A Fire of Devotion: Part 3 of 4: Sweeter Than Heaven: Chapters Five and Six

Chapter Five

Seven of Nine stepped out of her alcove, fully recharged, and was greeted upon opening her eyes by the smiling face of her wife.
“Morning, Sam,” she said.
“Morning, Annie,” Samantha said. “Feeling better today?”
“Much,” Seven said. “An extra day of regeneration was, as the Doctor said, exactly what I needed.”
“And hopefully you’ve learned a valuable lesson,” Samantha said.

“A few actually,” Seven said. “The most significant one, of course, being not to attempt to download an entire starship’s memory banks into your brain all at once. I am embarrassed that I did not foresee the unfortunate side effects of that.”
“That’s a nice way of putting it,’ Samantha said, now walking next to Seven as the two of them left the cargo bay.

“I will say in my defense,” Seven added, “that I was not acting entirely irrational. My conclusions were based on the facts I had at hand. It was the lack of proper context that led to my more, well, paranoid pronouncements.”
Samantha laughed, and Seven gave her a look.

“Sorry,” Samantha said, “I know I shouldn’t have laughed. I just, you know, I love your gift for understatement.”
Seven rolled her eyes. “I choose to take that as a compliment,” she said. “Anyway, that also was one of my lessons; that facts without context are meaningless.”

“It’s one of the perils of being human, love,” Samantha said. “Our ability to recognize patterns allowed us to survive and thrive beyond our early days of dwelling in caves, but sadly that means sometimes we see patterns where they aren’t.”
“That is certainly something I need to be more careful of in the future,” Seven said.
“I don’t think you have to worry that much,” Samantha said. “There were extenuating circumstances after all.”
“The cortical processing subunit I installed? Yes, well, in hindsight that was clearly a mistake. I have uninstalled it, however. From now on I will digest newly acquired data the ‘old fashioned way;’ by reading.”
“It has worked pretty well for us so far,” Samantha said, winking.

“Speaking of reading,” Seven said, “Mister Paris sent a number of documents to my personal PADD this morning regarding someplace on Earth called Roswell, New Mexico. Do you have any idea why he-” Seven’s question was cut off with a groan from Samantha.
“That cheeky little… Don’t read that, trust me. I’ll talk to Tom. That was not funny, he shouldn’t have done that.”
Seven stopped walking and tilted her head in confusion. “Sammy, why do I get the feeling that by ‘talk to’ you mean ‘yell at?’”

“Neelix, get off of there,” Lieutenant Reginald Barclay said, turning away from his apartment window looking out over the San Francisco Bay, and yelling at his cat. The cat complied, albeit slowly and not without a soft grunt, and leapt off the top bookshelf where Barclay kept all his PADDs related to the Pathfinder project, as well as a 1/200th scale model of the U.S.S. Voyager. The last thing Barclay wanted was to have to pick all that stuff up, especially since his guests would be arriving any moment.

For the fourth time in ten minutes, he checked to make sure the food he’d prepared was coming along nicely. He didn’t need to cook, his replicator worked just fine, and in fact he had used it for the ingredients, but since having moved to Earth after leaving the Enterprise, he found that cooking soothed his nerves.

The door chime sounded, and Barclay smiled as he told the computer to open the door to welcome two of his old friends. He tilted his head though when he realized that one of the two people entering his apartment was not who he expected.
“Commander LaForge, I didn’t realize you’d be joining us. I’d have made more food,” Barclay said.
“Actually,” Geordi LaForge said, “I’m filling in.”
“Will’s father was hurt in a shuttle accident,” Deanna Troi said. “It’s not serious, but Will wanted to check in on him anyway. He sends his apologies.”

“Oh dear,” Barclay said to. “Well, send my regards to Commander Riker when you see him next.”
“I will,” Troi said.
“Commander,” Barclay said, now looking at Geordi. “It’s good to see you again, but I’d assumed you’d be busy overseeing the new upgrades to the Enterprise.”
Geordi laughed. “Well I planned to be, but Starfleet’s R&D people decided I was being too overbearing and basically kicked me out of my own engine room. I suppose I can’t blame them, but empathy needs to go both ways. How would they feel about a bunch of strangers poking around their ship?”
“Well, I’m sure it’s all for the best,” Barclay said, smiling. “The flagship of the fleet should always be in tip-top shape.”

“I can drink to that,” Geordi said. “If you have anything that is.”
“Nothing stronger than synthehol,” Barclay said. “I do a lot of work on Pathfinder in my off-time; don’t want to risk impairing my judgement.”
“I’m glad you brought that up,” Troi said. “I’d heard about the project to try and contact Voyager. How’s that coming along?”

“Not terribly well,” Barclay admitted. “Commander Harkins refuses to allow me use of the MIDAS array to test my new plan.”

“Why do you need MIDAS?” Geordi asked.

“The idea I had,” Barclay said, “was to use it to direct a tachyon beam at a class B itinerant pulsar, with enough gravimetric energy to create an artificial wormhole.”
Geordi’s eyes widened, enough that even from several feet away Barclay could see the ocular implants adjusting. “That’s pretty ambitious, Reg, I like it.”

“Forgive me for interrupting,” Troi said, “but I’m not familiar with the MIDAS array.”
“Oh, sorry,” Barclay said. “It’s the Mutara Interdimensional Deep-Space-Transponder Array System. I know the acronym isn’t an exact fit, but Commander Harkins called me ‘nitpicky’ when I brought that up.”

“It’s a way to make communications travel even faster than they do now, basically.“ Geordi said. “Tachyon communication is good enough for us for now, but as exploration takes us out even further into the galaxy, and with the Gamma Quadrant open to us now after the war, we need new ways to be able to keep in touch with ships and bases in a timely fashion.”

“And you think,” Troi said, looking at Barclay, “that this micro-wormhole could allow us to speak to Voyager again?”
“At least briefly,” Barclay said.

“Better than nothing,” Geordi said.

“But that’s only if I can convince Commander Harkins and Admiral Paris to go along with my theory,” Barclay said. “Unfortunately, Harkins thinks I’ve relapsed on my holo-addiction, and he’s convinced the Admiral of the same, so he doesn’t trust me.”
“Why would they think that?” Troi said.
“You see my cat over there?” Barclay said. “I named him Neelix. After the alien crewmember that Voyager picked up in the Delta Quadrant. They included him in the information their EMH was able to provide us. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about the crew of Voyager. Pete, that’s Commander Harkins’ first name, he thinks I’ve become obsessed with Voyager.”
“Over a cat’s name?” Geordi said.
“That, and the fact that I’ve been using a holodeck simulation of the ship itself to run simulations on my theories,” Barclay said.
Troi shook her head. “That’s ridiculous. The line between interest and obsession can be thin sometimes, sure, but I think your commander is overreacting.” She turned to look at Geordi. “Do you think we should talk to him?”
“I’d rather you didn’t,” Barclay said. “I don’t want him to think I’m trying to use my time on the Enterprise as a cudgel to get what I want.”

“I get it,” Troi said. “You’re worried about coming off as arrogant and entitled. But having one commander not like you seems like a small price to pay if it means that Starfleet can talk to one of its lost crews again.”

Barclay looked down at the drink in his hand, having forgotten that he’d even poured it. He felt that she was right, on both counts. The fact was, he didn’t talk much about his time on the Enterprise. It always felt too much like bragging. She was also right that they were more important things in the galaxy than being afraid that strangers would think you had a big ego.

“Okay,” he said. “So, how do we want to handle this?”

“So, what do you think?” Tom Paris said, smiling as Seven of Nine read the PADD that he had handed her while the two were in the mess hall for lunch.

“You want my opinion on your new holodeck program? Why?” she said.
“I’m asking a lot of people actually,” Tom said. “Diversity of opinion and all that.”
“Very well. In brief, your simulation, while visually accurate, is filled with characters based on broad stereotypes that could be seen as offensive by any humans on this ship who may have Irish ancestry.”
Tom frowned.

“Well, it’s not meant to be historically accurate,” he said. “I just meant it as a place where the crew could unwind.”
“The crew already has multiple options in that regard,” Seven said. “Including the Chez Sandrine program that you also created.”

“Nobody really uses that program anymore,” Tom said. “I think people got bored with it. Last time I was in there the only non-holograms around were you and Sam.”

“There was also Insurrection Alpha,” Seven said.
“Which most people stopped using after the program tried to kill me and Tuvok.”
“The cabana program?”
“Harry and Neelix still use that one sometimes,” Tom admitted, “but it’s not all that popular anymore either.”
Seven sighed. “I concede your point.”
“Do you have any suggestions then?”

Seven thought about it for a moment. “Perhaps a recreation of Ibiza? It is an island off the coast of Spain on Earth.”
“That was where you and Sam spent your fake honeymoon on the NX-01 mission right? Yeah, that could work. The way Sam describe the beaches there… It might be a little too close to the old cabana program though.”
“It is your program, Mister Paris, the final decision is yours. I merely offered the input that I was asked for.”

