Brave Little Heart

By Sonri

sonrichildhotmail.com

Disclaimer:  No, I don't own 'em.  Just playing with 'em.  But they'd be smart to take my lead.

The captain of the Starship Voyager entered the bedroom and gently touched the shoulder of the small form on the bed.

"Naomi, it's time to wake up.  We've got to get going," she said softly.

Naomi Wildman stirred and opened her eyes.  For a second, she looked up at the face above hers.  This wasn't her mom ... no, it was the captain ... then she remembered.  Her mom was on an away mission on the Delta Flyer.  She was going on an away mission—as official Captain's Assistant.  And in that capacity, she was going with the captain herself.  She'd gone to bed thinking she'd never fall asleep.  Now, it was very early in the morning, and the captain had come to wake her up.

"Did I sleep through the alarm?" she asked.

"No, you didn't, I disabled it.  You'd had it set for far too early.  You don't need three hours to prepare for this," the captain responded, smiling.  "Now come on."

Naomi climbed out of her bed and started to get ready.

--

Captain Kathryn Janeway watched as Naomi bounded out of bed in the Wildman quarters.  She envied the child's constant energy in the mornings.  She needed coffee to get to that point, and lots of it.  Today's mission was simple, and was not dangerous.  They'd go to the uninhabited planet in a nearby system and pick up some plants and minerals for Naomi's science project.  Then they'd look for dilithium together, for Voyager's stores.  One never knew when they'd need it, so they looked for the priceless crystals constantly.  It would be a memorable trip for Naomi, who would be the only crewmember with her today.  She'd had Tuvok scan the surface many times to be safe.  She wanted this to be special, for Naomi to feel like a member of the crew.  If she'd brought anyone else, Naomi would feel less important.  Today was her time to shine—and she would.  Janeway knew Naomi adored her, and she'd been watching the girl's progress in her studies.  She deserved a chance to shine for her captain.

"Ready, captain."  Naomi was right at her side, with a bag in hand.  Apparently, the girl had packed the night before.  She'd just missed one thing ... her hair had come undone from the clip she'd apparently slept with to be ready sooner.  The captain chuckled as she pointed to Naomi's hair.  Naomi gasped and ran for her brush.  Janeway went over and deftly braided the long blond-red hair.  Naomi's smile and glowing eyes showed her even more thanks than her gentle thank you.

--

Naomi couldn't believe it--she'd done her hair last night, and had laid out her clothes.  She hadn't thought she'd sleep so hard last night.  Some people on the lower decks spoke about wearing their uniforms to bed.  She had decided that would not have worked.  She saw how wrinkled her pajamas were each morning.  But, she'd thought her hair would be okay.  Guess not, she thought.  Then, the captain came over and braided her hair.  She glanced in the mirror near the door as she followed the captain out.  Now I look like a captain's assistant.

She carried a bunch of cases, full of her instruments, just like the captain, except the captain had hers all in one large case.  Last night, she'd been given a special outfit to wear for today.  It looked like a cadet's uniform, but it was red with gray shoulders and had no bars to denote year-rank.  She couldn't wear the real cadet's uniform until she entered the Academy.  And she couldn't do that until she turned 16 or 17.  It seemed so far away.  She envied Icheb his studies.

They walked into the Mess Hall to grab their food.  Neelix had heard about today's activities and had prepared a provisions kit.  It had breakfast bars and drink that would suffice for breakfast, along with some fresh fruit.  Lunch was a surprise in another container.  They'd eat breakfast on the way, in the shuttle, and lunch on the planet later.  Naomi wished they'd been able to take the Delta Flyer, but another Away Team was using it, with her mom on board along with Seven and a few other crewmembers.  They'd been surveying a nearby comet.

Apparently, the rest of the crew had decided to make her away mission a special one even before she left.  Many of her friends were in the mess hall.

"Good luck today, Naomi," B'Elanna greeted her.  She wrapped her arms around the girl.

"Thanks, Lieutenant," Naomi replied, returning the hug.

"Take good care of the captain today," B'Elanna whispered in her ear as the captain got their food.

"I promise."

"Hey, Naomi, maybe the captain will let you fly today," called Tom Paris.

"Why else would I take her along?" the captain said back, smiling.  "I got to pilot a few things at her age, I think it's her turn to learn."

Naomi's mind went racing.  Her, get to fly?!?  With the captain?!?  She wanted to jump up and down, but her mind reminded her that she was the Captain's Assistant.  She had to be a professional.

The captain smiled down at her.  Naomi couldn't help but smile back.

Neelix came from around the serving counter.  "Good luck, Naomi, and ... ," he leaned towards Naomi's ear, "make sure the captain eats her lunch.  I packed it full of extra vitamins today for her.  There's even a treat for you in there."

"Thanks, Neelix."  She hugged him.

The doors to the Mess Hall opened to admit Commander Chakotay, the Doctor, and Tuvok.  Chakotay and Tuvok drew the captain aside while the doctor went to Naomi.

"Good luck today, Naomi, on your away mission.  And take these," he handed her two cases, "the small one's an outdoors med kit.  It has hyposprays for bug bites and a small regenerator for scrapes you two might pick up today.  The larger one is an equipment bag, so you can carry everything in one case, instead of many cases with straps.  I know the captain has one, but I didn't know if you did."

"Thank you, Doctor."

"Just get me some holoimages."

"Will do."

"And watch out for the captain, keep her safe."

"Yes, sir."

--

Meanwhile, Chakotay and Tuvok were trying to convince the captain that she needed to take along other crewmembers.

"Naomi's only a child ... what if something happens?" Chakotay was saying.

"It's not even a standard away mission.  It's closer to shore leave for me, but for Naomi, it's a real away mission.  We'll be fine."

"Captain, I still feel you may need some security arrangements.  Since you will not take other crew, will you take phasers?" Tuvok stated.

