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24th, 28th, 30th - 31st December 2015
It looked like everyone had made it this year. Tom was torn over whether it was a good thing or not. Hundreds of people in one place, all but a select few blissfully unaware of what worried him so much. He had to keep it that way, so with his smile prepared and painted on beforehand in his Ready Room, he greeted everyone who stopped to chat with him. A lot of the faces he recognised, none so far were ones he would feel better seeing. The gaps in between people he would walk and look around, hoping to spot them.
B'Elanna appeared by his side, caressing his back. He didn't see her coming, his nerves were frail so he couldn't help but jump a little in shock. "Relax, paranoia doesn't help anyone."
She was right of course, she always was Tom thought silently to himself. He couldn't help it though. His father never attended these parties, he was always far too busy. A few years he would record a video message to be played after everyone else's speeches. What was so special about this one that he'd try to show up? He'd understand the tenth year anniversary, that would be a special one. Today, not so much. He hadn't seen him yet, so Tom told himself that it was an empty threat.
A loud couple of taps echoed around the large hall, courtesy of the microphone standing on the stage. For the first time in a couple of days Tom felt a little better. Finally the face of an ally, a friend. Even if it was only his first officer he saw nearly everyday, it was a big comfort to see him.
"Hello everyone, welcome to another reunion," Harry spoke into the microphone. He paused as close to a dozen more people filed into the hall. "This year we're kicking things off on a not-quite sombre note, with a fitting tribute to a very special woman we all know and miss. Please welcome..." Harry turned with his arm outstretched to greet someone entering the stage, only for his eyes to pop out at the sight of his daughter clambering onto it instead holding something by her lips. Tom recognised his look as pure horror.
"Daddy, daddy, daddy, guess what, guess what!" his daughter said super fast, her own eyes inhumanely wide. She tossed the object over her shoulder, Harry's intended guest stumbled forward to catch it, just missing it. "I had the best drink. It was like brrr, bleurgh at first and then, and then it was like whooo! I wanna sing for the nice people. Oooh, can I have a shuttle for my birthday. Daddy, daddy!" she tugged at his trouser legs so hard she nearly pulled them down. "Why is your last name a girl's name? Why are you not Captain yet, is it cos of that? Oh daddy! You have funny hair, it's like wet all the time like you stick it in a sink."
Harry quickly bundled the little girl up in his arms and stood up. Tira soon joined him on the stage. "This isn't the tribute I had in mind," he groaned as he carried his rapidly nodding and grinning daughter away. Yasmin took his place after picking up a flask from the floor. All the while the audience laughed quietly.
"The kid came out of nowhere," Yasmin muttered while checking if anything was left. Seeing there wasn't made her pout. "Anyway. This year it's the tenth anniversary of a pretty crappy time in our journey. She had gotten us all home like she promised, only for her to be taken away from us a few months later. I don't want us to mope about it, but remember how great she was. Her actions and some of her words..."
"I want some more coffee, now!" Mary screeched off stage somewhere. People couldn't contain their laughter, luckily it overlapped some of the child's tantrum'y screams.
"So erm... my brother and sister agreed that we should instead think back on our favourite times with her. How people met her and some things she did that left a lasting impression," Yasmin said, gesturing to the large screen behind her. She stepped to one side out of the way. An image of Kathryn Janeway faded onto it, smiling into the camera with her arms folded.
The image faded into a black background with text reading, "what was your first impression of Captain Janeway?"
Tom appeared on the screen moments later, sitting behind his Ready Room desk, biting his lip, worried that his words would be his last. "Buns of steel," he said, quickly becoming flushed. The current Tom did the same as nearby people snickered in his direction. "But no seriously. The first time I met her, she was talking down at me, like she did until the very end. True I was in a hole at the time but sometimes it felt like I never left it."
Harry appeared next, his eyes aiming at the ceiling as he thought about it. "I still don't know what the criteria is for crunch time."
B'Elanna laughed on the screen, sighing afterwards. "Are we allowed to be honest in these things? My first impression was this woman wasn't content unless the solution was blowing something up. I still stand by that."
Tom looked towards the real B'Elanna, she smiled awkwardly.
The next clip showed the inside of the Stuart's home, with James and Jessie sitting on their sofa, him looking at her expectantly with a telltale sign of a smirk. "If anyone had told me back then that she'd be my mother-in-law, I'd have punched the nutcase in the face cos it would likely have been Tom," she said.
"That's not a first impression," James sniggered at her.
Jessie pulled a face, slightly exaggerated as she thought about it. "That hair is ridiculous." She turned to James expectantly, smiling curiously.
"I can't remember my first, but it was probably something like can I get a redo?" he said, not in a serious tone. He laughed a little awkwardly. "You stole my second one," he said to Jessie, prompting her to smile innocently.
Craig, reminiscent of a deer in headlights, was next, standing in a different living room. "Uh, I don't want to piss this woman off."
"So you date her daughter, great plan," Yasmin's voice said off screen. Craig laughed nervously.
