Star Trek Voyager #18: Battle Lines [NOOK Book]

Overview


While exploring a sector of uncharted space, the U.S.S. Voyager™ is ambushed -- and forcibly pressed into service as part of the Edesian Fleet in their war against the enemy Gimlon. The Edesian commander claims that the Fleet is fighting only to defend his people against a merciless invader, but Captain Janeway is suspicious. War, she has learned, is seldom so simple or black and white.

With Chakotay and several other crew members held hostage, and the Starship Voyager™ under ...

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Star Trek Voyager #18: Battle Lines

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Overview


While exploring a sector of uncharted space, the U.S.S. Voyager™ is ambushed -- and forcibly pressed into service as part of the Edesian Fleet in their war against the enemy Gimlon. The Edesian commander claims that the Fleet is fighting only to defend his people against a merciless invader, but Captain Janeway is suspicious. War, she has learned, is seldom so simple or black and white.

With Chakotay and several other crew members held hostage, and the Starship Voyager™ under the control of the Edesians, Janeway has no choice but to join the campaign against the Gimlon, only to discover that the enemy has developed a new super-weapon capable of destroying entire worlds. Soon the Captain and her crew find themselves fighting a losing battle in a war they never wanted!

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743453844
  • Publisher: Pocket Books/Star Trek
  • Publication date: 6/26/2003
  • Series: Star Trek: Voyager Series, #18
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 727,718
  • File size: 644 KB

Meet the Author

Dave Galanter has authored (or coauthored with collaborator Greg Brodeur) various Star Trek projects, including Voyager: Battle Lines, the Next Generation duology Maximum Warp, and The Original Series novel Troublesome Minds, as well as numerous works of short Star Trek fiction.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

"YELLOW ALERT!"

Captain Janeway wedged her rigid shoulders into the command chair as the ship took on an acute hum. Like her captain, the Voyager tensed as she approached the unknown.

"Defense fields energized. All decks report ready." Lieutenant Tuvok's voice was a calm baritone. Vulcan-calm.

"Intensify scans. I want to know what we're dealing with." Janeway let her glare lock on the rushing starscape of the forward viewscreen, as if human eyes alone could watch ships that sensors only saw as shadows.

The captain pushed herself up and over toward the Ops station, where Harry Kim leaned into his console, shaking his head, frustrated.

"Ensign?" the captain prodded.

"It's there, Captain, all over the sector. Heavy subspace activity."

She frowned. "But not the burst you saw before."

There was no question in the captain's voice, but the young man answered anyway. "No."

The tension in Janeway's shoulders worked its way up her neck and down her back as she pivoted toward the tactical station. "Tuvok?"

"Scanners still indicate two slight subspace signatures which may be warp vessels, at extreme range."

May be. May not be.

"Find out."

Tuvok nodded once, and silently returned to his tactical sensors.

Janeway pulled in a deep, unsatisfying breath. She dragged her fingers along the rail on the upper bridge as she stepped down to the command deck. Fresh, uncharted space was what she'd always wanted, still wanted...but now a Federation Starbase wasn't only a month or two away -- it was decades distant. Starbases didn't exist for her or for the Voyager's crew, and that had to figure into her reasoning, her tactics.

But no matter how far she was from port, Starfleet's mission was to seek out new life...and these ships were unknown.

"Mr. Paris, maintain course but reduce speed by onequarter. Mr. Kim, narrow sensor frequency to focus on Mr. Tavok's vessel shadows. Tie in to his console."

"Unrepaired damage from our last encounter with the Aakteians has left the sensor array weak," Tuvok said. "A narrow-band focus will reduce long-range sensors."

She nodded. "Then hurry."

Risk was an albatross around every explorer's neck, from Magellan to Byrd, from Cochrane to Kirk. They all knew home for them was months away, and if they were stranded, hope could be counted in years. They had dealt with it. So would Voyager and her crew.

"Scanning...." Tuvok said suddenly. "Definitely two space-faring vessels with warp signatures, bearing oneonenine mark seventeen. A parallel course."

Janeway pivoted toward tactical again. "Identification?"

Would they be friend or foe? Voyager had found plenty of both in the Delta quadrant.

"These data are from extreme range -- "

"Noted. Report."

"Both ships are of a class heretofore unseen. Class five warp signatures, no detectable weapons, and a class fifteen shield."

"Class fifteen shields?" Lieutenant Tom Paris angled around from the helm. "We could snap through those pretty quick."

Tuvok cocked his head so that he could see past the Captain and into Paris's eyes. "I also register thick armor construct unknown, class unknown, but more dense that any Alpha quadrant vessels on file."

"Oh." The helmsman turned back to his console.

"Captain, we're being scanned," Ensign Kim called.

Tuvok confirmed with a nod. "Verified."

Janeway took the center seat again. "All right. We' looking at them, they're looking at us."

