Starship Voyager – The Alien Adventures — 24 Home-coming Feelings

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.


24. Home-coming Feelings

A bright-orange star floats in space, as a glaring sphere with arc-shaped plasma protuberances breaking out of its simmering surface along snap-ping magnetic fields. At some distance, the elliptical cluster of stars of the galactic central region sparkles, overlaid by shapeless dark clouds. A quantum vortex opens near the star and Voyager emerges from it. Be-hind her the vortex collapses.

On the bridge Tuvok reports, “No artificial signatures are indicated in close vicinity.”
From his station, E-Bug fades in measurement data on the viewscreen. Below these sensor readings, the text appears, Long-range scan: no warp signature.
Janeway turns to the OPS. “How`s the ship, Mr. Kim?”
“The usual microcracks in the outer hull of the propulsion module, Cap-tain. Again, at the concave weak points. I`m assigning repair teams.”
Janeway turns to astrometrics on port. “Have you been able to determine our position yet, Seven?”
“According to star charts of the Federation, we are in an unexplored area, twelve light years outside the border of the neutral zone. Neither a member of the Federation, nor the Romulans, nor any other neighboring civilization has officially claimed this sector.”
Janeway rises. She touches the communicator and announces with a relieved voice: “Captain to all hands. – This time we apparently left slip-stream in a quiet and peaceful no man`s land. Use our stay for mainten-ance and system checks! – Janeway out.”
Heavily, Ceph pulls his five arms out of the sensor grooves. By entwining and rubbing them mutually against each other, he tries to make his limbs, which have become stiff, movable again.
With the shine of a triumph in her look, Janeway steps forward. She reaches for a cloth and dabs beads of sweat covering Ceph`s entire body. The stems of his eyes are half retracted and hanging sideways. Jane-way`s gaze wanders from one eye to the other.
“We`ve never been in quantum space for so long. That was a record performance, my friend, … by which you brought us safely out of the bulge!”
Paris gets up from the helm. He reaches for a jug. In front of Ceph he puts a kiwi-green fruit syrup interspersed with air pearls. Ceph sinks a tentacle end into the jug and sucks it empty in a single draught. Then, he pulls himself to the ceiling and leaves the bridge.
Paris looks after him. “It`s heavily fatiguing him, Captain. I think he should be released from this kind of flying after our return.”
“I`m perfectly aware, Mr. Paris, that these flights must remain an excep-tion. They do not comply with Voyager`s technical specifications, nor are they a reasonable demand on a pilot. If Starfleet shows interest in this technology, it will have to work out another technical solu-tion. We`re all deeply indebted to Mr. Ceph for volunteering to do this for us.”
Tuvok looks up from his console. “Captain, if our old records are still valid, the nearest Federation outpost operating a subspace signal amplifier is twenty-one light years away. This enables us to send a subspace transmission for the first time. However, it would take about forty-two hours for us to receive an answer from Starfleet Command.”
Janeway makes a sign of refusal. “I do not want to inform Starfleet of our arrival yet, Tuvok. Too many questions would be asked. Someone might be listening who has an interest in the technologies we`re bringing with us.”
Tuvok nods. Behind Janeway`s back the holocom of the bridge pops up and a head appears.
Janeway adds with a smile, “For security reasons we`ll have to surprise our people a little!”
From the helm, Paris turns around to her. “Hopefully there won`t come surprises to some of us, Captain!”
“What do you mean?”
“Mr. Paris probably means …” explains in schoolmasterly joy the unnaturally large head of the doctor in the holocom, “like Agamemnon, who returned to his Clytemnestra!”
“What is it, Doctor?” inquires Janeway.
“Since for once we did not crash into a catastrophic situation at our last slipstream flight, I would like to use the break to prepare our arrival at home. I intend to call in the entire crew for a thorough health check to ensure that we do not introduce any diseases into Federation territory.”
“Approved. Do not forget the life-forms in Mr. Peri`s biotopes!”
With a satisfied grin, the doctor nods. “I won`t. – Doctor out.”
The holocom collapses. Smiling, Janeway notices Kim`s dreamy look to-wards nowhere.
“What are you thinking of, Mr. Kim?”
Kim is startled up from his thoughts. “Excuse me, Captain, … I was just remembering home.”
“Come on, tell us, Harry!” demands Paris.
“I was thinking of my mother`s apple pie. She always put the mould on the veranda on Saturday evenings to let it cool. The cake was still warm, juicy and steaming when my father and I cut out the first pieces while the autumn sun was setting, in Monterey.”
Tuvok admonishes him strictly, “Your duty is not over yet, Ensign. You should not let the thought of apple-cake distract you from the readings of the ship`s systems!”
“Aye, Commander.”
With a guilty face, Kim lowers his eyes to the displays in front of him.
“I bet there must be something even you`re looking forward to, Tuvok,” insists Paris.
“It`s an illogical waste of intellectual resources, Mr. Paris, to deal prema-turely with a future situation for which there is no need to consider yet.”
Torres`s voice calls. “Main engineering to the Captain!”
“Go ahead, B`Elanna!”
“We`re reading a slight drop in the power supplies of peripheral areas of the ship.”
“Maybe the mechanical stress during the flight damaged supply lines?”
“I don`t think so, Captain. The signatures indicate parasite activity.”
Janeway`s face darkens. “I`m coming.”
She quickly walks to the turbolift and gives Tuvok a grim look.
“The ship must in any case be quarantined when we get back!”


Ceph opens the sliding gate to cargo bay 2. He swings in and throws him-self with a sweep against the glass wall of the aquarium biotope, where he clappingly sticks. He pulls himself up. The damp spot of his impact remains on the glass wall and an upward trail of sweat leads to the edge, over which he pulls himself into the water. He swims a few meters. Then he lets himself sink downwards, through the tangle of upwardly striving, kelp-like lianas with their downward hanging, elongated leaves branching off from their stems.
Halfway down, Ceph settles on the large leaf of a young, not yet fully grown plant, which is of a different species and looks alien in the holo-biotope of the underwater world. A tentacle reaches down, where a first bell-shaped fruit has formed on the stem below the large crown leaf. The tentacle end penetrates through its skin into the capsule and sucks out its contents in deliberate, peristaltic pulses. It then withdraws and remains in its hanging position. Also, the other four arms sink down around the edge of the leaf, while the torso of the body rests on it. Slowly and without resistance, the stalks of the eyes sway with the current vortices, like the long and narrow hanging leaves of the liana plants.

In a corridor, four humanoids are in vivid conversation.
“My daughter had her tenth birthday two weeks ago.”
“My son will be thirteen this year. I don`t know what to bring to him; I don`t even know his hobbies!”
Janeway passes the four with an interested look.
Baxter addresses her, “Excuse me, Captain, … is it true that the next slipstream flight will bring us into Federation territory?”
Janeway smiles motherly, as she walks on.
“I can`t promise anything, Mr. Baxter, but with any luck we may be back home in two weeks.”

