Disclaimer: The entire idea for this fic belongs to Noordledoordle, who's AMAZING Star Trek Voyager: The Motion Picture trailer on Youtube inspired this entire thing. She has so graciously allowed me to turn it into fiction form. All other characters belong to Paramount and the usual people - if I owned them, I would have ordered them to do a remake of Endgame and a movie by now, so CLEARLY I don't own anything.
Hope you enjoy!
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The planet was one of the coldest they'd beamed down to in a while. The surface was covered in alternating layers of snow and ice, stretching across the valleys and plains, all the way to the snow-capped mountains in the far distance. The temperature was well below zero and dropping considerably the later in the day it became. The winds had finally stopped, as had the snow, leaving the planet surface silent and rather beautiful.
Four figures could be identified, walking in separate directions. All four were wrapped in so many layers that they gave the appearance of snow-creatures, or fluffed marshmallows, as Neelix had described them that morning before they'd disembarked from the ship.
"That's the second time this month you've managed to land a shuttle and not crash. Congratulations, Tom."
"Oh, very funny, Chakotay. We all know what happens when you try to fly a shuttle - especially with the captain. I think you've crashed six or seven times with her," Tom Paris replied as he walked near Commander Chakotay, tugging the hood of his bubble coat tighter around his face and readjusting the goggles that were starting to ice over. The air was bitter cold, even without the addition of the wind, making it difficult for the Voyageraway team.
"That wasn't my fault," Chakotay pointed out, voice muffled by his own coat. The tricorders in their hands beeped together in their usual rhythms, scanning the surface time after time and looking for any sort of life or anomaly.
"I do hope you're not talking about me," Kathryn Janeway said as she neared them, having caught the last bit of what they were saying. Her lips were curved upward at the corners, smirking at the fact she had caught them in the act. Beside her, Harry Kim pretended to be very interested in the blank readings of his tricorder.
"Of course not, Captain," Tom said at once.
"Right, Mr. Paris." She shook her head at him. Or at least attempted to shake her head. The coat's hood allowed little movement of her neck to occur. Getting more irritated and wishing for the strongest cup of coffee in that moment, she continued.
"Nothing yet. I don't think we'll find anything, either. Just more snow and ice. Nothing of value," Chakotay murmured, pulling his tricorder up closer to his face so he could see the reading clearer, confirming there was indeed nothing but ice, snow, and the occasional wind gust.
"And here I thought we'd find a planet suitable for some shore leave." Harry grumbled.
"Well, if you want to stay here for a while, Harry, be my guest. We may have to defrost your body when you're back on board, though," Kathryn offered, gesturing to the vast expanse of plains around them.
"Eh, I'll just wait until we find something a bit warmer. I've never liked the cold."
Taking one long glance around the area, Kathryn sighed. So much for finding anything suitable to eat so they could stock up. She'd held little hope for the ice planet when they'd come into orbit, and this had confirmed it. It had been worth a shot, though - ice planets did often hide things on their surface. Many had secrets buried beneath the cold. Kathryn wasn't in the mood to go digging, so if the planet had any secrets beneath the surface it could keep them. She was rather eager to get back on Voyager, anyway, and get back on course to Earth. Perhaps there would be other promising planets they could stock up from - or, if they were lucky, held some sort of capability to get them home faster.
Then again, she'd been hoping for that for seven years.
The wind began to pick up again and she flinched as the bitter cold stung her exposed cheeks and nose. No doubt they'd be as red as her uniform when she returned to the ship.
"Let's head back to the shuttle."
Together, the four of them began to head back to the Delta Flyerin the distance, stuffing their tricorders into their pockets as they went. Tom started to jog ahead in an attempt to warm up and Harry followed. Kathryn remained at her normal pace with Chakotay.
"Makes me miss Indiana. Winters there look a lot like this." Kathryn said quietly, putting her head down in an attempt to block the wind from cutting into her face.
"What? Biting cold, nothing to see for miles but snow and ice?" Chakotay inquired with slight amusement in his tone. Kathryn glanced sideways at him with a nod. She did indeed miss Indiana winters. It was the days like these she'd often gone out into the yard as a little girl to play with Phoebe, then come back inside not an hour later for some hot chocolate.
"Want to join me for a cup of hot chocolate later?"