Hope and apprehension rode the same wave of emotion across the bridge. Many new races had greeted the Voyager with friendship: the Talaxians, the Raduk, the Baadalian. But many they'd left behind had become enemies: the Vidians the Kazon sects, the Aakteians.

Where would this new race fit?

"They're changing course," Tuvok said, a slightly surprised edge to his voice. "An intercept vector."

Lieutenant Paris held his fingers just above the helm console, apparently ready to make a course correction if ordered.

Janeway noticed. "Hold your course, Lieutenant."

"Aye, Captain."

"Hailing frequencies, Mr. Kim. Let them know we're not a threat. Mr. Tuvok, revert to a full sector scan."

Giving orders held a satisfaction of its own-the feeling that any situation could be controlled, tamed.

And an ensign as young as Kim needed his captain to be fully in control. Janeway gauged the ship's tension through his young voice, and from the way it cut now, she knew she had to be Voyager's anchor. "Captain," he said, "they're receiving the hail, but not responding."

Not a good sign. "I don't like this," Janeway said. "Come about, Mr. Paris. I want a course that curves away from the intercept point. One-one-five, mark two-zero. Z plus pointtwo light days. They want to intercept us before we see them, and I don't like that."

Paris dabbed at his console. "Aye, Captain. One fifteen, mark twenty, Z plus point two L.D."

"Captain, they're matching our course and speed," Tuvok reported. "Correcting for our change in trajectory."

Janeway nodded, as if she'd expected that, and allowed no surprise to show in her eyes. She palmed a control on the arm of her command chair. "Commander Chakotay, report to the bridge."

Immediately the turbolift doors slid open and Chakotay marched forward.

The captain allowed herself a brief smile.

"I was on my way when I saw the Yellow Alert." He lowered himself into the seat next to the command chair and activated his status viewer.

Janeway pointed to the tactical screen at her left. "We've got two ships on an intercept course, refusing to answer hails."

"And two more," Tuvok added, "now on sensors at extreme range."

"Kim?"

"Still no response to our hails."

"Raise shields." Janeway shared a moment's glance with Chakotay, then looked toward the tactical display. "Let's hope they realize we lack armor only because we have other defenses."

"All four vessels have increased speed. Intercept in fortythree seconds."

"I'm reading power surges on those ships, Captain. Could be a weapons charge."

"I don't like these odds. Edge away, Mr. Paris. Get us some safe distance."

"I'll try, Captain, but the other two are zig-zagging around as they come in."

"They're trying to box us in," Chakotay said.

Janeway nodded agreement. "Red Alert."

"Battle stations. Battle stations. All hands, battle stations!"

The bridge lights flickered to a red hue, cutting the glare from white accent lights. Janeway could feel power surging through the ship, vibrating up the deck plates from Engineering, deep below. The small Voyager crew took to their alert stations, and she imagined she could feel their energy too-boots rushing down corridors, staccato voices chopping out orders and routines.

"Locking phasers," Tuvok said.

"Belay that." Janeway rose and took a few steps toward tactical. "If they can scan us, they'll see we're targeting them."

"Indeed," Tuvok said. "Wouldn't that be advisable?"

"Are we sure they have armed their weapons?"

The Vulcan checked his scanner. "I cannot be sure until we have positively identified their weapon type -- presuming they have armaments that can be identified by our sensors."

New encounters were always a tightrope walk between too much caution and too much risk.

"Captain." Chakotay rose too. "Boxing us in is an aggressive act."

Janeway nodded slowly. "No argument. But we have a reputation in this quadrant now, Commander. A bad one, as far as some are concerned. They may have scanned us, recognized our design from rumors, and now see us as the threat."

"Captain, they're trying to herd us. I can't keep out of range." Paris was annoyed. The starscape on the viewscreen wheeled by as he tried to maneuver Voyager between the approaching ships.

Now visible on the main screen, the alien vessels looked large, bulky, and rocket-shaped, with dark hulls that nearly blended into the blackness of space.

"I want a few phaser shots across their bows, Mr. Tuvok." The captain came up behind the conn station. Paris was grappling with the control panel, twisting the ship as she readied herself to fire. Janeway had an urge to sit in that seat herself. Every job on the starship was ultimately her job, and she would have felt better with her own hand on the helm.

"Phasers..." Tuvok droned. "Firing."

Voyager spat a few phaser slices into space, just missing the mild shields of the approaching ships.

"All targets changing course. Attack vectors."

"They're firing, Captain. Point-blank!"

As Kim spoke, blue tendrils of electric flame whipped around the ship, slapping the shields.

"Disruptor-like weapons, Captain," Tuvok called. "Shields, aft and fore, down to ninety-three percent."

Janeway gripped Paris's chair as the vessel shook around her. "Return fire! Full phasers. Evasive substarboard."

"They're firing again!"

Lightning crashed against the shields.

"Damage -- decks five and six, aft sections."

"Damage control, Chakotay."

"En route."

Again, blue rods of flame shot from one of the enemy vessels and raked Voyager back.

