What The Gods Call Miracles

Q hadn't thought about having a child before coming to Earth.

The truth was, she had never thought about having a child, due to the fact that the Q simply didn't. Immortality made it unnecessary, and the pressure of the Continuum overmind, that would subsume any poorly formed personality, made it impossible. She was on Earth to study humanity, and amuse herself, and she'd had no other intentions.

Some time ago, one of the Q had encountered a Q who was from the Continuum's future - the Q could move freely in the mortals' timeline, but they had their own time, and generally, they were not supposed to reveal to each other what happened in it out of order. The future Q had apparently said something to indicate that someday, this unimpressive species would have a profound impact on the Continuum. So Q were sent to study them. The first one who went, a philosopher and well-respected elder, came back declaring that he thought it was about time he died, and in his opinion, a number of the Q should join him. This didn't please anyone. The next one to go became enamored of the species and decided that the solution to the overwhelming ennui of her life was to incarnate herself as a mortal, grow up as a human child with no memory of or access to her powers, and return to the Continuum when her mortal form died. While this was considered less grossly irresponsible than the Q who wanted to die, it was still incomprehensible to most of the Q. So this time, they had sent a team to study the species. Perhaps two Q could avoid coming up with really stupid ideas as a result of their exposure to humans.

Q's partner Q had thought they could manage it by just watching the species from afar, studying them like microbes on a slide, but Q begged to differ. No one ever learned anything useful that way, she'd said, and when he pointed out the danger - that two other Q had walked among humans to learn about them, and one had ended up imprisoned in a comet and the other was a laughingstock and currently thought she was a teenage mortal - she scoffed. Just because the Q rarely encountered danger, she said, was no good reason to hide from it every chance you got.

Her best friend (or her best friend who wasn't her partner, anyway), a Q who loved Klingons and liked to take mortal forms and fight in mortal wars, agreed with her. Danger just added spice. Her second best friend, who was her first best friend's partner, was unimpressed by danger, but agreed that you didn't learn much from mortals by watching them from afar, and told her to go for it. Anything to break up the boredom of their lives. (He did think she was going way too far with it by fully incarnating in human avatar, complete with intestinal microbes, and doing disgusting things like eating food and digesting it, but then, he wasn't the one accompanying her to Earth; her partner was, and her partner thought the whole food eating thing was fascinating, once she got him into it.) She didn't really care what the rest of the Continuum thought; what very little validation she needed to draw from other Q was well satisfied by her partner and friends, and the others could jump in a black hole if they didn't like it.

So she and her partner both took fully human forms, and walked around behaving as if they were fully human. They invented identities for themselves. They acquired a house, in a place called Kansas. They even used the bathroom, sometimes. And, inevitably, they engaged in humanoid sex. It never failed - humanoids and their hormones and their biological wiring produced emotions too similar, in a perverse way, to Q emotions. The same desires that led Q to want to join energies with each other in sublime and intimate communion led humanoid mortals to want to join body parts with each other in messy, squishy, but ultimately enjoyable activities that weren't anything at all like a Q joining and yet emotionally felt remarkably similar.

Q and her partner had had sex in many, many mortal forms before... a lot of them humanoids, because there were a lot of sentient humanoids and they were unusual among sentient beings in the degree to which they were obsessed with sex. But it had never gone this way before.

After joining, as she lay with her partner enjoying what the endorphins the human brain she wore were doing to her mind, Q noticed something unusual, and cast her attention into her human body. There, inside a tiny tubule within her female human frame, a cell was rapidly dividing. Cells, of course, divided all the time... but this one was doing so with frantic rapidity, turning into a mass of cells as she watched. And it was a human cell, but not her human cell. The DNA was only half hers, randomly assorted with the DNA her partner had chosen for himself.

"Oh," she said. "Oh, look at that!"

Her partner turned his attention to where she indicated. "Is that a zygote?" he asked, almost sounding horrified.

"I think it is! Look at it go. I wonder if it'll implant?"

