Among Friends by Voyfan
Summary:   An old friend suddenly arrives from the Delta Quadrant. Based on the Moving On series.
Categories: Characters: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 10 Completed: Yes Word count: 10454 Read: 6242 Published: 29/03/17 Updated: 29/03/17
Story Notes:
I'm not sure who owns them now, but I make no money from this.  Even after all these years, I still like to get my old friends together. 

1. Chapter 1 by Voyfan

2. Chapter 2 by Voyfan

3. Chapter 3 by Voyfan

4. Chapter 4 by Voyfan

5. Chapter 5 by Voyfan

6. Chapter 6 by Voyfan

7. Chapter 7 by Voyfan

8. Chapter 8 by Voyfan

9. Chapter 9 by Voyfan

10. Chapter 10 by Voyfan

Chapter 1 by Voyfan
Author's Notes:
Note: Angst alert.

Baker Point: Jack

It’s 6 p.m., and I shed my uniform jacket as I head out to the patio. Mom and Kat are already there, and I give both of them a quick kiss before I settle into my usual chair, where someone has thoughtfully left a glass of white wine.

“What’s for dinner?” I ask as Mom busies himself at the grill, “and how much longer?”

“Chicken breasts,” she says, waving a pair of tongs. “The corn is nearly ready. Oh, and Mrs. Grace made some of her world-famous potato salad.”

“Better make extras for Will,” Kat remarks. “Mrs. Grace says he ate three hamburgers at lunch.”

“Heaven help us when he’s a teenager.” The remark earns a chuckle from two of the women in my life.

“So, I hear there was a bit of excitement today,” Kat says.

“Yup. A wormhole opened up over Colorado early this afternoon. At least we think it’s a wormhole … the Midlands Section is running scans. Anyway, it spat out a ship.”

“What kind of ship?” Kat asks warily. I’m not surprised by the tone. Her abiding fear is that some old Delta Quadrant enemy will find its way here.

“That, I don’t know. Don’t think it was much of a threat, since the Defense Level hasn’t changed.”

Inside, we hear the vid chirp, followed by Beth’s call of “I’ve got it!”

“Mom, was I hanging on the vid at her age?” Kat asks.

“You, no. Phoebe, yes … especially once she started to notice boys.”

“Wait a minute,” I yelp. “She’s not in there talking to boys yet, is she?”

Mom and Kat just laugh. “Not just yet,” Kat assures me, “but give it another couple of years.”

“I think for now, boys aren’t worth the trouble … unless they build robots,” Mom adds.

And on cue, Beth appears at the door, looking a bit annoyed. “Mom, someone from Starfleet wants to talk to you.”

We look at each other, and Kat just shrugs as she heads to the kitchen.

****

My caller is a captain, which signals that this is something important. “Admiral Janeway, I’m Captain Travis from the San Francisco Security Sector,” he says. “I’m sorry to interrupt your evening.”

“What can I do for you, Captain?”

He refers to a PADD. ”Do you know a …. Talaxian … by the name of Neelix?”

I sit back in shock. “I certainly do. Why are you asking?”

Travis is obviously uncomfortable. “Well, he’s here. His ship materialized over Colorado this afternoon. A patrol intercepted him and beamed him here to the security center.”

“How did he get here?” I ask, though I suddenly realize just who popped out of that wormhole.

“He’s a bit fuzzy on that point, Admiral. But he recognized the officers’ uniforms and insignia, and asked to talk to you. He said he served under you on Voyager.”

“He did. Is he injured?”

“Not that we can tell. Admiral Milavic has instructed us to defer to your orders.”

Well, of course Pytor would be involved. Neelix just scared the hell out of the Security Service. “All right Captain. First, give my regards to Admiral Milavic.” That’s fleetspeak for “Thank you.”

“Secondly, Mr. Neelix is to be treated as my personal guest. Get him some food, access to a shower, whatever he needs. Then take him to Medical; they’ll have my orders. Now, where’s his ship?”

“It’s being towed to spaceport.”

I nod. “Take it to the tech section’s quarantine slip. I want it sealed until I can get a team up there.”

Travis punches commands into the PADD. “Anything else, Admiral?”

“Yes, I would like to speak to Mr. Neelix.”

Travis looks surprised, but nods. “It will be just a moment.”

Elizabeth pokes her head into the kitchen. “Daddy needs plates, and Papi is here.”

“Go ahead, honey, and please tell Dad I that need him to come in here.”

The vid pops back on, framing Neelix’s face. His hair is white now, his face older and more tired. But that smile … for a moment, I can’t speak.

“Admiral! You don’t know how glad I am to see you,” he says, his exuberance still intact.

“Neelix … I’m delighted to see you. Are you all right?”

“I think so ... it’s been a strange day.”

“I imagine so. How did you get here?”

“I … I really don’t know,” he says, his eyes mirroring his confusion and shock. “One minute I was going over to a planet to pick some leola root, and the next, I was surrounded by three ships. I didn’t realize that I was in the Alpha Quadrant until I talked to the Starfleet folks.” He chuckled. “I guess I got here after all.”

“I guess you, did,” I allow.

“But Admiral, Dexa’s probably frantic. I should have been home hours ago. Is there any way we can send a message to her?”

“I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out. Look, I’ve asked Captain Travis to get whatever you want. Then, if you don’t mind, I’d like the Doctor to check you out ... he’s over at Medical.”

“The Doctor’s here? “

“Well, this week. He’s in and out.” Neelix’s attention has turned to something behind me, and I glance back to see Jack in the doorway. “I seem to be interrupting something,” Neelix says apologetically.

“It’s all right,” I say, waving Jack over. “He’s someone I want you to meet. This is my husband, Admiral Jack Herrick. Jack, this is Neelix, who was with me on Voyager.”

Jack rises to the occasion. “Neelix, I’m delighted to meet you. Kathryn’s told me many stories.”

“Well … I … I am delighted to meet you, too, Admiral,” Neelix stammers. “My … we certainly have a lot to catch up on, don’t we?”

“We certainly do,” I say in a tone that he should recognize. “I need to take care of arrangements now, so feel free to get cleaned up and get something to eat. I’ll check in on you at Medical later tonight.”

It worked. “Of course ... of course, Admiral. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Didn’t you leave him in the Delta?” Jack asks as the vid pops off.

“I did,” I say as I sign off on my orders. “And he stayed there until this afternoon. Guess who came out of that wormhole? “

Jack just shakes his head and laughs.

“I know, dear,” I say as I pat his thigh. “I suspect I’m going to need your expertise on this one.”

“You can tap my expertise any time,” he teases, planting a quick kiss on my neck. “But right now, I want to know if you’re having dinner.”