“That you did. Thanks, Seven,” Tom said, finishing his coffee before getting up and leaving. Seven finished her own beverage and meal and left to head to astrometrics. She hoped that when she got there to perform her assigned task for today, teaching Equinox survivor Noah Lessing how to operate the lab, that she would be able to remain completely professional. After all, Noah was the one who had shot her in the back in Equinox’s engineering.

Barclay’s apartment had been silent too long. Even the cat had gone quiet, which meant he was either asleep or getting into trouble. The three Starfleet officers had spent the last ten hours going over Barclay’s plans regarding the MIDAS array and the plan to contact Voyager.

Troi said something that Barclay had considered, but didn’t want to admit could put his plan in jeopardy.
“Based on Voyager’s location when they contacted Starfleet two years ago,” she said, “they had already managed to trim at least a decade off their journey home, right?”
“Correct,” Barclay said. “When one of the passengers they picked up, Kes I think her name was, used her developing psionic powers to help Voyager bypass Borg space.”
“Right,” Troi said. “But who’s to say that Voyager didn’t find other ways to shave off even more time in the interim? All the projections on where they might be in the Delta Quadrant now are based on the assumptions that they’ve only been going in a handful of directions at a speed lower than the maximum cruising speed an Intrepid-class ship can go, which is, warp 9 right?”
“9.975,” Geordi said, “but they can’t hold that speed indefinitely, they would need to slow down occasionally just to keep from burning out the dilithium crystals.”
“True, but even so, Harkins’ projections don’t account for them ever going at that speed. He’s being too conservative in his estimates,” Troi said. “This isn’t even my field of expertise and I can tell that.”

“If we can solve the power issue,” Barclay said, “that won’t matter. We can try multiple times. We can just start with Pete’s projections of where Voyager is and work our way out from there. We’ve got our pulsar, we’ve got our array, how do we get our wormhole is the question.”

“Yeah,” Geordi said, rubbing his eyes. “We are talking about a massive subspace reaction here.”
Barclay snapped his fingers. “Massive. That’s it, that’s the problem!”
“Reg?” Geordi said.

“Maybe we need to think smaller. How much bandwidth do we really need? The average wormhole is huge, but if we compress the data stream we wouldn’t need a conduit anywhere near as big.”
“A micro-wormhole,” Geordi said. “Good idea. So good, in fact, it’s a wonder none of us thought of it sooner.”
“I’m a psychiatrist, not an engineer,” Troi said. “There’s no way I would’ve thought of it.”

“The outside perspective helps, trust me,” Barclay said. “In fact, I think Pathfinder could stand to have a few non-engineers on staff, but that’s a topic for another time.”

“We still need to work out the details,” Geordi said, “but if we can do that, we’d have a solid plan to present to Commander Harkins and Admiral Paris.”

“We’ll need to do it fast,” Troi said. “The Enterprise leaves tomorrow morning.”
“I’ll talk to the Captain,” Geordi said, looking at Troi. “I’m sure he’d be willing to extend shore leave in this instance.”

Barclay smiled. He did feel some guilt, a voice in the back of his head telling him he was taking advantage of his friends’ status as Federation celebrities to get his way, but it was overwhelmed by excitement. If all of this worked, he would get to speak to the crew of the Voyager, the most famous missing starship in almost a century. How could he pass that up?

Seven of Nine was consciously aware that she was in no danger around Noah Lessing. Yes, he had shot her once before, and she didn’t forgive him for that, but she also knew it wasn’t personal. Since then, Lessing had integrated into the crew of Voyager. Not as successfully as Gilmore, or Sofin, or Morrow perhaps, but far more so than Tassoni. He did his job, he showed up for shifts on time, and he didn’t carry a phaser.
So why am I still concerned that he’s going to shoot me in the back again? She thought. It is a completely illogical fear.

“I’ve completed the first round of diagnostics,” Lessing said. “Everything is in working order, ma’am.”

“Very well,” Seven said, not bothering to double check. She had observed Lessing’s progress while he did his work. “Your tasks were completed well ahead of the allotted time. You may leave early if you wish.”
“Not much point,” he said. “I’m still not allowed to use the holodeck, and I don’t really feel like hitting the ship’s gym.”
“What you choose to do with your free time is none of my concern,” Seven said.
“You’re right, it’s not,” Lessing said. “I guess I should consider myself lucky to have any free time, all things considered.”
“Perhaps you should,” Seven said.
Lessing simply nodded. Seven wondered what the man was thinking. He didn’t seem to be trying to earn a chance at redemption the way the majority of his surviving crewmates were, but he wasn’t openly hostile and insistent that killing the Ankari ‘spirits’ was justified like Angelo Tassoni still did, even all these months later. His apparent apathy bothered her, though she couldn’t explain why. She was prepared to finally just ask, when something on the astrometrics lab screen caught her attention.

“Is that a micro-wormhole?” Lessing said.

“I believe you are correct,” Seven said. She began tapping buttons on the console to redirect sensors to do a more thorough scan of the micro-wormhole. “And it would appear as message is being transmitted through it.”

“To whom?” Lessing said.
“It’s on a Starfleet emergency channel,” Seven said, looking down at her console.
Lessing smiled for, as far as Seven knew, the first time since before Captain Ransom’s crimes had been revealed.
“Wow,” he said.
Seven tapped her com badge and told the Captain what she had discovered.
“Let’s hear it,” Janeway said, and Seven quickly complied, applying a narrow band filter to the signal processor in order to improve the quality of the message.
“Starfleet Command to U.S.S. Voyager,” a voice said, the transmission full of static but still audible. “Come in Voyager. Do you hear me? This is Lieutenant Reginald Barclay.”

“Captain,” Seven said, “we must respond quickly, the wormhole is collapsing.”

“This is our third try, and still nothing. The micro-wormhole is collapsing. I’m sorry Mister Barclay, I just don’t think this is working,” Commander Peter Harkins said. Barclay was disappointed, but he could tell by looking around the room he wasn’t the only one. All of his fellow Pathfinder teammates, Deanna, Geordi, Admiral Paris, all had similar looks on their faces.

“The pulsar has not moved out of position yet,” Geordi said. “I think we can squeeze a few more attempts out of it, but the power consumption might not allow for-”
A noise cut him off.
“We’re receiving a transmission,” one of the Pathfinder techs said.
“Where from?” Admiral Paris said.
“Coordinates 343.6 by 27,” the tech said.

Barclay and Harkins shared a look.
“The wormhole,” Barclay said.
“It worked,” Troi said, smiling.
“Starfleet Command, come in,” a barely audible voice said over the speakers. Barclay recognized the voice right away from the Voyager crew records he’d gone over.
“Reg,” Harkins said, “give me a hand clearing up the signal.”
“Yes sir,” Barclay said, moving quickly to a nearby console and manipulating controls. He was excited and nervous, yet his hands were steady and his work efficient.

“This is Captain Kathryn Janeway, do you read me?”
Barclay looked at Harkins who was simply smiling.
“I think she’s talking to you,” Admiral Paris said, having moved closer to stand next to him.
“Captain,” Barclay said, suddenly afraid that he would start stammering again, “this is Lieutenant Reginald Barclay at Starfleet Command.”

“It’s good to hear your voice, Lieutenant,” Janeway said. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this moment.”
“The feeling is mutual,” Barclay continued, “Unfortunately the micro-wormhole is collapsing. We have only a few moments.”
“Understood,” Janeway said. We are transmitting our ship’s logs, crew reports, and navigational records to you now.”
“Acknowledged,” Barclay said. “And we’re sending you data on some new hyper-subspace technology. We’re hoping that, eventually, we can use it to keep in regular contact. We’re also including some recommended modifications for your com system.”

“We’ll implement them as soon as possible,” Janeway said.

“There is someone else who would also like to say something,” Barclay said, motioning towards Admiral Paris.

“This is Admiral Paris,” he said.
“Hello sir,” Janeway said. “Been a long time.”
“How are your people holding up?”
“Very well,” Janeway said. “As someone pointed out to me recently, we could’ve had it much, much worse out here. But we’ve made it as far as we have thanks to an exemplary crew, including your son.”

“Tell him… Tell him I miss him, and I’m proud of him.”
“He heard you,” Janeway said.
“The wormhole is collapsing,” Barclay said.
“I want you all to know,” Admiral Paris said, “we’re doing everything we can to bring you home.”

“We appreciate it, sir,” Janeway said. “We’ve had some good luck on our end lately though, we may end up making it home before you even-”
The transmission became garbled, and ended. However Janeway intended to end that sentence, they would likely never know.
“You did it, Reg,” Geordi said. “Great work.”
“I’m sorry I doubted you,” Harkins said. Barclay nodded, and sighed. Troi walked up to him and put a hand on his shoulder. “Why are you sad, Reg?”

