Chapter 1 - Quandaries
He stood on the bridge of the Enterprise, ignoring the stares in his direction, all of them malicious.
"Please, Jean Luc…give some credit where credit is due. You may hate me, loathe me, despise me…but somewhere, deep, deep down, you miss me when I'm not around. Am I right?"
The steely glare sent in his direction seemed to say otherwise, but he dutifully ignored it, a smug grin appearing on his features. Of course, it was almost always there, as he knew that he always had the upper hand in these situations, no matter how much the captain hated to admit it.
"Q, I asked you to leave the bridge immediately!"
"Ohhh, temper, temper, mon capitain…you don't want to set a bad example for your crew, now do you? Manners are always so important, and ordering someone around in a tone like that will not win you any friends." His tone was somewhat mocking, but he couldn't help it. A smirk stretched across his handsome features, and he took pleasure in the thought of how much he was annoying them. It truly was his only joy in life.
Riker glared at the immortal. "Like you'd care about having friends? I'd be in shock to find if you had any!"
For once in his extremely long life, Q found himself at a loss for words. Not wanting to admit that he'd been thrown by the first mate's barbed comment, he shrugged, acting as though the words rolled off of him, not affecting him in the slightest.
"Fine…you want me off the bridge? Done!"
With a snap of his fingers, he was gone. He arrived in 10-Forward, but something was wrong. Oh great…he was in trouble now. It looked as though someone had stopped time…and that was only possible if someone from the Continuum was interfering. He looked up to see a member of the Continuum walking towards him in human form, having materialized out of thin air as was the Continuum members' usual purview.
"Q…it seems we have something of a problem." His tone was serious, and he gave him a stern look, and that was when Q realized that something was going on. Something that was going to involve him, and he had a vague idea that he wasn't going to like it.
"And that problem would be…?"
He merely gave him a look, and Q turned his head away. He approached an empty table and sat down, gesturing for Q to sit opposite him. He stood, staring, but then he was given the same look. Oh great, he thought to himself. Some things never change. He slid into the chair, sitting in his usual position: one leg crossed over the other, one arm on his knee and the other arm sliding effortlessly along the back of the chair.
The head of the Continuum began to speak. "It seems that we are starting to create…how would the humans put it? Oh, yes…liaisons between the Continuum and the races that we regularly interact with. And you've been selected as being one of them…"
He let the words float for a moment, and then comprehension dawned. "You mean to say…?"
He nodded. "Yes. You are our human liaison."
There was silence. It was a pregnant silence, filled with loathing on Q's part as he glared at the man across the table. His eyes were filled disdain, but resignation as well. He knew that there was no way out of this. He had no say in this decision. He continued to glare, but the man ignored him.
Q sent him a scathing look.
"This is punishment, isn't it? Don't deny it…I know that you looked down on my little stunt that I pulled with the Deveron, but this is beyond punishment! This is torture!"
The man glared back at Q, not bothering to respond to the barb, even though the answer was obvious in his expression. Yes, it was a punishment. One that the Continuum obviously felt he deserved, though he felt nothing but resentment.
"Being our liaison, you must not use your powers to interfere in any possible way. You are to interact with them by being as human as you possibly can, while still retaining your abilities. You may use them on your own time, in your own personal space…but no interference. We'll be watching you, Q. No games…"
With that parting shot, he snapped his fingers, and was gone.
Q was suddenly was at the bar in 10-Forward, no longer at the table, and he decided to take part in the human ritual of drinking alcoholic substance to make one numb to the effects of emotion. Of course, he could allow the drink to have an effect on him, but instead decided to opt for enjoying the taste alone.
He didn't think that the Enterprise was prepared to deal with a drunk Q.
He snapped his fingers, a bottle of Earth wine appearing in front of him, a Burgundy. As he took the time to actually pour himself a glass, he noticed Guinan at the other end of the bar, sending a pointed stare his way. He deliberately ignored it. She wasn't worth the hassle, and he had better things to do than to rehash old rivalries. They were merely trivial things, and he was secretly getting sick and tired of them. As he thought about it, he came to a sudden realization.
That was all he had left, wasn't it? Rivalries.
He didn't know how many species that hated him, and how many personal vendettas people, or others alike, held against him. Though he hated to admit it, he enjoyed Picard's company simply because he was the only one that seemed to see right through him.
At that depressing thought, he took a deep drink, wishing he had his much younger metabolism…his human metabolism. Not that he'd ever tell them, but that was how he'd started out…pretty much, at least. He hadn't been born on Earth, oh no, but he'd lived very similarly and at times, though not very often, he missed it.
Suddenly, he realized what he was thinking. "What the hell am I doing?"
The words were mostly said to himself, but several heads turned in his direction and he actually felt…dare he think it…embarrassed. He dropped his forehead to his hands, briefly thinking about how enjoyable human form was compared to other life forms that he'd been. They really were geniusly constructed, and out of all the life forms that he'd seen, one of the more attractive ones. He knew that his form was pleasing to look at, but he'd never…well…drawn anyone's attention.
Maybe that was his problem. Maybe, just as Riker had implied, he was lonely because he didn't have any friends.
Seeing that his thoughts were becoming maudlin once more, he shook his head. "No, no. This is ridiculous! I am Q. If I want friends, I can simply wish them into existence!"
He lifted his left hand, turning on his stool, fingers poised to snap…and he paused. Did he really want to? Would it really be the same? Oh, who was he kidding, what did he care? He didn't care if things were real or not, as long as they achieved the desired result!...right? And then he remembered. He was being watched.
