Seven of Nine, astrometrics officer for the Federation Starship Voyager, looked up from her computer console in Cargo Bay 2 and sighed in frustration. Although the young woman had been severed from the Borg Collective by Voyager's captain almost three years earlier, she still had the same intolerance for failure and imperfection as any drone would. At the moment, Seven found herself perplexed by a question Mezoti had asked just before entering her regeneration alcove - a question for which she had no answer.
In less than five days, the youngest three of the
four children Captain Kathryn Janeway rescued from a disabled Borg cube would be
leaving Voyager to resume their lives as normal children...as normal, at least,
as children who had been assimilated by the Borg Collective could be. Captain
Janeway had managed to find Mezoti's family, who agreed to also take the boys
Rebi and Azan into their lives, but Seven suspected the children were suffering
some anxiety regarding their impending departure. Mezoti's question confirmed
Seven's fears. Now, in the greenish glow of the cargo bay, Seven struggled to
find an answer in the Starfleet database to her young friend's question.
"Regeneration cycle complete," the computer
announced. Seven, who had been engrossed in her programming efforts, looked up
as the children began to emerge from their alcoves. Linking her hands behind her
back, she approached her young charges.
"Mezoti. I believe I have found an answer to your
question. You wished to know what it would be like to be a part of a family,"
"That is correct," the young girl replied. "I do
not remember being in a...family. I do not know what will be required of me."
Mezoti paused and cast a worried glance at Rebi and Azan before continuing. "What
if we are inadequate? What if we fail? Will we be sent back to the Borg?" she
asked in a small voice.
Seven felt a pang in her heart, as she looked from
one worried face to the next. She approached the children and placed a firm hand
on Mezoti's shoulder. "No, you will not be sent back to the Borg. Captain
Janeway would never permit you to leave with individuals who would do such a
thing," she answered ardently. "My knowledge is insufficient to provide you with
an accurate response to your original question. I do not recall much of my own
experiences in a family. However, there are many references to...family
life...in the Starfleet database. If we utilize the holodeck to create a
simulation, the concept will not be entirely unfamiliar to you," Seven explained
The astrometrics officer had to admit, she was
personally interested in exploring this particular aspect of humanity in greater
detail - it was the one area in which she felt truly different than her
shipmates aboard Voyager. Unlike the rest of the crew, Seven had very few
memories of her family - she simply did not remember much before the age of six,
and family became irrelevant after that. The Collective had no need for families.
The ex-drone was also intrigued because she knew how important family was to the
captain...and although she was not sure why, she felt a need to understand
something that obviously meant a great deal to Janeway.
"I have finished my analysis of the stellar cloud
we just passed," Seven announced, "and now have sufficient time to engage in
this activity with you before I must meet with Captain Janeway for our velocity
match at 1600 hours. Meet me in Holodeck Two after your midday meal, and
together we will explore this concept of family," she added, dismissing the
children with a nod of her head. Seven returned to her programming of the
holodeck simulation, pleased and confident that she had chosen the correct
solution to the problem.
Captain Kathryn Janeway had been piloting Voyager
through uncharted Delta Quadrant territory long enough to know things were often
not what they seemed. For some reason, she could not shake the unsettled feeling
she had about the stellar dust cloud they just passed. Dropping her PADD on the
coffee table in front of her, Janeway descended to the lower level of her ready
room and put her hands on her hips.
"Something just doesn't feel right," she said
aloud. "Why would there have been an increase in tacheyon emissions when we
stopped to take readings? Why would those levels have dropped off once we
started moving again? And why in the world would the cloud's density have
shifted each time Voyager changed positions?" Thoroughly perplexed, the captain
was about to pull up Seven's report on her console again when the door to her
ready room chimed. She granted permission for her visitor to enter, and looked
up to see her burly first officer.
"Sorry to bother you, captain," Chakotay began, "but
the Mezotians want to know whether we can speed up our arrival. Their planetary
environmental systems have detected a fairly powerful ion storm approaching.
They'd like to have the children transported before it hits," he explained
"You know, commander, that's funny. I was just
thinking about sticking around a little longer to run some more tests on that
cloud out there," Janeway replied, gesturing towards the window. When she saw
the concerned look on Chakotay's face, she held up a hand. "It's probably
nothing, but I'd like to look into it. Have you had a look at Seven's analysis?"
she asked, sitting down at her desk and motioning to her first officer to do the
"Well, no...not yet. To be honest, Kathryn, I
didn't really see the need. So we passed through a bunch of space dust...what's
the big deal? It's certainly not the first cloud Voyager's had to plow through,
and I doubt it'll be the last," Chakotay explained in a slightly exasperated
voice. "What's so interesting that we need to hang around analyzing it for days?"
he asked in sincere confusion.
Kathryn Janeway let a small smile pass her lips,
as she looked down and shook her head. She understood that Chakotay was not a
scientist, and therefore did not have the same curiosity about phenomena like
she or Seven had...but sometimes she wondered why the man had even joined
Starfleet in the first place. [Probably to meet women ,] her inner voice
The captain leaned back in her chair. "Well, for
one thing, I find it a little odd that a mere 'bunch of space dust' would
exhibit shifting tacheyon levels each time Voyager altered course a bit. And
don't ask me what it means, but according to Seven that cloud out there has been
keeping pace with Voyager's movements," she said. Janeway paused long enough to
gauge whether this information registered any sort of curiosity in her first
officer, and then continued. "Now, either Seven is completely off her rocker,
which is doubtful, or something very strange is going on. I'd like to find out
what it is," she declared.
"Come to think of it, captain, Seven was acting a
little strange earlier. I ran into her outside the mess hall and she requested
some additional time off. You know Seven...she never requests time off from her
duties," Chakotay explained.
"That is a bit out of character for Seven. Did she
happen to mention why she wanted the time off?" the captain asked, a note of
concern lacing her voice.
"No...and since she wasn't volunteering any
details, I didn't press the issue. The fact is she does have a certain amount of
leave accrued. It's not like she asks to be relieved of duty on a regular basis,"
[Exactly. Seven NEVER requests time off.
Something must be wrong. She's probably upset about the children leaving. You
should go to her...just to make sure she's all right, of course. Or, you could
wait until your velocity match and see whether she brings it up ,] Janeway's
inner voice suggested.
The captain thought about that for just a moment,
but far longer perhaps than she should have. When she looked up, she noticed
Chakotay staring at her. Apparently she had missed part of the conversation. It
was not the first time she had found it difficult to devote her complete
attention to the man.
Kathryn Janeway shook her head. "I'm sorry,
commander. What were you saying?"
Chakotay smiled, but she could tell he was
slightly annoyed. She briefly wondered whether he had finally, after all this
time, figured out how frequently she paid little attention to him when Seven was
on her mind.
"I asked whether you want me to contact the
Mezotians and tell them we'll be delayed for a few days," he repeated evenly.
Janeway paused a moment to consider the options.
"No, I think their concerns are valid. I don't want to risk transporting the
children in that storm either. Tell them we'll be in orbit at the designated
time," she said as she headed for the door. "If we have the chance, we'll return
here afterwards." As she stepped on the bridge, the captain turned and said, "Resume
our course for the planet, Mr. Paris. Warp Factor Two."
Satisfied she had programmed as many pertinent
elements as possible, Seven of Nine entered Holodeck Two to survey her results.
She was uncertain as to whether the program would run smoothly, given the fact
she had included many random and disparate features from a variety of databases.
Seven was pleased she had decided to check the program first, before having the
children join her.
The scene that greeted her when she stepped
through the arch was entirely unfamiliar but incredibly beautiful. A cool, salty
breeze brushed against her face, as she looked up into a blue, cloudless sky.
Seven knew the environment was artificial, but the warmth from the sun beating
down on her was entirely tangible. She walked down a narrow tree-lined path
towards the small powder blue house with white trim.
When she reached the bleached picket fence, Seven
noted the small, grassy yard featured a strange apparatus consisting of small
seats hanging from chain-linked tethers and a tall, narrow ramp made from some
sort of metal. For a brief moment, the young woman had a memory flash...an
unexpected sense that made the entire scene feel slightly familiar. She was
unable to grasp anything concrete, however, so she continued her exploration
around the left side of the little dwelling. Suddenly, before Seven could reach
the front of the house, she was startled by the loud outbursts of an animal on
the other side of the fence. She recognized the creature to be a terran canine
of some indeterminate breed; but before she could study it in greater detail, a
voice called out to her from inside the house.
"Oh, good! You're home early, honey! How was your
Unsure as to whether short, dark-haired woman was
addressing her, Seven glanced back over her right shoulder to the path behind
her. She concluded that since she was the only person in sight, the greeting
must be meant for her. She turned and headed for the gate in the fence. As soon
as she entered the yard, the large animal bounded over to her and, jumping up on
its hind legs, placed its two large paws on her chest. Seven looked down with a
frown. In its exuberance and haste to greet her, the creature had deposited
muddy prints on her biosuit. She removed the pet's paws and arched an eyebrow.
