by Robert Morganbesser

Chapter Eight

Captain Kathryn Janeway sat back on the couch in her ready room and sipped at her fifth cup of coffee that morning. Closing her eyes as she smelt the aroma of the drink, which was a mix of Klingon and Vulcan beans, she could almost imagine herself back on the porch in Indiana. Her memory of more pleasant days, before a decision left her and her crew light years from home in the Delta Quadrant, was interrupted by a strange wheezing, groaning sound. Her eyes snapped open in time to see a large blue box, with a flashing light on top, appear in the middle of her ready room. Immaterial at first, the box solidified to read LONDON POLICE CALL BOX. Janeway nearly spilled her coffee as she leapt to her feet.

"What the hell is going on here?" She exclaimed, wondering if she was having a coffee fueled delusion.

The door opened and a man wearing a floppy hat and a long, multi-colored scarf appeared. His face was homely but pleasant, making Janeway think of a friendly uncle. She was about to go around her desk for a phaser when the man smiled and said, "I mean you no harm. Please take me to your leader."

Janeway put her hands on her hips and said, "I'm the leader."

The man, who struck Janeway as rather eccentric, peered out of her ready room window. "You call this area of space the Delta Quadrant do you not?"

Janeway watched as the Doctor placed a small device on her desk. "Yes, we do. What is that, may I ask?" She felt rather odd asking something on her own ship, but she had the feeling that this man was no danger to her.

"This device will put a bubble of time around, us. Effectively we have been removed from your time stream while I talk to you, as I did another Captain."

"What captain?" Janeway's eyes narrowed. "Are you a Q?"

The man looked aghast at this. "Again with the Q! No, I am not one of the continuum; those galactic troublemakers do get around, don't they? As I told Captain Picard, I am a time-lord and I'm investigating a breach in quantum boundaries that separate the realities." Reaching into a pocket, he handed Janeway a small device. "This will let you know, well in advance of your sensors, should you encounter any odd chronoton readings. If you do, please close the breach with a pulse from your communications array. The frequency setting is right there."

Janeway looked at the small device. "What if I decide to take this apart?"

The man smiled. "You'll just destroy it. It exists in an area of quantum flux. In fact, only you can see it. I forgot to tell Picard that. Once we've sealed the breaches, it will disappear. I advise you not to destroy it."

The Doctor lifted the other device. "Oh, your security officer is about to call you about a ship you'll be encountering. It's from an earth in a parallel dimension and everyone aboard is dead, but they were doomed anyway." The Doctor looked sad. "I must be off."

He entered the small box and it began to wheeze and groan again. Before the 'vehicle' could fade, Tuvoks voice came over her commbadge, "Captain to the bridge. We've discovered something odd."

Janeway came out to the bridge and stopped. There on the screen was a large squarish ship with a multi level series of domes set about it. Janeway moved down to stand behind Paris. "Increase magnification."

The image blurred a moment then showed the hull of the ship close up. A legend, worn by space travel was there: THE ARK. Janeway turned to Tuvok. "Readings?"

Tuvok looked nonplussed as usual. "From sensor scans, this vessel came from Earth."

"What?" Chakotay, former Maquis and first officer of the Voyager exclaimed this in sync with Janeway. "Tuvok," said Chakotay. "Are there any lifesigns?"

"No," replied the Vulcan. "There is no life-support, although I am reading the presence of bio-matter."

Janeway rubbed her chin. "This is odd. Chakotay, take an away team and investigate."

Clad in their spacesuits, the away team of Chakotay, Tuvok and Ensign Gayle, a security officer, appeared on a main thoroughfare of the dead ship. That it had taken heavy damage was apparent. There were cracks in the superstructure through which stars could be seen, wiring hung out of damaged conduits and the deck was warped. Tuvok raised his tricorder. "Artificial gravity is still functioning in this part of the vessel. There is an energy reading off in this direction." Tuvok took the lead, with Gayle taking up the rear. As they stalked down the corridor, Tuvok scanned back and forth with his tricorder. Finally he stopped before a bulkhead door. A glimmer of lights to it's right led him to a small control panel. Tapping it, the door creaked open a few feet, then stopped. A small gust of air blew small bits of debris and dust out past them. Chakotay peered through into a room that might have once been bright white, but was now a dingy grey. "Looks like it may be some kind of computer core." Sliding between the doors, he saw a mummified body on the floor near one panel. Moving cautiously, phaser out, Chakotay knelt near the body. "There's a corpse in here." Fumbling with his tricorder, Chakotay scanned the body. "It's been dead for over a century. Looks like he starved to death."

Tuvok and Gayle followed him in, both peering at the black circles that decorated the walls. Then they stopped by the corpse. Chakotay rose. "It's not human, although it is humanoid. I found this." Chakotay held up some kind of recorder. "It looks like tricorder." Tuvok took it and placed it against his tricorder. "I am copying the files. I would activate the device but it may have security protocols that would erase the information."

Gayle meanwhile moved over to the far doors. Along side was an alcove. Cautiously, she peered into it. "Commander Chakotay!" The two other Voyager officers hurried over. Inside the Alcove were three more bodies. Two lay against the far wall, the feathered shafts of arrows sticking out of their withered corpses, the third lay slumped over a desk, a brown pool dried under his open throat. The knife he'd used lay on the floor, it's blade still gleaming.

Gail moved closer. "Why did he do this? Why kill them and then himself?"

Tuvok lifted a page that was yellow with age from near the third corpse hand. "This is written in English. Perhaps it will shed some light for us."

Tuvok began to read aloud, "To any who finds this. The end is near. The Ark, the last great accomplishment of the Planet Earth, will soon be destroyed. The systems that run it have been damaged by a severe meteor storm, leaving us no hope since none of us has the ability to repair the ship. It has been ten years since Devon, Rachel and myself, Garth discovered that we were living on a spaceship created to flee the dying sun of earth. Since then we have had many adventures and met a being not from Earth, Odo by name. He is trying to repair the systems, but was wounded by savages and is dying. There is nothing I can do for him. Air is getting scarce, food and water and cut off from us. I have decided that when Devon and Rachel, Rachel who I once loved, have gone to sleep, I will put them out of their misery and then take my own life. If anyone finds this, please do not think ill of us. We did our best."

Tuvok looked up. "I would imagine the other being is the Odo he spoke of."

Gayle stepped back. "How horrible. But, a dying earth? What can that mean? Earth is fine?" The security officer's voice rose in a panic. Stepping back, the deck collapsed below her feet and she fell, caught only by her phaser rifle which caught across the hole.

Chakotay dove for her. "Don't panic, Ensign!" Gayle looked out of her spacesuit with frightened eyes. Beneath her, four decks straight down, lay the fusion reactors that ran the great ship' engines. Dying, they still had enough power to fry the hapless security officer.

"Tuvok to Voyager! Three for emergency beam out."

Ensign Gayle would never realize just how close she came to dying in the Delta Quadrant.

On the bridge Janeway stared at the Ark which was beginning to look hazy. The device her strange visitor had given her beeped. Coming to her feet she shouted, "Harry! Fire the pulse from the deflector dish I told you about."

"What?" Harry was about to question the order when Janeway snarled, "DO IT NOW!"

A shimmering blue white beam erupted from below the main viewscreen and hit the Ark. It glowed brightly then faded away. As it did, Janeway could only watch in amazement as the small device she'd been given faded away as well.

Well, Doctor, she thought, I hope we've done the right thing.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor looked up at his board as it winked out. "Well done, Captain Janeway." He smiled broadly as he sipped at a large cup of tea. "Voyager has done its part. Now if the others can, as well."

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