“Because… Because it’s over, Deanna,” Barclay said.
“No, Lieutenant,” Admiral Paris said, smiling. “Project Pathfinder may be over, but Project Voyager is just beginning. And I want you on that. I assume I don’t have to make it an order?”
“You do not, sir,” Barclay said. “I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”
“Darn,” Geordi said in a joking tone of voice. “And here I was thinking of asking you to come back to the Enterprise.”

“So, does anyone know this Barclay character?” B’Elanna said as Neelix topped off her glass of champagne in Voyager’s mess hall. The senior staff, along with some other crewmembers, including Samantha Wildman and Joe Carey, were attending a celebration of the contact with Starfleet.
“I took the liberty of reviewing his personnel file,” the Doctor said. “He’s had a rather colorful career. Not to mention an unusual medical history.”
“I don’t think you’re allowed to tell us about that, Doc,” Tom Paris said.

“I’m not saying anything that’s not available to anyone with Starfleet clearances,” the Doctor said.
“All the same,” Captain Janeway said, “let’s respect our new honorary crew member’s privacy, shall we? Maybe one day he’ll have the chance to tell us his story in person.”
“Hear hear,” Carey said, raising his glass.
“I’ve finished analyzing the data Mister Barclay sent,” Seven said, her arms around Samantha’s waist. “The hyper-subspace technology is promising. I believe we can look forward to future communications with the Federation.”
“Well that calls for a toast,” Neelix said.
“Care to do the honors, Tom?” Janeway said.
B’Elanna looked at Tom, who seemed reluctant. She poked him gently in the arm.
“Go on,” she said.
Tom took in a deep breath and raised his glass. “To my Dad, Admiral Owen Paris, it’s nice to know he’s still there; and to the newest honorary member of the Voyager crew; Reginald Barclay, whoever you are.”

“To Mister Barclay,” Janeway said, the rest of the crew members joining in, even Seven of Nine.

Barclay, Troi, Geordi all stood in the center of the living room of Barclay’s apartment, holding drinks of their own.
“To Voyager,” Geordi said, the other two repeating him before taking a sip.
“I couldn’t have done it without your help,” Barclay said. “Thank you.”
“Thanks for letting us help you,” Troi said. “Though we all understand why you were reluctant.”
“I just wish Hope was here right now,” Barclay said.
“Who’s Hope?” Geordi said.
“I didn’t mention her?” Barclay said.
“Not once since we got here,” Geordi said, smirking. “Nice of you to wait until we’re almost leaving to tell us you’re seeing someone, Reg.”

“Sorry, I got so wrapped up in talking about Pathfinder and Voyager, it just kind of slipped my mind. Besides, we’ve only gone a few dates, it’s too soon really to know where it’s going.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll do fine,” Troi said. “What can you tell us about her?”
“Well, Pete introduced us actually,” Barclay said. “She’s his wife’s sister.”

Troi and Geordi looked at each other.
“I honestly did not expect that,” Geordi said.
“Should I have mentioned that sooner?” Barclay said.
“Eh, probably not,” Troi said. “I don’t think it really had any bearing on the project-”
The sound of the door chime interrupted her.
“Come in,” Barclay said, expecting it to be Commander Harkins. He turned around, and saw immediately that he was wrong.
“Lieutenant Barclay, sorry I’m so late,” Commander William Riker said. “I just got back from seeing my Dad. I hope I didn’t miss anything interesting.”

Chapter Six

Harry Kim looked around at his tired, grimy, and frankly smelly crewmates, but despite the conditions inside the Delta Flyer, he was just glad that they would back on Voyager in a matter of hours. The two-week long mission to collect dilithium ore from various planets that he, Chakotay, Tom Paris, and Neelix had been on had taken longer than planned, but had also been uneventful.

“I still think you should put a sonic shower in here, Tom,” Neelix said.
“Where?” Tom said. Harry could not see Tom’s face from where he was sitting, but he didn’t think it was a stretch to assume that Tom was rolling his eyes at the suggestion. “We’d have to sacrifice something to make room for it.”

“Well,” Neelix continued, “you never know when the Flyer might be away from Voyager for extended periods of time, like this one.”
“Just drop it,” Chakotay said, rubbing his eyes. “We’ve had this conversation twice today already.”

“If I ever volunteer for a two-week away mission again,” Tom said, “somebody confine me to sickbay.”

“I must be getting soft in my old age,” Neelix said.
“Why do you say that?” Harry asked.
“Let’s face it, my friends, we’re not that dirty in here. I used to work on a salvage ship, this is nothing. And yet, I’ve been complaining all day anyway.”

“Gee, really? We hadn’t noticed,” Tom said bitterly.
Harry glanced at his console. “You know, Tom,” he said, “if you weren’t so wrapped up in being pissed at Neelix you’d notice that Voyager is within visual range.”

Delta Flyer to Voyager,” Chakotay said, relief permeating his voice. “We’re on our approach.”
“Glad to hear we didn’t have to go looking for you,” Janeway said in reply. “Opening the shuttlebay doors now. Welcome home. Was the mission a success?”

“We’ve got a cargo hold overflowing with dilithium ore as we speak,” Tom said.

“That’s the kind of news I like to hear,” Janeway said.

“Take us in, Ensign,” Chakotay said to Tom. Harry smiled, glad to back. He happened to look at his hand as the Flyer headed for the open door of the shuttlebay and frowned. He noticed that his hand was shaking for no apparent reason. He made a mental note to speak to the Doctor about that, but he wanted a meal and a shower first.

“The explorer’s return,” the Doctor said as Tom and the others exited the shuttlebay.
“Welcome home,” B’Elanna said, wrapping her arms around Tom’s neck and giving him a kiss.
“Mmm, I should go away more often,” he said, “if it means I get more greetings like this.”
B’Elanna chuckled.
“Not a terrible idea,” she said, “but next time maybe I should wait until you’ve had a shower to do that.”
Tom rolled his eyes, but laughed anyway. “Nice.”
“Judging from the fact that you all appear to ambulatory,” the Doctor said, “I’ll go ahead and return to sickbay, but don’t forget to come by for your check-up, after you’ve had something to eat of course.”
“Right,” Harry said, “away team protocol for extended missions, I forgot.”
“Don’t worry,” Chakotay said, “we’ll all be there.”
With that, everyone went their separate ways, leaving Tom and B’Elanna alone.
“Come with me,” she said, gently pulling on his arm, leading in the direction they’d need to go to reach his quarters, where he was going to be headed anyway. “I’ve got a surprise for you.”
“Naughty or nice?” Tom said.
“When we get to the door, close your eyes,” she said.
“Oh, I like it already,” Tom said.
“Come on,” B’Elanna said.

With eyes closed, Tom entered his own quarters, wondering just what his girlfriend had in store for him.
“Open ‘em,” B’Elanna said.
Tom opened his eyes, but couldn’t see anything different at first, until he turned his head slightly to his right. He smiled at what he saw. In fact he could hardly believe what he saw.
“What do you think?” B’Elanna said.
“A television set!” Tom said, his inner history buff filled with child-like glee.

“Circa 1956,” B’Elanna said. “I replicated the components but I assembled it myself. This,” she added, picking up a smaller device off the table between the couch, which Tom only just now noticed had turned in order to face the replica TV, “is the remote control. Yes, I checked, remote controls did exist back then. The only thing I left off was the wire connecting it to the set. One less thing for me trip over if we have to get up in a hurry.”
“Okay, fair enough,” Tom said, though he didn’t really mind that minor detail being inaccurate. It was a television set on a starship, the situation was already well beyond what 20th century Earth had been like.

“Here, let me turn it on for you,” B’Elanna said, pushing one of the buttons on the remote. An animated program appeared on the screen. It was in color, another historical inaccuracy, but Tom didn’t feel like pointing it out, and the longer he thought about it, the more he didn’t particularly care.

“I replicated us some popcorn as well,” B’Elanna said, picking up a bowl full of the snack food off the table.
“Aw,” Tom said, quickly grabbing a few kernels to pop into his mouth. It had gone a little cold, but was still as salty and buttery as the kind he used to get from his home’s replicator as a kid, when he thought his parents weren’t looking. “Everything is perfect, except for one tiny detail.”
“What?”
“You forgot the beer,” Tom said.
B’Elanna frowned. “Really? Fine, I’ll get it,” she said, getting up and heading to the replicator.
Tom began eating more popcorn while changing channels on the set. He wondered if B’Elanna had used any of the programs he’d downloaded from the Relativity’s database in order to fill the gaps in Voyager’s own database about the period.

Thank goodness for time travel, he thought. Without it, some of this art from that period would be lost to us forever. Not that many people would miss the sitcoms, but still.

