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 57935.9 – December 8, 2380
The back of Tom Paris’ neck was prickling.
Seven of Nine hadn’t been seriously hurt in the attack four days earlier, but ever since she’d been injured Chakotay’s mood had deteriorated even further. She had insisted on returning to duty immediately, only to suffer a broken arm in yet another attack, this time by a single small ship. Fortunately, there had been no damage this time to anything except Seven’s arm and the crew’s morale.
Strangely, Chakotay seemed to be angry with Janeway rather than Seven. Paris rolled his shoulders, trying to release some of the tension. He wondered how much longer the captain was going to put up with the first officer’s bad attitude –
“Captain,” Harry said urgently. “I’m detecting another ship on approach.”
“The same basic hull and warp signature as the others, but this one is four times the size. Weaponry complement is about twice Voyager’s. And it seems to have some kind of refractive armour plating on the hull.” He met the captain’s eyes. “I doubt our phasers could penetrate it.”
“The nanoprobe weapons?” Janeway turned to Tuvok.
“I have resolved the problem with the firing chamber safety protocols. The torpedoes should be reasonably effective.”
Reasonably effective? Tom wondered.
“Will they pierce that armour or not, Commander?” Janeway demanded.
“I believe so.”
“Let’s hope we don’t have to put it to the test,” she muttered. “Open hailing frequencies, Mr Kim.”
Janeway rose from her chair and Tom felt her come up behind him, resting a hand on his shoulder. He’d often wondered if she did that to ground herself in uncertain situations. Sometimes, after a hazardous first contact, he came home with finger-shaped bruises where she’d gripped him.
“This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager to the unknown vessel on approach. We have no hostile intentions. Please respond.”
“Captain, they’re responding,” Kim blurted, surprise clear in his voice.
The alien whose head and upper body filled the viewscreen looked, as far as Paris could tell, not terribly dissimilar to humans. He was broad-chested, with shoulders and biceps a weightlifter would be proud of. His skin was tawny, his eyes black, hair cropped so close to his skull it was difficult to discern its colour. Really, apart from his size, there was nothing at first glance that differentiated him from a human, apart from the thin, raised ridge that curved from his temples to the centre of his cheekbones.
At least, that was, until he smiled.
Vampire, was Paris’ first thought, and his second was, no. Viper.
~Captain Janeway,~ the alien said in a voice as dark and smooth as the captain’s coffee. ~It’s a pleasure to meet you. I am Inheritor Alkin, Supreme Commander of the Fen Domar and heir to the Fen Ascendancy.~
“Inheritor,” Janeway answered, trying not to raise her eyebrows at the alien’s florid greeting. “Thank you for answering our hail. We find it far preferable to being shot at without provocation.”
Tom could hear the way her lips quirked to the side as she spoke. He could also hear the underlying steel. From the dangerous-looking way Alkin’s smile widened, so could he.
~Provocation,~ repeated the alien. ~Some would say your intrusion into our space is provocation enough.~
“But not you?”
Alkin’s gaze travelled slowly over Janeway’s figure from head to toe and back again – a long, lazy, deliberately provocative glance. Paris felt her fingers tighten slightly on his shoulder. ~As it happens, no, Captain. But I do suffer from a trait my exalted father often bemoans in me.~
“And what’s that?” Janeway’s tone had noticeably cooled.
The white-fanged smile widened further. ~Curiosity.~
“Where I come from, that’s a trait to be proud of. You could say it’s our primary motivation.”
~Well, then.~ The alien leaned slightly forward, eyes fixed on the captain’s face. ~Perhaps we could satisfy our mutual curiosity in the flesh.~
Paris felt Janeway stiffen.
“We’d be pleased to welcome you aboard our ship to initiate diplomatic relations,” Janeway stressed slightly. “Perhaps we could also discuss a mutually beneficial trade agreement.”
~I look forward to it, Captain. I’ll transport to your ship in two cycles.~ Alkin grinned widely once more before the screen went blank.
“Cycles?” Janeway moved toward the Ops station.
“A cycle translates as roughly one hour, Captain.”
“Good. I want all department heads to prepare their list of critical supply requirements and have them on my desk in thirty minutes. I’ll be –”
“– in your ready room,” Tom heard Chakotay mutter; the first words he’d spoken since Alpha shift began.
He hardly dared to look, knowing the captain’s responding glare could just as easily turn on him, but at her frigid reply – “Yes, and please accompany me, Commander, if you’d be so kind” – Paris couldn’t help it. He turned.
Janeway’s eyes were more grey than blue, the ice in her stare more than a match for the corresponding heat in the first officer’s scowl. “Aye, Captain,” Chakotay drawled, unfolding himself from his chair with a deliberate lack of haste.
Oh, to be a fly on that wall, Paris mused as the command team disappeared into the ready room.
