Sadly, I don't own Star Trek in any way. However, I can play with the plots and new ideas here.

Please let me know what you think.


Map of the Vaadwaur.

Captain Kathryn Janeway looked into the tall Vaadwaur's eyes as he stared at her through the view screen after he had beamed down into the underground bunker his people to help them. Voyager was maintaining a transporter lock on him, but he had transported something to them. A small box made from plastic which contained a small number of neatly lined computer chips. Also contained inside was a neatly bound folder of papers.

Gedrin had told them the chips and the scrolls of paper contained star charts, records of the Vaadwaur's scientific exploration of the Underspace corridors and their nature, but Janeway wasn't sure. She was unsure if what she was being told was genuine or not; okay, while she was sure half of the Vaadwaur's story about how they'd discovered, mapped and made use of the Underspace, a vast network of subspace corridors connecting the quadrants together and maybe even further beyond the Milky Way galaxy was true, she could not ignore the fact they - Seven - had foolishly revived the survivors of a terrible holocaust, but it was down to their own bloodthirsty nature.

"This is a map of the Underspace?" She looked down at the computer chips Gedrin had handed to her. They reminded of that trip to 20th century Los Angeles during that mess with Braxton and Starling, and how Starling had made use of the 29th-century computer technology in order to develop Earth's history with computers.

"Yes, Captain," Gedrin replied in his calm manner which had made him seem more approachable than some of the more militant Vaadwaur, although she knew he was as fanatical as they were.

"But your colleagues, they said that they had committed all of the corridor routes and junctions to memory?" However, as the words came out of her mind Janeway mentally smiled her theory was correct. The Vaadwaur must have some kind of written records, maps either located planetside on their homeworld in either paper format or on comparatively primitive computer systems which allowed the Vaadwaur to keep their records and their knowledge of the subspace corridors without it falling into the hands of their enemies, otherwise, how could they have memorised the routes?

Gedrin smiled (she had to wonder if he was being patronisingly smug; after what she had seen of the Vaadwaur so far, Janeway had come to see them as smug and patronising even though they were eight-nine hundred years out of their comfort zone), "We do. However, we keep these records securely on our world, or rather we did," he added in a melancholic way before he stared at Janeway resolutely. "I hope it helps you get home…"

XXX

"Repairs are nearly finished; however we definitely need to find new resources. We're running out of spare parts," B'Elanna reported at the next staff meeting following the successful escape from the Vaadwaur and the Turei. Voyager had taken very limited damage on this occasion but fortunately given how the Turei and the Vaadwaur had focused on one another, the ship had mostly been left alone although the Vaadwaur had caused some damage, even though their space technology was comparatively primitive.

Janeway nodded sympathetically. "I know," she replied, knowing that once more great strain had been dumped onto the Engineering team. "Hopefully we won't need to worry about any of that for much longer." She turned to Seven. "Seven, have you had any luck finding out the Underspace corridors are genuine?"

Seven nodded, the light reflecting on the implant covering her eyebrow.

"Yes, Captain," the former Borg drone replied in her precise manner. "When we were in the Underspace originally, Astrometrics gathered a lot of information from the point in space we had been pulled into the corridor, to the point near the Vaadwaur homeworld. One of the corridor star charts indicated a class-M planet four light-years from the Vaadwaur homeworld; we passed that planet two hours ago. However, I believe we need to conduct more tests to make sure the charts are accurate."

"Like probes and shuttles flying through the Underspace?" Tom Paris asked.

"I believe discretion would be the better part of valour," Tuvok interrupted. "We do not know just how far the Vaadwaur have now travelled into the network of subspace corridors and considering they were trying to capture Voyager we must ensure they do not have another opportunity to capture any of our technology. The Turei is also a factor."

"I know it's not perfect, Tuvok, but-," Tom went in for the argument, but Chakotay, surprisingly, forestalled him.

"No, Tom, he's right. Now we know some of the Vaadwaur managed to escape, they will be trying to rebuild and they will certainly be addressing the gap in their technology," Chakotay said. "They're going to be desperate now, and desperate people rely on desperate means to get what they want."

Paris thought about what the first officer said before he nodded. "You're right there, but how are we going to travel through them if Gedrin lied to us? The network is like a maze; every time I piloted the ship through them, I came across four more passageways."

"But we have the chance to get back to the Alpha Quadrant," Harry argued interrupting Paris who had raised a good point, looking around emphatically until it bordered on desperation. "Surely we can find our own way through the Underspace if the charts are inaccurate."

