Erasure

Summary: Voyager limps through alien space, pursued by a relentless enemy. With the crew split apart, stranded officers turn to each other, and suspicions arise that a traitor may be working from the inside. But fates can change in breathtaking ways.

 

Characters: Janeway, Paris, Chakotay, Tuvok, Kim, Torres, Kes, Neelix, EMH, Seska, Bendera, Celes, VOY crew

Codes: Janeway/Paris, Janeway/Chakotay, Kim/Torres

 

Disclaimer: Paramount owns all things Trek, including any dialogue I’ve borrowed from the series. I sincerely hope they take this as a compliment.

 

Notes: Book 3 of the Parallels series. Related episode: Year of Hell. Thanks to their moderately successful use of the Sikarian spatial trajector, Voyager has managed to bypass Borg space without encountering the Collective, and other events that happened in the series between Prime Factors and Year of Hell have also been bypassed. I’ve also taken some liberties with the timeline, but not as many as Annorax.

Rated M

Part One: Calculation

Stardate 48742.7
~ Day 1 ~


Tom Paris was bored.

For two weeks following the jump from Sikaris, Voyager had crawled her way through unfamiliar space so as not to tax engines or warp core, while Torres and her engineers repaired the damage caused by the spatial trajector and the Stellar Cartography team worked around the clock mapping their upcoming route.

For two weeks after that, they’d remained in orbit of an M-class planet inhabited by a friendly species willing to trade with Voyager so they could replenish the ship’s parts and the crew’s food supplies.

For the past month, they had sailed through a sparsely-populated region of space, their only excitement being an encounter with a Class 9 nebula that got Janeway all hyped up and insistent that they detour to study it. Paris couldn’t see the attraction in a big cloud of gas himself, but whatever got you through the night.

And now they’d made contact with the Zahl, another species willing to allow Voyager to travel unmolested through their space, and Captain Chakotay had agreed to their terms, which included no detouring to investigate anything interesting, no avoiding the Zahl’s frequent security checkpoints, and definitely no away missions. Tom Paris was suffering from a bad case of cabin fever.

He knew well enough that boredom tended to be his undoing; it always had. He’d start by increasing his smart-ass quotient to get a rise out of people. Dad-baiting, his sisters used to call it, because in his teens his father had most usually been the target of Tom’s needling, but as he’d proven in the years since, any authority figure would do. Then he’d start seeking out ever-riskier pursuits in his search for entertainment, typically gravitating to anything he could fly or drive very fast. Eventually he’d graduate to full-out self-destructive behaviour. Bars, girls, drugs, fights; whatever it took to shake up the monotony and get out of his head for a while. By that point, as he also knew well enough, he’d usually smashed anything good in his life to smithereens. Usually by that point he didn’t really care, or at least told himself he didn’t. This time around, he cared. A lot.

But if he had to sit here in his silent quarters trying to read the novel he’d borrowed from Harry Kim for one minute longer he’d go batshit crazy. Paris threw the book onto the low table beside his couch in disgust. “Computer, what time is it?”

~The time is 2036 hours.~

Paris groaned. He’d only come off shift two hours ago; he’d eaten dinner, if you could dignify it with the word, in the mess hall, given Culhane some tips on shuttle manoeuvrability, stood in line for dessert with pretty little Celes and indulged in a little light flirtation, borrowed the book from Kim and excused himself to go to his quarters and read, like a good little Starfleet officer. He wasn’t even remotely tired – the thing about travelling peacefully through space was that you got to catch up on your missed sleep – and he was bored. So very, very bored. Paris threw on his uniform jacket and went in search of entertainment.

Sandrine’s Bar was running on the holodeck. It amused him slightly that despite the crew taking their time to warm up to him, they’d had no problem getting comfortable with his holoprogram. Ten months into their travels, he had yet to reach the point where he felt easy with anyone but Harry Kim, and maybe Kes, although Neelix’s suspicions of his motives meant he could never fully relax around her. Paris checked the holodeck console; the readout told him that Ensign Hogan had activated the program an hour or so earlier. Hogan was former Maquis, but he was okay. He’d even made a point of taking a seat at Tom’s otherwise empty table in the mess hall after the incident with Jonas and Henley in his quarters; a show of silent support that Paris had not forgotten. Paris opened the holodeck doors and strolled in.

A burst of raucous laughter washed over him and Tom squinted into the low light. He could make out the usual holo-characters milling around, Kaplan and Jetal playing a leisurely pool game, and a table of crewmembers over by the fireplace. Hogan, Henley, Bendera, Jarvin… and Janeway. There were glasses both half-full and empty on their table. All five of them were in off-duty clothes. And all five of them were bent almost double, leaning on each other, wheezing with laughter. Paris couldn’t help staring. Kathryn Janeway in fits of genuine mirth was not something he’d ever imagined he’d see. She was radiant, and her laughter was infectious, and without realising it he broke into a grin and moved toward her table.

Henley was the first to see him. “Hey, Paris,” she called, her voice still bubbling with laughter. “Come join us. We were just remembering old times.”

There was something not completely kind in her voice, but Tom pulled a chair up anyway, between Hogan and Bendera. “Old times?”

Henley gestured vaguely around the room. “This place. Kinda reminds us of that waterhole on Nivoch. You remember that, right?”