"Aft phasers. Ready torpedoes just in case." Janeway forced herself back into the command chair. On the tactical screen, four alien vessels kept swooping down, firing, then withdrawing. "Protect our flank, Mr. Paris."

"Aye, aye."

"Kim, do what you can to get an answer to our hails." Janeway looked up toward Tuvok. "What could this be about? Why?"

The Vulcan had no answer.

"Captain, one of them is damaged and retreating."

"The lead ship has released a solid object." Kim's voice, not panicked, but charged. "Simple propulsion -- twenty-four seconds to contact."

Before Janeway could glance back up to Tuvok, he was acting on her unspoken order. "Checking..."

Only a moment of silence, as Paris spun the ship this way and that, before Tuvok spoke again.

"A nuclear device," he said matter-of-factly. "Armed for impact against our shields."

"You've got to be kidding," Chakotay said, incredulous.

"They're still ignoring all hails."

"Keep trying," Janeway ordered, then quickly spun back to Tuvok. "They don't want to talk? Let's give them some incentive." She glared at the screen, at one of the alien vessels as it retreated. "That ship is moving away -- the nuclear device is a danger to them."

"Without proper shielding, it may disrupt their subspace and impulse systems."

"Seven seconds to impact," Kim said.

"Tractor beam," Janeway ordered. "Swing the warhead back at them."

Tuvok nodded appreciatively. "Aye, Captain."

A quiet bridge...in battle, that meant a bridge stoked with tension.

Tuvok jabbed at his control panel. A moment --

The warhead swung around as if pitched from an invisible sling-shot. The enemy vessel tried to increase speed. Tried --

And failed.

Space before them bubbled white hot, then cooled and expanded outward in all directions -- an explosion basic in physics and power.

"Shockwave," Kim reported.

Voyager shuddered slightly, and only for a moment, as the energy from the chain reaction washed over them.

"The alien vessel," Tuvok said, "has been destroyed."

Janeway and Chakotay shared a bewildered look.

"I surmise that the impact created an internal explosion in their warp propulsion system." Tuvok slid from one screen to another on his console. "Three more ships have arrived. Different configurations but similar armaments."

"From three-to-one to six-to-one." Janeway tugged at the collar of her tunic and leaned forward toward Paris. "Evasive pattern omega three-four, warp one."

"Engaging."

"Tuvok, even those odds. Fire phasers at will. Kim, tell them this ends when they end it."

Voyager lashed out. Orange sabers of energy punctured the weak shields of the alien ships and sliced into their armor. Molten lines of damage quickly cooled in the vacuum of space.

"Direct hits. We've damaged one severely, the other has lost propulsion," Tuvok said. "Two enemy vessels limping back, reserve three coming in."

Enemy vessels. Enemy. Janeway had no idea who they suddenly had as enemies. There had to be a reason...she needed to have one.

She'd find out before this was over -- she promised herself that.

The largest of the next three alien vessels ascended across the forward viewscreen.

Paris punched at his naviconsole. "This one's a biggun', Captain. I'm trying to stay out of its way."

"Mass of this vessel is twenty-three times our own, Captain," Kim said.

Tuvok bowed over his sensors. "Weapons status unknown. Dense armor. High subspace output."

A flash on the screen, and a thousand small projectiles appeared, speeding toward Voyager.

Chakotay motioned to the tactical screen. "They've called in the big guns."

"Metallic alloy objects, Captain. Unknown propellant," Tuvok called. "Meant to disrupt our shields."

Armor rather than shields...mechanical and energy weapons. Whoever they were, they lacked some of the technology the Federation had in abundance. Janeway could use that.

"Launch countermeasures, Mr. Tuvok. Let's show them that bigger isn't better."

Tuvok dabbed at his board and Voyager launched a torpedo that shot forward, hovered a moment, then exploded into a million small flares. Space ignited as each flare found one of the enemy shells, and both died in a fiery struggle.

"The two smaller vessels are firing disruptors again. Aft dorsal shield weakened."

"I need our flank protected, Mr. Paris."

"Trying, Captain. They're targeting our aft."

Janeway hit a button on the arm of her chair. "Janeway to Engineering."

"Torres here."

"We're losing dorsal shields." Neither statement nor question-the captain wanted a solution.

"I'm switching to secondary generators, Captain, but circuits are overloading."

Every sentence punctuated with an explosion of power that raked Voyager's shields, Janeway leaned down to the chairarm comm. "Reroute wherever you have to, Lieutenant. I don't want to lose shields. We don't have the armor these people have."

"Aye, Captain."

Janeway thumbed the comm off. "Bridge out."

"Captain -- " Paris called her attention and pointed at the forward viewscreen.

"What are they doing?"

Tuvok answered, as the largest ship sped toward Voyager. "Pursuing a collision course," he said calmly.

"They're going to ram us," Janeway whispered.

"We cannot cope with a warp-speed ram from a vessel of such mass," Tuvok said.

