Starship Voyager – The Alien Adventures — 16 The Cephalopoids

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.


16. The Cephalopoids

From almost all glass elements of Voyager`s hull, light penetrates into the darkness of space, where the warp stripes of the stars are passing by at the brightly lit ship. Behind the portholes of operating rooms, humanoids are standing in front of instrument panels. Through the casino`s row of windows tables are visible, packed with guests. People move under the dome of the bridge at their workstations.
“Captain`s log, stardate 53287.3.
After the ship`s been largely understaffed for several months with two thirds of the crew missing, there is overflowing life on all decks again. That life has become increasingly colorful in the course of our voyage.
More than four years, ago we stranded in the Delta Quadrant with a crew that had been trained according to the strict standards of Starfleet. In the meantime, the crew of a partisan ship has been integrated into our team. A medical hologram, intended for emergencies only, became our permanent ship`s doctor, whose mental and emotional algorithms, like those of a biological individual, are constantly evolving in interaction with his environment.
We have separated a Borg, who was once a human being, from the Borg collective and set her regression to an individualized life-form under way. The speed of this process was very rapid in the beginning, after most of the implants had been removed. Meanwhile, it is slowing down and seems to be approaching the typical developmental process of every self-determined being that changes through experience for all its life.
In the course of our journey, which has been lasting much longer than usual for missions in space, we have admitted in a Talaxian. His social nature cheers up this crew of militarily trained scientists, technicians and engineers, to say nothing of his culinary abilities.
Recently three more persons have joined us, who belong to non-humanoid species. Their integration has not been completed yet, due to prejudices within the crew towards differences in appearance and beha-vior. In how far these three are willing or able to adapt themselves to the manners and rules of coexistence inside the humanoid crew — we do not know. Nevertheless, I`m convinced that the additional diversity of personal characteristics and abilities we`ve gained will help us to endure on our way so that one day we may still reach home.”
Behind the glass panes of outer and inner hull, Janeway is sitting at her desk.
“Our biggest problem at the moment is the accommodation and care of nearly five hundred individuals for whom we have to find a new habitat yet, before we can resume our old course.”
Janeway touches a button on the display of her desk and leans back into her chair. She turns her head to the window and looks at the warp stripes of the stars. Suddenly the end of a tubular being emerges between the glass panes from the intermediate space in the two hulls. Above a round mouth two button eyes stare to the inside of the room. The next moment, the being disappears as quickly as it had appeared. Alarmed, Janeway straightens her upper body and raises her head.
“Captain`s log, supplemental!
In addition, the Voyager is populated by an unknown number of stowa-ways and parasites.”


Naomi Wildman`s room is in nocturnal semi-darkness. She is sleeping. The door opens gently. Naomi`s mother dims the light a little brighter and goes to her bed. She bends down and kisses her daughter on the forehead.
“Naomi, … time to get up.”
Naomi sighs drowsily. Without opening her eyes, she moves her head, covered under the blanket up to the nose, sideways. Something else moves under her blanket too. Puzzled, Mrs. Wildman looks at a bulge on Naomi`s shoulder. A tentacle end as thick as a finger slides out from under the blanket.
Mrs. Wildman`s eyelids spread. Her face gets pale and rigid. With a jerk, she pulls the blanket to the side. Five small tentacles cling to Naomi`s upper body. They spring from a grey-green, shapeless mass half the size of Naomi`s head, which lies against her neck.
“My God -!” calls Mrs. Wildman out in horror.
Twelve small eye stems, barely thicker than adult earthworms, come out of the alien body. Their little eyeballs catch sight of Mrs. Wildman. In panic, the little arms entwine more closely around Naomi`s upper arm and shoulder and the trunk presses closer against her neck. Naomi opens her eyes.
Mrs. Wildman grabs the little cephalopoid, who clings as tight as he can to Naomi and tries to pull him off from her daughter.
“Get away! Let go of my daughter!”
“Mom, … no! You`ll hurt him!” Naomi calls fending off her mother`s hands. She wraps both arms around the little creature.
“Let go, Naomi! It`s got to get away from you!”
“You must not take him away! He needs me! I`m his mom now; he doesn`t have a mother anymore.”
While she still holds the little cephalopoid body firmly in the grip of the ten fingers of her two hands, the pair of eyes in Mrs. Wildman`s face stares at her daughter with horror and helplessness.

Above a landscape set with a number of ponds, a net of horizontal, crossing poles is arranged at a height of about two meters. Numerous hammocks hang down from this bar grid. At a group of smaller hammocks attached to the branches of a tree, the suspension ropes lengthen as if by magic, and the hammocks first sink a large distance downwards and then move a little upward again.
Peri and Seven are standing at a console in front of the holographic com-plex. Suddenly a portal opens next to them and the doctor steps out of it.
“I hope it`s important; I`m having difficult patients to take care of!”
“Mr. Peri and I have completed an initial design for the habitat of the cephalopoids,” declares Seven. “We need your professional opinion.”
The doctor casts a glance across the curved ponds and the lattice con-struction above.
“Water, … resting places, … a construction to cling for locomotion. These are certainly the most important facilities. But I doubt that it will be possi-ble to accommodate all individuals here.”
“We have installed identical facilities of the same size in two other large-capacity laboratories.”
“The area may be sufficient; but you cannot quarter all types of cephalo-poids in the same room. They are too different. Social tensions could escalate!”
“What do you suggest?”
“I don`t know, … divide the area into several isolated sections. One that is constantly attended for breeding reactors and children. Another for the older ones who show no behavioral abnormalities; and a series of closed cells for the difficult cases.”
Seven raises an eyebrow. “Shall we set them apart from each other again?”
The doctor frowns in contrition. “I know; that`s similar to the conditions we freed them from. But common accommodation would be irresponsi-ble at the present time.”
“Understood, Doctor.”
The doctor raises his head. “Computer, open exit.”
The portal appears and the doctor leaves.

On the bridge, Torres and Kim are working at the disassembled console of the sensor phalanx. Torres is mounting an additional module; Kim measures signal values with a tricorder. Janeway goes to them.
Torres reports, “The newly installed collector mirrors are now connected to the optronics of the long-range sensors, Captain. We`ve superim-posed all optical components into a single spectroscopic phalanx. In inte-gration mode, resolution and sensitivity should be higher by several or-ders of magnitude than with the previous system.”
“How are you going to evaluate the measurement data?”
Kim interrupts his data entry on a display.
“I`m just programming an algorithm. It`ll filter out planets with atmos-pheric gases and ion contents of their seawater that match the values the doctor extracted from the physiological data of the cephalopoids.”
Janeway nods. “When do you think you`ll be ready to start the spectros-copic scans?”
“In a couple of hours. I`m afraid, Captain, despite these efforts our chances of actually discovering their home planet are not too good.”
“I know, Harry. But we want to try it at least. If necessary, we`ll have to settle for some other planet with conditions where they can survive.”
The turbolift opens next to Janeway. Tom Paris appears on duty. A small cephalopoid clings to his shoulder and upper arm. Radiant with surprise Torres glances at the two of them.
“Tom, … I didn`t know you`re that fond of children!”
“I helped the doctor examine the newborns and finally …” Paris turns his head sideways, so that the small eye stems above his shoulder enter his field of vision, “I couldn`t get rid of this one. Captain, he`s completely calm and wouldn`t disturb me at the helm.”
Janeway frowns. Her eyebrow rises.
“You`re not the first one, Tom, I`ve seen today bearing a toddler. Though I appreciate the crew breaking down contact barriers that way, … but still I`m uncomfortable at the sight!”
Paris points his index finger at the little one.
“Look, Captain: he`s not furry, he doesn`t purr and he won`t reproduce by budding — that`s no Tribble!”
Janeway smiles. “All right; but it shouldn`t become a habit!”
“Thank you, ma`am.”
With his companion Paris walks to the bow of the bridge and relieves Lang at the helm. When Paris has settled down and activated readings and commands of the flight control panel, the little telescope eyes stretch over his shoulder and follow each of Paris`s finger movements on the displays. Thoughtfully and with fascination, Janeway`s gaze watches the two.
A voice calls from her communicator. “Doctor to Captain. – Would you please come to sickbay?”
“What`s it about, Doctor?”
“I need to talk to you about the state of health of the cephalopoids; but it`s important that you picture the situation by yourself!”
“All right, I`m on my way.”
Janeway steps into the turbolift. The door closes behind her.
“Deck 5!”
The lift starts moving. Soon afterwards the door in front of her opens. Briskly Janeway walks into the corridor. She turns into a transverse pas-sage. At a crossing Baxter suddenly appears a few meters away, and behind Janeway Carey runs in her direction. Baxter gives Carey a sign.
“They`ll be here any minute, Joe, … watch out!”
Janeway turns around to Carey with a questioning look.
He calls out to her, “Careful, Captain — don`t go any further! Come over here!”
“What`s the matter, Carey?”
At this moment three full-grown cephalopoids emerge from the side corridor behind Janeway and swing towards her position at a furious pace. She hears the smacking sound of suction cups on the ceiling and turns around. A tentacle hits her on the head; she is thrown sideways against the wall. With a jump Carey avoids the three cephalopoids, who disappear behind him in the corridor. Carey hurries to Janeway. She lies on the floor and presses her hand to her head. Carey helps her up.
“What the hell was that just now?”
“A bunch of hooligans who`ve broken out of the lab we had put them in.”
Janeway takes her hand off her head and looks at the blood on her fin-gers.
“Alert security!”
“There`s nobody available right now, Captain. They`re looking all over the ship for escapees. I`ll take you to sickbay.”
Janeway straightens up. “It`s all right, Carey. I was on my way to the doctor anyway.”
She quickly goes into a transverse passage, turns again and finally enters sickbay.
From the entrance she shouts: “Doctor, what`s wrong with these cepha-lopoids?”
The doctor hurries to her. “Captain — you`re hurt!”
“It`s nothing -!”
“Hold still!”
He moves the medical scanner over the laceration on Janeway`s forehead.
“How did that happen?”
“I was overrun in the corridor by three cephalopoids. What`s the matter with them, Doctor?”
The wound begins to close under the scanner.
“That`s what I wanted to talk to you about. At the moment many of the cephalopoids are behaving unpredictably. They`ve spent their whole lives in solitary confinement and have probably experienced bad things from humanoids. Yesterday they were beamed directly from their cells to the ship and suddenly find themselves in a state of freedom of movement they had never known before. For some of them it`s like a shock. They`re frightenedly crawling into dark corners. Others react with exuberant euphoria and an almost ecstatic urge to move.”
The doctor puts his scanner aside. Janeway notices an eyeball. It rapidly retreats under the sickbed next to her as she looks at it. Slowly and care-fully Janeway bends down. Under the bed two cephalopoids crouch in semi-darkness, fearfully receding from her. Next to them another cephalopoid clings to a table foot. His eye stems have barely extended by a third. On their stiff stems unmoved eyeballs stare at a white, unstructured surface on the wall. Rhythmically the trunk of the body pushes against the foot of the table every second, whereby that metal bar is pressed into the mass of the head each time, deforming it.
The doctor has bent over next to Janeway.
“Many suffer from behavioral disorders due to the lifelong solitary con-finement. As you can see from the behavior of newborns, they are social beings. But these older ones never had the opportunity to enter into social relationships. They were probably separated as children and kept isolated. They show similar symptoms as many hundreds of billions of beings on Earth in the 20th and 21st centuries, who were crowded together so tightly that social life was impossible as well.”
The doctor points to the cephalopoid at the table foot.
“Humanoid children exhibit the same stereotypical movement patterns, if they are neglected for long periods of time.”
“Can you cure these beings, Doctor?” Janeway asks in a compassionate voice.
“Not by medication. These patients have to be gently induced to socially interact with their environment.”
With a hiss, the entrance of sickbay slides open. Neelix pushes a trolley inside, with a large pot on it.
“I`ve tried to brew a syrup according to your prescription, Doctor. But I doubt it tastes like a real mother`s milk to the little ones!”
“Cephalopoids do not have the organism of mammals, Mr. Neelix. Ac-cording to my research, the fruity nutrient solution that Mr. Ceph ingests is perfectly sufficient for the newborn. I`ve just added a slightly higher portion of protein and fat to the recipe.”
Neelix notices Janeway rising next to the sickbed.
“Captain, could you please give assistance to me for a moment? – Doctor, please come over here as well!”
Neelix pushes his trolley to a crumpled pile of blankets, lying on the floor in a corner. He takes the lid off the pot, fills small bowls the size of espresso cups with green syrup and hands them to Janeway and the doctor. Then he takes a cup for himself and carefully pulls the top of the blankets to the side. Underneath a tightly entwisted tangle of small cephalopoid bodies appears. When the warming blanket has disappeared and bright light falls on them, they cling even tighter to each other.
Neelix approaches with his little syrup pot. He dips his finger in and touches the end of a little tentacle with it. When he pulls his finger back, the tentacle follows him. Neelix moves the syrup pot so that the tip of the tentacle dives into it. Immediately, the small snorkeling tentacle begins to suck in the syrup in a pulsating, peristaltic movement.
Kneeling on the floor, Janeway and the doctor take example by Neelix. Shortly afterwards, two more children suck their syrup. Janeway smiles insecurely, the doctor`s face shines with joy.