Paris felt the smile fade from his face and tried to keep it plastered there. He remembered Nivoch, all right, the planet in the DMZ where Janeway had set the ship down for repairs, and had, he assumed, met her control for new instructions and information. He remembered the Liberty crew treating it as a place of refuge, somewhere they could let down their guard – and their hair – after months of heated battles and cold comfort. He remembered being invited to tag along to the bar, remembered feeling part of the crew for the first time. And he remembered getting insanely, revoltingly, gut-wrenchingly drunk and picking a fight with someone whose face or words or tone he misliked. Fortunately he didn’t remember much of what happened after he threw the first punch, but Jarvin and Henley had wasted no time filling him in the next morning. Janeway, Ayala and Bendera had shown up at the bar just in time to find their pilot being beaten to a pulp and thrown gasping and vomiting into the gutter outside. Perhaps the worst part of it was that it had been Janeway who’d stripped off his rancid, soiled clothing, shoved him into the sonic shower and put him to bed.

Henley had started giggling again. “The look on Ayala’s face when he realised he was going to have to carry you back to the ship …”

Jarvin snorted into his drink. Tom felt his face burn. Nothing he liked better than walking into a room to find everyone had been having a whole lot of fun at his expense. Although, at least Hogan and Bendera weren’t laughing anymore. And Janeway … He shot her a sidelong glance. She wasn’t laughing either. In fact she looked downright ashamed.

“I’ll say one thing for you, Paris,” Henley went on. “You may have been a Starfleet traitor but you sure knew how to liven up a party.”

“Enough.” It was one word, spoken softly, but there was no mistaking the finality in Janeway’s tone.

Henley looked at her in surprise, but she shut up immediately. An awkward silence fell.

Bendera cleared his throat, and the interruption gave Paris the impetus to scrape his chair back and stand. “Well, thanks for the memories. I’m due on the bridge, so …” He couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

He was halfway down the corridor when he heard her calling him, and stopped. Janeway caught up to him and he faced her with what he hoped was a face scrubbed clean of expression. “Paris,” she said again, then hesitated. Tom said “It’s okay, Commander. I’m used to it.”

“It’s not okay,” she said fiercely, and they both looked surprised at the heat in her tone. “What I mean is, you came in at the wrong time. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” he said again, softer.

To his surprise, she smiled at him. “You’re not due on the bridge.”

“No,” he admitted. “But making my excuses seemed like a good idea.”

To his even greater surprise, Janeway put a hand on his arm. “I could use a coffee. If you’re not busy, join me in the mess hall?”

It was the first time she’d actually initiated a conversation with him that wasn’t about ships’ systems or flight plans since, well, ever. Usually, she tolerated his presence, accepted their exchanges with equanimity, if not exactly friendliness. Tom wasn’t about to knock her back. “Yes, sir,” he replied smartly, and they made their way to the mess hall.


Stardate 48746.2
~ Day 4 ~


~Senior officers to the bridge.~

The ship rocked gently as Janeway hurried to the turbolift, tucking a misbehaving lock of hair into her chignon. “Bridge,” she told the lift, and stepped out onto deck one. “They’re back, then,” she remarked to Chakotay as she took her seat beside him. The small Krenim ship had been shadowing them for two days, popping out of warp occasionally to throw a bit of ineffectual phaser fire at Voyager and bellow at the Captain for violating Krenim space.

Chakotay raised an eyebrow at her. “Two ships this time. Still, pretty bold of them to attack us while the Zahl are close by.” He gestured at the viewport. The sprawling grey Zahl cruiser hung to Voyager’s starboard; Janeway checked her console and saw that its shields were up and weapons powered but hadn’t yet been fired. Two Krenim vessels, dwarfed by comparison, held position to port. As she watched, phasers spurted from one of them. “Shields at ninety-four percent,” Ensign Kim reported from behind her.

“That’s enough. Hail them.” Chakotay stood as the outraged face of the Krenim captain appeared on screen. “You have violated Krenim space,” he began predictably, and Chakotay held up an impatient hand. “So you keep informing us, Captain. Evidence would suggest that this is in fact Zahl space. In any case, we have no argument with you.”

“You consort with our enemy,” the Krenim said furiously. “That is reason enough to attack you. Leave our space or you will be destr-“

Kim cut him off. “The Zahl are hailing, Captain.”

Chakotay nodded at him and the irate Krenim commander was replaced onscreen with the exasperated face of Levath, the Zahl official they’d been in talks with for the past few days. “Can we offer assistance, Captain Chakotay?”

He shook his head. “Thank you, we have it under control. But it might be best to move on before we’re forced to defend ourselves.” He quirked a corner of his mouth; the Krenim could batter Voyager with fire for the next hour and barely make a dent in their shields.

Levath nodded. “I’m sending you the coordinates of our homeworld. Set a course and we can reconvene –“

“Captain!” Harry Kim interrupted again, urgently this time. “There’s a spatial distortion heading toward us. Whatever it is, it’s huge. Five light years across and expanding.”

“Tracking its origin,” Tuvok said. “A vessel near the Zahl homeworld.”

“What?” Levath demanded.

“It appears to be a massive build-up of temporal energy,” Tuvok continued. “Some kind of space-time shock wave.”

“Tom.” Chakotay didn’t need to say anything more.

“It’s destabilising our warp field,” Paris reported, fingers flying on the conn. “I’ve lost engines.”

Chakotay snapped out orders. “Shields to full. Secure primary systems. All hands, brace for impact –“

And then the wave hit.

