February 15, 2387
Tom was slightly out of breath, panting, as he approached Sick Bay. Standing in the corridor, he had never felt so split in half…both wanting to see his wife, and terrified to see her at the same time. They were in the midst of a crisis, with almost insurmountable problems to be solved. He didn't have the luxury of time to deal with the emotional, personal aspects of his life. He had compartmentalized all of that, left it behind when he'd agreed to captain the vessel on which they all now stood.
No matter, nothing could move forward until he dealt with all of this. He needed answers. The Doctor wouldn't have followed them out here with her unless it was absolutely necessary. He took a deep breath and stepped close enough to the door that it swooshed open.
"Report," Tom said, wishing he had the strength in his voice that he had heard so many times from Captain Janeway while they had served together on Voyager. He heard the hushed anxiety in his tone, admonishing himself for his blatant weakness. At least he was in the company of those who most understood him.
Dr. Conlin was there, almost immediately, essentially blocking any potential forward progress into the area. "Captain," Conlin said, a tight smile on his face. "Are–"
Tom knew what he was about to ask, all of the questions surrounding Aaron and T'Lassa, the versions of them he had brought in tow. "One thing at a time, Doc," Tom told him. "But to answer your question, yes, they are. I promise we will explain everything."
Conlin nodded gently, patting Tom on the shoulder, a supportive gesture that Tom appreciated. He stepped aside.
His view into the room was no longer obstructed. In front of him, seated on the biobed, was B'Elanna, oddly younger in his perspective, so fresh from seeing her gray and haggard. Although, he thought with a heavy sigh, she looked just as careworn. The holographic Doctor stood beside her. Tom could see his lips moving, but could no longer hear anything, not the beeping of the instruments or the susurrus of conversations. All he heard was the pounding of his own heart and his blood rushing behind his eardrums.
She had been looking at The Doctor, but she turned, sensing he was there. Relief and joy flashed across her face as she regarded him, but her expression changed while he watched. Her eyes clouded, the smile twisted, her skin paled from the initial flush. "Tom," she said, half sigh and half cry of anguish.
He ignored everything and everyone else and rushed to her, pulling her into his arms, lifting her slightly from her seated position with his gusto. "Oh, thank god," he murmured against her ear.
He felt her grip on him slowly weaken, then later feeling her entire body shaking against him as her body was wracked with silent tears. In return, he strengthened his hold on her, wrapping his arms more tightly around her back. Everything was coming apart, but this could not wait, could not be denied, for any purpose.
He felt people moving behind him, silently, and then they were alone in the alcove. Through several panes of glass he could see Echenna over B'Elanna's shoulder. She nodded with encouragement, even with the sadness in her eyes that he could see at this distance.
"My…babies…" Tom heard the gurgling, choked words, forced out in between her sobs.
"I know," he whispered, using all his might to keep from disintegrating into a helpless heap. His eyes misted, but he forced them closed, forbidding the tears from falling. "I'm so sorry."
She reeled back, her eyes wild. "Nothing that happened was your fault. You have to know that," she swore. He looked away, his cheeks red with shame. "You did everything you could and you saved so many lives."
"They both…died in my arms," he choked, his voice breaking. She pulled him to her, her grip on him stronger than ever.
Time stood still for a moment, as they wept together, a long delayed mutual grieving.
When he finally found his voice again, it was much stronger. "This was done to us…and we have to undo it. They were both supposed to live. The same beings who tampered with your memory couldn't let T'Lassa or our son survive."
"What?" she asked, fully aware that he would explain everything, but her mind was still reeling.
He gave her a crooked smile, touching her chin and running his thumb across her wet cheek. "Apparently he marries Aaron and T'Lassa's daughter and his great-grandson is destined to save the Federation."
Her eyes stayed wide, her mouth hanging slightly open, speechless.
"I know, right?" he said, his voice light. "Wait until I tell The Doctor."
