MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
The trembling ceased.
Janeway released her tight grip on the arms of her command chair, where she'd been fighting to remain seated and ride out the storm since her intrepid-class starship had begun shaking, shockwaves being violently transmitted through its rigid superstructure that forced everyone to hang onto something or risk being thrown to the deck.
The large viewscreen that dominated the forward bulkhead was a mess of computerised static, and all around the darkened bridge the numerous display screens and consoles were flickering erratically. The crimson slow of emergency lighting cast unusual shadows across the large command centre.
For long moments an eerie silence reigned on the bridge of the USS Voyager as shaken crewmembers dusted themselves off and got to their feet, exchanging confused glances with each another. Every one of them sought the answer to the same question: what just happened.
Suddenly, a piercing two-tone klaxon blared into life, shattering the hush and startling everyone as it reverberated through the decks of the injured vessel. It was a specific sound that was ingrained into the psyche of every Starfleet officer - the one alarm above all that no one wanted to hear since it foretold the death of the starship.
"Reading a warp core breach, captain!" Kim cried out from his operations console at the rear of the bridge, grimly confirming what everyone already knew.
Janeway instinctively slapped her combadge, exchanging only the briefest of glances with Chakotay who had vacated his own command chair to stand beside her.
"Bridge to Torres!" she said sharply, all trace of familiarity banished from her voice. "We're reading a warp core breach up here!"
"We're on it, captain!" Torres called back from engineering nine decks below, shouting over the alert klaxon and hiss of depressurising cooling systems fighting to keep Voyager's central reactor from explosively detonating, destroying the starship and everything within a thousand kilometres.
"Plasma temperature is at forty-three million kelvins and rising!" Kim reported, clearly struggling to retain his composure as he frantically operated his flickering control panels.
"Can you shut down the core, B'Elanna?" Janeway demanded, recalling the necessary authorisation codes and mentally steeling herself for the unthinkable task of ejecting Voyager's beating heart into space so that it wouldn't kill them all when it exploded.
With no core to drive her warp engines, Voyager would be instantly transformed from a superluminal interstellar starship into a sublight spacecraft unable to travel above impulse speeds, robbing it of any chance of traversing the galaxy and deliver the one hundred and fifty people onboard safely home.
Only a few short months after being transported to this distant part of the Milky Way, Voyager's mammoth odyssey across the unknown Delta Quadrant would be over.
"I'm trying, captain!" Torres answered, her voice sounding strangled by the responsibility that rested solely on her shoulders as the crew looked to her for salvation. "It's not responding!"
"Evacuate engineering!" Janeway commanded, knowing that her next order would permanently remove any chance that Voyager would return home. But if she was to save the lives of her combined Starfleet and Maquis crew, she knew she had no other option. "I'm going to eject the warp core!"
"Wait!" Torres snapped. "Let me try one more thing."
"Plasma temperature now at fifty-million kelvins!" Kim announced, as if pronouncing a death sentence.
"Captain," Chakotay said urgently, his tone a plea for action. As well as anyone, he knew that this hesitation could mean death for everyone onboard in an immense uncontrolled explosion of matter and antimatter.
"I can't wait any longer, B'Elanna!" Janeway called, feeling the frightened eyes of her bridge crew on her as they awaited her inevitable order.
"A few more seconds, captain!" Torres pleaded. "I can do this!"
"Fifty-five million kelvins!" Kim called out.
"There!" Torres cried triumphantly.
Janeway spun around. "Harry?" she said, his name all the question that was necessary.
Kim was watching his console in disbelief. "Core temperature is dropping," he told everyone hoarsely, scarcely able to comprehend the information being displayed. "Forty million kelvins and dropping. Thirty million. Twenty million."
The alert klaxon ceased.
At that moment an almighty cheer erupted from nearly everyone on the bridge, leaving Janeway and Chakotay standing at the centre of a sudden outpouring of relief and gratitude directed at the half-Klingon chief engineer who had saved them all.
For the briefest of moments Janeway thought Chakotay would reach forward and hug her, but they both settled for a handshake.
"Core temperature has dropped to within safe levels," Kim announced, a broad smile present on his face.
Janeway drew in a long breath, calming herself as the exhilaration and relief began to subside, leaving her exhausted. Above all, her starship was intact and her crew alive after averting a devastating core breach by mere seconds.
"B'Elanna," she said warmly as the celebrations died down. "I have no doubt that I speak for everyone on board when I say we owe you an enormous debt of gratitude.
An awkward pause followed, during which everyone on the bridge stood silent.
"I'm afraid that isn't strictly true, captain," Torres replied finally. "I'm afraid it was me who caused the warp core breach in the first place."
Janeway frowned, struggling to comprehend what she'd just been told. She opened her mouth to ask Torres to repeat what she'd said, but before she could speak Paris called out from the helm.
"Captain, the navigational sensors just came back online. Sikaris is gone."
"Gone where?" Janeway asked, exchanging a puzzled glance with Chakotay. Voyager had been in orbit above Sikaris for three days, and had been in the process of departing when the ship had been hit by whatever turbulence she'd assumed had triggered the core breach.
"I'm afraid that Mr. Paris is not entirely correct," Tuvok interjected suddenly, having remained silent throughout the impending disaster. "Sikaris is precisely where it has always been, though it is not to be found on his navigational sensors."
"He's right, captain," Paris said, rapidly rechecking the astrogation panels on the helm. "If these readings are correct, we're about seventy-thousand light-years from where we were." He swallowed hard. "We're in the Alpha Quadrant."
Chakotay looked at her, disbelieving. "We're home," he breathed.
Less than ten minutes after the warp core breach had been averted and the staggering revelation that Voyager was home had been made, the small group of senior officers had convened in the briefing room just off the bridge.
Janeway sat at the head of the conference table, forcing herself to remain seated and outwardly calm despite the nervous energy that filled her. Her prayers had been answered and her starship had been delivered home, but the question over how such a miracle had occurred was still upmost in her mind.
Once Voyager had been stabilised and Tuvok had requested a meeting with the senior staff, it only reinforced what she already knew.
Chakotay sat beside her as the others filed in, his face still bearing the smile of disbelief that could be found on virtually everyone throughout the intrepid-class starship.
There was however one notable exception.
"As you are all aware," Tuvok said impassively, standing in front of the table as he addressed the assembled group, "Approximately ten minutes ago Voyager was transported from its orbit around Sikaris in the Delta Quadrant to its current location - an unspecified point in the Alpha Quadrant that will be determined more precisely once navigational sensors are fully restored."
Janeway leaned forward, the growing sense of unease she'd felt since Paris had announced their location threatening to overwhelm her.
"It is my duty to inform you that this was achieved through the use of a Sikarian subspace trajector matrix," Tuvok continued, "That was obtained in exchange for a copy of the Federation library in direct contravention of the captain's explicit instructions.
A few muffled gasps could be heard issuing from the mouths of the group, Paris and Kim chief amongst them.
"I never thought you had it in you, Tuvok," Paris admitted gleefully. "But I'm sure as hell glad you did."
"I can't let Tuvok take complete responsibility for what happened," Torres interjected, rising from her chair and moving to stand beside the Vulcan. "I'm the one who designed and built the interface for the trajector. I'm the one who activated it. And I'm the one who nearly triggered a warp core explosion by doing so."
