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Dark Matter by G.Carlo Manfredi

Prologue

Inside. Shuttlepod.

The thin thread of the blue emergency light is the one light source, few displays are on, and frost covers every surface. A man, in a space suit, is sitting, we make out from the condensed breath (that goes out from his helmet) that he is alive.

Voice out-of-frame.

"Lifeboat number 7, personal log of the third officer of the colonist conveyance ship S.S. Europa, stardate isn’t important anymore. The energy and oxygen supplies are running out, so I’ve decided to reduce the vital support settings to the minimum, to give the priority to the emergency radio beacon. Nevertheless, I see a low probability of being found alive. I want to leave a log of the events that caused the Europa wreck and the death of her crew and of her passengers. The space is a too cold and empty frontier for mankind freezing, wonderful, barren moors, where we should never have ventured on..."

The man stretches out a gloved hand and takes off the ice away from the navigation window.

Outside. Deep space. The camera goes away, showing the shuttlepod.

You see a hand drawing a circle on the window.

The shuttlepod is getting smaller and smaller, until it disappears. You see only a star gas cloud that turns into a light spot in a sea of stars.

Scene 1 - U.S.S. Voyager bridge

The turbolift door opens and Kathryn Janeway enters the Bridge.

Every officer stands up, denoting the tension of the moment.

Janeway: "Good morning gentlemen, I want, you to test our ship’s primary system, a tactical diagram of the situation, you to call the stellar cartography officer and, Lieutenant Paris, put whatever is outside on screen. (Turning her combadge on) Janeway to the crew: we are going to go into what remains of a nova; our sensors have intercepted some data that persuades us to believe that in the nebula there is a spatial tunnel. So, I’ve decided to deviate from our course to go and investigate the phenomenon. It might be a difficult navigation. I expect you to be courageous and ready, in order to let us get home, through this dangerous passage, uninjured and undamaged.

Scene 2 - Bridge

On the screen, there is what remains of the explosion of a nova. A star is burning out, in the middle of the nebula; the other stars are obscured with the gas, expelled by the nova.

It is an immense summer storm, on a stellar scale, illuminated with the electromagnetic flashover dazzles, a silent hell.

A minuscule, white whirl appears in the heart of the nebula.

Tuvok (turning on the intercom): "The senior officers have to go in the observation lounge. Seven of Nine, join us at once. To the crew: yellow alert. "

Scene 3 - Briefing room

The officers are sitting round the table, they have the PADDs with the reports about the systems, Janeway is sitting at the head of the table and watches her computer terminal; through the

windows, they can see the nebula, hanging over Voyager.

Janeway: "Mister Kim, are our sensors operative?"

Kim: "I don’t know. Our sensors have been being disturbed for three hours, by the nebula heavy radiations, we are reconfiguring the navigation deflector, but, at the moment, we are blind and deaf."

Janeway: "B’Elanna, what can you tell us about this radiation?"

Torres: "Undoubtedly, we are in the presence of strong Verteron ray emanations and this causes the scanner problem."

Janeway, looking at Tuvok: "So, at the moment, we know exactly what is in this system. But, can we get nearer to the phenomenon, study it and see where it takes, safely? Seven, you and Paris, prepare a detailed map of the nebula and, you, Tuvok give them the data about the probabilistical model to activate the tunnel."

While this meeting is being held, Neelix is looking at the nebula. He’s preoccupied.

Neelix: "Commander, I’ve a bad feeling. I’ve already heard of this star system: in the whole sector it is rumoured of disappearing fleets, of phantom ships, deserted by the crew, undamaged... And that white jet that blows and disappears, like the breathing of a monster..."

Chakotay: "My forefathers hunted the whales on minuscule canoes. Neelix, now it is over to us. We have to hunt the leviathan."

Janeway: "Mister Neelix, remember that you are the morale officer"

Neelix: "Aye Captain, I’ll remember it. I’ve only a strange feeling..."

Scene 4 - Deep space

The Voyager is navigating through the nebula, like a vessel into the fog, when a dark shadow appears on her course.

Scene 5. Bridge.

The officers on duty are staring at the viewscreen.

Kim (excited):"Tom, right in front of us, bearing zero zero zero point zero, 300 kilometres far away, a partially solid object, 30 kilometres of diameter, in rotation.

Janeway: "Helmsman, evasive manoeuvre, Lambda 1."

Tuvok: "Tuvok to the crew, ready for a collision."

Everyone, on the bridge, holds his breath. Janeway prepares herself to the collision, holding tight to the captain’s chair.

Scene 6 - Space

Voyager keeps getting nearer to an asteroid, which seems made of ice. The ship skims the asteroid with a little explosion and changes her course; it starts rotating, while the right nacelle is automatically unhooked by some little emergency charges and fades away in the nebula.

Scene 7 - Bridge

Some consoles are exploding and emitting some short circuit sparks.

Janeway: "Janeway to every deck. I want the damage report! Emergency teams, get ready! Tom, try to retake control of Voyager!"

Paris: "Our directional thrusters are offline and we have no impulse energy anymore."

Tuvok: "Engineering, bring into action the emergency energy."

Chakotay: "Where is, now, that bloody asteroid? And, why didn’t our sensors take the bearing of it? And, above all, why didn’t our shields stop it?"

A monitor turns on and B’Elanna appears, she’s clearly busy.

Torres: "Captain, according to the physics, what we’ve just skimmed can’t exist. It doesn’t appear solid and doesn’t reflect any radiation. The bad news is that we’ve undergone impact damage to the right nacelle, the computer has reacted to this by activating the emergency procedure, it means that it has turned off the warp core and the impulse engines. According to our sensors, there hasn’t been any explosion. As for the rest, we don’t have any radioactive escape and I register no wounded. Torres out."

Paris: "Emergency energy on! I’m stabilizing the ship! We’re stationary!"

On the bridge everyone is silent and is looking at the captain.

Janeway: "Chakotay, get a shuttle ready for a research and recovery mission: we can’t spread Voyager’s vital parts in space."

"Janeway to all hands. I want a report about the status of repairs. Janeway out."

Scene 8 - Deep space

Voyager is drifting.

Scene 9 - Shuttlecraft

The shuttlecraft is voyaging through the nebula; strong vibrations buffet it, on board there are a pilot and Ensign Kim, on sensors consolle.

Pilot: "It seems like flying through a cyclone with a hang-glider! We must make haste finding the nacelle, otherwise..."

Kim: "Wait a minute! I’m receiving a distress radio signal: it is the nacelle radio beacon! No, the computer identifies it as a Federation standard emergency signal! Now we have even an audio signal!"

Kim turns on the shuttlecraft loudspeaker.

Electronic voice: "This is the lifeboat (static disturbances) starship S.S. Europa. We call for help (static disturbances)... This is the lifeboat...

Kim: "Shuttlecraft to Voyager. Captain, I’ve found a lifeboat and I’m picking up a lifesign!"

Scene 10 - Bridge

Janeway: "Tuvok, can we beam the lifesign up?"

Tuvok: "Not in as short time: the whole primary systems must be reinitialised."

Janeway: "Bridge to sickbay, Doc how is the situation?"

A monitor turns on and the EMH appears.

Doctor: "EMH here, if I’m not interrupted again, I should visit my last patient in 7 minutes and 30 seconds. Anyway, it is my credit if there have been no dead man among the crew."

Janeway: "Doc, I want you in the shuttlebay in ten minutes. No question about it!"

Scene 11 - Shuttlebay

Tuvok is staring at the shuttlepod, on a screen, getting in.

He raises an eyebrow, reading "S.S. Europa"on the shuttlepod side.

Scene 12 - Astrometric lab

Paris and Seven of Nine start the simulation of the star system and found themselves adrift in space , while the star and the remains of the celestial bodies that gravitated around it begin moving very fast.

