September 2018

Delta Pioneers - Episode 9. - Graduation Day

Kes, Samantha Wildman & Tal Celes find their new medical qualifications tested to the limit when a severe plasma storm hits Hope Town...

New Earth, Southern Lowlands, river glade - NE calendar month 15...

The late summer heat was already building and it was only 0500 hours. Joe was just grateful that the ceremony was scheduled for 0900 and not a minute later. At least he had been able to persuade B'Elanna and the team to set up this morning rather than yesterday evening. This time of year the temperature never dropped below around 28 degrees and that was only briefly, during the early hours.

At least they had a reasonable sized team to hand. As well as himself and B'Elanna directing operations : they had Neelix, Chell, Lindsay, Harry, Chakotay (for the heavy lifting) and a surprise last minute volunteer - Billy Telfer.

As Billy was neither particularly strong or an engineering whizz, they had assigned him to decorating duty. Actually he was a little bugged about Billy : full stop. These days more often than not, Billy would take Naomi for Samantha, even if Neelix was available. He seemed to be doing everything he could to get in her good books and followed her around like a puppy. Alright, Billy was officially single whereas Samantha and he were still technically married - even though our respective spouses live over seventy thousand light years away and, no doubt, think us long since dead - but he's years younger and frankly far too immature and plain...nervy...make that nerdy...for her. Joe had had his eye on Samantha for some time now but was respectful enough to give her the time and space she needed to come to terms with the loss of her husband and little girl's father...the same could not be said for Billy! Actually he was amazed that Billy was here. He had expected him to rush over to Samantha's house offering to help get Naomi looking her best for her mother's big day. Perhaps Sam was finally getting tired of Billy...

"Hey Carey! Watch what you're doing! What's the matter with you this morning?!"

He was abruptly pulled back to the present by Chakotay's raised voice and realised that the scaffolding pole he was supposed to be securing, had only been prevented from breaking B'Elanna's back by Chakotay's swift reflexes. He must have been daydreaming as he had completely misplaced the supporting bracket.

"Sorry! I don't know what came over me. I'll check all the others right now." Joe felt himself cringing inwardly as he saw Billy watching him. He just hoped this would not get back to Sam and the others. That he, Joe, had nearly cancelled their graduation ceremony by creating a medical emergency for them to deal with instead - oh the irony!

"No you won't, I'll check." B'Elanna had already jumped well clear of harm's way and was muttering Klingon expletives as she stomped around checking every single bracket junction that he had so far assembled.

As Joe watched her he was beginning to regret not simply enduring the heat yesterday evening instead.

Three hours later...

Lindsay Ballard surveyed the scene with satisfaction. After their early morning teething problems, everyone had knuckled down to work and the end result was spectacular. Although the floral decorating would normally be left in Kes's exceptionally capable hands, as one of the three graduates being honoured today she was naturally busy elsewhere, so she and Billy had stepped up to the mark. And a great job they had made of it too. Actually she had been very surprised : both by Billy's artistic flair and his lack of complaining about his hay fever or skin allergies to the floral creations. Apparently his desire to impress the three lovely ladies graduating today had overridden his usual hyperchondria. She knew that Joe thought this was all for Samantha's benefit - but she was sure that Billy was only using his friendship with Samantha as an excuse to spend time around Celes. After all, the two women often worked the same shifts in the Medical Centre, so bringing little Naomi to meet her mother after work was the perfect cover for Billy to pass the time of day with Celes too. Billy being Billy was far too shy to just tell Celes he liked her and ask her out, so he had spent the last six months potty training and entertaining a toddler, whilst he attempted to puck up the courage to tell her how he felt. Poor Billy, the way things were going it would be Naomi's graduation before things progressed unless she and Kes gave him that 'push' they had been talking about...

Neelix grinned at Chell and slapped him on the back. "You've done the ladies proud. This feast looks fabulous. Kes has been pushing me to ask you if you would cater for our wedding next spring. I have to admit I was reluctant, wanting to prepare everything myself : but she's right. As usual. You've done a splendid job and are more than capable. Of course, I would have added a little more Leola root..."

