Starship Voyager – The Alien Adventures — 9 Return of the Hunters

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.

9. Return of the Hunters

In a dark and sinister pondering, Janeway stares into the warp stripes on the screen. Suddenly they collapse into point-like stars. Two of them shine brighter than the others. E-Bug fades in the orbital trajectories of the two stars moving around one another. Lang is standing at the OPS console.
She explains, “This is the binary star system listed in the Akrrung map as Tangor Alpha and Tangor Beta. Internal dis-tance 0.1 light-year.”
Around the two stars, planetary systems are faded in as schematical drawings with a single, green-dotted ring in each system, respectively. In both of the rings lie planetary orbits.
“Each of the two stars accommodates a planet in its habitable zone,” continues Lang, “from which life signs are detected.”
In one of the two planetary sketches, additional spectra appear with levels fluctuating violently at individual frequencies. Arrows point from the spectra to a planet orbiting in the system`s habitable zone marked in green and towards two of its neighboring planets that lie outside the green dotted area.
“In the Tangor Alpha system the technological signature of a civilization is indicated; it seems to have established stations on its neighboring planets.” Lang frowns. “I`m receiving an audio message, Captain!”
“Let`s hear it!”
A submissive voice announces: “This is X`Tel, leader of the third outpost of the Hatsch`ka. We welcome the brave hunters; we wish them success on Tangor Beta 4 and copious prey!”
A whistle tone rapidly dropping in pitch comes from the tactical console. With an expression of surprise, Janeway turns her head to Carey, who scratches his belly and winks at her.


Janeway is standing in front of her seat.
“They seem to think we`re Hirogen.”
Carey nods. “Probably because of the new monotanium hull. Only the Hirogen use this material.”
“The sensor technology of the Hatsch`ka can`t be very advanced, Cap-tain,” notes Lang. “Otherwise they would have noticed that Voyager is certainly not a Hirogen ship.”
Janeway reaches for her communicator. “Captain to Seven of Nine – report to the bridge!”

Seven raises her head. “Understood!”
She is standing next to Peri at a workstation in the cargo bay. She opens her holocom. Peri turns his head to it. Seven moves her icon to the im-age of the bridge. Peri looks back at the console while Seven closes the holocom. She turns around to go to the exit. There the sliding gate opens and Mrs. Wildman enters, with Naomi by her hand. Seven stops.
“Mrs. Wildman?”
Naomi has a faster step sequence than her mother, who is pulled for-ward by Naomi`s outstretched arm.
Mrs. Wildman seems insecure as she explains to Seven, “Naomi would like to thank Mr. Peri for his support when she was injured … And so would I.”
Naomi tears herself loose. She runs to Peri and hugs his upper segments. Mrs. Wildman approaches hesitantly.
She inquires, “Seven, what symbol is used in the holocom to say thank you?”
“There isn`t one yet,” Seven replies coolly.
Naomi detaches herself from Peri and looks at her mother with impa-tient expectation, until Mrs. Wildman puts her hand on Peri`s shoulder segment for a short moment. Naomi glances at the console.
“Seven, is it now you helping Peri to design the new apart-ments for the alien beings?”
“That`s currently not possible. My presence on the bridge was request-ed.”
With a begging expression, Naomi pulls at her mother`s hand.
“Then I could help Peri again!”
Mrs. Wildman shakes her head. “Naomi, you know what we agreed up-on!”
“But he needs me!”
Seven raises an eyebrow. “Do you have any knowledge in air condition-ing, Mrs. Wildman?”
“I know the basics.”
“Then you will certainly be able to assist Mr. Peri with the design of the biotopes. Holo-technique was installed in this cargo bay. Mr. Peri has already programmed several habitats. The only missing fea-ture is adaptive climatic fine-tuning.”
Seven turns to the exit and leaves Mrs. Wildman with a perplexed ex-pression, while she is glancing over Peri`s various landscape creations.

On the bridge, Janeway restlessly walks up and down in front of her chair. She has turned her brooding gaze to the floor. For a brief moment, she turns to the tactical console where something flashes, accompanied by the hissing crackle of an electrical discharge. At the side of the con-sole, the cover was opened to form a small gap; a long feeler has felt its way into the interior. Janeway frowns, while a jerking eye tube avoids her gaze. Shortly thereafter she is lost in her thoughts again. Suddenly she turns abruptly to E-Bug`s neighbor.
“Lieutenant Carey, do you know how the communicator`s universal translator works?”
Carey`s eyes grow big as his jaw tilts sideways. “Honestly, Captain, I`ve never understood how that thing manages to translate every gibberish it hears for the first time right away so that you understand what`s meant.”
Seven steps out of the turbolift.
“Seven of Nine reports on the bridge as ordered.”
“What do you know about the universal translator, Seven?”
“It creates sound waves with several emitters. When a person speaks to another, the communicator adjusts the spatial distribution of the acous-tic interferences so that the speaker`s words are audible only in the ears of the speaker, while persons of another species who are addressed only hear the communicator`s translation into their language.”
Janeway raises her hand. “Listen to my concern: we`ve just come across a species that thinks we`re Hirogen. I want it to stay that way, even if we have to enter into audio conversation with them.”
“I understand. When you talk to these people, the communicator should translate your language into that of the Hirogen.”
Janeway nods with a conspiratorial smile. “Correct, Seven!”
“That should be possible. I`ll try to modify a communicator for you, … if you wish.”
“Do it!”