Paris: "Computer, run the program "Nebula 1", second sequence."

Seven of Nine: "A spectacular sight."

Paris: "How prosaic. It’s beautiful."

Seven of Nine: "As you wish, Lieutenant."

Paris: "You’re right, but, unfortunately, it isn’t correct. Look at there: between the star and the ring of the expelled gas, an empty zone is forming."

Seven of Nine: "There must be a sort of gravitational glue that keeps the stardust and changes the behaviour of the spatial tunnel; a kind of matter that our sensors can’t single out."

Scene 13 - Briefing room

The officer are round the table, Janeway enters.

Janeway: "B’Elanna, how is the starboard nacelle recovery mission going on?"

Torres: "The right nacelle has been found and two shuttlecraft are beginning the recovery procedure; meanwhile we are working on the impulse engines, it should be online in 2 hours."

Janeway: "Tuvok, any news about the tunnel?"

Tuvok: "Undoubtedly, it is a spatial tunnel, but its configuration is unstable, maybe, because of the system gravitational tides; I’ve programmed the main computer core, so that it processes a previsional model; besides we are preparing a probe to the launch, it should tell us what is the other side."

Janeway: "Doctor, how is your patient? Can we talk to him? I think he knows some very important information and I want to investigate."

Doctor: "He suffered from hypothermia and asphyxia and from an exposure to radiations. At the moment, he is under sedatives and he hasn’t regained consciousness yet. Nevertheless, thanks to the therapies I’ve used, I could venture a positive diagnosis."

Tuvok: "Doctor, saying the patient is recovering would have been enough. Anyway, captain, I would remind you some events that are connected to the disaster of the husbandman conveyance ship S.S. Europa..."

Paris and Seven of Nine enter and B’Elanna casts a black look at Paris.

Paris: "Excuse us, but changing the simulation parameters requested more time than anticipated..."

Seven of Nine (interrupting him): "Paris and I could not find out what makes this system unique and the idea of a new kind of matter that absorbs radiations, yet remaining cold, and be permeable to the common matter, yet keeping gravitational moment, came to our heads at the same time."

Tuvok (impassive): "Do you mean that the Voyager collided with some "dark matter"?"

Chakotay: "Gentlemen, I remind you that this is a meeting and that there are some priorities, to be respected! Ensign Kim, can that "dark matter"endanger Voyager?"

Kim: "At the moment, our shields can’t deflect that material, but, maybe, working on the navigation deflector... I need some more data!"

Janeway: "I think that, now, I can adjourn the meeting. Gentlemen, I want you to bring me up-to-date in two hours; we may be next to a shortcut to Earth and we can’t miss this opportunity! Dismissed!"

Scene 14 - Janeway’s quarters

Janeway is sitting on her armchair and staring at the nebula. The bell rings.

Janeway: "Come in!"

Tuvok enters.

Tuvok: "Captain, I need to tell you about a serious matter that concerns the man we’ve rescued.

Janeway: "What is the question?"

Tuvok: "It’s an old story, dating back to the past century, exactly to the 2293, according to the terrestrial calendar. I’m reasonably sure to be next to the solution of one of the biggest space exploration enigmas and of one of the worst tragedies in the history of the space exploration. At that moment, I was serving under Hikaru Sulu, on the Excelsior..."

Scene 15 - Excelsior shuttlebay

The young Tuvok is receiving the last information about the mission he has to accomplish: taking part in the rescue of the survivor from the S.S. Europa wreck.

OPS officer (ironic): "Ensign Tuvok, this mission is suitable for your deductive ability: you’ll have to escort the corps of an old Starfleet officer, dead in the Europa wreck and, if you can, finding out the causes of this tragic shipwreck ."

Scene 16 - Space

The shuttlecraft goes through a wide asteroid fascia to get to a M-class planet that circles around a T-Tauri-class star. Part of the wreckage of the immense starship is orbiting the planet. Not too far from the piece of wreckage, there is a Federation tender and some shuttlecrafts that ply between the Europa and the planet surface.

Scene 17 - Shuttlecraft

Tuvok is piloting the shuttlecraft; beside him there is the co-pilot, dozing.

"Shuttlecraft Schiapparelli, Ensign Tuvok’s personal log, stardate....

Before leaving, I deferred the shuttlecraft database with the information about the star system, our destination. The main sun is a celestial body relatively young, whose peculiarity is the alternating of expansions and contractions. Its one satellite orbit is eccentric, nevertheless, the planet is habitable and it was the incentive for the colonial mission. "

A wide asteroid belt is what remains of the primary system. The other peculiarity is the presence of a strong residual radiation that disturbs the shuttlecraft scanners; thinking that this anomaly contributed to the wreck is logical. "

Tuvok (waking his comrade): "Wake up, we are about to moor to the tender."

Ensign: "Tuvok, once aboard, let me deal with the papers for the transfer of the Europa captain’s body. He was an old glory of Starfleet, an old-mannered space-dog that, after being pensioned off, had preferred to keep voyaging, taking command of civilian starships."

Tuvok (without expression): "If you prefer so... Shuttlecraft Schiapparelli here, we ask permission to moor."

Scene 18 - Space

The shuttlecraft moors to the tender.

Scene 19 - Starship

The pair goes ashore and is welcomed, in the shuttlebay, by the responsible officer of the rescue mission. The man begins talking to the human ensign that gives him a PADD.

Tuvok: "Sir, I ask permission to board the wreck."

Responsible: "What?"

He turns round and looks at Tuvok, as if he hadn’t realized that the Vulcan was there.

Responsible: "O.K., you can, but don’t interfere with the technicians’ job. Anyway, of the Europa, there has remained nothing to write home about. We have found just the fourth prefab that is the one you are looking at."

He restarts talking to the other ensign.

Scene 20 - S.S. Europa

Tuvok beams down into a section of the wreckage where the walls are spotted with fluids. Broken cables, part of the ventilation system and torn off electronic components are the proof of the wreckage. Only a few emergency lights illuminate the deck. Tuvok hears some steps on the metallic grating. A technician introduces himself to the Vulcan.

Technician: "I didn’t expect a Vulcan to come, anyway, you’re ahead of schedule. Follow me, I’ve to show you something, before the official committee of inquiry arrives."

Scene 21 - S.S. Europa

The technician accompanies Tuvok through the Europa decks.

1° technician: "We’ve found the internal communication system memories still intact, it’s a miracle, in consideration of the damages that this habitation group has suffered. Anyway, the Company had forewarned the inspection of a representative, who had to decide about the destruction of the records."

They go inside a control room. A man, bent on a console, is working on the monitor system.

1° technician: "Here is the Company representative, you can show him the registrations."

2° technician (looking at Tuvok): "Ingenious. A Vulcan wearing a Starfleet uniform, who could imagine it? Anyway, it isn’t a business of mine, I’ve just to act upon the orders. (He turns round to a screen) Here is what remains of the internal communication registrations."

Scene 22 - S.S. Europa

The image of a purser talking to the bridge appears on the screen, in a corner, there are the date and the time of the registration. The images are bad quality ones.

Purser: "Bridge: here the control centre of the fourth Habitat, we’re in troubles."

Voice from the bridge: "Bridge here, go on with the report, but hurry up because the "Old"is very angry."

Purser: "Every non-shielded system is offline because of the ionisation we’ve undergone, the life-support needs is twenty percent of the standard power. The structure vibrations caused some people to be injured, but the panic is the main problem! The colonists are incontrollable, I shut myself up into the control centre, but I need help. What’s happening?"

Scene 23 - Janeway’s quarters

Tuvok is telling his story to the captain, when the doorbell rings.

Janeway (disturbed): "Come in. What’s happening?"

