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

Part: 15

Day: 14, Hour: 1023

Morning work had just begun, but the storm brought everything to a halt. Janeway's warning to the crew over their comm badges caught some of them almost too late.

Trapped alone in the Facilities Shelter, Soh Ryson and her partner Mary Ashmore held onto each other. During a pause between thunderclaps, Ryson confided that she hoped the 'facilities' wouldn't overflow. Mary just knew that they would. A message from Janeway told them to stay put. Hearing the storm outside, neither ensign entertained any idea of leaving the safety of the shelter, potential overflow or not.

The Gibson cousins, Patrick and Frank, were caught out in the open between their shelter and the mess hall when they got the message. Thinking it was a toss-up, they sprinted to the mess hall. Maybe they could get a hot beverage there. By the time they reached inside, their clothes were drenched by the cold rain and hair was mashed to their skulls where rivulets of water poured down to the floor.

Sean Culhane checked over the Jolly Roger. He and Toni Marie Swinn, she of the unruly, curly dark hair, and D'Linda Dorado, the wary veteran, were supposed to use the shuttle to plow a plot of ground on which to plant foodstuffs. Together they constituted the remaining staff of the flight operations section. Unless you counted Tom Paris. But their 'boss' just didn't seem able to catch a break.

Swinn and Dorado had other jobs, ops and security, respectively. None of them knew much about farming, but they could fly a shuttle to clear a field for others to plant. Janeway's comm message halted those plans. Within seconds of the first thunder clap Carey darted inside the shuttle where the others were at their stations. Both crew members looked at him anxiously. He started to shrug when the shuttle trembled underfoot. "Captain Janeway," he commed but received no answer.

Neelix, along with the crew members from airponics, Cochrane Nozawa and Tierney Trumari, and a few others assigned by Commander Chakotay, namely, Brian Sophen and Andreas Henard, cleaned up the mess hall following breakfast. Nozawa was one half of one of the few couples who'd survived the crash. Lawana White, Nozawa's wife, was someone Neelix barely knew. However, Neelix had frequent contact with Trumari when she took over airponics after Kes left. She was petite like Kes, and also a good, kind woman, but dark where Kes had been fair.

Neelix truly wished that the commander had not assigned such a sullen laggard as Brian Sophen to this detail. He acted as if all the others should be doing his bidding. A very annoying man. On the other hand, Henard was someone Neelix was just beginning to know. Andreas seemed a friendly sort -- in a Tom Paris kind of way. A tall, lanky man with white hair, he was a scientist who'd had some first aid training as a boy and had thereby been assigned sickbay duty as well.

Safe inside the mess hall, Janeway's warning to remain indoors didn't affect them. They heard the noises of the storm, then the Gibson cousins burst inside soaking wet and dripping water everywhere. When Frank shook his head it was as if a furry animal had sprayed cold rainwater everywhere.

"Hey," Sophen charged.

"Hey, yourself," Patrick retorted. "You go out there, Brian, and tell me how you like it."

Neelix noticed that, like many confronted bullies, Sophen backed down. The man's growl, "Just don't shake that water at us," was positively subdued compared to his earlier tone.

"Well, well," Neelix soothed, "we seem to be having ourselves quite a storm. Why I remember a time...."

He stopped talking when he noticed Andreas motioning him to be careful. Sophen looked ready to transfer his anger from the Gibsons to Neelix himself. "Yes. Perhaps some other time. Let's see if we can't begin to do a little mop up here. And Frank, Patrick, I do believe some dry clothes from the replicator would be in order."

"Thanks, Neelix," Patrick told him. Directing a sour glance to Brian Sophen, Patrick approached the nearest replicator and called for socks, shirts, and trousers for himself and his younger cousin. They followed Neelix to his storeroom to change.

"What the hell's the matter with Brian, anyway?" Frank complained.

"I don't know. Who cares."

"Watch your back, cousin. I don't trust that guy."

Patrick snorted in something like a laugh. "Yeah."

Sporting skin that was goose bumped by the rain and their wet clothes, they changed clothes gratefully. Unlike the Delaney twins, these cousins were quite different in appearance. Neelix knew that Frank was taller, with more waves in his thick, brown hair; and his eyes were blue, almost as blue as Tom Paris'. Patrick was darker skinned, more muscled, with black eyes to match his hair color.

