Alternate Consequences
By H.W.


Chapter 4

He didn't have eye for the beautiful nature around him. All he knew was that he had to hurry. He knew that they were closing in on him. He knew that he had only once chance to get safe. Once he was safe he was sure that he could send out the messages to clear it all up, once he was safe they would listen. Surely they would.

He stumbled over a tree root and while trying to regain his balance, stepped with his second foot deeply into the wet mud.

"Damn," He cursed while trying to pull his foot free. But a few simple tugs didn't do it. He was stuck deep in the mud. Finally when putting all his strength behind it, he managed to pull free. But unfortunately he had pulled so hard that he lost his footing on the tree root again and fell face forward into the mud. "Damn it all!"

Then he saw something through the threes that he hadn't been able to see while standing. Now, lying down he could just see a roof through a hole in the trees. He knew that this was what he had been looking for. It was sooo close. Much closer than he had dared to hope. Only five more minutes and he would be safely inside a Trill sanctuary. Being that there were several Trill at the top, Trill sanctuaries were the only safe place that was recognized by 'them.'

With renewed hope he tried to get up. Just five more minutes. But just as he had crawled onto his hands and knees, he felt a boot on his back pushing him firmly back into the mud.

"Did you really think you could get away from us, from me?"

"Bejal Mingan," The Ferengi sputtered through the mud that was seeping into his mouth.

"I'm so honored that you remember me, Vash," The man holding him down said mockingly. "Here I thought that you had developed an extreme case of forgetfulness. After all, you also forgot to pay me back. I thought you Ferengies were smarter than that. You don't loan credits from us and than don't pay it back. Your first installment was due last week, but I didn't see any credits."

"Bejal, you get your credits back, including the interest. I'll... I'll even pay you twenty-five percent instead of the twenty you asked."

"Will the miracles never end? A Ferengi who offers more credits than asked of him? I have no interest in your empty words, Vash. If you couldn't pay me my twenty percent, you certainly won't be able to pay me my twenty-five percent. I really hate it when I don't get my credits, and yours was the biggest loan I ever wrote out. Maybe that was my mistake, trusting your name like that, one doesn't trust a Ferengi. What have you done with it, Vash? You told me that you were going to buy into that star base. I liked the idea of having a star base under syndicate control. I was actually looking forward to buying into more bases. But imagine my surprise when I found out that a Bajoran had bought into the star base instead of you."

Bejal had allowed Vash to crawl back onto his hands and knees, but now Bejal once more pushed him back into the mud. "Where, are, my, credits, Vash?" Bejal asked, pushing the Ferengi's face into the mud with every word.

"I... I did invest it Bejal. I invested it into something that will bring a lot more profit on a much shorter base."

"Go on," The Trill merely said.

"Remember how I told you that being part owner of that base would bring three million credits every year? Bejal, I saw a deal that will make me half a billion credits in five years."

"What did you do?"

"I invested the credits into buying a moon. I..."

"A moon?!" Bejal shouted. "You loaned that amount of credits from me to buy a damn moon? You damn Ferengies with your love for damn moons to retire on. You are going to die Vash, and it's going to hurt. It's going to hurt for a long, long time. It will be hours before I'm through with you."

"NO. No, Bejal, you don't understand. This isn't about the moon, but about what's on it. There lives a species on the moon. It is so close to the humans in appearance and makeup that you need a DNA scan to see the difference."

"So? There are several races that look just like humans, just like there are several races that look just like the Vulcans, the Romulans come to mind here. That is why there is an automated DNA on every damn entrance to every damn ship or damn star base, and every time you beam somewhere your DNA is scanned as well. Everyone knows this."

"True," Vash was forced to agree. "But not every place has scanners. There are places that don't care where the slaves come from, as you know, since you normally deliver slaves to those. Normally people from those other look-alike races can't be used because their government would complain to their people being sold into slavery. But Bejal, that is the beauty of this moon. There is no government. This moon has been a private position for as long as the coalition exists, been in the same family for all that time. The people on it never thought about getting official status since their 'government' was the family that owned the moon.

"But now I own the moon. There is no government that can complain as I sell them off into slavery. It is perfect Bejal. So that I don't flood the marked and people wonder where all my slaves come from, I will sell them over a five year time frame. At the end I will have made half a billion, and I can sell the moon again for the same price that I bought it for."

"Hmm, that does sound interesting," Bejal agreed. "You just made one small mistake. You see, since you didn't pay me on time, that moon is now mine, and I'll be making that half billion."

