Star Trek: Voyager - The Neverending Night

Brief Authors Note

The premise of this story is to combine the thematic and dramatic elements of the Star Trek: Voyager episodes Night (s05e01) and The Void (s07e15) respectively. This story takes place at the beginning of season five as if it were the season opener and replaced Night.

Prior knowledge of either of the aforementioned episodes is not necessary to read this story; nor is it necessary to have watched the first four seasons of Voyager. The only episode that the reader should watch before reading this story is the series opening episode The Caretaker (s01e01 & s01e02). As the events of The Caretaker are heavily referenced within. It is also recommended that the fourth season finale episode Hope and Fear (s04e26) be watched as well for additional context.

While it is not necessary to view the first four seasons of Voyager, key events that took place during those seasons are referenced within the story. As such, the reader should be aware that there will be spoilers of certain plot developments that occurred in the first four seasons of Voyager.

However, it is the author’s hope that reading this story will only enhance a new viewer’s experience, rather than diminish it. As such, if you are spoiler-averse, please do not let the knowledge that there are spoilers ahead prevent you from reading this story.

Thank you and please enjoy.

Chapter 1

“Citizens of Earth! Your destiny is now in my hands!”

The evil Dr. CHAOTICA let out a bellowing laugh as he traipsed back and forth through the room. Tall, slender, and sporting a dark black goatee, CHAOTICA was as cunning as he was cruel. He was dressed in a full black robe adorned with bright grey lightning bolts on the shoulders. He spoke into a metallic silver ball microphone which he held in one hand. In his other, he whipped the attached electrical cable to his side with a thunderous crack. He spoke in a slow menacing tone, callously inviting anyone foolish enough to interrupt him to do so.

“Those of you who acquiesce to my demands will be treated fairly.” He said with a raise of his eyebrow. “Oppose me, and you face a dire fate indeed. As you join my rank of slaves in the mines of Mercury!”

From the other side of the rocket control room, Buster Kincaid strained against ropes that bound him to his chair. Kincaid wondered how he had let CHAOTICA outmaneuver him yet again. In one fell swoop, CHAOTICA had infiltrated the rocket ship, seized its controls and was now threatening to fire its weapons on the innocent people of Earth.

Kincaid spared a look to his side to see how Constance Goodheart was fairing. She was also bound in the chair next to him, dressed in a revealing white dress which complimented her long blonde hair and fair complexion. She returned his look with one of desperation, but remained silent, waiting for Kincaid to act.

“You’ll never get away with this Chaotica.” Kincaid protested.

A smile crept across CHAOTICA’s face, amused by the helpless Kincaid. “Oh, but I shall.” He declared. “Your once proud country will fall to its knees.” He made a slight twirl as raised his hands up and gestured to the ceiling above. “How ironic, that I am using your rocket ship to lead my space force into battle!”

Kincaid searched around the room for a solution. In the corner of his eye, he spotted a figure rise up on the other side of the airlock window. Now it was Kincaid’s turn to crack a smile. “You’re wrong, Chaotica. Before you came on board, I turned the broadcaster to full volume. Everyone, from here to Pluto, has been listening in and knows exactly where we are.”

“What?!” CHAOTICA shouted. “NO!”

Suddenly, the airlock door snapped open with a hiss of rushing air and the man stepped inside. “The jig is up, your Majesty.” He proclaimed.

CHAOTICA instantly recognized his arch-nemesis. “Captain Proton.” He said derisively

The heroic Captain Proton stepped forward. He wore a brand new bomber jacket, khaki dress pants, a silver jetpack on his back with aviator goggles strapped to his forehead. He brandished a bronze tipped Earth standard-issue raygun which he leveled at CHAOTICA as he approached. “Spaceman First Class, Protector of Earth, Scourge of Intergalactic Evil.” He paused to bow his head slightly. “At your service.”

“But I saw you fall into the fiery mouth of that volcano!” CHAOTICA barked as he backed away slowly.

“Ha! It takes more than a little lava to stop Captain Proton.” Proton said as he moved over to Kincaid and Goodheart. He leaned down and untied the two of them before continuing. “Now, I want you to call off your invasion and give me back my rocket ship.”

CHAOTICA seemingly on the backfoot, let out another conniving laugh. “Ah, but you forget, there is one force in this universe that not even you can defeat!”

A deep mechanical rumbling thundered from behind Kincaid. Then suddenly, the trap door to the control room swung open to reveal the Doctor.

“AHHHH!” Constance Goodheart shrieked at the top of her lungs at the sight of him.

“My thoughts exactly.” The Doctor retorted dryly as he stepped into the room.

“Doc?” Tom Paris said, now dropping the Captain Proton persona.

“Mr. Paris.” The Doctor started. “I should have known it was you monopolizing the holodeck.”

Harry Kim, now having been taken out of his role as Buster Kincaid, noted how out of place The Doctor looked here. The whole holodeck simulation, designed to replicate the pulp space television shows of the early twentieth century, had rendered all of its colors in monochrome greyscale. The Doctor, on the other hand, with his science division uniform and its unmistakably bright blue colored shoulders, stood out like a sore thumb.

“Who is this insolent fool?” CHAOTICA inquired, obviously expecting someone else.

Kim, being quick on his feet, had an idea. “He’s one of our men. Computer?” He said waiting for the customary bleep of acknowledgement from the Voyager main computer. “Adjust the EMH’s spectral frequency to the monochrome scale.”

With a quick shimmer, the holographic doctor phased out of and back into existence. However, this time the bright blue of his uniform and the fair skin on his face and bald head turned into various shades of grey, which now matched the rest of the room. “I have no interest in taking part in your fantasies of frivolity.” The Doctor protested. “I am here to rehearse a duet from Don Carlo and you’ve already gone three minutes into my scheduled-”

“Enough!” CHAOTICA exclaimed. “Robot, attack!”

From behind the Doctor, the Robot appeared. It was cylindrical in shape, a few inches taller than the Doctor himself. It had clamp shaped metal hands at the end of long scrunchy arms, box-like feet, a small black slit near where its face would be, and a control panel attached to its chest. It walked with a slow awkward gait, as if perpetually off balance.

“AHHH!” Goodheart shrieked again, as if on cue.

The Doctor rolled his eyes, having long since been fed up with the situation in which he now found himself. “Computer, freeze programme.” A beep of acknowledgement sounded above. Everything in the room except for the Doctor, Tom Paris and Harry Kim froze instantly in place.

“Doc, this is the final chapter.” Paris pleaded as he stepped up to the Doctor. “Satan’s Robot Conquers the World. We can’t just stop now.”

“Does the phrase ‘To Be Continued…’ mean anything to you?” The Doctor retorted.

“Your opera can wait. Computer?” Paris started.

“This programme is a waste of photonic energy. There is no value to spending your time here except to indulge in your immature flights of fancy” The Doctor interrupted before Paris could finish.

“Oh really? There is plenty of value to this. Take a look around you.” Paris implored, gesturing to the simulated room and characters around him. “No advanced computers. No transporters. No warp drive. The value is in how the people of twentieth century Earth saw the future. We are deep in our study of historical sociology.”

Kim winced at Paris’ argument. Even he had to admit that what Paris was saying was a bit of a stretch.

“Well then, perhaps your efforts would be better spent outlining a new course for Starfleet Academy. Satan’s Robot: An Historical Overview” The Doctor said without skipping a beat. “But for now, your time is up. Computer, end programme.” The Doctor declared.

The rocket ship control room, the Robot, Constance Goodheart and CHAOTICA all shimmered out of existence. What was left were the drab, utilitarian walls filled with cables and holoprojectors which demarcated the edges of the hologrid.

“You can’t just waltz in here and shut down someone else’s programme while they’re still running it.” Paris protested. “Computer, resume programme.”

Once again the room around the trio shimmered, but this time the holodeck walls were replaced by the rocket ship and all the characters of the programme, just where they had left off.

“Again, your time is up.” The Doctor stated. “Computer, end programme.” The room began to shimmer.

“Computer, resume programme.” The room began to shimmer again.

The two continued back and forth for a few moments, dematerializing and rematerializing the programme. Kim tried to interrupt, but before he could, there was a loud pop in one of the hologrid control panels, followed by some smoke and finally the entire room lost power, leaving the three standing in darkness.

Kim breathed a sigh. “Well I hope the two of you are happy.”

On the overhead PA system, a voice rang throughout the holodeck. “Bridge to holodeck one.” Kim recognized it as Commander Chakotay’s voice. “What’s going on down there?”

“Oh, nothing Commander.” Kim responded. “Just a little power surge.”

On the bridge, Commander Chakotay analyzed the numbers and data that scrolled through on his display console next to his seat on the bridge. “Says here you just blew out the hologrid in holodeck one.” He said.

Kim’s voice replied over the intercom “Don’t worry, we’re fixing it now, sir.”

“Don’t take too long Harry. The last thing we need right now is a broken holodeck.” With that Chakotay closed the channel.

Under normal circumstances, a broken holodeck wouldn’t be cause for alarm, but Voyager was not under normal circumstances. Commander Chakotay surveyed the room around him. The bridge crew was sparse. The only stations that were manned right now were OPS and helm. Chakotay didn’t have to get up and look to know that the officers who manned them weren’t doing much. The bridge lighting had been dimmed down to conserve energy. The science and engineering stations were shut down and had been that way for some time now. After all, what was the point of monitoring sensors when they hadn’t encountered anything significant for weeks?

When Chakotay finished his impromptu survey, he realized that he had avoided looking at the viewscreen, for it made him too uncomfortable. He forced his eyes forward. The viewscreen was black, totally empty and devoid of feature. In any other circumstance, he would have wondered if it was simply off or malfunctioning, but he knew it wasn’t. Normally it was filled with dots of stars or the bright colorful swath of the occasional nebula. But now, it displayed nothing. As painful as it was to look at, there was one other sight on the bridge that pained him even more. For, while there was nothing he could do about the lack of stars, there was something he could do about the other issue, though he had been avoiding it for some time now.

From behind him, he could hear the characteristic hum of the turbolift slowing to a halt. After a moment, the doors opened with a swishing sound. Chakotay stood up and turned in time to see Seven of Nine step onto the bridge. As usual, she wore her blonde hair in a very formal bun. She never wore a starfleet uniform; rather she was dressed in a form fitting epidermal suit which today was colored dark brown. Having been freed from the Borg, the suit had helped her skin heal from the trauma of having her cybernetic implants removed. Though one piece of her ocular implant remained, which covered her left eyebrow.

Chakotay noted that she carried a small flat silver Personal Access Display Device with her. The PADD most likely contained her latest astrometric telemetry report. “Seven, I want good news.” He said. “That’s an order.”

Seven stepped around the railing that separated the aft end of the bridge from the fore. “I cannot comply. There is no good news to report.” She handed the PADD to Chakotay. “I have completed my astrometric survey of the surrounding region. There are no star systems within two hundred and fifty light years of our current position.”

Chakotay looked down at the PADD, which he was sure confirmed the report she just gave him. “Nothing?”

“Nothing.” Seven said coldly.

“What about the theta radiation? Have we detected the source yet?” Chakotay asked.

“Negative. Although the average radiative flux continues to increase along our current heading.”

“So we’re still moving toward the source?”

“Presumably. Although I cannot confirm that.” Seven’s answers had a tendency to be short and direct. Efficient, as she would put it, the overarching doctrine of Borg behavior.

“Are there any other ships out there?” Chakotay inquired further.

“Unknown. The increased levels of theta radiation are beginning to occlude our short range sensors. But so far, none have been detected.”

Chakotay shook his head in frustration. “Stranded, with no wind in our sails.” He said under his breath.

“Commander?” Seven asked, confused.

Chakotay took a step toward the viewscreen. “It feels like we’ve been becalmed in the middle of the ocean, with no wind to help us reach the shore.” He paused for a moment, then looked back at Seven. “Two months in this empty pocket of space and it feels like the crew is already at its limits. How are we supposed to last out here?”

“We will adapt.” Seven replied. Adaptation, the other hallmark of Borg behavior.

“That may be easy for the Borg to do, but not so easy for us.”

Feeling that she had nothing else to add, Seven merely asked. “Shall I inform the Captain of my findings?”

The Captain.

Chakotay finally looked down to the seat right beside his own. Empty, as it had been for weeks now. Normally, if the Captain was not on the bridge, she was in her ready room. But Chakotay knew she wasn’t there. Ever since they had entered this region of space, the Captain had been different, uneasy, troubled. Finally, she had sequestered herself in her quarters and never came back out. Chakotay had been meaning to talk to the Captain about her behavior, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. What could he possibly say to her? He had avoided the confrontation for as long as he could, but now he felt that he could not put it off any longer.

“No.” Chakotay said. “I’ll tell her.”

Chapter 2

First Officer’s Log, Stardate 52081.2: It’s been fifty three days since we were pulled into this region of space. We haven’t encountered any stars or planets at all in our time here, so we’ve been forced to ration supplies and fuel. All departments are operating on minimum energy levels. Crew morale continues to fall, even though we reactivated the holodecks. Our only course of action is to follow the trail of theta radiation and hope it leads to a way out of here.

“This won’t be much of a briefing.” Lieutenant Torres bemoaned. “There’s nothing new to report.”

Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres, half Klingon, half human, was Voyager’s chief engineer. A volatile combination, Chakotay had observed that Torres’ technical prowess was only matched by her explosive temper. As a senior officer, Chakotay expected Torress to keep a better lid on her emotions. Though, in this situation he couldn’t exactly blame her for venting.

“Humor me then.” Chakotay barbed.

“All right, let’s see.” Torres paused in a mock deep thought. “The warp core is running at peak efficiency. Just like last week, and the week before that.” She gestured over to Tom Paris who sat across the briefing room table from her. “Aside from Tom and Harry overloading the holodeck, my engineering staff is going stir crazy with nothing to do.”

“Hey.” Paris said defensively. “That wasn’t entirely my fault.”

The entire senior staff was gathered in the briefing room as they had done every week for the past two months. Usually, Captain Janeway would be the one to administrate the meetings, but Chakotay ran them in her absence.

“Thanks B’Elanna, let’s move on. Ensign Kim?” Chakotay said to the Ensign, who was the operations department head.

“Nada” Kim replied hastily.

“Care to elaborate?” Chakotay felt like he was pulling teeth.

“All systems are operating within normal parameters.” He reported.

“Alright, anything new on sensors?” Chakotay asked the room.

“Theta radiation levels continue to increase.” Tuvok replied.

Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, Voyager’s tactical officer and third in command was a full blooded Vulcan. Often the voice of reason in any conversation, Tuvok’s temperament was one of total rationality, a trait which his race was known for. Chakotay and Tuvok never exactly saw eye to eye. When Voyager was initially pulled into the Delta quadrant, Chakotay’s Maquis crew was joined with Janeway’s Starfleet crew. Most of the friction between the two crews and their respective philosophies had gone away in the years since. Still, Tuvok, who would have been second in command had Chakotay not assumed the position instead, never exactly got along with the Commander. Tuvok never showed his discomfort, nor any emotion for that matter, since Vulcans suppress their emotions. But interactions between him and Chakotay had never progressed past working professionalism.

“Is it hazardous?” Chakotay asked Tuvok.

“Not at the moment.” Tuvok replied flatly. “Shields are holding and radiation levels within the ship have not risen. However, the closer we get to the source of the radiation, the higher the drain on our power reserves will be.”

“Don’t even know what the Captain hopes to find out here.” Paris interjected.

“The source of the radiation.” Seven of Nine said.

“Right, but why? Aren’t you usually supposed to fly away from the deadly radiation?” Paris asked.

“He has a point.” Torres added. “The radiation isn’t a problem now, but there’s no telling when that may change. And if it does, we may not have the power left to compensate. The draw on our deuterium reserves is already putting a strain on the ship’s systems.”

“It’s the Captain’s orders.” Chakotay said.

“And where is she exactly?” Torres inquired.

“Holed up in her quarters like a vampire.” Tom jested.

“The Captain doesn’t have to explain herself or her orders to any of us.” Chakotay wanted to put a stop to this line of questioning before it got out of hand.

“We understand that Chakotay.” Torres said. “But you have to admit, it’s pretty odd.”

“I would like to add something on that note.” Neelix said from the far side of the table.

Neelix, a Talaxian, was Voyager’s chef and crew morale officer. His appearance was the most out of place in this group. The tuft of blonde hair atop his head looked almost like a cloud that perpetually floated above him. He had whiskers on the sides of his chin and ridges at the edges of his temples. While he could be strange at times, he was always the jolliest of the bunch. Neelix always took it upon himself to look for the silver lining in every cloud and tried his best to keep the crew spirits high.

“Crew morale is, well….” Neelix had trouble finishing his sentence, almost as if by saying what he was thinking, that in turn would make it come true.

“Deteriorating.” The Doctor finished the sentence for him. As the often bearer of bad news to patients, the Doctor had no trouble delivering it.

“Right.” Neelix continued. “As the crew morale officer I feel responsible for the sorry state of affairs that we’re in.”

“Come on, Neelix. We know it’s not your fault.” Harry Kim said reassuringly.

“But still, I feel at least partially responsible for fixing it.” Neelix continued. “I submitted a report on some things we could try, maybe add some variety to everyone’s daily routine. Rotating crew assignments, maybe add in some educational content. I myself wouldn’t mind squeezing in some tactical training.”

“I saw your report, it was a good list. We should start working to implement them.” Chakotay said, trying to be supportive.

“Yes, I think it would help. But, well, the Captain, she’s…” Neelix trailed off again. “People on this ship look up to her. They take comfort in talking to her, seeing her around. When she’s happy, the crew is happy. When she’s not, well…I just think that maybe she can come join the recreational activities once in a while. For the crew’s sake.”

The room went silent. Everyone looked at Chakotay, waiting for a response. But Chakotay didn’t have one to give. “The Captain decides when she does and does not do things. It’s her privilege. If she’s needed on the bridge, she will come. But until then if she wants to run the ship from her quarters, she can damn well do so, and that’s the end of it. Understood?”

“Yeah, sure.” Torres replied insincerely.

“Look.” Chakotay continued. “We’re all feeling the pressure, including me. But we have to make the best of it.”

“Maybe we’ve got the wrong attitude here. This could be a good change of pace.” Kim proposed. “Why don’t we think of this as a two month vacation instead?”

Torres was not impressed with Kim’s suggestion at all. “That’s a great idea, Harry. Why didn’t I think of that?” She said sarcastically.

“Well if that’s all we have, dismissed.” Chakotay said.

Everyone in the room stood up to leave.

“Gee Harry, a vacation. And I thought I was the optimist.” Paris joked as he followed the ensign out of the room.

Once the senior staff had left, Chakotay found himself alone. He stood at the head of the table, arms folded. Beneath his gaze was the PADD Seven had given to him earlier that day. It rested on the table motionless, as if taunting him. Chakotay took a moment to steel himself before he picked up the PADD and walked toward the turbolift.

He made his way down to the Captain’s quarters on deck three. Once outside the door he pressed the top button on the panel next to it, signaling the door chime and his request to enter. Nothing happened. Chakotay was used to the doors opening almost instantly. But now they remained closed, as if to ward off an unwanted presence. Finally, the doors parted with a swishing sound.

It was dark inside, so much so that Chakotay had to take a moment for his eyes to adjust. He took a step in. The Captain’s quarters had always been tidy, with the Captain herself preferring a neat and ordered living space. Though as he looked around the room, Chakotay saw that while most things were as they should be, others weren’t. He noted the pile of PADD’s that had accumulated on the Captain’s desk. He spotted the two, no three half empty cups of coffee that had not been recycled in the replicator. The outer top of the Captain’s uniform was sprawled haphazardly over the top of her chair. For a moment, it occurred to Chakotay that the state of her quarters reflected the current state of her mind. But he quickly buried the unsettling thought.

“Yes.” Said a lone voice feminine from the darkness.

“Captain?” Chakotay said back to the general vicinity of the voice.

In the dark, Chakotay could hear the subtle sound of fabric reforming as the Captain stood up from her chair. She was facing away from him, staring into the windows of her quarters, which showed the same formless black that the viewscreen had. “Commander?” The Captain simply replied.

Chakotay looked down at his PADD and held it up in the air toward her. “Seven’s latest astrometric survey.”

“Has she detected any planetary or stellar bodies?” Janeway asked.

“Nothing for two hundred and fifty lightyears in all directions. B’Elanna is worried about our deuterium reserves running low. I’ve ordered all departments to further reduce power consumption where they can.”

“What about the theta radiation? Has she located the source yet?”

Chakotay shook his head. “Not yet. The crew is concerned that if the radiation levels continue to rise, it will put more strain on our shields beyond what they can handle…” Chakotay left the end of the sentence open, expecting Janeway to finish it with her justification for her orders. “Shall we alter course?”

“No.” Janeway replied sharply. “The theta radiation is the only lead we have to go on for finding a way out of here. Maintain course.”

“Aye Captain.” Chakotay replied. He did not add anything further, instead preferring to let the silence hang for a moment.

“Was that all?” Janeway asked.

“Actually I’ve been thinking, I’ve been saving up my holodeck rations and I’ve got three full hours built up. Care to join me for a few rounds of Velocity? Might help to take your mind off things.” Chakotay knew his request sounded hollow and that Janeway would see right through it. But he hoped that she would take the invitation anyway.

“My mind is perfectly clear.”

Janeway’s rejection stung, but Chakotay wasn’t about to let the issue drop so easily. “And what if I told you that I’m not leaving until you join me?”

“Then I’d say ‘have a seat, it’ll be awhile’” Janeway’s quick wit reflected her sharp intelligence. Often a strength of her’s which had gotten Voyager out of many dangerous situations.

“Then I’ll be blunt.” Chakotay declared. “You’ve picked a bad time to decide to isolate yourself from the crew. This ship needs its Captain, especially now.”

Out of the darkness, Captain Janeway turned around and walked forward into the light, like a spectre emerging from the underworld. She was wearing the standard black uniform pants and blue-grey undershirt. The four golden rank pips on her collar, signifying her as Captain, shone in the light. She wore her chestnut brown hair in a bob which ended just below her chin. The color of her hair and fair, delicate facial features were owed to her Irish heritage. Chakotay couldn’t help but note that the Captain’s hair, while usually smooth and neat, was now somewhat frizzy and unkempt.

“Would you be satisfied if I said that I’m just catching up on some reading?” She asked.

“Can’t say I would be.” Chakotay replied.

Janeway smiled at that, then she turned away to look out the windows of her quarters. “This region of space, what do the crew call it?”

“The Void.” He stated.

“The…Void.” Janeway elongated the pronunciation as if to absorb its full meaning. “Charming name.” She paused for a moment to consider her next words. “I’m going to pass on that game Commander. As for shipboard morale, I leave that in your capable hands. If anyone asks for me, tell them the Captain sends her regards.”

“Kathryn.” Chakotay pleaded.

“That will be all Commander.”

Chakotay weighed his decision to press the issue further, but in the end he decided against it. He set the PADD he was holding down on Janeway’s desk and left the room.

Janeway found herself alone once again, staring into the empty darkness. She sat down at her desk and began to lose herself in thought, pondering about the decisions that she had made over the past four years. At her heart, Janeway was a scientist. Her natural demeanor was analytical, calculating, and observant. When she was promoted into command positions, it had forced her to grow in other directions. Her slow calculating nature had become quick and decisive. Her ability to break down problems to their core had been transformed into a keen tactical prowess which she relied upon to outwit her enemies. All the while she had cultivated the part of herself which allowed her to show affection and empathy toward her crew, a necessary ability in being the leader of a community. Oftentimes these traits worked in tandem with each other. But sometimes, they came into conflict.

