Title: Perfectly Human
Rating: PG-13 to R
Summary: Seven of Nine accesses more of her human side with startling results for Janeway.
Disclaimers: Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount. This work is not intended to infringe on their copyright and is not for profit.Chapter 6
“Have you ever dived before, Mortimer?” Janeway asked, watching the crewman eye the diving equipment warily. It was 0900 hours and they were planet-side on a cream colored beach dotting the western coast of the north continent.
Harren heaved an audible sigh. “Yes, Captain. And if it’s all the same to you, could you call me Harren. Not even my mother calls me Mortimer.”
She hid a smile. “Fair enough. There’s your gear. I suggest you put it on and we can get going.”
Standing on the shore, dressed in her wet suit, diving tank strapped on her back, and black fins on her feet, Kathryn waddled toward the water. She spat into the lens of her face mask then swished it around in the wave that lapped her knees in a delicate caress before putting the mask back on. The saliva was a very old-fashioned scuba tip but one that she adhered to, probably because of her Traditionalist past.
She tightened the straps of the tank, adjusted the mouth piece and double checked the regulator. There was enough oxygen in her tank for a two hour dive and she just hoped Harren wasn’t a gulper who would cause his diving buddy to have to resurface sooner than she wanted to.
To his credit the crewman had taken his punishment stoicly as had Seven when informed that she would be accompanying Tuvok to the temple. The young woman had not spoken to the captain about the incident in astrometrics or the ensuing punishment, although she had conversed at length with Tuvok prior to their beaming down to the planet. The blonde had then hurried out of the transporter room, causing Kathryn to step off the transporter pad herself, a questioning look directed at Tuvok.
“Everything all right?” she asked in a low voice, not wanting Harren to overhear.
“Yes, Captain. I was informing Seven about the proper attire for a visit to the temple. Her bio suit and high heels might be uncomfortable, so I suggested she change.”
“Oh.” Seven would have to replicate appropriate clothing and just what would she replicate, Kathryn wondered for a moment before stopping her teasing thoughts in their tracks.
“I will wait for her here. You and Crewman Harren should beam down with your equipment. Lt. Mills who is on the planet already will accompany you on your dive.”
“Commander…” the warning note in Janeway’s voice would have daunted a lesser man than the Vulcan who had served with Kathryn for years and was implacable. As chief of security Tuvok was in charge of the captain’s safety.
“A necessary precaution. Mr. Harren might not be able to help you if you got into trouble during the dive.”
“Very well,” Kathryn said. So much for communing in solitary bliss in underworld caves. She had not one but two companions on the dive and neither was her buddy of choice. Probably both were wishing to be elsewhere themselves.
Now she glanced over at Harren who had finished strapping on his tank, his mask already in place over his eyes and nose. A sturdy man with blond hair, Lt. Mills glanced at Kathryn.
She nodded and began a penguin shuffle as she waded into the water, her body clumsy because of the heavy fins. As the water level deepened she began an easy breast stroke and soon submerged herself slowly in the clear crystalline water. As they descended further Kathryn tried to remember when she’d last gone diving in a real ocean. Holodecks didn’t really count. They were just photonic cells but this water that surrounded her was real, pushing her slightly back and forth as she explored the rock formations. Harren was to her right. Mills to her left, both men moving easily with her. She aimed her wrist beam at one of the rocks, discovering that it wasn’t rock but coral formation, the red color reminiscent of a reef she had once explored in the Pacific.
Large luminescent schools of fish drifted past, nudging Kathryn’s leg as the three divers languidly moved through the cove. The captain could feel her muscles relaxing in the water. This was why she enjoyed diving so much, the sense of being utterly in another world without stars or starships. After several minutes Mills pointed to the left and she followed his lead through another coral formation, this one a deep purple. No, not coral, she amended her first thought as a large purple shelled sea turtle swam past and she grinned at the sight. She tapped Harren on the arm and pointed it out.
He nodded but appeared indifferent to it. Would Seven have been so nonchalant or would the Borg’s pale eyes have lit up? There was no telling with Seven, who might have already encountered similar sights during her time with the Collective. The blonde’s complexity was one of the things Kathryn found so fascinating about her, that she could peel off layers to that perfectionistic personality to find the real human being inside.
More delights came and went: a school of parrotfish with blues and greens blending into the matching waters of the sea, stodgy black puffer fish like those on earth zigzagging through the coral cubbyholes and then a large school of golden angelfish that filled a cluster of caves. At least she presumed they were angelfish since on earth the species didn’t sport the adorable little wings. The color reminded her of the exact hue of Seven’s hair.
God, she wished the young woman was with her instead of Harren. Even if the two women were no longer involved they could still share such experiences, couldn’t they? Kathryn desperately wanted to. Somehow or other she had to get through to Seven that even if she had no wish for a romantic relationship with the captain their friendship didn’t need to end.
The dive continued, the scientist in Janeway fascinated by the undersea world as they explored each new cave. Finally she noticed Mills tapping his wrist, amazed that time was up. She glanced at her depth gauge for confirmation. She had about a half hour of air left, enough for a steady ascent to the surface. She signaled Harren and tapped her wrist. He gave a thumb’s up sign, glad to be going up. She wondered how Seven was faring with Tuvok and whether she was enjoying her punishment.
Harren had broken off part of a bamboo like plant and was poking at something in a coral structure as he began to swim toward the surface. What was he doing? Another poke. Then the calm water churned with white froth as a large sea animal hurtled toward Harren, teeth bared.
Kathryn thought as the jaws opened even wider and snapped shut. Harren pulled back just in time. Then she saw the tail that was shaped like a moray eel’s. It was a deadly combination of shark and eel. If the jaws didn’t get the victim the tail would. As Janeway moved swiftly to help him, a red laser beam flashed from her right. Mills had fired his phaser, the beam enough to stun the creature. But for how long?
Janeway didn’t stick around to find out. Neither did Harren whose face was white behind his mask as he swam frantically toward the surface. Not so fast! She thought the command but couldn’t bark it.
There was no sign of the hybrid shark-eel, perhaps the phaser had put him out. Harren was another matter. They had to slow him down. Mills yanked his arm, but the frantic man struggled out of the security officer’s grasp. Harren’s panic would take him up to the surface faster than the nitrogen in his veins could be neutralized and if they pursued him to the surface they’d get the bends too. She grabbed Harren’s left leg and signaled Mills to grab his right. Their weight was just enough to slow Harren as he tried to surface.
Janeway kept an eye out for the shark hybrid as they slowly surfaced. As soon as his head was above the water, Harren yanked out his mouthpiece and turned on Mills.
“What the hell were you trying to do, kill me?”
“The lieutenant and I were trying to keep you from encountering a case of the bends, Crewman,” Janeway said, injecting her words with her command tone.
“I wasn’t going up that fast.”
“You were going up faster than advised,” Mills replied.
“Did the creature injure you?” Janeway asked Harren, trying to draw his ire away from the security officer who was only doing his job.
“No.” Harren gulped down some air. “I’ve had enough diving. I’m going back to the ship.” He stared at Janeway. “With your permission, Captain.”
“Permission granted,” Kathryn said. Obviously Mortimer had been badly frightened and needed the safety of Voyager to recover.
“Will you be returning to the ship as well, Captain?” Lt. Mills asked as they walked out of the water together.
She shook her head, splattering water on the lieutenant. “I’m sorry, Lieutenant.” She smiled at his startled expression. “I’m here for some shore leave, so by God I’m going to take shore leave and see what else the planet has to offer.”
“Will you be diving any more today?”
“I think I’ll stay on land. By the way, nice work down below with that shark and Harren.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
She’d have to report Mills’s good work when she saw Tuvok back at the starship, although the security chief would undoubtedly take that as proof that wherever the captain went she ought to have a security detail accompanying her. Grimacing at that idea, she went to a nearby cabana and changed from her wet suit into a pair of shorts and a cotton top, wondering if Mills would be lurking around while she was on shore. She really didn’t want a body guard.
She slipped on a pair of sandals and wiggled toes that felt free after being usually confined in boots. Then she dried her wet hair on a towel and walked out of the cabana to find beach chairs had been set up, facing the ocean and a particularly vigorous game of beach volleyball was underway on the sand. As soon as Kathryn sank down in one of the slatted chairs, Neelix handed her a tropical drink with a tiny umbrella in the middle of it.
“It’s called a Pina Colada, Captain.”
“I’m familiar with it, Mr. Neelix. Thank you,” Kathryn said enthusiastically.
“And a basket of golden fried Leota Root.”
“Thank you again,” Kathryn said with considerably less enthusiasm. “Were you the one who organized the volleyball game?” she asked, trying to avoid the leota root.
“No, that was Lt. Paris. Apparently it is an earth tradition. Do you play volleyball?”
“No. Tennis was more my sport. Or Velocity.” Would she even bother to play Velocity if Seven continued to decline her invitations to play the game?
“Have you seen Tuvok and Seven?” she asked after a long appreciative swallow of the coconut and rum-laden Pina Colada.
“Not since they beamed down. They were going up to the trail of temples.”
“Temples? There are more than one?”
“About a half dozen. Not exactly temples…more like slabs of stone. If you follow that looping trail you’ll catch up to them.”
“Maybe a little later. For now I just want to catch my breath and enjoy the view.” She didn’t want to intrude on Tuvok or Seven. Particularly Seven.
And yet part of her did wonder how Seven would react to the temples.
“Sure thing, Captain. If anyone deserves to rest, it’s you.”
Neelix beamed and left her alone.
Seven found much to admire about Lt. Commander Tuvok. As the chief of security he knew more than the other senior officers when it came to tactical strategy, he was a Vulcan, thus his mind was admirably disciplined and logical, and he was one of Kathryn’s oldest friends. She had a more personal reason for her feelings for the Vulcan. They had once mind melded together, which allowed her to regain control over the memories of those she had assimilated while a Borg. Tuvok had volunteered to undertake the dangerous procedure, which could have cost him his own life, and she had felt grateful and thereafter in a small way connected to him. She found a comfort being around someone logical like him rather than someone like Harry Kim who babbled.
She watched now as the Vulcan sat in a kneeling position on the ground of the small temple, his meditation lamp lit and his eyes closed. Here the foliage was lush and green, the accompanying scent tangy like the forests of Merwin II but older, more primordial. Trailing vines fell over the slabs of stone that had been meticulously formed into the shape of a square with only a .003 variance, remarkably precise for a population of nomads.
Seven stood with her tricorder, scanning the perimeter of the sixth and last temple for hostile creatures. Previously she had joined Tuvok in his meditations, attempting the calming meditation he had taught her back on Voyager, that is until the fourth temple when she had felt something move over the sensitive mesh on her Borg-enhanced left hand and her eyes flew open.
Large insects resembling scorpions were crawling over her hand and skiterring along the ground where she and Tuvok sat. She had smashed the scorpions closest to her while Tuvok had coolly aimed a phaser at the others. After that she had taken the precaution of scanning the temple with a tricorder for smaller pests and had stayed alert while the Vulcan had meditated.
The temples were no more than a series of large stones in the shape of a square. This last one was much larger than the previous five, leading her to believe the deity to which the temple belonged was more powerful than the others in the area.
Judging by the drawings and paintings on the wall he also inspired fear. Seven traced over the paintings with her finger tips. The drawings were crude as befitted a nomadic species but they were very vivid and colorful, showing people prostrating themselves before the twin suns.
What would Master DaVinci or the captain make of the artwork? Thinking of Kathryn caused Seven to remember the brief encounter in the transporter room and how appealing the auburn-haired woman had looked in her shorts and cotton top under which Seven could see the tight fitting diving suit. Kathryn had once invited her to go diving sometime, but did she even remember saying that? For a nanosecond in the transporter room Seven had nearly reminded her of that before she had turned to speak to Tuvok, hoping the captain hadn’t noticed her temporary lapse.
She glanced down at the black Starfleet issue boots she had replicated. Her conversation with Tuvok had been timely and he had been correct that her usual clothing would be inadequate for their day’s exploration. Seven was particularly glad that she had changed from her high heels before beaming down.
Tuvok’s eyes fluttered behind his lids, a sign that he was either dreaming or in what he sometimes called a wakeful meditation. Patiently Seven waited. Large trees shaded the temple, which she was thankful for because her environmentally controlled bio suit had been left on the ship. Instead she wore a pair of blue jeans and a khaki shirt and what Ensign Kim dubbed a safari hat. She unzipped her backpack and drew out a canteen of water. Tuvok usually emerged from his meditation thirsty.
She took a sip herself, thinking how different this terrain was from the ocean where Harren and the captain were diving. She hadn’t liked the idea of the captain diving alone with Harren, but Tuvok had assured her that a security officer would accompany the pair on the dive. She swallowed more of the water, wondering why she had been given the temple assignment with Tuvok and whether the captain had made the choice for them She must remember to ask the Vulcan since she could not ask Kathryn. They rarely spoke these days.
Recalling the philosophical discussions they had engaged in many times before even in the middle of the night, the blonde felt a pang in her chest. Those discussions would never occur again. Odd. She had expected Kathryn to admonish her for fighting with Harren, but she had said nothing to her or Harren. The blonde’s throat tightened as she remembered the disparaging remarks the crewman had uttered about the woman Seven still loved.
Tuvok had emerged from his meditative trance.
“I need water.”
She passed him the canteen.
“This meditation was lengthier than the others. Twenty three minutes and twenty seconds.”
“I have learned about the pantheon of gods that the people on this planet worship.”
As a Borg Seven had assimilated many religious ideologies and herself had once glimpsed the powerful Omega particle that all Borg revered.
“This particular temple is the domain of Taki, the most powerful god and a war-like deity.”
“The paintings on the wall would confirm that.”
“His spouse is Shina. Her temple was the one with the scorpions.”
“I do not think I am fond of her,” Seven said, taking the canteen back from Tuvok and putting it in her backpack.
“There is one more temple.” The Vulcan got to his feet.