"After this cold, that sounds perfect," Chakotay replied. "But we'd better hurry. Tom and Harry will end up leaving us behind in the cold."
"Oh, of that I have no doubt." She laughed and the pair of them began to jog to catch up with the others. The Delta Flyerwas still some distance off, but the promise of warmth that it signified made Kathryn run just a bit faster. Chakotay easily kept pace with her rather than making it a race. Running in so many layers was rather difficult, and up ahead she could see Tom and Harry having problems as well. They had stopped running and were waiting for the command team to catch up while they rested.
The wind blew harder against them in gusts, silencing only for a moment occasionally. Kathryn kept her head down as much as possible as she jogged, glancing up only when the silence came.
However, during one moment of silence, an unmistakable sound caught her attention. She slowed to a stop, Chakotay mirroring her actions a moment later. They were still a few feet away from Tom and Harry. Another gust of wind followed by silence, but the noise was there.
The sound of ice cracking.
Her head snapped down and she saw it. The snow beneath their feet wasn't snow at all, but ice - and a very thin layer, it appeared. It was likely there was water beneath it, and Kathryn began to calculate in her head. If the ice cracked they'd be plunged into freezing waters and suffer hypothermia before they could pull themselves out. Moving would cause it to crack more and send them under.
"Nobody move." She threw out her hand to stop Chakotay from coming closer, which his intent seemed to be. "Look at your feet."
The men did, seeing what Kathryn had heard and seen first. From that point onward, they were frozen solid, buffeted by the winds that continued to blow, careless of their current predicament.
"Can we beam ourselves to the Flyer?" Harry asked, nearly yelling over the sound of the winds because they were still feet apart from each other.
"The winds are interfering too much with the transporter!" Kathryn heard Tom reply. Beaming to Voyagerwas impossible as well, leaving them to stand there for a moment to figure out a solution.
"We'll have to try and run. Quickly and as light-footed as possible." Kathryn muttered. Chakotay shook his head.
"It would crack if we all ran at once. Not all of us are your size and weight."
"Are you calling us fat, Chakotay?" Tom called and Kathryn threw him a glare. Now was not the time to be kidding around.
"Then we run one at a time. Tom and Harry first since they're closest, then us." Kathryn decided, looking up at the other two, praying the ice would hold long enough for them to get off of it. She had no idea for how far it stretched, either. There was the possibility that it stretched all the way to the Flyer and the ship was indeed sitting on the ice, causing it to strain and crack further.
"Tom! You first!" Kathryn ordered during one of the silences and Tom nodded. He turned back around toward the Flyer and seemed to study the area between him and the ship before he broke off at a solid run. Kathryn watched anxiously as he charged across the ice at the fastest pace imaginable - the layers of clothing kept him from running too quickly, but thankfully, it was quickly enough. He nearly slipped and fell, but he managed to keep it together. She heard the ice crack once beneath her feet before he made it some distance and stopped. She saw his figure kneel and study the ground, then give a thumbs up toward them. Apparently, the ice didn't stretch all the way to the Flyer, which made her feel a bit better. Still, the distance from where she stood to Tom would be quite the challenge.
"Harry! Go!" Chakotay said and the command team watched as Harry took off next, running across the ice as well. Kathryn flinched and bit down on her lip as the ice cracked further. Harry fell and she winced again, watching as he slid the rest of the way across the ice on his back, flailing limbs and all.
She looked over at Chakotay.
"You go first. If it holds you, I know it'll hold me."
"But what if it cracks from me running across it and you don't have the chance?" He said and Kathryn waved a dismissive hand at him.
"Captain's orders. Go, Chakotay." She nudged his arm. He gave her what appeared to be a pleading look - it could have been something else, but she couldn't tell behind the fur of the coat hood and the goggles. He hesitated, but broke off at a full run across the ice.
Kathryn heard the ice crack much more than before and knew it wouldn't hold much longer. Without much of a choice, she took off after him at the fastest pace she could manage, watching her feet the entire time. Dark veins of cracks appeared like spider webs every time her boot hit the ice. Breath coming in short gasps and her lungs burning from the cold air, she kept going. Chakotay wasn't that much farther ahead of her, and she could see Tom and Harry waving frantically from the edge of the ice.
