This is a 'what-if' story; a possible scenario for when Voyager
returns home. It includes, in addition to the regular Voyager
characters, a couple of the characters I created in other stories,
so reading 'Unexpected Meetings' and 'Major Changes' first will
help you understand some of the situation. If you do not have these,
they are available at
As always, Star Trek and it's characters belong to Paramount, I
just write fan-fic about them :)


        Janeway was sitting in her readyroom, drinking a cup of
coffee. As she went over the reports they had gotten from various
sources over the last few months, she recalled the time when they
had been so low on energy they had to ration replicator use. That
was more than 25 years ago. And now, almost home, she wondered
whether it had all been worth it.
        The reports they received from vessels they'd met, recently,
had spoken of major trouble in their part of the quadrant. Officially,
the only trouble was a war between the Federation and the Cardassians,
but traders had spoken of conflict involving the Klingons, the
Romulans and several smaller groups, amongst them the Maquis.
Janeway had no idea whether that was the same group which had
formed when the former Federation/Cardassian treaty had taken effect.
        Starfleet had been very uncommunicative. They had been in
subspace range for several weeks, but all Starfleet had really done
was advice her that a vessel would be headed their way to escort them
to Earth, 'to protect them against the Cardassians'.
        *Are they worried about the Cardassians, or is it us they
don't trust?* Janeway wondered. She had never thought Starfleet would
be especially happy about the Maquis crew, and every time it looked as
if they might get home soon she had felt a bit of apprehention at
having to face Starfleet Command, but she had had good hopes to talk
her crew and herself out of any major trouble, the way things were
when she left. Now, she wasn't so sure anymore.

        "Bridge to Janeway." The call interrupted her thoughts. She
tapped her combadge.
        "Janeway here."
        "The USS Harrier has just come into sensor range, Captain.
They are hailing us."
"I'm on my way." Janeway switched off the computer screen, and went
to the bridge. She took a moment to look around the bridge, taking
it all in. So here they were, making contact with a Federation vessel
after all this time. She saw them again at the beginning of their
journey; Harry Kim, who'ld been almost the same age his son was, now.
His and B'Elanna's; they had hit it off from the start, and had been
the first ones to get married on the ship. B'Elanna would be in
Engineering -she preferred the hands-on engineering over the bridge
duty, although there were a number of younger crew members in
Engineering who could have done the dirty work if she would have
wanted them to. Tuvok, the only one of the bridge crew who had
hardly visibly aged. Paris, older and wiser but never loosing all
his quirks. Leena was at the Science station. *Starfleet's going
to be really happy with her, too.* Chakotay was not on the bridge,
but Kim informed her he had called him, as well.
        Janeway took her chair from Paris, who'd had the con, and
as Paris took over from Ensign Rollins (also born and raised on
Voyager), Chakotay arrived. He took his chair. Janeway looked at
        "Hail them, Mr. Tuvok."
        "Aye, captain. Hailing frequencies open."
        "On screen." The viewscreen resolved into an unfamiliar bridge.
        "This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of USS Voyager."
        A man in a somewhat changed but still recognisable Starfleet
uniform answered them. "Captain Parker, USS Harrier. We are glad to
see you made it back."
        Janeway felt the excitement come through in her voice. "We're
glad to be back." Still, through all the excitement she felt about
seeing other humans, another Starfleet vessel, she also noticed some
things that worried her. The small bridge, the darker lightening, it
didn't _feel_ like any Federation vessel she had known before.
        They exchanged greetings, set a time for rendez-vous, and
invited Parker and his senior staff over for a meeting and dinner
that evening. Still, Janeway felt mostly relief when they closed
the com channel.
        "I didn't get the impression they were too glad to see us."
Chakotay remarked. Janeway nodded slowly.
        "Do we have a visual yet on the Harrier?", she asked Kim.
        "Any moment now, Captain." he answered.
        And indeed, a few moments later the main viewer showed the
approaching ship. For a long moment everyone just watched the
viewscreen in silence. The ship on the viewer did not look like most
Starfleet vessels had looked like when they left. Those vessels,
though armed, had been science and exploration vessels. What appeared
on their viewscreen now could never be mistaken for anything but a
warship. Tuvok read the specifics to her, but she didn't hear the
        "What has happened here?", she asked.

        "What has happened here?", Tanita asked. Janeway looked at her
daughter. Only 14 years old, she had of course not been on the bridge
as the Harrier approached, but born and raised on the ship, much of
her education had been centered on Starfleet, the Federation, and
shipboard duties. Unlike a Galaxy Class starship, built to carry
families, posessing a full complement of educational facilities, on
Voyager they had to improvise and make do with what they had. Many
times that had meant self-study under the eye of an older student or
getting hands-on education in the science, medical, or any other
department even at Tanita's age.
        Out by itself, life on Voyager had not always been easy, and
Tanita had seen as much as any Starfleet ensign out of the Academy,
perhaps more. Still, Janeway did not know what to answer her. She
herself was not sure what had happened, or whether maybe once they got
further into Federation space the tension would lessen, and all this
display of strength and power was just a show along the border.
        "What do you mean?", she asked, hoping to stall.
        "This ship, the perimeter defenses, this isn't like the
Federation is supposed to be."
        "The perimeter defenses?", Janeway echoed. She had only
learned about the heavily armed scanning beacons placed along the
border shortly before, and she hadn't included those details into the
information released to the crew. "Wait a minute, have you been
monitoring bridge transmissions?"
        Tanita looked down. "Well, I was done with my homework, and we
haven't been able to do anything on any of the duty stations since
coming into range of the Federation border...", she trailed off. She
barely flicked her eyes up at her father before catching herself.
        Janeway caught the movement, though, and looked at Chakotay.
        "Don't tell me you showed her."
        Chakotay looked at her and shrugged a little. "I didn't
exactly show her. I let her watch once, while opening a link." He had
the grace to sound embarrased, but his eyes shone with pride in how
quick Tanita had picked up.
        Janeway couldn't help but smile, either. After a few moments
she became earnest again. She and Chakotay told Tanita what they had
observed so far. They had usually been open with her, not keeping back
when their situation had been dangerous or difficult. Perhaps, Janeway
admitted to herself, because Tanita had always caught on when
something had been amiss.
        "Don't tell anyone though, we are still not sure what things
will look like when we get to Earth.", she warned.
        Tanita nodded. "Aye, mom." She would not tell; as a daughter
of the two most senior officers on the ship she had learned to keep