Whenever he saw them together, Neelix marveled that they had the same grandparents. Talaxian cousins were much more alike. Once his eyes told him that they were going to be all right, Neelix stopped thinking about the men's differences, gathered up the wet things, and placed them in the recycler.

Nozawa, Trumari, and Henard worked to clean up the water the Gibsons had tracked in. Arms across his chest, Sophen stood by a window and glared at the turbulence outside. It didn't surprise him in the least when the primary power failed.


Hour: 1046

Twenty minutes before, Janeway and Chakotay had settled themselves in the Ride to receive the communications from Tuvok and to monitor the work of the other shuttles. The F'Lang was on its way to scout out minerals and the Jolly Roger was to perform some plowing duties.

When the storm hit their own shuttle rattled and shuddered. Main power failed but backup power came online quickly. However, when their communications went out, they were unable to send or receive.

Before the storm hit, Chakotay had watched Kathryn's anger grow as she processed the implications of the data Tuvok was able to send them. They both knew that Tuvok would be recommending they not count on Voyager in the future. The readings from Tuvok's tricorder and the scans coming in from the Earhart were disheartening. Voyager had suffered even more damage since the crash.

When Chakotay had happened to check the monitors at the Ride's ops station, he saw signs of a large storm headed toward them from the southwest. It had developed rapidly and looked as if it could pose something of a threat to the compound. After he had alerted her to the approach of the storm, Janeway hurridly arranged matters with the EMH and sent out a comm wide alert. In addition, both personally contacted as many of the work crews as possible to tell them to take shelter.

Those duties done, Chakotay volunteered to go over to the Lee so that Tom Paris wouldn't be left alone. But by then use of the transporter had become tricky in the face of the storm's fury. He'd talked to Tom but couldn't tell much. As was usual with Paris, the young man held matters close to him.

Riding out the storm, Chakotay thought of a number of changes they'd have to make in order to be unsurprised by the weather in the future. A few orbiting satellites would need to go up. Once they replicated the parts and put them together, one of the shuttles could take the satellites into orbit. And they needed a shield over the compound. With insects at night and now this storm, they had to be protected. He wondered what it would take to institute weather controls like those they had on Earth.

As Chakotay's mind turned over these ideas, he and Kathryn found themselves moving swiftly to sit on the relative safety of the floor. The shuttle bucked in the fierce winds and the constant noises of thunder, hail, and lightning were unnerving, even for Starfleet officers. During one strong, lingering flash of light, Chakotay caught Kathryn ginning at him. "What?" he asked.

"Remind you of anything?"

Of course it did. New Earth, the planet on which they'd spent a two-month exile together. Her dreams of finding a cure for their virus were obliterated in a storm that destroyed her scientific equipment. In response to her grin, he let his dimples show, but his sentiment was sympathetic. "I'm sorry, Kathryn."

"I don't think Voyager will be coming to our rescue this time," she admitted, the sorrow clear.

"No. It won't be." He was about to say more when they were both startled by a violent shudder that nearly toppled the shuttle. Simultaneously, they reached out to each other and held on tight.

Even backup power went out.


Hour: 1108

With his shuttle parked away from the overhanging cliffs, Tuvok was able to safely ride out the latest avalanche to assail Voyager. Although he'd been unable to raise Captain Janeway, he'd put his time to good use. He had used the shuttle's transporters extensively and now was satisfied that there was nothing more he could do. He sat at the helm controls and sent the Earhart away from that dangerous planet.


Hour: 1122

In a little over an hour the storm came and went. As soon the pounding stopped, Janeway and Chakotay brushed themselves off, nodded in silent understanding, and set about their duties.

Once Kathryn persuaded backup power to come online, she worked to restore communications. They had to be able to talk to Tuvok and Culhane in their respective shuttles, as well as the crew members in the compound.

Chakotay headed outside to assess the damage, help where he might be needed, and identify immediate steps required to get the compound back in working order. Although he was anxious to reach the Lee, he couldn't help but stop to look around the compound.

It was a disaster. One of the facilities shelters was on its side, one of the men's shelters had been twisted and stripped of most of its roof. Windblown debris, pieces of some of the shelters, and leaves and tree branches littered the area. A large tree limb rested on top of the mess hall. Puddles of water flooded the grass. Melting mounds of hail were everywhere.

His first stop was the Lee. Power was still out and he had to manually open the shuttle doors. He even had to peel some wet tree leaves off of the manual controls. Inside, it looked as if the winds had managed to go through the interior of the shuttle. "Tom? Tom, can you hear me?"

