In a Hundred Lifetimes
Summary: A temporal paradox gives Janeway the chance to reassess the choices she’s made and those she’s going to make, even when the future seems inevitable.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: Written for the J/C Cutthroat Fiction competition, Alpha group, Round 2. My prompt was “a good old-fashioned time loop” and for bonus points, only one character was able to remember.
“Tell me how it happened.”
Naomi bites her lip, her eyes shifting over toward Icheb. “I’m not supposed to –”
“If it makes you feel any better,” I interrupt, “consider it an order.”
Icheb is frowning, but as Naomi gazes at him pleadingly he nods, then moves away, clearly not wanting to be associated with this breach of Starfleet directives.
I perch on the edge of the astrometrics platform and wave her to sit beside me.
“Seventeen years ago,” Naomi begins, “a version of you from the future appeared on Voyager. She was from a timeframe after Voyager had made it home, but she said that it had taken twenty-three years for them to reach Earth.”
“Wait,” I cut in, pressing my fingers to my temple. “A future version of me?”
“Yes, from 2404,” Naomi replies. “In her timeline, Voyager had returned to Earth ten years earlier. But many of the crew had died along the way, and Admiral Janeway couldn’t live with that. She’d discovered a way to bring us home earlier.”
“Clearly, it didn’t work,” I note, “or you wouldn’t be here now.”
“No.” Naomi looks at her hands. “It involved taking Voyager though a Borg transwarp hub.”
I can’t help the small sound of alarm that escapes me.
“The crew came up with a plan to fool the Borg queen. The admiral would allow herself to be assimilated and in doing so, she’d infect the Borg with a neurolytic pathogen. The Borg queen was supposed to lose control of the Collective, allowing Voyager to explode the hub and ride the shockwaves all the way into the Alpha quadrant.”
“What went wrong?” I ask faintly.
“It took some time to figure that out,” admits Naomi. “But Seven and Icheb finally realised that the admiral was suffering from a neurological condition. It wasn’t life-threatening, but it required her to have regular hexadrin injections. She’d had one administered just before she left on her final mission. Unfortunately, the increased level of hexadrin in her synaptic pathways interacted badly with the pathogen. It took far longer than she’d planned to disable the Collective.”
I’m trying not to imagine how that would have felt: assimilation at the hands of the Borg queen herself, knowing that she’d failed in her last, desperate mission … “Then what happened?”
“The queen diverted three cubes to chase Voyager through one of the hub’s conduits. We managed to destroy the hub, but we were forced to escape through an aperture that led back to the Delta quadrant. We were caught in the tail end of the shockwave and suffered extensive damage.”
She has tears in her eyes.
“You were fatally injured during the shockwave’s impact,” she says softly. “You died, along with four other members of the crew, including Commander Chakotay and … and my mother.”
“Oh, Naomi,” I whisper. “I’m so sorry.”
“We’re still twenty thousand light years from the Alpha quadrant,” she says, swallowing hard. “Captain Kim is considering finding a planet to settle –”
“Yes.” She gives me a sad smile. “With you and Commander Chakotay gone, Tuvok stepped up to the captain’s chair, but it wasn’t long before his condition degenerated too far for him to retain command…”
“His condition?” Oh God, what now?
For the first time, Naomi hesitates. “Captain, maybe I shouldn’t be telling you all of this.”
My head is in my hands. “No. Go on, please.”
“Well, after Tuvok stepped down, Commander Paris became captain, but he and Commander Torres were killed on an away mission a year later. Since then, Harry has been the captain. We’ve lost so many people...” She sighs. “I’ve always wanted to be in Starfleet, ever since I was a little girl, but Captain, this isn’t the way I’d have wanted things to turn out.”
“No,” I answer faintly. “Me, either.”
She touches my wrist, drawing my attention. “It doesn’t have to be this way,” she says, urgency colouring her voice. “You can change it. You can make it all okay.”
Naomi’s eyes are fever-bright. “All you have to do is remember.”