Starship Voyager – The Alien Adventures — 13 The Blue Giant

The present novel is merely Fan Fiction.

No commercial interest is pursued.

© Aliki, 2019

The story of this book is based on science fiction concepts created by Gene Roddenberry, Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Jery Tailor, Bryan Fuller, Brannon Braga, Nick Sagan, Ken Biller, Michael Okuda, Rick Sternberg, and many others.

Copyright for all humanoid characters and Star Trek technology is owned by Paramount Pictures / CBS.

Multiplication and distribution for commercial purpose are not allowed.


13. The Blue Giant


Three armoured military vehicles are driving at high speeds along a dusty road through lime-white badlands. In many places cone-shaped dumps and spoil heaps protrude from the terrain. Close by, abandoned remains of mining facilities are visible and tunnel entrances that were closed with crossed planks.
The vehicles traverse a gorge. On the other side, the bottom of a dried lake appears. An extended complex of large buildings covers more than half of the area that is surrounded by steep, high rising banks of the for-mer lake. The military vehicles reach the gate of the complex secured by a wall and a wire fence. Guards patrol between the fence and the wall. Within the complex there are several buildings connected by glazed bridges. Inside, people in long, light-grey coats are crossing between the buildings.
At the end of one of the glazed bridges a door slides open. Behind it hu-manoids in grey coats are swarming around long rows of terrariums lined up in a large laboratory hall. Each terrarium measures several meters. Most of them contain plants. Some sprout in lush green, others have brown spots on their leaves. Many plants are completely defoliated and their stems are withered. Humanoids read measurement data from sen-sors next to the terrariums. Others operate valves to change the gas inlets via connected hoses. At a terrarium the supply of a liquid is activated, which is sprayed over plants by nozzles.
At the end of the research hall a sliding-gate opens to the neighboring laboratory. Inside, an armed guard in uniform turns his head to the open door. The door closes. The guard straightens his eyes again.
This laboratory is also filled with numerous terrariums; however, they contain only dark humus and light brown, loamy soil. In one of the glass boxes small tracked vehicles move over the bare ground. At their front they transport humus with paddle wheels into their interior and throw out the material behind them as light grey, dust-dry ashes. Several flexible hoses lead from these vehicles to measuring chambers on the outside of the terrarium. Researchers check the measurement data on a console.
At the top of the adjacent glass box small cylinders are embedded, from which supply cables lead to an outside control unit. Two men and a wom-an, wearing protective glasses, are standing in front of this chamber. The female researcher activates phaser pulses that are directed downwards from the cylinders to the ground. Smoke and steam rise from the areas where the ground is hit. Next to the woman a researcher monitors mea-surement data on the console. A few seconds after the last phaser shot, he gives a signal to the third researcher, who immediately starts a rattling pump. In the terrarium the fumes are sucked into a nozzle on the side wall and exhausted to the outside into an analysis system. All three researchers gather around the console. A jerky motion suddenly goes through their bodies; they euphorically pat each other on the back. They take off their protective glasses.
The anthox female researcher, who fired the phaser shots, embraces Harry Kim briefly and violently.
The third researcher, also an Anthox, shouts, “What a success for the end of this shift!” He grabs Kim and the woman to his left and right by the elbows and pulls them with him. “You`re coming for a drink and snack, aren`t you?”
They go to a niche next to the exit, where they hang their long grey coats on hooks. Then they leave the laboratory. The three cross one of the glazed walkways and enter the canteen of the facility. Kim and the male Anthox fill their cups with a drink from a vending machine and place themselves at one of the free high tables. Meanwhile the woman chooses a side dish at the kitchen counter.
The Anthox hastily turns to Kim with a concerned face.
“Before Xenara gets here, please don`t tell anyone that you got it from me.” He looks sideways to the guard at the entrance. “Yesterday morning your Commander was arrested.”
“Tuvok?” Kim shouts, shocked. “What do they reproach him with?”
“I don`t know. They say he was taken to the dungeon of Guantan.”
Horrified, Kim stares into his cup and pokes with his spoon. Then he looks at his colleague demandingly.
“Ratok, I got to see him to find out what it`s all about! Can you talk to the Major?”
“I can try, but you know,” he looks at the guards near the exit of the canteen, “the situation is very tense at the moment.
Xenara places her drinking glass with fruity red juice next to Kim and a biscuit plate in the middle of the table.
“What kind of faces do you make? Today we`ve improved the efficiency of the thermal radical activation by almost 20%, and you look as if you were buried in the pit!”
Kim lifts his eyes and attempts smiling.
“Xenara, you know that I cannot be happy about the success of our re-search, until I`ve been able to convince myself with my own eyes that what we`re doing is right.”
Xenara puts her hand on Kim`s shoulder and looks at him with big, round eyes.
“The Major only means well if he doesn`t let us fly to Verdera. The risk we might be attacked by the Hatar is just too high! And certainly, it`s not necessary either. The Major has assured us that there is sparse plant life only. That`s also evident from the soil samples that have been provided to us for the experiments.”
Kim avoids her gaze. “Maybe you`re right. But I don`t have a good feeling about it.”
She strokes his hair with her spread fingers from bottom to top.
“Better concentrate your feelings on me!”
With the other hand she rubs Kim`s lower lip with a cookie. He takes it out of her fingers with his teeth. Then his gaze darkens again. He empties his cup.
“I think I will retire today.”
Xenara grabs his arm. “So, won`t we see each other in the evening?”
“Let`s do something together tomorrow.” Kim turns to Ratok. “You`re thinking about my request?”
Ratok nods. Kim kisses Xenara on the cheek and leaves the table. He goes to the elevator and steps into the cabin.
“Basement 3!”
While Kim looks back at Xenara and Ratok at the table, the sliding door closes a bit, opens again as if it had a malfunction and then closes finally. The lift descends. Soon it stops and Kim leaves. He walks through a corri-dor greeting a former crew mate from Voyager. Then he opens the door of his quarters and steps in. When the door has closed behind him, Kim stops with a worried expression. He slowly walks to a wall table; a clarinet made of light grey plastic lies on it. He takes it. Engraved under the mouthpiece he reads: From Xenara. Kim looks at a handmade drawing above his bed, figuring a Federation starship of the Intrepid class.
“You`re welcome to play me a salutation serenade, Mr. Kim!”
As if struck by lightning, Kim lets the clarinet fall back onto the table and turns around jerkily. His tense gaze wanders from one side of the room to the other.
“Don`t be alarmed, Ensign. I may look like a ghost, but I ain`t one!”
Two meters in front of Kim a shimmering surface forms in the room. Its transparency rapidly diminishes. A man-sized, bag-like cape reaching down to the ground appears in front of Kim. It consists of a pale-green, glinting fabric. Kim`s mouth opens a bit, a moment later the cape also opens. Kathryn Janeway walks up to him and holds out her hand.
“It`s good to see you again, Harry!”
He hesitantly shakes her hand.
“Captain –! Is that really you? What kind of technique is this?”
“I`ll explain it to you later. I`ve seen some of our people in the corridors. How many of them are in these facilities?”
“There are seventy-nine of us, all quartered in this building.”
“Are there others on the planet?”
“Only Tuvok. He refused to cooperate with the Anthox. At first, he had been accommodated in a secluded place, but yesterday he was suddenly arrested. It was probably because an attack of the Hatar is expected and the Anthox fear, he might fall into their hands. The Hatar threat may also be the reason for the reinforcement of the guards at this location.”
“I don`t think the Hatar are the reason,” Janeway says doubtfully. “The Anthox have noticed that Voyager has entered their territory.” She broods. “So, seventy-nine here and Tuvok in prison … Where are the others?”
Kim shakes his head. “That`s all of us, Captain. The others of our group died during our attempt to escape from the Hirogens. Those of us who survived were captured and sold to the Anthox, on a planet in a triple star system. The Anthox brought us here.” Kim`s face turns sorrowful. “We lost nine people in that attempt to escape, including Tom and Commander Chakotay.”
“Are you sure they were killed? Maybe they were taken to another place?”
The memory of a horrible experience is written in Kim`s face as he looks at the unstructured wall behind Janeway`s back.
“After the Hirogens captured us again, they killed everyone who was wounded.”
“What do you know about Chakotay?”
“He was very badly wounded, Captain.”
“But you didn`t see the bodies?”
“I heard their screams when the Hirogens killed them. The Hirogen don`t leave their dead prey behind.”
With a low voice full of bitterness and grief Janeway says, “Our group had losses, too.”
They remain silent for a while. Then Janeway`s face brightens.
“But we`ve found Tom Paris again!”
“Tom`s alive?” Kim exclaims delightedly.
“He`s alive and waiting for his best friend to return as soon as possible.”
An uneasiness mixes with Kim`s joy.
“It`s not that simple, Captain …”
Janeway smiles. “Won`t Xenara let you go?”
Kim looks embarrassed. “You know about it? No, it`s not that. It`s be-cause we gave the Anthox our word to make their settlement project a success together with them. In return the Anthox wanted to give us freedom again and leave us a ship.”
All softness fades from Janeway`s voice.
“You were never on Verdera yourself, Ensign?”
“No, Captain,” Kim admits, frowning.
“We were there. Verdera has a rich fauna of higher life; and beyond that there is an intelligent life-form whose nature exceeds our imagination merely but of its size.”
“Then they told us a lie!” Next to the clarinet Kim presses his clenched fist against the tabletop. “We thought there was only a simple type of plant life on that planet.”
“That is under the protection of the supreme directive too,” Janeway replies strictly.
“I know, Captain, … we agreed because we needed our freedom and a ship as soon as possible to start looking for you.”
“How far have you got along with your project?”
“Unfortunately, very far.”
Janeway ponders. “A technological development that has already taken place cannot be removed any more. You can only try to convince every-one involved to handle it responsibly. We`ll have to come up with some-thing!” She smiles. “I`m afraid, Harry, you`ll have to stay with Xenara for some more time.”
Kim grins embarrassedly. Janeway holds out a small cylinder to him.
“B`Elanna gave me this subspace transceiver for you. You can use it to contact Voyager on an encrypted frequency.”
He takes the tool. She reaches him her hand.
“We`ll find a solution, Mr. Kim!”
“Thank you, Captain!”
Janeway taps the communicator and raises her head.
“Janeway to Voyager. – One for transport!”
A voice asks, “Only you, Captain?”
“Only me.”
She dematerializes in front of Harry Kim.

