Disclaimer: Paramount owns the universe and all the regular characters, Leena, Radek and these specific events are mine. UNEXPECTED MEETINGS by Myranya Leena settled back in the pilot's seat of the shuttle and yawned. She had put the shuttle's systems on auto pilot and was reading a book. It was the fourth time she had read this particular book, but since they did not have that many on board she tried getting into it. She also tried very hard to ignore the loud snores coming from the aft compartment. Failing utterly at both, she slapped her console and the text disappeared. She called up a list of available literature. *Nothing I haven't read at least three times.* She sighed. Maybe she'ld run the combat simulation again. She'd already beaten every record she knew about, but at least keeping her skills honed might serve some purpose. She felt herself almost hoping Radek would wake up so she would have someone to talk to, then recalled the way their conversations had been going, lately, and cancelled that thought. As she reached for the console to start the simulation, it beeped at her. Instantly she put her musings aside and turned her full attention to the computer's report. Long-range sensors had picked up a ship coming from behind them, moving at high warp. She quickly ordered the computer to identify the vessel, waiting impatiently for it to come within range of the more detailed sensors needed for identification. She considered waking up Radek, but decided against it. After all, he was only three steps off, and after more than a full year she knew him well enough to know he'ld only have taken off his boots when he laid down to rest. She watched the console and wondered who or what could be on this ship. It did seem to be closing faster than most Kazon ships could manage. Good. Although they have been able to deal with them reasonably well, she did not trust them. *As long as it isn't the Vediians* she thought. Kenna had destroyed the first Vediian vessel by setting a collision course, after they had 'harvested' Talek and Sari, giving her and Radek a chance to get away. They had been able to avoid further confrontations with the body-hunting aliens, but if this was a Vediian vessel, it was too fast to outrun, and there was no place to hide in this empty stretch of space. She ran a quick check of the weapons systems. For a shuttle, they had quite impressive offensive and defensive capabilities. Against any decent sized starship, they would not last five minutes. For what is was worth, all systems checked out right. There! The computer had finally made an identification. Leena's eyes widened. She double-checked the report the computer had just given her, then turned to call Radek. This definitely warranted waking him. "Radek!" she called. She did not bother to use the com system. After a year of his snores she knew the partition was quite penetrable to sound. "What is it?" Radek's voice sounded slightly groggy, but as she had surmised he had been fully dressed, and entered immediately, still stomping a little to settle his feet in the heavy boots. "Ship coming up behind us, at high warp." Leena reported. "And Radek, the computer identifies it as a Federation vessel." It was quiet on Voyager's bridge. Paris had the con, but there was nothing out here but a long stretch of empty space. All space was empty, but some parts of the Galaxy were just more empty than others. There were no habitable planets, and even the stars were few and far between. He relaxed and let his thoughts drift toward his plans for the evening. Would he go to Sandrine's, or take some of his holodeck time for a private program? Janeway, meanwhile, was trying to keep her calm. She was trying her best to convince Neelix to relinquish his ship for future away missions. They'd recently lost their last shuttle, and really did need the small ship. "Will you at least let B'Elanna refit it?" Janeway asked. The little Talaxian fidgeted. "The way everyone is loosing shuttles around here, you want me to give up my ship?" Trouble was, Janeway could understand Neelix's concern. They _had_ lost five shuttlecraft in the ten months they were out here. With still almost 70 years to go, that didn't make good odds for the little vessel. But they needed a shuttle -the transporters just weren't always enough. "We will be as careful as we possibly can." she promised. *Right. Like we intended to loose the other ones*, she thought. Neelix wasn't convinced. "I don't know. Let me think about it, okay?" Janeway sighed. At least it wasn't an all-out 'no'. She was spared any further discussion by a call from the bridge. "Paris to Janeway." She tapped her badge. "Janeway here. Go ahead, Lieutenant." "There's a small ship on long-range scanners, I think you should see this." Paris said. "What is it? You think it poses a threat?" Janeway asked immediately. "No, not that. It's only a shuttle." Tom paused. "A Cardassian shuttle." As the turbolift doors opened, Janeway immediately noticed the small ship on the main viewer. It was unmistakably a Cardassian configuration. "Is there any sign of a Cardassian warship in the area?" she asked. It was Tuvok who answered. "Negative, Captain. Sensors report no other ships in the sector. But the Cardassians do have cloaking capability." "Hail them." "The Federation ship is hailing us.", Leena reported. "On viewscreen." Radek ordered. The stars disappeared from the oval screen to make place for the Voyager bridge. "I am Captain Kathryn Janeway, of the Federation Starship Voyager.", Janeway introduced herself. "Glinn Radek of the Second Order. I did not know the Federation had so expanded its territory." Radek remarked. "I could say the same for you," Janeway answered, ignoring the jibe. "May I assume your ship was also pulled into the Delta quadrant by the being called the Caretaker?" Radek quit the bravado as he saw it wasn't gonna work on this human. "You assume correctly. We are on our way home, as you are. Perhaps we can combine our resources." Janeway noted he did not elaborate on what his resources were. She decided to plunge ahead. "Speaking of resources, where is your ship?", she asked. Radek didn't answer