Starship Voyager – The Alien Adventures — Transformation – Part 4

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 4

In her room, Naomi is lying on the bed, with her head pressed deep into her pillow. Next to her, the holographic portrait of a man is floating above the pillow. He has the same horn features on his forehead as Nao-mi. She shifts her own head inside the holocom image. Then she lifts up her metal plate with both hands, in which her own face and that of her father are mirrored next to each other. Through the door of the neigh-boring room, which is half open, Mrs. Wildman is watching her daughter with wet eyes. She quietly closes the door. She climbs on a chair, stretches her hand to the top drawer of a cupboard, and pulls out a small object wrapped in a fabric. She closes the drawer, gets off the chair and quietly leaves the quarters.
With an absent-minded look, Mrs. Wildman is walking through the corri-dor. She collides with a crewman at a crossing.
“Excuse me -”
She turns her face away and moves on quickly. In front of her, the door to the casino opens. A man and a woman come out. Lost in thought, Mrs. Wildman looks after them. The man puts his arm around his companion.
“At least we don`t have to worry any more, nor do we have to hide any-thing.”
Mrs. Wildman enters the casino and looks around. All table seats are unoccupied. Except for Neelix, who is bent downward in the kitchen area clatteringly handling dishes, only Torres is present; she is eating something at the bar. Mrs. Wildman hesitantly walks past Torres to the replicator. Without operating it, she stares at its panel.
Torres inquires, “What about you, Neelix, … how do you deal with the idea that there`s a second Neelix?”
Neelix straightens up with pots in his hands and ponders, looking past Torres. He briefly raises his eyebrows and blinks twice.
“Well, since we`ve both had different experiences, I`d like to exchange recipes with him.”
Torres listlessly picks at her food. “That might not be amiss: Maybe the other one knows a bit more about Klingon cuisine by now!”
Neelix notices the second visitor in the room.
“Mrs. Wildman! If you don`t like to replicate something, I`d be happy to prepare a meal for you!”
Mrs. Wildman turns to him. “I don`t know, … I`m not really hungry. I have something important to discuss with you, Neelix.”
Torres pushes her plate aside and slips from the seat of the bar chair. Mrs. Wildman defensively raises her hand.
“I didn`t mean to drive you away, Lieutenant, … I can later –”
Torres goes to the exit. “It`s all right, I have to return to my repair team anyway.”
She leaves the casino. Mrs. Wildman goes to the bar. Neelix looks at her face.
“What`s the matter with you?”
“It`s about Naomi. I`m sure you`ve heard that our heading is towards Deep Space Nine.”
“There`s a rumor that our course will lead us close to a remote space station.”
“Naomi`s father was stationed there, … he`ll probably be still there.”
Neelix nods. “I think Naomi would be happy to see him.”
“You are her godfather, Neelix. I`m asking you a favor.”
“I`ll do what I can.”
Mrs. Wildman firmly looks him in the eye. “Take care of Naomi and tell her, her mother has already flown ahead in a shuttle.”
“But it`s not quite sure yet that we`re going to fly to that station -”
“Talk to the Captain. She`ll find a way to get Naomi there.”
“I don`t understand; don`t you want to go together with your daugh-ter?”
She grabs his wrist. “Do as I tell you, Neelix — please. Naomi has a right to grow up in a family. I gave birth to her. It`s my duty to enable her to lead that life.”
Neelix looks to the side, blinks, and turns back to Mrs. Wildman.
“I think I understand — you want to leave Naomi. You can`t do that! She`s going to miss her mother all her life!”
“The other one will be her mother.”
“But no!” shouts Neelix. “Naomi will notice the difference. There is so much you two have experienced together of which the other Samantha Wildman doesn`t know anything about!”
Mrs. Wildman`s gaze wanders sideways across the kitchen. Neelix knocks on her hand.
“Sit down at the table by the window! I`ll prepare you a tea that will ligh-ten your heart.”
Once more, Mrs. Wildman seriously looks Neelix in the eye. Then she releases her hand from his wrist and slowly walks to the table by the window. She sits down. The warp stripes of the stars are passing beyond the large window; in front, Mrs. Wildman begins to unwind a small bun-dle of cloth.
Meanwhile Neelix lifts a pot and pours boiling water upon herbs in a bowl.
“You`ll see, this will make you –”
He freezes. With both hands of her outstretched arms Mrs. Wildman holds a phaser, directed at her upper body.
“No!” cries Neelix in horror. “You mustn`t do that!”
Her fingers bend around the trigger of the gun. A tin can collides with one of her arms and the phaser fires. The shot hits her shoulder, and the uniform evaporates; splashes of boiling water burn red spots on Mrs. Wildman`s face and hands. With a painfully distorted expression she bends over the table, while Neelix wrests the phaser from her.
“Neelix to sickbay! – Emergency at the casino: internal and external burns!”

Janeway is sitting in her room behind the monitor. It rings.
“Come in!”
Paris enters and takes a few steps towards the table. “You wanted to see me, Captain?”
Janeway rubs her forehead with her fingers. “I`m trying to get an idea of our situation and I need all the information I can get! — I spoke to your father, Tom, just before our breake-out.”
A tormented weariness forms in Paris`s face. “Listen, Captain, my father didn`t think much of me when he was sure I was his son. For someone he thinks is an alien replica of his son, he has even less for!”
“Don`t get me wrong; I don`t want to interfere in your personal relation-ship to him.” She puts her hand on the table. “I know he took you out of the bunker and talked to you. The point that interests me is this: did you hear in your conversations with him whether Starfleet has a uniformly hostile attitude toward us, … or are there any advocates who would sup-port us if we`d surrender?”
Paris shakes his head. “In his conversation with me, the only concern of my father was testing me with questions about my past, and with convicting me as a liar. The situation of the Voyager was never a topic. I can`t help you with that, Captain. “Paris wearily turns to the side, as if he wanted to leave. Then he adds, “If you`re interested in my personal opi-nion: you should not expect any support from Starfleet.”
Bitterness and disappointment mingle in Janeway`s countenance. She nods. “Thank you, Mr. Paris. – Dismissed!”
Paris turns around and sets off for the door.
“Tom -”
He stops.
“Your father knows his son. I don`t think it was a coincidence that you were able to steal that shuttle.”
Paris looks to the upper edge of the door frame and sideways along it. Then he continues walking forward. The door slides open, and he leaves the room.

In sickbay, Neelix is standing opposite the Doctor, who is treating the external burns of Mrs. Wildman lying on a sickbed.
“You`ve lately been showing up more often, Mrs. Wildman. You seem to develop a tendency to accidents.”
Neelix quickly declares, “But I told you, Doctor: It was my fault! I was careless with the hot teapot.”
Additional wrinkles appear on the Doctor`s forehead, as he scans Mrs. Wildman`s shoulder. “Then explain to me, Mr. Neelix, how you can use a teapot to cause internal shoulder injuries that look as if a phaser has fired with 90% of its power at it?… In addition to fat and muscle tissue I`ll have to regenerate parts of bone and cartilage!”
“It was like this, Doctor: Mrs. Wildman mentioned that her phaser didn`t work properly, and when I wanted to have a look at it -”
“It`s all right, Neelix.” Mrs. Wildman interrupts him. “I shot myself, Doc-tor, and Neelix distracted the shot. I wanted to force that Naomi can grow up in her father`s family.”
The Doctor looks at Mrs. Wildman`s face for a moment; then he checks the data on his scanner again.
“Don`t you think it would be better to think about an arrangement, rather than about suicide?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I`m thinking of a family model that includes everyone: the father, the two children, …”
“And — two mothers?” exclaims Mrs. Wildman.
“Why not? There are many cultures where this is not unusual. For in-stance, in some species women prefer to share a wealthy man with oth-ers rather than monogamously bind themselves to a destitute have-not.”
“Doctor, it`s obvious that the spirit of your matrix was shaped by a man!”

On the bridge, Janeway hurries out of her room.
“What is it, Tuvok?”
“We are being chased again. Long-range sensors have detected a vessel on an intercept course.”
Janeway moves forward towards the holomap. “Can we fly back to the asteroid cluster?”
Chakotay is standing at the helm next to Paris. “The cluster is too far away already, Captain. We`d be caught up before we get there. “He points to the map. “This plasma nebula is the only suitable object we could reach in time.”
Janeway nods. “Since this time, it`s just one pursuer, we have a good chance that we may escape on the other side, while they`re still looking for us inside the nebula. – Mr. Paris, set a course!”
“Aye, ma`am.”
Janeway opens her holocom and shifts four person icons to the symbol of the conference room. On the bridge, the holocoms of Chakotay and Tuvok pop up. Chakotay observes in his own holocom as Tuvok`s icon and a second one turn green.
“Just tap it with your finger,” explains Janeway, while she is passing him on her way to the conference room. “The bridge is yours, Lieutenant Carey!”
Chakotay and Tuvok follow her. Carey raises an eyebrow and pushes his chin to the side. When the other officers have left the bridge, he hesitantly moves forward and deliberately sits down in the Captain`s chair. He scratches his belly, and turns his head back to Lang, who amusedly watches him from the OPS. He winks at her. Her expression becomes serious again.
“How do you think it`s going to proceed, Joseph?”
Carey shrugs his shoulders. “Everything`s open. Of course, a home port would have something calming.” He turns his face forward to the screen. “But on the other hand, … somebody who hires on a ship is not some-body who feels at home on land — especially when copies of yourself are running around there!”
Lang nods. Then she adds more quietly and with cautious hesitation, “But some of us had children -”
Carey`s lids are narrowing. A manic glow shimmers from the slits as he stares at a washed-out little spot that forms in the center of the screen and slowly grows larger.

