Endless I: Planetfall
by Judy jlf@door.net and Etal

Part: 10

Day: 08, Hour: 0819

Tom became suspicious of the EMH. "What about my physical therapy?"

"I think you should rest."


"Let's just say that exposure to the planet's atmosphere took a lot out of you."

"And that means?"

"Your respiratory system was compromised by the thin atmosphere. If I'm satisfied with the readings later this afternoon, we'll try some physical therapy. It's a very important part of your recovery and will help your pulmonary functioning. But let's see how you're doing later."

"Can I see the tricorder readings?" Tom asked, a little concerned himself. It wouldn't surprise him to find something unpleasant there. After all, since he'd been extubated it felt like he was lifting a chestful of wet concrete every time he breathed.

The doctor placed the device in front of him where he could see the read-out. Yeah, there was cause for concern. No wonder he felt like shit. His temperature was up and all the other readings on lungs, heart, blood factors, central nervous system, and hormones were off.

The doctor's voice interrupted his despondent thoughts. "Mr. Paris, sometimes it's going to seem like two steps forward and one step back. This is one of those steps back. I'm sure you'll be feeling better this afternoon. I'll let Mr. Neelix get you some breakfast, if you're so inclined. Hmm. I see you need to use the facilities."

Tom had already turned down breakfast. Dammit, all he wanted was a cup of coffee. And yet he knew better than to ask. 

And the facilities, oh, yes. Did those tricorder scans have to be so blasted accurate? He wondered what the doctor would suggest. Over the past several days, with the doctor's help and the support of the back brace, he'd been able to shuffle the few steps to the bathroom. It annoyed him that he didn't feel strong enough now to take those steps. 

There was always the bedpan or the invasive procedures he remembered from the early days of the flight to the planet. Although there had never been any real evidence, Tom began to think the EMH had a subroutine that read minds. For there he was, smirking, holding a bedpan. Tom wondered about himself when he experienced relief at that sight. 

Directing the computer to erect a privacy screen, the doctor set about helping him. Business concluded, Tom reminded the doctor, "Doc, there's going to be a memorial service."

"I understand," the doctor hedged, "but your health has to come first. I'll see if we can set up communications so you can see and hear the service from here, but that's the best I can do."

Damn, Tom thought. It was beginning to sink in that this wasn't one of those times when he would find himself healed by a few hours in sickbay and then be on his way. As if in punishment for his self-absorption, it occurred to him that there were a hundred people back on Voyager who would probably gladly trade places with him. Once again, he wished he knew what had happened.


Hour: 0820

Voyager's three most senior officers stopped outside the shuttle and surveyed the compound. The light rain had stopped, the grass had absorbed the moisture nicely so there were only a few puddles of water here and there. Tuvok noted that the integrity of the site remained uncompromised by the insect swarm. Janeway was pleased to see the crew acting as if nothing much had happened during the night.

For his part, Chakotay worried about Tom Paris. The pilot hadn't looked good. Then again, he probably didn't appear all that great himself. It had not been a restful night. 

Saying he was going to tour the perimeter, Tuvok veered off from them. Chakotay gave Janeway a shrug and she returned a rueful smile, saying, "Shall we try the new mess hall?"

"By all means," he replied gallantly. Before they could take more than a few steps they heard the unmistakable sound of a scream from the interior of the sickbay shuttle. Both turned and ran back.

Inside, Chakotay saw the doctor finish giving Tom a hypospray. When he set the instrument aside, the doctor picked up a medical tricorder in its place. Behind the mask, Tom panted. His eyes were wild at first, but as the captain and first officer closed the distance from the doors to the bed, he became calmer. 

"What happened?" Janeway demanded taking in Tom's pale complexion and obvious struggle with pain.

The doctor finished his scan before replying, "One of the nerve fibers that had been damaged announced itself. Although I'd used the regenerator to bring those fibers back, it's an imperfect technology when nerves are involved. At any rate, one of them began firing off."

"Why?" Janeway barked.

Patiently, the doctor explained, "As nerve fibers reconnect, pain is often an unfortunate side effect."