In main engineering, Torres and Peri are checking data on a console. Ja-neway appears behind them.
“Please B`Elanna, don`t tell me this nightmare is haunting us again!”
“We`re not sure, Captain; the energy signatures do not yet look like the preparation for sabotage. Also, the sensors we`ve installed after their first attack do not yet indicate they`d be accessing crucial systems.” Torres points to displayed data. “Neither life support, nor propulsion, weapons or shields are affected. All we`re reading is an increase in temperature by a few degrees in some remote tubes and tweendecks and a drop in efficiency at peripheral supplies.”
Peri`s holocom pops up. On one side, he opens several Tubeworm sym-bols. To the other side he pulls the cluster of crew icons and next to it a blue planet as well as models of Federation ships and space docks. He then makes the crew icons vibrate with the amplitude increasing as the blue planet approaches. With a short time delay, the Tubeworm icons also begin to vibrate.
Torres nods. “They perceive the excitement of the crew and feel that we`re soon going to have contact with other ships on which they want to spread.” She turns to Janeway. “It would be advisable to reduce the signs of anticipation on our ship, Captain.”
Janeway frowns. “I don`t know whether I can demand that from the crew.”
Torres stares at data on a wall console that reflects her face.
“I do not have a problem with that.”
“Isn`t there anything you`re looking forward to, B`Elanna?”
Torres keeps on looking into her mirror image. “For Klingons I was only a weak half-Human and on Earth they called me the quick-tempered Miss Turtle-skull. I was sensing home feelings only with the Maquis.” Her eyelids lower and her lips grow narrow. “But the Maquis no longer exists. It was wiped out by the Cardassians, … and the Federation stood by and watched.” Grimly, she turns back to Janeway. “In the fold of your Federation, I`m never going to find a home — Captain!”
With affected expression, Janeway looks into her eyes. “I`m sorry for that, B`Elanna, I had hoped you`d found a home on Voyager.”
They silently look at one another for a while. Then Janeway reaches into the holocom and dampens the vibrations of the crew members.
“I`ll talk to Tuvok about how to proceed.”
Janeway leaves main engineering.

With a singing and humming tenor voice, the doctor recites an aria from the 19th century of terrestrial Italian opera music.
“In povertá mia lieta – Scialo da gran signore – Rime et inni d`amore. Per sogni e per chimere – E per castelli in aria – L`anima ho milionaria. – Hmm hm hmmo forziere …”
At the same time, he observes the medical indications of a wall panel with a smiling face that raises the pride of the sublime sound. Next to the panel, Carey is standing behind a full body scanner. The doctor folds the scanner aside.
“It`s always a pleasure to look at your anatomy, Mr. Carey!”
“Is there something wrong with it, Doctor?”
“Don`t worry; all organs are present and work wonderfully together. And you do not lodge any known parasite. — Next, please!”
Carey moves away and Lang steps behind the scanner. Again, singing sounds float away from the doctor`s mouth.
“O suave fanciulla, o dulce viso – Hmhm circonfuso alba lunar, – in te rav-viso il sogno – hmm hm vorrei …”
Janeway enters the sickbay. She passes the row of waiting examination candidates and approaches the doctor with a waggish smile.
“Well, Doctor, did the home-coming fever affect you too?”
His chin rises a little higher. “I cannot deny a certain anticipation, Captain, at the thought of glorious lectures at congresses about my discoveries in the fields of exo-biology and exo-medicine. Not to forget the extensive studies of myself as a self-determined artificial intelligence, as a free holographic life-form. I`m probably going to act as a model character for all programmed hologram beings who also wish to have the status of a person for themselves.”
“But don`t forget that you owe your freedom of movement to an emitter technology that violates the Temporal Directive by half a millennium,” warns him Janeway with an eyebrow raised. “Take my advise not to make a fuss about this aspect of your freedom!”
The doctor`s head drops a little. The new point of view clouds his joyful countenance. Janeway`s gaze wanders through the room to the glazed partition wall of his office — and darkens.
Grimly, she asks the question: “Doctor, are you fraternizing with the enemy again?”
He follows her gaze. A small Tubeworm jumps around on his desk and peers curiously through the window.
“Captain, though his species may be our enemy, Significus is my friend. I saved his life and he saved mine. By the way, you`ll certainly agree that it will do no harm, but may actually be advisable to make friends, … amongst a superior species.”
Anger flames in Janeway`s eyes. “Didn`t you want to prevent us from spreading diseases?” With her outstretched arm she points to Significus. “This species is the worst pestilence the Delta Quadrant has produced! As long as we don`t get rid of these worms, Voyager can`t head for a space station and no other ship can dock with us. You are the exo-biology expert for this life-form. I am expecting suggestions from you for the solution of our problem!”
In the dynamics of furious motion, Janeway marches out of sickbay, leav-ing the doctor behind with a despondent expression.

Several fist-sized balls of nacreous shine are carefully lined up next to each other in a shelf compartment. Underneath, Naomi is sitting on the couch in her quarters. She is holding a display PADD in her hands viewing family pictures. One of the images shows her mother and a man about the same age, whose horny forehead relief resembles that of Naomi. She lingers on the image.
It rings. She looks up.
“Come in!”
The door opens and Neelix waves to her without entering.
“Look, Naomi, what I found today!”
Naomi quickly puts the PADD aside and runs to him. Neelix hands her a pink marbled ball about eight centimeters in size. Naomi holds it with both hands.
“Thank you Neelix! This one is even more beautiful than the others! Have you already figured out how the pearls get into the holo-biotope?”
Neelix shakes his head. “I`ve no idea.” He winks. “Maybe that`s the way of the being to say thank you to me for bringing it food every day.”
“When we come home, I want that being to stay with us! It shall have a biosphere in our garden. … And you must live with us too, Neelix!”
“I don`t know if that`s possible, Naomi. I got to go now and prepare lunch.”
Neelix blinks at Naomi and leaves with his mobile dining trolley. Naomi runs out into the corridor and sets off in the opposite direction.
“I`m gonna show the new pearl to my mom!” she calls and jumps along the corridor, alternately jumping on one leg. She turns twice to transverse passages. Suddenly, she collides with Seven at a corner. The pearl falls out of Naomi`s hand and hops across the floor like a billiard ball. Naomi quickly bends down and catches it.
Seven strictly raises her eyebrows. “Naomi Wildman, you`re moving very uncoordinated through the corridor!”
“Sorry, Seven, it`s just because I`m so happy, … now that I know what a present I`m going to give him!”
“To whom would you like to give something?”
“To my father!”
“Wouldn`t it be sufficient to start being excited when you meet him?”
“Don`t you understand, Seven: I`m going to meet my father for the very first time! Don`t you have anyone you`re looking forward to?”
“No,” replies Seven coolly.
“But you did tell me about an aunt once.”
“That is correct. But I don`t know her.”
“You have to bring her something too! If you like, I`ll give you one of my pearls,” shouts Naomi jumping past Seven and disappears behind the bend of the corridor. Seven looks after her with questioningly widened eyes.

