Gezegend – Chapter 2

Gezegend – Chapter 2

by mizvoy


“What just happened?” Chakotay demanded as he emerged from the turbolift. The red alert had awakened him from a deep sleep an instant before he’d been called to the bridge. It was a good thing that he’d fallen asleep in his uniform.

Rollins looked up from the operations console. “There was some sort of explosion in the capital city and we’ve lost contact with the away team.”

“Lost contact?”

“There was a tremendous power surge right before the explosion,” Rollins explained. “I think it must have disabled most electronic devices in the capital city, including our commbadges. I can’t get any of the governmental offices to respond either.”

Chakotay sat down in his bridge seat and rubbed his face. It was nearly two in the morning ship’s time, and he’d thought he could take a couple of hours to catch up on his sleep while the captain negotiated for some shore leave with people she assured him were friendly. So much for that idea. “How about sensors? Can we find our people that way?”

“Negative, sir. The subsequent explosion polarized the surrounding atmosphere. All we can see in the area is the flare of continuing weapons fire all through the central city.”

Chakotay groaned and pulled up the sensor scans on his console. Sure enough, most of the capital appeared as a white blank with bright flares of phaser fire bursting through. With time, the polarization would fade, but, in the meantime, the away team, including the captain, was in the midst of that blank white space. He didn’t want to speculate about their conditions.

“The explosion occurred near the captain’s beam down site, right?”

“Yes, sir, within a few city blocks of it. The last time I could see them, she and Harry were just arriving at what looked to be the center of the first big blast.”

“Great. Just great. What about Tuvok? Didn’t he and Ayala split off and go somewhere else?” He twisted in his seat to look up at Lieutenant Andrews at tactical.

“They were on their way to one of the Broden military facilities to look at supplies, sir.”

“And this was outside of the capital city?”

“On the outskirts of the city, about five kilometers north of the captain’s location.”

“Can we talk to them?”

Rollins shook his head. “No, sir.”

“Five kilometers.” Chakotay turned back to his console and had the computer draw a five kilometer circle around the captain’s last known position. It was well within the blank sensor zone. “Did she know where Tuvok was going? Because, if she did, it would make sense for her to head for Tuvok’s location.”

“I don’t even think Tuvok knew the exact location, sir.”

“Where was he the last time we heard from him? Send it to my console.” A red flashing dot appeared inside the polarized section, as he’d feared. “How wide is this polarization, Rollins?”

“Sixteen kilometers in diameter, more or less.”

Chakotay groaned. “So, he and Ayala are caught up in this, too.” He took a moment to think. “Can we reach Minister Tdrem? Wasn’t that the name of the diplomat that set up this visit?”

“I’ve been trying to reach him,” Rollins replied. “From what I can tell—”

“Let me guess,” Chakotay interrupted. “He was inside that sixteen kilometer ring of fire, too.”

“Yes, sir.”

Addressing no one in particular, Chakotay wondered, “Even when we find a nice planet with friendly aliens, they turn out to be on the verge of some sort of revolution. Rollins, continue to try to contact someone on the surface who can help us find our people. Andrews, let’s be on the lookout for Broden ships who might not like us hanging around during an insurrection.”

The bridge fell into a practiced routine. Rollins quietly continued in his efforts to contact the Broden government, while Andrews monitored the ongoing battle and scanned for any signal that might be from their crew. As time passed, Chakotay tried not to let his growing alarm show, but after an hour, he was ready to take action.

“It might be time to take a closer look,” he began, thinking that he could send a shuttle into a lower orbit for a better scan of the surface.

“Commander?” Andrews looked up from his console. “Six Broden fighters just left their orbital station and are headed toward Voyager.”

“Can we talk to them?” he demanded, standing up.

“Opening hailing frequencies,” Rollins answered.

“Their weapons are armed, Commander,” Andrews added, keeping his voice low.

“Of course they are.” Chakotay rubbed his face again. “Broden vessels, this is Commander Chakotay, in command of Voyager. Please explain your aggressive actions.”