        Leena pulled a last brush through her hair, and shrugged her
shoulders. These dress uniforms _had_ to be the most uncomfortable
thing Starfleet could come up with. Funny, if she really thought
about it, they were still a lot more comfortable than the Cardassian
uniform she had worn once. But that was a long time ago -24 years,
just about.
        "Are you almost ready?" Dr. Patrick Zimmerman called her from
the living room. Leena picked a stray hair off her sleeve and appeared
from the bathroom.
        "Ah, there you are. It is time to go to the transporter room,
the officers from the Harrier will be here any minute."
        "That's easy for you to say. You only need one second to
change. You should try getting into one of these" -she shrugged her
shoulders at the coarse material- "the regular way, for a change."
        Although the dress uniform did not feel any different to
him, the Doctor had heard the same thing every time they'd worn dress
uniforms, from just about everyone on the ship.
        "Thanks, but I'll take your word for it."
        They walked out into the corridor. Although the ship looked
the same it always had, something made it seem to buzz with activity.
Everyone just stepped that much faster, lighter, more excited. Leena
and Patrick felt themselves swept along with it, although neither
one of them had ever had their home in the Federation.
        As they approached the transporter room, they were met by
Harry and B'Elanna. Tuvok, the Captain and Chakotay were already

        Tom Paris appeared a moment later, and with him Samantha.
        Samantha had been the first one to give birth on the ship, to
a child of her husband left on Deep Space Nine. At first, she had
seemed to do well in spite of being stranded out in the Delta
Quadrant. She had missed her husband like any one of them who had left
a loved one behind, but if anything, her baby seemed to help her
making a home on Voyager.
        Then, a year and a half later, when in quick succession both
Harry & B'Elanna's and Neelix & Kes' kids had been born, and more
new families started to form on the ship, she had broken down. Tom
Paris, out of all people, had been there to pick her up.

        Neelix would be working on dinner. He had declined the
invitation to join them as one of the senior personnel, saying he
couldn't possibly get dinner served if he had to welcome the guests
on board right before.
        He had never started a new relation after Kes died.
Federation technology, the Doctor, and she herself -she had become
as good a doctor as anyone could wish to be- had managed to stretch 
her life from the nine years people on her home world had lived, 
to a full 13, but in the end she had been the first and only one 
on Voyager to die of old age.
        Their son and daughter, twins, aged rather more rapidly
than any of the other children born on Voyager, appearing to be in
their mid-thirties instead of barely twenty-three, but their mixed
heritage had slowed their aging considerably.

        The air of excitement from the rest of the ship was felt 
in the transporterroom  as well, but here it was dampened rather 
heavily by the apprehention felt on the bridge, when the warship 
had shown on the viewscreen. When everyone was present, Janeway 
gave the command for transport.
        A group of five men appeared. Captain Parker stood in mid
center, a stern, middle-aged man, but with an air of calmth over him.
He stepped down from the console and quickly introduced his officers.
        "Commander Simon Vasquez, my first officer."
        A young, brazen man with a touch of arrogance in his manner
inclined his head.
        "Lieutenant Burt Randall, Chief of Security."
        A big man with close-cropped, dark hair and a wide smile on
his face stepped forward. The smile didn't reach his eyes, though. As
he greeted Captain Janeway, she was well aware he kept glaring at
Leena from the corner of his eyes. He also glanced at the other
Voyager officers, trying not to be too obvious about it, but there
was no one who did not notice.
        *Who or what do they think we are?* Janeway thought, as she
observed the way the lieutenant surreptously placed himself in front
of his Captain. It wasn't an overtly strong precaution on a strage
ship, but they were both supposed to be Starfleet ships, here,
weren't they?
        "Commander Dret Sevvel," Parker indicated a tall, thin
man on his left, "Chief Medical Officer, and Lieutenant Sjon VanBilt,
my helmsman."
        A young man with brown eyes stepped forward, the only one
who seemed sincere in his greetings. *No, Captain Parker is also
sincere in his welcome,* Janeway thought. *He's just very reserved.
But the others...*
        She introduced her crew to the Harrier officers in turn.
Starting with Chakotay, she felt the Harrier people stiffen slightly
as she named him as a Commander and her First Officer. Although
the Harrier officers were most certainly briefed on her staff by
Starfleet, they obviously weren't happy with it.
        She went on to introduce Tuvok, and Harry, who were greeted
politely, but tension went up another notch as she introduced
B'Elanna.  B'Elanna had not been on the bridge when they had first
made contact, and Janeway could see the short glances Randall and
Vasquez exchanged. *They're still thinking of them as Maquis* Janeway
        As she introduced Paris, the look on Vasquez's face suddenly
took her back to that time so long ago, when Paris had come on board.
Her First Officer at the time, Cavitt, had looked at him that way. As
if he had some kind of disease and had walked onto the bridge by
accident, and should be taken off before he contaminated anyone.
        Samantha, not a department head herself, received polite
greetings, while the Harrier officers still glanced at Tom Paris.
        She named Leena next, and this time Sevvel did not bother to
hide his disdain, either. Still, none of the Harrier officers spoke a
word apart from some mumbled 'pleasure' and similar niceties.
        Finally, she introduced her Chief Medical Officer. "Commander
Patrick Zimmerman, my CMO." Sevvel looked again, then blinked. "That
is an Emergency Holographic Medical Program." he said, turning back to
the others.
        Vasquez immediately turned to Janeway. "You introduce your
EMHP to us as your CMO? Is this a joke?" Tension went up yet another
notch. Parker trew a quick glance at his First Officer, as if to stop
him, but he did not say anything. The Voyager crew held their breath.
Janeway looked Vasquez straight into the eye.
        "He has been my Chief Medical Officer for the past 26 years.
He's a valued member of my crew and you will treat him as such."
        Vasquez almost looked as if to reply, but Parker put out
his hand to stop him. It was quiet for a moment. Chakotay broke the
        "Well. Shall we proceed to dinner?"
        The Captain and Commander led the way, followed by the
Harrier officers. B'Elanna, Harry, Patrick and Leena walked behind.
They dropped back a little.
        "So much for a warm welcome." Harry said.
        "Hm. Did you notice his whole senior staff is human?" B'Elanna
        "Almost his whole crew is human. There are two Vulcans and a
Bolian on his manifest, none of which has officer rank." They had not
noticed Tuvok fall back to join their little group, but they were used
to the Vulcan's quiet ways.
        "You checked their crew manifest?" B'Elanna asked.
        "It is not classified information. It might help us understand
what has occured in this quadrant." the Vulcan noted.
        "It is unusual for a Federation ship to have members from
only one race aboard, but not unheard of." the Doctor said. "It could
be a coincidence."
        "Maybe. But put it together with everything else we've been
seeing, I think Starfleet has changed some of its ways. And not in a
way I like." B'Elanna put in.