“Yes, I am. But I need to make a quick call, so keep the chicken out of Will’s reach.”



Jack departs, and I call the Doctor, who thankfully is still in his office.

“Well, this is a surprise. I see more of your husband these days,” he says dryly.

“That’s because golf is something you play, not watch,” I retort. “I hope you don’t have nonrefundable opera tickets,” I add. “We have a situation.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Is everything all right?”

“A dear friend of ours has just popped in from the Delta Quadrant.”

The Doctor raises both eyebrows. “And who would that be?” he asks, obviously concerned. I don’t blame him.

“It’s Neelix.”

He’s speechless for a moment. “How did he get here?”

“Good question. Early this afternoon, something or someone pulled him through a wormhole … we think … and dropped him over North America. “

“That must have caused quite a stir.”

“He’s lucky he wasn’t shot down. Look, I’m sending him over to you. Run every test you can think of, starting with DNA verification. I suspect he could use a little medical TLC anyway.”

The Doctor nods. “Should I keep him here, or will you take custody of him?”

“No, find him some quarters and make him comfortable. He’s not a prisoner, but I don’t want him running about until we know what’s happened. I’ll come by tonight if he’s up to it.”

The Doctor nods. “By the way, has anyone called Sam Wildman? I’m sure she and Naomi would like to see him.”

“I’ll make sure she knows. But right now, let’s hold off on reunions until you run those tests.”

****

Starfleet Medical: Kathryn

“So what do we know?” I ask the Doctor when we finally arrive.

“Well, according to the preliminary DNA scans, it appears our visitor is the one and only Neelix,” he replies.

There’s something in his tone I don’t like. “And …?”

“Let’s just say some things have changed since I last examined him.” No point in asking him to elaborate. Neelix is no longer under my command, and the medical privacy rules are in force.

“So, can we talk to him?” Jack asks. “I’d like to meet this fellow; Kat … Kathryn’s told me a lot of stories.”

The Doctor smiles at Jack’s slip as he waves us down the hall. “Certainly; I think he’d like to meet you, too. He’s been peppering me with questions for the past three hours.”

Neelix is looking out the window as we walk in. For a moment, I can see his face reflected in the glass; the pain I see there saddens me. But it’s all wiped away as he turns to us.

“Captain … sorry, Admiral … I’m so glad you’re here!”

“I’m happy to see you, too, Neelix,” I tell my old friend as I give him a quick hug. “How are you feeling?”

“A bit tired,” he admits. He spies Jack and holds out his hand. “Hello again, Admiral Herrick. The Doctor speaks very highly of you.”

“The Doctor’s feeling generous; he beat me at golf yesterday,” Jack says as he shakes Neelix’s hand.

Neelix smiles at me. “So when did you two get married?”

“Nearly 12 years ago,” I reply. “Two jobs, two dogs, children … it’s a busy life,” I add as I pull out my pocket vid and bring up a holoimage. “This is Will and Elizabeth, and our foster son, Joel.”

He peers at the image. “What a wonderful family you have, Admiral; I’m so happy for you.” He pauses for a moment, uncertain. “I know you were anxious to see your mother … “

“Mom’s fine; in fact, she’s here, so you’ll get to meet her and her fiancÚ.”

He smiles broadly. “I would like that, Admiral, and I hope I get to meet your children, too.”

“You will,” I assure him. “Now, that’s enough about us. Tell us about your life. Did you and Dexa marry?”

He smiles broadly. “We did, 14 years ago, and we’ve been very happy.”

“Any children … besides Brax, that is?”

He smiles again and taps a small case sitting on his nightstand. A holoimage of a young Talaxian girl appears. “My daughter, Alixia; we named her after my sister,” he says quietly. “She reminds me of her in many ways.”

I lay my hand on his shoulder. “She’s lovely. We’ll do our best to get you back to her,” I promise.

He smiles again. “Well, I suppose there is some good in this. I get to see you and the rest of my friends from Voyager again. I’ve wondered so many times how you were … how everyone was.”

“Well, we’ll try to get as many of the crew here as we can. I know they’ll want to see you, too.” I say brightly. “Do you think you could tell us a bit about what happened today?”

“I think so.”

“How far were you from home when this happened?” Jack asks.

“About two hours from our settlement. I’ve made that trip many times.”

“Notice anything unusual? A plasma storm? Ships in the vicinity?” I ask.

He shakes his head thoughtfully. “No, nothing like that. But there was something …” He pauses for a moment, then nods his head. “Yes, yes, I remember now. Just before I blacked out, there was a flash from Baldy Rock.”

“What’s Baldy Rock?” Jack asks, his interest piqued.

“It orbits Tegris, the planet where I was going to cut leola root. “

“A moon?”

“Not really, more like an asteroid. It’s oddly shaped … it’s probably been there for eons. It’s on my star charts, if you’d like to see it.”

“I would indeed,” Jack says with a grin.

“Neelix, did I tell you my husband heads up the Cartography section? He’d probably trade Will for a look at those charts.”

Jack just grins. “Nope, not Will. Maybe my golf clubs,” he says, as I swat his arm, and Neelix laughs.

***

“Penny for your thoughts,” Jack says as we walk back to our hovercar.

I sigh. “I was thinking that it is nice to see Neelix again, but I’m concerned about how he got here. And what if we can’t get him back?”

“That would be hard … I suspect you and the crew can empathize on that point better than I can,” he said quietly. “I suppose if there is a saving grace, he landed among friends.”

“That he did,” I whisper. “That he did.”

***

Reg Barkley looks a bit surprised to hear from me. While I certainly owe him a great debt, we didn’t become close after Voyager’s return. He and the Doctor have more in common.

“What can I do for you, Admiral Janeway?”

“How’s the MIDAS array these days, Reg?”

“It just had its latest upgrade. Why do you ask?”

“Glad to hear it. I need to send a message to the Delta Quadrant …”

Chapter 2 by Voyfan

Starfleet Medical …

Neelix paced about the hospital room, nervously tidying his few possessions. It was almost time …

Finally, the chime sounded. “Come in,” he called.

The door opened to reveal Samantha Wildman … older, a bit heavier, but her smile was the same.

They stood and looked at each other for a few moments before Sam crossed the room and wrapped her arms around her old friend.

“Neelix, I am so happy to see you,” she said, her voice choking.

“Oh, Samantha, let me look at you,” he said, pulling back a bit. “A commander?” he asked, spying the pips on her uniform. “Congratulations!”

“Thank you,” she said wiping tears from her eyes. “Now, before we get too carried away; Naomi will be here a little later. She had to work at the restaurant this morning, so she took the afternoon shuttle.”

“Oh, I was so excited to hear that our Naomi graduated from culinary school, and that she’s a chef!”

