The readers of Trek fanfiction are smart; they pick out continuity or character errors instantly, and have heard enough official technobabble to spot nonsense with no trouble. Out of respect for the genre and for all of you, I did my best to check facts, numbers, and names. Thanks to Jim Wright's Voyager reviews, the official Star Trek website, and Memory Alpha for being excellent sources for this.
Sometimes, though, I couldn't find the information I wanted, and I took certain liberties with what I could. I don't feel too bad about this – after all, the writers made up characters and played with the rules of pseudoscience every week – but I did put a lot of thought into it. I include the following notes, just in case anyone was wondering where these ideas came from.
Who are all these survivors (and others)?
This was the trickiest part. As an ensemble fic, Winter's Child depends on the crew living and working together believably. I didn't want it to just be the main cast, because there were 140 people we never heard from who had a shot at survival, too. The official characters I looked up on Memory Alpha.
Ayala we heard about a thousand times, and he showed up consistently over the course of the series (but they never gave him a first name?). He was Maquis, and he worked in engineering and ops before ending up as a security officer on the bridge. I imagine him as the strong and silent type; he left his sons in the AQ, and I liked the idea of him getting a second chance at a family.
Foster was real, too; she was a crewman at ops, and showed up a few times. (Originally, I had her as Beth Thompson, but apparently she was a he. Oops.) I wanted someone unprepossessing, not particularly brilliant, an ordinary enlisted crewman who would be transformed by her tragedy… not everyone could have adorable hybrid babies on a broken ship.
Jarot was a Betazoid, mentioned in "Counterpoint." I was intrigued by the possibility of having another telepath and empath aboard, without the strictures of Vulcan logic, though I never really explored that, and wanted Naomi to have a mentor.
Swinn exists, but I called her Madelein (TPTB never named her). She was a Starfleet engineer, who we met in "Tuvix" and "Resolutions;" she was one of the crew members who wanted to get help from the Vidiians. They didn't develop her much, but she struck me as the kind of timid character who would rise to a challenge and do whatever was necessary to survive… and I like giving red-shirt nobodies the chance to develop a backbone. (It was entirely coincidental that she was African American; I didn't actually find a picture of her until I wrote this.)
Matteo I made up. Come on; doesn't he sound adorable?
Admiral Patterson is the one who showed the new captain around Voyager in "Relativity." I would never have the audacity to invent anyone who would call Janeway "Katie" to her face.
Phoebe Janeway might as well be canon. Culhane, Sena, Trumari, Delaney, Sharr, and Jor were all mentioned on the series as well; T'Rel is the name I made up for that female Vulcan who we see in "Repression."
I didn't use all of these characters, but I spent a lot of time thinking about them, and I hope that it came through that each of them had a story here. I developed Janeway, Tom Paris, and Naomi Wildman because I thought that they would be the most important in Bea's life, but it would have been easy to make this story third person, four times as long, and explore the effects of the crash on each survivor. (For instance - how did Tom and B'Elanna finally get together in this timeline? Cheerful, self-sacrificing Maddie doesn't express her resentment, but it's there. And what a terrible compromise for Eddie and Greg - finding a partner only by losing all your friends.) It was hard to resist telling them, but all those stories are in the background, influencing Bea and her decision even if she only refers to them obliquely.
How could they possibly survive the crash?
Here's my logic: some places on the ship are better shielded and stabilized than others. The bridge makes sense; the center of command should be the safest place on the ship. The mess hall was convenient, but it's not too out there – as their gathering place for five years, I'd bet they reinforced the hull so that they had a bunker (so to speak). And engineering is a no-brainer – what's more important to cushion than the warp core?
If decks 10-15 were compacted, how did anyone in engineering survive?
Aha, you caught me: that's deck 11. Again, I think that the inertial stabilizers and structural reinforcements around the warp core would keep that area from being entirely crushed, and if anyone on the lower half of the ship were to survive, it would be those protected by those same backup systems.
It seems unrealistic that they had so little energy...
My understanding is that everything on the ship relies on the warp reactor, which is pretty much an infinite source of energy. When the ship crashed, it would short out all the systems and shut down the core; with the reaction cold, how would they recharge anything? The few independent sources (tricorders, lights, etc.), wouldn't go very far, and I further propose that an electromagnetic shockwave from the failure of the slipstream drive would damage those power sources, too. Even Starfleet batteries don't last forever.
How come they never sent a message?
They tried, but I conveniently crushed their comm. equipment and destroyed their power sources. It's tough, getting rescued in my world.
