|Warning:||References to various sexual activities.|
|Description:||Seven is feeling lonely. She’s hoping to find a partner. No one on Voyager is compatible with her. And Tuvok is being especially Vulcan.|
Captain Janeway’s log Stardate 58439: I have sent an away team down to an L class planet, to search for lifesigns. We have found debris orbiting the planet, suggesting some craft has been destroyed not too long ago.
The away team consisted of Tom Paris, Harry Kim, and Seven. Some heavy interference in the atmosphere made it impossible to transport down, and the same turbulence was making the flying of the shuttlecraft difficult for Tom. Difficult, but not impossible, not for Tom Paris. Piloting was his life, or at least had been until he had met B’Elanna.
His friend Harry was another most important and precious part of his life now. Seven, on the other hand was hard to get close to, and Tom and B’Elanna had never really tried. Harry had, but he had been rather bluntly rejected on the few occasions he had dared to approach her.
Tom was able to land the shuttle on a high plain overlooking a sea of some sort. Their tricorder readings made it plain that to go swimming in those waters, or worse still to drink it, would be inadvisable to say the least. The atmosphere contained some gases that wouldn’t be healthy to breathe in for a long time.
To make the planet even less inviting, there was also some type of radiation that could seriously damage your health, after prolonged exposure to it. So it wasn’t exactly a vacation resort, but they hadn’t come to see the sights. As soon as they were outside the shuttlecraft they began scanning for life signs. It didn’t take them long to pick up just one faint one.
“Over there, Tom. One human male.”
“I’m getting some strange readings, but yes, it seems to be a human male.”
“It’s a Borg drone.”
“Are you sure, Seven?”
They ran over to the crack in the rock wall, that had to be hiding one survivor from the wreckage orbiting the planet. At least he was surviving for a little while longer. As they read their tricorders they could see it flicker off and on. Some distance from the opening, they could see the drone.
It was a young man, barely out his teens. When Seven saw him, she felt something completely alien to her. She wanted to reach out and touch him. He was a very handsome young man, but there was far more to it than a simple esthetic enjoyment of what she saw. For some reason she wanted to save this man’s life, to protect him, to get him away from the Borg and this alien planet that was doing nothing to sustain his faint lifesigns.
“Away team to Voyager, please respond.”
“Voyager here, mr Paris, go ahead.”
“Yes, captain. We have found one survivor. It’s a Borg drone. A human male.”
“Yes, there is no mistake about it. What should we do? Leave him?”
“Yes, we don’t want the Borg to come looking for him. Away team -“
“Captain, may I speak first?”
“Seven? Go ahead.”
“I believe the Doctor could save him.”
“You mean stabilize his life signs?”
“No. I mean save him. Remove the Borg implants, like he did for me.”
“That was an entirely different situation, Seven, and you know it. I don’t need to tell you what will happen when the Borg pick up on his transmitters.”
“I realize that. But should we really leave him to die?”
Up on Voyager, on the bridge, captain Janeway and her first officer, Chakotay, exchanged a look. Something about the way Seven’s voice sounded was different from her usual unemotional tone. This drone obviously meant something to her.
But the risk of taking a Borg aboard their ship could literally threaten their existence out here. On the other hand, Seven did have a point. It was one thing, leaving a damaged cube or sphere in space. This was just one drone. A human being, who had been assimilated, but might not be beyond rescuing
“Seven, you may have him transported to sickbay as soon as you are aboard the ship, and see if the Doctor can do something for him. We’ll worry about the rest later.”
“Thank you, captain.”
Tom and Harry stared incomprehendingly at Seven, and at each other. How could the captain have agreed to allow Seven to bring this drone along, and more importantly why had this seemingly unemotional girl wanted to do so? But they had their orders, and despite everything they were only too happy to leave this choking atmosphere.
As soon as they had set the shuttlecraft down on landing pad 1, they all reported to sickbay. Seven’s remaining implants had most likely protected her from the effects of gases and radiation, but Tom and Harry needed the Doctor’s attention. Or at least the use of a medical tricorder and other specialized instruments.
When they had the Borg drone on the examination table, and the Doctor had erected a level 6 containment field around him, Tom picked up the instruments he would need and proceeded to treat his friend, then himself. The Doctor got to work on the Borg right away, while Seven anxiously hovered nearby, as close to the force field as she safely could. Her face was difficult to read, but Harry thought he could detect some signs of emotion.
This Borg really meant something to her. A few months earlier, Harry would have felt jealous at her interest in someone other than himself. Now he only noted the strange fact, and then got on with his work. The captain would be waiting to hear their reports immediately. He and Tom left sickbay to the Doctor, and the strange new Seven. She didn’t even notice them leave.
“Doctor, can you stabilize him?”
“Yes, I’m working on it right now. You can get on with your work now, Seven. I will call you when I need your assistance.”
“Permission to remain and watch, Doctor?”
“Why? Just let me do my work. I never try to interfere in yours.”
“I would like to check on his progress.”
“Didn’t you just hear me say that I would call you later?”
“Do you think you can remove his implants, the way you did with mine?”
“Yes, if I ever get a chance to do my work. He should even be a little easier to turn back into a human. If I’m not mistaken, he can’t have been Borg for more than a few years. Newly assimilated.”
“But how could they have found a human out here?”
“You tell me, but not now. Just let me get on with my work.”
Seven backed away and stopped asking questions, but she didn’t leave sickbay until she was called to see the captain in her ready room. Captain Janeway was alone in there, sitting behind her desk.
“Now, Seven, perhaps you would like to enlighten me. Why did you feel so strongly about taking this drone aboard Voyager? Is it someone you know from earlier?”
“No. The Doctor tells me that he has only been assimilated for a few years.”
Janeway could see a confused frown on the otherwise so impassive face. What was this? It was only a few weeks since Seven had suprised her by wanting to help Tuvok survive his Pon Farr. That had been personally motivated, Janeway was willing to bet, though she found it hard to believe that Seven would have accepted the wager. All this time, and never any more signs of becoming more human. Maybe it was all starting now.
