Starship Voyager – The Alien Adventures — 21 Voyage Surprise

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.


21. Voyage Surprise

In the perspective of Voyager`s bow camera the bright points of nearby stars are shifting in an almost imperceptibly slow way against the distant stellar background. As a silhouette in front of the screen, just above the helm panel, Ceph is sitting in his hammock in an uneasy posture. Two arms are spread out over the console; the other three appear cramped and stiff. They squeeze out thick bulges from the inside of the hammock, while pushing the bulk of the body upwards. Four eyes are observing the displays on the helm panel. Two eyes are pointing backwards, and half a dozen eyes are fanned out over the viewscreen.
Suddenly, a tangle of whirled, white, and bluish lines appears over the entire surface of the bridge monitor. The tangle immediately disappears again. The stems whose eyes have observed the phenomenon swing excitedly. Four additional eyeballs hastily turn to Janeway.
Kim reports, “This time the hull integrity was not attacked, Captain, al-though the event was much more extensive!”
“Dirac sensors indicate 73% embedding in the quantum matrix,” Tuvok adds.
Janeway touches her communicator. “Bridge to main engineering. – I see you`re making progress, B`Elanna!”
“Seven and Peri have constructed a unit similar to a Borg transwarp coil,” reports Torres`s voice. “This tool makes it more reliable to open a portal into quantum space. But we still have to optimize the coefficients of the envelope operator. Otherwise, we won`t be able to embed the ship to 100% into the quantum matrix.”
Janeway nods with a satisfied look on her face. “I`m sure you`ll be suc-cessful! – Janeway out.”
Again, a glimmering quantum vortex appears on the screen. Ceph`s eyestalks sway. A tentacle winds over the edge of the hammock restlessly. It opens a holocom and pushes the icon of Tom Paris to the symbol of the helm. Further quantum vortices become visible in a short sequence. Janeway gets up and goes to the turbo lift.
“Take the bridge, Commander! I`ll be in main engineering.”
“Aye, Captain,” confirms Tuvok.
The turbolift closes behind Janeway. While new quantum vortices spray across the screen every few seconds, Ceph`s arms and eyes get more and more restless. Finally, Paris appears on the bridge. He goes to his place at the navigation. Even before he sits down on the chair, Ceph grabs to the ceiling. He pulls himself out of the hammock passing Paris upwards. Greeting, Paris trips with the back of his hand against a tentacle. In wonder he looks around in at Ceph, who only taps back briefly.
Tuvok strictly turns forward. “You`re too early, Mr. Paris. Mr. Ceph`s service isn`t over yet!”
Paris is still looking back, where Ceph is swinging into the lift.
“I think he`s not so well; maybe this quantum swirling makes him sea-sick.”
A new quantum event appears on the screen and the ship is shaken.
Kim reports, “This time the hull integrity has been heavily stressed again, Commander!”
“Increase power to the structural integrity field, Mr. Kim.”
Torres`s voice declares, “Main engineering to bridge. – We`re attempting a new parameter set. It`s going to get bumpy a few more times until we`ll have adjusted optimum values for damping again.”
Tuvok puts both hands to the edges of his console. “Understood, Lieutenant.”

With impulse speed the starship Voyager flies through space. From time to time, a quantum vortex forms for a short period. It spreads from the bow of the ship to the warp nacelles and then collapses again.


Janeway enters the hall of main engineering and goes forward to the warp core. A new unit has been erected next to the matter-antimatter burning chamber. It extends from floor to ceiling. In front of it, a new console is being installed. Its optronic interior is not yet covered by pan-els. On both sides of the console, Seven and Peri work with measuring instruments they have connected via cables to the new module elements. Torres is busy altering numeric values at the central console in front of the plasma core. Then she hurries to her colleagues to observe the effect of the changed data.
Seven reports, “The damping has improved again, Lieutenant.”
Torres narrows her eyelids, while she takes a scrutinizing look at Seven`s readings. “But it`s still not enough! We should recalibrate the fitting for the geometric constraints.”
She goes back to the central console.
Janeway steps next to her. “What are you working on, B`Elanna?
“We`ve found that Voyager`s design is the main problem for stabilizing the quantum matrix. The more symmetrically a spacecraft is shaped, the easier it is to build the matrix and stably encase the ship in it. A sphere or an elongated ellipsoid would be ideal.”
Janeway smiles. “Unfortunately, I can`t provide you with a cigar-shaped Voyager. Will you still be able to do it?”
“I think so, Captain. But we need to incorporate a number of dynamic correction terms into the generation algorithms for the matrix wave function. That`s going to costs computing time and may compromise stability during slipstream flight.”
“I understand your concerns. But if we don`t take that risk, we`ll probably spend the rest of our lives in the Delta Quadrant.”
While Janeway turns to Peri and Seven, who have bent over the new console fixing a cylindrical part with screws, Torres adds, “There`s something else, Captain. The description Seven downloaded from the Spiritolith ship`s database is unmistakable: in order to travel with this propulsion variant in slipstream, it is not enough to transform us into quantum space. We need a stable string there, along which we can move.”
Janeway looks back at Torres. “I`m aware of that, Lieutenant!”
Torres`s gaze assumes a worried expression. “We`ve opened a quantum portal more than a hundred times now. Just for a short moment each time, but long enough to recognize a string if there were one. Captain, there hasn`t been a single hint to a line-shaped quantum phenomenon of macroscopic length!”
Pondering, Janeway`s gaze immerses into the flickering lights of the warp plasma. “I`ll have to brush up my Academy knowledge in quantum cosmology. As far as I remember, a cosmic string is – according to theory – more pronounced and easier to be found if the objects it connects are dense and massive.” Janeway straightens up resolutely. “Keep working on the quantum matrix, B`Elanna! I`m going to get us a sturdy string to ride on it in slipstream!”
Janeway turns around and leaves main engineering with dynamic steps.

