Endless I: Planetfall
by Judy firstname.lastname@example.org and Etal
Day: 14, Hour: 1130, Alpha Quadrant
Harry couldn't keep the smile from creeping out of the corners of his mouth. He knew this was serious and most of his mind was actively focused on the search, but for the first time since coming to the Alpha Quadrant, Harry felt excited and almost happy. He was in the pilot's seat of the Delta Flyer, conducting another scan for a slipstream.
B'Elanna had convinced O'Brien that it was best to leave Tom's 'Captain Proton' controls intact so that the Delta Flyer could remain available for flight at any time, but that also meant that only she or Harry got to pilot the ship because training anyone else to do it would have wasted more time. He and B'Elanna knew that everyone understood that their argument concerning the Flyer's controls was in some ways self-serving, but he didn't care.
Every time his fingers passed over the controls, Harry was reminded of something he and Tom did together. The first time Tom convinced him it was okay to drink while on shore leave. How ridiculous Harry thought the Captain Proton program was, until Tom surprised him with a guest appearance by the Delaney sisters. Tom never could keep straight which one Harry wanted to date. And with each memory came the sense that Tom was okay and that they'd find each other again. So the smile kept slipping through.
For that matter, Harry just felt more natural being on a ship again. He hadn't thought about it much over the years, but Voyager was in almost constant motion and it had become second nature to him to feel that the floor beneath his feet was taking him closer to home. Harry decided that some of his anxiety on Deep Space Nine was because the thing never went anywhere. It just hung in space.
Even with everything that happened, Harry knew now that he belonged on a starship somewhere and that he could never be happy at a starbase. Maybe, someday, if he or Tom became a captain they could be on their own ship....
"Harry, we're veering two degrees off course. Can you compensate?" Dax interrupted his thoughts.
Startled out of his reverie, Harry straightened and focused on the controls. "Yes, ma'am. I'm sorry. It won't happen again."
Dax smiled, walked over to him, and leaned down so that the others couldn't hear. Pretending to study the sensors, she whispered, "I know it's hard not to think about the people you're searching for, but that can get you distracted and then we might miss something that only you or B'Elanna could recognize. Keep focusing on the scientific aspects of the search for now, and then give yourself time for the personal aspects when we're back on the station."
Harry couldn't read the look on Dax's face when she replied. "Your captain must have run a pretty tight ship and maybe that was necessary, but we're a little bit more casual on DS9. So just call me Dax."
Harry never did not know quite how to respond to women in authority, but he found Dax easy to be around. "Okay, Dax."
"Good," she smiled approvingly. "Now, let's try search pattern beta before we head back to the station." Dax could feel Harry tense near her. Everytime they ended a search shift, she knew he became a little dejected and wanted to find a way to make everyone stay out a little longer. "Don't worry," she reassured him, "we'll be back out again tomorrow. And tonight when we get back, I'd like to hear more about your friends. In the meantime, let's see what the next sensor sweep has to offer."
Day: 14, Hour: 1152
"C##tain #anewa#," came the crackling transmission from Tuvok.
"We've had a storm here, Commander. Communications will be back online soon."
"I know. Your transmission is garbled, too. I hope to have things working soon."
She went back to work, not for the first time wishing she had B'Elanna and Harry around to help her. But they weren't here and she would just have to work on it herself until someone showed up to assist.
Another garbled transmission came in from Lt. Carey. With no more success than she'd had with Tuvok, she tried to relay the same message. Kathryn hoped he was well out of the way of the storm's path. Unfortunately, he didn't have an ops officer on board, one who would be alert to changing weather conditions. Perhaps one of the scientists with Carey would check.
Once again she went back to work after the interruption. Although she hadn't established clear communications, both attempts at transmitting messages were welcome. It meant the shuttles were out there. Unreliable as it was for the time being, she felt certain she would have clear channels of communications online soon.
Soh Ryson stirred and realized that a warm, but heavy body was on top of her. It had to be Mary. And both of them were between the sinks that now were inexplicably on the floor. The smell of backed up plumbing nearly overwhelmed her, and she actually gagged a few times before she was able to bring her unwelcome reflexes under control. Carefully, she moved Mary's arm and squirmed out from under.
When Soh stood up, she could see that the only explanation to fit their circumstances was that somehow the shelter had tipped onto its side. That was why the sinks were on the floor, the ceiling had become a wall, and unmentionable fluid puddled here and there on the 'floor'.
Mary's hair had flown out of the normally neat buns she wore over her ears. In other circumstances, Soh might stop to play with those loose strands. But not now. Taking her bearings, she bent down to her partner. "Mary. Hey, love, talk to me."
Mary's response was a groan and a vague, "Huh?"
"I hate this place," came the more precise response. But at least Mary seemed able to move and Soh gave her a hand up. "It stinks."
"Let's get out of here."
