The Bitter End
Summary: In the tenth year of their journey, Voyager is in bad shape, and so is her command team. A powerful enemy brings ever more desperate times, and with nowhere to run, an unthinkable sacrifice may be the only option for the crew’s survival.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Seven of Nine, Tuvok, Paris, Torres, EMH, Kim, Ayala, S. Wildman, Celes
Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Chakotay/Seven of Nine
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own Voyager, her crew, and the Star Trek universe. I own this idea and the words I used.
Notes: My take on what happened in the unaltered-Endgame timeline to turn Captain Janeway into the time-travelling Admiral.
Admiral Janeway: Unfortunately, our favourite cup took a bit of a beating along the way. It was damaged during a battle with the Fen Domar.
Captain Janeway: Who?
Admiral Janeway: You'll run into them in a few years.
Warning: Depictions of violence and (non-graphic) rape. Major character death (but if you've seen Endgame, it shouldn't be a surprise). Minor character deaths, too. This is very dark. You have been warned.
Stardate 57910.3 – November 29, 2380
“A small vessel is on approach, Captain,” Tuvok replied, vacating Janeway’s chair as the captain and commander entered the bridge from opposite sides. “Its weapons are powered and it is not responding to hails.”
She looks exhausted, Tom Paris thought as the captain took her seat. Granted, she’d just been woken at 0400 hours after probably only getting to bed an hour or so earlier, given her habit of working late into the night. But this, her whole manner, radiated the kind of fatigue that didn’t come from a night or two of broken sleep.
Not that that was any kind of surprise. The past few months hadn’t been easy. The three-month trip through Kaylev territory had been hardest on the captain; a protocol-obsessed species, the Kaylevi had insisted on Voyager checking in at every waystation, planet and satellite in their space, and at every checkpoint the captain had been required to undergo a lengthy and repetitive interrogation. And then just as they’d emerged from Kaylev space, they’d run into the Borg not once but twice. They’d lost Bennet and Dorado to assimilation in the second engagement. Tom was pretty sure the captain hadn’t slept more than three hours at a stretch since.
“The vessel is within weapons range,” Tuvok reported from Tactical. “Still no response to hails.” He paused, then warned: “They are firing.”
Voyager shuddered, and Kim announced, “Minor damage to the port nacelle.”
“Shields are holding,” Tuvok added.
“Is that the best they’ve got?” Janeway asked dubiously.
“Their weapons complement is easily outclassed by Voyager’s,” Tuvok replied. “Shall I disable them?”
Janeway nodded. “Target their weapons and fire.”
“Their weapons systems are inoperative,” announced Tuvok a moment later.
“Hail them again –” the captain began, but before she could finish, the small ship had gone to warp. “Well,” she said drily. “I guess we won’t be making any new friends today. Mr Paris, continue on our previous course and heading. Mr Kim, I want to know if that ship or any like it shows up again.”
“Aye, Captain,” they chorused.
“I’ll be in my ready room. You have the bridge, Commander,” she tossed over her shoulder without breaking stride.
“Aye, Captain,” Chakotay muttered.
Tom raised an eyebrow. Is it my imagination, or is he even more sullen than usual this morning?
“Problem, Paris?” Chakotay’s dark stare was fixed on the pilot.
Uh-oh. “No, sir. Just flying the ship, sir.”
There were plenty of things Tom disliked about red-alert calls in the early hours. The adrenaline dump once the danger had passed – if it did –, the extra hours tacked onto his regular Alpha shift, the disruption to Miral’s routine, B’Elanna’s exhaustion when she finally returned to their quarters after mopping up whatever damage the latest batch of unfriendly aliens had dealt out. Lately, though, one of the least pleasant things about it would have to be the additional time he was forced to spend in Chakotay’s company.
Scratch that, he thought with a sigh, the captain’s and Chakotay’s company.
Tom and Chakotay had never seen eye to eye, although he’d thought they’d reached a point where they could almost call each other a friend, but of late it seemed like the commander pounced on any opportunity to give Tom a hard time. Although, he had to admit, it wasn’t only himself that Chakotay seemed to rag on lately. Pretty much everyone had felt the sharp edge of the commander’s tongue at one time or other in recent months.
And they say marriage is bliss, he thought sarcastically. It certainly hadn’t mellowed the first officer any.
