We haven't found a way yet to break the barrier around the solar system. Even with the finest minds humanity's produced working on it, we're not sure we ever will.
They didn't outright annihilate us, and in fact by their own lights they seem to think they were remarkably merciful, the one time they deigned to talk to us. They terraformed Venus for us, so it's hot but can be lived on, and they put the asteroid belt back into a planet and terraformed that, and they gave us a second moon, also terraformed, in Trojan orbit, which has played merry hell with the tides but it gave us somewhere else to put the people. So we can all live here, after a fashion. After we've wiped out in three years all the ecological gains made in three hundred by the ravening need for space to live, and we're still quartered in boxes hardly the size of my cabin aboard Voyager, with lotteries dictating who's allowed to reproduce and mandatory sterilization for anyone who's already had a child. Because when you confine several trillion people to one solar system after they'd outgrown it for 300 years, you should not be surprised to see all the old problems they left behind them return with a vengeance.
The news is a nonstop litany of horror. Murder, rape, suicide, serial killings, mass murder sprees, bombings, conflict along ethnic lines for the love of God. Oh, and that too. Religion's back. I don't think it's going to work-- we've never seen any evidence God exists, and we definitely know they do-- but people are desperate. I'd think it gave them some harmless hope if they weren't killing each other over it. It's worse than the 21st century in some ways-- we have phasers now and while replicators can feed the planet the fact that we just have no space to live is killing us. Or, more to the point, leading us to kill others of us. Suicide's phenomenally common, and I have to admit I've occasionally thought it the best choice myself, but murder is even more so. Give it enough time, we'll have a war.
I'm sure they'd call us barbaric for this. If you people are watching, I'd like to point out that you had a war for a far, far stupider reason than massive overpopulation, and that you caused our circumstances now. I don't blame humanity-- we had solved all our problems, and then you took the stars away. I blame you.
And I blame myself. And I blame him.
The Doctor has, in some ways, adjusted the best of us. He threw in his lot with humanity when they asked for his choice, and I can see why-- with perhaps only a couple of dozen people left on Voyager, how could he have stayed, if given the choice to leave? It shook him up horribly to find he was suddenly human, flesh and bone like the rest of us. He had a hard time with it, but he's a doctor, and in this brave new world of ours doctors are desperately needed, so he was able to throw himself into his work, and now no one could tell he wasn't born human. He's taken to calling himself Joe Zimmerman now, which apparently annoys Louis Zimmerman, his programmer, to no end, but I've just never been able to get used to calling him Joe, and Dr. Zimmerman seems awfully formal to call a man who used to have panic attacks and hide in your bedroom or who developed hypochondriac food allergies to nearly everything and spent most of his time throwing up in your bathroom for a month.
Tom's been doing his best to take care of B'Elanna, but you can't heal the wound when half the self is gone. I see her face, smooth and human, more alien to me now than it ever was when it was alien, and her eyes are so empty, so dull. She had to have known what she was choosing, when their voice asked her whether she would be Human or Klingon. She'd been divided before, she knew what it was like. I don't know whether she picked Human because she'd always preferred her Human half even after being divided by the Vidiians, or whether she picked Human to be with Tom, and Chakotay, and me. It doesn't matter. She's not B'Elanna anymore. The passion, the fire is gone. She's never learned to compensate for the lack of Klingon emotions. I think if it weren't for Tom and Chakotay she really would have killed herself by now.
Seven-- Annika-- hasn't adjusted well either, though it's in the opposite direction. Stripped of her Borg implants, she clings to me like a child, she cries, she even throws temper tantrums. They didn't take from her what her human brain remembered, but they removed the extra storage her cortical implants gave her, so there are now giant gaps in her knowledge of just about everything she learned when she was with the Borg. I will say that she's more determined than some; she's been studying technology and engineering fiercely, trying to regain what she's lost in the realm of knowledge at least. She still has nightmares when she sleeps, still wakes up and clings desperately to me crying, although she stopped throwing up at food three days after her digestive system came back on-line after they took her implants from her.
I miss Tuvok.
I miss Neelix too, but at least he's probably still in the Delta Quadrant, relatively near his home. Tuvok is still out there, still separated from T'Pel and his children, without me or Annika to be his friends-- unless they were merciful and sent him home when they took us, but frankly I can't imagine those bastards having anything resembling that kind of empathy. And besides, he was the advocate against their case, so they probably blame him in part. I hope they haven't done anything cruel to Vulcan as a result, but I would be shocked if they hadn't come up with something cruel to do to him personally.
