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Harry falls for an old, dead friend. Seven of Nine plays Mommie Dearest.
Jump straight to the Analysis
George Lucas made the scene famous, and it's been a common sight ever since. Large vessel bears down on small vessel, weapons blazing. It's how "Caretaker" began, for example.
Well, it's how this episode begins as well. Small alien shuttle runs away from large alien ship. Large alien ship fires on small alien shuttle.
Inside small alien shuttle, shapely alien female chats with nerdy alien computer. The Universal Translator in my cheap Korean television is broke, so I can't vouch for the accuracy of the translations, but here goes.
"Tam'vitte...Me'iote rel mestal!" ("Computer . . . Give me a target!")
The computer puts up an image of the pursuing vessel, and highlights a spot toward the fore.
"Mestal te'iote senve," the computer says. ("Target this spot here.")
"Siote ven'suil." ("Thank you, Alice.") "Bekta!" ("Fire!")
A torpedo spits out from the rear of the shuttle, and strikes the very spot the computer recommended. The shields of the larger vessel light up, and a brighter flash suggests that something crucial has just exploded. The big ship breaks off its pursuit.
The alien woman breathes a sigh of relief. "Tam'vitte...Me'iote sendaya Voyager." ("Computer . . . give me an open channel to the Federation Starship Voyager.")
Whoa--she knows the Ship of Death by name . . . and the computer even has a cool CGI rendering of the little vessel that could. A moment later, the computer chirps to let the woman know a channel is open.
Then the woman unleashes another surprise. "Federation Starship Voyager--if you can hear me, please respond." ("Sendaya Voyager--klaatu, barata nictu!")
A few things to keep in mind. First, she's bald and bluish, her unevenly tinted skin hinting at but not entirely resembling Zhaan from Farscape. Her outfit is dark and form-fitting and low-cut but with a modest squared collar. She has a voice that, even when speaking in alien tongues, is a pleasing, silky alto.
The word of the week is . . . Yummy. Whoever she is, I hope she sticks around.
* * *
A couple of weeks ago, Seven of Nine and Voyager adopted a quintet of "neonatal drones." This is a technical term meaning "brat pack." One is an infant, mere weeks old in human terms, and there's a high likelihood we won't be seeing it any time soon, at least until it's old enough to be played by the Olson Twins.
The other four are old enough to interact with. Two are twin boys in their early teens, the third is a male in his late teens, and the last is an eight year-old girl named Mezoti.
Judging from "Collective," Mezoti has the potential to be the biggest handful. At the moment, she's wandering around Astrometrics all by herself, drinking in the location and function of every control. She runs her hand along the base of the keyboard, scrunching up her mouth thoughtfully. You can tell she's just dying to touch them; she misses having a Borg Cube to call her own.
She gets her chance. A panel begins to blink: INCOMING TRANSMISSION. It indicates the source as Subspace Com Grid 2369, for those who care about such things.
Mezoti presses a button on the communications panel, and the LCARS text changes to RECEIVING MESSAGE.
"...hear me, please respond. Voyager, please respond. Come on, Voyager. I know you're there..." Ah, that voice. No Learning Annex grad, this--no, this is the voice of an actress who gives passion to every line, nuance to every syllable. The line is staticky, though; it's not a solid connection.
Mezoti touches another button on the screen. "Hello?"
The alien perks up. "Voyager? Are you receiving this transmission?"
"My designation is Mezoti," says the perky former dronelette.
There is laughter in the female's dulcet tone. "You sound a little young to be working the com."
"I'm eight." Not shy at all, this one.
The alien's smile broadens. "I see. Are there any grownups I could speak to?"
But Mezoti has her own agenda. She's got a Collective to rebuild. Or perhaps an MCI Friends and Family Plan. "My species is six-eight-nine. Norcadian. What species are you?"
"That's . . . a . . . complicated question." Ooh, goody. That means she'll be around for a while. And the way she says it . . . yummers.
"Explain," Mezoti says. Her Adorable Quotient is inching upward; Naomi Wildman had better watch her back.
"I don't know how long I can keep this channel open," the woman says patiently. "I need you to patch me through to Captain Janeway."
Mezoti looks up at the button that needs pushing. "I'll try, but my height may be insufficient." Scrunching up her face, she rises up on tiptoe and reaches. She places her other hand on the control panel for balance. Open palm, open mouth, anything to reach that shiny, candy-like button . . .
But the balancing palm brushes against the "end call" button. *click* the line goes dead. END TRANSMISSION.
Mezoti silently curses her lack of stature, and begins to back away from the cruelly mocking alien computer and its child-hostile controls.
The alien hears the line go dead.
"Hello? Voyager?" But there is no answer. She runs her hands along her shuttle's controls, but the answering beeps have a distinct ring of failure.
Tuvok is on the scene a moment later. Poor Mezoti is caught red-handed. "Mezoti, you are not authorized to be in here."
"Are you going to report me to the Captain?" Mezoti asks. Unafraid, yet curious. The girl's got spunk.
Tuvok seems to like the child's lack of overt emotions, and cuts her some slack. "Considering this is your first offense, a warning will suffice." What a softie.
But then in comes Bad Cop, with her gaggle of Mini Me drones. "What were my instructions?" Seven of Nine demands.
"To wait in the cargo bay until you returned," Mezoti replies.
"Why didn't you comply?" Seven asks harshly.
Tuvok is properly horrified. "You left the children unsupervised?"
Seven bristles. "Lieutenant Torres required my assistance in engineering. I was gone for less than ten minutes."
The oldest drone sucks up to Seven; he's got a bit of a crush on his new mentor. "We told her not to deviate from your instructions. She wouldn't listen."
But Tuvok doesn't care. He takes Seven of Nine aside. "When the Captain asked you to take charge of these children, you assured her that you could maintain order."
Seven looks exasperated. Her forehead vein throbs to a samba rhythm. "Controlling them is proving more difficult than I anticipated. They're highly unpredictable."
Papa Tuvok can relate, and offers advice. "Meditation helps Vulcan children to control their emotions. You might consider--"
Meanwhile, Mezoti takes advantage of the adults' distraction to return to the communications panel. Seven of Nine eventually notices. "Mezoti!"
"I'm trying to talk to the woman," Mezoti explains, turning around, but not sounding very guilty.
"The one transmitting from spatial grid 2369."
Seven and Tuvok rush over to the panel and tap in the controls only grownups can reach. "She's made contact with a small ship approximately three light-years from here," Seven says, surprised.
Tuvok reestablishes contact. "Alien vessel, this is the Starship Voyager. Respond."
The female is pleasantly surprised. "Tuvok? It's you, isn't it?"
Tuvok's eyebrows furrow. Seven checks, but sees no recognition in his eyes. "This is Lieutenant Commander Tuvok."
"Sounds like someone got promoted." Ah, that cheerful tone is back. "Want to hear all about it, but first I need to speak to Captain Janeway."
Tuvok and Seven give each other a wide-eyed look.
Curiouser and Curiouser . . .