Surrounded by a dark zone crammed with grey boxes, piled up barrels and other stored freight, a garden brightly lit by daylight lamps lies in the center of a cargo bay. Inside the green island, next to the corn field, E-Bug rests contently chewing on the shore of the algae pond. Close before his eye tubes, green algae leaves are floating on the water surface, with tiny piezoelectric crystals shimmering on their organic fibers.
E-Bug swallows. He uses his front claw to pull a fresh tuft out of the water. He lets it drip off. Then he sucks the fibers like spaghetti into his mouth for chewing. In front of him, gas bubbles appear on the surface, coming from the depths of the pond. They migrate from below, around the algae leaves, to the free surface, where they burst. One of his tube-eyes turns towards the bubbles, while E-Bug keeps on chewing. Another swarm of bubbles rises. Also, the second eye points on the spot where they crop up and the chewing movement falters. The temple antennae bow over the bank, slowly swaying sideways.

The two images of the optical sense, which show the surface of the water, are embedded in the nebulous aura of the fields emanating from the microscopic charges of the grail algae. They are stimulated to electri-cal emission by the gentle wave oscillation of the water and are forming a background of foggy shimmering moiré patterns in the field of perception. Under the spot where the bubbles burst sharp electric field structures are figured. A meandering muscle movement is depicted along a tube of about half a meter in length. At one of its ends the electric sparkle of countless piezo crystals sprays from an algae substance ground by chewing teeth.

E-Bug`s hind legs are pushing body and head a little further over the shore. The side feelers detach from the flanks. They wind past the head and form two downward leveling harpoons at their front end. Fast as lightning they thrust through the carpet of algae. But just before an un-derwater flashing indicates the high voltage discharge between the feeler endings, something in the underground has bounced to the side. An algae movement propagating in straight line on the upper water layers indicates that the object has fled to the other side of the pond.
E-Bug pulls his feelers out of the water and stalks behind along the shore. All of a sudden, his eyes are aiming at a sheet metal object lying on the ground behind the trunk of a purple-fruit tree. E-Bug changes his course. Behind the trunk lies the gardener of the plant, stretched out lengthwise. To one of his metal arms E-Bug approaches his feeler tip. A weak spark flashes over. The gardener does not move.
E-Bug`s holocom pops up. His icon is drawn to the symbol of the bridge. He reaches into the image and clicks his icon green. Then he closes all elements. He places an icon of the gardener in a horizontal position and pushes Peri`s image next to it. Shortly afterwards, Peri`s icon gets yellow. E-Bug closes the holocom. He turns around, looks over the pond again, and finally walks to the exit of the cargo bay.

Janeway hurries out of the turbolift entering the bridge. She stops for a moment. With a pan of her gaze from starboard to port she seizes those present. Full of verve she moves forward to the front of her seat. She turns to the OPS console.
“Mr. Kim, we need a heavy object of high density!”
“You mean something like a neutron star, Captain, or a black hole?”
“For example.” She smiles. “Do you know one in this region?”
“To be honest, Captain -”
“Tom!” interrupts Janeway Kim as she turns forward. “You will certainly know where we may find something massive here, don`t you?”
“Sorry, ma`am, … I haven`t been in this sector long enough either, … no heavyweight has been introducing to me yet. Couldn`t Seven tell us something from the astrometrics laboratory?”
“Seven`s busy now. — Gentlemen: we are Starfleet astronauts. We surely will be able to solve this task by ourselves!”
She turns to tactics.
“Tuvok! How do we find a heavy lump of matter?”
Tuvok stands at attention and raises an eyebrow. “I recommend looking for radio pulses from pulsars or sources of gravitational waves.”
The lift opens.
“Noted cum laude, Commander,” praises Janeway.
E-Bug goes to the control station of the sensor phalanx and relieves Lang, who leaves the bridge in a hurry.
Janeway continues, still turned to Tuvok, “I`m sure that Mr. E-Bug will quickly find a suitable object due to your clear instructions, Tuvok!”
She sits down at her place, with a roguish tinge in her face, and expectantly looks at the screen. Tuvok`s eyebrow lowers. He goes closer to E-Bug and opens a holocom. Inside, he shows the symbolic scale of stellar masses. He pushes the icons of a neutron star, depicted as a giant atomic nucleus and of a black hole, depicted as an accretion disk and event horizon, in front of an image of Voyager`s sensor phalanx. E-Bug`s eyes flip back and forth between Tuvok and the holocom. Finally, he concentrates on his panels entering several instructions. Shortly thereafter a list of radio sources and their distances in light years appears at the edge of the viewscreen.
Janeway shakes her head. “They`re all too far off from our course!”
From her monitor, Janeway sketches a circle around an icon of Voyager and adds a dimension for the circle radius, as a symbol for the maximum distance of the objects sought-after. Tube-eyes stare at the distance measure and at Janeway. Then they point downwards again, on the con-sole.
Paris looks at a blinking display at the helm and turns around.
“Captain, I am to stop the ship, … says Mr. E-Bug.”
Janeway nods. “Go ahead!”
The relative movement of nearby stars versus the distant stellar back-ground ebbs on the screen.
Tuvok frowns. “A number of laser probes have just been launched.”
Janeway turns her head. “What does he want to do with them?”
“The purpose is unknown to me. This type of probe is usually used for topographic mapping of planetary objects.”
On the viewscreen several small missiles move away from the ship. E-Bug fades in a sketch on the screen, indicating the probe positions and the laser beams they exchange. The result shows three triangular arrangements. The planes of the triangles are perpendicular to one another.
“It`s a set of orthogonal interferometers,” explains Tuvok. “Their edge lengths are about 200,000 kilometers.”
In amazement, Janeway looks at the arrangement. “A gravitational wave detector of such a range — its sensitivity should be by orders of magni-tude better than that of the ship`s sensors! Did you know about this application of the probes, Tuvok?”
“It is not assigned in their specification.”
The screen shows the coordinates of two sources of gravitational waves. Janeway activates a pointer on her console and aims it to one of the coordinates.
“Isn`t this one nearby?”
E-Bug fades in the image of an optical telescope. It shows a star close to an invisible mass where the star`s outer plasma layers are sucked to. The gases are spirally accelerated towards the invisible mass by forming an accretion disk around it.
Janeway stands up. “A white dwarf orbiting a black hole at close range!”
She turns around and nods. “Direct hit, Mr. E-Bug!”
Then she turns forward again. “Mr. Paris, get us there as soon as the probes are back!”
“Aye, ma`am.”