In the conference room, all the seats around the table were full. Tom took a sip of water to coat his throat, dry from the amount of speaking he'd just done to get everyone up to speed. He had explained about the mission Janeway had initially sent him on and what they had discovered inside the anomaly. Then, he had explained about his adult daughter finding him from another reality, with the help of a Temporal Agent from the future, the mission she had undertaken, and his travels across realities and through time to reunite everyone here, everything they had discovered about the future and why the Sphere Builders so desperately wanted to change it, in the hopes of being able to reverse what had been done once and for all.
The weight of it all had settled, the faces of everyone somber and thoughtful as they realized all that still needed to be done.
"Are you still in contact with the Sphere Builder in the pod?" Tom asked her. She seemed completely in control and unstraining, which made him wonder.
"She is…present," T'Lassa answered cryptically. "She knows the power of her mind and she is doing her best to not…incapacitate me."
"We're both keeping an eye on her, just in case," Dr. Conlin offered, nodding toward the holographic Doctor.
"Speaking of which, now's the time to fill me in," Tom said, gesturing for the Doctor to continue.
"Thank you, M-Captain," The Doctor started, faltering over Tom's title. "I apologize. My programming became quite accustomed to calling you beneath your current station."
"No worries, Doc," Tom quipped. "It surprised the hell out of everyone, I know."
The Doctor began again. "Following your hypothesis and the data I had concerning the tachyon radiation, I continued to study Commander Torres' condition. The more I examined, the more I found a pattern, that is, the radiation exposure seemed to be deliberate, almost as if applied to certain areas that would impede the brain's ability to retrieve memories. Compensating for the radiation, when I reran a scan of Commander Torres' memory engrams, they were identical to the last scan she had before the accident. Her memory was completely intact. The radiation merely blocked her brain from drawing from any of those memories.
"Once I realized this, I contacted Admiral Janeway. She recommended contacting Tuvok, knowing he had a history of melding with B'Elanna in the past. His exposure to her brain functions was unique. He isn't a Vulcan healer by any stretch of the imagination, even his own, but once he knew what had happened…he came almost immediately. As soon as he could get clearance from Starfleet Intelligence to depart," The Doctor finished.
Turning to Tom, he added, "The Admiral and Captain Tuvok are en route to us as we speak. We went ahead because, well…"
"I wouldn't let them wait," B'Elanna interjected. "The minute I could communicate coherently, I contacted the ship. I talked to Harry. He said you had gone missing, that you gave him a strange explanation and they had been searching for you ever since."
Tom smiled, the warmth in his eyes directed at the Doctor. "Thank you, for not giving up, even when everyone else…maybe even me…did."
The Doctor smiled in return. "For the record, you didn't, Captain. I know that…and so does she." He finished by stretching an open palm towards Tom's wife.
Tom cleared his throat and continued. "So, if her memories were deliberately tampered with, the next question to ask is by whom…and I believe from what we know, it was the Sphere Builders. B'Elanna's memory, my memory, several other random crew from both Starbase 47 and the ship. They also killed Aaron, and T'Lassa by default. Now…we know about our son, and T'Lassa and her daughter. What we don't know is why the tampering was necessary."
"Tuvok had been assisting Admiral Janeway all along, combing over all the information we pulled from the station before it was decommissioned. We're expecting the full report when they arrive," Harry added. "They know more, but from what I've been able to gather, they were covering their tracks. Something happened in the reactor room…something significant enough that they thought they needed to shut off B'Elanna's access to all her memories."
"But you don't remember anything, even now, do you?" Tom asked her.
B'Elanna shook her head. "I blacked out right after the bay door resealed. That's the last thing I remember. Until I woke up in the Infirmary almost nine days later."
"Do you still have your memories of that time?" Tom asked gently, not wanting to get her upset again.
"I do. I remember it like a long, complicated nightmare…but I do. You know, like when you're trying to run away from something in a dream but you can't get your legs to move. I see your face, remember every interaction but in the background is just me…screaming…and no one can hear me," B'Elanna explained.