From the corridor, Baxter opens the door to a laboratory and steps back into the corridor. He touches his communicator.
“The trap is set open, Joe!”
“OK, I`ll drive them towards you,” Carey`s voice replies.
Shortly afterwards, three fugitive cephalopoids appear on the ceiling in front of Baxter and behind them runs Carey, who keeps jumping up and clapping his hands. When the three escapees reach the open laboratory door, Baxter also jumps and claps his hands; together they drive the three into the laboratory. The humanoids run behind and lock the door from the inside.
One of the cephalopoids immediately begins to knock over chairs; the other two lift laboratory equipment from the tables to the ceiling, ex-amine them with eyes and suction cups, and finally drop them. On the impact parts of the housings splinter. Displays flash in malfunction. Baxter tries to snatch a tricorder from one of the cephalopoids. A tentacle hits his shoulder.
“Leave them alone,” shouts Carey. “Ceph`s gonna be here any minute.”
“Do you think his method will work on them too?”
“I don`t know, … the others weren`t so wild.”
The door opens and Ceph swings into the lab. One of his tentacles holds a basketball in its entwining grip. Ceph`s eyes watch the vandalism that is performed in front of him. He throws the ball to the ground, from where it clappingly jumps back. Ceph catches it. The three vandals stop their savage activities. Ceph throws the ball against the wall and catches it again.
Baxter and Carey stand next to Ceph on both sides. He passes the ball over the floor to Baxter, who passes it to Carey on the other side. Carey plays back to Ceph. With all their eyes the other three cephalopoids are watching the game with the elastically bouncing ball that can be caught. Finally, Ceph throws the ball to one of them. As a reflex he catches it with three arms and gropingly rolls the ball back and forth between the rows of suction cups. Suddenly, the ball slips away, falls diagonally to the ground and is caught by the next cephalopoid. This one also examines the rubber membrane that has been inflated to a sphere by the internal air pressure; he presses on it with the tip of a tentacle until the third one impatiently snatches the ball from him.
“Tuvok to Mr. Carey and Mr. Baxter. – A security team needs reinforce-ment near the Jefferies tubes on deck 7!”
Carey raises his head. “Aye, Commander, we`re on our way.”
He opens the door. One of the three hooligans watches Carey.
Baxter shouts, “Have a good time with your team training, Ceph!”
Then the two humanoids leave the laboratory. Behind them the door closes.
The ball falls to the ground again. Ceph`s arm reaches out far and grabs it in the air. His other arm seizes a massive dustbin standing next to the lab`s soldering station; Ceph places it on the table. Then he swings two meters backwards. With a targeted throw he places the ball into the basket. Immediately, one of the other three pulls it out again, swings backward and throws. The ball bounces off the edge of the basket, falls onto the tabletop and the next cephalopoid tries the play.
The third one has directed almost all his eyes on ball and playmates in seemingly attention. His body, however, slowly moves backwards towards the exit. Covered by the hanging trunk of his body, one arm feels its way to the display next to the door, to which the eye of a semi-retracted stem is peering at. Suddenly, the exit opens and the cephalopoid swings out. The other two turn their eyes at the open door. One throws the ball to Ceph with full force, so that he needs three arms to catch it. The next moment the two jostle past Ceph in tearing momentum. Ceph loses attachment to the ceiling and falls down. While he struggles on the floor, the other two disappear in the corridor. Ceph quickly pulls himself up to the ceiling and follows them.

In main engineering Torres works on the central workstation in front of the column of the warp plasma.
Kim`s voice reports, “Bridge to engineering. – The program is functional pass now, B`Elanna. I`m activating long-range spectroscopy.”
“Fine, Harry! I can`t attend you on the bridge at the moment. Transfer a copy of the results to main engineering.”
“All right. – Kim out.”
Behind Torres`s back the gate opens. Eye stalks bend around the upper door frame and peer inwards. The three hooligans swing into the hall of main engineering. They rush to an unoccupied side area, where a wall monitor, blinking in bright colors, displays the current data of the ship`s propulsion. Immediately, several tentacle tips tap on the cultured fields of the touch screen. A fourth cephalopoid swings into the hall, catches sight of the three and hurries to them.
A few meters in front of Torres the warp plasma in the column suddenly begins to flicker. Worried, she checks the readings.
“What`s going on -?”
Her eyes fall on the wall monitor in the side room. There, some arms tug at a tangle of tentacles playing with the fields of the monitor.
“Damn it!” shouts Torres. “You definitely got no business to be here!” She raises her head. “Torres to transporter room! – Track all cephalopoid bio-signatures in main engineering and beam them into detention cells!”
Meanwhile, the scuffle of the four intruders develops into a violent brawl. A holocom detaches from one of the four and falls behind a chair. Shortly afterwards, all four cephalopoids dematerialize.

Janeway hurries out from the turbolift and steps onto the bridge.
“We need a planet, Mr. Kim! The situation is getting out of control.”
“Our scan has started providing data, Captain. The evaluation routine has already identified some candidates.”
Seven is sitting at the astrometrical console on port. “Would you like to see the positions, Captain?”
Janeway nods.
“I`ve uploaded a star map of our local surroundings to the holocom of the bridge.”
A holographic star map pops up from floor to ceiling between the helm and the captain`s place.
“Our scans are covering these four sectors so far.” Seven marks four areas of space inside the map. “There are eight planets in these regions that have approximately the atmospheric gases and oceanic ion concentrations we are looking for.”
The positions of eight planets shine in the map and evaluation data are displayed next to them. Janeway moves forward. She steps so close to the holographic projection that her head dives into it.
Seven explains, “The numbers indicate in percent the deviation of the measured data from those that would be ideal for the cephalopoids.”
Janeway turns her head to Seven and Kim.
“All right. The doctor will have to decide what deviation is still tolerable. Inform me if you find a planet whose values fit so well that it could be the home planet of the cephalopoids!”
“Maybe Ceph could give us a hint,” suggests Kim.
“Good idea, Mr. Kim. We`ll have him take a look!”
Janeway opens her holocom and pushes Ceph`s icon to the symbol of the bridge. She waits.
“Why won`t he confirm?” Janeway raises her head. “Computer, locate Mr. Ceph.”
“Mr. Ceph is in main engineering,” answers the computer`s voice.
“Bridge to Torres! – Is Ceph with you, B`Elanna?”
“No Captain, he`s not here,” Torres`s voice answers. “Wait, … his holo-com lies on the floor. Captain — I`m afraid I know where Ceph is!”

