Endless II.A: New Deal
by Judy email@example.com and Etal
Year: 00; November
Chakotay felt the rumble in the ground and quickly associated it with the aborted attempt to transfer warp energy to the converter two kilometers away. He found his legs wobbling as if he stood on soft sand being shaken by an angry, giant hand. Near him Neelix gasped and thudded to the floor.
"What's happening?" Chakotay shouted over the comm. "Is everyone all right? Report!"
"We're all right up here," Janeway told him crisply.
Penelope sounded a little more frazzled. "The ground's buckling...the shelter's tearing apart!"
"We have terminated the experiment," Tuvok reported, his voice fading in and out as he struggled against the shockwaves under his feet.
"Do you need assistance?" Chakotay asked.
"We must vacate the shelter immediately."
"Tuvok! Penelope! We're going to beam you up here!" Janeway promised.
Chakotay acknowledged both Tuvok and Janeway's comms and asked, "Kathryn, can you see what's happening?"
"The energy beam must have gone right through the converter into the ground. It's causing an intense earthquake."
"We're feeling it," Chakotay assured her. The ground was shaking as if the entire planet would fall apart beneath them. He had to hold onto the table, but it slid away from him and he landed on the floor on his side, gasping as his hip flared from the pain of impact.
Carey's voice came over the comm link. "There's a rift heading straight for you. It's going right through the settlement! Chakotay, get everyone outside, those shelters are going to collapse!"
A moment later Kathryn told them, "The rift's breaking up the water treatment ponds! They're going over their banks. Oh, dear gods, the river's flowing into the rift! Get all colonists to the shuttles and lift off! We'll take as many as we can."
"Attention! Everyone! We're going to beam you into the shuttles if you can't get there on your own! We have to lift off immediately!" Chakotay struggled to his feet and helped Neelix as well.
Neelix limped badly as they and the twenty-some others who were left in the mess hall sprinted for the doors. The doors had jammed shut.
In the sickbay shuttle, Tom heard the news with growing alarm. The earthquake threw him hard to the floor and it took a moment to catch his breath. But he grabbed the crutches that had fallen nearby and, with the doctor's help, resumed his seat. Once he sat down, Tom's eyes continually scanned the sensors. He hit some commands and pulled in a vid feed of the destruction outside. He yelled to the doctor, "We've got to beam them in! The mess hall's splitting in half! And we can't use the F'Lang! It's down in the rift!"
Without thinking about the lines of authority, Tom hit the comm link. "This is Tom Paris. Don't go to the F'Lang. Split up among the other shuttles!"
Between Tom and the doctor, they beamed in Chakotay, Neelix, Henard, and Trumari in the first group. Joe and Kathryn transported up small groups from the shaking earth into their shuttle. Swinn reported in from the Earhart and began to beam in the remaining colonists trapped in the mess hall.
No sooner was he inside than Neelix protested that he had to go to his shuttle. He could take people up. Before Chakotay could stop him, Neelix was limping out the door shouting to those outside to follow him. Chakotay realized that Neelix was right.
The chaos outside, shouts, groaning buildings, trees falling in the nearby forest, the earth itself protesting loudly, could all be heard inside. Tom tried to block out the noise to concentrate on transporting more of the settlers into shuttles. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Chakotay run outside saying he was going to the Ride. He told Tom to monitor the transports.
Tom noticed Chakotay was beaming colonists on board the Ride almost as soon as he landed in the other shuttle. Taking a moment, Tom had the computer log each arrival's name into a master file on the Lee.
"This is Neelix. I have eight here. I'm lifting up."
"Swinn here. I have ten. We're going up."
"Tom, how many are on all the shuttles?"
"Thirty-three!" Tom counted off for Chakotay. "Plus the four off-site."
"That's seventeen to go!"
"No -- *plus* the four offsite, thirteen are left!" Tom corrected and increased the sensor sensitivity.
Arenda Malek, three months pregnant, and her husband, Narinder Patel were in the underground storage room organizing the harvested crops that had come in from the fields that morning. At the other end of the large area, Ken Dalby, Tal Celes, and the also pregnant Eduardo Molina, were working with the food dryers, placing fresh foodstuffs inside and removing the dried materials. Then the ground vibrated.