She heard the shattering before she saw it. The ice had finally given away, only it wasn't water beneath. It was a gaping cavern of sorts, an opening springing up between her and Chakotay as the ice shattered away. The ice fell right behind him, and he threatened to fall in at any moment. One hesitation and he would.
The noise that escaped her lips as Tom and Harry ran back out onto the ice in an attempt to help their command team was the distraction that made Chakotay hesitate. He caught her gaze as he tried to come to a halt. She watched as the ice gave out beneath he feet and he disappeared below. It was then she felt the ice fall from beneath her own feet and she went into a freefall. She caught a glimpse of Harry, who'd run ahead of Tom, falling as the ice shattered under him as well.
Her scream was lost in the air as she plummeted, chest constricting as she waited for the ground to rush up and meet her. Death was coming, she knew, and there was no way to stop it. For her, for Chakotay, or for Harry, all who would be dead within moments as soon as they hit the bottom of the cavern.
Except Kathryn didn't hit solid rock. Finally, she plunged into surprisingly warm water. She hit on her side and plummeted down several more feet into the water, not having time to even take a breath before she went under. Her wrist, shoulder, and entire left side exploded in pain as the layers of clothing began to retain water. They pulled her down like a weight and she struggled with her non-throbbing arm in an attempt to pull them off. It was dark and her lungs were burning, making concentrating difficult as she struggled beneath the water.
Hands hooked under her arms and pulled her toward the surface, working off the layers of clothing as they did. She managed to shed her clothing all the way down to the tank and pants she had worn under the layers before she broke the surface with whoever was pulling her up.
Gasping for air the minute she broke the surface, Kathryn filled her lungs deeply several times, coughing up water a second afterwards. Her nose and throat burned with a terrible pain, but a few gulps of air calmed the pain well enough.
"Are you all right?" Chakotay's familiar voice sounded just beside her and she nodded. Light from the opening above shone down on them - the opening hadn't been that large to begin with, so it was obviously sheer bad luck they'd managed to find the right place to fall. Kathryn didn't even want to think about what else was under the ice.
"Harry?" Chakotay asked loudly and there was a splashing from the left. Harry surfaced, coughing and spluttering just as much as Kathryn had been a moment ago. He had managed to work his way out of his layers as well.
"Are you both all right?" Kathryn got out once she was assured her coughing fit had subsided. Her entire side was still screaming in pain, but she ignored it. The pain wasn't intense enough for her to worry about at that moment - besides, it only hurt from the way she had landed. Nothing was broken, and while she probably had a solid bruise running up her side, she'd live. Her body was starting to shiver from the sudden change in temperature, but she was at least glad for the warmth. It was better than on the surface.
"Landed feet first. I'm fine." Chakotay replied.
"I'll live." Harry muttered and rolled his right shoulder.
She looked directly up at the opening, frowning slightly as she treaded water. There was a long pause, then Harry sighed.
"I was just kidding about shore leave."
Kathryn snorted and nearly sucked water back up her nose. Something chirped faintly and she frowned, realizing it was her communications badge - which she had completely forgotten she had even worn on the away mission for the simple fact it had been buried under so many clothes. She tapped it.
"Captain! Are you all right?" Tom's voice filtered through faintly. Apparently, her comm. badge didn't take too kindly to water. Yeah, well, neither did she unless it was a steaming hot bath.
"I'm fine. Chakotay and Harry are too. There's water at the bottom of this cavern that we landed in. Think you can get us out?"
"How far down do you think it is?"
"Maybe four hundred feet." Chakotay said, looking up. "Five hundred at the most."
"I think the climbing gear from the Flyer only goes down to three hundred feet. Is there any way you can get higher?"
"We'll try. If not, we'll find another way out. There's an exit somewhere - otherwise the entire cavern would be filled with water." Harry pointed out and Kathryn nodded.
"Be careful up there, Tom. Try contacting Voyager when you get back to the Flyer."
She terminated the link. They continued to tread water for a moment longer, glancing at each other in turn. Kathryn couldn't help but think of the hot chocolate she'd intended to replicate - it was likely to change to a cup of coffee after she got out of this hole now.
"Let's spread out and see if we can find any ledges to climb." Chakotay broke the silence, his voice echoing around the cavern. "Or at least a way out of here."
