Stardate 214329.2 (20 Sept 2375): Is someone trying to prevent Voyager from getting home? Based upon the television episode.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
Seven of Nine’s quarters
23 June 2375 0436 hrs
B’Elanna Torres pressed the chime signal at the door of Seven of Nine’s quarters. Six months before, Harry Kim convinced Seven that she should move into her own quarters, rather than the cargo bay that she had lived in for nearly two years, explaining that it would better help her understand humanity if she lived as one of them. He had even helped install a regeneration alcove not only in her new quarters, but also in his own, in anticipation of their rapidly-progressing relationship.
Torres pressed the chime again, growing impatient. She’d never known the former Borg drone to take so long answering the door, at any hour. Maybe she’s actually sleeping for once, she mused.
The doors parted, revealing a bleary-eyed Harry Kim. He was dressed in a standard-issue robe that he’d obviously thrown on in a hurry. “Harry!” Torres exclaimed in surprise.
“Hi, B’Elanna,” he replied sleepily. “What brings you here at oh-dark-hundred?”
“I’d ask you the same thing,” she quipped, “but I think I already know the answer.” Kim started to blush, looking down in embarrassment. “Don’t sweat it, Starfleet. Is Seven up?”
“I think so,” Kim said. “Is this one of those conversations where I should excuse myself back to my quarters?”
Torres glanced nervously in both directions down the corridor. “Actually,” she said, “I think I can trust you.”
Kim noticed the nervous glances. “Come in,” he said. “I’ll let Seven know you’re here.” A few minutes later, the three were seated around a low table in the living area; Kim and Seven shared the couch under the viewports, while Torres sat in the chair opposite them.
“There’s a saboteur aboard,” Torres said finally, breaking the silence.
“What?” Kim asked, shocked.
“Someone apparently doesn’t want to get back to the Federation,” Torres replied. “Whoever it is, they’re willing to go so far as to destroy every attempt we’ve made to use alien technology to enhance our propulsion systems.”
“You mean,” Kim said, swallowing, “that the simulations were right? That we should have been able to use all those technologies we’ve found?”
“Yes.” Torres sighed. “Maybe. I was reviewing the logs, and something didn’t add up. I’ve got my suspicions, but I don’t have any proof.”
“And you believe that I can assist you in finding it,” Seven concluded.
“Exactly,” Torres said.
“I will render whatever aid I am able,” Seven said.
“Thank you,” Torres said. She stood, then left the room.
Kim turned to Seven. His face was a palette of fear, confusion, and anxiety. Seven inclined her head to one side.
“Are you in love with me, ensign?” she asked.
Kim’s face melted into a crooked grin. “Absolutely.”
“We have one point five hours until our duty shift begins,” Seven said. “Let us return to the bedroom.”
“Seven,” Kim protested, “that’s not much time to sleep. We might as well just get ready for work.”
“I did not say we would be sleeping,” Seven replied coyly.
Three Months Later
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
Seven of Nine’s quarters
20 September 2375 0530 hrs
“Regeneration cycle complete,” the computer announced as Seven stepped down from the alcove installed next to her bed. She immediately tapped her combadge.
“Seven of Nine to Lieutenant Torres.” Silence. “Lieutenant Torres, respond!”
“Good morning, Seven,” Torres’ irritated voice replied from the combadge. “This had better be important.”
“I must speak with you at once,” Seven said.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
Captain’s Ready Room
20 September 2375 0715 hrs
“Warning,” the computer intoned, “plate is hot.”
Janeway recoiled as her hand touched the hot skillet in her Ready Room’s replicator. “Now you tell me,” she muttered. She looked to Chakotay, who was sipping hot tea at the table under the room’s large viewports. “You go for authenticity, and what do you get? Second-degree burns. I slaved over that replicator program for hours.” She sat across from him and sipped her coffee while she waited for the skillet to cool enough to handle.
“What was this bizarre rumor I heard about half the crew on deck five getting pregnant?” she asked.
“Oh, that,” Chakotay chuckled. “The Doctor was running generational projections on the Sickbay computer. Tom Paris happened to glance at the monitor and jumped to conclusions. Wasn’t long before Neelix was asking me if he could turn Cargo Bay One into a nursery.”
“Word travels fast on this ship, hmm?” Janeway noted.
“Warp ten,” Chakotay quipped. “Oh, by the way, I meant to tell you. There’s a Class-K nebula twenty-five light years off starboard. We should take a look.”
“A major detour for a minor nebula?” Janeway teased.
“We are explorers,” Chakotay returned, “remember?”
“Permission granted,” Janeway smiled. The computer beeped, signalling the skillet was now cool enough to handle. “Main course. A recipe I’ve never tried, but we are explorers, remember.”
An hour later, Janeway stood at the rear of the Bridge, studying the readouts displayed at the Science station. “I’m picking up some interesting graviton fluctuations about ten light years away,” she said.
“Can you be more specific?” Tuvok asked from his seat at the Tactical station.
“Not at this distance,” Janeway said. She paused, then turned her attention to the helm at the fore of the Bridge as she walked forward and leaned against the railing behind her seat. “Tom, alter course. I want to take a closer look.”
“Chakotay had his heart set on that nebula we’re headed for,” Paris replied as he began entering a course change.
“He’ll have to wait,” Janeway replied.
The turbolift opened, and both Torres and Seven stepped onto the Bridge. “Captain,” a noticeably nonplussed Torres began as the pair approached their commanding officer, “I need permission to shut down the sensor grid. Seven thinks a couple of insects are disrupting the power flow.”
“A mating pair of photonic fleas, to be more accurate,” Seven clarified, “and possibly their offspring.”
“And how did you arrive at this… theory?” Janeway asked.
“Last night,” Seven explained, “I downloaded six months of ship status reports into my new cortical subunit while I was regenerating.”
“Learn while you sleep,” Paris interjected. “I tried that once; gave me a headache.”
“Go on,” Janeway prompted.
