Starship Voyager – The Alien Adventures — Transformation – Part 3

The present novel is merely Fan Fiction.

No commercial interest is pursued.

© Aliki, 2019

The story of this book is based on science fiction concepts created by Gene Roddenberry, Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Jery Tailor, Bryan Fuller, Brannon Braga, Nick Sagan, Ken Biller, Michael Okuda, Rick Sternberg, and many others.

Copyright for all humanoid characters and Star Trek technology is owned by Paramount Pictures / CBS.

Multiplication and distribution for commercial purpose are not allowed.


Part 3

Chakotay is standing in front of the panel boards at the stern of the bridge. He observes the displays and graphics on the wall, like a foreign visitor inspecting book covers in the library, while his hosts are busy else-where. Lang gives Chakotay an uncertain glance from aside. When he looks at her, she quickly turns away. He moves a few steps further, near the weapons console where Carey is working. He looks up, smiles at Cha-kotay with a nod and turns back to the readings on his station.
Chakotay turns around and goes up to the railing, which separates the higher rear of the bridge from the middle and front. He closes both hands around the round metal pipe. His face is bowed downwards to the two chairs below him, where nobody is sitting.
The turbolift opens behind Chakotay. Ceph swings out and straight for-ward. Chakotay turns his head. In a reflex action, he makes way. Ceph`s eyes are directing on him and on the round of the officers present, until he arrives at the helm over Paris. The Human notices him. He closes one menu and opens another, pointing at the readings. Then he rises. Mean-while, Ceph has settled down in his hammock and lowers it until it swings behind the console just above table level. A tentacle trips on Paris`s arm, who returns the greeting with the back of his hand. Paris walks to the rear. He stops next to the tactical console.
“If you don`t need me here, Tuvok, I`m going to sickbay to support the doctor.”
Tuvok nods. “Ask the doctor to see after the captain as soon as possible!”
“I will.”
Paris goes to the lift when an announcement from the ship`s communication system stops him. The voice sounds exhausted and toneless.
“Captain`s message to all crew. – The framing terms of your employment have changed. This ship is no longer under Starfleet`s command. Your captain is no longer an officer of Starfleet. But she will continue to lead the ship until the situation has been clarified for all crew members. Any crew member who would like to be released from duty in order not to participate in forthcoming combat actions may report to Commander Tuvok. Anyone who wishes to leave the ship may do so at the next star-base we pass. Regardless of this, we will search for a colony in a neutral zone willing to receive people from us, for anyone who wants to stay close to Federation area.”
Carey and Paris look at each other, whereas their thoughts seem to wander far away.
The voice continues: “I thank you all for your extraordinary performance and personal sacrifices you have made in all these years of our time to-gether, and especially for your loyalty! – End of the message.”
The officers on the bridge are standing motionless and mute for a while. Their eyes are wandering aimlessly through the room.
E-Bug`s hind leg still shows a strong burn and is angled. Chakotay observes him, as he is working on his console. He has raised himself by the middle jump legs and is controlling sensor data with the stylus in his front extremity. Below him, flashes repeatedly come out from a gap between covers, where the front end of a side feeler has sunk.
“There was no such crewman on your Voyager, was there, Chakotay?” Paris inquires in a casual tone, like someone who deals with a completely different subject in his mind.
“I`ve never met such a being before.”
“I don`t mean to pry, it interests me as a pilot; with what kind of trans-warp technique did you succeed in returning?”
Chakotay frowns thoughtfully. “I … don`t know. I was separated from my people before their return. When the Romulans exchanged me for some of their prisoners at the edge of the Delta Quadrant, I suffered from amnesia. I could not give them any information and they locked me up in solitary confinement for several weeks. Then I was exchanged again. Federation negotiators handed over a Romulan spy and took me to the remand prison of Security Service.”
“But your crew,” wonders Paris, “didn`t you see them again?”
“After all I experienced in the custody of Security Service, I don`t think my return was officially announced. Probably my status within the Federation is still that of a Maquis terrorist.”
“Nevertheless, it might not be amiss to contact your people,” suggests Kim. “They would certainly stand up for you, … and perhaps for us too!”
“My people -?” broods Chakotay. “The last time I saw them was on an escape attempt from Hirogen, where I was seriously wounded. I don`t know what happened afterwards. I feel like I kind of slept, endlessly -”
Paris`s eyes widen. “Chakotay, you weren`t dreaming, were you?”
“I`ve always dreamed. My story may sound not trustworthy to you -”
“But no, Commander!” interrupts him Paris with his hand up. “Not at all!”
Seven rises at the astrometrics console and exchanges a view with Paris.
“The Spiritoliths use a transwarp technique.” She turns to Chakotay. “That explains your quick return, Commander.”
Paris approaches Chakotay, reaches out his right hand towards him and places his left hand on his shoulder. “Welcome back, Chakotay!”