Janeway steps out of the lift and enters the bridge.
Tuvok reports, “We are receiving a weak signal, Captain, that has a Star-fleet signature.”
“Is it a message?”
“The signal is too uniform for that.”
Kim looks at his readings. “I see it too; it looks like the monotonous pulse sequence of a buoy.”
“Where does it come from?”
“From the fourth planet of a system two light years away.”
“Let`s take a look! Set a course, Mr. Paris — Warp 8!”
“Aye, Captain.”

Near the bright orange star, the starship Voyager swings to a new head-ing. From several portholes of the monotanium hull, Tubeworms are staring into space.
All of a sudden, the ship shoots forward and disappears in the distance with a warp flash.

Paris reports from the helm, “We`re entering orbit, Captain.”
A grey-brown planet with few clouds shifts over a large part of the screen.
Kim is interpreting his readings. “The planet seems to be without life. Wait, there`s a weak life sign near the signal source. It`s … human!”
Surprised, Janeway turns her head. “Transmit hailing frequencies!”
“No answer, Captain.”
Janeway rises from her seat and turns to Tuvok.
“Commander, beam down with Mr. Peri and Seven! Maybe someone needs our help.”
“Aye, Captain.”
Tuvok leaves the tactical console. Carey takes his place.

On a badland terrain without any vegetation, fragments of technical equipment and debris relics from a destroyed camp lie scattered among boulders. Close by, Tuvok, Seven and Peri materialize. Tuvok pulls his phaser. Seven and Peri open their tricorders.
Seven examines the debris. “According to destruction signatures and arrangement of the parts, this was not caused by an internal explosion, but by several impacts applied from the outside.”
Peri generates scratch-signals with every second of the pairs of his legs. Tuvok and Seven go to him. A 30 centimeters high, blinking device is standing on a stone in front of Peri.
Seven scans it. “This is undoubtedly the transmitter whose signal we received.”
“Aaaacrh –”
They hear a moan. Quickly the three hurry to a rock. From behind it, a pair of legs protrude, lying on the ground.
“– Wa-ter — pl-ease — Wat-er –!”

On Voyager Tuvok`s voice reports, “Away team to bridge! – We found a destroyed camp and an injured man.”
Janeway raises her head in surprise. “Take him to sickbay!”
“Aye. — Captain, Mr. Peri wants to stay and investigate the area.”
“Alright. But tell him not to leave the surroundings of the camp! – Jane-way out.”
While walking to the lift, Janeway turns to the screen again, where E-Bug fades in a small red circle in the image of the planet and some chemical symbols next to it.
Janeway ponders in an increasingly surprised tone. “Tricobalt sulphone, Duranodorith, Dilithium. — These are three of the most valuable raw materials!”

In sickbay the doctor regenerates a skin injury. His hand moves the medical scanner over the forehead wound of an elderly man lying on the stretcher in front of him. Janeway comes in.
“Doctor, how is he?”
“Except for abrasions and a level-2 dehydration that I was able to fix with a standard infusion, the patient is fine!”
Janeway bends towards the man`s face.
“I am Kathryn Janeway, captain of this ship.”
“My name is Dr Jeremiah Coltham,” the patient declares exhaustedly. “I belonged to a group of geologists. … Thank God, you found me! Days ago, I used up the last supplies left after the destruction of our station.”
“What happened?”
“I was still on Kassra V to make final seismic measurements when our ship was attacked in orbit by Romulans. I received the distress call from my companions. Then I saw the explosion in the sky.”
“Are you sure the Romulans attacked your ship?”
“I saw their ground troop and I was looking into their faces as they de-stroyed our station. They didn`t kill me because they were sure I wouldn`t survive.”
Under the doctor`s scanner the grazed parts of the man`s skin has been regenerated. The doctor puts the device aside.
“The patient is restored, but he still needs rest!”
“Just a moment, Doctor -” replies Janeway and turns again to his patient.
“Do you know why you were attacked?”
Coltham raises his upper body by propping up on his elbows.
“A Romulan knocked me down and shouted: The Romulan Empire thanks the Federation for ceding us the raw materials of this planet!
Janeway straightens with a serious and sinister face. “This section of space is no man`s land. Raw materials belong to the one who finds them first.”
Coltham shakes his head. “Before the arrival of our expedition, there was no evidence that Romulans had ever set foot on this planet. I suspect they intercepted the subspace message we sent after the discovery of the mineral resources. My home is the outer colony of Bathia IV. The raw materials are urgently needed there. Please, Captain, recover them! Don`t let all our efforts and the deaths of my companions be in vain!”
Janeway nods. “Your colony lies in our direction. We will take you home. As for the raw materials, I`ll see what we can do.” She puts her hand on his shoulder. “You must recover now! I`ll have you assigned a quarters.”
“Thank you, Captain!”
Coltham sinks back to his sickbed.

Torres enters the casino. With an introverted look she walks past the bar towards the replicator.
Neelix notices her. He calls after her from the kitchen, “Wait, B`Elanna! Wouldn`t you rather have something cooked than synthesized food?”
Torres stops.
Neelix suggests, “Maybe Balean seitan stew, or Cyrillic algae risotto? Or would you prefer the dish of the day?”
She listlessly accepts. “Whatever, Neelix, … give me something –”
His little eyes direct on her with determination.
“Then you`ll get something very special: the stew á la Nee-lix!” He shovels a portion onto a plate. “And as an extra, a little garnish that enlivens your heart.”
He arranges two thin fiber leaves around the edge of the dish, puts the plate on a tray and hands it to her.
“Thanks, Neelix.”
Torres goes to an unoccupied table in a corner of the room. She puts the tray down and sits in front of it. She begins to poke with the fork in the stew.
More guests enter the casino. Suddenly two men and a woman stand in front of Torres`s table.
“May we join you, Lieutenant?”
Torres looks up. “Don`t be so formal, Blain. We`ve been on familiar terms at the Maquis.”
The three of them sit down and start eating. After a while Blain inquires, “How do you see the situation, B`Elanna?
“What situation?
“Our home-coming.”
With a gloomy gaze Torres raises her head. “I don`t feel like going home.”
The other three look at one another.
Then Blain says, “Neither do we. And we don`t see our future in Star-fleet.”
Torres smiles bitterly. “Do you want to revive the Maquis?”
“That wouldn`t be the worst!”
“How do you fancy doing that? The four of us, … against Cardassia?”
“We`ve spoken to everyone on the ship who`s left of the old troop. They would all be joining us!”
Torres wraps a thin fiber leaf of the garnish around her fork like a spaghetti. With a smile both disbelieving and conspiratorial, she looks at Blain as she puts the fork in her mouth, pulls it out again and begins to chew. Suddenly, her chin jerks downward like in a cramp. She opens her eyes. Horrified, she calls out to the cook who serves desserts at the next table.
“Damn! — Neelix, what`s that?”
She stretches the fork towards him, with the green stuff pulled out be-tween her teeth. Giving her an innocent smile, Neelix looks with slanted eyes at her as he distributes small bowls of stewed fruit on a table.
“Did you eat the garnish, B`Elanna? I just wanted to please your eyes and enliven your heart with the fibers of sparkling grail algae!”

