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Title: Survivor's Epitaph, Part 1 of 2
Author: Morgan Stuart
Fandom: Star Trek: Voyager
Disclaimer: This universe does not belong to me; I'm just an appreciative visitor. I make no profit from this fan work.
Description: The officers learn of their duplicates' fate at the hands of the Vidiians.
Historian's Note: The events in this story take place after the third season Star Trek: Voyager episode "Rise."
Warnings (Highlight to Read): Graphic violence and character death.




CHAPTER ONE : A COLLAGE


The Heart asks Pleasure - first
And then - Excuse from Pain
And then - those little Anodynes
That deaden suffering -

And then - to go to sleep -
And then - if it should be
The will of its Inquisitor
The privilege to die

-Emily Dickinson



Lieutenant Tom Paris tore his way toward consciousness, his body remembering more of his frantic last waking moments than his mind. The pain that met him forced a gasp from his lips. He twisted, desperate to ease his agony, and met only resistance. Rational thought fought with instinct, and finally he quieted, stilled, and took stock of his situation. He was prostrate. He was bound. He was hurt.

And he was completely blind.

A deep breath, meant to calm, allowed a low moan to escape dry lips. A clatter answered him. Had he alerted his captors, or summoned his friends? Footsteps echoed closer. He held his breath.

Someone touched him, tightened one of the straps that held his leg. Then a sharp pain on the inside of his elbow - a hypospray? A needle? He lay there, his breaths unsteady, waiting for the mysterious forces to work their will on his helpless body. Not knowing what was happening, what would happen, was a torture all its own.

He cleared his throat and forced authority into his voice. "Where am I?"

The breath of his assailant felt hot on his skin as the being continued to work around him, on him. His senses strained against the blackness.

"Who are you?"

Clammy fingers pulled at the fabric that covered one of his eyes. The material peeled away. Air played across his naked flesh, his brow. The agony swelled.

He was still blind.

"No... no!" His whisper became a cry. Gasping, he stiffened and clenched his hands into fists. Despite Paris' panic and pain, the unknown being continued to work, and replaced the cloth that covered the sightless face.

Somewhere across the chamber, a guttural growl rumbled. Once. And again, more insistently.

"Beh... B'Elanna?" The lieutenant's voice broke in fear, in need.

Another jab at his arm. Awareness fled.

***

An insistent buzz filled his ears. If he had possessed enough energy, he would have been irritated. As it was, he was simply numb, insulated from his surroundings by the fogginess of the drugs they had pumped into his system. They. There'd been a they. Who were they? Where was he? What was happening?

It took a great deal of time and effort to put the thoughts together. It took even more for Paris to register the voices that echoed across the chamber.

"...would be so much easier on us all if you would be more cooperative."

"He's been asking for water for hours. Give him some."

"We're giving him fluids intravenously. He is in no danger."

"He's thirsty. Give him some water."

"You'd be better served worrying about yourself. He's sedated. He has no idea what's happening."

"Bastard. Give him some water."

"If I do, will you be more cooperative with these tests?"

"If you do, I may not kill you... today."

A resigned chuckle. "It's a start."

Paris did not follow the conversation. But one of the voices, despite its hostility, was reassuringly familiar. And water. He focused on the word. They were talking about water. His mouth was so dry - the drugs, no doubt. He tried to swallow, but his swollen tongue proved uncooperative.

Then, without warning, a hand slipped beneath his throbbing head and lifted it. A whimper. His own? He couldn't tell. He felt disconnected from the sounds he heard.

And then, against his lips, a trickle of moisture.

He tried to lean forward, to gulp, to lap it up. But the water caught in his throat and choked him. He coughed. Then he tried again.

So very little. But it was better than nothing. Cool wetness. It felt so good.

The sensation dragged him closer to clarity. Paris grabbed at it and struggled to reel himself in. Focus, focus. Think of the voice. Who was she?

The pain at his arm again. He was robbed of knowing.

***

"Shhh, Tom. It's B'Elanna. You need to be quiet. If they hear you, they'll drug you again. Do you understand me? Tom?"

She was talking to him. Finally, the words penetrated his muddled senses. The twisting and moaning he barely even registered as his own eased as it dawned on him. It was real. She was here. B'Elanna was here.

"B'Elanna?" The tubes attached to him, in him, twisted as he tried to turn toward her voice. He shivered with the aches of the multiple violations.

"Yes, it's me. Don't try to talk, Tom. Save your strength."

But this interaction was too precious to abandon. He'd been trapped, paralyzed within his own quiet skull, confused and alone far too long. "Where...?"

