We have been travelling in a parsec of deep space for one week with no sign of conflict or obstacle on our path. Crew morale is stable and supplies are steady so far. It is estimated that it will take around another fortnight for us to reach a viable trading post to buy new supplies, until then the crew is taking this as a chance for some respite after our most recent encounter with the Borg. I have noted that Seven of Nine is remaining stable, or at least as emotional inexpressive as always, however - after the death of One - I hold scepticism that she has fully recovered from any possible trauma. I shall continue to monitor her until I am certain that she has sufficiently healed from any distress that she may be experiencing. At least it will be an interesting study as to how a deliberately unemotional being mourns. I myself am taking some time to review our data logs for any inconsistencies before joining Commander Chakotay for daily exercises.
Janeway sighed in relief as the last data log was stored away. Two hours of reading and correcting were finished and the holodeck was calling for a game of shuttlecock. Of course, it would usually be laser tag, but this time Janeway was hankering for something a bit more recreational. She smiled to herself as she recounted her attempts to explain the idea of recreation to Seven of Nine, who, of course, found it was an "inefficient pass-time" at first, however a few game of laser tag convinced her that it was better than nothing.
Stretching, Janeway stood and started to loosen the collar of her captain's uniform so that it was easier to remove it. She fingered the small clip, before wrenching it free, allowing the front of her uniform to fall open. Cool air seeped onto her chest and she sighed. Her eyes fluttered closed as her tired mind tried convincing her that a small nap wouldn't go amiss. How she longed for one, truly she did, especially after staring at screens for hours on end, aggressively searching for any and all errors. Even when she closed her eyes, squeezing them shut to wet them again, her vision was smarted with ghosts of numbers and words and typing errors and punctuation that was just not quite right.
Janeway was thankful, therefore, that whenever she found herself in a moment such as this, she always had her window in the great unknown, and viewing glass into the deepest reaches of space lining the wall to her right. She took a moment to stare at it, not to try and mark out constellations or even think too hard about how every one of the infinitesimal amount of sparkling dots was a system full of life. For once, Janeway just looked, without seeing or scrutinising. The colours of a nearby - well, nearby in relative terms - cluster painted the sky in a fluorescent orange, colliding into greens and reds as if some great celestial being had spilt a palette of the richest paints in the universe.
"Beautiful," she remarked, simply, to only herself.
It was views like this that almost made the 75 years left of their journey home somewhat excusable. Who else would get to witness a view like this? Except for her. A privilege of the lost, she supposed. A small voice echoed from the back of her brain. 'Let's stay here,' it said. 'Let's watch the night sky for all eternity. Let's never go back to the boring normality of Earth. It could never compare to out here.' It was true, she admitted. But it's not about what she wants. Her priority was the crew, every single individual life on board of this vessel that was counting on her to lead them home. She couldn't let them down, she would rag all through hell if she had to, even if there would be nothing waiting for her when she got back.
"Bridge calling the Captain," the voice of Ensign Harry Kim sounded over the intercom, anchoring her thoughts back to the present.
"Go ahead, Harry," Janeway replied, lazily waving her hand to allow him to continue, breaking her eyes from the magnificence of infinity so that she could return to the daily grind.
"Captain, we've found a distress signal from a nearby planet. I think you should take a look."
'There goes my recreational afternoon,' the captain thought wearily. She looked back to the sorted data files sitting innocently on her desk and glared at them. 'I should've taken my chance an hour ago. Sorry, Chakotay.'
"Alright, I'll be there in a minute." Shaking off the daze she had found herself in and fastening the collar of her uniform back up, she walked steadfast from her Captain's quarters to the bridge. Everyone was present. Her Vulcan Chief of Security, Tuvok; her Human Lieutenant and hotshot pilot Tom Paris; her Human Ensign and pseudo-Protege, Harry Kim; and her Human First Officer and - dare she say it - closest friend, Chakotay. Each one of them standing tall and ready to do their jobs. It gave her the extra little kick to adjust her posture to one complimenting a Captain, and reinvigorate her stride. Entering the bridge, she quickly found her seat and positioned herself to look upon the main screen in front of her.
"What have we got?" she asked, promoting Harry to explain.
"We just received a stray transmission, we believe it to be distress signal of some kind. It's point of origin is currently being determined."
"How long ago was it sent?" Janeway enquired.
"Could be anytime between last week and last millennia," Harry answered. "The single has been corrupted somehow. Any solid data we could find is that it was transmitted on all frequencies, so evidently they were trying to attract attention."
