Yeah, I own them. I own them all. Not. Broke, not profiting. All lawyers can now chill.
This is an alternate universe story about what it might have been like if the Starfleet and Maquis crews had not merged as cleanly as they did.
Spoilers: Since this is AU, it does mention events of episodes, but not necessarily exactly what happened as written by TPTB. Tom Paris's history is taken from the show, and I made up what we were never told.
Warnings: Descriptions of injuries sustained from violent acts, language, a none to clean mutiny.
No one could possibly have expected a small Federation vessel, prepared only for a short journey, to last even a year stranded in a hostile foreign quadrant. The chances of survival diminish even more when the crew of said vessel is made up half by unrefined terrorists, half by the people sent to capture them, and by one man who has managed to betray both sides. And although the ship's survival is remarkable, the relation of its unlikely shipmates is as predictable as former prey's civility to its one-time predator. That is to say, just to the left of unstable peace and just to the right of a continuous brawl. The prospering ship is a stark contrast to it's failing crew, where insubordination is always a precedent to a sudden outburst of fury. But then, metal bulkheads are easier to fix than cracked hearts and lonely lives. Everyone on Voyager reacts to their own pain by inflicting some on others, whomever they blame for the vast distance between them and home. The Starfleet crew blames the Maquis. The Maquis blame Starfleet. In sickbay, there are two medical assistants, one Maquis and one Starfleet. They treat their respective colleagues, and one has yet to see either one cross ranks and treat someone with insignia different from their own. It is truly a wonder how Voyager has lived with out a full-blown mutiny, by either the Starfleet crew or Maquis, trying to get rid of the other. There is a rare existence of agreement between the two on one person: Tom Paris is responsible for all of Voyager's troubles.
With the exception of a few in the know people, not much is known or even cared about Tom Paris, beyond that he was once a Starfleet Cadet, kicked out of the academy for a nasty shuttle accident in which he claimed responsibility all but too late. Afterwards, he joined the Maquis as a mercenary pilot, but was captured by the Federation almost immediately. He was convicted of a variety of crimes relating to Maquis activities. After reading a small amount of Federation law, it becomes apparent that a Maquis crime conviction is a legal game of dominoes, particularly for a Federation citizen and former Starfleet cadet. Once convicted of being a Maquis, it is almost certain that one will also be convicted of treason, terrorism, and trafficking arms and contraband. It seems a tad unfair to one without the hatred for the Maquis contained by most Starfleet courts, who cannot question the legitimacy of such laws that allow them to lock up Maquis by the hundred. Tom Paris, surely, did question the laws that sent him to Auckland Penitentiary for eleven years and seven months, in addition to five months of time served while he was awaiting trial and then sentencing. Twelve years is a long time out of a young man's life. Which is probably why he said yes.
Yes to Captain Kathryn Janeway's request for a qualified guide to lead her to the Maquis, to Tom's former cell leader, Chakotay. And if he did, he'd have her respected words at the hearing the following year, where he might be released eight year earlier than his sentence read. Who would say no? He didn't. He lead her to the big Maquis' stomping grounds, and Voyager was tossed through space to land on the other side, far too quickly, far too great a distance from the Bad Lands, with far too many casualties sustained from the bumpy ride. It wasn't Tom's fault. The deaths of Voyager's first officer, chief engineer, pilot, and entire medical staff were not his fault. He did what he was asked; he led them to the Maquis. He fulfilled his end of the bargain, on the other side of the Galaxy.
And wished like hell he hadn't, considering the consequences. When the Maquis ship was destroyed, his former comrades boarded Voyager. "Traitor!" His one-time associates hissed at him. He never expected to survive past that first tension-filled meeting on Voyager's bridge. The first week was pretty safe for Tom; the discovery of Janeway's Vulcan security officer as a spy on Chakotay's ship turned the Maquis' attention elsewhere. The Maquis had someone else to hate and plot to assassinate for a month. The addition to the crew of the friendly Delpha Quadrant native Neelix, who had attempted to save but ultimately lost his mate, a elfish telepath named Kes, as well as the controversial Maquis crew assignments, and the Emergency Medical Holograph's less than stellar attitude upon activation made the first month too busy for Tom to know what would happen in later months. Tom feared Chakotay's appointment as first officer, and he envied Batehearts's appointment as pilot.
Whatever Captain Janeway's intentions for Tom were, she kept them to herself, for she left him unoccupied for the first 6 months of the journey. It was then that the Maquis began taking their revenge. Tom's various Federation enemies followed suit. From that moment on Tom Paris has been treated for the fracture of every major bone in his body. Treated for internal organ damage, cranial hemorrhaging, and even one most unfortunate case of bowel perforation, as well as other severe damage in that area. That never happened again, someone in power ordered that particular kind of abuse to cease. Possibly Commander Chakotay, who spent time in Cardassian slave camps, and saw many assault victims. Commander Chakotay could end half of Tom's suffering with one order, and although he's certainly lessened it, he is still responsible for the broken ribs Tom received a week ago, having never condemned it. However insubordinate and obnoxious the Maquis are to Federation officers, they are always obedient to Chakotay. Maquis captains have always been practitioners of corporal punishment to keep their crews in line, many suspect it still goes on behind Tuvok's vigilante surveillance of the Maquis. It's sad and sickening that one can tell which side attacked Tom by the wound. The Maquis are creative and resourceful; they could make a weapon out of anything. They have to; Lt. Tuvok strictly regulates weapon replication, and is especially careful about keeping phasers out of Maquis hands. Starfleet crewmembers can easily get weapons, which is probably why Tom limps to sickbay singed and blistered so many times. Tom's used his programming skills to prevent the EMH from reporting his injuries to the Captain, before he had tried seeking no medical attention whatsoever and using a regenerator that didn't even begin to treat most of his injuries. While most of the crew decidedly wanted to avoid encounters with hostile aliens, Tom enjoyed Red Alert because it meant everyone not on duty was in their quarters, so Tom wouldn't get shoved as he walked down the corridor, or receive a warning glare that indicates he can expect a lot more than shove later. Stress tends to put the crew on edge, but atleast they're too busy to bother him at the moment. Over the months, the fights had been less brutal and more time passed in between. Tom didn't know if Janeway had found out or if Chakotay was helping him out, or if he'd finally lost the interest of his tormentors. He certainly was unaware of the Maquis' side project, which was a great distraction. He wasn't about to experiment, but rather enjoy not having fresh bruises everyday.
The second year of the journey he'd been assigned to the botanical garden. To get to the converted cargo bay, he had to pass the shuttle bay on a daily basis. It was really only a matter of time before it occurred to him that his means of escape were right outside the door. And only a matter of time, three weeks, until he got enough courage to turn into the wrong room. What was a complete accident was that Chakotay was in the Shuttle Bay when he came to check out which shuttle he would use for his flight. Tom entered the Shuttle Bay with the same determined pace he'd been striding through the ship with. No variation his steps communicated he was intent on a destination. Or atleast he was until he saw Chakotay. He tried to backtrack through the door, but it slid shut with an audible hiss, enough to get Chakotay's attention.
Oh Shit, Tom thought.
"Oh, Chakotay." Tom hastily covered the stream of mental expletives with a tone of indifference in his greeting. With the Maquis he usually reverted to a tone of arrogance that got him attacked, but not with Chakotay. Chakotay was too damn big for him deliberately provoke, atleast when he was not in the mood to get pounded. Tom had a few inches on the man, but Chakotay had what really counted: mass. Besides, Chakotay had never directly hurt Tom in the year they'd been on the same ship. Yelled at him, berated him, certainly not stopped other Maquis from hurting him, but never personally taken a hand or anything else to Tom. Why stop a good thing when it's on a roll?
"Walked into the wrong room, can you believe it? I meant to go to the garden," Tom explained, already with his back to Chakotay.
"Wait, Paris. I was meaning to talk to you."
How wonderful, Tom thought, marveling at his ability to be sarcastic within his own head.
Tom turned half way around.
"The vegetables you gave Neelix last week. They gave half the crew food poisoning."
Good. That's what they were supposed to do. I wouldn't have gone to all that trouble of injecting them with Rajivian poison if it didn't have an effect, Tom thought bitterly.
"Really? " I scanned them before I gave them to Neelix, he must have cooked them wrong or something."
"The doctor found traces of Rajivian poison in the afflicted crew members."
"Well, we did receive the seeds from one of the planets in the Rajivia Empire. The Rajivian people might not be as well intentioned as they appeared. But I wouldn't know, remember? I'm not allowed off the ship. You'd have to ask the away team that traded for the seeds."
"I was on the away team. When we scanned the seeds there was nothing to indicate poison."
"Maybe you made a mistake."
"I don't make mistakes, not ones that endanger this ship."
"Maybe you did, this once."
With that, Paris turned completely and left as he had entered. He strode down the corridor, into the converted cargo bay of plants and topsoil. I hope he puked for a week, he thought, dropping to his knees next to the tomato bush. He ripped out some offending weeds from its base. I am a pilot, not a damned gardener. I'll poison the entire crew if I have to. Hell, I'd poison the entire crew just for kicks. His hands began to bloody from the sharp stems, but he didn't stop.
While Paris steamed, Chakotay stared at the door from which he had departed. B'Elanna Torres stuck her lightly ridged head out from a shuttle hatch.
"He deliberately did something to those vegetables, didn't he?"
Chakotay turned around, as B'Elanna climbed out of the shuttle and reclined against it.
"Yes," Chakotay strolled closer. "And he's probably going to do it again."
"Shouldn't we do something?" B'Elanna approached her commanding officer, noting he looked more amused than enraged.
"Because, if it happens again, Janeway will figure it out. She'll take care of it."
B'Elanna's voice took on an edge. "Since when do we leave things to those Starfleet fucks? Especially when we can handle it so much better."
Chakotay's voice took on an edge of it's own, far more dangerous than anything Torres could produce. She was instantly cowed.
"Tom Paris is the least of our problems, B'Elanna. Focus on the big not the small. Understand?"
"Yes, sir. But I don't understand how that applies in this particular situation," B'Elanna continued, despite the danger she knew could come of questioning Chakotay. "Sir," she quickly added.
Chakotay sighed. He knew the hatred for Tom Paris harbored by his crew was strong. He didn't share it as strongly as he once had. He didn't have the God damn time. Why the crew continued to focus on Paris, rather than Tuvok, Janeway, or any of the others equally responsible, was beyond him. Not that he liked Paris, the arrogant--
"Sir?" B'Elanna interrupted his thoughts.
Chakotay looked at B'Elanna and sighed again. The woman was irritated at his delayed response, and he had lost his own irritation with her pressing questions.
"If Paris gives the ship indigestion, it's not going to interfere with our plans. It might even help create a distraction. If you take action, Janeway or Tuvok will keep an extra eye on us. That's not what we need now. It's not worth it, B'Elanna. When we're done, you can do whatever you like to Paris, if he's still on the ship," Chakotay pacified, suddenly very tired.
"Still on the ship? You'd let him leave?" B'Elanna was incredulous.
Chakotay met B'Elanna's wide eyes with his own hard stare, "The coming weeks aren't going to be organized, B'Elanna. If it works, it's not going to be clean. They aren't going to line up so we can pick and choose who stays and who goes."
B'Elanna nodded slowly. She returned to the shuttle, and Chakotay left the bay for a nap in his quarters. It was apparent to B'Elanna, who knew him so well, although he hid it carefully from everyone else, that the man was exhausted. She didn't blame him. Leading a mutiny wasn't exactly restful. The Maquis had been plotting this for over six months. They'd finally reached the stage where it wasn't just a detailed plan for the future, but a daily routine where nearly everything they did was in preparation for the big event. B'Elanna wasn't repairing the shuttle; she was setting everything on board, the replicators, engines, life-support, sensors, warp, and other vital components to endure a journey of decades. As much as some of them deserved it, the Maquis weren't just abandoning the Federation's people in the middle of space. They would be given the shuttles to continue home on, or they could choose to make a home on the inhabitable planet that Voyager's course would bring them to in a matter of weeks. But they could not stay on Voyager. Not anymore.
Chakotay strode down the corridor outside the shuttle bay, towards the turbo lift. He wasn't on duty for another four hours. That should get him about an hour of sleep, and just about three hours of worry and anxiety. He considered taking a sleep aid, but dismissed the option. The last time he had taken one of those he had indeed slept, but with dreams of his plans gone wrong and his crew slaughtered. No, he wouldn't be taking on of those again until it was all over. He felt a slight breeze by his wrist, and looked in that direction.
And instantly felt the familiar pressure between his brows. Headaches had baffled doctors of the 20th century, but now the brain's complicated chemistry was fully understood, and headaches subsequently prevented. Chakotay thought he had a case that would stun the Alpha Quadrant's most educated physicians. Not that they would ever hear about it. But it was a remarkable case. The main symptoms: An instant headache and feeling of dread upon seeing her royal highness.
Janeway, that is. She was right beside him, matching his quick pace despite her shorter legs. And she was greeting him in a way that made it apparent she was clueless that he was less than pleased to see her. She always was.
"Commander," she was cheerful.
"Captain," he was ingenuine, but she couldn't tell.
They entered the turbo lift together. Which was absolutely what he wanted: to be in a small space with a woman whose mere presence put him in pain. That and she continued talking. She was pleased with the progress Torres was making on repairing the damaged shuttles. She couldn't believe they'd all been afflicted with the same problem simultaneously. He said he couldn't either, but he knew all it took was Dalby and whatever problem he'd invented for B'Elanna to have to fix.
"I'm glad Torres has become such a benefit to this ship. At the beginning, she seemed so angry. I wouldn't have believed then that now she'd put on a Starfleet uniform and be such a willing asset. She's doing excellent work," Janeway remarked.
Chakotay's headache disappeared, his dread replaced with amusement. This was damn amusing. Of course Torres was doing excellent work-she'd been promised that for toiling in a Starfleet uniform her excellent work would remove the Federation and their uniforms from Voyager permanently.
"Yes, she certainly is," He said. And the smile on his face was not because he was proud of B'Elanna.
The turbo lift came to a halt with a gentle noise.
"This is me. And I'm not late for dinner with Tuvok, I guess I had more time than I thought I did." Janeway left.
As the doors slid shut, Chakotay whispered to Janeway's back, "No, you don't have any more time."
But she was unaware of what was definitely a threat. Utterly unaware.
Maybe he'd sleep after all.
Neelix bustled around the nearly deserted mess hall. The busiest meal times of the day had passed, and he might have a few late shift stragglers, but nothing to keep the food out for. His one remaining customer wasn't eating; he was hunched over a cold bowl of soup, staring into it like there was something of great interest in the broth. But the young man's face indicated he'd like to drown in it, and his posture was barely holding him above it. Neelix finished wiping down the last down sticky table, and dropped his damp cloth on it. As casually as possible, he sidled over to the one occupied table. He smiled down at the bent head.
"You're up late," Neelix ventured, with the inquiring tone that usually elicited a response, whether a harsh command to leave, or the immediate sharing of thoughts and troubles.
"Oh, hi Neelix," Harry Kim raised his head. "I'm sorry, am I in your way?"
"No," Neelix quickly reassured, unobtrusively planting himself in the chair opposite Harry. "I was just concerned. You didn't eat your soup, and you looked, if I'm not mistaken, a bit troubled."
Harry smiled just a little. "I didn't eat the soup because I know Tom had a hand in making it."
Guilt flashed across Neelix's face. Harry's smile grew a bit more, as Neelix struggled to deny any wrongdoing on Tom's part.
"It's okay, Neelix. I'm not going to tell on him. You should have seen him when he told me. He was absolutely giddy."
Neelix relaxed. "It would be nice to see Tom happy," he mused. At that, Neelix noticed the brief smile on Harry's face drop completely. "Are you troubled over Tom?"
Harry looked back up from the soup bowl, which had attracted his gaze yet again.
"Tom? No. Which is a good thing, actually. I like it when I don't have to worry that someone's going to kill him."
Neelix nodded in agreement, disturbed that Harry meant the word kill literally. Harry seemed inclined to continue speaking, without anymore prodding.
"Maybe you can help me, Neelix."
"I'll do my best, Harry," Neelix offered instantly. A moment later, "With what?"
Harry sighed, distractedly stirring the cold soup. "My troubles. But they aren't just mine; they belong to the whole ship. I know you know nearly everything that happens on the ship."
"Well, I am the Morale Officer," Neelix paused for a moment. "What little morale there is."
"You've done a fine job with morale, Neelix, considering what you have to work with." Harry met Neelix's eyes. "Do you think you could tell if part of the crew were up to something?"
"Up to what?"
"Something harmful to the ship. What, I don't know!"
Neelix leaned closer to Harry. "What makes you think that something's up?"
"When Voyager started her journey, the Maquis and the Federation couldn't look at each other without starting a brawl. Now? There hasn't been so much as a fistfight in a few months. The Maquis don't forgive and they never forget, so why would they stop? Unless they have something else on their minds."
"Maybe they got tired of Captain Janeway putting them in the brig," Neelix offered weakly. "Or maybe they realized that fighting wasn't going to bring them home any faster. I think you might be seeing something where there's nothing," Neelix finished gently.
"I hope your right, Neelix. One of the Academy instructors told me once, that as dangerous a person is when they're fighting, they're twice as dangerous when they're not fighting: Because they're plotting what they're going to do the next time they're fighting. I can't get that saying or this feeling out of my head."
"What are you going to do?" asked Neelix.
"For now, hope that I'm wrong," Harry said. "I'm just keeping a close eye on anything out of the ordinary. Tom keeps the closest watch over the Maquis, for his own safety. He'll know if I'm just being paranoid. I'll ask him tomorrow."
Harry rose. He placed a hand on Neelix's shoulder. "Thanks for listening, Neelix. Even if you don't believe me, I think I've sorted out some things in my own head. Goodnight."
"Goodnight," Neelix called belatedly to the back of Harry's head. Neelix picked up the tray and carried it back to the kitchen. Kim's worrying words had ruined what had been a decent day. As he disposed of Tom's special stew, he found himself getting lost in disturbing thoughts provoked by Harry's possibilities.
Neelix wasn't any delusions that certain people on Voyager liked certain other people on the ship. The mess hall had certainly been home to more than a few of the Maquis-Starfleet conflicts. Those had ceased a while ago, but the mess hall was still ground zero for Maquis-Starfleet interaction. He'd been privy to some of the nastiest looks he'd ever seen, tossed across the room or passed slowly and purposefully while standing in line. At crowded times, there was a bit more jostling that required. He more than occasionally heard muttered complaints about Starfleet protocol. But he could not see what Harry saw so clearly. Maquis and Starfleet crewmembers eventually sat together during meal times. Although he wasn't always within hearing range, the conversations didn't look like an exchange of death threats. Just last week, the Commander and Captain had dinner together. It looked enjoyable: The Captain doing most of the talking, the Commander occasionally interjecting.
They'd stayed for an hour or more, the Commander smiling, sitting back in the chair, his elbow on the armrest and his fingers rhythmically rubbing his temple the entire time.
Tom Paris's door chimed. Again. And again. He rolled over in bed, dragging the pillow over his face as he did. Which had absolutely no effect on the volume or repetition of the sound. Who the hell was bothering him at this hour? He didn't report to the garden for another three hours, and if Chakotay had reported him to Janeway, then he probably wouldn't be reporting to the garden period. Tom stumbled out of bed, tripped over his boots, and was sent sprawling into the carpet. Where he discovered that he'd tracked dirt in, the night before. He yanked himself up and went to the door. If this was Chakotay, or any Maquis, hell if it was anyone short of Tuvok or Janeway, he was going to greet them with a swift kick to the gut.
It was Harry Kim. He was bouncing from foot to foot. His entire body was moving with impatience. Damned sweet, annoying kid, Tom thought.
"Harry," Tom greeted him with a less than welcoming tone. "What's up? I wasn't."
If Harry noticed Tom's evident irritation, he chose not to acknowledge it.
"Tom, I need to talk to you."
Tom rubbed his eyes-he had sleep and dirt in his eyelashes. "About what," he sighed.
"My absolute favorite subject. Why can't this wait, Harry?"
"Because it's important. And because I go on duty in a few hours."
"Me too," Tom retorted. "Hence the sleeping I was doing."
"Tom, I don't want to talk about this in the corridor, I don't want any of them overhearing."
"I don't want to talk about this period."
"Tom, you don't even know what this is," Harry snapped at his disagreeable friend.
"If it involves the Maquis I truly don't care."
Actually, Harry knew Tom probably did care, but was too pissed at being woken to admit it.
"Tom, it should take only a second. Can I come in?"
Tom stepped back, and turned back into his quarters, muttering under his breath the entire time. Harry followed him, noting that not only was his friend acting like a recalcitrant little boy, but his quarters looked like one lived there, too. There was even dirt ground into the carpet.
"Where'd the dirt come from, Tom?"
"I work in the garden, where do you think the dirt came from?" Tom collapsed on the couch. "What was it about the Maquis that you wanted to wake me up for?"
Harry walked over and stood in front of Tom, who was apparently falling right back asleep.
"I think the Maquis are planning on assassinating Captain Janeway," Harry stated.
That woke Tom up immediately. "What?" He opened his eyes and stared at Harry.
"Or atleast planning on getting rid of her somehow."
"How the hell did you come up with that conclusion?" Tom asked.
"I thought this over for a long time, and I talked over it with Neelix. The Maquis used to be constantly insubordinate and violent, and now they're practically docile. And Chakotay is spending a hell of a lot more time with Janeway than he used to. I think they're getting her trust, and then killing her, so command of Voyager goes to Chakotay."
Tom shook his head in disbelief, Harry liked making utterly senseless connections, but this was extreme.
"Harry." Tom sighed. He didn't even know where to start. "First of all, be careful who you call docile. Some of them will rip your legs off and feed them to you. Secondly, Chakotay just has bad taste in women. Thirdly, command of Voyager would go to Tuvok because the Starfleet crew would throw a temper tantrum if they were under Chakotay's command. And fourthly, I think you've gone insane."
"Tom-" Harry began.
"No, Harry. Please just think over what I've said and if you still think you're right, we can talk about it later, okay?"
"Okay, before I go, just tell me, what do you know about the Commander and the Captain?" Harry asked.
Tom was curling back up on the couch. "As far as I know, he just wants to fuck her, not fuck her up."
Harry winced at the profanity, and turned to leave.
As he left, Tom called after him, "Hey Harry, Neelix's serving Peach Pie today. Whatever you do, don't eat it."
Harry halted, and turned around. "Tom, what did you do?"
"I switched the syrup with a really powerful Klingon laxative." Tom started chuckling.
Harry shook his head.
"What are you going to do when Janeway catches you?"
"Offer her some pie."
"Tom, she not as oblivious as you think she is."
"We'll see, Harry."
"What if she bans you from the Garden and the kitchen?"
"I'll just cry my eyes out. She not going to do anything, Harry. She's a moron. Aren't you late for your shift?"
Harry left at that. But he was thinking, that if his Captain couldn't catch Tom and his food hijinks, how could she keep an eye on all the Maquis?
He passed two Federation crewmen in the corridor on his way from the Bridge. One belatedly acknowledged him with a semi-respectful 'sir,' the other was even later in her response, motivated only by her companion's kick to her shin. Chakotay rounded the corner, pretending not to have heard the last, whispered part of her greeting,"Commander Shithead."
Before, he might have taken her aside for a long, menacing conversation about the dangers of making derogatory comments to a Maquis, and then to hit her where it hurt, he would use the Starfleet code and speak to her as the first officer, on the inappropriateness of insubordination. Hell, he knew the regulations better than most Star Fleet officers did. One had to know what one could get away with, and one had to know which article Janeway was using to justify her latest endeavor that seemed to everyone not inside her skull, to be a violation of the esteemed Prime Directive, as well as a stupid decision on its own. The latter was being none too rare.
But the days of intimidation tactics and observable dissatisfaction with the Star Fleet regulations, not too mention the Star Fleet crew, as well as the Captain's senseless decisions were long gone. With them went his daily 'chats' with certain people. And the rest of his Maquis sacrificed their time with their own rude devotees. For most it was a relief not to have react to the constant comments with instant viciousness. Except B'Elanna, that is. She had enjoyed rebuking her harassers. He knew how she felt. After a day of incessant disrespect and mistreatment, it felt damned good to watch the blood slowly drain from the distressed face of someone who was indirectly responsible for the stress of your day. B'Elanna saw a lot of attitude in Engineering. She was in charge of a crew with an 80/20 percentage of Star Fleet and Maquis. B'Elanna's orders were slowly executed, altered without her permission, and challenged outright. Now she had no recourse but to make notations of their behavior in her reports. Fat lot they cared. Not nearly as effective as the back of the hand response in Maquis engineering sections.
But she and all the Maquis were glad that while they were halting their brawling reactions, it wasn't because they were surrendering to the mistreatment. On the contrary, it was so they could take a stand against it, without it being obvious what they were planning. Less eloquently, it was so they could kick some Star Fleet ass, without looking like they were going to. B'Elanna didn't like eloquence.
He had instructed the Maquis to let the change happen slowly. It every Maquis had stopped criticizing Star Fleet regulations, had stopped standing up for themselves in verbal arguments, or had suddenly stopped participating in the brawls they themselves usually instigated-well, that would've been damned suspicious. So it happened over time. Until one day no one was muttering about the stupid chain of command, it biggest flaw that Janeway was in charge. No one was reciting the Federation's wrongs against the Maquis. No one was making anymore comments about Star Fleet incompetence, or drawing direct relationships between the arguably low intelligence of Star Fleet crewmembers and the size of their genitals. Well, actually, all those things ceased in public, and continued at the same rate, in private. But to outsiders, it looked like the Maquis had broken; no more nasty terrorist individuals questioning sound decisions, disrespecting the Captain, or trying to turn an orderly ship into a disorderly brawl. Too bad for Star Fleet that things aren't always as they appear.
Chakotay entered B'Elanna's quarters just in time to see her smack Gerron across the back of the head for messing with an intricate Klingon statue. He was the last to arrive; B'Elanna's quarters were already filled with Maquis. He motioned for B'Elanna to stop her efforts to repair the damaged statue and take a seat. She did, but not before smacking Gerron again. He stood before the group and cleared his throat. The encounter in the corridor made his voice all the more powerful and forceful.
"This is how it ends..."
Tom Paris had blown off Harry's worries as the products of a very bored, yet very imaginative mind. He wasn't so sure anymore. He had just watched a procession of Maquis enter B'Elanna Torres' quarters, over the last hour. Chakotay was last. Tom heard Jenny Delaney call someone "Commander Shithead," from where he was lurking. The Maquis did not have a weekly poker game. This was bad beyond words. He didn't even know if this was a usual thing. How long had these meetings been going on? How could he not have known something was up? He had to find out what was happening in Torres' quarters.
He had a lot of experience with the Jeffrey's Tubes, having used them as safer, alternate routes through the ship, back when the crap was being kicked out of him on a daily basis. He easily found the one situated directly above where he guessed the Maquis were meeting. He could hear a muffled voice, which meant whoever was talking, was talking very loudly inside. He pressed the amplifier he'd grabbed on his way, against the floor of the Jeffrey's Tube.
"-by our hand, and we end it now!" Chakotay's voice boomed into his ear.
No, this was no poker game. Goddammit, how could he have not known about this?
"In one hundred forty-four hours, Voyager will reach the Planet designated Alpha 634. The end of the line," Chakotay continued.
Tom recognized the powerful tone in Chakotay voice. It was the same one that he used when motivating his people against the Cardassians. It screamed authority, power, and occasionally just screamed. This was getting worse by the moment.
"Any last questions, this is the time."
Tom had a few questions alright. Like, what the hell was happening in a hundred forty-four hours on Alpha 634?
A different voice piped up to Tom's ears. It sounded like Dalby, but he couldn't be sure.
"What if there is a member of Star Fleet who has never been one to fight against us, and is willing to live under our rules. Would she or he be allowed?"
Allowed to what, Tom thought furiously.
"Have you told anyone, Mr. Dalby?" asked Chakotay. The question was harmless, but Tom heard the danger in it.
"No!" Dalby answered quickly. "She, this person's very intuitive. She, this person feels something in the air that's what they told me. The fact that she hasn't told anyone else is a tribute to her cooperative nature."
"Who is it?" Chakotay asked.
There was a pause, while Dalby debated whether to reveal the person to the Commander. Tom already knew who it was. The woman Dalby had been sleeping with for the past eight or so months. How was it that Harry and someone else had sensed this, whatever this was, coming, and he hadn't? Maybe Harry was sleeping with one of the Maquis. If that's what it took to keep on top of the Maquis, Janeway should be able to nip this in the bud. Except Harry definitely wasn't sleeping with anyone, and Janeway wasn't sleeping with Chakotay, he saw that now.
