Alathea stared at the distant wall of a cargo bay, her fists clenched in frustration. The Captain had burned through precious time and resources to get the scoop the Doctor needed to treat Tuvok. Alathea couldn’t fathom why they were bending over backward for him. Other competent crew members could take over his duties, leaving him to his culinary escapades. Besides, he was a better cook than Neelix, and that was saying something.
Taking a deep breath, Alathea tried to quell her anger. This was the Captain in all her glory, always ready to sacrifice the entire crew for strangers, including Tuvok. The notion of someone caring so deeply for her was foreign, given Bene Gesserit had drilled into her that she was nothing more than a disposable tool since the age of five. A lifetime of being treated as a mere instrument had left its mark.
Seven, noticing Alathea’s distress, inquired, “What happened?”
“Nothing,” Alathea replied, wiping away a stray tear.
“You are crying. That’s not nothing.”
“I’m just surprised the captain went to such lengths for a crew member.”
Seven shrugged. “That’s Starfleet principles for you.”
“But that can’t be true,” Alathea retorted, her skepticism evident.
Seven motioned for her to join at the computer console in the cargo bay. “She told me herself. It’s all part of the Starfleet code.”
Alathea, still doubtful, argued, “Humans are selfish. They don’t do selfless things without some hidden agenda.”
“You lived a long life, you had to meet someone selfless.”
“Come on! You have to know there are no truly selfless people. There is always some agenda, even if it is a wish to enter heaven. Borg gets all the info during assimilation. ”
“Not all of it. We strip individual information, and religion is not considered useful.”
“Bene Gesserit uses religion for manipulation,” Alathea remarked.
Seven nodded. “Yes, but Captain follows Starfleet principles genuinely.”Seven turned towards the console. “Computer, list the occurrences when Captain used Voyager to save either member of the crew or someone outside the crew.”
Alathea stared at the screen listing numerous instances of the Captain risking it all for her crew. Maybe the Captain was the real deal. It went against Alathea’s belief that humans were inherently selfish, always seeking personal gain. This list seemed too long for someone merely pretending.
Leaving the cargo bay, Alathea rushed to the bridge.
“Is the captain in her ready room?” she asked Chakotay.
He nodded, and Alathea burst into the room.
“Alathea, what can I do for you?” the Captain asked, inviting her to sit.
“I need to tell you something,” Alathea began, wringing her hands.
“Start at the beginning.”
Alathea shot a glance at the captain, who was still smiling, and she nodded determinedly. “Let’s start at the beginning. I was manufactured for a specific project. The sisterhood decided that, given the knowledge I’ve accumulated in my past 11 lives, I was the best fit for the job.”
She paused, taking a deep breath. The captain nonchalantly sipped her coffee, fixing her gaze on Alathea.
“The project,” Alathea continued, “was to liberate the humans of Terra from machine enslavement. Two generations prior to the creation of this body, Imperial scouts stumbled upon Terra. They discovered that the humans there were all plugged into some kind of machine, unable to move or wake up. They were stacked in enormous towers of transparent coffins on a barely habitable planet. My mission was to infiltrate the machine and free them.”
“So, you’re telling me that in Earth’s future, humans will be plugged into a machine?” the captain asked, her brow furrowing.
Alathea nodded solemnly. “Yes. I connected to it as well, partially. It led into a virtual world, set in the pre-space exploration history, and the humans inside all believed they were in the real world. There was a small resistance. I found them and helped them separate from the machine. The Empire took drastic measures, destroying machines, sometimes even blowing up towers that hadn’t been evacuated yet. Many lives were lost.”
The captain sighed, shaking her head. “That was reckless.”
Alathea smirked wryly. “Well, it depends on what your goal was. The entire planet was supposed to be terraformed back to its old glory and presented as a gift to the Emperor on his 100th birthday. But, you see, there were just too many humans on the planet for such a grandiose purpose.”
The captain’s expression turned grave. “That sounds very cold.”
Alathea shrugged, “That’s the Empire for you. Cold and calculated. But what I really wanted to tell you is that during my mission, the machine revealed that this combination of events survived for tens of thousands of years. Meaning, it’s quite possible that humanity on Terra will end up enslaved in a few generations. That’s your future.”
The captain took another sip of her coffee, maintaining a calm demeanor. “Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. It seems like time for us is more elastic than for you. Remember when we discussed time travel and causality?”
Alathea furrowed her brow. “But how can that be? We are from the same universe. If your future changes, I would disappear. Why should I even be here when the sole purpose of my existence will not happen?”
The captain leaned back, a contemplative expression on her face. “Well, as we discussed, time is a tricky thing. Our understanding of it might not be as straightforward as we think. Maybe there’s more flexibility in the fabric of time than we realize.”
Alathea nodded thoughtfully. “I remember you saying something like that. Maybe something can be done to prevent that enslavement.” She lowered her head. “I also didn’t tell you about my true abilities. There’s so much more I can do besides discerning the truth from lies.”
The captain leaned forward, a knowing look in her eyes. “I suspected that. Tuvok suspected that. You learn faster than any of our cadets, even the Vulcans. Do you wish to be more involved in our missions?”
“I don’t know,” Alathea admitted. “I wish to help you. You genuinely believe that everyone here is valuable, that every life is precious. In the Empire, sayings like that are just a mask, something akin to makeup—a decoration to put up, nothing more. You’re like a rare jewel. I’ve met no one like you.”
The captain nodded appreciatively. “That’s very kind of you. I’m nothing special in Starfleet; there are many people like me. Anyway, thank you for sharing this with me. I’ll document it in a report and find a way to pass it on to Earth. Who knows, maybe then you will disappear.”
Alathea met the captain’s eyes and smiled. “Maybe. We can only hope.”