As for the captain … She’d taken to retreating into her ready room for hours at a time, which might have given her a respite from her first officer’s near-constant bad mood, but only made Chakotay glower more fiercely and take it out on the bridge crew.
What the hell happened to them? Tom couldn’t help wondering.
Whatever the reason for it, he wished they’d patch it up before it drove the entire crew crazy.
Stardate 57916.2 – December 1, 2380
The mood at the senior staff meeting was not positive.
“You’re telling me we only have three weeks’ worth of supplies in storage?” Chakotay’s voice was dangerously low as he rounded on Chell.
The Bolian shrank back in his seat. “Yes, sir,” he mumbled. “Half of the vegetables we procured from the Kaylevi had some kind of blight, and several airponics crops failed when Deck Four was exposed to space during the last Borg attack. I’ve been stretching out our dried stores as much as I can, but if we don’t find a source of fresh produce soon…” He trailed off miserably.
Chakotay opened his mouth, but Janeway forestalled him with a raised hand. “We’ll make food supplies our top priority, Mr Chell. Lieutenant Torres?”
“We need dilithium,” Torres said flatly. “If we don’t find some within the next couple of weeks, we’ll have to drop speed. And the dolamide reserves are approaching critical. I recommend we shut down power to all unnecessary decks.”
The captain bit back on a sigh. “Commander, draw up a list of crew quarter reassignments. We’ll all have to double up for a while. Seven, Harry, have your teams run continuous long-range sensor sweeps. Find us food and energy sources. Tuvok?”
“Crewmen Doyle and Hamilton are currently confined to the brig for brawling. I recommend they be reallocated to separate quarters, as this is the third time in six months they have required such discipline. Aside from that incident, I have nothing to report.”
Janeway raised an eyebrow. “What about your tests on the torpedoes we acquired from the Dromin? You mentioned last week that you and Seven had enhanced them with nanoprobes.”
“Yes.” Tuvok shifted in his seat. “I apologise for my oversight. Preliminary simulations showed a forty percent increase in the torpedoes’ yield. However, the Dromin torpedoes are incompatible with Voyager’s systems. It will take some time to integrate them.”
“Carry on.” Janeway watched him carefully for a moment. “Seven?”
“Astrometric sensors have detected an area of subspace instability twelve light years ahead. I have suggested a minor course correction to Lieutenant Paris.”
“Already actioned,” Paris piped up. “And I’m running navigational sweeps for any other obstacles in our path.”
“Good. If there’s nothing further?” The captain glanced around the room, then nodded. “Stations, people.”
They started filing out, Chakotay striding into the lead.
“Tuvok,” Janeway said softly.
She waited until the room had emptied. “How are you?”
Tuvok met her searching gaze. “I have been experiencing minor lapses in concentration. However, I am endeavouring to control the effects with further meditation.”
She nodded. “And has the Doctor made any progress on finding a cure?”
“My prognosis remains the same, despite the Doctor’s efforts.”
“I see.” Janeway studied him. “Is there anything I can do?”
“No, Captain. Thank you.”
“And you’ll let me know if your prognosis changes?”
“All right.” She gave him a half-smile. “Dismissed, Commander.”
Kathryn’s eyes followed the Vulcan as he returned to the bridge.
Stardate 57916.2 – December 2, 2380
“Captain, there’s a ship on approach. It matches the hull signature of the vessel that attacked us two days ago, but it’s significantly larger.”
“Send out the standard greeting hail.”
“No response,” Harry reported a moment later. “Their shields are up and weapons powered.”
“Red alert. Keeping hailing them, Lieutenant.”
Janeway paced in front of her chair as Kim continued to report the lack of response to hails.
“The ship is firing,” Tuvok noted. Voyager rocked sharply. “The energy output of their phasers is double the yield of the previous ship’s. Shields are at eighty percent.”
“Still nothing, Captain.”
“Fire a warning shot across their bow.”
The alien ship retaliated instantly, and Tuvok reported, “Shields at sixty-five percent. Several EPS relays have been damaged on decks ten and eleven. Repair teams are responding.”
“Suggestions?” Janeway looked exasperated.
~Torres to the bridge.~
~Captain, we’ve taken damage to the primary warp coil reactors. They’re stabilised, but I wouldn’t recommend taking another hit like that.~
“Understood. Tom, plot us a course away from that ship. Warp seven.”
