listen: there's a hell of a good universe next door; let's go

He could not count the passing of time, even as much as he ever had; the spinning of his planet around its star had once meant something in the growth of height, breadth, sinew, in the development of his mind, but now there was nothing. No light, no seasons, no passage of time. The others told him there was enough here to occupy his mind, should he open himself to receive it; but he didn't want to open up to whatever it was, because it was boring. He longed for solidity, for gravity to pull, for firm surfaces to walk on and touch and hold and talk to, he was going insane, they didn't understand him and they didn't care and he was sorry, how many times did he have to say he was sorry? But they didn't care. He screamed, and begged, and threw temper tantrums, and absolutely none of it had any effect.

And then she came.

He was standing, suddenly, on the surface of a planet. Some sense told him it wasn't entirely real, not as he understood reality, but to his human senses it was warm, sunny, fragrant with green stuff growing on the ground, and she was there, tall, blonde, not much older-looking than him, much like the girl he'd fallen for back on Enterprise as a matter of fact, and so very human-looking.

It was the first thing he said, in fact. Not "where am I?" or "who are you?" but reverently, breathtaken: "You're human!"

"Yes," she said, "and no." She was smiling.

"Where am I? Can I stay here?"

"No, you can't stay here," she said. "It only exists as long as I'm thinking about it. I created it to give us someplace to meet and talk. But you don't have to go back to the Thasians, either. You can stay with me."

"Will you be my friend, then?"

"Sure, that's why I brought you here."

He shook his head unhappily. "You say that. Everyone says that. But they don't really mean it. Sooner or later you'll hate me and then the Thasians will take me back."

"Charlie, if you manage to make me mad, the Thasians are going to be the least of your worries." She stood up. "I picked you because you understand what it's like. I needed a companion who could understand what I'm going through, what it's like to go from human to... more than human. And I chose this, which you didn't, but it really wasn't like I was actually given a choice either. I just thought I had a choice."

He blinked at her. "You chose this? You chose what? I don't understand what you mean."

She made a gesture with her hands, and suddenly they were in space, floating above a planet. Distantly he recognized it as the planet which was his prison for so long, the Thasian homeworld. "I chose to be greater than human. But I still miss my humanity, and none of my people can understand that. They laugh at me."

Charlie knew what that was like. "I hate it when people laugh at me," he growled in sympathy. He looked around himself. "But... does this mean you're just like them? I thought you were human!"

"Well, I'm not a Thasian. Even I can tell they're boring as all heck. I'm not as jaded as some of my people but I'm not a Thasian, either. But no... I'm not exactly human. I started out that way, like you. Well, actually I didn't. I started as an omnipotent being but I lived my whole life thinking I was human, having no powers. Which means, by the way, that I am less of a brat than you. And I'm also more powerful. So if you try disappearing me it's not going to work."

"I wouldn't disappear you. You're my friend. You saved me from the Thasians."

"Yeah, and what happens when you get mad?"

"I won't get mad at you. I promise."

"I'm not worried about it. You can't hurt me. And I'm not going to let you hurt anyone else. That was the deal I made with the Thasians to get custody of you."


She shrugged. "You were crying, and I could hear it. I checked up on you and saw how you were a human baby who was given power by the Thasians, but they couldn't take that power away, so when you started misusing it all they could do was come for you. And unlike my people the Thasians are boring as mud. Like I said, I wanted a companion, someone who might understand me. Of course, right now you have all the empathy of a three-year-old, but what with Q's plan to change the Continuum by having babies, I figure I may as well get in the babysitting practice now."

Charlie sighed. "I don't like to do bad things... when I do bad things, people hate me. I'm sorry about the bad things I did."

"Good, so when I tell you not to do bad things you won't whine and sulk and try to do them anyway?"

"I won't. I promise. I want to be your best friend. I won't do anything to make you mad, and you won't make me mad."

"That's not how friendship works. Friends make each other mad all the time, but then they forgive each other. That's something you're going to have to learn." She giggled. "Captain Picard would think the notion of a Q teaching morality to a human would be completely ridiculous. Someday I've got to tell him about it."

"What's your name?" Charlie asked.

"Q. But you can call me Amanda." She grinned. "So, wanna go see what's out there?"

"Out where?"

She waved at the stars. "Everywhere."

Charlie nodded happily. "Yeah. Yeah, that's exactly what I want to do."

Story title comes from a poem by e e cummings; I think the title is "pity this busy monster,manunkind", but the resource I read it on had no separate title listings; it's just that I think cummings' poems are titled after his first lines.