We of the continuum do not babble, Jean-Luc." Then with a smirk he said, "Can you say 'follow the yellow brick road?'" and snapped his fingers.

Now, moving them to a fairy tale took even Q a few seconds. There was a transitionary haze. "Q has turned me into a scarecrow!" Riker grumbled in angry disbelief.

"Me a Coward?" Worf roared. As the haze cleared, he shrank from the sound.

"Where has Q sent us?" Deanna asked at the same time..

"As the road is made of yellow brick," Data replied, "I would hazard that Q has sent us to the fantasy world of Oz, created by L Frank Baum."

"Oz?" Deanna asked, as the haze cleared. "Well of course this is Oz. Who is Q, a witch?"

"I do not know," Data answered. "I do not know what we are doing here. I believe my head needs a squirt from my oil can. I am much confused."

"I'm Dorothy," Deanna said, then looked over at Data. "You are the Tin Woodsman. We are with our friends." She pointed at Worf, "he is Cowardly Lion and he is the Scarecrow," she said pointing at Riker. "We're on our way to ask the Wizard for a heart for you, a brain for Scarecrow, courage for Lion, and to send me home. Does that help?"

The Scarecrow stepped toward Dorothy but tripped over a pebble on the brick road. The Cowardly Lion cringed down behind Dorothy and trembled.

"It don't help me none," said the obtuse scarecrow, animatedly. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

Dorothy turned and faced Lion. He flinched. "What's wrong with you, Lion?" she asked.

"When Strawman tripped, he almost struck me with his brutish hand," replied Lion, meekly.

Dorothy rolled her eyes and looked at Tin Man. "Which way do you suppose we should go, Tin Man?"

"Since the road narrows back that way," he pointed to their rear, "I can only postulate it is the beginning. Therefore our path should be that route," he pointed again in the opposite direction.

Lion asked timidly, "How can you be sure?"

"There is also a sign over there," said the Tin Man, referring to a sign across the road that read 'This Way to Oz' .

"That sounds good to me, Metal Man," Scarecrow said, scratching his head.

"That's Tin Man," said Dorothy.

"Are you sure there are no dangers ahead, Mr. Tin Man," asked the shuddering Lion.

"It is difficult to be precise," answered Tin Man. "One can only evaluate a result with the facts available."

"Oh hell, let's go," said Scarecrow. I'm willin' to take my chances."

So arm in arm the quartet skipped (Scarecrow stumbled) down the yellow-brick-road.

After a few hours of skipping and singing a song about following a Yellow Brick Road, they reached a fork in the road. The decision on which road to take was an easy one because in the distance, above the road on the left, they saw the glow of the Emerald City. "This'll be easier than I thought" said Dorothy. "That is where the wizard is. We just need to take the correct road and the left one looks like it."

They began skipping down the left lane when they heard a commanding voice holler, "STOP!"

They stopped.

"Who said that?" inquired Dorothy.

"I did," came a voice from the shade beneath the trees on the right of the main yellow brick road. They gazed toward the voice. There, sitting on a large boulder and looking like a rock himself, was a creature with great, wide ears and a broad, furrowed nose, starring at them through piercing green eyes.

They approached the strange creature and gathered around him. Slowly he slid from the rock and straightened his five foot frame before them.

"Hello little buddy," said Scarecrow, putting an arm around the creature's shoulders. "What's your name?"

"I am DaiMon Bok," said the strange little being. "I am Ferengi."

"I thought you said you were DaiMon Bok," giggled Scarecrow.

Everyone ignored Scarcrow's last comment. Dorothy rolled her eyes and stepped forward. "My name is Dorothy. Why did you halt us on our way to the Emerald city?"

"Because that route is a toll road!"

"A toll road!" exclaimed Tin Man. "That cannot be. We have no money therefore a toll road would be inconsistent with this fable."

"Nevertheless," replied the Ferengi, "you will either have to get money or find another route."

"There is no other route," Dorothy blubbered suddenly, "all I wanted was courage for Lion, brains for Scarecrow, a heart for Tin Man, and to get me home."

