Notes: This is the 6th story in the "Judgement Day" series, which includes VOY: It's Always Fun Until Somebody Loses, TOS: Te Morituri Salutamus, TNG: One of the Living, DS9: Go Down, Moses and TNG: Let Me Entertain You. It is rated R for violence, language and disturbing imagery; there's a little sex, but not explicit enough to warrant R by itself. This story is dark and depressing; don't read before bedtime. It is directly based on the Voyager episode "The Q and the Grey." That one was supposed to be a comedy. This... isn't.Judgement Day: The Partisan
When they poured
across the border
I was cautioned to surrender;
This I could not do
I took my gun and vanished...
The funny thing was that originally she hadn't cared enough about the issue to pick a side.
It wasn't that the war didn't concern her. The war deeply concerned every Q in the Continuum, including the ones that weren't picking sides. And she was something of an expert on war. It had been her area of interest, the thing she'd spent aeons exploring, the power of war and conflict between mortals. On a thousand worlds she was the goddess of war; on a hundred thousand more she'd taken the shape of a mortal and fought by the mortals' side, using no powers aside from her immortality. That was one of the reasons she didn't want to take sides; she felt that whichever side had her would have an unfair advantage. She was too used to thinking about mortal wars, about handicapping herself before she participated in them. It didn't occur to her that whatever side had her would need her, or that she couldn't possibly be advantage enough.
Her oldest friend, her closest companion, was at the forefront of the war, but by itself that didn't decide her. What was change and transformation to her? She didn't find the Continuum all that tedious; she liked the stability and couldn't understand why he wanted to shake things up. She had fought in a million mortal wars, had allowed herself to know pain and even to feel the physical death of the bodies she wore. She knew blood and chaos. It was an exciting place to visit but who would want to live there if they had a choice? Anything was better than bringing that to the Continuum. And while it was the side that wanted to preserve order that had actually fired the first shot, everyone knew this was because crushing the movement for change, restoring the status quo, would be the only way to keep order.
No, she hadn't chosen sides. But because of her close relationship with him, his comrades in battle seemed to think she was at least an honorary member of their side, and gave her messages to pass to him, while he told her his plans as if he knew she wouldn't betray him to his enemy, which was true enough. His plans, of course, were stupid. She wouldn't have expected differently. Still, she tried to support him in them, playing along with his idiotic idea that reproducing with a mortal could stop the war, taking the role that she guessed would most likely push the mortal into accepting him. Unfortunately the mortal wasn't a Klingon. She knew Klingon women, she didn't know humans; being challenged by a woman who claimed ownership of a man who offered suit didn't, apparently, inspire human women to rise to the challenge and fight for him.
It didn't matter. It wouldn't have worked anyway. She could see that before he could. When he took the human to the Continuum, he gave away their position to the enemy, and she was forced to flee to the Continuum right behind him lest he be caught in a trap or she be trapped on the wrong side of the discontinuity. They came out in the war zone, where the disruptive effects of the weapons would prevent either of them from leaving, or returning the human where she belonged. It was a trap. Her friend hadn't seen it, apparently, but someone had set up a pathway to redirect his emergence into the Continuum here. At least they had emerged in a shelter. But battle experience from all the mortal wars she had fought in told her that if they'd been redirected here then the shelter was a trap, and no safety at all.
She took the specifications for the weapon from his mind and sat down behind a bulwark, focusing on trying to refine and improve the device. They'd need some serious firepower to get out of here alive. Amazingly, her friend was still yammering at the human about his stupid plan to have a child with her. He'd created a translation in the human's brain so that it looked as if they were on the top floor of a mansion, with fires and gunshots outside in the dark woods behind and the fields in front, with the bulwark playing the role of a sofa and neither he nor the human actually anywhere remotely safe. The warrior goddess stuck her head up over the sofa. "What are you standing in front of the window for? Do you want to get shot?"
"There's a discontinuity in the way. They can't possibly know we're here al--" And then the "window" smashed in and a bolt struck him, knocking him down, and he cried out.
