«What the hell is it?» Owen Paris, Starfleet Admiral in charge of the Pathfinder Project, looked incredulously at the screen in front of him, unable to fully comprehend what the sensors were showing him. Lieutenant Reginald Barclay, who had transferred to Earth a few months earlier from the Enterprise under Captain Picard's command, promptly replied: «A transwarp aperture. It’s less than a light-year from Earth.» One of the other admirals at the operations centre asked: «How many Borg vessels?» Barclay shook his head, doubtful: «We can't get a clear reading, but the graviton emissions are off the scale!»

Paris turned to look at a woman in the typical uniform of the science department, ordering her: «I want every ship in range to converge on those coordinates now.» With a «Yes, Admiral!» the woman immediately set about relaying the orders she had received; Owen Paris, for his part, fervently hoped that the number of ships and crews they would be able to muster in such a short time would be sufficient to deal with whatever threat they would face.


The U.S.S. Voyager (NCC-74656), the Intrepid-class vessel that has become notorious for being 70,000 light years from home, had recently entered the entrance to the transwarp hub that had been detected with the help of a future version of Kathryn Janeway, now Admiral, as she fought her own personal battle against the Borg Queen.
The plan devised by the two Janeways, Voyager's Captain and the Admiral from the future, was to destroy the entire Borg transwarp hub, contaminate the Collective with a deadly virus, and reach the coveted Alpha Quadrant through the mighty network conduits of the enemy. But as always the Borg had managed to adapt, not completely but just enough to make one last desperate attempt to destroy the Federation starship and preserve themselves.

Pursued by the last surviving Borg sphere, Voyager, reinforced with ablative armour born of future technology, strenuously withstood enemy blows as the transwarp tunnel collapsed behind her. On the bridge, Captain Janeway listened attentively to the reports from the various stations as the entire ship shuddered with each damage sustained.
Tuvok, from the tactical console, sketched out a situation report: «Aft armour is down to six percent.»
Ensign Kim echoed him from the operations station: «Hull breaches on decks 6 through 12.»
Paris, at the helm, reported that he could not maintain the minimum safe distance from the pursuing sphere. Seven of Nine, responding to a request from First Officer Chakotay to find an escape route from the transwarp conduit, notified that the first available exit would not take Voyager where the Captain wanted it to go. Janeway seemed to want to dig her nails into the armrests of her chair; it was time to make an extreme decision, like one of the many that had marked her seven years of wandering in the Delta Quadrant, and it was not the time to be timid.


On the bridge of the U.S.S. Prometheus (NX-74913), the prototype ship for the Prometheus-class, reigned the committed stillness of someone who knows her routine and does not need to be guided in her work. At the tactical station, Lieutenant Commander Eva Ferrari, a petite woman of medium height, with short brown hair and a slim, fit physique, was analysing some data being redirected to her console by external sensors, when an audible warning, followed by a luminous one, caught her attention.

«Captain,» she announced a moment later, «we are receiving a transmission from Starfleet Command, Communications Research Centre, Pathfinder Project. They are ordering us to head immediately to the following coordinates,» which she hastened to send to the command post where her Captain, a united Trill named Jaze Taanis, was overseeing the bridge, «where a transwarp corridor of Borg origin has been detected opening.»
The Trill wasted no time and immediately ordered the helmsman to set the fastest course for the established coordinates, giving immediate instructions to execute the order: moments later, the Prometheus found itself travelling at warp speed in the direction of the anomaly.
«Inform Pathfinder Project that we are heading for the coordinates, Commander,» ordered Henry Reynolds, Executive Officer of the Prometheus, and shortly afterwards Ferrari replied: «Pathfinder Project alerted, sir. We are requested for our E.T.A. and informed that other vessels have been mobilised to the location; the Klingon flagship will also be joining.»
«E.T.A. in less than five minutes, Commander,» the helmsman, named Nicolas Rouest, replied promptly, allowing Ferrari to take the information back to the Pathfinder command centre in the labs of the Communications Research Center.

Captain Taanis paid little attention to his officers' exchange of banter, a common occurrence and one that, in times of greatest need such as that, allowed for quicker times and gave the crew the chance to be ready in the face of most surprises. Lieutenant Rouest, a French from Tours, had served at the Zefram Cochrane Space Flight Center as a test pilot during his time at the Academy and shortly after graduation, starting as a trainee during the final stages of a two-year project involving the then Ensign Eva Ferrari, shortly before she was called to active duty aboard the Europa (one of the first Sovereign-class vessels launched in the early 2370s) as a helmsman.
Having worked so closely together for several months, when both officers had been assigned first to the Prometheus project and then to the Prometheus itself, it had taken a relatively short time for the two to function as two well-oiled cogs within a larger mechanism.

