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.
“We’ve done this before,” I explain to the young officers in Astrometrics. “You telling me how I die, me deciding to change it, you giving me the neural reinforcement treatment. We’ve been through it four times. You don’t remember it, but I do. And I know why.”
Naomi Wildman is hanging on my every word. Beside her, Icheb shifts his feet uncomfortably.
“That serum – the one you adapted from the treatment Tuvok was taking in your timeline – you’ve injected me with it three times. Icheb, you said it was designed on a temporal phase differential protocol, and that repeated use would strengthen the memory engrams it was designed to target. Well, it worked. Each time we’ve been through a time loop I’ve remembered more, because each time the memories I gain over those several hours have ingrained themselves deeper into my neural pathways.”
“Time loop?” Naomi wrinkles her forehead.
“Yes –” I take a breath, realising I’ve rushed in too quickly. No wonder they’re struggling to catch up.
They don’t have the memories I have.
“The period of time between the gravimetric surge striking the ship and Chakotay initiating the chroniton pulse to counter it – we’ve been stuck in a repeating causality loop. None of you remember. If it wasn’t for the neural treatment I wouldn’t remember either, and we’d be stuck in this loop forever.” I can’t help a wry smile. “I guess you could say that my breaking the temporal prime directive is what’s going to set time right again.”
“The neural reinforcement serum is creating a temporal loop?” Naomi looks bewildered.
“No,” Icheb breaks in. “The interaction between the treatment protocol and the chroniton-infused serum we’ve all been injected with – that’s why the captain remembers the events of the previous time loops. Something else is causing the loops themselves.”
“That’s right,” I beam at him. “It’s the chroniton field pulse Chakotay is about to send out from the warp core. It attracts the gravimetric surge from the spatial anomaly and throws us all into a temporal paradox just as it splits the ship into multiple timeframes. But don’t worry – I’ve sent an anti-neutrino pulse through the gelpacks which should counteract the time loops.”
Icheb looks relieved. Naomi still looks confused.
“I’m here because I need your help,” I continue. “As soon as Chakotay initiates that pulse, time will reset. We’ll all be thrown back to our respective timeframes. I’ll be back on my bridge in 2371, and the events of my day will unfold in an entirely different way. What I need from you is another shot of that neural differential treatment. I need to be sure that I remember. At least long enough to do what I have to do.”
“What are you planning to do?” Naomi’s eyes are wide.
“I’m going to take a leaf out of my future self’s book,” I reply, “and make sure your history never comes to pass.”
I step off the turbolift onto my bridge.
Aaron Cavit stands from his chair, turning toward me with a malevolent glare. Lieutenant Andrews is planted in front of him, his stance stiffening as Cavit takes a step in my direction.
“It’s all right, Lieutenant.” I raise my chin as I descend to the command level, easing into my seat. Cavit doesn’t take his eyes off me as he sits down again.
“Sixty seconds to the chroniton pulse,” Harry Kim announces from Ops.
Cavit leans in a fraction. “I knew I was right about you, Janeway.”
I fix him with the kind of stare that sends greater men than him running for the hills. “Excuse me, Commander?”
“I suspected you were a traitor all along. Sleeping with the enemy. And I was right.” He sits back, mouth twisted bitterly. “It churns my gut that I won’t remember what happened here today, but you won’t get away with it. Starfleet will find out one way or the other, and then you’ll be facing a court-martial.”
I fight down the urge to bite back at him – don’t be so sure I’ll be the one up on charges – but hold my tongue. There’s no point. As he said, he’ll have no memory of today’s events. And in a matter of days he’ll be dead.
I turn my face to the viewscreen.
“Thirty seconds,” says Kim.
Stadi sits quietly at the helm, hands poised on the controls, waiting. She’ll be dead soon, too. I bite my lip. If only I could have changed their fate – but I had to make a choice. I just hope I won’t regret it –
Don’t spend your life regretting the choices you make, my older self had pleaded with me. Don’t end up like me.
There’s nothing I can do to change the almosts and the maybes of the coming seven years. But if this works as it’s supposed to, everything after that is going to change. Decisions, failures, self-recriminations. Half-truths and legends and wordless conversations.
Most of all, I’m going to take a lesson from the admiral. Those bulwarks she built around her heart with bricks of fear and guilt and loneliness – I’m going to let them crumble. And I know just which barriers I’m going to tear down first.
On my ready room desk there’s a picture of Mark. I call the image into my mind and hold it there, closing my eyes.
I’m sorry, Mark. I’m so sorry.
“Five … four …”
My thoughts are ordered, my breathing deep and even. My path is clear.
“… two, one …”
Silvery light envelops the bridge and I gasp, momentarily nauseated. The ship shudders and then goes still. The light fades.
I open my eyes to the unhurried beeping of consoles and the soft bustle of crew moving between stations. Everything looks … exactly as it should.
“Captain?” Beside me, Aaron Cavit’s brow is furrowed in concern. “Are you all right?”
“Report, Mr Kim,” I croak, still dizzy.
“Uh, all stations report normal, Captain.”
“Run an external scan. Are you detecting any anomalies?”
“No, ma’am,” he says, bewildered. “Begging your pardon, but should I be?”
I tap into the console beside my chair just to be sure, but Kim is right. There’s no spatial anomaly or temporal rift. There’s nothing out of place.
Except for me.
Because I remember everything.