“Alien vessel. We speak for the Broden people. A holy war has begun on our planet that must not be interfered with. Your presence is considered an aggressive act. Break orbit immediately or you will be considered an enemy of the Broden.”

Chakotay crossed his arms. “Our only interest in the battle is the retrieval of our away team which was caught in the initial explosion. As soon as we retrieve them, we’ll gladly leave.”

“Negative. Leave orbit at once. You have thirty seconds to comply.” The communications link was terminated.

“Commander, they are targeting the ship.”

“Shields up. Battle stations.” Chakotay gripped his hands behind his back. “Just how much damage can they do to us?”

“Singly, not much. But there are six of them, and at least a dozen more are scrambling on the station.”

Chakotay sighed. “Tom, take us out of orbit, but stay within sensor range.”

“Yes, sir.”

Rollins looked up in frustration. “Are those ship affiliated with the government or the rebels?”

“At this point, it’s impossible to tell,” Chakotay replied, collapsing in his chair. “But I’m guessing that neither side is willing to trust us, if this is, in fact, a holy war.”

B’Elanna Torres’ voice came across the intercom. “Engineering to bridge.”

“Go ahead, B’Elanna.”

“That energy pulse on the planet has actually begun to cause the ship some minor problems.”

“Like what?” Chakotay demanded.

“Shield emitters are unable to maintain full power, and the phaser targeting system is going on and offline.”

“How long until you can fix them?”

“Two hours. Maybe three.”

Chakotay groaned. “Your timing is bad, Lieutenant.”

“I just thought you should know that this isn’t the best of times to get into a fight, sir.”

“Noted, Lieutenant.” He turned back to Andrews. “Now that we’ve left orbit, are the six ships still in pursuit?”

“They are following us.”

“Go to full impulse, Tom. With our shields faltering, the last thing we need is for them to take a shot at us.”

“Aye, Commander.”

The bridge was silent as the planet became smaller and the pursuing vessels turned into small blips on the view screen. But every person was thinking of the four members of the crew that were still on the planet.

Three hours later, when Voyager was sitting outside the Broden’s planetary system, Chakotay met with his senior officers in the conference room.

“How’s that glitch, B’Elanna?” Chakotay asked. “Are we back at full power?”

“I think we’ve fixed everything, sir.”

“That’s good, because I have a feeling we might have to have to head back to the planet with phasers firing.” Chakotay turned to Rollins. “Any contact from the planet?”

“I finally got hold of someone who is on their diplomatic corps. He wasn’t located in the capital city, but from a government installation just west of there, in the mountains. He said that Tdwen hadn’t been heard from since the first explosion.”

“So he might be dead.” Chakotay closed his eyes. Had the captain and Harry been with him? “Okay, so what did you find out?”

“The rebel leader has taken over the capitol building and the surrounding area of the city. He says he has most of the government in custody, including the senior military officers. The person I talked to said that information was sketchy, at best.”

“Any mention of our away team?”

“Negative, Commander. I don’t think he knew there was an away team on the planet.”

“Let’s hope they escaped,” B’Elanna replied.

“Let’s hope they’re still alive,” Tom Paris countered with a grimace on his face.

“Everything sounds pretty fluid, but I’d think that the rebels would be crowing about holding the aliens captive. We’re going to assume that our people escaped serious injury from the blast and are doing whatever they can to contact us,” Chakotay gave Tom a warning look to silence his negative outlook. “In the meantime, our job is to start looking for them and to be in a position to get them out of there at the first opportunity.” He glanced around the table. “I’m willing to listen to any feasible plan.”

“The six Broden vessels have retreated to their orbital base, as you know, but we know now that the base is in rebel hands. I’m pretty sure that they will confront us if we approach the planet again,” Andrews reported. “I was thinking they might not feel as threatened if we sent a shuttle or even Neelix’s little ship to do some closer scans.”

Chakotay turned to Neelix. “How soon can your ship be ready to go?”

“I keep it ready, Commander. Ten minutes, fifteen tops. No more than that.”