“Eight weeks ago,” Seven said, “an away team encountered a Kartelan freighter carrying supplies from sector four-nine-two, a territory that included a former Talaxian colony. Mister Neelix used the opportunity to acquire twelve kilograms of amber spice, a delicacy among his people.”
“What does that have to do with the sensor grid?” Torres asked impatiently.
“On the same day Ensign Kim was repairing a replicator in the Mess hall,” Seven added.
“I remember that,” Kim said. “Neelix told me to stick around and try something he was cooking.”
“No doubt made with the amber spice,” Seven concluded, “which contained the larvae of the photonic fleas.”
“How could you possibly know that?” Torres asked.
“Because I also downloaded data regarding their life cycles,” Seven said, then continued her hypothesis. “The larvae flew out of the spice jar in search of their primary source of nourishment, plasma particles. The conduits within the nearby sensor grid contain an effectively unlimited supply of these particles. Ensign Kim had unwittingly given the creatures access by exposing the grid. The now mature creatures periodically tap into the conduit for nourishment. When they do, the sensor emitters momentarily lose their resolution.”
“A logical, though highly speculative, analysis,” Tuvok remarked. Janeway grinned, then led Seven and Torres to the turbolift.
The three women stood in a Jefferies tube. Torres opened a panel, revealing the machinery behind it, which was covered in a weblike substance. Tiny insects flitted around the webbing. Janeway and Torres looked at one another. Neither had fully believed Seven’s claims, and were just humoring her, and were astonished to discover she’d been right. They looked at Seven, the surprise evident on their faces. They returned their attention to the insects.
“Let’s find a more suitable home for them,” Janeway said.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
20 September 2375 1147 hrs
A few hours later, Janeway was back on the Bridge, Chakotay seated at her side. Kim’s control panel began to beep.
“I’m picking up graviton fluctuations,” he announced.
“Take us out of warp,” Janeway ordered. “On screen.” A device of some sort appeared on the screen. An arm lined with emitters was attached vertically to a control station, and an identical arm was floating in space across from the first. Its origin and purpose, so far, remained a mystery.
Paris turned in his seat to look at the others on the Bridge. “Anybody want to hazard a guess?” he asked.
“They are hailing us,” Tuvok announced.
“On screen,” Janeway said eagerly.
On the viewscreen, a humanoid being of apparently amphibian descent appeared. He had a large cranial ridge that extended from his nose, flaring outward at the top of his head. He was hairless, and spots could be seen on his chest at the collar of his shirt. “I recommend maximum shielding,” he said without preamble. “There are a few technical issues I haven’t worked out yet.”
“There’s a massive graviton surge coming from that thing,” Kim warned.
“Shields to full,” Tuvok announced. The ship rocked as a graviton surge hit them, forcing everyone to grab something to maintain their balance.
“Your apparatus appears to be destabilizing,” Janeway remarked.
“If I don’t find a way to repair this power core,” the alien said, “they’ll be able to see the explosion all the way to, ah… where did you say you were from?”
“I didn’t,” Janeway grinned, “but we’re from a planet called Earth.”
“All the way to Earth.”
“Can we ask you what it’s supposed to do?” Chakotay asked.
“Catapult a vessel across space,” the alien explained, “in the time it takes to say, ‘catapult a vessel across space.’ It’ll make warp drive look like a wooden sled.”
This certainly piqued Janeway’s curiousity. She and Chakotay shared a curious glance. “Maybe we can help you with that power core,” she said.
The alien blinked, confused. “Hm?” was his only reply. Why should these strangers want to help him?
The alien, who had introduced himself as Tash, reached across the briefing room table for the coffee pot. Janeway sat to his right at the head of the table, while Chakotay sat to his left, and Harry Kim and B’Elanna Torres sat across from them both. “The core sends a graviton surge,” he explained, grabbing an empty coffee cup, “through the projectors, which locks onto a ship and sends it hurtling into null space”—he slid the cup down the length of the table, where Chakotay caught it—”to emerge a few hours later, hundreds—if not thousands—of light years away.”
Chakotay held up the cup while he addressed Tash. “I’m curious why you built this catapult,” he said.”
“Simple,” Tash replied. “I’ve been lookign for a way to get home.”
“We know the feeling,” Kim sighed.
“I’d been exploring an unstable wormhole,” Tash continued, gesturing with his hands. “Before I knew it, I was here, and my home planet was there. I was facing a journey of at least ten years. Instead, I decided to build a catapult.”
“Have you tested it yet?” Torres asked.
“Two weeks ago,” Tash said, “I sent a probe nearly six hundred light years, but it it destabilized the core. I’ve been trying to fix it ever since.”
Tash had firmly captured the attention of everyone at the table. “We can send an engineering team over to help you,” Chakotay offered, eager to get the device working again.
“No, no, it’s too dangerous,” Tash objected. “I wouldn’t send my own crew in there.”
“Then we could find a way to adjust the core reaction from here,” Kim suggested.
“A few well-timed graviton pulses from our deflector dish might do it,” Torres supplied. Kim nodded in agreement.
“That’s generous,” Tash said, surprised, “but I have nothing to give in return.”
“We’re not asking for anything in return,” Janeway said.
There was no way anyone could be that generous. Tash felt there had to be something he could offer in exchange for their help. Suddenly, it dawned on him. “You could use the catapult after I’ve made my jump!” he exclaimed. “It should still be functional. A thousand light years won’t exactly get you back to Earth…”
“But it would cut a few years off our trip,” Kim finished.
“If you’re successful,” Janeway said, “and if I’m satisfied a jump would be safe for Voyager, then we’ll take you up on that offer. Thank you.” She looked at the others. “Let’s get started.” Janeway and the others rose from their chairs and made their way to the bridge.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
Captain Janeway’s quarters
21 September 2375 0730 hrs
That evening, Seven of Nine once again downloaded the data from the ship’s logs into her Borg systems via her modified alcove, this time focusing her research on Tash’s catapult. The next morning, she made her way to Captain Janeway’s quarters. Inside, Janeway was seated at her chair, taking in her breakfast. Her uniform jacket was draped over the back of the seat. Janeway began to raise her coffee cup to her mouth when the door bell chimed.