Neelix (with impetuosity): "Captain, I’ve hold an inquiry in my shuttlecraft’s archives and I’ve found... eh, excuse me, I didn’t know you were occupied... (Going on) Anyway, as I was telling you, since we entered this system, I’ve experienced a strange sensation and the accident we had, caused me remember some old stories. Well, I was riding at anchor in a spaceport, when...

Janeway (Going to tear her hair): "It seems that the moment of old stories has arrived, but I don’t have time to waste. Tuvok, you’ll go on later, at lunchtime. Neelix, what do you know about this nebula? Try to stick to realities."

Neelix (penitently): "Captain, this system is legendary: it is told that, here, there is a rare and precious substance, difficult to pick up, that can make rich whoever manages to get hold of it. It is dangerous to sail inside the nebula, with the scanners obscured by the radiations, with waves of tide generated by the star, and a vortex that appears and swallows up even the biggest vessel. Nevertheless, a lot of adventurers of the whole quadrant have tried their fortune here. Some of them are content with salvaging a vessel, some become rich, but the greater part of them vanishes forever. Fortunately, my sixth sense of explorer will drive us through the space reeves."

Janeway: "Well, Mr Neelix, from now onwards, you’ll work with Paris in mapping this "dangerous ocean". Tuvok, accompany me to the sickbay."

Scene 24 - Sickbay

The Doctor is monitoring the vital functions of the survivor; Janeway and Tuvok go inside the room.

Janeway (pointing at the man in the bed): "Doctor, I would remind you that your patient, probably, knows some information we need and that I’ve not yet received an up-to-date report about him! I need to talk to this man presently (immediately)!"

Doctor (preparing a dose of medicament): "As you wish, captain, but I’ve preferred keeping him in stasis to secure him an adequate therapy and prevent him by a possible shock. Now, in my opinion, he is out of danger and I think that a little talk can’t injure him."

Scene 25 - Sickbay

Janeway and Tuvok are standing on the right side of the survivor bed, the doctor injectes a stimulant to the man. He keeps still. The captain looks at the EMH, doubtful. Tuvok stoops to see the man’s face that, suddenly, lights up.

Man (faintly): "You have to listen to me. This ship is going to be destroyed. Captain, evacuate this ship."

Doctor: "My patient is still shocked, he doesn’t recognize the reality.

Janeway: "Can he hear me?"

Doctor: "Yes, he is aware. Talk to him, captain, he needs to be tranquillised by a motherly but authoritative figure.

Janeway (talking to the man, but casting a black look at the Doctor): "Can you hear me? This is U.S.S. Voyager, here you’re safe. What’s your name? (Talking to the Doc) He seems to be sleeping. Call me when he is able to answer my questions."

Scene 26 - Voyager’s bridge

Chakotay is sitting in the captain’s chair; Ensign Kim is checking his console. The viewscreen shows only a thick interstellar fog.

Kim: "Sir, we’re ready for a test. We’ve changed the navigation deflector carrier wave in order to create a cone of space ahead of Voyager, where our sensors should work.

Chakotay: "Well, ensign, activate the deflector and pass the information onscreen: now!"

Kim: "It seems to be working, the short-range sensors indicate empty space ahead. I’m turning on even the long-range ones. I’m sensing an artificial object! It’s too far, I can’t have any reliable scanning."

Chakotay: "Magnify!"

The remains of a starship appear on the viewscreen.

Kim: "According to our first analysis, it seems to be the command module of a big starship, but I can see just part of the propulsive system, its loading modules are missing; the main structure seems damaged. The wreck has no energy, we can’t see any navigation light and it is adrift."

Chakotay: "Can its driftage interfere in the warp nacelle recovery mission?"

Kim: "No, Sir, the wreck is too far."

Chakotay: "Let’s try to hail it, open a channel! This is the Federation starship Voyager , can you read us?"We’re about 8 navigation hours far from you and we can help you, if you want."

Kim: "It’s useless, Sir, no answer, there is no sign of life on that wreck."

Chakotay: "Well, Ensign, contact B’Elanna and ask her to prepare a list of materials that could come in useful. Helm, steer for the heart of the wreck: we’ve to get a shift on reaching it."

Kim: "Why do we have to?"

Chakotay: "It’s an old custom of earth marine: I’ve we go on board a ship without crew, we can take possession of it."

Scene 27 - Space

Some shuttlepods are towing the nacelle into its lodgement, while some men, wearing space suits, as soon as the engine returns in its seat, begin to carry out repairs with tricorder and soldering rays."

Scene 28 - Voyager’s bridge

Chakotay is watching the operation, on the viewscreen.

Chakotay: "B’Elanna, how is the operation proceeding?"

B’Elanna: "Not well, the nacelle’s returned in its seat, but it’s undergone some damages in the impact point. Nearly its whole electronic instrumentation’s burnt out."

Chakotay: "Logged in. Chakotay to the recovery team, well done. Chakotay out. (Turning round to Kim) Ensign, what’s new?"

Kim: "I’m running a first level scanning... I’m taking a bearing of an ion track ahead, but it’s too feeble to say if it is another vessel."

Chakotay: "I want you to inform me immediately if we’ve any uninvited guests."

Kim: "Aye, Sir!"

Chakotay: "Do we’ve any information about the wreck? Can you magnify it?"

Kim: "Increasing magnification. Top magnification, now."

The wreck of a starship appears on the viewscreen: it is what remains of the S.S. Europa.

Chakotay: "We’d better inform the captain!"

Scene 29 - Astrometric lab

Paris and Seven of Nine are testing the simulation.

Seven: "We’ve ended reprogramming the model, in accordance with the parameters provided us by Lieutenant Tuvok. The behaviour of the gases, of the cosmic dust and of the asteroids that compose the nebula is influenced, now, even, by the presence of the "dark matter"."

Paris: "Let’s not waste time! Computer, launch the program "nebula 2", first sequence."

This time, the perfect reproduction of the nebula forms, in the centre of the screen.

Paris: "Computer, second sequence!"

A little white maelstrom appears in the nebula.

Computer’s voice: "Similarity of the model with the sensor observations... 93%"

Paris exults, hugs Seven of Nine; initially, she is at a loss, then, incensed, she throws him through the room.

Scene 30 - Mess hall

Janeway and Tuvok are sitting in front of one another; Neelix is serving them a meal.

Neelix: "You can’t miss this new Delta quadrant version of the famous Lokar Beans, served hot and spicy: I’ve found this recipe in Voyager’s database."

Janeway: "We’ve no time, Neelix, I’ve left Commander Chakotay alone for really a long time."

Tuvok: "Captain, excuse me, but for once, I’ve to agree with Neelix: you need a meal and a sleep. Chakotay knows where to find you and your crew is well trained. Besides, my Vulcan metabolism lets me defer my sleep time for a long time and keep to the bridge for the necessary time."

Janeway (kneading her neck): "Tuvok, as ever, you know your captain’s weaknesses. That’s why I order you to join me in having meal and grab this chance to keep on telling me your narrative. Neelix, please, serve us two dishes of beans."

Scene 31 - Inside Voyager

B’Elanna is repairing the right warp nacelle. She’s oil-stained, she’s holding a spanner and she leans wearily against a bulkhead.

B’Elanna: "It’s useless. Too many spare parts are missing: I’ll never be able to make it."

Paris arrives at her back and puts his hand on her back to massage her. B’Elanna counters it with a karate-chop. For the second time in that day, Paris flies through a room. Then, she flies at his side and, then, she cuddles him.

B’Elanna: "Tom, what happened to your eye?"

Scene 32 - Deep space

A flotilla of unidentified starships is proceeding towards the Europa wreckage.

Scene 33 - Mess hall

Tuvok’s brought up the subject he was telling about before, in Janeway’s quarters.

