DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to Paramount - not me.
SUMMARY: Response to a challenge issued several millennia ago. I think the only rule was that snow had to be involved but not generated by the holodeck! If there are more rules, let me know quickly and I'll see what I can do about incorporating them!
Dedicated to the originator of the challenge - sorry I can't remember who it was, and of course, to Caro, who mentioned it again - I blame you for getting me started on yet another story!
"Warning, hull integrity at 20%," the computer's voice reminded the occupants of the shuttlecraft as they were tossed around by another shockwave.
Torres growled at the information, her fingers flying over the workstation, as she furiously looked for a way to re-route the power the shuttle had left to the shields.
"Lieutenant, communications are offline and life-support is failing." Seven of Nine's composure appeared to be a stark contrast to the Chief Engineer's. She remained seated and her body was still as her hands worked the console quickly.
"Life-support's going to be a fat lot of good if we lose hull integrity," B'Elanna spat back, annoyed that the ex-drone had distracted her. "Look for a way to get more power Seven. Use anything you can," she ordered, not even looking up at the blonde woman.
The two women had been sent in a shuttle on a complicated mining expedition. Ordinarily, Voyager would have diverted course, but a medical distress call had meant dividing resources. Knowing that minerals and ores were a precious commodity, Janeway was reluctant to pass an opportunity by. Knowing that B'Elanna and Seven would work quickly and efficiently, if not harmoniously, the Captain had despatched them in a shuttle with the assurance that they would rendezvous at the medical catastrophe site.
The Chief Engineer and Astrometrics officer had worked well together. B'Elanna had been glad to get away from Voyager and the break up of her engagement with Tom Paris. There were only so many sympathetic looks she could put up with and Seven had thankfully not brought the subject up. Seven had proven to be the ideal companion. They hadn't spoken much, but B'Elanna had found herself not so defensive or suspicious of the ex-drone's suggestions and solutions and even found herself complimenting Seven on some excellent ideas for mining the materials.
For her part, Seven had enjoyed the Klingon hybrid's company. Now that she was on her own and somewhat subdued by recent events, Seven had the opportunity to see B'Elanna's quick thinking and innovation at close quarters and she was impressed and somewhat envious of the older woman's talent.
The mining mission had been a total success and they had been well on their way back to meet up with Voyager when a nearby gas-giant had become unstable and exploded. The resultant shock waves had buffeted the small shuttlecraft viciously and all systems had suffered.
"Lieutenant, I have scanned the area. There is a Class N planet nearby. Landing may be our best option." The Astrometrics officer had long ago learnt not to tell B'Elanna in definitive terms the best solution to problems. The engineer always seemed to take exception to her theories. It was easier to just suggest an option and allow the Klingon to make the final decision.
B'Elanna didn't reply as she thought through the possibilities.
"Warning, hull integrity at 10%," the computer interrupted her musings abruptly.
"Damn, I can't get anything more out of her," the Klingon hybrid cursed, banging a clenched fist on the console in front of her.
She sighed. "Seven, how long will it take us to get to that planet?"
"On full impulse, we can reach the planet in eight minutes and twenty seven seconds," the ex-drone replied, still busy at her own station.
"That's too long," B'Elanna exclaimed in surprise. "We'll have broken up by then," she protested.
"If we re-route all remaining power to the engines, we will be able to engage the Warp Drive for thirty seven seconds. That will take us to within a few seconds of the planet."
"But with no shields to protect us when we land," the raven-haired woman pointed out, her voice rising in anger. "Seven are you mad?"
"My last examination with the EMH." Seven began.
"Seven," the engineer warned, in no mood for the ex-drone's annoying ability to take everything she said in the literal sense.
The tall blonde woman ceased speaking and waited expectantly. She resisted the urge to point out to the Klingon that the longer she took to come to a conclusion, the less time they would actually have to run the engines.
Fortunately, it took Torres only a few seconds for her mind to race through the permutations. "Okay, here's what we're going to do," she surmised, her hands still working the console. "You're right Seven, the planet is our best option, anything else is certain death."
Seven raised an eyebrow at the lieutenant's acknowledgement but made no comment.
B'Elanna continued, oblivious to Seven's reaction to her statement. "Prepare a distress buoy repeating the co-ordinates of that planet while I sort the power re-route. Comms might be out but if we leave a calling-card, hopefully Voyager will find it and then us," she paused a beat. "Whatever's left of us that is," she amended.
Seven nodded, and mentally scolded herself for not thinking about some kind of distress beacon. It took her only a few moments to set the buoy and she jettisoned it from the hold without waiting for permission.
B'Elanna did not seem to mind the ex-borg working on her own initiative this time, she was too busy trying to maximise the power exchange. When she was satisfied she turned in her chair to face the younger woman. "You ready?" she asked.