In a small but high, windowless room with grey-green, loamy walls, a lamp hangs above a table. Tuvok is sitting on a chair in front of the table. His body is slumped down, his head is bowed, and his hands are tied behind his back. In front of him an aggregate lies on the table, consisting of several individual parts, that is assembled with coarse screw connections. Two Anthox in grey military uniform, who are standing on both sides of Tuvok`s chair, are looking down on him grimly. Opposite him a third Anthox is sitting at the table, his gaze switching back and forth between the aggregate and Tuvok. Finally, he leans back and gives the other two a hint with his hand.
They drag Tuvok up from the chair and lead him out of the room into a wide corridor about 20 meters long. In the middle of it are two Anthox in dark-blue guard uniforms, sitting at a large control station; the plan of a floor is depicted on its surface panel. For each room data are displayed next to rotary controls.
“He doesn`t want to say how that thing he built works. — Usual treat-ment!”
“All right.”
The two rise from their desks and take over Tuvok. Narrow, short aisles branch off on both sides of the wide corridor, ending in front of cell doors. The two guards take Tuvok to one of the doors, open it and push him in.
“If you have anything to say — call us!”
The guard operates a switch on a small board next to the cell door. Shortly thereafter a twitch goes through Tuvok`s body.
The guard explains, “This electrical stimulus is just to help you stay awake, while you think about the questions you`ve been asked!”
Tuvok raises his head. “You intend to torture me?”
The Akrrung smiles mockingly.
“Call it as you like. This method is applied on order of the security agen-cy, and it was officially approved by the government council, that is backed by the Anthox people! So, don`t even think of complaining!”
With a stoic face Tuvok comments, “Also where I come from, there are indifferent and brutalized peoples who tolerate their governments legiti-mizing the use of torture.”
The guard closes the door and enters a code at the display on the wall. As a consequence a bolt slides from the door frame into the cell door. The two guards go back into the corridor. One of the two jerks. At the same time a pale flicker appears in the air next to him for a moment. The guard looks down, where metal bands are integrated into the floor at a short distance.
“The distribution system is malfunctioning again!”
“Let`s have a look,” his colleague replies.
They open the door to a technical room. The rattle of generators emerges through the open door and the lamps of a large switch-gear blink inside. The two disappear into the room.
It has become silent in the wide corridor. Only the subtle humming of large transformers can be heard from afar. Also, in the narrow hallway leading to Tuvok`s cell, everything is calm. Suddenly however, as if it was being pushed out of a crack to another world, a tricorder appears next to the wall display in front of the cell door. Several lamps blink. A code ap-pears on the display and the locking bolt of the cell door slides back into the door frame. The tricorder dissolves like a snowflake melting on water. Then the cell door opens silently.
With his eyes closed and his back turned towards the wall, Tuvok stands at the other end of the cell. His body twitches.
“Ah -!” sounds through the room.
Tuvok`s eyelids open. Marked by tiredness, though distinctly astonished, he looks at the door that is slowly closing. His body convulses once more.
“Again -! Is the distance sensor failing?”
With a violent swing Janeway strips off her camouflage cape, which be-comes visible during this movement as a pale-green tissue.
Tuvok`s eyelids narrow, as if they were trying to improve the sharpness of his visual sense.
“Captain –?”
With a gaze full of joy and warmth Janeway approaches him.
“We finally found you again, Tuvok.”
Greeting, she reaches for his shoulders, while Tuvok`s arms are tied be-hind his back. A moment later their two bodies twitch.
Janeway turns her head angrily. “What is it -?”
“It`s the ground, Captain.” Tuvok explains. “At irregular intervals a high voltage pulse is applied to the prisoners, to prevent them from falling asleep.”
Janeway darkly looks at the metal strips under her feet. Then she turns back to Tuvok.
“We have so much to talk about. But now only the most important thing: Do the Anthox know that we are here?”
“I don`t think so, Captain. But they suspect that I called you. When I was arrested, they found a transmitter that I used as a subspace beacon.”
Janeway grabs her forehead. “Now I understand, … the Hatar had given us a hint that the crew was being held on a moon base. But our scans did not show any of their bio-signatures there. Instead, a weak subspace signal with a Federation code pointed us here, to the Anthox home planet.”
“You shouldn`t have come into this building, Captain. You are in great danger at this place!”
“The transporter couldn`t locate you under the massive rock. But Ensign Kim has assured us in a coded message that you`ve been taken to this dungeon.”
“Nevertheless, it was too great a risk to come here alone.” Tuvok looks at the camouflage cape with his brow raised. “Despite this remarkable technique.”
Again, a twitch goes through their bodies.
“Ah -!” Janeway`s eyes narrow. “You`re wrong, Commander. I did not come here alone.” She opens her tricorder and enters a key sequence. Another camouflage tissue becomes visible, filling almost all of the small cell`s remaining area next to Tuvok and Janeway. Claws appear at the lower edge of the cape and turn it from one side of the body to the other. With a rapid spin E-Bug folds the fabric into a bundle and clamps it under the belt that is holding his atmosphere emitter and the holocom. Delivered from the load of the cloak his side feelers rise above the vertebra crest of his back. A spark flashes over between their ends. Tuvok takes a step to the side. Janeway points with her hand.
“Commander Tuvok, this is Mr. E-Bug. He`s my security officer on this mission.”
Unbelievingly and in astonishment Tuvok`s gaze glides over E-Bug`s physique.
“What kind of a being is this, Captain?”
“It`s a very dangerous being, Tuvok. But he`s always been loyal to us and I trust him!”
Likewise does E-bug now examine Tuvok with both tube-eyes, one gliding from bottom to top, the other in opposite direction.
“How do you communicate with this person?”
“Only through sign language. There are misunderstandings, sometimes.”
Janeway pulls a communicator out of a pocket of her uniform and puts it with solemn care on Tuvok`s prison jacket.
“Mr. E-Bug will now consider you a member of the crew.”
Again, the muscular systems of the two humanoids are irritated by the high voltage convulsing their bodies. E-Bug turns an eye to the floor.
Janeway declares grimly, “I`ll get you out of here; and then we`re going to turn off this mechanism!”
“That would be unwise, Captain. If the Anthox notice your presence, it will be harder to free the crew. I`ll stay here until the rest of the crew is on Voyager.”
Janeway shakes her head. “I`m certainly not going to leave you in this place!”

