Part 46

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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.

"What?"

"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.

"What?"

"I didn't do that. I hadn't even locked on to their signals yet."

Part 47 | Index page