immediately. Leena gave him a long look, and as she saw he was not going to tell the Federation Captain they did not _have_ a ship, she spoke up. "You are looking at it." Radek scowled at her, but she ignored him. Janeway could not hide her amazement. "You came all this way in a shuttle?" She looked around her, searching for conformation from her officers. Tuvok looked up from his console. "It is possible, Captain. Sensors show major modifications -large storage compartment, and several times the norm in energy reserves." Janeway's thoughts raced. She did not look forward to a confrontation between the Maquis crew members and the Cardassians -something that might be hard to avoid if she invited them aboard- but she was a Starfleet officer, and they were obliged to help others. She was also interested in any information the Cardassians might have on the Delta quadrant. Obviously, they had not found a way home, either, but they might well have met other aliens, landed on different planets along the way. Besides, she did want to meet with anyone who could come this far in such a small vessel. "You are welcome to come aboard.", she told them. "We would like to share any information on this quadrant, and if we have any supplies to spare we will share them. You can put your vessel down in our shuttle bay." "We will be there." Radek said. He cut the connection and turned to Leena. "Set course for the Starship. We will talk about giving away military intelligence later." Leena laid in a course for Voyager's main docking bay. "Military intelligence?", she gave a short laugh. "There's nothing out here to interfere with their scanners, they scanned our shuttle easily enough -how long do you think you could make them believe there's a warship out there, somewhere? Besides, we're not _at_ war anymore, with the Federation." "We weren't when we left. I never believed that treaty would hold, those rebels probably destroyed it by now." Radek said. "We could have dealt from a position of power, tenec." He stressed her rank, reminding her he was the senior officer. Over a year ago, back on the Stavos, she would not have dreamed of any further subordination. Heck, she'ld never have spoken up against him in the first place. But somehow, out here, rank didn't mean that much anymore. Okay, so he was a Glinn. But she was also the second highest Cardassian officer in the quadrant, if you choose to look at it that way. "Power," she echoed. "Like when we met the Vediians? They were impressed, I remember. You know as well as I do that we don't stand a chance of making it home in this." She gestured at the interior of the shuttle. "We need their help, and we are in no position to do anything but ask." Radek grunted non-commitingly. He knew she was right. He had advocated the same, himself, when dealing with the Kazon, which was the only reason they were here, in one piece, instead of being blasted out of the sky months earlier. But it did not sit well with his Cardassian upbringing, and Leena's patience wasn't the only one wearing thin. "Just dock the shuttle, will you?" he snapped, and disappeared into the aft compartment. Leena put the shuttle down, and as the docking bay doors closed, and the air pressure once again showed normal, she called Radek. They opened the hatch. Janeway had sent Tuvok out to meet them. She herself had to brief Chakotay on the arrival of the Cardassians. She hadn't expected Chakotay to be happy about it, but 'not happy' was somewhat of an understatement. He was livid. "You invited a bunch of Cardassians on the ship?" he snapped. Janeway tried to calm him. "_Two_ Cardassians. That is hardly an army." "Last time we had only one Cardassian on board, and see where that got us." Chakotay retorted. Janeway was shocked at the level of bitterness in his voice. *I wonder how deeply he was involved with her. There's so much I still don't know about him.* She knew Seska had been obsessed with him, that had been all too clear the last time they ran into the Cardassian, but she knew little about how Chakotay had once thought of Seska. He avoided the subject whenever possible, and when not, let loose as little as he could. But the Cardassians would be in the shuttlebay, by now, and frankly, she couldn't avoid everyone from any race members of her crew had less pleasant experiences with. Janeway told him so, and Chakotay sighed. "I guess you're right, but I don't have to like it. Did you tell them you had Maquis among your crew?" "_Former_ maquis." Janeway corrected him. "And no, I didn't." "Right. Former Maquis. But I doubt the Cardassians see the distinction." Chakotay said. "If you are hoping to get any information from them, we might want to avoid the issue." "I'm not sure we can, but I agree it's probably best not to bring it up right away." Janeway agreed. Chakotay turned toward the door. "Well, let's get this over with." They went over to the conference room in an uncomfortable silence. Tuvok, meanwhile, had welcomed the Cardassians on board. The first to step out onto the deck was the male. -Glinn Radek, he recalled- The female, who had not yet given her name, came right behind him. Tuvok nodded a greeting and introduced himself. "I am Tuvok, Chief of Security. The Captain has asked me to escort you to the conference room." Radek knew enough about Vulcans not to offer his hand, as was custom on most Federation worlds, so he inclined his head, as well. "Glinn Radek. This here is tenec Leena." He indicated the female. Leena had turned around to engage some kind of security lock on the shuttle. *Not that they haven't scanned every bit of it, but that's no reason to let them crawl around inside.