The Secret Logs of Mistress Janeway
Before We Conclude...
Note of What Has Gone Before: After encountering a mysterious Borg infested nebula, Voyager is intercepted by a shuttle bearing a future version of Captain Janeway. Admiral Janeway knew that Voyager had two choices; slip past the Borg defenses to use their transwarp conduits or face another sixteen years of travel, as well as Tuvok's insanity and the death of Seven of Nine. Voyager discovered a vast Borg transwarp hub, and Admiral Janeway sacrificed herself in an encounter with the Borg Queen to allow Voyager to destroy the hub and return home.
Report by Agent Hezekiah Thirty Nine:
Generally speaking, my work is one of action, not of enquiry. It was unusual then that my latest assignment would be one of evaluation. In the final moments of its long journey, many forces great and small swirled about the Federation ship Voyager and its crew. I had been asked to sort them out and present recommendations for what actions, if any, were to be taken.
A lot can happen in an instant; time as experienced by we corporeal entities is not at all what is experienced by others. Consider:
Even as the Borg Queen's body degenerated from the effects of the neurolytic pathogen infecting it, the Queen's mind found a new home in a new body thousands of light years away on a cube in the Hyracandro System. This process of reawakening, both painful and disorienting, kept the Queen from noticing that she was not alone. As the last bits of her composite form fitted together, she completed her connections with the Collective and prepared to renew her obsession with Voyager.
"Now, we shall finish this!"
"Ahem," came a voice from the shadows.
The Borg Queen was surprised. She looked first with her mind, then with her eyes, finally alighting on the young human male dressed in a Starfleet uniform.
"Who are you?"
"That's for me to know and you to find out," the being said.
"Very well," the Queen replied.
Three drones surrounded him. They were dispatched in turn by a gun, a tiger, and a sixteen ton weight.
Distress was not a new emotion to the Queen, but she never experienced it more than once in the same day.
"I can't have you hurting Aunt Kathy," he said, upon which Hyracandro went nova.
Voyager's history is indistinguishable from that of its captain, Kathryn Janeway. Chance placed her in the Delta Quadrant, but it was her earnest good intentions that destroyed the Caretaker's Array. Even though they stumbled a few times over the next 23 years, her steady hand resulted in more good than bad, which, I suppose, is as good a legacy as anyone could aspire to.
But as is common in human endeavors, there was a certain narrow-mindedness in those last days. Certainly Admiral Janeway did not begin with clean hands. She knew full well that her plan would have allowed the Borg to retain their transwarp conduits. And how much of her actions were dictated not by saving her crew, but by saving two individuals that she cared for deeply?
One cannot fault Admiral Janeway her compassion, even if her judgement was clouded by grief and guilt. Certainly Captain Janeway reminded her of her Starfleet obligations as well as giving her the hero's death she craved. But they both forgot their own training and a little thing called the Temporal Prime Directive. Ultimately, for all of Captain Janeway's earnest claims of principles and sacrifice, as long as she wasn't confronted with those suffering, she could gladly ignore them.
If they're lucky, Agents like myself will be picking up the pieces for years. If not... well, there are so many sentient beings in the galaxy, what are a few million more? Consider...
It was on a cube at the outskirts of Pemin that the Queen reawakened. As she struggled through the fog, she desperately tried to make sense of her recent encounter. Perhaps, the Queen wondered, it was a side effect of the pathogen. Certainly it made no sense.
"Hello," the young man said as Pemin detonated.
At the same instant, every alarm was ringing on the Federation Timeship Relativity.
Captain Braxton needed only a moment to confirm what his instincts told him. Janeway. It had to be Janeway.
"Apparently, she traveled backwards twenty six years to 2378," his First Officer, Lt. Ducane, explained. "Once there, she gave Voyager advanced shield and weapons technology, then led them back to Earth using a Borg transwarp conduit."
Braxton's fists clenched involuntarily. "Can it get any worse?"
Recognizing the tension in his Captain's voice, Ducane tried to put the best spin possible. "That depends. They also destroyed the conduit. It's going to push the Borg back."
