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Lena hurried through the doors and straight over to one of the workstations. James followed looking less confused and a bit more worried.
"This isn't even the Sickbay we used to use," he said.
Lena shrugged, "yeah well, it's quicker to walk and climb to this one." She typed a few things into the console. "Hmm, this might work. It might be a huge drain though."
"That'll shorten the time we have here. We've already shut down most of the ship," James said. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
"Yep, positive," Lena answered.
A figure shimmered into existence between them. He looked around until he spotted them both, he focused more on Lena though. As he glanced again from her to James, his face started to light up. "We did it? We escaped finally." He grew angry a little too quickly, "I thought the days of not telling me anything were over."
James stared at him awkwardly, "sorry Doc, it's not what you think."
"You're only a copy of Voyager's Doctor," Lena started to explain.
"Yes, I know that," the hologram in front of her answered, cheering up a little. "The Enterprise needed a doctor. The choice was a backup of the Enterprise's EMH before it was stolen by the Equinox, or a one of my handsome alter ego when he was dealing with the nightmare alien from the Crazy Horse."
"Yours was more up to date," Lena muttered.
The backup Doctor was very offended at that comment. "That wasn't the only reason. I was always the more superior EMH."
"I'm not arguing with you," Lena said, a little offended herself.
James smirked to himself, neither of them noticed it before it faded away. "I'm sorry, but the Enterprise hasn't escaped the sphere. Voyager's in here too."
"Oh," Backup Doctor's face fell. "How did that happen?"
"I was hoping you'd tell us. Starfleet witnessed you go into an anomaly leading into the sphere," James said.
"Oh dear," Backup Doctor looked even more concerned. "That must have been before I was activated, I'm afraid. I don't know anything about that."
"Well long story short we're here and we caught up with you," Lena said. She glanced at James then back again. "We're back at the Erayas system. Do you know it?"
The look on his face answered her question. He actually looked a bit scared at the thought. "Yes, yes of course. I assume because you're calling it that, that it survived the wave."
"More or less," Lena muttered.
James winced a little at her answer. "We need someone to watch the ship while we check it out. Um..." The Doctor's face turned a little blank and strangely pale despite him being a hologram. "What?"
"What happened to the crew?" he asked.
"I was afraid of that," Lena said quietly as she walked to one side.
The Doctor watched her with the same look on his face, then turned to James hoping for an answer.
"We don't know," James didn't give him one. "Again, I was hoping you would know."
"No. The ship was damaged, we were trying to conserve power. I offered to shut down until I was needed," Backup Doctor said. "There were some injuries from the last tower heist. Now I'm thinking you probably don't know what I mean."
"I do, it's okay," James said.
Backup Doctor nodded timidly. "We failed, we were forced to retreat. That's all I know about that."
"That was probably the one where we just missed you," James said.
Lena walked back over to the two, she stared at Backup Doctor intently. "Can you tell us anything, especially anything about Erayas?"
"How much do you know?" Backup Doctor asked.
"This could take a while. We've got to help the people on the planet," Lena said with a bit of frustration in her voice. Backup Doctor seemed concerned at that.
"We can worry about the Enterprise and its mission details later. It's Erayas we have to worry about now and we're on a strict time limit," James explained to Backup Doctor. "All we know is that during your attempt to destroy the Soft's towers, a wave hit them."
"Yes, we barely escaped from it," Backup Doctor nodded.
"Right now it's sitting inside an anomaly that drains energy and causes hallucinations..." James continued.
"Hmm," the Doctor interrupted.
Lena folded her arms tightly, "yeah interesting, now you get it. The planet's dying, we need to get these people off. We're the only crew though."
"Where's Voyager?" Backup Doctor asked in a worried voice.
"Somewhere outside. We're the only ones who don't hallucinate while in here," James replied. Backup Doctor was more confused with that answer than he was without it. "We just need you to watch the ship. Keep an eye on the power and systems, beam us back."
"Ah," Backup Doctor was relieved. "Yes, I could do that. There's one problem though." He noticed Lena was getting more irritable by the second. "I cannot leave Sickbay remember."
"I already know that, we can transfer control here," Lena said.
"Oh well, at least you have it all figured out," Backup Doctor said, forcing a smile. "Although the people you're rescuing will likely be suffering from delusions as well. That may cause a problem."
Lena and James glanced at one another, Lena's shoulders fell and she walked away again. James' head dipped slightly. "It could be worse on the planet due to exposure, or it could be an intelligence that targets ships as they're the only means of escape. I don't know. Either way, we can't leave them there. We'll have to think of something."
"I see, the hallucinations trick the people inside into staying," Backup Doctor thought aloud. "Once you start the rescue, I may be able to figure out how and a cure. In the mean time though, they may have to be sealed away from any ship's systems."
"Yeah, I was thinking Cargo Bays and the Holodecks. It depends how many there are," James said.
Backup Doctor's forehead quickly filled with lines as he thought about it. Then he noticed Lena still pacing around with an irritable look still on her face. He focused back on James who had been keeping an eye on her as well. Backup Doctor didn't say anything, the pair shared a look of worry.
"This planet's energies have been drained as well?" he eventually questioned.
"Looks like it. The towers probably sped up the process," James replied.
"Hmm. I'd recommend extreme caution. We've had to abandon a couple of worlds that were lost causes," Backup Doctor said, guilt evident in his voice. "Also if the anomaly is anything like the wave we saw, the anomaly will have extreme environmental effects on the planet too."
"You're not wrong. It looks like the temperatures have forced the survivors underground," James said.
Backup Doctor nodded. "Before you leave, give me access to the sensors. I don't want either of you going down unprepared, or at all if it's too cold."
James glanced briefly at Lena. She seemed to have calmed down but was staring ahead of her, barely moving. "Well, it's not like we can go down without a plan either."
Once she got comfortable on the chair, Jessie rested a large bowl on her belly and started to dig into its contents.
"So, where did you get the genius impression from?" she asked. "I'm serious."
Damien slowly turned his head to give her a cold look. Of course it was as effective as Harry challenging anyone to a fist fight.
"You should have known that would happen," Jessie continued.
"Would you shut up for five minutes?" Damien hissed.
Luckily for him, Jessie didn't take that seriously. "I'm just saying if you were honest and less well... Damien, people wouldn't keep showing you up like this. I'd be a lot nicer and say too bad, you tried."
Damien rolled his eyes. "Are you capable of being nice to anyone who isn't a blonde super freak that doesn't sparkle?"
"Why, am I being too mean to you?" Jessie mocked him in a cutesy voice.
"Hardly," Damien scoffed, then he smirked. "It just made me think. It's a good thing you did pick him."
"What?" Jessie frowned.
"Any normal guy would probably get his crap kicked in every day and it would be his fault too," Damien continued to smirk. "At least you picked a schmuck that can survive it."
To his surprise Jessie wasn't that mad, she just laughed. "Oh that's... that's funny. Cos I picked on you before. Believe me I wasn't trying."
Damien stared at her again, his eyes wide with anger. "Yes it is funny and true. He's a psycho, you're a psycho." He turned his head to look ahead of him. "Oldest kid's a psycho. Oldest girl's one of those quiet psycho's in making. I heard about the I'm okay with being a hostage daddy, if you ask me that's a glutton for punishment psycho. The third one; adopted wuss to make it seem to others like you don't actually breed psychosis. That one you're carrying is probably the next chosen evil one." His smile was back, "can't wait for that one. No, I can... I don't want to witness its birthday."
He finally stopped talking to gauge her reaction, only to find Jessie wasn't where she was before. She was at the replicator replacing the food in her bowl with a disgusted look on her face. "Hey! You listening?"
"I rarely do," Jessie replied. Her finger poked the food in the bowl, then it went into her mouth. "Better."
"Yeah well you missed out on something," Damien muttered. "Me, the glorious ruler of the universe. You and Mr Psycho my top evil lieutenants. Too bad you're annoying and the kids, I could do without, especially that smallest one."
Jessie sat down on a chair that was further away from him. The amusement she had on her face earlier was gone, it was mostly blank now. "One more whine about Amy and I'll rip it off."
"Rip what off?" Damien asked.
Jessie shrugged casually, "I dunno, haven't decided yet."
Damien smirked again, chuckling to himself. "That reminds me, why did you change the brat's name? Laziness?"
"Really? You must badly want to know what I'd rip off," Jessie shook her head.
"It was awful to hyphenate her name, did you figure it out?" Damien said.
Jessie couldn't help but roll her eyes as she dug into her new bowl of food. "She introduced herself to Miral as Amy, she prefers it. It's up to her. Besides, the first part of her name was hard for her to say at first. Why do you care?"
"Would you have still changed it if she introduced herself as wah?" Damien snickered.
Jessie scowled at him dangerously. "Babies cry, what's your excuse?"
"Ha, good one!" Damien faked a laugh. "But no, seriously."
"If this is your idea of small talk, you really shouldn't bother," Jessie said.
"Would you prefer Chakotay's whimpering apologies and excuses?" Damien asked.
Jessie sighed, "no."
Damien climbed to his feet, dusting himself down once he had straightened up. "It's really a pathetic fall from disgrace, if you ask me."
"I didn't," Jessie groaned.
"Though to be fair, he did nothing but whine about how unfair it all was and how useless your Slayer was," Damien continued anyway. "He should have done his job, it would be better if he didn't exist." He rolled his eyes, "the fool, he had no idea."
The bowl was mostly empty when Jessie put it to one side. "He's never been a fan of James. That isn't news to me."
"Well it wasn't for me either but I still had to listen to it," Damien complained. "She's dead cos of him, now even in death he's all she thinks about. What about me, boohoo. If anyone's obsessed it's Chuckles, you should watch out."
"Yeah right," Jessie scoffed. Her eyes shifted side to side as her face grimaced. "Wait, what was that last part?"
"Boohoo," Damien answered.
"Okay I asked for that. Before that," Jessie said, shaking her head.
Damien shrugged without a care, "I implied that Chakotay thought Janeway dug her own kid. Why not, there was that whole Lena and James thing. Personally I don't see the appeal. Too blonde."
Jessie went from confused to bemused in a matter of seconds, then she went back to confused. "Um, I'm going to start with eeew."
Damien nodded, "yeah I would too."
"There was no Lena and James thing, they were just siblings before they knew," Jessie said. Damien sniggered, he was about to respond to that. "Oh and when a woman loves her child more than a husband, you go straight for the incest angle? That says more about you than Chakotay's jealousy about it."
"Husband? I thought he imagined the whole wedding thing," Damien mused.
"That's the part you focus on?" Jessie groaned.
Damien smirked a little more than usual. "Got your attention didn't I? What can I say? Chakotay seemed to be blaming even the Tolg Janeway on sonny-boy. Sad isn't it?"
"Goes with his doing the inevitable speech. Makes sense," Jessie said.
"That," Damien rolled his eyes. "Was what he was bitching at the whole time. He did everything to avoid it, he said. All I know is it was the reason he made a last minute transport to and from Voyager before we left. Dunno what that was about..."