The two guards return from the technical room, entering the main corri-dor.
“Maintenance is due anyway, soon. Let the service team search for the fault!”
Suddenly a few meters in front of them, as if spontaneously arising from a flickering of the air, a fiery spark flashes into the floor. The bodies of the guards writhe with convulsions and pain.
One of them shouts, “How is that possible? This floor element has never been switched active!”
They run towards the control station in the center of the corridor. When they have almost reached it, the air flickers again and two violent flashes of lightning strike into the station from below. Sparks spray from the side of the case and black smoke comes out at the edges. A cell door unlocks and bursts open; shortly afterwards another one follows.
The two guards hectically try to find functions on their station that have not yet been destroyed, in order to regain control. One by one, further cell doors open. Prisoners look out uncertainly.
The guards start up. A cascade of crackling noises emerges from the half-open entrance of the technical room. The sounds are accompanied by flickering, bright white light with a bluish shimmer; its intensity gives an impression as if a large number of welding machines were in use at the same time. Shortly thereafter the bright buzzing sound of the generators and pumps in the technical room quickly declines to lower frequency until their rotating parts come to a complete standstill. The bright lamps in the corridor go out with a flicker; only emergency lighting remains and provides a pale illumination.
The three uniformed Anthox, who interrogated Tuvok, emerge from an adjoining room.
One of them shouts to the guards, “What`s going on?”
“We don`t know — the whole system was overloaded! There are increa-singly more short circuits.”
From the narrow passage leading to his cell Tuvok jumps into the central corridor. He runs towards the exit as fast as he can. The uniformed Anthox notice him. They draw their weapons. Before they are able to level on Tuvok, a blow can be heard, as if from a powerful jump. Accompanied by a flickering in the air, whiplashing feelers knock down on the three from above. Flashes discharge into their heads. The three collapse, while behind them the soles of hocks touch down on the floor and become invisible.
In the semi-darkness of the corridor the two guards at the control station stare wordlessly at the three uniformed colleagues, who do not move any more.

Side by side Janeway and Tuvok are standing in a Voyager corridor, in front of the casino`s closed entrance. Janeway smiles with compassionate understanding.
“I know, Tuvok; you`d rather be in the dungeon of Guantan now. I know you well enough that I would like to spare you this. But your return has also a symbolic meaning: many had already given up hope of ever seeing their lost companions again. You represent all those who have been missed for so long, and who will be returning home soon, finally!” Janeway lays her hand on Tuvok`s shoulder from behind. “Take it with stoic composure, Commander, and at least pretend to rejoice.”
“Captain, I also feel a certain satisfaction to return to the familiar envi-ronment of my field of responsibility, but -”
Janeway smiles; her hand pats on his shoulder.
“I know, my friend. I know.”
The sliding-gate to the casino opens in front of them and the thunderous applause of a densely packed crowd, interspersed with loud welcome shouts, resounds towards the two who enter. In the crowd of about fifty crew members a long, narrow alleyway forms for Tuvok. At the end of it Neelix ignites spraying shooting-star sparklers on a multi-storey cake that is decorated with the creamy inscription:

Welcome back,

Mr. Vulcan!
A tentacle snakes from the ceiling, grabbing the juicy fruit from the top of the cake.

