Part 11

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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 didn't.

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.

Eye contact.

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.

Part 12 | Index page