In the detention room three adjacent cells are filled with cephalopoids. A few of them are raging furiously. Again and again, they poke with their tentacles at the shimmering force field. A crewman stands at the safety console in front of the cells. He looks at the entrance and stands at attention.
Janeway enters. “Stand at ease, Dorado.”
With a searching gaze, she walks along the row of cells. Inside, cephalopoids are pushing towards the force fields. Janeway`s expression grows increasingly helpless and perplexed. After the third cell, she turns around and slowly walks back again. All stalked eyes in the cells are following her. Many arms curiously grasp in her direction at the force field; they flinch back when they touch it.
Janeway`s coupled pair of eyes moves from one lively group of eye stalks to another. Suddenly, she stops. One cephalopoid has three eyes on motionless stems facing Janeway and the other nine turned away from her.
“Crewman Dorado, get Mr. Ceph out of there!”
With a questioning look, Dorado helplessly glances over the cells.
“Captain, which one of them is Mr. Ceph?”
Janeway smiles ironically.
“Don`t you recognize him? He`s the third from the left, in the second cell.”

The turbolift opens. Before Janeway is able to step out, Ceph hurries in wide swings over her and forward, straight through the holographic map. Above the helm, he lets himself sink into his hammock and pulls the ten-tacles into his trunk. Lang looks up at him questioningly. Also, the eye stems now sink into the body. Only four of them remain half-extended; they are directing at Janeway and the map. Janeway goes to the astrometrical console on port.
“Show us a large section of the galaxy, Seven, that comprises the posi-tion of the Voyager and the planets Talaxia, Earth, Vulcan, Qo`noS and Kessik IV!”
Seven zooms out until the central bulge of the Milky Way becomes visible, as well as large parts of the Alpha and Delta Quadrants.
From the lift Tuvok, Peri and E-Bug step out.
Tuvok reports, “All marauding cephalopoids were captured and housed in small groups in separate biotopes. The detention cells of the brig have also been emptied.”
Janeway nods. “Very good work, Tuvok! — I`m just trying to explain the term homeworld to Mr. Ceph, in order to find out if he knows where the homeworld of his species lies.”
Inside the map, a model of the Voyager appears, as well as four planets enlarged to tennis ball diameter. Janeway walks through the hologram to Ceph`s hammock. She puts her hand on the only tentacle that hangs a bit out in a loop. Two additional eyes rise from the body. Janeway opens her holocom.
“Computer, transfer the control of the astrometric star map to my holo-com.”
In front of Janeway, the virtual facsimile of an input display appears. She activates the facial icons of several crew members. Then she pushes Tuvok`s image to the planet Vulcan and her own, as well as the portraits of Paris, Seven and Kim to the Earth.
“I`m not sure, Captain, whether I see the Earth as my home planet,” Seven notes.
“It`s the home of your ancestors, Seven. And I hope that one day it will become your home as well.
Seven`s gaze remains skeptical, and she answers in cool tone, “Possibly.”
Janeway frowns. “It`s getting more complicated now …”
She moves the generalized symbol of a Klingon woman from Qo`noS, the home planet of the Klingons, to Kessik IV and then a man from Earth next to the Klingon woman. Between the two she places B`Elanna Torres`s image. Finally, she pushes the face of Neelix to the planet Talaxia.
“The home world of Mr. Neelix has been destroyed,” Seven objects again.
“That`s right. But in his memory and in his dreams, it lives on.”
The last icon left is the enlarged image of Ceph. Janeway pushes the star map, that is several meters in size, towards her so that she and Ceph, who is hanging above her, dive into the holographic map. She grabs Ceph`s image with her hand and brings it to the end of the arm hanging from the hammock.
All eyes that had been withdrawn in resting position until then, wander out of the body and bend in thoughtful contemplation to the image that touches the end of the tentacle. Then they straighten up and fan out looking at various directions of the surrounding virtual star world. Finally, a second arm reaches down to the control display of Janeway`s holocom. It opens the generalized symbol of a starship and pushes the cephalopoid icon over it. Then the arm swings far out and moves ship and portrait on looping paths through the vastness of the Delta Quad-rant.
Seven lifts an eyebrow. Janeway nods disappointedly.
“I suspected that.”
She rubs her forehead and turns to Tuvok and the others standing on the upper bridge. Peri and E-Bug look down to her from aft. Janeway`s gaze brightens again.
“While we`re at it …”
She opens the icons of Peri and E-Bug and enlarges them. Then she points her hand on the two images and looks expectantly at the two, who are standing on the rear bridge.
After a while, Peri turns by 90 degrees, walks a few steps and remains in apathetic stiffness. His big, dragonfly eyes are directed at the port side of the bridge.
All cephalopoid and humanoid visual organs are directing at E-Bug now. His tube-eyes restlessly twitch back and forth between his enlarged icon symbolizing his species and the persons present. Finally, he gets going. He walks down the stairs and forward to Janeway, into the interior of the star map. There he stops in front of her.
Janeway expectantly watches him. All of a sudden, she perceives both optical tubes of E-Bug fix on the image of himself. Janeway`s face trans-forms into an expression of silent horror. The next moment, like stilet-tos, the tips of the two side feelers shoot forward against the image. With a hissing bang, the plasma spark of a discharge makes the small hologram collapse and with it the virtual control panel in front of Janeway`s upper body. The feelers return to E-Bug`s flanks. He turns around and leaves the image of the Milky Way.
Janeway lowers her head. Grey smoke is rising from the ring of the holo-com projector, which surrounds the communicator on her uniform.

Naomi Wildman hurries down the corridor with quick steps. Her little cephalopoid has wrapped himself around her arm. Baxter comes towards her.
“Naomi, did you find a playmate?”
Without stopping and with weighty seriousness she tells him, “I`m Ricky`s foster-mother! I`m taking him to the kindergarten.”
She turns into the next passage. After a few steps she opens a sliding-gate and enters.
In the foremost of a row of cephalopoid reservations, Tom Paris is sitting on a stone. He is surrounded by about thirty toddlers. Some are doing gymnastic bustle next to him on climbing frames. In front of Paris some children suck water into their tentacles from a paddling pool to blow it at their playmates. Several of the little ones have clung to Paris`s head, arms and legs.
“How do I and Ricky get through the force field, Ensign Paris,” Naomi inquires.
“Your communicator automatically makes an opening for you. Just go through, Naomi!”
Naomi walks into the kindergarten area. When little Ricky sees the others playing, he climbs down Naomi and mixes with the crowd.
In the neighboring biotope, the doctor carries out examinations on adults with a medical tricorder over a distance of several meters. The adults have hidden from him at the back side of tree trunks and under the surface of a pool. The doctor looks at the entrance, where Janeway appears; he closes his tricorder.
Paris is observing the crowd of children. “Naomi, that was a good idea to put a bracelet on your Ricky! What does the button on it mean?”
“That`s his communicator. He needs it when he has to make an important announcement, doesn`t he?”
Janeway appears on the playground. The doctor joins as well.
“It`s a good thing you`re here, Captain. Mr. Paris has made a discovery that will certainly interest you!” He turns to Paris. “Please repeat your demonstration!”
Janeway expectantly looks into the hustle and bustle. Paris resettles the four climbers, who did gymnastics on him, on one of the climbing frames to the other kids. Then he places a large plate upright, as an opaque partition between two groups of playing children.
“Naomi, would you please hold the plate?”
Naomi stands at its side edge and holds it upright. Paris puts a box on one side of the plate, opens it and takes out several pots filled with syrup. He places them in a way so that only the children on that same side of the plate can see them. Immediately they move towards the food, with their arms winding across the floor.
The doctor lifts his finger and tells Janeway, “Listen carefully, Captain, and pay attention to the children on the other side.”
The children on the side of the food pots press their suction cups togeth-er and quickly separate them to create short, identically sounding sequences of clicks, while the little arms rush at the food. Immediately after the first of these sounds, the children on the other side of the plate stop playing. They swarm to the plate, pull themselves up and climb down on the other side to take part in the sweet meal.
The doctor radiates with enthusiasm. “They saw neither the food nor their comrades. They reacted only to acoustic signals and knew that they meant food!”
Paris places a colorful tennis ball on the abandoned side of the plate, opposite the eating children.
“They also have a word for play, Captain!”
One child has finished eating and pulls himself back to the other side of the plate. There it swings onto the climbing frame, reaches down and rolls the ball back and forth with two arms. At the same time, the playing child makes three short clicks again and again. On the other side, several children answer with the same signal and cross the plate to take part in the game.
“They seem to have excellent hearing,” the doctor notes, “although I haven`t been able to detect any ears yet.”
“I believe the same organs they use to speak also act as auricles for hearing,” suspects Paris. “Watch out!” He uses the fingernails of one hand to make low crackling sounds in the hollow of the other hand. Several children raise tentacles and turn their suction cups in different directions in order to locate the source of the sound. The doctor is thrilled.
“I congratulate you on your discovery, Mr. Paris! – Captain, these orphans have never been in contact with adults. They seem to be able to invent acoustic symbols for things on their own and teach those signals to each other.”
Janeway nods. “It will be fascinating to see how things go on, whether they also form abstract terms and if a grammar emerges in their conversation. – Tell me, Tom, have you ever seen Ceph behave like this?”
“Sometimes Ceph also makes noises with suction cups when he wants to draw attention to something. But I don`t think he`s trying to talk. Most of the time such clicks are an expression for moods. He does it when he is excited, angry or happy.”
The doctor considers, “We do not know in what environment Mr. Ceph grew up.”
Janeway looks into the romping crowd of children thoughtfully. Also, from behind the force field to the neighboring reservation the eyes of adults are directed to the playing children. The doctor draws Janeway`s attention to them.
“By the way, these are the patients from sickbay, who were so frightened and apathetic.”