"It's Samantha Wildman," Dalby finally said. "She asked me to try to ensure the safety of her child."
"We don't hurt children," replied Chakotay.
A female voice interjected, Tom thought it was B'Elanna Torres.
"You said so yourself. This isn't going to be organized. People might get hurt in the chaos."
"Very well," Chakotay decided. "The Wildmans will be removed to Alpha 634, first. Whether or not they return will be decided later."
"Okay," said Dalby, sounding like he knew it was the best he could get for his lover.
Okay, it sounded to Tom like the Maquis were indeed planning a mutiny, to what end he didn't know. Assassinating Janeway, like Harry thought? Maybe. Taking control of Voyager? More likely. Killing him? Might happen in any mutiny orchestrated by the Maquis. He wasn't about to stick around to find out. Things weren't all that great for him under Star Fleet, how much worse could they get under the Maquis? He could end up dead, which was quite a bit worse. He'd just be given a very short time in which to fulfill his plan to flee voyager. A hundred forty-four hours was five days, and he had to be out of there before the Maquis' plan came together.
Tom started crawling out of the Jeffrey's Tube. He didn't have time to hear about anymore of it. Besides, he couldn't really glean anything from the conversation. Chakotay had started talking about the importance of Step Gamma, without explaining what Step Gamma was. Tom didn't have time to try and decipher little bits of information; he had to get a move on.
First, confirm his transportation off Voyager. He knew Torres had been working on the shuttles a lot, of late. Now he suspected it had something to do with what they were plotting. Were the Maquis planning on leaving Voyager? Well, they'd have to do it with one less shuttle.
Second, he'd go tell Harry his suspicions were somewhat right. He'd ask Harry to come with him, even though he knew his young friend would want to stay and fight the insurrection. He'd have to ask Harry to keep it quiet until he left Voyager, or somehow the leak of information would be traced back to him, and the Maquis would come after him.
Third, he'd have to get a check-up from the Emergency Medical Holograph. Who knew how long it'd be until he had access to decent medical care again?
Lastly, he would have to say good-bye. Good-bye to Harry, who he knew wouldn't come with him. And good-bye to Neelix, the friendly little Talaxian didn't deserve to watch the ship go to hell. But Neelix wouldn't come with him, either. His two friends would want to stick it out, God knows why.
But Tom knew, once he left, he would never see them again.
Tuvok observed Tom Paris tumbling out of a Jeffrey's Tube, landing none too gently on the floor of the corridor. He swore upon landing. He swore again when he lifted his head up and saw Tuvok.
"Mr. Paris," Tuvok greeted, peering down at him
"Tuvok." Tom struggled to turn over and get to his feet.
Tuvok extended his hand. Tom grasped it and allowed the strong Vulcan to pull him upright. How the hell was he going to explain this?
"I guess you're wondering what I was doing up there," Tom began, brushing himself off.
"You may explain that, as well as your activities in the mess hall, to the Captain," Tuvok stated.
Tuvok took hold of Tom's bicep, and forcibly began to lead him toward the turbo lift. Tom didn't resist, like he had any chance of getting away from Tuvok.
Of all the inopportune times for Harry to be right twice....
Captain Janeway was sitting at her desk when Tuvok escorted Tom into her ready room. She motioned him over. Once he stood in front of her, he realized she truly looked dangerous for the first time.
"Tom." Her voice was dangerous, too.
This was not good.
She picked up a PADD from the surface of her desk. She activated it, and began to read from the displayed text.
"Leola Root Stew, contaminated with syrup of ipecac."
She paused, looking up to meet his eyes. He could swear her eyes were snarling.
"Tomato Soup, contaminated with digitalis."
Her words were slow and deadly. The woman was pissed.
"Bajoran Hasperat, contaminated with Gelsemium."
The words were smooth and precise, yet it still sounded like she was growling.
"Tuwalli Pie, contaminated with Pycrotoxin."
Apparently she knew the effects of every poison, judging by her rising fury. Or maybe she was just that mad.
"Rajivian vegetables, injected with Rajivian poison."
Well, atleast she didn't have all his offenses. Unless she was skipping all the ones she couldn't pronounce.
"Peach Pie, with syrup of T'y'Lyhek'Ra."
She butchered the pronunciation.
And she was going to butcher him.
She swiveled in her chair, looking out at the stars. She'd rather speak to them, than to him.
"You are guilty of endangering this crew, of harmfully altering the food supplies of this ship, and of conduct unbecoming a-"
Well, he wasn't a Star Fleet Officer, she seemed to have forgotten.
But she found a perfectly suitable phrase to substitute.
"Do you have anything to say in you defense?"
Nothing that wouldn't get him into even deeper shit.
He shook his head.
"Tom Paris, I sentence you to ninety days in the brig," she ground out between clenched teeth.
Oh shit. And he hadn't said anything.
"Take Mr. Paris to the brig," she ordered Tuvok.
Tuvok grasped his arm again. This time he had to pull Tom in the desired direction.
Tom let him, but at the open door, he halted.
"Jeez," he tossed over his shoulder, "You'd think I was planning mutiny or something!"
And he was pleased to see that the entire Bridge crew heard him. Especially Ayala at Tactical, whose head shot up to stare at him.
Yeah, he thought. Go tell Chakotay. Get him nervous.
That was him, Tom Paris, arrogant to the end.
And if he was in the Brig in five days, while the Maquis mutinied, it really was his end.
Captain Kathryn Janeway's jaw was aching from clenching her teeth so tightly together. In her lap, her fingernails dug through the cloth over her knees. They hurt, too. Her spine was stiff, her back pressed against the chair back. Even her toes were pressed firmly against the bottom of her boots. Her entire body was rigid. Every major muscle and a few minor ones were stretched taut. She stayed totally still in this position for a few moments after the door to her ready room slid shut, after allowing the cause of her of her anger to exit.
Then, she drew her legs up. She wrapped her arms around her knees, letting her boots dangle over the edge of the chair, staring out at the stars. One thought better when compressed, she thought. And it was hell of a lot more difficult to break things from that position. Because she shouldn't break things. Including her teeth. With some difficulty, she relaxed her jaw. And then as a bombardment of thoughts struck her mind, her teeth clamped back together with the same force as before.
Tom Paris could have killed someone. He was probably trying to kill someone. One doesn't put those amounts of deadly poisons into food unless you want the person eating it to die. Quite painfully, considering the effects of some of those poisons. The stars flying by the window blurred. The Klingon laxative? That was something she might have expected. Digitalis in Tomato Soup? That was pure homicidal intent, and a sadistic homicide at that. The only reason lives hadn't been lost was the crew's willingness to go to sickbay when they felt horribly ill. That and the efficiency of the programmers of the Emergency Medical Holograph.
She ought to alter the charges against Paris to attempted murder for every dish he'd created. Keep him in the Brig ninety years instead of ninety days. When Voyager got back to the Alpha Quadrant, Paris would go back to the Auckland Penitentiary, just as she'd planned when they originally set off on the Mission to retrieve Tuvok and capture the Maquis. He'd just go back an old man. And she'd speak on his behalf at his next parole hearing, just as she promised. She'd speak on his outstanding ability to act like an upstanding citizen, and be practicing criminal behavior in secret. She'd tell them of his willingness to hunt down the Maquis, then get in frequent brawls with them and with the Star Fleet crew, and then stop fighting only to continue fighting in the most cowardly way possible, with poison in their meals. When they least expected it. When she least expected it.
Janeway unwrapped one of her arms, using that hand to rub the bridge of her nose. At one level, she knew the agonizing pain there was purely psychological, along with the fury she had for Paris, she felt immense guilt. She'd been the one to appoint him to the kitchen. She'd taken a long time deciding where to put him on the ship. She'd known the merging of the former Maquis and Star Fleet crews wouldn't be easy. She didn't need someone who was hated by both sides making it even tougher. So she'd put him with Neelix. Neelix liked everyone. And in addition to putting him in a position to try and poison the entire crew, she hadn't known what he was doing.
It had taken the anonymous transmission she'd received that morning, for her to realize that someone was trying to kill her crew. It distressed her to no end that she hadn't known. Hell, it pissed her off. And she knew, she knew from the expression on Tom's face, that she still didn't know the half of it. Someone who had just been found guilty of a multitude of crimes didn't look that relieved, unless they'd gotten away with more than they'd been caught for.
Which brought her to her second question, why the hell hadn't she known? The mess hall was quite obviously an instant suspect for originating a mass poisoning. If the EMH had reported a mass poisoning. Which he hadn't. And that wasn't a failure on the part of his programming. She wondered how good Paris' programming skills were. Quite good, she imagined. Causing a fatal shuttle accident, getting caught on his very first mission for the Maquis, his record made him out to be positively inept. Like hell.
Mr. Paris was anything but, she was beginning to realize. He was a pilot, a holograph programmer, a Gardner (and a decent one, she'd thought before today), and a damn fine liar. A liar who knew how to get to his enemies. She'd noticed the presence of Bajoran foods on the PADD. Who'd enjoy Bajoran foods? Why, people who worked rather closely with Bajorans, and spent time on Bajoran ships and Bajoran influenced planets. The Maquis.
The level that didn't know the pain in her head was purely psychological was rubbing the bridge of her nose raw. She'd have to check the Security schedule and find out who was stationed in the brig for the next ninety days. If it were any former Maquis crewmen, she'd have to have Tuvok amend it. One glance at the list and they would know just who he was trying to get. And then they would get him.
A Star Fleet crewmember might be pissed. Would definitely be pissed. But every one of them had a hell of a lot more restraint than any one of the former Maquis. The Maquis had calmed down significantly since the beginning of the journey. But she knew not to test them. Or tempt them. And beating the hell out of Tom Paris was an enormous temptation, and a test they'd fail. Chakotay's amiable nature hadn't rubbed off on his former crew.
There were times to trust the Maquis. This wasn't one of them.
Gerron was the first to leave B'Elanna's quarters, sprinting away from her curses. The crowd diminished slowly after his exit. A mass exodus from B'Elanna's quarters would reveal just how large the gathering had been. As it was, it looked like a dwindling poker game. Which was to be the official response, if anyone asked what they were up to. And to keep their stories straight, Chakotay cleaned them out during the fictional poker game, which had far too many participants and no winning pot. But Janeway would buy it, as would Tuvok.
But the truth was, it was Chakotay that was cleaned out by his conspirators' barrage of questions. For something he knew was going to chaotic, violent, and a generally brutal event, it was actually thoroughly planned, and exhausting to explain. But that didn't stop everyone from needing clarification on every step. He was pleased with their plan, for the most part.
There was no pretending. This wasn't going to be a simple ship wide announcement, instructing all Star Fleet crewmembers to line up in the Transporter Room, to beam down to Alpha 634. And that was once rid of half her passengers, the good ship Voyager would continue on home to the Alpha Quadrant. It wasn't going to be that clean, try as they might.
But there was no posturing, either. The Star Fleet crew wasn't going to be dragged from their quarters and duty stations, phaser barrels to their heads. They weren't going to be tossed onto the Transporter Pad, without explanation. Even the real bastards weren't getting thrown out airlocks. No unnecessary violence, no murders that could be avoided, nothing in the "How to Have a Successful Mutiny," Handbook. Not if they could help it, and not unless Plan A failed.
And try as hard as the Maquis did to find gaping flaws in it, they couldn't. Which didn't mean there weren't any, B'Elanna had pointed out. No, of course it didn't. It just meant that any flaws would be a surprise. A surprise that could come as one person with a phaser or an entire Security Team armed to the teeth.
In which case, Chakotay explained, the inevitable violence became necessary.
"I want you all to survive this. I don't want this to turn into a war," he'd said.
At which point B'Elanna snorted. "This is a mutiny, Chakotay, not a picnic."
"And it's not a war, either. I know some of you have personal issues with some members of Star Fleet, but this is not the time to deal with them. If you're taking care of personal vendettas, you're not doing your job. You all have jobs. Collectively, our job is to take this ship. But it can't be done if we're not doing the things to bring about that end."
He knew they understood. It was too damn close to suddenly start taking issue with a plan that had been so long in forming and so careful in execution, so far.
Five days. Only five days.
In the corridor he met Ayala, coming off duty from the Bridge.
"The Bitch put the traitor in the brig," he announced, his message decipherable to anyone, if it hadn't been whispered.
Considering Paris' recent activities, that wasn't any surprise. And it was one less possible problem to have to work with.
Chakotay nodded and moved to pass Ayala, but the man grabbed him by the shoulders and hissed urgently,
"He knows. I heard him, he knows!"
Chakotay froze. No mistaking what it was Paris knew.
Well, here was another problem to bury. Or the modern day equivalent.
Chakotay shook himself loose of Ayala's desperate grasp.
Of all the inconvenient things to happen.
He motioned for Ayala to accompany him back to B'Elanna's quarters. Time for another poker game. This one would definitely allow for discussion of violence.
B'Elanne looked up when the two men entered. There were still a few stragglers inside, raiding her Replicator rations, to her intense displeasure. She noticed the look of irritation on Chakotay's face. What the hell could he have learned after three minutes in the hallway to produce an expression like that?
Ayala provided her answer. "Tom Paris knows."
Well, she knew what had produced that expression, now. Little did she know, at the moment, she was mirroring it.
As much as she had wanted Chakotay to understand the necessity of dealing with that little runt, this was not how she wanted it to come around. Still, it wasn't an impossible obstacle. Her eyes shot to the Klingon Ceremonial Dagger on the wall. Ceremonial? Well, she'd say a little prayer after it was done. She'd replicated the weapon during their first weeks on Voyager. Tuvok the traitor had wanted to confiscate it. She'd thrown a fit and claimed one just like it had been destroyed on Chakotay's ship. He'd never entered her quarters on that ship, and couldn't disprove the outright lie. She'd insisted it held cultural significance to her. She got to keep it, but had never put it to its intended use. She'd had to correlate the rest of the decor around it. The other Klingon items in her quarters helped destroy the thought that she was storing it for later use.
Well, better late than never.
B'Elanna's face went from irked to feral.
"Where is he?" She inquired, the tone of her voice communicating her intentions.
Chakotay dropped heavily into a chair. "Inaccessible. The brig."
"His kitchen activities?"
"Has he told anyone?"
Anyone who might not be in the Brig, and who might be perfectly accessible?
"Not to my knowledge," said Ayala. "He just stood in the doorway of the Bitch's Ready Room, and said really loudly that one would think he was planning a mutiny. I guess he was talking about the time he's been sentenced to in the Brig, but no way was he talking to Janeway. He looked straight at me when he said it. He was letting me know that he knows."
"Why would he do that?" asked B'Elanna. "Did he think we'd take the hint and just stop?"
"No," replied Chakotay. "Paris thought he'd get a dig in, and let us know he's got something on us. But you're right, it was a stupid choice for him to make."
"Because we're going to kill him."
Chakotay turned his head toward the other Maquis in B'Elanna's quarters.
"Jarvin," he called. "Who's the next one of us on duty in the Brig?"
Jarvin sat down at B'Elanna's terminal and called up the upcoming duty schedule.
"Dalby," he replied.
"Three days. Duty shift Alpha."
"What if Paris talks in the meantime?" asked B'Elanna.
"We need to monitor the Brig. B'Elanna, get a repair crew in there under any circumstances you can. Plant it and patch the vid and sound to these quarters. If Paris says anything..."
Chakotay didn't finish his sentence, but B'Elanna had already decided to sharpen the blade on that dagger.
Chakotay rose to leave.
"I'll let Dalby know what he has to do, if you don't have to do it first."
After Chakotay's departure, Jarvin and the other Maquis soon left.
B'Elanna took a seat at her terminal. She tapped into Jarvin's replicator account and stole back what he had used of hers.
A full account of Replicator credits. Three days until Paris was dead. Five days until Voyager was theirs. This was going to be a good week.
Just inside Dalby's quarters, Chakotay spoke to him in hushed tones. Dalby nodded, as he was dictated his duty. When the Commander left, Dalby returned to his bedroom, even though it was still early in the evening.
He wrapped himself around the slick, feminine body in his bed. She stirred at his touch, and felt the tension in the arms that encircled her.
"What is it?" She asked, knowing he wouldn't tell her.
I have to kill Tom Paris in three days.
He kissed her.
"Nothing at all."
Tom Paris was feeling stifled. He always felt stifled in small spaces. The Brig had to be one of the worst small spaces for someone claustrophobic to be imprisoned in. He could cross the floor in eight steps. Side-to-side, that is. The slight heat of the force field kept him away from the front of the cell. That and the rather painful energy bursts it produced when he touched it by accident. Or on purpose.
If you put a mouse in a cage with a piece of cheese that would zap the mouse when it touched the cheese, how many times would the mouse touch it?
Sixteen, or however many menacing glares from the security guard it took to make the mouse decide that if he did that again, he would lose his little mouse head.
Not the cleverest of metaphors, Tom mused, but it would do.
Besides, pet mice were given something to do in their cages other than test the boundaries. Janeway might provide a little metal wheel, if she felt sorry for him. Or she might provide a guillotine if she didn't. Better off not requesting anything while the fury was fresh.
For some reason, Tom felt restless. For someone who had been in the brig many, many times before, and in a penal colony for years, and who should know how to entertain oneself while in jail, restlessness was an unknown feeling. He couldn't focus on exercising. He tried having a staring contest with the guard, but that only got him an even more menacing look than his force field poking exploits had. He couldn't even sleep.
He lay in the semi-darkness that the Brig qualified as an appropriate darkness for prisoners that had to be visible to the Brig guard, on the hard mattress, feeling wide-awake. There was what he could only describe as a coil of energy in his stomach, his spine felt ready to spring.
When Janeway tossed him in the Brig for protecting himself against vicious attacks from both sides of the crew, or fighting as she called it, he'd never experienced the excess adrenaline he felt now. Probably had something to do with the fact that those were weekend to weeklong stints in the brig, and he was tired, sore, and furious that getting the tar kicked out of him qualified as fighting.
This was a ninety-day stint that he doubted would go beyond five days, and he didn't know whether he'd be alive the following eighty-five days.
In the middle of his sleepless night, there was finally some entertainment in the small brig. B'Elanna Torres and another Maquis crewman arrived. They had a whispered conversation, far out of his earshot, with the Star Fleet guard.
You turn your back, I'll kill him.
Or so he imagined she was saying.
Apparently paranoia was part of the package, because after briefly speaking with the guard, Torres and her companion went to work on something besides him. They removed a panel from the ceiling. Torres boosted the other Maquis up inside the Jeffrey's Tube. Then she climbed up on a footstool and disappeared half way into the tube.
Tom couldn't see what they were doing, but he stayed in the same inconspicuous position for twenty minutes, watching all the same. And he was quite glad he did, too. Because the Star Fleet guard managed to somehow kick the foot stool out from under Torres. Quite impressive because he was standing across the room when the half-Klingon dragged herself off the floor.
Tom was practically asphyxiating from hiding his laughter. He was waiting for the woman to fly across the room and decapitate the guard.
She calmly picked up the instrument that had fallen with her, and checked it for damage. She set the stool back up. She took a first step on it, recalibrating the settings that had been altered when it hit the floor. It was only then that Tom saw her illuminated by the Brig lights, and read her body language and saw the real story.
Torres' entire body was quivering. Quivering with fury. She was stabbing the buttons with more force than necessary. She might actually break the key pad. She turned her head in his direction.
If human looks could kill, they probably would, but Klingon looks would be a much more painful way to die.
Torres looked away. She climbed back up on the stool, disappearing entirely into the Jeffrey's Tube.
Tom stopped watching.
In five days, all the Maquis who were that angry, that angry they were physically shaking, would no longer hold it inside.
He didn't want to be around when that happened
Tom Paris slept, but he didn't like his dreams.
Harry Kim came to visit him the afternoon of the next day. They had a severely edited conversation, and a rather uncomfortable one at that, well aware of the security guard's presence. They talked about what Tom would do when he was released, because Janeway would never allow him back in the kitchen. Tom suggested that he be appointed to the holo-gym as a human punching bag.
Harry didn't find it very funny.
The security guard seemed to like the idea.
Tom knew, vaguely, what would happen if anyone dropped the force field, time for his release or not. His plan wasn't very detailed, but it had a certain goal in mind.
He would run like hell.
He would leave Voyager.
He would never, ever come back.
But he just smiled and let Harry ramble on about taking a position in cargo storage. It was perfect for him, his friend explained. Very few crewmembers for him to work with, not a single Maquis.
Except, Tom thought, those crewmembers would have the daily opportunity to drop huge, heavy containers on top of him.
To Harry, he just said he would inquire with the Captain at the end of his sentence.
If she's still the Captain.
Harry left the Brig without ever saying, "I told you so," although Tom knew Harry had every right to throw his dubious judgment of the Captain back in Tom's face
And Tom let him leave without so much as a hint to Harry that he'd been right. Right on both the Captain's ability to discern the going's on that he'd thought she was oblivious to, and on the Maquis' plan to take Voyager.
To which Janeway was truly unaware. Or perfectly content to let them go through with it, anyway.
How had she managed to catch him, a single person, and not take notice of what a good part of the crew was involved in?
Hmm. Because he'd been tattled on, he'd guessed that much. By Chakotay, he'd decided. The Maquis wanted him out of the way for a while. And Janeway didn't have a clue about the mutiny because the Maquis were damn good at keeping their plan quiet. No Maquis was going to tell.
But Tom could.
He wrestled with that thought for a very long time.
It sounded like the Maquis had had this in the works for a very long time. Alerting the Captain to it might only speed up its arrival. And make it all the bloodier.
And telling certainly wouldn't endear him to Maquis, should they be the victors.
But maybe Star Fleet would be able to defend against the uprising. Or maybe they wouldn't.
There were too many scenarios in which the Maquis won and in which they would execute their swift revenge against him.
Execute. Gee, there's irony for you.
He'd keep his mouth shut, Tom decided. Whatever happened would happen without warning from him.
He felt rage building in his chest.
Janeway was blind, deaf, and dumb. Who the hell gave her a Starship? She was as responsible as the Maquis for whatever was going to happen in five days. Four, now. There were people in her crew who didn't deserve to be led to their deaths by an incompetent Captain. Not many, but some. Any deaths would be on her inept hands. Including his own.
A poor Captain would know when her crew was abusing an individual for fun. A decent Captain would know when her crew was divided into two alienated and aggressive parts. A good Captain would have prevented the separation in the first place, and the Maquis wouldn't feel they had to do this.
But Captain Janeway was a Captain four days away from losing her ship and had no idea what was coming.
It was then that Neelix entered the Brig. He was carrying a steaming tray. Behind him, little Naomi Wildman followed.
"Hello, Tom," Neelix called.
"Hey, Neelix," Tom replied. He couldn't keep the smile off his face when he saw Naomi. Her mother frequently left her with Neelix during her duty shifts and during her personal time with Ken Dalby. By association, Tom saw a lot of Naomi.
Naomi was only a toddler by human years, but her Ktarian paternity gave her the size and intelligence of an older child. But not the patience. The Security Guard had to grab her arm to prevent the child from running smack into the activated force field. Once Neelix deactivated it and set the tray down inside, Naomi ran inside the cell and into Tom's arms.
"Captain Janeway's taken away your replicator privileges," Neelix quietly explained the presence of the tray.
"I think it's a fair exchange," said Tom, one arm around sweet Naomi. He paused. "Did you make it?"
"Yes," said Neelix.
Tom dug in without the fear that someone had taken revenge for poison with poison.
"Where's you mother," he asked Naomi, who was digging into his chocolate pudding with her fingers.
"I don't know." The chocolate pudding was now being spread around her mouth.
"Samantha had some work to do, she said," offered Neelix. "She's not on duty, though."
Samantha Wildman was probably off working hard to save herself and her daughter from the hell to come. Samantha had never bothered him, never tried to keep her daughter from associating with him, and never participated in the Maquis-Starfleet hostilities. And now she knew what even the Captain didn't. There was a smart woman. He looked down at her daughter. A little chocolate mess never hurt anyone. If that was the worst thing Naomi had to deal with, then her mother was doing a fine job.
Maybe the future would be better if it was Captain Samantha Wildman.
Kathryn Janeway was having breakfast in the mess hall. Something she felt much safer doing now that a certain chef was no longer in contact with the food. She watched Neelix run hurriedly around the wide room, trying desperately to not only staff the serving line, but take care of what seemed to be consecutive mishaps the dining area. Unfortunately, the mess hall was now clearly understaffed. She'd have to talk to Chakotay and decide who would be an adequate replacement. She wondered what exactly Tom Paris had done, besides poison the food, to make his absence so noticeable.
From Neelix's frantic efforts to handle what was obviously not his usual workload, the belligerent young man had to have done something productive. As her thoughts turned back to the lone residence of the Brig, she felt her fingers tighten around her fork. She forced herself to relax and continue eating normally.
The night she'd put Paris in the brig, she'd let the outrage take over. It was a perfectly normal reaction, but not one she should have let continue through the night. She'd been so busy hating Paris for his actions, being outraged that they could occur on her ship, she'd forgotten to do anything else. Janeway had spent the previous day calming herself down. She was still working on it. But she was ready to talk about it. She was ready to work it out as Captain and as Kathryn Janeway, both of whom had just been betrayed by Tom Paris.
That meant she needed to talk to Tuvok.
And there he was, coincidentally, having just entered the mess hall. He was standing in the long serving line, his impassive face a contrast to the impatient faces in front of him. Janeway pushed her empty plate aside. She made her way toward the line. She brushed by some former Maquis, who had joined the line behind him. As she passed, she could swear she heard someone mutter an emphatic "Bitch!" But when she looked back, the two former Maquis were still talking about the inadequate supply of replictor rations. She must have misheard, or the hungry former Maquis thought she was cutting in line. Once behind Tuvok, she called his attention.
He turned around.
"This appears to be going nowhere fast. Perhaps you would join me in my quarters for a conversation. My replicator rations."
They began to exit the line.
"About what do you wish to talk," inquired Tuvok.
"Tom Paris," she answered succinctly.
And it was definitely not her imagination that all conversation by the former Maquis ceased, and that there were a good many ears inclined towards her. Tuvok took notice, as well.
"It would be wise to begin this conversation in your quarters," he told her.
And we're going to talk about what the hell that was, too, she thought, hearing conversation slowly begin again.
As soon as they were gone, Jarvin turned sharply to Gerron.
"Go tell Chakotay," he ordered.
Gerron had sprinted from the mess hall before Jarvin finished saying the Commander's name.
Neelix, behind the stove, steadfastly pretended he hadn't heard a thing.
Janeway did not speak to Tuvok in the corridor or the Turbo Lift. Their silent, determined stride towards her quarters projected the message to clear out of the way. Samantha Wildman, walking towards them with her daughter, got the most awkward of expressions across her face. And when they passed, she grabbed Naomi's hand, increased her speed, and practically dragged her daughter towards the Turbo Lift.
"Mom!" Naomi whined, trying to keep up with her mother's longer legs.
Her mother didn't appear to have heard the complaint.
"This is not good," she muttered to herself.
And when Naomi whimpered again, Samantha picked her up. She clutched the child tightly in her arms.
"Not yet. Not yet. It can't happen now," Samantha repeated to herself.
Naomi had no idea what her mother was talking about, but she didn't like the tone to her voice.
In the Captain's quarters, Janeway paced. Tuvok sat and watched her intense emotions fly over her face.
"You wished to speak about Tom Paris," he prompted.
"I did. Now I want to talk about what just happened in the mess hall."
She stopped moving.
"I want to know what that was."
In the Mess Hall, Neelix nervously continued to serve breakfast.
In the Brig, Tom sat on the bunk and wished like hell that someone would bother to bring him breakfast.
In the Wildman quarters, Samantha searched her mind for a way to protect Naomi and herself from something that had come too early.
In the first officer's quarters, Chakotay was being warned that their plans had just been shot to hell.
And in the Captain's quarters, Janeway and Tuvok discussed the veracity of their former Maquis comrades.
Or lack thereof.
And while Tuvok spoke with logic, Janeway found herself strangely paranoid, her mind racing with thoughts of a Maquis conspiracy. She'd been blissfully unaware that Tom Paris was endangering the crew on a daily basis. God only knew what Chakotay's people could be up to, without her knowledge.
Chakotay's people? When did she start thinking of the former Maquis as his people?
Former? She was going to have rethink putting that word in front of Maquis.
Mean while, Tuvok spoke with fewer accusations.
"It is well-known that many of the former Maquis have low opinions of Mr. Paris."
"To say the least," she retorted.
"Many of them also harbor aggression towards him," Tuvok continued.