"On the contrary," Tuvok said, "I take full responsibility for these actions. Lieutenant Torres was involved, but I was the senior officer and the culpability is mine. I fully expect to lose my commission and be court-martialled when we return to Federation space."
The room fell silent.
"That's certainly a possibility," Janeway conceded after a moment, interlacing her fingers as she considered his admission. "But I think we both know how unlikely it is given the outcome. I'm having a hard time reconciling your betrayal and the incalculable risk you took with yours and everyone else's lives by activating an untested piece of alien technology that could have easily destroyed this ship and killed everyone onboard."
"You have made it clear on many occasions that your highest goal for this crew is to get them home," Tuvok said. "But in this instance, your standards would not allow you to violate Sikarian law. Someone had to spare you the ethical dilemma. I was the logical choice, so I chose to act."
"Tuvok, you are one of my most valued officers and you're my friend," Janeway told him. "We have forged this relationship for years and I depend upon it. I realise you made the sacrifice for me, but it's not one I would've allowed you to make."
"But what are my own personal feelings balanced against what was actually achieved by your actions? Even if those actions went against my orders? What is there to achieve with recriminations over what could've gone wrong when we're all here in one piece?"
Tuvok stood dispassionately silent. Beside him Torres looked unsure, her expressive face speaking of the shame she felt at disappointing Janeway despite having brought Voyager home.
"Perhaps in this case the end justifies the means," Janeway concluded. "In any case, there are a hundred and fifty people onboard this ship who consider you both the greatest heroes. I think I'd have a hard time matching you both down to the brig for disobeying orders given the circumstances."
At that moment the doors to the briefing room slid open, admitting Rollins who carried a small datapadd.
"Sorry to interrupt, captain," Rollins apologised briskly. "But we just got the astrometric database back online. I think you'd better see this."
"Just tell me, Mr. Rollins," Janeway said impatiently.
"We've identified our exact position," Rollins said slowly, as if delivering bad news. "We're in Cardassian space."
Janeway looked at Chakotay. Why was nothing easy?
Re: MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
Janeway led her senior staff onto the bridge, where they all scattered to assume their customary positions.
"I want status reports from all departments," she said loudly, standing before the two command chairs. "Mr. Paris, where are we exactly?"
Paris dropped into his seat at the helm, relieving Baytart and surveying the navigation console.
"We're in interstellar space in the Tokara sector," he told her. "About twenty light-years from the Demilitarised Zone and about a hundred light-years along the border from the Badlands."
"Right back where we started, give or take," Chakotay pointed out, trying to lighten the mood.
Janeway forced a wry smile, appreciative of his efforts. "What do we know about the Tokara sector?"
"It serves as one of the Cardassian Union's primary agricultural regions," Tuvok replied, calling up the information on his console. "A number of farming planets are located here that supply the Cardassian homeworlds. It is essentially one of the least fortified areas of their space."
"So all we have to do is dodge a few Cardassian farmers and we're home free?" Torres asked.
"Given our knowledge of the Cardassian mindset," Tuvok said, "We must assume that even a sector such as this will have warships operating within it."
"Tuvok's right," Janeway decided. "We'll set a course for Federation space and try to attract as little attention as possible. No subspace transmissions that could be picked up by the Cardassians until we're out of their territory. We've been out of touch for five months, another twenty-four hours won't hurt."
"Still," Chakotay said, "A damaged ship inside Cardassian space with fifty Maquis onboard isn't the safest place to be."
"They have no way of knowing you're aboard," Janeway told him. "And I have no intention of telling them. If we're intercepted we'll explain what's happened and deal with the fallout as best we can."
"I've set a course for the Federation," Paris announced.
"The warp core is still offline while we repair the damage caused when it nearly breached," Torres said. "I've left Carey in charge but I should get back."
Janeway nodded. "Do everything you can do speed things along, B'Elanna," she said. "I don't want to hang around here a moment longer than we have to."
In the mess hall, Kes sat silently in front of the large viewports, staring out at stars a galaxy away from the world of her birth. When she considered that every other Ocampan in the universe was trapped in an underground city, her being on the other side of the galaxy was even more staggering.
When she had requested a berth on Voyager after the whirlwind of events that had seen her rescued from the Kazon and witness the death of the Ocampa's godlike Caretaker, Kes had known that she would never get to see the ultimate destination of this incredible starship. The journey back to Federation space would, under normal circumstances, have taken seven Ocampan lifetimes.
But in a scarcely believable event, mere months after coming aboard, Voyager was cruising through space seventy-thousand light-years from Ocampa, mere days away from entering the wondrous Federation of different civilisations banded together.
"All I'm saying is that a little notice before transporting the ship to the other side of the galaxy would've been appreciated," Neelix called from his makeshift kitchen, raising his voice over the sound of metallic pots and pans being gathered up from where they'd fallen during the recent turbulence.
Kes smiled. Neelix had been complaining for the better part of an hour how inconsiderate B'Elanna Torres had been for activating the Sikarian trajector without warning.
"A shipwide announcement maybe?" Neelix continued. "A warning to hang onto something perhaps? No! Just plug it in and press go without telling anyone what's happening and practically demolish my kitchen in the process!"
"I heard that the trajector would've been no use once Voyager left orbit around Sikaris," Kes told him. "B'Elanna had no choice but to activate it since that was the only chance they had of it working."
"Sikaris wasn't going anywhere," Neelix called dismissively. "A few minutes' notice before hurling Voyager across the galaxy isn't too much to ask surely!? We didn't even end up in the right place! In the middle of enemy territory no less!"
"I think twenty light-years outside Federation space can still be considered a success after a seventy-thousand light-year jump, Neelix," Kes countered, grinning broadly at her Talaxian partner's irate manner.
"Not when it lands us in the heart of the Gartassian Empire!" Neelix retorted, still struggling to return his various cooking pots to their correct places.
"Cardassian," Kes corrected. "These are the people Commander Chakotay and the other Maquis were fighting before they were taken by the Caretaker."
"All the more reason to avoid suddenly appearing in their territory unannounced," Neelix insisted.
Kes rolled her eyes. Nothing she could say would convince Neelix of the miracle that had been achieved transporting Voyager back to the Alpha Quadrant. She wondered if anything short of the ship appearing directly in orbit around Earth would have satisfied him.
"Neelix, have you even stopped to consider where we are?" she asked finally.
The metallic ringing of pots and pans ceased, and Neelix popped his freckled head up from behind the countertop to look at her.
"The Alpha Quadrant?" he said absently.
"The other side of the galaxy," Kes said. "The trajector was a one-way trip. You will never see another Talaxian or see your homeworld again. Everything you know is gone forever."
Neelix regarded her for long moments. "Everything I need to know is sitting right in front of me," he told her simply.
Kes smiled, amazed as always at the total adoration that he felt for her. "Come and sit with me," she urged happily.
Neelix emerged from his kitchen, crossing the room and lowering himself into a chair beside his beloved Kes.
"What do you think will happen to us once Voyager reaches Earth?" she asked him. "Will Starfleet let us remain onboard?"