The doctor enters the holodeck. He walks to the workstation in front of an activated artificial biotope where Naomi, her mother and Peri are standing.
“You`re just in time, Doctor! We`ve finished now,” Mrs. Wildman wel-comes him.
He is holding a data PADD in his hands. “Here`s the requested tissue analysis of the being that attacked Naomi.”
Peri takes over the PADD and loads the data into his holocom. A rotating macromolecule becomes visible. Peri pushes it over the symbol of the main computer.
“The life-form is in Jefferies tube 9,” reports the computer voice.
A ship plan pops up and a symbol of the being is displayed in it. Peri pushes it to the icon of the transporter and both to ship-internal coordi-nates. A green mark appears.
“Transport initiated, Mr. Peri,” reports the voice of the officer on duty.
Then he dims the light outside the biotope. The persons present are standing in semi-darkness, while in the biotope in front of them the spherical being materializes. It is about 60 centimeters in size and cov-ered with bristles all around.
“This is the one –,” whispers Naomi.
For a moment the being seems as if frozen. Then the bristles begin to orient in groups towards different directions and to absorb environmen-tal stimuli. A slight flattening of the spherical form into an ellipsoid be-comes visible. With sudden deformations the being bounces into the landscape of the biotope like a tennis ball. Shortly afterwards it has dis-appeared behind a group of tall, tufted grasses.
In the holocom, Peri visualizes the botanical architecture of the biotope. The movement of the being is shown inside as the wandering of a bright spot. The doctor is surprised.
“This biotope seems to be constantly changing.”
“That`s right,” confirms Mrs. Wildman. “Mr. Peri has programmed it so that soil formations, plant areas, and microclimates increase their surface area if they are visited more frequently by that being.”
The doctor nods with fascination. “Now I understand! It enables this being to form its habitat by itself!”
The doctor points a scanner he has brought at the biotope.
“Is this a new tricorder, Doctor?” inquires Naomi.
“This is one of the bioscanners the Hirogen have attached to their tetryon rifles. They use it to track down their prey and determine their degree of injury. It doesn`t have the accuracy of our medical scanners, but it has a greater range.” He reads the values on the display. “The body temperature of the being is 29.4 degrees Celsius. It breathes a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, methane, carbon dioxide, and water vapor.” His look gets worried. “Its atmosphere emitter is almost discharged. It`s probably been surviving merely due to its low metabolic rate.”
The doctor shows Peri the values on the display. Peri quickly programs an additional force field around the holo biotope. It glimmers up. Then he changes the respiratory gases inside on a level display at his workstation. The originally transparent air in the holographic world takes on a hazy tint. Peri touches the virtual button Interconnect. In the holocom, the three-dimensional, schematic image of the spherical being appears.
“I see Mr. Peri has found an interlink frequency to this Hirogen tech-nique!” remarks the doctor with a pleased grin.
While he holds the hirogen scanner aligned towards the biotope, he fur-ther evaluates the measured data in the holocom.
“Look, Naomi! Its body consists of concentric shells. In the center you see kind of a heart. This is surrounded by a layer of organs. Then follows a thick, perforated muscle layer, which enables this amazing kind of lo-comotion. And finally, it`s covered by a skin several centimeters thick, from which the bristles sprout.”
“Doesn`t it have a brain, Doctor?”
“Let me see, … the innermost layer of the skin consists of a network of nerve fibers that are directly connected to the bristles. The bristle tips are of different construction and quite complex – probably sensory or-gans.”
“Then it`s like a sea-urchin, without much intelligence?”
“Beware of sweeping judgments about mental performance, Naomi. The size of a brain is not directly related with the ability to comprehend or even feel something!” He looks at Mrs. Wildman. “Why don`t you show Naomi a holo document about the behavior of terrestrial birds?” He turns back to Naomi. “These beings have a tiny brain, but a vast spec-trum of mental performance and social behavior!” The doctor marks the nerve tissue of the spherical being in the holocom and carries out an integrating operation. “By the way, the nervous layer of this being spans its entire body; its total mass is about one and a half times as large as that of a humanoid brain of the Human species!” He frowns. “Perhaps it needs a high redundant proportion of nerve tissue because the brain lies so close to the surface and may be easily injured. Or maybe it has devel-oped in a biotope in which high sensory performance is required.”
“Or maybe it is — intelligent after all,” says Mrs. Wildman.
“We don`t know that. So far we only know that it is very shy.”
“Then perhaps we should just leave it alone!” Naomi proposes yawning-ly, holding her hand in front of her mouth, with eyes that have become small.
“That`s right, Naomi.” The doctor turns off the scanner. “Let`s wait and see how it`s going to form its new world it jumped into!”
The doctor goes to the exit of the cargo bay. Naomi and her mother fol-low him. Only Peri remains at the workstation. He looks after the others. When the gate behind the three humanoids has closed, he turns back to the panel. Next to the new living space of the spherical being he opens another biotope and secures it with a glimmering force field. In the holo-com he pushes an icon to the symbol of the transporter and both to the symbol of a holo biosphere. A green mark appears next to the icons.
“Transport initiated,” reports the voice of the officer on duty.
Shortly afterwards a huge, crab-like creature appears on the sandy beach of a lagoon. Towards the sea, the surf breaks on rocks. The crab`s button eyes, fixed on short stumps, probe the surroundings. Then it marches inland, on multiply-linked, spindly stilt legs, towards the dark entrance of a cave that opens at the semi-circle foot of the rocky wall lining the beach.

