Endless I: Planetfall
by Judy firstname.lastname@example.org and Etal
Day: 00, Hour: 1155
As the tiny fleet of shuttles left the system, Janeway had Swinn drop back so that their shuttle was last in line. She ordered the small ships to go to warp 3 and then asked for reports. The information was discouraging.
As she put it together from the reports, the shuttles held fifty-one corporeal survivors and one holoprogram. Even with the environmental suits stowed away, each shuttle was crowded with the injured, the dazed, and the shocked. The worst off among the injured were in the Lee with the holodoc, but most of the crew had some injuries and there was barely enough room for those who couldn't stay on their feet to stretch out on the bunks and cots. The rest had to make do with the few seats available and floor space.
Turning around to look behind her, Janeway tried to gain a sense of what conditions were like on the F'Lang. With most of the immediate emergency over, shock had begun to settle in. Those who had been injured, but had functioned anyway, now found themselves in pain. Even Janeway had to acknowledge that her healing arm throbbed gently but insistently. But she knew there were others hurt far worse than herself. She focused as best she could on the rest of the reports coming in.
Over the comm link, Burleson briefed her on the planet. Its climate would have greater extremes than Earth as it was tilted on its axis at a greater angle. The days were slightly longer, closer to twenty-six hours than twenty-four, and a year would be approximately 351 of the twenty-six hour days. The number of hours in a given year would be close to that of Earth, they were simply going to be divided up a little differently. There were three moons indicating greater tidal forces and a more active geological record than that of Earth.
The atmosphere was less dense than Earth's. At sea level, oxygen concentration levels were more like what would be found high in the mountains of Earth. Oxygen at higher elevations would be very thin. Gravity was nearly Earth-normal.
Although Burleson sounded certain there were no technological societies, she couldn't guarantee that there were no sentient inhabitants. As they drew closer, they would find out more about the planet. If there were populations already on the planet, there would be some difficult decisions to be made.
Janeway hoped she wouldn't be tested on the Prime Directive. With so many relying on her to make the right decision, this time, she told herself bitterly, she wanted nothing more than a simple descent to a planet that involved no challenging decisions or disappointments.
She found herself distracted by the holodoctor making his rounds on the shuttle. He wanted to scan her arm. Graciousness was in short supply, but she allowed him that, albeit grudgingly.
"How are the crew?" she asked while he worked.
He sighed. "I'm not a miracle worker. Even I may not be able to save some of the more critically injured. We need Voyager's sickbay. We have medkits on each shuttle and we beamed aboard everything we could fit. But we have no stasis units, no biobeds, and almost no one trained enough to assist me. We can only hope that I will be able to replicate much of what I need. But the cloning chamber...I was hoping to clone Mr. Paris' nerve fibers, but it was damaged in the crash. Chakotay was uncertain if it could ever be repaired when we had to evacuate."
"How is Tom?" she used his opening to ask about the holodoc's primary assistant.
"He's one of those I'm worried about. When the commander told me we had to abandon ship, I performed a quick procedure to bolster his spinal cord. I knew it wouldn't be enough since we couldn't take the cloning chamber with us. And he's been moved too much, had too little time in a surgical bed, and there was some delay in getting him treatment. At least Commander Chakotay stabilized him properly."
"So, instead of cloning new nerves, you had to regenerate the old ones."
"Yes. And that makes them weaker and rehabilitation will take longer."
"What's the prognosis?"
"A complete recovery? Unlikely. Some recovery? Good. We'll just have to wait and see."
She nodded and noticed that he had finished scanning her arm. The injuries to Paris sounded as if they would sideline the pilot for some time to come. She'd have to make sure to keep his mind busy. A bored Tom Paris was not a good thing.
Try as she might to block out the losses, the names of the dead hammered at her like a relentless headache. "We lost Seven, Samantha and Naomi Wildman. Vorik, Bristow, Nicoletti, Baytart, Chell, Dell...."