Jessie didn't either, she only frowned.
"He said she'd never forgive me, I'll do it this way. Whatever."
The ground crunched with every step they took. Lena looked back every now and then to see if their trail had caused any further cracks to the surface. That last step her foot felt like it sunk down an inch, when she looked back there was what she assumed was a hole. It was too dark to tell any of these things. The sky was taken over by a sea of black. There were patches, but they weren't much better. The weak light from the nearby star tried to break through these cracks, it was as effective as a small lamp trying to illuminate through thick curtains. They could only see a few metres in front of them thanks to their flashlights, even they were struggling to break through the crippling darkness.
It wasn't the worst part though. A sharp cold had lingered in the stale air, no longer being pushed away by a breeze. Thanks to the Doctor they had changed into appropriately thick clothes, gloves, boots, as well as visors with masks to keep their faces covered too. Despite that Lena could feel some of that cold trying to get in through any tiny cracks it could. Her eyes went up to the star in the sky, which looked like it had been up for a few hours. She thought it probably wouldn't make much of a difference. As its light was more pitiful than a moon's on a cloudy night, the heat from it would be just as useless.
She looked to James right beside her. He seemed to be focusing on the tricorder in his other hand, it was probably a distraction from this depressing place.
"The cave entrance should be directly in front of you now, two metres," Backup Doctor's voice said into both of their ears.
Lena was starting to regret swapping a commbadge for the communication devices in the ear muffs. Compared to the eery silence of the planet, his voice was a loud shout.
James looked up from his tricorder, simultaneously raising his flashlight higher. Lena raised her hand to do the same. They both stopped to avoid walking into a rock formation they couldn't see.
"Are you sure?" James asked.
"Yes... no. Hang on."
The silence after that was more awkward than eery.
"I told you to walk straight for two hundred metres. From your position turn left thirty eight degrees and walk three more metres."
Their faces were covered, but the pair could tell the other was pulling the same annoyed face.
"Doc, we can barely see past our feet here. How the hell are we supposed to keep straight in a place like this?" James snapped.
"There's no need to be rude."
"You were rude first. You're the one that's supposed to tell us when we're veering off, we can't tell," James grumbled.
Lena was focused on both of their voices, it gave her a distraction from this place for the time being.
"Here I thought Slayers would be at their peak in the dark."
"God! I don't even like the dark, how can you..." James continued snapping at him. Lena started to laugh, putting him right off. "That's why I'm looking at the tricorder, it's easier."
"Then you shouldn't have been able to veer off."
Lena couldn't stop it, she continued laughing. James turned to her. "What?" he asked.
"Sorry, it's... I'll tell you later," Lena giggled.
"All right. Let's get our protractor out so we can turn thirty eight degrees," James muttered. He then rolled his eyes, "I've already moved, so you'll have to guide me."
"I see you haven't changed one bit. I'm trying to help."
"I'd say we'd be better off walking forward until we bump into a mountain, then feel our way into a cave," James said.
Lena shook her head to stop her laughter, it worked for a moment. She grabbed a hold of his arms to try to turn him back around so he was facing away from her. "That's thirty eight."
"Close enough," Lena giggled. The pair started walking again, slower this time just in case.
Their flashlights continued to show nothing ahead of them for a few steps. Then Lena's caught something a little bit more solid to the right of her, she quickly tapped James on the arm to stop him.
"That looks like a rock wall," James said as he pointed his light there as well. To the left of it, there was still nothing but darkness. "Must be the cave. Good spotting."
"Well of course."
"Thanks," Lena said at the same time as the Doctor. His response just made her laugh again.
"If I tap the headphone things, will it cut him off?" James muttered.
"If you do it hard enough, yeah," Lena replied.
"True," James said with a shrug. They slowly made their way towards the darkest part of the path ahead of them. Finally the torch was picking up a lot more. They could both see the rock wall surrounding them; crevices, shapes or at least outlines of them.
The further they went the lighter it seemed to be, it felt warmer as well. They both thought it was just their senses getting used to it, at least until they spotted a small ball of fire in the distance.
A creak ahead of them forced the team to stop. It seemed to travel along beside them and fade away behind them. Zare raised the rifle in her left arm while reaching for another weapon attached to her belt. That didn't make Tom feel any better at all, it just made him more nervous.
"Stay back," she said.
"It was just the building falling to bits, bad building," Tom tried to convince himself.
Zare shook her head, "no, someone's ahead." She then pulled a disgusted face and glanced behind her at him. "What are you, five?"
"Hey, men can be scared too. There's nothing wrong with that," Tom muttered, his fear gone for the moment.
Zare rolled her eyes and continued down the corridor without them.
"I think she was talking about the bad building part, you insecure idiot," B'Elanna grumbled.
"It was a joke to lighten the mood," Tom hissed back.
The Doctor sighed and stayed out of it again.
Zare reached a T junction, her head shot to the right. The awayteam saw a blur leap at her from that side, pushing her to the ground and out of their sight. B'Elanna was about to rush to her aid, but Tom and the Doctor grabbed her arms to stop her.
"We don't know what that is, and it has knocked her down," Tom warned her.
Zare didn't stay down long. She rolled to one side and aimed her rifle in the direction her attack came from. What she saw facing her wasn't what she expected. Standing on the other side of the junction was a middle aged woman staring at her in shock. The woman's hands were raised almost in a surrender pose.
Without relaxing her weapon, Zare rose to her feet. The two women spoke at once.
"Who are you?"
"How did you do that?" was Zare's question.
The woman stared at her suspiciously, her hands lowered to her side. Her entire body was still tense. "That's a Starfleet weapon, but you are not..."
"Human, no," Zare said. "You appear to be one, but."
The awayteam were confused as they couldn't see anything, they could barely hear the conversation. B'Elanna moved forward first, the two men followed her carefully.
Still suspicious of the other woman, the stranger raised her hand to point it at her. Zare kept her rifle trained on her, finger on the button ready to fire.
B'Elanna stopped in between the two, her head turned side to side to look at them both. The woman seemed to relax a little at the sight of her. B'Elanna then focused on her.
"So you are Starfleet," she said. Her hand lowered, but Zare's position didn't falter. "So it's true, thank god."
Tom and the Doctor stopped behind B'Elanna, they looked on at the woman with surprise on their faces.
"What's true?" B'Elanna questioned.
"Voyager is here too. We were starting to feel like it was a lie to lure us into a trap," the woman answered, clearly very relieved to see them.
Tom frowned, he glanced at every member of his team before stopping at the stranger. "Um yes, Tom Paris of the USS Voyager. This is B'Elanna, The Doctor and Zare."
"You've forgotten my name, haven't you?" the Doctor muttered.
"And you are?" Tom questioned, ignoring the hologram for now.
"Rachel," the woman answered. "Of the USS Enterprise. More or less."
"More or less?" the Doctor said warily.
Rachel's face turned a little red with embarrassment. "I wasn't really a member of the crew, just a passenger."
"You're not alone here, are you?" B'Elanna questioned. In the corner of her eye she noticed Zare still pointing the rifle at her. "Zare."
"She's not a normal Human," Zare warned them.
Rachel giggled, it made her seem completely harmless to the others. "You're one to talk."
"Well yeah, I'm not Human at all," Zare muttered.
B'Elanna turned to put a hand over the tip of the rifle, hinting that she should lower it. Zare stared blankly at her and refused to let her budge it.
"It's okay, I understand your concern," Rachel said. "I practice witchcraft. Not practice literally of course, I'm more than proficient enough to use it."
"Oh," Zare said. She finally lowered her rifle but just a little bit so it was still pointing at the newcomer.
"Oh," Rachel smiled at her. Zare felt like she was mocking her but it seemed harmless to everyone else.
"A witch, huh. I didn't know there were any witches on the Enterprise," Tom said. "You'd think I would."
"You didn't have a question asking that on your crew sign ups," Rachel said in a teasing voice. "To answer your earlier question; no I am not here alone. Perhaps you can help me," she directed the Doctor's way.
His interest was piqued. "If you have injured, please take me to them right away."
Rachel's smile wavered, "I wouldn't call them injured, at least not just yet."
"What do you mean?" Tom asked.
Harry wandered the centre of the bridge almost in a complete circle, then he'd stop to stare at the viewscreen before doing the same again but backwards. It was starting to annoy everyone who could see him doing it.
"Stop that, it's making me dizzy," Jodie hissed at him.
Harry turned to her with a confused look on his face. "Stop what?"
A lot of noise came from the Tactical station. Everyone turned to look at it and Craig manning it.
"Incoming. Three ships have dropped out of warp," he said.
"Where?" Harry asked.
"Looks like they're heading into the planet's orbit," Craig answered. Jodie groaned as Harry started to circle the middle of the bridge again. He veered off towards Tactical and hurried over to it. "They don't match anything we've seen so far, their weapons are not powered."
"Tom reported that it was definitely a pre-industrial civilisation. If they're not up to anything, why are they here?" Harry wondered aloud. "Can you put them on screen?"
Craig only nodded his answer. Harry quickly looked up just as the viewscreen changed to show the planet. Three ships shaped like small airplanes flew alongside it.
"They're scanning the surface," Jodie told him.
Harry felt his shoulders tense up a little, he couldn't take his eyes off the alien ships. "Okay. So if they don't leave after they've done that, we should start to worry."
"We should worry anyway. They're closer to the planet than we are, they won't have as much trouble beaming people from an underground structure," Craig said.
"Great, the glass isn't half empty, it's completely empty," Harry muttered back.
Craig rolled his eyes in response. "Yeah, not everyone has Federation ideals and rules. Some aliens may see pre-warp civilisations as easy pickings. These aliens could be the reason we got a distress call..."
"Yeah, yeah I get it," Harry butted in a little impatiently. "Why don't we just give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being. Keep an eye on them." He turned towards Jodie, "if we contact our team, will our new friends notice?"
"I dunno, I don't recognise the signature they're using," Jodie said. "They could be looking for coffee beans for all we know."
"If it was a Tolg ship, I wouldn't rule it out," Craig commented.
Harry sighed, his eyes still fixed to the viewscreen. "We need to find a way to get our people out and quickly. That transporter module in the mine isn't going to help us much in a pinch."
"I thought I was being too paranoid," Craig said.
Harry quickly glanced at him and back at the viewscreen. While still watching it he headed over to the Opps station. "Well it can't hurt to try, can it? Contact our team anyway, they have to know what's happening."
The awayteam followed the woman Rachel down a narrower corridor. B'Elanna noted that the structural damage seemed to lessen the further they walked.
Zare meanwhile kept on her guard at the back, with both her long and short range weapons. Every now and then she'd turn around and walk backwards.
"It's in here," Rachel said as she stopped at a door. At least it looked like it used to be. Now all that was there was crumpled metal hanging onto a door frame. She walked straight inside.
B'Elanna nodded at the others. They waited for her to quickly check her tricorder.
"Well?" Tom asked nervously.
"The lifesigns are definitely coming from here. They're weak, they are probably injured," B'Elanna said.