Janeway jabbed at a safe coordinate on the tactical board. "Warp evasive! Get us out of here!"

"No room to maneuver, Captain."

"Warn them off, Tuvok. Tell them we'll cripple them if they attempt to ram this vessel." She wanted Tuvok to handle the hail. He'd word it better than Kim.

"Aye."

"They're coming around to the aft," Kim said, his tone calmer than Janeway might have guessed it would be.

"Become a corkscrew, Mr. Paris. Don't let them in."

Paris shook his head. "This is fun," he said dryly, and Voyager began a spinning course upward as the two other enemy vessels continued to direct fire at her aft shields.

"Aft dorsal shield collapsing, Captain."

Voyager lashed out in its spin, spitting hot phaser beams at the three attacking ships.

The enemy lashed back.

"Impact with lead ship in fifteen seconds!"

They'd been warned....

"Photon torpedoes," Janeway said. "Fire all bays. Aim strategically, Tuvok I want that vessel stopped. Target their engines. Fire at will."

Phasers still lighting up the hulls of her enemies, Voyager hissed out a spread of torpedoes, point blank into the approaching vessel.

The most forward vessel erupted into molten debris as its hull collapsed and its engines imploded. Voyager was pushed back by the force, tossed aside by a wash of energy and wreckage. She rolled, end-over-end, riding the wave of debris that exploded too close to her hull.

Janeway pitched from the command chair and onto the hard deck. Balance restored itself, and she quickly pushed herself up, giving Chakotay a hand as well.

"Status!"

"Continuing to fire." How Tuvok managed to hold onto his station when everyone else lost theirs..."We have a shield breach at aft dorsal. Damage to decks five, six, and ten. Warp power is offline."

"Auxiliary power to the shields." Janeway returned to the command chair but didn't sit. Without her aft defensive shield, Voyager could be carved up like Christmas ham. "I want that screen up. Mr. Paris, best speed evasive. Get us out -- "

"They've ceased fire," Tuvok said.

All looked up as four loud thunks vibrated through the ship.

A physical hit, on the ship's hull.

Not the sound of a weapon, but the sound of debris hitting the bull plates.

Janeway spun toward Chakotay. "What was that?"

He shrugged, more with his eyes than his shoulders, and leaned into his status screen.

"The vessels are backing off on their own," Tuvok said, just a hint of surprise in his tone.

"Engineering says warp is still offline, and now warp power levels are fluctuating!" Paris pounded on his board.

"We have a hull breach." Kim was incredulous. "I think."

"You think?" Janeway jumped up to the upper deck. She leaned over Kim's console. "Tuvok, verify this." She pecked at Ensign Kim's control panel.

The captain waited a moment, then met the Vulcan's eyes. "A mine?" she asked.

"Negative."

His voice was too passive at times like these.

"Then what?"

"A device of some kind, producing a warp-dampening field. They've launched it through the hole they blasted open in our shields."

"Captain, we're being hailed."

She looked up at Ensign Kim, then down to his console and the communications display which showed an incoming message.

Straightening, Janeway strode down to her command chair. "Ignore the hail. Mr. Paris, warp speed or not, get us out of here."

Paris shook his head once. "Aye, Captain."

"Chakotay, I want that thing off my ship." She crooked a thumb over her shoulder. "Get it off."

He nodded and was into the turbolift before she sat down.

Under Paris's prodding, Voyager tensed, gathered herself, and twisted out toward open space.

A moment further into the maneuver, and the ship was violently wrenched back, the air on the bridge cracking with the sound of stressed bulkheads.

"Tractor beams, class four," Tuvok said. "One from each enemy vessel."

Enemy. Why?

Janeway dug her fingers into the armrests of the command chair. Alien vessels had a tight grip on her ship. She should have a tighter one. "Full impulse, Mr. Paris. Push her."

Laboring against the energy that seized her, Voyager inched forward on her course. The engines whined.

"Torres to Janeway. We've got a bad coolant leak. Impulse overheating."

"Do what you can," Janeway said. "Push, Mr. Paris she rasped. "Tuvok, reroute phasers through impulse power. Disable those tractors."

"Aye, Captain."

Voyager fired, and even with impulse phasers she cut fire into their alien hulls. Explosions racked one ship, and it fell away.

The loss of its pull on the Voyager pushed the ship forward and took some moan from the engines' whine.

"One vessel has been disabled, Captain."

"Three on one again. We might never have a better advantage. Disable these and we've earned our pay."

Before Tuvok could respond, the viewscreen filled -- a multitude of ships falling out of warp. Janeway pushed herself up and toward the viewer, making sure she kept her jaw from gaping. "How many?" she whispered.

Tuvok's answer did not come immediately. He'd probably double-checked the sensors.

"Twenty-three vessels, Captain. Not all the same class or design, but all heavily armored, with shields raised and weapons armed." This time his voice was not as neutral. Vulcans had a grave tone, too, and this was Tuvok's.

Janeway patted Tom Paris on the shoulder. "All stop."

