Voyager: The Gift
She knew who was outside, of course. She knew so much more now. The Caretaker, she knew, had held the Ocampans back, but never, ever with malicious intent. He simply wasn't able to cope with their unleashed abilities; looking back into the past of her species as she now could - it was so easy, almost trivial - he'd tried to allow a few of them to advance as she was advancing, and it hadn't ended well. The Borg, too, knew them as Species 7229; they tended to make drones who were short-lived but very capable while they lasted.
Kes could feel Seven's pain, and grieved. There was little she could do to help, but with the generosity of spirit imparted to her by the open, welcoming crew of Voyager, she swore to herself she would try her best. Seven deserved no less. She had suffered briefly at the hands and manipulators of the Borg, before becoming what she was. Now she was retracing that path back to her lost humanity. It would be hard for her.
But Kes knew it was not impossible. Seven would adapt, as was ironically the Borg way.
So too would Voyager's crew, especially Captain Janeway, who was waiting with polite patience outside. Oh, she had learned so much from the Captain in her three short but hectic years of life. She wished Kathryn could share in her journey, but she knew it was impossible. Humans weren't quite ready yet. Soon, sooner than they knew or suspected, but not yet.
But she knew she could help them on their way. It was time. Best to get it over with. Their own playwright Shakespeare said it: 'twere best done quickly. "Come in, Captain," Kes lilted.
Now how did she know who it was? Kathryn Janeway, ever the scientist, wondered briefly, but dismissed it as part of the new, wonderful awareness Kes now had. As a scientist and, moreover, a Starfleet officer in the bone, Janeway knew that there were some questions which would never be answered. She wasn't looking forward to the conversation she and Kes would share, because she already knew how it had to end. Kes had never harboured hostile intent towards Voyager, but what was happening now was beyond human experience - and as such could become a danger even though Kes never wanted that.
But it would hurt to let her go.
And yet...how could she not? How could she hold Kes back, even if she could with but a single phrase? All she had to say was ‛Kes, please don't go', and she knew the Ocampan would stay...but at what cost to Voyager? She'd already destabilised the hull with her inadvertent transformation. No, it was time for Kes to move on, to spread her wings and fly.
Kathryn would give anything to go with her, but she had a crew and a responsibility. She had to get them safely home.
"You wanted to see me," Janeway began, and saw a familiar object. "Ah, Tuvok's meditation lamp. I was with him when he got it six years ago, from a Vulcan master." She looked wry as she touched her uniform near the combadge. "Who doubled the price when he saw our Starfleet insignias."
"I'm sure it was the logical thing to do," Kes smiled, seeing the picture vividly in her friend's mind. "I've been thinking about everything that's been going on, and I know what I have to do. It's time for me to leave Voyager."
And there it is, Kathryn thought sadly. "Oh, Kes."
"Something important is happening to me, and I want to explore it. But I can't stay here any longer. I'm a danger to all of you."
"We're going to get to the bottom of this," Janeway began, while knowing it was futile - and yet so human. "The Doctor's already working on a new approach -"
"Everybody thinks that what's happening is a medical condition," Kes observed, shaking her head. "That's not it at all. I'm going though a transformation. I don't know how or why, but every cell in my body is telling me that I'm changing into something more."
As was the human way, Janeway presented an alternative view. "What if it's not true? What if you're simply being swept up in the excitement of something you think is happening, but it's not real? On the basis of a feeling, an intuition, you're asking me to let you go, quite likely for ever? Kes, I just can't do that."
Kes knew it was true, but she also knew Janeway was wrong. She could no more stop this than she could expect Tuvok to express emotion when everything in his background said he should not.
"It's my decision," Kes pronounced, "my fate. Would you really try to stop me?" Even if you could? Kes didn't ask, though the implication was clear to both of them.
"No," Janeway admitted. "But argue with you? Even plead with you to reconsider? Absolutely, for as long as it takes."
But Kes was adamant. "It won't work. Look at me, Captain. I'm the same Kes you've always known. I haven't lost my judgment. I'm not under some alien influence. I believe something crucial is happening to me and I want to see it through."
"You've lived most of your life here," Janeway observed with the peculiar mix of sadness and joy that comes to a parent when a child leaves home. "Voyager has been your home. And you've been a vital part of this family. Oh, I'm going to miss you." They hugged, Janeway near tears.
"Now all I have to do is tell the Doctor," Kes told her. "He's not going to be happy." But she knew it would be more about losing a friend than losing a valuable research assistant. It was for the best, though, as he would see. She briefly became semi-transparent.
"It's starting," she declared. Janeway didn't hesitate to help her up.
"Janeway to Bridge."
"Chakotay here," the First Officer responded.
"Prepare a shuttle for launch and have Tuvok meet me on deck six."
"Captain?" Chakotay puzzled.
"Kes is leaving us."
Voyager corridor, en route to Shuttle Bay
"Come on," Janeway urged.