Soh watched Mary's face as the realization dawned. Speaking to her partner's sullen look, Soh observed wryly, "I think we're a little trapped. The shelter's on its side."
Mary hit her comm badge and requested beam-out but didn't receive anything except static in return. Soh shrugged at her angry partner's curse. "Look, Mary, you can get on my shoulders and open the door. Once you're up on the roof, you can call for some help to yank me out of here."
"I can pull you out," Mary asserted as her gaze swept up to the ceiling where the door now resided.
"Let's give it a try." Never an optimist at the best of times, Mary needed to be cajoled and urged to try things with potentially negative or ambiguous outcomes. Soh prodded, "Just climb up on my shoulders."
After Mary grudgingly agreed, Soh had to smile to herself. Mary never questioned that she should be the one to emerge first. That was just her way. Not the most considerate of partners, Mary tended to look after herself first, then others, if it was convenient. But Soh found Mary had other qualities that were endearing. With Mary climbing aggressively up onto her shoulders, it was hard for Soh to remember exactly what these were.
When Sean Culhane checked his crew, he found Dorado injured. The grey-haired woman sat with her back against one of the shuttle chairs and held an arm pressed to her side. Dorado noticed his gaze settle on her and looked up apologetically, "Sorry."
"What's wrong?" he asked her, crouching down to her level. Her color was pale and she was grimacing in pain.
Culhane called for the EMH over his comm badge but didn't get an answer. "Can you walk over to the Lee?"
"I can try," Dorado told him.
"Let me help," Swinn offered.
Together, they gently assisted Dorado to her feet. The crew member swayed a little as if the pain had increased from that little maneuver. But she didn't complain and they slowly made their way out of the shuttle and into the compound.
Sean let his gaze travel across Dorado to Swinn at least once or twice. He couldn't help noticing the way her dark, curly hair bounced all around her face. Not bad, he thought to himself.
"What hit this place?" Swinn asked, awed by the destruction she saw. Momentarily, she forgot the way Culhane kept glancing at her. He was attractive in a pale sort of way with average features enhanced by green eyes under long, blond eyelashes.
"Sheesh, that was some storm," Culhane agreed. "Let's get over to the Lee. Then I guess we'd better try to help out."
Toni Marie Swinn smiled to herself. That was Sean, always ready to volunteer and throw himself into whatever project needed him. Kind of a nice characteristic.
They weren't the only ones assisting injured comrades and friends to the Lee. Frank Gibson had an arm around his cousin's waist as they walked to the shuttle from the direction of the messhall. Patrick's forehead was bleeding and he seemed very unsteady on his feet. Culhane wondered why Brian Sophen was standing in the doorway of the mess hall looking as if someone had personally rained on his parade. At a muted groan from Dorado, his attention quickly returned to her. "You okay?"
"It's a little longer walk than I thought," was all D'Linda Dorado would tell him.
"We're almost there," he offered helpfully.
"Thanks," she acknowledged. Dorado wondered at the strange vibes she was picking up from her two helpers. Did they like each other? Was that it?
It took over five hours to restore all the systems fully. But, at last, Janeway was able to conduct an ungarbled conversation with Tuvok. He was returning to the planet, his mission cut short by the latest avalanche to hit Voyager.
Bitterly disappointed and unreasonably angry at his assessment of the ship's condition, she acknowledged his report with clipped, flat words. Later, she might regret her behavior. By now she had expected him to tell her the worst, but she didn't have to like it.
Never one to expand unnecessarily, Tuvok told her, "Captain, I regret to inform you that Voyager is unlikely to fly again. The damage she sustained upon impact obliterated the bottom decks and avalanches since then have made many decks and sections impassable. And, Captain?"
"Yes." She could hardly hear him for the roar of grief in her ears.
"The ship was vandalized."
"Vandals went through the ship."
"Vandals? My god. What did they get?"
"They appeared to concentrate on weapons. I'll have a full report later."
"Yes." Vandals. Vandals had defiled her ship, violated her at her most vulnerable. What else could go wrong?
Next to report in was Joe Carey on the F'Lang. "Captain. We've mined a cargo hold full of minerals. We've got enough dilithium to send Voyager to the Alpha Quadrant."
"Thank you, Mr. Carey. But it may not be needed," she said ambiguously. Although she wanted to scream that they weren't going back to Alpha Quadrant on Voyager, she retained control. However, her clipped tones must have conveyed something to the lieutenant.
There was a long pause. Apparently Carey didn't know what to say. When he spoke again, it was to ask about weather conditions. "The weather is clear here. What about at the compound?"
"Clear. The storm is long gone. Approach the landing carefully. The grounds are not completely cleared yet."
They signed out and she ventured outside for only the second time since the storm hit. The first time she had simply stuck her head out, her eyes tracking the damage, noting that Chakotay seemed to have most of the crew involved in the cleanup.
