Starship Voyager – The Alien Adventures — 2 CAESURA

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 at Paramount Pictures / CBS.

Multiplication and distribution for commercial purpose are not allowed.

2. Caesura

The starship Voyager evenly flies through the depths of space, while the nearby stars are drifting by as thin, white, fleeting stripes. Sideways in the distance an extensive, blurred nebula structure of light-blue color is visible. Far away, the elongated band of the Milky Way extends and at its center, mainly covered by dark clouds, gleams the central bulge of the galaxy.

Janeway and Chakotay are sitting in the captain`s ready room with coffee and tea. They exchange an affectionate, good-natured look.
“Five years, Kathryn, … so many adventures we`ve gone through.”
“I`ll schedule the official celebration for the day after tomorrow. But I`m not sure if the crew feels like celebrating.”
“How do you feel? Do you regret being here?”
“I regret that I can`t get our people home faster. And I`m blaming my-self.”
“You have no reason to do so. You`ve done everything you could to guide the ship and the crew safely through every danger and beyond every obstacle that has confronted us so far on our way home.”
“Five years ago, when I decided to save the Okampa by destroying the phalanx of the caretaker, I sacrificed the possibility of a quick way back and brought us into this situation.”
“According to Starfleet`s ethical guidelines, you couldn`t decide other-wise. And your crew members, who have sworn the same oath to these guidelines, know that.”
Smiling, Janeway stirs with a spoon in her cup.
“Our crew no longer consists of Starfleet members only.”
“Even though the former Maquis partisans were not sworn to Starfleet protocols, they are loyal to you as their captain.” Chakotay`s gaze darkens for a moment. “And since we were informed that the Maquis has been wiped out, the former crew of the partisan ship Val Jean won`t blame you if the voyage takes a bit longer — to where they lost their homeland to the Cardassians, and where a Federation court-martial might be waiting for them.”
Janeway lays her hand on Chakotay`s forearm.
“Believe me, I`ll do anything I can to -”
“Bridge to the Captain!” interrupts Kim`s voice. “We`re receiving a dis-tress call from a vessel.”
Janeway removes her hand from Chakotay`s arm. “I`m on my way!”
The two officers leave the ready room and go to the bridge. Janeway stops next to her seat in the center of the bridge. She looks back to port.
“Do we know the signature, Mr. Kim?”
“I`m afraid we do, Captain. — It`s Hirogen!”


“What`s our distance to that vessel?” Janeway asks.
“Two light years, Captain,” Kim replies.
Chakotay warns, “What if it`s a trap? They could have located us from that distance.”
“The last time we met them, we didn`t part as enemies from the Hirogen. If they need help, we won`t turn away.”
She looks forward to the helm.
“Set course for their coordinates, Mr. Paris!”
“Aye, ma`am.”

Voyager deviates from her straight course and flies an arc, indicated by the warp stripes of the stars deformed into curved lines. Finally, the stripes become linear again as the ship is heading straight for interstellar dust bands, which darkly cloud the central bulge of the galaxy.

On the bridge Paris reports, “We´re going under warp in five seconds, Captain.”
Janeway rises from her chair and walks towards the screen with a tense gaze.
“Yellow Alert! – Mr. Tuvok, activate weapons and shields! – Mr. Paris, keep a distance of 300,000 kilometers to their vessel!”
“Aye, Captain.”
The stripes on the screen collapse to punctual stars. Zoomed closer from afar, a large starship appears. It has a cannon-like projection on one side. In some distance there is a planet with two moons and a red-orange star shines from afar.
Tuvok warns, “According to the signatures displayed, this ship is superior to us in its armament.”
“I`m reading electrical discharges,” reports Kim, “as if there were a battle on board that ship.”
“Hail them!” orders Janeway.
A Hirogen appears on the screen. His arm is bandaged and stored in a sling. His skin, formed of dark, warty scales, shows signs of injury on his cheek and forehead.
“Voyager! Strange that just you show up here.”
“We received your distress call. Can we help you?”
“Do you really intend to help? Then take back what you have given to us!”
“I don`t understand -”
“Your holographic technique. We are Naskar-Hirogen. One of our brother tribes gave us a duplicate of their holographic hunting games. We didn`t know how dangerous this technique is. We created prey with high fighting strength and launched the hunt. The prey developed on its own and became immune to our weapons. It`s killing our hunters and devastating the ship!”
“Didn`t you activate security protocols?”
“Security protocols? What kind of hunt would that be if there were no danger?”
Janeway looks at Chakotay, then back at the screen.
“Can`t you turn off the holographic generator?”
“We are not familiar with this technique. It was installed by those who gave it to us.”
“If you agree, I`ll beam over to you with two experts.”
The Hirogen disappears from the screen. Dark space, alien vessel, the planet, and its two moons are visible again.
Janeway turns around. “Ensign Kim, come with me!”
She touches the communicator. “Captain to Lieutenant Torres! Meet me in transporter room 2!”
“Understood, Captain,” Torres voice answers.
Chakotay warns: “It would be better if I go, Captain, and you stay with the ship.”
“It would not, Commander. It was me who gave the Hirogen this technology. I must see for myself what has happened!” She looks at the helm. “Ensign Paris, if that ship charges its weapons, go to maximum warp immediately!”
“Aye, ma`am.”
With a worried expression Chakotay remarks, “We won`t just leave you behind –”
“Your first duty is to bring ship and crew to safety! Is that clear, Com-mander?”
“Aye, Captain. Be careful!”
“I will.”
Janeway and Kim enter the turbolift. Its door closes behind them.
“Deck 5!”
Kim looks at the door of the lift.
“I don`t have a good feeling, Captain.”
“Me neither. But we have to face up to our responsibility. We`ve given that holo-technology to the Hirogen to lead them away from hunting other species. If this technique itself is posing a threat now, we can`t just turn our backs on it.”
The door opens. They walk through a corridor and enter sickbay.
He appears from his office. “What can I do for you, Captain?”
“We`re going to beam on board of a vessel that probably carries injured persons. I want you to join us.”
The doctor reaches for a medicine case. Janeway takes the suitcase from him and passes it on to Kim.
“If you allow -”
The doctor radiates with joyful surprise.
“That`s very kind of you!”
Next Janeway grabs his shoulder and takes his holographic emitter, which has the shape of a small plaque.
“I want you to accompany us incognito, for the present.”
The joy retreats from the doctor`s face.
“I submit, Captain. But I would like to point out: I am a doctor – not a genie in a bottle!”
Janeway presses on the emitter plaque. The doctor`s holographic projec-tion dissolves. Janeway puts the emitter into a pocket of her uniform and leaves with Kim.

