Part 19

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.

Times change.

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.

Part 20 | Index page