|Fandom:||Star Trek Voyager|
|Warnings:||There was research. It may have gotten out of hand. For further warnings, which some may consider spoilers, click here.|
|Categories:||Ship, Het, Drama|
|Pairings:||Mariah Henley/Mortimer Harren and Janeway/Chakotay|
|Characters:||Mortimer Harren (primary), Mariah Henley, Noah Mannick, Janeway, Chakotay|
|Spoilers:||Cathexis, Learning Curve, and Good Shepherd. Also an extremely brief reference to the episode Live Fast and Prosper, the events of which have yet to transpire when this story takes place.|
Harren ever achieve happiness? And just what definition of 'dark matter'
are the Trek writers using anyway? Besides eliminating MACHOs, I'm at a
loss. This is an attempt to deal with the scientific issues in Good
Shepherd, tie up various threads left by TPTB, and finally discover
the meaning of life in all its complexity. |
Non-trekkies click here.
|A/N:||Written for Dakota's Decathlon, the 1500 Meter Run, hosted by the EMH, who has already had plenty of screen time in which to explore the meaning of life, and he has therefore graciously agreed to allow Mortimer Harren the opportunity. Mariah Henley was promoted to ensign in the novel Marooned by Christie Golden and since no episode has since contradicted that fact, I used it.|
|Disclaimer:||Voyager and its characters belong to Paramount Pictures. Dialogue in blue taken from the episode Good Shepherd by Diana Gitto and Joe Menosky.|
|Credits:||Thanks owed to 20 Master Plots by Ronald B. Tobias, Fantastic Four #514 by Mark Waid, A Forest of Kings: Untold Story of the Ancient Maya by David Freidel and Linda Schele, The New Strong's Concordance & Vine's Concise Dictionary of the Bible, Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress, Star Trek Voyager Companion by Paul Ruditis, Reviewboy.com: Jim Reviews "Good Shepherd" by Jim Wright, The Physics of Star Trek by Lawrence M. Krauss, Beyond Star Trek by Lawrence M. Krauss, Star Trek Science Logs by Andre Bormanis, The Biology of Star Trek by Susan Jenkins, M.D., and Robert Jenkins, M.D., Ph.D., The Science of Aliens by Clifford Pickover, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, Axions and Other Very Light Bosons by H. Murayama (University of California, Berkeley), The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking, and Through a Universe Darkly by Marcia Bartusiak. Beta by KimK.|
ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Alphonse Karr,
Les Guêpes, 1849|
God changes not what is in a people, until they change what is in themselves. The Koran 13:11
Things do not change; we change. Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Mortimer Harren didn't like people. Noisy, distracting to his work, obsessed with the trivial. And they lied. To each other, even to themselves. The laws of physics always told the truth, at least to anyone willing to look deep enough, and the secrets they kept, the very mysteries of the cosmos itself, were things worthy of pursuit, unlike the trivialities most people guarded so closely.
People, human beings in particular, never followed a predictable pattern. They just flitted about, their barren little minds immune to cause and effect. The others were no improvement. Bolians were loud, Bajorans believed the most ridiculous things, and Klingons were far too temperamental. And Vulcans -- quiet at least, but the concept of a mind meld defied logic. People shouldn't be able to do that.
Given a choice, Harren just wanted to be left alone. Unfortunately, life aboard a starship made that difficult.
"Good morning, Mister Harren!" Neelix grinned stupidly at him. Talaxians were the worst of the lot. Didn't know the meaning of the word dignified. "What could I get you on this fine day?"
Harren, once again irritated by Neelix's attire, which bore a striking resemblance to his Aunt Mildred's drapes and therefore always gave him the vague sense that he was about to have his cheeks pinched, didn't bother to answer. Doing so might encourage conversation, and he wasn't in the mood.
Neelix responded to his silence with a flood of useless information about the food. Harren didn't listen. He found that the less he knew about the meals on Voyager, the better.
Junction room sixteen, deck fifteen. The plasma relay room. As the quietest part of the ship, it was marginally passable as a location for Harren to pursue what remained of his lost career. He'd make more leaps forward in cosmology than Einstein, Zwicky, Hawking, and Schlezholt combined; he just hoped he'd get to present the evidence to the Federation Science Council. Little chance he would, though, so long as Voyager flitted aimlessly among the stars of the Delta Quadrant like a moth determined to burn to death in a roomful of candles.
He glared at his calculations and kept typing.
"Sorry to interrupt," a voice said.
"I'm about to disprove Schlezholt's theory of multiple big bangs. Of course I had to demolish Wang's second postulate to do it."
"Power transfer requisition." The visitor handed over a PADD, no doubt sent by Torres.
"You're standing in the way of cosmological history," he warned, well aware of the fact that the other man didn't care.
"The cosmos is sixteen billion years old. It can wait another few minutes."
Harren glared at the PADD, dealt with it as quickly as possible, and handed it back. "Schlezholt would thank you for the reprieve."
If any justice remained in the cosmos, that would be the last interruption of the day. He returned to what really mattered in life: his calculations. He was close.
Sometimes he forgot, for a blissful moment, that he was on Voyager at all. Immersed in theory, he didn't hear the second set of approaching footsteps.
"Captain Janeway . . . are you lost?"
"I was, for a minute." She pushed a PADD at him. The second in a day. "I'll be briefing you this afternoon."
He glanced at the PADD. An away mission? Just reading the PADD was more of an interruption than he wanted to tolerate. He wasn't going to stop his work for three entire days. "Well, there's been a mistake."
"You have me assigned to an away mission. I have my duties here -- I prefer not to leave my post."
"Ensign Culhane will cover for you. The preflight schedule is all there."
"If this is charity, Captain, I don't want it."
"I didn't ask you what you want. I'm taking the Delta Flyer on an astronomical survey mission and your expertise is needed."
Harren snorted. "What do you know about my expertise?"
"As much as I need to." She dared smile at him.
"Well, then, you might be interested to know that I'm about to disprove Schlezholt's theory of multiple big bangs."
"Really? Wang's second postulate has more lives than a cat, doesn't it? Once you think you've eliminated it -- bam -- it pops up again. I'll give you a hand, if you'd like, when the away mission is over."
That surprised him. He knew the captain had a scientific background, it was one of the reasons he'd accepted the assignment on Voyager, rather than a larger ship, when he'd signed on to Starfleet in order to meet the practical experience requirement for the Institute of Cosmology on Orion One, but he hadn't expected her to be quite that well versed on cosmological mathematics.
He would have thought that her captainly duties and her frequent attempts to get them all killed would have kept her too busy to devote hours to multivariate analysis. With nearly a hundred and fifty crew members to order around, he doubted she was ever alone, and this sort of work required solitude.
Harren's skill at avoiding away missions had been one of the things that made life on this ship almost tolerable. The few times he'd been off the ship in the last six years had all been extremely unpleasant experiences. The Caretaker's little welcome-to-the-ass-end-of-the-galaxy hoedown fantasy; that wretched caveman-infested desert planet where Seska had left them to die; that horrible, tedious shore leave on the white sand beach with the double sunset and the fruity drinks -- terrible experiences every time.
The captain refused to take no for an answer, and he soon found himself on a shuttle with two crewmen who knew about as much about the origin of the universe as the average slime mold knew of quantum mechanics.
Then the situation went from bad to worse. Repeatedly.
Janeway dared call him Mortimer, insisted on small talk, and went so far as to imply that his chosen field of cosmology was a result of the impressive view from his childhood home on Vico V and not from his genius level IQ.
"I'm a product of my nucleic acids," Harren countered. "Where and how I was raised are beside the point. So, if you're trying to understand me better, questions about my home planet are irrelevant."
"All right, then," Janeway said. "How's your thirteenth chromosome? Missing a couple of base pairs in gene 178?"