"Now look what you have gone and done," said Tin Man, draping a squeaky arm around her shoulder and patting her back.

"It is not my rule. I am only here to collect the funds. If you need money, take the road on the right to the cottage in the woods," he pointed at a sign that said 'TO THE COTTAGE IN THE WOODS' "and there you will find an old man who will gladly give you money for a labor.

Stealthily they crept down the long, dreary yellow brick path toward the old man's cabin. The road was darker and scarier and much less cheery. They kept a vigil as they walked single file down the old, creepy trail. Suddenly the Tin Man was struck in the temple with an apple. He furrowed his brow and looked up toward the sky. Another apple hit Scarecrow's shoulder.

"We're being attacked by crazed apples," cried Scarecrow, ducking down behind a log pile next to an already quaking Lion.

Dorothy and Tin Man stood resolute and peered into the forest to see from where the apples originated.

"Get out of our forest," bellowed a scratchy voice from the dark woods.

"Why, it wasn't crazed apples at all," said Dorothy, opening her eyes wide in wonder. "They're overgrown trees in that forest throwing there fruits at us."

"Get lost, we don't want you here," roared another abrasive voice.

"We are only passing through," said Dorothy, "we mean you no harm. I've noticed that your unkempt limbs are heavy and difficult to maneuver."

"That is no concern of yours, now off with you."

"But we can help." She patted Tin Man's ax. "We can fix your problem--if you let us."

"Will it hurt?" Asked a chubby, Braeburn apple tree.

"I don't think so and it will make you feel so much healthier and not so grumpy."

"Well if you insist and it doesn't hurt."

The tin man lifted his ax and said, "I assure you if you experience any discomfort I will cease immediately."

"All right then," said the Braeburn, "me first."

"I'm next," said the Rome Beauty.

"Tin Man," whispered Dorothy.

"Yes, Dorothy?"

"Be very carful not to cut too deep. We don't wish to alienate these bizarre creatures."

"I will do my best, after all, I have always chopped them down, I have never trimmed them."

Tin Man commenced working on the tangle of tree limbs; chopping, trimming, and clearing an area around each individual tree. Lion and Scarecrow hauled the detached boughs to the roadside. Only two times did Tin Man hear an ouch and he stopped instantly, apologized, and applied a bandage to the wound. After fifteen to twenty minutes the area was cleared and the fruit trees could move freely and breathe liberally.

"We want to thank you travelers for our new found freedom. If there's any way to repay you we would do it but we have no money and are poor.

The Scarecrow, who'd been standing off in the distance resting had heard all of this. He brought his hand up to his chin and furrowed his brow. "You know, we could use a bag of your apples as payment." he said uncharacteristically.

"What are you saying, Scarecrow," hissed Dorothy from the road.

"I think we could manage a bag of apples," responded Braeburn cheerfully.

Scarecrow looked over at Dorothy and said, "We might be able to barter with the apples in a future transaction. It would be wise to have them."

Dorothy stared at Scarecrow and considered his words.

"You know," said Dorothy, still staring at Scarecrow and stunned at his newly discovered intellect, "a bag of apples might not be a bad idea."

"There is an empty sack in the wood shed," said Breaburn pointing to a small hut at the corner of the orchard. Lion went into the shed and a few seconds later emerged with a burlap sack. The apple trees picked their own fruit and deposited it in the sack Lion carried around to them.

"Where are you off too now, my friends?" asked Breaburn, as he watched them make ready to leave.

"We are on our way to 'the cottage in the woods' to see an old man there," replied Dorothy.

"Be very, very careful," said Breaburn, "we have never been there but we have heard there are evil things in that section of the woods."

"We will watch our backs," replied Dorothy, as she helped Tin Man shoulder the sack of apples.

Soon they were back on the creepy trail again heading for the cottage in the woods. They passed before a large mountain whose shadow cast further darkness on them. In some places the trail was not only hard to make out visually but impossible to traverse. In such cases Tin Man had to lower his apples and use his ax to hack their way through. The long, dark, and dingy trail finally emerged at the cottage. Gingerly they all climbed the three steps to the porch and Dorothy tapped on the door.

