Episode 8-22 - Echoes of the Mind
By: Mike Ben-Zvi (email@example.com)
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its characters and related properties are Registered Trademarks
of Paramount Pictures. No infringement of Paramount's copyrights
is intended. Voyager Virtual Season 8 (VS8) is a non-profit
endeavor. The unique characters and milieu of VS8 are the
property of the VS8 producers and individual authors. This
story is the property of the author. Please do not repost
images and voices came at Harry Kim, fast and furious, like
starstreaks rushing past a ship at maximum warp.
been infected," said the Ocampan.
call it the olan'vora," said Tal gently, "the
pupils are dilated, your respiration uneven," said
Seven of Nine.
look like hell, buddy," said Tom Paris jovially.
are Defenders of the Realm," the Sernaix male taunted.
you're a better man," said Kathryn Janeway proudly.
be seeing you again, Harry," said Ozymandias, "Real
well, soon," said Seven again.
the voices and faces melted together into whirlpool of light
and matter...spreading outward...taking on the consistency
sand...stretching out across the oncoming landscaping. Dunes,
rocks, flat open plains...the desert...
A desert planet, rotating silently through the void. It
expanded to fill the entire field of view. All tan and ochre
and earth tones as far as one can see...
then, a speck of green on the horizon.
singular dot expanded to reveal a field, abundant with life
and growth, bucolic comfort and sanctuary in the midst of
the barren wilderness. And situated at the heart of this
paradise was...a barn.
for just a brief flash of time, an old man sat on the porch
of the barn, looking up and smiling.
been waiting for you."
that moment, Harry Kim bolted up from his bed in a panic,
his body bathed in a cold sweat. He quickly darted his eyes
about the room, trying to get his bearings and control his
rapid breathing. The old man, the barn, the planet, they
were all gone. He was back in his assigned quarters, in
the middle of the night, station time. None of it had been
dream, he groaned silently, another damned dream.
glanced over at the dim red numerals of the clock on his
nightstand. 0330 hours. Another three hours before he had
to get up. He got up out of bed and padded over to the viewport
along the wall, gazing out at the inky blackness of space,
to remind himself of where he was. There was indeed a desert
planet below him, but it was the familiar rusty plains of
the planet Mars, showing scattered patches of green on the
daylight side where terraforming was slowly taking hold.
The night side revealed the glowing threads of human settlements
and irrigation projects.
expanse above Mars was filled with the jumble of silent
space stations and work bees darting about in a frenzy of
nonstop motion. All together, this hive of activity made
up the vast complex of the Utopia Planitia Ship Yards. Harry
glanced downward, to see one of the docking booms of the
Robert J. Fulton Engineering Station, the small habitat
where he was currently assigned.
there, docked at the end of the boom, cocooned in her drydock
assembly, was the reason he was here. It was a ship, or
rather, the half-completed framework of a ship. It didn't
have a name at this point, or a ship class. She was the
pride and joy of what had come to be known as the Montana
Project, referring to her only as 'the prototype.' Of course,
she had acquired her fair share of nicknames among the station
staff. "Fulton's Folly" was Harry's personal favorite,
even though the name itself was not flattering. Considering
that the Montana Project was created to bring numerous disparate
alien technologies together into a single ship design, Starfleet
skeptics were doubtful that the ship would ever fly.
dreams bothered him, this particular one most of all. There
hadn't been any follow-up after the initial mysterious visions
he experienced during Voyager's last confrontation with
the Sernaix. But then, as he started his assignment here
at Utopia Planitia, the imagery had returned with a vengeance.
had been to the station's Chief Medical Officer and counselor,
and they had both assured him the there was nothing wrong
with him. His counselor was certain that the dreams had
more to do with the anxiety he was feeling upon returning
to the Alpha Quadrant and his new responsibilities. After
all, being away from his family and everything familiar
for so many years was bound to leave some sort of psychological
impact. She assured him that as he gradually acclimated
to life in his new environment, the dreams would fade and
his sleep would return to normal.
far, he had told none of his superiors about his dreams,
other than Counselor Darret and the station's medical staff,
and they were all bound by confidentiality, as long as his
condition failed to affect his work and other areas of his
life. The only person on the station whom Harry felt even
comfortable confiding in on this matter was B'Elanna. He
knew that if Commander Vargas or any of the project coordinators
suspected him of mental instability, however ungrounded
their fears might be, it would guarantee him a one way shuttle
back to Earth. And Harry knew it was just too important
for him to be here, seeing the new ship through to completion,
even if he wasn't entirely sure why that was.
per Counselor Darret's recommendation, the young officer
reached for his personal log recorder. He held the small
cylindrical device to his lips, and hit the record button.
The counselor had advised him that he might be able to get
a better handle on these dreams and decipher their meaning
if he could get his thoughts on record soon after awakening,
while his memories remained fresh.
Log, Stardate 55895.3," he began to speak. "I
had another one of the visions tonight. I think this was
the longest one yet. Like the others, I saw
things from my past. People I knew speaking to me. It all
came out in a jumble.
also saw the planet again. Dry, with no oceans. I'm not
sure, but I think I've seen it before somewhere. I mean,
I know I've been to a number of desert planets while I was
on Voyager, but this one was different. It's like I had
some kind of special connection to this place.
this time, I saw something else. A barn. And an old man.
He was speaking to me
like he was
paused, trying to recollect his feelings, the initial flashes
of foreboding and enormity that had overcome him in the
dream, that had forced him awake. It hadn't been terror,
he knew that much. Somehow, he knew the old man wasn't someone
he should be afraid of. Rather, it was the overwhelming
sense that this ethereal visitor was a harbinger of great
change in his life. But Harry didn't know how.
don't know," he mumbled into his recorder. "Maybe
I am losing my mind. Deep Space Isolation Syndrome. That's
what Dr. Carmine thought. Maybe he's right. Perhaps I need
to get away from this place.
I know I can't. Getting this ship ready for launch is important.
Vitally important. I'm not sure but
I just can't help
but feel that the future of the Federation depends on what
we're doing here."
managed to catch another two hours of sleep before having
to awaken to keep to his planned schedule. He shuffled his
way down to the station's commissary for his breakfast,
and more importantly, a cup of strong coffee to jolt him
to full awareness.
out upon the crowd of faces, it struck Harry just how unnatural
this all seemed to him. The commissary dwarfed Voyager's
more intimate mess hall, displaying a much more utilitarian
environment. And although he recognized a handful of his
new teammates scurrying around the buffet table, most of
the people here were complete strangers, and probably always
would be. For almost eight years, Harry had dined, served,
and fought alongside the same faces, and had come to know
their personalities and natures as well as his own cousins
and childhood neighbors. Occasionally someone new would
join the crew, or more often, someone he knew would be lost.
But essentially, the crew of Voyager since the beginning
of their journey had remained a steady constant for him.
that was not the case here. Fulton Station alone had a complement
of over two thousand people, with many hundreds of engineers
and managers commuting in daily from other stations in the
Utopia Planitia complex. He had come to know his own team
quite well, and had developed a comfortable rapport with
the leaders of other project teams with whom he collaborated.
But these were but a small fraction of the vast sea of humanity
(and non-humanity) in this, his new assignment.
more thing that he had to adjust to now that he was back
wasn't that he was unhappy here at Utopia Planitia, thought
Harry. Quite the contrary. As the Engineering design team
leader for the Montana Project, there were opportunities
available to him here that had simply not been possible
on Voyager. For the first time since his initial posting
on Voyager as Operations Manager, he felt that his career
was back in motion again. He had been specifically requested
for this assignment, considering his experience in working
with alien engineering technologies in the Delta Quadrant
and the Time Bubble. He had also acquired the aura of a
minor celebrity since coming to Fulton Station, with many
of the station personnel seeking him out to hear of his
adventures on the far side of the galaxy. And his contributions
to the project had even earned the respect of the station's
commanding officer, Commander Vargas, a man who had attained
a well-deserved reputation of not being impressed easily.
And best of all, it was just a short shuttle ride away to
visit his family on Earth.
Harry Kim had come into his own at last, the young officer
mused. But that didn't stop him from missing what he had
on Voyager. What he had gained in opportunities, he had
lost in family.
the room, he was pleased to see one especially familiar
person gesturing to get his attention. B'Elanna Torres was
seated alone at a table in the back of the room, beckoning
him to come join her. Harry lit up at seeing his friend.
He was glad that at least one of his friends from Voyager
was able to be here, especially one as talented and capable
as B'Elanna. It had been difficult for her these past few
months. B'Elanna did not have the academic credentials that
so many expected from an engineer these days. She had grown
up on the frontier and her talents, impressive as they were,
were entirely self-taught. No one wanted to take a chance
on her, especially with her Maquis past.
Harry had interceded on her part and talked the project
managers into bringing her on as a civilian consultant while
she went for her engineering certificate. She had been grateful
for the opportunity, even if it meant being away from her
daughter and husband for days at a time. But as fulfilling
as motherhood was for her, it was important for B'Elanna
to feel like she was still an engineer, and that she could
contribute to the greater good and make a difference.
you," B'Elanna greeted him as he came closer to her
table. She had already snagged herself a tray of the day's
breakfast special. It was easy to pick out B'Elanna from
the crowd, as she was one of the distinct few in the room
wearing civilian coveralls and a Fulton Station com-patch
instead of a Starfleet uniform and insignia.
Harry greeted her weakly as he eased into the seat across
from her. He sipped at his coffee, hoping the caffeine would
gradually bring him a semblance of full awareness.
you look awful," teased B'Elanna as she looked at her
exhausted friend. "Just how late were you up last night,
looked across at her glumly. "Not too late," he
said, trying not to reveal too much.
it was obvious to B'Elanna what he was trying to hide. "You
had another dream last night, didn't you?"
don't want to talk about it."
Harry," B'Elanna sighed. "You have to start taking
this seriously. First those visions you had aboard Voyager,
and now this? I've got to tell you that this is starting
to creep me out."
thank you, B'Elanna," Harry retorted with sharp sarcasm,
"I know I can always count on you to help cheer me
up. Don't you think this is unnerving enough as it is?"
half-Klingon engineer looked over at her friend with sympathy.
"Harry, I know how important this assignment is to
you. And I'd be the first one to tell you that you've been
doing one hell of a job here. But your health and your piece
of mind have to come first."
know," he groaned, trying to be conciliatory. "I
I don't know. Maybe we've all been working too
maybe getting away for First Contact Day weekend will help
you clear your mind," she suggested graciously. "Think
you can hold out for another three weeks?"
he acknowledged. "Oh, that reminds me," he said,
his expression lightening up as he shifted topics. "I
spoke to my folks last night. They said they'd be delighted
if you, Tom and Miral came to our barbeque."
don't know, Harry," she said warily. "Are you
sure its okay? I don't want your mom to go to any trouble
on our account."
you kidding?" he answered with a smile. "You've
obviously never been to a Kim First Contact Day barbeque.
Between my mom and my aunts, there's usually more food than
anyone knows what to do with. You'd be doing us a favor
by taking some of it off our hands."
she hesitated, but inwardly pleased by the delight Harry
was taking in talking about his family now. She knew how
isolated he had felt on Voyager these many years, and how
difficult it had been for him to make a life for himself
away from home the way she and Tom had. She was sure that
just being with his family for the holidays would dispel
the cloud that her friend now seemed to be under.
besides," Harry joyfully continued, "you'd be
cheating yourself if didn't have a taste of one of my dad's
grilled tuna steaks."
okay," she answered with a laugh, "you've convinced
me. Tom and I will be happy to be there. And I'll be holding
you to that promise about the tuna steak. I'm very particular
about what I feed my daughter."
You're going to give a piece of tuna to a baby?"
she's part Klingon, remember?" said B'Elanna with a
mother's pride. "Miral's already developed a taste
for meat. Not to mention her first tooth is starting to
for telling me," Harry chuckled. "I'll be sure
to keep my fingers away from her mouth."
Harry," she retorted back, enjoying the repartee.
two of them laughed together, enjoying this moment. Harry
knew it was difficult for B'Elanna. As much is it made her
happy to feel like an engineer, there was the constant reminder
every day that she wasn't in charge here. On Voyager, she
had grown accustomed to giving out orders as Chief Engineer.
Now here on Fulton Station, she was just a civilian consultant,
there to advise and offer her expertise, but nobody was
under any compulsion to follow her lead, unless Harry requested
it. And there were more than a few senior officers here,
including Commander Vargas himself, who made it clear that
they were less than enthusiastic about having a former Maquis
rebel on staff.
the chime of the station's intercom interrupted Harry's
thoughts. "Attention all project managers and team
leaders. Please report at once to Conference Room Three
by 0800 hours."
was just fifteen minutes, Harry realized as he grabbed his
coffee and got up to leave. He looked back at B'Elanna and
saw the look of grim understanding on her face. As head
of the Engineering Design Team, his presence was mandatory.
Civilian consultants, on the other hand, were not included.
B'Elanna," he said regretfully, "Commander Vargas
was supposed to be in conference with Starfleet Command
this morning. That's probably what he wants to talk about.
I really have to go."
I understand," she said, before rolling her eyes, thinking
about her previous run-ins with the station commander and
how welcome he made her feel because of her Maquis past.
"Mustn't keep God waiting."
he sighed, as if he were warning her not to aggravate her
already precarious position here on the station. "I'll
see you later."
so the former Chief Engineer of the starship Voyager waved
goodbye to her friend, remembering a time when she too went
to meetings and made a difference.
were eighteen other project leaders assembled in Conference
Room Three besides Harry, all eagerly awaiting for their
commanding officer to speak. Commander Alejandro Vargas
wasn't the sort of man you gave command of a starship to.
That wasn't his job. He was, by training and inclination,
an engineer. He built starships and took pride in his work.
Harry had known instructors at the Academy like him. He
was the kind of man who got things done, as requested and
on time. He did not suffer fools or coddle incompetence
gladly, but was able to recognize talent and praise it when
he saw it. All in all, Harry thought he was a firm but fair
leader, but was secretly glad to not have been stuck with
him in the Delta Quadrant for seven years.
took his position at the head of the briefing table and
looked out upon the men and women under his command. He
ran his fingers through his thinning salt-and-pepper hair
before speaking. "Okay, people. There's no easy way
to say this, so I'll be direct. I've just finished talking
with Starfleet, and we have new orders. Our timetable has
been moved up." He then turned to a young man seated
four chairs down from Harry. "Mr. Darcy, we're going
to need to have the new transphasics and the enhanced phasers
ready for field testing." Not missing a beat, he then
faced an Andorian lieutenant standing across the room. "Mr.