Chell knew how well that would have been received! "Quite! But you know how precious our stocks are now that we have discovered that we can't grow it here on this planet. It wouldn't do for us to use it all up before your big day now would it?" with a wink at Harry and Lindsay who were standing near enough to hear the end of the conversation, he bustled off to get the champagne on ice.

Chakotay sank down into the nearest chair and gestured for B'Elanna to join him. "So 'Lanna, is everything now set up to your satisfaction?"

She could tell from the look in his eyes that it wasn't really a question, more a 'if there's anything else at all that you want checking you're on your own here on in'.

Putting her hands up in mock surrender she grinned. "Okay, okay! Get going Old Man. You're gonna need the full hour we've got left to get yourself looking presentable enough to escort our former captain over here." Glancing up at the others standing about she raised her voice "that goes for you lot too. Go on, capische!"

With one final look around to satisfy herself that all was in order, B'Elanna raced back and jumped in the shuttle just before Chakotay lifted off.

Meanwhile at the Wildman house...

Kes and Celes had both arrived together just before seven. With the half an hour it would take them all to to get to the ceremony site (at a very brisk walk) that meant they had just over an hour to get all four of them ready. Naomi had had her bath the evening before, but being not yet three years old, she had been bumbling about all morning getting hot and mucky so she would have to start from scratch with her.

"Here Samantha, let me take her whilst you have a shower then get changed. I'll have her looking spick and span before you've even started on your hair and make up."

She glanced up gratefully at Celes who seemed to have a natural rapport with children. Watching Naomi happily jump into Celes's arms and head for the bathroom she smiled to herself. Perhaps she would have to invite Celes around one day when Billy was helping her. He meant well but he could do with a few tips from her friend on how best to tackle Naomi. Come to think of it, the two young people would make a lovely couple and Celes would be doing her a massive favour. Billy was sweet but she had had quite enough of his mooning around after her like a love sick puppy! She'd been hoping that dealing with Naomi's toddler tantrums would be enough to bring his little fantasy crush right back down to earth : but perhaps he needed another focus for his affections...

Turning to Kes she was about to ask her opinion on whether to wear the lemon or mint coloured dress when she saw the glint in her eye. "What's so funny?"

Kes mulled it over for a minute before deciding to put her friend out of her misery once and for all. "Sam, about Billy..."

Listening to the laughter emanating from the sitting room Celes smiled to herself. It had been the right thing to do to offer to help with the little girl. Poor Samantha must hardly have a moment to herself for adult conversation or a bit of pampering. Kes was so thoughtful to have offered to give Samantha a surprise make over and she had been more than happy to assist her plan by taking Naomi off their hands for a while.

Lifting the toddler out of the bath then drying her hair and plaiting it, she couldn't help daydreaming about her own future and hoping there would be a little one just like this in the next few years. It was silly she knew, but she just couldn't help picturing the man she would share it all with ...and he looked the spitting image of one Billy Telfer!

0845 hours, river glade graduation site...

B'Elanna and Harry checked the link up to the Medical Centre one last time and confirmed the Doctor was standing by. There had been much debate about whether to hold the actual ceremony in town so that the Doctor could be there in person, but he had insisted that his three - soon to be former - students deserved to enjoy their special day in style. Somehow a few rows of seats hastily set up in the Mess Hall could not compete with the meadow down by the river and a marquee with the full works. Besides, Harry and B'Elanna would set up a large screen behind the stage and provide a life sized link up. He would still be master of ceremonies and the only task he need delegate would be the actual handing over of the certificates - which Kathryn Janeway had volunteered to do on his behalf.

"So Lieutenant, are you absolutely sure that you have the correct parameters for my dress uniform? It wouldn't do for the Master of Ceremonies to be anything less than perfect."

B'Elanna bit back the retort on the tip of her tongue, instead replying with as much tact as she could muster "You have my word you'll look the part. Just ensure that you sound it too : remember, it's theirbig day not yours!" Before jumping down from the stage and grabbing the last of her gear.

