A/N: We're just getting going here. Thank you to those reading this. This is a Voyager story, but it has some elements from Enterprise. There is enough exposition here to explain what may not be apparent to those who never watched Enterprise. For my premise here, I am following the novel relaunch idea that Trip Tucker did not in fact die the way we were led to believe, but in actuality five years earlier than the official record faked his death and joined Section 31. The life alluded to at the end of the novel, Last Full Measure, is what T'Lassa is referring to. PMing with questions is fine, if I am not clear or I am inferring more than I explain.
May 28, 2386
He was already in their quarters, having eaten with Miral and later having sent her to bed. B'Elanna saw the cover on the plate that was set in front of her place at the table. "I'm sorry I missed dinner," she said wearily in greeting.
"It's still warm," he called, as he placed the rest of the dishes in the recycler. "Miral ate first. I just finished before you got home," he added as she lifted the metal dome, steam escaping as she did so.
"It smells wonderful," she said, dropping into her chair rather than just sitting. "What did Miral eat?"
"Chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs and cold carrot sticks," he said.
"You shouldn't always make her something special. She's almost 8 years old," she mildly scolded. "She should be eating what we are eating. Everything will be harder once the baby is here," she admonished him.
"She hates cooked vegetables," he explained, as if that was justification. "I think it's just a phase. Hey, you never get home this late. What happened?" he asked, dismissing her concerns.
When she looked up at him, he saw the exhaustion on her face, the dark rings etched under her eyes and in between the ridges on her forehead. "I'm sorry. I came home to have dinner on the table and I'm complaining." She smiled weakly, touched his cheek with her hand as he leaned over her shoulder. "It's very thoughtful, thank you."
When she picked up her fork, he turned, standing behind her and rubbing her shoulders. The muscles underneath his hands were wound taught, hard as a rock as he attempted to knead the flesh. "What happened?" he repeated.
She moaned softly as he continued, feeling the tension starting to ease under his ministrations. "I can't bend over, and I can't inspect low lying systems without getting stuck underneath them. My back hurts, my hips hurt, my ankles are swollen, and I'm exhausted," she complained. She set down her fork, turned her face up to him and asked, "How did I do this before? I don't remember feeling this bad before. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that it's a boy this time."
"You're eight years older than you were then. With a child to take care of. And a less active lifestyle then you had then," he reminded her.
"If by less active you mean not fighting Borg or Hirogen every day, I guess I have to admit you're right," she countered.
"We didn't realize it while we were living it, but there was a constant underlying stress in our lives when we were on Voyager. Once it was gone, and we could sleep soundly and not worry every minute about dying, we sort of...slowed down." He had rationalized this explanation to her before.
"I still miss it sometimes," she said wistfully.
"Fearing for your life from the Borg every day?" he teased, still squeezing the muscles on her neck and shoulders.
"Not that part, you know that. But….I miss the closeness we had. The feeling of family. The team here is great, and they work better together than any group I've ever been in. But it isn't the same," she fretted.
"I know. You know I miss it too. I miss Harry," he commiserated. "I even miss Chakotay...now that says a lot," he laughed. Always adding on the joke, to mask his vulnerability. "I wasn't in command before. There's a distance there that took a long time to finesse. Janeway walked that line like no one else I've ever known. Most days I don't know how she did it," he added, with a slight shake of his head.
She ate quietly, pausing only as he moved his hands down her spine, slowly kneading the knots in her lower back. She winced slightly, but then relaxed as the pain eased as he continued. He cleared her dishes away, then guided her to the sofa, where he slid in next to her. She put her feet up on the coffee table, sighing as the ache in her feet began to subside. "I could get used to this," she smiled as he draped his arm across her shoulders. She leaned down against his chest.
He startled when she spoke again, having calmed in the peaceful stillness of just being together. "I just wish there wasn't going to be eight years between them."
