Plans within plans

The examination wrapped up in less than half an hour, and they were finally making their way to the mess hall. Neelix had truly outdone himself in decorating the room, bordering on the edge of kitsch. Alathea had instructed him to pull out all the stops, and he certainly delivered. The result was exactly what a Duke would expect—opulent and extravagant. However, after spending a year with the crew of the Voyager, Alathea found the whole spectacle to be overwhelming. She had grown accustomed to the simple decor of the Voyager, finding its soothing ambiance to be a welcome contrast to the ostentatious display before her now.

Ninan settled into his seat with all the pomp and circumstance of a king on his throne, while Menthat hovered beside him like a dutiful court jester. He gestured grandly for Alathea to join him at his side, as if bestowing upon her the honor of sitting next to intergalactic royalty. Alathea complied, her expression a mix of amusement and bemusement as she found herself swept up in the Duke’s theatrics.

Meanwhile, the Captain, ever the picture of calm and collectedness, took her seat opposite their illustrious guest, maintaining a diplomatic facade even in the face of Neelix’s enthusiastic attempts to lighten the mood with his cheerful banter. However, the Duke seemed immune to Neelix’s charm, his attention firmly fixed on the matters at hand as he awaited the commencement of negotiations. As for the Voyager crew, they settled into their seats with a mixture of curiosity and anticipation, ready to witness whatever cosmic drama was about to unfold.

As soon as Neelix’s chatter finally subsided, Ninan leaned in towards the Captain with all the subtlety of a comet hurtling through space. “I must express my deepest gratitude for your assistance with my fiancée. I am forever in your debt,” he declared, his voice carrying a note of sincerity mixed with just a hint of theatrical flair.

The Captain’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, her gaze flickering to Alathea before returning to the Duke. “Fiancée? I must admit, I wasn’t aware of your engagement,” she remarked, her tone tinged with curiosity.

Alathea fought the urge to roll her eyes at the blatant lie. Neither was I, she wanted to retort, but she held her tongue, instead opting for a subtle shake of her head in the hopes that the Captain would drop the subject.

Meanwhile, Ninan maintained his composure, though a faint hint of tension lingered in the air as he met the Captain’s gaze head-on. His smile, once so charming, now seemed slightly strained, and a furrow appeared on his forehead—a crack in the facade of confidence he had meticulously crafted. Alathea found herself grappling with the decision of whether to expose his lie or play along with his charade. What was his game? And why had he chosen to deceive them in the first place? With a Highliner looming ominously nearby, potentially harboring countless Imperial soldiers, she couldn’t afford to take any risks that might endanger the lives of the Voyager crew.

“I was flung over ten thousand years into the past, stranded in an unknown area with no hope of return. Secrecy wasn’t a luxury I could afford; it was a matter of survival,” Alathea declared, meeting the Captain’s gaze with a steely determination, fully aware that her admission violated every protocol and rule of proper behavior in the Empire. Ninan’s frown deepened as he regarded her, clearly unimpressed by her breach of etiquette.

“And apparently, with no manners,” he remarked dryly, turning his attention to the Captain. “Tell me, Captain, is there anything I can do to assist you in return for your aid?”

“Alathea mentioned that you can transport our ship to our territory, on the other end of the galaxy,” the Captain replied, seizing the opportunity to address the matter at hand.

“Can they fold space?” Ninan inquired, leaning in closer, his gaze piercing and insistent, compelling Alathea to meet his eyes.

Their gaze locked, and Alathea couldn’t help but notice the pale, almost translucent hue of his irises against the white of his sclera. Despite his efforts to maintain a neutral expression, she detected the subtle twitches that betrayed his mounting frustration—a telltale sign of his volatile temper simmering just beneath the surface. A quick glance revealed his clenched fist, a silent testament to his inner turmoil. Something wasn’t going according to his carefully laid plans, and Alathea knew she needed to tread carefully if she wanted to avoid triggering a potentially catastrophic outburst that could put the entire Voyager crew in jeopardy.

“No, they don’t possess Holtzman drives, Your Grace,” Alathea replied calmly, deliberately downplaying Voyager’s capabilities and addressing Ninan with the proper title just in time to avoid further provocation.

Ninan forced an artificial smile onto his face, though the tension in the air was palpable. “Then we shall have the honor of escorting you to your space,” he declared with a flourish, his tone dripping with false cordiality.