Neelix appeared afterward with a tear in his eye. "She wasn't interested in my debris. I'll never forget that."
The shot returned to the Stuart's living room at the same sofa, only this time three of the children were sitting on it with Kiara in the middle.
"Coffee. Coffee everywhere," Duncan started with. Sasha pouted as if he stole her answer, and everyone thought that was likely. He wasn't done either, "when babysitting me once, she thought I was a coffee pixie."
"She always made me laugh," Sasha said, giving her brother a brief what the hell look in between. Amy nodded, it was the only time her face was in the camera's view as she kept her head down. "Grandma Janeway was strong and in your face. I always liked her 'cause daddy is too." She smiled, Amy dared to raise her head while turning it to look at her. Duncan thought about it, then nodded as well.
Kiara's smile spread, her eyes sparkled. "My first memory of her I was laughing. I don't remember what it was about, but yeah I gotta go with Sasha on this one. I wanted to be like her."
Duncan looked like he was trying to resist saying something when the clip ended. The black screen came back with new text. "Your favourite Janeway moment?"
Tom's face brightened on his second clip. "I'm pretty partial to her moments of badassery to be honest. There's a reason why her puns are the classics. Time to take out the garbage. Brr, chills. Personally, I think she was the only person to take on the Borg. On purpose. That's pretty cool."
"Call me dull but I'm a sucker for the times when she showed her caring side," Harry answered. "She wasn't just a Captain, she was a leader. Not just a mother to James, Lena or Yasmin, but us as well." His face turned a little pale, "I'm gonna get haunted aren't I?" The camera nodded.
B'Elanna didn't need to think about it, her answer was simple. "When she chased down the demons invading her ship and they ran away from her. No surprise where her kids get it."
Back in the Stuart's household James winced, inhaling through his gritted teeth. "Just one?"
"Threw a chair at Seska. Wish I was there to see it," Jessie smiled. James looked at her in bemusement.
"Though who didn't laugh when she mixed up Crewman Suder with Counsellor Troi? Only Janeway," Harry laughed quietly.
"There's coffee in that plasma storm," the Doctor said, smiling nostalgically. He sighed, his voice turned slightly sarcastic, "it was never dull."
"When she told the Hirogen to grow a pair and stick their hunt up their uptight asses. That kind of thing you never forget," Tom added on. He winked at the camera, "I bet you wish you'd seen that!"
Craig looked on a little nervously, even though his eyes gave away that his example was funny to him. "In one sector she was known as the Coffee Smuggler. Wanted: armed and slightly unhinged. Last seen holding up a Cheapa Coffee with a coat hanger. How do I know this? The bounty hunter hired to catch her followed us around, begging for a signed phaser."
Harry sighed in contentment. "Oh yeah, Mr Shooty. Good times!"
"Ohno," Harry groaned in real life. Tira laughed behind her hand as her partner's face flushed bright red. That stopped when the clip set their daughter off into another frenzy, jumping up and down shouting shooty.
"When she asked me to punch Seven of Nine whenever she said something American," James said with one finger protruded from a lightly clenched fist. Jessie smirked next to him.
Lena appeared on the screen, in the same living room Craig had been in. She looked disappointed. "What? I should've been first," she complained.
"I don't know anyone else who'd beat someone up for saying data or futile differently," B'Elanna admitted.
"James took the American versus British thing a little too far. Now I know why," Tom said, his eyes wide. "Like mummy like crazy son."
Lena returned, quietly thinking the question over. "Whenever mum didn't take any crap from anyone. It's cheating I know, but I don't care." The camera lingered on her stubbornly, shaking a few times. She frowned at it.
The next image was of Kathryn Janeway's grandchildren sitting on the sofa. Sasha spoke up first, "when she threw that cup of sludge in Neelix's face. She was like this isn't coffee, it's crap, why would you serve me your crap. Then she gasped and slapped him, calling him a dirty git before storming out."
Amy giggled, Duncan didn't until he remembered that as well, then he was in tears laughing from it. "Yeah, and Neelix was crying. He wiped the sludge off his face and licked it, gross," he said.
"Was that the same day she told him if he touched her cup again, she'd stick his head in his wok?" Kiara asked. The children laughed, Duncan shook his head while doing so. "Oh, yeah that was when he slipped her the decaf. You guys weren't around then."
James brought out a fourth finger, leaving only his thumb clenched. He hesitated on it, his good mood faded away slightly making Jessie a little worried for him. "Despite how badly I treated her, when I needed her, she was there. Yeah she was hotheaded and sometimes a little crazy, but..." He struggled to continue, his head lightly shook.
Lena came back with a smile on her face. "Mum would never give up. It was her way or no way. She did whatever she thought was necessary because she cared about this crew, us. I think that I wouldn't be who I am if it wasn't for her example." She grimaced, "except for the coffee thing. I dunno how she drank that stuff."