The door of sickbay slides open. A couch with wheels rolls in. Half erect-ed, Peri has grabbed the couch at one end, while the legs of his rear seg-ments stem against it. Laying lengthwise, the metal gardener is motionlessly resting on the holstered vehicle.
The doctor approaches Peri, shaking his head.
“What are you bringing me, Mr. Peri? I`m a doctor – not a mechanic!”
Peri opens his holocom. He activates a film clip showing as Peri switches on the gardener several times, while the gardener straightens up and immediately deactivates himself each time, falling back to the ground.
The doctor irresolutely sways his head. “It doesn`t have to mean anything bad if someone deactivates himself. That`s what I do too, from time to time. Look!” The doctor raises his chin with a proud grin and makes his holomatrix disappear. A moment later he reappears. Then he reaches into the holocom and opens an image of Seven regenerating in her alcove with her eyes closed. At last, he shows the picture of a sleeping humanoid in her bed.
“As a biological being you should know for yourself that many life-forms regularly switch off their awake minds!”
Peri presses the gardener`s power button. The gardener fidgets. Shortly afterwards, his movements get coordinated and he straightens up. He turns the optical visor in all directions. Then he reaches back to the main switch with his arm, freezes and collapses on the couch.
Peri looks at the doctor with a challenging silence. The doctor stares at the lifeless metal figure. Wrinkles of doubt are overlaying his self-confident gaze.
He ponders loudly. “I understand what you mean; he switches himself off, although he knows that he cannot switch on again by himself. But I doubt whether I`m the right person in this case. I am an expert on biological life. I`m not competent in artificial intelligence. I can`t even help myself if there`s something wrong with my matrix.”
In the holocom, he pushes Torres`s icon to the symbol of sickbay.
“Doctor to Lieutenant Torres – I need your support!”
“We`re working on something important right now, Doctor,” Torres`s voice answers. “Can we do it later?”
“It`s about a difficult patient.”
“I`m not a doctor.”
“But it still concerns your field.”
“Give me a few more minutes!”
“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

Glowing gas detaches from a bright star and drifts in spiral form towards a black spherical surface in the center of the spiral. In both polar directions, perpendicular to the equatorial plane of the accretion disk formed by the gas flow, particle jets glaring in bluish white shoot once and again into the distant darkness.
Voyager approaches and stops near the incandescent dwarf star.

Torres hurries through the entrance of sickbay.
“I`m really busy, Doctor!” She stops short. “Oh, Peri is with you! Listen, you can`t have all the ship`s engineers in your service at the same time!”
“Calm down, B`Elanna. Mr. Peri came to me and brought this garden robot with him. He has a persistent desire to shut himself off. But I don`t know anything about electronics!”
Torres looks at the seemingly dead patient on the couch.
“I`m sorry for having to disappoint you. I cannot help him either. His algorithms have the architecture of a neural network. The captain says you shouldn`t mess around with that.”
The doctor frowns. “I don`t understand this! The algorithms of my own consciousness are also based on neural models. Nevertheless, you have made corrections with me several times!”
“That was during emergencies only and caused me remorse more than once.”
Imploringly pleading, the doctor points to the gardener on the couch.
“Please understand, this is also an emergency; the patient is a chronic suicide!”
Torres replies with a contrite face, “Listen, you don`t need a program-mer here, you need a psychotherapist. I hardly grasp anything about the psychology of the two species of which I`m a crossbreeding product. The soul of a dumb robot is totally unknown to me. Maybe it helps to change his living conditions, to give him new tasks or just a holo game that keeps him occupied. I`m sorry, Doctor, I got to get back to my work.”
Torres goes to the exit. Without turning around, she calls, “And don`t waste Peri`s time any longer! I urgently need him in main engineering!”
In silent helplessness the doctor and Peri are looking after her.