"Captain. We suffered heavy casualties. For now we'll have to be selfish and focus on the living."
She barely heard him. "And Harry Kim and B'Elanna Torres...did they make it? Were they destroyed when the slipstream collapsed? I have to think they made it. Don't you? They'll be able to tell Starfleet about the slipstream and about us. They could already be on a ship to look for us."
The captain spoke with the conviction of the desperate. The doctor had heard this kind of futility before. At the same time, he noted the momentary flash of fear and vulnerability in her eyes and took pity on her. Few would know how much she would suffer these losses, and he didn't have the heart to extinguish her dream.
He smiled tightly, and said, "We all hope that they survived." Although he wanted to agree with her that they would return soon, his subroutines wouldn't allow him to blatantly lie like that.
She agreed. "We left information on Voyager for them or...."
The holodoc located a hypospray and dialed a setting. Before he could press it against her neck, she demanded to know what it was. "It's an energy booster. I know you won't allow yourself to rest and your reserves are nonexistent."
"We should return to Voyager as soon as we can. Of course, we should take from her what supplies we'll need to survive, but, I'm hoping we'll find some friendly aliens who'll help us, who'll get her flying again."
The doctor listened carefully and concluded that the energy boost was needed. The captain was struggling now that the emergency was over. The fantasy that some aliens would come along and restore Voyager was not a hopeful sign. Too often he had seen her stubbornness manifest itself in obsession.
"I haven't seen Chakotay since we left the ship. Is he okay?" she wondered.
Finally, the doctor could relate some good news. "He's fine. He's with Mr. Paris and some of the other, more severely injured, crew members. Commander Chakotay did a good job of turning the shuttle into our emergency and recovery room."
"Then you shouldn't be here."
"I've done all I can for them at this point. As I indicated, they are in the commander's somewhat capable hands. If there are any problems, he'll comm me immediately. In the meantime, someone has to treat the rest of you."
She waved her hand dismissively. "Tuvok and Neelix?"
"Mr. Tuvok remains in a healing trance. As you know, Neelix lost his comm badge and was trapped in an impassable corridor. His left clavicle was broken and he had some torn ligaments in his left knee. However, if I do say so, Mr. Neelix is recovering nicely."
"Should Neelix be transferred to another shuttle?"
"No. Although his injuries aren't critical, I'm concerned about his state of mind. I'd like to keep him on the Lee for now."
"Thank you, doctor."
The doctor wanted to say so much. How she mustn't torture herself over lives lost. How she should be proud of how many lives were saved. But he could see the captain was already lost in her next decision. He gave her a warm nod before turning to Swinn to start a new scan.
Thinking it would be a good idea to visit the other shuttles, Janeway asked Ayala about the transporters.
"Online, Captain, but they've been heavily used. Other than the holodoc, I wouldn't recommend any travel between shuttles for twenty-four hours."
"Understood. Janeway out," she responded curtly, frustrated that her plans were thwarted for the time being.
Now that the doctor was finished with her, she could at least tour this shuttle. Their shuttle, the F'Lang, had been under repair for the last few days and she was amazed that the crew had finished the essential work to get it functional in less than an hour. Besides the doctor circulating with his medkit, on board there were ten members of her crew. She counted herself along with Swinn, Dorado, Lang and six others. She thanked each for their contributions to the evacuation and shut-down of Voyager. But as she walked carefully over outstretched legs, she realized that the crowding was intense.
There was no privacy, except in the small alcove that held a sink, toilet, and sonic shower. With ten people on board, those facilities were likely to be severely taxed before they reached the planet. And sleeping room was going to be difficult. She noticed blankets had been broken out to cushion the hard surface beneath those who lay or sat on the floor. Boredom, personality quirks, and emotional pain were likely to kick in eventually. She hoped it would be later rather than sooner.
She'd have to discuss the situation with Chakotay and the doctor to see what could be done to ease potential problems. It was likely to be this way on each of the shuttles, although other difficulties would no doubt exist on the shuttle with the severely injured.