The screen faded into another still image of Kathryn sitting in the Captain's chair, smiling proudly with a cup waiting nearby on the armrest. The picture encouraged the entire room to break into applause. Harry and Tira's daughter kept going long after they were done, so Tira had to gently clasp her hands.
It was Tom's cue to go up to the stage, he quickly maneuvered around the crowds to reach it. Once he got there he smiled broadly, and this time it wasn't faked. "Captain Janeway is still greatly missed amongst us all. But she lives on in us, and no I'm not being cheesy." A few people coughed. "If it wasn't for her, I'd probably still be in that penal settlement in New Zealand."
"I thought this was a celebration of her," Jessie spoke up loud enough for most to hear.
Tom cleared his throat, putting on a smirk as he gestured to her. "If it wasn't for Captain Janeway, Jessie would be a very bitter spinster with an army of cats instead of kids." He knew Jessie's expression meant that she was making a mental note to pummel him later when no one was around, so he laughed gently to show he didn't mean it. "I kid, I kid. But seriously..."
"There'll be a tribute to him in about ten minutes," Jessie whispered. Beside her James struggled to keep a straight face.
Tom continued undeterred, "her sacrifice not only gave us a fighting chance, it's the reason we're all here tonight. On this day eight years ago, we returned home, to a safer..." His voice threatened to shake, giving him away. "Galaxy. Where our lives could go back to what they once were, only bettered by our journey. Today we celebrate, reminisce, look back fondly on other lost souls."
"Snore, bring back coffee lady," Mary blurted out, pointing at Yasmin. Harry tried to shush her but it was too late.
Tom cleared his throat once more. "As with every year, we will have a special program to pay respects to them as well. If you'd like to contribute, talk to Commander Kim. For now, please enjoy the party and relax. You've all earned it."
Neelix made his way towards the buffet table, determined not to show any signs of bitterness for once again being denied the chance to help. Like every year he came to these gatherings, the food laid out looked boring, uninspired and utterly tasteless. Nevertheless he began to fill his plate. On the other side he spotted a familiar young face he couldn't quite name, building a sausage roll fortress on his plate, or so it looked. The last time he remembered seeing the boy, he was a foot shorter, the same height he had been for many years thanks to a botched magic spell. He still had the same baby face coupled with bright blue eyes, Neelix didn't know why he hadn't realised who he was at first.
Standing beside him in the queue was a blonde girl, a similar age. She was somewhat familiar as well, yet nothing about what she was doing clued him in to who she was. Not until she pulled a small wrapped present from her pocket, while her face turned red and mumbled something. He didn't hear, but the boy heard fine. "My mum wanted to give this to you."
Duncan took one look at it and threw it over his shoulder to the girl's relief. "No way."
"She said it was extra special because you were thirteen now, a..." the girl said, swallowing a disgusted lump in her throat. "A big boy now."
Duncan shuddered, almost dropping his plate in the process. "Is she still trying to convince you to ask me..."
On cue Danny appeared behind the two kids, wrapping both her arms around their shoulders. "Aaaw, how's my two lovebirds? I found a lovely place for some alone time..."
"Mum!" the blonde girl barked at her. "Stop trying to force Duncan and I together. It's not happening."
"Aaaw Kirsty sweetie. That's some denial right there," Danny cooed, pinching her cheek. The girl squirmed to try to escape it. "I couldn't get his dad, so you gotta do this for mummy. I want some hot grandkids."
Duncan and Kirsty scrunched their faces in such disgust, even Duncan put down his plate, his appetite completely gone.
"Eeew mum, I'm still not thirteen yet," Kirsty complained.
Unknown to the trio, Jessie had arrived on the scene with a look that would always smack Tom around on her face.
"Not now, silly. Still gotta lay the foundations early," Danny giggled, then gave Duncan a wink. He groaned and walked away to escape from the crazy woman. "He's the only boy, so you gotta work with me Kirst. Unless you want to go the IVF route with one of his sisters."
"Oh god mum. This joke is no longer funny. It's also insulting to dad, like he was your second choice," Kirsty said.
Danny waved her off with her now spare hand. "Oh he knows that already." Kirsty's jaw dropped. "Sweetheart, you're not going to do much better. He's a spitting image of his dad, so he's gonna look good later." Jessie's face twitched, violence brewed in her eyes. "We already know he's inherited the badass Slayerness from daddy too. What's the problem?"
"He's my friend mum, and it's creepy that you're trying to set me up with anyone," Kirsty grumbled.
Danny shrugged, "his parents were friends, so? I'm only trying to help, I wouldn't pimp you out. We both know it's gonna happen sooner than later, don't deny it."
"Oh really?" Jessie said in a threatening tone.
Kirsty sighed in relief while her mother momentarily stood, stunned with her eyes widening. Her smile reappeared, brightening her face. She swung around with her arms outstretched. "Jessie, my best girl friend. Give me a hug."
