Starship Voyager – The Alien Adventures — 15 The Feast

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.

III. Heading for Two Home-worlds

15. The Feast

In a cargo bay of the starship Voyager the crew has gathered, densely crowded, in front of their bridge officers, who are standing close to the wall on both sides of the captain. On the wall behind Janeway, the grey speckled edge of a stone slab protrudes sideways from under a dark blue cloth, that covers the slab almost completely.
The murmur of numerous superimposed, low voices fills the room. Many glances stare next to the row of the officers, where E-Bug is standing. Independently of each other, his chameleon-like tube-eyes direct in jerky movements to the faces facing him.
Janeway makes a sign to Neelix. With a serious and solemn expression Neelix knocks with a clapper on a black disc the size of a plate hanging from a thread. A dark, earthen sound detaches from the disc and fills the room. The murmur ceases; the crew stands at attention and turns their eyes to the captain.
Janeway takes a step forward and looks around the rows in front of her.
“The last few months have been among the most difficult since the be-ginning of our journey. Due to the aggressive act of a hostile species our ship was almost destroyed. We were separated and scattered across many light years.”

On the bridge, Ceph is hanging in his hammock in front of the helm. Seven is standing at the tactical console behind him. Both are looking at the split screen, Seven with her two eyes, Ceph with four. He has distributed the rest of his eyes towards the displays at his station. The left side of the screen images the space in front of the ship, the right one shows the cargo bay and Janeway delivering her speech.
“Our will to survive and our discipline allowed us to stand the catastro-phe; and finally, we`ve found each other again.”

In main engineering, Baxter follows the event on a monitor. With front segments erected, Peri is standing at the workstation in front of the warp core, checking the readings. Janeway`s voice continues.
“Even more: we found new friends who assisted us and joined us as members of our crew.”

In the cargo bay Janeway walks along the free aisle between crew and officers.
“Most of you have already seen helmsman Ceph and engineer Peri.”
She approaches E-Bug, who is standing half a meter aside of Tuvok. A crewman in the back row grabs his right neighbor on the shoulder and pushes his other hand against the arm of his colleague on the left. The three put their heads together and whisper with sinister looks.
Janeway stretches her hand a few centimeters further towards E-Bug.
“Some of you may not know Mr. E-Bug yet. He works at the sensor pha-lanx and is also an expert on high-voltage technology.” She smiles and raises her index finger. “But be careful. He is also under high voltage him-self, … don`t get too close to him!”
Several of the crewmen laugh in accordance with the captain`s joking portrayal. The three in the back row stare unmoved and full of hatred at E-Bug.
Janeway returns to her officers. Her face becomes serious and takes on an expression of tragic bitterness.
“Unfortunately, we also had losses during the past events, and the number of casualties since the beginning of our journey has continued to grow.”
Janeway looks at Tuvok and nods. Tuvok removes the dark blue cloth from the wall and reveals a commemorative stone tablet; on its surface the names, ranks and life dates of the fallen have been engraved in three columns. Janeway steps beside the slab.
“We have assembled here to remember in mourning our dead, who have left us during our journey.”
She looks at the stone slab and starts calling over the names.
“Crewman Bendera, Ensign Ballard, Medical Officer Doctor D`wann, First Officer Lieutenant Commander Cavit, Ensign Bennet, Crewman Darwin, Lieutenant Durst …”
While Janeway reads further names, the gazes of the doctor and the other officers are straight and stiffly directed into the crew. Neelix looks diagonally upwards at the opposite wall.
“… Crewman Biddle, Crewman Jonas, Ensign Hogan, Ensign Trumari, Crewman Swift …”
With the last two names the three in the back row put their heads together again and look hatefully at E-Bug. The middle one of them points his index finger in E-Bug`s direction and moves the middle finger underneath like against the trigger of a weapon.
“… Ensign Seska, Lieutenant Stadi, Ensign Suder, Ensign Kaplan, Ensign Martin and our First Officer, … Commander Chakotay.”
There is a long moment of silence.
Then Janeway closes with the words: “They may have left their stations on the ship forever, but in our hearts and in our memories, they will con-tinue to accompany us wherever our journey may lead.”


On the bridge Tuvok, E-Bug, Paris, and Lang work at their stations. The lift opens.
Ceph swings out and across the ceiling to the helm. Above Paris he sinks into his high-hanging hammock. He lowers two tentacles downwards in a wide arc and lets them dangle in front of Paris`s face, first swinging them in phase, then versus one another. Without paying attention, Paris ends the settings he had started on the helm panel and points his finger at a display. Then he rises and bends his spine back and forth, which has be-come stiff from sitting. Ceph lowers his hammock to just above the level of the control panel. He spreads two tentacles across the table and turns three eyes back to Tuvok.
Tripping with both hands, Paris knocks against Ceph`s arm that hangs out of the hammock in a loop. A tentacle ending returns the tripping with a rapid movement at Paris`s shoulder. Paris turns around. He sets off to leave the bridge when Tuvok addresses him in a stern tone.
“What was the purpose of your touching interaction, Ensign?”
“That was just our usual ritual at the change of shift, Commander.”
“Such a manner is not appropriate on a Starfleet starship!”
“Don`t be so strict, Tuvok! As we can`t talk to him, we ought to be glad that we can at least express our sympathy to him in this way.”
“You may express as much sympathy as you like to Mr. Ceph privately, Ensign. On duty you will behave strictly according to the protocols! Have I made myself clear enough?”
Paris stands at attention. With suppressed anger in face and tone he retorts: “As clear as the logic of vulcan discipline can be — Commander!”
Paris leaves the bridge with dynamic steps that express his state of mind. At the lift he meets Carey. The two nod at each other. Carey goes to E-Bug who directs an eye on him. Then he points with his stylus to some display values on the panel.
Carey nods. “Understood!”
E-Bug makes way for Carey, goes to the lift and leaves the bridge together with Paris.

Phaser benches are lined up along an inner board of the ship. The guns are screwed with sealing flanges to the ship`s hull. Three men are working on the aggregates of the phaser weapons. One of them grabs his colleague by the arm.
“Say, Ryson, what do you think about that E-Bug monster operating the weapons on the bridge together with Carey?”
The addressed one shrugs his shoulders. “You know, Cassidy, if the cap-tain prefers to work with a jumping iguana that doesn`t speak a word, … she`ll see what she`s going to get out of it! Actually, it should be you standing beside Carey on the bridge. You`ve always been his first substitute.”
Ryson turns to the side and starts a measurement with his tricorder. Cas-sidy goes two phaser banks further and speaks to the other colleague.
“Those were the days, Hamilton, when the five of us went to the casino after work for a game or to the holodeck for a baseball match, … when Trumari and Swift were still alive.”
Hamilton nods silently without looking up as he adjusts a module at its spindle holder with a wrench.
Cassidy continues, “Isn`t it a disgrace that the killer of our buddies walks freely on the ship? They say he`s the captain`s personal bodyguard; he`s even supposed to have risen to the rank of second security officer!”
“If you ask me,” grumbles Hamilton, “it would be safest for the ship if someone catapulted that killer through a torpedo shaft into open space!”
Cassidy turns back to the other direction and speaks loud enough that Ryson understands him.
“Even our Borg doesn`t know what species he belongs to. Maybe it`s their tactics to infiltrate one of them onto a foreign ship to spy out the weak points there. And when they`ve got enough information …” Cassidy clenches his fist and hits it into his other open hand, “Puff!”