Seven nodded. "There will be minimal power for control of landing once we are in range of the planet," she advised.
"Yeah, I know. Better buckle yourself in. I'm a terrible pilot," B'Elanna returned, smirking at the look of alarm that suddenly flitted across the usually stoic features of the tall woman. "I'm kidding. You didn't think that I'd get away with dating Tom for all that time without him insisting on me improving my skills did you?" she asked rhetorically.
"It is just a shame that he didn't appear to take any lessons from you regarding honour," Seven replied quietly, referring to Tom's indiscretions with other members of the crew that had finally lead to their less-than amicable break up a few weeks ago.
Torres was startled. She hadn't thought that Seven would take an interest in anyone's personal affairs. It was also the nicest and most appropriate thing anyone had said to her since the end of her relationship with the helmsman. "Thanks," she murmured. "Ready?"
"I am prepared," Seven acknowledged.
The engineer transferred the last of the power in the shuttle to the engines and engaged the warp drive, taking the craft on a course set by Seven. There was nothing more they could do now than hope that the engines would last long enough to take them close to the planet.
The engines lasted for exactly thirty-nine seconds. When they finally ran out of power, the shuttle came to an abrupt stop. B'Elanna smiled as she began scanning the planet. "Your calculations were slightly out Seven," she couldn't resist but point out.
"I neglected to factor in your uncanny ability to make something out of nothing," the tall ex-drone retorted.
B'Elanna couldn't work out if the comment was a slight or a compliment but she laughed just the same. "Let's hope you say the same when we land this thing," she replied. Suddenly she noticed the results of the surface scan. "Seven, you said this was a Class M planet, right?"
"Negative Lieutenant. Class N. It is a barren world, with surface temperatures varying between -40 and -10 degrees. I have detected no life signs other than hardy, scrub-like vegetation. However the atmosphere is breathable."
"We'll freeze down there," B'Elanna protested, shivering at the thought.
"We stand a better chance of survival than on the shuttle in space. I calculate that we have less than two hundred and eight seconds before the hull breaches." Seven's voice remained impassive.
"That doesn't give us much time to land," the Klingon grumbled but she concentrated on the controls and began to prepare.
As the lieutenant made her adjustments, Seven moved quickly to gather materials together. She was uncertain as to how successful the landing would be and she knew that the environment they were headed for was hostile. She managed to put extra blankets, clothing, tricorders and phasors into two storage holdalls that were stored in the rear of the shuttle. She just had time to throw in several ration packs before B'Elanna yelled back at her to take her seat.
The willowy blonde hurried back to the cockpit and sat down barely in time before the shuttle was thrown about, this time by the upper atmosphere of the planet.
"Hold on, Seven," the Klingon warned. "This is going to be rough." The dark engineer gritted her teeth and began the landing sequence.
"Warning: Hull integrity at 5%," the computer intoned.
"Computer, mute all warnings," B'Elanna ordered, wondering why she hadn't thought of that earlier. She could feel sweat begin to form on her brow as she concentrated at the controls, fighting the elements as the shuttle was thrown around.
The view screen changed from black to a deep red as the hull surface heated, the friction of the atmosphere inflicting yet more pressure on the beleaguered shuttle. Suddenly, the view changed again to a bright white and the half-Klingon squinted as her eyes adjusted to the change in luminance.
Unfortunately, there was nothing to see except a bright white expanse. B'Elanna concentrated on the instruments in front of her, knowing that she would not be able to judge the height of the shuttle visually. The brunette woman could feel Seven's eyes boring into the back of her head and realised that the ex-drone had said nothing for some time, obviously not wanting to distract B'Elanna from her task. Knowing that it wasn't just her neck on the block spurred the Klingon to concentrate and she willed herself to make the landing, even as she fought against the hostile environment.
For a brief second, the Chief Engineer thought that they had made it. The shuttle trajectory was good and their approach to the surface was sound. However, just as she was bracing for impact, a cruel but powerful gust of wind forced the shuttle to dip slightly to one side. The left undercarriage clipped the ground and suddenly, the craft flipped. When it landed again, the shuttle began to cartwheel through the snow, the sides crumpling with each impact. By the time it had spun twice, both occupants were unconscious.
B'Elanna opened her eyes and realised that she was slumped over the forward console of the craft. She made no further effort to move, having a dread feeling that there would be pain involved. The shuttle was in shadow, with beams of natural light slicing through the dark from the holes in the hull of the shuttle. The Klingon tried to mentally assess her injuries before moving. Her head was pounding and her left shoulder and right leg had localised pain. Now that she was conscious, B'Elanna was aware of icy cold drips hitting the back of her neck and it was irritating enough to force her to sit up, albeit somewhat gingerly. Her jacket creaked and she realised that she was soaked through from the water that had been dripping through a breach in the hull above her head, and most of the water had frozen on her back.