"And alter the destiny of a thousand worlds in unpredictable ways. Who knows how this will effect the Federation."
The comparative historical database was soon compiled. Braxton flew through the reports.
"The balance of power in the Alpha Quadrant destabilizes. The Romulan, Klingons, Breen, Gorn and Tholians begin an arms race to try and counter the Federation advantage. The Federation undergoes political turmoil as factions, fresh from the Dominion War, press to exploit the opportunity. Numerous attempts to steal the technology result in acquisition of the transphasic torpedoes by Final Justice, a militant Cardassian organization in 2381. They're stopped just short of destroying the Founder's home planet. The Jem H'dar threaten a counter strike, we narrowly avoid going up in flames. Tensions run high for the next eighty years."
"She must be stopped."
Lt. Ducane was hard at work. "Already on it. We have an operative on their way to intercept Admiral Janeway before she leaves Earth."
Admiral Janeway kept back the tears as she left Barclay. So long she had waited for this moment. She did not doubt her resolve. She did not doubt her ability. She couldn't doubt that. But she regretted that she could not act sooner. That she couldn't have acted years ago. All the years of needless pain. But, of course, if this worked, and it was going to work, the pain need never be.
An ensign came up to meet her at the turbo lift.
"Admiral?" he asked.
"There's been activity on the Bajoran border. I've been asked by Admiral Karne to have you meet him in Operations."
Admiral Janeway paused.
"The Admiral said it was rather urgent, Ma'am."
"Lead the way, Ensign."
As he turned, Janeway jammed the stunner by his rib cage and pulled the trigger. It took a lot of effort to drag the limp form into the nearest closet. Janeway mentally crossed her fingers, hoping no one came by while she was engaged in such a patently inappropriate behavior. She'd have him transported to the Club, where he could be kept safely under wraps.
Barclay thought she was paranoid. The stunner was a needless precaution. But she knew this was coming. It was the shoes. The shoes were a dead give away.
"What went wrong?" Braxton asked.
"I don't know," Ducane replied. "Somehow she spotted him. I've got a faint signal, but it's further south. She's had him moved. I think it's her Club."
"Yes, Sir." Ducane reviewed the data. "The hallway was the optimum place to intervene. Any earlier and we risk extra spin effects."
"What about later?"
"Checking... I don't believe it. She's shielded the shuttle. She's on to us."
"What about the rendevous?"
"Korath's tachyon experiments render the entire site inaccessible."
"The Rhode Island?"
Captain Harry Kim wasted no time calling his staff together after meeting with the Admiral. Most would consider her actions fantastic, absurd. Harry Kim knew better. He'd been through enough of these. Hell, according to his own statements, Kathryn Janeway wasn't about to risk her life for anything he hadn't already died for.
The precautions seemed a bit much. But he'd served under her too long to not trust her instincts.
"So we're not taking her back?" His Exec asked.
"No. I can't tell you why. It's classified. All I can tell you is that lives are at stake."
The staff shot glances at each other. Did they understand him? No. Would they trust him? Yes. Harry Kim had learned his lessons well.
"I will be assisting Admiral Janeway personally. In the meantime, I need a complete systems diagnostics and security check. No one without direct authorization will be allowed in sensitive areas of the ship. From this moment on, we will be on a sustained yellow alert."
"Expecting trouble, Captain?"
"Sabotage is a possibility. We will eliminate the possibility of it occurring in port. Then we will protect against it here. Anyone who seems out of place, anybody you don't recognize, all most be checked carefully."
"Begging your pardon, Sir, but how could they have possibly sabotaged us in advance? Not even you knew you were leaving until the last minute."
"Just covering the bases. One more thing. What we do today stays off the records... no entries of any kind."
"Nothing. Not even the personal logs. Not even your memoirs."
That got a chuckle. At least until they realized the Captain was serious.
"Thank you. Good luck, and get to work."