"Let me go inside first," Zare said.
Tom turned to her, suddenly feeling uneasy at her suspicious face. "Got something to share with us? You've been distrusting since we met her."
"An Enterprise crewmember we don't know, who's a witch as well. I'm just saying we should be cautious," Zare said.
B'Elanna nodded at her. "I agree."
"Her bio readings confirm her to be Human though," the Doctor didn't agree. "She's not a Softmicron in disguise, if that's what you're concerned about."
"No, she's right. Be careful," Tom said, giving Zare a nod. His commbadge beeped, then started making a lot of static noise. He quickly gave it a tap. "Voyager we can barely hear you. Just in case you can hear us, standby."
Zare walked through the damaged door and into a large room filled with strange looking computers. That wasn't all though. The wall was lined with what looked like pods with glass windows. Some of them had lights shining out of them, some were black.
Rachel stood at one of the central computers, looking on in concern. She gestured to the strange pods on the walls.
"This is it?" Zare asked.
"Yes," Rachel answered sadly.
Zare started to follow the wall slowly. The first pod she stopped to look in through the glass. Nothing. The second one shocked her enough to make her step backwards.
"Zare?" Tom called from outside.
Zare tried to shake off her shock. "It's okay... I guess."
The rest of the team carefully walked inside as well. They headed straight over to where Zare stood. Tom was especially curious about what Zare was staring at so he looked as well. The first detail he noticed was the human eyes staring right at him, or at least that's what he felt like they were doing.
"My god," B'Elanna echoed his worries.
The figure inside the pod was standing completely still. Even her blonde hair seemed to have frozen mid movement. Her face was blank. Tom assumed she didn't suffer or was expecting this.
"Danny," he said quietly.
B'Elanna had already moved on to the next pod. When she found that empty she walked to the next one. A much taller man stood inside this one, she could just make out the bottom half of his head. "Ian," she said.
Zare walked around the opposite way, keeping a close eye on Rachel as she passed by her. Rachel didn't appreciate it, her eyes rolled. Zare didn't notice or care when she did that as she focused on another pod.
This one housed a different girl with black hair tied into a pony tail, her face scrunched in a mild frown that didn't match the seriousness of her situation. The girl had been taken and put in there when she was more concerned about someone insulting her.
The name of the girl was on the tip of her tongue. Zare knew her, but the name wasn't instantly coming to her. "Um... Tina?"
"Who?" Tom said, quickly glancing over his shoulder.
"No? That name sounded Human enough," Zare muttered. "Um she was a bit odd, liked to clean."
"Triah," the rest of the awayteam corrected her.
"Oh well. Once we get everyone out of here, we can finally stop torturing Scott with the only babysitter who hasn't quit on him," B'Elanna said with a slight smile.
Tom tried to laugh but he was too worried for that. "I dunno, I think Scott is the one doing the torturing there."
The humming was so out of tune the pans were starting to rattle. Neelix didn't really care, he was in a good mood despite everything. He had so many ideas for new recipes, he couldn't wait to pick one to try it out. Which one was the most difficult part.
As he walked into the Mess Hall he knew something was amiss before he had even turned the lights on. He almost didn't bother, the thought of it scared him.
A child's giggle made him rethink turning the lights on again. In the end he had to know. "Computer, lights."
The sight that Neelix was greeted with brought him to his knees in despair. "Nooooo!"
Scott spotted him, he looked up from his art with a big grin on his face. Not that anyone could see that as the boy was covered head to toe in a sickly brown and slimy residue. It wasn't just on him either, it was literally everywhere.
"Maybe we should let Craig have a go, he is the kid's uncle," Tom said mid wince.
B'Elanna shook her head. "Don't. Scott's a hero. Neelix hasn't been able to make a Leola root pie for weeks. Although Triah will have a fit if she ever found out."
"Um Commander Tom," Rachel tried to get everyone's attention. When she did she appeared to be a little annoyed. "Perhaps we shouldn't be wasting anymore time with random crap."
The Doctor laughed until he saw Zare's face get even more suspicious. "It has been two years since this crew were exposed to this series. Give her a break."
"Fine," Zare muttered.
The Doctor got back to scanning one of the occupied pods. "I'll have to do this one at a time. It is a primitive type of stasis, similar to twentieth century freezing. Thawing them may send their bodies into shock."
"That's okay, Doc. Do what you have to," Tom said.
"I'd feel better if I could transport them to Sickbay. Without a direct transport though, that may cause more harm than good," the Doctor complained. He sighed to himself. "Where shall I start?"
Tom's hand went up to tap his commbadge at the same time as B'Elanna spoke up. "How come you're not in one of these things?"
Rachel was taken aback, "oh, that's..." She noticed Zare staring at her blankly. "It's a long story. Suffice to say I was prepared and protected myself from it, so I was able to escape."
Tom and B'Elanna glanced at each other warily. Zare's grip on her rifle seemed to get a little too tight, she had to calm herself before she broke the handle.
"We may need the long story. Looks like we have time to kill," Tom said, briefly glancing towards the Doctor.
"It's kind of like a cloaking field, except it protects against the effects and doesn't hide you," Rachel tried to explain but it only made them more confused and or suspicious. She sighed. "You're right. I need to tell the story."
Before she could continue Tom's commbadge bleeped at him.
"Voyager to Paris, is that better?"
"Thank god," Tom sighed in relief, he tapped it quickly. "Did you get anything I tried to tell you?"
"Bits and pieces. I wish I had my own good news," Harry's voice said.
"What do you mean?" Tom asked, his face turned pale.
"A fleet of unknown ships have entered orbit. They've been scanning the surface for a while now."
The Enterprise circled around the dark, baron looking planet before them. A small abandoned ship lay almost in its path. It attempted to veer off a little avoid it, but instead the smaller vessel bounced off its shields and drifted out of orbit. The Enterprise continued like nothing happened.
Backup Doctor winced as he watched one of the screens on the station he stood at. It appeared to show the Enterprise's orbit of the planet, a red dot flew outside the screen. "Oh dear. I need to make course corrections faster," he said quietly.
Something else to the left started to blink, he quickly checked that. "Um... shield strength has fallen to ten percent."
"What, already?" James' voice was surprised.
"Yes, this anomaly does like to absorb energy and fast," Backup Doctor said nervously.
"What was the course correction for?" James asked.
"Oh, just a erm... minor thing," Backup Doctor lied. He turned his attention back to the centre where he was looking before the course correction. "The further you go the clearer it gets. I'm detecting twenty six lifesigns up ahead and some minute energy signatures. It should be in a large open cavern just ahead. Can you see anything yet?"
Lena walked by a lit torch sitting in a rock formation to her left. There were two more either side further down. She or James couldn't see anything else but that. They had both took off their masks and visors so they could see a little better.
"Not yet," she replied.
James' tricorder was making quite a bit of noise, he kept staring at it as they walked. Lena noticed he was growing more uncomfortable with every step.
"What?" she asked.
"Huh?" he said, glancing at her. "What, what?"
Lena nodded her head at the tricorder. "Something wrong?"
"No, I'm getting the same readings as the Doc. We should be close," James said, quickly looking back down at the tricorder.
Lena held out her arm to stop him, he had to bump into it before he noticed it. "What if that was something else? Why aren't you watching where you're going?"
James frowned at her as she didn't look mad, just sounded it. "It's okay, I'll know when something's coming."
"Really?" Lena said, waving the arm he bumped into in his face.
"I knew it was you," James said with a shrug.
Lena rubbed the arm before putting back by her side. "Yeah, so you walked into it because?"
"Sorry, I was just thinking. These people aren't going to be..." James answered.
Lena sighed loudly, interrupting him. "You don't need that now, we can see in here." She snatched the tricorder from his hands, or at least tried to, he kept a firm grip on it. Only then she realised something. "You're claustrophobic. Sorry, I forgot."
"I wouldn't go that far. I don't..." James said, ending with a sigh of his own. "I don't like being being in small, cramped places yeah but I don't freak out or anything."
"Hmm," Lena didn't buy it.
"It's just the feeling of being trapped and helpless. Who does like that? I'm fine," James said. "The tricorder will tell us and it already is, more than our eyes can right now."
"I guess so," Lena mumbled. She continued walking, so did he.
"So what was so funny?" James asked. Lena made another hmm sound. "You said you'd tell me later."
"Oh, that. I just thought," Lena started to answer but she glanced back behind her at him, making her hesitant. "It's still not later enough."
"Really? It'll take us a few more minutes to reach this cavern," James said.
Lena's shoulders tensed slightly. "I dunno how to explain it. Ever since I got back everyone's been on egg shells, and serious all the time. Even you, although you at least tried to be normal around me. Which I appreciate by the way."
"Even me. What did I do?" James questioned.
"Well, like I said you were trying. Sometimes it felt genuine but the other times it felt like you were trying too hard," Lena replied quietly. "It was like you've gotten older, grown up a bit in the last two years and I've fallen behind, when I was already a lot younger than you to begin with." She groaned angrily. "See, I told you, I can't explain it."
Despite her annoyance James laughed as quietly as he could. Lena turned around to send him a disapproving scowl. "Me, grown up a bit? Good one."
"Well you know what I mean, or you should," Lena muttered. "You were playing it safe, worried about consequences. You seemed a bit more serious, less angry. I don't know. Something's changed, I know that much. It was nice to see the easily annoyed, sarcastic James again. I didn't think it was traits you would outgrow, they were just who you were. At least that's how I remem... well figure you'd be even when you were old. You know?"
The pair had stopped again. They stood there silently for a short time. James had long since stopped laughing, his face was serious.
"I haven't changed that much Lena. I thought I did, but... no. I did think you'd want someone acting normally around you, but I'd sometimes mince my words when it looked like you needed me to. I'm sorry about that," he said.
"I want to believe that but," Lena said, shaking her head. "This mission's a good example. You're sensible in some ways, it's creeping me out."
James had to smirk at that comment. It made her smile a bit. "You've got a lot of catching up to do if you think that." He gestured his head forward to hint they should keep walking. Lena gave him a nod and turned back to do just that.
The path sloped down gradually, turning subtly to the left. They had almost walked a full circle when the tricorder beeped at them to stop. It wasn't the only one.
"Two lifesigns just around the corner. Looks like they're standing guard."
Lena looked to James to find him strangely bemused and shaking his head. They were too close for her to really question why. She didn't have to though. "I was going to say before that we don't know how these people will react to us." Lena was about to shush him when she realised that his lips hadn't moved, her shoulders relaxed a little. "The last time they encountered Humans, we were attacking them and this anomaly appeared."
"So... if we go in and pretend to be unarmed they may try to shoot us on sight, but if we go in with phasers pointing they'll think we're here to finish the job," she sent her own thoughts his way.
James casually shrugged and turned his head in the direction they were walking before. Lena watched him apparently mulling it over, or so she thought, she couldn't hear him this time. He gave her a nod before starting to walk again.
"Unarmed it is," she whispered to herself.