"What? Surely you don't think that I'll just sign over a padd worth half a billion to you? Come on Bejal, surely we can reach a deal here."

"So the contract for the moon is still only on a padd? Perfect. Hand me that padd and I will think about actually letting you live."

"How stupid do you think I am? If I give you that padd, I have nothing left to deal with and you will kill me."

Before Vash could even try to react, Bejal had pushed him into the mud once more and grabbed one of his arms, pulling it back until Vash screamed from the pain. "You seem to forget, my dear Vash, that I know that a padd is always signed with a thumb print. That means that I can cut off eight of your fingers before I might cut off the one you used to sign the padd." Bejal flipped a knife suddenly from apparently nowhere and cut Vash's pinky until he reached the bone. "Now, my good friend Vash, this one I'm going to cut off simply because I can, and because I like doing it. Then I'm going to ask you where the pad is. After that I'll continue to cut until you sign the padd over to me.

"And once I have done that I will decide just how I'm going to kill you. Am I'm going to do it slow and painful, or am I'm going to do it very slow and very painful. I haven't decided about that part yet. Why am I going to kill you regardless you wonder? Well because you didn't pay on time. Nobody doesn't pay on time and continues to live. All you had to do was come to me and tell me about your changed plan. Sure I would have asked more. I would have probably taken half. But you see, you would have still had the other half, you would have continued to live. But now, now you are going to die. Slow, painful."

For a long time the painful screams of a dying Ferengi continued to fill the beautiful nature.

"So what's so special about this planet?" Chakotay asked, more in an effort to make small talk than truly hear a lengthy explanation. He had been at the senior staff meeting after all, he had heard Annika explain the very thing he was now asking her.

"Well, since it's a class J gas giant we really can't go hide in some mine corridor," Annika said with a smile. She was glad to actually be able to talk a little. It was her first day as Acting Captain of Voyager, and she had quickly found out that it was surprisingly boring, doing nothing more than sitting and looking at the view-screen for hours. "It's more a good place to run to than actually hide. The outer one third of the planet is quite safe to travel through, except for storms that will tear any ship to shreds that has shielding that is less strong than Voyager's. It's the inner two thirds you have to watch out for. The closer to the center you get, the higher the radiation ratings get."

"But we can survive there?" Chakotay asked.

"Yeah. Those Borg enhanced Federation shields are some of the best inside Coalition space. Oh, there are stronger shields out there, but the shields of this ship do so much more than just stop weapon fire. If we ever have some ships on our tail that we can't shake, we can fly into the atmosphere of the gas giant and have them follow us. While we can safely navigate there, their sensors will be blinded by the radiation affecting their instruments. Quite some years ago, even before I became a master slave, I had to work on a ship that had flown into the atmosphere while following a smugglers ship. The smugglers were destroyed by the planet's atmosphere, and the Klingon Battle cruiser only barely survived."

"But instead of assuming that we will be fine, you want to check it?"

"Right," Annika agreed. "Better now while we have the time to send in a probe, than when we have several ships on our tail." Annika sighed and after a moment asked, "What the hell do you people normally do during a shift? As master slave I was busy all the time, working, doing things I didn't trust others with. But here I'm just looking at a screen showing the stars."

Chakotay chuckled at the slightly frustrated tone in Annika's voice. "Well, normally the captain took an hour in the seat in the mornings, talking to me about the small things from the last day that weren't really important enough to make it into an official report. After that she normally went into her ready room to spend the rest of the day there doing 'Captain work.'"

"Captain work?" Annika asked.

"Read reports, go over personal files, tedious and time consuming stuff."

"She couldn't do that here?"

"Sure, but why would a captain do that when there is a perfectly good ready room waiting just a small walk away? Besides, that is what the ready room is designed for."

"To separate the captain from the rest of the crew?" Annika asked.

Chakotay leaned a little closer and whispered amused. "No, so get the Captain off the bridge for most of the day, and therefore out of the bridge crew's hair."

Annika gave him a smile. "Was that a hint for me to go to the ready room and be bored by myself?"

"No, I was just letting you know that nobody would hold it against you if you did."

"Maybe tomorrow, but I got to tell you, I'm not planning on hiding away in there. A padd can be read out here just as well."

"Aye Captain," Chakotay merely said. Privately he agreed though. A captain did have the ready room to retreat to, but that didn't mean that she basically had to live there.

"We are coming within range of the planet," Tom spoke up after a moment of silence. "Dropping out of warp now."