In the destroyed geological station, Peri is examining the scattered and shredded equipment with his tricorder. He opens the flap of a module halfway stuck in the sand and activates it. He pulls a cable and connects it to the tricorder. His head undecidedly moves back and forth between the module and the tricorder display. Then he pulls the cable end out of the module and inserts it into the adjacent component.
Suddenly, his head rises. The moist stump feelers on his forehead fan in the air. Peri raises his front segments. Small stones and sand trickle from a nearby boulder and a scratching sound can be heard. Peri recognizes the rear segments of a peripatoid being whose anatomy resembles his own. It disappears behind the boulder.
Peri quickly separates the tricorder from the module and follows the stranger. When he has arrived at the other side of the rock, he finds a wide grinding track in the sand with a groove on both sides that many legs have scraped out. He follows the track. Parallel to it he scrapes the same pattern. His legs are running increasingly faster, scratching their trace in the sand.
The terrain gradually changes from a rocky landscape embedded in sand to a scree, with cavities under stones and openings in the washed-out ground. The trail Peri follows is barely visible. Finally, it disappears into one of the countless holes leading into the subsoil. Peri hesitates for a moment; then he crawls in. The crackling of his footsteps lowers until it can hardly be heard anymore.
Suddenly, a shock wave goes through the ground. A short, penetrating noise resounds rumbling out of numerous holes, immediately followed by exhausting clouds of dust. Openings collapse, others are filled up by trickling gravel. Peri`s entrance has also closed.

On the bridge, Neelix steps out of the lift. Casually and good-humored, he announces with a glance sideways at Tuvok, who looks towards him strictly from starboard: “Morale officer Neelix enters the bridge, Com-mander!”
Then he turns to port. Arriving at Kim, he puts an orange-red shimmering pearl ball on the OPS panel.
“Is this the pattern you were talking about, Mr. Kim?”
Kim first takes a look at the pearl and then casts a glance sideways at Tuvok, who observes the two with his brow raised.
“Neelix, … it wouldn`t have been necessary to bring it here,” utters Kim in an undertone.
“Ensign, I`ve got so many orders; if I don`t give it to you immediately, there may not be any left!”
Janeway approaches with an interested look. “What is that, Neelix?”
“Nobody really knows, Captain. I find a sphere like this in one of Peri`s biotopes every few days when I put food in. In the beginning we played boules with those balls, but recently more and more crew members want one of these pearls as home-coming presents.”
Janeway bends over the object.
With a stern face, Tuvok warns, “Mr. Neelix, the bridge is not the place to distribute souvenirs!”
Neelix stands at attention. “Excuse me, Commander!” Then he turns to Janeway. “There`s another reason why I`m here, Captain. I wanted to ask that geologist – Mr. Coltham – what he wants to eat.”
“You`ll find him in his quarters,” answers Janeway, tearing herself away from the pearl. “The doctor has ordered him to rest.”
“I was at his quarters, but he wasn`t there.”
Suddenly Tom Paris calls: “Captain! A ship uncloaks before us!”
Dark green and spooky a huge romulan warbird becomes visible on the screen, out of a wafting shimmer. It looks like the skeleton of a starship, with the two cavities penetrating its flanks in the front and in the rear and with its bow set ahead with bridging arches, resembling the closed helmet mask of a sinister god of war.
“Shields up!” shouts Janeway.
Kim reports, “We`re being hailed.”
“On screen!”
The captain of the Romulan ship appears. He wordlessly scowls at Jane-way and the officers next to her. Janeway steps forward and raises her head.
“I`m Kathrin Janeway, captain of the Federation Starship Voyager.”
“Whoever you actually may be and whatever this ship you command may be — we will find that out, as well as the reason why you destroyed our research station on Kassra V!”
“Seems you`re confusing things: it was your people who destroyed that station -” Janeway aborts her sentence. The Romulan has disappeared from the screen.
“They`re cloaking again, Captain,” reports Kim.
The image of the romulan ship flickers. The warbird grows invisible again.
Janeway anxiously turns to Tuvok. “Withdraw all crew from the planet`s surface immediately, Commander!”
“Mr. Peri is the only person left at the destroyed station.” Tuvok looks at his readings. “I can`t get radio contact with him, … nor does the transpor-ter get a lock on him.”

From narrow crevices, a small amount light penetrates into a tight cavity filled with fresh debris up to half its height. In several places, the flat ribs of a chain of segments protrude from the rubble. The rear part of the body is buried by larger stones.
On the flanks of the segments, the gravel and sand begin to move. The pairs of legs push it to the side with increasing vehemence, until almost the entire body of Peri has fought its way to the surface of the rubble. Peri turns his head. His abdomen is covered by fist-sized stones. He pushes himself forward with all his strength and drags the trapped part out of the rubble. In exhaustion his head lowers.
After a while Peri recovers. With a shaking movement he frees the tri-corder wedged under a stone. He opens the lid. It has been split in half by a crack. Peri activates the lamp function. He lights into the dark cave in front of him and watches the display. Then he closes it and pushes himself deeper into the half-buried passage. Once more he turns his head. The pairs of legs of the last three segments are motionless and just being dragged over the rubble. Drops of yellow lymph fluid swell out of the surface of the segments.
Peri is crawling through downward leading passages, continuously deeper into the cave system. Finally, he reaches a dried-out, glittering stalactite hall. He stops. In the semi-darkness in front of him, the light of the tricorder illuminates several heaps of metallically shining granules of brownish and grey color. Peri scans the material. Then he points the tricorder at a stack of dim crystals interspersed with numerous cracks.
A hiss is audible. Dark smoke rises from the tricorder and the display turns black. A moment later the lamp goes out too. The old stalactite hall deep below the surface of the planet lies in complete darkness again. All of a sudden, a chain of a dozen surfaces lined up in a row begins to spread a luminescent glow illuminating the room with a green shimmer. With the thin skin over the segmental plates of his exoskeleton glimmer-ing, Peri walks to the other end of the hall, enters a passage and marches upward again along a rising path.