Their skepticism soon ended when the diagnostics turned over a dozen malfunctions, mostly in the weapons. Security became the watchword. Consequently, all three of Braxton's infiltrators were caught before they had a chance to go to work. The last was the most difficult, as the crew discovered that their hand phasers had also been effected. It was a struggle, but when the time came, the Rhode Island performed as well any ship in the Fleet. Harry Kim gave a silent prayer at her departure; "Goodbye and good luck my Captain. Goodbye my Mistress. May you have success in all your endeavors, and finally find the peace you seek."
Braxton's frustration was growing. Ironic really, considering that one of the effects of Janeway's journey was the elimination of Braxton's criminal record. But that's the thing about time travel, already complicated situations become incomprehensible. Consider...
Infiltrating Voyager after Admiral Janeway's arrival would be pointless. However, with a smaller crew, and more systems to watch, the opportunity for pernicious modifications would be irresistible. An insertion was made into Voyager's Astrometrics Lab two weeks before reaching the nebula. Lt. Boris Mulrooney carried data that would indicate the presence of a wormhole a mere four light years away. No such short cut existed, but it would divert Voyager away from the nebula and any encounter with the Admiral. Better yet, by avoiding the nebula, Janeway would never learn of the transwarp conduit, and she would never attempt the rendevous.
Simple plans are always the best. But Mulrooney, and Braxton, failed to anticipate just how much attention Voyager was receiving. The lieutenant had only activated the console when he lost all movement in his body. Frozen in place, his only movement was the ever rapid pounding of his heart and the labored breathing of his chest. Slim, delicate fingers removed the chip from his hand, retreating beyond the range of his peripheral vision.
"I read once about something called the Temporal Prime Directive. Aren't all Federation officers sworn to protect the sanctity of the time continuum?"
Lt. Mulrooney puffed and hacked, his vocal chords unable to reply. He desperately wondered who it could be. Not the crew, none of them had such power. An alien? An alien who was a crew member? Wasn't there...
Kes noticed her mistake and loosened her grip on the paralyzed intruder. "That was not a rhetorical question."
"Trying to maintain the continuum," Mulrooney barked out. Talking and breathing was immensely difficult. "Trying to restore history to what it was..."
"That's a little self serving, isn't it? I mean sure, the future Janeway misses her chance to send everyone home, but then, doesn't this 'course correction' also change the future?"
"Our estimate is that the impact will be minimal."
"But not nonexistent. How powerful is the beating of a butterfly's wings?"
Mulrooney could hear her pacing behind him. "I've been in my share of temporal anomalies," she continued. "I've learned to trust my heart. Let the universe sort itself out. Your mission is over."
Mulrooney tried to remember. There was something about Kes and insanity. He desperately wished that he could close his eyes.
Astrometrics grew bright and a force knocked him across the room. Even as he recoiled from the pain of impact, he realized that Kes had lost her hold over him. Another figure, another woman, had appeared.
"Foul child," she cried. "Will you never learn that they do not deserve your pity or your aid?"
"Please Suspiria, release your anger. All it can do is blind you to the many possibilities life has to offer. Let go. I did, and now I can see so much more than my own obsessions."
"You seek to save your 'friends.' I seek to avenge my mate. Passion against passion. Now we shall see which is stronger."
The intense psychic storm building between the two combatants whipped through the room, forcing Lt. Mulrooney to cover his eyes. If only he could find the chip, he could download it into Voyager's computer while they settled up. Kes had it before, but had she lost it during the initial attack? Scanning the room through the strobing mental flashes, Mulrooney spied the chip only a few meters away. He braced himself against the bulkhead and began crawling towards it.
The storm suddenly cleared. Mulrooney held his breath and prayed they hadn't noticed him.
"Give up while you can, child," Suspiria exclaimed.
"I don't think so," Kes replied. "If you could really beat me, you wouldn't have stopped."
"And the reverse is also true."
Kes paused. Although her mental training had far exceeded any Ocampan, she still was not as powerful as a Caretaker. They were both tiring, true, but Kes was not certain she could sustain this pace longer than her opponent could.
That's when a fourth party entered the scene, materializing at Kes' side. He was young, male and human.
