Title: Leaps of Faith and Logic Author: Julie Evans (Juli17@aol.com)
Codes: K, T, P/T, P, Tu
Summary: Reflections, ruminations and actions taken after Voyager received a distress call and arrived at the site of the call to find only residual debris of an unknown ship that had been destroyed, leaving no survivors. Set right after the events in "Course: Oblivion", with some spoilers also for "Disease".
Disclaimer: Star Trek and its characters are the property of Viacom/Paramount. I am just borrowing them for fun, not profit.
Notes: Okay to archive to PTF, ASC, and PTC archives and to post to BLTS. All others please contact the author for permission. If there was ever an episode open to a wide variety of interpretations, and equally diverse conjecture for what might have followed, it is "Course: Oblivion". This is my conjecture.
"Leaps of Faith and Logic"
by Julie Evans (Juli17@aol.com)
"How does it look now, Harry?"
"Everything is checking out. I‘ve initiated the final diagnostic so if we get a thumbs up from our cheerful computer voice in about ten minutes we should be done." Harry rocked back on his heels as he spoke.
B‘Elanna straightened from where she‘d been hunkered, watching the drive indicators as the ship moved smoothly through space at high warp, and looked at Harry. "Looks like we have an improved, enhanced warp drive to get us home, Harry."
Again, Harry thought, knowing that it was an ongoing effort, this one a refit from the work they‘d done right after their most recent encounter with the Borg. But he had to grin at B‘Elanna‘s look of satisfaction. Nothing could put that look of complete contentment on her face like her engines being in top shape. Except maybe Tom, but Harry wasn‘t privy to those moments. "Well, it won‘t get us home any faster but at least we‘ll have a better chance of getting there in one piece."
"Oh, we‘ve probably shaved another few months off our journey, Harry," B‘Elanna pointed out as he stood up. "And I haven‘t quit working on ideas for enhancing the drive even more. I know there‘s some way we can get not just better efficiency, but much better speed too. If not an altered version of transwarp, then something else. Eventually we‘ll figure it out."
Harry didn‘t doubt that. Between B‘Elanna‘s—and Seven‘s—obsessive tinkering with formulas to override the limitations of standard warp, and the captain‘s obsession with getting home, he‘d be shocked if they didn‘t eventually find a way to cut the thirty five years left on their journey significantly. They‘d already found temporary shortcuts several times. "Well, at least wait a month or so before you come up with your next brilliant enhancement. I need some sleep."
Harry‘s tone was teasing but B‘Elanna noticed the smudges under his eyes and frowned. "I‘m sorry, Harry. I didn‘t mean to shanghai you—"
Harry shook his head and slapped her shoulder lightly. "Hey, Maquis. I was kidding. I know how time consuming refits are. I‘m the one who offered to come help out so your engineering staff could have a break." He stretched his arms. "Besides, I‘m off after this for 24 hours, so I can catch up on my beauty sleep."
B‘Elanna glanced at the warp readouts again. "We would have been done hours ago if we hadn‘t had to take the test parameters offline to answer that distress call yesterday. And then there wasn‘t even anyone to rescue…" She paused with that thought and looked closer at the readouts to satisfy herself that the diagnostic was proceeding as expected.
Harry frowned. "Yeah. That was kind of weird. There was almost nothing left but residual radiation. No pieces of the ship, no message squirts, no life pods, nothing. Like it was never there." He shook his head, remembering looking at the debris field, if it could even be called that. "At least our rescue operations got a test run. Too bad we weren‘t a little closer though."
"Or a little faster…" B‘Elanna‘s data padd beeped and she glanced at the incoming message on the screen. A moment later a small, almost imperceptible smile flitted across her face, and she pressed a key on the padd.
"Message from Tom?" Harry asked archly.
B‘Elanna gave him a sharp look. "He wants me to meet him for breakfast at 0700 in Holodeck 2."
Harry‘s eyebrows raised. "A sudden invitation for a replicated breakfast instead of Neelix‘s gruel of the day? Something special I should know about?"
"Why would there be anything special about that?"
Harry shrugged, a sly grin on his face. "Word will get around that the romance is in high gear again."
B‘Elanna looked annoyed. "And what‘s that supposed to mean?" She didn‘t give him a chance to answer. "Mine and Tom‘s relationship is a private matter, Harry, like it‘s supposed to be on a starship. We‘ve tried to be as circumspect as possible, especially after what happened last year—"
"B‘Elanna, I didn‘t mean anything by that," Harry amended. "And you two are very circumspect. No Starfleet inspector could fault your actions. In fact watching you two they wouldn‘t have a clue what the state of your relationship is, or even whether you‘re deeply involved—"
"Our relationship is fine," B‘Elanna snapped. "Do you think Tom and I aren‘t deeply involved, Harry?"
Harry rolled his eyes. He couldn‘t help the thought that crossed his mind. Women. Human, half Klingon, part Borg…it didn‘t matter. They always managed to turn around everything he—poor innocent man that he was—said. He sighed. "B‘Elanna, I wasn‘t talking about me. I know exactly how involved you and Tom are. You‘re my best friends. No matter how hard you try and hide it when you‘re on duty, even then I can see what‘s between you. When Tom looks at you in the briefing room, and he thinks no one else sees, he can‘t hide his feelings. Or when you call the bridge and tell him to fly a little easier when you‘re recalibrating the engines, I can hear the affection in your voice that you don‘t even realize is there."
B‘Elanna looked a little dumbfounded.
"I‘m just saying you might be able to fool the general public, but you can‘t fool me, or anyone else on this ship. We know you both too well."
B‘Elanna shrugged. "We‘re not trying to fool anyone. We‘re just pursuing our relationship how we see fit, Harry."
"And I‘m sorry I snapped at you."
Harry gave her a small smile. With both of them having worked through three shifts, he shouldn‘t have even started this conversation. "Apology accepted. And, B‘Elanna, I really am happy for you and Tom. You never have to hide anything from me. Even after what happened with…Tal."
B‘Elanna watched Harry shift his gaze and stare pensively at the warp readouts for a several moments before she spoke. "You still miss her, don‘t you?"
Harry turned at B‘Elanna‘s gentle tone. "Yeah, I still miss her."
"I still think you should have asked her to come along."
"She wouldn‘t have, any more than I would have stayed with her. Neither of us even bothered to ask. We both knew the answer we‘d get." Harry gave B‘Elanna a disheartened look. "And that should tell you something."
"Maybe it really was all chemical reaction, pheromones. Just a biochemical bond. If we‘d really loved each other wouldn‘t one of us have been willing to give up everything to stay together?"