They didn't need to do anything special to me, of course. I'm human. They just locked me in with the rest of the hairless monkeys.
We're working on time travel. Me, Annika, B'Elanna, Kirk's legendary engineer Montgomery Scott, Jean-Luc's former engineer Geordi LaForge, and a host of others. For a while we were working with a former android named Data, another of Jean-Luc's crew, but apparently he couldn't deal with the loss of intelligence he suffered from turning into a human, and left engineering to go into entertainment. It's a worthy cause, I suppose; someone needs to distract our terrified, huddling masses with moments of escape and amusement so we don't all kill each other.
It hasn't worked yet. We don't know if it will ever work, if the barrier blocks us through time as well as space. Things that should have worked-- slingshot around the sun, pinpoint wormhole creation-- don't, and we don't know why, whether it's a property of the barrier or whether they're actively blocking us. If we can find something that will work we don't know if they'll pay attention, if they'll stop us. If they don't stop us we don't know how we're going to make contact, how we're going to get the warning through. But we have to try. It's not in humanity to lay down and die.
Others are trying other avenues. I've heard there's a project afoot to enhance humans, to duplicate accidents that have given humans incredible psionic powers. It's tantamount to genetic engineering, and it disgusts me and practically everyone else in this solar system, but it's one of our best hopes. We were told, once, that they're afraid of our potential, that we could grow to surpass them. And we're trying. But even at the fastest we can push our evolution I don't see that route working for tens of thousands of years. That's far, far too long for us to be imprisoned without the stars.
It's all my fault. And also his. I wish I could hate him, but at least I'm alive. I doubt very much he can say the same, and if he's alive I don't doubt he's suffering worse than I am. If his enemies could be so vindictive as to imprison us because he tried to make us allies, I don't want to imagine what they'd have done to him if they took him alive.
But I'm so, so angry at him.
I should never have involved us in the affairs of his people. Jean-Luc has pointed out that this was a blatant violation of the Prime Directive-- Starfleet captains get called in to mediate conflicts all the time, but not on a species we know hardly anything about. I didn't know what I was doing, and that's exactly why we're not supposed to interfere with other cultures. And he's absolutely right, but I was arrogant. They asked me for help. As far as I knew they used to think of us as insects and now they wanted our help, my help? I should have said no, I should have told them to go solve their own problems, but I thought I could be fair and impartial. And in fact I still think I was fair and impartial but that's not the point. Apparently my decision destroyed their society and set off a civil war. And to be fair, he warned me, but he was the advocate for their side and he was engaging in acts of blatant bribery and I thought he was just trying to fix the trial. I had no idea he was serious that one person's suicide would destroy their whole society.
I made a stupid, stupid mistake, getting involved. And then in refusing to get involved, when he came to me and told me about the war. But let's be fair. Who had the knowledge and experience to know that I wasn't capable of understanding everything at stake, and asked me to serve as judge anyway? Who gave Quinn the damn hemlock? And who, while trying to get me to go to bed with him and bear his child as a way to stop the war, clowned around, put giant tattoos on his face, showed up in my bedroom in Victorian nightclothes complete with cap for the love of all that's holy, offered flowers and chocolate like a parody of a bad romance novel, and didn't manage to come across as either sexually attractive or remotely sincere even once? Who, apparently, has successfully seduced human women and gotten them to run off to the Gamma Quadrant with him for two years (something I didn't know at the time), but presented himself to me as a gigantic joke? Stop a war by having a child with a trickster? Oh, yes, that certainly sounds like it would work. By the time he got around to telling me anything sincere, anything having anything to do with his real motives, I couldn't believe any of it.
I don't usually use language like this, but whenever I think about what he did, what I did because of what he did, all that comes to mind is "Q, you incredibly stupid asshole, I hope it hurt when they killed you."
Because he never told me what was at stake for humanity.
Because he played a clown and a trickster figure until I couldn't believe him when he told me about the war.