"I am uncertain as to whether you can comprehend
my language," she addressed the dog, "but nevertheless your behavior is entirely
unacceptable. You must refrain from such actions once the children arrive. I do
not believe they will appreciate such a greeting," Seven said in her version of
"Sweetheart, dinner is almost ready," the woman
from inside the house called out. "Please call the children inside. Amelia can
stay in the yard with her bone while we eat."
Seven finally realized this was to be their "family"
home in the simulation...and because the children had not yet arrived, she
decided to freeze the program until she could call them to the holodeck. With a
final, approving glance at the little blue house, she called for the arch, froze
the program and summoned the children.
Kathryn Janeway stood in the middle of Holodeck
One, her velocity phaser on the floor next to a towel. She had been waiting only
ten minutes, but those ten minutes seemed like an eternity for the auburn haired
woman who was not particularly known for her patience. "Besides," she thought to
herself, "it's not like Seven to be late...even two minutes late."
The captain put her hands on her hips and wondered
what she should do. It was possible that Seven had simply been
detained...perhaps by Naomi...and would be walking through the holodeck doors
any minute now. Janeway felt a flutter in her heart, as soon as she realized
Seven would be wearing that fabulous black exercise outfit she had. She
absolutely loved the way Seven looked in those clothes and had, on more then one
occasion, considered engaging in additional athletic activities with her
astrometrics officer simply to see the blonde dressed like that more often. The
captain smiled and shook her head, wondering when she had become so devious.
Fifteen minutes passed, and Voyager's commanding
officer began to feel somewhat ridiculous standing alone in the middle of an
empty holodeck grid. No, not ridiculous...that was not the correct word.
Disappointed. Janeway tried to put her finger on it. It was more like
disappointed...the sort of disappointment a schoolgirl would feel being stood-up
on her first date.
The captain was about to ask the computer for
Seven's whereabouts when she restrained herself. It had recently occurred to
Janeway that it could be considered a violation of the young woman's privacy to
be constantly asking the computer for her location every time she was a little
late...especially when Seven was off-duty.
[Seven's never late,] her inner voice
reminded her. [You're always asking for her whereabouts when you're in
different parts of the ship. In fact, you ask just so you know where she is. Why
do you suppose that is? One of these days, Kathryn, the computer is going to
divulge her location and you're gonna wish you hadn't asked. ]
Janeway frowned, finding that possibility entirely
unsettling and more than a little unpleasant. Unfortunately, her worries won out
over her restraint. After all, something might have happened. Seven might be
hurt or in trouble. She had to find out.
"Computer, locate Seven of Nine," she ordered.
"Seven of Nine is in Holodeck Two."
That was strange, Janeway thought. Had she made a
mistake? Were they supposed to meet in Holodeck Two for their match? "We never
play velocity in Holodeck Two," she reminded herself. The captain was about to
contact Seven directly on her comm badge when she had a terrible thought. What
if she's not alone? The little scenario her inner voice had planted in her brain
a moment before, was now germinating into a full blown displeasing possibility.
Janeway shook her head, momentarily keeping her
imagination from running away with her. She picked up her towel and velocity
phaser, and headed for the door. She could do one of two things, she decided.
She could return to her quarters, and casually ask Seven about it the next time
they saw each other. Or, she could pay a visit to Holodeck Two and find out
exactly what was going on. Considering her choices carefully, the captain
concluded it was better she not go charging off in search of Seven. After all,
she did not want to give the young woman the impression she was always checking
up on her. "Certainly I'm capable of a little patience," she chided herself.
Janeway left the holodeck for her quarters, trying extremely hard to convince
herself everything was okay.
"Sweetheart, will you please pass me the rice?"
the dark haired woman asked Seven of Nine.
Seven and the children were seated at an oval
table in the kitchen having dinner with the woman Seven had met earlier. The
kitchen in the house was small, but its size contributed to the cozy atmosphere
it fostered. The cabinets and drawers were made of knotted pine and the
countertops of light yellow Formica. The same shade of yellow was repeated in
the flower print of the wallpaper. Seven noticed that much of the countertop
space was taken over by various appliances, both small and large, and utensils
for food preparation. A metal apparatus, from which an astonishing number of
pots and pans were hanging, was suspended over the dish drain. Over the
double-sided, porcelain sink a large window looked out to the backyard and the
ocean below. The former drone noted that although the room was quite cluttered,
it appeared to be an efficient use of space. Seven's curious examination of the
room was interrupted by Rebi's voice.
"Seven, I do not understand," Rebi began, while
balancing a mixture of chicken and rice on his fork. "How does this individual
know the sugar content of your coronary organ?" he asked.
"Actually," Azan chimed in, "I was not aware a
heart could possess a flavor of any kind, either sweet or sour. Please explain,"
Seven put her fork down and paused before
answering. She glanced at the woman who was, Seven deduced, her spouse in this
simulation. "I do not know your designation," she stated rather bluntly,
wondering how she should refer to the petite woman.
"You are such a kidder sometimes," came the reply.
"You know very well my name is Leah. Honestly, sweetheart...no wonder I can't
get the children to take anything seriously," Leah added with an affectionate
At that comment, both Seven and Mezoti raised an
eyebrow. Seven picked up the bowl of rice pilaf and passed it to Leah before
turning her attention to the boys.
"Rebi. Azan. I believe...Leah was utilizing what
is known as a 'term of endearment' when she addressed me as 'sweetheart'," Seven
explained. "It is something that mates in families often do with each other. It
is a way of expressing love and affection for one's partner," she added, before
taking another bite of her green beans.
"What are some other things families do, Seven?"
Mezoti asked excitedly. The young girl was clearly eager to learn as much as she
could about families during this simulation. Before Seven could answer, however,
Leah rose from the table and began clearing the dishes.
"Well, little one," Leah began, "first we are
going to wash and wipe the dishes. I believe it is your turn to wipe tonight
while your brothers put the dishes away. Then, I thought we'd go into the living
room and play a game of Yahtzi. And, since it's a beautiful night and you don't
have school tomorrow, perhaps we can head down to the beach and make a
campfire...that is, if Seven is up to it," she finished in a flurry of energy.
"Oh, yes...that sounds like fun. Can we, Seven?
Please?" the young girl asked in a pleading voice.
Seven looked over at Rebi and Azan and noticed
they, too, seemed excited by the prospect of engaging in such "family"
activities. The young woman was not entirely sure she understood everything Leah
had mentioned - especially the game called Yahtzi - but she was willing to
participate. This was, after all, the reason she created the simulation in the
first place...to provide the children with an opportunity to experience such
things. Besides, Seven thought, if Yahtzi was anything like Kadis Kot, she was
sure to enjoy it. "Very well," she replied. "But first we must assist with the
cleaning of this room."
"Wonderful," Leah exclaimed, "and while we work,
you all can tell me about your days."
This time, it was Rebi and Azan who looked at
Seven with raised eyebrows. Unfortunately, she did not have a clue as to what
purpose telling about their days would have. Nor was she certain about exactly
what they were expected to...tell.
More than an hour of pacing her quarters had done
little to calm Kathryn Janeway's state of mind. Now she was really worried. No
one had heard from Seven in two and a half hours; and although she had requested
the time off from Commander Chakotay, it was highly unusual for her to spend so
much time on the holodeck. In fact, Seven had often declared the holodecks to be
an inefficient and wasteful use of one's time. The captain decided she needed to
find out what was going on with the young woman. When a query to the computer
revealed Seven's location was still Holodeck Two, Janeway decided to make an
The captain made the journey to deck six in record
time. She stood outside the holodeck doors for a minute, trying to determine the
best course of action. Janeway looked over her shoulder to see whether the
corridor was clear, not wishing to be seen by her crew loitering hesitantly
outside the active holodeck.
When the coast was clear, the captain checked the
panel to see whether a security or privacy lockout was in place. She breathed a
sigh of relief when she found none had been engaged. For a brief instant, the
Kathryn thought she saw a slight energy spike in the holodeck's emitters...but
on second glance, everything appeared to be normal. She adjusted her tunic, took
a deep breath and stepped through the holodeck doors.
The scene that greeted her was wholly unexpected.
It was nighttime in the holodeck simulation, but the full moon overhead enabled
Janeway to see her surroundings clearly - albeit in a bluish-white glow. She
walked a few meters down a dirt path until she reached the small blue house. The
house was situated on a rocky cliff overlooking the ocean and was nestled in a
small grove of redwood trees. The scene was strikingly similar to one of her
favorite get-away spots back on earth - a small town called Mendocino, roughly
two hours north of San Francisco on the Pacific coast.
