Endless II.A: New Deal
by Judy firstname.lastname@example.org and Etal
Year 00; November
Chakotay heard Kathryn's news in person after she'd called him over to the shuttle. Kathryn appeared as angry as he'd ever seen her. The flinty look in Tuvok's eyes told him all he needed to know about the seriousness of the sabotage.
"Let's hear it," he said after he took a seat on the floor with some of the other scientists and engineers who'd been in on the conversion.
Tuvok took the lead. "All of our calculations were correct. Likelihood of success was calculated at 99.8%. The process should have worked. However, the converter in the shelter on the ground had been tampered with in a way that did not show up on our sensors."
"Tampered with, how?"
"The settings were altered so that they were a hundred-fold stronger than the readings indicated," Penelope answered, her voice edged by a hardness that sounded downright brittle. She was a no nonsense, take charge lieutenant, and her current posture suggested that the culprit who landed in her line of sight would be summarily and harshly dealt with.
"What did that mean?" Chakotay thought he knew, but wanted to hear it from her.
"It meant that when we set the conversion factor, undetected by us, the instrument multiplied that by a hundred."
"And that caused the overload and the energy discharged into the ground."
"So there's nothing wrong with the theory or the mechanics?"
Kathryn interjected, "What's wrong is someone deliberately set out to disrupt the test."
"Perhaps the individual had more than disruption in mind," Tuvok suggested. "Resetting the conversion factor in such a manner had to be understood to cause a major catastrophe. After all, the person could have reset the factor to such a low amount that no energy was exchanged or stored. In which case, the test would have failed."
Kathryn picked up the thread. "But by jumping the factor so high the perpetrator had to know that too much energy would surge into the ground. It had no place else to go."
"Anyone who was on Ocampa would know that strong energy bolts would cause the ground to shake," Joe Carey observed.
"But who?" Kathryn asked. "And that's not a rhetorical question."
"Didn't the perp understand that we would find evidence of the sabotage?"
"Maybe he or she thought the evidence would be destroyed by the energy bolt."
"It almost was," Penelope told Joe in a grim growl. "Whoever did this committed murder. They knew people would die."
"So. Who was it -- or them?"
Kathryn sighed. "Chakotay, we just don't know."
"We'd better find out."
"I believe we may have other pressing matters," Tuvok noted.
"Hmm." Chakotay knew that the colonists were in a jam. Their harvest was virtually destroyed, their homes were uninhabitable, their infrastructure of clean water was polluted. "Can we go back to VoyCe?"
"Do we want to go back?" Carey wondered.
"People died in VoyCe."
"Penny, does that mean you don't think we should go back there?"
"I don't know. I do science. You and the town commissioners can figure it out."
She lurched to her feet and stomped out of the shuttle. For a moment Chakotay thought Kathryn was going to get up and go after her. But, after tracking Penny with a baffled and pained look, Kathryn sat back instead. Silence reigned for a few moments. Then Chakotay said, "All right. As scientists, tell me what the ramifications are if we were to go back. I'll deal with the politics of it with the commissioners. I need the facts from you."
"The facts are these. It will take two weeks to repair the damage to our converter. Another two to three weeks to conduct proper simulations. Although we have not yet felt negative effects of the climate change associated with winter, we will before the energy conversion can be completed."
Chakotay understood that Tuvok was saying winter was coming and they were unprepared for it. "Kathryn?"
"Tuvok has as good an indication of what we face as anyone."
"There's something else. We don't have much energy left for the replicators. We can't replace the damaged shelters, I'm not even sure if we have enough energy to repair them."
"The doctor will have to go offline."
Chakotay thought about their dilemma. There were plenty of natural sources of energy, such as trees which could harvested for fuel as well as building materials. Shuttle sensors had mapped wells of natural gas and oil underneath the ground that they hadn't even tried to tap into. It had seemed foolish since no one had the technology to use the ancient materials.
The rivers provided fresh water and fish. They had found and harvested a number of fruits and tubers. Due to the devastating earthquake, their own harvest was gone and the season of the year would prevent further harvests in this area. The doctor had been insistent that they have supplemental vitamins and minerals because the food sources on the planet were not, by themselves, sufficient to insure human health. "Tuvok, what is the weather likely to be like in the winter?"
"As we knew from the beginning, this planet has a more pronounced tilt than earth. That means harsher seasons. Although the location of VoyCe has been ideal for most of the time we've been here, long range forecasts are not as favorable. This area will face snowstorms, ice, and below freezing temperatures for approximately 93 days."