Janeway is standing in front of the viewscreen of the bridge; she watches with shining eyes the astrophysical spectacle where a star is slowly absorbed by something invisible. She touches her communicator.
“Bridge to Torres. – We are at close range to a binary system consisting of a black hole and a white dwarf. Shall we fly to a special position?”
“Hard to say, Captain,” answers Torres`s voice. “We need a string running from one of the two objects towards the Alpha Quadrant.”
“Understood. How is your success in embedding the ship in the quan-tum portal?”
“We`ve achieved a matrix coverage of 95% in our recent attempts. As soon as we`ve made the last 5%, we can carry out our first trial. But be-fore that, Mr. Peri and I want to attach measuring cells to the ship`s hull where the vibration stress is strongest. We need an early warning system for hull breaches.”
“All right! Let us know when you`re ready. – Janeway out.”
She turns to the helm. “You`ve heard it, Mr. Paris; take us to a position where the binary system is behind us, and Earth is ahead!”
“Aye, Captain.”
Paris sets Voyager in motion. On the screen the white dwarf and the accretion spiral move sideways in an arc.

The movement to the side of the accretion disc can also be seen through a porthole window where Peri looks outside. The cosmic phenomenon disappears from the window area. With an equipment case and his tricorder, Peri marches further along the corridor that bends according to the curvature of the ship`s hull. At intervals he stops and lays the tricorder on the hull wall for a measurement. Finally, Peri opens the suitcase. He takes out a small sensor, spreads its legs apart in a radiating pattern and attaches the device with its magnetic foot contacts to the inner wall of the ship. Then he goes to the next measuring spot.
He passes a series of cube-shaped chambers about three meters in size. Each chamber is attached to a lock leading through the wall to open space. At one of the chambers the entrance hatch is open by a small gap. Rustling noises come out of it. Carefully, Peri puts his head through the opening. Space suits and gas bottles are hanging from the walls. Few seats equipped with belts for fastening bodies are filling almost the entire interior. Between these objects the heads and tails of tubeworms are teeming. Peri quietly withdraws. On a plate next to the entrance of the chamber it is written: Escape Pod No. 17.

A large grid covers floor, ceiling, and walls of the bare holodeck. Sud-denly, the green diversity of a huge, richly planted garden pops up. Young people in Starfleet uniforms are walking individually, in pairs and in groups along winding paths leading to a free campus and to large, isolated buildings protruding from the park landscape.
Under a tree there is a sickbed with wheels. The inactive gardener is lying on it. Next to the bed, the doctor is standing on the meadow.
He confidently raises his head. “Computer, insert an android into the program.”
“Choose combat strength in battle mode!” the computer voice de-mands.
“No — stop! No war game! Just an innocent robot made of sheet metal who carries out some work.”
“What tasks is the robot to fulfill?”
“I don`t know, … watering flowers, … gathering leaves,” the doctor says with an impatient countenance.
A humanoid robot with a metallic surface and a watering-can in his hand appears between tulip beds. The doctor quickly pushes the main switch on his patient. A tremor passes through the gardener`s body. Then he straightens up. He directs the optical visor of his head to all sides. When he notices the other robot, he rises from the bed and walks towards him. The doctor follows. The patient is standing in front of the figure with the watering-can. Without looking up, the holographic figure carries on pouring water on the tulips. He walks straight through the patient and continues to pour his flowers on the other side. The patient wags his head in wonder and turns around. He stretches out his arm to the other one, thereby penetrating him. He pulls his arm back.
In acute anxiety the doctor shouts: “Computer, equip android with physical resistance!”
The computer confirms, “Physical resistance established.”
Unhappy and helpless, the doctor watches his patient who already presses the main switch and collapses between the flower beds. The doctor raises his gaze and stares at the holographic landscape.
“Computer, end program.”
The park disintegrates and the bleak grid-covered inner surfaces of the holodeck reappear.