Neelix shrugged. "I hadn't considered it," he admitted. "I don't suppose Captain Janeway will have much use for my talents as a cook or a guide anymore. And I'd imagine that your hydroponics bay won't be necessary to grow food now that energy-conservation is no longer an issue."
"A new doctor and a full medical staff will probably come onboard," Kes added thoughtfully.
"We may have outlived our usefulness," Neelix concluded, his mood somewhat sullen.
"We still have your ship," Kes said, reaching forward and taking Neelix's hands in hers. "We can use it to explore the Federation together."
Neelix smiled warmly at her. "That sounds wonderful."
Kes leaned forward and kissed him.
"I have completed my scan of the sector, captain," Tuvok announced from tactical.
Janeway rose from her command chair where she'd been reading from a padd detailing what damage at been inflicted when Voyager had trajected across the galaxy. She had been pleasantly surprised to note that very little harm had actually been done to her starship, through a number of systems including long-range communications and more importantly warp propulsion remained unavailable.
The ship's emergency medical holographic program was also inoperative, through this fact had apparently been added as a mere footnote by Carey after he'd written the main body of the damage report. Not for the first time in the last five months, Janeway found herself momentarily confused at the pang of regret she felt that the Doctor wasn't active to witness Voyager's arrival in the Alpha Quadrant.
"What have you found, Tuvok?" she asked, banishing the unwarranted sympathy she felt for the hologram.
"These readings are incomplete due to the continued problems with our long-range sensors," Tuvok began. "However the Tokara sector is home to four class-M planets, all of which appear to be given over to agricultural purposes as per Starfleet records. I am detecting seventeen individual spacecraft, presumably of Cardassian origin though I am unable to be certain. I am also monitoring subspace radio traffic for any indication that Voyager has been detected. This appears to be a relatively welcoming locale, by Cardassian standards at least."
"Still, you'll forgive me if I hold off on booking my next shore-leave here," Paris threw in from the helm.
"Given that you are likely known to the Cardassians as a member of the Maquis," Tuvok replied, "I would advise against it."
Janeway grinned. Despite his actions on Sikaris, she was unable to remain angry at Tuvok when she considered what his disobedience had achieved. Had he not obtained the trajector, Voyager would still be in the Delta Quadrant, facing a decades-long journey with no guarantee that they would ever reach home. She could not forgive the betrayal, but she knew that she would eventually forget it.
At that moment, Janeway felt a slight reverberation through the deck that she immediately recognised. It was an almost subliminal sensation that soon became as familiar to a serving starship crew as the beating of their own heart.
"Torres to bridge," Voyager's chief engineer called delightedly. "The warp core is back online. It's not exactly running at peak efficiency and it's jury-rigged against virtually every Starfleet regulation, but it should be good for warp five all the way back to Federation space."
Janeway allowed herself a brief sigh of relief. "Excellent work, B'Elanna," she said warmly, turning toward the helm. "You heard the lady, Mr. Paris. Warp five."
"Yes ma'am!" Paris said enthusiastically, tapping commands into his console.
"Engage," Janeway commanded, watching in relief as the pinpoints of light that were Cardassian stars transformed into long streaks as Voyager slipped smoothly into warp.
After five months in the wilderness, they were finally going home.
Despite the fact that Voyager was travelling through Cardassian space, the realm of the Starfleet crew's long-term antagonist and the Maquis crew's mortal enemy, there was little that could dampen the mood of the one hundred and fifty souls nestled within the hull of the intrepid-class starship.
After five months spent a lifetime away from everyone and everything they knew in the farthest reaches of the galaxy, fighting for their lives against Kazon who wanted the advanced Federation vessel for themselves, Vidiians who wanted to harvest their organs to transplant into their own disease-ridden bodies, and other beings or anomalies who wished them harm, they had finally been transported within striking distance of their homes.
Everywhere he went on the ship, Chakotay could hear the unmistakable sounds of celebration somewhere in the background, permeating every section of the vessel. Throughout Voyager replicators were working overtime to provide off-duty crewmembers with food and drink, the careful energy rationing of the last few months forgotten.
Though Voyager wasn't quite out of the woods yet, everyone knew that the finishing line was only hours away.
As he walked through the large double doors that gave access to engineering, Chakotay found that the infectious mood of celebration that had overtaken the ship was only slightly less prevalent there. Music was being played over the large room's speakers, and many of the engineering staff were holding drinks. Some were chatting excitedly about their plans now that Voyager was home, and some of the more enthusiastic crewmembers were even dancing in front of their stations to the amusement of others.
Chakotay chuckled to himself, giving a dismissive wave to the few who noticed his presence and immediately looked guilty for engaging in such frivolity while on duty.
He wouldn't be the one to deny them their celebration.
Torres was seated quietly at the small monitoring station directly in front of the warp core, an untouched glass of champagne on the deck beside her.
"And how is our saviour?" Chakotay asked lightly.
Torres glanced up at him, forcing a smile. "Exhausted," she admitted. "Trying to hold together a warp core that I nearly breached a few hours ago and should be replaced, never mind brought back online and used to drive a ship at warp five."
"That doesn't even sound like a challenge for a woman who just transported a starship seventy-thousand light-years in a few seconds," he said teasingly, leaning back against the protective guardrail that encircled the damaged core.
"More of a challenge than you'd think," she groaned, leaning back in her chair and stretching her arms above her head.
Chakotay looked up at the swirling colours created by the annihilation of matter and antimatter within the tall warp core. "I suppose all this will be obsolete soon," he mused. "Soon everyone will be trajecting across space in the blink of an eye like the Sikarians."
"Not quite," Torres told him. "I've already been over this with the captain. The trajector operates within a neutrino envelope that needs to be amplified by the proximity of a compatible planet, one with a mantle composed of tetrahedral quartz. Without the crystalline structure of that type of mantle to focus and amplify the trajector field the device itself is useless."
"And planets like this don't exist in the Alpha Quadrant?" Chakotay asked.
Torres shook her head. "I've already checked the Federation planetary database," she said. "If they do exist here none have been discovered in over two centuries of interstellar exploration. They might be exclusive to the Delta Quadrant."
Chakotay shrugged. "Do you still have the trajector itself?"
Torres pointed toward a charred, half-melted lump of metal on a nearby console. "I took a phaser to it when it triggered the warp core breach," she explained. "But since Tuvok beamed aboard with it the computer will have a record of its exact quantum structure if Starfleet ever finds a way around the limitations and wants to recreate it."
"Maybe you should apply for the job," Chakotay suggested casually, endeavoring to find the correct balance for what he wanted to say.
"What job?" Torres asked defensively. "With Starfleet Engineering?"
"Somehow I don't think that my current status as a Maquis terrorist would look good on my application form," she said wryly.
"Your current status is chief engineer aboard a Federation starship," Chakotay reminded her. "You've held that position for five months, culminating in successfully transporting that Federation starship across the galaxy. Taking all that into account, plus the strings I have no doubt Captain Janeway would be willing to pull, I think Starfleet would be glad to have you back."
Torres eyed him suspiciously. "You can't be serious," she said.
Chakotay leaned closer to her. "I'm not having this conversation with any of the other Maquis onboard Voyager, B'Elanna. You more than anyone has exceeded everyone's expectations since the Caretaker took us from the Badlands. To go back to fighting the Cardassians when you have so much potential..."