Seven leaves the turbolift and returns to the bridge. She goes forward.
“Modifications are complete, Captain.”
Janeway takes off her communicator and replaces it with the modified one Seven hands over to her.
“Let`s test it right now!” She raises her head. “Computer, disable all communicators on the bridge except the captain`s.”
“Command executed,” the computer`s voice answers.
Janeway lays her flat hand on her modified communicator and begins to speak. Deep, loud and martial her voice resounds: “Grrmpf`Tra fun`killtr blod`fck Pfroor`murdrr!”
In front of her twelve eyestalks jerk in Janeway`s direction. At the same time, hissing and crackling sparks are flashing from an up swinging side feeler into the ceiling of the rear bridge.
“What do you think, Seven? Was that genuine Hirogen?”
“I cannot judge this. Mr. Ceph and Mr. E-Bug are the only ones in this room who have ever heard Hirogen without a universal translator.”
Janeway nods as she looks from Ceph to E-Bug.
“Computer, reactivate all communicators on the bridge.” Janeway takes the modified communicator to Lang at the OPS. “Open an audio channel to the Hatsch`ka, Ensign, and attribute the interlink frequency of this Hirogen translator to the transmitter!”
Lang enters command codes on a display. Then she raises her hand and nods to Janeway. She straightens up.
“This is Prokt, leader of the Axong Hirogen. I`m calling X`Tel, the leader of the third outpost of the Hatsch`ka!”
“This is X`Tel. Do you need our services?”
“With our brother tribe, the Naskar Hirogen, we had agreed on a joint Pandar hunt. We were late and missed the Naskar. Where did they fly to?”
Janeway tensely stares into the dark screen. A long moment of silence passes.
Finally, the Hatsch`ka replies, “The Naskar Hirogen have stopped the Pandar hunting prematurely to hunt down a ship called Voyager.”
“Where were they going to fly after the Voyager hunt?”
“This is unknown.”
Janeway frowns. “Then we`re going to hunt the Pandars alone. Where`s the hunting ground?”
“Fourth planet in the Tangor Beta system,” the Hatsch`ka explains hesi-tatingly.
“Good. Prokt out!”
“That`s the fourth innermost planet of the binary star partner of the Hatsch`ka`s system,” comments Seven.
Janeway nods with a disappointed look. “I had hoped to learn more.”

The starship Voyager floats in space against the background of two bright stars. Slowly her bow turns to the paler and more distant one of the two stars. Suddenly the ship accelerates and shoots in its direction. A warp flash lights up in the distance.

In the casino, two crew members put their plates on the counter. They walk to the exit. As the door opens, they stop and move sideways apart. At a respectful distance, they wait until the entering guest has passed them.

Two circular optical images show, in jerky alterations, different areas of the casino room. These two bright circular images, filled with surface structures, edge contrasts and colors, are embedded into a turbulent field of light grey moiré-like patterns. Some of them rest on the black background, others fluctuate. At an edge of the field of view, a particu-larly active pattern of small swellings and depressions appears over a narrowly defined area. In rapid motion this area shifts to the center. One of the two visual circles is directed towards it and a moment later also the second one. The two images overlap by more than half of their area. A casino table is in the focus of the optical sense of sight. Three persons sit around the table. Two of them are busy pushing food into their mouth openings with shining forks and spoons. A different person steps to the table, puts a plate down, and moves away again. Also, the third person at the table transports food from the freshly placed plate to its lips. The two visual circles separate from each other; jerking, they shift independently across the room again until one of them remains at an unoccupied table. Immediately, the other one also directs to it.