With a joyfully expectant and at the same time tense expression, Janeway is sitting at her place. She observes several macroscopic quantum events that are displayed on the viewscreen as brightly flashing vortices.
“Main engineering to bridge,” calls Torres`s voice.
“We hear you, B`Elanna!” answers Janeway.
“At each of the last ten attempts the ship was embedded into the quan-tum matrix by 100%. And we were able to detect a string after opening the portal!”
“Do you think we may dare a test flight?”
“We have optimized all the individual steps to bring the ship into the quantum slipstream. But we don`t know what happens as soon as we are caught by the quantum suction. We are taking a high risk!”
“Is there anything else that may be improved? Can we – in any way – insure us even more against potential dangers?”
“With the technical possibilities we have, and to the best of our current knowledge, … no, Captain.”
Janeway straightens up. “Then we`ll dare the experiment!”
Torres`s voice becomes even more serious than before. “Tom, … you know what you have to do in order to leave the slipstream?”
Paris puts two fingers of his right hand on a brand-new shiny red button on the control panel. Drill chips are still on the surface next to it. Paris sweeps them aside with the edge of its hand.
“Then I press the ejector-seat button,” he answers Torres`s question with a smile.
“As soon as you make the quantum matrix collapse,” continues Torres with undiminished seriousness, “we are thrown out of slipstream.” Her voice becomes quieter, and she speaks slower. A dark, inexorable se-verity mixes with the serious tone. “And … Tom, do not wait too long! If a critical strain value of the hull is indicated — you go out immediately! If the appearance of the quantum matrix changes in any way — press the button! If the string path suddenly bends or twists or branches — then get us out of slipstream as fast as you can! But most of all: don`t stay on the string for too long, never fly to its end, … we don`t know what is waiting there for us!”
Paris frowns. “That sounds as if we`re on a suicide mission.”
“That`s precisely what it is, … as soon as you get careless.”
Beads of sweat begin to grow on Tom Paris`s forehead.
“Understood, B`Elanna.”
Behind Paris`s back every trace of adventurous spirit has faded from Janeway`s face. Concern has laid rigidity on her eyes and made the cor-ners of mouth lower. As Janeway straightens up, her concern transforms into iron determination.
“Captain to all hands! – We are going to start our first test flight with quantum slipstream. Occupy your stations! The flight may get bumpy, and we are taking a risk. But if it`s successful, we might soon be home.” Janeway`s chin rises. “Lieutenant Torres, bring us into quantum space!”
A quantum vortex opens covering the whole viewscreen image.
“Embedding into matrix: 100%,” Torres reports.
Janeway orders, “Push us on the string, Ensign!”
“Aye, Captain,” confirms Paris.
A bead of sweat drips from Paris`s forehead and smashes on the naviga-tion panel. A moment later, signals flicker on his displays and he hectical-ly strikes the red button. The quantum vortex immediately collapses on the screen. Against the background of the stars the ship drifts sideways, turning around its longitudinal axis.
Janeway shouts, “Tom, what happened?”
“I don`t know, … damn it — Captain, we`ve been pulled backward!”
On the screen, the white dwarf appears close and huge and next to it is the accretion disk, towards which Voyager is drifting.
“The gravimetric shear of the singularity has seized us!”
“Full impulse!” shouts Janeway. “Main engineering – we need full thrust-er power! Everything you got!”
A humming noise rises. The consoles start vibrating. The starship fights against the gravitational pull of the black hole. It slowly gets faster as it moves away from the accretion disk. The vibrations and hummings ebb.
Paris wipes a layer of sweat beads from its forehead.
“We`re now back at our previous position, Captain.”
“Janeway to main engineering. – We were pulled backwards as we ap-proached the string. What could have caused that?”
“The transwarp coil may be responsible, Captain,” answers Seven`s voice. “We didn`t consider that its polarity could play a role. I`ll reverse polarity. Then the slip direction in slipstream should also change.”
There is still cold horror in Janeway`s face.
“Do that!”
Paris turns his head and exchanges a long, silent look with his captain.
Seven`s voice reports. “Seven of Nine to bridge. – The coil polarity has been corrected.”
Janeway cramps her fingers around the armrests of her chair.
“B`Elanna, Tom: second trial — now!”
On the viewscreen, the image of the starry space turns again into a world of swirling quantum fluctuations. Suddenly, a centrifugal force seems to push the bright vortex filaments outwards. They form the glowing inner wall of a tunnel that opens up in front of the ship, sucking it in with raging acceleration. The bridge is vibrating in a series of rapid trembles. The screen shows the tunnel. Through its windings, Voyager is shooting at breakneck speed like a cannon ball, following a crooked gun barrel.
Behind Tuvok the lift opens. Water drips from the ceiling to the ground. Ceph swings two meters forward. All twelve eyes stare – in parallel – to the screen. Not a single eye turns sideways to the officers. Not one eye is directed towards the captain`s place.
Suddenly the tunnel dissolves like a bursting soap-bubble and a last vio-lent shaking goes through the ship.
Janeway shouts: “Tom, where are we?”
“One moment, Captain, I -”
“A tractor beam has locked on us!” shouts Tuvok. “We`ve lost access to weapons and shields!”
Janeway turns to Tuvok with big, alarmed eyes.
Torres`s voice reports, “Main engineering to bridge! – Impulse and warp engines are down!”

Against the background of the stars, Voyager is floating in space slowly moving upwards. The end of a divergent, bluish glowing beam has at-tached the entire upper side of the saucer module and pulls the ship to the square opening of a huge cube-shaped ship diagonally above Voy-ager.

In a pale light on the bridge, with flashing lamps in the background, the white faces of the officers are staring at the screen, where the opening of the cube appears in front of the bow. Like in a chorus of a thousand ghost`s voices the call resounds:
Janeway`s manically widened eyes observe on the screen Voyager`s bow being pulled into the cube. She rises, turns around, and fixes her staring gaze on Tuvok`s eyes.
“Computer! Authorization Janeway 1-3-2-7-5-7-9–Omega! Initiate self-destruction! — Time: three minutes.”
Tuvok straightens up.
“Second Officer Lieutenant Commander Tuvok — activation of self-destruction confirmed!”
The illumination on the bridge changes to red light, and a pulsating signal penetrates the entire ship in a piercing tone. Voyager is being sucked deeper and deeper into the interior of the Borg cube.
The computer`s voice speaks, “Two minutes thirty seconds to self-destruction.”
A bright beam, extending across the entire width of the ship, wanders over the front part of the saucer module visible on the screen.
Tuvok`s eyes narrow. “We`re being scanned.”
Finally, the beam penetrates the bridge. Vibrating in brightness, it feels its way back over the floor. It travels up consoles and over bodies and faces of the crew until it finally leaves the bridge at its stern.
The lift opens. At the sensor phalanx someone steps beside E-Bug.
Suddenly the movement of the ship comes to a standstill.
“Two minutes to self-destruction,” reports the computer.

Hundreds of humanoid Borg drones are swarming with robot-like, stiff movements on both sides of Voyager, in the multi-stories, mechanistic architecture of the cube, interspersed with hoses and cables. The drones are observed by terrified glances from behind the red lighted windows of quarters and workstations.
The previously stopped movement of the captured ship is reversed. It slowly moves backwards.