His words trailed off, his point already made.
"What are you saying, Chakotay," Torres asked, regarding him closely. "That I should rejoin Starfleet while you and everyone else go back to fighting and dying to protect all our homes?"
"I'm saying don't think that's the only option," Chakotay said. "I don't even know the status of the Maquis now. For all I know they might have all been wiped out by the Cardassians while we've been gone, although I very much doubt it. The Maquis are strong enough to survive losing you, B'Elanna. You have the potential to go as far as you like with Starfleet, developing new propulsion technologies or designing starships. Anything you set your mind to."
"And what about you?" Torres asked quietly, a lump forming in her throat as the magnitude of his words hit home. "What will you do now that we're back?"
Chakotay smiled. "I think you know," he said, placing a fatherly hand on her shoulder.
With that, he pushed himself off the guard rail and headed back through the small crowd of celebrating engineers, leaving Torres alone to consider her future.
“Bridge to the captain.”
Janeway was roused from the inviting realm of unconsciousness by the sound of her closest friend and most trusted advisor, realising that she'd fallen asleep at her desk in the read-room.
“Janeway here,” she responded, cringing ever so slightly at the sound of weariness in her own voice, “Go ahead, Tuvok.”
“I apologise for disturbing you, captain,” the Vulcan apologised. “But we are approaching what appears to be the site of a battle. There is a heavily damaged ship drifting nearby.”
"Acknowledged, Tuvok,” she said. "Drop us to impulse, but keep our distance from the damaged ship, their opponent may still be in the vicinity.”
“Aye Captain,” Tuvok confirmed. “Bridge out.”
“Slowing to impulse,” Paris reported from the helm as Janeway emerged from her ready room and onto the bridge.
She felt the deck shudder softly as Voyager slid gracefully out of warp.
“The damaged ship is Cardassian, captain,” Tuvok announced. “It appears to be a military supply vessel of some kind.”
Janeway descended the steps to the command level, where she placed her hands on her hips as she considered main viewscreen. “Yellow alert,” she ordered.
Instantly, lemon-coloured strips of lighting began to pulse rhythmically around the bridge, and Chakotay took the opportunity to examine the sensor data on the personal terminal, which rose up between the two command chairs at his touch.
“There’re no lifesigns aboard the ship Captain,” Chakotay said, glancing up at the image of one of the Cardassian spacecraft, and the violet tendrils of drive plasma radiating from its shattered engine ports. "And their cargo holds are empty. Whoever attacked them was looking for something."
“Given our current position near the Demilitarised Zone,” Tuvok put in, “I believe there is only one logical explanation for such an attack on a Cardassian vessel inside their territory."
"The Maquis," Janeway said thoughtfully, glancing at Chakotay. "Seems a little audacious even by Maquis standards."
"A raiding party," Chakotay told her. "Probably in search of supplies. Some of my colleagues can be a little more enthusiastic than I am."
“Should we inform the Cardassians?” Tuvok asked.
"Not until we're safely out of their space," Janeway said dispassionately. "Alerting them to our presence now would place Voyager in immense danger. Mr. Paris, resume our course. Warp six."
Paris’ nimble fingers moved quickly over the complex control panel, and Chakotay watched the viewer image change as the helmsman gently eased Voyager in the general direction the captain had specified. “Course laid in Captain.”
Janeway dropped into her command chair, resting her hands on its arms. “Engage,” she ordered calmly.
Under Paris' control, Voyager leapt forward into warp speed and leaving the left Cardassian ship, now no more than a floating tomb for its deceased crew, millions of kilometres behind.
Re: MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
Paris found Kim in his quarters, having asked the computer to locate the young operations officer when Janeway had finally ordered him off the bridge a few minutes earlier after overrunning the end of his duty shift by nearly two hours. Despite the jovial atmosphere that reigned throughout the starship, Paris was acutely aware of just how precarious their situation was if they were discovered by the Cardassians.
A lone Cardassian ship found many light-years into Federation space would be met with a suitably robust response by Starfleet, and while long-term imprisonment would be unlikely, the Cardassian vessel would certainly be impounded and investigated before its crew was eventually returned home.
But a wayward Starfleet vessel discovered inside Cardassian space would be dealt with in a far more forceful manner, by a race for whom torture was still an acceptable means of obtaining information and a show trial in a one of their kangaroo courts was performed only once the sentence had already been decided.
Paris knew that the Cardassian Ministry of Justice would waste no time seizing Voyager and pronouncing its crew of Starfleet officers spies.
If they were intercepted by a Cardassian vessel, despite Janeway's undoubted skills as a diplomat, Voyager would need to make a run for it, and Paris knew that he was the best man to have at the helm if that happened.
Nonetheless long-range sensors had detected no vessels in the immediate vicinity, and after being told to get some rest but knowing that such a thing was impossible under the circumstances, Paris had decided to seek out his closest friend on Voyager.
The door to Kim's quarters opened with a hiss, and Paris stepped inside, surveying the darkened room.
Kim was seated near the viewport, rapidly entering text into a small datapadd.
"The whole ship is celebrating and you're tucked away in your quarters?" Paris said as the door closed behind him. "Even by your standards that's pretty lame, Harry."
Kim glanced up from the padd. "I'm writing letters to everyone back home," he explained. "Even once we reach Federation space we'll still be weeks away from Earth, too far for real-time communication. So as soon we're out of danger I'm sending these messages to Earth. One for Libby. One for my parents. One for a few of my close friends. Just to let them know I'm alive and well."
Paris smiled. He hadn't considered that after five months Voyager would have been declared officially lost in the Badlands and her crew classified as having been killed in action. Funerals would have no doubt taken place, with grief-stricken family members mourning the loss of their loved ones. He pondered how the friends and relatives of those killed when Voyager had been transported to the Delta Quadrant would be elated when they received word that the ship had returned, only to have their grief return all the more strongly when they realised that their loved ones weren't among those coming home.
How would his own parents and sisters react when he walked in through the door of the family home on Earth months after being declared lost on the mission to the Badlands? Absently he wondered what his funeral had been like.
"I think I'll wait," Paris said, dropping into a comfy chair. "Give them all a surprise."
"Aren't you just on a temporary assignment here from that penal colony?" Kim asked, only half-joking.
"I know Starfleet, Harry," he said confidently. "After everything that's happened they won't send me back there. I only had six months left on my sentence when Captain Janeway approached me to help track down Chakotay and five months of that can be written off with me being on Voyager."
Kim continued entering text into his datapadd. "Are you sure?" he asked. "What if the first transmission from Starfleet orders us to lock you in the brig until we reach Earth?"
Paris chuckled. "Then I'll have to steal a shuttle and make a daring escape," he said with mock-seriousness.
"Now that I'd like to see," Kim admitted.
"You might get to see about fifty Maquis do it for real," Paris said.
"What do you mean?" Kim asked.
"Think about it, Harry," Paris said. "I was captured on my first mission for the Maquis. I'm small fry compared to the majority of the others onboard Voyager. People like Chakotay are wanted men who the Federation considers traitors and terrorists, using their Starfleet training against the Cardassians. Starfleet is a pretty forgiving organisation, but they'll still want these Maquis brought to justice for their crimes."
