The Lost Planet

By Dana Quell & Innocent Daynger


 Keethrawl stood over the limp bodies at his feet, watching them for any signs of movement.  Content that they would never move again, he kicked them once to the dead Redtree stump.  Then he turned to head back to the little cabin his parents had built, slinging his ancient hunting rifle over his shoulder and leaving the bodies to get to know the other inhabitants at the bottom of he Redtree stump.
 The planet's three moons were all risen to their full crest, reaching high above the tall trees and spilling light onto the ground.  Two of them were full, and the other was at a half crescent.  Judging by their position in the sky and the shadow that the planet cast on them, Keethrawl knew that it was nearly time.  It was a good thing he had to have disposed of the others.  It wouldn't do to have two sets, now would it?
 He shook his head, vowing that he would worry about that when he came to it.  And the only thing he was coming to now was the small, three room cabin that had been his home since the beginning of the years.  With the light coming from the moons, he could see perfectly that old tree in the front, with it's tattered old rope.  Keethrawl's earliest memories were of swinging on that rope, from the knot that his Pa had tied with his very own hands.  He could remember Pa pushing him, higher and higher, the rope fresh and new underneath his soft, young hands, and then he was slipping, falling, flying through the air.  And then Pa caught him, having been prepared, as always, to play the part of the hero.  Pa smiled reassuringly at him, then-
 "Keethrawl!" a familiar girlish voice called out to him.  His smile immediately turned upside down at being disturbed, but he couldn't help it.  She was very young, and wasn't yet wise in the ways of wisdom.  Neither was he, but he knew as much to not to disturb someone when they were lost in their memories of cloudy yesterday.
 "Hello, Maireni," he replied quietly, looking down at the little girl that was his sister.  She looked back up with innocent eyes.
 "They ain't comin' back, are they?" she asked, clinging to his leg.
 "No, they're gone, Maireni," he replied.  "Gone for good."  This last couple had thought they could take their frustrations out on her and some of the other younger ones, but he had taught them.
 "Good," Maireni said softly.  "Can you push me on the rope swing now, Keethrawl?"
 He shook his head.  "Nah, the rope swing's too old and tattered-like to hold you.  Tell you what, next time I get a chance to, I'll make a whole new one for you.  That sound good?"
 She thought for a little while.  "Ok.  But only if you promise."
 "I promise.  Now, go on inside and help your brothers with the preparations.  It's almost time."
 Maireni nodded, then with a grin she set off.  Keethrawl hung back for a few moments, then set out to make his own preparations.

~

 Kathryn Janeway sat in her ready room, very bored.  It had been, in fact, a very boring day.  And a very boring week.  She was just waiting for something to pop up.  After all, it seemed as though the week went by normally, but once every week, there was a day that just went wrong.  Or at least it was interesting.  And it seemed to be a lot of Wednesdays.  Maybe it was just her imagination going into overdrive from being so bored.
 The door chimed- At last, she thought.  Somebody has decided to rescue me from being bored.  "Come," she called.
 Chakotay stepped through the door and flashed her the smile that always made her knees weak.  She was so bored today that this time, she didn't bother shoving back the feeling that came with his smile like she usually did.
 "Chakotay, to what do I owe this pleasure?  Something exciting, perhaps?"
 He laughed at the over eager expression upon her delicate features.  "No, sorry, Kathryn.  Just the normal status report."
 "Oh," she said, feeling her excitement fall.  "Well, thanks."
 "Don't mention it," he replied, handing her the padd.  "So, Kathryn, I'm going to assume that you're bored."
 "Oh, no.  I'm just waiting for the weekly disaster to occur."  They laughed.
 "It is odd, isn't it?" Chakotay thought out loud.
 Kathryn got up from behind her desk and headed for the replicator.  "What's odd?" she asked.  "Coffee?"
 "No thanks."  He paused until she had gotten herself a cup and sat down on the sofa.  He joined her.  "The fact that there's something odd that happens to us every week.  And then the rest of the week goes along normally."
 "Well, define normal," Kathryn said, sipping her coffee.
 He was about to explain when the com system interrupted.  {Captain to the bridge,} Tuvok's voice said.
 "Right away," she replied, glancing over to the Commander.  They both got up and went to the bridge.
 On the viewscreen was a planet, M class, with abundant vegetation.  "Report," she said, ignoring it.
 "Captain, the planet you see on the viewscreen is not a normal planet," Harry explained.  "At least, not in the sense that we think of normal."
 Kathryn looked to Chakotay, who mouthed, "Define normal."  She shook her head, then turned back to Harry.  "What do you mean?"
 "That planet is less than two light years from here, yet we haven't picked it up on long range or short range scanners until now."
 "How is that strange?  Maybe the scanning systems are malfunctioning."
 He shook his head.  "B'Elanna ran a couple of diagnostics on them already.  They're working perfectly."
 Kathryn's mouth twisted into a line.  "Tom, set a course for this mysterious planet.  I want to know more."