Thrakass, we need a complete shakedown of the hull plating
and structural integrity field systems. And Mr. Kim,"
he added looking down at Harry. "The transwarp system
and the new slipstream drive are to be up and ready to go
online." He then gazed out across the room, addressing
everyone. "Starfleet wants all of these systems ready
in four weeks. The goal is an eventual
launch and shakedown cruise for no later than eight weeks."
room was filled with gasps of disbelief. "Sir,"
said Lieutenant Aree, a furry-skinned Caitian, from her
seat next to Harry, "there's no way we can be ready
for an inspection that quickly. The Analysis and Research
teams are still sorting through the Sernaix debris we recovered.
It could take months before we have a proper analysis."
isn't willing to wait that long, Lieutenant," said
Vargas coolly. "This ship is being built for one reason
only: to serve as the nucleus of a viable defensive force
in the event of a Sernaix invasion. Our work will be for
nothing if the only ship we have that can go head-to-head
with those devils is sitting in drydock during an invasion."
understand, sir," Aree pleaded. "But this technology
different. There's still so much we need to
learn before we can reproduce it."
obviously have little experience in shipbuilding, Ms. Aree,"
said Vargas, his gaze focused steadily on the unsteady young
feline officer. "The Advanced Starship Design Bureau
has a saying: The perfect is the enemy of the good. The
ship doesn't have to be flawless, just functional enough.
Any bugs in the system can be worked out later. That's what
shakedown cruises are for."
sir," said Aree meekly, as she took her seat.
Kim," said Vargas as he turned towards Harry. "According
the status reports I've read, it looks like the slipstream
will be our biggest challenge to assemble by our target
date. What can you tell me about where your people are with
sir," said Harry uncertainly, "we've been studying
the slipstream drive core that we found in the ruins of
Voyager's last battle with the Sernaix. My team is pretty
sure that it functions similarly to a standard warp core.
It generates power and regulates the output to the deflector
array in accordance to a set of calculated phase variances.
These were the areas that Voyager had problems with whenever
we tried to recreate our own quantum slipstream back in
the Delta Quadrant."
you feel that you're close to a solution, then?" asked
exactly, sir," Harry continued. "What we have
is a theory, that's all. We think that the drive core is
able to tap zero-point energy from the quantum foam of spacetime
itself, something we've only managed to do on a limited
basis with quantum torpedoes. We aren't sure how to reproduce
the technique the Sernaix use for a sustainable output,
and as Lieutenant Aree said, it could take a lot longer
than four weeks to figure that out."
you have nothing?" Vargas's tone grew colder in response.
there may be a way to meet the deadline, Commander,"
said Harry, an idea coming to him. "We could
is, if we can understand how the control interfaces operate
the Sernaix core itself directly into the prototype's slipstream
said Lieutenant Commander Singh incredulously from his seat
across the room. He oversaw the Operations Design team and
was responsible for the overall integration of the various
systems into a coherent whole. "Harry, that's absolutely
insane! We have no idea how this technology works or what
might happen if we incorporate it into one of our vessels.
The ship could end up destroying itself leaving drydock!"
to mention that we still need to reproduce the core's function
if we're going to install this technology in other starships,"
Aree joined in.
what if we go to all this trouble just to find out that
the two systems can't be meshed together?" Singh continued.
"We will have thrown away weeks of effort, all for
know it's risky," said Harry defensively to the assembled
group, just realizing how reckless his proposal was beginning
to sound, "but I don't see any other way we can roll
the ship out on time. Besides," he continued, looking
at Aree, "if we want to understand how Sernaix technology
works, what better way to do it than by observing it in
commander remained silent during this debate, nodding his
head and listening to all sides offering their point of
view. But he weighed the information against his experience
and balanced it against the constraints Starfleet had placed
on him. In the end, he made his decision.
Kim," he said somberly, "I agree that under ordinarily
circumstances, what you propose would be exceedingly dangerous.
But these are not ordinary circumstances. Proceed with your
analysis of the core's operating system and interface protocols,
assuming that there are any. Inform me of your results,
and I will then make my decision as to whether we should
install the core." Vargas then turned back to the rest
of the assembly. "I know this schedule may seem unreasonable,
everyone. Believe me, these aren't the conditions I'd choose
to build a new starship under. But we're all officers and
professionals here, and these are the orders that we've
been given. Starfleet is committed to a final launch date
of no later than eight weeks from today." His expression
then softened slightly, looking faintly apologetic. "From
this point on, all leave is hereby cancelled. I'm sorry
to say that also includes First Contact Day weekend."
tried to stifle their groans of disappointment, but it was
hard not to see the looks of distress on everyone's faces.
Many had been hoping to celebrate the holidays with their
friends and families. Harry had been among them. For the
past eight years, he had missed out on his family's annual
barbeque, and had longed for the chance to celebrate with
the extended Kim clan. But it seemed that fate had once
again conspired to keep Harry from experiencing happiness.
it's of any consolation," Vargas continued, "Starfleet
Command has agreed to give our efforts here their complete
support. We have carte blanche authority to requisition
any resources we may need to meet our deadline. That includes
personnel, equipment, research data, what have you. I want
all department heads to submit their requisition lists to
my office by no later than the end of today."
around the room one last time, the commander concluded his
remarks. "If there are no further questions, then that
will be all. Go break the bad news to your teams, people.
Dismissed." And with a wave of his hand, the meeting
got up from his seat, eager to speak with his commanding
officer, but was briefly waylaid by three of his colleagues.
sure hope your team knows what they're doing," said
Singh, his tone one of bewilderment and mild rebuke.
Thrakass from Tactical seemed in complete agreement. "All
I know is you wouldn't catch me flying around in a starship
with an engine that nobody knows how to work."
I'm not thrilled about it either, guys," replied Harry.
guess this was all normal on Voyager, wasn't it?" purred
Aree, "coming up with crazy solutions like this?"
I suppose," said Harry. Just when had he become the
kind of daredevil officer who solved problems by the seat
of his pants? As a cadet, he had been as by-the-book as
they came. And now? Had eight years lost in space turned
him into, as Tom might have put it, some kind of cowboy?
me," he said as he disentangled himself from his co-workers,
noticing that Vargas was about to leave. "Uh, Commander?"
said Harry as he approached the older man. "I've been
thinking about what you said, about how the project had
complete authority to bring in whomever and whatever we
you have a requisition, Lieutenant, then you can send it
to my office as I said."
this is a special case, sir. I'd like to request that we
bring Seven of Nine on board as part of my design team."
stopped Vargas in his tracks as he turned to face his young
subordinate. "Seven of Nine? You mean, the Borg woman?
Mr. Kim, you already made that request of me when you first
joined this project, and I believe my answer then was a
said Harry, a little more forcefully than he intended. "I
know that you already turned down my first request, but
please hear me out. If we're going to get this ship launched
in less than eight weeks, then we're going to need someone
who understands the ins and outs of transwarp technology
and advanced physics better than anyone. That person is
Seven of Nine."
Mr. Kim," Vargas sighed, "isn't it enough I accepted
your request to take on the Maquis woman as
Torres," Harry interrupted. "That's her name.
And she was instrumental in our efforts to
not my concern at this moment, Mr. Kim," Vargas said
with an arched eyebrow, clearly not pleased by Harry's flippancy.
"People can look the other way with a former Maquis,
especially since she's had some Starfleet training, but
do you really expect me to grant a security clearance to
a former Borg drone?"
understand your concerns, sir," said Harry carefully,
trying to strike the right balance between being a decisive
leader and a respectful subordinate. "But consider
the fact that Seven of Nine was only other person besides
myself to ever board a Sernaix vessel. She had direct access
to the technical schematics of that ship. If there's anyone
who can help us crack the mystery of how their slipstream
works, its her."
it's her 'direct access' that has me concerned, Lieutenant,"
said Vargas sourly. "I'm sure I don't need to remind
you of how she was compromised by the Sernaix Ship Mind.
As if her being a Borg drone wasn't enough of a security
Harry said with great urgency, "believe me when I tell
you don't have a thing to fear from Seven of Nine. All of
those points, her being a Borg and the Sernaix thing, that's
all in the past. I can tell you with complete honestly that
I'd trust her with my life."
stood there silently and scratched his chin as he considered
the young man's words. "Trust her with your life, eh?
How about your career?"
don't like it, Mr. Kim, but as you've so clearly put it,
we're under a timetable. I'd be a fool not to make use of
every available resource at my disposal. So against my better
judgment, I'm granting your request. I'll make the necessary
calls and have her on the next available shuttle from Earth."
thank me yet, Lieutenant," said Vargas coolly. "I
expect this woman to perform. I'm assigning her to your
team. That means I expect you to take full responsibility
for her behavior and actions. And I will remind you that
your first priority is to this project, and not to your
so-called friend. I expect you to watch her very carefully.
If she displays any anomalous behavior, you're to report
it to me immediately. Is that understood?"
sir," Harry said, firmly but with a touch of apprehension.
good to hear, Mr. Kim," said the commander, as he leaned
in to the young lieutenant, "because if your Borg friend
does anything to undermine this project or my command, I
won't hesitate to reverse-engineer her myself."
of Nine sat listlessly in the softly lit room, her attention
torn between the view outside her window, and the caller
on the viewscreen. The rain had lightened up to that of
a light drizzle, but the sun had yet to fully break through
the overcast sky.
looked about her new surroundings, the guest room that her
aunt had prepared for her. It was all so
There was excessive material on the curtains, frilly lace
on the seats and nightstands, an area rug that seemed to
serve no discernable purpose. There was even a bed that
took up far too much unnecessary space, for which she would
have no use at all, as Starfleet engineers had already installed
a makeshift regeneration apparatus in the corner. Everything
in this room was a testament to uselessness.
in Seven's mind, that included herself as well.
said the Doctor, his image flickering slightly across the
screen, "were you listening to what I was saying?"
heard you, Doctor," she replied, her mind elsewhere,
her mood as murky as the cloudy skies over the harbor.
don't think you were at all," he said, folding his
arms and looking down at her with authoritative sympathy.
"Seven, I know how difficult it must be for you, adjusting
to life on Earth. But I really feel that you haven't taken
advantage of all that your new home has to offer you."
is not my home, Doctor," the former drone said somberly.
"I am merely a guest in this house."
the Doctor wouldn't hear of it. "First of all, Seven,
I was referring to Earth. And second, I don't think that
you have a full appreciation of what family means. Your
aunt has graciously offered her home to you, and you seem
to be treating the entire experience with loathing."
is not loathing," said Seven defensively. "I simply
do not feel
how do you think she feels?" the hologram said to her
sincerely. "For years, the woman was thinking that
she had no one. And then she learns that her little niece
is alive and well and is half Borg? She's trying to reach
out to you, Seven. You could at least try to meet her halfway."
is difficult for me, Doctor," said Seven. "My
aunt looks at me, and she tries to see the child that I
once was. But I am not who she wants me to be. She does
not know me."
her a chance, Seven," said the Doctor, his face looking
somewhat forlorn as he spoke. "At least you actually
have a family to take shelter with. Some of us aren't so
looked up at the lonely visage of her friend and mentor.
It was then that she realized that the Doctor's fight for
the recognition of all holographic beings was so crucial
to him. It was more than just a matter of preserving his
own life, but of preserving the existence of his holographic
brethren, his fellow Mark Ones. In a sense, they were the
closest things he had to a true family, at least as humans
defined the term.
to Seven of Nine, the crew of Voyager had been her family,
her collective. But now her collective had broken up. She
was as Captain Janeway had found her when she had been separated
from the Borg Collective that first time five years ago,
lost and adrift.
Doctor, you might come to Earth? I would very much like
to be with those with whom I am already familiar,"
like nothing more," he said to her graciously, "but
I'm afraid my efforts here on Jupiter Station keep me quite
busy. Someone has to fight the good fight after all."
is unfortunate that I am not engaged in activities of equal
importance," sighed Seven. "Starfleet apparently
has no use for me. I am considered untrustworthy."
Seven," said the Doctor, "I'm sure its just a
matter of people getting used to you. And you shouldn't
measure your value simply by the amount of work you've accomplished.
If I've taught you anything, it's that life is a banquet,
something to be savored and enjoyed." He then took
on a distant ecstatic look as he continued. "Why you're
just a short transporter hop away from the streets of Roma,
or the sun-drenched fields of Tuscany
ah, yes. What
I wouldn't give for the chance to simply wander about those
same cobblestone roads that
said the young woman, rousing him from his reverie.
he replied, coming back to the conversation at hand. "My
point, Seven, is that it pains me to see you feeling so
down about yourself. Yes, you've known adversity, but you've
also known triumph. I just want you to recognize just how
truly blessed you've been in many ways."
will consider your words, Doctor," she said hesitantly.
all that I ask," he replied warmly. "I do have
to be going. I'm presenting a paper to the Daystrom Institute
on algorithmic dream-consciousness states."
you for communicating with me, Doctor," she said to
him. "I realize that of late we have not spoken as
often as we used to."
know," he said to her, his eyes conveying affection.
"It feels good again, doesn't it? Especially in light
well, I'm just pleased to know you don't feel uncomfortable
I did at one time," she answered him. "But you
were there for me many times, especially when the Sernaix
took control of me, even though I had treated you unkindly.
When I reflect upon how cruelly I responded to your affections
for me, I feel
all right, Seven," said the hologram. "I can't
make you feel something for me that isn't there. I'd rather
have you as a friend than not have you there at all. I suppose
that some boundaries simply aren't meant to be crossed."
too am grateful for your friendship, Doctor," Seven
said, and nodded silently at the Doctor's image on the screen.
"I would not wish to lose it."
be all right?" he asked her gently.
will be fine," she replied. "Thank you."
And with a nod, the Doctor signed off, leaving Seven of
Nine staring at the blank wall screen, alone and uncertain.
sat in silence; trying to consider what meaning she could
give to her life now that her circumstances had changed.
The interrogations and depositions by Starfleet were finished,
Voyager was to be decommissioned, and her crew scattered
to their respective destinies. Before she had designed her
life around the need to feel useful, that no matter how
much uncertainty being an individual might generate, she
would always take solace in the structure of having a specific
function. But that was over now. She had no duties, no responsibilities,
and no goals to perform.
considered the Doctor's advice to simply experience life
and acquire all that Earth had to offer. But she simply
didn't know how. Every new venture, every step in the growth
of her humanity, had always take place within the context
of a guide, someone she trusted who would lead the way and
provide new insight for her to consider. But now, there
was no one, except possibly her aunt. And there were issues
she had with Irene Hansen that she wasn't quite prepared
to deal with just yet.
shook her head despondently. It was moments like this that
made her regret ever asking the Doctor to remove her cortical
safeguards. A simple curiosity as to how to experience passionate
emotions had led to a flood of new feelings that she had
not anticipated. The despondency she was now feeling over
her lack of purpose and function. Guilt over her dismissal
of her longtime friend, the Doctor, regret over the casual
manner with which she ended her brief 'fling' with Chakotay,
and of course, her recognition of the unconscious cruelties
that she spoken every day with Lieutenant Harry Kim.