"Everything‘s a lot to give up, Harry, even for love.
And your lives are on totally different courses."
"Maybe. It doesn‘t mean we couldn‘t have put them on the same course if we‘d really wanted to. If it had been important enough to us."
The diagnostic panel beeped a two minute status warning. Harry and B‘Elanna both looked at it.
"What if the captain had put Tom off the ship at the next planet after the incident with the Moneans," Harry said after a silent moment. "Would you have given up everything you‘ve achieved here on Voyager, and the chance of getting home, and gone with him?"
B‘Elanna looked at Harry, who was still staring at the diagnostic readouts. "That would never have happened, Harry."
"No, probably not…" He looked up at B‘Elanna. "But if it did, what would you do?"
B‘Elanna frowned, then let out a heavy, irritated sigh. "Harry, I don‘t know—"
"Yes, you do, B‘Elanna. No matter how much people "agonize" over a decision, it‘s almost always made from that first moment. They’re just delaying accepting everything it means. Like I knew from the very beginning that I would never stay with Tal. And that she would never come with me. Just like you already know your answer."
The panel beeped and the indicator went green. "Diagnostic completed," the computer intoned in its flat voice. "No irregularities detected."
"The warp flow is perfect," B‘Elanna said, sounding rather relieved to change the focus of the conversation, Harry thought. She hit a pad on the panel, and the diagnostic program shut itself off.
"Another success, Chief?"
B‘Elanna looked up at Joe Carey, who had just entered Main Engineering, and nodded. "Looks that way."
Joe glanced at the pulsing, rising blue swirl of warp core several meters away. "Another refit over. Looks like we can get back to regular shifts again."
B‘Elanna snorted. "On Voyager?"
Joe shrugged. "Well, for a few days anyway." He looked at the two in front of him. "It‘s 0645. Susan and Vorik should be here any time, and you both look like you could use some sleep."
"B‘Elanna has a breakfast date first," Harry said, giving her a sidelong look. "But I‘m too tired to even bother with food. I plan to jump right into the middle of my bed and pass out."
Joe, in typical fashion, simply nodded at Harry‘s comments. "Have a good sleep, Harry. And B‘Elanna, enjoy your twenty four hours off. Engineering‘s in good hands."
Harry grinned. "I‘m not sure B‘Elanna can take a whole day away from her engines."
B‘Elanna scowled at Harry. "Yes, I can. Now if you were talking about a week…" She shook her head, as if the idea of being away from her engines that long was unthinkable.
"I promise to take good care of them," Joe said. He turned and headed for the ladder leading to the upper engineering deck. "If any questions come up I‘ll call Astrometrics and ask Seven."
B‘Elanna directed an annoyed look at Joe‘s back, even though she knew he was partially kidding. Although her staff took it in stride, and she knew that they needed all the talent they could tap, she still found herself perpetually irked that Seven‘s knowledge of engineering was second only to her own. And that knowledge was always accompanied by Seven‘s ex-Borg superior attitude.
Harry wisely didn‘t comment on Joe‘s words. He just gave B‘Elanna a questioning look. "Are you coming?"
B‘Elanna picked up her data padd from the warp diagnostic console. "As soon as I route this final report to the captain." She glanced up at Harry. "Go to bed, Harry."
"Okay. I‘ll see you later. Enjoy breakfast."
B‘Elanna nodded distractedly, already jabbing keys on her padd. "I will." Then she glanced up again as
Harry reached the door. "Harry…"
Harry turned and looked at her.
"About our conversation…I don‘t think it would have hurt this much if you hadn‘t loved her."
Harry face went still for a moment, then he nodded. He turned to step through the doors when B‘Elanna‘s voice stopped him again.
Harry looked back one more time from the open doorway, and B‘Elanna‘s expression was solemn, certain, as she spoke.
"I would have gone with Tom."
B‘Elanna walked into Holodeck Two at 0703 and immediately stepped from the sterile white and gray corridor of Voyager onto a wooden deck overlooking an immense blue ocean that faded into the lighter blue sky along the horizon. She stopped and glanced around, taking in the length of beach below the deck where the waves slapping hard on the sand were separated by groups of rocks in several spots jutting out into the turbulent water. The green grass of a small park stretched behind a short section of the beach to her immediate right, separated by a narrow road from the cluster of antiquated stucco buildings of a quaint small town. And the low cliffs that disappeared into the curve of land in the distance were dotted with more dwellings, their well-worn stucco glowing warmly in the golden sunshine.
She crossed the deck that was actually the patio of a small cafe, moving among the now empty tables until she reached the one along the wooden slat balcony where Tom sat, his short blond hair ruffled slightly by the light breeze, his long fingered hands clasped together as he stared intently at the blue waters of the Pacific rushing up on the shore. He was obviously deep in thought since he‘d given no indication that he‘d heard her approach. She wondered what had put that serious expression on his face, and she touched his shoulder lightly.
He turned, and the solemn expression on his face faded as he looked up at her and smiled. "B‘Elanna. I wasn‘t sure you‘d want breakfast after working all night, but I thought just in case…"
"Actually, I‘m pretty hungry," she said, pulling out the chair next to him. "I‘ll sleep later."
Tom looked at her appraisingly for several moments.
"I‘m glad the refit is over."
B‘Elanna shrugged. "Until the next one."
"You work too hard."
Tom had told her that more than once, as if he didn‘t pull nearly as many double shifts as she did with his dual duties at the helm and in sickbay. "It‘s my job, Tom. You know that." Then because she knew she sounded cross, she added with a small smile, "I may look awful after a few double shifts, but I really don‘t mind it."
Tom said nothing for a moment, then he shook his head. "You could never look awful, B‘Elanna." He reached out and cupped her face and brushed his thumb over her cheekbone. "Even with circles under your eyes and your hair a little…mussed," he flicked a finger at a loose strand of her hair that curled against her cheek, "you always look beautiful."
B‘Elanna rolled her eyes a little. "Sure, I do—" She didn‘t finish because Tom leaned forward and pressed his lips lightly against hers. It was a soft slow kiss, a gentle melding of lips and tongues. After a minute they parted reluctantly and Tom pulled away.
"Sorry if I sounded like I was complaining," he said, letting his hand drop away from her face. "I just miss you when we have to go for days without spending much time together. And when I have to sleep alone." Tom pouted a little as he uttered those final words, and how he could infuse pouting with charm rather than petulance B‘Elanna didn‘t know.