They split up. Kathryn headed for one of the farther parts of the cavern wall that rose up out of the water, looking for any sort of ledge. Anything that would get them out of the water. Underground caverns were a possibility as the water had to go somewhere, but she had no idea how far back they could even go and she wasn't sure she could hold her breath that long.
"It's a sheer rock face. There's no ledges anywhere." She heard Harry complain somewhere to her left. Indeed he was right - there appeared to be no ledges to climb at all. So much for climbing out - although, she was almost grateful. Hitting the icy wind above while soaking wet was not something she'd been looking forward to.
Kathryn continued along the wall she was at, just in case, noticing it was starting to curve outward, away from the main cavern. Following the slope of the wall, she found an area of shore that stretched back, eventually leading back to a dark opening that could only be a cave entrance.
"Over here!" She called, swimming toward the shore. Her boots finally hit solid land and she pulled herself out of the water and onto the rocky shore. Her side protested weakly in pain as she took a few steps toward the impossibly dark cave entrance.
She turned when she heard the noises of Chakotay and Harry coming up onto the shore, the crunch of rocks beneath their boots, Harry wringing out his tanks.
"This looks promising." Kathryn gestured to the cave.
"Only if one of us has suddenly developed night-vision," Chakotay muttered, peering into the cave.
"We can feel along the walls," Kathryn replied. "It's better than waiting in the water. We don't know anything about this planet, Chakotay, and there could be something in it."
"If there was something in it, it probably would have already attacked one of us," Chakotay pointed out. Kathryn fixed him with a glare and turned her attention back to the cave. It was as good of as an escape as any.
"Fine. You two can stay here. I'll go," she said at last. She wasn't the type for standing around. "Maybe Tom will find extra rope length and it'll reach all the way down here after all."
"I wouldn't advise going alone, Captain." Harry protested as she took a step into the cave. Kathryn twisted to look at him.
"You can come too, Mr. Kim."
Chakotay gave a resounding sigh and stepped in front of Kathryn, almost protectively.
"We'll all go. I'll take point."
"I'm perfectly capable of taking point." Kathryn protested.
"Yes, well, if something in there decides to eat us, I'll let you take over."
Kathryn rolled her eyes, but allowed him to step into the dark entrance. He followed the wall like she had said with one hand, the other hand holding hers tightly. Her own other free hand was latched tightly around Harry's behind her. It reminded her vaguely of elementary school when teachers had made students hold each other's hands so they didn't get lost. Who knew it would actually serve a purpose this late in her life?
"This is leading us lower." Harry said quietly behind her. She had noticed the floor starting to slope downward gradually now that he mentioned it and frowned.
"There's got to be another way out of here." Kathryn replied, determined. Borg, Cardassians, and Hirogen hadn't killed her and she was going to be damned if some cavern got the honor.
"At least it's warm." Chakotay offered. He did have a point. It was starting to get rather warm in the cave. If it got any warmer, the water soaking her that was finally starting to dry would probably turn to sweat.
"This planet probably has caverns like this everywhere. If we're lucky, this cave system will lead into one of the other caverns, which will have a way for us to get back to the surface." Chakotay continued.
"You forget the surface is covered with ice." Kathryn pointed out.
"If it's as thin as the ice we fell through, it shouldn't be hard to break." He replied. Kathryn said nothing, but allowed him to continue. The floor had evened out again, but it was still impossibly pitch black. At least they hadn't run into anything yet, which made her feel a bit better about their luck. Hopefully, it would stay that way.
Of course she wasn't so lucky.
She felt the tug on her hand as Chakotay suddenly slipped. Her grip tightened on his to help pull him back up, but she realized he wasn't stopping. A moment later, she realized why as she was pulled down with him. Too wet to hold on to, her hand slipped out of Harry's.
The cave floor sloped suddenly downward, into a slick forty-five degree angle. Almost like a slide, she noted, as she landed hard on her stomach, sliding headfirst down the decline. Her grip lost on both Chakotay and Harry, she tried to twist herself so she wasn't face first - or on her stomach - but her side screamed in pain as she did so. Her day had just gotten steadily worse once more.