* she thought. She turned at the mention of her name, and nodded a greeting as well. Radek, never one for time consuming niceties, said, "Lead the way." Tuvok, of course, showed no reaction. He simply said, "Follow me," turning and walking toward the turbolift. On the way to the conference room, they kept the conversation carefully neutral, talking about the curiously empty stretch of space they were in -the space-going equivalent of chatting about the weather. The Cardassians did keep their eyes wide open, though. Leena was surprised to note several non-humans on the ship. In the short stretch of corridor between the turbo lift and the conference room they met two Bajorans and a short, alien man -was that a Talaxian? On a Federation ship? Of course she knew the Federation encompassed many races, but it had always seemed like a human-run group, over all. *Then again, how much do we really know about them*, she wondered. They came to a door and Tuvok led them into the conference room. Leena recognized the Captain, but she had not yet seen the man who was seated next to Janeway. She did notice Radek staring at him, though. Tuvok made formal introductions, and as he named the man as Chakotay, Voyager's First Officer, Radek squinted, as if trying to remember something. Obviously, he did not know what it was, and they sat down. Janeway had decided to keep this first meeting with her First Officer and Tuvok only. She had noticed how Chakotay had tensed up when the Cardassians entered, and knew it was going to be hard enough to keep this civil without complicating matters by having B'Elanna sit in, too. As she noticed the stiff politeness in the Cardassian Glinn, she was glad she had done so. She could brief the other senior staff later, she was going to have to walk a fine line if she were going to learn anything from their guests. As soon as formal introductions were made, she suggested they would both tell about their journey, and how they got here, suggesting the Cardassians started off. Although Radek had preferred to hear more from the Federation Captain, first, he knew quite well whose ship they were on. Leena had been right, they were in no position to make demands, but that didn't make him feel any better about it. He started their story. "We set out with the Stavos, a Galor Class Warship, well over a year ago. I was the First Officer, Leena here our Science officer. We were investigating the disappearance of a Cardassian freighter on the far side of the Cardassian empire. Although there are no enemy forces out that way, and the cargo was not especially important, we got diverted to take a look. When we reached the coordinates where the freighter had disappeared, we were scanned with some sort of coherent tetryon beam." He noticed the Federation officers nodding. That was indeed what had happened to them, too. "We read a massive displacement wave approaching", he continued, "Gul Laret decided to head into it, to see who or what was behind it." "That strategy would hardly seem advisable." Tuvok said. Radek gave a short laugh. "We soon discovered how little 'advisable' it was. We must have hit something in the wave; the ship was ripped open from deck three down. Most of our crew did not survive." *How many people?* Janeway thought. 500-600 crew complement if her information was correct. She remembered her own bridge as they were pulled over here, the dead, the damage... But her ship had been in one piece, and most of the crew had lived. Obviously, the Cardassians had been much less fortunate. "We barely found out where we were, as we were transported off the ship, and taken to some experimental laboratory. We spent the next five days there, then were beamed back to our ship -all but one of us." "He kept one of your crew as well?" Janeway asked. Radek nodded. "Yes. Although we never met a 'him'. We did not see or speak to anyone." He looked at Janeway. "You did?" Janeway nodded. "We spoke to the Caretaker, yes. We tried to get him to sent us back, and retrieve our crew members." *'If this were a Cardassian ship, we would be home by now'* Chakotay heard Seska's voice in his mind. "You could not convince the Caretaker to return you to the Alpha quadrant?" he asked. It was Leena who answered this time. "We tried." she said, "As soon as we got the transporters working, Gul Laret beamed down with our Security chief and the eleven crew members who'd been on deck two." Her voice trailed off, and for once, even Radek stayed quiet. "What happened?" Janeway asked softly. "About fifteen minutes later, they got transported back to the ship. Whether it was intentional, or whether this 'Caretaker' never bothered to check if there was any air there, I don't know, but they materialized on deck four. By the time we could lock onto them with the transporter, it was too late." Janeway shuddered at that. The Caretaker had been so concerned about the Ocampa, but quite careless about other races. Pulling aliens from all over the Galaxy, experimenting on them, leaving them stranded -she could see how he would just whisk a group of aliens to a ship without worrying about how they got there. She wondered about the time, though. Apparently, Tuvok had noticed as well. "From what we have heard, the Caretaker pulled ships to this place for several months, but you describe a much earlier occurrence." he said. "We have never found out about anyone before us -we never even found traces of that freighter. But if this being took just as much _care_" Radek made no attempt to mask the contempt in his voice. "With the other ships he pulled over here, there might have been some that left no trace." "Perhaps. Or the Caretaker was still trying to figure out a procedure. You said you were over there for five days, we were there for three. He might have taken time for evaluation and adjustments when he still had more time." Janeway mused. She wondered about the motives of this strange extra-galactic being, but since the Array was destroyed, it was a moot point. She got back to the matter at hand. "Then what did you do?" "There were only five of us left -Kenna, the Medical officer; Talek, the Chief Engineer, Sari, the Navigator, and the two of us." Leena told them. "There was no way we could have staffed the Stavos even if we had had a way to make repairs. We decided to modify two of our shuttles, instead. After a week of hard work, we had them fitted in much the same way ours still is." She didn't elaborate, accepting and silently acceding the fact that they had no doubt scanned every bit of the little craft. "After we set the Stavos to auto-destruct, we headed for the Alpha quadrant. We were soon met by the Kazon, you must have met them." Janeway