A Fire of Devotion: Part 2 of 4: Louder Than Bells: Prologue & Chapter One

Prologue

Seven of Nine watched from the corner of the mess hall as the Voyager crew was throwing yet another party. It had only been about five months since the joint party thrown for her and Harry Kim, and since then there are had been several birthdays, a Bajoran religious ceremony, and now a celebration for Voyager itself, having by way of a spatial vortex just shaved another two years off its journey back to the Alpha Quadrant.

“So, why aren’t you enjoying yourself, Annie?” Samantha Wildman said, standing next to Seven with an arm around her waist. Seven took a sip from her glass of replicated champagne before answering.
“In the past year, Voyager has had years taken off it’s estimated return time on no less than four occasions. Once by Kes, once by a new course plotted with the aid of my Borg star charts in astrometrics, then there was the slipstream drive technology we took from the Dauntless before it turned out to be a trap, and now this. When it happens often enough to no longer qualify as a ‘special occasion,’ I don’t see the point in throwing a party for every single instance. Had we gained twenty years as opposed to two, then this party would make more sense to me.”
“Well, I think there’s a bit more to it than that,” Sam said. “We not only shaved more time off our journey home, we got out of dark space much sooner, which is good because most of the crew was going pants on head nanners over the lack of, well, anything visible.”
“Pants on head?” Seven muttered, confused by the metaphor.

“And add to that the fact that we helped save an innocent race from the slow motion genocide they were facing because of those Malon traders that were dumping radioactive waste in their territory.”

“However,” Seven said, “much like the shortening of the journey to the Alpha Quadrant, this is not the first time that Voyager has stepped in to save people who were being harmed by malicious outside forces.”
Sam sighed.
“Okay, you got me there,” she said, putting a hand on Seven’s back.

“Perhaps it’s something I would understand more if I were fully human,” Seven said. “As it stands right now, though, this seems like an even more meaningless symbolic gesture-” Seven’s monologue was cut off when some music began playing. Seven felt ambivalent towards it; it was not offensive to her ears, but she didn’t derive any pleasure from it either. Suddenly, Samantha took Seven’s drink from her and put both their glasses down on a nearby table. Samantha, smiling, extended her hands to Seven of Nine.
“Shut up and dance with me,” Samantha said.
Odd, Seven thought. Suddenly the music seems more pleasing.

“I am afraid I do not know how,” Seven said.
“It’s slow dancing Annie,” Samantha said. “it’s kinda hard to screw up. Just follow my lead and we’ll be fine. It’s not like we’ll do doing the tango.”
“I do not know what the tango is, but perhaps you’ll teach me that later.”
“We’ll see.”

Chapter One

While Seven of Nine was finishing her preparations for a mission to survey a proto-nebula she’d be taking with Tom, B’Elanna, and the Doctor, Samantha walked into cargo bay 2.
“Hey, Annie,” she said. “I’m not interrupting anything am I?”
“No. I am almost finished,” Seven said. “Are you sure you don’t wish to come with us?”

“I appreciate the offer,” Sam replied. “But one, nebulas are not really my thing, I’m a biologist not an astronomer. And two, those class-2 shuttles aren’t really well suited to seating five comfortably.”
“I’ve actually had some thoughts about that,” Seven said. “Though I’d rather not go into details until I’ve had a chance to discuss it with Mister Paris since he has more practical experience with small craft than I do.”
“Why honey,” Sam said, smiling. “Is that humbleness I hear coming from you?”

“I have been perfectly willing to admit my shortcomings in the past,” Seven said, shaking her head. “Yet somehow each time it is treated as though it is unusual. While I have extensive knowledge about the operation of small spacecraft in my memory, as a drone I was never required to use it. Lieutenant Paris not only has years of training and practice, he has also demonstrated an innate talent for it. Not seeking his insight would-” Seven was cut off by the sound of her comm badge chirping.
“Doctor to Seven of Nine, we’re waiting for you in the shuttle bay.”
“I was unaware I was late Doctor,” Seven said.
“You aren’t actually. Apparently, the departure time was moved up by ten minutes, which I was only informed of five minutes ago. You can blame Mister Paris for that.”
Samantha could hear a quiet, “I said I was sorry!” come over the badge and assumed that it was Tom. She quickly covered her mouth to stifle a laugh.

“Regardless,” the Doctor continued. “If you are ready, please report to the shuttle as soon as possible.”
“On my way,” Seven said, tapping her badge to end the conversation. “Well, see you when I get back.”

“Just so you know,” Samantha said. “Naomi insists on helping me prepare dinner tonight, so if my quarters seem messier than usual when you get back you’ll know why.”
Seven smiled and gave Samantha a quick hug as she headed out.
“To borrow a phrase from Lieutenant Kim,” she said before the cargo bay door closed behind her, “Don’t burn down the ship while I’m away.”

“Aw, you’re no fun,” Samantha said in mock disappointment.

Lieutenant Harry Kim stood at his station on the bridge, feeling good about the day. It had now been approximately six months since his last Year of Hell flashback, and the Doctor had finally agreed to reduce the dosage on his PTSD medication.
That good feeling went away when he heard the beep and looked down.
“We’re receiving a distress call from the away team,” he said. “They’ve been caught in the gravimetric shear of a plasma surge.”

“Bridge to Transport Room 1, prepare for emergency beam out,” Captain Janeway said.

“On it,” Ensign Todd Mulcahey’s voice replied. “I’ve got a partial lock on them, but unless their shuttle clears the nebula…”
“It won’t,” Harry said. “They’ve lost propulsion.”

“Then it’s going to be a rough transport,” Mulcahey said, “Resetting pattern buffers…”
“Harry, get down there and help-”
“Got them, Captain,” Mulcahey said. “Their signals are clearing.”
“Good work, Ensign,” Janeway said. “I’m on my way down there now.”

When Seven of Nine came out of transport she looked around. She couldn’t quite place it, but she’d felt something odd during transport. She couldn’t come up with the proper word to describe it, but was certain that she had never felt it before. Everyone else who had been on the shuttle seemed fine, though, both Tom and B’Elanna smiling in relief as they stepped off the platform.
“Well, that was certainly exciting,” the Doctor said.

“As potentially fatal occurrences go,” Seven said, “that one was relatively mundane.”
“Only on a Starfleet ship could a sentence like that be uttered,” Tom said.
“Well I-” The Doctor’s form flickered suddenly. A look of panic crossed his holographic face. “My emitter has been damaged!”

