The Mysterious Case of Neelix's Lungs

Episode 1x4: "Eye of the Needle", by starswordc & worffan101.

Cast list:

Main and recurring cast:

Gul Aman Evek, CO, CDS Vetar: Richard Poe.

Acting Dalin Hogue Marritza, tactical officer, CDS Vetar: Eric Etebari

Gil Kalar, operations officer, CDS Vetar: Sean Maher.

Glinn Nirymer, CMO and chief therapist, CDS Vetar: Murphy Guyer.

Gil Daran Taril, helmsman, CDS Vetar: Alan Tudyk.

Glinn Alina i'Kevratas t'Aimne, sensor officer, CDS Vetar: Morena Baccarin.

Gil Kerani Ocett: Gina Torres.

Captain Veronica Stadi, CO USS Voyager: Alicia Coppola.

Commander Tuvok, XO USS Voyager: Tim Russ.

Lieutenant Harry Kim, operations officer, USS Voyager: Garret Wang.

Lieutenant Commander T'Pai, CMO USS Voyager: Aly Michalka

Lieutenant Lyndsay Ballard, ChENG USS Voyager: Kim Rhodes.

Lieutenant Kepa Ayala, security chief, USS Voyager: Tarik Ergin.

Lieutenant Emergency Medical Hologram, deputy CMO USS Voyager: Robert Picardo.

Lieutenant JG B'Elanna Torres, deputy ChENG USS Voyager: Roxanne Dawson

Ensign Tom Paris, helmsman/tactical officer, USS Voyager: Robert Duncan McNeill.

Crewman Celes Tal, sensor chief, USS Voyager: Zoe McLellan.

Neelix: Ethan Phillips.

Kes: Jennifer Lien.


Vice Admiral James Leyton, Chief of Starfleet Operations: Robert Foxworth

Fleet Admiral Alynna Nechayev, Commander-in-Chief of the Federation Starfleet: Natalia Nogulich

Riov Doctor Telek R'Mor, Romulan Astrophysical Academy and CO, ch'R Talvath: Vaughn Armstrong.

Khre'Riov Velal i'Ra'tleihfi tr'Hrienteh, Galae s'Shiar Rihan headquarters: Stephen Yoakam

Arrain Avasa t'Klau, XO, ch'R Talvath: Natalie Martinez

Khre'Riov Satali t'Tyrava, CO, ch'R Eyiv s'Rea: Emmanuelle Vaugier

Starfleet Headquarters, San Francisco, California
Federation Stardate 48579.4 (31 May 2371 Earth Standard)

"Damn it!"

Vice Admiral James Leyton, newly-minted Chief of Starfleet Operations, was not normally a man prone to violent outbursts. But the report that one of Starfleet's most advanced new vessels had apparently vanished into thin air was trying his patience.

"So we lost Equinox and Liberation in the Badlands over the past five years, and nobody thought those were important enough to mention? And now we're missing the Voyager—damn it, the third-most-advanced vessel in Starfleet, gone without a trace! And the Cardassians are blaming us for the loss of that destroyer, now, too! Could this get any worse, Alynna?"

"Yes," said Fleet Admiral Nechayev without a hint of sarcasm. "You could have Q in here turning the walls into alien slime just to amuse itself."

"God damn it," snarled Leyton again, sinking heavily into his seat. "So now the Voyager and all of the prototypes—the Aeroshuttle, the secondary warp core, the shifting nacelles, the bio-neural gel packs—are so much damn space dust. Or rather, not even space dust, given that we can't even find any space dust. And if I have to listen to that Cardassian bastard complain about his missing destroyer one more time…"

"You must admit that they have reason to be concerned about the Vetar's disappearance," Nechayev said with a raised eyebrow. "Gul Evek was chasing a top Maquis commander, suspected in a bombing on Tara IV that killed hundreds, including civilians. On that note, we should be worried. Aman Evek used to head the DMZ, and he's the only senior Cardassian who didn't leave that insufferable optimist Picard with a bad taste in his mouth. If he's been blown to ashes, that's a blow to our interests, too. The moderate wing of Central Command just lost one of its best." She let out a breath. "At least the Maquis are denying responsibility this time."

"Spare me the politics, Alynna," Leyton grumbled. "I'm no friend of the Cardies, but Voyager had a crew of a hundred and forty-one. Almost all of them had families… God, I hate writing those letters."

