"Why, Naomi, I've already told you so many stories tonight. Don't you think it's time to sleep?"
"I can't sleep. I'm too scared. I want to see the stars again."
"Well, Naomi, you're not alone. I think everyone on Voyager wants to see the stars again. Captain Janeway says it's going to be dark outside for a very long time. If you want, we could paint some dots on the windows and pretend they're stars."
"I don't want to pretend. I'm scared, Neelix. What if the Borg attack us? Or the Hirogen? What if we run out of dilithium and get stuck here in the void?"
"We always make it through, don't we? Voyager is a tough ship, and the crew is even tougher. In fact, Voyager is a lot like another ship—one that went through something far worse than a patch of empty space. One that went through a war."
"Do you mean the NX-01? You promised you'd tell me about the Earth-Romulan War, but then you jumped ahead to the founding of the Federation, and I'm pretty sure you started making things up. That last story didn't make any sense."
"You're a tough critic, Naomi Wildman. But a lot of people don't like the adventures of Captain Archer, so I thought we'd skip the Earth-Romulan war."
"I'm not a lot of people. I wanted to hear that story. Things were just getting really good."
"Maybe some other time. I'd like to tell you a different story this time. A story about when the Federation went to war against the Klingons."
"Another war? You told me about the Xindi, and the Temporal Cold War, and about what's happening in the Alpha Quadrant with the Dominion—and I liked those stories, but it's hard to hear about war all the time. Especially when Voyager keeps making so many enemies. If you won't tell me about the Earth-Romulan War, then I want something happy."
"What about those stories I made up about Captain Kirk in another timeline? Those were happy, right?"
"Those don't count. I didn't like how you changed the characters, and I didn't learn anything like I usually do from those stories. Besides, they all had a bad guy trying to kill everyone with some big weapon. I miss the story about the whales."
"In the story I'd like to tell you, the crew comes across a space whale. Will that do?"
"That sounds fun."
"Good. So, this is the story of Michael Burnham."
"There was a space whale named Michael Burnham?"
"No, Naomi; the space whale comes later. Michael was a human serving in Starfleet around 100 years after Captain Archer."
"I thought you said this was the story of a ship that went to war?"
"It is. But Michael was on that ship, and this is her story."
"Yes, Michael was a woman. In fact, Discovery—that's the name of the ship that went to war—had all sorts of different people on board. Now, you've said that you'd like to see more female role models in the stories I tell you, and I think you'll be very happy this time. In addition to Michael, there was a female vice-admiral, Discovery's chief of security, and Michael's former captain, to name a few—all of whom came from different racial backgrounds, too."
"I like that a lot. Did they all help to win the war?"
"Not...exactly, no. The vice-admiral was captured by Klingons and left for dead; the security chief was killed when she intentionally let an indestructible space bear out of its cage; and the captain was eaten by Klingons."
"Klingons, as you know, are hairless, purple-skinned cannibals. They—"
"Neelix, that's weird. I know what Klingons look like, and B'Elanna has never tried to eat me. Stop making things up."
"I'm serious! That's exactly what Klingons were like a decade before Captain Kirk took command of the Enterprise. Starships were a lot more advanced then, as well—the hulls and interiors were elaborately decorated, and they had technology like holographic touchscreens that floated in midair and a spore drive that could teleport a ship anywhere in the universe."
"Neelix, I told you to stop making things up! Now you're just making fun of me. I know what ships looked like back then, and not even Voyager has that kind of technology. Tell me the real story already. And leave out the Klingons and this spore drive thing for now; I want to hear about Michael."
"Ah...all right. Well, Michael was the first officer of the starship Shenzhou, and—"
"I thought you said she was on the Discovery."
"Yes, but she was on the Shenzhou first. She committed an act of mutiny against her captain, which led to the destruction of the Shenzhou, the death of her captain, and the start of a war with the Klingons. Michael was arrested and transferred to the Discovery as a prisoner, where she served dutifully under Captain Lorca."
"Was the captain evil?"