She would not be attending the actual ceremony, being rostered on duty in town, but Joe was staying and could deal with the routine technicalities this end. All the council members bar Chakotay (who was accompanying Kathryn then heading back), Tuvok and herself would be there for the duration and of course about forty of their assorted close friends. Looking around pretty much everyone had arrived and were taking their seats, she would probably bump into Samantha, Kes, Naomi and Celes on her walk back to town.

Smiling to herself she took a moment to reflect as she headed back. Who would ever have thought that Tal Celes would excel at anything? Within the hour she would be a fully qualified paramedic and Kes and Samantha would hold the title Batchelor of Medicine. She for one was looking forward to having a choice of physicians in the future, though how their EMH would cope with the competition she dreaded to think!

River glade, ceremony site, 0945 hours...

Kathryn had just handed the last certificate to Celes, who was now making her brief graduation speech to the gathering. They were due to wrap up the formalities at ten o'clock then wander over to the marquee for refreshments and to mingle for the rest of the morning. Kes, Samantha and Celes had the whole day off to celebrate so the Doctor - he really would have to decide on a name soon to prevent total confusion when Samantha and Kes returned to work tomorrow - was manning the Medical Centre alone, but they had no in-patients at the moment, so it was all purely routine.

Shivering, she glanced up at the sky. The wind was getting stronger and there was a tension in the air. Almost like static electricity though the sky was a clear blue without a cloud in sight...she couldn't help remembering last year, when she and Chakotay had been here all alone ...the monkey came to warn, she was just being silly ! A plasma storm as intense as that must surely be a freak occurrence... ? ...

Trying to shrug off her mounting unease, Kathryn followed Celes from the platform and headed for the refreshment area which was already packed.

Fifteen minutes later ...

The temperature had dropped significantly but the wind had all but died away. Shivering again, Kathryn debated gathering a small team of volunteers to head back to town and grab them all jumpers and jackets. As she turned to say as much to Tom Paris, there was a blinding flash of light and thunder crack which caused her to instinctively dip her head and cover her ears. Before she had a chance to register anything more, she felt a searing pain at the base of her neck and felt herself falling forward before knowing no more...

One minute he had been gathering up used dishes and chatting to Samantha Wildman and the next he stood gaping at the scene in front of him, said pile of dishes having crashed haphazardly around his feet. The entire stage rig had been ripped from the ground and hurled by the plasma bolt into the marquee. There was a tangle of metal, wood and glass piled precariously high in front of him, less than five metres away and various citizens wandering in a daze or lying and sitting about, unable or unwilling to move. He was suddenly aware of someone shaking his shoulder and a face in front of him. "Come on Chell! Snap out of it, you need to help me assess the casualties. Here's a list of the names of everyone attending today. Tick off everyone you can find and get back to me within five minutes. I need to know if anyone is unaccounted for...under there." Samantha pointed at the pile of twisted and smashed equipment in front of them.

As Chell headed off to begin his task, Samantha looked around and spotted Kes dressing Lindsay Ballard's right arm and leg and Celes had taken it on herself to check the walking wounded and gather them together. Instinctively Samantha headed over to Joe Carey.

"Joe, do we have an operational communications link to the Medical Centre? I need to advise the Doctor of our situation and get a rescue party request to Tuvok asap."

Joe looked at what was left of the mangled stage area and smashed equipment and came to a rapid decision "By the time I've managed to assess this lot and attempt a repair I could have made it back to town and organised help. I'll head back now if you like."

Kes had overheard the tail end of the conversation as she approached them. "Thanks Joe, but no. We need to send the fittest and fastest non injured person we have and that's Harry Kim. Harry get going, as fast as you can!" she shouted across.

Harry was already heading for the path leading back to town, having come to the same conclusion. Nodding, he sprinted past and was soon out of sight. Before Kes had a chance to discuss their plan of action with Samantha and Celes, Chell returned with his list. She could see by the worried look on his face and his hesitancy that the news was not good. "Go on Chell, tell us. Who is missing?"

Chell couldn't look at Samantha or Kes so chose to give his report to Celes who had just sprinted over. "There are three people that no one has seen so far...we think they were standing right next to the drinks table directly opposite where the stage had been sited so they are probably ...under there." He pointed to the centre of the tangled wreckage where Billy, Hogan, Neelix and Joe were already busy lifting away anything that could be moved without risking further collapse.

