“Captain’s log stardate, seven-six-four-three-six-point six. The Odyssey has travelled through our designated underspace corridor and has spent the last two days at high warp. Our trip has given us the opportunity to cover the same distance that it took Voyager to do in two years. Nevertheless, the time it has taken us to get here has given my crew and I the chance to prepare ourselves for this mission. I’ve spent this time reading and listening to every log from Voyager when it encountered the Uxali. I can’t help but feel that even though Admiral Janeway left them behind in a better state than when they arrived, I feel we are going to find ourselves with our hands full.”
Odyssey flew past two gas giants and an asteroid field as it moved through the system. As it went over one floating rock, a small beacon came to life and beeped as the large Federation ship hovered over it.
On the bridge, T’Rani’s eyebrow raised as the ship’s proximity detector went off. The indication of a foreign object would bring some level of anxiety, but fortunately for her being Vulcan prevented her from feeling it. Looking over her shoulder, the Vulcan pilot spoke to her superior. “Commander Cambil, we have just been identified by what appears to be a small satellite, which is occupying one of the asteroids.”
The Bajoran first officer, who was sat in the captain’s chair, glanced over to her helmsman. “I didn’t think they had that last time Voyager visited.”
Listening into the conversation, Odyssey’s security chief spoke up. “They didn’t.” Lenjir reinforced.
Tapping her combadge, Cambil asked the captain to join them on the bridge. He was currently in the astrometrics lab going over their game plan with some of the other senior staff. “We’ve just been seen by the natives.” Cambil added.
“We’re on our way up.” McCallister answered over the intercom.
Moments later, the starboard aft turbolift doors parted to allow McCallister to enter with Duncan, Slyvexs, Hunsen and Reyas behind him. “Have we had any incoming calls from the Uxali?” The captain asked as he travelled across the small distance from the doors to the centre of the room.
Standing up from the captain’s chair, Cambil said no in response to her superior’s question. “The signal from the satellite will take another hour to arrive.” She added as she moved away allowing her captain to take the seat. “It’s not a sophisticated piece of technology sir, it barely registers as a subspace radio.”
McCallister scratched his chin and then leant forward in his chair. “Lukiz,” He said, calling down towards his ops manager. “Are there any other satellites in orbit or along our current flight path?”
Glazing down at his controls, the Trill officer nodded. “There’s a few, barely a dozen in orbit and there’s one more on one of the moons.” He spun around in his chair, “Do you want me to block the original signal, sir?”
Considering the option for a second, McCallister shook his head. “No, I want them to know we’re coming but we’re not hostile. However keep an eye on everything that we ‘trip’. I don’t want us to be under attack without knowing something is coming in our direction because we did something wrong.”
“Understood loud and clear sir.” Lieutenant Commander Jen said as he got back to his work.
Relaxing into his chair for a moment, McCallister wondered how the Uxali would react when they saw another Federation ship approaching their homeworld. He turned over to his wife. “Karyn, are the probes ready for launch?”
Working at the primary science station, the El-Alurian commander replied with a nod. “They are. Their stealth coating will prevent the Uxali from seeing them. It’d give us a better image in understanding the state of their world.”
“Good, the more we know the better.” McCallister stated. “I still don’t like the whole cloak and dagger approach though.”
“It’s better than going in blind James.” Reyas reminded her husband. It was something they as a senior staff had agreed on. Since Voyager knew nothing about the people and the planet during the original mission, which resulted in the death of their assistant chief engineer, the Odyssey crew would take every precaution in their mission. McCallister had made it clear he wanted to take this mission one step at a time, preventing them from creating either a diplomatic incident and ensuring everyone came back alive.
Uxal, Uxal System, Delta Quadrant
When the emergency call rings in the early hours of the morning, it’s never good news.
Otrin was woken by the first tinkle coming from his bedside cabinet. Flickering once, then twice, his eyes opened but he remained still in his bed for just a moment. Then the chime went off one more time, forcing him to look over to the clock that showed him a digital reading of what time it was. It didn’t take long before he could hear someone outside his bed chambers approaching slowly. Straight away his brain kicked in, knowing it was the guards who could probably hear the chime going off.