Seven frowned. “Are you certain, Tuvok? Your security teams found only six.”
“It was revealed to me in my meditation. It is hidden and was intended to honor Taki and Shina’s child.”
“So there would be a seventh temple,” she said, following him down the narrow trail.
“Why would nomads have constructed the temples? They would always be on the move.”
“I cannot answer that question.” He inputted the information about the seventh temple to the padd he carried. Chakotay had entered a map of his explorations yesterday. The First Officer had conducted his own ritual, a vision quest in the second temple, but had gone no farther than exploring the third, otherwise he would have reported the scorpions in the fourth temple.
“Are you enjoying our shore leave, Seven?” he asked, looking back at her.
“It is enlightening.”
“However you prefer to be diving with the captain?” he said, not unkindly.
Seven did not answer at first. “My preference is irrelevant. This was punishment and I am estranged from the captain. We are no longer friends.”
“And yet, you struck Mr. Harren for uttering some remarks about her.”
“He was insolent and deserved it.”
“If you were no longer friends, his insolence would not matter.”
“Just because we are no longer friends does not mean I wish
disrespect to be shown to the captain.”
She hoped he would not ask anything more and was relieved when they came to the final temple, one hidden by thick foliage and overgrown vines and much smaller than the others. The stone was different too, polished white and devoid of paintings or drawings. Instead there ware markings that could have been writings.
Tuvok scanned the writings with his tricorder. “The universal translator does not recognize it.”
“Nor do any of the species in my assimilated memories,” Seven said. “Perhaps the answer will come to you in meditation, since you found its location that way.”
Tuvok took his lamp out of his backpack. “You will not be bored, Seven?”
“No. I find it calming to watch you meditate, Commander. You will not be harmed. I will stand guard for you.”
The Vulcan took his position on the hard ground and lit the meditation lamp again then clasped his hands so the fingertips touched. Soon his steady rhythmic breathing told Seven that he was in a deepening state of meditation.
Once again Seven stood with her tricorder in hand. Because she wasn’t wearing her bio suit her body temperature was increasing however her nanoprobes would keep her functioning within normal parameters. For a Borg drone. What would be the normal parameters for a human, she wondered as she gazed at the strange writings on the stones. Sometimes she wished with all her heart she was less Borg and more fully human.
When Tuvok came fully awake twenty minutes later, the flame in his lamp had blown out. He got up from the ground, looking for Seven who was not in the vicinity of the temple. Alarmed, he began to retrace his steps, finally finding the young blonde on the trail, picking flowers from a bush.
She turned and beamed delightedly at him. She carried an armful of the yellow and white flowers that resembled daisies. “You finally woke up, Tuvok,” she teased. “I thought you were going to sleep there all day.”
“Look at the flowers I have gathered,” she said, holding the bouqet out to him. “Smell, they’re so fragrant.” She tickled his nose with a flower.
Tuvok was at a loss for words as he inhaled the flower’s delicate scent. The young woman appeared uninjured and yet she was acting strangely. And her hair had fallen from her usual bun and hung loose to her shoulders.
“Are you all right, Seven?” he asked.
“Who’s this Seven you are talking about?” she replied. “My name is Annika.”
“Your name is Annika,” he agreed. “But you prefer to be called Seven.”
“Why would I want to be called a silly number?” she exclaimed. She began to pick another flower off a shrub.
“Do you know where we are?” Tuvok asked.
“Shore leave on an M Class planet,” she replied promptly as he scanned her surreptitiously with the tricorder. “I’m bored, Tuvok, can we go back and join the others?”
“I believe that would be the wisest choice.”
Kathryn Janeway sat, frowning at the five cards in her hand. She had a pair of tens, but Crewman Lobbit had been bluffing all of them with his cards, which accounted for the pile of leota root by his elbow. As captain, Janeway did not approve of gambling, but all starship captains were well versed in the game of poker and when the card game had spontaneously started amongst the beach goers, she had joined in with the stipulation that they would be playing for leota root and not for ration strips.
“I think you’re bluffing, Crewman,” Janeway said, pushing in all her leota root.
“Is your hand that good, Captain?”
“You’ll need to put some leota root into the pot to get a look at it,” she countered.
He grinned. “You’re in.”
“A pair of tens.”
“Beats my two eights,” he said glumly.
“My, my captain, you must like my leota root,” Neelix said, bustling by.
“Er…yes, Mr. Neelix. Worth its weight in gold so to speak.”
The Talaxian peered at the captain.
“You’re getting sunburned, Captain…perhaps you need another application of sun screen?”
“Thank you, Mr. Neelix. A timely reminder. There are two suns shining on the planet. Excuse me, everyone.”
She strode away into a cabana where she squirted some lotion onto her hands and applied the cream again to her face then her legs and arms. Her skin was pinking slightly and she wondered if she had had enough sun for one day. A pity there was no one around to apply the lotion for her. As captain she couldn’t very well order someone to touch her. Besides, the only person who she wanted to do the applying was still temple hopping with Tuvok.
Stop it, Kathryn. That’s over. No sense longing for what she couldn’t have.
Leaving the cabana, she spotted Tuvok and Seven walking along the shore. The blonde appeared in a good mood. She had kicked off her boots and was skipping along, leaning down every now and then to pick up something from the sand. Intrigued, Kathryn moved closer, her lips lifting involuntarily in a smile.
The shell was a beauty. Annika held it up to the sun to admire the cone shape and the yellow and brown spots. She caught a glimpse of another and bent down to snatch it up before a wave could carry it away. Next to the shell were round pieces of stone, translucent and multi-colored. They would look pretty strung in a necklace.
“Tuvok, look,” she said, handing him the stones and the shells. He already carried the flowers she had picked along the trail. “Aren’t they pretty?”
“Yes,” he agreed.
“What do you have there, Seven?” someone asked. It was Neelix.
“Shells, look,” she exclaimed, pointing to another in the sand. She squealed with delight as Neelix joined her, picking it up.
“Have you seen the captain?” Tuvok asked the Talaxian who was grinning almost as widely as Seven.
“She’s playing cards on the beach,” Neelix replied.
“Please watch Seven,” the Vulcan ordered quietly.
The wind carried another peal of laughter from Seven to Kathryn’s ears, and she began making her way toward the small group clustered around the Borg. She could not remember ever hearing such a carefree sound from Seven. Shore leave must’ve been just what she needed. Janeway shielded her eyes with a hand as she admired the young woman standing in the ocean, blonde hair swirling in the wind.
“Captain,” Tuvok said, striding up to her side.
“Exploring temples seems to have agreed with Seven,” Janeway said. She noticed the flowers in Tuvok’s hands. It wasn’t like him to pick flowers of any sort. “Are you all right, Tuvok?”
“I am fine, Captain. Seven however may not be.”
“Oh?” He could see the quick tightening of her jaw muscle and the question in her blue eyes.
“I believe shore leave should be canceled and everyone except my beta security team and myself should leave the planet.”
“Seven of Nine has shown a marked change in personality. I do not know if it is a case of alien possession or amnesia, but she is altered.”
“Altered?” Kathryn glanced over at the young woman still picking at the shells and glassy stones on the shore. “How?”
“She is not herself. She is laughing and smiling too much.”
For a Vulcan maybe that was cause for concern but not for humans.
“It is possible she is just enjoying shore leave,” she pointed out, mildly amused.
“She is just not herself, Captain,” Tuvok repeated.
Kathryn searched his dark eyes for a moment. She trusted Tuvok implicitly, but canceling shore leave was a major decision.
“Before I will cancel shore leave I need to determine her impairment.”
“Of course, Captain.”
She followed him over to the beach where Seven was playing, a group around her now also hunting for shells and sea stones.
“Seven?” she called out.
The young woman paid no attention to her.
“Try calling her Annika,” Tuvok suggested.
Kathryn lifted her eyebrow. “Annika?” she called out.
The young woman looked immediately in her direction, her broad smile fading somewhat when she saw the captain. Nothing like putting a damper on someone’s good mood, Kathryn thought ruefully.
“Captain,” she said.
“You appear to be having fun, Annika,” the captain said, fully prepared to have Seven’s customary rejoinder about fun being irrelevant thrown back at her.
“I am, Captain,” Annika said. “I was finding sea shells and stones. That’s all right, isn’t it? I haven’t broken a Starfleet regulation again, have I?”
“It’s fine, Annika. How are you feeling?”
“I’m tired and thirsty and I wish I had something to eat.”
“You do?” Kathryn exchanged glances with Tuvok. “What would you like to eat?”
“Anything but fried leota root,” Seven said. She glanced over at Neelix who was till hunting for shells. “Oops…I hope he didn’t hear that.”
Had Seven just said oops?
“Do you know where you are?” Kathryn asked. Tuvok was right. Something was wrong with Seven.
“I’m on the beach on a M Class planet. Commander Tuvok and I have been exploring the temples.” She shot Tuvok a look that was full of mischief. “Or at least he has been exploring them.”
She glanced at the captain. “Did you enjoy your dive?”
“Yes, I did. Seven…”
“Why does everyone call me that?” the young woman complained. “My name is Annika.”
“Seven is your Borg designation.”
“What’s Borg?” Annika asked innocently.
Kathryn stared into her blue eyes for a moment. With anyone else it could be a joke, but Seven’s sense of humor didn’t include practical jokes. Something was definitely wrong and they needed to get to the bottom of it.
“Carry on, Annika. I need to speak to Commander Tuvok.”
She drew the security chief aside. “Tell me exactly how this occurred.”
“I do not know, Captain,” the Vulcan said, annoyed that he had to admit his own ignorance of the circumstances. “I was meditating in a temple and when I finished Seven had become Annika.”
“None. We had scanned for hostile creatures.”
“Was she meditating too?”
“She was standing watch while I meditated. I have no way of determining if she did try to meditate afterward.”
“Those flowers. I’ll take them back with me to the ship to analyze. Maybe their scent has an effect on other species. I’m also going to take Annika to sickbay.”
“A prudent precaution.”
Tuvok handed her the bouquet of flowers. “I will have my security personnel scan the temple while you take Seven to sick bay.”
“There is also the matter of shore leave,” he reminded her.
Kathryn sighed, knowing that there was no way around the situation and already hearing the groans of protest that would go up when she canceled shore leave.
The sunlight from the twin suns glinted off the blue waters of the ocean. Everything along the coast appeared serene except for the scowling visage of the blonde woman tugging on her boots in the sand. Annika Hansen radiated anger along every inch of her lean six foot frame. It wasn’t fair. Right when she was finally enjoying herself Captain Janeway had to spoil things by ordering her back to the ship.
She hadn’t done anything wrong. She had hiked all morning with Tuvok to see those temples he wanted, and now she wanted to have some fun.
But fun was a word the captain didn’t comprehend. She glared at the compact auburn-haired woman standing nearby. She felt a shift in the salty air as Janeway’s laser-like stare intersected with hers for a long moment before the blonde let her gaze fall back down to her boots. She got up from the sand, dusting the seat of her pants, knowing it was useless to protest. She never got her way when the captain was involved and for some reason Janeway always got involved when it came to Annika. Even now she had appointed herself the young woman’s personal escort back to Voyager.
“I don’t want to go back to the ship,” she murmured under her breath. Not when a treasure trove of sea shells and stones waited for her to explore.
“The doctor needs to examine you, Sev, I mean Annika,” the captain said.
“I don’t like going to the doctor.”
“Neither do I. But sometimes it’s necessary.”
“My shells. I forgot my shells!” Seven exclaimed.
“Neelix will bring your shells back to the ship,” Janeway said, startled by the outcry from the normally sedate woman.
“I want to bring the flowers with me.” Annika stuck out her jaw belligerently.
Janeway eyed that jaw for a moment,--at least the stubborness hadn’t changed,-- before she nodded. “Go and get them.” The young woman darted over to where the flowers were being examined by Tuvok and scooped them quickly in her arms.
“Those resemble daisies,” Kathryn said when she returned.
Annika sent her a sidelong glance. “I brought you flowers like these once, didn’t I?”
So the young woman remembered that. “Yes, you did. The night you came to dinner in my quarters.”
Suddenly a blush suffused the pale cheeks. Was she embarrassed about that night, Janeway wondered, remembering that awkward goodnight kiss at the door. To cover her own confusion she touched her comm badge.
“Voyager, two to beam back,” she barked.
Annika stiffened then they both dematerialized. They emerged in the customary shower of sparkles to find Susan Nicolletti at the controls in the transporter room. Usually the lieutenant was assigned to engineering but with shore leave the crew was filling in at different duty stations.
“Welcome back, Captain.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant. Come along, Annika,” Kathryn said, putting a hand on the small of the blonde’s back as she continued to stand on the transporter pads. To her relief Annika didn’t pull away from her touch.
“Where are we going?” the young woman asked, heading toward the door.
“I don’t want to go.” Annika halted, and the captain couldn’t budge her. That much hadn’t changed. Seven had always been one of the strongest people on the ship. From her post Nicolletti shot the captain a questioning look, but Janeway shook her head. She didn’t need her help and she didn’t want Annika to feel threatened.
“Annika, we need to have the Doctor check you out. You need to go to sickbay. That’s an order.”
“Yes, Captain,” she said docilely and trailed Janeway to the turbolift.
The captain frowned, worried that the young woman hadn’t put up more of a fuss, although part of her empathized. No starship captain ever volunteered to go to see the doctor.
“It’ll be all right. The Doctor will find out what is bothering you,” she said in the turbolift.
“The only thing bothering me is not being on the beach anymore,” Annika protested but the narrowed glance the captain sent silenced her for the duration of the ride to Deck Five. She didn’t want another Janeway lecture to add to her collection. Her ears hurt just thinking of the ones she had endured in the past.
Since Tuvok had already informed the EMH that the two women were on their way from the planet, the Doctor was waiting for them in sickbay. Kathryn hoped he could devise a treatment for Seven.
