Captain's log, supplemental: The Dalek invasion of Borg space during our journey through it has forced us to be even more circumspect to escape notice. The warp core is still infused with Borg technology, and offline; and as long as it is, we'll be left to sneak from hiding place to hiding place on impulse drive. "Here we are," said Paris, "and here's our next stop." Paris pointed first to a tactical representation of the gas giant in whose magnetic field blind spot the Voyager was presently hiding, and next to the other end of the bridge main viewscreen at a schematic of an asteroid field. "What's that large blobby thing in between?" asked the Doctor, pointing to a nebulous patch of violet on the viewscreen between the two spots Paris had highlighted. One thing about having the Time Lord around, Janeway reflected, was it kept everyone on their toes. Not that everyone else on the bridge won't have been wondering the same thing. "That," said Paris, "is a Carey's nebula approximately seventeen A.U.'s in diameter." Janeway noticed that Kim didn't have the grim look everyone else was sharing. "How long will it take us to get around it?" she asked. "Day and a half, give or take a few hours," said Paris. "What's the tactical situation around the nebula?" "Long range sensors," reported Tuvok, "show sporadic hostile engagements between Borg and Daleks along the boundaries of this side of the nebula." "So chances are," Chakotay observed, "we'd have to swing even farther around the nebula, to avoid getting caught between them." Paris nodded. "My estimate takes that into account; the uninterrupted trip around the nebula would only have been most of a day. But the asteroid field is the best option for our next hiding place for light years around - even with the dodging we'll have to do while we're there - because of the further options I've plotted beyond it." "Why go around?" Kim finally asked. "Nebulae are perfect cloaks against tracking sensors. What's different about a Carey's nebula?" Having noted his expression, Janeway was prepared for Kim's ignorance of what was a recent-enough discovery not to have been covered by Kim's academy classes. "Intense tri-mesonic radiation, Harry. The merest contact with the tri-mesonic field could degrade the ship's hull in seconds, or vaporize organic matter instantly, and energy fields like our shields are no good against it." "It's not commonly known in the Alpha Quadrant yet," said the Doctor suddenly, "but it's possible to avoid the tri-mesons in a Carey's nebula." At their first meeting the Doctor had refused Janeway his assistance in returning Voyager to the Alpha Quadrant. Despite the time-traveler's self-appointed quest to offer aid to the unfortunate throughout time and space in defiance of his own people, there were still some laws of the Time Lords and/or of History that he wouldn't willingly transgress; and using Gallifreyan technology to get Voyager home was such a transgression, in a way the Doctor declined to discuss. But now their isolation was working to their advantage, in their dealings with the Doctor. Apparently he was offering them this tidbit because he knew it wouldn't get back to the Alpha Quadrant too soon for history. Janeway tried not to believe that meant Voyager was still decades - if not forever - from their goal. Why couldn't he have just left it at It wasn't commonly known before Voyager left the Alpha Quadrant? "Tri-mesonic radiation, at that level of intensity," continued the Doctor, "can and frequently does cancel itself out, like waves on water's surface from two different sources - leaving a network of safe passageways running through the nebula like the veins in a piece of marble." He jumped from the seat at Janeway's right and walked up to the main screen, pointing to the purple blob on Paris' plot. "In a nebula this size, the veins will be large enough for Voyager to pass." Paris was sitting up straighter now. "Okaaay - how do we find these veins, when sensors are so disrupted?" "Well, we'll have to go up to the nebula and look," said the Doctor, "but the openings on its surface should be fairly common, and you should be able to spot them at a greater range than the Borg or Daleks can spot you while you're on impulse." Paris looked over at Janeway. "Sounds like a plan." "Do it. Best speed to the nebula. Maintain red alert." "Are we going to name it?" Paris asked. After their first eighteen months in the Delta Quadrant, the novelty of naming every new astronomical body after themselves had worn thin with the crewmembers of Voyager. Nowadays they reserved it for the impressive ones. The amorphous violet cloud that now filled the main viewscreen certainly qualified. "I suggest," said the Doctor with casual innocence, still on his feet and passing the time by idly surveying the bridge stations one by one, "that you name it after your ops officer." After a moment Tuvok said, with that uniquely Vulcan dryness, "Harry's Carey's Nebula?" Embarrassed that the Vulcan among them had picked up on it first, the bridge crew raised no objection. Janeway nodded. "In return for your service to us, Doctor. Harry, log it." The Doctor grinned. Kim was less enthusiastic. "How much longer, Tom?" Janeway asked, peering into the violet haze on the screen. They had been journeying through the safety veins of the nebula for seven hours. Kim plotted them and would call out "Right," or "Up," or whatever appropriate whenever Paris came to a fork. Despite the limited sensor range imposed by conditions in the nebula, Kim had sent them down very few dead ends. "By my plot we're about nine-tenths the way through," Paris answered Janeway. "If Harry can keep us on a relatively direct route, we'll get to the asteroid field a full day earlier than if we'd gone around the nebula and the fighting." "As I said," said the Doctor, back in the seat to Janeway's right, "plenty of room for Voyager." "And rarely enough for a Borg cube," Chakotay said. Janeway had noticed that too. "Captain," said Kim with sudden urgency, "I'm reading another ship. Ahead of us, coming toward us through the safety zones." He looked up. "It's a Dalek ship." "Well, at least we know this is the way out," observed the Doctor as the Starfleet officers snapped to full alertness. "It is a small one-man pod," Tuvok announced. "No armament or hyperlight capability. One life form aboard, in no obvious distress though the pod does show battle damage and appears to be proceeding at top speed." "Any idea yet how far it really is to the nebula boundary, or what's waiting for us when we get there?" Janeway asked. "Still too much sensor distortion from the nebula," said Kim. Then he looked down in surprise as his console chirped. "Captain, the Dalek is hailing. It's a distress call!" "Open a channel." "Captain!" The Doctor looked as if she'd told him the law of gravity had been disproven. Chakotay looked slightly less displeased. "I can't ignore a distress call, Doctor, whoever it's from." "Still - a Dalek?" "Well, I don't intend to be foolish about it ..." "Channel open," Kim said. "This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager, responding to your distress signal." "I-AM-IN-NEED-OF-ASSISTANCE. YOU-WILL-PROVIDE-IT," demanded the Dalek over the bridge speakers. "Very well. Prepare a list of parts and supplies you require that we may assemble and load into your ship in not more than ten minutes. You may land in our shuttle bay, and give your list to the crewmen who will meet you. You must lift off again in ten minutes." "YOUR-TERMS-ARE-SATISFACTORY." "My terms are non-negotiable, and there's one more. You'll disarm yourself before you leave your vessel." The Dalek paused before speaking this time. "AGREED." "Janeway out." She watched for Kim's nod that the contact was broken. "Satisfied, Doctor?" "If you'd like me satisfied," said the Doctor earnestly, "let me stand with the detail." "All right. Tuvok, you're in charge; take the Doctor with you." "Aye captain." Despite Tuvok's station's proximity to the turbolift the Doctor beat him into it. "Oh, and captain," said the Time Lord just before the lift doors shut, "watch out." Janeway knew what he meant. Part of the reason she'd sent the Doctor to meet the Dalek was because she knew he'd pump it for information. It had been running from something. Janeway needed to know what. END OF CHAPTER 4
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