She started moving again.
"It is possible that their profound interest in our conversation was in order to find out why he is in the Brig, and for how long. And a few might be aware of the circumstances under which he was placed in the Brig, and be curious when he will be released, so that they might...take issue with him in regard to his crimes, personally."
That was Vulcan for "They want to beat the shit out of him."
Janeway circled the coffee table again.
"By no means have those aggressive feelings disappeared entirely, Tuvok. But no action would be taken against him. That type of behavior has long since ceased."
When her steps brought her to face Tuvok again, she found his arched eyebrows residing near his hairline.
The universal facial movement for "What?"
Or maybe it was "What universe are you living in?"
"The former Maquis have ceased perceptible aggression, but I believe it is a deception. Motivated perhaps, by your instructions to Commander Chakotay to resolve differences with the Star Fleet Crew. Unwilling to make the effort, the former Maquis have only pretended to obey."
"How long have you had these concerns?"
"I reached that conclusion approximately a year ago."
"Allow me to phrase that differently, why the hell didn't you inform me?"
"My concerns have been minimal, Captain. Had they ever reached a point where I believed there was danger to Voyager or the crew, I would not have kept silent." He added, "And I thought that you had reached a similar conclusion. I was in error."
Janeway finally sat down across from Tuvok.
"Do you believe that the Maquis may, imperceptibly, have continued their abuse of Mr. Paris?" She sighed. "I remember when I used to have put him in the Brig, for his own protection, on a weekly basis. I thought those fights were over with."
"I do not know. I do not believe so, for I believe I would know if they had. And if Mr. Paris was being abused, poisoning the crew was not an appropriate response."
"I know. He didn't respond appropriately before, either. He was making weapons out anything, remember?" Janeway growled, her eyes darkening to recall that time.
Tuvok obviously did.
"He should have reported the attacks, not responded to them with more violence," said Tuvok.
Janeway felt the adrenaline fading. She'd been so caught up in her sudden belief that the former Maquis were up to something, the realization that they weren't, drained her. She smiled weakly at Tuvok.
"I was beginning to think there was some sort of Maquis conspiracy abounds. Turns out, I only completely misjudged the feelings of half my crew."
"You requested that I alter the security schedule in order to prevent any former Maquis from guarding Paris. You were aware, to an extent."
Janeway nodded. She didn't feel any better.
"Have you done that?"
"Yes, Crewman O'Donnell will take Lieutenant Dalby's shift."
"Good. Now, I believe I need to speak with Commander Chakotay."
Chakotay was with seven other Maquis, among them B'Elanna Torres and Ken Dalby. They were trying, rather fruitlessly, to come up with a spontaneous plan that was similar to the original. And failing.
B'Elanna swore Tom Paris had said nothing. Unless he'd suddenly become telepathic or found a way to communicate that couldn't be detected by sight or sound. She'd installed the monitor his first night in the Brig, and kept an eye on the vid.
It didn't matter if Paris had been the one to tell Janeway. What mattered was that she knew.
And everyone in Chakotay's quarters jumped when her voice came over Chakotay's comm badge.
"Janeway to Chakotay."
And everyone froze.
Chakotay was the first to react. He gestured to the others to keep quiet
"Chakotay here," he replied, his voice perfectly neutral.
"I think it's time we had a discussion. I'll be coming by your quarters, if that's alright."
It didn't sound like a request.
He ended the conversation.
"You need to get out of here before she comes," he announced.
Dalby was already clearing the PADDs and getting rid of all evidence of what they'd been doing.
Little late for that, Chakotay thought.
Time for this, he thought, as B'Elanna handed him a phaser rifle.
He stared at it.
"We don't know that I need that yet."
"Yes, we do," was B'Elanna's firm reply.
He placed the phaser rifle on the couch, beneath a designed throw cover, and put a pillow on top of it.
He sat down beside it.
The Maquis scattered from his quarters.
B'Elanna lurked outside in the corridor, waiting for the Captain.
She saw Janeway walking towards Chakotay's quarters.
What the hell?
B'Elanna watched her from afar, as Janeway chimed the door. A moment later, she disappeared inside.
This was going to be easy for Chakotay.
Chakotay heard the door chime. He took a deep breath. He let it out. He touched the phaser rifle, hidden next to him.
"Come in," he called, careful to keep his voice as normal as possible.
The door slid open. Kathryn Janeway stepped inside. She was alone, weaponless, with an unusual, rather odd look on her face, which did nothing to put Chakotay at ease.
Who came to a mutineer without a phaser or an entire security team?
He hadn't thought she'd meant 'talk' literally.
"Captain," he greeted her.
"Commander." And her voice had the strangest quality to it.
"Have a seat," he offered, gesturing to the chair across from him.
She sat down. Janeway was looking straight at him, but she said nothing.
"You said you wanted to talk," he prompted.
She took a deep breath, like she was preparing to speak for a very long while.
"It's been brought to my attention that the former Maquis are less than pleased with conditions on Voyager, but have kept their resentment to themselves."
Well, that was one way of saying it.
Out loud, Chakotay said nothing, wondering where the hell she was going with this.
"It's a disappointment, Chakotay, to say the least."
Disappointed? She was responding to a mutiny by being disappointed?
"I was under the impression that the many Maquis-Starfleet differences had been resolved."
"I was in error, obviously."
You were an idiot, that's what you were.
"It was in a conversation with Lt. Tuvok that I came to realize the scope of my mistaken assumption."
She kept talking, but Chakotay only kept one ear peeled to her words.
She talked about her questionable judgment of the feelings of his crew. She talked about the necessity of resolving the lingering difference between the Maquis and Starfleet crews. She said something about organizing group counseling sessions to discuss crew problems. She said she hoped they could reach a true reconciliation of the two crews.
Not a single word about the mutiny.
Because she didn't know about it, did she?
No, she didn't.
He tried his damnedest to keep the grin off his face.
She was finishing talking, "I truly hope we can reach a resolution, Chakotay."
"As do I," he lied. "And this time, we'll work harder."
She left his quarters. Only moments later, B'Elanna entered.
Her eyes screamed questions.
He was trying to keep from gloating, but not doing a very good job of it.
"She doesn't know a thing. Everything continues as planned."
B'Elanna's vindictive smile joined his own.
"Tomorrow Tom Paris dies..."
"And in three days, Voyager is ours."
In the Brig, Tom was brought a cold lunch by Tuvok, of all people. He asked where Neelix was, and it was explained to him that the Talaxian had taken ill. Neelix was in his quarters, after being examined by the EMH. Tuvok left then, and Tom Paris was alone, save the Security guard. And he had the most disturbing feeling, which he couldn't quite identify, creeping up his spine.
Ken Dalby gently rolled Samantha Wildman over on to the other side of the bed. The woman, still asleep, settled against the mattress with a soft sound. Ken sat up slowly, careful not to shake the bed or jostle his companion and wake her up. He observed her face for a moment. She looked very much like her child from this angle, minus the Ktarian spikes and red hair. He knew Naomi was going to be a very beautiful woman when she grew up. Her mother certainly was. Even more so when Samantha was asleep, and her features weren't stretched taut with worry and anxiety, as they had been of late. Like they were when she'd begun screaming at him earlier that evening.
The fight to change the balance of power had almost arrived early, terrifying Samantha. There had been no place for Samantha to take Naomi for safety. Samantha had stayed in her quarters for two hours, the time it took for Captain Janeway to prove to everyone that she was indeed incompetent and still completely oblivious. Samantha hadn't known what was happening, and could only hold her child and pray for their safety.
When Ken had arrived with the message that all was well, atleast for the meantime, Samantha turned her fright into furor. She'd tried to send Naomi to Neelix, so they didn't have a screaming fight in front of her. Neelix had retreated to his quarters, claiming illness. Ken had heard Neelix had been in the Mess Hall when Gerron and Jarvin had misinterpreted Janeway's words. Neelix had witnessed the Maquis' reaction when they thought their plan had been found out. Ken didn't want to think what might be done to keep the man quiet. He already knew what he was doing to keep Tom Paris quiet.
There had been no place to send Naomi, so her mother settled for putting her daughter in the next room. Then, quietly but fiercely she'd turned her anger against him. She'd hissed the fear she'd felt, the helplessness. In a harsh whisper, she'd blamed him. He'd held her-well actually he'd blocked a flailing arm and then he'd held her. He tried to explain the unpredictable situation, which he knew she understood perfectly.
At dinner, the atmosphere was nasty. Intuitive Naomi knew it was not the time to balk at eating her vegetables. And despite the attitude he'd received from Samantha, her reaction passed an unplanned test. She'd thought the real thing had begun, and hadn't suddenly run to the other side. She'd hidden in her quarters-their quarters, practically-and waited for him. Whatever uniform she was going to put on in the morning, she knew who was going to win. Ken knew Chakotay would allow the Wildmans to stay on board, when it was over and done with. He would see her reaction as a demonstration of trustworthiness.
He rose quietly from the bed. He took a PADD off the dresser and called up the Security schedule. His name had been removed from Alpha Shift, replaced with O'Donnell. Somehow, he didn't think that was going to be an obstacle. He'd have to tell Chakotay, in the morning. He would still be going to the Brig for Alpha Shift, he knew a way would be found for O'Donnell to be unavailable. For now, Ken was going to pretend he wasn't going to end a life in a few hours.
He went back to bed. He gently drew Samantha back into his arms. Ken Dalby's last sleepy thought was that he'd like nothing better than to stay in her warm embrace forever.
Tom Paris awoke slowly. He arched his back, trying to rid his spine of the stiffness induced by the hard Brig bunk. He wondered briefly if covering a rock with cloth and calling it a bed was against Star Fleet regulations. If not, it was definitely a violation of the Federation's Prisoner's Bill of Rights. As was only giving said prisoner one meal a day, which had happened to him yesterday.
Tuvok had brought him lunch, which he had eaten without the fear of poison. He knew Vulcans didn't have the capacity for revenge. Harry had come to see him afterwards. There'd been a huge fuss in the Mess Hall, Harry had told him. About what, Harry wasn't sure. He'd promised to tell Tom once he found out. Tom had a pretty good idea what the fuss was about, but said nothing to Harry. Tom had asked Harry how Neelix was, but Harry hadn't known.
Neelix hadn't recovered by dinner, though, because one of the Delaneys-he couldn't remember which one-brought him dinner. She'd made a nasty comment; something like it was about time someone put atleast one of the ship's cooks in prison, some of the meals were crimes against humanity. Very funny. He hadn't known if she knew why he'd been put in the Brig, but he hadn't taken the chance. He'd chopped the meal up into little pieces, to make it look like he'd eaten some of it. He'd gone to sleep uncomfortably hungry, actually hoping Neelix would be well by the next day and bring him some Leola Root Stew.
Damn, he was hungry. Tom sat up on the bunk, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Not that he really needed to see his surroundings. He could describe them by memory, with his eyes shut. Tiny Brig cell, Security Guard standing behind the console, and a whole lot of nothing. He dropped his hands from his face, expecting to see the same old, same old.
Except, there was a tray of breakfast set on the floor. He almost dove toward it, remembering just in time to question its source.
"Hey," he called to the Security Guard. "Neelix bring that?"
Tom pointed to the tray.
The Security Guard looked up, clearly surprised Tom would talk to him.
"No. Megan Delaney."
Tom's shoulders slumped. He was so hungry. He sat down and poked at the meal. It looked fine. Looked delicious. Smelled normal. Smelled wonderful.
Everything you made, he reminded himself, looked and smelled perfectly normal.
Yes, he tried to argue with his brain from his stomach's point of view. But I'm an angry, vindictive man with a nasty temperament and a tendency to hit people where they least expect it. Megan Delaney isn't.
She's not a man, he responded to his stomach, but you did get her sister pretty good with the Klingon laxative.
Yes, I certainly did.
And Tom found himself grinning insanely.
Oh, this wasn't healthy, he knew that.
Tom began chopping the waffles into little pieces, like he'd done with dinner the night before. He sat there a while, miserable, trying to find a distraction from the temptation before him. His eyes fell on the Security Guard, who met Tom's eyes with confusion in his own.
What was that old saying? When the news is bad, kill the messenger.
And when there's a force field between the two of you, annoy the hell out of him.
He knew this was what got him in the Brig so many times before; his irresistible desire to cause trouble where there had ceased to be any, or atleast increase the amount of trouble. He'd been taking revenge with his food poisoning endeavors, this was just because he was pissed. And hungry.
Tom put a piece of waffle on his fork. Turning the fork so the prongs were toward him, Tom catapulted the piece of waffle against the force field.
That was an amusing sound, Tom thought. Apparently the Security Guard didn't share Tom's sense of humor, because he sent an irritated glance in Tom's direction.
So Tom did it again. And again. And again.
He didn't stop when the irritated glances turned into a steady glare.
He didn't stop when the Security Guard told him to stop.
And he didn't obey the commands when they got even louder and profane.
And he definitely didn't stop when the man stepped out from behind the console and started walking towards him.
Come on, Tom thought, I want you to drop the force field. I want to get the hell out of here.
And that's just what the man was about to do, when the door slid open and Security Guard for the next shift walked in.
"Hey, Lang. You're off," said Crewman O'Donnell.
Lang shot Tom a withering look. Tom stared back at him innocently. Lang strode out of the Brig, passing O'Donnell on the way out. Lang muttered something to him. Tom didn't hear the entire message, just that it included the word 'asshole'.
O'Donnell stared at Tom for a moment, with measuring gaze. Tom stared sullenly back at him. He didn't have enough waffle left to provoke this one in to dropping the force field. O'Donnell took his place behind the Security console. He was only there a few minutes; Tom only had time to discover that drops of milk made a much softer, much less annoying sound against the force field, before Ken Dalby entered the Brig.
"O'Donnell, Torres needs you in engineering," he said.
"That's what she said."
"Why would I be needed in engineering?"
"I don't know. Why don't you ask her?"
O'Donnell had stepped away from the console, but was wavering as whether to stay or go.
"I'll cover for you," offered Dalby, tossing his head toward Tom.
That convinced O'Donnell, who quickly left the Brig. Dalby watched Paris watch him. Dalby walked over to a panel on the wall, feeling Paris' eyes on him the entire time. When he opened it, he took the phaser out in full view of Paris.
Tom wasn't hungry anymore.
Just because you know you're going to die, it doesn't make the actual experience any better. It doesn't make you braver, it doesn't make you calmer, and it does nothing to reduce the fear.
Nothing at all.
Tom was glad he hadn't eaten anything. If he had, he wouldn't be able to keep it down now.
Dalby shut the panel from which he'd retrieved the phaser. He didn't turn around. He was certainly taking his time-Tom didn't know if he should be grateful for the extra time or angry that Dalby was drawing this out. Tom stood up. Or atleast he tried to. His knees locked together. With considerable effort, Tom got to his feet. Something bothered him about dying sitting down. Something bothered him about dying at all.
Ken turned to face the Brig cell. Paris had risen. He was standing tall, in the center of the cell. Dalby had expected him to cower in the rear of the cell. Ken didn't know if he himself would be able to stay so calm in the face of the end. But it wasn't his end; it was the end for Tom Paris.
Dalby walked closer to the cell. Tom forced himself to hold still, despite the fact that he wanted nothing more than to tremble. He kept his breathing steady. Externally, he didn't give a damn that he was about to be murdered. On the inside, it was a different story. Tom's heart was pounding. Not only in his chest, in his head, in his hands, even in his knees, he could feel his blood pulsating. Firmly, he met Dalby's eyes. And Dalby dropped his gaze.
Ken looked down to check the configuration of the phaser. He wasn't sure how he was supposed to do this. Chakotay had said they didn't want an investigation. At the same time, they needed a cover story. Paris had tried to escape, better yet, tried to hurt Ken. The trajectory of the phaser beam and the placement of its target had to reflect this. But they didn't need a body. Dalby slowly moved the setting of the phaser from light stun. Past heavy stun, past kill, onto disintegration. He didn't see the shudders that went through Tom, each level he passed.
Dalby set the phaser on disintegrate. Atleast it would be quick. Dalby reached over and touched the Brig Control Panel. The force field dropped. Dalby raised the phaser, both hands wrapped around it. Tom swallowed, his throat dry. He desperately wanted to say something. Not something snide, not sarcastic. He wanted to have the last word. Hoping his voice wouldn't crack, he looked straight into Dalby's harsh eyes and said the first thing that entered his mind.
"You hug Naomi with those hands?"
Paris whispered maybe the only thing that could have delayed his execution. Momentarily. Ken's grip on the phaser loosened, slightly. His elbows almost lowered the weapon. Then, with even more determination, he tightened his grip. Raised the phaser directly parallel to Paris' midsection.
That was when the door to the Brig slid open.
Dalby instantly dropped his arms, using his body to hide the phaser. In the Brig doorway, Tom saw the most welcome sight he'd ever seen.
Neelix and Naomi.
The pure bravado that had been holding him up gave out. Tom fell to the floor of the cell, leg splayed. And he barely had enough strength to catch the streak of child that launched itself at him. He folded his arms around her small figure. He saw Dalby step away, the phaser hidden behind his back, irritation evident on his face. Tom buried his face in Naomi's hair. He tried to keep from crying. It was only against the warmth of Naomi's skin that he realized how cold he was. Clammy. Like a corpse. He held Naomi tighter. He wasn't a corpse yet.
Naomi could feel Tom's heart beat through his clothes. Fast and hard, like he'd been exercising for a very long time. This was a very small room, she didn't know what he could have been doing to get so tired. And he was squeezing her tightly. He wasn't talking at all, but he was happy to see her. Then she felt something warm and wet drip down the back of her neck. Tears. Like her mother's, the night before. Like the shine in Neelix's eyes. She didn't know what all the adults around her were crying about, but she didn't like it.
"Don't worry, Tom," she told him. "It'll be okay."
She tried to move her hands to wipe his face, but he was holding her too tightly.
Ken moved aside with a muffled curse. He turned his back on the image of Tom embracing Naomi like it was his last chance. Which it was. He walked over to Lon Suder and Gerron, who had followed Neelix through the door and were now lurking by it. Neelix had moved slowly toward Tom and Naomi.
"Lovely timing," Ken hissed.
"We're just keeping an eye on Neelix," Gerron whispered back. "We didn't know what we were interrupting."
"If you'd come in ten seconds later, do you know what Naomi would've seen me do?"
"Yes," said Suder.
"It's not like she's isn't going to see a lot more of that the day after tomorrow," justified Gerron.
"Aren't you the idiot who overreacted in the Mess Hall, and isn't that why Neelix needs keeping an eye on in the first place?" Ken snarled at Gerron.
Gerron didn't reply immediately, then he muttered, "It was Jarvin."
Ken shook his head at Gerron, to Suder he said, "I only have so much time. B'Elanna can't keep O'Donnell away indefinitely."
Suder took a step forward. "Neelix, it's time to go."
Neelix, kneeling next to Tom and Naomi, looked up.
"Get Naomi. It's time to go," Suder repeated, louder
Tom slowly disentangled himself from Naomi. He gently lifted her upright and pressed her hand into Neelix's. The Talaxian was hesitant to go. He knew all to well what his arrival had interrupted.
"Tom, if I stay..."
"Then the same thing will happen. To both of us," he said, mindful of small ears nearby. "I *don't* want Naomi seeing that."
Neelix nodded sadly. He guided a very confused Naomi out of the cell. Neelix turned back, his eyes wet.
"Tom," Neelix began, haltingly.
"Yeah, Neelix, I know."
The two men hugged, parting slowly when Lon Suder spoke for a third time. As Neelix and Naomi walked toward the exit, Tom called after them.
"Neelix, tell Harry...tell Harry goodbye for me."
Neelix stopped, and turned back.
"I will, Tom. I promise I will."
Gerron began hustling Neelix and Naomi toward the door. This earned him a viscous kick in shin from Naomi. She didn't know exactly what was happening, but she picked up on the desperate feelings of two of the people she loved most in the universe, and she knew the young Bajoran was partly responsible. As was her mother's 'friend' Ken, but he wasn't pushing her towards the door, away from Tom.
"Suder," said Ken. "I could use some help with this," he gestured to Paris.
The door slid shut. Tom watched the two men approach him.
Well, atleast he'd gotten to say goodbye to Neelix and Naomi. That was a small comfort.
Tom didn't know what it was. Whether it was holding Naomi, feeling her confused sympathy, and knowing he would never get to hold her again. Whether it was the wrenching look Neelix gave him as he left. It could have been the thought that he wouldn't get to say goodbye to Harry. That he would never get to see Harry again. That he would never see Naomi or Neelix again. Maybe it was watching Gerron shove Naomi out the door.
Or, maybe he just didn't have any fear left. The human body can only accumulate so much abstract terror before it loses its ability to process that feeling to the brain. In which case, Tom thanked God for human limitations.
Because he wasn't scared anymore.
He was mad. Mad as all hell.
Normal people do not solve their problems by murdering them. By the same token, people with even an ounce of self-preservation do not stand still and let themselves be killed. Which was exactly what he was doing.
Not anymore, he thought, watching Dalby and Suder advance upon him.
The small, irrational part of his brain, probably the same part that had held him immobile before, wondered quietly why he had to wait until there were two attackers to have this revelation.
Tom ignored it.
I was in prison. I know how to fight. I don't care about the odds. I am not dying now. I am not dying here.
So intense were his thoughts, Tom didn't even hear the on-going conversation between Dalby and Suder.
"-he grabs the knife from his breakfast, rushes at you..." "And you shoot him," finished Suder.
But Tom heard what he needed to. He gazed at the two men, now dangerously close.
"Paris, step out of the cell," Dalby commanded.
No way in hell.
"Or what?" he snorted. "You're going to shoot me anyway."
Dalby's eyes flashed with impatience. That just made Tom angrier.
Was his death on a schedule or something?
And the same little part of his brain that wouldn't shut up, spoke again, remarking that Chakotay was very organized and Tom's death was most definitely planned on a schedule.
While Tom was trying to desperately to focus on Dalby, and ignore his idiotically random thoughts, he didn't see Suder approaching from the side.
The strong Betazoid physically tossed him out of the cell. Tom stumbled forward, straight towards Dalby. Hardly even thinking, he brought his elbow down hard against Dalby's shoulder.
The phaser clattered to the floor. Where, Tom couldn't see.
Neither could Dalby, which meant while Dalby was looking for it, Tom could grab his collar with one hand and get in several good strong rights with the other.
He got one.
Then Lon Suder drove him to the floor. The impact knocked the breath and a hell of a lot of strength out of Tom. Suder's big hands closed around his shoulders, inching towards his throat.
Tom bucked. Tom kicked. Tom tried jutting his head forward into Suder's face. He heard something in his own face crack, felt something warm gush down his chin. He didn't stop. He stared into Suder's wide black eyes. Murderous eyes. Tom forced one arm free, started feeling the ground for the dropped weapon. His fingers closed around the handle. He started drawing his arm back in. A forceful boot on his elbow stopped his progress.
Time was, a punch from Tom Paris would keep a man down for over an hour.
As Dalby was proving with every increasing inch of pressure on his arm. With his last remaining strength in that arm, Tom sent the phaser skittering across the floor. There was a nauseating crunch before Dalby removed his foot. His arm stayed out, unnaturally bent. Tom's other arm fought both Suder's hands off his throat.
Suder shifted quickly, and when he was done moving his knee came down in Tom's solar plexus. A move which otherwise might have forced the air out of Tom's lungs, if Suder's fingers weren't squeezing his windpipe shut. Suder's other leg pinned his victim's legs down.
Tom tried clawing ineffectually at Suder's face. All he could see was those large Betazoid eyes. Black eyes.
The little voice came unbidden.
What the hell was this? Betazoids were supposed to be weak and brainy. Stereotypically, they weren't supposed to strangle people to death. Goddamn stereotypes. Suder couldn't feel what Tom felt?
The terror had returned. And there was pain.
Tom's vision tunneled. Red dots darted toward him.
He tried to breathe, discovered he couldn't. The knife from his tray slid toward him. Feebly, he reached for it. Too far away. Everything was too far away.
Atleast I fought. I tried. I tried my damnedest.
The last thing he saw was the barrel of a phaser enter his field of view, as it was held over his face.
Megan Delaney tried to step out of the Captain's way. Her troubles got her knocked into the wall. Her sister got knocked into the other wall. They both turned around to look at the solid streak of red blow by the other unfortunate crewmembers in the corridor.
"See, Jenny. I told you she was mad."
Jenny Delaney met her sister's eyes. "Yeah, you did. You didn't say how mad."
"Bateheart said you should've seen her on the Bridge. She gave Chakotay this look. Like a phaser beam, he said."
Continuing towards their adjacent quarters, the twins leaned closer together, shielding their gossip from non-existent bystanders.
"Did Chakotay know about it ahead of time?" asked Jenny.
"Probably. He hates Paris even more than Janeway does. And you know those Maquis. They have their own chain-of-command, and Janeway isn't in it. Chakotay probably ordered it done."
"Sue told me Janeway confined Dalby and Suder to their quarters."
"Yeah, but that's going to be the Brig, soon. What they did went way beyond self-defense," said Megan.
"Why didn't she do something to Chakotay?" asked Jenny.
Megan threw her arm around her sister, mockingly patronizing her.
"Do I really have to explain that, sister dear?"
Jenny shrugged Megan's arm off, irritated. "No. I know how the Maquis would react. Especially that Klingon bitch in Engineering."
"I'm glad to find you aren't that naive. It's disturbing, though, that Chakotay can have something like that done, and have no consequences. Even if it was just Paris. What if Chakotay decides he doesn't like someone else." Megan remarked.
"I know it's disturbing. That asshole used to take me aside when he thought I'd disrespected him, and he'd blatantly threaten me, and then act like he was only doing his duty as first officer," replied Jenny.
"Maybe Janeway will decide this is the last straw and toss all the Maquis off the ship," muttered Megan, without conviction.
As they rounded the corner, they almost collided with B'Elanna Torres.
"Sorry," said one of the Delaney twins, utterly unapologetic. They continued past her, apparently unconcerned that she'd heard practically their entire conversation.
Chakotay didn't have the excess energy to be too irritated with B'Elanna for entering his quarters without chiming first. She put her hands over the back of his chair, and greeted him with:
"I hear Janeway's acting like a targ with a phaser up-"
But he did manage a semi-threatening look that cut off her clever analogy. She moved in front of him, hands on her hips.
"What is it?"
"I just had a three hour conversation with her," He grimaced.
"Yesterday I managed to disperse her suspicions."
"What does she know?"
"Not everything. Very little, but she sees the ever-growing possibility that there's something she doesn't see. That's what's dangerous."
"Tuvok is obviously no longer subject to any...interference...by Suder. The good news is that he doesn't know that he ever was. The bad news is..."
"Exactly. Suder was just 'confusing' him, as Suder put it. It should be a while before everything falls in place."
"We don't have a while."
"We do now. We're increasing speed to Alpha 634. We'll reach it tomorrow."
"I suggested we organize shore leave as soon as possible, to clear out "Cabin Fever" and any other emotions that accumulate after being confined on a ship for too long. Alpha 634 is the nearest M-Class planet."
"That's good," B'Elanna offered.
"Yes. And it was the least suspicious thing I said the entire time," he said with quiet mirth.
"Do we continue as planned?"
"Yes. But we're going to execute the rest of our plan with more competency and effectiveness than Dalby and Suder achieved."
"At least Paris won't be able to interfere. Twenty-four hours, the Doc said."
"Twenty-four hours. We'll be there by then."
B'Elanna left, apparently reassured, although Chakotay found himself somewhat subdued.
He couldn't get the last words he'd exchanged with Janeway out of his head. It wasn't so much the words, but also the tone in which they'd been uttered, and that they so exactly paralleled the journey of the coming fight.
He tried, with careful restraint and caution, to explain the Maquis rage to Janeway's blazing eyes.
"It's been a long trip, Kathryn."
And the use of her first name didn't have its usual effect of softening her response, which was thrust immediately back in his face, forcefully.
"It's only going to get longer."
There was another pair of hands touching Tom Paris. Not violent like Suder or Dalby. He couldn't open his eyes to see who it was. He found he still had the strength to wonder why the hell it took three Maquis to take care of him. What were they going to do now, throw him out an airlock?
Dear God, please don't let that happen.
He tried to open his eyes, but found his eyelashes were too heavy. He cracked one lid, just barely. He wasn't on the floor of the brig, anymore. The someone was holding him still-or was it down? There was a hand on his neck and another on his hip. Dalby and Suder were not within his eyesight.
He must have passed out, or been beamed to this new location.
Maybe he'd died.
