Blood seeped through the makeshift bandage that Alathea hastily wound around her hand.

Utterly daft, she couldn’t bear to wait for Seven to tinker with some finicky component, and now she had a nasty gash on her arm. Stupid.

The med bay door swung open, revealing B’Lana propped on one bed, surrounded by the Captain, Tom, and the ever-present Doctor. “What happened to her?”

All three swiveled their heads to regard her.

“Tom, could you lend a hand here?” the Doctor inquired, his attention firmly tethered to B’Lana.

Tom shifted his gaze from B’Lana to Alathea, pursed his lips, and snagged the medical tricorder. He brandished the sensor around Alathea’s injured hand, and she instinctively leaned in closer.

“What’s the scoop with B’Lana? Can you fill me in?” Alathea inquired.

“She’s aiding her mother.”

“What on Rakis are you talking about?”

“During her minor mishap, she slipped into a coma, took a detour to the Barge of the Dead, had a chat with her late mother, and now she’s returned, all set to lend a hand in helping her dear old mom.”

“But she’s lying in a med bed, and the readouts above her scream ‘coma.’ How on Rakis can anyone go gallivanting around when they’re in a coma?” Alathea pressed.

Tom fixed her with a stare. “In the other realm. How do you not know that?”

“Other realm? What in the cosmos are you babbling about? Hallucinations, perhaps?”

“No, the other realm you venture into after you kick the bucket,” he snapped, grabbing an instrument and tearing the rag open, inadvertently causing Alathea’s wound to bleed afresh.

Alathea gritted her teeth, battling through the pain. “So, you’re talking about something like religious beliefs?”

“Yes, precisely. Is that really such a mind-boggler?” Tom snapped, waving the instrument over her wound. The bleeding halted as the wound sealed.

“Are you suggesting that she’s now in a medically induced coma because some religious doctrine convinced her it would somehow aid her departed mother?” Alathea stared at Tom, scarcely able to fathom the words she was hearing. These were folks who typically leaned heavily on science, and witnessing a plunge into religious fervor seemed utterly inconceivable.

“There you go, all patched up.” Tom casually flung the instrument back onto the tray, then hurried back to B’Lana’s bedside.

Alathea approached the Captain, who gracefully stepped away from the bed, giving Tom a moment of privacy.

“Captain, is she really in an induced coma?” Alathea inquired.

“Yes,” the Captain replied, her gaze steadfastly fixed on B’Lana.

“Why on Rakis would she choose that?”

“She believes it’s the key to helping her mother.”

“Her mother is in the Alpha Quadrant, isn’t she? And she has no clue if her mother is alive or dead?”

The Captain finally turned her attention to Alathea. “What’s your angle?”

“You let the Doctor induce a coma based on some misguided religious belief?”

“B’Lana firmly believes that this is the way to help her mother.”

“I thought you were a scientist.”

“So?” The Captain shrugged, unyielding in her decision.

“This is religious nonsense. You let your top engineer jeopardize her life just because she’s tethered to some belief system?”

“Who are we to pass judgment on religion?”

“Are you for real?” Alathea stared at the Captain. The sincerity in the Captain’s belief baffled her. “Don’t you know the history of religion?”

“I thought you belonged to a religious order? You call yourself a sister.”

“It’s a charade. Bene Gesserit exploits religion to manipulate the gullible. When one has ancestral memories, it becomes clear that religion is nothing more than a tool for population control.”

“You don’t possess ancestral memories.”

“True, but I have memories of eleven lives. That’s sufficient to understand that religious doctrines are mere tools. There are no miracles, no inexplicable occurrences—just foolish people resorting to dogma and prayer as soothing agents to ease their fears and discomfort, all because they cannot manage their own lives.”

“B’Lana claimed she saw her mother.”

“Let me guess, she had a falling out with her mother before venturing off with Voyager?”


“So, she faced an accident, teetered on the brink of death, and grappled with the realization that she might never see her mother again. The guilt over their last argument gnawed at her. To cope, she concocted an intricate fantasy.”

Captain blinked, her gaze now fixed on Alathea. The words had sparked contemplation.