“Well, a junior chef, anyway,” Samantha laughed. “See, now we’re getting carried away. I brought along someone I want you to meet,” she said, motioning toward the large Katarian man standing quietly in the doorway.

“Oh my goodness, forgive my manners, sir, please come in,” Neelix said jovially.

“Neelix, this is Greskrendtregk, Naomi’s father.”

“How do you do Mr. Greskrendtregk. I am delighted to finally meet you,” Neelix said, offering his hand, which the Katarian solemnly shook.

“I cannot stay long, “ Greskrendtregk said, “but when Samantha told me you were here, I wanted to thank you for taking care of her and Naomi all those years ago. “

“It was my pleasure. I’m happy they were able to come home to you.”

“Having Naomi here has been a wonderful experience,” he said. “And I’m glad that she will be able to see you again. “

“And I’m looking forward to seeing her all grown up,” Neelix enthused.

Greskrendtregk nodded, then looked apologetically at Sam, who nodded in return.

“I’m sorry, but I must go. Please tell Naomi that I will see her later,” he said to Sam. He shook Neelix’s hand again, and hurriedly left.

The whole business struck Neelix as odd, but he decided not to let it spoil the moment. “Samantha, please sit down. Could I get you something to drink?”

They made small talk for a while … about Naomi, about Sam’s job and what she knew of the crew. When they’d finally wound down a bit, he smiled at her fondly. “I’m sorry your husband couldn’t stay longer; I was hoping to get to know him a bit.”

A shadow crossed Sam’s face. “Neelix,” she said gently, “there’s something you need to know. Gres and I are divorced. Nearly eight years now.”

“Oh, no. I’m so sorry. No one told me …”

“I asked Admiral Janeway not to mention it. I wanted to tell you myself,” she said. She was quiet for a moment, then sighed. “We tried, Neelix. We tried for three years. But so much happened to me on Voyager. And Gres … there was a war in the quadrant while Voyager was gone. Deep Space Nine, where he was posted, was in the middle of it. Gres saw a lot of terrible things. In the end, we just couldn’t make it.”

Neelix shook his head. “I wanted so much for you to be happy.”

Sam smiled. “I am happy, Neelix. I met someone a few years later. He’s also in Starfleet,” she said as she fumbled with her vid. “This is David … Commander David Barton,” she said as she pulled up a holoimage. “We were married four years ago. The wedding was in Admiral Janeway’s backyard.”

Neelix peered at the image. “He looks very kind.”

“He is. He adores Naomi; in fact he’s picking her up at Spacedock, so you’ll get to meet him later.”

“I look forward to it,” he said, feeling a bit bewildered.









Chapter 3 by Voyfan

Starfleet Cartography labs: Kathryn

“He took quite a jump in that wormhole,” Jack muses as he looks at the star map..

“He did,” I agree. “The transwarp hub that we jumped through was several light years away .”

I have to hand it to Jack and his crew: Cartography and Astrometrics have done a nice job taking Neelix’s and Voyager’s data to recreate a map of the system. We’re gathered in one of the labs to compare notes.

“Unfortunately, we’ve discovered what ‘Baldy Rock’ probably is,” B’Elanna says as she peers at a PADD. “Midlands found Borg signature traces in the area of the wormhole. We found more when we scanned Neelix’s ship.”

The hairs stand up on my neck. “Doctor …”

“I found no evidence that Mr. Neelix is capable of assimilating anyone.”

“That’s a relief … but we still have a Borg device out there.”

“My best guess is that it’s an early version of a wormhole generating device,” B’Elanna says briskly. From what Neelix told you, it’s been out there for quite a while. I suspect the Borg abandoned it for some reason.”

“Well, it obviously works,” Jack says, “which brings up a rather large security issue or three.”

“True,” I agree. “We have no idea whether this was deliberately set up to deposit Borg on our doorstep, or somewhere else. And if it was aimed here, heaven only knows who, or what, could show up next.”

“We don’t even know what prompted it to turn on,” B’Elanna says. “According to the sensors on Neelix’s ship, this hit without warning. No energy buildup detected.”

“I don’t suppose there’s a way to remotely turn it on and send Mr. Neelix back home?” The Doctor asks.

Jack, B’Elanna and I all shake our heads. “Best we could do is get the MIDAS array to open a micro-wormhole, and send a probe through,” Jack explains.

“But since we don’t know what turned on the device, we don’t know how to calibrate the probe. It would be a very large game of trial and error,” B’Elanna adds.

I sigh. “B’Elanna, we were there. How did we miss this?”

She shakes her head. “It wasn’t in our flight path, so we didn’t have direct contact. Still, Seven did long-range scans of the area using every bandwith, every filter in the Astrometrics Lab. Nothing came up … no energy signatures, no radiation, no EM fields, nothing.”

I get up and head for the door. “All right. We’ll see if the archives mention a Borg wormhole generator. In the meantime, I’m going to talk to someone who may be able to help.”

The Doctor merely raises an eyebrow. “Give Seven my regards,” he says.

***

“I believe she’s a bit frustrated,” The Doctor muses after Kat’s departure.

B’Elanna laughs. “No doubt; I just told her that we flew past something that could have sent us home a few months early.”

“Would she have taken it?” I ask, as both B’Elanna and the Doctor laugh.

“If she thought there was half a chance, hell, yes,” B’Elanna says. “And how long have you two been married?” she teases.

“Still,” the Doctor says, “given how little we know about this thing, I suspect that transwarp hub was still the safer way to travel … as unnerving as that was.

“Besides,” he said as he heads for the door, “delivering Miral was one of the great pleasures of my time on Voyager. I would have hated to miss that.”

B’Elanna shook her head as the Doctor exited. “Some days, he’s insufferable. Then he says something like that …”





***

Starfleet headquarters – holosuites

Hours later, the Doctor walked into the holodeck with a bit of trepidation. The admiral’s invitation to have coffee was short and to the point – and it wasn’t a social occasion.

He allowed himself a moment’s pleasure to realize his former captain had kept the Buenos Aries coffee shop program from Voyager. But that pensive look on her face brought him back to reality.

She greeted him warmly, and gave him time to place an order with the holographic server before that pensive look returned again.

“Seven sends her regards,” she began. “She wanted me to tell you that she was ‘operating at peak efficiency.’”

“And I’m sure she is,” the Doctor replied wryly, bringing a smile from his companion. “I take it you two had your conversation.”

“A fascinating one,” she said, pausing as the server brought their drinks. “Seven confirmed that Baldy Rock is a wormhole generator designed by the Borg. Originally, it was stationed about a light year away from where it is now.”