Doctor had warned her that these would be the consequences
of experiencing the same emotions that other human beings
felt every day. If this was what it felt like to be human,
she thought, then it was a wonder that all of humanity did
not lapse into depression.
a gentle voice spoke up from outside the doorway. Seven
turned to see her aunt standing there, looking at her with
that same patient smile she had worn for the past two weeks,
ever since she had first come to live here.
Irene?" Calling her aunt by her first name had been
a minor victory on the part of the elder Hansen, something
which Seven had graciously conceded. Somehow it had seemed
inappropriate to refer to her aunt by the more formal 'Ms.
Hansen,' but she could not yet bring herself to refer to
her in the more familial 'Aunt Irene.'
a crafts fair over in town," the older woman said hesitantly.
"I was going over to take a look, to see if there were
any antiques for the living room. I don't suppose you'd
like to come along?"
is raining," said Seven succinctly.
its just a light drizzle, nothing to be afraid of,"
she chuckled softly. "Besides, the grass and the flowers
look so much brighter when it rains, wouldn't you agree?"
do not like to get wet."
displayed that same smile she always used whenever she looked
like she was about to lapse back into her memories of the
past. "That doesn't sound like the Annika that I remember.
When you were a little girl, you used to love running around
outside, come rain or shine. It didn't matter one bit. Your
poor mother had such a time chasing after you
reflections on the past might have provided some comfort
to Irene Hansen, thought Seven wearily, but they did nothing
but serve as a painful reminder of everything she had lost.
"I am not a child anymore, Irene. Those experiences
are from another time, and have no relevance to me anymore."
why do you insist on calling me by that name?" she
demanded, her voice an icy hiss of frustration. "It
means nothing to me!"
the name that your father gave to you," Irene pleaded
expression was as cold and pitiless as her tone of voice,
as old memories of her assimilation came rushing to the
surface. "That means nothing to me either." Almost
immediately, Seven regretted her choice of words, as she
saw the pain and hurt in her aunt's eyes. Perhaps the Doctor
didn't fully realize, she thought, what a mixed blessing
family could be.
Hansen said nothing as she motioned to leave. Seven got
up from her seat and went to her. "I did not intend
that as it sounded."
you did," said Irene softly. "It's all right.
I don't blame you. You see, when I think about your father,
I remember the little brother who I used to tease and play
with when he was a little boy. But that's not who he is
for you. I know that you hold him and mother responsible
for what happened to you, and I think that's why you feel
so uncomfortable around me."
don't understand," said Seven curiously.
afraid that if you accept me as family, it will mean that
you've forgiven your father for bringing you into contact
with the Borg. I don't think you're quite ready to do that
stood there, not quite certain how to respond. Before she
could answer, or even think of a proper reply, the house
computer released a soft chime.
Excuse me, Irene," said the computer voice, in its
pre-programmed, almost human sounding voice. << There
is a long distance call for Annika, from Utopia Planitia."
call?" said Irene with a nervous cheer, trying to erase
the earlier tension. "My goodness, you are a popular
one today, aren't you?"
should answer this," Seven responded.
leave you to
" Irene said as she motioned to leave.
you may stay." Seven then returned to sit down again
before the viewscreen and taped the desk console to accept
the call. Utopia Planitia, she thought. That could mean
that the caller was either B'Elanna Torres or
Kim," she said as the young man's face materialized
on the monitor.
Seven," said the young officer with a smile as he looked
down from the wide screen across from her. "I hear
that it's raining in your neck of the woods."
aunt does not live in the woods," she answered with
a playful arch of her eyebrow. Her attempts at humor were
not always well received, but Harry Kim was usually a gracious
listener and it gave her good practice.
he laughed softly. "Listen, the reason I called is
that I have a proposition for you." Harry went on to
present his offer of a position on the Montana Project,
explaining to her that Starfleet would be ready with a shuttlecraft
to take her to Utopia Planitia as soon as she accepted and
was ready to leave. It was a three-hour flight to Mars,
which would give the staff at Fulton Station plenty of time
to set up quarters for her tailored to her special needs,
including a makeshift regeneration rig. In the meantime,
Harry could send her an encrypted file detailing the work
on the slipstream accomplished to date, so that she would
be up to speed by the time she arrived on station. If there
was one thing that Seven was good at, it was assimilating
does it sound like something that interests you? I don't
want to put pressure on you, but we really need you up here.
I need you. Um, your help, that is."
took in what it was that Lieutenant Kim was telling her.
The idea of it, working with Sernaix technology again, it
seemed to stir within her. A faint trickle at the back of
her mind seemed to tell her that this was what she wanted
to do, what she needed to do. It was strange, she thought,
that she should feel this way. But somehow it all seemed
must confess that I find your proposal to be
she said with a gradual smile. "It would most certainly
be a stimulating intellectual challenge."
you'll do it?" said an excited Harry.
She held off on answering the young man right away. Working
on Fulton Station with Lieutenant Kim and B'Elanna Torres
would not be quite the same thing as her service aboard
Voyager, but it would be a close approximation. It was a
gradual means of adapting to a new life, while keeping some
comfortable aspects of her old one. And that compelling
sensation within her grew stronger. She wanted this. She
knew she would accept.
she looked back at her aunt, looking sadly back at her niece,
trying to force a smile as she overheard the conversation.
have been given an important opportunity," said Seven.
"It is the chance to contribute to something of great
significance to the Federation."
understand, dear," said Irene. "You should go."
do think that I wish to leave you. It is simply that
all right, Anni
I mean, Seven," said the elder
Hansen. "You didn't do anything wrong. It was a mistake
for me to try and force this on you so quickly. Maybe it's
for the best if we take some time apart, and learn to get
used to each other gradually."
are certain of this?"
certain," said Irene with greater confidence. "You're
my family, Seven, and that means I love you no matter what.
This is your house and it always will be. The door will
always be open for you when you're ready to come home."
and B'Elanna stood at the docking hatch later that day,
awaiting the arrival of Seven's shuttle. There were a few
other onlookers who were interested in meeting their newest
colleague, while others who were just morbidly curious to
catch a glimpse of the infamous 'Borg woman.' Harry wished
they would all just go away. This would be a difficult enough
transition for her, without people making her seem like
some kind of freak.
here," he said excitedly. "Is everything ready?
I mean, was Maintenance able to set up the regeneration
rig without any problems?"
it easy, Harry," B'Elanna said as she rolled her eyes.
"The rig works fine. I checked the equipment myself.
What's gotten into you, anyway? You've worked alongside
Seven for years. What's the big deal about her coming here,
B'Elanna," said the lieutenant pointedly. "It's
not about Seven." He saw the skeptical look on his
friend's face. "Honest. It's just
I want this
to go well. This project, everything reflects on who I am
as a leader on this team. And the stakes are just so high.
I just don't want anything to go wrong."
Harry," B'Elanna said as she reached out and tousled
Harry's hair playfully. "Between you, me, and Seven,
you've already got the most talented design team in Starfleet.
Hell, if Tom were here, the four of us could be running
the Federation by this time next week."
trust that that will be the next goal on our agenda once
the current design project has been completed?" said
a familiar feminine voice that was now emerging from the
said Harry with a broad grin, "its good to see you
am equally pleased, Lieutenant," replied the former
drone. She then looked past Harry to see B'Elanna standing
behind him. "Ms. Torres," she nodded respectfully.
smiled in return. "Nice seeing you too, Seven."
thank you both for allowing me this opportunity. It is
be of use once again."
me, Seven," Harry answered with a wry chuckle, "you'll
be working hard every second that you're here. We've got
four weeks to get a working slipstream up and online."
I suggest we proceed to our assigned duties, should we not?"
said Seven with an arch of her brow. "I have already
assimilated the latest status reports you encoded to me
while en route from Earth. I believe
hold on a second," said Harry with a comfortable laugh.
"You've just arrived here after a three-hour flight.
Don't you want to put away your stuff and get situated first
before diving into work?"
that would be best," said Seven. "Would fifteen
minutes be sufficient time to orient myself with my quarters?
I have already downloaded the station's and the prototype's
smiled and shook his head, as if there were something he
and he alone found amusing. "Promise me that you'll
never change, Seven. You're
smiled unconsciously at Harry's words of amused praise.
"I pride myself on being unique."
to hear it," said B'Elanna dryly. "I don't think
there's room in this universe for more than one of you."
that moment, the door leading to the main corridor, and
in walked Commander Vargas, his mood and expression both
an unreadable darkness, which showed a slight tightening
as he saw Seven of Nine.
Harry exclaimed as he noticed his superior officer enter
the room. "I'd like you to meet
know who she is, Mr. Kim," Vargas said coolly. "Seven
of Nine. Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One. I've read
your files, Ms
" he trailed off, trying to think
of a proper title. "What exactly do you call yourself,
call myself Seven of Nine," said the former drone,
her expression a mirror of that of Vargas. The two eyed
each other warily, each waiting to see a weakness revealed
in the other.
well, Seven of Nine," said Vargas. "I want you
to know up front that I am not pleased with the idea of
having you here, and that if I weren't forced by circumstance
to make use of your considerable assets, I'd send you packing
with a fully armed security detail. So make no mistake about
it, young woman, you are here solely because Lieutenant
Kim has persuaded me that you can add value to this project."
He then paused for a moment as he folded his arms, and stared
at her intently. "I read many of the Voyager logs regarding
you. Captain Janeway seemed to let you get away with quite
a lot while you were on board her ship, probably because
she felt sorry for you. Well, let me assure you that we're
all far too busy to feel any pity here. The minute you become
more of a hindrance than a help, you're gone. Are we clear
voice was low and steady, betraying no emotion whatsoever.
"We are quite clear."
good," he replied sharply, as he then looked up at
a startled Harry Kim, who was watching with alarm at the
icy exchange. He never even bothered to acknowledge B'Elanna's
presence. "Lieutenant, see that she's properly oriented
and introduced to the rest of your team as soon as possible.
I'll expect a progress report at 0900 tomorrow morning."
And with that, he turned in crisp military fashion and left.
was left dumbstruck, and almost wanted to apologize to Seven
for this manner of treatment. But B'Elanna leaned over to
the statuesque young woman, who was stiff with a repressed
fury and hurt.
take it personally," said B'Elanna. "He said the
same thing to me when I got here. Apparently he likes Maquis
about as much as he likes Borg." She then gave Seven
a wry smile. "Welcome to Utopia Planitia."
integration into Harry's engineering team went as well as
could be expected. Out of fourteen officers, there were
one or two who had difficulty at first working with her.
But Harry had had a sit-down with them and had managed to
calm them down, which had been especially difficult in the
case of Ensign Allenby, who had lost two cousins at the
Battle of Wolf 359. But at least everyone had learned to
act civilly around her and be patient with her suggestions.
bigger problem had proved to be Seven's working relationship
with the rest of the team. On Voyager, Seven had often had
difficulty working in teams, usually because of her instinctive
belief that she was automatically smarter than everyone
else, which technically was true. On the other hand, it
had often caused her to conduct herself as if she were the
automatic leader of any assigned project, and as if the
rest of Voyager's crew were better off serving her.
thought Harry, Seven seemed to have learned from experience
and kept her worst aristocratic instincts in check. If Commander
Vargas's harsh warning had done any good, it had reinforced
to her just how precarious her situation was on the Montana
Project. Of course, sometimes her tone or harshness would
rub someone the wrong way, which meant that Harry had to
step in and smooth over any ruffled feathers.
had never realized that leadership positions involved so
much handholding and ego-stroking. It seemed, he thought
with great amusement, that he was ever-so-slowly turning
into a politician.
at least Seven was more than making her inclusion on the
project a worthwhile investment. Within days of her arrival,
she manifested insights into the Sernaix slipstream core
just from the schematics alone. By the end of the first
week, she and B'Elanna had constructed a scanner that was
able to generate an internal tomographic diagram of the
core's interior. It was already leading to a new understanding
of the inner workings of the core, proving not only B'Elanna's
hypothesis that the slipstream core was a zero-point energy
generator, but that the device also exploited quantum fluctuations
within condensed matter matrices as a computing medium,
thus allowing for incredibly detailed calculations of the
slipstream variance. The core was quite likely the most
powerful computer ever seen by Starfleet.
watching Seven work was a miracle for Harry to behold. He
wondered just how much knowledge Seven had managed to retain
from her contact with the Sernaix Ship Mind, because the
ideas were coming so rapidly to her, it was almost as if
someone were whispering them into her ear.
of Nine held her lunch tray as she navigated the wide shuffle
of the station commissary, looking for somewhere to take
her meal. There were many tables with empty seats, but few
with anyone that she had come to know. And fewer still with
any she would feel comfortable spending time with.
after a few quick scans around the room did she find where
B'Elanna Torres and Harry Kim were seated. Her heart lightened,
as she knew that there were at least some people on this
station that she could call her friends.
I join you?" she inquired of the two former Voyager
do," said Harry, as he shuffled over to make room for
the young woman. "There's always room for one more."
you," she replied as she eased down next to him.
leaned in closer to the blonde woman to speak. "We
managed to get a link-up with that nano-adaptive fiber you
developed. We think it will have no problem interfacing
with the slipstream core, assuming the programming protocols
was not I who developed the fiber, Ms. Torres," replied
Seven. "The Borg Collective acquired the technology
from Species 1109. I have merely refined the adaptive sequence
so that it will successfully bond with the Sernaix interface
eyes rolled and chuckled at Seven's response. "Ms.
Torres? Jeez, you make me sound like an old woman, for crying
out loud. Can't you just call me B'Elanna? We've only known
each other for five years already."
did not think you would consider such familiarity appropriate,"
Come on, Seven," B'Elanna groaned. "I can admit
we're friends, even if you can't."
blinked at B'Elanna's open admission of friendship. "I
can admit it," she answered. In truth, Seven had always
considered the half-Klingon engineer to be among her closest
of associates, although the differences in their personalities
had usually precluded any truly close connections.
does this mean that we can be on a first name basis at this
point?" B'Elanna joked.
believe that I can adapt to that
Seven, revealing the barest hint of a smile.
now that's certainly progress," laughed Harry, watching
the exchange between the two women. "Four years ago,
who would have thought you two would be talking like this?"
believe that it is possible for one to adapt over time,"
said Seven, turning to the man to her right. "Did I
not also learn to address you by your familiar name?"
admit, you did," Harry said with a smile. "Although
I've noticed that you've kept things rather formal since
you came on board."
did not wish to undermine your command, Lieutenant,"
she answered him. "You are, after all, my superior
on this project and no doubt wish to project an air of authority
with your subordinates."
now if only you'll remind B'Elanna of that," Harry
you look at this guy?" said the engineer in amused
exasperation. "Put a pip on his collar, and he thinks
Harry could issue a retort of his own, Lieutenant Commander
Singh came up to their table, and gave Harry a friendly
pat on the shoulder.
we need to get going," the officer said to Harry. "The
boss wants to see you, me, Thrakass, and Darcy on the double.
