We were frelled. It was the first time I had ever gotten to do anything more than just sit there, and what had happened? We had gotten frelled, big-time frelled, major mo-fo fahrbot frelled. I didn't even know what had gone wrong yet. One minute we're flying back from a supply run, on our way to dock with Moya, Mom teasing me about how people shouldn't get to be co-pilots until they were big enough to fire a pulse rifle without needing a training sight, and the next minute she's frowning at the display, her hands jumping back in a fritz of blue sparks and even bluer light, and then…
Then I opened my eyes, and it was obviously later. Emergency lights were blinking on the floor of the transport pod, and wires were hanging off of smoking displays. I looked out the window, and I didn't see Moya, and I didn't see any stars I recognized. I couldn't access the computer, or the communications array. It was frelling hot, too.
Mom was beside me. Her chair had come loose from its moorings in the whatever that had happened, but it was still upright, and she was slumped in her seat, still strapped in. She had smallish trickle of blood trailing from her right ear down the side of her face. It had already dried to a flat, brown colour, so we must have been out of it for at least an arn or so. And she had some nasty-looking burns on both of her hands. They looked frelling painful. She should have been screaming, even a bad-ass like her should have been. But she wasn't awake.
I shook her gently. "Mom?"
No answer. I poked her ankle with the side of my boot. "Mom? Mom, wake up!"
She made a small groaning noise.
I dug in my pack for a bottle of water, and pulled my bandana off my neck. I wet it and held it to her cheek. "Mom, it's okay. I got you."
She groaned again, then smiled a little, reaching for my wet hand. "Umm. That feels nice."
I moved closer, keeping the damp cloth pressed to her face. "You okay?"
She squirmed a little, starting to wake up some. "What…happened?"
"Frell if I know. We…"
"D'Argo! Your language!"
"What? It's not like you don't say it."
She squirmed again, struggling a little against the confines of her restraint. I put down the bandana and un-strapped her. Her cheeks were red and her eyes looked sweaty.
"It's hot," I said.
There was a microt's pause, then she nodded again. Frelling heat delirium. Great. I had to work fast.
I opened the rest of my water bottle, and made her drink some. She'd managed to wiggle out of her jacket, and I poured some of the water onto the fabric of her undershirt. Her hands were twitching.
"You should drink some too," she said. Her eyes kept pinching shut, and I wished she would stop shaking. "It's so hot…"
"Half-human, Mom. Can't get heat delirium."
"No, but you can still get hot. Drink some."
I took a sip. Mom smiled. "Good boy. Now, let's call Dad."
"Can't. Comms are down."
"Are they? Listen, D'Argo, we'll have to…to launch…" She bit her lip. "There's a word for it. I know there's a word…"
"Mom, it's okay."
No! Frell. The beacon, that's what's it's called. Communications beacon. Can…launch one manually."
"I don't know how to do that."
She slumped back into her seat again. "I know." Then she closed her eyes.
She reached over the side of her chair, probed beneath it with her damaged hand. "D'Argo…the vid…"
I remembered at the same time she did and shoved her hand away, resting it on the wet cloth of her shirt and then feeling underneath the seat with my own hand. I came away after a moment with a wrapped, flat package which I opened to get out the vid-chip. There was one in every transport pod, and Mom's prowler too, but I had never had to use one yet…
Mom was so out of it. I sprinkled her with more of the water, then got my portable vid player out of my bag and plugged in the chip. There was Dad on my screen.
"Key, kiddo," he said. "If you're watching this, that means something's gone wrong. I hope I'm with you, or Mom's with you, even if we're…well, if you're watching this, it means you might be alone, and you need to send Moya a message. When Mom and I planned this thing, we assumed…well, we had to assume you'd get a worst case scenario. Comms are down. Mom and I can't help you. It's all on you, little man. Just remember that whatever happens, Mom and I love you, and we're so, so proud of you, kiddo. So, manually coding a distress beacon, here's what you do…"
I did it. Then I let myself get sleepy too.
There were voices in the cockpit when I woke up again, and it wasn't Dad or Chi or Jothee or anyone like that. A light was shining in my eyes, and a shadow moved closer.
"Don't be afraid," said a voice. "We found your distress beacon. We are here to help you."
I rubbed my eyes, still groggy from the heat. "Mom, she's…"
"His language is not being picked up by the universal translator," the voice said. My eyes were clearing now, and I could make out a dark face with dark hair and long, bumpy ridges on its forehead. Not Sebecean or Luxan or Nebari or anything like that. I switched over to English, which was my best other one.
"I'm okay, it's my mom, she's…"
The face was rapidly coming into focus, and I could see that it looked like a woman, although Dad always says you should never assume with species you haven't seen before. She touched my arm, then stood up and turned to her companions.
"Is the other one all right? He says it's his mother…"
"Translator sorted him out?" said another voice. "Okay, we're scanning her now…looks like some superficial burns and cuts, nothing serious. And some kind of heat stroke…"
"It's heat delirium," I interrupted. "Environmentals cut out on us. She's frelled."
Several eyes were staring at me. Her companion stepped into the dim beam of the emergency lighting. He was tall, with light brown hair and unmistakably Sebacean features. And he was looking at me like I was, as Dad would say, from Mars.
"Heat delirium," he repeated dumbly.
Now, it was my turn to look dumb. "You guys don't know about that? So, what, are you not Sebacean or something? You aren't, are you? Who ARE you?"
Again, he repeated after me. "Sebacean. Is that what you are?"
"She is," I said, indicating Mom. "I'm half. Look, can you get us out of here? Or help me get Environmentals fixed? Dad left a vid. But the heat, it's…"
"Right," the man said. "Rescue now, first contact later. B'Elanna, is he stable for transport?"
The woman nodded, and the man tapped his comm. again. "Voyager, you have our signal?"
A voice answered through his comm. It said 'Yes Sir' and I suddenly realized that it wasn't translator microbes kicking in. That was English! This Voyager, whatever it was, had actual humans on it!
And just as I had processed that, the guy and my mom disappeared in a puddle of sparkles. I screamed.