He tried to keep the one eye open just a little longer, but he was so tired. Not too mention confused. There was a blurry face, belonging to that someone, right above him. He couldn't tell who it was. It looked male, if blurry figures could be assigned a gender.
Chakotay, the little voice whispered.
So Chakotay wanted to do the honors himself, huh?
Fine, just as long as Tom didn't have to live through it.
His eye slid shut again.
When he opened his eyes again, the world made a bit more sense.
He was on a bio-bed. The EMH was hovering around his feet.
It was an enormous relief to see him, and not Chakotay.
He didn't know if that came out aloud or not.
Somehow the EMH appeared above him. Something pressed against his neck. He tried to jerk away, having had too many things touch his throat as of late.His reflexes were seriously lacking; the thought only occurred to him after the contents of the hypospray - the something - emptied, and his muscles didn't obey the command to move, anyway.
The Doc was talking, or at least his mouth was moving. Tom couldn't hear him very well, he tried listen harder.
"Mr. Paris, severe damage was done to your throat," the Doc was saying.
Yeah, it's called strangulation.
"You cannot speak. There is a medical instrument inside your throat, doing additional repairs to the delicate tissues I was unable to treat during surgery," he continued.
Surgery? I don't remember any surgery.
"You were in surgery for three hours," the Doc went on.
Even though Tom couldn't speak, the surprise must have been reflected on his face, judging by the reaction the EMH had.
Gee, I hope some of that time was spent on my face, my arm, and whatever Suder did when he put his knee on my rib cage.
The Doctor must have interpreted the surprise as worry, because he hastened to reassure him.
"Your voice and breathing capacities will be perfectly normal after the instrument is removed. Do not worry, Mr. Paris. You'll be complaining quite vocally within twenty-four hours."
Tom wasn't amused. This wasn't fair. He'd decided on his own to keep quiet about the mutiny. He kept quiet about the mutiny, the Maquis didn't kill him for the whole poison debacle. That had been the deal, even if he hadn't clued the Maquis in on it. They tried to kill him. He should be able to run screaming to Tuvok now. Tom didn't care now if the mutiny turned into a bloody mess- it likely would be in the first place, a bloodier mess wouldn't change much.
This wasn't fair!
"I'm going to sedate you again," said the Doc.
He picked up another hypospray from nearby, bringing it towards Tom's neck.
"I have two other patients. Unfortunately, I can't make house calls, and I don't believe you'd be particularly happy to see either one of them."
The hypospray touched Tom's neck. It hissed, flooding exhaustion into Tom.
"Nearly as much damage was done to Mr. Suder as was done to you, Mr. Paris," was the last thing Tom heard.
He barely had enough consciousness left to be pleased with himself. Barely.
Tom slowly woke up again. He was still under the affects of sedation; he could definitely feel the sluggishness in his body and brain. Tom wondered how long it had been since the Doctor had awakened him. It felt like forever. The dim, empty sickbay told him nothing.
Tom was being touched.
He peeked through his clouded eyes at whoever it was. He had a moment of terror, wondering if it was one of the Maquis come to finish the job. He prayed that Janeway had had the sense to post security - none Maquis security - outside sickbay.
It wasn't a Maquis.
It was Janeway.
She was standing by his shoulders. It was no wonder he hadn't been able to recognize her; she didn't look like the Captain.
She didn't have that powerful, authoritative posture Janeway always used. Her shoulders were slumped; her spine held none of the rigidity he saw so much of. She was in uniform, but it was hardly crisp or even clean. Her hair was mussed; the Janeway bun was coming undone. And she was touching him.
This had to be some sort of delusion induced by the sedative.
Janeway doesn't slouch. Janeway keeps her uniform clean. Janeway's hair does not muss. And Janeway doesn't touch me. Not like that.
This delusion of Janeway continued to touch him. She was running her fingers lightly through his hair. Over and over again. She was talking, too. Very softly, and not to him. She didn't even know he was awake. Tom strained to hear her words.
Well, the voice of the delusion Janeway was exactly like the voice of the real Janeway.
But not at him.
That was a change.
"What the hell," she murmured.
"What the hell," louder and angrier.
He didn't know how long she'd been there, talking, but not to him. He tried to keep totally still, and not let on he was awake - somewhat, at least - and could hear every word. He didn't think she knew, but she'd stopped talking. Her face descended towards his.
"I'm sorry." She was so quiet he hardly heard the words.
And then she was gone.
He struggled against the sedative, trying to sort over her behavior, but without the curious distraction there just wasn't any chance of winning the battle for consciousness.
Big brown eyes.
Peering into his own.
Tom Paris tried to scream. He tried to sit up and scoot away.
He was thwarted on both counts by two pieces of irritatingly effective modern technology-the tissue regenerator in his throat and the EMH's forceful hands on his shoulders, pinning him to the bio-bed.
And the Doc didn't bother to explain to him why he was being held down, being too busy scolding the owner of those big brown eyes, Harry Kim.
"Mr. Kim, I told you-!"
"I'm sorry, Doc. I didn't mean to startle him. I didn't know he was going to try and sit up like that."
"He cannot sit up. In order for the instrument-" The Doc's hand moved to enclose Tom's throat. "-to work properly, he must remain parallel to the floor."
The feel of the Doc's hand, even loosely, around Tom's throat made him uncomfortable. He lifted his arm-no longer broken, he noted-and tried to remove the hand.
It didn't work.
But it did bring the EMH's attention down to his patient.
"Did you hear me, Mr. Paris? You cannot sit up. You can be restrained to the bio-bed, if need be. Do you understand?"
The Doc didn't let go, clearly awaiting a response. Tom suspected from the Doctor's irritated tone that Harry had been here a while. Tom wasn't sure how to communicate his cooperation. If sitting up was bad, shaking his head was probably also on the not-okay list. He settled for mouthing 'yes'. The Doc let go and retreated from the perimeter of the bio-bed, allowing Harry to move in.
As he looked at Harry, Tom remembered how he'd felt when he'd thought he never see his friend again. He felt his eyes well up. He fought like hell to keep the tears from spilling over. That was the last thing he wanted: to be stuck flat on his back, crying, and unable to explain. Well, Harry could probably guess. Harry didn't say anything about Tom's efforts, which was only fair because Tom didn't have a choice about saying anything about Harry's own glistening eyes.
Harry had the additional problem of trying to keep his voice from cracking.
Harry took his hand in something that resembled a handshake and a squeeze combined. He didn't let go. And he held tight. Tom's fingers began to hurt a little. That was okay.
It was the best kind of pain.
"You look...a lot better."
That was a kind way of saying that he still looked like he'd been hit by a shuttle going Warp 10.
Or maybe a shuttle disguised as a Betazoid bastard named Suder.
Maybe Harry was becoming telepathic, because he squeezed harder and continued.
"That's a good thing, Tom. I saw you before, and..."
The paleness to Harry's skin and the distant look in his eyes told Tom that Harry was imagining exactly what Tom had looked like after the attack, and it wasn't pretty. The look of nausea fluttered from Harry's face, as he visibly forced the image from his mind.
"Anyway, I'm sorry I didn't come to see you earlier. I wanted to, I tried to. Tuvok practically broke my arm dragging me out of the brig. And then he threatened to have me confined to quarters if I didn't report to duty. That why I couldn't get here until dinner." Harry scowled, and spat with significant venom, "I don't know what Tuvok's problem was."
"Perhaps he was concerned you would attempt to break Mr. Dalby's jaw, as you did Mr. Suder's," speculated the Doctor, helpfully.
Harry broke Suder's jaw?
>From the look Harry cast in the Doctor's direction, not only was it true but Harry was not ashamed of his violent actions, as he once would have been.
He looked like he wanted to do it again.
Tom yanked Harry's hand to bring his attention back around. Harry looked back down, reading the questions in Tom's eyes.
"You don't remember, do you?"
Not a thing.
"I was just going to the Brig to visit you, and I met Tuvok right outside the door. He said he'd heard the guard on duty had been called down to Engineering, and he was coming to cover the empty post. We walked in and saw you...and Dalby and Suder."
It seemed to Tom that the pause had been used replaced the words 'getting killed'.
"Suder was choking you, and Dalby was holding a phaser right above your face," Harry was lost in the memory, his hand tightening around Tom's, like it had tightened into a fist to knock Suder away. While Tuvok had disarmed Dalby with minimal violence, Harry, enraged, had exceeded the necessary actions to save Tom. After which, Tom had been beamed to sick bay and Tuvok had forcibly removed Harry from the brig. Which is where Dalby and Suder were residing now, Harry explained.
Harry leaned closer, hand still tightly holding Tom's.
"I know you aren't in a position to argue now, but I think you were wrong earlier. About the Maquis being up to something. Besides what they did to you, I mean."
Harry leaned even closer, whispering.
"After the Doctor updated her on your condition, the Captain and the Commander went into her ready room. They were there for hours. When they came out, they *didn't* like each other. The Captain was looking at everyone with this death glare."
Harry raised his hand to his temple and shot it out in a straight line.
"Chakotay was, he was just quiet. And scary. I didn't like the hostility that was coming from everyone on the Bridge. And now it's beginning to permeate the whole ship. I don't know what's going to happen, but it isn't going to be good."
Neelix put his uneaten dinner back in the replicator opening. He wasn't hungry enough, delicious as Leola Root Stew was, although it lost some flavor when replicated. He hadn't felt like heading to the mess hall, knowing he would be followed by one of the Maquis, the entire way. And that there would be more Maquis in the mess hall, ones that were staffing the kitchen, upon his explanation that that was the duty of his normal assistants. The little comfort he got out of making them work was neutralized by the thought that he didn't know exactly what was happening in the kitchen, and that they could be following in the grand tradition of Tom Paris, with far deadlier intent.
Tom, who had been punished for his involvement in such activities. Punished nearly to death, Harry Kim had explained an hour ago, but had survived. Under the watchful eye of Gerron, Neelix had pretended the attack was a shock, and that he hadn't been witness to what almost were Tom's last moments alive. Before leaving, Harry had remarked in the most off-handedly way, that he still believed what he and Neelix had discussed days ago, in the mess hall. And Neelix had responded, hopefully without rousing the suspicion of Gerron, that he now agreed with him. Harry had, to his credit, avoided looking at Gerron at that answer, and left without a backward glance.
Neelix had been too nervous to eat. He was definitely too nervous to sleep. The nervousness persisted, even without the presence of Gerron, the quiet but incredibly intimidating younger Maquis, and Suder, the older Maquis whom he now knew had a violent under-belly, carefully hidden beneath a calm facade. He knew even without them peering over his shoulder, that he was still being watched. B'Elanna Torres had come in hours ago, claiming she needed to fix a receptor in his ceiling, but it was obviously some sort of device to monitor him.
Neelix knew he couldn't go tell the Captain what was happening, not without consequences closely resembling what Tom Paris had endured. He honestly didn't know exactly what was happening, as the Maquis assumed he did. He'd only overheard a disturbing conversation, and it was even more confusing than disturbing, in the mess hall. Gerron and Jarvin had had a peculiar reaction to a conversation between the Captain and Tuvok, involving Tom Paris, and now the formerly mention Maquis was guarding him whenever he left his quarters.
Neelix hoped fervently that Harry Kim did know exactly what was happening, and that he would report to the Captain and she would resolve it.
Neelix climbed into bed, pulling the covers up to his chin. If he couldn't sleep, maybe he could rest a bit. And he had almost, to his surprise, drifted off, when the door chimed.
He snapped awake.
It could be the Maquis. What did they want this late at night? When the ship was so quiet and so few people were on duty, and even less were awake?
The door chimed again.
Not opening the door wouldn't keep the Maquis out, he knew.
"Come in," he called, clutching the sheets.
The door slid open. Through the doorway to his living area, he saw a distorted shadow enter. It looked in all directions. It looked for him. The door slid shut, and the cabin was dark again.
"Neelix?" asked the young voice of Naomi Wildman.
Naomi. Neelix dropped the sheets from over his face, and quickly sat up.
"I'm right here, Naomi. Computer, lights!"
Naomi entered his bedroom. She was in her pajamas, red hair mussed.
She hugged his leg.
"Naomi, aren't you supposed to be asleep?"
"I can't. My mom has all the lights on. She's packing for shore leave."
"She says we get to go on shore leave tomorrow morning. She doesn't know for how long, so she's packing a lot of stuff. I can't sleep with the lights on," Naomi whined, every bit the sleepy child.
He pulled the child on to his lap.
"Maybe if I tell you a story, you can fall asleep here, in the dark," he offered.
"Okay," Naomi sounded like she didn't need much of a story.
"Computer, lights at ten percent."
He told Naomi the story of the Julwa bears on Talax, which was one she'd heard many times before. She was asleep, snoring lightly, before he finished. He picked her up, carried her out the door into corridor. The slight sound of the turbo lift woke Naomi, slightly.
"Neelix," she yawned.
"What is it, Naomi?"
"My mom said Tom fell down, and he's in sick bay. Is he going to be okay?"
She was fading out before she finished the question.
"He's going to be just fine," Neelix told her softly.
He had some difficulty getting a hand free, but managed to chime the door to the quarters she and her mother shared. Samantha opened it. Naomi had been right. The lights were on and the quarters torn apart, with clothing everywhere.
"Oh, Neelix. I didn't even see her leave. Thank you for bring her back."
He shifted the child into her mother's arms.
As he walked back to the turbo lift, he wondered why Samantha knew there was shore leave authorized for the next day, but the Captain had made no announcement.
When Neelix stepped out of the turbo lift and started down the corridor, he heard footsteps behind him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gerron.
Gerron's uniform was rumpled, like he'd just put it on. His hair wasn't combed, and he only had one boot on. And he was mad.
Neelix pretended not to see him, turning into his quarters. Even through the thick wall, he heard what had to be a Bajoran curse, and the sounds of the young man stomping away.
Chakotay shifted uncomfortably in the Captain's chair. He'd only been sitting in it for an hour, since he'd taken command from Tuvok for the night shift, and already he was feeling the urge to pace. It probably wasn't the chair. It could have been the fact that he hadn't known he was going to be on duty for the night shift. He'd received the newly edited duty schedule only moments before turning in for the night. At first glance, he'd only seen the adjustment taking him off the morning shift and putting him on the night shift. He'd considered it a minor disturbance. Janeway was suspicious, and apparently thought that the rigor and sleep deprivation of a twelve-hour shift would throw off course whatever it was she thought he had planned. He'd been amused that she'd thought the Maquis would be perturbed by a schedule change. Like any of their operations against the Cardassians were ever halted because of alterations in any schedule. Maquis didn't live or die by schedules. It would be nice for Chakotay to be on the bridge when it went down, but it wasn't mandatory. Stupid Janeway.
Then, he'd examined the transmission more carefully.
Janeway wasn't that stupid.
Upon further observation, the night and day shift switch was not the major change to the schedule. She'd altered the duty shifts for the upcoming days, entirely. In nearly every section of importance, there was now a significant majority of Federation crew to Maquis crew. There was a curt and impersonal note, rather sarcastic as well, affixed to the end of schedule. She'd remarked innocently something to the effect that she'd come to realize that the duty roster should reflect the ship's conformity to Star Fleet regulations, and had consulted with Tuvok to decide which crew members fulfilled the qualities required of Star Fleet personnel, and which ones did not. Those who did not, she'd added, would be involved in a conversation to determine a cause and under go extensive training to improve the poor performances. They wouldn't be returned to full time duty until they had passed the review.
That was what it said.
That was not what it meant.
He knew he would be involved in one of Janeway's conversations, but it wouldn't be under the circumstances she was imagining. He'd forwarded the document to the Maquis crew with an additional message: to keep calm, to keep quiet, and to ignore what it appeared Janeway was learning, or pay the consequences.
Damn, Janeway was making this hard.
The incessant thought that Janeway might have actual information, rather than just suspicions, had worsened when he'd arrived for the night shift. Before he'd left his quarters, he'd received a confusing message from Samantha Wildman, in the form of a typical report from someone in Security to Tuvok. It had given a full account of Voyager's small arms inventory, concluding that there was an adequate supply with which to issue side arms to the entire crew for protection. Protection in instances of "boarding by hostiles or situations of crew disturbances." The writer had somehow managed to avoid the words "Maquis uprising", while still insinuating just that. Chakotay had seen the relevance of the report, but not the full meaning. He knew Samantha was hoping to get into his good graces, desperate to escape the violence. With Ken Dalby in the Brig, there was no one to echo her cause, and she was afraid she and her daughter would be caught in the very middle of it. He had a meeting with her in an hour, because she hadn't been content with the impersonal routine shore leave requests with which he'd been swamped when the Captain announced shore leave in the very same message with the duty alterations.
When he'd entered the Bridge, he'd seen the relevance of the transmission quite clearly. It seemed that although there were enough phasers to arm the entire crew, Tuvok felt it necessary only to arm the Star Fleet crew.
Chakotay felt far from comfortable, knowing he was surrounded by armed Fleeters. Bateheart didn't seem to know why he had a phaser at his belt, but Ensign Kim definitely did. Chakotay could feel the dark eyes focused on him without even looking back. The insubordinate tone to the 'Sir' greeting he'd been dealt when he entered the Brig made it clear Kim was ready and willing to shoot him.
Kim had been involved in preventing Dalby and Suder from eliminating Tom Paris, and obviously understood that Chakotay had been responsible, if indirectly, for the attempt on Paris.
And now Kim had a phaser.
Janeway was intent on making it all the more violent, wasn't she?
Phaser bolts flying, lots of people dying.
That was the way it had to be, if she didn't stop.
Chakotay asked Bateheart the time until arrival in orbit of Alpha 634.
Four hours away from the planet.
Four hours until they put it all in motion.
Samantha Wildman stared at the pale, drawn, messy woman. Thin, too. And rather rank. In need of a sonic shower. But she didn't have time. Samantha stepped away from the mirror to retrieve her hairbrush, the least she could do. Not that it would be that bad to be seen walking through the corridor looking completely like she'd only recently risen from the dead. It would be better than actually ending up dead. She ran the brush quickly through her hair-knotted and unclean. She didn't want to attempt to pin it up in the dim light, and Naomi, light sleeper that she was, would be up immediately if her mother increased the light intensity.
Chakotay hadn't responded to the transmission that she'd sent, which could mean one of two things. He'd received it, appreciated it, but kept silent to keep the exchange inconspicuous. That was the good choice. Or, he'd received it, already had the information, and decided her usefulness was fading.
That was the bad choice.
Samantha pulled the brush through her hair again, with nearly enough force to rip a clump of the tangles out by the roots.
Her scalp stung and her eyes watered, from the pain, she pretended.
She clipped the phaser to her belt, not that it was the greatest thing to take when she was going to be begging for her life from Chakotay, but she'd look pretty conspicuous being the only Star Fleet crewmember without one. She noticed the unsteadiness of her hands when she brought it away from the belt. She was nervous. Ken Dalby had indoctrinated her to many ways of dealing with Chakotay, but she'd never had to do it by herself. She did now.
Naomi should stay sound asleep, and if she didn't, then she'd probably run to Neelix and wake him up. She'd be fine. Samantha had to keep it that way.
One last yank with the brush and Samantha Wildman was out the door.
Harry Kim was glad to see Chakotay leave the Bridge, if only for a while. Command was handed over to the Lieutenant at Tactical. Chakotay disappeared into the Captain's ready room. For some reason, the sight of him entering it made Harry uncomfortable. A little part of him screamed that Chakotay didn't belong there, that that was the Captain's. It was irrational, he knew that Chakotay had a meeting with Samantha Wildman scheduled, and that it didn't have anything to with what the Maquis were planning. But he still didn't like it.
Samantha Wildman stepped out of the turbo lift, on to the Bridge. She smiled slightly at Harry, but he couldn't find the strength to smile back, knowing she was quite close to Dalby. He wondered if she'd known about the plot to kill Tom. He quickly stopped that train of thought; raging paranoia was not going to help anything. And Samantha was not that type of person.
He watched her walk towards the ready room, noticing she looked like she'd been up all night. Her hair was a mess, and the woman wasn't that clean, in general. She chimed the door and entered a moment later
Samantha heard Chakotay call for her to enter. She took a deep breath, let it out, and walked inside. Chakotay was behind the Captain's desk, and Samantha had a flash of discontent, thinking he looked far too comfortable there. It was gone quickly; one thing she'd gotten quite good at was ignoring what Star Fleet Academy had trained her to think, and now only remnants of it remained. She got closer, trying to read his body language for any implication of his mood.
"Commander Chakotay," she addressed him, trying to pull her tired body to attention. It didn't quite work.
"Ensign Wildman," he replied, waving her to sit down.
She sat down, resisting the urge to collapse against the chair. She'd rehearsed what she was going to say, but under the hard gaze of Chakotay, she didn't know if she could remember it all.
"You received my request for shore leave tomorrow?" she began.
"Yes, I did. Yours was the first one I received," he replied, perfectly neutral. He didn't say whether it was granted or denied.
Samantha gave up on trying to sit straight and slouched down against the chair.
"Commander, tomorrow has been a long time coming."
"We've been on this ship a long time."
He nodded again, still irritatingly non-committal.
"I didn't get on this ship planning on spending my life here. I didn't plan on being pregnant. I didn't plan on having a child seventy thousand light years from home. I didn't plan on finding someone who could be in my life as a spouse, when my own is so far way. I didn't plan on any of it."
She eyed him, getting no response. She tried to continue with the script, but her real feelings got in the way.
"I didn't come out here some insane Maquis hunter. I've always tried to respect you and your people. I've felt more than respect for some of them. But, this is one rocky boat, sir."
He seemed amused by that metaphor, at least. She couldn't return to the ass-kissing script she'd had planned.
"I don't want to be on it when it capsizes. I don't think Naomi deserves to drown on it. All I want for her is a stable ship where everyone doesn't hate everyone else, and I want her to be safe on it. I can't guarantee her a safe journey home, but I'd like to give her a survivable substitute one for the time being."
Chakotay watched the woman in front of him; she was truly a sight. This was probably one of the most heart-breaking situations to find yourself in; begging for your life and your child's life, and admitting that someone else controls your fate. She looked like she hadn't slept in a day, the stress evident on her lovely face. Naomi was lucky to have such a caring and sacrificing woman as a mother.
"No," he said.
Samantha Wildman nearly deflated, it looked like. Her shoulders sank down inches, and she was slouching as it was. Her eyes got wide and wet. Her jaw worked, trying to speak.
"You can't guarantee her a safe journey home, and I can't guarantee either of you a safe home if you stay on board tomorrow," he finished.
Samantha's heart started beating again, but it took a while for her mind to register it.
"Shore leave request granted." He picked up a PADD off the desk. "Here are preliminary scans of the planet, go see the Doctor for a routine physical for going planet side."
He held out the PADD and she reached for it, still clearly overwhelmed with relief.
"We'll be in orbit of the planet in about three hours. Dismissed."
Samantha rose, turning to leave. At the door, she stopped and turned back.
"When is it no longer going to be safe on Voyager?"
"It's already unsafe. It's going to get dangerous after the first people are beamed down, and then it's going to get worse."
"Okay," she paused. "Thank you."
"Don't thank me yet, I haven't decided whether you come back or not."
"Thank you," she repeated, and walked out on to the Bridge. She met Harry's eyes again, and managed another smile. This time, his smiled back. She walked across the Bridge and stepped into the turbo lift.
Naomi Wildman snapped awake when someone scooped her out of the hollow she'd made in the blankets. Hardly able to see who was carrying her, she shrieked in terror.
"Sshhh, Naomi!" her mother ordered.
Naomi reached out and shoved the blanket she was still wrapped in off her eyes. By the time she got if off, they were in the corridor outside sick bay. Naomi didn't feel sick. And her mother didn't sound like she was sick. She was carried through the door, and her mother activated the EMH. Her mother set her down on one of the bio-beds and moved off to talk to the Doctor. Naomi struggled to wake up fully, blinking in the bright light. In the corner, she saw another occupied bio-bed. It was Tom. Naomi tried to scoot off the bio-bed. She couldn't see him that well, but he didn't look like he'd fallen, unless it was a very bad fall. The Doc prevented her from climbing off of it, and hoisted her back on to the bio-bed. He pulled a privacy curtain around the bio-bed.
"Hello, Miss. Naomi."
He began to scan her, holding her in place with one hand. She tried to peer past the curtain, over at Tom.
Tom was vaguely aware of conversation around him. He opened one eye, careful to keep still and not provoke either sedation or restraints from the Doc. There were two more patients in sick bay, one behind a privacy curtain. The other was a woman only half behind a privacy curtain. The sleep in his eyes prevented him from identifying her, but he could see that she was disrobing.
Hmm, he hadn't seen a naked woman in a while. Not a real one, anyway.
With what he considered a great deal of self-restraint, he closed his eye. He was drifting off again when he heard the Doctor speak.
"When are you going on shore leave?"
"About three hours. On Alpha 634."
Tom froze, waking again. Alpha 634. The end of the line, Chakotay called it. They weren't supposed to get there for another day or two. What had happened to speed up the mutiny? He didn't know, and he couldn't exactly ask. Tom felt his body tense up with worry.
The last thing he wanted was to be incapacitated in sick bay when the Maquis went nuts.
They'd make sure he was permanently incapacitated.
Naomi Wildman let her mother pull her on to the transporter pad, but not without dragging her feet a little. She wasn't about to be completely cooperative, she was still tired and irritated from being dragged out of bed to visit the Doctor when she wasn't even sick. And not being allowed to see Tom. Her mother couldn't stop talking about finally getting off the ship. She didn't see what was so exciting about shore leave. And she didn't see what was so bad about being on Voyager
Her mother picked her up and Naomi's field of view widened to include the rest of the people in the transporter room. It seemed that a lot of people were excited about shore leave. She saw Neelix enter, struggling under the weight of some kind of stove. He was followed by one of the Maquis-Chell, she thought his name was-holding a little bag. Other crewmembers were loitering around the transporter room with their various baggage. All of them looked pretty happy to be going on shore leave, too
She was jostled as nearly everyone in the room moved collectively on to the transporter pad. She heard her mother whisper into her neck, "We're almost safe, sweetie." Naomi didn't know what her mother was talking about. She heard the buzz before she felt the tingle of the transporter beam envelop her.
The next thing she saw was green. Rather, a lot of green things. Green bushes, green grass, green trees, and sky which was hardly blue. She felt her mother sigh. With a lot of relief, it sounded like. She was lifted down and set on her feet on the ground. Her mother walked over to the stack of equipment and began opening cartons.
"Help me, Chell."
Chell walked over to where she was. He began to follow her lead, at a considerable slower pace. Naomi took one of the empty cartons her mother had set aside and sat on it. This is going to be boring, she thought. She rested her head on her arm and watched Neelix join her mother and Chell at the task.
"I wonder what's happening up there," Neelix said softly, looking up at the cloudy sky.
"I prefer not to think about it," replied her mother, completely focused on opening another carton.
Naomi stared up at the sky, wishing she could see Voyager.
Chakotay felt strangely calm. He'd just been informed that the first batch of people had been beamed down for shore leave. B'Elanna had sent him a transmission telling him all was well and ready for action in Engineering, under the guise of a repair report. He knew he should still be nervous. They'd compensated for the alterations in the duty schedule, or so they thought. They couldn't be sure. He wasn't sure that Janeway was showing him her full hand. And he sure as hell didn't like thinking that every Star Fleet crewmember had a phaser, while his own people did not. That wasn't completely true, B'Elanna had managed to supply half or so of the Maquis with phasers she had been accumulating in preparation. When she ran out of those, she handed out some typical Engineering repair tools, altered to produce a beam similar to one produced by a phaser.
He'd seen her making them a while back. They did some nasty damage, from what he'd seen on the practice targets. Truth was, they were probably better than phasers were. More importantly, they didn't look suspicious clipped to the Maquis' belts. His hand inched up from his thigh to touch the one attached to his belt. Despite the fact that he knew what it could do, it didn't feel nearly as comforting as a phaser would have. It was going to have to do. He found himself wishing again that Janeway hadn't armed her people: that tiny little complication was going to make what should have occurred with minimal violence into an incredibly savage ordeal.
He reached over and touched a button on the command console. It sent a message to B'Elanna in Engineering.
If repairs are done, resume normal activity.
But she would read it as: If there aren't any problems, start.
It was a surprisingly small motion to begin a momentous event.
In sickbay, the EMH concentrated on removing the delicate instrument from Tom Paris' throat. His unconscious patient might have been disturbed by the Doc's ability to perform surgery while distracted by something else entirely. The Doctor placed the instrument in a nearby tray. As he began to regenerate the tissues, he wondered why Captain Janeway had been so secretive and worried when she told him to prepare for mass casualties. She wouldn't tell him what kind of casualties, either. Probable phaser injuries, possibly stabbings and other injuries usually sustained in hand-to-hand combat, was all that she would say. And she suggested he treat patients with Star Fleet insignia first. Actually, it sounded like it was an order.