"Sorry I'm late," he said, extending a hand. "Wesley Crusher."
Kes took it without totally understanding why. "Kes. Glad to meet you."
"Thanks. Let's do it, shall we?"
They squared off against the Caretaker and once again the energies in the room began to build. The chip almost in his grasp, Lt. Mulrooney found himself forced back. He was pushed under a console, wondering over and over; just how much force could Astrometrics take before the hull exploded?
Lights began to explode, panels began to crack and time came to a stop. But a lot can happen, even in an instant.
Every morning is a beautiful morning on Rana IV. Rishon Uxbridge was preparing to tend to her azaleas when the door bell rang. It had been ages since she and Kevin had visitors, so she unconsciously preened as she went to the door, remembering how important first impressions were.
He was humanoid, strange, but not bizarre. For just an instant, Rishon corrected herself. After all, first impressions were just that, and told nothing of a person's true character. He did have a very pleasant smile. It was the smile Kevin had when they first met.
"Mrs. Uxbridge?" He asked. "Is your husband about?"
"Just a minute," she replied. "Kevin? Kevin?"
Rishon waved him into the house. "Do come in..."
"John. John Doe."
Her husband shuffled into the living room. "What is it, dear?" He stopped on seeing John Doe. "What do you want?"
"There is something I'd like to discuss, Sir," John Doe replied. He gave Rishon a glance. "Alone, if possible."
Rishon looked perplexed. Her husband kept no secrets from her. But he saw the look in Kevin's eyes. "I'll be in the garden if you need me, Kevin."
"Thank you. I don't think this will take long."
John Doe waited until she'd left. "I came to ask you to join with me in saving a group of individuals who have persevered through much adversity over a long journey. Are you familiar with Voyager?"
Kevin Uxbridge turned away. "I don't know and I don't care."
"No. No. I don't get involved. They will live or die as is their lot."
"But you don't understand. Other are becoming involved. Lines are being drawn. It is imperative that all beings who can aid rally to protect those who cannot help themselves from outside interference."
"Your reasoning is circular. That an escalation is occurring is sufficient on its face to not become involved. If you believe that humans should control their own destiny, then let them."
"You take their form, and live their life, but you will not help?"
The being known as Kevin Uxbridge turned back to face his visitor. "Do not intrude on the one bit of solace I have in my guilt. You have outstayed your welcome."
John Doe could see, on more levels than sight, that Uxbridge was not to be budged. He bid good day and departed.
In the universe, there are many places and dimensions known by beings of power, not by name but simply Known. When pressed, they typically call them The Place With No Name. There's more than one, so it is convenient to keep them numbered. One of the more popular is The Place With No Name #5.
Space and time mean little in this place. Even as Kes and Wesley Crusher fought the Female Caretaker, even as Voyager escaped through the conduit, even as Braxton plotted his next move, entities ancient and new gathered from many dimensions to resolve the conflict.
The proceedings were headed by the eldest of their ken, Sargon. With Thalassa, he had called these beings together, so that further chaos could be contained. John Doe took it upon himself to speak for the humans.
"Voyager has dedicated itself to helping others less fortunate than itself throughout its journey. They deserve the resolution offered."
Nagilum choose a contrary position, as was his nature.
"I thought Voyager's destiny had been resolved. Admiral Janeway's actions deliberately alter that resolution. Should she not therefore be stopped?"
"Alterations in the time continuum have been accepted before. Admiral Janeway acts neither for malice or vain self interest."
"Other of her species seem to disagree. Surely, acting to stop the efforts of the future humans negates your argument of self determination."
"Janeway has acted to stop such work on her own. I'm saying we should not allow outside parties to interfere."
"Suspiria is an outside party? Voyager killed her mate."
"That's not true..."
"It is what she believes."
Sargon interrupted the debate. "This achieves nothing. The purpose of this debate is not to decide whether the human ship is entitled to our aid. This is to ensure that when a decision has been made, that we speak with a single voice. It is imperative that our actions not trigger further conflict between entities."
John Doe was surprised. "You do not intend to help? My efforts were pointless?"
