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

Part: 8

Day: 07, Hour: 1138

Janeway gathered the survivors' attention and spoke to the group, her voice advancing through the comm badges and through the air, reaching all. 

"Until we know more about this planet, we'll set up our base here. Once we've provided the basics of water, food, and shelter, we'll send the shuttles out to do more extensive mapping of the planet. There may be a better place to use as a base, we just don't know yet."

Her eyes swept the small group of survivors. She saw Tom on the blanket, Neelix returning to sit beside him. The holodoc was at the doorway of the shuttle watching over his patients from there. Chakotay and Tuvok were by her side, nearby were her other lieutenants, Carey, Ayala, and Burleson. It hit her hard that they and Paris were the only four left. She spotted three of the nine surviving ensigns, Ashmore, Ryson, and Parsons, standing together. Crewman Tasoni took up a spot just to the left of Tuvok. 

Some of the shock and numbness seemed to have worn off most of the faces she could identify. But she knew they were all a long way from healed. And she understood that they needed to have some closure on their losses soon. "Tomorrow afternoon we'll have a memorial service for the family members we've lost."

Looking around, she saw questions on their faces. "I know you all probably have a number of questions, so go ahead, let's get things out in the open."

"What about Voyager?" came from Ken Dalby.

"Mr. Tuvok will take a shuttle back to Voyager. He'll make a damage assessment and bring back some necessities. When he returns, we'll know more."

"What's there to know?" someone asked. It came from behind Ayala but she couldn't identify the questioner.

"Please tell me who's speaking."

"Linnea Rogers, Maintenance." Rogers stepped from behind Ayala, an argument already on her face. She stood tall and broad shouldered with a wide face and an aggressively upturned nose.

"We need to know what it would take to make it possible for Voyager to fly again," Janeway explained patiently. She ignored the insolence in Rogers' tone and manner of address.

"That fucking ship's going nowhere!" Janeway recognized Crewman Sophen who made that remark. His distinctive voice had always reminded her of a schoolyard bully: unearned bravado mixed with malice. His large jaw and pugnacious posture were those of an angered pit bull. She made a note to point him out to Tuvok. However, when she glanced over his way, the security chief was frowning with Vulcan concentration at the malcontent.

"We don't know that yet, Crewman. Until we have an accurate assessment from Commander Tuvok, I am going to assume that she will fly again and that we will take her home."

"So, we're just setting up a temporary camp?" 

"And you are?"

Again, a hidden speaker stepped out. "Ensign Ashmore, Captain."

This questioner was more respectful. She seemed to want information, not to make an announcement. "Yes, Ensign. Consider this temporary, because we may need to move to a better location on this planet and because we should be able to return to Voyager. We just don't know how long that will be. It could be awhile."

The ensign nodded her head, while brown buns on both sides of her head bobbed in unison. With a return nod, Janeway changed focus and topics. "Commander Chakotay will assign those of you who are able-bodied to work details."

Surprised by this, Chakotay tried to look nonplused in front of the crew. Good thing he'd been working on just that. But she could have said something to him along the way. Well. She did have her plate full. PADD in hand, he began to give out work assignments. He sent out two crews of three each with tricorders and sacks to find edible plants, roots, berries, whatever was available. Another crew of three went to the river to assess the aquatic life as a food source and to check the water quality for usability. 

Chakotay set the rest who were able to work at replicating the component parts for four-person shelters and cots for all. The plans were in the shuttle computers, they simply needed to be activated. However, with supposedly interlocking parts, they were about as easy to assemble as merchandise ordered from a profiteering Ferengi. While Chakotay supervised the construction of the shelters, he heard colorful expressions that could make a translator blow its circuits.

The thin air prompted frequent rests for most of the crew. Only the two Vulcans appeared unaffected. When Chakotay realized how much the change in air was affecting them, he had one of the shuttles pressurized and rotated crew members into it for rest breaks.