"Unfortunately," said Nechayev, sipping tea daintily from a real china cup, "both Voyager and Vetar have been missing without a trace for well over a month now. I know that it's difficult, Jim, but we have to assume the worst."

Leyton sighed. "God damn it. Tell Sisko to call off the search. They've swept the entire region twice by now and we need his resources pointed at the Dominion." He pressed a button on his desk to page his secretary. "Ensign, please issue orders to inform the families of the crew. As of right now, I'm listing USS Voyager NCC-74656 as missing in action and presumed lost with all hands."

Deep Space, Delta Quadrant, 15 light-years from the Sikarian homeworld
Cardassian Unified Date 4701.8.4/20
Federation Stardate 48588.94 (4 June 2371 Earth Standard)

Gul Aman Evek took his seat, sipping some of the root-beverage concoction that Neelix had cooked up. It wasn't half bad; nothing like good kanar, for sure, but it had a tendency to grow on a man. Plus, it wasn't alcoholic, so he could drink it on duty.

"Report," said Evek, coughing a little as some of the bubbles went down the wrong tube.

"All systems normal, sir," said Kalar. "Taril had to, ah, use the necessary."

"Not that we really need a pilot while at warp with nothing on the sensors," t'Aimne chimed in, "We've got nothing but empty space from here to the Sikarian system, sir. Wait, hold that thought. No, never mind. There's a ship heading across our course, but it's reading as a probable bulk freighter, Talaxian make."

"Good," said Evek. "Keep me up to date."

"Yes, sir," said Kalar.

"Evek to Stadi."

"Stadi here. I was just about to hail you, actually."

"Really?" Evek sipped his drink and coughed again. "Damn, this 'root beer' is addictive… What did you need to talk about?"

"It kind of got lost in the whole Vidiian mess, but Ensign Wildman's pregnant."

"… Here, in the Delta Quadrant, fifty years from home?"

"Yes. She wasn't terribly happy about the timing, either."

"Well," said Evek. "At least we have something to celebrate. Convey her my congratulations." Behind him, the turbolift's doors swished open and Daran Taril trotted past with a crisp salute, settling into the helm chair.

"True. You try Neelix's root beer?"

"Yes," said Evek with another cough. "It is… difficult to drink, but the taste is growing on me."

"Yeah, it isn't half bad. Hang on—what do you have, Celes?"

"Rekkhai!" reported t'Aimne. "I have a possible wormhole on sensors, two light-months out!"

"Stadi, are you getting what we are?"

"Wormhole about two light-months out?"

"Yes. Taril, take us to that anomaly. We may just have found a way home."

"Well, where is it?" Stadi asked the Bajoran at the sensor station.

"It should be right in front of us, sir," said Crewman Celes, typing something into her station. "Getting telemetry back on its dimensions, sir. It doesn't seem to be very large."

"Send a probe."

"Yessir." A small, slightly reflective object jetted into space from one of Voyager's torpedo tubes. After a moment, it flashed and vanished.

"There it is. Why is it so hard to see?"

"The probe's sending back telemetry, sir… oh, come on! Phekk!"

"What? Is it too small to fit the Vetar through?"

Celes swiveled in her seat, a tempest of emotions on her face. "More like too small to fit a person through. That wormhole's diameter is barely thirty centimeters!"

Sector 1385, Shiar i'Saeihr Rihan Northwestern Borderlands
ch'Rihan Date 05/27/4042 A.S.

"What in the name of Fire?" muttered Riov Telek R'mor, pulling his scout ship up to the wormhole. "Elements. I'm going to have to explain this one at length, aren't I?" He reached for the intercom. "Avasa, get up here," he ordered his XO and one of only two other commissioned officers aboard the 80 meter recon vessel.

The middle-aged Rihan man moved to the sensor station, the scout ship resting in space before the subspace anomaly.

"Well, that's something," he muttered. "Full-on spatial rift. But where does it end?"

His com panel chirped.

"Ah, Water… What is it? This is Doctor Telek R'Mor of the Romulan Astrophysical Academy, aboard ch'R Talvath. I'm rather busy, so please don't bother me unless it's important!"

"Doctor R'Mor?" A voice, female, speaking Federation Standard. "This is Captain Veronica Stadi of the Federation Starship Voyager. Am I glad to hear an Alpha Quadrant voice!"