“I am not sure why.”
“Relax, Seven, this is no interrogation. Could it be that you are a little emotionally attached to this young man?”
“Yes, physically attracted to him. Tom informed me that the young man seemed to make quite an impression on you.”
“I think -“
“I think I would like for him to get away from the Borg. To be like me. An individual. When I saw him lying there, dying, it was as if I didn’t want him to die.”
“You felt compassion.”
“You felt sorry for him. That is only human, Seven. We all feel that way from time to time. It was just a very bad time for you to start. But from what you tell me, they might not attach too much importance to a drone. It wouldn’t be the same as with you.”
“That would not stop the Borg from returning to reclaim him or the implants in his body.”
“No. Perhaps the Doctor will be able to remove the implants and then we can leave them down there. It might lead them to believe that the rest of the body was destroyed completely.”
“Yes, that is possible. I could work on a few ways to perfect the deception.”
“Are you sure? This isn’t just wishful thinking?”
“No, captain. I believe I might be able to make it work.”
“Then hadn’t you better get going? How long until they might be here?”
“72 hours. Possibly less, if they are in the area. Yes, I will begin working at once.”
When Seven had left, Janeway asked Chakotay to join her in her ready room.
“What was that all about? Did she explain why it mattered so much to her to help this particular drone?”
“I think Seven is feeling lonely. She was attracted to Tuvok -“
“Yes, that’s why she volunteered to help him through Pon Farr. But as we both know, Tuvok wouldn’t be interested in any romantic liasion. And I’ll bet that’s what Seven is looking for right now.”
“Seven? I can’t believe it.”
“Despite all that Borg technology, and her years in slavery there, she’s still a woman. Maybe not as old as her years, but I suppose one can think of her as a teenager looking for love for the first time. Who would she go to for that?”
“One of the men aboard this ship?”
“Can you really see her with, say, Harry Kim?”
“No, I suppose not, but there are other men here. One of them might -“
“No, she would be too incompatible with these men. With the exception of young ensign Gerron, there is no one even close to the same situation. And he is no former Borg. I think this young man might be everything Seven is looking for.”
“That’s amazing, Kathryn. But I suppose if we really can fool the Borg, and as you know, that is not all that simple, and this young man really wants his freedom, then I wish her all the happiness in the world. Like you and I, Kathryn.”
“Chakotay. We are on duty.”
Silently he accepted her reprimand. It was always that way. He never raised his voice to her, never questioned her judgement in these personal matters. Chakotay was content to leave the decisions in their life to her.
She was completely different than his wife had been, and although it still hurt to remember her, he had had to admit to himself, that this was something much stronger. Kathryn was an exceptional woman, and he considered himself lucky to belong to her. And that she belonged to him. For years he had secretly disliked her fiance Mark, but now he found it easy to forget the man.
He returned to the bridge and his lover followed him out there some minutes later.
In the sickbay, the Doctor was just finishing up with the Borg drone. He turned to put away some instruments and found Seven still there, with a strange expression on her face. Incensed that she had after all disobeyed his suggestion that she return to work, he was about to make a sharp comment about it, but was distracted, when he saw her approaching the examination table. The force field was still in place, and she didn’t go all the way up to the young man lying there, but she seemed eager to get closer.
“Well, since you’re still here, you might make yourself useful. Here, take these implants and do whatever it is you do with them, to put the Borg off the scent.”
“Very well. Doctor -“
“Yes, Seven, what is it now?”
He was surprised if such an emotion could be said to have any place inside his programming. All those zeros and ones normally going about their way inside his matrix might almost be said to fluctuate slightly. That never happened to him without outside interference. At first he had resented anything that had disturbed him, if that was the word. But over the years he had found himself intrigued by the mysteries that the organic lifeforms presented him with.
For instance, until he had found out about the relationship between the Captain and her first officer, he had been slightly puzzled about little discrepancies in the intercourse between them during the course of their work.
And lately, there had been something he had been hard put to explain at first, about the slightly uncharacteristic behavior of his medical assistant, Tom Paris, and his friend Harry Kim, and even more puzzlingly, of the chief of engineering, B’Elanna Torres. It was common knowledge that there was an emotional attachment between mr Paris and ms Torres, but what about their young friend Harry?
The Doctor had been most impressed with his own powers of deduction when it had finally dawned on him what the explanation was.
And he had naturally been able to guess what had occurred while an away team of three survivors had been stranded on an inhospitable little planetoid. It had been no surprise at all that mr Tuvok had had an unfortunate relapse into the violent and erratic behavior of Pon Farr. No one had thought to consult the EMH, the brilliant physician of the starship Voyager.
If they had they might have learned that whatever Tom Paris had been able to do for the good Vulcan would never have any lasting effect on his condition. Those Vulcans prided themselves on their cool and logical minds, and yet they would never stop to consider the fact that as an old Earth saying went, forewarned is forearmed. Still, perhaps that lesson had now been learned.
And now this new behavior from Seven, normally the most reliable of the members of the crew. Considering what was usually at the bottom of any strange behavior patterns, he made the assumption that Seven was for some reason in love with the young man on the examination table.
Having had his personality patterns modeled on a male doctor with conservative taste in his romantic intanglements, the Doctor naturally had an eye for female beauty. On the other hand, in order to make his memory bank as versatile as possible, he had also had the memories of all manner of physicians of all known species, races and genders, and as it happened sexes too, programmed into him.
That made it easy for him to guess what effect the flawless young man on his examination table would have on an impressionable young woman as Seven had to be considered. If not in years, then definitely in emotional state. Yes, the Doctor was fairly sure his evaluation of the situation was correct. Now he was looking forward to seeing the matter progress towards its conclusion.
Having been lost in thought, as it were, he was now startled to hear Seven’s reply to his earlier question. It wouldn’t do to allow himself to get distracted from his work.