The question angered him. First she sidetracked his career by stranding them all out here, and now she seemed determined to torment him directly. He came as close as he dared to saying exactly that, and stormed off to find a lunch he didn't really want.
Harren never got his meal. Something struck the Delta Flyer, ripping off a sizable piece of the hull and neutralizing most of their antimatter. Harren identified the culprit immediately. A dark matter proto-comet. He'd written a paper on the possibility of such a phenomenon.
Janeway remained unconvinced, despite having read that very paper, and she stubbornly refused to eject the warp core. Then she partnered him with Telfer to begin repairs. The other man's incompetence nearly killed them both.
The readings from the recovered hull fragment reinforced his theory, although to no avail. They kept the warp core and set a course for a nearby gas giant with radiogenic rings.
Some entity abducted Telfer by unknown means, and then set up residence in the man's body. No one had the slightest idea what it was, and by Harren's calculations it shouldn't even exist. Yet this thing that couldn't even exist threatened their very lives. The captain pressed on to the radiogenic rings with a single-mindedness that proved her insanity.
She even insisted on more casual conversation. She just didn't get that he wasn't meant to be an explorer, and she had the gall to pretend that she actually liked the Delta Quadrant. Delusional. Just like all of them.
When the alien entity left Telfer's body and attacked the shuttle's computer, Janeway reacted by trying to talk to it. Or rather, her plan was to stand around and wait for it to talk to them. Harren couldn't take the indecision any longer. He fired his phaser and killed the intruder before it killed them.
He didn't care that Janeway was livid. He'd prove her wrong once they were safely back on Voyager. She'd been willing to risk all their lives on speculation. He'd been right to ignore her foolish orders.
She finally saw reason, of a sort, and ordered them to escape pods. That's when Harren surprised himself. He didn't fit in on a lost starship in the Delta Quadrant, but Janeway did, and he couldn't let her die to save his life. Not when he could do something different. He aimed his escape pod at the threat and promptly blacked out.
Harren awoke in sickbay. He could see Janeway on a nearby biobed, whispering with Commander Chakotay. Telfer and the Bajoran girl were both unconscious on other beds. So they had made it. No thanks to him, he feared.
"Ah, Mister Harren."
He turned towards the Doctor's overly cheery voice.
"Yes, everyone survived. Your attempt to use an escape pod as a manned torpedo somehow failed to kill you. You might have a headache for a few hours, but you'll recover."
"Do I have to stay here?" Harren asked.
"You're free to leave," the Doctor answered. "Just please refrain from launching yourself into any particle waves."
Harren didn't bother to correct the Doctor about the nature of the phenomenon. He wasn't sure what they had encountered, exactly. He found himself headed for the shuttlebay. Maybe the Delta Flyer's computer could give him some answers.
Chakotay would never get used to Kathryn's frequent brushes with death. "Don't think this gets you out of our dinner tomorrow night." He handed her a bowl of pumpkin soup and sat beside her on the couch to watch her eat it.
"You don't think I'd miss an opportunity for this sort of pampering two nights in a row, do you?" She gestured with her spoon. "This is wonderful."
He smiled. "I'm glad you like it. It's a traditional dish, or as close as the replicator can manage, anyhow."
"Aren't you having any?"
"I ate earlier," he lied. His stomach was still in knots from his vigil in sickbay. "So, are you planning to tell me why the Delta Flyer was in orbit around that gas giant?"
As she shared the details of the mission, he watched the stars streak by at warp six and gave silent thanks that once again her luck had held out.
Harren balanced a number of PADDs full of data downloaded from the Delta Flyer's computer and read as he walked. If he ever attempted to find the mess hall without his nose buried in a PADD he'd probably get lost.
This data, however, differed from his usual reading material. For one thing, he didn't understand it. Yet. His eyes flickered around the mess hall, searching automatically for the least populated corner. Instead, a bit of color caught his attention, and he did something he hadn't done in years. He noticed a person.
After six years on Voyager, he only knew a handful of his crewmates, but he was fairly certain that the man eating alone was a xenobiologist, although he couldn't recall his name. Harren needed a xenobiologist to help interpret this data.
"What do you know about non-carbon based life forms?"
"Quite a bit, actually. Please, sit down." The other man smiled and gestured at a chair.
Harren sat down and considered attempting a smile. "The away team encountered . . . something and I'm not sure what to make of it."
"The incident in the Class T cluster?"
"What happened out there?"
Harren summarized the incident as best he could. "The displaced positrons on the recovered hull fragment seem to confirm a dark matter collision, and the antimatter behaved just as I predicted, but the life form . . . any molecule complex enough to support life would collapse if it were made of axions or any other low-mass exotic particles."
"Maybe you've discovered a new flavor of molecule?"
"A molecule is an arrangement of atoms, not subatomic particles. You can't make an atom without quarks, you can't separate quarks from each other, and no known form of dark matter has enough mass to even interact with an atom of regular matter in any detectable way."
"But it seems it did. So how can you be sure?"
"I'm sure," Harren said. "That's why it would cause quantum mechanical tunneling in antimatter, which this phenomenon did, as predicted. It neutralized ninety percent of the antimatter on board."
"Only ninety percent? Wouldn't the remaining ten percent have annihilated both itself and the newly converted matter?"
"The antimatter that survived was in the reactor coil. It didn't have contact with the neutralized antimatter or it would have destroyed the shuttle."
"So this dark matter proto-comet . . . what do we know about it?"
"I don't even know that it was a proto-comet."
"Before the away mission, what was your theory?"
"In my theory, a tertiary product of stellar consolidation -- "
"That's star formation."
"Yes. So the tertiary product -- "
"Why would it be third?"
"My calculations indicated that immediately prior to fusion, the mass of the hydrogen would result in an imbalance, and the only way to compensate would be the production of -- "
The other man held up his hand. "I'm not sure I need to see the math."
"Anyway," Harren continued. "These weakly interacting massive particles, which wouldn't respond to electromagnetic radiation and would therefore be classified as dark matter, would cluster, forming a comet-like assemblage primarily made up of axions, or pseudo-NG bosons, of a spontaneously broken Peccei-Quinn symmetry. The classical level symmetry would be broken quantum mechanically, and the triangle anomaly in the gluons would cause an attraction to antimatter, specifically s-gluons."
"And in English that would mean?"
"That the anomaly would be attracted to antimatter, and since there's very little natural antimatter in the galaxy . . . "
". . . they'd survive until they found something with artificially created antimatter, like a ship's warp core."
"Exactly. At which point the antimatter would respond to the imbalance with quantum mechanical tunneling, an effect which is otherwise rare. As a result, the antimatter would become ordinary matter, releasing radiation powerful enough to disrupt the regular matter in the hull plating, but not releasing the explosive power of the gamma radiation normally associated with antimatter."
"So what does that leave us with?"
"A hull fragment with some displaced positrons. Which is exactly what we had. But the thing that attacked Telfer doesn't fit with my predications at all. The real question here is, how can dark matter, any form of dark matter, support life? That thing was alive, and that should be impossible."
"Life does have a way of surprising science. Anaerobic bacteria, tube worms feeding on hydrogen sulfide, hydrothermal vent communities surviving at over one hundred thirty-six degrees Celsius, silicon life forms, space dwelling organisms . . . each time science decided something was impossible, some life form popped up somewhere to prove science wrong."
"I didn't study any of the life sciences in depth," Harren admitted. "All of my degrees are in cosmology and theoretical physics."
"Nobody's perfect. I've got a cousin who majored in art history." The other man smiled. "I have to get going, but my department has a briefing scheduled tomorrow. No doubt the away team's encounter is the subject. Why don't you attend? I'm sure the captain would appreciate your interest."