Kathryn Janeway found herself thrown to the floor for what she estimated was the forty-seventh time that week. She pushed herself to her knees and surveyed the bridge. It looked even worse than after the last attack. Lights dimmed and flickered. Consoles sizzled and sparked. Crewmen were pulling themselves to their stations, some bleeding; Harry Kim was nursing a broken wrist. To her right, Ensign Lang lay prone and still. Janeway crawled to her and checked for a pulse. “She’s dead,” she murmured, and looked into Chakotay’s eyes. She saw the flash of emotion before he pulled himself to his feet and barked, “Report.”

“Shields at seventeen percent,” Tuvok told him. “The Krenim are hailing.”

“It’s about time,” Chakotay muttered. The viewscreen changed from the image of the large Krenim warship to the face of its captain. Chakotay addressed him abruptly. “We’ve done nothing to provoke these attacks.”

The Krenim captain smiled superciliously. “Your presence in our space is provocation enough. State your identity.”

“Captain Chakotay of the Federa-“

“And your reason for violating our borders?” The alien turned idly in his chair, inspecting his fingernails. Chakotay tamped down his anger. “We’re simply trying to get home. If you’d kindly allow us to pass through –“

“No.” The Krenim smiled as he faced Chakotay on the viewscreen. “You will submit to the Krenim Imperium. Lower your shields and prepare to be boarded.”

Janeway watched Chakotay’s eyes go black and silently thanked the universe that she wasn’t on the receiving end of that look. “I will not surrender this ship to you,” he said, and his voice was soft and deadly.

The Krenim captain appeared unimpressed. “Then prepare to be destroyed.”

The screen blinked off. “They are charging weapons,” Tuvok warned, a second before a Krenim torpedo rocked the ship. “Shields are down.”

“Why are their torpedoes ripping right through our shields?” Janeway demanded.

“Chronitons,” Kim blurted, his broken wrist forgotten. “Their weapons are in a state of temporal flux.”

“Paris, do we have engines?” Chakotay demanded, and Paris called out in the affirmative. “Then get us the hell out of here. Warp six.”

The stars became streaks and Paris reported that the Krenim were not pursuing. Tuvok read out the damage: one dead, fifteen wounded, environmental controls offline on three decks, hull fracture on Deck 10. Chakotay nodded curtly. “We need a defence against those torpedoes. Analyse the data and work with Mr Kim, after he’s reported to Sickbay.” He turned to Janeway. “You have the bridge. Organise repair teams and send me the effort estimates.”

The captain cast one last look around the ruined bridge and disappeared into his ready room.

 

=/\=


“You were correct, sir.” Obrist was almost quivering with excitement. “Erasing the Zahl homeworld has produced a complete temporal restoration.”

Annorax levelled a look at him. “Complete, Obrist? What were the exact results?”

“The Krenim Imperium has been restored to power. Our territory now includes 849 inhabited worlds spanning five thousand parsecs.” His voice rang with pride.

“Counterindications?”

“None so far. No superior enemy forces. No unexpected diseases. Calculations indicate a ninety-eight percent restoration. Our race is thriving once more.”

Annorax reached out to the glass pyramid on his desk and touched it lightly. Inside was suspended a lock of auburn hair; it caught the light as his fingertips shifted the pyramid. “The colony at Kyana Prime?” he asked quietly.

“No sir.” The elation ebbed from Obrist’s voice. “In this timeline, the Imperium does not extend that far.”

“Then we have failed. Begin calculations for the next incursion.”

“Sir!” Obrist’s voice rang again, but this time with panic. “We have just accomplished the impossible. Another incursion could undermine everything. We should dismantle this weapon and rejoin our people.”

“No.” Annorax pushed himself to his feet. “Not until every colony, every individual, every blade of grass is restored. Until then our task will never be complete.”

“Sir, you said yourself that we can never achieve complete restoration. We have been manipulating the timeline for two centuries and we have never before come this close. We should be satisfied with this accomplishment.”

“You surprise me, Obrist.” Annorax’s voice was flat. “After all these years, you still perceive time through conventional eyes. We can stay here on this vessel, protected from space-time, for all eternity. And we will stay until I order otherwise. Now, return to your station, and begin a new set of calculations. Is that clear?”

“Perfectly.” Obrist watched him for another moment with opaque eyes, then turned and left the room.


Stardate 48779.4
~ Day 32 ~


“Transverse bulkheads,” Kim explained earnestly. “We’ve set up a latticework of emergency forcefields between every section of every deck. In the event of a cataclysmic breach we can contain the blast and most of us will be protected.”

“Ingenious.” Chakotay studied the schematic. “What gave you the idea?”

“Actually, Tom came up with it.” Kim stepped back to let his friend take the credit.

“I was inspired by the Titanic,” Paris grinned. “Its engineers constructed a honeycomb of bulkheads that would lower into place if they had a major hull breach. Theoretically, the ship could have stayed afloat even if half the decks were filled with water.”

“The Titanic?” Janeway quirked an eyebrow. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t it sink?”

“Let’s just say I’ve made a few 24th-century improvements,” Paris said modestly.

“Well done, Mr Paris.” Chakotay turned to Tuvok. “How about the temporal shielding?”

“Mr Kim and I are making progress. However, until we can determine the exact temporal variance of the Krenim’s torpedoes, we will be unable to perfect the shields.”

“Keep working on it,” the captain replied, just as the lighting in the conference room washed red and the alert klaxon sounded.

“Guess they’re playing our song,” Paris muttered to nobody as the senior officers bolted for the bridge.

 

=/\=


“Lieutenant Torres. What a pleasant surprise to see you here. It must be at least, oh, two days since your last visit to my Sickbay.”