He felt relieved that in this position she couldn't see his face, knowing his eyes would have betrayed him after hearing her thoughts. Forcing the levity into his voice again he answered, "It took us 6 weeks to get pregnant with Miral. Who knew it would take 4 years for you to get pregnant again?"
"We've always beaten the odds before." The underlying bitterness in her voice would have been missed by anyone but him. He couldn't dwell on thoughts like that for very long, knowing the descending darkness had too much power to consume them both.
"B'Elanna…." he started, but couldn't finish. She felt his grip tighten around her.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I shouldn't have brought it up," she added quickly.
He chose his next words carefully, trying to put the issue to rest. "Not talking to me, or feeling like you couldn't talk to me caused a lot of damage before. I told you this before, and I meant it. You can always talk to me. Especially if something's bothering you."
"It's just...hormones or whatever. Emotional volatility. I've been feeling sort of….homesick for Voyager today….after talking about it this morning, and the Admiral and the Doctor coming and…" She sighed, hoping he understood as she ran out of words.
"Ssh," he whispered against her hair. She reached up and touched the hand he had on her arm. "You're just exhausted. You need to just relax and unwind."
"Unwind…." she muttered distractedly. She sat up quickly, leaning back to look at him. "I almost forgot to tell you. Something strange happened right before I went off duty. Lt. D'jak sent you the report. I'm sure it'll be waiting for you tomorrow morning. But the telemetry from NX - 347 was supposed to be charted earlier this afternoon. The data didn't make any sense."
"It was the final test flight. There hadn't been any problems with the drive at all. What could it have been?" he asked, sitting forward as the cushions fought to pull him in deeper.
"From what Lt. Hochai explained, there was some kind of subspace interference that kept disrupting the warp field. He said he thought there was some kind of….subspace debris…." She shrugged, repeating the words but still not sure what he had meant.
"What the hell is subspace debris?" he asked, more to himself than asking her for the answer. "Like those astral eddies we found in the Delta Quadrant?"
"Now that you say that, I realize that I was thinking of something like that...but no, he said he was reading something with a phase variance….like the ship was overlapping with something," she explained, her tired voice pepping as she started talking about technical information.
She watched Tom's brow crease in confusion. "What could cause something like that?" he asked.
"I don't know. And right now, I'm too tired to even think. Just read the report when you're back on duty. I'm sure we can figure it out tomorrow." She leaned back in against him. "Let's just go to bed," she whispered.
"No arguments from me there," he said.
She was asleep almost as her head hit the pillow. He tried, but found sleep eluding him, as his mind kept turning over the flight issue she had brought up before bed. He searched his brain, and his memory, for an explanation of what she had described. None of it made sense. And what made even less sense was the heavy sense of dread that had settled on him like a fog. Like a piece of a half-remembered dream, or a warning spoken in a riddle. His mind seemed tied in knots, and when he woke in the morning, he realized he had only slept for about two hours.
It was a call from Ops that officially woke him.
May 29, 2386
"Lt. Baytard to Commander Paris," Tom heard as he slowly phased to consciousness. He looked over at B'Elanna, who rolled away slightly as he sat up. He swung his legs over the side of the bed, turning away so his voice didn't disturb her.
"Go ahead, Pablo," he said sotto voce. He stood and started walking away, moving to grab his uniform as he did so.
"Sir, you need to come to Ops right away." The tight briskness, and the lack of accompanying details, started to concern Tom as he moved.
"On my way," he responded, already halfway dressed, dressing as quickly as only a Starfleet officer could.
"What's that about?" he heard B'Elanna call groggily.
"I don't know, but it isn't anything good." He was pulling his arms through his sleeves. "I'm sure I'll be calling you once Miral is off to school," he said quickly, pecking her cheek as she lay. He saw the chronometer's soft green numerals reading 0630.
When he walked into Ops, he saw Aaron and Pablo hunched over the main computer. "Report," he called lightly.
"When I started the last diagnostic cycle before the end of shift, I found this," Pablo said quickly. From behind Pablo's shoulder, Tom could see both the upper and lower pylon proximity detectors had been activated.