"Alright. Tom, take us as close as you can to the planet without actually entering its atmosphere," Annika said before turning to Chakotay. "As we agreed, this ship is going to be run like a Federation ship. If I read regulations right, you would also do scientific test in a situation like now?"

"Yes," Chakotay agreed. "When we go into that gas giant, we will be using the sensors anyway, it would be waste to not use that chance to do some research."

"Alright. Now, from what I read in the reports, Voyager didn't start out with a chief science officer since the mission that brought the ship into the Delta Quadrant was really only supposed to be a short mission to find Tuvok."

"Right," Chakotay agreed, having a feeling that he knew where Annika was going. "But once we got stuck in the Delta Quadrant, I kinda took that under my wing. That is until we took Seven on board. Ever since that day she fulfilled the job of chief science officer, even though she never got an official Starfleet rank, or that it was even discussed that she now headed up our science department. It was more like 'report to Seven,' and Seven simply dealing with the task expected of her."

Annika nodded her head in understanding. "Seven is no longer here, and I don't want to dump that work back onto you. I think that the best thing to do would be to make the position official and promote someone to it. Do you have a good suggestion?"

"Well, that depends," Chakotay said thoughtfully. "Do you want the chief science officer to truly only be a scientist, or do you want this officer to work close to Engineering like Seven did? For only science I would suggest Wildman. She is a very good scientist. There are one or two better, but they lack the organizational skills a chief needs. If you want them to work close with Engineering, than I would suggest Ayala. He actually has an engineering degree. He did it for some time before deciding that he likes science better. He still helps out in engineering whenever we need someone there."

"Chakotay, even though I am captain now, I must admit that I don't know which approach would work better, so you will have to decide that."

"Captain, we are in position," Tom spoke into the silence that had fallen while Chakotay thought about the issue for a moment.

"Thank you, Tom. Hold position for now."

"Yes Captain."

"Well," Chakotay finally said. "I like how close Engineering and the science department work now. With Seven gone, this is going to water down again if we don't do anything against it. Ayala is Lieutenant junior grade now, while Wildman is an Ensign. I would suggest promoting Ayala to Lieutenant and making him chief science officer, and promoting Wildman to Lieutenant junior grade and making her second in command of the science department."

"Alright. I'll go to the ready room now. Tell Ayala and Wildman to report to me. I want my chief science officer and his second in command promoted and in position before we do some exploring. When they get here, you will join me in my ready room?"

"Certainly," Chakotay merely said. A small side affect of the Acting Captain position. If someone was promoted to where they would become part of the senior staff, like Ayala as chief science officer, the first officer had to be present and also authorize the promotion. Everyone who wouldn't be serving on the senior staff could be promoted by Annika herself.

An hour later, with the new, and first ever official, science officer of Voyager on the bridge proudly wearing his new pip, Voyager slowly started it's descent into the planet's atmosphere.

"Alright, Tom, hold it here. This is as far as I know for sure it is safe. Commander, you may take over now." One of the agreements Annika had made with Chakotay and Tuvok. Even though Annika was now captain, she lacked the years of experience commanding a ship. She was used to giving commands to individuals or small groups. So, in effort to let Annika learn 'on the job' she would hand command to Chakotay or Tuvok from time to time and learn from how they did the job.

"Aye Captain. Tuvok launch the probe. Ayala, while the probe is descending we will also use Voyager's sensors to find out what we can from here. Is your department ready to catalogue the information?"

"Yes Commander."

"Commander," Tuvok spoke up. "The planet's radiation is interfering with our sensors, limiting their range. While we can continue with these tests, we are 'blind' to anything that happens outside this solar system, and I would surmise that the sensor range will deteriorate more the further we go into the planet's atmosphere."

Annika and Chakotay looked at each other for a second before Annika lifted her eyebrows slightly, indicating that this was still his show.

"Continue as planned. We scanned before we came in here, the chances of suddenly someone coming here are extremely remote. They would have to specifically come to this planet for some reason for that to happen."

"Yes commander."

"Definitely a useful place," Chakotay said two hours later while Tom was slowly taking them out of the gas giant. The had managed to go half way to the center without any risk of damage, and the probes had indicated that if needed they could go further still, but the risk had been deemed unnecessary to take for nothing more than a test to see if it could be done.

Once they had left the planet's atmosphere entirely Tuvok spoke up to give them some unwelcome news. "Commander, sensors are picking up a Cardassian ship."

"Cardassian?" Chakotay asked before turning to Annika. "Aren't we still in Klingon space?"

