Part 8

"That's awfully destructive," mused Ken Dalby as neutrally as he could, not lifting his eyes from their spot on the sensor screen.

"That's the point," snorted Henley from her seat beside him.

Ken could feel the eyes of every Maquis in the shuttle land on him, and he was more than certain that although the small shuttle view screen only showed a few of the passengers on the other shuttles, they were all listening to him.

"What I mean," he asserted, looking up, "Is that if we pick up from that point in Plan E Voyager is going to take a real beating. If we go through with that, it's going to be so much work to repair it all. It's not very far from destroying Voyager completely."

Chakotay stared at him, hard.

"There is a great amount of destruction in that scenario," he admitted. "How would you suggest we change it?"

"We don't use all of the step from Plan E. Localized destruction in Engineering and the Bridge. Less mess for us and it probably will kill everyone there."

Ken heard the murderous intent of his last words ring in his own head.

Henley shook her head, "That might be possible if we were on Voyager, like we planned it. There's no way to execute such specific attack measures with photon torpedoes from the exterior."

Over the comm link, Jarvin's voice sounded as if he were standing right next to Ken.

"We don't even know if anyone activated any or all of the charges."

Henley sank backwards in her seat.

"We didn't think we'd need them. Plan C was supposed to have worked," she muttered. "It wouldn't have been a priority."

There was a heavy silence, the discussion of attacking Voyager deteriorating into the depressing reasons of why there had to be this discussion in the first place.

Chakotay cut into the stillness curtly.

"Let's think it over. Think what we can do, not what we can't."

For a moment there was only the familiar blips as the other shuttles disconnected from the comm channel. Then, simultaneously, everyone moved, turning back to monitor his or her station.

Ken started to glance down at his screen. He felt Henley move closer and peer over his shoulder. He resisted the urge to elbow her away, her closeness bothering him. Chakotay had made her sit down after her incessant pacing made everyone nervous, and inexplicably she had decided to practically sit on his lap.

He forgot all about Henley when he looked down at his screen.

The other shuttle was dead in space. No shields, no life whatsoever.

Nothing, the sensors said, should have caused that.

There was some sort of antique satellite off to port of the dead shuttle, but it was inactive and harmless, the sensors reported.

Ken spun around in his seat, jostling Henley and nearly knocking her off.

"Chakotay, I think you should see this."

Chakotay rose and walked over to Ken's station, drawing the other Maquis' attention. He looked down at the screen, quickly assessing the information.

"What happened?" He asked, concern in his voice.

"The sensors don't see anything that should have disabled it," Ken reported.

"It could be a trap," suggested Henley. "Waiting for us to come up to it so it can attack. How old is this trick?"

"It's too obvious," replied Chakotay. "And stupid. The odds aren't even in its favor. It's only one ship."

"And its not supposed to be able to see us," Ken added. "We're cloaked."

Chakotay stepped back to the center of the floor.

"Power weapons on all shuttles. If it moves, destroy it."

He paused.

"Have you been able to identify the occupants, Dalby?"

Ken glanced downwards.

"One human male, with normal life signs."

Chakotay nodded, his face unreadable.

"Steer clear of that satellite," Chakotay ordered the helmsman.

"It's dead," said Henley.

"And how old is that trick?"

Henley smiled a little, scooting back on to the seat.

Suddenly, she spilled on to the shuttle floor, though Ken knew he hadn't touched her. Everyone in the shuttle was jostled in place. Chakotay gripped the top of a chair for support.

"What happened?"

"Cloaking device is disabled," Ken reported.

"Weapons are down," added Henley, scrambling urgently back on to the seat.

"The other shuttles are reporting the same thing."

"I want to know what did that," Chakotay ordered, striding over and holding tightly to the back of Ken's chair.

"Not the other shuttle!"

Ken stared at the sensor readings, which were refusing to tell him where that jolt had come from.

Behind him, he heard deafening noise and indiscriminate phrases shouted at Chakotay from the shuttle's various stations.

What he did hear was that the cloaking device was decidedly not going back up and none of the shuttles had access any longer to their weapons systems.

He blocked the ruckus out, and then he found out just what the hell had done that.

A ship. A very big ship. In exactly the same location that the ancient satellite had been only moments ago. Well, the satellite was still there; actually, it was part of the ship. If in fact that was a ship and not a space station.

"Chakotay..." he called.

At the same time, a Maquis at another station shouted above the din:

"We're being hailed!"

The sound dropped, everyone silencing and turning expectantly to Chakotay.

Chakotay looked at Ken's sensor screen, face dark and serious.

"Open a channel."

The view screen blinked from the sparkling stars to the dark interior of, apparently, the bridge of the massive ship. The Maquis shuttle was deathly quiet, its occupants alternating from staring at the screen to staring at their commander.

Henley's hushed whisper sounded awkwardly loud as she stared frightfully at the sensor readings and murmured,

"Technologically superior and *huge*, Chakotay. Be nice."

"Weapons wise," Ken clarified, softly. "We might be able to outrun it, though."

"If it wasn't shooting," Henley added.

The humanoid that appeared on the screen was remarkably indistinguishable, gray with a brown ridge where there might be a nose.

"I am the rear quadrant Defensive Minister of Pelora. You have entered the Peloran Empire's space. It is forbidden to travel our space disguised as you were. Such devices are not utilized in this space, nor are weapons. Identify yourselves and purpose."

Chakotay stepped confidently forward, and Ken could swear he had the same charismatic expression he wore when they weaseled their way past inspection points back in the Alpha Quadrant.

"Greetings, Minister. I am Chakotay of the Maquis."

There was a definite change in atmosphere when Chakotay identified themselves as something they'd been pretending for the longest time not to be. Ken saw the faces of so many people light up that he couldn't help but smile as well.

"We are travelers from very far away. Please forgive our accidental infraction of your laws. We were merely protecting ourselves. We are peaceful and of course will abide by your laws."

The Minister was not convinced.

"Explain your purpose here."

Chakotay tried again, visibly moving into the persuasive persona that usually worked so damn well.

"We have no distinct purpose. We are travelers and explorers."

"And refugees," muttered Henley, soft enough to avoid being picked up by the speaker yet loud enough that Chakotay sent her a stern glare out of the corner of his eye.

The Minister's eyes shifted, a motion that Ken had seen enough times on enough border guards to know that it meant, "I still don't trust you." Every Maquis had seen the expression before, and with it there was the distinct feeling of discouragement setting in.

"Are you affiliated with the shuttle that arrived a while ago?" Continued the Minister.

It was easy to tell from his demeanor that being affiliated would probably not get on his good side.

"No," said Chakotay instantly. "We are from the same place, but have no alliance with it."

This pacified the Minister.

"Very well. You may proceed into Peloran Space, but you will not be able to activate your disguise or your weapons."

Chakotay nodded affably, although Ken was beginning to see tension in his back. The view screen blinked back onto space. Chakotay ordered the helmsman to proceed, his order nearly drowned out by Henley's explosion.

"No *weapons*! No cloaks? Chakotay-"

"I don't like it either," Chakotay interrupted, speaking to everyone. "We'll get out of this space as soon as we're able. But, for now, at least, we know that Voyager won't be able to attack us here, and I got the feeling that the Pelorans are the ones detaining the other shuttle."

"Why?" Wondered Ken, out loud.

"It must have done something to upset them. And we're not going to upset them to find out what it takes," responded Chakotay, turning to stare out the view screen.

Part 9 | Index page