Tuvok: "As I was telling you, I was listening to the recording of the conversation between the bridge and the control centre of the fourth Europa Habitat. The logic and the curiosity had advised me not to reveal the misapprehension, they were under the two technicians: they, really, believed I was the Company representative, gone there to examine the found proofs and, eventually, to destroy evidence of the responsibility of the Company itself for the wreckage."

Janeway: "It isn’t hard to believe. Once upon a time, a lot of big companies put the profit before the well-being of intelligent races. Besides, the strategy of settling the most habitable planets was dictated by the state of unrest among us, the Klingons and the Romulans; the Federation let the companies behave as they would, on condition that they granted the troop conveyance and the logistical support to the colonists. But I don’t want to interrupt you again, go on and excuse my interrupting you."

Scene 34 - S.S. Europa

Ensign Tuvok and the two technicians are listening to the recording, in a room of the wreck. Suddenly, there is a loss of vision, but the sound keeps working.

Voice from the bridge: "Purser, you’ve to calm the passengers down as you can, we need the whole crew to repairs this ship and retake control of it."

Purser: "Bridge, tell me, at least, if I’ve to order the evacuation of this habitat."

Voice from the bridge: "Negative, the captain’s explicitly ordered not to walk off and not to proceed to the evacuation."

2nd voice from the bridge: "Number One, what’s happening, now?"

1st voice from the bridge: "Sir, the fourth prefab purser is telling us that the colonists are in panic."

2nd voice from the bridge: "I understand, I want to put out a statement! - Captain here, to our passengers. We’ve come into collision with a big asteroid our sensors didn’t detect, there are no damages to the structure. Only the secondary instruments have suffered damage. I’ve ordered the crew to begin repairs. There’s no reason to fear the worst and the evacuation procedure has not, I repeat, has not yet begun. Stay relaxed and collaborate with your pursers. Captain out."

3rd voice from the bridge: "Captain, you’ve to order the evacuation, this ship’s going to be destroyed."

2nd voice from the bridge: "Oh, shut up!"

3rd voice: "But, watch these screens, we’re proceeding towards the vortex and the main structure is collapsing"

2nd voice: "I’ve already ordered you to shut up!!!"

3rd voice: "Captain I’ve to insist. We must evacuate this ship."

2nd voice: "Evacuate? And should we to condemn the passengers to death? I understand why you didn’t complete your studies at the Academy: you are not worthy of being an officer. Now, escort him to his quarters, he is under arrest!"

Noises of fight and of a phaser shot come from the intercom.

4th voice: "The captain is dead! We’ve to jump off the ship!"

Computer’s voice: "The automatic procedure of prefab uncoupling has begun..."

Scene 35 - Mess hall

Janeway’s combadge cuts Tuvok short.

Chakotay: "Captain, you should come here: B’Elanna has had an idea.

Janeway: "I’m coming. Tuvok, I’m destined not to listen to your story up to the hilt. You’ll go on later, meanwhile, try to speak with our guest. Neelix, thanks for beans, they were wonderful."

Janeway goes away. Neelix gets nearer her table and, with a spoon, tastes some beans.

Neelix: "They’re quite good, maybe a little spicier..."

Tuvok: "...And we would have a wonderful fuel for our engine."

Tuvok stands up and leaves the mess.

Neelix: "What a bizarre idea. I’d never dream of serving fuel... At the most, I could add some brandy to the beans... Yes... It’s a marvelous idea."

Scene 36 - Bridge

Chakotay and B’Elanna are having their heads bent over a monitor, where a list of updates is passing before their eyes, while Janeway comes in, from the turbolift.

Chakotay (talking to B’Elanna): "Yes, it could be a solution, we mustn’t overlook an opportunity. (Turning round to Janeway) Captain, we think we’re able to use part of the components of the wreck for our nacelle. Though we’ve to make sure that ship is the same Europa we know, that its technology is compatible with ours and that in the wreck there is still something we could reutilise, but B’Elanna’s idea seems to be a good one.

Janeway: "Three conditions in the same phrase... Chakotay, we’re face to face with one of the biggest mysteries in the history of space navigation and, above all, with a wormhole leading to the Alpha Quadrant. We’re in a wonderful ship; you’re a wonderful crew so we mustn’t give up ourselves to the pessimism! B’Elanna, prepare a boarding team and send it to take the material we need. Mister Kim, keep analysing the wreck and remind Lieutenant Paris that I’m waiting for news about the star system model where we’re navigating.

I want you to report in the observation lounge, in two hours. You can find me in my quarters in case of need."

Scene 37 - Sickbay

Tuvok is talking to the Doctor. The castaway is sitting on the bed, he has his back on the Doctor’s little office.

Tuvok: "At the time, how is the patient?"

Doctor: "Physically, he is recovering fast, psychologically... The presence of an empathic counsellor, now, would be very helpful. Nowadays he’s under sedatives."

Tuvok: "Has he already asked where he is?"

Doctor: "Of course. My patient’s aware of being on a Federation ship, but I’ve not had the time to tell him where this ship is yet."

Tuvok: "I think I should talk to our guest, we’ve to broach a lot of subjects..."

Scene 38 - Observation lounge

The officers are sitting round the table. Janeway enters the room.

Janeway: "Chief Engineer, how are the repairs to the ship?"

Torres: "Every out-of-order system’s been restored with spare parts. The starboard nacelle’s been towed into its lodgement, nevertheless, some subspatial microfield generators have been damaged and we cannot repair them. We’ve to replace them. At the moment, it is impossible to replace them, without any spares."

Janeway: "Is the boarding party ready to go on that wreck and see if there are any spare parts we can reutilise?"

Torres: "Yes, captain, they’re waiting for me in the shuttlebay."

Chakotay: "The outcome of this mission is crucial for the Voyager: though I’d never bet to find another Federation starship in this quadrant..."

Janeway: "There is just a thing I would underline, that wreck is so much older than us. It’s about a century..."

Kim: "No, Captain, the wreck, according to our scanning, is not over a lustrum."

Janeway: "What?"

Tuvok: "We’ve to remember that the wormholes go through the universe, even in the temporal dimension. Remember the micro-wormhole only three months after our arrival in this quadrant? It’s likely that the ship, or maybe its wreck, was sucked down in a tunnel and has re-emerged here nowadays. It didn’t happen more than four days ago. This hypothesis is confirmed by our guest’s story, the S.S. Europa third officer."

Janeway (frustrated): "Here there is another way home, but it goes into the past, and we can’t go back without undermining the spatio-temporal continuum."

Paris: "Who can tell, according to the model we developed the tunnel appears and disappears in this system, it emits gravitonic impulses on different scales. We thought that the tunnel, each time it’s opened, leads into a different period."

Janeway: "Ensign Kim, collaborate with Seven to launch a probe in the wormhole, equip it with a auto-destruction device in case it doesn’t emerge in the right period. Lieutenant Paris, you’ll pilot the boarding team shuttlecraft! Tuvok, accompany me to the sickbay, I’m curious to listen to the story of this shipwreck, recounted by a survivor of the wreck itself. Commander Chakotay, you have the CONN. Dismissed!"

Scene 39 - Neelix’s quarters

The Talaxian is lying on the bed, examining some records; star system maps, alien race files and starship schematics are passing before his eyes. Shortly afterwards, Neelix fells asleep, while some logs are scrolling on the screen, among them the one of the mysterious starship appeared, unidentified, next to the piece of wreckage."

Neelix (waking with a start): "That’s what I couldn’t remember: the Keepers!"

Scene 40 - Deep space

The shuttlecraft that is heading towards the S.S. Europa is leaving.

Scene 41 - Turbolift

Janeway and Tuvok are heading for the sickbay.

Janeway (to the computer): "Sickbay. (Turning round to Tuvok) I’m curious to know how this story ends."