“Come in,” Janeway said. Seven stepped into the room and walked up to the captain. “Good morning,” Janeway said.
“Perhaps not,” Seven said. “The alien, Mister Tash, is trying to deceive us. His catapult is the same type of technology that was used to trap Voyager in the Delta Quadrant five years ago.”
“I scanned the catapult myself,” Janeway said in disbelief as she rose to stand face-to-face with Seven. “Sensors didn’t pick up anything unusual.” Why would she have come to such a conclusion? Janeway thought. Ah, of course… “You spent the night in your new alcove.”
“Processing the same information and cross-referencing it with Voyager‘s database,” Seven confirmed. “When the catapult destabilized yesterday, astrometric sensors recorded a momentary burst of epsilon radiation.”
“Unusual,” Janeway conceded, “but not unheard of.”
“Epsilon radiation is one of the by-products of a tetryon reactor,” Seven explained. “According to your own entries in the database, your only encounter with that kind of technology occurred five years ago in the Alpha Quadrant. A coherent tetryon beam locked onto Voyager, and you were hit by a massive displacement wave, which pulled you across seventy thousand light years in a matter of minutes. The source of that tetryon beam was the Caretaker’s array. Mister Tash claims that his catapult will be able to do something very similar.”
Janeway stepped away, thinking. “He didn’t want us to send over a repair team,” she said as she stepped behind her desk.
“Out of concern for our safety,” Seven said, dubiously. “It’s obvious he was trying to hide his tetryon reactor.”
Janeway set down her coffee and the PADD she was carrying, then looked up at Seven. “The first time we met a Nacene,” she said, “we were pulled halfway across the galaxy. The second time, we were almost killed. I’m not eager for a third round.”
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
21 September 2375 0800 hrs
The Doctor passed a medical scanner across Tash’s chest as they stood in Engineering, a security guard nearby in case Seven’s suspicions should prove correct.
“Is this any way to treat a colleague?” Tash protested.
“Not so much as a strand of Nacene DNA,” the Doctor announced.
“Thank you, Doctor,” Janeway said as she leaned against a nearby console. The Doctor stowed his tricorder and left engineering, and Janeway looked at Tash. “There’s a tetryon reactor powering your catapult,” she said. “You didn’t want us to find it, did you?” Tash looked away, ashamed. “Unless you answer my questions, I’ll resume course and you can ask somebody else for help.”
Tash stepped quickly over to Janeway, and the guard began to move to stop him, but was waved off by Janeway. “I acquired the tetryon reactor at great cost,” Tash explained. “This territory is full of species who would do anything for such advanced technology—including steal it.” Janeway traded glances with Torres and Seven, who were standing nearby as well. “I apologize for the deception,” Tash continued, “but you do understand.”
Janeway glanced at Torres, then back to Tash. “We made an agreement to cooperate,” she said after a moment. “I see no reason not to continue.”
“Thank you, captain!” Tash exclaimed in relief.
Janeway turned her head to Torres. “Keep me informed on your progress,” she said, then began to walk out of engineering. Seven followed. “That reactor had to come from somewhere,” Janeway said quietly to the former drone. “I can’t just ignore the possibility of a Nacene nearby. Keep scanning; see what you can find.”
“There is another possibility,” Seven said. “The reactor may have come from the same array that brought Voyager to the Delta Quadrant.”
Janeway wasn’t so sure. “That’s a long shot, Seven,” she said, shaking her head.
“Maybe not,” Seven replied. “Again, according to your own reports, you believed the only way to keep the array from falling into the wrong hands was to destroy it. It’s possible the destruction was incomplete.”
“And one of the reactors survived?” Janeway asked dubiously. “We scanned for debris. There was nothing left but some fused pieces of metal.”
“I wish to reexamine the sensor records from that event,” Seven said.
“In case we were mistaken,” Janeway supplied. Seven either didn’t notice or didn’t care that Janeway remained unconvinced.
“Yes,” Seven said.
“Go right ahead,” Janeway said. If Seven was wrong, she’d just waste some time chasing a dead end. But if she was right…
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
21 September 2375 1007 hrs
Seven stood at the console facing the enormous viewscreen in the Astrometrics Lab. She watched as the visual log recording of the destruction of the Caretaker’s array played back.
“Computer,” she said, “describe the debris remaining after the array was destroyed.”
“Particulate dust and metallic fragments,” the computer answered, “composed of an unknown alloy. Vapor composed of hydrogen, helium, mercury, and argon.”
“Was there anything left of the tetryon reactor?” Seven asked.
Seven thought about this for a moment, then said, “Specify the yield of the tricobalt device.”
“Twenty thousand teracochranes.”
“Who programmed the device?” Seven asked.
“Lieutenant Commander Tuvok,” the computer replied.
“Display the detonation,” Seven ordered. The image on the screen changed to a frozen image of the array at the instant of detonation. “Advance the image by point-zero-one seconds.” The image changed again, with the central hub of the array now becoming engulfed in the explosion that would destroy it completely. “Again.” The image changed once more, and the explosion had nearly doubled in size. Seven noticed something unusual. “Isolate grid three-seven and magnify.” The requested section expanded to fill the viewscreen. “Is that a tractor beam?”
“Insufficient sensor data,” the computer replied.
“Identify its source,” Seven ordered.
“Insufficient sensor data,” the computer replied.
“Identify the isolated section of the array,” Seven said.
“Secondary power core,” the computer said.
“Which contained a tetryon reactor,” she noted.
“Affirmative,” the computer confirmed.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
21 September 2375 1133 hrs
Seven strode out of the turbolift at the rear of the Bridge. Tuvok, whom she was seeking, was standing beside Lieutenant Paris at the helm station. Before she had even reached the stairs to the lower level of the Bridge, she began to speak to Tuvok.
“Commander,” she said as she continued walking toward the helm station, “I’ve been reviewing the data on the destruction of the Caretaker’s array. Unfortunately, the sensor records are incomplete.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Paris interjected as Tuvok stepped around the helmsman to address Seven. “We were being attacked by the Kazon. Half the ship’s systems were down.”