Torres glared. “You know, Doc, seeing as I spend so much time here, maybe I could make a few improvements to your program. I could start by deleting a few personality subroutines.”

“Now, now, there’s no need for threats,” the EMH admonished, pointing a medical tricorder at her. “You have a torn hamstring, a dislocated shoulder and,” he paused, raising an eyebrow, “a broken clavicle. I understand there is a happy superstition attached to such an injury sustained in particular, shall we say, amorous circumstances. Anything you want to tell me, Lieutenant?”

“Shut your holographic mouth or I’ll take your matrix apart with a hyperspanner and flush it out the waste extraction conduits.”

“An eloquent, if not entirely practicable suggestion,” the Doctor smirked, pressing a hypospray to her neck. “How did you sustain these injuries, then?”

“Fell off a ladder during the last attack,” Torres said shortly. “Now hurry up and fix me so I can go back to work.”

“No can do, Lieutenant. You’re also suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. You need to stay here and rest for at least six hours. Please lie down and relax.”

“Are you kidding? I don’t have time for that. The warp coils need a major realignment, there’s EPS relay damage on four decks and the Captain wants the ship ready to fight next time those carbuncle-headed Krenim maniacs decide to take a shot at us.” Torres made to jump off the bed and found her way blocked by an implacable holographic arm. “Get out of my way!”

“Kes.” The little Ocampan hurried over at the Doctor’s summons. “Yes, Doctor?”

“Please see that Miss Torres remains on this biobed for the next six hours. Sedate her, if necessary. I have other patients to attend.”

 

The EMH began to move off, but Torres gripped his arm with what would have been entirely unnecessary force had he been organic. “Listen to me, you photonic Qovpatlh,” she hissed. “I cannot lie here doing nothing while this ship is at risk. Now let me off this damn bed or I’ll …” She swayed slightly and her eyes lost focus.

The Doctor pressed her firmly, if gently, onto her back. “Lie down, Lieutenant,” he repeated. “You need six hours’ rest, and if you protest again I can always make it eight. Lieutenant Carey is capable of handling any engineering problems until you’re fit again.”

Muttering dire curses, she submitted, and the Doctor moved away to treat Ensign Jurot’s head wound. Kes gave Torres a sympathetic pat on the hand and trotted after the Doctor.

Torres had barely closed her eyes when the Sickbay doors opened and she heard an urgent call of “Doctor, we need help here!” Seska and McKenzie stumbled in supporting an unconscious Crewman Nera between them, her uniform bloodied at her waist. “What happened?” snapped the EMH, hurrying over.

“She just collapsed,” McKenzie told him. “Keeled over at the science station. I saw her getting thrown halfway across the bridge in the last attack, but I didn’t realise she’d been so badly injured.”

“Get her on that biobed. Kes, medical tricorder.” The Doctor frowned at the readout, then sliced open the injured Bajoran’s uniform to reveal a deep gash across her stomach. “She has a punctured spleen, a collapsed lung and internal bleeding. I need to operate now. Ensign Seska, if the bridge can spare you, I could use another assistant.”

“Of course, Doctor.” Seska nodded to McKenzie and he left for the bridge. Torres pushed herself up on one elbow and watched the smooth ballet taking place before her as Kes and Seska anticipated the Doctor’s requests for medical equipment and reports on Nera’s vitals.

Finally their movements slowed, and Torres called over to him. “Is she going to be all right?”

“You’re supposed to be sleeping,” the Doctor remonstrated.

“She’s my friend,” Torres said quietly. “We were on the Liberty together. She’s saved my life half a dozen times.”

The EMH relented. “I’ve repaired the damage, but she has lost a significant amount of blood. She needs a transfusion.” He moved to a console. “I’m calling up the medical files of all Bajorans on the ship to identify potential compatible donors.”

“What about Seska? She’s right here.” Torres indicated the brunette Bajoran.

“Ensign Seska’s blood will not be suitable.”

“Why not?” B’Elanna demanded.

“Doctor-patient confidentiality precludes me from explaining my statement, Lieutenant.” The EMH sounded absent-minded as he scanned the crew files.

“It’s all right, Doctor.” Seska turned to address Torres. “I contracted Orkett’s disease as a child in the work camps. A sympathetic Cardassian woman donated her bone marrow to save me, but I was warned never to donate blood. The virus is dormant, but anyone receiving my blood could be infected.”

“No matter,” the Doctor announced. “Ensign Tabor and Crewman Gerron both appear to be a match. Thank you, Ensign, you may return to the bridge.” As Seska turned to leave, he added, “However, I have no record of you attending your mandatory biannual health check since I was first activated.”

“You must be mistaken,” Seska answered. “I’m sure I came in for a full med scan a couple of months ago.”

“Not according to my records,” said the EMH, “and I very much doubt they are incorrect. Please come in at your earliest convenience, Ensign. Considering our current situation, you never know when you might be in need of my skills, and I can’t help you if I don’t have all the information.”

“Yes, Doctor,” Seska replied, and slipped out of Sickbay.


Stardate 48798.1
~ Day 51 ~


“That smells about as good as it looks.”

Commander Janeway looked up from her bowlful of atrocity as Lieutenant Paris slid into the seat opposite her. He didn’t ask if she minded him joining her anymore, she mused. “If possible, it tastes even worse.”

Paris shrugged. “I suppose we can’t blame Neelix. A cook is only as good as his ingredients.”

