Stardate 215597.3 (Mon 27 Dec 2376): A crewman thought long dead returns to Voyager. Based upon the television episode “Ashes to Ashes.”
5 August 2377 1528 hrs
A small shuttle sped through the black of space, its boxy, angular front offset by the gentle curves of the drive section at its rear, almost as if it were cobbled together from two completely different spacecraft. Without warning, there was a flash of light as weapons fire impacted against the small craft’s shielding.
Inside the shuttle, the impacts of the weapons fire against the shields rock its lone occupant, seated at the helm. Her hands raced across the control panels in front of her, but she managed to maintain her cool despite her situation. She had mottled, purplish skin, and the concaves along the side of her hairless skull flowed into the utilitarian jumpsuit she wore.
"Tam’vit," the woman called to the computer. "Prey’a mist’a."
"Mist’a te’untae selva," the computer’s monotone male voice replied.
The woman kept manipulating the controls. An image of the attacking ship appeared on the tactical monitor in front of her, and she targeted her small vessel’s weapons on a vulnerable location.
"Seyo tey van’sweill," she said. The tactical view of the ship closed on her target, and she continued, "Be’ta."
The shuttle shuddered as two torpedoes launched. They sped toward her pursuer, striking with deadly accuracy. Wounded, the ship broke off its pursuit as the shuttle sped away. Inside, the woman at the helm breathed a sigh of relief.
"Tam’vit," she called to the computer. "Meyo san’taya Voyager."
An image of Voyager appeared on her screen. She pressed another sequence of buttons.
"Federation Starship Voyager," she began in English, "if you can hear me, please respond."
"Sir, we’re being hailed," Ensign Marla Gilmore announced from her position at the Operations station at the aft of Voyager‘s bridge.
"By whom?" Captain Chakotay asked, turning in his seat at the heart of the bridge.
"Unknown," Gilmore replied, "but whoever it is, their ship isn’t in our database, and they’re calling us by name."
"Once again, our reputation preceeds us," Chakotay muttered. "Put it on."
"Come on, Voyager, I know you’re there," a woman’s voice issued from the bridge speakers.
"Put me through," Chakotay ordered, rising from his seat.
"Hailing frequencies open," Gilmore said.
"This is Captain Chakotay of the Federation Starship Voyager," the Native American man said, facing the viewscreen. A moment later, the screen blinked from a view of the stars ahead of them to the interior of a small, cramped shuttle, a hairless, purple-skinned woman at the controls.
"Sounds like someone got promoted," the woman quipped. "Glad to see you made it home, too."
"You seem to have us at a disadvantage," Chakotay said, turning back to the viewscreen after taking in the confused looks of his bridge crew, "but do we know you?"
"I’m Ensign Lyndsay Ballard," the woman said. "I was a member of your crew." Harsh and dubious glares stared back at the woman. "Of course, I’m not surprised you don’t recognize me."
"I don’t know who you are," Chakotay began, "but I’m not amused. Ensign Ballard died over two–"
"It was on Stardate 212563," the woman interrupted. "I can’t blame you for being skeptical,sir, but if you’ll let me come aboard, I can explain everything."
"We’ll beam you to sickbay," Chakotay said flatly.
"I’m sure you’ll want me behind a Level Ten forcefield," the woman replied, chuckling mildly.
"No offense," Chakotay said.
"None taken," she said. "I’m just glad to be home."
A moment later, the channel closed and the decidedly nonhuman- looking woman’s image vanished from the screen. Commander Everett Dyson, Chakotay’s first officer, rose from his seat and walked over to Chakotay.
"Captain," Dyson began, "what do you think?"
"She seems to know us pretty well," Chakotay admitted. "I think we should find out who she is… and if she’s telling the truth."
"Captain," Gilmore offered from the Ops station, "her ship doesn’t match anything in our database, but I’ve traced its trajectory, and it does indicate that she was on a course straight out of the Delta Quadrant."
Chakotay pondered this new information for a moment, then nodded and made his way to the turbolift. "Mr. Dyson," he said as he stepped into the lift, "you have the bridge."
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
5 August 2377 1547 hrs
The woman who claimed to be the resurrected Lyndsay Ballard sat on the main biobed in sickbay as Dr. Kenneth Zimmerman — formerly known as the Emergency Medical Hologram, or more simply, the Doctor — passed a scanning device over her body.
"Harry and I," the woman was saying, "were on our way to a Class-M planet in the Ventadi Expanse to recover dilithium ore we’d picked up a few days earlier. But when we landed, we realized it was a trap, set by a Hirogen hunting party. They’d reconfigured a power cell to give off false dilithium readings."
