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 58012.6 – January 5, 2381
There was no other word for it, Ayala thought: this planet was ugly.
Of course, he was with Seven’s team, the one tasked with mining the dilithium vein they’d detected. Wildman’s team – the one looking for edible food sources – had been transported half a continent away where the vegetation was lush and the climate temperate.
Not like this dustbowl. Ayala pulled out a protective fabric strip from his pack and tied it over his mouth and nose; it had an inbuilt filter that would protect his airways from the worst of the fine, sandy red silicate whipping around his feet. He wore clear goggles over his eyes, and instead of the regular uniform, his team was decked out in utility gear.
Shouldering his pack again, he adjusted his grip on his phaser rifle and fell into step behind Crewman Sofin.
“Ensign Seven to Voyager,” he heard. “We have arrived at the coordinates and will commence scanning for the optimum access point to the dilithium deposits. I will report again at 1421 hours. Seven out.”
Funny how Seven had become such a stickler for Starfleet mission protocols ever since Janeway commissioned her, Ayala mused. Then again, he supposed, it was in her nature to adapt.
And they’d all be following protocol on this mission, as risky as it was.
Inheritor Alkin’s ship had hailed them when Voyager was still two hours out from the planet. Ayala had been stationed at Tactical when the call came in.
~You’ve deviated from your prescribed course, Captain Janeway,~ Alkin noted.
“We need supplies,” was Janeway’s abrupt answer.
~Supplies I offered you,~ Alkin shot back.
Janeway shrugged. “As my first officer would say, your price was too high.”
Alkin’s dark gaze had shifted from the captain to Chakotay. ~Interesting,~ he murmured, smiling. ~Nonetheless, Captain, my warning stands. Return to your previous course and heading or endure the consequences.~
Janeway ordered Harry to close the channel without responding. “How far away are they?” she demanded.
“Four hours from our position,” Harry replied.
“Good. That should give us enough time to get what we need and be on our way.”
“And when the Fen catch up with us?” Chakotay interjected. Ayala could tell he was deliberately keeping his voice even.
“Then we do what we can to avoid the consequences. I want all department heads to convene in the briefing room in one hour with full systems status reports. We’ll work on contingencies then.”
By the time Voyager reached the nameless planet, Alkin’s ship had made up some time and was only three hours behind them. The away teams would need to work fast.
Ayala glanced up as the Drake, the shuttle Chakotay was piloting, made a low pass overhead.
Seven’s commbadge chirped and she pressed it to open the channel. “Go ahead, Commander.”
~I’ve detected a rocky formation ninety kilometres west of your position that contains diamagnetic ore deposits,~ Chakotay’s tone was brisk and professional. ~I’m heading over to see if I can beam some of it out, and I’ll return within the hour to confirm your status.~
~See you soon. Chakotay out.~
“Crewman Sofin,” Seven called. “Insert the laser cutter into this rock cavity. Crewman Gilmore, set up the transport enhancers and prepare to beam the crystals to Voyager as soon as we have completed extraction.”
“Aye, sir,” Ayala heard them chorus. He watched the engineers for a moment as they worked with calm efficiency, then turned his attention to scanning the horizon, just in case they had any early visitors.
Seven of Nine had informed her husband, a few nights before the away mission, that she intended to seek advice from the Doctor on neutralising the remaining Borg nanoprobes that could affect her ability to reproduce. She also suggested Chakotay have his sperm count and motility assessed, given that he was “no longer of optimum age to promote conception”, as she’d put it.
Sometimes, Chakotay thought as he swung the Drake in a wide arc over the barren landscape, there’s just a little too much Borg left in the girl.
He knew, intellectually, that reverting to Collective-speak was Seven’s way of obscuring her uncertainty. Most times he was inclined to be charitable about it. But his tolerance for her peculiarities had been low of late.
His tolerance for many things had been low of late.
