This story is set approximately one year after the events in the final episode of Deep Space Nine entitled, 'What You Leave Behind.'
"The Sisko is not walking the path." Prophet Kira stated.
"The Sisko is merely requesting a small detour." Sisko replied.
Benjamin Sisko, ex-Captain of Deep Space Nine, ex-member of Starfleet (and considering how he felt at the moment you may as well add ex-member the human race) had been with the Wormhole aliens, otherwise known as the Prophets for a almost a year now. For all he had managed to learn about them it felt like he'd only been here a day. Most if the time though it seemed like he'd been here a lifetime and he desperately needed some shore leave.
"Besides, it's only for a couple of days for the reunion, even Odo's turning up."
Prophet Kira morphed into Prophet Odo. One of the many annoying traits of the Wormhole Aliens, one more reason Sisko needed a break.
"This is not the way, there may be repercussions."
Which meant there was something about the current situation the Prophets did not know about. Ben had learned some things about theses celestial beings and one of them was they didn't know, nor could they foresee everything. When something unexpected happened or when there was something they couldn't see clearly, it made them nervous. He made them nervous. In fact for such an advanced race they spent a lot of the time being nervous.
"The Sisko must remain until the time when he must not." said Prophet O'Brien who had just appeared out of no-where. This, thought Sisko, is not going to be easy.
On board the USS Doddard, Captain Montgomery Scott sat in a reclined position. At the side of his chair, and within easy arms reach, was a bottle of dark green liquid while in one hand Scottie held a large but temporarily empty Crystal decanter. Taking the bottle, Scottie removed the seal and poured himself a generous measure of 'Green.' After taking a drink and placing the bottle back into it's position, he continued with his log entries.
"Computer, continue recording personal log 33728."
"Recording" confirmed the computer. Not in the monotonous, stale voice that he had to put up with on the original Enterprise. No, some things had changed for the better and the Mark-III CVS (Computer Voice synthesiser) was one of them. It confirmed a fact which every engineer, every Captain, every Officer who ever commanded a ship knew, that a ship was a lady and had to be treated as such.
There was something about the voice which had been niggling at the back of his mind for a while now though, it was almost as if he could put a name to the voice.
"Computer, say something."
"Something," replied the Computer without any trace of sarcasm.
Yes, it was definitely familiar. Pausing the log again he sat up. His hand flew over some nearby computer controls as he called up the schematics for the program. A few seconds later he sat back in his chair with a smile on his face. No wonder the computer sounded so familiar, it was Nurse Chapel's! Not literally of course but the database records had shown that in the early stages of development, Starfleet had analysed thousands of voice patterns. Apparently the soothing tones of the good Nurse, or Doctor as she was later known, had met all of the requirements that the Starfleet analysts were looking for and the CSV was based on her voice pattern.
Scottie sat lost in memories for a few seconds before continuing.
"At current speed it will take two more days to reach Capella IV. Aye, when the Enterprise first visited this wee planet, Captain Kirk was trying to secure a mining treaty with the inhabitants, which was made more difficult by a bit of a local power struggle and more than yer average bit of Klingon intervention."
Scottie had decided to survey the planets that the original Enterprise had encountered on their five-year mission. He had sold the idea to Starfleet as a study; a historical study as to how these societies had changed since the Enterprise first encountered them nearly a hundred years ago and a study of the Prime Directive. Kirk had bent and sometimes blatantly broken the Prime Directive on numerous occasions and Starfleet was very interested to see the long-term effects, if any, his actions had caused.
This was partly the reason Scotty had asked for the mission, as he was genuinely interested in the study. His unique situation also made him perfect for the job. But Scotty had really taken this year long study to catch up. He was seventy years behind everybody else and he didn't like that at all. Scotty was used to being ahead of his time with his engineering skills, yet a first year cadet probably knew more then he did when he first re-materialised into the twenty fourth Century.
Now four months into the mission Scottie finally felt that he was getting somewhere. Not only did the Engineering technical schematics no longer look like they were written in Klingon but he had caught up with a lot of Starfleet history while travelling to and from the different solar systems. Already he was getting ideas for improvements in various systems and was itching to try some of them out. Soon Scottie the miracle worker would return and he would no longer feel like a relic who belonged in a Starfleet museum.
His personnel log finally updated, Scottie was about to set course for Capella IV when he was suddenly flung out of his chair in a most undignified manner. The lights went out briefly but were quickly replaced by the emergency backups as the automated Red Alert systems kicked in. As the inertial dampers strained to cope with the unexpected pressure, one of the consoles overloaded and exploded showering Scottie with sparks as he cursed at his predicament.
"Collision warning," announced the computer.
"No...really?" replied Scotty in a rather sarcastic manner.
The worst seemed to be over though and Scotty was finally able to get to his feet. A quick glance at the damage control panel showed that the shuttle had taken a beating but the damage was not severe enough to warrant his immediate attention. His fingers danced over the controls to activate the main view screen. What he saw made him gasp, as filling the entire view screen was the image of a ship's hull.