The captain had given him an order, and as her EMH, and a valuable member of her crew, he had every intention as well as the duty to obey her order. Secondly, and this was even more important, the very foundation of his programming, he had a moral duty to save lives. And the young man, beautiful or otherwise, was a patient, therefore his first duty lay with him.
“Is he going to survive?”
“Of course he is. When the best physician in the entire Quadrant has been tending to him, why wouldn’t he, silly girl?”
“But will he be an individual when he regains consciousness?”
“I have every reason to suspect as much.”
And when Seven for once didn’t seem to take his words at face value anymore, he added:
“That remains to be seen, but I have every confidence in this treatment, after all, hasn’t it been evolved by myself, and tested on you, my dear Seven? Have some faith in me.”
The former Borg frowned at the word. Seeing that she was about to launch herself into a lengthy discussion about why that particular word could not be applied to the situation at hand, he decided to forestall her. A discussion about little details of semantics that could go on for hours, was not something he appreciated. Outside his own perfect self, naturally. Who else had the knowledge and qualifications necessary to expand on any topic exhaustively, if not the EMH?
“And now I will be needing your assistance with those implants. Do you think you can get to work on them right away? I’m sure I don’t need to stress to you, of all people, that time is of the essence now.”
“Very well. I will return shortly after I have performed the necessary adaptations. He will be regaining consciousness soon, won’t he?”
This was decidedly a new Seven. From the vast fount of knowledge available to him, the Doctor settled on the best comparison, the best way of describing the new Seven standing before him. A lovesick teenager, that was the appropriate appellation. But somehow he realized that bringing that to the girl’s attention would only slow her work down. For the time being he would content himself to observe, nothing more.
As good as her word, Seven reappeared less than four hours later. Rather smugly, she placed the adapted implants on a table in the infirmary, and awaited the Doctor’s verdict. He immediately began his scan of them, and despite himself, he was impressed. There seemed to be no technical task this young woman was incapable of performing to excellence.
“Yes, this will even fool the Borg, I’m willing to bet.”
Ignoring the former Borg’s disapproving look, most certainly caused by his frivolous mention of gambling in this context, the Doctor pronounced himself satisfied. So Seven disappeared again, to transport the devices down to the surface, to the exact coordinates of the location in which the young drone had been found. She had debated whether to add some replicated organic tissue to the deception, but decided against it.
The Borg would almost certainly see through that, by analyzing the origins of the tissue and that would be the worst possible situation for Voyager and her crew. Being chased by the Borg was the last thing they needed at any time, and least of all now when she had this- Puzzled, the Borg girl broke off the train of thought. It was illogical and inexplicable why she felt herself so drawn to the young man in the infirmary.
Could it be, as the captain had hinted, that she found him physically attractive? She took the time to analyze the idea further and arrived at the conclusion that she did. Not even Tuvok now struck her as being quite as attractive. But that mere physical fact should not have affected her this way. Seven frowned in concentration. Normally no problem or task presented her with such a mental challenge.
In the past, trying to make sense of her body’s confusing and often contradictory signals had forced her back into the detached way of thinking that had helped her make the transition from Borg to individual. Time and time again she had fled to the safety of her cargo bay. Only this time, she didn’t feel like turning away. For the first time that she could remember, it seemed more appealing to be human and experience all these new sensations, than being a cool, detached observer.
As soon as the implants had been transported down to the planet, the captain gave orders for Voyager to leave the area, at maximum warp. No precautions were too excessive when it came to avoiding the Borg.
Seven found herself hurrying back to sickbay, for the moment completely oblivious to the fact that both her recreation period and her work shift had come and gone. All that was on her mind was seeing that young man again. Perhaps he had regained consciousness. It might be possible to begin communications with him. Remembering how confusing and traumatic her own metamorphosis from Borg to individual had been, she was eager to be by his side when he came to.
“Ah, Seven, there you are. Your new friend is about to wake up. I thought you might want to see him right away.”
Seven approached so closely, she almost seemed to touch the containment field.
“Take it easy. That’s as far as you can go, you know.”
They stood closely watching the young man as his eyelid began to flicker, and then he seemed to look up. But he wasn’t focusing yet, and though the Doctor had removed the optic device replacing his other eye, and been able to restore the original one, it was still swollen shut after the surgery.
“I am Seven of Nine. Identify yourself, drone.”
“I – I don’t know.”
“What is your real name, then?”
Seven shot the Doctor a glance, questioning the wisdom of pursuing that subject this early on.
When no reply was forthcoming, the Doctor ignored Seven and pushed on.
“Do you remember anything?”
“We were attacked by some alien species we haven’t encountered before. The sphere was destroyed.”
“Do you have any earlier memories? Like from when you were assimilated?”
“We are Borg.”
“Yes, I know that. Or rather you were Borg. Now I’ve performed brilliant surgery on you to return you to an individual again.”
“We are Borg.”
“If you think about it, where are the others? Are they still inside your mind? Can you still hear their thoughts?”
The look of confusion on the young man’s face was pitiful to see. Seven had a flashback to her first moments of individuality, and felt something that she again, couldn’t identify, but she wanted to do anything she could to spare this young man that confusion and pain.
“I was once Borg. Now I am an individual. As you can see, I am human, like you were.
“We are Borg.”
“Yes, yes, I think we’ve heard that before. As Seven here is trying to tell you, that is no longer the case.”
Again, Seven cast the Doctor a look, and for once he let her finish what she had intended to tell the former drone.
“To begin with I found everything very confusing and illogical. But try to understand that despite the fact that individual might seem small and insignificant, there is something strong and purposeful about it too.”
“You were Borg?”
“I was. Now I am an individual.”
“Then why is your designation still Seven of Nine?”
“I have another name – designation – , too. Annika Hansen.”
“Exactly. And with a little help from Annika here, you too will begin to recall your real name. Do not concern yourself. I will be here to assist her every step of the way.”
“What species are you?”
“I am a medical hologram.”
“Hologram? You are not a lifeform?”