"We're on a Vidiian ship. In their lab. I don't know about the rest - some are dead, and I think some of the others are being held as laborers."

A Vidiian ship. Of course. The memories began to resurface now. He remembered running down a hall, following one of the teams, turning and firing at the Vidiian intruders. The predators were overrunning Voyager, too many for the battered crew, too quickly for the disabled defenses. He remembered the shock of being stunned, the sudden absence of everything.

Now they were Vidiian prisoners. The lab, she said. She meant organ processing.

"B'Elanna..." It hurt to talk. But then it hurt, regardless. "Are you okay?"

She exhaled, something like a shaky sigh. "I'm fine. I'm still their ticket to a cure. But this time they're letting me keep both of my halves together. So far." The silence held a potent question, and she paused before asking it. "Is the pain very bad?"

The question answered itself. "What have they... done to me?" He strained to keep his voice level, and flinched at his failure.

"You're on some kind of support system... They've - taken some of your organs."

"I... I can't see."

"There are bandages -"

"I couldn't see... when they took them off." His panic was rising. "They've... taken my eyes, haven't they?"

He could hear his own breaths panting out his fear.

"Just one, Tom... Just... just one." The voice was faint and wavering. So unlike her. That frightened him as much as the Vidiians.

For a moment she said nothing. Then, "Don't give up, Tom. You've got to fight." Now that was better. That was B'Elanna, unbroken.

It gave him the courage he so desperately wanted. "B'Elanna, promise me something."

"Tom, don't -"

"Please."

He chose to accept the silence as acquiescence.

"Get out of here. Find a way. Escape. And don't... don't remember me like this, okay? Please -"

"I thought I heard something in here." The alien voice interrupted the plea, steps tapping on the hard floor. Paris heard Torres gasp in shock. He cringed, hyperaware of his utter vulnerability.

The footfalls grew closer. "You fight the drugs. They will free you from the pain, if only you accept them."

The lieutenant shook his head feebly. "No, no more. I don't want them. Dammit, let me..." He gasped as he felt the dreaded injection. "No..."

***

The touch was not a clinical one, but a comforting one. Fingers gently stroked the hair back from his forehead. He jumped at the contact.

"Easy, Tom. It's the captain. I won't hurt you."

The captain. She was here. Where was here? Was he safe? Complete disorientation. Wherever here was, he might have been here a year or a day. Space and time meant nothing anymore.

He lifted his head in a pathetic attempt to look at her. The bindings bit at him. So, he was still a captive. And so was his captain. He tried to turn away, so she would not see him like this.

"Captain." His lips formed the words, but no sound came.

"Rest, Lieutenant." She sounded tired, and bitterly sad.

Her hand came to rest on his bare shoulder. Skin on skin. So different from the sterility of most of the sensations that met him. The touch was warm, and living, and its honest simplicity made him want to cry.

The implications of the bare shoulder only sluggishly occurred to him. He wondered if he were nude. The idea unsettled him, somehow made his helpless position before the captain even more humiliating. He didn't want to be an embarrassment to her. He didn't want her to have any connection to the ill use they had made of him. But perhaps they had covered him with a sheet. He could feel little of his body now, since he'd been tied to this biobed, immobile and drugged, for so long. There was no way to tell.

But wait. There was some quiet, steady fear that nagged him from the corner of his mind. Perhaps she was the key. Perhaps the captain could help him. What was it?

Yes. "Harry?"

Janeway put a finger to his cracked lips. "We sent him over. Harry's safe. Don't worry about him."

Sent him where? What did she mean? There were so many things he couldn't remember. But she said Harry was all right. He trusted his captain. He nodded, satisfied.

"You must come with me now." It was a different voice, deep and demanding.

Her hand left him with a reassuring pat.

Another touched him, rolled his arm over to expose its vulnerable veins.

He tried to pull away, to prove to his captain that he hadn't given up. If she were still there, he had to show her that they hadn't broken him. Mangled his body, perhaps, but not his spirit. He didn't want her to think that, when the time came, he would die easily. He didn't want to disappoint her.

But the restraints pulled so tightly, he could not resist. The familiar pain of the drug injection. Trapped inside the blind silence of his own mind, Paris raged against the numbness until it won him.

***

"We're through for today."

B'Elanna Torres climbed off the table and curled over on herself, shivering as air moved across her sweat-soaked frame. Her arms wrapped around her slender sides and rubbed against the folds of the abrasive lab gown.

The armed escort arrived to watch her as she wearily trudged back to the main transplant chamber, the usual number of guards doubled. She didn't look at them, count them. She continued on as she did every day. Enduring. Hoarding her energy. Waiting for the moment to act.

