The Conversation

Time: Two weeks after the Federation's declaration of war against the Cylon Empire

Place: Deep Space Twenty-three:

President Adama, Colonial representative of what was now quietly being called the 'United Systems Republic', sat relaxed in the company of two Federation Captains. This would be Captain Picard's last day at the station. His assignment would take him back to the Romulan neutral zone, nowadays a hotbed of Cylon activity. The female Captain, Kathryn Janeway, was assigned to the Colonial protectorate. Another war against those mechanical maniacs thought Adama. Untold numbers of people destined to die and for what?

The white-haired Colonial warrior unconsciously allowed an audible moan to escape, something that was happening far more often these days. Somehow, his ancient enemies had grown so powerful that the United Federation of Planets was now at risk, something that should have been impossible. With the Federation's powerful Starfleet, the Cylons he'd known and fought for so long should have been a minor nuisance. Now the abominations were creating super Basestars while in the middle of a blood feud with Romulan Empire. It was simply a matter of time before the war spilled over into Federation territory. The Cylons had made that perfectly clear. Humans and anyone who helped them were to be exterminated. No exceptions. No compromise. No choice.

The war was coming.


...Kathryn could feel Adama's pain. Someone close to you being lost-literally- touched a nerve. The loss of his wife and younger son and his best friend... She understood what the man felt and she knew Picard did as well. The people she'd lost in the Delta quadrant grated on her soul, even now. But now, she had a touch more understanding of her new ally. As she learned on Voyager, knowledge and understanding were the keys to power and she had the feeling that before this was over, the Federation would need as much power as they could get. "It's possible that we do a search for your people," she said with a wink. "After all, if they could find me, they can find just about anybody." She thought hard for a second. "Maybe I'll ask my godson."

She almost laughed when she saw the look on Picard's face. Did he really hate Q so much? Somehow she doubted it. When Q appeared, that usually meant that some disaster wasn't far off. But that wasn't always the case and she suspected now it was simply a matter of posturing on Picard's part.


President Adama smiled graciously at Kathryn's suggestion. He'd forgotten the simple balm, that the simple action of having a sympathetic ear, was sometimes better than having a thousand medications. The fact was his friend was most likely dead, never knowing that his people had found their safe haven. Oh, how Tigh would have loved being here in the Alpha quadrant. But he hadn't made it. It was another in a long line of heartache and loss that Adama would have to endure and for him it wasn't over yet.

Taking a sip of his hot chocolate, he made a silent toast to his friend-for- life, barely noticing the two Captains honoring him by doing the same. 'When I needed support, you were there. When I needed a friend, you were there. Wherever you are, in this reality or the next, one day we'll meet again."

Looking at his two companions, he toasted them. "To life."

"To life," the Captains echoed.

The doorbell chimed, the door opened and Commander Apollo entered to join Captain's Picard and Janeway and his father, the President. Quickly he sat down next to Adama.

Janeway moved towards the edge of her seat, getting comfortable as she began to repeat portions of the conversation that she had had with Q. There was no intention to tell all of it, of course. There were things that Q had sworn her to secrecy, for the time being. And before she would divulge this information to the others, she had to get to know them better. And she was going to have to translate it a bit, removing some of Q's more illustrious insults but the main point of the conversation would remain intact. The entity was so forthcoming that initially she had her reservations about the validity of the whole conversation. However, as she continued to listen, her doubts evaporated. He came to her after her first meeting with Captain Picard, obviously perturbed. He ordered her to sit and she did. ***

"Oh, Kate," he said. "It's not like I'm sending you to another universe or something." His eyes were twinkling and she decided that she didn't like what that implied. "Don't be so alarmed. I'm just here to give you a little history lesson. You will understand the reason why this war is occurring and ramifications of what will happen if you lose." Some exotic beverage popped into existence and he took a long, long drink. The same concoction appeared next to her and he invited her to do the same. It was delicious and its pleasing flavor must have shown on her face.

"This is wonderful," she said, savoring the aftertaste exploding across her tongue.

"I knew you'd like it, Kate," Q answered, pleased that she was pleased. "Now, on to business. As you know, because of Iblis' manipulations, the Cylons intending to kill anything humanoid-based. Because of the Progenitor's interference in the galaxy, that includes just about everybody in one way or another. Iblis requires followers to satisfy his miniscule ambitions. This war is just the beginning. The Cylons, his children, intend to destroy as many of you as they can. He believes that no matter how this slaughter ends, he'll win. But this galaxy will be destroyed if he succeeds." He yawned. "What you don't know about this could fill a book."