“Tom?” B’Elanna said. “Did you hear anything I just said, or are you already too wrapped up in your new toy?”
“Oh, sorry,” Tom said, feeling embarrassed that he’d allowed his train of thought to distract him so thoroughly. As he usually did, he tried to deflect with humor. “You know how it was on these old TV shows. Guys never listened to their girlfriends.”
B’Elanna sighed. “Maybe this was a bad idea.”

Time passed, Tom going back and forth between paying attention to the TV, and paying attention to B’Elanna. Eventually, she fell asleep on the couch, but Tom decided to continue watching television, even though there were way more programs than he could possibly watch in one evening and it wasn’t as though the device was going to be taken away in the morning.

A war scene came on, and Tom was briefly confused.

Wasn’t I just watching Elliot Ness? He thought.

Despite the confusion, he continued to watch raptly, but then he saw something very strange; the combatants were using energy weapons.

“What the shit is this?” he said. He began pushing buttons on the remote control, but nothing happened. He suddenly felt very nervous. The scenes he was watching now, though in black and white and on an anachronistic device, felt all too real. Tom quietly moved over to the TV and tried to change the channel manually, but he gasped when the image on the screen shifted to show himself, hiding in cover from fire from the energy weapons. He watched himself get up and start running through a wooded area, ducking fire and returning it with a weapon just like the ones the aliens in the scene were carrying.

He looked back at B’Elanna, who was still asleep, and wondered if this was some kind of prank, but he pushed the thought out of his head as quickly as he’d had it; this was real, he just knew it, somehow.

Suddenly, the weapons fire grew louder, as if it was all around him on not on TV, and just before a wave of enemy fire could hit him he went the ground, getting dirt in his face.
“Incoming fire,” someone yelled. Tom fired back a few a shots with his own plasma rifle, before getting up to join the retreating troops.
“Medic! We need a medic,” someone, he couldn’t tell who, shouted in the distance, the sounds of enemy fire drawing closer. Tom looked to his left and saw two bodies, possibly civilians, but with as much mud as was on them if they were wearing uniforms he couldn’t tell at this distance.

He looked around, trying to find where the rest of his squad had gone, not hearing the plasma blast that caught him in the shoulders, knocking him to the ground, and setting the area of impact on fire while B’Elanna was shaking him gently, concern in her voice.
“Tom? Are you alright?” she said.

Tom sat upright, breathing heavily. His shoulder felt fine, his uniform clean and undamaged.

“Must’ve been one hell of a dream,” B’Elanna said.
“A dream?” Tom said. Yeah, that had to be it. “I was in… I was in the middle of a battlefield. I was grazed right here,” he said, reaching for the spot on his shoulder where had been shot, or so he’d believed. He reached out and turned off the television. “People back in the 20th used to say that television was a bad influence. Maybe they were right.”
“It was just a nightmare, Tom,” B’Elanna said.

God, I hope so, Tom thought.

Harry Kim walked into sickbay, not liking how he felt, or what he had just seen. It had felt all too much like the flashbacks he would have to the Year of Hell while he was being treated for post-traumatic stress, except something was off. The memories he was having felt real, but he knew they weren’t. Had they been, he probably wouldn’t be aware enough right now to go to sickbay to ask the Doctor about it.

“Lieutenant Kim,” the Doctor said. “I already cleared you earlier today. Is something the matter?”
“It might be, Doc,” Harry said. He related the non-flashback flashbacks, for want of a better description, to the Doctor in detail. About the battlefield, the plasma rifles, people running away, stopping to check the pulse on two people he came across in the woods who were unconscious…

“It felt real, but also not, if that makes any sense. It was sort of like my flashbacks to our fights with the Krenim, except I didn’t feel any of the fear or tension that I would feel during those. It’s like, man I wish I had a better way to put this. It felt like I was having a memory of something that hadn’t happened to me.”

“That is certainly confusing,” the Doctor said. “Do you think this is a relapse on your PTSD?”
“No,” Harry said, “I don’t think so. The aliens I was fighting in this memory weren’t Krenim, and we were never planetside at any point during the Year of Hell.”

“Well,” the Doctor said, “it could be stress induced bad dreams. You were on a two-week long away mission, working 18-hour days, then as soon as you get back to Voyager you take what amounts to a brief nap before immediately leaping back to duty. I’m going to recommend that you end your shift early and get some additional rest. I’ll talk to the Captain and let her know. If you have any flashbacks that aren’t flashbacks again, come see me.”
“Shouldn’t you do a scan?” Harry said.
The Doctor frowned, holding up his medical tricorder. Harry had failed to notice it.
“Oh, sorry,” he said.
“Rest, Lieutenant,” the Doctor said.

Neelix was sweating, uneasy, every noise his kitchen made caused him to jump when it happened. He tightened his grip on the knife he was using to slice vegetables, unsure why doing so made him feel like he wasn’t entirely helpless.

“Welcome back,” a voice behind him said, startling him. He turned quickly, but saw it was only Naomi Wildman.
“Oh, hi,” he said.

“Did you have a good trip?” Naomi said.

“Wonderful, thank you,” Neelix said, going back to his meal preparations, and hoping his curtness would make Naomi leave. He loved his goddaughter of course, but he wasn’t in the mood to have anyone in his kitchen right now. He’d throw out the Captain if it came down to it.

“You look tired,” Naomi said, sounding concerned.
“Oh, just a little shuttle lag. Don’t you have a geology lesson you’re supposed to be at?”
“Geometry,” Naomi corrected. “Seven assigned me a special project. I’m supposed to build a tetragon. I have to use everyday things though, I’m not allowed to use a replicator. I think that might’ve been my Mom’s idea.”
Neelix began chopping his vegetables even finer, not responding to Naomi, wanting her to leave, but not wanting to tell her to just get out.
“I was thinking,” Naomi continued, “about using some vegetables from the aeroponics bay. Like carrots and celery. Would that be okay? Neelix?”

“Carrots and celery, yeah. Good idea,” Neelix said, feeling more anxious than ever, feeling like something terrible was about to happen, but he wasn’t sure what.

“Will you help me?” Naomi asked.
“I… Uh… I don’t think I’ll have time today,” Neelix said, his sweating getting worse.

“Neelix, are you sure you’re okay?” Naomi said, having gone back to sounding concerned again.

“Just… busy, you know? Lot of work to do today.”
“Well,” Naomi said, “let me help you.” She walked over to one of the cookers and went to take the lid off one of the pots. “What’s cooking to- ouch!” she said, looking at her hand. Neelix dropped his knife in terror, and turned to see if Naomi was okay.
“Let me see your hand,” he said, his panic growing.
“I’m okay,” Naomi said, looking at her fingers.
“Your hand!” Neelix said, moving over and grabbing it to see how badly it had burned. “We’ve got to get you to sickbay.”
“I’m fine,” Naomi protested, sounding more embarrassed than hurt.
“Sickbay!” Neelix said forcefully. Suddenly the sound of the mess hall door opening grabbed his attention, and enemy forces began bombarding the encampment, civilians running away in a blind panic into the darkness.

Chakotay awoke, sweating, the nightmare he was having still vivid in his mind; the firefight in the woods, trying to find Saavdra, failing to convince the man that they needed to stop firing because civilians were getting caught in the crossfire with the Nakan.

Chakotay shook his head, trying to push that all aside to focus on Tuvok’s voice, the security officer’s hail the thing that had woken him in the first place.

“Commander, please respond.”
“Go ahead,” Chakotay said, sitting up.

“We have a security breach in the mess hall,” Tuvok said.
“I’m on my way,” Chakotay said, getting up as quick as he could, thankful the distance to the mess hall from his quarters wasn’t too far. When he got there, he saw Lydia Anderson guarding the door, and a very scared looking Samantha Wildman being held onto by Seven of Nine, who was whispering something to Samantha. The sound of a phaser going off inside the mess hall caused both Sam and Seven to jump in place. Both of them tried to get past Lydia, but she managed to hold them back, just barely, as Chakotay entered the mess hall, staying low. He saw Tuvok, Ayala, and another security officer behind upturned tables. He heard Neelix yelling.
“Tell them to call off the attack! I won’t let you hurt her!”
Chakotay made his way over to Tuvok.
“Neelix appears to be hallucinating,” Tuvok said. “He has Naomi Wildman with him. He seems convinced that we intend to harm her.”

“Neelix!” Chakotay shouted, “It’s Commander Chakotay. Let Naomi go. No one’s going to hurt her.” It was likely that Tuvok had already tried to reason with Neelix, but he saw no reason not to try himself. “That’s an order.”

“No!” Neelix shouted. “Not until Saavdra’s called off his attack!”
Chakotay had to check to make sure his legs still worked after hearing that name, the one from his dream, being mentioned. Something was going on, and it was bigger than just the ship’s morale officer having a mental breakdown.