In Janeway`s ready room the light is dimmed out. Only the glimmer of the monitor shows the contours of her face and the glow of her eyes. She is working on a text.
It rings.
She does not answer.
Torres enters. In semi-darkness she walks to her captain`s desk. Janeway continues typing without looking up.
“Almost everything that had been disassembled has been reinstalled, Captain. Only the Lusenith sensors are missing; the crystals haven`t been found.”
Janeway briefly looks up and nods. Then she continues her writing.
Torres broods, “When I heard my own voice for the first time in my life in a sound recording, it caused an unpleasant feeling. I think many peo-ple feel that way”.
Janeway does not seem to notice her.
“Captain, you know I don`t miss anybody on Earth or Kessik IV.”
After another short break, Torres declares, “I`ve been talking to all former Maquis comrades. As long as you`re our captain they want to stay on the ship. And if necessary, we can find shelter for the entire crew with former friends of the Maquis.”
Torres waits a while, then she goes to the exit.
Just before she reaches it, a voice speaks behind her: “B`Elanna, … thank you!”
Torres leaves the room. Before the door closes, Seven enters. She stops at the entrance.
“I just wanted to inform you, Captain: my interest in planet Terra has sufficiently been satisfied. Another establishment of contact is – concerning my person – not necessary.”
Janeway raises her head. “I`m sorry, Seven, that I took you there. It must have been painful what they did to you.”
“I assure you; the removal of Borg implants is far more unpleasant.”
“That`s not what I meant. You were deprived of the opportunity to con-tact the family members of your parents. I regret that you came to know your home planet this way.”
“There is no need to be sorry about that. Since I had not made any efforts to develop anticipation, I do not feel disappointment now either.”
Janeway silently looks at her, with sadness in her face.
“Another thing, Captain. You have repeatedly told me that the special thing about my regression to a human being is the restoration of my indi-viduality, my uniqueness. But as it seems Humans are not always unique either.”
Janeway shakes her head. “Even if it were true that we have doubles resembling us like uniovular twins; that cannot change the fact that each individual evolves on a space-time trajectory that no other being is able to traverse. From the very beginning of our existence, each of us is living its own unique life that in this universe only one person can live.”
“Every Borg drone does the same,” replies Seven coolly.
“That`s right. But it never has the feeling of being unique, because freedom and self-determination are unknown to it. The decisive thing about your regression to humanity is that you can feel your uniqueness again.”
“Maybe”, replies Seven.
She nods, opens the sliding door, and leaves the room. Kim is already waiting outside. He enters.
“What do you want to tell me, Harry?” welcomes him Jane-way.
“My parents, Captain, … I`d love so much seeing them again. But how should I explain the situation? — Hello Ma, hello Dad, you`re having twins from today on! — If we, the other one and me, were still children, they would raise us together, build up family ties. We would be like siblings to our parents. But now as adults — it would be a strange relationship and I`m afraid they would look at both of us, even if they tried to hide it, with some sort of alienation.”
Kim is silent for a while.
Then he declares, “Whatever you`re worried about, Captain, don`t worry about me! I have decided for myself not to return.”
A warm-hearted, motherly look follows Kim as he heads for the bridge. Peri and Chakotay enter.
“May we disturb you too, Captain?”
Janeway`s face gets serious again. She nods. As Chakotay stands in front of her, he holds a communicator in his hands that is clipped into a holo-com pad.
“Mr. Peri gave me this device. But I don`t want to stick it on my chest without your permission.”
Silently, Janeway looks at him. Peri rises and touches the edge of the holocom in Chakotay`s hand. It pops up. Peri activates the flock of crew icons and the fallen ones next to them. Between a portrait of a pale man with black eyes and an image of a bajoran-looking Cardassian woman, he pulls out Chakotay`s picture, enlarges it, and pushes it to the group of survivors. Then Peri turns around and leaves the room.
“Are you sure that`s what you want?” inquires Janeway with an incredulous look. “Your own people could offer you more protection than this crew can. If you like, we shall look for a way how you may get to them.”
Chakotay shakes his head. “According to what I`ve just been told, my people are here, … on this ship!”
Thoughtfully and suspiciously, Janeway looks at him. “How can I know which Chakotay you really are?”
Chakotay nods. “I know what you`re thinking about now, Kathryn. You`re afraid you might come off like the captain of a ship named Val Jean came off once, whose crew included a Vulcan who worked for the Federation and a faked Bajoran woman who was spying for the Cardassians.”
Janeway is silent.
After a while he declares, “I cannot prove to you who I am; I don`t even myself know for sure. All I can say is that I am that Chakotay who will always be inclined to you in loyalty and in affectionate friend-ship.”
Janeway rises. She walks around the table and takes the holocom out of Chakotay`s hand. She closes it.
“If what you say is true, then I am the captain who left her First Officer behind in the Delta Quadrant.”
He shakes his head. “From the ship I was detained in, you couldn`t even have followed a warp track.”
“I should have been looking for you none the less.”
“That would have been as if you were sailing all seven seas, searching for a bitten leg that had long since decomposed in the intestines of a sperm whale, … and in this case, not even was in that leviathan any more. If you had started looking for me or my corpse, Kathryn, the Delta Quadrant would have devoured you.”
Janeway stands at attention, and Chakotay follows her example. She puts the holocom on his uniform.
“Take your place on the bridge again, Commander!” She raises an eye-brow and adds with a slanted look, “But get acquainted with the crew and some new habits before you give orders!”
“Aye, Captain!”
Chakotay nods and leaves the room.
At the door, the doctor shoves himself past Chakotay and hurries inside.
Janeway calls towards him, “Doctor, do you come, too, to renounce all earthly things and take the oath of allegiance to me?”
Arriving next to Janeway, the doctor opens his medical tricorder and scans her. “The crew is worried about body and soul of its captain.”
“What`s your diagnosis?”
“The leg is almost healed; the arm will be so in a few days.”
With his hands on her shoulders, he pushes Janeway down on the couch in a seated position. Then he moves the scanner up and down on her temple.
“But I don`t like the neural values that are indicated, Captain. Traumatic shifts seem to have occurred in transmitter levels of your limbic system.”
“What kind of therapy do you advise?”
“I`m only a doctor – not a therapist.” Raising his eyebrows and his upper body to a dramatic pose, he proclaims, “My feeling tells me: you must – let go! Accept that your aspired goal cannot be achieved and that some of what you always had in mind as the embodiment of high ideals was an illusion.”
He takes a step back and turns his eyes past Janeway through the win-dow, as if looking at the distant place of an event.
“Penelope has become unfaithful to thee; that cannot be undone. And thou wast expelled from thy homeland shores.”
He turns to Janeway again.
“Look at the positive things!” His hand swings sideways. “Most of your loyal companions are still gathered around you. Your ship has not been shattered in the flows of fate. — Draw the line under all that was previ-ous, let it be over,” he poetically lifts the half-open hand before Janeway, from which the index finger points upwards, “so that something new can begin; something about escape and expulsion and the search for a new -”
“Bridge to Captain!” reports Tuvok`s voice. “Long-range sensors detect thirteen ships on intercept courses from different directions.”
Janeway gets up. “The evil suitors have caught up with us, Doctor. This story isn`t over yet!”
She hurries to the exit of her room. From his pose, the doctor sinks back to normal posture.

On the bridge, Chakotay is standing near Seven, who demonstrates to him the functions of the astrometrics console. Janeway leaves her room. With a tense face she stops next to the tactical console.
“How many have reported to you, Commander?”
“Nobody, Captain,” replies Tuvok.
Janeway takes a deep breath. Her gaze wanders over the stations of the bridge, which are all occupied. Then it pierces into the screen. She hurries forward.
“Seven, create a map of all stellar and planetary objects, any nebulae, dark clouds or whatever else may serve us as a cover, … between our current position and the target coordinates!”
“Aye, Captain.”
“Mr. Carey, transfer all auxiliary power available into the charging mod-ules for shields and weapon phalanx!”
“Aye, Captain – ma`am.”
“Mr. Kim, what`s the status of the ship`s systems?”
“The instabilities caused by dismantling have been repaired, Captain. The ship`s standard functions are all intact. Slipstream sensors are missing. The cloaking field generator could not be reinstalled. Parts of the generator and several projection coils have disappeared. Lieutenant Torres is just trying to replicate them.”
Janeway frowns. “Without cloaking we won`t be able to escape.”
Chakotay suggests, “If you will allow me, Captain, I`ll support B`Elanna.”
“Do that.”
Chakotay hurries to the lift. E-Bug is listing data at the edge of the screen.
Tuvok takes a look at them and comments, “Already, long-range sensors show that some of the ships are much bigger and more heavily armed than Voyager. Due to their equipment as mere warships, they are clearly superior to us. As long as we don`t have a cloaking field, I suggest we go to a place that gives us a tactical advantage. It would be desirable if we have to oppose to one enemy at a time only, and to be in an environment where we are difficult to locate.”
Seven reports, “There are two potentially suitable objects in the adjacent sector, Commander.”
She transfers the data. Immediately afterwards, a holographic map of the stellar environment pops up next to the helm. Ceph directs several eyes at it. The Voyager icon is in the center of the map. Red dots are blinking at the edges of the projection, moving towards the ship. With a pointer, Seven indicates two blurred objects at some distance from Voyager. She zooms in on one of them.
“The one closer to us is a dense plasma nebula. Inside, electrical fields are so strong that sensor range drops to almost zero even at shallow depths.” She zooms back out and then in on the second object. “The other one is a spheroid asteroid cluster in chaotic turmoil.”
Janeway goes forward until she is standing inside the large map, which reaches from floor to ceiling.
“Push the nebula close to the cluster, Seven.”
The plasma nebula appears next to the asteroid field.
Chakotay returns to the bridge. “I`m bringing bad news, Captain. The cloaking field generator was heavily damaged when it was dismantled by the Security Service. B`Elanna says it would take her days to get it going again.”
Concerned Janeway turns to Tuvok. “Fade in the approaching ships into the map, Commander!”
The icons of differently shaped ships appear. Janeway examines them.
“Apparently, we`re arising covetousness as a prey not only for Star-fleet.”
Tuvok nods. “Indeed. Apart from Starfleet warships I recognize Andorian ships, a Caitian cruiser, two Bzzit Khaht battleships, and a Zakdornian Starshooter.”
“Mr. Carey, do you know the armament of these ships?”
“Most of them are familiar to me, Captain. However,” he pushes his chin sideways, “two models of the Starfleet ships seem to be new, and also the Starshooter I see for the first time.”
“Use all the data you got to mark the vulnerable spots!”
“Aye, Captain.”
Janeway is still standing inside the holographic projection, in front of the two astronomical objects Seven has placed next to each other. The icon of the Voyager is floating in the center, with the other ships around. Janeway pulls Voyager out of the encirclement of the attackers and into the plasma nebula. Ceph`s eyes are watching her. From his hammock, all five arms stretch towards her. Due to the weight shift, the mat swings in the opposite direction and it moves away from the holomap. A tentacle hastily grabs the side wall of the helm station, and shifts the swinging seat far towards Janeway into the map. Twelve eye stems stretch out, surrounding Janeway`s head and the holographic scenery. Each of the four arms seizes several enemy ships and places them above and below the plasma nebula, lined up in two groups. Then Ceph pushes the two rows like two combs towards one another up and down through the nebula. One of his tentacles meets Janeway`s hand that still embraces Voyager inside the nebula. He pulls it outside together with the other ships, combing Voyager`s hiding place.
Janeway questioningly looks at an eye facing her. With all four arms, Ceph takes the attacking ships to the opposite side and distributes them around the spherical asteroid field. A tentacle reaches back to the plasma nebula. It pulls Janeway`s hand, with Voyager resting inside her palm, into the interior of the cluster of ice and rock.
The entire crowd of eyes fixes on Janeway`s face. She nods. Then she goes to her place and sits down. Chakotay takes his seat next to her.
“What did that just mean, Captain?”
“The result of that discussion was that we won`t be trying to hide, Chakotay. — We will fight!”
The warp stripes on the screen bend as Ceph changes the ship`s course.