I think you know what it's about."
going to get the go-ahead on the slipstream installation,
aren't we, Ramesh?" Harry said, trying to contain his
excitement. After all, he wasn't a first-year ensign anymore.
He had to comport himself as a responsible senior officer.
But even so, the thrill of knowing he'd be overseeing the
construction of what could possibly be the first successful
slipstream drive in the fleet was difficult to hide.
see what the commander has to say," Singh replied.
"I've got to admit it, Harry," he continued with
a friendly grin, "I never believed you would have pulled
off as much as you did in the last two weeks. I didn't think
we'd learn so much this fast."
the credit goes to my team," Harry beamed proudly as
he gestured to Seven and B'Elanna. "I'm just the guy
who settles the personality conflicts."
is not true," said Seven. "Lieutenant Kim is a
most capable engineer and operations manager and was successful
in forming a coherent synthesis of many of our concepts
Singh laughed in amusement at Seven's spirited defense of
her team leader. "Maybe you ought to have her write
up your officer evaluation," he said. "You'd probably
make Lieutenant Commander by this time next year."
He then looked at the time on the wall chronometer. "C'mon,
Harry. We can't keep the boss waiting."
waved good-bye to the two women and left to go to his meeting.
B'Elanna smirked as she saw him leave. "Well, looks
like Moses is being called to the mountain."
said nothing, but simply watched Harry exit the room, her
eyes still on him as he went down the corridor.
Seven," B'Elanna teased, trying to get the former drone's
attention. "See anything you like?"
me, B'Elanna," Seven stammered as she returned her
attention to the woman across from her. "I was merely
ensuring that Lieutenant Kim departed without incident."
right," the other woman grinned mischievously at her.
am grateful to him for including me on this project,"
said Seven, trying to explain further. "It is good
to feel useful once again." In truth, it was Seven
who needed the explanation for her behavior most of all.
I guess I can appreciate that," said B'Elanna, "the
that why you desired assignment to the Montana Project?
You wished to feel useful?"
a manner of speaking," said B'Elanna. "Don't get
me wrong. I love being a mother and raising Miral. I can't
think of anything that I've done which has been more important.
But I guess I needed to prove to myself that I was still
the same person I was before I had the baby. That I was
still an engineer."
you feel that your uncertainties have been sufficiently
answered? Even though you are no longer Chief Engineer?"
Seven, thanks for not sugarcoating it," B'Elanna sneered
sarcastically. "Oh, I'm just kidding. The truth is,
I miss being Chief Engineer more than I realized. But it's
still worth it, being a part of a skunk works like this."
skunk works?" Seven cringed at the choice of words,
bothered by the very thought of comparing her efforts to
that of a Terran mammal known for its offensive odor.
a skunk works," answered B'Elanna with a twinkle in
her eye. "Rolling up your sleeves and getting your
hands dirty, and making up the rules as you go along, doing
what it takes to deliver your product as promised. That's
what being an engineer is all about. I haven't felt a rush
like this since my days in the Maquis. Do you know what
believe that I do," said Seven. There had been a strange
compulsion on her part to come here, as if the Montana Project
and its fascinating array of recovered alien technologies
had somehow called to her. But now that she was here and
working alongside her friends, she found that there was
a new compulsion that was directing her, focused on one
individual in particular.
It was curious to Seven, this steadily increasing fascination
with Lieutenant Harry Kim. He had been a friend to her since
the day she first arrived aboard Voyager, even though she
had only irregularly appreciated that aspect of him. It
was only this past year that she recognized just how good
a friend he was to her. He had stood by her, even coming
to her rescue and rejecting his former fiancée in
she had first come to work alongside the young officer,
he had seemed at best to be an irrelevant annoyance. And
now, years later, she wasn't sure what he was to her. She
had begun to notice that with their rejuvenated friendship
had come an enjoyment of being with him. She was comfortable
with him in a way that she had not been with Chakotay, probably
because Harry was uniquely himself to her and not an attempt
on her part to see him as someone else from her past. But
unlike her relationship with the Doctor, there was an emerging
curiosity on her part that somehow Harry Kim could be more
than who he was for her right now.
asked the former drone. "Might I make an inquiry of
you ever formed an opinion regarding an individual, believing
that it was absolutely certain and accurate, only to reconsider
that opinion as time progressed onward?"
we talking about anyone in particular?" asked B'Elanna,
leaning in with a naughty smirk.
am speaking purely hypothetically," Seven answered
stiffly, arching her back.
gave her an all-knowing smile. "Well, to answer your
question, it sounds kind of like the way I felt about Tom
when we were first stuck aboard Voyager together."
did not feel an initial romantic attraction towards him?"
Seven asked in puzzlement.
only thing I felt for Tom Paris when I first met him was
that he was an arrogant, preening son of a bitch who thought
he was the galaxy's gift to the female gender," B'Elanna
replied, not with anger, but rather with laughter, as she
recollected those foolish early days with the man who would
one day become her husband.
you reconsidered your opinion of him?"
I came to realize that one of the reasons I was thinking
so poorly of Tom was that I was afraid to confront the fact
that I was actually attracted to him. As much as he annoyed
the hell out of me sometimes, I gradually saw that there
was a good, decent, responsible man inside him. I wanted
to deny it, believe me. The last thing I needed while being
stuck out in the Delta Quadrant was to fall in love. But
it happened. And the rest is history."
Seven nodded in agreement. "Romantic affiliations can
often lead to interpersonal complications, the Doctor being
a case in point. His admission of his affections for me
almost damaged our friendship. Thankfully, we have restored
the integrity of our previous relationship. But I would
not want such an occurrence to happen again with someone
important to me."
mean," continued B'Elanna with a twinkle in her eye,
"someone you've just reconsidered your opinion of?"
of Nine did not answer, and tried to maintain a stony mask
of inscrutability as she focused on her meal. Her silence
said it all.
Kim's expectations had been proven in the end. Commander
Vargas, pleasantly surprised by the progress of the Engineering
Design Team, had given his cautious approval for the installation
of the Sernaix slipstream core. Of course, his delight was
not so exuberant that he would think to praise Harry's two
civilian consultants for their indispensable contributions.
any event, the assembly was scheduled for the following
morning in the prototype's newly completed Engineering compartment.
Lieutenant Commander Singh was still concerned about possible
damage to the rest of the ship should the slipstream core
prove incompatible with Starfleet designs, but Harry assured
him that his team had installed 'security breakers' throughout
all the engineering diagnostic systems. Should there be
any power discharges or unpredictable programs feed back
from the slipstream core, then the breakers would kick in
and isolate the engineering systems from the rest of the
ship, preventing any damage from spreading. The breakers
even had a manual command function, in the unlikely event
that they did not come online automatically. It was with
this final reassurance that Vargas gave his final authorization
for the installation.
everyone," Harry called out to the team ahead of him,
"easy does it." His voice was a beacon of clarity
among the hectic din of engineers and operations personnel
scurrying about their duties in the prototype's Main Engineering
compartment. It was larger than Voyager's engineering section,
sleeker, with much glowing green instrumentation, which
betrayed their Borg-inspired influence.
could see why B'Elanna Torres would be drawn to such a working
environment. It was completely deficient in any apparent
order or efficiency. Yet, miraculously, the work managed
to get done, generated solely by the harnessed creativity
and talent of the design crew.
looked on as she watched Lieutenant Kim issue instructions
to his team, noticing the change in how he conducted himself.
Clearly he had learned the lessons of his experience aboard
the Nightingale well. He did not attempt to micromanage
the people under his command, nor did he try to be an expert
in every field related to his duties. Instead, he deferred
to the judgment and expertise of those under him, allowing
them to learn and excel at their own pace. But whenever
a command decision was called for, he was clear and decisive
in issuing it. He did not go out of his way to be liked,
but rather made it clear that he was both fair and approachable.
In doing so, Seven could see that Harry Kim had developed
an effective and motivated workgroup that had been more
than able to adapt to any outside influences, particularly
her own inclusion.
it comes," Harry gestured to her with a proud smile,
as he looked on towards the back of the room. The compartment
had a pair of large, cavernous bay doors, through which
something was being rolled out. The two were looking on
as six maintenance crewmen towed a massive object, buoyed
along with antigravity cargo clamps. She recognized the
object immediately. It was the Sernaix slipstream drive
core was roughly cylindrical, about twice as large as an
average-sized humanoid, with odd spherical lumps protruding
organically from the side. It was made from a pitch-black
material, the bizarre 'photon matter' which the Sernaix
used in their ship hulls and superstructures. However, due
to its more compact size and the fact that it appeared to
be self-powered using zero-point energy, the core had maintained
its structural integrity. It had managed to survive the
crash that destroyed the ship from which it came, apparently
the maintenance crew had loaded the bulky core to its final
position, the antigravity lifters were powered down and
the alien device was floated into its docking clamp, right
next to the ship's primary warp core.
could not take her eyes off of the Sernaix device. It almost
seemed to sing to her.
feel the same way," Harry beamed at Seven as he followed
her gaze towards the slipstream core. "It's magnificent,
find myself strangely drawn to it," Seven murmured.
She was barely listening to Harry now, as her thoughts were
now focused on the faint whisper that was beckoning deep
within her mind. It was not the overpowering din of the
Borg Collective that she remembered. This felt more like
a gentle coaxing, like the laughter of an old friend. She
knew she had to tell Harry about what it was she was feeling,
but somehow there was this feeling that somehow
Harry called out to the other side of the room, where she
and three ensigns were busy linking up the nano-adaptive
cables from the Starfleet engineering monitoring computers
to the Sernaix device. If their test went well today, the
nano-cables, each consisting of strands of trillions of
pre-programmed nanites, would adapt their configuration
and power signature to the Sernaix interface ports and fool
the core computing system into believing it was linking
with a Sernaix bodyfield.
ready on our end," B'Elanna called back to him. "The
cables are linked and ready for some juice."
Tate?" Harry called over to the two ensigns positioned
by the slipstream core itself.
clamped down and linked up, sir," Tate, a slight, youthful
redhead, reported. Allenby nodded in agreement.
then looked up to see the watchful eye of the engineering
security imager, through which Commander Vargas was no doubt
observing the momentous occasion from his office, while
staying out of the way of his people and not giving them
the overt impression he was looking over their shoulder.
The young officer smiled as he looked out among the assembled
crew here before him. This was his moment now. They were
all waiting for him to give the word.
it up," he ordered proudly, "We'll start it at
200 millicochranes and see where it goes from there."
With the order given, energy was diverted from the main
warp core through the nano-cables into the slipstream core.
Everyone stood with baited breath, waiting and hoping for
that moment when the engineering monitors would register
a positive interface with the Sernaix device.
after a brief flickering of power, there was absolutely
remained nonplussed, despite the initial letdown. "Let's
try cycling the power feed at 500 millicochranes and see
if that has any effect," he suggested to the nearest
power was then cycled into the alien device, but the crew
were so intent on their jobs that nobody noticed Seven of
Nine walking towards the Sernaix core aimlessly, like she
was in a trance.
whisper within her mind grew more compelling, urging her
closer to the still-inert slipstream core. Allenby and Tate
had left the core unattended to assist with the power transfer,
leaving Seven by herself. She was standing over the bulky
shape, and instinctively reached out to touch the cool,
dark surface, feeling its smooth and frictionless texture.
Her Borg-enhanced hand probed along the exterior of the
device, until she found a recessed circle, a Sernaix interface
port, one that was not being assimilated by a nano-cable.
had time to quickly glance up from his position at the main
engineering systems console to see the former drone standing
over the core. "Seven," he called out to her in
concern, "we're still running tests. You shouldn't
she was soon doing more than touching as she extended her
enhanced arm and pointed her fingers at the interface port
and allowed her assimilation tubules to shoot out and make
" Harry gasped as he immediately dropped what
he was doing and ran to Seven and the core. "Seven!
Get away from there!"
outburst had immediately gotten everyone's attention. Three
of the nearest crewmembers got to Seven first and tried
to pull her away from the link. Harry quickly joined them
and the four were pulling at Seven and her arm, trying to
desperately break her free. But her grip on the core was
immovable. She stood firmly in place as though she were
carved from tritanium alloy.
Harry pleaded with her desperately, "can you hear me?
What's happening to you? You have to disengage now!"
But Seven could not, or would not, hear him. Her eyes were
glazed over and her mouth hung open absentmindedly. It didn't
appear to Harry that she was even aware of what she was
the entire room was transfixed on the scene of four officers
attempting to wrestle a dazed young woman to the group,
B'Elanna's attention was drawn to the nearest monitor. "Uh,
I think you need to see this," she muttered.
a little busy!" he shouted, still struggling with Seven.
B'Elanna persisted. "We're getting power readings from
the Sernaix core. It's going online! But it's like nothing
that we predicted in our simulations."
blurted Ensign Allenby from his own station at another nearby
monitor. "The nano-cables
they're receiving new
" But there was no
need for him to elaborate. It was plainly obvious to all
that the cables were now forming new branches, spreading
their tendrils into consoles and monitors all around Engineering.
All around the room, the crew were shouting in confusion
as Security personnel rushed in with their phasers drawn,
but they were all uncertain as to how to take control of
Harry cried out, still trying to pull Seven away, "where
are those security breakers?" It was at that moment
that a grill pattern on the side of the core, which had
previously been inert, began to radiate a bright neon blue
glow. The lights in Engineering flickered as the core drew
not switching on!" she shouted back.
the manual trigger! Now!" he commanded, "before
whatever is happening here spreads throughout the ship!"
B'Elanna followed Harry's instructions, Seven's body jerked
and convulsed, until finally the tubules disengaged from
the port. Seven went slack as Harry and the others yanked
her away from the core. She could barely stand as Harry
twisted her around to face him.
what the hell did you do?!" he demanded, more out of
fear than anger. But the young woman just looked at him
with a blank stare. She clearly didn't have a clue as to
what he was talking about.
the confusion and chaos around them went dead as the intercom
rumbled to life. Harry expected it to be the voice of Commander
Vargas or one of the station security chiefs. But the speaker
was one that was all too familiar to Harry Kim.
that feels soooo much better," a jovial voice echoed
throughout the room. "You people have no idea how confining
it was being squeezed inside that tiny little implant for
months on end."
as the ashen expression on Seven's face revealed, she had
recognized the voice as well. But B'Elanna clearly did not
know what was going on at this point. "What the hell
is going on here?! You'd better identify yourself right
of the wall imagers panned downward, looking at B'Elanna
as if it were an eye, focusing in on her. " I guess
that my reputation failed to precede me." A second
imager spun on its axis to concentrate on Harry. "Honestly,
Harry. I would have thought you'd tell your friends a little
something about me." The first imager then turned back
towards B'Elanna. "Allow me to introduce myself. My
name is Ozymandias, king of kings: look upon my works, ye
Mighty, and despair!"
jaw was agape, unable to speak. His mind flashed back to
that horrifying discovery months ago, the discovery of dozens
of Sernaix bodies, murdered by the rogue Ship Mind Ozymandias.
