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

Part 6

Day: 04, Hour: 1109

Tomorrow arrived despite Tom Paris' negative thoughts on the matter. He was not looking forward to this. Yesterday's short excursion had left him shaking and drained. He wasn't sure he'd be able to do any better today. 

But, he conceded, at least today he wouldn't be dragging around the tubes that had gone in and out of him for the past few days. To his great relief, some bodily control had returned. Even though he still had to rely on the doctor to take care of his needs, he considered it a fair trade for removal of those embarrassing tubes. 

He wished he could get rid of the neck brace, too. It itched. It restricted his ability to look around. It irritated the hell out of him. "Doc, can I take this neck thing off?"


"Why not?" Tom wished his voice hadn't sounded whiny and petulant. 

"I've explained to you that you need more time to heal fully. Do you remember the conversation we had about this yesterday?"

Tom didn't remember and became more disturbed by the amnesia episode than by the neck brace. Angry for reasons he didn't understand, Tom relied on cursing, "Fuck healing!" Now he was sounding like a foul-mouthed six year old. "Take this off or go away. Either way, I want you to leave me alone." 

When the doctor did nothing, Tom tried to make his arms move so that he could take it off himself, but he wasn't able to do more than make waggling motions with his fingers. When he didn't see his hands rising toward his neck he tried another tack. "Computer end emergency medical program." 

Damn. That didn't work either. "Chakotay, the computer's not working right. Turn off the doctor's program for me, will you?"

Tom wanted to look around for Chakotay. Maybe the commander could make the doctor shut down and go away. But Tom couldn't move and couldn't see anything except the shuttle ceiling and the doctor. He hated the EMH and he hated this ceiling. Standing just a few feet away, Chakotay heard the cry of frustration that died in the back of Tom's throat. 

Without warning, Tom found heated water at the edges of eyes. Since he couldn't turn his neck and could barely move, he just had to suffer the indignity of the doctor's eyes on him. Tom thought he saw a momentary flash of sympathy in the doctor's face, but it was gone so quickly, he wasn't sure it had happened at all. 

Tom decided if he closed his eyes long enough, the doctor wouldn't be there when he opened them again. On some level, he knew it was an infantile strategy, but none of his 'adult' strategies worked either. 

He heard some shuffling and checked to see Chakotay standing closest to him now, but he could still sense the doctor behind Chakotay. He didn't know if it was good news or bad news that the commander was so often nearby. Chakotay ran a warm cloth over his face. 

Remembering his promise to the doctor, Chakotay said, "Tom, I know you don't feel well and things aren't happening the way you want, but you have to trust us. This is necessary. We're going to help you and you're going to help yourself. Together, we'll get through this."

"Let's get you up now," the doctor announced.

The embarrassing moment behind him, Tom sighed, "It won't do any good."

"That's what I like in my patients: cheerful optimism," the doctor observed sarcastically. He pressed a hypospray against Tom's neck above the hated collar. "Now. Let's get up."

Tom knew the doctor had given him something to stimulate his nerves. But he wondered if he should care. Since finding himself on this shuttle, he'd been stunned to find out there were only fifty survivors. And no one could tell him the whereabouts of Harry and B'Elanna. For all he knew, they'd been killed in the Delta Flyer when the slipstream collapsed. 

He kept trying to figure out how this had all happened. But he couldn't remember. There was some itch in his brain as though if he searched hard enough he'd find it. But it was never there. He remembered suggesting Harry's solution of flying ahead in the Delta Flyer and giving back phase corrections. But he didn't remember sitting in Voyager's pilot seat. He didn't remember crashing on an icy planet. 

With the doctor and Chakotay flanking him, Tom was placed on his feet. He concentrated. Right foot. There. Reflected in the mirror they'd placed on the floor so he could see, Tom could make out his foot. He tried to make it move. Move, move. Move, dammit. 

And it did. A kind of shuffle along the floor. 

"Next leg, Mr. Paris."

He couldn't see the toes. They were too far behind him. How could he move something he couldn't see? 

"Mr. Paris," the doctor prompted.

"Leave me alone," Tom told them, his anger flashing.

"Try, Tom," Chakotay urged quietly. "You moved one foot. I know you can move the other one."

"No." He had tried so hard that sweat chilled his body. 