        They came to the holodeck. They had set up the table there, so
the Doctor could join in the dining, as well.
        Neelix was just putting the last touches to the table, too
busy to notice the way Vasquez wiped his hand after shaking Neelix's.
Parker noticed, and gave his First Officer another stern glance.
        Everyone took their places, the crews mixing up. Janeway sat
at one end of the table, with Chakotay to her right and Parker on her
left. Vasquez took the chair next to Chakotay, as it was usual for
visiting crew to sit next to their counterparts. He seemed relieved
when Tuvok took the next chair. Randall sat beside Tuvok. B'Elanna and
Harry sat down together, as there were more Voyager officers present
than there were visitors. Sevvel came next. Doctor Zimmerman sat down
next to the Harrier's CMO, and Leena sat down beside him. She saw with
some relief Lieutenant VanBilt sitting next to her -definitely the
most pleasant of the Harrier crew. Paris took the next seat over, with
Samantha completing the circle, sitting next to Parker.
        Neelix brought in the first course immediately, for which
Janeway was grateful. *Maybe once we're eating dinner, tension will
ease up a little.*
        She thought the seating was arranged pretty well, at least,
under the circumstances. Still, everyone kept the conversation
carefully neutral. No one discussed the war or the political situation.
        Tuvok tried to query Randall several times, but received no
usefull information whatsoever. Any question he asked was returned,
avoided, answered in such vague wording that the answer was worthless,
or just plainly ignored.
        Vasquez spoke with Chakotay, but although he made a half-
hearted attempt to seem polite, he was curt and brusque. Chakotay had
to work hard to keep his patience with the man. He concentrated on his
training to remain calm, and kept the subject neutral, engaging in
small-talk. There was no way Vasquez was going to tell him anything
usefull, and it would do no good to light the fuse any further. He
glanced at Janeway and Tuvok and hoped they were doing better.
        Janeway was talking with Parker, who seemed reasonably
pleasant. But it did not take her long to find out he was not going to
tell her anything they didn't already know, either. Every time she
asked a question, either straight out or surrepteously, he carefully
avoided it. He tried to be pleasant about it, showing great interest
in her journey through the Delta quadrant, but he never slipped the
least bit of information through in what he said.
        When the first course was served, Sevvel had not known what
to do. Normally, he would first have spoken to the CMO of the other
ship. But this was a hologram sitting next to him. He started eating
his soup. As the others paired off in conversation, their part of the
table ate in silence. After a long moment he turned to B'Elanna.
        "So that's really your CMO?"
        B'Elanna turned toward him. Even though many visitors asked
the same question, -heck, it'd taken most of them a while to get used
to him- the Voyager crew was so used to Doctor Zimmerman that it was
always surprising how difficult it was for others accept him.
        She simply answered, "Yes."
        "And you have installed holo projectors all over the ship,
so it can get around?"
        B'Elanna's eyes flashed at the word 'it'. Although the
projectors themselves had of course been the work of her and her
staff, she answered curtly, "Ask _him_. He's sitting next to you."
        Sevvel turned toward Doctor Zimmerman, and after a barely
noticable pause, repeated his question. The Doctor, also long used to
the way new people reacted to him, answered as if the question had
been directed to him in the first place. *But somehow it still hurts.
And not _everyone_ reacts that way. Kes hadn't, nor had Leena...*
        Out loud, however, he said, "Yes. I use a portable holo
projector to get around off the ship, but on the ship itself I can go
        Sevvel felt his interest rise as Zimmerman answered his
question in a normal, humanoid, manner. He asked a question about
the Delta quadrant, and soon they were involved in converstaion.
Sevvel briefly thought, *I am talking to a _hologram_* when they were
momentarily interrupted for next course to be served, but there was so
much to tell and hear about. Neither Captain had had any objection to
share purely medical information, so the two Chief Medical Officers
were the only ones actually getting something of value out of their
        Leena and Paris both talked to VanBilt. He was chatting
pleasantly, although he, too, was on his guard not to give out any
real information. Paris tried to trick him, leading the conversation
slowly, or suddenly jumping in a question, but VanBilt paid too much
attention to fall for that. He brought the subject back to Voyager.
        "I saw several younger crew members aboard. Did you guys
really start families here?"
        Paris shrugged. "We _were_ underway for 26 years."
        "Do you have any kids?" VanBilt asked.
        Glad to have something they could talk about, Tom and Samantha
told him about the son they now raised together.
        VanBilt turned to Leena.
        "And how 'bout you? You are the only Cardassian here."
        Leena nodded. "Yes, but I did get married. We've got a lot
of mixed couples on board."
        "Kids?" the Harrier helmsman asked.
        Leena smiled. "No. That would never work."
        VanBilt asked, "Can't something been done genetically? That
Doctor of yours should be able to come up with something."
        Paris took another bite of his Derwa pasta, keeping a
straight face as Leena answered, "He's my husband."
        VanBilt's jaw dropped. "You're married to a hologram?"
        "Have been for ten years." Leena said. She had to laugh -she
knew this officer was just surprised, she did not notice the same
hostility in him she had noticed in the First Officer or the Security
        "A Cardassian, married to a holographic Doctor, on the senior
staff of a Federation Starship. Now I've seen it all."

