Endless I: Planetfall
by Judy firstname.lastname@example.org and Etal
Day: 00, Hour: 2203
Janeway had ordered the replication and distribution of personal PADDS to all. In the cramped quarters, she hoped having some personal possession, some way of recording their reactions and grief would help her crew to cope.
Neelix held his PADD to his head. He'd settled against a wall of the sickbay shuttle, a blanket around him. Tears streamed down his face as he tried to record his thoughts. His broken collar bone had mended nicely, the ligaments were taking a little longer.
"Oh, my. Oh, my. I've learned that Naomi and Samantha Wildman did not survive the crash. I feel so terrible. Such a lovely young girl, so bright, so full of promise. And Samantha...a wonderful mother, a wonderful friend. Seven. She was just.... I can't go on."
He placed the PADD against his chest and let the tears fall. Chakotay came over and rested a hand on his shoulder. Neelix looked up. The commander's face looked as if it had aged ten years since the celebration of last night. "I'm sorry, Neelix."
Neelix nodded and tried for a smile that vanished before it was born. "Thank you, Commander." Chakotay wanted to stay and comfort his friend, but then both heard crew member Celes moaning. After a moment, the commander left and Neelix slid down to lie on the floor, pulling the blanket over him.
Once Celes had fallen back to sleep, a hypospray easing her way, Chakotay moved on to Tuvok. The Vulcan was motionless on his padded blanket on the floor. Hoping the healing trance would be enough, Chakotay stepped gingerly over several of the sleeping injured. He was glad that Neelix looked more at peace in his sleep.
At Paris' side, Chakotay ran his tricorder over the sleeping pilot. The readings showed swelling along the spinal cord. Healing was slow. Without the biobed for the needed delicate spinal surgery, there was nothing they could really do about the swelling. Although it would naturally diminish as his injury healed, the doctor had told him that it might inadvertently cause some permanent nerve damage. If only they hadn't lost the ability to clone nerves. If only there was a regenerator sensitive enough to use on a spinal cord. But Voyager's resources were behind them.
As he watched both Tom and the tricorder readings, Chakotay noticed the pale eyelids flicker. Tired looking blue eyes gazed back at him. "Tom?"
Tom's chapped lips moved and Chakotay raised a glass with a straw to the lips. After a few swallows, Chakotay removed the glass and set it aside.
"Thanks," came a weak acknowledgment. His voice a scratchy whisper, Tom asked, "What happened?"
Obviously, Tom didn't remember his earlier explanation. The face was guileless. "Voyager entered normal space after the slipstream collapsed."
Eyes darted around. "This...shuttle?"
"Yes. We had to evacuate the ship. There's a planet up ahead. We're heading there now, five shuttles of us."
"We don't know."
It seemed to take Tom awhile to register Chakotay's response. "It's gone?"
"We don't know, Tom. We hope they made it to the Alpha Quadrant. And that Starfleet will come looking for us."
"Is everyone on Voyager all right?" There was such fear in those eyes that Chakotay hesitated before answering. That pause increased the fear.
"We lost some people." Chakotay tried to soften the blow. "Your piloting saved me and the others who are here." He waved broadly to indicate more than the one shuttle. But it didn't help. He could see the way Tom retreated inward. Eyes closed, Tom wouldn't talk to him anymore.
Wishing he could do or say something, Chakotay said, "Tom, this wasn't your fault. It was mine. I should have stopped us from using the new drive." With a painful intensity, he repeated, "It's my fault."
Unhappy eyes opened and regarded him. "No," he contradicted. "Mine."
"Tom, listen to me, you pointed out the phase variances. Without knowing about them, we would all be gone. You did your best. In every way possible." Chakotay could tell that there was no way that Tom believed him. "Can I get you anything?"
"Yesterday," Tom replied wearily and closed his eyes again.
Day: 01, Hour: 0612
Janeway lay under her blanket on the deck of the shuttle F'Lang with no more privacy than any other survivor of Voyager's crash. She ached. Her muscles protested at the unaccustomed treatment. Her head felt a little fuzzy as she made the transition from sleep to wakefulness. Listening to the sounds, she heard some snores, some grunts, some murmured protests in the too crowded quarters.
But the shuttle's engines sounded fine, the deck thrummed as it should. Sighing at not being able to put off the inevitable any longer, she stood, stretched, and folded her blankets. There was a line for the bathroom and she silently joined the others. Although some tried to send her to the head of the line, she just shook her head and waited her turn. While she stood there, Kathryn let her eyes check out details that supplemented what her ears had told her earlier. She noted that Dorado had relieved Swinn at the helm and she saw Swinn's black, curly hair as it erupted from under a blanket covering the sleeping pilot-in-training.
Finally, it was her turn. A quick sonic shower took away some of the grime and dust, as if banishing ashes from Voyager. She ran fingers through her hair and shrugged at the new, unkempt look. It would have to do for now. Finishing with other morning necessities, Kathryn relinquished the small room to the next person in line.