"Tom?" Chakotay asked of the drugged pilot.

"Felt like...felt like a hot knife up and down my spine," Tom managed to tell them, the mask distorting the actual words but not the pain behind them.

"How is it now?" Janeway wanted to know.

"Still feel it...not as bad."

The doctor began to shoo them away. "I've given him something for the pain. He needs to rest now."

Chakotay patted Tom's hand lightly. "I'm sorry you hurt so much, Tom. But the doctor will look after you."

The haunted look in Tom's eyes stayed with Chakotay even after he left Tom's side. That must have been some nerve firing off. He joined the others near the shuttle door, well out of Tom's earshot. He almost smiled as he heard Kathryn giving the doctor the third degree. She was saying, "Unacceptable," as he approached them.

"What's 'unacceptable'?" he asked not so innocently.

"The doctor says he can't fully prevent the pain, that it will come and go on its own. And there could be weeks of this random firing before the nerves are functioning satisfactorily."

"Sounds as if we need a stasis chamber," Chakotay offered. 

The doctor sighed. "I'll argue for a real sickbay and a real cloning chamber. When Mr. Tuvok returns to Voyager, that has to be his first priority."

"What do you mean?" Janeway asked and Chakotay couldn't help but notice the slightly dangerous edge to her tone. 

"He must bring back all the things that make a sickbay a sickbay: cloning chambers, biobeds, stasis chambers, the elements I need for my medicines. These are not things that can be replicated and we must have them."

"Captain?" Chakotay threw at her.

"We need to salvage a great deal from Voyager, especially the energy sources for the replicators and waste recyclers."

"What about weapons?" Chakotay asked and was not surprised when she nodded in agreement.

"The sickbay, Captain?" the holodoctor asked her directly.

"I'll ask Tuvok to make room for as much as possible in the shuttle."

"When will he return?"

"Doctor, you know he hasn't left yet. As I said yesterday, we may need that shuttle here if this proves to be an inhospitable location. I can't let him leave for at least two days." She sounded both regretful and firm, as if weighing all their needs and finding no way to compromise. 

The doctor shook his head. 

"I want an explanation for Tom's condition," she demanded, her eyes narrowed, as if daring the doctor to defy her.

With the EMH's flair for the dramatic, Chakotay knew that if the doctor could present something with a heavy hand, he usually did. But his gentleness now was such a contrast that it made his statement all the more serious. "Sometimes patients do well for awhile and we think they're going to recover. Then, they take a turn for the worse."

Chakotay wanted to tell the doctor that it shouldn't be that critical. Sure, Tom had been outside yesterday, had helped to plan the memorial service. But apart from the difficulty breathing last night, Chakotay didn't understand how the young man's condition had deteriorated so quickly. This new prediction couldn't be right. 

Janeway seemed to agree with his private reflection. "Doctor, surely Tom's going to recover."

"Not right away," he told her honestly. "As I mentioned, I can use hyposprays to manage his pain, but I can't prevent it."

"What's happened to Tom?" Chakotay asked, genuinely puzzled.

"He weakened considerably overnight."

"How? Why?" Janeway demanded.

"His body is expending most of its energy in healing. I suspect the thin atmosphere forced a choice on the lieutenant's low level of reserves. Without the complication of pain, he would have begun to bounce back in his usual style. But now the pain is going to slow down Mr. Paris' recovery."

As Chakotay looked at the concern etched into the doctor's face, he realized something. "Captain, what if Tom and the doctor were to go back with Tuvok? As soon as a stasis chamber is moved onto the shuttle and activated, then Tom could go in it."

"Better yet," the doctor interjected, "if the shuttle could be used to power up the sickbay on Voyager for as little as a few hours, I could do the surgery properly, on a biobed, have time to repair the cloning chamber, and then use cloned nerves to stop the source of the pain. I could stabilize his lungs as well." 

The doctor's enthusiasm began to overwhelm his audience and Chakotay gave him a meaningful look. The EMH subsided with a hopeful look on his face.

She turned away from them both. Chakotay couldn't help but wonder what she'd decide but concluded that it would be better if he remained quiet and let her think it through. 