Janeway tried another spoonful. “No. But we could kill him. Considering this … meal … it would probably be ruled self-defence.”

Paris, in the middle of his first bite of leola root casserole, snorted with laughter, breathed in a morsel and choked. Janeway leaned over the table and pounded him on the back until he stopped coughing, then sat down wearing a faint smirk. “Thanks, Paris. That has to be the first time I’ve found something funny in weeks.”

His face burned. Fatigue and weeks of battle-frayed nerves made him snap out a reply. “Great. After all, I exist solely to amuse you, Commander.” He caught the surprise in her blue eyes as he gathered up his tray and stomped off to sit at an unoccupied table.

“Dismissed, I guess,” Kathryn Janeway muttered to herself, and turned back to her offensive meal.

 

=/\=


When the red alert was called, the bridge crew showed little emotion. “Shields at sixty percent,” Kim reported dully. “The warship is firing again.”

“Evasive manoeuvres, pattern alpha-three,” Paris mumbled.

“Rerouting power to aft shields,” Tuvok reported, stoic as ever. “Minor impact to secondary hull on Deck 14. Repair crew is responding. Shields at fifty-three percent.”

“Weapons status?” Chakotay asked.

“Port phaser arrays are still offline. Starboard phasers and torpedos at full power.”

“Hit them,” ordered Chakotay, but before Tuvok could respond, Kim warned, “Incoming,” and Voyager lurched drunkenly. Chakotay felt the floor beneath his feet shudder and knew that somewhere, the ship had taken a serious hit. “Report,” he shouted.

“A Krenim torpedo is lodged in Jeffries tube 37-beta,” Tuvok said. “It has not detonated.”

“Paris, do we have warp?”

“Affirmative. I can give you warp seven.”

“Do it.” Chakotay turned to Tuvok. “Get down there and see if you can disarm that torpedo.”

“Aye, sir.” Tuvok nodded to Ayala, replacing him at tactical, and disappeared into the turbolift.

 

=/\=


The intense heat radiating from the torpedo might have weakened a human, but Vulcans were accustomed to heat. Tuvok crawled along the Jeffries tube, tricorder held forward and scanning until he was within five metres of the torpedo. He regarded the weapon and tapped his commbadge. “Tuvok to Chakotay.”

~Go ahead.~

“I estimate the torpedo will detonate in less than two minutes. I am unable to disarm it. Attempting to transport it would almost certainly result in an explosion. I recommend implementing the transverse bulkhead system.”

~Understood. Get out of there.~

Tuvok continued to scan. “I am attempting to determine the exact temporal variance of the warhead. It will help us perfect the temporal shielding.”

~There’s no time. Get away from it.~ Chakotay’s order was urgent.

Tuvok began moving backwards toward the Jeffries tube hatch as his tricorder whined a warning and the torpedo began to pulse with green light. “The temporal variance is one point four seven microseconds. Mr Kim, as soon as I am clear, lower the transverse bulkheads.”

But before Tuvok could step through the hatch, the warhead exploded. The Vulcan threw an arm up to shield his face, but it was too late.

 

=/\=


“Rest easy, Lieutenant.” The voice was gentle and the touch on his mind soothing.

Tuvok ignored it and sat up. “I am injured.”

“You have third-degree burns to thirty percent of your body,” Kes said softly. “I’ve regenerated most of your skin and cleared the radioactive particles.”

“I cannot see.”

“I’m sorry, Tuvok.” Tendrils of telepathic unhappiness told him how sorry she was. “The explosion damaged your optic nerves. The Doctor could probably repair them, but he’s offline.”

“For how long?” Tuvok began, and then heard a door swish open. The Captain’s voice came next. “Thank you, Kes, I’ll take it from here.”

Tuvok felt a hand on his shoulder. “How are you feeling, Lieutenant?”

“I am sufficiently repaired.” He cocked his head, listening. “I am not in Sickbay.”

“No.” Chakotay’s voice was heavy. “Eighteen sections on Deck Five were destroyed when the warhead exploded. We managed to activate the transverse bulkheads in time to save the rest of the ship. The mess hall is our new medical bay.”

“Kes said the EMH program is offline. Is it permanently destroyed?”

“We don’t know yet. B’Elanna is trying to transfer it to one of the holodecks to see if it can be restored, but we don’t have enough power to activate the holodeck.”

“Were there any fatalities in the breach?”

“We lost two crewmen, Bartlett and Manus. Five others were wounded, including yourself.”

Tuvok adjusted his mental shields to dampen the emotion this caused him. ”I am … sorry, Captain. If I had exited the Jeffries tube more quickly, the explosion may have been contained.”

Chakotay was silent for a moment. “What’s done is done, and you haven’t exactly come out of this unscathed. But if you ever disobey my orders again, I will remove you permanently from your post. Do you understand?”

“I understand.”

“Good.” Chakotay shifted his feet. “There is one positive to come out of this. Ensign Kim believes he can perfect the shielding thanks to your identifying the temporal variance. With any luck, we’ll have a defence against any further attacks.”

“I should assist him.”

“You’re going nowhere. Kes says you need to rest while your skin recovers from regeneration. Lie down, Lieutenant. You’re off duty until 0800 tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll have Ayala construct a tactile interface for when you return to your post.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Tuvok said soberly, and lay down.