Just when she was enjoying his company he came out with the sarcastic remarks. Well, that was Q. "Please enlighten me," she said dryly.

"First, mankind is nothing, yet the survival of your puny race ensures the survival of countless others. There is a reason why the Q have tested you and why we will continue to test you, to see if you are worthy. What the future holds for your species may even rival the Q."

The Captain was shocked, not as much by what he said as how he said it. She could see the mixture of fear, respect and even the touch of awe that crossed his face as he spoken those words.

"In order for you to understand the future you must understand the past," he continued. "There are several points that you must be made aware of. The first is the history of the T'kon Empire and its eventual destruction. Their technology was far more advance than anything else in the Alpha quadrant. While your people were in wooden ships worrying about falling off the edge of the Earth, the T'kon Empire had ceased to exist nearly two hundred thousand years earlier. In their prime, their empire was larger than your Federation as it is, today. They didn't start out as an Empire, but it could be compared to the political structure of the present-day Federation. As a whole, they believed in commerce and open communication with other species. That was before they ran into the Ciona Imperixe.

"I've never heard of the Imperixe," spoke the Captain.

"Yes you have, Kate," the entity responded. "The Imperixe are the parasitic species that took over Starfleet headquarters and nearly destroyed the Federation. You have no idea how close to destruction the Federation was. Only Picard's actions saved you all from becoming their pets. These same creatures swarmed the T'kon territories and nearly destroyed them. They were beaten back and the T'kon transformed itself into the empire recorded in your history padds. After surviving the attacks, the T'kon made sure nothing like that would ever happen again. The technology of the Ciona was inferior. Their principle strengths relied on stealth and guile to overcome their prey and increase the size of their territories. At this historical juncture, the Borg weren't even thought of. But there were other powers, two worth mentioning that the T'kon feared. One was the great Machine Intelligum of the Baroni cluster, a race of sentient machines-the same ones that transformed Voyager-six into the entity called V'ger. And the other are called the Yonji Sinhindrea an ancient race of killers."

"The Imperixe were still a constant threat and the sheer vastness of their territories kept the T'kon on edge. The Machine Intelligum remained isolated and didn't usually associate with organics. Their power and technology was indeed frightening and no one communicated with them, let alone dared to violate their territory. The third species were on the other side of the galaxy far enough not to be a serious threat, but close enough to keep an eye on. Because of the possibility of attack from so many sources, the T'kon developed powerful weaponry. They built planetary border stations and placed guardians there strong enough to resist full- fledged invasions until help could arrive. They remained secure for two thousand of your years until the 'great experiment' went wrong and caused a chain-reaction within several large stars. This stellar cluster went supernova and destroyed the main core of the empire. The resultant blast smashed through everything within two thousand light years.

"If they were so advanced, then how could they have made a mistake like that?" She gasped as realization struck home.

"Yes, Kate," Q answered. "Sabotage. Their planetary systems, colonies, people were burned away as heat and radiation destroyed everything. There were many survivors but they scattered and the T'kon Empire, like so many others before and after it, became a memory. You should acknowledge their contributions one day because if they had not been in existence, then you and the others would have been long dead. That civilization was the first line of defense for all of you primitives located in the Alpha quadrant."

"Almost all of the outposts were destroyed with the exception of a select few at the very edge of the blast radius. One of their antique way- stations, long forgotten by its creators was discovered by a Cylon patrol. The automated system restructured the Cylons sent to investigate it and that action changed their history and the history of the Federation. Iblis arranged this entire event and possibly forever altered the fate of the galaxy."

"So the Cylon have advanced themselves with T'kon technology, old by their standards but advanced by ours."

"Isn't that what I just said? Really, Kate you must keep up."

The woman just shook her head. Talking to Q could be a real pain.

"Normally the Q would not involve themselves with petty matters such as fights between lesser beings, however this brings us to the next point. Iblis told his children about the children."

"I don't understand. What children are you talking about?"

"V'ger's children. It managed to reproduced itself."

It took her a few seconds to make the connection. The Voyager probe. The small satellite sent out in the twenty-first century was lost. Somehow it entered a wormhole and exited on the far side of the galaxy. It returned hundreds of years later transformed into a power almost beyond recognition. "It made copies of itself?"