Kim looks up from the OPS console and gazes into the star map, where more and more planets appear. He frowns.
“Seven, take a look at the last object you imported — what is that?”
Seven loads the data of the object on her panel.
“Virtually no atmospheric gases are displayed; only disperse water ice. I`ll magnify.”
Seven zooms in on a blurred spot in the holographic star map. Ceph`s three eyes, that are the only ones not immersed in the body, direct on the pale spot. A fourth eye rises.
“This object is much smaller than a planet and its geometry is not spheri-cal,” Seven notes.
Two more eye stems emerge from Ceph`s body. At the engineering workstation at starboard Peri raises his head for a moment; then he minds his own tasks again.
“Doesn`t it look like the tail of a comet?” ponders Kim.
“Possibly — but in that case it would be a comet with a strange composi-tion because the proportion of minerals is unusually low.”
All of Ceph`s eyes are looking on stretched stems to the magnified image.
Janeway returns to the bridge.
“Have you found anything suitable yet?”
“Unfortunately not, Captain,” replies Kim. Just an object difficult to in-terpret.”
Ceph pulls himself to the ceiling and swings into the holographic star map. Janeway goes forward, where a crowd of twelve eyes is observing the object from all sides.
“What is that?”
“We don`t know. It has a tail like a comet, but it consists only of water vapor and ice crystals.”
Seven marks a star near the object. “The object is located in a planetary distance to that star.”
Janeway shakes her head. “Then it cannot be a comet. Its tail wasn`t aligned by the stellar wind; it`s directed towards the star!”
Ceph hangs above Janeway. He opens his holocom, and pushes a starship symbol over the unknown object.
“Why should a starship create a tail of water vapor,” doubts Janeway.
Ceph pulls his icon over that of a shuttle and moves both to the object.
“An exploration? Why not; until our scans are complete, we`re not flying away from here anyway.” Janeway turns to the tactical console. “Mr. Tuvok, you and Seven will accompany Mr. Ceph!”
She pulls their icons to the shuttle. Ceph`s eye stalks and tentacles get excited. He pushes the shuttle with himself, Tuvok, and Seven on board to the alien ship. Shortly before they reach it, another arm rushes the ship out of view with a jerky move. He then returns the ship symbol to its place, brings the shuttle back to the Voyager and removes Tuvok and Seven from it.
Janeway frowns. “What does he mean by that? I won`t let him fly there alone!”
Without having been noticed, Peri has approached on the floor. Next to Janeway he rises. He pushes his own icon to the shuttle. Again, Ceph moves the shuttle, now with himself and Peri on board, to the alien ship. This time it remains at its position.
With a dissatisfied and skeptical face Janeway examines Peri and Ceph, looking sideways to the peripatoid, then upwards to his crew mate.
“All right.” She clicks the shuttle green. “But we`ll stay in contact!”

With its propulsion deactivated, Voyager is floating in space. A shuttle emerges from the shimmering force field at the opening of the hangar. It slowly moves away from its mother ship; then it flies a bow to adjusts its target direction and disappears with a warp flash in the distance.
The bulkhead of the shuttle bay closes. From stern of the Voyager forw-ard the contour of the hull runs in a flat arc to the elliptically shaped sau-cer unit. A chain of concave mirrors is mounted around the edge of the saucer; they are all aligned towards the same direction in space, perpendicularly away from the elliptical shape. Voyager slowly rotates against the background of differently bright bluish, yellow, and red stars. Thus, the view of the phalanx of the optical telescopes covers ring-shaped areas of the surrounding space.

In front of the shuttle`s cockpit window the warp stripes of stars are passing by. Ceph is sitting on the chair at the helm, Peri at a console next to him. A holocom pops up displaying Kim`s friendly smiling face. Next to it appear the symbols of Peri, Ceph, and the shuttle, as well as a red and green button below each of these three images.
Several eyeballs turn to the hologram. In a nervous hurry a tentacle tip quickly activates the green buttons at the images of crew and shuttle. Then Ceph pushes the symbol for radio transition into the center and a black box above it.
Humanoid voices are audible in the background.
“Captain -?”
“I see it, Mr. Kim. Obviously, he`s convinced that the humanoid family our species belongs to is not popular with those he visits. Stay in receiv-ing mode, but don`t transmit a radio message to the shuttle for the time being!”
“Aye, Captain.”
A green dot appears under the black box that covers the symbol for radio transmission. Ceph closes the holocom. Then he opens a menu on the display of the helm and starts a transmission signal. He modulates and distorts the signal on slider controls until its acoustically audible ref-erence assumes the sound sequence of deep gurgling and bubbling tones. Shortly thereafter he goes under warp. The stripes in front of the window shrink to stellar dots. One of the stars quickly gets brighter. The initial spot of light grows into a luminous disc. While Ceph navigates sideways, the glistening star wanders beyond the edge of the cockpit window. A blue and brown spotted planet appears. Soon after it also disappears from the field of view. Finally, a long, comet-like tail becomes visible in front of the shuttle. At its closer end its shape is wide and appears blurred. At the other end the tail converges with sharp contours towards a dimly shimmering metal object. As the shuttle approaches, the object grows larger and gets recognizable as an ellipsoid. Its shiny envelope scatters the light of the central star of the system they entered. Sideways from the object the tail of ejected white fog extends far into space.
Ceph lowers the shuttle speed until it comes to a standstill in front of the ellipsoid. Peri turns his head sideways to Ceph. With motionless arms lying on the helm panel and all eyes staring forward, Ceph is sitting calmly and waiting in his seat. Incessantly, the bubbling frequencies of the transmitter keep on sounding.
Peri directs his eyes out through the window again. Then he lowers his head to his console and moves one of his four hands to a field called Object Scan. A tentacle approaches in haste and pushes Peri`s hand back.
Then the two of them motionlessly gaze into space again, at the elon-gated, rotationally symmetrical structure that shimmers a few hundred meters in front of them, in the light of the local sun. All of a sudden, the sound of the transmitted signal changes, oscillating like a siren periodically up and down to higher and lower frequencies. A white scanning surface crosses the shuttle. It appears as a spot at the front apex of the cockpit`s window curvature and rapidly increases to the width of the cabin. As the surface moves to the rear, it penetrates all objects and persons. When the scanning beam has left the rear of the shuttle, the acoustics of the transmission signal returns to normal.
Shortly thereafter a dark outline appears on the contour-less metallic surface of the alien ship. As with the divergence of the elements of a ring diaphragm, an opening is formed in the hull of the vessel. Ceph starts the shuttle and slowly flies towards it. As it enters the alien starship, the shuttle crosses a force field. Inside it lands on a platform. Behind the shuttle the hull closes again.
Ceph pulls himself up to the ceiling. Peri also rises. An arm lies on his shoulder segment. Peri sits down again. Ceph swings to the rear boarding gate, opens it and leaves the shuttle. Outside he pushes himself with meandering movements of all five arms to the edge of the landing platform. It is surrounded by a smooth and calm liquid surface from which the platform protrudes merely a few centimeters. Stems bend over the edge; the glances of their eyes try to penetrate into the depth of the turbid fluid. A tentacle dips its end in and pulls it out again. Kneading movements of ring muscles indicate a sample of the fluid being pushed back and forth inside. Finally, the sample is spit back by the end of the tentacle to where it was taken. Two arms reach for the edge of the platform and Ceph pulls himself over it. His body sinks below the surface of the water. Powerful swimming movements of his tentacles accelerate him steeply downward.
Pushing his arms backwards and looking out in all directions with his eyes, Ceph swims through a lushly grown underwater landscape. Bizarrely ramified floating plants are set rotating and driven to the side by the current vortices of his swimming movement. Below him, papillary tufts sway like sea anemones, anchored in the mud. Then the ground descends; Ceph follows the contour of a slope into the depth. The water becomes cloudier and the range of sight decreases. As Ceph approaches the bottom, light spots of different colors appear, which quickly become brighter and more dot shaped. Extensive parts of the bottom are covered by technical installations. Their signal lamps are gleaming; some of them evenly, some blink and others are swelling and decaying in their luminosity. Ceph approaches them. He gently grips the curved side wall of a device. Its material gives way when touched, like viscous gelatin. Under its transparent surface fiber strands shimmer. They also bend, while the tentacle-arm presses against from the outside. A multitude of small, flexible tubes protrude a few centimeters from each of the organically shaped devices. Ceph reaches the end of an arm next to a tube. Its opening is much narrower than the diameter of his tentacle ending.
At close distance, Ceph swims over the area of technical installations. In its center he reaches a circular trough that is surrounded by a ring of in-struments set with hundreds of the small tubes. From over the middle of the hollow, Ceph sinks to the ground. His eyes direct radially towards the surrounding ring. The arms also extend, as far as they can, to five direc-tions towards the small tubes at the ring`s inner surface. They are not long enough and do not reach them. Suddenly, a display switches on under Ceph. Over the entire previously greenish-grey bottom of the hollow an image of space appears. Stars are sparkling. From the picture of a nearby planet the dark blue of an ocean shines. Ceph quickly pulls his arms against his body and pushes himself upwards. The circular screen under him goes out.
Ceph swims away. He turns towards a forest formed of liana-shaped, aquatic plants sprouting vertically upwards from the bottom. Ceph slowly swims along the densely grown edge of the forest. He attentively directs his eyes to the flexibly swaying stems and large leaves exuberantly growing sideways; they gently wave in the current of his swimming movement.
Suddenly, a tremor goes through the plants beside him. Thousands of fine threads shoot out between the welter of leaves, heading towards Ceph. With his arms, Ceph strikes out for a strong push to move away from the forest. But the threads have already overtaken him, holding him from behind and envelop him. As if in a state of shock, his every movement stops. The threads swarm groping with their endings over the surface of his body. Finally, the curtain of plants divides at the edge of the forest and a huge, jellyfish-like organism pushes itself out of it. Its pulsating bell-shaped central body is set with a wreath of hollows around its rim. Each of these cavities is covered by a glassy shining lens. Through the gelatinous substance a network of cell fibers is visible originating at the back of each hollow and gathering to form a brownish-yellow, ring-shaped cell aggregate inside the body.
The long threads spring from a diffuse tissue on the inside of the bell. Along their length, there is a flickering running up and down. It gives the impression as if light signals were passing in frequently interrupted pulses through the threads that are composed of countless oblong cells, longitudinally connected like the links of a chain; the light signals seem to go out at the transitions to neighboring cells and bioluminescently light up again in the adjacent cell to continue their flow.
The rim of the bell approaches. It slides close to the cephalopoid trapped in the web of threads and seems to inspect him. Two eye stems squeeze from the inside of the envelope into the open and look into transparent trough-eyes at the bell`s rim. Persevering in this posture, the two beings slowly sink downward.
The flickering in the alien being`s fibrous excrescences fades away. The chaotic web enveloping Ceph rearranges while the threads split in two groups. One group of threads lays their ends on Ceph`s body, contacting every square millimeter of his surface up to the roots of arms and stems. The other group gathers its ends in front of one of Ceph`s eyeballs that has been stretched far out. Immediately in front of its lens the microscopically fine thread endings align; they lie close together and form a small surface opposite the optical entrance of the eye.
Ceph`s arms relax, loosely floating downward. With the exception of that single eye, the stems of all the others retract into the body until only the domes of the eyeballs remain recognizable as humps.
Inside the bell-shaped being a cascade of pastel light pulses rises. The flickering propagates downward, in several bundles, into the diffuse tissue from which the countless filigree threads emerge. The colorful lights spread into the threads and stream along them to the endings arranged in front of Ceph`s exposed eye. There they emerge, from the surface formed by the endings of the threads, flickering in subtle colors and patterns, penetrating into Ceph`s` eye.
From time to time this play of lights falls silent. Then the other threads with their tips probing Ceph`s body begin to flicker; they send their pulsating, wandering lights upwards into the interior of the bell.
Ceph and the three times as large gelatinous being, whose umbrella-like bell body gently moves its rim up and down, are floating calmly in the fluid medium. Behind the two, the liana-like forest rises. Its leaves, that were previously hanging in tranquil suspension from their stem trunks, begin to sway. In the whole forest, the plant organisms move like in a wind that slowly swells. From nozzles hidden in the ground columns of finely dispersed gas bubbles are sparkling everywhere in the thicket of the forest, drawing water upwards that sinks again between the rising columns. In the vortices of these currents, trunks bend and leaves wave in stormy turmoil. Rotten fragments of plants are lifted from the bottom and whirl around. Finally, the fountains of the gas pearls dry up and tranquility returns to the forest.
Also, the wandering lights enclosed in subtle fibers, that were running to and fro between Ceph and the strange being, come to rest. One arm moves forward and triples with its end to the eye-set rim of the jelly-like astronaut. Its bell rises and expands, contracts again and expels water downward. The recoil pushes the bell upwards. Purposefully the creature swims aloft the edge of the forest and Ceph follows him to the crowns of the trees. The further they ascend, the stronger the leaves become. They are arched upward and resemble mussel shells on their upper side. In the roof of the forest the strange space traveler and his visitor alight on large crown leaves. Between them yellow-green capsules the size of a coconut are floating. They are lined up like garlands on cords that have grown out from the tree stalks. A bluish liquid shimmers through the shells. A crowd of the bell`s threads clenches to a string gathering its force as dynamic protein fibers do when they form a massive muscle. That string of threads pushes one of the capsules to Ceph, another capsule under the bell. From its center a thorn-like projection grows downwards, pierces the capsule and sucks its content into the gelatinous being with one draught. Bluish streaks spread across its inner organs, making their contours visible from outside. Orange and blue lights wander up and down the threads.
Ceph`s arm holds his capsule tightly wrapped. A second arm squeezes itself through the shell and dives into the fluid. The snorkel empties the capsule in peristaltically wandering waves. A transitory pattern of yellow and red stripes fluctuates over Ceph`s grey-green body. For a moment his crowd of eyes gets into a lively whirling.
Again, the bundled threads reach for capsules and pull up two more of them. Thorn and tentacle prick into the inside and empty the bluish con-tent. More intensely than before pulsates the glowing along the threads of the alien space traveler; more numerous become the stripes that wander along Ceph`s skin.

