Dead Letter

Jean-Luc Picard
LaBarre, France


I have no idea what I'm going to say to you.

You must admit this isn't my usual problem. In fact I don't think I've ever felt quite so tongue-tied before. Of course there are a lot of things I'm feeling right now that have never happened to me before... which I suppose is part of it. I don't have the vocabulary, the idiom, to talk to you about this. Oh, I know all the same words you know, in fact I know quite a few more, but I don't know how to use them. I don't know how to say what I need to say, let alone what I want to say.

If I could get through to you in person, perhaps this would be easier. Perhaps not. Perhaps I'd chicken out completely like I nearly did with Kathy. It doesn't matter. I'm not likely to ever see you in person again. In fact I have no idea if this letter will get through to you. Sending it over the comm system to your vessel would be useless; I don't even know how long they'll let you remain there. But sending it to LaBarre seems almost as stupid. With your family dead I have no idea if they're going to send you there, if you're going to survive, if there's any way a letter could get through. For all I know you won't get this for years. Or ever.

It doesn't matter. I have to try. I need you to know... I tried to stop this. Yeah, it's my fault. You knew that, I'm sure. Everything always is. But it's not my doing. It's my fault because I was supposed to stop it, and I failed. At least I'm pretty sure I failed. Am going to fail. No matter how many people die on my watch I'm still not used to this failure thing, you know?

How did you ever handle it? Leading people, friends, into battle, knowing they could be killed, knowing some of them would be? How did you handle doing the things you needed to do, to win? You've been in any number of battles, and a few wars, and you've always been the one in command, the one they looked to for all the ideas. How did you handle the pressure?

You want a laugh? I've been the commander of a military force for a few of your years now. What's even more laughable is that I'm as terrible at it as you might have expected. There's five of us left. Soon to be four.

You know what I said about you being a savage race and all that? I take it back. I take it all back. I'm sorry. Sorry for everything. We're not...

But if you haven't checked in with Kathy you don't know what I'm talking about. Sorry. There's a war on. The Continuum is burning. Q has turned on Q and you cannot begin to imagine the psychic devastation, the utter violence of the soul, not to mention the repercussions to the rest of the galaxy, when immortal, omnipotent beings figure out a way to kill each other and then start doing it. Those supernovas? Sorry about that. You ever see that movie where they say every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings? Well, every time you've been seeing a spontaneous supernova the past few years, a Q has been blown to bits. The universe is our battleground and I'm afraid the collateral damage is all over the place. We've littered your dimension with our gravestones.

And it's about to get worse.

See, we can't see our own futures. Or the futures of any other Q. I know my future, now that it's gotten really really short, but I don't know what's going to happen to my companions, if my sacrifice will mean anything, if they'll survive, if we'll win. I suspect we won't win. I can see your future, you see, and so I know that my enemies in the Continuum will consider their position sufficiently unassailable, shortly, that they can risk locking you down.

By now I'm pretty sure you know what I mean by that. Confining you humans to your solar system. All of you. Yes, I can do the math. I know what that's going to do to you. I was a claustrophobe when I was human, remember. I'm sorry. I've tried to stop it, and I've put something in motion so that sometime after my death maybe someone else will be able to stop it. But I just don't have much hope.

As soon as I'm done with this letter, which you have to understand is taking me bare nanoseconds to write, I'm going to go back into the Continuum, back into my war, and I'm going to die. If I'm not shot to death I'm going to blow myself up to take out a large contingent of my enemies and make sure my last four comrades can make it to safety. I'm sure you're as shocked as I am. I always thought that attempt to sacrifice myself to the Calamarain was really a self-centered attempt to kill myself out of boredom and fear, not a genuine sacrifice. Here I am, omnipotent, and I'm about to do it again. Who knew?

You said you weren't my father-confessor but if you're still bothering to read this letter then you can't exactly reject me this time, as by the time you read this I'll be quite beyond knowing or caring about your opinion. And I'm absolutely sure I'd never have had the nerve to say this to your face.

I am absolutely terrified.