A large, common shelter was the first to go up. This would be their mess hall and meeting room until further notice. At some future time, it might also serve as a recreation center. The replicators spit out the pieces for the functional tables and chairs, also requiring *some* assembly. Until they knew what they would need in the way of cooking and cleaning facilities, the replicators and recyclers would be in use. He'd have to talk to the captain about taking the replicators and recyclers offline as soon as possible. They'd need all the energy they could conserve until they located new sources of energy. 

Then, much as he wished that they could all have private showers and bathrooms, Chakotay ordered two facilities buildings to go up on the perimeter of the circle between shuttles. He oversaw the installation of the waste recyclers, understanding thoroughly how important it was that they were properly functioning. If the doctor found that the water presented no risk of disease, he planned to have the crew use water-based facilities in a couple of days. 

He knew his Maquis colleagues could adapt to this because they'd roughed it before, but he wasn't sure how the Starfleeters who'd never gone a day without a sonic shower would adapt. Chakotay knew that some of them would resent any further unexpected changes, but they had an unlimited supply of water and this might save some energy packs they'd need later.

Each of 14 small shelters, about the size of a large tent, was set up in the circle made by the shuttles. As he worked out the assignments to quarters, Chakotay took into consideration rank, formal affiliative relations, and gender. In the short term, these courtesies would not be necessary, however, for the long term, it seemed best to try to take them into account. Although he knew of some informal pairings, Chakotay decided that those in secret liaisons would have to work out trades on their own. 

For the most part, he was able to assign four crew members to a shelter. Considerations based on species centered on the one Bolian survivor. Bolian digestive functions generally presented an unpleasant challenge to other species, especially humans. Chakotay worried about future complaints from potential roommates of Golwat, but also anticipated grumbling about unfairness if he assigned no roommates. That was his job, no win all the way.

In view of her rank, Janeway had no one with whom to share her shelter. Chakotay assigned her to her own space. Since she only needed one cot, he saw to it that a small briefing table and chairs were set up to fill the spaces where three cots would have been. This arrangement would give her a place to hold private meetings. Since it wasn't yet in place, she would have to hold meetings for this day out of doors. In fact, he noticed her chatting with Tom and Neelix in what looked to be a rather intense conversation.

Although Chakotay considered putting the two Vulcans together, the other surviving Vulcan besides Tuvok was a young, female crew member, T'Sem. He decided that, as fellow bridge officers, he and Tuvok would share one shelter with Tom, assuming Tom was well enough to leave the emergency shuttle. Uncharacteristically, when informed of this arrangement, Tuvok seemed to lose his composure at the prospect of sharing quarters with Tom Paris. 

However, if a slight relaxing of tight Vulcan lips was any indication, then Tuvok brightened when he learned that Neelix would be sharing with Ayala, among others, and not with them. Perhaps Tuvok would be pleased that he only had two roommates instead of three, but when Chakotay pointed that out, Tuvok returned a tight-lipped frown. No win.

Nonetheless, the exchange with Tuvok provided Chakotay with his first genuine grin since Voyager crashed. But he wondered if these signs of expressiveness meant the Vulcan wasn't completely healed. He made a mental note to himself to watch Tuvok a little more closely over the next couple of days, and he'd report it to the doctor if it happened again. Still, if Tuvok wanted to change rooming arrangements, he could work it out for himself. Without a concrete objection from Tuvok, Chakotay felt fairly sure that he and Tom had to be the best choice of roommates for the very private Vulcan.

Once he placed Lt. Burleson with Ensigns Brooks, Lang, and Bereyt, Chakotay wished he knew what to do about Ensign Golwat, the sole surviving Bolian. Perhaps Ensign T'Sem? And he had to consider assignments for those the doctor was discharging from the emergency shuttle. Based on the latest report from the doctor, it looked as if only Tom Paris would be left on the Lee. Well, that should make Tuvok happy if the pilot didn't join them in their shelter for awhile.

A malfunctioning replicator forced Chakotay to let the assignments to quarters take a back seat for awhile. Searching among the workers for Carey, Chakotay found his man and motioned him over. Maybe he should wish for more such emergencies if it allowed him to get away from this crew quarters issue. He didn't know whether to attribute his incipient headache to the thin atmosphere or to the task he'd been doing.