“Aye,” he answered, and added, “They’re not following, Captain.”
“Good. Bridge to Astrometrics.”
~Yes, Captain?~ Seven’s cool tones came over the comm system.
“Are you detecting any other vessels matching that ship’s signature?”
~Yes, Captain. There are three ships of similar configuration on a parallel course to ours, three point two light years distant.~
“Keep an eye on them. I want to know if those ships decide to head in our direction.”
Janeway cut the channel and turned to Chakotay. “Commander, would you join me in my ready room?”
He gave a short, silent nod and followed her in.
“I’d offer you something,” she said drily as the doors closed behind them, “but I doubt we have the replicator energy to spare.”
“I don’t need anything.”
She waved him to the seat across from her desk and sat, folding her hands in front of her. “We have a situation.”
He waited, watching her.
“If our dolamide reserves continue to drop without finding another usable power source, we’ll have to run the ship in grey mode. And as you heard yesterday, the food situation is becoming a problem.”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “I’m asking if you have any suggestions, Commander.”
He shrugged. “None that you’ll like.”
Her jaw firmed. “Go ahead.”
“We should reverse course. Re-establish contact with the Kaylevi. Try to barter for more supplies.”
“After last time?” She shook her head. “If it was just a matter of suffering through their interminable version of diplomacy, I wouldn’t hesitate. But they weren’t prepared to trade dilithium, deuterium or any other minerals of use to us, and even the foodstuffs we obtained from them were next to useless.”
“Then take a different route. It’s clear there are no planets or moons with anything we can mine or harvest on our current path. We don’t have to head back to Kaylevi territory, but if we alter course we might find a species willing to trade.”
“We might.” She leaned back slightly. “Or we might not, and then we’d have to make up travel time for no reason.”
“Well, Captain, those were my two best suggestions.”
Kathryn rubbed her forehead. “Any worse ones?”
“You won’t like this either, but I think we have to implement rationing, whatever course you ultimately decide to pursue. I recommend the crew be limited to two meals in the mess hall per day with rations supplementing the third. And replicator usage should be restricted to necessities, at least until we find a viable food source.”
“You’re right, I don’t like it. But I don’t think we have a choice.” Sighing, she pressed her fingers to her aching temples. “I guess I’m giving up coffee again. That’s going to do wonders for my headaches.”
“You should go to sickbay, get an analgesic.” The first officer’s tone was slightly less cool than had become customary.
She gave him a half smile in response. “Replicator restrictions, remember? I’ll live with it.”
He nodded without returning the smile, weak as it was. “Am I dismissed, Captain?”
“Dismissed,” she acceded quietly.
She stared pensively at the doors for a long time after they’d closed behind him.
Stardate 57921.5 – December 3, 2380
“Good morning, Ensign.”
Seven of Nine glanced up as Janeway slid into the seat opposite her. “Captain.”
“What’s the breakfast special like this morning?”
Seven raised her spoon and watched as the porridge overflowed into her bowl. “Crewman Chell refers to this as the ‘breakfast of champions’.” She returned the spoon to her bowl. “It is unappetising.”
“Ah.” Kathryn wrinkled her nose as the smell of the porridge wafted toward her. “Don’t tell me he’s done a Neelix on us and started padding out the menu with leola root.”
Seven shrugged one shoulder. “It would be an efficient use of ship’s resources. I believe Neelix still had two containers of leola root in dry storage when he left the ship.”
“Should have made him take them with him,” Janeway muttered darkly. “I had hoped I’d never have to eat the stuff again. Still,” she sighed as she spooned up some of her own porridge, “beggars can’t be choosers.”
Her grimace as she tasted the first spoonful made Seven’s mouth twitch at the corners.
“How have you been, Seven?” the captain asked when she’d washed the taste away with a glass of water. “It’s been a while since we talked.”
“I am recovering well from my last surgery. The Doctor is pleased with my progress and has informed me that the removal of the Borg implants from my reproductive organs was successful. He believes procreation should be possible, should I wish to pursue it.”
The spoon stopped halfway to Kathryn’s mouth and lowered slowly back to her bowl.
“I see,” she said faintly. “And – do you? Want children?”
“I’m uncertain.” Seven’s gaze dropped to the table. “Chakotay … We haven’t discussed it.”