Bent over the upper edge of one of the casino windows from the outside, a pair of bead eyes located on the end of a tubeworm are looking at the scenery that is turned, in the perspective of its head hanging downwards, by 180 degrees. The worm observes the movements of the humanoid bodies standing upside down; the clapping of their palms; the hands of different individuals pressing one another; mouth muscles opening and closing; the dynamic structure of a closely packed crowd that forms an entrance for one of its components, allows it to penetrate and closes behind it. Soon thereafter even the last cavity within the flock disappears; it is forming a compact mass of constituents with spread-up ocular orifices and mouth muscles laterally distorted; with bodies oriented towards a center where sector elements are cut out from marbled layers of a cone-shaped object of soft consistency and are being distributed. Gradually the complex stringency dissolves, the formerly compressed crowd disintegrates into small groups, each with its own center of orientation and into single individuals. They are all spread throughout the room now, at the end of the peculiar rite. With elongated, shiny instruments they separate fragments from those sectorial elements and incorporate them between their mouth muscles.
Behind the interested tubeworm the colors of the surrounding nebula are reflected in the window of the outer pane of glass that covers the opening in the grey monotanium hull. Ramified lightnings are sparkling in the distance, through charged plasma clouds that are mirrored in the numerous windows of the round saucer module, illuminating from different directions. Beyond the module, next to the vaulted dome of the bridge, gaps between loose clouds reveal a huge cavity in the nebula. In the center of it lies a condensed gas structure that repeatedly flashes up brightly. Subsequently, a thin, transparent gas shell splits off after each flash, expanding to all sides and joining the series of concentric veils already existing far outwards.
“Captain`s log.
Two thirds of our crew are still captured in Anthox research laboratories, where they fulfill their promise to develop a terraforming process with them. This gives us some time to explore the nebulae of the environment, where numerous protostars occur in the early stages of their development.
Unfortunately, my joy experiencing astrophysics at close range is cloud-ed. I`ve been racking my brains for days how to prevent the Anthox from using a process involving Federation technology to destroy the ecosphere of an entire planet.”

In the almost empty casino, Torres, Baxter and Carey sit around a table. Baxter holds his bowed head.
“The doctor said, if we were going to celebrate the return of every single crew member we found again the way we did last night, he would apply to the captain for a ban on alcohol.”
Carey grins. “B`Elanna, couldn`t you program a little tipsiness into the doctor`s matrix, with an algorithm starting automatically when there`s a party on board?”
She smiles. “I`m afraid that would – oh dear …” Torres`s gaze is directed to the entrance. “Here comes the passion figure of our last night`s cele-bration!”
Tuvok enters the casino and walks past the kitchen counter. Neelix notices him.
“Commander Tuvok,” he exclaims delightedly. “Which one of the twelve vulcan dishes I know may I prepare for you?”
“Last night`s banquet was exceedingly opulent, Mr. Neelix,” Tuvok replies coolly, without looking at Neelix. “I prefer light food.”
He goes up to the replicator and touches several buttons. With a glass of clear liquid and a small food bowl he sits down at a secluded table near the exit.
“Such a heap of concentrated emotion around him, that wasn`t easy last night for his vulcan soul,” says Baxter in an undertone.
“And then the hearty embrace of Neelix,” adds Torres.
“But Ceph has added one upon!”
The three laugh. Torres squints to Tuvok and taps her hand to the table.
She looks at the entrance. “When you talk about him …!”
Ceph swings into the casino. He notices the three colleagues and sets course for their table. Tuvok`s rice-loaded fork stops its movement to his mouth. He watches Ceph with a sharp eye until the swinging crewman has passed him. Then Tuvok turns back to his food. Suddenly his head leaps upwards. Two far-stretched tentacle endings quickly retreat from Tuvok`s vulcan ear tips.
“No, Ceph –!” shouts Torres in a suppressed tone. “He did it again!”
Carey and Baxter can`t hold back their laughter. Ceph settles down on the fourth chair of their table. Tuvok puts his cutlery on the tray, rises, carries it to the counter, and leaves the casino.
Torres knocks with the back of her hand on the tentacle of her table mate.
“Ceph, never do that again! He resents that.”
Baxter poses the question, “Does he actually know what rank Tuvok has on the ship?”
Carey lifts his finger approvingly and opens his holocom. He activates the list of crew icons, pushes Janeway all the way up and Tuvok below her. On the next level he gathers the senior officers and the doctor. The crowd of Ceph`s eyes surrounds the hologram. Then some of them look towards the exit, through which Tuvok has disappeared. Finally, Ceph`s tentacle end creates a separation plane next to Carey`s image of the hierarchy; opposite the latter he places the icons of Peri, E-Bug, and his own. As in a game, three tentacle endings shift the three images up and down in vertical direction.
Carey nods to him and turns to Torres.
“That`s a legitimate question he`s asking us!”
Pondering, with her head resting on her hand, Torres adds, “I think there`s another one on this ship who`s been asking the same question to herself for some time …”