In the conference room, Janeway raises her head. “Computer, open the map of the galaxy.”
The holomap pops up above the table, while Chakotay and Tuvok sit down. Searching, Janeway scrolls through a list at the lower edge of the map.
Chakotay clears his throat. “May I first ask a question, Captain?”
“Go ahead,” replies Janeway as she continues her search.
“Most of the crew are still traumatized by what happened. But if we manage to get over the current struggle for survival and escape the im-mediate threat, people will think about their personal future again.”
Janeway clicks on a file. Then she looks up.
“My aim in all these years has been to bring this crew home. That is no longer possible in the planned way. But I`m going to talk to every single person about their personal future plans and do everything within my power to make it possible for all to get to the places they choose — as long as I am accepted as captain of this ship.”
Chakotay gives a sign of refusal. “No one on Voyager will question your position, Kathryn!”
“It`s not that simple, Chakotay. From the moment we turned against Starfleet, all ranks and the entire hierarchy on the ship have lost their legitimacy! The question of who will play what role on the ship in the future will have to be answered jointly by all those who will remain on Voyager in the end.”
Peri comes in. He climbs on a chair with a concave seat, raises the front segments and rolls the rear segments into a spiral on which his front body rests. Janeway turns back to the map.
“Now that we`re complete, let`s get to the subject of this meeting.” She looks into the round. “When it`s time, we should submit to the crew a coordinated proposal for strategic realignment of our course. – Comput-er, image the outer border of the Federation, and mark all military fortified bases there.”
A transparent area appears, enclosing parts of several spiral arms of the Milky Way. Inside the area, red dots blink near its edge, clustering along the western border to the Beta Quadrant and along the northern border to the Gamma Quadrant.
“Fade in neutral zones and adjacent areas without territorial allocation!”
Narrow stripes lie around the zone of the United Planets. Janeway points to the model of the Voyager in the map.
“This is our current position.”
She opens a holoclip. From the red blinking military bases, symbols of warships continuously stream out, growing transparent; they disappear after a few centimeters. Janeway rises from her seat and bends over the table into the map. Her hand swings over the red military bases.
“There are ships everywhere that will be pursuing us as soon as we get within range of their sensors.” She reaches for the model of the Voyager. “We have the choice …” she takes the ship just outside the Federation area, “between a life on the run, in the border area of our world,” warships leave the red bases, near which Janeway moves the Voyager and follow her, “where we must continually hide from enemies who may never get tired of hunting us. Or,” Janeway pulls the Voyager far away and marks the place with a circle “we choose a life in foreign regions, where we must constantly be on guard against the unknown.” She moves the Voyager back to its present position.
Chakotay frowns. “I`ve come to know partisan life, Captain. It`s hard to bear even if you have a goal: When you want to free a people and win a war. But we wouldn`t have that ideal. For us it would only be a life in darkness and fear. I would prefer the unknown!”
Janeway opens the icons of the four persons present and that of the main computer. Tuvok raises an eyebrow. She pushes the icon of Chako-tay to the circle mark in the distance. Then she looks to Tuvok. He straightens up.
“Since we cannot expect an amnesty due to the past events, and taking into account the hostility we are facing, it would be illogical to expose ourselves to the permanent danger of a too powerful opponent if there is the opportunity to betake us to a potentially less dangerous region. Despite all the uncertainties, I think it would be safer to leave Starfleet`s domain of influence and face unknown challenges again.”
Janeway draws Tuvok`s icon to that of Chakotay. Then she looks at Peri. With three hands, Peri reaches into controls of the map integrated in the table in front of him. He activates the image of a blue-green planet with white fleecy clouds and pushes it to the symbols of Tuvok and Chakotay. Then he opens the icon-crowd of the whole crew, enlarges the planet, and pulls the person icons and his own symbol over the planet. Chakotay observes the wistful smile with which Janeway follows Peri`s movements.
“What do you choose, Captain?”
Lost in thought, Janeway stares into the image of the Milky Way, while the melancholy of her smile turns into bitterness.
“As long as you`re blinded by the light, you`re blind to the shadow. In the recent weeks, I`ve learned that you`re able to correctly assess a world only if you don`t belong to it. — A world that denies my person and those whom I`m responsible for the right to exist, is not my world. And I do not want to spend the rest of my life fighting for rehabilitation and for to be reintegrated into a heterogeneous system, the dark sides of which I deeply reject. I do not want to serve a common-interests community that too often misuses knowledge about foreign habitats, in order to expand, and to which limits of growth are as unacceptable as they are to the Borg. I don`t want to work for a civilization any longer that proclaims a high esteem for their ethical foundation that often just serves its self-complacency and is levered out during unofficial machinations for fascist or commercial purposes.”
Motionlessly, she stares into the map for a while, where the stars of the spiral arms glimmer. All at once the dull gaze of Janeway`s eyes trans-forms by the kindling of a glow. “Rather do I want to discover strange worlds again and explore new grounds — in order to search a new home for myself and my people.”
Janeway reaches into the hologram and shifts her symbol to those of the others, to the blue planet far away. Again, her countenance changes, turning to a serious expression. “In case we succeed, I hope we`ll do better than those from where we come from.”
Tensely and without blinking, Tuvok`s eyes are on the last icon. Chako-tay, too, curiously looks back and forth between that symbol and Jane-way. Peri`s head stretches a little further than before towards the holo-graphic map above the table and towards the sign in it that is still left after the other icons have already been used as voting symbols.
Janeway raises her head. “Captain to computer. – We request an analysis and statement on the vote shown in the conference room with respect to the future course of our ship! Which one of the two options does our main computer favor?”
The computer voice answers, “Please specify the question.”
“Voyager has the option of either hiding in the border area of the United Planets, or of evading into unexplored sectors of another quad-rant. Which of the two options does our main computer favor?”
It remains silent for a moment.
Then the computer declares, “Under the boundary condition of a number of 3042 known M-class planets in a boundary zone of one thousand light years in diameter and taking into account the local distribution densities of enemy star bases -”
“Stop!” interrupts Janeway. Impatience swings in the tone of her voice. “I`m not interested in the probability prognosis of an attack or a distribu-tion of danger potential due to any boundary conditions! — I wish a personal statement of the superior overall system of all components that constitute the main computer!”
Tuvok argues, “Captain, due to the special algorithmic structure of its programming, the computer is unable to give a personal statement or create the contents of a preference in a register.”
Chakotay nods. “Tuvok`s right, Captain. The ability to make such a state-ment would presuppose a personal entity.”
Janeway`s gaze wanders from the ceiling back into the map and fixes upon the remaining icon. “Computer, I have not withdrawn my question.”
Again, there is silence in the room. Suddenly, the computer`s icon moves, in the holographic image of the Milky Way, far beyond the Alpha Quadrant to a position near the planet which Peri had placed there.
Janeway turns her head upwards again. “A calculating machine that has evolved into a being that can express an opinion should have a personal sounding name! What name shall we use in the future to address the second artificial intelligence on the ship?”
About four seconds after Janeway`s question, a name pops up inside the map, in golden capital letters, below the icon of the main computer; si-multaneously that name is pronounced by the smoothly sounding, elec-tronic voice.
Janeway`s eyes widen as she looks at the lettering.
“So be it!”