nodded. "You could say that." Radek showed his contempt for the aliens in his words as well as his voice. "The primitives were easily manipulated into giving us supplies for a small amount of water." "They did not try to take it from you?" Chakotay asked. Leena caught on. "They tried to get your replicators?" The surprised look on Chakotay's face told her she had guessed right. "Sometimes it is an advantage to be small. The Kazon never thought the two shuttles held anything of any great interest. If you look in this quadrant, there are many small, unaligned traders and freighters in Kazon territory. As long as they do not form any threat to the Kazon, they let them be." Tuvok nodded. That made sense. After all, the Kazon had had no knowledge of replicator technology, and had not known what to look for. Radek continued. "We traded small amounts of water for supplies. The Kazon-Farla, a small tribe we met, tried to get us to stay with them, and use this talent they thought we had for finding water to help them gain influence. The Kazon-Ogla heard of it and one of the Kazon-Farla's ships was destroyed. That is the only serious run-in we had with the Kazon. We ran into serious trouble when we met a Vediian ship." From the reactions Radek knew Voyager had also had encountered the body-harvesting aliens. "Sari and Talek were attacked while their shuttle was on the surface of a small planet, where we collected some food. The aliens took several organs right out of their bodies -there was nothing Kenna could do for them." Leena said. "A few hours after lift-off we noticed a ship following us." "They easily overtook us, and locked a tractor beam on our shuttle. We fired all weapons, but their ship's shields were no match for our shuttles. Kenna set a collision course and destroyed the Vediian vessel and herself to get us free. We have been able to avoid the Vediians ever since." Radek hated to tell this -not just because the losses they had taken, but because he hated to run from anything. What a difference it would have made to fly through this quadrant with the Stavos... "I am still surprised you came this far in a shuttle." Tuvok said. "You must have flown top speed for most of the journey." "We got a ride once, from the GeOri." Radek said. "A ride?" Janeway's interest peaked. Leena noticed the hope in her voice. "They won't do you any good. Their ships are no faster than Voyager. And they only help you if you fit into their schedule." "Their schedule?" Chakotay asked. "Yes. Their ships are equipped for long-range travel -they take trips of up to several months without dropping out of warp once- and they never refuse passengers. They will give you supplies if you happen to find a ship docked somewhere, but they will not deviate from their schedule. If it changes their lift-off time by five minutes, or would mean any kind of course change, no matter how little, they will not do it." Leena explained. "It might still be worth talking to them", Janeway said. "If they can equip their ships for long hauls, perhaps they have technology that can help us." Leena shook her head. "If you find a ship docked, they will help. But they aren't docked very often. There's no negotiating with these GeOri. We heard the tale of one of their captains who delayed his departure for 30 minutes to hear from his wife, who was undergoing emergency surgery. She lived, and divorced him because he had waited." Janeway felt herself wondering if they would appear so rigid and, well, 'alien' to the cultures they encountered. There were so many cultures and civilizations all over the galaxy, and all had their own peculiarities. Still, she stored the information for any good it might do them. The Cardassians had little more to tell. Although they had stopped on some other planets, and encountered a few other ships, the only encounter that Janeway thought could be important in their own quest to get home was the one with the GeOri. She tried to figure out what the Cardassians were thinking. They both wanted to get home -they had set a course even in that little shuttle, knowing that at top speed it would still take centuries to get there. For any other Federation crew it would make sense to remain on board, and travel on together. But Cardassians were not Federation members, and she had noticed the way Radek talked about all non- Cardassians they had encountered. Even the GeOri, who had helped them, had received little more than contempt from the Glinn. So she wondered if he really would request passage on Voyager, and if he did, how they would ever make it work, on such a small ship for perhaps years to come. Leena, now, seemed more reasonable. But Radek was the one in charge. A Glinn was the equivalent of a Commander, a tenec a Lieutenant, Janeway knew. She thought of more practical matters. If the Cardassians were to remain on board, they would have another shuttle. And a good little craft, that might stand up to a few scrapes. As the Cardassians finished their story, Tuvok suggested to have some dinner before continuing. Janeway thought that was a good suggestion, as she still had not thought of a good way to break to the Cardassians that some of her crew members were Maquis. When it was her turn to tell of their journey, it would be impossible to avoid. Leena, she thought, might react in a reasonable way, but she was unsure about Radek. He had seemed curt even for a Cardassian, and she was certain he would not take the news of the Maquis crew members lightly. As Janeway did not want to take the Cardassians into the mess hall, where they would be likely to run into Maquis crew members, she called Neelix to serve dinner in the conference room. It did not take long for Neelix and Kes to bring in the food. They put it on the table, and everyone ate banquet style, mingling and making small-talk. Janeway hoped it might relax Radek a bit. She noticed Leena on the other side of the table, helping herself to -something-, and walked over to her. She caught Tuvok's eye, and he gave her a slight nod. If she wanted to talk to Leena, he would make sure Radek was occupied on the other side of the room. Leena looked up as Janeway approached. "Captain." "I