Three rocks are floating in space, slowly rotating around differently aligned axes. Next to them, Voyager appears from a warp bubble and passes the three boulders at impulse speed. Behind them, she dives into a huge asteroid field, whose constituents move in chaotic confusion. Collisions sporadically occur in the mess of rocks and mountains, whereby clouds of splinters are blown off. Many of these fragments are much smaller than Voyager. They are shifted aside in front of her, by invisible force fields generated by the ship`s deflectors. The largest of them flickers like an aquamarine gem shimmering in iridescent light blue below the saucer unit, at the bow of the engineering module. For all the larger objects crossing her way, Voyager flies a winding course to avoid them.

On the bridge, Janeway and Seven arrive next to E-Bug at the control station of the sensor phalanx.
Janeway wonders. “The spherical shape of this cluster is unusual. How could it have formed to this geometry?”
Seven points to sensor data on the panel. “Size distribution and internal dynamics indicate a collision of several rock planets. The force of the supernova explosion of their star and the disappearance of the central mass may have set the planets on a collision course.” She pulls an algo-rithm over the data. “This seems to have occurred not long ago. Since then there has been an ellipsoidal flattening of the original spherical geometry. The present shape is unstable and will collapse into a disk.”
“Fortunately, this hasn`t happened yet,” comments Janeway. “So, the cluster covers us on all sides.” She looks forward where Ceph`s silhouette is standing out against the drifting asteroids on the screen. “I`m sure we`ll be more agile in this environment than any other ship that enters the cluster. Create a detailed map that dynamically updates itself to show the exact position and motion of any rock too large to be pushed aside by Voyager`s deflector shield!”
Seven nods. “Aye, Captain.”
“I`ve marked all vulnerable points I know of on the enemy ships, Cap-tain,” reports Carey.
“Let`s see!”
Carey fades in rotating, semi-transparent images of thirteen ships on the edge of the viewscreen. Most of them are set with red and yellow dots. Finally, Carey fades in a red legend symbol for weapons and a yellow symbol for shields next to the ship drawings.
While Ceph is navigating into the interior of the cluster, he focuses several eyes on the ship models. Chakotay goes forward and points to a ship that does not contain a mark.
“With a Federation ship of this type I was brought to Earth. I was very weakened, so initially they allowed me to move freely to regain my strength. If I remember correctly, a technician showed me phaser banks, … here, port side, on deck 7,” he points to it, “and he mentioned that one deck below there were torpedo shafts.”
Carey marks the spots. E-Bug fades in three ships into the periphery of the holographic map, where Seven has already inserted parts of the cluster, with the motion of its elements shown in real time.
Tuvok reports, “The first ones have arrived, Captain! Three Andorian ships.”
Darkly Janeway looks at the three ship icons. “Shields up!”
Kim raises his head. “We`re being hailed.”
“On screen!”
An Andorian appears. E-Bug`s eye tubes scrutinize the humanoid head, with its two movable feelers on the forehead.
The Andorian declares, “Ka`Tamp, Commander of the armed forces of the western Andorian sector. – You have invaded our territory without permission. Identify yourself!”
Janeway steps forward. “Kathryn Janeway, captain of the Voyager. – I`m sorry if we have violated your territory. We thought there was freedom of movement in the territory of the United Planets.”
“That applies to members only. Your ship is not registered as a Federation ship. Leave the asteroid field immediately, and lower your shields so that our customs inspectors can come on board!”
Janeway fixes the Andorian. “I don`t think you believe we`re smugglers. Actually you`re trying to board us before the other ships that are on their way here … Besides, this is a border area between Andoria and Zakdorn that your two species have always treated as a neutral zone.”
Angrily, the Andorian replies, “For the last time — come out! Deactivate your weapons and lower your shields!”
“No! – Janeway out.”
The Andorian disappears from the screen. The next moment, Voyager is shaken by a shot against her shields. Janeway sits down in her place.
Chakotay suggests, “We should try to weaken the Andorians before the other pursuers get here.”
Janeway nods. “Red Alert!”
The bridge is bathed in dark red light.
“Tuvok, reroute control of the phasers to tactics!”
“Done, Captain.”
Janeway reaches for the small console next to her, and activates a com-mand code. The same code appears on a display at the helm. An eye casts a look at it.

Surrounded by shapeless asteroids, Voyager is floating inside the cluster. In the free space outside, the Andorian ships are hovering, all three aligned in her direction. All of a sudden, Voyager starts to move back-wards, shifting deeper into the asteroid field, until she is totally covered against the Andorians behind the bizarre, drifting objects. Voyager stops. Its bow turns to the side.

From the helm Ceph, turns two additional eyes on Janeway. The rest are pointed at the readings, at the screen and towards the holographic map next to him, where Voyager`s icon is depicted between the slow-drifting asteroids, while the enemy ships are far outside.
Janeway raises her hand. “Tuvok, concentrate the phaser phalanx on just one of the three ships until its shields collapse!” She turns her head a bit to the other side. “Mr. Carey, once the target`s shields are down, fire torpedoes, but use them sparingly! I have a feeling we`ll need some more of them later.”
“Aye, Captain.”
Janeway lowers her hand. The two additional eyes of Ceph swing away from Janeway, to the screen and to the map. The next moment Voyager starts moving. On the screen, the asteroids race past the bow of the ship with increasing speed. In meandering maneuvers, Ceph avoids massive objects. Concerned, Chakotay watches the trajectory of the ship`s model in the map. In a spiraling curve forward, the Voyager`s icon approaches the edge of the cluster and winds its way increasingly faster through corridors growing narrower and narrower between mountain-sized boul-ders of ice and rock.
The end of a tentacle rises above the control panel. At the same time, Voyager flies a sudden hook behind a large asteroid and changes direc-tion.
Janeway shouts: “Attention -!”
The end of the tentacle hits the console.
In the next moment, the three andorian ships become visible outside the cluster. A cascade of phaser rays hits one of the ships, and immediately after, a torpedo blows a hole in its hull. Further phaser salvoes hit the shimmering shield of the second ship, which also collapses. The last of these shots trigger explosions at the hull.
Voyager is shaken by a hit from the third ship. Ceph flies back deeper into the cluster, while a shot strikes an asteroid at the edge of the screen.
Tuvok reports, “Two andorian ships have been put out of action!”
Janeway reaches for her console and transmits another command code. Ceph pans an eye at the displayed message. The screen shows Voyager turning. Then Ceph accelerates. In the map, the trajectory winds faster and faster in a narrow slalom, this time immediately towards the edge of the cluster, heading directly for the andorian ship. Ceph`s arm rises against the background of the screen, which shows Voyager racing head-on against an asteroid. Shortly before collision, she dodges sideways in a narrow bend. The arm claps the helm panel. In the same moment the undamaged Andorian ship becomes visible beyond the cleft horizon line of the dark-grey asteroid. While phaser rays fire against it, followed by a torpedo, Voyager flies into the open space in front of the cluster. A drive engine on the flank of the Andorian ship is blown off by the torpedo.
Immediately afterwards sparks spray from Kim`s console and from the bridge ceiling. Voyager trembles.
Tuvok shouts, “More ships are within range!”
In a diagonal looping, Ceph steers back into the interior of the asteroid field.