"Please, Tom. Once more."

Why the hell did Chakotay have to be so nice? The doctor's sarcasm he could counter. But not this patient prodding. He gave it one more try, pulled up images of his legs moving, closed his eyes and gave it his deepest concentration. He wasn't sure he'd succeeded until he heard Chakotay's exclamation. "Yes. Good job."

"Great. Now can I go back to bed?"

"A few more, Mr. Paris," the doctor countered. 

"I can't." He didn't think he could. He was shaking from the efforts he'd made and he felt sick to his stomach. That was one sensation in his body that he could feel clearly.

He heard Chakotay comment, "Doc, he's been at this for 15 minutes. How about two more steps? Then maybe he could rest for a few hours."

What had Chakotay just said? How could it have taken 15 minutes to take two steps? That was totally impossible! He didn't want Chakotay offering compromises, he wanted to stop. Well, at least Chakotay paid attention when Tom talked.

Tom struggled to make those two steps. He didn't care what it took to stop this struggle. It was too much. But Chakotay's enthusiasm told him his legs must have done something right.

Panting, Tom could feel himself getting lightheaded. He smiled slightly when the doctor said "Very good." But the smile faded when Tom heard him continue, "We'll try again later."

Tom was about to say what he thought about that suggestion when he sagged in their arms, blackness closing in on him as if he was looking through a kaleidoscope of dark, cut glass.


Day: 06, Hour: 1805, Alpha Quadrant

Sisko walked slowly to the quarters of his 'guests'. Over the past few days, O'Brien had checked out the Delta Flyer and told him that it could have been made with Starfleet and Borg technology. Dax also found ion trails that would be consistent with the theory of a slipstream drive. And Bashir confirmed that they were human, not changelings. His own review of the Delta Flyer's logs also supported their story.

Despite the evidence consistent with the newcomers' reports, he still found it difficult to comprehend. How could a starship that was thousands of lightyears inside the Delta Quadrant get itself so close to home in a matter of minutes? If he knew the Prophets had something to do with it, the whole scenario might have been easier to believe. 

Ben felt nothing from the Prophets and had seen no reports of new wormholes, so he had to go on instinct. He sent long-range probes every four hours to monitor whether another slipstream might be forming. Scouting ships studied the entry site of the Flyer's arrival into the Alpha Quadrant, but Ben Sisko was unwilling to do more until he could be sure of them and their story. 

Harry Kim wasn't making his decision any easier. It was obvious that Kim was an earnest young man who loved Starfleet. But Odo's report that this Starfleet ensign had tried unsuccessfully to steal the Flyer was damning. Perhaps Kim made the attempt because he was desperate to help his friends and could even have believed it wasn't stealing since he'd flown the Flyer into the Alpha Quadrant in the first place. Or he could be serving as some sort of spy for the Founders. Maybe he'd simply chosen badly because he'd gone three days without sleep.

With no resolution about Kim, he began considering Torres. Sisko saw that she was similar to the other Maquis he'd met over the past few years. However, she seemed more settled and disciplined than some he'd encountered. Could she have served under a Starfleet Captain and run an Engineering section with a joint Starfleet-Maquis crew for four years? 

She claimed to know nothing about Kim's abortive shuttle attempt, and Odo couldn't find any evidence of her involvement. He noticed that she looked both angry and sympathetic towards Harry when he was brought back to their quarters. It was obvious that there was a strong bond between them, but were they working together, or independently at this point? He had to admit that he was surprised when she'd agreed that Dr. Bashir could sedate Kim to let him get some sleep. 

Sighing, Sisko considered that his encounters with the Founders and Cardassians had made him a more suspicious man and maybe he was seeing a complicated conspiracy where a simple truth existed. He needed to quickly figure out this situation, but with so many inconsistencies, Kim and Torres were not making it easy for him.

Today, he hoped that both would be cooperative when he talked to them. After the Flyer incident, he'd left them in their private quarters, but had Odo double the security teams on this deck. The guards at the door looked relaxed enough, so maybe there hadn't been any recent trouble.

When Sisko entered their quarters, Kim and Torres began to stand up, but he waved them back down. He could afford to play it casually with the guards nearby. "Please sit," he smiled pleasantly, "and finish your meal."

