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"I think we have everything." Janeway said seriously as she looked around the cargo bay.
"I can't imagine anything else we could salvage from the station. Dalby actually brought the stasis units..." Paris said as he looked at the neatly packed units.
"I was originally against her bringing them, but she made a valid point about us not knowing what we'll be facing. Although the prospect of us becoming a sleeper ship is abhorrent to me, it would be foolish to throw away what someday might be our only option for survival." Janeway said as she started walking toward the door.
"Are you ready to give the pre-launch 'pep talk'?." Paris asked in a teasing voice.
"Yes. As far as I can tell, that's all that's left to do. The last of the station's systems have been integrated into the ship and everyone seems to be settled in. Now we just have to jump out of the nest and see if we can fly." Janeway said with a note of apprehension in her voice.
"Ready when you are." Paris said, trying to hide his own insecurity.
* * * * *
Janeway and Paris walked into the new ship's galley to find a snack table set up and people milling around.
They made their way to the front of the room and Janeway raised her hands to prompt people to quiet.
"Thank you all for coming. I'll try to make this short and sweet." Janeway said pleasantly.
"Short maybe." A voice muttered from the crowd.
Janeway flashed Carey a scorching look that could peel the paint off the newly painted bulkheads.
"We are going to start the ship's clock the moment we launch. That will be zero-hundred hours. We will be operating on a twenty hour day which will be divided into two ten hour shifts." Paris said quickly, trying to minimize the impact of Carey's comment.
Janeway reluctantly diverted her glare from Carey and said, "The schedule and duty assignments are posted on the ship's computer. Make whatever final preparations you need to and report to your duty stations. We are scheduled to depart in one hour."
A murmur of excitement flooded through the room.
In a less formal voice, Janeway continued, "I would like to recognize a few of you who have made contributions to bring us to this day. Of course I'd like to recognize Bey who brought us the ship to begin with."
A round of applause went around the room as Bey held Angel in his arms.
"Next I'd like to recognize the contributions of Dalby and Chell who spent day after day scavenging the ship graveyard and considering the possible use of every single piece of scrap they encountered. You provided the materials to transform the Kazon ship Bey brought us into a vessel worthy of Starfleet."
Another round of applause sounded as a few people near to Dalby and Chell patted them on the back.
"I would also like to recognize Kim and Nicoletti for their monumental feat of incorporating the station's central computer into the ship... honestly, I didn't think it could be done." Janeway finished with a smile.
Applause sounded again.
"Finally I'd just like to say that each and every one of you made this day possible. Every person on this ship worked impossibly long hours and made sacrifices to bring us here. To commemorate this occasion I would like to unveil the first of what I hope will one day be many pictures to illustrate our journey." Janeway said and pulled the cloth that was covering a picture on the wall.
There was a moment of silence, then clapping broke out as everyone looked at the picture of Kel curled into a ball, sound asleep in the floor beside the warp core.
Paris looked over to find Kel hiding his face against Bey's chest.
* * * * *
"Carey, are your engines up to the challenge of getting us underway?" Janeway called into the comm unit.
"Yes SIR!" Carey answered immediately.
"We'll see." Janeway said irritably, then turned to Paris and said, "Plot a course, heading 45 degrees mark 220. Ahead 36,000 kilometers. Thirty percent Z arc."
"The Z corridor?" Paris asked as he programmed the coordinates.
"Traveling under the planetary orbital plane would seem to be the path of least resistance." Janeway said seriously.
"Course plotted." Paris said professionally.
"Ahead three quarter impulse." Janeway said firmly.
Paris reluctantly reached up to activate the control to set the new ship in motion for the first time.
"Kim, continuous scans." Janeway said as she surveyed the space in front of them.
"Aye captain." Kim said tonelessly.
"When we've reached the Z corridor coordinates, set course for Sector 001 and engage at warp 3." Janeway said as she looked over the ship's status board for any signs of a problem.
"Already laid in." Paris said with a small smile of accomplishment.
"Captain, I'm detecting three Kazon light cruisers moving to intercept." Kim said in concentration.
"Tactical analysis?" Janeway asked immediately.
After a moment of studying the scanners, Kim said, "Assuming that our shields maintain their integrity, I would speculate that we could engage them in combat with a 68% chance of survival."
