Stardate 57385.50 (January 1, 2381)
“Are you sure
, Tuvok?” Captain Kathryn Janeway stared in disbelief at her Vulcan first officer. “A cloaked
“Yes, Captain,” Tuvok replied calmly. “The warp signature is unmistakable.”
“What would a Federation starship be doing out this far out?” The ship’s helmsman, Lieutenant Commander Tom Paris, swiveled his chair to face the captain. “And why would it be cloaked?”
“Captain, there is another fact that may be of some interest.” Janeway turned to face her tactical officer, Ensign Seven of Nine. “The unknown vessel is on an intercept course with Voyager,
traveling at a velocity of Warp nine point—
“I get it,” Janeway interjected. “This is the first Starfleet vessel—well, possible Starfleet vessel—we’ve encountered since the Equinox
. If it’s hostile, let’s meet the challenge before it meets us.”
The bridge crew turned to their stations. “Helm,” Janeway ordered. “Lay in an intercept course for that ship, warp nine. Engage.”
“Warp nine,” Tom said quietly.
“Shall I raise the shields, Captain?” Seven of Nine, characteristically, already had her finger on the console to do so.
Janeway paused. Ever since the Mutara Nebula Incident, it was standard procedure to raise shields whenever a fellow Starfleet vessel didn’t respond to hails. But considering the circumstances...well. Perhaps it was too early to jump the gun. “Let’s wait and see if they want to talk to us.”
Seven of Nine disapproved but did not voice her concerns. “We are now within hailing range, Captain.”
Janeway sat up straight in her chair. “Let’s see if they feel like talking. Hail them, Ensign.”
“The hailing frequencies are now open, Captain.”
“This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager
The visage of a middle-aged Trill female appeared on the screen. Janeway took a sharp intake of breath.
“This is Captain Jadzia Dax of the U.S.S. Defiant
.” The Trill paused. “ I see you’ve found a way to penetrate our cloak.”
Janeway grinned in spite of herself. “We’ve been required to make a few… adaptations during our journey through the Delta Quadrant, Captain Dax.” Janeway stood and walked towards the viewscreen. “But I suppose you have as many questions for us as we do for you.”
The Trill raised an eyebrow. “I suppose you could say that.”
Janeway regarded the Trill carefully. There was something going on here, she thought. Something isn’t right. The Trill officer wasn’t being unfriendly, but she was definitely… guarded. Maybe it was nothing, but Janeway couldn’t shake the feeling the other captain was hiding something.
Janeway had survived for ten years in the Delta Quadrant by trusting her instincts; she wasn’t about to stop doing so now, even when faced with a possible way home.
“Mr. Paris,” Janeway said, “How long until we intercept the Defiant
“Nine minutes, Captain.”
“I’d like to propose a rendezvous point, Captain Dax.” Janeway sat back in her chair and tapped at a console. “Heading 193 mark 7.”
The Trill looked over at someone out of view. “All right, Captain Janeway. We’ll meet you there in…about fifteen minutes.”
“I look forward to it,” Janeway said. “Voyager
Paris whistled. “They didn’t exactly lay out the welcome mat for us, did they?”
“I’ll say,” the Ops Officer, Lieutenant Harry Kim, replied. “She did look familiar, though.”
Janeway stood. “Arm phaser banks and photon torpedoes, but hold off on raising shields.” She stared at the viewscreen, with all the myriad stars of the Delta Quadrant streaking by. “Whatever is going on with the Defiant
, I want to be ready.”
Onboard the Defiant
, Captain Dax viewed the data the ship’s sensors had gathered about the rendezvous point. “Julian,” she said, “It looks like you may get your adventure inside a nebula after all.”
“Confirmed,” Nog spoke up. “The rendezvous point is just outside a Class 7 nebula.”
“Sounds like a perfect hiding spot for a Jem’Hadar fleet,” Garak said quietly
Dax contemplated this for a moment. “That may be true. But it may also be true that Voyager
wants to use the nebula as a possible escape route from us
“If the Jem’Hadar are hiding in that nebula, leading Voyager
back to Erehwon would be suicide,” Bashir said.
Dax nodded. “Yes.” She stood up and paced around the front of the bridge, hands behind her back. There was a real danger here of falling into the depths of paranoia. Voyager
could be exactly what it seemed to be—a lost ship, traveling through the Delta Quadrant on a course for home. If that were the case, the Starfleet base on Erehwon would gain a valuable new asset when Voyager
discovered home wasn’t a friendly place anymore. If this was a Dominion ruse, however, one wrong move could mean death for the entire Starfleet remnant in the Delta Quadrant.