"Federation?" snarled R'Mor. "What in the name of Fire are you doing out here? This is Rihan space!"

"Uh… bit complicated, that," said Stadi. "You're observing a wormhole, correct? Well, it seems that we're on the other side. In the Delta Quadrant, as a matter of fact."

R'Mor was dumbfounded. His confusion quickly turned to suspicion. "That is impossible. There are no Starfleet vessels in the Delta Quadrant; you must be nearby. Why you have breached your cloak to address me is another question, but rest assured the Empire will be informed of yet another foolhardy breach of the Treaty of Algeron. Talvath out." He set his main sensor array to scan for any possible sign of a cloaked vessel, and meanwhile… "Ship. Get me a secure channel to Galae headquarters."

"Channel open," the computer confirmed.

"Ch'R Talvath, this is Khre'Riov Velal tr'Hrienteh. Do you have something on the Dok Thak raids?"

"Negative, rekkhai, I have a cloaked Lloannen'galae warbird somewhere within my search area. Requesting reinforcements."

There was a pause on the other end. "Stand by. Dispatching Warbirds Haakona and Eyiv s'Rea. ETA six hours. And we are transmitting an inquiry to the embassy on Terrha regarding a breach of the Treaty of Algeron."

"Well, that figures," Harry Kim said with some annoyance as the castaways' senior staff met in Voyager's wardroom. "Our first contact with somebody in the Alpha Quadrant since the Caretaker mess, and he's a Romulan."

"There's absolutely no way to simply travel through the wormhole, correct?" Evek asked.

"Not unless you've got a shrink ray aboard somewhere and didn't tell me, sir," Dalin Marritza told his superior.

"Celes says the aperture's barely 30 centimeters wide," Stadi explained over the titter that ran through the room. "We're lucky the microprobe made it as far as it did."

"Damnation," muttered Evek. "Well, we have audio contact, at least. We could get word to Command that we're safe."

"A logical course of action," said Tuvok with a nod. "I will have the crew put together messages for their loved ones."

"If this R'Mor character decides to cooperate," Ayala remarked in a snide tone.

"I could talk to him," t'Aimne suggested. "He might be more likely to trust a fellow Rihanha."

"Possibly," allowed Evek. "But he already knows there's a Federation ship out here, and he thinks that you're invading Romulan space."

"Wait," said Stadi. "Cardassia and the Federation are still sort of not quite at war." Across the table, Tuvok raised an eyebrow at her phrasing but Stadi ignored him. "And the Cardassian Union's on the far side of us from the Romulan Empire. If you called, it might just be strange enough to make the Rommies stop and think."

"Whatever we decide on," said Harry Kim, "we need vidcom up. If we're going to get anything out of this, we're going to need to talk face-to-face, as open as possible."

Two double-hulled Amarcan-class warbirds erupted from nothingness to starboard of the Talvath. "Riov R'Mor, this is Khre'Riov Satali t'Tyrava," the commander of the Eyiv s'Rea sent. "That the wormhole you mentioned in the briefing materials?"

"Indeed. I have ascertained that there is an object enmeshed in the vortex at the halfway point."

"That's nice. What about this cloaked ship?"

"I don't know. I have scanned the area five times in the last six hours and found no emissions or unusual mass signatures at all."

"Understood. We'll fan out. Give me regular reports please."

"Daie, rekkhai," R'Mor acknowledged. The two warbirds yawed in opposite directions and elongated into the distance, a warp microjump that took them six AUs away.

R'Mor leaned back in his command chair as his executive officer handed him a cup of tea. "Going to be a long night, rekkhai," Arrain Avasa t'Klau said.

"Indeed, but when is it ever not, in this Elements-forsaken part of the galaxy?" He tapped the board in front of him and an intelligence file came up; the computer checked his biometrics, flashed an 'EYES ONLY' alert at him, and opened the file. "Whatever cloaking technology the Federation has developed in the past, we've been able to penetrate. But if they've come up with one this good—"

"I think you should take a break, rekkhai. You've been on nine hours straight. Don't worry, I'll keep the scans going, and I'll see if I can clean up this reading on the wormhole."

R'Mor grudgingly nodded and started for the back of the bridge and his cramped quarters. Then he paused at the door. "If they're out there, cloaked, why would they reveal themselves by hailing us?"