“Oh.” Kathryn stared at her bowl. “Well, if it’s what the two of you want, Seven, you’ll have my support, of course.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
Janeway nodded, then got to her feet, smile fixed on her face. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to get to the bridge.”
Stardate 57924.6 - December 4, 2380
“Status reports, Captain.” Chakotay strode into her ready room the following morning and dropped a stack of PADDs on her desk.
“Thanks.” She waved him to a seat. “Give me the highlights?”
“Energy reserves are dropping, food supplies are tight, crew morale is at an all-time low, and you felt free to question my wife about our personal business.”
Kathryn’s head jerked up. “I beg your pardon?”
“You asked Seven if we were planning to have children.” His dark eyes snapped at her across the desk.
“For your information,” she retorted icily, “your wife was the one who brought the topic up.”
“Really.” Chakotay’s voice was flat. “You just can’t help yourself, can you, Kathryn? What is it? Are you still so possessive of Seven that you have to know every detail of her personal life?”
The blood drained from her face.
“Or,” he leaned forward, hissing, “is it that you can’t stand knowing you don’t have a hold on me anymore?”
At that, she leaned in as well, eyes hard and locked on his. “Don’t I?” She let her gaze drift downward to his lips, her tongue slipping out to moisten her own, then raised her eyes to his again and drawled, “Really, Chakotay?”
A pulse beat hotly in his temple. “Go to hell, Kathryn,” he spat, and swivelled, marching out of the ready room.
“See you there,” she said softly, after he’d gone.
~Astrometrics to the bridge. Two alien vessels are on approach. At present speed they will reach our coordinates in two hours.~
“Are they the same ships you’ve been tracking, Ensign?”
~No, Captain. Those ships remain on their previous heading.~
“Great.” Harry watched Janeway straighten in her chair. “Keep monitoring them, Seven. I want to know if they decide to join the party. Janeway out.”
She turned to Tactical.
“Any update on those nanoprobe-enhanced torpedoes, Tuvok? We may find we need them.”
“The weapons have been integrated into Voyager’s systems, Captain. However, the torpedo launching system’s safety protocols are incompatible with the weapons’ increased yield. At present, the firing mechanism must be manually overridden, causing a delay of ninety seconds before the torpedo is fired. I’m attempting to implement an automatic override code.”
“Keep at it. Lieutenant Kim, send out continuous hails. I’m still hopeful we can find a peaceful solution here.”
“We could retreat,” Chakotay interjected.
“We could.” The captain didn’t bother turning to look at him. “But it’s looking like we’ve trespassed into someone’s territory, and who knows how many more of them we might encounter in another direction? No. We meet them on our terms.”
Chakotay fell silent.
The wait was tense, and Kim found himself fidgeting at his console. By the time the two alien ships entered weapons range he was almost relieved. “Still no answer to our hails, Captain,” he reported without being asked.
Nobody was surprised when the ships opened fire.
“Evasive manoeuvres,” Janeway snapped out. “Tuvok, phasers. Disable their weapons.”
“Direct hit on the lead vessel. It is retreating. The other is continuing to attack.”
A whine filled the air, and Harry tapped frantically into his console. “Captain, that last hit took out the primary EPS generator. It’s overloading.”
“Clear all affected sections.”
“Captain, the main power conduit runs directly through the bridge…”
“Tom, get us out of here. Harry, reroute bridge controls to Engineering and then evacuate Deck One,” Janeway ordered as the whine increased to a scream. “Everybody out. Now!”
She spared the briefest of glances for the departing bridge crew as she remained seated, working feverishly at the command console.
“Captain.” Chakotay leaned over the upper level railing, shouting to be heard over the screech of the power build-up. “These conduits are going to rupture in less than twenty seconds. You need to get out.”
“I’m trying to route the power flow through the –”
“Kathryn!” He vaulted down from the upper level. “There’s no time!”
He grabbed her by the elbow and hauled her out of her chair, dragging her with him to the turbolift. As the ‘lift doors slammed shut they heard the build-up reach its crescendo, exploding the bridge consoles in a chain reaction. The ship shuddered and groaned, and the turbolift dropped sickeningly. Janeway heard the shriek of the emergency brakes and then the two of them were flung to the deck as the ‘lift came to an abrupt halt.