Mezoti smiles. Adults are such pushovers.
For someone addressing a known Starship captain, this alien female is awfully self-assured. And she's got the most flattering camera angle of any communications gear I've ever seen--off to the side, to give her a relaxed, reclined appearance.
The warm smile don't hurt none, neither. "You're a sight for sore eyes, Captain." And when she looks toward Ops, her many perfect teeth practically glow with affectionate radiance. "You, too, Harry."
Janeway looks up at Ops; Harry Kim merely shrugs. Sure, he's a known sex offender with an eye for the xenophobic alien ladies, but this time he's stumped.
Janeway looks back at the screen and the exotic woman. Her voice fills with a skeptical chill. "I'm sorry, but do we know you?"
A slight pause. "I'm Ensign Lyndsay Ballard. I was a member of your crew."
This sets off all manner of silent alarms. Tom Paris bolts upright, then looks at Harry, who turns pale. Janeway's demeanor plummets to permafrost. She rises from her chair.
"Of course, I'm not surprised you don't recognize me."
Janeway glares. Her voice drops an octave, into that disquieting Unfiltered Marlboro range. "I don't know who you are, but I'm not amused. Ensign Ballard died almost--"
"It was on Stardate 51563." The female's voice is now dead (rimshot) serious. "I can't blame you for being skeptical, Captain but, if you let me come aboard, I can explain everything."
Janeway looks over her shoulder at Ensign Kim. Harry shakes his head helplessly. Don't look at me; you're the Captain.
Janeway makes her decision. But her wariness is still on Red Alert. "We'll beam you to Sickbay."
Ballard smiles again. "I'm sure you'll want me behind a level-ten force field."
Coming from an unfamiliar alien who seems to know far too much about the ship, her disarmingly familiar tone doesn't quite have the desired effect. Janeway doesn't blink. "No offense."
"None taken. I'm just glad to be home." The signal cuts out, returning the viewscreen to a field of stars.
Chakotay rises and walks over to Janeway. "Captain...What do you think?"
Janeway closes the distance between them even more. Personal Space is not a concept Janeway is familiar with. The captain shrugs. "She seems to have intimate knowledge of this ship and its crew. I think we should find out who she is."
Ensign Kim looks up anxiously. "Captain?" Janeway and Chakotay look his way.
"I'd . . . like to come with you. I was very close to Lyndsay and, if somehow it's her...I'll know."
Janeway gives the Eternal Ensign a compassionate look. I'll take that as a Yes.
Another familiar scene: an alien is in Sickbay, standing by the main bed in the circular, security-enabled section of the room while the Doctor--the only one who can move easily between sections while the force field is in place--examines his patient.
"Ensign Ballard" ignores the Doctor. She has eyes only for the captain and for Harry Kim.
"Harry and I were on our way to a Class M planet in the Vyntadi Expanse to recover dilithium ore we'd detected a few days earlier," Lyndsay explains. "When we landed, we realized it was a trap set by a Hirogen hunting party. They'd reconfigured a power cell to give off false dilithium readings."
Harry is stunned. His knees wobble a bit. His voice catches in his throat. "That's exactly what happened."
Step into the WayBack Machine . . .
Stardate 51563 is when this Lyndsay Ballard says she died. The Hirogen are mentioned as the attackers.
Believe it or not, this is plausible . . . at least so far.
The off-screen incident occurred between "Hunters" (Stardate 51501) and "Prey" (Stardate 51652), a little more than two years before her unexpected return.
Of course, this was also after the events of "Revulsion," which means Ballard was still alive when Tuvok was promoted to Lt. Commander. So her surprise when Tuvok called himself Commander doesn't quite work.
But there's an easy fix. Take that 2 year difference…and call it 3.
And hope nobody notices.
"Go on," says Janeway. She leans against a terminal, engrossed by the story.
Ballard complies. "Harry and I headed back to the shuttle. We were ten feet away when I was hit by a neural disrupter. Harry said my injury wasn't that bad. He always was a terrible liar." She smiles at Harry; her tone is gently teasing. It's easy for her, we suppose; she died and lived to tell about it.
For those who buried her, the memory isn't so easy. Harry's voice is deeply strained. "I tried to get Lyndsay back to Voyager, but...She was already dead." He fights back the tears. "We buried her in space."
"Go on with your story," Janeway softly urges.
Ballard nods. Her tone grows more serious--apparently death was where her life got complicated. "I woke up on a ship, in a stasis chamber, surrounded by aliens. They told me they'd used their technology to reanimate me." (Where's Jeff "The Reanimator" Combs when you need him?) "I didn't believe them, when they said I'd died--but they showed me visual scans of my own corpse lying in the torpedo casing I'd been buried in. The Kobali said I'd been drifting for weeks."
Janeway has a blank look. "Kobali?"
"If you ever met them, you'd remember." Ballard points to herself. "They look just like this." She's quite a character . . . but, back to the story. She's not fond of this part of the narrative. "After the reanimation process, they spent months altering my DNA. They were constantly scanning me, injecting me..."
Harry looks sick. "Just to make you look like one of them?"
Ballard nods. "That's how they procreate. They salvage the dead of other races."
This might explain why they've kept pace with Voyager the past two years. For a species that depends on corpses to replenish the gene pool, following Janeway around is a no-brainer; she's a one-woman Baby Boom.
Heck, Action Kate may well be the Kobali Messiah.
But I digress.
"I was given a Kobali name and placed with a family to help me acclimate," Ballard concludes.
Janeway doesn't like the sound of that. "You were a prisoner."
"At first," Ballard admits softly. "I wanted to contact you--to tell you I was safe--but the Kobali wouldn't let me. They said you were part of my kyn'steya . . . my . . . my past life, and that I needed to forget you...all of you." She casts a penetrating glance at Harry Kim.
"So I spent two years letting my new family think I'd accepted them. When I finally earned their trust, I stole a shuttle and started looking for Voyager. That was six months ago. They've been chasing me ever since."
Okay, here's where the timeline gets tweaked a little. The Stardates work for the time of death, but they managed to work an extra year or so in there. She's been gone for a little over two years--mere weeks more than two--but you'll hear them say "three" a few times.
The Doctor manages to back up at least part of her story. "In spite of her appearance, I'm detecting traces of human DNA. I've compared them with the genetic samples from Ensign Ballard's file. They match."
Janeway considers this. "It's certainly a convincing story." But her tone is clear--she's not entirely convinced. She's been burned often enough to be justly suspicious.
Ballard smiles sadly. "But your Starfleet training is telling you to consider all the possibilities. Maybe I'm some sort of hybrid clone, or telepath who accessed Ensign Ballard's memory somehow." She gives the captain, and Harry, an intent look, and the intelligence and warmth behind those eyes are hard to fake. "Believe me, I was suspicious myself at first. But I am Lyndsay Ballard."
Janeway looks at Harry. She looks at the Doctor. She looks at Ballard. It's her call.
Then she reaches for the controls she's leaning against. The force field goes down. "Until we find evidence to the contrary..." Janeway walks over to Ballard, and extends her hand. "Welcome home."