Then… how did they modify the lighting? The gel packs?
The last cry of those few uncrushed power cells, I guess. Medical, engineering, and scanning devices would have a short life after the crash, and could be used to adjust the spectrum or introduce a resequencing virus into the gel packs.
Are you just making things up?
Yes. But I've spent most of my life learning how to speak science and Trek, in turns, and I think that more than qualifies me to invent 24th century pseudoscience. I'm trained in physical chemistry, and by extension plenty of math, biochemistry, and physics. The ideas I came up with for this story are not nearly as absurd as, say, the hyper-evolution in "Threshold" or the medical necessity of Seven's catsuit.
Okay. What about Vulcans?
What about them?
Tuvok mediated through his pon farr in season seven...
Yeah, but it's a whole lot harder to meditate in extreme physical discomfort, and we know that it doesn't work for all Vulcans ("Blood Fever"). I imagine that in the extreme cold, it would be much harder to control all emotions and drives, especially for a desert-bred race, and that even someone like Tuvok would be unable to balance out his neurochemistry.
Whether he would rather die or betray his wife is another question entirely, and one that neither I nor Tuvok took lightly.
What about Tuvok's neurological condition?
I ignored it, quite deliberately. It was a bit much for this story – can you imagine Janeway burying her crew, raising a child she never intended to have in the harshest environment I can imagine, and helping her best friend through the Vulcan equivalent of Alzheimer's? Forget sad and guilty; she'd be deranged.
Besides, who knows. Maybe the condition set in late enough that Zayek was old enough to meld with his father, or Jarot was able to help him keep it at bay.
It seems a little risky, to pin the success of the story on Bea and Zayek deciphering weird Borg technology.
Well, Wesley saved the day at least once a month on the Enterprise-D. Shouldn't Kathryn Janeway's daughter be every bit as precocious as Beverly Crusher's son?
Seriously, though, they had a bizarre education, conducted by adults who knew nothing about teaching children and had a lot of recent experience with the Collective. You teach with what you have, and what they had was the remains of a whole lot of Borg-modified systems and a bunch of excellent engineers. Besides, what would you rather learn about, Vulcan literature or a creepy race of cyborgs?
But Harry didn't get to send his message!
Different timeline, different history. I had to sidestep several of the plot twists in "Timeless" for the purposes of this narrative - the power failing, for instance, or needing to dissect Seven for the timestamp. In this scenario, it wasn't Harry's last words that mattered, no matter how tortured poor Ensign Kim will be.
Besides, I suspect that the passing mention in Bea's message will be enough for Janeway. She's a smart cookie.
Wait. What happens next?
I don't know (and neither does Bea). Temporal paradoxes might give Janeway a headache, but when it comes to imagining Part Two, they're a whole lot of fun.
It might be an entirely new universe, full of adorable J/C babies, or Janeway might deny everything in the morning. Maybe their correction was flawed, and they still crashed, except this time everyone died, and it's "Timeless" as written - meaning that Janeway still denies everything in the morning, we never hear about it, and my sneaky A/U suddenly fits into a non-alternate universe. Maybe Chakotay's so furious when he finds out that she terminated a pregnancy that he decides to date Seven, or maybe she miscarries before she can tell him and in her resentment dates a hologram (yes, I was a little fed up with the writers at the end there). Maybe... well. You get the idea.
I've actually written a few of these stories, but none of them seems to me right enough to be what happens next... they're all possibilities, some more true to canon than others. But after all, that's the point of changing history - to give them their possibilities back.
That's me (and Janeway) being clever. Beatrice comes from the Latin Viatrix, meaning – you guessed it – a traveler or voyager. It seemed fitting that Janeway name her daughter for her fallen ship, the greatest lady in her life.
I've never shared my stories before - I've read too much fan fic that was poorly thought out or executed, and without a second set of eyes wasn't sure whether my wonky AU would be among them.
I've been overwhelmed by your enthusiasm for this story, which is something that's haunted me since I first saw "Timeless" (nine years ago!). I appreciated every comment, and knowing that "Winter's Child" had readers made me much stricter with myself when I edited it. (You should see the first draft - so much sap! Fun to write, yes, but not as true to the story that this needed to be.) Your support has made me a better writer and this a better story, and I am very grateful.
Thank you, also, for understanding that sometimes, the happy ending we want isn't quite the one we get. (I for one wanted to write a sappy reunion/settling down in Antartica scene, but Bea knew better.)