Captain's Log, Stardate 48623.5.
There are 246 elements known to Federation science.
We believe we have just discovered the 247th
inside the ring system of a Class-D planet.
The element has an unusually large atomic mass--
over 550 nucleons.
And the readings are constant.
The element appears to be stable.
A stable, transuranic element inside a natural environment.
This is a first.
Can you imagine what we could make with this stuff?
Probe casings that could go into the core of a sun.
Ultrathin reactor shielding.
That's assuming we can mine it.
Ensign, try and locate
the highest concentration of the element.
The element is present
in most of the asteroids that comprise the rings.
l can isolate a sample and beam it aboard.
Or better yet, maybe we could get
a first-hand look at this element
in its natural environment.
lt looks like most of these asteroids
support Class-M atmospheres.
Good idea. Commander, you're in charge.
Aye, Captain.
Mr. Kim, would you like to join us?
l wouldn't miss it, sir.
The highest concentration
is about 30 meters directly ahead.
l'm picking up a large cavern in there.
The readings are...
What the hell is this?
lt's organic.
Some kind of biopolymer residue.
l want to see what's ahead.
The readings are higher over here,
but l still can't find the source of the...
Class-5 humanoid.
lt appears to be dead.
Captain, there are 18 bodies here--
all humanoid-- 1 1 male, seven female.
From what we can tell,
they're in various stages of decomposition.
Some have been here for years.
Others, no longer than a few days.
ln fact, one body arrived less than 12 hours ago.
Arrived from where?
l don't know, Captain,
but from the position of the arms
l'd say we're looking at some kind of burial site.
What about the element we discovered?
lt's emanating from their bodies, Captain.
We think it's some kind of byproduct
of their decomposition process.
l recommend we leave these bodies in peace, Captain.
However, Mr. Kim has a different opinion.
With all due respect, Captain,
l have to disagree with the Commander.
This is our first contact with this race,
and l think we should be learning all we can about them.
lt's a unique anthropological opportunity.
l understand the chance
for scientific discovery, Captain,
but whatever belief this race has, they clearly meant
for their dead to be left alone,
and l think we should respect that.
l'm afraid l agree with Commander Chakotay.
Set your tricorders for passive scans.
l don't want to disturb anything.
Captain, the sanctity
of these bodies should be respected.
l recommend we make visual observations only.
No tricorders.
Very well.
Keep me informed.
Janeway out.
All right.
The only sensors you have left are your eyes.
Concentrate on details.
We're going to have to do a thorough report
when we get back.
Commander, thanks for letting me voice my opinion to the Captain.
l remember the first time l went on a tomb excavation
on Ktaria Vll.
l wanted to keep a memento of the experience,
so l picked up a rock from the burial site.
Only l found out later it wasn't just a rock.
What was it?
lt was a sacred stone.
The Ktarians lay thousands of them in the Tomb.
Each one represents a special prayer.
Without realizing it,
l had desecrated that man's grave.
l think l've found out about all l can with my eyes.
What have you learned about this culture so far?
They like to bury their dead on asteroids.
That's about all l can tell without a tricorder.
No artifacts, no inscriptions,
just some naked dead people.
You're looking, but you're not seeing.
The fact that they're naked says a lot.
lt means this race doesn't believe
in dressing the deceased.
And the lack of artifacts could indicate
they don't believe any worldly goods
can be taken into the afterlife.
What makes you think they believe
in an afterlife at all?
Look at the position of the arms and hands.
The bodies have been arranged in poses of serenity,
and they appear to be wrapped in the same biopolymer residue
we found out in the passageway--
all indications that this culture
has a great deal of ritual
associated with disposing of the dead.
That normally indicates some belief in the afterlife.
The Klingons believe in an afterlife,
but there's no burial ritual.
They just dispose of the corpse
by the most efficient means possible.
Good point.
However, some archeological digs on the Klingon Homeworld...
A dimensional distortion is forming.
Some kind of subspace vacuole.
Chakotay to Voyager. Emergency beam-out.
We're having trouble locking on to your signals.
Stand by.
Have everyone stand closer together.
l'm going to try a blind beam-out
centered on your com signal.
Acknowledged. Energize!
Bridge to Transporter Room 3. Do you have them?