The engine whine died to a dull hum, and the silence of the bridge chewed at the captain. What order could she give? What could they do -- without reinforcements, without a Federation -- surrounded by two dozen ships?

The tension was too thick to cut.

"Accept the hail, Mr. Kim."

"Yes, ma'am."

A flicker of the forward screen, and an alien face filled the viewer. Humanoid, with angled features that could pass for Vulcan or Romulan, except the ears were more Okampan, long and close to the skull, with many ridges.

Captain Janeway stepped forward. "What do you want?" No sense wasting time with an introduction. Her initial hails had identified the Voyager, its mission, and its intentions. This new enemy knew all that and didn't care.

"My apologies, Captain," the alien said, the Universal Translator interpreting his tone as flatly as his real voice sounded. "But what I want...is your ship."

Copyright © 1999 by Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.

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First Chapter

Chapter One "YELLOW ALERT!"

Captain Janeway wedged her rigid shoulders into the command chair as the ship took on an acute hum. Like her captain, the Voyager tensed as she approached the unknown.

"Defense fields energized. All decks report ready." Lieutenant Tuvok's voice was a calm baritone. Vulcan-calm.

"Intensify scans. I want to know what we're dealing with." Janeway let her glare lock on the rushing starscape of the forward viewscreen, as if human eyes alone could watch ships that sensors only saw as shadows.

The captain pushed herself up and over toward the Ops station, where Harry Kim leaned into his console, shaking his head, frustrated.

"Ensign?" the captain prodded.

"It's there, Captain, all over the sector. Heavy subspace activity."

She frowned. "But not the burst you saw before."

There was no question in the captain's voice, but the young man answered anyway. "No."

The tension in Janeway's shoulders worked its way up her neck and down her back as she pivoted toward the tactical station. "Tuvok?"

"Scanners still indicate two slight subspace signatures which may be warp vessels, at extreme range."

May be. May not be.

"Find out."

Tuvok nodded once, and silently returned to his tactical sensors.

Janeway pulled in a deep, unsatisfying breath. She dragged her fingers along the rail on the upper bridge as she stepped down to the command deck. Fresh, uncharted space was what she'd always wanted, still wanted...but now a Federation Starbase wasn't only a month or two away -- it was decades distant. Starbases didn't exist for her or for the Voyager's crew, and that had to figure into her reasoning, her tactics.

But no matter how far she was from port, Starfleet's mission was to seek out new life...and these ships were unknown.

"Mr. Paris, maintain course but reduce speed by onequarter. Mr. Kim, narrow sensor frequency to focus on Mr. Tavok's vessel shadows. Tie in to his console."

"Unrepaired damage from our last encounter with the Aakteians has left the sensor array weak," Tuvok said. "A narrow-band focus will reduce long-range sensors."

She nodded. "Then hurry."

Risk was an albatross around every explorer's neck, from Magellan to Byrd, from Cochrane to Kirk. They all knew home for them was months away, and if they were stranded, hope could be counted in years. They had dealt with it. So would Voyager and her crew.

"Scanning...." Tuvok said suddenly. "Definitely two space-faring vessels with warp signatures, bearing oneonenine mark seventeen. A parallel course."

Janeway pivoted toward tactical again. "Identification?"

Would they be friend or foe? Voyager had found plenty of both in the Delta quadrant.

"These data are from extreme range -- "

"Noted. Report."

"Both ships are of a class heretofore unseen. Class five warp signatures, no detectable weapons, and a class fifteen shield."

"Class fifteen shields?" Lieutenant Tom Paris angled around from the helm. "We could snap through those pretty quick."

Tuvok cocked his head so that he could see past the Captain and into Paris's eyes. "I also register thick armor construct unknown, class unknown, but more dense that any Alpha quadrant vessels on file."

"Oh." The helmsman turned back to his console.

"Captain, we're being scanned," Ensign Kim called.

Tuvok confirmed with a nod. "Verified."

Janeway took the center seat again. "All right. We' looking at them, they're looking at us."

Hope and apprehension rode the same wave of emotion across the bridge. Many new races had greeted the Voyager with friendship: the Talaxians, the Raduk, the Baadalian. But many they'd left behind had become enemies: the Vidians the Kazon sects, the Aakteians.

Where would this new race fit?

"They're changing course," Tuvok said, a slightly surprised edge to his voice. "An intercept vector."

Lieutenant Paris held his fingers just above the helm console, apparently ready to make a course correction if ordered.

Janeway noticed. "Hold your course, Lieutenant."

"Aye, Captain."

"Hailing frequencies, Mr. Kim. Let them know we're not a threat. Mr. Tuvok, revert to a full sector scan."

Giving orders held a satisfaction of its own-the feeling that any situation could be controlled, tamed.

And an ensign as young as Kim needed his captain to be fully in control. Janeway gauged the ship's tension through his young voice, and from the way it cut now, she knew she had to be Voyager's anchor. "Captain," he said, "they're receiving the hail, but not responding."