“So it’s drifted?” Janeway just nodded. “It did work but, it was abandoned because it had a fatal flaw; it damaged nanoprobes and the cellular material they were attached to. “ She sighed and sipped her coffee. “I managed to deflect the gruesome details. But it’s safe to say that the unlucky drones suffered significant cellular damage, and were … ‘recycled.’”

“I see.” It was all he could say.

She turned away from him, fixing her gaze on a point across the street. “I suspect I’m not telling you anything new here.”

“I can’t talk to you about that,” he replied softly.

“I understand,” she said just as softly. She turned to face him then, and he could see the tears forming in her eyes. She pulled a PADD from her bag and handed it to him. “Seven’s report,” she said. “Maybe you can find something useful.”

He nodded as he took the PADD from her. She stood then and picked up her bag. “Sorry to run, but Mom wants to discuss some wedding plans tonight.”

The Doctor brightened. “I take it she and Pujli have set a date.”

She quirked a smile. “Not yet. We can’t get everyone’s schedules to mesh. I don’t remember my own wedding being so complicated.”

“Well, the family has grown a bit,” he said.

“That it has,” she said, patting his shoulder as she walked away.

He sat for a moment and regarded the PADD. He shook his head when the server reappeared, offering to refill his coffee.

“Is everything all right, sir?” the server asked solicitously.

The Doctor looked at him sadly. “No, I’m afraid not.”

 











Chapter 4 by Voyfan

Baker Point: Kathryn

My conversations this afternoon had left me unsettled . Unsettled? Hell, let’s try terrified. I take a minute to compose myself before I open the front door. No sense in upsetting the family.

The stench hit me as soon as I walked in. And even after all these years, I still knew what that godawful smell was. Someone let Neelix in the kitchen, it seems.

In the kitchen, my family was gathered around a suspicious-looking casserole.

“Oh, dear gods,” I breathe.

“Oh, Katie,” Mom says, wrinkling her nose at the smell. “Neelix programmed this into the replicator. Said you ate it a lot on Voyager. It’s …”

“Oh, I know what it is,” I interrupt. “Leola root casserole. And believe me, it doesn’t taste any better than it smells.”

Will gives me a grin that says, “Let’s see about that,” and gets a spoonful of casserole before Mom can stop him.

“Small bite, Will … consider this a warning,” I say.

He didn’t last long … the first bite was spewed all over the floor, with the groans and dramatic gagging sounds that only a 10-year-old can produce.

“Anyone else want to try?” I ask.

“Er, no thanks, hon,” Jack replies as he hands Will a cloth and motions for him to clean up his mess.

“By the way, where is Neelix?” I ask, glancing around. I certainly don’t want to insult him, but …

“Relax,” Jack reassures me. “Sam and Naomi picked him up a half-hour ago.”

“Just what the hell is this stuff?” Pujli asks as he fiddles with the replicator. A quick punch and it produces a pretty fair representation of the leola root. I make a quick note to eradicate any trace of it from the databank.

“We have this on Briori,” he said, examining the offending plant. “We feed it to livestock.”

Will’s head pops up from under the table. “Mom, did you really eat this stuff on Voyager?”

“Afraid so,” I tell him as my family fixes me with a collective gaze of horror and pity.

“But why? Didn’t Voyager have replicators?”

“Yes, but we had to save our energy to run the engines and life support, so we had to ration access to the replicators. That meant we had to eat whatever we could find on various planets.”

“Well, that explains why you were so thin when you got back,” Mom says.

“Yes, well, there are some things I never want to be reminded of.” I sigh. “Look, not a word about this, and that includes you two,” I say, giving Will and Beth my best glare. “Neelix means well, and I don’t want to hurt him.” Not that Neelix has never faced criticism over leola root. “We’ll just say it was quite a surprise.”

“Well, that certainly is the truth,” Mom cracks.

“Thank you. Now please, throw that in the recycler. And someone turn on the air purifier.”

“What do you want to eat?” Jack asks.

I think for a moment. “I’d like to try that new Italian place up the road. I’m pretty sure they don’t serve leola root.”





Chapter 5 by Voyfan

Baker Point

Admiral Janeway certainly had a nice home, Neelix decided. And Earth, from what he’d seen of it, certainly was a nice place; he could understand why his friends were so anxious to return.

He appreciated the admiral’s invitation to stay with her family. He was glad to be out of the Medical Center and away from the Doctor. But he wasn’t home, and more and more he found himself thinking about his family. How was Alixia coping with this?

His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Beth Herrick, who was carefully holding a box.

“Uncle Neelix, this came for you. Grandma said I should bring it in.”

“Why, thank you, Beth; it was very kind of you to deliver it. Would you like to help me open it?”


“Oh, yes,” she said, giving him a smile that definitely reminded him of her mother.

They made short work of the wrapping, and Neelix lifted out a familiar object.

“A Kadis-Kot board? It looks like someone’s been playing it.” Beth said, clearly puzzled.

For a moment, Neelix was puzzled, too. Then he remembered. “You’re right Beth … I was playing it, long ago with a very good friend.”

“There’s a PADD,” Beth said helpfully as she lifted it out and turned it on. “Looks like a vid code.”

“Think your mother would mind if we called?”

Beth’s curls rustled as she shook her head.

It took a moment for the code to connect … then suddenly, the image of a very familiar blond woman filled the screen.

“Hello, Neelix,” Seven said warmly. “I was hoping that you’d like to finish our game.”



***

“So do you enjoy Australia?” Neelix asked as he fiddled with a game piece. Truth be told, they’d played very little in the past hour.

“I do,” she said, “the Outback area reminds me a bit of Vulcan.”

The comparison didn’t mean much to him, but he nodded agreeably. He started to say something else, only to interrupt himself with a fit of coughing.

“Are you recovered?” Seven asked

“Yes, I believe so,” he said when he finally caught his breath. “I’ve probably picked up some exotic bug; I haven’t been around humans for a while, so my immune system is playing catch-up.”

“Of course” Seven said quietly. Something in her tone seemed a bit too knowing, so he decided to change the subject. “You know, the last time we talked, you were planning a date with Commander Chakotay.”

Seven merely smiled. “Circumstances changed,” she said simply.

“So you two didn’t …”

“No,” she said. “Our lives changed dramatically once we arrived on Earth. It did not seem prudent to maintain a dating relationship.”

He considered asking how she announced that, but thought better of it. “Do you hear from him?”

She shook her head. “I do not. I have not seen him in many years. Has he contacted you since your arrival?”

“No,” Neelix admitted. “B’Elanna says he is a trade envoy for his home planet and travels a great deal. But it’s very strange; no one mentions him unless I ask, and they don’t seem to know much. Admiral Janeway hasn’t said a word about him, and they were so close on Voyager.”