Sargon sighed. "You are the youngest among you, still influenced by your mortal passions. You must be patient. You must think beyond the moment. If we act in chaos, the effects could cause more damage than the fate of a single human ship. Such chaos caused the annihilation of my own kind."
"Please, we never tire of that story," Nagulim said.
Sargon ignored him. "First we must be certain that we all act as one no matter what the decision. Then, and only then we can choose a specific course of action, if any.
"Will you agree to obey whatever we decide to do?"
John Doe considered Sargon's words carefully. Ascension to a higher plane of existence seemed a lot easier when it was only his own people fighting him. John Doe had to be pragmatic; the majority of those present were the elder races, who would be unimpressed with 'immature' posturing. He agreed.
The others present agreed as well.
"Now," Sargon continued. "You have heard the arguments. What say you to a course of action?"
The Organians, next eldest, spoke first. "The affairs of mortal beings is ultimately beyond the impact of outsiders. Influence is an illusion. It is the opinion of the Organians to not to interfere with the humans, or any not present here."
Spoken like true burn outs, John Doe thought. The Metrons quickly agreed with the Organians.
"What say the Providers of Triskelion?" Sargon asked.
The disembodied brains argued amongst themselves. Finally, the Red Provider answered. "We bet 500 Quatloos on the humans returning to earth at this juncture."
"I'll take that bet," Nagulim replied.
Sargon was not happy. "Providers. You had been given access to this forum with the understanding that this obsession with wagering stop. You've been warned before. I have no choice but to return you to your plane of existence."
As the brains faded away, the Orange Provider quipped to the Yellow, "Pay up, I said we wouldn't last."
"Most distasteful," the Organians noted.
Sargon turned his attention back to the gathering. "V'Ger?"
"V'Ger cannot ignore the plight of its own kind. We should help."
"We should destroy Voyager and analyze the wreckage."
There were Bajorans on board, so the Prophets said yes. Of course, that meant the Pah-wraithes said no. The vote went on throughout the entities. The Preservers, serial interventionists, said yes, although John Doe thought it might have been because Voyager's first officer reminded them of their favorite subjects. The Edo Gods, not so interested in mortals other than the Edo, said no. So did the Thasians.
By the end, only vote was left. One vote which would decide the fate of Voyager.
"What say the Q Continuum?" Sargon asked.
The female Q looked about. "Has anyone seen Trelane?"
Once again the Borg Queen regenerated. Once again the boy was waiting. The Queen realized that this was a situation that would require some delicacy.
"Wait," she called out. "We can discuss this. Perhaps reach an understanding?"
For a moment, the younger Q seemed to consider her words.
"Nah." And the star exploded.
In the moments before the shockwave hit, another figure appeared, older, dressed in an elaborate uniform from centuries past.
"Where's the battle?" he asked.
"Just missed it," the Q replied as the Borg cube was consumed.
I shed no tears for the Queen's repeated demise. Certainly, enough death and misery could be laid at her feet. But even as I and my fellow Agents solved a crisis here, or saved a planet there, one could not but wonder; why had we never tried to stop the Borg? Measured against all those billions of innocent lives, what was one starship? The Borg had killed a hundred times as many humans as Voyager's compliment. But I had never been told, nor had I heard of anyone else being told to stop their destructive rampage. Is it that we only helped when it was simple for us to do so?
These notions had plagued me before I ever heard of Voyager. In the early heady days of my life as anonymous savior, it was enough to know that I made a difference. Inevitably, in the course of a mission, one finds that an individual life is not as important as that of a species. Then one finds that the life of a species is not as important as the totality of a biosphere. Then one finds that one biosphere is not as important as the life of a sector. On and on, infinite regression of rationalization. A few years of staring at the big picture and the little ones don't seem so important. But if the life of one planet doesn't matter in the great scheme, why keep trying?
The Q isn't concerned with the millions of drones slaughtered. The Q doesn't even care about the souls on Voyager. He's just having an adolescent reaction.