“I’ll transfer your program to sickbay,” B’Elanna said, moving quickly to the main console in the transport room. While she tapped away at the console, the Doctor vanished, and his mobile emitter fell to the ground. Seven was close enough to pick it up right away.
“Did you get him transferred in time?” Tom asked.
“Doctor to transport room 1, report,” a voice chimed over the comm.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” B’Elanna said, walking over to where Seven stood to take a look at the emitter. “Doctor, it looks like some of your emitter circuits were fused during transport. I can probably repair it but I’ll want to run a diagnostic on it first. I’ll keep you posted.”
“Please, do whatever it takes,” the Doctor’s voice said, sounding concerned.
“Trust me, Doc,” B’Elanna said, a confident grin on her face. “Mulcahey? I’ll need to borrow you for a bit. meet me in the science lab.”
“Yes ma’am,” the Ensign said, following B’Elanna as she left.

Tom looked at Seven and shrugged.
“Well, that trip was a lot shorter than I’d hoped for,” he said.

“Since you’re here Lieutenant Paris,” Seven said. “I have a matter I was hoping to discuss with you during the mission.”
“Right, I remember you making a comment about making improvements to our shuttles. I’ve had a few ideas of my own about that.”

Samantha was awoken suddenly when Seven of Nine sat up abruptly, breathing heavy like she’d just been snapped out of a particularly bad nightmare.
“Baby?” Samantha said, groggy, “What’s wrong?”
“I need to get to the bridge,” Seven said.
Samantha frowned. “Annie, did you have a nightmare?”
“I certainly hope so,” Seven said as she slid out of bed, grabbing her uniform jacket off the back of one of the chairs around the dinner table, still not entirely clean from last night, and headed out the door, only partially zipping it up.
Worried, Samantha tossed the sheets and grabbed the first clothes she could grab to put on, a civilian outfit she didn’t particular care for in terms of how it looked but kept for its comfort on days when she was off duty and had no intention of leaving her quarters. Any concern about her crewmates mocking the outfit were pushed aside and she jogged to try and catch up to her seemingly panic-driven Borg girlfriend before she could get to the bridge.

“Wait, Annie, hold up,” Sam said, just managing to get in the turbolift with Seven of Nine before the door closed. “Tell me what’s going on.”
Seven sighed.
“I apologize for alarming you Sam,” she said. “With any luck, I am in error, though if that is the case I will need to speak to the Doctor about making repairs to my cranial implant.”
“Why?”

“My proximity transceiver has been activated. It could indicate Borg presence nearby.”

Samantha’s eyes went wide.
“So, Bridge?” she said.
“Bridge,” Seven replied, the turbolift moving as it accepted what Seven has said as a command.

“Are you sure?” Samantha said.
“No,” Seven said. “This may well prove to be a false alarm, but I cannot risk the safety of this ship on that possibility.”
“Agreed,” Samantha said. Just before the lift reached its destination, Samantha glanced down at the civilian outfit she was wearing. “If any of the bridge crew see this get up I will never hear the end of it,” she muttered.
Seven looked Samantha up and down.
“Perhaps,” she said. “The color scheme does not compliment your features.”
Samantha smirked. “If anybody other than you said that, I’d be insulted,” she said right before the turbolift doors opened. “I’ll just go back to my quarters if that’s alright with you,” she whispered to Seven, who nodded before stepping out onto the bridge.

“Commander,” Seven said to Chakotay shortly after exiting the turbolift.
“Seven, good morning,” he said, only briefly looking in her direction as he handed a PADD to Harry Kim.
“That remains to be seen,” she said, repeating in more specific detail what she had told Sam.
“Are you sure?” Harry said. “We’ve been running sensors sweeps non-stop all night, gathering data on the proto-nebula. We haven’t detected any Borg signatures at all.”
“Perhaps the nebula could mask a ship’s signal?” she said, feeling conflicting emotions as she said so. She didn’t like being wrong on principle, but this instance she very badly wanted to be.

“Even a Borg cube couldn’t last ten seconds in there,” Harry said, looking at the nebula on Voyager’s viewscreen.
“Maybe it’s a false alarm,” Chakotay said. “A malfunction in your transceiver maybe?”

“Possibly,” Seven said. “I will go and speak to the Doctor.”
Chakotay nodded.
“I’ll keep an eye out,” Harry said. “Just in case.”
Seven nodded. “Thank you,” she said, heading for the turbolift once again. The feeling of actually wanting to be mistaken was a new one to her, and she wasn’t quite ready to accept it, but she did feel less afraid. For Sam and Naomi’s sake, she thought, this had better be a malfunction.

As soon as she got to sickbay, and relayed her concerns to the Doctor, he immediately took out a medical tricorder and began scanning. He was only seconds in when she flinched suddenly.
“Seven?” the Doctor said.
“I felt it again,” she replied. “Stronger this time.”

“I don’t know what could be causing it if there aren’t actually any Borg nearby. I wonder if-” Whatever the Doctor was going to say next was lost when the ship went to red alert.
“Dammit,” she said. “The one time I wanted to be wrong.”
“Chakotay to Seven of Nine. Looks like you were right, we’ve detected a Borg force field in the science lab on deck 8.”
“How many drones?” she asked.
“Unknown. Tuvok is taking a security team there now.”
“I will meet him there,” Seven said, heading for the exit to sickbay.

“Seven,” the Doctor said, sounding worried. “My mobile emitter is in that lab.”
“Doctor this is not the time to-”

“This isn’t about my freedom Seven. It’s about the 29th century technology that the Borg may have already assimilated.”
Seven groaned. Every curse word she’d heard since she came on board last year fought in her mind to be the one she said in response to the prospect.
“No,” she said. “I won’t let them do that. I will not let them take this ship. I will not let them have Sam or Naomi.” With that, she headed out, taking a hand phaser with her as she did so. When she got to the lab, Tuvok, Lieutenant Ayala, and two others whom she recognized by face but not by name were at the lab’s partially open door, two on each side. An all too familiar green glow emanated from the lab.
Tuvok saw her approach and nodded. She nodded back, and Tuvok and Ayala pulled the door the rest of the way open, the other two guards going in, phaser rifles raised. Seven went in right behind them, Tuvok and Ayala behind her.
“He’s alive,” one of the guards in front of her said, looking down at an injured but surprisingly unassimilated Ensign Mulcahey, but Seven’s focus quickly shifted to the object at the center of the room.
It looked like a Borg maturation chamber, the kind she had been put in when she was first assimilated as a child, the way all those who were taken before their physical maturity were before being fitted for implants. Like, she thought. But not quite. I’ve never seen one that looked like this before.