Returning to her seat by Swinn, Kathryn accessed the data from Ryson on the provisions she and her group had been able to load onto the shuttles. After she read over the lists, Janeway knew Ryson deserved a commendation. Later, after she'd had time to consult with her remaining senior officers and when she had some privacy, she would record all of the survivor's contributions to the evacuation. For the time being, words of praise might be in order.
An image of Ryson came to mind of a short, former Maquis from a Hawaiian colony near the border. Soh Ryson had shiny dark hair, grey eyes, and light café au lait skin. Janeway commed Ryson on the Jolly Roger, saying, "Ensign, you did a fine job in provisioning the shuttles. The crew and I will be grateful to you for your foresight."
A startled yet pleased voice came through the link, "Thank you, Captain." After a brief pause, Ryson added modestly, "I had a lot of help."
"It's appreciated," Kathryn told her warmly.
She realized that others had also performed commendably and, one by one, the captain commed all who had helped and thanked them for their work. Planetfall would be soon enough to turn to the task of memorializing the dead. It hadn't really sunk in yet. She could tell herself that she'd lost almost two-thirds of her crew, but the numbers were intellectualized. Kathryn recognized that she had experienced distress when she'd named them to the doctor. She couldn't afford to have another lapse. She found a place inside of her to store the emotional trauma until she could deal with it.
The holodoc finished his rounds on Janeway's shuttle and moved on to the Jolly Roger, commanded by Lt. Ayala, but named by Tom Paris. Despite its whimsical name, the situation was similar to the F'Lang. Crowded conditions, numbed crew members, numerous injuries for him to heal were in abundance. As he'd done on the other shuttles, he worked from front to back, making sure the pilot and copilot were well enough to function first. The EMH noted that the pilot Culhane should be looked in on again. He spoke briefly with Ayala about relieving Culhane for awhile so that the ensign could rest. As the holodoc looked around the cramped shuttle, he wasn't sure exactly where the pilot would lie down, but hoped room on the floor would be made for him.
Unfortunately, the crew members on Burleson's shuttle, the Earhart, were in the worst shape except for those on 'his' shuttle, the Lee. There were serious injuries amidst the eleven people crammed into the small craft. It took many hours of work before he could leave. Thankfully, Chakotay hadn't commed him with any emergencies. When he left the Earhart, food packs were being broken into and hot drinks were being replicated. It was a good sign, he thought.
Carey's lead shuttle, the Ride, was the last one. The story here was similar to the Jolly Roger -- although he saw numbness and shock, he didn't find any serious injuries. However, he did treat numerous cuts, abrasions, and bruises. Jenny and Megan Delaney had concussions but were improved after his medical intervention. As he continued his rounds, he couldn't help but overhear when they sobbed in each other's arms. They spoke of being grateful to find that they were both alive and of their devastation to learn from others about the deaths of so many friends. Their wails filled the small shuttle.
The EMH was fairly sure that his hours spent on the shuttles had fixed everyone's physical injuries as well as possible under the current conditions. He didn't know what it would take to fix the holes in the hearts of those he'd heard cry.
The doctor finally transported to the sickbay shuttle, the Lee. No one had told him the significance of the name of the shuttle. Taking a moment to speculate, had it been named by one of the humans from the south of the old United States, then the doctor might have thought it named after a General from their 19th century war. Had it been named by Tom Paris, then no doubt it was in dubious honor of a Kung Fu movie star from the lieutenant's passion for 20th century, grade Z movies.
Tom Paris found himself confused but not in much pain. He was on a bed, his neck immobilized. He didn't feel anything when he tried to move, so he assumed that his limbs were restrained for some reason. Maybe there'd been a lot of turbulence and the doctor didn't want him falling out of bed and breaking an arm or a leg. His eyes tracked the thin line of an IV bag hanging from a shelf to the general direction of his arm. He vaguely remembered being in sickbay. But he couldn't remember why he'd been there. Now he was sure he was looking at the ceiling of a shuttle. And the sounds he heard suggested a shuttle traveling at warp 2 or 3.
