Continued from Devastation 1/4
For warnings, codes and disclaimer, see part 1/4
The air is thick with tension, as pain and fear ooze off our burning,
sweat-soaked bodies like so many vapors drifting off scorching,
Another explosion rocks the planet surface several dozen meters above us, and the whole staircase shakes in abject terror.
"Get out of here, Paris, before the whole thing comes down."
I look at him curled up against the side of the railing, face screwed
in pain, his large, strong hands desperately hanging onto the metal
bar, hanging onto dear life.
"I am not gonna leave you here, Chakotay." I take a careful step down the rocking stairs. "I told the captain that I would get you out of
here and I am not leaving without you."
His head whips up at this, as he pierces me with his penetrating,
black stare, and I feel myself cringing at the expression on his face.
For a split second I catch sight of a small shiny object dangling from
a string around his neck, but before I can ascertain what it is, I am
distracted by the look on his face. The utter betrayal, contempt, and
hate in his eyes stab at my heart and I feel my throat tightening at
the flow of overwhelming emotions.
"You don't have to fucking patronize me, Paris," he snarls at me, his
eyes burning with anger and pain. "I am sure the captain won't mind a
Maquis terrorist falling to his death in a nameless cave on a nameless
planet." His voice shakes yet he continues on. "Isn't that why you
agreed to help her find me? So that Starfleet could throw my crew and
I into prison for the rest of our lives? I am sure the admiral would
be very proud of you now."
His words cut through my soul, his cold, dark gaze blistering me from
the inside out.
"NO!" I scream. That's a lie. I never wanted it to happen this way. I
can't believe he would think so low of me. "You're wrong, Chakotay."
My voice trembles as I look at him with pleading eyes. "That's not
what I came here for. I know I agreed to the captain's offer but I
never thought that I would find you."
The metal structure trembles as the planet surface is rocked by
another explosion. I watch, dismayed, as the platform Chakotay lies on
shifts under the pressure of the blast and one of his hands loses its
grip off the railing.
"You're lying," he screams, trying to claw his lose hand back onto the
railing. "You betrayed me."
The shifting metal groans against my jarring nerves, as the stairs I
stand on shudder in sympathy. Yet, I have to move and I have to move
fast. I grab the railing on either side of me, and stumble down
"Give me your hand, Chakotay." I call out to him, my voice hoarse with
fear. "Please, give me your hand."
Suddenly, the whole cave is filled with dust and pieces of falling
debris as another explosion occurs on the surface, and the staircase
shakes violently enough to throw me backwards on the stairs. I watch
in sheer horror as the floor Chakotay lies on crumbles and his other
hand slips off the railing as well.
With a cry, I scramble up on my feet and try to reach down to him, my
My eyes lock with his for just one final second.
"You sold us out," he whispers, his voice tinged with unimaginable
And with that he slides and falls off the platform, as my agonized
scream fills the empty cave and resonates back to ring in my ears.
I bolt upright on my bed, my heart pounding, my breath heaving and my
clammy fingers scratching vacant air only to come back empty-handed.
The night's warm breeze makes my sweat-soaked skin shiver in the still
darkness. My hands tremble with loss and tears roll down my face as
pinching, voiceless sobs wrench my hoarse throat.
It's always like this.
Always the same, on these painful nights, when the nightmare comes
back to me in full force - alive, breathing, flinging those sorrowful
memories back at me.
Always the same. Yet each time there's something a little bit
A word here, a look there. A changed expression, a somewhat different
exchange of conversation.
Always something to remind me that it was a new dream.
And yet always the same.
Always reminding me of the same thing, of my one cursed failure.
Reminding me of the fact that I lost him.
Lost him before I had a chance to tell him how I felt, how important
he had been, how much his respect had meant.
Lost him before I could do any of these things.
Reminding me that I failed him.
I let him fall to his death.
Today's pet project is digging wells.
But I am not alone today. There are fourteen other guys, Starfleet and
Maquis alike - people who weren't naturally cut out to be miscreants,
reprobates or psychopathic murderers - assigned to various different
tasks along with me.