“Captain, and let me guess, this must be the new improved Seven of Nine?” he greeted them.
“Seven of what?” Annika demanded.
“Doctor, will you please examine Annika.” Janeway ordered, stressing the name to be used. “We just want to be sure that she hasn’t picked up any illness while being on the planet.”
“Of course. That’s my job. Why don’t you hop on the bio bed, Annika. You can give the flowers to the captain.” The Doctor began humming a favorite aria as he reached for his tricorder.
The blonde flinched as he ran a medical probe over her.
“It’s all right. I’m not going to hurt you,” he said.
“Doctors always say that,” Annika complained. She swung her long legs impatiently, wanting to be anywhere but in the company of the holographic doctor and the captain. The bottoms of her jeans were damp where they had dragged in the ocean.
“If you sit still, I can get through the examination faster.”
Immediately, she stopped swinging her legs. As the doctor bent closer to her she whispered: “Does she need to be here?”
“Who?” he whispered back.
She nodded her head slightly in the direction of the captain, who stood a few feet away.
“You don’t want her here?”
“She makes me nervous,” Annika confessed, “and I’m nervous enough with you.”
“I’ll ask her to leave for a few minutes.”
He turned and walked toward Janeway. “Captain, you’ll probably be more comfortable in my office.”
“Doctor?” Her tone was low, a clear indication that she had no intention of moving.
The captain’s command tone made most of her crew jump but the Doctor was CMO on the starship and patient confidentiality was sacrosanct.
“I’m sorry, Captain. The patient has requested privacy during her examination.”
Kathryn’s back stiffened and she couldn’t help glancing over at the blonde sitting on the bio bed. Did Annika think she was a voyeur?
“She seems more skittish than usual, Captain,” the Doctor explained. Despite his terrible bedside manner he had no wish to hurt the captain’s feelings. He knew well that she had always taken an interest in Seven and he also kept an ear to the gossip in the lower decks thanks to his medic Tom Paris. “She’s even nervous with me and having you here makes the examination more difficult. It won’t take long and I’ll tell you what’s wrong as soon as I’m finished with Seven. Or Annika as she prefers to be called. You could take this time to change back into your uniform. Or to run an analysis on one of those flowers.”
“Thanks for the suggestions,” the captain said dryly. They were good ones too, she had to admit,
since she was still dressed for the beach. She chose a flower from the bunch
and handed the rest to the EMH.
“See that she gets these.”
Nodding to the crew she passed in the corridor, who seemed amused to see their captain in shorts and sandals, she headed for the turbo lift and Deck Three. Once in her quarters she showered and changed quickly, smoothing the red and black uniform tunic before attaching her four pips to the collar of her dark blue sweater. How different this day had turned out from what she had envisioned when she awoke. The dive with Herron had been the chief thing on her mind, but it didn’t compare to what was now affecting Seven.
Quickly Kathryn ran a brush through her damp hair. With the uniform on, her command mask settled back in place. She just hoped the Doctor had found a treatment to get the old Seven back. Even if she doesn’t want to have a damn thing to do with me.
She slapped her comm badge. “Janeway to Tuvok.”
“Tuvok here, Captain.”
“We are still investigating, Captain. I have not been able to locate the temple where the change in Seven of Nine took place.”
“I have returned to the coordinates that I entered in the padd but it’s not here. The small temple has disappeared.”
“Are you sure?”
“No, Captain. That is why I am still here on the planet investigating.”
“Do you think that you and Seven were under the spell somehow of an alien creature? That you only thought you found a temple?”
“Anything is possible, Captain. However I saw it and meditated in the structure.”
“And now something’s happened to Seven and the temple has
disappeared,” she said disgustedly. She bit her lip, glad that she was alone in
her quarters. “Carry on, Tuvok. I expect a full report when you get back to
the ship. Janeway out.” She looked down at the white flower she had
picked up unconsciously from her coffee table, aghast to discover she had begun
plucking the petals off the stem.
She loves me. She loves me not.
She squeezed the petals in the palm of her hand. She’d better get started analyzing the flower before she headed back to sickbay.
“I told you third shore leave shift always gets the short end of the shaft.” Tom Paris fumed as he gathered his things from the habitat he had just set up with B’Elanna.
“It wasn’t that bad,” the chief engineer said, pulling a T-shirt on over her swim suit. “We had a day.”
“B’Elanna, how can you say that. We had less than a full day and not even a night together under the stars!”
They deflated the habitat and rolled it up.
“Wonder why the captain canceled shore leave?”
“Well for a change, it wasn’t my fault!” Paris said, hoisting a bag on his back. “And I’m going to strangle whoever caused the ruckus that got us booted off the planet.”
He was still complaining as they stepped down from the transporter pads on Voyager.
“Unless you want to face Seven of Nine I don’t think you should utter that threat out loud,” Susan Nicoletti warned, still manning the transporter controls.
“How’s Seven involved in this?” Torres demanded.
Nicoletti shrugged. “All I know is that she and the captain were the first to transport back, and the captain had to practically drag her to sickbay.”
“She doesn’t like having her implants checked by the Doctor,” Paris said.
“Maybe. But this seemed a bit different. Then right after that the word came down from the captain canceling shore leave.” Susan went back to the controls and energized more disgruntled members of the crew.
Over in sickbay the EMH was checking the Borg implant on Seven’s biceps with a pair of forceps. Nothing hidden away at this visit unlike the last time.
“Are you finished?” Annika asked, squirming on the bio bed.
“Almost. Have patience. Did you enjoy your shore leave?”
“Yes, until Captain Janeway dragged me away from the beach.”
“Did you like exploring the temples?” He flipped her implant shut.
The blonde shrugged. “They were all right but not as much fun as the beach.”
“You can always go to the beach again on the holodeck.”
“I never go to the holodeck much. Just to play Velocity with the captain and she always beats me.” Her lips twisted in a pout.
“Yes, I’ve heard about your Velocity games and have had to use the dermal regenerator on the Captain’s knees on several occasions after one of your more vigorous games.”
“Really?” Annika found that funny.
“Yes. Maybe next time you and the captain are on the holodeck you could suggest swimming instead.”
“I don’t want to go swimming with Captain Janeway. I’d rather go with someone fun like Harry Kim.”
“Oh? That surprises me. You usually prefer the captain’s company.”
“Harry’s nice. He doesn’t scare me the way the captain does.”
The EMH knew the captain’s bark was worse than her bite. “Annika, the captain has the interests of the crew at heart.”
“If you say so.” She picked up the flowers on the bio bed and sniffed them. “Can I go now?”
“Not yet…Just a few more minutes. Did you pick those flowers yourself?”
“Yes. Would you like one?”
Giggling, she tucked a flower behind his right ear. The Doctor completed his bio scans and frowned.
“What’s wrong? Am I going to die?” she demanded.
“No, of course not. Remain calm, please, Annika.”
The door to sickbay opened and they both looked over to see the captain, dressed now in her Starfleet uniform, which to Annika made her a more imposing figure than ever. To the EMH however Janeway was a welcome sight.
“Captain, may I have a word with you in my office?”
As soon as they were alone, she cocked her head. “Well, Doctor?”
“There is no sign of an infection or virus that could be causing a problem. Blood pressure, heart rate, reflexes are all fine. Almost an exact match to the last readings I took just a few days ago.”
“What about her implants? Could her cortical node be malfunctioning?”
“I’ve check them. All her Borg implants are functioning within normal parameters as Seven herself would say.” He smiled at the memory of Seven’s favorite phrases.
“I’ve run a full examination of the flower taken from the planet,” Janeway said. “Analysis of petals, stamens, odor, indicate it’s completely harmless.”
“Glad to hear it.” The EMH slipped the flower off his ear and placed it on his desk. Since he was a hologram he couldn’t really smell it, but Annika had given it to him and he was fond of the young woman.
“Doctor, could this be another of Seven’s personalities emerging?”
“The way they did before Tuvok did his mind meld?” he inquired.
“I don’t think so, Captain. There is no question that the young woman in there thinks of herself as Annika Hansen rather than Seven of Nine. But I don’t know what physically caused the change in her perception of herself.” He hesitated. “Seven has always had Borg technology in her body and we’ve been trying to wean her slowly of it.”
“Your point?” she prompted.
“She is functioning more like a human being at the moment than a Borg drone.”
“Will she still need the Borg technology to survive?”
“Oh yes. And she’ll need to regenerate. I did find one thing when I scanned her brain that was different.”
He switched on a viewer for her to look at the brain scan he had taken a month ago.
“Now, look at the one I took just minutes ago.”
Frowning, she peered up at the viewer. “It appears identical except for this small area,” she pointed a fingertip at the model.
“Correct,” he said like a pleased instructor. “Those are memory engrams, Captain. For some reason although they are present in Seven’s brain they are not working. That is why they did not light up when I took the scan.”
“How do we get them to start lighting up?”
“The human brain is a delicate organ, and one with the amount of Borg technology linked to it like Seven’s is even more fragile. I hesitate to go poking in there.”
“Any clue as to what these engrams relate to?”
“Given her personality change and the fact that she doesn’t remember being Seven of Nine, I would theorize that they are related to her memories of being Borg.”
Kathryn frowned and glanced over at the young woman on the biobed. “So she’s suffering from amnesia.”
“A very specific type of amnesia. She remembers you and me and the ship and she knows the stardate and who she is…but she doesn’t remember the Borg component.”
“Can she continue to function without those memories and that knowledge? Doesn’t she consciously access her cortical node at times?”
“Seven was able to access her Borg implants to check herself, detect any changes in her respiratory system for example, and direct her cortical implant to send more nanoprobes into her body to fight fatigue. Annika probably would not since she doesn’t remember how. But the systems would continue to function autonomously and wouldn’t need her conscious input.”
“She asked me down on the planet what a Borg was. How much of a shock will it be for her to discover that she was Borg?”
“I can’t predict that, Captain. I do think that if we tried to tell her everything today that it might be too much for her to handle. Perhaps it would be best for us to see how she behaves in the next few days before we trying jogging her memory.”
It was times like these that Kathryn wished they had a ship’s counselor aboard. The EMH’s psychiatric subroutines just didn’t cut it sometimes.
“Very well, Doctor.”
“This is how you always wanted Seven to be, fully human, I mean.,” he explained as she looked puzzled.
“This isn’t the way I wanted her to reclaim her humanity.”
“All the same it could be interesting to see how she would have turned out without the Borg interference.”
Interesting wasn’t exactly the word Kathryn would have used for the situation.
“Can I go now?” Annika asked as soon as the Doctor and the captain approached.
“Your examination is over, but I’d like a few words with you, if you don’t mind,” Kathryn said, gentling her voice. For some reason this Annika seemed to be more nervous than Seven of Nine ever was.
The EMH moved away to give them some privacy. “Can you remember the last temple that you and Commander Tuvok explored?” the captain asked.
“Yes. It was the smallest temple and hidden away. We didn’t find it until Tuvok had dreamed it.”
Janeway crossed her arms on her chest. “Dreamed it?”
“He had meditated and in his meditation he learned of the temple and that’s how we found it.”
Tuvok hadn’t mentioned the location came from a meditation. “Do you recall anything different about this temple?”
“It was smaller than the others,” Annika said, her brow furrowed in thought. “The stones of the temple had writing on it that we could not decipher.”
“What about the universal translator?”
“It didn’t work.”
Kathryn clasped her hands together and leaned them on the bio bed, her eyes fixed intently on Seven’s. “When Tuvok meditated in this last temple what were you doing?”
“I waited for him,” Annika replied. “I watched to see if any scorpions were around. We had encountered them in one of the previous temples. I don’t like scorpions.”
“Did any sting you?” Maybe the venom from a bite had caused this disorientation in Seven.
“No. We killed them. I used my left hand.” Frowning, Annika gazed down at her implant. “Did I have an accident? Is that why I have this artificial hand?” she asked innocently.
“Yes,” Kathryn said slowly. Could this jog Seven’s memory.
Annika flexed the fingers of her implant. “When did it happen?”
“You were a child at the time. I believe you were about six.”
“I was on the Raven?”
Janeway stared at her. “Yes. You remember the Raven?”
Annika smiled, one much wider than Seven’s usual half smile. “I lived on the ship with my parents, so of course I remember it, Captain.”
“Do you remember leaving the Raven?” Kathryn asked carefully.
“We met some other people and they took us to live with them,” Annika replied casually. “We traveled a lot with them. I can’t remember all the details. Then I came here to live on Voyager.”
“Can I go now, Captain?”
“Certainly. You’re in a hurry. Where are you off to?”
“To the mess hall,” came the prompt reply.
“You’re hungry?” Janeway asked, surprised. Seven usually was indifferent to food.
“Yes, after all that hiking I have quite an appetite,” the young woman confessed.
Kathryn tried not to notice how eagerly the young woman jumped off the bio bed and left the sickbay. In a hurry to get to her next meal, or maybe just in a rush to get away from the captain.
Annika had not been entirely forthcoming. Although anxious to get to the messhall to eat something, she also wanted to get her collection of shells and stones from Neelix. She intended to string them into a necklace, something she was sure Captain Janeway would consider irrelevant. After all Janeway only cared about her precious ship, deuterium stores, and ship’s business.
She found Neelix in the bustling messhall, serving Naomi Wildman, Voyager’s half-Katarian child, a chocolate sundae.
“Do you want one, Seven?” Naomi asked. She had chocolate smudged on her chin.
“Call me Annika, Naomi.”
“Uh, sure.” The girl held her spoon out to Annika who sampled the chocolate sundae.
“That’s good.” She licked the chocolate off her upper lip and sat down next to the girl.
“Do you want your own sundae?” Neelix asked Seven.
“Yes. And I want my shells and stones.”
“I have them right over here,” the Talaxian said, going to his galley and bringing a box out along with another sundae.
Quickly Annika pulled the top off the box, relieved to find her shells were undamaged.
“Wow. Those are so pretty. What are you going to do with them, Sev…I mean Annika,” Naomi asked.
