Starship Voyager – The Alien Adventures — 17 A Q`eer Night

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.


17. A Q`eer Night

In a calm routine, the colorful lights of the instruments are blinking on the moderately lit Voyager bridge. Some signals are accompanied by short and bright electronic tones at low level, sounding as if the instruments were whispering with each other. On a control panel at the rear of the bridge, Lang opens monitoring data and skims over a series of numbers. She closes the menu and goes to the lower bridge, to the engineering console on starboard. She briefly looks at the helm, where Ceph rubs an arm against his body. Then she sits down and scrolls technical protocols at a display. A scraping noise from the helm raises her attention again. Lang looks up. Two of Ceph`s tentacles scratch each other. A third one wraps around the root of an eye stalk and glides back and forth. Lang frowns worriedly.
“Commander, I`m not sure, … maybe Mr. Ceph has a problem.”
Tuvok looks forward, checking. Carey, who is standing at the OPS station, pays attention as well.
He considers, “Scratching isn`t something you have to worry about automatically …”
Lang gets up and goes closer to the pilot. Red spots have formed on Ceph`s grey-green skin.
“He`s got redness everywhere, Commander.”
“These symptoms require medical examination,” decides Tuvok. “Mr. Ceph has to report to sickbay. “He touches the communicator. “Tuvok to Ensign Paris. – Your presence is required on the bridge to relieve Mr. Ceph!”
In drowsy slowness, and with a distinctly grumbling undertone, Paris`s voice answers, “Aye Commander, … order understood!”

In the semi-darkness of a quarters, the face of Tom Paris protrudes from under a blanket. Without moving his head, he tapers his lips forward and presses them onto Torres`s forehead.
“In half an hour it`s Carey`s turn for the helm.”
Torres smiles without opening her eyes.
“I`ll keep the nest warm for you.”
Paris shifts himself out from under the blanket and reaches for his uni-form.

At the helm of the bridge merely the unsteady tips of two tentacles touch the console. The other three arms have tightly wrapped round the body and tremble violently. Almost all eyes have retracted.
“Tuvok to Captain!”

Lying in bed in her quarters Janeway opens her eyes.
“What is it, Commander?”
“Mr. Ceph seems to be ill,” reports Tuvok`s voice.
“I`m coming.”
She sits up and rubs her temples. Clad in her night-dress, she gets out of bed.


Janeway steps out of the lift and goes to the helm.
Lang reports, “At first he had strong itching, Captain, and now also the shivers.”
Janeway opens her holocom above the helm panel and pushes Ceph`s icon to the symbol of sickbay. Some of Ceph`s eyes swing from the hologram to Janeway.
Paris arrives on the bridge. He goes forward. Ceph notices him. He stretches two arms up and pulls himself to the ceiling. Paris sits down at his place.
“What are you carrying on, old boy?” He stretches the back of his hand upwards in order to knock on a low hanging tentacle loop. Janeway pushes her hand against his.
“Don`t, Tom! The doctor should examine him first. I`ll take him myself.”
Janeway goes ahead to the turbolift. Ceph swings after her. In front of the sliding door one arm loses its grip on the ceiling and he falls to the floor. He sluggishly pulls himself up again and follows Janeway into the lift.

In the office of sickbay, the doctor is sitting at his desk. With both of his hands he alternately moves two of three inverted medical cups. He shifts them in loops around one another following the contour of a horizontally lying eight. Then he stops and pulls his hands back. With an expectant, encouraging smile the doctor looks at the little tubeworm sitting on the desk on his back end, opposite the three cups. His tubular body is bowed forward directing the button eyes on its upper end on the three small receptacles. He knocks over one of the cups with a pushing movement of his head. An object the size of a candy appears underneath, which the tubeworm snaps and devours in a flash with his circular mouth. Immediately afterwards, he stretches upwards and directs his dark little eyes with a wagging movement of his upper body towards the joyfully radiant face of the doctor.
Janeway and Ceph appear in sickbay.
“Doctor, we got an emergency!”
Without rising, the doctor enthusiastically waves towards Janeway.
“Captain, come and see, it`s unbelievable!”
Janeway walks a few steps towards his office. She recognizes the situation through the glass partition and answers harshly, “You may show me that later! Take care of this patient first!”
The doctor discontentedly separates from his study object and playmate. Ceph sinks from the ceiling onto a sickbed. The doctor takes a quick look at him.
“What`s wrong with him?” he inquires.
“We`re here for you to find out! I need to know if quarantine protocols need to be initiated.”
The doctor reaches for a medical scanner. Ceph hangs on to both sides of the bed with two arms, so that the vibrations of his shivers won`t get him over the edge. Several arms begin to twitch in short intervals, accompa-nied by a welter of sniffling noises emerging from the tentacle snorkels. The doctor`s gaze seems relaxed while he is scanning Ceph.
“What is it, Doctor?” Janeway asks worriedly.
“Judging by the activity of his body`s immune cells, … an infection.”
“Is it contagious?”
“Wait -” With a raised chin the doctor looks down on the display of the scanner. “I`ve located the pathogen. Due to its biomolecular structure, it is certainly contagious: for any other cephalopoid who has not been in contact with this infection yet. Other species will certainly be disdained by this pathogen.”
The tension in Janeway`s face relaxes, giving way to an expression of compassion as she looks at the trembling cephalopoid, spotted all over.
“Can you cure him?”
“Certainly. Probably Mr. Ceph has contracted it from the fellows of his species. Maybe it`s a child`s disease with which he never came into con-tact as a child.” The doctor straightens up a little more. “Through my ex-tensive research on cephalopoids, I am sufficiently familiar with the func-tioning of their immune system.” He reaches for an injection device. “I`ll give him an antipyretic and a universal antibiotic that will support the natural immune response.” The doctor injects the drug with a hypospray stick into Ceph`s upper arm. “Your crewman will soon be fit for duty again, Captain.”
Janeway lays her hand on one of Ceph`s trembling arms.
“Hope you`ll be better soon!”
Then she leaves sickbay.