Settling in, she nodded to the Ensign, who was currently situated behind a console on her left, "Show it on screen, Harry."
After a few button presses, the starry view of space disappeared behind a viewing window. It showed an evidently deteriorating piece of footage, its low resolution just about detailing a humanoid figure with two antenna protruding from its forehead speaking in hurried tones. It seemed panicked.
"Please---nocents are dying, y--- ---- ------ ---is plan----- ----- --destruction. If---an find him---he can---lease help---" The quality of the footage meant that much of the message was lost to static interference, allowing them only snippets of what the distressed individual was trying to say.
"Can you try and reconstruct the message?" Janeway asked, her intrigue suddenly piqued.
"Doesn't look like it's possible," Harry replied with disappointment. "There wasn't much left by the time this message got to us, leading me to believe it could have been eroded by time. Either that or it was partially jammed or interfered. That could either be from space matter or..."
"Or from some kind signal jamming technology," Tuvok finished, "The type that is easily found in most space faring vessels."
"So you're saying that someone could've tried to stop it from reaching it destination," Janeway deduced. Tuvok nodded gravely.
"Hang on, I've got one good piece of the message left," Harry piped up, skipping to a new section of the message.
The message skipped to a visually noisy but overall much cleaner piece of footage where the crew could now see a small emblem of what looked like a diamond on the alien's lapel, along with it facial features. It was a male, with dark hair atop his pale head. His antennae held small, bulb-like sacs that glowed intensely.
"If you find this mes---- you must find----- Find---- doctor!"
"Well at least there's one thing we can help with," said with resolve. "How far is it?"
"Just a few light years from here, Captain," Tom Paris answered, "And according to preliminary scans it doesn't seem that anyone is around. It should be safe."
"And if it's not?" Janeway asked, turning to Tuvok.
"I will begin preparing evasive measures," the vulcan stated. Janeway turned to an expectant Paris.
"Take us there," she ordered. "Prepare for resistance. It doesn't look like they were in any good shape. Captain to Sickbay."
"Yes, Captain?" The voice of the ship's doctor replied from her badge's speakers.
"Prepare for potential incoming patients in sick bay. If they want a doctor, then we can sure as hell provide the best we've got."
The Starship Voyager began to alter its course towards the planet and sped away at maximum warp, in a hope that they'll be able to provide assistance in any way.
After a quick journey, Voyager arrived at the planet, hastily establishing a high orbit.
"Captain, the signal is coming from a base on the planet's surface," Ensign Kim clarified.
"Are there any ships around?"
"No, Captain," Commander Tuvok answered after a quick check of his display.
"Then I want an away team on the planet, ready to provide relief. Get going."
"Yes, Captain," Commander Chakotay replied, rising from his seat. "Tom, Tuvok, we'll take a shuttle craft down to the surface, see what we can find."
The three men rode the turbo-lift down to the shuttle bay, where a small craft was waiting for them. A small reconnaissance and transportation unit - nothing too fancy but it would get the job done - just big enough to fit a small away team. They had decided that stealth would be the best option for a mission such as this, hence the shuttle had little in the way of conspicuous weaponry or attachments. Unfortunately it would leave them vulnerable if a large enough military force found them, but considering that scanning results came out clear, and that no other ships were anywhere near Voyager's location - or even in this system of their sensors could be trusted - they decided it was worth the risk. Also waiting for them was Seven of Nine, who had boarded the vessel already, carrying a small data pad and bag of tools from engineering.
"I wish to join you. I can help you decipher the message if it seems beyond repair," she explained. She held up the bag. "I picked these up from Lieutenant Torres the way."
"So be it," Chakotay replied, as he, Tom and Tuvok entered the shuttle. "When we arrive on the planet's surface our goal is to find the message's source and retrieve a clean copy. In the scenario that we find survivors we be beaming them aboard the ship where the doctor will see to their injuries. Tuvok, you will remain on the shuttle in case of an am plush. Tom, take the helm. Tuvok, arm those phasers for each of us, it could get nasty. Tom?"
"Engines are online and primed for ignition."
"Right, let's go."
The shuttle's engines roared into life, propelling the shuttle forward and out of the blast doors. The shuttle careered through space to the signal's origin. It appeared to be signalling from the middle of a large landmass on the darker side of the planet. Soon, they were entering the planet's atmosphere.
"Bring us in gently, Tom," Chakotay instructed. "We have no idea what happened, and I'd rather we weren't seen."
"I know, I know," Tom replied, "I've got this."
Sure enough, the away team landed on the surface, next to a torn up outpost, the signal's origin. One by the one, the crew disembarked the shuttle and made their way towards the outpost.