"You can always sleep with your teddy bear," she suggested, the corners of her lips lifting.
"It‘s not quite the same," Tom said despondently, though his lips quirked a little also.
"I know." She looked at him for a long minute. "Is that why you wanted to have breakfast here?"
Tom shrugged. "That, and we haven‘t been here in a while."
B‘Elanna glanced at the beach, at the diamond glitter of the sand glowing a warm golden color in the early morning sun. Several birds hopped along the shore, deftly avoiding the crashing surf as they looked for food, while gulls circled overhead, and further out in the water a form broke the surface and quickly disappeared, maybe a dolphin or a gray whale. They‘d eaten breakfast here, in Tom‘s faithful re-creation of the old preserved Southern California beach town, a dozen or more times in the past. It had become what amounted to a semi-regular haunt, when their schedules and ration accounts permitted and the holodeck was actually free. The first time Tom had brought her here had been on one of their early "dates", if you could call it that, since it had been the morning after they‘d spent the night together for the first time, making love the whole night through. Back when even their hectic work schedules hadn‘t been able to hinder their insatiable desire for each other.
B‘Elanna smiled involuntarily at the memory and then glanced at Tom. He had picked up the white cup in front of him and was sipping the steaming coffee, and he was watching her with a smoldering look as if he was reading her mind. She felt a familiar stirring in her loins under his searing gaze. The desire hadn‘t changed, just the ability to always find the opportunity. As the journey lengthened, the demands of Voyager‘s aging systems claimed more and more of the crew‘s time. Especially when those systems were so often compromised by unpleasant encounters with hostile aliens.
B‘Elanna sighed regretfully even as Tom grinned at her, and her cheeks warmed a little as she looked down, noticing for the first time the other cup in front of her.
"There‘s no caffeine in yours," Tom said. "It won‘t keep you awake."
"I‘m not sure anything would once I hit my pillow," B‘Elanna said, picking up the warm cup. "But thanks."
"I ordered your usual, too," Tom said. "But if you want something else—"
"Nope." B‘Elanna shook her head, then sipped her coffee as a smile passed between them. They both knew she was a creature of habit.
Tom glanced at the ocean again, then back at her. "This is better than looking at the walls of the mess hall. I felt like looking at something besides the bulkheads of Voyager for a change."
B‘Elanna snorted good-naturedly. "Tom, you feel like that more than anyone I know, given that you must have over a hundred holoprograms on file by now."
Tom grinned, unrepentant. "You‘re right. I like a little variety. And a reminder of home. Even if I left some…unfinished business behind, it‘s still home."
B‘Elanna nodded slowly, understanding that conflicted feeling.
"And right now it‘s spring in California, so I thought you might appreciate the weather warming up."
It was in fact a little cool to B‘Elanna‘s taste this early in the morning, but the sun was warm on her face and her uniform offered plenty of insulation. And she had to smile. Tom had programmed the weather to follow the seasons and passage of time as they occurred at the real Laguna Beach. For a man who might be perceived by the outward observer as occasionally lackadaisical in attitude he had an incredible ability to perceive and implement tiny details. Especially in his holoprograms. "I have to admit you can design a holoprogram better than anyone I‘ve ever known."
"I can teach you some of my secret tricks," Tom offered.
B‘Elanna shook her head. "Reality is enough for me to handle. It‘s enough trying to redesign Voyager‘s drives and engines. I‘ll leave it to you to dream up inspired holoprograms to awe me with."
Tom raised his eyebrows and his mouth quirked. "I‘ve always wondered what it is I‘ve done to deserve you.
I just didn‘t know it was my holoprogramming skills…"
"You don‘t deserve me, Tom."
Tom‘s mouth quirked at the teasing smile on her face.
"I know," he said softly. "Luckily I‘m blessed by incredible charisma and amazing good looks, and you just can‘t resist my combined charms…"
B‘Elanna smirked. "That‘s it." She paused and leaned toward him far enough so she could lower her voice to a husky whisper, and she dropped a hand on his thigh and squeezed. "And then there‘s the great sex."
Tom feigned a shocked look. "B‘Elanna, is that all I am to you, a—"
Tom and B‘Elanna jumped apart as the waiter cleared his throat loudly. The waiter insinuated himself between them and placed two plates on the table. "Your breakfast." He gave them both a cool, assessing look before stepping back.
Tom grinned at B‘Elanna as the waiter moved away.
"Caught by the holographic waiter."
B‘Elanna wrinkled her nose, then picked up her fork and cut into the cheese blintzes covered with raspberry compote and whipped cream. She took a bite and smiled as the warm sweet taste filled her mouth. "How can you eat something that sweet in the morning?" Tom asked teasingly. He was very familiar by now with B‘Elanna‘s sweet tooth. Klingons were not renowned for liking sweet things, including food, and he‘d always figured that this was one trait that came from her human side.
B‘Elanna looked at his plate, heaped with scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, potatoes and biscuits with gravy over them. "And how can you eat all that?"
Tom grinned impudently. This was a bantering game they‘d played before over their often dissimilar tastes in food. "I‘m a growing boy." He dug his fork into the pile of food on his plate. "Besides, who knows what Neelix will come up with for lunch today. I‘d better play it safe so I don‘t go too hungry later."
"Probably a wise strategy," B‘Elanna agreed, and they ate their breakfast in companionable silence, except for the muted roar of the ocean and splash of the waves hitting the sand, and the cries of the gulls overhead. The food was welcome but as she got full the soporific effect was enough to remind B‘Elanna that she hadn‘t slept in over twenty four hours, and when she finished and pushed her plate back she couldn‘t stifle a yawn.
"You‘re looking a little bleary eyed," Tom said softly as her gaze remained fixed on the ocean.
"I have an almost irresistible urge to stretch out on that warm sand and go to sleep," she said truthfully. "But I guess I‘ll have to settle for my quarters."
"You‘ll have to since I only got the holodeck for an hour."
B‘Elanna stared at the ocean for another moment, then she forced her gaze away and looked at Tom, remembering something. "Tom, what were you thinking about when I came in?"
Tom paused, and swallowed a mouthful of food. "Huh?"
"You were staring at the ocean, looking sort of pensive. Like something was bothering you."
"Oh." Tom shook his head, remembering. "I was just thinking about that distress call yesterday."
"The ship that wasn‘t there," B‘Elanna said after a silent moment.
"It was there at some point," Tom said. "It just took us all day to get to it, and by the time we did it had been destroyed. More than destroyed. Annihilated. There wasn‘t even any real wreckage or…body parts, or any evidence of an explosion."