After a few minutes the door opened and a wrinkled, old man with a great, gray, handlebar mustache stood before them. "Yes, Lassie," he said, "What can I do for you?"

"We need to travel on the yellow brick road to get to the Emerald city to see the great and wonderful wizard," said Dorothy, "but a Ferengi named DaiMon Bok said that we need money to pass. We told him that we had no money and he suggested that we come see you. Please help us; we have come such a long way."

The Tin Man held out the bag of apples to the old man and said, "We have brought you this sack of apples as an inducement with your decision to help us."

"Have you now, Laddy-Buck? Those apples won't help me at all; I've got apples up to me arse." He ran a lecherous forefinger seductively down Dorothy's right cheek and said, "But maybe we can work something out."

Dorothy shuddered and pulled away with a groan. Suddenly Lion appeared in front of her standing nose to nose with the old man., "Touch her one more time and I will give you such a pinch," he growled.

The old man straightened and looked at the group. "What I really need is a stick."

"We can get you a stick," said Tin Man, "I will simply stroll into the woods."

"Not an ordinary stick, haggis for brains," shouted the old man, "a magic stick owned by the evil witch on the mountain."

"What mountain?" asked Scarecrow.

"That one thar," said the old man pointing across the way at the mountain that had shadowed them previously.

Tin Man stared at the mountain and said, "If we can obtain this magic stick for you old man--"

"Call me Harry."

"All right, Harry," Tin Man continued, "if we can obtain this stick for you will you give us money to traverse the yellow-brick-road to the Emerald City?"

Harry chuckled, "If you get the magic stick for me, then . . . yes, I will see that you get to the Emerald City."

The quartet started anew in the depressing shadow of the foreboding mountain.

"How high is this peak?" asked Lion, staring up at its summit.

"Oh I would guess two miles," replied Scarecrow goofily. Lion rolled his eyes.

They climbed sheer cliffs and large boulders. They sloshed through icy streams cascading toward the mountain face. They plowed through underbrush as thick and dense as Lion's teasing brush. Had it not been for Tin Man's ax they never would've made it.

After an exhausting climb with many obstacles, they reached the mountain's summit. The peak was high in the clouds so the view was less than desirable. Massive lightning bolts roared to and fro creating earsplitting thunder that echoed off the surrounding mountainside.

"I don't want to be here," whimpered Lion.

"None of us want to be here," replied Dorothy, "but we have a task to complete." They spied the castle near the apex of the mountain. "That is our destination," hollered Dorothy, "let's get there and get back down to Harry."

Suddenly they were confronted by four Cardassians holding spears pointed at Dorothy and the gang. One heavily decoarated Cardassian stepped forward. "I am Gul Dukat. We have been sent to escort you to the castle where the Queen is expecting you. You will have to leave your weapon with us."

"And what weapon would that be," asked Dorothy naively.

Gul Dukat stepped up to Tin Man and yanked the ax away from him. "This can be used as a weapon and will not be permitted before Her Majesty." The other three Cardassians walked to the rear of Dorothy's group and, prodding them with their spears, commanded, "March," as Gul Dukat strutted ahead of them. They walked a narrow, winding path around great boulders and overgrown, windblown trees.

Finally they reached the castle doors and their objective. Gul Dukat tapped forcefully on the doors and, showing their desperate need of grease, they slowly screeched open. The prisoners were marched into a large stone room with a throne at the far end. Many candles in candelabras hanging above lit the dreary throne room. Sitting on the throne, holding a staff, was a small, pale woman.

"Here are the prisoners that you were forewarned about, Your Highness," said Gul Dukat, sinking to one knee.

"So this motley crew would pilfer my staff and leave me with nothing," snarled the wicked witch.

"We did not intend to steal your staff," replied Dorothy. "We intended to barter with you for it."

"I know this woman," whispered Tin Man to Dorothy.