“Bridge to shuttle bay. Prepare one shuttle and Neelix’s ship for immediate departure and stand by for further instructions.” Chakotay looked around the room. “In case our shuttle is threatened, we’ll have Neelix’s ship that we can fall back on.”

“Just a simple approach?” Paris asked, already imagining how he would pilot the shuttle. “Like I’m out for a Sunday drive?”

Chakotay nodded. “No reason to be sneaky. We’re going to tell them we’re looking for our four crew members, that’s all.”

“I think the Broden’s government officials would understand and accept that,” Rollins added. “It’s the rebels we have to worry about.”

“Maybe we should go over the rebel situation again,” Chakotay suggested.

Andrews dutifully summarized Tuvok’s assessment of the Broden political situation. They had lived in peace for the last one hundred years, but their ruling party always had a healthy opposition and a tradition of frequent coups d’etat to change their leadership. “Tuvok said that they believe their gods use these insurrections to make necessary corrections to their leadership and policy.”

“That means they aren’t fighting over whether or not they should be dealing with visiting aliens,” Chakotay added. “Once things settle down and we earn their trust, they should allow us retrieve the away team without too much complication, no matter which side we are dealing with.”

“How do you explain the six ships that came after us?” B’Elanna wondered. “Seems like someone didn’t want us around.”

“They were just making sure we didn’t take sides,” Chakotay guessed. “Early in a rebellion, both sides are vulnerable to a third party’s intervention. Since we’ve had no interaction with the rebels, they didn’t know how we’d react. Let’s hope that our withdrawal will be interpreted as neutrality and that we can open a dialogue with them.”

“While we’re also talking to the other side?” Rollins asked.

“I’m talking to whoever will listen and I’m not going to hide that fact from either side. We have to convince these people that we are neutral and simply trying to recover our crew members.” Chakotay stood up, bringing the meeting to an end. “We can’t wait any longer. Tom, take a security team with you. Don’t do anything to give them the impression that you intend to fire a shot.”

“Yes, sir.” Tom turned to Andrews. “Could you have two of your people meet me in the shuttle bay?”

While Tom and Andrews discussed who Tom would take along and how he should approach the planet, Chakotay pulled Neelix aside. “If it looks like Tom’s going to have problems, I’m going to have to ask you to try to look for them, instead.”

Neelix nodded. “I’m more than ready to do whatever I can to help, Commander. You know that. I’m worried sick about the away team.”

“So am I, Neelix. That’s why I want to work as quickly as possible to get everyone back and get the hell out of here.”

When the meeting broke up, B’Elanna stayed behind to talk with Chakotay, who had turned to gaze out the window, deep in thought. She thought he looked tired and knew that he was worried about what might happen when the shuttle approached the planet.

“You want to go look for them yourself, don’t you?” she asked him.

He saw her reflection in the window. “That’s what the first officer is supposed to do, isn’t it? Head up the away team?”

“But you didn’t head up this away team. The captain did.”

“Don’t remind me.”

“It’s counterproductive to be angry because the captain went down there against your better judgment,” she commented, “and yet you are angry.”

“Damned straight.” He gripped his hands behind his back. “What was I thinking? When have we ever had the good luck of running into helpful, peaceful people? ‘The minister is so earnest and kind,’ she told me, ‘and I’m pretty much the governmental leader of the ship.'”

“They did seem to be perfectly harmless.”

“She is just so damned hard headed.”

“No one could have guessed that something like this revolution would happen just now.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Chakotay wondered, as he turned to look at her.

“What’s happened isn’t your fault.”

“Really? Anything could have happened to them. They could have died in the first explosion. They could be injured and in need of medical help. They could have been taken captive and tortured.”

“And they could be safe and secure and waiting for the cavalry to arrive.”

He rolled his eyes and collapsed into his chair. “I guess it’s the not knowing that drives me crazy.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s the same thing that bothers the captain when you’re the one missing.”

He shook his head. “I just want some answers.”

“We’ll get them. In the meantime, the captain and Harry are together. That’s a good thing.”