“In my myriad lives, I’ve witnessed that guilt play out eight times. Each time, someone did something foolish, thinking it would assuage the guilt. Yet, invariably, they had to confront the guilt because the ill-conceived actions offered no relief.”

Alathea nodded toward B’Lana. “If she emerges from this escapade unscathed, she’ll still have to reckon with that guilt.”

Doctor locked eyes with Alathea. “I won’t let serious consequences unfold,” he declared. “At least, not ones that I cannot rectify.”

Alathea shook her head.

“So, you’re revealing that the religious order you’re affiliated with is playing make-believe with religion?” Captain asked.

“Yes, precisely. Religion is a construct crafted to aid early humans in discerning friends from foes. That’s its sole purpose.”

“That’s a cynical take on religion,” Tom chimed in.

“Yeah, you grasp it when you delve into the authentic history, not the diluted versions tailored to perpetuate certain agendas.”

The urgent beeping from the console took both Tom’s and Captain’s attention away. 

“Her neural patterns are breaking down,” Tom informed the Doctor, his voice tinged with both fear and frustration, audible even to Alathea.

“I’m initiating emergency resuscitation,” the Doctor responded, his voice betraying a surprising depth of emotion. Alathea often pondered why programmers bothered to give him emotions; after all, he was just a machine.

Doctor cleared the surgical bay, his focus singularly dedicated to saving B’Lana. Tom hurried to the surgical bed, bearing the medications the Doctor requested.

Predictably, the medicine proved futile. What a revelation. Alathea turned her attention to the Captain, observing her. The Captain remained composed, reciting numbers from the console with unwavering calmness. That was because she still hadn’t come to terms with the harsh reality. She had sacrificed a crew member because of preposterous tales.

Tom seemed more attuned to the unfolding crisis than Alathea expected. It struck her as odd. Alathea had presumed that the Captain, a person so deeply committed to science, would exhibit a more grounded response to reality. Yet, here was Tom, a mere pilot, displaying a heightened awareness, almost bordering on panic.

The Doctor started another procedure, his announcements resonating loudly. Alathea struggled to comprehend the intricacies; her knowledge of Empire medicine was scant, and Starfleet’s methods remained a vast puzzle. All she could do was observe—the rising panic in Tom’s voice, the Doctor barking commands with clinical precision, and the Captain, fixated on the console.

“Come on, B’Lana,” the Captain whispered. Alathea had to give it to her. The woman knew how to maintain composure in the face of adversity.

Alathea pivoted, concealing the smile that threatened to surface. This ordeal served as a costly lesson for the Captain. Perhaps now she would be more receptive to Alathea’s insights about religion.

Tom exclaimed, and the audible relief, along with the approaching footsteps, prompted Alathea to face the scene once more. Captain and Tom hovered over the surgical bed, while the Doctor tactfully withdrew, granting them a moment of privacy.

“Mother?” came B’Lana’s feeble voice.

Alathea blinked. They had saved her. But how? Was Starfleet’s medical technology more advanced than the Empire’s? How could that be? The Empire predated Starfleet.

B’Lana sat up, exclaiming, “Oh, God, I’m alive.”

Alathea approached, ensuring she could observe both the Captain and B’Lana. Whatever transpired was troublesome. B’Lana would likely experience hallucinations she would adamantly declare as reality. And with that, the contagion of religion might spread among the others here.

B’Lana and the Captain embraced, the visible relief etched on both their faces.

“Welcome back,” the Captain murmured.

Oddly, B’Lana rushed to hug the Captain, seemingly oblivious to the man she supposedly loved. It took a moment before she disengaged from the Captain to embrace Tom.

The Captain then directed her attention to Alathea. “See, everything turned out fine.”

“This time,” Alathea added.

The Captain tilted her head, a silent inquiry.

“You’ve just reinforced the religion that led her to do foolish things,” Alathea pointed out.

B’Lana released Tom. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m saying that religion compelled you to risk your life for no reason.”

B’Lana blinked, then looked down for a moment. “So, what do you think happened?”

“You hallucinated because of your guilt and undertook this to punish yourself. You did not like that last interaction with your mother was an argument,” Alathea declared, scrutinizing B’Lana closely. The physical cues suggested a newfound tranquility. “And whatever you hallucinated seems to have absolved you of that guilt,” she added.