Scotty was intrigued. He had collided with another ship that was obvious. What wasn't obvious was why? The shuttle's sensors should have detected the approaching ship and if either ship had been travelling at warp speed then he wouldn't be alive to be confused about this mystery. However, maybe the other ship could have been cloaked! Checking the logs he confirmed that the ship appeared right before the moment of impact but it was instantaneous, which is unlike any known cloaking technology.
"Maybe this is a Borg ship? I wouldn't mind getting a wee look at the beastie's engines!" Scotty said to himself.
He activated the thrusters and started to back up, thinking that if it was an active Borg ship, then they would have locked on a Tractor Beam or destroyed him by now. As the Shuttle reversed more of the ship became visible. It quickly became apparent that this was not a Borg ship but a Starfleet vessel. As the shuttle manoeuvred around to the Saucer section Scotty was able to read the ships registration. It read NCC-74656, USS Voyager.
"Great Scott!" was all that Scotty could say before he started to look around for his bottle of 'Green', hoping it hadn't been smashed in the crash.
Aboard the USS Enterprise, Captain John Luc Picard sat in his ready room catching up on his paper work while listening to some classical music from the late 20th Century. Paper work, thought Picard as he smiled slightly. Even though the paperless office had finally become a reality over 300 years ago, the term was still used to describe everyday administration duties. Picard's thoughts were interrupted when Will Riker's image appeared on his work station.
"Sorry to interrupt Captain, but I have an important communication from Admiral Hoover."
"Computer, stop playback. Put him through Number one."
"Mozart?" Inquired Riker.
"Williams." Picard replied. Riker looked confused.
"I'll explain later."
Riker's image was replaced by that of Admiral Tom Hoover. Tom was very young for an Admiral. In fact he was the youngest Admiral in Starfleet history but a lot of people in Starfleet, including Picard, thought that he was the best man for the job, despite his age.
"What can I do for you Admiral?"
"We have a priority one situation Captain. Approximately five hours ago the USS Voyager appeared in the Solarian system."
"Voyager? But aren't they lost somewhere in the Delta Quadrant?"
"They were," replied the Admiral, "A few hours ago they literally bumped into Captain Scott's shuttlecraft in the Alpha Quadrant. Captain Scott reports that Voyager is in a bad way. He thinks whatever they did to get themselves home may be the cause of this but that's just an initial report and subject to speculation."
"So you want the Enterprise to tow the ship home? Surely a Starfleet Tug vessel would be more appropriate in this situation. We are in the middle of an important... "
"This is a delicate situation John Luc. Not only does Voyager's database hold vast amounts of information on the Delta Quadrant, but Captain Scott reports that only twenty four of the crew are on board and they have no memory of how they managed to get back home or what has happened to the rest of the crew."
"Even so I fail to see why the flagship..."
"There's more Captain. The survivors are mainly the so called ex-Maquis members of the crew, apart from an alien we have not encountered before and know very little about, he's a Telaxian apparently, and one Human Female who used to be part of the Borg collective."
John Luc sat back in amazement. "No Star fleet crew?"
"None. Captain Scott says they are co-operating for now and seem content to wait for a Starship to arrive but we need to act fast. I authorise the use of maximum warp. Your orders are to secure Voyager and escort them to the nearest Federation base, which is Deep Space Nine. The debriefing of the remaining crew will be handled there by a special team I'm setting up. We are quite fortunate to have several key personnel visiting the station for some sort of reunion party, a party I'm afraid I'm about to break up. As for your team I want you to go over Voyager with a fine tooth comb, checking logs and looking for any clues as to what happened."
"You suspect foul play?"
"Damn right I do. Maquis terrorists, an unknown alien and an Ex-Borg! It doesn't smell right. . I want to know how they managed to get back to the Alpha Quadrant and I want to know what happened to the rest of the crew."
John Luc started to reply but Admiral Hoover interrupted him. "You have your orders Captain. I'm forwarding all the files we have on Voyager to you now. Hoover out."
The screen went blank. John Luc pressed his Comm badge. "Number one?"
"Set a course for the Solarian system, Maximum Warp. And have all Senior staff report to the briefing room in ten minutes."
Approximately ten minutes later, Captain Picard walked into the briefing room. Around the briefing table sat the Senior staff, Commander Riker, Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge, Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher, the ship's Counsellor Deanna Troi, Commander Data and Chief of Security, Vincent Mudd.
"Let's begin shall we?" Said Picard, "On Stardate 48351.6 the USS Voyager was chasing a Maquis vessel into the Badlands. Both ships disappeared and Voyager was officially announced lost on Stardate 48355.8. As you are all aware that announcement was revoked when Voyager contacted Starfleet in a rather unusual manner from the Delta Quadrant. Voyager had apparently not been destroyed but a being called the Caretaker had somehow transport the vessel approximately seventy thousand lights years away."
"From what I've read of The Caretaker he sounds like Q's great Grandfather" commented Riker with a wry smile on his face.