"Yeah, I know." B‘Elanna wondered why Tom was still thinking about that. "The ship and everything on it basically…disintegrated. I have no idea what would cause something that catastrophic and leave no evidence." She paused, then echoed Harry‘s earlier comment, "It‘s almost like it never really existed."
"That could have been us, you know." Tom‘s voice was pensive. "A dozen times in the past we were almost destroyed in one way or another. It still could be us."
"Only if we encounter whatever they encountered," B‘Elanna pointed out reasonably.
"You know what I mean, B‘Elanna." Tom frowned. "We‘re in this alone. No one really knows where we are, not even Starfleet. If we disappeared tomorrow would anyone even know that we‘d existed out here?"
"Starfleet knows, even if they don‘t know our exact position. Quite a few Delta quadrant species who have met us and didn‘t like us also know. And we have accumulated data and logs that would tell our story…" B‘Elanna frowned and shook her head. "This is a depressing conversation, Tom."
"I know. But I couldn‘t help wondering who they were, on that ship, waiting for us to come and help them. They didn‘t get to jettison their logs to tell us their story."
B‘Elanna shrugged. "Someone must have known who they were. Wherever they came from, if they were traveling in the Delta quadrant someone met them and remembers them. Even if their own logs were lost, their existence is recorded somewhere."
"Yeah, I suppose." Tom glanced at the ocean again. The solitary form of a single ship moved slowly along the horizon. "I was kind of…imagining them when you came in. Wondering what kind of ship they were flying. If they were just making a quick trip or a long journey. If they were explorers or just trying to get between somewhere and home quickly. If they were just colleagues working together for the duration of their trip, or if they were all friends. Or family." He paused a moment, then said softly, "If they were scared when they realized what was happening to them." He turned and looked at B‘Elanna again. "I wonder if any of them loved each other."
"Maybe they did," B‘Elanna said softly. "But I guess we‘ll never know." She touched his hand lightly. "One thing I do know. That won‘t ever happen to us, Tom. We‘ll make it home safely."
Tom squeezed her fingers, and looked at her questioningly. "Why are you so sure?"
"Because I‘m in Engineering."
B‘Elanna‘s smugly self-assured tone coaxed a small smile from Tom. "Oh, yeah." He spoke again with equal mock immodesty, "And I‘m at the helm, so what ship could be in better hands?"
"Or full of people with bigger heads," B‘Elanna added drolly.
Tom looked at B‘Elanna for a long moment, a ghost of a smile still on his face. He squeezed her fingers again. "I guess we should go. You need some sleep."
B‘Elanna nodded, then traced her thumb lightly over Tom‘s hand. "If you didn‘t have to be on duty in a few minutes, I‘d consider asking you to come with me."
Tom looked momentarily dejected. "I think the captain would have a big problem if I didn‘t show up for my shift. But I‘m not working a double today. That means tonight we can actually have some time together."
Tom met B‘Elanna‘s openly anticipative look with an enthusiastic one of his own. "I can reserve the holodeck if you want. We can go dancing at that club on Risa that you liked, or try something different, maybe from the 20th century. There were some great dance periods like the Tango in 1950‘s Argentina, or the Charleston in 1920‘s Chicago."
B‘Elanna shook her head. "Tom—"
"Or if you just want to relax and listen to music I discovered some other stuff in the 20th century archives, lounge shows that were popular in Las Vegas, like Wayne Newton and Vic Fontaine—"
"Tom, you stay awake nights just thinking up new holodeck programs to design, don’t you?"
B‘Elanna was looking at him with amusement. Tom squeezed her hand. "Actually, when I get lucky, you know what keeps me awake nights."
Her eyebrows raised at his insinuative drawl and she murmured a small husky "umm hmm" as he raised her hand to his lips. "And if I don‘t get lucky, I‘m usually thinking about you," he added.
He kissed her fingers, then she twisted her hand in his and patted his cheek. "Tom, I think you‘re going to get lucky tonight. But why don‘t we just stay in for a change."
"Okay. Does that mean I should order pizza?"
B‘Elanna rolled her eyes. "Pizza again?"
"I think I even have enough rations left to put anchovies on it," he said.
B‘Elanna‘s nose wrinkled. "You‘re trying to convince me with dead fish?"
"You‘ve never tried them. Besides…" he gave her another suggestive look and rubbed his thumb along the inside of her wrist, "I‘ve heard they‘re an aphrodisiac."
"I doubt that. Besides, Tom…" B‘Elanna gave him a frank, knowing look, "When have you and I ever needed an aphrodisiac?"
Tom smiled at her inarguable rejoinder. "Good point."
"Warning. You‘re holodeck time is about to expire in five minutes."
"Damn." Tom dropped her hand and stood up. "That‘s when I‘m supposed to be on the bridge."
"Maybe you should have given yourself a little leeway." B‘Elanna pushed her chair back and stood up. "We‘d better go, before you‘re late."
"My quarters tonight?" B‘Elanna asked as the arch appeared.
"I just cleaned mine," Tom said, earning a sharp look from B‘Elanna. "And besides I still have your blue gown you left last week."
"Holding it hostage?" B‘Elanna asked sweetly, and Tom gave her a wide grin as they stepped through the arch. "We still have some of the massage oil left," she added, "and that‘s in my quarters."
"You could bring it with you," Tom said. "Since the candles are in my quarters."
"Then you can bring those with you," she responded immediately as they started down the corridor.
"Maybe we should just get married. Then we wouldn‘t have to always go through this "my quarters or your quarters" thing, and we‘d have everything either of us needs available in one place."
B‘Elanna came to a dead stop and turned to stare at Tom, whose expression was unreadable. For just a second she thought he was serious, then he gave her a lopsided grin, and she assumed he was teasing. Of course, he was teasing. She uttered the first justifiable argument that jumped into her mind. "We already keep half of our belongings in each other quarters, Tom."
"You‘re right. And we still have our privacy when we want it. The best of both worlds." He leaned forward and pressed his lips lightly against her forehead, squeezing her shoulders quickly. "I gotta go. I‘m going to be late."
B‘Elanna silently watched him sprint down the corridor. He came to a sliding halt at the corner and turned around. "Your quarters, 1800?"
B‘Elanna barely had time to nod before he was gone and she was looking down an empty corridor. She turned around slowly and headed for the secondary turbolift, the quicker route to her quarters.