The one decision she made at the start of Voyager’s journey, which had come to define her captaincy, was the one that continued to plague her with a pain that cut right through her very soul. Thus far, Janeway had been able to avoid reflecting upon that decision. The Borg, the Vidian, the Kazon. Enemies that Voyager had encountered had ended up occupying so much of her mind that she had little time to dwell on anything else. Even the more mundane minutiae such as spatial anomalies or interstellar gas clouds was enough to distance herself from her thoughts. But not here, not in this emptiness in which Voyager now found itself.

Over the past four years she had made countless decisions, some in an instant, others after taking the time to contemplate. But she wasn’t the type of person to reopen old wounds. She saw no point in the practice. The past was the past, and there wasn’t anything she could do about it. So why bother agonizing over what’s already been done? Yet, just as Voyager was incapable of escaping the Void, neither was Janway able to escape what she had done four years ago during Voyager’s first true encounter with an alien life form: The Caretaker.

A powerful alien entity, the Caretaker had snatched up her ship and crew and stranded them seventy thousand lightyears away from home. At the time, the Caretaker was dying and he thought that the crew of Voyager could assist him in protecting the Ocampa, another alien race over which he had taken stewardship. Ultimately, his plan had failed. The Caretaker had died and in order to protect the Ocampa, Janeway had been forced to destroy the Caretaker’s array at the expense of eliminating any possibility of returning home.

Janeway did not begrudge the Caretaker for his intentions, although she disagreed with his methods. In the end, all alien civilizations had their own viewpoint on living in a universe which cared little for them in return. The Vidians stole organs, the Borg enslaved consciousness, the Kazon pilfered technology. All races simply adapted to their circumstances. Just as the Caretaker had. Just as Voyager had.

Janeway was certain that she had made the morally correct decision. Starfleet officers put the needs of others ahead of their own. As captain, it was her duty to uphold the principles and values embodied by Starfleet and she stood by those principles time and time again. But she couldn’t help but wonder about all the lives they had left behind. Would Harry Kim, still an ensign, have been a bright and aspiring lieutenant by now? Would Tom Paris have reunited and reconciled with his father? What of the Maquis crew? Chakotay and B’Elanna, what would they be doing?

They had all put their lives on hold because of her, and that was what bothered her the most. The fact that Janeway had made the decision for the crew, and never gave them a choice about it. To choose protecting the Ocampa over returning home. She had made a selfish decision and the crew paid the price for it.

I’m no different than the Caretaker.

Captain Janeway, master of this vessel, was confident, bold, cunning and decisive. Kathryn Janeway, guardian of her crew, was kind, caring, empathetic and compassionate. Captain Janeway commanded her ship and executed her duties in the best keepings of Starfleet tradition. Kathryn Janeway cared deeply for the expression of life and prosperity of her crew; she put their needs ahead of her own. Often, Captain Janeway and Kathryn Janeway were one and the same. But four years ago, Captain Janeway had made a decision and she couldn’t help but wonder, should it have been Kathryn Janeway who had made it instead?

Chapter 3

Lieutenant Commander Tuvok stood at attention as the turbolift ushered him to his destination. The turboshaft motors, which guided the compartment along tubes that ran throughout the ship, made an oscillating hum as they applied their non-mechanical force. At times, Tuvok found the hum, along with the flashing light patterns on the walls which came and went with every deck, distracting. But recently, he found them calming. It comforted him to know that after all this time in the Delta Quadrant and in the harshest of circumstances, Voyager still performed even its most basic operations diligently.

The turbolift doors parted and Tuvok heard an unfamiliar sound: music. Was the sound coming from the computers? No. Tuvok’s highly attuned Vulcan sense of hearing could detect the subtle differences between the audio system and a real life instrument. This was the latter. Tuvok stepped out onto the bridge, and the music stopped. Ensign Kim stepped up from the Captain’s chair in the center of the room and turned around to see Tuvok. Aside from the Ensign, there was no one else on the bridge. Kim, always eager to accrue time spent in a command position, had volunteered to run the night shifts. Evidently, he was the only one on duty at the moment.

“Commander, is there something wrong?” Ensign Kim asked hurriedly.

“Relax, Ensign. I was merely attempting to clear my thoughts by checking Voyager’s status.” Tuvok assuaged.

“Oh. Well, there’s nothing new up here to report.” Kim paused for a moment. “I thought you normally meditated to clear your mind.”

“I do.” Tuvok agreed. “However, I have been finding the practice difficult as of late. The view from my quarters has been less than stellar.”

Kim chukled. “I know the feeling.”

It was only then that Tuvok noted that the instrument that Kim was holding in his hand was his clarinet. “You were in the middle of a performance.” Tuvok said “I apologize for the intrusion. I shall leave so that you may continue to play without interruption.” He turned and started back for the turbolift.

“Oh actually…” Kim said after him which made Tuvok pause. “I was just working on my concerto. I call it ‘Echoes of the Void’” Kim said while flourishing with his free hand. “I can play it for you, if you have a minute.”

“Too many, in fact.” Tuvok observed. “Please continue.”

Harry Kim sat back down in the chair while Tuvok stood behind him, watching the empty viewscreen. Kim took in a breath and then blew into the instrument. The melody of a single clarinet began to fill the room. The piece was slow and somber. It evoked a sense of plodding, perhaps a yearning even. A sense that there was once something so vital and vibrant but had now been deprived of life. Tuvok noted that Kim’s eyes were closed, allowing himself to get lost within the music. Tuvok also closed his eyes and allowed his mind to wander and relax.

Suddenly, the room began to shake. Tuvok lost his balance and had to brace himself against the hand railing. Kim quickly set aside his clarinet before vaulting over the railing toward the OPS station at the back of the bridge. Tuvok took his customary post on the opposite side at tactical. The room shuddered again, as the lights around the bridge began to flicker. Caution and warning alarms were beginning to sound as Kim and Tuvok scoured through the information displayed on their consoles.

“We’ve dropped out of warp. We’re losing power.” Kim declared.

“Switch to auxiliary.” Tuvok ordered.

Kim inputted the commands into his console. “No effect.” A new set of alarms sounded from Kim’s console. “I’m detecting a small object off the port bow, closing rapidly. It looks like a shuttle of some kind.”

As the senior tactical officer, Tuvok instantly assessed the situation as a potential attack. If the incoming vessel attempted to dock while Voyager’s shields were up, it would impact harmlessly upon them. However, if Voyager were drained of power first, the shields would be ineffective. Logically, disrupting Voyager’s power systems would be the prelude to a preemptive strike before a hostile party boarded the ship. “Shield status?” He asked.

“Shields are failing.” Kim replied.

There was another rumble in the ship and then all the lights on the bridge flickered out.

“When I said ‘change of pace’, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.” Kim quipped in the dark.

Tuvok, having long since memorized the layout of the bridge, navigated his way to the emergency storage locker. He opened the locker and withdrew a SIMs beacon. He activated the device after securing it to his wrist. Two bright cones of light erupted from the beacon, illuminating the now inoperable bridge. Kim walked over to Tuvok and took another beacon from the locker.

“Do you think we’ve been boarded?” Kim asked.

“Unknown. We need to restore power to the internal sensors as well as shields, otherwise the theta radiation levels will rise to lethal levels within the ship.” Tuvok said.

Kim retrieved a tricorder and emergency toolkit from the locker. The two then headed over to the primary EPS junction panel located just behind the science station. Kim opened the panel and began to assess its status.

“Looks like the main and auxiliary power systems have been knocked offline. But independent subsystems are still operational. Emergency life support is still functioning and it looks like the holodecks are still online.” Kim said.

“Can you reroute power from the hologrid?” Tuvok asked.

“I just might…” Kim trailed off as he focused his attention on the panel. It took him a few moments to complete his work. Once he did, some of the stations on the bridge sprang back to life. The pair went over to the OPS station, and Kim read aloud what he saw on the display. “As we thought, all primary systems are offline. Shields are down and theta radiation levels are rising throughout the ship.” Kim inputted a few commands, and the computer responded with several tones of acknowledgement. “Looks like there’s a hull breach on deck eleven and there’s an object in the breach which is preventing emergency force fields from being established.”

“Life signs?” Tuvok inquired.

Kim shook his head. “I can’t tell. Internal sensor resolution is at minimum.”

Tuvok went over to the bridge storage lockers once again, but this time he withdrew a hand phaser. He set it to heavy stun.

“Mr. Kim.” Tuvok said to the Ensign. “Continue to effect repairs. Prioritize shields and communications.”

“Aye sir.” Kim said in acknowledgement.

Without power, the turbolifts were inoperable. Therefore, Tuvok entered the Jefferies tube located aft of the bridge. As he climbed down the ladders and crawled through the accessways of the utility corridors, Tuvok’s mind was hard at work reasoning out the most likely plan of attack that the intruders would take. The fact that the intruders had chosen deck eleven specifically as their infiltration point, gave a clue as to what their goal was.

Deck eleven was one of the most critical areas of the ship. After being stranded in the Delta Quadrant, several cargo bays aboard Voyager were converted from mere storage spaces to long term supply facilities. Deck eleven specifically housed the Airponics Bay, which was primarily responsible for generating food that the crew used to supplement replicator usage. Aside from that however, deck eleven was also the location of main engineering. One of the most sensitive areas on the ship, main engineering housed the warp core, a matter-antimatter reactor capable of tremendous energy output. If the bridge was Voyager’s brain, being the master command and control center, main engineering was most certainly its heart, providing power and life to the entire ship. If the warp core were to be damaged, or the supply of antimatter or deuterium raided, it could render Voyager powerless. Even if it didn’t, damaging the warp core would make Voyager unable to travel at faster than light velocities. Without any planets or stars for lightyears in all directions, that would most certainly consign Voyager to a slow painful death.

As Tuvok descended the last ladder which put him on deck eleven, he could hear the distant sounds of weapons fire. He stepped off the ladder and walked to the Jeffries tube hatch which he unlatched and opened cautiously. He looked around and saw no one in the corridor with him. Tuvok stepped out of the tube and made his way toward the weapons fire, careful not to give away his position with the light from his wrist beacon.

Voyager’s corridors were not designed with armed combat in mind. The shape of the hallway was roughly two to three meters square. There were no structures in the hall that would allow him to take cover save for the occasional adjoining hallway. All Tuvok could do was hold his phaser out in front of him and proceed carefully forward. He could hear the unmistakable sound of Starfleet phaser fire which made a fsssssh sound. But he could also hear alien weaponry which made a kzzzzzt sound that Tuvok was unable to identify.

As he rounded the corridor, the bright flashes of Starfleet orange and alien blue phaser fire illuminated the corridor. Judging from their position, the intruders had taken control of main engineering and were defensively holding off the Starfleet forces. He was very close now. Tuvok inched forward and found that he had emerged on the intruder’s unguarded flank. He could make out several humanoid shapes in the darkness which did not respond to his presence. Tuvok leveled his phaser and fired off a series of rapid bursts. The bright beams of orange light streaked across the corridor like bolts of lightning, striking their targets with impeccable precision.

In the dark, Tuvok couldn’t make out the forms of the intruders, but they apparently wore some kind of protective armor. The phaser blasts, which would normally have incapacitated a humanoid in a single blow, seemed instead to be only mildly effective. The intruders Tuvok had struck fell to the ground, dazed but not totally stunned.

“Now’s our chance! Press forward!” From the other side of the corridor, Captain Janeway shouted her commands and the crew reacted in kind. A flurry of phaser blasts assaulted the intruder’s position, including those from the compression phaser rifle the Captain was wielding, which emitted small yellow bolts of energy in rapid succession.

The intruders were driven from their position, back into main engineering. Tuvok quickly closed the distance to the large set of doors which connected engineering to the corridor. Janeway ran up from the other side. Tuvok recognized several of the crew members behind the Captain. Most were the engineering staff along with Lieutenant Torres who led them.

Tuvok peered around the edge of the door, but was quickly met with a hail of blue energy, forcing him back into cover. “A direct assault on their position would be inadvisable, Captain.” Tuvok observed with calm Vulcan precision.

Torres piped up from behind Janeway. “We can’t take the chance of someone hitting the warp core. Even one shot could destabilize the reaction chamber containment field, and then we’d have a core breach on our hands.”

Captain Janeway paused for a moment, her mind rapidly sifting through potential options. She handed the phaser rifle to Torres and then knelt down to the wall behind her. She depressed the top section of the panel and it came free, revealing a previously hidden control interface and array of isolinear chips inside. Janeway deftly manipulated the controls with Torres supervising.

“Captain.” Torres said hesitantly. “Are you sure about this? Dropping the outer containment field around the core will flood engineering with radiation.”

“If we don’t retake control of the ship, we’ll all be dead to theta radiation within minutes anyway.” Janeway replied defiantly. “And I’m not about to let a bunch of thieves take my ship without a fight.” With that, Janeway yanked out one of the isolinear chips.

A deafeningly loud alarm began to blare in main engineering. Tuvok saw a brief flash of light from around the door accompanied by a short zapping sound, signaling that the forcefield around the warp core had fallen. In moments, a blast of heat began to radiate out from engineering into the hallway. Inside the room, Tuvok could hear the sounds of voices shouting in a language he could not understand. He looked around the bend to see all the alien intruders evacuate through a hole they had blasted into on the far side of the room.

The instant engineering had been cleared, Janeway shouted out orders. “B’Elanna, dump the power from the core directly into the EPS manifold! I’ll open the injector ports on the core manually. Everyone else, stay here.”

Without hesitation, Janeway and Torres ran into engineering. Torres manipulated the controls at one of the panels that was still operating while Janeway fetched a hyperspanner and sprinted toward the core. Janeway attached the end of the spanner to one of the metal rings at the base of the reactor which was now spewing deadly radiation in all directions. Once she completed one revolution of the metal ring, the warp core sprang back to life, it’s blueish green mixture of plasma beginning to swirl rapidly inside.

Within seconds, all the lights on the ship sprang back on to full capacity. Tuvok saw Janeway begin to stand up. But just as quickly as she stood, she fell back down to the floor as if suddenly drunk. Tuvok felt a deep gut wrenching feeling in his stomach at the sight. At that moment, all the years of training Starfleet had instilled into Tuvok fled from him. The only thing in his mind now was the fact that Kathryn Janeway, his longtime captain and closest friend, was dying in front of him and he was just standing there watching it happen. Tuvok defied Janeway’s orders and ran into the room. He was instantly inundated with a sensation of intense heat from all directions. His Vulcan physiology however, had evolved to survive on a planet carpeted in arid deserts and unforgiving wastelands. He easily ignored the assault from the oppressive environment in which he now found himself, and pushed on through.

He reached the Captain, grasping one of her arms and supporting her while she stood. They made their way back out into the corridor, followed by Torres. Once outside, Janeway had enough strength to stand against the wall. She slapped the comm badge on her chest and rasped. “Janeway to bridge, status.”

“Kim here, Captain.” Said Ensign Kim over the intercom. “I’ve got shields back online. We’re surrounded by several alien objects, they’re emitting a dampening field that is draining power from all our systems.”

“Target phasers, destroy them!” Janeway ordered.

As they waited for Kim’s response, Tuvok heard a deep thud from inside the ship. Suddenly, all the air in the corridor began to get sucked into engineering. Everyone braced themselves against the gale of wind, using the walls for support. After a moment, the rushing air ceased.

“Is everyone alright?” Janeway asked the group.

“Affirmative.” Tuvok said.

“Harry, report.” Janeway said into her combadge.

“I’ve destroyed the devices and the dampening field is falling. The alien vessel has detached itself from Voyager’s hull and is moving off. Emergency force fields are in place and holding.”

“Target phasers and photon torpedoes. Disable that ship.” Janeway ordered.

“It’s too late Captain.” Harry replied. “They’ve gone to warp.”

“Track their warp trail. I’m on my way to the bridge.” Janeway declared as she took a step away from the wall.

“Captain-” Torres started, concerned.

“B’Elanna.” Janeway snapped. “Initiate radiation containment procedures, then get warp drive back online. We can’t let that ship escape.”

“Captain.” Tuvok said. “We must escort you to sickbay.”

“I’m fine.” Janeway protested, placing her hand on her forehead. “I can get to the bridge on my own, I just need a minute to…” Her voice began to trail off. She took one errant step forward before collapsing where she stood. Tuvok reached out and caught her mid-fall. He lowered her down onto the deck as the crew crowded around them. Tuvok noted that Janeway’s eyes were sealed shut.

“How is she?” Torres asked.

Tuvok felt that gut wrenching feeling return as he checked for a pulse. “I do not know.”

Chapter 4

“Administer twenty miligrams hyronalin, ten miligrams lectrazine, stat!” The Doctor ordered, hovering over his patient with a medical tricorder.

“Doc, we’re out of hyronalin!” Tom Paris shouted back from across the room.

“Then start administering arithrazine, two cc’s each!” The Doctor shouted back.

Voyager’s sickbay, designed to handle no more than a handful of patients at a time, was now inundated with Voyager crew members. The Doctor was Voyager’s Emergency Medical Holographic program who had been running nearly continuously for the past four years, ever since Voyager’s original chief medical officer had been killed in the encounter with the Caretaker. The Doctor, being a computer program, was able to recall the entire medical database of cases and calculate proper medical treatment within fractions of a second. Oftentimes, the limiting factor wasn’t whether or not the Doctor could perform a particular treatment, but rather when a large number of patients overwhelmed the sickbay’s capacity to treat them. Times like this.

Whatever happened to Voyager had knocked all of its systems offline. When that happened, the Doctor only had moments to spare before the sickbay holo-emitter array went offline and him along with it. He had snatched up the mobile emitter, a piece of twenty-ninth century technology Voyager had come across, and slapped it to his arm, thus allowing him to exist independently of Voyager’s systems. Yet, even with his existence secured, there was only so much he could do in the current circumstance. Within minutes, sickbay had become flooded with patients, each of them suffering from acute theta radiation exposure. The Doctor knew that Voyager had been traveling through increasing levels of radiation. He had been administering small doses of medication to the crew prophylactically, but that would only do so much. Even in small amounts, theta radiation was deadly to humans. Without Voyager’s shields to protect the crew, they would all begin to die within minutes.

Lieutenant Tom Paris, who doubled as Voyager’s helmsman and medic, assisted where he could. He began to load doses of arithrazine into his hypospray and administered the drug directly into the carotid artery of each patient. Theta radiation was destructive to all human tissue, but nerve cells and fibers were particularly sensitive to damage. Of all the treatments used to combat the effects of theta radiation poisoning, arithrazine had the worst side effects.

Arithrazine worked by binding directly to the protective layer of myelin present in all nerve cells. This would block the radiation from penetrating deeper into the delicate axon fibers, but it would also interfere with the reuptake of ions necessary to generate action potentials within the nerve. In small doses common side effects included lightheadedness, headache, dizziness, nausea, tingling or twitching in the extremities, and temporary paralysis. At higher dosages, the risk of widespread damage to the nerve bundles increased. Heart arrhythmia and tachycardia were common, loss of voluntary muscle control, muscle death, hallucinations, paralysis, temperature sensitivity, and neuropathic pain followed. In the most extreme cases, arithrazine had the potential to completely depolarize the nervous system, sending the patient into a rapidly deteriorating spiral of delirium, grand mal seizures, uncontrollably high fever and agonizingly painful death as the body boiled itself alive.

But at this point the Doctor had no choice. It was either a potentially difficult and painful recovery or certain death. As he moved from patient to patient, the Doctor kept note of which ones were in worse condition. In situations such as this, personally tailored treatments were out of the question. He had to switch to triage. His holographic fingers were precise in their movements. Switching from scanning with the tricorder to administering various medications via hypospray with pinpoint accuracy. Yet the number of patients kept increasing; at this point sickbay had become completely filled and the overflow had spilled out into the hallway.

Suddenly, the lights in sickbay began to flicker back on. The biobed monitors snapped online and in moments were displaying critical information about each patient’s vital signs.

“Mr. Paris.” The Doctor said, turning to give a direct order to the Lieutenant. “Access the environmental control systems. Start dispersing hyronalin to all decks, ten parts per million.”

“You got it, Doc.” Tom Paris set down his hypospray and ran to the main sickbay computer console.

In a few moments Voyager’s ventilation systems began disseminating the drug which, while not as effective when inhaled, would still provide the crew with enough of a buffer to resist the worst of the radiation poisoning. The Doctor quickly calculated the expected odds of survival given the average dosage of radiation exposure. The majority of the crew would recover within a few days, it would be a slow process, but they would survive. Just as the Doctor was about to breathe a simulated sigh of relief, the sickbay doors parted once more.

“Doctor.” Came the strained voice of Lieutenant Commander Tuvok. He was accompanied by an entourage containing Lieutenant Torres, Commander Chakotay and several other crew members. Between Tuvok and Chakotay though, they carried the limp body of Captain Janeway.

The Doctor rushed over to meet them. “Get her onto the biobed.” He ordered. Sickbay was equipped with four biobeds. One in particular situated in its own circular alcove, was equipped with advanced sensor and medical equipment, used to treat the most severe cases. The crewman who previously occupied the bed quickly removed himself when he saw the Captain. The Doctor immediately went to work scanning Janeway with his medical tricorder hand scanner, a tiny flashing metal cylinder which he held between his index finger and thumb. The readouts on the tricorder painted a disturbing picture of the Captain’s condition, which was all summed up by the words that flashed in alert at the top of the display “SEVERE RADIATION POISONING - LIFE SIGNS CRITICAL”.

“Mr. Paris!” The Doctor shouted. “Administer three cc’s: arithrazine, and twenty milligrams: lectrazine.”

Lieutenant Paris rushed to load the medication into his hypospray while the Doctor fetched a cortical stimulator. As Tuvok and Chakotay got Janeway onto the bed, the Doctor attached the small circular device to the Captain’s left temple. He then switched on the bio monitors. Two large black semicircular protrusions rose up from the sides of the table, which joined together to form a ring above the Captain. Her vital signs flashed onto the monitor beside the bed, again confirming the critical state she was in. Paris handed the Doctor a hypospray which he then used to inject the Captain.

“Cortical stimulator, now!” The Doctor barked.

Paris entered the control command into the sickbay computer. A small zapping sound came from the device attached to the Captain’s temple. The Doctor observed the graphs and numbers on the biomonitor screen. They did not improve.

“Again!” He shouted.

Paris activated the stimulator once more. It had little effect.

“Ten milligrams cordrazine!” The Doctor ordered.

As Paris went to fetch the drug, the Doctor suddenly noticed that the entire room had grown silent. Everyone, the crew on the beds, those in the hall, or scattered on the floor, those barely able to stand, those barely clinging to life, Chakotay, Tuvok, Torres, all of them were totally silent. All eyes were directed toward Captain Janeway. Shock, horror, anticipation, frustration, fear, he saw all of these emotions in their faces. They all stood and watched while their Captain fought for life before their very eyes.

“Come on Kathryn.” Chakotay pleaded softly into her ear. “You can do it.”

Paris came back and the Doctor saw the look of irrepressible dread in his eyes as he administered the hypospray.

“Cortical stimulator.” The Doctor said dimly, at the end of his rope. If this didn’t work, he didn’t know what would.

Tom Paris moved over to the panel once again and depressed the control. Another zap sounded from the table. The Doctor watched Janeway’s lifesigns. For a moment, that seemed to drag on for a lifetime, the monitors did not react. But just then, the various graphs began to shift from the alert red status to the stable blue status. One by one, the indicators climbed their way up from dangerously low levels to the higher, stronger ones.