Around the edges of the viewscreen on the bridge, the warp stripes collapse into stellar dots. The center area is covered with the peripheral clouds of a brightly shining plasma nebula. Peri and the three officers return to the bridge.
Carey rises from the Captain`s place, while he reports: “We`re just reaching the nebula, Captain.”
“What about the ship that`s following us?”
“We`ve approached the nebula in an arc, so that the distance of our pursuers was just measurable through the outer gas layers, but they could not determine our exact position. They`ll be here in five minutes.”
“Very good!” replies Janeway sitting in her place. Chakotay sits next to her. She points forward.
“Get us into the nebula, Mr. Paris, … but not too deep. We still have to be able to ascertain the arrival of the unknown ship and whether it`s following us inside.”
“Aye, ma`am.”
On the screen, the peripheral clouds of the yellow-green glowing mist are repelled by the deflector shield in front of Voyager`s bow and swirled to both sides. Then the medium becomes denser and completely envelops the visible area on the screen.
Tuvok looks at his readings. “Distortion fields due to free charges in the plasma are so strong that sensor range is limited to a few meters.”
The lift opens and three more people enter the bridge. Kim goes to Peri at the OPS, Seven and Torres go forward. While Seven takes her seat at the astrometrics station on port, Torres turns to starboard.
Torres reports, “I`ll redirect drive control from main engineering to the science console, Captain. From here I have more direct access to the sensors and can better correct the interferences the plasma causes to the engines.”
“All right, B`Elanna. What`s the status of the repairs?”
“The most acute damages have been corrected. But we still could not restore the cloaking field. Due to the failure of the technical replicators, some field coils are missing.”
“We won`t need cloaking now,” replies Janeway. “This plasma fog makes us invisible at the moment. However, it makes us as good as blind too!”
Torres goes aft to the upper bridge. Next to E-Bug, she takes a look at the sensor data. E-Bug points to different symbols. Torres nods.
“Gravimetric data should actually be available. I`ll try to compensate plasma induced glitches in the optronics of the gravity sensors.” She goes forward to the scientific console. Peri leaves the OPS and follows Torres to starboard.
Paris turns around. “Captain, since we can currently navigate on visual contact only, I suggest to open the side windows of the bridge dome.”
“Good idea, Mr. Paris!” Janeway turns to the OPS. “Do you know where the switch is, Ensign?”
“I`m looking for it right now, Captain.”
Kim enters an activation command. Shortly thereafter, the ceiling starts to move in the upper part of the dome. In two stripes on port and star-board, hull elements of the bridge slowly slide down from top to bottom. They open the view through wide, arched windows made of bullet-proof glass, revealing the milky, yellow-green glow of the nebula.
“Gravimetric data are available now,” reports Torres. “However, the sen-sor`s range is limited to 1,500 meters.”
“Better than nothing,” says Janeway. “Transfer the data to all stations!”
Ceph swings out of the lift. His crowd of eyes fan out over the plasma sky above him. Then he swings over the glass ceiling to the helm and settles down in his hammock next to Paris.
The holographic map in the space between helm and science console vanishes. Instead, the hologram of a horizontal, circular-bounded membrane surface covered with metric lines appears. A model of the Voyager is resting in a hollow in the center of the surface, as if its mass were pressing the elastic membrane downward at this spot, forming an indent.
Ceph pulls himself up to the ceiling and swings over this gravimetric image of the surroundings. He looks at it from above with several eyes. Suddenly, he clicks his suction cups and points with one arm to the edge of the membrane. There, at the limit of the gravitational detector`s resolution, where the metric lines become blurred and washed-out, the formation of another trough in the membrane gets continuously more distinct.
“Evasive maneuver, Tom — fast,” shouts Janeway. “Shields up!”
Paris accelerates Voyager and flies it away from the newly formed curva-ture at the edge of the image.
“Not too fast,” warns Janeway. “They must be able to follow us: Deep into the nebula!
The moving Voyager and the hollow produced by its mass are still de-picted in the center of the gravimetric map, while the metric lines on the membrane, like on a conveyor belt, move backwards below the model of the ship, depending on the speed with which Paris steers Voyager forward. The foreign trough briefly disappears from the edge of the im-age, as if it were washed away by the flowing metric. Immediately after-wards, it reappears and maintains a constant distance from the Voyag-er`s hollow.
“They`re using the same sensor technique,” supposes Chakotay. “Otherwise, they would already have lost us.”
Tuvok narrows his lids as he looks forward to the gravimetric map. “There is something else to consider, Captain. We see only a small part of the unknown opponent`s gravitational indent at the edge of the map. However, already in this rudiment a considerable total depth is indicated.”
Torres leaves her console and stands directly in front of the map.
“Tuvok`s right, Captain. If we extrapolate what we can already see, … that is not a small ship!”
Chakotay warns worriedly, “If there`s an exchange of fire, we won`t have anything here to take cover behind, nor can we use the trick with the mirror probes.”
Resolutely, Janeway gets up. “Understood! – Mr. Paris, how deep have we penetrated the nebula so far?”
“Judging by the distance travelled, about a third.”
“That must be enough! Accelerate sufficiently high so that they lose us and fly some rapid curves to make sure we shake them off!”
“Aye, Captain.”
Paris reaches at a command field. Immediately afterwards, the metric lines run across the map much faster than before. At the same time as they move backwards, the lines move jerkily to different sides. Repeatedly, Paris turns his head to the map. The foreign trough disappears from the representation.
“They should have lost our track now, Captain,” presumes Paris.
“Al right. Fly straight to the edge of the nebula and take us away with maximum warp, while they`re still wandering around!”
“Aye, ma`am.”
Ceph`s suction cups click and an arm points to the edge of the membrane.
“Damn it!” exclaims Torres. “They`ve tracked us down!”
“Same maneuver again,” orders Janeway. “At higher speed!”
The metric lines run across the membrane so fast that they are barely visible, jerking sideways repeatedly. For a moment, the strange trough has vanished, then it reappears and keeps a constant distance to the Voyager. Janeway moves a step forward.
“What`s the matter, Tom?”
“I cannot shake them off, Captain! We`re already flying at the maximum impulse speed possible in this plasma.”
Torres anxiously turns to Janeway. “They must have a different kind of sensors; for them the nebula seems to be transparent!”
Janeway`s face darkens. “Then our hiding game is useless. – Mr. Paris, get us out of this nebula! – Mr. Carey, charge all weapons!” She stares at the map, where the strange hollow can be seen more and more clearly at the edge of the membrane, while it is growing deeper. “Red Alert!”
The bridge is bathed in dark red light. Paris raises his head and looks into the yellow-green glowing plasma wall on the screen.
“Estimated two minutes `til we reach the edge of the expansion.”
Ceph swings to the helm and sits down in his hammock next to Paris.
Janeway turns backwards. “Mr. Carey, return fire immediately without orders, with the entire phalanx! – Mr. Tuvok, use the Hirogen disruptor as soon as shields are below 30%!”
Tuvok nods.
Torres points to the map: “They`re approaching our port flank!”
In flight direction, the foreign trough moves around the edge of the membrane until it remains on the left side, next to the Voyager.
“They`re reducing the distance now — just look!”
As the entire curvature migrates into the membrane, its maximum indentation becomes visible, pressed down to a level far below that of the Voyager.
Ceph`s arm rushes to the ceiling and claps the glass dome on port. All eyes are looking upwards, where a shadow appears diagonally above Voyager behind the thinning plasma clouds.
“Thirty seconds until we clear the nebula,” reports Paris.
Kim lowers his gaze to sensor readings. “According to numerical gravimetric data that`s something huge, Captain — huge indeed!”
Janeway stares through the glass window, where contours emerge in the thinned out medium. “Can you be more precise, Ensign?”
“I`d say: Galaxy-class!”

Through the boundary region of the glowing gas nebula, which already dissolves into individual clouds, two starships are gliding side by side: a smaller one and another one of twice the other`s length, two and a half times its height and three times as wide.
On their hovering flight towards free space, the two vessels penetrate last veils of clouds, that split up in front of them and swirl off along the shields as lateral bow waves, like mystic sounds from a bygone era, whose memories are gradually fading away. A last, large cloud builds up in front of the ships, in phosphorescent glow. Bow to bow the ships glide in, splitting the cloud, making the gas flare up in lightning and expand in all directions as a curling ring that grows further and further, like driven by the symphonic sound of a composition of two motifs, that once again, unfold together in dynamic exploration and majestic solemnity.

All eyes on the bridge are directed through the glass dome to port, where next to Voyager the huge ship is floating against the background of stars.
“Discharge weapons, Mr. Carey.”
“Captain -?”
“We do not yet intend to fire at the Enterprise. — But shields remain!”
Seven has left the astrometrics console by a few steps towards the helm, to follow the views of the others through the window.
“The Captain exhibits an unusually irrational behavior!”
Paris briefly looks back to Seven and then outside again. “This is not an ordinary ship, Seven. Lowering weapons is a form of greeting in this case, an expression of respect.”
“Does its size make that ship respectable?”
“It is indeed the largest type of ship Starfleet has ever constructed. But, that`s not the reason. — It`s the name. Since warp drive ships have been built on Earth, this name has been passed on time and again to a speci-men of the most modern class of ships. In times of crisis, they were dep-loyed at the foremost front line, and they were sent to explore the most difficult regions. Serving on a ship of that name was the dream of every Starfleet officer, and their captains were legends already in their life-times.”
Seven raises a brow and replies coolly, “It`s beyond my comprehension what the difference should be, … whether you`re being fired upon by an ordinary ship or by a legendary one.”
In Janeway`s eyes, the lights of the other ship sparkle, while her narrow mouth seems petrified. Behind her, the membrane of the gravimetric map vanishes from the holocom of the bridge. Instead, the oversized head of the doctor appears.
With theatrical pathos he annunciates: “And while Ulysses is trans-forming to Aeneas, he once again meets ghosts of ancient heroes!
Torres bellows at him in an undertone. “We`ve already got enough melodrama here, Doctor — even without your antique poetry!”
Kim reports, “We`re being hailed, Captain!”
Janeway turns forward. “On screen!”
A humanoid male figure appears, sitting on the captain`s chair in the cen-ter of a command bridge. His skin seems greenish, with a metallic shim-mer.
“I`m Second Officer and welcome you on behalf of my captain, who is currently unavailable.”
As if perceiving the arrival of a dark prophecy, Janeway`s eyelids widen, while she takes another step forward and looks at the person on the screen.
“So it is you they sent to our destruction -”
The officer`s head shrugs a bit sideways, and he raises his eyebrows with a mimic movement that expresses surprise.
“There seems to be a misunderstanding. We got into a fog and lost our right orientation. Fortunately, we met your ship, that led us out!”
Janeway`s expression brightens a little, while the darkness of her gaze changes to unbelieving doubt.
“We are pleased that we could help you. Unfortunately, we`re in a bit of a hurry and have to say goodbye now.”
He raises his arm. “Wait please — I must not let you fly away like this!”
Janeway`s voice hardens again. “Let`s end this hide-and-seek, Commander Data! Why won`t your captain face me himself?”
“It is not possible for him. He`s preparing a gift.”
“What kind of gift should that be — the latest type of a Starfleet torpe-do?”
Again, his head shrugs to the side. “I don`t know anything about a torpe-do. It`s a present in return for our salvation.”
Doubtfully, Janeway`s eyes scrutinize his face. “It surprises me that a positronic spirit knows so well how to evade the truth; you don`t even blush.”
Objectively he explains, “Unfortunately my constructor has not supplied me with this human quality.” He looks briefly to the side, on a small dis-play and then forward again. “My Captain asks for permission to come on board with me and another person.”
Janeway hesitates for a moment.
Then she answers: “Permission granted.”
The Commander nods, with his head shrugging up and down, and disap-pears from the screen. Janeway turns around. She silently gives Chakotay a questioning look.
With his brow raised, Tuvok observes readings on his console. “Some-thing is strange, Captain. This is undoubtedly the saucer module of the Enterprise-D, but the propulsion module seems to come from another Galaxy ship. According to the scans, there`s almost no armament. The other systems seem to be poorly equipped as well. Also, the number of crew members is much smaller than usual. If these readings are right, this ship is no threat to us!”
Once more, Janeway looks through the glass dome to the other ship. “We don`t know what possibilities Starfleet has, meanwhile, to hide system components. We won`t take any risk!” She turns back to Tuvok. “Monitor all force fields around the Enterprise! At the slightest sign that a tractor beam is building up or weapons are being charged, immediately order Mr. Paris to go to maximum warp!”
“Aye, Captain,” confirms Tuvok.
Janeway turns to the science console. “B`Elanna, resume work on the cloaking field!”
Torres nods. In the holocom, she shifts two icons to a symbol. Together with Peri she goes to the turbolift, which closes behind them.
“Chakotay, we two will welcome our guests.”
“There will be three people beaming over -” he concerns.
Janeway opens her holocom and pulls another icon to Chakotay`s and her own. “Then there will be three of us too!”
Janeway and Chakotay go to the lift. E-Bug leaves his console and follows them.

Naomi is walking through a corridor. In front of her face, her father`s portrait is floating. She speaks to the image.
“I`m going to introduce you to our gardener. He is, after Neelix and Peri, my third best friend.”
She frontally collides with two legs as she turns into a passage from which a group of people steps out. She falls. Her holocom detaches from her children`s uniform; with the image it projects it falls next to Naomi. The hand of an elderly man puts a suitcase on the floor and bends down to pick up the holocom. His other hand seizes Naomi`s arm and helps her up.
“Well, little lady, why are you in such a hurry?”
While she grabs the holocom and presses it against herself, she looks at the grey-brown skin of his hand, full of wrinkles and protruding veins.
“I wanted to show my friends to my father and our ship too.”
The man`s hand points to the holographic image.
“Is that him?”
Naomi nods.
“Where is your father?”
“He`s working on Deep Space Nine.”
A woman`s hand lies on Naomi`s shoulder. She looks up at her.
Janeway`s voice speaks, “I have a mission for you, Naomi: will you please show our biotopes and the vegetable garden to the other two guests? Commander Chakotay and Mr. E-Bug will accompany you.”
Naomi nods. She precedes the group into the adjacent corridor. Chako-tay and Commander Data go behind her. In the rear follows E-Bug, to-gether with a sturdy Klingon figure, with dark, lush hair.
Away from the group, from a branching corridor, Janeway`s voice proposes: “Let`s go to my quarters, … we`ll be undisturbed there.”