Janeway sighed. Sometimes Harry's drive to get home caused him to make too many mistakes, and ignore big issues. She wanted to get home just like everyone else, and personally she didn't really see any problem with going through the Underspace with or without those charts even if they would certainly help them plot a reliable course. But at the same time, she didn't want to spend years and years travelling through the Underspace going one way only to discover they made a wrong turn.

Besides, with the hornets' nest they had just stirred around and around until they tore it open, unleashing a potential threat on the galaxy, they needed to return to the Alpha Quadrant soon. The Underspace gave them the means of travelling through space much more quickly than conventional warp drive, a nature collection of transwarp or Quantum Slipstream corridors. Janeway knew, ironically, she was mentally thinking the same thing as the Vaadwaur did about the Underspace, but given how things were in the Alpha Quadrant, Starfleet needed all the advantages it could get.

"We are going to test the accuracy of the Vaadwaur charts, Ensign," she decided before she turned to Seven. "Seven, are there any solar systems within the next….five light-years?" She asked, pulling the figure out of her head quickly.

Everyone around the table knew the former Borg drone well enough to know she would know. The Astrometrics Lab was basically Seven's domain, and she spent a lot of her time there, so she would know precisely what the answer would be.

"There are four, with a relatively short distance between them," Seven replied.

Janeway nodded. She then leaned forwards and outlined her plan. "We're going to drop a probe into one of the Underspace entrances in one of the solar systems, and we're going to send it to the most distant system, and pick it up. The probe will be programmed with a copy of the Underspace charts, and if its accurate and we pick it up, then we will know Gedrin was safe."

Chakotay nodded thoughtfully. "At the same time, we can plot a course to take us out of this region of space, and head for the Alpha Quadrant."

"That's the idea."

"Why would Gedrin give us the map in the first place?" B'Elanna asked. "We did essentially make it clear we weren't going to let the Vaadwaur reconquer the Delta Quadrant."

"Maybe he had a change of heart," Chakotay commented, although they knew he wasn't sure either.

"Gedrin could have seen his people's ambitions were unrealistic," Seven threw in her own opinion, but everyone could hear the guilt in her voice; Seven had been the one who had revived them in the first place. Everyone in the room knew the former Borg drone had been trying to perform a good deed, but unfortunately, she had gone about it the wrong way. They only hoped she had learnt from her mistake so it would never happen again.

"You mean because their civilisation was virtually destroyed?" Tom asked.

"Precisely. In any case, there are not that many of them left on their homeworld. Granted it's likely there are other colonies around the Delta Quadrant, all of whom went into suspended animation, but it will take them a long time to regain their former power."

"It doesn't matter," Janeway commented, but at the same time, she tried to mentally estimate how long it would be before the Vaadwaur became a credible threat. Technology-wise, their technology and their science were vastly inferior. They had limited subspace technology, no warp technology and no knowledge of warp physics. Their ships were 900 years old, they were ion propelled in normal space. Their particle weapons made them dangerous, no doubt about that, but they were not shielded.

But it was the Vaadwaur knowledge of the Underspace which made them dangerous. It wouldn't take them long to swarm through the Delta Quadrant, and they would be able to conduct rapid hit and run raids, and while it would surprise many of the peoples out there, Janeway knew it wouldn't take long for the Vaadwaur to be repelled. Races like the Vidiians, the Kazon (she honestly hoped the Vaadwaur didn't make some stupid mistake which would give the greedy, savage Kazon sects access to Underspace; after the last mess they'd gotten into thanks to Seska and Cullah, Janeway didn't want to hear or see from the Kazon ever again, but she knew with access to the Underspace they would swarm around like a band of ancient pirates), and perhaps the Nyrians, the Hirogen, and the Devore would have no problems with fighting off the Vaadwaur.

There was no way the Voth would allow the Vaadwaur to become a threat, but she wondered if the two races had met, hundreds of years ago. If they had then the Voth would likely have effortlessly overpowered the Vaadwaur as they had with Voyager.

And then there was the Borg.

Janeway had learnt from the Vaadwaur the Borg had been only a small group 900 years ago with only a few systems under their single-minded control. Not anymore. The golden years where the Vaadwaur were likely left alone by the Borg were long gone, as soon as the Vaadwaur moved the Borg would soon learn of their presence, and they would begin a rampage to assimilate them. Again, the Vaadwaur had the advantage of the Underspace, but it wouldn't last forever. The Vaadwaur simply knew nothing about the Collective in the 24th century, and at the moment there were few of them, however, she had learnt those against immeasurable odds became more dangerous.