"What's the meaning of this?"

"Sir, we've been sent to secure this chamber. Some of the prisoners have escaped, and may be headed this way."

Without moving, her entire body quickened at the news. Her fingers and toes tingled in their bath of adrenaline. Think, think. Another such chance might not come again.

The guards took up position around the lab as their leader barked orders. "Try to save as many as you can. Just stun them. Only kill if absolutely necessary. As for their leader, I want him alive. And conscious. I have plans for him."

"Chakotay," she whispered to herself like a blessing. She knew it was him. Coming for her.

And the door burst open in a flurry of shots. Starfleet officers fell, Vidiians fell, and equipment sparked and smoked as phasers missed their mark. From the center of it all emerged a dark figure, calling toward her sheltered position between the biobeds.

"B'Elanna!"

She rose instinctively at the voice, and raised her arms in reflex to catch the tossed phaser rifle.

"Can you walk?" Chakotay's outstretched arm waited to steady her.

She dove for him and grabbed his filthy worker's tunic like a life preserver. "Tom! Let me get Tom!"

He nodded, and pulled her toward the door, firing all the while. "We won't be able to hold them back for long. They've got us blocked up the west passageway. Now's the chance to punch through. Get him back here now."

She confirmed that the phaser rifle was set to kill, and then took off around the corner and into the central organ processing room. Unsteady legs betrayed her, and she leaned against a row of terminals and caught her breath. The issue of Paris' condition suddenly hit her. How could she move him if he required life support? They would make it somehow. She'd see to it. How long had she watched him fight for every second of life? She wouldn't let him down now.

With a few shaky steps she was past the equipment, at the foot of his bed.

He was gone. They had deactivated the machines. The wires and tubes curled atop the bunk neatly, no longer needed.

No.

She whirled toward the door, frantic to find him, to find Chakotay, to find an answer. Any answer but the one she feared. She plunged headlong into an armed Vidiian commander.

With a matched set of sky blue eyes.

For a moment they both struggled for balance and for weapons, winded and shaken from the unexpected collision. Then Torres made a decision. It was a conscious choice, one she made without regret. She released the terrible Klingon, poured her last energy into the mindless and merciless warrior whose memory lived imprinted on each cell of her body. With a disconsolate shriek she threw herself at the surprised officer and clawed at him, ripping out his throat, watching in fascination as his life bled out in pulsebeats onto the white tile floor.

Then, with a steady, bloodstained hand, she closed the dear blue eyes.

She did not know how long she kneeled there. All thoughts of meeting her crewmates, of taking flight, were gone. By the time she looked up, the room was full of guards transfixed by the gory scene. Slowly, she rocked back onto her heels, reclaiming the phaser rifle.

"Careful. This one's important. No one fires." The head guard turned to face her, a measure of compassion on his hideous features. "You can see you're outnumbered. The rebellion is over. Your friends cannot help you now. Surrender, and you will not be harmed."

Fools. Of course they would not harm her. They needed her. They needed her precious Klingon DNA. She was the hope for them all. She was their cure. She was their deliverance from the dreaded Phage.

With perfect hatred, Torres slowly smiled. Chakotay, if still alive, would understand. She hoped he would forgive.

She turned the rifle on herself too quickly for them to stop her.

***

The Vidiians could not afford to make a martyr of Chakotay. No, they did not need a hero. Just an example.

The rebellious Starfleet prisoners were chained together to await escort back to the laborers' barracks. Before they were returned, however, there was the issue of punishment. The first officer of the Vidiian ship paced threateningly around the singular figure of Chakotay, who hunched on his knees, wrists chained to ankles on the hard deck tile. He kneeled, unmoving, turned within himself, considering the reasons why B'Elanna had not returned to meet him. So still, so intense, Chakotay seemed ready to implode like a black hole and drag everyone nearby with him.

He barely noticed the mock trial taking place. The crewmembers that had joined him from his shift in the mine would not be hurt, he knew. Vidiians had already claimed the rights to their precious body parts. As for himself, he could not bear to give them the satisfaction of fear. He'd known the odds when he instigated this revolt.

"You will work double shifts every other day at the mines. Two days' work for every one day's rest period. If you have the energy to attempt escape, you have the energy to labor."

So, they would work him to death. Or age him too soon, at least. A subtle torture. The crew could watch him fade before their eyes. Terrible, unremitting. Yet eminently practical.

His sentence began immediately, despite the fact that this was normally his rest period. The muscle of his arms and the width of his shoulders marked him as an ideal worker. They had set his quota high. And as his bleeding hands fought to scrape away the amount of rock his captors demanded, he saw her.

