Starship Voyager – The Alien Adventures — 4 ALIENS AND STRANGERS

The present novel is merely Fan Fiction.

No commercial interest is pursued.

© Aliki Archimedes, 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.


4. Aliens and Strangers

On the horizon of the asteroid, the rim of a distant gas planet appears above the silhouette of crater slopes. It grows to a disc covered with blue and green stripes and slowly rises up the firmament as if it were a colorful moon. Its reflection produces a dim glow on the grey skin of the starship Voyager, where several repair teams in space suits are working.
“Captain`s log, stardate 53062.5.
Twenty-one days have passed since we were stranded on the asteroid. With less than a third of the crew, we work in double shifts around the clock to make our severely damaged ship spaceworthy again so that we can launch Voyager to search for our abducted people.
The doctor managed to ensure nutrition for the strangers who were Hirogen prisoners like us, and Seven installed a mechanism that automatically recharges their atmosphere emitters inside the ship. Unfortunately, these emitters do not replace the space suits of our work teams as they do not protect from cosmic rays.
Three of our guests are trying hard to help us rebuild the ship and operate its systems. However, we have not yet found a way to communicate verbally with them, which sometimes leads to misunderstandings.
The least problematic is our cooperation with Mr. Peri. As soon as Lieute-nant Torres showed him how to read our circuit diagrams, he started to analyze modules for errors and now corrects defective circuits in the whole ship by himself. He apparently descended from a civilization that uses similar technologies as Starfleet. Due to his anatomy, it is easier for him to work in Jefferies tubes than it is for us. It is regrettable that our communication with him is limited to the exchange of technical informa-tion. We know nothing about the social manners of his culture.
The cooperation with Mr. E-Bug remains difficult. He accompanies us on away missions to the wreckage of the Hirogen cruiser, where he is helping with dangerous dismantlings. Some of us got electric shocks from him several times when one of his body parts accidentally grazed us. He is still irascible sometimes. But I consider it a progress that he no longer attacks anyone with the intention of killing.
Mr. Ceph`s main interest lies in the flying of starships. In that he is ex-traordinary. He seems to have a sixth sense when he is navigating the most difficult maneuvers with an intuition that seems unreal. He pays attention to my eye and body movements and at the same time observes all the displays on the control panel and every change on the screen. He has certainly received training as a navigator. But I agree with the doctor that Mr. Ceph`s special skills he reveals while flying – his extremely fast multiple coordinations and his sense of movement in space – are innate characteristics of his species. As long as Mr. Ceph operates a helm panel, he shows maximum concentration and discipline. In his spare time, however, when he strays through the ship, he becomes more and more a nuisance to the crew.”


Back-to-back, at two tables opposite to each other, in identical clothing and equally dark, put up mop of hair, the twins Megan and Jenny Delanay are sitting in upright posture. They work on two identical monitors in front of two identical consoles.
Megan reports: “Data records of memory unit 31 are loaded into ex-change interface.”
To which Jenny replies: “Exchange interface has received data records from storage unit 31. Sector comparison and restoration of memory mir-ror 31 is being initialized.”
Megan reports back: “Completed! Mirror memory 31 restored and five defective sectors corrected.”
Suddenly both heads, upright on their slender necks, make a small twitch and the four eyes are jerkily directed downwards, each pair of eyes at a steep convergence angle of the individual gazing axes. Fragments of two drops of fluids, bounced from an elevated source, are lining the pointed ends of their noses. Two further collisions occur: falling drops splashingly hit both nose tips once more. Two hands reach for two tricorders and hold them in front of the wet body-parts. Two voices read simultane-ously from the displays: “Water with protein filaments -”
Megan and Jenny turn around in surprise, jump up and face each other. Like original and mirrored image, they look at each other`s noses.
“The probability of a random event …”
“… of such high symmetry …”
“… is practically zero!”
They pull their phasers in synchronous motion and aim at the ceiling. Several eye stalks jerk behind its perforated cladding. Hastily slipping, grinding movements can be heard, the source of which quickly withdraws.

