Gezegend – Chapter 7
“The Broden are scrambling their ships,” Rollins reported from Voyager’s tactical station. “And I mean all of their ships—both sides.”
“That means Chakotay has done something worth getting their attention,” Tuvok replied from his seat on the command deck. “Let’s hope he and the captain have beamed safely out of the ashram.”
The plan for Chakotay’s escape from the planet had fallen squarely on the Vulcan’s capable shoulders, but he still worried that something unexpected would go wrong. Constrained by just a few hours of planning and preparation and by only a rudimentary understanding of the Broden, their success would depend as much on good luck as on proper planning.
The first stroke of luck they experienced was the location of the Ashram at the magnetic north pole of the planet. He imagined that the Broden had chosen that location because its unusual properties had a religious significance to them; their religious texts said that this was the site where their gods touched the planet’s surface. However, it had the added benefit of providing a natural shield that prevented orbital scanning, something that the Broden had not appreciated. While it had kept Voyager from picking up the captain’s human life signs, it had also kept the Broden from noticing covert activities in the area.
The second stroke of luck had been the fact that all of the Broden held the ashram and the priests in such total reverence. It was anathema to consider approaching the ashram with weapons in hand. Who would attack such a revered location? Why would anyone disrupt its sacred function or put its priests in danger? For that reason, the retreat was totally undefended. There wasn’t a phaser or photon torpedo within hundreds of miles of the location.
Finally, the Broden had never been at war with extraterrestrial enemies. They had never been attacked from space and had no idea what kinds of duplicity a practiced strategist could take against them. Their spaceships were defensive in design and were small and underpowered when compared to Voyager. They were meant to swarm against a foe like a pack of wolves and were totally unprepared for a devious opponent who had both Starfleet and Maquis experience to draw upon.
It was almost too easy. The inexperience with aliens that had made them greet Voyager as friends was now being turned against them. When Chakotay had lamented that fact, Tuvok had been less than sympathetic, as any true Vulcan would have been.
“Mr. Rollins,” Tuvok said, turning to give his subordinate his orders, “it’s time to complicate the Broden’s communications.”
“Yes, sir!” Rollins couldn’t help but smile as he pulled up a new screen on his console, a screen that showed him the view from inside the shuttle on the surface of the planet and gave him access to its helm. Moments later, Chakotay’s shuttle rose from the planet’s surface and blazed toward a critical communication substation that was in orbit over the planet’s geographical North Pole. The shuttle fired its phasers, neatly separating the substation’s sensor array from the occupied portion of the station in a single shot.
“All communications in the northern hemisphere just went offline,” Harry reported from the operations console. He gave Rollins a smile, “Nice shooting!”
“It’s not my first relay station,” Rollins quipped, wiping the grin from his face when Tuvok gave him an exasperated glare. “The ships are no longer scrambling, just as we hoped,” he replied, getting down to business. “They look pretty disorganized, but the ones that already launched are still pursuing the shuttle.”
“We’ll have to deal with them.” Tuvok turned back to the view screen. “Let’s just hope they don’t have a fleet of bigger ships hidden somewhere unexpected, Mr. Rollins.”
Harry looked up in surprise. “We’re being hailed by Minister Tdren, sir.”
“Ignore him,” Tuvok snapped. “We want them to think we’re still outside the asteroid belt, not in high orbit behind their most distant moon. If we contact them, they’ll realize how close to the surface we are and our plans will be compromised.”
Tuvok shook his head at the Broden’s innocence. Any planet with normal paranoia would have built an observation station on the far side of that moon or established some sort of sensor net to give them advanced warning of approaching enemies, but the Broden were complacent and unaware. Tuvok imagined that, following Voyager’s escape, there would soon be such a station on at least one of their moons if not a full-fledged advanced warning system outside their solar system.
Meanwhile, the shuttle had turned from its successful attack on the communications station and was headed directly for the ashram, its shields up and weapons powered.
“Tdren is saying that they consider the shuttle’s actions an act of war and will fire on it, Tuvok,” Harry reported. “And he says that an attack on the ashram is an abomination.”
Tuvok nodded calmly. “Time for phase two, Mr. Rollins.”
“Dropping shields,” Rollins replied. The shuttle immediately dipped toward the planet’s surface, its contents fully open to the Broden ship’s scanners. Two human life signs appeared on the ship, one male, one female. “There they are, sir, right where they’re supposed to be. Big as life.”
“Let’s see if these people are willing to fire on a ship that contains one of their blessed gezegend,” Harry muttered.
“Indeed,” Tuvok answered. In fact, the success of his plan relied on the assumption that the captain’s special status would complicate the Broden’s reaction to the shuttle. The longer the Broden focused on pursuing their precious gezegend, the more likely their plan would work.
“They’ve noticed,” Rollins reported. “The ships that managed to scramble before the communications went down are heading toward the shuttle, but their weapons are not powered.”
“Shields?” Tuvok wondered.
“They have those powered, sir. I think they want to try to force the shuttle to the surface.”
“Bring the shields up again. When they come within range, initiate evasive maneuvers,” Tuvok ordered. “In the meantime, prepare to shoot at the lead ship.”