In the transporter room, the officer on duty is standing behind the con-trols. He looks at the readings for a while. Then he raises his head and apathetically stares at the opposite wall. His gaze gets restless, seems to be scared by a phantasy scenario in a virtual distance. His forehead is covered with wrinkles. He turns his eyes to the ceiling and rubs his chin and cheeks with his hollow hand and his fingers.
Suddenly, flickering displays on the console panel draw him away from the drama of his daydream. The next moment a man in Starfleet uniform materializes in front of him on one of the transporter pads.
The officer on duty pulls his phaser. “Your transport was not announced! Who are you?”
The newly re-materialized man raises his hands and answers unsteadily: “D-d-do not shoot! I am a friend!”
“I have to report you to security. You`ve boarded without permission!”
“Please d- don`t report me, Lieutenant Chapman! I will return to m-my ship im-m-mediately if you wish,” the stranger asks with difficulty.
“You know me?”
Radiant with joy the stranger walks a few steps towards Chapman.
“Certainly I do! I`ve known every crew member of the Voyager, … for many years!”
The door of the transporter room opens. A small carriage is rolled through the entrance. Upon it is a cylindrical part, with wires at both ends. The stranger is frightened and moves to the side. Chapman smiles.
“So, Mr. Peri you obviously do not know yet! — Will you now identify yourself?”
Peri`s head turns from the stranger to Chapman who is still directing his phaser towards the other one.
“I can`t tell you m-my name — if my captain finds out that I`m here — I just wanted to see if everything`s the same here as on the other V-V–”
“You actually saw the other ship?”
Next to Chapman Peri`s holocom pops up. He activates Interlink Database. From the icons of Starfleet ships, he chooses a model of the designation 1701-D and depicts its crew as a huge array of images of passport-like portraits. Peri and Chapman repeatedly turn their heads between the stranger and the image array. Finally, Peri points to one of the portraits.
“There we got you!” calls Chapman.
The stranger fascinatedly stares at Peri and his holographic tool.

Outside a wide window of a room with dimmed lighting, the starship Enterprise is floating in space. From a replicator next to the window Janeway takes two steaming cups. She goes to the table and hands her guest one of the hot drinks. His back of the head is sparsely set with grey hair and shows brown spots on the skin.
“Still Earl Grey, I guess -”
“Certainly,” he replies.
She sits opposite to him. Inquiringly, her gaze moves over his face. “When we reached the Alpha Quadrant, I thought I finally again could look into other`s eyes without suspicion.”
Janeway`s guest bends sideways to his suitcase. He lays it flat on the table, opens the lock and pulls up the lid in front of Janeway, so that she can see the contents.
“Maybe I can give you back some of what you`ve lost.”
For a brief moment, Janeway`s eyelids twitch. Then she touches the communicator.
“Captain to Seven of Nine, please come to my quarters! Bring Mr. Ceph with you.”
“On my way, Captain,” answers Seven`s voice.
Janeway looks back to her guest. “Where did you get this -”
“My science officer discovered the contents of this suitcase at a research station two days ago. They didn`t give him any concrete information, but it had already rumored that the number five plays a certain role in your navigation.”
He closes the suitcase again. It rings.
“If you will allow me, I would like to have them checked first.”
“Of course.”
“Come in!” calls Janeway.
Seven enters together with Ceph. The head of the guest follows Ceph`s movements. With his body oriented downwards, he strides with two arms on the ceiling, while the other three hang down and swing to the rhythm of his motion. Next to Janeway he stops.
Janeway lifts the lid of the suitcase. All twelve eyes immediately turn to the glittering contents. An arm reaches down and pulls one of five large octahedral crystals out of its padded setting. It holds it against the light of a ceiling lamp in front of the crowd of eyes, which examines it from all sides. The stems euphorically begin to swirl around the crystal. Then Ceph puts the mineral back into the suitcase and directs his gazes to Janeway and the guest.
Janeway closes the suitcase. “What do you expect in return?”
“Your trust.”
Janeway looks at him. She nods. Then she turns to Seven.
“Take care of the installation immediately!”
“Aye, Captain.”
Seven takes the suitcase. Then she looks at the man in front of her, whose face has been turned towards her for quite a while.
“The sight of a former Borg drone is obviously new to you -”
“On the contrary,” he gloomily replies. “I`ve been meeting that sight every morning in front of the mirror, … for many years.”
Seven frowns broodingly. “I remember. You are … you were Locutus.”
The man nods. Seven and Ceph leave the room.
“I still have something else for you.”
He reaches into a pocket of his uniform, pulls out a small, flat part and places it on a reading pad integrated into the tabletop. In the glass top of the table, a display pops up in front of Janeway. It shows a list.
In a low voice, Janeway reads it. “Commander Cavit — Lieutenant Stadi — Lieutenant Durst — Ensign Bennet — Crewman Jonas -” She looks up. “These are all crew members who died during our trip. Did Security Ser-vice give you that list?”
“Would you please check if it`s correct.”
Again, mistrust forms in Janeway`s gaze as she turns back to the list and skims line by line.
“Bendera — Darwin — Hogan — Kaplan — Jetal — Lindsay Ballard — Lang – That`s wrong: Timothy Lang is not dead! — Leyman — Seaborn — Carey — all these people are alive!”
For a long moment, Janeway looks at the man sitting in front of her.
In a shivering voice, she says: “On our ship they are alive —”
“If your people wish for it, I vouch that they`ll get to their families un-harmed.”
Janeway nods. “I will inform them.”
She lifts her cup, looks into the deep black liquid, and puts it down again without drinking.
“What`s your mission, Captain Picard?”
“I`m here to clear up your case. Not the way Security Service attempted, but in cooperation. Besides, Starfleet Command takes the opinion that currently the threat towards the internal legal order is a more serious problem than the risk that you and your ship could endanger the Federa-tion.”
“What can I do to support you?”
Picard puts his hand on the light grey memory that still is on the reading pad of the table.
“I ask you to check the rest of the data and compare it with your own.”
“I`ll do that.” She seizes the cup again. “How many people were on the Eagle of War?”
“The official number was eight hundred and fifty. — No rescue pods were found.”
Her fingers glide from the cup to the table.

In a side wing of main engineering a two-meter-long cylindrical unit is standing upright. Torres opens a flap at the unit. Baxter is holding a box in his hands, with cables hanging out. Torres plugs the end of a cable to a socket on the unit. There is a loud pop and sparks spray out of the flap.
“Damn!” shouts Torres. She pulls the cable off again. “They`ve removed something else from the generator.”
Next to them Peri holds a tricorder at the defective spot and points to readings on the display.
Torres nods. “I see it. So, we disassemble the whole thing again!”
The three of them start to screw on the big aggregate on different sides.
Tuvok`s voice speaks from the communicator. “Bridge to main engineer-ing!”
“Go ahead, Tuvok!” calls Torres.
“An engineer from the Enterprise wishes to talk to you.”
“Put him through!” replies Torres, while she keeps on working.
A voice asks, “Do I speak to B`Elanna Torres?”
She fists the levering handle of a wrench to loosen a tight connection, showing her teeth.
“Cut it short! We`re stuck in a nerve-racking job!”
“In our cargo bay, there are some old field coils stored, which we col-lected years ago from the wreckage of a warbird. It`s a complete set of a romulan cloaking device. Because of a treaty between the Federation and the Empire it would be illegal for us to install even a single thermionic emission diode of that romulan stuff on our ship. But my captain says in your case it wouldn`t matter that much -”
Torres puts the wrench aside and lifts her head.
The voice continues. “If you give me coordinates, I`ll beam the things over to you.”
Torres`s eyes shine. “I`ll give you coordinates with pleasure, Mr. … what was the name again?”
“La Forge is the name, ma`am, Giordi La Forge.”

The gate of sickbay slides opens. With a gesture of his hand an officer shows one of the guests the way inside.
“Please -”
“Thank you, sir,” replies the guest with cool politeness.
He enters while the officer withdraws. From his desk, the doctor turns to the door. His eyes grow wide. He quickly gets up and walks towards the guest.
“Mr. Data, … what an honor!”
“Your captain indicated that you wished to speak to me.”
“Did she say that?” replies the doctor a little surprised. “But yes, … I know all the entries in our database about you, about your incomparable mental abilities!”
“For me you are not a perfect stranger too — Doctor.” He shrugs his head. “I`ve had several interesting conversations with a person who re-sembles you.”
The doctor`s gaze noticeably spoils. “Oh, you know — him? What is he like, the … other one?” His voice gets insecurely groping. “Did he perhaps shine with publications, maybe in the field of exo-biology?”
“Exo-biology?” Data`s head shrugs sideways, thinking. “I don`t know anything about that. So far I have only dealt with his work on the foundation of rights of artificial life-forms. His main focus is, the struggle for the recognition of holograms as life-forms with the status of a personality and equal rights with respect to biological forms.”
The Doctor straightens up in relieve, and proudly he proclaims: “This is undoubtedly a high purpose to which my alter ego devotes himself. I myself, however, see my own domain in the field of zoological research on non-humanoid, exo-biological fauna. If you`re interested, I`d like to show you a selection of my most amazing and pioneering discoveries -”
With a low hissing the door slides opens and Janeway comes in.
“I hate interrupting you, but we`re short of time. You may continue your conversation later.”
Janeway hands Data a small, flat, dark green part.
“This contains information that will hopefully help your captain to an-swer the questions he`s concerned with.”
Data takes the memory part. “I shall deliver the information to Captain Picard.”
Janeway pensively looks at Data. “Commander Data, you are considered one of Starfleet`s most reliable and loyal officers.”
“There are many this description fits for, Captain Janeway,” replies Data, with a slight tilt of his head.
“But no one else can store information as securely and decide so soberly when that information is necessary!”
“Also, in this respect there are certainly people of comparable characte-ristics.”
Janeway shakes her head. “Not concerning the favor I would like to re-quest from you. — But first I have to ask you a question: What is the rela-tionship between your loyalty and your word of honor?”
“A word of honor is a special assent,” explains Data, “a promise or an assurance that somebody will tell the truth or meet the rules of an agreement. – Loyalty is a lasting relationship that includes these things.”
“I`ll formulate my question more concretely: if you had to decide be-tween your loyalty and your word of honor, … would you break your word of honor in order to meet your loyalty?”
Pondering, Data flips his eyebrows up; he answers: “I would not give a word of honor that could conflict with my loyalty.”
A fold of impatience forms between Janeway`s eyes. “Mr. Data, if I give you information about technologies of foreign species the knowledge of which could potentially become vital sometime. Will you then give me your word of honor that you will keep this information under personal lock and key until such a situation of immediate danger actually occurs? Do you promise me that you will not pass on any of this information prematurely to a civilization that I personally, in its current stage of development, consider immature?”
Data looks back and forth with short jerky movements of his eyes.
Finally, he replies: “I think it would run counter to my loyalty if I refused to receive this information.” He stands at attention. “Captain Janeway, I give you my word of honor to only release what you tell me in a situation of the highest danger level!”
After a deep breath, Janeway smiles at Data and nods contentedly.