"Arm phasers to stun," instructed Chakotay. They all obeyed, switching the modes of their Starfleet phaser rifles. Chakotay tapped the com unit on his chest. "Captain, we've found the signal's origin. It's a small building in the middle of densely packed forest area."
"Excellent, Chakotay," Janeway replied from her place on the bridge. "Proceed inside and find the signal - maybe we can get a better idea of what happened here."
The group found a gap in the outpost's wall and climbed though, finding the outpost to be a small communication centre. One of the monitors was still running, despite everything else in the room being shattered beyond repair. Seven walked to the monitor, tapping a few commands into the keyboard provided.
"It seems there's a copy of the message still intact," she explained.
"Let's hear it," Tom replied. Seven pressed a key and a crisp picture of the humanoid that hey had seen earlier appeared on the monitor. Another input from Seven and the picture started to move.
"Hello, my name is Commander Axas of the planet Hol. We are under attack from a race called the Daleks, and we need immediate assistance. Please, innocents are dying. You must help us save this planet's citizens from complete destruction. If you can find him, send him this message, he can help us. This planet's population is over 1 billion! If we cannot escape there will be no survivors! There are children here! If you receive this message, please, you must find him! You must find the Doctor!"
The message ended, leaving the room's occupants in silence. Tom was the first to speak.
"That is what the message said," Seven clarified.
"They can't be talking about our's, right?" Tom asked. "I mean, that's sort of obvious... isn't it?"
"I don't know," Chakotay replied. "Seven, can you find any data on this 'Doctor'? Find out who they are."
"Negative, it doesn't seem that this station has any cultural information stored. It seems this was only communications station," she explained.
"Curious," Chakotay remarked. "Captain, did you get all of that?"
"Affirmative, Chakotay," Janeway replied, "and while this 'Doctor' is certainly an enigma, I'm more concerned about these 'Daleks'."
"Yeah," Harry agreed, "Judging by the fact that I can't find any life-signs, other than our away team, I'm assuming that either the species escaped or..."
"Let's hope that that's not the case, Harry."
Suddenly, an alarm registered from one of the bridge's control panels. An ensign filling in for Tuvok studied its readings and paled.
"Captain!" she called. "There's a ship approaching out of warp speed - a big one!"
"Is it Borg?" Janeway asked, swivelling on the spot. The ensign shook her head.
"No, ma'am. It's nothing that we've seen before. It--"
Without further warning, a gargantuan saucer appeared in the space to their bow. Covered in bronze-like metal, it's size easily dwarfed the federation vessel, and instilling a tangible anxiety in every person on the ship's bridge. It hovered beside them, it's immense mass blocking out the light of the sun, plunging them into darkness.
"Who are they?" Harry asked cautiously, as if a part of him was reluctant to know the answer.
"I don't know, Harry. Hail them." Janeway commanded.
Soon afterward, a video feed of a dark room appeared, which housed a single small circle of blue light at the centre. A constant beeping filled the room, like a drumming heartbeat. Every instinct in Janeway's body told her escape, to pilot her ship as far away as possible and never some back. But that option wasn't open to them. They still an away team on the planet. Janeway supposed that as much danger Voyager was in at the current moment, leaving the shuttle behind would be killing them. If they want to bring that crew back alive, they had to stay.
"Greetings," Janeway began uneasily. "My name is Captain Janeway of the starship Voyager. We came here in response to a distress signal and mean you no harm. We are here only for purposes of exploration. We have no knowledge of any borders of this sector of space or of the politics of its inhabitants. Do you understand us?"
There was a short silence. The life-form seemed unresponsive. Janeway assumed that it was processing what she had said, but the tiniest sliver of doubt in the back of her brain said that they simply didn't care. All too soon and like a crack of thunder sounding through her bones, a grating, robotic, psychopathic voice replied with a spine-chilling cry.
"YOU ARE NOT DALEK."
Janeway felt her blood turn cold. It sounded like an accusation, as if she and everyone else on Voyager had offended their deepest values.
"No, we're not. But--" She tried steering the exchange in a more diplomatic direction, but the Daleks were not allowing it.
"YOU ARE INFERIOR."
'Run! Run! RUN!' Her instincts screamed at her to turn the ship around and get the hell of there, but she knew she couldn't leave without her crew. She refused to leave them to whatever fate the Daleks represented. One last time, Janeway attempted to barter peace.
"Well, I assure you we can--"
The warship fired a beam of pure energy, striking true at its target: Voyager. The bridge was violent jolted from the shock wave.