Jessie rolled her eyes. "Really, best? I'm so sorry for getting in the way of your hot kid or grandkid dreams." She shuddered in disgust for saying it. Danny didn't notice. "Didn't you think you went far enough with my son's birthday present this year?"
"I know," Danny actually sounded apologetic. "It was thoughtless. A boy like Duncan's not gonna need a pickup line book in a million years. You must be busy being overprotective mum, batting the swarms of girls away, for my Kirsty as well."
"Oh mum, only you could ruin a buffet," Kirsty groaned. She began to walk away just in time to see Neelix trying to sneak something from his jacket onto a nearby platter of snacks. Luckily a Security team got to him first, grabbing his arms roughly. They dragged him away. "Only you and the mad Talaxian anyway."
"Oh batting people away, what a good idea," Jessie said, smiling sweetly. Danny briefly laughed before making her escape in between a nearby gathering, then away.
Not far away the Doctor spotted a straggler he didn't expect to see. He stood next to a tall and thin computer screen currently showing an image of a group senior staff photo, squinting for some reason, all while holding a wine glass in hand. Not only did he look like a party crasher standing alone, out of the way, he stood out with his dark robe, the hood lying on his shoulders.
"Should I call Security?" the hologram asked as soon as he was close.
The robed figure didn't break his gaze, or visibly react in anyway that he could see. "No thanks, today is funny enough," the cocky voice of Damien answered.
"Why on earth would you want to come to a reunion party celebrating Voyager's achievements?" the Doctor asked, making Damien break out into quiet sniggers. "For that matter, how did you even get into Starfleet HQ, let alone in here?"
Finally Damien slowly turned around, the same old smirk and contempt in his eyes greeted the Doctor as he did. Apart from aging the eight years, he hadn't changed a bit. The hologram wasn't surprised in the slightest.
"I was invited, and why not," Damien replied in a mocking tone of voice. All the Doctor had time to do was scoff. "For a year I was a member of the circus. I helped, didn't I?"
"You tried to lead a few crewmembers to their deaths in the final Game. You threatened to take the Enterprise," the Doctor said. "You were arrested for it."
Damien's eyes widened, both hands gestured outward casually. "And I served my time. Stop being all drama queeny. I'm here for the same reason everyone here is."
"Free food and drink," the Doctor said in monotone.
"To celebrate the slight setback of those little shapeshifting trolls," Damien sneered. He raised a glass and pretended to clink a glass the Doctor didn't have. "Cheers."
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Slight setback?"
Damien looked at him in genuine pity, or at least it was convincing enough. "Aaw, someone wasn't invited into the inner circle. I was," he said smugly. "If only the destruction of the Games Matrix genocided the ridiculous fools. I'd be here every year."
"Silver linings," another man's voice said on approach.
The Doctor looked over his shoulder while Damien chuckled, his eyes gleaming. "Oh this party has everything. The super villain, the demon and the wannabe," the ex-villain sneered.
"Did I miss the super villain?" the new arrival asked.
"We both did," the Doctor smirked. He held out his hand toward him, "it's good to see you Nathan. It's been a while."
Nathan smiled, taking his hand to shake. "Surely you've got better things to do than keep the Sith wannabe here company."
"Hmph, still go around with your babysitters Natey?" Damien grunted.
"You mean friends and family? Yeah, don't you?" Nathan said, turning his attention back to the Doctor. He meanwhile had been glancing between them, feeling like a piggy in the middle. "One day I'll learn to tune him out, like everyone should."
The Doctor nodded, while laughing quietly. "It was much easier when he was in prison."
"You still have friends and family members? I figured you would have assaulted and murdered them by now," Damien sniped back bitterly. He ventured away, smiling far too smugly for his own good. The comment wiped the smirk from Nathan's face, the Doctor looked on worried.
"Remember, tune him out," the Doctor gave him a friendly smile.
Nathan shook his head, "you can talk Doc Jones. What was he blabbering about with you?"
"Paranoia over much better villains," the Doctor brushed him off. "How have you been? Any episodes lately?"
"Nope," Nathan couldn't help but grin. "Three years, six months today since I last heard my alter ego whine. Five years since its last escape attempt." He winced, teeth clenched. "Too bad for it, and me, that it did so during our yearly family gathering, in our home town. James' sister kicks hard. Though, that's not a shock."
The Doctor looked on, puzzled as he not only didn't mention it, the demon he was talking about chose the riskiest time to emerge from Nathan's subconscious. Something about it concerned him, "you don't think he was trying to, how do I put it delicately, make history repeat itself."
Nathan laughed nervously, "oh god no. It can't, thanks to you and that op. It's not going anywhere."
"Still," the Doctor mumbled.
"Doc, you saved my life, you killed its spirit. I'll never have any children, it'll never move on. All it did in its final days was pop up like a Damien and make stupid comments," Nathan's smile was genuine. "It just decided to vacate when Lena gave it a kick in between my legs. So yeah, that was nice."
"I don't suppose Lena was apologetic about it," the Doctor winced.