"That will suffice.  Give one to Naomi as well."

"Naomi, captain?" The eyebrow went up.

"I'll be teaching her to fly, why not shoot too?  It's an uninhabited planet.  She can't hurt anything."

"Very well."  Tuvok went to fetch the weapons.

"Captain, be safe," Chakotay said.

"Don't worry, we'll be fine, Chakotay.  She deserves this."

"I don't doubt that, I help teacher her.  She does deserve time to stand out, and she loves you.  Having her go with you today is the best reward for her."

"Well, you did suggest it."

"I was hoping you wouldn't go alone."  The worry was in his eyes.

"Don't worry.  The worse we might get is a couple bumps and stings.  Besides, if I know the doctor, he's given her a med kit for just that."

"Well, good luck then, Captain."

"Thanks."  She turned to Naomi, standing proudly in her Captain's Assistant uniform.  She'd only had it commissioned as her uniform for away missions a few days ago, when she'd proposed this trip to the girl, but had given it to her last night as they were going over the mission.  She was still allowed to wear civvies, but Janeway had been watching her around others.  Naomi had been visiting her in her quarters and Janeway had opened her closet looking for something.  Naomi had stood on tiptoe to see all the uniforms hanging there.  Janeway had noticed the longing in her eyes for a real uniform.  The red base and gray-shouldered jumpsuit had suited Naomi perfectly.

"Let's go."  Janeway started for the door, with Naomi waving as she followed her out the door.

--

Naomi followed the captain to the main shuttlebay.  Naomi saw which shuttle they were taking.  It was one of Type-9 ones, Class 2.  One built for only two passengers, and sleek with aerodynamic edges.  The warp nacelles extended beyond the fuselage.  Built to carry two people and their equipment only, the small Devotion was perfect for this mission.  The captain keyed the hatch and they went in, placing their bags in the storage compartments.  As she was storing her stuff, Naomi noticed something.

A freshly replicated environmental suit.  In her size.

"Captain!" she cried, pulling out the helmet.  "Look!"

Janeway turned around and saw what she was looking at.  "I know, I ordered it made.  If something happens and you need to get into a suit, it would be hard to put you into a regular size one.  They are adjustable, but not that much.  The same suit could fit both large and small adults, but you are too small for them still."  Janeway leaned over to point to things on the suit.  "See these, they will allow you to grow a good bit before we have to alter the size.  Another mission I'll teach you how to use them extensively.  But for today, they are just for emergencies."  Naomi nodded.

"Thanks, Captain."

"Let's get going, shall we?"

"Aye, Captain."  She went to the co-pilot's seat and buckled up.

"Devotion to Shuttlecraft Control.  We are preparing to launch.  Commence prelaunch sequence."

"Aye, prelaunch begun.  Pleasant trip."

Janeway took the shuttle out of the shuttlebay with practiced ease.  She was as good as Uncle Tom.  Just more careful.

"Naomi, once we get away from Voyager, plot a course to the planet.  The coordinates are on your panel."  Naomi started the calculations.

"Ready, Captain."

"Ready to learn to fly?"

"Ready!"  Naomi's excitement was getting the best of her.  She was going to fly the shuttle.

"Transferring helm control to your station."  She tapped a few panels.  "Okay, Crewman, let's go."

--

Naomi handled the shuttle well for her age and abilities.  Once they were out of the system Voyager was in, they engaged warp engines to the next solar system.  The trip lasted about 3 hours.  Once they were in the system, the captain took over to land.  Landing, she told Naomi, was something she'd learn after she'd mastered the basics.  She'd get to do holodeck trials back on Voyager.  The programs were already created, but she didn't tell Naomi that yet.

Naomi didn't complain about not being able to take the shuttle into the system, which was a good sign to Janeway.  She knew her limits.

The class-M planet was lush with plants, but also with hills and rocks.  Janeway suspected caves as well, which might house dilithium.  She ran several sensor sweeps of the system, and found no signs of ships or life existed.

Once they landed on the planet, they exited and began their search.  Naomi was very excited, scanning nearly everything.  Taking samples, she was careful to label them.  Janeway smiled to herself, the lessons with the doctor were becoming very useful.

--

A whole planet to explore, and it's just the captain and I, Naomi thought as they stopped to scan some fruits.

"Naomi, look at this, it might be edible," the captain beckoned.  Naomi went over to her and scanned the fruit.  It was small and blue, with many seeds on the outside.  The captain pulled out a special tricorder and took a sample.  "According to this, it's not unlike the Terran strawberry.  Just a different color."  She picked one, and tasted it.  "It taste nearly perfect, just sweeter.  Try one."

Naomi plucked one from the bush and tasted it.  "It tastes wonderful, but I don't know if it tastes like a strawberry.  I've never tasted one."

"This is pretty close, actually.  Let's mark this and come back to get some for the rest of the crew."  They did so.

"Now what?  We've scanned a lot of things."

"Well, would you like to help look for some minerals for Voyager?"

"Yes, Captain."

"Then let's get back in the shuttle and head over towards those ridges.  That's where it's bound to be."

--

After they got to the ridges, they started scanning again.  The captain was certain there was some here.  She was picking it up on her tricorder, faintly.

Then, they started searching for a cave entrance.  The tricorder led them to a ravine, which had a river in the bottom.  There was a rocky course down the side, not a path, but not true climbing either.

"Stay close, Naomi," she instructed.  Naomi walked right behind her.  "There are caves here, and I think dilithium is inside.  Make sure all your gear is packed up firmly so that nothing catches if we get in a tight spot."  She bent to fasten up her own gear.  Naomi did the same, quickly.

In the side of the gorge, they found a cave entrance.  The water was several feet below the entry.

"As long as the water stays low, we'll be fine," the captain said.

Naomi nodded and followed her in.  Janeway saw she was slightly scared, and pulled the wristlights out for them both.  With it on, Naomi relaxed.  They went further in, following the tricorder.