hoped we might talk for a moment." Janeway said. Leena looked a little puzzled that the Captain wanted to talk to her -on a Cardassian ship, a Gul would have talked to Radek, never seeking her out. *But this isn't a Cardassian ship* she thought. So she hesitantly said, "Sure." Janeway noticed the tenec was uncomfortable, and she would have liked to take a little time leading up to this, but she knew her officers could not keep Radek occupied for very long, so she barged straight ahead. "Are you going to request passage on Voyager?" Leena looked a bit more puzzled, wondering why the Captain would ask her, but she answered, "I would, but Radek is the Glinn. He will decide." "You think he might decide to keep going in a shuttle?" Janeway had considered that possibility, but somehow she still had trouble believing anyone, even Radek, would pass up an opportunity to get home on Voyager because he did not like some of the crew. Leena glanced at Radek, who was standing across the room talking to Tuvok. "He might." She hesitated. Then she asked, "Would you grant us passage if we asked for it?" "We are not in Federation Space, but this is still a Federation vessel. We are obliged to help anyone who needs it." Janeway said. Leena considered that. If anything, she looked more puzzled now than she had when Janeway had first addressed her. Janeway knew that although the Cardassians had some knowledge of the Federation, the concept of helping others without other motives than simply aiding them, might be difficult for them to believe. Instead of taking a lot of time that she did not have to convince Leena, she decided to try a different track. "We could also use the shuttle. We lost the last of ours to the Kazon." It wasn't even untrue, the shuttle problem was a serious one, and one that might be conveniently solved by the Cardassians showing up at exactly this time. Leena nodded. This she could relate to. Meanwhile, Neelix and Kes had joined them after putting the food on the table. As Radek walked over to pour himself another cup of not-so-much-like-coffee coffee substitute, Neelix came over and in his bright and over-friendly way introduced himself. "Neelix is the name. Welcome aboard, are you enjoying the meal?" He beamed, taking Radek's hand and pumping it. Radek was taken aback by this sudden show of friendship from the Talaxian. He carefully answered, "It is quite... interesting." Neelix nodded energetically. "You would be surprised what a good cook can do with the most simple supplies. So, will you be staying aboard, then?" Radek just had no idea what to think of this alien. Slowly he said, "Perhaps..." And, as Neelix tipped his head in a bit of surprise, he added, "That surprises you?" Neelix shrugged. "Well, I thought the Maquis and the Cardassians didn't get along too well." Suddenly it all fell into place. Radek twisted around to look at Chakotay as the realization hit him. "You are Maquis!", he said sharply. The room fell dead quiet. Janeway felt herself hold her breath, and made herself release it. *So much for the relaxing effects of dinner* She cursed herself for forgetting one of the first rules of keeping something quiet: making sure all parties involved _knew_ it had to be kept quiet. She knew better than this. She caught the glances of her officers across the room. Heck, they _all_ knew better than this, but the harm had been done, and the only thing to do was to cope with it the best they could. "Yes, some of my crew _were_ Maquis members." Janeway said. "A fact which you conveniently forget to mention." Radek noted. "We would have told you when we told you about our journey out here.", Tuvok said, in his usual calm manner. "Right. I suppose we have to believe that, since Vulcans do not lie?" Radek said. "Come on Leena, we are leaving, now." He started to turn toward the door. Leena surprised him by speaking up. "Why? What is the difference?" Radek turned around, not knowing if he had heard her right. "What?" Leena stood her ground. "What is the difference? These people have invited us on their ship, offered their help -is it that important if we had some conflict with them back in the Alpha Quadrant?" Radek's eyes narrowed. He barely kept his voice under control. "These people are rebels. Terrorists. You can not honestly be suggesting we accept their help, let alone stay on their ship." "You want to go back out there in the shuttle? We'll never get home and you know it." Leena countered. Radek took a deep breath and drew himself up. "You dare defy me openly?" His voice had an edge to it, it was clear he was trying very hard not to shout. "We will continue this 'discussion' in private." The Voyager officers had kept silent while this exchange had been going on, but now Janeway spoke up. "We can leave you alone if you want to discuss this here.", she offered. "So you can listen in to everything we say? I think not. We will talk in our shuttle." Radek answered her. Leena hesitated, and Radek added, "Shuttle, now. That is an order, tenec." Leena sighed, and relented. As she moved toward the door, she shrugged apologetically to Janeway. Tuvok started to follow, but Janeway stopped him with a glance. She knew letting the Cardassians go out to the shuttle bay by themselves was a risk, but following them openly by sending someone after them was almost certain to compound matters. Tuvok understood, and instead called his staff to keep an eye on the Cardassians -discretely. Janeway watched the door close. "Well, that happened not the way I intended." she sighed. Neelix came up to her. "My sincerest apologies, Captain. Had I but known..." Janeway interrupted him. "It is al right, Neelix. The mistake was mine -I should have briefed you." Neelix looked at her, and when he saw she meant it, he answered, "Well, okay, if you say so... I guess I will be clearing those dishes off the table, then." He bustled up to the table and started stacking the dishes. "Do you want me to monitor the shuttle, Captain?" Tuvok asked. "Only for engine activity. We will not listen in on them." Janeway said. If anyone wants to have a private discussion, they should be able to do so, she thought. She realized maybe her