On the bridge Tuvok reports: “We are drawn back to the exit of the cube.”
Janeway stares at the screen with an uncomprehending, questioning look.
“One minute thirty seconds to self-destruction,” speaks the computer voice.
The shrill-hooting signal pulsates mercilessly every second.
Kim reports, “Captain, an escape pod has detached from the ship and is drifting into a side section of the cube!”
The screen shows Voyager floating through the opening of the cube to the free space outside.
Janeway`s voice trembles as she orders: “Computer, locate Seven of Nine!”
“Seven of Nine is on the bridge,” answers the computer.
Janeway`s head turns back in a shot towards the controls of the sensor phalanx, where Seven continues working next to E-Bug without looking up.
“One minute to self-destruction,” the computer reports.
Seven`s eyes are fixed to the console. With a cold voice she reports, “According to the protocols, the launch of the escape pod was initiated by Mr. Peri. Biosensors indicate nineteen life-forms inside. They are Tubeworms. They are leaving the capsule at this moment.”
Janeway turns back to the screen. It shows the cube from which Voyager is drifting away.
“Mr. Paris, as soon as you regain drive control, get us on an escape course with maximum warp!”
Suddenly, the portal of a tunnel opens in the metric of space. The cube disappears inside.
Tuvok raises an eyebrow. “Escape will not be necessary, Captain. The cube has withdrawn with transwarp.”
“Thirty seconds to self-destruction,” reports the computer.
Janeway looks at the screen in disbelief. Then she touches her console.
“Computer, abort self-destruction. — Stand down Red Alert.”
“Self-destruction sequence aborted.”
Kim wonders, “Captain, why did they let us go?”
“Maybe their scan detected the self-destruction mode and they didn`t want to endanger their ship.”
Seven`s gaze is still directed on the console, while she coldly replies, “Unlikely. They had two minutes left after the bridge was scanned to deactivate the self-destruction program. This usually takes less than one minute for the Borg.”
Janeway exhaustedly sinks on her place and touches her forehead broo-dingly. Her gaze is directed into the black screen as she mumbles, “I just hope we won`t have to pay dearly for this escort some time.”
Seven looks up from her panel, first in surprise, then her expression dar-kens.
Tom Paris reports from the helm, “Captain, I`ve determined our coordi-nates now. We are more than three thousand light years away from the position where we entered the slipstream. The flight has brought us to the edge of the Borg area, but … I`m sorry, Captain, we`re almost one thousand light years further away from home than before.”
Janeway`s lips narrow and her head lowers.
Tuvok reports, “An alien vessel has just appeared on port — from a quantum portal.”
“Shields up!”
“They`re hailing us.”
“On screen!”
A centaur-like being appears, with four legs, three arm extremities, and a bear-like head. It has a metallic shimmering, dark orange cape over its back.
Janeway rises. “I`m Kathryn Janeway, Captain of the Federation Starship Voyager.”
“We are Alphens. I am Hag Num. We`ve picked up several quantum events in a confined space and thought one of our ships had propulsion problems.”
“We tried to fly in slipstream for the first time. Unfortunately, we were not really successful. We had the misfortune to almost end inside a Borg cube,” explains Janeway.
“That was certainly no coincidence. You`re probably using elements in your propulsion system that work in a similar way to those of the Borg. In this case, there is a high probability that you get to a node of their trans-warp channels.”
“The transwarp coil -” interjects Seven from behind.
Janeway turns her head and nods.
Hag Num continues. “Your ship is unsuitable for flight in quantum space. Stop your experiments and continue flying with your warp drive. Other-wise — you will die!”
Janeway shakes her head. “Our way home is too long for that; we can`t give up now. Perhaps you would like to take a look at our propulsion system? We would be grateful for any good advice!”
“My quantum engineer and I shall gladly come to you. But I don`t think we can help you.”
Janeway`s gaze brightens. “We`ll beam you aboard!”

Next to Voyager, with her protruding warp nacelles and the geometric heterogeneity of the saucer and propulsion modules, there is a ship of completely different shape floating on her port side. It is smaller, shines silvery, and has a compact, rotationally symmetrical design along its longi-tudinal axis. Its hull runs in a smooth, curved form from the slender bow to the slightly wider stern. Numerous lock contours can be recognized on the hull, but nowhere do components stand out from the ship`s body.

In the transporter room, the officer on duty concentratedly looks at his instruments. Janeway, Paris, and Seven come through the entrance and stand sideways in front of the console. Janeway nods to the officer, whereupon he initiates the transport. A moment later the two meters long, almost one meter wide and man-high centaur bodies of Hag Num and his quantum engineer materialize on the transporter pads.
Janeway approaches the two.
“Welcome on Voyager!” She turns to the side. “These are our pilot Tom Paris and Seven of Nine. She took part in the development of our quan-tum drive.”
Hag Num approaches Seven closely and examines her face.
“You brought one of your kind back from the Borg — that`s amazing!”
Then he turns his head to Paris.
“He is unsuitable!”
Paris lifts an eyebrow and pulls his chin to the side.
Janeway orders quickly, “Mr. Paris, Seven, go ahead, we`re going to meet in main engineering!”
The two of them leave. Janeway turns to the visitors.
“Please follow me! I`ll show you our ship and the new propulsion.”
Janeway goes in front. Hag Num and the engineer follow her one behind the other through the exit, which is barely wider than their bodies.
The captain and her two guests march along the corridor. Oncoming crew members press against the wall waiting until the visitors have passed by them. As Janeway has crossed the intersection of a side corridor, the engineer grabs Hag Num`s protruding horizontal spine from behind with the middle of the three arms, which has a thumb on both sides of its hand. Hag Num stops and follows the head movement of his companion. They both look into the branching corridor where Ceph swings along. He opens a sliding-gate. Several eyes curiously turn towards the two visitors. Finally, he swings through the gate.
Hag Num and the engineer exchange a quick glance. Then they follow Janeway, who has already gone a few steps further.