The tricorder readings led them deep into the cave.  A shimmer of reflected light caught Naomi's attention.  The tricorder the captain was holding was leading them in the same direction.

"Captain, what is that?" she asked, pointing.

"I think it's just what we are looking for," the captain replied, closing her tricorder.  Naomi wondered why she'd closed it, then saw why as they both pointed their wristlights toward the shimmer.  There was a slender opening in the wall that led toward the shimmer.  They'd have to slip sideways to get in.

"Looks like we'll have to remove our packs for this," the captain said, gesturing toward the narrow opening.  "But what we want is beyond it."

"Want me to go first?  I'm smaller," Naomi asked.

"Good thinking," Janeway rummaged in her bag, "but wear this in case you get stuck."  She pulled out a thin cord and tied it to Naomi's waist in a knot that wouldn't slide if pulled.

Naomi began to slide into the gap, and slowly made it to the other side.  Her wristlight showed her the new section.  There was a good-sized cavern on this side, about 10 meters by 20 meters, filled with crystals.  "I made it, Captain.  Can you slide the packs through with the rope?" She dusted her uniform off.

The captain tied the packs up and Naomi pulled them through.  They got scuffed a bit, but they came out in one piece.  Then the captain carefully made her way through.  Though slender and petite, she was bigger than Naomi was, but she made it through.

--

The captain had scraped her way through, and had the abrasions on her hands and shoulders to show for it, even through the uniform.  Naomi noticed the tears on the red shoulders immediately.

"Captain, you're hurt."

"Not bad, I'm fine."

"Commander Chakotay says you'd say you were fine if you'd just gotten your legs torn off by a Traken beast."

"Oh he does, does he?" Naomi realized what she'd just said.

"Guess I shouldn't have said that, huh?"

"Actually, the commander has said it to me a few times."

Naomi giggled.  "And he didn't land in the brig?"

"I thought about it."

"He really watches over you.  They all do.  I got told by everyone to watch over you."

The captain's eyes got a faraway look.  "I watch over them like a hawk, but ... I didn't realize they were that protective of me."

"We all care about you.  Now," Naomi pulled out the kit the doctor had given her, "let me fix those scrapes."

"Not right now, let me scan these crystals.  You can fix me up after we get back out.  I'm bound to pick up more scrapes on the way out."

"Okay, but promise me you'll let me?  The doctor will be annoyed with me if you come back with scrapes."

"Promise."

"Good."

The captain pulled her tricorder out of her pack where she'd put it.  "Now, let's see if these pretty things are our hidden treasure."  She walked over to the other side of the cavern to the nearest outcropping.  She flipped the tricorder open.

--

The explosion happened so quickly that Janeway barely registered it.  She opened the tricorder and picked up dilithium and something else ... orianium.  Her mind raced.  Orianium, oh, no.  The next thing she knew, the rock in front of her exploded, sending her flying.  She connected with a hard object, and saw stars.  Then she saw nothing.

--

Naomi came awake slowly, feeling groggy.  She'd been flung against the wall where she'd come in, but she'd been only a half meter away from the wall when the rock and crystal formation in front of the captain exploded somehow.  Looking around, she saw that the captain had been thrown into the wall nearby.  Alarm at seeing the captain's limp form brought her a long way toward full awareness.

"Captain?" she called as soon as she could get enough breath in her lungs.

Naomi crawled up to her, trying to keep her head below the dust cloud that filled the room, covering her mouth with her hand.

"Captain?" she touched the form in front of her.  Janeway was on her side, facing away from her.  Naomi crawled to her other side and shined her light on her.  "Captain!"  Panic surged through her.

Janeway was surrounded by blood.  Her head had a large cut, and she had blood around her mouth.  A punctured lung, or broken rib, or both, Naomi thought.  She touched her gently.  "Captain, please wake up," she begged.  Her heart ached at the thought of the captain being hurt badly.  It was all my fault, she thought.  A crewman was supposed to put the captain's well being above his or her own.

Naomi remembered her emergency training.  The doctor had drilled her hard.  First, don't move her.  Second, make sure she had a pulse and she's breathing.  She checked.  The captain's pulse was weak, and her breathing ragged.  The doctor had never told her how hard it would be to do first aid on someone you cared about.    It was like she was fighting for each breath.

She had to get help.  She looked toward the opening that had let them in.  It was even smaller.  There was no way to get the captain out.  She would barely fit herself.  She crawled over to her pack to bring out the emergency kit again.  She was pulling out the regenerator and tricorder when she heard the ragged breathing change slightly.  She turned back to see the captain regaining consciousness slowly.

"Captain, can you hear me?" Naomi called softly.

Janeway's eyes opened slightly.  Naomi watched her being to come into awareness, doing inventory of her body.  Suddenly, her eyes widened.  "Naomi, my legs ... I can't move them.  I can feel them, but I can't move them."

Naomi started to open her tricorder to scan her.  Janeway put her hand on the casing, preventing her from opening it.

  "Naomi ... you can't those here.  The dilithium is ... surrounded by orianium.  It reacts to anything with a strong ...  a strong EM signature," she breathed out.

"What about the wristlights?"

"They're not strong enough.  But the tricorder could set it off again.  The regenerator, too."

"How can we contact the ship?  We have to get help."

"We're too far out of range down here for our commbadges to work.  We're going to have to wait until they come looking.  When we don't come home on time, they'll come."

"But, Captain, you're hurt.  We need to get you to sickbay."

"Can you make it out?  You could go to the shuttle and send out a distress call."

Naomi looked at the opening.  "I think I can ... but I can't leave you."  She thought a second.  "What about communicators?  Can we use them to communicate, so I can check on you until I get back?"