With a mental sigh, Tuvok resigned himself to the prospect of sharing quarters with the humans. He had found Chakotay to be a generally private, contemplative man, not unlike himself in temperament. However, the young pilot accounted for at least two crew members all by himself. His joking manner and tendency to speak without thinking were not endearing qualities. 

On the other hand, on the shuttle trip, Tuvok had noticed that once Paris recovered from his more life-threatening health crises, he was more quiet than was usual. Perhaps it would last. And perhaps Paris wouldn't be discharged from the emergency shuttle until after Tuvok went back to Voyager. Based on the doctor's comments, the lieutenant would be under medical care for some time to come.


Hour: 1742, Alpha Quadrant

As the hours went by, everyone in the room seemed to tire except for the admiral. He was at moments casual and charming, at other times formal and intimidating, but B'Elanna never saw a lapse in his intensity. His staff took copious notes on everything she and Harry said or did, but the admiral hadn't diverted his gaze from them for eight hours. She could feel that he was trying to bore into them, see right through them and find the one truth he needed for himself. And if there was a chance to save Tom and the others, she'd bare her soul for his cold assessment.

Abruptly, the admiral stood up, and everyone followed suit. "This is a waste of my time. These people haven't told me anything about Voyager that a first-year cadet couldn't find in Starfleet databanks. Or they've given me Delta Quadrant fantasies that can never be confirmed or denied."

She could see Harry's stricken look. She couldn't help but be relieved that Harry remained quiet in the face of the dominating manner of Admiral Paris. Without bothering to look at them, the admiral spoke at, not to, Captain Sisko. "Call off the search. I want all of our ships back here by tomorrow. And then I want to read how you explain this waste of resources in your report."

Turning to leave, the admiral felt B'Elanna's hand on his sleeve. "Please, sir, everything we've told you is true! Lives are at stake. You've got to continue the search. Tom...."

"Lt. Torres," he said coldly, "unhand me."

B'Elanna desperately searched her mind for a way to convince him when she heard someone laughing. She couldn't imagine who would be stupid enough to laugh at the admiral until she turned and realized it was Harry. It wasn't a happy laugh, but more like the strained hysterical laugh of someone with nothing left to lose. Everyone else looked shocked, but she noticed that Paris simply appeared curious. 

Sisko and the doctor moved forward and helped Harry to sit down. As the doctor began scanning him, Sisko explained, "I'm sorry, sir. Mr. Kim has been sleep deprived. Dr. Bashir has begun treating him."

B'Elanna tried to move towards Harry, but the admiral kept a strong hand over her own on his arm. Ignoring her, he looked in fascination at Harry. B'Elanna guessed that it had been a long time, if ever, since anyone had laughed in Owen Paris' face.

His cold smile restored, the admiral asked, "Ensign Kim, would you care to explain yourself?"

Catching his breath, Harry explained, "I bet it was some ride. I always laugh when I imagine the look on his face. He likes to play it so cool, but he must have been scared out of his wits that time."

"What ride would that be?"

"The one in the old S-Class shuttle."

Realization dawned on B'Elanna as Harry described Tom's first flight with his father, something the two of them did alone. "Yes," she continued Harry's story, "with no warp drive and manual helm control, it would have been quite a struggle for anyone on a stormy day."

Bashir was raising a hypospray towards Harry, but the admiral signaled him to wait."But for a nine-year old..." Paris stated noncommitally.

Smiling, Harry replied, "For most nine-year olds, it would have been impossible to keep her steady. What's amazing is that an eight-year old did it."

"Yes," the admiral replied after a moment, "I suppose it is amazing." He turned to Sisko. "I want everyone out of this room. See that we are not disturbed." 


An hour later, the admiral stood to leave once again. "I will have 20 starships joining the search by morning. There are circumstances I'm not at liberty to discuss, but I can tell you that Starfleet cannot continue to search indefinitely. If we don't find them within a few weeks, then even my authority will not be enough to sustain the search."