Yosa, one time Maquis - and full time hooligan - is regulating the
day's proceedings with a surly condescension tinted on his frowning,
In other words, it's his turn to stand in the shade to pass orders,
throw insults and occasionally raise the whip at fifteen dehydrated,
hurting men, clad in the minimum of rags, toiling the day's hard
chores in the scorching sun.
Four similarly armed fellow-thugs watch along from the sidelines,
enjoying the show.
As if digging a well in the hard, brittle site chosen for Lovaugim's
first water extraction project isn't hard enough; we have to bear the
vengeance of scamps and bullies too, in the midst of all this sadistic
I remember a long gone sultry summer day, back home in San Francisco,
when I dug a well in our backyard.
I was six years old. My uncles and aunts had all come with their
families to stay for the weekend. Two of my cousins, Tammy and Richie,
were both around my age and we were playing an 'ancient technologies'
game in the backyard.
I remember spending hours digging a 20-inch deep, 12-inch in diameter
well in the soft ground, which I then carefully and painstakingly
lined and paved with a fine coating of mortar, and left to dry for a
few more hours.
Richie replicated a small wooden bucket, which he fitted to a pulley
that Tammy helped him make, following an example she had learnt at
school, and attached them to the well.
Tammy's mom, Aunt Liz - who was dad's younger sister - helped me build
a small battery using only a lemon, an 18-gauze copper wire, steel
clips and sandpaper - all from an experiment I had dug out the
The well was then filled with clear water and the battery was attached
to the pulley that, when operated, would pull the bucket filled with
water out of the well. And there and then, we had created our very own
battery-operated, homemade tube-well.
Even the admiral had stood along with the rest of the family and had
smiled and applauded us on our joint effort.
I had felt so thrilled to make him proud of me.
That is one of my last memories of my father smiling at me for doing
I am taken out of my daydream when I hear a scuffle behind me and turn
around just in time to see Yosa kicking out Baytart's legs from under
him, causing him to crash to the ground. The manacles that are locked
around both his feet are magnetized at once and both his legs are
locked together immediately, hindering any movement from his waist
I wince, and have to willfully clench my hands at my sides to stop
myself from flying at the Maquis, as he viciously kicks Baytart a few
times to drive whatever point he was trying to make home. I hear quiet
yelps and groans come from the fallen man and close my eyes in pity as
I watch Yosa's whip-holding hand rise and come down in quick
succession a half dozen times.
No one dares coming to the young pilot's rescue lest they want the
same fate to befall them.
My heart pounds in sympathy as I stand quietly for a few long seconds
and let Yosa simmer at the pilot, letting the anger, the frustration -
for whatever reason it flared up - drain out of his system. After a
while, he apparently loses interest and turns around, demagnetizing
the manacles around Baytart's feet.
Seeing the opportunity, I quietly walk towards the pilot and bend down
to help him up. Silent tears streak his face, as my eyes make note of
angry gashes and marks across his bruised chest, and I feel a wave of
anguish and anger pass through me.
I freeze as I hear Yosa come behind me. "What the hell do you think
I don't answer him until I have pulled Baytart to his feet and only
then do I straighten my shoulders and turn around to face our keepers.
What I see makes my blood turn cold.
Yosa has taken his shirt off and his fellow-thugs, who have followed
him out of the shed, are in the process of stripping. I watch with
growing disgust and fear as their hands move in unison over their
groins, readying their anatomies for the diversion they seem to have
planned for today.
"What do you think you are doing, Paris, helping our game stand up and
all?" Yosa sneers, advancing on us. "He's in such fine state for a
little entertainment, y'know." He looks behind me at Baytart, licking
his lips provocatively, and I feel a shudder run down my spine. "We're
just getting in the mood, didn't you know that?"
Feeling my heart thudding with a mixture of increasing alarm and
trepidation, I gather up my courage and stand straighter, blocking
their path. "Look, he's hurt and in pain." I try hard to use a
conciliatory tone. "You've had your fun kicking him around, why don't
you just leave him alone now?"
"Tom..." I hear Baytart whisper from behind and notice one of Yosa's
men, a Fleeter, walk around us from the left, moving in position
"Get out of here." I hiss at Baytart, as a second man makes his way to
our back from the right side.
"But Tom..." Baytart's voice shakes.
"Now." I wheeze impatiently, praying he will listen to me.