Kes tried, but stumbled. "Captain, I can't stop it," she warned.
Something exploded behind them as Kes destabilised again. She repaired it with a thought. No more. I'm endangering my friends even though I don't want to. No more. It happened again, more violently this time. She suppressed it again.
"Janeway to Chakotay: Beam us directly to the shuttlebay," Janeway ordered, knowing a site-to-site transport was the quickest way.
No, that won't work, Kes wanted to tell her friend. My structure is changing. The crew won't be able to lock onto me.
"The molecules in Kes' body are destabilising," Harry Kim reported urgently. "It's interfering with the transporter."
"Captain, we can't get a lock," Chakotay informed the Captain.
"Acknowledged," Janeway said brusquely. "Looks like we're going to have to do this the hard way," she told Kes, supporting the Ocampan's slight weight.
They ran somehow. As they did, Voyager's hull started to ripple.
"What's happening?" Chakotay rapped.
Tom Paris answered, "The hull is destabilising! The molecular bonds are breaking down!"
"Tuvok. I can't keep going," Kes gasped.
Tuvok immediately took charge as she'd expected him to. "I will attempt a mind meld to help you delay the transformation." His fingers found the contact points, but the Ocampan's mind was resisting. Nonetheless he persisted. "Our minds are one. Our thoughts are one." He winced. Her resistance was inadvertent, he knew, but instinctive - and beyond his abilities. "Try to regain control for a moment," he urged, "only for a moment. Only for - a - moment."
The attempt failed as Kes had known it would. Thank you for trying, my most worthy teacher. Thank you for everything. "You must hurry," Tuvok rasped. Without acknowledging, Janeway gathered Kes to her and helped her towards the Shuttlebay.
"Hull breach on decks three, four and five," Harry reported. Things were going from bad to worse. No Starfleet training scenario had ever dealt with a transformation before! When I get back to Starfleet Academy, he swore, there's gonna be some changes to the curriculum!
"Emergency containment fields," Chakotay ordered.
"Janeway to the Bridge: Kes is aboard the shuttle," Janeway reported, and the ship was indeed settling down now. "Initiate launch sequence."
"Acknowledged," Chakotay replied.
As per its programming the shuttlecraft flew out of the bay and vectored up, taking her away from Voyager.
"Shuttle distance, one hundred thousand kilometres," Paris observed with no small sense of relief. Kes was a nice, sweet kid, but Tom for one would be glad of a stable ship to fly. "Speed, one quarter impulse."
Janeway and Tuvok entered, and Janeway inquired, "Can you hail her?"
"I've been trying," Harry answered.
"It's happening," Kes told them with a certainty and delight which until now had been foreign to her nature. "It's happening to me." But she knew now that it was her destiny.
She also knew something else.
Seven, can you hear me? Kes asked.
The drone's head jerked up. Affirmative. But how? You have no transceiver node. You are not and have never been a part of the Collective.
No, nor would I ever want to be. They hurt you, Annika. You were just a little girl. You should have known more. Should have been more. I can't give you back what they took, I'm afraid that's beyond even my capabilities. I'm so sorry.
You are blameless, Seven allowed, with as much grace as she was capable of. You were neither involved nor responsible.
But I did help the Doctor make you more human. His overriding principle is: First, do no harm. In his view, letting you die, as you surely would have done without his help, would have been to do you great harm. He never meant to hurt you. Nor did I. You were our patient.
I was given no choice! Seven naturally protested.
You weren't capable of making the choice, Kes told her gently. So we made it for you. It seemed the best way, and it still does. Try to accept it. There's no going back.
But I must. I must rejoin the Collective! It is imperative!
Seven...what will happen if you do?
Reluctantly Seven admitted the truth. They will judge me to be...imperfect. Inadequate. Lacking.
So what will they do? Kes asked, knowing the answer as well as Seven did.
They will...destroy me. Imperfection cannot be tolerated.
In that case, isn't it better for you to be a part of this crew, as I was? Kes gently suggested.
At first the concept did not appeal to Seven. But as she reviewed the contents of her mind, some now freed after more than a decade of repression, she reconsidered. The offer was, if nothing else...intriguing.
Perhaps, Seven conceded. It is better than the nonexistence I will face with the Borg.
And you haven't even started to explore your humanity yet, Kes encouraged. There's so much to learn.
I have already learned a great deal, Seven acknowledged. I can share that knowledge with the crew.
And they'll accept it gladly. They know they don't know everything. That's the beginning of wisdom.
Ignorance is wisdom? Seven wondered sceptically.
It is for humans, Kes smiled in her thoughts, feeling Seven's new acceptance of her situation. It's why they explore: to find out not just how much they can discover, but how much they don't know. They are so wise.
An intriguing concept, Seven granted. In this drone's judgement it is worth pursuing.
That's the spirit, Kes urged, the spirit of adventure. Take care of them, Kes finished, and of yourself, Annika.
I prefer ‛Seven', the drone deadpanned.