In one of Voyager`s operating rooms, two men have removed the covers of a control panel on the wall. They use tricorders to measure the signals of optronic modules. One of them shows his colleague the display of his tricorder.
“Something`s wrong, … ain`t these values odd?”
The other one takes a look at the readings.
“The signal`s amplitudes seem to be correct; they`re within the allowed intervals; but frequency fine-tuning is completely out of range.”
“It`s amazing that anything around here is functional at all. This whole section had been completely destroyed.”
“They say the Centipede was participating in the repair teams.”
“Seriously? Then I understand why the captain ordered to check every-thing again.”
He uses a probe to test several signal lines. Suddenly, sparks spray with a hissing crack. The crewman is thrown backwards to the ground and lies motionless. His colleague hastily hits the communicator.
“Medical emergency team to operating room 12! One person injured due to over-voltage!”

His jumping legs angled in the middle of his body, E-Bug walks along a corridor on his hoof-like hind legs and on the finger claws of his front extremities. Approaching crew members dodge into side corridors or squeeze tightly against the wall with anxious and distrustful glances, until he has passed them. Finally, E-Bug stops in front of a gate; he opens it and enters a cargo bay. The gate closes behind him. He marches past crates and barrels that have been pushed together and piled upon one another. Suddenly his head twitches a little sideways and he stops. His head antennae oscillate slowly, while scanning invisible fields. Then he walks on. He crosses a large open area of the cargo bay and finally reaches a console standing between crates on the rear wall. He presses on a switch; the display lights up. The two long side feelers detach from his body. Their endings sink into holes on the lateral facing of the console. From the interior, lightning flashes up for a brief moment as if contacts were closed. Then E-Bug stands motionless, his tube-eyes pointing downward to the floor. Only his head antennae sway in slow, almost imperceptible movements.
From the other side of the cargo bay three men stalk forward. They seek cover behind stored crates.
Cassidy whispers grimly, “You see, … there`s the transmitter he uses to contacts the others.”
“Are you sure he`s transmitting with it? The ship`s sensors would certainly record the signals,” Ryson argues doubtfully.
Cassidy pulls his phaser. “Have you forgotten that he operates the sensor phalanx on the bridge? I bet he`s manipulated it to make sure his transmission frequency is not detected.”
Hamilton, who is behind Cassidy, pulls his phaser too.
“You say the Centipede`s in cahoots with him?”
Cassidy nods. “He installed that transmitter for him, I saw it with my own eyes!”
Ryson turns his head to Cassidy. “We should inform the captain.”
“Do you think she`d believe you?” bellows Cassidy at him. “Before it comes to an investigation, the two would have covered all traces. We have to take this spy in the very act! You two go after him from behind; I`ll come from the side and cover you. As soon as we got him, I`ll call security.”
Cassidy separates from the two. He sneaks around the free area, hiding behind cargo boxes, up to the rear wall of the cargo bay and there to a barrel standing several meters next to E-Bug`s console. Then he gives the other two a sign. They leave their cover. Slowly they approach E-Bug from behind with pulled phasers.
E-Bug`s antennae swivel faster now and further out. The ends of the side feelers retreat from the openings of the console and rise. Like swung whips frozen in time by a snapshot, the long thin outgrowths stand above E-Bug`s back, bent in meandering loops. In a rapid movement the two eye tubes snap backwards.
Ryson and Hamilton hold their phasers leveled on E-Bug.
Ryson shouts, “We`ve got him, Cassidy! Tell the Commander!”
Cassidy hides behind his cover and doesn`t answer. He peers into the free space in front of him with cunning tension. His nostrils twitch.
Ryson shouts worriedly, “Come on, Cassidy,… what are you waiting for?”
The next moment, E-Bug catapults himself backward in a rapid jump, passing over Ryson and Hamilton. His side feelers hit their arms. The weapons slip out of their twitching hands. The two humanoids fall to the ground. They squirm and moan, trying to revive the paralyzed arms with their healthy hands.
“What`s going on here?”
Seven is standing behind Cassidy. He crouches on the floor in front of her peering around the bend of the barrel to his knocked down colleagues. Behind Seven a side door of the cargo bay is open; dark-green displays of a Borg alcove are glowing out of the door.
Alarmed, Cassidy turns around to Seven and points his phaser at her. With her foot Seven kicks the weapon out of his hand. Cassidy grabs her leg and throws her to the ground. He rushes at her; they wrestle. Both try to reach the phaser on the ground with their hands. E-Bug approaches with a jump. In their struggle, Seven`s head hits the barrel. She is dazed for a moment. Cassidy grabs the phaser and fires at E-Bug; he quickly jumps aside. The shot grazes his belly while his long side feeler hits the sparkling weapon out of Cassidy`s hand. As the high voltage flashes over, also Seven`s body twitches, short-circuited by a leg of Cassidy still lying over her. She regains consciousness. Seven detaches herself from Cassidy; she grabs his phaser before he reaches it and fires at him. The half-erected Cassidy collapses and remains motionless.
Seven points the phaser at Ryson and Hamilton, who try to get up from the ground with paralyzed limbs.
“Seven of Nine to Tuvok! – A security team is required in Cargo Bay 1. The presence of the doctor is also necessary. There was a phaser fight.”
“Understood,” Tuvok`s voice confirms.
E-Bug rises from the floor. One eye directs on Seven, the other is twitching back and forth between the motionless Cassidy and his two moaning colleagues.
The entrance to the cargo bay opens. Tuvok and two security guards appear. Janeway hurries ahead of them.
“What happened here?”
Seven lowers the phaser.
“I found Lieutenant Ryson and Crewman Hamilton lying injured on the ground and Mr. Cassidy hiding here. When I called him to account, he attacked me. With Mr. E-Bug`s help, it was possible to disarm and stun him.”
The doctor appears and goes to Cassidy with a medical scanner. Janeway turns to Ryson.
“What were you three doing in the cargo bay?”
Ryson rubs his injured arm. Bent in pain he replies to Janeway, “We wanted to take that E-Bug in the very act, Captain.”
Janeway raises an eyebrow in surprise. “Explain that!”
“Cassidy is convinced that this one …” he points to E-Bug “and the Centi-pede make common cause: they spy on Voyager and transmit information about us to their people. They do it on that console over there.”
Janeway casts a questioning look at Seven.
“This is not implausible, Captain,” declares Seven. “Mr. Cassidy knew the problems that arose when Mr. E-Bug uncovered high voltage power lines all over the ship to recharge himself. In order to stop this,” she points to the wall “this console was designed, allowing him to regenerate the elec-trophorus elements of his body tissue. I myself got the parts for Mr. E-Bug and installed them with him. Nothing on this device is suitable for transmitting secret messages.”
In worried pondering Janeway looks at Cassidy`s motionless body. The doctor rises with a contrite face.
“I was not able to resuscitate him, Captain. Mr. Cassidy is dead.”
Horror mingles into Janeway`s gaze. Seven looks at the phaser in her hand.
“I shot with Mr. Cassidy`s gun.” Her widened eyes point to the body on the ground in front of her. “It was set to kill.”
Grimly Hamilton calls out: “So that beast has not only murdered Trumari and Swift, but also caused Cassidy`s death!”
Janeway`s face darkens. “Didn`t your dead colleague tell you that it was in self-defense? Trumari and Swift attacked Mr. E-Bug the same way the both of you just attacked him. Cassidy knew that — he was there!” Janeway`s gaze changes back and forth between the two. “But in your case Cassidy obviously was out of his reckoning: this time Mr. E-Bug did not kill his attackers.”
Puzzled and embarrassed, Ryson and Hamilton stare at Janeway. Her head bowed, Janeway walks closer to the wall of the cargo bay with slow steps. Then she turns to Ryson. With a stone face and a soundless dark voice, she speaks to him.
“Pick up your phaser, Lieutenant!”
Ryson looks down. He hesitates for a moment; then he follows the order. His insecure gaze touches E-Bug, who is standing beside him.
“Come here!”
With stiff, limping legs Ryson drags himself to Janeway.
“Set your phaser to a quarter power and continuous beam!”
Ryson looks at the gun in his hand and turns a knob. Slowly Janeway`s arm rises and stretches for a stone slab next to her on the wall.
“Use it as a tool — and engrave another name!”
Dazed and with a horrified gaze, Ryson follows her signing arm to the commemoration tablet of the fallen and begins to write on it with the phaser.