"After everything that's happened?" Kim asked.
"It's only been five months, Harry," Paris told him. "I don't think that's long enough for everyone to just shake hands and go their separate ways, especially when some of those people are going to go back to destabilising relations between the Federation and one of its most powerful neighbours."
"I hadn't looked at it like that," Kim said.
"All I'm saying is that perhaps you should say your goodbyes before we reach the Demilitarised Zone," Paris said. "Because when we do there'll be a lot of people with itchy feet wanting to jump ship." He pushed himself to his feet. "Put that padd down and come and have a drink with me, Harry. I'm not taking no for an answer."
Kim paused, considering the offer before placing the padd on the table. "Just one," he said.
"Of course," Paris said with a grin, though privately he had other ideas.
Janeway strode onto the bridge of the starship when Chakotay called her, having been immersed in a report detailing minor structural deformations that had been discovered resulting from Voyager being trajected across the galaxy.
"We've got a problem," Chakotay said ominously, already standing at the tactical console with Tuvok.
"Go on," Janeway urged, knowing from his tone that the matter was serious.
"It would appear that we are being followed," Tuvok stated matter of factly.
"Have you detected a ship?" Janeway demanded.
"Not precisely," Tuvok said. "However I have observed a sensor-ghost that I initially subscribed to being the result of the damage done to Voyager's sensor systems when we trajected."
"When Tuvok brought it to my attention I had Lieutenant Paris adjust our course slightly for a few minutes," Chakotay continued tersely. "Mr. Tuvok's sensor ghost vanished, but returned when Voyager came back onto her initial heading."
"Indicating that whoever is following us maintained their course while we adjusted ours," Janeway concluded, her tactician's brain already recalculating the situation in light of the new information. "If this ghost was a result of our damaged sensors it would remain in place whatever course changes were made."
"It has to be a Cardassian ship," Chakotay said.
"If so it raises two questions," Janeway said. "Why follow us nearer and nearer Federation space when they could no doubt have intercepted and engaged us before now? And even more worryingly, how do they know our sensors are degraded enough that we haven't detected them following us?"
"What are you saying?" Chakotay asked.
"That ship knows exactly where to position itself in order to escape detection," Janeway told him. "Or at least not make itself obvious. I can't believe they could have gained such accurate information from a long-range scan of Voyager."
"You think someone tipped them off?" he said.
Janeway nodded. "Tuvok, check the communications system for any indication that a message has been transmitted from Voyager without our knowledge."
Tuvok immediately went to work. "This may take some time. As per your instructions I restricted access to the communications system. If a transmission has been sent to the Cardassians the person sending it would have needed to bypass my security lockouts. A person with such technical skill would likely remove any trace of their efforts."
"Check it anyway," Janeway said, moving to stand closer to Chakotay and lowering her voice. "Why would anyone onboard Voyager want to reveal our presence here to the Cardassians? We have a crew of Starfleet and Maquis who have so much to lose if we're confronted by a Cardassian warship."
Chakotay's face was a mask of concern. "I don't know. But we still have about six hours before we reach the safety of the Demilitarized Zone. We could send a distress signal to any Starfleet ships in the vicinity asking for immediate assistance."
"Any Starfleet ship that responds would have to cross into Cardassian space to help us," she said slowly, considering the proposal. "We have no way of knowing what sort of an incident that could trigger. We have to remember that we're the ones in the wrong here, not the Cardassians."
"Captain," Tuvok said. "I believe I have found something. A short transmission sent on what records indicate is a Cardassian military frequency. Judging by my relative ease in tracing it I would surmise that the person responsible was in a rush and had little time to cover their tracks."
"And that transmission gave the Cardassians our position and instructions on how to remain concealed?" Janeway asked.
"It would appear so," Tuvok confirmed.
Janeway tapped her combadge. "Bridge to Torres. Can you give me any more speed, B'Elanna? Our situation here has taken a turn for the worst."
"I'm afraid not, captain," Torres responded. "Just maintaining warp five is putting more strain on the warp core than I'd like. To be honest I was considering asking if we could reduce speed to warp four."
"Not possible," Janeway told her curtly, turning to Tuvok. "What are our chances of outfighting a Cardassian warship in our current condition?"
Tuvok looked at her grimly. "Slim."
In engineering, B'Elanna Torres stared up at the swirling colours of the warp core. She'd been awake for nearly thirty hours, twenty of those spent nursing the irreparably damaged matter-antimatter reactor powering Voyager's flight through Cardassian space.
"What was all that about?" Seska asked casually, startling Torres a little.
"I'm not sure," Torres admitted, glancing up at the woman whose urging had played no small part in her decision to employ the Sikarian trajector to transport Voyager home.
"Are we in some kind of trouble?" Seska asked, looking agitated. As a Bajoran, Torres knew that Seska, more than even the other Maquis onboard, would suffer terribly at the hands of the Cardassians if Voyager was intercepted.
Torres shrugged. "You know as much as I do," she said. "The captain wants more speed. Which isn't going to happen until Starfleet gives Voyager a full refit, with a new warp core top of the list of replacement parts."
"I don't think that's going to happen any time soon," Seska said.
Torres felt the cool tip of a phaser press against the back of her skull. "Seska!" she hissed. "What are you doing!?"
"Shut down the engines, B'Elanna," Seska instructed her.
Torres froze for a moment, her fatigued brain struggling to comprehend what was happening. "Why?" she asked hoarsely.
"Because if you don't," Seska said sweetly, "I'm going to blow your head clean off your shoulders and do it myself."
Torres felt her hand trembling as she reached for the control console, tapping the appropriate sequence of commands into the panel. Moments later the deck shuddered slightly as the intrepid-class starship dropped out of warp.
In the brief seconds between feeling the heat of Seska's discharging phaser and her world going black, Torres pictured Voyager dead in the water.
Re: MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
"We've dropped out of warp!" Chakotay announced, frantically entering commands into his personal terminal.
"Bridge to Torres!" Janeway snapped. "What's happening down there?"
Several tense seconds passed with no reply from the chief engineer.
"B'Elanna, respond!" Janeway pressed, fearing the worst.
"I'm afraid Lieutenant Torres is unavailable," another female voice said suddenly.
"Seska!?" Chakotay exclaimed, vaulting out of his chair, an expression of confusion and anger etched into his face.
"That's right, Chakotay," Seska said. "I'm afraid Voyager's journey ends here. In Cardassian space."
"A Cardassian vessel is dropping out of warp," Tuvok warned. "I believe it is the one that has been following us."
"Red alert!" Janeway commanded defiantly, dropping into her command chair. "Raise shields and power all weapons! Begin transmitting a distress signal calling for immediate Federation assistance!"
"Done," Tuvok said. "However the Cardassian vessel is broadcasting high levels of subspace interference in an attempt to jam our communications. I cannot guarantee that our distress signal will be heard."
"Someone has initiated a site-to-site transport!" Kim announced. "Someone just beamed to the Cardassian ship from engineering through a weak-spot in the shields."
On the viewscreen, Janeway watched as the Cardassian warship banked sharply to face Voyager, positing itself directly between the lone Starfleet vessel and the salvation of the Demilitarised Zone that bordered Federation space.