"We are," Annika agreed. "What class of ship?"

"Keldon class."

"Isn't that one of their battle cruisers?" Tom asked.

"It is," Annika agreed, "but Cardassians really have to have it from their numbers in bigger space battles. Keldon class is the biggest thing they have, yet even four of them would lose a fight with the Klingon Negh'var class. Having said that, the Keldon class is powerful enough that we would lose much of the advantage this planet can give us, especially if they decide to not follow us in but wait us out."

Annika got up and looked at the view screen for a moment, seeing the Cardassian ship changing course and coming straight for them. "Commander, I don't like that we have a Cardassian ship right here in the middle of Klingon space. I have a feeling that that this will come down to a battle. I did read the files of the senior crew, do you agree with me that Tuvok would be better suited to deal with such a situation?"

"Absolutely," Chakotay agreed, knowing the Vulcan's tour of duty in Starfleet.

"Alright," Annika said while she got up and walked over to Tuvok's station. "Commander Tuvok, you have command of the ship for now. But, I want our cloaking abilities to be only used as a last resort."

"Very well, Captain. Helm, set a course that will take us way from this planet and from the Cardassian ship."

"Course laid in, Commander."

"Engage, warp four."

"Engaged," Tom said while pushing Voyager into warp.

"They are following us at warp six," Tuvok said after a moment. "They will reach us in five minutes at these speeds."

"Given where we are I don't think that it would be a good idea to have a lengthy pursuit," Annika said. Both of them knowing that at the moment she wasn't speaking as the captain, but merely advising Tuvok. "If we were to come across any Klingon ships it is certain that they would join the Cardassians in hunting us down before asking the Cardassians what they are actually doing in Klingon space. I think the best thing to do is try to deal with them here. If we don't succeed then running is still a last option, just as the cloak still is."

"I agree," Tuvok said after thinking for only a second. "Helm, change course once more, back closer to the planet. "Miss Hansen," Tuvok said, deliberately not addressing Annika as captain to prevent confusing any of the bridge crew about who was in command at the moment. "I do know the weak spots of the Keldon class ships from our dimension, but there is a chance that the ships are build different here."

"Right," Annika agreed, knowing what Tuvok was going to ask. She bent over the screen of Tuvok's console and pointed out two places to him. "My best advice would be to concentrate phaser fire on this point first, and then consider this a secondary target. If you see an explosion with the first target, just keep firing never the less. The real target lies deeper in the ship, but we have to get through the primary and secondary hull first."

"I am familiar with the second target, but I did not know about the first one."

"The first once is the matter/antimatter stabilizer. That is why you have to keep firing after the first explosion, it lies deeper in the ship than that. With that gone, they can forget about using their warp engines. And besides them being limited to thruster speed only, it also means that they are reduced to emergency power only. There is no way that they can keep their shields up for long using emergency power only."

"Would a photon torpedo not be better? With the right warhead it should penetrate both hulls at once."

"No," Annika disagreed. "If both hulls are destroyed at once in that area, it could set off chain reaction that could destroy too much of the ship."

"Doesn't the Keldon class outrank us on all fronts?" Tom asked from his chair. He really wasn't a coward, but going up against a battle ship while only having a scout ship themselves, seemed a little like suicide to him.

"The Keldon class outranks us on everything except for the torpedoes," Tuvok agreed. "And they could easily destroy us, if we did not know their weak spots. Federation ships would never be allowed into service with weak spots like these. But the Cardassians never minded, knowing that the weak spots can only really be exploited in a one on one battle, and the Cardassians never liked those odds to begin with."

Tuvok saw that the Cardassian ship had come close once more. He activated his comm. link and requested a ship wide channel. "Red alert, all hands to battle stations. Prepare for hostile fire."

"We are being hailed," Harry said from his station.

"Miss Hansen, would you like to handle this?" Tuvok asked.

"Sure, why not. It's going to be a short conversation anyway. You are still in command during this, Tuvok, I'm just doing the talking."

"Very well. Commander Chakotay, take over reading out the relevant information to the bridge crew."

Chakotay nodded his head in agreement. He folded out his information screen and switched it to the tactical station. "Ready."

"Miss Hansen, you may react to the hail."

"Alright, kill that siren and the red light, I want this bridge to look normal." Annika moved back to her chair and set down. "Harry, open the channel."

"Channel open."

"Good day, I'm Acting Captain Annika Hansen of the Federation starship Voyager. How can... I be of service?" Those last words had been said to a once again blank screen when the conversation had been broken off.