“Something you want to say to me, Commander?”
He ignored the warning in her tone, exaggerated politeness in his reply. “Is there something you’d like me to say, Captain?”
Chakotay could hear her grinding her teeth from the other side of her desk.
“Your attitude,” Janeway grated out, “has bordered on insubordinate for weeks now. If you have a problem with me personally, I’d appreciate it if you’d refrain from letting it bleed over into –”
“If I have a problem with you?” he interrupted with heavy sarcasm hiding – he hoped – the bitter, scalding fury he was unable to force down. “Now, why on earth would you think that, Kathryn?”
“Captain,” she snapped back. “This is a chain of command issue, and you’ll address me appropriately.”
“Of course, Captain. God forbid we get personal –”
“Enough,” she hissed, planting her hands on her desk as she leaned in closer, eyes narrowing. “Hate me all you want, but from now on you’ll check your attitude before you step onto that bridge. This has to stop, Chakotay.”
“I’ve heard that before,” he shot back instantly, mirroring her stance from the opposite side of her desk, his face mere inches from hers. “And yet, despite all your protests, you keep coming back.”
She flinched visibly, colour draining from her face. But before Chakotay could allow the sour fury roiling in his gut to turn to shame, Kathryn’s eyes had hardened. She straightened.
“Thank you for proving my point, Commander,” she said in a voice like flint. “My order stands. Readjust your attitude or I will relieve you of duty.” She turned away and added over her shoulder, “Dismissed.”
“Excuse me?” she turned back to face him.
Chakotay’s hands were low on his hips. “We need to talk.”
“This is not the time –”
“About the Fen Domar,” he cut her off. “Specifically, about Inheritor Alkin.”
Janeway pressed her lips together. “All right. Go ahead.”
“I don’t like the way he looked at you.”
“I beg your pardon.” The warning was unmistakable.
Chakotay ignored it. “Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. He looked like he wanted to f-”
“Commander.” Her tone was low and dangerous.
For a moment he looked as if he’d refuse to heed it, but then he sighed and let his hands fall to his sides. “I don’t like him.”
She, too, allowed her stance to relax a little, her voice to lose its sharp edge. “He’s just a jumped-up bully in a big starship, Chakotay. I can handle him.”
He met her gaze. “He reminds me of Kashyk.”
“Then I’ll handle him the same way.”
Chakotay’s eyes darkened again. “Meaning?”
Kathryn was already regretting it. “Never mind. Let’s just get through this. Now,” she straightened, chin rising, “can I count on you?”
“You’re the captain,” he replied evenly. “Permission to return to the bridge?”
“Dismissed,” she said tightly.
It was no wonder that after every conversation with her first officer these days, she ended up with a headache.
Kathryn ordered Chakotay to take the bridge while Tuvok and Ayala escorted the visiting Fen Domar to the conference room.
She’d considered including him in the meeting. Not so long ago, she’d have insisted he be there; her first officer’s observations often gave her insights into alien dignitaries that she might have otherwise missed. Now, though...
He was just too unpredictable.
How did we come to this? she wondered, only half-rhetorically, as she paced the briefing room, waiting for Alkin’s arrival. The Borg, the Void, Ransom, Teero … They’d weathered those storms and many others, and maybe they’d lost pieces of themselves along the way, but now?
She shook her head at her own delusion. You know exactly how it came to this.
Tuvok ushered three Fen Domar into the conference room and indicated their seats, taking his own beside Janeway. Ayala took up position at the doors.
“Inheritor Alkin.” Janeway gave him her professional smile. “Welcome to Voyager.”
“Captain Janeway.” The alien arranged himself in his chair, smiling widely. “Allow me to explain what will happen next. You have trespassed on sovereign territory. As the military arm of the Fen Ascendancy, the Fen Domar are tasked with protecting its borders. And as their Supreme Commander, I allow my officers wide-ranging latitude in how they choose to effect that protection. You’re fortunate, Captain, that my ship is the first that has deigned to answer your hails.”
“Oh?” Janeway had gone still as the alien began speaking, her spine straightening as he continued. “How so?”
“My officers tend to be particularly … enthusiastic in employing the powers I’ve granted them. Some prefer to shoot first and ask questions later, if ever – they do get so little target practice, you know. People tend to avoid our territory if at all possible.”
“Target practice,” Janeway repeated flatly. “Yes, we’ve already had the pleasure.”
“Others, however, prefer more personal methods. It does get rather boring out here in space sometimes, Captain, as I’m sure you know. Men do need their … entertainments.”
She had a strong feeling she really wasn’t going to enjoy hearing Alkin elaborate.
“Many Fen are intrigued by the differences between us and alien races. Some like to study those differences up close. Peeling off an alien’s skin using a taga, for example,” – he gestured to a small, ceremonial-looking knife at his belt – “is a favoured way of finding out what’s inside.”