But truthfully she doubted it would take long to find something, some new piece of technology far more advanced than anything they had, but it would still take time.

"Seven," she said, thinking through her plans. "Try to find the right chart of the Underspace for near the Vaadwaur star-system. We need to do this accurately."

An insulted look crossed the former Borg drone's otherwise icy features, but she nodded regardless. "Yes, Captain," she said.

XXX

Sitting in her command chair, Janeway felt tense as she awaited the arrival of the probe. For the last week, Seven and much of the stellar cartography team had been going over the Vaadwaur star charts. They had determined the copy was more than safe for them to use, there were no booby traps included in the files; considering how the Vaadwaur had claimed they had no copies of their charts and instead memorised the routes of the Underspace corridors for security reasons, she had suspected there were computer viruses and other nasty traps encoded in the files.

Her fears were confirmed when their computers quickly discovered the existence of computer viruses which were dangerous to more primitive computers, but for Voyager's computer with its myriad defences, the viruses were rendered harmless. Still, she had ordered them to work with B'Elanna and Seven to make sure they were not a major threat. Janeway had learnt many lessons in her time as Captain of Voyager, and one of them was not to take things for granted.

When the charts were examined, stellar cartography had been delighted. When she had learnt the Vaadwaur had spent centuries painstakingly mapping the corridors while it took Voyager's Borg-enhanced sensors only a few minutes to map out a small chunk of the Underspace, she had considered the charts to be fairly basic.

They weren't.

The Vaadwaur had taken the mapping process incredibly seriously. According to the files attached to the charts, which included the history of the corridors from their discovery and early mapping missions, the Vaadwaur had sent a small fleet into the network, laying down radio transmitters at the entrances, and using them to keep in contact with equally primitive radio-controlled probes. At the same time, many ships would journey slowly through the corridors, charting and photographing the routes before committing the course to a draft copy before flying through it at speed to make sure it was accurate.

For hundreds of years, the Vaadwaur had slowly explored the Underspace, mapping out sectors of normal space as they did with the same painstaking attention to detail. In many ways, their methods matched the means and methods of 21st-century space exploration from Earth. And they had gone a long way out, as far out as several light-years beyond the Ocampan homeworld, and even in areas deep in the Gamma Quadrant. There were a few charts showing where the corridors extended into the Alpha Quadrant, but there weren't many; clearly the Vaadwaur had been concentrating on expanding their empire in the Delta Quadrant, and their exploration missions were put on permanent hold when they had been attacked by their enemies.

Janeway shook herself out of her thoughts when Chakotay spoke next to her. "Thinking about the Vaadwaur?" He asked. Some people might be tempted to claim he was telepathic, and while there were aspects of Kathryn Janeway he couldn't stand, like her sometimes rigid adherence to a set of rules he genuinely believed didn't hold water out here in a part of the galaxy where Starfleet had little to no influence in, he had come to know her very well.

Working out that her mind was on the Vaadwaur wasn't difficult. His mind was on them as well. Questions were swirling in and out of his mind and had been ever since Seven had made the stupid and badly thought through decision to wake them up. When had they discovered the Underspace? How had they done it? How many years had they been exploring the network? And, when had they begun building an empire using the corridors to take them as far as Talax, and even beyond?

She smiled at him. "Hard not to."

"Something tells me this will work," Chakotay smiled at her.

It was hard for him not to be positive, but since he knew these corridors - it was startling a natural phenomenon like this had been under their very noses all this time, but he had been in space long enough to know a lot of things were possible - could extend everywhere, there was a chance they could stop this journey once and for all, not only cutting off years of their journey but getting them home.

Janeway studied him closely. "Your very positive," she commented.

Chakotay tilted his head. "Perhaps, but even if the charts prove to be misleading, we know how to enter and exit the corridors, and I know you well enough to know you're going to use them regardless now you're invested in them. But something tells me Gedrin's genuine."

"Why?"

Chakotay didn't even need to think through his reply. "He seemed really sincere about helping us; granted, he could have just been that way because he knew what his people were planning was futile, but why would he give us that copy?"

Janeway opened her mouth to respond when a console chirped.

"Captain, we are getting a signal from the nearby Underspace entrance," Harry's voice was bubbling with excitement at this latest opportunity to return to the Alpha Quadrant; Janeway wondered if she should have a quick chat with Ensign Kim about keeping calm under these circumstances; she was all for returning to the Alpha Quadrant, but they had been disappointed before. This could easily be another of those moments. She hoped it wasn't going to be one, of course, but it was still possible.