On the screen of the bridge, the warp stripes of stars are passing by.
Kim reports, “Lieutenant, sensors detected a vessel of unknown signa-ture. We`ll encounter its position in nine minutes.”
Carey turns around. “Does it fly on an intercept course to us?”
“I don`t think its flying at all. I`m not reading a warp signature. Maybe it`s kind of a space station.”
From the side console Lang looks at Carey. “They`re sending hailing fre-quencies.”
Carey raises his head. “Bridge to Captain. – We`re approaching a ship. It`s attempting to contact us.”
“I`m on my way, Mr. Carey,” answers Janeway`s voice.

In sickbay Paris uses a medical regenerator to treat the burns on the back of a crewman`s hand. The wound gradually fades, and light-colored skin is formed again.
“Try moving your fingers, Farley!”
The patient clenches his hand to a fist, opens it again and moves his fin-gers up and down in waves as if he were playing the piano. Paris nods.
“Tendons and nerves are completely intact again. But that newly struc-tured tissue`s got to ripen for a couple of days. I`ll give you an ointment. Apply it three times a day; if it`s not healed within a week see the doctor again.”
Paris opens a drawer and looks for the ointment. Sitting on the sickbed Farley eyes him from the side.
“You did get back later as well, Paris, didn`t you?”
“I mean, … after the ship had been rebuilt.”
“That`s right. They found me on a planet.”
Paris holds out the ointment to Farley who fixes him.
“Don`t you feel insecure when you`re at the helm?”
“Why should I?”
“Well, … with that Centipede having soldered around everywhere.”
Paris pinches his eyes together and looks at Farley sharply.
“I have full confidence in Mister Peri`s technical skills!”
Farley takes the ointment from Paris`s hand, slips off the sickbed and stands on his feet again.
“Wait till you got a stain on your hand yourself, or something worse!”
Without greeting, Farley goes to the exit and leaves sickbay. Frowning, Paris looks after him.

Janeway enters the bridge.
“When do we encounter that ship?”
“In about three minutes, Captain,” Carey replies as he gets up and walks backwards.
“Open a channel, Lang!”
Lang nods. Janeway walks towards the screen.
“This is Captain Kathryn Janeway, from the Federation Starship Voyager!”
“They answer, Captain.”
“On screen!”
An artificially created landscape becomes visible inside a huge biosphere dome. Humanoids enter and leave brightly lit buildings with flashing ad-vertising inscriptions. At the entrance gate in front of the site there is a humanoid in a white cape, decorated with metallic and colorfully shim-mering ornaments. The figure of the man resembles the species of the Akrrung in its stocky physique and the wrinkled, fleshy face; but his gaze is humorous and cheerful. The man at the gate smiles invitingly.
“The pleasure cruiser Paradise Forever welcomes you to our sector, Captain Janeway! And an equally warm welcome to all of your crew! What brings you to our wonderful region of space?”
Janeway`s eyes widen at the sight of the colorful hustle and bustle and the burlesque figure welcoming her.
With an astonished smile she explains, “We come from far away and are only passing through.”
“All travelers of the galaxy are welcome to us! Allow yourself and your crew a break, a change from the dreary darkness of space. Enjoy your-selves in our Paradise, find relaxation! You`ll be refreshed and cheered up when you set out for new destinations.”
Thoughtfully, Janeway turns to the rear bridge, where she meets a skeptically stern look of Tuvok and the depressed face of Kim. She turns back to the porter at the gate.
“Is it possible to have a celebration at your place, a banquet for about a hundred and forty people?
“Feasts are our specialty,” the porter calls. “We`re capable of offering you an unforgettable experience!”
“What does that pleasure cost?”
“I assure you: our prices are fair! We accept fuels, precious metals or whatever other goods you have left! Many merchant ships dock at our cruiser to supply us. We give in exchange what our customers have paid us.”
“We`ll think it over and let you know soon. – Janeway out.”
The screen shows the black space again and the stripes of the stars.
Janeway goes aft to Carey. She stands next to him at his console and looks at the displays for a while.
“You know what happened?”
“Commander Tuvok informed me of the incident.”
“You`ve been working with him for a long time. What kind of person was he?”
“He was competent in his field, Captain.”
“I know his personnel file. What I`d like to understand, Joseph, is how it could have come to that.”
“He was an ambitious man, but he was lacking the personality to assert himself in open discussion. What he did have, however, was the talent to manipulate everyone, who did not see through his real designs. I`m not a counselor, but I think he tried to compensate his deficiencies. Once a crewman had embarrassed himself in front of the others and it was difficult for him to face them. That one was a perfect victim for him. He spent every free minute with that colleague for days and discussed the personality weaknesses and professional failures of each individual crew member with him. He has taken apart the anonymous crowd by which the embarrassed one felt being stared at, into individuals, each with their own faults and deficiencies.”
“That almost sounds like the psychological intuition of a counselor, but one who acts rather indiscreet.”
“His approach was psychologically effective, though not well-intentioned. He took away so much pressure from the one who had embarrassed himself that he trusted him unconditionally and could be set against others like a robot, whenever an ally was needed.”
“How could he go so far as to attempt murder?”
“I never quite understood what was in his mind. When Ryson returned from the Anthox, he had to cede the leading of the weapon`s deck to him. Maybe that was the reason.” Staring at the displays, Carey frowns. “The unusual personnel situation on the ship makes it easy for characters like him, … I mean the distrust of the returned ones against the three new crewmen. Many have the feeling they`ve returned to an alien vessel that`s no longer the old Voyager.”
Janeway has lowered her eyes to the displays as well, in parallel alignment and lenses unfocused. She nods.

A man and two women carry out measurements on an aggregate with tired faces. Suddenly one of the women walks to the window in surprise and shouts: “Look, what`s this?”
The other two hurry to her. Distant stellar points and darkness have dis-appeared. The outer area is filled by the huge port-side of another vessel. Millions of colorful bright dots shine, and blinking advertisements boost amusements.

A spaceship shimmering in all colors, flies through space next to Voyager. It is composed of several cuboids rounded at their corners and edges. Luminous domes are placed on top of each cuboid. They make the ship shine like Christmas lighting. At its flank, a long landing-stage branches off, where numerous smaller ships of different designs have docked. Voyager approaches; it extends a transfer gate. Like the other ships it anchors its gate to the landing-stage of the Paradise Forever.