“The Broden are warning the shuttle to lower shields and prepare for boarding.” Harry looked up. “They’re demanding that the gezegend be returned to the priests.”
Tuvok turned to Rollins. “Can the shuttle go to warp?”
“No sir,” he replied. “It’s still located deep inside the planet’s gravity well. It would need about six minutes to gain enough altitude before it could create a warp field.”
“It doesn’t have six minutes.” Tuvok stood up, grasping his hands behind his back. “We’re stuck with Plan B.”
A groan went up from the bridge crew and tension mounted at the prospect of losing yet another shuttle.
“Fire a shot across the nearest ship’s bow and then take evasive action,” Tuvok ordered. “Make sure the shuttle is headed toward open water.”
“You’re going to ditch the shuttle?” Harry exclaimed. “But the captain is—”
Tuvok silenced him with an arched brow. “If the shuttle is undamaged and sinks to the bottom of the ocean, its intact passenger cabin will keep the occupants alive for hours. That will keep our friends busy trying to rescue them.”
Harry just closed his mouth and glanced up at Rollins, who gave him a resigned shrug.
On the planet, the Broden pursuit of the shuttle was relentless. The shuttle dodged and jinked, occasionally getting off a phaser shot that inevitably missed its target, but the Broden did not give up. Refusing to fire upon the gezegend, they instead tried to herd the shuttle into a safe landing spot on the frozen plains of the polar icecap.
When it was obvious that the shuttle was trapped and unable to reach open space, the ship banked sharply into a perilously steep dive that overloaded its structural integrity. The port nacelle struts snapped cleanly off, spewing plasma that forced the Broden ships to swerve away. Moments later, the shuttle plunged into the icy waters of the frigid ocean and disappeared beneath the waves.
The Broden ships went from attack mode to rescue mode in a matter of seconds. All of their attention was focused on the retrieval of the precious gezegend.
On Voyager’s bridge, Tuvok crossed his arms and waited to see what the Broden would do next as the crew waited for the other shoe to drop.
The reaction elsewhere was a little more emotional.
“Hook, line, and sinker,” Tom Paris shouted from the helm of Neelix’s cloaked ship. Beneath them, the icy and rocky tors of the arctic mountain range were a blur just meters beneath them as the ship raced at breakneck speed away from the ashram. “They’re using all of their resources to get the shuttle, just as we hoped they would.”
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Neelix replied from the copilot’s seat where he tried not to look at the impending disaster whizzing by beneath his ship. “I had no idea this buggy could fly like this.”
“It can’t,” Tom chuckled. “But I can.”
“Enough trash talking, Paris,” Chakotay said from the back of the ship where he sat beside the captain’s unconscious body. “Let’s hit the ceiling before they figure out that the captain isn’t in the shuttle.”
“Gladly.” Tom took the Talaxian ship vertical so quickly that Neelix rolled backwards out of his seat. “I estimate that we’ll be past the first moon in five minutes and on our way out of here in six.”
“It can’t be soon enough,” Chakotay muttered. “I have to say, Tom, that you were right about that remote piloting program you and the captain decided to develop.”
“I love to hear you say ‘You were right, Tom.’ It really makes me happy.”
Chakotay shook his head in resignation. When Tom had approached the captain a few months earlier with the ridiculous idea of a totally remote piloting program, he’d expected her to turn him down cold. Instead, she’d been intrigued.
“A remotely piloted shuttle could come in handy, if you can make it work smoothly,” she’d remarked. “It would have to include more than piloting, though. Shields, weapons, even transporting would be necessary.”
“Piece of cake, Captain,” Tom had assured her. “Using Seven’s knowledge of Borg scanners and my experience in flying holodeck simulations, we should be able to make piloting a shuttle as easy as playing a video game.”
Chakotay had glared at him. “Video game?”
“Don’t ask,” Kathryn had laughed. “It’s part of his fascination with the twentieth century. I can see that this could come in handy if we needed to send a shuttle into a situation where it might be lost. Go with it, Tom, and let me know what kind of support you need.”
Chakotay had forgotten about the project until they were planning this rescue attempt. The thought of sacrificing an already damaged shuttle seemed like a small price to pay for the captain’s life.
“Tom and I have run this program successfully on the holodeck dozens of times over the last few months,” B’Elanna reassured him. “Rollins can easily run it from any console on the bridge.”
“What about the transporter?” he’d asked.
“I can devise a tranporter program that beams you two out of the ashram and into Neelix’s ship, as long as you are in direct sensor range of the shuttle.”
“Let’s do it,” he’d replied, using his captain’s favorite phrase. “I’ll just have to land where the shuttle is in plain view of the ashram.”
Now, as he looked down at Kathryn, he marveled at her ingenuity. She seemed to have a sixth sense about innovations in the ship that would end up saving their lives just a few months later.
He tucked the blankets closer around her and worried again about her survival. Tom had done a quick examination of the captain and assured Chakotay that she would survive, but he could tell that she was barely breathing, and her skin was still icy to the touch. He cursed himself for failing to bring the EMH along on the trip.
He looked up at Tom. “I want the captain beamed to sickbay at the soonest possible moment.”
“Aye, Commander,” Paris replied as the blue sky in the view screen turned black and the stars appeared. “Piece of cake.”