"That's a pretty big assumption on our maiden voyage. And I don't like those odds. Can we outrun them?" Janeway asked as she adjusted the main viewer to a reverse angle.
"Once we reach the Z corridor coordinates and can achieve warp, yes." Kim said seriously.
"Captain, we're being hailed." Bey said from his station.
"On screen." Janeway said firmly as she stood.
After a moment of silence, the Kazon captain finally said, "Alien interlopers, you have stolen a Kazon ship and murdered her crew. I claim your ship for the Kazon Nistrum. Surrender now and I will see that your deaths are swift."
Janeway let a small Klingon growl escape as she said, "We have no dispute with you. Allow us to leave and it won't be necessary for us to destroy you."
"The lead Kazon ship is powering their weapons." Kim said in a neutral tone.
"Bey, sound battle stations." Janeway said as she took her seat.
"Battle stations. All hands, report to battle stations." Bey said firmly into his comm panel.
"I have encountered your kind once before. You seem to have a fondness for the weak and helpless creatures of this system. If you do not surrender immediately, I will execute one Ocampan for each minute that you remain in motion." The Kazon captain said arrogantly.
To prove his point, he pulled a struggling Ocampan girl into view with one hand, then took firm hold of her head and snapped her neck.
"You have one minute to surrender." The Kazon captain said with a note of triumph in his voice as he tossed the lifeless body aside.
"Paris, stop all forward momentum. Bey, you know what to do." Janeway said without emotion.
Bey nodded, then said into the comm, "Kel, emergency plan Evac 3."
* * * * *
Kel heard the call to battle stations and immediately put his sister into her baby carrier.
"Don't worry Angel, everything is going to be fine." He said as he pulled the backpack carrier onto his back.
Kel ran as fast as he could to get to the small store room that they had converted into an improvised transporter room.
His Uncle Carey and Aunt Dalby had both shown him how to operate the controls of the transporter, but he had never actually done it before.
Kel knew that when everyone was called to battle stations, there was no one else who could do it. If someone needed rescued, he was the only one who could possibly help.
"Kel, Emergency Plan Evac 3." Sounded over the comm as he was bringing the controls to life.
"I'm already working on it. I'll call you when I'm ready." Kel said quickly as he started scanning the first ship for the distinctive signature of Ocampan life signs.
* * * * *
"We only have one minute. Make it count." Bey said in an urging tone to his son, trying not to sound harsh.
Laughter could be heard from the Kazon captain when he saw that the Amalgam had stopped moving.
"You aliens are such pitiful creatures, willing to sacrifice yourselves to protect the lives of these useless slaves." The Kazon captain said with delight.
"We cherish life and believe that all people, regardless of species, have the right to live and grow." Janeway said slowly as she watched the progress of the three Kazon ships.
Paris looked at Janeway with question, waiting for her command.
Janeway muted the comm for a moment and said, "Shields, weapons and engines. Disable, don't destroy."
Paris nodded and began to target the appropriate areas.
"Lower your shields and prepare to be boarded." The Kazon captain said triumphantly as his ship finally came nose to nose with the Amalgam.
"I think not. We cherish all life, but in your case I'm willing to make an exception." Janeway said coldly, then turned to Paris and said, "Fire."
"Bey, take out their shields." Paris said quickly.
"Firing EMP pulse cannons." Bey said and fired on the coordinates that Paris had programmed.
'Whoomp, whoomp, whoomp.' Sounded through the ship as the balls of electromagnetic plasma fired and impacted the shields of each of the three ships in turn.
"Kel, are you ready?" Bey asked quickly into the comm.
"Almost... yes. I'm ready." Kel said in concentration.
"Energize." Janeway commanded.
* * * * *
Kel had tentative transporter locks on all the Ocampan life signs on all three ships. As soon as Janeway gave the order, he pressed the activation button to begin transport.
When the first three were confirmed to be fully locked, Kel isolated the transporter patterns, then began to transfer the matter stream by pulling the three sliders steadily downward.
Kel carefully watched the transport chamber, which just three weeks before had been a storage area for cleaning supplies.
He could hardly believe his eyes when greenish blue electrical sparkles appeared over all three transporter pads.