Not a good sign. "I don't like this," Janeway said. "Come about, Mr. Paris. I want a course that curves away from the intercept point. One-one-five, mark two-zero. Z plus pointtwo light days. They want to intercept us before we see them, and I don't like that."

Paris dabbed at his console. "Aye, Captain. One fifteen, mark twenty, Z plus point two L.D."

"Captain, they're matching our course and speed," Tuvok reported. "Correcting for our change in trajectory."

Janeway nodded, as if she'd expected that, and allowed no surprise to show in her eyes. She palmed a control on the arm of her command chair. "Commander Chakotay, report to the bridge."

Immediately the turbolift doors slid open and Chakotay marched forward.

The captain allowed herself a brief smile.

"I was on my way when I saw the Yellow Alert." He lowered himself into the seat next to the command chair and activated his status viewer.

Janeway pointed to the tactical screen at her left. "We've got two ships on an intercept course, refusing to answer hails."

"And two more," Tuvok added, "now on sensors at extreme range."

"Kim?"

"Still no response to our hails."

"Raise shields." Janeway shared a moment's glance with Chakotay, then looked toward the tactical display. "Let's hope they realize we lack armor only because we have other defenses."

"All four vessels have increased speed. Intercept in fortythree seconds."

"I'm reading power surges on those ships, Captain. Could be a weapons charge."

"I don't like these odds. Edge away, Mr. Paris. Get us some safe distance."

"I'll try, Captain, but the other two are zig-zagging around as they come in."

"They're trying to box us in," Chakotay said.

Janeway nodded agreement. "Red Alert."

"Battle stations. Battle stations. All hands, battle stations!"

The bridge lights flickered to a red hue, cutting the glare from white accent lights. Janeway could feel power surging through the ship, vibrating up the deck plates from Engineering, deep below. The small Voyager crew took to their alert stations, and she imagined she could feel their energy too-boots rushing down corridors, staccato voices chopping out orders and routines.

"Locking phasers," Tuvok said.

"Belay that." Janeway rose and took a few steps toward tactical. "If they can scan us, they'll see we're targeting them."

"Indeed," Tuvok said. "Wouldn't that be advisable?"

"Are we sure they have armed their weapons?"

The Vulcan checked his scanner. "I cannot be sure until we have positively identified their weapon type -- presuming they have armaments that can be identified by our sensors."

New encounters were always a tightrope walk between too much caution and too much risk.

"Captain." Chakotay rose too. "Boxing us in is an aggressive act."

Janeway nodded slowly. "No argument. But we have a reputation in this quadrant now, Commander. A bad one, as far as some are concerned. They may have scanned us, recognized our design from rumors, and now see us as the threat."

"Captain, they're trying to herd us. I can't keep out of range." Paris was annoyed. The starscape on the viewscreen wheeled by as he tried to maneuver Voyager between the approaching ships.

Now visible on the main screen, the alien vessels looked large, bulky, and rocket-shaped, with dark hulls that nearly blended into the blackness of space.

"I want a few phaser shots across their bows, Mr. Tuvok." The captain came up behind the conn station. Paris was grappling with the control panel, twisting the ship as she readied herself to fire. Janeway had an urge to sit in that seat herself. Every job on the starship was ultimately her job, and she would have felt better with her own hand on the helm.

"Phasers..." Tuvok droned. "Firing."

Voyager spat a few phaser slices into space, just missing the mild shields of the approaching ships.

"All targets changing course. Attack vectors."

"They're firing, Captain. Point-blank!"

As Kim spoke, blue tendrils of electric flame whipped around the ship, slapping the shields.

"Disruptor-like weapons, Captain," Tuvok called. "Shields, aft and fore, down to ninety-three percent."

Janeway gripped Paris's chair as the vessel shook around her. "Return fire! Full phasers. Evasive substarboard."

"They're firing again!"

Lightning crashed against the shields.

"Damage -- decks five and six, aft sections."

"Damage control, Chakotay."

"En route."

Again, blue rods of flame shot from one of the enemy vessels and raked Voyager back.

"Aft phasers. Ready torpedoes just in case." Janeway forced herself back into the command chair. On the tactical screen, four alien vessels kept swooping down, firing, then withdrawing. "Protect our flank, Mr. Paris."

"Aye, aye."

"Kim, do what you can to get an answer to our hails." Janeway looked up toward Tuvok. "What could this be about? Why?"

The Vulcan had no answer.

"Captain, one of them is damaged and retreating."

"The lead ship has released a solid object." Kim's voice, not panicked, but charged. "Simple propulsion -- twenty-four seconds to contact."

Before Janeway could glance back up to Tuvok, he was acting on her unspoken order. "Checking..."

Only a moment of silence, as Paris spun the ship this way and that, before Tuvok spoke again.

"A nuclear device," he said matter-of-factly. "Armed for impact against our shields."

"You've got to be kidding," Chakotay said, incredulous.