Ballard looks at the hand, smiles, and takes the proffered hand. Then she places her other hand affectionately over Janeway's.
A long moment of comfortable silence passes between the two women. I won't elaborate.
Harry Kim coughs. "Captain, could you give us a minute?"
Janeway breaks the handshake, and looks at the Doctor. Taking their cue, the two exit.
Harry stares long and hard at the alien features that house the familiar soul. "So . . . " he says, his voice cracking. "It's really you--"
Ballard smiles. "In the flesh...so to speak."
Harry approaches, slowly at first. But by the end, he is rushing into her arms, enveloping her in a textbook bear hug. His whole body trembles.
Ballard returns the embrace, gladly. "I've missed you, too."
* * *
The senior staff assemble in the conference room. The dearly departed but recently returned Ensign Ballard is here as well.
Janeway is in a good mood. "I know you're all as eager as I am to welcome Ensign Ballard back. She's a fine officer, who's shown a lot of courage and determination over the past few years. And we're lucky to have her with us again. Let's do everything we can to make her feel at home."
Neelix leads off. "Tom and I have taken the liberty of removing Lyndsay's personal effects from storage."
"And whenever you're ready, your old shift is waiting for you in Engineering," B'Elanna says. (Have you ever noticed that the bulk of Voyager's casualties have been Engineers?) Ballard is grateful to hear it.
"Before we get ahead of ourselves," Chakotay warns, "let's not forget the Kobali; they're still out there."
"It seems they want her back as much as we want to keep her," Janeway agrees. "We'll need to take precautions in case they track her to Voyager."
"I've run preliminary scans on the Kobali shuttle," Tuvok reports. "I believe I can adapt our systems to counter a possible attack."
Janeway smiles. "Very good. Well, if there's no further business..." She dismisses the meeting with a nod, and the officers file out.
Ballard remains behind. "Thank you for saying those nice things about me," she says.
"You seemed surprised," Janeway notes.
"To be honest, I never thought you noticed me."
Janeway locks eyes with the deceased. "My mistake."
The two women share a smile that could ignite kindling.
Ballard enjoys a longstanding Voyager tradition--walking through corridors. She shares the experience with Ensign Kim. "So, you still playing the clarinet?"
"Actually, I've taken up the saxophone," Harry says, grinning.
"Ambitious!" Ballard says, impressed. "I bet you're good at it."
Kim chuckles. "You always were my biggest fan."
Ballard gives him an odd look. "Please, no past tense."
"Sorry." The gentle chiding throws him for a loop, and for a moment he's at a loss for words. "This is a little strange for me," he admits.
"Really? It's been a perfectly normal day for me." The tease.
The two enter the turbolift. "Deck two," Harry says.
Lyndsay returns to a happy subject. "It just so happens that hearing you play music again is number 26 on my list."
Harry gives her a blank look. "List?"
"Something I made up to pass the time while I was away. I tried to think of everything I would do if I got back to Voyager--including some things I wasn't able to accomplish the first time I was here."
Now it's Harry's turn to tease. "Like showing up for duty shifts on time?"
Ballard sticks her tongue out at him. Then, shyly, the truth comes out. "That's number 27."
The old smiles return. It's good to be back among friends.
Naomi Wildman and Neelix camp out in the Mess Hall. A game of Kadis-kot is set up.
The door opens, and Seven of Nine files in with her flock of drones.
"They're here," Naomi whispers.
Neelix rushes in to play the gracious host. "Ah . . . Why don't you and I have a cup of tea while the children play?" Neelix suggests to Seven as the kids take their places at the table. Mezoti sits next to Naomi. The three boys sit across from them.
"Thank you, but they require my supervision," Seven says stiffly. She looks a tad frazzled.
"I like your braid," Naomi tells Mezoti.
"I could show you how to do it," Mezoti says.
But before the two children can bond, Seven intervenes, saying Mezoti's name harshly. Mezoti backs off, and all the kids--even Naomi--sit a little straighter.
"Something wrong?" Neelix asks.
"I've allotted one hour for recreational activity," Seven explains. "There's no time for irrelevant conversation."
"It's not irrelevant," Mezoti insists.
Seven will have none of it. She puts on her Mama Seven hat. "Adhering to our schedule will allow us to use our time more efficiently. We'll be able to participate in--"
"--a wider variety of activities," Mezoti finishes for her, rolling her eyes--a minor act of rebellion. Seven notices, and strongly disapproves.
Naomi, though, uses the colorful Kadis-kot pieces to spell out "you go, girl" on the tabletop.
Seven regards her pupils imperially. "Fun will now commence," she declares--a line destined to live in infamy.
Naomi begins the game. She places a piece on the hexagonal board. "Green. Grid three-13."
Azan, or Samneric, I can't remember which, not that it matters much, looks at his twin. The two share an unspoken thought, and the twin nearest the board makes his move. "Counter. Grid ten."
Naomi notices the silent exchange. She calls Neelix--the official Kadis-kot referee--over and whispers, "they're cheating."
Neelix looks at the twin pictures of innocence. "How?"
How indeed. Mezoti blows the lid off the whole Kadis-kot gaming scandals of Stardate 53670. "Azan is using his neural interface to share information."
Damn those Borg! When they're not using their collective consciousness to assimilate entire worlds, they're using it to cheat at checkers!
I've got yer queen to queen's level three right here, you hive-minded scum . . .
Seven isn't happy at all. "Is this true?" The twins, whose only line was delivered off-camera, just sit there looking guilty.
Seven sighs. "You will exercise punishment protocol Omega Three." NOOOOO! Not the fatty acids! Neelix's Tuna Loaf is EEEEEEVILLLLL . . .
Oh, wait. My mistake. It's punishment protocol nine alpha. Whew.
Silently, the twins stand up and walk over to the corner.
Borg discipline isn't exactly innovative . . .
The oldest ex-drone isn't happy about the punishment. "If they cannot participate, neither will I."
Seven is appalled. "You are encouraging disorder."
"And you never let us do what we want!" The boy angrily sweeps his arm across the table, widely scattering the playing pieces.
"You will exercise Punishment Protocol Nine Alpha!" Seven shouts.
"No...I won't." He storms out of the room, leaving a steamed Seven and a flustered Neelix.
Mezoti assimilates Naomi, just so they can enjoy a little girl talk in private. "Boys," she mutters inside the group mind. Naomi gives the audience a blank drone-like look--but inwardly, she giggles.
Lyndsay Ballard's once and future quarters are pretty sterile. But, the bed is loaded down with personal effects, and they are--to be frank--eclectic.
It's a shame we didn't get to know this character when she was alive. Methinks we would have liked her.
"There you go," Harry says, unpacking the last of her belongings.
"I can't believe you saved all this," Lyndsay says. Truth be told, though, it's not all that much.
"Tuvok thought I should recycle everything," Harry admits. "But . . . I just couldn't bring myself to do it."