“We are coming up on the rendezvous point, Captain,” the helmsman reported.
“Slow to impulse,” Dax ordered, and sat back down.
’s weapons are armed, but her shields are down,” said the tactical officer.
“Yellow alert. Decloak. Keep the shields down, but I want them up the second it looks like trouble,” Dax said.
moved astern of Voyager
. Dax couldn’t help but marvel at the patchwork engineering evident on the hull. If this was a Dominion trick, it was a good one. Voyager
looked like she’d seen at least ten years without a visit to a starbase; but despite that, she still looked magnificent. Dax had seen several Intrepid*-
class ships destroyed in the war, and none had made the trip out with the refugee fleet. It was pleasant to see one again intact…well, more or less intact, that is.
The tactical officer cleared her throat. “Voyager
is hailing us, sir.
Captain Janeway appeared. “Captain Dax,” she said. “Thanks for meeting us.”
“My pleasure, Captain,” Dax replied. Janeway did not look as eager to see her as before. Maybe I need to brush up on my diplomacy
, she thought to herself. Dax heard Curzon’s distinctive chuckle deep inside her psyche.
“Captain Dax,” Janeway said, “I apologize for arming my ship’s weapons, but surely you can understand my caution in approaching you so closely. Voyager
has been traveling in the Delta Quadrant for nearly a decade now, and our last encounter with another displaced Starfleet ship was…not a pleasant one.”
“No apology is necessary. Tell me, Captain: how exactly was the Voyager
“An entity known as the Caretaker utilized a displacement wave to bring us to the Delta Quadrant while Voyager
was deployed in the Badlands. It’s…a long story. We were forced to begin the journey home from our starting point of nearly 75,000 light years from Earth.”
Dax quickly did some math in her head. Erewhon was a little over 29,000 light years from Earth, near the border of Beta Quadrant. “That’s quite an impressive distance to cover in under a decade, Captain.”
Janeway smiled. “We’ve taken some…interesting shortcuts along the way.”
Dax looked over at Garak, who had moved out of view. He gave a slight shrug.
“My crew and I are very interested to know how you made it out so far,” Janeway continued. “Have there been new propulsion technologies developed since we left?”
In a manner of speaking,
Dax thought to herself. But was telling Janeway the truth a good idea at this point?
“We’ve…been displaced as well,” Dax said haltingly. Garak nodded in approval.
“I see,” Janeway said tonelessly. “When did you arrive here, in the Delta Quadrant?”
Who wants to know
? Dax thought to herself. “A few years ago. We’ve been making our way back.”
Janeway looked slightly defeated. Dax wondered how many times she’d had the prospect of getting home dangled in front of her before, only to have it snatched away at the last moment. Or maybe the Founder is irritated we aren’t giving up the fleet’s position
, she thought.
“Well, Captain Dax,” Janeway said, “it would seem like a prudent course of action to resume a course back to the Alpha Quadrant together.”
Dax contemplated her next move. If she revealed the truth to Janeway now, she could begin the chain of events that might lead to the destruction of the fleet. But if she refused to go with Janeway, and Voyager
warped away, the fleet lost another valuable ship…and the crew of the Voyager
would get a nasty surprise if and when they made it home.
Damn it, Benjamin, what should I do?
Dax closed her eyes. She found herself wanting to trust Captain Janeway, and help her. Yes, there was a distinct possibility that Janeway and her entire crew were Founders, so dedicated to eradicating out the Starfleet holdout on Erehwon that they would construct this elaborate ruse to find it. Perhaps the Voyager
crew was holographic, programmed by the Dominion to fool Starfleet just long enough to destroy it. Perhaps…
The Dax symbiont had lived through the life and death of its hosts for three hundred years and counting…and had been quite successful doing so. There was something to be said for trusting such finely honed instincts.
“Commander Nog,” Dax called out. Have sensors turned up any signs of Jem’Hadar ships?”
Janeway’s eyes narrowed. “Captain Dax?”
Dax ignored her. “Have sensor scans of Voyager
returned any results out of the ordinary?”
Nog shook his head. “Not too out of the ordinary, sir.”
“What exactly is going on, Captain?” Janeway snapped.
Dax glanced over at Garak. The Cardassian met her gaze but said nothing. She looked at Bashir, who gave her a slight nod.
Time to make the call
“Tell me, Captain Janeway…what do you know about the Dominion?”