Rolling out of bed, the elder statesman pushed himself up while placing his bare feet against the rug below him. Moonlight from his large bay windows flooded over his shoulders and chest. Otrin leant over for the receiver to pick it up. Placing its cold plastic exterior against his ear and chin, he spoke into it. “Yeah, what’s up?” He asked.
“Good Morning sir, sorry for the interruption but our detection satellite has picked up something on the edge of the system.” Announced the person on the other side of the call.
Stifling a yawn, Otrin placed his free hand over his mouth and blinked a few more times. “Explain more.” He remarked.
“The signal is consistent with Voyager, but a lot bigger.”
Some mixed level of dread and worry washed over the Uxali leader while another sense of hope quickly flashed through his heart. “How big?” He coarsely questioned.
“Our best guess, three time as long and twice as tall. They’re on a direct intercept course, however they’ve not attempted to block any of our scans or signals.”
“Assemble the leadership group in the pit, but don’t do anything else besides monitoring until I get down there.” Otrin ordered before placing the call down and getting himself up.
He knew this day would come but he had always hoped they would be better prepared. Knowing he would just have to improvise on the spot and hope the decisions he would make didn’t lead to the annihilation of his people.
It was only hours later, sitting in the security bunker (referred to as the pit), watching as his advisors shared the latest information about the incoming Federation vessel, that Otrin could start to feel like he was finally waking up. Perching around a large triangle-shaped table, he leant forward after his senior advisor finished their briefing. “Thank you Tomrin.” He looked to his deputy, who was sat right next to him and looked just as tired as he did. “Brin, your thoughts?”
Pushing her faded blonde hair back, she considered her response for a second before sharing it. “If it is Captain Janeway, then I’d like to assume she’s returning to see how we are. She didn’t go through all of that effort in helping us to return to declare war on us.”
“My thoughts too.” Otrin said in agreement.
“However I hear a ‘but’ coming.” Brin said looking at Otrin. “I know you too well now Otrin.” She concluded with a smirk.
“But it’s been over twenty-two years, why return now? What are their intentions?” Otrin answered flatly. “We always wondered if they would return, hell that’s one of the reasons why we put the satellites in orbit. They’d be the first visitors we’ve had since Voyager left.”
“Then let’s reach out to them.” Brin advised. “It doesn’t have to be public yet either. Let’s get a feel for what their intentions are. If not we’ll just have to use the missiles.”
Leaning forward, Otrin picked up his mug of hot herbal tea and brought it up to his lips. Considering his choice, he nodded to Brin’s suggestion and then took a sip. “Let’s do it. Tomrin, make the call.” He stated.
Tomrin was the first baby born on Uxal when Voyager restored the planet. In fact he was named after the Voyager pilot that had delivered him when Brin had gone into early labour and went on to save the infant’s life. Growing up, the young man had become integral as part of Otrin’s leadership support team. His optimism and intelligence raised the atmosphere in any room he was in. Nervous as a child, Otrin had shared with the young man his passion for science. He was quite the impressionable person. Nonetheless, he was loyal, dedicated and trustworthy.
Tomrin pushed his blonde hair, almost copying the same gesture that his mother had done a moment ago, as he went ahead with the call to the incoming Federation ship. Flicking some switches up and turning them around, the moment the channel was open he looked over to Otrin and nodded to say he could talk.
Otrin was stood up by this time and had made his way over to the station where the younger man was. He cleared his throat and spoke as gently as he did almost twenty-two years ago when he first met Janeway and her crew. “Federation vessel, this is Otrin leader of the United Provinces of Uxal. Please answer and inform me of your intentions in our system.”
Static followed and then an unknown masculine voice followed. “Greetings Otrin, my name is James Preston McCallister of the Federation ship U-S-S Odyssey. We come with peaceful intentions to re-establish contact between our people.”
Looking between the others that were gathered around him, Otrin could read all of their expressions. So far so good.