“That is a rather narrow definition. I am another manner of lifeform, you might say.”
“The Doctor is right. I will help you adapt to being an individual.”
“I am Borg.”
“Now that was an improvement. I? You’re making progress, my young friend.”
“When the collective picks up on my transmitters -“
“They will not find you or us. I have adapted the implants from your body, and they will believe your body to be completely destroyed.”
“You have disconnected me from the collective? Why?”
“So you can return to being human.”
“But I do not wish to be.”
“Just give Annika some time, and she will explain everything to you. In no time, you will think you’ll have always lived here aboard this vessel.”
“Where are you taking us?”
“You mean, where are we taking you, whatever your name is. Back to the Alpha Quadrant. It will just take a little while, that’s all.”
“Alpha Quadrant? I think I remember something. We were aboard the USS Invincible and we were attacked by the Borg. Then -“
“Yes, go on?”
“No, that isn’t my memory, I think. It must be from someone assimilated earlier.”
“Just take your time. It will come back to you. In the meantime, we will run your face and DNA through the database and see if your name comes up. If you’re lucky, we will be able to remind you of your real name and where you are from. Now I need to get back to work. Will you take it from here, Seven, I mean Annika?”
“Very well, Doctor. You, will stay here, until you need to regenerate. I need to talk to you some more.”
“But I want to return to the collective.”
“It’s too late for that. And in case you are wondering, that is a level 6 containment field. You will not be able to walk through it. Do not move about too much. Just lie down and rest.”
In reply or rather in contradiction to Seven’s advice, the young man did exactly what he wasn’t supposed to. He tried to sit up, and for a while he succeeded in remaining upright. Then he made the mistake of trying to get to his feet, and fell down again.
Seven almost tried to reach out to him, through the force field, but caught herself in time. There was no danger of him injuring himself in there. It was a useless sentimental gesture, and she berated herself for it.
“You will stay here. Comply.”
“I will comply. Annika. Why are you doing this?”
“Because, it is wrong to force someone to be assimilated. When you remember what it was like to be human, you will remember how much you feared the Borg. And even if it is paradoxical, individual thought can achieve much, maybe more than the Borg can.”
“That is not correct.”
“Yes, you will see.”
“But it is so empty, without the others’ thoughts.”
“I know. But eventually you will adapt, and come to prefer it this way.”
“Do not be too sure.”
Seven recognized all his arguments against becoming an individual. After all, she had used them all, when captain Janeway had tried convincing her when she was first disconnected from the collective. But knowing what she now did, she had no intention of giving up. She felt certain that she would be able to change his mind about it.
Six weeks later, she wasn’t quite as optimistic. Over that time, the former drone had attempted escape three times, tried contacting the collective twice and since she had been able to forestall him, and prevent any of those attempts from being successful, there was now a sort of silent hostility between them.
That wasn’t how she had intended it to be. In her mind she had outlined how she wished the outcome to be. He would accept her advice, learn from her mistakes, and eventually adapt to his new life. With her. In a rare moment of clarity, Seven realized that she had wanted him to feel as strongly about her as she did about him. On a few occasions it had even seemed as if her luck was about to change.
Such as the time when they had been able to find out his real name. Over the first two weeks his progress from Borg drone to individual, involuntary though it might be, had been quick. His physical appearance had changed rapidly, as his hair grew out, and his eye finally opened. The rest of his body too, began to take on the normal appearance of a young human male. From what the Doctor had been able to ascertain, he was in his early 20’s.
His speech more and more took on the characteristics of an individual. Seven had experienced a moment of joy, when she heard him begin to refer to himself as “I”, rather than “we”. But he didn’t seem to be content with his new life. The regeneration periods did not make him any more relaxed and alert in his mind. It appeared that the times in between taxed his strength more than they should have.
Seven discovered that he shunned her touch, and that caused her some distress. This was not the way she had hoped things would turn out. In fact, sometimes she thought that her time spent working on the former drone’s individuality, only served to emphasize her own.
One day, when they were sitting together in the cargo bay that had been turned over to her use, she asked him again, no longer with much hope of learning the answer to her question, what his name was, and what he remembered of his life as a human. But to her surprise, for once she was successful.
“I believe my name is Corey. Corey Tainton.”
The stunned look on her face drew his gaze, and for a second she felt her cheeks heating up. To cover her confusion, she went on with her questioning.
“Do you remember anything else?”
“Yes. I was a cadet from Starfleet Academy, out on my first assignment in deep space. We were attacked by the Jem Hadar, and my ship was damaged. There was an order to abandon ship. Along with two other cadets I left in a shuttlecraft, since we had just returned from routine scouting in the area. We were pursued by the Jem Hadar, but suddenly we were inside some kind of vortex, maybe an unstable wormhole.
On the other side, we couldn’t recognize any of the familiar constellations, so we assumed that we were in unfamiliar space, most likely an other part of the quadrant. One of my friends was severely injured, and she died quite soon after that. A Jem Hadar ship was still with us, but had been severely damaged. They posed no immediate threat, but we decided to put as much distance between us as possible anyway. Our scans showed no signs of the wormhole or whatever it was.”
“Then what happened?”
“We kept going for weeks, months even, until we ran into an ion storm. It forced us to land on a moon near a large but uninhabitable planet. Out instruments were severely damaged so our scans didn’t reveal much. The other cadet died there. I remember burying him. There wasn’t much water. I wasn’t lucid all the time. But I remembered seeing a Borg looking down on me. At first I wasn’t sure I was seeing that or not. I had had all kinds of dreams and hallucinations, I think. But then I was -“
The look of horror on Corey’s face shamed Seven. She knew what had been the last sight he had seen before losing his individuality. Wanting to comfort him, to do something to atone for her own part in such assimilations, she reached out and tried to touch him. But again, Corey pulled back from her touch. The look on his face seemed to hint at his feelings for the Borg at that time. Any Borg, which seemed to include her.