“This resembles a Borg maturation chamber,” she said to Tuvok. “But there are components which are unfamiliar.”
“Sir,” Ayala said, holding a tricorder over Mulcahey. “There’s puncture wounds from Borg nanoprobe tubes, and the signature on the probes match Seven of Nine’s, but she was in sickbay.”
Seven went over to both of them. She took the tricorder from Ayala.
“He is correct,” she said, sounding confused. She looked at Ayala, then Tuvok, as if hoping either of them might have an explanation. The latter only raised an eyebrow, the former shrugged.  “I don’t know how this happened. None of this makes sense. A tissue sample appears to have been extracted. There’s no sign of nanoprobes in the Ensign except around the wound. You should get him to sickbay though, he does appear to have a concussion.”
Tuvok motioned for Ayala and one of the other guards to do just that. Seven handed Ayala back his tricorder, and went back to look at the maturation chamber. She took a deep breath and stepped up to where the sensors said the force field was. She took one step forward and passed through it.
“What are you doing?” Tuvok asked.
“It recognized me as Borg,” she said, tapping button on the side of the chamber. “There’s a control here to open a panel on the side. We’ll be able to see what’s in…” Her train of thought was disrupted when she saw something she did not expect to see. A Borg drone, in a fetal state.
“That shouldn’t be possible,” she said. “The Borg expand their numbers by assimilation, not procreation.“

Captain Janeway looked at the “baby” through the transparent panel on the side of its maturation chamber. Once Seven of Nine and Tuvok briefed her on what they knew, she had only one thought.

I haven’t even had my coffee yet.
“So, just so I’m sure I understand you correctly,” she said, “you’re saying that when we beamed you off the shuttle yesterday, some of your nanoprobes got mixed up with the Doctor’s mobile emitter?”

“Correct,” Seven said.
“And Ensign Mulcahey DNA was used as a template to create this, baby drone?”
“A simplification of what occurred, but accurate,” Seven said.
“We have erected a Level 10 force field around the chamber,” Tuvok said. “As you can see, the drone’s mass has increased since you arrived in the lab. Seven says that it is maturing at a rate twenty-five times the normal rate for a Borg.”
“Good. The force field I mean. Post twenty-four hour security around the lab.”
“Very well Captain,” Tuvok said.
“Captain,” Seven said. “You intend to let it mature?”

Janeway nodded. “That’s correct. Right now, it’s not a direct threat to the ship, and it didn’t assimilate Mulcahey. We’re dealing with something new here. If it becomes a threat we can beam the whole chamber out into space, but I don’t want to do that unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Seven didn’t respond right away. Janeway gathered that Seven was concerned about the ship’s safety, which was good, but she hoped that Seven wouldn’t act rashly.
“I,” Seven finally said. “have concerns.”
“As do I,” Tuvok said to Seven. “However the final decision is the Captain’s.”
“Understood, but I wanted my concerns noted for the record.”
“They are Seven,” Janeway said. “don’t worry. I want you and B’Elanna to go to astrometrics. Modify the sensors so you can scan the drone from there.”
“Yes, Captain,” Seven said, still sounding apprehensive but not pushing the issue.

Seven of Nine went over the data twice to be sure, before showing it to B’Elanna.

“Damn, this thing is growing quickly,” B’Elanna said. “It was a fetus when we started this, now it’s about the size of a six-year-old.”
“A six-year-old boy,” the Doctor’s voice said, speaking to them from a monitor since he was still unable to leave sickbay. “From what I can tell the drone is male. Probably due to the source material. According to my own scans Borg implants compose approximately twenty-seven percent of his body, but he’s mostly human.”
“A human with polydutonic alloy plating,” B’Elanna said. “The same material as your holo-emitter. The nanoprobes must’ve extrapolated that technology for its design.”

“Definitely,” Seven said, feeling slightly uncomfortable. Even as a single drone, this unit could easily threaten the ship with such an advanced level of technology; five hundred years ahead of what the collective had now. “I have already dampened its proximity transceiver to prevent it from contacting the Borg Collective.”
“I’ve located my mobile emitter,” the Doctor said, sounding less than pleased much to Seven’s surprise. “Embedded in his cerebral cortex. I don’t think we can remove it without killing him.”
“That may become necessary,” Seven said. “Continue with the scans, the Captain wants a full report on the drone’s capabilities.”
“Already almost done, unless it invents something new while I’m recording the data,” B’Elanna said. “You know, if we can keep it from contacting the collective, we might be able to convince it to stay with us, the way you did. Imagine what we could do with 29th century Borg technology on our side.”
“That decision rests with the Captain,” Seven said. “However I personally would advise against that.”
“You’re probably right,” B’Elanna said. “but I’d rather not throw away a potential source of new technology unless I had to. I mean, look at this.”
Seven stepped away from the console she was working on to look at what was on B’Elanna’s monitor. The list of abilities the ship’s chief engineer had managed to identify in the new drone was impressive, to put it mildly.

“Internal transport nodes. Fascinating,” Seven said. “I must get this to the Captain immediately. The drone will fully mature in only a few hours, but its shielding is not yet active. She needs to make a decision while destroying it would still be an easy option.”
“Hmm. I wonder if I should tell Mister Mulchaey he’s a father,” the Doctor said in a joking tone of voice.

“I doubt he would treat the matter so lightly Doctor,” Seven said as she took the PADD B’Elanna offered her before leaving astrometrics.

Captain Janeway put down the PADD Seven of Nine had handed her, and asked a question she’d actually been thinking about since earlier that day.
“Seven, what normally happens when a Borg exits a maturation chamber?” she said.
“It awaits instructions from the collective,” Seven said.
“So without those instructions, it has no designation. No purpose.”

“Captain, are you suggesting we-”
“Exactly. If we can keep him from interfacing with the collective, we can give him a purpose.”
“Captain, this is the most advanced drone to ever exist. It could easily threaten Voyager, even without the Collective.”
“I understand your concern, Seven, and I am not taking destroying the drone off the table entirely. But if we can teach it our values, we will have a powerful ally on our side.”
“If we fail,” Seven said, “No, let me rephrase. If we succeed at convincing the drone to become part of this crew, but the Borg are able to take us and assimilate it anyway, the Collective will become more powerful than ever. I am uncomfortable with taking that risk.”
“Noted. But I would remind you, Seven, that there were some on this crew who made the same suggestion about you.”
“This situation is different,” Seven said, a hint of anger in her voice.
“Is it?”