"That's a kovat-class light-cruiser," Chakotay said, staring at the screen. "The Cardassians use them for border patrols. I've had a few run ins with them over the years."
"Light-cruiser or not they greatly outclass Voyager today," Janeway finished grimly.
"We're being hailed," Tuvok reported.
"On screen," Janeway said.
The warship vanished from the viewscreen, replaced with the angular grey features of the Cardassian captain seated confidently at the centre of his bridge.
"I am Gul Jasad of the cruiser Udat," the commander said silkily. "Your ship is trespassing inside Cardassian space in flagrant violation of the peace treaty established between our two peoples. In accordance with that treaty your ship will be impounded and your crew taken into custody until they can be processed by our judicial system."
"Gul Jasad," Janeway began, "We were brought here by circumstances beyond our control. Permit us to continue on our present course and we will leave your space within a matter of hours."
Jasad snorted. "And allow you to report back to Starfleet Command with any amount of tactical data regarding Cardassian ship movements and strength in this sector?"
"There is no need for this encounter to turn into a major diplomatic incident," Janeway told him, her tone becoming stern. "Let us be on our way rather than having this lead to severe consequences for both the Federation and the Cardassian Union."
"You have the audacity to lecture me on consequences when you've been discovered light-years inside Cardassian territory?" Jasad replied. "I have no desire to start a war with the Federation, captain, but if one does result from your presence here the blood will be on your hands and not mine."
"As I've already told you," Janeway continued, "We are not responsible for our presence here and are attempting to depart as swiftly as possible."
"And if I was to inquire as to how a state-of-the-art Federation starship might become so lost as to inadvertently trespass into Cardassian space?"
"Five months ago Voyager was abducted by a powerful entity and transported to the far side of the galaxy. We were stranded in the Delta Quadrant, seventy-thousand light-years from here, until we employed a piece of technology that brought us here."
Jasad smiled slightly. "A most inventive explanation. And one that I would doubtless be unable to believe had this version of events not already been related to me by one of our operatives aboard your vessel."
"Seska," Janeway said.
Jasad appeared disinterested. "The assumed names of covert agents are no concern of mine," he said dismissively. "Regardless of the circumstances, the facts are that you command a Starfleet ship that has been caught within Cardassian space. As per the treaty I intend to seize your vessel. My scans indicate that your ship has suffered severe damage and will not withstand any forthcoming battle, and as such I invite your immediate surrender."
"I will do no such thing," Janeway said.
"As you wish. In the interests of continued good-relations between the Federation and the Cardassian Union I am prepared to overlook your presence and put this encounter down to a misunderstanding. I will permit Voyager and her Starfleet crew to proceed out of Cardassian space, but the Maquis that you are harbouring are enemies of the Cardassian state. You will lower your shields and allow me to transport them aboard. The alternative is that I take your vessel by force."
"The Maquis on Voyager have been granted Starfleet field-commissions," Janeway told him. "This is one crew. Yes, many of the Maquis onboard Voyager have committed crimes against the Cardassian Union and the Federation, and when we return home they will answer for those crimes in a Federation court under Federation law. I have no intention of allowing them to be tried and executed by your own laughable legal system."
"You appear to be an intelligent woman, Captain Janeway. Consider your current circumstances. I have generously offered to allow your ship to proceed unmolested back to Federation space in return for fifty wanted criminals whose organisation is responsible for horrific acts of terrorism against the Cardassian people. I could just as easily overrun your ship by force and take not only these Maquis but your own Starfleet crew as well. Your ship can not sustain an attack by my vessel, nor can it escape nor call for assistance."
"He's right, captain," Chakotay said quietly from beside her, touching her arm gently as he spoke. "Jasad, my name is Chakotay. Perhaps you've heard of me."
"Indeed I have," Jasad agreed. "One of the more infamous terrorists to have killed Cardassian civilians."
"And one of the most wanted," Chakotay finished. "I'll come aboard your vessel, and take full responsibility for whatever crimes you wish. I'll even look suitably remorseful at whatever show-trial the Central Command wants to arrange for the benefit of the viewing public."
"And your associates on Voyager?" Jasad asked.
"Tried by a Federation court," Chakotay said. "Where they will almost certainly be found guilty and sentenced to a penal colony where they will pose no more threat to the Cardassian Union for years to come."
Jasad paused, clearly considering the proposal.
"Of course you can refuse those terms and attack Voyager," Chakotay continued. "Obviously we can't prevent you taking us all by force, but the engagement will almost certainly provoke a war between Cardassia and the Federation. The blood of many Cardassians will be on your hands, Jasad."
"As you wish," Jasad said finally. "Drop your shields and I'll beam you aboard."
Chakotay shook his head. "If we drop our shields you could beam half the crew away before we could raise them again. The shields stay up. I'll be leaving in a shuttlecraft within the next few minutes."
Jasad nodded curtly before terminating the link.
Janeway looked at him. "Chakotay," she said hoarsely, unable to find the words.
Chakotay smiled slightly. "It's the only way," he said, before turning sharply and ascending the steps to the turbolift.
"Commander Chakotay," Tuvok said as he passed the tactical station. "It is by no means certain that you will be executed for whatever crimes the Cardassians charge you with. Given that my own future with Starfleet is uncertain, you have my word, sir, that I will endeavor to free you from confinement if it is within my power to do so."
Chakotay tapped him warmly on the shoulder. "A Vulcan jailbreak?" he said wryly. "I'll look forward to it."
With that, Chakotay left the bridge of the starship Voyager for the final time, leaving the officers there in a solemn silence.
The type-6 shuttlecraft slid smoothly out of Voyager's hanger under Chakotay's control, before describing a tight arc and accelerating away from the Federation ship towards the Cardassian vessel looming nearby. As he adjusted his approach, Chakotay tapped a control to open a communications channel to the awaiting warship.
"Chakotay to Udat," he said. "I'm approaching your shuttlebay."
"Hello, Chakotay." Seska answered, the amusement audible in her voice. "I'm looking forward to seeing you."
"You'll forgive me when I say the feeling isn't mutual," Chakotay said lightly, unwilling to let the woman he had loved hear how hurt he actually was.
"Not everything I told you was a lie, Chakotay," Seska said. "I did have feelings for you."
"I don't believe a word you say," he told her coldly, just as the shuttle shuddered violently and the cabin became bathed in a scintillating orange light.
"I hope you don't mind if we bring your shuttle aboard with a tractor beam," Seska said by way of explanation. "We don't want a repeat of what happened with the Kazon warship."
Chakotay smiled slightly, taking his hands off the controls. "Be my guest," he replied, pleased that Seska was so far off the mark.
He watched the sensor display as the shuttle was drawn towards the Udat, waiting for the moment the warship's powerful shields were lowered to admit the Sacajewa.
His only regret was that he wasn't able to see Seska's face when she realised that she wasn't the only one who knew how to manipulate Voyager's communications system to secretly call for assistance.
"Three ships are dropping out of warp!" Kim called out. "They must've masked their approach somehow!"
"Cardassian?" Janeway demanded, her gaze locked on the image of Chakotay's shuttle being pulled towards the Udat via a tractor beam.
