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B'Elanna stared blankly into space from her husband's quarters. Miral slept soundly in the next room. It seemed that being on Voyager was too much for the boisterous toddler. B'Elanna, however, was not so eager to sleep, wrapping her hands around her warm cup of Raktajino. She'd acquired a taste for the Klingon beverage during her stay on Boreth, and was as dependent on it as Janeway had been on black coffee. B'Elanna was looking forward to their stop at Deep Space Nine so she could get a real cup of the stuff. Kaga, the proprietor of Deep Space Nine's renowned Klingon restaurant was hailed as making the best Raktajino in the sector.
The doors to the quarters swished open, and Tom walked in.
"Hey," He smiled at his wife, who gave a small smile in return.
"We left Loran II about fifteen minutes ago."
"I know…I saw the planet from here…looked like a dirty dust ball."
"Does a bit, doesn't it," Tom looked around the room. "Where's Miral?"
"Sound asleep. Too much excitement, I think."
Tom smiled. Despite Tom having become Voyager's First Officer, Miral had only ever really been in a few Federation shuttles and runabouts. General Martok had gifted B'Elanna a Klingon transport so she could easily travel from Earth to the Empire. However, B'Elanna had let Chakotay take a look at the transport last month, and it hadn't worked quite right since…
Tom noticed his wife's subdued demeanour, and became a little worried. B'Elanna Torres was rarely a quiet person.
"B'Elanna honey…what's getting to you?"
Her shoulders hunched, and she let out a sigh. "Some of the crew – the new ones who joined Voyager when she was re-commissioned – they've been whispering while I'm around…I know I sound a little crazy but –"
"You're not crazy B'El…The original crew has had problems with the new crew too, especially the ones who fought in the Dominion War…Just remember, you're the First Officer's wife…you don't need to put up with any crap."
"Any problems, let me, Chakotay, Harry, Lyssa or Sekaya know…We'll get it sorted."
"Okay," B'Elanna looked down at the ground. "It's just odd, you know…Voyager's first crew got over the differences between Starfleet and the Maquis so quickly…It seems ironic to have problems between Starfleet crew and Starfleet crew."
"It does, doesn't it?"
Voyager certainly hadn't had an easy time since being re-commissioned. Following the death of Andrew Ellis, Chakotay's first First Officer, at the hands of the Changeling, Chakotay had been accused by some of the newer crewmembers of murdering Ellis in order to get another former Maquis – Tom – on the ship. Furthermore, due to Chakotay being captured by Arak Katal and Crell Moset, some of them openly questioned his abilities as a leader. Both sets of accusations led to the premature end of Voyager's first mission and saw Chakotay being called up for an inquest into Ellis' death. With Kathryn Janeway's help, Chakotay had been cleared, and two Voyager crewmembers had been dismissed from Starfleet for making up such dangerous accusations.
Since then, tensions had apparently eased on Voyager, but there was still a little bit of hostility amongst the crew. Sekaya and Astall tried their best to make everyone get along, but this was far from a happy crew.
"They all think we had it easy, don't they?" B'Elanna said quietly.
"Maybe we did," Tom sighed, soberly.
The true horror of the Dominion War had not been realised immediately following the end of hostilities. The Federation had lost contact with a number of associate worlds, and while trying to re-establish contact, the Federation was shocked to discover that most of those worlds had been wiped out.
The death toll for the war now topped fifteen billion.
It was lucky that Earth's large population was an exception, not the rule, with advanced worlds, or disturbingly, the death toll could have been much higher.
Owen Paris and Reg Barclay had kept most of the horrors of the Dominion War away from the Voyagers, so as not to depress the Intrepid crew even more. The destruction of those outlying worlds had become classified, so the crew seemed even further out of the Dominion loop than they had been to start with.
B'Elanna looked at her husband, seeing the silent admission in his eyes.
"Yeah...but they didn't deal with the Borg, Species 8472, the Hirogen, the Kazon, the Vidiians or all the others. They beat the Dominion, with the support of 150 other worlds."
"Still...these people lived through the bloodiest war this part of the galaxy has ever seen...Even now, they're haunted by it. And they resent us because we missed it. As well as that, they don't like the Maquis, because they turned out to be right about the Cardassians after all."
B'Elanna nodded, "I guess."
Sighing, Tom turned B'Elanna to face him, "How would you like to chill out in the Paxau resort?"
"I can't believe you've still got that program!" Torres said in bemused disbelief.