He heard a muted cry from the vicinity of the floor and saw Tom's bed on its side, the top facing away from him. Fearfully, he approached the bed and knelt by Tom's side. The restraints holding Tom to the bed had held, and Tom lay on his side. Wide blue eyes looked up at him. "'Bout time."

How long ago had it been since the bed tipped over? Tom had remained helpless to stop it or to release himself from it. He felt a sharp pain in his elbow when his arm hit the floor. Another, duller pain, stroked through his head as it bounced around despite the collar around his neck. The hard bump of the bed settling on the floor rattled his back. In despair, he wondered how long it would be before help arrived.

Damn. This was not how he wanted to spend his morning. If he had any pride left, he would have sucked it up. As it was, he simply waited, riding out the storm as it continued to buffet the shuttle, his humiliation increasing by the minute. He couldn't move, nor could he do anything to help himself. He was completely and agonizingly helpless as his mind drifted from this place.

When Tom realized the storm had finally passed, he called to the computer to activate the EMH, but for whatever reason, the computer failed to respond. Shit. Shit.

With the shuttle's systems down, the pressurization of the shuttle interior went out as well. Tom found the thinning air made him a little breathless. Or maybe it was his anger that left him feeling that way.

He heard Chakotay try to activate the EMH with the same negative results. Tom wasn't sure what Chakotay would decide to do next, if he would choose to help the computer or himself. Sure hands began releasing the restraints and Tom had his answer.

"There. Stay still."

"I'm on the floor, Commander," he said angrily. Chakotay had eased him off the bed and onto his back so that he could stare at the damned ceiling. He wanted out of here, out of this whole dependent situation.

"Once I get this bed righted, I'll find some help."

"Why bother?" Tom demanded harshly. "I'm fine here. Go help someone who needs it."

He closed his eyes, hoping that when he opened them again, Chakotay would be gone. Instead the man was waving a medical tricorder over him. "You've got a nasty bruise on your elbow."

Tom knew that.

"Your body's been under a lot of stress the last few hours." Chakotay held a dermal regenerator over his bruises. "What happened during the storm?"

Tom looked away from him and muttered, "It would sound stupid to talk about it. And if you told the doctor or the captain, they'd just want to make a big deal out of it."

Sensing that even this elusive self-disclosure was a big step for Tom, Chakotay offered, "I won't tell them anything if I don't think it presents a serious risk to you or the rest of the crew."

Chakotay wasn't sure whether Tom believed him until he began to speak. "After my bed flipped over, I passed out or fell asleep or something. Anyway, I just sort of found myself in the middle of a -- I don't know -- some kind of a scene. It was sunrise. I was lying here and started hearing the morning world outside."

Chakotay was tempted to ask what he meant, but held his silence, sat down beside Tom, and waited for him to continue. Tom's eyes searched his face and he tried to convey reassurance.

Seemingly embarrassed, Tom blushed. "I'm waiting for someone to come get me and help me outside. Every morning the doctor lets me sit out in the shade. But I have to wait until the morning chores are done. I hear people outside, walking to the showers, making breakfast, laughing. It's a world I'm not part of anymore."

The matter of fact tone did a good job of hiding the hurt, just as he suspected Tom wanted it to. Chakotay might have missed the underlying emotional pain had he not been listening intently.

"Anyway, I can see the sunlight. As the rays stretch across the shelter floor, it reaches my feet and they feel warm. Then the warmth spreads up my legs and I suddenly realize I can feel something. The sun's heat spreads up my chest and arms. And everything works!"

Chakotay saw the excitement pass through Tom's face as he described the physical change. "Then I see Harry and B'Elanna at the shelter door. Harry says to me, 'Get up lazybones! Breakfast is almost ready'."

Tom continued, "I forget that everything's working. I start to say, 'I can't. I'm para...' Tom stumbled over the word, and couldn't say it. "But then B'Elanna tells me, 'Tom Paris, that's your worst excuse yet. I'm not serving you breakfast in bed. If you want to eat, you'll get up. If not, we'll eat without you'."

Chakotay noticed the wistful look on Tom's face. "It smells really good. Like something out of childhood: bacon, eggs, pancakes. And there's coffee. So I thought, well it's stupid to miss a breakfast like this. I should get up and join them. And I stood up and walked out. Like I said, my arms and legs just worked. I see a clearing by a lake. My friends are there. And everything I see is back where it's supposed to be."