"Yes," Q answered. "It took a little doing but it succeeded. The children are humanoid-like, patterned after its creator you Earth people. The Borg have been after the kids for a while now with zero success. However, the Cylons may succeed in contacting the children whereas the Borg have not. Therefore the Cylons have gone looking for the Borg. The Borg, never one to overlook any advantage, will agree to a quasi-alliance. And then the Children of Mephistolese will make a deal with the Collective Devil. The Cylons have no interest in the children but they will try to use them as a means to gain access to V'ger's original creators, the Great Machine Intelligum. I don't recommend you allow them to do this."

Voyager reproduced? And they appear similar to humanity? Incredible! She quickly vowed to look into much more of the history of V'ger. "Where are these children located?"

"That's my girl!" Q exclaimed. "Headed for disaster without a second's hesitation. I'll give you the directions later. But this brings us to the next point. If the Cylons win, if Iblis succeeds, then life in this galaxy will end, not because of the Cylon's obsession with their ruination imperatives, but because of their subsequent actions. In the scheme of things this war is really a minor incident. It's the consequences that we're worried about." He leaned closer. "Kate, there's a problem with time."

"And just what does that mean?" she asked; although she had a sinking feeling that she already knew.

"The Federation has a inkling of the dangers of time travel. That is why you created, or you will create, the Temporal Prime Directive. There have been multiple violations of time recently that has threatened the stability of this galaxy."

"And may I ask how you define 'recent'?"

"I am using terms that you can comprehend so pay attention. You can ask questions later," he said somewhat indignantly. "The reality that you know is not the reality that was" he slowly announced to her. "Understand this. This reality, this Federation, exists in countless quantum stratas. Within this quantum cluster, there is a very strong proclivity towards generating this version of reality in countless variations. But your particular reality is unique. It only came into existence when time was manipulated by your own kind. Man and their various offshoots were nearly destroyed by a group of aliens known as the Goa'uld. There was a terrible war which mankind and its allies were destined to lose. Your species and Earth in particular fought them for hundreds of years but the Goa'uld were ruthless and in the end your people ran out of time. On a distant planet named Kobol, free mankind prepared to make its last stand, by using their very lack of time as a final, ultimate weapon."

"They created a time device with the intentions of traveling into the distant past and with their newly developed weapons, they intended to destroy the homeworld of the Goa'uld before they could become advanced enough to leave their home system. To achieve this, they needed to transmit a huge supply of power into the weapon from the future into the past through a device called a stargate. The enhanced weapon cracked the planet open and obliterated the entire solar system. It also destroyed the entire network of gates with the exception of the one protected gate located on the planet of origin."

Janeway was stunned. "But isn't that the planet where the Colonials claim to originate from?"

"Yes," Q answered somewhat embarrassed by the revelation. He had no intention of telling her everything, including that little anti-time divergence he caused. "When the device detonated in the past, history in this quantum reality was altered forever and it favored what seems to be its most comfortable setting, this history."

"For the most part the Goa'uld were no more, perceived as faint temporal dreams perceived by only a select few sensitive enough to feel their passing. There were pockets of time that were not affected. The temporal wave skipped over the planet Quo'nos and the few Goa'ulds there survived but were trapped. They existed there nearly a thousand years before the Klingons rose up as one, to slay their gods."

"The universe changed and with the parasites gone, the Imperixe took their place. The T'kon Empire took root and flourished and the Federation eventually came into existence. Time proceeded smoothly following the pattern that so many other universes within this quantum strata have favored. Then something happened and the Q began to notice disruptions in the temporal structure of the universe. Kate, did you know that the Xindi attacked Earth, killing millions in the process."

"I'm aware of that. That's ancient history."

"Is it?" Q murmured. "No. It's ongoing history, Kate," he corrected. "Because we were also affected, we were unaware of the full implications. We became concerned when the Organians chose to break their promise to keep the Federation and the Klingons from going to war during James T. Kirk's time. That was a wake up call for the continuum and we investigated. What we found disturbed us and we took an active interest in mankind, hence the 'tests' to see if you were truly worthy to deal with the situation. Captain Jonathan Archer's exploits were easy to track or so we believed at first. However what you don't know is that we discovered temporal incursions beginning almost immediately in his journeys. We tracked the incidents and discovered a pattern forming. We noticed that there are two focused areas involving significant temporal activity. The first centered around Archer's time and the second one focused in your time, specifically around and involving Jean-Luc's captaincy. In Archer's time, the Xindi attacked and threatened to annihilate Earth. In your time, there have been multiple attempts to destroy the Federation using temporal attacks with Picard appearing as the center of these attacks. It's all related."

