Equilibrium - part 6

Chakotay felt the anger growing inside him, bubbling up past boiling point. The rage he felt at betrayal by someone he had almost come to trust, temporarily distracted him from the fact that his first reaction to the woman with Paris had been recognition. He was angry with her as well of course, angry at all she represented - but his real target was his so called comrade in arms - Tom Paris.

For so long his anger had defined him, had known no other outlet than the violence. Destroying the Cardassians and the Dominion, fighting the war took the place of other, more complex emotions - and if he remained angry he wouldn't have any energy left to think about what he had done, who he had become.

'You've delivered us into Starfleet's waiting hands you traitor.' He hardly thought about the rapid lunging movement he made towards Paris, it was all instinct.

Until Captain Kathryn Janeway of the starship Voyager stepped into his path.

Afterwards he was never quite sure why he had stopped. Why the mere fact that she had moved to place herself directly in front of him - so close her shoulder brushed his chest - had brought him to a standstill. Why he hadn't tossed her aside like a piece of flotsam. Perhaps it was simply the surprise of her movement, perhaps it was her determined expression, or perhaps it was that he had remembered again that sense of familiarity - and identified it for what it meant. They'd never met, he'd never set eyes on her before to the best of his knowledge, but what he recognised was in the set of her shoulders, the confidence with which she moved, the way she held herself. Authority. It was unmistakeably a Starfleet phenomena - something he had forsaken along with his pride and his integrity.

What he hadn't been expecting was the power and ferocity with which she spoke. 'Tom is here at my request - his involvement is a personal favour to me and I've known him for a long time, since before the war, before the Maquis. You're in no danger from me - all I ask is that you hear me out.'

There was, now that he came to think about it, something in what she said. None of the other drinkers in the bar had moved to intervene, or were even looking in their direction. If anything they seemed to be studiously avoiding looking at their way. Starfleet was a very different organisation these days if it allowed its Captains to wander around enemy territory without a security detachment.

'Shouldn't there be a couple of security officers buzzing around you?' He asked - backing away slightly.

'Probably - but I didn't want to draw any unwanted attention to us.' It was a reasonable answer, he glanced down at her, surprised to find himself on the verge of an almost routine conversation with someone who ought to be his enemy and confused as to how it had happened. He tried to find his anger again, but his curiousity was in control for the moment. She had beautiful eyes, he noted dispassionately - and she didn't give up easily. 'I've come along way to speak to you - will you at least let me talk to you?'

He nodded brusquely - not being able to find the words to agree. Paris looked most relieved that he wasn't going to be killed just then, but he must realise that he was hardly safe. 'We have met before actually,' Chakotay said as he sat, gesturing for his comapnion to sit and put away the weapon he'd drawn, 'not face to face - I don't believe we even exchanged words over the conn - but Voyager definitely fired on my ship.'

She frowned for a moment, obviously trying to place the incidet, perhaps she had a lot of skirmishes with the Maquis to chose from. 'My ship is called The Raven,' he added, helping her out.

'You're right - we have met, but you'll no doubt recall that you opened fire first - and then you tried to draw me into a trap, with I presume the intention of taking over my ship.'

'I thought it was worth a try, blowing out the dorsal phase emitters, venting exhaust and playing dead has been known to work.'

'I can't imagine why, its a very old trick. And we hadn't hit you enough to cause that much damage.'

She was smart and confident but he recognised the tiredness, the fatigue in her eyes - he saw it every day in the faces of his collegues and friends, as well as in the mirror.

'I always wondered why you didn't do us more damage - you outgunned us several times over and somehow I didn't imagine you were amused by our audacity.'

'We'd picked up several Cardassian ships on long distance scans - if we'd left you without warp they'd have finished you off - and I have enough deaths on what is left of my conscience.'

He had no idea whether she was telling the truth or not, yet the fact that Voyager's Captain had not destroyed them had always bothered him. Her explanation was interesting, fascinating in fact - he wondered how she'd worded that particular report.

'What is this all about Captain, what is it you want of me?' His heavy use of sarcasm on her title provoked hardly a reaction from her, as though she shared his cynacism. Who the hell was this woman?

'Starfleet have asked me to approach you; they want to talk to the Maquis about a possible alliance and they want to use you as an intermediary.'

He could have told her it was impossible, he should have made it clear she understood that even by having this conversation she was putting him in danger, but he did none of these things - and a split second later it was too late.

Part 7