The warp stripes of stars are passing by the starship Voyager against the background of the central bulge of the Milky Way on starboard, shimmering through dark clouds. At the hull of the ship next to a warp nacelle, a light flickers irregularly.

In her quarters, Janeway lies on the bed sleeping. Suddenly, a slight vibration goes through the room. Janeway makes a humming sound, turns a little and continues sleeping. Again, there are shakes, stronger than before. She opens her eyes. The coffee cup slips, rattling on the tabletop. Janeway touches her communicator.
“Tuvok, what`s going on?”
“Fault protocols are indicating an instability in the deflector control, Cap-tain,” reports Tuvok`s voice. “Sensors do not identify an external source.”
Janeway sits up, rubbing her forehead and eyes. She rises and walks to the chair, where her uniform is spread across seat and back.

Like an earthquake, the floor of the bridge moves so rapidly and violent that all standing officers have to hold fast to their workstations in order not to lose their balance. Carey turns his head to the turbolift and grins at Janeway from the helm.
“Maybe Voyager got infected by Ceph, Captain. It looks like the ship is getting shivers too!”
Tuvok raises an eyebrow. “That`s not a qualified remark, Lieutenant Carey!”
Janeway observes Carey with a suspiciously ironic look as he scratches his belly. She raises her head.
“Computer, perform a level-3 diagnosis of the deflector control.”
On a rear panel rows of numbers start running from top to bottom.
Finally, the diagnosis stops and the computer reports, “Voltage instability at isolinear chips in Jefferies tube 12.”
Janeway taps her communicator. “Holocom message to Mr. Peri and audio call to Lieutenant Torres. – Meet me at the entrance of Jefferies tube 12!”
“All right, Captain,” answers the tired voice of Torres.
Janeway`s holocom pops up; inside Peri`s icon turns green. Janeway goes to the lift.

Torres`s back of the hand knocks at the elbow of Tom Paris. Without opening his eyes, he releases himself just as far so that she can separate from him sideways.