"They're still ignoring all hails."

"Keep trying," Janeway ordered, then quickly spun back to Tuvok. "They don't want to talk? Let's give them some incentive." She glared at the screen, at one of the alien vessels as it retreated. "That ship is moving away -- the nuclear device is a danger to them."

"Without proper shielding, it may disrupt their subspace and impulse systems."

"Seven seconds to impact," Kim said.

"Tractor beam," Janeway ordered. "Swing the warhead back at them."

Tuvok nodded appreciatively. "Aye, Captain."

A quiet bridge...in battle, that meant a bridge stoked with tension.

Tuvok jabbed at his control panel. A moment --

The warhead swung around as if pitched from an invisible sling-shot. The enemy vessel tried to increase speed. Tried --

And failed.

Space before them bubbled white hot, then cooled and expanded outward in all directions -- an explosion basic in physics and power.

"Shockwave," Kim reported.

Voyager shuddered slightly, and only for a moment, as the energy from the chain reaction washed over them.

"The alien vessel," Tuvok said, "has been destroyed."

Janeway and Chakotay shared a bewildered look.

"I surmise that the impact created an internal explosion in their warp propulsion system." Tuvok slid from one screen to another on his console. "Three more ships have arrived. Different configurations but similar armaments."

"From three-to-one to six-to-one." Janeway tugged at the collar of her tunic and leaned forward toward Paris. "Evasive pattern omega three-four, warp one."

"Engaging."

"Tuvok, even those odds. Fire phasers at will. Kim, tell them this ends when they end it."

Voyager lashed out. Orange sabers of energy punctured the weak shields of the alien ships and sliced into their armor. Molten lines of damage quickly cooled in the vacuum of space.

"Direct hits. We've damaged one severely, the other has lost propulsion," Tuvok said. "Two enemy vessels limping back, reserve three coming in."

Enemy vessels. Enemy. Janeway had no idea who they suddenly had as enemies. There had to be a reason...she needed to have one.

She'd find out before this was over -- she promised herself that.

The largest of the next three alien vessels ascended across the forward viewscreen.

Paris punched at his naviconsole. "This one's a biggun', Captain. I'm trying to stay out of its way."

"Mass of this vessel is twenty-three times our own, Captain," Kim said.

Tuvok bowed over his sensors. "Weapons status unknown. Dense armor. High subspace output."

A flash on the screen, and a thousand small projectiles appeared, speeding toward Voyager.

Chakotay motioned to the tactical screen. "They've called in the big guns."

"Metallic alloy objects, Captain. Unknown propellant," Tuvok called. "Meant to disrupt our shields."

Armor rather than shields...mechanical and energy weapons. Whoever they were, they lacked some of the technology the Federation had in abundance. Janeway could use that.

"Launch countermeasures, Mr. Tuvok. Let's show them that bigger isn't better."

Tuvok dabbed at his board and Voyager launched a torpedo that shot forward, hovered a moment, then exploded into a million small flares. Space ignited as each flare found one of the enemy shells, and both died in a fiery struggle.

"The two smaller vessels are firing disruptors again. Aft dorsal shield weakened."

"I need our flank protected, Mr. Paris."

"Trying, Captain. They're targeting our aft."

Janeway hit a button on the arm of her chair. "Janeway to Engineering."

"Torres here."

"We're losing dorsal shields." Neither statement nor question-the captain wanted a solution.

"I'm switching to secondary generators, Captain, but circuits are overloading."

Every sentence punctuated with an explosion of power that raked Voyager's shields, Janeway leaned down to the chairarm comm. "Reroute wherever you have to, Lieutenant. I don't want to lose shields. We don't have the armor these people have."

"Aye, Captain."

Janeway thumbed the comm off. "Bridge out."

"Captain -- " Paris called her attention and pointed at the forward viewscreen.

"What are they doing?"

Tuvok answered, as the largest ship sped toward Voyager. "Pursuing a collision course," he said calmly.

"They're going to ram us," Janeway whispered.

"We cannot cope with a warp-speed ram from a vessel of such mass," Tuvok said.

Janeway jabbed at a safe coordinate on the tactical board. "Warp evasive! Get us out of here!"

"No room to maneuver, Captain."

"Warn them off, Tuvok. Tell them we'll cripple them if they attempt to ram this vessel." She wanted Tuvok to handle the hail. He'd word it better than Kim.

"Aye."

"They're coming around to the aft," Kim said, his tone calmer than Janeway might have guessed it would be.

"Become a corkscrew, Mr. Paris. Don't let them in."

Paris shook his head. "This is fun," he said dryly, and Voyager began a spinning course upward as the two other enemy vessels continued to direct fire at her aft shields.

"Aft dorsal shield collapsing, Captain."

Voyager lashed out in its spin, spitting hot phaser beams at the three attacking ships.

The enemy lashed back.

"Impact with lead ship in fifteen seconds!"

They'd been warned....