“There are similarities yes, but I would remind you that I am not enhanced by technology five hundred years ahead of our time, and my parents conceived me naturally rather than having their DNA stolen by rogue nanoprobes.”
“Okay,” Janeway conceded. “Fair enough on that point. It would seem we are at an impasse here.”
“You could just order me to work with the drone,” Seven said.
“True, true. But much like destroying the drone I’d rather save that as a last resort.”
After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, Seven of Nine said something that Janeway did not expect.
“Have you consulted Ensign Mulcahey on this matter, Captain?”
“No. Why?”
“Since it was his DNA that was used as the template for the drone that would, in effect, make him the father. Shouldn’t he have a say in the matter?”
“Nice try,” Janeway said, smirking. “But what started this was your nanoprobes, and the Doctor’s holo-emitter. If anyone could be said to be that drone’s parents, it’s you two, not Mulcahey.”
“There are multiple species in this galaxy who procreate with three parents rather than two,” Seven said.
Janeway sighed. “Fine, fine, I’ll play along with this but only because I’m tired of arguing with you.” Janeway touched a button on her desk. “Commander, has Ensign Mulcahey been cleared to leave sickbay yet?”
“Yes Captain,” Chakotay said. “He was released a few hours ago. Why?”
“Have him meet me back in sickbay. I have something to discuss with him, the Doctor, and you. In private.”
“Understood,” Seven said.

Seven of Nine was not thrilled with the situation at hand, but having her lover at her side lessened the discomfort. Despite her best efforts, she ultimately lost her argument. She made her case as best she could that the drone should simply be destroyed, but at the end, she found herself simply outvoted. The Captain putting it up to a vote had not been expected, but when it was suggested, Seven assumed that at worst it would end in a tie, with her and the Doctor on the side of destroying the drone so that the mobile emitter could possibly be recovered. More likely as she saw it, the Captain would be the lone vote for not destroying it. Seven had assumed that Ensign Mulcahey would carry some resentment over having his genetic material taken against his will.

“Yeah, okay,” he’d said instead after the Captain told him her plans.
“What?” Seven had said, in the same tone of voice that Samantha would say the same word when Seven informed her of what was going to happen.
And now, here she was, in the science lab. Tuvok and three armed guards behind her, Sam holding her hand, and a drone in front of her.
“Like ripping off a bandage,” Seven said, repeating a phrase she’d learned from Sam last year. She went over to a console. “Maturation cycle is complete.”
The drone stepped out of its alcove.
“We are Borg. State this unit’s designation,” he said.
“You do not have a designation,” Seven said. “You are not part of the collective, you are an individual. You will receive your instructions from me.” So far the drone had not made any threatening gestures. He stood perfectly still, his arms at his sides. Seven thought for a moment that perhaps this task would succeed after all, and that the Captain had in fact made the right decision.
“Insufficient,” the drone said.
Or maybe I’m right and this is a terrible idea, Seven thought.

“You will comply,” Seven said. “My designation is Seven of Nine.”
“Seven of Nine,” the drone repeated. “What is this unit’s designation?”
“He wants a name,” Samantha whispered in Seven’s ear. “Maybe you should give him one.”
Seven looked at Samantha, and nodded. She turned back to face the drone.
“You are an individual. You may choose a designation for yourself,” she said. It wasn’t what Samantha had suggested, but she didn’t want to admit that she simply did not feel comfortable with the idea of naming a new lifeform.
“Insufficient. Seven of Nine, state our designation.”

Seven sighed, then turned to Tuvok. “He does not understand me. His responses are programmed. I must initiate a direct neural interface.”
“Are you sure that’s wise?” Tuvok said.
“Yeah, I’m wondering that myself,” Samantha said.

“There is no other way for me to communicate with him,” Seven said. “Sam, I would prefer you remain outside, in case something goes wrong.”
“But-”
“I will not be responsible for robbing Naomi of her mother,” Seven said. “Please,” she added in a softer tone.
Samantha frowned, but then did as she was asked, moving outside of the lab, and behind one of the security officers.

Seven moved towards the drone, and extended her arm. The drone reflexively stepped back, surprising Seven.
“You will not be harmed,” she said. “You will be provided with instructions.”
The drone stepped forward again, close enough for Seven to extend her arm, and extend her assimilation tubules, though not for the purpose which they’d originally been designed for. After a few moments, Seven glanced at Tuvok.

“He understands,” she told him, but suddenly the drone grabbed her arm. She grunted in pain from the grip.
“The drone is probing my neural pathways,” she said, wincing. “It is trying to assimilate all of my knowledge.”
“Annie?” she heard Sam call from behind her, but the sounds she heard after suggested that the guards were holding her back from entering. Tuvok was at her side now, a hand phaser pointed at the drone.
“Stop it,” she told the drone. Tuvok fired, but a force field surrounded the drone immediately.
“Terminate… interface!” she grunted. The drone just stared blankly ahead, as if he didn’t even hear her.
“You are hurting me,” Seven said. The drone looked at her, and without changing his facial expression even slightly, stopped probing Seven’s mind. Seven retracted her tubules and stepped back.
“I will comply,” the drone said.

Seven, after taking a few calming breaths, finally spoke.
“We’ll need to try something else. Perhaps Borg data nodes will work. I’ve already activated its linguistic database, so communicating will be easier.”

Samantha and Neelix walked down the corridor towards engineering, each carrying a Borg data node with them.
“It wasn’t necessary to help me, Samantha,” Neelix said.
Samantha smiled.
“I’m happy to help. Besides, ferreting all this stuff back and forth is going to be the only chance I’ll get to spend time with Seven today since the Captain has her so busy with the new drone.”
“As good an excuse as any,” Neelix said. “Still haven’t named him yet?”
“Seven insists he should pick his own,” Samantha said as they reached the door to engineering. “I’d try to talk her into it but I usually know when I can’t get her to budge on something.”
As they stepped inside, Neelix spoke up to grab B’Elanna’s attention.
“Special delivery! Two Borg data nodes.”
“More,” B’Elanna said, sounding exasperated. “Well, you know the drill,” she said, waving towards the data port.
“Having a bad day, B’Elanna?” Samantha asked.
“I’m just wondering how many more Borg hitchhikers we’re going to pick up along the way. They’ve suddenly turned from a force of nature threatening the galaxy into annoying in-laws.”
“I don’t think it happening twice counts as a pattern,” Neelix said as he hooked up the first node.
B’Elanna scoffed. “Or maybe it’s the collective’s new strategy. They don’t assimilate anymore, they just show up and look helpless.”
“Well, if it keeps them from killing people would that be so bad if they did?” Neelix said.
“Look,” B’Elanna said, “we don’t know what this drone will turn into! I don’t think I’m being paranoid here, it’s gone from infant to adult in one day.”
“It’ll be what we help it to be,” Samantha said.
“Exactly,” Neelix added.
B’Elanna rolled her eyes. “How Starfleet of both of you. I don’t even know why I brought it up. I just hope your girlfriend does a good job, Sam. We’ll all pay if she blows it.”
“I’ll pass on your vote of confidence,” Samantha said dryly. And I thought Annika and B’Elanna were finally getting along, she thought.