She paused, swallowed hard, looking down at the table top as she continued. "When you came to say goodbye," she almost whispered. "It was like I was using every last bit of strength I had left to get through to you. My emotions took over…and then I didn't have any control after that."
His face burned almost scarlet and he shifted his own gaze away, uncomfortable with so much emotion in front of so many others.
She had been just B'Elanna, remembering him, holding him, touching him…loving him. Everything had been done to her to make her forget…but she could not forget how much she loved him. It had broken through. Miraculous.
Sensing the emotional tension, T'Lassa offered her opinion. "The Sphere Builder who communicated to me. She spoke of this. The strength of what we…feel…is foreign to them. I'm sure they never believed they could destroy almost all that you were…and not your love for your husband."
He reached across the table beside him, grasping her hand fiercely, then releasing it, his only way to acknowledge that emotion in this setting.
"The Admiral's ETA is two more hours, Captain," Harry told them.
"That's enough time to equip the Owen Paris and retrieve the pod," Tom explained. Heads nodded around the table. "Let's get it done."
February 16, 2387
The door to the shuttle bay closed behind the forcefield and the tractor released the pod onto the deck. It was substantial. It clunked, metal against metal, creaking as the temperature changed from the frigid blast of space to the ambient air inside the ship. All of those things, but it appeared as…nothing. Cloaked, clear, like the ripple from a heat wave in the desert. The cloak was still engaged, beyond any technology they understood.
Once the pod settled, the Owen Paris docked right after and her pilot, Harry Kim, disembarked.
"Any idea how to get inside?" Harry asked Tom.
As if in answer to his rhetorical question, a loud clunk followed by a hiss filled the air. A crease of…something…appeared in the clear nothingness, revealing the dark interior of the pod. Slowly, the hatch lifted until the backside of the hatch, all its electronics and attachments visible. Inside, a being lay prone. Though the being appeared genderless from where they stood, T'Lassa had already confirmed the being was female, and Tom thought of her in those terms.
Her skin was white and her head was hairless. She wore a simple gray garment. Thousands of monitoring tubules protruded from all her exposed skin. Everything surrounding her inside the pod glowed with colored lights. As she had told T'Lassa, she was disintegrating. Much like the description Tom had read in Archer's declassified logs, exposure to this realm, for extended periods, eroded the nature of the molecular bonds in her body. That same white skin was cracked, like the surface of the ground in a barren, arid desert.
She appeared unconscious. Just the same, T'Lassa swooned against Aaron and he had to catch her around her waist to hold her upright. She brushed it off, sure everyone understood the nature of her struggle and not wanting to dwell on it. "Her name…is Miara," she told them.
"Let's get her to Sick Bay," Tom said. He tapped his combadge. "Transporter Room, do you have a lock?"
"Negative, sir," he heard over the pin on his chest. "There is far too much interference. Nothing to lock on to…just a hazy scramble."
"Archer didn't use the transporters the way that we do," Tom grumbled, almost to himself. "Dr. Conlin," he called, tapping the badge again. "Send a medical team to Shuttle Bay Six to retrieve our guest. You'd better accompany them."
"Aye, aye, sir," Conlin said.
"She's…dying," T'Lassa said quietly. "We don't have a lot of time left."
"T'Lassa was pregnant when she was killed. Her daughter and my brother were supposed to get married. Their great-grandson, using Aaron's preliminary prototype, was one of the designers for the metaphasic shields that the Enterprise-J used to stay within the anomaly long enough to defeat the Sphere Builders at the Battle of Procyon V," Miral reported.
"Good work, Miral," Daniels praised her. "That would have taken us years to figure out…something so minor, historically speaking."
"Why can they see it…and the Federation can't?" Miral asked.
Daniels shook his head. "Their technology differs from ours."
"Any chance their technology came from the Krenim?" Miral asked, her eyes narrowing as she waited, sensing the importance of what she was saying.
"The Krenim Imperium?" Daniels asked, his eyes widening, in obvious shock. "How do you know about them?" he demanded.
"The Sphere Builder…the political prisoner that my father found in his timeline before I pulled him into this one. She was telepathic. She could communicate with T'Lassa," Miral told him.