The brunette groaned as her back straightened and more pressure was put on her shoulder. Moving her arms disturbed the ice on her back and it dislodged and slipped to the ground. As she exhaled, a huge plume of mist escaped her lips indicating how cold it was inside the shuttle and B'Elanna registered the harsh environment for the first time.
She glanced down and saw that her tunic was not only soaked with water. Her shoulder was bloodstained from the injury she had sustained there. She lowered her right hand and examined her thigh carefully, grimacing as she found evidence of more blood. After gentle prodding, she surmised that the leg wasn't broken.
Now that she knew that she could stand up and move, B'Elanna forced herself to get up and look for Seven. The back of the shuttle had taken a great deal of damage and debris was scattered across the cockpit, much of it already frosted over.
Underneath one large pile, but clearly visible, was a pale hand. The engineer shifted gear and began to remove plating and wreckage off the Astrometrics Officer quickly but carefully, not wanting to collapse the wreckage onto the unmoving woman.
Once the area was clear, B'Elanna grabbed a tricorder and checked the ex-drone out. She was suffering with a severe concussion and some of her borg circuitry had fused, drastically slowing down the woman's nanoprobe healing process. Seven's left arm was twitching spasmodically as the conflict inside her body raged.
The Klingon shivered as the cold began to bite into her. She had to help Seven quickly so they could create a more survivable shelter. Coming to a rapid decision, B'Elanna hurriedly looked round for tools and equipment she could use to help the ex-drone. She located the instruments quickly and set to work repairing the damage, hoping that Seven remained unconscious during the procedure as she was convinced that the blonde woman would find it extremely painful if she were conscious.
B'Elanna worked steadily for the better part of an hour, getting frustrated with herself as her hands began to shake, a side-effect of her own injuries and the harsh temperature. Eventually, the job was done and the Klingon sat back, exhausted but certain that she could do no more to help her colleague.
Realising that she had neglected her own injuries long enough, the engineer used the emergency med-kit on her thigh and shoulder, fumbling a number of times as her numb hands wouldn't behave the way she wanted them to. She could not replace the blood she had lost, but at least now she would lose no more.
Light-headed from the intense concentration and blood loss, B'Elanna sat back and leant on the damaged hull, feeling icy droplets falling on her again, but now too exhausted to shelter from them. A groan from Seven prevented her from passing out, and B'Elanna forced her eyes open and sat forward, looking carefully at the ex-drone.
"We have survived," Seven stated dully, but with a hint of surprise in her voice.
B'Elanna narrowed her eyes at her companion. "You didn't think we would, did you?"
"The odds for survival were not favourable," Seven admitted, moving slowly. "What happened?"
"We crashed," B'Elanna responded dryly.
Seven ignored the comment. "My circuitry has been repaired," she stated, frowning as she tried to collate the data from her systems.
"Your abdominal implant was damaged. I had to do some surgery," the half-Klingon told her.
"The repairs are adequate," the blonde woman remarked. "Thank you." She frowned. "I still have pain in my head."
"You and me both. I'm not surprised after the impact we had. I didn't want to give you any painkillers until you were conscious though. I needed to make sure what I did was satisfactory," B'Elanna explained, reaching over to place a hypospray at the younger woman's neck.
As the pain receded, Seven's face relaxed slightly. "I was fortunate to be in the shuttle with you Lieutenant," she told the brunette. "There is no one else on Voyager who would have been able to deal with my condition so effectively."
"Yeah, well," the raven-haired woman tried to shrug the comment off. "I need you at your best if we're going to survive out here." She shivered again as her body reacted to the cold inside the shuttle.
Her action was enough to spur the ex-Borg into action. "I packed equipment and supplies. We need to leave the shuttle and make our own shelter."
"You're kidding right? It's freezing in here. How much colder is it going to be out there?" B'Elanna was incredulous at Seven's suggestion.
The younger woman was already standing and trying to locate the holdalls. "The hull is breached in many areas. We have no power to sustain a warm environment and the material of the shuttle will get, and then stay cold very quickly. We need to build a small shelter that does not require much to retain the warmth." Seven bent down and retrieved the bags. She tossed one in the engineer's direction. "If there is anything else you wish to take for immediate use, I suggest you pack it now. We can return to salvage other supplies once we have a base secured."
B'Elanna stared sullenly at the taller woman, but another icy blast reminded her of the conditions within the shuttlecraft and the engineer knew that Seven was right. She grabbed the bag and slung it over her shoulder, wincing as her shoulder was pulled by its weight. Transferring it to her other shoulder, B'Elanna made a sweeping gesture with her right arm. "Lead the way," she suggested.