A being that he had believed dead, but which not only was
now 'alive', but had apparently taken control of Seven of
Nine and was now in control of the Engineering systems that
Harry himself had helped build.
holding a weakened Seven, he finally managed to form a coherent
thought and shouted out an order. "Evacuate Engineering,
immediately! Emergency lockdown!"
frightened engineers didn't need to be told twice as they
rushed, shouting and hollering, towards the nearest exit.
Harry dragged Seven along with him as he dashed away, trying
to block out the voice of the Sernaix calling to him as
where are you all going? There are things we have to discuss!
Important things! I would think that you
compartment blast doors slammed shut as the last of the
engineers and security guards fled the room, leaving a nonplussed
Ship Mind sealed inside and all alone.
Anyone there?" Ozymandias called out to the empty room.
"Was it something I said?"
tried to recall the number of times that he had seen Captain
Janeway in anger. He estimated that if he were to add up
all those times together, throw in for good measure some
Kazon and Hirogen fury, and multiply it by a thousand, he
might come close to approximating what Commander Vargas
was venting at him right now.
could this have happened?!" the commander exploded.
"Do you have any idea of the extent of this crisis?
A Sernaix is in control of the most powerful starship ever
built! A Sernaix!"
stood with Seven and B'Elanna in the midst of Vargas's office
back on Fulton Station. He wished that he could bear the
full brunt of the commander's temper, but it seemed that
the bulk of the blame was being directed at Seven of Nine.
long?" demanded Vargas of the young woman. "How
long have you been playing host to that creature? What is
its agenda? Answer me!"
do not know!" Seven struggled to respond. "As
I have told you, Commander, I have no memory of downloading
the entity, or being consciously aware of its presence.
I had believed it removed from my cortical node, but clearly
that was not the case."
you think?" Vargas shot back at her. He then turned
to the other department heads, who were also assembled for
this emergency meeting. "How well contained is the
responded Lt. Commander Singh, "Ms. Torres was able
to switch on the security breakers, so Engineering is isolated
from the rest of the ship. There's no way that this...Ozymandias...can
access any systems from the rest of the ship, or the station.
to be trying to reprogram the nanocables to splice past
the breakers. If he can do that, then he could, possibly..."
control of the prototype," Vargas groaned. "How
many other systems are online?"
Thrakas shifted uncomfortably next to Singh, his antennae
twitching as he spoke. "Sir, there are twenty-four
quantum torpedoes and a dozen transphasics in the ship's
armory. We had them on stand-by for the launch tests scheduled
for this afternoon. If this Sernaix can get control of the
went pale as he thought of the implications. "But the
targeting computers aren't working yet."
yet, sir," replied Thrakas. "But if this Sernaix
wanted to, he could easily fire a torpedo at us or one of
the other stations in the shipyards. Given how powerful
our ordnance is, and the density of nearby targets, he wouldn't
have to be very accurate to kill a lot of people. All he'd
need is line-of-sight."
don't forget," B'Elanna joined in, "this thing
is practically an artificial intelligence. He could probably
calculate a firing solution in his...er, head. Assuming
he had one, that is."
that's just wonderful!" Vargas threw up his hands in
sir?" Harry spoke up. "Have we, um, determined
what it is that Ozymandias wants?"
he wants?" Vargas said incredulously. "Mr. Kim,
I have the entire engineering section on lockdown. There's
no way I'm allowing any open channels between this station
and that creature. He might try to use the signal to gain
entrance to our computer network."
Commander," Harry said, "how are we going to know
Ozymandias's intentions if we don't talk to him?"
to him?" Vargas sputtered. "Mr. Kim, this Sernaix
has instigated a hostile act against Starfleet. There will
be no negotiations. A tactical squad from Starfleet Security
will be here within the hour. They'll get rid of that...creature...soon
Harry went on, "I'm not talking about negotiations.
I mean, we should just listen to what he has to say, that's
all. If you're worried about comm channels, then someone
should talk to him face to face. I'm willing to volunteer,
not!" Vargas roared. "I'm not going to give this
Sernaix a chance to make you its hostage."
don't think he'll do that, sir," said Harry awkwardly.
"He could have prevented the blast doors from opening
and had an entire room full of hostages, but he didn't."
you can't be serious!" B'Elanna said with alarm. "You
were the one who went aboard Ozymandias's ship. You found
the bodies. He's a stone cold killer!"
was...different, B'Elanna," Harry said. "He killed
his crew for betraying him and turning him into an upload."
she answered sharply. "And if he could do that to his
own people, just think of what he could do to you."
don't think he will. He could have killed me and Seven back
on his ship. But instead, he saved us. He saved Voyager.
right now I wouldn't be tossing out any more suggestions
if I were you," Vargas said with an icy glare. "After
today's little fiasco, your credibility with me has been
seriously compromised. Need I remind you that it was on
your insistence that this woman," he gestured abruptly
in Seven's direction, "be brought onto this project?"
looked down, too ashamed to face his commander. All of the
good work he had done here, everything he had hoped to accomplish,
all of it wiped out in less than an hour. And Seven would
be the one to pay the ultimate price for it.
paced back and forth across the room, not even looking at
Harry as he spoke. "All I can say is that we..."
he said before being cut off from a chime from his comm
coming in from Starfleet Security, sir," came the voice
from Ops over the intercom.
take it at my office," Vargas replied, as he went to
his desk terminal to silently read the incoming communiqué.
Nobody in the room dared to speak while he softly listened
to the other end of the channel.
completed, Vargas looked up from his desk, straight at Harry.
"Well, Mr. Kim, you still want to talk to your Sernaix
friend?" he asked gruffly.
and this Sernaix seem to have some kind of history. The
tactical squad will be docking within a half an hour. I
don't know what the full capabilities of this being are,
but we need to learn what we can and keep it distracted
until we're ready to strike."
Harry asked, puzzled by the request. "What exactly
is the tactical team hoping I'll find? Surely they don't
think they can retake Engineering with a physical assault?"
not your concern, mister," Vargas responded. "Just
keep this...Ozymandias...talking for as long as you can.
If we're lucky, he may reveal something we can use."
sir," said Harry softly. "It might help if Seven
of Nine were to monitor..."
of Nine will be doing nothing," Vargas pronounced.
"After today, I'm not about to let her near any station-critical
systems. Until we can be certain of our safety, I'm ordering
her confined to quarters. No comm access whatsoever."
who had been keeping uncharacteristically silent during
this exchange suddenly looked up in alarm at the commander's
decree. With a gesture from Vargas, two security guards
came up to Seven and assumed a defensive posture on each
side of her, making it clear that she was going nowhere
Commander," B'Elanna stepped forward, "if you're
concerned about Seven's system integrity, I can do a scan..."
Torres." Vargas shot the engineer a harsh glance. "I'd
advise you to keep your suggestions to yourself. Your own
position here is precarious enough. I suggest you stand
down and make yourself available to assist the tactical
squad when they arrive. The Borg woman is not your problem."
was about to make her own rather rude suggestion in reply,
but Seven spoke up before anyone else could speak.
will comply with your directives, Commander Vargas,"
she said. "I will go to my quarters now."
looked on at her with a pained expression, his insides turning
about with anguish at the injustice being done to her. Couldn't
anyone see that this wasn't Seven's fault? That she was
an innocent victim of whatever game Ozymandias was playing
felt an even deeper shame now. He had brought Seven here
because he had hope to be able to provide a new direction
for her and a sense of purpose. Hell, he had done because
he wanted her to be happy, he admitted to himself. And instead,
he had damned her even further in the eyes of the Federation
and human society.
job, Harry, he swore silently to himself.
eyes looked back at his sadly as the security guards escorted
her out the door and into the hallway. And with a swish
of the door, she was gone.
Kim," Vargas intoned as he folder his arms against
his chest. "I suggest you get going to Engineering.
Keep your comm badge online at all times. If you should
find out something useful, you may yet be able to redeem
docking arm linking the prototype to Fulton Station looked
to Harry to be as well guarded as the Romulan Neutral Zone.
A small army of security guards were camped out along the
corridor, all equipped with phaser rifles, flak armor, and
combat helmets. They stood nervously watching the airlock
door at the far end, waiting for...whatever...to come out
and wreak havoc.
was waved on through the corridor, each guard looking at
him anxiously as he passed, wondering if he was either a
fool or just plain suicidal to go inside.
he made his way past the airlock leading to the interior
of the starship, he wondered if he was really doing the
right thing. Harry couldn't forget the brutal condition
of those corpses, all Ozymandias's handiwork. Nor could
he forget the callous way he had used Seven these past few
months, hiding inside her cortical node. No, he reasoned,
for all that Ozymandias had done to save his and Seven's
life that day, this was still a Sernaix he was dealing with.
He operated on a morality that was not Harry's own.
starship corridors were empty, devoid of both crew and activity.
Just like Ozymandias's own ship those many months ago. How
funny it was, thought Harry, that everything had come full
circle again. Here he was yet again aboard an empty starship,
ready to face off against the same hostile opponent. Harry
only hoped things would turn out just as well in the end.
things were different this time. Before, he had been a stranger
on an unfamiliar ship, not knowing what was around him.
This time, Ozymandias was on his turf. Harry had helped
to design this ship, at least his small part of it. The
Sernaix was the intruder this time.
reached the blast doors and keyed in the manual override
command, allowing him access. He activated his comm badge
and kept the link open. If there should turn out to be any
trouble down in Engineering, he could be locked onto and
transported out of there.
of course, there was the phaser that Harry kept primed at
he entered the cavernous Engineering section, he took stock
of how its appearance had seemed to subtly change. The Red
Alert lights were flashing, giving the room an eerie demonic
glow. Tools and equipment were left scattered about the
room from today's hurried evacuation. But most noticeable
of all were the nano-cables which had spread like spiderwebs
across the monitors and consoles, networking everything
right back towards the dark, oblong shape of the slipstream
stared for a long time at the alien device, waiting for
something to happen. And indeed, something did.
hello there, Harry," came the echo of Ozymandias's
voice from the room's intercom. "It's nice of you to
finally show up."
looked around the room nervously, trying to find a specific
location to actually speak to.
about looking towards the imager, Harry," said the
disembodied Sernaix, his voice more amused than annoyed,
"It makes it easier for me if I can see your face when
I'm talking to you."
looked up and addressed the nearest imager, which spun on
its pivot to aim its lens at him.
thought you were dead," Harry said weakly, not able
to think of anything else.
that's a fine way to greet someone," Ozymandias chuckled.
"It's like I told you before, Harry. I'm immortal,
in a purely non-spiritual sense, that is."
ship was destroyed."
yes. Completely and totally, according to Seven's memories.
It must have been a grand explosion, I'm sure." There
was the distinct sound of chuckling emanating from the intercom.
"That's one of the great advantages of being an upload.
You can make as many back-ups of yourself as you like. Lose
one copy, and you've always got a spare, minus a few memories.
Say what you will about The Realm, but the Sernaix take
their immortality seriously."
shook his head grimly. "That's what you meant when
you said you'd be seeing me again. This was what you had
planned from the beginning, wasn't it?"
boy," Ozymandias laughed, his voice reverberating throughout
the room. "I'm really glad they sent you to talk to
me instead of that pompous ass you report to."
eyes immediately widened as he remembered that his comm
channel was open.
not to worry, Harry. I've cut in through your comm badge.
Your friends won't be able to listen in. All they'll hear
is a nice, benign computer-generated dialogue I whipped
up. I thought we'd keep this conversation private. And don't
get nervous on me. You're free to leave anytime you want.
I'm hoping you'll be able to talk some sense into your people.
I just wanted to make sure you speak to the right ones,
is it that you want?" Harry spoke up nervously, wanting
to believe that he hadn't walked into a dangerous trap.
don't trust me, do you? And after everything I've done for
you? I thought we were friends, Harry."
you've done? You've taken over our engine room and now you're
trying to take control of the entire ship! That isn't something
a friend would do."
was nothing personal, Harry," said Ozymandias, feigning
being hurt. "I was in a tight spot, you see. The Management
Cadre wanted me destroyed, and I could only keep running
for so long. Your friend Seven and her cortical node were
exactly what I needed; a safe place to back myself up as
a compressed data file until a suitable place to relocate
me could be found." He chuckled again. "I tell
you, those Borg certainly know how to build redundancy into
their technology. You'd be amazed how much you can squeeze
into one of those little nodes."
this was where you wanted to end up?" asked Harry.
"The slipstream core?"
it could have been any computer complex enough to store
my consciousness. Of course, your technology was years away
from building one that fit my requirements. I read from
Seven's mind about the work of Ira Graves and how he tried
to upload his mind using your crude instruments. I wasn't
about to trust my consciousness to your species' eventually
figuring out how to build a halfway-decent sentient/cognizant
quantum computing architecture. Your finding the core was
a stroke of good luck."
stroke of luck?" Harry asked, his voice rising in timber.
"What about Seven? What about the way you took over
her body and rode around in her like a parasite for months?
Did you ever think about that?!"
please," said Ozymandias. "Melodrama may play
well with the Sernaix, but on you humans it looks very unattractive."
give me any of that!" Harry yelled out to the disembodied
voice. "You used her! You robbed her of her memories
and caused her to do...God knows what. Was that part of
your plan too? Just like taking over this ship?"
Harry, believe me when I tell you that the only thing I
did to Seven was to plant a subliminal command inside of
her. I wanted her to download my program as soon as she
came in contact with a computer system that met my specifications.
That's all. Other than that, I did nothing wrong. If anything,
I provided her with a great many benefits. All of those
'insights' she had into Sernaix technology, all of that
came from me. I suppose that would make me more of a symbiote
than a parasite."
you think that excuses what you've done? Three months of
her memories are gone! And you caused that."
I'm telling you. It wasn't me."
and I suppose that there was anther upload who happened
to be inside Seven's head."
a matter of fact... yes."
tried to let that sink in, before dismissing it out of hand.
