Equilibrium - part 3

'We've checked the Sacajawea for signs of temporal displacement,' Admiral Paris explained, 'they're faint, but they are there.'

They'd relocated from the holding cell to Admiral Ross' office - now that Chakotay's explanation seemed to be holding water they were prepared to be rather more hospitable. Kathryn would have commented on the irony but knew she'd be wasting her breath.

She seemed to be back in favour as well - not that anyone had apologised, or was likely to. She was still tired but as much as she wanted to rest, she was also fascinated by the glimpse of an alternate universe she'd had, she wanted to know everything about it. Her curiousity prompted her to volunteer to show Chakotay to the guest quarters he'd been assigned.

'I'm sure I'll find these more comfortable than the interview room,' he remarked as they walked along the corridor.

'I expect so - certainly the decor is a little better - beige as opposed to grey.' The startled noise he made bought her rapidly to a halt. 'Are you all right?'

'Yes, fine...' he smiled ruefully, 'you just reminded me of...'

'Myself?' He nodded and then shrugged,

'You're identical, well, your hair is longer, but your speech patterns are the same, you even seem to make the same remarks yet,'

'We live different lives in different Universes.' She could sympathise, in a way, 'how did you end up here anyway?'

'I was checking out a wormhole, the perils of looking for a way back to the Alpha Quadrant,' that wry smile again, 'right place, wrong Universe, Kathryn's going to love this one.'

Her name again, it was disarming to hear his voice saying it, saying it too with such care. 'My First Officer calls me Captain,' she remarked, starting to walk again.

'Yes, I expect he does. I bet even Tuvok calls you Captain.' This time she was the one who gasped, the pain of the memory catching her unawares.

'What's wrong?' She used to think her poker face was pretty good, but apparently her alter ego had problems keeping her emotions to herself, was she more transparent, or was her First Officer extremely perceptive?

'Tuvok was killed six months ago.' It had been so much easier when she had just been talking about a lost shuttle and the two anonymous crew members who had been in it. 'The Cardassians attacked the shuttle he was in.'

'I'm sorry,' his voice was grave and looking at him she could see he meant it. 'My Kathryn Janeway would have been devastated by that loss.'

'I feel his absence every day.' She hadn't admitted as much to anyone. Not her mother, or the counsellor charged with the increasingly challenging job of keeping her wounded psyche intact. And yet she had told a complete stranger. 'I can't seem to find my centre without him.'

He nodded as if he understood and they continued in silence until she stopped in front of his new quarters. 'Well, this is it, not exactly a home form home but the best we can do at the moment. If there's anything you need just...'

'Someone to talk to?' She couldn't imagine what it would be like to be so far from everything you know, amongst strangers with familiar faces. 'Of course if you're too tired I understand.'

'No, its fine. I'm curious about your Universe, I want to know about the Delta Quadrant.' He nodded, smiling indulgently at her curiousity.

'I thought you might. Can I get you something - a coffee?' He stepped towards the replicator and she looked at him longingly for a moment.

'I'd love one, but I'm well over my quota for the day already and my CMO will explode if I have anymore.'

'Some fruit juice then?' She murmured her assent and settled herself on the couch. 'I'm amazed, the Kathryn Janeway I know would take her Doctor's advice only under suffrance.'

'I'm having problems with my blood pressure. If I don't want to loose Voyager and be confined to a desk I have to co-operate.'

'The war can't be much of a help to your blood pressure.'

'The war isn't much of a help to anything. and maybe if I was lost in the Delta Quadrant - I might be able to get away with ignoring my CMOs advice every now and again? Is Voyager the only ship there, how did you end up so far away?' If he realised she'd turned the subject away from the war he gave no indication.

'We aren't sure - its possible there are other ships from the Alpha Quadrant - but so far we've only found one. As to how we got there, well its a long story, a being called the Caretaker dragged us there - he was looking for a way to procreate. He was dying and he wanted a replacement - he'd spent most of his existence protecting a remarkable species called the Ocamapa; they were quite dependant on him.'

'Protecting them?'

'From other more, predatory species in the area. He was worried the Ocampans would be enslaved when he was gone, especially because he had created some remarkable technology to protect them.'

'What happened?' She asked, enthralled.

'He died before he could send us home - and Captain Janeway destroyed the technology he'd created, unfortunately it was also our way home.'

'Did she know that?'

'Oh yes - but she chose to protect the Ocampans.' She tried to imagine herself making such a decision, trying to live with herself afterwards.

'And did you agree with that decision as her First Officer?'

'Its not quite that simple, I wasn't her First Officer then - I was the man she'd been sent to take into custody.'

'What?'

'When the Caretaker carried us to the Delta Quadrant, I was in a Maquis ship in the Badlands, Captain Janeway and Voyager were sent to find us and the Caretaker took them as well. A number of Voyager's crew were killed, including Commander Cavit. My ship was destroyed, we had to become one crew in order to survive.'

'But you're Maquis.'

'We were Maquis, now we're Voyager's crew, a community. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't impossible either, once we all realised that we weren't monsters.'

She couldn't believe it, a crew made up of Maquis and Starfleet - it was inconceivable, wasn't it? ' But how did you do it, how did you make it work rather than go over all arguments?'

'We needed to work together to survive and that took precedence, I think the fact that Kathryn and I trusted each other helped and I can't explain that, it was just instinct.'

She couldn't help thinking that they'd been lucky, that it would never work here and so she missed his next remark. 'Sorry, what did you say?'

'I said maybe you should try it.'

'Try what?'

'An alliance with the Maquis, to overcome your common enemy.'

'We've tried, but they don't want to know; they don't need us, they have all the ships and weapons they need.'

'In my version of the Universe the Maquis were destroyed by the Dominion, hardly any survived, they sound stronger here.'

'They are.'

'Then you need them.'

'It won't work, they blame the Federation for what happened to their homes, their families. We aren't exactly at war, but we could never be allies.'

'Have you tried?'

'What?' There was something about his emphasis that alarmed her.

'Have you tried? If you spoke to Chakotay...'

'That's ridiculous, we don't know each other, we've never met.'

'Neither had Cpatain Janeway and I - until that moment, look what we've achieved.'

'You're starting to make me think you are a spy, or that this is part of some very clever plot.' She stood up and started to back away from him.

'A plot to do what? Help the Federation win the war? I can't explain it to you Kathryn, you have to experience it for yourself - but you can reach Chakotay the way no one else can - and if you can reach him he'll trust you.'

'You don't even know him!' She thought that was a clinching argument, but it didn't even seem to have an impact on him.

'No, I don't. But I know myself. Kathryn Janeway changed me, helped me find a piece of myself that I'd lost. Every day I'm away from Voyager I'm more terrified that I'll never see my home again. But maybe I'm here for a reason, to help you find Chakotay.'

'And maybe you're here because you got too close to an unstable wormhole. There's nothing profound or significant about it.' She turned on her heel and left without looking back.



Part 4