Seven considered. “It is unusual. In the past, she has mentioned Chakotay. About four years ago, she said he had been in San Francisco for a conference. But since then, she hasn’t talked about him. Perhaps she no longer hears from him, either.”

“Seems a shame,” Neelix said, mostly to himself. Seven merely nodded.











Chapter 6 by Voyfan

Starfleet engineering labs: Kathryn

“Excited?” Jack whispers in my ear as we wait for Reg Barclay to make the final adjustments to the array.

“About the test, or later?” I whisper back.

“Both, I hope,” he murmurs in my ear.

Actually, Jack and I have a little secret. Once a month or so, we take an afternoon off and head to a small inn owned by one of Jack’s wine-scene friends to enjoy a long “ lunch.” Not that we neglect that part of our marriage at home, but it’s nice not to worry about being interrupted, or that we forgot to turn on the sound dampener in the bedroom.

Reg Barclay clears his throat, interrupting our private protocol breach. “I believe we’re ready, admirals,” he says.

“Let’s get started then,” I say.

After a few weeks of computations using the charts that Cartography provided, Reg and company have come up with a path for the micro-wormhole generated by the MIDAS array. If all goes well, he’ll be able to find Neelix’s home and send a message.

That message is going to be bittersweet. At least Dexa will know where Neelix is, but getting him home right now is out of the question. In some ways, I suspect my mother can relate ….

“Wormhole created,” Reg reports, “moving to coordinates now.”

We’re watching the wormhole’s telemetry on the screens in real time … so far, so good.

“We have a distortion developing,” Reg’s assistant suddenly reports. Reg’s fingers fly across the console as the rest of us watch the screen, horrified. “Damn,” Jack breathes, that looks like …

“W … w.. we have another wormhole,” Reg announces. “S… same signature as the Borg wormhole.”

Ice forms in my gut. Somehow, we’ve managed to awaken Baldy Rock again …

“Wormhole collapsing,” Reg calls as he valiantly tries to overcome the interference, but the telemetry falls off the screen, and he slumps over the console, defeated.

The assembled crew seemed to be biting their tongues, trying not to spout obscenities with two admirals present. Truth be told, at least one of the admirals was trying not to spout those words, too. The only thing I can be grateful for right now is that I didn’t tell Neelix about this attempt.

“I’m sorry, Admiral,” Reg says sadly. “We tried to position the wormhole far enough away …”

I shake my head. “Apparently it has a longer reach than we realized. I’m just concerned that we’ve activated something that could endanger any ships that enter the area.”

“Considering how Neelix’s ship was sucked in, I’d say that happened long before we got there,” Jack says grimly.

“Well, back to the drawing board, Mr. Barclay. Let’s find another course that keeps us out of that generator’s reach,” I say crisply.

***

“I need to talk to B’Elanna,” I say half to myself as Jack and I walk back to our building. “Now that we know the micro-wormhole can switch on Baldy Rock, I wonder if it would be possible to control it using the MIDAS array.

“Maybe send a veteron pulse through?” Jack asks hopefully.

I shrug. “It’s worth considering.”

“Sounds like you have a full afternoon,” Jack says gently. “Maybe I should call Henry and cancel the reservation.”

In response, I quickly pull him off the path, near a small tree stand. “Oh, no you don’t,” I tease as I quickly squeeze his hand. “I do want to talk to B’Elanna, but it’s going to take a day or two to set up those simulations. Frankly, with all that’s going on, I could use a little distraction. And I seem to remember,” I add suggestively, “that you can be quite distracting.”



***

Baker point: Jack

Since Mom is back in Indiana for the week, and Neelix is staying with Sam and her family, Kat and I arrive to a quiet household. We have an uneventful dinner, save Will’s remark that we both seemed to be in a really good mood.

Afterwards, we send our youngsters off to do homework, while Kat and I sit on the deck in companionable silence, reading reports.

That is, until the vid starts to wail. Kat, frowning, takes the call on her pocket vid. It’s Naomi, and she’s in tears.

“Aunt Kathryn, Neelix collapsed after dinner. We’re at Starfleet Medical, and the Doctor wants you to come.”

“What happened?” Kat asks.

Naomi shook her head. “He’d been complaining that his back hurt, but he seemed well enough to have dinner. When he tried to get up from the table, he just fell over.”

“Oh, my. All right, dear, we’ll be there as soon as possible,” Kat says soothingly.

“Do you want to go on ahead?” I ask when she turns off the vid. “I’ll ask Dad and Bri to come over, but it’ll take them a few minutes.”

She squeezes my arm. “I’ll wait for you. I could use the moral support.”



***

Starfleet Medical: Jack

At Medical, we’re ushered into a conference room where Naomi, Sam and David are waiting. We drink mediocre coffee and talk quietly as we wait for the Doctor.

Well, Naomi, Sam, David and I are talking. Kat’s added very little to the conversation; in fact, my wife looks rather grim.

The Doctor comes in and nods at us all. Can’t say his presence makes me feel any better; his expression mirrors Kat’s.

“Mr. Neelix has given me permission to discuss his condition with you. We may not be his immediate family, but we are his family,” he says quietly.

“It’s been obvious he’s not well,” David says, “but this appears to be more serious than he’s let on.”

“It is,” the Doctor says softly. “To put it simply, his cells are degrading. I noted the cellular damage during his first exam. The damage appeared to be the type caused by exposure to high radiation. However, there were no other signs of radiation poisoning, and Mr. Neelix said he was in reasonably good health before his arrival here.

“Admiral Janeway’s recent conversation with Seven has shed some light on the matter. Seven told her that the wormhole generator was abandoned by the Borg because it severely damaged the drones’ nanoprobes, and any cellular material to which it was attached. The damage to Neelix’s cells and nanoprobes seems consistent with that. And given the number of nanoprobes in his system …”

Nanoprobes? David and I look at each other, puzzled. We seem to be the only ones. “Ah, sorry,” I say, interrupting my holographic friend, “but what’s this about ‘the number of nanoprobes?’ You aren’t telling me Neelix is some kind of drone, are you?”

Realization dawns on the Doctor, and he shakes his head. “No, certainly not,” he says. “It’s that … Neelix has had a brush with death before.”

“He was dead; for 18 hours. I’d hardly call that a brush,” Kat replies, her voice flat.

“What happened?” David asks in a strained voice. He’s doing better than I am right now.

“During an away mission, about four years into our journey, he was struck by an energy beam while collecting proto-matter. And yes, he was dead by Federation medical standards,” the Doctor says softly. “Seven knew of a procedure that used modified nanoprobes to revive him. He needed additional injections of nanoprobes until his system stabilized.”