“There’s a back entrance to the galley,” Tuvok said. “If you can distract him perhaps-”
“I want to try something first,” Chakotay said. He stayed low and moved closer to the partition between the dining and kitchen areas. “Neelix, listen to me. It’s okay. Saavdra ordered a cease-fire. The colony is secure. The battle’s over.”
There was a pause that lasted only a few seconds, but they felt much longer to Chakotay. If Naomi got hurt…
“Why do I still hear weapons fire?” Neelix asked.
“It’s just a few soldiers,” Chakotay said. “They’re firing into the air, celebrating.”

Another excruciating seconds long pause,

“How do I know this isn’t a trick?” Neelix asked.

“Because I’m on your side,” Chakotay said. “I want this conflict to end as much as you do. Let her go. It’s safe now. The killing’s over.”

The pause that followed that was the longest yet, even though it was still only seconds. Chakotay feared that this was going to end badly; for Neelix, Naomi, or both. He breathed a sigh of relief when Naomi walked into the dining area, unharmed but visibly shaken. She ran to Tuvok while Chakotay moved over and took Neelix’s phaser away from him, Neelix looking scared, ashamed, and exhausted. Chakotay knew exactly how he felt, but that was part of the problem. Saving Naomi from this hostage situation was just the start.

Chakotay held out his hand, and helped Neelix up. Neelix didn’t, or couldn’t, say anything, he just held on to Chakotay tightly. Chakotay walked with him, towards the opposite mess hall door, to take him to sickbay.

Captain Janeway looked down at Neelix. He looked so peaceful compared to how Chakotay and Tuvok had described him. Whatever sedative the Doctor had given him was clearly working exceptionally.
“Do we have any idea what caused the delusions?” she said.

“His norepinephrine levels are three times what they should be,” the Doctor said, moving out of the way of a pacing Chakotay as he spoke. “Neurochemically speaking he’s suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress syndrome.”
“I dreamed that I was fighting in an alien war,” Chakotay said. “The same war that Neelix seemed to be reliving.”

Janeway knew that could not be a coincidence.
“Harry Kim was in earlier,” the Doctor said, grabbing his medical tricorder and starting to scan Chakotay. “He mentioned having flashbacks to a war he had no memory of taking part in. I thought maybe it had to do with his preexisting PTSD from the Year of Hell, but now I’m not so sure. I haven’t spoken to Ensign Paris since he returned from the away mission but I would wager if you asked him…”

“The away team,” Janeway said. “Did you run into any trouble while you were gone?”
“None,” Chakotay said. “The mission was by the book.”
“Your engramatic activities contradict that, Commander,” the Doctor said. “These are real memories, not mere dreams or hallucinations.”
“Maybe you were abducted,” Janeway said, “Forced into fighting. Our memories have been tampered with before.” She moved around the bio-bed to stand in front of her First Officer. “We’re going to retrace your mission. Start reviewing the Delta Flyer sensor logs. See if you can come up with anything unusual.”
Chakotay nodded, and turned to face the Doctor. “How long until Neelix is back on his feet?”
“I can wake him now if you’d like,” the Doctor said.

“Do it,” Janeway said. “Each member of the away team seems to hold a piece of the puzzle. Let’s see if we can start putting them together. I want all four of you in the briefing room as soon as possible.

“Yes, Captain,” Chakotay said.

““Doctor, run a full scan of everyone who was on the Delta Flyer““Doctor, run a full scan of everyone who was on the Delta Flyer,” Janeway said. She was determined to find just what could’ve caused Neelix to endanger anyone, let alone a child he had helped care for during the time when Samantha was raising her alone.

“I don’t remember much, just bits and pieces,” Tom said.

Harry nodded. His memories were exactly the same, though unlike the others he seemed to be handling it better. Tom was pacing, Neelix and Chakotay both looked tired. Harry wondered if maybe his past experiences had protected him somehow from the worst of these memories, but he had trouble understanding how that could possibly be the case, or why the others still seemed to believe the battle their memories were telling them they’d taken part was real. He was certain it wasn’t, though he wasn’t going to say so out loud, not yet anyway. He could still hardly believe what he had heard about the incident in the mess hall.

“I dreamt I was on a planet, in the middle of a battle,” Tom continued speaking, Captain Janeway and the Doctor listening quietly. “I have no idea how I got there, I can’t remember.”
“I was in the Jeffries tube,” Harry said. “I heard weapons fire, people screaming, and I got scared, but something in the back of my mind kept pulling me back to reality. I went to the Doctor as soon as possible. He thought it might just have been stress.”
“I can confirm it’s not,” the Doctor said. “I scanned you as you came in. You seem to have the same condition as the others, though far less severe for reasons I can’t understand yet.”

“I remember getting shot,” Tom said, pointing at his shoulder.
“There’s no evidence of a wound,” the Doctor said. For Harry, this was more proof that whatever the away team thought had happened to them wasn’t real. What he wanted to know was who would do something like this to them; giving them false memories of being in the middle of a war zone.

“If our memories were wiped,” Chakotay said, “our physical injuries could’ve been masked as well.”

“Do any of you recall who you were fighting?” Janeway said.
“It was dark,” Neelix said, speaking up for the first time since the meeting began. “I couldn’t see them very well.”
“They were firing at us,” Tom said, his tone growing agitated.
“The Naka…the Nakana,” Neelix said, seeming to ignore Tom altogether and focusing on his own memories.
“The Nakan,” Harry said, suddenly remembering. “They were called the Nakan.”
“That’s right,” Chakotay said. “I remember that now.”

“They lived in a remote colony,” Tom said, “and we were trying to evacuate them.”
“But they were fighting us,” Neelix said.
“Why couldn’t they just do what they were told?” Tom said, shocking Harry.
“We had no right to be there!” Neelix shouted at Tom.
“It was for their own good,” Tom said defensively.
“Gentlemen,” Janeway said, standing up and gesturing at everyone to remain calm, “stay focused. You said you were trying to evacuate their colony. Why?”
“Those were our orders,” Tom said.
“Who gave them?” the Doctor said.

“Saavdra,” Harry said, not realizing he’d said it until Chakotay picked up that thread.
“Yes, Commander Saavdra,” he said.
“He was in charge of our unit,” Tom said. “We were part of an attack force.”
“You were coerced,” Janeway said with a degree of certainty that Harry wish he’d felt in that moment. More memories were coming back to him, and it was getting slightly harder to deny that they had happened, no matter how much his rational mind told him they couldn’t have.

“No, I volunteered,’ Tom said. “We all did.”
“I find that difficult to believe,” the Doctor said. “You were obviously manipulated somehow.”
Maybe that’s it, Harry thought. The battle was real, but we were brainwashed into taking part in it. That could explain why we show the physical symptoms of PTSD.

“No!” Neelix said, “No, no, no, I remember now. We held a briefing to plan the evacuation. You were there Commander. You too Mister Paris.”
“It was a command post,” Tom said. “It was night, 0200 hours.”
“We’d been awake for days,” Chakotay said. “We were exhausted. Spotters reported that the Nakan were unarmed and wouldn’t put up a fight.”
“The plan was to deploy units five and six once their shield generators were down,” Tom said. “Saavdra warned us that unarmed or no, they wouldn’t be happy to see us and that we shouldn’t provoke them.”
“He wanted us to come out of it with no casualties on either side,” Neelix said. “We figured out their perimeter was weakest in sector, sector, um…”
“Fourteen?” Harry said.

“Right,” Neelix said, now pacing himself on the opposite side of the table where Chakotay was doing the same.
“The terrain there was flat, ideal for transports,” Chakotay said. “Once we secured the village we were to take the colonists there and get them aboard the transports.”
“He wanted us to do our best to reassure them this was a temporary relocation,” Tom said. “And that they were going to be back in a few weeks.”
Janeway shook her head. “I’m having a hard time accepting that you’d just go along with something like this without asking at least a few questions.”

“I can hardly believe it myself,” Harry said, “and I was there. Or, I believe I was there. I don’t know.”
“I objected,” Chakotay said, “but only on the grounds the unit needed more sleep. Saavdra said he’d promised command that they’d have the colony secured by the end of the day. The mission proceeded as planned, and we disabled their shield generators.”
“We entered the colony and began rounding up the Nakan,” Tom said. “To be honest, I expected them to give us a little more trouble.”
“But then we came to the last enclosure,” Neelix said. “It was empty. We had no idea where they were. Twenty-four colonists, all unaccounted for.”
“We thought the spotters had made a mistake,” Tom said, sitting still, except for his wringing hands. “We should’ve known something was wrong. We should’ve gotten out then.”