Suddenly, I find the neck of my sweatshirt gripped in Yosa's large
hands as someone pulls my hair from behind and a fist connects with
the back of my neck. I grunt in pain, falling forward as Yosa grips my
shoulders in a tight grasp. I feel a slick wetness brush my cheek and
pull back to see Yosa's tongue slipping in and out of his mouth in a
squalid dance, his breathy whisper tingling my ear.
"What are you gonna do if I let him go, Paris?"
Sudden bile rises up my throat and a sick terror settles in the pit of
my stomach, as I spit out my hatred on the vile face leering down at
I have to stop them, my brain says, as my fear-stricken heart pounds
inside my chest.
Yosa howls in fury and muttering a spew of curses comes unleashed on
my face, punching and pummeling and pounding at me, his mottled face
turning dark with anger. I feel my jaw give away under the assault as
my nose shatters and I feel my face and neck and chest get sprayed
with fresh, burning blood.
I scream in agony and clenching my right hand into a tight ball,
strike out at the man in front of me. My fist connects to his jaw with
a resounding crack, as my knee strikes out to connect with his hip,
making him cry out in pain, but my shoulders clutched in his hands
somehow lessen the force of the initial blow. And suddenly I am lying
on the ground, as my arms are gripped and pulled up over my head and
more than one pair of boots kicks my abdomen, my ribs, and my thighs.
I pull my legs and kick out at my attackers but the heavy manacles
make it impossible to do much damage.
"Fucking Maquis traitor..." I hear someone yell and try to recognize
the voice but fail.
Too many hands land on my body, sliding up and slipping down,
pinching, scratching, squeezing, as my clothes are ripped off and
pushed out of the way.
I never stop struggling. Frenzied with fear and anger, I kick and
punch and grapple and strike out whenever one of them loses their grip
on my hands. I feel skin breaking under my jabs, hear their grunts and
frustrated curses. But each time my arms are grabbed and pulled over
my head again, as more fists fall on my face and chest, leaving them
bloody and sore.
"Oh the slut is in fine mood today." It's Yosa. "Yeah, fight Tommy, I
love it when you fight, you turn me on so much when you scream."
"Get off me, you bastards," I howl at them, but they are already
gripping me by my shoulders and turning me around.
"Oh but we are only just starting, Tommy," Yosa sniggers, as my legs
are pulled apart and I feel their slimy hands on my back, and thighs,
"How would the Maquis traitor like to feel a Starfleet dick in his
ass?" someone else laughs as I am pinned tightly to the ground, unable
to shake them off.
"Noooooooooooooo," I cry out, my bleeding face pressed into the dirt,
as angry tears prick the back of my eyes.
"Asshole, sold us out to the fucking Federation," I hear another one
growl as brutal, invading fingers come clawing and scratching at me,
making me shudder in disgust.
Mocking, biting words swarm into my ears, digging tunnels into my
head, like too many crawling, burrowing insects; and I close my eyes,
trying to block out the voices and the sensations. I make an attempt
to go deeper into my mind, to remember that clear, sunny day back home
in San Francisco, and the well I had dug at age six. I remember how
the admiral had stood and applauded me on my feat and wonder what he
would think of me if he saw me right this minute.
A seething fire splits its way into my gut as I am invaded in the most
defiling way possible, and I feel a burning, flaming agony melt into
my senses. I am hardly aware of anything but that pain, and the
shameful tears that roll down my face unhindered, as the fire spreads
out in all directions, choking me, stifling me.
Amidst the unbearable debasement, the realization dawns on me that the
admiral would probably never want to have anything to do with me after
all that I've gone through in this hellhole.
He wouldn't want to taint the Paris name.
I can't remember when darkness encroached onto my senses and I fell
into the waiting arms of oblivion.
I tightly grip the shaking metal rail with hands too damp with sweat
and choke as grime and dust fill the cave and my nostrils.
"Get out of here, Paris, before the whole thing comes down."
The railing slips out of my grasp with each tremor that jolts the
staircase and swallowing hard the crushing fear, I clutch it again.
He is hurt and scared and terrified. Yet he still wants to push me
away. Still wants to pretend he doesn't need my help.
A sudden confused surge of anger comes unleashed within me from some
deep dark place inside, but I make no effort to calm or ground myself.