Arenda Malek darted a worried look to her husband just before both of them were slammed to the floor. Arenda placed her hands protectively over her stomach as foodstuffs began to bury her.
Tal screamed when the wall near her shook and then collapsed on top of her. Nearest to Tal, Molina dove his hand into the shifting dirt that had followed the collapsing metal wall and reached for the white fingers that he could barely see. His fingertips reached hers, but the ground kept vibrating underneath him. "Dalby! I need help here!"
Rounding the food dryer, slipping as the floor heaved, Dalby landed on his side. He could see Molina, feet widely spread, as he bent over trying to reach Tal. The shaking floor made it hard for Dalby to regain his footing but he finally reached Eduardo and pulled the man away. "Ed! Get back! Let me get her!"
Molina's surprised look almost made Dalby regret his words. Then the adjacent wall began to fall over them bringing with it the food dryer and a seemingly endless supply of dirt mixed with fresh and dried foods.
"Tom! You need to let me do that. You've got to get this shuttle off the ground."
The doctor took in Paris' pale face, the sweat popping out on his forehead, the uneven respiration, the rapid pulse, and realized that, for whatever reason, Tom was too ill to take the helm. Tom's eyes were searching wildly among the occupants of the shuttle. He must be looking for an alternate pilot.
Tom apparently found someone because he opened his mouth to speak just as the shuttle tilted from another shockwave rippling through the compound. "Jenny!"
Jenny Delaney knew better than anyone about Tom's crippling inability to fly. He'd been teaching her and others but nearly fainted on her when she had suggested he take them up. However, she doubted that anyone else knew about it. He'd turned down her suggestion that the doctor look at him. Right now, she'd better get to the helm.
Quickly, she put hand over hand on consoles and anything fixed to the shuttle to advance her staggering body to the helm. In minutes Jenny was there, going through pre-light and taking the shuttle 1000 meters off the ground. Inertial dampers stabilized the craft now that it was no longer on the shaking earth.
The doctor watched Tom carefully and then caught Robin Lang's eye and motioned her over. The former pilot's skin had turned an unhealthy grey, his eyes were glassy with shock, and he was either going to vomit or pass out any minute, perhaps both. "Robin, take over. Let Chakotay know."
"Tom," he called his assistant's name and pressed a hypo to his neck. "You'll feel better now, but you'll need to go over there to a biobed."
The doctor helped Tom Paris arrange his crutches so he could make his slow way over to one of the biobeds. The shuttle lurched treacherously underneath and the EMH had to grip Tom's waist tightly to keep his patient from falling. Once Tom was safely on the biobed, the doctor ran a tricorder over Tom, wondering if perhaps the earlier fall was the cause of his patient's collapse. Although one of Tom's kidneys showed signs of bruising, it didn't explain the sudden illness.
Lang swayed on unsteady legs and walked to the transporter controls. Comming Chakotay, she said, "Tom's sick. This is Robin Lang here on the Lee."
"All right." Chakotay's acknowledgment sounded harried. "Get those people out! Each of us is comming the name of our transports so we don't go after the same person. And Tom was logging their names. Do it!"
"Yes, sir!" She responded immediately to his sense of urgency. "Are we divided into sectors?"
"Not yet! Listen up, everyone take the sector in the immediate vicinity under your shuttle and set a wide scan. I'll work on the storage room. Swinn, you've got the fields."
Tal was suffocating. The dirt was in her eyes, her nose, her throat, it crushed her body and she knew she was going to die. Then fingers touched her, a hand grabbed her wrist and she was being pulled roughly from the choking grave. Both she and her rescuer were briefly in the clear, then more dirt poured on top of them. Now they were both going to die!
No. Not yet. The familiar tingle of the transporter beam caught Tal.
Arenda curled her body around, still desperate to protect her unborn child. She hadn't seen Narinder since this disaster began and now she was crying. This was not like her to cry. She had been calm when Voyager crashed. She had helped in sickbay. But now she felt a terrifying fear that her baby would die because she would not live through this. Then the transporter beam hit and Arenda sobbed in relief.