Sisko noticed that Kim surreptitiously followed Torres' cues and only began eating after B'Elanna picked up her fork again. When Sisko caught his eye, Kim also had the good sense to look embarrassed about his behavior of the last few days.

"Has there been any word of Voyager today, sir?" Torres asked.

"No, I'm afraid not." Sisko saw the pain on Harry and B'Elanna's faces at his reply, although B'Elanna tried to contain her reaction. Whatever else was going on, Sisko believed that their agony over their lost crewmates was real. 

"Is there any other information that we can give you or any way that we can participate in the search efforts?" she asked him anxiously.

"Not at this point, but we'll let you know."

"Captain ," Harry began, "I know that you don't understand why I did what I did, and if you're here to throw me in the brig, that's fine. But please don't hold my actions against B'Elanna or Voyager. She's a brilliant engineer and I know that she can help recreate the slipstream technology. If we send another ship through in the opposite direction, then there might still be time to find Voyager and bring her home." 

Sisko noticed that Kim and Torres exchanged a quick look before Harry continued. He could see the warning glance that B'Elanna was trying to give him, but Kim ignored her.

Harry knew contriteness was his only option, yet he couldn't control the relentless urge to locate Voyager as soon as possible. That need had overruled his common sense and all his Starfleet training when he'd tried to reclaim the Delta Flyer. Now, it threatened to rupture any rapport that might have been developing between himself and Sisko. Nervously, he moved back to an issue that B'Elanna told him to leave alone. "Not everybody believes in parallel universes, but there really was another Delta Flyer and if we can contact them, somehow...."

As soon as Harry started talking, B'Elanna gave him a look of both worry and warning, but he was determined to press the point when Sisko interrupted him. "I do believe in parallel universes and Dax has been studying the Flyer's readings for this possibility," Sisko said to Harry's relief and B'Elanna's thoughtful gaze, "but our experiences with counterparts from another universe have been dangerous and harmful." 

Any hopes Harry had were dashed as the captain continued, "We will not be pursuing contact with an alternate universe right now."

"So what is the next step?" B'Elanna asked as Harry mentally thanked her for her practical side showing itself now, just when despondence was threatening to overwhelm him again.

"You'll be debriefed again tomorrow or the day after."

"What!" Harry seethed. "If you're not going to do anything to help us, why should we go through this again?"

"Take it easy, Harry." B'Elanna tried to soothe him, but he turned away from her.

"Mr. Kim," Sisko offered as he stood up to leave, "take your friend's advice. You want to get your temper under control before you have another interview. Admirals won't tolerate the kind of attitude you've shown the last couple of days."

"Admirals?" B'Elanna asked.

"Yes, Admiral Paris is arriving tomorrow."


Day: 07, Hour: 0739

Two hours out from the planet, Janeway found herself looking forward to planetfall. Their delayed arrival at the planet had been necessitated by the loss of warp drive to the Ride. The past thirty hours had been difficult as the survivors struggled with the length of the journey from Voyager, their close confines, and their guilt. She'd tried to help, but realized that had been a function she'd long ago abandoned to Neelix and Chakotay. Unless it had been someone in the senior officer ranks, she hadn't given her crew much of her personal attention. She paid for that neglect now when most of them seemed puzzled or irritated with her offers to help.

Neelix was recovering from his injuries well enough, but the loss of young Naomi and so many others that he was close to seemed to have left the Talaxian depressed and unapproachable. And Chakotay spent so much time on the sickbay shuttle he might as well have become a member of the doctor's staff. She had to give him credit, he worked hard to help the doctor with the trying business of rehabbing those recovering from the most severe injuries. 

Without biobeds, they were left to old fashioned, hands-on methods of helping these crew members to get back on their feet. In Tom Paris' case that was a literal description. She had been present the day before when Tom had actually walked about ten steps wearing the neck brace and a cumbersome brace about his torso. Chakotay and the doctor propped him up throughout all of the steps, so she wasn't sure how much strength Tom really had, but there was still a well-earned look of accomplishment in that haunted face. 

She wondered how he would fare once they were on the planet and the others became busy with setting up a camp. Fortunately for their limited medical resources, Tom was the last to require continuing medical care. They'd been lucky to be able to bring about varying degrees of healing in the others who'd been badly injured. Some still required medical attention, tricorder checks, and the occasional hypospray, but Tom needed a lot more personal attention. 

