if you can look in my eyes
and tell me we'll be all right
if you promise never to leave
you just might make me believe
It was a routine survey of a class M planet in the Delta quadrant. The Enterprise had returned after a few days back in Earth's solar system, where they'd remained long enough to take part in the Federation-wide communication of Boothby's memorial service. Far from being disappointed by their inability to join the hundreds who assembled at the Academy, Picard and the crewmembers who knew Boothby well were comforted by the extraordinary awareness of the thousands more who were joined visually via subspace to say goodbye to someone who'd had such a singular effect on them all. Drinks and stories were shared in Ten Forward afterward, and even the captain joined in. But after respects were paid and remembrances swapped, it was back to the everyday.
Planet survey was something they'd done hundreds of times. Leo processed the away team assignments as always, according to the captain's orders by seniority and skill level, including Geordi and Data as team commanders, and several other lower-ranked crew representing science and engineering. Routine in every respect. It was so easy to forget that nothing in deep space was routine.
"Captain, we've lost communication with the shuttle," the ensign announced. Several moments went by as she tried to raise them again. "I'm sorry sir, nothing."
"Commander Worf, is there any evidence of hostile presence we may have missed?"
Worf examined his console closely, ran additional scans. "No evidence of any ship but ours. There is a spike in electromagnetic activity where the shuttle was intending to land, but it is not related to unnatural phenomena. It is also rising and falling in an unpredictable pattern."
"Put the planet on visual, Ensign Bhanti."
As the image of a planet swept by storms appeared, the science officer reported, "Captain, storms of unknown origin have seemed to come up from nowhere."
"Are these atypical, Lieutenant?"
"We have no way of knowing, sir. Not enough is known of this planet system to be sure."
"Number One, advise engineering to isolate the nature of these storms, and include Commander O'Brien. Maybe we can transport the away team if the shuttle is inoperative." He avoided the use of the word "damaged". Nothing could be assumed at this point, but it was never a good sign to lose contact with a well-equipped away team so abruptly.
"Aye, sir." Riker was up and gone as he hit his combadge, "Riker to engineering, assemble senior staff. Mr. O'Brien, I'll need you too."
Picard hit the link to Leo's office. "Lieutenant O'Reilly, contact the nearest starbase, and have them send us everything they have on this quadrant and the weather systems typical of planetary systems neighboring this one. Top priority."
"Right away, sir." Too well trained to ask why, Leo fulfilled the order and shoved her concerns aside as best she could. Minutes later she was on the bridge and handed the PADD to Picard.
"Captain, the starbase at Denurian IV was the nearest to our position. This is all they could provide. Sudden electromagnetic storms, origin and duration unknown. High level of interference with navigation and communications systems, high probability of completely disabling of those systems in smaller craft." She was in the habit of reciting the basics as Picard read the details of communications, something he didn't discourage because it could distill what he was reading as he read it. Why nobody had thought to to let them know about these phenomena in advance was a question for another time.
"Storm clearing, captain," Lt. Angeletti reported from the science station.
"Ensign Bhanti," Picard began.
"Way ahead of you, sir," she interrupted, executing the order before he'd issued it. "Still can't raise them."
Worf announced, "Captain, I'm reading the presence of a craft on the planet's surface."
"Impossible to tell."
"Lt. O'Reilly, have Number One dispatch an away team to the surface, and include someone from cybernetics. Mr. Worf, communicate the coordinates of the craft to Mr. O'Brien so he can transport the away team directly to the location." Now Picard contacted sickbay. "Dr. Crusher, report to transporter room one to accompany an away team to the planet's surface. We don't know whether or not there are casualties to attend to. Bring whatever assistance you deem necessary."
The captain sat back tensely in the conn chair as Leo returned from the ready room. "Five member away team dispatched to transporter room one, sir, under Commander Riker."
"Lt. Angeletti, is there any sign of magnetic disturbance?"
"Commander O'Brien, is the away team assembled?"
"Aye, sir. Ready to transport."
"Very well. Make it so."
All necessary and possible orders issued, Picard turned to Leo. "Have a seat, Lieutenant. You'll know as soon as we do."
She dropped into the first officer's customary seat, not answering, eyes glued to the viewscreen as if she could keep any further disturbances away by sheer force of will. "Are we in synchronous orbit, ensign?" she asked the crew member at navigation.
Not that it would make much difference if any of them could see disaster approaching.