"Any indication of what caused it?" Tom asked.
"There was nothing on sensors for 400,000 kilometers. I ran a level 10 diagnostic, twice, on the proximity detectors, and everything checked out. I cleared the alerts….and they reappeared 10 minutes ago." Pablo tapped the panel and changed the viewscreen.
"Based on these energy readings," Aaron said as he pointed to another display, "it looks like the wake from a ship traveling at low warp. But there's no plasma discharge. If I didn't know better, I'd say whatever this is, it's coming from subspace."
"Commander," Tom said quickly, gesturing to Aaron as he did so. "Lt. D'jak filed some kind of report last night when B'Elanna came off duty about the failed test flight. She told me I could read it in the morning."
"Pablo?" Aaron asked. Lt. Baytard, the only other former Voyager crewmate who served with Tom on the station, had gamma shift charge duty. Before his duty shift began, he would have read Ralana's report.
"Lt. Hochai's test flight of the NX-347 failed. Once he was a safe distance away from the station, he initiated the drive, but he couldn't create a stable warp field. He moved away at impulse, an additional million kilometers, and he went safely to sustained flight at warp 3. But upon returning to the same coordinates, the warp field collapsed and overloaded the magnetic constrictors in the core. There was minor damage to the outer hull of the ship. Ralana and I examined the data logs before she went off duty. There is some type of phase variance in subspace that seems to be interfering with the warp field, but only at those coordinates. We scanned on every frequency, but couldn't find anything there."
Tom nodded curtly at Pablo's report. "Could something in subspace be setting off the proximity alarms?" he asked.
"I don't see how," Aaron said distractedly, his thoughts racing as his speech slowed.
"Can you-" Tom's voice cut out as another alarm went off overhead. He felt the deck shaking beneath his feet, something he had gotten used to when he lived on a starship, but something that was horribly wrong on a starbase. "What the hell?"
"Commander!" the ensign at the science station called, her voice raised in alarm. "There's some type of metallic fragment 50,000 kilometers from pylon 12. It appeared out of nowhere, and wasn't detected with our sensors. It's destabilized the grav plating on the east side of the station."
"Can you get a tractor beam on it? Stop it from colliding with the shields?" Aaron called.
"Stand by," Pablo said. After a brief pause, there was a short jolt, then the decking stilled. "Tractor Beam successfully attached."
"Can you transport it to a shuttle bay?" Tom asked.
"It's large, but I believe so, with a wide dispersal beam." Pablo's hands worked over the controls multiple times. "I can't get a lock. Definitely too much subspace interference."
"Can you just use the tractor beam to bring it inside?" Aaron asked.
Pablo nodded. "Guiding it into Shuttle Bay 3."
"Can you get any kind of reading?" Tom asked as he walked to the science station.
"It's some kind of metallic alloy," she said softly.
"Computer, " Tom called. "Can you scan and analyze the alloy composition of the debris in Shuttle Bay 3?"
"Affirmative." After a 25 second pause, "Scans complete."
"What is the alloy composition?" Tom asked.
"Tetra bernium alloy and neutronium composite."
"Neutronium?" Tom asked, turning to Aaron and Pablo, who shared his bewildered look.
"Has this alloy been encountered in Federation space before?" Tom asked.
God, how he hated pulling teeth from the computer. "Instances?"
"That information is classified."
Aaron was in front of Tom now, his brow creased in concern. "Computer, override security clearance authorization Paris Delta 346," Tom clipped testily.
"This classification requires Level 10 security clearance," the computer blipped.
"What?" Aaron asked in shock.
"What the hell is going on?" Tom snapped, suddenly irritated. "Computer, when was the last time this alloy was encountered?"
He heard Aaron mutter under his breath, "That shouldn't be classified."
"In old Earth year 2153."
"2153?" Aaron repeated.
"That was before they used Star Dating. There wasn't a Federation then. Earth only had one ship outside its solar system during that time. Enterprise NX-01."