The quarters of Naomi and Mrs. Wildman is shaken. Scared, Naomi flees into the arms of her mother.
“Why don`t they leave us alone? Why do they still want to torture us?”
“I think they`re doing it because they take us for superfluous,” answers Mrs. Wildman bitterly.
“Can`t father help us?”
“He`s just a low-ranking officer on a remote station. I don`t even know if he wanted to help us, even if he knew about us.”
“Doesn`t he love us?”
Mrs. Wildman stares at the opposite wall. “He already has somebody else whom he loves.”
Again, the room shakes. Sobbing, Naomi buries her face in her mother`s uniform. After a while, she lifts her head.
“We could all live together with father, couldn`t we?”
Mrs. Wildman smiles. “Then you would have a twin sister and would never have to play alone again.”
Naomi looks at her with big eyes. Suddenly, her gaze changes into despair. She tears herself loose, grabs a tennis-ball sized, mother-of-pearl shimmering ball lying on her bed and runs out of her quarters with it.
“Naomi -!” her mother calls after her, with an expression full of worry and helplessness.

On a winding course, Voyager penetrates deeper and deeper into the asteroid field. From behind, phaser rays from different directions hit her shields and strike asteroids, from which fountains of rock and vaporized water are blown out. Finally, the phaser bombardment subsides.

On the bridge Janeway rises and turns backwards. “Status!”
“Currently, the shields are at 30%,” reports Tuvok.
Kim looks up from his readings. “Some redundant connections have blown. I`m just rerouting the corresponding signals. No damages have otherwise been recorded.”
Janeway touches the communicator. “Bridge to main engineering. – Do we have enough power reserves, B`Elanna?”
“I`m redirecting deuterium and antimatter from reserve containers into the main tanks,” reports Torres`s voice. “Parts of our supplies were plun-dered, but with what`s left, we`re still well supplied.”
In the holographic map next to the helm, E-Bug fades in ten attacking ships distributed around the asteroid cluster.
With eyebrows lowered, Kim lifts his head. “We`re being hailed, Captain. From the Eagle of War.”
With sinister determination Janeway stares forward. “On screen!”
Admiral Rockwood appears.
“I underestimated you, Captain, … you … your crew … and your ship! Next time, I won`t have you guarded by a few bunker soldiers. I`m going to seal off the entire planet where you`ll be interned with all ships of the Security Service!”
Janeway shakes her head. “There won`t be a next time, Admiral!”
A smile distorts Rockwood`s lips. “You know by yourself that you are trapped here. Still, I want to make you an offer because – dead – you`re of no use to me. Let`s talk privately!”
Janeway looks at the OPS. “Put the connection to my room, Mr. Kim!”
The admiral disappears from the screen. Janeway goes to the rear and enters her ready room. She sits behind the monitor on which Rockwood is already waiting.
“What`s your offer, Admiral?”
“Despite the incident on Earth, I`m authorized to grant you free with-drawal.”
“What do you want in return?”
“You know, we`ve already inspected your ship. Though we didn`t get access to protocols and technical plans, it wasn`t hard to see that it is essentially a replica of an Intrepid-class model with a patchwork of Hirogen and Borg technologies grafted on it. None of this contains any relevant information for us. Even your transwarp propulsion is by no means a revolutionary novelty to us. Starfleet has been experimenting for some time with a technology to utilize quantum slipstream. However, the special version of your propulsion has puzzled our technicians. They would like to know how your pilot manages to balance a vessel like your Voyager stable in the quantum matrix, despite the difficulties arising from the ship`s geometrical structure.” Rockwood smiles at Janeway, with a friendly look on his face. “You could impart this little detail to us, couldn`t you?”
Janeway shakes her head. “This is by no means a little detail, Admiral, and you know that. It would save Starfleet years of development work and the costs for a completely new fleet to be constructed and built, if you could simply upgrade the conventional ships.”
She bends forward and looks the admiral in the eye with a petrified face.
“I cannot give you this information! If I would enable a species as heavily interspersed with aggressive elements like yours to spread even faster across the galaxy, I would be violating the Prime Directive in a way I could never forgive myself!”
Rockwood angrily fists at the table he`s sitting at.
“I`ll be damned! Don`t you think you`re playing your role a bit too well?”
Wordlessly, they stare at each other. All at once, Rockwood`s features relax.
In an appreciative tone, he ponders, “Listen – Kathryn – since we met the first time, I have become more and more convinced that we may suspect the wrong Janeway and the wrong crew of espionage and infiltration. The results of the medical examination, your unyielding attitude in stick-ing to Federation`s statutes, all this suggests that it may have been a terrible mistake to trust others blindly, just because they showed up earlier than you. Think about the danger that mistake has put the Federation in. This confusion may give those who have pretended to be you the opportunity, possibly at this very moment, to open the door to a deadly threat to the entire quadrant! These strangers would be able to destroy everything that is important to you: your homeland, the lives of the families of your crew, and all the common values that the members of the United Planets have come to share after centuries of war and suffering! I`m sure you understand what is at stake, Kathryn. If it was indeed your ship that was transferred to the Delta Quadrant many years ago, … then I ask you — help us to prevent the disaster that may occur at any time if we fail to correct that mistake! It`s quite possible that the security of the entire Federation lies in your hands. Remember your vow and your responsibility, Captain Janeway. Come back to those to whom you belong!”
Janeway is silent.
After a while, she answers: “If you had delivered this speech to me a few days ago, Admiral, above the polar storms of Saturn, I would have offered you Voyager as a homecoming present. But in the meantime, I`ve come to know your methods and your attitudes too well to fall for your game! You and your people have been trying a bit too hard to nourish my doubt that possibly it wasn`t my ship that was launched at McKinley Station on stardate 48038.5. Whoever we are, and whoever those others may be — I will not give you the chance to play us off against each other!”
The admiral grimly shakes his head. “It`s useless. There`s nothing to do with you! Ever since I first heard of you, I`ve been obsessed with finding out what`s behind that mask. But now, … perhaps it`s not a mask at all, maybe it`s just a strange coincidence, a whim of nature — I don`t care anymore!” He straightens up. “You got one hour to reflect my proposal. After that — we`ll finish it!”
He disappears from the screen.
As if absent-minded, Janeway stares into the black monitor. She supports her forehead with her hand. Her gaze wanders to the window; beyond it shapeless, clefted, crater-strewn fragments of shattered planets are floating.
It rings.
“Come in!”
Neelix enters. “Am I disturbing you, Captain?”
“On the contrary.” Janeway straightens in her chair. “Come closer!”
He goes to her desk.
“What`s on your mind, Neelix?”
“The people who held us captive wanted to know from me how a holo-com works. I activated its recording function, put it aside, and pretended the device was defective. They didn`t believe me, so they interrogated me,” he hesitates and blinks in quick succession, “a bit more energetical-ly. The holocom recorded this inquisition. I thought I ought to give you the recording.”
He puts a memory card on the table in front of Janeway. With regret and bitterness, her gaze turns to the small part.
“I`m aware that many blame me for what has been done to them.”
“But no, Captain!” interrupts Neelix her. “Nobody on the ship thinks like that; it`s about something totally different!” He clears his throat and rais-es his head. “In all that time since we first met, I`ve been admiring your self-confidence you took from your imperturbable belief in the ethical foundation of your homeworld. I think there will certainly be some more individuals of your species who feel the same way as you do, and to whom you want to demonstrate how much their ideals are threatened.”
Janeway`s gaze wanders from Neelix`s mouth to his eyes.
“I was actually toying with the idea of writing a statement. It was in-tended just as a defense, a justification for our escape. Now that you`ve given me this data, I realize that it`s no longer just about us.” She nods. “You`re right; we have an obligation to make our case public, even if there should be no benefit for ourselves from all this!”
Janeway stretches out her arm, puts her hand on the memory card, and pulls it towards her.
“I thank you for this, Neelix!”
Neelix nods to her and leaves the room.