"I also still have Sandrine's, and Captain Proton...Can't seem to remember where I put Fair Haven, though..."
B'Elanna smirked, hitting Tom's arm playfully.
"I suppose I could do with a bit of relaxation...Think Sam Wildman would babysit?"
Harry relaxed in the First Officer's seat aboard Voyager. He never sat in the Captain's seat when he had the bridge. That wasn't considered to be the proper thing to do. Harry realised how spoiled he'd been by the Delta Quadrant – the Alpha Quadrant was a complete known. Until Voyager got beyond Qo'noS, there was nothing to explore. Until then, all the crew had was routine.
"Michael, I'd like you to run a routine diagnostic of the bioneural systems on deck 11. They were playing up prior to leaving spacedock."
Harry got no response from Ayala and turned to look at him.
"Hmm? Sorry Commander...I'll get started right away."
Harry smirked...his attention wandered on the bridge more often than he'd care to admit, so he wasn't going to give Michael Ayala a row for doing the same thing. Half expecting Lyssa Campbell to have a witty retort at hand, he turned to tactical. Instead, the Lieutenant's brow was furrowed, concentrating intensely on her work station.
Linda Chung, who was covering for Tom at the conn also noticed the lack of sarcasm from Lyssa and turned to Harry, raising an eyebrow in surprise.
"I'm getting some strange readings here...Tetryon emissions...Are you getting them on your scans too, Michael?"
Ayala's console beeped. "Yes...but it's very strange...the particles appear to be in a state of decay? That doesn't make any sense at all," The console beeped again, "I've lost them, sir."
Harry looked back to Lyssa. "I'm not reading them anymore either, sir."
Billy Telfer who was sitting at the science console began working frantically. "I'll see if I can find a trace of them."
Harry sighed, a dozen theories about the particles crowding his mind. Tetryons rarely meant good news.
Lyssa's console beeped again, this time more urgently. "We're getting a distress signal, but that can't be right...it's an analogue signal, and it's emanating from Ronara Prime."
Harry knew of Ronara Prime – a classic frontier world that had been a hotbed of Maquis activity. It remained inhabited throughout the Dominion War, and was slowly beginning standing on its own two feet. The Ronaran Prime minister, an elderly Kobliad woman, had spearheaded the Post-Demilitarization regeneration drive, helping set up the PDMZ council, and helping heal old wounds between the Federation and Cardassian colonies in The Zone.
So Harry had a very bad feeling about what they'd just found out.
"Billy...I want you to extrapolate how old that distress signal is, given it's analogue frequency and it's point of origin."
Billy nodded, before getting back to work
"Captain Chakotay and Commander Paris report to the Bridge...Lieutenant Chung, set a course for Ronara Prime."
"Uhm...Commander?" Billy didn't look at Harry. Instead he focused on his station. "According to my readings, that Analogue signal is over 900 years old."
At that moment, Chakotay entered the bridge.
"We picked up Tetryon emissions, and moments later we detected decayed Tetryon particles. Given how difficult they are to track, we lost them almost immediately. Then we picked up a distress call from Ronara Prime. We've altered course to investigate, but get this. The signal was analogue, and according to Telfer's information, it's been travelling through space for 900 years."
Tom arrived on the bridge, still dressed in a gaudy Hawaiian shirt from the holodeck.
As Harry relieved Ayala from Ops, Chakotay scratched his chin. "Even if the distress signal is coincidental to the Tetryon particles...Ronara Prime's not even been inhabited for fifty years."
"There's no doubt about it sir...That signal has been travelling through space unanswered for almost a millennium." Billy seemed to be as stumped as the rest of them.
"Could it be a galactic echo?" Tom asked as he took the conn.
"No sir...this thing's the genuine article."
"Tom, at our present speed, how long will it take us to get to Ronara Prime?"
"At warp four, it'll take eighteen hours. If we step on it and go to warp nine, we can be there in twenty minutes."
"I want to get there as quickly as we can Tom."
"Captain, I'm picking up some really unusual readings here..." Harry said ominously as Voyager approached the planet.
"I'm detecting alpha, beta, delta, gamma and theta radiation...I'm also detecting temporal radiation, as well as tachyons and chroniton particles...There's also at least three types of radiation here that the computer can't identify."
"What the hell?" Chakotay was worried and perplexed.
"Captain, I've been able to unscramble the audio component of the distress call," said Billy.
"Let's hear it."
