Endless I: Planetfall
by Judy email@example.com and Etal
Day: 14, Hour: 0746
"Captain, I'm nearing Voyager," Tuvok reported from the Earhart.
"Keep us informed. Janeway out," her voice replied over the shuttle comm system.
Tuvok made a course adjustment and engaged the shuttle's scanners. He was puzzled that Voyager's distress signal had not been picked up by his small craft's communications. It should have been detected on a subspace channel. But he hadn't been able to locate it. Janeway had not been pleased when he told her.
At last, the shuttle scanners reported the starship's location on the planet's icy surface. Tuvok set a course to enter the atmosphere and to land his shuttle as close to Voyager as possible. Entry into the atmosphere went smoothly. He circled the planet scanning for lifesigns or other indications of danger to his mission. Discovering no surprises, he overflew the crash site scouting for a way into the shuttle bay.
Crystal cliffs loomed over Voyager. An apparent avalanche of snow and ice from one of those jagged ridges had covered half of the ship. Snowstorms and winds had deposited twenty centimeters of snow on the rest. Despite what the natural elements had done, she was clearly visible below him.
Voyager looked like a child's broken toy in a white sandbox. Her lights were dark, her hull buckled and crumpled. Scanning carefully, he could determine that at least three of the lowest decks were pancaked. The starboard nacelle lay broken under the avalanche. He could not determine when it had been separated from the ship.
More ominous for his plans, the shuttle bay entrance had been buried by the snow. He could send a phaser blast to open it up, but decided that landing on the planet's surface might be safer. His eyes carefully surveyed the area around the ship.
Although he knew that the captain would not be happy to receive this transmission, nonetheless, it was his duty to convey his findings. "Captain, I'm sending you the telemetry now."
"Acknowledged." Even over the distance that separated them, he could hear the flatness of her response, sense the anger as she scrutinized his data for errors.
"I'm landing the Earhart now," he reported.
He choose a relatively level area with no overhanging cliffs for his landing site. "On the ground," he reported. "I'm putting the shuttle on stand-by and will be in the EVA suit shortly. At that point I will be out of communications range until I beam back into the shuttle or until I am able to activate communications on Voyager."
Once more Tuvok heard the distinct displeasure in her voice. Irrationally, she sounded as if her physical presence alone could alter the reality of the situation. Refraining from commenting, he deliberately focused his attention on the EVA suit. All alone here, his life could depend on his care in dressing.
During his trip, he'd worked out a series of transporter commands with the computer. He had the Earhart computer respond to the EVA communications system. It would engage the transporter whenever and however he ordered transport. Ready, with tricorder in hand, a phaser and spare tricorder hooked to his suit, and a powerful light strapped to his wrist, Tuvok ordered the transport to Voyager's sickbay.
Once there, he swept the light around the damaged area. First, he saw the frozen corpses of those who had died and been left behind. Next, he took in the condition of the biobeds. He wouldn't know until he reactivated power in sickbay whether any were capable of working and, thereby, worth transporting to the Earhart's cargo bay.
Placing his weighted and magnetized boots carefully, he managed to stand in front of sickbay's central operations computer and power center. Tuvok had no foreknowledge that he could power up this section of the ship. He would use empirical means to determine if he would be successful. He was not. More than just the gel packs were frozen. He would have to use his tricorder to tap into some of the energy on the shuttle to restore a minimum of power to sickbay.
It took several minutes before he established the connection he needed. Flickering backup lights came online, powered by the shuttle. It was enough. He activated the central console and found that he actually had a choice of biobeds. He decided to transport over two of them and acknowledged a certain sense of completion when they shimmered away to the Earhart.
Chakotay had told him that the cloning chamber was damaged, but that with time, it might be fixable. In the now dimly lit interior of sickbay, Tuvok managed to find the chamber. Indeed, it was as the commander had reported. Efficiently, he ordered the computer to transport it over to the Earhart. Next, he did the same thing with a stasis chamber.
He was almost finished in sickbay, but knew he had one more task that could be important to the future of the colony. He downloaded all of the medical records, including the DNA sequencing and coding of each crew member.
There was nothing more he could do in sickbay. Hypospray units, surgical tools, and other similar small instruments were easily replicable back on the Lee. After calling for a two minute delay in transport to the bridge, Tuvok disengaged the backup power from the Earhart and beamed out when the transporter engaged.
Joe Carey powered up the F'Lang and used the thrusters to bring the shuttle above the compound. Behind him Swift and T'Sem silently sat at their stations. He dealt with some clear air turbulence and asked T'Sem to check the scanners for unstable weather conditions along their flight path. She told him it was all clear. She never checked the weather moving toward the compound from behind them.
"Carey to Janeway. We're off."
On the bridge, Tuvok's wrist light once again illuminated the grisly, yet eerie, deaths of crewmates lying frozen where they'd fallen. Seven of Nine was the first crew member he encountered and he was startled by her appearance. Her skin seemed a bluish white, but he saw no signs of blood or violence on her body. It was as if she had deemed the bridge floor a suitable location for regeneration, the kind that would last for eternity and from which she would never awaken.
