Star Trek: Voyager - The Neverending Night

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.