Dorothy paid no heed to Tin Man's allegation and bowed low before the Queen. "We have a full sack of apples that we offer to you for your staff."

"Apples?!" cried the Queen and laughed hysterically. "You might as well have stolen the staff, my pretty."

"Who warned you of our coming?" shouted Scarecrow. "We told no one."

"Mudd," said the queen in between fits of laughter.

"Pardon me?" said Scarecrow, surprised.

"Harcourt Fenton Mudd," she answered. "He warned me."

"Who in blue blazes is that?" asked Scarecrow.

"The one you call Harry."

"Your Highness," said Tin Man, stepping up next to Gul Dukat.

"Yes, Tin Man," the Queen managed between her guffaws. "You would speak with me?"

"I must ask you; have we ever met? You look very familiar."

"Have you ever been atop this mountain before?"

"Never, you're Highness."

"Then we have never met before." She stood and faced Gul Dukat. "Take them to the dungeon and lock them there."

"Yes, you're Highness. Guards!"

A sudden recollection entered Tin Man's mind. He looked at the Evil Witch and shouted, "You are the Borg Queen!"

Her head snapped around to look at Tin Man. He remembered an incident during first contact with the Vulcans and knew then they were in dire straights. Quicker than a thought he grabbed hold of the ax's handle that Gul Dukat held tightly. There was a brief tug-of-war between the two.

The Queen leveled her staff at Tin Man and demanded, "Let go of that tool or I will melt your head."

Gul Dukat's grip soon weakened and the ax handle slipped from his hands. Unfortunately Tin Man did not anticipate the sudden release and the momentum threw the ax high into the air. As the Queen aimed her staff at Tin Man's head the ax struck a candelabrum well above the Queen; knocking it from its base and causing it to fall on the Wicked Witch's head. She fell unconscious to the floor.

Dorothy ran for the Queen's staff as the Cardassians threw their spears at the little group. One spear hit Scarecrow in the abdomen, passing all the way through. He fell where he stood. "STRAWMAN!" cried an anxious Lion dropping to his knees next to Scarecrow's still body. He held Scarecrow's head, stared into his motionless eyes, and whimpered, "Say something, anything," but Scarecrow's paint-on lips remained still.

Lion picked-up the spear and stood. Suddenly he was big. Bigger than he'd ever been. A thunderous roar echoed through the vast room casting items from shelves and silencing the little row. Lion's mane stood erect on his head, his chest expanded to its full capacity, and his muscles rippled beneath his furry skin. Suddenly he was twice the lion he was earlier.

"You have just killed the only friend I ever had," he roared. "Now you will feel my wrath." With the spear across his chest he stepped toward the Cardassians. They shook with fright and huddled together like a litter of puppies.

"Lion, come back, now," cried Dorothy.

"NO!" roared Lion. "These sons of an Androlien Blood Beast will pay for their mistake."

Lion felt a light pat on his shoulder. He stopped and slowly turned his head toward the tap. There facing him was Scarecrow.

"STRAWMAN!" yelled Lion. "I thought you were dead."

"Hi, buddy. No, a spear through the gut will not damage me; after all there is only straw down there."

"Why then did you fool me by playing dead?" asked Lion slightly aggravated.

"I reasoned that if you were pushed that you'd come out of your shell and show some backbone. I am sorry for the ruse but I thought you'd be a much better lion for it. I had no idea you'd be so . . . fiery. Thanks, friend."

Dorothy leveled the staff at the Cardassians and a bright charged beam emerged, jolting them into the next room. "Scarecrow, Lion," she said, "If you are finished with this tender scene, we need to get outta here. Tin Man, grab your ax -- we are leaving."

The four of them ran from the castle just as the Borg Queen came to. "MY STAFF!" the Queen wailed, "they took my staff. Call out the flying monkeys."

Dorothy and her cohorts ran down the windy switchback trail toward the valley below. Through the clouds and mist they saw shadows of something flying about overhead. Occasionally one of the shadows would dive at them and grab at the staff. As Lion and Scarecrow helped Dorothy over the large rocks and downed trees, Tin Man swung at the flying shadows with his ax.