"Q!" the human shouted.
The warrior crawled around the couch, grabbed her friend and dragged him behind it. "OW! Be careful! I'm hurt here!"
"You could be dead. What were you thinking?"
He looked at his arm/manipulative function, which was bleeding profusely. "I think... I'm just going to sit here for a little bit," he said shakily.
The human joined them behind the couch. "Is there anything I can do?"
"You could be a good little human and help the idiot bandage himself while I try to keep the rest of us from getting shot," the warrior said, coming out from behind her cover and plastering herself against the wall, gun in hand. Because of the reconfiguring she'd done, the gun looked to the human like an anachronism, a modern day phaser rifle in the midst of the metaphor drawn from her planet's past.
"Q, please try to play nice with Kathy. This is neither the time nor the place to do your whole jealousy thing. Ow! Watch it!"
"Stop moving your arm, Q," the human said sharply, "and I'll be able to bandage it without hurting it."
"I was never jealous. I just think you're an idiot for bringing a mortal to the Continuum."
"If it helps any," the human said, "that makes two of us."
More gunfire whistled over the couch. The warrior whipped around and fired at where the shot came from, then returned to her concealment against the wall beside the broken window. That hadn't worked well-- the discontinuity in the way, reflected in the metaphor of night surrounding them, blocked her ability to see the enemy's positions clearly. If she concentrated and made herself fully receptive, the bits and pieces of information that made it across the discontinuity might tell her where at least some of the enemy were. "We need to get out of here," she said.
"Yes, yes, tell me something new?" His voice was sharp with pain. The human was bandaging his arm (which was to say that no such thing was occurring; the human was actually allowing him to siphon a small amount of mental energy from her to knit an emergency patch in his pattern, but as far as she knew she was bandaging his arm.)
"No, I mean this shelter. We're boxed in; they're moving to surround us."
"You don't know that. They're on the other side of the discontinuity."
"The discontinuity?" the human asked.
The warrior rolled her eyes. Her friend, who for some mysterious reason treated the human as a near-equal, answered. "In the past, anything one Q knew we all knew. That hasn't been true since shortly before the war broke out. The discontinuities that rippled through the Continuum after Quinn's death broke down our communication with each other to the point where war became possible."
"Don't forget that some idiot built a gun."
"I didn't forget that, but it's not relevant to the discontinuities. How do you know they're surrounding us?"
"Because this is a trap, they had a redirection set to dump you in a spot of their choosing once you re-entered the Continuum. Didn't you feel it?"
"I did rather wonder why I came out in the middle of the battlefield, yes. But I suppose a redirection like that wouldn't have worked if I could have sensed it, so they must have set it up to block me noticing it. Doesn't that mean we're already surrounded?"
"Probably, but I don't think they were expecting me. None of them have any combat experience."
"Well, then, my glorious Nike, use your vast combat experience to figure out what the hell we do next, because my inclination would be to use this shelter as a base and try to pick them off as they come in."
"A wonderful idea, until they set it on fire to burn us out."
"Nike? Your name isn't Q?" the human asked.
"Your ignorance is stunning considering the name comes from your species," she snapped back.
Her companion rolled his eyes. "You were too busy doodling diagrams of warp engines in folklore class, weren't you, Kathy? Nike was the Greek goddess of victory."
The human ignored the insults. At least she was reasonably tough for a mortal. "Do you two have any way to determine the enemy's positions? If they can burn us out here, then your companion's right, Q-- we need to get out of here. But if they've surrounded us... Do you have anything equivalent to a horse?"
"But we do have spyglasses," her lover said, digging around in a drawer. "Ow. Find me some binoculars, dear heart?"
"I have a better idea. Every time I turn around that mortal practically disappears. You, since you have real combat experience too and since we can't very well get you home if we're dead-- get out there, scout around and report back to me the enemy positions."
"Will I be able to see them properly?" the human asked, obviously biting back her irritation at being ordered around. "We're in the Continuum. I thought my ability to see and understand what's going on is depending on you two to translate for me."