Janeway suppressed her shudder with an effort.
“Added to that,” Alkin leaned forward, looking her in the eye, “the military life can be a lonely one, Captain, and my men are not permitted to bring their women on board our ships. Enjoying the delights that alien women offer is not condoned by the Ascendant, but I prefer to allow my men latitude in this, as in other pursuits.”
“If you’re suggesting that I or any of the women on my crew would allow that –”
“Oh, Captain,” Alkin laughed, leaning back again. “I wasn’t threatening you. Not at all.”
“However, if I was,” he grinned, “there’s really very little you could do about it. As you can see, my ship is considerably larger and better-armed than yours, and I have no doubt my men and I could overpower your guards with little trouble.”
Ayala took a single step forward from the doorway. Janeway held up a hand in warning.
“No, Captain, this is simply a friendly word of advice. You won’t find many Fen Domar officers willing to be as accommodating as I am. But then, as heir to the Ascendant, I am rather unique.” He leaned back in his chair. “As I mentioned, I’m curious – about your ship, and about your crew. Provide me with access to your ship’s database, specifications of your engines and weapons, information on your unique technology, and I’ll allow you to travel through our space unmolested.”
“I’d be happy to share our cultural and astrometric databases with you, Inheritor. But the rest won’t be possible. We follow a prime directive that forbids us from sharing technology with unallied species.”
“What I’m proposing is a form of alliance,” Alkin countered. “However, I understand your tendency toward caution, Captain. I’ll accept your offer until we come to trust each other better. You may travel through Fen space, as long as you follow a simple directive of my own.”
The captain lifted her chin. “And that would be ..?”
“My navigator will plot a course through Fen territory and transmit it to your pilot. Follow this course and do not deviate from it for any reason, and I will offer your ship my personal protection.”
“That’s a generous offer.” She studied him. “However, my ship and crew are in need of supplies. I was hoping we could discuss a trade.”
“A trade,” Alkin grinned. “How delightful. Yes, by all means. I can supply your ship with edibles and whatever other substances you need.”
“Thank you. We have a number of rare minerals on board that you may find useful, and the ability to synthesise hundreds of others.”
“Oh, I don’t require minerals, Captain.” Alkin rose slowly from his seat and moved around the table, leaning a hip against its edge.
Ayala took two steps forward.
“Stand down, Lieutenant,” Janeway warned. She turned her attention back to Alkin, her head tilted back to meet his eyes as he leaned in close. “What is it that you want, Inheritor?”
“Just a little companionship, Captain.” Alkin’s black eyes were turning a smoky grey colour as he swept his gaze over her. “My men aren’t the only ones who get lonely in space. And I’m sure you and I would have a wonderful time getting to know each other better.”
She’d barely opened her mouth to offer a scathing reply when her words – and Alkin’s breath – were abruptly cut off by the lightning-fast motion of a Vulcan hand clenching around the Fen’s broad neck.
“Do not speak to Captain Janeway in that way.” Tuvok’s voice was thick with – anger? Janeway looked to him quickly. The Vulcan’s usually composed features were twisted.
Alkin’s men had jumped to their feet, hands on their knives. Ayala had his phaser drawn.
“Commander Tuvok,” Janeway hissed. “Stand. Down.”
Slowly, Tuvok’s hand uncurled from Alkin’s throat, the Vulcan clearly struggling to regain his control. The alien inhaled deeply and turned now-black eyes on Janeway.
“I should kill you where you stand for that,” he said calmly.
Janeway stared back at him. “Need I remind you, Inheritor, that you’re on my ship?”
He straightened, smile back in place. “I look forward to seeing you again, Captain. In the meantime, you have a long journey through the Ascendancy, and my protection would be of great value to you. Reconsider my offer.”
He jerked his head at his men and strode for the door, Ayala’s phaser still pointed at his back.
“I’m afraid Mr Tuvok’s neurological condition has deteriorated far more rapidly than my simulations predicted.” The Doctor’s holographic face was grave. “He will continue to exhibit more and more volatile behaviour, with full loss of emotional control expected within the year.”
“I see.” Kathryn stared at the Doctor’s console, where Tuvok’s brain scan was riddled with red dots showing the increasing disintegration of his neural pathways. “What about your nanoprobe treatment? You haven’t had any success?”
“The nanoprobe therapy can help strengthen the physical pathways and reduce the pain he’s suffering, but there’s nothing I can do to slow Tuvok’s emotional degradation, Captain.” The EMH’s voice was gentle. “I’m very sorry.”
“So am I.” Janeway rose. “Thank you, Doctor. I know you’re doing everything you can.”
By sheer force of will, she managed to hold it together until she was alone in the turbolift.