Glowing light ahead caught her attention and she frowned, forced to duck as the silhouette of a low overhanging rock nearly took her head off. The glowing increased the moment she was past it - veins of something embedded into the rock walls were giving off an eerie glow, lighting up the entire cavern. At first she thought it was crystals, but as whatever slide from hell she was on passed closer to them, she realized it was some sort of rock that gave off the unnatural, but rather helpful glow.
Kathryn didn't have much time to dwell on it as the cave floor suddenly bottomed out and dropped, sending her nearly flying off the small ledge that marked the end of the slide. A long skid across another part of the floor and she fell right onto something soft and warm - Chakotay. He let out a noise of pain as she slammed into him.
Harry's cry of protest met her ears a moment later and a third body slammed into her and Chakotay.
"I'm so glad I could offer my assistance as an airbag," came Chakotay's grumbled reply from beneath Kathryn. Harry quickly picked himself off his Captain and helped her up, the pair of them helping up Chakotay, who flinched - he was bleeding from his temple.
"I hit the overhang," he said at Kathryn's questioning look.
"You should have ducked."
"It was dark!" he protested, flinching again as his voice echoed and probably caused even more pain in his head than what he already had.
"Not that sliding hundreds of feet down a rock slide and listening to the commander and captain argue isn't fun, but I think you should take a look at this," Harry's voice spoke from their left. Kathryn looked over, rolling her neck and shoulders as the tension and stress had built too far into them for her liking.
She saw what Harry was seeing - along one entire wall of the cave appeared to be several crudely drawn planets. Each one of them had a jagged triangle in the middle, which was what really caught her attention. Stepping forward to stand beside Harry, she studied the wall with great intensity. On first instinct it looked like it could have been a map, but the planets appeared to have no relation to one another.
One of the planets caught her attention, however, as the jagged triangle in the center of it was sticking out. Frowning, Kathryn wrapped her fingers around it and tugged, finding the piece came out rather easy. It fell into her hand and she held it up to the light of the glowing rocks. There was some sort of pattern along the rock piece, but she couldn't quite make it out. It was clear the piece was one of many - perhaps the other triangles represented the fact that they were on the planets drawn around them? But the planets had no identifying features, so there would be no knowing of what those particular planets were, much less, where they were.
"Odd." She muttered, her gaze still sweeping back and forth across the piece in her hand. "I've never seen anything like it."
"There must have been people here at one time. How they got all the way down here, though, I'll never know," Chakotay said and held out his hand in question. Kathryn passed him the rock piece, turning her attention back to the drawing on the cavern wall.
"Maybe they lived down here to begin with," Harry offered. Kathryn shrugged without looking for him.
"It's possible. Conditions on the surface aren't meant for living, clearly."
"If they did venture to the surface, that means there has to be a tunnel that leads there. They had to get down here somehow." Harry sounded excited about his sudden thought and Kathryn couldn't help but smile.
"Hopefully you're right, Mr. Kim. Let's find out, shall we? This drawing doesn't hold anything else to hide."
"I'd like to sketch it out when we get back, just in case." Chakotay said as Kathryn stepped away from the wall, glancing around the cavern. Chakotay handed her the rock piece back and she put it in her pocket with intentions of studying it closer once they returned to Voyager. If they returned to Voyager.
"The cavern goes only one way. I think it's save to assume we go that way - unless you want to try to climb back up the slide," she said after a moment.
"No thanks," Harry said quickly. "I'll take my chances with the tunnel."
"Tunnel it is, then."
Kathryn took point this time, Harry in the middle, and Chakotay bringing up the rear. Their pace was quicker now that they could see with the light given off by the strange glowing rocks. The inner scientist in Kathryn wanted a sample of the glowing rock, but the walls of the cave were far too slick to her to even attempt to break a chunk of rock off.
Sweat made her clothing cling to her body like a second layer of skin, and it was as if she were wet from the water all over again. The tunnel began to incline slowly, which gave her hope that there were indeed heading for the surface.
Her suspicions proved to be true when she felt the first blast of freezing cold air hit her. She stepped back, right into Harry Kim, who flinched in response. She smiled, despite the freezing air. Tapping her comm. badge, she decided to try hailing Tom.
"Janeway to Paris."
There was a long silence.
"Captain?" Tom Paris' voice tentatively asked a few seconds later.
"The one and only. Are you near the Delta Flyer?"