Kes laughed, bade her a fond farewell and...matured.
"Her atomic structure is completely destabilising," Harry read worriedly, but a gentle thought entered his head: It's okay. It's meant to be, Harry. Hang on tight.
"My gift to you," were Kes' final words as a corporeal being. The process of maturation was under control now. A moment longer, and...yes. There.
Kes disappeared from the shuttlecraft in a blaze of light no-one saw. Voyager was enveloped in a bright light and then vanished, dragged into a realm of which humans knew nothing - yet - but it would facilitate the journey they were about to undertake.
"Torres to Bridge," B'Elanna reported incredulously, having read the impossible readings from the warp core, "the warp core just came online."
"Matter-antimatter reaction at one hundred and -"
"- two percent," she reported. She had absolutely no idea what was happening - it shouldn't have been possible. "A hundred and ten percent? A hundred and twenty!"
"This can't be right," Tom protested as he saw readings as impossible as those read by the Chief Engineer. "Our speed is - it's impossible!"
"We're coming apart!" Harry cried, seeing Voyager's destabilising hull. Until abruptly...everything stopped.
"We've just dropped out of...whatever it was we were in," Tom reported.
"Systems coming back online," a puzzled but relieved Chakotay echoed.
"On screen," Janeway ordered, bringing them all back to the standard Starfleet mindset. "Where are we?"
Tom correlated their current positional readings relative to where they'd been before...whatever that was. The readings made no sense, but were a very welcome relief. "Nine point five thousand light years from where we just were."
In just a few seconds, Janeway marvelled, understanding what Kes had done, if not how. "She's thrown us safely beyond Borg space," she realised, and smiled. "Ten years closer to home."
That, she thought, was some gift. Thank you, Kes. Take care.
Cargo Bay Two
Seven was no longer in her Borg suit, but a snug silver catsuit with high heels, contemplating her surroundings which now looked very different given her altered vision. She also had blonde hair fastened back in a pleat. The EMH entered with Janeway and a guard.
"I've extracted eighty-two percent of the Borg hardware," the Doctor reported to the Captain and Seven. "The remaining bio-implants are stable, and better than anything I could synthesise at such short notice."
"It is acceptable," Seven decided. Except for a few facial implants and the assembly on her left hand, she appeared human - and, according to her recently assimilated database, very attractive by human standards. Even in the 24th Century, blondes were still popular. With cynicism that was almost human, she knew the purpose of this was to determine her natural hair colour by viewing her pubic hair as part of human sexuality, as it was generally left alone even by the greatest nonconformist.
I will adapt, she decided. There is no prejudice against blondes as there is for redheads. Being attractive will facilitate this process. It appears the Doctor knows human nature as well as he knows their physiology. He has made me as I would have become without the interference of the Borg.
"Fashion, of course, is hardly my forte," the EMH continued. "Nevertheless, I've managed to balance functionality and aesthetics in a pleasing enough manner. I also took the liberty of stimulating your hair follicles," he added ironically, "a vicarious experience for me, as you might imagine." With that he walked away, absurdly pleased with himself.
No, Seven reconsidered, it was not absurd. The Doctor had performed extremely well.
"You'll have to spend a few hours each day regenerating in a Borg alcove until your human metabolism can function on its own," Janeway informed her. "We'll leave one operational."
"Understood," Seven acknowledged.
"Let's see how things go over the next few weeks. I'll consider granting you access to the rest of the ship once I can trust that you won't try to get us all assimilated again," Janeway added. She was pleased at the drone's apparent change in attitude, while unsure how this came about. Then again, people could be very odd at times, even ones who hadn't been Borg drones most of their lives.
"It will not happen again," Seven assured her, and somehow Janeway knew she was sincere.
"Good. If you need anything, contact me," Janeway nodded, and headed back to the Bridge. Before she left, Seven surprised her with a single word:
"What?" Janeway asked curiously, turning back towards the ex-drone.
"The child you spoke of, the girl," Seven told Janeway, speaking of her former self. "Her favourite colour was red."
We're making progress, Janeway mused, very pleased.
Voyager, Tuvok's quarters
Tuvok placed the lit meditation lamp in his window, to help Kes find her way home. Live long and prosper, Kes, he wished her. Wherever you are, whatever you are now, peace and long life, my most worthy student.
Thank you, he somehow heard.
Did he hear it?
Logic suggested that he did not, and that he had experienced a telepathic delusion.
But then, as the legendary Spock would have it:
Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.
That much he had learned from experience and from the High Masters of Gol, even as Tuvok himself had learned from them. But he was a full Vulcan, unlike Spock. Yet the same logic applied, even across species.
He hoped Kes would follow the path of logic, too, as V'Ger had.
But then, he reconsidered, even V'Ger had known a fundamental truth:
Logic and knowledge...are not enough.
A curious contradiction...yet somehow true.
Perhaps, Tuvok conceded before turning in for ship's night, there was more to life than logic.
With that heretical thought, he slept.