Seven cocked her head slightly, wondering why B'Elanna had acquiesced so easily but made no further comment. Locating the exit to the shuttle, the blonde woman easily wrenched the door open and squinted into the blinding glare of the terrain.
"There are some hills over there," she pointed. "We should use the natural slope as a shelter."
"Just as long as I'm not out here too long," B'Elanna muttered, feeling her teeth chattering already.
The two women jumped down from the wreckage and surveyed the landing path of the shuttle. Seven raised an eyebrow as she saw the deep winding scar of the shuttle's path. "I believe my initial calculation of survival should be revised. The odds appear to have been far worse than I calculated," she commented blandly, her mouth curling slightly.
B'Elanna didn't respond. She was too busy feeling the cold. "Come on Seven. Get moving. I'm freezing," she muttered, annoyed that she was admitting weakness.
The tall borg looked closely at her companion with concern. B'Elanna was looking pale and she was shivering uncontrollably. "The exercise will help warm you," she told the Klingon and then set off at a brisk pace, all the while keeping a surreptitious check on the shorter woman.
They made surprisingly rapid progress, which was just as well as B'Elanna's Klingon physiology was beginning to suffer greatly from the environment. As she surveyed the hillock in front of her, Seven made some rapid calculations. "If we dig out a T shape hole, we can shelter in the top of it and store our belongings at the bottom. If made small enough, our own body heat should keep the shelter at a survivable temperature, particularly as there appears to be nothing that can act as fuel in the immediate vicinity."
B'Elanna just nodded: too cold to object to Seven's plan. She fumbled in her bag to retrieve a phasor and then handed it to Seven apologetically. "My hands are shaking too much. I think it'll be easier if you cut it," she admitted.
Seven tried to keep the shock from her face and quickly set to work in creating their makeshift shelter. She made several neat incisions and then several more so that the compacted snow could be taken out block by block. B'Elanna assisted in the removal of the blocks and in a few minutes they had managed to hollow out a small but adequate shelter.
Seven then ensured that the roof of the shelter was smooth so that no unwelcome drips would irritate them and also cut out a ventilation shaft so that there would be no dangerous build-up of carbon dioxide.
Satisfied with her handiwork, she turned to present the shelter to B'Elanna, only to find the Klingon slumped on the ground. "Lieutenant," she exclaimed, quickly dropping to the brunette's side.
"Frozen," B'Elanna mumbled, barely conscious.
The Astrometrics officer acted quickly. She grabbed a bag and dug out a survival bag and blanket, preparing one of the sleeping areas. Then she went back to where B'Elanna lay, picked the woman up and carried her into the shelter. Supporting her with one arm, Seven awkwardly removed the lieutenant's soaked and freezing tunic, shifting the smaller woman in her arms in order to free her from the garment. Then she worked off B'Elanna's trousers, managing to prise the woman's boots off with her feet at the same time.
Seven was frightened at how cold the Klingon's skin was but forced herself to work methodically, rather than rush and make mistakes. Once the smaller woman was clad only in a grey tank top and underwear, Seven rolled her into the sleeping area and worked the survival bag up from her feet to encompass the woman who had now, alarmingly, stopped shivering.
"You will warm up quickly Lieutenant," Seven told her before placing another blanket over the top of B'Elanna.
Seven rapidly prepared her own sleeping area on the other side of the T bar shape, knowing that her own body temperature was beginning to drop and recognising that she needed to sleep to assist with the recovery of her injuries now that regeneration was no longer an option. She was deeply worried for the engineer. The survival bags worked by retaining the body heat emitted by the user. At the moment though, B'Elanna was too cold to generate much heat.
Seven found herself in a dilemma. She knew that she should assist the lieutenant in raising her body temperature but was uncertain how the fiery Klingon would react. Coming to the conclusion that it was better for the engineer to be alive but furious, Seven quickly got down from her own sleeping area and approached B'Elanna.
"Lieutenant?" she asked softly.
There was no response. Torres lay unmoving in the shelter, her breath coming in short, shallow gasps.
"Lieutenant?" Seven tried again more forcefully. When there was still no reaction, the blonde decided to take action. She quickly removed the blanket that covered the Klingon and then rolled down the survival bag. She jumped up onto the ledge and stretched out next to the Klingon, alarmed at how cold the woman was.
"What are you doing?" the engineer mumbled, lucid enough to recognise the invasion of her personal space.
"Keeping us both alive," Seven retorted shortly as she adjusted her body next to the other woman. She worked the survival bag around the two of them. It was a tight fit but eventually, she managed to cover the pair of them with both the bag and the blanket.
Settling down, she wrapped her arms round B'Elanna, spooning the shorter woman and rubbing her hands roughly over her arms in order to encourage the circulation round her body.