But at least they now knew who this young man was. It should be easy to find him in their database, even if most of their information was dated. On the other hand, they had been able to update some of it on the occasion of their last contact with the Federation. She left Corey regenerating, and went to inform the captain of her findings. Captain Janeway was in her ready room, where she spent most of her time during her work shifts.
“Seven? I hope you have some progress to report.”
“I do, captain.”
“Let’s hear it then. At least he isn’t trying to escape or contact the Borg anymore.”
Seven felt something she knew to be guilt at being the cause of such unnecessary risks to Voyager and her crew. There was enough danger out here, without her endangering them even more. But she had made a commitment to Corey, and it was too late to change her mind about it, even if she had wanted to.
“I believe I have found out his name, captain. Corey Tainton. A cadet from Starfleet Academy.”
“Ah, that should give us something to go on. Did he tell you where he was from?”
“No. But he explained how he came to be out here in the Delta Quadrant. He was on a deep space assignment, and they were attacked by the Jem Hadar. While escaping from them, they encountered an unstable wormhole or something similar, and found themselves here. The other two cadets who were with him were killed. Eventually the Borg found him, ill and in a hallucinatory state. But he remembers being assimilated.”
Janeway studied Seven’s face closely. It was clear that she experienced some feelings of guilt for having been a Borg herself, and having in the past assimilated many species and countless individuals. That too, seemed to explain her sudden interest in saving the young drone.
The captain fervently hoped that Seven would be successful in returning this young man to being an individual, but doubted that the former Borg would be successful in her romantic aspirations. Even though the two former Borg drones should be emotionally compatible, such things as love couldn’t be reduced to simple equations. But it would be hard to deny Seven her chance to try.
“Well, we shall look him up in the database, and see what else we can find out about him. Perhaps you’d like to do it yourself?”
“Yes, I would. Thank you, captain. Shall I return to Corey now? Or do you have some other work for me?”
“You know we’re dependent on your expertise in many fields, Seven, but for now your assignment is making contact with Corey. If anything else comes up, I will let you know. Dismissed.”
On her return to the cargo bay, Seven immediately sensed something was wrong. She approached Corey standing in the regeneration cubicle, and realized with a shock that something most certainly wasn’t right about his posture. His head was slumped down in a strange way, and he did not appear to be breathing.
Normally, anything out of the ordinary would have seemed an easy matter to deal with, but at that moment, Seven came close to panicking. That was not a pleasant emotion to be experiencing, she decided, but ignored her own concern and called the Doctor.
Though the Doctor as always appeared virtually instantaneously, this time, it seemed to Seven that he took an eternity arriving.
“What’s the problem?”
“Look. It’s Corey. I don’t think he is breathing.”
“That’s odd. Well, I’ll take care of it. Stand aside.”
It was indicative of how shaken Seven was by the whole incident, that the Doctor had to ask her twice, before she moved aside to let him get on with his examination. It was not immediately clear what had caused this respitory arrest, but it was an easy matter to remedy. Seven had come to Corey just in time. No brain damage appeared to have occurred, and there was no other harm done.
“There. Up and running again. Ah, mr Tainton. With us again. Now what could have caused this malfunction?”
Seven was staring into Corey’s face, and thought she detected something in his eyes. Could he have caused the malfunction deliberately? Was he trying to commit suicide? She hadn’t suspected he was that desperately unhappy.
While she had constantly been working on plans to escape and rejoining the collective, she had never once contemplated ending her life. That would be too illogical. But apparently Corey was in some ways more human than she had been back then.
They brought Corey with them to sickbay, and left him inside the containment field. Seven could detect a certain amount of concern on the Doctor’s otherwise so serene features.
“I believe the patient has tried to kill himself. It appears that he is more troubled than I previously suspected. I shall have to keep him here for the time being.”
“What are you going to do about him?”
“This will require more study. As you know, I have the knowledge of several counsellors, as well as the medical expertise of the entire Federation at my disposal. Don’t worry, Seven. Your new friend will be fine. At least I hope so. Now run along. I will call you when he is ready to see you again.”
“You are sure about this?”
“Positive. I think the best thing for you to do right now is to return to work. Leave Corey here with me. I will look after him.”
Seven again experienced something far different from what she had been looking forward to. She believed it could be described as concern, but underneath that there was a keen sense of disappointment, and intermingled with it, grief and guilt.
Why had she thought she would be capable of saving this young drone? It was becoming more and more clear that this was beyond her capabilities. Until now she had taken a certain amount of pride in excelling at any task given her. But her skills apparently limited themselves to the mastery of dead matter. Dealing with living things was something else entirely, it seemed.
She left sickbay in emotional turmoil, and soon she realized that she was not heading for the astrometrics lab, but for the mess hall. At this hour there would not be many people eating there, and that suited her just fine. As soon as she walked in, Neelix appeared by her side.
He immediately sensed her state of mind, and this time was ready to offer her the sort of food she craved.
“Chocolate cake? Custard and cherry cobbler? And I think you are going to enjoy this: Pineapple sherbet.”
“Thank you. I will try all of those. Do you have any lemonade?”
“Naturally. Here. Help yourself. When you’ve finished this pitcher, I have more behind the counter. Now tuck in.”
Seven didn’t need any more encouragement. These foods were all highly satisfying, but somehow, today they brought her little comfort.
“Now then. Would you like to talk about it?”
“Talk about what?”
“Whatever it is that is causing that tragic look on your face. I suppose it must be something to do with Corey?”
“You are correct. Corey – He just attempted suicide.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Seven. But he will be ok now, won’t he?”
“The Doctor resuscitated him, but he might try something like this again.”
“Yes, I suppose you’re right. It must be quite a change to get used to.”
“I know. But I never tried anything like this.”
“I know you didn’t. Just give him time, that’s all I’m saying. He’s had to go through some major changes in quite a short time.”
“This isn’t the way I was hoping things would turn out.”
“They never do. But I really think it’s too soon to give up. Would you like me to talk to him?”