Tuvok: "The disaster solution, or, at least , part of it, was within reach, if you let me use a human metaphor..."

Scene 42 - S.S. Europa

Ensign Tuvok and the two technicians are in a room of the wreckage, the recording’s just finished.

1st technician: "Well, "Company"do we have to wipe out the records?"

Tuvok: "Make a copy of it, I have to consult my chief, before deciding about the wiping out..."

Another voice: "No copies for Starfleet!"

An old man, armed with a phaser, enters inside the room.

Company man: "Clear the consolle and consider yourselves lucky if I don’t transfer you to a mine because of your stupidity. (Addressing Tuvok) And you, little soldier, the Europa ended up an ion storm, the decision of uncoupling the Habitats saved, at least, a quarter of the colonists and part of the crew. This will be the commission of enquiry’s final judgement. (Turning his combadge on) Tender, beam the busybody ensign away!"

Scene 43 - Corridors

Tuvok and Janeway are heading for the sickbay.

Tuvok: "Obviously, I gave true testimony, but the committee of inquiry acquitted the Company; one of the Europa officer was up for killing the captain. Unfortunately, he was missing and, plausibly, dead, during the event. Just one of the Habitats was found."

Janeway: "Tuvok, you realize that the castaway we rescued could be the officer responsible for the mutiny, for his captain murder and for the prefab uncoupling that caused thousands of colonists’s death, don’t you?"

Tuvok: "Captain, I may only remind you that Starfleet regulations provide that an officer, charged with presumptive General Order-related crime, must stand a trial. But, only a martial court board, made up of, at least, three senior officers, can judge and condemn him.

*Note: Maybe you change this to "commanding officers", as it was in TOS: "Menagerie". Otherwise it would be unfair as a crewman might be condemned by any three of his many superiors.

And I wish remind you that the mutiny is one of the most serious violations.

Besides, I’ve not been able to examine the contents of his identification tag yet. I’ve asked the Doctor to confront the castaway’s genetic identity with the identification tag one. After establishing the castaway’s identity, we’ll know more about the mystery."

Scene 44 - Sickbay

The shipwrecked person is sitting on a bed. The EMH is in its office; Janeway and Tuvok enter the room.

Tuvok (Addressing Janeway): "Captain, I would like you to meet Emilius Van der Veer, third officer of the colonist conveyance starship S.S. Europa. Mister Van der Veer, (indicating Janeway), here is Captain Janeway of the U.S.S. Voyager. We would, if the Doctor pleases, ask you some questions about your shipwreck.

Van der Veer: "I don’t recognize your uniforms, I’ve never heard of the starship Voyager and this sickbay’s fitted with devices I’ve never seen. Tell me where I am, how long I’ve been aboard, and where you’re taking me. What have you heard about my ship?"

Janeway: "We’ll answer your questions in good time. For the time being, suffice it to say that you’re out of the woods. Your ship, according to our data, has never been recovered, and only the fourth Habitat survived the disaster."

Van der Veer (turning pale): "All those human lives..."

Tuvok: "Mister Van der Veer, what do you remember about the wreck?"

Van der Veer (perplexed): "Is this the official inquiry already?"

Tuvok: "No, but, according to what you’re going to tell, we’ll decide about restarting an inquiry into the wreck."

Van der Veer: "To restart? What do you mean by that? It’s impossible that a few days after the accident the inquiry’s already been wound down. What day is it today?"

Janeway (making a gesture to the Doctor): "Mister Van der Veer, Voyager is proceeding towards Earth, but we’re in the Delta Quadrant. Your ship wrecked about a century ago and your lifeboat were sucked down in a wormhole and re-emerged here at the same time we arrived. Your energetic and oxygen supplies were running out and, without our help...

Van der Veer: "A century? It’s a joke! (Looking at his interlocutors’ faces) No, you aren’t joking. (He holds his head in his hand) All right, I’ll answer your questions, though I can’t see its use..."

Scene 45 - Space

The shuttlecraft is shipping by space the boarding party. It’s getting closer the Europa; the wreck, seen through the flight scuttle, is mutilated and dark, but it’s still formidable and massive.

As they get nearer, they can perceive the particulars of the ship better, until they can recognize a docking port. The shuttlecraft moors.

Paris: "Our sensors are still disturbed, but, it seems that the wreck is unmanned, there are neither gravity nor respirable air. You’ve to be prudent. (In a sardonic tone of voice) I’ll catnap, while you’re on the Europa."

Torres (Ending to hook up her space suit): "Who do you think you’re scaring thus? Get ready to help us loading, instead, and think about a menu for this evening, I can remember that you owe me a dinner... "

Scene 46 - S.S. Europa bridge

(During Van der Veer’s narration.) The officers are supervising the instruments, while strong vibrations and the noise of tortured metal drown out their scared voices.

Captain: "Number One, situation report!"

First Officer: "The primary structure of the ship’s been struck by a series of asteroids that caused minimal damages to the hull, but they caused a ionisation of our whole electronic instrumentation; at the moment there are no leaks in the hull, but the ship is ungovernable."

Captain: "Navigator, where are we?"

Navigator: "Sir, our sensors aren’t online anymore, I tried to determine the fix (he indicates a maelstrom of stellar gases)"

Captain: "How are our passengers?"

First Officer: "We don’t notice any decease, but some victims and, above all, a situation of potential panic. Now there a communication in arrival!"

Captain: "Number One, what’s happening now?"

First Officer: "Sir, it is the fourth Habitat purser, it seems the colonists are in panic."

Captain: "I understand, I want to put out a statement! Captain here, to our passengers. We’ve come into collision with a big asteroid our sensors didn’t detect, there are no damages to the structure . Only the secondary instruments have suffered damage. I’ve ordered the crew to begin the repairs. There’s no reason to fear the worst and the evacuation procedure has not, I repeat, has not yet begun. Stay calm and collaborate with your pursers. Captain out."

Van der Veer (going closer): "Captain, you’ve to order the evacuation, this ship’s going to be destroyed."

Captain: "Oh, shut up!"

Van der Veer: "But, watch these screens, we’re proceeding towards the vortex and the main structure is collapsing"

Captain: "I’ve already ordered you to shut up!!!"

Van der Veer: "Captain I’ve to insist. We must evacuate this ship."

Captain: "Evacuate? And risking death in that storm? You’re mad! Now, escort him to his quarters, he is under arrest!"

Scene 47 - Sickbay

Van der Veer is finishing his narration.

Van der Veer: "A crewman escorted me out of the bridge, towards my quarters. When we heard the signal of jumping ship, we were on the seventh deck, and we were lucky that we weren’t too far from the lifeboat-tubes. I squeezed into the first (means of salvation) of them and I started the launch sequence. The Europa voyaging silently, lit like an old transatlantic ship that was on a cruise. I don’t remember seeing any lifeboat, apart from mine, but I remember exactly seeing the flashes of the prefab uncoupling charges. The captain had, at last, ordered to jump ship. Unfortunately, it was too late. Then, I think I fainted because of the emergency acceleration that drew me away from the ship; when I woke up, I was alone, lost in a cold and boundless uncharted ocean.

Tuvok: "Mister Van der Veer, aboard the Europa, during the last dramatic instants of the wreck, occurred a mutiny and the captain was killed. The prefab uncoupling order caused about three thousands colonists to die. I think you owe us other explanations, in meantime, you’re under arrest. (Turning on his combadge) Security, come to the sickbay!"

Scene 48 - S.S. Europa

The boarding party is walking through the dark and devastated corridors of the ship.

Torres (through the intercom): "The tricorder isn’t reliable, but we should be on the lifeboat deck; the bridge should be four decks higher, but the engineering should be at the end of this deck, it is the sternmost room. We must separate, you two (pointing at two people wearing a space suit) go to the bridge: you have to reactivate every operational system and collect every obtainable information. The others will come with me, and we’ll try to re-energize the wreck and, above all, to find some useful components. Let’s contact, at least, once every five minutes. And, keep your eyes open."