B’Elanna just shook her head and went back to work, while Samantha hooked up the Borg data node she was carrying to another datalink. Once both nodes were filled, she and Neelix headed back to the lab.
“Is it just me,” Neelix said as they left engineering, “or is B’Elanna more agitated than usual lately? I mean, wasn’t she saying we should try and keep the drone just yesterday?”
“She’s been a little off for awhile really,” Samantha said. “I think she’s still upset about what happened to her Maquis friends back home. Can’t say I blame her to be honest.”
“Did you lose anyone to the Dominion?” Neelix asked.
“Not that I know of, but it’s also been months since we’ve been able to contact Starfleet.”
“True. In fact, sometimes I think people on Voyager actually forget there’s a war going on back home. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, though.”
“Who’s to say it can’t be both,” Samantha said. She and Neelix were quiet the remainder of the way to the lab. When they stepped inside, Seven turned and smiled when she saw Samantha enter. She stepped past Neelix to take the data node that Samantha was holding.
“How goes the upload?” Samantha said.
“It is going well,” Seven said. “The drone is assimilating the knowledge most efficiently.”

“And he hasn’t tried grabbing you again?” Samantha said.

“He has not.”
“Good. I might have to hurt him if he did.”
“Please do not take offense, but I believe you lack the combat expertise necessary to present a threat to… You were joking weren’t you?”
Samantha nodded. “You’re busy today, don’t worry about it.”
“Very well then,” Seven said as she plugged the first node in while Neelix set the one he was carrying down on nearby table. The drone stepped off his platform. Samantha found it rather amusing how his head seemed to bobble slightly as he walked.

“We are Borg. State this unit’s designation.”
“We have compiled information into this data node for you to assimilate,” Seven said, ignoring the request.

“We do not understand,” the drone said.
“You will,” Seven replied. “But first you must assimilate this data.”
Samantha found herself amused again, this time by Seven, who told the drone that he must assimilate data the way that she used to have to tell Naomi to brush her teeth.
“Give me your arm,” Seven said the to the drone. He did not move. Seven sighed and looked at Samantha.
“Was Naomi ever this difficult?” she said.
“She had a rough patch,” Samantha said. “but it only lasted a few months. Don’t tell her I told you, though, she’s very sensitive about it.”

Seven nodded, then took the drone’s arm herself and held it over the data node.
“Inject one of your assimilation tubules into this access port,” she said.
“We do not understand,” the drone said.
“If you don’t mind,” Samantha said as she moved to stand closer to Seven. “might I suggest you demonstrate what it is you want him to do? You have tubules of your own after all.”
Seven nodded.
“An excellent suggestion Sam, thank you.” Seven then did just that, briefly extended her own tubules into the data port, before quickly removing them. “Now, you do the same, but use yours to assimilate the data in the node,” she said to the drone. It did so, and Samantha watched as the drone’s face changed, his mouth open partially, his human eye opening wider. His face bore a similar kind of awe and wonder to it that Naomi had had the first time she’d been shown what the warp core looked like.

“Your designation is Seven of Nine. Borg,” the drone said after removing his tubules.
“Yes,” Seven said. The drone turned to face Neelix.
“Your designation is Neelix. Talaxian.”
“That’s me,” Neelix said.
“Your designation,” the drone said, now looking at Samantha, “is Samantha Wildman, Human.”

“Correct,” Samantha said. She smiled as she put an arm around Seven’s shoulder. “Well done, Annie. The data nodes were a great idea. With the added bonus of preventing any injury.”
“Annie? Does Seven of Nine have an alternate designation?”
“It is,” Seven said, pausing briefly before continuing, “a designation that only Samantha is allowed to call me. You are to continue referring to me as Seven of Nine, or as just Seven.”

The drone started looking around the room, turning in place.
“I am in a laboratory, on a vessel, traveling through interstellar space,” he said.
“Yes. You’re on the Federation starship Voyager,” Neelix said.
He almost seems excited, Samantha thought. It’s kind of child-like.
“Why?” the drone asked.
Okay, very child like.
“This is a vessel of exploration,” Seven said.
“I am an explorer,” the drone said.
“We all are,” Samantha said.
“We are Borg,” the drone said.
Swing and a miss.

“You are a unique individual, one of many on Voyager,” Seven said. “This is not a Borg collective. Do you understand?”
“Individual. Yes,” the drone said, practically smiling. “I wish to assimilate more information,” he added, extending his arm towards Seven.
“Not yet,” Seven said. “First, you must meet with the ship’s Doctor for a medical examination. You will come with me. Sam, will you be joining us?”
“That’s okay, I’d just be in the way. I’ll see you later,” Samantha said.
“I may have to pass on dinner tonight. Send Naomi my regrets,” Seven said. “After we have gone to sickbay, I will upgrading one of the alcoves in the cargo bay to allow him to regenerate.”
“Okay,” Samantha said, giving Seven a quick kiss on the cheek before leaving.
“Welcome to Voyager,” she said to the drone as she left.

As they walked down the corridor, two guards following them, Seven of Nine listened politely as one by one the drone began vocally naming off the various components of Voyager.
“Seven of Nine,” the drone said. “Before we left the laboratory, the one designated Samantha, she touched you with her lips. I do not understand.”
“It is called a kiss,” Seven said. “She kissed me before we parted way for the day because she is my romantic partner.”
“I see. Is this why your pheromonal levels went up and your body temperature increased when she touched you?”
“That is correct, though for future reference it is considered, impolite, to discuss such matters in a public setting.” Seven glanced back at the security guards. To their credit, both were acting professional. She imagined that if any other crew members had been there, there would’ve been giggling. Or worse, were it someone with only casual regard for decorum such Brooks or Chell.