 

=/\=


~Janeway to Torres. Any news on the EMH program, B’Elanna?~

Torres wiped her brow. “I’ve managed to transfer it to the holodeck buffer, Commander. I think I can restore it with only about two percent degradation. The Doctor might lose a few memory engrams, but it’s better than nothing. Unfortunately I can’t be sure until I can activate his program, and until we have power to bring the holodecks back online …” She shook her head, forgetting Janeway couldn’t see her over the comm.

~Understood. We’ll just have to cope without him in the meantime. I’m assigning Seska to Sickbay under Kes’s direction until further notice.~

“There is one option,” Torres said slowly. “If I can install holoemitters in the mess hall, I could activate his program there. He’d have a limited area of movement and I’d have to reroute power from other systems, so I’d recommend he only be activated for emergencies. But it could work.”

~Good idea. I’ll send Mulcahey to help you. Janeway out.~

Within four hours Torres and Mulcahey had installed eight holoemitters spanning a ten metre square area of the mess hall. “Okay, let’s try it,” Torres said, and tapped her commbadge. “Torres to Chakotay.”

~Go ahead, Lieutenant.~

“I’m going to reroute EPS relay power from Decks 14 and 15 to the mess hall. Activating.” Torres held her breath as the EMH flickered into photonic life. “Hey, Doc,” she grinned. “Never thought I’d say this, but it’s good to see you.”

The Doctor glanced around. “Where exactly am I?”

“The mess hall,” she answered. “Half of Deck Five was destroyed when that torpedo exploded. We’re lucky your program wasn’t destroyed with it. Welcome to your new Sickbay.”

“I see,” the EMH replied. “Well, I’ll make the best of it. What is our situation?” He was already reaching for his medical tricorder, scanning the nearest patient.

“Dire,” she said flatly. “We don’t have enough power to run your program constantly, so I’m going to have to take you offline in a few minutes. I suggest you finish your rounds quickly. And don’t step outside the range of the holoemitters or your program will start to destabilise.”

He looked outraged momentarily, then subsided. “Very well. Thank you, Lieutenant. Now excuse me …” His voice trailed off as he caught sight of his next patient. “Mr Tuvok, what happened to you?”

Tuvok, who had been cross-legged and meditating on the biobed, opened his sightless eyes. “I was damaged when the warhead activated. However, I am not in need of your assistance at this time.”

“The hell you aren’t,” retorted the Doctor. “I need to regenerate your optic nerves. Please lie down while I prepare for surgery.”

Tuvok stopped him. “Lieutenant Torres has explained that your program should only be activated for emergency situations. In addition, we have limited power and must not waste time or energy on non-essential medical procedures.”

“But you’re blind,” the EMH pointed out bluntly.

“Indeed. I am, however, not in danger of dying, and will still be able to perform my duties. I decline further treatment at this time.”

“The needs of the many, eh? Have it your way,” said the Doctor, and moved to the next biobed.


Stardate 48816.8
~ Day 67 ~


“Computer, activate tactile interface.”

Kim watched as Tuvok’s console reconfigured to the tactile display. The Vulcan had quickly become proficient with the interface, but it still gave him a sick feeling in his stomach to see Tuvok’s clouded, unseeing eyes. He cleared his throat. “Tuvok, I was thinking last night, and I might have figured out the problem with the temporal shielding. We’ve been trying to match our shields to the temporal variance of the Krenim torpedoes, but I think we also need to match the deflector array to the inverse of the variance.”

“Fascinating,” Tuvok said. “When will the deflectors be ready?”

“Within the hour, if I have permission to go down to deflector control. But it’ll take a couple of hours to test the modifications.”

“Permission granted, Ensign. Report your progress to me.”

“Aye, sir.” Kim handed his station to Rollins and headed for the turbolift.

 

=/\=


“You’re not going to like what I have to say.”

“Since when has that ever stopped you?” Chakotay looked up from his PADD with a weary smile.

“The temporal shielding was a good idea, but it isn’t working.”

“It will work. With every attack we gather more information about the chroniton weapons. Kim believes he’s close to a breakthrough.”

“Harry Kim would be optimistic in the valley of the shadow of death. And frankly, Captain, that’s where we’re headed. The attacks are coming every few days and each one causes more damage we can’t hope to repair. Six decks are uninhabitable. The mess hall is doing double duty as the medical bay. We’re low on dilithium and pergium. Replicators are offline, food supplies are dwindling and we have no hope of replenishing them while these attacks continue. People are hungry, exhausted, injured.”

He met her level gaze. “Say what you have to say, Commander.”

“We should reverse course. Get out of Krenim space. Find another way home.”

Chakotay placed the PADD on his desk. “Krenim space is vast. Circumventing it would add at least three years to our journey, not to mention the two months we’d spend retracing our steps.”

“Better we make it home late than not at all.”

“Take a seat, Kathryn.” Chakotay gestured and she dropped into the chair opposite him. “If we can make it through Krenim space, we should come out the other side in six months. And who’s to say, if we turned back, that the Krenim wouldn’t pursue us outside their borders, or that we won’t come across an even more combatant species? I’m not willing to trade three and a half years for that.”

Janeway raised an eyebrow. “Tuvok would tell you that was an entirely illogical argument.”

Surprising himself, Chakotay barked out a laugh. “You know, you even looked like him when you said that.”

She smiled back. “He’s annoying, but he’s usually right, which is why you listen to him. And in this case, you should listen to me. You know I’m not the type to run from a fight, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valour.”

“I can’t do it, Kate. We’ve come too far.”

“Then you’re going to like my next proposal even less.”

He sighed. “Lay it on me.”

