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Burning Out Of Control

Fire: Burning Out of Control
Vickie T. — 26 Sep 1998, 2:10 PM

The rock in the pit of Kathryn Janeway's stomach turned to lead as she rounded the last bend on the road to the Delta Q. It was the far west barn that Tom and B'Elanna had seen in flames, only now there was nothing left of the structure and the hay it had contained but a small pile of still-smoldering debris. The adjoining structure, which had been used for tool storage and a workshop, was fully engulfed in flames and would soon be reduced to a similar state. As she drew closer, Miss Kathryn could see that the few Delta Q hands who had not gone into town for the ball worked frantically with buckets and wet blankets to put out a dozen smaller fires burning in and around the other buildings of the main ranch complex.

As Miss Kathryn pulled her buggy to a halt in front of the main house, Kes, covered in soot and ashes, dashed up carrying a scorched, wet, woolen blanket. "Oh, Ma, I'm so glad you're here. I don't know how these fires got started, but suddenly it seemed there was fire everywhere! We're working as fast as we can, but there just aren't enough of us." Miss Kathryn was so focused on the fire that she didn't even notice the skin-tight leather outfit Kes was wearing, nor did it occur to her to wonder why Kes was at the Delta Q instead of the ball or just who was that tall young stranger standing in the background.

"Well," Kathryn replied, taking the blanket from Kes's hands, "help is on the way." At that moment, the buggy carrying B'Elanna and Lee-Marie pulled up, accompanied by Big Jimbo and the rest of the fire department with the town's newfangled water-pumping fire-fighting machine. The men set the machine up and aimed their hoses at the Big Barn, where flames were just beginning to show through the roof and open stall windows on one end. The tool shed/workshop was deemed, at this point, to be too far gone to save.

As she lept from the buggy, B'Elanna immediately began taking an accounting of the horses. She could see some of the inhabitants of the Big Barn huddled in the far corner of the west paddock, so she knew someone had at least attempted to free the stock from the burning buildings. As she ran toward the west paddock, she shouted at three of the Delta Q hands to make sure the horses from all the barns were taken out to one of the half-dozen small pastures that were close by. Suddenly, a scream split the air - the cry of a horse in fear and pain. B'Elanna scanned the west paddock. Who was missing? B'Elanna's knees went weak when she realized the answer. The white stallion and his mare were nowhere to be seen and B'Elanna knew, as a wave of sickness and fear washed over her, that they must be trapped in the burning barn.

B'Elanna dashed toward the door of the Big Barn, which, in spite of the firemen's gallant efforts, was rapidly being consumed by flames. A half dozen hands reached out in a futile attempt to prevent B'Elanna from entering the inferno, but she pulled free and disapeared into the flames.