“Impolite,” the drone said. “To be not polite or courteous. Rude.”
“Also correct.”
“Will I be given a romantic partner as well?”
That time one of the guards failed to fully suppress a reaction, but Seven glared at him and he remained quiet.
“That is not how romantic entanglement works. I will discuss the admittedly complex history of my own relationship with Sam, if she gives me permission to do so, and only in private as the rest of the crew is not privy to such details. Privacy is another concept you will need to learn if you are to integrate into this crew. I should warn you though that maintaining it on this vessel can be difficult at times.”
“I am noticing that many of the other crewmembers we pass are afraid of me. I can detect their physiological responses.”
“Their fear is understandable,” Seven said. “We come from a species that is hostile to them. My position in this crew was earned, and it took a considerable amount of time. Though I admit to having made… mistakes along the way that prolonged the matter. However, as you have not directly assaulted any crewmembers since your creation, you will likely have an easier process.”
“I see,” the drone said, sounding sad, which was a surprise to Seven. “I want to know more about the collective. Tell me about the Borg.”
That was not a surprise to Seven. She knew this was going to come sooner or later.
“The Captain and I will determine when you are ready for that information,” she said. “You must not be impatient. There are other things for you to learn in the meantime, as well as adapting to life on Voyager.” Seven stopped walking when she saw the door to sickbay. She motioned for the drone to enter ahead of her.
“Good morning,” the Doctor said.
“You are the emergency medical hologram,” the drone said.
“Very observant,” the Doctor said. “Have you been given a name yet?”
“I do not have a name. Seven of Nine says I should choose my own, but according to the data I have assimilated so far, it is customary for humans to name their children. As my DNA is human, would it not be appropriate for my progenitors to give me my designation?”
“He has a point, Seven,” the Doctor said.
“Very well,” Seven said. “You name him then.”
“Why me?”
“Your mobile emitter merging with my nanoprobes in the transporter beam is responsible for the drone’s existence.”
“Wouldn’t that make both of us his parents then? And what about Mulcahey? Shouldn’t he get a say too since it was his DNA-”
“I have already discussed the matter with him,” Seven said. “He expressed no interest.”
“Well that just seems rude,” the Doctor said, as he opened his medical tricorder. Facing the drone he continued. “This is a non-invasive biomedical scan. You will not feel a thing.
“And another thing Seven,” he added as he started his scans. “I’ve been active for going on five years and I’ve yet to pick my own name.”
“A fair point. Though in all honesty I’ve wondered why you simply do not adopt the surname of your creator.”
“Doctor Zimmerman? I’ve considered it.”
“Doctor,” the drone said once the initial scan was done. “I am confused about my creation. From what I heard you and Seven of Nine say, I am an accident.”
“Well,” the Doctor said, suddenly looking uncomfortable. “Yes, but these things happen.”
“It was a random technological convergence,” Seven said. “But that is irrelevant.”

“Am I unwelcome here?” the drone said.
“Unexpected,” the Doctor said. “That doesn’t have to mean unwelcome. If you are successful in integrating with the crew, you will find yourself most welcome.”
The Doctor began performing new scans, when suddenly he stopped.
“Edwin,” he said.
“I’m sorry?” Seven said, wondering where this seemingly random outburst came from.
“Edwin is Ensign Mulcahey’s middle name. I was thinking that’s what we could call you.  It’s not uncommon for human parents to name their children in such a fashion.” the Doctor said to the drone. The drone did not give any visible sign that he heard the Doctor, but after a few seconds began speaking.
“Edwin. Origin; Earth. Means ‘rich friend’ from the Old English elements ead meaning wealth or fortune, and wine meaning friend. This does seem not an appropriate name given my origins.”
“Good lord Seven, just how much data did you give him?”
“I did give him the ship’s linguistic database,” Seven said. “I did not realize he had processed that much of it already. But if the drone does not wish to be named Edwin, I suggest we not pressure him.”
“Edwin is acceptable as a designation,” the drone said. “Regardless of its inaccuracy.”

The Doctor smiled.
“Well there you go,” he said. “Welcome to the crew, Edwin.”

Seven sighed. It could be worse I suppose, she thought.

When Seven brought the Borg drone, now calling itself Edwin, to the Captain’s ready room, Janeway couldn’t help but notice that Seven was starting to behave almost like a proud parent, though in her own unique way.

Seven succinctly explained to her how she’d familiarized Edwin with Voyager, including a productive visit to engineering where the drone had helped B’Elanna Torres by predicting the rate of expansion of the proto-nebula.
After telling Janeway about his name and where he got it, and explaining that he had already assimilated forty-seven billion teraquads of information, he asked her if he was sufficient. When she told him he was, Edwin asked to be excused, as Torres had asked him to help improve the efficiency of the Bussard collectors.
Once he was gone, Seven remained behind.
“He’s been asking about the Borg collective,” she said. “I’ve been deflecting the conversation as much as possible, but I’m not sure how much longer I can put that off.”
Janeway stood up and clasped her hands behind her back.
“Maybe we won’t need to hold off much longer. It’s only been a few days but he’s already started fitting in well with the crew. Though from what I hear he could use some teaching in the personal space department.”
“He does still tend to stand too close to people when speaking to them,” Seven admitted. “I am working with him on that. I asked Samantha to help me, but since she never had that particular problem with Naomi she had little advice to offer.”
“Speaking of,” Janeway said. “has Edwin met Naomi yet?”
“No,” Seven said. “While he has been adapting well, as you said, and even though Sam has stated she is okay with it I admit to still being somewhat reluctant.”
Janeway nodded.
“I can see that,” she said. “The way I understand it, your relationship with Samantha started because she had similar concerns about you.”
“The similarity of the situations is not lost on me Captain, though at least in Sam’s case she did have specific instances she could point to to justify her concerns. I worry I am simply being overly cautious, as Edwin has not stolen a shuttle, or struck Harry Kim.”
“Good point. As for the matter you first brought up, wouldn’t you rather he learn about the Borg from us than from the collective?”
“The lure of perfection is powerful Captain. He may be tempted to seek out the Borg. That would pose a grave tactical risk.”
“All the more reason he should hear about them from us, but we’ll continue withholding that information for now. As an individual though he does have the right to know. I won’t give you an ultimatum, I’m going to trust your judgment on when to tell him, but you must tell him.”
“Understood, Captain. I have made the necessary upgrades to the alcove next to mine. After we have gone through a regeneration cycle, I will consult with some of the other parents on the ship to discuss the matter of how to present the information. Mister Tuvok and Mister Carey have multiple children, their experience would prove most valuable.”
“Okay. See you in the morning, Seven,” Janeway said. As Seven went to leave though, a thought occurred to her.
“Wait,” she said. “One last thing. Does Ensign Mulcahey know? About the drone’s name, I mean?”
“I do not know. Lieutenant Torres believes he will not be pleased to learn about it, however. Her exact words were, ‘Todd is going to flip his shit when he finds out.’”
Janeway smiled and chuckled.
“I hope you told her to watch her language,” she said. Seven groaned.
“After three months I’d hoped that that was finally over,” she muttered as she left the ready room.