Nathan stuck out his bottom lip, right eyebrow raised. "No she was. She said she'd do it quicker and more discreet next time." He laughed into his trademark endearing grin. "Are they here?"
The Doctor nodded, "how kind. Yes, I've seen them all. You'll probably find most of them by the buffet table."
Nathan clasped his arm, a silent thank you. He headed away towards the mentioned table. On the way he passed Harry trying to settle his daughter down still, now she was pulling her tights off while sitting on the floor.
"No, you'll tear them, again," he protested.
"Good!" Mary laughed as she tossed them over her daddy's head.
Nathan resisted laughing too loudly, at least until he was out of earshot. He found Lena first talking very quietly with Craig. Both of them looked worried, not in the party spirit at all. He thought he would try to fix it. It was what he did best after all.
"Makes you want one of your own, huh?" he said, gesturing toward little Mary. The couple stared at him, Craig turning a strange red, while Lena looked ready to murder her brother-in-law on the spot. "Strike one. I'm on my way to the buffet, wanna help me empty it?"
"Lena already did that. Though to be fair, Duncan and Amy helped her," Craig said.
"I wasn't the one that took a whole cake," Lena protested. She shuffled a little on the spot, "I never got the chance."
Nathan was more than curious, "then who did?"
Lena pointed to the closest corner. There he saw two children sitting at a table with their backs to him. He could see the cake, or what was left of it sitting in between them. He wasn't sure which kids they were, all he knew was they were two girls. One blonde with her hair in bunches, and a red head with a side pony tail. They couldn't be older than nine years old, he thought. He had a good idea who one of them was when he spotted his sister run over to them to snatch away the cake. They looked up at her, confirming who the blonde was. The other girl he recognised as Tom and B'Elanna's mischievous only daughter.
"I had to tell her. That much cheesecake would make even Amy bounce off walls," Lena said.
"You just wanted it to yourself," Craig teased her, smirking a little.
As Lena faked a scowl in his direction, Nathan watched Jessie return the half a cake to the buffet table with Miral hot on her heels. He felt something brush up against his leg, he glanced down to just in time catch Harry's daughter run by him with her own shoes in her hands. Her feet bare. There was no chance to stop her, she was already running up to another trio of kids. One of which he knew.
"Lisha, Lisha!" she shouted to get her attention.
Alisha looked over at the younger girl bounding toward her, her eyebrow shot up. "Mary-Kate?"
The girl stopped in front of her, shoving the white shoes in her face. "I got these, pretty huh. Better than yours."
"Nope," Alisha said plainly, shaking her head. "Why do you care?"
"You didn't like my dress last year. Said I looked like a dolly," Mary pouted. She stared at the other girl's mostly ice blue outfit. "You're cold."
Alisha blinked rapidly, her eye briefly diverted to the two kids she was with. "I said I don't like dresses, but you looked like my favourite doll in it. I like my doll. Complament, silly."
"No you were mean," Mary said in a huffy manner.
"No, mummy and daddy taught me to only be mean to bullies. I thought you were funny," Alisha said. She tried to lower her eyebrow but the sight of the other girl still holding her own shoes made it a struggle. Then she spotted the girl's dad heading in their direction trying to pull a tiny pair of tights off his head, without success. It was even funnier since they were pink and glittery. "Still do Mary-Kate. You shouldn't care what people think, okay?"
Mary nodded, "I know! My name's Mary Kathryn though." Alisha's face fell, disappointed she could tell. "Only you can call me that, if I can call you Lisha, okay?"
Alisha broke out into a grin, "okay, deal."
"You look so pretty, I wish I had your hair and eyes," Mary said.
"Don't be stupid," Alisha said abruptly, to the surprise of Mary. "Everyone should be proud of who they are, pretty not important, mummy told me that. You're still pretty though, just like your daddy."
Harry arrived just in time to hear that. Alisha flashed him a smile that proved to him that she did it on purpose. "Oh and here I was thinking you weren't a Stuart kid. You so are."
"Thank you," Alisha said very politely.
Mary giggled, "you do look super nice, daddy."
"Oh no thanks to you, munchkin," Harry said through gritted teeth. He was starting to think Tira had a point. The tights were not budging at all.
It didn't help as Damien walked by, then double backed to laugh at him. Once he was done, he walked past a few new arrivals. One of them caught his eye, and he caught his. The Admiral maintained eye contact as long as possible, nodding at him once. Damien returned the favour with a malicious smile. It faded as soon as the man could no longer see it. In its place was a cold stare and flickering eyes.
Tom looked on, worried as Admiral Paris took to the stage. He smiled at the crowds, his hand clutched the microphone. It didn't take long for the room to quieten down and stop what they were doing to stare at him.
"The crew of Voyager. Welcome to Starfleet Command," he began with warmly. "This is a day of celebration, as well as reflection. Eight years ago you survived despite incredible odds against you. Your efforts ensured a life of peace for the peoples of the Beta and Delta Quadrant. On this day eight years ago, you came home to a heroes welcome, and to a new world. A new home for us all. Today is an extra special occasion."
