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.
“I won’t change my decision to strand Voyager in the Delta quadrant,” I tell the sombre-faced lieutenant. “But I want to change your past, Naomi. I can’t bear the idea of the crew losing its entire leadership within a few years, or of you growing up without your mother.”
Icheb has given up his pretence of ignoring us. Behind him, the colossal astrometrics screen displays a course that meanders through strange and distant stars.
“If there’s some way I could preserve my memory of what happens when my future self takes us through that Borg hub, maybe I could change it.”
Naomi exchanges a glance with Icheb. “There might be a way,” she offers haltingly.
“I told you about Captain Tuvok’s neurological condition,” Naomi begins slowly. “Well, his main symptoms were a loss of emotional control and an inability to form and retain memories. The Doctor started working on a treatment designed to reinforce Tuvok’s memory engrams. It worked – Tuvok began remembering things he’d forgotten – but because of the damage his neural pathways had already suffered, he was unable to distinguish the old memories from recent events. It caused him too much emotional distress, so the Doctor stopped the treatments.”
“But I’m not suffering from a neurological disease,” I murmur. “At least, not yet. Could this treatment be adapted to help me keep memories I’ve recently formed?”
Icheb approaches us, grave-faced. “Captain, you are most likely unaware that my species has a talent for genetic manipulation, and that I’ve always had an interest in neurogenetics. I followed the Doctor’s research on this treatment, and I believe it could be modified for such a purpose with relative ease.” He pauses. “Forgive me, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that what you are proposing is directly contrary to Starfleet’s General Order 157.”
“That depends on your interpretation,” I reply. “But your point is taken. Consider yourselves – both of you – under orders to assist me with this mission.”
Icheb nods. “I’ll need a moment to modify the treatment protocol to ensure its compatibility with your neural pathways.”
He moves to a console and I follow, peering over his shoulder.
“The treatment is based on the theory that a temporal differential stimulus can be applied to the memory engrams, reinforcing their capacity to store and recall memories,” Icheb explains. “The Doctor and I discovered that it can be targeted to different memory types or time periods. In your case, I will direct the treatment toward retention of memories you’ve formed over the past twenty-four hours.”
“How long will the effect last?”
“Unfortunately, that’s difficult to determine precisely. Multiple treatments proved to exponentially strengthen memory recall. In your case, with a single treatment, the imprint should last for several days to a week. Your actual recall of today’s events may eventually seem unclear and dream-like, but you’ll have time to record the knowledge in a log for later reference.”
He taps into the console and sends a command to the replicator. A hypospray materialises, and I walk over to retrieve it.
“Are there any possible side effects I should be aware of?” I ask as I hand the hypospray to Icheb.
“Not unless you come into direct contact with a concentrated field of neutrino particles,” Naomi smiles. “Or a black hole.”
“Both unlikely scenarios,” I offer dryly, tilting my head.
“Are you absolutely sure you want to do this, Captain?” Icheb asks, face grave. “Changing your future could have unforeseen effects.”
“I’ll live with it,” I reply.
Icheb depresses the hypospray and its contents seep coldly into my jugular vein. For a moment I feel woozy, and Naomi steadies me with a gentle hand on my elbow.
Straightening, I smile at the them both. “See you in the future.”
“I look forward to it,” Naomi says softly, and as I stride toward the doors, she calls after me, “and thank you, Captain.”
I cast one last look at them both before I leave this future that will never be, and return to my bridge.