Kim, Tuvok, and Ceph are the only ones at their places on Voyager`s bridge. All other stations are unoccupied. The lighting is dimmed. Apart from the low signal tones of the electronics it is quiet in the room. At the lower edge of the screen parts of the blinking pleasure cruiser can be seen. They are surrounded by the panorama of the stellar environment and the band of the Milky Way, across which Ceph has fanned out his swarm of eyes. His stems stand motionless, as if meditating on the sight.
Tuvok interrupts the viewing of protocol data at his console. He takes a look forward; with a cool though interested expression he observes the unusual, contemplative stillness of Ceph`s posture.
Kim`s face is turned forward too, but his eyes twitch back and forth, dri-ven by an inner uneasiness. He repeatedly casts a tortured glance at Tuvok from the side. Finally, he speaks to him.
“Excuse me, Commander, … may I ask you a question?”
Tuvok lowers his eyes to his panels again. “Go ahead, Ensign.”
“When the Anthox brought us to their research station, you were the only one who refused to collaborate with them. You said you didn`t hold the Anthox mature enough to give them technologies for the transfor-mation of a planet.”
“That is correct.”
“Do you condemn me for having agreed to the terms of the Anthox?”
“I do not condemn your attitude, Mr. Kim. Your primary goal was to re-gain freedom in order to free the crew that had been left behind in the hands of the Hirogen.”
“But through our cooperation we have violated the supreme directive!”
“Undoubtedly. I also found myself in the conflict between loyalty to principles and commitment to members of the crew whose lives were threatened.” Tuvok looks forward, pondering. He raises an eyebrow and continues, “If you had decided to comply with the directive, Mr. Kim, I would have tried to cooperate in order to gain freedom and reunite the crew.”
The contrition in Kim`s face fades away, his mouth opens, and his eyes widen. Tuvok turns back to the tactical console and continues to check ship protocols.
The turbolift opens; Paris and Seven enter the bridge.
Paris stands at attention next to Tuvok and announces: “Seven and I are back from the celebration, Commander. We were instructed by the cap-tain to send the next group over!”
After a brief, formal change of view, Tuvok turns back to his readings.
“Do that, Ensign.”
Paris steps forward to the helm. Meanwhile, Seven relieves Kim at the OPS. Kim goes to the lift. He hesitates.
“Commander, if you`d like to go to the party, I`d give precedence to you.”
“I appreciate your offer, Ensign. But I prefer to stay on the bridge.”
“Wait a minute, Harry!” shouts Paris. “The captain wants the new crew members to join as well. You are to take Ceph with you to make sure he won`t dodge from participation!”
Kim frowns. “As I know our new friend so far, he ain`t certainly the type to avoid a party, is he?”
Paris shrugs its shoulders. “I don`t know how she meant it, … but that`s what she said.”
Kim opens his holocom, and in it a picture of Voyager and that of a strange ship. Then he pulls his own icon and that of Ceph from Voyager`s bridge to the other ship. Ceph`s holocom has popped up. He observes the message, closes the presentation and pulls himself out of his ham-mock. He turns two eyes to Tuvok, who is engrossed in protocol data. A tentacle quickly triples against Paris`s shoulder. He also looks around briefly and returns the greeting with the back of his hand. Then Ceph swings aft to Kim, who is waiting for him at the lift.

Shining, blinking, and colorful the pleasure ship Paradise Forever is float-ing in space. Voyager has docked at its landing stage, next to a number of smaller cargo ships, whose stocky forms and grey and rust-brown surfaces strongly contrast with the iridescent luxury cruiser. Under the glass skin of Voyager`s transfer gate a Cephalopoid swings towards the landing stage. A humanoid walks below him.

Kim and Ceph are marching and swinging from Voyager`s transfer gate into the corridor of the landing stage. The two take their way to the other end, where an invitingly decorated, arched entrance shines. They have to avoid humanoids repeatedly, who unload freights from their ships out of gates docked from sideways; in trolleys they roll their load to the cruiser`s delivery entrances. At the hulls of the merchant ships, paint crumbles off rusty stains; the edges of the ship`s ports are worn and scratched. The loading workers stop several times. They stare at Ceph, who swings along the corridor ceiling, with surprised and greedy glances. Their bodies are squat, and their faces are fleshy and full of wrinkles, with a grim and cunning expression.
The alignment of Ceph`s eyes restlessly snaps from one Akrrung to the other. Kim accelerates his walk and looks up at his companion.
“Seems to me we`ve both become acquainted with that species be-fore!”
Finally, they arrive at the brightly lit arch of the visitor`s entrance, which seems decorated with millions of diamonds. They move through into the interior of the luxury liner. The shining corridor behind the arch is higher and Ceph has to stretch his arm far up to reach the ceiling on the other side.
The two follow signal boards showing an image of the Voyager. Finally, they find the banqueting hall, where in cheerful exuberance their crew mates celebrate at high desks in bar bays roofed with mushrooms and palms. Puzzled by the large crowd, Kim hesitates at the entrance. From his elevated look-out position, one of Ceph`s eyes discovers Torres wav-ing to them. A tentacle end reaches down. It nudges Kim`s shoulder, bends horizontally and points towards the waving humanoid. Ceph swings ahead, Kim follows him. Finally, they arrive at the round bar table, where Torres, Carey, Lang, and Neelix move closer to make room for Kim. From the ceiling, Ceph sinks onto the mushroom-shaped roof of the table and looks down over the edge to his colleagues.

In several of the numerous individual aspects arranging to the overall visual image, the heads of adjacent colleagues lean towards each other; sounds emerge between their moving lips, rising from the background noise. In the panorama of twelve composite images some of them overlay in pairs to form 3D islands depicting densely packed groups of humanoids. Other aspect elements veer out and isolate to zoom closer on the upper extremities of humanoids gesticulating with hands and finger-joints; they grasp glasses which they bump against the glasses of neighbors before drinking from them. They seem much more vivid in their physical interaction with each other than during their service on Voyager.
One of the aspects attaches itself to the front third of a wandering ten-tacle that glides over the edge of the mushroom roof and descends downwards. Straight ahead, the snorkel ending of the arm moves towards Torres`s drinking glass. Shortly before it reaches its goal, Torres pulls the glass aside. She and the other humanoids around the table point their facial fronts of their uppermost body segments, covered with fur on top and rear area and equipped with just a single pair of eyes an-chored inside cavities, towards the field of twelve fluctuating individual views. Small openings at slightly protruding shell-shaped auditory funnels are depicted in focus, as well as two breathing holes at horn-like outgrowths protruding from the middle of the facial area. The sphincter muscles underneath, that enclose the gap for the intake of food, stretch in width. They open and reveal two rows of white glowing cutting and mortar outgrowths of the skeleton. From the hollow space in between, short monotonous sounds are emitted, stimulated by sharply exhaled breathing gases.
Torres waves to a humanoid who approaches with a fully loaded tray. He places a glass of fruity green liquid in the middle of the table. Torres lifts it up towards the end of the tentacle. The snorkel sinks into the glass sucking half of the fluid at one draught.
As if it was a reflex, three of the optical aspects snap sideways to the next but one table. One of the views captures Janeway`s overall figure, another zooms in on her face, the third one on the part of her two eyes. Janeway makes gesticulating movements with her left hand while her right hand is bumping glasses with all the crew members around her. She is emitting sounds with a broad mouth; then she empties a third of her glass. Janeway leaves the group. She walks past a table where she lifts her glass. Those around align towards her and return the gesture. Of all twelve optical aspects, the three attached to Janeway follow her. She arrives at Torres`s table. Her hand grabs Carey`s arm. She turns to a small table at the end of the hall, where Ryson and Hamilton stand bent and motionless, clasping their glasses. Carey nods and starts walking towards the two while Janeway takes his standing place between Neelix and Kim.
The detail view that follows Carey shows him reaching the table of the two crew members and putting his glass next to their glasses. Their eyes direct on Carey, whose lips are moving.
Janeway`s head sways upwards and the glass in her hand bumps against the green fruit-juice in the middle of the table. Her mouth is opened and shows her white teeth. The eye lids are narrower than usual, shinier and the brows are slightly raised. A tentacle grabs the juice-glass and clinks at Janeway`s glass.