Subspace distortions from the vacuole are interfering
with the transporter lock.
l'm attempting to compensate.
Okay. l think l've got them.
Chakotay and Lieutenant Torres are aboard.
So is one of the humanoid bodies,
but there's no sign of Ensign Kim.
Scan the asteroid.
No life signs, Captain.
l'm broadening the scan.
He is nowhere in the entire asteroid field.
Seska, initiate Emergency Transport Procedure 21 Alpha.
l'm already on it, Captain.
lt's no use.
His pattern's gone
and the subspace vacuole has disappeared.
l'm looking at the transporter logs.
My only guess is he was pulled into the vacuole.
This isn't one of the bodies we found in the cavern.
lt's someone else.
This body might have come out of the vacuole
at the same time Kim was taken in.
Wait a minute.
l'm showing signs of electrical activity in the brain.
lt looks like she died just a few minutes ago.
We might be able to revive her.
lf we can, we might get some answers.
We can't interfere
with this woman's natural process of death.
What do you suggest we do, Commander?
Kim's gone.
She's the only one who might be able
to tell us what happened.
Beam us directly to Sick Bay.
Aye, Commander.
Death is the end of this life,
but it is also the beginning of a new journey.
Ptera will now thrive in the Next Emanation.
This is both her sacred duty and her great privilege.
As she begins her transition,
we promise to carry memories of her
so that when we enter the...
Help! Get me out of here!
She's... alive!
Deactivate the cenotaph--
Let me out...!
Here it is.
A lot of memories in this.
We're so proud of you, Hatil.
This is such a generous, selfless act.
lt's my last gift for you and the children.
And it's one we will always cherish.
But l'm still going to miss you.
l know.
l'll miss you, too.
But l'll see you in the Next Emanation,
when you're ready to join me.
Give my love to your father.
Tell him that the garili trees he planted
have, have been in bloom for three years straight.
l will.
-Good-bye. -Good-bye.
Lie down.
lt's going to be all right.
We won't harm you.
Who is that?
We're not sure yet.
We think he came from the Next Emanation.
The Next Emanation?
You mean he's come back?
Come back from where?
We've called for the thanatologist.
He'll be here any moment.
l don't think there should be
any further discussion about this until he arrives.
How did you get here?
l'm not sure.
l just sort of woke up inside one of those pods.
l was conducting an investigation
on an asteroid.
We found some dead bodies.
Then there was some kind of subspace phenomenon.
What do you mean you saw dead people there?
l'm, uh, Dr. Neria,
the Chief Thanatologist of this facility.
Ensign Harry Kim of the Federation Starship Voyager.
l see.
What race are you from?
We call ourselves human.
We come from a planet called Earth
in a distant part of the galaxy.
He said he saw dead people on an asteroid.
Look, can you tell me where l am?
Doctor, what does this mean?
Rest, Hatil.
There's no need for concern.
May l speak to you privately, Ensign Harry?
Just Harry's fine.
We are the Vhnori
and this is our homeworld.
We were investigating one of the asteroids
in the rings around your planet.
There are no rings around our world.
So... the subspace vacuole
must have transported me somewhere else.
Do you have any star charts l could look at?
l'd like to figure out where l am now
in relation to where l was.
Where you are now
is in the world of the living.
Where you came from was...
another dimension.
Another dimension?
You returned from the Next Emanation.
The afterlife.
How were you able to revive her?
lt's a simple process, really.
She died of a cancerous growth on the brain stem.
l removed the tumor, replicated new neural tissue,
and used the standard Starfleet postmortem
resuscitation technique for a Class-5 life-form.
Why was she covered with this bio-polymer?
She wasn't covered with it exactly.
The bio-polymer is a byproduct of her own tissues.
As her tissues decayed,
the cell membranes broke down into a bio-polymer resin,
which was then excreted by her epidermal layer.
My guess is it's a natural decomposition process
for this species.
So the other bio-polymer fibers we found in the cavern were...
Were probably the result
of other bodies that had decomposed
and left a residual membrane.
ln essence, Commander,
you were strolling through dead bodies.
Can you wake her?
Yes, of course.
Kes, 2cc's of netinaline.
l know this must be
very confusing for you, but you're all right.