As he pulled the sliders further, the sparkling became more concentrated and he could see three shapes forming, as if by magic.
Kel glanced down at his control console to see that everything was operating correctly while he continued to pull the sliders the last few centimeters to complete the transport.
The three Ocampans looked around in terror and wonder at their new surroundings.
"Please move over here so I can get the others." Kel said gently, not wanting to startle them unnecessarily.
All three looked at him, as if trying to decide if he were real or not.
"I don't have time to explain things right now. Please come over here." Kel said in a more imploring voice.
The youngest of the three, a small girl, started to take a step, then stopped and went back to her original position.
"STAND THERE! NOW! OR I WILL BEAT YOU!" Kel screamed in Kazon as he pointed to a spot beside his control console.
All three immediately scrambled to stand by the wall where he had indicated.
Kel checked to see that the transporter was locked onto the next three and began the next transport.
* * * * *
"Kim, take out their weapons." Paris said quickly.
"Firing phasers." Kim said calmly and methodically worked to disable the weapons of all three ships.
"Paris, evasive maneuver Voyager-beta." Janeway said quickly.
"What? Where did they?... Fire! Fire!" The Kazon captain screamed at his crew.
"Evasive pattern Voyager-beta. Firing disruptors." Paris said seriously and began firing to disable the opposing ship's engines.
The Kazon ships moved faster than expected and were able to evade the worst of the weapon's fire.
"You caught me off guard, but I'll hunt you to the ends of the universe and make you my own personal slave you alien bitch!" The Kazon captain screamed at the viewer.
"Oh really? You think I'm a bitch? Let's see how much of a bitch I can really be, shall we?" Janeway said with her Klingon growl more pronounced.
"You'll beg for death before I'm through with you." The Kazon captain snarled at Janeway, then turned to his side and said, "Dispatch all fighters and destroy that junk pile!"
"Evac 3 complete." Kel said quickly over the comm.
"That's all I needed to hear. Fire all weapons." Janeway said in a low voice.
* * * * *
Kel looked at the eight frightened people gathered into a cluster against the wall and tried to think about what he should do.
A whimpering cry broke him out of his indecision and he automatically took off the backpack and squatted down to attend to his sister.
"Shhh Angel, everything is fine." Kel whispered as he took her out of the carrier and cradled her to his chest.
When Kel looked up, he saw eight pairs of eyes looking at him with wonder.
"This is my sister. Her name is Angel." Kel said as he stood from his crouched position.
"Where are we?" A young boy asked in a voice that was barely loud enough to be heard.
"We're on a starship called the Amalgam." Kel said as he rocked Angel in his arms gently to soothe her.
"What are these people? Are they Kazons or Ocampa?" The oldest of the girls asked timidly.
"Neither. Who they are is a long and complicated story, but what is important is that the caretaker brought these people to us before he departed." Kel said carefully.
The oldest of the boys gasped in astonishment, then asked, "So they are the children of the caretaker?"
Kel thought for a moment before saying, "They are children of the caretaker in the same way that we are. They are no better or worse."
"But the magical way we came to this place... they must be favored above all his children." The oldest girl said, becoming bolder.
"No. They are only different. Not better. They have knowledge that we lack, but we have abilities that they do not." Kel said firmly.
"Abilities?" The youngest boy asked quietly.
"Their minds do not speak. It is like the quiet time the elders imposed on us when we were young and learning control." Kel explained carefully.
"All of them are silent?" The oldest girl asked in wonder.
"No. Not all of them. There are three among them who have the ability to speak, but only as young children do. They require touch." Kel said then smiled down at Angel who was gurgling happily.
"If these people are other children of the caretaker, then they are not your masters?" The youngest boy asked with fear in his voice.
"No. They are my family. They believe that no sentient being should be enslaved by another. I have been accepted as the child of a bonded couple and been given equal standing as one of them." Kel said seriously.
"What is to become of us? Will they want to make us their children too?" The oldest girl asked hesitantly.
"They will ask you what you want to do. If you want to return to the homeworld, they will return you there. If you want to stay here and live on this ship, I believe they will accept that choice. And if you find a bonded couple as I did who want to become parents to you, then you may be asked if you want to join a family." Kel said in thought.