Deep inside the semi-darkness of a Jefferies tube, Peri works on a series of modules. He bends over one of the shoe box-sized systems equipped with control lights and connectors. From its type plate, he reads a number and enters it into his tricorder. Thereupon the graphic of a circuit diagram appears on its display. Peri starts an analysis mode on the tricorder. When it is completed after a few seconds, `FUNCTIONAL` flashes in green on the display. Peri turns to the next module in the row. This also works correctly. After analysis of the third module, `ERROR` flashes in red and Peri begins to analyze the failure. He connects the tricorder and the module with two cables and feeds a repair routine into the defective component. Peri tracks the reprogramming process on the displayed circuit diagram. It shows the separation of defective circuit areas and their exchange by redundant optronic groups, which are connected to take over the failed function. Peri removes the two external cables from the module.
Suddenly its small diode lamps start blinking wildly and a splashing sound can be heard. In addition to the three elevated segments of the head and the two pairs of arms, Peri raises further segments. Fine sensory hairs spread from the legs and vibrate, stimulated by the acoustic waves of the splashing sound. Peri turns to the wall of the Jefferies tube opposite to the modules. He releases clamps and slides a cover aside. Dazzling daylight breaks through the opening. Peri stretches his head into the adjacent room and swings his big eyes to both sides. The moist endings of the short forehead feelers swing in the flood of olfactory stimuli that act on them.
On the other side of the window that Peri has opened in the Jefferies tube, tall trees rise up towards a blue sky from a dark green ground. A curved, mossy path leads through the forest, lined with unformed stones. In between, ferns are proliferating. Loosely distributed are the gnarled trunks of the trees; lichens hang downwards anchored on their branches. From a rocky hillock a small splashing waterfall is pouring into a brooklet. Insects are humming and buzzing through the air, with prismatic color plays in their flimsy whirring wings. Gay birds flutter, twittering between the branches. Above the crowns of the trees, shimmering down through their foliage, a bright yellow, almost white sun is shining.
Still anchored with his hind legs inside the Jefferies tube, all of Peri`s front segments make their way outside through the opening and downwards. As the first pair of legs reaches the ground, the rearmost segment detaches at the top and while the front body moves through the moss, the last segments slide down a wall that gives the impression of an invisible force field when observed from the forest. Like a window suspended freely in space, the opening where Peri has been gliding out seems like a trans-dimensional portal connecting different worlds. Peri runs to the brook and carefully dips his feelers into the water. Then he crawls in and along the bottom. Segment by segment, he crosses a stone that rises out of the water in the middle of the brook and finally he climbs up again at the opposite bank. Drops trickle like grains of sand from Peri`s water-repellent external skeleton into the moss, leaving a damp trail as he marches on up to a clearing. Inside he stops. He rises his front segments for almost one meter and stretches his face towards the rays of the sun; he stands motionless for a while.
Suddenly the head and front body of a snake rises behind a nearby tuft of fern. It hisses with its mouth widely spread, revealing two white fangs and rushes towards Peri. Deeply it strikes its teeth into the external skeleton of a segment. Pain tears Peri out of a paralyzed state of shock. Before the snake can bite again, he flees from the clearing and hastily climbs a boulder at the edge of the waterfall. Thereby, like as a cry of horror, some legs are rattling against the skeleton of his segments. The snake follows him. At the bolder, however, it slips each time it tries to slither up to him. Scratching his legs in panic at the stone surface, Peri strikes with a hand at his communicator several times, which is fastened under the atmosphere emitter, at his second segment.
Torres`s voice answers, “Peri? I`ll be right with you! – Computer, locate Mr. Peri.”
The snake starts jumping now in order to climb the boulder. Peri recedes further and further on his plateau. Suddenly he loses his footing at his rear. He slides downward and plunges into the troubled pool where the waterfall gushes. Whirling with all his legs, he rummages along the bot-tom until he reaches the bank. As he lifts his head out of the pool and looks back, he sees the snake winding towards him on the surface of the water. Hurriedly, he clings to the trunk of a willow, which protrudes from the bank. Forming an upward spiral with the chain of his segments, he surrounds the trunk and screws himself up with his legs as if he were a flat spiral staircase himself, wandering upwards around its own center. From a height of two meters, Peri looks down, where at the foot of the trunk the snake tries in vain to follow him.

In the optical image of his complex eyes the snake`s movements reveal the boundaries of the hexagonal visual facets. Far away from the snake, in the blurred area of his field of vision covering almost 360 degrees, a conspicuous change in the landscape occurs at a small spot. Peri turns his head to bring the spot into the optical overlap of both eyes. As if from another dimension, a portal has opened up in the forest, which Peri can only see out of focus. The blurred outline of a humanoid person emerges from it. As she approaches, she assumes the sharp contours of Torres.