“A single Kazon vessel,” Seven said dubiously.
“Armed to the teeth,” Paris added.
“Commander,” Seven said, turning her attention to Tuvok, “you fired the tricobalt charge that destroyed the array.”
“Correct,” Tuvok said.
“Under the captain’s orders,” Seven said. Tuvok nodded. “Did you also program the charge?”
“Yes,” Tuvok replied.
“Under the captain’s orders as well?” Seven asked.
“Not directly,” Tuvok explained. “I determined the yield.”
“Twenty thousand teracochranes,” Seven supplied.
“That’s correct,” Tuvok said.
“According to sensor estimates of the array’s hull integrity,” Seven countered, “a charge of half that yield would have been sufficient.”
Paris looked back and forth between Seven and Tuvok. What the hell is she getting at? he wondered.
“The captain wanted nothing left for the Kazon to use,” Tuvok explained. “I calculated a yield certain to produce that result.”
“Something may have escaped the blast,” Seven said. “One of the tetryon reactors.”
“But we scanned for debris,” Paris interjected.
“The charge you detonated tore an opening in subspace,” Seven said.
“And that’s where the reactor went?” Paris asked.
“Yes,” Seven replied.
Oh, come on! Paris thought. “How?” he asked.
“It was pushed there by a tractor beam,” Seven said, as though the answer were obvious.
“Do you have evidence of a tractor beam?” Tuvok asked.
Seven paused a moment, then said only, “Perhaps.”
“Speculation is not evidence,” Tuvok said. “There was no tractor beam, because there was no ship in the vicinity to generate one… unless you can prove otherwise.”
Seven paused to consider that. “Thank you,” she said, then added almost as an afterthought, “Commander.”
Shaking his head, Paris returned to his duties at the helm as Seven left the bridge.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
21 September 2375 2238 hrs
Neelix was cleaning up the counter of the mess hall when Seven of Nine entered.
“Looking for a midnight snack?” Neelix asked once she stopped at the counter across from him.
“I require information,” Seven said. “I’m attempting to determine whether the catapult technology was derived from the Caretaker’s array.”
“So I heard,” Neelix said. “A fascinating theory.” He began to gesture with his right hand near his temple. “It’s got my mind spinning.”
“How long were you in the vicinity of the array before Voyager arrived?” Seven asked.
“About a year,” Neelix answered. “Kes was on a nearby planet, and,” he smiled, “we were getting very close.” He carried some bowls of vegetables back into the kitchen, to store them until the next meal.
“Did you ever encounter the Caretaker directly?”
“No. No, nononono!” Neelix replied, waving his hand as he returned to the counter. “In my opinion, any being powerful enough to grab ships from the other side of the galaxy should be avoided.”
“According to Voyager‘s database, he claimed that he was searching for a genetically compatible mate. Did you believe that explanation?”
“I had no reason to doubt it,” Neelix said, “though it did seem a bit… excessive. I mean, all those ships…”
“What happened to them?” Seven asked.
“Well,” Neelix said, “after he sampled the crews’ DNA, he sent them back where they came from, I suppose. You know, Kes always thought something more was going on, but…” he smiled again, nearly chuckling to himself, “she had quite an imagination.”
“Were there any other ships in the area, after Voyager arrived?” Seven asked.
“Only the Kazon,” Neelix said.
“But the Caretaker could have pulled in another vessel,” Seven pressed. “A cloaked ship, perhaps.”
“Seven,” Neelix interjected, “what are you getting at?”
“A third ship,” Seven said. “Hidden from both Voyager and the Kazon.”
Neelix blinked in confusion. “What was it doing there?”
“Preventing the tetryon reactor from being destroyed,” Seven said.
Neelix had no reason to doubt Seven. His eyes widened in shock. “Kes was right,” he breathed. “Something was going on!”
“Voyager‘s sensor logs were damaged in the Kazon attack,” Seven said. “I can’t be certain.”
“Maybe I can help,” Neelix supplied. “The sensor records off my ship weren’t damaged. I can give them to you.”
Once again, Seven installed a Borg data node into her modified alcove. She stepped in for her nightly regeneration, and closed her eyes.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
22 September 2375 0931 hrs
Tash’s ship floated in front of the graviton catapult. On the Bridge of the Starship Voyager Harry Kim studied his sensor readings.
“The tetryon reaction is stable,” he reported from the Ops station. “Graviton field is set for a one hundred light year jump.”
“The catapult’s locking on to him,” Chakotay said, reading the display next to his chair at the heart of the Bridge.
“We’re being hailed,” Tuvok announced from the Tactical station.
“On screen,” Janeway, seated in her chair beside Chakotay’s, said.
Tash appeared on the viewscreen. “I’ll contact you the moment I reenter normal space,” he said. “Thank you, captain.”
“My pleasure,” Janeway replied.
“Catapult is at full power,” Kim announced.
“Goodbye to you all,” Tash said from the viewscreen before terminating the communications link.
“Final launch sequence has been initiated,” Tuvok reported.
On the screen, the Bridge crew saw beams of energy shoot out from the catapult’s emitters. The beams, almost conical in shape, converged on and surrounded the ship. A moment later, there was a flash, and the ship vanished.
“He’s gone,” Kim said with a grin.
Janeway turned to Tuvok. “How long before we can expect to hear from him?”
“If his vessel survived,” he replied, “one or two hours.”
The intercom beeped. “Seven of Nine to Commander Chakotay,” Seven’s voice said from the Bridge speakers.
“Go ahead,” he said.
“I require your assistance in the Astrometrics Lab,” Seven’s voice said.
Chakotay stopped for a moment, then said, “On my way.”
Chakotay stepped into the Astrometrics Lab. The moment the doors closed behind him, Seven said, “Computer, seal the doors. Deactivate all sensors within this room.”
“Acknowledged,” the computer confirmed.
“What’s this about?” Chakotay asked, stunned.