The rest of the path took a sharp turn to the left. As soon as they turned it they were greeted by two humanoid male aliens. Each of them held what looked like phaser rifles. Both of them were dangerously thin and pale, every bone in their faces could be seen easily. They immediately pointed them at the pair and charged forward. The amount of fear on their faces chilled both of them.
"Stop! Now!" one of them shouted.
James had already stopped. Lena was right behind him, she stopped to stand beside him. "It's okay, we're not..."
"What is that?" the other demanded, pointing his rifle at the tricorder. "Drop it!"
Before either of them could respond the other alien's fear seemed to waver, he side stepped closer to his teammate and started whispering something to him.
"Yeah, good call," Lena said plainly.
"I was counting on them not knowing what Humans looked like but... yeah," James said back to her quietly.
The less nervous alien stepped forward towards them. "Who are you, how did you get here?"
"We're here to help you. Do you have a leader we can speak to?" James answered.
"That doesn't answer my question," the alien said in a threatening tone.
Lena briefly glanced between James and the aliens. "I'm Lena, this is James. We were retrieving one of our ships when we discovered this planet." The two aliens seemed even more suspicious than before. "We're willing to take you with us, but there's not much time left."
"All ships in this place die, and quickly," the more nervous alien said.
"I know, that's what I meant by not much time," Lena said before she could bite her tongue.
"Hmm, I've never heard of a starship surviving the cloud," the nervous alien said warily. "Although if you were one of them we'd all be dead by now."
"One of what?" Lena asked.
"Unfortunately they do not waste any time introducing themselves, they kill everything that breathes," the braver alien replied.
Lena pulled a worried face, "how do you know that if they kill everything?"
"There have been some survivors in the early days when we still lived on the surface. Here, there's nowhere to really hide," the angry alien said. He stared intently at them, "obviously."
"Look I understand that you're suspicious of us, but..." James said.
The angry alien chuckled bitterly. "You understand nothing. You've been outside haven't you? You've seen our home."
Lena rolled her eyes. "For god's sake, he's not trying to belittle you. Believe me, he's a lot more obvious than that."
"Lena," James said mid cringe. Lena huffed in response. "I've seen this before, that's why we're here. I wouldn't have known otherwise."
"So you'll save us with this magical ship of yours?" the alien quite literally spat at him. "Stop wasting our time. You're here to lure us outside."
"If I'm really the enemy, I would probably remember this crap while killing you. Why risk annoying us?" James muttered. Lena smirked in response, until James sighed to calm himself down. At least the alien didn't seem as angry as he was before. "There's nothing magical about it. It just hasn't been completely drained yet... again."
"Again?" the nervous alien said.
"I told you already. We retrieved our ship and found you with it," Lena said.
The two aliens' grips on their rifles tightened, they raised them up slightly. Both James and Lena reached for their own weapons just in case.
"The death ship," the nervous alien stuttered.
James looked confused, "what are you talking about?"
"The only ship in the entire sector that wasn't ours," the angry alien said. "It came and then this happened to us. You claim it's yours. We're not fools." He approached slowly. "Leave."
"So the Ship of Death title's been passed onto the Enterprise. Voyager will be relieved," Backup Doctor said. Luckily his voice came from the ear protection the pair wore so only they could hear him.
"You're wrong. The Enterprise had nothing to do with this. They were trying to destroy those towers," Lena argued. "They were in the right place, wrong time. It's not..."
The angry alien fired his weapon at their feet to make them back off. Despite the look of the rifle, it wasn't energy based, it fired what looked and sounded like a bullet. "I won't miss next time," he hissed.
"Don't do this, it's dangerous here. We can prove we're not your enemy," Lena stuttered. James put a hand on her shoulder, she looked at him with quiet dismay. For now anyway. She watched him walk back the way they came. For a moment she hesitated. The alien pressed a button to reload quickly. "Fine."
They kept walking until they assumed they were out of earshot of the aliens. As soon as they stopped Lena directed a harsh glare James' way.
"What the hell was that? There were only two of them," she snapped.
"Your way of proving it was attacking them?" James said a little too calmly for her liking. "It's not easy to dodge weapons like that. We'll think of another way."
"They're going to die if we don't do anything. It's a risk sure, but what's two of us against twenty of them?" Lena snapped.
James tried to hide the worry all over his face, he turned to one side. "If we die who warns the other survivors? Who will fly the Enterprise out of here when the Doc goes off-line? Better yet, if we're dead, how would that help these twenty odd people? They'll still stay in their hideout. It accomplishes nothing."
Lena growled and stomped off, fortunately away from where the aliens were. James was about to go after her to stop her but she already had. Her back was on him as she faced the cave walls.
"There's always another way. I'm not giving up on them," he said.
"Bull!" Lena spat. "You told me you single handedly took out a group of people attacking the Flyer. Were you just full of crap?"
"No, they didn't know where I was. They weren't expecting an attack like that. That's the point," James said. "If I had done the same thing but had been in the Flyer like they expected, it wouldn't have gone as well. The same's true here."
"Fine," Lena said.
"Um I hate to interrupt, but sensors are picking up another cave a kilometre away, also hosting alien lifesigns. On another topic I'm struggling to re-route power to the impulse engines."
"We already know the way out of the anomaly, take it from Stellar Cartography," James said.
"All right. Now can I weigh in here?"
"You're going to anyway," James said.
"True. I don't know anything about this Flyer situation you mentioned, but I really doubt that you were restricted to a linear corridor there. There's only one way in, if you can't talk to the guards..."
James' eyes widened in surprise, "you think we should attack the people already suspicious of us? That's not like you Doc."
"I don't like it either, but it doesn't seem like you have a choice. It won't be long until the transporters themselves are off-line. We don't have enough power to direct to any of the remaining shuttles either."
"See, we haven't got time to think of some overly complicated plan," Lena teased, now a little calmer thanks to the Doctor agreeing with her.
"Nobody likes a told you so," James said. He shook his head, "I don't think it's a good idea. We shoot their guards or knock them out, whatever, but then what? Do you think the people will listen to us then?" Lena's shoulders sank a bit. "The only way to get them out then is to chase them out. We're just going to have a mass panic and that's before they're kidnapped onto some strange ship that they think is the bringer of death."
"Hmm, it would make our situation a bit more troublesome. At least if they come willingly they'd stay in the designated areas. Panicked people who believe they've been kidnapped will try to escape, hallucinate and try to stop the Enterprise from leaving."
Lena sighed impatiently. "Okay, fine you're right. It still doesn't change the fact that we have no other way to get them out. They die or they're scared of us. Which is better?"
James barely heard the last part, he was too deep in thought. He quickly looked down at the tricorder. Lena was a little impatient with him for it. "There's never just one way to do things." He smiled at her, throwing her right off. "Mum taught me that."
"Oh no, the Jane-way. I don't like where this is going."
The smile was a little infectious, especially with the mention of their mother. Lena couldn't help but smile back.
"Um, maybe you can try your luck with the other cavern I mentioned. Perhaps rumours of rescuers will help convince this group. Or maybe..."
"We don't have time for that, you were right there. We probably only have time to rescue two groups before we have to escape," James said.
"So what's the plan?" Lena asked.
James glanced down at the ground, then at the tricorder. He walked further up the path which was still spiralling. He stopped right when it straightened up again. "I'd explain but it would take too long, just follow my lead."
Lena frowned as James knelt down and clenched one of his fists. She was about to ask when he threw the clenched fist at the ground. It went right through it, sending very dry dust everywhere.
"I don't know, maybe..." Lena mumbled. James pulled his hand back, revealing a new hole where it was before. "Maybe send a shovel down."
"There's no need," James said before doing it again beside the other hole, making it bigger. Lena knelt down on the opposite side of it. She was shocked to not see more rocks or soil, just a dark hole. Then she heard a little wince from James that made her look up at him. Even in the poor light she could see his fists were red. "The ground's weak, the anomaly and towers have sucked out any energy it could find."
"Yeah but it's still rocks you're smashing," Lena protested.
James stood up, this time he enlarged the hole by stamping on it. He shook his head and rolled his eyes. "That would have been easier."
"Rock smashing? Even you would break your hand on rocks!"
"It's not that bad, these tunnels have been weakened, corroded by the lack of... whatever in the land," James said with a shrug. "It was a lot softer than rocks."
"Mmm hmm, I guess it's better than getting shot," Lena said. She was about to help him out by stamping the ground as well when a scream echoed up the corridor. More soon followed, each one more blood curling than the last. She didn't even think about it, Lena ran back down the corridor.
"Lena, wait!" James yelled after her, after briefly glancing down at the hole. It was more than large enough for him to get through it. He sighed, the screams were getting more and more frequent. His hand reached into his thick coat to retrieve a phaser rifle, then he stepped right into the hole.
"What's going on? Hello?"
James landed on top of some metal crates in a dank room. There were other crates and various equipment lying around. The screaming was a lot louder, it sounded like it was just outside. Now he could hear a lot more than that, including bangs and sickening cracks that reminded him of bones breaking. He hurried over to the door while positioning the rifle ready to fire in his right arm. Before he opened it his left arm rushed into his jacket again and to his back.
The two guards she had been willing to fight to save everyone were lying on the ground, in a pool of their own blood. Whatever happened to them happened fast, their eyes were wide open and their faces only appeared to be slightly startled. Lena had hurried back there as fast as she could but seeing this stopped her cold.
Screams just ahead brought her out of the daze. Armed with a phaser rifle as well as a large sword, she ran around the two men and through a narrow opening. What she saw when she did chilled her even further to the bone.
Bodies littered the ground; each one beaten, some broken or stabbed brutally. She was too late, the screaming had stopped.
A shriek got her full attention, it came from her far right. Her head turned to see two figures running to what looked to her like another passage opening. The one doing the chasing was gaining and fast. Lena ran forward, aiming her rifle at it. The blast struck it but all it did was stop them from running for a moment. She quickly looked down to check if the rifle was definitely on high stun. Lena continued to pursue it as it merely shook off her attack.
James had kicked the door in his way down to see a similar sight to her. The people he found had just sat down to a very modest dinner, some of them were children. He tried to avert his eyes but it was too late, the sight of them made him feel sick.
A battered door just opposite the one he left shook. It suddenly flew open. The only feature he could focus on were the pair of black and hollow eyes leering at him. Without looking his hand leapt to the rifle's settings. The figure before him pounced toward him like a wild animal hunting its prey. He fired the rifle straight at it. It screeched as it fell to the ground in front of him.
James carefully walked over to it, still on his guard as it twitched from the pain it was in. His eyes flickered to the settings on the rifle, the setting was high enough to kill. The figure before him was alive, but suffering enough to keep it down. Its arm shakily reached forward towards him. He wasn't sure if it was still trying to kill him or was begging for a mercy kill. Either way, he knew what he had to do.
With a grimace he pointed the rifle back at the thing, this time on a higher setting.
"No, no, please no," a girl stuttered. The figure approached, no empathy was in its cold black eyes. The girl had ran into a dead end, she couldn't get by whatever it was. All she could do was cower and hope it would be quick like everyone else.