Zimmerman stepped through a forcefield that surrounded the main surgical chamber of sickbay and made his way next to Chakotay at the freestanding computer console nearby.
"Go on," Chakotay prompted.
"Harry and I went back to the shuttle," the woman continued. "We were three meters away when I was hit by a neural disruptor. Harry said my injury wasn’t that bad." She paused, chuckling softly, then added, "He always was a terrible liar."
"Please," Chakotay said, obviously interested in her tale, "continue."
"I woke up on a ship," she said, "in a stasis chamber, surrounded by aliens. They told me they used their technology to reanimate me… I didn’t believe them when they said I’d died. But they showed me visual scans of my own corpse lying in the torpedo casing I’d been buried in. The Kobali said I’d been drifting for weeks."
"Kobali?" Chakotay asked.
"If you’d ever met them, you’d remember," the woman replied, then pointed to her face. "They look just like this. After the reanimation process, they spent months altering my DNA. They were constantly scanning me, injecting me…"
"To make you look like one of them?" Chakotay asked.
"That’s how they procreate," the woman said. "They salvage the dead of other races, but the changes are more than cosmetic. I was given a Kobali name and placed with a family to help me acclimate."
"You were a prisoner," Chakotay concluded.
"At first," the woman confirmed. "I wanted to contact you. To tell you I was safe. But the Kobali wouldn’t let me. They said you were part of my kin’stika — my… my past life, and that I needed to forget you. All of you. So I spent two years letting my new family think I’d accepted them. When I finally earned their trust, I stole a shuttle and started looking for Voyager. That was over a year ago. They’ve been chasing me ever since."
"In spite of her appearance," Zimmerman announced, looking up from the computer console, "I’m detecting traces of human DNA. I’ve compared them with genetic samples from the ensign’s file. They match."
"It’s certainly a convincing story," Chakotay said evenly.
"But your training is telling you to consider all the possibilities," the woman — Lyndsay Ballard, it would seem — said. "Maybe I’m some sort of hybrid clone, or a telepath who accessed Ensign Ballard’s memories somehow. Believe me, I was suspicious at first, myself. But I am Lyndsay Ballard."
"Until we find evidence to the contrary," Chakotay began, accessing the control panel in front of him, dropping the shield, "welcome home."
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
6 August 2377 0821 hrs
Chakotay stood near the table at the heart of the briefing room, where his senior staff was assembled, as well as the resurrected Lyndsay Ballard.
"I know we’re all eager to welcome Ensign Ballard back," Chakotay was saying as he walked around the seated officers. "She’s shown a lot of courage and determination; we’re lucky to have her with us again, so let’s do everything we can to make her feel at home once more." He stopped in front of his traditional chair at the head of the table. "We’ll be heading back to Earth soon to personally reunite her with her family and friends."
"If you’ll be staying aboard," began Joe Carey, Voyager‘s chief engineer, "you’ll find your old shift waiting for you in engineering."
"Thank you, sir," Ballard replied.
"Before we get ahead of ourselves," Dyson interrupted, "let’s not forget the Kobali are still out there."
"It would seem," Chakotay said, "they want her back as much as we do. We’ll need to take precautions in case they track her to Voyager while we’re still on our own."
"I’ve run a few scans on the shuttle," Lieutenant Francis Mulcahey, Voyager‘s chief of security, began. "We should be able to adapt our systems to counter an attack without much difficulty."
"Good," Chakotay said. "If there’s no further business…" Taking their captain’s cue, the officers rose and filed out and onto the bridge to resume their posts.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
6 August 2377 0936 hrs
"My scans identified a genetic pathogen in your bloodstream," Zimmerman said as he and Ballard stood near the main biobed in sickbay. "It appears to have converted most of your human DNA into a Kobali protein structure."
"Can you reverse it?" Ballard asked.
"The biochemical changes," Zimmerman replied, "have affected every part of your body. There’s so little of your original DNA left, I can’t affect much more than cosmetic changes with these facilities."
"Are you saying," Ballard asked, "you could make me look like me again?"
"Yes," Zimmerman replied happily. "The alterations would literally be skin deep, and it may take several treatments, but I’ve devised an inaprovaline compound which should do the trick." He loaded a vial into a hypospray, then turned and addressed Ballard once more. "Once we get back to Earth, I believe you’ll have a very good chance of having your old DNA fully restored."
"I’ve lived with this face for long enough," Ballard said. "When can we get started?"
"Have a seat," Zimmerman replied, indicating the main biobed. After she had settled herself onto the bed, he raised the hypospray to her neck. "You may experience some dizziness," he warned before proceeding with the injection. There was a telltale hiss from the device, then a moment later, her features began to soften, and her skin pigmentation became a more "normal" shade of pink.