“Yes, you have to admit I’ve done quite a good job on making friends with little Naomi. And I certainly hope you consider me a good friend.”
“Perhaps you should talk to him. I have not been able to get through to him in this time.”
“I would be happy to try. But you mustn’t think he doesn’t like you. I’m sure given time, he will need your input, and your lovely company.”
“What does that mean?”
“Just that young people belong together. I’m sure he will come to miss you and look forward to your presence again.”
“I hope you are right, but right now, it doesn’t seem that way.”
“When was the last time you slept? I mean, regenerated.”
“It was several hours ago.”
“There, you see. Everything will seem different once you’ve had some rest. Come to think of it, why don’t you try sleeping for once? I mean, since you can now eat properly, maybe you would like to experience sleep and dream?”
“I have never slept, not that I can remember. What is it like?”
“It’s a little hard to explain, but try it, and you’ll see. Nothing seems as hard after you’ve had a good night’s sleep.”
“How does one sleep?”
“You’re tired, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“Then you just go and lie down. Try the empty cabin next to mine. It’s open. Relax and close your eyes. I’m sure the rest will follow naturally.”
“I think I will. Thank you, Neelix.”
“Don’t mention it. I will contact the Doctor later and ask him if he will let me see Corey.”
Seven decided to take Neelix’s advice. It didn’t take her long to find the empty quarters and to close the door behind her. For some reason the solitude reassured her. She stretched out on the bed, and found that her uniform wasn’t the most comfortable garment to lie down in.
So she got up and removed it, but found that she was now a little too cold for comfort, despite the covers. It occurred to her that there might be a more comfortable garment she could use. She walked over to the replicator but stopped, pondering what she would ask for.
“Computer, replicate a garment suitable for sleeping in.”
“What patterns are available?”
“Nightgown, warm. Nightgown, cool. Pyjama, long sleeves and legs, pyjama, short sleeves and legs.”
In the end she had the computer replicate all of those, and after some consideration decided on the warm nightgown. Finally she was able to stretch out again. She followed Neelix’s advice about relaxing and closing her eyes. It was harder than she had thought. Her mind was filled with confused thoughts that gave her no rest. Regenerating was much simpler. But she didn’t want to give up.
At last she was rewarded. Her thought processes became more sluggish, and eventually they stopped entirely. For a brief second she experienced something close to panic, as she thought this blackout might resemble death. But she was too tired to focus and then she rememered nothing.
Seven was walking through some hazy, empty place. She had no idea how she had ended up there. The ground underneath her feet seemed flimsy, yet it was solid enough to walk on. Time passed, but not unpleasantly, despite the fact that nothing much happened. It was murky, but she saw enough to get by. Suddenly there was a sort of light ahead. She walked towards it, suddenly weary of this loneliness.
When she entered the light she could see Corey standing there with his back to her. She wanted to reach out and touch him, so she did. This time he didn’t turn away from her. Memories of her encounter with Tuvok during his Pon Farr came back to her. And Corey was doing the exact same things to her, and she to him. In this place, he was smiling at her, not making that strained face she had come to dread each time she met him.
But it didn’t last. Soon Corey got up and walked away from her. Now she knew that she had to follow him. Chase after him until she caught up with him again. And when she did, she wouldn’t let him go. But it was difficult to see. The light had gone out, and the terrain was getting rougher. She knew she was falling behind. He was getting away from her. But she didn’t panic. All she knew was that however long it would take, she had to find Corey again. She kept straining to make out anything at all in the murk, but she could see nothing.
Finally her eyes opened, and she was back in the empty cabin where she had lay down to experience sleep. Someone was calling her name. So this had only been a dream. That was what Neelix had called it, and she had heard her friend Naomi Wildman mention that word too. But she had no time to dwell on that now.
“Seven of Nine here. Go ahead.”
“It’s me. The Doctor. You wanted me to call you when you could speak to Corey again. Neelix has been here for a while and I think he’s had some success in making contact with Corey.”
“I will be right there.”
She got out of bed, and was about to exit the cabin, when she remembered that she was no longer wearing her uniform. For some reason that made her cheeks heat up again. Perhaps she should ask the Doctor to perform a medical scan of her later. These heating cheeks could not be normal. Come to think of it, lately she had experienced many physical sensations that at first had appeared abnormal. It might be wise to wait and let those symptoms be. She could be going through some perfectly normal changes. There was no way of knowing.
Again she wondered if she might ask one of the other females aboard Voyager, but she sensed that they might not like her too much. That was a new insight too, and it saddened her. Why didn’t she have any adult female friends? Did they find her too alien, or, and this struck her as even worse, had she alienated them too, the way she had rejected Harry Kim. Shouldn’t she at least have been able to return feelings of friendship?
If she could only work out this problem with Corey, she would try again with her social life. Neelix, though very different from her, was a good friend, and so was Naomi Wildman. Seven had never been able to bring herself to acknowledge that fact openly, but she thought she could tell that Naomi Wildman and Neelix both knew how much she appreciated them.
Perhaps it was time to make some new friends? It occurred to her how useful – no, she amended, nice – it would be to have some female friends of her own age. Why she felt that way, she didn’t have time to analyze. She merely made a mental note of her intentions in that direction. First she would deal with Corey, then she would try to change her life in other ways.
When she entered sickbay, she saw that Neelix was still with Corey. From what she could tell, Corey didn’t appear noticeably improved in temper, but at least he seemed to be talking to Neelix. The Doctor was bustling about inside his own little office. As usual, he was beaming to himself. Apparently, saving Corey’s life had given him yet another reason to comtemplate his own brilliance and excellence in his medical skills.
Seven often thought there was no need to take quite as much pleasure in such self-congratulation. Although, she had to admit to herself, that it had felt good to be able to show all these individuals how efficent her own skills were in comparison to their limited ones.
Part of her was deeply grateful to Neelix for trying to get through to Corey, where she herself had failed, but another part, and she suspected this was the more human part of her, felt something else, something she thought might be jealousy. Corey was not Neelix’s friend, he was hers, or rather, she was hoping he would be much more than just a friend.