The captain noticed that although the lights were
on inside the dwelling, there did not appear to be anyone home. She was about to
knock on the door when she heard an unmistakable sound - voices singing.
Following the melodic sound, Janeway walked around to the back of the house and
saw what looked like the flickering light of a campfire on the beach below.
Finding the wooden stairs built into the side of the cliff, she took a deep
breath and made her way down to the beach.
"I do not understand the purpose of this exercise,"
Mezoti stated, after they had finished the third round of "Row Your Boat."
"Yes," Azan chimed in, "it seems entirely
unproductive. What is to be gained by such an expenditure of energy?" he asked,
"There is no purpose to singing," Seven explained.
"It is an activity intended to provide pleasure and enjoyment. When done in a
family unit such as this, it fosters a sense of togetherness. It is meant to be
a...fun way to share what is known as "quality" time," she added with a certain
amount of hesitancy, hoping she had gotten the explanation right.
The truth was, the ex-drone did not really
understand the importance of the activity herself. The research she had done,
however, led her to conclude that "singing around a campfire" was a somewhat
essential part of a family bonding experience. In fact, the "campfire" scenario
occurred in the cultural practices of approximately 76.4 species. For that
reason, she had decided to include the activity in the simulation. It was
possible that Mezoti's family would engage in such rituals as well, and Seven
wanted the children to be prepared in that event.
"That's right, everyone," Leah responded, as she
tossed another log on the fire. "And another wonderful way to spend quality time
together is roasting marshmallows," she added with a smile.
Seven looked on curiously, as Leah removed five
long sticks from her duffle bag and began spiking a marshmallow on the end of
each. Once this stabbing procedure was complete, she handed a stick to each
person. Seven noticed each of the children watching her, but she was at a loss
as to what should occur next. Raising an eyebrow, she glanced at Leah and waited
to see what the woman would do next. The last thing she would have expected was
Leah thrusting the marshmallow end of her stick over the campfire flames. Not
wanting to appear completely na´ve, however, Seven mimicked the actions with
only the slightest hesitation. The children were a bit more skeptical, but
followed suit nonetheless. All were surprised, however, when Leah removed the
melted marshmallow from the fire after a few minutes and consumed it.
Rebi was the first to express uncertainty. "What
is this white thing?" he asked, using his fingers to squeeze and pull at his
melted marshmallow. Of course, this caused the soft insides of the marshmallow
to ooze onto his fingers creating a sticky mess. "I do not believe we should
consume it," he warned, while trying to divest his digits of the gooey substance.
"It does not resemble nutritional matter," he concluded firmly.
Seven was equally appalled, especially when she
observed that Mezoti's marshmallow had fallen off her stick and into the fire.
The item had landed on the edge of a log and was turning into a black, bubbling,
charred mass. Seven had no doubt that ingesting the substance would do more harm
than good. Leah, however, had noticed Seven's hesitation and was soon by her
side on the other side of the fire. Seven wondered whether roasting marshmallows
during such "family time" necessitated having one's mate place their arm around
one's shoulder. She worried that perhaps she was missing some significant
nuances to the ritual.
"Don't be silly. Of course, it's not nutritional,"
Leah stated playfully. "That's the whole point. That's what makes it so fun!"
The petite woman pulled her stick out of the fire
and turned to Azan. "Here...my second one is ready," she said excitedly. "Just
try it," she pleaded while holding out a perfectly melted marshmallow.
Azan looked over at Mezoti, who simply shrugged
her shoulders. Calling on every bit of his courage, Azan grabbed the melted
marshmallow and brought it to his mouth. Unfortunately, he reached a little too
strongly for it, and most of the substance squished out his fingers and dropped
to the sand. There was enough remaining for a taste, however; and when it met
with Azan's obvious approval, Mezoti and Rebi looked down at their sticks with
renewed interest. Before long, all three children were roasting two and three
marshmallows at a time, laughing and giggling each time someone lost one to the
Seven remained hesitant, until Leah grasped a
freshly melted marshmallow in her fingers and leaned close to the ex-drone. "You're
not afraid to taste this, are you sweetheart?" she asked, holding the warm
confection to Seven's lips.
Motivated by the blatant challenge, Seven opened
her mouth and allowed Leah to place the marshmallow to her lips. The
astrometrics officer was unprepared for the gooey sweetness her tongue
encountered and found herself immediately wanting another. She thought it odd
that Leah's fingers seemed to linger at her lips, but the reason soon became
clear when Seven observed that half of the marshmallow had remained on the
dark-haired woman's fingers. Unconsciously, Seven leaned forward and licked the
remaining treat from Leah's fingers.
The smaller woman put a hand on Seven's thigh and
leaned close enough to whisper seductively in her ear. "You enjoyed that, didn't
Seven nodded her head, and was about to ask for
another when she heard a distinct shuffling noise from behind her left shoulder,
then the polite clearing of a throat and the low, husky voice. Seven had no need
to turn around in order to determine who had joined their campfire.
"Seven, what's going on here?" the captain asked,
slightly perturbed by the scene upon which she had stumbled but trying extremely
hard to appear calm. She had been standing there long enough to witness the
unmistakably seductive exchange between Seven and what appeared to be a
holographic representation of Dr. Leah Brahms.
The youngsters jumped to their feet, and while
doing their best to stand at attention, called out in unison "Captain Janeway!"
Seven thought it strange that Janeway would be
unfamiliar with the practice of roasting marshmallows...especially considering
she had grown up on earth where this activity originated. Perhaps, Seven decided,
she should invite the auburn-haired woman to join them. She felt a sudden and
unexpected thrill go through her body at the thought of feeding marshmallows to
Janeway in the same manner in which Leah had fed them to her. "We are roasting
and consuming soft puffs of a confection made from gelatin," she replied
This brought a small smile to the captain's face.
"I can see that, Seven. That's not what I meant," Janeway replied patiently. She
directed her best command stare towards the children. "I believe Neelix has been
looking for you three. He tells me you're quite late for your lessons. I think
it's time you head back to the cargo bay. He's waiting for you there," she
informed the youngsters.
All three little voices replied with "Yes, captain,"
and dutifully headed back up the beach towards the house.
Janeway turned towards Seven who, along with the
holographic Dr. Brahms, had risen from the driftwood log. "It's not like you to
miss a scheduled velocity match without at least letting me know beforehand. I
was worried about you, Seven" the captain admitted in a soft voice. "You have
been in here for almost three hours," the captain added, stealing a glance at
the hologram of Dr. Brahms, which was leaning incredibly close to the young
This information took Seven completely by surprise
- not just the part that she had forgotten to meet with the captain, but that
Janeway had been concerned about her - and she felt profoundly regretful that
she had caused the captain to worry.
"Captain, I apologize. I was unaware our
simulation had been running for so long. I believe I may have lost track of
time," Seven confessed uncomfortably. The ex-drone hoped the captain would not
inquire as to how such a thing had happened, because Seven was at a loss to
"That's quite all right, Seven. I didn't mean to
intrude on your...privacy. I'm certainly not criticizing the way you choose to
spend your off-duty time. I just wanted to make sure you were okay," Janeway
explained awkwardly, becoming increasingly concerned about what she had
interrupted. Each time she looked over at the Dr. Brahms hologram, it was
engaging in physically demonstrative - almost possessive - behavior towards
All of a sudden, the captain had a powerful urge
to either flee the holodeck or deck the holographic engineer [which, of
course, would be entirely unprofessional...not to mention useless ,] her
inner voice reminded her. "I'm sorry I disturbed you, Seven. I'll let you get
back to...well, whatever it was you were doing," Janeway said, in a somewhat
flustered manner, as she turned to head back towards the cliff.
"Wait, captain," Seven replied, reaching out to
grasp the smaller woman's arm. "Please. I do not wish you to leave. If you find
this environment pleasant, perhaps you can stay for a little while," she asked
tentatively. Seven knew the captain's time was precious, but she hoped that
since they had missed their velocity time together Janeway might agree.
The other woman frowned when she noticed the
hologram now had its arm around Seven. Voyager's commanding officer had no idea
what was going on with her astrometrics officer, but she was determined to find
out. Both she and her inner voice were in complete agreement. [Something
weird is definitely going on here .] "All right, Seven. It has been awhile
since I've had the chance to sit around a campfire," she said with a grin, "and
you've programmed a beautiful setting."
Janeway waited for Seven to reseat herself, but
just as she was about to sit down next to the young woman, the holographic Dr.
Brahms got between them and shoved her aside. The captain folded her arms across
her chest and, after a moment's hesitation, moved to the log on the other side
of the fire. The captain was now pretty sure something was wrong. Not only was
the action incredibly unusual for a hologram, it did not mesh with the
personality or character of Dr. Leah Brahms.