Inside the shuttle Peri is sitting in front of the cockpit, at the co-pilot`s seat. He looks up diagonally through the window. The inside of the star-ship`s hull depicts the surrounding universe as if the hull were made of glass.
After a while Peri lowers his head and opens the shuttle`s system status on the control panel. All data are displayed in green. He closes the menu. Then he looks up again to the stars and the comet-like tail of water ice.
With a sudden twist Peri turns back on the chair and glides down the backrest with all his segments. He leaves the shuttle through the open airlock and runs to the edge of the landing platform. There he gazes down into the murky water.

On the silent treetops of the underwater forest two single leaves are swaying. Irregularly they tilt to one side, then to another. Their move-ments are driven by involuntary displacements of the masses weighing on the two leaves. Those responsible of the rocking and toppling are continuously trying to counteract the unwanted overhang by balancing shifts. That does not succeed though without a certain time delay, so that the movement changes merely its direction, but does not lose momentum.
Ceph`s body deforms back and forth. Several eyes are almost completely retracted. Others stand obliquely curved at half-mast. One stretches steeply upwards and looks from the depth of the water to the zenith. Another one curiously bends on an arched stem towards a tentacle that is stuck in a half-empty nectar capsule, as if being trapped. The snorkel sucks a little. Swashingly sinks the bluish level down a bit. Then starts bubbling inside the capsule and it swells like a rubber skin, due to the air blown in. The bubbling stops. The expanded capsule contracts and presses the bluish nectar into the inserted snorkel. A second arm stretches out from the body and puffs a deep brown cloud from its end into the surrounding water.
Under the gelatinous bulk of the alien space traveler his extended thorn pokes at the thick shell of a capsule. Again and again, it slips off. The thorn searches in vain for the thin upper side of the vessel, which is held in place by a disheveledly and entangled swarm of threads struggling to get the shell into adequate position. The bell`s transparent body is tinged in light blue. In twitching pulses, it contracts and relaxes again. Branched veins of supplying vessels between translucent organelles inside the body shine decorated by the content of absorbed nectar. The vacuole of a dark organ opens. With a contraction of the bell`s rim a brown swath swirls out, from the gap between the rim and the large leaf it is resting on.
Ceph`s pot is empty. Tediously, as if it were a bottle cork, he pulls his arm out of the opening. The pot drifts away. Stiffly erect and turning like a stethoscope one eye starts searching for a capsule that has not been emptied yet. At some distance it finds what it is looking for. An arm sets off. It stretches out of the body as far as it can. Below Ceph the leaf tilts. The arm still does not reach the goal of its desire. Helping, also the body deforms towards the necessary direction. The leaf creases; Ceph slides. He tilts over its edge and sinks down into the forest. Tentacles swarm out in all directions, searching for hold on trunks. Bending these in staggering discoordination, Ceph laboriously pulls himself back up. Ex-hausted and flat like a flat cake he finally lies on the leaf again. Brown clouds puff from several tentacles.
Next to Ceph rests the light-blue tinted body of the gelatinous being. Thousands of threads are hanging downwards around the edge of its leaf, in matted strands. Its bell breathes in a slow rhythm, pumping tanned swaths from its interior.
Deep down, between the trunks of the forest, gas pearls are released from the bottom once again. Their stream swells to mighty, upward spar-kling columns, and again the trunks and leaves are moved like in a storm. As if the weather would be changing in a firmament above the forest, dark clouds are floating over the trees. Resembling supersaturated rain clouds, they disintegrate into downwardly directed strands and finally dissolve, forming layers of murky water.

His head lowered on his segments that are rolled to a spiral, Peri is sitting in the place of the shuttle`s co-pilot. A shaking goes through the shuttle making a tricorder on the cockpit rattle in small jumps. Peri`s chair trem-bles. He raises his head and looks through the window up to the inner hull of the starship, which depicts the stellar environment. Next to the tail of ice that already existed, a second tail is being created that rapidly expands into space.
A noise penetrates through the open gate of the shuttle. Peri unfurls his spiral posture, leaves the chair and runs out onto the platform. He looks over its edge. With low gasping and gurgling, the water surface sinks. Like the coastal bottom of a sea at low tide, the upper ground level is already dry. Plants no longer carried by the water limply lie in the silt. The water level drops further down into the deep zone of the ship. Finally, the noises grow silent.
Again, the starship is shaken. Peri raises his head. The constellation of stars rotates and shifts. The darkness of space brightens up, turning into a white primed blue, while the stars are fading. Single clouds wander upwards, passing the sinking ship. In the distance the horizon line of a blue ocean appears. The starship lands on the strange sea and swings on its waves.
Once again, the dark gurgling swells from the depths of the ship, this time mixed with a slurping suction. As quickly as the water level had dropped before, it now rises again. It washes over the dry plants, climbs further and stops just below Peri`s platform. Peri`s gaze is directed into the depths. The turbidness of the water has disappeared. From the deepest bottom the colorful displays of the instruments blink up to the surface. Peri hurries back into the shuttle.
The starship takes off from the sea, crosses the blue and white atmos-phere of the planet and returns into black space. Peri glides down from the shuttle`s boarding ramp. In one hand he holds a covered cup with a clear liquid swashing inside; with two other hands he carries an oxygen bottle equipped with a pipe and a mouthpiece at its end. He hurries to the edge of the platform, bends down, holds the mouthpiece under water and opens the air valve on top of the bottle. Gas bubbles energetically swell up creating a hollow bubbling. Again and again, Peri closes and opens the valve. Then he stops. From the depth of the liquid filling of the starship the huge, jelly-like astronaut appears swimming upwards. Peri recedes from the edge of the platform. The dome of the gelatinous bell arrives staggering on the surface of the water. It tries to lift one side of the eye-set rim out of the liquid to have a clearer view on Peri. Without suspension of the water, however, the shape of the bell organism dents to flatness on the water surface. Beside the strange space traveler Ceph turns up. As his eye stems slide out of the water and its buoyancy no longer lifts them, the stems are staggering helplessly through the air.
Peri opens his holocom and activates the star map of the surroundings. He stretches the cup he brought with shaking movements towards the stranger, so that the liquid swashes back and forth in front of his eyes. Then Peri guides the cup through the three-dimensional map, pauses repeatedly, each time demonstratively turning to the stranger. Finally, he removes the lid from the cup and holds it over the edge of the platform towards the space traveler.
A filigree thread rises from the surface of the water, heads towards the cup and sinks its end into the content. Slowly stirring, it moves inside the fluid. Around the alien being further threads rise out of the water, directing themselves into the space above Peri. Like light conducting fibers luminous signals run to their tips, from where they emerge with a glitter.
The image of the surrounding stars disappears from the firmament on the inner hull of the ship. Filamentary networks of galaxies appear, occupying the entire background and framing black voids in space. In the foreground floats a group of smaller star clusters loosely distributed around two spiral galaxies of different sizes. Peri closes his holocom and looks upwards. The group of star islands descends until the smaller one of the two spirals stands between Peri and the alien being.
The end of the thread dipped in the cup leaves the liquid and goes to that galaxy. Like the needle on a record the end of the thread glides inward, following the traces of the spiral arms. Again and again, it pauses pondering, changes track and continues searching on another arm.
Finally, the projection becomes weaker, flickers and goes out. The bell sinks down again and pulls its threads behind it. Ceph, too, is no longer able to endure on the surface of the water. He sinks behind the gelatinous being, downwards into the depths.