"No," her friend said, "I've already set up the translation in your brain. And yes, you can see other Q, but Q has a point-- they will barely be able to see you. In the Continuum, you're... what's the word I'm looking for?"
"Insignificant?" the warrior suggested.
"I was thinking infinitesimal, actually, since we're depending on Kathy to be very significant." He turned to the human. "I'm sorry for getting you into this, but she's right. You can scout out the enemy positions and they probably won't even notice you. Don't get shot. This--" he pointed at his injured arm-- "would have annihilated you instantly. They're weapons for Q; you can't even take a glancing blow."
"Can I use them? If you give me your gun, I might be able to defend myself..."
The warrior snorted. "No. As well ask a cockroach if it can fire a phaser."
The human turned to her angrily. "A cockroach might not be able to, but a mouse could. And I'm getting tired of your attitude. I didn't ask to be part of this, and since you claim I can do something neither of you can do, you could try being grateful instead of continually behaving as if I'm beneath your notice."
"You are beneath my notice. And theirs. That's why this will work. And if you want gratitude, go do something instead of talking about it."
She could see the human controlling her rage. They were more like Romulans than Klingons or Andorians, she thought. A Klingon would have gone for her throat by now, not that it would have helped. "All right. I'll be back."
Once the human was gone, her friend said, "I can't believe you sent Kathy to be a scout. She's mortal. They could just think her dead if they see her, they won't even need to shoot."
"So help me distract them."
"Hello? Injured here?"
"Toughen up. This is war, Q, not some game."
"I never thought it was a game."
"So why are you sitting there whining with a bandage on instead of helping me shoot at them?"
"Fine," he sighed, immensely put-upon. "Give me the specs for your gun. I like it better."
She handed him her gun. With the uninjured part of his manipulative powers he reshaped his weapon into an identical copy of hers. "I knew I did the right thing trying to recruit you."
"I haven't taken a side. I'm just trying to keep you from getting killed."
"You know what, darling? If you manage to kill any of those Q out there, they aren't going to care that you were just doing it to defend me. They're going to consider you belonging to my side. In fact, they probably already do. So, in fact, you have taken a side. Better admit it now."
She stared at him. "This is all your fault."
"Very likely. Everything always is." He leaned over the couch, sighted, and fired into the woods beyond the mansion (which weren't woods at all any more than they were in a mansion or the couch was really a couch).
"That was a terrible shot," she sneered.
"Well, why don't you show me how it's done, Miss I've-Been-Playing-War-With-Mortals-For-Aeons?"
She turned. She stretched her senses out, not trying to read through the discontinuity directly, but trying to read the bits and pieces of information that got through the discontinuity, and she felt it. A spike of hate, of anger. Oh, she knew where that was coming from, yes indeed. She stuck her head through the window and fired, and fell backward as the recoil hit her a second before the shockwave hit.
She heard the scream, saw the explosion, the brilliant burst of energy tearing loose from the pattern that had contained it for billions of years, and she knew who that was. Those swirling rays of light and power were her brother-- a Q she had debated with and played with and taken pleasure with and voted with-- a Q who was the God of Lightning on a planet called Skria, where the mortals had blue skin, and green eyes, and built farms of metal spikes to honor their god. And he would never go there again-- never talk to her, argue with her, laugh with her-- as all that he had ever been, all he'd known, all he was, boiled out in a sudden explosion of chaos where there had been an orderly pattern and now he was not. Streamers of near-liquid energy ran all over the landscape, congealing in pools. She stared at the gun in her hand. Five billion years and she had never taken the life of another Q-- oh, as part of the Continuum she'd voted to remove some of their number from the Continuum to avoid worsening a discontinuity, and that had generally ended up killing them, but she had never in her own person pulled a trigger and watched a Q die.