The auburn haired woman had never met the brilliant
engineer, but she had read a great deal about her...and she was known to be a
soft-spoken, gentle woman. [Not to mention a married heterosexual woman!]
her inner voice added. Any deviation in the holodeck's representation of Leah
Brahms would, therefore, had to have been programmed by Seven. [Why on earth
would she do that?]her inner voice screamed. [Has she decided
to...experiment...with her sexuality? Well, Kathryn, perhaps you should have
been more...available to her after that whole Unimatrix Zero experience .]
"Is something wrong, captain," Seven suddenly
asked, noticing that Janeway was staring into the fire, apparently deep in
"Well...that was going to be my question, Seven.
What have you and the children been doing in here all this time...aside from
roasting marshmallows, that is?" she asked cautiously. "And why have you
included a holographic representation of Dr. Leah Brahms," Janeway added,
motioning towards the hologram.
"I did not program this character, captain. She
was already present when the simulation began. Leah is my mate," Seven answered
"I see," the captain replied calmly, until the
full realization of what Seven had said hit her. "Your what?" she asked in
amazement. "Your mate?" the older woman asked, not entirely sure she had heard
correctly the first time. Janeway was thankful she hadn't been sipping from a
cup of coffee, because she had no doubt she most certainly would have coughed
the liquid out her nose at Seven's explanation.
"Yes, captain," Seven said, clearly unaware as to
why this information was provoking such a reaction in the captain. "I am at a
loss to explain, however, why the computer chose this particular character to
represent my mate in this simulation," she added, as though such an admission
would clear everything up.
Suddenly, as if on cue, the holographic Leah
Brahms sprang into action and brought a hand up to the back of Seven's neck.
Janeway was mesmerized watching that hand provide a slow, sensuous sort of
massage to the young woman's neck and shoulders. The captain actually had to
close her eyes for a moment, her mind wandering as it envisioned her own hands
in contact with Seven's soft skin. She shook her head, and called on every
ounce of her command strength to ignore the actions of the hologram. She looked
directly into Seven's eyes, but purposely did not ask the question that was
foremost on her mind.
"Why don't you start at the beginning," the captain
suggested with a small smile. "Why were you and the children running this
simulation in the first place?" she asked.
Seven proceeded to explain how the children were
worried and anxious about their impending departure, and how Mezoti had asked
what it would be like to live in a family. The former drone talked about how she
arrived at the idea to create a simulation, and detailed the research she did to
program the holodeck with the appropriate elements. Seven even gave the captain
a description of all the activities she and the children had engaged in while
playing "family" together. When she was through, she looked up to find Janeway
staring at her with an odd expression in her eyes.
The captain tried to speak, but the words did not
come to her. She found herself overwhelmed by emotion for the Borg sitting
across from her. As she watched the firelight dancing across Seven's features,
she wondered how someone who had known little kindness the past 18 years of her
life could have such a warm and compassionate heart. The waves breaking on the
beach, and the crackling of the campfire were the only sounds to be heard as
Janeway struggled to find her voice. After a few moments, she rose from her
driftwood log and joined Seven on the other side of the fire.
"Seven," she began in a throaty whisper, "that
just might be the sweetest thing you've ever done," Janeway said, finding it
difficult to keep the emotion out of her voice. Placing a hand on Seven's
shoulder, she said, "I wish you had come to me, though. I could have been some
help. At the very least, I could have talked with the children...allayed their
fears...given them a clearer idea of what they could expect," she explained
"I did not wish to bother you, captain. Your time
is very valuable. In addition, I knew it was possible to retrieve enough
pertinent information from the databases to program an adequate representation,"
Seven explained logically.
"You know, Seven, there's more to being in a
family than playing parlor games and sitting around a campfire roasting
marshmallows," the captain with a grin. Without even thinking about it, she
reached up and tenderly brushed an errant strand of blonde hair from Seven's
face. Janeway was about to elaborate on that point, when she was suddenly
knocked off the log from behind.
"Hey! What the hell?" she shouted, picking herself
up from the cold sand and brushing herself off. She turned to look at Seven, who
was standing and staring at the holographic Leah Brahms in disbelief. "Seven,"
the captain said in a frighteningly low voice, "your holographic...mate...just
pushed me to the ground! Would you care to explain?"
Seven was at the captain's side in an instant; but
when the hologram began advancing towards the smaller woman, Seven stepped in
front to effectively block its path. "I am sorry, captain. I have no explanation.
Perhaps this hologram is malfunctioning?" Seven suggested.
"I'm not so sure about that, Seven," Janeway
responded while rubbing the seat of her pants, which were now slightly damp. "I've
never heard of this sort of malfunction in a hologram before. I mean, they don't
usually go around knocking people to the ground when they malfunction," she
added in a slightly exasperated voice.
Seven thought about that for a moment and agreed
with the captain's assessment. As a general rule, holograms were only capable of
acting in the manner in which they were programmed. Therefore, it was logical to
conclude that if the holographic Leah Brahms had purposely knocked the captain
to the ground, it had been programmed to do so for some reason. The young woman
was puzzled, however, as to why someone would have done that. Thinking that
perhaps it would have an answer to that question, Seven turned her attention to
"Please explain your behavior. Why have you
attacked Captain Janeway?" the blonde asked, making sure she was still standing
protectively in front of the captain.
"You are my mate," the holographic Leah answered,
"and I did not like the way this...being...was touching you," she explained
while tossing a glaring look at Janeway. "I will not permit another to court
you," the hologram added in a defiant voice.
"Court her?" Janeway asked incredulously, moving
forward to address the hologram. "What in the world are you talking about? I was
doing no such thing! I was just..." the captain stopped in mid-sentence,
realizing how absurd it was to be arguing with a hologram.
Seven of Nine's right eyebrow did its best to crawl
completely off her forehead at this little exchange, but she remained silent.
She found it interesting, however, that the captain appeared to be somewhat
"You touched my mate in a manner I found to
be...intimate. And your eyes...the manner in which you were looking at
her...betray you. I cannot allow you to have such contact. You must depart now,"
the hologram ordered, as it began walking towards the captain again.
"I don't think so," Janeway mumbled under her
breath. Putting her hands on her hips, she barked "Computer, delete the Leah
Brahms character," in a firm voice. She did her best not to look over at Seven,
afraid her eyes would betray her again.
"Unable to comply."
Janeway looked over at Seven then, not concerned
with how her abrupt order to delete the Brahms character might appear. She
tried again. "Computer, deactivate holographic representation of Dr. Leah
"Unable to comply."
"Why not?" the captain asked, becoming increasingly
more annoyed. She shook her head. "I mean...computer, elaborate."
"The specified holographic representation is not
"That's absurd...I'm looking right at it," Janeway
answered, before cutting herself off in the realization that she was arguing
with the computer. She was about to call for the arch, in order to access the
controls manually, when Seven spoke up.
"Computer, run a level five diagnostic on the
holodeck systems," the young woman ordered. She looked over at the captain,
wondering why the older woman was becoming so...upset.
After a few moments, the computer responded. "Diagnostic
complete. Holodeck systems are operating within normal parameters."
Captain Janeway sighed and turned to face Seven. "This
does not make any sense," she said slowly. "Let's try it from a different angle,
shall we?" she asked without actually expecting an answer.
Janeway turned back to face the hologram, folding
her arms across her chest. "Computer, how many life forms are presently located
in Holodeck Two?"
"There are three life forms in Holodeck Two," came
Seven quirked an eyebrow, understanding clearly
where the captain was going with this line of questioning. She looked over at
Janeway who nodded her head slightly in response.
"Computer, specify life forms currently present in
the holodeck," the older woman requested.
"Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine are currently
present in Holodeck Two. Unable to identify third life form."
Both Seven and Janeway turned to look at the
Brahms hologram, which had not moved an inch.
"Well," the captain began, "that certainly explains
a great deal."
"Indeed," Seven agreed. In fact, the entire
simulation was finally beginning to make much more sense to the young woman. Not
only did the revelation explain the unusual behavior exhibited by the Brahms
hologram, Seven thought, but it might account for other peculiarities as well.
Although the entity did not, as yet, appear to be dangerous, Seven was very
happy the captain had sent the children back to the cargo bay.
Unable to restrain herself, Seven stepped forward
and confronted the entity before Janeway could formulate a course of action.
"State your intentions," she demanded in her best menacing Borg voice.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, the
captain could not keep herself from smiling at the words that had, by now,
become so associated with the fierce protectiveness of her astrometrics officer.
"You are my mate. I must protect you from others,"
the entity answered.
Janeway did not like the sound of that...in fact,
the little yellow warning lights that always alerted her to dangerous
situations began blinking furiously in her head. She remained silent, however,
allowing Seven to take the lead in the interrogation.
"Insufficient. Why have you boarded this vessel?"
Seven asked impatiently.
"I do not understand 'boarded'. I am your mate. We
are a...family. I must protect you from others," the being replied, throwing a
harsh glance in Janeway's direction and taking a step towards Seven. "Our...quality
time with the children may have been terminated, but we have not finished our
The captain did not like how this was going at all.