Ballard picks up a pair of black ice skates. She smiles and displays them like a prized birthday gift. "My skates and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts." Then we learn a bit more about Ballard; she tosses the skates over to a corner of the room, where they clatter to a resting position on the floor. Then she grabs her neatly-folded clothes with both hands, crumpling the snot out of them, and tosses the lot of them into a drawer meant to hold less than half. Clothes stick out every which way. She leaves the drawer open.
The fastidious Harry Kim is scandalized. "Do you know how long it took me to fold those?" He runs over to rescue the clothes from their ignominious treatment, and brings them back to the bed for a nurturing re-folding.
"Same old Harry," Ballard says, finding an out-of-the-way spot for her suitcase.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You're still sort of . . . obsessive."
"I'm tidy," Harry counters.
"Is that why you used to request baryon sweeps of your dorm room?" Ouch! She is a wicked one, isn't she?
Harry snickers. "When you live across the hall from a slob--"
"Hey!" Ballard whines melodramatically. "Show some respect for the dead."
Ballard notes the sudden change in the room. Harry now has trouble looking at her. "Did I say something wrong?"
Harry puts on a brave smile. "It's nothing."
Ballard puts her hands on her hips and casts a penetrating glare. "Just because I've been gone for three years doesn't mean I can't still read you like a book."
It takes a moment for Harry to spit it out. "I gave the eulogy at your funeral."
"Oh," Ballard says softly, caught short. She's had a long time to come to grips with her own mortality; Harry hasn't. She regards Harry compassionately. "What'd you say?"
Harry shakes his head vigorously; not on your life, sister--oh, wait, let me rephrase that.
"Come on!" she begs. "It's everyone's fantasy to hear their own eulogy."
"Absolutely not!" Harry attacks the clothing folding with gusto.
Ballard sighs. "It's probably for the best. You always were a terrible public speaker." She throws her comments over her shoulder, a very Janeway-like gesture, then she picks up a PADD and puts it in another open drawer. "Just hope you didn't stutter too much--"
Harry knows his friend well enough to know she'll never let up. He throws a brown sweater on the bed. Sighing, he sits down on the bed, waving around a hideous orange knit scarf. "I told them you had a favorite saying...something you got from an old Klingon battle cry."
Ballard remembers. She gets a little misty as she slaps an old horsehair brush against her palm, nodding. "'Own the day . . .'"
She joins Harry on the bed, eager to hear more of what Harry said before committing her body to space--and its unanticipated rebirth. "I said that you always believed in...attacking each day...possessing it...and that, that was what made you so much fun to be around." He smiles, an infectious grin that Lindsay soon shares.
"Is that when everybody burst into tears?" She is a cheerful curmudgeon, isn't she?
Harry ignores her. "I said that, if you'd been there, you would have told them to own that day--to attack it, make it their own--and plan to do the same thing tomorrow."
No more snarky comebacks--Ballard is truly touched. "Pretty strong stuff," she says softly.
"You were a strong person."
A pause. "Not always. These last six months haven't been easy. There were plenty of times when I could have given up."
Kim smiles. "But you didn't."
"You know why?" She beams at her friend, who shakes his head. "You. I wanted to see you again."
A brief but magical moment is clobbered by Ballard's quirky sense of humor. She notes the brush in her hand. "Humph. Guess I won't be needing this anymore." She waves it around as she and Harry snicker, then she tosses it aside, adding to the clutter of a well and truly lived-in room. For once, Harry manages to overcome his urge to tidy up, reveling in the return of his friend.
The Doctor hails a moment later. "Sickbay to Ensign Ballard. I've finished analyzing your bio-scans."
Uh oh--moment of truth. "I'm on my way," Lindsay says.
Harry, naturally, accompanies her.
"My scans identified a genetic pathogen in your bloodstream. It appears to have converted most of your human DNA into a Kobali protein structure," Doc explains.
"Is there any way to reverse it?" Harry asks.
"The biochemical changes have affected every system in your body. I'm afraid there isn't enough of your original DNA left to make you human again." Ballard's expression fades.
That's the bad news. There is good news, though. "But I believe I can affect some cosmetic changes."
Ballard blinks, then stares hopefully. "Are you saying you could make me look like me again?"
"Yes," Doc says, reaching for a hypospray. "The alternations would literally be skin-deep, and it may take several treatments. But I've devised an inaprovaline compound which should do the trick." Terrific stuff, that inaprovaline. It's a little like iocane, only different. If you're competing with a Sicilian when death is on the line, you'd definitely want to opt for the inaprovaline.
Doc returns with the hypo. "Physiologically, you'd still be Kobali--with a multispheric brain, a binary cardiovascular system--"
"But I'd look human." Oh, yes, Doc assures her. Ballard likes the sound of that; she doesn't even hesitate. "I've lived with this face for long enough. Let's do it."
Doc gestures her over to the main biobed. "Have a seat." Lindsay hops up onto it.
"You may experience some dizziness," Doc says.
"I'll hang onto Harry for support--if he doesn't mind," Lindsay says. She wraps her elbow--yes, it's an elbow--around Harry's.
"That's what I'm here for," says the grinning Harry. For his part, Harry places a hand just above Ballard's left knee, and Lindsay places her hand over that hand. It's a real Kodak moment.
Doc applies the hypospray to Ballard's throat. A brief hiss--and the change is almost instant. The blue tint of her face recedes, replaced by something more akin to flesh tones. Not entirely so, but close enough for a first treatment.
And that's not all. The massive skull shrinks a little, rounding it out, making it less alien in appearance and more human. The bluish splotches are still there, but dramatically faded. The other features also soften, lighten--humanize.
Give her a wig and a turtleneck, and she'd look pretty close to human. She still has no ears to speak of, but hey--neither does Evander Holyfield.
Harry looks stunned.
"What? Something wrong?" Ballard asks.
Kim shakes his head as though to clear it, then gestures for Doc to bring a mirror. "See for yourself." By the time the mirror is in her hands, Harry and the Doctor are grinning from ear to ear.
When Lyndsay Ballard has a chance to see the different, she joins in with a smile of her own.
Thanks to the inaprovaline, she's one step closer to home.
* * *
Neelix's latest creation is apparently not so new--but it's new to us. And frankly, I could have gone a bit longer without seeing this contribution to alien cuisine. "Here we are...one Jiballian berry salad!" Neelix says with a flourish, setting the dish down in front of Lindsay Ballard. She's still fairly alien looking, but the Starfleet uniform with the single shiny pip is a big change from the outfit she arrived in--she now looks like she fits in.
Harry sits across from her, and laughs as Lindsay's eyes light up.
She grabs the two forks, and hands one to Harry. "I have been looking forward to this for a very long time."
"It was number six on her list," Harry explains.
"There isn't much variety in the Kobali diet. We ate the same gray paste for three years." Bleh.
Ballard digs in and stuffs her face with the first forkful, anticipating the frenzy of taste sensations--
"It doesn't taste the way I remember it." And not in a good way.
"What's wrong? Too sweet?" Neelix asks.