On the dark bridge of the Hirogen ship three shimmering and flickering spots appear, assuming the shapes of three humanoids. Inside these contours Janeway, Kim and Torres materialize. The captain of the Naskar-Hirogen steps up to them. He towers over the three by more than half a meter. With an expression of contempt, he wordlessly stares down at them.
Janeway declares, “I`m sorry this holo-technique has got out of control.”
The Hirogen remains silent.
“May we have a look at the holomatrix control module?”
“Follow me!”
He turns around and leads the three into the adjoining room. There, torn cables are hanging out of the walls and down to the floor. Broken con-soles make crackling and hissing noises with dark smoke penetrating from cracks. Janeway is surprised.
“What is this?”
“Your holo-technique.”
Torres steps close to one of the consoles.
“But — the system is completely destroyed!”
“That`s right,” replies the Hirogen mockingly. “We shot it to pieces when you went under warp!”
With a fast movement Janeway snatches at her communicator. “Voyager, it`s a trap! Immediately –”
A punch of the Hirogen`s fist into Janeway`s face throws her several me-ters backwards. She crashes against a wall and hits the floor, knocked unconscious.

On the dark side of a planet, the last light of the local sun is peering over the horizon and slowly disappears behind the drab ring of the planet`s atmosphere. The sickle-shaped strip of the last scattered rays, which forms the dwindling dusk, narrows and fades. The obscure night side of the planet appears like a hole in space from which no stars shine.

Darkness – changing into twilight with a blinking flicker. The lids of two eyes begin to open, in agonizing slowness. The gaze staggers sideways. A body, which has become clumsy, tries to move. Painful moaning wrings from a mouth hidden in the darkness. Once again, the glowing pair of eyes moves a bit further. The passing, incidental streak of a pale moonlight illuminates Janeway`s battered and bruised face. Her hands grope upwards; they cling to iron bars. With another moan she pulls her-self up. Suddenly three big sickle-shaped slit eyes flash in the dark on the other side of the bars. A deep growling, which turns into a hiss, roars towards Janeway. She flinches back, just in time to avoid a huge paw, which hits against the bars striking sparks on the iron with its claws.
From the opposite side somebody warns in an undertone, “Captain, are you conscious? Keep away from that grate by all means!”
“Is that you, Seven?” Janeway`s swollen eyes peer into the darkness.
“I`m here, Captain.”
Janeway fumbles for the grate barrier separating her own from the neighboring cell. She is breathing heavily as she moves.
“Seven, what happened?”
“We heard your warning, but we were not able to escape. A second Hirogen ship appeared from behind one of the moons. Under the firepower of both ships our shields collapsed. Propulsion and weapon systems were damaged. If Commander Chakotay had not surrendered, Voyager would have been destroyed.”
“How is the crew?” inquires Janeway anxiously.
“About fifty people are in custody at this place. So far they are largely undamaged.”
“What about the others?”
“They have been transferred to the Hirogen ship that had attacked from ambush. I counted nearly 90 crew members who were separated from our group. Some of them were injured.”
“We must escape from here and fight our way through to them!”
“It`s too late for that, Captain. That ship has already left the planet`s orbit.”
“Where`s our ship?”
“A few hundred meters from here, behind that hill.” Seven points to a dark silhouette under the starry sky. “We were forced to land on the planet. Voyager´s position is near the Hirogen ship you were on.”
“What do you know about this prison — is there a way to escape?”
“No, Captain. The bars are too strong to be manually separated and we have no tools to break them. I`ve tried to dig my way through below this cage, but the bars continue under the sandy ground.”
Janeway turns her head to the other side.
“We`re not the only ones being held here …”
“That`s correct. There`s a small number of cells with non-humanoid pris-oners.”
“What are they going to do with us?”
“We haven`t been informed about that.”
Janeway feels over her swollen face and down to her neck. Her fingers touch a collar, and she pulls at it.
“Don`t take that off!” warns Seven. “The atmosphere of this planet is very thin. It`s composed of various poisonous gases with only a few per cent oxygen. The device on your neck creates a weak force field around your body. It contains an air composition that is roughly equivalent to that of a Class-M planet. The Borg use something similar to enable drones that were assimilated from different species to survive inside the same ship. However, the Borg`s atmosphere emitter is far more efficient.”
Janeway ponders. “A mobile atmosphere emitter, you say -?”
Suddenly, her gaze becomes sharp. She gropes to the side of her uniform, pulls a small flat component out of a pocket and presses on it. The doctor`s projection appears next to her.
“Well, finally!” he shouts. “It`s about time! – Captain, what do you look like?”
“Calm Doctor! We must not be heard!”
He speaks more quietly now, but with undiminished vigor. “What does that mean? Where are we?”
“On a planet, as prisoners of the Hirogen. Doctor, I have an important mission for you!”
“My algorithms contain numerous subroutines for tactical operations,” declares the doctor proudly and straightens up. “You can count on me!”
“I know that. Go to Voyager! She`s beyond this hill. Find a way into the ship. Activate one of the transporters and beam us out of here!”
Seven objects, “Captain, even if we succeeded in leaving this planet, Warp drive is off-line and it`s not clear how long it would take to reacti-vate shields and weapons.”
“We have no choice,” replies Janeway resolutely. “And I do not intend to wait and see what the Hirogen will do to us. – Go ahead, Doctor, and be careful!”
Impatient and annoyed, the doctor`s gaze is directed at Janeway while he stretches out his vaulted palm towards her. Janeway hands over his mobile emitter. Satisfied, he refixes it on his shoulder. He turns around and slips outside, with the elasticity of a hologram, between the bars.
Ducked and spying, the doctor sneaks towards the hill. Its crest forms a horizon line behind the lattice cages, above which the curvature of a second moon appears. The doctor flinches as suddenly a voice speaks at the foot of the hill from behind a rock that he was about to pass.
“I bet five trophies on the flashing devil!”
A second voice answers, “I hold against it. The hunt for the Pandar will be the most interesting!”
The clapping of two hands can be heard. Quickly the doctor stalks further and passes over the hill. In the silvery light of the two moons, which illu-minates a flat valley bottom on the other side, he hurries to the Voyager. She is standing on her extended stilts, several hundred meters away from the Hirogen vessel, which is half as much again the size of the Starfleet ship. The doctor climbs the Voyager`s exit stairs up to the entrance lock. It is shut. Charred cables are hanging out of the console that operates the door of the lock chamber. The doctor tries to slip his hands into the slit where the two parts of the sliding door meet in order to pry them open, when he notices several welding seams. Each of them is surrounded by rings of fresh tarnish, that are fusing the door parts together.
He mumbles with discontent and despair: “Even that — and I don`t have a phaser to cut it!”
He discovers a narrow opening at the upper edge of the lock. Resolutely, he removes his holographic emitter and throws it upwards, aiming care-fully. As the emitter moves away, the doctor`s matrix deforms. The emit-ter barely misses the slot. It falls back downward to the doctor, whose figure restructures just in time to catch the small component. He throws again. This time the emitter disappears into the slit and the doctor`s dis-torted holo-matrix follows the small part like a comet`s tail.
On the other side, the doctor finds himself on the floor of a corridor. He reaches for his emitter and rises.
“I hope there won`t be any more of such stunts necessary,” he mumbles angrily. “I am a doctor – not a circus acrobat!”
The doctor quickly walks through a series of corridors. Finally, he reaches a lock and opens it. He takes a step inwards and freezes. A look of horror forms across his face.
To his left, in one half of the room, there are several circular pads on the floor. Per standard procedure, persons to be beamed stand on the pads before being simultaneously dematerialized and stored as information by the technique of the transporter, followed by rematerialising elsewhere – in their original state of body and mind – whether it be in the same ship, in another spacecraft, or on a nearby planetary sur-face.The doctor`s gaze is drawn to the opposite side of the room, where the transporter`s table-sized control station stands. It has been broken up. Torn cables dangle from places where once modules were installed that controlled the process of beaming.