“And Tuvok and Ayala are together, too. I imagine that they’re all trying to contact us.”

“It’s always worse for you when the captain is missing, isn’t it?” She stepped closer to him, searching his face. “Same for her. It’s okay to admit that.”

He pursed his lips and lowered his eyes, unhappy that one of his closest friends was broaching a topic—his relationship with the captain—that he considered off limits. “She likes to tease me by saying, at times like this, that I just want to take her job. But, trust me, I don’t want it. I am happy being the first officer of this ship.”

B’Elanna sighed. Even at times like this, when he most needed reassurance, he was unwilling to discuss how close he and the captain were. “You’re dodging the question, you know.”

“What question?” He swiveled in his chair and looked out the window again so she wouldn’t see the fury in his eyes. “If we were in Federation space, she wouldn’t even be down there.”

“And you wouldn’t be her first officer.”

“I’d be dead or in jail, probably,” he chuckled, “and she would be someone else’s problem.”

“And you would never have gotten to know her.”

His face darkened with sorrow. “Maybe I’d be better off.”

“You don’t really believe that.” She leaned against the window ledge so she could see his face. “I know you two are close friends, don’t try to deny it, and that fact makes this situation more stressful.”

“We’re all friends on this ship, B’Elanna,” he answered, giving her a level look. “After all the years we’ve served together, it’s only natural that we’re close. I’m worried about all four of them.”

She sighed in resignation. “All right. If that’s the way you want to play this.”

He leaned forward in the chair and rubbed his face. “Your point?”

“No point. I just thought you might want someone to talk to, that’s all.”

“I appreciate your concern, but there’s no reason to panic yet. We’ve lost track of the away team, that’s all. They’re probably just lying low, waiting to get in touch with us.”

“You’re probably right.” She rubbed her hands together and turned to leave, stopping just as the door opened. “I just thought it was odd that you ran the whole meeting from your usual seat instead of taking the head of the table, where the captain sits. That’s all.”

As the door closed, Chakotay felt a blush crawl up his neck. He hadn’t realized what he’d done, hadn’t thought about where he was sitting.

“Perception is everything when you’re in command,” Kathryn had lectured him. “When I’m gone, I want you to act the part, accept all the privileges of the rank.”

Of course the senior staff would notice that he didn’t sit at the captain’s seat, the head of the table. He needed to do better when she was gone and when the crew was unsettled. He was acting as the ship’s captain, both here and on the bridge, until the captain safely returned.

For a brief moment, the chill of fear crept up his spine. What if she wasn’t all right? What if she didn’t return? Had she been injured in the blast? Was she still alive? He shook his head, refusing to let such negative thoughts influence his actions.

“Just take one step at a time,” he muttered under his breath, his eyes focused on the empty chair she normally occupied.

“Paris to Chakotay. We’re just about ready to go, Commander.”

“Very well, Lieutenant,” he replied as he strode toward the bridge. “Be careful. Remember that we are not there to participate in the battle. We’re just trying to retrieve our crew.”

“I’ll bring them back, sir.”

“I know you will, Tom.”

He walked across the bridge to his seat, glancing briefly at the captain’s empty chair. He could see Kathryn sitting there, smiling at him, letting him know that she trusted him with her ship, her crew, her life. He wished there were some way to tell her that they were doing all they could do rescue them, but then he really didn’t need to tell her. She would know that.

“Let’s keep in contact with the shuttle, Mr. Rollins.”

“Aye, Commander.”

Chakotay forced himself to take a relaxed pose, even though his heart was pounding and his hands were clammy. Long hours had passed since the violent outbreak on the planet and night had fallen over the region, but none of the away team members had been able to contact the ship. And he was sending three more people into danger in an attempt to find and rescue them. He hoped that the sick feeling in his gut was the result of worry and exhaustion and not a sign of impending doom.

One thing was for sure. In the future, he would argue more forcefully that the captain stay on the ship and let him deal with these first contact situations, even when the planet seemed peaceful and welcoming.

Out here, in the Delta Quadrant, any situation could go to hell in an instant, just as this one had.