"This is Prime Minister Tev Najada of the Federation Colony Ronara Prime. We are under attack from the Cardassian colony, Bryma. They are using weapons we've never seen before. They are poisoning our people. This attack is unprovoked...We are a peaceful colony and have not-"
The message ended abruptly.
"Bryma? Was that not one of the colonies that capitulated, and joined forces with us, the Klingons and the Romulans?"
"Yes, sir, it was," said Lyssa.
"So why would they attack Ronara Prime? It's an economic power, not a military one," asked Harry.
"Here's hoping we find out," Chakotay said, concern and anger present in his voice.
"We've reached Ronara Prime," Tom stated, disengaging the warp engines.
As Ronara Prime appeared on the viewscreen, Chakotay felt his stomach lurch, and his spirits sink. Ronara had never been noted for it's beauty, being a dusty brown world. But Chakotay knew without looking at the sensors, that Voyager was too late in offering aid. Ronara Prime's atmosphere seemed to have somehow disappeared, large arcs of lightening shooting across the airless surface.
"None," Harry said, a sombre note in his voice.
"The planet is void of all organic matter, and it's atmosphere has dissipated entirely," reported Telfer.
"What's causing the lightning?" Tom remarked.
"It's not lightning, but an unknown phenomena...I can't determine the cause."
"Are we detecting a weapons signature?" Chakotay asked Lyssa.
"No, sir...But the planet appears to be in a state of temporal flux...I believe the whole planet is out of phase somehow."
"Captain, if I remember rightly, the Romulans were building an embassy in Ronara Prime's capital...We could date a sample of the construction materials to figure out just how far out of sync the planet is," Tom suggested.
Chakotay nodded, anger visible on his features. They all thought they'd seen their last Cardassian atrocity years ago.
"Chakotay to Vorik."
"Vorik here, sir."
"Prepare to receive a sample of Romulan masonry from the planet's surface...The sample has been stripped of all organic components so devise a way to date it."
"We have the sample onboard, sir," Harry announced.
"Sir," began Telfer, "I can't begin to try and ascertain exactly what happened to Ronara Prime. Frankly, looking at the data, myself and the entire science staff could be here for a couple of years before we figure it out...I recommend transmitting our findings to the Nova before continuing the investigation when we pick up our full science staff at DS9."
"I have another idea Ensign. Harry, contact Jupiter Station. I think we need the Think Tank's help on this one."
Harry nodded, and merely a second later, Seven of Nine appeared on the screen.
"Hello, Chakotay." she smiled at him, slightly flustered. Only then did Chakotay notice the raging battle in the background.
"Jish is regretting inviting Lewis Zimmerman to join the Think Tank...He and the Doctor do not see eye to eye..."
Chakotay bit his lip, imagining that that personality clash could be quite amusing.
"I see...Seven we need the Think Tank's help...There's been a biological attack on Ronara Prime...We can't make heads or tails of the data we've collected, and we won't have a fully staffed science department for another two weeks."
Seven nodded, seemingly grinding her teeth before turning her attention momentarily to the noise emanating from behind her.
"Doctors, please behave! We have work to do. If you two cannot learn to get along, I'll place you both in an isolation chamber until you learn to either behave or grow up!"
Seemingly feeling better for telling off 'father and son', Seven continued their conversation.
"Send your data to us, and we'll prepare a preliminary report for you."
Chakotay looked to Harry and Telfer. "Commander Kim and Ensign Telfer and sending the information to you now...Thank you for helping us with this...We'll be heading to the Cardassian colony Bryma, should you need to contact us."
Seven nodded, before terminating communications.
"Vorik to Chakotay...Captain, I have ascertained the age of the Romulan masonry. It appears to be 947 years old."
Chakotay's eyes widened as Vorik confirmed the impossible. Somehow, someone or something had stripped this planet of all its biological components, and sent it back in time over 900 years. Why? Ronara Prime was a relatively harmless world of little strategic or political importance.
"Who could do this to a planet?" Tom asked, worried and exasperated.
Who indeed? Thought Chakotay.
Selar busied herself in the science labs, growing bored of the menial tasks she'd been assigned. She raised an eyebrow as Tal Celes and Aaron Ashmore wheeled a large lump of granite into the lab. Her curiosity piqued, she accessed Voyager's activity logs, and found some of the telemetry regarding Ronara Prime.
Being a Q and not a Vulcan, she felt a large knot form in her stomach.
Her worst fears had just been confirmed...