Her ears were ringing, though whether it was from the after-echo of the explosion or the blow she’d taken to the head when the ‘lift was forcibly stopped, she wasn’t sure. Still gasping for breath, she pushed herself upright, leaning against the turbolift wall. She had to clear her throat before she could speak. “Chakotay. Are you all right?”
“Fine,” he muttered tightly.
Kathryn wondered if the unspoken no thanks to you was only in her imagination.
She tapped her commbadge. “Janeway to Engineering.”
“Janeway to Tuvok.”
There was a faint crackle and the security chief’s voice came through. ~Tuvok here, Captain.~
She almost slumped in relief. “Report.”
~I am in Jeffries tube eleven-beta with the rest of the bridge crew. We are making our way to Engineering. What is your status?~
“The commander and I are trapped in a turbolift, but we’re fine,” she answered. “As soon as you’ve set up the secondary command centre I want full damage reports. Once you’ve secured all systems, send someone to get us out.”
~Acknowledged, Captain.~ Tuvok closed the channel and Kathryn slumped against the wall.
“Well,” Chakotay said sarcastically. “What do you propose we do to pass the time?”
She bit back on her instinctive response, forcing calm into her voice as she settled opposite him. “I’m sorry,” she offered quietly. “And thank you.”
“For saving my life.”
He met her eyes then, and his own softened. “I’d never leave you behind, Kathryn,” he answered, all the bite gone from his voice. “Despite – everything. You know that.”
“Yes,” she said softly. “I know that.”
Hesitantly, she reached for his hand, and just as hesitantly his fingers wound into her own.
~Tuvok to Janeway.~
“Go ahead,” she answered without taking her eyes from Chakotay, or her hand from his.
~I have established temporary bridge control in Engineering. Two crewmen sustained serious injuries but the Doctor reports their condition as stable. The rupture of the main power conduit has caused widespread damage to the ship. Lieutenant Torres estimates six days to repair it. As a result of the power overload, our energy reserves have dropped to sixty-two percent.~
The captain swallowed hard, watching as Chakotay’s eyes softened in sympathy. “Thank you, Tuvok.” She forced her voice not to shake. “Advise all hands that we’ll be running the ship in grey mode until we find an alternative energy source.”
~Transporters are online, Captain. Do you wish to be beamed out?~
“No,” she answered. “It would use energy we can’t afford to waste. We’ll wait until you can retrieve us.”
~Understood. I will keep you advised of our status. Tuvok out.~
As the comm fell silent, Janeway closed her eyes, fighting for control.
She shook her head.
“Kathryn, look at me.”
She felt the touch of his fingers against her jaw and opened tear-blurred eyes. “Chakotay,” she whispered. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take …”
“Shh,” he urged, his hands cradling her face, offering her everything she knew she had no right to take, and without so much as a token inner struggle, she gave in.
It was Harry Kim who eventually came to release them from the turbolift.
They stood at opposite sides of the ‘lift, faces impassive, not looking at each other. Janeway had a bruise on her forehead and Chakotay’s uniform jacket was torn at the shoulder seam, but otherwise they appeared unharmed.
“Captain, Commander,” he greeted them nervously. “Are you both all right?”
“Fine,” they answered in unison. Janeway stepped forward into the corridor. “What’s the status of the bridge?”
“B’Elanna has teams up there right now, Captain. It looks like the damage isn’t as bad as we thought. We should be able to re-establish the command centre up there by tomorrow morning.”
“That’s the first piece of good news I’ve had all month. The rest of the ship?”
“Not so good, I’m afraid.” Harry brushed aside a piece of hanging conduit to let the command team pass. “Two decks are unusable and Astrometrics suffered heavy damage –”
Chakotay stopped short. “Seven?”
“She’s in Sickbay. The Doctor said she wasn’t seriously hurt,” Harry hastened to add.
“Permission to –”
“Granted,” Janeway cut him off. “Go.”
Harry watched her gaze track Chakotay as he hurried along the corridor.
“How long until Astrometrics is back up and running?” Janeway’s tone was perfectly neutral, but her eyes were not.
“Uh, probably two or three days.” Kim shifted his feet.
“Make it a priority. If we don’t find an energy source soon –” the captain didn’t bother to finish her sentence. “Let’s get to Engineering.”