high sense of ethics was not the most sensible course of action, but she had compromised her sense of ethics this morning, withholding information she had not even intended to continue to withhold, and it had not turned out favorably at all. "You spoke with her. Do you think she will convince the Glinn to remain?" Chakotay asked Janeway. He could not fully hide the fact that he hoped they would not. He tried to tell himself he was part of the Federation crew, and they had their obligations, but he could not see how it could ever work out with the Glinn on Voyager for any length of time, and remembering the last time he had faced a female Cardassian... He cut off that line of thought abruptly. "I don't know." Janeway said honestly. "We'll just have to wait. In the mean time, lets get the other Senior officers in here and brief them on the situation thus far. I do not want to be caught like that again." Chakotay nodded. He called for Paris, Kim and B'Elanna, and they quickly filled them in. As soon as they entered the shuttle, Radek turned on Leena. "Have you lost your mind?" Leena spoke fast. "I talked with the Captain. They need a shuttle, we could give them ours for passage. What does it matter where they come from?" Radek was quite determined. "We can not stay on board with those terrorists." Leena looked him straight in the eye. "You want to keep going in the shuttle? It'll take centuries to get home. This is our best chance of getting on a faster ship." Radek did not want to hear it. "A Cardassian could _never_ accept help from terrorists." "They seem to be doing a lot better than we did." Leena countered. "They need a shuttle, we got one. It's our ride home! Any conflict with the Maquis is over 70.000 light-years away from here." "We will leave this ship, and no more arguments from you. I can not believe you would even consider dealing with the enemy." Radek stated. Leena made a decision. It wasn't easy -it went against everything she had learned in the Cardassian military. But if Radek could do no different, neither could she. Her voice was bitter. "The only enemy we have out here is space. Too much between us and home, and not enough between you and me. It will take me a few moments to get my personal things together, see you in 500 years." Radek was almost as surprised as he was mad. He had not really expected her to go so completely against him. "May I remind you I outrank you? This is mutiny -desertion." Leena spoke from the aft compartment, where she was grabbing her few items together. "Feel free to report me to Central Command first thing when you get back." Radek couldn't let it go. "You don't know they will let you stay without the shuttle to barter with." Leena came into the cockpit, a small bundle in her hand. "No, I don't. But they are Federation, they won't throw me out the air lock. If they drop me off on a space station or a planet, so be it. Truth is, these people get along better with all their differences than we do as two Cardassians. And if your pride and arrogance won't let you see that, that's too bad. Dessoh, Radek." With these words she opened the hatch and stepped on Voyager's deck. Here she was, on a ship she wasn't sure that would let her stay, she had just slammed the door on the only other Cardassian in parsecs, and strangely, she felt better than she had in a long time. She walked over to a comm unit on the wall and touched it. "Leena to Captain Janeway." "Janeway here.", the reply came. Leena didn't hesitate anymore. She'd already closed the door behind her. "Captain, can I speak with you?" "Certainly," Janeway answered. "Come right up to my ready room." "I'll be there." Leena said. Janeway sat down, sipping her coffee. She tried to guess what had taken place in the shuttle, between Radek and Leena. Tuvok had reported activity aboard the shuttle right after Leena had called, so perhaps they had decided to leave. Still, she wasn't sure. *They could have told us that over the comm channel.* And it had been Radek who had initiated any earlier conversations. Tuvok interrupted her thoughts. "Bridge to Janeway." "Go ahead." "Leena is here to see you." the Vulcan said. "Send her in." The door opened, and Tuvok showed in Leena. Janeway immediately noticed the small bundle she carried. Tuvok followed the Captain's eyes and raised an eyebrow. "Thanks, Tuvok." He went back to the bridge, and the ready room doors closed. "Please, take a seat." Janeway offered. Leena did so. She, too, had noticed the Captain looking at her bundle. "I take it you spoke with Radek." Janeway said. "Yes. We... disagreed." Here, facing the Captain who would decide whether she'ld be going home, or be dropped off somewhere in the Delta quadrant, Leena felt some of her newfound confidence slipping. Janeway said nothing, giving Leena time to gather herself together again. "Captain, request permission to remain on board." Leena said. Janeway had known that was coming the moment she saw Leena's bundle. That did not mean she really knew what to do, though. "Just you?" she asked, although she knew what the answer would be. "Yes. Radek has decided he will not... _can_ not accept any help from the Maquis, or anyone associated with them." Leena said. "But you can?" Janeway asked. Leena nodded slowly. "On Cardassia, we learn that we are strong because we are one race, a unity." Leena explained. "We view the Federation as weak, thinking your differences will cause it to break up, to fall apart. That is what we are taught, in our schools and even more so in the military. But here, on your ship, I have seen people from several different planets, different backgrounds, all working together to get home. And it _is_ working, you are doing much better than we did." "Radek does not see it that way." It was a statement, not a question. Still, Leena answered. "No. Or maybe he does, but it does not change his decision. Proof of something doesn't count for much on Cardassia." Janeway had of course some knowledge of the Cardassian society, and she had read the reports of Cardassian trials. *The verdict is guilty, let the trial begin* she thought. She looked at the Cardassian sitting across from her. She guessed there