"If I'm not in the brig by then," Harren said. "The captain might not be on speaking terms with me."
"I wouldn't worry too much, if I were you, she's pretty reasonable. I'll see you tomorrow. In the meantime, I'll gather some materials on exotic matter life forms."
Harren found himself smiling as the other man left the mess hall. He'd feel a lot better about recent events once he had a theory to account for them.
"Did you and Mister Mannick enjoy your meal?" Neelix asked.
"Mannick?" Harren realized he hadn't even learned his companion's name. He'd have to remember it. "Yes, we did. Thank you, Mister Neelix, lunch was excellent."
"That was dinner, Mister Harren, but I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed it."
Harren usually spent his evenings alone, but when he left the mess hall he didn't feel like returning to either his quarters or the plasma relay room. Instead he found himself on the holodeck, where a number of crew members were gathered in a dimly lit pub.
The captain had asked if he ever felt a connection to the rest of them. He watched them now, and it was as if they appeared on a screen. He wasn't even sure that he knew which patrons were his fellow crew members, and which were holographic characters.
A redheaded woman he didn't recognize smiled at him. She was a hologram. Crewmembers ignored him, or greeted him with a respectful nod. They didn't establish eye contact. This woman held his gaze as she crossed the room and slid into the seat across from his.
"My grandfather always said that drinking alone was something best done in groups of two or more," she said.
"That lacks a certain logic," he said.
She shrugged. "Probably good advice anyhow."
"I heard about your away mission," she said, proving, to his surprise, that she wasn't a hologram. "Would you like to talk about it?"
He thought for a moment and surprised himself with the answer. "I would."
"Your first near-death experience?"
"The first since the Kazon dumped us on that desert planet," he said. "I was pretty sure I was going to die there, too, but this was different."
"Because it was an away mission and that made it more personal?"
"No," he said. "Because the existence of the Kazon doesn't violate the laws of physics."
"Are you sure? That hair must violate some natural law."
He had to smile at that. She had a point.
"Ah," she said. "So you can smile. I like it."
He had no clear idea how to respond to that, so he ignored it. "That thing that attacked us -- it just can't exist. It's an impossibility on the subatomic level."
"How so?" She leaned towards him and caught his gaze again. He noticed, absurdly enough, that she was pretty.
"Everything we observed indicated that it was a life form made of dark matter. But dark matter, by its very definition, can't interact with regular matter -- that's us -- and yet it did."
"So the definition is wrong. It won't be the first time that science has had to redefine dark matter. They used to include brown dwarfs and gas giants in that definition. Not to mention neutrinos."
"True," he said. "But at the time they didn't have the means to observe MACHOs directly. The definition has narrowed considerably since then, and what we know as dark matter now has to follow certain rules. The stuff I saw today ignored most of them."
He outlined it all for her. She didn't even stop him when he explained the calculations that led to his original theory on the formation of dark matter proto-comets.
"It doesn't make sense," he continued. "The equations don't allow for dark matter particles capable of supporting life. Those things just don't fit in the cosmic balance sheet."
"My grandfather had a saying," she said. "God doesn't file His plans with the local zoning office."
Harren rolled his eyes. "You seem like a smart woman. Don't tell me you believe that some mythical god is responsible for creating the universe."
"You mean that you've devoted your life to studying the cosmos and you don't?"
"Of course I don't. Mankind has evolved past the need to find meaning through mythological icons."
She sighed. "Now I feel bad for you."
"I think that's a sad way to live."
"What? Do you mean in the real world, without any delusions? I think it's sad that otherwise intelligent people feel the need to invent an elaborate belief structure in order to somehow justify their existence."
"I think life is more fulfilling when you can see the purpose in it."
The absurdity of her statement made him roll his eyes. "There is no purpose and there's no sense in inventing one. People just bumble through life, surviving, possibly reproducing, then they're gone. Someday the human race, and eventually the whole universe, will be gone as well."
"You don't know that."
"But I do, and so should you! It's the twenty-fourth century. Evolution has been proven many times over, yet some people continue to cling to an outdated belief that an immortal being molded the human race out of clay? Cosmic background radiation has been drawing us a map of the beginning for three centuries now, yet these people choose to believe that the cosmos was created in a week? Care to draw me a geocentric model of the universe while you're at it?"
"Do you think that insulting me is the way to win this argument?"
"I didn't mean -- "
"You did, but I'll let it go this time. You almost died today, after all."
"I'd almost forgotten." He studied her for a moment. "So I suppose you think that a belief in a god would have comforted me in those final moments?"
"I do," she said. "But there's more to it than that. The Bible tells us that to enter the kingdom of heaven we have to believe."
"So you think that if I had died today I would have been sent to Hell as a punishment for not believing?"
"No, it's not about punishment. I think that means that we have to know what to look for when our soul leaves our bodies. Faith isn't about some trick question you have to answer for Saint Peter when you reach the pearly gates. It's something you honestly need, because if you don't believe, you won't look for those gates at all."
"Sounds like a fairy tale to me."
"Okay," she said. "Tell me what you think happens when you die."
"You stop breathing, your heart stops pumping, your cells stop metabolizing, and if environmental conditions permit, your remains decay. We've been observing this process for countless eons. I don't understand the debate."
"You're fond of precise calculations, aren't you Mister Harren?" She waited for him to nod. "Then perhaps you can tell me how to account for the loss of mass that occurs at the moment of death? What is that mass, and where does it go?"
"Are you trying to prove that the soul leaves the body at death?"
"We've seen evidence that it does. Chakotay's experience, for example. Which, incidentally, involved a dark matter nebula."
Harren swallowed the insult he'd been preparing. "How so? When was this? Were you involved in that incident?"
"Not directly, no. I'm sure Chakotay would be happy to share his experience."
"I'm more interested in the specific data on that nebula. It might help me figure out just what attacked us this time. If their antimatter was neutralized, why didn't I know about it before? If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go access the ship's logs."
"I hope we can talk again?" She reached across the table and took his hand. The look in her eye left him no doubt that she believed her next words. "My grandfather had another saying: There's no such thing as a dead atheist."
Harren was up most of the night reading old science logs. The encounter with the dark matter nebula during Voyager's first year in the Delta Quadrant had escaped his notice. It hadn't impacted on his duties in the plasma relay room, so no one had thought to send him a report, and, since he cared little about the dating habits of the senior officers, he didn't participate in the ship's rumor mill. Perhaps he should request reports from astrometrics and xenobiology in the future, so that he wouldn't be left out of the loop when Voyager encountered something new.
The ship's logs from stardate 48735.1 through stardate 48738.7 contained entries from four senior officers. Chakotay's report spoke of his disembodied state and his discovery that he could influence the actions of other crew members. Tactical information blended with random bits of philosophy. Harren skimmed it impatiently. Not a single mention of the nebula. The Doctor's log focused on the neural architecture of the cerebral cortex, with a long rambling sidebar about the healing practices of various Native American tribes.
Tuvok's entry on the matter, which should have contained specific readings from the dark matter nebula, was surprisingly less than thorough. He claimed that the nebula was composed of 'a form of dark matter unfamiliar to Federation science' but didn't elaborate.
The captain's log explained that mystery, anyhow. Tuvok's log hadn't been made by Tuvok at all, but rather by an alien entity controlling his body, much like the Delta Flyer's attacker had controlled Telfer.
Janeway had salvaged as much of the shuttle's computer readings as possible for her report. It was her detailed account of events that kept Harren up until dawn, comparing that incident to his own recent experiences.
Despite his concentration, Harren's thoughts kept returning to the woman he'd met on the holodeck. He found himself mentally rehearsing arguments he could use in their next discussion, and wondering what counter-arguments she might offer.