Kes and Samantha exchanged glances and Celes nudged him. He really hoped he was wrong. Perhaps she had just toddled away and had yet to be spotted... " No one has seen Kathryn Janeway, Tom Paris or...Naomi..."

There were a few seconds of stunned silence as his words registered then Samantha was screaming out her daughter's name having hurtled over to try and tear the wreckage apart. Joe immediately restrained her "Sam : whoa there! You'll bring it all down on top of them and they'll be crushed. We have this. Focus. Go with Kes and Celes and see to all the injured that can walk. We need to get them heading back to town, then we can assess the others. All the uninjured men will be on search and rescue duty with me. I'll get her out, I promise you."

Samantha barely heard him. She saw in her mind's eye what she should be doing. Conferring with her medical colleagues. Assessing all the injured. Discharging those fit enough to make their own way back to town then gathering the more seriously wounded together and setting up a triage station. Hadn't she just been awarded a qualification that said she was now fully competent to do just that? But it was her little girl under there!

It was Celes who brought her around "Come on Sam. We need to have the triage area prepared for when Joe and the others bring Naomi over. Let's get the minor injuries treated and clear the decks. I'm sure Harry will be back with the rescue team within the hour and we'll need Kathryn, Naomi and Tom ready for transport by stretcher when they do."

It was Celes's calming demeanour and air of confidence that they could handle this that flicked a switch in Samantha's head. Within seconds she became Dr. Wildman and ten minutes later she and Dr. Kes had assessed all those that were mobile and given Celes a steady stream of patients to clean and bandage as best she could with the limited first aid supplies they had brought with them. The first lesson learned was that any further events would be required to have a fully operational first aid area as standard. Why they had been foolish enough to overlook it today she couldn't begin to fathom. Berating herself for her lack of responsibility, she tried to focus on tending to those that would need carrying back to town. There were four so far and it was highly likely the three missing would be in a similar state...or worse She would not go there. If she did she would cease to function at all. She just had to pray that this storm would die down soon and that Harry realised the severity of the situation and brought enough supplies back with their rescuers.

Meanwhile in Hope Town...

Everyone was gathered in the Mess Hall or the Medical Centre. A couple of minutes before the plasma bolt had hit the graduation party, the full force of the gathering storm had been unleashed on the township. Fortunately B'Elanna had just had time to activate the shield grid but a number of the outer dwellings had been damaged and quite a few people had suffered plasma burns. The Doctor was busy treating those at present and had conscripted Vorik, Peterson, Gerron and Chapman as temporary field medics.

Chakotay and Tuvok had gathered the others in the Mess Hall and had just completed a head count. Everyone was accounted for. Now they needed to make contact with the group out at the graduation site. Hopefully the plasma storm had missed them altogether. Chakotay knew how localised they could be from his and Kathryn's previous experiences but this was the first such storm they had encountered since Voyager's return.

Tuvok suggested that he head out to the clearing and apprise the others of the situation. After all, their two newly qualified doctors and paramedic were urgently needed to relieve the EMH's amateur field medics! Nodding, Chakotay turned to B'Elanna to start organising repair teams to secure the damaged buildings and determine whether they were still structurally sound or would have to be demolished and rebuilt from scratch. Rounding up the uninjured and grabbing Vorik and Peterson from the Medical Centre they had a big enough team to check all the outer buildings before sunset.

Tuvok sprinted along at a steady pace for the first ten minutes before having to to reduce his pace to a slow walk. Worryingly, the amount of debris on the path was increasing the further he got from town. For the last five minutes he had been almost continually bent over lifting branch after branch and slinging them well clear of the path ahead. It was whilst he was busy stacking one such pile securely behind a large tree trunk that he heard what sounded like someone clearing the path ahead from the opposite direction. Hoping it was the graduation party group making their way back to town he called out "Hello! This is Tuvok. We've encountered a plasma storm back in town. No one has been seriously injured but several citizens have minor plasma burns. We need Drs. Wildman and Kes to accompany me back as soon as possible."