"You're being silly," he said, and reached toward her, the way a human might reach to brush dirt off a friend's face. "Let me wipe that up for you."

"Oh, no, you don't." She blocked him, grinning. "I'm enjoying watching it. Look, it's already forming a blastula! Have you ever been in a position to pay this close attention to a mortal embryo forming before?"

"No, and why would I even want to? Q, that thing's inside you."

"Come on, it's not really inside me. It's inside my avatar."

"Well, yeah, but..." He trailed off, clearly unable to articulate in human words what her Q senses told her he was feeling - almost disgust, a deep unease. There were parasites that could infect and prey on unwary Q, energy vampires that could take advantage of the high energy state of the Q to go almost unnoticed. Having a being inside you, sentient or not, was not generally a good thing when you were Q.

She laughed. "It's not a parasite."

"It really kind of is."

"Well, yeah, I guess it really is." She laughed again. "But it can't hurt me, Q. It's just mortal cells, growing. It's about as dangerous as those plants we put in our garden." They'd actually grown the plants from seeds - albeit, using their powers to speed up the growth and ensure the health of the plants, but Q had wanted to know what it was like to make living things come into existence by utilizing the life that was already there rather than snapping it into being, so she'd planted a garden from seeds. This was like that, she thought. She and Q had inadvertently planted a human seed, and there it was, growing! Into a human, if she let it go that far. Which of course she wouldn't, that was just silliness. What use would she have for a human pet that could possibly justify letting it continue to grow inside her? But it was fun to watch it. It was growing as fast as a cancer, but with a clear sense of purpose, its DNA hardwiring governing it the way the seeds had been governed.

"Okay, it can't hurt you, but it's just a little disgusting, don't you think? Come on, erase it."

"No way! I think it'll implant. Want to bet me?"

He sighed. "It's inside your avatar. How do you expect me to think you wouldn't cheat?"

"I never cheat."

"Right, because if you didn't get caught, you weren't cheating."

"That's totally unfair."

"Maybe, but you gotta admit, you act like rules are for other Q."

She grinned. "Because they are."

He rolled his eyes. "You'll delete it when you're good and ready, right?"

"Of course." She made a face at him. "I'm not going to become a... mother." The word was so alien to anything any Q had ever experienced, it was almost an insult.

She watched her pet zygote for a few days, eagerly. Q wouldn't take a bet from her - he never did, not since she and her other friend Q had been thrown out of an extradimensional casino for noncorporeal beings for probably fixing probability (which they had, in fact, done, but since the casino's creators couldn't prove it, they couldn't actually do anything worse to them than tossing them out.) But she really wished she had someone to bet with, because the waiting to see if the zygote would pass the first stage of viability would be a lot more exciting if she had a competition riding on it.

And then, it did, and she watched in utter fascination as it hijacked her avatar's endocrine system, a tiny fragment of cells sending bare quantities of chemical signals that made her avatar pump out huge amounts of hormones and neurotransmitters in response. "Look at that. Look! It's overriding what this brain would have dictated, and pushing the whole body into becoming its life support system."

"Didn't I tell you it was a parasite?" Q almost reached out into her again, as if he was about to erase the zygote, and then stopped himself before she had to. "There, it implanted. Now are you going to get rid of it?"

"Don't you think this is fascinating?" she asked. "These tiny, fragile little creatures contain within them such complex chemical machinery for making a new them. It's like I've got a little factory inside me for manufacturing more of me."

"Or you could just snap your fingers."

"Yes, yes, but don't you see? This is doing it with the existing matter. No need to pull from the Continuum or any other source exterior to this universe, no need for matter-energy conversions... do you see how low energy this is? It's running on ATP. And yet it's making a new mortal being out of random chemicals."

"Q, this isn't new information. Mortals have been self-replicating since... forever. They have to, they're mortal. Why are you so fascinated by this... trivial exercise?"