Ballard makes a face. "No offense, but it's got sort of a metallic flavor." Harry tries a bite, but says it tastes fine to him. Ballard frets at first--it's a bad omen when your favorite dish no longer tastes right--then decides to shrug it off. "I guess my taste buds are still Kobali," she says.
"Can I get you something else?" Neelix asks.
But Lindsay leaps out of her chair and leans against the table, and gives Harry a meaningful look. "I need to take care of number 16: dazzle Lieutenant Torres." She grins, and bolts for the door.
In Engineering, Torres goes about her business. When the door opens and Ballard sprints in.
"One minute . . . " Torres says brusquely, " . . . early."
"There's a first time for everything," Ballard exults.
Torres puts her right to work. "An alignment error has been cropping up in the dilithium matrix. We can't seem to figure out what's causing it." Ballard takes a look, and gets a look that could be interpreted as "oh boy, now what do I do?" Torres takes it that way, anyway. "I know that you're still settling in so I'll give you a couple of days to--"
"It's a vyk'tiote," Ballard says confidently.
"Excuse me?" Torres asks. Uh oh--the universal translator is getting uppity again. Nothing makes a person look more alien than using words that the UT gives up on.
Ballard looks at Torres, confused at first. Then she realizes what she said. "Oh. A Kobali word to describe a certain kind of wave phenomenon. It's hard to translate."
Torres isn't convinced. The old Lindsay Ballard likely wasn't an engineering prodigy, I'm guessing. "Try me."
Ballard tries her. "Literally, it means 'crumpled dance.' All I need to do is vyq'tal the qen'dioqe matrices, stabilize the per'cheya tez'tel, se benna..." Ballard's fingers dance on the keyboard, and a moment later the computer chirps happily. "Cham'bioque!" Ballard is quite pleased with herself.
Then she notices that everyone in the room is staring at her. "What?" Ballard asks.
"You were speaking Kobali," Torres says, as though unfamiliar words spoken in Engineering were something out of the ordinary.
[Apparently only English technobabble is spoken here. "Hey, look--new kid's a total egghead. And she talks funny. Let's duct-tape her to the warp core after our shift . . ."]
Ballard is suddenly self-conscious. "I didn't realize...I'm sorry."
Torres realizes that she's about to traumatize what could be the best thing to happen to Engineering since Seven of Nine got banished to the nursery. She returns the focus to the actual work performed. "Well, whatever you did, the alignment error is gone. Nice job!"
The others in the room are still staring. But Engineering is like a holding pen for cannon fodder--they've got to have something other than their impending doom to think about. Making fun of the dead chick seems as good as anything.
"Thanks," Ballard says, still a bit gun-shy now.
Torres thinks fast. "I think there might be a few...'crumpled dances' in the warp core, too. Feel like taking a look?" She gives Ballard an encouraging smile . . . and soon that old Lyndsay can-do spirit returns. She smiles in turn--though with some trace of sadness remaining in her eyes--and they head over to the warp core, to do what engineers do best.
In Astrometrics, Seven of Nine enjoys a brief respite from her Wicked Stepmother role, and searches for alien vessels in blessed solitude.
Commander Chakotay enters. "Any sign of the Kobali?" he asks.
"None," Seven reports crisply.
Chakotay hands her a PADD. "The latest tactical reports from Tuvok." He heads for the door.
Seven stops him with a word. "Commander..." Chakotay waits patiently for what he knows is coming.
"I no longer wish to serve as guardian to the Borg children," she says.
"What's the problem?" he asks her knowingly.
"Their behavior is . . . chaotic. My attempts to apply discipline only result in further disorder."
Chakotay smirks. "Well, kids and disorder usually go hand-in-hand."
"Neelix issued a similar warning prior to my taking this assignment," Seven says. She brings up a huge, highly detailed daily calendar on the screen. It would make even the most anal Type-A personality cringe with exhaustion and think seriously about a Caribbean cruise. "Which is why I devised an activities schedule to promote focus and unity."
Chakotay does his best not to guffaw while Seven details her efforts at child-rearing. "0700 hours: the children emerge from their alcoves. Nutrients are ingested in the mess hall before proceeding to the science lab to begin classes. At 1300 hours, nutrients are consumed a second time before reporting to the Holodeck, where they're studying comparative alien physiology."
"Doesn't sound like there's much time for fun," Chakotay observes.
Seven bristles. "On the contrary...I've scheduled recreational activities." She displays a close-up of the schedule, and sure enough--there's "FUN", penciled in between "EXERCISE" and "ASTRONAVIGATION." "FUN" is even sub-tasked into items such as Sculpture, Poetry, and Synchronized Swimming. Drones should be great at that.
Chakotay points out the very obvious. "You can't always schedule fun; sometimes it needs to be spontaneous."
Seven doesn't like that at all. "According to my research, children require structure."
"I agree--but not to this extreme. You're treating them like they're still on the Borg cube!"
Seven is offended. "You're comparing me to the Collective?"
Chakotay shrugs. "You have all four children functioning as one. They do the same things together at the same time."
Seven's voice rises. "So that each child has the same opportunities to learn!"
Chakotay sighs. He takes a long pause. "They're individuals. Maybe they're rebelling because you don't let them express themselves."
Seven's eyes blaze. "Then grant my request. Choose a more suitable crew member to instruct them."
Considering all the grief Seven of Nine has brought the ship the past few years, Chakotay really enjoys this opportunity. He smiles a smile of pure-Dee evil. "Sorry, Seven. Permission denied."
Seven has progressed enough that she rarely disobeys orders anymore. She no doubt yearns for those carefree (well, not really) days of her early post-drone existence, when she was a consummate scofflaw. A time when Janeway and Chakotay and Tuvok and the Doctor no doubt muttered under their breaths, "I hope one day you have kids who are just as mind-numbingly stubborn as you."
Karmic payback can be a real bytch sometimes . . .
Harry Kim strolls through the corridors, his ice skates tossed over his shoulder.
Tom Paris catches up with him and smiles. "Well, I see you're finally going to try my hockey program." (Continuity nod--Tom got real happy when he saw a hockey game on the TV he got from B'Elanna in "Memorial." It's not surprising that Tom, the resident prolific Holodeck author, would add a hockey game to his oeuvre.)
Harry smiles. "Actually, I'm taking Lyndsay skating."
"Ohhhhh," Tom says meaningfully. "You two sure have been spending a lot of time together lately."
Harry laughs nervously. "Don't start."
Tom, naturally, starts. "Oh, now, let's see...for those of us keeping score, Harry Kim has fallen for a hologram (Alter Ego), a Borg (Seven of Nine), the wrong twin (Delaney sisters), and now, the dearly departed." He graciously left out another hologram (the bovine Maggie O'Halloran in Spirit Folk), vampire brides (Favorite Son), a glow-in-the-dark xenophobe (Disease), and the looong forgotten girl-back-home, Libby.
But the point is made. We've met all these women--and while Harry's got good taste, he has also had terrible luck.
"We're friends," Harry insists. "Just like before." Tom doesn't buy it.