        After dinner, Captain Janeway met with Parker in her readyroom.
After another ten minutes of non-information, Janeway had had enough.
        "You're not going to tell me anything usefull, are you?", she
        Parker hesitated. "You can understand, in the light of the
        Janeway took a deep breath. "No, I can not. Since no one
has been telling us about 'the situation', I can not understand 'in
the light of the situation.'"
        It was Parker's turn to sigh. "You're right. I am sorry, but
I can not give you any information. Starfleet Command has instructed
me to escort you to Earth, they will fill you in on what has been
happening here."
        "This escort, it's not the Cardassians they are afraid of.
They don't trust my crew."
        "You have quite a lot of non-Federation personnel aboard, even
among your senior staff. In these times, that makes some people
        Janeway nodded. "Like your First Officer and Security Chief,
for example. How wide-spread has this become?"
        "I can not tell you that, either." Parker answered. But his
eyes and his voice were sad, and told Janeway more than anything else
he'd said that night.
        Both knew further talk would be of little use. Captain Parker
beamed back to his ship, following the rest of his staff, who had left
right after dinner.

        Voyager followed the warship to Earth, all the while scanning
and registering information. Janeway did not like what she saw; heavy
defenses, more warships, little in the way of the peaceful space ports
meant for trade, recreation and repair until they were deep into
Federation space. And even here it seemed that larger parts of the
ports they passed seemed to be in use as repair and docking facilities
than she remembered.
        None of the ships they met hailed them, nor did they
themselves initiate any contact on their way to Earth. It was four
days until they arrived in Sector 1, and still no one had really
spoken to them, after the little conversation on that first evening.
        They established orbit around Earth. The Harrier hailed them,
saying a few words of farewell, then it left orbit.
        Starfleet Command had ordered Janeway to beam down with her
senior officers. They arrived in the transporter room together.
Admiral Simonis was there to meet them.
        After Janeway introduced her officers, he indicated Tuvok
and Kim. "These are your only Starfleet officers?"
        "These are _all_ my Starfleet officers." Janeway said. "That
is what we all agreed on 26 years ago, and that's what we have been."
        Admiral Simonis harumphed. "I would like to see you and your
-original- Starfleet crew in the briefing room. The others can wait in
Conference room three."
        Janeway did not like this one bit, but she did not think an
arguement here in the transporter room would do her any good. She
nodded to Chakotay and the group split up.

        Chakotay and the others were led into a conference room
and left to themsleves.
        There was a computer console on the table, Leena and Torres
went straight to it. They were almost surprised to find it worked, but
quickly found out almost all files had been locked under security
        "Anything more important thatn the public newcasts is locked,
Commander." B'Elanna reported.
        "The newscasts might still tell us something, B'Elanna."
Chakotay said. "Let's try a keyword search on the breakdown of the
Cardassian-Federation treaty, starting with when we were pulled into
the Delta quadrant."
        Over the next couple of hours, the Voyager officers pieced
together the events that led to the current disorder in the quadrant.
        Starting only months after they had left, the news began to
report minor incidents. The first sign of major trouble came a few
months later -a joined Tal Shiar/Obsidian Order expedition to the
Gamma quadrant which turned into disaster for both, Dominion
infiltration in several key positions in many governments.
        The Klingons attempted an invasion into Cardassian space,
claiming the Cardassians were infiltrated by the Founders. Some months
later, the Klingon High Council leader, Gowron, was discovered to be a
Founder, himself. A high Federation official was uncovered as a
Changeling, on Earth.
        Over the next five years, reports of Dominion activity
increased. Governments that had been stable for decades fell, border
incidents occured between every major power in this part of the
Galaxy. Nationalist and xenophobic groups sprang up and flourished.
        The Cardassian civil government, which had formed after the
demise of the Obsidian Order, lasted no more than a few months.
Right-wing extremists, joined by what was left of the Obsidian Order,
held a successful coup. They broke with the Federation.
        The Klingons, who had taken a foothold in that region of space
as well, prepared to dig themselves in.
        The Maquis, squished now between three factions, not counting
the Dominion on the other side of the wormhole, appealed to the
Federation. The Federation admitted the situation was tight for the
colonies in what had been the demilitarized zone, but there were
rumors of large Romulan build-up close to the Neutral Zone, and
the Klingon border was restless, although the treaty with the Klingons
was still officially in effect. After much delay, they finally sent an
outdated Constellation class cruiser and gave orders to Deep Space
Nine to help defend the zone with the Defiant.
        The Cardassians, who had tried once to attack the Dominion
in the Gamma quadrant, now tried to stop them on this end of the
wormhole. They crossed the border at the same time the Romulans
crossed the Neutral Zone.
        Bajor and DS9 sent out a call for help, but the Federation
sent their forces to meet the Romulans, sending Bajor their regrets and
a promise of more support as soon as the Romulan threat had been taken
care of.
        Bajor, feeling betrayed, cut their ties with the Federation.
As the Federation tried to recall their personnel from DS9, Sisko and
most of his crew refused to withdraw.
        Turning to the Maquis and playing on the warrior nature of
the Klingons, a joint force of the Maquis, Bajor, DS9 and the Klingons
beat off the attack, but Federation ties were never restored.
        Soon after, the Klingons left what little they held in the
zone, as they were recalled to their own planet.
        There was little information about the internal politics of
the Klingon, Romulan or Cardassian empires, but many planets of the
Federation pulled out. For the first time in over two centuries the
number of Federation members dropped, as few new applications were
made and fewer were granted.
        After five years, the Alpha quadrant was in turmoil, with open
war between the Federation and the Cardassians, and the Klingons and
Romulans, and no two factions allied for more than a single battle.