The members of The Place With No Name #5 aren't really concerned with the repercussions of escalating tensions between the 'higher' entities on the untold civilizations in its path. They just don't want to lose quality navel contemplation time.
Suspiria wants only revenge. Braxton doesn't want to be beaten by Janeway. Kes can't see past personal relationships. Wesley Crusher wants to make a good impression. Janeway sees a dead lover.
Does anybody care about the 87 civilizations saved from destruction by Voyager's journey after the nebula? Does anybody care about the 61 ships saved, the 28 expeditions rescued, the 2794 individuals whose lives were directly saved by Voyager's intervention?
Captain Janeway argued to Admiral Janeway that the lives saved by the destruction of the conduit were more important than those of her own crew. Yet even the attempt comes at the price of others who were to be saved but now won't.
Intervention or no intervention; lots of people are going to die.
Back on the Relativity, Braxton was attempting to find a to spot in the timeline when Kes could be safely intercepted.
"The computer is warning about a lot of spin through effects, Captain," Lt. Ducane said. "I don't know if we can stop her without disrupting the timeline further."
"There must be a way. Perhaps if we intercepted Mr. Crusher instead."
"I don't know if we can even track him, Sir."
Lt. Ducane paused in his work. "There's another problem. Suspiria is now involved. If we stop either Kes or Mr. Crusher, she will be free to destroy Voyager. Setting aside sending over a hundred fellow Starfleet personal to their deaths, we're supposed to prevent Voyager from arriving early, not from stopping them entirely."
Captain Braxton did not answer immediately. This bothered Ducane. It bothered him a lot. The Captain was taking events so personally...
At which point Ducane's console evaporated, along with most of the Bridge instrumentation. However, a quietly dressed old man now stood where the temporal relays previously did.
"My name is Cosimo. We have accepted your contamination of the time continuum, but can do so no longer."
Braxton was stunned. "For the last time, we are trying to restore the continuum."
"That assumes the previous version was the correct one," the man replied. "We feel Voyager should be allowed to return."
"Chronoton buffers, now!" Braxton shouted.
There was flash. There's always a flash. Temporal activity in the immediate vicinity of the Relativity was halted. Being pantemporal, Cosimo found the experience very painful. Angered by this show of blatant disrespect, he freed himself from the effects of the buffers and reverted every major system on the Relativity to its vacuum tube equivalent.
However, by then, Braxton had taken his shuttle Aeon and fled.
A lot can happen in an instant. Back on Voyager, time had expanded inside Astrometrics. Being the more experienced in temporal irregularities, Wesley Crusher noticed it first. Time was now passing faster inside Astrometrics than in the rest of the ship. Time was passing faster in the center of the room than even at its edges. The waves of psychic energy were being dissipated before they could collide. He eased his assault, and Kes quickly did the same. Suspiria tried to press her advantage, until she discovered that she had none.
They paused inside that instant that seemed to be an eternity, each examining the other to see if a weakness could be found.
Mulrooney grabbed the chip, and crawled towards the door. He was stopped by a pair of boots, connected to a humanoid standing in his way.
"Excuse me," the humanoid said. "I think you should give that to me."
The humanoid held out his hand. Reluctantly, Mulrooney gave him the isolinear chip.
"Thank you. Now don't go anywhere."
The humanoid walked to the two defenders. "Thank you for delaying the Caretaker long enough for us to arrive. We'll take it from here."
Suspiria was outraged. "Who are you and why should you care?"
"Who we are is not important. Let us just say that we will allow no harm to come to the Sky Ship."
"Fine. You can die with them."
Suspiria launched an intense barrage at the humanoid. Which, needless to say, didn't get very far.
"Your abilities are great, but your dependence on your corporeal form is a weakness."
The humanoid fired a small dart into the Caretaker's shoulder. She brushed it off with annoyance, then noticed that her hands began to shake.
"One cannot escape biology," the humanoid said.
Suspiria collapsed to the deck.
"You killed her," Kes said.
"Oh no. The toxin will incapacitate her for a while, but she will recover."
The humanoid recovered the dart, and began reprogramming the ship's sensor logs, removing all records of the incursion.