A pale glimmer above the hill heralds a sulphurous-yellow dawn. Janeway and Seven worriedly gaze towards it through their bars. Suddenly, the doctor appears from aside and slips into Janeway`s cell.
“Doctor! What went wrong?”
With a desperate face he explains, “I was in both transporter rooms and even at the freight transporters. The Hirogen have dismantled control parts everywhere. I don`t know how to repair them. I`m not an engineer.”
“Are our handguns still on the ship?”
“I was also looking for weapons, but they were gone too. Finally, I sneaked onto the Hirogen ship, but I couldn`t find any transportable weapons there either.” His tone becomes even more lamenting. “That Hirogen vessel is so big. I`m not familiar with its interior.” He holds a rod-shaped device in front of Janeway`s face. “Unfortunately, I only have this medical scanner for you.” While he moves it over her bruises, they quickly become brighter. “I`m sorry, Captain, my mission was not very successful!”
“It`s all right, Doctor. You did what you could. We`re going to make another attempt tomorrow night. Until then, I have to hide you again.” She takes the scanner, grabs the mobile emitter and deactivates the doctor.
Seven notes, “Possibly our weapons and the dismantled components of the transporters were brought to the ship that left the system.”
Janeway looks into the dawn gloomily and from there up to the last visible stars, which are fading.

In the east, sulphur-yellow cirrus clouds cover the horizon of a sky, which shimmers greenish towards its zenith. In the far north an armada of dark-yellow cumulus clouds appears, which glow orange red at their edges.
As the sun rises, the air is blurred by the fog of a yellowish liquid, which evaporates from damp grounds as swaths of mist. A gust of wind picks up; it whirls sand over the stony desert as small dust devils. Vegetation is nowhere visible.

In the cage next to Janeway a black creature the size of a tiger is running restlessly up and down the grid rows. Again and again, it hits the bars with its paws so strongly that even the latticework of the neighboring cells trembles. The creature has a sickle-shaped eye on its forehead and below, on both sides of its temples, two more sickle eyes. Above the temple eyes, below the forehead eye, as well as at the back of the head, there are sensory openings surrounded by thin tufts of hair protruding from the fur. From the hastily breathing mouth, two rows of differently long, serrated, shark-like incisors stare out at the front, while molars can be seen in the rear. Like Seven and Janeway, this creature also has an atmosphere emitter around its neck.
Seven scratches the lattice with a stone.
“This material resembles duranium, but it seems to be still harder. Even if the doctor had brought a phaser, it would take us hours to cut it.”
Janeway shakes her head. “How can any species possess technologies so much advanced and at the same time live at such a low level in its ethics?”
“The hunting behavior of the Hirogen is not unusual,” replies Seven cool-ly. “According to Voyager`s database, there are also numerous hunting cooperatives among members of the United Federation of Planets – with Terrans involved too.”
Janeway observes the restless occupant of her neighboring cell, whose claustrophobic tantrums are getting more violent. With increasing fre-quency, the creature hits the bars. Finally, it falls over its collar in anger. Lying down, it scrapes at it with its fore paws. However, thick fur has settled around the emitter and protects it from the claws. Then the creature shakes its head so violently, and with such staggering vigour, that the collar detaches itself from the matting and slides forward, half over the head. A movement of the paw wipes off the emitter and throws it sideways. It lands in Janeway`s cage. Shortly thereafter the black creature starts to gasp. It rolls on the ground, begins to suffocate. It strikes against the grid with the side of its head and falls on its back, breathing only weakly. Barely half a meter away from it, Janeway is standing on the other side of the bars. Suddenly she bends down after the emitter and takes a step forward.
Seven warns, “Don`t do that, Captain!”
Janeway reaches through the grid. She puts the collar around the huge neck, which is almost as thick as the skull. The black head twitches in Ja-neway`s direction. She shrinks backward. Then she reaches through the rods again and closes the ends of the emitter band. Quickly she pulls her arms back. Small lights flash on the collar. A pale force field builds up around the head and body of the being. The half-closed sickle eyes stare up at the sky. Gasping, still on its back, the being is beginning to breathe deeper again. The tufts of hair around the nostrils sway with every breath. These thinly covered, long hairs seem to point backwards, in Janeway`s direction, while the being, still lying, evenly sucks in air and exhales it out again.