“We should consider leaving the ship,” she said. “Break into small groups. Escape pods, shuttles, each one with its own course. If all goes well, we’ll rendezvous on the other side of Krenim space.”

“Abandon ship?” Chakotay went still. “Break up the family? No. We’re stronger together. The Krenim would pick us off one by one. And even if we made it, then what? We’d have no Voyager, no way home. No. Absolutely not.”

She leaned back in her chair with an answering sigh. “To be honest, I wasn’t too fond of the idea myself. But I’d be a negligent XO, and a bad friend, if I didn’t bring you options.”

“Nobody could ever accuse you of being a negligent first officer. And as for a bad friend …” He smiled at her; it was a wan imitation of his usual smile, and she couldn’t see his dimples through his beard. It struck her that she missed his dimples. And his smile. Janeway dropped her gaze. “So now what?”

She watched as the smile disappeared and he pinched the bridge of his nose. “How long is it since you slept?” she asked, and Chakotay shrugged. “Who can say?”

“You’re exhausted,” she said flatly. “Take a few hours. I can keep the boat afloat.”

“We’re all exhausted,” he retorted.

“The ship needs a captain who isn’t catatonic from fatigue. You can’t go on like this.”

~Captain to the Bridge,~ Paris said urgently over the comm, and Chakotay and Janeway bolted out of the ready room. “Report, Lieutenant?”

“Two Krenim vessels are approaching, sir.”

“Their weapons are powered,” Tuvok advised from Tactical.

Chakotay activated the ship-wide comm. “Red alert. All hands to battle stations.”

Tuvok pressed his commbadge. “Tuvok to Ensign Kim. Have you completed the deflector modifications?”

~Complete,~ Kim called. ~Bringing the shields online now. I just need a minute.~

“Krenim vessels are in range,” Tuvok reported. “They are firing.”

“Evasive manoeuvres,” Chakotay snapped. “Make it quick, Harry.”

Paris took the ship into a lurching dive and the Krenim weapons grazed the shields. “No damage,” said Tuvok. “They are firing again.”

“Now, Mr Kim!” Chakotay shouted.

~Shields are online!~ Harry Kim yelled, and the Krenim warhead exploded.

Voyager rocked nauseatingly. But there came no exploding consoles, no litany of damage and injury. “The temporal shields are holding,” Tuvok stated.

Chakotay stood. “Hail them.”

“Channel open.”

“Krenim vessels,” Chakotay announced, “this is the Captain of Voyager. You may have noticed we have a defence against your weapons now. I suggest you stand down.”

“No response,” said Tuvok.

“Their mistake,” muttered Chakotay. “Bring the ship about. We’re going through their space whether they like it or not.”

He sat, and realised that Janeway was smiling at him. “Looks like you were right,” she said. “We live to fight another day.”

 

=/\=


“We are within range of the Garenor homeworld,” Obrist reported.

Annorax settled more comfortably into his seat. “Set temporal coordinates. Full power to the weapon. Prepare for total erasure of the species.”

“Targeting the focal point. Ready.”

“Fire.”

The weapon pulsed, and bright light shot toward the green planet, enveloping it. Obrist watched as the wave spread out into space. As the light dissipated, the planet came into view again, now a mottled, roiling brown. He dropped his gaze.

“Counterindications?” asked his captain.

Obrist cleared his throat. “None so far. Organisms and structures have been eradicated.”

“Track the temporal wavefront as it passes through the system. I want to monitor every change in the timeline as it occurs.”

“Yes, sir,” said Obrist quietly.

 

=/\=


“The Krenim ships are in pursuit,” Tuvok stated, “but they have not powered their weapons.”

“Ha,” snorted Paris. “They don’t know what to do with us now.”

Harry Kim shot through the turbolift doors and took his station, grinning ear to ear. “We did it,” he crowed.

“You did it, Ensign.” Chakotay turned to smile at him. “Well done.”

“Thank you, sir.” Kim looked down as his console beeped, and lost his smile. “Captain, there’s some kind of spatial distortion heading toward us. Sensor readings are erratic. I can’t identify the phenomenon.”

“Source?”

“Unknown.” Kim tapped a few keys. “It originated approximately twenty light years from our position. It looks like a space-time shockwave.”

“Get us out of here, Paris,” Chakotay warned.

“Full impulse… We’ll never outrun it,” Paris stated. “Warp field is collapsing.”

“Maybe the new shields will help,” offered Janeway.

Chakotay nodded and thumbed on the ship-wide comm. “All hands, brace for impact.”

Voyager’s viewscreen glowed brilliant white. The ship swayed, and the wave passed.

“You were correct, Commander,” said Tuvok. “The wavefront has passed. No damage to the ship.”

They watched as the wave enveloped the two Krenim warships. And then the warships disappeared. In their place, the viewscreen showed a single small vessel.

Chakotay stared. “Report?”

“It’s definitely a Krenim ship,” Kim said, baffled. “Identical hull markings, same biospectral frequency.”

“What happened to the warships?” Janeway demanded.

Paris shook his head. “I’m not picking them up on long-range sensors.”

“Scan the region,” Chakotay ordered, and after a moment Kim offered, “It looks like this entire part of space has changed somehow. The last time I checked, this region was filled with Krenim colonies and vessels. Now there are no colonies and just a handful of Krenim ships.”

Janeway strode over to his station, peering over his shoulder. “Same space, different configuration. It appears the Krenim Imperium has been reduced to a few planets and a number of small scout vessels. No warships, no empire. Could the temporal shockwave have caused this?”