“Welcome to Uxal then Captain McCallister. Is Captain Janeway with you?” Otrin questioned next.
Again more static before there was a response. “I’m afraid Admiral Janeway isn’t, but I bring personal best wishes on her behalf as well as peaceful intentions from my government. I hope you don’t mind us visiting to possibly pick up from where the admiral last left off with you.”
A bit disappointed to hear that Janeway was not part of them but also curious to find out what this McCallister meant by picking up with them, the scientist in Otrin naturally wanted to know more. “That’s an interesting proposal you make captain. Can you elaborate further? I was under the impression from Capt-” he paused when he realised that Janeway’s rank had changed and corrected himself before proceeding. “Admiral Janeway that your people have a strict non-interference policy with other cultures. Plus how did you get this far from your home territories.”
“Those are quite loaded questions and ones I am happy to answer.” McCallister replied, still in a calm and diplomatic tone. “In brief, seeing as we’ve already made contact with your people, our prime directive does allow for us to follow-up with a second contact mission. That’s if you will have us and your latter question requires a lot of explanation. Nevertheless we are also here on an errand of mercy too. We have been ordered to provide further support to your people, if you so wish it. That said if you do not want us here then we will leave you in peace, disappointed but we would understand.”
That last statement surprised the Uxal leader. He looked confused and was somewhat pleased when he noticed Brin and the others shared the same expression. “What type of support?”
“Mainly humanitarian.” McCallister shared. “We’re happy to provide your people with further medical aid, food, clothing, shelter. Everything besides weapons. We want to help if you would allow us.”
“I think the wisest thing for us to do is meet first.” Otrin proposed. “We’d be happy to host you here.”
“That’s very generous.” McCallister said after the short burst of crackling noise. “We can be with you in an hour.”
Getting a nod of support from Brin was all Otrin needed to continue. “We’ll transmit coordinates and look forward to receiving you Captain McCallister.”
“Thank you. Odyssey out.” And the channel then closed.
Otrin looked to Brin and spoke quietly to her, “I hope they’re not returning due to some guilty conscious.”
“We’ll soon find out.” Brin remarked as she looked at Otrin with a supporting smile.
Watching from afar, Tomrin felt uncomfortable as he listened to the conversation that his mother just had with Otrin. He knew he had no choice in what he was about to do, so he made sure he did it quickly and quietly. Moving away from the pit, he found a quiet and private closet room down from it before he pulled out his communicator and called it.
A second later and a rough voice spoke through the small speaker. “What do you have?” He grunted.
Taking a breath and trying to hide his nervousness he answered. “This is Spectre. The Voyagers have returned.”
Deep under the grounds of Uxal, a barely breathing Verin was lying on a scarcely soft make-shift bed. Coughing for almost every breath he made, the former deposed Uxali leader kept the oxygen mask over his bumpy pimple-like shaped face. Years of radiation poisoning had scarred him for life. Not willing to take Otrin’s cure, he had spent the better half of his later life in hiding with those that had followed him. Those who refused to believe the cure would save them, believing it was some sort of conspiracy by those from Earth to conquer them. He would not give up his conviction on that.
His rest was interrupted by the arrival of two of his followers. Yanrin and Elsin, a brother and a sister that Verin had raised after their father had died almost a decade ago, approached them.
“Father,” Yanrin spoke softly. “We have received word from Spectre, the Voyagers have returned. Do we begin The Return?”
With his next breath, Verin nodded and took one more breath. “Begin.” He bristly answered.
Understanding his wishes, the two young adults nodded and then Verin took one more breath.
His final breath.
In that moment he found closure. His revenge on Janeway and her crew would take place, but more important than that. His people will know that Otrin’s plans of finding new soil for them elsewhere was a futile attempt. His people needed to stay where they were. Where their ancestors survived. Where he led them before Janeway meddled with their affairs.
Verin’s body became lifeless and Elsin looked at his sister. The two of them covered their adopted-father’s corpse with the blankets he had wrapped around him. Taking the oxygen mask off of him, they would fulfil his wishes.
Their endgame would begin.