The one who had created the weapons had done so because he'd thought they were too horrifying ever to be used, that they could be used to frighten the agitants for change into going back to their quiet boring lives and stop trying to disrupt everything. He hadn't consulted her, she thought, hysteria boiling up. She could have told him that creating a weapon too terrible to be used never, ever worked. Sooner or later it would be. She dropped the gun, curling into herself. The Klingons would laugh if they could see her, the proud entity who had condemned them for thirty years for failing to be what they should be now fetal and shaking because she'd actually killed somebody. The one who'd created the weapons had blown himself apart with one after the first shots of the war were fired and three unarmed Q on the side of change had been murdered by Q for order before the crowd had scattered. She'd thought him weak and stupid. Now she knew why he'd done it. She had seen mortals react badly to killing their own kind for the first time but she'd never thought about what it would actually feel like, what it would be to kill a Q and watch the power and potential and memories of billions of years leak away like plasma streaming from a supernova.
Her friend was next to her. She looked up at him, mute and furious, expecting any moment that he would mock her for her weakness, laugh at how she'd postured as some great warrior and here she was curled in a ball and she wanted to die because she'd killed her brother. The Q did not respond to displays of emotional weakness kindly. She tried to muster a pre-emptive strike, but she was too hurt, too shaken.
"It's the worst thing," he said, very softly. "The worst thing any of us have ever done, the worst thing we can do. And the horror of it all is, no one wants this. No one wants to do this. If we could just find a way to prove to them that it doesn't have to be like this. If we could show them that change can be a positive force, that it doesn't have to destroy them. They don't want this, we don't want this. It has to stop."
"I thought--" She tried to pull on her imperious façade, but it did no good because he could see right through it. "Aren't you going to mock me? I've fought in a million wars... I shouldn't be this weak..."
"Au contraire." He let his essence touch hers, neither trying to envelop nor penetrate, simply molding to the edges of her form. "If you had shrugged this off I'd have used you for everything I could get, for my cause, but I wouldn't have wanted to know you. That this horrifies you so much just proves you're a Q... and that there's hope for us to get out of this, somehow."
The human returned. From the human's perspective, they looked as if they were sitting against the wall, his arm around her. "I hate to break up a tender moment, but I've got the information we need. There are two in the back and four in the front."
"Did you check the front or the back first?" her friend asked.
"There're three in the front. Q here just shot one."
"Well, that makes the odds better, I suppose."
"I have just killed an entity that was billions of years old, that I have known for my entire existence, and all you can say is 'that makes the odds better?'"
"Shh," her friend said, sending her a tenderness and gentleness she'd have never imagined could come from him through the places where their essences touched. "She's been through it before-- puked her guts out the first time she killed somebody, in fact. At least we don't have digestive systems." He smiled.
"I'm sorry," the human said. "I thought-- You spoke as if you were experienced with war."
"I am. Mortal wars. We've never had a war in the Continuum before-- we've never even been able to kill each other like this."
"I see. It... is different when it's your own species. I've had to kill humans before. It's hard. But it's self-defense here. They were going to kill you."
"They still might if we don't get out of here," she said weakly, trying to pull herself back together. Being comforted by a human was ridiculous. She couldn't possibly be this pathetic. She got up, helping her friend reconfigure himself for motion as well. "Let's get out of here."
She could feel the minds outside now. They were close enough that she could feel their outrage, their grief, beating at her, trying to crush her. The three of them fled out the back before the hate could be focused tightly enough to destroy the shelter. "Where are they?" she asked the human, and before the human could even point drew the memory from her mind. Close enough that they'd know their prey was escaping, call the others from around the front of the shelter. She looked at her friend. "We need to move."
He lifted his injured arm. "I'm open to suggestions. Kathy can't keep up with us if we go too fast and I'm not in great shape either."
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, very well." The metaphor shifted around her as she manipulated the human's mind so as to appear to be a horse. "Get on, both of you."
"That's a good trick," the human said.
The human climbed on top of her/entered the carryarea she'd made, and then reached to help her friend, who, despite being injured, didn't actually need and couldn't actually use the help of a human in this matter. He joined the human. She knew when she was holding him solidly, when he had joined his energies to hers to let her draw on his power as well as her own. And then, she ran.