B'Elanna wanted to hug this man who she did not understand. It completely escaped her how he could go from being so cold to being so dedicated to finding his son. If she thought Tom was a mystery, she now saw where that came from.

"Thank you, sir," was all she could say.

"There's one more question I must ask today," taking a deep breath, Paris continued, "was the accident that made the slipstream collapse Thomas' fault?"

Behind his cool appearance, both B'Elanna and Harry saw the pain in Owen Paris' eyes. "No, sir," Harry interjected. "We have no reason to believe that it was Tom's fault. Right now, we don't know exactly what happened, but I do know Tom. He wants to help everyone get home and he's the best pilot. I'm sure he's kept Voyager flying." 

"Hmm," the admiral murmured noncommitally, his blue eyes focused on Harry.

Harry let escape some of the guilt he'd been carrying around. "It's possibly my fault...if I didn't send back the correct phase variances...."

"I hope you're right that my son was not involved," the admiral said over his shoulder as he walked out the door. "I know he never appreciated my love for him. But if he repeats the disasters of his life before Voyager, or if anyone else has died as a result of his irresponsible behavior, I'll see that he's prosecuted and sent back to prison."


Hour: 2019

They couldn't get it all done by nightfall and since the crew were exhausted by the hard work and thin air, Chakotay decided not to press them after dinner. Some, like Paris, could remain in the shuttles overnight. When Janeway invited him to her quarters for an after dinner coffee or tea, Chakotay agreed. Although he had a suspicion he might not like what she had to say, still, he could use a break. 

Lights on in the shelter, they sat at her table, he with a cup of replicated tea and she with her replicated coffee. "What's our status?" she asked him.

He swirled the tea before answering her. "Ten of the shelters are up. The bathrooms are working. The replicators are struggling."

She grinned at her first officer. "I'm not surprised."

"The foraging crews came back with a number of edible plants and reported that there are fish in the river. The doctor's giving them a more thorough analysis. If the replicators need a rest, it looks as if we'll be able to survive."

"What's the status of our energy reserves?"

"Right now, we're fine. There's enough dilithium for Tuvok to make the round trip to Voyager with no problem. However, T'Sem identified some mineral sites and soon we'll need to send mining crews out to make sure our reserves stay at a safe level."

"How much longer can we use the replicators and recyclers?"

"For awhile. Once the doctor clears all the plants and fish we'll be able to begin switching over to native foods. Just as on Voyager, we'll have to ration replicator credits until we're sure we have a stable supply of energy. And that may not happen."

"And the switchover to native foods?"

"Only a day or two. Let's hope we find something more edible than leola root and pleeka rind."

They both laughed even though Kathryn knew he hadn't really been joking. She noticed he looked weary. "Tired?"

"You could tell?" he grinned at her, the mild sarcasm registering with them both. 

"I've been working on the memorial service. Tom and Neelix have been helping me with it."

So that's what they had been talking about for so long. "How's it going?"

"I was wondering if you had some thoughts."

He told her truthfully, "I've been doing my best not to think about it. We've lost so many...."

"I know." She swallowed and he could see the thin sheen of moisture over her eyes. "I hope you'll say some words for those you were close to."

He nodded and brooded on his tea. The losses hit him hard, like a surprise attack from behind. He'd kept his grief at bay through hard work. This short period of rest had caught him with his guard down. When he could speak, Chakotay said, "Yes. I'll say something."

"Thank you."

He wondered if she was going to bring up the tension between them over the feasibility of flying Voyager again. She didn't do it directly, instead she came at it obliquely.

"Chakotay, it's important that we present a united front to the crew. They need our leadership."

"I agree."

"Then you'll back me up in trying to get Voyager operational?"

"In public? After we've discussed it thoroughly among ourselves? After we have all the facts? Yes. Then I'll back you up. In private, I will always give you my best counsel."

"I need your support."

End Part 8