Because he picked the wrong damn starship captain! I know for a fact that had he come to Jean-Luc and told him the fate of humanity, or assorted stars with innocent people living on their planets, or even the Q Continuum, was in his hands, Jean-Luc would have taken him seriously. And had he set up the biology correctly Jean-Luc would have agreed. Especially with the bit about stopping a war that was taking out billions of innocent people as collateral damage. But oh no, Q, you couldn't put yourself to any trouble, any descending to the level of mere humans. It would have been nothing to you to change your form, you've apparently come out and told Jean-Luc it was within your power, but god forbid you do any work, god forbid you indulge in human biology for more than five minutes of fun. You knew what was at stake, I didn't, but you had to keep your form and the formats of human biology and try to stick someone who had no idea what was at stake with the physically hard and emotionally grueling parts, while making the whole thing into a giant joke. Is it funny now? Because I'm not laughing anymore, Q.
You never told me that if they won they'd declare humanity dangerous and lock us all away in our own solar system, that they'd rip away half of every hybrid with human blood to make either a full human or a full alien depending on their choice and then either trap them on Earth or keep them from coming here, that they'd confine trillions of us to a small handful of planets without even the opportunity to send messages out to the galaxy, or receive them. You didn't tell us that they feared us and they'd deny us the stars, you didn't tell me it was your side that would have supported humanity's growth and evolution. After all, in all of Jean-Luc's logs you're in there as the person testing us, threatening to destroy us or lock us away. Isn't what they're doing exactly what you told Jean-Luc you'd do, back at Farpoint? If I'd had his hands-on experience with you I might have guessed where your real allegiances were, but all I had were his logs, and I couldn't know how long it had been obvious that you people were divided against yourselves on the question of us.
Maybe you didn't know, either. But which one of us ran around claiming to be omniscient? Which one of us knew them, knew your people's politics? If you didn't know you damn well should have guessed!
I wasn't going to be coerced into having a child with you. It was far too obvious you didn't even want me, that you were parodying human romance. If I'd known about your dealings with Vash, then, I'd have been even more sure of it, since apparently you can actually be attractive to women when you want to be, and since you weren't remotely attractive I have to conclude you didn't want to be. Were you stressed? Frightened from the war and taking refuge in pretending it was all a joke? Was it just that you really, truly, did not want me? (From all I've heard: you really, really did pick the wrong starship captain. But it's too late now.) You can pretend to want to kill people when you don't really, but you can't pretend to actually desire someone when the fate of your people's at stake? What, was that too much emotion for you? Too much humanity for you to handle?
I should have agreed, or found some other way to help you, tried to mediate, done something. But I didn't know what was really at stake. You did, and you didn't tell me.
You made a war of the gods into a joke, you asked me for help and you asked in a way that was almost guaranteed to make me say no, because I didn't know what the situation really meant. Why, yes, I'm a little bitter.
You and I sacrificed your side, and my species, on the altars of our mutual pride, but you were the only of us who could have prevented it. Hindsight's 20/20 but supposedly you had better foresight than my kind. What made you make such a staggering mistake?
You probably paid the price for it. Fine. But what about several trillion innocent humans who had nothing to do with your mistake? Or mine, for that matter? Why do they need to pay the price? Why did B'Elanna have to lose her fire, why did Annika have to lose her knowledge and her self-control, why can't I ever see my dear friend Tuvok again, because you were an idiot?
I really do hope it hurt when they killed you. But even as much as I'm enraged at you for what you've done, I'm not vindictive enough to hope you're still alive. Because I know, now, exactly what cruel SOBs are running the universe now that you and all your followers are dead or defeated. And I know that as big of an idiot as you were you didn't deserve to be alive in their hands, unable to die.
They could be watching us. We have no way to tell. If we ever do solve the puzzle of how to travel in time, how to send a message into the past to Q or to me or to Jean-Luc or anyone who could possibly influence the way events turned out, we have no guarantees that they'll let us do it. For all we know we may be annihilated the instant we find a way to travel in time.
The truth is I don't care anymore. If we can't escape then death would be a relief. We deserved the stars. We earned them. And if a bunch of tinpot gods who are apparently against evolution, growth and change, and want the universe to remain in some sort of eternal stasis, have taken them from us and we can never get them back... then we might as well be dead.
So I work, and I struggle, and I live in my tiny boxlike apartment with Annika, because it's what humans do, to keep fighting even in the face of hostile gods. And if despair takes me I hide it, because that's what I do.
It's all I can do. It's all any of us can do.
Next: the last best hope.