 “Thank you for your help,” the Captain replied with a nod of gratitude.

As Ninan rose from his seat, Alathea’s stomach churned with apprehension. She could see his plan unfolding before her eyes—to lure her off the ship and then destroy the Voyager, leaving them stranded in the depths of space.

Before she could protest, Ninan reached for her hand, pulling her up from her seat with a suddenness that caught her off guard. Her heart raced as she swiftly freed her hand from his grasp, her mind racing to formulate a plan to thwart his intentions.

“My Lord, I believe it would be best if I remained here to assist these people with the arrangements,” she suggested carefully, her voice steady despite the turmoil raging within her.

Ninan fixed her with a piercing stare, his smile never faltering. “I thought you might appreciate the comforts of the Imperial ship,” he remarked cryptically.

Alathea returned his smile, though her eyes betrayed none of the fear and uncertainty swirling within her. “I am willing to make sacrifices to assist Your Lordship in keeping his word,” she replied evenly, her tone masking the true extent of her trepidation.

“There’s no need for such sacrifice. I’m certain the Captain will agree,” Ninan assured her.

“We would appreciate some help, as we’re unfamiliar with your protocols,” the Captain interjected, gesturing around. “I fear we may have made countless mistakes already.”

“No need for protocol. We are understanding,” Ninan reassured.

“Your Grace, I also need to pack,” Alathea chimed in, forcing a grin and trying to ignore the knot in her stomach. No need for protocol. The bastard was planning to blow up the ship.

In her mind, the haunting image of the collapsing Terran towers played once more, a grim reminder of the ruthless brutality that Ninan was capable of. Yes, he would kill everyone on board without hesitation, simply because he could. The weight of that realization settled heavily upon Alathea’s shoulders as she met the Duke’s gaze, steeling herself for whatever machinations lay ahead.

As Ninan turned away and signaled his escort to leave, Alathea felt a surge of urgency coursing through her veins. She couldn’t afford to let her guard down, not for a moment.

Alathea touched Menthat’s shoulder. “I was wondering do you have another Bene Gesserit with you.”

Menthat nodded at her. “No Milady. We never did. Are you safe?”

Alathea swallowed hard, summoning a smile as she nodded to Menthat. “Here on Voyager. Perfectly safe. These people are wonderful,” she reassured him, her voice betraying none of the turmoil swirling within her. With a final glance at Ninan’s retreating figure, accompanied by his entourage and Chakotay, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of surprise wash over her. She hadn’t expected him to give up so easily.



Alathea fixed Chakotay with a probing gaze as they walked together. “How long did it take before he asked to see me?” she inquired, her voice laced with a hint of frustration.

Chakotay frowned slightly, puzzled by her sudden interest. “They were nearly loaded onto their ship. Why does it matter?” he questioned.

“It shows how poor his emotional control truly is,” Alathea said with a sigh, her frustration evident in her tone. “As the head of a great house, he should have received comprehensive training in that regard. In an ideal scenario, he wouldn’t have insisted on speaking with me today at all.”

Chakotay fell silent as they approached the guards stationed in front of the briefing room, their presence a stark reminder of the delicate situation they found themselves in. Alathea’s thoughts raced as she entered the room to find Ninan pacing around the table, a gesture that betrayed his restless energy. He waved the guards out and took a seat in the captain’s chair, a silent command that spoke volumes. Alathea hesitated, knowing better than to sit uninvited. The truth was, she had little desire to linger in this room any longer than necessary, especially not in the company of someone as monstrous as Ninan.

“As far as Volkov forces are concerned, I arrived in their space in search of my fiancé, a Bene Gesserit,” Ninan explained, his tone laced with barely restrained hostility. “It’s a charming narrative that seems to have ensnared the hearts of many, along with the promise of plundering the Borg.”

Alathea met his intense stare with a calm smile, refusing to be intimidated by his aggression. “And how did you truly arrive here?” she pressed, her voice steady.

Ninan’s eyes bored into hers, demanding the proper address, but Alathea maintained her silence, her smile unwavering.

“Mother Supreme gave me directions and ship.” Ninan finally barked at her.

Keeping her smile Alathea continued questioning him. “That Menthat looks familiar. He is from our time too. I’ve seen him pause before he used Milady to address me, a Ghola.”  

