What to do?

Alathea sat at the briefing room table, her gaze fixed on her hands. She was the first one there. The situation demanded discussion, but the others seemed too relaxed, unwilling to acknowledge the gravity of the situation. The door opened, and one by one, the bridge crew filtered in and took their seats. Captain Janeway was the last to arrive.

“You were right. They offered exactly the same excuse you said they would,” the captain informed her.

Alathea shrugged. There wasn’t much to tell.

“So, now, tell me what would happen if I were to cancel our deal with the Empire?” Captain Janeway asked, her tone serious.

Alathea clenched her fists. She had expected this. Of course, Janeway would try to pul back. She shook her head.

“You cannot. It is too late. Beli is a monster. You’ve seen for yourself. Killing thousands just to send me a message. If you try to cancel the deal he will threaten the Earth. He will go and start killing people on the Earth. Billions will die,” she asserted firmly.

“I don’t believe that he would attack the Earth. No one is so evil,” Chakotay countered.

Alathea met his eyes, her expression grave. “Have you ever observed humans?”

“We are different now, doing what we can to become better,” Tom interjected optimistically.

“Beli is not from your society. He’s from mine. He is a member of a ruling class, the human who believes that it is their God-given right to rule and that everyone below them, like me, like you, deserves to be ruled. Has to be ruled, because they are too incompetent to know how to live by themselves,” Alathea explained, her voice tinged with bitterness.

“He cannot possibly think that. He wishes you to give him an heir,” Harry protested.

“Because of my genetic manipulation. With me, he has a guarantee that the baby will not inherit his albinism. Also, to him, I’m the only human who has the speed of reaction and strength that the future Emperor needs to justify his claim. Mating with a woman from this time would handicap his child and open the possibility that the child will be also albino,” Alathea explained, her tone matter-of-fact.

“So you’re saying he just wishes to use you,” Seven summarized, her tone reflecting a mix of disbelief and disdain.

“Yes. I am a tool in his eyes. I am to be used. You guys are alive only because I’m on this ship and he doesn’t know he’s in a different universe,” Alathea affirmed solemnly, the weight of her words hanging heavily in the room.

“Let us back up a bit,” the Captain suggested, her brow furrowed in contemplation. “You’re implying that he is sensitive about his albinism.”

“Yes. That insecurity made him a worse monster,” Alathea confirmed, her voice tinged with a hint of bitterness.

“What if we show him that here, his albinism doesn’t matter?” the Captain proposed, her tone hopeful.

Alathea shook her head, her expression pensive. “You’ll never get the chance. For that to work, he would have to be immersed into your culture, without outlet, for a year at least. Maybe longer.”

The room fell into a heavy silence as they all grappled with the implications of Alathea’s words. Finally, she spoke again, her voice tinged with resignation. “No. It wouldn’t work. He did horrendous stuff. Every noble born does it, sometimes for fun. Here he would have to admit to himself that he’s a monster, not a special God-given person whose crimes don’t count because they are committed against lesser people who deserved it.”

“Don’t they have honor? Aristocracy usually prizes themselves for having honor,” B’lana asked, her voice laced with skepticism.

“Oh, they say they do. But it is not like in your culture. It is posture, more like a definition of who is strong and with whom one shouldn’t mess,” Alathea explained, her tone tinged with disdain. “The whole point of honor in the Empire universe is to signal to others that this person is not someone to push around. Plus, every dishonorable act is justified by declaring the other side evil. Outrageous acts don’t count if you do them against someone who deserves them.”

“No one deserves torture and killing,” Neelix interjected firmly.

Alathea chuckled dryly. “Even if they killed millions?”

Neelix met her gaze with unwavering resolve. “Even if they killed millions. A scientist who invented the weapon that killed my family and everyone on the Talaxian moon came here. I interacted with him. And let him be.”

“I take your word for it. You reside in a society with commendable values. But Beli doesn’t.”

