|Writer(s):||StarSword & Worffan101|
|Previous story:||"Setting the Curve"|
|Next story:||"ChuckTrek 1" (parody chapter), "Fire of the Mind" (official)"|
Thirteen years into a conflict referred to as the Great War, a Haakonian scientist, Ma'Bor Jetrel, is visited by an officer of Haakonian Military Command. The aggressive Talaxian species, with whom the Haakonians are at war, have launched a massive attack on the Haakonian homeworld, Ha'ataran. The Haakonian leadership wants to use the metreon cascade generator, a terraforming device designed by Jetrel, as a weapon. Jetrel protests, claiming that the Talaxian Primarch does not have public support and that the attack is unnecessary, but after being told that the planet-killing weapon is his species' only chance, agrees to fit a metreon device to a Haakonian scout ship.
Several days later, two Haakonian soldiers in a cloaked scout ship launch the metreon device at Rinax, the terraformed moon of the Talaxian homeworld. The device detonates, and both Haakonians watch in horror as three hundred million Talaxians are killed by the bomb.
Twenty years later, Jetrel is the national hero of the victorious Haakonian people, subject to near-worshipful deference from other Haakonians and idolized in propaganda. Ship-Commander Tiran, a young Haakonian officer, is carrying Jetrel on her ship, the Victory of Jetrel, as the scientist pursues a mysterious research project. She brings him a dish of pastries, noting that he hasn't eaten in days and is killing himself for his project. Jetrel rebuffs her concerns, ordering her to intercept an advanced starship called Voyager that is rumored to have a Talaxian on board.
On Stardate 488321.9, the Federation starship USS Voyager and the Cardassian warship Vetar are proceeding on their decades-long journey home. Lieutenant Harry Kim and Kes bring a batch of freshly-cultivated plants to executive chef Neelix in the mess hall; Harry notices that Neelix is upset for some reason, and asks what is wrong. Kes notes that the starships will be passing the Talaxian homeworld soon, and explains that Neelix had been a soldier in the Talaxian military before the Haakonian conquest. Neelix explains that he saw people die in agony from radiation poisoning in the aftermath of the metreon strike, horrifying Harry and Kes, who offer to bring Neelix along to their later appointments--Harry to a recreational holoprogram, and Kes to her group therapy session. Neelix protests that he's managed by himself for twenty-odd years, but Harry and Kes convince him to attend the therapy session.
On the bridge of Voyager, Crewman Apprentice Celes Tal notices an incoming, unidentified starship. Captain Veronica Stadi orders a red alert and contacts Gul Aman Evek, who agrees with Stadi that a cautious but friendly contact is best. The starships drop out of warp and hail the unidentified ship, which responds. It is the Haakonian starship Victory of Jetrel, and its commander, Tiran, announces that the "valiant savior" Jetrel, "Hero of the Haakonian Order", wishes to speak with the Talaxian aboard Voyager. Stadi and Evek agree to allow the Doctor and his aides aboard.
Harry Kim, Kepa Ayala, Kerani Ocett, Lyndsay Ballard and Tarak are playing a holo-recreation of the Battle of Rorke's Drift when Ayala and Tarak are called out to oversee security during negotiations with the Haakonians. Ocett, Ballard, and Kim remain behind and discuss history; Ocett tries to explain the virtues of the Cardassian military regime to the skeptical Humans, explaining that most Cardassians actually disapprove of notorious officers such as Dukat. Meanwhile, Jetrel beams aboard, and is taken to Sickbay shortly after introductions, as he is gravely ill from stress.
Neelix explains to the therapy group, Glinn Nirymer, and Doctor T'Pai about his experiences in the war, saying that he was drafted near the end of the war and saw the homeworld's moon get hit by the metreon bomb. As he explains how he watched a Talaxian girl die slowly in a hospital of radiation poisoning after the attack, he is called to Sickbay. Arriving there, Neelix is horrified to see Doctor Jetrel being treated; calling Jetrel a mass murderer, Neelix grabs a spare hypospray and threatens him. Tiran, incensed, is about to start a fight when Jetrel orders her to calm down. Jetrel says that he has come to Voyager to atone for creating the metreon bomb by bringing some of the people who were killed by it back to life; Tiran and Neelix both begin arguing, forcing Stadi to shout them down repeatedly.