“Halt ‘lift,” she managed to gasp as she bent over, fighting for air. Her lungs seemed to have tightened into clenched fists, and as she struggled to breathe she dropped to hands and knees, harsh sobs tearing out of her chest. In some rational part of her brain she knew her eyes were dry, but that was scant comfort.
It took several minutes, but she managed to wrestle back her control. Curling up on the floor of the ‘lift, she waited until the shaking in her arms and legs had diminished to a fine tremor, and then she hauled herself upright.
By the time she stepped out on the bridge, the captain’s mask was firmly back in place.
“This is the course the Fen Domar want us to follow.” Janeway turned her monitor so Chakotay could see it. “It looks as though their territory spans about three sectors. At warp six – which is the highest speed we can afford to sustain – it’ll take us almost two months to travel through it.”
“Any indication of supply opportunities along this path?”
“None so far.”
Chakotay leaned back in his chair. “Given our dwindling energy stores, I don’t see that we have any choice but to cut back to two meals a day until we can resupply.”
Janeway said nothing.
She got up and moved to the upper level of her ready room, staring out at the stars. “Inheritor Alkin offered us a trade for the supplies we need.”
“So I heard.” Chakotay followed, standing by her left shoulder. “His price is too high.”
“Is it?” she asked quietly.
Chakotay moved in front of her, forcing her to face him. “I can’t believe you’d even say that.”
She stared at him. “Can’t you? We’re talking about the survival of our crew, Chakotay.”
“No, we’re talking about their comfort. We can easily survive on two meals per day. We’ll all just have to tighten our belts a little.”
“And then what?” she asked without heat. “When we still can’t find food or energy sources in a month, do we reduce to one meal a day?”
“Some things are more important than survival, Kathryn.”
She smiled faintly. “I appreciate your concern, Chakotay, but it’s misplaced. Alkin doesn’t frighten me.”
“It’s not about that.” Chakotay took her upper arms in his hands, holding her gently. “This is about you. I won’t let you sacrifice yourself in this way.”
“I don’t see how you can stop me,” she replied, but the challenge was absent from her voice.
“I don’t suppose I can.” His thumbs stroked her shoulders, eyes locked on hers. “So I’m asking you. Please don’t do this, Kathryn. We’ll find another way.”
She read the emotions in his eyes and nodded. “All right. Two meals a day. For now.”
She reached up a hand to his face, fingers lightly tracing his tattoo, and he leaned into her touch.
“Thank you,” he said quietly.
Kathryn let her hand drop and stepped back. “I guess we’d better inform our crew.”
Stardate 57942.3 – December 10, 2380
“You are late.”
Chakotay tossed his jacket over a chair. “Sorry, Seven. The captain and I were going over tactical protocols.” He dropped onto the couch with a sigh, rubbing a hand over his face. “With Tuvok on light duties and Ayala still coming up to speed as his eventual replacement, the captain wants to make sure we’re familiar with all the details.”
Seven swivelled from her seat at their dining table and he noticed for the first time that she’d discarded her uniform as well. She was wearing a red knit dress that hugged every impressive curve, and her hair was down and loosely curled. Chakotay’s gaze wandered to the table. It was set with fine china and a single small candle burned in its centre.
“Did I forget a special occasion?” he asked warily.
“No.” Seven stood, smoothing her skirt. “I asked Crewman Chell to have our meal sent down from the mess hall. I wanted to discuss something with you in a more conducive setting.”
“Conducive to what?” Chakotay straightened.
“To the topic of our discussion.” Seven came over and sat beside him, reaching for his hand. “Chakotay, do you want children?”
He’d jerked his hand out of her grasp before he could stop himself.
“I see,” she said quietly.
“Seven –” He watched as her big blue eyes filled with tears and her lips quivered. “Shit. I’m sorry. You just caught me by surprise.”
He made himself reach out and take her hands again.
“Your answer?” she asked in a strangled voice.
“It’s a big decision,” he hedged. “And right now – Seven, the ship is under rationing. It’s not a good time to be thinking about bringing a child into the world. Especially as yours would be a high-risk pregnancy.”
She stared at him with eyes that still held the remnants of tears. “And after we’ve escaped Fen space?”
“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.”
“Do you want children or not, Chakotay?” she demanded.
“Yes,” he snapped back, “I always have. I do.”
“But not with me.”
He went still. “What?”
“If she were asking this question right now, what would your answer be?”
Chakotay swallowed. “She – who? What are you talking about?”
Seven pulled her hands away. “The captain.”
“Seven, I don’t know what you’re –”
“You reek of her,” she said flatly.
He felt sick. “We were working in close quarters. Seven, there’s nothing –”
“Stop lying.” Her voice was choked. “I know. I’ve always known.”
Chakotay could hardly speak. “I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you.”
“But you did.” She stood, watching him. “You have to choose.”