Janeway is sitting in her ready room behind the monitor.
“Bridge to Captain!” reports Kim`s voice. “The shuttle has returned. There seems to have been an incident. Mr. Ceph is being taken to sickbay!”
Janeway gets up. With a worried face she leaves her room.
On the bridge Tuvok tells her, “The alien vessel has disappeared from the view of the long-range sensors, Captain.”
“Has it been cloaking?”
“No. It has accelerated — beyond the warp limit.”
Janeway`s eyes widen. “Transwarp -? I wish I could have talked to their captain!”
She goes to the lift.

Flabby, deformed and motionless Ceph lies on a stretcher in sickbay. One arm is rolled up tightly, the other four are hanging down to the floor. A few extended eye stems lie next to the head, powerless and wilted. Peri has erected on one side of the sickbed. On the other side the doctor scans Ceph`s body with the medical tricorder.
Janeway hurries through the entrance.
“Doctor, how is he?”
The doctor stands upright next to Ceph, has raised his chin and looks down at his patient from above.
“His neurotransmitter values show atypical diffusion rates, and poisoning symptoms are traceable throughout the body.”
Janeway`s gaze grows even more worried.
“What does that mean?”
“According to my hitherto gained knowledge of his physiology, I`d say: Mr. Ceph has a huge hangover!”
Janeway raises her eyebrows in amazement. The doctor puts the scanner aside and goes to a preparation table where he mixes liquids.
Slowly and drudgingly, one of the stems rises from the pillow and turns his eyeball to Janeway. Then the rolled-up tentacle opens and ponderously stretches out a hand-sized plant fragment towards her. With both hands she receives the dried, shriveled plant structure. Its pocket-shaped cavity has collapsed. Janeway turns the piece before her eyes with a questioning look.
“Astrometry to Captain,” calls Seven`s voice. “The spectroscopic scans of all planets within reach are complete. The results are available in the astrometrics laboratory.”
Janeway raises her head. “All right, Seven. I`m coming.” She turns to the doctor. “When do you think he`s going to be fit for duty again?”
“I can`t say yet.”
The doctor is holding a glass of dark blue liquid in his hand. He picks up one of the tentacles hanging from the bed down to the floor and puts its ending into the glass. Then he knocks against the arm with the back of his hand.
“Drink that!”
The hollow tentacle pulsates briefly and the liquid level in the cup de-creases a little. Immediately afterwards, the tentacle pulls itself out of the glass. The doctor fetches it back at once and stuffs it into the glass again.
“What is that?” inquires Janeway.
“This is the first clinical test of an antidote I`ve just developed. In a way, Bloody Mary for Cephalopoids.”
Janeway looks at the crowd of eyes lying on the bed and places her hand on one of the arms.
“Don`t let this become a habit, helmsman!”
Then she leaves sickbay, with the plant fragment in her hand. Peri fol-lows her.

In the holographic star map of the astrometrics laboratory percentage numbers appear next to planets marked in bright blue. The door slides open. Janeway and Peri enter. They go to Seven. Janeway looks into the map.
“How many planets have you found, Seven?”
“Within the range of our spectroscopic scan there are sixty-two planets with atmospheres containing the necessary gases; they all have an ocean of water. Eleven of them deviate less than 10% from the optimum values for cephalopoids in terms of both atmospheric gas concentration and ionic composition of the oceans. However, only one planet achieves a deviation of about 4% for both parameters.”
Janeway frowns. “The doctor assumes 3 – 4% is the limit. If the deviation is larger, there is no guarantee that they will permanently survive.”
Peri lays his hand at the plant part Janeway is holding between her fin-gers. She leaves it to him. He places it on the console panel in front of Seven.
“Mr. Ceph brought this from his away mission,” explains Janeway.
With all four hands Peri pulls at the edges of the dried plant skin, so that its folds are smoothed out. Searchingly, he turns his head over the part. Finally, he points with one finger to a spot that is covered with hair-fine scratches. Janeway and Seven bend over it to recognize the filigree fig-ures.
“What could that mean?” ponders Janeway.
“Two different signs in a row, in three lines. Possibly a binary code that represents three numbers,” speculates Seven.
She places the scratched area on a scanner of the console and starts an algorithm. Three numbers, one beneath the other, appear on the display. Seven raises an eyebrow.
“If these should actually be numeric values, then they are unusually large.”
“Could they be coordinates?”
“Possibly. But we do not know the origin of the coordinate system, nor the unit of length that is used.”
Peri also looks at the numbers on the display. He reaches into the control panels of the astrometric map. The representation leaves the local star environment. At first Peri zooms out to the scale of the Milky Way and then beyond. The Andromeda galaxy appears and several dozen smaller condensations of shining matter. Peri marks all systems and activates an arithmetic operation. A red dot appears near Andromeda.
Janeway is surprised. “He has calculated the center of gravity of the Local Group. Who`s using star maps of that size?”
Peri constructs connecting lines from the gravitational center of the local galaxy cluster to the galactic centers of Andromeda and the Milky Way. Then he creates a third line perpendicular to the other two. Peri turns his head to Janeway.
She nods. “That would be a conceivable coordinate system.”
“One of many conceivable,” comments Seven skeptically.
Janeway looks back at the three numbers on the display.
“If they really are coordinate values, what is the unit of length?”
Seven`s finger moves over an input field.
“Some species are using the atomic distance in hydrogen crystals, extra-polated for zero Kelvin.”
In the star map a green dot appears in the disc of the Milky Way.
“Good guess, Seven!” calls Janeway.
Seven zooms into the Milky Way and to the position of the green marker.
Janeway`s eyes start shining. “This is in the Delta Quadrant! And rather close to our position!”
A nebulous area grows from the center of the star map, with the green dot in its center.
“This nebula contains a lot of dust,” explains Seven. “Our sensors couldn`t see any details inside. The star map of the Akrrung doesn`t say anything about this region either.”
“Transfer coordinates to the helm!” Janeway touches her commu-nicator. “Mr. Paris, set course for the coordinates you`re about to re-ceive. Warp 8!”
“Aye, Captain,” Paris`s voice replies.
Janeway looks at Peri. “Before we decide for a planet where we`re going to expose the cephalopoids, I want to know what`s in that nebula!”

The starship Voyager flies through space at warp speed. A blurred spot appears in the distance in front of her. It approaches rapidly. The star stripes shorten to dots and that spot appears as a dusty grey nebula. Voyager penetrates in it at impulse speed.

On the bridge, Paris is sitting at the helm. The nebula on the screen in front of him disintegrates into individual clouds. A large cavity opens in front of the ship; in its center a yellow-orange star shines. Voyager flies towards it. Paris turns its head.
“We are approaching target coordinates, Captain.”
A blue and green spotted planet with white clouds in its atmosphere appears on the screen and finally fills almost its entire height. Gas symbols and numerical values are displayed next to the planet. With shining eyes Janeway rises and touches her communicator.
“Captain to Seven of Nine. – At the coordinates you`ve determined there is a Class-M planet. Atmosphere and ocean have exactly the composition we`re looking for!”
“That is … satisfying,” Seven`s voice replies coolly.
Janeway turns to Kim. “See if you can find them, Harry!”
Kim enters scan instructions into the OPS console. Then he reports with a regretful face: “There are various signs of life displayed, but I can`t see any cephalopoid bio-signatures.”
Janeway turns forward again. “Put us in orbit, Tom!”
“Aye, ma`am.”
She stares at the planet in front of her. “I don`t want to believe that it was a coincidence that has led us here. This is definitely the planet we`ve been looking for!”
“Maybe they were exterminated in their homeworld,” considers Tuvok. “Or they found a hiding place where they couldn`t be tracked down by their hunters.”
Janeway nods. Then she turns around to E-Bug and raises her head.
“Computer, holocom message to Mr. E-Bug. – Launch ten underwater probes!”
E-Bug`s holocom pops up and displays the corresponding symbols. E-Bug starts the probes. The screen shows small, streamlined, elongated objects swarming out in front of the Voyager; they dive into the planetary atmosphere.
E-Bug`s eye tubes are directed at the sensor panels in front of him. Soon, data and symbols are displayed. He turns one eye forward to the screen and zooms closer on a part of the planet`s surface. Several cephalopoid icons appear in the blue tongues of a fjorded coast.
Janeway turns to Tuvok. “Beam to that coast with Mr. Ceph and Mr. Peri, Commander! And help Peri install the holoclip he has prepared!”
“Aye, Captain.”
Tuvok goes to the lift.

Driven by a gentle wind, wave-ripples run into a narrow bay. The rays of a sun flicker on the waves. They break on mangrove-like trunks that are lining the coastal area in a sparse row. Behind the trunks there is a white gravel field of pointed rock fragments. Several groups of chalky-white boulders are rising up in the field. Their former cubic shape is still recog-nizable. At their corners and edges, however, they are heavily weather worn. Fragments protruding due to erosion have the same sharp points as the gravel stones of the beach. From the centers of the cubic boulder`s faces cave-like channels are leading into their interior.
Peri, Tuvok, and Ceph materialize between two rock formations, near the shallow waters of the shore. Tuvok carries a disc-shaped holographic generator about 40 centimeters tall. Peri articulates rhythmic scratching sounds with individual groups of legs and runs towards a stone cube that rises out of the water between the sparsely standing trees. Tuvok and Ceph follow him. Ceph falls behind the other two. With his arms winding he tries to push himself over the sharp-edged gravel. When he finally arrives at the tree area, he reaches for a branch and pulls himself up. Blood drips down into the shallow water between the trunks. Ceph lifts a tentacle and examines it with two eyes. It is covered with deep scratches. Several suction cups are torn at the rim.
In a gap between the shore`s trees Peri climbs onto a bolder. Tuvok hands him the holographic generator from below. Peri pushes the large disk on the rock plate back and forth until it takes a stable position. Then he activates the device. A hologram of several meters in extension pops up and plays a film clip. It shows captured cephalopoids and their liberation and care by members of the Voyager; it displays playing chil-dren, as well as frightened and aggressive individuals. The clip is reiterated then.
All three crew members look into the waves of the bay in front of them. After a while Peri descends from the rock. Through the shallow water he marches to Tuvok. In his holocom he pushes Tuvok`s icon and his own to the symbol of the Voyager.
Tuvok nods. “Tuvok to Voyager. – Beam up Mr. Peri and myself!”
The two dematerialize. Ceph remains back alone. He hangs on a branch near the holoclip and observes the water surface. Suddenly telescope eyes rise from the waves and look up at the hologram above the boulder.