At first, B'Elanna didn't react but after a few moments her body warmed enough to begin shivering again.
"Shared body heat is more efficient," Seven whispered into B'Elanna's neck, anxious for the woman's condition to improve.
B'Elanna could feel the warmth radiating from Seven's body and tried to relax into the younger woman's grip and soak up some of that heat for her own frozen body. She could feel the curves of the woman press into her back and took comfort from the close proximity of the ex-drone. Even in her semi-conscious state, she realised what Seven was trying to do and was grateful that the younger woman had thought to share body heat. She stilled Seven's moving hands by placing hers on top of them before pulling on them slightly to encourage Seven to hug her. She whispered into the dark. "Thank you."
Seven sensed the change in B'Elanna's body. Her shivering had become less violent and the woman was no longer rigid with cold. There was something else that changed, but the Astrometrics officer couldn't determine what it was.
She did know that she was revelling in the nearness of the older woman. She had been attracted to B'Elanna for some time but had not acted on her feelings. All the time B'Elanna had been in a relationship, Seven knew it would be inappropriate to reveal her desire. When Tom and B'Elanna broke up, Seven wasn't sure how long to wait before saying or doing anything. She had found it much easier to hide behind the relationship excuse and now had difficulty confronting her emotions.
All she knew at the moment was that B'Elanna needed her, if only for her body heat. For the time being, that was enough.
When Seven woke up, she was surprised that she had actually managed to sleep at all. Her internal body clock told her that she had been asleep for over six hours and that the injury to her abdominal implant was healing nicely.
Once her internal checks were completed, Seven opened her eyes and found herself staring into the back of B'Elanna's head. Neither of the women had moved while she had been asleep. Seven was pleased to feel the heat radiating from the Chief Engineer. The engineer was sleeping naturally, her breathing normal and the colour of her skin was less pale.
Reluctant as she was to leave the warmth of their shared bed and its intimacy, Seven knew that she had to get up and get food. B'Elanna would have lost a lot of energy from fighting the cold and the Astrometrics officer knew that she had to deal with her own nutritional requirements. The willowy blonde resisted the urge to squeeze the older woman closer into her for a moment and instead, moved her arms gently away from the still sleeping Klingon and wiggled her way out from the survival bag. B'Elanna grumbled at the disturbance but did not actually wake up.
Once free from the covers, Seven gently pulled them back over the raven-haired woman but stopped as she noticed the angry red mark that covered B'Elanna's shoulder. The wound had been healed cleanly enough but it looked to be showing signs of infection. Making a mental note to examine it when the engineer was awake, Seven replaced the covers and then searched the holdalls for ration packs.
B'Elanna snuggled into the warmth of the survival bag as she woke. She inhaled deeply and caught a faint scent that was reminiscent of Seven. It reminded her of the events directly after the crash and her eyes flew open, trying to recall what had happened during the building of the shelter.
She found herself on one of the narrow ledges, tucked into a survival bag wearing nothing but her undergarments and vest top. She rolled over gently, wincing as she put pressure on her shoulder. The Klingon frowned slightly. She was sure she had treated herself correctly when she used the dermal regenerator. B'Elanna looked down and then towards the exit of the shelter, trying to locate her companion. She found her crouching over one of the holdalls, obviously trying to locate something. "Hey," she called softly.
Seven straightened up immediately. "Lieutenant," she acknowledged. "How are you functioning?"
B'Elanna grinned at the enquiry. "I'm feeling much better, thanks. I certainly feel warmer." She noticed the blonde woman blush slightly. "Thank you for looking after me," she told her with genuine emotion.
"I did not give you much choice Lieutenant," Seven replied wryly. "We both need to be fit if we are to survive for any length of time in this place."
The dark Klingon squinted towards the exit. "Doesn't look very hospitable out there," she mused.
Seven stood up and handed a bundle to the engineer. "It is currently -30 degrees out in the open. I suggest you put this environmental suit on. It will keep you warmer than your uniform."
As she stood, B'Elanna noticed that the ex-drone had also donned an environmental suit over her bio suit. "What happened to my uniform?" she asked as she sat up, shuddering as she lost the warmth from the survival bag.
"It was soaking wet and frozen," Seven began. She blushed again and B'Elanna frowned as she shrugged herself into the suit. "So where is it?" she pursued, rubbing her shoulder absently once she was attired in the silver clothing.
"I attempted to dry it by heating a piece of hull wreckage with my phasor," the tall ex-drone continued.
"And?" B'Elanna couldn't help but prompt.
Seven looked uncomfortable. "I burnt it," she admitted eventually.
The Klingon couldn't help but laugh at the mortified look on Seven's face. "I'll just have to run around in my underwear in our new shelter then," she teased, surprised to see the hue of Seven's face darken again. Wondering why the younger woman would react that way to her comment, B'Elanna decided to drop the subject for now in favour of a more pressing need. "Have we got any food?"