But now she would go to him, and again try to reach him. Was there something she had overlooked? Could she have approached the problem in a different way? It was hard to see any alternative. And she had to face the fact that when it came to social interaction, let alone romantic endeavors, she had much to learn from the other individuals. They had an entire lifetime of experiences to draw on, and she only a few years.
As she drew closer to the containment field that held Corey, the former drone looked up and faced her. Was it only wishful thinking, or did he really seem somewhat pleased to see her? She had to know, but she wasn’t going to risk everything by taking any chances.
“Neelix told me how – upset – you were when I attempted suicide.”
“Yes. I was very upset.”
“Because I care about you.”
“Do you mean that you have sentimental feelings about me? Affection?”
“Yes. I do.”
“I didn’t know. I am sorry for causing you pain.”
“Don’t worry about that. Just don’t do it again.”
“But there is no place for me here. This unit is efficient without me. They have no need for another crew member.”
“Corey, what Seven is trying to say to you is that she needs you. She wants you here.”
“I am lonely. No one here understands me. Almost no one.”
She acknowledged Neelix’s friendship with a brief smile and remembered Naomi Wildman too. But their friendship wasn’t what she was seeking now, though she found it hard to explain that to Corey. Especially in Neelix’s presence. Her friend seemed to sense that she wished to be alone with Corey, and he got up to leave.
“Well, I’m needed in the mess hall now. I’m sure that Seven will take good care of you, Corey. If you like, I’ll be back later to check on your progress.”
“Yes, please, do return. I wish to talk to you again.”
“Then I will see you both later.”
Once again alone with Corey, Seven still had no idea what to tell him. But this time, it seemed, Corey had something to say to her.
“You need me here? As your friend?”
“Yes, you and I have much in common, and I would like to get close to someone.”
“Are you referring to sexual contacts?”
Again she felt that inexplicable heat searing her cheeks. Was she suffering from a serious skin condition? But now was not the time to attract the Doctor’s attention.
“That among other things.”
“Drones don’t have sex.”
“But you and I are not drones anymore. Do you remember anything from before your assimilation? Myself, I was assimilated very young, so I have no such memories.”
“Yes. I do.”
“You don’t have to tell me, and if you don’t want to, not with me, that is acceptable. But I would really like to have a friend. Someone who is more like me than these other individuals. They don’t understand me.”
“I think I would like to, with you. You are very pretty. Many things are coming back to me now and I would have considered myself lucky to meet a girl like you when I was at the Academy.”
Again that irritating skin condition. And she was sure her skin would be colored by that sensation of heat. But Corey didn’t seem to object.
“I find you very pleasing to the eye as well.”
Was that skin problem contagious? And could it even spread through the containment field? Had she started a epidemic by her selfish act? She would have to consult the Doctor about it. Corey’s cheeks colored a very pretty shade of pink.
“You do? But I still look so much like a drone.”
“No. The Doctor has done a fine job on your face, and anyway, you are very beautiful, all of you.”
The color of his skin deepened to a startling crimson. Seven was concerned that he was sickening in a more serious way. The symptoms seemed to be escalating rapidly.
“You are turning very red in the face, Corey. Shall I call the Doctor and see to your problem?”
Inexplicably again, he now smiled reassuringly, if somewhat amusedly, it seemed to Seven.
“No, that won’t be necessary. Don’t you recognize a blush? You were giving me a compliment, and I was a little -“
There was a short pause and Corey appeared to be deep in though. Then his face lit up and smiled.
“I was a little embarrassed at your praise. But that doesn’t mean I’m not pleased to have such an effect on you.”
“And embarrassment causes this skin color?”
“Yes. Has it never happened to you since you came here?”
“Yes, but only lately. And I didn’t know who to ask about it.”
“Well, I think you’re right. You do need me. And I need you. We could help each other adapt to living here among individuals. I had forgotten about -“
His voice trailed off, and there it was again, that most endearing shade of pink all over his cheeks.
“About a lot of things to do with being a human. I think I won’t mind remembering again, with you.”
Seven thought she could guess what he was thinking about and felt her own cheeks blush again. But at least she wasn’t responsible for a new highly contagious epidemic aboard Voyager. Perhaps her emotional state was responsible for more of the new and startling sensations she had experienced in the past months.
It surprised her how knowledgeable this former drone was, but it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to her. Hadn’t the Doctor told her that Corey couldn’t have been part of the collective for more than two or three years? Naturally he would have had different experiences than she had, who had been assimilated at the age of six.
Now she had some positive developments to report to the captain for once, and that felt – good. When she left Corey, she thought she could detect some reluctance to see the last of her. Would he miss her? She was hoping that he would. If he continued cooperating, she felt sure that the captain would allow him to walk around the ship freely, in her company. And that would mean they could meet somewhere more private.
For the first time, it occurred to her that maybe she should ask to be given quarters like all the other crew members. That would be a place where she and Corey could meet. And she might turn her old cargobay over to him. For some time now, she knew, Corey would need to regenerate, rather than eat and sleep.
She knew that she had stayed very long in there, much longer than she needed to, on a purely biological level. The reason for that seemed to be that she had needed a place to retreat to. A hideout. But after sleeping in a bed in normal crew quarters, she now knew that the closed doors would provide a feeling of privacy. As soon as Corey’s transformation from drone to individual had been completed, she suspected he would enjoy returning to the same simple humanoid pleasures she had only recently begun to appreciate.
In the turbolift, on her way to the captain’s ready room, Seven couldn’t help smiling a little at how simple the solution really had been. It was odd that the answer had been staring her in the face for so long. All those crew members expressing a wish to get to know her better, to get romantically involved. Why hadn’t she realized that she, too, was considered attractive and that someone like Corey might feel that way too?
Or even that feeling needed by someone else, might be appealing to others than herself. She might have stressed her emotional needs sooner, rather than continuing to use Borg terms and trying to reach him on an intellectual level. It might even be possible that she had brought on this suicide attempt, by leaving him no hope of being appreciated for himself.