E-Bug is still standing near the entrance. His two temple antennae swivel slowly back and forth. Both eye tubes are aligned with a table at the back of the casino. On his front limbs ending in finger-like claws and on the hind legs he walks towards the table. Having arrived there, he lowers his massive middle jump-legs and pushes the front body upwards so that the front extremities lie on the tabletop. The tube-eyes orient to the person who brought the food to the previously observed table.
“A new guest!” rejoices Neelix. “Welcome, Mr. E-Bug!”
He bows. Then he ponders.
“What can I offer you? I don`t even know yet what food combination the doctor has assigned for you.”
Baxter, Naomi, and Mrs. Wildman are sitting two tables away from E-Bug`s place. Baxter rises.
“I`ll get the drink for Mr. E-Bug, Neelix. It`s stored in the replicator.”
“Thank you, Mr. Baxter!” Neelix continues to ponder. “But he certainly needs solid food too!”
Baxter returns from the replicator with a large glass in his hands. As he passes Naomi, she inquires, “What kind of drink is this, Mr. Baxter?”
“It`s a highly concentrated electrolytic liquid. Somebody who generates strong electric fields needs a strong dielectric!”
He places the glass in front of E-Bug on his table.
A tongue shifts out from E-Bug`s mouth, rolled up lengthwise like a tube. He carefully tastes the drink and then sucks it in heartily. The tongue sinks deeper and deeper into the glass.
Baxter goes back to his place. Shortly afterwards Neelix comes out of the kitchen carrying a bowl to E-Bug`s table. He puts it down.
“I don`t know if all the ingredients will fit your metabolism perfectly. But the electrostatic flavor should certainly appeal to you.”
Despite his articulated confidence, Neelix takes a few steps back until he stands next to Naomi.
Twitching curiously E-Bug`s` tube-eyes direct to the food in the bowl. Its structure and color resemble cooked spinach, with feathered leaves on long stems. However, a glitter and sparkle emanate from all parts of the plants as if they were covered with thousands of tiny mica flakes. With a finger claw, E-Bug pushes the drinking cup to the side and the bowl to-wards him. Again, the tongue carefully feels what was placed in front of him. Already at first contact the skin lobes jerk faintly in E-Bug`s face. Two mandibles on both sides of the mouth flap out, grab one of the glit-tering little plants and guide it between jaw teeth that immediately begin to chew. With an obvious deliberation that reveals pronounced pleasure E-Bug raises one bite after the other into his mouth. The eye tubes change independently of each other the direction of their gaze – from the food to Neelix and back.
Mrs. Wildman is amazed. “What did you serve him, Neelix?”
“I`ll show you right now, Mrs. Wildman. – Computer, dim lighting to lounge level.”
The white, even lighting of the casino changes to a darkened mood. Only a few areas of the room remain illuminated by golden-yellow light spots. All the guests present are looking at E-Bug`s table, whispering. In the darkness of his mouth, fireworks sparkle in filigree, colorful flashes.
Neelix explains, “These are grail algae from zeta-Pectoris. Kes once culti-vated them in the hydroponic garden. But nobody wanted to eat them because they caused toothache at chewing. The algae excrete liquid droplets in which piezoelectric crystallites grow as the droplets dry out. At chewing pressure, induced voltage occurs that discharges into gum and jaw.”
Baxter grins. “Nevertheless, the stuff seems to be a delicacy, for an electrophilic gourmet!”

The starship Voyager approaches a green and blue patterned planet covered with spots of white clouds. The starship swings into orbit. During its flight, the boundary between night and day passes underneath the ship.

Janeway is standing in front of her chair, looking at the image of the planet on the screen. E-Bug fades in sensor data. Janeway reads them out loud with an increasingly joyful expression.
“1,630 millibars of air pressure at sea level. 64% nitrogen, 32% oxygen, water vapor, argon, carbon dioxide. This corresponds to the settings on the atmosphere emitter of our Pandar! Scan for bio-signatures, Ensign Lang!”
“A variety of life is detected, Captain. In the northern hemisphere, there`s a geographically confined Pandar population.”
“Transfer coordinates to the transporter room!”
Janeway touches her communicator. “Captain to Mr. Baxter. We found his homeworld! You requested to accompany me, didn`t you?”
“Aye, Captain,” confirms his voice.
“We`ll meet at the transporter! – Janeway out.”