My name is Kathryn Janeway.
l'm Ptera.
Where's my brother?
Your brother?
l'm afraid he's not here.
But he's supposed to be here.
They're all supposed to be here.
Ptera, we were able to remove the tumor
from your brain.
You're going to be all right.
We revived you because one of our...
This is the Next Emanation?
This is the afterlife?
No. No, it's not.
You're on a starship.
This can't be right.
My brother's supposed to be here.
Something's wrong.
-Let me explain. -No.
No, get away from me.
This isn't right!
This can't be right!
You're saying there was a woman in here
just before l arrived?
That's right.
Her name was Ptera.
She was dying of a tumorous lesion to her midbrain.
So she wasn't dead yet?
No, of course not.
She didn't die until the cenotaph was activated.
That's the purpose of the cenotaph--
it terminates a person's life
just before the appearance of a spectral rupture,
and then it allows their body
to be taken to the Next Emanation.
Spectral rupture.
Well... l can show you.
This looks like what we would call a subspace vacuole.
Does the cenotaph create these ruptures?
No. They're natural occurrences--
once every six hours.
This entire complex was built on this site
because a spectral rupture occurs here.
We have thousands of such sites on our world.
Forgive my curiosity, Harry, but, uh,
you are the first person
ever to come back from the afterlife.
l have quite a few questions.
You said that you saw dead bodies?
That's right.
There were... seven females, 1 1 males.
Some of the bodies had been there for years.
Others just for a few days.
Are you saying that when we die,
we go to some asteroid and decompose?
that's what it looked like to us.
These bodies, did you perform
any kind of bio-scans on them?
W-Was there any specific
medical data that you can remember?
Doctor, maybe l should just stop right there.
This is what my people call a First Contact situation,
and we've learned to be very careful
about how much we tell alien cultures we've just met.
l would like to start a complete bioanalysis
as soon as possible.
lf you'll just follow Dr. Ranora.
lf you'll just follow Dr. Ranora.
Look, all l want to do is get back to my ship
and l think there might be a way to use this spectral
rupture of yours to...
You're not going anywhere.
You are our first glimpse into what lies beyond death.
We are not going to let this opportunity pass us by.
We've completed our analysis of the ring system.
Our sensors have detected over 200,000 alien bodies
on various asteroids in the rings.
From what we can tell,
a subspace vacuole appears about every two hours,
deposits a body, and then disappears.
We need to focus on those vacuoles.
Concentrate on trying to probe them
with a high-resolution subspace scan.
See if you can find any sign of Mr. Kim.
Sick Bay to Captain Janeway.
Go ahead.
Our guest has regained consciousness
and she's a little calmer this time.
l'm on my way. You have the Bridge.
That's, that's all l know.
l'm sorry. l can't tell you anything more.
You've told me quite a bit.
At least now l have an idea
of what might have happened to Mr. Kim.
ls there anything l can do for you?
Well, l'd, l'd like some answers.
About what?
About what happens to my people when we die.
We're not sure, exactly,
but from what we do know, the vacuoles deposit the bodies
on the asteroids in this ring system.
And then what?
l'm not sure what you mean.
We're supposed to evolve
into a higher level of consciousness when we die.
We're supposed to gain
a greater understanding of the universe.
All of our questions are supposed to be answered.
Ptera, l know this must be frightening for you.
You've been through a very traumatic experience--
it would frighten me--
but please try to understand,
just because l don't have the answers to your questions
doesn't mean there aren't any.
My brother...
l always thought l'd see him again.
l had so many things to tell him about his children...
the people he left behind...
but he isn't here, is he?
So, what am l supposed to do now,
spend the rest of my life on this... this... starship?
Ptera, l am going to do everything in my power
to figure out just how you got here,
and as soon as l know anything, l will tell you.
All right?
All right.
Maybe we should get out of Sick Bay.
Let you walk around for a while, clear your mind.
Maybe get something to eat.
Are you hungry?
Yes. Actually, l could use something to eat.
What was that?!
Janeway to Bridge. Report.
There's some kind of dimensional distortion
forming near Main Engineering, Captain.
lt looks like a subspace vacuole.