Harry couldn't believe it! He'd just assumed the storm was a localised fluke event and that help would be immediately available the moment he made it back with his report. He'd already been struggling with ever more debris for the last few minutes and now... "Tuvok, it's me. Harry. I'm alone. I was sent to get help after a plasma bolt hit us. The stage collapsed and was hurled through the air onto the marquee. We have a lot of injured and three missing, presumed to be under the wreckage..."

Tuvok had cleared the last mound and finally they had sight of one another. "Do you know the identities of those unaccounted for?"

Harry nodded, grim-faced. "My friend Tom Paris, Kathryn Janeway and...little Naomi Wildman. There are also others who were being tended to on the ground when I left so we'll need all the men and stretchers you can muster."

Tuvok hesitated briefly. Should he return with Harry and assess the situation on the ground or should he head back to Hope Town to form a rescue team with very little information to go on? It was Harry who spoke first. "I'll head on back to town and gather the rescue party together. I know that Kes, Samantha and Celes could do with your strength to help clear the debris that has collapsed on top of our missing people. I'll bring Vorik with the rescue party."

Impressed with just how much the young man had matured in recent months, Tuvok nodded as they crossed paths then broke into a run. He estimated that he would reach the accident site in less than six minutes. He just hoped that that was time enough to save them all.

Twenty minutes later, Hope Township ...

B'Elanna nodded to Mitchell to make his report. "We've been lucky. It's only number six that has had to be cordoned off. The support walls are fractured in several places and it looks as though the ground has lifted in one corner. There's nothing for it but to demolish, shore up the foundations and begin again. Most of the other houses have superficial damage but nothing that a re-plaster and a few replacement windows; door frames etc won't fix. There's at least one person in each clearing away broken contents and straightening out whatever can be salvaged. I've allocated a two person team to Sam Wildman's place and also Kathryn Janeway's. All the others out at the lowlands ceremony have been lucky, their homes were within the main shield area so are undamaged."

"Okay, that all sounds good. Fitzpatrick, what's the situation with the water and sewage pipes and the electrical cabling?" B'Elanna addressed the man who had rapidly become her number three, ever since he struck up a friendship with their former captain.

Fitz gave a sigh of relief. "Cables all appear intact though there is some superficial damage to both the inlet and outflow water pipes. I'm in the process of allocating personnel and supplies to address it. Here, I've highlighted on the schematic where all the breaks occur." As he spoke he handed B'Elanna the PADD and Chakotay joined her to review it.

Chakotay was impressed both by Fitz diligence and marked change of attitude. These days he was one of the first to volunteer to get stuck in wherever help was needed. Kathryn had achieved more in five months with him than he had in the four years that Fitz was a member of his Maquis cell. Smiling encouragingly at the subject of his musings, he handed the PADD back. "Great job Fitz. Liaise with B'Elanna re staff and stores but you have command of the infrastructure repair program. Please prioritise the Wildman house as I'm sure our newest Doctor will have her hands full in Medical Centre as soon as the group get back and she'll need fresh water to attend to Naomi once she gets home."

He was just about to follow B'Elanna back towards the command centre when Harry Kim literally blundered into him. "Chakotay, we need a rescue party now! The plasma storm hit the stage area and the whole thing was wrenched from the ground and landed on top of the marquee. We have several severely injured and three missing, under all the rubble. The least wounded are trying to dig them out...I...I met Tuvok coming the other way and he's gone on ahead ..."

B'Elanna had already started calling out to the men and women working on the damaged houses to gather round. Gesticulating towards Medical Centre, Chakotay broke into a run with an ever enlarging crowd following behind.

Medical Centre...

The Doctor could barely contain his frustration. There was no direct means of contact with the graduation ceremony site, Harry Kim was not clear as to who was injured and how badly, and his three graduates had barely one decent sized triage pack between them! What's more, he was trapped here in town and would have to advise in advance with no visual or auditory access to the critically injured patients. Admittedly, all three of his students had passed both their theory and practical examinations with flying colours - but there was no substitute for actual, real life, experience in a serious crisis situation. Which none of them had had to date. Naively - it now seemed - he had assumed he would be on hand to take charge and guide them through their first emergency situation but it would seem not. He just hoped that they would be able to maintain their professional detachment until they returned here and he could take charge.