In the sky of a planet, dark rain clouds are divided by atmospheric winds. The rays of a bright-yellow sun break through and warmingly spread up-on the wetted nature of a wide green river valley lined by rocks. Above the valley a majestic plateau rises. It is covered with groups of trees. The thickness of their foliage veils the branches, and a slight breeze makes the compact masses of moistly leaves glimmer. The slope down from the plateau is set with large boulders.
Janeway and Baxter materialize in an open area on the plateau near the slope. They have their atmosphere emitters strapped on. Baxter scans the surroundings with a tricorder. He points down the slope.
“There they are, Captain, close to the river.”
Janeway follows his gaze. Baxter raises his eyebrows.
“It looks as if they`re grazing … And some are pawing down branches of bushes and getting the fruits!”
“That`s consistent with the doctor`s analysis. Though our Pandar is a predator in anatomy and behavior, he is able to sustain himself on a veg-etarian diet due to his flexible metabolism.” Janeway touches the com-municator. “Ensign Lang, we`re ready. Five meters ahead of my position – energize!”
In front of Janeway and Baxter, the black Pandar materializes near the edge of the plateau, in orientation towards the valley. For a moment he crouches and growlingly hisses in lurking attack posture; he remains mo-tionless. Only the pupils behind his three sickle eyes adapt their aperture to the bright daylight and the thinned tufts of hair around the hearing and olfactory organs on his head sway. Suddenly he takes such deep a breath that his front body swells broadly. He straightens up to full size. His eyes are directed into the valley. His throat opens and sends a roar down, that is echoing from the flank of the opposite mountain slope. From the valley, the deep roar is returned by others of his kind. The massive neck of the Pandar stretches towards the answered call. Sud-denly the hair tufts around his sensory openings bend backwards. He turns his head.
Baxter gets uneasy.
“Captain, wouldn`t it be the right time now -?”
“Take a few steps back, Baxter.”
The Pandar turns around and slowly walks towards Janeway. Finally, his huge head is right in front of her face. The hair wreaths around his olfac-tory openings are in flowing motion. All three eyes look forward. Careful-ly Janeway moves her hand to his neck and opens the atmosphere emit-ter. Then she slowly pulls it from the Pandar`s nape. His throat opens and between the rows of teeth, a soft hissing can be heard, like a breath of wind between clefts of rocks. Then he turns around. With a single jump across several meters, he reaches the edge of the plateau. From there he jumps down, from one boulder in the slope to the next, until he ar-rives at the bottom of the valley.
Behind Janeway, Baxter exhales audibly. Janeway looks around. At sev-eral points of the plateau, various beings can be seen grazing without shyness.
“Just look how peaceful this place appears. It`s a pity we can`t stay any longer.”
Janeway`s hand rises to touch her communicator when a voice suddenly speaks to her.
“We thank you.”
With a jerk, Janeway and Baxter turn sideways.
“It came from over there, Captain!”
“Do you see anything?”
“No.” Moving the tricorder, Baxter tries to find the bearings of the voice. “Two life-forms are being displayed, right before us in that bush!”
The two of them step towards an object densely covered with leaves.
“You are humanoids,” the voice continues. “Therefore, you expect life-forms that are similar to your own. Look higher!”
In the tangle of leaves, at a height of about three meters, individual groups of leaves are in joint movement, independently of the surround-ing leaves that are stirred by the wind.
Janeway`s eyes try to recognize anything.
“Excuse me! We did not know that there exist higher life-forms on this planet. Otherwise, we would have announced our visit.”
“We are not higher.”
“Nobody is higher.”
“We are just different.”
“Everybody is different,” declare two voices in turn. They continue.
“You have Hirogen technology on your ship.”
“But you are not Hirogen.”
Janeway explains, “We were their prisoners. The Pandar helped to free us. That technology comes from a destroyed Hirogen ship.”
“Are you conquerors?”
“Are you spreading?”
“From far away we`ve been brought to this part of space against our will. Since then, we are looking for a way back home.”
“That was not the question!”
“Are you spreading?”
Janeway`s gaze gets serious while she tries in vain to recognize who is speaking to her from the maze of leaves.
“Our species has already founded many colonies on other planets. But we have a principle: A new habitat may only be colonized if no existing life-form there is impaired.”
“No existing humanoid life-form?”
“No! No life-form of whatever kind,” answeres Janeway.
“That is unrealistic!”
“We refuse to do it!”
“We are not space travelers!”
“We don`t colonize foreign worlds!”
“We restrict ourselves to pacifying our own world.”
“We have set a limit to the growth of our own species.”
“And we try to pacify other species on our planet through limitation and transformation.”
“We pacify predators and enable them to feed on plants.”
“We limit the multiplication of their former victims.”
“We try to eradicate disease and pain.”
“And we enable everyone to die easily.”
With his tricorder, Baxter is still scanning for the source of the two voices. Janeway pushes his arm downwards.
She comments, “You have set yourselves a high goal. I wish you to reach it.”
“There is a problem.”
“With the Hatsch`ka.”
“They are humanoids.”
“They are conquerors.”
“They want to reshape our habitats.”
“They want to exploit and colonize our world.”
“The Hirogen have stopped them.”
“They have hunted the Hatsch`ka.”
“The Hatsch`ka pretended to be cowards.”
“And they betrayed our planet and the Pandars to the Hirogen.”
“Since then, the Hirogen have claimed possession of our planet and the Hatsch`ka must leave us in peace.”
“But the Hirogen take former predators …”
“to make them aggressive again and hunt them down.”
“Aggression can be aroused easily.”
“But it is hard to appease it!”
Janeway nods bitterly. “Many of our crew were also abducted by Hiro-gen. We don`t know where to look for them.”
“The hunters speak at the campfire.”
“They are dealing with life-forms.”
“In a place they call Triple Star.”
Pondering, Janeway turns to Baxter. “Triple star –”
Lang`s voice calls. “Voyager to Captain!”
“Go ahead, Ensign!”
“Two ships are approaching the planet. When they noticed us, they were cloaking. Captain, they are Hirogen hunting ships! They`re going to reach us in eight minutes.”
Janeway`s gaze darkens. “Understood!”
One of the voices speaks from the foliage, “They come to take life.”
Janeway turns her head sideways and looks over the valley. In a sound-less voice, she declares: “These Hirogen will not take life from your plan-et today. I give you my word on that!”
She turns to Baxter. “Janeway to Voyager. – Two persons to beam!”
The two dematerialize from the surface of the planet.