"What the fuck are you trying to prove, Chakotay?" I scream at him
instead. "I am standing here trying to get you the fuck out of this
godforsaken cave and you are playing fucking hard to get?"
His head snaps up and he pierces me with his penetrating, black gaze,
the heat in his eyes turning something inside me.
"Fuck you, Paris," his voice shakes with pain, his eyes burning with
anger, and yet I see an unmistakable tinge of grief clouding the deep
brown depths. "You're a traitor,"
Suddenly I notice something sparkle against his neck and I blink,
trying to focus on the object, but its gone just as fast. His dejected
whisper, stabbing at my heart, instead diverts my attention. "You sold
"I didn't betray you, Chakotay," I moan as I find my anger dissipating
and in its place sharp, slithering tentacles of fear grip my heart,
squeezing my chest, making it hard for me to breath. "Give me your
hand, Chak." I plead with him, my heart in my mouth, as I carefully
descend the rocking steps to reach him. "Please, there is no time."
And there isn't.
It's already too late.
I watch in horror as the floor Chakotay lies on crumbles under the
pressure and, with a scream, I scramble to my feet, moving towards him
to catch him one last time but find nothing but a frigid emptiness in
Someone is calling my name. Gentle fingers on my face. Something cool
and damp being rubbed over my forehead and my closed eyes.
It's a familiar voice that calls me from far, far away and I
contemplate following it out of the dark cave I am trapped in. Yes,
it's a cave, and there is utter stillness inside, and yet I feel
strangely content staying right where I am. I don't want to leave this
sanctuary, this quiet, tranquil refuge that gives me a kind of peace
that I don't think I'll find anywhere else.
But the voice persists. I try to close my ears to it but it continues
to prod me, crawling into my head, tapping into my consciousness.
Leave me alone; I try to tell the voice. But my mouth doesn't move. I
feel confused for a second. Why won't my mouth cooperate? I reach out
with my arms instead, pushing the invisible voice away, telling it to
let me be. I don't want to be bothered, I say silently, please leave
My only answer is sudden spikes of raw, biting pain that assault me,
piercing my jaw, my face, my head, my arms. I groan as tendrils of
liquid fire settle down onto my abdomen and my legs.
"Tom," the voice repeats, trailing me from some far away dismal corner
of my sanity.
I can't hide anywhere. The voice is everywhere.
The voice comes closer, nearer, following me, as flickers of
consciousness slowly break onto the dark horizon of my mind.
My breath ragged, needles of pain beating down my body, I slowly open
my eyes to the glaring lights on the ceiling of Voyager's sickbay.
"Tom, don't try to talk," the voice has a face now and its bending
over me, touching my face, my shoulders, with kind fingers, "Don't try
to move just yet either. We still have some work to do."
For some reason, the voice is reassuring, non-threatening, and I find
myself relaxing a bit.
I am in the sickbay. Which means I really must be hurt badly. They
don't bring us to the sickbay unless there is some serious damage
done. Though, for some reason I can't remember what really happened to
"Here." A cool rag is being rubbed gently over my neck and my chest
and I flinch as it passes over my tender ribs. "Shh, it's okay, let me
use the knitter over here. We're almost done."
As my jumbled brain heeds the soft hum of the bone-knitter, I suddenly
remember the name that goes with that voice.
"Ken?" I ask, my voice a mere gurgle and then I groan again at the
resultant pain in my jaw.
"Hey, I told you not to talk," Dalby frowns at me but his voice is
gentle. "I haven't given you a painkiller yet, that's why your jaw
hurts so much."
Painkiller? I thought we ran out of them two weeks ago. I should've
known they had some stashed away in a hidden corner of the now mostly
defunct sickbay. With a sigh, I close my eyes, letting the Maquis
complete his job.
Someone presses a hypospray against my neck and my eyes again fly open
at the contact, only to realize its Joe Carey, who shrugs
apologetically and softly injects the painkiller into my bloodstream.
It's almost funny seeing all these one-time engineers acting as medics
in these decadent times.
As always, Carey finishes his job and quietly disappears somewhere in
the background, leaving me alone with Dalby.