Torres walks a few meters into the forest. She recognizes the snake trying to climb up the willow trunk and Peri above it.
“Computer, end program!” shouts Torres.
The forest disappears, as does the willow tree. Peri falls to the floor of a dark, bare room. Its walls are covered with a bright grid. Torres runs to Peri, who in confusion turns his head in all directions. She notices thick drops of a milky liquid seeping out of two closely spaced holes at a seg-ment.
“I`ll take you to the doctor.”
Her gaze directs to an opening in the holodeck wall leading to the adja-cent Jefferies tube.
“Damn it — I should have thought of that!”

In her ready room Janeway is sitting behind the monitor; she rubs her forehead. A sequence of high pips rings out.
“Come in!”
The door opens; six crew members enter. Janeway watches in astonish-ment while the room is filling with people. She rises to her feet.
“Ensign Ashmore – Lieutenant Ayala – Crewman Larson – Lieutenant Bax-ter – Crewman Gibson – Ensign Jenkins! What`s the reason for your visit?”
They all stand at attention.
Ayala declares, “We appear in front of you on behalf of many others, Captain, because of problems with a new crew member.”
“Describe your problem.”
With an angry voice Baxter shouts from behind: “It`s about the tentacle creature, Captain — it harasses everyone it encounters!”
Ashmore explains, “Nobody is safe from it. It camouflages on the ceiling and suddenly graps at us!”
Gibson grins. “Yesterday morning, Captain — a crewman was in the lavatory. It didn`t end well …”
Jenkins tells, “Many corridors have emergency lighting only; the crew is overtired. It appears like a ghost.”
Janeway frowns. Once again Ayala speaks.
“We wouldn`t have come to you if it weren`t serious, Captain. It might be right that we owe a lot to that being, perhaps it saved all our lives. But it owes its own life to us too; if we had left it behind, it would be dead by now.”
Janeway looks from one to the other.
“For more than three weeks you`ve been working in double shifts to rebuild the ship. You do not deserve to be terrorized by a rollicking crew member during the short breaks for your recovery.” Janeway straightens up. “I`ll make it clear to Mr. Ceph that this must stop. – Dismissed!”
The crew members leave the room. Janeway`s gaze follows them in wor-ried pondering.

In sickbay the doctor is carrying out measurements with a medical scan-ner in front of an artificial force field. Inside the force field a being is lying on a mat; its shape looks as if a whim of nature had created only half a creature. It has an elongated body, similar to an antelope. On its right side a front and a hind leg are present. These two legs, however, lie so far off from the center of the body, that the being can neither stand itself upright nor walk. Also, its head is asymmetrical, with only one eye and three sensory openings all set at the right of a small mouth. Along the middle part of the spine there is an arched excrescence to the left, which appears scarred along its edge. Tones similar to a plaintively singing voice come out of its mouth, slowly changing their pitch in a continuous way; repeatedly the tones are interrupted by wheezing caws.
Torres and Peri enter; they step to the doctor. Torres looks through the force field.
“Seems, your patient isn`t better yet, Doctor.”
“Unfortunately not,” he replies with wrinkles of contrition. “I`m afraid this being will soon die.”
“Could you find out what food it needs?”
“I have analyzed its metabolism in detail. I know all the main components and trace elements that are essential. Its digestion should be able to utilize an organic, carbon-based diet with an increased nitrogen content added. Moreover, it requires Selenium-containing proteins and manganese compounds for molecular complexes. All this is contained in the infusions I give it. But it`s getting weaker every day!”
Peri also watches the hopeless patient, while his middle segments, like those of a caterpillar, arch up; then his rear bends sideways toward his center and the leg of his ninth segment scratches near the wound of the fifth segment.
The doctor notices Peri`s behavior and asks Torres, “What`s wrong with your companion?”
“He was bitten by a snake on the holodeck.”
“How can that be?”
“When he repaired the holographic generator controls, a program was activated, but not its security protocols. I think holo-technique was un-known to Mr. Peri until now.”
“Then he should familiarize himself with it as soon as possible. Holo-technology is one of the most important things Starfleet has ever devel-oped!” The doctor bends over the injured segment. “Poison?”
Torres shakes her head. “That`s not included in the program.”
“You may go back to work, Lieutenant; I`ll take care of him.”
“Thank you, Doctor!”
With her downward directed palm waving, Torres signals Peri to stay; she leaves sickbay. The doctor tries to make Peri understand that he is to lie on a sickbed.
He signals with his arms. “Here — up — and lie down!”
Peri hesitates. The doctor demonstrates to Peri how to do it, lying himself on one side of the bed; he knocks with his palm next to him. Peri understands; he straightens up his front segments and climbs onto the sickbed. The doctor moves aside. He rises and picks up his medical tricorder. Peri turns the injured part of the body towards him. Thereby Peri`s posterior segments collide accidentally with the doctor`s thigh. They are not blocked there, however. They uninhibitedly penetrate the holomatrix in this thigh area, which does not interact with real objects. Peri deliberately repeats the movement.
“Could you please stop that?” rails the doctor. “You are disturbing me during your treatment!”
The doctor continues the scan of the injured segment.
“The bite did not advance to the organs. I`m going to regenerate the destroyed tissue now.”
He places the tricorder next to Peri on the bed and grabs a tissue regenerator from a nearby table. One of Peri`s seven-fingered hands reaches for the medical tricorder. While the doctor treats Peri`s wound with waving movements of the regenerator, Peri scans the doctor`s hol-omatrix.
“What`s this all about?”
The doctor takes the device from Peri`s hand and continues with his treatment.