With a metal coffee cup in her hand, Janeway is sitting in front of the table monitor in her ready room. From the quarters door the bell signal sounds.
“Come in!”
Tuvok enters.
“Can I talk to you, Captain?”
“Of course, Tuvok!” She gets up and points to the couch. “Sit down!”
While Tuvok takes a seat, Janeway goes to the replicator. She enters a code, receives a drink, goes back and hands it to Tuvok. She sits down next to him.
With a sober face he declares, “I`ve looked through the protocols and logs, Captain. Apparently grave changes have been made at the ship. Some of them are in need of discussion, others are direct violations of security protocols.”
Janeway nods seriously. “I`m glad you`re addressing that issue, Com-mander. We`ve been understaffed for a long period and so much has been driven by existential concerns that many things have been neg-lected. Let`s create a task plan that we`re going to work out as soon as the crew is complete again!”
Tuvok holds a PADD in his hand and points to the list on the display.
“To begin with, the sensor phalanx no longer corresponds to the specifi-cation of an Intrepid-class ship. Furthermore, the amount of fuel carried with and its storage violate several safety regulations of Starfleet. In my opinion, the most serious point is Voyager`s cloaking technology. It is in no way consistent with the agreements between the Federation and its neighboring powers!”
“That is correct, Tuvok,” agrees Janeway. “If we were on Federation territory, it would be our duty to fly to the nearest space dock and work Voyager back to its original state.” She lifts her cup, sips and lowers it again. “But actually we`re in the Delta Quadrant. In order to survive we had to make these changes. We took as many sensors and weapons from our enemies as we could, and I`m determined to upgrade Voyager even further if necessary! I agree with you with respect to the storage of the antimatter. We`ve placed the additional tanks in the first comer vacant locations available. Create a safety concept with Torres and Carey to make the risk acceptable!”
Tuvok nods. Then he states, “I`ve been amazed how fast Voyager has been restored to spaceworthy condition, considering its devastating damages.”
“This was only possible, Tuvok, because we had help.”
“I am aware that you hold the cooperation of the three new crew mem-bers in high esteem, Captain. But it is my duty as security officer of the ship to point out that they have not passed the technical, scientific and military training that is standard for Starfleet personnel. Nor are they familiar with the indispensable protocols. They may have special skills in certain areas. However, it does not seem possible to communicate verbally with them. We rely on a sign language that is cumbersome and may cause serious misunderstandings.”
Janeway weighs her head from one side to the other.
“I see this new form of communication rather as an enrichment. It not only enables us to talk to alien beings when the universal communicator fails. This holo-technology also provides us with valuable services acting as an additional technical infrastructure. For instance, we were able to link astrometry directly to navigation. We have become faster and more agile than we`ve ever been before.”
“Nevertheless, there is something important to weigh against, Captain.” Tuvok raises an eyebrow. “Soon there will be more than twice as many officers and crewmen back on the ship than there were in the last few months. What influence will it have on crew morale if positions on the bridge and in the engineering corps, that require responsibility, are fur-thermore being occupied by persons to whom our nature is so alien that it will hardly be possible to integrate them into general Starfleet discipline?”
Janeway`s head sinks; her gaze wanders down, fixing on the deep black liquid of her cup. After a while in silence she slowly shakes her head and replies without looking up: “We are in the debt of these beings, Tuvok. We can`t just push them aside when we don`t need them anymore.”
“Consider, Captain, these beings also owe a lot to Voyager — their lives and their freedom. They were in great danger and found refuge on the ship.”
Hardly audible Janeway mumbles, “And I found refuge with them.”
Janeway raises her head. “Talk to the doctor! He has examined the physiology of the three. Maybe he can give a hint on how communication works within their own species, … or some other clue that may help us to improve communication.”
“Agreed, Captain.”
Tuvok rises. He nods, walks to the door and leaves the room. Janeway also gets up and goes back to her monitor. She sits down and puts the coffee cup next to her. Her eyes scan the lines of a text on the screen. Once again sounds the sequence of the ringing tone.
“Come in!”
Hesitantly Carey stands behind the opening door.
“I may come later if you`re busy, Captain.”
“Will it take long?”
Carey scratches his stomach. “Not necessarily. It`s just that I`ve instructed Commander Tuvok on the new weapons console.”
“Very good, Lieutenant!”
“And I thought maybe I should return to the weapon`s deck now.”
Janeway frowns and raises an eyebrow. Then she gets up.
“Come in, Carey! Tea or coffee?”
She goes to the replicator. He enters and pushes his jaw aside.
“All the same -”
“I think you should have coffee!”
She takes out a cup and hands it to Carey. “Sit down!”
Carey hesitantly takes a seat next to Janeway on the couch.
“It`s unusual for a bridge officer to apply for another position, Lieute-nant.”
Carey scratches himself again. “The crew will be recompleted soon, Cap-tain. Then it might get pretty crowded on the bridge.”
“I had a look at your personnel file, recently. You`ve been serving on several Starfleet ships and you were always entrusted with demanding tasks. Your achievements were praised in all your testimonies. What struck me was that you rarely applied for more representative assignments by yourself. Nevertheless, you rose to the rank of an assistant bridge officer,” she rises a brow, “on a Galaxy-class ship. Why did you request for duty on Voyager, then?”
“Well, ma`am,” he rubs his nose, “I happened to have certain difficulties with the klingon nature before, sometimes. My superior officer on that ship you mentioned judged me as someone of inadequate ambition, of militarily dubious appearance and as someone with too much sense of humor.”
Janeway smiles. “Even though we strive for preserving the etiquettes of Starfleet on our small vessel, … due to the long-term status of our mission I`ll beware of demanding from my crew a military drill, as if we would be flying on a combat mission against Romulans for just a few days. And – though I appreciate Commander Tuvok`s stoic discipline a lot – I wouldn`t want to command a bridge where humor is banned.”
She takes a sip from her cup. Then she explains to Carey: “We now have far more weapons and other systems than before, that are controlled from the bridge. Apart from Seven and Torres, nobody knows these systems better than you. In a makeshift way we integrated these new features into the existing consoles. That made sense as long as we didn`t have enough staff to operate those features separately. This will change soon, hopefully. That`s why I intend to distribute the new functions to additional consoles. Work out a plan with B`Elanna!”
Janeway looks at Carey with an arch, conspirative smile.
“As soon as that`s done, we`ll need more bridge officers.”
“Understood, Captain!”
Janeway rises and nods friendly to Carey. He gets up and leaves the room. Janeway sits behind her monitor and starts reading anew. It rings.
“Always come in! Today is audience day.”
The doctor rushes in.
“Come along with me immediately, Captain! I need your authority!”
You? – Why?”
“To get Commander Tuvok back to his senses! He wants to carry out a vulcan mind-melting.”
“So what? He`s done that many times before.”
“But never with someone who flashes a hundred thousand volts from his head antenna!”

In the astrometrics laboratory, Seven works on the console. The display in front of her shows astronomical sensor images classified with description radio, infrared, optical, UV, X-Ray, gamma and spectral analysis. Seven superimposes the individual images of the sensors and transfers them to the astrometric projection, which fills half of the laboratory as a hologram.
Ceph hangs from the ceiling next to Seven. Several of his eyes observe Seven`s work. The others are directed at the astrometric star chart. Whenever Seven has completed the conversion of a data object and entered its space coordinates, the object appears in the map as an additional nebula, star or planet. The map changes dynamically in perspective and zoom just in such a way that the new object comes to lie in the center.
A large nebula appears in the map. Seven turns to the next data set. The tip of the tentacle hanging down beside her turns upwards and presses suction cups against each other. With castanet-like click-clacks they sepa-rate again. Seven looks up. Five eyes are oriented towards her. Four of them now swivel forward to the map and look on the newly inserted astronomical object. Seven follows their gaze to the nebula.
“Computer, isolate grid 062 and magnify.”
She rotates the 3D representation of the object. In contrast to the frayed forms of other nebulae, its morphology shows an almost spherical shape. The transparent outer layers show that, like in an onion, further concentric spherical surfaces follow one another towards inward direction, resembling the fronts of shock waves.
Seven lifts an eyebrow. She marks the wave fronts recognizable from outside and starts an algorithm fitting the fronts with mathematically calculated surfaces.
“Computer, identify centers of origin.”
Immediately the computer places lines in the holographic star map that are perpendicular to those surfaces. All lines intersect at one point inside the nebula.
Seven`s eyes widen in surprise as she looks up at Ceph.
“Only one source?” She turns forward again. “Computer, determine the most likely object to create the marked structures.”
A few moments pass. Suddenly the nebula is dimmed to transparency, and a bright, bluish-white star becomes visible in its center. From the star`s surface, arc-shaped, luminous plasma streaks are ejected on all sides.
“Calculate mass.”
“The mass is 127 sol units; error interval plus minus 10 units,” reports the computer voice.
“Display spectroscopic data.”
“Due to the high scattering in the surrounding medium only inaccurately possible. Best fit is displayed.”
A fanned-out rainbow spectrum appears below the star; at the dark ab-sorption gaps the corresponding elements are noted. Below a particularly pronounced gap there is signed in large letters: IRON.
A fold forms between Seven`s brows.
“Create a dynamic simulation, … from now to one year into the future.”
Around the bright star ejected plasma flows whirl away from it in all directions. Repeatedly the star emits flashes. As electromagnetic wave fronts, these penetrate into the transparent gas and dust of the surrounding nebula generating shock waves. Due to this, increasingly irregular density patterns arise and all of a sudden, individual channels are formed through the nebula that hardly contain any matter.
Suddenly the star flares up brightly. It explodes in an expansion wave of radiation and matter that penetrates the surrounding nebula as glisten-ing lines reaching to the outside through the freshly formed channels.
“Simulation – stop.”
The image freezes. In all directions, radiation jets bristle out of the nebula like glowing spikes.
“Specify time since start of simulation.”
“26 days – 11 hours – 51 minutes – 13 seconds.”
Motionlessly, Seven and Ceph stare into the image.
Ceph`s holocom pops up. His icon is moved to the symbol for sickbay. He touches a green marker, closes the holocom and swings out of the astro-metrics laboratory.