"I packed a number of ration provisions," Seven replied, relieved that the Klingon had changed topics. She searched the bag again and retrieved two packs, throwing one at the engineer who had now hopped off of the sleeping ledge to stand next to her. "They have an offensive taste but are nutritionally balanced," she commented with a slight moue of distaste.
"Hmm, I'm looking forward to it all the more now," returned the smaller woman sarcastically. It didn't stop her devouring the food though and B'Elanna realised just how famished she had been.
While Seven finished her own rations, B'Elanna spoke again. "You've done a good job with the floor area," she commended.
The end furthest from the entrance had been covered in a waterproof material that all their supplies were now resting on. There was enough room to sit on the material but it was quite cramped. Although it was colder in the gap between the sleeping areas, because both women had now recovered from their injuries and had warmed up, it was more bearable.
"I may need to excavate a bit deeper but I am reluctant to do so. The larger we make this area, the more difficult it is to keep it warm. While you were asleep, I dug out another shelter a suitable distance away that can be used as a toilet area. I suggest that we head back to the shuttle and see what else we can salvage now that we are appropriately attired."
"Sounds good to me," B'Elanna concurred. "Let's just be sure not to be out there too long. I'm not a fan of the cold," she continued, scouting round for her boots. She grimaced slightly as she put her feet into them. They were cold, but they were at least dry. "I see you were more successful in drying my boots," she commented with a grin.
Seven blushed again but this time replied to the tease. "I learnt from my previous mistake and did not use as much heat to remove the moisture from your boots."
B'Elanna nodded her approval before ducking outside the shelter and into the harsh winds and snow.
She was joined quickly by the blonde woman who handed her a now empty holdall. "It will be easier to carry supplies with these," she remarked blandly.
"Good idea," the Klingon commended and squinted in the general direction of the shuttle crash. She could see a long line of footprints that indicated Seven's previous journey. "Is there much more left for us to salvage?" she asked.
Seven was surprised. She had surmised that the engineer would want to fully inspect the damaged shuttlecraft herself and not take her advice. As she looked at the older woman, Seven could indeed see the Klingon's face frowned in thought. "I made a cursory inspection when I went back to retrieve some materials. It would better if we assessed the shuttle comprehensively."
B'Elanna seemed satisfied with the answer and began to follow the path Seven had already made when she was halted by an outstretched hand.
"I located these anti-glare visors. They will protect your sight." Seven handed the raven-haired woman a pair of dark glasses.
Impressed by Seven's anticipation, B'Elanna put on the glasses, feeling her eyes relax as the glare from the snow was instantly muted. "Thanks."
Once back at the shuttle, B'Elanna was able to examine the wreckage at leisure. Unfortunately, her initial assumption was pretty accurate. The shuttle had been almost completely destroyed by the landing and both women wondered how they had survived at all. The mining equipment and analytical tools were still working. B'Elanna gathered together every hand tool and power pack that she could utilise or had a hope of repairing while Seven studied the main instrumentation panels and systems.
As soon as the Klingon had completed her task she joined Seven at the main workstation and began her own examination, taking care not to repeat what Seven had already done. This consideration surprised the ex-drone and she couldn't help but comment on it. "I believe this is the first time you have trusted my judgement Lieutenant."
The shorter woman snorted. "Seven, we have a compliment of two here. I don't suppose it would be too difficult for you to call me B'Elanna would it?"
Seven's eyes widened slightly at the request. "I can try," she replied.
B'Elanna nodded. "Good. And there's no point in me checking your work. Unless we're doing anything that's new to the two of us, your summations will not differ from mine." The Chief Engineer knew that her admission was tantamount to a complete reversal in the way she had treated the ex-drone while on Voyager but B'Elanna had seen enough evidence of Seven's accuracy and talent during the mining operation to recognise that she was wrong. She was also honourable enough to act on her findings and treat the tall blonde accordingly. She smiled impishly. "Besides, I don't want to spend anymore time out braving the elements than absolutely necessary."
Seven agreed and then, on the demonstration of trust that the half- Klingon had shown, adapted her own style of working by providing a comprehensive summary of the results she had already obtained. "Engines and the main power supplies have been destroyed or are beyond repair, life support is irreparable, the hull has been compromised in too many areas to be viable and the shield generators and weapons array are unsalvageable." She drew a breath before continuing, noticing B'Elanna's frown deepen as the list of bad news lengthened. "Communications can be repaired but I estimate the time for completion to be in excess of seventy two hours."
B'Elanna hissed her displeasure at the news. "We'll only be able to work a few hours at a time in these conditions. It's going to take a lot longer than three days for repairs," she commented, folding her arms in front of her and hugging her body. "What about rations?"