"No," Kim said. "They look Federation!"
Janeway watched in disbelief as three Maquis raiders, virtually identical to the one Chakotay had commanded, screamed past Voyager and began firing at the Udat with a fury that clearly caught the Cardassian vessel by surprise.
The warship remained motionless in space under a ruinous barrage of phaser fire and photon torpedo barrages for many seconds as the Cardassians onboard struggled to respond, and when disruptor fire finally bloomed into life in response the Cardassian vessel had already taken damage.
"The Cardassian ship has begun calling for assistance," Tuvok announced. "I would estimate their shields to be at around sixty percent."
"Should we help them?" Kim asked.
"We're the ones trespassing, Harry." Janeway said, her gaze never wavering from the intense battle being played out on the viewscreen. "I can't help the Maquis destroy a Cardassian vessel inside Cardassian space."
"I'm not sure if they need our help," Paris threw in. "They're pounding hell out of that warship."
"Commander Chakotay's shuttle has been released," Kim announced.
"Lower our shields and beam it aboard," Janeway ordered sharply.
On the screen, the smaller, more manoeuvrable raiders were performing acrobatics around the lumbering warship, discharging volleys of phaser and photon fire even as they dodged disruptor shots that the Cardassian vessel was spitting at them.
"Cardassian shields are at approximately forty percent," Tuvok said. "Their weapons array appears to have been damaged."
Janeway watched as a disruptor shot struck one of the raiders squarely, sending a stream of engine plasma out into space as it banked sharply away.
"Detecting power-fluctuations throughout the Cardassian warship," Kim said. "They're in trouble, captain."
Janeway held her breath as she watched the lights begin to flicker throughout Jasad's vessel. In the matter of a few short minutes the Cardassian gul had gone from a position of supreme power to having his vessel reeling from an unexpected attack by three smaller ships.
"Cardassian shields are beginning to fail," Tuvok warned.
"Open a channel to the Maquis ships," Janeway snapped.
"Open," Tuvok confirmed.
"Maquis ships! Call off your attack. The Cardassian vessel has been badly damaged and I cannot standby and allow you to destroy it!"
The viewscreen changed to show an image of an Asian man strapped into the cockpit of the lead raider.
"This is Takagi!" he snapped furiously. "You dare threaten us when we come to your aid!"
"And I'm grateful," Janeway said. "But this situation is already bad enough without a Starfleet vessel being seen doing nothing to prevent the needless destruction of a Cardassian warship with a hundred people onboard. Stand down."
"Listen to her, Takagi!" Chakotay added, bursting forward from the turbolift. "There'll be more Cardassian ships on their way. We all need to get out of Cardassian space right now."
"As you wish," Takagi said reluctantly. "Is your vessel able to go to warp?"
Janeway slapped her combadge. "Bridge to Torres. Status?"
"We're as ready down here as we'll ever be, captain."
"Resume our course, Mr. Paris," Janeway ordered.
Paris input the commands, and Voyager accelerated into warp, followed moments later by the three Maquis raiders who had come to her aid.
Re: MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
The soft chirp of the door chime roused Janeway from her momentary slumber, the twin panels slipping back to reveal Tuvok.
"Captain," the Vulcan said as he stepped inside, "A large number of people have gathered in the shuttlebay."
"The Maquis?" Janeway asked.
Tuvok nodded once, almost solemnly.
Janeway rose from her chair. "I suppose I knew this was coming," she said.
Janeway felt sick to her stomach as she entered Voyager's vast hanger bay. Tuvok had offered to accompany her but she had declined, knowing that this was something she had to do alone.
Off to one side of the bay was the Sacajewa, still in the spot where the transporters had rematerialised it hours earlier. In the centre of the hanger around fifty men and women dressed in civilian clothes had gathered in a loose formation, each of them carrying bags that were slung over their shoulders.
Every one of them regarded Janeway silently as she entered.
Chakotay was standing at the front of the group, attired in the same clothes he'd been wearing when he'd first beamed aboard Voyager five months and seventy-thousand light-years ago.
"You're out of uniform, commander," she said slowly as she approached him.
Chakotay smiled. "I think it's best if we all go our separate ways before Voyager crosses into Federation space," he told her.
Janeway sighed, surveying the assembled group. "You people are all wanted by the Federation," she said. "I have a responsibility to bring you all to a Federation court to answer for your crimes. That was the mission that brought us all together."
"Is that what you want?" Chakotay asked.
"It isn't about what I want," Janeway replied, feeling emotion begin to well up inside her. "If I let you all go free I'm betraying my oath to Starfleet and refusing to do my duty as a Starfleet officer."
"And if we remain onboard Voyager will soon be met by another Federation starship," Chakotay said. "And myself and all these people will spend the next few years at a penal settlement. Takagi has told me very little has changed in the last five months. The Cardassians are still killing civilians in the Demilitarised Zone and the Federation is still turning a blind eye. Our families and friends are still in danger."
Janeway looked at him for long moments. "Make good use of this head start, commander," she said finally.
Chakotay nodded. "Thank you, captain."
She tapped her combadge. "Janeway to Tuvok. I'd like you to perform a level-one diagnostic of Voyager's deflector shield system, starting immediately."
"Given that such a diagnostic would require the shields being taken offline I would question that proposal at this time," the Vulcan responded almost instantly.
"Carry out my orders, Tuvok," Janeway said.
"Aye, captain. I am taking the shields offline."
Chakotay reached into his jacket, withdrawing his own combadge and squeezing it between his fingers. "Chakotay to Takagi. We're ready here."
The familiar transporter harmonic filled the hanger, and Janeway watched as the assembled Maquis began to dissolve into sparkling light in small groups.
"Goodbye, Kathryn," Chakotay said warmly, handing his combadge to her.
"Goodbye, Chakotay," she replied, feeling her throat tighten as he dematerialised before being spirited away to one of the Maquis raiders.
Janeway stood alone in the empty, silent hanger for long moments. Finally, she turned and headed briskly towards the exit.
Voyager's bridge was busier than usual as the starship crossed into Federation space, filled with personnel who had gathered to witness the end of their phenomenal odyssey across the galaxy.
Janeway stood on the command level, surveying the command centre for the most familiar faces. Neelix and Kes were here, holding each other off to one side, watching the proceedings intently. Beside her, B'Elanna Torres hovered with an expression of nervousness and excitement, still clad in her Starfleet uniform. Janeway had promised to do all she could for the young woman, reassuring her that she knew a lot of Starfleet admirals and had a stockpile of favours that she intended to call in. Torres would serve a short sentence, there was no avoiding that, but once that was complete Janeway was certain that Starfleet would welcome her back.