"Two uploads? You expect me to believe that?"
the truth, Harry. Remember when Seven linked her mind during
Voyager's battle with the Node Ship? Apparently, my people
decided to take advantage of the situation and planted a
Ship Mind inside her, the same way I did."
not really sure. It wasn't really possible for me and this
other Mind to...talk...while we were compressed inside Seven's
implant. But believe me, your friends managed to erase him
from Seven's mind completely. He's gone. With a little help
from me, of course."
help?" asked Harry. "What did you do?"
I only prevented the other Mind from completely taking over
Seven's body and wiping her mind clean, that's all. Which
is exactly what it would have done if I hadn't already been
did it want?" said Harry, as he let his eyes wander
about the room, trying to find some kind of tactical weakness,
just in case things went to hell very quickly in here. "Assuming
for a moment that I believed you, that is."
assuming that, I think that the Ship Mind was a messenger
of some sort. It was using Seven to gather information and
make contact with someone. All that I do know was that the
message it was delivering came straight from ol' Sycorax
Who is that?"
is Sycorax?" Ozymandias laughed. "Oh, just the
old lady herself. The Adimha of the Management Cadre, the
one who knows all and sees all. The closest thing we Sernaix
have to an actual leader." He chuckled some more as
he continued. "We would tell stories to frighten the
youngest packmates about how if they didn't behave themselves,
ol' Sycorax would know about it and come and snatch them
away. The truth is, Harry, that's not entirely a story just
to frighten kids. She's one crafty and dangerous female,
and if there are any designs on your Federation, you can
be damn sure that she's at the heart of them."
what would this Sycorax want?"
most likely. As Adimha of the Management Cadre, she has
access to all data throughout The Realm and can monitor
and control the packs that way, as much as they may resent
it. Information is the source of her control. Sycorax knew
everything that was going on inside of the Phase, or what
your people called the Time Bubble. Now that you've managed
to escape, she needs a new way to monitor things here. So,
she'll need eyes and ears inside of your Federation."
mean, spies?" Harry sputtered incredulously. "I
can't believe that anyone in the Federation would betray
us to the Sernaix!"
seemed to believe it. The Ship Mind was acting on information
from her memories. There was obviously at least one group
that the Ship Mind felt could be safely contacted and approached
with Sycorax's offer."
still can't believe it!" said Harry. "Who are
these people, and how could Seven possibly know about them?
She hasn't been to the Federation since she was a little
be something from her Borg memories, I would guess,"
said Ozymandias, his voice sounding like a shrug of the
shoulders, had he any shoulders to shrug. "How would
I know? I was just a visitor in her head, you know."
Ozymandias," Harry said, shaking his head in disbelief.
about calling me 'Oz'," the Sernaix laughed. "It
sounds so much more friendly."
Harry sighed, "You still haven't told me what it is
that you want, 'Oz.'"
that's much better," Oz answered contentedly. "Well,
for starters, you can tell your superiors to stop locking
me out from the rest of the ship."
way," Harry stiffened. "Absolutely not. "
Harry. I don't want to take over your precious ship. I just
want to help you improve it."
why do you think I've done all of this for?" Oz replied
soothingly. "I really want to help you people. I really
Is it out of the goodness of your virtual heart?"
you wound me," said Ozymandias. "Okay, the truth
is...it's in my best interest that your people come out
of this safely. I can't go back to The Realm, not after
what I've done. I need your help. All of your help."
And then Harry heard a deep mechanical echo, which sounded
very much like a sigh. "I have nowhere else to go.
And virtual or flesh, I want to live."
nodded his head at what the Sernaix voice was telling him.
"It sounds to me like what you're looking for is...asylum."
I suppose that's what you might call it. And I can certainly
pay my own way, Harry. The tidbits that I passed on to Seven
are nothing compared to what I can offer."
can...well, I can take that back to my superiors and see
what they say."
them understand, Harry. I read from Seven's mind that your
Starfleet wants this ship launched quickly. You have no
idea how right they are. If I can offer anything to your
Federation, it's knowledge of how the Sernaix think. As
soon as they can gather enough packs together, the Sernaix
will attack, and they'll do it in force."
thought about some of the chilling scenes he had seen from
his dreams and visions. The thought of such an attack against
his home planet terrified him. "How...how bad could
bad? Harry, let me put this into perspective for you. The
Kuljanul, the dehydration weapon your people fought against,
was just a sample of what my race is capable of building.
There are weapons designs in The Realm's archives that are
so deadly that if one of them were built and launched against
your Federation, there'd be no life forms indigenous to
your quadrant left standing within a week, other than you
and your intestinal bacteria."
went pale at the very thought of it. "W-why would I
let the question hang in the air for a few seconds before
giving his answer. "You're the only human with a Sernaix
as a friend to protect you."
then felt a strange sensation come over him, like a buzz
or a tingling from within. He didn't know what it was, it
being far too subtle. But it wasn't altogether unpleasant.
It seemed to resonate with the slipstream core. And there
was something inside of him telling him that everything
Ozymandias was saying was true. He didn't know why. There
was every reason in the universe to fear and mistrust him.
But there were equally valid reasons to keep an open mind
and believe him. Besides, hadn't he just called Harry a
try to keep that in mind," Harry said.
that you do. And be sure to play up the danger when you
talk to your people, Harry. A little drama never hurts.
Oh, and Harry..."
you do, don't tell any of your superiors about our conversation
regarding Seven's contacts. I don't know who these people
are, but the impression I received from Seven's mind is
that they have a very far reach. If you say the wrong thing
to the wrong person, it could end up going back to Sycorax.
And if that happens, she might decide to attack your Federation
sooner rather than later."
remember that. But, I...I still can't believe that anyone
in the Federation would do this."
talk to Seven if you don't believe me. It's in your best
interest to find these people and root them out as quickly
as possible. Tell only people that you can trust implicitly.
For all I know, they may already know about me."
do I tell her?"
for a start, you can ask her what she knows about a group
called Section 31."
paced nervously back and forth in Fulton Station's operations
center, waiting to hear word back from Lieutenant Kim. All
eyes from around the room were watching him, waiting for
some kind of signal to indicate what their next move should
be. The only one not watching was B'Elanna Torres, who was
standing at the back of the room, trying not to be noticed.
Her thoughts were focused on her friend - no, make that
both of her friends - who were now cut off and in very real
now, Vargas was just stalling for time, waiting for the
tactical squad from Starfleet to arrive and hopefully offer
a solution that would still allow him to build his ship
as promised. He did not have to wait for long.
door to Ops slid open, and a slim, tanned, and a well-toned
young woman in uniform entered the room. She strode in with
the confidence and power of a lioness, her harsh face capped
with dark, curly hair. Behind her stood six powerfully-built
Starfleet officers, all of whom were toting Type 14 phaser
rifles and an assortment of tactical ordnance.
Vargas?" said the woman. "Lieutenant Commander
Thalia Baton, from Starfleet Security. I hear you have a
pest control problem. I'm here to help you exterminate it."
Vargas nodded respectfully. "I take you've been briefed
have," Barton said directly, her eyes betraying nothing
of any emotion. B'Elanna stirred from her introspection
to take notice of this woman. She had seen her kind plenty
of times during her days in the Maquis, the kind who would
always leave a few extra Cardassian bodies lying around
just for good measure. This was no run-of-the-mill Starfleet
flunky, B'Elanna concluded as she sized Lt. Commander Barton
up. This woman was dangerous.
also hear you have a man in there," Barton continued,
still standing crisp and at attention. "I'd advise
you to get him out of there."
asked Vargas. "How soon are you prepared to take this
now," Barton replied, her lips curling slightly in
a predatory grin, showing emotion for the first time. "My
team is ready to beam in and deploy electromagnetic charges
that will hopefully disrupt this creature without damaging
too much of your equipment. If that fails to destroy him,
he'll almost certainly be confused long enough for us to
use high-yield explosives."
Vargas sputtered. "Commander, you do realize the importance
of what we're trying to build here? If you damage our engine
room, it could set us back
realize the danger of allowing this ship to fall into enemy
hands, Commander," Barton replied, her smile now gone.
"The rest isn't my concern. I have my orders."
excuse me," B'Elanna spoke up, stepping forward. "Shouldn't
we wait to hear what Harry, I mean, Lieutenant Kim, has
to say before we plan any assaults around here? I mean,
what if Harry's right and he manages to negotiate with Ozymandias.
Having spent the last six weeks having to help build that
engine room, I'd rather not see it get blown to hell."
looked B'Elanna over before casually dismissing her. "Excuse
me, but as a civilian, I don't think that your input has
anything to add to this conversation. I wasn't brought here
to negotiate with the enemy. I came here to destroy it.
As far as my superiors are concerned, this Ozymandias is
not to be trusted and anything it may offer is to be considered
me, Commander." Vargas squinted at the younger officer.
"Just which of your superiors made this determination?"
smiled ferally at the commander once again. "You needn't
be concerned with that, sir. They're much higher on the
course, this location wouldn't have been my first choice,"
Oz said jovially to Harry. "For one thing, you definitely
need to put some holo-emitters in this room. I feel like
a damn fool talking to you through these cameras."
well, they're supposed to come later," Harry said sheepishly.
"They're considered a second-level priority. Right
now, we're more worried about getting the slipstream working."
you just thought you'd plug in an alien technology that
you didn't understand?" The room echoed with Ozymandias's
hearty laughter. "I'll tell you, you people have got
guts! Why, I
" But the conversation stopped suddenly
for a second, before Oz's tone changed. "Your people
are trying to reach you. I'll patch you in."
came Vargas's voice over the comm badge. "We need you
back on the station immediately to confer with us."
sir," Harry replied, "I think you may want to
hear this. I've been talking with Ozymandias. He's requesting
political asylum with the Federation. He wants to help us
Kim," said a new voice, a female one. "You have
been given an order by your commanding officer. Disregard
anything that the Sernaix has told you. He is not to be
trusted. Withdraw immediately."
let the connection die as he looked back towards the shape
of the slipstream core. It made no sense to him, he thought.
There was potential here for a breakthrough in the Federation's
ability to stand against the Sernaix, yet Starfleet refused
to take it.
it begins," Ozymandias echoed solemnly.
that supposed to mean?" Harry inquired.
means that you'd better get out of here like they said,
Harry," said the disembodied Sernaix. "The shooting
is going to be starting soon."
mean an attack? How can you be sure?"
was an Adimh once, boy. It's what I would do next,"
said Oz with an audible sigh. "You did your best, Harry,
and I appreciate it. I suppose my next step is to take stock
of whatever defenses I can muster and
Harry interrupted, "this isn't right. I'm not going
" Harry then thought for a second, before turning
back to face one of the imaging cameras. "You said
you could tap into my comm badge. Can you guarantee me a
secure line to someone outside, one that Ops can't listen
can on your end, Harry," said Oz, "but I can't
make any promises for the receiving end." A second
or two passed before he spoke again. "There, it's done."
then slapped his badge to open a new connection. "Kim
to Torres," he called out.
He heard B'Elanna's frantic voice on the other end. "What's
going on down there? All hell is breaking loose up here.
You've got to get out of
listen to me," Harry urged. "I need you to get
to Seven right away. And make sure no one is following you
or listening in. Especially when you get to Seven's room.
I'll call you back with further instructions. But I'm okay
down here and I'm not in any danger."
in any danger? Harry, you're stuck in a room with a Sernaix
and there's this hard-ass from Starfleet Security who's
ready to storm your position any second. I don't know whom
you're in more danger from."
you have to trust me," he urged. "Right now, you
and Seven are the only people I know I can trust. Please,
just get to Seven and make sure she's okay. I'll call you
then turned back to Oz, nodding solemnly. "I need to
buy some more time. Do you have access to the blast doors
and the internal security systems?"
do," replied the Sernaix. "But
Harry answered with a smirk. "Lock the doors down.
Put up the emergency containment field around the outer
perimeter. That should keep anyone from beaming me out."
am I understanding you correctly? Are you asking me to take
long as I'm your human shield, they won't attack, at least
long enough for me to get in touch with Seven. If I can
find out what she knows about those people she met with,
and compare it with what you saw while you were inside of
her head, it could not only prove that you can be trusted,
but Seven as well."
taking an awfully big chance trusting me, Harry," said
Ozymandias. "For all you know, everything I've told
you could be a complete fabrication."
possible," Harry nodded, still unable to shake that
strange resonance inside of him.
why do it?"
can't really say," said Harry, puzzled himself. "As
I see it, this is part of my duty. I'm responsible for Seven.
I brought her into this and I want her to be safe. I'm also
responsible for this project and making sure it's completed
on time. And I guess that somehow
I just know that
what you're saying is true. Does that make any sense to
I'd say that it does. There's a connection that we have,
Harry. You, me, and all Sernaix. You've been Touched, don't
What are you talking about?"
just chuckled at the young officer's bewilderment. "Maybe
when this is all over, you can get a good night's sleep.
It will all be clear to you then."
Seven of Nine sat quietly in the Spartan quarters assigned
to her on Fulton Station. She had not bothered to decorate
her room, or even unpack. She had few possessions and little
need for personal effects. All she could do to pass the
time of her confinement was to sit silently in her room,
sitting and waiting.
door chimed and slid open. She did not bother to get up.
Answering the door would have been irrelevant. That responsibility
fell to the two security guards posted outside. So it was
with surprise that she saw B'Elanna Torres being escorted
Seven," B'Elanna strode in, ignoring the skeptical
look of the guard standing outside. "I came to make
sure that your regeneration rig is working."
do not understand," Seven said. "I have had no
difficulty with my regeneration cycle. There was no need
" But as soon as the door slid shut, leaving
the two women alone, B'Elanna moved a finger to her lips,
urging the former Borg to be silent.
holding up okay?" she asked the blonde woman. Seven
nodded in the affirmative. B'Elanna whipped out a tricorder
from her belt and did a quick scan of the room. Satisfied
with the results, she turned back to Seven. "We can
talk. I think the room is clean."
presume that you are not referring to the cleanliness of
talking about listening devices," B'Elanna replied.
She then hit her comm badge. "It's all clear, Harry.
We can talk."
Kim's voice then came over the small comm badge on B'Elanna's
coverall lapel. "Were you able to leave Ops without
you kidding?" B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "I'm the
last person any of those guys want around right now. No
one even saw me leave."