At one point as Lion helped Dorothy and Scarecrow held the staff, a large group of the flying monkeys swarmed down at Scarecrow and attacked him. Scarecrow got a good look at the attacking beasts who didn't look like monkeys at all but like Ferengis with monkey bodies, flapping their large ears to fly. "Dorothy!" screamed Scarecrow. "What shall I do?"

"Use the staff against them," she yelled back.

"How?!"

"Point the staff at them and concentrate on what you really want!"

Scarecrow pointed the staff at the swarming creatures and concentrated.

Pow!

Suddenly along the trail appeared the Vulcan Sub-Commander T'pol in a bikini.

Dorothy marched up to Scarecrow, yanked the staff from him, and said, "That ain't gonna work, you meathead." She directed the staff at the flying beasts and the dispersing charged beam launched the creatures back to the castle.

The quartet continued their flight down the face of the mountain. About half way down the mountain trail Dorothy stopped and, breathing hard, said, "I need to take a rest. We are far enough away that I believe we are safe."

They all sat down and rested; all except Lion who stood watch on a rock and gazed back up the lofty mountain. Suddenly the mountain rumbled and shook. "What on the moons of Sambia is that," exclaimed Scarecrow.

Tin Man looked down at the ground shaking back and forth below his feet. "With the mountain trembling and shaking below our feet and the small rocks tumbling down the mountainside I would surmise it to be an earthquake."

"COME AND LOOK AT THIS, GUYS!," roared Lion in a panic.

They all stood, turned, and looked up the mountainside at what was happening above them. What they saw up the slope would've made a daredevil's blood freeze in his veins. Rushing down the mountainside, faster than a shuttlecraft, was a wall of monstrous boulders and enormous trees in a turmoil of dirt and dust bearing down on them.

"RUN!" cried Scarecrow. "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!"

"Belay that order," yelled Dorothy, as a boulder the size of a small house bounced clumsily past them.

"What!?" said Scarecrow, taken aback.

"Get behind me and brace me," Dorothy screamed, as she pointed the staff at the avalanche.

They did. She concentrated hard. Suddenly there was a low rumble barely detectable because of the landslide. Then a broad, explosive beam of plasma energy emerged from the tip and roared up the mountain with earsplitting force. Its own shockwave leveled trees. The gang's feet slid rearward as the recoiling energy pushed them back. Lion put his arms on either side of Dorothy to help hold and steady the quaking staff. Lion roared loud and long as he strained against the pushing staff that was almost too much for the reinforcing group.

Not twenty yards from them the landslide slowed and reversed, moving back up the mountainside. Soon the tumbling boulders and trees were launched high in the air and back toward the summit.

#

It was close to evening when the small group finally made their way to Harry's front porch. They lightly tapped on his door. After a few minutes Harry unlocked and opened the door. "Lassie!" he exclaimed. "I didn't think I'd be seein' yer again."

"Yeah, we know," Dorothy said dubiously. "Now we want our free pass on the yellow brick road."

"Did you get the magic stick?"

Dorothy, Scarecrow, and Tin Man stood in front of Harry looking hesitantly at him. Lion who was at Harry's side put his head down and whispered, "Do not give it to him."

"No stick, no access," Harry said nonchalantly.

Dorothy extended the staff toward Harry and said, "We have no choice."

Harry gently took the staff from her and looked at it. He caressed its roughness and observed every nick, crack and bump.

"Now," said Dorothy dejectedly, "give us our pass."

"You simpletons," bellowed Harry, "this be the pass." He pointed the staff at Dorothy's face. "You are fools but you won't live long enough to enjoy your newfound fame." He looked over at Lion standing next to him and said, "Over with the others, pussycat."

Lion started to take a step but instead, as fast as lightning, snatched back the staff. Then he grabbed Harry by his wrist with one paw and lifted him off the porch. He raised his other paw exposing vicious claws. Harry whimpered.