"The Tuterians aren't telepaths," Daniels told her, squinting as he seemed to be concentrating on something.
"I was prepared for you to not have told me everything. I get it. Timelines to preserve, all of that. But if you know who they are…why didn't you tell me?" she asked.
Too many questions at once. Daniels chose the easier one. "No one in the 24th or 25th century knows the name of their race. Not until 2567. Knowing their identity puts you at risk for them to come after you."
"And they may not be telepathic..but…that can be a genetic mutation, can't it? There have been some human telepaths, right? It's rare, but not unheard of," Miral argued. Daniels nodded along. "If they were going to banish someone, why not a powerful telepath? Especially one who could influence others, pull them towards her cause?" She took a deep breath. "She told T'Lassa it started with the shields. And ends with the Krenim." She continued to stare at him. "Why does that frighten you? When I say Krenim? Who are they, exactly?"
He looked at her, pondering, debating internally what he should tell her. In the end, she needed to know, and by this point, she was already aware of not only her impending demise, but the impending reversal of all of the timeline. "A race from the Delta Quadrant, compatriots and contemporaries of the Tuterians. Captain Janeway had some…interactions with them on her travels."
"My father said their Ocampan passenger, Kes, warned them away, and that they never interacted," Miral explained.
"That's…not necessarily true," Daniels explained. "Kes was most certainly moving backward in time. The holographic Doctor devised a method of de-aging using anti-chroniton particles. The Federation…took note of that discovery…but needed to allow the timeline to change, in order for that technology to be lost to time. Our enemies in the future would exploit it perhaps to the point where we could lose the ability to travel in time. The future Kes lived through, backwards, never happened because she warned Janeway."
"That's what my father said," Miral confirmed, still confused.
"What your father wouldn't know, Miral… Voyager still interacted with the Krenim. In a timeline that was erased…a timeline where both of your parents were killed before they were even married," Daniels explained.
She thought quietly as she regarded him. "And my father needed to survive…to father my brother," she said slowly, dawning an understanding of a magnitude almost mind-boggling. "Just like if Voyager had been lost for 23 years. My brother would never have been born, when that timeline happens, right?"
"Before we…allowed an older Admiral Janeway to change the timeline, you're right, your parents had only you. You were 16 years old when Voyager returned. You weren't planned, though they wanted you very much. They made sure they only had you…because they were on the starship, lost in the Delta Quadrant," Daniels elaborated.
She let that knowledge seep inside her head. She wondered about the 29th century…how all consuming and complex a task people like Daniels were tasked with, preserving timelines where a thousand points of divergence could have cataclysmic consequences.
"What about the Krenim? The erased timeline?" she asked.
"The Krenim…created the most powerful time travel technology known to ever have existed. A man named Annorax, a low level bureaucrat, devised it all…in his spare time, doing thought experiments. But this was during a time before they had complex weaponry…nuclear or antimatter warheads or the like. But war still exists…it exists as long as they are beings who disagree. They used Annorax's time travel technology as a weapon. Instead of killing their enemies with weapons, they learned how to erase them from history…making it so entire races of beings never existed. Genocide the likes of which is unfathomable…wiping out an entire race of people, all who ever were and all who would ever be…without bloodshed. Or so that was how they convinced themselves.
"However, once Annorax was in charge and dictating how his weapon was used, he inadvertently erased his own wife from existence. And their ships were insulated from both the passage of time, and the effects of his changes. His objective changed, outside of his original mission. For 200 years, all he did was tamper with other beings, other worlds, trying to recreate the wife he erased. One of those races was the Zaal. Kes' warning only mentioned the Krenim. Voyager was trading with the Zaal…and the Krenim transformed time around them." Daniels' voice was trembling, and he took a breath to steady himself.
"If the Sphere Builder is correct, and the technology they have been using all along came from the Krenim, this may be worse than we ever imagined. If they can erase the Federation instead of destroying them…we may not have any options left," he said heavily.