Peri is already waiting at the entrance of the Jefferies tube when Janeway arrives. Janeway opens the computer`s diagnostic data on the display of her tricorder and shows it to Peri. Torres appears.
“There`s something wrong with the isolinear chips that control the def-lector,” explains Janeway.
With an ill-humored look, Torres opens the tube. “So, let`s see what`s depriving us of sleep!”
Peri is the first to run inside. Sluggishly, the humanoids are crawling be-hind him on their hands and knees. After a few meters, they reach an internal lock. Peri`s arms reach for the opening mechanism. He hesitates. He presses the shell of his head against the hatch and listens. Finally, he opens a small gap. Janeway and Torres crawl to him curiously. All three peer through the gap to the other side.
A few meters in front of them, a cover has been removed; inside the exposed niche an aggregate of the narrow platelet-shaped isolinear chips protrudes from the wall. Four full-grown tubeworms are tampering with cables; they grab them with their mouths, pull them out of their sockets and plug the cables back in elsewhere. During these actions the ship is heavily shaken. Suddenly, one of the worms turns his head towards the three crew members. For a moment he remains motionless. Then he emits a high-pitched sound close to the upper hearing threshold of the humanoids. Immediately, the remaining three worms look in the same direction. The four of them bend, jump to the other end of the tube with lightning speed and disappear into a latticed shaft leading downward.
Peri pushes the hatch to the side and enters the tube behind it. Tuvok`s voice speaks from the communicator.
“Bridge to Captain. – The voltage levels have just attained stable values. The deflector is working normally at the moment.”
Janeway nods. “It`s all right, Commander. We`ve found the problem.”
The three reach the position where the worms were active. Torres measures a cable with the tricorder.
“Take a look at this, Captain — they`ve changed the connections. This control line has been short-circuited with a redundant dummy line.”
Janeway shakes her head. “That`s impossible. The deflector would com-pletely be failing in that case.”
Torres checks the tricorder readings. “Not if that dummy cable was re-wired itself somewhere else with a signal line that also supplies the cor-rect control signal.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Maybe it`s their playing instinct and what they did was just a coinci-dence.”
“That doesn`t look random to me. Remember, didn`t we find this failure feature in a number of sections on the Hirogen wreck?”
With his fingers, Peri checks the stability of the newly closed connections. Then he reaches for the removed cover to remount it over the isolinear chips. Torres`s hand stops him.
“Not yet, Peri. – Captain, we should re-establish the original connections and then look for the other location they manipulated!”
“Maybe Mr. Peri is right,” ponders Janeway. “At the moment the systems are working correctly. If we undo their modification, they might do it again and the ship will be shaken once more.”
Torres is surprised. “Captain, are you going to let these worms rewire the whole ship?”
Janeway`s gaze gets severe, and her tone turns grim.
Of course not. This species is obviously a more serious plague than we thought. We must get rid of them as soon as possible! Immediately after we`ll repair the modified systems.”
Torres`s hand releases the cover. Peri mounts it over the changed cable connections and the aggregate of the chips.

