Equilibrium - part 8

On her way to visit one of her 'guests' Kathryn Janeway was being briefed by her First Officer.

'There's no sign we're being pursued and we're using one of B'Elanna's new toys to disperse our trail. The cloaking device seemed to be remarkably successful.'

'Apart from the emergency beam out,' she pointed out ruefully. 'How's Lt. Hansen's investigation coming along?'

'Its difficult to say. Without interviewing any of the Maquis its going to be tricky to find out who told the Cardassians where to find you.'

'Only one person among the Maquis knew where I'd be and I'm not going to accuse Tom Paris of betraying me. On the other hand - some people at Headquarters knew the details - perhaps Lt. Hansen should cast her net a little wider.'

'She'll love that. On the other hand perhaps it wasn't even you they were looking for - maybe someone gave them a Maquis Captain and his crew.'

'Which is the option you'd prefer?'

'On the whole I'd prefer not to be on a mission someone from Headquarters is trying to sabotage.' That was an assessment she had no reason to argue with - and she could see how easy it could be to agree with Cavit, to point the finger at the Maquis and suggest it was a coincidence that she happened to be there when the Cardasians came looking for Chakotay and his crew. But she hadn't stayed alive this long by being naive.

'I'd prefer that as well - but we may not get our wish. What do you make of him, Chakotay I mean?' Commander Cavit pulled a face and she sensed his reluctance, 'he's not what you expected is he?'

'Not really - he's either up to something, or he's surprisingly pragmatic.'

'I don't suppose you'd like to venture a guess as to which?'

'You're right, I wouldn't. Security are on alert, they're keeping their distance though. Lt. Hansen was quite clear about the need for the observation to be unobtrusive.' She might have asked him what he thought of their new Chief of Security, but he got their first. 'She's professional, she's qualified - if you hadn't had her foisted on you you'd be perfectly happy with her.'

'If I didn't think she was a spy I'd be perfectly happy with her.'

'Captain - with all due respect, I've seen you win round more difficult personalities than Annika Hansen - I'm sure she realises you don't exactly welcome her appointment.' She smiled in spite of herself - well aware that she was being managed.

'Are you telling me to give her a chance Commander?'

'I'm recommending you use a little of your famous charm Captain - make her feel like part of the team.'

'Go - right now. Go and do something constructive, or else I'll make you tell B'Elanna that her reports make very little sense.' That was an encounter likely to end in violence and they both knew it.'

'I think I owe Elaine a message - shall I say hello from you?' She nodded and he turned to leave and then paused, 'there is just one other piece of information, I don't know how much use it is. When I was assigning quarters the woman, Seska, told me she didn't need a room, since she'd be sharing with Chakotay. He however, made no such request so I assigned her quarters anyway - she wasn't pleased.'

'I can imagine.' It was interesting, but not particularly vital, unless Chakotay's sex life somehow became of great importance. She couldn't help remembering that the other Chakotay's sex life had turned out to be extremely important and then shook her head dismissing the thought as irrelevant before she rang the chime for admittance.

Chakotay wasn't surprised to see her, he barely moved from his position in front of the view port as she entered. 'Its quite a ship you have Captain, he observed, 'I'm almost sorry I didn't try a little harder to capture her now.'

'Now that you've seen Voyager you must understand how hard I'd fight to keep her - she and I have been through a great deal together.' She smiled affectionately, 'I've heard some of the Maquis ships are quite impressive.'

'We do our best, without Starfleet's resources of course, but we have more supporters than you'd imagine and some of them supply us with ships and with weapons.'

It was almost as though she had started to forget that they were enemies, protagonists in a war but he had spelt it out for her now, the reminder abrupt and unsettling - almost as though he had needed to remember as well. But she didn't respond to his gambit, choosing to overlook, for now the chasm that stood between them.

'Can I tell you what this is all about Captain?' The use of his Maquis rank startled him, she saw the rapid movement of his head in response, the way his tattoo rippled as he raised an eyebrow in surprise.

'Perhaps you ought to - after all you've gone to a great deal of trouble to get me here. Seska thinks you even threw in a Cardassian patrol - just to make certain you could spirit us away.' He watched her face carefully, checking for a sign of guilt at his accusation - but she merely responded coldly,

'Seska obviously has a very suspicious mind.'

'She has no more reason to trust you that I do, Captain.' His defence of his colleague and lover was fierce and decisive - she couldn't help wondering what you had to do in order to inspire such loyalty and faith in him.

'And I have no more wish to find myself in a Cardassian prison camp again than you do.' He almost missed the 'again' and she answered his unspoken question. 'It was a long time ago and I suppose it is something someone who wanted you to trust them might trot out.'