Reynolds intervened, advising caution: «Let's not be unprepared. Shields up, weapons ready. Take us to red alert.» Ferrari nodded, responding with a «Yes, sir,» and punctually obeyed orders: immediately, the lights on the bridge dimmed, emergency red began flashing on the walls, and the horn associated with the alert condition they were in resounded in the air.
A little later, the Prometheus came out of warp to find itself lined up with other Federation vessels, including another Prometheus-class and the Negh'Var, the most impressive Klingon ship ever built.
Taanis made herself more comfortable in her own chair, in the centre of the bridge, and looked carefully at the screen in front of her, before ordering, «Commander Ferrari, keep sensors on the surrounding area at all times and pay attention to the slightest variation recorded.» She didn't wait for the confirmation response from her own tactical officer, turning immediately afterwards to Lavelle: «Lieutenant, get us in touch with the rest of the fleet and let's figure out who's in command so we can coordinate efficiently - we certainly don't want to be caught off guard and overwhelmed.»


«We’ve got eighteen ships in position, nine more on the way,» announced one of the Admirals present in the Pathfinder Project's small command centre, momentarily lent out as a survey console. Admiral Paris barely nodded, before ordering a communications channel to the assembling fleet, after which he said: «This is Admiral Paris. Use all necessary force. I repeat, all necessary force.»
A moment later, Barclay announced: «Sir, there’s a vessel coming through.» The screen in front of them showed, immediately after the engineer finished his sentence, a Borg sphere accompanied by a tight phaser burst directed at his address.


A sort of controlled chaos reigned on the Voyager's bridge, with officers, non-commissioned officers and sailors tirelessly engaged in their duties, not allowing a moment's respite. After all, the situation in which they found themselves demanded nothing but the utmost concentration and attention: mistakes of any kind were not allowed, their lives and their final destination depended on it.

The lights were dimmed, as per protocol in the event of a red alert, and the alarm had been silenced, to avoid further distractions. Thanks to a precise manoeuvre by Lieutenant Paris, Voyager had slipped through the nooks and crannies of the Borg sphere, evading pursuit; now the sphere continued on its way to the Alpha Quadrant, unaware of what it was carrying with it.
Janeway, without taking her eyes off the main viewscreen, turned to Tuvok: «Arm a transphasic torpedo.»
The Vulcan typed a few commands on his console and, after a few moments, confirmed: «Torpedo armed and ready to launch.»

A sudden change in speed indicated the exit of the sphere from the Borg conduit, into open space, and with it, the Voyager, still inside the enemy ship. A few jolts suffered by the Borg vessel seemed to indicate an attack, coming from outside, but no one was too concerned: Janeway rose from her seat, heading for the helm station, and Lieutenant Paris reassured her that the coordinates reached were as expected. There was one last thing left to do: with a resolute look and a simple «Mr. Tuvok...» the Captain directed the Vulcan to fire.
That one and only shot went beyond any Borg armour, triggered a process of matter disintegrating into energy and caused the sphere to collapse in a series of chained explosions.
«Mr. Paris, maximum escape velocity. Take us out of this nightmare.» Janeway had almost whispered into the helmsman's side. And in the same tone, and her voice barely broken with emotion, she let out a heartfelt «We did it!» as she saw on the main screen, dissolved by the fires of the sphere's explosion, the fleet of Federation ships welcoming them.


When the Borg sphere that had emerged from the transwarp corridor had begun to explode, Admiral Paris had hastened to give the order to cease fire, being immediately obeyed by the flotilla of ships so quickly assembled at the mouth of the shaft. When, from the fireball that followed the destruction of the enemy vessel, the Voyager appeared, everyone was taken aback, certainly not expecting to see, after so much trouble, the Federation ship long given up for lost.
Admiral Paris was the first to recover, hastening to request the opening of a communication channel with the Intrepid class and, moments later, the Voyager's bridge appeared before the staff of officers variously assembled inside the Pathfinder Project's host laboratories.
Of all the words spoken at that juncture, only two remained etched in the minds of all the crew present at that moment on the bridge of the vessel that had finally returned home, a couple of words spoken by Admiral Paris: Welcome back.