In the cargo bay, Ceph swings to the holo-biotopes. Above the aquarium, he lowers down and slides into the water. He swims a short distance. Then he lets himself sink in front of a floating island of reeds, down into the liana forest of the kelp plants. He stretches a tentacle upwards and moves its tip in a circle, so that through this movement, overlaid with the sinking of his body, pearling gas bubbles rise up from the end of the tentacle in the form of a spiral.
When Ceph arrives at the bottom of the water biotope, surrounded by the stems of the rising plants, the gate of the cargo bay opens. Peri and Neelix are pushing the sickbed on which the gardener lies past the aquarium and move away to the rear biotopes.

Janeway enters the physical laboratory, followed by her two guests.
“The performance of your chief engineer and your scientific staff is amazing,” states Hag Num, “considering you`ve been working on quantum propulsion for that short time! It took decades for other species to get to this point.”
“Our own contribution was not quite as great as it seems,” rectifies Janeway. “We were inspired by the propulsion of a weapon that was fired at us.” She goes to the table in the middle of the laboratory, where an opened, cigar-shaped object lies. “We`ve tried to transfer the propulsion principle of this torpedo to our ship.”
The quantum engineer presses his front hip against the edge of the table and bends over the missile. He examines the individual components of the guided rocket.
“This object contains a stabilization unit that you did not use for your propulsion.”
“What do you mean?”
The engineer points to the three-centimeter sized, octahedral crystal, fixed at its tips in the front third of the torpedo.
“This Lusenite, which contains inclusions of Arberite and Rachelite, with gold atoms drifted into its filamentous line defects — this is a very rare mineral! The inner structure of this polycrystal interacts with disturb-ances of the quantum matrix inside a slipstream tunnel. It serves as a sensor for stabilization of autonomous missiles and of ships whose shape has not been optimized for the flight in slipstream. From the sensor signals a suitable pilot is able to deduce the further course of the tunnel in front of him. He can feel whether the string is branching or whether the ship is approaching the end point of the string. But even for the most experienced pilot, such a flight is extremely exhausting and nerve-wracking.”
Janeway`s eyes widen joyfully. “You think we could make our flight safer with this crystal?”
“Not with this stone,” replies the engineer. “It`s far too small for the tunnel cross-section your ship requires. You would need several crystals of highest quality, each one at least five times as big as this one.”
Janeway straightens up. “Would you be willing to give us the necessary stones? We could offer some valuable cargo in exchange.”
Hag Num takes a step closer to his engineer and answers Janeway, while his ear-cup-like, hairy lobes pulsate on his temples. “We don`t possess such stones because we don`t need them. Due to their design, our ships are optimized for flying in quantum tunnels. But even if we possessed what you desire, we could not hand it over to you!”
Janeway frowns. “For what reason?”
“The entire galaxy would be open to your species overnight. The conse-quences are incalculable!”
“I assure you: we have no hostile intentions! The Federation of the Unit-ed Planets, to which we belong, aims to live in peace with all species and to exchange knowledge and trade goods for mutual benefit. When our peoples colonize new territory, there is a consensus to do so only on planets where no existing form of life will be disturbed in its development.”
Hag Num`s head carries out a rapid, vertically oriented circular move-ment.
“No empire has ever spread peacefully! Any spread is inevitably an ag-gressive act! Even if your Federation were actually not to conduct a con-quest campaign, your trade relations would destroy countless billions of individuals who do not fit into your trading scheme.”
Janeway`s voice takes a bitter tone. “I consider your concern is un-founded. But I respect your point of view. We also have directives prohi-biting us from intervening in the development of other species.”
Janeway ponders for a moment. Her eyes narrow and a tragic expression accompanies the bitterness of her voice.
“We would leave our ship behind if someone were willing to fly us home.”
Hag Num`s head circles again. “That would be too great a risk. None of your nations has quantum propulsion yet. Everyone would try to capture it first!”
Janeway is silent for a while.
Then she inquires: “How many life-forms in the galaxy use the slipstream for driving their ships?”
“Not as many as twenty years ago,” Hag Num explains. “The first variant of this technology was invented a long time ago by a highly developed civilization. Initially, it spread very slowly to other species. But then one of them began to sell their knowledge indiscriminately. From then on, the slipstream drive spread in numerous technical variants, even among those who used it to do harm to others. They could now appear all of a sudden, strike and flee, without the risk of being caught. Their raids became more frequent and increasingly brutal. Finally, a spacefleet alliance was founded to end the raids and to limit the spread of this form of propulsion.”
The engineer turns his head sideways, while he continues to look at the torpedo.
“In those days, the pilot of a small merchant cruiser attracted attention because he maneuvered the simply built ship with inconceivable precision through quantum space. And because he flew maneuvers in battles with pirates that no one had seen before. One day he was sepa-rated from his ship to navigate the flagship of the Fleet Alliance.”
Hag Num also turns his head aside.
“But the pirates allied too. It came to war. In an area no larger than a planetary system, more than a thousand ships were destroyed in a single day. Many of our people died in that battle.”
Without raising his eyes, the engineer continues, “But most of us stayed alive. It is said that pilot`s abilities decided the battle. When the Alliance celebrated its victory, he disappeared with a small cruiser that had docked to the flagship. After that no one ever heard of him again.”
Hag Num is pointing his head straight at Janeway.
“The pilot you introduced to us may be familiar with conventional flying. In quantum space he is lost! If you continue trying to fly this way, you will either burst at the friction resonance in the quantum tunnel or burn in a star at the end of a string. This has happened to many before you!”
Janeway accepts these words with an unsatisfied and frustrated countenance. Hag Num turns to the exit of the laboratory.
“We have to leave.”
Janeway opens the sliding door.
“I`ll take you to the transporter.”
The two guests leave the room and wait in the corridor until Janeway has caught up and precedes them. Again, oncoming crew members stop at the wall and let the two Alphens pass.
Also, Ceph swings along the corridor. He waits at the ceiling of a trans-verse passage until Janeway and her companions pass. Suddenly, the two Alphens stop, look up at him and synchronously lay their hairy bear heads sideways. When they notice Janeway, who has turned after them, they straighten up again and move on. Behind them Ceph swings in the opposite direction, passing doors of several quarters, where crew members step in and out. Finally, he enters one of the quarters himself.