Another unfamiliar figure ran in behind it. It swung around to confront the new arrival.
"Come on, surely I'd be more fun for you," Lena tried to taunt it.
The black unfeeling eyes made it hard for her to tell if it was working. It was as black as empty space. She got her answer as its arm swung out to knock the rifle from her arm. The force of it threw her arm back as well, the shock of both stalled her for a moment. With her left she blocked another incoming attack. Before it got a chance to counter she kicked it in the chest to push it back a bit. It gave her the few seconds she needed to raise her other weapon.
Its face didn't change, it made no sound as it ran at her. It was so fast Lena didn't have time to dodge it, she was pushed hard into the rocky wall. Even that strained a bit at the strength of it. Small rocks fell from above.
The girl crawled over to collect the tossed aside phaser rifle. She stretched to grab it and pull it over. It barely made a scraping sound, but the alien's head swung around to stare at her anyway. The girl froze in fear, her hand still clutching the weapon.
Lena pulled the sword away from them both, the alien looked back at her as she moved it around to plunge it into its back. Its own hands grabbed her by the throat, barely daunted by the stab wound. Lena felt she didn't have a choice, her eyes tightly closed as her hand swiped the sword up as far as she could. The sound it made, the slight resistance she got when it hit bone, it churned her stomach.
Finally the attacker collapsed to the ground. The girl gasped in response and covered her mouth.
Lena still had her eyes closed, she didn't dare open them. For a minute she really thought she was going to be sick at what she had just done. It brought her to her knees.
James stepped out into the open area where most of the bodies were. He tried not to focus on them, he had his sister to find now. The sound of many footsteps distracted him, they were getting louder. Reluctantly he aimed his phaser rifle in the direction they were coming from, just in time for a group of aliens to run in also brandishing weapons. All of them were dismayed at what they saw, their anger took over and was aimed at him.
"Drop the weapons, do it, do it now!" the leader of them screamed at him.
"We didn't expect that much. It was just another mission, like the others," Rachel said while leaning against the computer. "Only it wasn't. They were ready for us. Someone must have warned them. I guess the Enterprise had quite a reputation at this point."
"I'll bet," Tom commented.
Rachel folded her arms and looked to the floor. "I don't know the details, I'm not a bridge officer. I heard that we were forced to flee. I think they chased us, or at least somebody did. The ship trembled, and a lot as well. I was with my partner when something..." She cringed as she tried to figure out a way to describe it. "It was like the ship hit something while at warp. We were thrown to the floor. How we survived it..."
B'Elanna slowly glanced at everyone in her team one at a time. Only Zare seemed to have a look on her face that matched what she was feeling. Something wasn't right about this.
"The intruder alert alarms were blaring. I tried to contact the bridge to find out what we had to expect. No answer," Rachel explained. "Call it a sixth sense, but I knew I had to do something and fast. I barely had time to utter the words to the spell before it happened."
"What?" Tom questioned.
Rachel glanced down to the floor, slowly shaking her head. "A blinding light. I tried to close my eyes but even that couldn't stop it. The next thing I remember was waking up in that pod."
"I still don't understand. How did your spell protect you?" Zare questioned.
"It's hard to explain. I've used this in one of the towers before. It basically hides your aura, your presence from otherworldly things. Only for a short time though. I'm not powerful enough to keep that going for more than an hour, luckily it was enough to shield me from this... stasis unit," Rachel answered.
"You've been in the Game Sphere towers?" Zare asked.
Rachel sighed. "I feel like I'm being interrogated here."
"Miss Rachel, you have to understand. We haven't been in the sphere as long as you, the knowledge of that is still fresh to us," the Doctor said gently. "You'll have to forgive the many questions, it's natural."
"Then why is Voyager here if you don't know anything?" Rachel asked.
"We followed the Enterprise through what we thought was a wormhole. Obviously it wasn't," Tom replied meekly. He didn't like the look of confusion on Rachel's face when he said that. "The towers?"
"No, I didn't go in. I cast the spell on the team that did though," Rachel replied. "It didn't hold long enough, but that's another story."
"So the spell shielded you from the effects of the stasis unit. You walked out of it," B'Elanna said.
"That's the basics of the story yes, but it was a lot harder than simply walking out of it," Rachel said, glancing around at all of the pods. "This isn't the only room. I've found two others. Some units have failed, some are empty and one..." Her body shuddered.
Tom was feeling the same way. "One what?"
Rachel answered by just pointing at the shrivelled door they walked through, or rather around. "Looked like that."
"Oh," Tom said nervously. The goosebumps on his arms felt like they were developing again over the top of the ones already there.
"I think there's another room. There's a few people still missing," Rachel said.
The Doctor managed to get one of the pod doors open. A cloud of smoke briefly escaped from it. He quickly tended to the person inside it.
"How many of you were there?" B'Elanna asked.
"I don't know exactly, I'd say about eighteen," Rachel answered.
"Eighteen?" Tom said in a worried voice. He quickly counted around the room, "twelve pods, almost half of them are empty..."
"Some of them have failed. I wouldn't count them," Rachel said sadly. "I never knew the exact crew compliment, but there were so little of us, we all knew each other."
Zare walked around the room to have a look at all of the pods. She stopped at the ones without lights to get a closer look inside. Tom and B'Elanna watched her, both of them were uneasy as she lingered in front of one.
"So how many are missing then?" Tom had to ask.
"Two," Rachel replied.
"There's more than two failed machines with occupants in here," Zare said.
"Yes. They looked like they failed long before we got here," Rachel said.
Zare continued staring at the window of one of the darker pods. She could make out the outline of something but it was too dark to really see much else.
"So the previous guests, huh? I'm liking this less and less," Tom said quietly. A light metal creak made him jump a little. Everyone looked around to the source, which was Zare pulling the pod open.
"What are you doing?" B'Elanna demanded.
Zare chose not to answer until it was completely open at least. It was barely half way when something fell from it. Once it hit Zare it broke into many pieces and scattered all over the floor. Everyone else's jaws dropped.
Tom tried to avert his eyes from it but they were everywhere he looked. Brown and rotten, miss-shapen, some even broken. The bones of the poor soul had finally escaped its captivity, but at a cost.
The bridge's lights were dimmed, apart from the red alert one flashing every now and then. Harry stared at the viewscreen, directly at the three alien ships now flying their way, at least in the viewscreen's perspective.
"Well?" he questioned.
"They're definitely heading for the moon, but they're not in any hurry," Jodie answered.
"Shields, weapons?" Harry asked as he looked over his shoulder.
"Their shields have been up the whole time. I can't even detect their weapon systems so even if they have any, I wouldn't know if they're powering them," Craig replied.
Harry sighed, his clenched fists relaxed a little to give them a break. His whole body was still too tense. "Try again to contact our people. We may have to leave orbit in a hurry. How long?"
"They should reach the moon at their current speed in three minutes," Nathan said.
"We don't even know if we'll be able to beam them up through the interference from orbit," Craig pointed out.
"If anyone has any other options, I'd like to hear it," Harry said bitterly.
"We don't know if they're hostile. They're not rushing for us, not powering weapons," Jodie said.
Craig didn't look as sure as her. "There's nothing on or around the moon but us. I really doubt they're on their way here for a holiday. They may just think we haven't detected them."
"Sneak attack," Nathan muttered.
"Hmph, they could be wondering why we're here just as much as we are," Jodie huffed.
"Two minutes," Nathan reminded everyone.
Harry sat down in his own chair with a deadpan look on his face. It wasn't hiding his sense of impending doom very well. He groaned just as a tray of slop appeared in front of him. "No I don't want any dumplings, Neelix!"
"They're cookies!" Neelix snapped. He ran off crying into the turbolift.
"Well you did ask for any remaining senior staff to come to the bridge," Jodie said. "Be thankful it was just him."
Everyone groaned angrily almost in unison. Jodie knew exactly why, her face turned beetroot red.
"God, you know most of this series wouldn't have happened if it weren't for people jinxing everything," Harry muttered.
"I hate to sound like a warning message, but those ships have entered orbit of the moon. They'll see us very soon," Nathan said. "If you want to get out of here, I'd do it now."
The turbolift door opened. Everyone froze with fear, they knew who it would be.
Luckily they were wrong. Kiara stepped out of the lift, making everyone sigh in relief.
"Oh I wouldn't if I were you," she said.
"Wouldn't what?" Harry asked nervously.
Kiara wasn't alone, Annika skipped out after her. For once her catsuit wasn't a blinding colour and or pattern, it was one of her old black ones.
"Relax," Kiara replied.
"Hi guys, anyone order some fan service?" Annika giggled.
"What?" Craig said instinctively. He berated himself internally, he knew what she meant.
Harry shuddered quite violently. "Maybe we should let those aliens put us out of our misery." He considered it for a few seconds. "No, Nathan take us out of the moon's orbit and get us to the planet as fast as you can. Jodie..."
"Yeah, yeah. Try and get a lock from there," Jodie said.
"I was going to say stop tempting fate but that's good too," Harry muttered.
Annika stood next to a disgusted Kiara, slouching her hips to appear more alluring. Only it looked like her torso was about to slide off the hips instead. Her arms were behind her back like she was hiding something.
Voyager's impulse engines powered up, the starship picked up speed to glide around the large moon to the other side. It broke away once the planet nearby was in sight.
Three vessels behind them turned completely around to give chase.
"The aliens ships are on our tail," Nathan reported.
"No surprise. Craig keep our shields up until the very last moment. We'll have a very small transporter opening, so..." Harry said.
Jodie groaned, "oh crap."
"What?" Harry dared to ask.
Jodie shook her head, "I hate this kind of pressure."
"Craig," Harry complained into his hand.
Craig rolled his eyes, "I can't monitor shields and possible incoming attacks as well as transporters. You can forget it."
Harry quickly got up to run towards the Opps station. Voyager trembled when he was half way, then again when he arrived. The red alert klaxon decided to remind them red alert was still on.
"Ah well, good news is I can detect their weapons now," Craig said. He suddenly found a round flat object waving near his head. His head turned slightly to the left to see Annika was responsible.
"There, now you're not as tense. I'm helping," she giggled. Somehow despite her waving a fan near his head, she was still maintaining her bizarre posture.
"Yeah, that's exactly what I thought she meant by fan service," Craig said seriously. He tried to ignore her, despite the draft he kept getting.
"Yeah great," Harry said to both of Craig's comments.
The planet was now covering most of the viewscreen. Every few seconds their shields would flash up, the ship would shake at the same time.
Jodie continued working while Harry manned the back part of her station. She kept getting annoyed at her part.
"The team's not responding to communications, I don't think it's getting through," she said.
"The aliens weapons aren't helping, shields are holding for now though," Craig said. "Should we fire back?"
"Negative, I'm still hoping it's a misunderstanding and our non aggression will help them realise it," Harry said. "Long shot I know." He turned back to the front of the Opps station to assist Jodie. "Try that."
"Right," Jodie mumbled as the latest attack pushed her forward. "I think I got it. Voyager to awayteam."