“Doc?” Chakotay asked.

The Doctor observed the display for another moment to be sure of what he was about to say. “She’s stabilizing.”

The entire room let out a collective sigh of relief. The Doctor gave them all a moment to relax and then began to usher everyone away from the Captain. “She’ll need more time to recover. If you’re not in critical condition, please leave the area.”

“Lieutenant Torres and myself were exposed to high levels of radiation.” Tuvok said.

“Mr. Paris will see to your needs.” The Doctor replied, beckoning Paris to take over as he went back to treating the more critically injured patients.

Paris took Tuvok and Torres to the side of the room and scanned them. “Acute radiation poisoning.” He set the tricorder down and picked up a hypospray which he loaded with a vial of dark red liquid. “We’re giving everyone arithrazine while the hyronalin disperses through the air.” He said as he injected Tuvok. “It’s tough stuff, but it should inoculate you against the effects.” When he went to give Torres her injection he shared a longing look with her. About a year ago, Torres had confessed her love for Paris, who in turn had revealed that the feelings were reciprocated. The two started dating shortly after.

“Take care of the Captain.” Torres said. Even though she and Janeway often butted heads, Torres had come to respect her.

“Don’t worry, I will.” Paris said reassuringly while administering the hypospray.

“B’Elanna.” Chakotay said, beckoning her attention. He and Tuvok were standing in the doorway waiting for her. Torres gave Paris’ hand a quick squeeze before moving to join them while Paris went back to treating patients.

“Status?” Chakotay asked.

“Engineering is a mess.” Torres responded. “After they blasted through the wall, we were forced to evacuate.”

“Was their intention to seize control of the ship?” Tuvok asked.

“I don’t think so.” Torres said. “They looked more like scavengers than anything else. They were more interested in going through our supply lockers and getting into our deuterium stores than actually trying to access our systems.”

“As I suspected.” Tuvok said. “Their choice of deck eleven as point of entry suggests they were attempting to appropriate our supply of food and deuterium.”

“Raiders.” Chakotay concluded bluntly. “Tuvok, I want you to conduct a full inventory of all the things they took. Food, equipment, deuterium, anything.” Chakotay said to Tuvok before turning to Torres. “B’Elanna, I need you to secure engineering and get the ship back up and running again. Start your teams on radiation containment procedures while you’re at it.”

Torres pointed to the crewmen who were confined to sickbay. “With half my staff in here, that’s not going to be easy.”

“I’m giving you full authority to pull whatever personnel you have to to get the job done. Understood?” Chakotay said before Torres nodded in agreement. “Good, get started.”

The trio split up. Torres gathered up whatever staff members she could from sickbay. Then she started pulling crewmembers from other departments, science, tactical, operations. She didn’t care. If they could hold a tricorder in one hand and radiometric scrubber in the other, she put them to work. Torres coordinated repair efforts from main engineering, which was a total mess.

Black charred scorch marks from errant phaser blasts were all over the walls. Every surface in engineering had been contaminated with radiation from the warp core. Even though the protective force field around the core had been reestablished, the lingering radiometric isotopes around the room had forced the engineering staff to don environmental suits. Not exactly designed for ergonomics or comfort, the primarily white colored suits were bulky and awkward to work in. Torres focused on repairing the environmental systems first. Her first priority was filtering out all the radioactive particles that now filled the air.

“Lieutenant Torres, I am in need of your assistance.” A voice sounded over Torres’ internal suit comm system. Even though the voice sounded flat and processed over the speakers, Torres recognized it as Seven of Nine.

Torres paused the repairs she was working on. She stood up and turned to see Seven, who was also encased in her own environmental suit, though Torres could see Seven’s face through the clear hard plastic helmet. “I’m a little busy, Seven.”

Seven ignored Torres’ retort and continued with her thought. “The intruders severed several EPS conduit feeds to the astrometrics lab. I require their repair so that I may continue my scan of the surrounding region.”

When Seven first joined the crew, she and Torres had not gotten off on the right foot. Seven, having been accustomed to the totally rational and unemotional nature of the Borg, had trouble expressing herself socially. She would issue demands of Torres, thinking they were simply requests to be processed without emotional input. Torres, on the other hand, saw the demands as affronts to her authority and loathed having to work with the former drone, even going so far as to announce to Chakotay her complete refusal to work with Seven. However, the two eventually came to understand each other. With Seven seeing the benefit of accommodating Torres’ authority in the social hierarchy and Torres acknowledging Seven’s exceptional technical aptitude.

“I can think of a couple other things that are a little bit more important right now, Seven.” Torres shot back.

“Such as?” Seven inquired.

“Oh I don’t know. Making sure there’s air to breathe?” Torres said.

“Suppose while we are preoccupied in repairs, another ship decides to take advantage of our damaged state and attack us. Or suppose the warp trail the intruders left behind dissipates while we wait for you to finish your work?” Seven’s reply was instant, having already thought through the possible avenues the conversation would take.

Torres could feel her blood begin to boil. She did not like being proven wrong.

Seven, to her credit, anticipated Torres’ emotional response and delivered an addendum. “I’ve already identified which conduits need to be repaired. If we work efficiently, it should only divert you for an hour or less.”

Torres knew enough about Seven to know her repair estimate was accurate, and wouldn’t question it. She also thought about the satisfaction she would get by catching those Raiders and strangling one of them with her bare hands for what they did to her engine room. She decided that this was indeed worth an hour or less of her time.

Torres packed up the tool kit that was lying beside her on the floor and then gestured to Seven. “Lead on.”

The pair proceeded to the back of engineering, behind the warp core. The intruders had detonated an explosive device in the wall, which exposed this part of engineering to the corridor beyond. Seven stepped through, followed by Torres. The entire deck was dark and without power, Seven and Torres switched on their SIM’s beacons attached to their wrists. The two ventured into the hallway and eventually found themselves at the site where the intruders’ vessel had breached the hull.

The hole was at least five meters in diameter and spanned across both deck eleven and deck ten above. It looked as if some gargantuan creature had come up and chomped off a mouthful of hull from Voyager’s side. Pieces of bent tritanium blossomed out from the edges of the breach like torn up shreds of wrapping paper. Severed power lines and conduits sparked and flashed as they uselessly expelled their energy into the air. Even though Torres could see directly into space, as if the gap was totally open to the vacuum beyond, she knew that an emergency forcefield was preventing the atmosphere from escaping.

Seven and Torres got to work, rerouting power lines and repairing broken conduits. Just as they were wrapping up, Torres’ Klingon instincts, imbued into her from generations upon generations of her ancestral race waging war against one another, started shouting in her head. She snapped around from the bulkhead she and Seven were working on. Her outstretched arm flicked back and forth, using the cones of light from the SIM’s beacon to scan the hallway.

“Is something the matter?” Seven asked over the comm.

Torres was silent for a moment, observing the empty hallway. “I feel like we’re being watched.”

Seven took out her tricorder and flipped it open. The device lit up in multiple colors, signifying the activation of its various sensors. Seven performed a quick scan of the hallway, but shook her head when she found nothing of note. Torres knew the tricorder was a capable device, but she trusted her instincts more. She began to inch forward into the hallway with Seven following close behind. As they rounded a corner, she saw a lone dark figure emerge from one of the side passageways. It fled at the sight of her.

Seven depressed one of the buttons on her suit’s chestplate. “Seven of Nine to the bridge, intruder alert. Deck eleven, section twelve gamma.”

Ensign Kim’s voice came in reply. “Acknowledged, Seven. Security teams are on the way.”

Torres knew the layout of the ship well and the arrangement of this particular deck like the back of her hand, the intruder had inadvertently put itself into a dead end. The only room it could have gone into was the Airponics Bay. Torres moved up to the door which led into the bay, which she found had been forced open by the raiders.

“Cover the door.” Torres said to Seven while stepping through the opening.

Once on the other side, Torres swept the room with her beacon. The raiders had taken everything that wasn’t bolted to the ground. Where there was once a flourishing ecosystem of plant life, there now only stood empty shelving units dispersed evenly throughout the bay. Torres took one step at a time, inching toward the back of the bay. Once there, she spotted the intruder, who was cowering in a corner.

It was roughly humanoid in appearance. It had dark tan skin and a patch of messy black hair. Its face had ridges around the eyes and on the forehead, which were dotted with what appeared to be a set of extra nasal passageways. The creature looked thin. If Torres didn’t know better, she would have said the creature was emaciated. Torres looked down at it’s leg and found it had been lacerated open and was now oozing orange blood.

“Seven.” Torres started. “I think we better get him to sickbay.”

Chapter 5

Captain Janeway woke up to the worst headache of her life.

She opened her eyes and saw the Doctor at the side of her bed. He had his back turned to her, reaching for a device. He spoke to Janeway without looking. “Once again, you find yourself in my trappings on the brink of death, only to be saved by my not inconsequential skills as a physician.” The Doctor turned around and shined a bright light into Janeway’s eyes. His scrutinizing face hovered over her while he conducted his examination. “The next time you decide to indulge yourself in your self-serving vendetta against your own life, I suggest you pick a more convenient time to do it.”

“Status?” Janeway croaked. She tried to prop herself up on her elbows, but the moment she gained any sort of height she was hit with an intense wave of nausea. She fell back to the bed, waiting for the room to stop spinning.

“Now let that be a lesson to you.” The Doctor stated dryly. “Just lie there and be happy you’re still alive.”

“How’s the ship?” Janeway asked weakly.

“Still in one piece I presume.” The Doctor said. “I’ll inform Commander Chakotay that you’re conscious and he can fill you in on the details.”

Janeway didn’t even bother nodding, she just lay back and closed her eyes, attempting to gather herself. After a few moments, the nausea had subsided enough for her to look around the room. Sickbay was operating in low power mode. The displays were dimmed and the overhead lighting was set to minimum. There were a handful of crewmembers lying on the bio beds or seated on the floors. Some of them had radiation burns on the exposed areas of their skin which the Doctor seemed to be treating with a dermal regenerator.

Janeway slowly maneuvered herself so that she could sit up and see the entire room. Her headache had not gone away. As if that weren’t enough, she felt a throbbing sensation in the back of her neck. It was as if someone had taken a hot knife and was now shoving it into the flesh next to her spine. Janeway tried her hardest to ignore the various sensations now afflicting her body. But something out of the corner of her eye caught her attention, which distanced the pain for her.

Some creature, from a species Janeway had never seen before, was crouching in a corner next to the advanced biobed. She tried to get a better view of him, but she had trouble getting a good look in the dark. “Doctor.” She said in an alert voice.

The Doctor looked up to see what had Janeway so concerned. “Ah yes, we have a little guest, as it were.”

This time Janeway forced herself to her feet, nausea be damned. The Doctor came over to assist her. He spoke in a low hushed tone. “Seven and B’Elanna found him on deck eleven. He was injured, so they brought him here.”

“Is he one of the invaders?” Janeway asked, groggily shuffling closer. As she approached, the creature slunk back into the dark, crouching underneath the biobed for cover.

“I don’t think so.” The Doctor responded. “He doesn’t seem to be hostile. Nor was he armed with any sort of weapons or technology. He’s a very timid fellow. He won’t even let me near enough to treat the injury on his leg. But the darkness does seem to calm him somewhat.”

Janeway took a step up closer to the creature. “I’m Captain Kathryn Janeway. You’re safe here.”

The creature did not respond, continuing to hide behind the biobed.

“I’ve tried communicating with him.” The Doctor continued. “He doesn’t appear to have any verbal skills.”

“He came on board with the invaders.” Janeway mused to herself. “If he’s not one of them, how did he end up on their ship?”

“I’m not sure. But I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I can’t scan him.” The Doctor said.

Janeway turned to the Doctor in surprise. “Why not?”

“I don’t know yet.” The Doctor replied. “But he seems to have some innate ability to shield himself from sensor scans.”

Just then, the creature emerged from behind the biobed. It was then that Janeway noticed that he was carrying a bowl in his hands. He crept up to Janeway, still in his defensive crouch. He held out the bowl and motioned to his lips with his fingers.

“I will say this though.” The Doctor started. “He has a voracious appetite. That’s the third time I’ve fed him in the last hour.”

Janeway studied the creature with fascination. “Use my replicator rations. Between the headaches and the nausea, I get the feeling my appetite won’t return for a while.”

From behind Janeway, she heard the swish of doors opening. She turned around to see Commander Chakotay step through. He had soot smudges on his uniform and sweat glistened off his forehead. “Glad to see you’re back on your feet, Captain.”

“For the moment, at least.” The Doctor prodded, as he moved off to replicate some food.

“Status?” Janeway asked.

“Not good.” Chakotay said. “The short of it is: the Raiders took some of our spare food, some equipment and our reserve supply of deuterium. B’Elanna has teams working around the clock getting our systems back online. She doesn’t think it will take more than a few hours. But we’ve had to reduce our power consumption even further.”

“Any leads on the ship that raided us?” Janeway asked.

“Not yet.” Chakotay responded, which Janeway sighed at.

From above, a bleep sounded from the comm system. “Bridge to Commander Chakotay.” Ensign Kim’s voice said.

“Go ahead.” Chakotay said back.

“There’s an unidentified ship approaching at low warp.” Kim reported.

“Harry, is it the same ship that radied us?” Janeway asked.

“Sensors are having trouble getting a reading through the radiation, but it doesn’t look like it.” Kim replied.

Janeway and Chakotay shared a brief glance. “Harry, take us to red alert. Get a target lock on that ship once it comes into range.”

“Yes ma’am.” Kim said closing the channel.

“Target lock?” Chakotay questioned.

“I’m not taking any chances today.” Janeway replied. “If they want to talk, they can do it from a distance.”

Janeway started toward the door, but lost her balance on the way. Chakotay managed to catch her before she fell further.

From behind her, the Doctor spoke in a concerned tone. “Captain, you’ve sustained serious injuries. You’re in no condition to return to duty.”

“Just give me something for the dizziness.” Janeway replied.

“You should stay here in sickbay until you recover.” The Doctor replied.

“Doctor.” Janeway started. “Every minute I spend here is one minute that Voyager doesn’t have.”

“I must insist.” The Doctor persisted.

“Doc.” Chakotay said. “I’ll be with the Captain the whole time. If something happens, I’ll bring her right back down to sickbay.”

The Doctor sighed and cocked an eyebrow, but in the end he relented. Before Janeway left, he loaded a hypospray and injected it into Janeway’s neck. “This should help with the nausea and dizziness.” He said. “I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do for the headache or the pain.”

“Thank you Doctor, I’ll manage.” Janeway said.

Janeway and Chakotay made their way up to the bridge. When she emerged from the turbolift, she got concerned looks from around the room.

“As you were.” She ordered and everyone’s attention returned to their duties.

Janeway internally noted that this was the first time in a long time the bridge had been fully staffed. Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Commander Tuvok flanked either side of the bridge at the OPS and tactical stations, while Lieutenant Paris occupied the helm at the front. Janeway and Chakotay sat down next to each other in their respective chairs at the center of the bridge. For a moment, Janeway saw a small smile cross Chakotay’s face when he saw her sit down.

“Something the matter Commander?” Janeway asked.

“It’s nothing.” He replied, turning his attention back toward the viewscreen.

“The vessel is coming into range.” Kim reported just as an alert sounded from his station. “They’re hailing.”

“On screen.” Janeway ordered.

The viewscreen switched from the black formless void to an alien man sitting on the bridge of his vessel. His skin was dark grey and his black hair was slicked back in military-esque fashion. He had ridges along the sides of his neck that stretched down to his shoulders. But what really caught Janeway’s attention was the spoon-shaped impression on the center of his forehead. Janeway instantly recognized him as one of the species that originated from the Alpha Quadrant, on the other side of the galaxy.

“You’re Cardassian.” Janeway uttered, shocked.

“A Starfleet vessel.” The Cardassian man said. “I didn’t think I’d encounter one of you on this side of the galaxy.

“I am just as surprised as you are.” Janeway said. “I’m Captain Kathryn Janeway, of the Federation starship Voyager.”

“Gul Valen, Captain of the First Order warship Krebor.” Valen responded. “I’ve been tracking a ship that passed through this region of space, would you happen to have any information on it?”

“There was a vessel that just attacked us, perhaps that is the one you’re referring to. We’ve had some trouble tracking it through the theta radiation.” Janeway said.

“Ah, then perhaps we can be of some assistance to eachother. We were also attacked by the ship. However, we’ve been able to modify our sensors to compensate for the effects of the theta radiation. Perhaps, we can combine our efforts?” Valens tone was cold and calculating.

“I was thinking the same thing.” Janeway said. “Would you care to beam aboard Voyager and we can discuss our mutual experiences?”

“I would be delighted, Captain.” Valen said before closing the channel.

Janeway turned to Chakotay in disbelief, but he seemed lost in thought.

“Something the matter Commander?” She asked.

“I’ve spent a good portion of my life fighting Cardassians. I never thought I’d find myself working with one.” Chakotay replied.

“Today is full of surprises.” Janeway observed.

Chakotay drew in a breath. “It’s not over yet.” He replied ominously.

The CDS Krebor rendezvoused with Voyager half an hour later. Janeway peered at the vessel through her ready room windows as she waited for Gul Valen. It was a typical Cardassian design, roughly in the shape of the Egyptian Ankh hieroglyphic symbol. At the head of the Krebor, the bridge sat atop a halfmoon structure that was raised above the main body. The warp engines were shaped like blades, they jutted out of the sides of the forward section of the main body like wings. The hull then tapered to a streamlined tail section which ended in a double point. Janeway thought to herself that there was something odd about that ship. It looked like there was an unfinished module on its dorsal section; almost as if the Galor-class warship was in the middle of being upgraded to the much more powerful Keldon-class.

From behind Janeway, the doors parted and Gul Valen stepped through. “Captain Janeway.” He said with a slight bow of his head. Valen was dressed in the typical Cardassian uniform. The most outstanding feature of the uniform was the dark grey, triangular shaped metal plate that covered Valen’s chest. Flexible black fabric stretched out from the plate to cover his arms and lower torso. His pants and boots were similarly made of the militaristic dark grey and black fabrics. The uniform included a communications device wrapped around the wrist and the yellow lettering emblazoned on the chestplate signified his rank as Gul, which was equivalent to a Starfleet Captain.

“Gul Valen.” Janeway returned the bow and then stepped toward the replicator. “May I offer you something to drink?”

Valen considered the question for a moment. “I wouldn’t mind a cup of red leaf tea.”

Janeway turned to the replicator. “One red leaf tea and one coffee, black.” The replicator brightened and hummed in response to Janeway’s request. Soon, two steaming hot beverages shimmered and materialized into existence within the rectangular alcove. Janeway picked up one of them and handed it to Gul Valen. She kept the coffee for herself.

“So…” Janeway started as she walked over and sat down behind her desk. “Might I ask how you ended up in the Delta Quadrant?”

Gul Valen took a sip of his tea while he contemplated a response. “It is a rather monotonous and lengthy tale. We were pulled here against our will by a being known as the Caretaker.”

“Sounds familiar. How did you manage to escape?” Janeway asked, attempting to probe for potentially useful tactical information.

“It was not a simple task.” Valen said. “The Krebor was able to slip away from the Caretaker’s station, but I was forced to leave some of my crew behind.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Janeway said.

“And you Captain?” Valen asked, refusing to elaborate further.

“A portion of my crew did not survive the encounter. We made contact with the Caretaker, and I even had the opportunity to return to the Alpha Quadrant.” She said.

“Evidently, you remained.” Valen observed.

Janeway nodded. “The Caretaker’s array was about to be used against one of the native populations. I destroyed it instead of using it to return.”

“How noble of you Captain.” Valen said. He emphasized his next words, as he returned Janeway’s questioning. “Might I ask how you were able to destroy the Array?”

Janeway thought about avoiding the question, but she wanted to see how Valen would react to the information. “We employed the use of tricobalt devices to ensure the Array’s destruction.”

“I see, and do you have any more of these devices in your possession?” Valen probed.

“I’m afraid not.” Janeway replied.

“Pity.” Valen mused without further comment.

“How long have you been in the Void-” Janeway stopped herself. “Pardon me, this region of empty space.”

“The Void.” Valen let the term hang in the air. “How accurate.” He began to pace on the other side of the desk as he sipped his tea. “We were pulled into this region of space nine months ago. Survival here has been rather difficult.”

“How have you been able to conserve your resources?” Janeway asked.

“We’ve had to make some…unpleasant choices.” Valen’s words were vague. Janeway couldn’t tell if that meant he had to take action at the expense of his crew or at the expense of others. “Having encountered numerous ships here, I can say for certain that none of them are affable. Many of them prey upon the newly arriving vessels that are pulled into…”He paused as he recalled the words”…the Void.”

“Why here?” Janeway asked. “Why this region of the Void in particular.”

Valen shook his head. “For some reason, the vortexes which pull in new ships occur more frequently here. As for why that is, I do not know.”

Janeway didn’t get the sense that Valen was lying about that point. “Could it have something to do with the increased levels of theta radiation?” She asked.

Valen mulled over her question for a moment. “Perhaps.” He said. “We’ve never tried locating the source of the radiation. I try to stay away from it to conserve power.”

“Maybe after we retrieve our property from the Raider, we can investigate the source.” Janeway proposed. “It may give us a clue as to why the vortexes are more active here.”

Valen closed his eyes and shook his head. “You’re wasting time Captain. Even if we knew why the vortexes are more frequent, we wouldn’t be able to use them. They are unidirectional. Matter is pulled into the Void. Not the other way around.”

Janeway took a long swig of her coffee, then stood up. “I still think it’s worth a look.”

Valen finished the tea in one swift gulp, then set the empty cup down on the desk. “Very well.”

After Gul Valen returned to his ship, the two vessels set off on their hunt for the Raider, with the Krebor taking the lead. It only took a few hours to catch up to them.

“I’m detecting a vessel dead ahead Captain.” Ensign Kim said. “Looks like our Raider.”

“Tuvok, signal the Krebor that we’ve detected the Raider and are moving to engage.” Janeway ordered.

Tuvok responded after sending the message. “They’ve acknowledged Captain. They are engaging as well.”

Janeway nodded as she took a moment to prepare herself. “Red alert.” She commanded.

The lighting around the bridge darkened and all the displays switched from a neutral blue and yellow color scheme to a red and white one. The red alert klaxon began to sound over the comm system, signaling the heightened alert status. Voyager’s weapons were armed and its shields were increased to maximum power.

“Harry, how long to intercept?” Janeway asked.

“Less than a minute, Captain. They’re…” Kim trailed off in confusion. “…just sitting there.”

“Maybe they haven’t detected us yet.” Chakotay suggested.

“I believe I have an explanation, Captain.” Tuvok said from the tactical station. “There’s a subspace vortex forming ahead. The aperture of the vortex is directly in front of the Raider’s vessel.”

“On screen.” Janeway commanded.

The viewscreen at the front of the bridge switched to display the Raider vessel. It was only a small dot at this distance.

“Magnify.” Janeway said.

The screen flickered for a moment as it zoomed in. The Raiders vessel was clearly in view now. Janeway noted that there were several small dots of light scattered in front of it. Suddenly, a bright white swirl of energy grew out of nowhere in front of the Raider. It swelled in size as if it were the mouth of a whale about to swallow its prey. From the center of the vortex, another vessel tumbled through. right into the center of the devices. The lights from the incoming ship sputtered and died as it lost power.