Janeway shifted in her chair. "Put it on the screen."

The image on the screen changed, and the sight of nothing but empty space filled the image. For a moment Janeway wondered if the sensors were malfunctioning or Harry had misread the information provided to him, but then she saw the probe just appear. One minute there was just empty space, the next the probe just appeared out of nowhere.

Janeway had seen many unusual phenomena in her time as a Starfleet officer; she had seen two wormholes since entering the Delta Quadrant, and she had seen ships pass the warp barrier in a flash many times. But it was rare to witness a phenomenon like a subspace corridor which left an invisible effect in normal space. As she witnessed that, Janeway had to admit she could understand why the Vaadwaur had been seen as the greatest threat of their time; it must have been terrifying for alien races from here, all the way to Talax, perhaps even beyond, to be watching space only for the Vaadwaur ships to appear out of nowhere, their beam weapons slicing and burning down the opposition.

When she had been at Starfleet Academy, Janeway had heard of the Iconians who had existed and maintained a galactic empire through the use of their Gateways, sophisticated transporters which could transport people from one solar system to another, light years apart, without the use of starships. The use of the Gateways had given the Iconians the nickname of 'Demons of Air and Darkness' because of their property of the transporters to send people to planets where they would appear out of nowhere.

Okay, she admitted to herself Jean-Luc's discovery of the Gateway on Iconia itself and his belief the Iconians had actually been peaceful rather than warlike, as many had believed had changed the ideas of many when it came to the Iconians. The Vaadwaur were very similar to the Iconians, but rather than being a super-advanced culture who had discovered a means of teleportation over large distances, they had instead discovered a network of subspace corridors which did the same job as the Gateways. And while there was still a lot of debate towards the Iconians and what they had actually used the Gateways for, Janeway could see the nickname of Demons of Air and Darkness seemed to apply to the Vaadwaur, as did the name 'foolish' which the ancient Talaxians had referred to them as.

"Well, it certainly seems the tunnels are compatible, but still bring the probe back on board; download its sensor readings to the computer in the Astrometrics Lab, so Seven can take a look at its telemetry," She shook her head suddenly. "Unbelievable."

Chakotay turned his head questioningly towards her. "What do you mean?"

"Three hundred years, Starfleet has explored space. Scientists from Zefram Cochrane and Henry Archer, along with scientists from dozens of worlds in the Federation, to develop faster ways of going deeper into space. The Soliton Wave. The Transwarp experiments in the 23rd century. The time when the Traveller accidentally took the Enterprise out of this galaxy, to the furthest reaches of the universe itself. The Warp 10 flight we tried which broke the maximum warp barrier. The Quantum Slipstream flights… and yet all this time we had this maze of subspace corridors under our noses," Janeway shook her head while Chakotay shrugged.

Like her, he was just as surprised by the existence of the Underspace, especially since it offered a means of getting them all back to the Alpha Quadrant. Perhaps it would take them home, but Chakotay saw the whole thing philosophically. There was so much about the universe they still didn't know or understand yet.

It seemed it had offered up one latest secret.

"Don't discount the slipstream flight, Kathryn," Chakotay's voice was quiet, "just because the flight failed, and there was that temporal message from a future version of Harry, hinting an alternate timeline where the crew died," he paused for a moment as he tried to imagine the timeline he and Harry had lived in, but knew nothing of, "doesn't mean it won't succeed if there are scientists and engineers with infinite resources, instead of what a single ship has available."

That was the complicated thing with time travel. It did give you a headache, but Chakotay and the others had worked out that in an alternate timeline Harry had likely sent off the wrong phase corrections for maintaining the slipstream corridor. Voyager had been thrown out of the slipstream at terrific velocity, and it had likely crashed somewhere while a version of the Delta Flyer which had been travelling ahead of the ship, relaying the phase corrections back to Voyager so they could remain travelling in a stable slipstream corridor, piloted by a version of Chakotay and Harry, had both travelled into the Alpha Quadrant. It hadn't been difficult to figure out; there were too many clues, and Harry had been in the process of preparing phase calculations before the one was sent to Seven, which she used to collapse the slipstream. In the alternate timeline, that hadn't happened.

Chakotay and Harry were forced to travel to Earth.

Only for them to return and try to change history.