Tom realised he had forgotten to un-hold his breath. He slowly looked around toward James and Jessie, then at Lena, each of them with varying levels of scorn on their faces. His worry grew.
"Today we're brought together once more. Today we overcame superiority and tyrants. Our own power strengthened, brought back from the dead," Paris continued, his voice becoming far more passionate.
"Oh get to the point you overcompensating prick," Lena whispered.
Paris paused for effect. "On the eve of the twenty fifth century, the Federation shall grow beyond this simplicity."
The audience began whispering to each other, asking others what he was talking about. The ones they asked had no idea either.
He got the response he hoped for. Paris' lips curled while he continued his speech. "Starting today we will no longer seek out new life, new civilisations. We'll expand into a new realm, a new civilisation, a new existence. Today you witness history! Being reborn."
Voices around the hall raised, confused at his words. The lights then petered out of existence. There was a brief moment of silence, overtaken by a roar flying over them.
"What's...?" Tom said to B'Elanna. Low lights began to flicker back on. He then noticed two people within the crowd took advantage of the still darkness to wade through the confused crowds. Anyone who could still see him, even faintly, saw the Admiral outstretch his arms in a grand gesture.
"The voyage is over. Your plight is at an end. Embrace it or..." Paris said, his voice darkening as well.
Tom and B'Elanna both saw an audience member's silhouette raise something, pointed at the Admiral. Tom's first instinct was to panic at what could very easily be a weapon pointing at his father. In his mind though he knew the devastating truth. Still, he couldn't shake off the feeling, the instinct to stop this, to protect him. He knew he couldn't, even still he hurried towards the perpetrator.
He wasn't the only one who had noticed. The Admiral leered at them. "I warned you," he hissed. The light from the weapon lit up the room for a second. No one could miss it. People saw the Admiral's shadow flutter and change colour in that very brief moment. Then it was dark once more.
The lights flickered back on momentarily. Anyone who saw this expected a body slumped on the stage. Instead they saw nothing. He was gone completely.
"Is he...?" Tom began to ask, stuttering slightly as he finally got to the shooter.
"No," James answered him, he kept his weapon still trained on the previous spot. He looked around, "he changed shape."
"He could be anyone," Lena said beside him, her shoulders raised and tense. "We should stick together, just in case."
James nodded, showing his agreement. "I wonder what that noise was." Tom frowned at him, until he remembered what he was probably referring to. The Admiral's speech had overshadowed the loud roar that shook the building. He quickly figured that was the point. He slapped his commbadge.
The door swung open, lights activated on his command. Admiral Paris strode into his office, a confident smile on his face. The entire wall ahead of him, behind his desk, made entirely out of glass, changed to an orbital view of Earth. There a Sovereign class ship flew alone over Europe, shaded from the sun, only brightened by the buildings and street lights.
It wouldn't be alone for much longer, he thought. One small thumb press against his desk computer would see to that.
They began as dots in the distance. They quickly grew larger. Dozens of Starfleet ships swarmed around behind the lone starship in seconds. Paris smiled at them as his computer bleeped in response.
"Standby," he ordered them, keeping his eye on the first ship closely. "Let's see if we can turn the tides a little."
Tom's face had turned a ghostly white. The crowds around him had dispersed, only his closest allies stood around him. "Can you... can you repeat that?" he said.
A woman's voice spoke up through his commbadge, "twenty four of them sir, and I'm detecting another approaching. Their shields are all up, no sign of weapon charging. Not yet."
"They wouldn't. Over the top speech aside, they wouldn't make the first shot. Not here," James said.
B'Elanna folded her arms, a thoughtful look on her face. "They wouldn't send two dozen starships to confront us, just to say hello. They're here to at least intimidate. But why now?"
Tom turned to Harry, he almost snorted into laughter at his new hat. Due to the situation he managed to hold it back. Harry noticed his face struggling though. "We should go back. We don't need to worry about discretion. This is an unusual situation regardless of what type of ships they are," Tom said.
His commbadge beeped. Another voice came over it, a one that chilled Tom to the core. "Tom, son," Paris said softly.
Tom swallowed yet another lump to answer him as calmly as possible, "dad? What's going on. Are you okay?"
"Yes. I took precautions. Be careful, I've known for a few weeks that the Slayer has turned once more. He's killed many," Paris' voice said. Tom spotted James rolling his still blue eyes in the corner of his own, sowing the seeds of further doubt. "I believe he's not the only one. You heard the sound before? That was a ship belonging to a group of rebels. They're paranoid and deeply dangerous. We were expecting them. You should lead the charge."
Tom glanced at his allies, his old crew, standing around him. He noticed James fiddling with a modified tricorder, he had a good idea what he was doing. "We didn't detect any ship, just the fleet dad. Why me?" Tom asked.