"They're Lloann'nasu," Avasa said. "Led by Hevammsu. Who knows how their minds work? Just go. I'll patch your quarters into the comm system."

"Mmf," R'Mor grunted noncommittally, and headed out down the narrow corridor.

It seemed like he'd barely laid his head down on his pillow when the intercom chimed. "This is Captain Stadi calling Commander R'Mor. Do you read me, R'Mor?"

R'Mor muted the comm quickly and opened a channel to the Eyiv s'Rea. "Khre'Riov, this is R'Mor. The Lloann'nasu are hailing my ship again."

"On our way, R'Mor. Stall them. Where the Ariennye are they calling from, anyway? We're detecting no mass signatures or emissions, either!"

"Understood." R'Mor reactivated the coms link with the other ship as he rushed back to the bridge. "Out of the chair," he told Avasa. "Lloannen'galae vessel, this is Riov R'Mor. Reading you loud and clear. Be advised that the warbirds you undoubtedly detected earlier are still here and will destroy you if you attack me."

A deeper, male voice said, "Commander R'Mor, were we even interested in doing so, we would have no way to attack you anyway."

"Identify yourself."

"This is Gul Aman Evek of the Cardassian Fourth Order."

R'Mor nearly fell out of his chair. "Come again?"

"We cannot see your warbirds because we are not present at your location. Take a closer look at the wormhole—the far terminus is in the Delta Quadrant."

"Rekkhai," Avasa said, "I can confirm."

"Good. The object you are scanning is a probe from USS Voyager, our companion in this journey. We're using it as a relay."

"I thought the Federation and Cardassian Union were enemies."

"Our two vessels have called a truce. We are marooned in the Delta Quadrant, after all. It is more in Cardassia's interests for us to work together to get home than the alternative."

R'Mor glared at the readings, still not completely convinced. But, numbers didn't lie. "Let's assume for the moment that I believe you," he cautiously said. "We're working on vidcom, and I presume that you are too. Let me just patch in the Khre'Riov."

"Go ahead," the female, Stadi, agreed.

"T'Tyrava here," said the Rihanha commander. "What do you have for me, R'Mor?"

"I've patched you into the hail from the Lloannen'galae vessel. Captain Stadi, Khre'Riov t'Tyrava. Khre'Riov, Riov Stadi."

"Vidcom should be coming up now," said Evek. "Stadi's operations man managed to compensate for the bandwidth problems. We're transmitting a compression algorithm on the sub-channel; stand by."

R'Mor received the file and ran it through the Talvath's cyberwarfare suite. Satisfied that there wasn't any malware in it, he patched it into the comm system. The vidcom flickered on, still staticky and distorted, but gradually clearing, and R'Mor saw the oddest collection of aliens that he had seen since an assignment as Federation embassy color guard years before.

"Ah," said Gul Evek, a middle-aged Card'hassinha man in a standard Cardassian Guard uniform. "Greetings. I am Gul Aman Evek, commander of the Vetar."

"Captain Veronica Stadi, USS Voyager," said a dark-haired Betazoid woman in a strange-looking uniform. "This is Commander Tuvok, my XO, and Alina t'Aimne, sensor chief on the CDS Vetar."

"Shaoi kon, rekkhai," said t'Aimne, a Rihan woman in a black Cardassian breastplate with a Shiar emblem embossed over her left breast.

"What in the name of Fire…" snarled t'Tyrava. "TRAITRESS!"

"I am no traitor!" t'Aimne shot back indignantly. "My ship was taken by the same entity that took Voyager and Vetar, rekkhai. I'm the only survivor. I'm in the Vetar's books as an exchange officer—I just want to get home."

"What ship were you assigned to?" R'Mor demanded.

"Classified, rekkhai. We were on a covert mission—I'm probably close to violating the Official Secrets Act by telling you this much!"

"I don't believe you," hissed t'Tyrava.

"Ariennye… Fine, but I'm giving you to the Tal'Shiar if they ask. Ch'R Vermithrax. Assigned to a deep scouting mission into D'Nneikha space. We didn't even get to our target area before we got snatched."

"Ch'R Vermithrax? D'Nneikha? What in the name of Fire are you talking about?"

"You don't know about the Dominion situation?" asked the Betazoid in obvious surprise. Her uniform definitely wasn't Lloannen'galae standard. The Cardassian's uniform was odd around the neck and shoulders, too, now that R'Mor thought about it.