In the Voyager's mess hall, Ocett, Ballard, and Kim ask security officer Ivrahanla sh'Phohlhi about what happened in Sickbay. Ocett compares Jetrel to Dalin Hogue Marritza's uncle (implied to be Aamin Marritza), who she claims was killed by Bajoran terrorists; she is confused to discover that this was apparently not the case.
Her patience stretched to the limit, Stadi leaves the negotiations in the hands of Evek, who orders all save Neelix and Jetrel out of Sickbay so that Jetrel can explain his idea in more detail to Neelix. Jetrel explains to the Talaxian that he could not live with himself, knowing that he had killed millions of people similar to himself and his family, and has spent over a decade working frantically on a device intended to cause "regenerative fusion", literally bringing the scattered molecules of people who were killed in the initial blast back together. Initially somewhat skeptical, Neelix agrees to help Jetrel with his plan.
Jetrel and Neelix propose the plan to Evek and Stadi, who approve it. After the others of left, Stadi confronts Evek with her feelings of inadequacy and her fears that she has done morally wrong things as a Captain. Evek reassures her that she is a capable officer and that her actions have been, at least from his perspective, solidly moral, saying that she is "Fourth Order material".
Cleaning his kitchen, Neelix is met by Kes, who asks him if he is upset about working with Jetrel and suggests that he think of the situation as a civilian rather than a Talaxian soldier. Neelix reveals that he was never a Talaxian soldier; he was a nameless peasant in the lowest echelons of the autocratic Talaxian society, and was both too moral to join a military that had committed unspeakable crimes and too afraid to join the Talaxian resistance movement. He's not sure whether anything good will come of Jetrel's plan, but he is going to go through with it nonetheless, because at least he will be taking a stand for what's right.
Meanwhile, Tiran confronts Jetrel, saying that he is nothing like what she had expected. Jetrel explains that he never wanted to be a propaganda hero; he was just a man with a family and a dead-end job who by sheer dumb luck built the key to ending the war. He then calls out the Haakonian government for becoming the very military dictatorship that it had fought, and declares that nothing, be it Stadi or the Haakonian Order or Tiran herself, is going to stop him from undoing this small facet of the metreon bomb's effects.
Over Rinax, Jetrel and Neelix set up the device in Voyager's transporter room. The first attempt to bring back a Talaxian fails; distraught, Jetrel takes the controls himself and tries again, frantically trying to adjust for unforeseen subspace turbulence. He fails, screaming in rage as the second Talaxian dematerializes halfway through the procedure, and has a heart attack on the floor of the transporter room.
Later, outside Sickbay, T'Pai says that Jetrel has less than an hour to live; he is dying from metreon poisoning compounded by years of stress, alcoholism, and malnutrition on top of the heart attack. Jetrel requests to speak with Neelix, apologizing for his failure and stating that he doesn't want to die as a monster. Neelix tells Jetrel that he didn't fail, that even trying to undo the bomb's effects was enough, and that Neelix himself understands exactly why Jetrel agreed to launch the bomb in the first place. As Jetrel dies smiling, Neelix promises him that he will be remembered not as the Hero of the Haakonian Order or the Butcher of Rinax, but as Ma'Bor Jetrel, a simple man who loved his family.
The travelers part ways with the Haakonians, Tiran replacing her ship's dedication plaque with a message told to her by Jetrel before his death, and Neelix dictates a personal log saying that he intends to honor his promise to Jetrel, and hoping that some day, the Haakonian and Talaxian peoples will be better for Jetrel's deeds.
In the post-credits scene, Evek's wife Lycoris and several other loved ones of Vetar personnel are told that Evek and his crew are alive.
This episode, especially the second scene in the 2350s, was deliberately written to evoke the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Worffan101 stated in the author's note that he was trying to deconstruct the notion of the evil empire, showing that while regimes can be truly evil indeed, the individual citizens of those governments can be good, moral people.
This episode was heavily inspired by Chuck "SFDebris" Sonnenburg's review of the canon episode "Jetrel", wherein SFDebris says that the episode could have been so much more than it was simply by adding a short "Oppenheimer and the Bomb" scene to get Jetrel's side of the story.
The death toll from the metreon bomb was changed from three hundred thousand to three hundred million on the grounds that in a universe where antimatter warheads are thrown around like chump change, a strike that killed only three hundred thousand would not qualify as a weapon of mass destruction or act as a nuclear deterrent.