"The rebels are lead by a man you used to know. I trust you and you alone to come to a more peaceful solution. I'm counting on you. I'll monitor your progress from here," Paris' voice said. The bleep signalled that he had cut himself off.
B'Elanna looked in James' direction expectantly. "Well?"
"He's in his office. That's way too obvious," he answered her.
Tom turned to Harry, they nodded at each other. Then Tom let himself laugh at his friend's plight. He of course scowled in return. "Now's not the time, Tom."
"Now's the perfect time," Tom smiled as confidentially as he could. "Battle stations everyone. We can do this." Some nodded, a few smiled. No matter what they did, he knew they were on his side and that reassured him. He could feel the confidence he used to feel growing back.
It took some of his hair with it, but Harry managed to get the tights from his head in time to enter the Bridge. He walked straight to the centre, keeping a close eye on the viewscreen. Instead of the fleet, which he expected, he saw empty space on it.
"The fleet are standing by for orders," the woman they spoke to earlier said from the command chairs.
Tom walked over to stand by his best friend's side. "The mystery ship?"
The man at opps shook his head, he looked over his shoulder to the command team. "They should be right in front of us, sir."
Right on cue a shape shimmered into existence in the centre of the screen. Tom frowned, the ship was definitely another Starfleet vessel. "What can you tell me?"
"It's registering as the USS Bozeman B. It's the ship that was reported missing two years ago," Opps answered him.
"Hail..." Harry began to order, but the beeps from Opps told him someone else had beaten him to the punch. Tom gave him a bemused look. "On screen."
The image of the starship faded out to a small Bridge. At its front two stations were two faces the ex-Voyager crew all recognised.
"So Tom, you haven't lost this one yet? I'm impressed," Chakotay said with a smirk.
Tom gave him a similar look back. "I'm surprised you haven't crashed yours yet. What brings you here?"
"We almost did," Chakotay said, briefly glancing at Emma on the parallel chair. She smiled sweetly in return. "I thought I'd finally come to one of these Voyager events. I didn't expect the warm welcome. Shame, I brought enough treats for everyone. I'll just have to arrange my own party." He casually shrugged, all while pressing a few commands into his station. The screen switched back to space view.
"What's he..." B'Elanna began to ask. She didn't have time to finish. Other objects surrounding the starship began to appear, quickly filling the screen.
Paris' brow furrowed, his eyes darkened as he saw the exact same thing they did. So many ships of different styles and colours de-cloaking around the stolen ship. Angered by it, his fist slammed into the computer panel. "Starfleet Command to USS Voyager. This is an act of aggression, make the first move. Now!"
The voice once more gave Tom chills, he clenched his fists, determined not to let it break him. The order the man gave him, he'd regret it he thought to himself. It made him smile. He looked at Harry, "you heard him."
Harry nodded, the pair separated. "Voyager to Dauntless. Your squadron initiate Delta Four Seven," he ordered as he stood behind Opps.
Tom passed Tactical, "ready quantums, shields at full."
The Sovereign ship moved out of orbit first, leading the way. Two thirds of the starships followed it towards the renegade ship. At the last second, they branched off in completely different directions. The Sovereign lead four others, one of which was another Sovereign class to the right. They all maneuvered around to surround the rest of the fleet. All the while the renegade ship and its fleet approached, splitting up as well to block the remaining eight vessels from going anywhere.
"What... what is this?" Paris growled. His head snapped to the right at the sound of a commotion outside his office. Security officers shouting, phasers blasting, loud bangs as heavy objects hit walls and floors. Quickly he hit his computer again, "Paris to Voyager. Tom, what is the meaning of this!?" He waited but got no response.
His door swung open, ripping it off its hinges. Two figures walked in, armed to the teeth, a weapon in each hand pointed at him. The mere sight of them always filled him with quiet rage. Today after what he'd seen, he couldn't keep it quiet anymore. "You, you did this!" he spat. He looked behind him at the window quickly.
"If you want to fall ten stories, be our guest. It'll save time," Lena said with venom in her voice.
Paris clenched his jaw, determined to show some superiority over them. He settled for a smirk. "You've made a deadly mistake, freaks. You have no idea the enormity of my mission. This..." His arms outstretched, "is a mere nail in a huge structure."
James matched his expression, it wiped it from the Admiral's face. "You think we've lived the last eight years in ignorance? You underestimate us, again."
Paris' face turned white, the anger in his eyes hardened them. "Both of your callous murders of key figures in the Federation have not gone unnoticed. You will pay..."
"That's odd, because until a few weeks ago they had," Lena laughed sinisterly at him. "I'm guessing you don't check up on your outer spies as often."
"Yeah, how is your new structure anyway? Standing tall I assume, lots of support and connections," James questioned with a smile.
Paris chuckled darkly. "Your destruction of our network only helped us uncover its weaknesses. I have thanked you for that, haven't I?" He took a few steps out from behind his desk. "Though your new Voyager doesn't have the same specs as the old, so we needn't have bothered."