“My mother said something,” B’Lana responded, locking eyes with Alathea, “that she’ll see me when I return home.”

“And what about the guilt that compelled you to go down this path?”

B’Lana swallowed. “I believe I’ve resolved it.”

“Next time, seek my help. I know less dramatic and more effective methods,” Alathea advised.

“What are you talking about?” the Captain inquired.

Alathea turned to face her. “The ordeal B’Lana just experienced is not uncommon, especially for someone who feels they don’t fully belong somewhere. Bene Gesserit has techniques to address such situations.”

Alathea’s voice faltered toward the end of the sentence, almost whispering the last word. Of course, Bene Gesserit had techniques for those who didn’t conform to the mold. Yet, most people didn’t fit the mold. There were always parts to be trimmed if you forced a mold onto them. She glanced back at B’Lana. Would such techniques assist her or merely add to her misery? Alathea could help her integrate into the dynamics of this ship, but what exactly was the mold here? On this ship, everyone could have atypical interests and behave differently.

“You don’t sound sure yourself,” the Captain observed.

“I’m not. Yes, there are techniques to help someone fit a mold. But here, you guys don’t have defined molds.”

The Captain grinned. “Exactly. That’s why I let B’Lana engage in a religious ritual. It’s a part of who she is.”


Chakotay was the one who barged into her troubleshooting session. “How’s it going?”

Alathea turned around, theatrically dropping the tools and parts she held. It wasn’t going well. It was going terribly. She was amid a cosmic DIY project without the manual, trying to rebuild a part crucial for the Holtzman drive. In all her eleven lives, she never thought she’d regret skipping the Holtzman drive repair workshop. Maybe, just maybe, she’d have to swallow her pride and join Seven in crafting a ‘How to Fix a Holtzman Drive for Dummies’ guide in the holodeck.

She shrugged. “About as well as trying to teach a Neelix ballet. You know, not my forte.”

Chakotay raised an eyebrow. “That bad?”

Alathea locked eyes with the commander. Yes, it was abysmal, but why should she spill the cosmic beans? He, along with the Captain, held the power to decide who stayed on the ship. If he caught wind that she couldn’t mend this mess and provide schematics for a functional Holtzman drive, she might find herself on the next shuttle out.

“Why are you wearing a dress uniform?”

“We’re cooking up a little surprise for the Doctor in the mess hall. I swung by to see if you could join us. Or are you too deep into your cosmic engineering mystery?”

Alathea studied him, then shook her head. “No, I’m not too busy. I just need to clean this up.” She gestured across the improvised workbench.

“You still didn’t answer my question. How are repairs going?”

That again. She needed to steer him away. “Ah, as expected. Can I ask you something?”

“Go ahead.”

“Why do you have such a prominent tattoo on your face?”

“It’s a symbol of my ancestors. Don’t you have Native Americans in the Empire?”


“You genuinely don’t know?”

Alathea shrugged.

Chakotay took a seat. “So, you don’t know about your ancestry?”

Alathea frowned, scrutinizing the man. Was he feigning ignorance, or had he truly forgotten their conversation during Ancestors’ Eve? It was hard to discern. He had perched on the doorstep of her ship, knees to his chest, arms resting on his knees, wearing a wide grin.

She took a breath. “As I mentioned during the Ancestors’ Eve, Bene Gesserit has ancestors’ memories. After the Trial, we inherit all those memories and precisely know who our ancestors were and how they lived.”

“But you never underwent that trial.”

Alathea shrugged.

Chakotay gestured towards her. “Your facial features suggest a mixed heritage. You have dark hair, olive skin, light eyes, a face that could be Asian or Inuit, and your lips look like they belong to someone from Africa.”

“I don’t recognize any of the places you mentioned.”

“Haven’t you read up on Earth?”

“Old Terra? Why bother?”

“Aren’t you curious about your origins?” Chakotay inquired.

Alathea tilted her head. “What about you? Do you know precisely which part of Tiopia your ancestors hail from?”

“What’s Tiopia?” he asked.

She gestured, “The place on old Terra where all humans originated.”

Chakotay blinked. “That would be Africa, not Tiopia.”