Perturbed at his uncharacteristic reaction to her state, he admonished himself to attend to his duties. As he swung the lamp around he couldn't help but notice his own green blood frozen forever on the floor behind the tactical console, a console that was smashed in an inexplicable fashion.
Warily, he circled the bridge with his wrist lamp and saw that the bridge was in shambles. It was not damaged so much from the crash as from other sources of destruction. He surmised that vandals had been here before him. Tricorder readings supported that conclusion.
Such a visitation would explain why the distress signal was inactive. He used the tricorder to scan the bridge in order to determine more about the unwelcome visitors. Large, bipedal, reptilian creatures was all he could read. They had left sickbay alone; perhaps healing was not a part of their culture. Yet they had thoroughly and ruthlessly destroyed the bridge.
He could sense the captain's unspoken outrage even as he recognized that he had not yet informed her of the ruin. Had he been untrained in Vulcan ways, he would have shared her fury.
Using Earhart's computer, he was able to repair Voyager's distress beacon. Its signal would not be strong, nor would it travel far. Perhaps that was preferable to announcing their location to this quadrant's seemingly endless supply of predators.
He set up the spare tricorder to direct any Starfleet rescuers to their current location. Presumably, only Starfleet personnel would recognize the instrument's current function. He placed it amidst the rubble of the operations station. If Ensign Kim or Lt. Torres returned, they would know how to activate it.
Ascertaining that there was little he could salvage from the desecrated bridge, he had himself beamed to one of the weapons lockers. It had been savagely opened and its contents had been stolen.
The situation was the same at the next several weapons lockers. But, at the fourth location, he found the intruders had either missed it or ignored it. Feeling an unfamiliar sense of urgency, he had the ordnance beamed into the shuttle cargo hold.
The contents of two more weapons lockers were transported to the Earhart. Three more were already looted and the rest were either under snow or destroyed in the crash.
When he asked the computer to transport him to engineering, he was told there were no safe parameters available. Knowing how close engineering was to the pulverized decks beneath it, he at first surmised that it had been too heavily damaged in the crash to allow transportation. But as he queried the computer further, he was told that it was filled with ice and snow. With such information, he went on to the next objective.
The cargo bay held several minerals, metals, spare parts, and energy sources. He beamed these over, but was perturbed to realize that the Earhart was filling up rapidly.
An important location on his list was the airponics bay. He did not expect to find surviving plants, however, he planned to gather all the seeds he could from storage and from the dead plants. The airponics bay had been destroyed in the crash, and once more the computer informed him that there was no safe way to beam inside.
As a backup, the doctor's DNA records that he had extracted in sickbay extended to plants. Indeed, he remembered the computer data he'd download carried the DNA information for leola root. Perhaps there would be time on his return journey to edit such undesirable facts.
The mess hall on deck two had been vandalized. However, he located some of Neelix's pots, his spices, and his recipes. He could not stop himself from deleting pleeka rind casserole during the download. Some things were better off lost forever.
His suit signaled that he needed to return to the shuttle because it had only thirty minutes of air remaining. He paused in the middle of the ransacked mess hall and considered what else he should retrieve in his remaining time. Tuvok knew he merely needed to change out the oxygen canisters and he could resume his work on Voyager, but he was not positive that he would have the opportunity to return once he went back to the shuttle. He couldn't explain how he'd reached such a conclusion, and it was tentative at best. Nonetheless, he had lived among humans long enough to appreciate the value of intuition.
The unfamiliar sound that had been nagging at him was rain. Tom had struggled for long moments to identify it, label it, determine if it was harmful or not. He could sense how it thrummed down on the top of the shuttle's skin, changed its rhythms, and infiltrated the shuttle's air with a new scent.
When had he last heard or smelled or seen natural rain? He tried to remember an away mission since they'd been on Voyager where it might have rained and couldn't come up with any. Maybe others had experienced a shower down on the surface of some planet. But he hadn't. He'd been told that it rained the morning of the memorial service. Unfortunately, that had been one of those times when he was out of it.
So when was the last time he'd heard rain? He asked himself where he'd been before Voyager. Auckland. Yes, it had rained there.
Tom recalled working on a shuttle component in the prison's open-air shop. Somehow, the weather controls had malfunctioned and it had unexpectedly rained on everyone caught outside. He'd been drenched before he could reach shelter from the storm. He remembered his embarrassment at discovering just how much his prison uniform revealed when wet. At least six prisoners had let him know in their no-holds-barred style. Four years ago. In prison. His last rain.
Lightning. Its brilliance briefly lit up the inside of the shuttle. Thunder. The storm was close. And the noise on the roof of the shuttle changed. It sounded as if someone had emptied a cargo bay of stones on top of the craft. The power in the shuttle flickered and resumed. He felt the shuttle rock back and forth.
He told himself he wasn't really scared. After all, he could breathe on his own today and the doctor was around somewhere. So, why was his heart racing?
There it went again: lightning so loud it cracked, thunder right on top of it, the shuttle lurching. He closed his eyes against the brilliant light flashes, but opened them again when he sensed someone beside him. It was the EMH.