“They must have deployed the same dampening field they used on us.” Chakotay said in alarm.

“Mr. Paris, bring us out of warp right on top of them.” Janeway said.

“Yes ma’am.” Lieutenant Paris said as he manipulated the controls at the helm.

Voyager and the Krebor dropped out of warp behind the Raider, just a few thousand meters away from it.

“Open fire. Disable them.” Janeway commanded.

Voyager maneuvered around to bring its main phaser array to bear. Thin bright orange beams of energy charged up and shot out in the direction of the Raider. They were complimented by a single powerful beige beam of light that discharged from the Krebor’s main phaser emitter located on its bow. The shields on the Raider lasted for only a few moments before collapsing under the barrage. It only took a few more volley’s to disable the Raider’s engines. They erupted in a small explosion which sent the ship tumbling through space.

Janeway swiveled to her left. “Harry, can you locate our equipment?”

“Yes ma’am. Looks like it’s being held in a cargo hold along with our deuterium.” Ensign Kim responded.

“Bring us alongside and beam it aboard.” Janeway ordered.

Voyager lined up alongside the Raider. It lowered its shields temporarily to allow the transporters to beam up the supplies.

“Harry.” Janeway said quickly. “What’s the status of the other-”

“Captain.” Tuvok interrupted. “The Krebor is opening fire on the Raider’s vessel.”

It only took a split second to realize what Valen was attempting to do. “Raise shields!” Janeway commanded, but it was too late.

The powerful blast of energy from the Krebor cut right through the Raider like a hot knife through butter. The ship split into two before exploding in a blaze of heat and light. The shockwave impacted Voyager. Sparks erupted from several bridge consoles as the crew was thrown to the deck. Alert klaxons began to sound from multiple stations.

“Report!” Janeway yelled, getting up from the deck and back on her feet.

“The Krebor has destroyed the Raider’s vessel.” Tuvok reported. “Damage reports coming in from all decks.”

“Can you get the shields back up?” Janeway asked, running over to the tactical station.

“Affirmative.” Tuvok said. “However, I do not believe we are the Krebor’s next target.”

Janeway turned back to the viewscreen. The Krebor maneuvered itself above the captured vessel which was still disabled by the dampening field. It held its position there for a moment.

“They are beaming supplies and equipment off the second ship.” Tuvok reported.

“Get a weapons lock on them.” Janeway ordered.

“The explosion from the Raider vessel disabled our weapon systems, Captain.” Tuvok replied.

Janeway continued to watch helplessly as the Krebor opportunistically carved up the captured ship like a roast. Dematerializing sections of the hull with its transporter, causing the atmosphere inside the vent into space. Janeway’s gut instinct was to turn away, but she forced herself to watch. Without the hull to contain the atmosphere, the crew of the ship was blown out into space.

“Hail them.” Janeway said, her voice filled with ire.

“They’re not responding.” Tuvok replied.

Once the Krebor had stripped the ship of all useful materials, it brought its forward weapons emitter to bear. The defenseless ship was destroyed in a single blast, eliminating any possibility of rescuing its crew. Then, Janeway saw something she never thought was possible. The Krebor began to cloak. It’s hull became wavy and formless as the light was dynamically bent around it. In a few moments, the Cardassian warship had completely disappeared, leaving behind the formless twilight of the Void.

Chapter 6

Captain Janeway sipped on her lukewarm coffee. She had come into her ready room to clear her mind and to contemplate her next course of action. But her attention was not on her personal computer screen. Rather, it was fixated on the empty cup of red leaf tea that Valen had left behind on her desk. For some reason, when Janeway went to recycle it in the replicator, her fingers refused to even touch the cup, as if it had been tainted somehow.

The encounter with Valen had disturbed her. She knew that Valen couldn’t be trusted, but she never expected him to act against Voyager so quickly. Nor did she think he was a cold blooded murderer. Even though she had taken defensive precautions given the first attack on Voyager, her lapse in judgement still left it vulnerable to attack. With only a single conversation, Valen had figured her out completely and knew exactly what she was going to do. No doubt drawing from his experience in dealing with Starfleet captains back in the Alpha Quadrant.

Again, she was reminded about all the different races Voyager had encountered. Adapting to new circumstances, taking the immoral action if it meant survival. Again, Janeway wholeheartedly disagreed with Valen’s choice of tactics. Yet, she couldn’t deny that they had proven effective. The Krebor was now flush with supplies, while Voyager had to struggle on with the table scraps.

Despite all that however, something Valen had said kept rolling around in her mind.

‘Having encountered numerous ships here, I can say for certain that none of them are affable.’

The more she thought about that statement, the more she thought that it couldn’t possibly be true. After all, had Valen encountered every single ship in the Void? Doubtful. What was more likely was that it was Valen himself that was the unaffable one. Perhaps there were other crews in the Void like her own, trying to survive but also willing to cooperate to their mutual benefit under the right circumstances. She wondered if that particular hole in Valen’s thinking was actually his most exploitable weakness. She also wondered if that was actually Voyager’s greatest strength.

Inspired, Janeway accessed the Voyager library computer and pulled up a document that she hadn’t read in decades, since her days at Starfleet Academy. She read in peace for less than half an hour before she was interrupted by the door chime.

“Come in.” She said toward the door.

The doors parted for Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Commander Tuvok. The two stepped in with Chakotay carrying a data PADD.

“An updated inventory of our supplies.” Chakotay said, handing the PADD to Janeway. “We were able to recover less than half of what was stolen before the Raider was destroyed.”

Janeway read the PADD while the two stood there in front of her. “It doesn’t take two of you to deliver a PADD.” She said without looking up. “What’s on your mind?”

Chakotay and Tuvok gave each other a look. As if both were inviting the other to deliver the bad news. Chakotay cleared his throat before speaking. “We want to be clear about what our policy is going to be moving forward.”

“You think we should start stealing for ourselves now, like Valen? Become thieves and killers, just like everyone else in the Void.” Janeway asked.

“Of course not. But he and his crew have managed to survive for nearly a year in here.” Chakotay said.

Tuvok continued the line of thought. “Logic suggests that we may have to be more opportunistic if we intend to survive.”

“I’ve been thinking about that myself.” Janeway said, turning her computer screen around for Chakotay and Tuvok to see.

“The Federation Charter?” Chakotay said, confused.

“Not a very practical document, admittedly. Nothing about surviving in a void.” Janeway started. “Rather, it’s a statement of principles. About how respect and mutual cooperation are superior to selfishness and division. That the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

“What exactly are you suggesting?” Chakotay asked.

Janeway continued. “Voyager can’t survive here alone. But if we form a temporary alliance with other ships in the Void, maybe we can pool our resources together to find a way to survive. Maybe even escape.”

“As you’ve pointed out, the people we’ve encountered in the Void are thieves and killers. Hardly the ideal candidates for an alliance.” Tuvok observed.

“I agree.” Janeway stated simply.

“Then who are we going to form an alliance with?” Chakotay asked.

“Anyone who agrees to play by our rules.” Janeway declared. “No killing, no stealing, and above all: no giving up.”

“Forgive me, Captain.” Tuvok said, expressing his doubts. “But why would anyone who has survived by killing and stealing suddenly agree to those terms?”

“We’ll offer to share our food and medical supplies. We’re also going to defend ships that are under attack by raiders.” Janeway paused for a moment. “They say it’s easy to be a saint in paradise. And although these principles were drafted halfway across the galaxy, I believe that they are in fact universal. And that if we do our job in sticking to them, they will do their job and keep us alive.”

Chakotay and Tuvok both gave each other another look of doubt. “Captain.” Chakotay started. “I think you should take another look at that PADD. Our food stores are empty. The theta radiation is continuing to drain our shields. And without more deuterium, our power reserves are almost gone. Voyager can limp on for another week, two at best, before we’re finished. Should the crew be ready to die for those principles?”

Janeway could see the reason in what Chakotay was saying. For a moment, just a moment, doubt crept into her mind. But then, she suddenly remembered a quote from her childhood hero: Leonardo Di Vinci.

‘I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.’

Janeway rose from her chair.

“You’re right.” She said, pacing around her desk. “Maybe we’ll only survive for two days instead of seven. Maybe we’ll just be handing away our supplies for nothing. Maybe no one will come to our aid. Or maybe if we share what we need instead of hoarding it, we’ll find others who will do the same. Maybe we’ll find people willing to combine technology, supplies and knowledge just as we are. Maybe we’ll find minds like our own, willing to work long and hard for the benefit of all and ultimately get the hell out of this place.” Janeway finished pacing and stood next to the pair. “We may lose a little weight gentlemen, but we won’t lose who we are.”

Captains Log, Stardate 52094.6: For the past several days, we’ve been making every effort to recruit new members into the alliance, but it hasn’t been easy. Our supplies and power reserves continue to drain. Hastened by the fact that we’ve been giving away food and medicine freely to those who request it. Still, I hold out the hope that if we stick to our principles, they in turn will come through for us in the end.

“Whenever a new ship gets pulled into the Void, they’re immediately attacked.” Janeway said.

She sat at the head of the conference room table, which had hosted at least a dozen alien crews over the past week. Flanking Janeway on either side was Commander Chakotay and Neelix, the Voyager appointed Ambassador to the Delta Quadrant. Across from them this time sat Captain Garon and two members of his own staff. Compared to most aliens Voyager had encountered in the Delta Quadrant, Garon actually looked quite human. His main distinguishing feature was the ridges on his nose and forehead, making him look almost Klingon. He and his aides wore very similar uniforms as well, colored entirely crimson except for a utility harness that extended around the shoulders and waist. A great deal of the captains she had met so far had either taken advantage of the food and medical supplies Voyager offered, or simply turned Janeway down outright. One of them just laughed at every suggestion Janeway had made, not even bothering to listen. Janeway hadn’t given up hope though. Captain Garon, though guarded, seemed more receptive than most at least.

Janeway continued her thought. “Instead of attacking the ship, you’d have to help defend it.”

“And how is that in my interest?” Garon asked bluntly.

Janeway gave a warm smile. “Because it would encourage them to join our alliance.”

“And if they refuse, then we raid them?” Garon asked.

Janeway had encountered this line of thinking before. Most captains who actually took Janeway’s words at face value listened, all the way up until she said they would cease all raiding. To ask them to give up the one thing that had kept them alive for so long in the Void was a difficult proposition to make it would seem. Janeway couldn’t say she blamed them.

“Everyone in the Alliance must agree not to launch unprovoked attacks against other ships.” Janeway said. “Including those who refuse to join us.”

“Then how are we supposed to get supplies?” Garon asked, diligently thinking through the potential consequences of joining the Alliance.

Chakotay leaned forward to speak. “The idea is to recruit new members, share technologies and resources. The hope is that together, we can make the little resources we already have extend further than they would have if we were alone.”

Garon considered that for a long while. Janeway actually thought for a moment he was about to join, until he asked his last question. “How many ships do you have in this Alliance?”

Janeway didn’t want to say the answer, but she had to give him the truth. “You’d be the first.”

Garon and his aides sighed all at once. Joining an already established organization was a much easier pill to swallow than to be the first member to help build it.

“Technically, Captain, that’s not correct.” Neelix said, breaking the silence. “I consider myself the first member of the Captain’s coalition. Four years ago, I offered her my services and the resources of my ship. In return she’s supported me, given me a place to call home and a crew to call family. Captain Janeway always stands by her word and she has never failed to help me when I needed it most.”

Always looking to help in any way he could, Neelix would do everything in his power to support Janeway. Even if it meant stretching the truth a little. Janeway appreciated those qualities in Neelix. The unerring optimism, the unwavering loyalty. The very fact that Neelix felt it necessary to go up to bat for Voyager time and time again, only emphasized the fact that she had made the right choice all those years ago in asking him to join her crew.

“It’s a noble idea, Captain.” Garon said. “But good intentions are like deuterium reserves. They tend to get lost in the Void.”

“All I ask is that you consider our proposal.” Janeway concluded.

“I will.” Garon said, rising from his seat.

“In the meantime, we’d like to offer you food and medical supplies.” Janeway added.

Garon looked at her askance. “And what do you expect in return?”

“Nothing.” She stated. “Consider it compliments of the Alliance.”

Just before Garon left, Janeway could have sworn she saw the slight look of approval cross his face. Janeway stood up to leave and Chakotay left to resume his station on the bridge.

“I tried.” Neelix said reluctantly.

“I know.” Janeway said, patting him on the shoulder.

Janeway made her way down to her quarters. Even though it had been a few days since her encounter with the warp core which almost killed her, she was still feeling the effects of it. She wasn’t sure if it was the radiation or the arithrazine treatments that was causing the migraine eating away at her temples. Whatever the cause, right now all she wanted to do was to read a book and take a very long sonic shower.

“Captain, there’s been a theft.” Seven of Nine said catching up to Janeway in the hallway.

“Oh?” Janeway’s curiosity was piqued. “What’s missing?”

“My phase compensator.” Seven replied. “No doubt it was stolen by one of your prospective members of the Alliance.”

“I’m afraid it wasn’t stolen.” Janeway said. “I gave it to the Nygeans. They needed it to repair their sensor array.”

The flippancy of Janeway’s decision irked Seven. “I presume that you obtained something equally valuable in return.”

“I think so.” Janeway said with a bit of levity. “We gained the goodwill of a potential ally.”

“They agreed to join?” Seven asked in surprise.

“Not yet.” Janeway replied.

Seven’s shoulders slumped down in frustration. “Captain.”

Janeway held her hand out in a placating gesture. “I know Seven, it’s not exactly the most efficient policy.” She paused for a moment to rub the sides of her forehead before continuing. “You think I’m being inefficient, Tuvok thinks I’m being illogical, the Doctor thinks I have a death wish.” Janeway threw her hands up in a gesture of acquiescence. “You could all be right.”

The pair stopped just outside of Janeway’s quarters. Before stepping inside, Janeway turned back to Seven to offer her one last thought. “But you know Seven, maybe the best way to get help is by giving it first. You should try it before writing it off.” She turned to go inside and Seven turned around to leave.

“Oh and Seven?” Janeway said after her.

Seven looked back at Janeway.

“I’m sorry I gave away your favorite phase compensator.” With that, Janeway retired to her quarters.

Normally, Seven would return to either the astrometrics lab to continue her analysis of the Void or cargo bay four to regenerate. Even though she had been freed from the Borg Collective and most of her implants had been removed, her primary method of rest and energy consumption was to step into her Borg alcove located in the cargo bay. The alcove provided a number of benefits to her, the most useful of which she found was the fact that she needed only four hours of regeneration per night instead of the normal eight required by humans. However, she didn’t feel particularly drained nor did she want to return to the astrometrics lab just yet. Instead, she decided to go to sickbay to check up on the creature she and B’Elanna had found on deck eleven.

The sickbay doors parted as Seven approached. When they opened, the characteristic swishing sound was replaced by opera music. It only took Seven a moment to identify the source of the piece as being Rigoletto Arias from the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi written in the Earth year of 1851. One of the other benefits of being a former drone was that her mind contained the entire collective knowledge of the Borg, including that of Starfleet crewmembers which had been assimilated into the collective.

As Seven entered sickbay, she saw that the creature was still occupying the biobed on the far side of the room. However, instead of cowering in the corner as he used to do, he was seated comfortably on it. In fact as Seven approached, she noted that the creature seemed quite enthralled with the music that was now playing over the sickbay sound system. Not even taking note of her entry.

Seven stepped up to the Doctor who was reading off the main sickbay console. “How is he?” She inquired.

“Much better.” The Doctor said with elation. “He seemed to relax when he heard me humming an aria from Rigoletto, so I had the computer play the full orchestral version. Once he let me get close, I was able to treat him for his injuries and his theta radiation poisoning.” He paused to look at the creature, still lost in the sounds of the opera. “Fantome seems to be a music lover.”

“Fantome?” Seven said incredulously.

“After the Phantom of the Opera.” The Doctor elaborated. “A tormented character who was soothed by music.”

Seven could hardly believe it. “In four years, you haven’t chosen a name for yourself. Yet, you’ve given Fantome one in merely a few days.”

The Doctor gave a slight eye roll. “Choosing the right name for myself is extremely difficult. I am a complex individual.”

“Implying that Fantome isn’t?” Seven pointed out the contradiction in the Doctors statement.

“On the contrary.” The Doctor said. “I believe he’s quite intelligent, and his physiology is very sophisticated. Did you know that his epidermal layer is made entirely out of morphogenic tissue?”

“Morphogenic?” Seven asked.

The Doctor nodded. “Yes, it took me a few days to dig up anything related in our database. The closest thing I could find was research done by a Dr. Mora back in the Alpha Quadrant. The morphogenic cells allow him to mimic other forms of matter. In effect, transforming parts of himself into them, like an advanced camouflage of sorts.”

“Which is why our sensors didn’t detect him.” Seven added.

“Mhmm.” The Doctor agreed. He studied Fantome before giving a sigh. “I wish we could find a way to communicate with him. I suspect he’d have a lot to tell us.”

That statement sparked an idea in Seven’s mind. Fantome may not be able to speak, but if he could hear and was receptive to differential sounds, then perhaps there was a way to evoke a response from him. Seven paused the opera playback. Fantome immediately noticed the lack of music and for the first time took note of Seven’s presence.

The Doctor turned to her, annoyed. “What are you doing? We were enjoying that.”

“Exactly.” Seven said, still contemplating her next course of action. “He may not be able to speak, but he can hear.”

Seven picked up a medical instrument lying on the console in front of her. She held it up so that Fantome could clearly see it. She then instructed the computer to play a sustained A-sharp tone. Fantome looked confused. Seven set the instrument down and then picked up a nearby bowl. C-flat this time. At this point the Doctor caught on to what Seven was attempting. He observed both her and Fantome with fascination. Seven set the bowl down and played A-sharp again.

Fantome was hesitant at first. But after a moment, he made his way off the bed and onto the floor. He then crept forward cautiously until he was just on the other side of the console. He snatched up the medical instrument.

“He understands!” The Doctor proclaimed with jubilation.

Seven then played C-flat again. Fantome in turn responded by placing the medical instrument down and then holding the bowl up. Just then, Seven felt something she hadn’t really experienced before. Was it pride? Or perhaps triumph? As she was processing these new emotions, Fantome did something completely unexpected. He set down the bowl and held up the hypospray. Seven didn’t need telepathy to understand exactly what he was asking.

What is this?

Seven played a G tone this time and Fantome examined the hypospray with unbridled curiosity. Seven’s mind quickly started working through the possibilities for communication. A syntax could be developed around different tonal qualities. Harmonic frequency combinations could be used for verb conjugation perhaps. Flats and sharps could be used to indicate modifiers such as adverbs and adjectives. While simple notes strung together in rapid succession could be used to describe nouns. The beginnings of a language. It would take time though. Time that could be spent working in the astrometrics lab. But then, Seven recalled the suggestion that the Captain had just made to her, about giving help without expecting anything in return.

Seven regarded Fantome and decided right then that she was indeed going to help him.

Chapter 7

“Tom, I really don’t have time for this.” B’Elanna Torres said exasperated.

“Come on, just try it out. It’ll be fun, I promise.” Tom Paris replied.

Despite all that was going on, Tom Paris still had some holodeck time left over and he wasn’t about to let it go to waste. The crew still had use of one holodeck, but they had been limited to half an hour each. Paris was determined to make the most of his time. He had restarted the Captain Proton programme right where he had left off. Harry was too busy commanding Voyager during the night shift to play Buster Kincaid. B’Elanna on the other hand was free. Despite her protests to the contrary, Paris knew that she was just trying to avoid having to participate in the holoprogram.

“And who exactly am I supposed to be?” Torres asked, halfheartedly. She hadn’t even bothered to change into an appropriate costume, instead simply wearing her standard issue Starfleet uniform. Though the golden shoulders of her top, signifying the engineering department, had been turned bright grey to suit the programme setting.

“Ah, right.” Paris said, walking over to her already fully dressed in his jetsuit and rocket pack. “You’re Constance Goodheart. You’re my secretary.”

“I’m your secretary?” Torres asked, insulted.

“Yeah, you tag along on all the missions.” Paris continued, not even noticing Torres’ reaction. He pointed over to the Robot across the room. “Now, I want you to keep the robot occupied while I save Earth.”

“Why do you get to save Earth?” Torres inquired incredulously.

“Because I’m Captain Proton.” He said, stating what he thought was plainly obvious. “I’m the hero.”

Torres scoffed. “And I’m just supposed to stand around while you get to save the day?”

“Well no, you have to help me by keeping the Robot busy.” Paris said.

Torres folded her arms with a sigh. “Tom…” She began.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be great!” Paris said half encouragingly, half impatiently. “Computer, resume programme.” He said to the holodeck computer.

In an instant, the Robot was hobbling toward B’Elanna, arms flailing about uselessly. “Citizen of Earth, surrender!” It said in its synthesized voice.

Tom quickly abandoned B’Elanna in order to attend to the rocket ship; to save Earth, presumably. B’Elanna just stood motionless, arms folded. Watching the poorly designed robot incompetently approach. Just then, she noted the very obvious box shaped looking panel on the robot’s chest. Ducking underneath the Robot’s attempts to grab her, Torres opened up the panel with ease to reveal a simple fuse system inside.

It can’t be this easy. She thought to herself.

Torres reached inside and yanked out one of the fuses. The Robot’s movements became sluggish before slowly dying, having been deprived of power.

“Surrreeennnnn-” The Robot attempted to say before shutting off completely.

“Done.” Torres proclaimed. “Now what?”

Paris walked back over to Torres with a look of disappointment. “Come on B’Elanna, give it a chance. The galaxy’s at stake, remember?”

“How about…” Torres started, trying to come up with the most irritating suggestion she could possibly think of. “…we switch roles?”

Paris looked at her confused. “What do you mean?”

Torres’ eyes began to gleam. “I can be the intrepid savior of the galaxy…” She wrapped herself around Paris’ arm in mock affection. “…and you can be my secretary.” She said with a smile.

Paris guffawed in disbelief. “I don’t think it works that way.”

“Why not?” Torres asked.

Before Paris could think of a good answer, the rocket ship control room juddered. Was it the programme? Paris didn’t think so.

Over the shipwide comm system, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok’s voice made the announcement. “Red alert. All hands, report to battlestations.”

Paris and Torres gave each other one quick look of urgency before departing the holodeck. Torres left for engineering, while Paris made his way up to the bridge.

Paris heard Janeway’s commands as he stepped off the turbolift. “Charge weapons, shields to full!” Janeway commanded.

“What’s going on?” Paris asked, moving quickly over to his post at the helm.

“A subspace funnel just opened.” Chakotay said. “It pulled in a new vessel.”

“Two warships are approaching it.” Tuvok added quickly. “One of them is the Krebor.”

Janeway didn’t even have to think about who to target first. “Target Valen and hail him.”

Valen appeared on the viewscreen, replacing the image of the trio of ships engaging each other. “Captain Janeway.” Valen said with cold intensity. “We meet again.”

“Our last encounter ended rather abruptly for my tastes.” Janeway quipped back.

“And not soon enough for mine.” Valen said with a smile. “I suggest you withdraw from the area. I wouldn’t want any further undue harm to come to your ship.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that.” Janeway replied. “Break off your attack, or you’ll be fired upon.”

“So that you may take their resources for yourselves?” Valen probed.

“No.” Janeway said. “So that we can protect them.”

Valen brought up his hands and laced his fingers in front of his face. As if Janeway’s presence was more of a curiosity, rather than an inconvenience. “And what exactly are they to you?”