"Pablo is always talking about your extensive history knowledge. How did you know that?" Aaron asked.
"Archer's ship. First of the Warp 5s. That ship is in the Smithsonian," Tom said flatly.
"They barely had functioning sensors back then. How did they come across something like this? And why is it classified?" Aaron asked, as much to himself as to Tom.
"Twenty-one fifty three was the Xindi mission, sir," the ensign at the science station called. She blushed as all three men stopped and stared. "I took three semesters of pre-Federation history at the Academy, Sirs," she added with a slight grin.
"Bravo, Ensign. You're the first person I've met who could put Commander Paris in his historical place," Pablo kidded.
"That explains the classification," Tom added. The fact that Jonathan Archer had set out alone from Earth on the Enterprise NX-01 after the Xindi had attacked and killed seven million people, averting the complete annihilation of Earth, was textbook information that was taught in elementary school. Specifics of the mission, however, had been classified at the request of Vulcan High Command, which had held significant clout back then.
He would have to contact Starfleet Headquarters to get any further. Once B'Elanna was on duty, he would go inspect the material with her to see if they could make any headway. She was, by far, the smartest and best engineer he knew. There was literally almost no problem that had ever been presented to her that she hadn't been able to solve in some way or fashion.
"Thank you, gentlemen. Hold those thoughts. I'll be in my office," Tom said.
"Coffee's on your desk, sir," Ensign Palmetto called.
"First historical trivia, now coffee? Someone's looking for a promotion," he teased. His reward was her smirk.
"I know you said neutronium, but I didn't believe it, really, until now," B'Elanna said slowly, awestruck at the readings she was analyzing. She was deeply focused on her scans and the computer screen, her voice waning as she thought while speaking.
'You calling me a liar?' he asked, smirking.
"Of course not," she said, looking up from her scans. "But it's nearly impossible. I thought you must have interpreted the scans wrong. None of you are engineers, you know," she quipped.
"Impossible, and yet, here it is," he said, gazing upward at the massive slab of metal filling the shuttle bay to capacity.
"You said this alloy was in the Federation database? From 2153?" she asked, lifting one eyebrow.
"Yes. And yes. However, all the rest of the information was classified beyond my security clearance. It looked like the Vulcan High Command, but when I went digging it was flagged by Temporal Investigations," he explained.
The intensity on B'Elanna's face transfixed him, as he waited for her commentary. "They were theorizing, mind you, only theorizing about its existence in the 23rd century. But apparently the Federation already knew it existed 200 years ago."
"There was no Federation then," he said matter of factly.
"Then how did Starfleet get the data?" she asked.
"Starfleet existed, not as we know it now, but it did. Just not the Federation," he corrected.
"Well, regardless of who knew about it 200 years ago, this piece of debris is over 1000 years old," she said slowly, as if she couldn't believe what she was seeing.
Tom shook his head slowly, mystified by the information. "It just gets weirder and weirder. Do you have any theories about what it is?"
"Unknown. However, from the geometric extrapolation, it seems like it was a piece of a spherical object. The size of a very small moon. Or more accurately, like an artificial moon or satellite," she offered.
"Who the hell was building moons out of neutronium 1000 years ago? Who could have had the power to do something like that?" he asked, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand.
She looked up at him, her eyes creased at the corners with worry. "What should concern you isn't who could do that. It's who could destroy it. Look at the edges. It was obviously blown apart."
Tom met her eyes, understanding the magnitude of what she had found. She knew what he was thinking, when he tapped his combadge. "Paris to Michaels."
There was a longer than normal pause, then someone else's voice instead. "Commander Paris, this is Dr. T'Lassa. Lieutenant Commander Michaels is in Sick Bay but he's incapacitated at the moment."
Alarmed, Tom asked quickly, "Is he injured?"
"No, sir. He's inside the imaging chamber. The energy matrix disrupts communications," she intoned flatly.