With tears in her eyes and the big pearl pressed against her chest, Naomi runs through the corridors. She stops in front of a gate. Before her finger touches the opening mechanism, the two door parts slide apart and a woman pushes herself past Naomi from the inside. Her eyes are wet too.
Naomi`s legs start running into the cargo bay; her legs run up the em-bankment to the garden; the legs run past vegetable beds and the algae pond; they run on up to the sand court of the boules game. There they suddenly stop at the border between grass and sand. In front of Naomi`s feet, the fist-sized pearl falls into the loose sand, which is pushed in all directions, while the impact of the mother-of-pearl ball forms a small crater around it.
The entire surface of the sand court is covered with small round dents, in which large pearls lie. Sobbing can be heard. Naomi`s legs turn around and run faster than before, away from the sand court. They run across an area of grass; they rush through a maize field, whose dry tongue-leaves rustle as if an autumn storm were sweeping them. The legs run out of the field and stumble over a shovel handle. Naomi falls and tumbles in front of a wheelbarrow. She sees the shadow of its tub in front of her and crawls into it, nestling against the wheel under the sheet of metal. Rolling herself up and hiding her face between her knees, Naomi crouches under the cart. Her forearms press against her shins, her hands lie against her ears.
Suddenly something clatters, rolling through the tub above her. She lifts her head. It rolls again, a few centimeters away from her ears.
An unripe spherical fruit, with first pale-purple streaks on its skin, rolls like a marble in the wheelbarrow tub through its longitudinal direction, pulling momentum on the sloping wall. It rolls to the opposite side, a little way up the slope and back again. Two of seven fingers grab the meanwhile slowly rolling ball, lift it up along the sheet metal wall and release it on the sloping surface for another run.
Naomi`s forehead rises at the edge of the tub until her eyes look over it. The fingers let the fruit roll over the longitudinal direction again; another hand releases a second fruit perpendicular to it, on the steeper side wall of the tub. The two fruits miss each other narrowly in the middle of the tub.
From the side the gardener interestedly approaches, also observing the game. Once again Peri lets the two purple fruits roll towards each other, releasing the longitudinally running ball earlier than the transversally running one. This time they meet and collide like two billiard balls.
Peri hands one of the fruits to the gardener, and points to the upper edge of the side wall of the wheelbarrow tub. The gardener places it there. Peri lets his fruit run along the long path. Shortly before it passes the middle of the tub, the gardener lets his ball go. A bit too late. The fruits just miss each other.
A hit into the shields shakes the ship. Peri hands his fruit to Naomi. She grabs it, and gets up. While Peri leaves the cargo bay, Naomi and the gardener continue to play the ball game behind him.

A dense maze of asteroids is floating around Voyager. Mighty phaser cascades strike into the rocks tearing them apart, fragmenting stone components and vaporizing ice. Voyager`s shields are hit too. In backwards flight, she recedes deeper into the cluster.

On the screen, an asteroid explodes in front of Voyager`s bow. The ship is shaken. Ceph navigates backwards, behind a boulder as large as a mountain. Meanwhile, Peri enters the bridge. He goes to the OPS and rises at the console besides Kim.
Chakotay turns his head to Janeway. “They want to wear us down with their shooting.”
Janeway is sitting in her chair. She enters data into her console. Lang receives them; at the rear panel board she turns around to her captain.
“I want you to broadcast this statement on all available subspace fre-quencies, Ensign!”
“All channels are open, Captain,” reports Lang.
Janeway straightens up and lifts her head.
“This is Kathryn Janeway speaking, captain of a Voyager that returned with her crew from the Delta Quadrant a few days ago. We approached the Earth, expecting most of the crew would find their home there and see their families again. — Instead, we were mistreated and imprisoned without official accusation, without defense, and without trial. Attached to this statement is a holo-report from one of my officers showing some of the investigative methods we were subjected to in a prison of Starfleet Security. Our current desire is to leave the Federation area. We do not want more blood to be shed. Therefore, I appeal to all who take part in combat actions against us to stop them and let us go! – Kathryn Janeway, Epsilon-Charoni Cluster, Stardate 56485.2.”
Janeway stares into the screen. In the maze of floating fragments, unco-vered lines of sight form for short moments to distant stars in free space.
After some time, Tuvok reports, “The fighting has stopped, Captain.”
Kim adds, “There`s a lot of radio traffic between the ships, … but it`s encrypted.”
The holographic map shows that three ships are moving away from the edge of the cluster.
“The Bzzit Khaht and the Caitian retreat!” reports Tuvok.
Kim raises his head. “The Caitian cruiser is transmitting an unencrypted message.”
“Let`s hear it!” demands Janeway.
A voice trembling with anger declares, “We have an old proverb on Cai-tian Alpha: a small Salt Chump that calls for the Big Shelterer for every fleecy cloud in the sky, as if a thunderstorming cloudburst were imminent, should not be surprised if the Big Shelterer ignores his call in an actual cloudburst! — We do not regard the conflict at Epsilon-Charoni as an interplanetary threat, but as an internal Starfleet affair! Proclaiming an alliance case due to that affair as if a Borg invasion had begun is irresponsible! We will raise this case at the next United Planet`s Council! – Rriaxon out.”
In the holographic map, further icons of ships leave the surrounding area of the cluster.
Surprised, Tuvok reports, “Even four of the six Starfleet ships retreated!”
“Then there are only three opponents left to deal with,” concludes Chakotay. “All three are considerably larger than Voyager and less agile in this environment! We don`t have any technical information about the Zakdornian Starshooter.” He turns around. “What do we know about the other two ships, Tuvok?”
“The Eagle of War is a heavily armed Nebular-class warship that is by far superior to us in its armament and the stability of its shields. The third ship is the Warrior, Sovereign-class. It has about the same combat strength as the Eagle of War.”
On the screen, a powerful phaser shot hits the big asteroid in front of Voyager. It is split into two parts.
“The cease-fire is apparently over,” growls Carey and shifts his chin side-ways.
E-Bug transfers a data update to the holomap. It shows the three hostile ships advancing deeper into the cluster towards Voyager. Ceph flies the ship backward to the next cover. Before he reaches it, a hit shakes the bridge.
“Shields at 80%,” reports Tuvok.
Ceph directs half his eyes on Janeway. She looks into the crowd of stems, which slowly sway their eyeballs back and forth, while behind them, on the screen, two asteroids are shot at from several sides; they burst. Another direct hit makes Voyager tremble.
“Shields at 60%,” reports Tuvok.
Chakotay worriedly turns to Janeway, who is motionlessly looking for-ward.
Without averting her gaze, Janeway inquires, “Seven, … progress report for the geographical map of the cluster!”
“The position dynamics of the individual components were recorded with maximum resolution and loaded into helm control and holomap.”
“Commander Tuvok, transfer the automatic fire of the phaser phalanx to the computer! Make sure that only one target is attacked at a time with full phaser power. – Lieutenant Carey, set also the torpedoes to automatic firing. They shall be fired as soon as sensors detect that an enemy shield has been penetrated by phasers!”
“Aye, Captain!” replies Carey.
Another hit shakes the bridge.
“Shields at 38%!” reports Tuvok.
Unmoved, Janeway looks into the crowd of eyes as she touches her communicator. “Janeway to Torres! – Make all reactor energy that is not needed for phasers and deflectors and all other auxiliary power available for impulse drive! We need maximum thrust, … as long as possible!”
“Understood, Captain,” answers Torres`s voice.
Still looking forward, Janeway raises her hand. The swinging of the eye-balls at the ends of their stems stops. Janeway lowers her hand.
The crowd of eyes spreads out, distributing over the instruments at the helm, fanning out across the screen and towards the holomap of the asteroid cluster. Only one eye remains turned back to the captain`s place. All five arms wind over the helm panel.