“I’m going to make a necklace if I can find some string or thread.”
“Maybe you could borrow the thread from my mom’s sewing kit. I can ask her for you.”
As Annika dug her spoon into her sundae, relishing the cool sweet taste of the ice cream on her tongue, her comm badge chirped. “Celes to Seven of Nine.”
“Seven…” Naomi nudged her with an elbow. “Aren’t you going to answer that?”
“What?” Seven licked her spoon.
“Tal Celes is trying to contact you.”
“You are wrong. She’s trying to contact someone named Seven of Nine.”
“That’s you, when you’re not using your name Annika.”
“Like a nickname,” Naomi said.
“Oh.” Annika patted her communicator. “Seven here.” She still thought it weird to have a number for a nickname.
“Can you come to astrometrics? I didn’t realign the sensor array the way you showed me.”
Naomi nudged her.
“I’ll be right there,” Seven said and returned to her ice cream. Astrometrics could wait until she was finished with her sundae.
“I’ll find my mom and ask if we can use her sewing kit. Then I’ll get it from my quarters and meet you in cargo bay two in an hour,” Naomi said, getting off her chair. “You should be finished in astrometrics by then.”
“All right,” Annika agreed. She had no idea what a sensor array was and was in no hurry to get to astrometrics. She had her sundae to finish and her shells to sort. After Naomi left, she picked them out one by one from the box and put them out on the table.
By the time she had sorted through the whole box Tal Celes had hailed her three times, the last time frantically to tell her the sensors were completely off line.
“Aren’t you going to go down there, Seven?” B’Elanna Torres asked, stopping by her table. She and Tom had come into the messhall in time to hear the last frantic message from Celes.
“Yeah, this sounds like more than Celes’s usual insecurity with algorithms. Unless this is a plan you have to make her assume more responsibility,” Paris said.
“I don’t have any such plan,” Annika assured him. “The captain probably won’t like the sensors being off line.”
“You’re right about that,” Torres agreed. “So you’d better get your butt down to astrometrics and make things right.”
“How do I do that?” the young woman asked, putting her shells and stones back in the box.
Torres peered at her more closely. Technically astrometrics fell under engineering, and if Seven didn’t know how to handle her department any more that was one more headache that the chief engineer would have to pick up.
“I’ll go with you…” she said. Shore leave for her was officially over. She turned to her husband. “You might as well have fun in a holodeck.”
On the bridge Kathryn slumped sideways in her captain’s chair. Nothing of consequence was happening while the ship was in high orbit over the planet, however she couldn’t help thinking she had to do something. She felt restless waiting, a trait she had inherited from her father, a Starfleet admiral.
She leaned over toward her First Officer. “Chakotay, Tuvok mentioned you explored the temples the other day. Did you experience anything odd?”
“On a vision quest odd experiences are common.”
Staring at the tattoo over his left eye, Kathryn remembered the vision quest she had undertaken with him the first month the Maquis came on board Voyager when she had discovered her animal guide was a lizard.
“Did you receive anything in your vision that would indicate a small hidden temple?”
“No. My vision took me back to the time of my grandfather on Earth. It had nothing to do with the planet below or its temples.”
“Did you explore all the temples or just the one?” Kathryn asked.
“I walked through two of them with my medicine bundle, trying to determine if they would be a good site for my vision quest. When I came to the third temple I sensed this would be a good place to begin my quest.” He leaned closer to her chair about to say something more when Tuvok walked onto the bridge, dressed in his Starfleet uniform again.
Janeway jumped out of her chair. “My ready room,” she said, signaling Chakotay to follow as well. Once the doors closed she turned to Tuvok. “Report.”
“We have conducted a full investigation of the site of the seventh temple. It has vanished. There is no indication of how or what took it. The fourth through sixth temples were undamaged.” He handed her a padd with the full particulars.
“Just how did you find that last temple, Tuvok?” she asked, scanning the padd. “Seven mentioned to me that you dreamed its location?”
“She is correct. In my meditation at the sixth temple I saw the seventh hidden away up the trail. It was the temple of the child of Shina and Taki. Shina was the goddess of the hunt. Like Artemis in ancient Greek mythology on earth and her spouse Taki, was the god of war and the supreme god in the planet’s pantheon.”
“How do you know about their pantheon? Was there a sacred text you translated?” Janeway asked, fascinated by what Tuvok was telling her. If only Seven’s mental health hadn’t been compromised.
“No, Captain. This was all revealed to me during my meditation.”
She crossed her arms on her chest. She respected the Vulcan traditions however it was sometimes hard to reject her own skepticism of such religious matters.
“Captain, perhaps if I went into the sixth temple with my medicine bundle I could try and find the missing temple,” Chakotay said.
She gave her head an emphatic shake. “I won’t have anyone meditating in those temples until we find out more about what’s happened. I think it’s time we explore the South Continent.”
“The inhabited area,” Tuvok said.
“Will this be a First Contact situation?” Chakotay asked.
“Not exactly. I don’t want to bring our technology into it. The North Continent which by all measures has a temperate environment has been more or less abandoned by the inhabitants of this planet. I want to know why. Maybe the inhabitants of the South Continent will tell us the reason.”
“It sounds like a good plan. I’ll assemble the away team. I’ll head it.”
“No, you’ll be on the bridge. I want to head the away mission.” She smiled at Chakotay. “This may require diplomacy and I’m more diplomatic than you, remember?”
His incredulous look won him a laugh from his commanding officer.
“Tuvok, you’ll be with me on the away team. We depart tomorrow 0800 hours.”
She expected Chakotay to linger and argue about her decision to head the away mission, but it was the dark-skinned security chief who remained in the ready room.
“Something on your mind, Tuvok?”
“How is Seven of Nine?” he asked. “I feel partly responsible since she was accompanying me to the temples today.”
“I was the one who thought up that punishment for her, remember?” Janeway said.
“Her condition, Captain?”
“The Doctor says her memory engrams that control her Borg experiences have been affected. They’re not working, to put it plainly. She can recall her other non-Borg experiences in life and remembers her name, but she’s sketchy between the years she lived on the Raven and before she came here to us on Voyager.” She firmed her voice that had suddenly gone soft. “We need to find a way to help her get back to herself.”
“It appears to me that she has gotten back to herself. Her human self,” Tuvok said. “The one you have always encouraged her to be.”
“You are the second person to tell me that.”
“Who was the first?”
“He is not technically a person.”
“Let’s not split photonic cells, Tuvok. All I know is a case of amnesia wasn’t what I had in mind when I encouraged Seven to embrace her humanity. And for the time being restrict Seven’s access to any computer files or data bases dealing with the Borg.”
The doors to the astrometrics lab opened and a frantic Tal Celes greeted Torres and Seven with undisguised relief.
“Thank the Prophets you’re here. I’m sorry, Seven. I can’t get the sensors aligned.”
Torres waited for Seven to dismiss the apology as irrelevant and take immediate charge of the situation, but the blonde seemed in no hurry, gawking around the astrometrics lab as though she had never seen it before.
“Seven, the sensors need aligning,” Torres reminded her.
Aware that people on the crew liked to use her nickname, Annika went to one of the consoles and placed her box of precious shells next to it. She gazed down at the information on the computer screen. The list of numbers and equations was incomprehensible.
“I believe that you should continue your work,” she said to Tal Celes.
“Her work was what got the sensors off line,” Torres said.
“I’m sorry, Lieutenant. I tried to follow Seven’s instructions. I screwed up again,” Celes said.
“Don’t bother apologizing, just get it back on…” Torres said. “Seven…”
“I don’t know how,” Annika confessed.
Torres stared at her, remembering what Nicoletti had mentioned about Seven acting funny.
“Don’t joke around, Seven.”
“My name is Annika and I don’t know how to align the array…”
Muttering a Klingon oath, Torres elbowed her in the ribs and took over at the console. A good thing they were in orbit around the planet and didn’t really need the long range sensors… if the captain found out about it they’d be hell to pay.
“Okay…I got it covered,” Torres said fifteen minutes later. She let out a sigh, one echoed by Tal Celes. Seven however appeared unaffected.
“A thank you would be nice,” Torres said.
“Thank you,” Annika said, realizing that the acid comment was directed at her.
“You can return the favor by analyzing the warp core for me this week. The captain’s been asking about it.”
“I don’t think I know how to do that…” Seven replied.
Great. Just great.
“Just what is it that you do know?” Torres inquired. She held up a plasma converter. “What is this?”
“A plasma converter.”
“Well, that is reassuring. Do you know how to use them?”
“Okay…At least you can get into a Jeffries tube and replace gel packs in a pinch.”
Seven hid a yawn behind her hand, causing Torres to put her hands on her hips and glare.
“Am I boring you, Hansen?”
“No, Lieutenant. I suddenly felt tired. I’m still on leave, aren’t I?”
“The captain said that everyone on shore leave is still on leave for two days,” Torres admitted. “We just can’t go on shore to enjoy it.”
“Then I think I will have a short nap.” Seven started to leave astrometrics.
“Wait a sec.” Torres caught up with the lanky blonde. “You don’t take naps. You regenerate.”
Torres rubbed her forehead ridges with the palm of her hand. This was getting weird. Seven didn’t know how to handle the sensor array and now she didn’t know how to regenerate. Something was very wrong and she didn’t want to be the one to explain regeneration to the blonde. That kind of instruction was best left to someone with experience, like the captain.
She tapped her comm badge. “Torres to Janeway.”
“Could you meet me in Cargo Bay Two, Captain? Seven may need help regenerating.”
“On my way.”
“Why did you ask the captain to meet us?” Annika asked as they entered the turbo lift.
“She’s the one who can help you regenerate. She’s done it before.”
“She has? Why?”
The lieutenant didn’t want to speculate on why the captain did anything on board her ship. Particularly when it came to the young Borg.
“Annika, don’t you remember how close you and the captain were?”
“Close? You mean like friends?”
Annika shook her head. “She’s not the type of person I would choose for a friend. She’s so serious and always telling me what to do. And I do not think she would choose me.”
“Well, you’re wrong. The two of you have been close friends. You play Velocity together and paint in that workshop of DaVinci’s. And you talk to her a lot.”
“Everything,” Torres said, remembering some of what Seven had confided in her. “You and the captain share a special bond.”
Annika screwed up her face. “You mean she’s like my mother?” she asked just as they turned the corner and confronted the captain.
“Who’s like your mother?” the captain inquired, her blue eyes narrowing.
“You are, according to Lt. Torres.”
“No, Seven…that’s not what I meant,” the chief engineer said, aghast. “The captain is the head of the ship and we’re like a family here. That’s what I meant.”
“So I’m your mother too?” the captain asked icily. Torres’s mother was a Klingon.
“In a manner of speaking.”
“For your information, I’m nobody’s mother,” Janeway said. “I’m the captain and sometimes a friend to the members of the crew. However I can’t always be a friend.”
“You told me that once before,” Annika said. “When we were on Arturis’s ship in the brig.”
“Yes,” Kathryn said, forgetting to be annoyed at Torres. “Do you remember anything more about Arturis?”
“Just that he was very angry with you and me. But mostly you.” Annika held a hand to her head. “I have a headache.”
“Regenerating should help,” Torres said.
The three women walked into the cargo bay, and Annika felt a surge of recognition at the barrels and crates there. She spent considerable time there and actually lived there, she realized, remembering personal items stored in one of the small drawers. Wondering if she should put her shells there, she became aware that the two women on either side of her were leading her toward the glowing green light and the ugly piece of machinery.
“Where are you taking me?” she exclaimed, stopping and determined not to take another step.
The sight of the Borg alcove always made Torres feel uneasy, and apparently it had the same affect on Annika now who flinched at the green glowing light.
“It’s all right, Annika,” Kathryn soothed in her gentlest voice. “I know it looks frightening but it’s not.”
“I can’t sleep in there.”
“It’s not sleep exactly. It’s a procedure to help order your thoughts.”
“What does that mean?” Annika demanded.
Janeway stared intently at the blonde’s ashen face. “It brings order to chaos. That’s the way you described it once.”
“I am not experiencing chaos, Captain. I am experiencing fear.”
Kathryn hesitated, unsure if this was a good idea. When she had gotten the message from Torres she hadn’t had time to think about it. She wasn’t even convinced if regenerating would help Seven rest or not, however it was possible that during the regeneration cycle Annika would be able to access her Borg memories. Maybe after regenerating she’d be her old self again.
“You were yawning and claiming to be tired in astrometrics,” Torres reminded her. “This will refresh you.”
Annika stared doubtfully at the alcove, an ugly piece of alien technology. How did it work?
“How do I regenerate?” she asked. Would it be like the sensor array? She would try to regenerate and fail?
“You just step in there and we’ll set the controls for an hour and then you close your eyes. When you wake up you’ll feel energized,” Kathryn said.
“It’ll be fun,” Torres said, trying to be enthusiastic.
Her attempt did not work as the blonde gazed pointedly at her. “If it’s such fun why don’t you regenerate.”
“It won’t work on me. My physiology is different than yours.”
“I noticed. You’re Klingon.”
Annika turned to the captain. “What about you, Captain? Will you demonstrate how it works?”
“The alcove won’t work on me, Annika. I’m human.”
“So am I.”
“Yes, but you have cybernetic implants.” Janeway picked up Seven’s left hand. Gently she touched her ocular implant and the starburst implant on her cheek. “That’s why you need to regenerate in the alcove.”
“If I am not just human, what am I?” Annika asked, standing very still as the captain’s fingers lingered on her skin.
“You’re Borg,” Janeway said softly. She dropped her hand to her side. “I’ll explain that later to you after you regenerate.” With luck after the regeneration Seven wouldn’t require an explanation.
Still Annika hesitated. The alcove was scary and dark. “I don’t want to go in there by myself. I’m scared.”
“Your physiology works with this alcove. It won’t hurt you.” To demonstrate, Kathryn stepped into the alcove. “See.” She reached up with her arms, stretching them then letting them fall to her side. Then she got down from the dais. “Now you try it.”