Feeling more sick than he liked to consider, Tom found his crutches and shakily managed to make his way into the tiny shuttle bathroom. Despite the doctor's hypospray, he threw up almost as soon as the door swished shut. Contrary to popular myth, it didn't make him feel better. The shuttle was still in the air and his anxieties and fears kept colliding forcefully in his stomach.
Giving up the fight to keep anything down, Tom braced himself against the wall. Carefully using his crutches, he slid down the wall to the floor where he settled as close to the bowl as he could. He was able to reach the sink and cupped some water to his mouth, rinsing it out, swallowing a tiny amount.
Gods, he hated letting down the doctor and Chakotay and everyone who was counting on him to help out in this crisis. If only they could have stayed on the ground.... But he understood why they hadn't. He'd seen the F'Lang tumble away into the rift created by the earthquake. It could have been any of the shuttles. Lifting off had been the right thing to do. It just wasn't something his body agreed with. Or maybe the problem was with his mind.
He knew he was a wreck. After splashing some water on his face, Tom leaned against the wall, its coolness a relief from the paradoxically clammy heat that suffused his face.
A knock on the door followed by the doc's voice signaled that he'd been discovered. "Tom? Are you all right?"
"The tricorder suggests that...."
"Doc, later, okay?" Tom begged.
"Very well," the doctor sniffed, "You know how to reach me."
Damn, he felt bad. It was as if his stomach had followed the F'Lang down into that rift, tumbling end over end. Tom urged himself to stop thinking about shuttles, to think instead about firm ground. But that didn't help because the last ground they'd been on had been moving as if possessed.
Something must still be in his stomach, because whatever it was, it wanted out. Tom leaned his head over the bowl and let his eyes follow the trail of caustic bile that emerged. Once again he wiped his mouth with some water, hoping to die before he had to do this anymore. Or maybe the shuttle would land. Whichever came first, it almost didn't seem to matter. Maybe he should call the doctor back to put him out of his misery.
"Oh, dear God," Kathryn breathed as she watched the destruction spread below them. Jagged tears ripped through the land, holding ponds overflowed, the fields with the remaining unharvested crops destructed before her eyes. The settlement looked almost unsalvageable. Torn metal, upended structures, all fell apart as if some ill-tempered child had thrown a tantrum, strewing puzzle pieces to the winds. Starfleet issue shelters were supposed to be tough, but withstanding the direct stress of an intense earthquake wasn't in their specs.
There was no time to process the changing landscape below. She had to make sure they transported aboard as many of the colonists as the shuttle could hold. Working closely with Joe Carey, she set to work to do just that. She'd have time to consider life after the earthquake once the people were safe.
Jiguo Gao Zhang and her roommate Valencia Pacheco had been helping with the last of the harvest in the fields. Jiguo Gao had with her the little animal they called a squirrel. It was her pet and she called it Pu Yi in memory of the last emperor of the old country of China. Pu Yi took food from her hand, let her pet its ginger-colored fur, and appeared every morning at her doorway. It allowed itself to be placed into a large pocket in Jiguo Gao's coveralls, today she'd chosen the green ones over her brown ones. Pu Yi went with her wherever her work took her.
But at the first trembling of the earth, Pu Yi leaped from her coverall pocket and darted through the vegetable garden. Worried for her pet's safety, Jiguo Gao started to run after the little animal.
"Jiguo Gao! Don't!" Valencia called after her.
"I will just be a moment! See if you can find out what's going on!"
Jiguo's slender form raced through the field, her black hair flying wildly, the green of her overalls disappearing amidst the plants. However, the red of the kerchief around her neck identified her path through the field.
To her stunned horror, Valencia saw the ground split open like a zipper unfolding. It swallowed her roommate allowing only a wild scream to return from its depths. The red kerchief and black hair were the last of Jiguo she could see. There was no time to stand still or even to run after Jiguo's doomed path. The opening earth seemed to yawn in her direction.
Valencia scrambled out of the way and ran back towards the settlement, her head craning backwards time and again to make sure that same fault line didn't come for her next. For some reason, her well worn overalls seemed too long in the leg, her shoes were too big in the toes, and her black hair was too thick. She kept tripping over the pant cuffs, the tips of her shoes. He hair blinded her and the ground underneath never felt so insubstantial, so completely incapable of holding her weight. She sobbed and ran, tripped and cried, righted herself and fled once again.