In Engineering, B'Elanna Torres was called to her station by an incessant beeping. She activated the message from the Bridge. She read the message, feeling the adrenaline build up in her veins. She called another Maquis over.
"Let's get started," she hissed.
Chakotay felt a tremor run up his spine. Not so much a tremor of nervousness, which he still didn't feel, but a tremor of anticipation. It was finally happening. In a matter of hours, he would be sitting in this chair as the Captain of Voyager. In his head, he ran over the steps B'Elanna should be following. He was interrupted by the swish of the turbo lift door opening. He turned to look, seeing Janeway and Tuvok step out. He rose from the Captain's chair.
"Captain, Tuvok," he greeted them.
Tuvok merely bowed his head in response, already moving to relieve the crewman at his station. Janeway pushed past Chakotay.
"Commander." There was distinct layer of ice in that one word.
She took the seat he'd vacated, settling back in it with her body straight, her rigid shoulders communicating that she knew she belonged in that seat of power.
Not for much longer, Chakotay thought fiercely.
"Anything unusual to report?" she asked in the same venomous tone, without looking at him.
"No," he answered, unaware that the malice in his own voice exceeded hers.
Now she was looking at him. He stared into her hard eyes, unblinking.
"Any complications reported from the planet?"
It certainly didn't sound like she was interested in the welfare of the crew on Alpha 634.
"No," he repeated, hearing the word come out like a snarl.
She was no longer just looking at him, she was glaring.
He didn't care.
They were close. She was close to losing command; he was close to taking it from her. It was about time that she saw how he really felt.
She broke the gaze, turning to look at the turbo lift. Two crewmen stepped out; ostensibly unaware of the exchange they were interrupting. They walked toward Tactical, without a glance towards the Captain.
Which was exactly what B'Elanna had told them to do, Chakotay knew. They were right on time. He saw one had a phaser, the other had the tool-turned-weapon. Janeway didn't notice the phaser and she wouldn't have recognized the other weapon if she had noticed it. She turned back to Chakotay, mouth opening to spew some new venom.
"Torres to Bridge," B'Elanna's voice cut sharply through the tense air.
"Bridge," responded Tuvok, when it became apparent that the Captain and First Officer were not going to reply.
"We just had some sort of massive malfunction down here. I can't find the cause, but nearly all the crew quarters are locked."
If B'Elanna was disturbed to hear Tuvok and not Janeway or Chakotay, her voice didn't reveal it.
Tuvok punched up the information on his console. Janeway rose and strode to his side, peering at the screen. Chakotay knew what she was looking to find: that it was only Star Fleet crewmembers that were locked inside their quarters. She wouldn't find it. All quarters were locked, except for the ones with crewmen on shore leave. The Maquis just weren't inside their quarters.
"Estimated repair time?" he heard Tuvok ask. Tuvok's calm voice and face were a remarkable contrast to the Captain's.
Even if she didn't know the importance of this event in the Maquis' plan, she knew it wasn't a good thing.
"Unknown," replied B'Elanna. "We can't find a cause and we can't unlock any of the quarters."
We'll unlock them when we have the Bridge, was what Chakotay heard.
He removed the little tool from his belt. It was harmless looking. He hoped it was a lot more harmful than it appeared. He shoved the intensity range to high, setting the distance to the Captain's chest. Her head was down with Tuvok's, her hands moving quickly over the controls.
He raised the weapon.
Janeway scanned the information scrolling down the screen. This wasn't just a malfunction, that she knew. The Maquis had to be responsible for it and there had to be a reason for the sabotage. Most of the reasons she was imagining made her stomach churn. She raised her head to see Chakotay's reaction to this alleged malfunction, expecting to see him smirking.
She didn't see him at all.
She saw a flash of yellow. Yellow sparks, it looked like.
A wave of yellow sparks flying straight towards her. She had time to perceive that the wave was some kind of wide energy beam, being projected from something Chakotay was holding in his hand.
She didn't have time to move.
The wave seemed to be coming so slowly, yet she couldn't move out of the way or reach down to her belt for her phaser. No one else on the Bridge seemed to see it, let alone attempt stop it.
Now she could see Chakotay, his face appearing behind the sparks. His eyes were yellow with the wave's reflection. His jaw was tight. His face was totally still with concentration.
He wanted to kill her.
The wave came closer, blocking Chakotay from view. She felt the heat of the wave. Not even her wildest suspicions of the Maquis' activities had included her murder. Not like this. Not with such obvious relish. Not on her own Bridge. Not by Chakotay's hand.
Not without a goddamn fight.
The yellow wave narrowed into a beam, still moving towards her.
Then she couldn't see it anymore.
There was an explosion in her chest. Fire scorched her breasts, her stomach, her shoulders. Flames licked down her pelvis to her legs. Her arms were spared the blaze, only to tingle with every nerve shrieking. She thought she may have screamed as well, but all she could hear was the pounding of her boiling blood in her own ears. She felt extreme heat on her face, her hair suddenly an enormous weight. She couldn't see any fire, but it was burning her to death. Her knees trembled and collapsed, sending her lurching forward.
She saw the console coming closer to her face. When her head bounced off the console, she barely heard the cracking of her teeth over the din of her raging pulse and her own cry. The force with which she hit the console sent her ricocheting off, dropping her hard to the floor.
Now she was on the floor, face resting against someone's boot. It was so much cooler down there. She still felt her entire body trembling, still in unqualified agony. There was blood in her mouth, spilling over her chin and dripping down her neck. Her eyelids were unspeakably heavy, eyes hard to focus with.
As her eyes fluttered shut, she managed to identify the blurry white thing in front of her face as one of her teeth.
Chakotay pressed the firing mechanism. He saw an explosion of yellow flash from the end of the weapon. His eyes followed the beam across the room.
At some point, Janeway had looked up from the console. Her eyes latched on to the beam, then strayed to his face.
She moved her mouth as if to speak.
She didn't have time.
The beam struck her in the chest, dropping her instantly.
He heard her scream.
Scream in pain.
He'd heard her scream many times before.
Scream orders during battle.
Scream in rage.
Scream in sorrow.
Scream in pleasure, once.
This scream was like no other. It sounded like it had been wrenched from the deepest part of her soul.
He watched her fall. Her head struck the console with enough force that he heard a crack. She bounced off the console and fell out of sight. She didn't get up.
Step one accomplished.
He moved his finger off the firing mechanism. The beam stopped. He could feel the heat of the weapon through the handle. He felt it get hotter. He at least had the sense to drop his upraised arm before it exploded. He flung it to the ground, but not before the explosion of energy burned his hand. He screamed, grabbing the blistered hand with his uninjured one. Damn, now he had a good idea what Janeway had screamed about. He cradled the excruciating wound, knowing he was only worsening the stinging.
A phaser bolt whizzed past his head, striking Bateheart. Chakotay whirled to see who'd fired it and to see at whom that person had been aiming.
Definitely not the Maquis wrestling with Tuvok, he was too busy deftly avoiding the incapacitating Vulcan Nerve Pinch. Nor the Maquis bent over Kim's station, pinning Kim against the console with his hands wrapped tightly around the Ensign's throat. It was Henley, standing above several fallen Star Fleet crew from the back stations, phaser held at ready.
"Chakotay!" Henley began.
She wasn't even able to start what sounded like a question because the other Maquis was propelled into her by a viscous kick from Harry Kim. The other Maquis was off balance, knocking them both to the floor. At the same moment, Tuvok's attacker was rendered unconscious when Tuvok's firm hand closed around the pressure point between his neck and shoulder. Two phasers came to bear on Chakotay, who found himself alone and weaponless.
In Engineering, B'Elanna eyed Vorik with considerable contempt, as the Vulcan insisted on invading her personal space. It wasn't so much the closeness that bothered her, but the knowledge that Vulcans could quickly incapacitate anyone with a gentle pinch. She shifted further away from him. She drummed her fingers on the control panel nervously, waiting for Chakotay's signal from the Bridge.
It didn't come.
She slapped her comm badge.
"Torres to Bridge."
"Torres to Bridge," she repeated, meeting the worried eyes of the other Maquis.
B'Elanna Torres resisted the urge to put her fist through something. Like Vorik's face. She could feel the sweat dribbling down her neck. Cold sweat. Her uniform was sticking to her back. What the hell was happening on the Bridge? And why weren't they answering? She wiped her neck. She needed to talk to one of the other Maquis. Now.
"Vorik, go help them." She waved her fist...oops...she opened it to a relaxed hand, in the general direction of the other engineers.
"I do not believe they need my assistance," he answered calmly.
"I believe they do!" B'Elanna snarled, pretending to lunge forward.
Vorik backed off. "Very well."
She leaned back. Who said Vulcans didn't get scared?
She watched Vorik walk over to the other Star Fleet engineers, who were hard at work trying to open the crew quarters' doors. They didn't have a chance in hell in succeeding. Those doors weren't opening until she said so. But it was a good thing they were trying. It meant all the Star Fleet crew in Engineering was standing together in an area easily contained by a few force fields.
"Hey," she called softly to the nearest Maquis.
Kurt Bendera put down his PADD and walked over to her.
"What is it?"
"Besides Chakotay, which Maquis are on the Bridge?"
"Henley's on duty, I know that. I can't think of anyone else."
"I just sent up Tabor and Jarvin," B'Elanna said. She wiped her neck again. "I want you to lock on to their comm signals and beam them all..." she paused. "Into the corridor right outside the door."
"Didn't Chakotay say to wait for his signal?" Kurt asked.
"Yes, but I think something's gone wrong."
"Are you sure?" Kurt was obviously doubtful.
"No, but Chakotay would signal us if everything went as planned. It obvious hasn't."
"Okay, I'll do it."
It went unsaid that B'Elanna would take the blame if deviating from the plan landed them all in the Brig for the next sixty years.
Casting a glance toward the Star Fleet engineers, Kurt went up to another station. His hands worked quickly over the keypad.
"Got 'em," he called back softly.
B'Elanna nearly ran to the door. She slipped outside, letting the door swish shut before she commented on the scene that greeted her.
Tabor was unconscious. Henley was lying next to him, looking rather stunned. Jarvin was sprawled on top of her, looking bruised and even more dazed than she did. Chakotay was the only one standing, holding one arm, which was covered in ugly red blisters.
"What the hell happened?" she demanded.
"Your little toy?" He pointed to the weapon on her belt. "It explodes."
He didn't elaborate.
"Janeway's out of the picture. Everyone else is not. We have to switch to plan B."
Henley and Jarvin struggled to their feet. Jarvin tried to prop Tabor up against the wall.
"Attention all hands. Execute Alpha12Beta76," Tuvok's voice rang out over the Comm system.
"What?" asked Henley.
There was a sudden increase of noise from within Engineering.
"I think they know," Chakotay remarked grimly.
They followed B'Elanna as she stepped back into Engineering. The force field had been activated, holding over half the Star Fleet engineering crew behind it.
Not all of them.
Joe Carey was free. He was beating the unresisting body of Kurt Bendera. B'Elanna rushed to help him, weapon already drawn.
Someone hit her.
She was driven back against a console. Vorik was squeezing her wrist with one of his powerful hands, trying to make her drop the weapon. She felt the bones in her wrist begin to yield. There was a sickening crack and the weapon dropped from her fingers. Vorik's other hand reached for her throat. Just as his fingers began to close around the curve of her neck, he let go. He fell back and sank to the floor. B'Elanna stared at him.
"Torres!" Henley screamed, still aiming her phaser at Vorik.
"Shoot him!" B'Elanna screamed back, pointing with her unbroken hand to Joe Carey.
Henley turned and fired, dropping Carey and Bendera simultaneously.
The engineers behind the force field got even louder. Someone got the bright idea of shooting the force field with a phaser. The bolt ricocheted off with a sizzle and struck someone inside, judging by the resulting scream.
B'Elanna held her throbbing wrist and turned to Chakotay for directions.
"Ayala to Chakotay," came over Chakotay's comm badge.
Chakotay hit it with his burned hand, and let out a series of curses.
"What?" he bellowed.
"The Star Fleet crew are escaping their quarters."
"Some are taking the Jeffrey's Tubes. I've seen some shoot the doors open."
Chakotay couldn't believe this.
"Anyway, the corridors are full of them. What do we do?"
Chakotay cast a look at B'Elanna clutching her wrist, at Jarvin carrying Tabor, at Henley cradling Bendera on the floor. He took a loud breath that was inaudible over the shouts of the imprisoned engineers.
"Plan C," he said.
"Plan C?" screamed B'Elanna, echoed softer but with the same disbelief by Ayala and every Maquis in Engineering.
"It's coming apart," Chakotay said to B'Elanna. To Ayala he said, "Follow Plan C. Get through the corridors any way you can, even if you have to shoot everyone in sight. The weapons B'Elanna made explode after one use. They're good for one continuous beam, and can probably be used as plasma grenades. Tell all the Maquis to follow Plan C."
He ended the conversation, turning to B'Elanna.
"Kurt's dead," said Henley, rising.
"Leave him," Chakotay said, swallowing the grief that welled up inside him.
Jarvin hoisted Tabor over his shoulder, taking his weapon from his belt.
The Maquis followed Chakotay out the door, while the Star Fleet engineers worked desperately to drop the force field.
In Sickbay, Tom Paris sat on the bio-bed, feeling the simple happiness of being able to speak and be upright. The Doc had recommended he not scream anytime soon, but that was it.
"Tuvok to Sickbay. The Captain has been injured, prepare for an emergency beam out."
As Tom watched, Janeway materialized on the floor of Sickbay. She was crumpled. Her face was bloody and her uniform singed. The Doc was already setting up medical equipment.
"Mr. Paris! Pick her up and put her on a bio-bed."
Hesitantly, Tom climbed off the bio-bed, walking slowly towards her.
"Faster," the Doc ordered.
Tom knelt down and slid one hand under her back and the other under her knees. Despite the fact that she was unconscious, he swore he heard her moan in pain when he lifted her. He set her gently on the nearest bio-bed. He stared at the hole in her uniform. It looked like a wound from some sort of energy discharge. Like a phaser.
The Doc was scanning her and didn't notice when Tom started backing towards the door.
Someone had just shot the Captain. Tom had a good idea of who it was.
"Attention all hands. Execute Alpha12Beta76," Tuvok's voice came over the comm system.
Tom didn't know what that was. He didn't care.
The Doc didn't see Tom run out the door.
A steady flow of water slid down Samantha Wildman's neck. The makeshift shelter constructed out of storage cartons and hard packaging sheets did nothing to keep out the rain. When she'd swore to protect Naomi with the archaic saying 'over hell and high water', she hadn't expected to actually have to deal with cascading sheets of water. In her lap, Naomi shifted, trying to find a dry area on her increasingly soggy uniform.
"Mom, I'm wet," Naomi whimpered.
"I'm wet, too," Samantha responded.
"Why don't we go back to Voyager. It's not raining there," Naomi's voice took on a whine.
"No. We're not going back to Voyager just because it's raining."
There's something much worse than rain on Voyager, Samantha thought, unconsciously holding Naomi closer.
Naomi didn't appreciate the squeeze, turning to the other adult in the shelter.
"Neelix, don't you want to go back to Voyager?"
"No, Naomi. I don't."
Naomi's face fell. Her chin set into a deep pout. Neelix regarded the irritated child.
"Naomi, how you would like to go for a walk?"
"We'll get wetter!"
"Rain can't hurt you. Come on, Naomi. I'll tell you all about the rain Golpers on Talax."
As Neelix lifted Naomi off her mother's lap and guided her out the flap in the makeshift tent, he saw Samantha mouth 'thank you'.
Neelix and Naomi were only half a mile away from the beam down site and the rain was lightening up. Naomi was deeply entranced by Neelix's story. As he told it, she looked up into the clearing sky.
"Neelix, what's that?"
Naomi pointed up into the sky, where a dark shape tumbled though the few remaining clouds, sending up heaps of dark smoke when it landed beyond the horizon.
"There's another one." Naomi's finger traced the path of the next object. "And another. There are a lot of them. Neelix, what are they?"
"I don't know, Naomi. Let's go back to your mom, okay?"
"I thought you wanted to go for a walk," Naomi protested, lurching after Neelix, unable to keep up with his sudden quick pace. She let him pull her in the opposite direction, her head turning to peer at the increasing number of falling objects filling the sky.
The first thing Tom Paris saw when he exited Sickbay was the battle in corridor. Two people, one presumably Maquis, the other presumably Star Fleet, firing at each other from behind the turns at the opposite ends of the corridor. Two phaser bolts flew by him. Tom slammed up against the wall. He suddenly realized he had no safe exit in this hall. He didn't know which end held the Maquis fighter and which end held the Star Fleet fighter. Staying flat against the wall, he inched back into Sickbay.
"Back again, Mr. Paris?" asked the Doc, apparently aware of his patient's exit.
"Doc, I think you're about to get a hell of a lot more patients."
"So I'm told, Mr. Paris." There was considerable sadness in that reply, but the Doc stoically continued his treatment of the Captain.
Tom searched the ceiling for the recognizable mark of a Jeffrey's Tube opening. When he found it, he climbed up on a bio-bed and opened the hatch. As he boosted himself through it, he called a farewell to the people below.
"Goodbye, Doc. Bye, Captain."
Tom Paris mentally drew up the well-know path to the Shuttle Bay. He started crawling, on his way off the ship.
In another part of the ship, Chakotay boosted B'Elanna up into another Jeffrey's Tube entrance. She had considerable difficulty doing for herself, her right wrist now a swollen mass.
"B'Elanna, are you sure you can cut of the power from there?" he asked.
"Yes. I wouldn't have put in Plan C if I couldn't."
"Can you do with one hand?"
"Yes. It's just going to take me longer."
Chakotay closed the hatch, hearing B'Elanna begin to crawl away. There was sudden outburst of Klingon curses as she discovered she had to crawl with only one hand.
Tom discovered the Jeffrey's Tubes were not the greatest place to be. Worse, perhaps, than the battlefield in the corridors. Some of the crew-both Maquis and Star Fleet-had decided not to brave the open spaces of the corridors, and instead take the fight into tight spaces where there was quite literally no place to hide and very little space to move in. Some were probably caught accidentally, like Tom, trying to find a safer route through the ship. The others were trying to shoot those people, who were defending themselves with vigor. It all worked out because the crew crawling through the tubes was trying to get to other parts of the ship and shoot the people there, anyway.
In the corridors, you could run.
In the narrow Jeffrey's Tubes, all Tom could do was hug the floor and hear the phaser bolts sizzle as they struck the walls and ceiling over his head. On the upside, in the Jeffrey's Tubes it was incredibly hard to hit a target when your victim crawled around the corner and was heard to be climbing onto the next deck.
Hard, not impossible.
Tom had to climb over one such unlucky person.
Very unlucky, he thought.
Until that person opened his eyes and brought his phaser to bear right in front of Tom's face.
It was only Tom's good fortune that being in shock significantly slows a person's reflexes, so that the crewman wasn't even aware he'd been relieved of his weapon until he was staring down the barrel of it.
Tom kept the weapon trained until he'd climbed completely over the injured man.
Tom had started to continue to the next deck, when he stopped and turned back.
"Hey, Grimes. Sickbay is two lefts and a right back. I left the hatch open."
The slurred response didn't sound much like a thank you, but Grimes started dragging himself slowly in the opposite direction.
The next deck was much quieter. Tom could hear weapons fire, but it wasn't in close vicinity. He was tempted to stay put.
He lost that idea immediately when he heard someone, an armed someone, begin to crawl towards him
"Alpha?" The person asked.
Tom held the phaser liberated from the injured Grimes, and backed away from the woman's voice.
"Alpha." It was a prompt.
A prompt for a code that the Star Fleet crew or Maquis crew had decided upon to identify friends in the Jeffrey's Tubes, where you definitely couldn't see the other person to decide if they were friend or foe.
"Alpha." Her tone was decidedly unsatisfied with his unresponsiveness.
Tom grabbed hold of the ladder to the next deck. Maybe he could make it up before she rounded the corner.
He made it up and half way through the hatch.
Then the woman below him fired.
There was nothing like a phaser on your tail to make you move fast.
But not fast enough.
The hatch absorbed the first phaser bolt.
The second one struck his ankle.
Tom flung himself against the wall, trying to God not to scream.
He tried to ignore the intense pain creeping up his leg, aiming his acquired phaser over the hatch.
He heard boots begin to climb up the ladder rungs.
There was a conversation happening below.
"Alpha!" A man's voice.
"Gamma12!" The woman's voice.
She was stepping down, it sounded like.
Gamma12. Tom committed that to memory.
He didn't know if his pursuer was Maquis or Star Fleet. He'd just scream Gamma12 the next someone wanted to shoot him.
Well, she wasn't pursuing him anymore.
He turned on to his belly. Damn, his foot hurt.
Crawling did not make it feel any better.
Nor did climbing ladders.
He finally stopped to rest on a relatively quiet deck. He examined his foot. It was blistered and swollen and generally hurting. What he wouldn't give for a med kit. He leaned against the wall, wondering what was happening with the mutiny.
Who had the upper hand?
Who was holding the Bridge?
If the Captain was shot on the Bridge, he had a pretty good idea who was in control of the Bridge.
But it was Tuvok who beamed the Captain to Sickbay.
It didn't matter to Tom who had the Bridge, just as long as they didn't torpedo his shuttle once he launched.
Or tractor beam him back inside.
Well, there were two more worries he hadn't thought of.
His ankle was making his entire leg throb.
The quiet of the deck was destroyed by the clatter of someone clumsily removing a covering panel to get to the controls underneath.
Tom's fingers tightened around his phaser.
Scooting over, he peered around the corner.
Someone was half inside where the panel had been removed.
And their weapon was a good foot away from them.
As quietly as he could, he eased closer to the person's legs.
They didn't hear him slide the phaser off the ground or clip it to his belt.
They didn't even know he was there.
Staying perfectly still, he tried to figure out what this person was doing. Maquis, probably. Sabotaging something, probably.
He had a moment to debate with himself.
Why help Star Fleet by preventing a Maquis saboteur?
Why help the Maquis by not preventing sabotage of something to disable Star Fleet defenses?
He didn't like Star Fleet. He didn't like the Maquis.
He definitely didn't like the Maquis.
Tom shifted so he had a good shot. From that angle, he noticed the oblivious saboteur was female.
He raised the phaser into the woman's line of sight, if she looked towards him.
"Hey," he said.
She tried to sit up, which didn't quite work because her head struck the top of the open panel and she fell back down.
She grabbed her head and let out some curses. Klingon curses.
Now Tom knew who it was, B'Elanna Torres.
"Torres, I have a-"
Phaser, he was going to say. But it became impossible to speak after her boot landed with some force in his chest.
Was all Tom was able to say as Torres drove her boot harder against his chest, trying to scoot out of the panel hole.
She was unconcerned, apparently, with the phaser he thrust in her face.
She didn't have a reason to be concerned with it after she kicked him in the shoulder with her other leg.
The phaser dropped out of his hand.
He heard it fall to the floor and couldn't recover it in time.
In time for Torres to somehow scoot the rest of the way out of the panel.
Unfortunately, the limited space in the Jefferies Tube meant there was no room for her to get out without unintentionally landing on top of Tom. She fell on top of him, their legs interlocking as she landed.
She continued trying to kick him, but she didn't have any leverage and it was equivalent to being stepped on.
It still hurt.
He felt one of her hands try to unclip the phaser from his belt, the phaser he'd dropped was trapped somewhere under their entangled legs. Her other arm wasn't doing anything, she was holding it behind her back as if to protect it.
He grabbed the hand she was using to retrieve the phaser, held the wrist and didn't let go. Squeezed it as hard as he could.
She lurched forward and bit him on the face.
That hurt. That hurt a lot.
He felt blood begin to seep down his neck.
He grabbed her chin and shoved her away.
Her teeth closed on his fingers. Hard.
He jerked his arm away, letting go of her hand and her chin as he did so.
She moved incredibly fast, bringing one knee down on his stomach, kneeling on the floor with the other. As she shifted, she jostled his injured foot.
His sharp intake of breath could have been from the pain that whistled up his leg or from the sudden compression of one of his lungs.
He turned his head just in time to avoid her fist, which bounced off the floor, right next to his face.
Before she could draw back her arm again, he grabbed the phaser that at some point had been kicked up by someone's feet.
He brought his arm up so that the phaser was mere inches in front of Torres' face.
She looked very much like she was contemplating doing something to get that phaser out of his hand.
Tom sat up, shoving her knee off his stomach.
"Stop it," he said again, somehow thinking that repeating it with more force would make her more inclined to obey him.
He was wrong.
Torres didn't even do it on purpose.
She sat back on her knees, eyes glued to the phaser. As she leaned back, she put a significant amount of her weight on his injured foot.
He cried out, trying to get his foot out from underneath her.
Tom's sole focus was on freeing his foot, not on keeping a tight grip on the phaser, as it should have been.
B'Elanna didn't know why Paris suddenly started screaming. Or why his legs started thrashing around. Or why his hold on the phaser suddenly loosened substantially enough that she was almost able to get it away from him.
She grabbed it and tried to tug it out of his grasp. He let it go. Then, looking rather shocked that he'd actually released the phaser, he seized it again, with both hands.
Tug-o-war with a phaser isn't very fun.
And it's even less fun when you're the one on the business end of the phaser.
She saw his fingers move over the controls, inching toward the firing button. She tried one last time to pull it away from him, but she knew he had the advantage of using both hands to hold on to it. Even if she'd managed to bruise one when she bit him, he was still able to hold tightly with both.
She knew she had the speed to let go of the phaser and to move out of the way of the phaser beam.
She did it, for the most part.
The part that didn't was her right shoulder blade. The phaser beam skimmed over her right shoulder.
She howled, barely hearing the sound of the beam frying the systems of the open panel over her own voice.
She grabbed her right shoulder with her left hand, spitting the filthiest, most obscene Klingon curses and insults she knew at Paris.
He didn't know what she was saying, but it obvious wasn't praising him.
She held her throbbing shoulder and watched him. He moved away from her, phaser held at ready. He rubbed his cheek where she'd bitten him.
"Ow," he muttered to himself, looking at the blood coming off on his fingers. He looked at the teeth marks on his hand, and shot her a suffering look.
"Isn't biting some sort of Klingon mating ritual?" Paris asked sarcastically.
She glared at him harder, hissing more Klingon insults.
"What were you doing in there?"
He waved the phaser toward the panel opening.
B'Elanna didn't say a thing.
Paris looked irritated. He raised the phaser and fired, the beam hitting just to the left of B'Elanna's other shoulder.
She jumped involuntarily.
"Cutting off life support to the Bridge," she said finally.
"Did you finish?"
He looked like he hoped she had.
"No. But, you did."
She eyed the smoking remnants of electronics behind her.
"You're welcome," he said.
She didn't think she could glare any harder.
"Chakotay to Torres."
Paris actually looked around, like Chakotay was somewhere in the Jefferies Tube with them.
"Answer it," Paris told her.
B'Elanna tapped her comm badge.
"Starfleet is advancing on the Shuttle Bay. Have you neutralized the Bridge yet?"
She stared at Paris, who suddenly looked very upset.
"Good. Continue with Plan C. Chakotay out."
Paris wiped sweat off his forehead.
"Is Chakotay in the Shuttle Bay?"
"Yes," she said, pleased to see that Paris was getting very nervous. "Along with twenty other Maquis."
He actually punched the wall.
He turned back to her, phaser rising.
"I'm a dead man," he said.
B'Elanna watched as Paris nervously continued to run his one hand through his hair, the other steadily aiming the phaser at her.
Then something flashed across Paris' face. The tense look dropped from his features. In it's place, his typical half-scornful, half-furtive expression appeared.
Paris had just had an idea.
That was probably not a good thing.
She shifted, both out of apprehensiveness and out of discomfort, her shoulder sending urgent signals of pain down her spine.
The hand holding the phaser twitched when she did that, as if she were going to lunge at him.
Which was indeed what she had been planning on doing while he was still distracted.
But now he was looking her, blue eyes watching her every move, but his face betraying the fact that half his attention was still on whatever it was that had just entered his mind. He had a half-grin on his face. The same thought that had dissipated his worry was apparently pleasing the hell out of him. Which meant, although B'Elanna didn't know quite what he was thinking, that he'd come with up with some way to resolve the obstacle of the Maquis being in the Shuttle Bay. She didn't know why the presence of the Maquis in the Shuttle Bay bothered him so much, she could only guess he wanted off the ship. And he now thought that he had a way to accomplish that, which probably meant not having Chakotay and the others be in his way.