Ceph is still lying on the stretcher in sickbay. His fit of the shivers has eased off. On the display of a synthesis reactor, the doctor gets molecular structures in contact with his fingertip. They combine. Shortly afterwards, he removes a small ampoule from the dispensing chute of the reactor and inserts it into the medical injector. He takes it to Ceph and administers the drug into his upper arm.
“This antibiotic mixture should finish the intruder inside your body!”
Several eyes are on the doctor. Two bend down to the place of the injec-tion. One eye has been looking at the doctor`s office for a while. Impa-tiently, the little tubeworm is waiting there on the desk, behind the glass partition. Sometimes he bends back and forth. Then he compresses like an upright spring that suddenly relaxes lengthwise and jumps impatiently. Then he marches in a circle, like a caterpillar on a leaf. Standing on his back end, the worm makes a cat`s hump forward until the head stands on the ground of the table plate; now he raises his back end and pulls it towards the grounded head.
The doctor scans his patient once more. Smiling in satisfaction he states: “Exactly as expected. The pathogen density is dropping rapidly.”
He puts the scanner aside and goes back to his office. Radiant with joy he sits down at his desk again and continues the game with the friend he studies. In explicit interest Ceph stretches his eyes towards the office. Finally, he pulls himself to the ceiling and swings to the two players.
Again and again, the doctor puts a snack under one of the three cups and exchanges two of the cups respectively with two hands, pushing faster at each round. The button eyes of the small tubeworm follow the whirling movements. At the end, he always finds the cup under which the snack is lying — inspiring the radiant delight of his researching friend.
After a while, the doctor pushes the three cups to the front end of the table, below Ceph, who is watching from the ceiling. The doctor briefly looks up at him and then places the candy.
“Let`s see how a cephalopoid comes off in comparison with our Significus!”
Then the doctor exchanges the cups with his hands as fast as the pro-gramming of his holomatrix enables him. Above him twelve eyes follow the movements of his hands. Finally, the doctor pauses and looks up with a lurking grin.
“Well now, … where`s the candy?”
A tentacle descends, suctions on a cup with its snorkel, lifts it aside and exposes the candy. The serenity of the doctor melts into an expression of disillusionment.
With difficulty he comments, “That was indeed — not a bad performance, Mr. Ceph.”
Ceph swings himself between the doctor and Significus. Three arms lower to the table. Ceph pushes the candy under one of the cups. Then he suctions the three tentacle snorkels at the bottoms of the three inverted cups. Ceph changes their positions; but not in pairs, as the doctor did before with two hands, but with all three arms swirling at the same time. Finally, he pauses, lifts the snorkels from the cups and disen-tangles his arms.
With a tense face the doctor looks at Significus. The little being bends over the cups. His head hesitantly swings back and forth between two possibilities. Then he decides on a cup. Before he is able to knock it over, Ceph places one arm on it and taps on the doctor`s hand with another.
The doctor makes an unhappy face. “I don`t know, … it wouldn`t be fair to measure the superior comprehension of my holomatrix against Signifi-cus`s sense of sight; that`s not the same league!”
Ceph knocks on the holographic hand once more, diving a bit into it. The doctor reluctantly points to the cup next to the one Significus had chosen. Ceph lifts all cups to the side. The doctor was right. Significus bends back disappointedly. Also, the doctor is not happy about his victory.
Ceph pushes all cups aside and lowers a fourth arm. With rapid, meandering movements, he weaves the four tentacles up to the body into a thick plait. Only the lower free ends of the four arms spread apart to form a linear row. He places the snorkel of one of the four ends on the candy. Then he unbraids the four arms in a wild swirl.
Ceph turns all his eyes to the doctor.
Unhappily and with dissatisfaction, the Doctor replies, “Of course I know where the sweet morsel is. But this game is in any case too difficult for our little friend! I don`t want to frustrate him again.”
Ceph keeps staring at the doctor unyieldingly. Finally, he points to the tentacle at the end of the row. The twelve eyes turn to little Significus. Still unhappily bent, Significus ventures timidly forward to the tentacles. He helplessly bows from one tentacle ending to the next. When he ar-rives at the penultimate in line, its suction cups twitch a little on the side of the arm that is turned away from the doctor. Significus hesitates for a moment. Then he chooses this tentacle. Ceph lifts the four arms from the tabletop.
The doctor is astonished. “How can that be?”
Significus grabs his candy. The doctor immediately fetches the next one from the storage can.
“Let us repeat this. I think I made a mistake.”
Again, Ceph twists his arms and puts one of the four endings over the sweet morsel. Then he untangles the arms at high speed. Without hesitation the doctor points to one of the tentacles.
“Under there!”
Significus needs some time again until he has decided on another arm. Ceph lifts the grippers. Significus snaps at once. Silently the doctor`s mouth opens and furrows form across the entire height of his forehead.
Janeway comes in and joins the three.
“How`s your patient, Doctor?”
The doctor is torn out of his pondering stare; he turns to her.
“Captain, the perception of this little being is incredible: its speed ex-ceeds the optical clock frequency of my matrix programming!”
“That`s impossible. Behind your matrix is the computing power of the ship`s main computer.”
“I know; I don`t understand either.”
He puts another sweet on the table. Ceph repeats the game. Once again, the doctor bets wrong and Significus grabs the sweet price.
Janeway takes a slanted look upwards at Ceph. “I have no idea how he does it. But I`m sure he`s screwing with you!”
The doctor bends towards Significus and asserts, “This little being is full of childlike innocence, Captain. He would never be able to do such a thing.”
“Not the little one, … the big one!”
The doctor turns to Janeway in surprise. He follows her gaze to the ceiling. There the stalks swing restlessly. The tentacles retreat from the table and Ceph swings out of the doctor`s office, pulled tightly against the ceiling. In the sick room he sinks on the stretcher again.
“The reason why I`m here, Doctor, is: the adult relatives of your scien-tific playmate are about to rewire my ship. We have to stop this as soon as possible! Tuvok is going to compose a task force team tomorrow to track down and isolate all worm individuals on our vessel.”
“Don`t do that!” shouts the doctor with concern. “You must not tear these beings out of their natural habitat! We still don`t know enough about them …”
“I`m not going to jeopardize the safety of the ship just because you want to study these worms. I expect you to do all you can to support Tuvok with the knowledge you`ve gathered so far! Have I made myself clear enough?”
The doctor lowers his head in a state of contrition and looks to Significus.
“Certainly, Captain.”
Janeway leaves sickbay. With his chin resting on a hand, the doctor pon-deringly stares at the little playmate of his research, who is trustfully leaning towards his fatherly comrade. Suddenly the doctor`s eyes get bigger.
“But yes …” Then the eyelids contract to narrow slits, while he gazes through the glass pane to his patient on the stretcher. “The tubes of his tentacles are connected to each other!”