"We can't use them at normal levels.  But if we go to a lower bandwidth, like the lights ... maybe.  I have to sit up some though."  She tried to move, and gasped.  Naomi helped her to lean against the wall so she could see.  "Give me your commbadge."  Naomi complied.  Janeway started altering the badge.  "This should work."  She pulled hers off and did the same to hers.

"Should we test them, to make sure it won't cause another explosion while I'm not here?"

"Good thinking.  Get behind something so that you're shielded from anything that might fly if another explosion happens."  Naomi moved to near the opening and put the badge back on over her heart.

"Ready," she said.

Janeway tapped her badge.  "Janeway to Naomi."

Naomi's badge chirped, and Naomi tapped it back.  "That should work."

"Good luck, Crewman."

"Thank you, Captain."  She went out the opening, phaser on her waist and tricorder in hand, but closed.

--

Naomi waited until she was several meters away from the opening before opening her tricorder to find a way out of the caverns.  She set a timer on the tricorder to beep every five minutes so she could check on the captain.

"Naomi to the captain."

"Janeway here."

"What's your status?"

"Unchanged.  Be careful, Naomi."

"Aye, Captain.  Naomi out."

Several checks later, Naomi got to the cavern's entrance.  As she climbed up the path, she noticed a storm brewing on the horizon.  Better be careful, she thought.

--

The captain tried to stifle a cry of pain, but didn't quite succeed.  She was hurt more than she initially realized, but without a tricorder, there was no way to tell how badly.  It was up to Naomi to get help.  As much faith as she had in the girl, she was worried about her.

"Naomi to captain."

Janeway tapped her badge.  "Janeway here."

"I'm outside, and headed toward the shuttle.  It some while we were in the cave.  What's your status?"

"Still here, Naomi."

"I'm about halfway up the sides of the ravine, and ... "  A shriek cut her off, and a rumble of rocks sliding came over the commlink.  Then a thud.

"Naomi!"  Janeway cried, "What's happened?"

The rumble subsided.

"Naomi, respond!  Naomi!"  Her mind raced with possibilities.

"Naomi!" she tried again.  There was no answer.

--

Naomi groaned slightly.  The rocks underfoot had tumbled.  It had rained here, and the rain had washed away some of the dirt holding the rocks steady.  She'd fallen several meters down the incline.  Only a large rock had stopped her from going into the river.  Her head hurt a lot, she realized.  Commbadge, her mind reminded her.  She looked around, and didn't see it.  Or the tricorder.  She only had her phaser left.  Have to get to the shuttle, get help.  She sat up, and started to climb the path again.  It was like climbing a mountain.

--

Janeway tried to contact Naomi again and again, but she couldn't hail her.  She was afraid to boost the signal, for fear of an explosion.  If anything's happened to her, I'll never forgive myself.  If only I'd brought someone else along with us ...   How is Voyager going to know to come find us?

If Naomi were hurt, it would take nearly a day for Voyager to realize they were in trouble and come for them.  Her mind calculated the time.  They were due to return late that night, nearly midnight Voyager time.  It would take close to 6 hours for them to realize they weren't just running late.  Then they'd have to set up alternate rendezvous for the other crew off the ship.  It would take 3 hours at warp to reach them and then they'd find the planet.  They'd spot the shuttle easily enough, but finding Naomi and herself would take much longer.  If Naomi was hurt, she might not be able to tell Chakotay where she was.

--

Naomi had slipped several more times, but she hadn't hit her head again.  Her vision was foggy, but she could still see.  At times, it got grainy and white, and she had to sit down.  Right after sitting down, the world looked like something out of Uncle Tom's 20th century collection.  Photography ... negatives, that's it, she thought as she watched a large boulder up ahead of her flash nearly white as her vision began to go back to normal.  The hissing in her ears when her vision went white was nearly unbearable.  The rain wasn't helping much.  It made her slip worse.

--

Something wet was near her hand.  Water?  Janeway thought.  Oh, no ...   Naomi said it had rained, she thought.  The cave was flooding.  And she couldn't move.  The water was cold; it would chill her quickly.  It would make the pain less, but it would slowly immobilize her, just before it drowned her.

--

Finally, Naomi thought.  She was at the top of the ravine.  She looked down.  Oh no!  The water was rising and she could see a quickly developing rainstorm in the far distance.  It would flood the cave!  She hurried toward the shuttlecraft.  Undoing the hatch, she climbed in.  She ran towards the communications console.  Distress beacon, communications, anything ... her mind raced.  Once she sent it out, she'd be waiting a while.  She had to get back to the captain.  She grabbed an emergency beacon and walked toward where the environmental suits were.  She put hers on carefully but quickly, silently thanking the many crewmembers that had taught her how to put one on.  She'd just never done it to herself, only helped others get them on and off.  Gloves, helmet, check, she thought.  She looked around for a tricorder.  There wasn't one left.  Leaving the shuttle, she attached the beacon to her suit and turned it on.  Then she headed back toward the ravine.  Slipping on occasion, she made her way down.  In the haze that was her vision, she saw the opening.  It was filling with water.

She slipped inside and splashed her way through it.  With the suit, she'd have never fit through the crevice to the cavern where the captain was.  She'd just have to find another way to protect her until help came, Naomi decided.  She'd made a promise.  Remembering the way in as best she could, she tried to recognize stalagmites and stalactites she'd seen in clusters.

--

The water was surrounding her quickly, the captain realized.  The water beyond the crevice would splash loudly, and then more would rush in.  It was above her legs already, even with her waist.  She couldn't feel her legs for the cold.  All she knew was pain.  But she couldn't let herself slip any—she'd go under.  And she doubted she'd be able to get up again if she did.  She was too numb.  She tried to move her arms and fingers.  They barely responded.  Stay conscious, she told herself firmly.  She'd have to answer to Ensign Wildman if Naomi was hurt.  And the rest of the crew.  She wasn't sure she could live with herself if she caused the death of Voyager's youngest crewmember.