Addressing Chakotay, who seemed to have taken the lead in the absence of Kathryn Janeway, he snapped. "Going by the very limited information I have been given regarding my patients you'll need to take all eight stretchers and five neck and spinal braces. I have three portable medical tricorders which obviously must be handed straight to my clinical team as soon as you arrive at the incident site. It is vital that all patients who have sustained crush injuries from the collapsed debris undergo a deep tissue resonance pulse scan before anyone attempts to move them. B'Elanna, please arrange for a tricorder with conference call link up so I can access the scan data in real time and advise my field staff."

The Doctor surveyed his temporary staff and assigned Vorik and Peterson to return with the rescue party whilst Gerron and Chapman would remain with him to prepare the surgical bays and intensive care areas as needed once the remote data started to come through.

Within five minutes Chakotay was headed out with his team and as much medical and engineering equipment as they could carry. The Doctor watched until they were out of sight and then snapped into action.

Meanwhile at the accident site...

Joe was exhausted. His team had cleared away as much of the debris as they could without additional support brackets and heavy lifting equipment. He dared not allow them to disturb what remained although the only person they had access to, sufficient to maybe haul him out, was Tom Paris. Tom was at least conscious though not very coherent but he had managed to confirm that he had been talking to Kathryn just before the world collapsed around their ears. He had no idea where Naomi was. At least that was positive news. It was possible the little girl had run off, frightened by the noise and chaos as the storm struck. Possibly she would turn up any minute, uninjured...

Turning to Samantha he relayed the news then asked, "Should we move Tom clear of the debris?"

She looked to Kes for reassurance and was met with the same conflicted expression. Whispering so as not to be overheard by the men she leant towards Sam and Celes "I don't know. Without our medical tricorders it will be impossible to know for sure the extent of his injuries. If we do move him and he had a spinal column injury then..."

Celes spoke up "Then we may exacerbate any paralysis. On the other hand he may well bleed to death by the time the rescue party arrive if we leave him in situ. I think we should get him out and treat him to stabilise his condition as a priority. Once we have the injured back in Medical Centre I'm sure our Doctor will be able to reverse any injuries exacerbated by our emergency triage. The priority must be to sustain life at this point...surely?"

Celes hoped she had not gone too far. After all, the other two were fully fledged Doctors now whilst she was merely a paramedic.

Samantha thought for a moment then forced herself to be brave. "You're right Celes. We need to get Tom clear of the debris so we can assess him and tourniquet any serious bleeds."

"It's also possible that the rescue team will be able to see Kathryn once Tom is clear." This last from Kes.

Samantha had already headed for Joe and relayed their decision. Eight minutes later the men had Tom laid out on the grass and Samantha and Kes were busy stabilising his vital signs. He had lapsed into unconsciousness a couple of minutes ago and it was obvious even to Joe that he must have substantial internal injuries. As soon as Tom was clear Neelix, Hogan and Billy Telfer had continued clearing whatever they could. It was slow going as no one had a torch to see into the centre of the remaining debris field and so far, they had seen or heard nothing from Kathryn Janeway.

Suddenly a light was shone into the opening and Joe heard Chakotay's reassuring voice. "You've done a great job guys. Take a break and get those cuts and grazes seen to by Peterson and Celes. We'll take over here now."

Joe was exhausted and although reluctant to step away whilst there was even the remotest chance that Sam's little girl was still trapped under there : he had enough sense to realise that Chakotay, B'Elanna and the rest of the team from town had a far better chance of succeeding whilst there was still hope. He watched as Vorik handed out the medical tricorders to their two new doctors and Foster set up the site to site mobile transporters along with B'Elanna. So they were going to lock onto the bio-signatures of anyone left under the debris and attempt a short range transport to get them clear. Joe knew they did not have the capacity at present to transport their patients as far as Medical Centre. That would have to be done the hard way.