"Captain!" the ensign from Tuvok's station cried. "The shields are down to just 13.2%!"
"How is that possible? No energy weapon is that powerful!" Janeway exclaimed. "Execute evasive manoeuvres, now! We cannot be hit by that weapon again!"
"I guess we've found our Daleks, then," Harry quipped.
Janeway might have laughed, if the situation wasn't as dire as it currently was.
"Everyone, this is your captain speaking. Red alert! Red alert!" She announced from her chair, her voice spreading throughout the vessel, calling it crew into action. "I want all available hands at their stations! Keep power flowing to the engines and to the shields!"
"The ship is sending out what seem like reconnaissance ships towards the planet," the ensign read from her control screen, noting several smaller craft exiting from a docking area along the saucer's circumference. In flights of six, they began heading straight toward the shuttle's landing area.
"Chakotay, the Daleks are sending ships in your direction! You need to get back to Voyager! Get off of that planet!" She almost screamed at him, over the blaring alarms that were currently filling the bridge.
"Understood," Chakotay replied from the planet's surface. "We're going, right now! Let's move!"
"But we haven't finished downloading the message," Tom pointed out.
"There's no time. The Daleks are coming. Now, move!"
"The Daleks?" Paris asked, his eyes widening as if he just been told that Doomsday was upon them.
"Yes, they've just engaged Voyager and they're sending ships in our direction! Now move! Come on!" Chakotay ordered, almost dragging the two away from the console.
"The download needs only two more minutes," Seven tried to argue, but Chakotay's grip refused to loosen.
"We barely have one! Now run!" he exclaimed, engaging them in a sprint back to the shuttle. He punched his communicator, signalling for the one crew member left on the shuttle. "Tuvok! Get the shuttle ready for immediate take-off! Tom, I hope you're ready to execute the quickest earth to space flight in history."
"Oh, when you put it like that!"
They had just breached the shuttle cockpit by the time the Dalek scout ships had entered their line of sight, just breaching the night sky and sinking ever closer towards them. With a ferocity few of them had seen in the man in the past, Tom pushed the shuttle straight through the air, brushing the treetops as they went. As they were leaving the planet's atmosphere, they managed to spare a glimpse at the battle going on above them, and at the alien ship that had suddenly turned their simple reconnaissance mission into a hasty retreat.
"Look at the size of that thing!" Tom marvelled as he saw the Dalek ship. "It looks as big as a state!"
"We can admire its technical feat later, Lieutenant. For now, can you get us back to Voyager?" Tuvok interrupted from his seat.
"I hope so, but at the speed Voyager is going, docking is going to be a bumpy ride, not to mention a quick one."
"Attempting to dock in a space of a few hundred metres across whilst going at several thousand metres per second is almost impossible, Lieutenant," Seven pointed out.
"Yes, thank you for your analysis, Seven, much appreciated," Tom replied.
"Eyes front!" Chakotay warned as the smaller ships began opening fire at the shuttle. Tom immediately began evasive manoeuvres to try and dodge the beams, with each one missing by the skin of their teeth. Chakotay readjusted himself, to find that the Dalek fleet was beginning to for, a blockade on their bow, preventing them from getting past. Slowly losing hope, he turned to crew.
"So what do we do?" Chakotay asked in exasperation, raising his voice to be heard above what sounded like the groan of the engines, holding on to anything that he could to keep his stability throughout Tom's frantic flying display. "Try careening into Voyager only to get pummelled into scrap metal? Or risk our tiny, barely armed shuttle craft against those things?"
"I don't know, Chakotay," Paris answered. "I'm a pilot, not a miracle-worker!"
"I have a simpler solution," a voice from behind them replied. A voice that none of the crew recognised. They all turned, ready to face the intruder, and paused. Chakotay could only stare at what had could only be described as the impossible.
"Who... who are you?" Chakotay asked.
"What's going on?" Paris asked, unable to turn around even for a second, for fear of being hit by a stray laser beam.
"A friend, I promise, now hope aboard!" The voice replied. For only a moment, Tom risked turning around, then back to the windscreen. Then, to test if his sanity hadn't just gone out the window, he glanced again. This time, he didn't look away. He couldn't look away. The only thing he could do was say what everyone in the craft was currently thinking.
"... You're kidding, right?"
Back on Voyager's bridge, Janeway was desperately trying to navigate a route that would both avoid any incoming laser beams and take Voyager within range of the shuttle. A task that was slowly becoming less and less possible to do. Whatever they did the Daleks just seemed to keep firing with abandon, and no matter how complex the manoeuvre, the Daleks seemed to posses the clairvoyance to predict it, keeping them locked into a space that was getting smaller and smaller by the second. At this point, Janeway was throwing out any idea that she could to see what stuck.
