Star Trek: Voyager - The Neverending Night

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.