Janeway walks along a corridor as she hears Tuvok`s voice.
“Bridge to Captain!”
“Control systems indicate another malfunction. Diagnostics are tracing it back to Jefferies tube 23.”
Janeway stands rooted on the spot.
“There are the controls of the warp plasma. I`ll check immediately! In-form Torres and Peri to join me there and send a security team!”
“Aye, Captain.”
Janeway quickly enters a transverse corridor. With a determined face, she walks along and finally turns into a branching niche. She stops in front of the flap of a Jefferies tube and presses her ear to it. Then she quietly unlocks the flap, pulls a phaser and carefully pushes the flap to the side. In puzzlement her eyes widen. She stretches the phaser forward, into the tube. A few meters in front of Janeway a huge flabby caterpillar flows, with body rings shimmering silvery. Its thickness covers three quarters of the tube`s diameter. Like digestive waves that become visible to the outside, waves are running over the plump surface. The rear end of the caterpillar is turned towards Janeway, wagging its tail.
“Hell, … what else has nestled down in my ship?”
The fat caterpillar struggles to bend its front end around from the other side. A head squeezes past the belly and looks at Janeway. Her chin sags.
“— Q —?”
A flash of lightning flares up. In the next moment the caterpillar has dis-appeared. Close in front of Janeway lies Q in humanoid shape inside the tube. He lies on his stomach, one leg casually crossed over the other. His head is resting on one hand making him look like a vacationer lying on a flower meadow.
In a delighted voice he shouts: “Captain Janeway!”
A tiny flash flickers in front of his face — the stem of a red carnation sticks between Q`s lips. With his thumb and index finger, he grabs the flower at the end of the stem and holds it in a presenting pose so close to Jane-way`s nose that she cannot avoid sniffing at it.
“A bloom for the pearl of the galaxy!”
Janeway receives the flower with a flattered smile. Then she lets it sink and her gaze is getting suspicious.
“There`s something wrong here. Usually, the appearance of Q is preceded by a bombastic, cosmic event with laws of nature suspended. Why do you sneak around in my Jefferies tubes instead, as a … caterpillar?”
Q`s face assumes the grimace of a repentantly returned husband.
“Don`t be angry, Kathy, that I didn`t pay my respects to you first. But this ship has so many interesting details to offer, one encounters something amazing at every other corner!”
“Why did your amazement trip get you here, … and in that shape?”
“You`re right,” Q agrees with a persuaded expression. “We better go to the center of your sphere of action!”
He snaps his fingers.
Torres, Peri and two security men turn round the corner just as Janeway, who is standing at the entrance of the tube, disappears with a flash. Torres snatches at her communicator.
“Intruder alert! – Torres to Tuvok – I think …”
“I see him, Lieutenant,” Tuvok`s voice replies. “The captain is with him.”

From all working stations on the bridge, the officer`s eyes are directed towards the center, to the captain`s and first officer`s places. There Jane-way and Q are sitting next to each other in Starfleet gala uniforms. Also, a pair of tube-eyes is aligned to them in parallel.
Q radiates like an adorer who makes a proposal. “Wouldn`t we make a wonderful royal couple, Kathryn? You and me, surrounded by faithfully tending servants.”
His upper body stretches out of his chair; he looks around. The lift opens. Peri and Torres step out close behind E-Bug, who is standing at the sen-sors station.
“But … oh –!”
Q`s face distorts into a disgusted grimace. His hands rise as if to fend off a ghost.
“What do I have to see?” He looks at Janeway in shock. “What horrible creatures have crept into your community? How could you tolerate that?”
Janeway turns around to Peri and E-Bug and back to Q.
“These are valuable members of my crew.”
“My goodness!” Q lays his hand on his forehead. “It`s frightening how an isolated society can change when it`s removed from the supervision of its own species for a while. — Don`t you see the difference?”
Janeway`s gaze darkens. “What do you mean?”
They are not like … you!” he states with index fingers at the endings of his outstretched arms pointing to E-Bug and Peri.
“Nobody is the same as anybody else,” replies Janeway.
“This is not about the same, not even about similar. The sight of such abnormal creatures hurts my eyes!” Q stares forward. “Heaven –!”
With a flash, Ceph appeared at the helm. He is sitting – arranged – next to Paris on the navigation table. Two legs are casually crossed over one another, a third leg is raised up, angled; the remaining two hang down and dangle back and forth like the shins of a humanoid.
“This is getting even worse!” shouts Q.
Ceph`s eyes bend and look at his own posture in puzzlement. His skin is still covered with red fever spots.
Q raises his hand — and snaps. Immediately, all of Ceph`s eye stalks have a knot in their middle. Q grins.
Janeway jumps up. “Stop it! Can`t you see he`s sick? Undo that!”
The next moment, with a hissing crack, an electric arc bursts between the ends of two side feelers, burning right through Q`s head. He looks astonished and turns back, his head rotating in the humming plasma thread.
“This somebody seems to need a lightning rod!” calls Q, snapping with his fingers.
Immediately, E-Bug is stuck in a metal cage. The high voltage of his stretched-out feelers discharges backward into the bars. He pulls the two outgrowths inside.
Janeway`s face shows shock and anger.
“Damn, Q , … stop it!”
He pitifully looks at her from top to bottom and back.
“Something must have gone terribly wrong — you`re not like you used to be. Haven`t they been impressed on your mind: the clear rules of your Starfleet?”
“I don`t understand -”
Q takes a look at the astrometric console, where Seven is standing.
“Even the Borg have a better taste and accept humanoid drones only!”
“It`s not a question of taste for the Borg,” replies Seven coolly, “but of efficiency. Technical infrastructure and hive consciousness inside a collective can be realized more economically if physique and thought patterns lie within a certain frame. — But this does not mean that the Borg would ignore technologies of physically incompatible species. They also assimilate the techniques of beings who are not suitable as drones.”
With a tired face Q gives a sign of refusal.
“Spare me with your subtleties!”
“Say, Q,” Tuvok speaks to him, “according to my understanding, beings of the continuum are able to take any shape. From this follows that Q themselves are not subject to any particular shape. That makes your preference for humanoid beings incomprehensible.”
Q stretches to a theatrical pose. “Q were not always shapeless! In our primitive prehistory we had a physical appearance, too, that was quite similar to yours.”
Janeway`s gaze turns from Ceph to Q. Angrily she snaps at him, “For me, Q, you are the timeless symbol of speciesistic, humanoid arrogance!”
Q`s facial expression melts to repentant regret.
“Forgive me, Kathryn, … I must have expected too much!”
He snaps away Ceph`s knots and E-Bug`s cage. Immediately, E-Bug lifts his whip-like outgrowths. Q takes cover behind Janeway with a played expression of fear and hangs on with his hands to her shoulders.
“Just look, … he`s going to hit me again! Let`s change to a more peaceful place.” He whispers in her ear: “I`m inviting you -”
Two flashes blink and both have disappeared. Tuvok raises his head.
“Computer, locate Captain Janeway.”
“The captain is in the holographic area in cargo bay 2,” reports the com-puter`s voice.
Torres looks at Tuvok. “Shall I see what`s going on there, Commander?”
“Better not. We don`t want to provoke Q unnecessarily.”