Tom quickly tapped his commbadge. The static was all he got for the moment. It sounded different to him, every few seconds he'd hear something shudder. "We're here."
"The alien ships..." Harry's voice barely was heard over the static. "Attacked us. If we... trans... be quick."
Tom looked worried, he glanced around the entire room. Rachel's though was worse than everyone else, he focused on her. "Is there anything you can do? Teleportation?"
"If I could do that I wouldn't still be here," she said as politely as she could.
"Well we can't transport if Voyager's in a battle," Tom said. "Harry? How are you faring?"
"How am I airing?" Harry wondered aloud. Jodie shrugged.
"Sharing, caring, faring, daring..." Nathan said.
Harry groaned, "faring. Well..."
Voyager trembled several times in the space of a few seconds. The Tactical station sparked at the back, making Craig duck.
"Shields 56%," he replied, wincing slightly. The draft increased, the next thing he knew the fan flew into his face. Since it was Annika it was strong enough to push him over.
"Oopsie," she giggled.
Kiara glared in her direction. "I think the airing encouraged her."
"Oh god," Harry stammered. He was about to rush over to Tactical when the ship suddenly stopped, forcing everyone who wasn't holding onto anything to tumble over. Luckily Annika was one of them. "Uh erm... not good Tom."
"The aliens started to scan us with a beam of some sort," Nathan reported. "It's kinda acting like a tractor beam. I dunno..."
Kiara hurried over to Tactical to have a look. "Um, shields are about 50% ish. I think."
Jodie glanced towards Harry with a worried look on her face. "I've seen this before." Harry turned to her, he was about to ask her to go on. "When Voyager was attacked by those little ships. It's exactly the same, with one minor detail I guess."
Right on cue the intruder alert signal replaced the red alert klaxon. Jodie was a little mad at it. "Oh come on, that wasn't a jinx!"
Harry sighed and took a look at the readings she was getting. "Energy signatures on Deck Thirteen. The shield matrix there is responding."
"Um did you... say... thirteen?" Tom's voice stuttered.
A few more shots from the aliens shook the ship again, the last one made the back stations shut off without sparks for once.
"Uh, forty. No, thirty nine," Kiara winced. She heard Craig groan on the floor near her feet.
"The internal shield seems to be blocking the energy signature from growing, but our external shields can't keep up with this," Harry stated. "Um Kiara?"
"Yeah," Kiara said.
"Get Craig up so he can return fire," Harry said.
Kiara pulled a face, "no, no... I think I can do that." She looked at the weapons panel and immediately regretted saying that. Seconds later she was kneeling on the floor trying to help Craig to his feet.
Nathan grew annoyed with his own station. He quickly tapped something on it, one part of it opened up to reveal Tom's manual helm controls.
"Harry, respond. I can't hear you."
Craig was finally back on his feet, yet still a little dazed. "You do know there's only a few torpedoes left, right?"
"Yeah, we're still replicating them. Try phasers first," Harry ordered.
One of the alien ships hovered over the top of Voyager, with a blue beam in between the two directed towards the lower decks. The other two ships swung around along Voyager's port and starboard to fire a few more shots.
Voyager fired back from its saucer as they flew away to turn back around. The phasers didn't even slow them down, they returned the favour. A torpedo was quickly fired at one of them before it got too close again. It barely scraped by the aliens shields.
"If we had more torpedoes we may be able to do something but..." Craig said, interrupted by another hit to the shields. "We don't have enough. Phasers are useless."
"We need to get out of this tractor beam," Nathan said.
"I dunno, I kinda like it," Craig retorted.
Nathan rolled his eyes but he was smirking too, "you really need to practice your sarcasm Craigy, it's a bit tired."
Craig shook his head and mouthed, "Craigy?"
Harry turned around to work at the back of the Opps station. A display that looked like an animated bar graph constantly changing got his attention. "The Deck Thirteen forcefield is online, looks like it's drawn enough power from the beam."
The shields around the lower decks fluctuated, the beam trying to break through seemed to struggle to keep its hold on them. Another shield fluctuation sent a spark through the beam and up into the alien ship. Once it struck it, it was violently pushed away, taking the beam with it.
Voyager took that opportunity to move away and quickly. The other two ships continued its assault.
Tom paced the same three metres over and over again, the worry he was feeling was making him sweat a little. Most of the time he and the others could only hear static.
"23... cent, thirteen... disabled," Craig's voice said.
"Any torpedoes...?" Harry's said.
Tom sighed, stopping his pacing. Instead he walked over to the Doctor and the person he rescued from the pod, who was now lying on the floor.
"How's Danny?" he asked.
The Doctor briefly glanced up from his tricorder. "Stable, but it'll take a while for her..."
"Sorry, do you think the others will be the same?" Tom quickly butted in.
The Doctor was taken aback, "yes, the rest of the pods were the same. There shouldn't be any complications."
"Good," Tom sighed. "Harry, respond."
"Tom... hold on. We... hold them off... Torpedoes..."
"Forget it," Tom said, interrupting him or so he thought. The rest of the room stared at him. "It's too risky, get Voyager out of here."
"What? Did... just say?"
"Retreat. Get help," Tom said. He only got some extra static as resistance, although he was sure it overlapped a voice. "You're no good to us dead, Harry. Go. We'll be fine."
Apart from the occasional shudder from weapons fire, the bridge was silent. Everyone but Annika looked uneasy.
Harry steeled himself despite what he was feeling. "He's right. Nathan, get us back to the anomaly. Warp Nine." Nathan nodded and did what he was told. "Time to get re-enforcements."
Everyone felt the familiar jump to warp. The shuddering seemed to have stopped.
"They're not pursuing," Craig said.
Jodie frowned, "why? They had us."
"Doesn't matter for now. Can you get me that damage report, Craig?" Harry ordered.
"I'm a little busy right now," Chakotay said from underneath and technically inside the helm. All Jessie could see was his lower half lying on the floor.
"Say what you want about Damien but he's still smarter than you, I doubt me bothering you makes any difference," she said.
Chakotay groaned but he didn't budge. "He probably rigged it so we'd stay trapped."
"Whatever, it's time for some answers," Jessie said.
"Annika suggested something about shuttles, she probably did this to stop him leaving," Chakotay muttered.
"No," Jessie sighed. Her hand rubbed her belly while she sat on the nearest thing. A few beeps simultaneously told her to budge to the side a bit. "Ooops. I mean about Janeway."
She heard a groan echo from inside the helm. Chakotay's hands went by his side and he dragged himself out from under the console. He gave her a leave it alone look.
"You talked about doing the inevitable, and you said it wasn't allowing Janeway to stay dead," Jessie said. "You planned the Tolg thing all along. Your attempt to turn me evil was to avoid it."
"I guess..." Chakotay mumbled. "I did imply that, yes."
Jessie shook her head. "Why? You knew it was an awful plan, even when you were broken. That should have been your first clue not to do it."
"Jessie, if I were to tell anyone my reasons it wouldn't be you," Chakotay said softly to avoid annoying her.
"Why not? I'm probably the only one you should tell," Jessie said, folding her arms. She ignored Chakotay's confused stare for now. "I guess I still think you're in there deep down. The Chakotay I knew cared about Janeway more than anything, he wouldn't do this for himself."
"Like James did when he brought you back," Chakotay bluntly said.
A growl escaped her lips as she pulled herself off her seat. "My god, what's your issue with him? Oh no the woman I love has an adult kid, that means she's been with another man. The horror!"
"Stop it!" Chakotay snapped. He hurried to his feet to not only confront her face to face but to avoid being kicked. "I never cared about that. In fact I did all I could to support her during the years he didn't know. I even joked with her that they were as stubborn as the other... similar."
Jessie raised her eyebrow while her shoulders did too. "Yeah, I always wondered why James drank coffee despite hating it."
"Hmm," Chakotay felt a little smirk brewing. He resisted it, he was still a little angry with her anyway. "My issue was he treat her like crap to the very end. That end was only brought on cos he couldn't finish off one vampire. A vampire that he has proven he's capable of fighting."
"That's not fair," Jessie shook her head. "Frenit is more powerful than some random vamp. Besides, you don't just suddenly get over abandonment issues overnight, it can take years, decades. James was ready to forgive her, it was just unfortunate that their last meeting was after an argument. You're telling me family never argues?"
"Forget it. You don't get it," Chakotay muttered.
Jessie took a few steps forward, mainly so he couldn't walk around her. "You're right, I don't. What I do understand is something that no one else does. I've been dead and brought back, I know what it's like. Let me tell you, it's terrifying, it's traumatising. When I woke up I was alone, trapped in the dark. You have no idea what that's like." Her shoulders slumped, her head dipped. "I got out, things did get better. Janeway though, she'll still be trapped. I can't believe you never considered that."
"So, you wish James never brought you back. It wasn't worth it?" Chakotay said quietly.
"It was much better than the alternative. I don't remember much, but I know that I was alone and lost wherever I was," Jessie said. Her head shook timidly. "I am grateful for it now..."
"You're making no sense. I thought what I did was awful," Chakotay said.
"It was. You wanted me to do the same to her, only she wouldn't be able to get out. This was your better option. You thought Janeway waking up in her own grave was better than waking up inside an undead collective. I doubt the plan was to leave her so... yeah I don't get it. Both were bad, don't get me wrong, but I know which one was better," Jessie said.
Chakotay's face stiffened, she noticed his right hand clench tightly. He stepped forward so he was a little too close for her. Instinctively she backed off a couple, he was able to walk around her. "Just like that James' original plan wasn't for you to wake up in your coffin, huh?" he muttered.
"Well... no," Jessie stuttered. "Demons attacked before it could be opened, that's not..."
"The point," Chakotay finished for her. "I thought it was." He kept his back on her.
"The point is I don't believe the real Chakotay would subject Janeway, the woman he loved, to something so awful. For his own selfish reasons," Jessie said. "For the Tolg plan to still be a lesser of two evils, you mustn't have realised that breaking her free from them would be impossible. Why do it if you didn't think you could?"
Chakotay laughed bitterly. "You believed James when he said he brought you back to save the ships from demon invasions? That just gave him an excuse. He was the selfish one."
Jessie turned around to face him, but all she faced was his back. "No, he admitted that he did it for himself and our children. He didn't hide from the truth, unlike you."
"You're wrong," Chakotay muttered.
Jessie stared at him intently, "why?"
Chakotay only shook his head in response. He walked towards the door at the back without another word.
Both weapons clattered to the ground. To show the aliens he wasn't a threat to them, James extended his arms out so they could see his hands. They slowly approached, yet were still high on their guard.
"Don't," one of the ones at the back warned. "Could be a trick."
"It's not attacking, it doesn't look like one of them," a man at the front said.
"I'm not," James said, shocking some of the doubters. "I came here to help you, but I was... too late."
"It, he talks," another stuttered.
"See," the man at the front said back to them. He took a few steps closer but didn't lower his weapon. "You didn't do this?"