"Try luring the attack ships from the shuttle, try to draw fire towards each other," she ordered, not entirely sure herself if it was possible, but holding beyond hope that her brilliant crew could translate it into reality. "Harry, can you reach them with the transporter beam yet?"
"Negative," Harry answered.
"Captain," one crew member called, "the Daleks are forming a blockade around the shuttle. They won't last for much longer."
"How're the shields?" she asked, weighing up the idea of just brute-forcing their way to the shuttle.
"Holding on, but not by much. We're directing too much energy into evasive manoeuvres to sufficiently recharge them."
Okay, so brute-force wasn't an option. She crossed the idea off of her already dwindling list of possible ideas.
"Harry, how can you feasible push the transporter's range?" she cried.
"On a good day, 40,000km," Harry answered. "But with all the energy currently being used on the engines and to keep the shields from collapsing, and the interference from the Dalek ships, I can only push it to a maximum 10,000km."
"How far away are the crew now?"
"Current estimations are just over 12,000 km and decreasing," the co-pilot replied.
"Okay, if we can break off from the Mothership, and close the distance, could we beam them up?" Janeway supposed. "It's got to be worth--"
An explosion from the screen in front of them interrupted their conversation. Janeway stopped mid-sentence, swivelled to the display in from of her. Their marker was no longer there. All that was left was fire, and floating metal. Silence reigned. Janeway felt her heart drop into her stomach.
"Captain," the co-pilot said shakily, "The shuttle has been destroyed."
The announcement came like a punch to face.
Janeway could only stare in stunned silence as she processed what had happened. No, it couldn't have. Four of her closest friends and most extinguished crew members couldn't now be dead. They couldn't be. Surely the Daleks hadn't just wiped them out, without so much as a fanfare. Four brilliant, beautiful and benign people she cared for, gone in an instant. That wasn't...
For one of the very few times in her life, Janeway was lost for words, struggling to realise that she would never see them again.
"Captain?" Harry called, a slight choke in his voice. "Captain."
Janeway turned to face him, an apology on her pale features. She didn't know. She didn't know what to do. She didn't know how to react. Harry too, was exhibiting grief, seeming stuck in time.
Suddenly, a sound that the crew of Voyager had never heard before started to rumble and announce its presence in the bridge. It sounded like a groaning, warping sound, as if the very fabric of the room was being mounded to fit this new entity. Janeway braced herself against the sudden gust of wind that was spiralling around the newcomer as the air was displaced around it. The sound filled the room as a cuboid object began to materialise in the room, a shining blue intermittent light illuminating all around it. Soon, the roaring of time and space subsided with the full materialisation of what looked like a wooden blue box. Janeway looked up to the sign on the door, stating its identification as a 'Police Box'.
The doors swung open. Janeway armed herself. Four people hurried into the bridge. It was the shuttle crew. Janeway immediately lowered her weapon and hurried to them.
"Are you alright? Are you hurt?" the words tumbled about of her mouth. Just before they could answer another voice was heard from inside.
"Yes, yes! They'll be fine," it said, it's deep British accent resounding into the helm room. "It's you lot that I'm worried about. As should you be!"
A tall man stepped out from the box, clad in a raven overcoat with dark blue lining, with a complimenting waistcoat, trousers and shoes. His weathered face was held a pair of wild eyes that were currently whirling around the bridge, as if searching for something.
"Who are you and what do you want?" Janeway asked, her phaser once again raised.
"Very good questions, but I'll explain later. Got a starship to save!" he continued, rushing towards the helm controls.
"Stay where you are!" Janeway commanded. It seemed to fall on deaf ears, however as the eccentric carried on meddling with the controls.
"Oh, would you look this at this! You don't even have coaxial warp yet! That's adorable. Oh, who am I kidding? It vintage!"
"Who are you and what--"
"I'd say the reason being was that you didn't want to take the risk," he continued, after punching in a few commands, sending the ship into warp on a route away from the Dalek ship, "Coaxial warp is dangerous stuff. But considering you're the type to hear the words 'Dalek invasion' and not immediately run away, I'll put it down instead to a lack of experience. Not that it matters. This warp drive will get you there fast enough."
He turned from the console to face the captain, a smile plastered on his face, his hands in his pockets.
"In any case... greetings, brave space travellers! I'm the Doctor. I just saved your ship and every
living soul aboard. You're very welcome."