"They are powering up their weapon banks," Chakotay said while bringing up the shields.

"Told you it would be short," Annika said. "Once they saw a 'slave' on the bridge they were done talking."

Chakotay continued to read the information out so that the bridge crew knew what was going on, and could react if needed. "Shields are ready, weapons are ready."

"Helm, lay in evasive maneuvers at your own discretion, but let me know which ones you are going to use," Tuvok said. He needed to know what Tom was going to do so that he could better aim on the targets.

"Aye Commander. How about maneuver Gamma three, Beta one, and Charlie four?"

"Very well."

A blast rocked the ship, making Harry automatically hold on to his console. While he was no longer standing, this reaction drilled in by years under fire in the Delta Quadrant was hard to let go.

For a few seconds there was nothing more to be heard than the impact of Cardassian fire and the hum of Voyager's phasers when the fire was returned.

While Tuvok fired a new set of phaser shots, Chakotay gave the status of the ship. "Our shields are down to sixty percent, our phaser fire is having no affect on their shields."

"It will," Annika said confidently. "Tuvok, if I may suggest, while you keep targeting those two points, sent a photon torpedo or two directly at their bridge. It won't do any damage, but is will keep them from shifting too much shield energy to those other points."

"Shields down to fifty percent, still having no affect on their shields."

Tuvok nodded his head a little to indicate that he had understood Chakotay. "Tuvok to Torres."

"Torres here."

"Is the cloak system still fully functional?"

"Sure is."

"Understood. Monitor our shields, if the power drops below twenty percent, power up the system. As soon as the shields drop to ten percent, you can activate it, no further order from the bridge is required."

"Understood, Torres out."

"Mister Paris, I want you to lay in an evasive course and initiate it if the cloaking system is activated. But until that point, keep using the evasive maneuvers."

"Aye Commander."

"Our shields down to forty percent, their shields are buckling."

"Not much longer," Annika said to nobody in particular. And as if the Cardassian ship had heard her, Chakotay read out, "Their shields are dropping rapidly. Down to eighty, seventy, fifty..."

Their generators are overheating," Annika explained, "But don't get comfortable just yet. When their shields hit thirty percent, their auxiliary generator will kick in and it will stay at thirty for a moment longer."

"Our shields are down to thirty percent and holding."

Suddenly the ship was rocked by a heavy impact.

"Our shields are down to twenty-one percent, hull breaches are reported on deck six and seven. Engineering has sent out repair crews."

After yet another heated exchange of fire, which luckily didn't drain the shields this time, Chakotay spoke up. "The outer hull of the first target has been destroyed, shields in that area have been deactivated."

Nobody said anything as Tuvok started targeting the second target for a moment. It was clear that he was giving the Cardassians a few moments to evacuate the area of the first target.

"Their shields are holding at thirty percent, and they are trying to shift energy to the points that Tuvok is targeting."

That was the last thing that they wanted, so Tuvok fired another torpedo at the bridge, highest possible yield this time.

"Direct hit... they are shifting energy back once more. Their shields are dropping further, they stopped firing."

Annika was a little surprised at that, she had expected their shields to hold minutes longer. She looked at Tuvok with raised eyebrows for a moment, conveying her surprise to him.

"Their shields have dropped completely," Chakotay said.

For a moment Annika, Chakotay, and Tuvok looked at each other. They didn't need to talk to know that the best thing to do would be to destroy the ship. If they let them live to tell their tale then people were bound to come after Voyager. But if the ship was destroyed, then it would be just that; a destroyed ship, nobody would know what happened.

But... they weren't cold blooded killers. Defending themselves, yes. Killing while defending themselves, yes. But killing unarmed and defenseless people stuck on a crippled ship... no.

"Stand down torpedoes, stand down all but front phasers," Tuvok finally said.

Chakotay was drawn back to the screen in front of him when he saw movement. "It seems that they are changing course."

Annika snorted at that. "They are Cardassians alright. Tuvok, target their engines, compensate the phaser strength, make sure that you only destroy the engines, and not the ship." With the shields of the Cardassians down, this last was a very strong possibility. Even the strongest Duranium deck plating didn't stand a chance against direct phaser fire from a spaceship cannon.

"Aye Captain," Tuvok merely said, easily handing command back to Annika.

"Sorry," Annika said when she realized that she had just simply taken back her command. "I need to work on that." She gave him an apologetic smile before officially taking back the command. "Commander, I have the command again."