"No. What did is back there," James answered, pointing behind him at the door he left. "I've seen this before. Regular people are experimented on, turned into them."
"You're not from this world are you? How did you get here?" the man at the front questioned.
"I have a ship in orbit," James replied. He expected the suspicious looks he received for it. He quickly continued before they could counter it, "the anomaly is draining its power as we speak, we'll have to leave soon. You can come with us."
"How do we know it's not a trap?" a woman in the group asked.
James sighed and looked down. Not for long though as wherever he looked he could see bodies. "I guess you don't," he answered honestly. "Clearly I'm not who you thought I was, so maybe we can start from there." The aliens looked at each other, then back at him with their eyes narrowing. "I'm not wrong am I?"
"That doesn't mean you're not a threat," another alien said.
"It doesn't mean I am either," James said. "Your planet's dying, what have you got to lose here?"
The alien at the front gestured his hand down. The rest reluctantly lowered their weapons slightly. He slowly stepped forward yet again, the two men barely had two metres between them now. "There is no way out. Other vessels have been lost trying. The idea that you've survived the anomaly at all is ludicrous, never mind finding us inside it."
"I assume you know of a ship called the Katane," James said. The aliens were shocked to say the least. "It escaped, and it's even been back inside the anomaly since. As long as the trips are short, any ship can survive in here."
"We have no reason to believe you. The enemy would know about one of our most famous ships as well," one alien said. Some of the group raised their weapons again despite their leader's wishes.
"Wait!" a voice yelled from afar. Everyone looked to their right, while James to his left to see the girl and Lena running over to them. "These people came here to save us. This woman saved my life, she even killed the thing that attacked us."
James walked over to Lena despite the aliens' weapons pointing at him. He noticed the blood all over her clothes and arms, then the distant look in her eyes. "Are you hurt?" She shook her head, doing so brought her attention back to the bodies on the floor. James realised this so he put an arm across her shoulders and stepped to one side to block the view of it. Again she shook her head.
"So there were two," the leader said quietly. He turned to his companions. Most of them still looked suspicious. "Stand down."
"Sir?" one of them stuttered in dismay.
"The alien is correct. What choice do we have?" the leader said. He bowed his head, "we have a week's worth of food left, and that's only if we ration it to a bite a day. The land is brittle, cave ins happen multiple times in one day. We can't stay here much longer. If they are leading us into a trap, it will only speed up the process."
"But Ersa sir, colony twelve said that..." a nervous alien tried to butt in.
"Now's not the time for fear mongering," the leader, Ersa said. The suspicious ones reluctantly lowered their weapons like the others. "So, do you have a transport waiting somewhere?" Ersa asked.
James turned his head to face him without moving. "We couldn't risk that. You'll need to get as many people as you can to the surface. We'll..."
"The surface? They'll find us," one alien stuttered.
"As soon as we can get a lock on you we'll transport you to our ship and then to the Katane when we escape the anomaly. They won't have time to find you," James said.
"You mean Captain Shoytin is helping you?" another alien stuttered.
"That's... a long story," was all James could answer with. He turned his head back towards Lena. "Have you heard the Doc since the attack?"
"Yeah, but I was too busy. I didn't hear anything he said," she answered.
"Yes I'm still here," Backup Doctor said in unison with her last sentence. None of the aliens could hear him as his voice was confined to James and Lena's ear protection.
"You start the evacuation, we'll get in touch with our ship," James directed to the aliens. He glanced back at Lena, "do you want to? It would be best to talk outside of here, they'll only hear one side and we don't want to put them off further."
"Sure," Lena nodded weakly. She tried to give him a smile to reassure him, but he saw right through it. "Thanks."
James waited for her to walk by the aliens, who were now discussing things between them, and then outside the camp. He then walked over to his weapons to collect them. Before the remaining aliens could really complain or get suspicious of him again, he hid them again in his jacket.
"Do you have any idea how many people are left, or..." he asked.
Ersa stared ahead for a while, his eyes cast down. "I'm afraid not. We kept the sensors online as long as possible, but there simply wasn't enough power to maintain them anymore. We haven't been able to use them for a few weeks. At least, that's how it feels like anyway." He nodded at some of the aliens, they started to leave the camp. Two of them walked over to collect the girl before doing that.
"How many there were before the sensors went down would still be a lot of help," James said.
"No, it would not," another alien commented.
Ersa glanced back at her, then at their alien visitor again. "The reason we escaped to the tunnels had nothing to do with the temperatures outside. Even without power, our buildings are capable of maintaining heat for many, many months."
"You were exposed to the things that keep attacking you," James said.
Ersa nodded. "Not long after our sensors failed, they attacked us. The few that witnessed the attack claim it was fast and without mercy. Well..." He reluctantly looking around at the camp. "You know that part at least."
"All right, we'll figure something out when we get your group out of here. We'll have to discuss the towers at some point, but not..." James said. The remaining aliens frowned at him, he wondered if they knew what he was talking about at all. "Um, recently built power distribution towers?" Their expressions didn't change. "Never mind, evacuation first."
The Delta Flyer continued to drift in empty space, it was starting to lag to one side. A piercing white flashed behind them, Voyager flew from it and directly towards them. They didn't slow any further down though as they past by it. It looked like they hadn't even noticed the Flyer at all until the shuttle disappeared in a transporter beam. Seconds later it had jumped into warp again.
The occupants barely had the time to blink during all of this. Chakotay stared at the window for a while before finally saying something. "That was... I want to say interesting."
"More like anti-climactic," Jessie mumbled.
"Well you'd think we'd be used to it," Chakotay said.
Damien didn't know what they were talking about. He gave them an odd stare each. During the Chakotay one he then noticed the windows no longer showed space anymore, instead just the familiar walls of Voyager. Jessie and Chakotay heard him stumble out of his seat and run off.
"Do you want to?" Chakotay asked.
Jessie smiled, "as if you had a choice." She needed a few tries to get up but once she was on her feet, she was as quick as anyone else.
Meanwhile Damien had ran outside, only to be greeted by the open arms of Annika. He tried to stop himself but he had been running too fast. Before he could really stop on his own, he slammed right into Annika, knocking them both down. It got even worse for him, he landed right on top of her. She naturally started to squeeze him to death, and probably quite literally too.
"Aaaw, my Damy wamy wamy, I thought I lost you," she cooed.
"Oh god!" Damien screamed in horror and pain.
Jessie had heard all of this so she could stop in time. "Well that's worse than anything I can ever do to him." With a shrug she headed for the exit.
Chakotay stepped outside as well. His commbadge chirped. "Bridge to Chakotay. I don't know what happened to you but we haven't got time to really discuss it."
"You did seem like you were in a hurry. We didn't even detect you coming," Chakotay said. "What's happening?"
"We need the Enterprise back up and running as soon as possible, I need every one I can get on it."
"That doesn't really answer my question," Chakotay muttered.
"Oooh!" Annika squealed, luckily because of something else besides Damien. She leapt to her feet, taking Damien with her. "Me, me... pick me!"
"Okay, maybe not that desperate. Desperate enough to ask Damien though."
"Are you kidding? The Enterprise E has enough jokes made about it," Chakotay groaned.
Damien tried to pull himself away from Annika, her grip seemed to get even tighter. "Hey, that bottomless pit serves a purpose. It can be used as a joke but that's not its main function."
"What bottomless pit?" Chakotay asked.
Damien groaned in frustration for more than one reason. "Duh, where do you think Justin Timberlake really is? Dead... ha, you're naive."
"Again, that doesn't answer my bloody question," Chakotay said impatiently.
"Just try to get rid of Annika and report to the bridge please. We should rendezvous with the Enterprise in less than an hour. Kim out."
Chakotay stared ahead at the crazy ex drone and villain, he was tempted to leave them be. He groaned in disgust. "Why is it always me that has to do this?" It didn't take long to think of something. "I hear there's rabbits leaking out of a portal on Deck Thirteen."
"Oooh!" both Annika and Damien said at the same time. Annika let go of him and ran off. Damien was put off for a moment but he started to leave as well. Chakotay grabbed his arm.
"There's no rabbits," he groaned.
Damien huffed, "I knew that, I was escaping."
Thirty figures materialised around the Enterprise Cargo Bay. The transport wasn't even complete when a few of them started to panic at their new surroundings. The lights were flickering on and off, systems sounded like they were failing all over the place. It didn't help that containers weren't stacked up anymore, some were broken and most were lying scattered all over.
Ersa approached James as he looked around in anger. "I thought you said your ship was still okay."
"That's what I was told," James said impatiently. He tapped his commbadge. "Lena?"
Lena's form was still materialising when his voice spoke over the comm. Once it was over her head darted around at the many consoles that were failing. She hurried over to the helm.
"Lena, did you make it to the Bridge okay?"
"Yeah I'm here," Lena replied. "The Doc's done a crap job at maintaining everything."
"So I see. He said he was rerouting to more essential systems."
Lena shook her head as she quickly worked. "Obviously not. A lot of the Bridge systems are going off-line. Stellar Cartography is still okay despite being told to take power from it. Hang on."
"I think we should get out of here before we lose engines and life support."
"No, no, hang on!" Lena stuttered.
The lights remained on finally, but the aliens were still a little nervous.
"Power's been rerouted to the Bridge, Sickbay and the Cargo Bay. We should be okay for now."
"Good job Lena. I'd better go check on the Doc, we'll need him," James said. He turned back to Ersa. "Sorry about that."
Ersa sighed, "it's quite all right. It explains why our own ships never returned."
"About that; the anomaly will play tricks on you so..." James said.
"Yes hallucinations, you've already told us," Ersa said.
James took another look around. Apart from a few storage containers, the bay wasn't as badly damaged as the rest of the ship. His next glance was towards the only door he could see. "If I'm right, they shouldn't affect you too greatly if we shut down any access to our systems. There's no point trying to trick people when there's nothing to do."
"Just life support and lights. Everything else will be powered down, just in case. Oh and I just checked, the Doc's still online so that's not the problem."
"Your holographic doctor," Ersa mused. "It's too bad you don't have more copies of him to man your ship. It would help a lot in here. Have you considered finding out what makes you and your sister immune as well?"
"We already know, it's not something we can copy," James answered but the rest of the man's sentence was on his mind. "Why wasn't the Doc with us? Nobody even mentioned it."
Ersa was confused to say the least, "I thought he was here."
"He didn't even help when Voyager was here," James continued like he never said anything. His face turned a little pale, "ohno. Excuse me." He hurried to the exit before Ersa could say anything else.
Backup Doctor hummed one of his usual opera tunes as he hovered a regenerator side to side. James ran inside to see him trying to heal an empty biobed.
"Doc?" he said carefully.
"Just a moment," Backup Doctor tried to hush him. "Poor Lena twisted her ankle, I'll fix that first."
James walked over to the computer station nearby, while keeping a careful watch on the hologram. He had a much better view and he still couldn't see anyone on the biobed. "I just want to ask if you had any trouble with the power rerouting."
"Ohno, no problem. I'm a fast learner," Backup Doctor answered cheerfully.