Next to Janeway appears the porter of the Paradise Forever.
“Is everything to your satisfaction, Captain Janeway?”
Her eyes radiate towards him. “Everything is wonderful! Your Paradise and our ship met at the right time!”
“If you allow, we shall serve you the culinary highlight now. It`s a rare delicacy. Its origin has been lost in the darkness of history. It is a dish cultivated exclusively at a single place, kept secret by the growers.”
Charmingly smiling, Janeway swings his head and upper body towards him.
“We are ready for your next palatable pleasures!”

The porter, captured by one of a crowd of separate views, makes a sign to the waiters. Immediately they stream out of the kitchen passage. They distribute plates, in which bright rings are laid in artfully arranged overlapping. Immediately Janeway, Torres, Lang, and Neelix grab for the rings, put them in their mouths and cut off parts with their teeth. With shining eyes, they nod at each other and chew the bitten pieces.
A curious tentacle also grabs one of the rings from the plate in the middle of the table. The next moment a twitch goes through the tentacle-arm; the ring slips off from it. The arm grabs it a second time and pulls the ring upwards, onto the roof above the table. All twelve visual aspects are simultaneously directed at the ring and depict it from all sides, while in the background tentacles restlessly wind through the images. Once again, the ring slips away. It rolls to the edge of the roof and falls down between the legs of the standing humanoids. The optical fields rush behind the lost piece and disperse hectically to different directions. All views show rings being inserted through open sphincters by finger limbs; aspects zoom on teeth immediately biting and mortaring the rings.
Suddenly the twelve aspects snap to the kitchen passage, from where the waiters are taking their fully loaded plates. Two tentacles speed to the ceiling and the visual fields shift to the dark area above the low-hanging lighting of the hall. The views show the kitchen entrance rapidly approaching. Then they swing through under the door frame into the interior of the kitchen, passing over the waiters hurrying outside. The movement of the fields of vision pauses; all aspects are directed towards large pots. From their steaming, oily fluid the rings are taken out and arranged on the plates. A kitchen assistant brings the next pack of raw rings to the stove. Almost all gazes level on him and follow his way back, while from below a cook hits towards low hanging arms with a long spoon. Arms and views evasively rush away from the humanoid, deeper into the kitchen. At its rear end they reach a position above a storage box full of packs. Through the supplier`s entrance a worker appears with a trolley and adds another box. The turmoil of images follows that Akrrung on his way back outside, into the corridor of the landing stage. From the ceiling the twelve views stick to the supplier, who finally turns sideways with the trolley into the transfer gate of his ship. At the rear end of the gate, the ship`s sluice slides open in front of the Akrrung; he steps through the entrance and the sluice closes behind him.
With fluctuating yellow and orange stripes over their surface, arms reach ahead. They pull the optical aspects of the visual field behind them into the gloomy transfer gate. An image zooms in on the switch for opening the sluice. A tentacle tip approaches it. Then it presses on the switch. The rusty steel door slides open creakingly. All aspects stare inside. Nothing moves. The views swing in and follow a corridor. Arms try to find support between the cables and hoses hanging from the ceiling. Several views look through the open entrance of a cargo bay full of boxes. A tentacle gropes around the upper edge of the door frame to the ceiling of the bay and eye aspects bend into it. The tentacle-arm sucks tight. The twitching images swing into the interior and spread across the stacks of boxes. From above the suction cups of two tentacles press against the lid of a box and push it aside. White, cold smoke comes out of the opening.

Inside a foreign cargo bay Ceph`s body is hanging down from the ceiling, with two arms sucked. The other three arms have laid around the box under him. All twelve stems are rigidly stretched downwards into the icy steam that is enveloping the eyeballs.
A rolling noise approaches from the entrance. Ceph puts the lid back on the box and takes cover behind it. The Akrrung from before appears; he heaves a box on his trolley and pushes it outside into the corridor. Pulled up close to the ceiling, Ceph carefully follows the Akrrung, taking cover between hanging cables and hoses. Before the ship`s sluice closes behind the pushing humanoid, Ceph quickly swings through. His rear tentacle barely escapes the narrowing gap between the two halves of the sliding door. When the Akrrung almost arrives at the exit and Ceph reaches the middle of the transfer gate, the ship`s sluice behind him suddenly opens once more. A second Akrrung enters the gate. He notices Ceph on the ceiling behind his colleague and shouts: “Damn — where did that one come from?”
The other Akrrung turns around. Both rush towards Ceph. One of them pulls a gun with a barrel as thick as his forearm. He targets Ceph and fires. A net is ejected and opens up, enclosing Ceph from below. Two tentacles are still holding fast to the ceiling, but with every attempt to swing and drag their way further to the exit they get entangled deeper in the meshes. The two Akrrung reach for ropes hanging down from the net with its panickily wriggling content. Ceph loses his attachment to the ceiling and falls to the ground. With stumps of arms pushing through the net into the open, he sucks himself to the floor; he tries with all his strength to pull himself closer to the exit of the transfer gate, against the resistance of the ropes dragging the net backwards. The arms, vibrating with exertion, become longer, while the panting Akrrung tug Ceph`s trapped body closer towards the entrance of their ship. Suction cups lose their hold. They rubbingly slide over the floor; they attach firmly again; they are torn away again. Stems push themselves through meshes, turning their panic-stricken eyeballs in all directions.
Suddenly, the light falling from the corridor of the landing stage into the transfer gate darkens. A shadow grows across Ceph and beyond to the back, up to the two humanoids. The next moment two whip-like out-growths hit over Ceph deep into the gate. With a hissing bang the light of bluish plasma discharges flashes brightly. Immediately afterwards it is dark again in the transfer gate.
The tensile stress, applied to the net before, has ceased. Ceph laboriously pulls himself out along the floor into the open corridor and tries to strip the net off his tentacles and body. In panic-stricken twists he finally manages to free himself from the web of thick threads. He reaches for the ceiling and pulls himself up. With unsteady and weakened arms he swings as fast as he can to the transfer gate of the Voyager.
A tube-eye looks after the fleeing. Then E-Bug turns around and, striding on his hind legs and forearms, continues his way to the entrance of the Paradise Forever.

Shining in glittering colors of a rainbow spectrum wandering across its surface, the luxury cruiser floats in space. On several sides landing stages of various lengths have been extended, to which ships of different designs have docked.