--

Naomi had found the crevice, but she couldn't fit through it in her suit.  She was afraid to take it off, because her suit told her the water was barely above freezing.  Naomi worried for the captain, who had no protection.  Hypothermia was a risk, as was the obvious drowning.  Naomi looked around slowly, so not to send her head spinning.  There had to be a way to stop the water.  She started pulling some medium sized rock and began building a barrier to hold back the water.  It held back some of the water, but not all.  It seeped between the cracks.  She started pushing smaller stones into those holes.  It helped to a point, but help needed to arrive quickly.  She checked the beacon.  It was sending out a signal still.  She only hoped Voyager would pick it up under the rock of the cave.  She only had her suit sensors, and they didn't work on the rock.  She couldn't tell what it was made of, if it conducted or blocked her signal.

She turned around to see how much water was behind her and found red in the water pooling around her ankles.  The captain, she thought.  I have to stop the water.  She can't move.  She watched the crevice out the corner of her eye as she tried to jam bits of stone and mud into the cracks of the barrier.  Some of the lighter instruments were floating out.  She grabbed at them.  One was her regenerator; another was the captain's beat up tricorder.  She moved away from the opening and opened the tricorder carefully.  The last thing she needed to do was cause another explosion.  There wasn't a detonation.  Sighing in relief, she scanned the area.  She had to look at the tricorder carefully, because her vision was blurry.  But she could just read it.  It picked up minerals in the rock around her, but nothing stood out to her as useful.  Except maybe the sakla, she thought.

Then her tricorder beeped.  There was a faint lifesign beyond the crevice.  The captain was still alive, but barely.  Naomi turned back to the salka readings.  They might help.  She started to scan some of the rocks nearby for the mineral.  Finding some, she placed it on top of her stone barrier.  Salka, she thought to herself, a mineral that melts under low heat.  It will seal the gaps.  Those lessons with the crew were paying off.  She pulled out her phaser and began to fire on the rock.  It melted and began to seep like a lava flow, filling the gaps and congealing once it hit the cold water.  Before long, she had the wall sealed up.  No more water was rushing in.

More tools were floating out of the crevice due to the lack of water flowing into the cave.  One of the captain's tools had floated out.  It looked like a sharp rod.  Naomi took the beacon off her suit and put it on a small ledge near the barrier.  Then she started chipping at the crevice with the rod, trying to make the hole bigger.  The tool was obviously not designed for the job, though, and made slow going.  Her headache and fuzzy vision weren't helping.

--

"Commander, we have a distress signal from the captain."  Those words brought pure fear into everyone on the bridge.

"Tom, set a course ... Harry, tell the others on Away missions to rendezvous with us near the planet where the captain is," Chakotay ordered.  "Maximum warp as soon as we can, Tom."

"Aye sir.  Full impulse power."

Tom and Harry exchanged a look as Voyager started out of the system.  It was filled with worry.

The bridge was full of charged silence.  Two of the most dearly loved crewmembers were on the planet, in some kind of trouble.  The tensest of all was Chakotay.  His knuckles were turning white as he griped the arms of his chair, even though his face remained a professional blank.  His eyes however, told another story.

--

The Delta Flyer flew through space at top speed.  Ensign Wildman was just short of pacing the Flyer.  In fact, she had done so and was told by Seven that it was not a good use of her resources.  However, Voyager would reach the planet long before the Flyer.  The Flyer was half a day away, while Voyager would reach it in an hour or so.  Sam sat at her station, wishing pure will could make the Flyer go faster.  If so, they'd hit transwarp and then some.

Tal Celes watched her bang on her panel.  "Sam, it'll be all right.  The captain won't let anything happen to Naomi, she's very protective of her."

Sam sighed, "I know she wouldn't put Naomi in danger intentionally.  But what if there was an accident?"

"Obviously, something has happened, or the captain would not have sent out a distress beacon," Seven said from the conn.  "However, you do not need to 'worry,' for if one has happened, Captain Janeway would do her best to make sure Naomi wouldn't suffer any harm."  Her voice softened.  "I, too, and fond of Naomi."

--

"Approaching the planet, Commander," Tom called from his seat.

"Get into orbit.  Any luck locating the signal source?" Chakotay asked Harry Kim.

"Aye, sir.  It's faint, but it's underground."

"Underground?"

"Yes, sir."

"Any luck contacting them?"

"No sir, no commbadges are showing up on sensors."

"Tom, Tuvok, B'Elanna, you're with me."  They left the bridge.

--

Naomi was nearly there.  The rod had bent several times, but it still worked.  She had cleared the way to get through, almost.  Her plan was to get to the captain first, and check on her.  Then she'd consider trying to make the hole big enough to get the captain through if she could move.  She was nearing the end of the crevice.  There was no sound from the other side.  Naomi was afraid to open her tricorder again.

--

The team beamed down at the top of the ravine.  They followed their tricorder readings downward.  They saw a scrape near the area from where someone had slid, and saw a crushed commbadge winking from further down, beside the rushing water.

"Oh, no ...," B'Elanna began.  "I can't find a lifesign anywhere nearby."

"B'Elanna, they might have made it.  Someone activated the beacon," Tom said.  His words didn't help much.

"Let's keep going," Chakotay said.  "We might be able to save at least one."  He was trying to keep from thinking which one, although the same thought went through all their minds.

They went close to the cave's entrance following the beacon's signal.  Tuvok pointed out some foot-sized indentions in the area, but they had been scoured by water to the point of not being able to see how many sets there were.   Seeing the water and its temperature, Chakotay tapped his badge.

"Chakotay to Voyager.  We need four environmental suits."

Four suits were beamed down and donned quickly, and the team went in, splashing water everywhere

Suddenly, they heard a loud crash.

"That sounded like a cave-in!"  Tom said.

"I suggest we hurry," said Tuvok.