She began to talk aloud. "If we brought back virtually all of sickbay, it would obviously help Tom now, but it would also help all of us in the future. This is an unknown planet and we can't predict what we'll need in the way of a sickbay." She turned back to face them. "However, I can't risk more than Tuvok's absence or more than one of the shuttles. We need you here, Doctor. Last night our camp was overrun with insects. Who knows what else we might face? I will let Tuvok set off early -- right after the service. And I will direct him to bring back your sickbay essentials. Make up a list and have Chakotay review it." 

They had all heard that tone before. Chakotay noticed that neither he nor the doctor argued with her conclusion. He knew she would go to great lengths for Tom, but she also had the rest of the survivors to consider. Her decision couldn't have been easy. But it was fair.

Janeway turned to him. "Chakotay, make sure the essentials for our survival here are on the list. And that includes 'Betsy'." She used the nickname of the big phaser rifle she sometimes carried and which had been given its designation by the crew. 

As they resumed their interrupted trip to the main hall, Chakotay wondered about the verdicts of the last few minutes. Clearly, Tom needed more sophisticated medical care than they had on hand. He hoped Tuvok's trip out and back to Voyager would be a short one.

As Chakotay walked silently by Janeway's side, he thought there was a real possibility that Tom would have to forego the memorial service he had helped to plan. Tom had lost so many people he was close to that Chakotay couldn't help but worry if the missed service would lead to problems with unresolved grief later on. He reminded himself to keep an eye on that aspect of Paris' recovery.

Tom found the hypospray had done its job. No pain. Eyes closed, he flashed on dreamlike images of icy cliffs, blue-white glaciers, and jagged mountains of diamond-hard ice. 

Hour: 0913

Striding along the perimeter of the compound, Tuvok found himself being interrupted in his inspections every few meters. Each crew member he encountered had something to be retrieved from Voyager.

"It's a vid of my family...."

"I left behind my wedding ring...."

"I don't know what I'll do without my spices." This was from Neelix. "And I never had a chance to check on my shuttle. I know it was too small for the evacuation efforts, but...."

"The PADD with my letter from home...."

He nodded at each request and wondered what he could say. Indeed, it had crossed his mind to bring back his meditation lamp. Personal mementos were important to sentient beings. Perhaps a future expedition could be mounted to salvage these aspects of each person's history and personality. Unfortunately, he did not believe he could acquiesce to these heartfelt entreaties on this trip. 

Hour: 1448

Almost all of the seats were occupied in the mess hall, even as more crew members entered for the 1500 hours memorial service. Janeway's eyes tracked the mostly silent movements of the mourners from her place at the long end of the rectangular mess hall. Flanking her were Chakotay, Tuvok, and Neelix. Facing them were rows of chairs with uniformed crew. Although dress uniforms would have been appropriate at any other memorial service, their supply situation was too uncertain to allow use of the replicators. It was enough that they wore the uniforms they'd been refreshing for the past week. 

She nodded to Jenny Delaney, Joe Carey, Penelope Burleson, and others in the front row. If the occasion hadn't been so serious she would have smiled at the seating arrangements. Each malcontent had a security team member near him or her. 

A solemn 22nd century light classical piece for bagpipe and oboe played softly in the background. Tom Paris had suggested it. 

Mounted on the ceiling, a tiny camera with four lenses simultaneously recorded and transmitted the ceremony's images and sounds to the sickbay shuttle. Behind Janeway a communications screen held the likenesses of the EMH and, in the background, Tom Paris. His bed had been adjusted somewhat to allow the convalescent to see a similar screen in sickbay. That these devices had heavily dipped into the replicator reserves was undeniable, but she felt the expenditure was warranted.

Exchanging a grave look with her companions, she stood up and moved forward a few steps. Neelix turned off the music and she took a deep breath. She'd been trying all afternoon to think of what she wanted to say and had hoped that when the time came the right words would come to her. 

Several of the crew stirred restlessly in their seats as the time stretched out, but no one said anything. It was quiet enough to hear a heartbeat. Finally, Kathryn spoke. But it was not as their captain, she felt more like someone who shared their grief. 