Janeway`s gaze wanders restlessly back and forth between the monitor and the exit of her ready room. Finally, it fastens on a picture of Chakotay set on her desk. She frowns. Her hand reaches for the picture and turns it over so that the front of it faces the exit of her room. Janeway stands up resolutely and raises her head.
“Computer, locate Mr. Ceph.”
The computer`s voice answers: “Mr. Ceph is in the casino.”
Janeway goes to the door, which opens in front of her. She leaves the room.

In the casino, a crewman arrives at the food replicator.
“Water – no soda.”
Starting with a glimmer in space, a glass materializes filled with water. Just as the crewman is about to take it away, four snaky arms jerk from behind on both sides of the replicator and start waving. The crewman grabs his glass and jumps back. The next moment eye stalks pop up above the replicator performing a wild, whirling dance around each oth-er.
The man sits down at a table with two colleagues.
“Again, that crazy octopus!”
“Next he`ll be splashing ink at us …”
“Then I`ll give it to him!”
Ceph swings to the exit. The door opens. He enters the corridor. From the opposite end Janeway approaches. Ceph disappears in a transverse passage. Janeway accelerates her step and follows him. She turns off several times in the corridors. Thereby she navigates according to a signal that flashes red on her tricorder display. In front of the entrance to a dimly lit corridor she stops. Also, the signal on the display no longer changes its position.
A man and a woman are approaching towards the junction. Janeway puts her finger across her lips and signals them to take another path. The two move away with questioning looks. Janeway closes the tricorder flap and pins the device on her hip. She quickly steps around the corner into the gloomy passage. Only at its back end, a red emergency light is glowing, indicating the direction of the corridor. Step by step, Janeway approaches it. Her eyes, shining in the dark, are directed upwards and wander from one side of the dark ceiling to the other. Suddenly something taps at her back. She turns around in a flash. Glancing up she cannot recognize anything. A second tap on her back, now from the other side, makes her turn around again. Still nothing is visible in the darkness.
“Computer, full lighting in corridor 31.”
There is a sudden burst of brightness. Half a meter above Janeway ten-tacles in turmoil are changing their color. Rapidly they take on the yellow-brown, striped pattern of the ceiling. Ceph recognizes Janeway and re-treats to the opposite wall. She looks at him with a threateningly austere gaze.
The sliding-gate next to Janeway opens and a lean man steps out of main engineering. He notices the two persons and approaches Ceph.
“Don`t worry, ma`am. He just wants to play!”
The man drums with the backs of his hands at Ceph`s low hanging ten-tacle. The ends of two more tentacles swing down from the ceiling and drum to the left and right at the man`s shoulders. He turns like a basket-ball player under the basket, jumps up and quickly taps, with his out-stretched arm, twice on the side of Ceph`s body. Wildly Ceph`s eye stems dance in circles. They begin to wrap themselves in pairs from the root spirally in plaits until the balls at the stem endings lie against each other. The man laughs loudly while Ceph unscrews his stems again. He pats the man on the shoulders and hurries away out of the corridor, swinging along the ceiling with three eyes backwardly directed on Janeway. Her dark gaze has turned into an expression of amused surprise.
The man observes Ceph`s retreat.
“He`s like a child looking for a playmate. He suffers from boredom.”
“You obviously know how to deal with children of this kind, Lieutenant Carey.”
The man shifts his jaw sideways and scratches his belly.
“You just got to try to understand him — and you understand best what you`ve experienced yourself sometime, ma`am.”

