THE VISITOR

 
 

By Carol Sandford

 
 

Chapter 09

 
 

Two days later, the shuttle touched down on the planet’s surface. Four occupants exited its hull as they returned at last to gather the results of their earlier visit. Collecting data from the deeply instilled probes, held everyone’s concentration until it started to snow.

Almost in unison, they looked to the skies as the first snow flakes touched the exposed flesh upon their faces. Within minutes, the snowfall increased and fell steadily, blanketing the skyline. The horizon disappeared. Stephanie’s voice broke through the howling wintery array.

"Oh Will, isn’t it something else? Look at that view, it reminds so much of home...when it was good"

Will reached out and placed a hand upon her shoulder, in response, Stephanie patted it,welcoming the personal gesture, grateful for the thoughtfulness that came with it. "Come on, let’s finish up and get out of here, I don’t want to get bogged down by the storm."

Minutes later, the foursome collected the remaining data and equipment and headed for their ship. The first rumble brought Riker to a halt. As he searched the heavens for its source, his voice boomed above the wind that whistled around them, “Let’s get the hell out of here! Run!”

The urgency in his voice hastened the crew’s flight to the safe interior of the shuttle. Their journey became a battle all on its own despite being barely ten feet away.

The group picked up speed as they got closer to the landing site and once there began loading equipment into the shuttlecraft. By the time they finished the clouds were barely twenty feet from the ground. A dense ominous gray veil spewed out snowflakes so large that they looked like a giant hand touching you, pushing you down as the bitter stars swirled and fought their way to the ground.

As the last of the team stumbled inside, Will punched the closing mechanism. Letting out a painful gush of air, his relief lighting up his eyes as they settled on the wide eyed young woman that huddled against the plush upholstery.

Sending a shower of snow crystals around the shuttle’s interior, creating a miniature storm of its own, Will hurried to the helm where Data was already in the process of firing up the engines, he threw himself into the seat and prepared for lift off. His deft fingers flew over the controls whilst he relayed a message to Enterprise.

"Riker to Enterprise, preparing to lift off, severe storm, could be a bumpy ride, prepare to beam us aboard if situation worsens. Riker out"

"Acknowledged, away team, we will monitor your approa..."

The transmission was cut off as an ear-piercing noise ripped through their senses, rocking the tiny craft to and fro like a rag doll.

"Riker to Enterprise. Enterprise respond. Get us out of here, Mr. Data, NOW!!"

Data’s curt nod was his only acknowledgement as he concentrated on the daunting task before him. Moments later, the engine’s powerful thrusters launched them off the snow packed ground into the mercy of the cloud that now kissed the floor, making the shuttle’s ascent blind. The shuttle’s navigational sensors locked on to the Enterprise’s signal and everyone breathed a sigh of relief as it steadily began to climb through the solid, fog like soup.

Minutes later, two thirds of the way through, another rumble rocked the craft, followed seconds later by a bolt of multi-forked lightning that flashed and sparked throughout the shuttle’s interior. The energy stream shorted out every light, and circuit on board and plummeted the small ship into a downward spiral, straight towards the icy planet.

Barely heard above the roar of the shuttle’s groaning metal hull as it fell, Will screamed to his companions.

"ALL HANDS, BRACE FOR IMPACT!"

The Enterprise crew members crouched down as low as they could and hung on for dear life, their silent prayers unheard in the howling din from outside.

Stephanie, huddled down between the seats, was terrified. Not of crashing, but of being so far from Will. She eased her way out of the tiny space and moved forward intent on being with him. She needed him.

Will was shocked into silence he saw Stephy stand and stumble towards him, his name spilling from her lips as she reached out for him. But there wasn’t enough time for her to reach him.

Frozen to the spot, Will could do nothing as the shuttle slammed nose first into the solid ground sending Stephanie sailing over his head into the viewscreen, her tortured scream cut short as she made her own shattering impact.

Will screeched her name as he heard the sickening crunch of her body smash against the unbreakable glass, and then silence.

"STEPHY, NOOOOOO!!!"

Silence followed his tortured cry. No one moved at first, and then groaning began to emerge from the silence as the crew unstrapped harnesses and moved about the cabin. Hidden injuries made themselves known to the members of the team. Will ripped his own harness off and grunted as he tried to stand. His chest hurt like hell. That and a hell of a headache seemed to be the worst of his injuries. He punched a bulkhead compartment and grabbed the medkit as it fell.

“Everyone else okay?” He shouted.

A ragged chorus of “Yes sirs”, gave him the freedom to move forward to where Stephy lay. The shuttle groaned in protest as Will stumbled towards the broken body, stepping over the mangled contents of the shuttle’s interior that followed her to oblivion.

Will hesitated before reaching out to check her pulse, then heard a gut-wrenching groan. Incredulous that she could still be alive, he called out over his shoulder. "Data!, get over here, help me, for God’s sake, help me, she’s alive!"

His fear gone, Will reached down and pushed two fingers against her neck and searched for her weak pulse. He looked over her features and her body for the worst of the damage. Data knelt in the debris opposite Will and ran a tricorder along Stephy’s body before forcing his yellow eyes to meet Will’s.

The sorrowful look and the slight head shake propelled Will into action. A steady stream of blood poured from a wound on her temple and Will ripped at his tunic, tearing off a large strip, forcing it into a ball he held it against the gaping gash.

“Hey, Steph, come on honey, open your eyes for me.”

He held his breath as he searched her face for a movement. Seconds later, her eyelids flickered open, then closed again, but her hand moving told Will that she was conscious, but only just.

"Hang on, sweetheart, we’ll get you out of here, I promise, I’m not leaving you here, you have my word."

Will watched her lips move as she tried to whisper something, he leant down, placing his ear close to her red tainted lips, the tell tale gurgle in her throat revealing the seriousness of her inner damage.

"Thank...you Will...for...loving...m...me.."

A huge gulping surge of misery dragged itself up from the deepest corner of his being, aching to erupt into a wail that would cleanse his heart of the pain of her death. But the First Officer of the Enterprise slammed his fist into a bulkhead, and never made a sound.

An hour later, the rescue shuttle landed finding its pilot still cradling in his arms, the still, broken form of Stephanie Carter.

 
     
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