"Targeting their engines," Tuvok merely said. "Firing... Direct hit... Their engines are shutting down."

"Alright, Harry, open a channel." Annika waited on Harry's nod before continuing. "This is Acting Captain Annika Hansen of the Federation starship Voyager, please respond."

"No response, Captain."

Annika got up and moved over to Tuvok once more. "Alright, target that first target again, corrected phaser strength. Harry, when he did that, repeat my message."


After a moment Harry spoke up. "Still no response."

"Once more, Tuvok."

"Firing." Now they all could see the Cardassian ship shake with a violent explosion.


"They are responding."

"About damn time." Annika moved to the middle of the bridge. "On screen."

A moment later the harried looking face of a Cardassian filled the screen. "Slaves, you will surrender to us right now, and just maybe we won't kill you."

Annika merely smiled at that, a smile that didn't reach her eyes. "Tuvok, ready phaser, highest setting. Target their bridge."

Since Tuvok already had the phasers ready, he knew that Annika had spoken so that the Cardassian could hear her, and not to actually give him the order.

"Aye Captain. Readying phasers."


Annika focused her attention back on the view screen with the Cardassian. "I'm sorry, did you say something?"

"You can't do that!"

"Well, the way I see it, you are the ones sitting on a ship that has its weapons, shields, and engines down. Not us. So, I would say that I can do pretty much anything I like. Now, would you please be so kind as to tell me why you opened fire on us without provocation from our side?"

"You are slaves, you should not be on the bridge of a spaceship."

"And who are you to know that there aren't any Klingons on this ship? You didn't scan us. How do you know if we are not simply taking this ship on a test run, and the only reason why we were on the bridge is because the Klingons are busy in the rest of they ship?"

"There are Klingons on the ship?" The Cardassian asked, getting slightly paler.

"Do you really think that if there were Klingons on this ship, that they wouldn't be on the bridge by now?"


Annika interrupted him with a wave of her hand. "My point is that you didn't know. Just like you still don't know why we are in command of this ship. Maybe we stole it, but maybe we are doing tests with an experimental ship and we are the ones doing it because we slaves are expendable if something goes wrong. The point, as I said, is that you, don't, know. Now, we were on our way to somewhere, and I really don't feel like wasting too much time talking to you. So here is a little message you can take to your superiors. As you just saw, we have just taken on your Keldon class ship with ease. Next time a Cardassian ship opens fire on us, we will not be so nice and spare your lives; we will destroy the ship. Do I make myself clear?"

"Do you really think we will simply let you leave? My troops are ready to beam over to your ship. This is your last chance to surrender."

"Captain, don't take me for a fool. Even if your troops where ready, which I know they are not, they would die if you tried to beam them over here because you can't penetrate out shields. As you like to say yourself, this was your last chance. Test my patience once more and you will be destroyed."

"What do you want?" The Cardassian finally asked, knowing that he had just run out of bluffing room.

"I want nothing from you. You were the ones changing course, you were the ones contacting us, and you were then ones opening fire. We merely reacted. That is another message that you can take to you superiors, leave us alone, and we will leave you alone. Attack us, and we will defend ourselves. Annika Hansen out."

It was quiet on the bridge for a moment before Annika finally moved back to her chair. "Alright, Tom set in a random course, as long as it isn't in the direction of our home base. Tuvok, once we are out of their sensor range, activate the cloaking system. At that point we can set course back to home base."

"Well, the good thing about this planet is that is does indeed hide us perfectly, that Cardassian ship didn't see us until we emerged from the atmosphere. But a down side is that we also can't see too well what's going on outside," Chakotay said once they were underway for a while. "I think the best thing to do would be to come back at a later time and put some sensors into the different layers of that gas giant. Connect them so that they can send us information from closer to the surface when we are deeper inside."

"Sounds like a good idea," Annika agreed.

"I wonder what a Cardassian ship was doing here," Chakotay finally asked. "As I said before, the only way that a ship could be here is if they had deliberately set course here."

"Maybe they did," Annika said thoughtfully. "After all, it was one single Cardassian ship in Klingon space. It isn't so uncommon to have Cardassian ships in Klingon space, but when they are they are normally simply on course from point A to B, and taking the fastest route. If it had been something like that, something that the Klingons could have known about, then it would have been more then just one ship. Cardassians normally like to travel in pairs of two or three ships. So... maybe they were here for the same reason as we were; to see if this planet is a good hiding spot."

"But why would the Cardassians want to hide here?"

"Now, that... is a question that I can't answer."

Chapter 5

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