Janeway and Baxter appear on pads in the transporter room. While Janeway walks to the door, she raises her head.
“Red Alert!”
The lighting in the corridor changes to blinking red light.
Janeway snatches at her communicator. “Captain to all hands. – Occupy battle stations!”
Janeway hurries along the corridor.
“Janeway to Torres!”
“The subnucleonic reflectors we removed from the wreck … are they ready for operation?”
“I just got to turn them on, Captain,” Torres`s voice replies.
“Do that! Stand by in main engineering and wait for my command!”
“Aye, Captain!”
Janeway turns into the next corridor.
“Seven, where are you?”
“In the weapons control room with Mr. Carey,” Seven`s voice answers.
“Is the de-cloaking mode operational?”
“We`re still working on it. Its maximum level of performance reaches only 70% so far.”
Janeway enters the turbolift.
“That`ll have to do! Come both of you to the bridge immediately!”
“Aye, Captain.”
The lift closes.
Janeway`s gaze fixes onto the wall of the cabin. The door opens again. Janeway hurries across the bridge. Ceph is sitting in his hammock at the helm, E-Bug and Lang stand at their stations.
“How much longer, Ensign?”
“If they`ve maintained their original speed, two more minutes, Captain.”
Janeway sits down in her seat. She opens her own holocom. A moment later, the large holocom of the bridge pops up next to the helm. Janeway pushes the icon of the Voyager into its center and two Hirogen ships beside it.
Seven and Carey hurry out of the lift and occupy their stations. Janeway takes a look back to them. Then she turns forward again and stares at the viewscreen.
“Captain to all hands! – Attack mode HH2!”
At the left edge of the screen is the home planet of the Pandar, at the right edge, a moon dotted with craters. Stars glow in between.
Seven reports, “A ship is decloaking on port!”
A Hirogen hunting ship becomes visible next to the planet.
“They`re hailing us.”
“On screen!”
A Hirogen appears, in full hunting armor.
“Ship Voyager — we are impressed! You have captured monotanium from our people. But that will not save you. It just makes the hunt the more interesting!”
Janeway`s look turns even more sinister.
“A ship of the Naskar-Hirogen has kidnapped almost one hundred peo-ple of my crew. Can you tell me where they were taken to?”
With a scornful smile the Hirogen answers, “I think I know where they were brought to. And I will tell you – just before I`m going to eviscerate my hunting trophies from you!”
He disappears from the screen.
“Subnucleonic beams are directed at us,” reports Seven. “They`re trying to paralyze our on-board systems, from two directions.”
The second ship decloaks at starboard.
Janeway taps her communicator. “B`Elanna, full power to the subnucle-onic reflectors – now! Re-focus the beams back to their origins!”

Voyager is floating between the planet and its moon. In front of her, the two Hirogen hunting ships have taken position. Suddenly a number of monotanium plates start tipping up on Voyager`s hull. In the opening gaps, metal grids get visible.

