After a delay caused by a coursework overload and writer's block, here's chapter eight!
Many thanks to my chapter eight beta elara ananka
And thank you to jewlz sheridan, xkawaiix, gater62, kira66 and Katty08 for the reviews!
"Phoebe...Phoebe? Are you alright?"
Slowly blinking back to consciousness, Phoebe turned to look up at Sekaya whose face was etched with concern.
"What happened?" She winced.
"Something hit the ship...I think...I haven't contacted Chakotay yet but we seemed to take quite a pounding. You hit your head on the table."
With Sekaya's help, Phoebe slowly got to her feet. She noted that the mess hall was now deserted. Everyone was at their emergency stations.
B'Elanna sat nearby, cradling Miral, who looked a little shaken but was uninjured. B'Elanna's gaze was serious, focused on the stars outside. Phoebe gingerly turned to look out of the window, and was puzzled by what she saw.
The stars were now a myriad of amber hues, and space itself had a golden tint, punctuated with nebulous clouds.
"What the hell?"
"Shut off the primary plasma injectors," Vorik ordered Lieutenant Mulcahey, "Foster, find out what's draining our deuterium."
"We've got thrusters and impulse engines back online," announced Trill engineer Anzia Teg.
"Commander Vorik. What shape are we in down there?" Chakotay's normally calm voice sounded terse over the intercom.
"We have restored thrusters and impulse engines sir. However, the warp drive has taken considerable damage. It will be several hours before we can get the warp core back online. We are also experiencing a drain on our deuterium reserves, the cause of which is yet unknown."
"Captain, may I inquire as to what has just transpired?"
"We've just had a run-in with the female Q. I'll be making an announcement shortly."
"She's coming around," Tom informed Chakotay as Linda Chung opened her eyes.
"Tom, take her to sickbay, and give Doreen a hand." Chakotay said, referring to Voyager's pre-named EMH.
Tom arrived in sickbay to disarray.
Doreen had already been activated and was tending to the wounded. Lieutenant Andrews was lying on the main biobed.
"Commander Paris. I have stabilised Ensign Green, but Andrews has a ruptured spleen, a collapsed lung and massive internal bleeding. Please tend to the other casualties."
Tom merely nodded before heading over to Hickman who had a deep gash on his forehead. After performing a quick scan and healing the wound, Tom diagnosed a mild concussion.
"Danny, we're a bit swamped in here. I'll get Astall to take you back to your quarters. Keep off your feet for forty-eight hours if I don't get to treat you again."
Hickman nodded, still feeling groggy.
"Paris to Astall. Please report to sickbay."
Tom then began treating Linda, whom he gave the same diagnosis. As he moved on to Crewman Mendez's broken wrist, B'Elanna, Miral, Phoebe and Sekaya arrived in sickbay. Tom's paternal instincts kicked in and he left his patient.
"Miral's fine," B'Elanna said, "but she wanted to see you, and I knew you'd be here. Phoebe took a tumble in the mess hall. We think she's got a concussion."
"Her and half the crew." Tom sighed, looking around sickbay at the half-dozen or so crewmembers holding their heads in their hands.
"What happened?" asked Sekaya.
Tom didn't want believe what he'd just heard on the bridge.
"Uhm..." he paused, "Chakotay said he'd make an announcement soon."
Tom didn't have to nod.
At that moment the Huanni Counselor, Astall arrived in sickbay looking slightly shaken.
"Astall, could you accompany Danny Hickman back to his quarters?"
"Of course," Astall smiled before escorting the engineering officer out of sickbay.
"Sekaya, can you take Linda Chung to her quarters?"
"Sure," Sekaya said, helping the small woman to her feet, "then I'll be going to talk to that brother of mine."
As Sekaya left, B'Elanna gave her husband a small smile before taking Miral into Doreen's office.
Tom sighed, getting back to work. He glanced back at Doreen, still desperately trying to save Andrews' life.
"I've got the astrometrics sensors back online!" Cadet Naomi Wildman yelled through the clouds of steam that had engulfed the astrometrics lab.
"Good! Try and get a better fix on our location!" Tal Celes shouted as she recalibrated the sensors to cut through the interference that was emanating from the micro-nebulas surrounding Voyager.
Naomi sighed in relief as she managed to restore the environmental controls and flushed out the steam.
"Andromeda's a barred spiral galaxy like the Milky Way. It's bigger than our own, but we can use the same mapping system," Celes explained.
Naomi input some commands, and brought up a rough map of the galaxy.
"We're in a region in one of the outer spiral arms of the galaxy. I'm splitting the galaxy into four quadrants like our own. I've named them Epsilon, Zeta, Eta and Theta. Using this data and utilising what data we have, we appear to be on the border of the Epsilon and Zeta quadrants."
"Here's what the astrometrics sensors have discovered about this sector so far..." Celes said, hitting the controls.
A map of the sector appeared, showing a rather busy area of space.
"This area is chock-full of star systems!"
"You could say...Not detecting any humanoid lifesigns, though."
"Chakotay to Astrometrics."
"Tal here, sir," Celes responded.
"Are astrometric sensors online?"
"We're experiencing a drain on our deuterium reserves. I need you to locate a source of deuterium, should we need it."
While Chakotay had been talking, Naomi had already input the correct search algorithm. Her panel beeped.
"Captain, we're reading raw deuterium concentrations less than a light year away from our current position. I've sent the coordinates to the bridge," said Naomi.
The console beeped again, and Celes moved to analyze the console's readout.
"Uh, sir...The readings are coming from several vessels docked at some sort of...array."
Harry locked on to the coordinates and began a scan.
"I don't believe it," he said incredulously, "That 'array', it's nearly identical to both the Caretaker and Suspiria's arrays, only much larger and...and I'll be damned...I'm reading a sporocystian lifesign within the structure."
"This array seems to have a different function, sir," said Billy Telfer, "I'm reading several vessels, dozens of species. The universal translator is struggling with the Andromedian languages, but subspace chatter seems to indicate it's a depot or trading post of some kind."
"I agree sir," said Lyssa, "but if we're going to go there, I recommend we use caution."
Chakotay nodded, "Noted, but we're further from home than we've ever been. Call it a hunch but I'm willing to bet that the 'Enemy' is that sporocystian lifeform, and that it's a Nacene, and that it can get us home.
"Chakotay to Vorik. We're heading towards an array, zero point nine light years from our current position. How long will it take us to get there?"
"Without a functioning warp drive, it will take us approximately three days. Warp drive should be restored within a few hours, provided that we discover what is causing the deuterium problem. If we regain warp drive, we can be at the array within ten hours."
"Do we have enough deuterium to get us to the array?"
"There is no way to be certain, sir."
"Acknowledged. Hamilton, set a course for the array, maximum impulse."