        Admiral Simonis looked at Janeway. After a short talk to the
three of them, Tuvok and Kim had been dismissed. "So, if I understand
correctly, you are asking us to accept the commissions of these
Maquis, a Cardassian, and a -a hologram?"
        Simonis looked at his console.
        "I can _try_ to convince the Council to acquit the Maquis.
But I doubt they will allow a Cardassian to walk freely on Earth."
        Janeway couldn't believe what she was hearing. She hadn't
expected the Admiral to let the commissions stand -not the way things
were run, now- but she was not going to stand for her crew to be
detained. And now this.
        While the Maquis crew had been wanted by the Federation when
she left -that was why she had gone after them in the first place-
Leena had no outstanding warrants or any trouble with the Federation
at all. She told Simonis just that.
        He looked a little uncomfortable, but only a little.
        "There's a war going on. Cardassians in the Federation are
kept under close observation."
        Janeway got up and put her hands on his desk, leaning forward.
        "Are you saying the Federation is holding Cardassians in
        Simonis held up his hand, trying to get her to sit down again,
but Janeway refused to back off. He hesitated.
        "We don't like it, either, but the war..."
        Janeway was appalled. *Why is it that every time I think
I've heard all of it, it gets worse?*
        "Incarcerating people for their race, that hasn't happened
since the Federation was founded. Nothing _like_ it has happened on
Earth since the Bell riots of 2024!"
        Simonis put up his hand again. Janeway straightened, but did
not sit back down.
        "Please. I will do my best for your crew. That is all I can
do for you. I will let you return to your ship, you will stay in
Station orbit untill a decision has been reached.", the Admiral told
her. He saw Janeway's eyes flash in anger and added, "Don't do
anything foolish."
        Janeway just stared at him. Simonis gave a short nod.
        Without a further word, Janeway turned and stalked out of the

        They met again in the transporter room. Janeway walked
straight onto the platform. They beamed up in silence. As soon as
they materialised aboard Voyager, Janeway stepped off the platform.
        "Conference room, now."
        She walked briskly through the corridors, leaving the rest of
the crew to hurry after her. As she entered the turbolift, Chakotay
caught up with her.
        The other officers fell behind, letting Janeway and Chakotay
take the first turbolift car. The doors closed and Chakotay turned
to Janeway. His eyes where concerned, and he kept his voice low,
trying to calm her.
        "I take it things did not go well."
        Janeway exploded. "The Admiral did not even want to consider
honoring your commissions. He said he would _try_ to keep Starfleet
from locking all Maquis up. He flatout refused to give any
consideration to Leena or the Doctor. Has all of Starfleet gone
        Chakotay did not answer. He just held her, knowing she
needed this outburst. After a moment, he felt her relax. As the
turbolift stopped and they walked into the conference room, Janeway
looked composed again. But Chakotay knew it was only a thin layer of
composure and underneath it, she was seething.
        The other officers arrived in the conference room, and
everyone took their places. The crew filled Janeway in on what they
had discovered from the newscasts, she told them about her briefing
with the Admiral.
        She kept her voice at the normal level all the way through,
but no one could doubt that she was deeply disturbed by both her own
briefing and the news the others had brought.
        "Simonis will contact us with the Admiralty's decision, but
it does not look good." she finished.
        After the brief pause that followed, Chakotay was the first
to speak.
        "We knew we risked court when we agreed to go back to
Federation space."
        "Things were different then." B'Elanna said. "If they try us
now, we'll never go out in space again."
        "We can not completely rule out the chance that the Admiralty
will rule in favor of granting the Captian's request." Tuvok put in.
        Janeway gave him a sad smile. "Would you care to give us the
odds on that?"
        "Based on my observations of the Admiralty, and the combined
news reports we have seen, I would estimate that chance at less than .2
        "Not very good odds." Janeway said. "Oh, I agree it's
_possible_. But once we hear from Starfleet Command it will be to late
to think of other options. I want options, and I want them now."
        "The Maquis will take us in." Chakotay said. "With Bajor,
Deep Space 9 and the wormhole in their territory they have become a
larger group, but another ship will still be welcome. And they are
currently the only ones likely to welcome a mixed crew."
        "May I remind you that we are in Earth orbit, in the heart
of Federation space, with all systems on minimum power and the main
engines off-line?" Tuvok stated.
        "Spacedock will be on to us as soon as we power up the
engines." Paris said.
        "Remember the Waziki?" Chakotay said.
        "Cold start on the engines and jump to maximum warp." Janeway
said. "B'Elanna?"
        "We can do it, Captain. We should be able to take less damage
than we did that time, since we know what to expect. By the time they
figure out we're gone, we'll be out of the system. Those warships are
big, but they're also slow. If we get a head start, Voyager can outrun
and outmaneuver them."
        "Make the necessary preparations, but we won't do anything
untill we hear from Starfleet Command." Janeway decided.
        Everyone got up and rushed out of the conference room,
working on the problem as they had done all during the journey.