"Photon torpedoes," Janeway said. "Fire all bays. Aim strategically, Tuvok I want that vessel stopped. Target their engines. Fire at will."

Phasers still lighting up the hulls of her enemies, Voyager hissed out a spread of torpedoes, point blank into the approaching vessel.

The most forward vessel erupted into molten debris as its hull collapsed and its engines imploded. Voyager was pushed back by the force, tossed aside by a wash of energy and wreckage. She rolled, end-over-end, riding the wave of debris that exploded too close to her hull.

Janeway pitched from the command chair and onto the hard deck. Balance restored itself, and she quickly pushed herself up, giving Chakotay a hand as well.

"Status!"

"Continuing to fire." How Tuvok managed to hold onto his station when everyone else lost theirs..."We have a shield breach at aft dorsal. Damage to decks five, six, and ten. Warp power is offline."

"Auxiliary power to the shields." Janeway returned to the command chair but didn't sit. Without her aft defensive shield, Voyager could be carved up like Christmas ham. "I want that screen up. Mr. Paris, best speed evasive. Get us out -- "

"They've ceased fire," Tuvok said.

All looked up as four loud thunks vibrated through the ship.

A physical hit, on the ship's hull.

Not the sound of a weapon, but the sound of debris hitting the bull plates.

Janeway spun toward Chakotay. "What was that?"

He shrugged, more with his eyes than his shoulders, and leaned into his status screen.

"The vessels are backing off on their own," Tuvok said, just a hint of surprise in his tone.

"Engineering says warp is still offline, and now warp power levels are fluctuating!" Paris pounded on his board.

"We have a hull breach." Kim was incredulous. "I think."

"You think?" Janeway jumped up to the upper deck. She leaned over Kim's console. "Tuvok, verify this." She pecked at Ensign Kim's control panel.

The captain waited a moment, then met the Vulcan's eyes. "A mine?" she asked.

"Negative."

His voice was too passive at times like these.

"Then what?"

"A device of some kind, producing a warp-dampening field. They've launched it through the hole they blasted open in our shields."

"Captain, we're being hailed."

She looked up at Ensign Kim, then down to his console and the communications display which showed an incoming message.

Straightening, Janeway strode down to her command chair. "Ignore the hail. Mr. Paris, warp speed or not, get us out of here."

Paris shook his head once. "Aye, Captain."

"Chakotay, I want that thing off my ship." She crooked a thumb over her shoulder. "Get it off."

He nodded and was into the turbolift before she sat down.

Under Paris's prodding, Voyager tensed, gathered herself, and twisted out toward open space.

A moment further into the maneuver, and the ship was violently wrenched back, the air on the bridge cracking with the sound of stressed bulkheads.

"Tractor beams, class four," Tuvok said. "One from each enemy vessel."

Enemy. Why?

Janeway dug her fingers into the armrests of the command chair. Alien vessels had a tight grip on her ship. She should have a tighter one. "Full impulse, Mr. Paris. Push her."

Laboring against the energy that seized her, Voyager inched forward on her course. The engines whined.

"Torres to Janeway. We've got a bad coolant leak. Impulse overheating."

"Do what you can," Janeway said. "Push, Mr. Paris she rasped. "Tuvok, reroute phasers through impulse power. Disable those tractors."

"Aye, Captain."

Voyager fired, and even with impulse phasers she cut fire into their alien hulls. Explosions racked one ship, and it fell away.

The loss of its pull on the Voyager pushed the ship forward and took some moan from the engines' whine.

"One vessel has been disabled, Captain."

"Three on one again. We might never have a better advantage. Disable these and we've earned our pay."

Before Tuvok could respond, the viewscreen filled -- a multitude of ships falling out of warp. Janeway pushed herself up and toward the viewer, making sure she kept her jaw from gaping. "How many?" she whispered.

Tuvok's answer did not come immediately. He'd probably double-checked the sensors.

"Twenty-three vessels, Captain. Not all the same class or design, but all heavily armored, with shields raised and weapons armed." This time his voice was not as neutral. Vulcans had a grave tone, too, and this was Tuvok's.

Janeway patted Tom Paris on the shoulder. "All stop."

The engine whine died to a dull hum, and the silence of the bridge chewed at the captain. What order could she give? What could they do -- without reinforcements, without a Federation -- surrounded by two dozen ships?

The tension was too thick to cut.

"Accept the hail, Mr. Kim."

"Yes, ma'am."

A flicker of the forward screen, and an alien face filled the viewer. Humanoid, with angled features that could pass for Vulcan or Romulan, except the ears were more Okampan, long and close to the skull, with many ridges.

Captain Janeway stepped forward. "What do you want?" No sense wasting time with an introduction. Her initial hails had identified the Voyager, its mission, and its intentions. This new enemy knew all that and didn't care.

"My apologies, Captain," the alien said, the Universal Translator interpreting his tone as flatly as his real voice sounded. "But what I want...is your ship."

Copyright © 1999 by Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.

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