"Because. I never really studied it before. Never really thought about it." She sat on the bed, legs crossed under her, her physical head peering down at her belly as her mind probed the molecular details of the process happening within her. "The plants fascinated me, too, but they weren't happening inside me."

"Inside your avatar, you mean."

"Yes, that's what I meant."

"You know, you've got plenty of self-replicating bacteria in there."

She sighed. "It's not the same. This body's response to the self-replicating bacteria isn't nearly so interesting. Everything about this brain and endocrine system is designed to preserve this parasite's life. It's like it's completely taken over this body."

"It sounds like it's completely taken over your mind as well. Q, just get rid of it."

"Don't be ridiculous." Now she was actually offended. "I'm a Q. My mind can't be influenced by a little endocrine flux in this avatar! I can grow a zygote in this body's abdomen as long as I want to, and it isn't going to have any effect on my mind."

"So how long do you want to?" he snapped. "Are you going to grow it to full gestation? Q, if you want to grow human pets, fine, but aren't there more sanitary ways to do it than growing one inside your avatar? I mean, you could make a construct to house and gestate this thing."

"Yeah, but how is that any different from the plants? They just grew in the dirt. I found them mildly interesting, but... what fascinates me about this thing is that it is inside me. It's a parasite trying to take me over, and I can watch it in action right here, without going any further than my own avatar... and of course I'm completely safe, I'm a Q. I can wipe it out any time I want to."

"Are you going to grow it to full gestation?"

"Why would I want to do that?" She made a face. "Then I'd be saddled with a low sentient pet, and a larval one at that. I don't do pets. You're mixing me up with Q."

"You like to walk around pretending to be a low sentient. I'm not sure but that he has the higher ground, between the two of you."

"Oh, and you don't love it." She used her powers to yank him onto the bed, next to her. "You don't find it exciting and depraved to walk around in meat, oh no. You don't have any interest in how... visceral human sensations are." As she said this, she stimulated the nerves on his avatar to give him the sensation of her mouth licking his penis. He gasped.

"I never said that."

"Well, you're certainly sounding like it! If you're going to go slumming and be depraved with me, you don't get to tell me that other Q are better than me because I like this."

"Just don't let that thing come to full gestation," he said, pushing her body down onto the bed as he gestured their clothes away. "I like you too much like this."

"Of course," she said, gasping as he reciprocated what she'd begun doing to him a moment ago.

The zygote developed into a full-blown embryo, and Q's avatar began to undergo changes. She found that when she let the appetite centers of this brain govern when and what she chose to eat, that she experienced frequent queasiness and a downright unpleasant sensation in her stomach. She could override it with a thought, of course, but it was novel. As a Q, she'd never experienced sickness, never really even experienced pain - in mortal bodies, she just generally overrode any pain signals she experienced. But she was studying this, trying to learn how humans thought and felt by being one of them, or as much like one of them as she could be. What did it mean that in the course of reproducing themselves, they so often experienced this unpleasantness?

"You think that's bad?" Q said to her. "Look at some of the ones giving birth sometime. Now that's unpleasantness."

Q shivered. She thought of her friend who fought in mortal wars, whose avatar was frequently stabbed and shot and beaten. It was no secret to her, or anyone in the Continuum, that that Q thought most other Q, including her partner and her closest friends, were weak because none of them could take pain. Could she endure pain like that, if it came to it? Not that it would come to it, because she wasn't going to let this embryo gestate to full term, of course. But if it did.

It was replicating so energetically, so precisely. Its genes were perfect - a side effect, of course; she and Q had each chosen DNA sequences for their avatars that had none of the common (or uncommon) human flaws. What a fantastic human it would be... but it would only be human. Just a pet, to live out a mortal span and die like all other mortals did. She didn't want to put herself through that. The pain that a physical avatar could suffer was one thing; at least that was a novelty. But the heartbreak of watching mortals you loved die was an agony every Q who had ever had the slightest interest in walking among mortals or studying them had suffered, thousands of times, until most of them had learned not to get emotionally attached.