Amidst a group of asteroids torn to pieces by explosions, Voyager is floating motionlessly. All of a sudden, the ship turns sideways, accelerates, and shoots out of the region under fire, racing through the mess of mountains of rock and ice. With increasing speed, Voyager catapults herself forward, through spaces growing continuously narrower, swinging around her longitudinal axis to avoid colliding against asteroids with its projecting saucer module.

Chakotay is sitting in his chair, clinging to the armrests with both hands. He stares at the screen, where the objects of the cluster are racing by so quickly that their contours are barely recognizable.
“Captain, … does the pilot still have the ship under control? I`m afraid we`ll be wrecked at any moment!”
Hurrying back and forth, Janeway`s gaze is directed into the holographic map, which shows the changing positions of Voyager and the enemy ships in real time. It can be seen that Ceph is steering through the cluster in irregular loops between the Starshooter and the Warrior. The two attackers are approaching.
Ceph divides the viewscreen into bow and stern perspective. He steers towards a large asteroid. From afar, a long, dark line is visible at its sur-face, which rapidly approaches. Ceph steers for it straight away. The dark line grows broader. Immediately above it, Ceph draws Voyager`s bow up and follows the dark topographical structure over the surface of the asteroid. The map shows as Voyager surrounds the rugged, floating mountain.
Carey narrows his lids. “This cleft resembles a canyon that runs around most of the asteroid. Maybe we`d find cover inside.”
“There`s no effective cover for us anywhere inside this clus-ter,” opposes Chakotay. “They have sufficient firing power to blast everything apart that`s between their phasers and Voyager!” He reaches his hand towards the map. “They`ve caught up with us.”
In the map, there are only few objects left between the asteroid sur-rounded by Voyager and the icons of the Warrior and the Starshooter, which are approaching from opposite directions. Suddenly, Voyager`s orbital flight changes to a nosedive on the viewscreen, which shows the rapid descend of the ship into the dark cleft. The rugged walls of the canyon are rushing upwards on both sides, while the ship races down continuously deeper, until ground appears. The heading becomes horizontal again.
“Shouldn`t we better decamp, instead of entrenching here?” warns Kim.
Grimly, Janeway stares into the map. Suddenly, the bridge crew is tossed about in their places. In the rear view of the screen, the Starshooter has appeared behind Voyager. Inside the curved gorge, its phaser bursts strike into rock walls shattering off cascades of splinters at both sides of Voyager. Automatically, Voyager starts backward directed salvo fire at the pursuer.
Janeway shouts, “Tuvok, suspend phaser fire!”
The salvos stop. While the ship is racing through the canyon, the impacts into the walls are approaching closer and closer from behind. They have almost reached the ship, when suddenly, at the front end of the gorge, the Warrior becomes visible. Once again, Ceph accelerates. Then he puts the ship into a steep climb, out of the canyon. The salvos of the Starshooter miss Voyager and hit the Sovereign ship frontally at the other end of the gorge. Its shields shimmer violently and collapse, while Voyager flies in free space above the gorge. Deep down in front of her, the Warrior is within sight.
“All weapons at the Warrior!” shouts Janeway.
The next moment, Voyager fires into the canyon at the stricken ship with all of her bow-side phaser banks and with a crowd of torpedoes. For a second, explosions are recognizable at a long warp nacelle and at the oval saucer section of the warship, before Ceph races in a steep arc into a dense swarm of asteroids.
Tuvok reports, “The Warrior has been put out of action!”
Chakotay turns to him. “The Starshooter of the Zakdornians must have a Disruptor of extraordinary power. A single cascade of hits was enough to eliminate the Warrior`s shields!” He turns to Janeway. “Maybe this tacti-cal maneuver will succeed once more, Captain.”
“They know the trick now,” replies Janeway darkly, “and will be more cautious at the next attack.”
Again, the holographic map shows how Ceph swirls Voyager through the cluster like a bait, on chaotic paths between the other two ships.
“Radio contact between the Eagle of War and the Starshooter is indi-cated,” reports Kim. “They seem to be in collusion!”
Ceph`s loops become narrower between the approaching enemies. Sud-denly, the screen shows hits into the asteroids towards which Voyager is heading. There are violent explosions. The next moment Voyager races into a cloud of burst debris. Their impact against the shields shakes the ship.
Tuvok reports, “The enemy ships have spread scattered fire over the area around our trajectory! They`ve divided the battlefield so they can`t hit each other!”
Anxiously Janeway turns from Tuvok to the helm. Ceph directs two addi-tional eyes into the map. It shows the fire cascades from the enemy ships scattered on both sides along Voyager`s flying direction. The two additional eyes turn back to the helm readings. Voyager shoots out of the area between the two ships in a high angle and flies over the Starshooter, so that it gets between Voyager and the Eagle of War.
Janeway nods. “Ceph is flying an attack course on the Zakdornians!” She turns backward. “Tuvok and Carey — define the Starshooter as the primary target for the computer!”
“Target defined,” confirms Tuvok.
The map shows Voyager flying in loops behind a group of narrowly ar-ranged asteroids, drifting slowly around one another. Again and again the Starshooter becomes visible on the screen for less than a second on the opposite side of that group, through uncovered space between the asteroids. At the same moments, Voyager`s phalanx emits phaser burst against the Starshooter. Immediately afterwards, the return fire of the opponent tears out fragments from the asteroids serving Voyager for cover.
The bridge officers sway back and forth at their positions. They cling to consoles and chairs, not to fall over.
“We`ve reached the maximum curve acceleration of the impulse drive, Captain!” reports Kim. “Centrifugal forces in these narrow orbital radii are so strong that the radial inertial dampers have reached their limits.”
“Then I recommend to hang on tight,” replies Janeway.
On the screen, the asteroids are shooting over like projectiles. Between their bizarrely shaped contours, the Starshooter becomes visible for frac-tions of seconds. Its image is superimposed each time by phaser beams from Voyager, that the ship`s computer fires at the other vessel. Mean-while, Voyager races through debris fields of exploded asteroids generated by the zakdornian disruptor in Voyager`s trajectory. The ship quakes again and again, under collisions with fragments.
Suddenly – in addition to the phaser bursts – Voyager also fires glowing torpedo balls through a gap between asteroids.
“Sensors are detecting a collapse of their shields!” reports Tuvok. “The Starshooter has trouble in maneuvering.”
“Our tactics of attrition has worked!” exults Chakotay.
The glow of an explosion can be seen from the direction of the Starshoo-ter.
“Cease fire!” orders Janeway.
Ceph decelerates. Beyond the horizon of a big rock, the Starshooter is visible. Out of control, it turns sideways and drifts off; its disruptor pha-lanx, protruding like a huge cannon, scratches along an asteroid and is crushed by it. Small explosions are detonating, and parts of the hull are blown off. Ceph stops Voyager.
Kim reports, “Rescue pods are being activated; … they`re leaving their ship!”
In the next moment, the huge Eagle of War becomes visible in the dis-tance between asteroids. She immediately opens fire. Janeway is thrown out of her chair by the force of direct hits.
She pulls herself up from the floor and shouts: “All weapons on the Eagle of War!”
Voyager immediately returns fire from all phasers and torpedo shafts. The fire bounces off at the enemy`s shields. Sparks spray from Kim`s console, the rear consoles, and the ceiling. Ceph holds fast to the edges of his panel with two arms and takes Voyager out of the firing range.
“Shields at 20%!” reports Tuvok. “We wouldn`t survive any more hits, Captain! We need time to recharge shield generators.”