On the surface of the planet a Romulan patrol is combing a rocky terrain, with their rifles in firing position. Several Romulans use measuring instru-ments to scan debris scattered across the area. A doctor kneels over a Romulan in civilian clothes lying on the ground, treating his wounds with a scanner.
At some distance behind a boulder, sand trickles down from a hillock that looks like a fresh molehill. At its top, an opening is created from below. Peri`s head is squeezing through. With his grasping extremities he en-larges the hole. Limb by limb, Peri forces the other parts of his body out. Then he opens the holocom and pulls his icon towards that of Voyager. The icon turns green and the holocom closes. The next moment, two Romulans appear in front of Peri. They are leveling their rifles at him. The shots ineffectually pierce his dematerializing shape.
In the background, the Romulan who is lying on his back also demateria-lizes. The surrounding soldiers shout excitedly. The kneeling doctor straightens up, reaches for a radio and holds it to his mouth.

Tuvok lifts his head from the tactical station.
“Mr. Peri is back, Captain! The officer on duty in the transporter room reports that he`s being taken to sickbay.”
Worriedly, Janeway turns to Tuvok.
Kim shouts: “The warbird is uncloaking again!”
The Romulan battleship grows visible.
“We`re being hailed.”
“On screen!”
Unconcealed rage glimmers from the eyes of the Romulan captain.
“It won`t be of any help for you to let the last witness of your attack on our research post disappear. We`ll be calling you to account for this at any rate!”
“We didn`t let anyone disappear,” replies Janeway in surprise. “The geologist we rescued came from Bathia IV; and that system is certainly not part of the Romulan Empire!”
The Romulan stares at Janeway without a word for a moment. Then his previously angry tone changes to a lurking one.
“We haven`t destroyed your ship yet, because I`m still curious about you`re actual intentions. We will come to know when your escort ship arrives! – Zoktus out.”
He disappears; as well does his ship. The starry space reappears on the viewscreen. At its edge E-Bug fades in current measurement data. Kim points to them.
“Look, Captain! Long-range sensors indeed indicate a Starfleet ship on its way to our position. It`s a Gagarin-class salvage freighter.”
“We must warn them. Open a ciphered channel!”
“There are strong interferences. Their ship is currently flying through a plasma cloud that is disrupting communication. They`ll have crossed it in about an hour.”
“So, we`ll wait until then.”
At the helm Paris turns around.
“Captain, wouldn`t it be safer if we cloaked ourselves?”
Janeway looks at him seriously. She shakes her head. “It would not be safer, Mr. Paris.”
“With all due respect, Captain, … I don`t understand.”
“Explain our dilemma to Ensign Paris, Commander!”
Tuvok stands at attention. “In the Algeron Peace Treaty, the Romulan Empire committed itself to observe an enduring cease-fire and to respect the Neutral Zone. In return the Federation renounces developing camouflage technology.”
“We didn`t do any development, did we?” replies Paris. “As far as I know, we salvaged that stuff from a hirogen wreck!”
“The text of the treaty is clear on this point. Both development and use of such a technology is prohibited.”
Paris raises his flat hand. “Listen, Tuvok, I attended that history lesson in question at the Academy myself. As far as I remember, that treaty was signed over sixty years ago! Since we were displaced from the Badlands to the Delta Quadrant, three-quarters of a decade have passed at home, … we don`t even know if that agreement is still in force. And even if it were; the Romulans have killed the geologists and that warbird captain has promised twice to destroy us as well. They themselves have cancelled the treaty with us!”
“None of this is relevant, Ensign,” replies Janeway with a stony face. “Pacta sunt servanda! — As long as we do not receive any contrary instructions from Starfleet Command, the status that existed before our trip applies to us.”
She turns to Tuvok. “It would be disastrous if a diplomatic upheaval were triggered by this souvenir, or something even worse. If I`d known before that we were going to meet Romulans here, I would have had the cloaking device uninstalled long ago!”
Janeway looks to the rear console next to the OPS.
“Mr. Carey, how do you rate the warbird`s combat strength?”
Carey scratches his stomach. “According to what the sensors revealed of its armament, that ship is at least a match for us. If Voyager were still an ordinary Intrepid ship, I`d advise to take to flight.”
Janeway turns to the tactics. “What do you think, Tuvok?”
“Voyager is not an ordinary Intrepid ship anymore, Captain.”
Janeway nods and turns back to Paris. “Since we`ve decided to face the situation, it`s good to have a pilot at the helm who`s been trained at the Academy how to parry Romulan attack maneuvers!”
Paris`s lips narrow. “Aye — ma`am.”
He swings forward again on his chair and controls the helm readings with a tense face.