She hated the thought of killing it. It was such a perfectly engineered machine, so wondrous in its randomness. No sentience had created this thing; chance had engineered it and chance had brought it into being, and the only role sentience was playing was that she was choosing not to kill it. Chance fascinated her, chance and change, two things in short supply in the Continuum.

What if... what if she did let it live? Did let it gestate fully, and then studied it throughout its life, from birth to death? Surely that would give her remarkable insight into humans, wouldn't it? Why, she could even influence the creature, at a level the Q usually considered unethical to influence mortals, because it would be a baby and it wouldn't have a formed personality she could damage yet. She could shape it, not by snapping it into being fully formed, but by watching it grow naturally, on its own, and exerting influence, but not power, on it.

The Q didn't often have the opportunity to shape things in that way, either. Either they created something full blown, or they found something chance had created and studied it. To shape something and yet let chance play a role... even if it was just the personality of a low sentient... what a fascinating idea!

"Don't be ridiculous," Q said to her, but she could tell his heart wasn't in it. He was deriving amusement from watching the thing grow, she was sure of it. And from the other side effect it was imposing on her endocrine system, which was to make her desire for human sex skyrocket. What sense did that make? She couldn't reproduce any more than she already was; why should evolution have designed this body to want sex when sex couldn't possibly result in further reproduction?

"Because they're still sentients, even if they're low sentients," Q said. "Haven't you noticed? When we engage in sex... even if we aren't touching our minds or energies at all, it feels like joining. I mean, not really, not in terms of sensation, but... the emotions of it."

"Yes. I did notice that."

"Evolution's making you want more sex because if you were a real human woman, you'd be vulnerable now. You'd want reassurance that your mate is still attached to you. So you're compelled to want more sex because that's how humans express their desires for attachment and connection. They can't join minds, so it's all they've got."

"Huh." She considered. "Maybe they're not as different from us as I thought."

And if they weren't as different from the Q as she'd thought... it was true that sometimes the Q invited particularly advanced mortals, who seemed particularly compatible with the Q, to join the Continuum. What if she did let this creature fully gestate, and then she shaped it and raised it to be a superior, Q-trained example of humanity, and then when it was an adult, they could invite it to join the Continuum? Then she'd never have to watch it die. And that would teach them a great deal about humanity. And it would fulfill the condition everyone feared without actually being all that bad! Of course if a human joined the Q, it would have an impact on the Continuum. That human would be one of them, for all eternity.

She studied the embryo, for the first time letting herself assemble its DNA in her mind so she could see what it would look like when it was grown. As a full grown human woman, it would be small and fine-boned, with blonde hair, big blue eyes, and full lips. She imagined her own personality animating an avatar like that, and saw the image of the full-grown human grin at her, her own irrepressible devil-may-care grin, as if they shared a secret.

The thought of killing the creature was getting harder and harder to bear. Her human body was taking on weight, its breasts enlarging, its blood volume increasing, and if she wasn't going to kill it then it was going to completely reshape her avatar and subject her to all sorts of alien sensations, and she didn't know whether the thought excited or terrified her.

And then, as she was engaged in human sex with her partner, and joining with him as well, her mind flowing into her lover's and his into hers, she felt a bizarre answering spark from the unity between them, as if between them they were an entire Continuum and their oneness could give rise to new individual nodes of ego, the same way it had happened in the Continuum in the past.

She jerked her mind back in shock, feeling her partner reel back as well. "What was that?" she asked, stunned. "That felt... like..."

"That felt like it used to," he whispered, "when the Continuum used to make new Q."

Trembling, almost afraid of what she would see, Q turned her attention to the human growing inside her - a fetus, now, gestated for five of these human months and almost starting to bear a vague resemblance to a human being - and looked inside its undeveloped brain.