was some logic in it that a scientist would at least be somewhat more open to accept proof than a purely military man. They were interrupted by Tuvok's call from the bridge. "Bridge to Janeway." "Janeway here. Go ahead." "Captain, the Cardassian shuttle has requested clearance to launch." Tuvok reported. Janeway glanced at Leena, who remained motionless. "Permission granted." she said. Tuvok acknowledged and closed the channel. "Now then," Janeway said. "You will need some quarters assigned to you, and I want you to report in with Sickbay and have the Doctor give you a complete physical. I'll have Ensign Kim show you the way." Leena had to know. "I will understand if you drop me off at a space station or a planet. I don't have the shuttle or any other way to pay for passage." Janeway looked at her. True, it was not going to be easy, with the Maquis, and several of her original crew were Bajorans. Add their experiences with Seska to that... But she was not going to drop anyone off, this far from home. She'ld just have to find a way. "I'll get you home. I promised that to my crew, I'll make the same promise to you." she told Leena. And as she had made that decision, Janeway knew she'd better tell Leena about Seska, she'ld hear it anyway. She also wanted to see Leena's reaction. She told Leena, "You might find not only the Maquis apprehensive about your arrival on Voyager. We had a couple of run-ins with a Cardassian recently." "Here?" Leena said, amazed. "One of the Maquis turned out to be an Obsidian Order spy." Leena made a face. "Believe me, Captain, I have no love for the Order. Hardly anyone does, in the Military, although you will not hear anyone say so in the Alpha Quadrant." She gave a wry smile. "They always say the Order is everywhere, but I had not expected to find them here." Janeway saw and heard the distaste Leena had for the Order. It seemed sincere enough. Still, she was not going to put Leena in Sciences, with no full-time department head to watch her. She did not like being biased, but it was always hard to trust again after being betrayed. "You will have to be a member of this crew. We are from home, and might have years to go yet. That means everyone on board will have to work together. Everyone has to be a member of the crew, one, Starfleet crew." Janeway stressed those last few words, and recalled the time, almost a year ago, when she had said those words to her whole crew, as they set off on this journey. They had managed quite well, but there had been problems and conflicts for quite some time. "I understand." Leena said. Thinking about it, she had known this was the most sensible action to take, but she still was relieved to hear it. On a Cardassian ship, a single Federation member would never be allowed into the crew. Then, on a Cardassian ship, a Federation member would probably not have been let on board in the first place, here in the Delta quadrant, with no one to know if someone stayed behind. The Cardassians had no aid and rescue clause for non-Cardassians in their directive. "I will have to speak with my First Officer as to where to put you. In the mean time, we'll get your quarters and physical taken care of." Janeway told her. Then she called for Ensign Kim. Harry Kim showed Leena the way to Sickbay. Kes was sitting at one of the consoles. "Hi Kes. Is the Doctor on?" Kim asked. *On?* Leena thought. "He's in his office." Kes answered. She called, "Doctor?" The Doctor appeared from the office. He showed his surprise when he saw Leena. "Well, how can I help you?" "This is Leena." Kim introduced her. "She will be staying on board. The captain wants a full exam on her." "It is nice to see someone actually thought of that." The Doctor said. "But I must admit to some curiosity as to where you come from. Or did we get back to the Alpha Quadrant and did everyone forget to tell me?" He looked at Kim, who shook his head. Leena observed this exchange. She did not know how to interpret this exchange. "It is a long story. If you don't mind, I'll tell it some other time." "Hm." The Doctor said. "Well, if you'ld follow me," he gestured at one of the bio-beds. "Tricorder." Kes handed him one. Leena thought hard. There had been intelligence reports on new Federation technologies... Suddenly it all clicked into place. She looked at the Doctor, surprise showing in her face. "You are a hologram." The Doctor, used to almost any reaction from strangers, didn't stop with what he was doing. He merely glanced up for a moment. "Yes. Does that bother you?" Leena reflected. Since this morning, she had met more aliens than she had met in a year back on Cardassia. So why not a hologram? "Not particularly, no." she said. "But how did a hologram come to be Chief Medical Officer on a Starship?" This time, the Doctor did pause briefly what he was doing. "It's a long story, as well. You tell me yours, I'll tell you mine." Leena laughed. She found herself liking the brusque, no-nonsense manner of the Doctor. "It's a deal." she said. The Doctor completed her physical and checked the results. "Hm. No illnesses or infections, but your physical condition could be better. You should take some time to exercise." he told her. "I spent most of the last year on a shuttle craft. Not much room for exercise." Leena explained. "On a shuttle craft. A year." the Doctor said. Leena nodded. "Then, considering the circumstances, your condition is remarkable. Just be sure not to overdo it when you start exercising again." He handed the padd he had used to Kes. "Enter this in the crew files, please." He turned back to Leena. "I'm done, you can go." Leena jumped off the diagnostics bed. "Thanks, Doc." With a mild surprise the Doctor said, "You're welcome." He went back into his office. Leena and Kim left sickbay. Harry had also been surprised with the exchange, and as he led the way through the corridors, he mentioned it. "It does not bother you our Doctor is a hologram?" he asked. "Should it?" Leena asked. "Most of us had some trouble accepting him at first. And from what I understood, Cardassians don't easily get along with others." "Maybe, in this case, that's an advantage." And, as she saw Kim's questioning look, she