About fifty cages of different sizes form a semicircle around a circular sand field. The other half is formed by a stone wall about three meters high. On its top, more than twenty Hirogen are standing, wrapped in armour. The circle itself is apparently a battle arena, littered with skeletons of the previous combatants. On the right side, where the arch of the cages meets the stone wall, the surface of a liquid in a pool ripples and curls. In the rear part of the pool a carpet of long, thin bones is floating. Gas bubbles burst at the interface between fluid and air and small water vortices indicate that something expanded is moving be-neath the surface of the turbid liquid.
The Hirogen captain descends a stone staircase leading from the wall top, down into the arena. He crosses it and steps in front of Janeway`s cage.
“The day of your destiny has come!”
“What are you going to do with us? Will you hunt us now?”
The Hirogen replies scornfully, “You are not a worthy prey for us. But you will serve to select honorable prey and to study its fighting behavior before we hunt it!”
The giant Hirogen goes a few cages further. He opens a grid door. With blows and kicks he drives two men of the Voyager crew into the arena. From the tribune wall, Hirogen throw two batons into the sand in front of the men: axes with long blades and a cutting edge on both sides of the metal. Quickly the captain of the Hirogen retreats, going up the stone staircase. On top of the wall one of his men operates a large, box-shaped console and activates a force field. With a shimmer the field covers the arena like a dome. Then the same Hirogen targets one of the cages with a kind of tricorder. Its door jumps open. The two men in the arena turn around and look at the opening in alarm.
Slowly, step by step, a creature one and a half meters long and about 90 centimeters high moves out of the cage on four limbs. While the foot endings of the hind legs are hoof-like, the fore extremities run out in strong, three-part finger claws, which seem more suitable for grasping than for walking. An additional pair of legs hangs motionless between the walking legs without touching the ground. It is strongly angulated in the middle joint, like the jumping legs of a kangaroo, and far sturdier than the limbs used for walking. The reptilian body covered with scaly skin-flaps shimmers greenish and is underlayed with an iridescent blue. To both sides of a spine contour, at the top center of the being, two long snake-like outgrowths sprout from ball-joints. In serpentine ar-rangement they lie firmly on the body, running from their origin forward to the neck; and from there they wind, in a tight curve, backwards again to the rear end of the creature. Two further outgrowths about 30 centimeters long, which resemble antennae, stretch upward from the temples. In slow swiveling motion they seem to persistently scan the air for invisible waves.
With its slow steps the strange creature moves continuously deeper into the arena, as deliberately as a chameleon. Only the rapid directional change of its eyes disturbs the impression of a tired sluggishness. Like a pair of hollow, truncated cones, two tubular eyes protrude from the head to the left and right. Independent of each other, while capturing different perspectives of space, they flinch to the various objects of their interest every other second. The left eye looks at the two-legged humanoids, who were standing apart from the being and now cautiously bend over to pick up their metal axes. The right eye tube directs upwards to the hunters on the wall, then jerkily aligns backwards, towards the roundabout of the cages. The left eye twitches up to the Hirogen, then sideways to the stony stairs. On its top step the leader of the hunters raises his hand and roars:
The creature has stopped in the middle of the arena, facing the wall. The two crewmen are standing several meters away, with battle axes in their hands, waiting. The Hirogen get impatient. A few of them fire their rifles into the sand, just beside the men, urging them to move towards their opponent. Finally, the two Humans make up their mind to start the fight.
Janeway`s eyes follow her crewmen tensely. The two exchange a few words and make hand signals. Then they separate and stalk to the flanks of the creature from both sides. The alien being does not move. Only its eyes twitch back and forth between the cages, the attackers and the Hirogen on the wall. The two Humans begin to make jerky faint attacks on their opponent; they test the creature´s reaction, try to attract its attention to one side, so that the attacker on the other side may approach close enough to rip up the body of the alien with the sharp edge of his strike-weapon. But still only its eyes move; motionless and stiff its four legs stand stationary in the sand. The men are so close that their feints just miss the creature.
Suddenly the massive middle legs hit the ground, catapulting the being up in the air. At the same time the snake-like side feelers detach from the body. Like whips they beat sideways towards the two attackers. Arcs of lightening burst out of the feeler´s tips, striking the heads of the attackers. When the creature touches the ground several meters further on, its side feelers reattach to the flanks again, while the two men behind it lie motionless on the ground.
As a sign of appreciation for the creature, the Hirogen beat the broadside of their battle axes booming against their chest armour. Anger and horror glows in Janeway`s eyes.
The creature`s head rises. In a flash the tube-eyes direct in parallel, up-wards to the hunters. Far more violent than before the sturdy jumping legs beat into the sand and hurl the creature up to the Hirogen on their plateau. Like steel ropes tearing under tension, the side feelers whip against two of the hunters, discharging flashes of lightning into their bo-dies with crackling bangs. One of those struck disappears, falling backward over the wall, the other falls headlong forward, into the dusty sand of the arena. The surprised Hirogen level their guns at the being. Before they succeed in firing, it has hurled itself further up from the wall ledge, against the force field surrounding the arena. With side feelers spreading several meters off its body, it collides with the field. For a mo-ment it seems to stick to it, while from the tips of the feelers flashes of lightning are twitching radially to all sides through the force field dome. Thunderbolt like from cannon salvos shakes the arena. The force field bursts and dissipates. The generator console on the plateau explodes and hurls housing parts and sparks over the hunters, knocking some of them down as they struggle not to lose their hold on the wall. The creature falls back to the ground, and before the Hirogen can rally, it jumps over the cages, rushes up the hill with a few leaps and disappears behind it.
The captain of the Hirogen roars after him, “A worthy prey! We shall hunt it!” His gaze wanders over the cages, “But not today.”
Three Hirogen and their leader climb down into the arena. The three carry their dead hunting companion and the two human corpses over the wall. Meanwhile the leader opens another cage. He grabs a prisoner and forcefully drags her outside. B`Elanna Torres hits his jaw with her fists. With a snarl, he throws her to the ground, pulling her arms behind her back and pushes her in front of him to the shore of the pool. A Hirogen throws a punch axe to his leader. He presses it into Torres`s hand and pushes her away, into the shallow water. On her knees and elbows she lands in the splashing mud. The captain of the Hirogen goes back to the wall and climbs up the stairs.
Torres struggles to get on her feet; she angrily looks after the Hirogen. A bubbling noise makes her turn around. At several positions she notices winding movements under the water surface. The floating parts of skeletons at the other end of the pool swash unevenly, indicating that something in motion is touching them from below. With both arms Torres lifts her axe and straightens up. Standing knee-deep in the water, she focuses on the ripples grimly, ready to strike. With the warrior gaze of a Klingon, she goes deeper into the murky water.
Janeway tensely watches the action at the pool, where Torres slowly makes her way forward. Suddenly a tentacle surfaces and reaches up behind Torres, over her shoulder, and grabs her axe. A second tentacle wraps around her knees and pulls them sideways. Torres falls forward, face first, into the swirling liquid. A third tentacle winds around her neck and drags Torres deeper into the pool. Her arms thrash in panic on the surface of the water. Two more tentacles appear and tie her arms. Then Torres`s body is pulled under the surface.
Janeway`s hands clasp the bars and her forehead presses against the metal. With a voice trembling with horror, she shouts: “B`Elanna — stand up — get up!”
A tumult of waves, swirls and bubbles covers the surface of the water; a snaking, romping, and beating tosses up clouds of mud. Gradually the waves fade. After a while, no more air bubbles rise. The surface calms. Suspended matter has spread all over the grey and muddy water. B`Elanna Torres`s body does not emerge from the pool any more.
Behind her grid Janeway`s head sinks. The Hirogen drum at their armour and shout, “A worthy prey!”
After a while Janeway hears the unlocking click of her neighboring cell. She looks up again. Seven`s lattice door opens. Upright and with big cool eyes she leaves her cell, walking to the middle of the arena. The leader of the Hirogen throws a double-sided axe to her feet. Another cage is unlocked. Its bars are so tightly woven that a Human couldn`t even put a hand through them. Creaking, the door swings sideways. For a while nothing moves. The Hirogen grumble impatiently on their stands.
Then, half a meter above ground, a head stretches out. It resembles a flattened ellipsoid of about 15 centimeters in length and almost thirty in width. On both sides, dragonfly-like complex eyes stand forward, like two halves of tennis balls with facetted surfaces. From the forehead between the eyes rises a pair of short stump-feelers with thickenings at their endings. Covered with a moist hem of velvety hairs the feelers seem to search for scent in the air. Further down, mandible-like insectoid mouth parts can be seen.
