By Eydie Munroe
Disclaimer: It's been 11 years, but somehow Paramount (and now CBS, apparently) still owns them. Since they don't want to seem to do anything with them anymore, I'm taking the Voyager crew out to play. But I promise to give them only cookies and milk, and to have them home by eleven.
Note: This story was heavily inspired by the story "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" by Mindy.
It had been more than a month since Voyager and her crew had been in any sort of altercation, and even longer than that since they had met with anyone friendly. They were now reaching the far end of a rather empty area of space, and their resources were stretched to the limit. Food and power were being rationed whenever possible, and a few non-essential areas of the ship had been completely closed down. The measures worked, and they were doing well despite the need for it, but there was one thing that they couldn't ration, and they needed more desperately than any other – termidonium.
They had been searching for termidonium for months now, the most critical element needed in order for B'Elanna to do the warp core refit that the ship desperately needed. Without the refit, the warp core would eventually break down as its structure deteriorated, leaving them flying with a ticking time bomb that would strand them in space. They would need to find a safe region of space to travel through at impulse while the most critical parts of the work went on, but it was a minor consideration until they could get the resources they needed.
"Captain, I am detecting a star system three light years away," Tuvok announced, breaking the comfortable silence that had blanketed the bridge a moment before. "According to scans, it looks like there may be potential sources of a number of minerals that are on Lieutenant Torres' 'wish list'."
Their leader turned in her chair to look at him. "Any signs of termidonium?"
"I am unable to confirm from this distance," he responded.
"Let's go check it out then." She turned back to the front, where Tom Paris was already plotting the course to get there. "At your leisure, Mr. Paris."
"Aye Captain." They jumped to warp a few seconds later for the short trip to enter the star system that Tuvok had discovered.
Chakotay leaned over toward the captain, his elbow resting on the console between them. "What do you think – maybe our luck is good today?"
"You never know," she said with a lift of her eyebrows as she cocked her head to the side. "If it is, I might challenge Mr. Paris to a few games of pool afterwards."
He chuckled. "Since when do you need luck to beat him?"
She laughed, just as Tom announced that they were dropping out of warp. Tuvok and Harry were actively scanning and collecting data, looking for what they needed. "It appears that the third planet is an M Class planet that has a number of large termidonium deposits, Captain," Harry reported first. "More than we would ever need."
Never say that, Harry, she thought wryly to herself. If there was ever a jinx… "Anybody around that might lay claim to it?"
"Negative, Captain," Tuvok told her. "The only planet that appears to have sustained any population is the third, and it is deserted."
Janeway frowned. "Let's see it." A visual of the planet's surface flashed up on the viewscreen, and she got onto her feet and moved up behind Tom to take a look. The soil and the atmosphere appeared red and rocky, and there were a number of structures that appeared to be half-buried in the soil. It reminded the captain of a desert gradually taking over an abandoned ancient city until it disappeared off the face of the earth. "There's nobody left?"
"Doesn't look like it," Harry said.
She looked at the visual again. "But there are roads…buildings…"
Chakotay checked his console. "It looks like an entire planetary infrastructure was built," he observed. "Industrial areas, residences, water distribution…"
"There are signs of weapons fire on a massive scale," Tuvok reported calmly from his station. "The structures on the surface have either been heavily damaged or completely destroyed."
The captain turned to look at him. "Is it recent?"
"Negative. There are no residual weapon traces. Sensors indicate that there has been no humanoid life on this planet for approximately five thousand years."
She turned back to the screen as Harry told them, "It looks like there are a number of huge mining complexes that were built over the termidonium deposits. They must have been extracting millions of tonnes at a time."
"Are they intact?" Chakotay asked.
"Yes sir – a few of them."
The captain smiled as she headed back to her seat. "Bridge to Lieutenant Torres."
"Torres here, Captain."
"B'Elanna, it looks like we might have a late birthday present for you. Feel like going mining?"
Torres was instantly excited. "You've found termidonium?"
"A large number of deposits. Could be the mother lode."