The first team starts to climb a vertical shaft, while B’Elanna and the other members of the team move in the wreck till they find a long and wide tunnel, taking to the engine room.

Scene 49 - Voyager’s bridge

Janeway: "Ensign Kim, launch the probe towards the point of the estimated tunnel opening point!"

Kim: "Beta-four exploratory probe launched and on the right course!"

Janeway: "Well, Mister Tuvok, now we’ve a new problem and a new potential brig occupant.

Tuvok: "Potential?"

Janeway: "I’m afraid so, since we’ve no evidences of his involvement in the mutiny. I know (she raises her hand to prevent Tuvok’s objection), there is your deposition, but no court would consider it a sufficient proof of his guilt. Moreover, to live thinking that thousand of people died because of your pusillanimity is a terrible punishment. Tuvok, do you know what remorse is?"

Kim: "Captain, I’m afraid I’ve to interrupt your talk with Lieutenant Tuvok: I’ve sensed again the residue of a ion trail, the computer doesn’t identify the propulsion system among the ones we know, but it’s surely a ship, getting closer to the wreck!"

Chakotay: "Here is Voyager, Ensign Paris can you read us?"

Paris’ voice (it is jammed): "Voyager, I read you unclear."

Chakotay: "It seems there are visitors for you, it’s an unknown shuttlecraft, potentially hostile."

Paris: "My instruments don’t sense anything, but I can go on a reconnaissance flight."

Chakotay: "Negative, recall the boarding party and abandon the wreck."

Paris: "Roger. Paris out."

Janeway: "Let’s get closer to the wreck. How are Voyager’s defensive systems?"

Tuvok: "Shields are online at the eighty percent, phasers inoperative, photon torpedoes online."

Janeway: "Janeway to the crew: yellow alert!"

Scene 50 - S.S. Europa

The first team’s gotten to the bridge; you see sharp damages to the instruments and to the structure, but there’s no sign of the crew.

1st Member: "The primary systems are over: burnt. We can do nothing here. I’m activating the emergency circuitry."

The red emergency lights turn on and some jets of steam leak from the bridge life support system.

1st member: "Here, light and atmosphere should be restored."

They take their helmet masks away and their breath condenses.

2nd member: "It’s incredible, this ship navigated through the galaxy a century ago. It is as if we were walking in a museum..."

1st member: "There’s something giving me the creeps: there are no traces of the crew. Here is the logbook, just a moment, I’ll try to extract it. It is jammed, help me!"

You hear some noise; the first member turns round and sees his crewmate thrown violently against the wall. He puts up his hands, terrified, and screams.

Scene 51 - S.S. Europa

The second team’s getting to the engine room. They’re in a long tunnel, in the main structure of the ship. They’re proceeding through the ship that hasn’t gravity, so they’re using some straps that run along the sides of the corridor.

Torres: "Gentlemen, here we are to the end of the line, that’s engineering. Fortunately, the elevator was online."

They unfasten and enter the room. Engineering’s been devastated by a violent explosion and by a fire, but the damages aren’t extensive.

Torres: "It seems that the security systems went into action. Casting an eye over the main propulsive system, it seems over, but the secondary systems should be undamaged. (Pointing at the first member of the team) Try to reactivate the auxiliary energy. (Then, pointing at the other member) While, Mr Vorik, you have to repair the life support systems. I’ll think about finding the components that Voyager needs."

They get down to business and, a short while later, the lights turn on and they hear the air whistle.

Torres: "Well done!"

Scene 52 - Space

Outside broadcast on the S.S. Europa wreck: the navigation lights and the ones of the decks switch on.

Scene 53 - S.S. Europa’s engineering

Paris’ voice: "Paris to the boarding party: get back here at once, there are visitors for us!"

Torres: "Tom, I can’t read you clear, can you repeat, please?"

Paris’ voice (it is jammed): "B’Elanna, get out of the wreck at once, don’t waste time!"

Torres: "Torres to first team, have you received the message? (No reply) First team, John, Margaret, can you read me? (Only static comes out of the intercom). Tom, I lost contact with part of the boarding party. Tom, can you read me? (She makes an environmental scanning with her tricorder). It’s useless; there is too much radiations. We have to go back to the shuttlecraft, check your phasers!"

B’Elanna gets closer to the engine room sliding door, opens it and, rapidly, scans the tunnel, then, she gets her hand and the tricorder back and closes the door, locking it.

Torres: "This route is blocked, the tricorder senses several alien lifeforms, getting closer rapidly and, according to my scanning, they’ve got energy weapons."

Scene 54 - Voyager’s bridge

Janeway: "Any communications?"

Kim: "No, Captain, our whole frequencies are too jammed."

Chakotay: "Mr. Tuvok, do you have any clue to suppose that the static electromagnetic noise has an artificial nature?"

Janeway: "Do you mean a willful hostile act?"

Tuvok: "It is likely, but we can’t track down the static source, we only know that they are intensifying."

Kim: "We’re pulling over the Europa; I can see the boarding party’s shuttlecraft, and I don’t sense any trails of other vehicles, but it doesn’t exclude a cloaking device."

Neelix enters the bridge.

Neelix: "Captain, I would talk you about the researches I carried out, on my logbook."

Tuvok: "Neelix, this isn’t a properly moment, we’re in an emergency."

Janeway: "Just a moment, maybe Neelix knows something that can help us in rescuing the boarding party."

Neelix: "You’re right, captain... So, summing up, I was reading my logbook, when I remembered the narratives that an old Talaxian merchant was used to tell me... Once, he talked me about a graveyard of ships and about the Keepers, that prevented the crew of the ships from escaping and the salvors from getting..."

Scene 55 - S.S. Europa’s engineering

Vorik: "We’re not sure they’re hostile, anyway, it is advisable to operate with caution."

Torres: "We must get to the shuttlecraft and, at the moment, we’re cut off. We must think about a diversion, something that disturbs them and enables us to reach our vehicle uninjured. I got it! The decontamination procedure! It still should be online, it was designed for emergencies."

Vorik: "I don’t understand."

Torres: "One of the first exams, at the Academy, is "History of Space Navigation". It is a course based on the starships and on the systems of the space navigation from Cochrane to date. According to my reminiscences, a century ago, on every big conveyance ship there was a decontamination system that could give off a lot of different substances in the shape of aerosol."

Vorik: "Assuming that it runs, they’ll not be noxious to the beings."

Torres: "Not noxious, sure, but they could generate fog. (She works on a control panel and skims a list of functions) Here we are, get ready to go out, we’ll head towards the engines in order to reach the lower deck and to run towards the bow and the shuttlecraft. Let’s keep sight of each other, otherwise we’re at a loss. I’m activating the decontamination system. Now!"

Some valves, along the bulkheads, begin giving off a thick steam.

Scene 56 - Voyager’s bridge

Neelix: "... These Keepers aren’t humanoid beings and they’ve an aggressive attitude, they’re a race of marauders."

Tuvok: "Anyway, someone could escape and tell his narrative."

Neelix: "Precisely, the old merchant explained me how to defeat them: a challenge between champions. The contended starship or wreck becomes an arena and, a challenger and a Keeper fight there to the finish, without any interference. At the moment, I don’t remember the details, but it was something like that."

Janeway: "Mr Tuvok, Chakotay, what do you think about it?"

Tuvok: "A challenge isn’t a new solution, a lot of races, including the human one, resorted to it in unrest situations in hostile contexts: so, the problems are solved and there isn’t the risk of extinction of the two litigants."

