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Chaos

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Prologue


"Captain Janeway please report to the bridge."

Kathryn Janeway got off a last shot at the blue disk, which ricocheted off a wall and shot by her former Borg opponent. Seven concealed her frustration with obvious effort as the captain called "point" over her shoulder and left the holodeck.

Wiping the sweat from her brow, Voyager's captain waited impatiently for the lift to carry her to the Bridge. Whatever the summons concerned it must be fairly important. Chakotay never interrupted her off-duty time, especially since he was always complaining that she didn't take enough time for relaxation. She sighed in impatience as the lift slowed and then bolted forward as the doors parted, entered the Bridge, and promptly took her seat. "Report," she barked.

Chakotay keyed data into her terminal. "Seven approaching ships, Captain. They aren't answering our hails." He eyed her workout clothes with a smile. "Nice uniform style. Are we making a change?"

Kathryn tried to ignore the comment, but a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she scanned the data Chakotay had collected for her. "Commander Tuvok?"

"Seven fighters: their weapons are on stand-by."

She grimaced. It seemed most new encounters started like this--despite Chakotay's earlier humor, he too was frowning as he studied the data coming in. "Open a channel." Janeway waited as Ensign Kim opened communication with the first vessels they had encountered in three weeks. She sat up straight as Ensign Kim nodded to her. "Approaching vessels, this is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager. Our..."

The small angular fighters broke formation and spread out across Voyager's flight path.

"That doesn't look much like a welcome wagon," observed Paris. Kathryn couldn't help but agree.

An alien with several blue ridges on his face appeared on their screen. "Starship Voyager, you are entering an embargo zone. Until the Plor government agrees to listen to our concerns, travel in this sector is restricted by order of the Tevian council."

"We are a neutral party," Janeway said as the screen went blank.

"They are powering weapons systems, Captain," reported Tuvok.

"Evasive maneuvers," ordered Chakotay. "Red alert."

The lead fighter got off a shot which flew across Voyager's bow, a clean miss. Five of the alien fighters realigned into a loose pentagon, while the other two took lead. The seven ships fired randomly. There was a flash of light, and Voyager vibrated as several of the shots made contact with the shields.

"Shields at 95%," Kim stated from Ops. "No other damage."

"Return fire, Mr. Tuvok," Kathryn ordered. "Target weapons."

"Aye." The Vulcan never looked up as he punched in the preset firing sequence. Phaser fire shot smoothly from the Voyager's underbelly and slammed into one of the lead raiders. The other shot missed as the second alien ship anticipated the volley. All the remaining ships concentrated fire on the area of shields near the phaser array. The jolts could be felt in earnest, and Tom's console sparked. The pilot rubbed his hands, then returned to flying the ship.

"Shields down to 80%," Kim offered, raising his eyes in the direction of his captain.

"Can we go to warp, Lieutenant?" Kathryn's eyes never left the view screen as the little ships continued to flurry about them like so many swarming flies. She glanced quickly at the technical data. The damn things were definitely maneuverable, but Voyager was faster.

"Yes," Tom murmured, his voice edged with concentration. On her signal, he threw Voyager into a sharp dive and then quickly pulled up in a half spin at an angle that left the inertial dampers struggling to catch up.

There was a collective sigh as the star lines streamed and the raider ships disappeared behind them. "Good flying, Lieutenant," Kathryn said as she stood. "Stand down, red alert. I want a report on those vessels. Where did they come from? Is there a larger vessel nearby? A planet?"

Orders given, she turned to the man at her side. She glanced down at the flounced skirt of her exercise outfit and then returned her gaze to his. They shared a quick grin. "Commander, you have the bridge."

The Captain hurriedly showered and changed into a uniform and headed back to the Bridge. Not a great deal of time had passed, but she expected some answers anyway; her crew did not disappoint. She entered to find everyone hard at work. Chakotay's smile told her that he believed they were getting somewhere. She gave him a short nod and he returned it as he stood and prepared to follow her.

As she descended the few steps to her ready room door, Chakotay on her heels, she handed the bridge over to Tuvok.

Chakotay sat down in his chair and smiled at her. She nodded grimly in response as she sat down as well. "Another typical day in the Delta Quadrant."

She chose to ignore his quip and pulled up some data. "Those seven ships." She leaned back. "What the hell have we found ourselves in the middle of?"

He shrugged. "Whatever it is, we have no choice but to continue. We've not been able to determine any boundaries."

"And we need to resupply..."

He handed her a PADD. "The most recent report from Astrometrics. There are six inhabited planets in a ten light year range and what look to be several space stations. The nearest station is just over twenty-four hours away. It's about one fourth the size of Deep Space 9. According to Seven's reports, it's a free trade port."

She looked up at him. "So, are they friend or foe?"

"Assume they are foe." He grinned. "Safer that way."

She smiled back at him. "Foe they are. We'll discuss our options at the staff meeting in one hour." She turned her attention to the map. "Dismissed, Commander."