His uneasy conscience, however, prevented him from resisting the plans Seven was making for them, no matter how they secretly alarmed him. So he’d told her he’d make an appointment with the Doctor; what could it hurt to find out if he was fertile? It wasn’t as though he planned to do anything about it. Not now.
Then she’d told him she wanted them to leave Voyager.
“No,” he said flatly. “I can’t leave. I have a duty to this crew, and with Tuvok’s condition degenerating –”
“Lieutenant Ayala is well able to fulfil the position of tactical officer. And there are a number of crew who could step into your role.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” he muttered. “I’m not sure Kathr- the captain would agree with you.”
“She will adapt.”
He sent her a pained look. “Seven, if this is about –”
“It is,” she broke in.
“Chakotay…” She’d shifted closer, taking his hands, and he’d seen the glimmer of tears in her eyes. “Do you love me?”
He’d hesitated a fraction too long, and the tears spilled over.
“Seven –” Damn it. “I married you, not her.”
“Then leave with me.”
Leave, he thought. Leave the ship that had become his home, the crew who’d become his family, B’Elanna, Miral, Naomi.
Leave Kathryn. Who’d left him, over and over again.
“All right,” he’d said quietly. “All right. But let me break it to her.”
“Do it soon, or I will,” Seven had answered, and then she’d stood, leading him into their bedroom, and as he went through the motions of making love to his wife, Chakotay had closed his eyes and told himself he wasn’t thinking of anyone else.
Chakotay glided the shuttle to a smooth landing and gathered up tricorder and transport enhancers. “Chakotay to Voyager,” he hailed. “I’ve located the diamagnetic ore and will begin transport shortly.”
~Acknowledged,~ the captain replied. ~Be advised that Inheritor Alkin’s ship has increased speed and will now reach our position in a little over two hours. Work quickly, Commander.~
“Understood,” he answered grimly, and set to work.
~Wildman to Voyager. We’ve collected six barrels of edible roots and leafy vegetation and are ready to beam them up. Crewman Chell and Ensign Celes have detected a herd of animals two kilometres west of our position and are making their way there. They claim they both have hunting experience and Chell believes he’ll be able to preserve whatever, uh, meat they manage to obtain.~
Janeway could hear the discomfort in Wildman’s voice. “Acknowledged, Ensign. I understand many of us would prefer not to hunt, but this is no time to be squeamish. As soon as you’ve completed transporting the barrels I want you and Andrews to join the rest of your team.”
“Voyager out.” The captain eased back in her chair. “Mr Kim, position of the Fen Domar ship?”
“Point seven light years away, ma’am. They’ll reach the planet in ninety minutes at current speed.”
“Damn it,” she muttered. “Advise all away teams to hurry it up, Harry. Tuvok, I want all weapons ready, just in case we have to fight our way out of here. B’Elanna,” she turned to the engineering station on the bridge, “please tell me you’ve figured out how to stabilise that ablative armour?”
The engineer sent her an apologetic look. “I can get it online, but with our power reserves at critical I can’t guarantee it won’t destabilise, Captain.”
“All right. Just do the best you can. Tuvok, be ready to reactivate shields in case the armour fails. Go to yellow alert.”
“Aye, Captain,” he replied.
Janeway tapped her fingers on the arm of her chair and settled in to endure her least favourite pastime: waiting.
“That’s it, Ensign. The vein is tapped out.” Brian Sofin switched off his laser drill. “Should Marla and I move onto the next site or wait while this lot gets beamed up?”
“Remain here,” Seven answered. “We will need Voyager to transport us to the next viable mining site.”
They watched as the pile of dilithium crystals dematerialised.
“Seven to Commander Chakotay.”
“We are relocating to the secondary mining site, Commander. Lieutenant Kim advises that the Fen Domar vessel has increased to warp eight point two and will now reach our position in thirty-eight minutes.”