In sickbay, Peri is lying stretched out on a bed. With slow pans and a con-centrated look at the display, the doctor is treating Peri`s injured rear segments with the medical scanner. On a nearby desk Torres is disman-tling Peri`s defective tricorder. Janeway enters the station.
“How is he, Doctor?”
“Three abdominal segments were injured by severe bruising. This also resulted in nerve damages. I was able to heal the tissue injuries of the internal organs and I could restructure the exoskeleton. The curing of nervous tracts will take a couple of hours longer.”
Torres is holding disassembled parts in her hands. “Mr. Peri seems to have discovered something important, Captain. Unfortunately, his tri-corder was damaged. I`m just trying to salvage its memory data.”
Janeway looks at the patient compassionately. Peri straightens the front body and opens a holocom. With rapid finger movements he sketches a rocky landscape and places his icon on it. He doubles it, moves one of the two with the fingertip of one hand to a cave entrance and lets it disap-pear. At the same time, the finger of another hand makes the second icon follow the first one and also pushes it into the cave. Then a third hand starts a vibration algorithm that causes a quake across the sketch of the landscape. Meanwhile, by rapid dotting movements, the fourth hand covers the cave entrance with rubble.
Torres broods in surprise. “He`s met a second being of his kind down there!”
Janeway shakes her head in disbelief. “Doctor, may his consciousness have been affected by the injuries?”
“I don`t know. His demonstration that he was buried is probably authen-tic, it matches the injuries. However, I also noticed a slight concussion in the cortex node of the third segment. I can`t tell if it`s causing hallucina-tions.”
Janeway`s gaze sinks into the large, motionless hemispheres composed of ocular facets that Peri still keeps directed at the landscape sketch in the holocom.
“It would be an amazing coincidence if members of his species would have been cast up on Kassra V, that far away from where Mr. Peri joined us.” Her eyelids rise. “But if that was really the case, this may be the ulti-mate opportunity for him to meet beings of his own kind. We must not deny him this chance under any circumstances!”
Torres pulls a small component out of an insert compartment of the tri-corder. “I`ve isolated the memory. It seems to be intact.”
Peri takes the memory out of her hand and puts it into a slot on the pad edge of his holocom. Shortly thereafter, measurement data appear in the hologram, together with an image of the stalactite cave. It shows the shiny metallic raw materials and crystals piled up. Janeway and Torres bend over the image.
“Duranodorith and tricobalt sulphone.” Torres`s finger stretches towards the crystals. “Dilithium crystals, … old and worn out –”
“That is certainly not a geological deposit.”
“No, Captain, that`s been arranged!”
Janeway straightens up again. “I`m going to talk to Dr Coltham about it. It seems that someone deliberately lured his research team here. Has our guest recovered in the meantime, Doctor?”
“I don`t know. He didn`t show up for the scheduled follow-up examina-tion.”
Janeway raises her head. “Computer, locate Dr Coltham.”
“Dr Coltham is not on the ship,” answers the computer`s voice.
“Janeway to Tuvok! – Did Dr Coltham leave Voyager?”
“There are no transporter records, Captain,” reports Tuvok`s voice.
Janeway`s gaze darkens. “Run a level 2 scan! Look for a masked transporter signal. Maybe the Romulans have something to do with his disappearance.”
“Aye, Captain.”
Janeway`s eyes wander back to the holocom, where Peri moves the two peripatoid icons across the landscape again, one after the other. She lays her hand on his second segment. With the other hand she pulls her own symbol into the image.
“I promise; … but it has to wait a little longer.”

On the bridge of a strange ship the navigator looks up from his console.
“We`re only two hours away from Kassra V, Captain, but I can`t get a radio connection to the geological team on the channel we`ve been using so far.”
The captain frowns. “Use the full range of hailing frequencies!”
“There`s a response now, … but it has a different signature, coming from an Intrepid ship. And it`s encrypted.”
“Decipher and put on screen!”
Voyager`s bridge appears on the viewscreen in front of the foreign ship`s helm. Janeway is standing in the center of the image. Sitting at his chair the captain straightens.
“This is the Albatross salvage cruiser, I am Captain Baratov. – We had actually expected to meet a team of scientists.”
“I`m sorry, Captain Baratov,” replies Janeway. “When we arrived, only one of them was still alive. We`re afraid the rest were killed by Romu-lans.”
“Romulans?” Baratov rises with an unbelieving gaze. “That far outside the empire?”
“I assure you: they are here! A cloaked warbird stays at Kassra V.”
“A few weeks ago, a subspace message from a geological exploration team was received on our homeworld Bathia IV,” explains Baratov. “Ac-cording to this, a worthwhile deposit had been found. We have the order to salvage the raw materials.”
“That news may have been premature. According to our investigations, there are valuable raw materials, but in small quantities. And it looks like someone deliberately stored them, like a bait. We`re afraid the Romulans have something to do with it too.”
Slowly, step by step, Baratov gets closer to the screen.
“I think I know you from somewhere -”
Friendly, Janeway looks out of the viewscreen image.
“Excuse me, I haven`t introduced myself yet. I am Kathryn Janeway, captain of the USS Voyager.”
She expectantly smiles at him. Baratov`s facial features grow stiffer. He frowns. His eyelids narrow, like at someone who is trying to see sharper. He continues to walk towards the screen.
Voyager, … you say?”
“Perhaps you`ve heard of our case, … we were displaced into the Delta Quadrant. But now we have managed to return. Yours is the first Star-fleet ship we have encountered in years.”
Baratov stops. He has arrived at the helm next to his navigator. Silently, his unmoved gaze wanders over the image in front of him. He examines every person visible around Janeway.
Janeway`s gaze grows clouded. “Don`t you believe me?”
Baratov raises one hand halfway up. “I don`t want to doubt your word.”
His eyes direct from E-Bug back to Janeway. “Can I talk to the surviving geologist?”
“Unfortunately, that`s not possible. After we treated his injuries, he disappeared without a trace. We fear that the Romulans have kidnapped him. Captain Baratov, the situation at Kassra V is dangerous. It looks as if the Romulans want to start a quarrel.”
“Maybe,” replies Baratov with a stiff look. “We`ll check the situation at Kassra V ourselves. – Baratov out.”
Janeway disappears from the screen. Baratov goes to the rear, to an officer who is engrossed in the readings of his station.
“What do you think, Yuri?”
Without looking up, the officer inflates his nostrils several times and points to a display.
“I`ve checked the available information, Captain. If the transmission really came from the USS Voyager, then that ship is not located where it should be. Concerning the faces of the humanoid crew and their captain, the computer says they look a bit too young. Otherwise, according to the database comparison, they fit — perfectly.”
The two raise their eyes from the console`s readings and look at each other. Their faces show the same suspicious gaze while Baratov asks, “Could the computer identify also the non-humanoid on the bridge?”
The other one shakes his head. “And there`s nothing known about Romulan activity in this sector either.” He straightens up. “We should be cautious, Captain. There`s something tremendously fishy at Kassra V!”

On the bridge of the Romulan ship, an officer steps next to his captain.
“I recommend transmitting a message not only to the Praetor, Zoktus, but also to the Secret Service!”
Zoktus`s gaze takes on a worriedly lurking expression.
“I`m all ears -”
“According to our sources, there should be only one ship with this desig-nation registered at Starfleet. Its current location is estimated about fif-teen thousand light years away from our position. The second discrepan-cy concerns the equipment of this ship. In its basic structure it belongs to the Intrepid-class. Our scans show, however, that this model has subse-quently been considerably modified. There are additional facilities in its shield technology, the armament has been almost doubled and quite a number of technological signatures do not fit into any of our analysis grids.” A manic glow forms in the wet cover of the officer`s eyeballs, who has stopped blinking. “However, one of the signatures measured just below the surface of the unusual hull material indicates — a cloaking device!”
With a jerky movement Zoktus turns his head forward, where on the screen of his bridge Voyager is floating over the planet Kassra V. He stares at the starship with a fixed gaze.
The officer next to him continues, “I`ve compared all released data with our observations. Either the informal status of the Secret Service regard-ing this ship is gravely erroneous, or we are deliberately left in igno-rance.”
Grimly Zoktus`s eyelids narrow, while the eyeballs are leveled at Voy-ager. “In both cases, our lot is the same: it falls to us to test that ship. But since there is no official instruction, we are not forced to run into an open knife. We`ll keep our risk with regard to that ship as low as possible!”