The doctor puts the tissue regenerator on the table next to Peri and raises his head.
“Sickbay to Lieutenant Torres!”
“Doctor?” answers Torres`s voice.
“The patient is healed. Shall I send him away or do you wish to pick him up?”
“I`m on my way.”
The doctor fetches the medical scanner and penetrates the force field surrounding the asymmetric being. He kneels upon the mat on the floor and scans the scarred, strip-shaped excrescence on the being`s left side, next to the spine. Lying on the ground the being restlessly twitches with its angled legs. The doctor puts his hand to the head of the creature.
“Calm – I just want to help.”
The twitching movements ebb away.
“If only I knew the purpose of this anatomical peculiarity!”
Peri`s head has turned. With his big static eyes, he observes the doctor and his patient.
Torres enters. “Is he fit for duty again, Doctor?”
“Certainly! I have completely restored his segment and thoroughly ex-amined him. Your colleague needs glasses, by the way: he`s short-sighted.”
The doctor stands up and leaves the force field. He hands Torres a small flat display.
“I`ve noted for you the necessary diopters on this PADD.”
She takes a look at it.
“Are you serious? Can`t you just correct the refraction of his lenses?”
“His facet eyes are extraordinarily complex. I don`t know how a lens correction would affect his near vision. I think glasses with adaptive optics would be the best.”
Torres`s eyes widen. “Adaptive optics for over a hundred eye facets – each of them looking at a different object at a different distance. How do you fancy the construction of an optical tool like that?”
He shrugs his shoulders. “I`m only a doctor. – You are the engineer!”
Peri has slipped off his sickbed and joined the two humanoids. He rises next to Torres and nudges her arm with one of his hands. Resting on the medium segments, he moves his back limbs through the doctor`s shins. While Peri demonstrates his discovery, his twenty legs on ten segments swing excitedly and synchronously back and forth.
The doctor angrily turns to Torres. “And please explain to him what our holo-technique is all about! He shall stop doing his field studies on me!”

In a large laboratory, a disassembled spider robot lies on a table. Seven has connected its control unit with cables to several devices and a tricorder. She feeds in signals and tracks their processing on a display. Repeatedly, the head part of the robot moves. Optical lenses and slit-like openings are visible on its surface.
Seven has bent over the tabletop and props herself up, with both hands pressed on the plate. Her head is motionlessly directed at the tricorder display. The skin of her face shines with dried sweat. Her reddened eyes wander back and forth between the signal displays, the individual parts of the robot and the cabling that connects the tricorder to the robot via interface devices.
The sliding door of the laboratory hisses as it opens. Janeway enters. She passes several motionless spider robots and goes to Seven`s table.
“How are you doing, Seven?”
Seven straightens up. “The programming is almost complete, Captain. I have rewritten the Hirogen control codes into algorithms of our com-manding codes. The cooperative networking of the subunits has been maintained and expanded. I`m now trying to unite them into an efficient collective.”
Janeway frowns. “Seven, you won`t aspire to build a hive mind among these thirty robots, will you? I hope it is clear to you that we only need well-functioning machines. It is not your task to create new life-forms!”
Seven raises an eyebrow. “Consciousness increases efficiency in solving complex tasks.”
“That may be correct. But it also increases the risk of pathological mal-functions, not to mention the ethical complications! — Seven, I don`t want a Borg-like collective of robots with souls on this ship that carries out slave services for us or at some point comes up with the idea of assimilating the rest of the crew! Have I made myself clear?”
“Sufficiently clear – Captain,” Seven replies with an excitement that she is not completely able to suppress.
In a more moderate tone Janeway inquires, “B`Elanna has located deuterium tanks in the wreck. Do you think the robots can help with the dismantling and transport of the tanks to a loading spot?”
“They were designed for such tasks by the Hirogen. The appropriate subroutines need only to be activated.”
Janeway lays her hand on Seven`s forearm and examines her face.
“When did you last regenerate in your alcove?”
“Twenty-eight hours ago. Regeneration is not necessary yet. I want to prepare these … machines for their application first.”
“Maybe your Borg implants don`t need sleep yet. But at least give your human body a little rest and refreshment. My recommendation is hot black coffee and a cold water shower; that`s going to cheer you up again.”
“I will only optimize the tuning of a correlation regulator and then follow your suggestion for my – refreshment, Captain.”
With a satisfied smile Janeway nods at her and leaves the laboratory.