As Dalby finishes knitting my ribs together, I feel the discomfort in
my chest slowly abate. My head feels clearer so I decide to test my
strength by trying to move my limbs, only to cry out as a sudden sharp
pain erupts into my lower body. My whole body twists in a spasm as the
pain travels up my legs like molten lava, stirring along my bruised
thighs, moving around my beaten backside, finally to settle in that
vulnerable spot between my sore ass-cheeks.
My whole lower body, my legs, my ass, is on fire. As my eyes fill with
unbidden moisture, I suddenly remember exactly what happened to me.
Some of the mortification must have shown on my face, because Dalby
instantly presses another hypo against my neck and somehow the pain
shrinks, ebbing into a dull ache, pulsating inside my battered bones.
"Tom, its okay," he speaks softly, trying to reassure me, his hand
touching my shoulder comfortingly. "It's over now, you're alright."
Only I don't want to be comforted. I don't want to hear any soothing
words of how things are all right and that no one is going to hurt me
anymore. Been there, done that, many time over. No words, no amount of
verbal comfort, can make life in this hellhole okay for me. It's not
okay. It's never going to be okay.
I turn my head and look at him. "Where's Baytart?" I ask, my voice
forced to sound firm with a considerable effort, my steel veneer
barely in place.
Dalby frowns as if suddenly a disturbing revelation has been made to
him; his eyes glitter with an emotion I don't have the strength to
face right now. "He's fine," He looks at me wearily. "They didn't
touch him after all. They didn't wanna touch him and you knew that,
I swallow heavily. "No, I didn't. How could I have known?"
"Because it always happens like this," His volume rises exponentially.
"I don't know why you always have to pick a fight with those fucking
bastards, Tom. You're not everyone's goddamned savior."
"Damn you, Ken," I snarl at him, suddenly pissed off at him that he's
pissed off at me. "They were gonna hurt him. What did you expect me to
do? Stand back and fucking watch?"
Dalby grits his teeth, exasperated. "That's exactly what I'd have
wanted you to do. It's better than getting your jaw and ribs smashed."
But he's wrong, and he knows it. He knows it as well as I do that the
only reason they keep coming after me is because I fight back, because
they haven't been able to break me as yet. And they will never be able
to. I'll never stop fighting, even if they kill me.
Dalby sees something in my eyes and his expression shifts. "Y'know you
did some damage too. Yosa had a broken nose and a fractured jaw,
Bronowski's shoulder was pulled out of his socket." He stares at me a
second and then says. "I just wish you wouldn't pick fights on your
own. Let whomever they come after deal with them. They come after
Baytart," his volume rises. "Let Baytart deal with them."
"But he's just a kid." I sigh in agitation.
"For gods sake, Tom," Dalby shakes his head at me. "What difference
does that make? It's not like he's never been raped before."
The words are out of his mouth before he can stop them. They hit me
like a sledgehammer, pummeling into my chest, and my face crumples, as
suddenly I am back at the digging site, pressed face down into the
dirt by brutish hands, coarse fingers invading me, making it hard for
me to breath.
I come up thrashing on the bio-bed, arms flailing, as I turn to my
side, attempting to climb off the bed, and am gripped firmly by strong
"I have to go," I moan, trying to wrench myself free, as Dalby's hands
run over my back, soothingly. "Please, let me go," I sob helplessly
into the front of his shirt, sagging ungracefully in his arms, as
mutinous tears roll down my face, soaking his shirt. "Please, I need
to get outta here."
Dalby shushes me, gently rocking me, telling me that I am safe here,
that I am safe for now, and no one is going to come here, at least for
now. Long, exhausting minutes tick by like this and as I sluggishly
feel my breathing return to normal, I look up to find a troubled
expression on his face. I know he realizes what threw me off, the one
wretched word that I can feel in my veins but not bear to hear in my
ears, not bear to acknowledge verbally.
But it's not his fault, not his pain. It's my shortcoming, my failure,
and my hell.
"I won't let them touch you, Tom," he declares. "Not here. They have
to go through me first."
And I know he means it. He will fight for me, as he has done many
times before. As long as I am in front of his eyes, no one will touch
me. Amidst this horde of mercenaries and psychopathic bastards,
Kenneth Dalby is someone on my side, one of the good guys.