"What the Ariennye is the Dominion?" asked t'Tyrava, mystified.

"I believe," said Tuvok calmly, "that there is a misunderstanding of some sort at work here, and I suspect I know the problem. Subadmiral t'Tyrava, what is the current Federation stardate?"

"Don't you have a clock? I don't have time for Lloann'mhrahel dates," spat the Rihan officer. Tuvok raised an eyebrow. The woman endured it for a full ten seconds of increasing squirming before sighing.

"But I do know Earth Standard. Long story, involving my old Phi'lasasem roommate, Enarrain t'Selok. It's the Second of February, 2351." She cocked her head in thought for a moment. "Okay, maybe the Fifth—a ch'Rihanturn is a bit longer than one of your days."

Evek, t'Aimne, and Stadi all visibly started at that; Tuvok merely raised his eyebrow again.

"That may be the source of the confusion, then," said the Vulcan. "On our side of this wormhole, it is June Fourth, 2371."

"All right," said Gul Evek. "Options."

"I think that they believe us," Stadi replied. "If that helps."

"Could be worse," said t'Aimne. "They could've called my bluff. That would've been bad."

"Bluff?" asked Paris.

"Ie," the Romulan confirmed with a wry grimace. "In the Galae s'Shiar Rihan we hate the Tal'Shiar almost as much as the Klingons. I wouldn't shop my worst enemy to the Tal'Shiar. And if she weren't seriously upset, she'd remember that. Ariennye, she probably has that figured out by now."

"Dangerous," said Evek. "But apparently effective. Good woman."

"Thank you, sir."

"What's our next step?" asked Stadi. "Do we try sending a transporter signal through that wormhole?"

"No, it'd take a long time to send everyone, and sending a signal that big through would probably prematurely destabilize the wormhole," said Ballard with a shake of her head. "Torres, how much do you think we could send before the wormhole destabilizes?"

"No idea," the half-Klingon answered. "I'd have another problem to solve first. Kim and I had to write our own data compression algorithm just to get vidcom working. And it's still distorted. I've got no clue if I can compress something as big as a transporter signal and get anything on the other side but a pile of goo."

"Thank you for that mental image," Paris commented.

"We could test it," Harry suggested. "Use a standard test cylinder."

"There is something you are forgetting, Lieutenants," Tuvok put in. "Consider the implications of the Temporal Prime Directive."

"Damn, I knew I was forgetting something," Stadi growled, pressing a palm to her forehead in consternation. "We still end up hiding out for twenty years before we're even allowed to turn up again."

"Yeah, a Galor-class destroyer crew arriving twenty years before it embarked would certainly have made state media," Marritza remarked. "I think I would've remembered that."

"So, what," Harry said, sounding confused, "we either branch off an alternate timeline or we…" He looked over at Ballard and Torres and they simultaneously said, "I hate temporal mechanics."

Gul Evek tried to keep a straight face but a booming belly laugh quickly got past his control, and soon everyone around the table save the Vulcans cracked up. Still, Tuvok's left eyebrow appeared to be stuck in the 'up' position.

"Ahem, mm, here's another, mm, option," said Daran Taril, trying to stop laughing. "Because I'm sure as fuck not being a Romulan's houseguest for twenty years." T'Aimne gave him a hurt look. "Sorry, I didn't mean… Um, we can ask R'Mor to take a message to our families and friends. Ask them to hold on to it for twenty years—hell, maybe they can prevent us from getting lost in the first place."

Kim commented, "That'd give DTI the biggest headache ever—"

"Actually, I think Captain Kirk has the market cornered on that," Ballard interrupted with a grin.

"Whatever. I'm open to it."

"At the very least," said Taril, "my wife doesn't have to think I'm dead for fifty years. Even if I can't be there for her and the kid, she'll know that I'm alive and so will the kid. Whatever we call him—or possibly her. Damn, she's probably going to call him Keran like she wanted now… not that I would've won that argument anyway."

"Whipped," Ballard chuckled.

"Got a problem with that?" retorted the Trill with a smile.

"None at all."

Tuvok's left eyebrow appeared to be attempting to levitate itself off of his face.

"On topic," said Evek, stifling a grin with military professionalism. "Torres, Ballard, can you send a datachip through without losing the data?"

"Possible," said Torres, chewing a knuckle. "I'd say that it'd be easier to transport molecules for precision than large amounts of matter."