“It is possible,” Tuvok allowed.

“So somehow, someone or something has changed history,” she said softly. “Why weren’t we affected?”

“Our temporal shielding may have protected us from changes in the timeline.”

Janeway nodded. “Harry, see if you can track the source of the shockwave.”

 

=/\=


A light began to flash on the console, then an alarm beeped. “Something went wrong,” Obrist said sharply, fingers moving on the console. He turned to check the dynamic display on the wall behind him. The graceful lines that represented the course of the temporal wave curved elegantly, until they reached a set of coordinates and tangled into a snarl. He checked and double-checked the readouts on his console. “Sir!”

Annorax turned at the urgency in his voice. “Report?”

“The entire Krenim Imperium,” Obrist’s voice wobbled. “It’s reverted to a pre-warp state.”

“Not possible.” Annorax pushed up from his chair and moved quickly to Obrist’s terminal.

“See for yourself.” Obrist stepped back.

“Our calculations were perfect.” Barely contained fury turned Annorax’s voice to gravel. “How could this happen?”

“I may have an explanation,” Obrist interrupted. “There’s an anomalous temporal reading twenty light years from here. It’s coming from a vessel.”

“What vessel?”

“Component 049-beta. A ship called Voyager.”

“That ship was classified as an inert component. It shouldn’t be generating a temporal field.”

“But it is,” said Obrist evenly. “And it was enough to throw off our calculations.”

Annorax stared at the display terminal. A sleek white ship rotated slowly on the screen; a ship the likes of which he had never seen before. His enemy.

“Take me to them,” he said, and his voice was flat and cold as a knife.

 

=/\=


“The shockwave emanated from a planet twenty light years away,” Ensign Kim reported. “The Garenor homeworld.”

“The Garenor?” Chakotay joined them on the upper level. “We passed their planet three weeks ago. We traded our zeolitic ore for dilithium and food supplies.”

“Best meal I’ve had in months,” interjected Paris from the conn.

“The planet is uninhabited,” Kim said blankly. “There are no signs of Garenor ships, colonies or lifesigns in this entire region of space.”

“What?”

“From these readings, it looks like the moment the shockwave appeared, the Garenor species vanished.”

“Erased from history.” Janeway looked ill.

“Commander?” Chakotay quirked an eyebrow at her.

“Think about it,” she urged. “This sounds like a causality paradox. A temporal shockwave appears, an entire species is erased, and in that instant, all of history is changed.”

“Perhaps the Krenim are responsible,” Tuvok suggested. “They do possess temporal technology.”

“Perhaps,” Janeway agreed. “But the Krenim no longer appear to rule this area of space. Why change history to undermine themselves? We’re still missing a big piece of the puzzle. Run another scan of -”

A vast rumble interrupted her and the entire ship shook. “Report,” Chakotay shouted as he and Janeway sprinted back to the main bridge level.

“A massive vessel just dropped out of warp off our port bow,” Paris answered. Janeway stepped up behind him, her hand on his shoulder. “It’s a Krenim ship,” he continued, “but unlike any we’ve seen before.”

“That entire vessel is in a state of temporal flux,” said Kim in wonder. “It’s like they exist outside of space-time.”

“They’re scanning us,” Paris warned. And then he and Commander Janeway disappeared.

Chakotay shot from his chair. “Get a lock on them!”

“I can’t isolate their signals,” Kim said frantically.

Tuvok stated, “We are being hailed.”

“On screen.” Chakotay watched as the face of an unfamiliar Krenim commander appeared on the viewscreen. “Who are you and where are my crewmen?” he demanded without preamble.

“I am Annorax, of the Krenim Imperium,” the alien replied. “We have transferred your crewmen to my vessel for further analysis. It appears you do not come from this region. State your identity.”

“I’m Captain Chakotay of the Federation starship Voyager. We come from a planet sixty thousand light years from here. We’re on our way home.”

“I see.”

Chakotay calmed himself with visible effort. “We’ve been observing some unusual events in this region. It appears your Imperium never existed. Care to shed some light?”

“That is not your concern,” Annorax replied. “However, I’m afraid you have diverted me from my mission.”

“The changes in the timeline,” Chakotay said softly. “You’re responsible.”

“You’re a long way from home, Captain,” Annorax said. “In a way, so am I. Unfortunately, only one of us can go home again. Your sacrifice will be remembered.”

The screen blinked off.

“Captain, I’m reading a massive build-up of energy,” Kim informed him. “The vessel appears to be arming some kind of weapon.”

“Shields.”

The bridge was washed in a vivid white light. “Captain,” Tuvok said. “The energy beam is pushing Voyager out of the space-time continuum.”

“Temporal shields are weakening,” said Kim.

“He wants to erase us from history.” Chakotay shouldered Culhane out of the pilot’s seat and his fingers played over the helm. “That ship is too bulky to exceed warp six. We can outrun them.”

“Captain.” For a moment it sounded as though Tuvok was alarmed. “I must caution you that our structural integrity is still impaired. If we go to warp now, the damage to Voyager will be extreme.”

“No choice,” Chakotay said shortly. “Activate the transverse bulkheads. Clear the outer sections and alert the crew to prepare for wide-scale breaches.”

“Captain, what about Janeway and Paris?” Kim looked anxious.

“We’ll have to come back for them. Engaging warp seven.”

Shedding sections of hull as she went, Voyager tore herself from the grip of the temporal energy beam and left the hulking Krenim vessel behind.

© 2021 by Mia Cooper