"I'm sorry," were her first words. "We're here this afternoon to remember our friends and coworkers -- our family members who can't be with us."

Her eyes scanned the room. She missed the stern presence of Seven, the sweet face of Samantha Wildman, the curious expressions of Naomi Wildman. They were all truly gone. Swallowing, she continued, "We've been through a lot together, but nothing like this. I hope that our time together this afternoon will allow us to share our memories and to come away with...with some solace. I believe that as long one of us carries the memory of someone who is not here today, then I can say that that person lives on.

"I know others have varying beliefs. We are here to respect our different traditions. I would ask that a moment or two pass in silence after each of us speaks so that the words that have been spoken may linger among us. Neelix will start with a few words about Samantha Wildman and her daughter Naomi."

She sat down in her chair as Neelix stood up. Replacing the images of the EMH and Paris on the view screen were holographic projections of Samantha and Naomi from the doctor's photography collection. The somber Talaxian looked out over his friends and those he had hoped to make his friends. "I -- uh -- loved to tell Naomi stories. She was always so appreciative and so curious about them.

"The captain spoke of different beliefs. It's a belief of my people to have faith that there is a Great Forest. It was a belief of mine that there our loved ones would await us. That faith was called into question once and I'm not sure if the Great Forest exists. But today...today I have to tell you that I am certain that Naomi sits in one of the branches of a magnificent tree in the Great Forest, that she is there with her mother and with Seven. And that she waits for us with her innocence and her intelligence and her love for us all."

Janeway couldn't help the tears that built up at the edges of her eyes. She wiped at them with her finger as she noticed Megan Delaney also brushing away tears from her own eyes. And Neelix openly sniffled. With an apologetic nod to the crowd, he took his seat. 

Chakotay heard a few sobs as he absorbed Neelix's moving tribute to his lost friends. After several quiet moments in their memory, he stood up and faced the sad looking group. "Donna Henley started this trip in the Delta Quadrant with a huge chip on her shoulder. I think we all know many of us who began that way. But she matured and developed into a fine crew member. I don't know what she believed in -- except, perhaps, the cause of the Maquis, yet I think she would be proud of her service to Starfleet."

He looked at her holographic image and told her, "Well done."

A few minutes later Tuvok stood. "Ensign Vorik became well known on Voyager for something which was beyond his control, something which distressed him and those with whom he came in contact."

Chakotay almost smiled at the memory of the young Vulcan's desperate efforts to mate with B'Elanna Torres. Had the situation been described over a drink in Sandrine's he was sure he would be at least chuckling, if not out outright laughing. But, here, in these circumstances, he felt saddened that Vorik's young life had been cut short before he had been able to experience bonding to a lifemate. He gave his attention back to Tuvok and to the holographic image of Vorik. 

"We spent many hours together after that incident sharing Vulcan customs and traditions. Indeed, we took strength from reimmersing ourselves in the beliefs of our people. At the same time, he used this to become a better officer for the ship that was his home for four years. I believe it is fitting that we remember him for his contributions to Engineering, for his work to improve himself, and for his tireless efforts on the ship's behalf."

Janeway had decided to speak last, so when Tuvok sat down, she motioned to the audience to consider participating in the ceremony. After a respectful silence, Jenny and Megan Delaney looked at each other and then came forward.

"Um...Sue Nicoletti was our friend," Jenny offered.

"We really liked her and we miss her."

The image of a smiling Sue took its place on the viewscreen. "She was always giving Tom Paris a hard time about his flirting with her."

"That was when we first started the journey," Megan clarified. Fleeting smiles broke out on their faces and Janeway allowed herself a small twitch of her lips as well. "Not, you know, not after he started dating B'Elanna, of course."

Kathryn glanced at the monitor. There was no smile on Tom's face, only the rawest of grief. 

Jenny was speaking again. "Sue could always make us laugh. I think she'd want us to remember that and..." she choked for a moment.

Megan picked up the thread, "And that she was a good, true friend. She cared about us all."

Oh, dear god, Janeway thought, wiping at her eyes once again.

End Part 10