A white sandy beach is lined with a wall of rocks on its inland side. From the seaside, waves come into a bay, softly scratching the sand where water touches land. There is a small table standing on the beach for two people. In front of empty wine glasses, Janeway and Q are sitting on elegantly decorated Art Nouveau chairs. He is oriented towards the sea, as she is looking inland.
Q puts his hands behind his head and stretches the elbows sideways.
“Forgive me for my prattle from just now, Kathryn.”
He stretches out, closes his eyes and lets the sea breeze blow over his face. “I am delighted with the wonderful idyll you have created here with your simple means!”
Janeway looks uneasily past Q to the rock face, from where something big and scrawny on eight stilts moves towards them.
“It may not please your view of life, Q, but the creator of this world is not of our form.”
Q opens his eyes. He bends towards her.
“Do you feel it, Kathryn, … but you must feel it too!”
“The familiarity of our natures, the affinity between us -”
He puts his hand on hers. Janeway pulls her hand out from under his.
“Q , … don`t try to make up to me again!”
Defending, his hand rises.
“But no, dearest. I see you as a sister – as a daughter – as an explorer who, like me, travels through the vastness of the galaxy.”
“And I see something behind you coming at you -”
Without looking back Q exclaims, “The waiter, at last!” He raises his hand. “Garçon, … where`s the wine?”
The giant crab approaches. It stops its march behind Q and waves about with its powerful scissors down to the table from above. Janeway slides backwards, deeper into her chair. Q smilingly looks into her eyes.
“I`ve chosen a delicious vintage.”
He snaps a white waiter`s cloth around one arm of the crab – and once again – an open bottle of wine into a pair of scissors. A third snap — the waiter bends over the two and pours the wine into their glasses. Then he wraps the cloth around the cool bottle, puts it down at the table and leaves.
They lift their glasses, toast and drink. Janeway gazes at Q firmly.
“You`re like a little boy who wants to play all the time.”
With a sulking expression Q turns his head to the side. She continues.
“Why don`t you utilize your strength for something useful? Improve the world — or bring us home!”
Looking up at the sky, Q blowingly inflates his cheeks.
Home, home, … they all want the same thing. I`d have a hell of a job to do if I wanted to bring you all home!”
“What do you mean?”
“Think of all the adventures you would miss, think,” he raises his hand like Hamlet in the monologue, “of all that new knowledge I would deprive you of!”
“My crew has experienced enough already for a trip that was scheduled to last for just a few days.”
Inviting her to drink, Q knocks his glass against hers. Janeway sticks to her guns.
“Maybe my wish exceeds your possibilities …”
Q`s rears up.
“On the contrary! It would be far too easy to push you and your ship to your Earth!” His upper body swells. “If I wanted to fulfill your request, it would have to be,” he points to the sky, “an adventure like you`ve never experienced one before, a dramatic staging that is unparalleled in un-iverse history!”
Janeway`s eyes challengingly radiate at Q and her voice takes on the full sound of fascination and passion. She bends towards him.
“Do it, Q! Give us this adventure! Show the world what a great dramatist and director you are!”
Q`s eyes also shine as he pushes himself over the table, close to her face.
“Will you do something for me then in return?”
Janeway`s voice cools down. “What do you want?
“You`re harboring something on your ship that might be of great value to me.”
“If we can spare it, it`s yours.”
Q opens both hands, ready to receive.
“Of course, you can spare it, … it would be just a burden to you anyway!”
Quickly and with pressure, he rubs the two snapping fingers together. Thereupon, a silvery shimmering amoebic mass of about one meter in size appears in the sand next to the table. Immediately, it starts unfolding dents with flowing deformations, away from the two humanoids. The bulk of the mass follows those dents.
All of a sudden, Janeway`s excited radiance collapses. Forehead and cheeks fade. Manically frozen her gaze clings to the fleeing amoeba. Her voice has lost its tone.
“What is that?”
“It is unknown to you? Then it has apparently eluded your restricted gaze.” He stretches out his arm. “Look, it`s trying again.”
The amoebic mass begins to become transparent. The sand under the body shimmers through already and so does the rocky scree towards which the alien being is striving for. Q jumps up from his chair.
“But nobody can hide from the eyes of the continuum!”
He snaps — the amoeba is completely visible again. He snaps and turns to the sea. The amoeba is imprisoned inside a huge bottle, which floats on the waves near the shore. Its body pulsates convulsively while it tries in vain to flow up the neck of the bottle.
Janeway also rises. She stretches her hand against Q.
“I do not know this being, but it`s obvious that it has no interest in going with you! If it`s been living on this ship so far, it still has a right to stay! I do not allow you to lock it up and take it with you!”
A scornful undertone mingles in Q`s theatrical expression.
“Too late!”
He snaps. Already a cork has closed the neck of the bottle and a big label sticks on its belly with the address
Milky Way Dim Delta
71st Universe