“Wouldn’t have those nanoprobes degraded by now?” I finally manage to ask.

“Many of them have,” the Doctor replied, “but all of his organs still hold some trace of them, which is why the damage is so widespread.”

“Is there anything you can do?” Naomi asks.

“I’ve been trying to slow the effects of the degradation, but unfortunately, things seem to have accelerated. I will try another therapy, but ultimately, he is going to die of multi-organ failure,” the Doctor says sadly. “I estimate he has just a few weeks.”

“And all he wants to do is go home,” Sam whispers.

“I doubt his body could handle such a journey now,” the Doctor says.

We all sit, too stunned to even comfort each other. Naomi and Sam are openly crying; Kat’s face is blank, which worries me.

Naomi finally finds her voice. “Can we see him?”

“He’s sedated right now,” the Doctor says quietly. “There’s not much you can do.”

“That’s all right. I’d like to sit with him for a while.”

Naomi leaves with the Doctor, leaving the four of us looking at each other.

“Sam,” Kat finally says, “let’s spread the word, get as many of the crew here as possible.”

Sam nods. “We’re going to need all the help we can get. I don’t know how he’s going to take this.”

“I know it won’t be easy,” David begins.

Sam shook her head. “You don’t understand. The first time … it threw him into a crisis … we didn’t realize it. One night, Naomi was asking for him … I found him and Chakotay in the transporter room. What I didn’t know until much later was that Chakotay was talking him out of committing suicide.”

Apparently this is going to be a night of shocks. Sam looks at Kat. “You did know …”

Kat nods. “Chakotay told me … much later.”

****

Kat is deathly quiet on the drive home. Poor choice of words, I know. But once again, I’m reminded that my wife went through a version of hell that I can’t even begin to comprehend.

And while I’m horrified by the idea that she approved Borg technology to revive Neelix, I think I might understand why: Neelix was a valued crew member, certainly not a replaceable one. Kat has a deep affection for him … and considering the sheer number of losses she had out there, well, if she could save someone, she’d do it – even if that choice would make the ethics instructors squirm.

And I have to ask myself: If something happened to Kat, or one of the kids, would I turn to something drastic to save them?

***

At home, she heads for the den, and I hear B’Elanna and Tom’s voices float over the vid.

“What can we do?” Tom asks.

Kat repeats what she said to Sam, and adds one more request.

“If you can, please find Chakotay. Tell him Neelix needs him.”

***

I persuade Kat to come upstairs to bed. But when I come back from checking on the kids, I see she’s still dressed, and is standing next to the window, lost in thought.

“Hey,” I whisper, not wanting to startle her.

She looks at me and smiles sadly. “I was just contemplating the irony. The nanoprobes that brought Neelix back are now the reason he’s dying. Apparently you can’t cheat death.”

“I don’t know … you’ve made a career out of that.”

She snorts at my bad joke and shakes her head. “Maybe I should have left him dead. I would have saved him a great deal of misery then … and certainly now. I had no right to play god.”

“Neelix might disagree with you,” I say as I sit on the bed. “I admit, the whole idea of reviving him that way makes me squeamish. On the other hand, doing that gave him a good many more years. He contributed to your crew … he married, had a child … that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Maybe it all evens out.”

She sighs and sits next to me. “Maybe.” She’s quiet for a few moments, then shakes her head again. “Some days I think it’s all behind me. Then some decision I made in the Delta Quadrant comes back to haunt me … “

“I doubt anyone in that situation could get it all right,” I tell her. “But from what I understand, you got the most important parts right. Neelix isn’t the only one who got a second chance at life.”

“Thank you,” she says, kissing my cheek.

“You’re welcome,” I say, kissing her back. “But please do something for me.”

“What’s that?”

“Please make an appointment with your counselor. I know this is stirring up a lot of emotions and regrets for you. But Neelix needs you. And you can’t help him if you’re beating yourself up over your decision.”





















Chapter 7 by Voyfan

Baker Point: Kathryn

I am so proud of my crew. Scratch that. I’ve always been proud of my crew, but never so much as now.

Since Sam and B’Elanna put the word out about Neelix, the response has been overwhelming. Crew members who don’t come to Voyager reunions have traveled to San Francisco from the far reaches of the galaxy. Many of them have checked in with their old captain, so we’re had a steady stream of visitors and dinner guests.

This week brought Tuvok, along with T’Pel and T’Meni, their eldest granddaughter, who was born while Tuvok was on Voyager. I make it a point to talk to my old friend nearly every week, but it’s nice to have him nearby again.

***

“You’re a bit pensive,” I say. We’re sitting on my back deck, enjoying cups of spice tea.

Tuvok frowns. “I’ve noticed something unusual about Mr. Neelix’s .. . spirit … if you will. I am not sure what to make of it.”

“Are you saying there is a bond between you?” I’m half teasing; I know Tuvok was fond of Neelix, much as our Talaxian friend annoyed him.

“No, it is nothing like the bond I share with you,” he says quietly. “I am aware of others’ spirits when I am near them, of course, especially those with whom I interact on a regular basis. It has been many years since I have seen Mr. Neelix, but something about his spirit is different. Most unusual.”

“What’s different?”

He looks at me, clearly troubled. “It is as if … part of him is missing. I cannot explain it.”

That is a significant admission, and I have to think about this for a moment. “Perhaps it’s due to his condition,” I finally offer.

He smiles slightly. “Perhaps, but I shall continue to meditate on it.”

We sit in companionable silence again, sipping tea, when Tuvok throws a bomb at me.

“Has Chakotay visited Mr. Neelix as yet?”

Now Tuvok and I have never discussed my relationship with Chakotay, though I have no doubt that he was aware of my feelings, both before and after that ill-fated dinner. But since the day I transferred command of Voyager, he has not mentioned Chakotay to me. Not once.

I know I must look shocked; it was all I could do to hold onto my mug. But he doesn’t react, so I decide to take the non-committal route.

“Not that I’m aware of,” I say, “though that may happen sooner than later. B’Elanna asked for leave; I’m told she and Mike Alaya are doing a bit of traveling.”

Tuvok raises an eyebrow. “I would never underestimate Commander Torres’ persuasive abilities,” he deadpans.

***

Chapter 8 by Voyfan

Baker Point: Kathryn

I am so proud of my crew. Scratch that. I’ve always been proud of my crew, but never so much as now.

Since Sam and B’Elanna put the word out about Neelix, the response has been overwhelming. Crew members who don’t come to Voyager reunions have traveled to San Francisco from the far reaches of the galaxy. Many of them have checked in with their old captain, so we’re had a steady stream of visitors and dinner guests.