Her eyes were deeply shadowed, nearly blackened, and her hair clung to her sticky neck and cheeks like an auburn spider web. She was carrying rock, eyes half closed, when she fell into him.

"Kathryn!" He caught her and eased her to the ground.

"I knew you were alive," she whispered, and fainted.

***

"Kathryn, you have to wake up. Just for a minute. C'mon, Kathryn."

She seemed to glow with feverish heat. He cupped her face in his dirty, battered hands and willed her to hear him.

With a sharp gasp, she came awake. Her brows drew together in alarm at the concern on his face.

"Kathryn, it's okay. I need you to stand up for just a second. Then you can rest."

The Vidiian guard was already turning the corner. Chakotay wrapped his arms around the captain and bodily lifted her to her feet. She reached out and steadied herself against the rock wall, digging with one hand and balancing herself with the other.

Beneath her was a pile of mined rock. Chakotay's. Passing for hers.

The Vidiian guard walked by them, uninterested.

Immediately, Chakotay lowered her back to the ground. "Rest now."

She watched him helplessly as he dug, and carried, and added to his own pile and to hers. And as he paused to rewrap his torn hands in strips of his tunic, then returned to work. He'd told her that he would take care of her in the mines, see that she recuperated and grew stronger. And he had, without complaint. Day after day.

When her shift ended, he was still digging.

And when she returned.

***

After Janeway grew quiet, Chakotay sat up on his bunk and crossed his legs. He was too tired to sleep. He moved stiffly, trembling, like an old man. Only meditation could bring renewal. He would seek it soon. The strength to survive, to fulfill their plan.

But plans failed.

He was not a fatalist. He was a realist. This would not be, after all, his first attempt at escape.

They had plans together. And Chakotay had another plan, all his own. From within the folds of the bandages that covered his hands he produced the stone. It was a flake of a larger block, slender and jagged. He had sharpened it against the ledges in the mine until its edge was razor-sharp. He tore a long strip of cloth from around the waist of his tattered tunic and set it aside.

He remembered the Vidiian's smile as a diseased finger traced the tattoo at his temple. "I should like to wear this painting," the alien voice had said, nodding to the doctor in approval. Nausea had choked the commander, made standing difficult as he fought the bile that filled his throat.

Opportunity had flared and submerged so many times. This might be the last. He needed one reassurance, just in case. Victory over one's enemy came in many forms, in varying degrees. It need not be absolute to be triumphant.

The makeshift blade went to his brow. Blood ran down his cheek. Chakotay grimaced and held his breath. When he feared he could not go on, he silently implored his father's spirit to guide his awkward, swollen hand. He made no sound.

Symbol was sacred, as was the human body. But the destruction of both could be as well, if the sentiment fueling it strengthened the living, or remembered the dead. Chakotay had brought many pains upon himself on this Vidiian vessel. Only this one could be said to heal.

When she woke in the night, Janeway found him facing her on his bunk, curled in a fetal position, a bloody strip of material wrapped around his head. He was not asleep. He was far away.

"Chakotay? What have you done?" The whisper carried the few feet to him.

Protected the memory of my ancestors. Spit at these murderers. What I should have done long ago.

"Saved my soul," he whispered evenly, and closed his eyes.

***

She only needed a moment more to infect the entire system. It was fitting to use a virus against them. The dramatic irony was not lost on her. One tiny warrior introduced into a body to wreak havoc. Western Europe reeled from the Black Death. And North America's depopulation after the Columbian encounter made the plague look like the common cold. And now the Vidiians with their bloody Phage.

Well, germs of an idea could destroy just like germs of a disease. She was killing computers - databases, directories, defenses - not beings. Not that she wouldn't if she could. A part of her longed to kill until she drowned in their blood. But she would take the opportunities presented to her.

Yes, yes, she watched the contaminant infect and disable. The destruction it promised renewed her waning strength. Now she could launch her precious buoy and nothing could stop her. She would free it, and liberate its dear message. Send it far away, let it become as distant and remote as her hope had grown.

And then she would escape this chamber of horrors, this floating tomb. She would steal a shuttle and go. Just go. Or lose her life trying.

She wanted to show her enemy one last time the might of the human spirit. She wanted to honor the memory of her dead. She wanted to act out the final scene of this twisted tragedy.

Whether she lived or died as a result made little difference. She would go through the motions - good motions, with the right purpose. She needed to act far more than she needed to live.

As to her own fate, Kathryn Janeway no longer cared.


END OF CHAPTER ONE


On to Survivor's Epitaph, Part 2 of 2