“What happened next?”Janeway said.
“We were moving the colonists along in an orderly fashion,” Tom said, “a woman asked me to help her find her husband. I was about to, but that was when the shooting started.”
“The missing Nakan were firing at us from the trees,” Chakotay said. “The soldiers started firing back indiscriminately, hitting everyone. The civilians ran away, but many of them got shot in the back.”

“I tried to help some of the children,” Neelix said, tears starting to form in his eyes, “tried to hide them, but they were scared and ran away, right into the crossfire.”
“They fired at us first, it wasn’t our fault,” Tom said.
“You can’t be sure of that,” Chakotay said. “It could’ve been one of our own people.”
“‘Our own people?’” the Doctor said. “Are you even hearing yourselves?”
Harry heard what the Doctor said, but Neelix, Tom, and Chakotay seemed not to as they kept speaking.
“Either way,” Neelix said, “it doesn’t justify what we did.”
“What did you do?” Janeway said, putting a hand on Neelix’s shoulder.
“We kept firing back,” Tom said. “We yelled at the civilians who were with us to get down, but they kept running, and we… we shot them. They could’ve been going to aid the others, we didn’t have a choice.”
“Like hell we didn’t,” Chakotay said.
“They were wiping us out,” Tom said, on the verge of crying himself now. Harry was remembering it all, the same way they were, but he couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t affected in the same way. It still felt fake to him, but what if that was all just wishful thinking on his part?
“That didn’t give us the right to murder civilians,” Chakotay said.
“I remember running away,” Harry said. “hiding in a cave. There was a Nakan couple there. I- No, this can’t be real, someone must’ve planted these memories in our heads because there is no way I would’ve done what my mind is telling me I did.”
“What did… what do you think you did, Harry?” Janeway asked.

“I think they’d been living there for awhile. There was a portable stove, some trash collected in a bin. I told them if they told me away out of the tunnels I’d leave them alone, but the man, he made a sudden move and I… I fired. I killed both of them.”
“We killed eighty-two civilians that night,” Chakotay said. Harry looked at the Captain, at the look of sadness on her face. He wanted to tell her it wasn’t real, but now even he was starting to doubt it. He wasn’t shaking like Tom, crying like Neelix, or angry like Chakotay, but the guilt over having shot the couple was beginning to feel real, even if the incident wasn’t.

With both Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay off to her left, Seven of Nine began putting the sensor data from the Delta Flyer up on the screen in astrometrics. Seven had hoped she would have a chance to properly thank Chakotay for what he did to help Naomi, but after Captain Janeway had explained the situation regarding the Nakan massacre to her, she decided to hold back.
“This was your first stop on the away mission,” she said as an image of a planet was enlarged on the screen. “A class-M planet, with one natural satellite.”
“Did you send anyone to the surface?” Janeway said.
“No,” Chakotay said. “We only scanned for ore deposits from orbit. We were there less than an hour. Next.”
Seven did so, putting the next set of information from the Flyer’s logs on the screen. This time it was an alien ship.
“You came into contact with this vessel en route to your second destination,” she said.
“Captain Bathar,” Chakotay said, chuckling. “A merchant. Bit of a charmer, but the stuff he was selling was bogus. A snake oil salesman, nothing more. Totally different species from who we fought with.”
“Moving on then?” Janeway said.
“Your second stop,” Seven said, a much more green planet than the first appearing on screen. Suddenly, Janeway gasped.
“Captain?” Chakotay said.
“Tarakis,” she said. “I’ve been here.”
Seven was about to ask how that was possible, but Chakotay motioned for her to stay quiet.
“How could you know that?” he said.
“I remember walking among the dead, and one of the other soldiers started vaporizing the bodies. I tried to stop him,” Janeway said, her voice cracking.
“I think this proves that the memories of taking part in a massacre are false,” Seven said.

Captain Janeway continued talking, shouting angrily at someone who wasn’t there, trying to convince them that they ‘didn’t have to do this’, the ‘this’ in question, Seven assumed, was the destruction of the Nakan bodies. Chakotay tried to calm her down, but the Captain didn’t even seem to realize she was on Voyager.

Seven tapped her com badge.
“Seven of Nine to the Doctor,” she said. “Please report to astrometrics. Medical emergency.”

Captain Janeway awoke with a start to find herself lying on a cot in the mess hall. Other cots were around here, in places where tables and chairs normally were. The kind of thing that only happened when there were too many injured, or worse, for sickbay to handle. The Doctor and Tuvok were both by her side.
“How long was I out?” she said.

“Three hours,” the Doctor said. “You began hallucinating in astrometrics. I’m afraid I had to sedate you. You were just the first however. Symptoms began showing up in multiple crewmembers not too long after we entered this star system.”
“I saw myself on the colony that Chakotay, Tom, and the others talked about. With Saavdra.” Janeway shook her head and tried to focus on the here and now. “How many crew members are affected?”
“So far?” the Doctor said. “Not including the four members of the Delta Flyer mission, thirty-nine crew. Plus…” he looked down, clearly not wanting to say who else was affected, but as the number of non-crew members was limited to the Equinox survivors, all still stripped of rank, and Naomi Wildman…
“Oh, no,” Janeway said.
“I’m afraid so,” the Doctor said. “It’s bad enough in the adults. I can’t even begin to imagine what this must be doing to her. I gave Ensign Wildman and Seven leave to stay with her.”
“Doubtless the entire crew has been exposed,” Tuvok said. “So far there is no discernable pattern to who has begun having the memories so far and who hasn’t, nor is there one for who is able to function despite them.”

Janeway wanted to give an order, but what to say seemed to escape her. Leaving the system seemed the obvious choice, but then again the away team members had managed to suffer the effects of the planted memories light years away. Leaving now would only be a temporary solution. They needed to find the source of this. That was their only real shot at fixing this, if it even was fixable. She looked around at the cots. Some of their occupants were sleeping, some were quietly rocking back and forth in the arms of friends or lovers, while some just sat alone, crying. With difficulty, more emotional than physical, she stood up.
“Details, Doctor,” she said.
“The symptoms are all identical,” he said. “Increased engramatic activity, nightmares… The thing is, sentient beings don’t always respond to post-traumatic stress in the same way. Some species aren’t affected by it at all. Yet here, everyone is responding in one of the same three ways. Guilt, anger, or depression. Even Ensign Vorik has been affected, and standard Vulcan meditation techniques aren’t working.”
“Harry was right all along,” Janeway said. “He said in the briefing room that this had to be fake. I only hoped he was right though. The looks on the rest of the away team’s face, they all believed so deeply that they had gotten involved with something that got out of hand.”
“Real or not,” the Doctor said, “these memories are having a deleterious effect on the crew. I suggest we reverse course before it becomes worse.”
“I’d considered that,” Janeway said, “but Chakotay and the others were being affected from well outside this system. We should at least try to reach Tarakis. If we can’t find what we need to set this right there, we’ll get the hell out of here at Warp 9 and just hope that we can treat the aftermath. Tuvok, set a course, and go to red alert.”
“Aye, Captain,” Tuvok said. Janeway took a small amount of comfort from the fact that, so far at least, her oldest friend had not yet succumbed to whatever was causing this.

The Doctor took out a hypospray and held it up to her neck.
“A neurosuppressant,” he said. “It will prevent more hallucinations, but I’m sorry to say there’s nothing I can do about any of the bad feelings that came with them. If you start to feel guilt, or anger, or any other strong emotion overwhelm you, I recommend you activate my emergency command protocols.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Janeway said.

Seven of Nine had not had any flashbacks as yet, but the Doctor could not confidently tell her that her Borg implants would protect her indefinitely. She hoped they would though, because the stress she was feeling now would only be compounded by false memories of being a war criminal, even if those crimes admittedly paled in comparison to the number of sentient beings she had personally taken part in assimilating.
Naomi had barely gotten over her terror at the incident in the mess hall when the memories had hit her. No matter how hard Seven and Sam had tried to console her, Naomi kept insisting that she was a bad person, a murderer, a monster. The child had been crying for hours, and it wasn’t long before Samantha had joined her, though the latter cried more out of frustration for being unable to do anything to help her daughter. That was at least until that morning when Samantha herself had begun to have the flashbacks as well.
“Sam, honey, please let me in,” Seven said through the door to the bathroom of their quarters, which Samantha had sealed. “You’ve been in there for over an hour. Naomi finally fell asleep.”

The only sound Seven heard was the sound of the sonic shower running. Still running, as it had been for the past hour. She thought she could also hear Samantha sobbing quietly, but Seven resisted the urge to use her Borg enhanced hearing to be sure, both Sam and the Doctor’s voices telling her it’s ‘not polite to eavesdrop’ running through her mind.