While the smaller Voyager quickly flies deeper into the asteroid field, the large Nebular ship follows her slowly, unwieldily maneuvering between the boulders.

Janeway looks to the OPS. “Status, Mr. Kim!”
“Hull fractures on decks 7 to 9 – several peripheral systems damaged – leaks in life support redundancy – all technical replicators are down!”
Peri is standing next to Kim. His head is lowered and aligned at the failure indications.
Concerned, Chakotay states, “Captain, the impact of all our phasers and torpedoes simultaneously hit the Eagle, but we couldn`t force their shields down!”
Tuvok adds, “It`s a fundamental problem. By the time our weapons are recharged after an attack, their shields have already recovered. Our firing power is insufficient for the Eagle of War!”
Chakotay raises his hand. “There`s only one pursuer left. We`re able to maneuver out of the cluster and go to warp much faster than the Eagle can. We`d have a head start, then!”
“No.” Janeway shakes her head. “As long as we do not defeat this opponent, we`ll never have peace!”
The screen is still split in bow and stern view. The latter shows shots detonating behind Voyager on the flanks of asteroids. Janeway goes forward. She lays her hand on one of Ceph`s sweaty arms.
She murmurs sinisterly, “We`ll drive them behind us. Let them shoot at asteroids until their firing power weakens!” She touches the communica-tor. “Bridge to sickbay! – Doctor, can you manage without Mr. Paris?”
“New cases of injured people are reported,” answers the doctor`s voice, “but there are two more helpers here. We can do without Mr. Paris, Captain.”
“All right; have him report to bridge to relieve Mr. Ceph!”
Janeway opens her holocom. She pushes the icons of Kim, Seven, and Peri to a Voyager symbol, on which numerous red dots are blinking. The holocoms of the three crew members also pop up.
“Aye, Captain,” replies Kim. “We`ll support the repair teams!”
The three leave their stations and hurry to the lift. Janeway goes to the entrance of her room.
“Take the bridge, Chakotay!”
He straightens up. “Aye, Captain.”

Naomi and the gardener are still playing the game of rolling fruits in the tin tub of the wheel-burrow. Two heaps of pebbles lie at the feet of the two; a larger one at Naomi and a smaller one at the gardener.
Naomi shouts: “Are you ready? Go!”
With her fingertips, she applies to her fruit a slight sideways spin as she releases it in one corner of the tub. The unripe purple fruit swings along the diagonal direction of the tub and accelerates towards its middle. The gardener releases his fruit on the steep side wall. It races across the tub and misses Naomi`s ball by a hair`s breadth.
“I won!” calls Naomi joyfully.
The gardener stretches an arm to his heap, grabs a pebble, and hands it to Naomi. She puts the stone to her own heap, with a happy, triumphant smile.
The gate of the cargo bay opens, and Baxter comes in. He carries objects under his arm, wrapped in a cloth. Looking at Naomi with a restrained smile, he walks past the players to the boule field. There he pours three pearls from the cloth onto the sand court. A flat plate also falls out of the cloth. Baxter hesitates. Then he picks it up and goes back towards the exit. He stops at the wheelbarrow.
“Look, Naomi, I got something for you!”
She receives the plate and tilts it against the light in different angles. The surface shimmers in metallic tarnish colors. Baxter grabs the plate and turns it over. Naomi looks at the image of her face.
“On this side, it is a high-precision mirror made of tungsten duranite. You can always be sure …” he nudges her at the nose with his finger, “that your nose is not imaged distortedly! … It`s no longer needed; I give him to you.”
Baxter pats her on the shoulder and goes to the exit.
Naomi looks into the mirror and swings it in different directions. In the mirror image behind her head the gate of the cargo bay opens, through which Baxter leaves. Before the door closes again, Naomi sees Kim, Seven and Peri, passing in the corridor.
Naomi shouts, “Peri, wait for me!”
While running to the exit, she opens her holocom and pulls Peri`s icon to hers. As she reaches the gate, Peri has returned meeting her there. Nao-mi jumps outside and hugs his upright upper segments.
“You`re my friend, Peri,” she sobbingly exclaims. Then she holds the mirror in front of their two faces. “Look: Peri and Naomi!”
She has put her arm around his shoulder segment, and positions her head pressed against his. The mirror images of their faces appear side by side. Next to this view, in the background beyond the open gate, the image shows the gardener playing the game of rolling fruits alone with himself, using two of his four-jointed arms. He tries to let go of the two fruit balls, on differently inclined paths, at different times in such a way that they meet in the tub at the same time in the same place.
Peri turns his head a little, so that his two segmented eyes are directed straight towards the mirror image of the gardener. Peri`s head swings back to Naomi`s image, then again to the gardener. Peri takes the mirror out of Naomi`s hand, lifts it above both their heads and holds it so that the gardener is imaged in its center.
“The gardener is my friend too,” Naomi says a little confused.
In the mirror, the gate closes behind Peri and Naomi. Peri seizes the mir-ror with a second hand, grabs Naomi`s arm with a third one and pulls her with him. Increasingly faster he runs down the corridor with her.
“What is it, Peri, … where are we going?” calls Naomi.

In the transporter room, the officer on duty is watching the readings on the control panel. He raises his head and looks at the entrance in surprise. Peri comes in, with a reflecting plate in the hands of the upper shoulder segment and Naomi on one hand of the segment below.
Peri returns the mirror to Naomi and runs to the officer behind the con-sole. He opens the holocom, and pushes an icon to the symbol of the transporter. The icon turns green.
A voice comments from the communicator, “I`ve marked the probe, Mr. Peri; you may lock on it with the transporter.”
Peri enters data into the console. Immediately afterwards, a box-shaped object about half a meter in size appears on one of the transporter pads, with rounded edges and corners; its surface is equipped with optical lenses and sensors. Peri leaves the console. He runs forward. On the way, he takes the mirror out of Naomi`s hand. Arriving in front of the beamed object, he turns it around and opens a holder. He pulls off a sensor unit, and attaches the mirror plate to the holder`s brackets instead. Then, he hurries back to the transporter console, and removes a side cover. Naomi runs to him, and watches what he does. Peri pulls a small module out of its socket, removes a cable elsewhere, and connects it to the module.
“What`s Peri doing, Lieutenant Chapman?” Naomi asks the officer.
Chapman shakes his head. “I can`t tell; … but I think it`s not quite in con-formity with regulations.”
Peri rises above the console surface, and starts another transport process. The object with the clamped mirror dematerializes, and is created anew on the neighboring pad.
The holocom is still floating above the console. The activated icon of the probe is pushed aside by an invisible hand and clicked green.
The same voice as before announces, “The probe has returned. … It`s been modified.”
Peri immediately repeats the transport process. Again, the probe disap-pears from the transporter pad and materializes on another one. In the holocom, the icon is doubled and the voice states, “Another probe has arrived.”
Peri immediately restarts the process.
Chapman nods to Naomi. “Now I understand. Because the technical replicators have been failing since the recent attack, Mr. Peri uses the transporter for replication: he`s producing probes!”