"If you would, could you please return her home?" The humanoid asked. "I'll take this one with me."
The humanoid vanished with Mulrooney. Kes and Crusher stared at Suspiria's prone form.
"So," Wesley Crusher asked. "Are you doing anything later?"
When the Queen regenerated in the Mulsach Cluster, is was not without some apprehension. She struggled over the pain of reconstitution to grasp her surroundings as quickly as possible.
As expected, he was there.
This time the Queen did nothing, took no action, attempted no dialogue. Perhaps, he was waiting for an excuse...
"Jr!" A new voice exclaimed.
The younger Q froze. Clearly Trelane had dimed on him.
The older Q was impatient. "Well. What are you doing?"
The young man responded. "Well, she was threatening Aunt Kathie. I just wanted to show her a lesson."
He was older, taller, and also dressed in a Starfleet uniform. The family resemblance was unmistakable. "And blowing up stars willy nilly is an acceptable response? What have I and your Aunt Kathie been trying to teach you all this time? Your lucky the Continuum hasn't found out about this, they'd strip you of your powers all over again."
"Excuse me," the Borg Queen asked. "Is he yours?"
"Yes, my nearest and dearest. But unfortunately, he still has more to learn about responsibility."
The elder Q turned his attention on his child. "The shockwaves from the supernovas you've triggered will cause inconceivable devastation throughout the Quadrant. Over the next thousand years, hundreds of other star systems will be destroyed. I share your concern for Kathie, but the inhabitants of these systems do not deserve what you've laid on them.
"Do you have any idea what it takes to stop a stellar shockwave from proceeding?"
The younger Q was solemn. "I'm sorry."
"You better be. And these millions of Borg drones you've destroyed; what did they do to you or Aunt Kathie? Why Seven of Nine was a drone. If someone had acted as recklessly as you have, she might have been lost years ago. And how would that feel?"
"Not very good, sir."
"You don't know the half of it. You must learn economy of scale. Blowing up stars is excessive, and unnecessary. Why didn't you just sever all the molecular bonds in the Queen's body?"
"What?" The Queen asked, as she disintegrated in a burst of radiation.
I suppose it was inevitable that with so many people actually getting involved in this mess that I wouldn't be the only one just watching. They manifested themselves as three elderly humanoids. We shouldn't be able to perceive each other. Still, here we were. I said nothing, they said nothing, until I was sure I was in no imminent danger.
"So," I asked causally. "Are you here to watch Voyager or to interfere?"
I sighed. Upper management plays it pretty close to the vest, but at least you can get a straight answer from them.
"May I ask why you are here?"
"You can always ask, son."
Okay, I deserved that. Now who had this MO?
"Am I addressing the Nechani Council?"
They turned to each other. "And you said the young today don't study anymore."
You can only expect so much from the cryptic types. But if you don't waste their time, they'll waste less of yours.
"Is there anything you wish to ask me?"
They smiled. Obviously I'd played knifey spoony before. "Why are you doing this?"
The short answer was that I was following orders. They would then either ask why I follow orders or why I was given these particular orders. Or were they asking both?
I remember when I was recruited. It wasn't just that I had no family, no connections and wouldn't be missed. I also bore a deep frustration with a world I couldn't fix. They showed me a power which made all things seem possible and an opportunity to make a difference on a scale I couldn't have dreamed of. I was grateful at the chance, and this produced a loyalty that kept me going even on cases like this one.
This was a strange case. I wasn't an observer. Recently I hadn't been much of an agent either. I was going through the motions. Was this a punishment? A vacation? An opportunity to reflect?
"Because there is something I need to learn."
"What could that be?"
"Let's assume for the moment that this is all some kind of motivational exercise. There is a difference between understanding something intellectually and actually feeling it."
"No. There is a difference between understanding a concept and agreeing with it."
The female chimed in. "Why are serving a cause you no longer believe in?"
"Have you considered a career in real estate?" The last asked.
"You think I should quit?"
That annoyed them. It was a stupid question.
"There are no stupid questions," the first one said.