added, "For me, _everybody_ on this ship is an alien. All of you have others of your race, or at least of your Federation, on board. Everybody here is an alien, human or Bajoran, Federation or Maquis. Or hologram." Kim agreed that made sense. They had arrived at the quarters assigned to her, so he showed her in and explained the basic shipboard procedures to her. Janeway had called Chakotay into her ready room. When he had taken a seat, she told him she had given Leena permission to remain on board. "I have no idea of where to place her, but she will have to be a member of our crew." Chakotay frowned. "Are you sure that is wise?" Janeway shook her head. "No," she admitted. "But I don't see what else to do. I can't refuse her passage -we are a Starfleet ship and we have to render aid when asked to do so. We don't have enough resources to have non-contributing passengers aboard, and I can't hardly lock her up because someone else from her race was a spy." Chakotay thought hard. He had an idea, but he knew _someone_ wasn't going to be happy about it. *Oh well, _I_ am not happy about it, but it is the only thing I can think of*, he thought. "Put her in Engineering." Janeway stared at him, not sure she followed him. "Engineering?" Chakotay nodded. "If anyone can keep an eye on her, B'Elanna can." It made sense. But Janeway wasn't convinced. "In Engineering, she'll get to know every detail about the workings of the ship." Chakotay had considered that, too. "So does B'Elanna, and so do I. There was a treaty with the Cardassians when we left, there wasn't one with the Maquis." "Alright." Janeway made the decision. "Who's gonna tell B'Elanna?" Chakotay looked at her. "You're the Captain." He got up and exited onto the bridge. "Oh, great." Janeway sighed. She tapped her badge to call B'Elanna to the ready room. Janeway took a deep breath, then said, "Come." The door opened and B'Elanna Torres came in. "Sit down." Janeway indicated the chair. Torres sat down, and Janeway went right ahead. "Leena will be remaining on board." Torres' face clouded, but Janeway did not leave her time for a reply. "I have decided to assign her to Engineering." That got a reaction. Torres jumped up. "You assigned a Cardassian to work in my department?", she yelled. Janeway let her vent her frustration, then calmly stated "You know we can't have passengers on this trip. And I believe you have told me many times how short-handed we are." Torres stalked through the ready room. "Then assign her some place else and transfer someone else to Engineering!" Janeway put up a hand to quiet her. "Frankly, you are one of the few people on board I can trust to keep an eye on her. I don't want her on the bridge under Chakotay, and I can't hardly put her in Security, can I? That leaves you." B'Elanna knew Janeway had made up her mind. She let out an explosive sigh. "Was that all?", she asked. Janeway nodded. Then, as B'Elanna was about to storm out the door, Janeway called her back. "Oh, B'Elanna? Don't bother complaining to Chakotay. It was his idea." B'Elanna paused for a second. *How'd she know that was where I was going?* She whirled and stalked out of the ready room. Janeway watched her leave. She considered getting another cup of coffee. She'd had two already, and another one would mean she had no replicator rations left for the next two days. It'd been a long day. She almost got up to get it, then decided against it. If B'Elanna's reaction was any indication, she was going to need that coffee tomorrow when word had gotten around to the rest of the Maquis crew. She called for Leena to come to her ready room. As the Cardassian came in, she motioned for her to sit. "You asked to see me?" Leena said. Janeway nodded. "I spoke with my First Officer. I have no position in your usual station or rank, but we have decided to assign you to Engineering." Janeway told her. "Thank you, Captain." Leena said. "Don't thank me yet. Not everyone on my crew will be happy with that decision. There's the Maquis, and I have several Bajorans among my original crew who have no love for Cardassians. You see us working together now, but it was not always easy at first, for the two crews to work together. And they had each other -you are alone." "I understand." Leena said. The Doctor had seemed nice enough, and Ensign Kim had been friendly, as well, but she recalled the tension she had felt in the First Officer in the Conference room, and she had seen a couple of crew members glance at her as she walked through the corridors on her way up here. Still, this was better than she had dared to hope for this morning. "I am grateful to be here, Captain. I will do my best to work with your crew." Janeway smiled as she nodded. "I know you will." She started to feel more confident she could trust this Cardassian as she talked to her. Still, she knew there were many crew members with more past experiences with the Cardassians than she had. It would take time before Leena would be integrated into the crew, and not all of it would be easy. But they had made it work before, they would make it work this time, too. She looked at Leena. "Will you get trouble with this when (*when, not if*) we get home?" Leena looked back at her, somewhat puzzled. "You have taken the Maquis into your crew, and now me, and you're asking _me_ if _I_ am going to be in trouble?" Janeway hesitated for a moment. Truth to tell, she didn't look forward to that part of her debriefing at Starfleet Command. But she answered lightly. "I had some pull at Starfleet Headquarters when I left. Not that they're going to be happy about it, but the Federation is pretty lenient. Much more so than the Cardassian Empire is said to be." Leena took a moment, also. Then she said, "Well, let's just say it's a good thing we'll be back about 500 years before Radek." They left it at that. The End. ===================================================================== Notes: 'tenec', pronounced TEN-nec (lieutenant) and Dessoh, pronounced des-SOH, (good-bye) I made up myself as I couldn't find any cannon words for them. Names are pronounced LEE-na, ra-DEK, sta-VOS, ge-o-ri.
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