“Fine, Africa,” Alathea agreed, not willing to let a simple disagreement about the name sidetracks her point. “Haven’t you ever wondered from which exact part of Africa your ancestors came?”

“I know. All humans originated from the southeast part of Africa, the valley that eventually became the old country of Ethiopia,” Chakotay explained, chuckling. “That’s probably the Tiopia you’re referring to.”

“Alright, from which exact part of Tiopia do your ancestors come?” Alathea pressed.

Chakotay regarded her. “I see where you’re going. With a time gap of thirty thousand years between us, you really don’t care about the Earthly specifics.”

Alathea settled on the floor about a meter away from him. “Yes,” she affirmed. Being on the same level might make him more receptive to her message. “In the Empire, humans underwent significant changes depending on which planet they colonized and their social class. The most pronounced changes occurred among the working class because they never left their birth planet, adapting to the specific planetary conditions. And the Navigators, well, you wouldn’t even recognize them as humans.”

“What are Navigators?” Chakotay asked.

“Specially bred humans who pilot our largest ships, Highliners.”

“You look human.”

She nodded. “Yes, because I’m Bene Gesserit. My external appearance isn’t very different from yours, but internally, I’m distinct. I thought the Doctor had already reached that conclusion.”

“Yes, he did. He detected many genetic changes.”

“Commander Chakotay to the mess hall,” Chakotay’s badge beeped.

“Alathea to the mess hall,” Alathea’s badge responded.

They both rose and made their way toward the ready room. “What’s happening?” Alathea asked.

Chakotay smiled. “A little surprise for the Doctor. He saved the ship and the crew from the Hierarchy.”

Another shrug. She had missed a lot of the events while holed up in the hangar. Frankly, she cared little about what was happening, so no, she would not inquire about how someone could save a ship from an abstract social construct.

As they walked to the mess hall, Chakotay began detailing the events with no prompting from her. Alathea had completely overlooked the Doctor’s grand adventure. Once in the Mess Hall, she retreated to the back, staying behind the crew all dressed up and ready for the upcoming medal-giving ceremony for the Doctor.

Seven was the one to contact him, “Seven of Nine to the Doctor.”

“Go ahead.”

“I require your assistance in the mess hall.”

She maintained a poker face throughout the entire call, sneakily observing the Captain and the rest of the crew with amusement. Soon, everyone lined up, hushing as per the Captain’s instructions, eagerly awaiting the Doctor’s entrance.

“Surprise!” they all yelled.

Alathea didn’t.

“Don’t worry, Doc, you’re not dreaming!” Harry shouted, his voice barely audible over the applause.

Surrounded by smiling faces, Alathea and the perplexed Doctor were the only ones not sharing in the jubilation.

The Captain approached the Doctor, standing tall and straight, radiating more pride and authority than Mother Superior ever could. “For your imaginative defense of this ship and her crew, I’m awarding you the Starfleet Medal of Commendation.”

She pinned the medal on his chest. Alathea tilted her head, contemplating what would become of that medal when the Doctor was switched off. Would it fall from him, or would it disappear along with him?

“Congratulations,” the Captain concluded.

“Thank you,” the Doctor responded, and Alathea detected the nuances of emotions in his voice. She shook her head slightly. While she knew the Doctor could display emotions, this scenario was a true masterpiece of programming.

“I’ve also reconsidered your request. I’m going to authorize a research project to explore your command abilities. You’re a natural.”

The crew treated a machine as if it were human. Alathea joined in the applause, her eyes shifting from the Doctor to the Captain. They genuinely believed that something so meticulously crafted should be accorded the full respect given to a human.

Back in the Empire, the Doctor would never exist. Intelligent machines were deemed as the devil’s handiwork. Even Alathea, with full human DNA, was treated as a machine because her embryonic cells had been manipulated to mold her into a more effective tool. Because they had engineered her, she was perceived as a tool, not a genuine human.

This crew treated her as a human—a valued member.

A hand touched her shoulder. “Touching, isn’t it? Primitive humans consider a machine their equal, with equal rights.”

She blinked and turned to see the smiling face of Chakotay. “You brought me here on purpose?”

“My people were treated as less than for centuries. Sadly, I can recognize someone who suffered the same treatment. Here, among us, you are equal.”


Popular posts from this blog


First Contact

The Map