This week brought Tuvok, along with T’Pel and T’Meni, their eldest granddaughter, who was born while Tuvok was on Voyager. I make it a point to talk to my old friend nearly every week, but it’s nice to have him nearby again.

***

“You’re a bit pensive,” I say. We’re sitting on my back deck, enjoying cups of spice tea.

Tuvok frowns. “I’ve noticed something unusual about Mr. Neelix’s .. . spirit … if you will. I am not sure what to make of it.”

“Are you saying there is a bond between you?” I’m half teasing; I know Tuvok was fond of Neelix, much as our Talaxian friend annoyed him.

“No, it is nothing like the bond I share with you,” he says quietly. “I am aware of others’ spirits when I am near them, of course, especially those with whom I interact on a regular basis. It has been many years since I have seen Mr. Neelix, but something about his spirit is different. Most unusual.”

“What’s different?”

He looks at me, clearly troubled. “It is as if … part of him is missing. I cannot explain it.”

That is a significant admission, and I have to think about this for a moment. “Perhaps it’s due to his condition,” I finally offer.

He smiles slightly. “Perhaps, but I shall continue to meditate on it.”

We sit in companionable silence again, sipping tea, when Tuvok throws a bomb at me.

“Has Chakotay visited Mr. Neelix as yet?”

Now Tuvok and I have never discussed my relationship with Chakotay, though I have no doubt that he was aware of my feelings, both before and after that ill-fated dinner. But since the day I transferred command of Voyager, he has not mentioned Chakotay to me. Not once.

I know I must look shocked; it was all I could do to hold onto my mug. But he doesn’t react, so I decide to take the non-committal route.

“Not that I’m aware of,” I say, “though that may happen sooner than later. B’Elanna asked for leave; I’m told she and Mike Alaya are doing a bit of traveling.”

Tuvok raises an eyebrow. “I would never underestimate Commander Torres’ persuasive abilities,” he deadpans.

***















Chapter 9 by Voyfan

Starfleet Medical

Neelix ran through the programs available on the small vid screen. Terran programs could be interesting, but today he was not in the mood.

A soft knock on the door brought pulled his attention away from the vid and to the familiar … yet slightly different figure standing in the doorway. “Chakotay! Or should I be calling you ‘Captain?’”

“No, just Chakotay. I gave up the ‘Captain’ part a few years ago,” he chuckled. “Besides, I don’t think this is regulation,” he said, pointing to his long braid of hair, now laced with gray.

“Thank you so much for coming to see me,” Neelix said sincerely.

His friend’s gratitude pricked at Chakotay’s conscience. Best he didn’t know that B’Elanna and Mike had threatened to phaser him had he not joined them.

“Well, this was a surprise,” Chakotay allowed as he sat on the bed. “How are you feeling?”

“Well, outside of the fact that I’m dying, never better.”

To his credit, Chakotay didn’t flinch. “I am sorry, old friend.”

They sat for a few moments, saying nothing, just looking at each other. “I suppose, if it has to be this way, “ Neelix began … and then it all came tumbling out – his sorrow and grief about leaving his family, especially his young daughter

Chakotay just listened, letting him talk it out. Finally, Neelix fell silent and wiped the tears from his face. “I’m sorry, Chakotay.”

“Don’t be. I’m honored to be here for you.”

They sat in companionable silence for a while, but it became obvious that Neelix had something else on his mind.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’d like to know something, but I’m not sure how to ask.”

“Well, maybe the direct route is best.”

Neelix swallowed. “All right then. What happened between you and Admiral Janeway to cause such a rift?”

Chakotay sat back in shock. “Neelix … I don’t know what she’s told you …”

“If you mean the admiral,” Neelix interrupted, “she hasn’t told me anything. And that’s the problem: She hasn’t mentioned you. Not once. And when I’ve asked our other friends about you, no one seems to know much about where you are or what you’re doing. But they do seem rather uncomfortable.”

Chakotay sighed. “It’s complicated.”

“It’s a shame, then. You two were so close, even though you did have some hellacious disagreements at times.”

Chakotay half smiled. “That, we did.”

“I’m not going to pry, but I can’t image how any disagreements here could be worse than what you two faced out there.”

Chakotay swallowed. “It’s not Kathryn’s fault, Neelix. It’s mine. Mainly because of my pride.”

“Then apologize to her.”

“I said some pretty unforgivable things. I’m not sure she could … or should … forgive me.”

“I have a hard time believing that.”

Chakotay sighed again. “Maybe, but even if she could forgive me, it’s best for both of us right now if we stay away from each other.”



***

Starfleet Medical: Kathryn

Neelix stirs and I put down my PADD to check on him. He’s growing weaker now, in spite of the doctor’s best efforts. Sam has set up a rotation of folks so that someone is with him during the day and evening, with the doctor taking the overnights.

I silently rail against fate as I look at him: we’re close, damn close on blasting Baldy Rock to pieces. But I fear that by the time we contact Dexa, it will be to tell her that her husband is dead.

He opens his eyes, and I tuck away my despair and smile at him, the way I do when my children are sick. I get him a drink of water, and replicate some broth. He takes both, and remains sitting up, meaning today will be a good day.

We sit in silence for a while, and I busy myself with another PADD to give him a bit of privacy.

“It’s strange,” he finally says.

“How’s that?”

“I’d always wondered how you all were … if you’d made it home safely. And I’m happy that I was able to see almost everyone. But I realized that I’d been remembering us all as we were on Voyager … how close we all were. It seems strange that everyone has gone their separate ways.”

“Well,” I say softly, “while we all shared something extraordinary, this was the reason I wanted to get Voyager back home; so we could all go back to our lives.”

“I know, and I obviously changed, too. I supposed I just imagined that everyone was happy and remained close. Guess I didn’t account for things like Sam’s marriage falling apart … or a rift between you and Chakotay.”

I jerk my head up in shock. “I realized something was wrong early on,” he continues.

“Neelix,” I begin.

“When he was here last week, I asked him about it.”

Well, this I have to hear. “And what did he say?”

“Only that it wasn’t your fault. And he’s not sure you could forgive him.”

I close my eyes for a moment to compose myself. “I see.” It’s all I can say.

“I have his number … perhaps some day you could call him and straighten this out.”

For a moment, I have to bite back the anger that I’m feeling toward Chakotay. How dare he put our friend … our dying friend in this position. “Did he ask you to do this?” I finally ask.

Neelix shakes his head. “No, no he didn’t. He actually said he thought it would be best if you two stayed away from each other. “

My anger subsides a bit and I take my friend’s hand. “Neelix, you know I would do almost anything for you. But I can’t do this. Chakotay is right; it’s best we stay away from each other. “

He just smiles sadly. “I hope someday you change your minds.”