"So how is everything?" James asked while he looked down at the station. Nothing looked out of the ordinary there. His fingers hovered over the EMH's systems.
Backup Doctor smiled proudly. "As I said, there's no problem. The power drainage is minimal at best."
James walked towards the office, still keeping his eye on him. Backup Doctor seemed more than happy to treat his imaginary patient. James tapped his commbadge, "Lena. We've got a big problem."
James was about to reply when he saw Backup Doctor walk over to the station he had been at earlier. He started typing something while muttering to himself. James hurried back.
"It's not working. I'll have to eject it," he heard him stutter in a panic.
"Eject it?" James said, his eyes widened. He ran over to stop him. Backup Doctor glanced at him and his own panic grew. He pulled out something to point it at him, luckily it was just a hypospray. "Doc, what's the matter?"
"Get away from me! You things... they're everywhere," Backup Doctor continued to panic.
"Doc," James tried to calm him.
"It's the only way to stop them," Backup Doctor stuttered. His spare hand flew down to the station, James reached out to grab it in time. "No, I won't let you destroy the Enterprise. I..." He again tried to attack him with the hypospray, only to get pushed away completely.
Desperate, he grabbed the nearest thing he could pick up which was the medicine tray. Instead of throwing it towards James, the tray was thrown towards one of the wall consoles, destroying it on impact and sending sparks flying. The Sickbay lights started to flicker off one by one.
"James, careful where you throw him. The main power connection I have to Sickbay has been severely damaged..."
"I didn't..." James started to protest, but then sighed. "Computer deactivate EMH."
Backup Doctor's jaw dropped as he disappeared.
"I'll pick up some supplies, once I'm gone just reroute what you can from Sickbay," James muttered.
Lena was more than confused, she was worried as well. "What happened? The Doc shouldn't be hallucinating."
"No, his program was glitching. I should have known the anomaly would still affect him."
"Oh," the colour in Lena's face disappeared. "I... I did know. I remember the Doc singing for some invisible audience while we here the first time. I should have remembered that."
"Don't worry about it, he's off-line now."
Lena looked across the entire helm, she quickly tapped something in. "No I should worry about it. I can't risk doing anything to Sickbay, it could overload. The power there is wasted and it's my... my fault."
"Lena I didn't think about it until now either. Don't be so hard on yourself."
"It would be a different story if it was actually your mistake," Lena mumbled. She read the station again, her heart sank. "We just have enough power to get us out of the anomaly."
"That's good. Take us out. I'll join you when I'm done."
"No it's not," Lena said quietly. "By the time we get back here, beam down, convince the next group, it'll be time to leave again. There's no way we'll be able to come in here for a third trip, let alone save everyone on this planet."
"We'll have a think about it on the way out and back, for now lets just focus on saving the ones we do have. Okay?"
Lena closed her eyes tightly, her fists clenched as well. "There's only one other way. When you bring the Enterprise back, everyone will be ready to evacuate."
She didn't get a response right away. "What do you mean when I bring it back? Lena?"
"I might get one more transport out of this," Lena said but only to herself. Her hand hovered over her commbadge, "sorry." Then she tapped it and immediately started keying something else in.
"Lena, don't you..." James said until he noticed he was cut off. "Damn it!" He ran as fast as he could.
The run back to the Jeffries tube was taking too long. A turbolift door was closer. He ran over to that instead. All it took was one push to open it up, the metal that broke off it clattered down the shaft. James quickly looked up to see if there was a turbolift in the way. For now he couldn't see one so he reached around to grab the emergency ladder and climb up as fast as he could.
The shaft seemed to never end, it felt to James like hours had passed since he had started climbing. Finally he reached the top. One arm swing did the same thing to this door that it did to the first one.
He already knew it was but he had to see it for himself. He was too late. The Bridge was empty. The viewscreen no longer showed the planet anymore, the blue mist of the anomaly had taken over it.
"No, no," James stuttered while he rushed over to the helm. What it said confirmed his fears. Lena was no longer on board the ship, and the Enterprise had been moving ever since their conversation. It took all the restraint he had to not slam his clenched fist into the nearest thing. "Lena."
Voyager dropped out of warp yet again, it pulled alongside the Katane and slowed down to a stop.
"Where... what?" Harry stuttered. "The Enterprise isn't here, but the alien ship is? Lifesigns?"
"None," Jodie answered nervously.
Jessie glared at the viewscreen as if it was its fault. Craig was still at Tactical sharing it with her. He nervously stepped to one side. Then he noticed a part of the station flashing at him. "Hang on. The buoy you left behind is signalling us."
"It's probably just our message," Harry said.
Craig shook his head, "no, it's not. It's not even an audio file, it's a data file."
Jessie turned her head towards him. Harry did as well. "Data file? Download it," Harry said.
Craig only had to tap that part of the station once. "It's downloading."
"Why send a data file? Surely a we are here message would be better," Jodie asked.
"There must be more to it than that," Harry said. "I'd do the same thing."
"Well surely this means they have the Enterprise. It's probably something from that," Jessie said.
Harry nodded, "yeah. Something they couldn't risk waiting for us for."
The clouds had broken up a little more, allowing a little bit more sunlight through to the surface. It was still dark enough to obscure anything in the distance, or at least that's what Lena hoped as she walked towards apparently nothing. To confuse her further the path ahead was getting darker, but not dark enough to be a cave entrance. Then she noticed the ground had started to slope upwards. It made a little sense now, she raised her flashlight a bit which fixed that problem.
It was getting steeper the further she walked. Lena could just touch the ground ahead of her, she did so to avoid sliding back down. For a moment she stopped to check her tricorder to see if she missed a cave opening. The tricorder told her she still had a good three miles to walk before then. It was just a hill, she thought. The ground was lighter than the straight path, her fingers brushed blades of dead grass as she continued her climb.
An end in sight slowly came into view, the sky. She was nearing the top. Just to be safe she slowed her climbing pace to a stop right before the land straightened again. Her head slowly raised to peer over the top. What she saw made her gasp.
Whatever it was, was tall enough to reach into the clouds. It was little more than a black shadow growing out of the earth. It almost didn't look real to her. Lena tried to convince herself it was just her eyes badly trying to focus in the lack of light. The artificial lights flickering along its base gave it a very real presence, and some detail as well. This thing was definitely a building. She knew exactly what kind too.
It was in the way, and what was strange to her was her tricorder didn't warn her about it. She looked down to it to check again. Somehow during her hike up the hill she had veered a little to the west, now that she had the readings for this huge building were coming in bright and clearly.
Just as she lowered the tricorder again Lena heard a few voices coming from below her, just near the base of the hill. As she looked down the few voices became many voices. Then she saw where they were coming from. The land before her had been paved all the way up to the building. The lights at its base would spin around to shine on this land, only then highlighting them.
Hundreds of them, all shapes and sizes, male and female, even children. The next flash of light highlighted their commonality though, the hollow black eyes. They seemed to be standing there waiting for something.
Lena crouched further down the side of the hill she walked up. They hadn't seen her yet, she didn't want them to. Seeing them had chilled her to the core.
Footsteps approached behind her. Lena reached carefully for one of the weapons hiding in her jacket. Half way out, she swung around to swipe it at whoever was behind her. Something hard swung into her face before she could do that, the force of it pushed her backwards into the ground. Her face stung, it felt warm and wet. A hand reached up to check without even thinking about it, the visor and mask were in the way. Her head meanwhile slowly looked up to see what it was that hit her.
"Welcome home," a familiar voice sneered. He swung his only arm at her once again.
Tom could only look on and worry as the Doctor lay yet another pod victim onto the floor. The last one he had helped still lay nearby with the thick coat Tom had worn rolled under their head. Rachel knelt down next to her.
B'Elanna scanned one of the failed pods, her frown was getting more intense. Tom was even more worried.
"I think... this is one of the inhabitants," she said.
"What?" Tom could only say.
B'Elanna glanced down at her tricorder, then raised it up as if she was getting a closer look. "There's not much left of him or her, but what is there matches the data we got so we could disguise the Doc."
"How long would it take for someone to end up like that?" Tom dared to ask while pointing at one of the many bones on the floor.
"Depends on the environment and when the pods failed," the Doctor replied.
"You know at least one. You just don't want to tell me, do you?" Tom said nervously.
"I don't think this is just a stasis pod," B'Elanna thought out loud.
Tom groaned, "no, of course it isn't. Why not? There's people in pods, dead and alive, some screechy thing..." His face turned very pale. "We er... forgot about that didn't we?" Everyone looked at him blankly.
"You mean the reason why I'm here?" Zare questioned. "Yes, apparently."
Rachel was a little worried. She climbed to her feet. "I've only ever heard it. It definitely sounds like a demon. I've just hoped that it's trapped on floors that are inaccessible."
"Maybe you and Zare could team up, investigate it," Tom suggested.
Rachel and Zare glanced at one another. Neither of them seemed to like the idea for one reason or another. "Normally I'd be up for that, but I don't know where it is. There's a good chance that it would attack you while I was looking for it," Zare said.
"Yes, that's what I was going to say," Rachel nodded. "Perhaps one of us should stay behind to guard."
"What kind of spells do you know?" Zare asked, still a little suspicious of the other woman.
Rachel smiled politely at her. "Many, you'd have to be more specific."
"Hmm, defensive; shields like the one you used on yourself," Zare said.
"I have to admit, those aren't my forte. That's why they never last long. I'm more of an offensive spell caster," Rachel answered.
"Sounds like Zare's the guard then," Tom said.
Zare frowned back at him and then Rachel. "No offense, but..."
"Offense already taken sweetheart," Rachel muttered. "I'm not the enemy here. Nothing we've dealt with have magic powers, just brute strength. That describes you more than me."
B'Elanna sighed impatiently, loud enough to get everyone's attention. It worked on everyone but Zare who was more than annoyed now. "Things we have dealt with shapeshift as well. I have a good reason to be cautious," Zare argued.
"I didn't know Softmicron knew witchcraft. My mistake. Go ahead," Rachel said, gesturing to the door.
"Slayer and witch or not, I'm going to make them headbutt each other," B'Elanna growled.
Tom laughed nervously. "Girls, I'll decide if anyone goes and who. B'Elanna, you got something?"
"As I was saying, these don't look like stasis units. Or at least that's not their primary function," B'Elanna said. "It seems to draw energy from the ground, it's not hooked up to anything else in the structure. It's probably why it failed."
"The trees were dying, the structure was starting to sink," Tom said, showing he understood.
"Yeah," B'Elanna nodded.
"So it's definitely Softmicron then," the Doctor said sadly. "Our guest outside is probably one of those things the Softmicron were making on the other world. That'll be what the pods really do."
"I'm not so sure. The person in this pod has been dead for centuries. It doesn't take this long for the Soft to drain an entire planet, even with their old spheres," B'Elanna said.
Rachel was a little confused, everyone else however were very worried now. "What does that mean then?" she asked.
"This entire structure can't be Softmicron. Somebody else built it," B'Elanna replied.
TO BE CONTINUED
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