Half of Tom's lips curled into a toothless smile. "When he's done, have him, and you as well, report to the briefing room. We have a mystery on our hands."
"I know there's very little to go on, but that's what we have at the moment. Starfleet Command assures me they have sent someone from Temporal Investigations to assess the situation, given the classified nature of all of this," Tom assured.
His senior staff, spaced out evenly at the table, were all in the process of perusing the data he had been allowed to share with them.
"Are there any questions?" he asked.
"Are we prioritizing this? I mean, being short one shuttle bay is hampering the next phase in the design from Holo Model 4," Aaron contributed.
"I know," Tom conceded. "But there isn't anywhere else to store this thing. And until Starfleet tells me what to do with it, it's our baby-sitting project. I'm sorry."
"Also, please make sure you notify your teams that Shuttle Bay Two is off limits unless they have been given direct orders from Commander Paris or myself," B'Elanna added.
The murmurs of "Yes, sir" or "Yes, Commander" filled the space, and they quickly stood to clear out the room. Dr. T'Lassa was the last to stand, as she appeared to be focused more intently on the details of the report.
"Commander," she asked as she finally stood. "A word, in private, if I may." B'Elanna had already left the room; Aaron was close to the doorway.
When Tom moved closer to speak with her, he watched as she seemed to swoon on her feet, as if she had stood too quickly. Her hand shot out rapidly, grasping the side of the table for support. Out of instinct, Tom grabbed her elbow to keep her from falling. "Are you all right, Doctor?" Over T'Lassa's shoulder, Tom could see Aaron stop, turn, the concern on his face evident. He had even taken a hesitant step toward her.
She gently extricated her arm from Tom's hand, "Yes, Commander, I am quite alright. I believe I am fatigued. T'Mira was up most of the night. Nothing serious," she added.
"I'm sorry," Tom quickly apologized, gesturing towards her elbow, realizing he had touched her inadvertently, which was taboo with Vulcans.
"No apologies are necessary, Commander. Thank you for your assistance," she said.
"Are you sure you're alright?" Aaron asked, gazing at her face, that seemed flushed to him.
"Yes, A-Commander," she recovered quickly, Tom noticed, from calling him by his given name in front of his commanding officer. Vulcan or not, Tom did not miss the way T'Lassa's blue eyes, so rare among the Vulcan race, lit like fire as she met Aaron's eyes.
"If you'll excuse me," Aaron said hurriedly, making his way out of the room. Whether it was to avoid his embarrassment, or to just let them have their private discussion, Tom wasn't sure.
T"Lassa was the only Vulcan female Tom had ever gotten to know very well, but from what he had seen, she was unique. She wore her pitch black hair very long, always pulled back into an elaborately clipped ponytail. Her delicate elfin ears with her chosen hairstyle balanced out her high cheekbones and softly bowed lips. The green undertones in her complexion were subtle, even subdued compared to others he had met. She was thin and petite, but always walked with such an air of elegance that she always seemed taller, so that when she finally was standing beside Tom, who was over a foot taller than she, it startled him slightly. Most striking about her were her eyes, the palest icy blue that contrasted with the darkness of the rest of her features, adding to her overall exotic look.
"What is it, Doctor?" Tom asked.
She clasped her hands behind her back, taking in a sharp breath of air. "I believe I may be able to provide you with some background information on the debris you have encountered."
Intrigued, Tom crossed his arms in front of him. "Really?"
"Yes, Commander," she said flatly, always the Vulcan to answer rhetorical questions. "It is what you would call a long story."
"I'll bet it is. The only answer I could get was pushback about the classified nature of the situation," he explained.
"The information I have is not Starfleet related, Sir. It's personal." She watched him tilt his head, confused. She continued, "Sir, as you may or may not know, I was primarily raised by my foremother."
The crease in his brow keyed her to elaborate. "My grandmother." She paused again. "Ambassador T'Mir." She said it so plainly, as if it should have made all the difference to his understanding. Long story indeed.