The starship Voyager is floating on a stationary orbit above the planet.
“Captain`s log.
After their initial suspicion, we succeeded in building a basis of trust with the planet`s cephalopoids. They understood our concern and were ready to integrate the liberated ones into their community. The easiest thing was to hand over the children. Several individuals immediately took care of each of them. But also, the liberated adults were looked after when their insecurity and fear were recognized.
The local cephalopoids have a pronounced language based on clicks, the movement of their eyes, mutual touches, and signal colors on the surface of their bodies. Ceph seems to have a sense of what they are trying to tell him, but he`ll have to learn the language of his species too. I am happy that we were able to take him to the homeworld he never knew. And I regret that we`re soon going to lose him.
I`ve granted shore leave for the crew before we`ll resume course to our own home. Some of us are exploring the underwater world of the coastal area. The cephalopoids have signaled to us that we are welcome in their world.”

In front of the beach of pointed rock splinters a rubber dinghy floats in the tree-lined bay. Janeway, Kim and Torres have put on diving equip-ment. They sit at the edge of the boat and drop backwards into the water. There they dive down to the nearby bottom of the bay. Between numerous cephalopoids the three swim over colorful coral-like plants; they overgrow cuboid boulders rising from the submarine bottom. Many of the plants stretch off long calyxes; their inside is set with small capsules filled with green syrup. The cephalopoids insert their tentacles, squeeze the capsules open and suck the liquid with pumping movements. Numerous other species also swim in the rugged terrain. Some are streamlined, others are bizarrely shaped like seahorses. But almost all of them have more than two eyes that can be oriented to different directions independently. Openings gape between the corals, leading into the interior of the boulders.
After a while, the three humanoid divers reach the edge of the bay, where the submarine terrain drops steeply and the vegetation on the cuboid formations grows more sparsely. Janeway makes a sign to the others and they swim a bit down the rocky slope. Kim pans his tricorder close to a boulder.
“There are silicates everywhere,” states his voice muffled by water and diving mask. “It`s the same material as on the beach.”
Torres strokes her hand over large, stalactite-like splinters protruding all over from the boulder`s surfaces.
“What a peculiar structure at these stones.”
“They are formations of erosion. The sea water decomposes the rock into spines and splinters.”
Torres breaks out one of the mineral spikes and weighs it in her hand.
“It`s pretty light; the water almost carries it!” She lets the large spike go. The current drives it several meters along the slope before it gets stuck in the ground with its thorn ahead. Janeway points to one of the cave-like openings in the middle of a stone`s surface.
“These large perforations occur quite regular.”
Kim continues to read data on his tricorder.
“Despite their size, these rocks are almost monocrystalline. The openings and the cavities behind them probably belong to the morphology of this special crystal structure.”
In surprise, Janeway looks over the slope of the decomposing giant crys-tals.
“Apparently we`ve discovered macroscopic zeolites here!”
Behind a coral-covered bulge in the underwater slope, pufferfish-like creatures appear. At their body`s surface they possess one eye to the left, one to the right and a third eye that looks vertically upward. With small, violently wagging fins they seem to flee from something. Behind them two cephalopoids appear, driving and pushing the spherical beings with tentacles that they repeatedly spread. The two hooligans are followed by a third cephalopoid who has a communicator strapped on. Each time he tries to grab the other two and stop them, they tear themselves away from him.
Ceph notices his crew mates and swims to them. He curiously looks at the rock analysis on the display of Kim`s tricorder. Suddenly, he stretches three arms towards the colleagues, nudges them and directs all eyes down the precipice. Swarms of beings belonging to most different species of various shape and size swim up the slope in a hurry. As they approach the swarms become smaller and smaller. When they swim past Ceph and his companions, only a few individuals are left who hectically search for openings in the rocks; they rapidly disappear into them.
Janeway turns to both sides of the slope. All of a sudden it is empty. Only the two exuberant cephalopoids are left, who had driven the spherical beings in front of them. They swim around a hole at a rock, bend their eyes over it and feel their arms inside.
Torres points downwards. “Some more are coming.”
Once again there are several shadows in the depth that are growing. Suddenly a cephalopoid appears from above the edge of the slope. With violent swimming movements and clicking noises he hurries towards Ceph and the humanoids who are still looking down. His eye stems swirl and orange striped patterns run over his body. He grabs Janeway by the arm and pulls her to the nearest opening in a rock`s face. Then he reaches for Kim and Torres and pulls them there as well. Torres casts off the tentacle.
“Hey, what`s up?”
“I think he wants us to go in there,” says Kim.
“That`s what we should do!” shouts Janeway. “Look!”
The shadows from the depth become recognizable as single, massive objects approaching at high speed. Janeway shines with a lamp into the opening about one meter in diameter. She swims inside.
“Follow me!”
Torres and Kim swim behind. Ceph still hesitates. The other cephalopoid grabs him by the arm and pulls Ceph to the opening as well. Ceph unwinds and swims hastily to the two hooligans who are still groping into the cavity for the spherical beings. The other one follows Ceph. As the shadows come closer and closer from below, he quickly dives into a cave.
Ceph arrives at the two hooligans and pushes one of them through the hole into which they are peering. Then he draws himself in, reaches for the other one who is still outside and tries to pull him inside as well. The other resists by pressing his arms against the edge of the opening.
In the dark interior, Ceph`s tentacles pull at the body of the cephalopoid who is still outside. Then a shake passes through his body. The next mo-ment the outside cephalopoid is torn out of Ceph`s arms. Ceph retreats and presses against the inner wall of the cavity. The hooligan next to him looks with half of his eyes at Ceph, the other half watches the bright opening. Suddenly a huge tongue shoots through it deep inside. The hooligan sticks to its mucous threads. While the tongue draws the helplessly fidgeting captured with it to the exit, the movable tip of the tongue, wagging sideways, feels for further victims.
Above the tongue three tentacle arms spread out against the wall. Two more arms reach far out and push a massive mineral thorn deep into the tissue of the boneless muscle of the tongue. In pain it twitches violently to all sides and tries to pull itself out of the cave. At the entrance, however, the thorn is caught like an anchor on the eroded wall and the tongue is stuck. Ceph reaches for the hooligan and pulls him out of the fetters of the sticky slime threads. Then he drags him away, deeper into the cave of the rock.