Inside the frame of a viewscreen, the Voyager is floating in space, against the background of the yellow-green plasma nebula. Crew technicians in thick space suits trudge over Voyager`s hull, to locks where they retreat into the interior. Spider robots move to the stern of the ship and crawl into the opening of the shuttle bay.
A bit away from the screen, a bearded officer is sitting in the Captain`s chair with crossed legs. His gaze switches from screen to navigation con-trol, where Data is sitting next to the helmsman, observing rows of num-bers.
“Say Data, what was it like over there?”
“It was … amazing. I met another artificial life-form with a certain human trait more pronounced than with any other human being I know.”
“What do you mean?”
“I suppose it may be classified as a superposition of gigantomania and narcism.”
The captain enters the bridge and goes forward. The officer vacates his chair and sits at the neighboring place, while his captain takes his seat. The officer crosses his legs again. From the side he curiously looks to his captain, whose eyes are straight on the screen.
“What was your impression of this ship, Captain?”
“Of the ship?” Picard turns his head back. “Mr. Worf can give better in-formation about that. He took part in the tour of inspection.”
The Klingon looks up from his console and speaks with a dark rumbling voice, “The extraordinary thing about the ship is its crew, Commander. I met someone there who deserves to be called a warrior!”
Worf lowers his eyes to the console again. Pondering, the captain stares at the ship on the screen.
“Isn`t it regrettable, Number One, that we`ve been surrounding our-selves ever and anon merely with companions of our kind?”
“What do you mean, Captain?”
Without answering, Picard continues, “How would you de-cide, Will, if you were in their place, … what would you do?”
The Commander leans back and pensively turns to the screen as well. He supports his elbows on the armrests and folds his fingers into each oth-er.
“I don`t know these people. All I can say is, that I felt relieved when that Lieutenant Riker, who had come into being during a transporter accident on Nervala IV, decided to hire on another ship.”
Worf reports, “The alien Voyager has activated its cloaking mode, Cap-tain.”
The contours of the Voyager shimmeringly dissolve on the viewscreen, and it gets invisible.
“All right, Mr. Worf.” Picard looks at the helm. “Ensign, set course for Deep Space Nine. Accelerate -” he gently swings his flat hand up and down in front of him, “nice and slow to Warp 8.”
He turns his head to the Commander next to him. “It would be a disaster if the flanged engineering module would shear off from the saucer! The registration office only gave permission for a flight with Warp 1.5, from McKinley Station to the ship museum. If anything happens and they get wind that we have flown a considerable number of light years further: then, we`ll get it in the neck!”
The Commander looks at him questioningly. “We`re just following orders from Starfleet Command, Captain.”
“Believe me, Number One,” he draws the corners of his mouth down, his brows up and shakes his head, “the registration office will not withdraw the flying license from Starfleet Command,” with his thumb sticking out of his clenched hand he points against his upper body, “but from me!”
On the screen, a warp flash can be seen in the far distance, while the point-like stars gradually stretch into stripes that grow longer.
A woman in a long blue coat steps out of the lift. She carries a basket under her arm. She walks along the port side, opens drawers, and exchanges gauze bandages and medical injectors for material from her basket.
The Commander shakes his head. “I don`t understand anyway why this bus wasn`t scrapped right after the Klingons had brought it back. A totally new ship could have been built for the costs of making this wreck provi-sionally airworthy.”
Picard raises his warning hand. “That would have been a political affront! The salvaged saucer was a gift of honor from the High Council of the Klin-gon Empire. Even if it`s only scrap metal, … this gesture is worth more than a hundred contracts!”
The woman on port has been listening attentively. She turns around and calls out indignantly, “How can you both speak so disrespectfully of our ship, which was our home in all those years and has led us safely out of innumerable dangers! Even the Klingons knew that she deserved some-thing better than what you are wishing her!”
Data has turned halfway around on his chair. “Habitat imprinting on one`s memory and nostalgic affection seem to be loaded with different emotional levels for different Humans.” He lowers his eyes in a flipping movement. “Unfortunately, I am not able to feel this. — I wonder if it would be possible with an extrapolation, to estimate spectrum and amplitudes of corresponding emotions on that ship we are following.”
Data`s head shrugs sideways several times, like the thoughts rushing back and forth in his mind. Then he turns forward again and continues his work on the console.
The woman pensively carries on filling the drawers. Lost in thought Pi-card`s gaze follows her activity.
“Have I ever told you how much we appreciate your modest and friendly nature, Beverly?”
She looks at him in surprise. “Thank you, Captain!”
She finishes her work and leaves the bridge.
Casually, as if absorbed in completely different thoughts, Picard inquires: “Was your meeting with the ship`s doctor of the Voyager informative, Mr. Data?”
“It was very informative, Captain.”
“You`ll have to tell me about it on occasion.”
“On occasion, sir.”

Covered by the vortices of countless storms, a gas planet is floating in space. Next to it, a shuttle emerges from a warp bubble. It flies past the planet to one of its moons and orbits it up to its dark side, that is sparsely illuminated by distant stars. The small ship remains above the cleft lunar surface. A meteorite hits the horizon of the moon and whirls up dust in the opposite light of the gas planet.
In a mountain gorge below the position of the shuttle, Voyager shimme-ringly uncloaks itself.

Upright and tense, Neelix is standing next to the officer on duty in the transporter room, expectantly looking at the transporter pads. A woman materializes in front of him. Neelix steps towards her. With a friendly smile, she reaches her hand to him.
Neelix blinks at her. “Thank you for coming, Counselor!”
“I`m glad to help you the best I can!”
“In a way we are practicing the same occupation,” declares Neelix. “I`m playing the role of the morale officer on our ship — and I try to rise people`s spirits as a cook.”
“That`s lucky!” she replies. “I wanted to suggest anyway the meeting to take place within the setting of a dinner. There`s nothing better to relieve stress than jingling with cutlery, chewing food and filling your stomach.”
“That`s just what I had in mind!” exclaims Neelix happily. “The menu is already prepared. Only the guests are missing.”
The woman turns to the officer at the console. “Lieutenant, would you please beam down one of my two companions from the shuttle? His bio-signature is Ktarian.”
“Aye, ma`am,” confirms the officer and adjusts the settings on the con-sole.
A man materializes on a transporter pad. He steps in front of Neelix.
“I am Greskrendtrengk.”
Neelix bows. “I am Neelix, … Naomi`s godfather.”
“I know,” the man replies coolly.
Neelix touches the communicator. “Neelix to Mrs. Wildman!”
The gate of the transporter room opens. Naomi and her mother are standing on the other side of the entrance.
Mrs. Wildman hastily hurries to Greskrendtrengk, embraces him and whispers in his ear, “There`s only one thing I`m asking you for: Take Nao-mi with you! I want her to grow up in a family.”
Uncertainly groping, he puts an arm around Mrs. Wildman, while he looks past her head at Naomi, gazing at him from the door. Naomi`s eyes are fixed on his forehead, on the horny Ktarian humps that resemble hers. Mrs. Wildman detaches herself from Greskrendtrengk and turns around.
“Naomi, come here and welcome your father!”
Naomi approaches hesitantly. Greskrendtrengk bends over to her and lays his hand on her shoulder.
“How old are you, Naomi?
“I am four, but soon I`ll be five,” she answers.
“My Naomi, … your sister, … was five and a half when they returned. Next month, she will be seven years old.”
“That`s easy to explain,” Neelix quickly interjects. “We were exposed to time dilation in a dilapidated subspace and are therefore lagging behind your time.”
Naomi`s shy gaze turns into despair. She unwinds from the hand on her shoulder and runs out into the corridor.
“Naomi, … come back!” calls Mrs. Wildman after her.
Neelix hurries to the door. “Show our guests to the casino, Mrs. Wildman! I`ll follow with Naomi!”
Mrs. Wildman nods and turns to the counselor. “Follow me, please, … it`s not far.”
The three leave the room. The officer on duty looks after them with a melancholic gaze, until the door has closed. Suddenly, lights flash on his console. Alarmed, he pulls the phaser. A man in Starfleet uniform materializes in front of him.
“You again?” shouts the officer.
Anxiously, the man looks around the room in a hurry.
“Is the C-Counselor g-gone, Lieutenant Chapman?”
“Listen, if our head of security discovers your unauthorized transport in the logs — there may follow a disciplinary action against me!”
“Rep-port: I belonged to the group and have been late. — Where can I find M-Mr. Peri?”
“I don`t know, … at this time he often meets with some friends in cargo bay 1 for playing boules.”
“Thank you!”
The stranger hurries to the door.
“Wait! Someone must accompany you there!”
“N-not necessary, … I know the way”, shouts the other one and disap-pears in the corridor.
Chapman looks after him in worried anger.