How had he gotten here? What had happened? His eyes darted around trying to figure things out, but he couldn't move his head. He recognized labored breathing but noted with a kind of clinical detachment that he at least was breathing on his own. Some kind of croaking sound emerged from his throat and he found Chakotay peering down at him.
More croaking sounds and then he found a straw in his mouth. It took him a moment to catch on but when he did he sucked cool water into his parched throat. At some point the straw was removed. Brown eyes worried over him.
Chakotay gave him the short version. There had been a crash, evacuation, and serious injuries.
When Tom heard that he'd broken his neck and suffered spinal cord damage he understood why his head was immobilized. He wasn't sure yet if any parts of his body below his neck were functioning or moveable. Before he could sort out the questions he needed to ask, he found himself too tired to keep his eyes open. He wanted to ask about B'Elanna and Harry but the words wouldn't form.
On the verge of falling asleep, he heard Chakotay say, "Your piloting saved a lot of people."
How many, he needed to know, but sleep claimed him first.
Although so weary he wasn't sure how he could keep going, Chakotay circulated through the injured, scanning each with his tricorder, keeping records on a PADD for the doctor's return. He comforted where he could and treated the medical problems that came up. Mostly, he tried to reassure those who were hurt that they would recover.
When it came time to eat, he commed the doctor for guidance on what to feed the patients in his care. Some were being fed through IV fluids, but others could handle some form of food. Instructions in hand, Chakotay first replicated and served meals for those who could eat independently, and then fed those who were too weak or too damaged to feed themselves.
Finally, he found a little floor space and sat down heavily with a food pack and a mug of tea. How long had it been? It felt like days, but the PADD told him it had been only ten hours since they'd put the Quantum Slipstream drive online. Those ten hours had changed their lives as profoundly as had the Caretaker more than four years before.
Kneading his forehead and face with his fingers, Chakotay wished he knew what had happened to the Delta Flyer. At one point, he was supposed to be on it with Harry, but after Paris' discovery of the phase variances, it had seemed more important to have their best engineer on board the Delta Flyer. Tom Paris had practically begged to pilot the shuttle but Kathryn had been right. He was needed at the helm of Voyager. Chakotay felt sure that Tom's skill had made a difference when the ship crash landed.
However, Chakotay couldn't help but wonder how the young pilot was going to be able to focus on the lives he'd saved instead of those who were lost. On top of the loss of both his best friend and his girlfriend in the Flyer, Tom would likely face some tough days ahead with his health. Chakotay already knew that Tom had suffered the most debilitating injuries of any of the crew and would likely have the longest recovery.
Chakotay sipped his tea and second guessed himself. Maybe he should have tried to divert Janeway and Harry from their intense need to get home when their technology was so flawed that the ship was destroyed in 23 consecutive simulations. It was his job to tell her more testing was needed, more simulations with the Flyer and Voyager in tandem had to be conducted. Chakotay could make the snap decisions when they were necessary, but he also believed in the value of patience. Somehow, he hadn't heard the call for patience this time.
But what had Kathryn said? Something about how enough time had gone by. She'd been blinded by the promise but not dissuaded by the problems. It was up to him to stand up to her worst instincts, suffer her wrath if that's what it took. But no. He'd said nothing. Instead, he let her charm him with dinner. He knew that she wasn't openly trying to win his compliance, but he felt unsettled now about how the ship-wide celebrations and their private one had clouded his assertiveness and judgment. And here they were.
Voyager's fatal crash onto the ice reflected his profound failure to do his job. There was no other conclusion to be drawn.
Shoulders slumping, he felt weighed down by regret. There had been too many losses of late. The Maquis in the Alpha Quadrant had been decimated. And now almost two-thirds of his Voyager family was gone. With such a small group of survivors he knew they would face a future full of hardships. What were the odds that the planet they headed towards would provide them with a new home?
End Part 3