E-Bug leaves sickbay. The door closes behind him. In his office, the doctor is sitting at his desk; beside him Janeway and Tuvok are standing in discussion. Somewhat away, Peri has erected. He seems to be waiting, while he looks at medical instruments.
Tuvok stands stiff and upright.
“With all due respect, Captain, before conferring such great responsibil-ity to these beings, it is my duty minding for the safety of this ship, to make every effort to assess the comprehension and reliability of these three individuals!”
Janeway shakes her head.
“Though I appreciate your willingness to take risks, Tuvok, but Mr. E-Bug is out of the question! Even if he understood our concern and would make every effort to keep his electrical gradients low; mind-melting puts both participants into a trance-like state. We don`t know how that affects Mr. E-Bug`s body control. With Mr. Peri and Mr. Ceph you may try your luck, though I`m not sure if your approach will be successful.”
The doctor argues, “I agree with the Captain, Mr. Tuvok. During your vulcan reading of the tea leaves while peeping into alien nerve waves, you may be able to cast a glance through Mr. Peri`s eyes; and you may perceive tactile stimuli with Mr. Ceph`s senses. That would undoubtedly be fascinating. But I do not believe that you`ll ever penetrate the spiritual structure of their consciousness. The cortical anatomies of the two are fundamentally different from those of humanoid species.”
On his monitor the doctor opens the schematic image of a humanoid brain and compares it with the neural sketch of Peri`s segmented organ-ism.
“Mr. Peri`s cognitive processes are distributed across the main ganglia of several segments; his emotional perceptions are processed in the neural nodes of his entire body.”
Ceph comes through the entrance and immediately swings to the four persons at the doctor`s office. The doctor points upwards.
“With him, however, all conscious processes are concentrated inside the brain ball in the center of his body. But this analogy with the compact brains of Vulcans and Humans is only superficial. There is no hierarchically ascending structure in his brain`s anatomy. The vibrational patterns of his spiritual processes and his emotions are spread throughout the whole brain by the corresponding nerve networks. There is no visual center, no cerebellum for motoric functions. The tomographic scan of Mr. Ceph shows almost homogeneous activity across the entire, central nervous mass, no matter whether he`s teaching himself, with astonishing mental expertise, how to make an X-ray of an eyestalk with a medical tricorder or whether he penetrates, driven by teasing emotions, a medical expert of holographic consistency, who is engaged in the execution of important scientific studies, at the most incredible places with his trunk`s endings in order to drive him mad!”
“The anatomy of a brain is not critical to mind-melting,” Tuvok argues calmly. “The technique consists of harmonizing vibrations with each oth-er.”
“For that I`m pessimistic as well. For Mr. Ceph`s eyes and arms I`ve identified seventeen interwoven neural network structures. These sometimes act autonomously for seconds, as if they were, each for itself, a separate brain, until all of a sudden, by means of lateral connections, they co-ondulatorily harmonize and merge to a concerted state of consciousness.” The doctor shakes his head. “I`m afraid, Tuvok, if your own brainwaves penetrate Mr. Ceph`s polyschizoidally entangled sub-brains, they will hopelessly get lost!”
Tuvok looks at Janeway. “If you will allow me, Captain, I`d like to have a try despite the negative attitude of the doctor.”
“Since it means so much to you, I don`t want to stop you. Perhaps you will find clues how our new friends communicate within their own spe-cies. But the two subjects must agree to your penetration into their minds!”
Tuvok nods. “I have prepared a demonstration to explain it to them.”
He opens his holocom. Peri and Ceph turn to it. Tuvok starts a film clip showing a Romulan closing his eyes. His head becomes transparent; in-side a Romulan woman becomes visible, leading a child by the hand. Tuvok`s holographic image appears next to the Romulan. It places its open hand on the Romulan`s head. Then Tuvok`s image closes its eyes and shortly afterwards the scene with the Romulan woman and the child appears in the transparent head of Tuvok`s image as well. The figures dissolve. The same symbolism of Tuvok`s transmission of thoughts repeats with a Ferengi, who concludes a deal in his imagination. The Ferengi`s inner perception is also transferred to Tuvok through the mind-melting, while laying his hand on the vaulted forehead of the Ferengi, next to one of his large ears. Finally, the holo-images of Peri and Ceph appear; one after the other, Tuvok`s image lays its hand on their bodies.
Tuvok closes the holocom. He looks at Peri. The eyes of the others also turn to him. Peri moves his head uncertainly. Then he slowly goes up to Tuvok. The Vulcan stretches out his arm and lays his hand on Peri`s head segment. The Peripatoid winces at Tuvok`s touch.
Conjuring, Tuvok speaks with closed eyes: “My spirit to your spirit, my thoughts to -”
Suddenly, Peri`s segments twist in different directions. His entire upward-bent body moves convulsively, as if all his muscle fibers were stricken by violent cramps. His front body falls to the ground writhing. After a few moments he regains full consciousness. He turns around; his legs are scratching on the floor in panic. Peri bumps into Janeway`s legs. She sways. Peri`s holocom is stripped off and falls to the ground. Without paying attention, Peri hurries to the exit of sickbay and disappears through the sliding-door. Worriedly Janeway looks after him.
“What went wrong, Tuvok?”
Tuvok blinks his eyes as he returns from the state of mental fusion to his own mind.
“The contact was very brief. I could perceive a strong sensation of threat.”
A massive tentacle reaches from the ceiling for Tuvok`s hand, pulls it up and presses it sideways against the bulk of Ceph`s body.
“How dare you!” Tuvok shouts with suppressed irritation.
The doctor grins. “This examinee does not seem to be afraid, Command-er!”
With a stern face Tuvok looks into Ceph`s swarming crowd of eyes with-out being able to concentrate on a single one. He closes the lids of his two eyes and speaks again: “My spirit to your spirit, my thoughts to your thoughts.”
Ceph`s eye stalks come to rest. They all retract so deep into the body that only the upper half of the eyeballs peer out. The two mentally connected persons persist in motionless stiffness. Ceph`s tentacle still holds Tuvok`s hand pressed to his body. Suddenly Tuvok`s head begins to bob back and forth, starting slowly, then more and more violently. His arm trembles. As if under a tremendous exertion Tuvok tears his hand away from Ceph`s body and stares at him with a horrified look. Ceph`s eye stalks extend again.
Janeway frowns. “Commander?”
“He … has penetrated my mind, … tentacles have coiled around my thoughts and –”
Tuvok stands mute. Close to Tuvok`s face the crowd of eyes began to dance. Each stem swirls its eyeball in a circle in front of Tuvok`s eyes; then all stems sway sideways, swinging in phase; then two adjacent stems respectively are rocking towards one another and apart. Ceph`s tentacles reach for the ceiling. He pulls himself carefully backwards. Tuvok follows, with slow and stiff steps and a rigid gaze.
The doctor holds a medical scanner to Tuvok`s head.
“What`s the matter with him?” inquires Janeway worriedly.
“Commander Tuvok is in the state of hypnosis!” reports the doctor.