Once again, Q crosses his fingers to send off the shipment. His head twitches. He gets startled. The arrogant exuberance of his expression turns into worry and horror as he stares up at the bright blue sky above the holographic coast.
“Hell, … what next do you have on this ship?”
Q begins to evade a threat from above, invisible to Janeway. He moves to the side, then backward and raises his hands as if to fend off something.
“Get it out of here! Beam it off your ship! Blow this section into space!”
Janeway suspiciously watches him.
“What kind of a game are you playing now? What should that be, over which the almighty Q has no power?”
Suddenly a creaking pierces through the holo-biotope, sounding like metal parts being deformed under high pressure and blown out of their connections. A large slab of the ceiling falls down and hits the sand of the beach. A hole has formed in the sky of the artificial world. Immediately afterwards, a pitch-black ball falls out of the hole and collides with the edge of the torn slab. It snaps upwards and is thrown several meters to the side. Evading, Janeway jumps back and throws herself to the ground.
The black sphere lies in the sand in front of her; a third of it has sunk into the sand as a result of the impact. The entire surface of the sphere is divided into elongated and angled fields.
Q`s eyes are directed at the object like those of a predator. His body curves in a tension ready to strike.
Janeway shouts to him: “Q , tell me — what is this?”
Q`s eyes start to glow. A shimmering force field forms around him.
“An extruded bulge, … the fist of something from beyond your world!”
Suddenly, as if struck by a propellant charge, a steel arm flaps out from the sphere`s surface. It strikes the ground and hurls the rest of the body like a projectile toward Q. Still in the air, the black body opens into a fist of claws. At the border between land and sea the two meet. The multi-linked unit of claws encompasses the force field that surrounds Q and compresses it from all sides. While the fist closes continuously tighter, vibrating under the exertion, Q begins to light up inside his field trans-forming into something that looks like a plasma ball.
Seawater foams and evaporates under the wrestlers; sand splashes all the way to the edges of the projection. The force field bubble around Q grows smaller and smaller; the plasma inside glows up as it continues to shrink until just a brightly glaring dot remains. It disappears with a flash.
The force field collapses, the black claws sink to the ground. They are washed by the waves of the shallow coastal waters. Then the segments close again to the spherical shape. Only one multi-linked arm is still stretched out. It reaches through the opening of the ceiling and pulls the body upwards, into a tween deck above the cargo bay.
Still crouching in the sand, Janeway gets on her knees. She lifts herself up. She searchingly turns around. The big bottle has disappeared. Outside the holographic biotope, at the grids of a shaft on the floor, the silver amoeba flows below the ground. Janeway looks behind it with an absent-minded face. When the last remnants have seeped away, she awakes. She snatches at her communicator.
“Captain to bridge officers. – Activate all sensors! Scan the region at all frequencies, up to maximum sensor range! And prepare a report imme-diately on any energy signature, anomaly, erratic emission of the last three minutes, inside and outside Voyager!”
Janeway wipes the sand off her uniform. Then she leaves the holo-biotope and goes to the exit of the cargo bay.