The sliding-gate of a cargo bay opens. Peri enters. He has risen to half a meter. In his hands he holds a tricorder and another device. He walks along a row of containers up to the wall of the cargo bay. There he opens the flap to a Jefferies tube. As he bends forward to enter, he hears sounds behind him. He turns around and listens. A scratching, hissing and growling can be heard. The row of containers blocks Peri`s view. His body sinks to the ground. With all legs wandering along the floor in waves he runs to the end of the barrier of containers and to the other side. There he stops. In front of him three occupied cells are bordered by invisible walls. Each time one of the occupants runs into a wall of the cell and flinches back, the force fields forming the walls become visible by a shimmering flash.
With incessant restlessness, the Pandar runs up and down his cell. Whenever he hits the force field, a grim hissing comes out of his throat.
In the adjacent cell a crab-like creature is standing, on eight long, spindly, multi-limbed legs. Its claw-shaped grippers scratch on the floor constantly, as if they wanted to cut through the steel plates.
Inside the third cage a spherical being is imprisoned, about 70 cen-timeters in diameter. Its surface is covered with bristles all around. With rapid deformations, the large ball-shaped body incessantly throws itself against the walls and is thrown back by the force field again and again. As Peri approaches the being, its jumps become increasingly more panicked.
A controlling console is installed in front of the cages. Behind it, Peri rises. The fingers of his hand spread over the small touch screen. Shortly the-reafter one of the force fields collapses with a flickering shimmer. In a wild jump the spherical being shoots outside over Peri, who quickly pulls his head under the console. He turns around. The creature jumps over the row of containers. Peri follows it and just sees it disappear into the Jefferies tube he had opened before.

Rolling, the being hurries through the tube until it collides with a barrier. From the path it has come down two passages branch off, one to the left and one to the right. Out of the endings of the protruding bristles fine, moist fibers appear, wagging slowly. Suddenly they retract again and the ball rolls into the left passage, accelerating rapidly.
From the right branch telescope eyes push out, looking after the disap-peared. With snake-like movements of his arms, Ceph shifts himself into the T-shaped tube crossing and follows the spherical being to the left. After a few meters he hears a pattering rushing. The eye stalks lower to the grid floor in front of him.

A dense tuft of water jets pours down from above onto Seven`s open hair. It hangs in wet streaks over her back and winds over her shoulders around her clavicles. Water flows over her face. It drips from the star-shaped Borg implant near her ear, from the earlobes, from chin and nose, and from the lashes of motionless, rigidly opened eyes.
Seven`s arm stretches to the wall; her finger touches a display. Slowly, the sources of the fine water jets begin to shift. The spraying area is divided into two groups that are moving from the ceiling center of the cabin to both sides until they reach the walls and wander downwards along them.
Seven lifts her second arm horizontally as well. The water splashes off her soaped temples, jaw joints, neck and fingertips of her hands stretched out towards the jets; it sprays off the flanks, loins, and legs. The fraction of water that sticks to her body flows downward, in branching and reuniting strands following the gradients of curvature of the wet surface. Fluid originating from the sprinkling jets that does not adhere to her body splashes to all sides, fragmenting into a drizzle and a foggy steam, which hits a glittering force field behind Seven.
The wandering water jets, which are spraying from the floor meanwhile, change again. They fan out over the entire distance they have travelled before, until a closed ring of nozzles sprays, like a final firework of water sparks, onto Seven.
Seven`s eyes look sideways to the shiny metal bowl of a soap dish on the wall. In its convex reflection something moves. Her finger gently strikes the display once more; slowly the ring of water jets retreats and dries. Seven`s head lowers. In a mixture of factual curiosity and moderate sur-prise she observes a group of eyeballs on stalks that have slid through the force field near the floor. From different angles they examine Sev-en`s toes, then the ankles, the shins, the kneecaps and the hollows of the knees. Finally, the line of vision of the most progressive of the eyeballs reaches Seven`s chin, meets her gaze – and freezes with a twitch. In a flash the rest of the eyeballs are directed upwards too.
“Was your interest sufficiently satisfied?” Seven`s voice inquires coolly.
Slowly and carefully the elongated eye stalks turn downward again, shrink and retreat into the background. Only one of them still hesitates. As if it could not tear itself away, the gaze of this eyeball of the boneless being clings like spellbound to the bony ankle of Seven`s right foot. The attached stem of the eye swings back and forth as if it were trying to pull away that ball, though without a clear sign of success. Instead, it seems to be the eye that pulls the stem behind it, while gazing at the ankle from all sides. Something else appears through the force field and gently brushes the examined object. The tip of a tentacle taps the outer of the two protruding ankle bones, leans against it, pushes slightly at it and circles the bony area, bending the rear end of the tentacle. Firmly enclosed, the end of the tentacle holds the ankle, palpating it with peristaltic movements.
A second eye appears, passionately devoted to the kneecap of the left leg. As if questioning it turns upwards, searching for Seven`s gaze. Seven`s eyebrow has risen to an expression of surprise that seems to be directed more to her own inside than dealing with an outward matter.