"Ambassador T'Mir's mother was Ambassador T'Pol, formerly the first officer on the Enterprise NX-01 for 10 years under Captain Jonathan Archer," she told him.
"Really?" he asked, flabbergasted. "Your great-grandmother was the first Vulcan in Starfleet? How did I not know that?" He smiled, knowing she understood his fascination with history.
T"Lassa continued as if he hadn't spoken. "It is of no consequence to my service under you or in Starfleet. Ambassador T'Pol died right after the Khitomer Accords were signed, two years before my birth. But her daughter, who raised me, spoke often of her mother. And had kept and read all of her mother's personal logs, from when she started serving at the Vulcan Consulate on Earth until she left Starfleet in 2166 when she became pregnant with my grandmother. The information I speak of was contained in those logs."
"How could she have written about classified information? That's a court martial offense," Tom reminded her.
"The incident was not classified at the time she made the logs. She was still considered part of the Vulcan High Command, though she had resigned in 2153. Once the government on Vulcan changed hands in 2154, Minister T'Pau had her officially reinstated. Temporal Investigations classified the material on the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Federation Charter in 2186. Her official logs were redacted, but because she had been retired from Starfleet for 20 years, Starfleet Intelligence overlooked her personal logs, which she took back to Vulcan with her," T'Lassa expounded.
"So it was an oversight. I don't know if you should be sharing this with me, Doctor. Even if it could help," he said sternly.
"It may not be the most prudent act of my career in Starfleet, but it is of great import. And I believe there is no one alive in Starfleet who completely understands what the classification means, and why the existence of this object in your shuttle bay is so important. It was 200 years ago, and even the Vulcan who lived then have all since perished," she countered, her voice hardening ever so slightly.
He felt a nagging sense of dread start to creep into his mind, reminiscent of the half-dreams that had kept him awake last night. "What is it? Why is it so important?"
"I will attempt to 'make a long story short,' Commander," she said softly, that half-smile just gently turning up the corners of her mouth. "The debris you found is a piece of the spheres that a race of interdimensional beings we know only as The Guardians built to distort our galaxy into something habitable to them. There was a network of 85 spheres in what used to be called the Delphic Expanse. One of the conditions of cooperation with all three benevolent species of Xindi was to eradicate the spheres from this galaxy. T'Pol did so with the help of her h-her chief engineer, while Archer destroyed the planet killer the Xindi had designed."
Tom let what she had said sink in. He remembered more of the 22nd century history as she spoke, about the historic mission Archer had undertaken to protect Earth from the Xindi. The information about who T'Lassa had referred to as The Guardians had been extremely limited, his only recollection being in general statements. Archer's tactics, turning a presumed enemy into an ally, by finding the true adversary who would pit them against each other for their own gain, were diplomacy 101 at the Academy. But The Guardians, as they had been called by the Xindi, had been briefly alluded to, nothing more. He had never heard of the spheres to which she was referring. The omission from the official record both intrigued and worried him. And the fact that Temporal Investigations was involved only served to worry him more. They had free reign when it came to the story that history ended up telling.
"If they were all destroyed, then how is this here, 200 years later?" he asked.
"That is why I chose to tell you, sir. I do not know. But I know that Starfleet believed when T'Pol and Commander Tucker destroyed the spheres, that the Guardians were no longer a threat to this galaxy. If the spheres somehow still exist, then the Guardians may yet find another access point to this galaxy. If they do, I believe they will attempt to destroy it for their benefit again," she stressed.
Somberly, he nodded. "I appreciate your telling me, Doctor. I'm hoping whoever Starfleet sends is just as concerned."
"Let us hope so, Commander," she said, as she turned to leave.
From behind her, Tom called, "Isn't hope an emotion?"
She turned back quickly, her eyes sparkling. "I have learned that it is more a state or mind than an emotion. It served me well as such, Sir."
Walking briskly to keep up with her, Tom called, "I like the way you think, Doctor."
"Indeed," she said softly.