That couldn't be a good thing, at all.
He might interfere with Plan C.
She was not going to allow him to mess up a plan that was their third recourse. Plan D was only half-written and it was their second to last recourse, the last being desperate measures which no one wanted to take. Star Fleet wouldn't enjoy their final plan, if it came to that, and neither would most of the Maquis.
Paris felt the need to explain his sudden joy to her.
"I'm not a dead man anymore," he told her.
She just clutched her shoulder and pretended to be too hurt to care.
Come a foot closer, she thought. You'll be a dead man again.
She scowled furiously. He smiled back. In doing so, he stretched the ripped skin on his face. He hissed in pain, his hand coming up to touch the wound. His sweaty palm made it hurt worse, from the mumbled cussing that followed.
She honestly didn't mean to snicker audibly.
The glance that she received was just about equal to the beam that had hit her in the shoulder.
He was apparently realizing that he was in a lot of pain and that she had inflicted most of it. His hand, stained red with the clear indents of her teeth, dropped from his face to his chest. He twisted his legs out in front of him, and she saw for the first time what had almost given her the upper hand.
His right foot.
It looked like, well, a lot like her shoulder. Worse. Someone had hit him full on, at a relatively close range.
Paris tapped his comm badge.
"Paris to Sickbay," he began.
People holding others at bay with phasers should not look down at their comm badges.
It's pointless. The other person can't see you, so there's no one to make eye contact with.
It's dangerous. The person being held at bay with the phaser can move without being seen.
And that's just what B'Elanna did.
She didn't have far to go, so the speed she used to launch herself at him turned into force.
She purposefully brought one of her feet down on his bad ankle.
The scream that followed drowned out the sound of the phaser dropping and the Doctor replying.
She'd only just landed on him, with her elbow hitting him hard in the chest, when a transporter beam enveloped them both.
The Bridge was scary this empty. It was usually pretty deserted during the night shift, but it didn't feel as weird then. Probably because the empty station's crew was just off-duty, and hadn't just been beamed to Sickbay after being shot by the First Officer, among others.
The First Officer hadn't shot the Captain, too.
Today, he had.
Harry Kim found himself wishing again that Chakotay had stayed standing in front of the Captain's chair for just a moment longer, before beaming off the Bridge with the rest of the Maquis.
Harry might not be as good an aim as Tuvok, but he would have gotten the job done.
The loud beeping of his console made Harry look down. His eyes widened at what he saw. The Maquis had begun sabotaging other parts of the ship.
"Tuvok, life support to the Bridge has been cut off. We have fifteen minutes before we run out of Oxygen."
The EMH was inflating a punctured lung for his patient. Which was a reasonable side effect to getting stabbed with what appeared to be a piece of panel siding torn from the wall or ceiling of some part of the ship and then utilized as a sword. It was a creative tool, really. And quite effective, the Doctor thought grimly, sparing what would have been a frightening glance towards his patient's attacker, had he been awake to see it. He wasn't. Getting kicked in the head will do that to you.
The Doctor finished the task, stepping away from the bio-bed to examine the next patient. He looked around and realized there were, finally, no more patients.
He didn't bother stepping over the ones laid out on the floor on account of all the bio-beds were occupied; he stepped right through them.
One of the joys of being a hologram.
Other joys included being impermeable to the phaser blasts sent his direction by some of the very same people who'd injured his patients in the first place, and were either returning to finish what they started, or to begin something new with the uninjured people who had brought their injured comrades to Sickbay for treatment.
The use of Sickbay as a battlefield was ceased nearly immediately after he flooded it with the gaseous form of a very powerful sedative.
He purposefully chose a sedative that not only would instantly weaken a humanoid once inhaled; it would also make the victim rather giddy in their last few remaining moments of consciousness.
That way, even if they still had the strength and mental coherency to continue firing or fighting, they were too happy to want use their capacities too hurt someone else.
He wished there were some way to make that effect permanent.
He, of course, was unaffected by the quality of air and kept it at that level to ensure that the unconscious crew stayed that way, injured or not, and that any new visitors to Sickbay were rendered unconscious upon arrival.
Feeling helpless, the Doctor stood in the center of Sickbay and looked around.
His programming did not cover what to do in case of a mutiny.
Because mutinies aren't supposed to happen on Federation ships.
He didn't know what to do besides treat every injury and try to keep anyone who might want to deactivate him from succeeding.
So far, unconsciousness was too large an obstacle for anyone to come close.
Ensign Powell had managed to say, "Computer, deact-" before dissolving into a fit of giggles as the sedative entered her system and destroyed her intentions of shooting the Maquis he had been about to begin operating on.
His eyes fell on the one person in Sickbay who was supposed to have a plan in this situation.
That person was still unconscious, not from any action on his part, but from receiving a high-energy blast to the chest. Whoever had done that had intended for Captain Janeway to either be killed or to be injured badly enough that she wouldn't be in any condition to retaliate for a long while.
They did a good job.
He walked closer, musing that having hurriedly run the regenerator over her face after treating her more critical injury appeared have had limited effect because the bruising and swelling was still visible.
Or maybe he just really wanted a diversion.
Being a hologram didn't mean impassivity to the situation, by any means.
He picked up the regenerator, beginning to run it down her face.
A few more passes and her chin would retain the sharpness it had when she'd come to warn him of this. At the time, while she'd made it clear that although she knew he could not violate the ethics of his programming and allow someone to suffer when he could easily alleviate it, she'd still managed to insinuate that he treat Star Fleet crewmembers over Maquis, not worse injuries over minor ones. She'd known he wouldn't do that either.
Although, it did happen that it was predominantly Star Fleet crew who sustained the worst and actually, most creative injuries.
And from the brief time any Maquis spent conscious in Sickbay, he knew why.
He brought the regenerator around again.
He was disturbed more by the inactivity in Sickbay than he had been by the violence. He was tempted to call the Bridge under pretense of reporting the Captain's condition and find out why the corridors around Sickbay had grown so quiet. He could guess that the mutiny hadn't ended, just moved to a different part of the ship where access to Sickbay wasn't as convenient.
But that didn't tell him anything.
He was reaching for his comm badge when a familiar voice cut through.
"Paris to Sickbay."
And then there was frantic scream and what sounded like a snarl.
The Doctor didn't even think; he beamed Paris to a clear area on the floor as quickly as he could.
Paris materialized, but he wasn't alone.
B'Elanna Torres was on top of him, one boot pinning one of his feet down and an elbow in his chest. His face was bloody, her shoulder wounded. They were both quite surprised to have been interrupted by a transporter beam.
Torres stopped her attack, trying to identify their new location. She tried to push off of Paris, digging her elbow harder into his chest in the process.
That was when the sedative began to take affect.
It hit Paris first. The groan coming from his throat as she drove her elbow down turned into a wailing giggle. Torres, probably due to being half-Klingon, was not immediately affected. If she didn't show signs of the emotional response, she was experiencing the physical side effects. She stumbled off Paris on to her feet. An unsteady glance at The Doctor confirmed that he was not an ally, and Torres lunged for the door, well aware of what was beginning to happen. The Doctor brandished a hypospray, ready to appear beside her and speed up the sedation process.
Torres tripped over one of the patients on the floor. She was sent sprawling, screaming when she landed as her hands went out to break her fall. She tried to scramble to her feet, but the dizziness was beginning to set in. She settled for crawling at an incredible rate, right through the door.
Paris just giggled.
The Doctor leaned over him, tricorder in hand.
"Doc," Paris managed to wheeze out in between chuckles. He raised one hand, pointer finger extended.
The Doctor ignored the behavior, looking at the tricorder readings.
The tricorder said he'd been bitten.
"Most Klingon women don't crawl away from potential mates, Mr. Paris. Consider yourself rejected."
Paris laughed louder, although it couldn't be told whether it was from the words or from his own hand, which Paris was now staring at, fascinated.
The Doctor was still holding the regenerator and began to heal the wound on his face.
Paris' hand dropped, eyes following the path of the regenerator. Finally, his eyes rolled backward and his lids slid shut.
In the corridor, B'Elanna pried herself forcefully off the floor. Incredibly thankful for the desertion of the corridor, she leaned against the wall with her good hand. She walked as fast as she could down the corridor, supporting herself against the wall the entire time. She wished the walls and floor would stop tilting. She halted, trying to clear the confusion now clouding her mind.
Complete Plan C.
She started walking again, faster.
Chakotay dropped his phaser to the ground, irritated. He was the seventh person to become weaponless within the last hour, the power cells in his phaser drained. He'd sent five people to retrieve phaser rifles, but they hadn't returned yet. He hoped it was because travel through the Jefferies Tubes was slow, especially with baggage, and not because they'd been prevented from accessing the weapons or been shot on the way back. He didn't like feeling unarmed.
The weapon B'Elanna had created had proved its defectiveness many more times since its failure on the Bridge. As if on cue, his burned hand sent spikes of pain up his elbow. The weapon wasn't a complete failure. The Maquis had taken to activating the weapon, then flinging it at their attacker. It made an excellent grenade, the only downside being that it could only be used once. He'd instructed the Maquis to liberate any weapons they could from any Star Fleet crew downed by the weapon/grenade. The problem was arising that most weapons were as damaged as their owners were injured, and therefore useless. At least it was proving to be convenient when Star Fleet tried to hide behind corners and engage in phaser fights from behind the walls.
Still, the entire thing was shaping up with the Maquis with significant disadvantages to the Star Fleet crew. They had fewer weapons, less people, and hell of a lot more people shooting at them.
Granted, they had known the differences when they planned this, but they hadn't seemed nearly as overwhelming then. Probably because Captain Janeway wasn't supposed to have known what was coming and developed a plan for it.
But she had.
If she hadn't, the Star Fleet crew would have remained oblivious, locked in their quarters while the on duty crew would have been relieved from their stations. Then, they all would have been beamed down to planet, with the shuttles programmed to land on the planet at a later time, after Voyager had left orbit.
Maybe it wouldn't have been that simple, but it would have been a hell of a lot easier than this was.
Plan A became unsalvageable after Tuvok and Kim were able to stop him, Henley, and Tabor on the Bridge. Plan B was eliminated after the Star Fleet crew started busting out of their quarters. He didn't particularly like Plan C, and it was beginning to look like they might have to abort it and go on to Plan D.
Plan D was the last thing he wanted. It was incredibly weak and vague, not to mention desperate, and he knew his Maquis wouldn't be pleased with it. He knew if they turned to Plan D, it would eventually be scrapped for Plan E.
No one wanted Plan E.
So he had to make Plan C work.
Chakotay looked around the Shuttle Bay. The Star Fleet crew had suddenly stopped their attack fifteen minutes ago. He knew it was only because it wasn't working, and that they were probably getting ready to pursue a different route, but for now his people found themselves inactive.
His Maquis were milling around, clutching their weapons nervously, if they still had them. Everyone was on edge. He'd seen his people become anxious on their missions against the Cardassians, and now that emotion was magnified tenfold. Their missions against the Cardassians were never this important. If one of those missions was as damaged as this plan was, it would have been aborted and thought out again.
There was no turning back in a mutiny.
Not without spending the next sixty or so years in the Brig, and once back in Alpha Quadrant being put on trial for it along with the various other charges stemming from their Maquis activities.
Besides, he'd shot the Captain.
No matter how many Maquis had fantasized about that act over the years, he'd been the one to do it. Even with the alleged impermeable self-restraint required of the Star Fleet crew, he couldn't imagine that they'd be able to resist killing him, in her honor.
No, if it came to the point where it was impossible to continue, the Maquis would not be surrendering. They would take the shuttles and leave without the fear of being shot or tractored back in, now that B'Elanna had incapacitated the Bridge. He knew that was what many of the tense Maquis thought they should do now, but that was the absolute last resort, coming after Plan E.
He suddenly realized he was thinking like the Maquis were going to fail. He criticized himself for even considering failure. That kind of mindset was what caused failure.
It didn't matter that they had so many disadvantages. The Maquis were always the underdogs, and they always made that work for them, not against.
He realized he should take advantage of the inactivity on Star Fleet's part. Continue Plan C, with a few necessary additions.
Chakotay snapped back to reality to see Henley standing before him. She had been kneeling by the unconscious Tabor, among the other injured the last time he'd seen her.
"Sir?" she repeated.
Henley raised the medkit she was holding.
"Your hand. Can I treat it?"
"Yes," he said, beginning to role up his tattered sleeve, wincing as it rubbed the wound.
"Let me do that," she said authoritatively. "Sit down."
He took a seat on the floor, and she knelt beside him, opening the medkit.
She took a cutting instrument out of it and snipped off the bottom half of the sleeve.
She took out a tube of some sort of cream and unscrewed the cap.
"This is going to sting," she warned. "But I can't use the regenerator until after I use this."
"Go ahead," he told her.
He watched as she nodded and began squeezing the cream out of the tube. Henley was as tense as any of the other Maquis, her hairline dark with sweat and her face pale. Her movements were quick and competent, and he was reminded that his Maquis operated well under stress. He hissed when she applied the cream to his hand and arm.
She was right, it did hurt. A lot.
"Sorry," she muttered, quickly spreading it up and down.
He hissed again.
"Um, Sir, what are we going to do after this?"
He suspected she was just talking to get his mind off her incredibly painful ministrations to his hand, because she definitely knew how Plan C went.
"We go back to Engineering, leave some people here just in case. Start trying to contain the Star Fleet crew. Owww!" he finished as she pressed a particularly tender spot.
She capped the tube, putting it back in the case. She took out the regenerator.
"This isn't going to get it all. It needs a stronger one."
She nodded, activating the instrument. He felt the tingle begin in his skin.
"On the way, I think we should get Suder out of the Brig. He's a very good fighter."
"And Dalby," Chakotay agreed.
"Dalby sleeps with Star Fleet," she said, rather surprisingly since she'd never had a problem with it before. Although, she'd just finished treating some Maquis who'd been shot by Star Fleet and that could have changed her feelings.
"Star Fleet sleeps with Dalby," he corrected. "And she's on the planet. We need everyone we have to be successful."
She ran the regenerator up his arm again.
"Some of the escape pods were launched. I don't know who was in them."
"I heard about that. It shouldn't be a problem."
If it was any of the Maquis, they could be expecting to spend the rest of their lives on that planet. And if it was any of Star Fleet, it just diminished the number of people against the Maquis, and that was a very good thing.
There was a clatter as one of the Jefferies Tube hatches in the ceiling dropped to the ground. Every functioning weapon in the Shuttle Bay was turned toward the pair of legs that dropped through. There was a collective intake of breath as the Maquis waited to identify the person.
The legs dropped further, the person hanging from the ceiling with only their head and shoulders obscured. Strung across both that person's shoulders were four phaser rifles, and he was carrying a fifth.
The team he'd sent to get weapons.
The person dropped to the floor, the weapons hitting together as he landed and fell off-balance. Another pair of legs and then a complete person with the same number of weapons dropped through, nearly landing on top of the first. Then two more people followed.
He'd sent five. Four returned.
He didn't want to ask.
He passed out the weapons to those who'd used theirs as a grenade or drained their power cells.
"Plan C," he told them. "Let's get moving."
The atmosphere on the Bridge was becoming decidedly unpleasant. Life support was running out. Quickly. Environmental controls had apparently been damaged too, because the temperature was rising just as fast the oxygen was dropping. It has passed the uncomfortably hot stage five minutes ago. And in ten minutes, when there was no more air to breathe, no one on the Bridge would be alive to care about the excruciating heat.
Harry Kim tried to wipe the sweat off his forehead. It didn't work because his hands were equally if not more slippery then his face. He settled for tossing the wet strands of hair away from his face, which didn't quite work either, because they were plastered to his forehead and wouldn't come off.
Harry gave up. He shifted in his boots, feeling the fabric of his uniform cling to his sticky body. He looked down at his console and wiped away some of the sweat that had dripped down on to it, obscuring the readings. Wiping it didn't help; it simply blurred the readings even more. Not that he needed to see the readings; he knew what they said.
Periodic explosions around the ship, among other things. Not deliberate, but the effect of phaser bolts hitting machinery and computer components, instead of the person they were meant for.
And here he was, with Tuvok, cowering on the Bridge. Well, maybe they weren't cowering. Tuvok certainly wasn't. He was working at his console, hands moving rapidly, although he hadn't had time to explain, in detail, what he was doing. They'd had a quick discussion after Harry had reported the failure of life support.
They hadn't come up with any way to crush the Maquis.
They'd come with many things they couldn't do.
They couldn't erect force fields in areas where there was heavy fighting, not without accidentally trapping any Star Fleet crew with any Maquis.
They couldn't beam the Maquis to a contained area; half of them weren't wearing comm badges.
And they couldn't stay on the Bridge.
Harry glanced at the chronometer to see how much time that they had left before it became hard, and then impossible to breathe.
Nine minutes, fifty-one seconds.
Harry glanced over at Tuvok, who had moved to one of the back Science Stations.
"Nine minutes, Tuvok."
Tuvok didn't reply, hands moving fervently.
"I am locking out Bridge controls," Tuvok said, walking back to his station.
He pressed one final button on his console.
Harry watched as Tuvok's console went dark, followed by his own, and every other station on the Bridge.
"Computer," Tuvok addressed.
There was an audible blip, signifying the computer was ready to receive instructions.
"Do no re-activate stations without authorization from myself, Captain Janeway, or Ensign Kim. Authorization TuvokGamma93Alpha81, mutiny situation.
The computer blipped again.
Tuvok stepped away from his station, walking toward the turbo lift, motioning for Harry to follow.
"We're abandoning the Bridge?" Harry asked, knowing it was coming but still finding the feeling even more distasteful than remaining idle at his station.
"For the moment," Tuvok replied, stepping into the turbo lift.
Harry followed, casting one last glance around the Bridge, eyes lingering on the spot where the Captain had fallen and the spot from which Chakotay had shot her.
It wasn't his last glance, he corrected himself. He would be returning to the Bridge after it was over, after the Maquis had gotten their collective ass kicked and learned that they would pay for what they tried to do.
What Chakotay did, especially.
"Even if the Maquis are able to restore life support to the Bridge, they will not be able to access the computer," Tuvok was saying.
"Good," Harry said distractedly. He watched the Bridge disappear as the doors to the turbo lift slid shut.
"Engineering," Tuvok told the computer.
The turbo lift began it familiar whir, the only sound to indicate its motion.
"Are the Maquis holding Engineering?" Harry asked, his thoughts turning to the aggressive Chief Engineer.
"I don't know," said Tuvok.
Harry took his phaser out of his belt, activating it.
The feelings of leaving the Bridge evaporated to make room for the apprehension that was filling Harry's heart.
He checked the setting of the weapon.
He found himself wondering about Tom. He knew Tom had been in Sickbay, a relatively safe place, when the mutiny had begun. He also knew that several people had tried to invade Sickbay, in the Doctor's words, but had been prevented.
Knowing Tom, he would be trying his damnedest to stay out of the fight and get off the ship.
Wherever he was, Harry hoped Tom was avoiding the fray.
In Sickbay, Tom felt something cold press into his neck.
"Hey," he muttered, trying to bat it away.
It stayed, and the coldness entered his neck, swimming under his skin.
He opened his eyes, seeing the Doc peering down at him.
Tom was feeling rather tired, and absurdly amused.
A helpless giggle escaped his throat.
The Doctor muttered something about lingering side effects, and pressed another hypospray into his neck.
Whatever was in that cleared up his inexplicable mirth and woke him up.
"I require your assistance, Mr. Paris."
"In ending this."
Naomi Wildman sat in the puddle on the grass where Neelix had dropped-no, practically *thrown*- her on his way over to her mother. She'd stayed in the position in which she'd landed: legs and arms skewed, back of her head and neck nearly submerged in the deepest part of the puddle, with the most outraged facial expression she could manage to produce.
When he didn't notice her predicament-and he didn't, which made her all the more irritated-she finally became uncomfortable and sat up. She tried to shake the water off, but it had already seeped into her jumper. She'd already been damp from the rain, but now she was soaked.
She folded her legs so she was sitting cross-legged, crossing her arms and doing her best to reproduce her mother's most intimidating look.
No one noticed.
Neelix was talking to her mother in quiet but urgent tones, and neither one of them looked towards her.
Naomi's angry eyebrows sank even closer to her eyes.
She'd heard that kind of conversation far too often of late. It was obviously an important, secretive discussion. Neelix had her mother's rapt attention, and some of the others on shore leave were walking over, looking just as curious. Neelix's words were so hushed she couldn't hear a single word, not even after discreetly scooting closer.
She hated this.
She hated that the adults thought they should have conversation that was obviously intriguing without including her.
Purposefully excluding her.
Her mother did it all the time with Ken Dalby. They would have soft conversations, and although she usually couldn't hear the words she could tell by the increasing force with which her mother produced the quiet sentences that it would have turned into a shouting fight if she hadn't been around.
Lately, that was nearly the only kind of conversation her mom and Ken Dalby had.
She'd asked her mother what they were talking about.
Her mother had said she wasn't happy with some of his duty reports.
That didn't even make sense. Ken didn't report to her mother.
So, she'd asked Ken, who was usually quite willing to do or tell her anything she asked.
Ken had said they'd disagreed about duty shifts.
She absolutely hated being lied to like that.
She'd asked the one adult who would be truthful with her. Tom.
Tom had laughed and eventually explained that adults just like fighting.
That hadn't sounded any better, but it wasn't nearly as insulting as her mother's and Ken's responses.
Come to think of it, maybe that was why her mother had wanted to get off Voyager and take shore leave on this yucky green planet, to have time away from arguing with Ken.
Naomi looked back at her mother.
On second thought, maybe that wasn't it.
Her mother looked just like she did after those arguments with Ken.
She was pale in the face, eyes wide, talking quietly and angrily to Neelix and to the others who had joined the cluster.
"I don't know!" Naomi heard her snap at someone. "I'm not going to be around to find out."
Her mother stepped out of the circle that had formed and scooped up the pack that someone had brought down to go hiking with. She flung it over her back and started walking toward Naomi.
Naomi thought it might be wise to hold in the yelp that nearly squeaked by her lips when her mother pulled to her feet and started walking much to quickly away from the campsite.
"Mom, where're we going?"
"The caves. Up there."
Naomi followed her mother's finger to the looming green mountains above them.
"Just to look around."
"It'll be pretty."
The anxiety in her mother's voice ruined any legitimacy in that statement.
Naomi trudged beside her mother's fast moving boots, looking back as she heard a twig snap behind her.
Following them were Chell and Neelix, at a much slower pace.
As far as she could tell, they were staring up at the empty sky.
They were looking for Voyager, just like she was.
But they didn't look happy at all.
B'Elanna had to stop.
The corridors would not stop spinning.
Not unless she halted for a good five minutes, leaning against the wall and trying to find a spot to focus on.
Then, when she started moving again, the walls and floor would resume their nauseating movements.
She didn't know what deity had cleared the corridors for her, but she sent her deepest thanks.
The way she was feeling, she was a sitting duck.
A dizzy duck, anyway.
Whatever the EMH had flooded Sickbay with had definitely affected her system. It may not have knocked her out like it had Paris, but it was still doing its job. Besides the incessant vertigo, she was getting progressively tired.
And her hand hurt, dammit!
B'Elanna leaned against the wall harder, trying not to slink down it.
It took a lot of effort.
From the little she knew about sedatives, she could gather that she was just going to get more and more tired until she couldn't stay standing and collapsed somewhere.
She couldn't let that happen. Despite the quiet of the corridors now, she could easily imagine being caught unconscious by Star Fleet.
And if she was unconscious, she couldn't help the Maquis finish Plan C.
Granted, she had already completed her vital involvement in Plan C, for the most part.
It didn't matter.
She wasn't going sleep through this. No way.
She forced her knees to stop bending, moving her hand further up on the wall. Without thinking, she raised her other hand to her face. The explosion of pain radiating from her wrist snapped her mind out of the haze it had been sinking into.
She bit her lip until blood seeped out, trying to keep from screaming. Then, she realized there was no one around to be alerted by her scream, and she let it out. The piercing sound took some more pressure of her temples.
She took her hand off the wall, straightening herself up, refusing to let the sedative drag her down.
She would go back to Sickbay, find a way to deactivate the EMH, and inject herself with something to suppress the sedative.
She took a step, realizing she couldn't just walk into Sickbay. She'd been nearly incapacitated after spending less than forty-five seconds in there.
Her heart sank at the thought of going back to the Jefferies Tubes.
She didn't have much choice, did she?
B'Elanna found the nearest hatch, struggling to climb inside with only one hand and hardly any coordination.
Inside, she started crawling. She forced herself to keep moving while trying to remember how the power to Sickbay was routed.
Tom Paris sat up on the bio-bed, doubting that the Doc had actually said what his ears had heard.
"I need you to help me end this."
The Doc had stepped away, walking over to one of the Sickbay consoles.
Tom knew exactly what he was talking about, but couldn't begin to imagine why the Doc would want his help.
Or how exactly the Doc thought he could do anything to stop it.
The Doctor turned around, spreading his hands, indicating the patients occupying every bio-bed and nearly every free spot on the floor.
"*This*, Mr. Paris."
Tom's gaze followed the EMH's out-stretched hands, then returned to the Doctor's eyes.
"I am programmed to prevent this."
"Doc, you didn't have any part in this, and you can't prevent it. You can't even leave Sickbay, how do you propose to interfere?"
Tom tried to climb off the bio-bed and go towards the Doc, who was looking far more upset than anyone, humanoid or hologram, should ever be.
He didn't see what hit him in the head and knocked him back on the bio-bed, although he could guess what it was.
He sat back up, extending one hand to feel the force field around the bio-bed.
Trying to ignore the growing suspicion building in his chest, he drew his hand back.
"Force field?" he asked, eyeing the Doctor for his reaction.
People who put him behind force fields were never working in his best interest.
"The area within that force field contains normal air, Mr. Paris. Without it you would be unconscious within seconds."
The Doctor seemed unaware of Tom's displeasure, turning back to the console.
"You could fill all of Sickbay with normal air," Tom suggested.
The Doc remained hunched over the console.
He didn't elaborate.
"How do you think I can help you?" Tom asked, after a moment.
And furthermore, why the hell should I?
"You can move freely around the ship."
"Not that well when people are *shooting* at me. Choose someone who's only being shot at by one side. They'll be much safer than I would be," Tom responded, pointing to the nearest patient who looked to be only slightly injured
He was beginning to feel a little desperate. The Doc had every right to want to end the violence, but he didn't have the right to make Tom do it.
"Yes, Mr. Paris. But you're the only neutral party on this ship. I need someone who will stop it completely, not try and turn it in the favor of one side or the other."
Tom scooted as close to the Doc as the force field would allow.
"Doc, I can't help you. I wasn't trying to do anything to anybody and I managed to get shot and bitten! I just want to get off the ship."
"Mr. Paris, I promise you. You will not be hurt and when it is over you may leave the ship."
Tom sighed, feeling even more trapped than he had when Torres had told him the Maquis were in the Shuttle Bay.
"Fine," he said.
"What do I have to do?"
Harry Kim could hear his pulse pounding in his ears. The silence of the turbo lift seemed to magnify its sound. He glanced at Tuvok, feeling absurdly jealous that the Vulcan wasn't feeling any anxiety. He took a deep breath, trying to mimic the impassivity of the man standing beside him.
As he watched, Tuvok took his phaser out of his belt and set it on stun.
The turbo lift came to a stop, the soft clicking as it halted sounding much louder than it actually was. Tuvok indicated for Harry to slide against the wall, out of immediate view when the doors slid open. Harry flattened himself against one side of the turbo lift as Tuvok pressed against the other side. He clutched his phaser.
The doors began to open and the unnerving silence of the turbo lift was instantly broken.
Not by sounds of violence, as Harry had predicted. He heard no explosions, no dying screams, nothing to compare to what his mind had been concocting the entire ride in the turbo lift.
He heard voices.
Voices screaming at each other. Not in anger or in pain, but in what sounded to be intense frustration.
"Why the *hell* won't this work?" An infuriated male voice made itself clear over the din.
Someone replied to him, but the words got lost in the uproar.
Harry looked at Tuvok for some direction.
"That doesn't sound like the Maquis are very happy," he whispered to Tuvok.
"That doesn't sound like the Maquis," Tuvok replied.
Holding the phaser half-raised, Tuvok stepped out of the turbo lift. Harry hurried to follow him.
Their arrival in Engineering was punctuated by the sound of something solid plunging into a console and frying the systems within.