They followed the beacon quickly.  They saw dust from the cave-in ahead, and put away their tricorders.  Then they started running as fast as they could through the knee-deep water.  Rounding a corner, they saw a barrier, seeming of stones stacked on one another, and melted together somehow.  The water on their side was quite high, to their knees, but on the other side, it was only a few centimeters above their boots.

There was a white object sticking out from under rocks, barely above the waterline.  Getting closer, they saw it was an environmental suit, but all they could see was part of the leg.

"Is it the captain?" Chakotay asked.

"I can't tell," Tom replied.  He went to pull out his tricorder.

"Tom, no!!"  B'Elanna screamed.  Tom stopped as if frozen.

"What?"

"You can't use the tricorders.  This area has orianium in it.  It will explode with the EM signal from the tricorder."

"B'Elanna, how do you know that?" Chakotay asked.

"I've seen this once before.  It killed people who were too close scanning.  From the look of it, it's already exploded once at least."

"Then we should proceed with caution and without tricorders," Tuvok said.

"Agreed," Chakotay responded.  "Can we get her out of there?"

"We'll have to uncover her," B'Elanna said.  They crossed the barrier carefully.

They worked quickly.  When they lifted up a rock from the chest area, they found the suit nearly destroyed.  Tom realized that what was left of the suit was too small, even though both of their missing were slight, for the captain.

"Chakotay, this is Naomi!!  We've got to get her back to the ship ... she's hurt bad."

"Kathryn ... " Chakotay whispered under his breath, but he couldn't hide it from the others.  The commlink was open.  "Get Naomi ready to move."  Tom continued digging the child out.

"We'll find her, Chakotay ..., " Tom breathed out.  B'Elanna went over to him, as she surveyed the scene.

"Look, Chakotay, Naomi looked like she was digging here.  There has to be a reason why she as doing so," B'Elanna pointed out.

"Tuvok, can you see beyond the cave-in?" Chakotay asked,

"With your permission, Commander, I will attempt to get closer and find a way in."

"Granted."

Tuvok began to pick his way across the rubble.  The cave-in had made a large hole.

"What do you see, Tuvok?" Tuvok wasn't at the entrance yet, but he couldn't wait any longer.

"There is Starfleet equipment in this cavern.  It appears Naomi, if not the captain, entered it.  There has been an explosion ... it appears that the orianium surrounded dilithium."  Tuvok kept going closer to the entrance.  "Commander!" he nearly shouted, as he climbed with new motivation.  He clambered in and disappeared from sight.  Chakotay began going after him.

Chakotay slipped through the newly made hole to see Tuvok kneeling in the water beside the captain's unconscious form.  She looked awful, and Chakotay looked at the water around her to see red coloring it.  He looked down at his own boots to find his white boots stained red.  He could barely breathe.  But it all suddenly made sense.  The captain had been injured, Naomi had gotten out to get help, and it was her commbadge they had spotted.  The child had been trying to get the captain out before the water rose above her barricade.

"Is she...?" he asked softly.

"The captain still alive, but only just.  We must get her to sickbay.  Her injuries are extensive, and her considerable blood loss will hinder the doctor's treatment."  Chakotay could hear the sudden intake of breath over the commlink.  B'Elanna and Tom were hearing what they were saying all too clearly.

"Can we beam them out?"

"If we set up pattern enhancers so that we don't set off the orianium, yes."

"Let's get to it."

"Aye, sir.  I suggest we hurry."

"Tom, B'Elanna, you heard the man."

"Commander, I think I can make the beacon act as an enhancer at the proper frequency."

"Get on it, these two don't have much time."

"Aye, sir."  B'Elanna began working with a fury that he'd rarely seen.  Agonizing minutes later, she called, "Torres to Voyager."

"Voyager here," Kim responded.  "Did you find them?"

"Yes, we did.  Using the beacon as an locator, and using a lower band than normal, scan for their biosigns and beam them directly to sickbay."

"Beam me up too, Harry," Tom called over the link.

"Aye."  The forms of Tom, Naomi, and Captain Janeway slowly disappeared in a blue shaft of light.

"Tuvok, B'Elanna, the captain came down here for a reason.  She found that dilithium.  I'm not going to let her suffer those injuries in vain.  Let's get some.  But let's not set off this orianium again.  We'll have to do it the old-fashioned way, and process it on the ship.  We can contain any orianium explosions there."

"Agreed," B'Elanna responded.  "I can take care of it, though, with an engineering team.  We can come back.  It will still be here after we make sure the captain and Naomi are okay."

"Chakotay to Voyager.  Three to beam up."

--

"Delta Flyer to Voyager, commencing approach," Seven of Nine said.

"Welcome home."

"Is Naomi all right?" Samantha Wildman called out.

"She and the captain are both in Sickbay."

"Ensign Wildman, you may transport ahead," Seven stated, "Voyager, transport Ensign Wildman directly to sickbay."

"Aye."

Samantha stood as she prepared to beam out.  "Thank you, Seven."

Seven nodded as Sam disappeared.

--

Ensign Wildman rushed over to the bed where Naomi was lying in the surgical area.  She saw the suit she had helped replicate on the floor in crushed pieces.  My baby!  "What happened?"

The doctor looked at her with sad eyes.  "Naomi was injured in a cave-in.  She's suffered heavy internal injuries, as well as cranial trauma.  She's in a coma."

"Will she be okay?"

"I'm not sure at the moment.  If she wakes up, then, yes, she should make a full recovery."

Sam had to look away to keep from breaking into tears.  It was then she saw the captain on the biobed nearest the surgical area, a blanket on top of her.

"What happened to the captain?" she asked, her mind racing.