“Just some people caught in a bad situation.” Janeway proclaimed. “Like the rest of us.”

“Still clinging to your nobility, I see.” Valen observed. “In that case, let us put that sentiment to the test.” He said before closing the channel.

“Valen is locking weapons on us.” Chakotay reported.

“Return fire, take his weapons out.” Janeway ordered. “And hail the new ship.”

The bridge was rocked as the Krebor’s phasers smashed into Voyager’s shields. A new image flashed on the main viewscreen. A rather rotund man appeared. He was totally bald and his external facial features such as his ears and nose were inset into his face. His skin was smooth, brown and leathery, most likely owing to an aquatic evolutionary chain. “I surrender!” The man shouted abruptly.

“We’re here to help you.” Janeway said. “Can you target the smaller warship?”

The man shook his head furiously. “We’re a survey vessel. We’re not equipped to fight!”

Another blast from the Krebor tossed the bridge sideways. Janeway clutched the sides of her seat for support. “Status?!”

“Shields at sixty percent and falling.” Tuvok reported.

“Fire torpedoes, full spread.” Janeway ordered.

Voyager swung around, pointing its bow directly inline with the Krebor. From the fore-facing photon torpedo launchers, a volley of bright yellow spheres shot out one after the other. They flashed and twinkled as they traveled almost like shooting stars streaking across the sky. Two of them missed their mark as the Krebor veered sideways to evade them. The second two were able to compensate for the movement and impacted directly into the Krebor’s shields. Causing the tan colored shield bubble protecting the Krebor to scintillate and flare as it absorbed the incoming energy.

“Two direct hits.” Tuvok reported. “But the Krebor’s shields are holding at eighty percent.”

The report caused Janeway to turn around in surprise. Cardassian technology had always lagged behind Starfleet in every aspect. By all accounts, the Galor class vessel should have inferior weapons and shields compared to Voyager’s state of the art systems. “How is that possible?” Janeway asked.

“The shield output from the Krebor far exceeds that of typical Cardassian design.” Tuvok said. “Evidently, Valen has been able to upgrade them since his stay in the Delta Quadrant.”

“Ours?” Janeway asked, not sure if she wanted to hear the answer.

“Down to thirty.” Tuvok replied grimly.

“Captain.” Paris said from the helm. “The smaller ship is continuing to outmaneuver us. I can’t maintain position to protect the other ship.”

Once more, the bridge pitched over as more weapons fire impacted the shields.

“Torres to bridge!” Torres’ voice said over the intercom.

“Go ahead.” Janeway replied.

“Captain, our power reserves are at critical levels.” Torres said. ”At this rate we won’t be able to maintain the containment field inside the warp core. We’ll be dead in the water in less than three minutes.”

“Captain.” Chakotay said in a hushed voice, not wanting to outwardly contradict the Captain. “We should retreat. We’re outnumbered two to one and we’re not a match for the Krebor in this condition.”

Janeway knew Voyager was being pushed to its absolute limits. But she couldn’t give up. Even if Voyager were to limp away now, they wouldn’t even last a day. It was now or never. “Not yet.” She replied.

“You may want to reconsider that Captain, there’s another ship approaching.” Paris said. “We’re about to be outnumbered three to one.”

Was this it? Janeway wondered. Had she come all this way, made all the tough decisions, fought battle after battle only to be stopped here in the Void?

“Perhaps not.” Tuvok said. The entire bridge crew turned to look at him, hanging on his next words. “The third vessel belongs to Mister Garon. He’s firing on the other two vessels.”

Garon’s ship swooped in between the Krebor and the smaller attacker, diving like a hawk. Two blue beams of light erupted from wing mounted disruptor cannons, one beam for each vessel. Garon’s ship pummeled the smaller attacker until it’s shields failed and it was forced to withdraw. Evidently, this new development caused Valen to reconsider the odds. The Krebor broke off, engaging its cloaking device and slinking away.

For a moment, everyone on the bridge was stunned before Tuvok broke the silence. “The two attacking vessels are retreating. Captain Garon is hailing.”

Janeway hesitated for a moment, having been fooled one too many times already. “Get a weapons lock on him. Then open the channel.”

Captain Garon, still dressed in his utilitarian crimson uniform, appeared on the main viewscreen. “Why are you targeting me?” He asked suspiciously.

“Because I don’t know what your intentions are.” Janeway said.

“Haven’t I just made that clear?” He replied. Janeway didn’t say anything, either out of caution or not wanting to jinx the situation. Garon straightened himself, standing at attention on screen. “I have decided to accept your offer of allegiance.”

Janeway allowed herself one very well deserved moment of reprieve. “In that case.” She raised herself from her chair smiling confidently as she walked up to the viewscreen. “Welcome to the Alliance.”

Chapter 8

Captains Log, Stardate 52096.4: Since Captain Garon and Captain Loquar became our charter members of the Alliance two days ago, finding new allies has gotten a little easier. My latest prospect is a man named Controller Emck.

“Energize.” Captain Janeway commanded.

The transporter lit up and began to rematerialize its subject. Transporter technology had been invented by Earth scientists nearly two hundred years ago. In the time since, it’s design had been iterated upon and improved greatly. The device was capable of disassembling matter at the subatomic level, it then stored that matter temporarily before transmitting it over vast distances and then reassembling it back into its original form. Improvements in the transporter gave it the capability to discern individual parts of the subject and selectively reassemble it. Oftentimes this was used to screen for weapons or pathogens during transport and then rematerialize the life form without the filtered objects.

“The biofilters are detecting high levels of theta radiation.” Lieutenant Commander Tuvok said from the transporter control station located behind Janeway.

“Compensate.” Janeway said.

The transporter continued its operation. Four spheres of light emerged midair from a single point above the transporter pad, two traveled upwards while the other two traveled downwards. A cylinder of blue energy formed on the pad, formlessly shimmering before coalescing into a roughly humanoid shape. After a moment, a man emerged from the energy stream.

His skin was mottled dark yellow. His hair was rough and scraggly. Almost as if he had been sun bleached one too many times. The suit he wore was highly utilitarian, being entirely colored dark brown. It was covered in pipes, tubes, seals and connection points. There were almost no decorations at all on the suit, not even to signify rank or position.

“Controller Emck.” Janeway said. “Welcome aboard the Starship Voyager.”

“Thank you, Captain Janeway.” Emck said in a rough, coarse voice. He stepped forward but encountered a forcefield surrounding the transporter, causing him to reel back in shock.

“Oh, my apologies for the precautions. You appear to be leaking.” Janeway said, pointing to his attire.

“Yes, yes, my isolation suit.” He said, gesturing down at himself. “Don’t be alarmed.”

“If you don’t mind waiting a moment in the transporter, we can decontaminate you and your suit of radiogenic particles.” Janeway said.

Emck’s curiosity was piqued at the suggestion. “I would appreciate that very much, Captain.”

Janeway gave a hand signal to Tuvok who entered the command into the transporter. The walls of the transporter chamber began to glow alternating colors. Emck watched in fascination, apparently not feeling anything. After several moments, the procedure was complete and the forcefield was lowered.

“Most impressive.” Emck said, stepping off the transporter pad.

“I’m glad you approve.” Janeway said with a smile. “Please allow me to show you to our mess hall.” She said, gesturing toward the door.

Emck stepped over to follow Janeway’s lead. Janeway stepped up next to him, but quickly recoiled once she got near. Apparently, even though the transporter was able to eliminate the radiation, it did nothing for the smell which was a pungent combination of days old sweat and musty grime. Janeway diplomatically kept her distance from the man as they walked.

“Tell me.” Janeway started. “How did you end up in the Void?”

“My vessel is a transport ship. We were on our way to deliver cargo from our homeworld, Malon Prime, when we were pulled into the Void.” He said.

“I’m sorry to hear that. We noticed that the hull of your ship is covered in theta radiation.” Janeway didn’t ask a direct question, instead choosing to see if Emck would provide a meaningful answer on his own.

“Yes.” He said. “We were drawn into this region of the Void when we first entered. Our ship is unlike yours, we cannot protect our hull from accumulating the radiogenic particles which emit theta radiation.”

“How have you been able to deal with it?” Janeway asked.

“Luckly, our internal structure has been hardened against radiation.” He said. “My crew and I have been able to withstand the worst of the effects.”

“Judging from your appearance, you must have been here for quite some time.” Janeway observed.

“Yes.” Emck said, not elaborating any further.

Janeway and Emck reached their destination at the mess hall. The scent of hot vegetable soup from within provided Janeway some relief from the stench of Emck’s suit. “Neelix, we have another guest for dinner.” Janeway said.

“Always room for one more, Captain.” Neelix replied carrying a large steaming pot of stew.

The mess hall was filled with people and most of them were not part of Voyager’s crew. Personnel from multiple ships were often coming and going from Voyager. As the leading member of the Alliance, Voyager had become the central hub around which the other ships were congregating. Janeway allowed everyone to come and go as they pleased, however she had ordered Tuvok to limit access to critical ship systems.

Janeway picked up a bowl of stew and handed it to Emck who was again shocked at the sight. “Who did you have to steal from to obtain fresh vegetables?” He asked.

“No one.” Janeway replied with pride. “They’re replicated. One of the other ships in the Alliance had technology which tripled our replicator efficiency.”

“It may not be a gourmet feast.” Neelix added while chopping some vegetables. “But we can feed five hundred people a day now, using only half the power it took us a few days ago.”

Janeway and Emck took a seat. The ambiance in the mess hall was more lively than Janeway was used to. Most often people would be conversing at a low tone, trying not to disturb each other. Occasionally, there would be a rowdy conversation or a raucous bout of laughter, but nothing that would too badly disturb the peace. Now however, the mess hall was buzzing with commotion and conversation, having been nearly packed with people to capacity. Janeway took a moment to admire the scene. It was a shining example of what could be achieved with a bit of mutual cooperation. She couldn’t help but notice that instead of mingling, the various crews chose to stick together at their own tables. Unfortunate but unsurprising, trust only came with time.

“Your ship continues to impress me, Captain.” Emck said after taking a hearty spoonful of soup. “Tell me, how does your civilization deal with residual antimatter waste?”

Emck’s question pleased Janeway. It wasn’t often she got to show off the advances in technology humanity had made or her own intricate knowledge of its operation. “Our warp core produces several high energy byproducts, trilithium for one. We capture the trilithium and process it into a resin. From there, we store it in a transkenetic chamber which breaks the trilithium down at a subatomic level and converts it into energy in a continuous process.”

“What about the excess theta radiation produced?” Emck inquired.

“We use a series of radiometric converters to capture the particles which are then also converted to energy.” Janeway said. “After which, we then use the excess to power our replicators, which were responsible for producing the food you are now eating.’

Humanity has become quite clever in bringing the laws of thermodynamics to its knees. Janeway thought to herself.

“Ingenious design.” Emck said. “The engineers on my world would be most pleased if you were to share this technology with me.”

“I would be more than happy to.” Janeway said with a smile.

Emck went to take another bite of his soup when he saw something that perturbed him. Janeway turned to see what he was looking at. Over her shoulder she spied the Doctor and the creature from sickbay at his side. Both of them were carrying PADD’s in their hands. The Doctor tapped a few times into his PADD, which then emitted several sounds in quick succession. To Janeway’s surprise, the creature also tapped into its PADD which then also emitted several sounds in response. Almost as if the two were conversing with each other. Janeway made a mental note to visit sickbay when she had a chance. The Doctor walked over to the mess hall counter to fetch some food, the creature followed close behind still in its usual defensive crouch.

“Why do you tolerate that parasite aboard your ship?” Emck growled.

Janeway was shocked at the accusation. “I beg your pardon?”

“They’re vermin.” Emck continued.

By this point the Doctor had taken note of Emck’s derogatory words. He turned to confront Emck while the creature cowered behind him. “I don’t know who you are, sir.” The Doctor said. “But your choice of words is offensive.”

“What’s offensive.” Emck said motioning to the creature. “Is how those pests sneak aboard your ship during transport. They hide in conduits, stealing your food while spreading disease.”

“I can assure you that Fantome is in perfect health.” The Doctor replied. “And unlike some people in this Void, he hasn’t stolen anything.”

Janeway noted that this conversation was quickly getting out of hand. Emck continued his tirade. “If my sensors could detect them on my ship, I’d capture all of them and then decompress them out into space.” He eyed Fantome. “Where it belongs.”

“Captain, this is outrageous!” The Doctor shouted.

“Doctor!” Captain Janeway shouted back, she held up her hand as if to say ‘just walk away’. The Doctor and Fantome then exited the mess hall with a bowl of food. Janeway turned back toward Emck and calmly explained her position to him. “One of the principles of our Alliance is that we don’t discriminate. Everyone is welcome as long as they follow the rules.” Janeway turned to look at the door that the Doctor just exited through. “But if you’re having a bad experience with members of his species aboard your ship, I’d be happy to bring them onto Voyager.”

“If only you could locate them.” Emck said.

“Now that we’ve had a chance to study their physiology.” Janeway mused. “I think we can get a transporter lock on them.”

Emck sat back and laughed as he took another bite of his stew. “Captain, you only continue to impress me.”

The overhead comm system sounded with a bleep. “Seven of Nine to Captain Janeway, please report to the astrometrics lab immediately.”

“Please excuse me.” Janeway said to Emck as she stood up to leave.

Janeway made her way down to the astrometrics lab and stepped inside. The roughly egg shaped room was spacious and perfectly shaped to present information. At the far end of the room was a very large screen at least four meters across and three meters high. Seven of Nine had designed the room along with Harry Kim. They combined Starfleet and Borg technology into an advanced sensor suite more capable than anything Voyager had originally been equipped with. Seven of Nine spent most of her time here, collating, analyzing and presenting the information the lab collected in the most efficient way possible. Usually, Seven preferred to work in isolation. But at the moment, she was joined by two other crew members from the first ship Janeway had rescued a few days ago. The ship she now knew belonged to Captain Loquar of an organization known as The Hierarchy.

“Captain, these men are not authorized to be here. I request that they be removed.” Seven demanded.

“We are making valuable contributions to the Alliance.” Loquar protested.

“By spying on its members?” Seven reposted back.

“By gathering valuable information using a new surveillance technique we devised.” Loquar said turning to manipulate the controls on the main astrometrics interface. The screen flashed to show what appeared to be a room full of cargo. “This is the cargo hold of the Jelinian freighter. Now, if I’m not mistaken, the Jelinians are a member of our Alliance, are they not?”

“Which is why you should not be spying on them.” Janeway observed, agreeing with Seven’s point of view.

“Which is why they should not be hoarding their deuterium!” Loquar responded. He continued to access the computer controls. He then brought up a three dimensional overview of all ships within a hundred light years of Voyager’s position. “We can observe activity on any ship in the Void without being detected.” Loquar said with pride.

Janeway, now more curious than angry, stepped up to the large display screen. Multiple small virtual objects filled the view of all shapes and sizes. Each one was displayed with vital information about the heading and position of each ship, as well as their estimated tactical capability. Even Janeway had to admit their work was impressive. Especially given that Seven herself, one of the most capable members of her crew, had not been able to produce such an accurate result as this. Janeway visually sifted through the information. Her intention was to locate the Krebor, as she wondered if Voyager’s sensors were now capable of penetrating its cloaking field. But something else caught her eye instead.

Janeway pointed to one of the larger objects on the screen. “What’s this?” She asked.

Loquar entered in commands as Seven observed. The display zoomed into the object, which was now obviously larger than a mere ship.

“A space station.” Seven observed.

“I thought that there were only ships in the Void.” Janeway said.

“There are…” Seven said as she thought to herself. “The subspace vortexes are not large enough to capture an object of this size.”

“So it was constructed?” Loquar asked.

“We’ll have to get closer to make that determination.” Seven said.

“Seven…” Janeway started, a completely implausible thought had just occurred to her. Even though she figured that it couldn’t possibly be true, she asked anyway. “Can you overlay the density of theta radiation in the region?”

Seven unceremoniously brushed Loquar aside as it was now her turn to operate the controls. The view once again zoomed out to show the area within one hundred light years. The station appeared to be a small yellow object again. In a few moments, Seven had overlaid a projection of the theta radiation within the area. A green haze appeared on the screen representing the radiation, with the denser regions taking on a more opaque form. A roughly spherical shape emerged, with a solid core transitioning to fuzzy edges. The center of the sphere lay directly on top of the space station they had just discovered.

Janeway just stared at the image in stunned silence.

“Curious.” Seven mused.

“Seven, feed the coordinates of that station to the helm and tell Mr. Paris to set a course.” Janeway said hurrying out of astrometrics.

“Yes Captain…and Captain?” Seven said before Janeway could exit the room.

Janeway turned around and saw Seven eye Loquar suspiciously. “And no more spying on Alliance ships.” Janeway ordered.

“Understood.” Loquar responded, understanding the implication to be that while he couldn’t use the sensors on Alliance ships, non-Alliance ships were fair game. He gave Seven another look of triumph, which she then returned with a look of exasperation.

Janeway made her way up to the bridge. Her gut instinct had been proven right, there was something at the heart of the theta radiation. Somehow she knew that the answer to escaping the Void lay there as well.

Chapter 9

Captains Log, Stardate 52098.2: The Alliance ships have set course for the space station at the center of the theta radiation. Many of the captains disagreed at first since it would mean a further drain on our shields. But the prospect of finding a way to escape the Void proved to be enough to sway them.

Seven of Nine toiled away at the sickbay console. She had originally wanted to spend her time in the past two days conducting an analysis on the station in the astrometrics lab as Voyager approached it. However, since Captain Janeway had offered to provide sanctuary for the other members of Fantome’s race, the Doctor had requested her assistance in improving the musical communications program.

Seven watched as Fantome plus three other members of his race sat on the biobed on the far side of the still darkened sickbay. They all tapped rapidly on their individual PADD’s, producing a cacophony of sounds. Each PADD played in a different octave to differentiate each user from one another. The sounds they generated had a unique dynamic quality to it. At first, it seemed to be just random noise. But as one continued to listen, it was clear that there was very much order in the chaos.

Suddenly Fantome saw something out of the corner of his eye. Like a herd of cats that had just been startled, all the noise from the PADD’s ceased as they all turned to view the disturbance. From behind Seven, she heard someone begin to clap in an enthusiastic ovation. Seven turned to see Captain Janeway, totally enthralled by the sights and sounds coming from Fantome and his cohort.

“Marvelous piece.” Janeway raved in awe. “Did they compose it or did you?” She asked

“They did.” The Doctor replied. “Though strictly speaking, it’s not a composition. It’s more of a conversation.”

“I’m impressed.” Janeway said, approaching Seven and the Doctor.

“I wish I could take credit.” The Doctor began. “But Seven here was the one who originally came up with the idea as well as being the chief architect of the program which allows them to communicate.” He said beaming at Seven. “On top of that, it was Fantome who taught the others in a fraction of the time it took him to learn. They are a highly intelligent species.”

“The language is already developing its own unique grammar and syntax, independent of our input.” Seven added.

“That suggests that they have a language of their own.” Janeway concluded.

The Doctor nodded. “Mhmm. It could be telepathic. But they seem just as comfortable communicating through music now.”

“I hypothesize that telepathy requires greater effort for them.” Seven said. “Thus making music a more efficient form of communication.”

Janeway turned around to Seven having just now taken in what the Doctor had said a moment ago. “You created this for them?”

“That’s correct.” Seven replied.

“And what have they given you in return?” Janeway gently probed, trying to tease out an answer to Seven’s apparently inconsistent position.

Seven raised her eyebrow and took in a breath, stalling for time as she concocted an answer. “Nothing…But I felt that it was worth the effort.”

Janeway just gave her a warm smile before turning back to watch the aliens talk to each other. “Could their species be native to the Void?” She asked.

“It’s certainly possible.” The Doctor said. “But their numbers are dwindling.”

Janeway looked at him in confusion. “Dwindling? Why?”

“I scanned each of them when they were brought on board.” The Doctor said. “Each one of them was suffering from severe theta radiation poisoning. They said they’ve lived for a long time in the Void, but now they’re dying Captain. The more the radiation continues to build, the fewer of them there are.”

As Janeway watched Fantome and his friends talk to one another, her feelings turned from curiosity and awe to fury and rage. After all she had been through, all she had seen, she thought she could never be surprised anymore. But out here, in the middle of the most remote part of space, she watched one of the most breathtaking and awe inspiring sights she had ever seen. The sheer improbability of happenstance that had to occur for this very moment to take place was beyond reason. How anyone would want to destroy something as extraordinary as this was incomprehensible to her. The thought abhorred Janeway down to her very core.

“Tell them…” Janeway started, her voice filled with determination. “…Tell them that I’m going to find the cause of what’s killing them. Tell them that I’m going to find it and I’m going to eliminate it. No matter the cost.”

“Aye, Captain.” The Doctor said, understanding her feelings.

“Bridge to Captain Janeway.” Chakotay’s voice said over the comm system.

“Go ahead.” Janeway said.

“We’re approaching the alien station.” Chakotay said.

“On my way.” Janeway replied.

She allowed herself one final moment to observe Fantome before turning to Seven. “Seven, I need you in astrometrics.”

“Aye Captain.” Seven replied.

The two exited sickbay, Seven returned to astrometrics while Janeway went to the bridge. Once there, Janeway settled into her seat.

“We’re coming into range now.” Ensign Kim reported.

“On screen.” Janeway commanded.

The viewscreen flashed on and Janeway got her first good look at the alien station. It was a spindly looking structure. It’s main body was roughly cylindrical, housing most of the vital components of the station. Arms extended out in all directions from the superstructure. Each arm was segmented at one hundred and twenty degree angles from the previous segment, making it look like a giant honeycomb. The station was tinged dark brown and it looked absolutely ancient.

“Harry?” Janeway said, asking Ensign Kim for a report.

“The station is at least several centuries old.” Kim said. “The arms contain both docking equipment and sensor suites. It looks like the central structure houses the main power plant, life support systems, control rooms and…” He paused to analyze what the computers were telling him “…one very large mechanical complex, which seems to be drawing most of the station’s power.”

“Is it safe to dock?” Chakotay asked.

“The structural integrity of the arms appears stable. Atmospheric composition reads as .3 bar oxygen, .2 bar nitrogen and .4 bar argon, breathable for humans. However, the interior of the station is flooded with theta radiation. We’ll have to go in with environmental suits until we can clear the radiation.” Kim said.

“Very well. Signal the fleet to hold position while we investigate the station.” Janeway said before turning to Chakotay. “Commander, assemble an away team.”

“Aye, Captain. Harry, Tuvok.” Chakotay said, summoning the two officers to come with him down to the airlock.

Before Ensign Kim could comply, his console bleeped with an incoming message alert. “Captain, the Malons are insisting that they be allowed to board the station. They’re saying that their environmental gear is better suited to handle the high levels of theta radiation.”

Chakotay turned to Janeway. “Looks like they don’t trust us.”

“Or there’s something on that station they don’t want us to find.” Janeway mused.

“Do we turn them down?” Chakotay asked.

“Without a good reason, I can’t just send them away.” Janeway looked at Kim. “Harry, tell them that they can only bring two crewmen aboard as a safety precaution, and that they will be under Chakotay’s command.”

“Aye Captain.” Kim responded.

Janeway looked at Chakotay. “Keep an eye on them while you’re over there.”

“Will do.” Chakotay said before exiting the bridge with Tuvok and Kim.