"Maybe so Number One, but the fact was that Voyager WAS lost and this Caretaker being died."
"You emphasised was lost. Is that no longer the case?" Questioned Beverly.
"No. According to an old friend of ours, Captain Scott, Voyager has somehow made her way home."
The crew all gasped in amazement. La Forge was the first one to raise a question.
"But Captain, according to the last contact with Voyager, she was a little under fifty five thousand light years away?"
"At this point we don't know the managed it. They could have found another Caretaker, maybe Q helped, although I doubt it, maybe they invented a new warp drive. What we do know is that no Star Fleet crew made it back to the Alpha Quadrant with Voyager. The crew currently comprises of twenty two people who originally belonged to the Maquis ship Voyager was chasing in the Badlands, one Delta Quadrant being and a human female who has spent most of her life as a Borg drone. They claim to have no memories of how they got home or what happened to the rest of the crew"
"So Voyager somehow gets back to the Alpha Quadrant and the only crew around are Terrorists, an alien and a Borg? Somehow I don't think so." said Vincent.
"I concur," answered Number one, "This memory loss thing is way too convenient as well."
"It appears that Starfleet agrees with you Number One. That's why they are sending us to investigate. We are on route to their position now. Once secured, we will escort Voyager to Deep Space Nine where debriefing will begin."
"An interesting location, considering that Deep Space Nine is where their journey began." commented Data.
Data was currently fascinated by coincidences. He was in the process of formulating a mathematical equation, which he called Seldon's law, to predict when and where a coincidence would occur. Picard had asked him to explain about it once. It had seemed a good idea at the time but about an hour later Picard had finally terminated the explanation complaining of a headache.
"Indeed," Picard continued, "Once we arrive at Deep Space Nine we get to have a look at Voyager and see how she has faired over the years while checking for answers to the many questions Voyager's return raises. Geordi, I want you and Mr Mudd to check out Engineering, Number One you and Commander Data take care of the main Computer while Doctor Crusher will attempt to get the EMH program back online. According to Captain Scott the Doctor's program has been corrupted. If you can somehow re-activate him he may be able to answer some of our questions. Counsellor, you will accompany me while I have a chat with acting Captain Chakotay."
"What about the rest of the crew?" asked Troi.
"Under no circumstances," replied the Captain strongly, "I repeat, under no circumstances are any of the Voyager crew allowed to leave their quarters until we reach Deep Space Nine. There they will be handed over to a special de-briefing team under the command of Ambassador Worf."
A few eyebrows were raised around the table, including Data's.
"Quite," replied Picard who could already feel a future headache approaching. "Everybody review Voyagers files and inform your department heads. Make it so."
As the senior staff stood up, Troi stayed sat in her seat. She overheard Riker and Geordie chatting about Reg's last transmission as they left. Reg Barkley, ex-member of the Enterprise crew, friend and sometimes patient of Troi had managed to resume communication with Voyager several times after the initial surprising contact had been broken. As Voyager's adventures were so popular with Starfleet personnel, everyone looked forward to what they called, 'Reg's Transmissions,' for the latest news on Voyager and her crew. The last one, about a month ago, had been quite bleak. Janeway was worried about the crew's moral. It seemed that the long journey and hostile areas they were travelling through was finally taking its toll. Janeway expressed her hopes that they could locate a friendly planet soon so that the crew could indulge in some much needed R&R.
Picard had known Troi long enough to sense something was bothering her.
"What is it Counsellor?"
"Sir, even if I couldn't telepathically sense emotions I would have been concerned at the atmosphere during the briefing."
"It was, let's say, decidedly tense."
"The Voyager situation is unique and fellow Starfleet officers are involved. Does it surprise you that there was a tense atmosphere?"
"I can understand that Captain but after all these years working together I was surprised at how judgmental it seemed, as if everyone had already laid the blame for whatever has happened on Voyager."
"This is not a Cardassian court of law Counsellor." Picard said sternly,
"The Voyager crew are innocent until proven guilty and will be treated accordingly. "
"But we don't even know what happened, yet..."
"And we won't know what happened until we can get there and start investigating."
Picard took a deep breath, his tone softened.
"Deanna, I can understand your concerns and they are duly noted. The investigation will be carried out in a professional, unbiased manner and I'm sure we will soon have an answer to this mystery."
With that Picard returned to his notes, the meeting apparently over. As Troi left the briefing room her concern remained despite the Captain's words. Would the Officers involved remain totally impartial and professional during this investigation or would the ghosts of the past influence their actions? The involvement of Starfleet officers in Maquis terrorist activities just prior to the war with the Dominion had shook Starfleet to its very core, much more then they would care to admit. In particular Troi was concerned about Picard. When he talked to Chakotay would he see a man who Captain Janeway trusted so much she made him her second in command? Or would he be too reminded of a young officer who once betrayed his trust and betrayed the Federation to the Maquis? Would he see Chakotay or would he see Ensign Ro Laren?