With shining eyes Janeway appears on the bridge, cheerful, tipsy, and full of verve.
“Tuvok, … you party-shirker! You could have shown up for a few minutes, at least!”
“Since my captain attended the ceremony, it was my task to represent her on the bridge,” Tuvok replies objectively.
Janeway gives a sign of refusal. “Oh, don`t blame me for not wanting to!” She decelerates her momentum a little, to climb down the two steps to the front bridge with a certain caution. Then she stops.
“Are they all back, Commander?”
“All crew members have returned to the ship, Captain.”
Janeway`s footstep gathers speed again until she reaches her seat. She bends over the small console next to her chair and enters data.
“I don`t want to disturb you any further, … just setting the marching orders!”
At the helm a single stiff stem slowly turns his eye towards her. Rigidly it observes Janeway, who leaves her place again.
She raises her hand as if to greet Tuvok and indicates a bow while she announces: “Your captain will withdraw for a few hours, Commander, to dream of all the delicacies of this day!”
“Good night, Captain,” replies Tuvok.
Janeway disappears into her ready room. The single eye turns forward again. Two eyes are directed on Tuvok, the rest to the control displays and the screen. None swings on its stem, like a water plant in the current. All stems are standing rigidly, as if they were carved out of stone, in front of the image of black space.
Tuvok uses his fingers for an input on the touchscreen of his panel. He looks forward at the helm. He raises an eyebrow and clears his throat.
Slowly, some stems bend down. One arm moves on the control panel. On the screen a few pale dots shift sideways. The landing stage swings through the image, with several rust-brown freighters docked. On one of them ten eyes have been directed, following the vessel until it disap-pears beyond the edge of the screen. Then the helmsman goes to warp. Resembling tails of glowing meteors dying away, the stars are passing by in front of the ship`s bow.

Like an arrow shot in arbitrariness, the starship Voyager glides through striped darkness, where neither horizon is to be made out nor aim and no direction differs from another.

In her darkened ready room, Janeway lies on the couch asleep. The doorbell rings. Grumbling, she turns from the side to the back. It rings again.
“What is it -?”
Behind the opening door Tuvok`s silhouette appears.
“May I come in, Captain?”
She sits up and rubs her forehead.
“Come along — I`m awake now!”
Tuvok goes to her.
“You certainly have a good reason to get me out of my sleep,” she growls.
“We`re missing a shuttle, Captain.”
Janeway`s hangover gaze freezes, her face becomes serious and the tone strict.
“So, the visit of the pleasure steamer did cost us more than we thought?”
Tuvok shakes his head. “Someone from the crew misappropriated the shuttle.”
Janeway rises.
“No shuttle can leave the hangar without authorization!”
“Security protocols have been deactivated for the launch of that shuttle.”
Janeway frowns. “Only Torres, Kim, Seven, and we two are qualified for such an operation!”
“And Mr. Peri,” adds Tuvok.
With a both doubtful and threatening face Janeway looks through the window at the warp stripes of the stars.
“Peri? He`s been acting strange for a while. But why should he leave the ship, … in that way?”
“Mr. Peri didn`t leave the ship, Captain. Pilot Ceph misappropriated the shuttle.”
Janeway turns to Tuvok and silently looks him in the eye for a long mo-ment. Her gaze darkens increasingly.
“Computer, locate Mr. Peri.”
“Mr. Peri is inside the holo area in cargo bay 2,” replies the voice of the computer.
“Come with me!”
Janeway pushes past Tuvok and hurries to the exit of her ready room.

Peaceful and quiet holographic biotopes are arranged side by side in the cargo bay, illuminated by the silvery light of a moon. The only area bright as daylight is a small spot in front of the biotopes; in its middle Peri is standing with all his legs on the ground. His big eyes are motionlessly directed to the entrance of the cargo bay.
The sliding-gate opens. Two humanoid figures stand motionless behind it for a moment. Then they enter and approach Peri with quick steps. In front of Peri Janeway stops. He raises his head. Silently they look into each other`s eyes. Peri arches up his front segments. He opens his holocom. With tension Janeway watches each of his movements. He draws his own symbol to that of the transporter and both to a rectangle with vertical stripes.
In a doubtful tone a voice asks from the communicator, “Are you serious, Mr. Peri? Please repeat the order!”
In the holo image, Peri`s symbol is pushed out of the rectangle by an invisible hand. Peri reaches into the hologram again and pushes his symbol back into the rectangle.
“All right -” speaks the voice.
The next moment Peri dematerializes.
Tuvok frowns. “He had himself beamed into a detention cell; an obvious admission of guilt. However, we still don`t know the motive for his of-fence.”
Janeway tears her dark gaze away from the spot where Peri has disap-peared.
“This is not the time to find out either. We have to catch up with the shuttle!”
The two hurry out of the cargo bay.

On the bridge, Paris is sitting at the helm and E-Bug is monitoring the displays of the sensor phalanx. Janeway and Tuvok step out of the lift.
Janeway shouts, “When did you relieve Mr. Ceph, Ensign?”
Paris turns its head. “Three hours ago, ma`am.”
“Did you notice anything about him?”
“He was … very quiet.”
Janeway turns to Tuvok.
“When was the missing of the shuttle noticed?”
“About twenty minutes ago, during an internal system check.”
Janeway`s grim gaze turns sideways to E-Bug.
“Why hasn`t the shuttle`s launch been recorded by the ship`s sensors?”
An eye tube briefly turns to her and then directs downwards again to the control panel.
“What do long-range sensors show?”
She approaches close to E-Bug and gives him a sign to make way. He takes a step to the side. Janeway checks sensor data.
“A warp trail, … two hours old!”
She shifts numerical values on the display and looks forward.
“Mr. Paris, adjust our course to match for these coordinates — warp 9!”
On the screen the stripes of the stars bend. Shortly afterwards they be-come straight again.
Tuvok occupies his place at the tactical console. “The maximum speed of the shuttle is warp 6. We`ll catch up with it in less than eight minutes.”
“We may be hunting just an ordinary shuttle,” mumbles Janeway grimly, “but the one who flies it is by no means a mediocre pilot!”
Janeway continues to observe sensor data.
“There`s another ship, 0.13 light years ahead of the shuttle.” Her eyes become narrow slits and a wrinkle forms between their brows. “He`s following that ship!”
Janeway straightens up and looks forward at the screen.
“Captain to main engineering! – Raise the cloaking field!”
Torres voice reports, “Field at 50% — 70 — 100%. Are we under attack, Captain?”
From the side, Tuvok takes a look at Janeway; he raises an eyebrow.
Janeway darkly gazes at the helm. “Give him a wide berth, Ensign, and get us on a parallel course at a distance of 100 billion kilometers, halfway between the shuttle and the alien vessel — maximum warp!”
Paris notes, “That costs a lot of fuel, Captain. In a few minutes we`d reach that position anyway -”
“That was an order, Paris!”
“Aye, Captain.”
Once again, the warp stripes distort in an arc; they also change their color spectrum. A few seconds later straight, white stripes of stars are passing Voyager again on the screen.
Paris reports, “Position reached. Heading and speed adjusted. Warp 5.3.”
Janeway turns around. She walks past Tuvok to the entrance of her ready room.
“Have Lang relieve Mr. E-Bug! And let me know immediately if anything changes!”
The door closes behind her. A tube-eye moves from the door forward, where Paris turns his head back. Tuvok`s gaze is directed downwards, without emotional expression, on the displays of his panel. Paris turns back to the helm.
Torres steps out of the turbo lift; behind her follows Lang, who goes to E-Bug. Torres passes Tuvok.
“I must talk to the captain.”
“I advise against that,” replies Tuvok without looking up.
Torres gives him a questioning look and goes to the entrance of the ready room.