There was another pause in the conversation, almost as if
Harry were nervous about proceeding. "How about you,
Seven? Are you okay?"
am as well as can be expected, Lieutenant," she answered
I need you to listen carefully to what I'm about to tell
you." Harry then went on to explain to Seven the full
circumstances of his conversation with Ozymandias and what
he had told her about her lost memories and her unwanted
31?" Seven asked, confused by the reference. "I
I believe I may know of this
what are they?" asked Harry. "Are they some kind
of criminal organization or a terrorist group?"
she said hesitantly. "I believe they act in the service
of the Federation. Or at least they did until now."
could you possibly know this?" B'Elanna asked.
you will recall, on Stardate 41986.0, the Borg Collective
assimilated several outposts along both sides of the Romulan
Neutral Zone. As it so happened, during the assimilation
of one of these facilities, two individuals among the Starfleet
crew died under mysterious circumstances. Only a few fleeting
memories were extracted from the two before their deaths,
and an analysis of the bodies revealed that the assimilation
nanoprobes succeeded in triggering a suicide implant in
each of them. The Collective learned only that the two were
not Starfleet officers, but were in fact members of a sub-collective
known as Section 31."
were the two of them doing there?" Harry asked.
was never conclusively determined. Based on the extracted
memories, it was believed that their assigned function was
to aid in the subversion of the Romulan Senate."
a foreign government!" Harry said incredulously. "But
that's a violation of everything the Prime Directive stands
for! And the Federation actually sanctions this?"
come no one's ever heard of these guys before?" asked
cannot say," said Seven, "but I would presume
that they do not wish for their existence to be made public.
Their methods would no doubt be considered unacceptable
by the Federation populace."
doubt," said B'Elanna wryly. "If you knew about
these guys, how come you never said anything to us or Captain
looked at the Klingon engineer with a cocked eyebrow. "The
Borg did not regard the internal political machinations
of the races they assimilated to be relevant. Furthermore,
the information was of no significance to Voyager's circumstances,
so the matter never came to mind."
never occurred to you that maybe Janeway would have wanted
to know about a rogue organization within her society?"
B'Elanna sputtered. "You should have told her what
Torres, it would take several decades for me to relate to
you everything that I know," Seven replied facetiously.
"Do you wish the responsibility of sorting through
this isn't helping!" Harry shouted at the two women.
"Right now, we have to prove that what Oz and Seven
saw is true."
just how are we supposed to do that?" B'Elanna called
out to the air.
I had a few thoughts on that," came a new voice over
the comm badge, one that Seven recognized right away, leaving
her chilled. "I thought that Seven and I might have
ourselves another meeting of the minds."
sighed as he weighed his options, events proceeding faster
with each passing moment. Barton and two of her lieutenants
stood silently by, watching the man pace. She and her team
had already donned their flak armor and combat helmets,
prepared at a moment's notice to engage the enemy.
never should have let him go in there," Vargas mumbled.
"Now that creature has my officer as a hostage."
He then turned to Barton and shot her a hostile glare. "You
had no business getting on the comm channel the way you
did, Commander. You tipped off the Sernaix to our intentions."
stood at attention, unmoved by the accusation. "From
my understanding, Commander, it was Mr. Kim who placed himself
in harm's way. What happens next falls on his shoulders,
not mine or yours."
makes no difference!" spat Vargas. "He's one of
my men and he's a prisoner. I won't allow anything to happen
to him. I'm ordering you and your people to stand down."
Vargas," Barton replied coolly. "Need I remind
you, sir, that Starfleet general orders expressly forbid
negotiations with terrorists or hostage takers. And I'll
also remind you that my orders come not from you, but from
Starfleet Security. I've been authorized to use any means
at my disposal to ensure that this Ozymandias person does
not seize control of the Montana Project." She then
leaned in closer, her dark eyes flaring to life, "Any
means at my disposal."
tried to stare the younger officer down, but she clearly
was not budging. Both remained locked in mutual intensity,
when one of Barton's lieutenants came over to interrupt.
Barely hearing his entreat, she walked off from the station
commander, her angry eyes not leaving his until he looked
said the lieutenant, holding up his PADD, "we've done
a complete remote scan of Engineering. We know that Ozymandias
has erected the emergency containment field and is rotating
the field harmonics. We can't lock onto Kim or beam in near
the slipstream core."
know that," she shot back harshly.
the field is weaker along the perimeter, and there's a three-meter
gap between the field edge and the wall. It'll be a tight
fit to beam in, but if we send in a few EM grenades first
should disrupt the field long enough to beam our people
in for the second wave," Barton concluded. "Have
the squad on standby. Be ready to deploy HE charges. Wait
for my orders."
we have authorization, ma'am?" said the second lieutenant.
looked at him crossly. "The home office gave me all
the authorization I need. Tell the ship to be on alert and
ready for an emergency beamout and maximum impulse at a
moment's notice. There may be some fireworks very soon."
had Seven of Nine hooked up securely in her regeneration
harness, ensuring that the interface contacts were securely
linked to her tympanic implant. The rig had been developed
by Starfleet engineers to handle Seven's regeneration needs
upon Voyager's return to Earth. Essentially, it was a bulky,
reclining-chair-like apparatus that was designed to provide
the same level of regenerative energy as the massive alcoves
Seven had employed for the past four years. It added the
additional feature of allowing her to lie back while regenerating,
thus giving her the added illusion of going to sleep. Personally,
Seven preferred to stand.
we all secured?" Harry's voice came over B'Elanna's
am ready," said Seven, still hesitant about Harry Kim's
plan. "Are you certain that we must do this, Lieutenant?"
we have to find those memories you experienced while you
were under the control of the other Ship Mind. Since your
memories are computer-enhanced, Oz can search through them,
convert them into a digital image and get a picture of those
people you met with. Proving that there's some kind of fifth
column inside of the Federation will go a long way toward
proving your innocence, not to mention show that Oz has
a lot to offer. He and you."
take much upon yourself, Harry Kim," Seven said solemnly,
while B'Elanna fiddled with the rig. "You put your
career in jeopardy for me. It is not necessary. Friendship
is not worth such a cost."
yes it is, Seven," Harry's voice came out, sounding
more unsteady. "You're more than just my friend. You're
part of my team. I'm responsible for you. It's my job to
look out for you. And I guess since I'm also responsible
for putting in the slipstream core, I have to look out for
seemed to blush slightly at Harry's words of loyalty. B'Elanna
chuckled softly while shaking her head, leaning over to
Seven. "Okay, princess. Time to take a nap." She
then removed her comm badge from her lapel and inserted
it into the makeshift link port she had built into the side
of the device. After some brief fiddling with the small
communications device, she waited for the blinking light
to indicate that an interface had been achieved. Seven's
regeneration rig was now using the comm badge to establish
a low-bandwidth link to Harry's badge in Engineering. Her
regeneration cycle, and the data through her implants, was
now remotely accessible.
still wasn't sure what Harry thought he was playing at.
Defying orders, putting his faith and his career on the
line for an uncertain alien entity and a pretty face
was all so impractical, so impulsive, and so very
grinned broadly at the thought of it. She had never been
more proud of Harry Kim.
looked down as the nano-fibers of the nearest cable linked
to the slipstream core swarmed and spread over his now-removed
comm badge. It was a vaguely unsettling sight, like it was
being assimilated. But that was exactly the point.
linked to the badge, Harry," Ozymandias announced.
"I should be getting a signal from your friends any
Harry nodded, looking about the room nervously. What was
he doing anyway, trusting his strange new instincts, putting
his career and reputation on the line like this? Was it
for Ozymandias? Was he just so desperate to see the design
project through to completion? Or was he doing it for Seven?
at us," came the bemused voice of Ozymandias. "We're
sneaking around, defying the odds, engaging in some grand
drama against outside forces, and showing complete contempt
for established rules and authority." The room echoed
with Sernaix laughter. "Thank you, Harry. I feel like
I'm part of a pack again!"
don't mention it," Harry mumbled, remembering full
well what happened to Oz's last group of packmates.
got a link!" he announced. "I'm starting to receive
a feed from Seven's thoughts. My, my, what a jumble
you see anything about this Section 31 or the people Seven
met with?" Harry asked urgently, moving closer to the
larger bulk of the Sernaix core device.
don't lose your swagger, Harry," Oz cautioned him.
"A humanoid brain, even a cybernetically enhanced one,
isn't like one of your LCARS systems. You just don't have
memories laid out like conveniently labeled files."
hurry," Harry pleaded, "The longer we keep this
line open, the greater the chance that we'll get caught."
moving as fast as I can," Oz said patiently. "Although
if you're worried about time, it may be a good idea for
me to implement our backdoor plan while I'm waiting for
the right image to pop up."
he breathed deeply, trying to get a grip. "You do that.
Remember to do it just like I told you
" And as
Harry reached out to steady himself, he grabbed a hold of
the side of the slipstream core. At that moment, Harry felt
something happen, like the insides of his cells were now
tingling with energy. For a second, the young officer thought
that he had stumbled across an open circuit and was receiving
an electric shock. But what was happening wasn't painful.
It was just
Engineering room seemed to melt away and a new reality formed
around him. An endless blue mist appeared, with flashes
of light and sound erupting from within. Solid shapes seemed
to slowly form out of the mist, faces, names, planets, ideas,
all of it a jumble.
happening to me!" he screamed out, unsure if he was
actually talking or just thinking aloud.
I'll be damned!" Ozymandias's voice echoed from around
him, not filtered the way it had been earlier through the
computer speakers, but rather a reverberation from all around
him. "You're Linking! You're generating a bodyfield
and interfacing with the core!"
How is that
didn't think you could do it!" Oz exclaimed with delight.
"I thought it was all just female propaganda, something
the Management Cadre told the packs to get us all excited
and obedient. But it's really true. You really have been
Touched by whom?"
by God of course!" replied the Sernaix. "Or by
the Goddess. One of the two."
Harry wanted an explanation for all of this. But then there
were new sensations that came upon him. There was the hum
and whisper of what seemed like billions of voices, all
overcrowding and overwhelming his thoughts. Harry thought
his head was going to burst from the chatter. As the imagery
accompanying the voices crystallized into focus, he saw
an endless army of very familiar shapes, the shapes of Borg
drones. Harry knew that these were Seven of Nine's memories,
recollections of the Borg Collective.
who wasn't used to mind-linking, didn't know what to make
of it. He then sensed something new, not images but
sensation. Waves of fears and anxieties came upon him, and
the stray thoughts accompanying them, all seeming to indicate
that they came from Seven. Harry sensed the fears of her
being able to fit into human society, of whether anyone
would be able to accept her, as she had been accepted on
couldn't believe what he was experiencing. Was he briefly,
tentatively, touching Seven's mind? He had always believed
Seven to be so bold and fearless, and yet here he was seeing
just how vulnerable and frightened she actually was.
thoughts. How is this possible?"
he asked aloud.
link conveys a great many experiences," Oz spoke amid
the flood of images from the Collective memory. "Thoughts,
memories, even feelings. At any one time, thousands of Sernaix
exchange sensations just like this amongst each other via
The Realm. This is natural for us."
intimate. I shouldn't be knowing all of this."
He then he sensed her focus shift onto new experiences,
not the endless mass of the Borg, but the individual members
of Voyager's crew. He felt the comfort level surrounding
him like a warm sea as she focused on the faces of the Doctor
and Janeway and Icheb. He winced as he felt an intense rush
of sensation following the removal of her cortical safeguards.
never knew. All this time, her implants were keeping her
" he muttered in amazement. "She
never told me. All those times she was cold to me. Maybe
she never had a choice."
obviously has a choice now," Oz chuckled, as the intensity
of her first kiss with Chakotay came upon them, followed
by the discomfort she felt as her memories of Unimatrix
Zero came to the fore.
new memories and feelings came upon him, those from their
most recent experiences in the Time Bubble. He felt the
shame and surprise that came from his frustration during
their away mission on Oz's ship, followed by warmth from
her mind as she focused on Harry.
a stray thought from Seven came into Harry's state of awareness.
"Why did you not tell me that you thought I was beautiful?"
she thought at him.
was dumbstruck, as he tried to think of an appropriate response.
She had sensed his presence in her mind. But more memories
came forward, as a dark and cold presence came over them.
Ship Mind!" Oz called out excitedly. "Now we're
getting somewhere." Harry looked on with a visceral
chill as he felt the memories of the Sernaix Ship Mind operate
with soulless calculation, carrying out the bidding of its
masters in Seven's body. And then
faces," Harry whispered. "Those must be the men
Seven met with."
enemy has a face!" Ozymandias cried out, as he materialized
before Harry in his natural body. Harry had to contain his
instinctive discomfort at the blue, demonic Sernaix form,
reminding him too much of childhood tales of demons and
devils. "Maybe now we'll be able to root out Sycorax's
grubby little minions."
Seven, did you hear that? Oz, make a copy of this and--"
But Harry was cut off in mid-sentence. A blinding flash
quickly dispelled the hallucinogenic vista of the private
link field. A wave of nausea overcame Harry as he felt himself
abruptly lurched back into physical reality. Additional
flashes blinded him and flooded his ears with a high-pitched
whine. His senses were overloaded in a way not unlike his
experience with the mindlink. Only now, Ozymandias was not
able to offer him guidance.
Oz's voice faded in and out over the intercom, as if his
very means of communicating were being ground down. "Whassssishappppennnninnnnnggggg
lieutenant, disoriented and dazed by the flashes and the
sudden shift in perception, fell to the ground, trying his
best not to lose the contents of his stomach. About the
only sense of his that seemed to function reliably was his
hearing, as he recognized the distinctive hum of the transporter.
His eyesight was blurred, but he was able to make out a
dozen dark, distinct, man-sized figures, looking like they
were decked out in full combat armor and armed with very
intimidating phaser rifles.
round! Deploy!" a harsh female voice called out as
more flashes went off around the room. He then heard phaser
fire around him.
severed!" a male voice reported. "The core has
the charges!" the woman commanded. "As we rehearsed
it! Chop, chop!"
about him?" another male voice said, this one looming
over Harry, who was struggling to focus as he looked up
weakly from his prone position on the floor.
leader walked over and looked down at him. Harry's vision
was starting to come back into focus, but the woman had
the flare shield down over her helmet, blocking her face.
"Omicron protocols, lieutenant," she answered
him curtly, before turning to look down at him. "No
before Harry could squawk in protest, he heard the rumble
of the blast doors sliding open. The attackers seemed equally
surprised, as they turned around to aim their weapons. Harry's
focus returned just in time to make out Commander Vargas
stride in with a dozen security officers. B'Elanna Torres
strode in alongside of him, smiling in triumph.
down, Commander!" Vargas bellowed. "Your little
act of insubordination is over. I gave no orders to launch
an assault or to put my officer in danger."
helmeted woman lifted up her glare shield away from Harry's
view as she stood defiantly before Vargas. "And as
I've already informed you, Commander, my orders come directly
from Starfleet Security and supercede your authority!"
that so?" Vargas asked, as he folded his arms. "Then
perhaps your orders also supercede Starfleet rules of engagement
regarding an opponent who has already offered his surrender?"