Harry turned toward the noise, but he couldn't see what had happened through the people clustered around the origin of the sound. At first, he wondered why the entire Engineering crew was standing in one small area, and then he realized it wasn't by choice. The crown surged backwards, away from something he couldn't see, knocking those standing on the edges into a force field surrounding the area.
Harry started walking toward them when Tuvok called him over.
He turned around, not seeing where Tuvok had gone. Tuvok was kneeling on the floor next to the prone body of Vorik.
The scene was beginning to resemble his imagination.
He walked over to Tuvok dropping to his knees beside him.
"Is he alright?"
"He'll survive," Tuvok replied.
Tuvok held out a medkit, although Harry didn't see where he'd gotten it.
Tuvok pointed to two other inert bodies, lying a few feet away.
"Administer to them, Ensign Kim."
Harry took the medkit, and started to buckle his phaser back to his belt, a thought stopping him.
"Where did the Maquis go?"
Tuvok didn't look up, his own phaser lying within easy reach.
"I don't know."
Harry put his phaser back in his belt. He walked over to other injured.
One was Joe Carey, the other was a Maquis.
The Maquis, Harry didn't know his name, was dead.
Looking at the body, Harry felt nausea build in his stomach.
He turned away, forcing the feeling aside to focus on Carey.
Carey was alive. It looked like he'd been on the receiving end of a phaser.
Only set on stun, Carey was lucky.
Harry opened the medkit and took out a hypospray. After checking the contents, he held it to Carey's neck.
Carey stirred, waking with a groan.
He opened his eyes, staring with confusion and pain in his eyes.
"We know," Harry interrupted. "Where'd they go?"
"Dunno," Carey mumbled, trying to sit up.
Harry helped him pull himself up.
Suddenly, there was an explosion from the area enclosed in the force field. Both Harry and Tuvok turned to look.
The Engineering crew was backed as far away from something as the limits of the force field would allow.
Harry couldn't see what was burning from a console within, except that it was very bright and it was getting brighter.
Ken Dalby pried another panel off the brig wall. He tried to, at least. This one seemed to be hinged on more securely than the others were, because just when he thought he could wrench it free, he started to lose his grip. The panel swung back up, colliding with Ken's jaw on the way back to its slot. It slammed into his face, jarring his teeth together. The force knocked him backwards-well, down, really-on to the bunk he'd been standing on. He cringed at the pain now spreading across his face, tasting what had to be blood coat his tongue.
The only thing that stopped him from spewing the most obscene curses the Alpha Quadrant had to offer was the thought that moving his mouth at that moment would only make it hurt worse.
He settled for sneering, a motion no more painful that wincing was proving to be. He wasn't sure what he was sneering at, just that it was an acceptable diversion to cussing and hurting his mouth or punching the wall or force field and hurting his hand.
God dammit, he had plotted enough jail-breaks that he should know by heart the location of the wiring that, with a little careful manipulation, would drop the force field.
Granted, he'd never been on the inside of any of the cells that the Maquis wanted to get someone out of. He been on the inside of plenty of cells, but was never left alone long enough to explore where the handy control could be found when one was looking from within the cell.
He was alone now, he and Suder, in separate cells. Being unguarded in the Brig of a federation ship was unheard of, but then again so were mutinies.
He stopped grinning.
Chakotay's activities, he presumed, had called the guards away.
Well, it was Tuvok who called the guards away.
It was good and bad.
Good that the guards weren't there to see Ken dismantling his cell in search of the correct wiring.
Unspeakably bad that Alpha12Beta76 sounded suspiciously like a plan to stop the Maquis.
A plan that Janeway was definitely not supposed to have.
One of the guards had drawn his phaser and started towards the door. The other had also drawn his phaser, but hadn't started moving after the other.
He had walked toward the occupied cells, phaser held steady.
Ken had frozen, waiting for the man to remember all the Starfleet doctrines on not shooting unarmed prisoners.
And yes, he had seen the irony of that situation.
That didn't make it feel any better.
The other guard had looked decidedly uncomfortable with his companion's intentions.
"That's not part of the plan," the non-murderous one had said.
"Not directly," the other had justified, walking even closer.
"Not at all."
At least some people absorbed the morals Starfleet tried to instill.
And it was good thing that that particular person outranked the one that hadn't.
As soon as they were gone-well, as soon as his heart started beating again-Ken started trying to find the controls that dropped the force field so that he and Suder could take active part in what was happening outside.
And it was definitely happening, from the muffled sounds of phaser fire that could be heard through the walls.
And it sounded like it was a fight, and not a particularly easy one.
Which probably meant something had gone awry with Chakotay's plan.
Ken stood up again, reaching for the panel that wouldn't come loose.
His back to the door, he heard it swish open.
He nearly lost his balance, he whirled so fast to see who it was.
It was Henley, followed by Chakotay and maybe twenty-five of the Maquis.
And they looked like they'd been in a non-stop brawl.
Henley released he and Suder, and someone handed them weapons while Chakotay explained that all was not going as planned.
Plans A and B, anyhow. Plan C was in working order.
Ken took this with distaste.
Plan C was awful, was his private opinion. As were the following Plans D and E.
He listened to Chakotay talk about the disturbing number of heavily armed Fleeters in the corridors.
The Maquis paused a moment to treat those who'd received grazing injuries on the way there.
He took the opportunity to confirm Samantha and Naomi's departure from the ship.
"Yes," said Henley, her tone communicating something less than pleasure.
Chakotay started walking towards the exit, and Henley quickly took her place to his left.
Ken activated his weapon-power cells were half drained, he noticed-and followed Chakotay and the others out the door.
"Engineering?" He asked Chakotay, his memory questionable on most aspects of Plan C.
"Back to Engineering," Chakotay confirmed.
"Doc, that's not going to work!"
Tom was leaning as close as he could to the EMH, his face practically pressed against the force field. He drew back as it tickled his eyebrows and made his eyelids reflexively shut to avoid it.
"I realize that it's not a permanent solution-" the Doctor began.
"It's not even a temporary solution!"
Tom moved back into uncomfortable contact with the force field.
"Everyone's just going to start again once it wears off, Doc!"
Tom realized then that not only was he shouting, but that the Doc was looking ready to drop the force field and let Tom succumb to the sedative. After which, the EMH would probably try execute this plan of his. This very, very bad plan.
"Doc," he said, lowering his voice. He took a deep breath, considering a quieter way to communicate.
"Okay," Tom began. "This isn't one of those 'sleep on it and you'll change your mind' things. For what you're suggesting to *possibly* work, we'd have to...have to...modify it."
Tom let out that breath, and stared at the Doctor. "A lot," he finished.
It was deceptively simple question.
One that had the effect of really pissing Tom off.
He didn't want to have to answer that.
In the first place, he didn't want to be stuck behind a force field in the Sickbay of a doomed ship-and it *was* doomed-arguing with an EMH who someone had programmed to be too damned persistent in upholding the Hippocratic Oath, a useless phrase so far from the planet it came from and in a situation that no one ever meant for it to be applied in.
He didn't want to be involved in the resolution of something he wasn't involved in the creation of, in something that he was trying very hard to have no part whatsoever in.
He wanted desperately to go to the Shuttle Bay, rid it of the Maquis in the way he'd come up with right before Torres had tackled him, and leave this miserable ship where it hung in space.
He did not want to be about to tell the EMH the modifications to his plan that would, more or less, cease activity in both execution of and efforts against the mutiny.
The Doc was staring at him, waiting for a response.
The force field was irritating his skin, bothering his eyes so much that they began tear up.
Tom shoved back from the force field, bringing one arm up wipe at his stinging eyes.
He kept his arm up, scrubbing at the non-existent particles swimming under his lids.
He dropped his arm, his mind having finally concocted a somewhat devious way to partially avoid what the EMH was asking of him.
"First thing. You have declare the senior officers unfit for duty."
"Janeway's alive but out of it, right?"
The Doc nodded, clearly confused.
"Tuvok will probably have locked out Chakotay and the rest of the Maquis. As Chief Medical Officer, you can lock Tuvok and everyone else out of the computer. Just diagnose them all as unfit."
"They *aren't* unfit."
"I'd say their feelings toward the Maquis are definitely interfering with their ability to carry out wise decisions that don't involve killing any Maquis."
"Tuvok's a Vulcan."
"And I bet he's following Janeway's orders. Just how do you think she feels about the Maquis?"
"They *shot* her."
The EMH was still unconvinced.
"Doc, If you don't do this, Voyager won't make it home to face any review board to judge the merit of your decision. All it takes is Tuvok or someone else reprogramming you. If the computer won't acknowledge them, they can't."
The EMH nodded, clearly reluctant.
"Any other modifications?" A distinctly displeased tone and unnecessary emphasis on the last word made it clear that maybe the Doc was regretting asking Tom for his involvement.
"Yeah. We'll keep the first part the same, change it from there as we go along. We should start in the Shuttle Bay, that's where Chakotay and a lot of Maquis are."
And my way out....
The Doc moved off to a console, presumably performing the task of judging the entire crew unfit.
Tom sat on the bio-bed, pulling his knees up to his chest and clutching them.
He had to make this work.
In the Jefferies Tube almost directly above Tom, B'Elanna Torres crawled towards the Sickbay controls. The dark lighting of the tubes were doing nothing at all for the vertigo, but now at least she could stop and press against the floor whenever her vision and sense of balance went haywire. Her balance was awful to begin with. Her hand was throbbing anew, and she was slowed by that impediment.
She wondered how three legged creatures managed. Or one-handed humanoids, for that matter, as she had a hell of time wrenching the panel off the wall. She stared at the electronics within.
Now, which one controls the EMH?
Naomi hesitantly followed her mother into the dark cavern, situated near the top of the mountain range. Her legs hurt from the long hike up. Her shoulders ached from first having her arm nearly tugged out of its socket while her mother moved at a pace she should have known her daughter couldn't possibly keep up with, and from clinging to her mother after she was finally picked up.
Naomi looked around the dark shelter warily. It looked scary. She couldn't even see into the very back corners. Her mother had scanned it before entering, and said there was nothing alive inside. Naomi wasn't so sure. There might be some creepy aliens that couldn't be detected by the tricorder.
Her mother had dropped camp pack just inside the door. Now, she was rifling through it, intently hunting for something. She found it, whipping an object out so fast Naomi couldn't see what it was in the dim light.
"Mom, where are you going?" Naomi called after her mother, who had just darted out of the rocky entrance.
"Nowhere. Stay there."
Naomi stood in the dark cave for a moment, before deciding that she was not staying in there alone. She ran to the opening, one foot barely crossing the entrance before her mother's voice halted her.
"I *said* stay there, Naomi. I mean it."
There was a quality to her mother's voice that made Naomi stop and backtrack slowly. She kept her feet inside the cave, creeping to the side of the entrance to see what her mother was doing. Her mother had climbed a few more boulders, and was standing a few yards above the head of the cave, leaning over the rocks.
Careful to remain inside the cave, Naomi leaned against the wall, trying to see what her mother was watching. Her hand pressed against a slimy substance coating the surface.
"Naomi! I said stay inside!"
Her mother was clambering down, the strap to a pair of binoculars hanging from one of her hands.
"I am inside!" Naomi protested as her mother hustled her away from the entrance.
"I don't want you to fall, Naomi. It's a long way down."
At that moment, Neelix and Chell entered the cave. Both were soaked in sweat, looking exhausted from the hike.
Chell's eyes shot to the instrument clutched in her mom's hand.
"Did you look?" He asked.
"Yeah," she answered.
"I can't tell from their uniforms, Chell," her mother snapped.
She walked over the pack and put the binoculars back inside.
"They don't seem to be moving so I don't think we have to worry about them coming over here."
"Who?" Naomi demanded.
"Some creatures, sweetheart," said Chell.
"*Harmless* creatures," Neelix quickly interjected.
"Neelix, would you mind setting up the sleeping area? It's past Naomi's bedtime."
"I don't want to go to bed here. It's gooey."
"I'll cover the ground, Naomi."
Neelix was already escorting her further into the cave, away from what appeared to be a brewing argument between her mom and Chell.
Later, tucked into a sleeping bag in the darkness, Naomi heard her mother's voice begin to speak quietly. Naomi could barely hear the conversation, and only caught a few words of the whole.
"If they do come over here, we have to be ready to tell them something."
"What?" Neelix asked.
"If it's Starfleet, we had no idea what was going to happen. That includes you, Chell, and the other Maquis down here. And we wait for them to tell us what's up. If it's Maquis, there's no problem. Not for us, at least."
"What if it's both?"
"Then I don't think they're going to pay much attention to us," her mother said, coldly.
"It's not the Maquis," said Chell. "Launching escape pods isn't in the plan."
"Maybe it didn't go as planned."
There was silence for a while, and Naomi almost slipped off into sleep. She was reawakened by Neelix's voice.
"Who do want you to win, Sam?"
"Whichever side is going home."
Naomi lay in the dark, completely confused.
She hadn't heard the substance of the conversation, but enough to know that every adult in the cave was ill at ease.
She also knew that creatures did not wear uniforms.
Naomi stared at the roof of the cave and wished she were back on Voyager, that her mother would stop being so irritable and deceptive, and that they weren't in a gooey green cave.
She fell asleep, her dreams full of a green, gooey Voyager.
Tuvok sprang to his feet, leaving Vorik where he lay. Harry Kim looked up from Joe Carey and watched him quickly walk to a console, fingers moving fast over the keypad. Then, he turned to regard the area contained by the force field.
The force field flickered. The crew behind it got even louder, either out of hope of getting free or out of continuing terror from the rapidly growing fire in their midst. The force field continued flickering, not because of Tuvok's efforts to drop it, but because of the many bodies pressed against it.
With what could only be described as an expression of hardly concealed irritation, Tuvok lowered his head and resumed his efforts. Harry moved to stand and help him.
"Good luck," Carey muttered. "I couldn't get it down."
"Who put it up?" Harry asked, already walking towards Tuvok.
"Bendera." Carey waved an arm at the corpse nearby. "But Torres programmed it, I'd bet. It's not coming down," he called after Harry.
Harry arrived next to Tuvok, who didn't look up at him.
"The controls have been locked out and encrypted," he said.
Harry looked for himself, watching line after line of unreadable digits and symbols scroll down the screen.
"Someone went overboard," he said to Tuvok, who didn't reply.
Placing his hands on the keypad, he ran through some quick methods to decrypt the screen. The terrified voices emitting from the trapped crew echoed into his ears as he ran into immediate roadblocks. Carey was right; whoever had erected the force field did not want it coming down. While Tuvok continued his efforts, Harry decided to try overloading the system and shut down the entire program.
That didn't work either.
It was definitely Torres who had erected the force field and the defenses to keep all countermeasures from bringing it down.
The cries of the crew pounded into Harry's ears, distracting him from what appeared to an irresolvable problem.
Harry glanced at the distraught crew inside the force field. Leaving Tuvok to continue, he walked over to the force field. He could feel the uncomfortable heat outside of it, he couldn't imagine how unbearably hot it was on the inside.
"Get us out!" Someone screamed.
"We're trying," Harry said. "Is there any way you can extinguish it from inside?"
Several people screamed "NO!" at him.
Harry stared into the sweaty, fearful faces of the trapped crew. He could see the brightness of the fire, but not the actual flames, through the legs of the crew.
The thought occurred to him that he might have to watch these people burn to death, and he suddenly felt nauseous.
"The fire is going to use up all their oxygen," was muttered into his ear.
Startled, Harry turned to see Carey, looking rather pale and unsteady, but standing all the same right beside him.
"Air circulation in electro-static fields isn't that great in general, with that fire," Carey shook his head, obviously discouraged.
"If the fire doesn't kill them, the carbon dioxide will."
Kim ran then, over to Tuvok. Joe heard him repeat the information. Saw, actually. He couldn't hear a thing over the voices of his comrades. He didn't have the energy to follow Kim, and turned back to the field. He looked in to the tearful eyes of Ensign Brooks.
He couldn't tell if her flushed face was wet from her tears or from sweat.
"Ensign," he said loudly. "I don't remember them starting a fire."
"They didn't," she asserted. "Crewman Dell was trying to drop the force field. He broke into one of the panels and punctured something."
She wiped the liquid from her face with her sleeve.
He saw Kim rushing back over. He grabbed Joe's shoulder.
"Tuvok's trying to activate the emergency sprinkler system. It should have gone off already, but it hasn't. If that doesn't work, we're beaming them all to Sickbay."
With that, Kim was over to another console, punching up the transporter information.
"We're getting you out of there," Joe told Ensign Brooks. "One way or another."
Brooks nodded, looking none too reassured.
Joe watched Tuvok working diligently on his console. Then, he looked over at Kim and shook his head. Kim nodded confirmation and turned to his own console.
"You're getting beamed to Sickbay."
"Good," said Brooks. She opened her mouth to say something else, but was enveloped in a transporter beam, along with everyone else behind the force field, before she could speak. The trapped crew disappeared, revealing the fire they had been standing around
Joe turned to congratulate Kim, but was stopped by his stricken face.
"I didn't do that. I hadn't even locked on to their signals yet."
Tom switched positions for the fifth or sixth time. It was remarkably disconcerting to be the only one conscious in Sickbay. He couldn't sit still when the only other motion was the steady rise and fall of the chests of the otherwise prone patients, and the only sound their inordinately loud breathing, accompanied by the occasional beep of the computer as the Doctor went through the motions of declaring the entire crew unfit.
It was an incredibly long, as well as slow, process. Designed, of course, to prevent some trigger-happy doctor from abusing his or her power and taking over the ship. Which was exactly what the EMH was using it for, although in a situation certainly never imagined by the Federation.
The Doc had completed the very first step in their improvised plan, flooding the Shuttle Bay with the same innocuous sedative that was permeating Sickbay. He refused, however, to let Tom continue on while he himself finished with the competency declarations.
Perhaps he didn't trust Tom.
Which was an incredibly wise decision, considering what Tom was contemplating at the moment.
Sitting there, staring at the Doctor's back when his eyes weren't darting around the room, watching the unmoving patients and waiting for them to do something other than breathe, some mighty drastic thoughts were entering his head.
Tom had thought that after those in the Shuttle Bay were effectively incapacitated, he would be able to re-circulate normal air, beam out the unconscious occupants, and be on his way.
Except, he couldn't do that stuck behind a force field in Sickbay.
Where the Doc seemed intent on keeping him until his ship-wide mobility was needed.
Tom was getting very nervous. The more he thought about what the Doctor wanted him to do, the more uncomfortable he got.
The Doctor's plan, even with Tom's additions and modifications, was just barely passable, in Tom's opinion. It was a valiant effort, yes, but the Doctor wasn't the one putting himself in the line of fire. The Doctor was putting Tom in the line of fire.
Tom had had just about enough of being shot at, bitten, and attacked by vicious half-Klingons for one day, thank you very much.
He had enough bodily harm inflicted in the past few days to last a good while.
He really, *really* did not want to receive any more so that the Doc could keep the floundering ship from imploding for a few days.
And, he definitely didn't want to be here when that happened.
"You done yet, Doc?"
"Hardly," replied the Doctor, in a tone that suggested Tom should shut up and be patient.
Tom sat back, sighing.
His sigh was drowned out by a sudden hiss. The hissing of air being flushed through the ventilation system, filling Sickbay with normal air and suctioning out the impure air. Even through the protection of the electro-static field, Tom could feel a sudden chilliness flush the air surrounding him.
The Doc whirled, eyes going to the nearest ventilation duct. Immediately, he turned around, hands going back to the console, probably about to stop the procedure.
He never got the chance.
The power to Sickbay fluctuated, darkening and then re-lighting the consoles. Tom heard a buzz as the force field around him dissipated.
The hologram flickered-the Doc barely had time to look shocked-and then he was gone.
The dimmed lights grew brighter, leaving Tom staring at the spot the Doc had been standing.
He didn't have time to react-to try to reactivate him or anything-before the hatch in the ceiling was cracked open.
A woman dropped through. Tumbled, really, landing none too gently on the floor. She narrowly missed landing on one of the patients.
Tom wondered what the Doc had done with his phaser, as he locked eyes with B'Elanna Torres.
Ken Dalby had forgotten what a real fight was like. It'd been a good while since he'd been on Maquis raiding parties. He'd forgotten the adrenaline rush, the thrill of the chase, and the stirring of his blood in his veins. He had *not* forgotten the feeling of complete and total fear that went along with the energy rush.
None of the other Maquis seemed to be unaccustomed to battle, for they were quick on the defensive, brutal on the offensive, and precise and methodical in the execution of Plan C. He still harbored his doubts about the effectiveness of it, but it was damn good to see the fire burning in his comrades eyes once again.
Not that this was anything like the raiding parties. They weren't rescuing anyone, supplying weapons to anyone, or even sabotaging anything. As of yet, for that last one. There was still adrenaline pulsing. He could see it in the eyes of every Maquis, as they raced through the corridors. There wasn't much chasing occurring, however. They just weren't running into many Starfleet, and when they did, Starfleet would only fire a few shots in their direction and run off.
A reaction profoundly different from the greetings they'd received on their way to free he and Suder, according to Chakotay's disturbed expression. On being questioned about why it was a bad thing that Starfleet was fleeing, Chakotay's face only darkened, and he ordered them to continue to their destination.
Halting in the Cargo Bay, Ken watched the other Maquis celebrate. They had Starfleet on the run, they thought. It was only a matter of time, they knew. Ken noticed Chakotay was still looking worried, in deep discussion with Henley and some others. When the conversation ended, the optimism had faded from Henley's face and she was barking at the rowdy Maquis to quiet down.
"Shut up! You think this is over? It's not."
As the voices dwindled, Henley stepped aside to allow Chakotay to stand before his people. Ken stared up at him, waiting to hear what he suspected would be brief admittance that Plan C was not working as well as it seemed and that the lack of Maquis-Starfleet confrontations was not because they were winning.
It was a familiar view for Chakotay, looking out on his Maquis. He'd done it thousands of times. They looked pretty much the same this time around. Except they were all wearing Starfleet uniforms. Still, they managed to look exactly like they might in their own Maquis clothing. The tears, rips, and generally scruffy condition of those uniforms helped that image along.
He cleared his throat, silencing the few remaining conversations.
"Henley's right," he said. "We can't afford to act like we've won this yet. We haven't."
At the somewhat disbelieving faces, he continued.
"Starfleet individuals aren't fighting back because they know they're out numbered. If you hadn't noticed, we've only run across of few of them, but they're all going in the same direction. They're regrouping."
He was pleased to see that some of smug faces were becoming concerned.
"You have to remember. They outnumber us. Even with those we put on the planet and those that are contained in Engineering, there are still more of them than us."
There was comprehension among the Maquis now, concentration appearing on their faces.
"We stay focused and we continue Plan C."
There was sense of general chagrin as Chakotay finished. Turning half away from the group, he commed B'Elanna, wondering where she was. He hoped her absence was not because of any of the reasons running through his mind.
"Torres. Sshhh!" she responded, irritated.
"B'Elanna, where are you?"
"I was interrupted in the Jefferies Tubes by Tom Paris. I ended up in the Sickbay, which the EMH has flooded with a sedative. I just need to get something to suppress its effects. I'll be in Cargo Bay 3 in ten minutes," she explained softly, her words slurring occasionally.
She sounded like she definitely had been effected by a sedative.
"We'll be back in Engineering in ten minutes."
"Okay, I'll be there."
"Yeah. You too."
Chakotay turned back to his Maquis.
"We have to get going."
"I'll beam the Starfleet engineers in," said Henley, striding over to a console.
"Get back." Chakotay said to the rest. "We need space to contain them in."
The crowd moved back, leaving an open area.
With a nod from Chakotay, Henley hit a few buttons, then turned to regard the clearing.
The familiar buzz filled the Cargo Bay as the Starfleet engineers materialized. Several Maquis trained their weapons on the beam in site.
It took a moment for the Engineers to comprehend where they were, and another for them to realize just who was standing around them. This resulted in a delayed, but spontaneous drawing of phasers.
Ensign Brooks, standing in the front, raised her phaser and pressed the firing button, straight at Chakotay's chest.
She hit it again and again, gaping at it, trying to discern a visible malfunction.
"Your weapons were deactivated while you were transporting. Sorry, they won't help you," he said, addressing the whole group but looking at Brooks.
Brooks' face fell, rage filling her eyes. She whipped up her arm and hurled the phaser at his head with considerable power. It glanced off his forehead. He felt it pierce the skin, blood welling up and dripping down the bridge of his nose.
Instantly moving to his defense, Henley shoved the barrel of her phaser rifle into Brook's face.
Chakotay raised his hand to blot his head, eyeing Brooks with menace.
"Don't waste your power cells, Henley."
Henley nodded, keeping the rifle up and using it to shove Brooks closer to the rest.
He saw that the Engineers had heard his words, and translated them to mean he wasn't going to shoot them.
"I'd prefer you set for on one wide beam and take them all out, not one by one," he said, louder.
"If," he continued. "They don't hand over their weapons without using them as projectiles."
Slowly, with reluctance, their phasers were tossed, landing one by one on the floor in front of them.
He nodded to Ayala, who quickly erected a force field around the Engineering crew. Some of the other Maquis picked up the surrendered weapons.
"Reactivate them," he said. "We can use them."
He turned back to the crew behind the force field,
"You may have already figured out what's happening. We're taking this ship. When this is over, you will no longer be on this ship."
He'd had a hell of a lot better speech prepared, but he didn't have time to give it.
"You," he said to three of the Maquis, "Keep guard."
"Henley, Dalby, and Suder, you're with me to Engineering. The rest of you go with Ayala and try to find out where Starfleet's trying to set up a command center. Be careful."
He shouldered his weapon then, walking out of the Cargo Bay, followed by the three he'd instructed to accompany him.
Ayala passed out the newly acquired weapons. He wondered why some of the captive crew appeared to have burns and singed uniforms. He knew Torres had contained them behind a force field in Engineering and guessed she had modified it to make their stay unpleasant.
He headed out, phaser rifle ready.
B'Elanna couldn't help but grin when she heard the ventilation cycle begin. She tilted her head to listen to the sound and make sure it continued.
Tilting her head was a very bad idea.
Her vision blurred and darkened. She felt the strangest sensation-tingling, almost-travel from her face down to her hands.
The sedative was working faster. At this rate, it wouldn't matter if conditions in Sickbay were breathable, because she wouldn't be able to move to get there.
She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to clear the fuzziness, and then opened them. Working as quickly as she could, she leaned back into the open panel.
She got rid of the meddling Doctor, straining to hear the sound of the power shutting off over the deafening noise of the fresh air flushing into Sickbay.
Satisfied, she leaned forward and turned the power back on. She rolled over on to her back, sending her vision tunneling. She shut her eyes, waiting for the dark ceiling to come back into focus. She lay there, thinking that with the progressing narcotic, there was no way she was going to make it back through the Jefferies Tubes without passing out. She know there was a hatch to Sickbay nearby in the Tube and decided to use that route.
She twisted over on to her belly, shutting her eyes to the instant dizziness. She crawled forward, stopping and using her good hand to wrench the hatch from the floor. Her head was loudly protesting both the unsteady crawling and the jerking movements of her arm. It thought she should stop and take a nap.
She ignored it, flipping back over and dropping her knees through the open hatch. She let her legs drop through. She held the edge tightly with her hand, wrapping her injured arm around her waist to keep it safe should her landing be less than gentle. She started to ease herself down.
The thought that the one hand she had to support herself on the rim of the hatch might not be strong enough occurred too late. Her weight immediately pulled on her shoulder. Her hand slipped off the edge. She tried to grab on again, scrabbling to gain control over her speed of descent.
She tumbled through.
She knew it wasn't that far down, but with her shaky sight it looked like she was falling into a void. It took forever for her to land, or so it felt. She tried to curl up around her arm, desperate to avoid landing on it.
Land she did, her hip absorbing most of the impact. Her head struck the floor right after that and she saw stars. She raised her head, staring through the pain.
She couldn't see anything clearly. The calm colors of the bio-beds swam before her eyes, intermixed with the brighter colors of the uniforms of the patients. She sat up and the walls started spinning insanely fast. She put her arm down to steady herself.
The wrong arm.
She heard someone let out a slurred Klingon curse-her, she realized.
Squinting her eyes shut, she tried to stand. She was swaying, trying to grab on to something that wasn't moving. Suddenly, something grabbed her.
That was wrong. Everyone in Sickbay was supposed to be unconscious, and she had gotten rid of the EMH.
Whoever it was persisted, dragging her across the room. She couldn't see who it was, everything blurred, the colors running together. She was driven against a hard surface. B'Elanna let her head roll back against the one stationary object existing to her at the moment, closing her eyes.
When she opened them, she could see a bit more clearly.
She was pressed against the one unoccupied bio-bed and Tom Paris was sitting on her.