"Well?" she asked.
Zimmerman turned to a passing nurse, who handed him a mirror. He in turn handed it to Ballard. "See for yourself," he said. She looked into the mirror, and smiled.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
7 August 2377 0943 hrs
"Captain," Mulcahey called from the Tactical station at the rear of the bridge the next day, "picking up a Kobali vessel on an intercept course."
"They’re hailing us," Gilmore called.
"On screen," Chakotay ordered. The starfield at warp was quickly replaced with the image of an older Kobali man.
"I’ve come for J’Hetlaya," he announced.
"If you’re referring to Ensign Ballard," Chakotay began, "she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want to go with you."
"She’s my daughter," the Kobali man replied. "Please, I’ve come a very long way. I only want to speak with her."
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
7 August 2377 1011 hrs
The Kobali man stood near the windows of the briefing room, his ship visible as a large, irregular point of light in the distance. Mulcahey, a phaser at his hip, stood near the room’s main viewer, while another armed security officer stood close to the man. Chakotay stood behind his chair at the head of the table that dominated the room.
"I appreciate this, captain," the man said.
"I’m glad to oblige," Chakotay replied diplomatically, "but I want it understood that this meeting is over as soon as Ensign Ballard says it is."
The doors to the bridge hissed open, and Ballard stepped into the room, looking for all the universe as though she were fully human once more.
"What have they done to you?" the man asked, his stunned voice nearly a whisper.
"Given me my life back, Q’Ret," Ballard retorted.
"You were so beautiful," the man, Q’Ret, replied. A moment of stunned silence later, he added, "It’s good to see you, J’Hetlaya."
"My name is Lyndsay," Ballard said icily.
"Why did you leave us?" Q’Ret asked.
"I wanted to be with my people again," Ballard replied.
"These people?" Q’Ret asked in disbelief. "The same ones who set you adrift in space?"
"We jettisoned her body in accordance with our customs," Chakotay interjected.
"We were acting in accordance with our customs," Q’Ret retorted. "You abandoned her. The reanimation process usually results in extensive memory loss, which makes the transition… less painful. Unfortunately, some remember their former lives more than others. J’Hetlaya, for example."
"I told you to call me–"
"Lyndsay Ballard," Q’Ret interrupted in exasperation. "She’s dead. She has been for more than three years. Forgive me for being so blunt, but when we found her she was a lifeless corpse. We salvaged that… raw material to create a new person: my daughter, whom I love."
"I’m not your daughter," Ballard snapped.
"You may have altered your appearance," Q’Ret said, "but do you still think like these people? Even now, the first words that come into your mind: are they in their language, or mine? I realize this place is familiar to you, but it’s not where you belong. Your sister misses you."
"Tan’Ziya," Ballard said with a small smile.
"She keeps asking when you’re coming home," Q’Ret said. "What should I tell her?"
"Tell her that her sister’s dead," Ballard said coldly. She spun on her heel and stormed out of the briefing room.
"I’ll escort you to the transporter room," Mulcahey said, stepping toward Q’Ret.
"I won’t give her up, captain," Q’Ret said, turning to face Chakotay.
"She’s made her wishes clear," Chakotay warned.
"She’s confused," Q’Ret insisted. "I don’t want to fight you."
"Your ship is no match for Voyager," Chakotay replied.
"Every life is precious to my people, captain," Q’Ret said. "There are others who have followed me as a precaution. I won’t be coming back alone."
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
8 August 2377 0808 hrs
"What’s wrong?" Chakotay asked as he stepped into sickbay, where Ballard was seated on the main biobed, Zimmerman waving a scanner over her.
"Our old friend, the pathogen," Zimmerman replied as he stepped over to the console nearby. "It’s adapting to counteract my treatments."
Ballard hopped off the biobed and joined Zimmerman and Chakotay at the console. "Will this cause problems when we get back to Earth?"
"I’m not certain," Zimmerman admitted. "Until then, I’ll need to increase the frequency of your treatments. You’ll have to see me at least twice a day."
"How am I supposed to do my job if I’m in here all the time?" Ballard demanded. "How am I supposed to do anything?"
Zimmerman began to raise a hypospray to her neck. "Please try to underst–"
"Shty’ka!" Ballard yelled as she swatted his arm away. "Nav shty’ka pan da’be shti’vaub!" She stepped back, realizing what had just happened. "I’m sorry," she said, then turned and ran out and into the corridor.
"Coming into Earth orbit, captain," Pablo Baytart announced as Chakotay stepped out of the turbolift and onto the bridge.