"I didn't know any of this!"

"Most believe that the instability in the expanse is naturally occurring. But your temporal police know better. That was one of the reasons why they're so paranoid. The truth is a terrible thing. It's not just the big stuff one has to worry about, but the multitude of small things that get past you."

"The attacks are still proceeding in Archer's time and what he does will determine if the galaxy survives the future. However at this temporal junction the threat is just as real and you must become part of the solution. There are several groups involved in this temporal war. The threat comes from an extra-dimensional force attempting to terraform this galaxy into something they can flourish in. The Delphic Expanse is their testing ground. The spheres are being used as subspace converters."

"We're aware of this," Janeway said.

"Are you aware that you just found out about this last week?" he asked.

Kathryn shook her head as the implications set in. Time was changing in front of them and no one noticed.

Q nodded in agreement at her assessment, then continued. "But the Federation is in the way. Therefore they intend to remove the Federation from the field. There have been several attempts to achieve this. And the Enterprise-D and E have been the principles argeted for destruction. This means Picard. The USS Bozeman was redirected through time to destroy the Enterprise-D. The plan would have worked except other forces created a temporal loop allowing the Enterprise crew to eventually escape destruction. Point-counterpoint. I was intrigued and checking further, I discovered a future timeline organization countering the effects of the trans-temporal enemy."

"Those same forces from your future saved the Enterprise once more when an intelligent energy entity destroyed it. The pro-future forces saved Picard and sent him back several hours into the past so that the Picard you know could escape the trap and save his precious Enterprise. It has become increasingly clear to the enemy that Earth's destruction was more complicated than they expected it to be. Their purpose is to destroy mankind, who is paramount in the creation of the Federation, or failing that, destroy the Federation or blunt its effectiveness. When the Borg attacked Earth and tried to assimilate it in the past, the Enterprise-E stopped them. The ship was caught in the Borg sphere's temporal wake. That part of history was known. The part that was not known was that the pro-forces kept the wake opened long enough for the Enterprise to follow the Borg. The rest is history."

"Frustrated, the enemy changed tactics. The USS Enterprise-C under the command of Captain Garrett was sent into the future guaranteeing a war with the Klingon Empire. It didn't matter to the enemy where the ship ended up as long as it was away from that point in time. However, although the pro- forces couldn't stop the time transit, they did redirect it to the one place where the timeline could be corrected or at the very least repaired- to Picard and the Enterprise. With the Klingons and Federation at war, all sides would be weakened and the coming attacks would meet little resistance from Alpha forces when the time came."

"Guinan," he said, "had enough sense to detect the shift. But that created a problem in itself. Multiple possibilities fractured that altered timeline when the enemy tried to undo Guinan's discovery. An infinite number of possibilities collided into one another. Quinn and I intervened directly and corrected all but two timelines. But as a result of our failure, the fallout of this temporal war has spread to other universes. Two alternates of the Enterprise C and D have been lost. One is changing a universe by taking sides against species that call themselves Peacekeepers and Scarrens. The second is interfering in another universe enough to possibly cause the destruction of almost all life in that galaxy. This first universe will take care of itself and we will not interfere. However the second..."

"A whole galaxy will be destroyed?" Kathryn was stunned. "If that isn't a case for adhering to the Prime directive, I don't know what is," she whispered.

"Don't be so naïve, Kate," Q criticized. "They're permanently trapped there although they don't know this yet. And it's basically the Vorlons' fault in the first place for not cleaning up their mess." Before she could ask, he raised his hand to stop her. "Who the Vorlons are isn't important right now. It is the mere presence of Starfleet that has changed the timeline. Events were triggered that were not supposed to happen. Alien forces have entered that universe under different circumstances and the destruction that they can cause will make the war with the Cylons look like a minor incident. These aliens have a foothold now and are establishing the base on a planet called Z'ha'dum. They will spread out and destroy everything in their paths unless the space-faring races living there can unite and fight as a single entity." His smiled and it was as cold and sarcastic as she'd ever seen. "I've watched them and I don't think it's going to happen. But leave it to Picard and a human male called John Sheridan and his love Delenn of the Minbari, to try. They are going to need help just to survive the first onslaught before the others understand that everyone's lives are in the balance. This means that Picard, Sisko and Garrett are going to have to toss your beloved Prime Directive to the winds. And you may have to help them."