Chakotay shook his head; he had never considered himself the type of man who would change history since as a Starfleet graduate, he was more than aware of the dangers of changing the timeline, but he guessed in that timeline he had decided there wasn't anything left to lose, "The point is we've discovered a great deal about propulsion technology in our time here; who knows if twenty years from now, ships will be propelled by slipstream drive, designed much like Arturis' ship?"

Janeway held back the simultaneous shudder and feeling of guilt she still felt at what had happened to Arturis and the rest of his people. "I think that will be best; the ship's hull geometry is more aerodynamic and solid compared to Voyager. But back to the Underspace, what do you think?"

Chakotay was surprised by the question, but he knew the captain well enough to get the underlying gist of her point. "I guess it makes sense, if you view the universe as a planet, the corridors would be the equivalent of caves. The only thing that worries me is how far the Vaadwaur's knowledge extends and whether we'll encounter them on the way."

Janeway grimaced as she thought of the Vaadwaur. "I can understand Seven's desire to wake them up, I just wish she hadn't done it-."

"Mind if I make an observation?" Chakotay interrupted, startling her but he was getting sick and tired of everyone scolding Seven for things that had gone wrong when they were the ones who should have helped her a little bit better. "We dragged her away from the Borg Collective. We removed her Borg technology, and we began to teach her how to be an individual, but we didn't take the time to sit her down and teach her more about individuality. As a result, everything she has picked up has been little scraps of knowledge. When we get back to Earth, she's going to have a helluva hard time getting to grips with everyone, especially since there will be many who will hate her because she's partly Borg now."

Janeway was taken by surprise by Chakotay's argument. "You didn't seem to care about any of this before?"

Chakotay turned his head, she knew it was because he was deep in thought. "When we first brought her on board, I was reeling from the mess with Riley and the Cooperative. But over the last few years, I've worked through my lack of trust in her. It took me a while to get used to her… but when I did, I was amazed by how much she had learnt, and yet I was horrified by how little she had learnt. Haven't you noticed how she learns something and yet some time later she seems to have forgotten it? She clearly has problems with understanding individuality despite learning a great deal."

Janeway didn't like what she was hearing. But what made it worse was the fact Chakotay had a point. Separating Seven from the Collective had been a dangerous, risky business. But it hadn't been deliberate; at the time Seven had been another drone, and they had just fired off the high-yield warhead to stop Species 8472 from launching a genocidal campaign in the galaxy after the Borg had broken through the inter-dimensional barriers and attacked them, only for the aliens to lash out in ways the Borg had never anticipated.

When Seven had been separated she had been in the process of interfacing with the ship, preparing to assimilate the crew following the termination of the brief alliance between the Voyager crew and the Collective. Chakotay and B'Elanna had worked together to overload the console Seven had interfaced with, Chakotay had linked himself with Seven's mind while B'Elanna had worked. Janeway knew Chakotay hadn't liked interfacing with her mind since it brought back memories of the Cooperative; she always wondered if that was the reason for his distrust in Seven, but she had decided not to pry or interfere. It would be better for the pair of them to work it through themselves.

Chakotay's point was no-one had truly tried to sit Seven down and help her through the transition although she found that hard to credit since she had spent time with Seven, the problem was it was like the former drone didn't want to learn, so she always dug her heels in despite evidence to the contrary since Seven did learn.

"Captain, the probe is finished transmitting its telemetry," Tom reported, glancing at his sensor screen.

"Astrometrics is processing the readings," Harry added.

"Good," Janeway's voice rose a little bit so she could address the bridge officers before she tapped her combadge. "Janeway to Seven of Nine."

"Seven of Nine here."

"Seven," Janeway began, mentally deciding to speak to her, sit her down later and see how much they would need to go to make her into an individual, but there was no time for that now, "how long will it take to examine the probes' telemetry."

"An hour. I will need to crosscheck the Vaadwaur starcharts with the probes' information," Seven's reply was precise; Janeway knew she took a great deal of pride in her work, and that was one of the reasons why she allowed the former drone leeway, but in this case, she had no intention of interfering with Seven's work.

In the past, she would have opted to take the quick and easy route, but not right now; it would take time for them to truly plot a way back to Earth through the subspace corridors, and they needed to make plans.

"Understood; there's going to be a staff meeting in…. Two hours," she decided, "bring your information then."

"Yes, Captain."

Janeway broke the connection and turned to Chakotay. "I want you to arrange the staff meeting in two hours," she told him. "I want the best possible plan for entering and navigating the Underspace; I want to have a tactical plan in case we run into the Turei or the Vaadwaur again. I also want plans for our food supplies and other raw materials and our engine status. I'll be in my ready room," she stood up.