To the human it was a wild, violent gallop through bleak dark woods, dodging around trees, leaping underbrush, clip-clopping through the rushing eddies of creeks. To her, what the human saw as bodies of water were discontinuities, ripping at her, but she kept going. Her friend shot at the only Q who was close enough to enter pursuit and managed to injure him. When the others caught up they'd be able to try this same trick, so they needed to get out of the dead zone and back to somewhere they could teleport from as soon as possible, preferably on the other side of a discontinuity so the enemy couldn't just sense where they were going.
"Why did they set up an ambush with only six Q?" the human asked.
"Only six Q?" she said disbelievingly.
"Yes. If they did something to redirect you two here, then they had time to plan this ambush. Why only six? The odds are just three to one that way."
"Firstly, they didn't know Q'd be with us, which would have made the odds six to one," her friend said. "And secondly... Kathy, I don't think you understand Q war. We don't have massive armies. We don't have that many Q. Six Q is an overwhelming number. If it had been just you and I we'd have had no hope. Even now, with five to two plus faithful sidekick, this isn't good."
"Oh, I'm your faithful sidekick now? I thought you wanted me to bear your child."
The human was silent for a moment. "Q, you said this was a Civil War. But you keep saying that they represent the status quo and you represent the forces that want change. Wouldn't that actually make you the Confederacy, not the Union?"
"Well, the Confederacy lost. Also, they had slaves, and besides, you're a damn Yankee, Kath. I couldn't expect you to side with me if I was Confederate."
"I'm a Hoosier, not a Yankee. And why did you pick the Civil War at all, then? Wouldn't the Revolutionary War have made more sense?"
"She has a point. This was a remarkably stupid metaphor. For one thing, you're fighting like a guerrilla and they're disciplined. For another thing, you're fighting for the freedom to make decisions for yourselves, not the freedom to enslave other people. And I can't believe we're wasting our breath discussing something so pointless as the metaphor you picked."
"You want it to be Revolutionary War? Fine, fine," he groused, and waved his uninjured arm, manipulating the metaphor. The costumes the human saw the two of them in changed, although of course the horse she was didn't alter. "I fixed it. Happy now?"
"I'd be happier if you just got me back to my ship."
"Kathy. You've seen what's happening here. You know what's at stake. With all that, you still won't help me?"
"Q, you can't have a child as a political statement! I don't even understand why you think having a child will do any good if you're killing each other, certainly not why having a child with a human would help. If having a child would really end the war, why don't the two of you do it? You seemed awfully cozy with each other before, and if you've been together for billions of years..."
"Give or take a few hiatuses of a few hundred thousand here and there," her friend murmured.
"A wonderful idea," the warrior said sarcastically. "If it weren't completely impossible I might actually consider it. Q, did you ever mention to this human that we Q don't reproduce?"
"Yes, I did in fact. I've mentioned it a few times."
"But you do! The Starfleet records I have on you indicate that two Q mated in human form to produce a girl named Amanda Rogers, who turned out to be Q. We even mentioned her at the trial."
"That doesn't count," her friend said.
"They think of her as tainted. Not truly Q. A mob almost tore her apart right before the war broke out. That would only add fuel to the fire."
"But then having a child with a human would be even worse! Why do you think they'd reject a girl with two Q parents but accept a hybrid?"
"Admit it. It was one of your stupider plans."
"I still think it could work," he said stubbornly.
"I think you two should try to make it work."
"How's that going to happen?" he demanded. "A human carrying a Q child would still be for all intents and purposes a needle in a haystack. A Q in mortal form carrying a Q child would be blatantly obvious, and impaired from defending herself-- I don't think a pregnant Q would dare to use the weapons without risking the child, and she'd be a gigantic target to the enemy. Not to mention, whoever did it would have to put up with so many mortal inconveniences. Like getting fat."
"Getting shot is better than getting fat?" the human asked pointedly.
"It still wouldn't prove anything," she said. "If it were possible to create a child as a Q, to figure out how reproduction worked..."