“No! We can’t do this!” Naomi cried out.
“Dammit,” Seven said under her breath, calculating just how long she could hold out before she would be reduced to tears herself. Her wife and her step-daughter were suffering, and there wasn’t anything she could do to fix it. If the false memories started to affect her too…
She moved away from the door and ran to Naomi’s room. The child was curled up in the fetal position, crying into the Flotter doll that Neelix had made for her last year.
“Naomi, hey, it’s me,” Seven said in as soothing a tone of voice as she could manage. “You’re having a nightmare.”
“I told him,” Naomi said, each word punctuated with a sniff. “They were already dead, we were making it worse.”
Seven stroked Naomi’s hair.
“That wasn’t you,” Seven said. “You didn’t kill anyone. I do not believe you ever could.”
The last time Seven had tried this, Naomi had responded by screaming that she had been there, that she had shot people in the back, including children. Now she simply pressed her face deeper into the stuffed Flotter replica. Seven supposed that under the circumstances that passed for progress. She heard another sniff, but from behind her. She turned and saw Samantha standing in the doorway, her uniform a mess. Seven supposed she had worn it into the sonic shower, which couldn’t have been good for the material.
“Annie,” Samantha said shakily, “I know you’re overdue for a regeneration, but can you stay here tonight? I really just need you here right now.”
Seven sighed. She knew that it was only a matter of time before she would be called upon to help the Captain once they got to Tarakis. Until that time however, if Janeway needed her, she’d have to make it an order. She held out her hand, prompting Sam to step forward to take it.
“I’m here,” Seven said. It was all she could think to say.

The bridge operated so normally that Janeway forgot for a brief but pleasant moment that anything had actually been wrong. The crew on the bridge were by no means cured, but for now at least they were functioning and under orders to call in a replacement at the first sign of a flashback.
“Tarakis, dead ahead,” Tom said.

“Shields,” Janeway said. “Stand by weapons. Scan for vessels.”

“There are none,” Tuvok said after a few moments.
“Take us into orbit.”
“Ma’am?” Tom said.
“Do it, Ensign,” she said.

“Life signs?” Chakotay said.

“The planet appears to be uninhabited,” Tuvok said.
“Looks the same as it did when we were here scanning for dilithium deposits,” Harry said. “No signs of weapons fire either.”

“Run a full spectral scan,” Janeway said, needing this trip deeper into the system that was harming her crew to have been worth it. “Look for anything unusual.”
“I’m picking up a power signature,” Harry said.
“Source?” Chakotay said.
“I can’t tell. The signal’s erratic but it’s coming from the northern most continent, coordinate 172 Mark 5.”
“Commander,” Janeway said. “If this is the place where the Nakan massacre happened, you would know better than anyone. I want you to lead an away team to the site. Take people who haven’t been affected by the memories yet. Use Equinox people if you have to, I’ll temporarily lift the away mission ban.”
“Understood,” Chakotay said.
“One more thing,” Janeway said. “No phasers.”

“Captain that would be inadvisable,” Tuvok said.
“What’s inadvisable is giving people with shell shock phaser rifles,” Janeway said. “Keep a transport lock on them and an open channel. Bring them back at the first sign of trouble.”
“Yes, Captain,” Tuvok said.

Chakotay stepped onto the transporter platform, Tuvok on one side of him, Seven of Nine the other, and behind him were Lieutenant Ayala, and Marla Gilmore. Gilmore would not have been his first choice, but literally no one else on the engineering staff had been unaffected by the Nakan massacre memories. Much like Harry Kim, Marla’s previous PTSD seemed to protect her from the worst of the side-effects.

“Energize,” he said.

Within seconds, they were on the planet surface. Chakotay glanced to his left, and recognized the mountain range in the distance.
“This certainly doesn’t look like a war zone,” Gilmore said, her tricorder already out.
“This is the right place though,” Chakotay said. “I recognize the mountains over there. A lot of these trees weren’t here before though. Search the area.”
“Yes, sir,” Ayala said, he and Gilmore going in one direction, while Tuvok, Chakotay and Seven went in another. A bird of some kind squawked in the distance, and Chakotay jumped.
“It would appear that insisting we remain unarmed was the correct call,” Tuvok said.
“Yeah,” Chakotay said, feeling that had he been carrying a phaser or phaser rifle and accidentally shot someone or something that would’ve been rather ironic.

“I am detecting a faint energy signature in this direction,” Seven said, walking rapidly towards whatever she had found. Chakotay had rarely seen Seven in such a hurry before, but he understood why. It couldn’t have been easy for her to leave Sam and Naomi behind, but both of them had seemed to hit a calm point. How long that would last was anyone’s guess though, hence Seven’s efforts to end this mission as quickly as possible.

“Gilmore to Chakotay.”
Chakotay tapped his com badge. “Report.”
“I think we found that cave that Lieutenant Kim was talking about, right down to the cooking gear. We found the remains of two humanoids as well, but there’s no way Harry killed them.”
“How do you figure?” Chakotay said.
“The remains are in the right place, but the bones are over three hundred years old,” Gilmore said.
“Commander!” Seven shouted from the top of a hill several feet ahead of him and Tuvok.
“What is it?” Chakotay said.
“I have found the source of the signal,” Seven said. As soon as he reached her side, he saw it too; a towering monument.
“It’s a war memorial,” Chakotay said. He moved towards it, Tuvok and Seven following closely behind him. “Chakotay to Gilmore, I want you and Ayala to report to my location immediately. We found the source of the memories.”
As they approached, the yellow globe that Chakotay has seen at the top of the monument came clearer into view, and it was increasingly obvious that the globe was pulsing, but the pulses were weak. Soon, he was close enough to see alien writing on one side of the base of the monument.

“Seven,” Chakotay said, “collect all the data you can on this thing, then report back to the ship. I’ll join you shortly.”

Seven of Nine had not realized until she’d returned from the planet just how disheveled she looked. She needed rest, but she wasn’t going to get it. She needed to get to astrometrics, but before she did that she disobeyed a direct order. She had been told to go straight to astrometrics from the transporter room. Instead, she stopped by to check in on Sam and Naomi. The latter was sleeping, again, but had woken up once while Seven was on Tarakis. Sam was doing better, but the strain of it all was showing on her face. Seeing what all of this had done to her spouse made Seven angry. She wanted to go down to that planet and tear apart the monument with her bare hands.

That would have to wait however. She left Sam and Naomi again, this time less painful than the last as she would only be a few decks away, but on the way to astrometrics she experienced her first flashback. The memory she experienced was the same as Neelix’s; trying to protect some of the Nakan children, but them being too afraid and running away only to get caught in the crossfire. She tried to hold on to that fact, but the guilt overwhelmed her, forcing her to stop and lean against the bulkhead, taking slow deep breaths, trying to calm herself.

After a few moments, the memories subsided. Her hands still shook, slightly, but otherwise she felt able to perform her duties. She headed to astrometrics, ready to apologize for being late, but neither the Captain nor Commander Chakotay, who had returned to the ship during the time Seven was checking in on her family, bothered to mention it.
“The structure of the monument contains a synaptic transmitter,” she said as information about the device filled the astrometrics screen. “I believe it was designed to send neurogenic pulses throughout this system.”
“So that anyone passing would experience the Nakan massacre like we did,” Janeway said.
“Try running those symbols we found on the base through the translation matrix,” Chakotay said. Seven did so. The language proved remarkably simple to translate, and within seconds she was reading what it said off the viewscreen aloud.

“Words alone cannot convey the suffering. Words alone cannot prevent what happened here from happening again. Beyond words lies experience; beyond experience lies truth. Make this truth your own.”

“It’s a memorial,” Janeway said. “We weren’t victims of a conspiracy, we were witnesses to a massacre.”

“More than witnesses,” Chakotay said. “By being forced to relive those events half the crew’s been traumatized, and the other half could join them if we don’t get out of here.”
“I’m not sure that was the point,” Janeway said. “Didn’t you say something in your report about the monument being in a state of disrepair?”
“There were cracks in the stone settings,” Chakotay said. “And the sphere at the top looked like it might have been meant to be brighter than it was, but that’s just supposition on my part.”

“If B’Elanna is in any shape to do so,” Janeway said, “have her work with Marla and anyone else we can get to look into it. If the device is doing this to us as the result of a malfunction, maybe we can fix it.”
Seven could see the look on Chakotay’s face in her peripheral vision. She was certain he had doubts, but instead of vocalizing them, he asked her something instead.

“Anything in that database that might tell us who built this thing?” Chakotay said.
“No,” Seven said. “In fact, we do not need either Lieutenant Torres or Miss Gilmore, I can already confirm from my scans that the device has been neglected for nearly two centuries. Its power cells are deteriorating.”
“Not fast enough in my opinion,” Chakotay said. “Let’s shut this thing down so no one else has to go through this.”
Seven nodded agreement, but the Captain stared at the graphic representation of the memorial on the screen. Seven briefly thought that the Captain might be having another flashback, but when Chakotay said her name, Janeway looked at them finally.
“I’m not so sure,” Janeway said. “Send the engineering team down anyway. If we can find out how this thing was intended to work, maybe we can fix it.”
Chakotay did not look, or sound, too happy with that, but Janeway spoke up before he could object.
“Call a meeting of the senior staff,” she said. “Seven, I want you there too, Neelix as well, since he was one of the first to experience this. We may want his input.”
“Except for B’Elanna, right?” Chakotay said. “You still want her heading the engineering team on Tarakis?”
“Right,” Janeway said. “Thank you.”

