Part 54

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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.

Three shooters.

Spread out.

Normal phasers.

Pointy ears.

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.

"Activating."

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.

"What?"

"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.

Part 55 | Index page