I look at this man - once an enemy, now a friend - and think of the
strange anomalies we come across in the journey of our lives.
Ken Dalby is one such anomaly.
When I first came across him, which was during my brief stint in the
Maquis, I thought he was the biggest sonofabitch I had ever seen. He
was rude, disdainful, insolent and angry at the whole fucking
universe. I thought he was nothing but trouble and since I had enough
problems of my own, I figured it would be in my best interests to stay
away from him. I didn't even try to get to know him. All I saw was the
surface anger and hatred, and decided he was simply a jerk.
It's something else that I was perfectly capable of screwing up my
life on my own but that's a whole different story.
Even when I crash-landed Voyager on this planet, even after all the
massacre, the blood and the Kazon, I didn't understand who Ken was. I
thought he was another Maquis terrorist, a mere felon, an aggressor.
It wasn't until he saved me from one of the deranged gangs here, got
me out of the cell block where I had been left to die after being
beaten half to death, that I realized he was not like them at all. He
got beaten up himself, fought his way out of there just for me, saved
my ass. I asked him why he did what he did, why he saved my life, and
he said that he knew a kindred soul when he saw one.
Torres told me he had lost the girl he had loved to the Cardassians,
had seen her get raped and killed in front of his eyes, and that was
what had driven him crazy, what had made him join the cause.
When I thanked him for saving me that day, he just shrugged his
shoulders as if it was no big deal.
Except it was big deal to me. When the mask finally came off, I
realized Ken was just like me, a victim himself. Misunderstood. But
once you got to know him, he was a hell of a friend. He's the only
person in here that calls me by my first name, and the only one I like
to call by their first name too.
I would have it no other way.
"Are you feeling better now?" he asks me and I nod, still feeling a
little numb. "I wish the Captain was still around," he sighs.
It takes me a few seconds to realize that he's talking about Chakotay.
Chakotay was the only captain Dalby knew. He never got to see Janeway.
He didn't set foot on Voyager until they were all gone.
A small stab of pain goes through me and I take deep breaths to center
myself but all I can think of is the nightmare. The same nightmare
that, for reasons unknown, has been invading my sleep all too
frequently these last few weeks. Memories of a fateful day lost long
ago, but still as fresh in my mind as if the events occurred just
yesterday, flash back into the reel of my mental cinema and I almost
groan in pain.
It's a pain that transcends physicality. It's a pain in my heart. In
I slide off the bio-bed, my feet touching the cool soil of Sickbay. "I
need to go to my room, Ken." I don't meet his eyes as I face the walls
and look at the bulkheads and glance up at the ceiling with all the
bright lights - all the scrap that we could salvage from the remains
of USS Voyager.
This is all that's left of Voyager. After the Kazon were through with
our intrepid class starship, all that was left were heaps of scrap
metal and bulkheads and two bio-beds from the sickbay. The Kazon took
about everything else that was worth shit.
I try to think how funny it would have been to see the EMH's
expression if we had told him that his sickbay's floor was now made of
hard ground and soft soil and patches of dry grass. But of course, the
EMH was disabled one year ago. Somehow I don't find much funny these
"I swear if the Captain were here, he'd deal with all these assholes
himself." Dalby is still talking, working himself up, not noticing my
discomfort, or perhaps I have gotten better at hiding my grief. "Damn,
I wish he were still alive."
My veneer breaks for a third time in the last half-hour and I want to
curse myself for my weaknesses, for my inability to control my
emotions. But his words remind me of my real failure, remind me of the
fact that I am responsible for Chakotay's death.
"Shit, Tom." Dalby is horrified. "I am sorry, I didn't mean it that
way. It's not your fault that the Captain died. I know you tried to
save his life."
So what difference does that make? I tried and I failed. The trying
doesn't matter if you fail. The trying doesn't matter if the man you
were trying to save dies thinking you were a traitor and a fuck up, if
the man that meant so much to you didn't even want to live if it meant
owing his life to you.
The trying doesn't matter if the man you loved hated you.
I shake my head, still not able to look at him, still not able to
speak. I gather my wits together and slowly walk out of the room,
wincing and limping in pain.
The trying doesn't matter. What matters is that I failed. I fucked up.
I let him fall to his death.