Janeway to Engineering. B'Elanna, what's going on?
l've pinpointed the location, Captain.
lt's right here in Engineering.
Stand by.
Hatil, what are you saying?
l'm just not sure l'm ready, that's all.
l don't understand.
Neither do l.
lt's just that l'm starting to wonder
what really happens when we die...
if l'm really going on
to a higher level of consciousness.
The alien, what has he been telling you?
All he's done is made me stop and think
about something we've always taken for granted.
And now that l've thought about it,
l'm not so eager to go through with it anymore.
Hatil, we know nothing about him,
or why he's come here, or why he's spreading lies
about the Next Emanation.
All l know is you can't throw away
a lifetime of belief because of him.
lt doesn't make any sense.
l don't know what to think anymore.
l'm scared, Araya.
lt's going to be all right.
Think about your father.
He's waiting for you.
l'll see you at the Transference Ritual.
l don't know who you are, or where you come from,
but you stay away from my husband.
l'm sorry.
l didn't mean to...
Harry, you have to forgive my wife.
She's having trouble understanding my concerns
about the afterlife.
That's why l'm here.
l'm, uh...
getting ready to die.
Forgive me for asking again, but can you tell me anything
about what l might find in the Next Emanation?
Everyone keeps asking me that,
and l just keep giving the same answer.
l don't know.
But you do come from the afterlife.
l come from a different reality, maybe another dimension,
and maybe it is your afterlife.
l don't know.
All l do know is that there are countless billions
of people there who are born, live and die
just like you do here.
But you did see my people there.
You said they were dead.
Yes, but...
Look, for all l know, your thanatologists are right,
and all l saw were
the corporeal remains of your people,
and you do go on to a higher consciousness.
But it's, uh...
it's also possible that...
there is no higher existence for us--
that when we die, we simply cease to exist.
l really can't say.
l don't know what happens to your people after they die.
l don't even know what happens to my people after they die.
Don't you have thanatologists, people who study death?
Well, sort of.
There have certainly been medical experts,
philosophers, theologians,
who have spent a great deal of time
debating what happens after death,
but no one's come up with an answer yet.
My people have come to think of death
as just another stage of our existence.
There are some people who are even eager to die.
lf they feel depressed or lonely in this life,
they simply move on to the next one.
ls that why you're here?
Because you're not happy with your life?
Ever since the, um...
life hasn't been easy.
But l have to say this is more my family's idea
than it is mine.
Your family.
l'm a burden to them right now.
lt takes a lot of their time and resources to care for me,
and l can't give much back to them.
So there was a family meeting, and it was agreed that...
l should move on to the Next Emanation.
You look appalled.
lt's not my place to judge your culture,
but from my perspective,
it's a little chilling to hear that.
Even though the family did it out of... love...
and everyone was happy for me, and they said they'd see me
when they got to the Next Emanation...
l have to admit,
there is a little voice inside of me
that is terrified of dying
and since l've been talking to you...
that little voice has started to get...
l'm reading another vacuole forming on the ship.
Tuvok, try remodulating the shield harmonics.
lt's no use, Captain.
The vacuole is still forming.
Take the body to the ship's morgue.
This is odd.
Three bodies have appeared
on Voyager so far, and each one of them
has released some kind of neural energy.
ln every case, the energy has passed
through the hull and out into the rings.
The energy's frequency is identical
to the ambient radiation in the asteroid field.
The vacuoles are disrupting
the warp core's magnetic interlocks.
lt won't be long before we lose antimatter containment.
The vacuoles have all formed
within 20 meters of the warp core.
They might be attracted to it.
Janeway to Bridge.
Mr. Paris, lay in a course.
l want to get at least
a half a light year away. Warp seven.
Aye, Captain.
Paris to Janeway.
l've brought us out of warp.
We're point six light-years from the ring system.
Any other subspace vacuoles forming?
The magnetic interlocks have stabilized.
l think we're safe out here.
Begin working on a way to protect
the warp core from these vacuoles.
Aye, Captain.
Sometimes l come in here and just stare out at the stars.
for hours.
l never get tired of looking at them.
We were always told we would see beautiful sights
in the Next Emanation-- colors, lights--
and that we would see them with new eyes
and a new understanding.