~Understood. I’m almost finished here. Meet you at the next site. Chakotay out.~
Sofin and Ayala shouldered the heaviest of the extraction equipment, and at Seven’s order the team dematerialised.
“Inheritor Alkin’s ship will be in weapons range in less than fifteen minutes, Captain.”
Janeway rose from her chair as the viewscreen came on. “Inheritor,” she greeted, her voice neutral.
~Captain. Such a pleasure to see you again. Although it disappoints me that you’ve seen fit to ignore my directive.~
“As I explained when we last spoke, Inheritor, we’re in need of food and minerals. This planet offered our only chance to obtain them. We had no choice.”
~Not your only chance,~ Alkin smiled. ~And I made your choice perfectly clear.~
Before she could reply, the viewscreen went blank.
Janeway turned to Kim. “Status of the away teams?”
“Alpha team has almost completed extraction of the dilithium at the second site. Commander Chakotay’s shuttle is currently surveying a possible source of cormaline approximately fifty kilometres from Alpha team’s position. Beta team reports a good hunt and will be ready to beam back in ten minutes. Ensign Jenkins has landed the Sacajawea and is helping Beta team load their cargo onto it.” He looked up from his console. “Lieutenant Nicoletti reports that several dilithium crystals were pure enough to be integrated directly into the warp core and the rest are undergoing decontamination. The commander’s diamagnetic ore has been converted for use in the energy systems. Our power status is back up to sixty-six percent, and we should be able to sustain warp nine point two.”
Janeway’s shoulders lost a little of their rigidity. “As soon as Beta team loads their cargo I want them and the Sacajawea back on board. Advise Commander Chakotay to proceed to Alpha team’s position immediately.”
“And now we wait,” she said under her breath, fingers tapping on the arm of her chair.
The goddamned thrusters weren’t responding. Muttering to himself, Chakotay tried cycling power through the aft relays. No effect.
~Seven of Nine to Chakotay.~
“Go ahead,” he answered absently.
~Where are you?~
“Stuck on the surface. Can’t get the thruster assembly online.”
~Commander, you must report to our position. The Fen Domar ship is five minutes from weapons range.~
“Believe me, Seven, I’m trying,” he clipped out. “Don’t wait for me. Get back to Voyager.”
~Understood. Crystal extraction is almost complete.~
“Good work.” Chakotay crouched, ripping open an EPS conduit cover beneath the helm. “I’m going to give this another try. If it doesn’t work I’ll call for a beam-out. See you back on the ship.”
~Acknowledged.~ The comm crackled slightly as Seven closed the channel, and, swearing quietly, Chakotay bent to the helm panel again.
“Captain,” Tuvok’s voice was grave, “Inheritor Alkin’s vessel is within range.”
“Hail them, Harry.”
“They’re not resp-” Kim broke off. “Captain, they’ve altered course. They’re heading directly for the planet.”
“Pursuit course, Tom,” Janeway snapped, standing. “Tuvok, weapons status?”
“Standard torpedoes are loaded and ready. Phasers are online and at eighty percent.”
“B’Elanna, give me good news.”
“I’m bringing the armour online now, Captain. With the power increase it should hold stable.”
“Let’s hope so. Get those teams up here –” Before she could finish her sentence, Voyager lurched, and Janeway fell to her knees. “Report!”
“Alkin’s ship fired on us,” Harry tripped over his own words. “Transporters and phasers are offline.”
Janeway swore under her breath. “Hail the shuttle pilots. Tell them to get everyone on board and return to Voyager immediately. Leave the supplies if they have to.”
“The Drake is still planetbound,” Harry answered. “Commander Chakotay reports a problem with the thruster assembly. Ensign Jenkins has Beta team aboard the Sacajawea and is lifting off the surface – Captain, the Fen Domar have fired on the Sacajawea! They’re going down …” He lifted his head. “They’ve made an emergency landing. Jenkins reports all on board are safe, no injuries. But the Fen Domar have transported troops to their position.”