“I believe Voyager‘s presence in the Delta Quadrant is no accident,” Seven said. “You and the crew have been stranded here intentionally.”
“By whom?” Chakotay asked.
“Captain Janeway,” Seven replied. “The captain and Tuvok are involved in a Federation conspiracy. They’re in collusion with the Caretaker and possibly the Cardassians.”
Chakotay’s disbelief was plainly evident on his face. “I see,” he said. “And the point of this… conspiracy?”
“I believe they’re attempting to establish a military presence in the Delta Quadrant.”
“That’s quite a theory,” Chakotay replied, still unconvinced. “Perhaps you haven’t heard of the Jankata Accord.”
“No species shall enter another quadrant for the purpose of territorial expansion,” Seven recited.
“The Federation signed it,” Chakotay countered. “The Cardassians signed it. And Captain Janeway would be the last person to violate it.”
Seven led Chakotay to the main control panel, which faced the viewscreen. “Improbable as it may sound,” she said, “I’ve found compelling evidence to support my theory.”
“What kind of evidence?” Chakotay asked.
Images flooded the screen: Borg cubes, Chakotay’s Maquis raider, images of the crew. Planets. Maps. “I’ve analyzed over thirty million teraquads of data regarding Voyager‘s activities over the past five years. It’s quite clear that we’ve been the victim of an elaborate deception.”
“I don’t have the benefit of a cortical processor,” Chakotay said, turning to confront Seven. “Why don’t you give me the abridged version?”
“In the months before Voyager‘s arrival,” Seven began to explain, “Neelix recorded the appearance of fifty-two vessels, including this one.” Seven enlarged one of the images on the viewscreen so it dominated the view.
“A Cardassian warship,” Chakotay said, instantly recognizing the outline of a Galor-class vessel.
“A remarkable coincidence,” Seven said. “Only days before Voyager‘s arrival, the Cardassians were already in the Delta Quadrant.”
“The Caretaker was trying to find a mate, remember?” Chakotay countered. “He was pulling ships from all over the galaxy.”
“I’m familiar with the Caretaker’s actions,” Seven protested. “In each instance, he would examine the crew’s DNA, and when he failed to find a genetic match, he would release the vessel. But in this instance, Neelix’s sensors indicated the ship vanished. Obviously, it was returned to the Alpha Quadrant. Why?”
“You seem to have all the answers,” Chakotay replied.
“I believe the Cardassians were sent back to deliver strategic information regarding the Delta Quadrant.”
Chakotay sighed. “Conjecture,” he said.
“Extrapolation,” Seven argued.
“I can believe the Cardassians might be involved in this,” Chakotay said, “but not Starfleet.”
“There are precedents for unauthorized missions of this type, Commander,” Seven replied. “According to the Federation database, the Maquis were victims of several of them.”
“All right, you’ve got my attention,” Chakotay conceded. “You said that Tuvok and Captain Janeway were involved. Tell me how.”
“At the same time the Cardassians were meeting with the Caretaker,” Seven explained, “your Maquis vessel was infiltrated with a Starfleet agent.”
That was still a sore spot for Chakotay. “Tuvok.”
“Your navigator,” Seven added. “He guided your ship to prearranged coordinates in the Badlands where the Caretaker locked onto you. Once you were pulled into the Delta Quadrant, Tuvok could have secretly transmitted final instructions to the Caretaker. A short time later, Captain Janeway guided Voyager to the same coordinates and was also pulled into the Delta Quadrant. All of these events took place within a matter of days. I find that suspicious.”
“I’ll admit,” Chakotay conceded, “the timing seems a little convenient. But that doesn’t mean there was a master plan.”
“Why did the captain destroy the array?” Seven asked.
“So the Kazon couldn’t use it to attack the Ocampa,” Chakotay replied.
“That’s what she told the crew,” Seven said, “but I believe she intended to remain in the Delta Quadrant all along. If the array had remained intact, you and all the others would have insisted on using it to return home.”
“She was keeping it from the Kazon,” Chakotay reiterated.
“The captain ordered Commander Tuvok to destroy the array,” Seven added. “He fired two tricobalt devices.” Seven replayed the recording of the destruction of the Caretaker’s array. “Are those weapons normally carried on Federation starships?”
“No,” Chakotay admitted.
“Yet they were part of Voyager‘s arsenal,” Seven said. “Why?”
“I can’t explain that,” Chakotay replied.
“I can,” Seven said. “Neither phasers nor torpedoes are capable of creating a tear in subspace; a tricobalt device is.” Seven pulled up the image of the subspace tear generated during the explosion. “As Tuvok detonated the device, a cloaked ship locked on to one of the array’s tetryon reactors and pushed it through the tear into subspace, protecting it from the blast and hiding it from Voyager‘s sensors. But the captain and Tuvok knew exactly where it was going. Once Voyager left the area, the reactor was retrieved and began a similar journey, carried by a series of vessels until it was finally delivered to Mister Tash.”
“Who used it to build the catapult,” Chakotay finished.
“He was waiting here for Voyager,” Seven continued, “and for the final phase of the mission.”
“Which is what, exactly?” Chakotay pressed.
“I don’t think Captain Janeway is planning to use the catapult to get Voyager closer to home,” Seven said. “I think she’s going to use it to bring in more vessels from the Alpha Quadrant. If I’m correct this region of space will soon be occupied by a Federation-Cardassian invasion force.”
“You’ve uncovered some interesting facts,” Chakotay said, “but your interpretation is farfetched. These are random incidents. Granted, some of them are hard to explain, but there’s no conspiracy here.”
“Stardate 210373: Lieutenant Paris’ attempt to attain Transwarp speeds results in genetic mutations. Stardate 212978: An attempt to use the Quantum Slipstream drive acquired from Arturis’ vessel is only partially successful. Stardate 213164: A second attempt to integrate the Quantum Slipstream drive again fails. Were these the result of sabotage to keep Voyager in the Delta Quadrant?