At the OPS, Seven is reading data from the displays. “Sensors detect system failures on both hunting ships.”
Janeway turns her head. “Carey, phaser pulses on their shields. As soon as the shields are down, torpedoes. — Fire!”
The screen shows phaser pulses leaving Voyager towards the hunting ships, where they fizzle out against their shields. Suddenly, some of the phaser shots hit the hull of the Hirogen vessel on its port side. The rays are scattered in all directions by its monotanium plates. Carey sends a torpedo immediately; its explosion blows a hole in the hull of the vessel. Seven scans it.
“Damages at their weapon systems and propulsion.”
“Carey, fire a torpedo at their remaining weapons!”
“Aye, Captain!”
Carey levels on the target. Suddenly, the cover of his console explodes with sparking flashes. Carey is ejected backwards; E-Bug, who standing next to him, is thrown aside. The bridge shakes violently and the crew is jolted back and forth. Janeway clings to her armrests.
E-Bug has returned to his readings. He fades in four additional ships into the large holocom near the helm. They have appeared opposite the two Hirogen hunting ships from behind Voyager. Ceph splits the screen into bow and stern view, with the latter showing the additional four hostile ships.
“Four battle cruisers,” calls Seven. “According to their technological sig-nature, they are Hatsch`ka. They were hidden behind the planet. They focused their phaser power on us with one synchronous shot.”
“We obviously underestimated that species,” Janeway recognizes.
Also the two Hirogen ships now open fire against Voyager, shaking her again. Sparks spray from a panel on the rear wall. In addition to the three eyes directed at Janeway from the helm, four more turn around to her.
Carey gets up from the ground. His forehead is bleeding. He looks into the smoking hole on top of his console.
“I don`t have access to the weapons, Captain!” From his neighbor, a tube-eye is directed from sensor readings to Carey and follows his gaze.
Seven reports, “I transferred control of the torpedoes to the OPS. How-ever, I don`t get access to the phaser banks.”
Carey runs to the OPS. Fire blasts hit Voyager`s shields from bow and stern. It is shaken.
“Shields at 60%,” reports Seven.
From the display next to her chair, Janeway transfers a command code to the helm. “Evasive maneuver Delta!”
One of Ceph`s eyes directs to the code image.
Immediately, Voyager shoots forward, passing through the two Hirogen ships; it turns sideways and holds a position behind one of the hunting ships so that it serves as a cover against the Hatsch`ka. The Hirogen con-tinue to fire at Voyager.
Janeway has got up and is approaching the OPS.
“Fire the torpedoes, Carey!”
“Aye, Captain! But due to the hit we took only a low shooting sequence is possible.”
Successively, with several seconds apart, single photon torpedoes de-tach from Voyager and explode at the shields of the hunting ships.
Seven warns, “The Hatsch`ka swarm out, Captain. We`re about to lose our cover!”
Fire bursts hit Voyager and shake the bridge. Janeway holds fast to the railing in front of the OPS. Suddenly, one of Voyager`s phaser banks emits uninterrupted drumfire aimlessly into space. Janeway turns around. Sparks spray from the tactical console into which E-Bug has sunk his fore extremities. One eye is directed downwards, the other to the screen.
“He has activated a phaser bank!” shouts Carey. “But there`s no target leveling possible!”
Janeway stares to the screen, at the sustained fire fizzling into vacancy. “Ceph —!”
She hurriedly starts sketching a command in her holocom. She aborts. The ship is on its way already. As if in a nosedive, Ceph navigates towards two of the Hatsch`ka vessels and continuously turns Voyager so that the single phaser`s drum fire hits one of the hostile ships. Its shields collapse and a hole is blown out of its hull.
“Carey – a torpedo!” calls Janeway.
A moment later the torpedo strikes the unprotected flank of the Hatsch`ka cruiser. The vessel explodes.
In a loop, Voyager turns around and rushes at the next attacker.
Torres`s voice calls, “Main engineering to bridge! – Centrifugal dampers are almost at their stop! What`s Ceph doing with the ship?”
“He`s flying tight turns at high speed,” Janeway replies. “Keep the sys-tems operational as long as possible!”
While Voyager quakes due to heavy impacts into her shields, another ship of the Hatsch`ka explodes. Ceph turns the ship around and heads for the remaining two cruisers, which fly close together. Voyager is hit again.
Seven warns, “Shields at 40%.”
“Captain, we`re flying right between three attackers!” calls Carey. “They`re pressing us hard!”
Janeway looks anxiously at the screen. From the front, the two Hatsch`ka cruisers are firing; from behind, phaser beams of the undam-aged Hirogen hunting ship strike into Voyager`s shields. At the helm, the end of a tentacle rises a bit above the console, as if preparing to give a sign.
Janeway shouts, “Carey, level torpedoes at the attackers in front of us! Wait for my mark!”

Under fire from two sides, Voyager races near the moon, towards the remaining two Hatsch`ka cruisers. Behind her, one of the Hirogen hunt-ing ships follows, shooting with all its phasers. Suddenly, Voyager turns like a fighter plane around its longitudinal axis and in the next moment she breaks out sideways and seems to somersault forward in a loop. The shots fired at her from behind and in front miss their target. The fire of the Hirogen ship strikes into a cruiser of the Hatsch`ka. Shortly after-wards it is hit by a Voyager torpedo and explodes. At the same time Voyager has reached the second cruiser and directs her continuously shooting phaser into the shields of this only Hatsch`ka ship left. With two following torpedoes, that vessel also explodes. Again, Voyager turns around and rushes towards the two Hirogen hunting ships. They are fir-ing towards her. Suddenly, one of the ships becomes invisible.