Seven of Nine found herself abruptly brought out of her regeneration cycle. That in itself wasn’t unusual, though in the past when it had happened it was due either an intense nightmare, or a ship-wide alert.
Instead, she was simply not in the cycle anymore, and her eyes were opening to the site of Captain Janeway, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, and several armed guards with phaser rifles pointed in their direction.
“Captain?” Seven said.
“The drone transmitted a Borg proximity signal. Wake him,” she said.
Seven did exactly as she was told, feeling utterly disappointed, and a little worried. When Edwin opened his eyes and stepped out, Seven managed to impress herself with how level she managed to keep her tone of voice.
“You have contacted the Collective,” she said.
“I have not,” Edwin said.
“Check his transceiver,” Janeway said.
“Seven of Nine deactivated my transceiver two days ago,” Edwin said, seeming confused at the accusation rather than angry or defensive. Seven ran a tricorder over Edwin’s skull, and sighed.
“Your cranial implants have adapted,” she said. “They built a second transceiver while you were in the regeneration cycle. Tuvok, have long range scans picked up any vessels?”
“Not yet, but they have detected a transwarp conduit,” Tuvok said. “Assuming it is a Borg vessel, which is the most logical assumption, it will intercept us in approximately three hours.”
“The Borg?” Edwin said.
“Yes,” Seven said.
“I wish to meet them.”
“Seven?” Janeway said. “Looks like it’s time to have the talk.”
Seven nodded, wishing she’d had more time to prepare for this.
“Edwin, you are to follow the Captain and I to astrometrics,” she said.

“I will comply,” Edwin said.

Once there, Janeway put everything the ship’s records had on the Borg up on the large screen in the lab, including what visual logs there were of Wolf 359. Seven of Nine added some of her own from her own memory via her remaining cranial implants.
“The Borg have assimilated thousands of species,” Edwin said. What becomes of those species?”
“They lose their individuality. Everything they know becomes part of the collective’s memory, and they themselves become drones,” Seven said, bothered by the look of awe Edwin as on his face while he looked at the screen.
“I wish to experience the hive mind,” he said.
Crap, Seven thought.
“If you do that,” Janeway said. “You will no longer be unique. Your individuality will be destroyed.”

“That is undesirable,” Edwin said, now looking at Janeway.
“Very,” Janeway said.

“The Borg add voices to the collective against their will. I do not understand. Such a violent act would seem counter to the goal of seeking perfection, does it not?”
“I believe it is,” Seven said. “While I still share many of the desires I had as a part of the collective, since my link to them was severed I find their methods repulsive.”

“The Borg are one of the most destructive forces we have ever encountered,” Janeway said. “With your technology, they would become even more so.”

Edwin looked at the screen again. “That is unacceptable,” he said. “Knowledge should not be obtained through violence.”
Seven finally let go of the breath she didn’t even realize she was holding. She was ready to congratulate Edwin on coming to that conclusion faster than she had, but Commander Chakotay’s voice over the comm interrupted them.
“Red alert! All hands to battle stations. A Borg vessel is approaching.”
“Come on,” Janeway said. “we need to get the bridge. You too Edwin. You can help us enhance our defenses.”

“Understood,” Seven said. The three of them turned and exited the lab, heading for the nearest turbolift.

Once on the bridge, Chakotay filled them quickly.
“The Borg vessel’s moving into range,” he said. “It’s not a cube though, too small. We think it’s one of their spheres.”
“A sphere?” Janeway said. “I read about that one in the data packet Starfleet sent us. Didn’t think I’d actually get to see one.”
“We’re being scanned,” Harry Kim said from the ops console.
“They’re preparing to attack,” Seven said. She turned to Edwin. “You must help us enhance our shields. This console over here will give you access to the field generators.”

“Captain?” Chakotay said, sounding unsure.
“Do it,” Janeway said.

“We are being hailed. Captain,” Tuvok said.
“Don’t bother responding, I think we all know the spiel by now,” Janeway said.
“I can hear them,” Edwin said. “In my mind.” Seven thought he sounded afraid, as though the Borg would be able to assimilate him through thought alone. The ship shuddered.
“They’ve got a tractor beam on us,” Harry said.
“I hear them too,” Seven said, “We must resist. This ship will be destroyed if we do not.” Edwin nodded, and with a look of determination on his face, he held his arm over the console and fired off his assimilation tubules into it. Within seconds, the ship’s shields began modulating, and Voyager was able to break free of the Borg sphere’s tractor beam.
“Can you enhance our phasers?” Janeway said.
“Yes,” Edwin said.
“Do it,” Janeway said. “Tuvok, as soon as he’s done target the sphere’s propulsion systems. Be prepared to jump to warp Mister Paris.”

“Yes ma’am,” Paris said.
“Enhancements complete. You may fire,” Edwin said.
“Firing,” Tuvok said. A second later, the ship shuddered even more violently than when it had been caught in the tractor beam.
“They inverted our phaser beam with a feedback pulse,” Seven said. The ship began shuddering again as the sphere fired on them.
“They just took out our warp drive,” Paris said.
“Your technology is limited,” Edwin said. “I cannot enhance it any further. I must transport over to the sphere, and disrupt them from within.”

“They will try to assimilate you,” Seven said.
“They will fail,” Edwin said very matter-of-factly, as if he were repeating something that he shouldn’t have to. Seven didn’t like it. She imagined that Sam would feel much the same way if it were Naomi offering to go fight the Borg all alone. Unlike Naomi though, Edwin could possibly do it, though that likelihood did little to temper her concerns.

Seven looked at Janeway. Janeway looked back, and nodded.
“Harry,” Janeway said, “lock onto the drone.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Edwin said, activating his own internal transporter.
“He’s inside the sphere,” Tuvok said.
Seven turned to look at the viewscreen, and tried not to let her worry overwhelm her. The ship took another hit from the sphere’s weapons.
“Shields down to 29%,” Harry said.
“Had they not been enhanced they’d likely be down already,” Seven said.
Harry chuckled. “No doubt about that,” he said. “The Krenim were able to hurt us worse than this.”
“We haven’t survived this yet Lieutenant,” Chakotay said. “Don’t get cocky.”