Harry spills it. "All right . . . maybe there was a time when I thought of pursuing Lyndsay, but--I closed the door on that when we both got assigned to Voyager."
Paris stops. They've reached Harry's destination, the door of Sickbay. "Well, don't look now, but that door is creaking open."
Tom leaves Harry with the thought.
Harry enters Sickbay--where he gasps at the transformation of Ensign Ballard.
She is now completely, vivaciously human. Right down to the cherry-chocolate redness of her devil-may-care mop of hair. It's hair that, judging by the untidiness of her room and what we've seen of her so far, perfectly suits her personality.
"What do you think?"
Harry's tongue rolls out the red carpet for her. "You look great!"
She runs her hands through her new hair. "The Doctor thought I should stick to my original color, but this seemed more exciting." Ooh, what a perky little minx she is. Her eyes dance with a mischief that would send Seven of Nine leaping for the corrective comfort of her Day Timer.
The Doctor admires his work. "Hair is one of my specialties--despite evidence to the contrary." Ah, irony.
Ballard aims that playful look at Harry, reminding him of what is now no longer obvious. Her voice drops an octave, and is ever-so-subtly alien. "It's just too bad that beneath this beautiful red hair still lies the six-lobed brain of a Kobali."
That's right, folks, she said it. Out loud. And not just in name--even when she was bald and blue, she had the soul of a redhead. There's just no way to hide that much inner spunk.
Someone at Paramount likes me. And to think, my birthday is still almost a month away.
Kim somehow manages to find his voice. "Well, are you feeling human enough for a little skating?"
"I'd love to!" she says enthusiastically--then shoves a dagger in his heart with a cruel dismissal. "But I already have a date." She heads for the door.
Yup--she's a redhead, all right.
Harry follows her. "Who with?!" he demands.
Ballard is really enjoying this. "The Captain. She's invited me to her quarters for dinner."
"Shyeah!" Harry grunts, a little tweaked. "In six years, I have never been invited to the Captain's quarters for dinner."
Ballard gives him the evil "sucks to be you" parting look. "Well, I'll give her your regards." With a Cheshire grin, she slinks out of Sickbay.
Harry watches her go, wide-eyed, not sure what to think.
Then he does know--and laughs.
It's a universal epiphany. Anyone who has ever fallen for a true redhead eventually reaches this point of enlightenment--it's an E-Ticket ride, and all you can do is hang on for every thrilling, terrifying moment.
Lindsay Ballard is back. With a vengeance.
Incredibly, Captain Janeway manages to ruin yet another replicated meal. Her pot roast materializes looking like something Zeus used for lightning bolt target practice. It looks like the lump of Charcoal Evil found in the toaster oven at the end of Time Bandits.
"Oh, damn!" Janeway grumbles, picking up the inedible travesty of a dish.
I should point out that Janeway, wearing a crushed blue velour dress, tastefully low cut, looks absolutely fabulous.
The door chimes. "Come in," the captain says.
Ballard enters, wearing her best, and least rumpled, golden dress uniform.
"Formal dress wasn't required, Ensign," Janeway says, amused.
Ballard gets a bit flustered. "Well, I just...I figured, dinner with the Captain--"
Janeway holds up the crime against carne. "I'd hardly call this dinner. My replicator decided to liquefy the pot roast."
Ballard looks, makes a face, then quickly recovers. "It looks fine to me," she says cheerfully. Too cheerfully.
Janeway makes a face of her own. "Stop trying to get on my good side and grab a slice of bread." The captain reaches for two small jars, then takes her seat. "Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all," Ballard says, taking the seat nearest the captain. "I lived on them at the academy."
Janeway opens the peanut butter. "So, how was your first day back on the job?"
"Pretty good, I think. Lieutenant Torres called my work 'competent.'"
Janeway smiles, then unfolds her napkin and places it on her lap. "Trust me, that's high praise coming from B'Elanna." She lifts the lid off the bread basket. "Commander Tuvok finished his analysis of your shuttle and presented me with 37 different ways of repelling a Kobali attack."
"Did he include your pot roast?" Ballard asks with perfect timing and blistering sarcasm.
Did I mention that I'm in love with this woman? If I wasn't before, this line sealed the deal.
Janeway, though, looks at Ballard in amazed silence. There's maybe a half dozen people in the galaxy brave/nuts enough to talk to Janeway like that. Two are Q, and three are dead.
And one was dead.
Ballard's six lobes are a bit slow to realize what she just said. When she does, she's horrified, and that cocky tone is reduced to a stammering whisper. "I'm sorry. I-I-I didn't mean... I--can't believe I just said that!"
Janeway lets her off the hook. "Why? It was funny!" She laughs lightly. Then she holds up a hand to stave off any objections, and whispers softly, "We're not on the bridge, Lyndsay. You have permission to speak freely."
Uh oh. Careful what you wish for, Captain. This is a fellow redhead, remember.
And Ballard takes her up on it. "Do you really mean that?" she asks intently.
Janeway is surprised yet again by this most unconventional Ensign. "I wouldn't have said it otherwise."
"Then...there's something I've wanted to ask you for a long time."
Janeway looks up, offering her full attention.
Janeway blinks, confused. "I'm sorry?"
"Why did you choose me for that away mission?"
"Well, I suppose I thought you were best-suited for the job."
"No." Lindsay shakes her head. "I wasn't."
Janeway listens intently. It's not often the dead question your orders. She blinks occasionally, but betrays nothing as Ballard continues.
"Dilithium extraction was always Lieutenant Torres' specialty. And Tuvok had far more experience conducting away missions. But you didn't send either one of them."
Still Janeway says nothing. She does look away momentarily.
"Was it because they were closer to you?" Ballard asks.
Janeway's voice is soft, sad. "You blame me."
"No," Ballard says. "No, that's not what I meant."
"No, it's not," Ballard says hastily. This is coming out all wrong!
"I'm not offended," Janeway assures her.
Ballard stutters a little, struggling to vocalize what's on her mind. Finally, she finds her tongue. "No, you don't understand!" Ballard says, trying desperately to explain herself effectively. She grabs hold of a common Kobali motto. "'Never harbor anger toward those who brought you death, for they gave you the chance to live again.'"
Janeway is unsure what to make of that.
Ballard's eyes bore into Janeway's. How to express what happened to her? What it means to her? Her voice rises; she leans in close. Her hands gesture in ways impossible to read. "In letting me die, Captain, you gave me life."
Janeway is still speechless. Her eyes are wide. No anger, just confusion--and lots of it.
Lyndsay's self-consciousness takes over; the skittish Ensign wins out. "I'm sorry," she stammers, rising.
"Lyndsay," Janeway calls after her.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have come." She runs out of the captain's quarters, leaving Janeway to wonder what just happened.
But one thing's certain--Lyndsay Ballard has a long and treacherous road ahead of her.
Once again, Janeway wishes they had a counselor on board.
After all, they're Starfleet--weird is part of the job.
Ensign Ballard, looking fully human, exits a turbolift and strides into the Mess Hall. But in those few steps, the colors change, lose their focus. The lights dim. The audio goes wonky.