The bridge is shaking at short intervals. The screen shows a large number of phaser shots hitting Voyager`s shields from different directions. Jane-way comes out of her room.
Chakotay rises from his chair. “They`ve turned the tables, Captain. That Nebular ship seems to be carrying a whole armada of shuttles! They have swarmed out and are attacking us from all sides. They`re much more agile than we are. We can`t move Voyager fast enough to get rid of them!”
Tuvok apprehends, “Probably the shuttles of the disabled Warrior are participating as well.”
Peri and Ceph come out of the lift. Ceph swings to the helm.
Paris moves aside and turns to Janeway. “Captain, let me out with a shuttle! I could try to eliminate some of them.”
Janeway stares to the flashing phaser beams on the screen; she shakes her head. “That wouldn`t make any sense, Tom. There are too many of them.” She looks at Tuvok. “Do they pose a threat to us?”
“Not directly. But they weaken our shields, and at the same time, distract us from the Eagle of War. If the Eagle succeeds in reaching a free firing position, with the support of the shuttles, a single salvo will suffice to destroy us!”
“Can we fend off the shuttles with the phasers?”
“Not effectively. They use our tactics and fire from crevices and positions directly on the horizons of asteroids.”
Janeway anxiously looks at the helm. “Then we should do everything we can to shake off these shuttles!”
Next to the helm, in the holographic map of the asteroid cluster, a shining green line is drawn, leading from Voyager`s position to the free space outside the cluster. Ceph turns some more eyes towards the map.
Janeway frowns. “Does Ceph propose an escape course?”
From behind Kim informs her, “Mr. Peri has sketched this course, Cap-tain.”
A violent hit shakes the ship. Sparks are spraying from the ceiling.
Tuvok reports, “For a short time, the Eagle had an open corridor be-tween the drifting asteroids for firing at our position. It has closed again, but at any moment a new one may form!”
Janeway stares into the map. She points her hand at the green line and turns to Paris. “Get us to the edge of the cluster; … but not into open space yet!”
Paris sets the ship in motion. Janeway hurries to Kim`s console. Chakotay follows her. When they have arrived, Peri points to a display. It shows lines leading radially away from an outline of the Voyager. At some dis-tance, the lines meet small objects from which they are reflected. Finally, all lines end at an outline of the Eagle of War. Peri draws additional lines that run directly from Voyager to the enemy ship.
Chakotay raises an eyebrow. “I think I know what he means.”
Janeway nods. “But they must not see through our plan early; and they must hesitate in surprise — otherwise everything is lost!”
Paris calls, “Captain, we`ve arrived at the edge of the asteroid field. Shall I really fly Voyager out?”
Janeway nods. “Exactly to the target coordinates given by Mr. Peri!”
On the viewscreen, the crowd of asteroids thins out and Voyager flies into open space.

At some distance in front of the cluster of drifting mountains, rocks and stones, Voyager`s flight stops. The ship turns until its bow faces the aste-roid field. Suddenly, shafts open at numerous points of the engineering module and a swarm of probes glides out. They quickly move away in all directions.

On the bridge, all faces are directed on the screen. The first shuttles ap-pear at the edge of the cluster.
“They must not notice the probes under any circumstances!” demands Janeway with concern.
Chakotay turns to Tuvok. “We will distract them! Commander, maximum stray fire over the entire area!”
A phaser cascade covers the asteroids around the shuttles and creates a cloud of fragments and ice crystals. The shuttles retreat.
Tuvok reports, “Sensors do no longer detect the shuttles between the asteroids. They`ve apparently retreated to their mother ship.”
As if in slow motion, the lumps of various sizes are drifting in the dis-tance. They are rotating around differently aligned axes and are floating slowly athwart to each other. All of a sudden, a bright arc becomes visible between them that is more and more completed into a disc-shaped roundness. Slowly, the huge Eagle of War glides out of the cluster and plants itself head-on before Voyager.
Tuvok turns to Janeway. “Mr. Peri requests the controls of the phasers, Captain.”
“Reroute them to OPS!”
Peri puts the fingers of all four hands over the trigger touch-fields of the phaser phalanx. Kim points to a display of the OPS in front of Janeway.
“We`re being hailed.”
She touches a button. Admiral Rockwood appears on the screen with a triumphant smile.
“I see you`ve decided to surrender after all!”
“We`re not meeting here for surrender, Admiral. I ask you once again to let us go!”
“My patience is long over,” replies Rockwood grimly. “A single salvo will seal your fate!”
“You`re wrong, Admiral; there will be two salvos! – Janeway out.”
She turns him off the screen and lays her hand on Peri`s shoulder seg-ment. “Fire!

At the edge of the asteroid cluster, the Voyager seems small and helpless in front of the huge warship. Its saucer section is more than three times as wide as that of Voyager and the stump of its propulsion module also towers above her several times.
Suddenly, phaser shots flash radially from the rim of Voyager`s saucer sideways and to the rear, as like an aimlessly directed scatter fire into the empty space.

On the bridge, Tuvok reports, “Phasers recharged to – 60 – 80 – 100%!”
Peri fires again. On the screen, a cascade of phaser beams is flashing from Voyager towards the Eagle of War. In the same moment as they hit the Eagle`s shields, the rays of the first salvo, reflected by the mirrors of the probes, also arrive there. Under the force of double firepower, the shields collapse. Explosions knock parts of its hull out of the eagle.
Janeway shouts: “Carey — torpedoes on weapons and drive!”
Glowing torpedo balls rush towards the warship. More violent explosions than before tear deep holes into its hull.
Tuvok reports: “All primary weapons have been eliminated.”
Kim`s points his finger at a display. He frowns. “They redirect large amounts of secondary energy; … it looks like they`re activating a reserve phalanx of their weapons!”
Janeway anxiously looks at the display. “Can you locate it?”
“I`m not sure …, maybe on the upper port -”
A bright glistening outshines the lighting on the bridge for a moment. All eyes turn to the screen. A single torpedo-like object has detached from Voyager. It races forward as a glowing fireball and hits the hull of the Eagle of War just below the dome of its bridge. From the point of impact, a white-hot denaturing fire front spreads that penetrates the entire hull within a few seconds. Immediately afterwards, the nuclear fuel explodes and tears the glowing wreck into millions of fragments.
With horror in her face Janeway turns to Carey.
Why did you fire?
While the bridge is shaken by the shock wave of the explosion, Carey checks his readings. “That was not a photon torpedo, Captain.” He raises his head in surprise. “The shot came from the Hirogen disruptor that we never put into operation — its controls are not even installed on my workstation.”
With a sinisterly brooding expression, Janeway`s gaze wanders sideways over the bridge, passing Tuvok.
At the front end of a body stretched far forward over a console, a pair of tube-eyes has rigidly directed itself in parallel to the center of the screen, where – driven by a thermonuclear fireball – wreckage is scattered apart in all directions. Long side feelers are raised above the body, winding in the air like whips made of steel ropes. Between their ends, a glaringly dazzling plasma thread ignites with crackling, buzzing sound and casts on the bridge darkened by Red Alert, a flickering, bluish-white light over the frozen faces.


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