He had been joking of course. They‘d never seriously talked of marriage. The main reason to get married was to have children, something they had never considered or talked about, with circumstances as they were on Voyager. Or to share quarters, since under Starfleet regulations you had to be married to do so. But what did that matter? Tom was right, they did have the best of both worlds. More room with separate quarters, privacy if they wanted it, and they were just down the corridor from each other so they could spend as much time as they wanted together.
Yes, Tom had surely been kidding. She‘d just imagined that she‘d seen an earnest look cross his features for a moment when she‘d turned and looked at him. After all, they already belonged to each other, they‘d even mated in the Klingon tradition. She didn‘t doubt Tom‘s love, he‘d stood by her often enough when anyone else would have been long gone. And she knew how much she loved him. What more did they need? Marriage was just a legal status. Why did they need their relationship to be sanctioned by Federation law, or Klingon or Earth statutes, by any law? Did that make it any more of a commitment? She could certainly use the example of her parents to point out the fallacy of that concept.
B‘Elanna frowned as she stepped into the turbolift, hardly aware of how she‘d ended up standing in front of it. An unwelcome thought flitted into her mind as the turbolift doors began to close…maybe she really did believe somewhere deep down that marriage had a significance she just didn‘t want to admit. She dismissed it. Besides, Tom had been kidding, she was sure. Their relationship was fine—good, in fact—just the way it was. Maybe someday she‘d want to consider taking that step, but right now…
B‘Elanna suddenly realized she was standing in a closed motionless turbolift. "Deck Five."
She leaned tiredly against the wall and stared unseeing at the doors as the turbolift began to ascend. And her exhausted mind reflected almost involuntarily on what she would say if one day Tom did ask her in complete seriousness to marry him. When he asked her. She wondered if she could forget all the arguments in her head. If she could ignore her cynical mind which distrusted the concept, the supposedly inviolate union of marriage that her parents had so easily disregarded. If at that moment she could swallow her doubts and take a chance, on Tom, and on herself. If she could take a leap of faith and simply say what was in her heart.
Tom stepped onto the bridge and walked toward the helm at the exact minute his shift started, managing to look as if he was neither hurrying nor dawdling. He saw out of the corner of his eye that the captain was in conversation with Commander Chakotay, and he nodded to them as he passed. Chakotay murmured a brief "good morning, Tom" and the captain simply nodded back. Tom felt her eyes following him as he approached Baytart at the helm without a second to spare. He wasn‘t the only one who‘d noticed that as time had passed in their journey through the Delta quadrant, and especially over the past year, the captain had become stricter about regulations rather than more relaxed. Perhaps she was worried that the inevitable blending of personal and professional lives after nearly five years of isolation on Voyager would affect the crew‘s capacity and efficiency if she didn‘t maintain an even more rigid stance. Of course, in his case he‘d betrayed her trust, and he knew that he didn‘t have it back yet. That he might never have it back.
Tom slipped into the seat Baytart vacated, and listened to Pablo‘s quick verbal review of recent helm activity. After Pablo left he initiated his sign in, checked current course and heading, and called up the current status reports, all almost by rote. He glanced over at Ensign Harper, who was manning Ops in Harry‘s absence. She gave him an openly cheerful smile and he returned it. But then she‘d been particularly cheerful lately. She and Michael Ayala had been an item for well over a year and the recent gossip was that they were going to ask the captain to marry them. The more insidious gossip was that she might be pregnant, but that was sheer speculation, and Tom ignored that kind of stuff. After all, last year when B‘Elanna had started wearing a smock for her tools the more malicious gossip then had it that she was pregnant. As if he and B‘Elanna had even considered the idea of children yet.
Tom checked off the status updates as he read through them, his mind partially somewhere else. He‘d seen the shocked look on B‘Elanna‘s face when he‘d mentioned casually that maybe they should get married. As if for a moment she‘d believed that he‘d meant it. He didn‘t know what the hell had gotten into him, why the idea of marriage had suddenly popped into his head, but he‘d realized himself once the words were out that for a moment he actually had meant them. Seeing B‘Elanna‘s reaction, he‘d immediately pasted a smile on his face and shrugged his words off as if he‘d said them completely in jest.
"The best of both worlds". That was what he‘d said. And it was true. They could be together as much as they wanted but still maintain their individuality. Sleep in each other‘s arms whenever they wanted, yet keep their separate bit of space. A perfect set up.
Well, part of him believed that anyway. But another part of him—god forbid, the part of him that was influenced by the traditional family he‘d come from, and if he admitted it, by the one example his father had set that was unequivocally positive—believed that marriage was a commitment—a covenant—that went beyond even Klingon mating bonds. Or else why would even Klingons get married? Not that he‘d ever reminded B‘Elanna of that fact. He knew that B‘Elanna‘s experience had been different, that she didn‘t have the same belief or confidence in the institution of marriage, and with good reason.
But why had he out of the blue half jokingly mentioned marriage? Was he feeling insecure? He knew B‘Elanna loved him, that she was committed to him and took their bond seriously. He knew that he was the most important person in her life. He also knew that he had to share her attention, not with someone else, but with her love of her job. He didn‘t resent her passion for her work. That focused passion was part of what he loved about her. And when her attention—when her passion—was on him again, it was fully on him.
No, he had no reason to think that what they had could slip away. After all, there had been moments in the past when their connection to each other had truly been strained to nearly breaking, when their relationship had been a whisper away from disappearing altogether. Yet they‘d survived those trials, and their own individual insecurities. And their connection had become even stronger, their relationship more solid, and he took comfort in that. If they could make it this far, they could withstand whatever the future might bring. But he still wondered when they would be willing to completely join their lives, and face that future together, without holding anything back. Not only B‘Elanna, but himself—
Tom pulled himself out of his reverie and glanced at Chakotay, hoping the commander hadn‘t said his name too many times. Both Chakotay and the captain were looking at him, but everyone else was going about their duties. "Commander?"
"Everything checks out?" Chakotay asked patiently, as if he‘d already asked at least once.
Tom nodded. "We‘re right on course, and the warp drive is operating smoothly."
"Keep us on this heading, Mr. Paris," the captain ordered. She looked past him at the starfield visible through the front viewscreen and frowned slightly. "Hopefully today our course will be more uneventful."
Tom glanced at the starfield, the image adjusted by the computer to accommodate warp speed. It looked similar to yesterday‘s image, a quiet region of space, with a light concentration of stars, today undisturbed by any distress signals or debris fields.
"Unfortunately it wasn‘t much of an event in the end," Chakotay murmured, a note of regret in his voice.
"The computer has concluded its final analysis of the debris field left by the unidentified ship," Tuvok said, following the thread of conversation.