From the back of another cave three humanoids stare in horror at the light exit. In front of it large shadows are passing by. Thick threads of slime are hanging from the cave`s wall and ceiling, swaying in the current.
“What the hell was that?” shouts Torres.
Next to her Kim turns the tricorder for a scan.
“Unknown bio-signatures. 25 tons – 27 tons – 9 tons. I guess that`s a family at lunch!”
Janeway shines into the cave system behind her.
“Let`s go deeper inside, … before we`ll end up as desserts!”
Torres looks around. “Where`s Ceph?”
“I hope he`s got himself to safety in time!” Janeway touches the communicator. “Captain to Voyager!”
Nobody answers. Kim measures the symmetrical walls with the tricorder.
“The atomic lattice of these large crystals is scattering the signal too strongly, Captain.”
“Let`s look for another exit. Follow me!”
Torres and Kim switch on their lamps as well now and swim behind Jane-way into the tunnel-like passage. After a few meters the three humanoid divers enter a chamber. It is formed by the intersection of three channels that meet at right angles like the spatial axes of a Cartesian system. Torres strokes the symmetrical, crystalline facets on the inner walls of the three meeting channels.
“I feel like being inside a Swiss cheese that`s turned into a rock crystal.”
“But your crystal cheese has already passed its expiration date!”
Kim points to the horizontally crossing tunnel. The sea water has etched deep crevices into its ceiling and flanks. The material that has not yet decomposed is hanging from the walls, shaped as thick and long spikes. Many of them have already broken out and cover the floor. Kim touches the display of the tricorder.
“I`ll monitor our route so we won`t get lost!”
Suddenly, the walls tremble. Crystal spikes break out and float to the ground.
“Is that a seaquake?” shouts Torres.
The next moment she is caught by a current and pressed against Janeway. The flowing water pulls the two horizontally forward, deeper into the macrozeolithic mountain. At the same time, Kim is washed down into the vertical channel of the chamber. Also, a flock of erosion splinters swirls up. The current that draws the splinters also splits and flushes into the two channels, following the scattered humanoids.
As they drift with the current through the corridors and crossing cham-bers of the rock labyrinth, Janeway and Torres try to hang on to the ero-sion crevices of the walls. Thereby they break out thorns, which they push away not to be injured by their spikes. Finally, the current weakens. They manage to find support on a thorn about two meters long that has laid across the exit of a chamber through which the current drives the water. Janeway looks back.
“Where`s Kim?”
“He`s drifted off. With the tricorder he should be able to capture our signatures!”
Janeway nods. “We`ll wait for him here.”
“Careful, Captain!”
Torres pushes Janeway`s shoulder to the side. The tip of a massive crystal spine just drifts past her. Janeway points into the vertical channel above them.
“Here comes the next one!”
The two move back from the crossing chamber into the passage behind them. A small, compact flock of marine beings of different species also drifts through the chamber. Janeway observes them attentively.
“Switch off your light for a moment, B`Elanna!”
When the lamps are extinguished, a luminescent glow is visible, emanat-ing from the group of individuals swimming together. The crystal walls shimmer in that light. With respect to the small sizes of their bodies the luminescently glowing eye-lenses of the creatures appear large. Their eyes are anatomically arranged above the foreheads at the species that swim on the upper side of the swarm, so that the field of vision covers both the space above and forward. The eyes of the species forming the lower part of the swarm are located on the lateral chin of the head. As they pass through the chamber, their gazes switch rapidly between the transverse passages and the downward direction of the vertical channel. Suddenly, the small swarm forms an opening. Like a torpedo a thorn of rock drifts through without touching any of the beings. Behind the thorn the swarm closes again. Janeway and Torres also avoid the pointed flot-sam. Shortly afterwards the swarm has disappeared.
From the tunnel leading downwards, light penetrates up.
“Harry, … is that you?” Janeway shouts under her mask. She turns her lamp on again.
A tentacle grips the wall of the crossing chamber from below. Then twelve telescope eyes appear that are directed in stereoscopic pairs towards the six branching tunnels of the chamber. Ceph swims into it; below him follows Kim, whom Ceph covers like an umbrella. Ceph stretches out an arm. A long, pointed thorn drifts from a tunnel into the chamber. The arm grabs it and turns it sideways.
Kim`s diving suit is slit at the shoulder and a flesh wound is bleeding.
“You`re hurt, Harry!”
“It`s not bad, Captain. But if Ceph hadn`t found me, those things would have impaled me!” Kim points into one of the tunnels. “According to the tricorder, there`s a large cavity ten meters ahead of us.”
“It can`t be worse than this place. Come on!”
Janeway swims ahead, the others behind. In every chamber they have to cross, Ceph positions himself above the companions and secures their passage with his arms and six pairs of eyes watching in all six directions. Finally, they reach the entrance of a hall. Janeway and Torres illuminate it with their lamps. On the side walls of the hall there are countless niches. Inside gelatinous capsules, about ten centimeters long and transparent, are hanging in rows. In each of the capsules there is a yolk-yellow, struc-tureless substance. Several cephalopoids swim up and down the niches like guardians in front of a palace. When they recognize the humanoids behind their cones of light, three of them rapidly approach with powerful pushes of their tentacles. Each reaches for the arm of a humanoid. With unmistakable perseverance, they pull them from the hall into a side corridor and from there purposefully through the tunnels and chambers of the zeolite labyrinth. Ceph follows last.
As they reach one of the chambers, the group stops; it gives precedence to a cephalopoid who watches with one pair of eyes respectively for each of the six directions of the crossroads and holds the arms stretched out ready to defend. Two children swim under the adult`s arms. When they have passed, the group continues their trek. The three cephalopoids who are removing Janeway, Torres and Kim from their underwater cave, repeatedly push drifting thorns to the side. After a while the group reaches a chamber resembling a grotto. Only half of it is filled with water; from the upper crevices of the walls, daylight enters the room. The tentacles separate from the humanoids. The three cephalopoids dive down back into the habitat of the cave.
Ceph`s arm stretches to a ledge and he pulls himself up. There he an-chors with three tentacles and lowers the other two arms downward. One after the other he drags each of his three companions up. Through the largest of the light gaps, they leave the cave and climb down from a white cube of rock onto the splinter-strewn beach behind the mangrove-grown border of the bay. In the distance the rubber dinghy floats on the ripples of the sea.

The starship Voyager is floating above the blue and green spotted planet, overcast with ribbons of white shining clouds.

Walking slowly, Kathryn Janeway leaves her ready room. Her voice sounds tired as she asks with an undertone: “What`s the status of our vacationists, Tuvok?”
“All groups have returned to the ship, Captain.”
Her gaze wanders forward. She goes to the helm and stops next to it. Tom Paris is sitting in his chair. His forearms supported on the console he stares at the image of the planet in front of him on the viewscreen.
“Are you coming, Tom?”
He turns his eyes to Lang and nods. Then he rises and follows Janeway to the rear. Lang sits down at the helm.
In front of the lift Janeway opens her holocom. She pushes Peri`s icon to the symbol of the transporter; then she touches the communicator.
“Janeway to B`Elanna, Seven and Carey. – It`s about time now. See you at the transporter.”
From the OPS station Kim turns to Janeway.
“I`d like to come along too, Captain.”
“Of course, Harry.”
The three of them enter the lift; it closes behind them.

From the direction of a sunset glow on the horizon of the sea, a soft wind is driving rippled waves towards the mangrove-like trunks in the shallow beach water. At a gap in the vegetation seven Voyager crew members materialize. They keep silently standing in the evening light passing to dusk.
Janeway turns her head to Peri. He opens his holocom and moves Ceph`s icon to the symbol of the beach. Everyone looks out at the sea, where the orange-red horizon shimmers in the ridges of the waves.
Torres blinks to push aside the fluid covering the lenses of her eyes; she narrows her eyelids to get a sharper view.
“Has that octopus forgotten us already?”
All of a sudden, a vortex superimposes on the waves about 30 meters in front of them. The whirling motion gets stronger and approaches rapidly. The eyes of a cephalopoid stretch out of the water, while he swims to-wards the beach with violent movements of his arms. A dozen more whirls appear close behind him. When the cephalopoid is only a few me-ters away from the waiting group, eyes and tentacles rise out of the water behind him. The arms strike out — and throw. Pointed stones hit the water around the cephalopoid and crash into the beach in front of Peri`s segments and the feet of the humanoids. Surprised and worried they avoid the projectiles. Hectically fleeing, Ceph pushes himself through the shallow shore water to the beach. Wet sand and white gravel are thrusted seawards behind him by all five arms. His holocom pops up and five tentacles hastily place eight icons to the symbol of the transporter. All the persons on the beach dematerialize, while a hail of stones pours through their flickering silhouettes into emptiness.

As soon as everyone is back in the transporter room, Ceph swings out into the corridor as fast as he can.
“Ceph -! What`s going on here?” calls Janeway after him and follows with hasty steps. As she enters the corridor, the turbolift already closes behind Ceph at the far end of the passage.

While Tuvok is controlling displays on his station on the bridge, the lift opens. Reaching far out, Ceph swings forward passing Tuvok at close distance. Still hanging from the ceiling, he reaches down to the navigation table. Lang uncertainly stands up and moves to the side. On the screen the planet swings out of the image. The ship accelerates. At high speed it rushes through the dusty nebula that surrounds the homeworld of the cephalopoids. Ceph sinks down into the helmsman`s chair and throws three tentacles over the console.
The nebula opens and the constellations of the surrounding stars become visible. Immediately thereafter, they distort into warp stripes as the starship accelerates beyond the speed of light.
Janeway steps out of the turbolift and stops. Tuvok`s eyebrow is raised.
“We have left the system, Captain.”
Janeway speechlessly returns Tuvok`s surprised look. Her eyes turn for-ward. Their gaze keeps rigidly stuck to the helmsman`s position while she climbs down the stairs at starboard and continues at a slow pace.
Ceph`s body has retreated deep behind the back of the chair. The eyes control the readings and the screen. Only one is turned backwards and watches what is approaching him.
Step by step Janeway walks towards the navigational workstation. She surrounds it and stops at its front edge, in a central position in front of the screen. She supports one hand on the edge of the table and moves the other one over the operational fields. A tentacle timidly avoids the moving hand. Janeway`s finger slides into a display. All eyes are on that finger. It reduces the level of the warp factor, 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-ZERO. Behind Janeway`s back, the stripes on the screen collapse into dots. The eye stems grow shorter a bit. The finger now moves into the neighboring field and reduces the impulse speed until the display shows FULL STOP. The eye stems shorten even more.
Janeway bends far over the desk until she is right in front of the crowd of eyes. In threatening slowness, a smile develops in her face. She grabs two tentacle tips with two fingers each and pulls the two arms up so that they rise half a meter like two vertical antenna poles to the left and to the right of her. Then she turns the two until the rows of sucking membranes are aligned towards her mouth. Even further pushes Janeway her head forward, where it almost dives into the crowd of eyes. They struggle to evade to the side and to the rear until they hit the back of the chair.
Smiling and with a soft voice, Janeway begins to speak to one of the eyes.
“As it seems, we have a crewman back on board who wants to become a permanent member of our travelling group …”
Her gaze changes a little; the addressed eye stalk shortens.
“But we do have a few rules, … and two of the most important rules for a helmsman are …”
Her smile begins to take on features of a diabolical threat, as does her voice. The targeted eye withdraws completely into the body. Janeway turns to the group of eyes next to the retreated one.
Never — start — the ship — without — orders!”
The stems of the eyes spoken to also shrink rapidly until merely small protruding domes are visible. Janeway turns to another group of eyes.
“And: never – go to warp – without the captain`s explicit or-der!”
While she successively turns her strict gaze to each individual eyeball that has not completely taken refuge yet into the bulk of the body, she adds: “Has that been made clear to every-one?”
All of the eye stalks left have become so short that the eyeballs almost sit on the body. Janeway withdraws from the console and straightens up again. She goes around the helm to the rear and sits down at the captain`s place.
“Commander, we resume our course for Earth. Transfer the flight data to the helmsman!”
“Aye, Captain.”
Shortly afterwards the star constellation on the viewscreen turns and the ship realigns its heading. Janeway enters data into the small console next to her armrest. Three eyes look at her over the back of the pilot`s chair. Janeway`s face is turned to the side where her finger hovers over a start button. She turns her head forward with an expression of marked satisfaction.
“Warp 8, … engage!”
The finger lowers and transfers the order to the helm.

The starship Voyager is floating in space. The band of the Milky Way ex-tends in front of her and at starboard. Suddenly the ship shoots forward and disappears with a warp flash in the distance.

Deep below the seabed of a planet, inside a dark, water-filled cave, several weakly luminescent cephalopoids are restlessly swimming up and down. Time and again, they pause in front of the niches in the walls and focus their eyes on long chains of gelatinous capsules; inside of them the tiny telescope eyes and tentacles of embryos are moving.


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