"In ordinary circumstances, we would have food to last ten days," Seven began.
B'Elanna picked up on her reservation immediately. "In ordinary circumstances?"
"Because of the climate, our bodies will need a much higher calorific intake. I estimate that supplies will last just four days."
"Great." B'Elanna licked her lips as she thought through the situation. There was a short pause before she spoke again. "Have we got any power to the scanners?"
Seven frowned. She had not bothered to check the scanners as she had deemed them of no real immediate value. With elegant strokes of her fingers, she was able to glean the information from the onboard computer. "Short range scanners are functioning but without main power they will not be usable."
"We'll have to get power to them, Seven. We need to locate an alternative source of food or we'll die before we can contact Voyager." It was typical of the Klingon hybrid not to assume that Voyager would find them without assistance.
"I detected no life-signs when I made preliminary scans of the planet, B'Elanna," Seven reminded her companion, feeling awkward voicing the lieutenant's first name.
B'Elanna raised an eyebrow on hearing the ex-drone use her first name and was surprised at how pleasant it sounded from the taller woman's lips. "I remember," she responded. "However we need to locate anything we can that could be deemed edible. And I'm also hoping that anything living in this hell-hole will have dug in deep and may not have shown up on your initial scans. If we can take a closer look we might be able to find dinner."
"How do you suggest we power up the scanners now that there is no Supply in the shuttle?"
"You said that main power was out. You didn't mention back up and reserve. I'm hoping that I'll be able to squeeze enough from them to get the scanners working," B'Elanna replied, looking down at the console and beginning to run her hands over the controls. "If I can't get power from there, I'll bastardise the power supplies for the hand tools and try and generate the power that way." The engineer was already thinking far ahead into her plan and her voice had begun to take on the distant timbre that indicated that her mind was racing.
For Seven, it was fascinating to watch. If she was honest, she was envious of the older woman's ability to improvise and innovate. It hadn't even occurred to the younger woman to utilise the power from the other instruments they had the use of. Although unwilling to interrupt the creative flow of the Klingon's thought process, Seven knew that it would be more efficient if she had involvement in the workload. "How can I be of assistance?"
"Can you repair the auxiliary power pathways to the scanner arrays?" B'Elanna immediately tasked the ex-drone with one of the most difficult aspects of her plan, without even looking up from her console.
Seven found herself to be surprised again. B'Elanna immediately assigning her with such a complex and crucial undertaking was once again breaking from the way she normally treated Seven and the ex- drone found herself responding to the task with extra vigour.
B'Elanna knew that Seven was perfectly capable of sorting out the power supplies and was honest enough to realise that if she didn't share the difficult tasks, they would be stuck on the shuttle for far too long and they would end up dangerously exposed to the cold once again. As Seven worked on the power supplies, the Klingon tried to divide her time between realigning and refining the sensors, and trying to discover exactly how badly the communications systems had been damaged and what it would take to effect repairs.
Both women became immersed in their respective tasks and it was only when B'Elanna found that her hands had gone numb again, that she realised that they had been exposed to the elements for long enough. "Seven, we need a break and I need to get warm," she told the younger woman, looking up and rubbing her shoulder absently. For some reason her shoulder was aching but the Klingon put the sensation down to being hunched over a console in extreme conditions for so long.
Seven looked up and looked carefully at the older woman. B'Elanna looked pale again and her lips looked mauve from the cold. "Lieutenant," she began and hurriedly corrected herself when the raven-haired woman shot her a look. "B'Elanna, you must get back to the shelter. I can work for another hour yet."
"No," the engineer interrupted. "We work together and rest together. It's safer," she justified. "I'm not having you work alone here."
Seven found that her heart started beating faster. It appeared that the half-Klingon cared for her well-being, for there was real concern tingeing B'Elanna's words.
"Very well. We can return later after rest and sustenance," she agreed. Seven stood up and located the holdalls that were now full of equipment. "I know that it appears inefficient but I believe that our equipment will last longer if it is less exposed to the extreme cold."
"Sounds reasonable to me," B'Elanna concurred. She hissed as she pulled on the handles of one of the bags.
"B'Elanna?" Seven was immediately at the shorter woman's side.
"My shoulder's hurting. I thought I'd healed it. I obviously missed a bit," the Klingon explained, trying to dismiss the problem.
"I noticed that it looked inflamed when I woke," Seven commented, her face reddening when B'Elanna looked at her curiously.
"I'll be okay. Just need a rest and something to eat," B'Elanna decided, using the other arm to pick up her load.
"I will examine you when we get back to the shelter," Seven told the older woman determinedly.
"Yes," confirmed the ex-drone. "Suffering for the sake of your pride is illogical and will reduce your efficiency."