“Stardate 212008: Captain Janeway allows Kes to leave Voyager. Neelix told me that Kes had suspicions about the Caretaker. Was the captain trying to silence her? Stardate 212462: The Doctor’s program is transmitted to a Starfleet vessel on the outskirts of the Alpha Quadrant. An attempt by the captain to contact Earth, or a secret communiqué informing Starfleet of her progress?
“Stardate 211984: Janeway forges an alliance with the Borg. Stardate 212762: A cease-fire with the Hirogen. Stardate 213861: A non-aggression pact with Tarkellia. She called each incident diplomacy. I believe she was trying to establish a tactical infrastructure in the Delta Quadrant.
“Over the past five years, Captain Janeway has altered course two hundred sixty three times in the name of exploration. In reality, she was mapping the region and collecting strategic data regarding—”
“I get the point,” Chakotay interrupted.
“You still doubt my suspicions,” Seven said, “but can you be certain I’m wrong?”
“Absolutely certain?” Chakotay asked. He paused thoughtfully before admitting, “No.”
“Until you are,” Seven said, “You must not allow Captain Janeway to retain control of the catapult.”
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
22 September 2375 1108 hrs
“I’m picking up a transmission,” Tuvok reported from his post at the Tactical station, “heavily distorted.”
“He made it,” Kim said.
“Can you clear it up?” Janeway asked.
Tash appeared on the viewscreen. “Success, captain!” He declared. “Five thousand light years!”
“Are you all right?” Janeway asked.
“A few systems overloaded,” Tash replied. “Nothing serious. I had to readjust my shields during mid-flight. Almost lost my outer hull. I’m sending you the modifications. My catapult is yours, captain. Good luck.” He cut the transmission.
Janeway looked to Kim at the Ops station. “Get that data down to B’Elanna,” she told him. “Tell her to enhance our shields.”
“So we’re going ahead with the jump?” Chakotay asked.
“I want to run a few more tests,” Janeway answered, “launch some probes, but if it all checks out, I see no reason not to.”
“I’ve received the telemetry,” Kim announced, holding up a PADD with the data as he rose to make his way to the turbolift.
“I’ll take it to engineering,” Chakotay said. He took the PADD from Kim, then left the Bridge.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
22 September 2375 1113 hrs
Chakotay handed the PADD to Torres, who was working at a control station on the upper level of Engineering. “I want you to add a point-zero-three variance to these shield modifications,” he told her.”
“That’ll disrupt the emitters,” she protested.
“And you’ll need another six hours to get them back online,” he said, “I know.”
“Have you run this by the captain?” Torres asked.
“No,” Chakotay said, “and I’m not going to. Not yet.”
“What?” Torres asked. “Why not?”
“Seven showed me evidence,” Chakotay explained, “indicating that Janeway may be in the Delta Quadrant intentionally, and that she has no intention of returning to Earth.”
“You’re joking,” Torres said. “You always did have a twisted sense of humor, Chakotay.”
“I’m not joking,” he replied. “Seven believes that Starfleet was in contact with the Caretaker for some time before we were brought to the Delta Quadrant. She believes that Janeway’s mission is to establish a military presence in the Delta Quadrant, and that she’s going to use the catapult to bring in reinforcements from the Federation.”
“She’s pulling your leg!” Torres protested. “It… it’s got to be some kind of Borg practical joke!”
“She wasn’t joking.”
“A secret mission?” Torres asked. “Starfleet in league with the Caretaker? It’s ridiculous.”
“Ridiculous?” Chakotay echoed. “Seven has some compelling evidence.”
“Well, then,” Torres said, “let’s go to the captain. Get a straight answer.”
“‘Good morning, Kathryn,'” Chakotay said mockingly. “‘All systems are operational. The crew’s in good health, and by the way, is it true you’ve been lying to us for five years?'” Torres’ opposition deflated like a punctured balloon. “I’m not prepared to make that accusation, but I can’t ignore what I’ve heard, either.”
“So what do you suggest?” Torres asked.
“I want you to delay those shield modifications,” Chakotay said. “That’ll give me time to check Seven’s database, take a look at the evidence myself.”
Harry Kim walked over to the two officers. “The captain asked me to work with you on the shields,” he said to Torres.
“That won’t be necessary, ensign,” Chakotay said.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” Kim said. “You know how eager she is to make that jump.”
“Harry, we’re fine here,” Torres said.
“Too many cooks, Harry,” Chakotay offered. “You know how it is. We’ll let you know when we’re done.”
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
Seven of Nine’s Quarters
23 September 2375 0700 hrs
“Download complete,” the computer said as Seven stepped out of her alcove once again. She immediately tapped her combadge.
“Seven of Nine to Captain Janeway.”
“Go ahead,” Janeway’s voice said.
“I need to speak with you in the Astrometrics Lab,” Seven said.
“I’m on my way,” Janeway replied.
Seven paced in the Astrometrics Lab, waiting for Janeway to arrive. As soon as she had, and the doors closed behind her, Seven said, “Computer, seal the door and deactivate internal sensors to this room.”
“Acknowledged,” the computer replied.
“Seven?” Janeway asked, concerned.
“I believe,” Seven began, “Chakotay and other members of your crew are involved in a conspiracy to resurrect the Maquis rebellion.”
Janeway eyed Seven suspiciously. “Did Chakotay put you up to this?” she asked.
“Voyager and the Federation itself are in grave danger,” Seven continued.
Uh-huh, Janeway thought. She decided to humor Seven. “Go on.”
“I’ve concluded,” Seven said, “that Chakotay intends to use the catapult to launch attacks against Cardassian and Federation starships.”
“Chakotay gave up his allegiance to the Maquis a long time ago,” Janeway replied. “What you’re saying makes no sense.”
“Improbable as it may sound,” Seven continued, “I found compelling evidence to support my theory. In the months before Voyager‘s arrival Neelix recorded the sudden appearance of fifty two vessels, including this one.” She pulled up the image of the Galor-class vessel.
“A Cardassian warship,” Janeway noted.