In Engineering, B'Elanna connected to the bridge links and took a look at the information that Tuvok and Harry had been reading through. "It looks promising, Captain. I would recommend a scout mission first though to see what condition the mines are in before starting a full-scale excavation."
"Agreed." Janeway looked to her left. "Commander Chakotay will join you to transport down in five minutes."
"Aye Captain. Torres out."
Chakotay got up to leave, and saw the look of concern on Tom's face. He knew that it had taken a long time for B'Elanna to finally get comfortable with the idea of a husband that wanted to protect her all the time, and was fine as long as Tom didn't try and nag her about it too often. But that agreement went out the window when they found out she was pregnant, and he was more protective of her than ever, which flew right in the face of her need to demonstrate that just because she was pregnant didn't mean she couldn't do her job. This was the first away mission that she would be going on since then, so the first officer could sympathize. "Don't worry Tom," he told the pilot. "I'll keep an eye on her." Paris nodded his thanks and turned back to his console. He then turned to the captain. "Any special orders?"
She grinned. "Only if you find a grove of coffee plants."
"Yes ma'am. I'll see what I can do."
Fifteen minutes later the pair checked in, reporting that they found nothing other than eerie silence and a lot of discarded equipment. "It looks like everyone just dropped their tools and walked away," Chakotay reported from the surface.
"Are there any signs of struggle or damage from bombardment?" the captain asked.
"Negative. It's been left more or less intact. Structurally, it appears to be stable."
"I'm getting readings of a large vein of termidonium near the surface," Torres interjected. "Nearly half a kilometre across. Mining it out might be a lot easier than we first thought."
Janeway looked over the readings that were being sent back to the ship. "How will you deal with the mine setup?" she questioned. "It looks like there are at least five levels of tunnels built over it."
"I think we can actually use that to our advantage," the chief engineer told her. "The existing tunnels and ramps appear to end about a hundred metres over the vein itself. All we would have to do is punch a hole from there."
The captain turned back to her left. "Harry, would we be able to beam the cargo containers up from there?"
Kim checked his readouts, then shook his head. "Negative, Captain. Transporters are unable to penetrate the bedrock the tunnels have been bored into. They would need to move the containers up to the surface before we could transport them."
"Accessing the termidonium from the bottom of the tunnels rather than starting from scratch on the surface would save us hours of excavation time just getting to the vein," Torres pointed out.
"We'll just have to add more people to the mining detail to move anti-grav units to the surface and back," Chakotay added. "A little physical work certainly wouldn't hurt anybody."
The captain smiled to herself. Leave it to Chakotay to find a diplomatic way of saying we all need to get some more exercise. "Agreed, Commander. Go ahead and check it out, and then we can discuss how to proceed."
"Yes Captain. It seems –"
Chakotay's voice was cut off by the sound of a massive explosion. Janeway's head snapped up from her console, her heart suddenly pounding in her chest. "Chakotay, report!" No answer came back. Tom whirled around in his chair, his expression one of escalating worry for his wife. "B'Elanna, respond!" Still nothing. "Harry, can you get a lock on them?"
"Not yet." His hands were flying over the controls. "I'm adjusting the thetaband frequency to try and compensate." The silence while they waited for the result seemed to last an eternity. "Got them!" he exclaimed with a rush of relief. "They're in Sick–"
"Doctor to Lieutenant Paris," the Doctor broke in. "Report to Sickbay immediately."
Tom looked to Janeway, who immediately nodded her approval. He left so fast that his chair was set spinning, stopped when Ensign Baytart moved in to replace him. The captain turned back to Harry and Tuvok. "What happened?"
Tuvok's hands flew over his controls as he gathered information. "It appears that there was a type of incendiary device embedded in the walls of the chamber they were in," he explained. "It did not appear on sensors."
"We were able to get them out because the explosion blew away part of the chamber's ceiling," Kim added from Ops, "and now that portion of the tunnel has caved in."
"See what you can find," she ordered the two of them. "And check the surrounding areas of the mines as well. I don't want anybody anywhere on the surface if there's a chance that the entire place has been booby-trapped. Tuvok, you have the bridge. I'll be in Sickbay."
"Aye Captain," he responded as she headed past him into the aft turbolift.