Hauling himself up he walked over to where B'Elanna was calibrating the pattern enhancers "Want a hand Torres?"

"Sure. The last one is over there." she pointed to her left "you need to set that at a band width of 0.7145 microns with a frequency of 102MHz then make sure it is aligned with Chakotay's tricorder. He should be picking up bio-signs by now if anyone was trapped under there with Tom."

"No problem. I can finish up here if you want to go sit with Paris."

Joe meant well but she preferred to keep busy. "Thanks but I'm more use here. Besides, Kes tells me he is still out cold so I can't be of any comfort to him just now. Let's focus on recovering our missing people then getting the hell out of here!" She hastily looked away before she exposed her frayed nerves any further.

Joe patted her on the arm. "Of course. Pass me the sonic resonance aligner will you?" He knew just how she felt. He only wished he was as lucky. At least they had Tom out and all three medics were attending to him right now. With the additional kit from the Doctor he was confident that Tom would make it. As for Kathryn and Naomi...

Chakotay shouted across to B'Elanna that he had a signal, though it was too fuzzy to distinguish who it was or even whether it was one signature or two. With Vorik's help they managed to boost and clear it enough to get a lock, although it was highly unstable. They would have to risk it and re-assess afterwards.

Celes stayed with Tom whilst Samantha and Kes joined the rescue teams just beyond the hastily constructed re-materialisation area created by the pattern enhancers. Once everyone and everything was in place Chakotay nodded to B'Elanna.

She watched the fluctuating bio-signature ebb and wane on her screen. If this wasn't a matter of life or death she would never attempt it. She would have a couple of seconds at best to coalesce the signature within the metre square area of the makeshift 'transporter platform'. If the power failed or the signal was lost in that time either Kathryn, Naomi or both, would become a trillion or more sub atomic particles spread across the Delta Quadrant. The timing had to be perfect. She felt as if time itself was suspended. There was not a sound around her and her colleagues stood motionless : suspended in anticipation. She held her breath as the signal faded, oscillated briefly then started to surge. Hitting the transport signal she heard an old Klingon prayer of her mother's flit through her mind. Seconds later the crumpled body of Kathryn Janeway coalesced in front of them. Vaguely she registered that there was no movement and no sound from the transport area before the spell was broken and the medical field team surged forward.

There was a cacophony of shouted orders; stretchers and neck braces being assembled; medical equipment pumping; buzzing; bleeping; whirring and then...a piercing scream.

She saw Samantha stagger back and fall to the ground with Joe holding onto her.

Moments later Neelix staggered over towards her with a glazed look in his eyes. "Neelix...tell me!"

"She...she's gone...crushed to death before..."

No! B'Elanna refused to believe it. Kathryn Janeway was invincible! She had to be! Besides, it didn't make sense...she was attached to all the machines and they were still whirring and bleeping...Kes and Celes were still attaching drips and cleaning wounds...

It wasn't until she managed to force her legs forward that she saw for herself. Beside Kathryn's stretcher was the crumpled and very blue body of little Naomi. It was Vorik's voice she heard in the distance, telling her that their former Captain had been heroic to the last. Just as the world had collapsed on top of them she had had the presence of mind to pull the little girl under her in an attempt to shield her from the falling masonry. She could not have known that her valiant attempt to save the child's life would lead to her certain death. Naomi had suffocated when Kathryn had fallen on top of her.

Two hours later, Hope Town Medical Centre...

The journey back to town and the immediate aftermath were a blur to her. Time had stood still for her since the moment she had first set eyes on her dead child. All she had were blurred images and vague sensations. Of being lifted, the noise of machinery, Kes and Celes talking to the real Doctor whilst Chakotay held the tricorder and relayed orders... She was a fraud...what had she done to save Tom and Kathryn? Nothing. From the moment she had held her dead child in her arms, willing her life force to somehow transfer to her little girl, she had become useless.

