Part 6

Tom peeled himself out of the helm seat, grimacing as his stiff muscles strained and his joints popped. One bad thing about being the only pilot-hell the only person-was that he didn't have any down shifts. And with his paranoia-justifiable, yet paranoia all the same-he didn't want to leave the sensors for the bunk in the back for a while or even the sonic shower for a few minutes.

He was, however, hungry enough to head to the replicator and bring back some dinner to the helm. Or he was until the sensors started beeping like crazy. He dropped back into the chair instantly, having only half risen in the first place.

There was something off to port. Something made of titanium and not moving, with either no life signs or shields. As his shuttle got closer, the object became visible, looking like some kind of primitive satellite or probe.

It was inactive, Tom's sensors reported, and it looked to be dead.

Satisfied that it wasn't going to come to life and do something nasty- like shoot at him-Tom stayed on course. He resumed his plan of getting dinner, rising from his seat. He stretched as he walked over to the replicator, trying to kick the kinks out of his legs. He approached the replicator.

"Paris984," he told it. "Tomato Soup. Hot."

The dish shimmered into existence, smelling delicious before it even finished appearing. Tom reached for it, mindful of the computer's warning of its heat. He picked the bowl up, careful to keep his fingers away from the heat radiating from the bottom of the bowl and seeping through the saucer it was set on. Really not in the mood to burn his hands, Tom held the edges of the saucer.

All his precautions really were very wise and safe; they just couldn't help that it was the instant that he was holding boiling soup that his shuttle started to shake. It lurched backwards, sending everything not attached to the shuttle falling in that direction.

Tom honestly barely felt the scalding liquid as it sloshed over his hands and then his uniform, past the very first moment of fiery pain. So intent was he to find out what the hell had just happened and to get back to where he might be able to retaliate. He let the tray drop and shatter on the floor. He put the pain out of his mind, fully expecting that worse things were on the way if he didn't get back to the helm.

He stumbled back to the helm, hands stinging and the alarms of the computer going nuts ringing in his ears.

The dead satellite had come to life.

A tractor beam extended visibly-and his sensors confirmed that's what it was-holding his shuttle immobile.

Tom pressed his hands against the helm controls-the burned pads on his fingers exploded in pain at this-and proceeded to try every trick he knew to shake a tractor beam's fix.

The only thing he succeeded in shaking was the shuttle, so violently he nearly fell out of his seat.

He gave up on the idea of breaking the hold through piloting methods.

He'd just blast it into little pieces.

He sent a mental thanks to whichever Maquis had improved his shuttle's weapons, not that whoever it was had had any idea that he or she'd be helping him in the long run.

He targeted the center of the probe; the area that his sensors said was emitting the beam.

Tom fired.

He didn't have time to observe the damage.

The shuttle exploded in blinding light.

The blinding light faded to solid red.

The red lifted like a curtain as he opened his eyes.

Oh, shit.

Somehow he'd ended up sprawled on the floor near the helm. Except for the residual flashes of light every time he blinked, the shuttle cabin was eerily dark. The computer was off, realized the part of his mind that wasn't completely stunned and in significant pain. Tom glanced down at his hands, which were sending jolts of pain up his arms again. His palms were blistered and bloody. The soup definitely hadn't done that.

But the helm had, apparently, when it exploded beneath his fingers.

Clumsily, Tom stumbled to his feet, without using his hands to push himself up off the floor.

Orally, he confirmed the computer's deactivation.



Tom felt a cold shiver run up his spine, a welcome yet frightening guest to the heat radiating from his arms.

The satellite-probe-whatever the hell that thing was had gone dead again. The tractor beam was gone but Tom still couldn't move with a dead shuttle.

Something wet dribbled off his chin, and without thinking he raised a hand to touch it.


He'd bashed his face in to the floor as well. For the first time he noticed the taste of blood coating his lips.

Feeling helpless, Tom moved to the back of the shuttle where the medkits were. If nothing else, he could treat his burned hands and torn face and wait for whoever had activated the satellite to come and get him. He wouldn't be completely helpless when they came.

Unless, of course, the Maquis came across him first.

Part 7 | Index page