"It is so different here. I don't know what I'm supposed to do." The oldest girl said in a lost tone.
"Don't worry about that. As soon as the fight is over, I can take you to get new clothes and food. Then I'll find you a place to sleep." Kel said with a smile.
The lights dimmed and everyone looked around in fear and wonder.
"It shouldn't be long now." Kel said into the dim silent room.
* * * * *
"Captain?" Paris asked cautiously.
"You heard me. Destroy them. If this p'tahk wants to play for keeps, we're up to the challenge... but save the lead ship for me." Janeway said with venom.
"Kim, ship two. I'll take three. Bey, disable but do not destroy ship one. Fire at will." Paris said as he started his firing pattern.
"Photon torpedo away." Kim said clinically.
"Evasive maneuver Crazyhorse-alpha. On my command, discontinue the use of all energy weapons. Torpedoes only." Janeway said as she watched the battle carefully.
"Aye captain." Paris said as he moved the ship again to avoid enemy weapon's fire.
The engine of the second ship flared in a burst of flame for an instant before the vacuum of space extinguished it.
"It looks like Kim beat you to the punch Paris, are you going to stand for that?" Janeway asked with a teasing smile.
"She may have done it first. But I'll do it best." Paris said with a grin as he locked onto his target.
"Firing neutron torpedo. Full yield." Paris announced as he pressed the button.
"Their fighters are trying to surround us." Bey said from his station.
"Discontinue energy weapons now. Carey, charge primary weapon." Janeway said firmly.
Paris watched carefully as the neutron torpedo hit it's target in the mid-section of the third ship.
The impact didn't have any noticeable effect, but Paris had designed the neutron torpedo himself and knew that he had just dealt them a devastating blow.
"We're not going to have enough power to fire it." Carey said seriously.
"You're my chief engineer. Either you find me the energy to fire the primary weapon or I'll transport you to the Kazon ship... no, wait... they don't deserve *that*." Janeway finished with disgust.
Paris glanced at Janeway, not understanding her hateful tone.
"Paris, when the primary weapon is ready, fire reverse thrusters so all the fighters will be in front of us." Janeway said in deep concentration.
"On your command." Paris said as he readied the controls.
"Cutting non-essential systems. I assume you'll want to keep the shields up." Carey asked in a patronizing tone.
"If you wouldn't mind too much... T'ruk-D'h!" Janeway said, then slammed the button to disconnect the comm.
"What's up with you two? A few days ago you were completely in love and now you're threatening to turn him over to the Kazons." Paris asked with concern.
"Ask me later. Status?" Janeway asked abruptly.
"The second ship is disabled. Their engines are beyond any possibility of repair, weapons and shields are offline. The third ship is largely intact, but the neutron radiation blast has destroyed all organic matter on the ship." Kim said without emotion.
"I think the first ship is turning to ram us!" Bey said as he watched his screen carefully.
Janeway slammed the comm button and said, "Carey, I need the primary weapon right now!"
"Marry me." Carey responded in an angry voice.
"What? Carey, we don't have time for this. Release the charge so I can fire the primary weapon!" Janeway said in astonishment.
"We *do* have time for this. We have the rest of our lives... of course, it's up to you whether that's two minutes or a hundred years. Say you'll marry me and I'll release the charge." Carey said firmly.
Janeway looked at the ship quickly approaching them and finally said, "You son of a Romulan! Gir'nak tovo'sor! You're lower than a Denlb Qatlh!... Yes! I'll marry you!"
"Primary weapon ready to fire at your command." Carey said, and a smile of accomplishment could be heard in his voice through the comm.
Janeway verified the targeting before saying, "Reverse thrusters now... Firing Graviton Disruption Wave."
All the lights on the ship dimmed as the enormous pulse of energy flowed out through the nose of the ship.
Janeway looked on in satisfaction at the expression of horror on the Kazon captain's face as he saw the graviton wave approaching.
"You're my bitch now." Janeway said with a predatory smile as she watched the screen go white, then switch over to a view of all three ships and all the small one-man fighters tumbling and disintegrating in the wave of a hundred thousand different gravitational forces pulling at them from all directions simultaneously.
Silence fell over the bridge as everyone watched the last of the debris collapse in on itself and become nothing more than compacted particles in empty space.