Enterprise had just entered the neutral zone when three Romulan warbirds decloaked directly in her path, shimmering to solidity on the bridge's viewscreen.
"Shields up," commanded Picard, rising from his chair and taking a couple steps forward.
"Rrred alert!" said Riker, following the captain.
The Enterprise's klaxon sounded briefly before dying slowly, making sad trombone noises as it failed. The red alert lights flashed yellow then green then purple before fading out. Picard looked at Riker. "What- ," he began, then stopped when the entire bridge - console, monitors, lights, and viewscreen - went dark.
Riker tapped his communicator badge. "Geordi?"
"I'm not sure what happened, Commander," Geordi said. "Everything shows as fine. I'm running Level 4 Diagnostics now. Give me a moment."
The viewscreen, and only the viewscreen, flickered back to life. The Enterprise bridge crew watched helplessly as the warbirds took attack positions.
"I think I liked it better when the viewscreen wasn't working," said Riker to Picard.
Picard looked to Riker and raised his eyebrows, "Indeed."
"Commander," said Geordi. "All diagnostics are coming back negative: the nacelles, antimatter containment, power couplers, environmental systems, tactical...everything! Every piece of hardware is running five by five. It must have been-"
"- that damned software update we got at Starbase 173," finished Picard.
"What was that update for again?" Asked Riker.
Data swiveled in his pilot's chair to face Riker and replied, "There were 15,273 enhancements and bug fixes with this update. The biobed sensor and support unit BIOS was updated, the shuttle bay door drivers were better integrated with their locks, Joseph Sisko finally agreed to have his recipes added to Starfleet replicators, a fix for a quirk in environmental controls that made Enterprise immediately jump to warp 9.975 when Guinan set the temperature in Ten Forward to 207 degrees celsius, luckily this only happened once during a Tholian birthday celebration. The speed of the turbo lift-"
"Thank you, Data," said Riker. "We get the picture."
"How soon before you can fix it, Mr. La Forge?" asked Picard.
"Captain, I work with hardware. I work with transporter pads and warp coils. No one on board works with software. Sure, we all program the holodeck a bit, but this? This is way beyond anything anyone on Enterprise is capable of. We just don't have software failures. Ever! I wouldn't know where to-"
"Give it your best shot, Geordi," Picard said, forcing a smile in his voice. "Picard out."
He turned to Data and nodded toward the warbirds, "Can we hail them?"
Data swiveled his chair back to face the console, tapping at it futilely, "I am attempting to do that now, sir, but it seems my console is still not working."
"Does anyone have a working console?" asked Riker.
There were head shakes galore.
Picard sat down in his captain's chair without straightening his uniform, leaned to his left, and rested his forehead on his hand. "Will, I do not care how you do it, but get a hold of Tech Support at Starbase 173 and see if they can get Enterprise up and running."
Riker went to the comms station.
"Sir," said Data. "The viewscreen."
Picard raised his head in time to see all three warbirds go dark, then power back up. He stood as the warbirds started wobbling violently.
One of the warbird's starboard nacelles flared to life. The ship spun, slowly at first, then faster and faster until it became a green blur. Pieces of the warbird sheered off at a healthy fraction of the speed of light and, moments later, the entire ship disintegrated from centrifugal forces.
Another warbird immediately tried to open fire on Enterprise. Its disruptor array fired but then fell away from the ship. The array, still firing, inexorably pointed itself back toward the warbird. When it finally hit it, Enterprise briefly received a transmission which contained a lot of Romulan cursing followed by, "Iekil'eirh hwiiy ta'hwswai khoi aellei innaehv?"
"Data. Why isn't the universal translator working?"
"Unknown, sir, but I believe that translated to, 'Have you tried turning it off and on?'"
The array continued firing, slicing its way through the warbird entirely before it stopped. The two halves of the dead ship slowly floated away from each other.
The last warbird tried to jump to warp, but succeeded only in collapsing the artificial singularity that powered its warp-drive system, reversing time for all baryonic matter on the ship - adults became children then babies then zygotes while the various ship materials broke down into their component parts until there was only a slightly warbird-shaped cloud of atomic and subatomic particles left hanging in space.
"Intriguing," said Data, breaking the astonished silence of the bridge crew, which was then further interrupted by the comms console broadcasting Riker's (finally!) successful tech support call to the entire ship.
"I daisy chained a couple of communicators and phasers together to power the comms console," said Riker over the sounds of the call connecting. "But I have no idea why it's forcing me to use something called 'speakerphone.'"
"Why is there a ringing soun-" began Data before being interrupted by, "Welcome to the Starbase help desk. Your call is very important to us. Please note our new hours of operation that will begin on Stardate 44781.4. Your estimated wait time is 42 minutes. Please listen to the following options carefully as they have recently changed. If you're calling about a scheduled upgrade, please say 'One.' If you're calling about a previously installed upg-"
Lights and consoles blazed back to life all over Enterprise. The crew's cheers nearly drowned out the sound of a help desk tech answering the call nearly 41 minutes early - everyone, it seemed, was excited to get in on a USS Enterprise adventure: "Hello? Hello? Can you hear me? Have you tried turning it off and-"
"Hang up, Number One," said Picard.
Riker smiled and ended the call.
Picard tapped his combadge, "Mr. La Forge? Was that you?"
"I'm not sure, captain. Maybe? I took a jefferies tube and accessed the third computer core in the engineering hull and...well..."
"Out with it, Mr. La Forge."
"Sir. I thumped it."
"Thumped it. Yes, sir."
"Huh," said Data. "Percussive maintenance."
Riker and Picard shared a look.
"Thanks, Geordi," said Riker. "Well done. Bridge out."
"Well," said Riker, grinning. "You did tell him to give it his best shot."
They sat. Picard straightened his uniform and said, "Data, plot us a course to Starbase 173. Let's try to get there in one piece, shall we? Easy does it." Data entered the course. Picard lifted his finger then pointed forward, "Engage."
Enterprise entered warp.
Picard sat on Starbase 173, his eyes focused on a point far beyond the walls of his assigned quarters. "Captain's Log, Stardate 44758.3. It seems as though both Enterprise and the Romulan ships were updated with software purchased from Ferengi. Starfleet is currently trying to determine how that happened, and I'm sure the Romulans are conducting their own inquiries. Enterprise's software is being rolled back to the previous working version. Starfleet may need to consider a new position on Starships: Tech Support.