All workstations on the bridge are occupied. Displays on panel boards show rows of measurement data and evaluation graphics. Janeway hur-ries out of the turbolift.
Tuvok turns to her. “Data evaluation procedures are still running, Captain. The most conspicuous event was the opening and closing of a subspace fissure about five minutes ago. An unknown energy pattern has moved from the ship to the fissure and disappeared into it.”
Torres reports from the science station on port, “I`ve been analyzing the fine structure of that subspace fissure, Captain.”
Janeway goes to her. Torres points to readings on her panel.
“The energy pattern has not coupled into the entire subspace, but only along one of its partial dimensions.”
From the helm Paris shouts: “Captain, look …!”
Ceph is resting in his hammock, sideways over Paris. His eyes waver exci-tedly. The stars on the viewscreen have disappeared. Instead, an even grey glowing covers its entire surface. Suddenly the grey disintegrates into dark areas and some dim spots that rapidly contract into bright dots. Black universe and a pattern of stars have returned on the screen. Janeway frowns.
“What was that?”
“The position of the ship has changed, Captain,” replies Paris.
“What do you mean by that — where are we?”
Some debris is drifting by on the screen.
Kim reports in surprise, “These material fragments got the signature of shell parts — from the Caretaker`s phalanx.”
With a sinister and maniacal glow in her face, Janeway turns to the astro-metric console.
“Do your readings confirm that position, Seven?”
Seven rises her gaze from her panel desk and answers coolly, “Positive, Captain. Our stellar environment corresponds to the part of space where you were displaced to from the Alpha Quadrant.”
Janeway turns her head forward to the viewscreen. For a long while she is gazing into the pattern of the stars. Without looking away she stiffly and mechanically walks to her place and sits down. Motionless, as if para-lyzed, her eyes continue staring into the blackness of space. Then her lids narrow as if they were dazzled by the light on the bridge. Her hand feels sideways, to the small console, until it finds a regulator. The room darkens. Though the bridge is fully occupied, it is so quiet that the low humming of the ship`s generators can be heard penetrating the air.
Sitting at the engineering panel, Torres watches graphics and data.
“During the time interval while the ship was displaced, an energy beam was directed at Voyager, from the same partial dimension of subspace where that energy pattern had previously disappeared from the ship.”
Icy and sinister sounds Janeway`s voice from the semi-darkness of the background.
“Lieutenant Torres -”
Torres looks up. “Captain?”
“All ships of this class were equipped with angled warp nacelles. That was not always the case.”
“No Captain. With older models of Starfleet an unfavorable angular posi-tion of the nacelles caused damages in subspace.”
“What specific angle would cause the most severe damage in subspace?”
“Integrated over the diversity of its dimensions, the greatest subspace damage occurs at 181.3 degrees.”
“That partial dimension you spoke of, … if you wanted to focus the dam-age on it, what angle would you have to set?”
“One moment, Captain.” Torres performs a calculation on her panel. She reports: “At an angle of 178.45 degrees that partial dimension would completely and irretrievably collapse along the flight trajectory.”
Again, there is silence for a while.
Then Janeway orders: “Adjust that angle, Lieutenant!”
“Warp nacelles are adjusted, Captain.”
“Ensign Paris, get Voyager on a spiral orbit. 0.5 light years between or-bital curves. Warp 9.2 — Engage!”
On the screen the stars extend to stripes. They do not spring from the center but pass from left to right. Again, only the humming of the generators and signal tones from consoles can be heard on the bridge.
After a while Paris asks, “How long are we going to maintain this trajectory, Captain?”
“Until we run out of fuel!”
Then it`s quiet again. In the rhythm of the spiral orbit, the nebular band of the Milky Way, running over the screen in the background of the stars, becomes brighter as soon as the more central area of the Galaxy comes into view, and darker again when the outer areas appear.
Suddenly, the light of the star stripes melts to all directions and fills the entire screen with an even gray. Soon after the stripes return.
“Seven, what is our position?”
“We are back at the coordinates where we met Q , Captain.”
Janeway`s eyes widen. Her upper body swells. Then she breathes out slowly.
“Mr. Paris, stop the ship!”
“Aye, ma`am.”
“B`Elanna, return the angle of the warp nacelles to the automatic con-trols!”
“Angle is released.”
Janeway rises and goes back to the lift.
“Resume our previous course, Tuvok. On occasion, assign a repair team. In the coastal biotope in cargo bay 2 Q`s presence caused a damage to the ceiling.”
“Aye, Captain.”
Janeway rubs her temple as she steps into the lift.
“Maybe I`ll get a few more hours of sleep this night.”
The lift closes behind her.
Several officers leave their stations and also go to the turbolift. Lang re-lieves Paris at the helm. She sits down and sets the ship on course. In the hammock sideways above her, Ceph pulls his legs and eyes into his body. On its surface the red spots are getting paler.


Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.