The head of the being sinks down, almost to the ground. Hesitantly the body pushes itself further outside. Behind the head two body segments appear, from which extremities for grabbing branch off laterally. Then a ribbed segment walks out with two short stump legs. More and more alike segments follow step by step. Similar to a giant centipede in anatomy and motion, a chain of a dozen demarcated limbs crawls out of the cage. The row of walking legs reveals a wave-like movement, which makes the locomotion appear to be gliding. Finally, the end of the being leaves the cage, almost two meters behind its head. The creature stops briefly, checks with eyes and feelers in all directions and then crawls further towards the middle of the arena. Seven bends over to the axe, picks it up takes several steps to the side. The being approaches the center of the arena. It stops. Once more it lifts its head and evaluates its surroundings using all its senses. It seems to smell the Hirogen in front of it. As if in reflex action and as a signal, every second leg trips up and down synchronously. Rhythmically, the collective stomping becomes audible as a crunching in the sand. The being turns sideways, starts to run and charges towards Seven. She makes a defensive movement, lifting the axe. Abruptly the being stops. It recognizes the threatening danger in close proximity. A synchronous forward scraping movement of all legs pushes the multi-limbed body a bit backwards; and the same a second time. Yet, despite the two separate movements in its retreat the being has hardly increased the distance from Seven by an arm`s length with the two thrusts. But audible from afar was the crunchingly gliding thrust movement over the grainy ground – like a cry of horror the being gave in its own language. All of a sudden, the front segments of the being rise up into the air, forming an S-shape like a cobra does as threatening gesture. The next moment the being continues to bend backwards in an arc, folding in on itself as the head reaches the rear segment. In a flash, the abdomen segment turns up, covering the head`s feelers and eyes in a protective manner, the entire body forming a ring. Driven by the legs on the ground, the ring flees backwards in rapid rotation. As it collides rolling against the wall of the arena, the rear segment and the head separate. The body becomes an elongated chain again. In a matter of seconds, it digs its way under the loose sand until it is completely submerged.
The Hirogen laugh mockingly, and their leader makes a sign of contempt.
“This is not a worthy prey!”
Turning towards Seven, the leader speaks, “It`s well known that the Borg have encountered more different species in the galaxy than anyone else. We have found something floating in space. It´s surrounded by a material that our scanners cannot penetrate. We don`t know if it`s dead or alive; organic or machine; if it can fight.”
The leader points his transmitter at one of the cages. Its door opens. In the semi-darkness a sphere about one and a half meters in size can be seen on a pedestal. A second push on a button of the transmitter causes the front legs of the platform to buckle, turning it into a steep ramp. The sphere rolls downwards along this ramp. The momentum of the rolling motion drives it out of the cage and into the interior of the arena, stop-ping about two meters next to Seven. In the bright daylight the black sphere shimmers metallically. Its entire surface is divided into elongated and angled fields.
Seven appears paralyzed. Horror shimmers in her eyes, which are wider than usual.
Impatiently the captain of the Hirogen calls, “Speak, Borg! What is this?”
An unusual quake swings in Seven`s voice. “This being is asleep. If it awakes – no one here will stay alive!”
The Hirogen shout despicably and lift their rifles. The leader yells, “We want to see that! Wake it up — fight!”
Seven retreats and throws the battle axe into the dust. Again, Janeway presses her forehead tensely against the bars and her gaze follows the event in dark concern. She notices a short flicker emanating from the sphere.
The leader threatens, “One last time, Borg! Fight!”
Slowly Seven walks backwards step by step, her horrified eyes directed at the black sphere. The Hirogen angrily lifts his double-bladed punch axe and reaches far out with his giant arm.
“If you don`t want to fight — you die!”
He throws the weapon at Seven. Directed toward the sphere in paralysis, Seven no longer perceives her surroundings, not even the deadly object whirling towards her.
“Seven — move aside!” shouts Janeway manically.
Janeway sees, from her position, the forward spinning axe racing toward Seven`s head. A thud booms. The axe stands still.
A cloud of dust has formed around Seven and the sphere in which the light of the early sun iridizes. Motionless, like a collection of figures, the Hirogen are standing in a row on top of the wall. Janeway`s face is dis-torted with horror. Seven`s legs have stopped walking backward. Her body is standing motionless. In the cloud of floating sand Janeway vaguely recognizes the handle of the axe in front of Seven`s head. And she sees a multi-linked arm unfolded from the surface of the sphere to Seven`s head, as if to penetrate it.
Grains of sand are slowly floating in front of Seven`s staring eyes. Her mouth is half open. A few centimeters in front of her face is one of the blades of the big axe, like suspended in space. Further down on the axe is the second blade, enclosed by the steel grip of a metal claw.
Slowly the unfolded arm withdraws back into the sphere and thereby, at halfway, lets fall the axe down to the dust. Shortly thereafter, the fore-most segment also snaps into the surface of the sphere and closes it again.
The Hirogen on the wall look down into the arena spellbound. The scorn-ful laughter has disappeared from their faces. Hunting fever is glowing in their eyes.
Stiff as if in shock, Seven retreats further until she hits the stone wall. The Hirogen do not pay attention to her anymore.
On a mark from their leader, they all aim at the sphere and shoot tetryon salvos at it. Under the constant fire of their guns, the center of the arena turns into a seething sea of sand and dust. A cloud is forming, which be-comes more and more opaque. Inside of it the sphere seems to sink into the ground.
After half a minute the Hirogen stop firing. The swirled dust slowly settles. Only a flat bulge in the sand gives an idea of where the Hirogen`s target is buried. Unclear about the result of their work the hunters stare at the former location of their prey.
Suddenly the sand begins to move, rippling down from the bulge, which is rising upward continuously. Completely intact and as before, the black sphere reappears in the middle of the arena.
A flickering, probing light of a scanner spreads out from the sphere. In concentric, diverging circles it moves in all directions, analysing. It crosses the arena, penetrates the cages, climbs Janeway`s legs and finally crosses her face. It also climbs at Seven, who is standing at the wall. Row after row the light wanders up the wall and up the armor and heads of the Hirogen.
Janeway notices the black creature in the neighboring cage lurking down, with its three sickle eyes pointing at the sphere. Janeway follows their gaze. On the wall the Hirogen are leveling their weapons once more.
Suddenly, accompanied by a deafening thunderclap, there is a jerky movement in the middle of the arena. Like a seismic quake, like the shock wave of an underground explosion, the ground seems to shift in all directions. The air is filled with dust, almost to the point of opacity. Janeway`s eyes, provoked to tears by grains of sand, vaguely recognize for the fraction of a second a dark shadow over the wall, spread wide open along several meters, at the height of the hunter`s chests. The next moment the bodies of six Hirogen disintegrate into pieces.
The survivors jump backward down beyond the wall. They run in panic behind the arena, passing the cages and storming up the hill. There is another bang and a bizarre shilhouette appears behind the fleeing Hiro-gen. On the crest of the hill the bodies of two more Hirogen fall apart. The rest of them and the dark phenomenon disappear behind the hill.
For a moment there is dead silence over the place.
Then Janeway`s voice shouts across the arena: “Seven, open the cages!”
Seven awakes from her paralysis. She runs up the stairs, picks up the small electronic tool from the floor of the plateau and directs it towards the cages. She opens every cage that contains a member of the crew.
Janeway walks out of her cell with the medical scanner the doctor had brought her from the ship. With a pain-distorted face she hurries to the pool, while pressing a hand against her ribs. When she reaches the wa-ter, she pulls the mobile holographic emitter out of her pocket and acti-vates the doctor. He appears and looks around in surprise.
“What happened, Captain?”
Janeway scans the muddy pool.
“B`Elanna was dragged under water!”
“When did that happen?”
“Half an hour ago.”
“I`m sorry, Captain. I won`t be able to revive her.”
“Then we`ll recover her corpse,” Janeway replies grimly.
Janeway watches the display of the scanner and points to it.
“What do these values indicate?”
“Let me see -”
The doctor fetches the tool out of her hands and continues the scan him-self. Seven appears with a Hirogen rifle.
“The crew is released, Captain. We`ve collected all their tetryon weapons we could find.” Seven levels her rifle at the pool. “We should return to the ship immediately!”
“Not yet,” replies Janeway.
The doctor reports, “There are two life signs indicated: humanoid and … unknown.”
“She`s alive?” Janeway exclaims with delight.
“Both seem well; that`s strange, Lieutenant Torres has a kind of a snorkel in her throat. Captain, … she`s being artificially ventilated!”
Unnoticed by the three humanoids, several eyeballs on stems pop out of the water surface between the undergrowth of floating bones, at the other end of the pool.
“Quick! We must get her out immediately!” Janeway shouts.
The three wade deeper into the water with Seven holding her rifle at the ready. Janeway and the doctor reach down into the water to grab Torres by the shoulders and pull her up. Just below the surface of the water, tentacles detach from Torres`s arms. Another tentacle slides out of her mouth. The humanoids pull Torres to the shore. She opens her eyes a little, begins to gasp and cough, tears herself loose and lashes out at the others. Finally, she recognizes them. Laboriously, she stands up. She notices Seven`s weapon and staggers toward it with a manic gaze. She snatches the rifle from Seven and aims it at the pool. Janeway grabs the barrel and pushes it upwards. A burst of the tetryon gun puffs towards the sulfur-yellow sky.
“Let me -! I`m going to pulverize those lewdly newts!”
Janeway firmly holds the barrel. “That would hardly be appropriate. You are alive!”
“Those things have been grabbing me incessantly. With all their ten-tacles!”
“Whatever kept you under water, it saved your life. We must get to the ship as soon as possible! So, come on!”
Reluctantly, Torres lets go of the rifle and follows the others. Behind her, more telescope eyes pop out of the water and watch the four hu-manoids move away.