Chakotay nodded. "Aye, Captain."

Janeway smiled and she walked to the Ready Room door. As she took her place at the desk, she tapped into her computer and entering her access code and she began to read the general status reports. However, she wasn't reading them at all. Her mind was on the hope they were finally going to return home.

XXX

Two hours later Janeway stepped into the briefing room, smiling when she saw the command team and she took her place. "Alright, Seven," she began when they were all seated barring Seven of course. "What have you got?"

Seven was standing by the wall screen, and she tapped into the console. Instantly the screen showed a large chunk of the subspace corridors with a curved line depicting the probes' route, however, Janeway was more interested in what was beyond.

"The probes course indicates Gedrin's map was accurate," the former Borg began, "however, I recommend we proceed with caution; it is still possible, and perhaps likely, the Vaadwaur lied when he sent the map to us."

"Why do you believe that?" Harry's voice was plaintive and annoying.

Seven raised her metallic brow. "Some of the charts, on close examination, appear to be degraded, possibly through age. However, I am not sure. Personally, I believe the Vaadwaur maps were designed that way, in order to mislead anyone who found a copy."

"Why haven't you said anything before?" B'Elanna's voice was bristling with annoyance.

Seven turned to the Klingon engineer. "I have only just discovered it. I was looking through the collection of charts, and I noted some of the routes appeared to have been deliberately cut out. While many of the routes are sound, such as the one the probe used, some of the other routes cannot be used by us."

For Janeway, the news felt as if a cold, Tritanium claw was wrapping itself tightly around her throat, but she wondered how this had happened and she wondered if Gedrin even knew about it.

She pushed that aside when Seven began speaking again.

"However, there appears to be a safe route from here," Seven tapped in the console and a new map of the corridors appeared, "to here. According to the map and the navigational data, that point is 33,000 light-years from our current position. It's also the furthest point of the Vaadwaur's knowledge, although there are indications they travelled slightly beyond into the Alpha Quadrant, however they didn't travel too far.'

"How do you know that?" Tom asked.

"The maps Gedrin provided also contained a number of navigational logs and other recordings from the various Vaadwaur captains who travelled through the Underspace network, Lieutenant," Seven explained. "While they were expanding their empire throughout the Delta Quadrant, many of them were interested in exploration, and they went beyond their races' knowledge. Those captains brought backlogs showing course corrections, and they included them in the charts. However, not many of them travelled to the other side of the galaxy, but those that did note the instances in Vaadwaur records, but they didn't record them in the charts although there are a few routes, but not many to plot a long course back to Earth."

Janeway shook her head with a sigh. "So, we're going to have to rely on ourselves to find a way home," she commented to herself although everyone could tell they were going to do this regardless of the hazards ahead. "Seven," she looked up, "I want you to do what you can with the Vaadwaur charts, see if there's any way we can get close to the Alpha Quadrant."

"I am afraid that might be more difficult than you would expect, Captain," Seven replied. "I have gone through the logs sent by Gedrin carefully, and all the log entries detailing the entry into other parts of the galaxy are there. Unfortunately, while being able to access the logs, the Vaadwaur guarded their knowledge of them very carefully. I cannot find any route which would be able to take us back to the Alpha Quadrant."

"I thought Gedrin had given them to us," B'Elanna spat, her face screwed up angrily until her cranial ridges were highlighted in her anger.

"I believe he had too, Lieutenant. Don't forget the Vaadwaur did claim they hadn't kept written records of the Underspace for security reasons because they simply did not want their enemies to access it and give them the same power they had. However, I believe it is a lot more basic than that in this case; I believe the Vaadwaur did not add the routes that would lead to other regions of the galaxy because they were researching them from their home planet, or 'keeping them under wraps,' as it were, or in case there was discontent among the Vaadwaur themselves. As a military dictatorship, the Vaadwaur wouldn't want to release knowledge of Underspace corridor routes that could lead to remote corners of the galaxy, far from the influence of their people," Seven said.

Chakotay had to admit the idea of the leadership behind the Vaadwaur wouldn't want any of their people who didn't conform with their ideas to leave their sight made more sense than the fact they hadn't simply had the time to add the routes to the main maps. Even in Starfleet Cartography, every ship and outpost contained in their databases charts of places they hadn't visited, such as stars found in the Delta and Gamma Quadrants, and even further out, such as in places scanned over the years of other galaxies.