"That ought to work," nodded Kim.

"Then I have an idea," said Evek. "Why does it have to be just one message?"

"You mean—" began Stadi.

"Full mission reports, after-action, First Contact, reports on our people and their status."

"Not the Ha'ni data," said Gil Kalar swiftly.

"Fvadt no," agreed t'Aimne. "Wouldn't want the Tal'Shiar getting hold of it, even if it means keeping it from my own people."

"No tech, nothing that would be classified," concurred Evek. "But after-action, casualty reports, Wildman's pregnancy—we need to have something positive, my Lycoris would have me in the yard—astrometrics probably, First Contact reports. Those are important."

"Kim, can you get something like that together?"

"Sure thing, Captain," said Harry with a nod.

"And letters home," T'pai added.

"Those, too," said Stadi.

"I'll get back in touch with the Romulans and write a quick letter to my wife," said Evek. "Kalar, get our data together, and work with Kim to get it onto a chip."

"Understood, sir."

"Subadmiral t'Tyrava, this is Gul Evek. Do you read me?"

"Khre'Riov t'Tyrava is busy, Evek," said R'Mor, his image flickering onto the viewscreen. "What do you want?"

"I had a request to make, but I suppose, since the Subadmiral is busy… I would like to talk, man to man."

"I'm listening," said R'Mor guardedly.

"Do you have a family, Doctor?"

"Yes," R'Mor answered after moment of hesitation. "My wife is on ch'Rihan, with our daughter. She was born a few months into my deployment."

"Ah," said Gul Evek. "I am sorry that you missed her birth."

"You have children?" asked R'Mor.

"Yes," said the Cardassian. "My Lycoris and I raised three fine young men and two women. My eldest son's in the Guard and my daughters are in the civil service."

"What about the other boys?" asked R'Mor.

"Dead," said Evek, a flash of pain clouding his face. "They were on a troop carrier that was destroyed during the last war with the Federation."

"I am sorry for your loss," said the Romulan with genuine feeling. "I… I don't know what would happen, if I lost my wife or daughter."

"You can't quite understand until it's happened to you," said Evek, marshalling his control again. "And… well, that's part of why I hailed you. I'm stuck out here, fifty years from home. My wife is on Cardassia Prime, and she probably thinks that I'm dead. I know it's a lot to ask, but… if we were to send you a computer chip, containing messages to our loved ones and to our governments, would you be willing to ensure that they are received in twenty Terran years' time?"

R'Mor rapped his fingers on the arm of his command chair. "A time capsule? I'd have to look up the relevant regulations, and I obviously can't make any guarantees that the political situation twenty years from now will allow its delivery."

"There is little harm in trying, Commander. We have around 200 people over here, many of whom may never see their families again."

R'Mor sighed. "Very well, Cardassian. I will inquire with the High Command."

"Thank you," Evek replied with genuine sincerity. "This means a lot to me and to my men. Rest assured that if and when I return to Cardassia, I will remember your kindness. I may no longer be in charge of the Federation demilitarized zone, but I still have many contacts in the Union."

"Don't mention it," said R'Mor gruffly. "I just hope you'd do the same, if our places were switched."

"I would," Aman Evek said with absolute conviction. "Believe me, I would."

"Did the transport go through?" Stadi asked.

The Romulan on the far side of the wormhole held a green data card up to the camera and gave her a satisfied smile. "Convey my congratulations to your transporter chief and programmers. No apparent data loss."

Voyager's bridge erupted in cheers and Stadi heard the Cardassians break into a celebratory song in their native tongue (the national anthem, for all she knew). Over the noise, she shouted, "Mr. Paris! Prepare to resume our previous course! Thank you for your help, Commander R'Mor."

"We will ferry this to ch'Rihan for delivery on the specified stardate. Jolan'tru, Riov Stadi. May the Elements be with you."

"Backatcha," Paris responded. "Voyager out."

Stadi headed over to her ready room and the door slid shut behind her. She had barely sat down when the door chimed. "Enter!"

Tuvok strode in. "I must make an apology, Captain," he said without preamble.

"What for? We got exactly what we wanted."

"I scheduled our message to be delivered on stardate 48320."

"But it was 48309 when we came over here…" Stadi's eyes flashed angrily as she made the connection and she surged to her feet and vaulted her desk. "What in the name of all Twelve Deities possessed you to do that?"