Voyager lined up alongside one of the arms closest to the main structure and docked with the station. The away team consisted of Commander Chakotay, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, Lieutenant Torres, Ensign Kim and Seven of Nine. Torres brought along some of her engineering staff while Tuvok had assembled a security detail. Chakotay split the group in two. Chakotay, Torres, and Kim were going to try and access the central computer systems, while Tuvok and Seven were going to attempt to figure out what the unidentified complex was. Chakotay signaled the two Malon to meet them in the central control room.

The two teams went to work. As Chakotay ventured through the halls of the station, he swept his SIM’s beacon across its various surfaces. The metals that lined the walls and conduits had become rusted and fatigued with age. Turning what may have been a shiny new silver into a tarnished old dark olive. With each step, Chakotay could hear the creaking and groaning of the deck plating echo throughout the hallway, as if a great beast had awoken from a deep slumber.

Tuvok and Seven split off from the group along with some of the engineering team. Chakotay’s group navigated their way into the control room. It was large and spacious, reminding Chakotay of an opera house or a museum. Computer interfaces lined the walls. Above him was a massive support structure inset with large display screens. In the center of the room was a ring shaped console divided into several individual stations. Additionally, he noted that there were no chairs of any kind in sight.

B’Elanna Torres stepped forward to the central ring console and placed her tool kit on top of it. “If I can access the main computer, I may be able to bring these control interfaces back online.”

“Just don’t blow us out into space.” Chakotay jested.

“I’ll try my best.” Torres replied. “Harry, see if you can locate the primary power cables and data lines that feed into this room.”

“On it.” Kim said, scanning the room with his tricorder.

“Commander?” Said one of the men from Tuvok’s security detail.

Chakotay turned around to see that two Malon were being held just outside the room by the guard. “Let them through.” Chakotay said.

One of the men was Controller Emck. He spied what Torres and Kim were doing as he approached. “Commander Chakotay.” He said through his isolation suit helmet.

“Controller Emck.” Chakotay responded. “Our people are working on getting main power back online. Just sit tight for now.”

“Very well.” Emck replied, casually walking over to observe what Torres was doing.

While keeping one eye on the two Malon, Chakotay tapped the communicator button on his chestplate. “Chakotay to Tuvok.”

“Go ahead, Commander.” Tuvok’s voice replied through the suit speakers.

“We’re at the control room. B’Elanna is working on restoring main power. How’s it coming on your end.”

“Seven of Nine has begun her work analyzing the complex. We are holding position here.” Tuvok reported.

“Have you encountered any other lifeforms on the station?” Chakotay asked.

“Not yet.” Tuvok responded.

“Understood, let’s check in with each other every thirty minutes.” Chakotay said.

“Acknowledged.” Tuvok replied, closing the channel.

“Looks like there’s an active power circuit here, B’Elanna.” Kim said, reading off his tricorder. “It’s leading into the central console.”

“Which station?” Torres asked, looking around for an active console screen.

Kim walked over to the side of the ring opposite Torres and she moved to join him. “In here.” He said.

Torres brushed off the top of the console with her glove, kicking up a plume of dust. It was totally dark and did not respond when she tapped her finger to it. She retrieved some tools from her kit and knelt down beside the panel that covered the console’s circuitry. “The computer may just be on standby.” She drew her phaser and set it to narrow beam mode. She aimed the phaser at the edges of the panel and began cutting. “If I can send a signal into the active circuit. The computer may just bring itself back online.”

“Hard to believe that a space station could last as long as this one has.” Kim thought out loud.

“The designers definitely knew what they were doing.” Torres observed.

Torres finished cutting through the edges of the panel and removed it. She and Kim scanned the various wires and circuit boards that were inside, attempting to ascertain which was the correct one to activate. After a few minutes, Torres had identified what she thought was the right one.

“I think this should do it.” Torres said, attaching the leads from a modular power cell to it. She then entered in a series of commands into her tricorder.

For a moment, nothing happened. But then, Chakotay heard a deep rumbling sound emanate from the corridors outside the control room. “B’Elanna.” Chakotay said, concerned.

“Somethings happening.” She replied, watching the readings from her tricorder.

Chakotay looked up and the display panels detached from their idle positions and began to move outward from the support structure. Enlarging the room to an even greater degree. “I can see that.” He said to Torres dryly, hoping she had inputted the correct command sequence. The hinges of the mechanical arms that held up the screens screeched and protested as they rotated. The entire station had become alive with all sorts of harsh metallic noises. The floor began to vibrate underneath Chakotay’s feet.

Suddenly, all the computer displays in the room flashed on, once again alive with power. The larger screens above Chakotay had finished retreating into the ceiling. They gradually illuminated themselves, now displaying a litany of information in some alien language. In the center of the room, above the ring console an enormous transparent hologram appeared. Chakotay had seen Seven’s attempts at producing a map of the Void in astrometrics, but this was many times more detailed. Chakotay could see the entire shape of the Void from here. It had a profile like an oblate spheroid, as if someone had taken a gigantic rubber ball and sat on it.

Within the projection, Chakotay could see vast amounts of objects. Most of which he assumed were ships or debris. But within the Void, spaced in a circle at regular intervals were larger objects. One in particular had a number of smaller objects surrounding it. Chakotay guessed that these larger objects represented space stations within the Void, and he had found the one they were currently on. Chakotay counted twelve stations in total. Nine of them were colored red, while two others were colored blue. The one Voyager was now docked at was colored green.

Chakotay, still in awe of what he was observing, absently depressed the communicator button on his environmental suit. “Chakotay to Voyager.”

“Go ahead Commander.” Janeway’s voice responded.

“Captain…” Chakotay said, his voice trailing off.

“Yes?” Janeway asked, concerned. “What is it Commander?”

Finally, Chakotay just said. “You have to see this.”

Chapter 10

Captain Janeway walked up to stand beside Seven of Nine. Lieutenant Torres had devised a cunning plan for clearing out the atmosphere of radiation. Voyager had opened its airlock vents and produced a negative pressure gradient, causing all the air inside the station to be sucked into Voyager’s environmental filters. The radiogenic particles were then fed into the recycling systems and converted into energy. It wasn’t much, but every little bit helped. After a few hours the radiation levels on the station had reduced to a level tolerable to humans. Thus, the crew were now able to operate within the station without environmental suits on. Even still, the smell of metallic rust still permeated the air.

Janeway stood on the precipice of the mysterious complex at the heart of the alien station. It was several stores deep. The walls were lined with thousands of reflective panels, all hexagonal shaped. They surrounded an enormous generator of some kind. The generator looked rather similar to Voyager’s own warp core. However, it was much larger and separated into two halves suspended from above and below. A glowing sphere of white energy was contained between the two halves of the core. It gyrated and rippled as if caught in a windstream.

“Marvelous.” Janeway said, taking in the sight while leaning on the railing. “What is it?”

Seven operated the controls at a nearby computer station. “I believe it is a subspace field aperture generator of some kind. Similar to the quantum slipstream drive we encountered last year, only larger. This device appears to be able to focus and amplify a subspace field. Projecting it through space and creating a subspace vortex at the desired location.”

“So this is the source of the funnels.” Janeway concluded.

“Correct.” Seven agreed. “The core itself is an advanced containment and matter decomposition chamber. Similar to our warp core containment field and transporter systems, only much more complex. Suspended between the two halves of the core is a sphere of condensed degenerate matter of extreme density.”

“Like its own little white dwarf star.” Janeway added.

“Precisely.” Seven continued. “When the core is engaged, it decomposes the matter inside the sphere, converting it directly into energy. The panels that comprise the walls are near perfect energy reflecting surfaces. Once the core begins the matter conversion process, the panels shift into position. Focusing the released energy and creating a local subspace distortion, which in turn creates the vortex.”

“Remarkable.” Janeway said. “So it is capable of generating outgoing vortexes then?”

“Not at the moment.” Seven said. “The computer control systems have malfunctioned. Instead of generating vortexes of ingress and egress to and from the Void by command, the station has been generating only ones of ingress at regular intervals.”

“Which is why ships have been getting pulled into the Void in this region.” Janeway said. “Can it be repaired?”

“I believe the station is no longer capable of regulating its own energy source properly.” Seven said. “However, with the proper modifications, it should be possible to switch the generator from creating vortexes of ingress to vortexes of egress.”

“Allowing ships to escape. How long will that take?” Janeway asked.

“I estimate ten hours to completion.” Seven said.

“Get started.” Janeway ordered.

“Aye Captain.” Seven replied.

Janeway thought to herself for a moment while staring into the swirling white core. “Seven, what would happen if we prevented the station from forming vortexes entirely.”

“In that case, the station core would destabilize.” Seven concluded. “Destroying the station entirely.”

“How long would it take for the station core to destabilize?” Janeway asked.

Seven thought to herself for a moment. “Impossible to make a completely accurate determination. However, I estimate less than ten minutes.”

Janeway stepped back from the railing and looked at Seven. “After you’re finished reversing the vortexes, I want you to create a command sequence that would stop them entirely.”

“Captain?” Seven asked, requesting clarification of Janeway’s intentions.

“I don’t want to take the chance that someone could reverse your work.” Janeway said. “Use this station to bring more ships into the Void. I want it destroyed, permanently.”

Seven nodded in agreement. “Aye, Captain.”

“Keep me apprised.” Janeway said, turning to leave.

Janeway made her way back up to the control center. The place looked like the busiest of beehives. Torres’ engineering staff were hard at work deciphering and operating the alien equipment. The Malon were still present in the room, though Tuvok was keeping a watchful eye on them. Janeway took a moment to look up at the giant holographic projection of the Void. It amazed her to know that this station was centuries or perhaps millenia old. She wondered if the Void was similarly aged. Or did the Void exist before the stations? What was its purpose?

Janeway wandered over to Torres. “Any luck?”

“Some.” Torres responded. “We can access the primary computer. But deciphering their language and decoding their primary database is going to take some time.”

“How long?” Janeway asked.

Torres shrugged. “Hours, days maybe?”

“Seven thinks that she can figure out a way of reversing the funnels. Which would allow us to escape.” Janeway said, relaying the news.

Torres nodded in approval. “Well that’s good to hear. How long will that take?”

“Ten hours, she says.” Janeway replied.

Torres’ expression turned sour. “Well good for her.” She said with a slight undertone of resentment to it.

“We’ll see how far she gets in that time.” Janeway said, not wanting to aggravate the situation between the two. “Have you been able to determine why the station is emitting theta radiation?”

“It’s not.” Torres said matter of factly.

That took Janeway by surprise. “Pardon?”

“The station isn’t emitting theta radiation.” Torres reiterated. “It’s old, sure. And its power systems are not running at peak efficiency. But this station isn’t the source of the radiation.”

“Even though it’s at the center of it?” Janeway asked, trying to piece together the puzzle.

“I can’t explain it.” Torres said. “But, it’s definitely not the source.”

Janeway looked back up at the holographic projection again. “That’s strange. Have you made any headway in determining what its purpose is?”

Ensign Kim stepped up to the two. “I think I may have an answer to that, Captain.” Kim went up to the center console and tapped in a series of commands.

Above them, the hologram projection began to react. Janeway saw the green object that represented the station they were currently at as well as the fleet surrounding it. The fleet began to move backwards now, backing away from the station. Then several ships began to break off from the fleet one at a time. Janeway understood now, Kim was rewinding the display, showing them events that already happened. Ships popped up into the Void and then disappeared from it. Presumably, representing them getting pulled inside by the funnels and then being either disabled or destroyed as they were preyed upon by other ships.

“This is where we got drawn in.” Kim said, pausing the playback and pointing to a single dot that was now on the far side of the Void. He resumed the reverse playback and put it on higher speed. The dots began to zip around, flying all across the Void. Janeway couldn’t even begin to guess how many years, decades even, were passing before her eyes. After a handful of centuries had passed, the various red colored stations turned blue again. Representing the times when they each went offline. The Void itself was shrinking now, slowly but definitely. It coalesced into a small bubble, maybe a hundredth of its original volume. The stations were all visible now, twelve in total. They were clustered in a ring around a single central star which had long since burned itself out.

“This was the Void when it was first created.” Kim said.

“How far back is this?” Janeway asked, amazed. “It must be more than just centuries.”

“About six and a half thousand years.” Kim stated.

“Six thousand years!” Janeway gasped. “Astounding.”

“But why?” Torres asked. “Why would anyone do this?”

“I think whoever built this place was trying to study the heat death of the universe on an accelerated scale.” Kim said. “The Void is like its own pocket universe. Continually expanding without end. Once the Void got large enough, the heat and light from the star and the other stations could no longer reach each other. What we’re left with is just a mass entropic graveyard.” Kim reset the hologram to its present day configuration, empty and dead.

“It’s a shame.” Torres said. “Whoever built this place put a lot of effort into it.”

“They thought ahead.” Janeway said. “But not far enough. This place is a death trap now. Whoever built it should have known that would happen. They should have taken steps to prevent their stations from malfunctioning and stranding innocent ships within the Void.” Janeway shook her head, frustrated at the situation these aliens had now put her and her crew in. “They didn’t. But we will.”

“Captain?” Torres asked.

“B’Elanna, you and Harry, grab all the information you can on this place.” Janeway said. “But the moment Seven finishes her work, I want you to evacuate the station. We’re going to destroy it as soon as we possibly can.”

“Are you going to inform the other members of the Alliance?” Kim asked.

“No point.” Janeway said. “We’ll get out of here, and then we’ll destroy the station once we leave.”

With that, Janeway headed back to Voyager. Torres and Kim continued their work cataloging and deciphering the information contained within the alien station. No one noticed the two Malon had made a discreet exit toward the back of the room.

“She intends to destroy the station.” The Malon lieutenant said under his breath, trying not to draw the attention of any of the Starfleet personnel. “We’ll no longer be able to use the funnels. We won’t be able to find another suitable area of space for ejection for at least the next ten cycles.”

“What do you propose?” Emck asked. “We may be a match for Voyager, but not all the ships in the Alliance.”

“They’re not as unified as Janeway thinks they are.” The lieutenant said. “They’re only here for the opportunity to escape. And these rules of hers are foolish. Many of the Captains resent taking orders from Janeway. But none of them will act on their own.”

Emck mused at what his officer was telling him. Suddenly, he had an idea. “The alien vessel we encountered two weeks ago. Do we still have their communications codes?”

The Malon lieutenant nodded.

Emck smiled. “Then perhaps, it is time to make a new alliance.”

Chapter 11

Captain Janeway lay down on her ready room couch and rested her head on the arm of it. Despite the Doctor’s assurances, she still felt the lingering effects of the arithrazine. She had been taking a steady stream of lectrazine over the past week which alleviated the symptoms that prevented her from functioning. The dizziness, vertigo and nausea had subsided. But the headaches, the tingling in her fingers and nerve pain in the back of her neck persisted. She tried her best to hide her symptoms from the crew and had mostly succeeded. The Doctor said that the neurological effects could last anywhere from a few days up to a month, there was no way to be certain.

“Computer, dim the lights.” Janeway said. She had found that the low lighting helped dull the stabbing pain behind her eyes. Perhaps Fantome and his race were onto something, she mused.

The situation that had developed over the past week did nothing to ease her tension, only to increase it. Between the diplomatic negotiations of trying to attract new members to the Alliance, to the constant maintenance requirements mounting on the ship, to the firefights that had brought Voyager to the brink of destruction. It felt as if she was taking her command candidacy exam all over again. All the skills she had acquired and perfected to get into the position she was in were being tested to their limits. Yet, as painful as it was for her, she imagined it felt much worse for Voyager. At times, she swore she could feel the ship, which had carried them so far already, cry out at her for an even temporary reprieve.

Almost there. Janeway thought, half to herself and half to Voyager. Just hang in there a little while longer and we’ll be out of this.

Suddenly, the red alert klaxon sounded throughout the ready room. Janeway’s eyes instantly shot open. “Red alert.” Chakotay’s voice said over the comm. “All hands to battlestations.”

Janeway roused herself from the couch and headed out to the bridge. Before she got to the door, she froze. For some reason, her attention was drawn to her desk. The empty cup of red leaf tea still sat upon it, untouched. Janeway wrested her attention back and left the room.

“Report.” She said, stepping onto the bridge.

“We have an old friend.” Chakotay said, motioning toward the viewscreen.

Janeway looked at it and saw the Krebor moving toward them.

“He decloaked.” Chakotay said. “And is just sitting there outside of weapons range.”

“What’s he up to?” Janeway asked, thinking aloud. “What’s the status of our crew on the station?”

“Seven’s almost finished modifying the computers.” Chakotay said. “B’Elanna evacuated most of her engineering staff. But she, Seven, Harry and Tuvok’s security detail are still over there.”

“Get them out of there, now.” Janeway ordered.

Chakotay sat down in his chair and began entering commands into the small console that separated his and Janeway’s chair. Janeway walked up to the viewscreen, eyes fixed upon the Krebor.

“Captain.” Tuvok said. “We’re receiving a transmission from the Krebor.”

“They’re hailing us?” Janeway asked.

“Negative.” Tuvok replied. “The transmission is being broadcast to all the Alliance ships. Audio only.”

“Put it on.” Janeway said.

Valen’s voice came over the bridge speaker’s mid sentence. “-ome of you I’ve met before. Some in battle. Others in mere passing. Or even the occasional temporary truce. But for those of you who haven’t met me. My name is Gul Valen of the Cardassian First order.

“My world is a long way from here. On the other side of the galaxy in fact. While I may be a long way from home, I am most certainly not out of my element. My people are experts at survival, even under the most extreme of circumstances.

“The galaxy is a rather harsh place, this Void even more so. Some species are better equipped to handle those circumstances than others. This isn’t discrimination, it’s simple fact. As it so happens, there is one other species present that originates from my side of the galaxy. I believe you’ve all met them, the humans, led by Captain Janeway.”

“Can we cut him off?” Chakotay asked Tuvok.

“No.” Janeway said before Tuvok could respond. “We have to let him finish.” Janeway understood the political ramifications of silencing Valen prematurely. It would imply that Valen’s sentiment was legitimate in her eyes, and more importantly in the eyes of the Alliance.

Valen continued. “Humans are a peculiar race to me as I’m sure they are to all of you. They don’t see other species as weak. Instead they try to form alliances. They give shelter to the feeble, the frail, the infirm. But this only proves their own incapability to fend for themselves.

“Captain Janeway, like her species, is weak.

“Without all of you, without this Alliance, Voyager would have succumbed to the Void long ago. You must all have realized this by now. Janeway makes empty promises. In fact, she’s only using you, so that she may exit the Void and leave the rest of you behind.”

Valen then played an audio recording. Janeway’s voice was clear as day.

‘But the moment Seven finishes her work, I want you to evacuate the station. We’re going to destroy it as soon as we possibly can.’

‘Are you going to inform the other members of the Alliance?’

‘No point. We’ll get out of here, and then we’ll destroy the station once we leave.’

Janeway’s stomach leapt right up into her chest. She could feel her heart begin to race. The perspiration start to coat her fingertips. The twinge of her muscles in the back of her neck.

“Where’s the away team!?” She shouted at Chakotay.

“They’re in the airlock.” Chakotay said. “It’s cycling now.”

“Mr. Paris, prepare to detach us from the station on my mark.” Janeway commanded.

Paris keyed the commands into the helm. “Yes ma’am.” He acknowledged.

Valen’s voice continued over the speakers. “You may ask, what are my motives? For what reason do I make these accusations? It’s simple. I want to leave the Void just as much as the rest of you. But unlike Janeway, that is my only goal. And if you choose to join me, I will not hold you to any of her restrictions whatsoever.

“You will no longer be subject to her orders. You will no longer have to abide by her rules. You will no longer be servants to her weakness.

“We will finish the work they started on the station. And when we have completed our task, you will all be free to leave at your leisure.”

Valens voice trailed off. For a moment, everything was silent. No alarms, no sounds, no talking. Not a single ship in the Alliance made a move.

“Oh and one more thing.” Valen added, flippantly. “The first ship to disable Voyager may claim its technology and resources for themselves”

Valen closed the channel.

Janeway turned to Chakotay. “Do we have everyone back on board?”

“They just got in.” Chakotay reported.

“Captain!” Lieutenant Paris yelled in alarm.

Janeway turned to the viewscreen to see the Malon freighter undock from the station.

“The Malon are hailing.” Tuvok said.

“On screen.” Janeway ordered.

The screen flashed to show Controller Emck, a smile on his face.

“What’s the meaning of this?!” Janeway demanded.

“I’m afraid my interests no longer align with yours.” Emck replied calmly.

“We were going to share our technology with you once we got out of here.” Janeway said.

Emck laughed. “Unfortunately, that would not be in my interest either. You see, antimatter waste is indeed a problem on my world. But we’ve found a different solution for it.”

Janeway puzzled at Emck’s words. But then her face was overcome with realization. “You’re responsible for the theta radiation.” Janeway accused, her voice overcome with disgust.

“Guilty.” Emck said. “Controller Emck, Eleventh Gradient First Class, Antimatter Waste Disposal Unit.”

“You used the Void as your dumping ground.” Janeway growled, putting together the clues. “You’ve been ejecting your antimatter waste into the funnels. Not caring who or what was on the other side. But this time you got a little too close didn’t you?”

“Sharp as ever, Captain. But just one step too slow.” Emck prodded. “You see, while your technology is impressive, it would also put me out of business. Gul Valen was gracious enough to agree to spare the station in exchange for our help.”

“You monster.” Janeway spat. “You’re as filthy as the garbage you haul.”

Emck let out a hearty belly laugh. “I will miss our little exchanges, Captain…And the food was good too.”

Emck closed the channel. His behemoth freighter was now almost right on top of Voyager. Flashes of light sparked all across it’s hull. Voyager shields flared at the onslaught. The bridge bucked and rocked beneath Janeway’s feet.

“They are firing spatial charges.” Tuvok reported. “Shields down to sixty percent.”

“Tom, detach us from the station. Tuvok, return fire!” Janeway shouted.

Voyager decoupled itself from the station arms. It pitched over sideways, dodging a series of explosions that flashed with blue smoke and electricity. Voyager returned the favor. Multiple phaser beams charged and shot forth in the direction of the collosal Malon vessel. They impacted the freighter’s shields, scoring multiple hits but doing little damage. At the same time, other Alliance ships began releasing themselves from the station. Bearing down on Voyager’s position while the Krebor watched patiently from afar.

“Multiple ships are inbound on our position!” Tuvok shouted. “They are locking weapons on us.”

“Mr. Paris, get us out of their weapons range!” Janeway shouted over the thunderous cracks of consoles exploding.

“I’m trying, Captain! But there are too many of them!” Paris yelled, desperately trying to key in commands to the helm.

The bridge pitched and rolled as Voyager was now being assaulted by multiple ships. Sparks flew across the bridge as consoles and conduits exploded all around them.

“Shields down to twelve percent!” Tuvok called out.

“Captain!” Chakotay yelled in desperation.

“Mr. Paris! Maximum warp, now!” Janeway howled at the top of her lungs.

Voyager lurched and plunged beneath the storm of weapons fire. At the last moment, Voyager’s warp nacelles rotated upward and locked into position. A brilliant white flash of radiance erupted from them and the ship rocketed away at the speed of light.

Chapter 12

The door chime to Janeway’s quarters rang once and she ignored it. It rang twice and she ignored it. It rang a third time before she responded. “Yes?”

The doors parted. “May I come in? Chakotay asked softly.

“I’d rather you didn’t” Janeway replied, hidden once again in the darkness of her quarters.

Chakotay ignored her and stepped in anyway. “It wasn’t your fault.”