About fifty crew members have gathered in the arena. They quickly climb the stone steps and descend on the other side of the wall. Janeway follows last, one hand pressed to her ribs. On top of the wall`s plateau she turns around again. She takes a last look back at the cages. Several of them are still locked. Restlessly the prisoners move back and forth inside. Finally, Janeway follows her crew.

The crew members hurry up the steep stairs to the Voyager`s entrance lock. Janeway grabs the arm of a young woman.
“Ensign Lang, you`ve worked at the transporters before, haven`t you?”
“I`m familiar with the technology, Captain.”
“Try to repair at least one of the transporters as quick as possible!”
“Aye, Captain!”
Lang hurries through the hatch into the interior of the ship. At the en-trance the doctor and Seven wait for Janeway. The doctor points to the inner edges of the two halves of the sliding door, which have been pushed apart.
“Look, Captain, here are the remains of the weld the Hirogen had sealed the sluicegate with.”
“Did you break them open with your rifles?”
Seven shakes her head. “The sluice was already open. Someone heated the alloy so hard that the weld melted.” She points to large, dark orange, green and blue shimmering patterns. “Here you can see tarnish colors of the metal.”
Janeway pushes the two in front of her through the opening.
“Hurry up! We may have an intruder on board, but there`s no time for that one now!”
Before climbing through the lock, Janeway looks to her side to see the huge Hirogen ship. Fumes and electric sparks are violently breaking out from an opening in its flank.

In a corridor Torres runs towards a group of crewmen.
“Has anyone here worked in main engineering before?”
A young officer turns around.
“Me, Lieutenant. But not here on Voyager. On another ship.”
“Was the warp technology on that ship comparable to ours, Mr. Baxter?”
A lean man about forty years old turns around. With a waggish face he scratches his belly and holds his other hand as if preventing a punch against his nose.
Torres frowns. “Ah, it`s you, Carey. This is not the time to rake up old stories.”
“Aye, ma`am.”
“Spare your ma`aming for the captain. Help me, we must get the propulsion online again!”
She hurries through a hissing sliding gate into main engineering. The two follow her.

On the Voyager`s unoccupied bridge the turbolift opens. Two people run out. Seven hurries sideways to Tuvok`s console. Janeway puts down her rifle at the step between the front and rear bridge and hurries forward.
“I`m redirecting the internal operations controls to the tactical console, Captain.”
Janeway sits down at the helm. “All right, Seven.” She touches the com-municator. “Captain to engineering – status!”
“Impulse drive is online,” Torres`s voice replies. “But we need at least one day to repair warp drive!”
“Start with it as soon as we`re out of the atmosphere! I`m launching the ship now.”
“Aye, Captain.”
Janeway enters a command sequence into the controls of the helm panel.

The exit stairs retreat into Voyager´s hull and also the landing stilts, which were used to support the ship on the ground. For a moment the starship Voyager hovers over the stony desert; then she climbs, moving away from the position of the Hirogen vessel in a steepening angle as she ascends, before penetrating an orange-yellow layer of clouds.

With tense expression Janeway monitors navigational displays while she inquires, “Seven, is there any life in natural habitats on this planet?”
“Negative, Captain. There is no life-form detected, except what the Hirogen brought here.”
“Scan for all bio-signatures at full sensor range!”
“Our scanner beam cannot penetrate the hull of the Hirogen ship. On the planet surface there are six life-forms indicated, on Voyager forty-seven humanoids, and one unknown life-form.”
Janeway`s head turns back jerkily. “Where?”
“Cargo bay 1. Shall I install a force field?”
“If it`s the life-form that escaped the Hirogen, a force field will be use-less. We`ll try to isolate that being later.”
Janeway touches the communicator. “Captain to Ensign Lang. – How are you doing with the transporters?”
“I`ve succeeded in restoring functionality of transporter 2, Captain, but I had to use several modules from the cargo transporters.”
“Good work, Ensign! You may test your work right now. – Seven, install six force field cells in cargo bay 2!”
“Force fields are active,” Seven reports.
“Lang, get a transporter lock on all life-forms that are still on the planet`s surface and beam them into the force field cells on my mark!”

On the planet, the circular arena is bordered by the high wall on one side and by the semi-circle of the cages on the other side. In a corner, where the cages and the wall meet, a pool shimmers.
The chain of segments of the multi-limbed being rises from the sand. Driven by nearly a dozen pairs of legs located at its segments, it crosses the square and glides up the stone stairs to the platform on the wall. In doing so, its body reproduces the tread heights and step depths of the stairs through the flexibility of its limb joints.
Once on the top the being bends its front segments upward, raising its head more than a meter. The two domes of its complex eyes face the sky, where the ascending Voyager becomes visible between yellow sulfur clouds. Suddenly the arthropod being`s shape starts flickering and completely dissolves. Further down, between lattice bars, more dematerializations of beam processes can be seen, as well as an ex-tended glitter in the murky water of the pool.