"The captain was injured in an explosion in the caves.  It seems Naomi got out and went to the shuttle to send a distress call.  She went back to the captain's position, taking an emergency beacon and environmental suit to go back in.  The cave had flooded from a nearby storm.  The suit is what kept Naomi from suffering from hypothermia.  She managed to build a barricade and keep the incoming water from drowning the captain.  Captain Janeway probably couldn't move at the time.  She had suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung, cranial trauma, and an injury to her spine.  The spinal injury more than likely cut off movement and feeling."

"More than likely?" Sam cut in.

"We can only guess.  Neither has woken up to tell us anything.  Naomi seemed to have been trying to dig a way to get the captain out, when she apparently dislodged the wrong stone.  They fell in on her.  Fortunately, we found her not long after.  The away team was in the cave at the time of the cave-in, but were too far away to prevent it."

"Will the captain be okay?"

"Eventually, I hope so.  She will recover with time.  She will be extremely weak, however, for some time.  She lost a great deal of blood.  And hypothermia didn't help her any, either.  But she is alive, and will survive, thanks to Naomi."

"When will they wake up?"

"I'm uncertain.  The healing process is a complicated thing.  I decided in their case, to let them wake naturally, rather than to stress their systems."

"I want to stay here, until she wakes up."

"Ensign, I've already thrown Commander Chakotay out.  He wanted to stay with the captain.  If I let anyone stay with either of them for a long period of time, the whole crew will be in here.  I will let you stay for a short time, but you must leave eventually.  Coma patients supposedly are somewhat aware of their surroundings.  Naomi is too weak for me to allow the stress of someone staying with her.  Right now, she would undoubtedly feel guilty and try to fight the coma too soon.  It could kill her.  You can visit, of course, but only for short times.  I'll allow longer times later on."

Samantha sighed, she knew he was right, but her motherly instinct had her raging inside.  How could the captain have allowed her to be hurt?  She knew it was not the captain's fault, but the anger was there nonetheless.  The mission was supposed to have been safe!

An hour later, after sitting beside Naomi, the doctor touched her shoulder.  She understood.  Tears in her eyes, she left sickbay.  She found most of the crew hovering in the area of sickbay, waiting for news.  Tal Celes held out her arms and Sam fell into them, sobbing.

--

Kathryn Janeway slowly became aware of her surroundings as she opened her eyes.  Sickbay.  She tried to move but her body screamed in pain as she did.  She gasped.

"Ah, Captain, you're awake.  Please don't move yet," the Doctor's voice called as he came into her field of vision.

She lay still, but she had to ask, "Naomi.  How is Naomi?"

--

"Doctor to Commander Chakotay."

"Chakotay here."

"You asked to be informed the moment the captain woke up."

"I'm on my way.  Chakotay out.  Tom, you have the bridge."

"Aye, sir."

Chakotay vanished into the turbolift.

Moments later, he was running down the corridor of Deck 5.  The crew who saw him quickly figured out where he was going, and practically climbed the bulkheads to get out of his way.  After he had passed, they ran after him, all hoping to hear news of either the captain or Naomi.

Chakotay nearly slammed into the sickbay doors, which to his mind couldn't open fast enough.  He found the doctor standing beside the captain's bed.  Her eyes were open, but he could see she was near tears.

"Captain ... " he began.

"I was just telling her about Naomi," The doctor answered for her.

"I see."

"Also, the captain has told me what happened to her.  Naomi left the cave for help, and they had been using their commbadges on a low frequency to communicate.  Apparently, Naomi slipped and fell, and the captain lost contact.  She feared Naomi dead or hurt severely."

Captain Janeway's voice broke in, rough from lack of use.  "Chakotay, what the doctor has told me is just short of amazing.  Naomi, she ... she risked her life to save me."

"I know ... she had a promise to keep.  After we recovered you both, half the senior staff admitted to having her promise to watch over you."

"She kept it, but she's ... "

"I know."

"She's hurt worse than me because she was protecting me.  I should have been protecting her!  She may die, Chakotay, and from what the doctor says and what I remember, she doesn't even know she rescued me."

"She will know, as soon as she wakes up," he said, then leaned down to whisper, "and she will wake up, Kathryn.  She's strong, in spite of her injuries."

"I want to see her."

The doctor broke in.  "Not yet captain.  Your spine suffered injury, remember?  It will take some time to repair, even with the technology at our disposal."

"As soon as I can, Doctor."

"Aye, Captain."

The doors to sickbay opened.  Samantha Wildman was coming in for her visit with Naomi's comatose form.  Her jaw dropped as she saw the captain awake.

"Captain!"

Janeway turned her face toward her and beckoned her to her side with her hand.

"Samantha, I am so sorry for what happened.  But if anyone else on board Voyager had been with me, we might both still be down there.  When the orianium exploded, it closed the cavern opening so much no one but Naomi could get through.  I owe your daughter my life."

"I forgive you, Captain."  Samantha went over to the captain and put her hand over the captain's.  With a glance toward Naomi, she said, "I only hope she wakes up so we can tell her that."

Janeway smiled.  "She's a strong girl.  And a brave one at that."

--

The doctor kept Janeway lying down for two day until the swelling in her spine went down enough to let her sit up.  She'd have to go through some therapy to be able to walk again, he told her.  Her head trauma had left her slightly dizzy, for the doctor said that cranial trauma was tricky to deal with.  Her broken ribs had been long since mended, as had her lung.  She still felt very weak, but the doctor reminded her that the replacement blood she had been given was a poor substitute for her own blood.  It would take weeks to be back on full duty. 

From the bed where she leaned against a pillow, she watched the child.  All her internal injuries had been healed, but she hadn't woken up yet.  The doctor told her it might take some time.

She longed to walk over and hold the child's hand.  To reassure the child, as well as herself.  The crew made constant trips to sickbay to see them both, to offer reassurance.  Many people had left presents next to Naomi's bed.  Janeway smiled as she looked at some of them.  There were replacement tools for the ones that had been too waterlogged to save from the cave.  The doctor had even replicated a new case.  And according to the reports she had forced out of Chakotay (the doctor had told her no ship's business until she was released from sickbay), they had gotten a good amount of dilithium.  At least it hadn't been for nothing.  She just hoped the cost didn't include the life of the youngest crewmember.