“Alpha team?” The captain hurried to her seat.
“I’m reading eight Fen life signs at their location as well.”
She didn’t realise, until she’d had to uncurl her hands to work the centre console, that she’d been clenching her fists so tightly that her nails had drawn blood from her palms.
“Seal the doors,” Jenkins yelled over her shoulder as her hands flew across her dying console. “A dozen Fen Domar just beamed to the surface. Shields are down.”
Tal Celes was tapping frantically at the input panel by the rear hatch. “I’m erecting a forcefield around the entry point, but I don’t know how long it will hold.”
Lieutenant Andrews passed out phasers and phaser rifles. “Can you hail Voyager?” he demanded of Jenkins.
She shook her head. “Comms have gone down. I can’t tell if it’s a system failure or some kind of dampening field.” She turned to survey the rest of the team. “We’re on our own.”
“Not for long,” Andrews muttered, peering through the viewport. “Here they come.”
“Lower your weapons.”
Even as Seven’s strident demand rang out, Ayala knew it was pointless. The Fen had them outmanned and outgunned. They had nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide.
The tallest Fen soldier, the one Seven had addressed, didn’t bother to respond. With a jerk of his head he ordered his troops to surround the four Voyager crew. One soldier reached for Marla Gilmore, snagging her by the elbow and pulling her in close to his body, trapping her arms against her own chest.
Ayala didn’t like the look of that soldier’s grin.
For a moment he considered attacking. He calculated he could take out at least two of the Fen before he went down in a blaze of glory, but then what? His crewmates would still be outnumbered and he’d be too dead to help them. He met Seven’s eyes briefly, and at her slight nod, tossed his phaser to the ground before him.
“Wise decision,” the lead Fen grunted as Seven and Sofin followed suit.
“What are your intentions?” Seven asked.
The soldier smiled at her, white teeth bared. “Don’t worry, pretty one. You’ll find out soon enough.”
He tapped a small device strapped to his wrist, and Ayala braced himself as an unfamiliar transporter took hold.
“Start, you fucker,” Chakotay roared, slamming his hand on the console.
To his astonishment, the engines powered up. ~Thrusters are online,~ the computer informed him helpfully.
“About damn time,” he muttered. “Chakotay to Voyager.”
~Commander.~ The captain’s attenuated face appeared on the shuttle’s comm screen. ~What’s your status?~
“Engines are online. I’m heading for Alpha team’s position.”
~Don’t bother.~ Her eyes bore into him. ~They’ve been transported to Alkin’s ship. Get to Beta team’s position as soon as you can. The Sacajawea was shot down and sensors indicate they’re under fire.~
“Seven?” he demanded.
~Captured.~ Janeway’s throat worked momentarily. ~Along with Ayala, Sofin and Gilmore. Alkin fired on Voyager as well, and our transporters are offline.~
He heard an alarm behind her.
~Harry?~ she demanded.
~Incoming fire from the Fen Domar vessel, Captain. And the ground troops at Beta team’s position have cut through the shuttle hatch. They’re under attack.~
Janeway turned back to the screen. ~Get over there now, Commander.~
~It’s too late,~ Kim reported, sounding desolate. ~Lieutenant Andrews’ life signs have disappeared. The rest of Beta team has been beamed to Alkin’s ship.~
“What are they going to do to us?”
Tal Celes’ voice trembled, and Samantha Wildman reached for her hand, squeezing it gently. “I don’t know, Tal. But Captain Janeway will come for us. Don’t worry.”
Celes nodded, swallowing hard, just as the soldier behind her shunted the point of his weapon into her lower back. She bit back a whimper.
“Move,” the Fen ordered, and Celes quickened her pace along the cavernous hallways of the Fen Domar ship.
They were ushered into a vast hexagonal chamber ringed with dimly-lit computer consoles. Fen officers moved between the stations, voices kept low as they monitored screens and carried out orders. In the centre of the chamber was a broad dais that supported an ornately wrought command chair, and in the chair sat Inheritor Alkin.