The Voyager emerges above a concentration of clouds and leaves the atmosphere of the planet. Swiftly the ship withdraws into dark space and passes a moon covered with impact craters.

On the bridge Seven reports, “The Hirogen ship has activated its propul-sion. It`s following us!”
Janeway touches the communicator. “B`Elanna, we need warp as soon as possible!”
“We`ll do what we can, Captain – but Baxter, Carey and I are the only ones in main engineering.”
Janeway turns her head. “Seven, what`s the status of our weapons?”
“Three phaser banks and two torpedo stations are functional. The rest is off-line.”
“Is there some place in this system where we can hide?”
“An asteroid belt is displayed 30 million kilometers away. I`m transferring coordinates of its highest density.”
Janeway nods. “That`s our chance! Voyager is smaller than their ship. We have a maneuvering advantage there. If we`re lucky, we`ll be able to hide until warp drive is online again.”

In front of the Voyager a group of shapeless boulders formed by rocks of stone and ice appears – most of them dwarfing the starship. Next to the planet, which has already retreated far back, the Hirogen cruiser comes closer, pursuing Voyager.

Across its entire width, the screen of the bridge shows differently sized, bulged, cratered, and fissured clumps of matter. Janeway is sitting in front of the screen at the helm and maneuvers the ship into the field of the asteroids. The Hirogen ship appears at the left edge of the screen.
Seven warns, “They`ve caught us up!”
“Red Alert!” shouts Janeway.
The illumination is dimmed down, and pulsating lamps spread their red light across the room. The Hirogen ship emerges from a gap between asteroids. Phaser shots flash against Voyager. The power fields of its shields glitter in front of the ship. Sudden energy drops weaken the inertial dampening inside the ship, and make its structure vibrate.