Janeway turned and looked at him. "Anything new?"
"Regrettably, no, Captain." Tuvok looked at the data on the monitor in front of him as he spoke. "The debris consisted mostly of antineutrons and deuterium, likely components for propulsion, and dichromates, which are an unusual component in this case. The computer has insufficient information to account for their presence."
"Dichromates are common on class Y planets," Chakotay said.
"And also fairly common on class D planets," Ensign Harper noted.
"There was a class Y planet about three light years from where we found the debris," Tom said, his brow creasing at the memory. "Maybe they were transporting something from there, or they used dichromates for fuel?"
"Unlikely, Ensign," Tuvok replied. "Dichromates have no known fuel application. And the computer finds no correlation with that planet and the unidentified ship. The trace energy signature from the ship‘s trail made previous to its destruction indicated that it had been traveling at very high warp and would likely have bypassed the planet in question en route to its unknown destination."
"Can the computer add any new information at all, Tuvok?" Janeway asked.
The computer has identified a few additional trace elements and chemicals, indicative of both inorganic matter and biomatter…"
"Something, Tuvok?" Janeway asked as the security officer paused.
It was a moment before Tuvok spoke, dispassionately. "The computer is still unable to make a more specific identification of the composition of the ship or of its crew."
"Can the computer give even a possible theory about what might have destroyed the ship?" Chakotay asked.
Tuvok shook his head. "No, Commander. The computer‘s analysis reveals no evidence of outside attack. The most that can be conjectured is that the ship was destroyed by internal forces. Whether it was propulsion system failure or something else is unknown. The computer can only say with any certainty that whatever the force was that destroyed the ship it disintegrated everything—and everyone—aboard, leaving nothing but the most basic elements behind."
"Not a very fitting end for whoever they were," Janeway said, looking glum. "It‘s too bad they weren‘t survived by their logs. If we knew who they were, we could have at least let their people know what happened."
"The final piece of information the computer can extrapolate is the ship‘s general course from the direction of the energy signature," Tuvok said. "They were moving toward the central region of the Delta quadrant."
"A different course from us," Chakotay said. "But perhaps they were headed home, too."
"I wonder if someone will miss them soon," Tom commented.
"Quite possibly," Chakotay said. "They came from somewhere, and someone knows of them. In fact, since we are heading in the general direction from which they came, it‘s even possible we might meet someone who did have contact with them." Then he shook his head. "Though there‘s no reason we would recognize our unknown victims of misfortune even if they were mentioned."
"No, I don‘t suppose we would," Janeway agreed. "Unhappy as it makes me to see a ship disappear without a trace, without even a record of its existence left behind, it appears that was the case here." She frowned at the front viewscreen. "Tuvok, please update the official log with the new data, such as it is, and a notation of the computer‘s final analysis."
"Then close it out." Janeway sighed audibly, and Tom was sure she was as frustrated today that a second analysis of the debris hadn‘t given them any more clues. Perhaps she also found the ship‘s passage into apparent oblivion a little too close a metaphor for Voyager‘s own solitary journey.
"Hopefully, whoever they were, they lived their lives to the fullest until the end, and didn‘t let anything stand in their way."
Tom was speaking more to himself than anyone, and several moments of silence greeted his wistful comment.
It was Chakotay who finally spoke. "Whoever they were and whatever they valued in life, we‘ll just have to chalk it up to another Delta quadrant mystery."
"Yes." Janeway‘s voice was subdued. "One of too many."
"Captain, may I see you in your ready room?"
All eyes turned to Tuvok for a brief moment. Tuvok‘s expression as usual betrayed nothing, and though his request was unexpected, the bridge crew resumed their duties as Janeway nodded and rose, and the security chief followed her to her ready room.
Tom initiated a minor helm adjustment, his mind not really on what security issue Tuvok might wish to discuss with the captain. He really did hope that whoever had been on that ill-fated ship had made the most of their lives, cut short as they‘d been. The thought of their sudden demise contrasted with Voyager‘s numerous escapes from a similar fate, with his own numerous escapes. It gave him impetus to make the most of his own continued good fortune. Starting tonight, with B‘Elanna…
He remembered their conversation in the holodeck again, and his reference to marriage. Maybe the strange uneasiness he‘d felt yesterday staring at the desolate remains of that vanished ship had elicited some feeling of loneliness in him, a need to reaffirm his connection to others, and especially to B‘Elanna. Whatever had induced him to blurt those words out, part of him had meant them, and he knew in his heart that he intended to marry B‘Elanna some day, if she‘d have him. But after all they‘d been through, maybe it was better to wait until the moment was really right, until they were both ready to take that step. Though maybe "ready" wasn’t exactly the right term, because who was ever really ready for that? Maybe until they were willing to just jump in, to take that leap, and have enough faith in each other and in themselves to believe they wouldn‘t let each other fall. For B‘Elanna to believe that he would never let her down.
The helm console beeped and Tom shook off his contemplative musings as he entered the requested minor course alteration with practiced precision. Tonight he and B‘Elanna were going to be together for the entire evening, and he was going to sleep with her for the first time in nearly a week. That was all he wanted—needed—to think about now, all that was important for the moment. For him and B‘Elanna to celebrate being alive, and to celebrate being together. Someday the rest would surely follow.
"Personal Log, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok reporting, Stardate 52561.7.
"At my present course and speed I should reach Voyager in 52.8 minutes. My official mission is complete, as is my personal mission. I have recorded my official findings in the shuttle‘s log. Those findings are as I expected and as the captain expected. My own lengthier examination of the debris field left by the unidentified ship turned up nothing new. I know the captain questioned the logic of returning to the site of the distress call, fourteen hours behind Voyager at the time of my request, for what was likely to yield little return. I convinced her that scientific curiosity was a valid reason, and my request to include personal leave time for private meditation seemed to strike a chord in her. I was not untruthful, as I have indeed found ample time to meditate, on my way back to the site of the distress call, and now on my return to Voyager. Not on Vulcan philosophies, but on my theory of what the debris field we came across nearly four days ago represented, and how I arrived at my conclusions, and the questionable logic of the act I intended to undertake based on those conclusions.
"I cannot fault the computer for its analysis. It simply deals in facts and equations. It has the ability to make certain correlations and distinguish causal factors between bits of seemingly unrelated data. But that ability is limited, and it cannot take data and recombine it in ways that are not directly supported by its own massive collection of facts. It cannot make intuitive leaps. This concept does of course reflect upon Vulcan philosophy, and certain conservative branches of Vulcan schools of thought disdain the concept. Intuition is in fact not a Vulcan expression, it is a human expression. Humans make "intuitive" leaps, considering such leaps to have some sort of emotional or psychical basis, never realizing what they are truly accomplishing. They are simply recombining facts in their mind in an unconscious fashion, and coming up with a reasonable answer. We Vulcans are conscious of the process and call it simply a "leap of logic".