Just as if illuminated by sparse moonlight, the lighting in cargobay 1 has been dimmed. Brighter than the green areas shimmers a small court, where several fist-sized spheres of mother-of-pearl glitter lie in the sand. On the shore of his algae pond, E-Bug is resting in the grass. His head is lowered. He is chewing on a tuft of microscopically sparkling grail algae with slow movements. One of his feelers has detached from the flank of the body. It is stretched to the side and lies on the ground, meandering between leaves and stems. Its end has coiled around the exposed, shiny copper ending of a black cable, that runs through the grass and down the garden`s embankment to a charging module standing on the wall of the cargo bay. In pale lightning the dim shadow of the module extends along the wall up to a commemorative stone tablet.
Suddenly, something moves in the static projection image of black on dark grey. The distorted shadow of finger limbs sinks onto the shadow of the charging module and shifts a regulator on it.
On the nocturnal meadow E-Bug`s head and eye tubes bow down slowly, his jaw`s chewing on algae ebbs away. Finally, the head rests on the ground and the chewing movement has ceased.

Warp stripes on a screen collapse to dots and the bright disc of a star appears in the distance.
“We`ve reached target coordinates, Captain,” reports the helmsman, while the image of the planet Kassra V moves large and close from the side into the center of the screen.
Sitting in his place, Baratov nods. “Bring us into orbit!” He turns his head to the side. “Do you see anything of that Voyager, Yuri?”
The officer addressed looks at his readings. “She should appear before us at any moment.” He raises his head and points to the screen. “There she is!”
A bright spot next to the planet, reflecting the light of the local sun, quickly grows and assumes the shape of the Voyager. When it is so close that it fills a third of the screen, Baratov commands, “Keep that distance, Andrej!
“Aye, Captain!” confirms the helmsman.
Baratov turns his head to the side again. “Well, Commander, what does the computer say about that ship?”
The Commander bends over his console and looks at data and images. He broodingly shakes his head.
“Most of it matches exactly the information from our database. But the hull – some of the weapons – the shield generators – even the propulsion – look like hybrid systems; some components seem completely alien.” He looks up. “Honestly, Captain, … I`m as uncomfortable with this ship as I am with its crew!”
“We`re being hailed,” reports an officer from port.
“On screen!”
Janeway appears. “I have a suggestion, Captain Baratov. What do you think of a joint away mission to investigate the destroyed geological camp?”
“I have no objection,” replies Baratov. “My first officer, Commander Juri Fitzpatrick, will join your group.”
“But he should arm himself,” warns Janeway. “Besides Dr Coltham`s group, one of our people had a clash with Romulans there too.”
Baratov nods. “He will be armed. Has that Coltham turned up, meanwhile?”
“Unfortunately not. Also, the warbird has not uncloaked itself since our conversation. But that may happen at any time. Better keep your shields ready!”
“We will. – Baratov out.”
Janeway disappears from the screen, which shows the planet again, and Voyager floating above it.