Tuvok was impassive. "Captain, the Temporal Prime Directive prohibits us from making alterations to our past. Therefore we were not allowed to prevent ourselves from setting out, so it fell to one of us to ensure that the message arrived after we had left. Since I perceived the problem, it was logical that—"

"Deities damn your logic, you green-blooded hobgoblin! I've got a hundred thirty people depending on me here! I can't do my job if you sabotage me!"

"Captain, you are under the mistaken impression that I wanted to do that. I believe that it is necessary to let you in."

And Stadi looked.

Like most Betazoids, Veronica Stadi was most comfortable with her mind open, flowing and feeling those around her instead of alone in her own head. When Tuvok allowed a gap in his emotional control, she felt it… and the tide beneath sucked her in. Underneath that veneer of Vulcan control, that rock-solid competence and confidence, she felt anguish. His love for his wife, and his pride in his son, and his fear, the same fear that gripped the subconscious of every Voyager or Vetar crew member she'd scanned, telepath or no.

But the raw strength of those emotions startled her. Stadi had been told by an old friend, who had a history of dating aliens, that Vulcans were so uptight because beneath the logic their emotions were orders of magnitude more powerful than those of most humanoids; now she saw that first-hand. Tuvok was devastated, to use an inadequate word.

Stadi gasped, forcing herself back into her own head. She stared at the viewport on the exterior wall as reality was colorfully distorted by the activation of the ship's warp drive, unable to meet her first officer's gaze. Finally, she spoke up.

"I didn't realize you were married, Tuvok. I'm sorry."

"You had no reason to know. There is no need to apologize."

Stadi reclaimed her seat. Tuvok stood stiffly by the door.

"You're absolutely certain that there was no other way?"

"During my first term of service with Starfleet, almost eighty years ago, I served under Captain Hikaru Sulu. When I transferred off of the Excelsior, he told me of an incident that the Enterprise was involved with under Captain Kirk. Kirk, Commander Spock, and Doctor McCoy were transported into the past by an alien entity after the latter accidentally dosed himself with a mind-altering drug while working on then-Lieutenant Sulu. McCoy accidentally altered the timeline by saving the life of a woman he met in Earth's past, causing the Federation to cease to exist. Spock and Kirk repaired the timeline, at the cost of Keeler's life."

"So she caused a war, wiped out Earth, leaving the Federation as a warring mess of Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites?" Stadi asked.

"Quite the reverse," said Tuvok. "She was a devoted pacifist. She led a noble but misguided movement that allowed an authoritarian state to take over Earth, purely by accident. By all accounts she was a noble and selfless person, but her actions changed the course of all our histories for the worse."

"And so… so… This is one of those 'needs of the many' things, isn't it? If we hadn't been dragged out here, those women, like t'Aimne and Kes, would still be slaves of the Kazon."

"Most probably. And the Vidiians would be traveling yet further down a dark road. The effects of temporal incursions are unpredictable at best, and we have already done several good deeds on this journey. Whatever has happened, was meant to happen. No matter how painful it is to us, we must know this."

"It isn't fair," whispered Stadi.

"No," Tuvok agreed somberly. "It is not. But the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few… and we, unfortunately, are the few."

Personal log, Lieutenant Harry Kim, operations officer, USS Voyager.

Wow. What a day.

My head's still spinning; we talked with Romulans from twenty years ago, sent a message back home—I put in a video letter to my mom so that she knows I'm alive—and now we're off to the Sikarian homeworld.

Even after the last couple of months, this was a strange day. And I'm including lizard-women, space hillbillies, and organ-snatchers in that last couple of months, too.

Kepa Ayala's combat training classes started yesterday. The Cardassians are pitching in, too—Ocett's teaching a martial art she calls chakar daran, and t'Aimne is giving lessons in llaekh-ae'rl, and I hope I pronounced that right. I'm sore all over—that little Romulan really packs a punch. And just when I thought things would get a little easier, I got partnered up with Torres.

Speaking of Torres, Captain Stadi's put us both up for a commendation for the file compression algorithm we developed. At this rate, I might get promoted again before we get home…

Permanent documentation file, Taril D. Gi., helmsman, Cardassian Fourth Order destroyer Vetar.

Hey, honey.