"And?" Chakotay thought once again how helpful it would be to have Earth-style weather controls in place.
"For a Vulcan it will be exceedingly unpleasant." A harsh description from the usually reticent Tuvok. "For humans it will be difficult without multiple layers of clothing and protective coverings. Although we have grown used to the thin atmosphere, it remains thin and unable to provide much of a buffer from the cold."
Chakotay watched Kathryn's face as she processed the information. He saw her recognition that if they returned to VoyCe or its vicinity with their present reserves then they were faced with a brutal winter. She noticed his scrutiny and gave him a wry twist of her lips. "We can't stay in this area," she concluded.
"No, we can't," he verified. "Joe?"
"We'd be hard pressed if we stuck around."
"So. I'd best talk to the commissioners. Meanwhile, see what's available in the southern hemisphere."
Tom heard the news just as they all did. Survivors gathered in the clearing and heard Chakotay tell them what many had already guessed. The plan was to bury their dead, salvage what they could from VoyCe, and shuttle down to the southern hemisphere for the winter. Joe Carey and Penny Burleson had scouted a new location for them. Just south of New Deal's equator, it sounded a little more lush and green than their present location. However, it would be at a higher elevation, a valley in the midst of high mountains that hugged the coastline.
Tom recognized that he might have some trouble adapting his breathing to thinner air and almost immediately wished he hadn't put his own health first in his thoughts. While busy mentally castigating himself, vaguely, he heard the scientists' plans to return to VoyCe in the springtime, ahead of the others, in order to try again to place the converter online. An argument he didn't follow erupted over the proposed move at all.
When Tom realized that they were going to fly in the shuttles to their new location he fought to keep the sudden nausea at bay. He'd been balancing with one crutch, holding a hand over his eyes for shade but now brought the hand down to press against his belly. Hoping no one noticed his departure, Tom made his slow way back into the shuttle. He wondered if there could be any justification for his simply staying behind.
The EMH was there to greet him. "Ah. Tom. I hear we're going to a new location."
"Yeah." Without elaborating, Tom headed to the bathroom.
"Are you all right?"
Letting the door close behind him, Tom splashed cold water on his cheeks and forehead in an effort to ease the sudden nausea. Wiping his face dry, he took a good look at himself in the mirror. Maybe it was just the lighting in the small bathroom, but he thought he looked pale, even his eyes seemed an almost gray blue, washed out, with little life in them. His long, curling hair straggled around his face. He looked like hell. Felt like it, too. Maybe if he sedated himself he could sleep during the shuttle flights, first back to VoyCe and then to the southern hemisphere, without disgracing himself. He'd really been a mess yesterday when the shuttle was in the air. Still was.
A nagging voice also told him that he'd been of no help to those hurt in the earthquake. That he was of little use, more like a burden, to the colony. All right, he told himself, he knew perfectly well why his thoughts were down. Physically, he hadn't really recovered from the draining his body had taken yesterday. That was it. He just needed a little time to get back on his feet. Since Voyager's crash, his recovery time must have suffered. He couldn't bounce back like he used to. After all, getting drunk until he vomited half the night had once been something of a routine until he'd learned how to regulate his alcohol intake to achieve mental annihilation without physical obliteration as well. Then, he was able to recover readily. Now, it took a lot longer.
Hearing sounds outside the door of a pacing EMH told Tom he had better vacate before the doctor had his suspicions aroused to the point where he might do something about them.
Leaving the small room, he found the doctor fussing with something on the nearby biobed. Neither exchanged words but Tom thought the doctor was gearing up for some kind of showdown involving a tricorder and more questions than Tom could answer. He figured if he got to work, the doctor would leave him alone.
His weight heavy on the crutches, Tom headed over to the area where he'd been analyzing the animal corpse until the earthquake hit. He called up his program, then was about to archive it, thinking it would be of little use in the southern hemisphere when he looked at the analysis again. Just this morning, before the town meeting, he'd looked over the doctor's shoulder as the EMH recorded the condition of the miscarried fetus of Chalice Brooks. It had died from blunt trauma suffered when Chalice had been knocked down and pinned to the floor of her shelter by a toppled bed frame.
Wondering if he was just imagining things, Tom asked the computer to rerun the results of the doctor's noninvasive autopsy. There it was. On a segment of the gene where normally unreadable junk resided, he found a mappable DNA sequence. He had seen the same DNA sequence in the squirrel. "Doc?"