"That's enough, Lion," Dorothy said sternly.

"I wish to eviscerate him," Lion responded.

"No, no please I need my viscera," sobbed Harry.

Dorothy softly placed her hand on Lion's shoulder, and whispered, "Lion no. You don't want to be like him, do you?"

Lion thought a moment, then dropped Harry back down on the porch. "You are lucky," he grumbled, glaring at Harry.

"What should we do now, Dorothy?" Tin Man asked innocently.

"I think it would be prudent for us to spend the night in the forest and make a fresh start in the morning," Scarecrow offered. "We will be safe as long as we have the staff."

"That is an excellent idea, Scarecrow," Dorothy commented. "I didn't know you had it in you."

Scarecrow put his head down and kicked the ground. "Gosh, it weren't nothing."

That night the little band of adventurers slept like babies after their physically and mentally exhausting day. The next morning they woke refreshed to a glorious, sunny day. They ate a breakfast of apples (except Tin Man who had a few squirts of oil) and were on their way.

They hiked back the tedious trail resting only once with their friends, the grateful fruit trees. Upon finally reaching the Yellow Brick Road they were again stopped by the Ferengi, DaiMon Bok.

"Have you the money to pass on the road?" asked DaiMon Bok.

"We have got a pass," said Dorothy confidently.

"Let me see your pass."

Dorothy pointed the staff at the Ferengi's face.

DaiMon Bok almost swallowed his tongue. "A--what, where, how," he spit and sputtered. "Is that the Borg Queen's wand?!"

"Yes, it is," said Dorothy, and we want to pass."

"By all means," DaiMon Bok resolved. "Will you need any help?"

"We are fine," growled Lion. DaiMon Bok slid down from his rock and found refuge behind it. Without further delay the four resumed their pressing march down the golden path to the Emerald City.

It was midday when the quartet finally reached the city. A large wooden door stood closed in the entryway, at least twelve feet tall and as wide. Tin Man took his ax and gently tapped on the huge door.

"Who's there?" came a musical voice from the other side.

"It is Dorothy, the Tin Man, Lion, and Scarecrow," yelled Dorothy. "We are tired and spent. We need to come inside to see the Wizard."

"Do you have a pass?" asked the voice.

Dorothy turned to her compadres. "This is ridiculous and somewhat vexing. We don't have time for this nonsense." She turned back toward the door and yelled, "We have a pass! It is the Evil Witch's staff and if we aren't permitted entry immediately you will see it in action!"

There was a long silence, then the sound of a large bolt unlocking. The door slowly opened and standing before them was Captain Picard, wearing a black suit that had seen better days. Behind him was a large crowd of city folk staring, pointing at the staff, and whispering to one another. "Hello," said Picard, "I am the Wizard. What can I do for you?"

"Hello, Wizard. My name is Dorothy and we have come to you because Scarecrow needs a brain, Lion needs courage, Tin Man needs a heart, and I need to be returned home."

"Come in, come in," said the Wizard, "and I'll see if I can help you." They walked through the giant opening and onto a large square. The Wizard looked over at Scarecrow and said, "So, you want a brain huh?"

"Yes, Mister Wizard, very much so."

"Why, anybody can have a brain," said the Wizard. "That's a very mediocre commodity." He turned toward the center of the city. "Walk with me to the palace grounds."

Picard spent the time extolling the vagaries of mankind and man's obligation to explore both the universe beyond their reach and the universe within each representative of humanity.

They walked through the bustling city toward a large chateau. As they walked by, the people would stop what they were doing and bow to the Wizard.

When they reached the palace, the Wizard asked them to wait on the veranda while he went inside to retrieve some items. When they turned to admire the view they realized then that most of the city people they'd passed on the street had followed them to the palace.

"What is up with them?" asked a curious Tin Man.

"I believe that the people are only curious about us and what is taking place," said Scarecrow learnedly.