Reluctantly Annika took the captain’s place in the alcove. The green light revolving over head glowed even brighter as she turned and faced Torres and the captain.
Janeway set the controls for an hour regeneration. “Now, you just close your eyes and go to sleep.”
The blonde complied and the regeneration sequence started.
“Think that will do the trick?” Torres whispered a few minutes later.
“I hope so.” They started to walk toward the exit when abruptly the regeneration cycle was broken.
“Regeneration incomplete,” announced the computer.
“Annika?” Janeway asked as Seven opened her eyes.
“I do not feel rested,” Annika complained.
“That’s because you were only in it a few minutes,” Torres said disgustedly.
“I was doing exactly what you told me to. What happened?”
“I don’t know.” The Klingon frowned “Maybe the alcove is malfunctioning. I’ll take a look at it.”
“It’s not my fault!” Annika exclaimed. Would the Klingon think she had broken the alcove?
“It’s all right,” the captain reassured her.
“I’m still tired,” Annika fretted like a cranky child. “I want to go to sleep.”
“Why don’t you use my quarters to take a nap in,” Janeway offered.
“Your quarters?” Seven looked as though Kathryn had asked her to jump out an airlock.
“You have been in my quarters before.”
“No,” Janeway said, flushing slightly and aware of Torres’s very interested expression. “I’ll be working on the bridge so you can sleep by yourself if you like or until Lt. Torres repairs the alcove.”
“Well, as long as you’re not in the bed with me,” Annika said. The captain flushed, making Annika think that she found that idea as distasteful as Annika did.
“Let me know when you’ve fixed Annika’s alcove,” the captain said to a smirking Torres and led Seven out only to be stopped in the corridor by Naomi with the needle and thread from Ensign Wildman’s sewing kit.
“Are you repairing your clothes the old fashioned way, Annika?” Kathryn asked. Janeway had been raised a traditionalist so she knew how to sew, however when it came to mending garments a recycler was faster.
“I’m going to string the shells I found into a necklace,” the young woman replied, putting the needle and thread carefully into the box she carried.
“That should make a beautiful piece of jewelry,” the captain said.
Seven smiled, a genuinely open one. “I think so too.”
On Deck Three Kathryn entered her command codes to open the door to her quarters.
“Make yourself at home,” she invited as Seven followed her in.
Too late she remembered that she had left the place a mess after she had dashed back to shower and change. She picked up her shorts and top and placed the dirty clothes in the recycler.
“Do I come to your quarters often, Captain?”
Not often enough, Janeway’s little voice called out.
“Maybe once in the last two weeks or so,” the captain replied, trying to silence her voice as she straightened up. Really, she wasn’t that much of a slob.
“For that dinner?”
“Yes…Now, there’s the bed. I’ll strip the sheets…”
“No need for that,” Seven said. “I’ll do it.”
“Fine. There’s an extra blanket in the drawer underneath. So, if there isn’t anything else, I’ll get back to the bridge. Good bye for now, Annika.”
“Good bye, Captain.” The young woman frowned. “When I was at dinner with you and we said goodbye we kissed. Do we usually kiss goodbye?”
Janeway felt as though she had punched in the solar plexus. “Uh, no, we don’t. That one time we did was an accident.”
“That’s a relief,” Seven said, not appearing to notice the effect her casual words had on her hostess.
Annika Hansen stripped the sheets from the captain’s double bed. The light floral yet spicy scent of the captain’s perfume seemed to permeate the bed linens and as she carried them quickly to the replicator, her head spun. Within minutes fresh linen appeared from the machine and she retraced her steps and awkwardly made the bed, not sure if this was the right way to do it. Instinctively she smoothed the cotton fabric and tucked them into the corners. The blue Starfleet issue sheets felt crisp and cool under her long fingers.
She was alone for only the second time since her return from the planet’s surface. Aside from when she walked from the sickbay to the messhall someone had always been at her side, first the captain herself, then in sickbay with the Doctor, and in the messhall with Neelix and Naomi and later with Lt. Torres.
Being alone made her feel nervous and out of sorts, the way she had felt when she first came aboard Voyager. The hours had passed very slowly back then. She didn’t want to ever feel that way again. Realizing she was squashing one of the pillows against her chest, she tossed it onto the bed. The captain’s bed. That thought was enough to chase away any drowsiness. Would the captain approve of how she did the sheets? Why did the captain even suggest she try and sleep here?
Leaving the bedroom, she gazed around the rest of the captain’s quarters, mildly amused as she recalled the captain’s embarrassment earlier at its messy appearance. There was a dining table with chairs, a couch and a chair with a reading lamp. On the desk was a holoimage of two women, one who bore a startling likeness to the captain and another one with darker hair and a vibrant smile. This must be the captain’s mother and sister back on Earth. The two women looked much more pleasant than the captain, not nearly as demanding.
Demanding. She uttered the word to herself, running her tongue lightly around the syllables. That was the word for Kathryn Janeway, all right. She was constantly ordering Annika to do one thing or another and Annika would comply as best she could. Often her best wasn’t enough for the starship captain. And now the captain expected her to sleep here just like that. Frowning, Annika decided she’d better climb into the bed and try to fall asleep, just in case the captain sent someone to check on her.
She sat down on the couch and pulled off her boots, grimacing at the sand she found still on her feet. She couldn’t climb into bed like that. She headed for the ensuite, unbuttoning her shirt and sliding her jeans and under pants off. Then she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror above the counter and gasped.
Not only did she have gray metallic implants on her face but on other parts of her body as well. There was a large implant on her abdomen and she couldn’t help giving a punch and feeling the strength of the blow cushioned by the implant. Puzzled, she stretched her neck and looked over her shoulder and saw two smaller implants just above her buttocks.
Curiosity made her run her fingers over the implants. They didn’t hurt and that reassured her somewhat. Were others on the ship like her, she wondered. Torres was half Klingon, and Naomi was half Katarian. Perhaps in a similar fashion she was just half Borg.
She would need to find out more about the Borg. She had asked the captain twice but on both occasions she had not answered Annika’s question. Maybe she could find out more in the computer database. Finding some satisfaction in that plan, the young woman stepped into the sonic shower and turned it on. The high-pitched vibration cleaned her quickly and she stepped out of the shower minutes later, her skin tingling. She ran her clothes through the captain’s replicator, then shrugged on the shirt again, pulled up the underpants and padded off to the bedroom.
“Computer, lower lights to one quarter,” she ordered.
She pulled the sheets back and sat down for a moment, inhaling again the lingering scent of the captain. Even in this poor light her vision was good and she spotted something on the small night stand. It was a crystal bowl. Something glittered inside it. Without thinking, Annika took off the cover and found gold hair pins inside. Odd. The captain’s hair was red. Why did she have pins that did not match her hair color? Idly, Annika picked one of the pins up and realized that it looked like the ones she used sometimes when she wore her hair up. Maybe she could use the hair pins in the necklace she planned to make.
“There is nothing wrong with the Borg alcove,” Harry Kim said, glancing over at Torres who was reaching for something behind the dais.
He leaned down to look at her make another adjustment to the wiring. “B’Elanna, you and I ran a full diagnostic. Whatever went wrong with Seven’s regeneration cycle didn’t come from this alcove.”
“What?” He closed his tricorder.
“She prefers to be called Annika not Seven. You’d better remember that.” Torres wiped her hands on her pants leg and got up from the dais. “You haven’t seen her since she came back from the planet, have you?”
“Some of us have been working,” he said pointedly.
“Excuse me, but you had your two days of shore leave and some of us didn’t,” she said shortly.
“Look, I’m sorry the captain canceled your shore leave, but those are the breaks. I have to go back to the bridge. I’ll give the captain the report on the alcove and you can join Tom wherever he is.”
“Thanks.” She handed him the padd with the report. “Tom is still trying to wrangle holodeck time for us. There are a lot of people who want to go there since they can’t go below on the planet.”
“Did something weird happen down there when you were on shore leave?”
“Not to Tom or me. Apparently just Seven was affected.”
“Annika…” he reminded her.
“Yeah. I keep forgetting.” She closed her repair kit. “Actually, it’s Seven who’s been forgetting. She didn’t know how to align the sensor array in astrometrics. And if the captain wasn’t here to tell her how to regenerate she wouldn’t have known how to do that either.”
“What’s wrong with her?” Harry asked, looking concerned.
“Besides forgetting stuff? For starters, she has a completely different personality.”
Kim frowned. “What do you mean?”
“She’s more relaxed, more, I don’t know, more human, I guess. She smiles and laughs more.”
“It’s not so great if she doesn’t remember her duties in astrometrics. You two built that lab together. Do you want to add her duties to your operations work?”
“Maybe we could bring her up to speed.”
“We?” Torres shook her head. “I have my hands full in engineering, but if you want to tutor her, be my guest.”
“I gotta get back to the bridge,” Harry said, thinking there were worse things in life than to be a beautiful blonde’s private tutor. And maybe he’d suggest that to the captain.
A few minutes later he pushed the chime on the captain’s ready room door.
She was seated on her couch on the upper level of the ready room and gestured him to come up with her coffee cup.
“The report on Seven’s Borg alcove, Captain,” he said, handing her the padd. “Everything’s working fine with it.”
“Thank you, Ensign.” Kathryn put down her coffee cup and started to read the report, becoming aware that he was still standing there. “Dismissed, Mr. Kim, unless there’s something else?”
“Lt. Torres mentioned that Seven was having trouble remembering things relating to her work in astrometrics. I’d like to offer my services as a tutor.”
It would be a cold day in hell when Harry Kim knew more about astrometrics than Seven of Nine, Kathryn thought. But he probably did right now, which meant the devil was probably wearing an overcoat and snow boots.
“You have a full complement of work on the bridge,” she reminded him.
“I think Commander Chakotay could juggle the shifts a bit. It could be important to have Seven back fully functional as soon as possible. I wouldn’t mind the extra work, Captain.”
“Your initiative is noted. Dismissed,” she said for the second time.
“I really would like to help Seven out,” Harry said, not taking the hint. “I heard that she wasn’t feeling herself.”
She eyed the dark-haired ensign for a moment. Harry had been fresh from the academy when he came aboard Voyager and she’d always had a soft spot for him. Six years later he was more experienced, as they all were from landing in the Delta Quadrant.
Kathryn swallowed a last mouthful of coffee and placed the cup down on her table. She should have been more accepting of his wish to help Seven and yet, a little jealous voice couldn’t help wondering if he was simply trying to worm his into the young woman’s good graces. To get a chance to tutor her in romance as well as astrometrics.
And was there something wrong with that, Kathryn, her little voice needled. You’re not interested, right?
“If Seven’s memory loss persists then your tutoring will be welcome and possibly necessary.”
“Just trying to help, Captain.”
“Dismissed.” This time she injected the whip of command into her voice and he turned quickly on his heel and walked out.
Sighing, Kathryn glared at the padd in her hand. The alcove was fully functional so she’d have to get Seven to regenerate again or have the Doctor suggest it. Probably the latter. She’d have her hands full with the away mission tomorrow, which she hoped would shed light on the Borg amnesia affecting Seven. If it didn’t, maybe then she’d have to consider letting Harry Kim try his private tutoring.
Another wave of jealousy came over her. Ridiculous. There was nothing to be jealous about. She and Seven were just friends, and maybe not even that anymore. She couldn’t even blame the amnesia. The captain winced as she remembered the last few days when Seven had avoided her.
Kathryn also knew that Harry was not the type of person Seven of Nine was attracted to. The Borg had told her that on several occasions, however Annika might feel differently. Annika Hansen might even be attracted to Harry.
Kathryn pushed aside the engineering modifications that Torres needed approved. She’d do that tomorrow. Right now she was tired from the long shift. As she got up from her desk she was aware of a knot that was starting in the muscles. Time to go home.
Quietly she rode the turbolift to Deck Three, walked past Chakotay’s quarters and the VIP quarters that were generally unused and then over to her own door.
Quickly she keyed in her command code and the door whooshed open. The lights came on automatically with her entrance and she unbuttoned her tunic and yanked it off her tired shoulders. Out of habit she sat down in her chair and pulled off her Starfleet boots, wiggling her toes with relief, before noticing another pair, definitely larger than her own, had been left near her small couch.
Annika. She made her way to the doorway of her bedroom, halting immediately at the sight of the slumbering blonde on her bed. Seven was actually asleep, her breathing slow and rhythmic and her chest rising and falling under the white shirt she wore. Without realizing it, Kathryn had moved closer to the side of the bed. She couldn’t help it. She wanted to see that lovely face in repose as Seven sprawled on her back. The metallic implants gleamed in the dim light as the blonde hair fell across a starburst implant.
At the foot of the bed Seven had draped her jeans, which meant that she was clad only in her shirt and underwear. Flushing furiously at that thought and ignoring the suggestion her little voice made about straightening the sheet tangled around Seven’s legs, Kathryn hurried to the en suite.
She splashed water on her hot cheeks. She was not about to ogle someone who had fallen asleep in her bed. Seven, no Annika, was a guest under her roof and she would not take advantage of her in any way.
“So, you behave,” she told herself sternly in the mirror.
How long had she been asleep, Kathryn wondered, coming out and standing again in the bedroom doorway. Should she wake the slumbering blonde? Mulling over that thought, she went to the replicator and made herself a whiskey and soda. As she tried to decide what to eat for dinner she ordered the computer to play some music.
“Computer, Janeway Tchaikovsky selection.”
The music filled the quarters, and it reminded her of Kashyk and the irritating Devarran Inspector who had commandeered her ready room during the inspections of her starship. But she had had the final laugh, flirting and fooling him when he had tried to betray the telepaths they were shielding.
Thinking of that victory put her in the mood to eat something plain and filling. She stepped to the replicator.
“Meat loaf and mashed potatoes.”