"What are you planning on doing now? Sending an asteroid on a collision course with the Enterprise?"
He swiveled back to the bar to see Guinan staring at him, looking pointedly at his raised hand. Q quickly dropped his hand, instead wrapping it around the bottle and pouring himself another glass.
"Hello to you too, old…friend."
He hesitated on the word, not sure if it was the wisest thing to say, but decided that it made no difference in the end. She gave him a look, raising an eyebrow at his use of the word, but said nothing. He was grateful for the silence, glad that she'd opted from retaliating.
As he sipped his wine, he gave a sideways glance down the bar, curious as to what kind of people frequented the so-called "social hub" of the ship. He found nothing unique. In fact, all of them seemed bland and mind-numbingly boring. He noticed Guinan following his stare and he huffed in annoyance, trying not to react but failing miserably. The woman hadn't changed in a hundred years, and he was getting sick and tired of it.
"What do you want?"
She shrugged. "Nothing. I'm just wondering when the show's gonna start. You know…the fireworks, the magic tricks…the imminent doom."
He glared in response. "Though it may be hard to comprehend with that limited mind of yours, I am not always planning something. Sometimes I just like to…how do the humans put it? Oh yes…sit back and enjoy the show."
She gave him another look. "The show?"
He nodded and repressed a bout of laughter that wanted to surface, instead simply snorting in derision.
"Yes. The show. You know, that ridiculous and humorous little thing that the human species calls living? It's rather amusing, actually, to see how they scramble about, attempting to try and find some sort of meaning to their lives, when it always ends the same: with a quick drop and a short stop."
Guinan gave him yet another look, but he didn't respond, realizing that if he kept on responding, she just might think that she was actually getting to him.
Without a second thought, he flashed himself across the room, sitting in the chair that was furthest away from the bar area. Placing the wine onto the table, he tightened his hand slightly on the fluted glass in his hand. He looked down at it, absentmindedly swirling the contents, wondering why he didn't want to leave the starship. It almost seemed as though the answer was hidden in the red liquid, deftly and easily hiding from him in the molecules of alcohol that he'd conjured. It was truly maddening.
As he sat there, he slowly became aware of two things: one, that he'd picked the one part of 10-Forward that allowed him to see everyone in the room without anyone even noticing that he was staring, and two…that someone was headed towards his table.
She was short, but not exactly petite. Strong, yes, that was the word. She had rather plain dark brown hair and hazel eyes. Nothing about her made her stick out in any particular way, and yet she was headed towards his table. Q thought for a moment, wondering whether or not he should just leave…but he decided to wait. Maybe he could have some fun. Play a game with someone else on the Enterprise for a change.
He leaned back a bit in his chair as he watched her sit herself down without even asking if she could. He observed for a moment that she wore a science officer's uniform; the color looked good on no one, and nothing was different in this particular case.
Q fixed her with a look that he'd had perfected for several centuries. It was one that said "stay away" in all capitals, in neon red colors…but the only reaction he received was a tired glance and a brief roll of her eyes.
He held back to urge to change her into something else, as was his natural instinct in such cases of being deliberately ignored, but he refrained, although his finger twitched slightly. He waited in silence, making sure that he was not the first one to speak. He preferred his prey to come to him, not the other way around. It was more amusing, and it was so much easier to manipulate them that way. The silence stretched between them and he almost drummed his fingers on the table in agitation, but held back.
He silently vowed that he would not be the one to break the silence. She would have to do that herself.
"So…" Yes! She'd spoken first. "…You're Q, right?"
He gave a small nod, acknowledging her. "Yes, I am. And you are?"
"Tired," was all she said, sending him a pointed look. "And you're in my place, Q."
He gave her a surprised look, but decided to let her tone go by unpunished and instead reverted to having some semblance of charm. "Well, so sorry to have interrupted your usual evening schedule, Miss…?"
Q left it open ended, arching an eyebrow in her direction, obviously waiting for the young woman to give her name.
She gave him a look that was akin to shock, but the words that came out were slightly mocking. "Manners? Wow…from what I've heard, that was the last thing that I expected from you. You're supposed to be arrogant, rude, and absolutely insufferable."
She ended her comments with an arched eyebrow in his direction, while mirroring his own position by leaning back in her chair. He gave her another look, this time one of wry amusement at her forward attitude. It was hard to believe she was human…she acted too much like some people that he knew from the Continuum.
He smirked, repeating his question, a tone of exasperation in his voice, as well as sarcasm dripping along its edges.
"Yes, well, can we move on from that misconception and move to the much more fascinating subject that is you. You have not answered my question, you impudent mortal. I asked you who you were, therefore you should respond with your name, if you are at all capable of remembering, which I highly doubt, by the way, with your infinitesimally small cerebral space."
Instead of taking offense and walking away in a huff, she merely rolled her eyes at him again, leaning forward, putting her elbows on the table and placing her chin on her now clasped hands. He now realized that her attitude was becoming quite disconcerting. He waited…and so did she. Finally, placing an arm on the table, he leaned forward as well, getting close enough to encroach on her personal space…one more outdated idea of the human species.
He lifted an eyebrow, inviting her to answer. Her grin turned to a soft smile, though with a slightly worn edge.
"My name's Karen."
With that, she stood and walked away from the table, and he, for some unknown reason, was unable to tear his eyes away as she did. There was something about her…he couldn't quite place his finger on it. He just knew that there was something about her.