Soon the Wizard made his way back to them. He looked at Scarecrow earnestly. "Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the Earth, or slinks through slimy seas has a brain! Back where I come from we have universities where people go to become great thinkers. When they graduate, they have one thing that you haven't -- a diploma! Therefore, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of Dr. of Thinkology." He handed Scarecrow a diploma.

Scarcrow put a forefinger to his temple and said, "The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side." He smiled broadly and examined his diploma.

The Wizard approached Tin Man. "As for you, my galvanized friend -- you want a heart! You don't know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable."

"Oh, but I still want one," said Tin Man.

The Wizard pursed his lips and slowly shook his head. "Back where I come from there are people who do nothing all day but good deeds. They are called good deed doers and their hearts are no bigger than yours, but they have one thing you haven't! A testimonial! Therefore, in consideration of your kindness, I take pleasure in presenting you with a small token of our esteem and affection." He handed Tin Man a heart-shaped clock on a chain.

Tin Man put it up to his ear and said, "Oh, it ticks! Listen! It ticks!" He shoved the clock at Dorothy. She smiled and put her ear to it.

The Wizard looked at Lion. "As for you my fine friend, you are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger you have no courage! You are confusing courage with wisdom. Back where I come from we have people who are called heroes. Once a year they take their fortitude out of mothballs and parade down the main street of the city. And they have no more courage than you. But they have one thing you haven't! A medal! Therefore, for meritorious conduct against wicked witches, I award you the Triple Cross. You are now a member of the Legion of Courage!" He pinned a large decorative medal to Lions vest.

"I am speechless," said Lion.

The Wizard approached Dorothy and gently took her hand. "It seems we've been in this land about the same amount of time, therefore I can only deduce that we have arrived from the same location brought here by I know not what force. When I arrived, I was also in a transitionary haze such as you described and I remembered a phrase that I jotted down before it escaped my memory forever.? The Wizard started rooting through his pockets and came up with a scrap of paper.

The Wizard read what was written on the little scrap of paper, gathered them all together, and said, "It says here that I am to tap the motif on my chest and say 'Beam us up, Geordi'." He did so.

Suddenly, a gust of wind came up and whisked away Scarecrow's diploma. Dorothy ran to retrieve it. About ten feet away she grabbed the paper and spun on her heel just in time to see the wizard and her friends vanish in a billion particles.

"Oh no!" she cried, "They left without me."

Out of the blue, there was a flicker of light. "Don't cry little one," came an all too familiar voice from behind her. Slowly she turned around and there stood a pretty woman with a crown, a wand, dressed in a pretty gown, and all aglow.

"W . . . who are you?" asked Dorothy, bewildered.

"I am the good witch of the North. My name is Beverly Crusher and I am here to help you."

"What should I do, Beverly?" asked Dorothy, relieved.

"You can leave the same way that they did. Simply tap the brooch on your chest and say, 'Beam me up, Geordi'."

Gingerly, she brought her hand up to a pin attached to her blouse, tapped it, and repeated the words. Her body began to vibrate, disassemble, and then everything went white.

When her vision returned she was on the Enterprise's transporter pad and Chief O'Brien was standing in front of her asking, "Are you alright, Counselor?" She looked at him, blinked twice, and ran from the transporter room. She jumped on the turbo-lift and rode up to the bridge.

Everyone was at their respective stations doing their job as if nothing had happened. She walked over to Commander Riker (Scarecrow) and handed him his diploma. He took it and said, "What's this?"

"Why, it's your diploma." He looked at her oddly.

She walked over to Worf and asked, "Where is your medal?"

"What medal?" he said furrowing his already furrowed brow.

Deanna turned and walked from the bridge toward her quarters. Did I dream this whole adventure? Am I losing my mind? Was I just now not in the land of Oz? These thoughts ran rampant through her confused brain until she reached her quarters. The door swooshed open and she stepped inside. It slid closed again and she stood leaning against it. The room was quiet and she felt safe and relieved. She breathed deeply and visually scanned her familiar little room; then her breath caught. In the corner by her bunk against the wall leaned the Borg Queen's magic staff.

End