"Five months, three days, eleven hours," Janeway said loudly, prompting a hush to descend over the bridge. "That's precisely how long Voyager spent in the Delta Quadrant. The quote on the dedication plaque of Starfleet's most famous vessel reads 'where no one has gone before' - I'd say we've done that and then some. Voyager has visited a region of the galaxy far beyond the reach of current propulsion technology, but when a new generation of Starfleet ships does eventually reach that part of space in the coming century, I'm proud to say they'll find the fingerprints of another Starfleet crew already there. We've advanced the frontiers of exploration, made first-contact with races a galaxy away from our homes, some of them friendly" - she gestured at Neelix and Kes - "Others not. We've also lost a lot of friends and colleagues as a result of being brought to the Delta Quadrant, good people who I am sorry aren't with us today as our journey comes to an end. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as your captain, and although some of you may not have agreed with decisions I've made during that time, I hope you can at least respect and understand my reasons for making them. Wherever you all find yourselves in the coming years, be assured that my door is always open, and that you have a link with a hundred and fifty other souls who made this incredible journey with you. Welcome home, everyone."
A cheer rose up from the bridge, moving like a wave through the decks of the starship as Janeway's words reverberated through every section.
"Captain," Tuvok said once the elation had lessened enough that he could be heard. "We are receiving a Starfleet hail."
Janeway fought back a wave of emotion. "Where from?"
"A Federation starship," Tuvok told her. "The USS Discovery."
"Put it on screen," Janeway said, turning to the main viewer as it changed to display the image of a young Starfleet captain.
"This is Captain Paul Winter of the Discovery," the man said, a quizzical expression present on his face. "Are you in need of assistance? I'm afraid Starfleet records list your ship as having been lost five months ago."
Janeway smiled. "I think those Starfleet records will need changing, captain,” she said.
Re: MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
Pretty fantastic little tale I must admit.
Interesting and believable without being over the top, although I have the feeling that you struggled to fit everything into the word limit - the last third or so felt a little rushed and the Doctor doesn't feature at all which is a bit of a shame.
I like how they landed in Cardassian space, particularly that it was a quiet farming region and not some terrifying stronghold with swarms of warships.
All in all a very pleasant and satisfying read that you clearly put quite a bit of effort into, although it seems unfair to compare this 10,000 word tomb with the couple of paragraphs of the other two challenge entries - yes size doesn't matter and quality over quantity, but still...
I've voted for it and I think you deserve to win.
Re: MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
Well, that was really good. I actually don't like Voyager that much but your story managed to captivate my attention and made me feel with the crew and cheer for them. You addressed all the issues such an early return of Voyager would cause for the crew, e.g. for the Maquis and Kes and Neelix (I loved that scene, by the way). I also liked how you managed to weave some nostalgy for things and characters we will now never get to know (or at least not so well) into your tale with your mentioning of the Doctor. He and Seven happen to be my favourite characters of the show and it made me a little sad that they won't exist in this universe as happy as I was for the Voyager crew to get home so soon.
Nice speech by Janeway at the end.
Re: MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
I'd have liked the Doctor included in some form just for the sake of completeness, although I suppose having him offline due to damage and no one really being bothered about it captures early Voyager quite well back when they considered him a piece of emergency equipment and nothing more.
Re: MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
Re: MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
Agreed. Early Chakotay before he was lobotomised later in the series.
I enjoyed Seska slapping a tractor beam onto the shuttle - a nice callback to him ramming his raider through that massive Kazon ship in Caretaker.
Re: MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
Really nice. Certainly tops my entry by a longshot.
Re: MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
Well done. I like how the Starfleet-Maquis tensions are still in play. Chakotay is ready to sacrifice himself to the Cardassians--but other than giving him a head start, Janeway is not ready to go the full nine yards to defend him, even after his near sacrifice. That does fit with the rather Machiavellian captain I seem to remember from the series, and plays on the tension that I don't think was ever fully exploited the way it should have been on VOY.
In some ways this is more satisfying than "Endgame," though of course that means the rest of the series didn't happen. Not being a real VOY fan, I could accept this as canon.
While the Cardassians are shown simply as enemies here rather than anything more complex, I do like that you were true to canon--there was a statement once on DS9 about the Cardassians making their enemies chase sensor ghosts, which is very fitting to the way that ship followed Voyager. It also seems to me you followed Gul Jasad's embarrassment with the wormhole in "Emissary" with a demotion to a smaller vessel. That makes a lot of sense, especially since the conduct we saw from him in "Emissary" did not suggest someone with a lot of self control or the ability to rise up in the ranks--though granted, he does seem to have learned a little bit more about when to bargain rather than just be belligerent.
I wonder what the ramifications will be of getting that new propulsion technology. That could really upset the apple cart in some interesting ways during the Dominion War if it allowed both sides access to each other without the wormhole...
Re: MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
Thank you all so much for your kind words, I'm so glad you all enjoyed reading my challenge entry as much as I enjoyed writing it!
SANDOVAL I'd like to have included a small scene with the Doctor but unfortunately the 10,000 word constraint simply didn't allow me to include one. I suppose as you and COUNT ZERO have pointed out it sort of fits with the general disregard for him in the early episodes but that wasn't really my intention. I already went a few words over so writing even a small scene featuring him was impossible so I just had to explain it with a throwaway line about him being offline due to damage.
MILO BLOOM thanks for your kind words, but as SANDOVAL has said it seems like an apples and oranges comparison given the massive difference in word-count.
NERYS GHEMOR thank you for such praise, I'm thrilled that you enjoyed all the references to DS9 and the characterisation of Chakotay and Janeway.
I think one of the most compelling aspects of writing Voyager fanfic is, in a sense, trying to correct the flawed execution of a fantastic premise that never lived up to what it seemed capable of.
Thanks again for all the praise, and indeed the votes!
Re: MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
Congratulations on your win Angry Fanboy. There's been a heap of praise for this story in the comments posted and all rightly deserved. The story has all the flavour of Voyager, especially early season one Voyager, with the EMH seen as simply that, the Maquis circumstances rife for trouble and the crew landed back into early DS9 politics. It is a well written story and the characters are true to their selves as in S1. A very well done job.
Now Voyager has its detractors, but I think the way you have written it, bringing much of the story full circle, bringing the Maquis front and centre for the last story is a terrific testament to your skill and to the potential Voyager had if it had built upon itself, and had more continuity and plot involving the Maquis/Starfleet tensions/differences.
This is a very interesting AU and one wonders how the characters fare hereafter; Janeway would have less trouble dealing with Starfleet with fewer controversial decisions behind her, Tuvok faces an uncertain future - maybe demotion or maybe penal colony, Torres would face a difficult transition to serving in Starfleet again but what happens then when the Dominion War kicks off and hostilities arise with the Cardassians again? Then we have Chakotay and the other Maquis members and whatever role they might play against the backdrop of DS9's history (assuming it plays out as it was). And then of course, there's Kes and Neelix off exploring the Alpha Quadrant! But the poor ole Doc never ever quite gets to be. And then we can imagine what happens without Voyager in the DQ for the rest of its canon adventures, such as do the Borg get annihilated by Species 372(sic)? The fact my mind wanders off in all these directions is a sign of what an interesting story you told here. Well done.
Oh, remember to post your winning entry to the stickied winning entries thread.
Re: MARCH CHALLENGE - Home - Angry Fanboy
Hi MIRANDAFAVE thanks for all the feedback and praise I really appreciate it and I'm pleased you enjoyed reading what I'd written.
Who knows perhaps I'll revisit this story in the months to come and write a follow up involving everyone a few years after they get home? Perhaps I'll even use one of the monthly challenges to do so since that would seem to provide a sense sense of symmetry. :)
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