She had simply assumed that once he had grown to accept being a human again, that someone would provide duties for him to perform. Never had she stopped to consider how the work on Voyager might appear to an outsider. Things worked smoothly and efficiently. Naturally, he would assume there would be no place for him here.
This reacquaintance with emotions was long overdue, she decided. If only she had started studying the other crew members more closely far earlier. Now she knew that although her technical skills were important, there were other achievements just as important, even though they might appear so at first glance. Nutritionally deficient food had other values, emotional and sentimental responses had their place too. All of that was finally beginning to make sense to her.
When she stepped out the turbolift, she felt a new resolve. She would ask the captain to let Corey have the run of the ship. With her looking over his shoulder, there would be no escape attempts, even if he should have a relapse.
“Seven? I hear our young friend is much improved. The Doctor’s report is here on my desk. You’ve done well.”
“I wouldn’t have managed any of it, without the help of my friends. Especially Neelix.”
“You’re too modest. But I’m glad you are finally seeing the benefits of team work.”
“Captain, could Corey have the run of the ship now?”
“So soon after his suicide attempt? Are you sure that would be wise?”
“I would be near him at all times, watching over him.”
“That would be the condition, if I agree to this experiment.”
“You won’t regret your decision, captain.”
“No, I’d better not have reason to. Alright, Seven. We’ll try for a few days. If things work out, then he might get a permanent position aboard Voyager, just as you do. Well, if that is all, I need to do some other work now.”
“That is all, for the moment.”
“Then you may return to your duties. With Corey. Try to show him some easy task and let him start there. Then he can move on to more essential matters. Dismissed.”
“Thank you, captain.”
Just as Seven had expected, Corey enjoyed the chance to be allowed to take part in the work around the ship. At lunch time, she brought him to the mess hall to see the other crew members. She knew he wouldn’t be able to digest any food so soon, but she was hoping that watching others at their meals, might entice him to try some food sooner than she had.
Everyone showed polite interest in the new addition to their number, and perhaps because they had been used to Seven in the past years, there were no raised eyebrows or whispered conversations behind their backs. It even seemed to Seven that the temperamental half-Klingon chief of engineering was at her best behavior.
From B’Elanna and many of the other female officers, Seven thought she could imagine some appreciative stares at Corey. He didn’t seem to notice, but she was pleased to be seen in his company.
“Seven, when your friend is more at home here, you might consider bringing him around for a double date.”
Seven stared in wonder at B’Elanna. Was she attempting a joke at her expense? No, she appeared to be in earnest. So it was that obvious how she felt about Corey. For a second, there was that familiar sensation burning her cheeks and ears, but it passed. Why shouldn’t she, Seven, have a – what was that word again – boyfriend? If B’Elanna had one, surely, Seven was entitled to someone too.
“We will be looking forward to that.”
She didn’t know if Corey had even caught the exchange, busy as he had been, staring around at all the others in the mess hall. But she would explain to him later, and surely he would remember something like that from before his assimilation? Some things might not be all that difficult to explain after all.
When their work shift was over, Seven walked Corey over to the cargo bay where until now she had spent all her offduty hours. Corey looked around as if trying to assess the place. How would he react to being left alone here? Seven had been able to acquire quarters for herself, to everyone’s surprise earlier that work shift, and now she would be clearing out the cargo bay for Corey’s use.
“Where will you regenerate? There is still only one cubicle here.”
“I do not require regeneration any more. From now on, I will eat and sleep like the rest of the crew. I have new quarters on the same deck as everyone else.”
“I see. How long did you need to continue regenerating until you could take solid food and experience true sleep?”
“I am not sure. I only started eating regularly a few months ago, but I think I might have started much earlier. You will have to ask the Doctor about it. He will be able to tell you more.”
“And what about sleep?”
“Do you remember sleep? And – dreams?”
“Yes. I am beginning to remember many things. Have you had dreams?”
“One. I have only slept once so far.”
“Did you like it?”
“Sleeping? Yes, it was pleasant, and relaxing. And the dream – was – interesting.”
“What was it about?”
“It was about – I don’t remember. Now you should begin your regeneration cycle. I will see you here at 0800 hours tomorrow. We will work in engineering for a few days.”
Corey smiled at Seven in a way that made her suspect that he had some idea of what the dream had been about. It was amazing how well he knew her already. But she hadn’t been prepared for his next statement.
“Good night, Seven. Sleep well. Sweet dreams.”
“Good night, Corey.”
Yes, she was hoping for more dreams. And if they were sweet, all the better.
It was quite interesting to enter her new quarters this night. She had seen that the other crew members had made adjustments to the interior of the quarters. Personalizing them. Perhaps she would try to do that too. For now, all she needed was that nightgown. She gave the computer the order, then shed her uniform, and entered the sonic shower.
Less than twenty minutes later she was stretched out on the bed. What was it Neelix had told her about getting to sleep? Relax, close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Yes, she was tired, and it would be good to have some rest now. And she was hoping she would dream. About Corey.
Again she was in that hazy place. But this time, Corey was waiting for her, looking at her expectantly. He was smiling and holding out his arms for her. She was there before any more time had passed, and he had been right. This was a very sweet dream, but Seven was hoping that reality would be even sweeter.
For the first time in months, she really believed it would. Next morning she would be seeing Corey and the morning after that. There was something very reassuring, but at the same time exciting about it. When the computer woke her up the next morning, Seven had a smile on her lips. She couldn’t wait to see Corey again. Her dream had come true. Seven hadn’t known that dreams could do that, but it seemed it was so.
For the first time that she could remember, she had something to look forward to, and now she realized how all these people stranded so far away from home learned to cope with their situation. They had their emotions. Friendship, loyalty, love. It made all the difference in the world. How could she ever have despised humans and their petty sentimentality? It was a strength, not a weakness. She would never allow herself to forget that.