The next time they met, he'd prove once and for all that he held a more realistic view of the universe.
When morning came, he contacted the captain about attending the briefing with the life sciences department. She seemed almost enthusiastic at the prospect, which he hoped meant that she didn't plan to throw him in the brig, and reminded him that they needed to speak as well, which made him wonder if perhaps that wasn't the case after all.
A number of strange faces watched Harren as he took his seat. He'd spent six years on Voyager, yet he'd never visited the briefing room, nor had he spent time with anyone in Life Sciences. Without the distinctive teal-shouldered uniform he never would have recognized Mannick the night before, even though he vaguely recalled seeing him a few days before, visiting a friend of his in Engineering.
"Welcome, Mister Harren." The captain smiled and Mannick nodded from across the table. Unsure how to respond, Harren focused on the monitor, which showed an image of the alien entity floating within the Delta Flyer.
It looked much pinker than he recalled, giving it a rather surreal appearance. He suppressed a shudder.
The captain summarized the recent away mission and distributed PADDs full of data from the Delta Flyer's logs. She seemed surprised when Harren produced his own set of PADDs.
"I spent last night reading ship's logs," Harren said. "Our mission shares some similarities with one from five years ago, when Commander Chakotay and Commander Tuvok were injured in a dark matter nebula."
"I noticed that as well," Mannick said. "Both life forms seemed to have similar abilities and what little we know of their environments does suggest that further study might reveal greater convergence."
"I'd like to run a comparative analysis on the two sets of data," Harren said. "Between the readings from the nebula and the readings from the cluster it might be possible to make some predictions about the properties of the particle in question."
"Do it," Janeway said.
Mannick made a few suggestions that he claimed were inspired by outdated methods of DNA mapping, and while Harren didn't fully understand them, the captain seemed enthusiastic.
Harren asked about DNA in the absence of carbon, which prompted Mannick to explain the genetics of the Horta as well as several theories about various energy beings encountered by Federation science over the years.
A call from the bridge cut the discussion short and sent everyone hurrying back to their posts. The all too abrupt ending to the meeting was just one more example of the inconvenience of space travel. At the Institute of Cosmology an interesting discussion would have stretched well past the dinner hour. Harren left with even more questions and not any real answers, although at least Mannick had come through for him, supplying enough reading material to last a week.
"I guess there's a little explorer in you after all," the captain told Harren later that day.
He shrugged. "I need to understand what happened."
"We might not find all the answers," she said.
"That's not acceptable." He gestured with the PADD in his hand. "I can't go back to my real work until I've solved this."
"Not everything can be solved. That's one of the prices of exploration. We might get to be the first to see any number of things, but we don't always get the chance to sit down and do the analysis."
"Which is why I'd rather be on Orion One."
"Yes, I believe you've mentioned that."
Harren cringed a little at the ice in her voice.
"Which brings us to the reason for this little meeting. You disobeyed a direct order, and I can't ignore that. Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
"I believed the alien to be dangerous." He felt her eyes boring into him. "Ma'am," he added.
"I believe that you panicked," the captain said. "Understandable under the circumstances, but that is precisely why the chain of command exists -- to keep less experienced crewmen from making decisions out of panic. Next time, I expect you'll do better."
"Don't worry." She touched his shoulder and he stared at her hand. "Long range sensors aren't picking up any T class clusters quite yet."
His eyes remained focused on her hand.
"So." Her hand finally left his shoulder. "What has me really curious is how you thought to compare our little adventure to other logs."
"I was talking to . . . um -- "
"No, a woman. On the holodeck. Short red hair -- " He'd have to start getting people's names. "Anyhow, she was trying to convince me that there's life after death, and she brought up the time that Commander Chakotay was injured in a dark matter nebula."
"So what do you think about that?"
"As I said, I think there's an excellent chance that the two incidents involve similar phenomenon."
"Not that." The captain turned and stared out the viewport. "What do you think about life after death?"
"That it's a fairy tale people use to delude themselves," Harren answered. "I would think you'd agree."
"There was a time when I would have, but I think some things are beyond science," she answered. "I've seen some things the last few years that have made me realize that there are some mysteries science may never solve."
"Only if science doesn't look hard enough," he said. "I'd better go start that computer analysis."
He was half way out the door when her voice made him pause.
The door hadn't even closed behind Janeway before Chakotay handed her a cup of coffee. She smiled gratefully and closed her eyes to inhale the rich scent.
"So," Chakotay said as they sat down for dinner. "The rumor mill claims that Mariah Henley and Mortimer Harren were cozied up in a booth in Sandrine's last night."
Janeway smiled. "It's true, more or less. Henley tried to convince Harren that there's life after death."
"Tough gig," Chakotay said. "But someone has to do it."
"Do you really believe that?"
"You know I do, and I hope that I can eventually convince you as well. The afterlife would be terribly lonely without you."
She laid a hand over his, touched at the concern in his voice. "I've experienced enough to know that there's more to the universe than what we see. If there's an afterlife, you won't be alone there."
He swallowed and looked away to stare out the viewport. She knew he had more to say, but wouldn't, because of protocols that she chose to follow. She squeezed his hand gently.
"So what theory has Harren been trying to disprove?" Chakotay asked, probably more to change the subject than because of any real interest.
"Schlezholt's theory of multiple big bangs," she answered.
"A hopeless cause," Chakotay said. "The theory is sound."
"You've studied it?"
"Not the details of the mathematics, like Harren no doubt has, but from an archaeological standpoint. Many ancient civilizations included similar ideas in their mythology."
"Like the Mayan, for example. They were my people's most powerful neighbors in the Pre-Columbian era, partly due to their advances in mathematics, and they created an elaborate calendar which was extremely accurate. By their calendar, this is the fourth version of Creation to exist."
"The Andorians have a similar belief."
"So do the Hindu. It's convergent mythology, like Noah's flood. The same idea comes up again and again, often in cultures that didn't have contact with each other for thousands of years. The dozens of Great Flood myths, all with one man's boat serving as humanity's salvation, made archaeologists look for evidence of such a flood, and they found it."
"But the flood was an event that people experienced. This multiple big bang theory is different. No one was around to see it."
"Are you sure about that?"
She paused to look at Chakotay, baffled as to where he might be going with this. "All of the matter in the universe compressed into one singularity and then exploded. Yes, I'm pretty sure there were no survivors."
"Then how do pre-scientific cultures from all over the galaxy know about it?"
"Chakotay -- "
"The soul survives, Kathryn. The Great Spirit, God, the life force that's in us all -- that survives. God speaks to those who are prepared to listen, and although the corruptive force of mortal politics alters the stories over time, some basic truths remain."
She couldn't argue against the gentle conviction in his voice. She studied his face and saw how much he wanted her to believe. "You could be right. There's still so much that science can't explain. Besides, Wang's mathematics have held up under intense scrutiny."
"Forget about the mathematics. What do you feel?"
The intensity of his gaze made it very difficult to care anything for mathematics. "Yes, Chakotay, I feel there's much more to life than what can be measured by instruments and analyzed by computers."
He squeezed her hand and smiled in that way that made her wish with everything in her that she had the freedom to lean across the table and kiss him.
Harren's PADD disappeared from his hand and he looked up to find his recent sparring partner from Sandrine's perusing its contents.
"A Comprehensive History of Xenobiology. Thinking of a new career path?"
"I'm hoping to find a clue as to how something made of dark matter could survive -- a known life form that metabolizes without a traditional carbon based cell structure, for example. Silicon life forms aren't helpful -- their chemistry works much like ours, only slower, with methyol or fluorine substituting for water, and silicon successfully forms polymers, if not as successfully as carbon."
He reached for the PADD, but she didn't return it. "What about energy based life forms?"