--

Late in the evening, Chakotay was coming to sickbay to see the captain.  He'd try to whisper some news to the captain.  The last time the doctor had caught him.  But tonight, the doctor was working in the medical lab.  The captain would contact him if needed.  Chakotay smiled as he remembered the captain trying to convince the doctor to let her try to walk that day.  The doctor had refused her, saying her injury wasn't healed enough, that it would take a few more days.  It had only been five days since the accident

Turning at the doors, he went in.  Then he stood rooted to the spot, right inside the door.  The captain had somehow gotten out of her bed.  She was pulling herself up to Naomi's bed with her arms.  Apparently, she had crawled or dragged herself to the child's bedside.  He quickly went over and gently scooped her up.  Her eyes went wide with shock at seeing him.

"Don't fight me, Kathryn.  I'm not going deny you the chance to see her.  I'll hold you so you don't injure yourself worse."

Her eyes shined with gratitude.  He knew what this meant to her, and what she would risk by getting out of bed.  "Thank you, Chakotay."  She reached out to touch Naomi's forehead.  "She was so brave."  She spoke to Naomi.  "Naomi, you did it.  You got us safely back to the ship.  Thank you.  I'm so proud of you.  Your my little Captain's Assistant for life now, you know that?" she asked, slipping her hand into Naomi's.

Chakotay whispered to Janeway, "We need to get you back into bed.  I'll let you talk with her again tomorrow, okay?"

"Is that a promise, Commander?"

"Yes."

"Then I accept."  She turned back to Naomi.  "I'll come see you tomorrow, Naomi, to talk.  But I'm in sickbay with you—I'll be right here if you need me."  She squeezed Naomi's hand gently.  "I promise."

Her eyes widened in shock suddenly.  "Chakotay!  She squeezed my hand back!"  Since the commander was holding her in his arms, she tapped his commbadge for him.  "Janeway to Doctor."

"Doctor here."

"I think Naomi is waking up."

"I'll be right there."

Naomi began to stir on the bed.

"Chakotay, put me down on the edge of the bed."  He did so.  Naomi was so small that she didn't take up much space.  The captain was able to sit at the foot of the bed.

The doctor came racing into Sickbay, and ran to the nearest console.  "She's regaining consciousness."

Janeway leaned forward as best she could to watch Naomi's eyes flicker, then open.

--

Naomi stared at the ceiling as she tried to figure out where she was.  She had been digging out the crevice.  They had fallen in on her.  She remembered pain, and voices.  Then it came to her.  She was in Sickbay, on Voyager, safe.  But was the captain?  She remembered hearing her voice.  She looked toward the foot of her bed.  There she was!!  Watching her.  Naomi sat up slowly and crawled over to her on the bed.  Then Naomi hugged her, tears in her eyes.  The captain held her tight as she cried.

"I was afraid you'd been killed."

"I'm fine, Naomi."

"You'd say you were fine if you'd just gotten your legs torn off by a Traken beast."

Janeway had to laugh.  "Yes, I would, wouldn't I?  Okay, I'll be honest.  I'll be going through some therapy to walk again, but I'll be fine.  We were far more worried about you.  You were nearly crushed by the cave-in.  If you hadn't had that suit on, you'd be dead.  As it is, we have to replicate a new suit now."

Naomi smiled.  "Is Mom coming?"

The doctor answered her.  "She's on her way."  The transporter engaged and deposited Ensign Wildman into sickbay.  She was covered in grime, having taken heavy cleaning of engines to help alleviate the pain.

Sam went over and hugged Naomi tightly.  Chakotay picked up Janeway and put her back on her biobed.  "Got to get you out of harm's way," he said.  She chuckled as she watched the Wildmans.

"You know, Chakotay, she acted as well, if not better than many adult crewmember I know."

"Perhaps you ought to reward her."

"That's an idea."

--

Two weeks later, the captain was walking again, and on full duty.  Naomi smiled as she saw the captain walk into the mess hall, padd in hand.

"Good morning, Captain."

"Good morning, Naomi.  I want you to report to Holodeck 2 at 1400.  We could use your help with a program.  Meet Commander Chakotay at the entrance."

"Aye, captain."

"Wear your uniform."  They had replaced her torn one with a whole set of the jumpsuits.

"Aye-aye."  She grinned.

At 1359, Naomi walked up to Holodeck 2 to find the commander outside.

"Ready, Naomi?"

"Yes, Commander.  What are we going to do?"

"I'm having some trouble with a program and we need your input."

"Okay.  Where do we start?"

"Let's go in first.  Computer run program R1."

"Program activated."

They entered to find half the crew there.  "Surprise!" they called.

Naomi turned to the commander.  "What is this?"

"A special party for you.  You saved the captain's life.  The crew wanted to reward you."

"Wow!  Thanks!"  She looked around to find the entire senior staff, except one.  "Where's the captain?" she asked, concerned.  "Is she not feeling okay?"

A shout rang out from near the door.

"Captain on deck!"

The entire crew went to attention.  Naomi copied them.  The captain walked in, looking at her crew.  "Crewman Naomi Wildman.  Step forward."  She did so.

"Crewman, you have exceeded the call of duty, going above and beyond to save the life of one of your crew.  Many people of our crew have done things to save each other, and the ship.  But no one has been so young.  It is my honor to present you with the Youth Medal of Bravery."  She put a small blue ribbon with a silver diamond shaped medal on Naomi's uniform.  The medal had a heart with wings on it.

Naomi smiled at the captain, then saluted her in the old naval tradition as the crew cheered.  The captain saluted back, smiling.  Naomi's heart flew like the one on her medal.

The End

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