On the bridge, Seven reports, “The damaged hunting ship has activated its cloaking device.”
Janeway nods. “It can`t fire in cloaking mode. We concentrate on the visible opponent!”
“I`ve just managed to restore control to three phaser banks, Captain!” rejoices Carey.
“Excellent! Combine their firepower with the phaser that is out of con-trol. And don`t use the photon torpedoes until their shields are down! We need the torpedoes to penetrate their monotanium hull!”

Between the moon and the planet of the Pandars, Voyager orbits to-wards the uncloaked Hirogen hunting ship on a spiral trajectory at an ever-increasing speed. Thereby, Voyager turns so that the sustained fire of the uncontrollable phaser bank is always directed against the target. At the same time, the three other phaser banks are shooting salvos. The attacked hunting ship returns fire against Voyager with all its weapons.

On the bridge, another wall panel explodes, sending sparks around the bridge.
“Shields at 30%,” reports Seven.
The planet and the moon move increasingly faster over the screen every few seconds, from bottom to top, while in the center of the image the Hirogen ship, which Voyager is continously looping around, gets closer and closer. Impact vibrations become more violent.
“Shields at 25%!” reports Seven.
The hunting ship already fills the entire height of the screen. Suddenly, Voyager`s phasers hit the Hirogens` monotanium hull. The beams are scattered by it in all directions.
“Torpedoes on their Tylium generator!” calls Janeway.
Two torpedoes detach from Voyager and fly towards the opponent like glowing lightning bullets. At its stern, they detonate. Splintered mono-tanium plates are ejected. Violent blasts occur beneath the impact areas. The next moment, a flaming explosion wave spreads from the stern of the ship forward to the bow. The entire hunting ship bursts into glowing fragments. Immediately in front of the expanding debris field, Ceph pulls Voyager sideways off and stops the ship. The continuous fire of the un-controlled phaser bank ends. E-Bug rises from the smoking hole in the weapon console.
Janeway taps her communicator. “Captain to Torres. – Activate resona-tors to neutralize their cloaking device!”
“Aye, Captain! But they`re not properly tuned yet.”
“That does not matter.”
On the screen the outlines of the cloaked Hirogen ship become visible with a shimmering glint.
“I can`t get any more out of the resonators, Captain,” Torres`s voice de-clares.
“We won`t need any more!” With a sinister glow in her eye, Janeway stares at the screen. “Mr. Carey, their cloaking device is mounted on port, near the center of the keel.”
“Aye, Captain.”
He fires two phaser shots at the Hirogen ship. Its camouflage collapses. While it becomes visible, splintered parts detach from the ship`s hull at the hit locations and drift into space.
Seven reads data from the OPS. “Their weapons have failed. Propulsion is off-line. Life support is collapsing throughout the vessel.”
“Hail them!”
Again, the Hirogen captain who had opened the hunt appears on the screen. He breathes heavily. Cables and hose lines are hanging from the ceiling of his command room. The air around him is filled with smoke.
“Voyager — you are a prey we have underestimated!”
With an icy tone Janeway replies: “You still haven`t grasped the situa-tion, Hirogen. This time we were the hunters and you are the prey! But we are not murderous trophy collec-tors. If you agree, we`ll beam you to our ship and take you to the next habitable planet.”
The Hirogen turns his head to another hunter standing behind him. Then he approaches Janeway again, with an expression of contempt.
“We should surrender to weak humanoids commanded by a woman? We won`t take that shame upon us!”
He disappears from the screen. The next moment the Hirogen hunting ship explodes.

The starship Voyager is floating above the home planet of the Pandars. Several spider robots are carrying out repairs on her hull.
“Captain`s log, stardate 53112.1.
We know only little about the Hirogen culture and nothing about that of the Hatsch`ka. Nevertheless, when I close my eyes, I see fathers stand-ing at symbolic graves with bitterness and wrath in their faces. And mothers who, unable to find sleep behind closed lids, press a remem-brance against their body, they will carry with them from now on … next month … next year — in memory of a child that had grown inside of them and brought into the world, a child they had nursed when it was sick, they had educated with unnumbered admonishings and stories. A child that grew up and successfully found a place in society and that perhaps left children behind itself when it suffocated in the vacuum of space, or when its body was shredded or burned – in a fight against a ship named Voyager, that wiped out so many lives within minutes.”
In the atmosphere of the planet, formations of clouds shaped as sickle-like arcs protrude from the northern hemisphere into the blue of a southern ocean.
“Captain`s log, supplemental.
I`ve used the time of our repairs to return to the planet of the Pandars once again. Unfortunately, I was unable to establish any further contact with those remarkable beings who spoke to us but kept their appear-ance hidden from us. We`ve only had a casual conversation that was interrupted much too early. And yet we`ve learned more from these beings that can be of use to us for our search than we did from all hu-manoids we`ve asked for help, who only wanted to cheat or destroy us. I wish those beings could live in peace, without any influences on their planet from outside.”


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