I smell a dream sequence.
The gang's all here, standing around, looking at Lyndsay with disapproval as she walks through, a nightmare slalom run into the heart of the party. Each new voice confronts her as she passes by.
"You're late," Janeway says.
"We expected you hours ago," Doc says.
"Your farewell party," Neelix says.
"You weren't supposed to come back," Torres says.
"You don't belong here anymore," Chakotay says.
Ballard is desperate to find a friendly face. There's Harry! "Harry, what's going on?"
Harry gestures grandly. "Lyndsay Ballard: beloved friend and crewman." He gives her an eerie look. "Does that sound right?"
"For your eulogy..." Harry gestures; the crowd parts, revealing a torpedo tube with flowers tastefully arranged on top. "Does that sound okay?"
"Harry, I'm not dead."
"Denial: one of the final stages," Doc says.
"It was illogical for you to return," Tuvok says.
"Please, I don't want to go--"
"I couldn't save you before, Lyndsay. What makes you think I can save you now?"
The crowd parts again, and this time an older Kobali man approaches, his hand extended in welcome. "Jen'to ka'siote...Jhet'leya."
Lyndsay bolts up in her bed.
Whew. For a moment there, I thought Neelix showed her how to use Chakotay's hakoona mutata. After his little brush with death in "Mortal Coil," he's the last one I'd want to be my designated driver through the afterlife.
Harry Kim sleeps in his darkened quarters.
The doors chime. "Come in," he says groggily.
Lyndsay, wearing a gray tee shirt, stomps in moodily. She heads straight for Harry's bed and plops down on the edge. She says nothing.
My heavens, she's adorable. She's got a tragically hip Sabrina Lloyd thing going for her.
And she knows how to make an entrance. There's a familiarity to her approach that backs up that "buddies from the Academy days" claim.
Harry props himself up on an elbow, still not quite awake. "What's wrong?"
Ballard shakes her head. "Bad day, I guess."
Harry falls into old habits. He tries to cheer his friend up. "B'Elanna told me you did great in Engineer--"
"I solved a simple problem," she says.
"Didn't sound so simple to m--"
"Any Kobali can discern simple wave distortions!" She steps on the end of Harry's lines a little, which is annoying, but in character. Her voice is sad. "Even if B'Elanna was impressed, the others were staring at me." That clearly bothers her.
"I'm sure it was just your imagination," he assures his friend.
"And then, to make matters worse, I started babbling in front of the Captain."
Hoo boy; Harry's got his work cut out for him. He chuckles. "I used to get pretty nervous around her, too." He takes a deep breath. "Now, don't worry. I'm sure she didn't take it personally."
Lyndsay is lost in thought. And with six lobes, there's a lot of thought to get lost in.
Harry pushes himself to a sitting position. "Hey...I know this isn't easy..." He rubs her shoulder with his powerful, oversized hand. The one with the throbbing magic fingers. "But I'll help you through this."
Lyndsay melts a little. Then her eyes light up, and she glares. "You!" she says accusingly, and shifts her body to face his. Their faces are mere inches apart. "Have always been far too nice to me. Why is that?"
Harry struggles to find his tongue. What does he admit to?
Carpe Diem, dude . . .
After a couple of false starts, he decides to go for it. And why not? "You really don't have any idea, do you?"
Lyndsay shakes her head slowly.
"Think about it," he whispers, drawing her in still closer. "I rearranged my schedule at the Academy. Just so we'd be in the same classes! I let you teach me how to skate! Even though I hate the cold?"
Ballard just stares at him, though her eyes get a little dewy.
She makes him say it.
He does. "I'm crazy about you! I have been since the day we met."
She melts a little more. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"
Harry laughs. "I was never good at public speaking, remember?" Then he grows a bit serious. "But I figure, how often do you get a second chance."
Harry leans in even closer. His voice goes husky. "Which is why I'd very much like to kiss you now."
Lyndsay smiles. Heck, she radiates warmth. "Own the day," she says.
Their lips meet.
No joke, folks--I live for scenes like this.
* * *
It's sculpture time in Ex-Drone 101. The four dronelets work the clay in relative silence.
The twins work on what appear to be Borg Cubes.
The eldest (whose name--for those who don't bother to write these things down, naively assuming the writers would remind us by USING THEIR @$%!@ NAMES IN ACTUAL DIALOG--is Icheb) works on something a good deal more complex.
Mezoti, who is drenched in liquid clay and manages to splatter some on the not-amused Icheb as well, is of course doing something completely different.
"Sorry," she says.
Icheb cleans himself off. "You are creating disorder. Seven will be angry."
Mezoti shrugs. "I don't care." I love this girl.
The amusing thing about this scene is, one of Janeway's earliest attempts to bond with Seven was through the use of sculpture, in Leonardo da Vinci's workshop in "Raven." As I recall, Seven didn't care much what Janeway thought back then, either. What goes around . . .
Seven of Nine enters the room. She starts with Azan and Rebi, the twins.
"They're cubes," Azan says
"I can see that," Seven says.
"They're precisely 1/1000 the size of a Borg vessel," Rebi says.
Maybe someone can correct my math. But 1000 times the volume would equal out to 10 times the length of each side. 10x10x10. With the sculptures barely six inches on a side, a cube 1000 times the size would probably still fit inside the mess hall.
"Well done," Seven says. This is FUN time, so the math problem can be saved for another day.
Next, she looks at Icheb's sculpture. "A 26-sided polyhedron, composed of hexagons octagons and squares," he says.
"Impressive," says Seven sincerely. Icheb basks in the warmth of the compliment.
Now for the moment of truth. Seven looks down at what Mezoti hath wrought. Her brow furrows. "What's this?"
"Can't you tell?" Mezoti asks. She turns it around.
It's a crude but recognizable likeness of a head. Two buttons for eyes. Big wormy strands of clay for hair. Lips you could skydive onto and land comfortably. And one thick glob of clay wrapped around the left eye like an ocular implant.
"It's you," Mezoti says.
"I don't see the resemblance," Seven says.
"Look. Here's your ocular implant, your nose, your mouth--"
"You were instructed to create a geometric shape," Seven says, a bit irked.
"I reminded her of that," Icheb says. "She wouldn't comply."
Mezoti shrugs. "This was more fun. Don't you like it?"
Careful, Seven--it's a kid you're talking to. "It is crude." Ooh--wrong answer. You can see the light dimming in Mezoti's eyes.
So can Seven--and Chakotay's words ring in her ears. "However," she continues, "It does demonstrate ingenuity, and individuality."
The corners of Mezoti's mouth edge up. Good save, Seven.
Icheb is a bit confused, though. "She deviated from your instructions. Aren't you going to implement a punishment protocol?" It's almost a challenge.
Seven doesn't rise to it. "No." She looks at Mezoti meaningfully. "Resume your disorder."
Seven exits, giving the kids something new to chew on, and the freedom from supervision to explore their newfound options.
Harry awakens again in the night. He reaches for Lyndsay, but she's not here.