Its interior is still darkened. Recognizable merely as a silhouette, Janeway is sitting behind her desk. In front of her is a black monitor. It rings.
The door opens and light falls into the room. Torres hesitates.
“Can I talk to you, Captain?”
“What is it -?”
Torres enters. The door closes behind her and it gets dark again.
“It`s about Peri, Captain. I heard there was an accident with system checks yesterday. — It doesn`t have to be Peri who rebuilt that control panel then. We all didn`t have enough time to always work according to regulations. It`s not fair to put the blame on him now!”
Torres pauses. With her eyes pinched, she stares at the dark table in front of her. Nothing moves there.
“Captain, Peri is an engineer of extraordinary abilities! His knowledge of hepternary alloys alone, … he has conjured materials out of the replica-tor solid state physicists at the Academy haven`t even dreamed of!”
Again, she hesitates for a moment.
Then she continues. “If competence is a criterion for the position on this ship, then Mr. Peri must be the lead engineer on Voyager – not me.”
The silhouette behind the table bends a little forward and two eyes glow from the dark outline of a face, from which an icy voice replies: “Compe-tence is not the only criterion, Lieutenant! — Dismissed!”
Torres`s forehead frowns with an expression of puzzlement. She opens her mouth as if to say something else. Then she turns around, walks to the door and leaves the room.
Tuvok appears at the bright entrance.
“Captain, the alien ship has approached a planet and landed. The shuttle will reach the planet in a few minutes.”
“Come closer, Commander!”
Tuvok enters. The bright door gap behind him closes.
“Captain -?”
For a long moment there is silence.
Then Janeway demands: “Speak it out, Tuvok!”
Tuvok raises an eyebrow. Then he stands at attention.
“We have admitted three alien beings to the community of our ship. All three possess extraordinary abilities. But their non-humanoid anatomies and the lack of a language compatible with ours make it difficult to inte-grate them into the crew. Even more serious is the fact that their strange consciousness is largely unknown to us. We do not know their cultural backgrounds, nor their value systems. That makes it almost impossible to reliably predict their behavior. We shall always have to reckon with situa-tions in which they react in a completely unexpected way. I`m afraid, Captain, that it will never be possible to integrate these beings into the crew`s discipline.”
The reverberation of the ship`s noises quietly penetrates the room, as a mixture of countless low humming tones.
Soundlessly and dark, Janeway`s voice declares: “Sometimes it is neces-sary to draw a line under one`s previous conceptions!”
Heavy breaths rise and fall, hardly audible against the background of the sounds of the ship.
The voice of Tom Paris reports, “The shuttle has reached the planet, Captain. It has entered an orbit.”
Lang`s voice adds, “According to sensors, the shuttle is scanning the pla-net. It has already been noticed, … several ships are on an intercept course! It`s being fired at, … no damages recognizable. It`s penetrating the atmosphere in a nosedive.”
Janeway rises. “Mr. Paris, get us to that planet, warp 9.5! – Locate his landing coordinates, Tuvok!”
“Aye, Captain.”
Tuvok leaves the room.
In the corridor of the incident light, Janeway is standing behind her table. Her head is bowed and facing an upright frame embracing a picture of Chakotay. Her hand reaches for the frame and lays it on the table, with the image side downward.

The warp stripes on the viewscreen of the bridge collapse into stars. The night side of a planet appears growing rapidly, while the stellar points of light disappear beyond the edge of the screen.
Janeway steps out of her ready room. She has strapped on an atmosphere emitter and attached a tricorder and a phaser to the harness. In her right hand she carries a Hirogen tetryon rifle with a bioscanner mounted.
“Did you get his position?”
“He crossed a mountainous region at low altitude and landed in a valley.”
“Transfer coordinates to the transporter room!”
She lifts her head. “Computer, locate Mr. E-Bug.”
“Mr. E-Bug is in his quarters,” replies the computer`s voice.
Janeway opens her holocom and moves E-Bug`s icon to the symbol of the transporter room. Tuvok turns to her.
“Captain, I think it would be safer if you stayed on the ship and I would be searching for Mr. Ceph with an away team.”
“I have to execute this mission by myself, Commander!”
The lift closes behind Janeway.

A crewman is checking the displays on his workstation. He keeps glancing forward, where E-Bug stands waiting on one of the transporter pads.
Janeway appears through the entrance. Without looking at him, she takes her stand at the pad next to E-Bug. A tube-eye directs toward the tetryon rifle. The other one, half covered by the arch of the skull, squints to her rigid face. The temple antennae spread.
The two dematerialize.

On a free space surrounded by bushes, Voyager`s shuttle is standing in a nocturnal landscape. The exit hatch is open. A dull lantern light blinks through branches moving in the wind.
Janeway and E-Bug materialize next to the shuttle. Janeway immediately opens a tricorder. E-Bug`s side feelers detach from his body. His temple antennae sway. Janeway scans the shuttle. Then she walks towards the shimmering light. They follow a path through the bushes. A factory build-ing appears in front of them. On its wall a door is visible that is half open. The two step in and then cross a dark corridor. They enter a long cold-storage hall, where a single lamp emits its pale light from the rear end. In the cold air the damp of their breathing condenses into icy fog in front of Janeway`s and E-Bug`s facial openings.
Across the entire length of the hall the dark metal frame of a conveyor belt extends. It penetrates several processing stations that, as a machi-nery superstructure, tower above the conveyor belt. At the end of the belt, Janeway and E-Bug are standing next to several stacks of boxes. Snow has formed around the edges of their lids. Janeway closes the tri-corder and attaches it to her belt. She lifts the lid of a box and pushes it to the side. She reaches in and pulls out a ring-shaped object covered with fine ice scales. A tube-eye levels on it. Janeway frowns broodingly. She puts the ring back.
The two continue on their way. They walk along the conveyor belt, following the direction of the belt backwards, until they reach a station. It contains a wide row of punching knives that are arranged next to each other at a distance of a thumb`s breadth, oriented perpendicular to the belt direction. Janeway and E-Bug pass the machine. E-Bug looks back into the inlet of the processing station. He hesitates. He raises a fore extremity and picks up an object that has got stuck in the guiding gap of the belt with a shred of protruding skin. As a consequence, the object has been incompletely punched by the knives. Janeway notices E-Bug`s falling behind and turns around to him. With the claws of his gripping hand, he pulls the processing fragment out of the machine. Both eye tubes point on it. Janeway goes to him. The stiffly frozen, hollow-cylindrical, elongated object on the conveyor belt is covered with two rows of small stains where something has been cut off.
Janeway gives E-Bug a sign. They continue, in the rear direction of the belt, to the next station. There several arm-thick channels come out of the machinery device leading down into a collecting container. Janeway and E-Bug bend over it. The container is half filled with small, inwardly curved discs; their protuberance at the convex backside has been cut.
Janeway turns around and continues. In the cold air of the hall her face begins to discolor bluishly. From the inside of the next cutting apparatus, a single steel channel, half-meter wide and sloping down as a slide, leads to the opening of another container. Janeway stretches over its rim. Her gaze turns maniacal and freezes, in an expression of horror. Her body seems motionless, as if frozen. E-Bug steps next to her.