Chakotay asked casually, "What do you mean?"

Tom looked as if he struggled for a moment, searching perhaps for the right words. "I've been about 6 feet 3 since I was a teenager. I'm used to seeing the world from that height, so everything fits for me there. But at different elevations, things look wrong. For example, if I climb a ladder in the Jeffries tube and stand over you, I'll see you at an odd angle. You won't look right. I feel better when you're back where you belong, you know?"

Chakotay could identify with the sensation and made a small joke. "So, it makes you uncomfortable to loom over me, huh? But, yes, I know what you mean."

"Well, since our trip to this planet," Tom said with false cheer, as if trying to conceal his distress, "I've been on the floor or the ground or on a bed. I get to sit up sometimes, but it's never the right height. Things don't fit."

Chakotay hadn't thought about that experience, or the consequences for Tom. He put it in the back of his mind and hoped to learn more about Tom's dream by saying, "But in your vision, you were all right."

"Yeah," Tom picked up his theme. "So I walk out of the shelter, easy as can be. I walk over to Harry and B'Elanna, sit down on a log, and we eat. We talk, laugh. It's great.

"When breakfast is over, Harry says he'll clean up." Tom laughed. "He says that just because I don't care if the dishes are spotless, he's not going to risk a biohazard by letting me do a crappy job."

Chakotay smiled at the warmth in Tom's voice. It was the happiest he'd heard him since the crash. "Well, I'm not stupid enough to protest and get stuck with a job I don't want, so I let him go at it. I feel restless all of a sudden, so I ask B'Elanna to go for a run. She says no, that she wants to check the maps for our next hike, but she tells me to go run around the lake and by the time I come back we'll be ready to go."

"Now part of my brain tells me I can't run. I try to remember why, but the rest of my brain yells 'RUN! DON'T THINK! RUN!' So I do. I feel as if my life depends on it. I run to the lake and I run as fast as I can."

Chakotay could hear Tom begin breathing heavily as he relived the memory and made a mental note to get the pressurization back for the shuttle as soon as he could. He heard Tom say, "I've never run faster in my life, and it's so easy. I feel peaceful in a way, but I also feel pushed -- like I mustn't stop. I think my legs and arms are going to start burning any minute, but they don't. I just know that as long as I never stop running, everything will be right."

Tom didn't say anything more for a minute, and Chakotay asked quietly, "Is that when I came in?"

Unable to speak, Tom nodded his head slightly, still restricted by the neck brace. "So when I found you..." Chakotay prompted.

"I came back to reality, tied to a bed, lying on my side on the floor."

Tom's distress was conveyed by the anger in his voice, the tightness in his face. "Everything good in my life is gone. Harry and B'Elanna aren't waiting for me. Because they're probably dead."

The muted cries Chakotay heard when he first walked in took on a new meaning for him now. He felt sorry for Tom on so many levels, but knew that his sympathy would be the last thing Tom could accept. And Tom's grief for Harry and B'Elanna echoed his own pain over their loss.

Chakotay was about to offer a platitude that he hoped sounded less hollow than he felt when he saw another knife-like pain shoot through Tom's back. Tom tried to bite back the scream, but some of it came out of him, a strangled, pitiful sound. The drug implant kicked in almost immediately, but the pain still resonated along his back.

After Chakotay picked up a hypospray and held it near his neck, Tom was able to move an arm up to the device. He pointed to the setting he wanted. "Set it on 12," he ordered wearily and looked into the commander's dark eyes to see if he would comply. But there were too many emotions in those eyes and Tom couldn't sort them all out.

With 10 the recommended maximum dose, Tom knew 12 would knock him out cold. He read Chakotay's answer just before the commander spoke. "I'm sorry, Tom, that's too much. You know that." It looked as if Chakotay knew it, too.

"I don't care."

"I know," Chakotay said softly, then repeated himself. "I know. I'm so sorry, Tom. When Tuvok gets back, I'm sure we'll be able to help you more. It's just a few days. In his last transmission before the storm hit, Tuvok told us he had beamed over two biobeds, a stasis unit, and the cloning chamber. You're going to be all right."

"Yeah." Tom told him, the sarcasm fierce. He wished he hadn't told Chakotay about his dream. It left him feeling vulnerable and stupid.

End Part 15