The outermost edge of a distant sun disappears behind the mountainous horizon of the atmosphere-less asteroid. The last rays, scattered on the mountain ridge, die away and the silvery night light of stars and countless smaller asteroids, that emit their dim gleam like shapeless moons, covers Voyager.

With sweaty faces and a bent posture Carey and Baxter enter the casino. They go to the replicator. One after the other they press a button; they take out their dishes and sit down at a table. Collapsed and wordless they push the food with forks into their mouths; they chew and swallow. Another crewman comes in, gets himself something to eat and sits down with them. Chewing, Baxter points with his fork to the other one`s fo-rearm, where a piece of the uniform is torn apart and braised. Burnt skin is exposed.
“Burst plasma tube?”
“High voltage at a low voltage line.”
“Why don`t you go to the doctor?”
“Not until I`ve finished that section. It`ll certainly occur a few more times.”
“What about disconnecting the high voltage at the distributor?”
“The connections have been changed. Probably the centipede tampered with it.”
“Didn`t that E-Bug hang around in your section for a few days?”
“I don`t know – they`re free to do anything on our ship.”
“Formerly she would have had such creatures put to the brig as foreign invaders.”
“They say she`d occupy with nothing else but deciphering the logs from the wreck; or what`s left of them.”
“As if there`d be anything left to be done — they`re all dead by now.”
Carey, who has been silent so far, replies in a rough voice: “You want to bury our comrades that quickly? If you`d been kidnapped, you`d be glad to have a captain who keeps on searching until she finds you!”
“Or our corpses.”
Or your corpses!