The bridge is shaken.
“Hits into shields,” reports Seven. “Shields dropped to 40% of their pow-er!”
Janeway calls, “Fire without orders! Target the enemy`s propulsion and weapons!”
Seven fires several phaser shots. They fizzle out at the shields of the enemy`s ship. Voyager is shaken by another hit. Sparks spray from a side console.
“Direct hit!” reports Seven. “Shields are down. Hull breaches on decks 6 and 7!”
“Seal with force fields!” Janeway touches the communicator. “Captain to all hands! Leave external sections and retreat to core areas of the ship!”
Again, the Hirogen ship fires through a gap between asteroids. Seven and Janeway are thrown back and forth at their places. Sparks spray from several side consoles.
Torres`s voice reports: “Engineering to Captain, we`re losing energy! Fuel lines raptured. Impulse drive is reduced to 80%.”
Janeway turns her head back. “Seven, reroute all available power to the engines. Seal unoccupied decks and redirect their life support energy to propulsion!”
“Energy is rerouted.”
Seven fires again. The screen shows that the last phaser shot penetrated the shield of the enemy vessel, blowing off fragments of its hull.
Seven reports, “Also, the Hirogen have lost their shields. Damages are detected on their ship. They are spreading, but they do not seem to have been caused by our weapons.”
Another hard hit makes Voyager quake. Cascades of sparks spray from rear consoles on the wall and smoke breaks forth from their panels.
Seven`s eyes scan across the readings of a display. “Hull breaches on several decks! Force fields in cargo bay 2 have collapsed — Captain, the alien beings can move freely now!”
Voyager is shaken by an even heavier impact than before. The hit blows a hole in the bow side of the saucer module. The screen shows parts of its hull exploding. Debris crashes against the protruding dome of the bridge.
Janeway turns her head to Seven. “Reduce life support throughout the ship to minimum level! Divert all available energy to propulsion and wea-pons!”
A burst of fire from the enemy strikes into the hull near the bridge. From the starboard console sparks spray across several meters. Smoke spreads. Parts are blown off the ceiling`s cladding. They fall to the ground, rumbling. A heavy sheet metal part hits Janeway with its flat side at her head and with the edge at her thigh. Groaning in pain, she falls from the helmsman`s chair to the floor. Seven hurries to her and pulls her away. Above, a hole has formed in the ceiling, with another metal sheet hanging down next to it.
“Seven to sickbay! – Doctor, your presence is required on the bridge. The captain has been injured!”
“I`ll come as soon as I can,” his voice replies. “But I`ve got nine seriously injured people to take care of!”
Janeway lays her hand on Seven`s forearm and tells the doctor in a faint voice, “Stay in sickbay, Doctor! It`s not so urgent.”
Lying down, Janeway leans with her back against the step between front and rear bridge. Beads of dark blood trickle from her temple across her cheek to her chin.
“Get us out of the line of fire, Seven! Quickly!”
Seven hurries to the helm. The screen shows as she navigates the ship into cover behind a large asteroid.
Meanwhile something moves above her, in the opening of the ceiling. Hanging downwards as a loop, the middle part of a tentacle becomes visible, occupied by two rows of suction cups. Next to it, around the edge of the opening, a cluster of telescope eyes bends downward. One half of the eyes observes every finger movement of Seven on the helm console, the other half has fanned out towards the entire width of the screen. Two single eyes are directed to the injured Janeway.
As Voyager reaches its cover position, Seven runs back to the tactical console and fixes her eyes concentrated at the screen. Suddenly the Hirogen ship appears behind the asteroid. Seven fires a volley of tor-pedoes. They race towards the enemy like lightning bullets. Explosions can be seen on the hull of the huge enemy vessel. The Hirogen return fire. Voyager is shaken. With cautious hesitation, a tentacle reaches down from the ceiling and sweeps gently over the control panel. The screen shows a backward drift of the ship. This causes a shift in the horizon line of the asteroid, and Voyager is covered once more for the moment against the Hirogen cruiser. Janeway notices the tentacle. She pulls the rifle, which is leaning against the step, closer towards her.
Seven runs back to the helm. Quickly the alien arm retracts again and disappears into the opening. Seven looks up.
“Captain -”
Janeway grabs the rifle with one hand on the barrel, with the other on the trigger.
“I`ve seen them. If they attack, I`ll cover you!”
Seven moves the ship deep behind the asteroid again and hurries back to the weapons console. Above the helm more than ten telescope eyes stretch far down; so does a part of the head-like body from which they spring. Parts of several tentacles become visible, which have tied their suction cups inside the Jefferies tube over the bridge. In their orien-tation the eyes watch Seven, Janeway, the navigation console and the screen. The Hirogen vessel appears again. Seven opens fire immediately. Faster than before, an arm descends and navigates Voyager back to cover before the Hirogen are able to return fire. As before Seven turns away from the tactical console and hurries towards the helm to fly Voyager to a new position. But already the cruiser reappears, and sal-voes of hits shake the bridge. Halfway Seven hurries back and fires phaser bursts. A second tentacle lowers down and already the ship swings in a spiral turn, out of the field of fire.
In amazement Janeway shouts, “Seven – look! This being is steering the ship!”
Skeptically, Seven looks forward with an eyebrow raised. Still lying on the floor, Janeway slowly pushes the rifle away from her. Three eyes follow her movement. Janeway speaks to them.
“I don`t know who you are or if you understand us, but if you can help …” she stretches out both hands with their palms up towards the naviga-tion console, “take the helm!”
Several telescope eyes twitch uncertainly back and forth between Jane-way and the navigation panel. Carefully a third and a fourth tentacle glide out from the ceiling`s opening and stretch down on the helm displays.
The ship is set in motion, begins to gather speed. With steadily increasing velocity it flies over the surface of a large asteroid. It comes closer and closer to its surface. Janeway turns to Seven.
“Can we locate the exact position of the Hirogen ship and its orientation, the bearing of its weapons?”
“Not directly. I`ll try to measure its parameters by reflections on neighboring asteroids.” She programs a measurement routine and reports, “We are able to determine the enemy`s position now, Captain.”
“Split the screen and show him where the opponent is!”
In the right quarter of the screen, a perspective schematic drawing is created. Within a three-dimensional grid of coordinates, the shapes of the asteroids, the position of Voyager and of the other ship are depicted. Their location changes are updated in real time. Short red lines on the Hirogen vessel mark the orientation of its ray cannons.
Four of the telescope eyes direct to the schematic drawing. In a whirling loop the ship turns around and flies at high speed into a rocky gorge of the large asteroid. Its topography is shown as contour lines in the schematic drawing. The bizarrely shaped, jagged rock formations race past the hull with increasing speed. Seven takes several steps forward.
“Captain, the ship will be crashed!”
Janeway raises her hand. “Leave him alone! Something tells me this helmsman knows what he`s doing. Get ready to fire!”
Seven goes back to the tactical console. Shortly thereafter, a tentacle end bends upward from the navigation table. Additional eyes turn to Seven. Suddenly the tip of the tentacle claps back onto the plate. A moment later, through an incision of the mountainous horizon contour, the flank of the Hirogen vessel becomes visible. In the next moment it is covered again by mountain ridges.
“That was his mark!” shouts Janeway. “Pay attention to it!”
Voyager changes course again, it dives into another valley. Already the tentacle rises anew, and several stalks swing their eyeballs towards Seven. The end of the muscle hose set with suction cups claps on the console. For a short moment the hunter`s ship can be seen and Seven fires phaser salvos and torpedoes. Covered again by the ridges above the canyon, it is not visible whether the shots have hit their target.
Seven reads from the sensor`s data: “The Hirogen ship has lost its thrus-ters. Their weapons are also failing!”
She changes the display of the schematic drawing on the screen. The Hirogen ship now floats motionlessly at a fixed position and blinks red.
Torres`s voice reports, “Main engineering to Captain! – We have energy losses on almost all decks! I can`t keep impulse drive online any longer!”
“Then we stop the ship.”
Janeway looks at her helmsman and moves one hand continuously up and down. The ship`s speed decreases; additional eyes look at Janeway.
“Seven, he already knows how to fly. Show him how to stop.”
As Seven approaches, the tentacles cautiously retreat. Janeway continues her hand movement until Seven has stopped the ship`s motion.
The doctor`s voice warns, “Captain, on deck 8 several people are severe-ly injured. Rescue teams cannot recover them because life support has failed on a number of corridors.”
Janeway touches the communicator. “Bridge to Ensign Lang! – Beam all people who stay on deck 8 to sickbay!”
“Aye, Captain,” Lang confirms.
Shortly thereafter the doctor reports, “They are here, Captain. Thank you!”
Janeway turns to Seven. “There is nothing to do on the bridge at the moment. Go to B`Elanna and help her seal the leaks.”
Seven looks doubtfully at Janeway, who is still lying on the ground, lean-ing her back against the console.
“You should see the doctor, Captain.”
“Never mind, I can manage.”
Seven goes to the lift and leaves the bridge.
Janeway tries doggedly to stand up and immediately collapses back to the floor, groaning. She grabs her thigh with both hands and mumbles angrily, “Broken — now of all times!”
Exhaustedly her gaze wanders to the helmsman. He has withdrawn his arms back into the Jefferies tube over the bridge, leaving just a small part of his trunk visible as well as his eyes that stretch through the opening. Three of them are pointed at Janeway and notice her gaze. One by one, the other stems also turn their eyeballs towards her direction. Silently, the two look at each other for a while.
Suddenly a group of eyes snaps upwards and stares at the console behind Janeway. Another group jerkily turns to the starboard side of the bridge. Orange-yellow stripe patterns wander over the trunk. Quickly the tentacle creature withdraws into the ceiling. Janeway recognizes beam processes behind her and at the tactical console by reflections of cladding panels. Hirogen bodies materialize. They are wrapped in their hunting armor. Janeway quickly grasps the rifle and pulls it towards her. Before she can reach the trigger, a huge foot steps on the weapon from behind and the mocking grimace of the Hirogen leader looks down on Janeway. The second hunter has walked around the bridge on the other side. He stands next to the navigation console and points the barrel of his rifle at Janeway. With bright orange stripes fluctuating across the skin, two tentacles reach down from the hole on the ceiling; one drags the hunter`s rifle sideways while the other wraps around his neck and pulls him up to the opening. The hunter drops his rifle. He wildly flails his legs about in the air. With both hands he tries to loosen the muscular noose.
The other Hirogen aims his weapon at the ceiling. But he can`t fire with-out endangering his fellow hunter.
Halfway pushed open, the lock to Janeway`s ready room twitches back and forth in defective mode. A huge dark mass squeezes through the opening and stalks, with the body tension of a predator, in Janeway`s direction. Suddenly it leaps towards her and vaults over her. Right after that there is a crunching burst of skull bones.
The Hirogen on the ceiling above the helm has stopped wriggling. The noose loosens and he falls to the ground. Cautiously, telescopic eyes bend downward and peer into the room.
Janeway`s head leans against the side edge of the floor step. As she mo-tionlessly looks forward, a black-haired skull with three sickle eyes pushes itself beside her face from behind. From a distance of a few centimeters, one of the two temple eyes stares at Janeway`s head. The thinned hair hems around a sensory opening over that temple eye rhythmically sway back and forth. Then the black skull straightens upwards, smells again and utters a deeply rumbling hiss. With three leaps the creature returns to the entrance of the ready room and slips through the door. Inside the room it disappears into a Jefferies tube, through a blown out opening in the wall.
On the bridge, Janeway crawls across the floor with a pain-racked face, dragging her broken leg behind her. Groaning, she reaches her chair and lays her hand on the communicator.
“Intruder alert! The Hirogen -”
She faints and collapses in front of the captain`s chair. Blood drips from the wound on her head down to the floor.


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