Chakotay: "In other words, a confrontation between two warriors, without incurring the risk of lose the loot, or, maybe, of causing the death of the whole tribe. Yes, we can establish a first contact, because we’ve quite similar way of thinking. But, the decision, as ever, is up to the Captain."

Janeway: "Mr Kim, open a channel on every hailing frequencies and activate the universal translator."

Scene 57 - Space

Some little vessels switch off the cloaking device and appear around Voyager and the wreck.

Scene 58 - Voyager’s bridge

Janeway: "I’m Kathryn Janeway, captain of the Federation starship Voyager. We mean no harm, we’ve come in a rescue mission."

Voice without inflection: "*Nonsense* *Inactive object* Mighty’s possession* *Going away or fighting*"

Janeway: "The starship Europa isn’t inactive, it has energy, working systems and a human crew."

Voice: "*Nonsense* *Humans weak being* *No control*"

Janeway: "We don’t want the whole starship, only some spare parts, we can negotiate to the mutual advantage, or fight, without guarantee of winning, but with the guarantee of not withstanding this battle."

Voice: "*Nonsense* *No negotiation* *Going away or fighting*"

Janeway: "Some members of the crew are on that wreck, we’ll not go away until we’ve rescued them. Rest assured!"

Voice: "*Nonsense* *Humans preys being*"

Janeway: "Mr Tuvok, arm our photon torpedoes! Top dispersion!"

Tuvok: "Torpedoes armed and locked."

Voice: "*Nonsense* *Alternative being*"

Janeway: "We’re still in time to negotiate."

Voice: "*Nonsense* *No negotiation* *Alternative challenge being* *Wreck now arena being* *Preys now champions being*"

End transmission signal.

Scene 59 - S.S. Europa wreck, corridors of the engineering hull

Corridors and rooms are full of aerosol in suspension. B’Elanna and Vorik are walking up against the bulkheads.

You hear some strange noises, chatters and clumps on the metallic floor of the deck.

Torres: "Damn it, they follow us without sticking their neck out, and, by now, we’ve lost our bearings."

Vorik: "Shhh! They’ve stopped communicating. They aren’t moving any more."

Voice without inflection: "*Human prey choosing a champion* *Challenge beginning* *Communicating to the mother ship*"

Scene 60 - Voyager’s observation lounge

Janeway and the others officer are sitting round the table. The intercom is on.

Torres: "...So, because of the fog, Ensign Sorayama’s lagged behind. We’ve climbed down some decks, but, after reaching a power coupling, we’ve lost our bearings."

Janeway: "B’Elanna, we’ll try to lend our support to you; Harry is working without a moment’s pause in order to repair the emergency transporters. I called Van der Veer here, because his familiarity with the ship might help you in moving throughout the ship, it should be an advantage for you. Besides, Chakotay and Tuvok are laying down an emergency plan, to get you out of there. The Keepers let Paris’s shuttlecraft come back here, without interfering, although I’ve had to struggle to convince Tom to leave you: only promising him that he’ll head a rescue team I got him go back. We’ve only to decide who our champion will be!"

Vorik: "Logically it’s up to me to fight. I’m the strongest candidate, even because of my Vulcan nature."

Torres: "Don’t make me relive your last Ponn farr, Vorik. Captain, we’ve not enough advice about the duel, we don’t know if it is a physical, mental or technological one. As commanding officer of the boarding party, I ask you to let me choose who our champion will be.

Janeway: "That’s fine. Anyway, I want you to give me real-time information about every development. Voyager out; al least, for the moment. (Addressing the other officers) Any suggestions?"

A monitors turns on and EMH’s face appears.

Doctor: "Though I wasn’t called to the conference, I would remind you that, among my specialities, there is even the xenobiological psychology one: on the strength of the information I’m aware of, I’ve constructed a behavioural theory of the Keepers."

Janeway: "Every contribution will be welcome, on condition that it isn’t an amiss one; go on, Doctor."

Doctor: "Well, this race live plundering the ships that wreck in this system. According to our information, they’re not used to attacking the big ships that can protect themselves. Their cloaking device wasn’t designed for tactical ends, but for intimidatory ones. If they really were efficient, the information Neelix knows would never had crossed this nebula borderline. They use little vessels because they always attack their preys together (as Lieutenant Torres said), communicating among them without sticking their necks out. Their attacks must have always been surprise ones.

The challenge ritual should be a behaviour developed in the bosom of an aggressive species that, in order to avoid the risk of the self-destructing and of attacking species that could defend themselves, codified the confrontation for food, territory and reproduction.

Since that is a marauder species, the challenge will probably be a bust-up, not mediated with technology and the winner, probably, is the one being at the top of the heap. Therefore I suggest winning the challenge in order to impress our opponent.

Janeway: "Anyway, it doesn’t help us to perfect a strategy.

Chakotay: "Maybe, the Doctor’s indicated us a way out. Supposing that we accept the ritual confrontation: what prevents us from cheating a little bit? I mean, who is the most experienced fighter aboard? It’s simple: our trainer. No, not you, Tuvok, I mean the Military Training Hologram. We only need a diversion to install it in the arena.

Scene 61 - S.S. Europa wreck

Torres: "Don’t let it worry you, Vorik! We could even have to take part in a poetical contest, in that case, you’ll be my first choice."

You hear noises in the tunnel; the steam of the decontamination system is sucked into the ventilation system. You can see no aliens, but you hear their chatters. Behind B’Elanna and Vorik, a sliding door opens. The lights of the emergency system liven up no beings. B’Elanna heads towards that section of the tunnel; behind her, the door immediately closes, shutting Vorik, dismayed, out.

Torres: "Torres to Voyager, putting the plan into operation. I think they’ve already made their choice."

Scene 62 - U.S.S. Voyager’s briefing room

Janeway, the superior officers and Van der Veer are sitting round the table.

Kim: "Captain, we’ve the first probe telemetries. It’s incredible: the outlet of the wormhole is stable in space, but it goes backwards in the time. According to the information, the computer’s identifying the system where the probe arrived is the one where the colonist conveyance ship wrecked, but the computer, analysing the star disposition, could extrapolate the date: a week before the Europa arrival."

Janeway (disappointed): "It seems we’ve lost another shortcut."

Tuvok: "The opportunity to go backwards in time and reverse the course of history is one of the worst temptations and risks. Starfleet regulations order us to avoid these situations."

Van der Veer becomes more watchful, hearing this.

Chakotay: "We’ll tackle this problem later, now, let’s give our minds to the plan: time is running short."

Seven of Nine: "Maybe I’ve found the diversion we needed: in about ten minutes, according to Tuvok’s previsional model, the wormhole is going to appear in this sector of the nebula. Its presence will interfere with the sensors and the communications of every ship nearby."

Janeway: "We could grab it to launch a shuttlecraft, transporting the equipment to install the holographic projector, and a rescue team to save B’Elanna and the men of the boarding team. Mr Van der Veer, I’ve summoned you because you’re familiar with the Europa and this can help us in rescuing the missing team: are you willing to help us? I don’t have to remind you the friskiness of the undertaking."

Van der Veer: "Captain, I’ll do my outmost! I know I’ve to regain your confidence, but this mission, for me, isn’t only the alternative to the prison: it is my second opportunity, not everyone can get two bites at the cherry."

Tuvok: "You’ve already fled before the danger, causing thousands of people die..."

Van der Veer: "I can’t reverse the course of history, but I can try to redeem myself from previous errors."

Tuvok: "As you’ve understood, our lives and the ones of the members of the boarding party depend on the outcome of the operation."

Van der Veer: "Rely on me: I fear my word is the one thing I can give"

Tuvok looks at Janeway, and the woman gives in return a sign of approval.

Janeway: "This is a good start. Don’t betray our trust!"

Van der Veer: "I’ll try. Well, the section Lieutenant Torres should be in is made up of ten decks.

