Equilibrium - part 7

The woman who came barreling through the doors of the bar was Bajoran Janeway noted, she made straight for Chakotay, scarcely bothering to glance at anyone else.

'A Cardassian patrol - one street away,' she gasped, 'they beamed in, almost on top of me.'

'They're coming here?' Chakotay's question was almost rhetorical - he hardly waited for her nod of acknowledgement before turning to Paris. 'Is there another way out of here?'

'There's a back way out,' Paris confirmed and it seemed everyone would have made for it, had Janeway not spoken.

'If they beamed in they could be covering that as well - waiting for us.' The Bajoran woman looked at her, really looked at her for the first time, her cold eyes burning with contempt and dislike.

'Who the hell is she?'

'Not now Seska,' Chakotay brushed the question aside and pulled what looked like a disruptor from his belt. 'We can fight our way out.' Janeway's small noise of protest drew his gaze and their eyes met in a moment of perfect understanding, 'unless you have any better ideas Captain?'

She'd thought of it of course, not sure if he would even contemplate that solution, let alone suggest it himself. 'You're sure?'

'I'm sure Voyager's very comfortable compared to a Cardassian labour camp.' She nodded and tapped her comm badge.

'Janeway to Cavit - five to beam up. Now.'

'What's going on?' The woman Chakotay had called Seska demanded, but no one answered her. Five figures disappeared in a shimmer of blue - just as the Cardassian's kicked the door open.

With admirable insight Commander Cavit had beamed them directly onto the Bridge - taking a deep breath of familiar air Captain Janeway addressed her First Officer. 'Status?'

'We had to decloak to beam you aboard, there are two Cardassian ships almost on top of us.' Exactly on cue the ship was rocked by phaser fire.

'Shields?' Janeway called.

'Holding at 98%'

'Return fire.'

'Starfleet, this is a Starfleet vessel!' Seska was looking about her in disbelief, but she seemed to be targetting most of her anger on Chakotay - which was fine for the moment.

'Starfleet just saved your life,' he reminded her waspishly - 'or would you have preferred to take your chances with the Cardassians?' Janeway didn't have time for them to have this argument and she made no bones about interrupting it.

'Chakotay - how far away is your ship?'

'It isn't here - we are supposed to meet up again in two days. They'll have returned to a Maquis base by now and I don't think it would be wise for you to drop us off there.'

'Probably not,' she agreed - more fire interrupting them.

'Shields at 95%,' Cavit announced - ' they're probably sending for reinforcements.' She didn't doubt his assessment; there was very little time to make a decision that seemed to involve both sensitivity and diplomacy; two qualities she was fairly sure she didn't possess in abundance.

'I still want to talk to you?' she said looking at Chakotay, 'but it wasn't my intention to abduct you.'

'I think that's a distinction we should probably discuss at a safe distance.'

'Agreed.' Relieved that she had bought herself at least a little time she turned attention to the two Cardassian vessels - buzzing around Voyager like angry insects. 'Conn,' she still wasn't quite used to not having Stadi there and her replacement had yet to prove himself in her eyes. 'Try to draw them closer together - I want to try to take them out in one move, and get ready to go to warp. Lt Hansen,' she called over her shoulder at her Cheif of Security, 'prepare to fire photon torpedos, full spread on my mark.'

She could afford to wait a little, although she knew realistically that the aim of these smaller craft was to hold Voyager here until the big guns arrived. The Maquis stood silently at one side, but when sh e glanced towards them she could see Chakotay's eyes were avidly following the battle, fascinated. Seska' eyes on the other hand seemed to be full of scorn and dislike - a dangerous woman she decided.

'Fire torpedo's' she anounced, watching as they sped towards the Cardassian ships, detonating in an ocean of colours. 'Maximum warp - now.' She felt the difference at once - the kick of acceleration, the hum of marshalled power. Voyager was fast and sleek and right now speed was of the essence - she wanted to get out of enemy territory.

'They are not pursuing,' Lt. Hansen informed the Bridge in general.

'Good,' she turned to speak to Chakotay - but Seska forestalled her.

'And now we are Starfleet's prisoners.'

'You're no one's prisoners. My mission was to find Chakotay and talk to him. Mr Cavit, see that our "guests" are given quarters.' Her eyes sought out Chakotay's. 'I have every intention of letting you go, whether I can convince you to help me or not. But I need to know that my ship is safe, that there will be no attempt to take it over or to disable it.'

'You have my word Captain.' It wasn't odd that he had given her the assurances she sought, she'd expected that, what was strange was that she believed him. Could she be transferring what she knew of the other Chakotay onto this man? Was she presuming too much? Gambling with her crew's safety?

'Thank you. I'll have to ask you to hand over your weapons; and there will be some restrictions on your movements and what information is available to you.' War had made her cautious - there was no escaping it. But his nod of acknowledgement seemed to indicate that he understood. It was remarkable really, that he had been so pragmatic. She narrowed her eyes and thought about traps and duplicity, but made no further comment until their guests had left the Bridge.

'Lt. Hansen,' she summoned her Chief of Security to the Ready Room and waited until the doors were safely closed behind them. 'I want to know how the Cardassians knew about that meeting - and I expect you to find out. I don't enjoy waking into traps.'

Part 8