Janeway stands upright in the transporter room. In front of her, the two centaur-like Alphen bodies dematerialize. For a while Janeway looks at the empty spot where they have disappeared. Then she goes into the corridor. With a bitter face she follows it to the lift. It opens. She hesi-tates. She turns around, walks into a transverse passage and finally enters the interior of a cargo bay. She goes to the door of an adjoining room and opens it. She enters. In front of her lies a gloomy area. One entire wall is covered with Borg technology. The displays of the appli-ances emit a pale green light. Seven is standing at the console of her alcove.
“Am I disturbing you, Seven?”
“I was just about to regenerate.”
“I want you to know something: I trust you. It was just the fear of losing you.”
“I understand, … Captain,” replies Seven coolly.
After a moment of silence, she asks the question, “Will the Alphens sup-port us?”
“No. They have a directive that forbids them to do it.”
Janeway stands still for a while. Then she nods briefly and moves away. The sliding door closes behind her.
She goes back into the corridor. There she follows its bent course. Her steps have slowed down, appearing as if paralyzed by lacking an aim. With a gaze like lost in thought she stops in front of a window. Her eyes glance over stellar points of different brightness and hue, which shine in alien constellations in the darkness of space.
After some time Janeway separates from the window. She sets in motion again and turns into a branching corridor. In front of the door to a quarters, she stops. She rings the bell and waits. The door opens. She enters. Janeway looks around. The room has the standard equipment of a crew quarters. In addition, hammocks hang from the ceiling in several places. Next to the door, there is the low platform of a vehicle on the floor, with a small control panel mounted. On the shelf of a semi-high wall cabinet lie white, stalagmite-like fragments of macrozeolites, shells and a large, dried algae leaf.
Above the low table, next to the couch, floats the projection of an open holocom. Pastel-colored, spherical waves, emanating from several cen-ters, are swelling towards all sides to the edges of the holographic image. The waves originating from different centers form geometric interference patterns and outwardly moving spots of mixed colors. At the same time deep, bubbling noises can be heard, overlaid by re-sounding, light dripping tones. Together they form an acoustic harmony that constantly changes in small steps. As well shift the centers of the colored interfering spherical waves.
Next to the table, in a hammock that is almost lowered to the seat level of the couch, rests Ceph. One of his arms hangs out of the hammock in the shape of a loop. Janeway sits next to him on the couch. For a long time, she observes the holoclip, looking and listening. Finally, she acti-vates her own holocom next to it. She opens a top view of the Milky Way, with the spiral arms winding outwards and the central bulge arching out of the plane. Then she shoves an icon of Voyager to her current posi-tion.
Ceph grabs a pad on the table and closes his holocom clip. Meanwhile, Janeway magnifies a blue-white planet on the other side of the galaxy so that it becomes visible in the overall view and adds another element. It shows a frontal portrait of her own face. She pushes it next to Voyager. Then she activates a motion process. Three eyes are looking at Janeway. The rest are directed into the hologram.
Gliding slowly, Voyager and the portrait float to the edge of the Delta Quadrant. They cross the Beta Quadrant and move towards the blue-white planet. At the same time the facial features of the portrait next to the starship change continuously.
The nine eyes directed at the holoclip form two groups. A few follow the flight of the Voyager. Most eyes observe the aging portrait. When Voyager arrives at its destination, the portrait shows a face whose outline and proportions have changed. It is full of wrinkles and has tired, old eyes.
After a while Janeway closes the holocom. She stands up and leaves the quarters with slow, sad steps. Aligned in parallel, the gazes of twelve eyes accompany her until she disappears through the door.

The bridge officers are silently working in their places. The wall consoles at the stern of the bridge show status graphics of the ship`s systems. Individual lights are blinking, accompanied by soft tones.
Janeway steps out of the lift. Slowly she walks to her chair and sits down. She looks at the viewscreen, which depicts the deep black emptiness of space.
“Mr. Paris, resume the old course … Warp 8.”
Paris turns his head a little sideways.
“All right, Captain.”
Laterally behind Janeway Tuvok is absorbed in his readings. Next to him, it gets lighter for a moment and dark again.
Janeway`s hand reaches under the tuft of her hair at the back of her head and massages vertebrae and neck muscles. Her head moves back and forth. Wrinkles lie between her eyebrows and the upper eyelids lower.
Suddenly three tentacles sink down in front of her face, with their ends rolled into spirals. As these unfold and open their last twists, octahedral crystals more than 20 centimeters in size are glittering in front of two surprised eyes. Inside the gems dark blue and turquoise plates opalesce, surrounded by a web of filigree interwoven, golden threads. While the three stones are reflected in her pupils, Kathryn Janeway`s eyes begin to shine.


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