Waypoint 5 grew familiar after days there. Verik and Verika obtained guest housing with Walden Wehrle's help, containing basic amenities.
'Basic' covered more than they had ever hoped to enjoy back home. Complants were one thing. Replicators were quite another. And to have warm, comfortable shelter, with clean, running water!...
The shower felt grand to Verik, after wearying hours of stress, attempting to secure help for his people. It was his first since departing the planet after which he'd been named. His twin sister represented her half of the binary worlds of Verik and Verika. The Orion ship which delivered them restricted shower usage to its crew. One of them had made a pass at Verika, offering to let her use it in exchange for sexual intercourse.
Verika had accepted the Orion's offer, then slept with a Vulcan named Eppes after arriving at Waypoint.
This bothered Verik. She was his sister... his twin. He could not deny feeling jealous. Would she sleep with anyone, for any reason? Or for no reason at all? – other than her gratification? Her sex drive seemed out of control at times. He was not like that. What affected her so?
He had noticed a rising sense of agitation within himself, since leaving Vulcan II. It stood to reason that something in this off-world environment affected them both. He was not a biologist and had not yet conducted an analysis; doing so seemed in order.
Vulcans do it only every seven years, Verika had told him. Can you believe that? I'm lucky if I get it every seven months!
That's because of sexually transmitted diseases, Verik had replied dryly, ignoring her saddening joke.
She was out, somewhere, who knew where, with who, he didn't know... but it wasn't hard to guess what she was doing.
Many Verikans shared her lust for intercourse. Verik could not deny that it was enjoyable, but its purpose was procreation. An imbalance in social and/or biological conditions had taken it to unnatural, unhealthy extremes (as STDs proved – one of many ills infecting their worlds), yet no one wanted to acknowledge or address that fact. They simply indulged their baser, animal passions.
Perhaps we need our own Surak, he thought. Surak, an ancient leader, had promoted a philosophy of abstinence, suppression of emotion and devotion to logic, in order to save the people of a double-planet system, T'Khas and T'Khut, known together as 'Vulcan'. The 'Vulcans' credited Surak with their survival from a dark, war-torn time, an era of savage conflict which turned their planets into barren deserts and threatened their species.
The parallel was not lost on him. Star-maps marked the planets Verik and Verika as 'Vulcan II', as they were nearly identical to the Vulcan double-planet system – duplicates, too close in resemblance, in geological and geographical formations, to be anything but. A duplicate Earth also existed, listed as Earth II, known to its inhabitants as Miria. This lent support, however slim, to the postulation that nature produced such worlds in processes of parallel development.
Yet the explanation seemed... unsatisfying. They were the only two such duplicate systems known. Why not duplicates of Orion, or Andoria, or millions of other planets? When given the fact that humans and Vulcans were two of the most powerful, influential species in their region of the galaxy, the parallel took on added weight and mystery. Some special factor determined their duplication, Verik felt certain, though he did not know why. The explanation of their existence remained a mystery, which even temporal observations ('chronovision') failed to solve. That in itself proved to be a great mystery. Verik understood, since the beginning of his learning period here, that with the advent of temporal imaging, few mysteries of time or space could not be solved. But no one knew for sure when, how or why the duplicate Earth and Vulcan systems formed.
Historical comparisons proved no more enlightening. Verikans were of the same racial stock as Vulcans, as Mirians of Earth II genetically matched Earth humans. They started from similar levels and conditions, millennia ago, when Vulcan was a lush, green world, before wars reduced it to desert. Verik's planet, however, remained in such a state, despite centuries of conflict. The Verikans had not renounced emotions in favor of pure logic. And yet they survived, so far, despite their passions.
Out of the shower and dressing for bed, he considered an option, wild in thought, yet perhaps executable. There existed an otherdimensional intelligence called the Q Continuum. When this 'Continuum' made contact with denizens of the universe, it did so in the form of a being (or different beings) called 'Q'. This Q was supposedly omnipotent, unlimited in power; it could do anything, anything, at will.
If I could make contact, Verik thought, would this Q be willing to help us?
"Why on Earth should I do that?"
Verik nearly jumped out of his bedclothes. A man had appeared, arms crossed, regarding him in the dim light of the outer room. He was slender, dark-haired; human, apparently, judging by looks. But scanning him through his complant, Verik saw something even more startling: Nothing. It was as if the stranger was not there. Not a holographic projection. No energy readings, no lifesigns, no disturbance of the molecules in the air, no mass... nothing at all. And yet, there he stood in plain sight.
"You... you..." Verik said.
"Q," the being corrected him. "But as far as you're concerned... I'm God."
* * *
"Oh God... oh God... oh God... Don't stop... Oh... my... Godddddddd..."
She grabbed mounds of hair in her hands, moaning and shuddering. Waves of ecstasy flowed through her. Then she started slapping his head, pushing him away. "Stop... stop!"
The Vulcan man, Eppes, raised his head from between her legs, smiling. "Do you really wish for me to stop?"
"Yes," she whimpered. Verika closed her eyes, letting the feeling flow back and forth within. It filled her with a bright, radiant light, unlike anything she had ever known or felt. She'd had sexual partners back home. But it never made her feel like this.
She thought Eppes generated the sensation, at first. But she had slept with one of the Orion men on the ship, when she came here with Verik. She had noticed it then, though nowhere near as intensely.