"The readings don't add up," he said. "At least not yet. The computer is running a comparison between these readings and those from the incident you mentioned last night."
She smiled. "At least something I said had an impact."
He made another futile attempt to retrieve his PADD. "If you want your words to make an impact then you shouldn't talk nonsense."
"And if you want my company then you shouldn't be so hostile."
"I fail to recall asking for your company."
The PADD clattered to the table. "Then eat alone."
He watched her stomp over to another table and flop down across from one of the Bolians. He'd get more reading done alone, anyway. And she didn't seem to lack from his companionship. She was laughing at something the Bolian said, and reaching across the table to touch his hand. When she glanced in his direction, he focused on his reading. He didn't need company.
Setting up the computer analysis required more hands-on attention than Harren had anticipated. His hands flew over the old-fashioned keyboard, one of the few personal possessions he had brought on board for his alleged sixteen week assignment to the starship Voyager.
Every time he reached an equation that required more knowledge of biochemistry than he possessed, he drummed his thumbnail impatiently against the side of the space bar while scanning additional material.
At this rate, he'd never get back to Schlezholt.
"Have you been in here all night?"
Harren looked up to find the redhead -- Henley, he had learned from the computer -- holding out a steaming cup.
"Have some coffee," she said. "You're not going to make it through your shift otherwise."
He took her offering and glanced at the chronometer. Gamma shift would end in a half hour, and then he would technically be on duty. He hoped no one would actually want anything, but sometimes it happened.
"So have you tracked down our wimpy friend?" She smiled at him.
He stared at her for a moment before he got her reference to weakly interacting massive particles. He almost smiled. "Nothing yet. Took me half the night just to get the computer analysis set up."
"I only have half a shift today if you'd like some help."
"There aren't two chairs."
She laughed and dragged over a storage crate. Whatever humor she found in the situation escaped him. He returned to his typing.
"You're not really coding the comparative analysis equations by hand, are you?"
"How else can I be sure that they're right?"
Mariah Henley smiled to herself as she watched Harren work. He radiated a fevered urgency as his fingers flew over the antiquated keyboard, and she knew that he had probably forgotten she was even there.
Hospitality obviously wasn't his priority. Neither was anything that didn't pertain directly to the problem at hand. He probably wouldn't have noticed if she'd set his tiny cubicle on fire, at least not until the smoke obstructed his view of the screen.
He pushed away the keyboard, apparently finished with his coding, and picked up a PADD. He didn't seem impressed with the contents, and grumbled to himself a bit.
"Did you ever study the Crystalline Entity?"
So he hadn't forgotten her entirely. It was almost flattering. "It's structure involves hydrated amorphous silica, but I doubt it'll be much help to you. It conducts electricity, and dark matter can't."
He smiled for the second time since she'd met him. "I guess I don't need to read this one."
Harren read xenobiology texts until his eyes burned, but he didn't find himself any closer to understanding the possible metabolism of a dark matter life form.
He needed a resolution. He couldn't concentrate on important matters with all this clutter in his mind. This matter was unworthy of his attention, and yet he was failing to solve it.
"Dammit! If I'd wanted to waste my life on the soft sciences I wouldn't have bothered taking advanced calculus." He slammed the PADD down onto his desk. "Why haven't the so called experts solved this yet?"
He toyed with his combadge, wondering who he could yell at for the obvious incompetence of the life sciences department. Unfortunately Starfleet ranks were not assigned based on intellectual ability, and he therefore lacked the authority to complain, which was unfortunate, since it might have improved his mood considerably.
Hours went by before the cheerful computer voice announced that it had completed his analysis. From the information available, there was an eighty-eight percent chance that the two dark matter related incidents involved life forms with the same basic structure.
The pleasant tingle of having been right lasted nearly forty seconds. Then Harren realized that this really didn't tell him anything at all. He glared at the monitor. "But what is that basic structure?"
Too bad he wasn't as familiar with all these Alpha Quadrant species as he was with their various stars. Stars could be reduced to numerical values and chemical composition. Living creatures were more complex. Or were they?
He set about arranging metabolic rates in equations, as if he were analyzing the burn rate of stars. Then he looked for a pattern he could compare to the energy readings from the Delta Flyer's mission.
It leaped out at him, as clearly as if he had laid the patterns on a line graph. Elated with his discovery, he raced for the turbolift, determined to show off his results.
The insistent door chime dragged Mariah Henley out of a very deep and pleasant sleep. Whoever proved responsible needed to suffer.
"Look!" He shoved a PADD in her face.
She pushed it away and tried to focus her eyes. "You woke me up to show me math?"
He pushed his way into her quarters, babbling enthusiastically about Tholians, gluons, and the spin of hydrogen electrons.
"Do you know what time it is?"
He responded with a high speed ramble about exponents and the square root of something or another.
"Please," she said. "Sit down." She hoped it didn't sound too much like 'go away from me and die' but doubted he'd notice. "Coffee?"
"What?" He looked genuinely puzzled for a moment. "So then I thought, what if these were cosmological bodies and not biological entities? How would I compare them then? And that's when I saw it."
"So God allowed you a glimpse of his blueprints, did he?" She watched his expression.
"I figured it out myself, with perseverance and hard work -- "
"And God-given intelligence," she said.
"I am a product of my nucleic acids, not the result of -- "
She laughed. "And if that's such a cold, hard, scientific fact, why get emotional when it's questioned?"
"Because it's foolish for religious types to make such silly claims when the scientific truth -- "
"Why do you care what we claim?"
She reached out and took his hand. "God loves you. There's no need to run from Him."
Harren presented his findings to the captain late the next morning.
"I'm very impressed, Mister Harren. The Federation Science Council is sure to publish this." She smiled. "I'd like you to present it to the life sciences department at tomorrow morning's briefing. I know it's not quite the Institute of Cosmology on Orion One but it'll have to do for now."
"I'd be honored, Captain." Curiously enough, he meant it. Her approval had come to mean something to him, and he wanted to share his insight with other members of the crew.
When he reached the mess hall for lunch he sat down across from Ensign Henley. "I'm sorry if I woke you up last night."
She laughed. "If? It was 0300."
She shook her head, laughing again. "So how did the captain like your theory?"
He ignored his food and shared the details of his meeting. "So maybe the last six years aren't a complete loss after all. At least I'll have something to publish."
"Congratulations," she said. "I'm happy for you, but I hope you really don't think that the last few years are a waste."
"They haven't been very productive. If I'd been at the Institute of Cosmology on Orion One, I would -- "
"Let me tell you a story," she said.
Her smile encouraged him to agree. "All right."
"When I first realized we were stuck in the Delta Quadrant, I was pretty angry. Why would God call me to fight for a cause as important as the Maquis only to let me get stranded on a Starfleet vessel so far from the conflict? Starfleet was part of the problem, not the solution.
"My relationship with God suffered, my work habits suffered, and I had a chip on my shoulder most of the time. Then, thanks to Tuvok, I learned something about Starfleet, and about myself. I'm glad we're out here. God always has a plan, and trust me when I say that you are on Voyager for a reason."
"You aren't going to convince me that some powerful being is moving us around like chess pieces. Even the Q don't do that."
"God is more powerful than the Q, but he doesn't treat us like chess pieces. We have been given the gift of free will. If He controlled our actions, how would we learn anything?"
"See, you're contradicting yourself," he argued. "You just said he planned everything."
"God has a plan for everything, but not everyone obeys, or even listens when He speaks. Even those who believe have to remember to listen, and work at the relationship they share with Him."
Harren rolled his eyes. "If you're hearing voices, you'd better go to sickbay. Besides, didn't your Jesus character say that God doesn't play dice?"
"That was Einstein, and he was talking about quantum mechanics, not free will. He was also wrong."
"And doesn't quantum theory prove that there's no god?"