The eight starships opened fire on their captors, who quickly returned the favour. Grossly outnumbered, the eight began to lose their shields, one by one. Nevertheless they kept firing.
"Get a tractor beam on them," Harry ordered.
"The Katane already has," Tactical reported.
Harry smiled, shaking his head. "Naturally. Disable their weapons, don't do too much damage." Tactical nodded her head. He looked at the screen in time to see their older sister ship take a couple of hits like it was nothing from a much smaller vessel. One blue torpedo knocked out their shields. The tractor beam flew out next, trapping them further.
"Enterprise has got them, one more to go," Opps reported.
"You gotta hand it to the Softmicron. They sure do know how to give us a helping hand," Harry smiled smugly. "Once the last ship's disabled, prepare the shuttles for launch. We'll scan the crew one by one if we have to."
"Your friends from the Sphere have come a long way. Nothing better to do than meddle, I trust," Paris taunted his guests.
Lena noticed he was gesturing to the Katane holding one ship in a tractor beam. "Yes, we've got you to thank for that, haven't we?" she said, mocking his earlier tone.
"You're wasting your time. You think you've gotten the upper hand, that you've surprised and deceived us for once?" Paris said, breaking out into laughter. "Think again. Our connection to our reality is back online. There's nothing you can do but wait, wait for your inevitable deaths. Why wait..."
Lena and James shared an annoyed glance, she rolled her eyes, he only shrugged. They turned back to fire at the Admiral as he was still talking. This time it hit him, he dropped to the ground. His form reverted to his true Softmicron shaped self.
"We need to find this last network hub of his. Then it's finally over," Lena sighed, still frustrated despite their kill.
James made the first move towards the Admiral's desk. He quickly scanned the computer, while Lena took her time to walk over, watching the view outside carefully.
"The others hid theirs in plain sight, but not that plain," James said.
"I dunno, the Vulcan spy decided to build his pylon looking one in the mountains. Everyone could see that thing," Lena said.
James kept working on the computer, a frown on his face grew more intense the longer he did. Lena watched, getting more and more worried with every passing second. "What?" she asked.
"I don't see anything. No unusual power surges, no weird detours, no hidden rooms. Nothing," he replied.
Lena stared in disbelief, "but something did happen. The lights fluctuated. Something must be there."
James shook his head, "if it is, it's well hidden." The pair heard a man laughing from afar. Their first instinct was to look at the fallen Softmicron, but he remained deathly still on the ground. They immediately realised it was coming from outside, it was approaching and it was familiar.
"You've got to be kidding me!" Lena snapped.
A man they knew well and wish they didn't walked into the door frame, sneering at them both one at a time. "Can't say I didn't warn you."
Lena stomped forward, brandishing a sharper weapon in his face. "What exactly did you warn us about, Damien!" she shouted at him.
Damien tried to swipe the blade out of his face, Lena's grip on it was far too tight so it did nothing. He glared towards James, "I said you were making a mistake, that you weren't untouchable."
Lena scrunched her face, confused at his generic words. However James' eyes widened at them, they meant something to him.
"Now I have you, rats caught in my trap," Damien sneered.
"What the hell are you talking about you little rabbit obsessed shi..." Lena snarled.
"That's not Damien," James said firmly, shocking her.
Damien burst into hysterical laughter, only for a few seconds. "You're not leaving this room, not alive anyway." He cocked his head to the right, staring at Lena with wide eyes. "Did you really think I'd sit in my office after a near assassination? You don't remain under people's noses for twelve years by being stupid. Damien can be useful, when he does something right."
His arm reached out to something out of sight, he pulled it immediately back, bringing another Damien into view. This one at the very least unconscious. He tossed him harshly to the floor in front of him, forcing Lena to stumble backwards to avoid getting hit. His other hand drew a weapon of his own, an advanced looking phaser.
"Now I couldn't decide which one of you to kill first, I wanted you both to suffer and watch the other doing so. This should do the trick, widespread and slow burning," Damien said as his body shimmered as if it were made of water. It changed into Admiral Paris, smiling maliciously at them. "These are your Human weapons, you designed them. You call us the monsters with your phasers and your so called ships of peace built like battleships. So called heroes with another name for killers. You make me sick."
"Where's the network HQ, Paris?" Lena asked, inspiring him to laugh at her. "You're going to kill us anyway."
"Did my decoy do the villains talk too much routine? That gave you the wrong idea," Paris said.
James couldn't help but laugh for a second, "really? I've counted three speeches so far."
"I could tell you, so you'd be tortured by being unable to stop it as you die. I think this will torture you enough," Paris said. "Though I will tell you this. It's something to think about while you're writhing in agony. Hundreds of your ex crewmates still wait in the hall, along with both of your children, loved ones." He sniggered, "yes. Once you're both nothing but ash, I'll chase them down, one by one. Starting with your deaths, I will begin... the hunt."
A phaser shot rang out through the office.
TO BE CONTINUED
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