"You know, now that I'm thinking about that, I wonder--"
Bullets/blasts of destructive force roared over their head. She whinnied and bucked, throwing her passengers to the ground. "Q! Take the human and go!" she shouted, retaking her humanoid form in the metaphor so she could hold the gun.
"I can't just leave you--"
"You brought her here. She'll distract you until you get her back home. Run!"
She fired in front of her, laying down a barrage of covering fire as behind her her friend took the human and fled. The enemy returned fire. They all had cover, and there were more of them, and so they could manipulate the landscape, turn the local area of the Continuum itself against her. Her cover disappeared. She shot at the closest one, wounding him, and then the one she'd shot before shot her.
Pain exploded through her. All manipulative functions, all of her powers, were lost in a wave of searing pain. The weapon fell away from her and she collapsed. The enemy closed in, one of the three remaining uninjured Q grabbing her, disappointment and anger radiating from him. She began to laugh.
"Not the prize you were expecting, am I?"
"Where is he?" He reached into her pattern in such a way as to deliberately cause excruciating pain.
She screamed in agony, and laughed at the same time. She was going to die now, she was sure of it. And that wasn't a pleasant thought, not after five billion years of thinking herself immortal. But in a sense she'd been practicing for it all her life, living mortal lives, fighting mortal battles, watching them die around her, and experiencing the sensations as the physical bodies she wore were killed. She could face this. She was probably better prepared than any other Q in the Continuum to face this. And now she would never have to watch him die.
It hadn't been fashionable in the Continuum to admit to any great feelings for millions of years. Grand passion of any sort was terribly gauche, laughable and weak. She didn't feel weak. Staring into the face of death, she knew that she loved, as she hadn't admitted to herself or to the one she loved for aeons. And if her death could protect him, even a short while, so be it. There were worse things to die for.
The pain subsided and another kind of pain began as he tried to tear through the defenses of her mind, to surround her and enter her and learn everything she knew. She flung what very little she knew at him to ward him off, still laughing hysterically. "I don't know where he is. I told him to run and he did it. You'll never find him now, especially since you're wasting your time torturing me."
"He'll have returned the human to its ship," one of the injured ones said. "I heard them talking about it."
"The ship is in a dead zone. He'll have dropped her off on some planet or made her a small ship or something, and come back to fight. She wouldn't give him what he wanted so he has no more use for her." She kept laughing. "You've lost him! Good work! You set a trap, you set up overwhelming odds and he still got away. Don't you feel like such competent soldiers?"
The eldest in the group said tiredly, "Bring her back to camp. We'll give him some time to return to the Continuum and then execute her. That might lure him in."
Unfortunately, it might. Few Q were any kind of tactical geniuses, having so little experience in needing to be, and her love wasn't an exception. He could be ruthless when he had to be, but he might not realize he had to be. She tried to lunge for the gun, to get herself shot, but at five to one they simply and easily immobilized her.
Of course, the execution didn't go as planned.
They actually managed to get together a cohort as large as thirteen Q to witness her death, and shoot down anyone who tried to come to the rescue. And the Youngest, the Q who had been born in human form, walked right into their camp as they were preparing to execute her and killed three of them before anyone was able to see her. Apparently her love had told the Youngest about mortals being nigh-invisible in the Continuum, and the Youngest still remembered how to look more or less indistinguishable from a mortal. He'd gotten five Q together to come to the rescue, plus the Youngest, plus himself, and at seven to ten, since the Youngest had already killed three, the odds were almost even. One of their number died in the battle that ensued and three were wounded, including the Youngest, but they killed a total of three of the enemy and got away.
It was a fantastic triumph, and they laughed, and sang, and later when they'd regrouped at a shelter on their own side of the discontinuity, she gave him her emotions, the revelation she'd had when she was facing death as to how she felt about him. For the first time in more time than even they could easily count, she opened her defenses completely, inviting him to join with her fully. For the first time in rather longer than that, he agreed.
She had taken sides.