Newly pregnant with twin girls, Soh Ryson had been one of those listening in on the comm feed in the mess hall. Her partner Mary had talked of designing modifications for the shelter they shared with the Delaney twins and had stayed in the shelter to sketch out her ideas with the source structure in full view in front of her. The rumbling under the mess hall, the casual way it tossed men such as Neelix to the floor, the screeching rending of metal, all of these made Soh want to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible. Her pregnancy left her feeling unbalanced but generally her sturdy build compensated. Now, it seemed as if nothing would steady her in the face of the heaving building beneath her feet.
Brian Sophen raced to the door ahead of her and sent himself outside without a backward glance to Soh or to anyone else for that matter. Soh started to leave but the doors jammed nearly shut. Almost immediately Derick Boylan, tall and square jawed, and his partner, the perennially in trouble Chris Hickman of the infamous Voyager still, were by her side. All three of them began to pry at the doors using the few centimeters of opening as a starting point.
Brute force wasn't going to do it. Soh looked around, wobbled on her feet as the floor rippled underneath, and grabbed a chair. She tossed it against the wall and caught the metal arm that had broken off.
"Good going," Chris told her. He gave a nervous grimace as he took the rod off her hands.
With all three of them applying leverage, the door began to inch open. At the moment when victory seemed near, a deafening screech filled the air as the mess hall split apart, each half thrust upward by the mighty forces unleashed below the ground.
After puking again for what had to be a galaxy-wide record, Tom felt weak and exhausted. Although he never lost consciousness, and therefore never lost the sense of the shuttle's being in the air, he was too wiped out to move when the shuttle finally settled on the ground. He lay curled around his stomach on the floor of the bathroom, the bowl near his head.
After a perfunctory knock on the door, the doctor ordered the doors opened. "Whew."
"Turn off your smell subroutines, Doc," Tom advised with not a spark of energy to back up the smart-ass comment. Through barely opened eyes, Tom saw a tricorder playing over his body. "I'm alive."
"That much even I can tell. But why you've been so sick is a mystery."
What was he going to say? He was afraid? Everyone knew that flying had been his one claim to fame. It was too much to admit that he could no longer do what he had once loved, that he was no longer Tom Paris, best pilot in any quadrant. His pilot identity had been with him even through the bad times, a life-line he'd always been able to hold onto. But he couldn't confess now that he was an imposter. So Tom said nothing to help the doctor understand the mystery of his illness.
He was pretty sure Jenny Delaney knew about his fear of flying, but he didn't need the doc or anyone else learning about it. There'd be nasty teasing, sickening pity, and fatal humiliation. As if his present position wasn't undignified enough. Before he could protest, the doc pressed a hypospray against his neck.
"That should make you feel better."
"You said that the last time, Doc. It didn't."
"Perhaps it did. Who knows what might have happened without it?" The doctor pocketed the medical instruments and extended his hand.
They both knew Tom was unable to get up from the floor by himself. For one thing he was simply too weak from the nearly nonstop vomiting. But he also needed his crutches and one was beyond his reach, kicked away unknowingly sometime during the long bout with sickness. Even had he had everything working perfectly, such as his crutches in hand and the cooperation of his back along with all of his other joints and muscles, getting from the floor to an upright position was iffy at best. There were some things he still hadn't fully mastered.
On his feet, Tom swayed, clutched the sink with one hand and kept his other hand in the doctor's steady grip. "Geez."
"Is that how you feel?"
"No. I feel like hell. But, I'm sure there's people out there who need some help. Give me a minute and I'll be out to do what I can."
"I can't authorize that, no matter how much we could use your help. You're too weak right now. See if you can drink some fluids and then find a quiet place to lie down."
"I thought you gave me a hypospray to wake me up."
"Not quite. And you're right. There are a lot of injuries here and in the other shuttles."
"I'm sorry, Doc."
Tom felt the doctor's scrutiny. For once he didn't get a sarcastic response from the hologram. "I know."
End of Part 2