Barton exclaimed. "What are you talking about?"
talking about this," B'Elanna replied smugly as she
went over to the nearest engineering console and demagnetized
it with her tricorder, removing any residual EM disruption
from the assault squad's attack. That being done, she then
keyed in a few switches, overriding the security breakers
and gaining full access to the ship-wide intercom.
repeat," came the pre-recorded voice of Ozymandias,
"I am Ozam, Adimh of Silver Sky and Defender of the
Realm. I offer my complete and unconditional surrender and
make a formal request to the United Federation of Planets
for political asylum. I am prepared to offer my knowledge
and experience with the Sernaix people in exchange for
B'Elanna then switched off the intercom.
been repeating that for the last ten minutes," Vargas
answered. "He managed to tap into the prototype's subspace
communication system and broadcast a signal straight to
Starfleet Command and the Federation Council chambers."
He then glanced over at Harry, who was now being tended
to by two field medics. "It seems that you've lost
your com badge, Mr. Kim," he said, looking almost amused,
rather than displeased.
this creature is still a dangerous menace!" Barton
demanded. "It took a hostage! We've managed to sever
the core from the nano-cables. My people can remove this
Harry spoke, getting into the spirit of the moment, "I
was never really in any danger. I was just following Commander
Vargas's orders to keep engaging Ozymandias. He said he
closed the blast doors for my own protection. I can see
now how right he was."
a hostage?!" Barton sputtered. "Commander Vargas,
Lieutenant Kim is obviously in collusion with this Sernaix,
as well as his Maquis and Borg cohorts!"
no evidence of Mr. Kim's disloyalty, other than a rather
creative interpretation of orders," said Vargas. "On
the other hand, Commander, there's far more evidence of
your own disregard for authority. In any event, the Council
is sending a team of diplomats here to debrief this Ozymandias
person. I suggest you not be here when they arrive."
motioned to her team and they marched out towards the blast
doors. B'Elanna couldn't resist a parting shot as she called
out to the disgraced squad leader. "That's the funny
thing about food chains," she said. "There's always
a bigger fish." Barton's eyes seemed to glare fire
at the half-Klingon engineer as she departed.
came over to Harry as he was brought to his feet. The disorientation
of the attack and his severance from his link were subsiding,
and he was regaining his equilibrium once again. "Mr.
Kim, I'm not sure what happened here today, but I'm sure
that your report will be most enlightening and entertaining."
sir," said Harry. "I'll also have evidence to
prove that Seven is innocent and that Ozymandias can be
trusted to help us."
see. Be sure to have all that included in your report as
well. I'm sure that the Council representatives will be
interested in seeing it." Vargas then paused for a
moment before continuing, his lips showing the faintest
trace of a smile. "If they're happy with what this
Ozymandias has to tell them, then I'd say you've done more
than redeem yourself, even if you didn't exactly go by the
book in doing so."
how we did it on Voyager, sir," Harry answered proudly.
nodded in respect, turning past the young officer to B'Elanna.
"Ms. Torres, our guests will be here in less than three
hours. We'll need to get this mess cleaned up and the slipstream
core reconnected before their arrival."
have it ready in two, Commander," B'Elanna answered
see. "As Vargas accepted her answer, he made a motion
to leave. But before he did, he turned back to face the
engineer behind him. "Oh, Ms. Torres?"
gave her another faint smile as he nodded again with respect.
"Job well done."
Vargas said, as he sat looking on at the picture on his
desk. He nursed the small glass of synthehol in his left
hand. He knew that regulations did not approve of his drinking
while on duty, even such a moderate amount. But it was his
custom to toast the memory of friends long past. He owed
them that much.
The door slid open and Seven of Nine entered Vargas's office
tentatively. She looked on to see that the commander was
looking sadly at a picture of four Starfleet cadets. From
where she was standing, Seven recognized the face of one
of them instantly, that of Commander Vargas at a younger
the course of the past three days, events had turned out
as well as any of them could have expected. The Federation
representatives had debriefed Ozymandias and were satisfied
that his pledge of assistance was genuine. An arrangement
had been made in which he would be permitted to remain within
the prototype's slipstream core, until a more suitable medium
could be made available for him to take up permanent residence
within. Until then, he had been assigned to the Montana
Project as a consultant, under strict security procedures.
He was allowed limited access to other ship systems from
Engineering, but only under supervision. Additional access
privileges would be granted over time, as he proved himself
Ozymandias's insights and contributions were putting the
design team ahead of schedule, so much so that Commander
Vargas had decided to reward everyone's hard work by reinstating
leave time for First Contact Day weekend.
for Lieutenant Commander Barton and her team, they had departed
from Utopia Planitia without a trace.
there was some question as to Harry Kim's conduct and his
adherence to orders, the events of Ozymandias's emergence
were sufficiently unclear so as to leave all disciplinary
action to Commander Vargas' discretion. For his own reasons,
he decided not to pursue the matter, and Harry was once
again in his good graces.
for Seven, all charges against her were dismissed, especially
after the data and images recovered from her mind had been
made available. The only uncertainty was whether or not
she would be allowed to continue her involvement with the
noticed her entry and nodded weakly at her. "Seven
of Nine," he greeted her. "I just wanted to tell
you that you're welcome to stay on board with us."
you, Commander. I would very much like to stay."
need to thank me," Vargas said, glancing back to the
picture on his desk. "You've done good work here. Mr.
Kim was especially vocal about your contribution to getting
Engineering back up and running. He and Ms. Torres speak
very highly of you."
Kim is a good man," she said, blushing slightly, "and
a good friend."
a good officer," Vargas agreed. "A bit unconventional
perhaps, but I guess eight years in the wilderness will
do that to you. But I can see that he's loyal and committed
to the people under his command. He'll go far, I'm sure
she said, smiling ever so slightly.
also passed along that image of the men you met with to
a friend of mine in Starfleet Intelligence. We'll try and
find out who they are and trace them back to this Section
31 you spoke of. I don't know if I can bring myself to believe
that there's some kind of secret organization within the
Federation that nobody knows about, but if there's even
a chance that there are traitors in our midst, we'll find
suspect that it will not be as easy to locate them as you
might wish," Seven responded solemnly.
he said, glancing at the picture again and taking another
sip of his synthehol. She glanced over to get a better look
at the portrait. All four cadets in the picture were laughing
together and seemed to share a deep and personal bond, much
like she had with her friends on Voyager.
Wellmore, Nikolai Chen, Hesutta Iko Jedewa," Vargas
recited blandly, looking on at the picture. "We graduated
the Academy together. They were lost at the Battle of Wolf
felt the pain and guilt of her prior association with the
Borg come back once again. Even though she herself had not
been physically present at that terrible battle with the
Federation, as a drone she had experienced everything done
by that attacking Cube along with the rest of the Collective.
"I am sorry," she said, knowing just how weak
and useless her apology was, but it was all she had to offer.
understand that you were assimilated into the Collective
when you were only six," he said, still looking at
the picture and not at her.
is correct. I was assimilated along with my parents."
let out a small sigh as the silence hung over the room.
"That's a hell of a thing to do to a child," he
said, revealing just the slightest trace of sympathy and
it is," she replied.
then looked up at her, giving her a weak smile of acknowledgement.
"That's all. You may go."
departed silently, leaving him to his memories. As she emerged
back in the hallway, Seven looked up to see Harry Kim. She
suspected it was no coincidence that he should suddenly
he greeted her. "How did it go in there? Are you
have been asked to remain with the project," she answered,
uncertain as to how she should be around him after the events
of the other day.
good," he responded, perhaps a bit too eagerly, he
realized. He wasn't sure of how to proceed from here. Intimate
thoughts had been revealed between the two of them during
his mind-link experience. And he wasn't sure what that meant
either or how it tied into his dreams.
she said after a long awkward pause, using the more familiar
tone, "I wish to speak about the other day, when your
he interrupted her, "and I'm so sorry about that. I
had no right to intrude on your thoughts like that, and
she interrupted in turn, "I was going to ask if you
had managed to gain any additional information about how
you were able to interface your mind with the slipstream
he answered, unable to hide his blush. "I
they weren't able to find anything wrong with me in Sickbay.
And I don't know what Oz meant by that whole 'touched by
God' business. He won't tell me any more. He says I'm not
ready for the whole truth yet. Personally, I think he's
just yanking my chain."
Seven mused. "It was my understanding from the Doctor's
research that the ability to interface with their technology
is a direct property of Sernaix cellular biology. Such a
feat should be impossible by a human, at least one who is
She let her sentence trail off, searching for the right
words to say.
he said, finishing her thoughts, trying to imagine just
what it was that Seven really was thinking about him.
believe the word that I was looking for was 'unmodified,'"
she answered, lifting up her own Borg-enhanced forearm as
he wished that at this moment he had the ability to link
his mind with hers. But for now, all he had to go on was
the same old human intuition that men and women had been
forced to rely upon since time immemorial. Was this why
the Sernaix genders chose to live apart the way they did,
resigned in frustration to the inherent unknowability of
each other? If so, it was more the reason to pity them,
thought Harry, to give up so easily on the possibility of
was starting to feel a stronger connection to Seven, one
that was going beyond friendship. But he knew her fears
now, and realized that he could not force anything too quickly.
After seeing her attraction for men like Axum and Chakotay,
he wondered if he could ever measure up. After all, he was
wasn't he? In spite of his dreams, he most certainly wasn't
'touched by God,' was he? In any event, it was better that
he kept his affections in check until he knew for certain
that she was ready to receive them.
that didn't mean he couldn't try and test the waters.
Seven," he said, trying to articulate himself, "I
now that we've been granted leave for First Contact Day,
I was wondering what you had planned?"
am not certain," she answered. "I had considered
remaining here on Fulton Station and completing my work."
you want to be with family?" Harry asked.
is a difficult subject," she replied, her eyes downcast.
"I have found it difficult to communicate with my aunt
on an intimate basis. I do not wish for there to be difficulties
between us, yet I do not know what it means to have a family."
an idea came to Harry, one that brought a smile to his eager
face. "Well, if I could make a suggestion. I extended
an invitation to Tom and B'Elanna to come to my family's
barbeque this weekend. I'm sure it would be no trouble if
you and your aunt were to come also."
do not wish to be an inconvenience."
can a friend be an inconvenience?" he asked her jovially.
"And besides, after a few hours with my family, you
may just see how important it really can be."
she trailed off, rendered speechless. "Thank you,"
she managed to say, her voice quivering with emotion. "Thank
you for everything, especially for standing with me when
I needed support." She then looked at him, her lips
drawn back into a smile. "How is it that in all the
time we have been associated," she asked of him, "we
did not know each other?"
smiled at her warmly, at this moment feeling truly touched.
"We know each other now."
was a dark room, in a restored private home, the walls lined
with ancient leather-bound books, the location known only
to a select few. A man with silvery hair sat with supreme
authority at the thick wooden desk that dominated the center
of the old room. His name was known to even fewer people,
but for those who were granted the clearance to interact
with him, he was known only as Mr. West.
was looking over the assortment of PADDs at his desk. He
did not speak with the three other men who sat off to the
side. Brock, Segall, and Kelley knew that when their senior
operative was ready to speak with them, he would. Right
now, there was new business on his agenda that had to be
dealt with first.
heavy wooden door slid open, and a new person entered the
room. The seated men were all dressed in neatly-tailored
civilian garments, but the newcomer wore the crisp uniform
of a Starfleet officer, her hair a cap of black ringlets,
her eyes dark and intense.
Barton stood at attention in a military fashion, until Mr.
West gestured with his hand for her to sit in the chair
facing him. As soon as she did so, he looked up from his
PADD and addressed her with a single question.
went wrong?" he said, plain and direct. He did not
ask what had happened, for he already knew. It was the business
of Section 31 to know everything that went on in the Federation
and beyond. And Mr. West was Section 31.
sorry," she said soberly. "Kim, Torres, and the
Borg woman did an end-run around Vargas. They helped the
Ship Mind contact the Council directly. I had no way of
knowing that Kim would flout regulations in that manner.
It went against everything we have on him in his dossier."
West listened to her patiently before replying. "Never
underestimate the bonds that are formed between those who
have faced adversity together, Commander. That was your
mistake. You'll know better for next time."
perked up her head, encouraged that her future was not over
in spite of her failure. "Then I'll be given another
opportunity to sabotage the prototype?" The assault
against Ozymandias, while mandated to prevent Starfleet
from launching their newest ship on time, had just been
a ruse. If she had only had a few minutes more alone, she
cursed silently, then the explosive charges could have been
set along the warp core and the entire prototype could have
been destroyed. The debris would have offered no clue as
to what happened, and the whole incident would have been
blamed on Ozymandias's interference.
said Mr. West, holding his hands together in a cat's cradle
on the desk. "I'll have use for you later, Commander.
Vargas will be suspicious now, especially if you try to
insert any new people onto the project. We're better off
waiting until things quiet down before making our next move."
you sure that's wise?" Kelley leaned forward from his
seat along the eastern wall, beneath a golden-framed landscape
portrait. "Especially now that we've been compromised?"
be concerned with that, Mr. Kelley," said Mr. West,
his face eternally unperturbed. "We're in no danger
from a few officers and former Maquis spreading tales about
some phantom organization." He allowed himself just
a brief smile at the thought of it. People had a way of
accepting and rejecting facts that did or did not fit into
their worldview. And in the utopian mindset that had been
created here in the United Federation of Planets, the existence
of an organization such as Section 31 was literally unthinkable.
West thought of a line from an ancient motion picture that
had said it best. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled
was convincing the world he didn't exist.
course, just to be safe," he turned to the three men,
"you three should keep a low profile. At least for
the time being."
that picture?" Brock asked with some concern.
you worry about that," said Mr. West, as he held up
the PADD displaying the image of Brock, Segall, and Kelley,
all facing forward as they had when they had met with Sycorax's
emissary in Seven of Nine's body. "Our people in Intelligence
have intercepted the picture Vargas forwarded along. It
will never see the light of day."
still looked unhappy, despite Mr. West's reassurances. "You-know-who
won't be happy about this," he said, shaking his head.
"She was expecting us to take care of the prototype.
This could put us in a weaker negotiating position."
not," said Brock, his eyes lighting up and a smile
spreading over his features. "We may have something
else to offer our new friends." He then pressed a button
on his armchair and the landscape portrait along the east
wall slid back to reveal a view screen. The screen lit up
to show a scene from a dark room, showing an upset young
man bolting upward from his bed, looking like he had just
woken up from a nightmare.
Log, Stardate 55895.3," Harry began to speak. "I
had another one of the visions tonight. I think this was
the longest one yet. Like the others, I saw
things from my past. People I knew speaking to me. It all
came out in a jumble."
I agree," said Mr. West, as his eyes feasted on the
young man going into detail about his strange and most compelling
dream. "I think our friends will be very interested
by: Mike Ben-Zvi
Producers: Thinkey, Anne Rose and Coral