Celes felt another shove in the small of her back and stumbled forward, barely keeping her feet as the Inheritor looked down on her from his throne. Beside her, Sam Wildman was knocked to her knees. Nina Jenkins, on her other side, bent to help her up.
“What do you want?” Wildman demanded as soon as Jenkins had steadied her.
Alkin ignored her, flipping a hand at a soldier behind them. Celes could hear Chell’s anxious protests and the scuffling of feet.
“Where are you taking my crewman?” Wildman asked quickly.
“Your crewman?” Alkin finally deigned to look at her. “You aren’t the captain, little one.”
Sam drew herself straight. “I’m in command of this team.”
“Are you?” Alkin smiled. “Well, in that case I’ll allow you to live the longest, so you can watch your crewmates die.”
As Tal’s wrists were grasped and roughly yanked behind her back, two soldiers dragging her from the room, she barely heard Wildman’s gasp over the roaring of blood in her own ears.
“There’s a blade in my boot,” Brian Sofin murmured to Ayala as they were marched from the transporter room and through the metal-walled corridors. “If you create a diversion I can get to it…”
Ayala gave a barely-perceptible shake of his head. “Too many of them. Wait.”
“For what?” Sofin muttered. “You saw the way that fucker was groping Marla.”
“Yeah, I saw.” Ayala closed his mouth and turned his head away.
“So what’s your plan –” Sofin’s argument was cut off by the impact of a Fen phaser rifle to the back of his head. Groaning, he dropped hard to his knees.
The soldier who’d clubbed him reached down to hook a hand under Sofin’s elbow. “Keep moving,” he snarled at Ayala, who’d crouched, ready to fight, “or your death will be slow and painful.”
Sofin was gasping, staggering, clearly concussed, but he managed to nod at Ayala’s questioning glance. “I’m okay.”
“Shut up,” the Fen said, almost absently, as they entered a large six-sided chamber. He shoved Sofin and Ayala to their knees. Ayala took rapid stock of the room, counting seventeen – no, eighteen – fully-armed Fen soldiers.
Another soldier pushed Gilmore and Seven toward the centre of the room. Ayala’s gaze followed them. Inheritor Alkin lounged on a raised central chair, and before him stood Wildman and Jenkins. Seven and Gilmore were nudged none-too-gently to stand beside them.
“Where are our missing crewmen?” he heard Seven demand.
“And it’s delightful to meet you, too,” Alkin smirked at her. “I’m told one of your people was killed on the planet’s surface. Your blue-skinned friend has been taken to the science lab, where my officers will be very interested to study him. And the little girl is there.”
Alkin waved a lazy hand toward the archway to his left. The eyes of the Voyager crew turned in that direction, and even the taciturn Ayala and the tightly-controlled Seven of Nine were unable to remain completely composed.
The two men who’d draped Ensign Tal Celes’ limp arms over their shoulders withdrew their support, and the Bajoran woman slumped to the deck. The fall was awkward and Ayala heard her wrist snap, but Celes barely even moaned. She was naked, her body scored with what he guessed were lashes from a whip. He saw freshly-darkening bruises on the pale skin of her hips and blood staining the insides of her thighs.
Her eyes rolled back in her head, dark and vacant, and he thought he saw two small, neat puncture wounds above her collarbone.
Sofin turned wide, panicked eyes to Ayala. “They’re never going to let us leave here alive.”
“What have you done to her?” Seven’s voice quavered.
“Not nearly enough.” Alkin turned his smile back toward her. “She doesn’t appear to take pain very well. My men are disappointed. I do hope you and your colleagues will prove to be more entertaining.”
Seven raised her chin. “You will find these others to be equally unsatisfactory. I, however, am Borg. Let them go. I will offer you sufficient challenge.”
The Inheritor’s lazy smile curled wider. “I look forward to it.”