by E. L. Zimmerman


It was as if Voyager's main viewer caught fire.

Dazzling, dancing energy bolts of pure, incandescent blue, green, and red plasma launched from the Rintellan surface on course for impact with the starship, ripping brilliantly the blackness of space, transforming its void into a virtual soup of breath-taking yet destructive color. Hundreds - no, thousands - of glowing spheres broke the planet's boundary and rocketed toward high orbit. On the main viewer, the plasma globes grew larger and larger as they bore down on Voyager, shimmering tails of crackling orange fire in their collective wake, threatening to ignite the ship with their lethal, searing flames. As the red orbs neared the starship, Tom Paris watched, as they morphed - no, 'pin wheeled' was more appropriate - from scarlet to blue, and then into emerald, and then back into the glistening, deadly crimson once more, only to begin the rolling pattern with increasing regularity.

Without question, Voyager - Tom Paris's ship - was under attack by a force the firepower at his command couldn't match.

Awed, Tom Paris gaped at the oncoming assault, and he screamed, "DIVERT ALL AVAILABLE ENERGY TO SHIELDS! BRACE FOR IMPACT!"

Communally, the flaming orbs slammed into Voyager's defensive shields, overloading the ship's inertial dampeners. They couldn't compensate fast enough to absorb the hundreds, if not thousands, of simultaneous impacts. Tom, Gallick, and Carey violently spun about on the Bridge, bouncing off command chairs, consoles, and protective railings, losing all sense of the where and the when of their present situation.

"WE'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE!" Carey screamed for dear life, panicking, grabbing at his Engineering crewmate, Gallick, and heading for the turbolift. "THEY'RE GOING TO DESTROY THE SHIP!"

Catching himself, the ship still trembling like a frightened child beneath him, Tom Paris pulled himself up on the back of the helms' chair and stared in speechless wonder at the main viewer, watching a thousand plasma explosions trail radiant debris into endless directions, all outlining the bubble of Voyager's shields. The shields crackled from impact intensity, appearing as if struggling to maintain cohesion ... but they held.

'Or did they?' Tom could only wonder.

Was it his imagination, or did those debris trails have a calculated uniformity to their explosion, one that reminded him of his boyhood on a far away planet called Earth, one that reminded him fairgrounds and circuses and centennial celebrations complete with ...


"LET'S GO, MAN!" Carey demanded, pulling Gallick behind. "GET TO THE ESCAPE PODS BEFORE IT'S TOO -"

The turbolift doors opened.

Captain Janeway stood, phaser poised, anticipating their withdrawal, and fired two consecutive bursts.

Struck, Carey lurched backward into the Bridge railing, collided hard, and thumped to the deck, hard.

Struck, Gallick fell sideways, his body slamming into the Tactical station, and he dropped to the floor, stunned into unconsciousness.

Surprised, Tom whirled around.

Seeing his senior officer marching from the turbolift, he rose slowly, and he ...

... panicked.

Fumbling with his beltline, he quickly found his phaser and, before his actions could bring a defensive response from the Captain, he threw it uselessly at the floor.

"No!" he bellowed. "No!" Dropping to his knees, he muttered, "No more! Please! No more!"

Lowering her phaser, Janeway couldn't help but notice that her helmsman was drenched, uniform included, in sweat.

Suddenly, the main viewer blipped.

The image of the trailing debris changed to that of Lieutenant Tuvok, still seated calmly behind his shuttlecraft console.

"Captain," Tuvok said, simply.

With a smirk, Janeway replied, "I believe Voyager is secured, Mr. Tuvok ... but, as I understand it, the ship has a new acting captain." She considered Tom Paris briefly. In a firm voice, she added, "I think, captain-to-captain, that it only appropriate for you to take Mr. Paris's word for it."

Raising an eyebrow, the Vulcan nodded slowly.

"Mr. Paris," he said. "Do I have your unconditional surrender, or shall I have Ambassador Brall'tor launch a second assault on your ship?"

Suppressing a chuckle, Janeway knew full well that the StarStorm happened only once a night. As far as she knew, Brall'tor had nothing else up his sleeve. She mused, 'Vulcans never bluff ... my foot!'

Weakly lifting his head, Tom muttered, "I surrender."

With tremendous effort, sniffling, wiping sweat from his forehead, he turned on his knees and faced the main viewer. "Tuvok, I surrender," he repeated.

His back to her, Janeway quickly pulled another neural stimulator from her beltline, stepped forward, and touched it to the base of Tom's neck. His head bobbed, immediately, as if it had been struck hard. Gradually, he leaned his head down and placed his face in his hands ... and cried, obviously exhausted.

Compassionately, Kathryn Janeway laid a hand on the back of his head.

"That should do it, Tuvok," she said. "Have Brall'tor stand down. Give me a minute, and I'll lower shields. Consider shore leave over, as I'll need your help getting what's left of the crew to Sickbay."

"Aye, Captain."

Softly, cradling the head of her whimpering helmsman, she added, "Voyager out."

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