'It will take more than one story to make me trust you Captain. Starfleet is hardly my favourite institution.'

'Are you sorry you left,' she asked unexpectedly, seeming genuinely interested, 'if you'd stayed you'd still be fighting the Cardassians.'

'Staying was out of the question for me. But I do miss certain things about Starfleet - I remind myself that the organisation I miss never really existed, I regard my time as an officer as a youthful infatuation.'

'Its unusual to devote almost twenty years of your life to a youthful infatuation.'

His reply was firm, 'I felt betrayed by an organisation I respected. I had a great many youthful ideals, I no longer have the luxuary ideals.' That exasperated her, as though any of them had factored a brutal war into their career plans.

'And I joined Starfleet to explore, not to fight in a war. Life deals you unexpected cards sometimes.'

'And that's what you are?' He shook his head, 'it won't work Captain, my issues with Starfleet are too great.'

'What about your issues with staying alive? If the Dominion defeat us - overrun the Alpha Quadrant, do you really think the Maquis will survive? Your cause will be dead, your people scattered, defeated, those that escape with their lives. Everything you've sacrificed for your principles will be a waste and Dorvan 5 will be no more free than it is now. I don't think the Maquis have the luxuary of standing alone any longer.'

'And what has any of that got to do with me?' If he was shaken by her assessment of her situation she couldn't see it - she couldn't really see anything, not just because the lights were quite dim, but also because his face was a mask of control - as though he couldn't let his own feelings escape him.

'We need someone to talk to the Maquis about an alliance - someone they trust, one of them. We just want you to raise the idea, discuss it.'

'I'm not sure the Maquis is the kind of organisation you think it is, to some of my colleagues Starfleet and the Federation are as much the enemy as the Cardasains or the Dominion. They don't want an alliance, they'd probably be pleased to see you defeated and in disarray.'

'At least until they found themselves the sole focus of the Dominion's attacks. Lets be clear about this the Maquis can't be neutral, they aren't neutral; you're at the war with the Dominion and their Cardassians just as much as we are and its only a matter of time before they sweep you away. The only chance you have is to join us now, help us win.'

'That's quite a speech Captain - and I'm sure you believe it, but the Maquis won't. Even if I wanted to convinve them I'm not sure I could - we're a loose organisation, we barely have leaders or a chain of command. We're a guerilla movement not the Federation Council. I'm sorry Captain, I think you need to look for another spokesperson.'

He saw the disappointment in her eyes and found, much to his surprise that he was sorry that he had let her down, that he hadn't behaved as she'd expected. He could easily see that her faith and confidence might be a prize worth gaining. But that door was closed to him and his reaction to her one he scarcely recognised anymore. It was caught up with echoes of the past and mixed with the knowledge that he tended to find strong, intelligent women attractive.

He couldn't quite prevent a grimace at the recognition of what he was feeling - his attraction to strong, intelligent women had more than effected his working relationship with Seska - he was still trying to extricate himself from that situation and he had no intention of revisiting it.

'Please think about it - don't just dismiss the idea. There's more at stake here than either of our pasts. Ican't believe you don't want this war to end.'

She was leaning over the table, looking intently at him, her body language screaming that she wasn't prepared to back down. For a searing moment he looked at her, his eyes meeting hers, and believed that she was right, that somehow he stood on the verge of a decision that would change his life. But then he came down to earth with a bump and remembered that he was a man of dubious repute who was in danger of being swept away by a wave of physical attraction.

It would be interesting to know if that attraction was mutual.

'I think you've misread me Captain. I may have spent a lot of my youth in Starfleet but I'm the wrong person for this job.'

'I don't believe that's true.' He braced himself to return to the field of battle only to find she had decided on a strategic retreat.

'In six hours we'll be securely inside Federation space, I'll hod position there while we decide what to do. If necessary I'm prepared to take you and your colleagues to a neutral Planet.'

'Including Tom Paris?'

'If he wishes.' There was duplicity there, he recognised the change in her expression and her body language.

'It might be better if he stays on board. If he were to return to the Maquis I wouldn't be able to prevent people from finding out that he is a spy. If you pulled him out however, I could probably make it appear that he was captured by Starfleet.'

'I understand - thank you for the warning.' He nodded, as surprised as she was by his actions. At the door she paused and turned back to him. 'I've been informed that according to Seska you and she ought to be sharing quarters. I'm sorry, I hadn't realised you and she were a couple. Shall I arrange a relocation for her?' He sighed in resignation, Seska had many talents, among them the ability to help him forget his problems. He thought perhaps he was in need of a little companionship.

'I'd appreciate that.'

She nodded and then was gone. It was not until the door had slid shut behind her that it occurred to him to wonder if her question had been designed to find out if he and Seska were lovers.

Part 9