Apart from some broken bones and contusions, luckily no one had been seriously hurt. Chakotay did tell her that Tom Paris was upset by what happened. Hearing that Tom's bed had toppled over with him on it, she could understand why he was unsettled by the events of the storm.
Now, several hours after her first look, the compound appeared almost restored. Only the mess hall and the men's shelter that had been nearly torn apart by the storm remained to be fixed. The men who called it home had been assigned to other shelters for the night. And the facilities shelter that had tipped over would be out of working order until they could rework the sewer system. Soon their battered community would be operational again.
Outside, the air was clear but cooler than it had been since their arrival. She rubbed her arms to warm herself. In the midst of directing a crew on the roof of the mess hall, Chakotay must have noticed her. He waved and she walked over to his side.
She hadn't disclosed Tuvok's news but his appraisal told her that he knew anyway. His expression was sympathetic as was his voice. "I'm sorry."
She couldn't look at him but gazed at the repair crew on the roof of the mess hall instead. "This changes everything."
"Yes, it could."
At that remark, she turned to face him. "Chakotay, we're still a Starfleet crew."
He didn't say anything for awhile, his eyes now on the roof. "Let's talk about this tonight, Kathryn."
Abruptly, she turned and left him. He wasn't going to support her. She could sense it. And why should he? He had been a Maquis captain, had left Starfleet behind. With no ship to fly to the Alpha Quadrant, she knew he wouldn't be the only one to believe that the Starfleet command structure would be expendable. She could be left with no support at all, and this crew would be left without any leadership. How would they survive without the structure of Starfleet?
Feeling far lonelier than she had in a long time, Kathryn decided to visit the Lee. Tom would still be there even though all the others who had been injured had long since been released.
The EMH greeted her arrival, took one look at her face, and began to scan with his tricorder. Brusquely, she waved him off, "Not now, doctor. I'm fine."
"How is Mr. Paris?"
"I'm awake," Tom contradicted.
Her eyes gave Tom a quick once over, looking for damage. The only difference she could discern was in his expression. He looked as angry as she felt. "Tom?"
"Come to visit the cripple?"
"Isn't that why you're here? Gawk at the pitiful victim?"
Taken aback by Tom's lashing out, she was carried away from her own self-pitying thoughts. "Tom. I'm sorry you went through the storm alone."
"Don't be. It was nothing."
His tone told her it was not 'nothing'. She wondered how she could reach him -- if she could reach him -- behind the barriers he'd so adamantly built. "Tuvok is coming back with the medical equipment. He'll be here in a few days."
"And I'm supposed to *jump* up and down with joy?" he asked sarcastically.
"No. It's not all good news, Tom. The cloning chamber was damaged in the crash. It may not be operational by the time Tuvok returns. He said he would work on it."
She thought that revelation pierced his armor at least a little bit. He swallowed and blinked. But when he opened his eyes again they were clear and cold. She continued, "He said he used his last few minutes on Voyager retrieving personal items for the crew." Yes, there was some curiosity present now. "He found a framed vid of you and Harry and B'Elanna. He's bringing it back for you."
That got to him as she hoped it would. He turned his head to the side but not before she glimpsed the anguish on his face. Softly, she told him, "I miss them, too."
An answer wasn't expected, nor did she receive one. "Tom." She let her hand drop onto his arm and stroked up and down. "Don't give up."
Leaving the shuttle, she wondered if her last words were meant for him or for herself. Maybe both. Seeing Tom so unhappy and still so helpless put her own problems into perspective. At least for the time being.
The captain withdrew and Tom stared up at the ceiling, the same one he'd practically memorized in the past two weeks. Why had she reminded him of Harry and B'Elanna? He'd almost lost it when she told him about the vid. At least some of his control remained, but she'd really ambushed him with that information.
He remembered so well the shore leave when the vid was snapped. Harry had ribbed him about how parental he seemed when it came to the Delta Flyer. And B'Elanna -- she had picked up on the parental thing, too -- kidded him about what a good daddy he'd make. Seeing his dark look she'd added the word 'someday'. Then they all had laughed and drunk deeply of the local brew. They'd toasted the Delta Flyer and that's when the vid had been taken.
And now all their dreams.... His best friend, his lover, his mobility; everything was gone. Sure, Tuvok would be back in a few days. With a broken cloning chamber, it didn't look as if the commander's return would make much difference for him.
Feeling desolate, Tom almost wished he had persuaded Chakotay to put that last hypospray on 16, a killing dose. Almost. But he knew he was no longer that self-destructive kid Janeway had gotten out of prison. He didn't have to go down that path. He could take his anger in another direction.
Maybe it was time to make his own changes. He could almost hear Harry applauding and B'Elanna growling approvingly at him as he thought that up. Well, he didn't have to do anything right away. After all, he wasn't going anywhere.
End Part 16