She carried the plate with the meat loaf over to her dining table. A pity that Seven was still sleeping. They could have eaten together. Of course the last time they had eaten together the meal had been more elaborate. She took a swallow of whiskey as she remembered just how that dinner with Seven had ended. The good night peck that Kathryn had turned into something more. Frowning she realized the music playing was from Romeo and Juliet, a romantic selection that would do her little good tonight.
“Computer end music.”
She took her time over the meal the way that solitary diners do, then put the plate and silverware into the recycler.
How much longer was Seven going to sleep? Should she wake her? Not knowing what to do, Kathryn picked up a gothic novel she had started earlier in the week. Quickly she became absorbed in it. Two hours later she closed the book, feeling satisfied that the gloomy mansion was now alive with new found love.
Annika was still breathing heavily in the bedroom. Trying to see in the dim light, Janeway opened the closet and found a nightgown in one of the drawers. She closed the door a little too loudly, the sound like a shot in the dark. Automatically, she glanced back at the bed, but Annika did not stir. The young woman must really be sound asleep, Kathryn thought as she walked quietly into the en suite. She took off the pips, undressed and put the uniform through the replicator and placed the new uniform on the counter for tomorrow. She placed the pips in a small dish on the counter. Quickly and quietly, she washed up, then she slid her peach nightgown over her head and shoulders, smoothed it down quickly over her and walked out into the bedroom.
Seven shifted and rolled over in bed, the sheet falling off and showing the long expanse of her legs. She wore only a pair of white briefs under the shirt, and Kathryn felt her mouth go dry. Quickly, she pulled the spare blanket and sheet from a drawer and walked out of the room.
She went to the couch and realized that she had not brought a pillow with her. But she would not go back to the bedroom for one. She folded the blanket and realized that it would do for a pillow and she could just cover herself with the sheet. It wasn’t that cold anyway, or maybe it was just her body’s temperature reacting to the sight of Seven’s long beautiful legs.
“Lights, out,” she ordered.
They dimmed in the living area and she settled against the couch, trying to get comfortable, wondering if Seven would wake up before morning and what Kathryn would do if she did.
“Time is 0600 hours.” The automatic alarm went off in the captain’s bedroom and Annika stirred. She blinked, feeling sluggish and dopey and realized that she had been sleeping for more than fifteen hours. Kicking the sheet off from where it had become entwined in her legs, she felt a moment’s disorientation. Where was she?
Then she remembered. The captain’s quarters. She turned swiftly to her other side. No one else was in bed with her. She felt a moment’s relief, not wanting the captain’s company there. But where was Janeway?
Annika got out of bed quickly and found her jeans on the carpet. She pulled the pants on and tucked in her shirt, wondering where the captain could be. The ensuite was empty. Was she already on the bridge? Had she slept in the ready room?
The answer to her questions was found in the compact form snoring lightly on the couch. The captain was asleep, the formidable woman looking much smaller than she usually did. Annika felt a moment’s indecision. Should she wake her? The alarm was the captain’s usually wake up time.
Uncertain about what to do, she walked into the ensuite and washed her face and hands. Her blonde hair was looking all over the place so she’d better put it up. If only she had her hair pins. Then she remembered the captain’s in the night stand dish. She’d just borrow a couple. She got three from the dish and put her hair back in a twist. That looked better. It seemed to suit her for some reason that she could not understand.
While she was fixing her hair she saw the captain’s uniform on the sink counter along with the four gold pips that indicated her rank. She frowned and picked one of the pips up to examine. Annika could have sworn that she had one of these somewhere.
Her growling stomach put an end to her speculations. She would need to make the early call for messhall and surprise Neelix. Thinking of breakfast, she went into the living area and tried to find her boots. She had taken them off by the couch, but the captain was lying on the couch and no doubt had placed them somewhere else. Trying to be quiet, Annika tiptoed around the captain, wondering if the captain always slept so soundly. Then she spotted the boots by the reading lamp and went over to them. She started to pull them on, frowning when she realized that they seemed much smaller than her usual, when a louder alarm went off in the bedroom.
“It is 0615 hours!” the computer announced in a louder voice punctuated by a shrill pattern of beeps.
On the couch, Janeway stirred, groaning as she felt a distinct cramp in her shoulders and small of her back. Automatically she barked: Computer, turn off alarm.
The welcome silence was a relief and she sat up, realizing that she was on the couch and Annika was sitting in the chair by the reading lamp, trying to jam her foot into her boot.
“Good morning,” she said, trying to massage her back and smooth her hair at the same time.
“Good morning, Captain,” Annika squeaked. “I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“You didn’t. The alarm did. And I should be up anyway.” Kathryn swung her legs from the couch and Annika realized she wasn’t in uniform but in a pale peach nightgown. For some reason the sight made her look away.
Kathryn began to fold the blanket and sheet. “Did you sleep all right?” she asked.
“Yes. I was just on my way out and was putting on my boots. But they are too small.”
Kathryn smiled. “I think you’ve got mine by mistake. Those are yours…” she pointed to the other pair near the bulkhead.
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“An honest mistake. But you don’t need to hurry and leave.”
Seven walked over to her boots and began to pull them on. “I’m hungry.”
“You can stay and have breakfast with me, if you like,” Kathryn added as a frightened expression came into the azure eyes. “Replicate yourself whatever you like. Blueberry pancakes and black coffee for me. I’m going to be in the shower.”
Realizing that the captain had issued her another order, Seven frowned but she did like the sound of blueberry pancakes. She went to the replicator and put in the order for two servings and carried the plates over to the small dining table. She had just replicated the mug of hot coffee over for the captain when the redhead appeared, her hair slightly damp, in her away mission of a black turtle neck sweater and black pants.
“This looks wonderful. Thank you.”
“Thank you for letting me sleep here, Captain.”
“I’m glad you could fall asleep. It’s not something you do usually,” Kathryn said, sitting down at the table.
“Really?” Annika frowned as she took the other chair. “You mean I regenerate in that alcove thing.”
“Yes,” Kathryn said. She poured maple syrup on the blueberry pancakes.
“Why do I regenerate in there?”
“Because your body has special needs.”
“Because of these things…” Annika touched her ocular implant. “I have more on other parts of my body.”
“Yes,” Kathryn said carefully.
“How did I get them, Captain? What are they?” She sounded honestly curious.
Kathryn took a long swallow of her coffee. “They are Borg implants, Annika. They control certain parts of your body. That one above your eye for example, controls your vision in that eye. Your stomach implant controls your digestive functions. The doctor could probably give you a more complete explanation if you want it.”
“Could he also explain what a Borg is?”
That explanation was best left to the captain, Janeway decided.
“The Borg are the people who raised you after you and your parents left the Raven. They integrated you into their Collective,” she said carefully.
“Are there others like me?”
“Yes, but on board Voyager you are the only one.”
“I want to know more about the Borg.”
“I’m sure you do…but for now why don’t you eat your breakfast. I’ll tell you more after I’ve come back from my away mission.”
“All right…” Annika began to eat her blueberry pancakes. “Can I come too?”
“No, you need to report to astrometrics.”
“Must I?” There was no mistaking the pout on the lovely face.
“It’s your duty post.”
“I’m not very good at it,” Annika confessed. “Tal Celes is better than me.”
Kathryn choked, remembering Seven’s complaints about the Bajoran in astrometrics. “I wouldn’t be too sure about that, Seven…I mean Annika.”
“Why does everyone call me a number?” Annika demanded.
“The Borg liked to use numbers instead of names,” Kathryn said. “When you came aboard Voyager to live you kept using your number instead of name and we just got used to it.”
“Really? How odd of me.”
“Not so odd. Think of the Doctor…he hasn’t chosen a name after six years. That’s much odder,” Janeway said dryly.
Annika laughed. “You’re right. I’m still not sure I’d be much good in astrometrics.”
“Crewman Celes will assist you. And in a pinch you can always call on Lt. Torres or Ensign Kim.”
“You’re right,” Annika said, her face brightening. “I’ll do that. I like Harry.”
Kathryn’s smile faltered as she finished her coffee. “I have to get to the transporter room,” she said and left quickly, not even bothering for a refill of her coffee.
Tuvok, Lt. Nicoletti and Ensign Wildman were waiting for the captain in the transporter room. They were all dressed in civilian clothes as the captain had specified in the briefing she had sent Tuvok.
“Shall we beam down to the temple now, Captain?” Tuvok asked.
“No, Commander…” She turned to the crewman at the transporter controls and tapped in the coordinates.
“Captain, that is the Southern Continent,” he said.
“I know, Crewman.” Janeway strode onto the transporter pad and the rest of the away mission took their positions. “Energize,” she ordered.
When the sparkles of light cleared, the team of four found themselves in a small clearing. Motor vehicles roared up and down the road fifty meters away.
“I take it we are not going to study the temple,” Tuvok said.
“You’ve already studied the temple. There’s no reason to duplicate your work.”
“Is this a First Contact situation, Captain?” Samantha Wildman asked.
Kathryn glanced at her then over at Nicoletti. “There must be a reason the North Continent is uninhabited and I believe the southerners will tell us. We’ll go to the center of this town and try to get the lay of the land.”
“Four strangers are bound to raise suspicion,” Tuvok said.
“We’ll split up in teams. Tuvok, you take Nicoletti. Wildman, you’re with me. We’ll separate further as we walk about. Obtain as much information as possible about the temple in the north and why no one lives in that inhabitable region. We’ll rendezvous back here in two hours.”
“I believe the motor vehicles must need a place to repair them when they break down,” Tuvok said. “Lt. Nicolleti’s engineering skills may prove useful there. She and I will pursue that path.”
“Good. There should be a market of some sort around. The ensign and I will try that route.”
The four separated into pairs and Kathryn headed for the center of a large complex that bustled with customers in a colorful bazaar.
“Neelix would love this place,” Kathryn murmured, passing stalls heaped with fresh produce.
“That he would,” Samantha agreed.
A woman with a basket filled with foodstuffs bumped into them then plunged back into the crowd.
“It might facilitate things if we bought something,” Janeway said.
“Do you know what passes for money on this planet?”
“When in doubt, barter….” the captain replied. All of the away team had different types of objects that had passed for money on various worlds. There was a chunk of beryllium ore, diamonds, and even shells. She had replicated them earlier.
“What do you wish to buy, Captain?” Samantha Wildman asked.
“Don’t call me by my rank,” the captain murmured as a display of scarves caught her attention. “Over there.”
“They’re so pretty,” Samantha exclaimed. “Naomi would look cute in one of them.” The seller, a tall humanoid with pointed ears, rather like a Vulcan’s and two eyes of different color, one blue, one brown, approached. Her skin was golden, no doubt tanned by the two suns.
“Good morning,” Janeway said, thanking God and Starfleet for the Universal translator.
“Good morning,” the vendor replied. “Looking to buy?”
“Your scarves are beautiful,” Samantha said, pointing to the display. “May I touch them?”
The seller smiled. “Yes…”
Samantha took her time oohing and ahhing over the different scarves.
“Is it for yourself or your companion,” the seller asked, looking from Samantha to Janeway who had wandered off to another stall further away.
“It is for my daughter. She’s seven years old.”
“That is the same age as my son,” the woman said, beaming. She pointed to a young man who helping her in the booth and who looked nearer 15 earth years than Naomi’s seven. “They are always interested in pretty things at that age.”
“Yes, they are…”
The captain made her way through the bazaar, noticing that it was customary to barter and bargain with the sellers. The form of payment was in shells. She paused in front of a display of hair combs and pins and picked up a burnished gold hair pin etched with writing on them. They were much fancier than those Seven usually wore.
“How much are these?” she asked the vendor, a dark-skinned male with one blue eye and one brown eye. It must be a common trait in this population.
“Five pulah,” the vendor said.
“How much are these?” she asked, returning to where Samantha was admiring the scarves.
“Five pulah,” the vendor said.
“That seems a little high,” Kathryn said, “I could give you one pulah.”
“One? That would be stealing it from me,” the vendor exclaimed. Janeway smiled. It was good to know that some things didn’t change no matter what planet they were on.
“Agreed,” Janeway said. She pulled out a pouch of shells from her pocket and held them out. “Choose…”
The woman took the largest shell and handed her three little ones in exchange.
“I have not seen a pulah like this in years,” the man said. “The only ones of this quality came from the North Continent. They are in the museum.”
“I got it from a sailor in another town,” Janeway said nonchalantly. The vendor became interested in another customer and drifted away.
She worked her way back to where Ensign Wildman was haggling over the scarf.
“Agreed,” Wildman pulled out a pouch of shells from her pocket and held them out. “Choose.”
The woman took the largest shell and handed her two little ones in exchange.”
“You have been to the North Continent?” the woman asked, looking at Wildman and Janeway closely.
“What makes you ask that?” the captain inquired.
“Your pulah. They are only found in the north.”
“Is there something wrong with the north?” Samantha asked.
The woman frowned. “No one goes there. It is dangerous.”
“I would like to see the North Continent,” a voice announced.
They turned to see the woman’s fifteen year old son lounging nearby.
“Davvick! You will not talk so. You can be arrested.”
“I don’t care. I’m tired of being cooped up like this…never allowed to leave this continent just because people believe old ghost stories.”
“Hush! I’m sorry. Pay no attention to my son,” the woman said, looking worried.
“He is at an age when he wishes to explore,” Kathryn said, recognizing the kindred spirit of an explorer in the young man.
“I hope that your daughter enjoys the scarf,” the woman said to Samantha firmly. They would get no more from her.
“Did you buy anything?” the ensign inquired.
Kathryn showed her the hairpins.
“I just bought them to buy something,” Kathryn said, feeling obliged to explain her purchase. “To get the vendor to talk. I didn’t learn much from him. What about you?”
“Just that mothers always seem to have trouble with their adolescent children. And that a year on this planet is roughly two Earth years.”
“That’s good to know.”