Scene 63 - Space

The Voyager and the Europa are drifting in the nebula, surrounded by the marauders’ shuttlecrafts. Dramatically, the wormhole opens.

Scene 64 - S.S. Europa’s wreck

A shuttlecraft is going alongside the ship.

Tuvok’s voice: "Excellent Mister Paris, it seems that the Keepers hasn’t spotted us. Let’s get ready to land; security, arm your phasers. Mister Van der Veer, come behind me!"

Scene 65 - S.S. Europa’s wreck

B’Elanna is running on a catwalk.

Torres (whispering): "Voyager, can you read me?"

Janeway: "Voyager, here, B’Elanna, we read you loud and clear!"

Torres (a little breathless): "Now, I’m on a catwalk that is just above the subspatial field generating units."

Janeway: "Excellent B’Elanna. You’re alright like this. Few junctions from your position, there is a tunnel towards the shuttlebay, where the Keeper should attack you. The support team is almost in position; you’ve to have your challenger on tow for a little while, by this time."

Torres: "Voyager, I don’t know how long I can stand the pace for; that being is following me, I hear noises behind me. It’s getting closer..."

Janeway: "B’Elanna, don’t lose your nerve: it would be a fatal mistake."

Scene 66 - Voyager’s bridge

Chakotay: "Mister Kim, keep monitoring the Keepers."

Kim: "Aye Sir, but, because of these interferences..."

Janeway: "Chakotay, what are you thinking about?"

Chakotay: "Everything is going too smoothly, this shouldn’t be a no-go, and if I were in them, I would take advantage of the situation. Harry, scan for little and slow objects... for example, those little asteroids."

Kim: "I’m programming the scanning. Done. Commander, you’re right. I can scan a dozen little objects, moving towards the Voyager; they’re less than twelve centimetres in diameter, the computer didn’t spot them because of this; maybe they’re a kind of mines."

Janeway: "Are our phasers online?"

Chakotay: "The repairs aren’t finished yet, we’ll not be able to face a fight against those ships, they’re too many."

Janeway: "I hope it won’t be necessary to fight. Inform me when the repairs are finished. In the meantime, take aim at the asteroids, multiple target sequence. It’s only a matter of time..."

Scene 67 - S.S. Europa’s wreck

You can see B’Elanna’s back, she’s running towards a big sized closed port, the corridors hasn’t any other way out, her follower’s noises, behind her, come closer and closer.

Torres (manifestly anxious): "Voyager, open that door, he’s breathing down my neck!"

Paris: "B’Elanna, only another effort, you’re about to make it. We’re ready, don’t give in!"

B’Elanna is next to the port that opens, at the last tic. B’Elanna enters a hold, cluttered with all kinds of containers. Some of them are keeled over; some others are lumbered to form an intricate labyrinth. On the opposite side of the room there is another open port; Tom Paris appears there.

Paris: "We’re down here! Run the fastest you can!"

B’Elanna knocks a pile of little containers over behind her, a few seconds later, the Keeper too knocks the obstacle over. B’Elanna’s come up to the port; Van der Veer and Paris pull her out of the hold and close the port behind her. B’Elanna slumps to the ground.

Paris: "Take a deep breath, it’s all over!"

But, in that moment you hear a strong noise and a vibration shakes the port: the Keepers has thrown himself at it.

Tuvok: "The hold is magnetically sealed; now I turn the holographic projectors on."

Through the intercom, you hear the noises of a ferocious battle: containers avalanching, bodies hitting on the bulkheads, the Keeper gives out a hiss of anger. Then you hear nothing more.

Tuvok: "Voyager, the Keepers have been beaten."

Scene 68 - U.S.S. Voyager’s bridge

Kim: "The mines are taking a reticular formation around us."

Janeway: "How long until bringing the phaser into action?"

Chakotay: "I don’t think it’ll take much longer!"

Voice, through the intercom: "Engineering here, our phasers are online again. Ready to fire on your order!"

Janeway: "Fire at will!"

Kim: "We’ve destroyed our targets! The Keepers have turned on the cloaking device: they’re fleeing! (Wiping the sweat from his face) Phasers are offline again."

Scene 69 - S.S. Europa’s wreck

Janeway: "We’ve made it! Gentlemen, you made an excellent job! B’Elanna, now, the wreck is yours."

The team members celebrate the averted danger, Paris and B’Elanna hug each other, they exult and try to involve Tuvok, who is imperturbable, into the general euphoria.

Paris: "There, there, Tuvok this is the moment to unbend."

Tuvok is going to counter, when you hear a noise coming from the port. The members of the team lean against the bulkhead, positioning themselves behind broken off wallboards and pipes, they pull out their phasers; Van der Veer retires in the corridor.

Tuvok: "Prepare for phasering on my order!"

Torres: "We’ll see our foe’s face at last!"

Paris: "Always supposing he has one."

An automatic message swings into action.

Computer’s voice: "Alert: manual opening of the hold 11."

The port opens slowly. Vorik appears, he’s confused.

The tensity makes way for the hilarity, them all laugh and clap on the back one another and Vorik is more and more confused. Tuvok Turns round and notice Van der Veer’s disappearance.

Scene 70 - Voyager’s bridge

Tuvok’s voice: "Captain, we’ve lost sight of Van der Veer, probably, he’s hiding on the wreck.

Janeway: "Mister Tuvok, organise a search party; we’ll send you a security team in support as soon as possible."

Chakotay: "I don’t understand him: what does he hope to do? There is no place he can flee towards."

Kim: "It isn’t entirely true; a lifeboat has just uncoupled from the wreck. The emergency expulsion procedure is swinging into action, in fifteen seconds, the lifeboat will be launched by the ejection charge."

Janeway: "Mister Kim, hail the lifeboat!"

Kim: "Channel opened."

Janeway: "Janeway here, Van der Veer what are you going to do?"

Van der Veer: "I’m going to remedy my mistakes. Don’t try to stop me!"

Kim: "He has programmed the computer of the lifeboat to head towards the wormhole!"

Scene 71 - Space

The lifeboat is launched far from the wreck and from the Voyager, heading towards the wormhole.

Scene 72 - Lifeboat

Van der Veer is wearing a space suit, slowly, he recovers after the strong acceleration he has been subjected to. He raises the visor.

"Lifeboat number 7, personal log of Van der Veer, third officer of the colonist conveyance ship S.S. Europa.

...I’ve considered going backwards in the time, in order to remedy my mistakes. The other alternative was to spend a lot of years in Voyager’s brig, in the company of an intolerable guilt. Not everyone is given a second chance!"

Scene 73 - Voyager’s bridge

Janeway: "We can’t let him go backwards in the time: he could reverse the course of history. Chakotay, can we go after him before he enters the wormhole radius of action?"

Chakotay: "Negative, we can manoeuvre only with our rudders, but the impulse engines are still offline."

Janeway: "Ensign Kim, what about the tractor beam?"

Kim: "I’m sorry captain, nothing doing..."

Chakotay: "Our phasers won’t be online in time, we’ve only an alternative."

Janeway: "I agree. Arm a photon torpedo!"

Kim: "Torpedo armed. What do I have to aim at?"

Janeway doesn’t answer.

Chakotay: "Captain?"

Janeway keeps silent.

Chakotay: "Kathryn? We’ve few seconds left!"

Janeway: "The wormhole."

Kim: "But, captain, the lifeboat will be destroyed for sure!"

Janeway: "The explosion will cause a quantum fluctuation that will seal off the wormhole."

Kim: "But, we’ll miss the chance of going back home!"

Chakotay: "Ensign, carry out the order!"

Janeway: "Mister Kim, fire on my order!"

Janeway: "Fire!"

 

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Last modified: 10 Apr 2012 
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