I’d like to reassure him, tell him that someday we’ll be friends again on some level. But I can’t.



Chapter 10 by Voyfan

Starfleet engineering labs; Kathryn


We’re sitting in the lab, waiting for the MIDAS array to power up. After three weeks of work, most of it produced by Jack and B’Elanna, we finally have the solution to destroying Baldy Rock.

My communicator chirps. “Paris to Janeway.”

This can’t be good news. Tom is supposed to be with Neelix, so I slip outside to take the hail. “Yes, Tom.”

“Neelix … he’s taken a turn for the worse. Doc says you need to come now.” He pauses, and I can hear him take a ragged breath. “He won’t last much longer.”

The news crashes into me, and I can barely keep my voice steady. “I’m on my way.”

I go back into the testing room, trying to keep that command mask on. But I can’t do it today. Both Jack and B’Elanna look at me in alarm. “Kat, what’s happened?” Jack asks.

I take his hand … a breach of protocol to be sure, but right now, protocol be damned.

“Neelix doesn’t have much longer. I have to go.”

B’Elanna is near tears. “I’m going with you. I … I want to say goodbye.”

“I’ll tell Reg to stop the test, and I’ll come, too.” Jack says gently

The three of us walk over to Medical in silence, though when the turbolift doors close, Jack lays a hand on each of our shoulders and gives them a gentle squeeze, giving us strength for what we’re about to face.


****

The room is silent, save the beeping of the monitor over Neelix’s head. Tom looks up with a sad smile as the Doctor walks over to us.

“He’s in a coma, though it’s possible he can still hear you if you’d like to talk to him,” he says, the sadness showing in his eyes. “Sam and Naomi are on their way.”

B’Elanna moves to Neelix’s side and talks to him quietly for a few moments, then goes to sit by Tom.

I approach the bed and take Neelix’s hand, trying to steady myself with a deep breath. “Neelix, I’m happy that you had a good life, and that we got to see each other again. But I’m so sorry we couldn’t get you home, old friend. I feel like I’ve failed you. I promise to tell Dexa how much you loved her.”

Whether he heard or not, I’ll never know. But I’ll always hope so ...

A half-hour later, as Naomi held his hand, Neelix took his last breath.


***

Baker Point: Jack

Kat hasn’t said much since we left Medical. When we get home, I pour two shots of whiskey and take them into the study where’s she’s sitting, staring at nothing. She smiles gratefully and takes a glass.

“To Neelix.”

“To Neelix,” she answers softly as we both drink down the liquor.

I sit next to her, and she slides into my arms, her head on my chest.

“You didn’t fail him, you know.”

“Didn’t I?”

“No … you ... we all did our best to overcome an impossible situation. If nothing else, Neelix got the one thing he needed.”

“What’s that?” Her voice has a bit of an edge.

“He got to spend his last days with his Voyager family. That thing could have thrown him anywhere. He could have died alone, or in terror on some godforsaken planet. It may have been sheer luck, but at least he died among people who loved him. And that’s all any of us can ask for.”

She raises her head to say something, but the tears begin to fall and she can’t get the words out. She rests her head back against my chest and sobs as if her heart is breaking. I hold her close and stroke her hair, letting her cry for Neelix, and all the others she lost on Voyager.



***

Starfleet engineering labs: Kathryn


Three days after the funeral, we return to the lab. This time, we send through a pulse that shatters Baldy Rock to bits. From a security standpoint, our efforts are a roaring success. From a personal standpoint, there’s not much to celebrate.


***

A few days later, the Doctor and I wait while MIDAS beams a connection to the Talaxian asteroid colony. While we wait for Dexa to come to the vid, we chat about various things … the weather, Naomi’s new job … anything to avoid the real reason we’re sitting there.

Finally, Dexa’s face comes on the screen. I expected the surprise, but not the sorrow I see.

“Oh, Captain Janeway! It’s so good of you to call us!”

The Doctor opens his mouth to correct her, and I nudge him. Right now, rank isn’t important.

“But … I’m sorry to tell you that you’re too late to talk to Neelix.”

“Too late?” I repeat, puzzled. Perhaps she’s referring to him being missing …

“I’m so sorry, but Neelix died a few days ago.”

The Doctor and I look at each other in shock. There’s no way she could have known.

“When did this happen?” The Doctor asks. Her answer shocked us again: the same date that Neelix died here.

“He died there?” I ask. A stupid question, perhaps, but something strange is going on here.

“Yes, of course,” she says, looking at me like I was daft.

“Dexa,” The Doctor says kindly, “could you tell us what happened?”

“It all started after he went to that planet to pick leola root. He was several hours late … said he thought he’d passed out.

“He seemed all right at first, but as the weeks went on, he became weaker. It was like his body was shutting down on him. Our medics had no idea what was wrong, or what to do,” she said, her voice catching.

“Did he mention anything about seeing Baldy Rock that day?” I ask.

She thought for a moment. “Why yes. He said that the last thing he remembered was that something flashed on it. How do you know about Baldy Rock?”

The Doctor and I look at each other in shock as we both realize what happened to Neelix. I swallow hard and turn back to the screen.

“Dexa, we knew that Neelix died. But something else appears to have happened. And there's no easy way to explain this.


***

Officers’ Club: Jack

“Let me get this straight. You’re telling me that wormhole generator made a duplicate of Neelix and his ship. Then it threw one ship into the Alpha Quadrant and left the other in the Delta?”

“’Fraid so,” Kat says quietly. We’re sitting in a quiet corner of the Officers’ Club with Tom, B’Elanna and the Doctor, trying to figure this out.

“How is this possible?” I ask. “I’ve never seen a wormhole do that particular trick.”

“I’ve gone over Seven’s report. The schematics indicate there may have been some form of transporter technology in Baldy Rock, but it’s nothing that I’ve ever seen,” B’Elanna says.

“And there have been cases of duplication caused by transporter technology,” the Doctor adds.

“True,” Kat says, “it happened to Will Riker.” She gestures toward B’Elanna. “By the way, we should run some more tests on that ship. I’m leaning toward it being the copy, and I’d be curious to see how many of its systems actually work.”

“You know,” Tom says, “I keep thinking that the poor guy died three times.”

“He did … and I find that profoundly disturbing,” Kat says. She shook her head. “I keep remembering what Dexa told me: that his one regret was that he couldn’t see us all again.”

“And when he was here, his one regret was that he couldn’t see his family again,” I say.
“Sounds like he got what he wanted on all counts,” B’Elanna adds.

Our conversation is interrupted by the server delivering our drinks. When he leaves, the Doctor raises his glass, and we follow.

“To the irrepressible Mr. Neelix,” he says. “May he live on in the hearts of both of his families.”

 


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