The door of a quarters opens; Ceph swings out. The door closes behind him. His crowd of eyes spreads towards both directions of the dimly lit corridor. Finally, he decides for one way and swings forward.
A short crackle comes out of a dark niche. Ceph stops. Carefully he stretches an arm into it to explore the hollow. With a crackling spark, as in the light of a single stroboscope flash, appears for a brief moment the figure of E-Bug, lying on the floor, with both his long feelers sunk into an opening on the wall. Then it goes dark again. A small side branch of the lightning has struck Ceph`s groping tentacle ending. Frightened and elec-trified he loses hold on the ceiling and falls on the floor with a clapping noise. Two tube eyes, which were sleepily directed downward, turn in Ceph`s direction, glowing out of the darkness. Quickly a tentacle rushes to the ceiling; Ceph pulls himself up again and flees with wide swings. Yellow stripes wander across his skin. In a hurry he avoids a crewman who turns after him. The man`s eyes follow Ceph along the long corridor. At the end Ceph stops in exhaustion. The tube openings at the ends of his arms move in pulsating deformations; rhythmically inhaling the head-like body swells and shrinks; the eye stalks twitch excitedly.
The stripes on the skin gradually get paler and the crowd of eyes calms down. They interestedly turn to one of the branching passages. There, the Delaney sisters suddenly appeared – in unusual clothing. They do not wear their highly closed uniforms, but backless, airy summer dresses that leave their backs uncovered down to the coccyx. In long chains their vertebrae line upwards, past shoulder blades, up to the neck. On both sides the bony ball joints of the beginning arm extremities are visible under bare skin at the peripheral ends of the shoulder girdles. Ceph`s entire swarm of eyes is aligned at the two backs, which move away from him. Magically drawn, he follows them. After crossing a few corridors, the two humanoids open a sliding-gate and disappear behind it.
In front of the entrance Ceph hesitates for a moment. Then his arm reaches for the door console. The two halves of the sliding door move apart. Eye stalks peer around the opening. The interior is lined with mo-saic tiles and bath motifs. Round marble columns support the ceiling. The sound of splashing water penetrates from the background. Ceph follows the moisture promising sounds through the entrance hall that is leading to a cubic room lined with dark red tiles. He swings to the center of the ceiling, where a tuft of glass fibers sways back and forth like finely feathered branches of an underwater plant. It moves as if a changing current draws it. Colourful lights shimmer at the ends of the fibers. All of Ceph`s eyes surround the filigree play of colors.
Suddenly the structure transforms, changes into a compact mass of silk-black, demonic shine. It rapidly grows in size. Contours of a skull emerge. Three crescent-shaped cat eyes flash. A mouth opens bristling with rows of fangs surrounding Ceph`s body. A dark hiss thunders down on Ceph. With stripe patterns of panic over his skin, Ceph gives way to the side. He tries to flee by swinging over the ceiling, but he can`t find any support. The ceiling dissolves to nothing. He falls to the ground while a huge black Pandar rears above him and jumps down on Ceph. The monster lands on four paws surrounding Ceph`s body and a greedy throat approaches the swarm of frozen eyes. Panic-stricken and cumbersome Ceph winds his way between the feet of the beast and drags himself a bit closer to the wall. The end of a tentacle strikes at the communicator, which is attached to the underside of the body, around the root of an arm. Suction cups press against each other and release with a click. No one answers his wordless cry for help. Whirling, the crowd of eyes looks for an exit; but the room is hermetically sealed — a cube of homogeneous walls without an opening. In a corner Ceph crouches on the floor, arms and eye stems almost completely drawn into the body. The beast already throws itself over him again, raising its paw as if to a strike. Suddenly it transforms, splitting up into a pack of oversized humanoids. Their arms twitch against Ceph`s body, accompanied by a common, angry hissing.
“Computer, end program!”
The simulation dissolves; the bare room of the holodeck appears. In its furthest corner Ceph cowers huddled together on the floor. Eight men and women have surrounded him; they are staring at him. Mockery and contempt are glowing in their eyes. Then they notice the person at the entrance who has stopped the program; they stand at attention.
“What`s going on here?”
Baxter declares confidently, “We showed that thing what we think of its jokes, Captain. That`s gonna be a lesson to it!”
Slowly and threateningly Janeway`s face turns to him.
“That thing has a name, Lieutenant Baxter — call it!”
Baxter`s grin remains, but it no longer seems unstrained.
“He hasn`t introduced himself to me, Captain; we haven`t had an enter-taining conversation yet,” he replies glancing sideways at the others as if expecting amused applause. Their lips have become narrow, and the gazes are tensely directed away from him.
“Lieutenant Torres — tell Mr. Baxter the name of the crew member whose name he doesn`t know!”
With flickering eyes Torres glances from the crouched creature in the corner to her captain. Her head bows. She begins quietly and then forces herself to a stronger voice.
“His name is … Ceph, … Ceph is his name.”
“Mr. Baxter,” Janeway continues, “what do you know about Crewman Ceph?”
“As I said before, Captain, … all I know is that he can be very annoying.”
“Did he attack you?”
“Not directly -”
“Did he attack you like a beast trying to tear you apart?”
He lowers his gaze. “No, Captain.”
Janeway`s eyes wander across the row of humanoids standing stiffly in front of her.
“We know almost nothing about Crewman Ceph. And he didn`t know anything about us.” Full of compassion she turns to the corner, where Ceph`s arms and eyes turn a little outwards again. “But today he learned something about us.” Her expression grows dark again. “Who programmed this — game?”
Taking a deep breath, Torres straightens up.
“I did, Captain.”
Without looking at her, Janeway stares silently into the row. Finally, she commands in a soundless voice: “For the next three months the holodeck will be closed to all of you! – Dismissed!”
As she leaves the holodeck, Torres notices an open hatch in the wall. The facets of Peri`s big eyes are shimmering out. He turns to the side and continues his measurements.


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