Equilibrium - part 2

'Who is he?' She asked, looking at the stranger from the relative safety of the next room. He couldn't see her scrutiny - there was no possible way he could know that the piece of wall he was standing in front of was transparent on one side, and yet she couldn't quite surpress the feeling that he was perfectly aware that he was watching her - and was in fact looking straight through her.

'Don't you know?' There was an edge to Admiral Ross' voice that warned her she had been right earlier when she had felt herself under suspicion.

'I don't think so - I've never met him before, but he looks familiar, I could have seen his image, intelligence reports maybe?'

'That's very good Captain,' the remark wasn't praise, 'his name is Chakotay - he's,'

'A senior figure in the Maquis,' she nodded, 'I should have recognised him, the tattoo is part of folklore.' There was an easy silence and she silently questioned whether they truly believed her denial. Being suspected of spying for the Maquis was almost as serious as spying for the Dominion. 'Why is he wearing a Starfleet uniform?'

'That's a good question,' Admiral Paris did not sound as though he were about to accuse her and she relaxed slightly knowing that she was not defenceless, she did have powerful allies. 'An even better one is who the hell is he really? Our intelligence reports indicate that Chakotay is on Dorvan - has been for weeks.'

'A clone then, a shape shifter?'

'Definitely not a shape-shifter, we've done the tests; and he has Chakotay's DNA.'

'What does he say? He must have an explanantion?'

'Oh, you'll like this Kathryn, all hewould say was that he was Commander Chakotay, First Officer of the USS Voyager and that you were his Captain.'

'I'm sure Commander Cavit will have something to say about that,' she responded drily.

'Quite,' Admiral Ross moved to stand in front of her, 'but we did find him in one of Voyager's shuttles - the Sacajawea.'

'We lost that shuttle six months ago - and the two crewmen who were in it.'

'So you say.' There it was, the accusation, finally out in the open. She'd lived in the midst of this paranoia for years, without it really touching her life. That had changed now.

'What exactly am I being accused of here?' She was angry and let it show, this was no time for righteous indignation, she had risked her life and her crews' on countless occasions only to be accused of some unspecified crime. Six years of war had cost her friends, her marriage and any semblance of peace, she was no traitor.

'You aren't being accused of anything Kathryn.' Admiral Paris' reassurance was rather hollow, especially when Admiral Ross cut him off.

'You're the only one he'll talk to, if this is some Maquis plot its up to you to prove you aren't involved.'

'And how do you suggest I do that?'

'That isn't our problem Captain, you've always been resourceful, I'm sure you'll think of something.' He didn't need to tell her what would happen if she did not. The bastard, there really was very little she could do to clear her name, unless the man who was and was not Chakotay could help her explain what this was all about. And he was going to do that whether he liked it of not.

'I'm sorry about earlier, I didn't mean to startle you.' She had ordered the guards to leave - giving this discussion a semblance of privacy. Of course every sound, every movement was being watched and she suspected they both knew it. 'It was just a relief to see a familiar face.'

'Except that I'm not,' she pointed out sharply, 'I've never seen you before.'

'I know, I suppose you're waiting for an explanation?'

'It would be a good start.' He smiled and shook his head, 'are you finding this amusing?'

'No, sorry,' he was immeditaely serious again, 'you reminded me of someone, of you really. Do you say 'do it' when you give an order as well?'

This was too unsettling, her nickname (which admittedly she didn't officially know about) was "do it Janeway."

'Who the hell are you?'

'I'm Chakotay. First Officer of the USS Voyager, serving under Captain Kathryn Janeway - currently stranded in the Delta Quadrant, and trying desperately to get home.'

'And then she understood, almost laughed with the relief of it - before she realised how serious the implications were. 'In another time and place?' She asked, knowing the answer, 'a different version of this Universe?'

'A very different version, if the things I've heard are true.' She rubbed her forehead, feeling the start of a headache, the one she always got when she had to deal with time travel, tempral displacements and alternate universes. She might not be a traitor, and she could probably convince the Admiral Ross of that, but that didn't solve the problem.

'You know you're going to have to help me get back, don't you?' Chakotay said, 'please Kathryn, its very important.'

And somehow, although she'd only known him a few minutes, knew nothing of his life or his character, she believed him.

Part 3