Janeway nearly cringed at the ramifications this information being given her. This was too much for her mind to process right at this moment. "Do you know what you're asking me to do?"

"Yes," came his answer. "I am asking you to help a galaxy survive by knowingly throwing your precious Prime Directive of non-interference to the four winds. If you choose not to then you will doom them all and doom yourself to everlasting memories of what you could have done to help save them but didn't."

"Q, this isn't fair. There are solid reasons for the Prime Directive and even if I wanted to, I would be violating everything that I have sworn to protect."

"You've done it before," he said smugly. "You know as well as I do that the Prime Directive exists to make sure that lesser races don't have negative influences inflicted upon them by you so-called enlightened species. There is danger in that. But when you concentrate on the law and not the moral concept behind it, that law becomes a liability you hide behind. And it is not a law, it's a guideline to help you make the proper decisions concerning younger races. Kate, every single time you came across a piece of advanced technology that could get you home, the Prime Directive went out the proverbial window. You didn't think about how more advanced technology might have affected the Federation. You were too busy worry about getting your crew home, weren't you?"

She flushed a little and said nothing. The truth pointed to itself.

"I would have asked Picard to do this, but he and his other self would probably start shooting at each other. This needs a woman's touch, one with a higher rank and a meaner ship."

"Voyager is an Intrepid class and no match for a Galaxy in power, even enhanced with futuristic weaponry."

"With the modification on Voyager I would disagree with you, but you won't be using your ship," he added ominously. "And you will not be alone. The Galactica is coming with you and the Klingons as well. But make sure that they don't use Swift Hunter. That ship is an accident waiting to happen. Ask them to use their newest prototype you're not supposed to know anything about, and sweeten the deal to make sure they listen."

"I don't have the authority to do this Q."

"You are under a higher authority, now and I will make that clear to everyone involved," the entity said. "You need to know what's out there, so that if you survive the Cylons, you can become aware of the other threats. If you perform this mission for the Q, as an incentive I will give you the key to contacting the children."

"Despite the arguments and conflicts that we've had over the years, I have come to understand two things. The first is that you are a nuisance and two you are a real help-sometimes. You're really doing what you think is the best for all of us." She could see that Q was truly touched by her backhanded, complimentary insult. Now, it was Kathryn's turn to move closer. "Will the Federation and the rest survive?"

"I am not sure," Q admitted. "Between the Cylons, their ultimate objective and the temporal fluctuations, I can only say that the future isn't assured. The Organians abandoned the treaty for good reasons. Trying to correct time when temporal anomalies are occurring constantly will only increase the instability. And even we Q are affected by those changes to some extent. And we can't interfere as long as Iblis has not taken direct action. I can only provide information and even then I'm limited by how much I can provide you. Think of me as a balance. If you survive the Cylons then you can prepare yourselves for the next battle. There is a war coming Kate, between the Federation and the Sinhindrea and it will be more devastating that anything you can imagine. This species has been bombed into the stone-age several times and each time, they have come back stronger and engulfed almost everything they've come up against. They understand only two concepts: 'conquer and destroy', or 'retreat and regroup'. They don't comprehend the words compromise or negotiation simply because they consider you all unworthy pieces of meat. I am offering you a chance to find out about them now before they arrive on your doorstep unannounced. In a hundred years they will be here. In the timeline I remember, this war would bond the Federation, the Klingons, and even the Dominion into a force to be reckoned with. The Federation will even make a temporary alliance with the Borg to deal with this. I do stress the word temporary. That will give you sufficient time to develop new weapons in order to defend yourselves against the creators of the spheres in what promises to be a galaxy-wide war."

The Captain of Voyager seemed to shrink back into herself as she listened.

"Kate, as I told Picard once, it is dangerous out here," he said pointing to the stars. "You don't know what is out there and you need to be prepared. The Federation would have fallen if not for that exposure to the Borg. I didn't introduce you to the Borg for my own amusement." A smile planted itself on his face as a bit of guilt surfaced. "Well, not completely for my amusement. I did it for a reason. You can't go back and hide, because the threats are coming to you and sooner than you think. The Borg was simply the first. More are coming and if you desire peace, then you'll have to fight for it, Admiral."

"I'm a Captain," she corrected.

"Give yourself a couple of months, my dear and remember what I've said. We'll talk again."

With those words he disappeared, leaving captain Kathryn Janeway with the biggest headache she'd had in a long time. ***