“To hell it wasn’t.”


“Played me like a fiddle.” Janeway interrupted. “He saw right through me. From that very first conversation, he’s outmaneuvered me at every turn.”

“That’s a little harsh on yourself isn’t it?” Chakotay said.

“I don’t think so.” Janeway replied, not bothering to even look at him. “Besides we wouldn’t even be in this mess if it weren’t for me.”

“The Alliance was a good idea.” Chakotay said. “Even I had doubts at first, but you made it work.”

Janeway scoffed at that. “The Alliance. Murders and thieves. Tuvok knew it right from the start. I shouldn’t have trusted any of them. I should have known they would turn on us the first chance they got. I should have known Emck was lying to us when he refused to tell me why his ship was covered in radiation or what kind of cargo he was carrying or when he made that bigoted remark at Fantome. I should have known Valen was just using us when we first met him.” She emphasized the next words. “I should have known better.” Janeway trailed off. Chakotay didn’t know what to say. Janeway continued.”I shouldn’t… I shouldn’t have let the crew down.”

“Kathryn, you didn’t let us down. You’ve never let us down.” Chakotay implored. “You’ve been a noble captain and a good leader. You’ve brought us through thick and thin. The Borg, the Hirogen, the Kazon. We’ve bested all of them because of you. We’ve managed to cross half the delta quadrant because of you.”

“Yes.” Janeway said grimly. “Because of me.”

“I…don’t follow.” Chakotay said.

“Four years ago I made a choice.” Janeway recalled. “I chose to destroy the Caretaker’s Array.”

Chakotay knew where she was going with this and he shook his head before she drew her conclusion.

Janeway continued. “I put my own nobility and self righteousness over the needs of the crew. I could have gotten them home. But instead-“

“But instead.” Chakotay interrupted. “You chose to help a defenseless people. The Ocampa would have been slaughtered the moment the Kazon got their hands on the array. You knew that. You knew it would mean their destruction if we had just left and returned to the Alpha Quadrant. But you chose to stay. And because of that, we’ve explored more of the galaxy than most other captains have in the entire history of Starfleet. The data we’ve collected will keep scientists occupied for decades. We’ve made friendships with so many races, Starfleet won’t know what to do with themselves when we get back.” Chakotay let his words settle for a moment.” We’ve done good things here Kathryn. Real good things. Maybe it wasn’t what we thought our lives would turn out to be, but we’ve made the best of it.”

“Hollow words.” Janeway said, cynically. “As hollow as this Void.”

Chakotay could see the cascade of emotions Janeway was attempting to contain within herself. The self loathing, the guilt. Had she carried all this with her for the past four years? No wonder she was behaving the way she was. Was the Doctor right? Did Janeway have a death wish? Was she trying to atone for her self perceived sins?

Janeway turned to face Chakotay. “I won’t do it, Chakotay. I won’t put my needs ahead of the crew. Not again.”

“What are you talking about?” Chakotay asked.

Janeway handed him a PADD that was sitting on her desk. Chakotay studied it carefully. The more he read the more he shook his head in defiance. “No.” He protested.

“It’s the only way.” Janeway said.

“No it’s not.” Chakotay shot back. “Let’s talk to the crew. Let’s discuss this with Seven, or B’Elanna, or Harry. I’ll bet anyone of them could give us a better idea on how to solve this.”

“I’ve made my decision. You will assume command of Voyager. I will take a shuttlecraft and board the station and enter in Seven’s final computer sequence. You will then take Voyager through the vortex and resume course for Earth.” Janeway said adamantly. “Under no circumstances are you to attempt to rescue me. If I am able, I will follow you out in the shuttle. But in the case that I am unable to, your standing orders are to get this ship home. Get Voyager back to Earth.”

“Kathryn-“ Chakotay pleaded.

“Is that understood Commander?!” Janeway demanded.

Chakotay gave a long look, both at her and at the PADD. “Yes Captain.”

“Dismissed.” Janeway said.

Chakotay stared at her for a moment before exiting the room. Janeway went to lie on her bed one last time. Her migraine was growing worse. It felt like someone was driving hot spikes into her temples. As she tried to relax she felt her hands begin to quiver and tingle.

“Computer, shut off the lights.” She said, pressing her palms into her eyes as if trying to squeeze the pain from them.

It didn’t help.


Janeway opened her eyes and looked around the room.

“Kathryn.” The voice repeated.

Janeway looked to the side and saw a man walking toward her. He was wearing light khaki pants which his plaid dress shirt was tucked into. His hair was dark brown with streaks of grey running through it. The man smiled at her.

“Kathryn.” He said clearly.

“Father?” Janeway asked.

“Are you just going to stand there? Or are you going to set that up?” He asked in his deep paternal voice while motioning to Janeway’s hands.

Janeway looked down and saw she was holding a telescope barrel. The stand for the telescope had been planted in the grass not far away. It was her telescope. She had asked her father to come out here and to help set it up. She knelt down beside the stand and tried to place the telescope on top of it. But everytime she tried to screw it in, her fingers kept twitching uncontrollably. She fumbled with the telescope. But no matter what she did, she just couldn’t get it right.

Suddenly she felt very small, like a child again. “I can’t.” She whimpered.

Instead of helping, Edward Janeway knelt down across from his daughter. “You were the one who brought us out here.”

“Yes. I wanted to go.” Janeway said under her breath, still struggling with the telescope. “But, can you help me? I can’t do this by myself.” She pleaded.

Edward Janeway shook his head. “You have to. You won’t always be able to rely on me or anyone else for help.” He said. “Sometimes, you’ll be alone with no one else to turn to. Then what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.” Janeway croaked, looking back up at her father. It was only then that she noticed the grass field they were in. She didn’t recognize it. She kept searching around, trying to get her bearings. She saw fruit trees and a path. Her eyes followed the path and it led to a house. No, not a house. A barn. “Where are we?” She asked.

“You don’t recognize this place?” Her father asked.

“This isn’t our house.” Janeway concluded.

“No.” He observed.

“This…We’re on The Caretaker’s array.” Janeway said. Suddenly, she felt a stabbing pain in her abdomen. Janeway doubled over onto the ground and cried out as the needle dug deeper into her stomach.

“I had such high hopes for you Kathryn.” Her father lamented. “When you passed the entrance exam to Starfleet Academy, I was so proud.”

Janeway couldn’t respond, the pain was now radiating throughout her body, enveloping her senses.

“You struggled through the Academy, but I had faith in you. You were always such a clever girl.” He continued.

Her hands, her fingers, arms, legs, chest, every nerve ending in her body felt as if it were on fire, boiling her alive.

“Then you climbed your way up through the ranks.” He continued. “The day I saw you off for your first posting on the Al-Batani was one of the happiest days of my life.”

The pain was so great, she couldn’t even think. All she could do was roll around on the ground while curled up into a ball.

“But this is it, Kathryn.” Edward Janeway said. “This is the end of the line.”

Janeway looked up and saw that everything was growing darker and darker. Soon the trees, the barn, the grass, all of it was enveloped by an overwhelming blanket of darkness. No, it wasn’t just darkness. It was the Void.

“You have to get up now, Kathryn.” Her father observed, still detached from his struggling daughter.

“I can’t!” She cried.

“Then you will die here in this place. Alone.”

“NO!” Janeway shot up from her bed, screaming in defiance. She was hyperventilating and drenched in sweat. Her whole body was shaking uncontrollably. She rubbed her quivering hands together, trying to calm them as well as herself. She could feel the rapid thuds of her heart pounding in her chest. Janeway wrapped her arms around herself, trying to get a grip on reality.

“Computer, lights.” She demanded.

The lights in her room switched on. It hurt her eyes to look at, but she didn’t care.

“Full illumination!” She shouted.

The lights became even brighter, flooding the room in white luminance. Janeway forced herself to her feet. She didn’t care if every inch of her body felt like it was about to collapse. She didn’t care if the light only made the stabbing pain behind her eyes worse. She was going to pick herself up and get her ship out of this Void. Even if it killed her.

Chapter 13

Janeway relayed what she had told Chakotay to the rest of the senior staff. They had assembled in the briefing room. As with the rest of the ship, the lights were on minimal illumination mode. The dark tone of the lighting reflected the grim mood of the room. Once Janeway had finished speaking, everyone remained silent.

Finally Tom Paris broke the silence. “Permission to speak freely, Captain?”

Janeway nodded. “Granted.”

“I don’t think this is a good plan.” Paris said.

“Me neither.” Torres added.

“Same.” Kim also chimed in.

Janeway didn’t answer them, she just waited patiently for everyone to object. As she knew they would.

“Captain.” Tuvok said. “Might I point out there is a certain illogic to your plan. Should you succeed and Voyager continue on without you, the loss may be too great. A ship needs its Captain. Perhaps, I should go in your place.”

“The computer program I have written to disable the station may need to be modified.” Seven said. “Sending me would be the superior tactical decision.”

“Why even destroy the station at all?” Kim asked. “Can’t Seven just beam aboard, create an outgoing vortex and we’ll beam her back aboard as we leave?”

“No.” Janeway said adamantly. “It must be destroyed. We cannot allow the Malon to continue using the Void as their dumping ground.”

“But what about the other stations?” Torres asked. “Wouldn’t we have to disable them too?”

“They’re too far away.” Kim responded. “It would take us weeks to reach them. We’d be long dead before we got to the first one.”

“The other stations show no signs of being active.” Seven said. “It is only the one that we were docked at that is generating incoming vortexes. If we disable this one, it is likely no ship will ever be drawn into the Void again.”

“I still don’t understand why it has to be you to go, Captain.” Neelix said from the far side of the table. “Anyone else can take your place.”

Janeway looked at Chakotay. He was notably silent, having already come to the conclusion that Janeway would not reconsider her position. “I won’t ask anyone else to sacrifice their life for me.” She said.

“Captain-” Harry tried to say.

“It is my prerogative as Captain of this vessel.” Janeway interrupted. “As long as I am in command, the decision on who goes and who stays is mine.”

“But Captain.” The Doctor started. “You’re in no condition to go. You’re still not fully recovered from the radiation poisoning nor the arithrazine treatments. At any point while you’re over there you may suffer partial paralysis or hallucinations.”

“If you’re unable to enter Seven’s command sequence, Voyager won’t be able to escape.” Torres said.

Janeway looked The Doctor square in the eye. “Are you saying that I am unfit for duty?”

The Doctor’s expression was evasive. “Well…”

Janeway continued. “If you relieve me as chief medical officer, Chakotay will assume command and the decision will be his. In your official capacity, are you relieving me of duty?”

All eyes pointed at The Doctor. He hesitated at the very impossible position he had just been put into. On the one hand he did not want to see Janeway throw her life away. On the other hand, if he acted in his official capacity for purely personal reasons, it would undermine the legitimacy of any future decision he made as Voyagers chief medical officer. Janeway was very aware of the optics of the question before she asked him.

“No.” He said finally. “In my official determination, you are still psychologically and physically fit for command. But I am hereby informing you that I will file an official protest with Starfleet Medical regarding your actions in my log.”

Janeway smiled. “Duly noted.” She looked around at everyone at the table. “I have considered the matter carefully, and I have made my decision. Once I leave the ship, Chakotay will be in command and he has been instructed not to attempt to rescue me. Under any other circumstance, that would be permissible. But with Voyager’s power reserves in the state that they are in, a rescue attempt is out of the question. If I am able to, I will follow Voyager out in the shuttle and meet you on the other side.”

“Captain, one more thing.” Paris said. “How exactly do you intend to get onto the station in the shuttle? They’re not just going to let you dock.”

“I will disable the shuttlecraft engines and take it in by momentum.” Janeway responded.

“That might not be enough.” Torres said. “They may still detect you and shoot you out of the sky before you get anywhere close.”

“A risk that I’ll have to take.” Janeway said.

Once again, the room fell silent. However, it was quickly broken by the display monitor sounding an alert. Seven was closest to the panel. She got up and assessed the cause of the alert.

“We’re receiving incoming telemetry.” Seven said quizzically.

“A transmission?” Chakotay asked.

“Not quite.” Seven said. “The signal is being relayed through the improvements Captain Loquar made to the astrometric sensor systems.” Seven pressed a few more buttons on the panel. “It appears to be an audio only message.”

“Put it on.” Janeway said.

Over the speakers, the voice of Captain Loquar came through. “Voyager, this is Captain Loquar. I am sending you this transmission in secret. The Alliance has fallen into the hands of Valen and Emck. But myself and Captain Garon are still on your side. You helped rescue my vessel from certain destruction when we first entered the Void. Now it’s our turn to return the favor. I’ve included instructions on how to send a return signal on this frequency. Both our ships stand ready to assist. Just let us know what we have to do.”

The transmission ended. Once again all eyes turned to Janeway.

“Seven.” Janeway said. “Prepare to send a response.”

Captains Log, Stardate 52099.7: Seven was able to successfully send a message back to Loquar’s ship. He and Garon have acknowledged our plan of action. Voyager is setting a course back to the station, where it will stay out of range until the vortex is opened. As this may be my final log entry, I only wish to say that I am proud of what this crew has accomplished over the past four years. Each and every one of them has served with distinction and valor. I can only hope that they are able to complete their mission and return safely to the Alpha Quadrant.

The Doctor pressed the hypospray into Janeway’s neck and injected the aerosolized liquid into it. “This should stave off the effects of the arithrazine for the next four hours. You may feel a slight euphoria as the effects take hold.”

“Thank you.” Janeway said.

“Captain…” The Doctor started, his voice trailing off. For a moment, he was speechless. “When I was first activated, I was but a mere computer program. But over the past four years I feel that I have grown into more than that. And it was all thanks to the freedoms you allowed me to have. I wish you would reconsider your decision. But since I know you won’t, I just want to say: it’s been an honor serving with you.”

Janeway patted her hand on the Doctor’s shoulder. “Thank you Doctor, that means a great deal to me.” Janeway turned to look at Fantome and his cohort. “What about them? Have you told them we’re leaving?”

“Not yet.” The Doctor said.

“Tell them that we’re going to close the vortexes for good and ask if they want to stay aboard Voyager.” Janeway said.

The Doctor grabbed his PADD before he and Janeway stepped over to Fantome. The Doctor keyed in a sequence of instructions and the PADD emitted a series of sounds in turn. Fantome listened to the sounds, consulted with his friends and then responded back.

“He says that the Void is their home and that they want to stay here.” The Doctor said.

“Tell him that without the funnels. There won’t be any more ships. They’ll only be able to subsist on what’s left in the Void. And once that’s done, they’ll probably die.” Janeway said.

The Doctor relayed the message and then spoke aloud their response. “They say they understand. They say that the Void is their home and they want to remain despite knowing what will happen to them. They say that if you were asked to leave your home, even though you knew it was dying, would you go?”

Janeway considered that for a long moment. If Voyager made it back to Earth, only to discover it was a planet long since dead, would she want to continue on? She probably would, but she understood the sentiment of not wanting to leave your home. “Tell them that I understand. Ask them where they’d like to be dropped off.”

The Doctor relayed the message and then responded. “They say they’re nomads, any ship in the Void will do…They say that they’re grateful for all the help we’ve given them and…they want to help us now.” The Doctor was puzzled at that last statement.

“Are they sure?” Janeway asked. “We’re headed into battle, it could mean their deaths.”

The Doctor presented Janeway’s question and responded. “They understand. They want to know what they can do to help.”

Janeway thought about the question for a good long while before saying. “Doctor, I’m going to need one of those PADD’s.”

An hour later, Janeway had finished loading and preparing the type-9 shuttlecraft. Janeway used to read the names of the shuttles everytime she would take one out. But at this point, Voyager lost so many of them that she had long since abandoned the practice. She slung her compression phaser rifle over her shoulder and stepped inside where Fantome and his cohort had already found seating. Janeway sat down at the helm controls and started the preflight checklist. But just then, she looked up and noticed Chakotay standing patiently on the other side of the shuttlecraft window.

Janeway got out of the shuttle and walked over to him. For a moment the two just looked at each other, not wanting to break the silence.

“Last chance to change your mind.” Chakotay said.

“Oh I don’t know, the one I have has served me well so far.” Janeway quipped.

The two shared a laugh, before Chakotay said. “Godspeed, Captain.”

Janeway stepped in to Chakotay and gave him a warm embrace which he returned. After a moment, she stepped back and said. “You too, Commander.”

Janeway went back into the shuttle. After running the preflight checklist, she engaged its engines and lifted off the deck. The shuttlecraft spun around. Janeway and Chakotay gave each other one last look through the shuttlecraft window. The shuttle continued to rotate until it faced the open bay doors and then it accelerated through the gap, the forcefield holding in the atmosphere shimmered as the small vessel passed through. Chakotay watched as the shuttle got smaller and smaller in the distance, until it was indistinguishable from the Void.

Chapter 14

Janeway cut power to the shuttlecraft impulse engines. She reduced the output of all systems to minimal levels. Unless someone was specifically scanning in her direction, the shuttle would look like a floating piece of space debris. The fact that the theta radiation levels were so high in the area only added to the small craft’s ability to remain undetected. Without shields, the occupants of the shuttle would be exposed to the radiation, but they would be on board the station long before any permanent damage was inflicted.

Janeway could see the station through the forward shuttlecraft viewport. The Alliance ships were either encircling the station or docked at it. Janeway had hoped that either the Malon freighter or the Krebor were docked at the station as it would be easier for Fantome and his cohort to sneak aboard that way. As it happened the Krebor was docked but the Malon were not.

One out of the two was better than nothing. Janeway thought to herself.

Janeway swiveled around in her chair. Fantome and the three other members of his race were huddled in the back end of the shuttle watching her and awaiting her orders. Janeway took out the translation PADD that the Doctor had given her. She tapped in simple sentences and phrases into the PADD and it automatically translated both for her and for Fantome.

Are you ready? Janeway asked.

Yes. Fantome replied.

Thank you for helping me. You may die. Are you sure you want to go? Janeway asked.

Yes, we will go. You may die too. Why do you go? Fantome said.

I lead my people. Janeway replied. I help them before I help myself.

Fantome seemed to understand Janeway’s sentiment, even though the translation couldn’t quite get her eloquence through.

Janeway continued. There are other… The word for station did not exist in the vocabulary yet, Janeway pointed to the Station. …Homes. If you find them, they can help you. Janeway then keyed in the coordinates to the other still operational stations into the PADD and it was relayed to Fantome.

Thank you. We will try. Fantome replied, the other members of his cohort tapped in some questions and Fantome asked for the group. Where is your home?

Very far from here. Janeway answered. We try to go back. It is called- Again the word did not exist, so Janeway pronounced the word aloud. “Earth.”

Fantome tilted his head and then keyed in some commands into the PADD. It emitted several sounds in succession that approximated the voice intonations that Janeway had spoken when she said Earth. The PADD requested clarification on the new proper noun which Janeway assigned ‘Earth’ to. The new information was relayed to the other PADD’s and Fantome seemed pleased to be able to speak the name of their benefactor’s homeworld.

Earth. He said again. The others asked Fantome to relay another question. Why did you help us?

Janeway thought about that question for a moment. My people from Earth are not killers. If someone is hurt, we help them. You were hurt. We wanted to help.

Fantome relayed her answer and responded. We understand. The others tapped additional messages to Fantome. Now you are hurt. Now we help you go to Earth.

It brought Janeway great joy to know that after all that had happened, Fantome was willing to put his life on the line for Voyager. She once again thought of all the events that had to occur to bring about this moment.

Even in the darkest corner of the universe, you may still encounter the most beautiful of things. Janeway thought to herself.

An alert sounded on the shuttle’s console. They were in position. Janeway entered the command to emit a very specific subspace radio burst. To any passive observer it would look like background noise. Right on queue, the Hierarchy vessel positioned itself in between the shuttle and the station. Its engines began to flicker and the ship spun out of control. It began emitting a cloud of energetic blue plasma, simulating a problem with their warp reactor. Janeway piloted the shuttle directly through the cloud. She double checked that the impulse engines were completely offline. One spark and the plasma would ignite and without shields, the shuttle would be incinerated in an instant.

Janeway patiently waited for the shuttle to wade through the plasma and she emerged on the far side, right on top of one of the station airlocks. She maneuvered the shuttle using thrusters only to line up the shuttle’s own airlock with the station’s. Janeway successfully docked the shuttle to the station as far away from any other ship as she possibly could. She checked for any signs of being detected. All the Alliance ships continued on their original trajectories, seemingly accepting that Loquar’s ship had a temporary malfunction.

Janeway pressurized the airlock and opened the aft hatch. She flipped on the light beacon attached to her phaser rifle and took a defensive stance at the hatch controls. She keyed in the door commands and the inner station door activated. A loud screeching sound erupted from the sides as the door, which hadn’t been used in centuries, retracted into the walls. Janeway leaned out from her covered position, sweeping the phaser rifle sight left and right. After satisfactorily clearing the area, she motioned for Fantome to follow her.

Janeway retrieved her tricorder from her belt and flipped it open. It displayed a predetermined course through the station that Seven had outlined for her. Janeway stepped from cover to cover, patiently proceeding into the station with Fantome close behind. She reached one of the central junctions of the station. To her left was the vortex generator and to the right were the other docking arms. Janeway pulled out her PADD and spoke to Fantome.

The ship is that way. Janeway motioned to the right. Good luck.

Fantome nodded at her. Tell the Doctor we will miss him.

I will. Janeway replied.

Fantome led his group to the right, toward the Krebor. Janeway took up her phaser rifle and went left. She emerged into the top level of the vortex generator complex. From here, she had a vantage point of the levels below, as well as a view of the generator which still illuminated the room with its scintillating white glow. Below her at the central computer control station, she could see Valen arguing with one of his Lieutenants.

“It took Voyager less than a full day to make these modifications!” Valen shouted. “And you’re telling me it will take you a week to complete them?!”

Janeway took a little pride in Valen’s implicit endorsement of Seven’s computational skill. In fact, Seven had long since completed her work which was now stored as a simple program executable on Janeway’s tricorder. If only Valen knew the answer to his troubles was only a few meters above him. As Valen continued to argue with his subordinates, Janeway performed some reconnaissance. It looked like the three Cardassians, Valen plus two of his officers, were the only ones in the room. Everyone else must have either been in the main control room or on their respective ships.

It took Valen a few minutes to wrap up his tirade. He obviously was not particularly skilled in the inspirational side of motivational speaking. Probably because he relied too heavily on his skills as a military commander, rather than a communal leader. Valen left the two officers to their work. Janeway moved herself into position above the two officers. She hoped that they hadn’t undone so much of Seven’s work that the program she wrote would be unusable. Janeway set her phaser to heavy stun and took aim. With two quick bursts from her phaser rifle, she took out both officers. They thudded unceremoniously to the ground.

Janeway found a nearby ladder and made her way down to the console. She removed the officers from it and set up the tricorder. Seven did a very thorough job as usual. Before the tricorder even attempted to implement its stored program it ran the station computer through a series of validation checks first to confirm the program would still work as intended. After a moment the tricorder signaled that all checks were complete and Janeway could proceed as planned. She instructed the tricorder to execute the outgoing vortex generation program. The small device obediently performed its function, flashing and beeping as it went about its work. A moment later, Janeway could see the reflection surfaces behind her begin to reposition themselves into place. A trail of white hot energy was siphoned from the glowing sphere and the whole apparatus began to glow. Suddenly, the tricorder bleeped once again. Signaling that a vortex was forming as intended.