Kathryn Janeway is motionlessly sitting in her darkened quarters, staring at a small, flat, light-grey part lying on the reading pad of the table. Slowly, her hand moves towards the part, then she pulls it back again. Once more, the hand starts moving, this time to the display in front of her integrated in the table. She opens a marked file. A list appears, each line beginning with a five-digit number and one decimal place. A finger touches one of the first lines. The captain`s voice speaks.
“Starship Voyager, Captain`s log, Stardate 48315.6.
We have tracked the energy pulses emitted by the Caretaker`s phalanx to the fifth planet of the neighboring system and suspect that they were used to transport Kim and Torres to the surface of the planet -”
With several finger movements, Janeway scrolls to the end of the list and touches the last entry.
“Captain`s private log, stardate 55011.3.
When a fleet squadron led by Admiral Paris approached us today, forming a lane and saluting on both sides of the blue planet in front of the Voyager, I suddenly perceived the scent of spring flowers, as if I was standing on a May meadow in Indiana.”
“Stop –”
Janeway`s eyes are closed, and her face is lowered. After a while, the eyelids open. She resolutely lifts her head.
“Voyager, comparison of the contents of this file — with the Captain`s log.”
For a long moment, there is silence.
Then the computer`s voice answers: “Identity of the files until entry stardate 51720.4.”
Janeway stares into the darkness at the other end of the room. Her voice is toneless. “Open last common entry.”
“Captain`s log, supplemental.
I have arranged adaptations on our shields to absorb the termionic dis-charges. We are now trying to beam up deuterium below the surface.
Captain`s log, second supplement.
The Doctor continues to investigate Tom and Harry. Their condition seems as serious as it is odd.”
The voice grows silent. Janeway turns her head to the window of her quarters. Beyond it, the yawning depth of black space opens above a bare and gloomy gorge.

Neelix and the counselor are walking along a corridor. Naomi is walking between them, guided by the counselor on her left hand. In her right hand, she is holding a silvery shimmering ball. The woman lowers her head sideways to Naomi.
“That`s a beautiful pearl, Naomi! I`m sure your sister will be very happy about this present.”
“Do such big girls still play with pearls?” asks Naomi.
The woman smiles. “Believe me: with pearls like that, girls are playing for all their lives!”
The captain comes from a transverse passage and passes the small group with a motionless gaze. Neelix turns around.
“Captain -?”
Janeway stops. “Excuse me, Neelix -”
“May I introduce Counselor Troy?”
Janeway reaches out her hand. “Thank you, Counselor, for supporting us in this!”
“I`m glad to help you, Captain,” replies Troy.
Neelix suggests, “Join us, Captain! We were just having a family celebra-tion. The table is still laid with buffet à la Neelix.”
A brief smile appears in Janeway`s face. “I would much rather accompany you than do anything else.” Her face darkens again. “But I have to deal with something I can`t defer any longer.”
Janeway nods to Troy. She turns around and walks on. Neelix and Naomi leave in the opposite direction. Counselor Troy stays behind and looks after Janeway, with an expression of empathically perceived horror.

In the semi-darkness of a Jefferies tube, a dismantled panel is leaning against the wall. In a niche next to it, three neural gelpacks are exposed.
From further away, the disengagement of a lever can be heard. Comb elements of a hinge intermeshing each other produce the soft rattling sound of a rotation. The pale shimmer of external light falls into the tube. Then something shifts in front of the light and a sliding, crawling sound becomes audible, that gradually approaches. As if in panic, a Tubeworm jumps past and disappears in a narrow shaft between slabs of the floor. The periodic noise of textile material that is pushed upon a metal grid successively swells, while coming closer. Then it stops. Once again, there is rubbing and scratching, as if someone turns around in close proximity in the narrow space of the tube. Then it becomes quiet. Only the deep, low humming of distant ship generators detaches from vibrations of wall elements and penetrates the air of the room.
Suddenly, a voice cuts through the silence.
“Voyager – locate the Captain!”
The computer`s voice answers: “The Captain is in Jefferies tube 23. – You are the Captain.”
With a shimmer, a camouflage field dissolves and the amoeba-like flow-ing, mercurial mass appears. It has sunk several protuberances into the neuropacks next to it.

A view from another direction depicts the mass in the center of its field of perception. Then the visual field glides away from the mass to the opposite wall, where hoses and cables run along, loosely attached. The gaze wanders downwards to the edge of the floor. It meets shoes and follows the course of angled legs to the knees. From both sides, two hands move into the field of vision. Side by side, their concave palms face upwards. The hands slowly turn in front of the gaze they are exposed to and their fingers tremble.

With a shrill and piercing scream and a face distorted by fear and despair, Naomi clings to her mother`s arm with an outstretched hand. With the other hand, she has grabbed the wrist of her father, who is standing on a transporter pad.
“You must not go! Stay with us! — Why don`t you love us?”
“I love you just as much -” answers Greskrendtrengk. “But I can`t stay any longer. They are waiting for me.”
He tries to free himself from Naomi, but she does not release her grip. Counselor Troy squats down and speaks to her.
“Naomi, … your father is as desperate as you are. He suffers terribly from having to leave you. Only you can mitigate his suffering — when you let him go.”
“The others had him long enough!” shouts Naomi. “He shall stay with us now!”
Mrs. Wildman grabs her daughter by the shoulder with her free hand. Her eyes are reddened and dull.
“I`m begging you once again, Naomi: go with your father! You`ll find playmates, you`ll go to school -”
“No! I don`t want to play with other children — my friends are here, on Voyager!”
Troy looks upwards. “I don`t think it would be good for both of you if you give your daughter away.” She picks up a silver pearl lying on the ground in front of Naomi`s feet and holds it out to her. “Weren`t you going to give him this present?”
Naomi looks at the dull shimmering ball. Drops fall on the pearl and roll down its vault. Naomi`s grip detaches from her father`s wrist. She grabs the pearl and hands it to him. He takes the pearl, presses it against his chest and holds his daughter`s hand with his other hand.
Troy rises and steps aside.
“Mr. Neelix, … I think we should withdraw.”
Neelix nods. “Thank you, Counselor!”
He goes to the entrance and turns around again. Troy stands on a trans-porter pad and looks to the console.
“One person to beam, Lieutenant.”
He starts the process; the figure of Counselor Troy dematerializes. Neelix leaves the room too.
Slowly, the father`s fingers open, separate from his daughter`s little hand, and his body swings away from her until he is standing upright on the transporter pad. His sorrowful look wanders from Naomi to Mrs. Wildman and back to his daughter.
A sob breaks forth from Naomi`s throat, and she hurries behind the con-sole. The man on the pad looks at the officer on duty. He opens his mouth. Without speaking, he nods to the Lieutenant. The officer lowers his gaze to the console and initiates the transport. Naomi`s father dema-terializes.
A moment later, his body re-materializes on another pad. He questioningly looks at the officer. Chapman frowns and checks the data on his panel. Then he looks up in worry and touches his communicator.
“Transporter room 1 to Captain. – We have a problem!”

Over the night side of the moon, the shuttle turns in a narrow curve and flies behind the horizon of the satellite. Shortly afterwards, Voyager be-comes invisible again inside the rocky gorge, while its cloaking field lies over it.

In the transporter room, Lieutenant Chapman stands at attention in front of Captain Janeway`s stern gaze.
“Are you absolutely sure, Lieutenant?” inquires Janeway.
“Sensor readings are clear, Captain. Both visitors were materialized on the shuttle. … It has already left the orbit!”
Perplexed and dismayed, Janeway stares at the man on the transporter pad. Chapman hears a crack and looks behind the side wall of the console.
“Naomi, what are you doing there?”
He grabs her by the upper arm and pulls her forward.
“Captain, she has changed something on the transport module!”
Janeway walks around the console and looks at a spot where the cover has been removed.
Chapman ponders, “Now I understand. When the replicators failed during our last fight, Mr. Peri used the transporter to replicate the probes he equipped with mirrors. Naomi watched him in doing so.”
Naomi`s father approaches. “What does that mean, Captain Janeway? I insist on returning to my family!”
Janeway looks at him with compassion. “If you wish — but another person has already returned there.”
Mrs. Wildman bends down to her daughter, seizes her at both shoulders and shakes her. “Are you aware of what you`ve done? — You have created a humanoid being!”
Anger sounds in the voice of Naomi`s father. “How could you ever do that, Naomi — you should have asked me and your mother!”
Naomi looks back and forth between her parents.
“You didn`t ask me before either!”
Silently, the adults are staring down at the child.
Janeway`s eyes wander from Naomi to a hanging cable on the module of the open console. “Mr. Chapman, inform Lieutenant Torres immediately. She shall make sure that this may never happen again!”
“Aye, Captain.”

Close above the night side of the moon, a comet passes by. Lower parts of its broad tail are seized by gravity and rain as meteorite showers upon the surface of the moon.
A portion of the filigree precipitation falls into the rocky gorge, where it fizzles out at the shimmering shield of the invisible Voyager with an iridescent glow.

Next to the navigation console, the holocom of the bridge has been en-larged, so that it touches floor and ceiling. In slightly distorted 270-degree perspective, it shows a crowd of people.
On the bridge, there are only three persons on duty left. Behind the helm, just above the level of the table, Ceph is resting in his hammock. With four eyes, he controls readings, five stems have fanned out over the screen, one eye is facing the holocom and two are looking towards the rear bridge.
There, Peri is standing with front segments erected at the OPS station on port. Two of his hands are supporting his body at the edge of the table. The fingers of the other two hands are working on the touch screen me-nus. His head and the optical axes of most facets of his rigid eyes are directed slightly downward, tilted towards data indicating the status of the ship`s systems.
On starboard, opposite to Peri, E-Bug`s eye tubes are twitching over the fields of the tactical console. From time to time, one eye rises, looks for-ward into the holographic transmission for a while, from there to the screen and then flips down again to the displayed data on his panel. A side feeler is stretched out to the neighboring console, where its end disappears into an opening; in irregular intervals short, bright glows emerge from the dark interior.