It would not be the first time an entity had developed an...attraction of some
sort for the Borg. Janeway hated thinking about it, but she had to acknowledge
that on a few occasions she simply had not anticipated a threat to Seven quickly
enough...and the young woman had been hurt as a result. The auburn-haired woman
decided she was not going to take any chances this time.
Without a care for her own safety, Janeway stepped
in front of Seven and tapped her comm badge. "Janeway to Security. Intruder
Alert, Deck Six, Holodeck Two."
She received no answer, so she tried again...this
time, hailing her chief of security. When no response was forthcoming, the
captain frowned and addressed the entity. "Are you responsible for our
communication devices not functioning?" she asked angrily.
The life form looked at Seven, then back at Janeway
Realizing she had just about run out of patience,
the captain decided to take control of the situation and force this "first
contact" encounter to take place off the holodeck. At least that way, she would
have access to the rest of her command staff...and she and Seven would not be in
such a vulnerable position.
"Computer, end simulation," she ordered.
"Unable to comply."
The captain now had a very bad feeling...and it
was making the hair on the back of her neck stand up. It was the same sort of
feeling she always had in these situations...a sense that big trouble was about
to find her.
"Captain, I believe I understand what is going
on," Seven whispered, without taking her eyes off the intruder, "and I may have
a solution." Whatever the entity was, it had apparently learned very quickly
and efficiently how to manipulate the systems. Seven realized that without
access to the holodeck settings, she and the captain would be at risk. They
needed to somehow bring the simulation to an end as quickly as possible.
"Then by all means," Janeway replied with a
sweeping gesture of her hand, "go right ahead." The captain did not usually
enjoy turning control of a bad situation over to someone else, but with Seven,
she always made an exception...she had learned to trust her astrometrics officer
The ex-drone walked over to the entity and placed
her left hand on the...woman's shoulder. "Leah, my ...friend, Kathryn, has come
at my invitation. She will be having dinner with us. Would you please return to
the house and start getting dinner ready? We will join you as soon as we have
finished discussing our business," Seven asked in a very reasonable...mate-like
The entity continued to gaze at Seven, as if in an
attempt to gauge the young woman's sincerity, then said, "Why, of course,
sweetheart. I will make your favorite dish - Eggplant Parmesan with penne and
tossed greens," Leah replied. Then, without warning, she moved in close and
planted a gentle kiss directly on Seven's lips before turning and starting back
for the house.
If Seven was embarrassed or uncomfortable about the
gesture, it was impossible for Janeway to tell. The captain, however, was more
than slightly disturbed by it. For a few moments, she was unable to tear her
eyes away from Seven's lips, from wondering how it would feel to kiss them
herself. She looked down at the sand and shook her head, trying to regain her
concentration. That was very interesting, she thought. As soon as Seven had
begun speaking to the life form as though it were her mate, its entire
disposition changed...it had become agreeable again. The fact that it had
brokered no argument about returning to the house was a very good sign, Janeway
Once the entity was out of sight, Seven began. "Captain,
I do not believe this life form intends to harm us. In fact, it may be
attempting to learn of our species by studying our customs and interacting with
us accordingly," she added.
"Then why is it holding us hostage on the holodeck?"
Janeway asked. "And why the holodeck, for that matter? Wouldn't it be
more...efficient to simply ask about our customs and cultural practices?"
"I do not believe it is holding us hostage, at
least not intentionally. It may simply be playing out the simulation to its
natural conclusion," Seven explained.
Janeway thought about that for a moment, suddenly
very worried about what the "natural conclusion" might be in this simulation.
She looked up into blue eyes and frowned. "What do you think that 'natural
conclusion' might be, Seven? You said earlier you didn't program the Brahms
character. How do we know it's not going to cause you harm?" she asked, trying
very hard to sound calm.
"I'm uncertain, captain," Seven replied, "but this
life form has had numerous opportunities to harm us, if that is what it desired
to do. It has not," she added in a firm voice, linking her arms behind her back.
"All right, I'll grant you that point," Janeway
responded. "So, what do you suggest?"
"I recall reading about similar incidents when I
was doing research in the Starfleet database...situations in which energy-based
life forms utilized holographic and other computer-controlled systems to study
and interact with Starfleet personnel. In each case, crewmembers of Enterprise-B
were unable to leave the simulation until the parameters and scenarios desired
by the entities had been properly satisfied." Seven paused to check Janeway's
reaction. "In other words, captain, I believe that we must...play along," the
young woman explained.
"Tell me I didn't hear you correctly. You want us
to play along? In a simulation now controlled by an entity we know nothing
about?" the captain asked in astonishment. "That's not a very Borg-like
strategy, Seven," she added with a touch of sarcasm in her voice.
The ex-drone quirked an eyebrow. "No, it is not,"
she agreed with a slight tilt of her head. "However, I believe it may be our
best course of action at this time."
"Well, it would buy us a little time," Janeway
agreed. "Maybe, Chakotay and the others have already discovered we're trapped in
here. I told him there seemed to be unusual energy readings coming from that
stellar cloud we passed. Hopefully, he'll be able to put two and two together
without our help, and realize we've picked up a hitchhiker," the captain said.
Although Janeway had an uneasy feeling about it,
she had to admit that Seven's suggestion was a good one. They certainly were
powerless, at this point, to do anything but play along. Her Starfleet training
also told her that in such hostage situations, it was essential to interact
with one's captor. The fact that this was also a First Contact situation made
Janeway's decision a little easier to make.
"All right, Seven. Let's do it. I have one question,
though. Who I am supposed to be in this simulation?"
Seven paused, feeling a flutter in her stomach
and...something else she could not identify. She felt a powerful need to look
away, but she did not. "Judging by the entity's response to your presence,
captain, I believe you are the...rival for my affections," she answered shyly.
The other woman just stood there a moment in
stunned silence, her mouth slightly open, and Seven thought perhaps she had not
heard her. Suddenly, she wondered whether Janeway's silence meant she would
refuse to participate. The Borg feared such a scenario might make the captain
feel...uncomfortable. She waited patiently for Janeway to reply.
"I see," came the low, throaty response. "I suppose
I should have guessed that," the captain said with a smile that immediately put
Seven at ease. "Well, then...I'll have to be sure and play my part believably,"
Janeway said, as she moved close and looked Seven in the eyes.
For a brief instant, Seven thought the captain was
going to lean in and kiss her in much the same way as the Leah Brahms character
had done earlier...she was standing that close. The Borg found it interesting
that she was not disturbed by the possibility. In fact, she found herself
hoping that Janeway did indeed play her role convincingly.
Just then, there was a flash of lightening followed
a few moments later by a loud crack of thunder. Janeway stepped back a bit and
looked up at the sky, which had grown decidedly dark and stormy during their
conversation. She pursed her lips slightly. "Thunder and lightening? Nice touch,
Seven," she complimented playfully.
Seven had a feeling the captain was being facetious.
"I thought it would be a good element to include for the children. However, we
were supposed to be further along in the simulation, and back inside the house,
by the time it began to rain," Seven explained apologetically.
"Rain?" Janeway asked. But before she was able to
comment further on Seven's choice of programming, a torrential downpour began.
"Wonderful," she said sarcastically. "Let's go, Seven," she shouted above the
din of the wind and rain. The captain grabbed Seven's hand and together they
ran up the beach towards the house.
Both women were drenched by the time they reached
the back porch of the house. Once safely inside, Janeway looked over at Seven
and was temporarily mesmerized by what she saw. The young woman looked
absolutely adorable soaked to the bone! Her silken blonde hair, normally
arranged efficiently in a tight bun, was in complete disarray and hanging
loosely about her shoulders. A few unruly strands had fallen over her face and
become caught on the occular implant above her left eye.
The captain was in no better shape, her auburn hair
almost completely flattened by the excess water. Unlike Seven's biosuit,
Janeway's Starfleet uniform was not what anyone would consider form-fitting. Now
that it was thoroughly soaked, however, the material was clinging rather tightly
to the captain's small form. Seven found her eyes drifting over the captain's
body, lingering at the older woman's nipples clearly visible beneath the
saturated tunic. She had a curious urge to reach out with the palm of her hand
and touch them, but she restrained herself. Still, the Borg found it difficult
to keep from staring...afraid that if she looked away, she would lose the
inexplicable yet wonderful sensations she was experiencing.
Seven had no idea how many minutes had passed
before she was startled out of her rapt examination of Janeway's body by the
touch of the captain's hands - one cradling the side of her face, the other
attempting to gently remove the strands of hair caught in her implant. She
remained perfectly still, not wanting to disrupt the captain's actions, and
instead concentrated on the smaller woman. Seven could tell the captain's
heartbeat and respiration had increased significantly, but she was unsure as to
the cause. It could simply be the result of having to run up the beach to
escape the rain, she told herself. When she felt the captain's hands on both
sides of her face, pulling her close and placing a soft kiss on her lips, Seven
knew it probably had to do with more than mere physical exertion.