B'Elanna stared open-mouthed for a few seconds before turning and exiting the shuttlecraft using the same hole they had used when they originally crashed, muttering as she left. Seven retrieved the remaining bag and followed the lieutenant through the opening and together they made their way back to the shelter.
Once again, by the time B'Elanna reached the shelter, she was shivering again but curiously, her shoulder was burning. Throwing the holdall onto one of the sleeping ledges, the half-Klingon unzipped her suit so that she could expose her shoulder for examination, knowing that any further argument with Seven would be futile. What she wasn't prepared for however, was the gentle probing from cool hands over her fevered skin. The half-Klingon shuddered slightly and hoped that the woman behind her would attribute it to flinching from pain.
"Does this hurt?" Seven's words were practically whispered into B'Elanna's ear.
It took a few seconds for the engineer to respond. "It's uncomfortable, and hot," she described, willing herself to stand still as Seven continued to run her hands over the injury.
"It's infected," Seven surmised, stepping away from her patient almost reluctantly. "Let me get a hypo spray," she told the other woman and she rummaged round in the storage area before locating the med kit. When she first touched B'Elanna's shoulder, she had felt a spark of energy pulse through her and it had taken her a few seconds to regain her composure. Fortunately, B'Elanna hadn't appeared to notice her lapse, possibly because of the pain the ex-drone had inadvertently inflicted on her. She knew that her attraction to the engineer was deepening but now was not the time to expose her feelings.
B'Elanna's shoulder was an angry red with a darker red line running a jagged path across the blade. Seven frowned. The wound should have been completely healed by the dermal regenerator B'Elanna had used on herself. What confused the Borg more was how the wound had become infected. There was nothing here that they hadn't both been exposed to, and Seven had been careful to scan for any anomalies that would affect both humanoid and Klingon physiology.
Seven pressed the hypo spray gently into B'Elanna's neck, enjoying their closeness again, even if it was only for a few seconds. "That should take care of the infection," she reassured the smaller woman. She handed B'Elanna a ration pack and opened one for herself. "You need to eat," she told her unnecessarily, her face contorting slightly as she tasted the food.
"We have got to get sensors back on line," B'Elanna replied, grimacing as she forced down her own food. Seven nodded in agreement.
When they had finished, the two women looked at the storage area to see how things could be re-arranged in order to accommodate the additional equipment that had retrieved from the shuttle.
"I will dig out a deeper area," Seven decided, realising that there was no way that all the stuff could be placed in the original space.
"No, wait up," B'Elanna stopped the Borg before she commenced work. "Look, Seven," she started, hesitating as she struggled to find the words. "You said yourself that the larger we make this place, the more difficult it becomes to keep it at a reasonable temperature."
Seven nodded, wondering where the brunette was heading with her argument.
"Well we already know that there's enough room on one ledge for us both to sleep, why don't we just use the other shelf as an additional storage area?" B'Elanna wasn't sure why she was blushing so hard, and she was also equally surprised to see Seven react in a similar manner. "It's just an idea," she added, trying to play down the suggestion now that she had seen Seven's reaction.
"And it is logical," the blonde woman concurred, settling the matter by placing her holdall on the ledge next to B'Elanna's. She extracted her survival bag from the shelf and placed it next to the brunette's. "B'Elanna, your body temperature has dropped to near hypothermic levels. You should use the sleeping area to return your temperature to normal."
"What are you going to do?" the engineer enquired, removing her suit completely before hopping up onto the shelf.
Seven hesitated. "I will wait until you are fit enough to return to the shuttle with me," she replied.
"Seven, you've been affected by the cold too. It might be a good idea to get yourself warm," B'Elanna suggested, suddenly feeling awkward again.
The tall Astrometrics officer nodded mutely and eased herself up onto the shelf and wriggled into her survival bag. Once comfortable she lay back down and faced the smaller woman but could not think of a single thing to say.
"Just relax," B'Elanna murmured, already drowsy and enjoying both the rise in temperature from the confined sleeping area and from Seven's closeness.
"I will comply," the ex-drone replied stiffly, eliciting a stifled giggle from B'Elanna.
"You do that."
Seven sighed and turned over onto her back. She knew that she would be unable to relax. She was still unused to sleeping as opposed to regenerating and was certain that the only reason she had been successful earlier was due to her injured state.
She was still in a state of contemplation when B'Elanna threw an arm over her, rolling closer as she did so. Seven stiffened in alarm, unsure of what was going on until she realised that B'Elanna was asleep and had unconsciously moved closer to glean more warmth from her.
Perversely, B'Elanna's action did begin to relax the blonde woman and she shifted her body weight to lean into the half-Klingon's embrace. Within moments, she too was asleep.
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