I'm going to die. I'm going to cease to exist, and I'll never even know if there was a point to it, if my friends will survive, if my ideals will ever surface in the Continuum again. If my life hadn't been such sheer unadulterated hell for the past few years, if I hadn't had to watch so many friends die-- many of them of orders I gave-- and commit so many atrocities on what were once my brothers and sisters, before the civil war broke out... I don't know if I'd have the nerve to do this. Even now I'm only doing it because I'm too selfish to endure the pain of sending one more friend to their death. I'm not fooling myself. I'm still a coward, it's just that dying, as much as it scares me, doesn't frighten me as much as living with the knowledge that I gave the orders that led one more of my Q to their death.

And, of course, the fact that all five of us will be killed if one of us doesn't make a sacrifice.

I'm sorry. I wanted to reform my people, not destroy them. Yes, you laugh. Me, next of kin to chaos, a reformer? But I've always tried to be a bringer of change. I got as bitter, as vicious and bored, as you saw me because I exist to challenge the status quo, to promote change and growth, and the Continuum hasn't allowed any such thing for three billion years. You'd have started taking it out on lesser species too. When I saw the opportunity to try to make a meaningful change, I took it. I never expected... Well, how could I have? We've never even had the ability to kill each other one on one like this. We haven't had a war in billions of years. We were a Continuum, all joined mind to mind, all part of a whole. How could I have imagined a war breaking out?

I still can't wrap even my enormous intellect around it. We were supposed to be superior beings. We were supposed to be advanced beyond this. Sometimes I wish I were human so I could pretend I'm dreaming, that none of this is real and I'll wake up and it'll have been a particularly nasty nightmare. Unfortunately for me the Q don't dream, so I don't even have the luxury of pretending. This is as real as my life gets, and I know it.

We're not superior. Obviously, we never were. I've been living a lie for billions of years, and all of us have, and that hurts almost as much as the destruction of our society, though not nearly as much as killing people I used to care about and sending those who trust me to their death has hurt. If I weren't so scared I'd be positively looking forward to this death thing, because I just don't want to live with what I have learned, with what I have done.

They're going to take it out on you because I loved you people. Yes, you heard that right. I'm going to be dead in the next few minutes, and they say confession is good for the soul, right? I loved your stupid, pathetic, small species and the way you were growing, changing so rapidly you terrified some of us. Not me. Once I verified for myself that it was true growth and not a cancer, I couldn't wait to see what you would become. I even tried to push you, personally, just a bit. I thought your species had certain qualities mine lacks, qualities I wanted to bring in among us in hopes of stopping the war. Well, it didn't work out. Probably wouldn't have worked anyway. But they know I loved you. And they know I was right about you. And because they oppose everything I stand for, because they want the universe to remain in a perpetual status quo for eternity, and because they know you will grow to surpass them... they'll intervene. They'll lock you down, and I can't stop them. I've seen it in every one of your futures, every possible timeline.

I wish I could give you some advice. I wish I knew whether you personally were going to survive any of this; I can see multiple timelines, but different things happen in them. I wish any of this could be different. I wish I could see you, talk to you, again. I mean, you'd just tell me to get off your ship or something, but I still wish I could do it.

I'm sorry. I've said that a lot in this letter but I mean it. I am really, really sorry. They're going to hurt you, maybe destroy you, and I can't stop them, and I won't even be alive to see it, and I have no idea if what I've done or what I'm doing is going to do any good. I'm sorry.

You know if I wasn't about to die I'd probably chicken out later on and disintegrate this letter. If you actually get this, you'll know I died before I had an opportunity to have second thoughts.

Did I mention I'm sorry?

Adieu, mon capitaine. Try not to hate me too much, please? I did try. I know that on this kind of scale, trying doesn't matter nearly so much as doing, and I didn't succeed in doing. I know I am a miserable failure. But at least... at least I did try, all right?


Next: Pining away for the self she lost.

Notes edited 1/6/2009: The previous stories in this arc are all on in the different Trek areas. They are, in order: VOY It's Always Fun Until Somebody Loses, TOS Te Morituri Salutamus, TNG One of the Living, DS9 Go Down, Moses, TNG Let Me Entertain You, VOY The Partisan (M-rated), DS9 The Roads Must Roll.