"I am told this is 'just' a thunderstorm."
"What are you doing?" Tom could see the doctor fussing over him but the neck collar kept him from viewing all that the doctor was doing.
"Making sure that you are secured," the EMH told him.
"Oh, that's reassuring."
"I'm going to shut myself down in a moment. I've been informed that the electrostatic charges may damage my program if I remain online."
"What if...what if...."
Tom couldn't voice the question. He wasn't a child. He'd be all right.
"We don't anticipate any difficulties. This is a Starfleet shuttle."
The doctor's demeanor was serious, but not rushed. If he felt his existence was truly threatened by the storm, he concealed his reaction well. That was encouraging. Tom told himself again that he wasn't a child. He shouldn't be frightened by this storm.
He jumped at the next crack of lightning. It was right on top of them.
"Computer, deactivate EMH," the holodoc ordered simultaneous with placing the holoemitter on the table.
To the shuttle's empty air, Tom said, "I wish I could do the same."
The shuttle rocked violently, but his restraints held. The stones pouring down kept up their relentless assault. The bolts of lightning seemed to come one on top of the other, the thunder became one endless, furious howl that didn't abate. Interior lights flickered, went off, emergency backups went on and all the while Tom felt the huge shudders of the shuttle. It was like being hammered by some mythological, angry god.
He remembered that Carey, Swift, and T'Sem had taken off in the F'Lang earlier that morning on an away mission to another part of the planet. He wondered if they were out in this storm.
"Tom," came the voice over the comm.
It was hard to make out over the roar of the storm, but it sounded like Chakotay. "Yeah?"
"Are you all right in there?"
"Fine," he told the commander. All right, so his voice sounded a little unsure, even shaky. But he was fine. "The EMH deactivated himself."
"Are you alone?"
"He said he's got something rigged in case of trouble."
"All right. We can't transport in this storm, but let us know how you're doing."
"I'm fine," he fibbed.
Tom guessed the commander was checking up on all of them, making sure no one was out in the storm and that no one was hurt by the bad weather. Since this was the morning that Tuvok was supposed to arrive at Voyager, he wondered if communication was possible between the security officer and the captain. He'd heard the rumors about Voyager's condition, but he hadn't seen her.
Wow. That was another one of those double or triple close-by lightning strikes with thunder louder than any fireworks display he'd ever heard. He didn't like the feeling of being almost helpless in a swaying shuttle pounded by a violent storm. Sure, he'd regained some of his ability in the past few days, if you could call walking ten or fifteen steps 'ability', but he knew just how much he was at the mercy of others to take care of him. If it hadn't hit home earlier, it did now.
He wished he could do *something*.
Oh, gods, the shuttle seemed to tip, hang for a moment, before coming down to rest on the ground. The jolt when it landed sent a shooting pain up his back. If only he could get to the helm and engage the shields, stabilize the inertial dampers, but he couldn't. The doctor had restrained him for his safety.
Maybe the computer... "Computer. Stabilize the inertial dampers."
"This craft is located on the ground."
"Restate your request."
Damn. The computer had never been told to change its protective routines. He couldn't do it by talking to it. He had to get to the controls. But the restraints prevented him from going anywhere. And he wouldn't jeopardize the doctor's matrix by reactivating him.
Another blast tipped the shuttle. When it settled down, Tom felt the bounce all the way through him. He had to clamp his mouth shut tight to keep from screaming.
When Tom could talk, he commed, "Chakotay."
He didn't get an answer and tried again. Still no response, just the crackle of static and the sounds of the storm. Feeling a little desperate, he tried to raise others over the comm line, but communications were most definitely out.
Tuvok had himself beamed to the captain's quarters. The alien intruders had been here, too. However, diligent searching through the rubble was rewarded. He fetched a few of her personal articles, a framed vid, a coffee mug. In Chakotay's quarters, he found the man's medicine bundle and akoonah.
There was little that was personal in the helmsman's quarters, but he located a framed vid of his family and one of Tom with B'Elanna and Harry, all three grinning with happiness on a recent shore leave. He did not care to speculate on the source of the happiness as all three held up containers of some unknown, but apparently potent, beverage toward the camera. In his own quarters, Tuvok retrieved his meditation lamp, but left his kalto game behind, the pieces scattered all over the frozen carpet.
Before he could proceed further, his suit informed him that he was down to three minutes. Losing no more time, he had himself beamed back to the shuttle. No sooner was he trading out his depleted oxygen canisters for fresh ones, than he felt a tremendous jarring of the shuttle. Hurrying to the viewscreen he could see a roaring avalanche loosening itself from the face of one of the mountains surrounding Voyager. The snow and ice raced down the side of the mountain and plumed upwards even as it buried more of Voyager beneath its icy ocean.
His shuttle settled back safely on its snowy landing site. He had chosen the site well and would be safe from the snow racing over Voyager. However, unaccountably, his comm to Janeway went unanswered.
Carey frowned at the others when he couldn't raise the captain on the comm line.
End Part 14