"Quite the opposite. In quantum theory, as with God, all things are possible."
"Are you about to tell me that real faith doesn't require proof? Because as arguments go, that one makes you look most foolish."
She shook her head. "The evidence is everywhere, but only the faithful see it. You're fond of studying pure theory, right?"
"Well then, let's talk about Neptune. It's very existence was predicted by mathematics before Johann Galle ever pointed a telescope at it. Faith is like that. It tells you where to look. The first step is to open your heart to Him, as the Bible tells us in Proverbs 2, 'accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding -- '"
"The bible again? Are you going to quote the Bajoran prophets next?"
"One of these days we'll have to teach you some manners." She stood. "Unfortunately, I'm due on the bridge, so I really can't take the time right now."
Over the last six years he'd eaten nearly all of his meals alone, but he'd never had anything he'd really wanted to talk about before. He finished his meal quickly and headed for deck fifteen. At least now he could get back to what really mattered: disproving Schlezholt's theory of multiple big bangs.
Janeway couldn't concentrate. She fiddled with her combadge and drank entirely too much coffee. She'd skipped lunch, and had stayed at her desk all afternoon, but the report she was writing didn't seem to grow in length. She changed a few words here and there, then finally gave up.
Only a few days ago, she'd lectured Harren about forming friendships in the Delta Quadrant. Maybe she should follow her own advice and spend some time with her crew. Her shift was technically over.
She headed for the holodeck, and by the time she'd arrived, she knew exactly what words her stalled report still lacked. After jotting them down, she directed her energy at defeating a half-dozen junior officers at pool.
"He's not a bad guy," Noah Mannick said. "A little intense, maybe."
"A little intense?" Tom Paris leaned forward and focused on his shot. "The guy makes intensity into an art form. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad if he's coming out of his shell, but I'll have to see it to believe it."
"He might surprise you," Janeway said. "If he decides to make a change, he won't pause to think about it, or worry what anyone else might say. You, however, should have thought twice about that shot." She casually cleared the table. "Pay up, Tom. Now who's next?"
The familiar equations flowed across his screen, but Harren found his mind wandering. Just a few days ago he'd hovered on the verge of solving this, but today that goal seemed unattainable. He needed to clear his mind of all the clutter pertaining to sub-molecular metabolism and mythological views of quantum theory.
He closed his current file and called up all cultural references to divine predestination from the Federation database. Perhaps a mathematical analysis of those would get Henley off of his case. Proving that a god-figure didn't exist to control the fate of the universe shouldn't take more than an afternoon.
The more he read, the more angry it made him. People deluded themselves in the most amazing fashion. They would believe anything, and would accept almost anything as a proof of their so-called faith. Damned undignified, bowing down to a figment of their collective imaginations.
The prophesized second coming of Kahless had come about through cloning. Would Henley claim that God had instructed the Klingon scientists to do such a thing?
He hit his combadge and invited her to dinner to discuss just that.
Harren's invitation surprised and pleased Henley. Maybe she was making more progress than she thought. So far, he ranked as the most difficult person she'd ever tried to minister to, and she worried that she just might be pushing too hard.
She had to admit, at least to herself, that she enjoyed needling him just a bit too much. She couldn't remember anyone who had quite Harren's ability to make her angry, either, at least not since Tuvok had confiscated her favorite headband.
God wouldn't have given her this task if she couldn't handle it, and if Harren was seeking her out to share a meal, then just maybe there was hope after all. Even if she couldn't help him open his heart to God, he obviously needed a friend. Perhaps she needed to fill that role a little better.
"Does your god approve of cloning?" he demanded when he arrived.
She stared at him. "I have absolutely no idea. Why, are you a clone?"
"Of course not."
"You are awfully proud of your nucleic acids." She shrugged. "So, are we eating in the mess hall or on the holodeck?"
Harren failed to mathematically disprove the existence of a divine being in a single afternoon. He tried instead to show Henley the ridiculous number of contradictions between faiths. "If there really was a god, don't you think he could straighten out all this confusion?"
The question failed to ruffle her at all. "God's word reaches different cultures in different ways."
"But why? If he's so powerful, why not just make one big announcement? Hello galaxy, this is your creator, worship me on Tuesday afternoons while wearing green paper hats, and no swimming for an hour after dinner."
"Probably because God isn't all that concerned about the details of worship. Having a relationship with God isn't about standing around in a church or a temple performing endless rituals to win favor in the afterlife. It's about living life to its fullest potential. It's about honoring God, and yourself, and those around you with your words and actions. It's about love."
"That sounds nice." He tried not to find the conviction in her voice quite so appealing. "But that's not the reality, is it? People use religion as an excuse for all sorts of unpleasantness."
"I can't deny that," she said. "I can tell you that's not God's purpose. Those who do evil in his name will be punished."
A contradiction! He seized it. "I thought you said it wasn't about punishment. Which is it?"
"I was talking about needing faith to find the path to the kingdom of heaven," she said. "God wants everyone to find that path, He doesn't hide it as punishment. But to knowingly turn someone from God, through words or action, that's different. In my opinion, that's the worst kind of sin a person can commit."
He rolled his eyes. "So we've reached the lecture about sin?"
"Not at all," she said. "But you'd better be careful not to strain your eyes rolling them like that, because I'm about to quote the Bible again. It's in Malachi. 'You have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble.' It refers to priests who should know better, and it applies to all of those egomaniacal fire-and-brimstone preachers that have ever made people think that faith requires hours of being shouted at in a dank basement when they could be out in the sunlight."
He noticed she was shaking and there were tears in her eyes. "Are you okay?"
"It makes me sad to think of people living like that, blocking God from their hearts because of things like that."
Her distress touched him. "If your god is just, he'll help them."
"He's trying," she said. "Can't you hear Him?"
"That's quite a pot of coffee," Chakotay said. "Is that all you're having for dinner?"
Janeway smiled. "Compliments of Tom Paris and Brad Harrison. They keep thinking they can beat me at pool."
"They should know better by now." Chakotay took the seat across from her. "No one beats Kathryn Janeway."
"Don't be too sure about that, I'm hopeless at kal-toh."
He laughed and handed her his roll and a plate of salad. "Eat something with your coffee, Kathryn, or you won't have the strength for a game of kadis kot."
"If God exists, and I said if, then where is he?" Harren watched Henley's face. He had her now.
"Didn't you just explain to me, not five minutes ago, that you can prove the existence of twenty-six different dimensions by mathematics alone? And didn't you go on to explain, in great detail I might add, exactly how beings in one or more of those dimensions could interact with dark matter in ours?"
He stared at her. "Are you saying that God manipulates dark matter interdimensionally?"
"I don't know, but you've certainly proven that He could." She took a sip of her drink and stared out the viewport. "I think you should also consider how your attempt to change the subject earlier worked out for you. You felt God in your heart for a moment, and it scared you. So you tried to hide behind science, and instead found that God is right there in the middle of it, so to speak."
Harren focused on his meal. Winning an intellectual sparring match with Henley seemed out of his grasp, and yet, to his bafflement, he still enjoyed trying.
"My grandfather always told me that there's nothing to fear but apathy itself," Henley said. "Don't be afraid of love just because you can't control it. Life is so much better when your heart is full."
It came to him in a rush, and he sent dishes clattering as he reached to grab her hand. "I just realized something." He couldn't stop grinning. He stood up without letting her hand loose, drawing her up after him and knocking creamed something-or-another all over the floor. "I love you!"
She stared at him.
He pulled her into his arms and spun her around. "I love you, Henley, I'm in love with you."
Henley stumbled a bit as he returned her to her feet. Harren grinned at her, tears in his eyes.