Tom's continuing helplessness distressed her but she knew him to be a very resilient young man. He would come through this. It was a hopeful sign that so many others who had been hurt were ready to be released to the new quarters that would be constructed even if several were still not well enough to help in the building efforts.

She noticed Chakotay's avoidance of her and wondered about it. Did he really believe they were just going to resign themselves to living on this planet forever? That's how he had been on New Earth. All ready to give up and just accept what Fate, or whatever, handed to them. She'd have to find a way to reach him; it wouldn't do to have the two most senior officers at odds with each other. Later, without the enforced separation of the shuttles, she would find time to deal with his unproductive attitude.

But now she had more pressing issues to attend to. There were questions about where to land. As they dropped out of warp, releasing the tractor beam on Carey's shuttle the Ride as they did, she regarded the planet looming ahead of them. How much of their continuing survival was wrapped up in this unknown planet filled her with dread. 

Three moons could be seen orbiting the larger body. They were all similar to Earth's sole moon, barren rock devoid of moisture and atmospheres. Two were the size of large asteroids, one was substantial. 

She settled her gaze on the largest planetary body that was beginning to fill the viewscreen. Shades of blue from a pale robin's egg to sapphire to a deep navy ranged over most of the globe turned toward them. She detected a large polar cap at the bottom end that faced away from the sun. Burleson had been right. There was a more pronounced tilt to this planet than that of Earth.

Continents took shape as various groupings of browns and greens. White clouds swirled tightly in a hurricane formation east of a large island continent in the southern hemisphere. Despite the wrongly shaped land masses, it was as much like Earth as any planet she had seen. And yet there were no mammals or reptiles larger than a squirrel. As they had drawn closer, Burleson had given updates on these smaller life forms that had eventually become detectable. 

Apparently, there was an abundance of aquatic life, and on land, there were large colonies of insects. Until they landed, they wouldn't know much more than that about the fauna. 

Of the flora, there were broad expanses of forests, but also signs of vast burns, perhaps caused by lightning strikes. Steppes of long grasses flanked more barren foothills. After consulting with Tuvok and the doctor, they decided on an area on the west coast of a northern land mass, perhaps at what would be San Diego had this been Earth.

Their desired location was in a season that compared favorably to late winter on Earth. For the present, the temperatures at this location would be warm during the day and cool at night. Coastal storms were a possibility.

According to the sensors, the area showed itself to be geologically fairly stable, with no active volcanoes for two thousand kilometers or more. A large river, with many tributaries, drained from a high mountain lake to the northeast down to the natural harbor along the coast. Along its banks were corridors of green trees.

Until they knew better what the conditions on the planet would be like, Janeway ordered them to land in a protective circle. They traversed the planet's atmosphere without incident and set down in an open area, trees to the north and east, plains and ocean to the south and west. To the east of them the river wound from the north to the south and then turned west to join the harbor. 

Sensors gave final readings on the atmosphere. It was thin, as Burleson had reported days before, but breathable. The ambient temperature was pleasant. 

At this point, they didn't know what the insect life would be like. But no large concentrations had been detected nearby. Burleson told Janeway they could probably expect some because of their proximity to water and trees. The trees were a mix of Earth-like growths: evergreens, flowering fruit-type trees, and pale green, newly budding trees. 

Once all the sensor scans had been run and all the tests interpreted, the doctor gave his approval for excursions outside. Tuvok sent a security team out for an initial reconnaissance. When the area was deemed safe, Janeway gave the orders to open the hatches and soon the crew members began to leave the shuttles for the outdoors. One crew member remained on duty inside each shuttle. Just in case.

Chakotay stood at the open door of the Lee. He took a deep breath of thin, but fragrant, air. Given the cramped spaces and the long flight, this probably looked like paradise to some. For himself, it reminded him of his long ago home on Dorvan. To others, it must seem an attractive wasteland, pretty, but not particularly useful and devoid of everything, such as cities, that was familiar. 

No matter how the other crew saw it, Chakotay felt the strain that came with his understanding of the captain. All but she recognized and accepted that this planet would be their home for a while, maybe forever. He had no idea how long or what it would take before she bowed to the inevitable. It would be his job to help her make that transition.

End Part 6