"In it, actually. I found the climbing gear, but you were gone by the time I got back. Where are you?"
"In a cave on the surface. I'll fill you in later, but for right now can you get a fix on our location and beam us directly into the Flyer? I don't want to take my chances running across any ice again and I think the winds have died down enough for you to be able to lock on us."
"Of course, Captain. Hang tight."
She terminated the link and stood by silently until the familiar wave of a transporter beam enveloped her. A second later and she was standing in the warm interior of the Delta Flyer, about to be ambushed by a worried looking Tom with a rather thick looking blanket.
"Get us out of here, Mr. Paris." Kathryn ordered as she wrapped a blanket around herself, nodding for him to go ahead and return to the helm. Chakotay, wrapped in a blanket of his own, took position in the chair next to Tom, leaving Kathryn and Harry to stand behind them.
"Are we still on for that hot chocolate, Captain?" Chakotay asked right as they began to lift off. Her lips twisted into a smile.
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With Voyager at a speed of Warp 6 back on their original heading, Kathryn settled into her quarters with her second mug of hot chocolate. Chakotay sat on her couch with his own mug, both of them settling into the silence for a moment, interrupted only by the steady hum of Voyager'sengines.
Silently, Kathryn stared at the rock on her desk. She'd scanned it with a tricorder and it hadn't shown any sort of anomaly. The black line drawn across it curved ever so slightly, she noticed, now that she could see it properly, suggesting that whatever else it had once been a part of was circular in formation. Or something close to being circular. Whether it held any special significance, however, Kathryn wasn't sure. Her curiosity was getting the better of her, though.
"Can I see that picture you drew, Chakotay?" she inquired, leaving the rock behind as she got up from her desk and moved to join him on the couch. He handed over the PADD on which he had digitally sketched his work. She found the sketch to be nearly exact to the one they had seen in the cave. The same unidentifiable planets with the same triangular pieces of rock outlined. She studied it with a frown.
"Thinking of going on a scavenger hunt?" he inquired and she chuckled.
"Hardly. Merely curious about the entire thing. Might be worth doing some digging on. Who knows? Maybe when we put it together it'll show us a way home."
It was Chakotay's turn to laugh.
"Pieces of rock showing a way home? Now you're getting desperate, Kathryn," he said and she looked at him, lowering the PADD to her lap.
"Am I, Chakotay? What else is left to believe in? It's not as if a wormhole is going to spontaneously erupt in front of us and suck us back to the Alpha Quadrant. We've been out here for seven years and I'm beginning to doubt if we're ever going to get home," she replied quietly. The doubt was clear in her voice - while she remained hopeful for her crew, the doubt had always been there, trickling slowly in from the corners of her mind. Now that they were well within their seventh year of their seemingly endless journey, the doubt was starting to creep further and further into her mind.
"You'll get us home. We'll get us home. Of that I have no doubt," he assured quietly, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze. "Just imagine the look on the brass' faces when you guide this ship into dry dock. They'll be speechless for weeks."
She smiled, but only momentarily. Chakotay finished the hot chocolate left in his mug then got to his feet. Turning back to face Kathryn, he gave her another one of those smiles that came so easily to his face.
"Get some rest, Kathryn. You need it."
"I'll try. No promises."
With one last look, he disappeared out the door. Kathryn sat quietly on her own for a moment before grabbing his mug and hers, recycling them both. The idea of a bubble bath sounded wonderful in that moment, but her energy was waning. She'd worry about it tomorrow.
Passing through her quarters, she picked up the PADD she had just abandoned, giving one last glance over the map. Was it that desperate to believe something such as a few pieces of rocks could get them home? She'd certainly seen stranger in their voyage. But she had no reason to believe these rocks would do anything to help them, other than the sudden gut feeling she had in her stomach.
Shaking her head, she discarded the PADD with the other reports she had missed doing that day while she had been down on the ice planet. Heading for her bed, she began to strip off her uniform rather carelessly. She wasn't in the mood to really care about her actions, as her attention was suddenly focused on her bed and the sleep she could get within.
As she curled up under the blankets and drifted off into what was most likely to be a fitful night of sleep, the doubt crept back into her mind. It filled her head, contaminating her dreams with ideas of failing her crew in getting them home, and being stranded in the Delta Quadrant for the rest of her life.