For a dictatorship, it would be logical and understandable there would be people who didn't agree or even like how the rest of the Vaadwaur were expanding their empire through the Delta Quadrant. And those same people would likely be kept under tight control. They wouldn't be allowed anywhere near shipyards, places where they could rally support, or even gather knowledge of Underspace they could make use on.

Chakotay shuddered at the thought of being like a Vaadwaur living in a society with a Gestapo-Esque secret police, watching every move that he took, noting down where he went, who he spoke to, and even what he ate for lunch. "It doesn't matter what Gedrin knew or didn't know," he pointed out quietly and he looked around the table, "are we going to use the corridors regardless?"

On cue, everyone turned to the captain, wondering what was going through her mind.

Janeway was quiet for a moment as she thought through their options. She knew it was a risk using the corridors without a complete starchart which showed every route, but since they had just made a successful test as opposed to the way they had first stumbled across the phenomenon in the first place, Janeway felt the whole thing was safe, barring encounters with the Turei, and with the debris littering the corridors.

"Seven," Janeway spoke at last, "what would happen if we were to enter the corridors and use the charts but only as far as their knowledge goes and by sending probes to gather data, but we would also be finding our own routes by entering the corridors and travelling as far as we can before leaving them again, and taking bearings on where we are relative to the Alpha Quadrant?"

"I believe so, Captain. However, we should use caution if using that method," Seven replied, "there is the chance we might take a corridor that will lead us back to a planet we have already visited."

"Noted," Janeway nodded, although everyone in the room could see the thought had occurred to her and it was haunting her.

However, everyone in the room wasn't surprised by the question posed to Seven now the former Borg drone had told them there were some aspects of the Vaadwaur charts which were not complete, although truthfully no-body was surprised by the question; now she had seen the potential and the test, Janeway would decide to use the corridors, even if there were doubts of the accuracy of the maps. In any case, even without the charts, Janeway would use the knowledge they'd just been given on how to enter and how to leave the corridors safely instead of their warp field being snagged, which had led to their discovery in the first place to direct a course through the network of Underspace corridors once they entered the network and left again.

"We do not know how extensive Turei territory is, Captain," Tuvok interrupted, "and we may encounter additional Vaadwaur ships in the network."

The thought of encountering both races again made Janeway visibly worry, but she covered it up with all of her Starfleet training. She waved a hand. "That's a risk we will need to take," Janeway decided. "Seven, I want you to begin preparations for the journey into the corridors; I want you to use Gedrin's charts since we've found they are accurate to within the Delta Quadrant, but at the same time I want you to take bearings when we leave them to be on the safe side. I want you to work until your next regeneration cycle and give the results to the helm"

Chakotay looked at the captain sharply. He could tell although she was willing to give the charts the benefit of the doubt, at the same time she was openly showing her distrust for the Vaadwaur. At the same time, he thought just relying on the charts when Seven had made it clear they were incomplete and it was hinted their makers had deliberately written in mistakes to throw anyone who stumbled across the maps was a bad idea even though they would save them the job of charting them themselves. Personally, he felt they should ditch the maps and just go in there, and discover a route on their own. They could navigate the corridors, and their mapping technology was far superior.

But what Janeway had in mind was to use the Vaadwaur charts - he could see the point since they would mean they wouldn't need to go through all the trouble of going through the routes and taking bearings and seeing where they were in relation to stars they'd passed along the way - was too risky since there was a chance one corridor could lead them into grave danger.

Why couldn't she see that?

It was like that disastrous trip through the Quantum Slipstream Drive all over again.

They had taken the chance with the technology, and while it had gotten them closer to home, no denying that, it had still been dangerous. Now it looked like Janeway was going to be making the same mistake again. Talk about consistency.

Janeway kept giving out her orders. "Tom, as soon as Seven has plotted a course, I want you to take us in first thing in the morning. B'Elanna, I want you to adjust the sensors to give us more accurate readings of the Underspace so we know where we're going."

"Aye, Captain," B'Elanna said obediently, although everyone in the room who knew her would know she had ideas of doing that anyway.

"Tuvok," Janeway turned to the Vulcan Head of Security. "I want your sensors to be attuned as well, and keep weapons charged and ready to be on the safe side in case we bump into either the Turei or the Vaadwaur again."

Chakotay could see the Vulcans' stoic face become even more guarded and he sighed in sympathy with the Vulcan. It was obvious as soon as Janeway had made her plans known, Tuvok had planned on being vigilant anyway, and was frustrated with his captain's need to order the obvious. In the meantime, Chakotay had a moment to think through his own thoughts.