The joy on his face made her grin back. She couldn't seem to find her voice. She felt the eyes of half the crew upon them, but Harren didn't seem to notice. He just grinned, as happily oblivious to all but the center of his attention as always, only this time his attention centered on her.
"Don't just stand there, Mariah, kiss him!" Chell shouted.
It seemed pretty sound advice, even if it didn't come from her grandfather, so she took it.
"Your lost sheep seem much happier now that they're grazing with the rest of the flock," Chakotay said. "Especially one particular sheep."
Janeway smiled. "The results of that mission have certainly exceeded my expectations. I never thought I'd see Harren smile."
"It's nice," he said. "I wish I could see you smile more."
"Chakotay, I smile all the time. I'm very happy with my life."
"For the most part, I believe that's true." He watched her until she grew uncomfortable and rose to refresh her coffee. "I know you love your career, and our crew. You enjoy both your work and your free time, but there's more to life than that."
"There's friendship." She handed him a cup of tea. "I have that with you, and I treasure it. There's only one thing I don't have, and you know why I've put that on hold."
"Chakotay -- "
"Don't quote protocol, I'm not talking about that. I worry about your spiritual life, Kathryn."
Janeway smiled. "I've never had anyone care enough to worry about my soul before."
"It's my job to protect my captain."
The words he didn't speak were written all over his face. She leaned closer and laid her hand against his cheek. "I love you too."
He didn't speak, but she saw the surprise in his eyes before he reached to pull her closer. She felt his lips brush across her temple.
"That didn't just slip out," she said. "If even Mortimer Harren can admit to his feelings, then I think it's about time I did too."
"Just what are you saying, Kathryn?"
"I don't want to wait any longer."
"Neither do I," he said. "You know I don't. But I think we have to."
"But why?" She pulled away to look at his face. "We're already living with all of the consequences of our feelings, but with none of the benefits."
"I wouldn't say none; we have our friendship."
"And I love our friendship," she said. "But I want more, and I know you do too."
"I do," he said softly. His hand came up to stroke her cheek. "Kathryn, I love you more than anything in this life, but this isn't a step we can take without considering the possible repercussions very carefully. You weren't wrong about Starfleet having reasons for its protocols."
She smiled. "And you weren't wrong when you said that sometimes we might need to bend the rules. It's time we do just that."
"I don't know why now, but it's the why that's the important part, isn't it?" She smiled up at him.
"No, it isn't. The important part is that we make a commitment to each other."
"You think I'll change my mind and hurt you." She couldn't deny that she'd pulled away before. The ship had to come first, and maybe she couldn't afford love. Maybe he'd be happier without her.
"It's not that," he said. "I trust you with my heart, but can I trust you with your own?"
She tried not to flinch under the intensity of his gaze.
"You always put the ship and crew first, and I accept that, your dedication is one of the many things that I love about you. But I need you to promise that you won't throw away your own happiness the first time our command relationship impacts our marriage. We can work these things out."
"I won't settle for less, because the moment I kiss you, that's what we'll have, and we'll make it official the moment we set foot on Federation soil."
Her throat tightened and she could only nod.
"Promise me, Kathryn."
"I do," she said.
He took her face between his hands and sealed his lips to hers, and for an eternal moment, the burden of command didn't exist at all.
"You'll love rock climbing," Henley promised. "Good exercise, fresh air -- "
"It's the holodeck," Harren said.
"It still seems like fresh air. We can program some wind."
"That's moving air, not fresh air."
She rolled her eyes at him. "Technically, there's no such thing as fresh air at all. Now will you come rock climbing with me or not?"
"Fine," he said. "I'll climb a rock for you. I fail to see a point in it, though."
"The point is to have fun." She grinned, making him wonder if perhaps she knew what effect that had on him.
Maybe that's why he never won an argument. They headed for the holodeck and she called up the program.
"This isn't dangerous is it? I'm not all that fond of sickbay."
"The holodeck has safety protocols. Besides, I'm an excellent teacher." She explained the proper use of the pitons and how to adjust his climbing harness. "Back in the Maquis we had to do this the hard way, and once under Cardassian fire."
He shuddered at the thought and reached out to grab her hand. "I'm glad you made it through that."
"So am I." She grinned. "And you'll make it through this, I promise."
"I read the Bible," Harren announced over dinner.
Henley stared at him. "The whole Bible?"
The stunned look on her face pleased him. "You kept quoting it. I thought I should give it a try."
She seemed at a loss for words, which pleased him even more. "And?"
He sighed. "I've been wrong about a few other things, so maybe I've been wrong about God, too, but I'm not sure the Bible does a very good job at selling the concept."
"Most people don't read it all in one sitting," she said. "Also, it's meant to offer guidance and encouragement, it's not a sales pitch."
"You don't really believe that Adam and Eve were the first humans, do you?"
She shrugged. "It's in there, so there must be some explanation. My belief in God certainly doesn't hinge on understanding it."
"We are made from dust," he said. "Stardust. That's how carbon first formed."
"True." She looked surprised again.
Harren grinned, enjoying himself. "I'd like to know how trilobites and Neanderthals are supposed to fit in the picture, though."
Henley looked thoughtful. "David killed a giant. There are those who would argue that the giants in the Bible might have been Neanderthals. As for trilobites, they aren't mentioned, but I don't think we need to read anything into that."
"What I meant was -- "
"You want to have the evolution argument?" She grinned and waved her fork at him. "I think you just like to argue."
"Maybe. So what about this Garden of Eden myth?"
"It could be that Adam and Eve were the first humanoids given souls. It says God created them in His own image, right?"
"Well, maybe that means He created their souls and installed them in carbon based bipeds, or maybe the whole thing is an allegory, or maybe it's a simplified version of what happened, because they didn't really need to know all about trilobites and eohippus to learn how to live moral lives that were pleasing to God."
"You took all the fun out of it." He pulled a trilobite fossil out of his pocket and laid it on the table. "Do you have any idea what I had to promise Noah Mannick in order to borrow that?"
She laughed. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I don't need the visual aid. Obviously life forms evolve and change over time. That people have chosen to classify animals by species name doesn't really change anything in God's eyes. What we call eohippus and what we call a horse may have different labels from our point of view, but I'm betting God sees it a little differently. In any case, He designed them, and I'm sure He understands His methods and reasons better than I can guess."
"So my question about why God didn't get it right the first time . . . "
"Isn't going to upset me any. Eohippus did very well in the forest, and horses are beautiful animals. Neither one is more right than the other. They are just the same animal in different environments." She reached across the table and took his hand. "I hope I didn't spoil all of your fun."
"Not really," he said. "What you're saying makes reasonable sense. Not like some others."
"I know what you mean," she said. "I've met a few people who must have read the first bit of Genesis and stopped. They sure took it more seriously than they took 'love thy neighbor' anyway."
He laughed. "We'll have to find something else to debate. Do you have any strong feelings about the French Impressionists?"
She grinned. "Manet beats Monet hands down."
"Those are fighting words," he said. "Monet's use of color is clearly superior."
"I hope you came prepared to work," Mannick said. "We have forty-two different spores to test."
Harren listened as Mannick outlined the procedure. The Doctor planned to grow antiproteins, and needed the various aliens spores analyzed for their potential usefulness.
"I bet we could predict the growth rate of these spores with a simple formula," Harren said.
"We ran a computer analysis of the DNA already. That's how we narrowed down the field."
Harren started tapping at a PADD. "It could be fun to calculate predicted growth rates for these spores and test our hypothesis against -- what are you laughing at?"
"Your perception of fun." Mannick grinned. "I guess I don't have to feel guilty about recruiting you for this."
"Please don't. It's a nice change of pace, and Schlezholt is probably grateful for the reprieve."
They focused on the work for a while.