I'm keeping a copy if this message to remind myself of what I'm fighting for. You. The kid. That house we talked about…

Gaunt's hosts. I miss you, honey.

Stick with Mrs. Evek. The Gul tells me she's a strong woman, and she apparently has a network of military wives—the Gul's crew's families—that she looks after just in case, so you just go to her and introduce yourself, and she should get you a job that you can do or something like that.

I'm probably going to be home in about fifty years, give or take a couple, though the Gul figures we'll come across some wormholes or something to shorten the journey. I'm really sorry. This alien thing, it snatched us across the galaxy, killed half the crew… it was a nightmare.

I'm alive and well, though, don't worry. Gul Evek gave me a permanent Guard commission; I'm really starting to like Cardassians. Better than Thot Kol and the Thot Prans who we could never tell apart and that damned Nausicaan, for sure. It's a more stable living than smuggling, too. We could have the whole stereotypical life, when I get back. Granted, the kid'll be grown up by then.

I won't blame you if you find someone else. The kid needs a solid family; that's another thing the Cardassians have right. Just… don't let the kid go the traditional route. He or she will be his or her own person, not some damn body for a symbiote.

And for the love of all that's holy don't name him Keran. I'm begging you, honey.

Your husband,

Daran Taril

Author's note, by StarSwordC:

Worffan and I both wanted to do "Eye of the Needle" in our storyline, but we realized fairly early that there were some plot holes we hadn't noticed before, starting with the fact that the uniform a Starfleet crew would've worn in 2351, R'Mor's home time period, was the uniform that debuted with The Wrath of Khan: One TNG episode has a flashback to Picard's days as a junior officer when he was run through by a Nausicaan in a bar fight, and he's wearing the TWOK maroon jacket and black pants. So were the Enterprise-C crew in "Yesterday's Enterprise". Meanwhile the Voyager crew wears the DS9 uniform which is way different.

Soon we noticed other problems from our scenario (the Feds and Cardies had border wars going starting in the late 2340s, we've got a Romulan officer on the Vetar, there's been first contact with the Dominion, etc.) and it became pretty clear that if they got vidcom working at all, there was no good way to have the dramatic reveal at the end that R'Mor was from twenty years in the past without invoking plot-induced stupidity, which frankly offends me as a writer. So, they work it out early.

And unlike the VOY writers, we plan to have this pay off. Stay tuned.

Author's note, from worffan101:

First off, yes, that was an in-joke about Harry the Eternal Ensign. I've been working on portraying him as the intelligent, proactive man we see in Star Trek Online, while maintaining his relative newbie nature. Thus, he gets beaten up, but asks the Captain for combat training (just as an example). I hope that we're doing a good job so far.

There is a lot of Romulan language, primarily from Diane Duane's Rihannsu series, sprinkled throughout here; most of it is various forms of "yes" and "yes, sir", but a couple of standouts are Eyiv s'Rea ("Rea's Helm", a common Romulan ship name), Rihan (literally, "Declared", descended from an ancient Vulcan word and used to describe the Romulan people (Rihanh), their capital planet (ch'Rihan), and such), and Lloannen'galae (a reference to the Federation Starfleet).

Quick glossary:

Ariennye: lit. "Hell".
Lloann'mhrahel: lit. "Them, from there"; refers to the United Federation of Planets.
Enarrain: Military rank, equivalent to a Starfleet lieutenant commander. Enarrain Selok is a reference to TNG: "Data's Day". Arrain is a lieutenant.
Fvadt: Profanity, akin to "damn".
Galae: lit. "fleet", but is closer related to aircraft than seagoing ships for cultural reasons (in other words, the Romulan space fleet draws its organizational heritage from the air force instead of the navy).
Galae s'Shiar Rihan: Grand Fleet, Imperial Romulan Fleet.
Hevam, Hevammsu, Hevamh: derogatory term for Humans.
Jolan'tru: All-purpose greeting meaning either "hello" or "goodbye" depending on context, akin to Hawaiian "aloha".
Phi'lasasem: Romulan fleet academy.
Riov: Commander (as in of a starship), equivalent of a Federation Captain. A Khre'Riov is a rear admiral, or perhaps more appropriately a commodore; normally commanding a single ship but with the authority to oversee a task group.
Shaoi kon: Formal greeting, inferior to superior (or guest to host).
Shiar ih'Saeihr Rihan: Romulan Star Empire.