Janeway pressed her finger to her communicator. She had preprogrammed it to connect to the shuttlecraft communications array, which in turn broadcasted her signal to all the ships in the vicinity. “To all ships in the Alliance, this is Captain Kathryn Janeway. We didn’t part on the best of terms, so I’ll make this brief. I have activated the station’s subspace vortex generator. A quick sensor scan will be able to confirm that a funnel is now forming nearby. The funnel will take your ships out of the Void and back into normal space.

“Believe me, don’t believe me, the decision is yours. But I suggest that you take the vortex while you still have a chance. Because in ten minutes, I am going to destroy this station. And once it’s gone, any chance you had to escape the Void will be gone with it.”

Janeway closed the channel and activated a ten minute countdown on the tricoder. All that was left now was to sit and wait. She directed the tricorder to uplink with the shuttlecraft sensor array. Through the small tricorder screen, she could see a view of the subspace funnel emerging out of the darkness. Growing in size and patiently inviting passage through it.

“Captain Janeway has activated the vortex generator.” Seven reported.

On the viewscreen, Chakotay could see the mouth of the vortex emerge on the far side of the station. Voyager was holding position at maximum sensor range, the image on the viewscreen was blurry and filled with static as a result.

“What about the Alliance ships?” Chakotay asked.

“No one’s moving yet, but they did receive the Captain’s message.” Kim said, observing the sensor readings. “The Krebor is broadcasting a transmission now…” Kim smiled to himself. “…And the other ships are ignoring him, they’re all breaking off and moving toward the funnel.”

“Are the Malon and the Krebor leaving?” Chakotay asked.

“The Malon are staying put, just as we thought they would.” Kim replied. “The Krebor has just undocked and is powering its engines. They’re holding their position around the station.”

“Waiting for Voyager to make its escape.” Paris observed.

“Let’s give them what they want.” Chakotay said. “Take us in, Tom. Full impulse. Tuvok, prepare to fire.”

Voyager accelerated toward the station. The Alliance ships scrambled their way to the vortex, having lost all semblance of coordination. They each flew as fast as they could into the opening, making a break for normal space before they were trapped in the Void for good. The Malon freighter and the Krebor positioned themselves in between Voyager and the vortex, as if two heavyweight fighters were squaring up against their one opponent.

At once, the Malon freighter let loose with a volley of spatial charges. Voyager was able to maneuver around the detonations. But as the combatants drew closer, it became more difficult for Voyager to evade the incoming fire. As the Krebor came into range, it let loose with a beige blast from its main beam emitter. Voyager returned fire, phasers and photon torpedoes surged forth and impacted the two vessels. Chakotay felt the bridge shudder beneath the incoming fire.

“Shields down to thirty four percent.” Tuvok called out.

“What about the Malon?” Chakotay asked.

“Their shields are holding.” Tuvok said. “However, they have diverted most of their shield power forward to face us.”

Chakotay smiled. “Tuvok, I think it’s about time we evened the odds.”

From behind the station, Garon and Loquar’s ships emerged. They swooped in behind the Malon and let loose with multiple penetrating beams of fire. The blue phaser blasts smashed into the side of the Malon, creating several small explosions. The Malon returned fire with a volley of spatial charges. Garon, having the more maneuverable vessel, was able to dodge in time. However, Loquar’s ship sustained several direct hits. It began leaking plasma from its engines.

“Garon and Loquar have inflicted heavy damage to the Malon.” Tuvok reported. “However, Loquar has sustained damage to his impulse engines. He is breaking off and headed for the vortex.”

“He did his job.” Chakotay acknowledged. “Target the Malon freighter, fire torpedoes full spread.”

Four torpedoes shot out from Voyager in rapid succession. The limping Malon freighter never stood a chance. The torpedoes overwhelmed its remaining shields and impacted directly on the hull. The freighter exploded in a gargantuan eruption of green energy. The antimatter waste it was carrying was accelerated out in all directions. The blast wave struck all ships in the area including Garon’s ship, Voyager and the Krebor. Voyager’s shields were able to absorb most of the incoming energy. However, Garon’s ship took a severe impact. The Krebor seized the opportunity, it let loose with another beam from its main emitter. The beam struck Garon’s shields, collapsing them and causing secondary damage with the remaining bleed through energy.

“We’ve sustained moderate damage, shields down to ten percent.” Tuvok reported.

“What about Garon?” Chakotay asked.

“He’s in bad shape.” Kim said. “The blast took out his shields and the Krebor inflicted heavy damage on them.”

“Tom, put us in between Garon and the Krebor.” Chakotay ordered.

Voyager moved in to shield Garon’s ship from the Krebor. Garon was able to dodge another blast before Voyager positioned itself to block any additional fire. Out of the fight, Garon’s vessel made a break for the vortex.

“Any other ships left in the vicinity?” Chakotay asked.

“None.” Kim responded. “It’s just us and the Krebor now.”

Voyager and the Krebor lined up beside each other like two old sailing ships on the high seas. The two vessels traded broadside attacks at point blank range. Soon, the shields on both ships collapsed. Like two fighters who had abandoned all hope of self preservation, Voyager and the Krebor continued to lay into each other with whatever firepower they had left.

Sparks flew across the bridge as Voyager sustained more and more damage. “We can’t take any more of this Chakotay!” Torres bellowed from the engineering station.

“Hull breaches on multiple decks!” Kim shouted out.

“Do we make a break for it, sir?!” Paris called out from the helm.

“No!” Chakotay yelled out. “Continuous fire, all weapons!”

Voyager fired a series of phaser beams that raked the Krebor’s dorsal hull. The Cardassian warship was now a smoking burning wreck, but still in the fight. The Krebor suddenly arrested all its momentum, bringing its main beam emitter in line with Voyager once again. It powered up for a final blow, but suddenly lost power. The energy stored in the emitter sputtered and evaporated uselessly into space. Just then, the lights on the vessel started going out one by one. Soon the engines shut off and the ship drifted helplessly through space.

“Report.” Chakotay said, surprised.

“The Krebor has lost all power.” Kim reported.

“Did we hit their reactor?” Chakotay asked.

“Negative Commander, it wasn’t us…wait.” Kim said. “We’re receiving an incoming transmission, audio only.”

“Put it on.” Chakotay ordered.

Over the bridge speakers, a series of musical tones sounded in rapid succession.

“It’s Fantome’s cohort.” Seven said, running the tones through the translation matrix. “They say ‘mission accomplished’, The Krebors power systems have successfully been disabled.”

“Who says gremlins in the engine are a myth?” Paris quipped.

Not losing a moment, Chakotay turned around to look behind him. “Seven, what’s the status of the vortex?”

“Stable.” Seven reported. “However, it could collapse at any moment. We should take it as soon as possible.”

“Commander.” Kim said. “A transporter beam just activated from the Krebor. A single person just beamed aboard the station.”

“Can we warn the Captain?” Chakotay asked.

“Our comm system has been knocked offline.” Kim responded.

“Can we beam her off?” Chakotay asked.

“We’ll have to get a lot closer.” Kim said.

“Chakotay, we barely have any power left.” Torres added. “If we don’t take the Vortex now, we may never get out.”

“We can’t just leave her there.” Kim said.

“The Captain specifically instructed us not to attempt a rescue mission.” Tuvok said.

“What do we do, Commander?” Paris said from the helm, ready to enter a new course.

Chakotay took a moment to consider his options, then he gave the order.

Chapter 15

Janeway observed the battle unfolding outside the station as best she could. When she saw that Voyager had disabled the Krebor, she was overcome with relief. Whatever happened to her, at least Voyager would make it out of the Void in one piece. Now there was only one thing left to do. Seven had estimated that it would take between five and ten minutes for the station to be destroyed once the final command sequence was entered. Janeway calculated that there should be enough leeway to get to the shuttle and fly through the vortex before it collapsed. In theory anyway.

Janeway stepped over to the main control console and set the tricorder down on top of it. She pulled up Seven’s final command sequence. Just as she was about to execute it, a flash of movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. She turned just in time to see Valen take aim at her with his hand phaser from the level above her. Janeway leapt out of the way, just in time to dodge the phaser blast. The yellow beam carved into the control panel, splitting it open in a smouldering ruin.

Janeway ran for cover, unslinging the compression phaser rifle from her back. “I’m sorry, were you aiming for me?” She mocked.

“You’re a stubborn woman, Captain.” Valen said back, shifting his position on the level above. “Your ship will never make it out of the Void and neither will you. Come out and I’ll give you a quick death.”

Janeway continued to shift position, weaving through the exposed conduits on the sides of the complex while watching carefully for any signs of movement above. “I’m afraid I’ll have to pass on that offer. Besides, from what I saw, it’s your ship that isn’t making it out of here, not mine. How does it feel to be on the losing side?”

“I haven’t lost yet.” Valen replied. “Your little experiment in diplomacy was a spectacular failure. So too will be the final moments of your life.”

“Call it what you will.” Janeway said. “But we made it further than you did preying upon defenseless ships and crews.”

“Survival of the fittest is the only universal law.” Valen said before taking a quick shot in Janeway’s direction with his phaser, just barely missing her shoulder. “Those who are strong enough will emerge from the crop, and leave the weak to be culled. Your Alliance only proves my point. Voyager was weak. Once I proved that to the others, they all turned on you with dispatch.”

“You and your Malon friend coerced them.” Janeway shot back. “With lies and half truths. The only thing that proves is your own selfish nature. You only used them to get what you wanted, you never intended to genuinely help them.”

“And what of it?” Valen asked. “If they were desperate enough to abandon you at a moment’s notice, were they ever truly your allies to begin with? Only a fool unquestionably places their life in the hands of another. Their wellbeing was never my concern, I have no misgivings about sacrificing their lives. ”

Janeway ducked into cover once more. In a face to face confrontation, she would never stand a chance against Valen. She needed an edge. Suddenly, she saw the side of Valen’s face in one of the reflective panels. An idea occurred to her. Seven had said that the panels are total energy reflectors, did that include phaser blasts as well? Janeway took her time and aimed carefully at Valen through the reflection. She would only get one shot at this and she needed him to hold still. “No misgivings about sacrificing others, does that include your own crew?”

Valen didn’t respond at first, contemplating what Janeway meant by her question. “What about my crew?”

“You said you left them on the Caretaker’s Array.” Janeway recalled. “Did you even try to rescue them? Or did you just flip on your cloaking device and run away like a coward?”

Janeway could tell she had reopened a very old wound in Valen. “I could have saved them!” He thundered with furious rage. “Had my ship survived the journey to the Array, had those ignorant imputent Kazon cretins not interfered with me, I would have saved my crew and shredded that decrepit station, along with that senile old man, down to the last atom!”

Janeway had Valen right in her sights. “Sounds to me like you were too weak to save them.” She pulled the trigger. Several bolts of energy shot out from the phaser and ricocheted off the panel on the far side of the room. Had the blast been a direct shot, Valen wouldn’t have had time to react. However, he heard the blast right as the bolts were bouncing off the panel toward him. He ducked at the last moment, however the motion caused him to drop his hand phaser. It clattered to the ground and was sent hurtling down to the bottom of the complex.

Janeway shifted her position again and waited for any sign of movement from Valen. Instead, all she heard was laughter. “I will say this, Captain.” He started. “You are one of the more cunning opponents I have faced. It’s too bad I don’t have my Kotra set with me. I imagine it would be a very entertaining match.”

“Sorry to disappoint.” Janeway replied. “But boardgames never held my interest. I’m more of a phaser range type of gal.”

Just then, Janeway heard footsteps above her. She looked up just in time to see Valen vault off the top level. He came down right on top of Janeway before she could aim her phaser rifle. He leveraged his superior weight to shove Janeway to the ground. Janeway was unable to control the momentum of both the phaser rifle and her own body. The rifle flew out of her hands and went sailing off the side of the complex. Janeway quickly shot back up to her feet. But in these tight quarters, she knew she stood no chance.

Valen pressed his advantage as both the stronger fighter and a hand to hand combat specialist. He closed the distance to Janeway constantly. Without any room to maneuver left or right, Janeway was forced to backpedal. She had spoken to Chakotay enough times about his boxing experience to know that backpedaling against a frontal assault meant certain defeat. Valen struck Janeway with a series of calculated blows designed to keep her off balance. Janeway deflected as many as she could, but it was only a matter of time. She felt her back foot press up against the wall and Valen chose that moment to lunge forward. He seized Janeway by the throat and pressed her up against the wall.

“I know I promised you a quick death.” Valen taunted as he choked the life out of Janeway. “But I wish to savor this moment for as long as I can.”

Janeway kicked and struggled against Valen. But he had long since stopped caring about his own life. He knew he would die on this station, all that mattered now was taking Janeway with him. Valen’s chokehold on Janeway was absolute. She could feel the telltale signs of oxygen deprivation as the life left her body. First her movements became sluggish and weak. Then she felt tingling all over her skin. Her vision closed in from the sides. The last thing she saw was the expression of immense satisfaction on Valen’s face.

Suddenly, Valen released his grip. Janeway collapsed to the ground, rasping and wheezing as she drew in as deep of a breath as she could. She coughed uncontrollably for a few moments before regaining enough of her composure to turn to see what had happened. Valen was now flailing about side to side, struggling to maintain his balance. There was a figure on top of his back, which he was trying desperately to get off. At first Janeway didn’t recognize the figure, but then her eyes went wide when she saw who it was. Fantome had an iron grip on Valen’s back and was now clawing and striking at the Cardassian Gul from above.

Valen swung wildly, trying to free himself. But Fantome held on tight. Janeway seized the moment to withdraw her hand phaser from her belt. As she did, Valen drew a hidden knife from his boot. He plunged it directly into Fantomes side. Even though he had no vocal chords, the expression of agony on Fantomes face rang in Janeway’s mind as he began to spurt orange blood. Valen tossed Fantome to the ground. Janeway leveled the phaser at Valen and deactivated the safeties in one swift motion. She depressed the large button on the phaser handle and a bright orange beam of light erupted from the weapon.

Valen ducked to the side as the beam struck him. His shoulder was blasted away, leaving a smouldering gap of char and ash behind. Valen lunged for Janeway before she could fire another shot. He seized her wrist with his still functional arm and twisted it. Janeway cried out in pain. She involuntarily depressed the phaser trigger. Multiple orange blasts sailed up into the ceiling above, causing multiple explosions upon impact. The station shuddered violently, but Valen kept his grip. Alarms were blaring throughout the complex now, no doubt signaling that critical damage had been caused.

Valen twisted his hand causing Janeway to drop the phaser. “Pathetic.” Valen said. “All that phaser practice and you still missed. You see Captain, Cardassians are born to be predators. Humans were born to be prey.”

Janeway clenched her jaw in pain. “The thing about us prey, Valen, is that we tend to stick together.”

Just then, Fantome dove at Valen once more. But this time Fantome struck the Gul at full force, driving them toward the railing. Valen tried to grab for the rail with his working hand but missed. The two were sent tumbling over the side. Janeway tried to get a grip on Fantome before he went off, but she couldn’t reach him in time. The two were sent flying into the core and were incinerated the moment they came into contact with the white swirls of energy within. Janeway felt a deep pain in her chest as she watched Fantome sacrifice his life for her. But she didn’t have time to dwell. The station’s shuddering had grown more violent and she had no time left to lose. Janeway snatched up her hand phaser and sprinted as fast as she could to the shuttlecraft.

All along the way, warning lights flashed and alarms bellowed as the station protested its own demise. The floor beneath her feet rocked as she ran, but she kept her balance, determined to escape. She rounded the last corner and entered the shuttlecraft. She stopped dead in her tracks at the sight before her. Valen had gotten there first. All the control surfaces, all the consoles had been blasted to pieces by a phaser. The shuttle was completely inoperable.

Janeway’s shoulders slumped and she let the phaser loose from her grip. It clattered to the floor in defeat. But somehow, Janeway didn’t feel remorse or fear. Rather she felt a level of satisfaction and resignation. Her thoughts were not on her own life, but on Voyagers. She was content with the knowledge that her ship and crew had long since escaped the Void. Despite Valen’s best efforts, she had emerged triumphant. If securing Voyager’s life meant sacrificing her own, that was a decision she would gladly make any day of the week.

Bring them home, Voyager. Janeway silently prayed to her ship as she closed her eyes. Bring them back to Earth.

Just then, an alert sounded from the shuttlecraft sensor monitor which was still functioning. Janeway stepped up to it and observed the display. It signified that a single ship was just off the port bow. Janeway stepped up to the window to see Voyager swoop in from below the viewport. As the vessel sailed upwards, four glowing spheres of light encompassed Janeway’s body as Voyager transported her off the shuttle.

Chapter 16

“We have her!” Kim shouted.

“Now Tom!” Chakotay barked. “Get us out of here.”

“I’m on it!” Paris replied, entering in new course commands into the helm.

Voyager rocketed away from the station at maximum acceleration. The alien station shuddered behind them. Erupting into a series of explosions across its hull. The plume of yellow and white energy expanded before imploding back inward. The entire station had been totally consumed, leaving a swirling white ball of energy behind. Voyager continued on its trajectory. It entered the mouth of the vortex just as it was beginning to collapse behind them.

“We’re in!” Kim shouted. “Seven hundred kilometers to the exit…six fifty…six hundred…”

Suddenly, the bridge shuddered. “I’m losing impulse power!” Paris called out.

“B’Elanna, we need more power to the engines!” Chakotay shouted to Torres.

“We don’t have it!” Torres shouted back. “All our reserves are empty, we’re running on fumes at this point!”

“Commander, the vortex is collapsing. If we do not reach the exit we will be pulled back into the Void.” Seven reported.

“B’Elanna, kill everything.” Chakotay commanded. “Shields, weapons, environmental controls, life support. Divert everything we’ve got to the engines.”

“On it!” Torres replied.

“Three hundred kilometers…two fifty…two hundred. “Kim said.

Chakotay ran up beside Paris at the helm. “Tom, can we form a stable warp field yet?”

Paris shook his head while still furiously entering in course corrections. “Not yet, we need to cross into normal space first.”

“One fifty…One hundred…almost there.” Kim continued to count.

“That’s it!” Torres shouted. “That’s all the power there is.”

Chakotay could see the exit to the vortex now. The circle at the end of the vortex began to shrink. He could see stars on the other side of it. They were close now. So very close.

“The vortex is about to collapse!” Seven reported.

“Twenty…fifteen…ten…zero!” Kim shouted.

“Warp speed, Tom!” Chakotay bellowed.

Voyager emerged from the mouth of the vortex, which was now just barely larger than Voyager itself. Voyager’s warp nacelles folded upward into place once more. With a burst of light, the vessel shot out into normal space at lightspeed.

Voyager had escaped the Void.

On the bridge everyone let out the breath they were collectively holding. Kim smiled over to Tuvok who raised his eyebrow in response. Chakotay patted Paris on the shoulder.

“Captain Proton saves the day.” B’Elanna observed from the side of the room, which elicited a hearty laugh from Paris.

At the back of the bridge, the turbolift doors opened and Captain Janeway stepped back onto the bridge. Chakotay turned around and smiled at her. “Welcome back Captain.”

Janeway gave a brief smile, but quickly buried it. “I told you not to come back for me, Commander.”

“We weren’t going to leave you there, Captain.” Paris said. “Not a chance.”

“Getting Voyager home was more important than saving me.” Janeway replied.

“What was important…” Torres started. “Was saving our Captain. You wouldn’t have left any of us behind, and we weren’t going to leave you.”

“But my decision-”

“Was the right call, Captain.” Kim interrupted. “Just as we made the right call to come back and save you. Just as you made the right call to destroy the station and the right call to destroy the Caretaker’s Array four years ago.”

“Starfleet officers put the needs of others ahead of themselves.” Seven added. “You have shown us that, and we all agree with it.”

Janeway was at a loss for words. Did they really all feel this way? Did they really all agree with the decision she made four years ago? “I…I thought you weren’t coming back for me.”

“Then you forgot the most important rule of the Alliance, Captain.” Tuvok said. “No giving up.”

Janeway couldn’t help but smile at them, the crew that had come back to save her. Lastly, she looked at Chakotay who said nothing, but had an expression on his face that seemed to say. See, I told you all along.

“Captain.” Tuvok said. “I suggest you go to sickbay. I do not wish to have to escort you again.”

Janeway waved her hand in acquiescence. “Don’t worry Tuvok, I’ll go.” Janeway turned around to reenter the turbolift, but stopped. “Actually, there is one last thing I have to take care of first.”

Janeway walked over to the side of the bridge and entered her ready room. Beneath her desk were the remains of the empty tea cup. It had fallen off and split into two pieces during the battle. Janeway reached down and scooped up the remains of the cup without hesitation. She brought it over to the replicator and activated the recycler function. The cup shimmered and dematerialized into a wisp of energy, leaving the empty alcove behind.

I should have known it would turn out this way. Janeway mused to herself, an expression of triumph crossing her face. After all, coffee is the superior caffeinated beverage.

After stopping by a nearby star system to rest and replenish their supplies, Voyager resumed course for Earth. Chakotay relaxed in his quarters, observing the familiar sight of stars zipping by outside his window. As he took off his outer uniform top and settled into his couch, the overhead comm system chimed. “Janeway to Chakotay.”

“Chakotay here.” He replied.

“Commander, meet me in holodeck one.” Janeway’s voice sounded urgent.

Chakotay picked up his uniform and threw it back on. “I’m on my way.”

Chakotay quickly made his way to the holodeck. The corridor lighting around Voyager had resumed at normal levels, providing plenty of illumination as well as leavening the crew’s mood. The holodeck doors opened as Chakotay stepped up to them and he went inside. “Is something wrong Cap-” Chakotay cut himself short at the sight. Janeway was dressed in workout regalia. The clothes were customized for her, primarily sporting the color red over black which signified the bearer as a command track officer.

In one hand Janeway held a frisbee looking device while in the other she held a hand phaser. She tossed the phaser over to Chakotay. “Something the matter Commander?” She said flippantly. “Or did I mishear you the other day when you invited me to a game of velocity?”

Chakotay smiled. “No you didn’t.” He took off his uniform top once more and set it down on the simulated bench the holodeck had created. Chakotay took a moment to stretch while Janeway configured the match parameters on a nearby PADD.

“Three matches, five games per round?” She asked.

“Sounds good to me.” Chakotay confirmed.

Janeway set down the PADD and activated the game. A simulated scoreboard appeared on the holodeck wall above them. Janeway picked up her phaser and lowered herself in a crouching position. She held the frisbee up in the air, ready to throw the first serve. “Ready?” She asked.

Chakotay crouched down on the opposite side of the room and aimed his phaser into the air. “Ready.”

Before she threw the frisbee, Janeway looked at Chakotay. “Thank you Chakotay. I realized that I never said thank you.”

Chakotay looked at her quizzically. “For what?”

“For getting me off that station.” Janeway said. “For supporting the Alliance even though you disagreed with it. For trying to get me out of my quarters.” She paused. ”For believing in me, even when I didn’t. I never said thank you and I feel like I owe it to you.”

Chakotay took in her words and smiled warmly back at her. “You don’t owe me a thing. You always have my support and I will always believe in you, no matter what…But you’re welcome.”

Janeway smiled back and raised the frisbee. She tossed it into the air and quickly shot at it with her phaser. The frisbee was sent flying toward the far wall. It ricocheted off of it and zoomed right toward Chakotay. He in turn deftly aimed his phaser and fired. The frisbee once again bounced off the far wall, this time it was Janeway’s turn to hit the flying disk. The two went back and forth for hours. They played game after game all throughout the night and well into the morning.

The End