On the surface of the planet, next to the destroyed geological station, Janeway, Carey and Peri materialize. Shortly thereafter, a little way off someone else appears, with a phaser in each of the two front extrem-ities.
Janeway wonders. “Mr. E-Bug had no instruction to beam down -”
“Tuvok will have sent him after us, Captain, in case we meet Romulans,” presumes Carey.
Peri opens the tricorder and runs into the debris field. He stops in front of a module, half of which is stuck in the sand. With his head he approaches the boundary between the module and the sandy soil and remains motionless.
Fitzpatrick materializes just next to Peri. Frightened he pulls the phaser and takes several steps back. Thus, he gets close to another non-humanoid being. Hectically he avoids that one too.
“Lower your weapon, Commander,” calls Janeway. “The two belong us.”
She goes to him and reaches out her hand towards him. He hesitantly shakes it.
“You`re accompanied by strange kinds of beings, Captain Janeway -”
“They`ve joined us in the Delta Quadrant.”
Peri scratches excitedly with every second leg. Carey hurries to him.
“Mr. Peri seems to have discovered something, Captain!”
As Janeway and Fitzpatrick arrive, Peri has already opened a holocom. Two images of the module that is stuck in the sand are depicted next to each other. Below each of the two a stardate is noted.
In the holocom, Carey zooms out a detail on both images. He lies flat on the ground and moves his head back and forth several times between the magnified images and the boundary between the sand and the protruding module.
“That`s incredible!” he shouts. “The individual grains of sand are now lying at exactly the same positions as in the first shot Peri took of this spot! In the later shot the lid of the module was opened and the sand was shifted.”
Fitzpatrick observes Carey. “What does that mean?”
“There is only one plausible explanation,” replies Janeway, while her gaze roams across the debris field in worried alarm. “What we see here is a simulation that was restored to its initial state after our first visit!”
Behind Janeway`s back, tube-eyes in parallel are observing the group. Two extremities that are clawing phasers slowly rise.
Baratov`s voice sounds from the communicator.
“Albatross to Fitzpatrick! – Are you all right, Commander?”
“We`re still investigating the remains of the station, Captain,” answers Fitzpatrick.
“We have scanned the deposit in the meantime. It`s like Captain Janeway said: there are only a few valuable minerals and they`re not of natural origin. We will beam them up now and analyze the artifacts. – Baratov out.”
In amazement, Janeway turns to Fitzpatrick. “Your ship must be equipped with excellent scanners and transporters, Commander; we weren`t even able to precisely locate the material.”
“The Albatross is specialized in difficult salvages,” explains Fitzpatrick. “If we supply the transporters with all energy available, we`re able to beam material out of the ground from a depth of several hundred meters.”
Janeway frowns. “All available energy, you say -” She grabs his arm. “Stop the action immediately! If the Albatross has no energy for her shields, she`s in great danger!”
Hesitantly Fitzpatrick touches his communicator. “Fitzpatrick to Captain!”
“Not now, Commander!” shouts Baratov. “A ship is uncloaking — we`re under attack — a hit in the propulsion module — antimatter containment breaking -”
A flash of light appears in the sky, as bright as the sun of the planet.
“Janeway to Tuvok! – What happened?”
“The warbird destroyed the Albatross, Captain! With concentrated phas-ers and torpedo salvos, Mr. E-Bug and I could penetrate the warbird`s shields and damage their propulsion. But they still managed to cloak their ship. I`m afraid they beamed ground troops on the planet while their cloaking field was lowered, and their shields were collapsed. You should guard against them, Captain.”
In horror, Janeway turns her gaze away from the sky to Fitzpatrick, who stares at her in hatred.
“You won`t think I believe that, do you?”
“I don`t understand -”
You have destroyed the Albatross! Your ship is not the Voyager and you are not Captain Janeway! You can`t be — because you`re not to be -”
Fitzpatrick is hit by a phaser beam. He collapses. Romulans approach from several sides, with rifles in aiming position. Janeway and Carey throw themselves into a crevice between boulders for cover. Then they return the fire. Peri runs to them.
Next to the crevice, peering out behind rocks, a pair of tube-eyes are observing the events. Janeway crouches like in a trench and stretches her phaser over the edge for defense. With the other hand she snatches at her communicator.
“Janeway to Tuvok! – We`re being attacked by Romulans!”
“We`ll beam you up, Captain!”
“Wait a minute! Didn`t you say you and E-Bug fired at the warbird?”
“That`s correct.”
“What are you talking about, Tuvok?” She looks sideways out of the crevice, between the rocks. “E-Bug is down here, with us!”
“That`s impossible, Captain. Mr. E-Bug didn`t leave the bridge.”
Puzzled, Janeway and Carey stare at the tube-eyes peering towards the Romulans from behind the boulders. One of the eye tubes notices the gazes of the two Humans. Both front extremities lift and target their phasers at them. The exchange of shots has come to rest. The Romulans have surrounded the crevice and point their rifles at Janeway, Carey, and Peri.
Suddenly, a materialization process occurs on the highest rock elevation of the terrain. Another member of the Voyager crew appears. Two inde-pendently twitching eye tubes grasp the scenery under the rock. They level in parallel. Whip feelers swing up. Two mighty jumping legs claw against the edge of the rock and catapult him downwards. Still in the air, hissing and cracking discharges are spraying to all sides. With dull force he bounces against the E-Bug shape on the ground. Claws strike into his body. Lightning so violently, that Romulans and Humans turn their eyes away crackle like a waterfall of glowing plasma on the attacked. Carey grabs Janeway`s shoulder and pulls her out of the crevice, further away from the fighting.
All of a sudden, it becomes quiet. The glaring drumfire is extinguished. Heavily, E-Bug rolls to the side. He struggles to get up. His legs bend po-werlessly. His eyes remain fixed on the defeated opponent, while he drags himself forward and circles around him. His body is motionlessly lying on the ground, slashed, and burnt. It begins to discolor. The scaled skin, that was shimmering blue-green before, turns orange. The entire body changes shape. It collapses, grows viscous, contracts into a slimy paste. A last waving and twitching goes through the substance. Then it disintegrates into grey ashes.
Janeway rises. Step by step she approaches the remains. Standing next to E-Bug, she looks at the dead, flaky substance. A Romulan has also ap-proached.
With a dark face Janeway inquires, “Did this being belong to your people?”
“No,” replies the Romulan. He turns his gaze to E-Bug. “We have never met such beings before.”
Tuvok`s voice inquires, “Captain, do you need a security team?”
“Beam the doctor to my position!”
Janeway looks around at the leveled rifles of the Romulans. The doctor materializes next to her.
“What medical emergency is it, Captain?”
She points to the ground. “What is that, Doctor?”
He opens a medical scanner and swings it over the flaky substance. “At first glance these are mortal remains in the form of a heap of ashes. The residual biological signature suggests that it was once a shape-shifter of the type Changeling.”
“A Changeling?” Janeway`s eyes widen.
In disbelief, the Romulan looks after the doctor as he walks to Fitzpatrick, who is lying on the ground. The doctor bends over him. Another Romulan approaches.
“There are debris with Starfleet signatures everywhere. When we were here to recover the geologist from Remus, it was romulan wreckage.”
“Did your geologist reappear?” inquires Janeway.
“Neither did ours.”
The Romulan ponders. “Changelings stand at the head of the Dominion -”
“What are the Dominion`s intentions in such a remote place in the Beta Quadrant?” wonders Janeway.
“Changelings are capable of imitating any person. Until a few years ago they used this ability for subversive infiltration, to prevent our alliance with the Klingons and with the Federation against the Dominion.” The Romulan points to the ashes. “Either he didn`t know that the Alliance had long since won and wrest a peace treaty from the Dominion, or the Dominion is now trying to torpedo our current alliance against the Borg.
The doctor returns and reports to Janeway, “The Albatross officer is dead, Captain. There was nothing more I could do for him”.
Anger flares in Janeway`s eyes as she reproaches the Romulan. “Appar-ently the Changeling has succeeded in torpedoing the alliance. You will be called to account for this by your people!”
The Romulan straightens up and smiles cunningly. “Only if there are wit-nesses of this incident.”
Janeway looks around. “There will be witnesses!”
Voyager security crews are behind every Romulan, with their phasers pointed at them.
“Put your weapons on the ground!” orders Tuvok.
Janeway notices Peri crawling out of the crevice. He opens a tricorder, glides past the legs of Romulans and Humans and scans the surroundings searching.

On Voyager`s bridge Janeway walks along the rear side to the OPS con-sole.
“Have you been able to decipher the last Albatross message, Mr. Kim?”
Kim shakes his head. “Unfortunately not, Captain. The message to Star-fleet is not only encrypted, but also partially damaged because the Alba-tross was already hit.”
“Keep trying!”
“Aye, Captain.”
Janeway goes to Tuvok, while she looks at the workstation for the sensor phalanx.
“What made you decide to beam Mr. E-Bug down to us, Tuvok?”
Tuvok lifts his eyes from his readings and looks forward into the screen. He straightens up. His brows rise. As if helpless, he remains silent for a moment. Then he replies, “I`m sorry, Captain, … I have no logical explanation for my action. I probably thought, a direct confrontation could clarify the situation.”
At the helm Paris turns on his chair. “Tuvok, could it be that you`ve ac-tually acted on your instincts this time?”
Tuvok unaffectedly looks at Paris. Without a reply, he turns back to the readings on his station.
Lang reports, “Captain, the transmission of the subspace message about the events on Kassra V to Romulus and four Romulan outposts has been completed.”
“Alright, Ensign. Send the same message to Starfleet headquarters!”
“Aye, Captain.”
Janeway ponders. “A changeling of the Dominion who takes the shape of Romulans and of Humans to deceive them and play them off against each other, … and how easily he succeeded.”
Paris straightens up in his chair while he checks navigation data.
“Welcome home, Captain!”
Janeway sets out forward, towards her place, as her gaze meets E-Bug once again. She stops. She raises her head.
“Computer, locate Mr. Peri.”
“Mr. Peri is in cargo bay 2, holo-biosphere four,” answers the computer`s voice.
Janeway goes to the lift. It opens in front of her. She stops.
“Computer, transfer all available data about shape-shifters of type Changeling into the holocom and convert them into pictorial representa-tion.”
“Transfer complete.”
Janeway enters the lift. “Take the bridge, Commander.”
The sliding door closes behind her.


Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.