If the doctor was hopeful that Tom would be forthcoming about his own health, the doc was doomed to disappointment. "Come look at this."
"You finally found something?"
"Just take a look at these readings side by side."
The EMH scanned them carefully. "And?"
"Look at the sources," Tom told him, hitting a few keys that gave the doctor the information.
His interest piqued, the EMH gave the records his complete attention. "This is not possible."
Tom directed his chair to the side and allowed the doctor to take over his console. Finally, the doctor announced, "There are four other matches in these two sources."
"But there's no match against my own DNA."
"Ah. Smart move." Tom could hardly believe that he was hearing praise from the doc. "So," the doc continued, "a selective genetic mutation."
"Just because I don't show the mutation doesn't mean other colonists are free of it. Many of them have been doing a lot more on the planet than me."
"We need to gather more information. We must know what these mutations do, if anything."
"I'm not sure we're going to have the chance. Remember? We're moving?" Tom reminded.
"Perhaps that could be delayed...."
"Hey. Don't ask me."
"I'll speak to Chakotay immediately."
With the doctor outside, Tom looked around the shuttle. Besides himself, only one person remained. Arenda was on a biobed, still being monitored while she continued to rest. Tom was pretty sure from the biobed readings that she'd been asleep during his exchange with the doctor. Good. She didn't need to be hearing about genetic mutations while she was still in grief over her husband's death.
As she slept, Tom ran the tricorder, setting it to provide a DNA map of her unborn fetus. He transmitted the information to the console and checked the four suspect sequences. Sure enough, the mutation appeared. He called up Arenda's DNA map and noted its date: prior to Voyager's crash. No sign of the DNA sequences then. Gathering his crutches under him, he returned to Arenda and scanned her, carefully dating the recording.
She woke up and saw him with his tricorder poised over her. "Tom?"
"I didn't mean to wake you up." He gave her a reassuring smile. "Can I get you something?"
The moment reality crashed in on her, her fine boned, dark face crumbled and tears came. Tom put the tricorder aside and ventured closer to the wounded woman. "I'm sorry, Arenda. I'm so sorry."
After a torrent of tears that Tom was helpless to stop, she looked up, anguish so strong that he saw his own problems diminish into insignificance. "My baby?"
"He's okay. Really."
"Yes." Tom gave her some tissues and she wiped her face. The look of hope and trust that she gave him almost made him confess that maybe there was something she should know, but he couldn't tell her. Knowing himself for a coward, he rationalized that he didn't really know anything yet. Just some genetic mutation that could prove harmless. He didn't know. Neither did the doctor. "He's fine. How are you doing?"
Her next word was enough to break his heart. "Narinder." She struggled to stay in control. "I know he's gone. What of others?"
"Jiguo Gao. She didn't make it."
"Yeah." He didn't know what else to say.
"Are the babies...are they all right? Soh's twins...."
"Hers are fine." Tom debated whether to tell her the rest. But as reluctant as he was to cause her more pain, he knew she would find out as soon as she talked to any of the colonists. Taking a deep breath, keeping his voice soft, he admitted, "Chalice, Ed, and Angelo weren't as fortunate."
Tom knew the pregnant colonists had become very close, comparing notes and sharing emotional support. Each of the three Tom named had been a part of that group, as important as each of the others in the same condition.
Her dark eyes were puffy from crying and he weighed how much more to tell her.
"Tom," she prodded.
"We have to leave VoyCe for the winter. The earthquake apparently pretty well wiped us out."
"Is that what it was? An earthquake?"
"Yeah. Something went wrong with the test."
"*We* caused it?"
He shrugged. Chakotay had told him it was sabotage but hadn't wanted Tom to say anything along those lines. Tuvok had put his security people on the problem. "We're not sure yet."
Through her overwhelming grief, Tom saw a change in Arenda's expression. A tightening of her face and lips, a tension in her shoulders. Whatever she was thinking though, she didn't share with him. She lay back and closed her eyes, effectively shutting him out. Repeating himself, but not sure what else he could say, Tom told her, "I'm sorry."
He didn't expect an answer and didn't receive one.
Tired from standing in one position, Tom returned to his console with the tricorder in hand. Carefully, he lowered his frame into the chair, set the crutches aside, and placed himself in front of the screen. In a quiet voice, hoping not to disturb Arenda, Tom asked the computer to analyze the latest DNA readings. Three of the four mutations appeared. It meant at least one colonist had some of the mutations. But what the hell did it really mean?
End of Part 4