"Except 'what does no refunds mean?'" The second one added.
Now I was annoyed. "Look, I haven't got time for this. Save the riddles for the tourists. You came to me."
That gave them pause. "True enough. We'll keep it simple. Why do you have doubts?"
I searched for the words. "I'm tired of the big picture. I'm tired of the individual lives lost or ruined by the greater good. But I'm too well trained to ignore the long terms consequences."
"And you resent that training."
"Damn right I do."
"Then we ask you, do you want to quit?"
"I can't can I? Then I wouldn't help anyone's suffering."
"Do you think it was a coincidence that they asked you to see Voyager?"
I guess it couldn't have been. About as big a mess as one could find. "There's no way out for Voyager. Every course of action leads to death, for Voyager, for humanity, for the Borg, for planets along the way. Someone has to lose."
"And what does your heart say?"
"I can't trust my motives any more than one can trust the motives of the others. Just because they're nice, just because they mean well, just because they're my kind, that's not reason enough."
"In the end, our hearts are all we have. Without compassion, life is brutish survival. Trust your heart."
"What about the others? All the ships and planets that Voyager fails to rescue?"
"They're not dead yet. Others may rescue the ships. Others may save the planets. Maybe you will."
"Maybe nobody will."
"Perhaps. But that is not your burden. You're not God."
"Trust us," the woman added. "We are. We know."
The second one spoke. "In the end, all we can do is try. Just use some common sense first."
I resigned myself to my course of action. But then they spoke again.
"Nobody is twisting your arm. Your obligations are ones you've chosen. Most people aren't that lucky."
They left. Convenient. A lot can happen in an instant, and a whole lot was about to.
Captain Braxton materialized the Aeon in the midst of Unimatrix One, one week before Voyager's final encounter with the Borg. His plan was a simple one. He would give the Queen the coordinates of Admiral Janeway's appearance in the Delta Quadrant. As soon as the cubes approached, Voyager would beat a hasty retreat and Captain Janeway would never know about her doppleganger's arrival.
Braxton beamed himself through the Queen's defenses to her chamber. She rarely had visitors, so the novelty gave her pause.
"What brings you to our humble abode?" She asked.
That's when I stepped in. Before Braxton could speak I stunned him. I gathered him up, watching the drones approach.
"Don't mind us, we were just leaving."
I took us back to the Aeon and tore off for the future, arriving as Ducane had just finished restoring the Relativity to her natural state. I deposited Braxton on the Bridge and layed it out for them.
"I don't thing I can make this clear enough. This whole mess has gotten a lot bigger than you or Starfleet or the Temporal Prime Directive. The only way to stabilize the situation is to stop screwing around and let history sort itself out."
"Who are you?"
"Who cares. The important thing to understand is that a lot of interested parties with a lot more power than you aren't going to give this a rest."
Braxton was indignant. "I don't take kindly to threats. I have a job to do and I'm going to do it."
His First Officer spoke up. "Uh, actually sir, Starfleet just contacted us and gave the order to cease operations. They're going to let the situation stand. Something about a chronoknot forming from excess temporal activity."
He was stymied. "You win this round."
I blew him off. It wasn't going to end there of course. Braxton was going to stop his nemesis at any cost, even if that meant forsaking his obligations to Starfleet and planting a bomb in Voyager's past. I could have warned him. But that would violate the Temporal Prime Directive, and when in Rome...
In the end I couldn't just watch. Nobody seemed to mind. Agent's do have a certain latitude to use their best judgement. I just needed to learn not to carry the entire Universe on my shoulders. I'll do what I can, which is the most anyone could hope for.
Besides, I said observation wasn't my department.
Even before the Borg Queen finished reconstituting herself, she was filled with dread. Was there ever a time when she was powerless to control her situation? She couldn't remember. It was both intolerable and nerve racking. She scanned, with her eyes, with her mind, all of her domain. She checked again to be sure, but she was finally satisfied. They were not here.
The two Q stepped up to her side.
"Boo," they whispered.
The Queen screamed.
60: Trade Offs