Tom watched as Torres stumbled to her feet, shrieking what sounded like a garbled Klingon curse. Despite having looked straight at him moment ago, she didn't seem to know he was there. She was standing unsteadily, clutching one arm around her midsection, groping at the air with the other one. She'd either hit her head when she landed, or had breathed in more of the sedative than it looked like she had.
Either way, she was in no condition to fight like she had earlier.
That had to be a good thing.
He climbed off the bio-bed, knowing she probably wasn't able to see him, but moving swiftly anyway. Who knew how fast Klingons-even half-Klingons-recovered from a knock to the head?
She didn't struggle when he grabbed her by the shoulders and started pulling her towards the bio-bed. Nor did she react when he pushed her down on it. Her head lolled back against it and he thought she'd lost consciousness.
He hadn't thought she'd fallen *that* hard.
He shook her. Her head rolled to the side, but otherwise she didn't move.
He climbed onto the bio-bed with her, unintentionally kneeling on her in the process. She shifted when he did that, trying to move out of the way.
Okay, maybe she was just asleep.
He tried to reach for the tricorder lying on the medical tray nearby, but it was just out of his reach. Not that he'd understand what its readings were, anyway.
He tucked his fingertips under her eyelids and lifted them to see the whites of her eyes.
That probably wasn't normal.
Nor was the fact that he was poking his fingers into her eyes and she wasn't responding by trying to kill him.
She wasn't responding at all.
He barely remembered the one or two medical courses he'd had to take at the Academy-the alien physiology course was especially distant-but he thought he recalled something about certain sedatives being dangerous to a person who had recently had a head injury.
He had no idea if the sedative used by the Doc was one of those.
Who better to ask than the Doc?
The Doc, who would treat Torres, erect the force field around Tom, refill Sickbay with the sedative, and then want to continue with his impossible plan.
Tom sighed, dropping his hands from Torres' face. He sat back, a knee on either side of her. He found himself smirking, realizing just what this position resembled, and what conclusions the Doc might draw upon activation. He couldn't wait to see the Doc's expression.
Hey, he was being sent off to the front lines by the Doc. He deserved to see the Doc's face.
"Computer, activate Emergency Medical Hologram."
"Invalid Command," the computer responded.
The humor dropped from Tom's face.
"No such program."
"No such program exists in the Medical Database," the computer's calm voice elaborated.
Tom looked down at Torres. Apparently she'd done a lot more than just circulate fresh air in and cycle the power.
"Nice job," he told her.
She, of course, didn't respond.
He looked away, searching his mind for what he was going to do now.
Something made him look back, where he barely had time to recognize the fact that Torres' eyes were half-open, before her fist slammed into his chin.
Pain blossomed across his face as he was knocked backwards.
But not off the bio-bed. And not unconscious.
Which probably meant that she was not fully recovered.
Even more indicative of that was the image of Torres struggling to sit up, barely noticing that he was still sitting on her, straddling her knees.
He lunged forward, catching the wrist of the hand that had just struck his face. He either caught her by surprise or her reflexes still weren't working, because he was able to shove her back down flat, reaching for her other wrist to make sure she didn't go at his face again.
She screamed when he took hold of it, writhing beneath him and doing her best to kick him in a very sensitive area. He avoided her feet-and her much more dangerously positioned knees-trying to pin her legs down.
Finally, she stopped moving.
She did not stop screaming.
It took him a moment to figure it out what she was screaming about. Her right wrist was definitely broken. He relaxed his grip on it slightly, enough that she went silent but not enough that she'd be able to get it loose and hit him again.
"*Let go*," she ground out, glaring at him with glazed eyes.
"Don't hit me," he retorted with the same urgency.
[Extra Warning: Violence between two people of different sexes. Some people aren't comfortable with Male on Female (or visa versa) violence, and some people may think I'm being too PC but whatever.]
B'Elanna pulled her arm back, shot it forward and struck Tom Paris square in the face. Somehow, though, his face wasn't quite where she thought it was. Her knuckles hit him inches below where she was aiming, sending him backwards all the same. She tried to sit up, still feeling less than steady, but not nearly as weak and dizzy as she had when she was standing up.
Suddenly, Paris was back in her line of sight. She didn't have time to do anything before she found his hand closed over one of her wrists. He slammed her back down against the bio-bed, reaching for her other wrist with his free hand. She squirmed beneath him, trying to stretch her arm out of his reach, imagining the kind of hurt that came with having a broken limb touched.
Grabbed and squeezed, for that matter.
When his fingers closed around her broken wrist, agony shot through her arm and her blurry vision flickered red. She was vaguely aware of a scream emitting from her throat, everything external secondary to the pain she was feeling.
And he wasn't letting go.
He was looking at her with a confused expression on his bruised face, but he wasn't letting go.
She thrashed around, trying to kick or knee her way free.
That only made him hold tighter.
She stopped moving. Aware she was still screaming and unable to stop, she tried to communicate her situation to him, tossing her head towards her right arm. That made her vision blur again, but at least it alerted him to what he was doing.
His eyes landed on her wrist and his grip loosened substantially. The agony subsided, but the pain remained.
"Let go," she ordered between clenched teeth.
"Don't hit me," he responded, actually managing to look wounded at her request.
"Okay," she lied.
Well, it wasn't really a lie. She wasn't going to hit him with her hand.
He let go and she drew her wrist away from him, wincing. She glared up at him.
"What did you do to the Doctor?" he asked, glaring back at her with just as much anger.
"What Doctor?" she retorted.
While he regarded her face with fury, he wasn't watching her legs.
So, she arched upward and caught him in the groin with her knee.
He let go of her other wrist instantly, a guttural sound escaping his throat.
She shoved him away from her and he rolled of the bio-bed. She couldn't resist the smugness that came over her when she heard the thud as he landed. That was twice he'd interfered with her. Damn straight he deserved it.
He deserved a number of other things, too.
But, she didn't have time.
B'Elanna sat up, unimpeded this time. She felt remarkably better, though nowhere near completely recovered. Sitting up was a battle against gravity.
But Sickbay was not spinning.
It was a little out of focus, but it wasn't spinning.
As long as it wasn't spinning, she could manage.
She needed to find something to suppress the remaining effects of the sedatives. The first thing that entered her mind was the so-called 'upper' she'd occasionally had to take to get through life back when she was still making an effort at the Academy. She climbed carefully off the bio-bed-on the side Paris was not lying on-and stood up slowly.
The world tilted a little, and she grabbed the edge of the bio-bed until it righted itself. She walked purposefully toward one of the consoles, stepping over the patients on the floor.
The thought occurred to her that without the sedative laden air, the patients would probably be awakening pretty soon.
Most of them were Starfleet.
She had to hurry.
She wouldn't have time to treat her wrist, but a painkiller certainly wouldn't hurt. First, though, she would clear her system of the sedative.
Hurriedly, if clumsily, she filled a hypospray with the narcotic. She raised it to her neck and was just about to inject it when a voice stopped her.
"Torres," said a very pissed Tom Paris.
She lowered the hypospray, turning half way around.
He was standing, if a little gingerly, and aiming a phaser straight at her.
Looking very much like he wanted to shoot her.
Where the hell had he gotten a phaser?
It didn't matter.
What mattered was he had a phaser, she didn't, and he was very mad at her.
He started walking towards her. She lowered the hypospray against her thigh, contemplating what she should do now.
Before her eyes, Paris tripped over one of the patients on the floor. He stumbled forward, landing on his hands.
He never lost his grip on the phaser, springing back up, wincing as he did.
She injected the narcotic into her thigh merely seconds before he grabbed her. She innocently dropped the hypospray to the ground.
He looked like he wanted to kill her. He settled for shaking her.
Which sent her world spinning again.
The bad thing about that particular narcotic was that it took a while to work.
He let go and she wavered, finally clumsily dropping to the floor.
She watched his feet for a bit, while he stood at the console doing something on the keypad. She finally looked away, down at the floor, which was moving in circles.
It was still rocking when he hauled her to her feet and shoved her toward the exit.
She almost fell, wishing the upper would do its job faster.
"Where are we going?" she asked, not really expecting him to tell her.
"Away," he growled, catching her shoulder when she stumbled again, as they walked out the door.
Behind in Sickbay, Captain Kathryn Janeway began to stir.
"Where the hell did they go?" demanded Joe Carey of Harry Kim, upon his admittance that he was not responsible for beaming out the Engineering crew.
Kim looked down at his console, then back at Joe.
"I don't know. They've disguised the receiving location."
"The Maquis," Joe spat, walking over to Kim.
Tuvok joined the two, looking over the console readings and confirming the beam out could not be traced.
"Presumably," he replied to Joe's accusation.
"Definitely," interjected Kim.
"Why would they beam them somewhere when they already had them contained here?" Joe asked.
Kim looked perplexed, shaking his head without a response.
"Perhaps they are planning on returning to Engineering and didn't want the crew here," speculated Tuvok.
Kim was already reaching to his belt for his phaser.
"They don't know we're here. We could take them by surprise."
"If they are in fact coming here," responded Tuvok.
"Better ready to stop them than not," said Kim. "They've already disabled the Bridge, this is the second most powerful place on the ship."
"Correct," said Tuvok.
"Wait. How did they disable the Bridge?" asked Joe, having heard nothing about it.
"Cut off life support and disabled environmental controls," Kim told him.
"Oh." Joe reached for his own phaser. "We should beam Vorik to Sickbay," he suggested. "Get him to safety."
"Yes," agreed Tuvok. "And you, as well."
"No!" Joe protested. "You're probably already outnumbered. Two people don't make much of an ambush."
"Neither do three."
"It's better than two."
"He's right, Tuvok," Kim finally interrupted.
"Very well," Tuvok conceded.
Moments later, a semi-conscious Ensign Vorik was beamed to Sickbay. He called weakly for the EMH, but received no response and fell back into unconsciousness.
In the corridor just outside Engineering, Chakotay and his team conferred.
"Everyone was beamed to the Cargo Bay?" he questioned.
"Everyone except Vorik and Carey, and they'll still be unconscious," said Henley.
With that, the doors to Engineering slid open and the four walked inside.
Paris had the nerve to practically toss B'Elanna into the turbo lift. She crashed against the rear wall and slid to the floor. The harsh movement sent the blood in her head crashing against her eardrums, drowning out Paris' voice as he instructed a location to the computer. The doors slid shut and the lift slid into motion.
B'Elanna stayed crumpled on the floor, partially out of the discomfort from unpleasantness the motion of the turbo lift was causing her still unsteady sense of balance and partially because from this position she had an excellent angle of attack.
Paris was leaning against the panel left of the door, phaser aimed steadily at her. He was watching her closely, obviously suspecting she was going to lunge at him any second.
Which, of course, was exactly what she was going to do once the narcotic took effect.
Didn't want him to know that, though. She kept the sneer of contempt she so desperately wanted to produce off her face, allowing the natural expression of genuine disorientation and discomfort to remain instead.
She could feel the drug beginning to work. A coldness was creeping up her spine, spreading to her limbs. She couldn't help but wince when the sensation passed through her injured wrist. The sedative might actually have been dampening that pain, as much as it had hurt when Paris had grabbed it.
Paris jerked when she flinched. She glared at him, and couldn't resist a taunt.
"Break your wrist, shall we?"
He didn't respond, eyeing her with distrust.
The feeling eased over her hands and feet, disappearing. Her body felt taut and ready to spring, but her head was still thick and drowsy. She remained still, waiting for her vision to clear. She knew the advancement rate of the narcotic, but she didn't know the length of this turbo lift ride.
The sensation slid over her shoulders and crawled up her neck. Her vision immediately blackened, the oddest feeling of complete rest falling over her. It dissipated, leaving her vision sharp and clear, feeling extremely alert.
As much as she had never liked the process of the drug, the results were always spectacular. The sedative's effects were gone. She was ready to put Paris out of commission and join Chakotay and the others in Engineering.
She hoped the satisfaction she was feeling was manifesting itself as an inconspicuous expression on her face. Paris wasn't staring at her strangely, so she presumed she wasn't looking as pleased with herself as she felt.
Still, there was the problem of her useless wrist, and the fact that he had a phaser, to deal with.
But, she wasn't drugged half out of her mind. That made the fight fair.
Fair in the sense that she was going to win.
She folded her legs out from beneath her, well aware of Paris watching her. She shifted so her back was again the wall, then bent her knees.
She sat still, long enough for Paris to decide she had just rearranged herself for comfort, not out of any dangerous intentions.
That was when she sprang to her feet and lunged at him.
Chakotay hit the floor instantly. He thought he heard the three people behind him drop to the ground, too. He couldn't be sure if it was to avoid the phaser beam flashing over his head, or because of it. He didn't look back, concentrating on dragging himself out of the range of fire. He heard the clatter of a phaser rifle against the floor as one or more of his companions tried to do the same thing.
He crouched behind a console, cursing the wide-open spaces of Engineering. That was exactly why they hadn't wanted, under any circumstances, to have to have a battle in there. There were very few places to hide, and running from phasers was just pointless. Which was why they'd beamed the entire Engineering crew, or so they'd thought, to the cargo bay. Apparently, Carey and Vorik had regained consciousness. Or someone else had decided to make a stand in engineering.
Staying pressed against the console, he cautiously peered out. He didn't see Suder anywhere. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing, because at least that meant Suder wasn't sprawled dead at the entrance. Chakotay could see Henley and Dalby crouched together behind another console. Henley had received a flesh wound to the elbow, but Dalby appeared to be uninjured. Henley locked eyes with Chakotay. Despite her injury, she started moving her arms in familiar Maquis signals. He watched her hands closely.
No, she meant Vulcan.
Tuvok, Henley spelled out with her fingers.
Dalby, peering out the other side of their hiding place, leaned back and murmured something into her ear. Her fingers started spelling again.
Carey, this time.
Chakotay nodded, thanking her for the information.
He leaned back against the console, constructing a mental image of the blueprints of Sickbay. His concentration was interrupted when the keypad above his head began to beep.
Chakotay waved a hand at Dalby and Henley, indicating that they should create a diversion. Dalby turned around, stuck his phaser rifle over the top, and began firing. Almost immediately, three phaser beams converged on the console behind which Dalby and Henley were hiding.
While they were under fire, Chakotay got on his knees, keeping his body just low enough that he could see what was happening on the surface of the console.
Initiate Emergency Engineering Atomizers flashed across the console. Chakotay started to turn it off, just to end the annoying beeping. He was stopped before he could, a phaser bolt whizzing so close to his scalp he could feel the heat. He dropped to the floor, his hand unintentionally hitting the console as he dove to safety.
The console chirped confirmation and then executed his accidental instruction.
The computer's voice echoed through Engineering, nearly drowned out by the sound of phaser fire.
Across Engineering, Harry Kim stopped compressing the firing mechanism as Chakotay disappeared from sight. Hearing the computer's voice, he looked around to see what Chakotay had activated when he'd touched the console.
He didn't have long to wait.
There was a very loud clicking sound. All over Engineering, small nozzles extended from the ceiling. Harry knew exactly what it was; the emergency system Tuvok had been unable to activate earlier when they'd been trying to put out the fire. Once the crew had been beamed out, protecting Engineering had taken precedence over extinguishing a fire that was no longer a threat.
The system hadn't worked at all earlier. It worked fine now.
Water cascaded from the ducts. In a matter of minutes, Harry was soaked. The stream of water was so intense he couldn't see anything in any direction. He slipped as the floor was coated in water. He fell to the floor. He was struggling to get back up when a pair of black boots appeared by his side.
He was ready to shoot the owner, when a dark hand was extended and Tuvok pulled him up.
"Tuvok," Harry had to yell over the sound of the water. "What happened?"
"The system I was trying to activate earlier has activated," Tuvok responded, just as loudly as Harry had spoken. "I set it at maximum velocity but only in the area that it was necessary in."
"Chakotay must have altered it," Harry shouted, trying to hold on to his phaser while wiping water off his face and out of his eyes.
"Can you shut it off?"
"Unknown," said Tuvok, wiping liquid of the console so that he could see the readings. Harry kept tight hold on his phaser, trying to look through the white sheets of water and locate the Maquis.
Chakotay tried to wipe the water out of his eyes so he had a chance of seeing his enemies before they got too close. He couldn't see five feet in either direction, the water pouring down in solid walls. The smoke emitting from the consoles that had been fired upon and now were being doused with water didn't help matters any.
Dalby was standing as look out, not that he could see any better than Chakotay could, while Henley stood by him wanting to know what the hell they should do now.
In the midst of this, his comm badge chirped.
"Ayala to Chakotay."
Chakotay hit his comm badge.
"Starfleet's regrouping in Astrometrics. They have way more people than we do, they're heavily armed and we're taking heavy causalities. What do we do?"
"Retreat. Lure them out. If you continue taking heavy losses, abort. We can't run this ship with ten people."
"Yes, sir," closed Ayala in a tone that suggested he thought they were going to have to do the latter.
"Okay, sir. What do *we* do?" demanded Henley.
Chakotay raised his hands to face, pretending he was wiping off more water and not avoiding her question.
Joe Carey could hear the Maquis' voices. Clutching his phaser, he moved closer, squinting through the water. Squinting didn't help him, as he was looking in the wrong direction. Lon Suder proved this by grabbing him by the neck and slamming his head into the nearest console. Then, Suder silently walked towards where he had last seen Kim and Tuvok, leaving Carey lying in a growing pool of blood, which turned the inch or so of water on the floor pink.
Neither Kim nor Tuvok saw Suder approach. Kim had his back to Tuvok, apparently trying to guard him from Maquis, while the Vulcan worked on the console. Kim was facing the wrong way. Well aware of Vulcan's superior strength, Suder didn't even try a physical confrontation. Standing feet away, he raised his weapon and shot Tuvok in the back.
He meant to, anyway.
The drops of water striking the phaser bolt let off a sizzle, alerting Kim and Tuvok. Tuvok turned halfway, the phaser beam striking him in the side. He fell, but it was Kim who shrieked. Kim raised his phaser and fired. Suder didn't have time to have a last thought.
Harry raced to Tuvok's side, staring at the wound.
"We have to get you to Sickbay."
"That would be advisable," agreed Tuvok, raggedly.
Keeping his phaser out, eyes darting around, Harry beamed Tuvok to Sickbay. As the other man disappeared, Harry realized he was alone in Engineering with two violent Maquis.
In Sickbay, Captain Kathryn Janeway was sitting up, arms wrapping around her aching midsection. Before her eyes, a man materialized on the floor in front of her.
Harry finally had to holster his phaser in order to use both hands to shut down the emergency system Chakotay had activated. He did it as fast as he could, eyes darting from side to side, on the look out for anyone to emerge from behind the falling sheets of water. At last, nearly ten minutes later, the water stopped flowing. The solid walls of white dropped to the floor, leaving Harry standing in water up to his ankles, with an unobstructed view across Engineering.
He drew his phaser, but he didn't see the Maquis anywhere. He did see, however, the doors to Engineering slide shut, as someone exited. He also saw Joe Carey lying on the floor nearby, blood streaming from his head, turning the water he was lying in pink. Harry rushed over to Carey, eyes falling on the head wound that was producing the blood.
A lot of blood.
Swallowing the surge of nausea, Harry turned around, stopped at the nearest console, and beamed himself and Carey to Sickbay.
Sickbay came into focus, a sharp contrast to the deathly quiet of Engineering. People, most with various injuries, were standing around. They all looked pale and slow, as if they'd just woken. Others, more severely injured, were on bio-beds and on the floor. He saw Tuvok, half sitting up, as someone injected a hypospray into his neck.
Two people picked up Carey and hoisted him on to a bio-bed, then began scanning him with a medical tricorder.
A hand closed around Harry's shoulder and turned him around.
Captain Janeway stood there, a hole burned in the front of her uniform, revealing a mixture of unnatural looking strips of false skin covering her own reddish skin. Her face was pale, but her eyes were burning as she began to speak.
Ayala dove behind the turn as phaser fire chased him down the corridor. He clutched his weapon, noting the draining power cells. Keeping his back pressed against the wall, he tapped his comm badge.
"Ayala to Chakotay."
He almost didn't hear the responding chirp as a phaser beam hit the wall in front of him. He scrambled to his feet, sending a blast back at the person firing at him.
As he was running, he heard Chakotay's voice emitting from his comm badge.
"We have to abort. We're being killed out here," he panted as he ran.
There was silence for a moment.
Then, grudgingly, "Right. Get to the shuttle bays. Chakotay out."
Ayala tapped his comm badge again, still on the move.
"Jarvin, it's over. Tell everyone to get to the shuttle bays."
Chakotay felt Henley's eyes on him as he ended the conversation with Ayala. Turning, he could see Dalby nodding in agreement. Henley quietly redirected the turbo lift. Chakotay felt something between furor and intense disappointment well up in his chest. He sighed, noting the tight look on Henley's face, expressive of the same emotion. He was reaching for his comm badge when the silence of the lift was broken as the ship wide comm system was activated.
"This Captain Kathryn Janeway."
There was an audible shudder from someone in the turbo lift. Chakotay knew he was mirroring the dark look that had come over Henley's and Dalby's faces.
"I'm still in command of this ship," she continued, her voice like an audio phaser beam to their ears.
"The Maquis uprising has been put down. They've failed. They-"
That was when Henley raised her phaser rifle and shot out the speaker. She looked absolutely enraged, and perhaps a little guilty, when Chakotay looked at her.
"Thank you," he said.
She relaxed somewhat, nodding.
He tapped his comm badge.
"Chakotay to Torres."
Silence was the only response.
He tried again, with the same result.
And he knew from the sympathetic glance that Henley gave him that anger wasn't the only emotion on his face anymore.
Tom didn't hear Chakotay comm Torres, having left her propped up against the back wall of the turbo lift, unconscious. He was so thankful the EMH had left his phaser on the floor of Sickbay, without it, he had no doubt he would have had to have another wrestling match with Torres. Instead, he'd simply shot her in the chest with the phaser, as she flown at him. She'd already proven to be a hell of a fighter, both while injured and half-sedated. It was one more complication he didn't have to deal with.
He'd gotten rid of the last two obstructions in his path, on his way off the ship. Before he'd left Sickbay, he'd re-circulated fresh air into Shuttle Bay 1, the shuttle bay he'd had the Doc fill with the sedative. Torres was no longer a problem, and it sounded like the Maquis were being stopped. The Captain was awake, and very angry, from the announcement he heard as he walked into the shuttle bay.
He only half listened to it, carrying the two Maquis who had been inside and knocked out by the sedative, out into the corridor. Then, he turned around and went back inside. He'd only just climbed inside a shuttle and closed the hatch, when he heard the door to the bay open. Turning to look, he saw Chakotay and two other Maquis walk inside. With them, they brought the two Maquis he'd just carried out.
Chakotay, Dalby, and Henley.
This had to be the worst timing ever.
Trying to keep from being terrified, Tom locked the shuttle doors. He watched the three, who thankfully weren't looking at his shuttle, not that they could see him through the dark pane, anyway.
In a matter of minutes, the shuttle bay was filled with Maquis, more than twenty, who began boarding the shuttles. Someone tried to open the hatch to his shuttle, but didn't persist when it didn't open, walking over to another one.
They waited ten minutes, probably waiting for more Maquis, who didn't come. Then the shuttle bay launch doors began to open. They stopped half way, clanking and starting to close.
Tom suspected the Captain or someone was trying to prevent their departure. It didn't work. The doors opened fully, and the shuttles began launching.
They didn't notice there was extra shuttle launching, or if they did, they didn't care to do anything about it. Tom didn't give them time to think about changing their minds, going to warp immediately.
It felt wonderful to be piloting a shuttle again, but that feeling was nearly destroyed as he sadly watched Voyager and Alpha 634 turn into streaks. It wasn't so much the ship, which he'd grown to hate, or the planet, about which he had no feelings in particular, but the fact that he was whispering an unheard goodbye Harry, Neelix, and Naomi.
Daylight was beginning to bloom on Alpha 634, or Samantha Wildman might have seen the tiny bright dots, looking a lot like stars, shoot away from the planet. As it was, she stood on the top of the mountain where she and Naomi, along with Neelix and Chell had taken refuge.
She'd woken from a particularly horrible nightmare, one in which everyone on both sides died, while her daughter was watching. She'd climbed out of the cave, heart pounding, to stare up at the sky until the fear subsided.
Only to have it reappear with a vengeance when a voice broke the silence.
"Voyager to Ensign Wildman."
She didn't recognize the voice as any one of the Maquis or Starfleet crew.
Gulping back the emotion, hoping to keep it out of her voice, she responded.
"Wildman here. I'm supposed to have three more days of uninterrupted shore leave," she said, trying to sound peeved and not terrified.
"It's an emergency. Everyone's being called back to Voyager. You're needed in Sickbay. There are lots of injuries and you have more medical training than most."
He didn't even warn her, before she felt the transporter tingle filling her body. Then she was standing on the transporter pad, looking out on Harry Kim and another man standing behind the transporter console. Presumably, he was the unknown voice.
"Harry, what happened?" she asked, trying not to sound like she knew. "What emergency? Injuries?"
He stepped on to the pad with her.
"There was Maquis mutiny," he said. "A *failed* Maquis mutiny."
She gasped, hoping it didn't sound nearly as rehearsed to his ears as it did to hers.
"The EMH's been deleted or hidden or something. You were his assistant briefly."
"There are a lot of injuries."
"Are you going to beam up Naomi and the rest?" she asked.
"He'll do it right after he beams us to Sickbay," said Harry, signaling the transporter officer.
"Okay," she said, feeling the tingling begin again before it had completely faded.
Samantha couldn't believe her eyes when they rematerialized in Sickbay. Ken had warned her it was going to be bloody, but she'd been to busy imagining the actual fight to think about the consequences.
"No EMH?" She asked Harry, unable to think that she was going to have to treat all these injuries.
"I'm going to see if I can find him," Harry said, moving toward the Chief Medical's Officers Office.
"Please do," she told him, picking up an instrument from the medical tray and moving towards the nearest patient.
"Treat Tuvok first," came a voice from behind her. She turned to see Captain Janeway.
"He's critical," Janeway finished, looking none too healthy herself, a half-healed, ugly wound visible in the tattered front of her uniform.
Samantha found him, scanning a nasty looking phaser wound.
"It doesn't require surgery," she told Janeway, who had moved to Tuvok's side.
As she began running an instrument over it, she felt Janeway watching her every move.
"I can't believe the Maquis thought they could take the ship," she said, feeling like a despicable liar as she reached for another instrument. "Did you catch them all?"
Did you catch Ken, her mind wanted to know.
"No, some shuttles were launched and some Maquis escaped after they realized they weren't going to win. The rest are in the Brig."
"Good. Um, on the planet I saw what I thought were escape pods landing. Were those Maquis escaping?"
"No. Those were some *cowardly* members of my crew escaping."
"Oh," Samantha said neutrally.
She could just imagine the words Captain Janeway would use if she knew that Samantha had been aware of the mutiny almost since it was thought up.
"Rollins to Janeway."
Samantha glanced up as Janeway responded to the comm.
"Bridge life support is back up."
With that, Janeway turned on her heel, stepping over the patients on the floor on her way to the exit.
"Let me know his condition when you're done," she called back, pausing at the door.
Standing there, concentrating on Tuvok's injury, Samantha felt awful. She guessed it had been a Maquis who'd inflicted the injury. Possibly even Ken.
Maybe she'd picked the wrong side to win, but she'd managed not to be on the ship when it went down. More importantly, Naomi had been safe, if miserable on the planet.
Not much had changed, really. Voyager was functioning, if damaged. The crew was alive, if reduced. And it was still going home.
***END PART 55***
I've had snow, sleet, and freezing rain (freezes on contact) today. But my power is on, and I'm nice and warm. I think all your thoughts helped. Thank you for that, and for all of your feedback. This story started out an idea, a totally different concept, actually, that wouldn't get out of my head, and if there hadn't been a response to the first part it probably would have remained 1/?. Thank you all for the encouragement to finish to the deadline. And yes, there will be a sequel, and I'll probably start it soon. At the moment, it's tentatively titled Aftermath of a Failed Revolution. Er, not that great. I'd love to hear any suggestions you have. You'd get title credit. :). I'd love Feedback on the entire thing, for those people who don't read/give FB on on-going work, and on this last part for my loyal FB givers. Who I love. Please let this part get through. I always see it, but am constantly being told that you all are having to retrieve it from Stela's (which has up to 54, incidentally.) http://www.fortunecity.de/Spielberg/montyp/100/mjb/mjb.html or from Deja. Deja is telling me that my most recent post if 49/? so it's nuts. This is in time for the deadline, right?-MJB