Chakotay headed out, and Seven turned to follow, but Janeway gently put a hand on Seven’s elbow to get her attention.
“Hey, you alright?” Janeway said.
“Captain?”
“I couldn’t help but notice that you look even more tired than I do. Your hair’s a mess, and I see stains on your uniform in about the place where someone would put their head if they were crying on your shoulder.”

“It has been…a stressful time. However, once I have the opportunity to return to my alcove, and once I am certain that my family won’t be further harmed by that memorial down there, I will be fine. Though I feel I should mention that I had my first memory several minutes ago. My Borg implants were not able to prevent me from being affected by the device.”
Janeway sighed. “I’m so sorry, Seven. The most I can offer you right now is the knowledge that one way or another, this will be over very soon.”

Janeway was tired, but it was almost over, she could feel it. There were several ways it could end, but it was going to end, and that was the important part. After filling everyone in the briefing room in on what the situation was, the Doctor spoke up first.
“I’m afraid,” he said, “that regardless of if we fix it or shut it off, your memories of the massacre will be permanent.”
“At least we’ll prevent what happened to us from happening to other ships,” Harry said.
“What if we can’t fix it though?” Neelix said. “Then all record of what happened here would be lost. Someone put a lot of time and care into building that transmitter,” Neelix said.
“Yeah, and then they abandoned it,” Harry said, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. He very early on in the meeting had planted himself firmly on the side of shutting the device down.

“Neelix,” Tom said, “you haven’t seen all the ways this thing has screwed with my head, what it’s done to my sleep, to my relationship… Hell, if I thought the captain would go along with it I’d go the extra mile and just drop a torpedo on it.”
“Okay, that’s a bit much,” Harry said. “Turning it off will suffice.”

“Fine, so the monument will still be there,” Neelix said, “but that won’t tell the whole story.”

“Unbelievable,” Seven said through clenched teeth.
“Excuse me?” Neelix said.
“You want us to leave that thing running? With all that’s it done to us, is still doing to us?”
“Look,” Captain Janeway said, “if we could just calm down and-”
“That memorial is there for a reason,” Neelix said, his voice raising, “we have no right to just shut it off.”
“And whoever built it had no right to force traumatic memories on us!” Seven’s hand clenched the chair she stood behind so tightly her knuckles were turning white. “On all of us, Neelix. Including your goddaughter, my step-daughter. Did you, for one goddamn second think about what those false flashbacks were doing to her? Have you ever had to hold a four year old child in your arms who can’t stop crying because she feels like a murderer?”
“You’ve made your point, that’s enough Seven,” Janeway said, calmly but firmly.
“You think I don’t care about Naomi?” Neelix said. “How dare you!”
“That’s enough,” Janeway said, louder this time, the rest of the senior staff, even Tuvok, looking increasingly uncomfortable.
“How dare you, with your trite, lame-ass platitudes!” Seven fired back, any trace of her usual Borg calm gone, her face red, her tone holding more anger than Janeway had ever heard from her before. Neelix stepped forward, putting himself mere inches from Seven of Nine, and pointed an accusatory finger at her. Janeway feared that Seven would try to break that finger off before Neelix could say anything. Tuvok immediately stood up, looking ready to intervene. Harry and Tom were reaching for Neelix’s arms while Chakotay positioned himself to grab Seven if need be. Janeway felt her hands shaking, and her own face going warm with rage at the sight of her crew bickering like wolverines fighting over a bear carcass.

“You think that just because you’re sleeping with her mother that you get to lecture-”
“I said that’s enough!” Janeway shouted, her fist slamming into the screen on the wall so hard that it cracked, pain shooting up from her hand into her arm. Everyone in the briefing immediately stopped whatever they were doing and turned to look at her, all of them looking shocked. “Whatever the intentions of this memorial’s builders, planting false memories and giving innocent people PTSD just because they happened to pass through this star system is unforgivable. Forget fixing the device, we’re shutting the damn thing off. If the race that built it is still around, they can make a new one. Maybe one that won’t cause people like us to be ready to kill each other. That’s assuming they still exist. Or still care, seeing as it was left unattended long enough to malfunction in the first place, as more than one person has pointed out to me today.”
“But what about-” Neelix started to say, sounding much calmer and having stepped away from Seven.
“No,” Janeway said. “My decision is final. This ends today.”
Janeway went to tap her combadge, to let the engineering team on the planet know she was scrapping the repair mission, but it was then she realized that it was the hand she normally used to tap said badge that she had hit the wall screen with. It hurt, wouldn’t unclench, and was bleeding on the side. She awkwardly used her other hand.
“Janeway to away team,” she said.
The reply took a few seconds longer than it should, and when B’Elanna responded her voice was shaky.
Probably another false flashback, Janeway thought.

“B’Elanna,” Janeway said. “have you found a way to repair the memorial?”
“Negative Captain,” B’Elanna said. “But given some more time-”

“Don’t bother,” Janeway said. “Just shut it down. Blow it up if you have to. I’m not going to let that thing harm this crew anymore. We’re done.”
“Yes ma’am,” B’Elanna said, not even trying to hide the tone of relief in her voice. Janeway looked at Neelix, who had mercifully gone silent, and was now looking intently at the floor.
“Dismissed,” Janeway said. “As soon as we’ve left orbit I’m ordering bed rest for all of you. If you need me, I’ll be in sickbay.”

Seven felt like she might fall over, but there was one last thing she needed to do, as much for herself as for her loved ones, before going to spend the next twelve hours in her alcove. Voyager had broken orbit and was on its way out of the system, and the Doctor was hard at work implementing a treatment regimen for the crew’s PTSD.

She walked into the room, and saw Samantha, dressed in casual clothes, leaning against the doorway into Naomi’s room. Sam looked over at Seven, presumably having heard her come in, and raised a finger to her lips. Seven moved quietly to Sam, putting her arms around her waist.
“This is the longest she’s slept since this whole thing started,” Sam whispered, looking at a sleeping Naomi. “I’d go to bed myself, but I keep expecting another nightmare.”
“She’ll probably be having those for awhile, sad to say,” Seven said, referring to what the Doctor had said in the briefing room earlier that day. “However she is young, and remarkably resilient. I think she’ll get past it well before either of us do.”
“I hope so,” Sam said. “I hate that you just can’t stay here tonight.”
“I know,’ Seven said. “Unfortunately I require my regeneration cycle to, you know, live.”
Sam barely suppressed a laugh. Seven was glad to hear a positive emotional response from her again. It had only been a few days, but that was more than long enough.

“I love you,” Sam said.
“I love you too,” Seven said, kissing Sam on the back of the neck before heading towards the door.

Neelix stared out the viewport in the mess hall, watching the streaking lights as Voyager went into warp.
“How are you holding up?” He heard Captain Janeway say from behind him.
“Not well, Captain,” he admitted. “I’d kind of hoped things would get back to normal quickly, but no one’s come by to eat anything here since, well, since I took Naomi hostage.”

“You thought you were protecting her,” Janeway said.
“I scared her,” Neelix said. “I wouldn’t blame her if she hated me for that.”
“You know, you’re not going to be able to beat yourself up over that forever, right?”
“I can try,” Neelix said. He lowered his head. “Captain, I need to apologize for what I said in the briefing room, about the memorial. Everyone was right, and I was just… I couldn’t… I was being a complete and total shithead. I’d had a whole speech planned to argue for repairing the monument. I was going to invoke other memorials, ones from the Alpha Quadrant that I’d looked up. The obelisk at Khitomer, the fields of Gettysburg… But they don’t force the tourists at Gettysburg to think they’re murdering people, do they?”
“Not so much, no.”

“If Seven of Nine had broken my nose when I got in her face, I would’ve had it coming,” Neelix said.

“Well,” Janeway said, “considering the crack you made about her wife, I wouldn’t have blamed her. I’d still need to throw her in the brig for a while but…”

“Right, that. I don’t even know where that came from, I think Seven and Sam are an adorable couple, I’ve never had an unkind thing to say about them, ever.”

“I know where it came from. It’s called post-traumatic stress disorder. You may have heard the term bandied about quite a bit this week.”

“Humor as a defense mechanism? Isn’t that usually Tom’s thing?”

Janeway shrugged. “He does it more than most, but it’s hardly unique to him. Get some sleep, Neelix. I’m sure you’ll be busy in that kitchen again soon enough.”

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