An uneven swelling noise, composed of the murmur of many voices, fills a cargo bay of the Voyager. Its gate opens. Janeway enters, closely fol-lowed by Chakotay and Tuvok. The murmur grows silent. Janeway goes to a wall. She stops in front of a stone slab with a list of names and stardate numbers engraved on it. Line by line, her eyes wander across the list. Then she turns around. On both sides of her, Tuvok and Chakotay stand at attention.
In front of Kathryn Janeway, the entire humanoid crew is standing aligned towards her. Janeway`s gaze skims over the faces of her people, crowded in the space not occupied by freight. The rearmost are standing elevated on a slope and in the grass, between a corn field and an algae pond.
Janeway straightens up.
“We have not arbitrarily chosen our course to this place. Nor for the nostalgic reason to return to the beginning of our journey. At this place we have the possibility to decide between three different routes to our future journey of live: We can surrender on Deep Space Nine, we can fly into the Badlands and try to hide, and we can – even faster than with Slipstream – get a large distance between us and our pursuers in a very short time, by flying to another quadrant where they won`t follow us.” Her eyes rove from one side of the crowd, to the other. “This time it won`t be the captain who makes this decision, but the entire crew of the Voyager.”

In the holocom of the bridge, next to the live image of the captain, a map appears with the position of the Voyager, from which three dashed lines start, indicating the optional flight routes. Two additional eyes of Ceph turn from the screen to the map.
Janeway continues, “You will not only decide about our course, but also about the future leadership of the Voyager.”
Next to the map, a chart of the command hierarchy pops up, in which the icons of the commanding officers fade more and more and are finally replaced by question marks. Another two eyes of Ceph swing to the image. In the background, Peri`s head rises. On the other side, a tube-eye has rigidly fixed on the holocom.
Again, Janeway raises her voice. “But before, it is my duty to tell you something about that I have gained certainty only a few hours ago my-self.”

In the cargo bay, the captain takes another step forward, closer to the crew.
“Since we had returned to where we thought was our home, we have incessantly been asked who we are, … and we ourselves wondered who those others may be who are claimed to have returned before us.” After a deep breath she lifts her head even higher. “This uncertainty is over now.”
From all sides, restless and tense views have been directed towards the captain.
“If you were an unknown crew to me, I wouldn`t dare to tell you about the following without the support of experienced counselors. But I know each one of you. Together, we have so often defied danger and faced death that I know you will be equal to the truth.” Janeway`s gaze touches Seven`s face. “From the Captain of Enterprise, I received the logs of that Voyager that has returned a year and a half before us. Their entries are exactly the same as ours until stardate 51720.4. After that time index, there are two different log-books, from two different ships. — At stardate 51720, we were passing the Vaskan sector. Trying to salvage deuterium we landed on a Class-Y plane-toid, on which a mimetic fluid, linked across the entire planet, had gained an early stage of consciousness. This being sought to increase its psychic and mental experience, and the variety of its structural forms. To be released from it, we gave to it what it demanded. We ourselves have propagated by allowing that being to reproduce us.” Janeway`s gaze touches Paris and Kim. “At least one of these replicas has detached itself from that planet and has followed the inner impulse of its prototype, on the way to its homeland. This replica — is us.”
The eyes directed at Janeway have stopped blinking.
“In everything that constitutes our personality and our appearance, we have descended from our home planets in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. We are genetic hybrids of our parents, we were educated by them, we were shaped by the experiences of our childhood and youth, by school, academy, and our service in Starfleet. However, — created in the physical sense we were not by those who are engraved in our memories as our parents, but by a being of planetary proportions in the Delta Quadrant, on an inhospitable demon-class planet. We come from two worlds: the world of our prototypes, our models, and that world where by a mimetic matrix – according to those patterns – life was created a second time.”

In the transmission on the bridge, next to Janeway`s live image, a holoclip ends. The last scenes show a planetary surface covered by smoking geysers and bizarre rock columns. From hollows filled with a mercurial liquid, the person icons of the crew and a model of the Voyager grow out, overlay, and move away from the planet`s surface into space. The holoclip closes and the holocom shows Janeway, silently standing in front of her crew.
On stiff stems, all twelve eyes of Ceph are gazing at the transmission. With a jerky movement, several eyes swivel towards Peri, another part of the crowd flips over directing to E-Bug.
E-Bug`s right eye tube rigidly fixes the hologram, while the left tube twitches back and forth between Ceph and Peri.
Without moving, Peri`s head is directed to the middle of the bridge. The optical axes of the individual facets of his ocular hemispheres are spread over the entire room.

The contour of a mountain ridge on the horizon of a moon shows a bright glimmer at its highest mountain peaks. It quickly expands into the lower valleys of the ridge; soon thereafter the entire horizon line shines and fans the scattered light of a rising sun over stony plateaus and against the rugged walls of canyon-like valleys.

Janeway leaves her ready room with a questioning look at Chakotay and Tuvok, standing side by side on the bridge.
Chakotay straightens up and reports: “The vote is finished. Among the crew members who have remained on the ship, there is an unanimous opinion who shall be in command of the ship in the future,” he stands at attention, “– Captain!”
Tuvok adds, “And also on the course we will take.”
He hands Janeway a PADD display that shows the voting data. She takes a long look at it. Then she worriedly raises her head.
“We have no idea what`s awaiting us there.”
“The crew knows the risk, Captain,” replies Chakotay.
Janeway nods. “Let everyone take their places, Commander; we`ll leave immediately!”
“Aye, Captain.”

Against the background of star constellations, a huge space station slowly rotates around the axis of its rim-shaped construction, with radially projecting, curved cantilever bridges acting as landing-places. Several ships of different types are moving towards it, others are flying away.
A small shuttle approaches the station and docks between large starships.

The sliding-door of a control room opens, and Jean Luc Picard enters. He stops. His eyelids narrow. At the other end of the room, an officer is standing in front of a large monitor. The officer turns briefly to the person who has come in, and looks back to the viewscreen again. It shows the spatial distortion of a wormhole portal. Around the metric threshold, the Enterprise orbits. A compact, cuboid structure also circles the portal in a larger orbit. Further away several Starfleet ships have grouped around the wormhole.
Picard goes forward and stands next to the officer. The officer reaches into the control panel for the large monitor and zooms in on the Enter-prise.
“Don`t you think your ship is getting a bit too close to the threshold?” the officer asks, without looking away from the screen.
“Some of my science staff are seeing the Bajoran wormhole for the first time,” answers Picard. “They would love to fly in. I had to give instruc-tions to stay in the outer zone of the metric distortion; otherwise, it is to be feared that the tidal forces will tear our old boat apart.”
The officer takes a step back, turns and reaches his hand to Picard. The latter shakes hands with a stiff smile.
“You have deprived me of the pleasure seeing the wormhole at close range, Captain Commander Vaughn!”
“I`ve asked you here, Captain Picard, because I assumed you were on an official mission.”
“Not directly. It`s one last excursion with the old saucer module before we mothball it in the museum.”
“The Fleet Museum is not in this sector -”
“It`s a farewell flight, as it were, not an easy one.”
Vaughn raises a brow and pinches the lids of the other eye a little. He nods thoughtfully.
From a side console, an officer calls, “Commander, a ship has decloaked behind the Enterprise! It`s heading into the wormhole — it`s the alien Voyager!”
Vaughn quickly looks at the screen, where the Voyager dives into the portal of the space distortion, laterally behind the Enterprise. Two more distant ships fire phaser beams behind her; they shimmeringly fizzle out at the stern shields of the Voyager. In the next moment, she disappears inside the wormhole.
The officer reports, “Firing was possible by two blockade ships only; for the others the Enterprise was in the line of fire.”
Vaughn turns to Picard in a harsh tone. “Didn`t you say you were here to make just a trip?” Then he commands, “Lieutenant, initiate fragmentation of the drone body!”
“Fragmentation is in initiated,” reports the officer.
With a worried face Picard observes the image on the screen. There the large cuboid body, which circles around the wormhole apart from the Enterprise, disintegrates into countless small cubes, which fly as a flock to the opening of the wormhole and disappear into it.
The Lieutenant reports, “All drones have penetrated, sir. They will open fire as soon as they are within range of the target signature!”

In his quarters, a man is sitting in front of an open holocom. Inside, he rotates images of a peripatoid, a cephalopoid, and a reptilian being with six limbs and long side feelers rising from its spine. The man observes the spatial images with a fascinated gaze.
The door of the quarters slides open, and another Humanoid enters a few steps. An artificial optical perception device, divided into stripes, spans his eyes like an arc.
“Listen, Reg: I can`t wait for you any longer! The mission is complete; we have to start.”
The man gets up. “I`m c-coming, Giordi.”
“You know I need you to fine-tune the warp field. Otherwise, we won`t return in one piece! … Have you made yourself a new toy? What`s that for?”
“It`s f-for talking.”
“Aren`t vocal chords and a tongue enough for that?”
“N-not everyone is breathing a stream of air past vocal chords and a t-t-tongue.” He closes the holocom. “And it`s a rem-membrance, … from a friend.”
He goes to the door, and they leave the room.

On the bridge of the Voyager, the viewscreen shows the metric image of a snorkel-like environment in front of the ship. E-Bug fades in data at the edge of the screen.
“Nine Dominion ships are indicated, coming towards us from the other side,” reports Tuvok. “Encounter in three minutes.” He raises his head and looks at the Captain`s place. “According to the database records we`ve received, each of them has one and a half times the firepower of a romulan warbird!”
“Red Alert! — Shields at maximum!” calls Janeway.
The bridge is bathed in dull red light. Grimly, Torres rises at the science console and presses her fists against the table.
“Captain, let`s open fire! Many on the ship want to settle old scores with them!”
“We`ll fire in emergency only,” replies Janeway. “We got to save our energies as long as possible. Maybe we`ll find a way to pass them without fighting.”
Chakotay warns, “We cannot activate our cloaking in this metric tidal-field and there`s no cover here either!”
Janeway`s gaze rests on Ceph, who has settled in the hollow of his helm and is unrolling his arms into the sensor grooves.
“Is it possible to go into slipstream not only beyond the exit of the metric distortion, but already inside the wormhole?”
Seven lifts her head at the astrometrics console. “The huge mass equivalent of the wormhole suggests that massive cosmic strings originate in the area of its strongest metric tension.”
“Then we should try it!” supposes Chakotay.
“Better not!” calls Torres. “You know that this is no ordinary wormhole. It is spanned by verteron nodes and many of the strings will just connect these objects together. It could become a short trip into destruction!”
“Even if we were to find a string that runs to the exit and into normal space,” adds Seven, “there the metric diverges in such strong curvature to asymptotic flatness that an incalculable change of direction of the string is to be expected.”
Chakotay frowns. “What does that mean?”
Seven turns her head a little and raises a brow. “It would be a flight at random, Commander.”
From the front, violent phaser shots hit the shields. The bridge is shaken.
“Shields at 80%,” reports Tuvok.
Kim shouts, “There`s another problem, Captain — we`re being followed by at least fifty drones!”
Janeway turns her head. “Tuvok, align all rear phasers for warding off the drones and level all torpedo shafts and the disruptor forward!”
“Aye, Captain.”
Chakotay proposes, “In case of a war on two fronts, we should divide the weapon phalanx and reoccupy Carey`s station again, Captain! If you will allow me, I`ll take over the torpedoes.”
Janeway nods. Chakotay gets up and hurries backwards to the weapons console.