Suddenly, the sphere stopped firing, and began moving.
“It’s heading towards the proto-nebula,” Tom said. “It’s gonna get crushed in there.”
Seven held back a gasp as the image of the viewscreen showed the sphere crumpling as it flew straight ahead, small pieces of it flying off into space while the rest of it collapsed in on itself like a mess hall napkin being crumpled up after its use.

“Beam back Edwin, beam back,” she muttered just before the sphere exploded, the shockwave making Voyager lilt so quickly inertial dampeners couldn’t fully compensate, and the whole bridge crew nearly lost their balance and toppled to the right.

Seven stared ahead at the viewscreen, her heart feeling like it was sinking into her stomach. The red alert lights went out and the main lights came back on, and Seven could hear Janeway giving orders to the command staff, but couldn’t process them, until Harry said something that snapped her out of it.
“I’m detecting a lifesign,” he said. “It’s the drone, he made it. He’s erected a multi-spatial force field, but it’s collapsing. I’m attempting to get a lock on.”

“When you have him,” Janeway said, looking as happy as Seven felt, “beam him to sickbay.”
“Aye Captain,” Harry said. Seven didn’t wait for permission, she bolted to the turbolift right away.
“Sickbay!” she said, wishing the lift could go faster. When she got to sickbay, the Doctor was already scanning Edwin, who was lying on the biobed, his armor looking beaten up, and a red welt on his exposed head, but otherwise he seemed fine. “Damage?”
“Several of his implants were fused in the explosion but they’re regenerating,” the Doctor said. “His biological systems are another story, Cranial trauma, internal bleeding, he’s going to need immediate surgery.” The Doctor closed his medical tricorder and moved quickly to grab his surgical equipment.
“The sphere?” Edwin said.
“Destroyed,” Seven said. “You were successful.”

Edwin closed his eyes and exhaled. “Good,” he said. He opened his eyes again and glanced at Seven.
“The Borg are aware of my existence. I could hear their thoughts when I was linked to them, taking over the sphere. They will pursue me.”
“Irrelevant,” Seven said.
“I need to get started,” the Doctor said, gently nudging Seven aside.
“No,” Edwin said. Seven’s lower lip began to quiver.
No, no, don’t do this, she thought.

“I should not exist. I am an accident. A random convergence of technologies.”
“You are unique,” Seven said, barely holding it together.
“As long as I exist,” Edwin said, “you are in danger.”
“We can talk about this later,” the Doctor said, going for Edwin’s neck with a hypospray, but it bounced off of a force field that was now suddenly surrounding Edwin’s body.
“Allow the Doctor to proceed,” Seven said in as commanding a voice as she could manage. Edwin simply looked at her, his breathing quickening as an alert noise came from the Doctor’s console.
“His synapses are failing,” the Doctor said.
“Edwin, you must comply.”
“I will not,” Edwin said, his voice shaking as his upper body convulsed.
“You must comply. Please,” Seven said forcefully. Then quietly she added, “You are hurting me.”
“You will adapt,” Edwin coughed out. Then the lights in his implants blinked out, his breathing slowed, and his body slackened, his mouth hanging partway open. Even before the Doctor walked up to her and said “I’m sorry,” Seven knew that he was gone. She couldn’t move, her eyes were beginning to wet, and she felt like she could barely breathe even though consciously she knew her lungs were fine.
Eventually, without saying a word, she managed to walk, slowly, and left sickbay, only once having to use one of the nearby beds to maintain her balance before she made it out the door.

She went back to cargo bay 2. When she stepped inside, she just looked at the alcove that Edwin had used. She hadn’t wanted it to happen, but it did. She had begun to see Edwin as her offspring. She wondered if the Doctor felt any of the loss she did. She wondered if Ensign Mulcahey had any regrets about never having spoken to him. She sighed, and sat down in front of her own alcove, and began to cry.
She wasn’t sure how much time she’d spent there when Samantha came walking in, holding a mug.
“Hey,” she said quietly.
“Hi,” Seven said back. Samantha sat down next to her and offered Seven the cup.
“Vulcan tea,” she said. “I think it may have cooled down a bit too much on the way over.”
“Thank you,” Seven said, taking the cup, but not bothering to drink it, instead focusing on the warmth of the sides of the mug in her hands.
“How are you holding up?” Samantha said.
“Not terribly well,” Seven admitted. “I feel like I lost a child.”
“Yeah, well, I can understand that,” Samantha said, shifting uncomfortably.
“Sam,” Seven said. “The Captain told me. About what really happened the day Naomi was born. The version that isn’t in the ship’s log.”
“Oh. I had no idea. You never mentioned it.”
“I did not feel I had the right to,” Seven said. “and even if I had felt I had the right, I also did not want to cause you any discomfort.”
“So, why mention it now?”
“If you, I mean, are you okay with me asking how you handled it?”

Samantha took a deep breath and put an arm around Seven’s shoulder, pulling her in close.
“I wish I could help you, baby,” she said. “I really do, but I never really got the chance to handle it. I mean, it felt like one minute my daughter is dead, the next she’s back in my arms because the other Voyager sent her and Harry over. It all happened so fast. The whole incident, with the duplication, and the pulses, and the Vidiians, it was barely even half a day. Sometimes I have nightmares about it, but they’ve never been frequent. I never truly got to experience losing a child and I wake up every day hoping I never have to.”
“We should all be so lucky,” Seven said. “But I’m not going to see Lieutenant Kim coming through a spatial rift with a perfectly intact Edwin following him.”
“No,” Samantha said sympathetically as she gently stroked Seven’s hair. “I guess not.”
“I’m torn,” Seven said after about a minute. “Between asking the Captain for time off to grieve, or simply throwing myself into a project of some kind. Maybe helping Tom with his new shuttle idea. He’s calling it the Delta Flyer. It seems adequate”
Samantha chuckled. “Coming from you sweetie I’m sure he’d see that as high praise.”
“What do you think I should do, Sam?”
“Take the rest of the day off. I can handle astrometrics for awhile, you’ve shown me the basics. Get some rest. Then, after that, decide which of those two you’re going to do.”
“Acceptable,” Seven said, resting her head on Samantha’s shoulder. “Just stay here with me for a few more minutes.

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