"Admittedly it took several leaps of logic for me to arrive at my theory. Yet I do not doubt that it is the most logical and probable conclusion. Despite the support of logic and my own internal conviction, the sparse factual data cannot support my theory unconditionally. Hence certain Vulcan sects dislike of the method. And without proof, I saw no reason to share my emerging hypothesis with the crew of Voyager. They had experienced enough discomfort viewing the negligible remains of the unidentified ship, which, despite the fact that the identity of the lost ship was unknown to them, had invoked a sense of personal loss. What greater sense of loss would they have if they knew the likely identity of that ship and crew?
"It was the dichromates that elicited my initial curiosity. A reasonable reaction given their unexpected presence in the debris field. And even Ensign Paris is aware of the common occurrence of dichromates on class Y planets. The resultant recall of the class Y "demon" planet we visited in the Vaskan sector nearly a year ago was not unexpected either, since we left behind duplicates of ourselves on that planet, given life by the indigenous protosentient silver liquid. Such an experience is not something quickly forgotten. I have at times in the past wondered if those duplicates survived, wondered if the planet was able to sustain them, if they continued to evolve or remained in our image, if perhaps they had built a colony. Pondered in what manner they were living their lives. No doubt others on Voyager have speculated on the subject in a similar fashion.
"Now I believe that they did survive, and for some unknown reason they left the planet that sustained them, on a ship I can only presume was a duplicate of their original ship, as their bodies were duplicates of the original crew. A duplicate of our ship, Voyager, with a duplicate crew aboard her.
"It was not the dichromates alone that gave me the answer, but the traces of biomatter. Biomatter broken down to its most elemental particles, in every case. An unusual analogous pattern of complete disintegration inconsistent with the observed effects of mass destruction, which leave a more varied pattern and some identifiable remnants, no matter how minute. Except in the case of total annihilation, which leaves nothing at all behind. The pattern was so improbable that the computer could offer no explanation or definition other than "unexplained phenomenon".
"Even more unexplainable was the fact that the elemental bits of biomatter were found in some instances in close cohesion with the dichromates and deuterium. The possibility of a "fusion" effect from a high intensity explosion was negated by the lack of any other combination of debris in that state. This is another unknown phenomenon, and the computer again could advance no explanation. It was my own thought processes that combined these unexplained and apparently unrelated facts into a possible theory.
"The computer could offer no support of my theory. Its files contained data on the biomimetic copies we left behind on the "demon" planet, a completely unique form of life unknown to exist anywhere else within the galaxy except on one class Y planet. Within its limited frame of reference the computer was unable to extrapolate such an existence beyond that singular environment. Ultimately the computer could say no more than that my theory was viable, but completely unverifiable in fact.
"My leap of logic had led me, while still on the bridge, to believe that the distress call we‘d received the previous day had indeed been sent by our duplicate selves, from a duplicate Voyager that was for some unknown reason disintegrating. That supposition I verified in my own mind and correlated over and over with the disparate facts as I began my shuttle trip back to the original location of the debris. I did not ponder why the ship disintegrated, other than surmising that it was likely related to the fact that the duplicates had left the planetary haven that had sustained their particular chemistry. Nor did I speculate on why the duplicates had left the planet in the first place, or where they were originally headed, or whether they‘d found a new method of propulsion or a wormhole to have traveled so far. I did extrapolate as closely as possible their current course into the Delta quadrant when they were destroyed. That course would have taken them quite near the Y class "demon" planet where they originated. And though the course was not exact—navigation and directional coordinates were no doubt affected as the ship‘s degrading condition—it was near enough to make the logical assumption. They were headed home. And they came up nearly 5000 light years short of the mark.
"My second leap of logic, one I admit was highly questionable, is what led me to request permission to take a shuttle and return to the site of the distress call. It is still highly debatable. In fact my action was not based on a probable outcome, only a possible one within the realm of the unknown. We never understood the process by which the protosentient silver substance combined with our DNA to bring life to our duplicates. The process is certainly completely unfamiliar to Federation medical technology. And if the silver substance also recreated Voyager, that slightly different and perhaps even more complicated process is as much a mystery. Given our lack of comprehension it is not inconceivable that this process might occur again, under similar conditions, and given the same elemental raw materials. The same materials that had in fact created life once. What had been disassociated—by whatever force—might be recombined again by the original process.
"I offer no completely logical justification for my action, only that my action heeded another Vulcan credo. To preserve life wherever it is found, which in its broadest interpretation may include giving life the opportunity to regenerate itself if there is even the minutest chance that might occur. This certainly does not refute logic, though I cannot deny that in the end my actions were based less on logic than on what might be considered a leap of faith—that no matter how unlikely, in the complete unknown there is always possibility.
"It was not difficult to actually perform the act itself once I returned to the site. The debris had maintained a certain amount of cohesion as it would in the stillness of space. It was simple enough to gather it all within a containment field, activate the tractor beam and enclose the shuttle‘s force field around it, then to transport it to the planetary system three light years away, an uninhabited system containing three class D planets, two gas giants, and one class Y planet in the innermost orbit. I was unable to land on the surface of the class Y planet, as even the turbulence and corrosive effects of the upper atmosphere strained the shuttle‘s shields. I flew as low as I safely could, realigned the shields to a tighter modulation, at the same instant deactivating the tractor beam. The result was a release of the now tightly contained debris field, the mix of dichromates, deuterium, trace elements, and biomatter, into the lower atmosphere.
"I did not linger after my task was completed. Though I knew Voyager had a planned supply stop which would allow me to catch up in the shuttle, I did not wish for my return to cause any delay in the ship‘s schedule. And I knew there would be nothing to observe immediately. Whether this class Y planet could sustain the same type of life that the first class Y planet had created a year ago, I did not know. If life could be sustained in a similar fashion, whether the mix of elements that had been the duplicate crew could be recombined again, and the process exactly repeated on this new planet, I did not know. And whether after some period of time they would live again in the same form and there would be the beginnings of a colony, the colony they might have chosen to build on the first planet, I did not know. And will never know. And though I left behind not even probability, but mere unfathomable possibility, sometimes, in this universe, that can be enough.