        Barely two hours later, most of the crew was back on the
bridge, as Tuvok received the signal from Starfleet.
        "The Admiral is hailing us. Your eyes only."
        "In the readyroom." Janeway said. "We'll take it there.
This concerns everybody."
        Everyone followed into the ready room, standing behind the
viewscreen. They could not see the Admiral -he would see them as well-
but they could hear him.
        "Captain." Simonis said.
        "You have reached a decision?" Janeway was not going to
listen to any preamble if she could help it.
        "The Admiralty has decided we can not grand your request
for pardon of your crew. You will have the Maquis beam down to the
Starbase, and also your..." his sarcasm was clear in his voice,
"Science officer. The Starfleet crew will be briefed at Headquarters,
as will the civilians you have on board. Oh, and leave that... Doctor
of yours on, a team of programmers is on its way to study the way it
        Janeway had to use all her selfcontrol not to look up at
her crew as she listened. She kept her eyes on the screen.
        "Give me one hour for my crew to get ready." she said.
        Simonis gave a short shrug. "One hour."
        Janeway cut transmission, not trusting herself to say
anything else.
        Chakotay was at her side as the viewscreen blanked, putting
a hand on her shoulder. The rest of them simply waited. It was her
decision now. She took a deep breath.
        "Prepare for cold-start warp jump in 55 minutes. Everyone,
inform your department of the situation. Anyone who wants to do so
can beam down to Starbase."
        "Anyone beaming to Starbase early would mean a significant
risk Starfleet would catch on to us, Captain." Tuvok said.
        Janeway nodded. "I know. But this is one decision I can not
make for anyone else. Anyone wants to beam down, they can."

        Janeway stared out the window. All departments would be
busy making preparations, and the crew knew its job -for the next
45 minutes there was little to do for her but wait. She wondered
who would choose to stay on Earth and go home, if there was any
home left for any of them to go to.
        "Maybe we have tried to find something that was here all
along.", Chakotay said behind her.
        Janeway jumped. She hadn't realised she had spoken aloud.
        She turned and looked around. A space ship was never meant to
be a permanent home, not one the size of Voyager. Even after
remodelling, their quarters were small for a family of three. So much
space of the ship had gone into adjustments made for their long
journey. The hydroponics bay, the kitchen, the nursery, the
classroom... Still, it was comfortable. She took in the Delta Quadrant
artifacts they had collected on their journey, the Dreamcatcher
Chakotay had made, the almost-finished model of a dilithium molecule
Tanita was building for her science class, laying on the small table
next to the couch.
        Tanita was not there; she would be in the classroom or the
nursery, watching the younger children, freeing the adults for their
duties, as they had done in every emergency ever since the first
children had been old enough to watch their younger shipmates.
        "For all these years we have tried so hard to uphold
Starfleet protocol and Federation ideals. Only to find that the
Federation itself has abandoned almost everything it once stood for.",
she said sofly. "Chakotay... Have I been wrong putting so much effort
in going home?"
        Chakotay had followed her gaze around the room. He shook his
head. "I think we had to see our old home to fully realize what we
have here. Without seeing it, even if someone had been able to tell us
everything that has happened here, we would still not have been able
to let go."
        Janeway looked at her First Officer and husband. "Thank you.",
she said.

        Chakotay held her hands for a moment. He knew the decision
she had made up in her Readyroom could well be the hardest she
had made on their whole journey, after all they had done to run
Voyager as a Starfleet vessel in a Quadrant so far from Federation
space. He hadn't said anything she hadn't known, or would not have
been able to come up with herself, but she had needed the reassurance.

        For a few moments they held on, then Janeway let go. There was
one more thing she had to do before going back to the bridge. She
turned toward her clothes closet and took out a green sweater. She
hesitated only a moment before discarding her uniform top. *I
discarded this when I gave the order for the warp jump, half an hour
ago*, she thought. Chakotay followed her lead, pulling on a brown
shirt he often wore after hours on the holodeck.

        Down in Engineering, B'Elanna looked at her staff gathered
around her. "I want you to understand that anyone who wants to get
off, is free to leave. All -original- Starfleet crew will be able
to go to their homes on Earth, after debriefing. We leave in 45
minutes, you have until then to decide."
        For a moment it was quiet, then the first crew members spoke
        "I'm staying." Garth said.
        Mika and Lan looked at each other and nodded. "We're with
        The younger crew, who'd been raised on Voyager, stayed as

        Carey heard the voices of his collegues as if they were a long
way off. He stared at the wall, and through it, in the direction Earth
lay. He had had a communication from his wife and sons. Martin had a
son of his own, now, and had they had talked about how he could see
his little grandson grow up and perhaps catch some of the moments he
had missed with his own boys.
        Carey was one of the few crew members who had never started
a new relation aboard Voyager. Really, only he and Tuvok had waited
all this time for their return home. *But he's a Vulcan. He still has
        From the edges of his vision he noticed B'Elanna looking at
him. He snapped back to Voyager's engine room and looked around. All
others had returned to their stations and were busy getting ready for
the warp jump they were going to make. He looked at the crew, his
friends and collegues, the warpcore, barely glowing with the power on
minimum, the place he had worked and lived in for 26 years.
        "No one will hold it against you if you decide to beam down."
B'Elanna said, softly. "We know you got your family."
        *Do I? I haven't seen them for so long. Do I even know them
anymore?* He looked at B'Elanna and made a decision.
        "You're gonna pull this off, you're gonna need every hand
you got. I stay."
        B'Elanna put her hand on his arm for a moment, then they
both turned to the emitter relays. If they were going to leave in 45
minutes, there was a lot that needed to be done.