"It depends how you look at it. On the one hand, he cared so much about his own people that he would do anything to protect them. On the other hand, he didn't behave at all like a Starfleet officer, he caused a lot of damage for the sake of peace, and he tricked or coerced the crew of the Discovery into doing all sorts of morally questionable things."
"I meant the captain of the Shenzhou."
"Oh. No, she was an upstanding officer who had been a friend and mentor to Michael for several years. But Michael thought the captain was making a bad decision, so she knocked her out and took command."
"I don't think I like Michael. Is there anyone in this story who's just nice, and smart, and doesn't get eaten or try to mutiny or anything? This doesn't sound like a happy story, and I wanted something to cheer me up."
"Cadet Tilly is very cheerful. I think you'll like her. And Lieutenant Tyler is a very nice man who falls in love with Michael."
"Tilly probably gets hurt or dies, doesn't she? All the other girls I'd like had something bad happen to them. And Tyler sounds too good to be true. I bet he has a deep dark secret."
"Naomi, don't go making wild guesses."
"That's what grown-ups say when they don't want to tell me I'm right. When does the space whale come in?"
"Ah, yes. Do you remember Harry Mudd?"
"He was...the swindler with all the crazy business ideas, right?"
"The very same. When he was a little younger, Mr. Mudd snuck on board Discovery inside a space whale so he could steal the ship and its secrets and sell them to the Klingons. Discovery was a science vessel, you see, and they were doing experiments with space mushrooms and space fireflies and hundreds of other things."
"What kinds of other things?"
"Well...I'm not sure, exactly, but...but they're not important to the story."
"Why not? You said this was a science vessel, not a warship. Couldn't you make it a science story instead of a war story?"
"It is a science story. You see, Mr. Mudd had a device that kept the ship in a time loop until he accomplished his goal. Of course, he kept murdering the crew each time, but they eventually stopped him."
"That's awful! You told me Harry Mudd was a liar and a cheater, not a killer. I don't like the people in this story."
"I'll admit, they're a bit different from the characters you're used to hearing about. The crew of the Discovery didn't get along very well, at least not at first. A lot of bickering and mistrust and nasty comments. They swore sometimes, and got angry at each other, and did things behind each other's backs. But I promise you'll grow to like them as you get to know them."
"Could you tell me a story with normal people in it?"
"What do you mean, Naomi? These are normal people."
"No they aren't. They sound like what people used to be like a few hundred years ago. I can't relate to those people. They're so different from everyone I know on Voyager and everyone in all the stories you've ever told about Starfleet. I want a story about good people who work together to solve problems. I want a story that gives me hope."
"But you wanted something that would teach you a lesson, right? This story is one big lesson about learning to trust people, doing the wrong things for the right reasons, and finding out who you are. You'll have a lot to think about by the time the story is over."
"I don't want to wait that long. All the other Starfleet stories you've told me have had little lessons along the way. And they weren't so violent."
"I haven't even gotten to the Klingon side of it. There's a lot of blood and gore, and even some...adult things that I probably shouldn't tell you about."
"I don't think I want to hear any more about Michael Burnham or Discovery or the Klingon War. None of this sounds like fun."
"Now, Naomi, you can't judge a story until you've heard the whole thing. Sometimes it take a while for a story to find its footing or set up all the important details. You ended up loving the stories I told you about Captain Picard, but I remember more than a few times early on that you were ready to abandon ship. And sometimes, people have false expectations that get in the way of enjoying the story. You barely gave my stories about Deep Space Nine a chance, because you thought they were too serious and didn't have enough space exploration for a story about Starfleet. But you stuck with them, and now those stories are some of your favorites."
"I guess. But those stories felt like they fit together. This one doesn't feel like it belongs. Tell me a different story, please. One that feels like a Starfleet story, and makes me smile, and gives me something hopeful to think about."
"If that's what you really want, Naomi Wildman, then we can take a break. Maybe you're right—maybe we could use a little more brightness in this dark part of the Delta Quadrant. I've got just the story, too. Have I ever told you about the Orville?"