They approached the heart of the marketplace, judging by the noise and haggling going on. Janeway purchased a soothing liquid beverage that reminded her of camel’s milk and a wheat like chapati. As they drank the milk and ate the bread, Kathryn noticed that the young teenager Davvick was striding angrily away from his mother’s stall.
“Davvik?” she called out.
He turned. He had his mother’s eyes…one blue, one brown.
“You’re still here?” he demanded.
“You’d better leave and go back to wherever you came from.” he warned. “My mother has gone to the police.”
“But we haven’t done anything.”
“You’ve been to the North Continent…that is crime enough.”
“Because of the disappearances long ago.” He paused. “There’s the police.”
Janeway looked over her shoulder. Two burly males with red sashes over their blue vests had come into the market.
“Shall we call for a beam out,” Wildman asked.
“No. Maybe we can learn something from the police. You go to the rendezvous point with Tuvok and I’ll stay here with Davikk to be arrested.”
“Regeneration cycle incomplete,” the computer intoned.
Annika blinked and glared at the EMH standing in front of the dais in Cargo Bay Two.
“You see? I told you nothing would happen.”
The balding hologram frowned. “You should be able to regenerate in the alcove unless the alcove is malfunctioning.”
“Harry checked it out and says it’s operating just fine,” Annika replied, stepping down from the alcove. She propped her elbow on a storage crate.
“Harry?” The Doctor arched an eyebrow.
“Yes. I saw him earlier this morning when Commander Chakotay dispatched him to help out in astrometrics because Tal Celes and I didn’t know what we were doing.” She giggled suddenly. “Then Harry popped in and help us without fussing. I like Harry, don’t you?”
“Of course. He’s a very affable young man. And if he says that the alcove is working, it’s working. The problem must lie with you.”
“With me!” Annika exclaimed, backing away from the EMH who was coming toward her.
“Annika, really. I’m not going to hurt you. Surely you of all people would know that.” He paused and held out his hand holding the tricorder probe. “I’m just going to pass this over your body. I promise I’m not going to do anything that will hurt.”
“All right,” came the grudging reply. “Although sometimes when you check or realign something on my body it hurts.”
He began to run the probe over her. “I’m sorry. I know some procedures are scary. However, you and I are friends and often spend time together, going over social protocols, and I help you with your Borg implants and you help me with my holo matrix.”
“I remember that,” Annika said, relaxing with a smile. “Although I don’t remember how to do your holo matrix any more.”
“That’s all right. Ensign Kim or Lt. Torres can help with that.”
“I’m glad. I wouldn’t want you to decompile because I wasn’t sure what to do.”
“That won’t happen,” he assured her. He glanced down at his tricorder readings. “Now…I see what the problem is with the regeneration. Your neural receptor is off. That’s what gives the alcove the command to interface with you.”
“How did it get switched off?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you switch it on?”
“No, but you can by consciously accessing the fourth and second nodes in your cortical implant.”
Annika stared at him as if he were speaking gibberish. “What are you talking about, Doctor?”
“Sev…Annika, pay attention. You must access your fourth and second nodes and give a command to your cortical implant to begin the regeneration cycle.”
“How do I do that?”
“Well, I don’t know for sure. You’ve always just done it.”
“Okay…Here goes…” She stepped once again into the alcove and faced outward. “Begin regeneration cycle,” she commanded.
“Cortical node, begin the regeneration cycle,” she ordered.
“This is pointless,” she said after ten frustrating minutes had passed.
“You need to regenerate, otherwise you’ll have to sleep more and we both know that you don’t do that,” the Doctor said, looking worried.
“Actually I slept last night for more than twelve hours,” Annika said quickly.
“Really! Maybe that’s the reason the regeneration didn’t work. Your body simply didn’t need it. Perhaps you should stay up until you really need to regenerate.”
“I’d rather fall asleep than regenerate.”
“Hmmm. Yes. Tell me, where did all this sleeping take place?”
“In the captain’s bed.”
Annika giggled. “She wasn’t in there with me, silly!”
“I’m sorry. Er…just where was she?” he inquired, curiosity getting the better of him.
“On the couch in the living area.”
“Did she sleep well out there?”
“I don’t think so. She seemed a bit grumpy this morning. Grumpier than her usual, I mean.”
“I know what you mean,” the Doctor said sagely. “Well, if you do plan on sleeping more you might need to find your own quarters with a bed. You can’t keep hogging the captain’s bed. The ship can’t handle a captain who’s in a bad mood.”
Kathryn Janeway struggled to keep her temper in check. After six years in the Delta Quadrant she was accustomed to doing whatever she wanted and being interrogated by an officious police chief was not part of her usual agenda. How many times did she have to repeat her story?
“I’m just a traveler here. I had no idea that talking about the North Continent was forbidden by your laws.”
“How did you get this pulah?” He pointed to the large replicated shell on his desk.
“I got it off a sailor.”
“For services rendered?” the police chief asked archly.
Kathryn’s head shot up. She bit her lip just in time to keep from lashing out at the man who was only doing his job.
“I gave him some food. He was grateful.”
“Where is this grateful sailor?”
“I don’t know.”
There was a knock on the door and impatiently the police chief glanced up.
“No interruptions,” he barked.
Despite his order, the door opened and his skittish assistant appeared, followed by Tuvok and the rest of the away team with phasers drawn.
“I’m sorry, sir. These people claim to be with the woman you are interrogating.”
“Are you all right, Captain?” Tuvok walked over to Janeway’s chair.
“Yes, Commander. Put your weapons away.”
Quickly, they obeyed her order.
“Who are you?” the police chief demanded, rising from his chair.
“We are travelers. We happened to go to the North Continent and something strange happened to one of our party. We came south to determine if anyone knew the cause and cure for it,” the captain said, deciding to be more forthcoming now that her team was together again.
The chief eyeballed the Voyager crew. “Which one of you is affected?”
“She is not here. She was too altered to travel.”
“And that is the very reason for the law preventing people for going there!” he said, letting out a sigh.
“I’m just a police chief. I only see that the laws are obeyed. I don’t make them or understand the reason behind them.”
“Perhaps we could talk to someone who knows more about the North Continent,” the captain said.
“You could ask our elders.”
“Your religious leaders?” Tuvok guessed.
The police chief nodded. “They know more about such matters than I. You will find them at the temple about ten kilometers to the west of town.”
Quickly the four Starfleet officers left the police headquarters. To Kathryn’s surprise Tuvok had a car for them to use.
“This was due to Lt. Nicolleti’s expertise with a spanner and wrench,” he explained to the captain. “She repaired several of these abandoned vehicles.”
“Nice work, Lieutenant.”
“Thank you, Captain. I accompanied Lt. Torres to one of the simulations Lt. Paris was running about his twentieth century hot rod,” Nicolleti explained at the wheel.
“I knew that Tom’s holodeck programs would come in handy some day,” Kathryn said, taking the front passenger seat.
They headed through the outskirts of town in the direction the police chief had given them.
“Captain, there is a car that is following us.” Tuvok said after a few minutes from the back seat.
“Is it a police car?” She wouldn’t be surprised if the chief had designated someone to escort them out of town.
“No. It is a single individual. It appears to be a teenager.”
Kathryn peered into the side mirror. Although she couldn’t be certain, she thought she recognized Davvik.
Ensign Wildman confirmed it. “It’s the teenager from the bazaar,” she said.
“His mother was the one who reported us to the police,” Janeway explained to the others. “He sounded curious about the North Continent. Pull over to the side of the road, Lieutenant.”
After Nicolleti stopped the car, the captain got out, followed by Tuvok. The other vehicle driven by Davvik pulled to a stop behind theirs. He got out as well.
“Why are you following us?” Janeway demanded in the command tone that made first year Starfleet cadets quake in their boots.
Its effect on the teenager was no different. “I j-just wanted to make sure you were all right,” he stammered. “I saw you leave the headquarters with these people.”
She gentled her voice. “These are my friends.”
“Are you from the North Continent too?” Davvik asked Tuvok.
“No. We are travelers who stumbled onto the North Continent.”
“And now one of your people is acting strangely?” he guessed.
“Yes. Has that happened before?” the captain inquired.
“It is an old legend. Something that the elders tell to scare us into staying here and not venturing forth. I do not believe it.”
“Then you should not be following us,” Tuvok said. “We are going to the temple to talk to the elders. Your skepticism will be unwelcome.”
“Are you saying it’s true? That it really happened?” His face fell.
“One of our crew was affected. We want to get her back to normal. We’re hoping the elders can explain things to us,” Janeway said.
“If it’s true, then maybe we really can’t go anywhere. Maybe I’ll never explore anything beyond this Southern Continent,” the teenager said.
He looked so downcast that Kathryn reached over and squeezed his shoulder. “I wouldn’t put it that way. Maybe the Northern Continent is forbidden to you…but there’s other places to explore.”
“Such as what? The ocean?”
“There is the ocean,” she agreed and then glanced up at the sky. “And other places.”
“The sky? The stars?” he exclaimed. The wondrous light came back into his different colored eyes. “I’d never thought of that.”
“Perhaps you should,” she said smiling, knowing that she was coming perilously close to bending the Prime Directive. A hint to the possibilities of space travel was not strictly verboten. “And now we must get to the elders, and you should go back to town.”
“I shall. You have given me much to think about.”
He returned to his car and headed back toward the town.
“Was that wise, Captain?” Tuvok asked.
She shrugged. “Kindred spirits, my friend. We explorers have to stick together.”
“Celes, do you like Harry Kim?” Annika asked, dining in the mess hall with the Bajoran crewman.
They were having lunch, a meal time that Seven usually disregarded. Now however she found the mid-day break refreshing.
“Sure. He seems nice enough. Why?”
“No reason in particular,” she said, stabbing at a piece of leota root. Why didn’t Neelix learn to cook something else?
Celes glanced across the table at the Borg, still garbed in white shirt and blue jeans. She wasn’t sure what had happened to the woman down on the planet but whatever it was made Seven less intimidating to the Bajoran crewman. Annika seemed more…normal, like anyone else on board the ship. If only she still remembered what they should do in astrometrics.
“Do you like Harry?” she asked now.
To her surprise Annika blushed.
“You do like him!”
“Be quiet!” the blonde said quickly as Harry passed with Tom Paris. “He’ll hear you.”
“So you do…” the Bajoran whispered, “like him, I mean?”
Annika nodded. “But don’t breathe a word about it to anyone.”
“I won’t,” Celes promised. Seven of Nine with a crush on Harry Kim. Who would have figured it?
“Mind if we join you?” a voice asked. The two women looked up to find Billy___ waiting for a reply with Herran who had already drawn up a chair at the table.
“You know you’re always welcome,” Celes said to Billy. She was still a bit uneasy with the abrasive Herran The whole ship knew that he and Seven had scuffled briefly, with Seven inflicting the majority of the damage.
“So what are you two jabbering about?” Herran asked, fully expecting the Borg to explain that she did not jabber.
“This and that,” Celes said quickly. “You never told us how your diving expedition went with the captain.”
“Let’s just say I’ve had better shore leaves.”
“Indeed? I thought that you preferred to stay on board, working on your theory,” Annika said.
“Very funny,” Herran said. “Actually, the captain is a decent enough diver. We came across some interesting fish and species.” Conveniently, he didn’t divulge to his companions that he had panicked during the ascent through the water.
“Sounds as though you’re warming up to the captain.”
“Old Ironsides? Fat chance.”
“Old Ironsides?” Annika snorted. “Why do you call her that?”
“It’s a nickname in the lower decks.”
“That was the name of a famous battle ship,” Billy explained. “It was unsinkable. Sometimes it’s used for ship’s captains, those that can’t be sunk or intimidated.”
“The captain is formidabe,” Annika said.
“You think so?” Celes asked.
“Sure. She’s the captain. Everything she says we have to hop to and obey.”
“You including yourself in the we?” Harren asked.
“Of course. Why do you even ask?”
“Well, it’s just that since coming aboard Voyager, you haven’t done much hopping or obeying,” he pointed out.
“And you never seemed to be scared of the captain, the way the rest of us are,” Celes added.
“That’s funny. Because she does scare me a little, or maybe she just makes me nervous. She’s always staring at me when I’m around.”
Harren laughed. “Oh yes. I’ve seen the way Janeway looks at you, reminds me of a cat about to pounce on a canary.”
“Stop it,” Celes warned. She knew that Seven was altered somehow. But even the old Seven was naïve when it came to romantic matters. “We should get back to astrometrics.”
“All right,” Annika agreed, putting back her tray of food into a recycler and then following Celes back to the turbo lift. “Harren called the captain my girlfriend,” she said. “That’s what our fight was about.”
“Why would he think that?”
“I don’t know, Annika. The captain always did take an interest in you. Maybe he just misinterpreted things. Herran isn’t really that bright when it comes to social relations.”
“You’re right,” Annika said, feeling much better. She liked Celes, even though she wished she knew more about astrometrics.
They walked back to the astrometrics lab.
“You know, Annika, if you like Harry you ought to let him know.”
“How do I do that?”
“Smile at him and flirt.”
“Flirt?” Seven frowned. If she remembered correctly, Harry had once tried to flirt with her and it was not successful. She was not eager to try and flirt with him.
“He likes you. Everyone knows that. Now you like him. It would be a match made by the Prophets. He’s so smart. So are you.”
Annika frowned. “He’s a lot smarter than me. He knows a lot about astrometrics.”
“So do you!” Celes said. Or at least Seven did before she went down to the planet.
“You could always ask him for some tutoring. That way you’d spend time together.”
“That’s a good plan!” Annika agreed. “You really know a lot about how to behave with men.”
The Bajoran blushed. “I wouldn’t go that far.”
In the astrometrics lab they quickly went to their respective consoles.
“Celes, does your quarters have a bed?”
“Of course! Why do you ask.”
“I will need to find quarters soon. The Doctor says I must regenerate, and yet I have not been able to do so. I slept last night in the captain’s quarters but I do not think I should make a habit of doing that.”
