FEDERATION'S END II: THE WITCHING HOUR
by E. L. Zimmerman
Pushing with every ounce left of his physical strength, Chakotay felt surprise and elation as the metal power unit pinning him to the floor, where he had been thrown as a shock effect from the blast that ripped through the Generatrix, started to budge. Ignoring the searing heat and the sweat stinging his weary eyes, he couldn't help but laugh. His temperament bolstered by the sudden progress to free himself from the debris, he clamped his teeth together hard enough to hear them grind. He pushed. Groaning out loud, hoping that even his sound could play into his success, he pushed again. Slowly, the unit edged further and further away. He needed to get his legs free; thankfully, he trusted, they weren't broken, but they were undoubtedly bruised and would require medical attention. Finally, gravity assisted him, and the unit slid off easily off his legs and crunched down on the solid floor.
Climbing to his feet, he grimaced as the burning pain finally wracked his body from the waist down. Before he tried to walk, he stood perfectly still, making sure his legs would support his weight. Calmly, he leaned forward, gasping in air, breathing deeply, hoping to recovery the stamina to move.
Instinctively, he thought of the others.
In one fateful second, Chakotay remembered that he had dispatched the last repair crew to the Pulse Cannon --
Testing his footing, he started forward slowly, and, simultaneously, he reached up and slapped his comm badge. "B'Elanna!" he screamed. "B'Elanna, report!"
There came no reply. He listened to the crackling circuitry nearby, but he heard nothing from his crew.
"B'Elanna Torres!" he repeated, this time more slowly, in the event that the last power failure had somehow effected communications. "Report!"
This time, the commander heard a violent, percolating hiss drown out the voice of his chief engineer.
"Repeat," he ordered, again feeling a fleeting, momentary satisfaction, "your message is breaking up."
"...here, Chakotay!" she shouted back over the ruckus on the other end.
"What's your position?"
"... and the others ..." BRRRZZZ "... stabilizing the power grid ..." BRRRZZZ "... Pulse Cannon ..." BRRZZZ "... entire passageway went up in flames!"
"B'Elanna," Chakotay tried, yanking his tricorder from his belt. He had to take some readings, to examine the severity of the damage from the blast. "Abandon that section. My guess is that your comm signal is being affected by whatever surge caused the explosion. Do you copy?"
BRRRZZZ "... on my way," he heard.
Fingering the tricorder's activation cue, he glanced intently at the readouts. The scan registered massive amounts of radiation coming from several decks above him, near the center of the explosion. He had ducked for cover when the ceiling over him came crashing down, and, he trusted, he was lucky to have escaped with his life and limbs intact.
"I'm here, Chakotay," B'Elanna's voice broke his chain of thought.
He stopped walking, surrendering to the fatigue. "Where's here exactly?"
"The main turbolift," she said. "I'm taking the repair crew to ground level, and we're getting the hell out of here before -"
"Belay that, lieutenant," he abruptly ordered.
"I need that level you were on stabilized," he explained. "The captain and Voyager may very well be on their way back to Besaria City. The Pulse Cannon may be our only defense-"
"Chakotay," she retorted quickly, "the grid that channels Twelfth Power Energy to that damned precious cannon of yours is in flames! I can't do anything that'll -"
"B'Elanna," he cut her off gruffly, "I don't want to hear about what you can't do. I want to know what you can. You know, as well as I, what we're up against. Now, give me alternatives ... otherwise we may find ourselves at the mercy of that Borg Armada."
There was silence. He knew B'Elanna. He trusted she was flashing an angry glare at either the floor or the ceiling of the turbolift. He trusted that the members of her repair crew were cautiously edging themselves away from where she stood ... or anywhere within arm's length.
Finally, Voyager's chief engineer spat, "I know I can have the fire suppression systems ... those that are still online and fully operational, that is ... I can use them to contain the damage from the blast."
"Do it," he agreed. "Consider it your highest priority."
"I can initiate and manage fire control from the Ground Level Control Center. Besides, it's safer there, in the event of any further explosions. I'll be there in less than one minute." Then, she paused, and Chakotay trusted that, despite the immeasurable obstacles, B'Elanna Torres was desperately trying to serve her commander above the call of duty. "From there, I may be able to throw up a few containment fields, get that radiation leak under control -"
"I won't know until I get there, Chakotay," she responded curtly. "When that grid went up, the adjacent power cells ignited, and that ignition caused the explosion. I'm not going to risk any additional power discharges unless I can be certain that I won't turn this damn Generatrix into a Roman candle! And, I won't know what systems are available until I can get to the center!"
"At ease, lieutenant," he chided her, smiling. "Understood."
"Thank you," she replied.
"What about the Planetary Shield?" he inquired, brushing the gathered dust off the sleeves of his uniform. "Is it holding?"
"My best guess is that it should still be fully operational," she explained. "The control grids that automate the shield are buried deep within this facility, far away from the blast area. But, Chakotay, that fire's likely to spread through conduits not protecting by suppression systems. As it is, technological band-aids are holding these systems together! That rupture will start a cascade effect. It's just the first domino, so to speak. Eventually, you know as well as I do that this Generatrix is going to destroy this entire planet!"
"Not before Voyager returns to rescue us," he warned.
"That sounds like an order."
"Consider it one."
"I can't make that guarantee."
"Then find some way to make it," Chakotay counseled, softening his tone. "If you have to, reroute any and all auxiliary systems, but I want some assurance that this place isn't going to go up in flames around us. Captain Janeway's counting on us ... and I'm counting on you."
Her sigh was heavy enough to be picked up by the comm channel. "Understood."
Wincing from the pain in his legs again, he snapped close his tricorder and affixed it to his belt again.
"Commander?" B'Elanna tried.
"What is it?"
"Voyager's coming, isn't she?"
Relaxing for the moment, Chakotay ignored the pain, ignored the hint of futility in his chief engineer's voice, and let a smile tug at the corner of his mouth.
"She'll be here, B'Elanna. But ... my guess is that she'll be bringing company."