While his field of perception shifts forward, the circular image of one eye remains fixed to Janeway`s face from the side. Over the image of the other eye, the edge of the container shifts from top to bottom and its interior becomes visible. Pale, outstretched stems with lifelessly staring eyeballs at their endings are lying crosswise in confusion. The stems protrude from bulky bodies. Their legs have been amputated. The field of vision of the second eye, that had previously been turned towards Janeway, now also turns into the container. Independently of each other, the two circular visual aspects twitchingly move to different details inside the container of the mutilated corpses.
The electrically perceived environment, into which the two optical circles are embedded, signals dark grey across the entire spread of the visual field. Only in the small area on one side, where Janeway`s face had pre-viously been imaged by an eye, do moiré-like patterns begin to become brighter and fluctuate increasingly violent. Again, the optical circle of an eye is directed at Janeway`s face. It is even more reddened by the cold than before and covered with blue-red spots. In tiny amplitudes the muscles of the eyebrows and eyelids, of the nose and the lips tremble. Salt-soaked beads of sweat emerge from the pores of the skin. The frozen, glassy gaze of the two eyeballs gives the impression as if not what is seen does advance from the outside to the inside, but as if something from the interior was projected to the eye`s lenses and thrown back by them into the soul. Out of the nostrils and a gap between the lips white steam is thrusted rhythmically in tormented blows.
The second eye circle is also directed at Janeway`s face and overlaps with the other one to form a more contrasting image with stereoscopic depth. A forehead antenna approaches Janeway`s cheek. A spark flashes over. Her head twitches. Slowly, she turns it and looks straight into the two optical aspects.
Suddenly, violent moiré patterns emerge against the dark background on the other side of the field of vision. Both visual circles snap in the direction of the electrical signals. At the end of the hall a door through the wall is visible in the light of the lamp. The moiré image of the electrical signals is superimposed with the optical image. The sources of the patterns are behind that door.

Janeway`s head also moves. She follows E-Bug`s gaze. The monitor of the bioscanner on the tetryon rifle turns on. In a schematic represen-tation of the room, it depicts two life-forms as blinking red silhouettes standing behind the door and lists their physiological data. Janeway points the tetryon rifle forward. E-Bug`s side feelers rise meandering over his flanks.
The door opens; two humanoid figures step out. They come closer. One carries a weapon hanging over his shoulder, the other holds a lamp he uses to illuminate the floor in front of them. With her flat hand approaching E-Bug`s flank, who keeps a constant distance to her, Janeway makes him move into cover behind the container. They duck. Two squat Akrrung, with fleshy faces covered with wrinkles, pass them in the semi-darkness. The two disappear through the exit of the hall.
Janeway and E-Bug step out of their cover and go to the door from where the two guards came.

In confused panic, twelve images are rushing next to each other, over-lap, tear themselves apart again, and diverge in twitches to different sides. Some images irregularly zoom in on details and rapidly zoom out again as if fleeing in horror.
A net stretched on hooks on the wall. – A stick with eyelets leading a stiff rope that forms a loop at its end. – A door. – A zoom on the rope; its bro-ken wire filaments are frazzled, standing sideways like needles. – A long skewer, smeared with dry blood. – A stick with a catch net fixed around an iron ring. – The door. – Even more skewers, smeared with dried fluid – nets – meshes – eyelets – a third time the door – hooks – loops – a whole wall full of them and in between a door – the door – door – door —.
Twelve images with overlapping edges do all display a door. It approaches. A tentacle reaches for it. The arm pushes it open and winds around the upper door frame to the other side.

A wide corridor separates two long walls, several meters high, consisting of cages placed one above the other. Each one is glazed in the lower half, which is filled with water. The upper half of the cages is closely grated with a wire mesh. A dim green light sheds a dreary illumination across the room.
To a cage on the top story a shy, cautious eye stretches down from the ceiling. It peers into the small aquarium of the cage cell, after a missha-pen, crouched body; its arms and stems are deeply retracted; at the up-per side eye-domes bulge out. More and more telescope eyes appear from above, and fix on the being sleeping under water. They motionlessly observe its breathing movements through the snorkels at the ends of its arms. Two massive tentacles sink down and lie on the lattice of the upper half of the cage. Their muscle strands squeeze themselves into the meshes as deep as they can; they tense, they wedge. With all their strength, the tentacles pull the lattice outwards. The steel mesh curves; the tentacles slip off — the grid swings back. Once more, the arms grab tight; they pull, vibrating with strain; again, the mesh slips away from their grip. Drops of blood swell from sore calluses.
The underwater being pushes an eye out of its body. Quickly, a second one appears, then the whole flock. The arms extend and push the prisoner to the rear end of its cell. Camouflage patterns wander over its skin, making the being almost invisible.
Two arms lie from the outside against the glass pane of the aquarium. Three arms cling to the ceiling, reaching far out. Contracting itself, the muscular body pulls at the glassed wall. The thick pane does not move. Bloody impressions of suction cups remain on the glass as the arms de-tach. The free Cephalopoid swings far into the ceiling area; he takes a run. With violent momentum, he bounces against the glass pane with the whole mass of his body. The collision has no effect.
In more and more cages, eyes appear behind glasses and lattice meshes. They are excitedly directing at the free Cephalopoid hanging from the ceiling between the walls of cages.
He hurries to another cell, rattles the lattice there. That one also holds. Once again, he swings himself back into the ceiling area, further than before. With several swings he accelerates and throws himself against a pane. Stunned by the force of the impact, the arms lose their hold. He falls down along the stack of cells. His body deforms when he hits the ground. The eye stalks buckle. As if in a trance the tentacles meander upwards, grab and shake panes and wire grids. They drag the flabby body behind them towards the ceiling, leaving a trace of sweat and blood on the panes. Gradually the stems tighten, and the eyeballs are raised again. On the top story they look into a cell. It is empty. Two arms suction on the glass of the neighboring cell. He swings over. There is no one in that cell either. He rushes further in the row along the wall. All the cages he passes — are empty. One arm reaches backward; he swings to the middle of the ceiling. The tuft of eyes fans out, and stares into the wall of cages. Nowhere do they see a sign of life. Quick as lightning, the stems turn by 180 degrees and look at the opposite wall of cells. These are also abandoned. An arm fixed on the ceiling, stretches its length and lets the body sink downward to look into the lower cages. Twelve eyeballs swirl in all directions on panic-stricken stems, swaying faster and faster, twitching from cell to cell without finding any sign of life.
One eye veers out of the manic turmoil. It stops rigidly, turned in one direction. A second one next to it also holds still. A third one follows, and more and more come to rest. All twelve eyes are directed forward, to the entrance.
With slow steps Janeway approaches towards the middle of the room. As Tuvok`s voice starts speaking, she stops.
“All individuals have been beamed up, Captain. Also, all breeding reac-tors that contained clutches. No bio-signatures of this species are dis-played on the entire planet anymore. … I would like to point out that the number of adult individuals alone exceeds four hundred!”
“Understood, Tuvok. The entire available crew is to participate in the action until the situation is under control! Get Mr. Peri out of the brig and make it clear to him that he will lead the operation. He has the most experience in building large biotopes.”
“Please consider that crew members who have only recently returned will have difficulty in communicating with him.”
“This is an opportunity to learn it — take care of that, Commander!”
“Understood. Another thing, Captain: the shuttle has apparently been discovered. Strong combat units are moving towards your position. It would be safer to leave the shuttle behind and beam up.”
Janeway is looking straight ahead, at the crewman in front of her.
“I got one of the best pilots in the galaxy with me. We`ll return with the shuttle! – Janeway out.”
Janeway looks from Ceph to E-Bug standing next to her. She points to the exit with the tetryon rifle and marches towards it.
“Vámonos, Companeros!”
E-Bug follows her. Ceph pulls himself up to the ceiling and swings behind.


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