Something whispered in the back of her mind. She focused on the light, feeling its power, a strange sensation; she could reach out to it, with her hands, almost touch it. What was it? Where did it come from? Not Eppes, of that she was certain.
"You're wrong," Eppes said.
Verika blinked, eyes open; the spell shattered. Disappointment crashed inside of her, seeing him, resting on his elbows, between her thighs. "What?"
"I said you're wrong. It does come from me. I've noticed how you like it. You welcome it. I had a feeling about you, Verika, when I saw you. You have a gift for receiving it. Not everyone can." He paused. "Only Vulcans can."
"I'm not Vulcan," she whispered.
"Close enough." Eppes grinned. "Would you like more?"
The expression Verika gave him would have frozen an Andorian.
"You're lying," she said matter-of-factly.
And this Eppes could eavesdrop through complants, without being detected. Verik had claimed this about him, earlier.
She didn't mention that she had seen 'the light' with the Orion. It was theoretically possible that Eppes might have been able to... do whatever it was, that she experienced... from that distance, but... her instinct told her that he didn't, and was only using it, what he sensed from her, to manipulate her.
A Vulcan who lied, manipulated, and used women for sex. The emotion disease, Verika heard, had caused a drastic transformation in their race over the last few decades, from the way they were. They used to be honorable, if cold, according to most annals.
But, like she told Verik, you can't believe everything. "How many... women... have you..."
"How many men have you?" Eppes wasn't grinning anymore. "I really like you, Verika."
"This is my domicile," he shot back, angry.
She bounded from his bed, heading for the door, naked. By the time she stepped out, clothes had materialized. Don't approach me again, she sent via complant, then permanently blocked him.
* * *
"God?" Verik said.
"Of course. And yes, I do know what that means. But do you?"
Verik felt like he had fallen into a pool of mental molasses. He wanted to leap on the entity and strangle him out of sheer hatred... if he truly was God. But nothing worthwhile occurred to him to say. He could only just stare dumbly at this... this thing, who called himself God.
"You're in shock," Q said. "Not unknown to happen when I appear... in fact, not unlike your people's initial reactions, the last time we crossed paths. You'd love to do insidious things to me, wouldn't you? You're far from the first. But, I'm an interdimensional being. Omnipotent... invincible... You can't hurt me. I'm not even 'really' here... though 'real' presses the limits of perception these days, I'll grant you."
Before Verik could ask, Q answered, "I'm here because you wanted to see me. Whereas I'm usually the one to pose questions, in the form of a challenge, for once I'm here to provide solutions."
Verika, irritated from her encounter with Eppes, entered their unit to find Q standing there, with Verik.
Him, she thought, recognizing Q instantly. Him.
"I was wondering when you'd get here." Q smirked and winked at her.
Verik had mentally applied Verikan features to Q. The appearance matched. Q had proclaimed himself God to the Verikan people, then betrayed them. Nearly all (if not all) Verikans despised, hated and resented 'God' – Q – with unbridled passion.
Verika lunged for him, fingers curled into claws, ready to rip his throat out.
"My, my." Q clucked scoldingly as she passed through an empty space. "I expected that of your brother."
"We're full of surprises," Verik said. It sounded like a challenge.
Verika whirled about. "Why do you torment us?"
"Torment? Hah! Sit through a Klingon opera. That's torment."
"Why did you lie?" Verik said. "You claimed to be God—"
"—promised peace, prosperity... but our worlds are at war! People are suffering and dying! Disease, starvation..."
"Well now, that's interesting, my son..."
"Stop calling me your son! I told you before: We are not your children!"
"Oh but you are." Q stepped close, face-to-face, serious. "You are my children, Verik. I created you. All of you. You're an experiment... like Miri's planet. We – the Q Continuum – wished to see how your progenitor races would fare, humans and Vulcans, in different circumstances. We wanted to see if your potential was singular or inborn. So I duplicated your planets and peoples, placing you in the right location and conditions for you to survive; what humans call 'the Goldilocks zone'.
"Miri's Earth continued along the same course as Earth, until they hit the immortality snag. With you it was different. You didn't embrace logic or suspend emotions. You've warred for millennia. You never advanced beyond your planets on your own. And yet, you didn't threaten yourselves with extinction or mass destruction, or turn your planets into wastelands, like the Vulcans did... which led them to adopt Surak's philosophical claptrap. Your planets are what Vulcan could have been, proving Surak wrong. They didn't need logic to survive." Q grinned. "I can't wait to see the look on his face."
Verik and Verika traded looks. "Surak?" Verik said.
"We had a bet," Q said.
"But... according to the Federation Temporal Database," Verik said, "true time travel is impossible. You can't—"
"What makes you think I mean time travel?" Q said. "Maybe Surak is one of us. But yes, of course I can. Not like you think. What is time, anyway? Do you know? No, I don't think you do. We don't change history as you'd understand it. The Continuum has a directive of noninterference now. It doesn't stop us from having fun when the urge strikes... but it does force us to be a little more responsible.
"Back to the point: Did I tell you to fight? Make war on your neighbors? Who's responsible for your dying and disease and starvation and suffering? Me... or you? I may be many things, but I'm not a liar. I promised I'd save your worlds, if you pulled together and showed potential to make you worth saving. So here you are; you've taken a first step. Bravo, kids. Good for you. I'm going to help you. That's why I'm here. But don't expect me to do all the work. Q only helps those who help themselves."
(This post is revised from the original version.)