        Janeway and Chakotay entered the bridge together. No one could
possibly miss the fact that they were both out of uniform, but while
everyone glanced at them, no one commented. They were minutes from
the arranged time, and everyone was busy with their own panels.
        Janeway asked for reports from all departments. Everyone
reported ready. Even with everything she had seen, here on the bridge
and in the hallways, she had felt anxious at hearing who would stay
and who would not. As department after department reported all of the
crew had decided to stay on board, she felt herself relax again. Now,
they only needed to get out of the heart of Federation space, without
getting stopped.
        The chronometer pointed at exactly the arranged time, 5
minutes before they were supposed to beam down to the Starbase. Every
station on the bridge was ready. Janeway glanced once more at the
viewscreen, showing the space station and beyond, Earth. Then she
nodded to Paris and B'Elanna, who waited for her order.
        "Take her out."
        At Janeway's command, B'Elanna punched the final command to
start the warp engines on the control panel on the bridge. She would
prefer to be in Engineering for any maneuver that put such a strain
on the engines, but in this case it was more important to cooridinate
with Paris at the helm. Carey and the rest of the crew would have to
hold things together down below.
        The very moment Paris saw the power indicators come to life,
he hit warp. The engines screamed, never meant to be started in this
manner, and a shudder ran through the ship as the inertial dampeners
strained to keep up.

        In Starbase Ops a red light flashed on the control panel.
The officer on duty turned. The energy readings from Voyager raised
to maximum in a matter of seconds, then disappeared. Thinking of a
malfunction, the officer re-checked the panel. As it did not respond,
he tuned another panel to Voyager's position. Only when it did not
give any readings either, did he check the visual scanners. Voyager
was gone.

        Minutes passed with the bridge crew working, hardly exchanging
a word. After working closely for so long a simple look, sometimes
with a few words, was enough to be understood. B'Elanna and Paris
worked to keep the ship running and on course, Kim monitored the
internal sensors and subspace communications and Tuvok ran long-range
scanners to look for any sign of pursuit.
        They were well out of the Sol system before Kim reported,
"They're on to us, Captain."
        Tuvok confirmed almost immediately three of the large warships
had left Earth orbit.
        "Any chance they will catch up to us?", Janeway asked.
        "They are well behind us.", Tuvok reported, "And they will not
be able to match Voyager's top speed. However, it is questionable how
long we can keep this speed after the cold jump start we made."
        Captain Janeway nodded. That confirmed what she had thought.
Actually, it had taken the Starfleet vessels longer than she had
calculated to catch on to their disappearance. If no more ships were
in front of them, where they could cut them off, they should be able
to outrun these ships until they reached Maquis space, even after
the strain they put on the engines.

        On the bridge of the Unity, Julie sat in the Captain's chair,
going over the crew rosters for the various vessels. She made one
minor adjustment -it was a Bolian holiday next Sunday, and Tre'Vore
would like to be off that day. Everything else looked good. She got up
to file the rosters in the main computer at an Ops panel. She could
have someone else do that, but she had been sitting around checking
reports and rosters all shift, and she didn't mind getting up and
walking a few steps. The border with the Federation was quiet, as it
had been most days lately.
        "Long-range sensors are picking up a vessel approaching at
high warp.", Zeno reported from tactical.
        Julie immediately returned to her seat. "On screen.", she said
as she sat down. "Can you identify it?"
        "Not yet.", the young Cardassian said. "Ma'am, sensors just
picked up three more vessels, they appear to be in pursuit."
        *Three vessels*, Julie thought. That had to be an important
ship or person they were chasing. The Federation seldom sent more than
one ship in pursuit of any vessel that tried to join the Maquis. Would
they be eager enough to keep it from joining them to enter Maquis
space? She had better prepare for it.
        "Go to yellow alert. Hail the Defiant and tell them to get
over here. Hail Dukat and appraise him of the situation. There is no
reason yet to pull the Bara'Tra from their patrol area, but leave a
channel open so they can follow what is going on. Can you identify
the approaching vessel yet?"
        Zeno complied with her orders as fast as she could give them.
He was a good officer, almost as quick at tactical as she was.
        "It is a Federaton vessel, but I have no identification.
Coming into communication range now."
        "Hail them."

        Janeway stood on the bridge of Voyager and looked at the
forward viewscreen. Long-range sensors had picked up a ship, and it
appeared to be a Cardassian vessel. One look at the rear sensor array
told her the three Warships send in pursuit were too close to come to
a full stop, or to turn about. There, yet another ship on forward
viewer. There was only one ship made like that, as far as she knew
-the Defiant. Would it come after them, too?
        "The Cardassian ship is hailing us.", Kim reported from Ops.
        "On screen.", Janeway said.