“You usually spend time in Cargo Bay Two,” Celes pointed out. “Don’t you like it there any more?”
“No…the alcove gives off this weird green light. Haven’t you noticed that?”
“Actually, I have,” Celes agreed. “You know what? I had a roommate and she moved in with someone else, so I have a spare bed in my quarters. Do you want to room with me?”
“I’d love to!” Annika exclaimed. “If you’re sure…”
“It’s very small…nothing like the captain’s quarters. And there’s not much space for knick knacks.”
“I don’t have that many things to bring with me.”
“Good. You can settle in there tonight, if you find that acceptable?”
Annika went to work, trying to remember the sequence that Harry had given them earlier in the morning. At least she wouldn’t have to worry about sleeping in the captain’s bed tonight.
This is the forest primeval. The familiar phrase of Longfellow’s Evangeline echoed in Kathryn’s mind as she walked down the stone pathway from the road where they had parked the land vehicle. No murmuring pines or hemlock here, she hoped. The away team had followed the police chief’s directions and headed west of town, past the houses and shops and farm land to this uncultivated area thick with trees and shrubbery. The pathway wound a circular route through the dense forest and fro high above birds trilled as they flitted from branch to branch, their song oddly lulling in the heat of mid day. Finally at the end of the pathway in a clear stood a building.
Tuvok was prepared to see crumbling stone ruins again, however this was an actual building with stone walls, a wooden roof and intricately carved doors. At a signal from Janeway, the security chief pushed the doors in and quietly entered, followed by the captain, Nicoletti and Wildman. Through a stained glass window the light from the twin suns poured in, casting a radiant halo around a circular maze set in the middle of the floor.
“Fascinating,” Tuvok said, kneeling to examine the maze. “Tibetan monks used a similar device called a mandela for their meditations.”
“Shall we take tricorder readings, Captain?” Ensign Wildman asked, reaching into her pocket.
“Belay that.” Janeway didn’t want to betray too much of their Starfleet technology just yet. She got the impression that in this place tricorders and phasers were irrelevant. This was sacred space, no doubt a temple of some sort.
Footsteps sounded and she spotted a wizen-faced man in a flowing brown robe approaching, obviously an elder.
“Welcome,” he greeted them. His two eyes were pale brown, very nearly golden and the same color, a rarity so far on the planet.
“Thank you,” the captain replied.
“I am Jaxis.”
“I am Kathryn Janeway.”
“You are the visitor I have been expecting.”
Her blue eyes narrowed. “Did the police chief contact you?”
He shook his balding head. “When I meditated this morning I saw you coming to the temple.”
“How interesting,” Kathryn said, trying to keep her skepticism at bay.
“Spiritual matters do not come easy to you,” he said with a gentle smile.
“I’m a scientist.”
“Ah yes…science.” His smile turned mischievous, and he gazed at each of them in turn, his eyes lingering the longest on Tuvok.
“You have meditated before on our planet.”
The Vulcan nodded. “In your North Continent.”
The smile on the elder’s face disappeared. His arms spread wide. “That was unfortunate.”
“You know about the North Continent and the dangers there?” Janeway asked.
“That is why we have laws forbidding people to go there. You should not have disobeyed the law.”
Kathryn stiffened at the rebuke. She was unaccustomed to being told what to do. “We were unaware of it,” she said, lowering her voice an octave although she kept it calm. Diplomacy went hand in hand with wearing the four pips.
“You are not from here?”
“No. We have traveled a great distance.”
“Yes, you have,” he agreed sympathetically. “And you are still far from home.”
Why did she get the impression he knew more about them? Janeway forced herself to be patient since Annika’s well being was at stake and they needed answers. Trying to force the issue would be fruitless.
“We have come here to ask for your help,” she said quietly. “One of our friends was altered after being in a disappearing temple on the North Continent.”
“Sit and meditate and all will be revealed.”
“Can’t you simply answer our questions?” she asked.
“Do you even know which question to ask?” he countered.
Of course she did. “What happened to our friend? How can we get her back to normal?”
“Meditate and the answer will come to you,” Jaxis said and quietly turned away.
She stared at his back as he left them alone in the center of the temple, then she quirked an eyebrow at her security chief.
“Tuvok, you’ll have to lead us in this meditation,” she said, deciding they had no choice except to comply with Jaxis’s suggestion.
The Vulcan nodded. “We should begin by sitting and quieting our mind and thoughts.”
The three women followed his lead, sitting in a circle on the stone floor around the intricate maze. The light from the window fell upon the captain, who closed her eyes, listening to the sound of Tuvok’s voice.
“Breathe slowly and rhythmically,” he instructed. “Empty your thoughts…they are useless here…Empty your desire and wishes…leave only the simple vessel…Let it lead wherever it leads…”
Kathryn’s breath deepened, her diaphragm expanding and contracting with every inhalation and exhalation.
In her mind’s eye she saw an alien ship landing and several beings building the temple. The ship took off and approached another planet where it landed and built another temple.
What did it mean? Kathryn struggled to keep the questions from invading her mind. Let her mind empty of questions.
Then she saw Annika as Seven in the temple clearing, holding a tricorder and she smiled involuntarily. Then in another second the young woman was picking flowers.
The alien ship came to mind again, landing on yet another planet to build a temple and then flying off again. After that there was just the sound of Tuvok’s voice which eventually faded into silence.
She blinked and opened her eyes to find the Vulcan gazing intently at her.
“What did you see, Tuvok?” she asked, getting off the stone floor and dusting her hands.
“I saw a ship landing on the planet to build a temple.”
“I saw that too,” Wildman said, scrambling to her feet as well. Nicoletti nodded her agreement.
“The temples must’ve been built by a nomadic species.”
“They left the temples as a farewell gift,” Tuvok said.
“Some farewell,” Kathryn muttered. “Was there anything else you saw that reminded you of your previous meditations?”
“Did Annika appear in your meditation?”
The others shook their heads as well.
“Did she appear in yours, Captain?”
“Yes,” she said hesitantly, trying to remember it. “She was standing with her tricorder in the temple and then a few moments later she was picking flowers. She had been altered. That’s all. There was nothing in my meditation to show how Annika could be treated.”
“Then you are not paying attention to your meditation,” the elder said.
He had reappeared. “Everything you need to know you already possess.” He turned away but Janeway was quicker, and this time the captain was not letting him go without finding the answers she needed.
“Tell me more about the aliens who landed on your planet and the temples they built,” she demanded, following him down a corridor. Tuvok and the others trailed behind at a discrete distance.
“There is nothing to tell.”
“The temples have disappeared from the North Continent.”
“They possess that ability,” the elder agreed. “When someone interferes with the temples such as your friend the temples disappear for a time. After many decades they come back.”
“We can’t stay here for many decades,” she exclaimed, scowling at the very idea.
“No one is saying that, Captain Janeway. You must proceed on your journey home.”
Startled at being addressed by her title, Kathryn stepped in front of the elder, her hands on her hips. The elder was forced to stop, riveted by the captain’s Force Ten glare. Clearly there was more to the small man than met the eye. Perhaps he and the others at the temple had been monitoring Voyager all along.
“Your planet masks its space-faring abilities.”
“We have the ability however we do not seek out space travel the way those on your world have.”
“How did you know we came from another world?” she demanded. Were they a telepathic race?
“I told you I saw you in my meditation this morning,” he reminded her gently. “You command a powerful spaceship, Captain. I also saw you with a tall woman with golden hair and metal eye piece.”
“That’s Annika, the woman who was affected during our shore leave. She is important to the running of our ship, and after the changes that took place here she can no longer perform her duties.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” he said, looking troubled. “Perhaps those duties were not in her best interest.”
Kathryn lifted her chin, stung. She had always looked after Seven’s best interests. “I’ll be the judge of that!”
He lowered his voice so only she could hear his next words. “You have strong feelings for this woman?”
Janeway gazed into the golden eyes, feeling a moment’s apprehension. Just what had he seen in his meditation? “I am the captain. I have strong feelings for all of my crew,” she said staunchly.
To her relief he did not pursue that matter.
“This woman who has been changed has the heart of an innocent, does she not?”
“Yes,” Kathryn said after a moment’s thought. There had always been an innocence about Seven of Nine.
“She was raised under difficult circumstances. She was re-discovering herself.”
He smiled. “She has gotten her heart’s desire. Whatever she prayed for in the temple came to pass.”
Janeway frowned. “I don’t think Annika knows how to pray.”
“Perhaps it was not the type of prayer that you or I would utter…but if she had a deep wish in her heart it was heard. She wished to be what she is now.”
Human not Borg anymore.
Was it possible that Seven had innocently uttered the wish to be human and no longer Borg?
“Do not be troubled. Sometimes others are affected not just the one who voiced the wish. You will adapt to this changed Annika.”
Adapt? Seven’s familiar word from the lips of the elder echoed ironically in Kathryn’s ears.
“It appears I have little choice in the matter. I want to know more about the species that built the temples.”
He shrugged, his shoulders moving lightly under the brown robe. “Very little is known about the Builders.”
“What about the other planets they visited?”
“They are no doubt scattered along the quadrant. Since we no longer pursue space travel we cannot help you find these other planets.”
“But they are out there?”
“Oh yes, Captain. They are out there.”
Then there was hope for Annika. They would set a course back for home and along the way find another planet with temples such as the one on the North Continent. They would get Seven of Nine back.
“What’s all that, Annika?” Celes asked, gesturing at the box Annika had placed on the bed. She peered closer as Annika showed her the loose shells and brightly colored beads.
“It’s a necklace or at least it will be when I am finished. Naomi gave me this needle and thread to string it on.”
“It looks like fun.”
“I think so…” Annika slipped one of the shells through the needle.
“Can I try?”
“Sure.” Celes strung a few more shells as Annika bounced on the bed. The mattress was firm, not as soft as the captain’s. “I like this bed.”
Celes laughed. Her new roommate was like a little kid.
“Is that all the stuff you have?” They had taken advantage of their lunch break to move Annika into Celes’s quarters on Deck 10.
“Yes, why do you ask?”
“You haven’t brought many clothes.”
“I don’t have many,” Annika replied. In the closet which she would share with Celes hung the brightly colored outfit she had worn to dinner with Captain Janeway as well as her plum and blue biometric suits.
At the moment the blonde was still wearing her jeans and white shirt. “I just have those funny biosuits the Doctor made me wear. I don’t like them very much. I’d rather wear a uniform like everyone else.”
Celes put the shells she’d strung back in Annika’s box. “Well, why don’t you wear one?”
“Can I? I’m not in Starfleet like you.”
“Neither are the Maquis, and they wear the uniform,” the Bajoran pointed out. “The pattern is already in my replicator. If you enter your measurements you can replicate a uniform for yourself.”
“Can I wear red?” Annika asked eagerly, going over to the replicator.
“Hmmm. No. That’s reserved for the bridge staff like the captain and Chakotay. Since you’re part of engineering you can use the yellow or you know a lot about science so blue would be okay too. Take your pick.”
“I choose blue. It goes better with my eyes than yellow.”
Celes agreed. She pushed a button on the replicator and a Starfleet uniform came out. “Here you go.”
“I’m going to change into it right away.”
“Do you have a pair of boots?”
“Oh yes. I have them…in fact, when I spent the night in the captain’s quarters I very nearly put her boots on rather than my own.”
“Really!” Celes whooped with laughter. It was really going to be fun being Annika’s roommate. “After you change into the uniform you can tell me all about it!”
As Annika regaled Celes with her night in the captain’s quarters, the away team was materializing on the transporter pads. Immediately the captain returned to her quarters where she unwittingly emulated her Astrometrics Officer by changing into a Starfleet uniform, this one the red of command, before heading for the bridge.
“Captain on the bridge,” Ensign Kim announced from his station at operations when the turbolift doors opened on Deck Three and the auburn-haired woman emerged.
“As you were,” Janeway said.
She was not surprised to see that Tuvok already at the security station. Had he filled Chakotay in? Probably not. That was her privilege. She gave the First Officer a look and he immediately followed her into the ready room.
“Report,” she said, sinking into the chair behind her desk.
“We remain in high orbit, Captain. Undetected.”
She snorted. “I wouldn’t be so sure about that, Commander.”
“Captain?” His tattoo wrinkled over his left eye.
“I have learned that appearances can be deceiving, Chakotay. The inhabitants of that planet were once capable of space exploration.”
“Why don’t they continue it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you find out anything more about what happened to Seven?”
“The disappearing temples were built by space nomads, who apparently built them as a farewell gift to the worlds they visited. According to the elder I spoke with other planets with these temples are out there in the quadrant. We just have to find them.” She paused. “How’s Annika?”
“Annika seems in good spirits, cheerful, good-humored, and she requested quarters other than the cargo bay.”
“Oh?” That came as a surprise to the captain. “Are you going to be able to grant her request?”
“Tal Celes agreed to have her as a roommate. So she seems to be settling in and accepting her new life. That’s good, isn’t it, Captain?”
Janeway didn’t answer. Once again she was lost in thoughts of Seven, then she blinked and nodded.
“Seven always was good at adapting,” she said huskily. “It’s the Borg in her.” And maybe it was time the rest of them adapted as well. She rose from her chair and walked out of the ready room, followed by Chakotay.
Once in the command chair she switched her attention to the view screen. “Mr. Paris, prepare to break orbit.”
“Aye, Captain. Where shall I lay in a course to?”
“Resume course to the Alpha Quadrant. Mr. Kim, work with Commander Tuvok and enter the tricorder readings from the planet’s disappearing temples. I want long range sensors to scan for those readings. If we find similar readings inform me at once.”
“Aye, Captain,” Kim said.
“Course laid in, Captain,” Paris announced.
“Warp seven, Mr. Paris. Engage.”
The familiar surge of power kicked Voyager out of orbit and propelled the ship toward the stars. Kathryn leaned back in her chair. Somewhere out there was another planet with the answer to Annika’s problems. All she had to do was find it.