But now...
what happened to the others--
my brother...
my father...
and everyone before them.
People die every day on my world.
Do they all end up as lifeless corpses?
When people die on my world, we bury them beneath the soil
and we believe that their comra is released into the afterlife.
Their comra?
Our soul, our spirit,
the essence of our beings.
Maybe something similar happens to you.
But you don't understand.
We don't believe in any kind of spirit.
When we die, we're supposed to reappear as physical beings
with arms and legs.
That's the whole point
of sending our people through the spectral ruptures.
We're supposed to travel on to the Next Emanation as ourselves,
and be reunited with our families.
But none of that is true...
is it?
None of the people l love are here.
l'm alone.
l don't belong here.
l can't live like this.
Please, can't you send me home?
l think there is only one person on this ship
who could answer that question.
We're doing everything we can to get you back home, Ptera.
Once we locate our missing officer,
we're hoping he might be able to tell us enough to...
Wait a minute, Captain.
Maybe there is a way to send Ptera home
and find Ensign Kim at the same time.
What if we recreated the transporter accident?
lf it's true that Harry was pulled through the vacuole
during transport, we might be able
to reproduce those circumstances,
and send Ptera home.
We could send Ptera through with a subspace transponder,
and hope the signal will penetrate
the dimensional barrier,
and allow us to lock on to Kim
with a transporter beam.
So l can get home?
Ptera, you should know
that there's no guarantee this is going to work.
l understand the risk,
but l've already been dead once,
and l'm prepared to die again if necessary.
So if there's a chance l can get home,
l'm willing to take the risk.
All right.
Commander, prepare a subspace transponder
and teach Ptera how to use it.
Aye, Captain.
Captain's Log, supplemental.
We've returned to the ring system,
and we're preparing to send Ptera back to her dimension.
Lieutenant Torres has found a way
to temporarily protect the warp core against the vacuoles,
but she is uncertain
how long her measures will be effective.
You understand the instructions for Mr. Kim, if you find him?
We've got one, Commander,
forming ten meters below us, Deck 13.
Okay, let's see if your dampening field
is going to protect the warp core.
The field is fluctuating slightly... but holding.
Engineering to Transporter Room 3.
There's a vacuole forming on Deck 13.
Magnetic interlocks are stable.
l see the vacuole. Locking on.
Good luck, Ptera.
l have a transporter lock.
Matching her pattern to the subspace distortions.
Wait a minute, the vacuole is shutting down.
l can't get her pattern through.
Abort the procedure. Pull her back.
l'm trying. l'm losing her pattern.
Shunt emergency power into buffer tank 4.
That's it. l've got the pattern.
She's dead.
ls there any brain activity?
Can we revive her?
Janeway to Lieutenant Torres.
How long until we have to leave?
l'd say we're safe for another two hours.
That gives us two hours to find Mr. Kim.
We'll have to stay within high-range scanner range.
Perform another subspace scan.
This time, extend the scan radius to ten AU.
l'm on my way to Engineering. Janeway out.
Aye, Captain.
Ensign, beam her onto one of the asteroids.
Aye, Captain.
That's where she was meant to be.
l hope you find your afterlife, Ptera.
We want to make a more detailed scan
of your microcellular structures,
and a complete examination of your neural chemistry.
This facility isn't equipped for such a detailed bioanalysis.
The complex at Paffran has everything we need.
Look, if my ship is still searching for me,
they're not going to stay there forever.
l have to get back.
That's not possible.
We don't even understand how you got here.
Then maybe l can figure out a way to get back.
Let me take a look at one of those cenotaphs.
There's no time for that.
Word about you has spread very quickly, Harry.
Not only in the scientific world, but in the community
at large.
There are many people who are very... nervous
about what you represent.
Some even see you as a threat
to their beliefs about the afterlife.
We need to take you to a more secure location.
lt's for your own protection.
l'm sorry, Harry.
lt's out of my control.
What are you doing?
Preparing for the Transference Ritual.
This is a ceremonial shroud
that's been in my family for five generations.
So they make you wrap yourself in your own death shroud.
lt's something we look forward to, actually.
l remember when my father used this shroud,
and his father before him.
The difference is, when my father put this on,
there was no doubt in his mind about where he was going.
