Chapter XII

Leaning forward in her chair, Captain Kathryn Janeway narrowed her eyes and looked at the confusion that was taking place around her. "Tuvok, where did the Delta Flyer go?" she asked.

"I am uncertain, Captain. We were utilizing the slipstream drive mere moments ago and it cut off unexpectedly. However, we are definitely somewhere in the Alpha Quadrant," the Vulcan answered.

"Seven, scan the area; how many ships do you detect?" she wondered. "There are approximately one thousand and seventy-five ships near the north pole of that planet. Their configuration does not correspond to anything in our records," the former drone replied. Just then, another voice cut in over the intercom and stated, "Captain, I recognize those ships from the files I encountered when I was transmitted to the Prometheus. They belong to an aggressive regime known as the Dominion and are currently at war with the Federation."

"Thank you, Doctor," Kathryn proclaimed, rising and trying to put her concern for her own crew at the back of her mind. "Two of the vessels are identified as Federation and there is a Klingon Bird of Prey; the other ship does not register in our databanks," Seven continued. Kathryn turned to Paris and asked, "Any ideas where we are?"

"If these readings are accurate; we have inadvertently been transported to Cardassia Prime, Captain. I'm not sure what going on, but we can't sit back and do nothing," Tom suggested. She nodded, rubbing her chin and then said, "Is there any way we can contact those Federation ships? I think one of them is the Enterprise."

"Actually, their transponders indicate that they both bear the name and the Klingon warship is focusing it's weapons on the one closest to Cardassia Prime," Tuvok stated. "Open a channel to that ship before they start a war. They may know what is going on here," she suggested. "That might be inadvisable. Since we are seeing two versions of the same craft; it is likely that all of these ships have come from different times and places, including ourselves… which means they may be our enemies," Seven pointed out.

"I am aware of that, just do it," the Captain answered sternly. The Borg nodded silently and then in a few moments the image of a middle-aged Cardassian appeared before her.

"This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager. Hold your fire or we will be forced to assume that you are hostile," she said. The alien paused for a moment and then responded, "At last we are receiving the results that we desired. Tell me; why should we not destroy you and your allies, Captain? You have a handful of seconds to explain yourself and they will not come again."

"The starships you see are not from the time and place that you're familiar with. It would appear that we're all from different points in history and we have been trapped in some sort of temporal anomaly. Of course, you don't have to take my word for it. Fire upon the vessel farthest from Cardassia Prime," Janeway instructed. "Captain, what're you saying?" Tom asked.

"I know what I'm doing," she assured, though Kathryn wasn't quite certain why she felt so confident of the results if he followed her directions. "You honestly expect that a simple distraction like that will give you enough time to take us down like you did our world? Perhaps you have not noticed; but you are outnumbered, Captain. I demand a full explanation of what has occurred here. Otherwise your allies will die," the Cardassian warned. "You will notice that we haven't contacted any ship other than yours," she pointed out.

"Must we continue with this charade? I'm not certain how you managed to do this; but we shall have vengeance," the alien said and then the screen shifted to an older man standing before a crowd of strange aliens who had their weapons pointed at him. "Wait," Janeway said and then added, "We can explain everything if you can give us one hour."

"Very well, but don't test my patience any further," the Cardassian growled and then the channel closed. "That was Jean-Luc Picard of the Enterprise!" Paris exclaimed. "Yes, but is he the one we know or from another universe?" Kathryn pointed out.

"What course of action shall we take, Captain?" Tuvok asked. "It is obvious that we won't be going anywhere until we discover what is happening here and that will mean rescuing Picard. Hopefully, he'll be able to help us out of this," Janeway replied.

"At least the Cardassians are as slimy as ever," Tom commented. "His name is Gul Dukat. I recognized the distinct facial features almost instantly," Seven informed them. "He seems to believe that we have taken his home by storm," Kathryn realized.

"How exactly will we rescue Captain Picard?" Tuvok inquired. "I think for now that we're going to have to play along with this game," she decided. "Captain?" Tom asked in confusion.

"We will make Gul Dukat believe we are responsible for this and are more than prepared to do the same to him. If I'm right, the Cardassian is bluffing in regard to disposing of Picard," Janeway explained. "What makes you think that?" Paris asked. "Have you noticed those Dominion vessels have yet to attack?" she replied. Tom nodded slowly and then she explained, "I'm not certain why, but there has to be an explanation for their failure to attack. The Doctor might be able to shed some light on the situation."

"Then really, Dukat is alone out here," Seven realized.

"Exactly, reopen a channel to the Bird of Prey," the Captain ordered. In another few instances, Gul Dukat appeared again before her. "Captain, that was a rather swift decision on your part… have you decided whether or not your comrade shall see another day?" the Cardassian asked.

"You've lost, Dukat. Look around you! Cardassia Prime is in ruins and your new allies don't know where to turn should we fire upon you. I can't help but notice that your shields are down… do you have any idea how long it would take for us to fire a photon torpedo at you?" she asked sternly. The Cardassian looked at her and nodded slowly while smiling in a strange way before he said, "You are more clever than I would've thought, Captain. You do have the advantage at the moment … but I expect for that to change. Your friend will live for now, until I obtain the answers that I am seeking."

"You will allow us to take our comrades now or there will be no negotiations," Janeway instructed.

"A truce, you say? As if I would stoop so low. At this very moment, your precious Federation is probably at their very knees; begging for mercy from the Dominion. Of what importance is any of this? Even if my world should be gone, the Founders shall give me a new one and you along with those who stand at your side will become mere specks of dust in the cosmic abyss. Then you will all face extinction," Dukat growled and the channel closed. "Well, that went well," Tom muttered.

"Indeed… Captain, it would seem that we may have a limited amount of time to work with before the Dominion vessels are fully active again. Perhaps we should aid the other Federation vessels and discern their origin?" Tuvok asked. "Seven, have you been able to determine the source and strength of the disturbance which apparently brought us here?" Janeway asked the Borg. "One moment," the drone replied, checking the statistics and then commented, "Inconceivable." "What is it?" Kathryn asked.

"The amount of temporal flux has grown exponentially stronger since our arrival and at this rate… most of the galaxy will be affected within a week," Seven answered. "Such an occurrence would not coincide with previous documented encounters with these phenomena. Current theories suggest that this kind of effect can only occur by the interference of some exterior force…" the Vulcan commented.

"Under normal circumstances; I'd be inclined to agree with you, Mister Tuvok. But nothing about this seems ordinary, I'm afraid," Janeway replied. "I have been attempting to trace the chronometric particles back to their origin, without success," the former drone went on. "Keep at it. In the meantime, I want to know how much of the area is being affected and whether or not there is a way out of this mess," Kathryn ordered. "But if we leave, will we be in the Alpha or the Delta Quadrant?" Tom asked in concern.

She sighed wearily and said, "I don't have the answer to that. The senior staff will meet in the briefing room in half an hour. You have your orders." Heading to her ready room, the Captain replicated a cup of coffee. Sipping it, she wondered what had happened to Chakotay and whether they'd find out before the anomaly caused more harm.