There was a fragment there. A kernel, a naked thing, the barest seed of a Q. A thing that could not exist, because in the Continuum, a naked undeveloped seed of ego like this would simply be subsumed back into the Continuum. It was happening all the time, in fact; the overmind was always spontaneously giving rise to new nodes of ego, that dissolved back into it instantly, because without the consciousness of the overmind shaping and forming the new ego deliberately until it was a fully realized personality that could hold its own against the Continuum, it couldn't possibly resist the pull of the overmind. Their unity had created such an ego fragment, and if they'd been in the Continuum the fragment wouldn't even have existed long enough for the two of them to fully register that it had ever been there before it dissolved. But they'd united while embodied in mortal flesh, and while one of them contained a growing mortal within that flesh, and the ego fragment had latched onto the growing mortal as a container for its essence.

Their human fetus was, impossibly, a baby Q.

"It can't be," Q whispered, staring into herself in utter shock. "It can't..." Part of her was reeling in horror. Growing a mortal life form inside her avatar was one thing, and harmless. Growing a Q inside her... was not. A Q could be a dangerous parasite, could consume her from within if she allowed it, could pull her ego into its.

Except that it didn't have an ego. Only the rudimentary fragment of one. Unlike every other Q that had ever been, it was not a fully formed mind. The brain it was in wouldn't have supported a fully formed mind anyway, too undeveloped itself to support an entire Q. But a fragment of a Q? A... a Q seed? That, apparently, could take root and grow within that brain, unformed though they both were, brain and Q ego both.

"It's a Q," her partner said, his tone half shock and half reverence. "It's inside you. What do you want to do?"

Kill it, part of her thought. Kill it before it can threaten me. Don't let it feed on my energy, don't let it affect my consciousness.

But she'd thought about letting the human infant grow to adulthood and then bringing her into the Continuum. If the infant was already a Q... there had never been an infant Q. This was genuinely new information, uncharted territory in a universe that for the most part the Q had fully mapped.

And she thought of the image she'd held in her mind, of the human woman formed by the DNA she and Q had chosen, with a personality like her own. If she was a Q formed of the intersection, the mini-Continuum, of Q and her partner's communion... then she would have a personality like Q's own. Or like her partner's. Or like some combination thereof.

Q was breathing hard, her human body overwhelmed by the emotions her Q-self was consumed with. A Q created of two Q, not the whole Continuum. A Q who grew, rather than being made fully formed. A Q who could be shaped and grown under the influence of another Q, just like the seeds, just like the human child would have been. There had never been anything like this in the history of the Continuum, and she realized, stunned, that she wanted this more than anything she had ever wanted in all eternity. She'd never imagined she could or would want to have a child. But a being created partially from her essence, who'd be partially her, but not her? Whose nature would be random, not dictated by the Continuum? Who she could raise? She'd never imagined wanting that because she'd never imagined it was a possibility that could be wanted, and now that she had it, she knew that she would never willingly give it up.

"Keep it," she breathed. "A baby Q. The first baby Q. Our baby."

"Our baby," he agreed, both the tone of his human voice and the overtones of his Q-voice reverential, awed. The Q were never awed. But this was like nothing there had ever been.

If the Q had ever had use for the concept of "miracles" as something that could apply to them, rather than something they put on to awe mortals, this was the time.

"Our baby," she said again, and pulled him close to her, burying her face in his chest. It had to be a side effect of the hormones surging through her human body that she suddenly wanted to cry.

Note: While almost all of this is my interpretation, I did draw from Heather Jarman's "String Theory: Book 3" in the Star Trek bookverse, in which she mentions JdL-Q being thrown out of an extradimensional casino for powerful energy beings. I added Q (Amanda's mother) into that incident to build up the history of them having a friendship and to establish that Q is the kind of entity, like the JdL-Q, who breaks rules, takes risks, and generally thinks that if she thinks it's a good idea at the time, she'll get everyone else to agree eventually, or at least to let it go. Of course, her tragedy is that in this case, she was wrong.

If others didn't pick it up, the Q she describes as her best friend outside of her companion is actually Suzy-Q, but as with humans, often you're close friends with both members of a couple.