With a grimace, Ken Dalby held the door until she stepped past him and then took his turn. She wondered if his dark expression signified anything more than someone slow to warm up in the morning. Working her way forward, she relieved Dorado and took a turn at the helm. Dorado briefed her and then gave her a grateful smile under a helmet of untidy grey hair as she headed back to find some room to sleep.
Janeway's scan of the systems told her all was working as well as an emergency evacuation could work. An overloaded shuttle was nothing to treat lightly. However, she didn't detect even a potential for trouble. After a few moments, she felt eyes on her and turned to the co-pilot's seat where Crewman Tasoni sat. His dark eyes appeared haunted. Normally, his skin shone like polished teak, now it seemed more grey than brown.
"Did you get any sleep?" she asked quietly.
"No, Captain. Couldn't sleep."
"Can you talk about it?" she asked, curious about the crew member's sorrowful appearance.
"I lost my wife yesterday. She's not on any of the shuttles."
Janeway tried to remember who Tasoni's wife was and couldn't. "I'm sorry."
"She was on deck 9 when we crashed. She was at her station."
It came to her then, "Crew member Sheryl Tenard."
"I'm so sorry."
"So am I," came the reply. He didn't sound bitter, just deeply weary.
"Would you like me to ask the doctor for something?"
"No. Thank you."
Tasoni lapsed into silence and Janeway wondered how many others had lost spouses, loved ones, friends. No doubt they had all lost friends.
Seven of Nine.
The name came to her and she felt her eyes flood until she regained control. A friend? Yes. Almost like her child, yet not quite. An unbelievably unique young woman. Someone who challenged her, helped her, aggravated her, even amused her when the former Borg developed her dry sense of humor.
The soft, sad voice came from beside her. She cleared her throat of the unshed tears. "Yes?"
"I'm sorry. I guess you've lost people, too."
"Thank you." She didn't tell him that she considered all of those who died as her people.
Each of them lapsed back into silence and personal thoughts. It took effort on her part to turn away from the melancholy memories, but she knew that they would be with her now and in the future.
Distracting herself with work, she decided it might be time to obtain an update or two. Her first conversation was with the doctor. He informed her that there had been some improvements during the night and some setbacks. Ensign Sharr had died suddenly of an aneurism. Tuvok had come out of his healing trance and was resting. His prognosis looked good. Paris had spent a difficult night and needed assistance in breathing. He was only now off one of the portable respirators they'd salvaged from Voyager.
She knew the doctor would want to detail the condition of every crew member but she felt a better use of her time could be made by visiting each of the shuttles. When she told him of her plans, the holodoc volunteered to join her. She informed him, "As soon as I find a relief pilot, I'll beam over to your shuttle. Is Chakotay awake?"
"I'm not certain that he's been asleep."
"I see. I'll be over there shortly."
After checking with Tasoni that Swinn had been off duty for at least seven hours, Kathryn woke up the woman and asked her to take the helm. When Swinn was able to take over piloting, Tasoni operated the transporter that sent her to the sickbay shuttle, the Lee. When she rematerialized, Janeway was struck by the contrast between the two shuttles, the one she'd just left and this one. Whereas hers had been crowded, there had been a certain orderliness about it. With so many of the injured on this shuttle, she could smell and hear the difference immediately.
Looking ragged, Chakotay approached her. The only place with any degree of privacy was either the bathroom or the helm. Waving her hand toward the helm, Chakotay nodded and they settled there. A dark-haired pilot gave up his seat for the captain and seemed grateful for the break. Within minutes, the holodoc and a stiffly moving Tuvok crowded the small area around their chairs.
"Tuvok, I'm glad to see you," she smiled tightly.
"I am pleased to see you as well."
"Are your injuries healed?" She searched him for signs of lingering difficulties.
"Between the healing trance and the doctor's attentions I am at a satisfactory level of functioning."
"How are you?" she pushed.
"Satisfactory," he replied formally. Softly, he asked, "And yourself, Captain?"
"I'm fine," came the clipped words. She squared her shoulders, the authority of captain firmly in place. "I'm here to find out how the crew are doing. And I will need the counsel of all of you concerning the future."
Chakotay looked surprised. The holodoc adopted one of his more smug expressions that said he was glad someone finally asked him for his opinion. He appeared about to say something, but Chakotay spoke first, "We're going to a class M planet. Beyond that, I've been out of the loop."
"There is no loop. But we need to have plans. And we need to have information. How much of our resources can be spent sending shuttles back and forth to Voyager? How much can we use to look for helpful aliens? What'll it take to get Voyager up and running?"
There was silence as each absorbed the implications of her words. Tuvok gazed steadily at her, "It is my understanding that Voyager was too badly damaged to fly again."
"And even if that were possible, we have only fifty people left. It's not enough to fly a starship," Chakotay added.
"I don't intend to give up. We're still going home," Janeway told them firmly.