"There," Janeway said in a whisper. "Much better."
Seven agreed...but she was, for some reason, unable
to find her voice. She was simply too busy making note of the physiological
changes taking place in her body to do anything else. She was able to notice,
however, that when she brought her left hand up to touch her tingling lips,
Janeway stepped back a bit and smiled. The captain reached out and took Seven's
hand gently in her own.
"Come on," the captain said while shivering. "If we
don't get warm, the doctor's going to have two very sick people on his hands
when we finally get out of here," she added.
Seven looked down at their entwined hands and
nodded. She allowed Janeway to pull her into the living room, even though the
young Borg had to acknowledge she was already feeling quite warm.
Janeway strode immediately to the fireplace and
began placing logs on the grill, sending a silent "thank you" to her
traditionalist upbringing when she was able to get a roaring fire going in no
time. She was pleased that someone...or something...had thought to program a
surplus supply of dry wood. The wood stacked along the side of the house was
now completely useless in its drenched state...and she had a feeling this was
going to be a very long night.
The captain looked up to see Seven standing quietly
beside her, apparently still somewhat affected by her actions on the porch. The
older woman looked away and grinned, wondering how much more enchanting Seven
could get in one evening. "Seven, why don't you see if there's any dry clothing
in the bedrooms. We need to change out of these wet things," Janeway said, while
unbuttoning her tunic and draping it over the wooden chair in the corner.
Without saying a word, Seven nodded and left the
living room. Janeway tossed another log on the fire and surveyed her
surroundings. The living room of this simulated house was more than adequately
appointed with all the creature comforts a person of 20th Century earth would
want. The fireplace was quite large and constructed from a variety of heavy
stones. There were candles on the mantle, as well as on every table in the room.
A large, puffy couch boasting numerous cushions faced the fireplace, and its two
end tables were capable of holding an assortment of food and drink. The wooden
beams overhead gave the room a great deal of height, making it seem much larger
than it actually was...an effect that was greatly enhanced by the sliding glass
doors which comprised the entire port side of the room. Although it was still
pouring outside, and there was the occasional crack of thunder from the storm,
the captain had to admit the room was fairly cozy.
Janeway had found a book of old fire sticks on the
table and was lighting candles throughout the room when Seven returned with two
"This is all I could find," she said uncomfortably,
holding the robes up for the captain's inspection. "I am not certain if they
will be sufficient," she added with trepidation.
Janeway moved across the room to where Seven was
standing and put her hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "They're fine, Seven.
Perfect, in fact. The main thing is to get out of these wet clothes," she
explained while taking the light blue robe from Seven's hands. "I'll take this
one...it looks a bit shorter than the other."
Without a word, the captain began removing her
trousers and undergarments. Next, she lifted the gray sweater over her head
and, without disrupting eye contact with Seven, unfastened her bra and let it
slip from her shoulders. Seven felt she should look away, but the older woman
was...she was...well, she was just simply too perfect. A little voice in her
head barked in protest, when Kathryn donned the robe and tied the belt around
"Ahhhhh...much better," the captain said with a
sigh. She looked over at Seven who was still dripping on the plush carpet. "Do
you need help, Seven?" she asked, crossing the room to where the young woman
was standing. The Borg didn't answer, but instead slowly brought her hands up
to the clasp behind her neck and undid the fastening to her biosuit. Seven
hesitated, and her sudden shyness was not lost on the older woman who held out
the robe and turned away. It had never occurred to Kathryn the young woman
would be modest, and the discovery simply made Seven even more charming in her
eyes. In fact, the captain thought, she was seeing a great many of Seven's
endearing qualities this evening. Once Seven was safely inside the robe, Janeway
grasped her hands and pulled her towards the couch.
"Okay, then. Doesn't that feel better?" Janeway
asked, settling back into the cushions.
Of course, without her specially designed biosuit
to help the nanoprobes regulate her body temperature, Seven actually felt
slightly colder now than she did while dressed in the wet garment. She had no
intention of saying anything to the contrary, however, even when her body
betrayed her and she began shivering uncontrollably. It didn't go unnoticed.
"Seven, you're still cold," Janeway observed. She
scooted over on the couch so she was right up against the ex-drone. "Let me help
you get warm," she said in a voice that was a bit more throaty than she
The captain reached with her left hand for the
small blanket at her end of the couch, while throwing her right arm around
Seven's shoulders. "You know," she began, "There's an old earth expression that
cautions against underestimating the power of shared bodily warmth," Janeway
said playfully, as she pulled Seven closer.
The two women sat together on the couch in silence
for a few moments, watching and listening to the crackling fire, when a flash
of lightening lit up the room. "So, what now, Seven?" Janeway asked with a
smile, sincerely wondering what they were supposed to do next in the simulation.
A loud boom of thunder came chasing after the
lightening, and Seven waited for the rumbling to subside before she spoke. "I
don't know. I believe we are supposed to have dinner. That is the last thing
the...entity said to me before departing the beach. I think we should remain
here until she...I mean, it...announces the meal is being served."
The captain could tell Seven was making it up as
she went along, but the smaller woman just grinned and played along. "Well,
Seven. If I remember correctly, you informed your 'mate' you would provide
assistance with the meal," Janeway reminded the Borg politely. "I'm not sure
it's right for you to go back on your word," she added.
The Borg thought about that for a moment. "You are
correct, captain," Seven said finally with a furrowed brow. She rose from the
couch and headed for the kitchen. "I believe it is prudent, however, for you to
remain here," she added, after unconsciously tucking the remaining portions of
the blanket around the captain.
"You'll get no argument from me," Janeway replied,
raising her hands. "I'll just sit right here until you return," she said with a
decidedly contented look on her face. "Besides, I was never any good in the
kitchen anyway," she explained.
The captain leaned back and watched Seven leave the
room, noting the graceful way the young woman moved across the floor. There was
just something about the way she moved that Janeway had always found impossible
to ignore. Perhaps it was the pink, terrycloth robe, Janeway was not sure, but
the ex-drone also appeared much softer somehow than she normally did...and
infinitely more approachable.
Janeway had to admit she was thoroughly enjoying
this time with Seven, but wondered about the young woman's real motivation for
designing the simulation. She understood why Seven would want to provide some
illustration of family life to the children before they left Voyager for new
lives. What the captain did not really comprehend was why she had included a
mate for herself. Granted, the Borg may not have programmed the Leah Brahms
character, but she had certainly allowed for the possibility of a mate in the
programming. Furthermore, Seven had not seemed bothered in the least by the
character's amorous actions around the campfire. Was it possible, Janeway
wondered, that Seven's experience with Axum in Unimatrix Zero had awakened
desire in the young woman and stimulated a need to explore that aspect of her
Janeway's head was now reeling with this new
information, and she rose from the couch to walk around the living room. She
moved over to the sliding glass doors and watched as the raindrops bounced off
the white picket fence surrounding the yard. It was windy and pitch black
outside, but when the lightening flashed she could see the turbulent ocean waves
crashing violently against the rocks.
The captain pulled the lapels of the robe tighter
around her body as she shivered, not from a sudden draft in the room but from
the memory of that moment in sickbay, when everything changed...when she
realized for the first time just how empty her life would be without Seven.
Looking back on it now, Janeway thought it
interesting that such a significant moment in her life could be so brief, so
seemingly innocuous at the time. In the span of about two minutes, she had gone
from experiencing unbearably profound sadness to extreme joy...and at that
precise moment of transformation, the captain knew her life would never be the
[Funny how it took almost losing her to another,
before you finally realized how much you love her!] her inner voice taunted.
There was something different about Seven since
that afternoon in sickbay when she admitted Axum was more than just a friend.
And although it had been painful to hear of Seven's feelings for someone else,
Janeway knew it also signaled an important turning point in their own
relationship. Seven had changed, had become less fearful and more comfortable
with her emotions. When they were together now, there was a sense Seven had
finally let down the wall around her heart. Was it possible that somehow, in
recognizing her feelings for Axum, Seven learned the true nature of her feelings
for her commanding officer? For that, the captain knew she would be grateful to
Axum for the rest of her life.
Janeway smiled, as she remembered the first time
Seven acknowledged her feelings for her. It was about a week after the
Unimatrix Zero incident, and they had been painting in her DaVinci holodeck
program. All of a sudden, out of the blue, Seven had put down her brush and
announced, "spending time alone with you gives me pleasure." Janeway got a warm
feeling now just thinking about it, even though she almost choked on her coffee
at the time.
She suddenly had an unpleasant thought...was it
possible she had been misreading or ignoring Seven's signals all along? Kathryn
turned away from the window and walked back towards the fireplace. All this
time, she had been telling herself Seven was not emotionally ready for a
romantic relationship...was it possible she was simply using that as an excuse
because she, herself, was not ready?
