HOMECOMING PART I: VOYAGER'S RETURN.
Janeway sat rigid and tight in the command chair. Her legs were crossed in what she hoped was a relaxed pose, but her muscles were tense, and her back was beginning to ache. Her eyes stared forward, unblinking, at Voyagers main view screen. They had been so close before, so very close and still had this snatched away. Home, they were finally going home, but they would not be sure until the viewscreen cleared, and their sensors could register again. So, she sat, rigid and tight, staring at the forward view screen. The rest of the bridge crew took to their captain’s example. All was quiet across the small bridge of the intrepid class ship. Her X/O Commander Chakotay, found himself following her lead. Though he supported his captain unconditionally, he had found that their opposing views had put them at odds for the most part in the past seven years. Not amazing considering that they had met only because she had chased him nearly halfway across the galaxy in order to arrest him. Instead, circumstance forced the then rogue Starfleet officer to join her crew as second in command. Now he sat next to her, still as she was, eyes also transfixed on the distorted view screen, waiting, and hoping. The helmsman, Tom Paris kept his eyes away from the screen and on his helm controls. He told himself he would not look up until his console told him something new. “A watched pot never boils” was an old earth expression. It applied here. Paris was another Voyager officer of circumstance. He had come aboard a prison parolee and now found himself at the helm. The “ex-convict” found himself wondering if the Voyagers seven-year trek across the galaxy would count as “time served”. Security Officer Tuvok watched the screen impassively. A vulcan, he lived his life as logically as any vulcan ever had. Either they would find Earth after passing through this slipstream, or they would not. Either they would survive the trip while the entire ship was protected inside of the dying Borg shell, or they would not. Emotion would not lend any help to their cause. Although another setback at this point would certainly be devastating emotionally to the non-vulcans of the crew. Tuvok thought to offer a vulcan prayer. It would have no bearing on the outcome he knew, but it might help prepare him to better assist his captain and crew mates for what was to come, good or ill. The most agitated of the bridge crew was Lieutenant Harry Kim. He was the youngest bridge officer, having come to Voyager fresh out of StarfleetAcademy, though after their adventure he had certainly earned his stripes and his fellow crewmen’s respect. Never-the-less that did not stop him from looking back and forth from his science station to the view screen and back again. Again and again he called up the sensors trying to get them to read something… anything other than the rapidly deconstructing systems of the Borg sphere. His frustration mounted. A hand slid over his console and reset the sensors for him. Not just any hand, a bionically augmented hand. Harry looked up and saw that Seven of Nine, once a Borg drone, was looking at him. Another odd member of the crew, she had joined the ship just a few years ago. This homecoming could not mean as much to her Harry thought, she had very little memory of Earth as it was, having been “assimilated” by the Borg Collective when she was just… What was that? The sensors reading the environment outside the Borg sphere came back online lighting up his console like a Christmas tree. The event horizon of the slipstream was breaking. Before he could even make a report, he heard his captain give the order to fire. In a blaze of fire the Borg sphere broke apart all around them. Janeway found herself standing as the most wonderful sight she had ever seen filled her eyes. She was not the only one. The huge bright blue and white ball called Earth sat dead center of their viewscreen and a fleet of their fellow Starfleet ships was there to welcome them home. “Captain, we’re being hailed!” Kim reported. “Put it through…” Janeway had to choke back a few tears. It was not appropriate for a starship captain to cry she knew, but dammit… they had finally come home. The voice cut through loud and clear. Audible only, as Lieutenant Kim dared not take the beautiful Earth off the screen. There was a small flight of Starships in formation there to greet them. “Starship Voyager, this Admiral Paris. On behalf of Starfleet Command; Welcome…” Several warning lights flashed across Harry’s console. His face was painted in the warm red lights. “Captain…” he began to warn when Tuvok’s voice rang out clear. “I’m reading a massive power discharge… aft!” His face too, was bathed in warning light red. The ship began to shudder from a force powerful enough to overcome the inertial compensators. There was a bright green flash of light, distorting nearly half of the viewscreen. Janeway blinked hard but kept her eyes locked and saw the pulsating green beam streak from somewhere behind Voyager. The beam must have been giving off some powerful waves because before their eyes the small fleet of ships in the welcoming committee was set rolling. The beam continued past in an instant and struck the Earth, somewhere in the north east of the African continent, Janeway noted in that instant. It was the last sight of her home she would ever remember. In the next instant, the planet EARTH exploded before their eyes. The explosion sent a huge equatorial shockwave out, a giant band of superheated core matter. Voyager was buffeted by gravitational waves almost instantly. “Gravitational shockwaves!” reported Tuvok. “What just happened?” Chakotay screamed out. He had seen enough explosions to understand what he had just witnessed, still he needed confirmation… what he wanted was for someone to tell him that what he thought he saw was not what had actually happened. “It gone! The Earth… it’s