Torres stands at the weapons segment of the tactical console, Carey at a newly erected, smaller console behind the captain`s place.
Carey suggests, “What do you say, B`Elanna, … if we leave the secondary phaser phalanx on the tactical console and only redirect the primary systems and torpedoes here? Then we wouldn`t be completely defenseless if the weapons console were damaged.”
“In that case we should consult Peri for the alterations. He has set up the interfaces between the two systems and knows how to separate them.”
Carey nods. In the holocom he moves Peri`s icon to the bridge and waits.
“Why doesn`t he confirm?” Carey raises his head. “Computer, locate Mr. Peri.”
“Mr. Peri is in sickbay,” the computer`s voice answers.
“Carey to Doctor. – Anything happened to Peri?”
Janeway voice reports, “Mr. Peri lost his communicator in sickbay. Do you have an idea where he might be?”
“Probably at the holo-terrariums in cargo bay 2. I`ll see after him, Cap-tain.”
“It`s all right, Carey. I`ll go myself. Janeway out.”

Under the even grey of a cloudy sky, mist condenses on long feathered lichens hanging, exuberantly growing, from the branches of tall horsetail trees and stocky ferns. The impassable forest ground is covered by trunks of fallen trees overgrown with dark-green glowing mosses. Where the wood is exposed, the black borders of encountering fungi webs are visible, grown in fringed lines while decomposing the dead material. Between the rotten trunks and from decaying stumps young tree ferns and horsetail shoots are sprouting.
With a holocom in her hand Janeway enters the cargo bay. In astonish-ment she looks across the diversity of landscapes lined up in front of her. To her left, high glass walls of an aquarium rise up; inside a light-flooded kelp forest proliferates from the muddy bottom to the rippling surface of the water, which shimmers in the light of a sun. Above the water plants an island of thick, yellow-brown reed fiber is drifting. It rises more than half a meter out of the water and has openings leading to cavities inside.
To the right of Janeway, the holo technique creates a wide sandy beach with a lagoon in front of it. Sea waves silently surge against the enclosure of rocks and corals. In the front third of the beach rises the cone of a sandcastle. Along a winding serpentine that leads to the top, numerous entrances branch off into the interior. While Janeway passes the border of the coastal biotope, the spider crab`s scissors reach for her; they are blocked by a shimmering force field.
Opposite the beach biotope a pampa-like landscape opens up, set with wisps of grass. Between the tufts, heaps of soil vault up from the ground. They resemble molehills, with big holes at their tops of about 30 centimeters in diameter leading into the underground. A bristly, spherical creature notices Janeway`s arrival and bounces, like a jumping ball, into the thicket of the grass.
Janeway walks on. She enters a mesozoic forest. In the distance the symmetrically completed being strides like a mythical figure through fern coppice. Janeway sits down on the large bark scales of a horsetail trunk lying on the ground; its inside has been hollowed by decomposition. Lat-eral branches have broken out at their base on the trunk and formed openings into the interior. From one of these knot holes a rasping pawing noise penetrates and rotten splinters of wood spray to the outside.
Janeway lays Peri`s holocom next to the opening. She turns it on.
“Computer, figure Earth in the holocom, one meter in diameter.”
Instantly the blue planet appears above the large knothole opening and slowly rotates in space around its oblique axis. Peri`s head emerges from the knothole. He swings his big eyes to Janeway, sitting on the tree trunk. Then he turns to the hologram of the planet.
“Computer, zoom on Peru, Lake Titicaca, floating islands.”
The globe rotates rapidly until South America is exposed. The planet`s curvature disappears as the perspective, like for a falling asteroid, ap-proaches the west of the continent. Below clouds the lake appears and reed islands, carrying historical Indian huts of the 20th Century. Slowly they sway on the gentle waves of the lake. Behind the door and window openings of the huts lie the dark hollows of their apartments.
“Computer, zoom on Cooper Pedy, Australia.”
The perspective races back into space; the planet appears round again and rotates. Another dive through the atmosphere, with a landing over a grey-ocher desert landscape covered with cone-shaped mounds of soil. Between these hills, openings lead into the underground that look like cave portals. With her finger Janeway zooms to one of the entrances. It is decorated with a mosaic of opals. Beyond runs a corridor of loamy stone walls covered with the grooves and furrows of large drilling tools. From the corridor entrances branch off on both sides, to furnished living rooms. Their walls are also formed by the hollowed-out rock.
“Computer, Borneo, orang-utans.”
A jungle appears and an orang-utan child swinging next to its mother on a liana.
“Computer, split holo image. Insert program Janeway 5.”
Next to the two orang wood-people, a large lime tree rises, standing on a meadow, solitarily. Between bifurcations of its branches an oblique-angled tree house is fitted in, to which a spiral staircase leads up winding around the trunk. One child climbs up; another pushes its head through a round window from the inside of the tree house. A third child swings, standing on the seat, under a branch of the lime tree.
“Seven of Nine to the Captain,” calls Seven`s voice from the communica-tor.
Janeway raises her head. “Go ahead, Seven!”
“During a simulation in astrometry I discovered something that potentially poses a threat.”
“Understood, Seven. I`ll meet you on the bridge.”
Janeway gets up. She nods to Peri and moves away. As she leaves the cargo bay her gaze falls on the aquarium. Between the leaves of two aquatic plants telescope eyes and tentacles are swarming.