"Where’s Lyndsay?" Chakotay asked, stopping in front of the Ops station.
"Shuttlebay," Gilmore replied. "Looks like she’s been sitting inside her shuttle for the last few minutes."
"Should I send a detail down?" Mulcahey asked from Tactical.
"No," Chakotay replied, "I think she’s just doing a little soul- searching." He turned back to Gilmore. "Open a channel. I think I know just the person who could cheer her up."
"Wow, this place sure is lived in."
Ballard spun at the voice behind her.
"Harry?" she asked in shock.
"The one and only," quipped Lieutenant Harry Kim as he took a seat beside Ballard. "Chakotay filled me in after I beamed aboard."
"So," Ballard began, her old friend’s presence bringing her out of her funk, "you still playing the clarinet?"
"Actually," Kim replied, "I’ve taken up the saxophone."
"Ambitious," Ballard smiled. "Bet you’re good at it."
"You always were my biggest fan," Kim chuckled.
"Please," Ballard said, "no past tense."
"Sorry," Kim said.
"It just so happens," Ballard said, "that hearing you play music again is number twenty-six on my list."
"List?" Kim asked.
"Something I made up," Ballard explained, "to pass the time while I was away. I tried to think of everything I’d do if I got back to Voyager. Including some things I wasn’t able to accomplish the first time I was here."
"Like showing up for duty shifts on time?" Kim asked playfully.
"That’s number twenty-seven," Ballard shot back.
Suddenly, the deck beneath them pitched. Considering the circumstances, they both knew that could mean only one thing: weapons fire.
"Shields down to 48 percent," Mulcahey warned from Tactical.
"Target the lead ship’s weapons array," Chakotay ordered as the turbolift doors hissed open and Kim and Ballard stepped onto the bridge.
"Endeavour and Sovereign moving to intercept the Kobali," Gilmore reported. "Spacedock reports six more starships standing ready."
"Life support failing on decks six through ten," Dyson announced.
"Reroute power to compensate," Chakotay ordered.
"The Kobali ships are taking heavy fire from Endeavour and Sovereign," Mulcahey said. "They’re breaking off and engaging them instead."
"Marla," Chakotay said, turning to Gilmore, "send our thanks to both ships for getting the dogs off our back."
"I’m detecting power fluctuations in the lead ship’s warp core," Gilmore said a moment later. "It wouldn’t take much to overload it."
Chakotay nodded. "Hail the lead ship."
"Channel open," Gilmore said.
"Q’Ret," Chakotay began, "stand down. You’re vastly outmatched; the only thing you’re going to accomplish by attacking us is getting yourselves killed." He waited a moment, then turned to Gilmore and asked, "Is he reading us?"
"Yes, sir," Gilmore confirmed. "He just won’t answer."
"Let me talk to him," Ballard suggested. "He might listen to me." Chakotay looked to Ballard, then nodded to Gilmore.
"Channel open," Gilmore said.
"Q’Ret," Ballard began, "don’t do this." A moment later, Q’Ret’s face appeared on the viewscreen.
"Come back with me," Q’Ret demanded.
"I can’t do that," Ballard replied. "I belong here."
"You belong with me!" Q’Ret bellowed.
"I don’t want you to destroy yourself," Ballard said, "but I won’t come with you."
"You are Kobali," Q’Ret said.
"I’m also human," Ballard replied. "No matter what happens, I’ll never forget you. But you have to let me live my own life; make my own choices."
"I couldn’t protect you," Q’Ret pleaded.
"I have my friends," Ballard said.
"They failed you before!" Q’Ret charged.
"My death was an accident," Ballard argued. "My rebirth was a gift. I could never forget that, just like I could never forget the Kobali part of my new heritage."
"I love you," Q’Ret said, "my daughter."
"And I will love you, too," Ballard said. The screen went blank.
"The lead ship is breaking off," Gilmore said. "The others are following. They’re powering down their weapons. Incoming message for Ensign Ballard."
Ballard stepped into the Ops alcove next to Gilmore and peered at the console. A moment later, her hand shot up to her face as she stifled a sob, tears welling in her eyes.
"Lyndsay," Kim asked, approaching her, "are you all right?" She nodded.
"He said," Ballard began, "’I will always remember you, Lyndsay.’"
"The Kobali ships are going to warp," Gilmore said.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 215603.5
Ensign Ballard has transferred down to Starfleet Medical on Earth, where she will begin to undergo treatments to restore her human DNA, and will soon be reunited with her family. Lieutenant Kim has returned to Earth as well, and will doubtless continue to play a role in his old friend’s recovery.