Now, here she sat. In Kes and Neelix house being looked after by Joe Carey. Although Joe looked in need of medical attention himself. He was covered in cuts and bruises...she looked down at her own hands and saw the broken fingernails. How had she done that? Trying to get to Naomi? or later when... She looked at Joe's face and an image came to mind of him trying to take Naomi from her arms and herself screaming and lashing out at him...Naomi?! Where was she?!

Joe must have seen the sudden panic in her eyes because he gripped both her arms to steady her before she fell out of the front door.

"She's safe Sam. I took her to Medical Centre. Kes and Celes are going to clean her up for you. We'll go see her soon, before..." he stopped himself from forming the words just in time. Samantha was a doctor now. She would know what had to be done tomorrow but it was best that that image was not in the forefront of her mind. The EMH would be performing the autopsy and Tuvok had offered to assist, both Kes and Celes being far too emotionally involved to be sufficiently objective.

Besides, they would both be needed to attend to Tom and Kathryn who would be remaining in intensive care for quite some time to come. B'Elanna had told him that Tom was stable and expected to make a full recovery eventually but Kathryn Janeway had suffered extensive head trauma and had been kept in a medically induced coma whilst their clinical team battled to relieve the recurring swelling around her brain stem. It was touch and go as to whether she would suffer permanent brain damage and it was likely that it would be several weeks before she was stable enough to be brought back to consciousness. Apparently Chakotay had so far refused to leave her side and Fitzpatrick was hovering in the background too.

And with all this going on, somehow Kes and Celes had to find the time and strength to erase as much of the external damage as possible and make little Naomi look...well like she usually looked. So her mother's last sighting of her would erase that image of Kathryn's crumpled form being rolled off her.

"Joe, I want to be with her. I... I need to be there. I'm going to Medical Centre now. If you try to stop me it will be the last thing you ever do."

He understood. Without saying a word he stepped back from the doorway and followed a few steps behind as she staggered across town towards her worst nightmare become reality.

Meanwhile in Medical Centre...

He had accompanied them back on the shuttle, though Samantha and Celes had been oblivious to his presence : obviously, given the tragic circumstances. Actually he had been amazed that Chakotay had agreed to his accompanying them, but once he had explained what he intended to do, their former First Officer had nodded and patted him on the shoulder before jumping into the cockpit next to B'Elanna Torres.

So he, Billy Telfer, number one hypochondriac ; afraid of his own shadow etc etc - had tended to Naomi. He had cleaned her face and her arms and legs on route back and as soon as they had disembarked the Doctor had found him a side bay with a privacy screen and he had then washed her thoroughly and replicated a fresh, identical outfit and re-dressed her. The result was that little Naomi now looked as beautiful as she had the moment she had watched her mother graduate. She just looked as though she was sleeping, a sleeping beauty. Billy had thoughtfully replicated some of the meadow blossoms and placed a bouquet in her hands and scattered a few petals on her pillow.

Hearing a commotion just outside the main entrance and recognising Samantha's voice, he slipped out and made his way through the back door and out onto the footpath that lead away from town. He needed some time to himself to try and regain his equilibrium and in the meantime he could do without an audience as he finally gave way to the tears that threatened to engulf him.

The noise and bustle abruptly stopped as she walked through the parted screen and came face to face with her child. Time stopped for her. She was faced with an image from twelve hours ago. Her child, all dressed up in her finery for her mother's big moment. Perfect, peaceful...just sleeping...about to open her eyes any moment and break into an excited grin in anticipation of all the fun that awaited her...

But as she brushed a stray lock of hair from her daughter's beautiful but ice cold face, it finally hit home. She would never do any of those things again. She would never do anything again. She was gone.

As she stared down at her daughter's face she suddenly became aware of the world just beyond their cubicle. She heard the Doctor giving Celes instructions about Tom's care and she heard Kes talking softly to Chakotay and Chakotay's muffled and stuttering reply. Out there life went on and her colleagues were striving to save their two critically injured patients. One of whom had maybe suffered permanent brain damage in a vain attempt to save Naomi's life. She was a fully fledged doctor herself now and she knew what Naomi would want her to do. She would step through that door and do everything in her power to save Kathryn's life.

Wiping the tears from her eyes and tying her hair up out of her face she took a deep breath and stepped through the door.