        "This is Julie Barnards of the Maquis vessel Unity to the
unidentified vessel approaching us. You have three bandits on your
tail, do you need assistance?"
        Janeway looked in surprise at the slight woman sitting in the
center chair of the Cardassian ship. That had not been what she
        Chakotay was surprised, as well. Of course he knew the Maquis
had always bought, stolen, and salvaged any ship they could get, but
he had not expected to find a Cardassian Keldan Class among them. And
from the position the Defiant took in, it was under Maquis control, as
        "This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of... Voyager."
        There was no one on the bridge who did not notice the slight
hesitation as Janeway spoke. She had said 'Federation Starship' for so
many years, in places where no one had ever heard of the Federation,
that now the omission seemed extra clear.
        "Request permission to enter Maquis space.", Janeway finished.
        Julie blinked. "Voyager?" She looked at Zeno.
        "The computer confirms it. That is Voyager.", he reported.
        "Alright." Julie needed no explanation. The three pursuiing
ships were enough. "Keep her on her current course and come to a
position behind the Defiant and the Unity.", she instructed Janeway.
        "Channel to the Federation vessels.", she ordered next.
        "Open. They are not acknowledging.", Zeno said.
        "This is Julie Barnards of the Maquis to the vessels pursuing
Voyager. Break off your pursuit immediately. Do not enter Maquis
territory. I repeat, break off your pursuit.", she said to the air.
She knew the Federation vessels would be able to hear her, even if
they did not respond to her hail.
        The ships did not break off their appraoch at her warning.
Julie sighed. Fine, she'ld play it their way.
        "Red alert. Arm all forward weapons systems." She toggled the
line to the Federation ships open again.
        "Any further approach of our space will not be tolerated.
Break off your pursuit, this is your final warning."
        After a few moments, the Federation vessels slowed down and
swung around. Without even a word from any of them, they jumped back
to warp, back into Federation space. Julie relaxed.
        "The Federation vessels have broken off their pursuit and are
retreating.", Zeno said for the record.
        Julie acknowledged. "Stand down red alert.", she ordered.
        Dukat came through on the open channel. "Did I hear that
correctly -the new arrival is Voyager?"
        "Yes it is...", Julie said. "I don't know all the details yet,
either, but it's her alright."
        "Put Janeway on screen.", Julie said.

        As Julie had instructed them to take position behind the two
Maquis vessels, Janeway had nodded to Paris, who had immediately
        Harry Kim had caught the Maquis' transmission to the
Federation vessels. For a moment it had appeared as if the warships
would continue their pursuit, and for a moment Janeway had thought she
would have to order Tuvok to power up the weapons. Fortunately, at the
last moment, the Federation ships turned and warped back to their own
space. It was not unlikely that some day she would have to give the 
order to fire on a Federation ship, now they were here joining the 
Maquis, but not today.
        The Maquis Captain came back on the main viewer.
        "So the rumors were true.", she said. "You have returned,
after all this time. I take it you didn't find a warm welcome in the
        Janeway explained in a few words what had happened since they
met the Harrier and why they had come to Maquis space. "I wasn't going
to let them lock up my crew for things that happened over 25 years
ago. Or for a war that started while we were thousands of light years
away from here." The last, of course, was about Leena.
        Julie nodded. While not exactly the same, no one had ever been
gone as far or as long as Voyager had, the story was similar to those
of many officers who had left, sometimes fled, Starfleet, when their
planet broke with the Federation, or after a changeling was unmasked
on their ship or starbase. She told Janeway so.
        "You are welcome here.", she added. "If you dock at Deep Space
9, I am sure the Council would like to hear about your journey."
        "Thank you.", Janeway acknowledged the first real words of 
welcome she had heard since coming back to what had once been home.

        As they approached the Space Station they had taken off from
all those years ago, Janeway noticed the many vessels crowding the
Station. The Cardassian vessel and the Defiant were the most powerful
vessels she had seen, but there was a Ferengi Marauder, a Romulan
scout vessel, and even two Klingon Bird of Preys in the near vicinity 
of the Station and the wormhole.
        As they approached the wormhole flared open, and a small
vessel appeared.
        "Why do they still allow traffic through the wormhole?" Paris
wondered, as he noticed the little ship.
        "As long as it can not be closed, it is better to know what is
happening on the other side than to be surprised by an invasion
force.", Chakotay said.

        That was exactly what Sisko told them later that evening, when
the senior officers from Voyager met the Maquis council in the
Station's conference room.
        "We have tried many ways to close the wormhole, to negotiate
with the Founders, to block traffic from either side. We have run out
of ideas a long time ago.", he explained. "Even if we could stop the
Founders from infiltrating in this Quadrant right now, it will take
many years before there will be peace again, but as long as they can
still come through they will never allow the situation to stabilize."
        "Have you been able to determine whether the Founders intend
to invade the Alpha Quadrant, after sufficiantly eliminating any
organised opposition, or merely to keep us from launching a
cooperative attack into their space?", Tuvok asked.
        "We can not tell for certain. Although we can sent a single
ship, or even two or three smaller vessels through, and no one will
hamper their passage, we still have very little ideas of the Founders'
intentions." Sisko said. "We have to assume they do mean to eventually
invade, though."
        "You are saying a single vessel is allowed to enter the Gamma
Quadrant and return. Would that apply for a ship the size of
Voyager?", Chakotay asked.

        Janeway admired the way her crew jumped at the new problem.
She, too, was thinking hard to come up with something to help stop
these Founders. Not that she doubted the abilities of the people on
the Maquis council, who had tried for many years to stop the
infiltrations, but she knew she, too, had to give it a try. And maybe,
just maybe, there would be something in their journey, some race met
or discovery made, that would give them the insight to deal with this
particular problem at hand. Or maybe it would just help to have a
fresh view on the matter, instead of one staring at it for 25 years.
        She started to go over the contacts and missions they had had
since leaving this same station, and looking at her officers, she knew
they were doing the same. If there was anything to be done, they would
find it.

To be continued....

Since Dec 4, 1999

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