Janeway was stunned. Her head was swimming with all
the new information it was trying to process. She tossed a few cushions from
the couch onto the carpet in front of the fireplace and sat down, pulling her
knees up against her chest. She was lost in thought when Seven returned from
the kitchen with two wine glasses, a bottle of merlot and a corkscrew.
Not wanting to startle the captain, Seven stood
quietly behind the couch for a moment before approaching. She knew Janeway
would detect her presence, whether she made a sound or not. She continued
watching the smaller woman for a few moments, noting how the light from the
fireplace was highlighting the red in Janeway's hair. Seven felt an increase in
her heart rate and respiration, as she momentarily envisioned herself running
her fingers through those fiery strands.
"How's it going in there, Seven?" the captain asked,
without turning around.
"Leah informed me it would be some time before we
can begin our dinner. I assisted with the salting of the eggplant slices, but
apparently they must now...sit for a while before they can be rinsed, drained
and cooked," Seven replied.
"Since when did you learn how to do that?"
"Leah provided a brief demonstration."
"I see," Janeway responded with a slight frown.
"Well, come and sit by the fire with me while we wait," Janeway suggested.
Seven remained where she was standing, clearly
confused by the captain's positioning. "Why are you sitting on the floor?" she
asked. "Would it not be more comfortable to sit on the sofa?"
"More comfortable? Perhaps. But it's much warmer
down here, closer to the fire. Think of it as more efficient," the captain
explained jokingly. She patted the cushion next to her and looked up into
brilliant blue eyes. "Sit down on this and then lean back against the couch,"
she said with a smile. "You can also stretch out this way and warm your feet,"
Janeway added, demonstrating for the young woman.
The Borg thought about it for a moment, and then
decided to comply with the captain's request...even though she found it to be a
little strange. "I brought something to drink, captain," Seven said awkwardly,
before sitting down. She handed Janeway the wine bottle, and then the glasses
and corkscrew. "Leah informed me this beverage is a good...companion to the
"Thank you, Seven. However, if I am to be
the...rival for your affections...and we are to convince the entity of that, I
think you should call me Kathryn. Don't you agree?" she asked with a sly grin.
Seven shifted uncomfortably. "As you wish, cap...I
mean, Kathryn," she agreed.
Janeway had to work hard to keep from grinning at
Seven's apparent discomfort. Instead, she concentrated on freeing the cork from
the bottle of ruby red liquid. "Good. Now, come sit down and we'll try this wine,"
Seven remained fixed in her spot, however,
apparently surveying the area in front of the couch. After a moment, she
finally spoke. "There is insufficient space for me down there," she said softly.
The captain poured two glasses of wine and placed
them on the end table along with the bottle. She looked up at Seven and this
time, she did grin. "Nonsense. There's plenty of room for both of us." At the
young woman's continued hesitancy, however, Janeway decided on a different
approach. "You're not going to tell me the Borg are incapable of sitting on the
floor, are you?" she asked lightheartedly.
Understanding perfectly well what the captain was
attempting, Seven quirked an eyebrow and tilted her head slightly. She slowly
eased her long, lanky form down to the cushion next to the captain, accidentally
brushing against the other woman's shoulder as she settled herself. "No, that
"Inefficient?" the captain finished. "How come I
knew you were going to say that?" she asked, tapping a hand on the ex-drone's
upper thigh. Before Seven could answer, though, Janeway held up a hand. "Never
mind. Don't answer that. Here. Try this," she said, passing a glass of wine to
The captain watched with acutely focused attention,
as Seven brought the glass to her full lips and took a tentative sip of the
light, berry-flavored beverage. [Oh, god!]When the young woman pulled
her mouth away too quickly, a few drops of wine dribbled onto her lower
lip...and Janeway's respiratory system shut down completely for a few moments,
while she watched Seven's tongue dart out to capture the errant drops. [Breathe!
Breathe!] her inner voice pleaded, fearing she might pass out from oxygen
deprivation. Fortunately, it took only a few moments for the captain's head to
clear. Finding her voice, however, was slightly more difficult...and when she
did speak, the words came out somewhat ragged. She cleared her throat and tried
"Well? What do you think?" she asked, managing not
to lose herself in those brilliant blue eyes.
"It is pleasant. It possesses both tangy and sweet
flavors, yet it is not overpowering...an interesting combination," Seven
answered, clearly intrigued by the subtle complexity of the wine. The young
woman decided a larger sample was necessary to confirm her conclusion, however,
and quickly downed the remaining portion in her wineglass before the captain
could stop her.
"Whoa, Seven," Janeway said, placing a gentle hand
on the Borg's shoulder. "You aren't supposed to drink wine quickly. It's meant
to be sipped. That way, you can savor the flavors on your tongue," she
explained. [Oh, my.]The captain had to pause for a moment, the erotic
nature of her statement suddenly making a definite impact on her physiology. "We
can't even be sure of its alcoholic properties. Given the fact we have no
control over this simulation, I think we should...go slowly," she added, with a
"Very well, Captain," Seven replied. "But...perhaps
we should not consume this beverage at all," she suggested gravely.
Janeway laughed. "Kathryn. Remember?" she teased.
"And I don't think we need to go that far. Just remember to sip it slowly. In
fact, try swirling it around in your mouth a bit before swallowing. You'll be
able to taste it even better that way," she said.
Seven followed the captain's suggestion with her
next sip and discovered that, indeed, swishing the wine around in her mouth
brought out even more flavor. She marveled at just how many wonderful, yet
seemingly irrelevant, things she had learned from Janeway over the past few
years. Seven was even more surprised to realize she had actually enjoyed most
of the things the captain had taught her, even though she found many of the
activities to be completely unproductive. The ex-drone felt very fortunate
Captain Janeway was willing to spend so much time with her. When Seven looked
up from her internal musings into the other woman's eyes, she found they were
already watching her.
"Is something wrong...Kathryn?" she asked softly,
suddenly feeling self-conscious.
"No...not at all, Seven. I'm sorry if I was staring.
It's just that it suddenly occurred to me how much I enjoy watching you try new
things. It's almost as though you throw your whole being into it, body and soul,"
the older woman explained. After a brief moment of contemplation, she added "it's
very refreshing, Seven, and...quite charming."
Seven was not entirely certain she understood to
what the captain was referring. Being relatively new to humanity, the Borg
found herself having to try "new things" on a fairly regular basis. She was not
sure why the captain would find it "refreshing"...but Janeway's words made her
feel warm and, strangely, very satisfied. The blonde was about to ask whether
there were any other "new things" she should try while they were in the
holodeck, when the life form emerged from the kitchen again.
"The dinner is ready, sweetheart. Would you like me
to add cucumber to the salad or just tomato?" she asked.
Janeway cringed internally, wishing the life form
would quit using that term when addressing Seven. Both women immediately rose
from their cushions on the floor, Seven managing it a bit quicker and lending a
hand to the other woman. Janeway had to clamp down on a strong desire to walk
over to the entity and smack it in the face. [Now, that wouldn't be very
diplomatic, would it?] her inner voice chided. Instead, she reached for her
wineglass and took a few sips, forcing herself to relax.
Seven looked to the captain for help with the
question, and detected an unusual expression on the smaller woman's face. The
ex-drone rarely consumed solid food and, therefore, had absolutely no idea
whether the salad should include cucumber...or tomato, for that matter. "I
believe our guest should make that decision," Seven answered, neatly tossing
the matter into Janeway's lap.
The captain turned to address the entity, but had
to wait a moment before speaking as a loud crack of thunder rattled the windows.
"I think tomato..." She stopped before finishing her sentence, a brilliant
thought suddenly occurring to her. She looked at Seven and smiled, a playful
glint in her eye again. "Actually, I don't think tomato and cucumber are enough
ingredients for the salad. We should be eating an antipasto salad with Eggplant
Parmesan," she informed the life form.
Leah walked over and placed a hand on Seven's
shoulder. "Is that what you would like to have, honey?" she asked Seven,
ignoring the other woman completely.
Seven blinked. She had no idea why the type of
salad was so important, but she knew the captain must have had a reason for
making an alternate suggestion. Perhaps, she thought, this was another "new
thing" Janeway wished for her to try. "Yes," she replied. "That is what I wish,
as well," she declared without hesitation, wanting to be sure the entity
complied with the captain's instruction.
Leah promptly returned to the kitchen and Seven
turned towards Janeway. "Captain...Kathryn," she corrected herself, "I am not
familiar with that food. Why did you suggest antipasto?" she asked.
"Antipasto is a type of salad that includes not
just vegetables, but cheeses, meats and olives -- a great many ingredients," the
captain replied with a smile. "Leah said dinner was ready, but I'd like a little
more time alone with you. It should take her quite a while to put all those
various items together," she explained, feeling quite satisfied with herself.