On the bridge, Seven stands at the astrometrical console on port. Janeway comes out of the lift.
“0.8 light years away there`s a nebula of unusually high density,” explains Seven. “Abnormal shock wave structures have been revealed by infrared sensor scans. The empirical data for these structures cannot be traced back to incipient nuclear ignition processes in protostars.”
Janeway looks at the screen. At its center the almost circular nebula is depicted. Its transparent outer layers reveal concentric spheres of in-creased gas density.
“Do you have a hypothesis for this phenomenon?”
“There may be an extremely massive star inside the nebula that has entered an unstable phase.”
“How reliable are your simulations?”
“I have varied the available parameters in a wide range across the uncer-tainties of the values measured. Within the entire interval of data sets, the simulations lead to a blue supergiant of a mass between 90 to 150 sol units, that will explode within a period between 8 to 53 days.”
Janeway frowns. “The homeworlds of the Hatar and the Anthox lie in immediate vicinity. How much would the emitted radiation be attenuat-ed by the surrounding nebula?”
“Due to the high density of the gas and dust surrounding that star, the absorption of gamma radiation should be about 90% in all directions. However, the simulations also show another phenomenon: Chaotic fusion bursts in the star`s photosphere occurring before the explosion might trigger deep whirl formation creating aisles in the nebula that may grow into transparent channels.”
Janeway resolutely turns to the helm.
“We`ll take a closer look. – Mr. Paris, get us to the nebula, warp 9!”
“Aye, ma`am.”
“Seven, check sensor data! If the supernova erupts, we`ll retreat.”
Seven nods and turns to the readings on her station. Janeway goes to her chair, sits down and looks at the screen with tension. The Voyager goes under warp.
Paris turns his head. “We`ve reached the nebula, Captain.”
The white wall of the nebula covers the entire screen.
“Bring us in, Tom; maximum impulse!”
Tuvok reports, “Long-range sensors show three ships on an intercept course to us. Technology signatures are similar to the scan data you col-lected at the southern research station on the planet Verdera, Captain.”
Janeway turns her head back to Tuvok in surprise.
“The Hatar? They`re welcome to follow us. I`m curious about what they have to say about a supernova in their neighborhood!”
The screen shows as Voyager penetrates the outer layers of the nebula. At first the nebula becomes increasingly denser. Then cavities open up on both sides of the ship`s trajectory, with dark disks of gas and dust in their centers; the discs surround brightly shining condensated gas that irregularly flashes.
Janeway observes the events with a fascinated gaze.
“Just look, … we are inside a maternity home for stars!”
Soon the nebula becomes denser again and without structure; the local luminous phenomena of forming star systems have disappeared. But now the entire mass of gas depicted on the screen begins to light up in irregular sequence, barely noticeable at first, then increasingly powerful, as if invisible flashes were discharging in the gas medium. All of a sudden, the dense medium decays into single whirling clouds. Between them gas- and dust-free gaps are growing larger. Voyager breaks through the last misty wall and flies into a huge cavity inside the nebula; in its center shines a light blue star. In irregular bursts it glows up to extremely bright intensity.
Janeway rises and takes several steps towards the screen.
“Stop the ship, Tom. Shields up!” She goes one step further. “Magnify!”
Seven zooms in on the star until it fills almost the entire height of the screen. “I`ll filter the light.”
The glaring glow of the star`s surface is dimmed, and its color shifted to the light green area. Details become visible on the surface. Explosions and protuberances hurl material in wide arcs into space, where a net-like, streaky fibrous structure of plasma has formed around the star. Seven looks at her readings.
“We are detecting more accurate data now, Captain.”
“Let`s hear!”
“It`s a blue supergiant of spectral class O. Its mass is 2.6 times 10 in the 32nd power kilograms. This corresponds to 147 solar masses. The range of its nuclear reactions extends into the outer layers of the photosphere.”
Janeway`s hand rubs on her temple.
“When will the nuclear fuel be exhausted?”
“There is already a significant increase in the frequency of eruptions. The collapse occurs in about thirteen days. However, the strength of the explosion will exceed that of an ordinary supernova.”
Janeway looks at the edges of the image on the screen. There, the gas masses on the inner wall of the nebula`s cavity around the giant star are already in swirling motion.
“A hypernova -! If openings through the nebula will actually be formed, the life-worlds of the entire sector will be in danger!”
Seven confirms, “Due to the increase in intensity of the chaotic vortex formation in the surrounding nebula, extrapolation indicates that at the time of the explosion more than 20% of the nebula`s surface will be transparent to the released gamma radiation.”
Janeway`s eyes are directed at the protuberances under the star`s color-ful, reticular plasma envelope. She mumbles, “So beautiful as long as it lives, … and so devastating for billions of life-forms in its own death.”
Violent outbursts of radiation from the star hit the shields. Shortly after-wards the bridge is shaken. Janeway turns to Tuvok.
“Are there any problems with the shields?”
Tuvok looks at the readings on his panel. “This was not caused by radia-tion eruptions, Captain; we were fired at!”
On the screen three foreign ships fly past Voyager, turn around and posi-tion themselves head-on in front of her.
Janeway turns to Lang at the OPS console. “Hail them!”
A Hatar appears on the screen. Janeway raises her head.
“I`m Kathryn Janeway, from the Federation Starship Voyager. Why are you attacking us?”
“You are allies of our enemies!”
Janeway shakes her head. “No one on this ship is allied with the Anthox! Several months ago, eighty of our people were abducted by slave traders and sold to the Anthox. We have come to free them.”
“Why didn`t you do that already? You`ve been in this sector long enough!”
Janeway frowns. “This matter is somewhat complicated, … our people have given their word to help the Anthox developing a planet.”
“For the Anthox it`s not about the development of Verdera, but about its destruction! We`ve been doing research on that planet for much longer than they did and were planning its colonization long before the Anthox knew of it!”
Janeway`s voice becomes harder. “Maybe that won`t matter anymore in a couple of days. Perhaps neither the Hatar, nor the Anthox will colonize Verdera.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Don`t you see what`s going on here?”
“We have known for two hundred years that this star is unstable. Its explosion can`t do any harm outside the nebula.”
Janeway turns to Seven. “Transfer the results of your simulations over to them!”
Shortly after, Seven reports, “Done, Captain.”
The Hatar looks at a monitor standing on the desk in front of him.
“That`s impossible! Our scientists have been studying this area for dec-ades. The nebula protects us from the explosion.”
“Then your scientists overlooked something that may have been not so obvious decades ago as it is now. Look on your sensor`s readings. It has already started!”
An officer on the Hatar ship steps next to his captain. With a nervous expression he presents a data board. The captain looks at it. His face discolors. Then he disappears from the screen.
“They retreat,” reports Tuvok.
Janeway looks at Tuvok questioningly. “What do you think they`re going to do now?”
“The warning time is very short. The Hatar have no other option than telling their people when to seek shelter from the radiation.”
Janeway turns to the helm.
“Get us out of the nebula, Mr. Paris! And then set course for our people. I have the feeling that the Anthox will no longer need their services.”

In the cavity inside the nebula, created by the radiation of the blue giant star, Voyager turns around and dives into swirling wafts of gas masses.


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