"Kathryn," Chakotay's words were soft, but his voice was steely, "we tried to get home and we failed. It's time to accept that, mourn our losses, and survive as best we can. Expending resources on fixing Voyager, when we'll need everything salvageable in order to survive, is not a smart choice."
"I made a promise to get this crew home."
Chakotay pressed her, "And we have only a third of that crew left and many of them are injured. Accept what you can't change, Kathryn, and put that energy into building what we can."
Eyes flashing a dark blue, she stood up, "No! We're still going to find a way to get home."
Seeing that the captain and commander were becoming quickly locked in polar opposition, Tuvok interceded, "I will fly a shuttle back to Voyager and assess the damage."
"She can be repaired. We'll just need some help."
"Let Tuvok take a look," Chakotay prodded gently.
"Captain, I believe you were planning to visit the crew members," the holodoc reminded her. His eyes caught Chakotay's, enlisting the other man's support.
"Yes. I think it would do the crew good to see you," Chakotay urged her.
She recognized this as a diversionary tactic and resented it. She glared at him, as if her stubbornness could be passed by force of will from her to him. Janeway was about to object when a look from an injured ensign caught her eye. Ensign Patel's expression seemed sympathetic, but it cut her deeply.
Truth be told, she had to admit to herself that she'd been avoiding the visit to this shuttle because it was a jolting reminder of how badly things had gone. But her private pain wasn't the ensign's fault. She told Tuvok, Chakotay, and the doctor that they'd continue this conversation later. Then, with her warmest smile, she walked over to Patel and took his dark hand in her pale one. They began to chat quietly.
Once she was out of earshot, visiting the wounded, Chakotay's shoulders sagged. He shook his head as Tuvok seated himself opposite in the pilot's chair. "Tuvok, what do you think?"
"I did not see the damage to Voyager."
"I did. She's not going to fly again, I don't care how many friendly aliens she finds. This is still the Delta Quadrant. How many friendlies have we encountered here?" Chakotay's voice was harsh with frustration.
Changing the subject, Tuvok replied, "If we've truly lost Voyager, then we will have to make a new home for ourselves on this planet. What do we know about it?"
"Damn little. No technology has been detected. We don't yet know whether there are indigenous sentient populations or not."
"Commander, you appear to be tired." Tuvok observed. "While you rest, I'll review the available reports from each shuttle. When you have awakened, we can resume the assessment of our options."
Chakotay stroked his chin, rubbed at the back of his neck. Tuvok was right, he was tired, mentally and physically. He looked around and thought, 'Well, at least I'm alive and unhurt', but his relief was accompanied by a pang of guilt. Rubbing his eyes, he said to Tuvok, "Okay. I'll rest after I check on some of the more critical patients. I want to make sure they're as comfortable as they can be before I turn in."
"How is Mr. Paris?"
Chakotay found the doctor and Janeway standing by Paris' bed. Asleep, the young pilot seemed so different, as if his usual animation was a trick and this sallow complected body contained the real Tom. With a sweep of his tricorder, the doctor reported, "Mr. Paris spent a difficult night. He experienced sudden respiratory distress that required a delicate balancing of medications and procedures. He came through it but had to be on a respirator for several hours. If we had a biobed I could do so much more to keep him stable."
"What will it take to make him healthy?" Janeway asked.
"Voyager's sickbay. Since that's not an option, constant vigilance is required. Believe me, Captain, I will do my best."
"I know you will," she told the holodoc, her voice sounding more grim than warm.
Tuvok suggested that he would be of greater help on the Earhart where there were also recovering crew members. Unspoken was his thought that Burleson might like another officer there to help out.
Chakotay stood off to the side. As Tuvok made his case to take up residence on another shuttle, he wondered what was behind Kathryn's question about what Tom needed. Was she concerned about Tom as a person or about her chief pilot? Chakotay had a disquieting sense that he knew the answer to that. Four years ago he would have thought her concern was with Tom Paris, the son of her mentor, the boy who'd screwed up his life in more ways than one and then had her to thank for his chance at redemption.
Now. Now, he wasn't sure she even saw anything more than a means to her ends. She wanted to have Voyager arrive home. Maybe she saw that event as some kind of triumph or personal validation. Regardless, she'd need her chief pilot to achieve that dream. Somehow, Chakotay doubted that Tom would share that vision, not when he had a chance to look at Voyager for himself. With a sigh, Chakotay knew he didn't look forward to the next several weeks. Until she could accept the inevitable, Janeway was going to wear blinders and act out of obsession rather than reason. He hoped he and Tuvok could keep her from going off the deep end.
It was past time for him to sleep longer than a few moments. It was time to stretch out, pull a blanket over himself, and let go. In a disturbing cascade of images, Chakotay saw the ice mountains rushing toward Voyager, he saw Tom in the shuttle bunk struggling to breathe, he saw the faces of the dead accuse him, pronounce him guilty. After fussing restlessly for so long, it shouldn't have surprised him when the EMH pressed a hypospray to his neck. Then he slept.
End Part 4