Ninan’s voice took on a low, menacing quality as he leaned in closer. “It’s good to see that you remember who you are,” he growled, his tone dripping with menace. “I was beginning to wonder, given your lack of proper respect.”

Ignoring his remark, Alathea calmly stated, “My ship sustained damage during transit through the wormhole.”

Ninan’s expression remained impassive as he replied, “Mine didn’t.” He locked eyes with her before continuing, his tone taking on a more serious edge. “Do you know why we’re here?”

Alathea shook her head. “I arrived here by accident. I do not know why you’re here.”

Rising from his seat, Ninan approached her, his face mere inches from hers. She met his gaze unflinchingly, her mind racing with apprehension. What was the point of this confrontation? It seemed inevitable that things would end poorly for her and Voyager.

“I’m here to establish the House of Volkov,” he declared, his voice low and intense. “And you’re here to bear me an heir.”

Alathea blinked in disbelief. “Me?” she echoed, her voice tinged with incredulity.

“Yes. Your genetics are tailored to match mine and produce the perfect offspring,” Ninan clarified, his tone matter-of-fact. “No one here knows that you’re a Ghola, and in this era, no one cares. Duncan is on the verge of striking his deal with the machines. You are the mother of Emperor Paul II.”

Alathea tilted her head, a smile playing at the corners of her lips. There was a wealth of information contained within Ninan’s words. The fact that he was sensitive about his albinism was telling—clearly, he didn’t want those genes passed down to the child. He needed her and her specially engineered genetics, a bargaining chip that could prove invaluable in negotiations. With her assistance, she could still find a way to bring Voyager back to Earth.

“What are your plans for Voyager?” she pressed, her curiosity piqued.

Ninan regarded her with a cool gaze. “Why do you care so much about them?” he countered.

“They’ve aided me, and they’re genuinely kind and honorable people,” Alathea replied earnestly.

“People who will ultimately be enslaved by machines,” Ninan stated bluntly, his voice tinged with finality.

She held his gaze steadily, refusing to look away. Alathea recalled stories from her training about sisters engaging in relationships with men solely to produce offspring for the breeding program, but until now, she had never been faced with such a task herself. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so distasteful if the man before her possessed even a modicum of honor.

“Nevertheless, they are alive now,” she asserted firmly.

Ninan moved away from her, his attention drawn to a side monitor. “I have the feeling that you’re not pleased to see me,” he remarked, his tone guarded.

“What did you expect?” Alathea countered. “No one informed me of my purpose here.”

“Don’t you find it exhilarating that you will be the mother of future Emperors?” Ninan inquired, a hint of anticipation in his voice.

Alathea shook her head. “No. Power is not something that entices me,” she replied evenly.

He turned to face her fully, his expression unreadable. “Do you truly mean that?” he asked, studying her intently.

She met his gaze unwaveringly and nodded.

His grin widened, though it appeared forced. “To answer your question, I will uphold my end of the bargain and safely escort the Voyager to the coordinates of Terra. It will be quite the experience to witness Terra before it fell under the dominion of machines.”

“Good. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have your heir,” Alathea remarked, noting the fleeting flash of anger that crossed his features. The man was certainly unpleasant. Now she understood why history glossed over Beli’s true nature.

“Shall I address you as Beli, your real name?” she inquired politely.

“Beli is my real name here,” he replied, his grin widening.

Alathea offered a respectful bow, adhering to protocol. “Thank you for the conversation, my lord. I look forward to commencing negotiations for the transport of the Voyager soon.”

He nearly passed her by, heading towards the exit, but then abruptly grabbed her hand, squeezing it so tightly that Alathea knew bruises would form. “Remember, you’re alive only because I allowed it. What I have given, I can just as easily take away,” he hissed, his grip unyielding.

With a smirk, he tugged her towards the door, clearly reveling in his display of power. As they approached, the automatic door of the Voyager’s room slid open, and Alathea could sense the guards stiffening in attention.

Returning his grin, Alathea swiftly pressed specific pressure points on his hand, causing him to release her involuntarily. “Until later, my dear,” she said, her voice laced with saccharine sweetness.

His jaw clenched in frustration, but he said nothing as he turned and left, the door closing behind him.


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