“Will he persist in assaulting Borg in this universe?” Seven queried.

“As long as he can traverse the universes, he will.”

“B’Lana, Seven, did you uncover anything?”

B’Lana nodded. “We conducted further analysis of her ship hull,” she gestured toward Alathea, “and detected an elevated presence of Majorana fermions. This occurrence aligns with a rare variation of temporally asymmetric wormholes.”

“We hypothesize that the convergence of Holtzman drive and that breed of wormholes triggered the transition from one universe to another,” Seven interjected.

“So, if we seal off the wormhole, the Empire cannot breach into our universe,” Chakotay grinned.

“Yes.” B’lana said.”That’s an idea.”

“There are two of those holes,” Alathea said, “The one where you picked me, and the one Beli used.”

“Oh, I thought you knew,” Harry said, “The wormhole you used collapsed.”

Alathea nodded. “Yes. I remember Captain showed me the video from the probe you left next to it.”

“So we have only one wormhole to collapse,” Captain said.

Alathea swallowed. “That means, I should do that.”

“Not necessarily.” Seven said, “We can ask Borg to collapse the wormhole.”

“But you need Beli to be back in the other universe before you do it. If you leave him here, he will wreak havoc.”

Alathea nodded. “Which implies I must accompany him.”

“Not necessarily,” the Doctor countered. “If we can secure a surrogate, all he requires from you is an egg cell.”

Alathea gazed at him. “What are you suggesting?”

“I can implant the embryo into the womb of another human. That would spare you direct interaction with Beli.”

“He will never consent to artificial insemination.”

“Once more, there’s a method to compel the issue,” the Doctor grinned.

“How? All he needs to do is abduct me, render me unconscious, rape me, and he’ll have his child.”

“We will not allow that to happen,” Captain said.

“I have a solution.” Doctor grinned.

Alathea’s gaze flickered between the Doctor and the Captain. “But that still doesn’t resolve the issue of dealing with Beli. Every attempt at negotiation will be met with manipulation and deceit if it serves his agenda.”

“I thought you mentioned the Empire upholds honor,” Chakotay interjected.

Alathea shook her head. “No. They merely aspire to feign honor.” She massaged her forehead. “Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. They believe they are honorable, regardless of their actions. Somehow, they always find a justification for behaving dishonorably. The mere presence of computers aboard Voyager is justification enough for them to view us as inferior and unworthy of humane treatment. Having a computer means you’re condemned and not deserving of being treated as equals.”

“Well then, we’ll proceed with caution every step of the way,” the Captain affirmed.

“And handle them as we would Cardassians,” B’Lana added.

“Alathea, what precisely does the Empire know about computers?” the Captain inquired.

“Nothing. All they possess are myths and skewed historical accounts.”

“What happened? Why did the Empire reject computers?”

“Before the Empire’s inception, humanity endured prolonged subjugation by a cadre of immortal cyborgs. Somehow, a faction transferred their consciousness into robotic bodies, extending their lifespan far beyond that of any human. They enslaved the rest of humanity.”

“Let me venture a guess: humanity rebelled, overthrew the cyborgs, and eradicated all computers,” Tom conjectured.

“Yes, essentially,” Alathea confirmed.

“How long did those cyborgs endure?” the Doctor inquired.

“For thousands of years.”

“That seems implausible,” the Doctor contested.

“Why do you say that?”

“The human brain cannot last much outside of the human body. There must have been another factor at play.”

Alathea shrugged. “I don’t have ancestral memories. I do not know what happened. All I know is what I’ve learned from history, and the victors often crafted history to portray themselves in a favorable light.”

“Putting that aside,” the Captain interjected, “the key point is that the Empire lacks significant knowledge about computers, and that presents an opportunity for us to outmaneuver Beli.”

Alathea gazed at her, pondering whether to mention that Menthats are typically more advanced than any computer Voyager had encountered.


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