~

 It was still dark, but at least now it was nearing dawn.  Keethrawl and his brothers had worked hard to prepare for this, as they had done every year since their parents had died, and even little Maireni had helped as much as possible.  And now, it was time to begin.
 As Keethrawl began by lighting the candle wick and chanting the opening invocation, he chanced a glance up.  Already, the stars were beginning to shine through the sky, and he could see the glimmer of hope that they brought in each and every sibling.  All their heads were bowed solemnly as he droned the opening.
 Soon the Silver Spirit and her companion, the Lightning Spirit, appeared above the roaring bonfire that stood between Keethrawl, the altar, and his siblings.  They nodded, knowing to continue the routine that had enslaved them for all the years and hoping that this might be the last time it was performed.  Then they vanished, leaving the seven children to continue the ritual.

~

"Captain, we're approaching the planet," Tom said from his chair at the helm console.
 She nodded, standing.  Then Harry called out, "We're being approached by some sort of energy.  The signature's not in the database."
 "Is it some sort of weapon?" Kathryn asked, turning to him.
 Harry shook his head.  "I don't know," he replied.  As soon as the words were out of his mouth, the ship was struck with a bone-jarring thud.  The lights flickered, then went back on.
 "I'd say that's a yes," Kathryn said, sitting back in her chair.  "Red alert.  Tuvok, what just happened?"
 "Two of the energy beams have struck the ship.  Shields down 60%," Tuvok drolled on.
 "We won't be able to hold for much longer," Chakotay commented.
 Kathryn nodded.  "All available power to shields."
 "That's not going to be much of a help," Harry said from his console as they took another hit.
 "Shields down 47%," Tuvok stated calmly.
 Kathryn bit her lip.  Retreat was a possible option, but there was no telling how fast this energy could move or if they could even lose the strange phenomenon.  "Tom, ready a course for retreat," she said.
 Tom nodded.  "Course laid in."
 Another jolt.  "23%," came Tuvok's voice.
 "Warp 7 on my mark."
 Another one.  "Shields down to 5%."  This time Tuvok's voice was high, and sounded almost as if he was panicking.  But then again, he was Vulcan.
 "Mark," Kathryn said as the energy threw themselves at their shields and penetrated them.  Tom hit the button that made the ship jump to warp, but he was a second too slow.  Captain Kathryn Janeway and Commander Chakotay were enveloped within the energy and disappeared from the bridge.

~

 Keethrawl watched in fascination, as he always did, as the two spirits brought with them the couple that would play Ma and Pa to the children.  The silver and white energy of the spirits enclosed the couple, rendering them unconscious for an hour, sometimes more than that.
 Glancing at his siblings, he knew that they, too, were fascinated by the couple.  What would these two be like?  Would they just accept the life here quietly, or would they have to be taught a few things like the last couple?  He knew the children were eager to learn the answers to these questions.
 The spirits finally unraveled themselves from the male and female.  The children bowed in respect, and the spirits seemed to nod back at them.  Then they disappeared back into the night sky.
 Keethrawl chanted the closing invocation, then blew out all the ceremonial candles.  Though it was night, the three moons illuminated the ground enough to see the way.
 He gestured to Arbathe and Ecne, who nodded and took the shoulders and legs of the man.  Keethrawl smiled at their struggles, and gestured to Foyll and Dalbaith to help them.  Then, nodding to Baiyle who took Maireni's hand, he hefted the woman up over his shoulder and began to walk back to the cabin.
 They walked for about an hour before coming upon the old tree in the front.  The four boys carrying the apparently heavy man stopped to rest for a moment, but, upon seeing Keethrawl continue on to the cabin, hurried after him.
 In the main room of the cabin, Keethrawl dumped the woman by the door and walked to the table, where the lamp sat.  Taking out the fire-maker, he lit the tree bark oil on fire, which then cast light into the room.  Then he gestured to his brothers to place the man in one of the side rooms.
 Keethrawl hefted the woman over his shoulder once more and brought her to the same room.  Foisting her onto the bed next to the man, he sat down in the chair in the back of the room and began to wait for when they'd wake up.  And if they didn't wake up soon, he'd have to help them along a little.
 He shouted an order to Arbathe to hand him the hunting rifle and then close the door and bar it until he gave the order to open it.  Arbathe, of course, immediately complied.
 

