Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim to own these characters, places, or events. Nor do I wish to make any sort of monetary profit from the work below. Reviews are sufficient. And enthusiastically welcomed.
Author's Note: Based on the season 5 episode "Course: Oblivion" (the sequel to season 4's "Demon"), this fic stemmed from a desire for a different ending. I couldn't help wondering how B'Elanna would react to the knowledge that her duplicate married Tom.
Come What May
Captain Kathryn Janeway stared at the images on the main viewscreen, trying to make sense of the slowly, but steadily, blurring shapes that constituted the remains of a ship they'd detected only hours before. The scientist in her recognized Tuvok and Harry's tag-team report composed of multi-syllabic compounds forming the fast-fading silvery debris; but she, as Kathryn Janeway, couldn't fathom how a wrecked ship could simply vanish.
Because that was exactly what she was witnessing.
It was just…melting. Stringing into nothingness across the ebony backdrop of space.
"Mr. Kim…?" Her words were barely more than a slur of sound, lethargic with shock and not a little disbelief.
"No sign of survivors, Captain. It's just…melting."
"I believe the proper term would be demolecularizing, Ensign. Something does not simply 'melt' in a vacuum."
Tuvok's voice was its usual, slightly stilted cadence, but Janeway caught the touch of amazement coloring his voice. Strangely, it made her feel better that even her unflappable Vulcan chief of security found this occurrence too astonishing to conceal.
Janeway blinked, but it was a dull, half-hearted movement, her only physical acknowledgement of her officers' exchange. A long moment passed, in which the bridge crew remained utterly silent, either shocked speechless or, for the more empathetic, grieved with the scale of such loss.
Finally, Janeway found her voice and turned toward Chakotay. Regardless the circumstances, she was the captain—a Starfleet captain, no less—and there were regulations to follow. She opened her mouth to utter the first of many such rules. "Note in ship's log—"
"Wait—Captain, I think I found something." It was Harry, and he sounded—excited? Hope fluttered in her breast, even as she tried to contain it.
"What is it, Mr. Kim?"
"I'm not certain, but it looks like the remains of a subspace beacon. I'm picking up fragments of sensor logs, star charts…and what may be personal logs, but I can't be sure."
"It's sustained heavy damage, but I think we could get a transporter lock on it, once the debris has…cleared away. It's producing some sort of high-frequency interference as it is; that's probably why I can't get clear readings on what survived the wreckage."
Janeway nodded. "As soon as that debris has cleared, I want that beacon brought aboard immediately. Have it beamed directly to science lab one. Tell Seven it's top priority—I want to know just how much of that information is salvageable." She rose. "That way we can put these people to rest in our logs with some dignity."
As she entered the private of her ready room, hope surged unhindered through Janeway's veins, hope that maybe the crew of the mystery ship hadn't died after all. Maybe they'd managed to preserve some of their memories and experiences, enough to keep themselves alive in the minds and hearts of those who discovered the remnants of their beacon.
Their time capsule.