In the control room on Deep Space Nine, the Lieutenant reports, “Wea-pon signatures of the Dominion are detected. They are attacking the alien Voyager from the other side.”
Picard angrily gazes at Vaughn.
“Has Starfleet ordered that ship to be destroyed so it doesn`t fall into the Dominion`s hands?”
“No,” replies Vaughn calmly. “Starfleet has ordered that ship to be de-stroyed because they think the crew are Dominion spies.”
“How can that be true? Didn`t you hear they are attacked by them?”
Vaughn silently looks at the screen, with motionless expression.
Picard`s eyelids narrow. “That was prepared! How did you know their destination would be the Gamma Quadrant?”
“Because the Enterprise came here.”
Picard turns his head away from the Commander and darkly stares at the screen. “Don`t you feel any pangs of conscience, Vaughn?”
Vaughn reaches to the console and zooms in on the threshold of the wormhole. “I had orders to send the drones after them. That`s what I did. Nobody ordered the target signature of the drones to be repro-grammed.”
Picard`s eyes open a little. “On what targets are they programmed?”
“To fight anything that looks like Dominion technology.”
“Nothing else?”
“Nothing else. The Dominion violates the peace treaty by occupying the portal on the other side and blocking the trade route.”
Picard`s face darkens again. “Thus, the incident with the alien Voyager comes in handy for you in order to break the blockade -”
“Our station is the most important base in this sector. Keeping the trade route open is our primary task!”

Sparks spray from consoles and the ceiling. The bridge of the Voyager quakes.
“The drones are opening fire too, Captain,” calls Tuvok. “They`re firing past us!”
The screen shows cascades of phaser beams that are aiming around the bow of the ship along its flight direction, towards the enemy ships.
Kim reports, “The drones are currently distracting the enemy fire from us. But more and more of them are hit; … the drone phalanx won`t last long!”
Janeway turns to Chakotay. “We`ve got no choice. We must dare the flight in quantum space!” She turns forward. “Mr. Paris, full stop! … Hand over the navigation to Mr. Ceph!”
“Aye, ma`am.”
Paris reduces the speed. On the screen, the drones race on all sides past Voyager`s bow, towards the approaching Dominion ships. Paris makes settings on his console and looks to Ceph, who receives the data. Five additional eyes are directed at Janeway. She nods. Immediately after-wards, the quantum matrix appears on the screen starting to envelop the ship. A salvo hits the shields and the matrix collapses.
“Shields at 30%,” reports Tuvok.
Again, the matrix forms. The ship moves sideways through the web of quantum vortices. Several times, Ceph changes the direction of the movement.
“What`s the problem, Tom?”
“The steep metric gradients towards the wormhole wall interfere with the quantum matrix. Ceph has trouble tracking down a string!”
Again, the matrix collapses and the phaser fire of drones and enemy ships becomes visible in front of the Voyager.

Floating inside the wormhole, Voyager is firing phaser rays and glowing photon torpedoes forward into a battlefield, where drones and Do-minion ships have met. At the same time, the enemy ships fire at the Voyager and repeatedly hit her shimmering shield. Bluish, spherical bodies in the wall area of the wormhole begin to swing back and forth.

On the bridge, Torres turns to Janeway.
“Captain, due to the high energy density released by the weapons, the Verteron nodes stabilizing the wormhole are set in motion. As a result, subspatial distortions increase!”
“Is there any danger of a wormhole collapse?”
“I don`t think so. But longitudinal subspace fissures may open, … unfor-tunately just where we expect the strings.”
“What would be the consequence if we were pulled into a fissure?”
“The metric distortions are extreme there! We should definitely avoid slipping in!” Torres looks backward to Chakotay. “Besides, those subspace gorges are haunted, they say.”
Janeway turns to her first officer. “What does she mean by that?”
“According to a Bajoran myth, this is the domicile of godlike beings.”
A heavy hit shakes the ship. Sparks spray from Kim`s console and hurl him backwards. He struggles to get back up again.
“Shields at 20%!” warns Tuvok. “Shields are recovering too slowly, Cap-tain! The next hit could cause a hull breach!”
For a moment, Janeway stares forward, into the battlefield on the screen. Then she enters data into her console. Shortly thereafter, Ceph steers the ship sideways, toward a group of swinging verteron nodes. In their environment space flickers, as if layers of air at different temperatures were flowing in confusion, thus changing the refraction of light rays.
Together with Kim, Peri tries to restore command fields at the damaged OPS station. Suddenly his hemispherical complex-eyes deform, become flattened ellipsoids, and relax back into hemispheres again. Peri looks forward. Another disturbance wanders through the space of the bridge, bending the ceiling, walls, and floor, stretching and compressing the cuboid consoles and deforming the people on the bridge as if their bodies were made of rubber, which an invisible hand alternately compresses and stretches.
Janeway calls a command into the room while her head changes propor-tions. Her elongated throat utters a high, shrill sound from her mouth; its frequency decreases as the area of the larynx shortens and widens, until the sound becomes a humming tone resonating rattlingly in the round of the bridge. Together with the metric of space, time also compresses and expands, accelerating all movement on the front of the wave and decelerating it in the rear. Moving bodies appear as if single parts of them were hurrying on ahead and others could not keep pace.

In Peri`s faceted image, Janeway is visible clinging to her chair with one hand and stretching out the other pointing forward; to where Ceph tries to navigate on his helm, with twitching ends of the pentagonally spread arms. While the wave of space-time floats through them, they are ex-tended and decelerated in their seismograph-like movements and then shortened and accelerated to rushing twitches. Several times, the screen shows the quantum matrix growing from the bow; but each time it col-lapses again shortly after it was created.

The distortions of the metric also knead through the optronic lines of a Jefferies tube, its plasma conduits, the wall panels, and the metal lattice of its floor. Suddenly, in the semi-darkness of the tube, two photonically luminating figures appear who – as if not belonging to this world – do not participate in the deformations of space-time around them. Shaped as if in monk`s frocks and on their knees, they are crouching towards one another and lean with outstretched hands to the space between them.
Shimmering, the camouflage field collapses around the silvery amoeba. Glowing fingers stretch from both sides, towards it. More violent than usual are the surface waves of the amoeboid body, upon which the twists of space overlap the being`s motions. Continuously further, stretch the fingers towards the metallic fluid, that struggles to flow away from them, to withdraw from where the fingers reach.
On the side between those figures, in the middle of a metal sheet of the wall paneling, a bump develops that does not correlate with spatial distortions. The sheet metal keeps on bending further out — until it tears at the apex of the bump. Two multiply linked, steely claws break out of it. Mighty, they unfold towards the photonic figures, as spread claws that immediately close around their prey. A bright light flashes through the tube; the claws collapse – into vacancy. They retreat behind the wall and the amoeba cloaks itself again. Merely the inner wall of the tube remains visible, a metal sheet that – as if it were a cloth – is winding in the wind of space-time.

Upon the deformations of the bridge wandering in waves, screwing tor-sions overlay, which turn the bow in one direction and the stern to another. Swelling creaking and cracking sounds from the tormented hull, like metal connections under stress, close to being torn apart. Seven and Torres lie unconscious behind their consoles, Chakotay lies with his up-per body over the weapons panel. Peri collapses and falls with half of his distorted segments on Kim`s body. Kneeling and firmly clawed, Tuvok sways in his place, trying to capture targets and fire phasers in a direction from where Voyager is hit at short intervals. Groaning, Janeway hangs over an armrest of her chair that bends together with her upper body.
Paris lies on the floor. On the slipstream helm next to him, only four eyestalks are trying to remain upright, wavering. The rest hang limply and motionlessly over the collapsed trunk upon the tabletop. Once again, Ceph succeeds in building up the quantum matrix. Swaying inside the whirling quantum field lines, he balances the ship in one direction. The eyestalks still awake are lowering deeper and deeper.
All of a sudden, on the screen quantum streaks retreat and yield aside, do indicate the nearness of a string. But there`s no eye left looking up to notice it. From rear, a crackling lightning flashes. Eye stems shoot up. And also, once again does Janeway raise her head.
The helmsman moves the ship. A quantum tunnel opens up, brighter than ever a slipstream tunnel was before. It sucks in the Voyager, cata-pulting it into the depths of its thread-like world.

Two men are standing in front of a screen. In the surrounding darkness of space, the monitor`s center images a gorge in the topology of space-time. The Enterprise has reached the edge of the screen and disappears from the image.
The Lieutenant`s voice reports, “Probes detect numerous solid frag-ments approaching the opening from the inside.”
Vaughn turns his head. “What material?”
“I can`t tell yet, sir. The analysis isn`t reliable until the parts come out of the metric distortion.”
Vaughn zooms the threshold of the wormhole so large that it covers the entire height of the screen. He bends forward over the console as if he wanted to look into the opening of space. Next to him, Picard darkly stares in the same direction.
Suddenly, something appears in the center of the screen that looks like a small particle behind which more parts swell outside, from inside the wormhole in the center of the screen, in front of which two figures are standing who increasingly recede in the depth of the control room, which gets smaller and smaller until the frame of a monitor surrounds it. In front of the frame, a palm presses itself into the darkness of a tabletop. The tendons are strained, the fingers arched up. A long, light brown hair lies across the knuckles and bends sideways onto the table, to a small, flat, dark green part.
From the monitor, the Lieutenant`s voice reports to his Commander, “Sensors detect merely Dominion signatures, sir, and fragments of our drones.”
The strained fingers sink to the table, the tendons relax. A full and warm, female voice speaks:
Good luck!
The hand does move and touch the monitor. Its image`s glow goes out and yields a darkness that makes soft humming audible, from distant technical units that wrest a living space from the coldness and vacuum of outer space.


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