Can't you just back out?
Say you've changed your mind?
l... have thought of just walking out and disappearing.
l have some friends in the Cararian Mountains.
They would be willing to let me stay with them.
But my family would worry about me.
They'd wonder what was happening,
if l was all right, if l were hurt...
No. Everyone's expecting a Transference Ritual
and l'm going to give them one.
What if you did disappear into the mountains,
but your family thought you were dead?
l mean, they're here for a Transference Ritual, right?
Do you realize what you're suggesting?
lt's perfect.
Those cenotaphs send your people back to my dimension,
which is where l want to go.
Voyager's probably still near the asteroid searching for me.
As soon as l appear,
they'll pick up my signal and beam me aboard.
And you...
you can just disappear.
Your family will think you're dead,
and you can live out your life in the mountains.
Harry, if you go into that cenotaph
and go through with the Transference Ritual,
you'll die.
Well, if Voyager can beam me aboard quickly enough,
our doctor should be able to revive me.
Medicine's pretty advanced in our culture.
l've heard of cases where people have been dead for hours
and still been brought back to life.
But it's not certain.
No, it's not...
but l think this is my only chance to get home.
The shroud has to be wrapped in a particular way.
l'll show you how.
But we have to hurry.
l'm scheduled for Transference in less than an hour.
A pleasant trip, Hatil.
Say hello to Varel and Toyan.
l'll see you there in a few years.
We are joined here today
to bid farewell to our dear friend Hatil Garan.
We salute not only his life,
but the manner in which he has chosen to end it.
He makes a noble sacrifice today,
that his family may have a better tomorrow.
We prepare to send him on to the Next Emanation
with the full knowledge and faith
that the life he will find there is better than the one here,
that he will no longer be hampered by his infirmities,
and that he will come to understand the cosmos
in a way that he could never have imagined.
Good-bye, Hatil.
l love you.
Another vacuole. Deck 15.
The body of an alien female has been left behind.
Chakotay to Transporter Room 3.
Lock on to the body on Deck 15,
and transport it to one of the asteroids.
Aye, sir.
Status on the warp core, Lieutenant.
The dampening field's down to 21 percent.
The interlocks won't hold much longer.
l recommend leaving, Captain.
Very well.
Mr. Paris, bring us about.
Prepare to resume our...
Captain, l'm picking up a vacuole
forming on Deck 12.
lt deposited a human body...
But it's dead.
Janeway to Seska.
There's a body on Deck 12.
Beam it directly to Sick Bay.
Yes, Captain.
2cc's cordrazine.
Relax, Mr. Kim. Everything's fine.
You're alive.
Mind if l join you?
No, not at all. Please.
Thank you.
So, how are you feeling?
Better. l'll be ready for duty tomorrow morning.
You're off duty for the next two days.
Captain, l'm fine.
lt's not a reflection on your capabilities, Ensign.
l just want to give you a chance to reflect on what's happened.
This may not make much sense to you now--
a young man at the beginning of his career--
but one of the things you learn as you move up the ranks
and get a little older is that...
you wish you had more time in your youth to really...
absorb all the things that happen to you.
lt goes by so fast.
lt's so easy to become jaded,
to treat the extraordinary
like just another day at the office.
But sometimes...
there are experiences which transcend all that.
You've just had one, Mr. Kim,
and l want you to live with it for a little while.
Write about it if you feel like it.
express yourself in some fashion.
The Bridge will still be there in two days.
Thank you, Captain.
l have been a little preoccupied with the experience.
l mean, all those people think
that they know what happens after death.
They look forward to it.
They're prepared for it.
But the truth is, none of it's real.
They don't have an afterlife.
They just decay inside those asteroids.
l wouldn't be so sure of that if l were you.
That neural energy their bodies release--
it becomes part
of the ambient electromagnetic field surrounding the planet.
Our readings also indicate
the energy is unusually dynamic.
There's a great deal of variation
in pattern complexity, quantum density...
Are you saying you think they do have an afterlife?
That the energy field is where they exist
at a higher level of consciousness,
just like they believe?
l'm not certain.
But l am certain about this:
What we don't know about death
is far, far greater than what we do know.
See you in two days, Ensign.
Thank you, Captain.

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