"I see," Seven responded. "And it is customary to
put honey on this antipasto salad, as well?" she asked curiously.
"Honey? Who said anything about honey?" Kathryn
asked, before understanding to what Seven was referring. Her heart suddenly
swelled in adoration for the Borg, as she realized just how truly enchanting
Janeway was powerless to prevent a huge grin from
surfacing. "Oh. No, Seven. The entity was not referring to the food 'honey' -
she was using the word as a term of endearment," Janeway explained, the last bit
delivered in an unmistakably frosty tone.
Kathryn turned to refill Seven's wineglass when the
wood on the fire shifted, tossing a rather large log off the pile. Sparks flew
and embers began burning on the rug in front of the hearth. Janeway glanced at
her bare feet, and then calmly retrieved an unused log to smother the glowing
bits of burning wood. Then, using the special fireplace tongs, the captain
managed to place the log back onto the pile. Deciding the fire looked a little
low, she added a few more pieces of wood and settled them into place. Satisfied
with her efforts, the captain brushed the wood dust from her hands. She smiled
at Seven and motioned to the couch, tucking her left leg under her as she sat
down...and took a deep breath.
"Seven, can I ask you something?" the older woman
asked, draping her right arm across the back of the couch.
"Of course," Seven answered, situating herself on
the right side of the couch. Although attempting to emulate the same casual
positioning as the captain, Seven found she was unable to bring her leg up onto
the sofa. She was simply unaccustomed to sitting in such a relaxed manner. She
did, however, manage to lean back against the cushions while turning to face
"You mentioned you programmed this simulation to
help the children with their impending departure from Voyager...to give them a
sense of what life would be like as part of a family. What you didn't mention
is why you also programmed a mate for yourself," the auburn haired woman began
Seven shifted slightly, clearly not anticipating
the captain's question. "I did not program the Leah Brahms character," she
explained, glancing down briefly at her hands, which were folded neatly in her
Janeway smiled, noticing the reaction her question
had caused in the young woman. "I understand that, Seven. Although you may not
have programmed the specific character we call 'Leah Brahms', you did allow for
a mate in the programming of this simulation. I'm just wondering what prompted
you to do that," the captain asked gently. After a moment of silence, Janeway
added "I'm sorry, Seven. You don't have to answer that question if it makes you
uncomfortable." She watched to see whether the Borg would take the bait.
"I am not...uncomfortable, captain," Seven replied
in a somewhat stilted voice. She found her mind racing to come up with a
suitable answer for the captain. The ex-drone knew it would be useless to
manufacture an explanation - Janeway would easily detect any deception she might
attempt. Contrary to her initial response, however, Seven acknowledged she was
somewhat uncomfortable divulging her true motivation for including such a
character in the simulation. Feeling a sudden urge to flee the room, Seven
attempted to rise from the couch but was halted by Janeway's hand on her arm.
"Seven," the captain said in a soft whisper of a
voice, "please...tell me."
Janeway captured Seven's eyes with her own.
The young woman glanced down at the captain's hand
and sighed. "Very well," Seven began tentatively. "I was curious to discover
what it would be like...to have a mate."
Seven stopped there, hoping the smaller woman would
be satisfied with her answer. Janeway, however, could sense there was something
more to it than that and refused to let her astrometrics officer off the hook.
She allowed a moment of silence to pass, before encouraging Seven to continue.
"I see," the captain said slowly, her hand still
resting gently on Seven's arm. "Can you tell me why you were curious about that?"
she asked carefully, already having a fairly good idea where this was heading,
but not wanting to pressure Seven into answering. She reached over and refilled
both their wineglasses, giving the young woman another moment to gather her
The Borg took the offered wineglass and looked up
into warm eyes...eyes that had made her feel safe and cared for on countless
occasions. Seven knew she had nothing to fear about being honest with Kathryn,
but she was unaccustomed to the strange sensations she was experiencing in the
pit of her stomach. The ex-drone took a small sip of her wine and continued.
"As you know, some time ago the Doctor gave me
lessons in dating. Although the experience was not entirely successful, it did
provide me with a certain amount of knowledge regarding human courtship rituals.
I have subsequently discovered, however, the Doctor's instruction was lacking in
one important area," Seven explained.
"You mean in terms of his orientation bias?"
Janeway interrupted, perhaps a little too enthusiastically.
Seven arched an eyebrow, finding it interesting the
captain should seize upon that issue as the one to which she was referring.
"No, Kathryn. I am aware it is acceptable to date members of one's own gender.
Our lessons were focused entirely on courtship, but there was nothing of love
or what occurs after an individual has found their...mate."
"Oh. I see. Well..." Janeway began. She was
mercifully interrupted by another loud crash of thunder, which provided a
much-needed moment to think. Seven's use of her first name had not gone
unnoticed...and the captain could not help but feel it significant in some way,
as though some sort of shift had taken place. Her heart began beating wildly
again, so she took a sip - a rather large sip - of her wine to compose herself.
The older woman had, for some months now, anticipated having this conversation
with Seven - but ironically, now that the moment was upon her, Janeway felt
oddly nervous. She took a deep breath and began carefully.
"And something has happened recently to motivate
you to...explore these issues?" she asked, with a little trepidation.
"Precisely. I believe I have...feelings for someone.
Recent events have enabled me to identify those feelings as...love. I am
uncomfortable about proceeding, however, until I understand what it means to be
mated to another," Seven replied plainly. "That is what I had hoped to explore
by including a mate in this simulation," she added.
The captain knew she should say something,
anything...but all she could manage was a continuous slow nodding of her head.
Voyager's commanding officer felt as though the wind had been knocked out of
her...except that she had stopped breathing entirely, approximately 14 seconds
earlier. She felt her chest tighten, a curious sensation she likened to
rematerializing inside a decompression chamber.
Kathryn's mind began to race, no doubt spurred on
by the continual nodding of her head. Janeway tried to bring her heart rate
under control, to calm down a bit, so she could respond in some manner to the
young woman's statement. Amazingly, it took only a few moments for her to fully
grasp what Seven was telling her. [She can't be referring to Axum. How can
she "proceed" with someone who's on the other side of the galaxy?] her inner
"Sweetheart, dinner is served!" Leah suddenly
shouted from the kitchen doorway.
Frustrated to be interrupted again, Janeway slammed
her hand down on the couch causing the Borg to jump slightly in surprise.
Although she was no longer in a rush to leave the holodeck, the captain was
suddenly very desperate to be rid of the entity. She wondered how much longer
they would have to play along with the simulation, not entirely sure her heart
would hold up to the torture much longer. Then, suddenly, Janeway had an idea.
Placing her wine glass down on the end table, she turned to face the Borg.
"Seven, what do you suppose would happen if we
speeded things up a bit?" she asked, with a mischievous look in her eye.
"I don't understand. Please explain," Seven
"Well, you said I am supposed to be your...suitor
in this simulation, right? And clearly the entity sees me as a rival for your
affections. So, why do we have to go through the whole dinner scene? What do you
think would happen if you simply tell Leah you are... choosing me over her?
Wouldn't that put an end to this whole "mate and family" simulation right then
and there? The entity would have no reason to stick around after that, would it?"
the captain asked, clearly thinking out loud while trying to formulate a course
of action. "I mean, is it possible it's as simple as that?" she asked, gazing
intently into Seven's eyes.
"I am uncertain. It is impossible to know what
might happen under such circumstances. We have very little information about
this life form. It is also possible it will challenge you to some sort of
physical contest," Seven said gravely.
"You mean like a duel?" Janeway asked, with a laugh.
"That's somewhat unlikely, don't you think? And even if it were to respond in
that manner, I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself, Seven," she added,
with a bit more bravado than was perhaps necessary.
"I do not wish you to be harmed, Kathryn," Seven
Kathryn brought a hand up to Seven's cheek and
smiled. "I know you don't," she said softly. "Besides, I also have you to
protect me. I think we should take our chances and give it a try," the captain
added, as she rose from the couch. She reached out her hand to Seven, who took
it and allowed herself to be pulled up.
"Okay, then. Just follow my lead," Janeway said
with a definite gleam in her eye.
Seven dipped her head in agreement. "Understood,"
came the familiar response.
Chakotay looked up at Tuvok and shook his head in
frustration. "Are you telling me you can't even get a message to them?"
Tuvok's expression did not change, but he shifted
slightly and placed his hands behind his back. "That is correct, commander.
There appears to be some sort of dampening field surrounding the holodeck. Not
only are we unable to transport anyone in or out, but our communication devices
are incapable of penetrating the field," he explained.
Voyager's first officer looked over at B'Elanna,
who was leaning against the conference room table with her arms folded across
her chest. "And you're telling me we can't access the holodeck controls from out
here?" he asked, in an exasperated voice.