"Though it is unverifiable, I do not doubt the circuitous path of my logic nor the veracity of my deduction. The duplicate crew lived for nearly a year on their duplicate Voyager, pursuing the course of their lives, which I presume by their choice to align with the home of their memory rather than the home of their nature was in a manner consistent with those memories of their previous lives. Of our lives, on Voyager and before. We will not be cognizant of how they proceeded with their lives, unless we happen to encounter someone on our forward journey who has met our counterparts. And though that is conceivable, I do not expect such an encounter, since each small course modification is likely to divert us further from their course. But I do find myself hoping, however illogically, as Mr. Paris did, that they found some degree of happiness in that short period of existence. And if their lives are by some chance restored to them, I wonder if they will remember those events and accomplishments that we will likely never know.
"I still have no intention of sharing my theory nor my activities on this trip with the rest of the crew. It seems enough that being human many of the crew equate their own mortality with the abruptly extinguished existence of a lone unknown ship. Telling them that in a sense a version of ourselves did indeed die in such a manner would serve no purpose. Without the unequivocal confirmation of factual evidence there is no dishonesty in allowing them to continue to assume that their biomimetic counterparts are alive and well and pursuing their existence in their own manner. At some point it may even become true.
"End personal log."
After a moment‘s reflection, Tuvok closed his log and routed it to his personal database, then he opened a comm channel. "Shuttlecraft Sagan to Voyager."
"This is Voyager, Ensign Paris speaking."
"Mr. Paris. I expected to hear the captain‘s voice."
"She and Chakotay are on-planet now, along with a couple dozen other crewmembers. It turns out that it‘s quite a paradise, and an uninhabited one. Plenty of foodstuffs for the taking, and a perfect place for shore leave."
"I see. And you are not taking advantage of the opportunity?"
"I was on shore leave yesterday," Tom replied. "The place is filled with forests and meadows, and beautiful canyons and rivers. B‘Elanna and I found a river in a wonderful little canyon, with a waterfall, which was conveniently very secluded—"
"Mr. Paris." Tuvok interrupted the ensign‘s enthusiastic account. Though he had been aware of the impending coinciding shift schedules of Ensign Paris and Lieutenant Torres before he‘d left Voyager—which had apparently now included an opportunity for shared shore leave—thus was not surprised by the ensign‘s high spirits, he also had no desire to hear further details.
"Sorry, Tuvok," Tom said, not sounding particularly contrite. "I guess I got carried away. None of us have had much chance to simply relax and enjoy ourselves lately, and who knows when we‘ll see a planet like this again."
"Indeed. Your appreciation of the opportunity to renew your physical and mental energy is quite sensible."
That silenced the ensign for several moments. "Uh, I‘m glad you approve, Tuvok. So, how was your solo sojourn? Did you find out anything more about that ship?"
"I uncovered no new facts," Tuvok said truthfully.
"Oh." Tom sounded disappointed. "That‘s too bad.
So, now you‘re on your way back."
"Yes," Tuvok replied to Tom‘s statement of the obvious. "I will arrive at approximately 1912.31 hours."
"I‘ll leave the shuttlebay door open for you. Just be sure to close it behind you."
Tuvok ignored that idle comment. "What time is Voyager scheduled to depart the Neira system?"
"2000 hours. Don‘t worry, Tuvok, you should beat that by a wide margin. Unless your approxometer is seriously out of whack."
"Mr. Paris, are you ever able to engage in a conversation without eventually resorting to poor attempts at levity?"
Tom didn‘t answer for a moment, as if he was actually pondering that question. "Nope, I don‘t think so."
"I thought not. I shall arrive at the specified time.
Tuvok‘s hand paused in mid-motion. "Yes, Mr. Paris?"
"I hope you got some sort of satisfaction out of your trip."
"In fact I did," Tuvok said simply.
"Good. Paris out."
Tuvok closed the channel and verified his course and heading. He briefly pondered whether the Tom Paris on the duplicate Voyager had manifested the same paradoxical personality. And if that Paris and Lieutenant Torres had been equally deeply involved with each other. When he was given to considering the subject, he‘d found the relationship between two such headstrong and volatile personalities as Ensign Paris and Lieutenant Torres, and the endurance of that relationship, unremarkable. Logic had little to do with affairs of the heart, and was of virtually no use in predicting such attractions and their resulting durability or lack thereof, especially among hyper-emotional species. And in the case of Paris and Torres, he suspected the same durability their relationship had exhibited would have held true for their biomimetic counterparts.
He also allowed himself to ponder briefly the likely similarities of the other duplicate personalities to their Voyager counterparts. Certainly there would have been some differences, slight alterations in their duplicates chosen lifestyle, in their interpretations of the universe around them, and changes brought about by different experiences on the chosen route they had taken on their Voyager. It was fascinating to consider the possible nature of those differences, and how those differences would have been perceived by the Voyager crew had they actually met their counterparts. Even to his supremely rational mind, it would have been disconcerting to have come face to face with those near exact duplicates of the crew, with a near exact version of himself.
It was all a fascinating to consider, but ultimately an unproductive pasttime, Tuvok reminded himself. He dismissed that unproductive line of thought as he stared meditatively at the starfield in front of him. But as he sped toward his rendezvous with Voyager, he did allow one final stray thought before he redirected his energies in a more purposeful direction and focused his mind completely on his favored exercises of mental discipline.
It would have been a most intriguing encounter.
In a sector nearly a third of the distance between the galactic center and the star deprived outer edge of the quadrant known by some of the galaxy‘s races as the Delta quadrant, a Federation Intrepid class starship, the USS Voyager, was preparing to depart after a 36 hour resupply and R&R stop, ready to continue its journey toward an area on the opposite side of the galactic center, an area the ship‘s crew simply refered to as "home". A dozen or so light years away from Voyager‘s current position a class Y planet was in orbit around an F class star. On that planet chance, possibility, and the determination of life to endure under the most unlikely and desperate circumstances—all thrust together by one outside action—intermingled in the planet‘s turbulent environment. And in that chaotic turbulence a process started, and something began to happen.
What was being created was not yet clear, and no one was there to observe in any case. But it happened regardless, as possibility moved toward probability, process toward completion. Whether that completion would result in the re-creation of those who had once flourished on a similar planet, or of something entirely new, and whether they would flourish and call the planet "home", or their presence would flash briefly and disappear, and whether someday others would discover them, or they would themselves again spread beyond the boundaries of their origins, all remained a question to be answered by time. And time was a bountiful commodity in the universe.
The end (or the beginning)