While he considered the idea of relying on the Vaadwaur charts to be tricky, he could not work out why Janeway would use them in the first place. Yes, he knew she was determined to get them all home, but there were so many hazards. What if the charts Gedrin had supplied were both accurate and yet became forgeries later? It would make sense for the Vaadwaur, assuming his ideas of a secret police patrolling a dictatorship, to control their people by supplying them with basic knowledge of their empire, but would withhold knowledge of what lay beyond just in case.

"I want this entire crew to be ready for the journey. See to it," Janeway ordered just as Chakotay made up his mind to speak to her.

He didn't get his chance until the others had filed out, leaving them alone.

Janeway regarded him with impatience. "Well, what is it, Chakotay? What have I not considered this time?"

"I am concerned about the charts," Chakotay said calmly, knowing this woman was prone to irrational outbursts at the drop of a combadge. "I think we shouldn't rely on them."

"We're not. We are going to be using them to guide our way, but we are going to leave the corridors periodically to take bearings. I don't understand your problem with that."

"You should because during the briefing I got the impression the Vaadwaur were paranoid about their own people rebelling against them; we've seen how Gedrin rebelled against Gaul when they planned to seize Voyager. What if it was a major worry back in their time, and they knew such rebels would make use of the Underspace? What if the Vaadwaur leadership deliberately made their maps of the network available, knowing they were only partially accurate?" Chakotay argued, hoping that by keeping his voice under control Janeway wouldn't say something she would have problems regretting.

"You're saying we shouldn't rely on the charts at all? But they will save us time! Time we can put to use getting home!"

Ah, there it was, the familiar argument. Chakotay had lost count of the number of times he had argued with her to take it slow. He believed they should regularly take shore leave on uninhabited planets which were free of hostile lifeforms so the crew could breathe unrecycled air and feel the sun on their skin, not keep them imprisoned on a ship of metal and plastic composites for years and years.

Janeway was obsessed with getting them home, and she had endangered them more than once by taking shortcuts through hostile territories, and they had even made an alliance with the Borg Collective.

All to get them home.

It was only a miracle they had gotten as far as they had, never taking the time to properly repair the battered engines, and picking their battles carefully. Instead, they blundered from one mess to another, and here they were again.

But right now he knew he would need to be cautious - Janeway had a nasty habit of dismissing his warnings more out of spite because they didn't go hand in hand with her decisions - and be careful. "That's right. We've got the knowledge of how to enter and how to leave the Underspace. Let's just use that, and make our own way home."

"It could take too long-!"

"Perhaps, but at the same time, we can send probes ahead and take our time. It's better than going down a route which turns out to be inaccurate, and discovering we have been travelling in corridors, not on the charts," Chakotay argued his case, unwilling to back down while he hoped some of what he was saying was getting through to Janeway, but at the same time he knew she wasn't planning on relying solely on the charts but his problem was convincing her not to even try in the first place. "Along the way, we can send our findings to Starfleet; they can find signs of the Underspace from where they are, in the Alpha Quadrant, and send it through to us so we have a clear route. Isn't that better than just relying on maps Gedrin sent which might not be one hundred percent later on?"

Janeway was still as the words "Starfleet," and the "Alpha Quadrant" was mentioned, and it opened up possibilities in her mind. Truth be told she had hoped the Vaadwaur or the Turei even could give them some basic information on how to get in and out of the Underspace, and they could make their own way to the Alpha Quadrant without being trapped out here forever.

But when Gedrin had sent those charts, she had come close to believing there was a supreme entity smiling down benevolently on them. Except the illusion was shattered of course by the news the necessary information to get to the Alpha Quadrant was not there.

In truth, Janeway had no real desire to rely on the maps, but it would be a good idea to be sure regardless.

And yet what Chakotay had just said about Starfleet probing the Alpha Quadrant sounded like a good idea, and if it worked then they could rendezvous with Starfleet ships and be guided home by people they could trust.

Janeway closed her eyes and nodded. She tapped her combadge. "Janeway to Seven of Nine."

"Yes, Captain?"

"Seven, don't bother with Gedrin's charts. I've changed my mind. We're going to go into them and make our own way through them," she said, looking into Chakotay's dark eyes, hoping he was right about this.

They were about to travel into a territory they knew nothing about, that was true, but it was also something they had come to accept in the Delta Quadrant. In any case, she liked the idea of exploring it without Vaadwaur treachery potentially hovering over them like the sword of Damocles.