EMPATHOGEN
by E. L. Zimmerman

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

"There," the Doctor concluded, administering the final hypospray to the base of B'Elanna's exposed neck. "By my calculations, the serotonergic stimulators would take effect almost immediately."

Calculating a strategy now that she was able to think clearly, Captain Janeway knew that the Doctor's efforts had ensured that the treated crewmates, once revived, would be ready for active duty ...

... and they would be needed to take back Voyager.

Turning to his senior officer, the Doctor began, "Those neural treatments should take care of -"

He never completed his sentence.

Unexpectedly, the Sickbay doors whisked open.

Lieutenant Tom Paris, alongside with Ensigns Narek and Kaltos, charged into the room, phasers drawn.

"That should just about take care of everyone!" Paris shouted, completing the Doctor's phrase.

Slightly perturbed with the appearance of weaponry within Sickbay, the Doctor fearlessly whirled on the aggressors. "Now, wait one minute, Mr. Paris!"

"Computer!" Paris yelled. "Deactivate the Emergency Medical Hologram. Authorization Paris Beta-One-Alpha."

Shimmering visually, the Doctor, neural stimulator, hypospray, and all destabilized, the room's holomatrix neutralized. Almost immediately, he dematerialized from his position beside the chief engineer, and his instruments dropped to the floor.

Watchfully rising from her position against the medical port, Janeway approached the trio. "That's far enough, Tom," she ordered.

Twin phasers aimed at his senior officer, Tom threw back his head and laughed hysterically for several seconds before the sound coming from his throat dwindled to a whimpering sigh. Janeway noticed that he was drenched in sweat. "I would suppose, by appearances only, that I don't think you're giving the orders around here any more ... Kathryn."

They were all sweating profusely.

Paris.

Narek.

Kaltos.

"Tom, you're sick," she tried, stepping forward slowly. The helmsman responded by bringing his two arms abruptly together, closing the gap between the phase emitters, and he centered his sights on Janeway.

"I wouldn't take another step, if I were you," he snarled.

His cohorts followed suit, pointing their weapons at Janeway as well.

"Tom!" B'Elanna shouted. "Tom, you've got to listen to Captain Janeway! You're sick! You all are!"

"You?" he growled, glowering at the half-Klingon. "B'Elanna, you had your chance in Engineering," he remarked. Blinking to clear the dripping sweat from his eyes, he added, "What is it they say? Life is nothing more than an endless series of missed opportunities? Well, I think you missed yours ... but only time will tell."

"Tom," the Captain tried, no longer certain that her deftly chosen words had even a minimal effect on any of the three attackers. "I want you to stop this right now. I want you to lay down your weapons at once. That's all you have to do, and this whole affair will be forgotten."

Laughing, he replied, "What I have to do is oversee the efforts to colonize this local M class planet." His phasers trembling, he stepped nearer the medical port where she stood. "See, we've all grown more than a little tired of racing from one side of the universe to the next ... and for what? To get home just in time to die?"

"Tom," she repeated, but it was pointless.

"Lock them in the brig," Tom ordered his partners, taking a final glance over at the chief engineer. "I might make a special visit once preparations are well under way, if you catch my drift, B'Elanna." Finished, he lowered his phasers and hooked them on his beltline. "Lock 'em in the brig until we decide whether or not to jettison them like garbage ... into space."

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