~

 The first thing Kathryn knew when she was first aware of her surroundings was the pain.  It blocked out everything else until she adjusted to it, using her technique to separate it from whatever didn't hurt.  That took a while, since she hurt everywhere.  Her head felt like it was being drilled into, her arms felt bruised, her rib felt fractured, and her ankle felt like it was twisted at an odd angle.  She had the worst craving for coffee, as well.
 The next thing she was aware of was that she was not alone.  Certainly, she would have known before if she hadn't been preoccupied with her own pain; there were screams coming from the right.  There was somebody else- no, two somebody elses- in the room with her.  Turning her head to the right, she saw Chakotay, apparently in the same, if not more, pain that she felt, screaming with all the might his lungs could gather.  Glancing downwards towards the end of the contraption that they were on- could it possibly be a bed?- she saw the cause of Chakotay's pain, and possibly hers.  A young alien was hitting him repeatedly with what looked like an old hunting weapon.
 She rolled off the bed and hobbled over to the alien, who looked to be male.  "Hey, what are you doing that for?  You're hurting him!" she said, stepping in between him and Chakotay.
 The alien pushed her out of the way, with such strength as to leave her reeling on the floor.  "Outta my way, bitch.  It was about time to wake you both up, and I'm just not relying on the alarm, is all."  He continued whacking Chakotay's leg.
 Kathryn heard a snap and assumed since she was not in any more pain than she was in before, Chakotay's leg had broken and not one of her bones.  His screams grew more and more frantic as the alien hit him with more and more frequency.
 Finally the young man (if he could be called that) stopped and walked to the door.  He turned to them.  "This was just your first lesson.  It won't be your last."  He rapped on the door.  "I'm done in here.  They need to be patched up."
 Kathryn heard a bar slide from the door as another alien opened it.  This one appeared younger than the first, and he held some sort of kit in his hands.  "Did I hear you say theys be needing care?"
 The first one nodded.  "Yeah.  I fucked them up right good."
 The second one frowned, then nodded.  "You can go, now.  I'll see to 'em."  The other alien nodded, then left the room.  Kathryn heard the bolt slide in place.
 The second one approached.  "Y'all can call me Ecne, and I won't harm ya.  I've got a little bit of knowing how to fix you up.  Which one of you is hurt worse?"
 Kathryn gestured to Chakotay with her head.  "He is.  Who was that before, the violent one?  And what do you want with us?  How did we-"
 Ecne interrupted.  "Your questions will be answered later.  But my brother, the one you met, he ain't so bad.  His name's Keethrawl."  He turned to tend to Chakotay, whose screams had turned to whimpers.
 As he worked, Kathryn studied.  He was humanoid in all appearances- two legs, two arms, a head, two eyes, a mouth, a nose, and ears.  His hair was jet black, as was Keethrawl's, and his eyes were the most interesting, defining feature.  They were huge, but shaped as slits in a pale gray complexion.  When he glanced up, his depthless black irises burned with intensity.
 "His leg's broke.  I'm gonna hafta push it back into position, and then set it."  His eyes spoke not of malice, but of true sorrow.
 Kathryn nodded, then turned towards Chakotay.  "Do you know what he means?"
 Chakotay nodded, swallowing back his pain.  "Yes," he rasped.  "It's going to be very painful."
 Ecne looked at them.  "Y'all ready?  Mebbe you'd like to take your mate's hand for comfort?"
 Chakotay began to explain to him that Kathryn wasn't his mate, but she silenced him.  It wouldn't do for them to be separated, and perhaps this reasoning would help keep them together.  So he silently took her hand and nodded.  "I'm ready."
 "Good.  Here's a piece of bark for you to bite on if the pain grows too much."  He slipped it in Chakotay's mouth.  "Well, here goes nothin'."  He began to push on the bones.
 Kathryn could not hear the grinding of the ends of the broken pieces over Chakotay's screams, but she knew what was happening.  She, as a Starfleet officer, had undergone basic medical training, including the more primitive types of medicine, and so understood what was going on.
 Finally, Ecne heard the POP of the bones as they slid in place, and he moved to get a stick to set it with.  Chakotay lay back on the bed, panting with the exhaustion and pain that screaming had brought.  Kathryn took his hand and stroked it gently.
 "The worst part's over, mister.  After I set this, I'll go get some tea that'll soothe those old bones right to sleep."
 Chakotay was too tired to argue that his bones were not old, and Kathryn was too busy feeling tired for him to argue on his part.  "You do that," she replied automatically.
 The next few minutes were a blur, and it seemed like he had just finished placing the splint next to Chakotay's arm and left to get the tea when he came back.  Chakotay was half asleep, though not so out of it that Kathryn didn't feel his muscles tense up underneath her hand when the bar slid out of place and Ecne walked back in.
 "Here, mister, drink this up.  As much as you can."  He turned to Kathryn.  "I'm gonna leave now, but you should be tryin' to get this into him if he wakes up at night."
 Chakotay sniffed the drink first, then decided that if it was poisonned at least he'd be put out of his misery.  Drinking the first hesitant sip, he quickly regretted it and spat it out.