Captain Kathryn Janeway sat in her command chair, staring at the image of the speeding craft on her main screen. Around her the bridge was silent; a waiting silence, a holding-breath silence, as her bridge crew stood or sat at their stations and watched.
At best the small craft was big enough to hold four humans, but the design was nothing Janeway had ever seen before. Swept-back, finlike wings made it seem more like a bird in flight, while its long "nose" curved upward like the front of a water ski. The craft was painted a gold metallic, with black stripes that gave it the sense of motion. It seemed clearly designed for...