"If my calculations are accurate, this one will reach maturity first," Harren said. "Are they checked throughout the night?"
"The Doc usually keeps an eye on any experiments that he initiates."
"He won't mind if I come by at . . . 0247 and check my hypothesis?"
"Hey, if you want to be up at three o' clock in the morning poking at spores, knock yourself out. I hope you don't mind that I won't be joining you."
"How about joining me for lunch tomorrow instead? Henley always skips lunch when she has bridge duty."
"I can't, but if you're free tomorrow night, there's a pool tournament on the holodeck. With your head for mathematics, you might just be the one to give the captain a run for her rations."
"I've never played pool," Harren admitted.
"Get that girlfriend of yours to give you a lesson, then. She's pretty good." Mannick set down the beaker he was washing. "You're grinning like a Ferengi who just won a thousand bars of gold-pressed latinum."
"It's better than that," Harren said. "I just figured out that I'm pretty pleased with my life."
Harren frantically entered calculations into a PADD as he waited for Henley to finish her shift on the bridge. She'd mentioned that quantum mechanics could prove the existence of God, and he was determined to figure out how before dinner.
In the last few weeks Harren had known more happiness than he'd previously imagined possible. He and Henley -- Mariah, he reminded himself, people were generally on a first-name basis with loved ones -- spent almost every possible minute together. They'd had long talks on a tremendous variety of subjects, from Vulcan opera to her days in the Maquis. They'd never agree on some things, like which twentieth century actor made the best James Bond, but she'd changed his mind on several key topics. He'd even enjoyed several more lessons in rock climbing in the holodeck.
For once he didn't mind that their days off didn't coincide. He'd used the solitude to immerse himself in thought, and with interesting results. So far, he'd mathematically proven that God could exist, and as a pure theorist, he didn't really need more. The possibility was enough to hold his interest. That, and the puzzle Mariah had provided when she'd made her claim about quantum physics.
As he searched for a solution, he let himself admit to his previous errors. Life on Voyager didn't doom him to monotony, not if he widened his scientific interests, and perhaps space exploration did have some redeeming qualities. Dark matter warranted more study. He'd also readjusted his view on people. They weren't just noisy distractions, and they weren't all foolish. He'd never understand the point of Parrises Squares, or why Neelix chose to dress like an old woman's sofa, but the two things he'd ranked as most foolish of all had proven quite the opposite.
Romance brought his world to life, and he'd changed his mind about religion as well. He could clearly see that none of the so-called evidence that he'd previously thought made believers look foolish really did any such thing.
The Bible didn't really claim that people were made of clay. It said dust -- stardust -- and that was true enough. Nowhere in Genesis did it claim that all men were missing a rib thanks to Adam, although the Federation database did reveal the obscure fact that Arabian horses were missing a rib, a fact which a few fanatical breeders attributed to Mohammed, and that an old Romulan legend spoke of a messenger from the heavens that gifted a certain species of quadruped with an extra rib that allegedly increased stamina. Neither story was supported by any sacred writing.
Creationism and evolution didn't even strike him as particularly incompatible. In fact, when considered the way Henley explained it, neither made complete sense without the other. Convergence even seemed rather revealing. A common creator seemed a more logical explanation than coincidence. He vowed to discuss it with Mannick in detail as soon as he had the chance.
The Bible contained nothing that was scientifically impossible, much that could be proven, and a surprising amount of scientific insight well ahead of its time.
He didn't need to see any of this, however, to know that God loved him. Nothing else could possibly explain the miracle of the last few weeks.
Mariah bent down to kiss him before sliding into the seat across from his. "What are you working on?"
"Nothing that can't wait." He took her hand. "How was your day?"
Harren groaned as Mariah nibbled his ear. "You're making me wish I'd noticed you before I found God."
She paused, genuinely puzzled. "Why would you say that?"
"Right now, I'd very much like to sin."
"Sex isn't a sin. Adultery is a sin." She lowered her voice. "God invented sex, you know."
"But I thought -- "
"Sex between two people who love each other, and who are committed to each other, is a joyful celebration of life. It's a gift from God, and one meant to be enjoyed. It's only wrong if people don't respect the seriousness of the act, and the potential consequences. That's why adultery is wrong, no matter what faith you follow. It is hurtful to the injured spouse."
He kissed her deeply. "I think we'd better wake up the captain."
"You're a brave man," she said. "Why would you want to do that?"
"To take care of this commitment thing before we celebrate life." He slid down to one knee before her. "Mariah Henley, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
"Chakotay, wake up." A hand crawled over his shoulder and shook him gently.
"Kathryn?" He rolled over to look at her. Glanced at the chronometer. Looked at Kathryn again. "Why are you in uniform?"
"We need you to give the bride away." She tossed his uniform onto the bed. "Get dressed." She disappeared.
When he went out into the living room he found Mortimer Harren and Mariah Henley grinning at each other. "Well I guess congratulations are in order, or will be in a moment."
Mariah grinned. For a moment Chakotay pictured her as he first saw her seven years before. Bruised and filthy, her Maquis leather stiff with her own blood, yet smiling cheerfully as she greeted the reinforcements he had brought.
Together they had driven the Cardassians from the dusty stretch of land she'd held alone for nearly three days, and when they'd boarded the Liberty she'd shown him the blood soaked rag she considered lucky and announced that her grandfather had taught her that superior numbers meant nothing if one had faith.
Now she looked from him to the captain's bedroom door and grinned. "Congratulations yourself, Commander."
"Just don't tell Tom Paris," Kathryn said. "I want to do that myself. At exactly the right moment, of course."
Chakotay wondered what mischief Kathryn had planned. Did she know about Tom's little wagering pool?
The couple had their own vows.
"I was being crushed by loneliness," Harren said. "And I didn't even recognize it until it was gone. You saved me, Mariah, in more ways than one. I feel like the luckiest man in the galaxy to be standing here with you, and while I may not be worthy of your love, I accept it, and treasure it. I promise you my heart for the rest of my days."
Chakotay noticed the sparkle of tears in Kathryn's eyes.
Henley cried openly. "I always knew, even as you sat alone in the mess hall and ignored us all, that you had a beautiful heart. I thank God for giving me the chance to see it. I promise to spend the rest of my life as your friend, your lover, and your wife."
Kathryn barely managed to pronounce them husband and wife before they lost themselves in the first kiss of their married lives.
Chakotay slipped his arm around Kathryn. "You're responsible for that," he whispered. "You put the lost sheep on the right path."
"I think you're mixing your parables." She smiled up at him and they shared a quick kiss of their own.
Before the happy couple headed off to begin their hastily scheduled week long honeymoon on the holodeck, they all shared a bottle of champagne.
"That was beautiful," Kathryn told them. "Your words really touched me."
Henley grinned. "As my grandfather said, it's always the quiet ones who have the most of value to say."
Graphics and border made by Dakota. © 2003
The proto-comet theory Harren explains is actually a mixture of dialogue from the episode and creative use of theories presented by H. Murayama of the University of California at Berkeley in a paper dated October 1997. Schlezholt and Wang are fictitious individuals from the episode Good Shepherd. In the case of real life personalities mentioned, every effort has been made to present their discoveries, theories, and ideas accurately.
For more on religion and the Star Trek universe, check out The Religions of Star Trek by Ross Kraemer, William Cassidy, and Susan Schwartz. For more on religion in general, try The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell, and for Christianity specifically I'd suggest Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber. For more on dark matter, I'd recommend Through a Universe Darkly by Marcia Bartusiak, which is both informative and a very entertaining read.
This transformative work constitutes a fair use of any copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Star Trek™©, Star Trek: The Next Generation™©, Star Trek: Voyager™© and related properties are Registered Trademarks of Paramount Pictures. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made here. © Spiletta42, December 2004.