“I’ve analyzed the hull geometry and warp signature,” Seven said. “It was one of the same ships that were pursuing Chakotay and his crew in the region known as the Badlands. It was pulled into the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker during that engagement. According to Federation records that same Cardassian warship was found destroyed in the Badlands. The investigation revealed that it was attacked by the Maquis. I believe that for some unknown reason the Caretaker had sent this ship back to the Alpha Quadrant and that Commander Chakotay attacked the vessel before it could reach its destination. He downloaded its computer core and discovered the presence of the Caretaker’s array. He realized that the array could be used by the Maquis as a weapon, to launch surprise attacks against Cardassian and Starfleet vessels.”
“Well,” Janeway said, “I commend you for your imagination but Tuvok was a spy on Chakotay’s ship. If your theory were true, we would have known about it.”
“He does,” Seven said. “Tuvok has been collaborating with the Maquis resistance all along.”
Janeway shook her head. “That’s not possible, Seven.”
“With Tuvok’s assistance,” Seven continued, “Chakotay plotted a course toward the next likely appearance of the Caretaker’s displacement wave, offering his vessel as bait. His ploy almost succeeded, but the Caretaker was more powerful than he anticipated. His crew was taken captive. A few days later, Voyager arrived and facilitated their escape. Chakotay seized that opportunity to make one last attempt to gain control of the Array, but then you gave the order to destroy it.”
“Circumstantial evidence, not proof.”
“Who carried out your order to destroy the array?” Seven asked.
“Tuvok,” Janeway answered.
“Using what type of technology?”
“He set the yield to twenty thousand teracochranes,” Seven said. “It was enough to tear an opening in subspace.” She brought up the image of the subspace tear once again. “A cloaked ship locked on to one of the reactors, protecting it from the blast and hiding it from Voyager‘s sensors. The reactor was retrieved and carried by a series of vessels until it was delivered to Mister Tash, who was well-compensated by Chakotay to build the catapult. He was waiting here for Voyager so Chakotay could complete the mission he was forced to abandon five years ago.”
“I’d be willing to consider this… theory of yours,” Janeway began, “if I didn’t know Chakotay as well as I do. There is no one on this ship I trust more. What you’ve done here is build what we call a house of cards.”
“Stardate 209658,” Seven began to cite another list of events, just like she had for Chakotay. “Seska is revealed to be a Cardassian spy. She defects to the Kazon and impregnates herself with Chakotay’s DNA. Was he unaware of the procedure, as he claims, or were they working together, to create a new Kazon sect to capture Voyager? Stardate 210522. Chakotay recommends establishing trade relations with the Kolhari. Their technology uses tetryon power cells. A simple diplomatic overture, or was he seeking a source of energy for the catapult? Stardate 210571…”
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
Seven of Nine’s Quarters
23 September 2375 1107 hrs
Janeway entered Seven of Nine’s quarters to find Chakotay scanning the alcove in Seven’s bedroom with a tricorder.
“I picked up power surge coming from Seven’s quarters,” Chakotay said.
“I detected the same thing,” Janeway said. “You think it’s the enhanced alcove.”
“Could be,” Chakotay said.
“Let’s take a look,” Janeway said. As she stepped past him, she noticed the phaser on his belt. “Are phasers standard equipment on board now?” she asked.”
Chakotay glanced at the phaser that, likewise, graced Janeway’s belt. “Must be,” he remarked.
“The data buffer’s been activated,” Janeway said.
“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t malfunctioning,” Chakotay explained.
“You should be careful,” Janeway said, turning to face him. “Somebody might think you were trying to delete a few files.”
“Why would they think that?” Chakotay asked.
“Some of those files could contain sensitive information,” Janeway replied.
“If that’s true,” Chakotay said, “somebody might think you were trying to do the same thing.”
“That catapult out there,” Janeway began, “it’s a powerful piece of technology. If the Maquis ever had access to something like it they might have been successful.”
“And if we had,” Chakotay countered, “your mission to the Delta Quadrant never would have gotten off the drawing board.”
“What are you talking about?” Janeway asked.
“The mission you’ve been on for the last five years,” Chakotay shot back.
“My only mission is trying to get Voyager home,” Janeway replied.
“Seven showed me the sensor records,” Chakotay said. “I saw the tractor beam.”
“She showed me the same thing,” Janeway said, “but she implicated you in some kind of Maquis plot.”
“Same evidence, two different theories,” Chakotay said, realization dawning.
“It all started with those damn photonic fleas,” Janeway said. “She was downloading Voyager‘s database.”
“Bridge to Captain Janeway,” Kim’s voice came over the comm.
“Go ahead, Harry,” Janeway replied.
“I just picked up an unauthorized launch of the Delta Flyer,” Kim said. “Seven’s at the helm.”
“Set a pursuit course,” Janeway ordered.
“Acknowledged,” Kim said.
“Chakotay to the Doctor.”
“Sickbay here,” the Doctor’s voice replied.
“Get down to Seven’s quarters,” Chakotay said. “Run a diagnostic on her alcove.”
“On my way.”
“I’m glad we got that settled,” Janeway said as they made their way out of Seven’s quarters.
“Likewise,” Chakotay agreed.
“Chakotay,” Janeway said, pausing before they reached the door, “let’s keep this one out of our logs, huh?”
Janeway and Chakotay strode onto the Bridge. Janeway immediately went to Tuvok’s side at the Tactical station, while Chakotay went to the station on the railing immediately behind the command chairs.
“She’s altering course,” Tuvok reported, “heading for the catapult.”
“Maintain pursuit,” Janeway ordered. “Open a channel.”
“No response,” Tuvok said.
“Try to beam her out,” Chakotay said, looking to Kim at the Ops station.
“She’s done something to alter her bio-signature,” Kim said. “I can’t get a lock.”
“Target her propulsion and weapons,” Janeway ordered. “Fire.” The phaser strikes went well wide of the fleeing Delta Flyer.
“Our targeting scanners are out of alignment,” Tuvok announced.
“She must have done it before she took off,” Chakotay surmised.
“She’s charging weapons,” Kim said.
“Keep trying,” Janeway ordered.