been destroyed!” Paris stated it plainly. “Harry report!” Chakotay ordered. “I… it…” was all he could say. Quickly Seven of Nine stepped behind his console and scanned the readouts. Before she could answer Tuvok warned; “We are directly in the path of the shockwave!” “There is a massive object bearing on Earths… former position.” Seven reported. “From the power readings it is the object that discharged the energy beam that hit the planet.” “Twenty seconds until the shockwave hits us!” Tuvok continued. “Captain?” Paris hands hung over the helm controls, torn between shock, acting, and waiting for orders. Janeway still stood from her command char, still rigid, hands in tight fists at her side. Her eyes were still locked on the view screen, watching as the bright red shockwave band grew, as it headed directly for them. “Captain?” Chakotay called out. He had never seen her freeze up before. “I’ve got calls coming in from a dozen vessels that were in orbit. They can’t escape the shockwave!” Harry Kim reported shakily. “Captain?!?” Paris began to plot a course. “Impact in ten seconds.” Reported Tuvok. “Orders, Captain!?!” Finally Janeway responded. Her head snapped around her eyes were full of fire and tears. “RED ALERT! SHIELDS UP! All hands brace for impact! Tom get us moving!” Voyager was a smaller Starfleet vessel than most, and so a hell of lot more maneuverable, and Tom Paris was one of the best pilots to come out of the Academy. The few seconds they had left were too little for an ordinary pilot to get anything done; fortunately, Tom Paris was not an ordinary pilot. He had already started Voyager moving before he got the order. Even so the ship was going to take one hell of a beating and it did. Janeway grabbed her seat in time and was not dumped onto the deck as the first wave hit. She watched the screen and witnessed a few of the Starfleet welcoming ships that did not have crackerjack pilots get caught in the band and disappear. Those ships were swallowed by the shockwave and their warp cores blew, eruptions that only added to the waves of devastation rolling over Voyager. “Tom, pitch us over the shockwave!” Chakotay ordered. “It’s not so easy!” Paris screamed back. Indeed, the ship was attempting to ride over the “crest” of the wave. Paris would have applied more power to the impulse engines if he had not had the proverbial “pedal to the metal” as it was. “You see the power of this Station, your Highness? It is… What is it?” Governor Tarkin saw the mad scrambling of personnel at the consoles of his control room. From the way the technicians were nervously tapping their keyboards he could tell that something was seriously wrong. He looked over his shoulder at a tall figure in shiny black armor, Lord Darth Vader. Vader’s soulless eyes simply reflected the bright burning fire of the now destroyed planet Alderaan. If he sensed what was wrong, he was saying nothing yet. In Vader’s grasp was the young woman Tarkin had been talking to, Princess Leia Organa, a diplomat, now exposed as a spy. Alderaan had been her home world and she sank in Vader’s steel hold sobbing. It was the first time Tarkin had seen any vulnerability in the young woman. Everything was as it should be except those damn techs were not calming down, they were growing more excited. “REPORT!” he commanded. Behind him Vader spoke before any of the techs could answer. His deep resonate, electronic voice echoed throughout the room. “YOU’VE MISSED.” “Preposterous! You saw the planet destroyed the same as I.” Tarkin argued. But Vader fell silent. The prisoner in his arms was looking up; tear filled eyes wide as she looked past Tarkin for any hope that Vader was right. “A small fleet of ships has just appeared on our scopes!” finally something from his crew. “A fleet? Alderaan has no fleet. What make are the ships?” “We’ve got a large gravitational mass bearing on our position!” came a tech from another station. “What is it?” Tarkin demanded. “Navigation is down!” reported yet another. “What? Why?” “Ships are of unknown make or origin!” “Impossible. Identify them immediately!” Tarkin barked orders but could tell from the techs reactions that his commands were going to be hard to obey. “Have the systems been effected by the firing of the main gun?” He proposed. “Systems are operating nominally. The discharge has not affected them.” “The unknown ships are powered by small, localized fields… similar to gravitational fields. No known match in our library.” Tarkin turned to the Princess. “Alderaan has amassed a fleet built on new technology?” but her face held no answers. “THAT WAS NOT ALDERAAN.” Vader intoned. “What?” “Navigation has run a check; we are no longer in the Alderaan system.” Tarkin looked at the tech who gave the report. That tech might have cowered under the glare if it were not for the fact that he found himself staring at his own console read outs, amazed by what he saw there. “Where are we?” The decision to destroy Alderaan had not been made hastily. Despite the power of the empire, and this station, control was still a precarious thing. Fear went a long way but too much and all the systems would revolt. If they had just destroyed a key system, or a planet that was already complying with the emperor then other planets already submitting to his control would panic and revolt. Control would be impossible if the local systems thought that the empire would destroy them all no matter what. This could be disastrous. “The large gravitational mass has been identified as a moon. It’s on a collision course!” “The unknown ships are moving to intercept!” “Move the station!” Tarkin ordered. “Power the gun again and launch the Tie Squadrons! And someone find out where we are and what planet that was that we destroyed! Vader?” But the tall dark figure was already moving, dragging away Leia Organa. As he passed his personal guard he commanded; “READY MY SHIP.” “As you command Lord Vader.”