“Doctor to Captain Janeway.”
“Seven downloaded too much data into her cortical implant. She’s trying to make sense of more information than she can process.”
“Understood,” Janeway said. She looked at Kim. “Beam me onto the Delta Flyer.”
“I’m going with you,” he said.
“No,” Janeway said. “I have a better chance of getting through to her alone.”
“This isn’t part of your mission, is it?” Chakotay asked.
“Is it part of yours?” Janeway retorted.
“Good luck,” Chakotay said.
“Energize,” Janeway ordered, looking to Kim.
23 September 2375 1120 hrs
Janeway materialized at the rear of the cockpit of the Delta Flyer. “Captain,” Seven said without turning. Janeway moved forward, but was blocked by a forcefield. “You came here hoping to stop me. You’ll fail.”
“Turn this ship around,” Janeway said. “That’s an order.”
“Your orders are irrelevant,” Seven retorted. “I’m no longer under your command. You deceived me.”
“There is no conspiracy,” Janeway said. “There is no Maquis rebellion. The Federation isn’t planning to invade the Delta Quadrant.”
“I realize that,” Seven shot back, “because I finally uncovered your true objective.”
“And what’s that?” Janeway asked.
“Me. Stardate 193611, the Federation sends my parents to study the Borg Collective. They know my family will be assimilated. That was their intention. Stardate 209317, Voyager is sent to the Delta quadrant with orders to retrieve me. When they reach Borg space Captain Janeway negotiates an alliance with the Collective in exchange for information regarding species 8472. They agree to give her Seven of Nine. Stardate 212030, Janeway extracts the implants from my body to remove any knowledge I have of her agreement with the Borg. Stardate 214335, Captain Janeway finalizes plans to use the catapult to deliver Seven of Nine to the Alpha Quadrant, where Starfleet will dissect and analyse the drone to gather tactical data to fight the Borg. I won’t allow you to complete your mission. If necessary I’ll destroy the catapult… and myself.”
“You’re right, Seven, there is a conspiracy here,” Janeway said, “but I believe it’s a conspiracy of one.” Seven turned to face Janeway. “I’ve got a theory of my own. Your modified alcove threw your synaptic patterns into chaos and your mind can’t make sense of all the information, so you’re generating theory after theory in an attempt to bring order to that chaos.”
“Your reasoning is flawed,” Seven said, turning back to the controls. “My alcove is functioning perfectly.”
“What about you?” Janeway asked. “You’re not a drone anymore. You can’t always predict how Borg technology will affect you. You should be in Sickbay, not behind that forcefield. Let me help you.”
“No!” Seven exclaimed. “I don’t believe you.”
“Of course you don’t,” Janeway said. “Anything I say gets woven into your paranoid conspiracies. But you should believe me, Seven, because I’ve never lied to you, and I’m not lying to you now. You have to put your doubts aside and trust me. Stardate 212030, Seven of Nine is severed from the hive mind. The captain tells her not to resist, that she’ll learn to accept her humanity. Seven complies, and slowly begins to embrace her individuality. Does she regret that decision? Stardate 212652, the captain encourages Seven to develop her social skills. Seven insists it’s a waste of time, but after further requests she pursues it and begins to develop her first human friendships. Did Janeway lead her astray? Stardate 213840, the Captain orders Seven to study her parents’ journals. Seven claims they’re irrelevant, but eventually she reads them and rediscovers part of her own past. Stardate 213841, for the first time, Seven tells the captain thank you.”
“It was Stardate 213842,” Seven corrected her. “Oh-six-hundred hours in the Mess Hall. We had just finished breakfast.”
“My mistake,” Janeway said. “Stardate today, Janeway beams aboard the Delta Flyer. She reminds Seven of the bond that’s grown between them. Seven lowers the forcefield and she decides to come home. All I’m asking is that you trust me again.” With an electric buzz, Seven lowered the forcefield. Janeway walked up to kneel in front of Seven. “Delta Flyer to Voyager,” Janeway said, never breaking eye contact with Seven. “Two to beam out.”
Captain’s Log, supplemental.
After further testing, we activated the catapult and were hurtled across thirty sectors of space. In less than an hour we cut seven months off our journey. I’m happy to say the Doctor has repaired Seven of Nine’s cortical processor and she’s returned to duty.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
Seven of Nine’s Quarters
23 September 2375 1827 hrs
Harry Kim sat on the edge of the bed in Seven of Nine’s quarters as she dismantled the components that had allowed her to download information into her Borg systems.
“So you’re taking the alcove apart?” he asked.
“Yes,” Seven replied. “My attempt to download Voyager‘s database failed.”
“Maybe we can fix it,” Kim offered.
“The alcove functioned within expected parameters,” Seven said softly. “Unfortunately, I did not.”
“Hey,” Kim said, rising and pulling Seven into an embrace. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. It was a good idea. You had no way of knowing that your implants couldn’t take that much data anymore.”
“I have been unable to find any further evidence to assist Lieutenant Torres,” Seven said. “It was my hope that the downloads would allow me to do that.”
“Maybe there’s nothing to find,” Kim said. “Like the captain said, it was just information overload that caused you to invent one conspiracy after another.”
“Perhaps,” Seven admitted. Kim pulled her tighter into his arms.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
Captain Janeway’s Quarters
23 September 2375 1906 hrs
“I heard the strangest rumor today,” Janeway said, pouring a drink for Chakotay as they finished their dinner together. “Apparently, the captain and first officer almost came to blows.”
“Mutiny?” Chakotay asked.
“First officer walked the plank,” Janeway said. “So I heard.”
“I don’t believe a word of it,” Chakotay said.
“Me neither,” Janeway agreed.
“Seven was malfunctioning,” Chakotay said. “We don’t have that excuse.”
“You’re right,” Janeway said. “We’ve been through too much to stop trusting each other.”
Chakotay started to take a drink, then stopped, staring into the cup. “You didn’t poison the coffee did you?”
Janeway shrugged. “Not any more than I usually do.”
Chakotay smiled, then took a drink.