But she is nearby. She sits on the floor; her hands drape over her crossed legs. Her mood is pensive.
A vessel, like the one that was firing on Ballard's shuttle in the teaser, nears Voyager. It's smaller than the Starship, but it has a fairly wicked look to it.
"Red alert. Raise shields," Janeway orders, taking her seat.
"We're being hailed," Tuvok says.
"On screen," Janeway says.
The face that appears was in Ballard's dream. His voice is deep, but surprisingly gentle. His eyes are pained. "I've come for Jhet'leya," he says.
Janeway's eyes are flint. "If you're referring to Ensign Ballard, she's made it clear that she doesn't want to go with you."
"She's my daughter." His tone is urgent but inspires sympathy. "Please...I've come a long way. I only want to speak with her."
Harry and Lyndsay are both dressed, and walking swiftly through the corridors.
"You don't have to see him, you know. They can't make you," Harry says.
Lyndsay's eyes are filled with gratitude, but also with determination. "I want to, Harry. It's time to stop running."
The father is aboard, and waits in the conference room. "I appreciate this, Captain."
"I'm willing to oblige," Janeway says, "as long as you understand that this meeting is over as soon as Ensign Ballard says it is."
Harry and Lyndsay arrive a moment later.
The man recoils when he sees the redheaded human. "What have they done to you?"
"Given me my life back," Ballard says.
"You were so beautiful," he says, unable to hide the pain in his voice.
Not a good start to the reunion.
The man tries again. "It's good to see you, Jhet'leya."
"My name is Lyndsay."
"Why did you leave us?"
"I wanted to be with my people again."
He shakes his head sadly. "These people? The same ones who set you adrift in space?"
"We jettisoned her body in accordance with our customs," Janeway corrects.
"You abandoned her!"
"You had no right to tamper with her remains!" Harry says.
The man looks at Harry, his expression ironic. "We were acting in accordance with our customs."
"You mutilated her!"
"Ensign..." Tuvok warns. Janeway says nothing, but her eyes are a stern rebuke. This isn't his fight to wage.
The man tries to explain. It's important that Ballard's former colleagues understand. "The reanimation process usually results in extensive memory loss--which makes the transition less painful. Unfortunately, some remember their former lives more than others. Jhet'leya, for example."
Ballard bristles. "I told you to Call Me--"
"Lyndsay Ballard," he finishes for her. Hmm--maybe interrupting is a Kobali custom. "She's dead. She has been for three years."
Nobody takes this well. Nobody denies it--they were at the funeral--but it's hard to have closure when the dearly departed shows up as large as life and full of life. "Forgive me for being so blunt but, when we found her, she was a lifeless corpse. We salvaged that raw material to create a new person--my daughter--whom I love."
You really gotta feel for this guy. I know I do. He's likeable.
"I'm not your daughter," Lyndsay insists.
"You may have altered your appearance. But do you still think like these people? Even now, the first words that come into your head...are they in their language? or mine?" That hits home; she knows, as do we, about that. "I realize this place is familiar to you--but it's not where you belong." He smiles sadly. "Your sister misses you."
Ballard's lower lip trembles. "Tynsia."
"She keeps asking when you're coming home. What should I tell her?"
Time to choose. Lyndsay looks at the man who calls himself her father. She offers a sideways glance at Janeway and Tuvok, who offer their silent support. She turns her head to look at Harry, whose feelings are clear.
She makes her decision. But it's not an easy one; that much is clear. "Tell her that her sister's dead." Ballard runs out of the room.
Well, that was awkward.
"I'll escort you to the transporter room," Tuvok says gently.
The man looks at Janeway. "I won't give her up, Captain."
Janeway marches over and glares up at him, her features stern. "She made her wishes clear."
"Thanks to what you did to her!" Harry says, earning him another skunk eye from Tuvok.
"I don't want to fight you."
"Your ship is no match for Voyager," Janeway says confidently.
The man struggles to rein in his emotions. But there is anger there. "Every life is precious to my people, Captain. I won't be coming back alone."
It's dark in the mess hall. Lindsay dines alone on a bowl of paste. It looks like leftover clay from Borg Fun Hour. She eats with her fingers, breaking off a clump distractedly as she stares out the window.
Harry finds her and takes the seat opposite. "Midnight snack?"
Lyndsay licks the paste from her fingers. Slowly. The tease. "Kobali cuisine at its finest." She sets the bowl aside, and continues her contemplation of the first star on the right.
Harry tries to lighten the mood. "So I was giving some thought to Number 32--'make Tuvok laugh.' He has this holo program, 'The Temple of T'Panit.' I thought we might tweak it so that instead of Vulcan prayers, the monks recite Ferengi limericks."
Harry's smile dims. "You're not laughing."
Lyndsay looks at him, waking up a little. "Sorry. I can't stop thinking about Qret."
Don't get Harry started on Qret. The rat. (Hmm. Qret rats. Pronounced backwards, that's Star Treq. Imagine that.) "I can't believe he had the nerve to call himself your father!" He smiles. "I'll bet Professor Ballard would have had something to say about that."
Ballard gives him a blank look. "Who?"
Harry blinks. "Your...Dad." Nothing. "Doesn't he teach at some university?"
Ballard thinks. "I don't remember." She thinks some more. "I don't remember anything about him."
This seems to bother her--but far less than you'd expect. There's memories, and there's memories. She remembers Harry. She remembers Voyager. But even that's sketchy--her memories of her ultimate home may well be gone for good, buried at space with the original Lyndsay.
Harry mourns the loss of that Lyndsay, but is determined to cherish the woman who sits with him now. "Let's get down to the Holodeck. We've got some monks to tweak." He gives Ballard a conspiratorial wink.
This cheers her up. She grins, and the Inner Redhead stirs. "Sure." She stands.
And then she doubles over in agony.
"What's wrong?" Harry asks, rushing to her side.
We see what's wrong. Live and in color, Lyndsay's face changes, as "skin deep" thins, and the old visage of Jhet'leya the born-again Kobali struggles to reach the surface.
* * *
Time for another trip to Sickbay.
Lyndsay is herself again, but her eyes are haunted. This wasn't the homecoming she imagined. Not at all.
"Why did she start to revert all of a sudden?" Harry asks the Doctor.
"Our old friend, the pathogen," Doc says. "It's adapting to counteract my treatments. It's possible she'll suffer occasional relapses for the rest of her life."
"You said you could maintain my appearance," Ballard says.
"I can--but it looks like I'll need to increase the frequency of your treatments. You'll have to see me at least twice a day."
Ballard loses it. "How am I supposed to do my job if I'm in here all the time?" she demands angrily. "How am I supposed to do anything?"
"Please understand..." Doc says soothingly.
It doesn't work. The eyes flare. The mouth speaks in strange tongues. "Stoi'gia! Net'staika pen'daeli shevaob!" (I ain't translating. Besides, I don't think he could do what she suggests without extensive reprogramming.)
She's not aware of her lapse into Kobali until she sees the shocked look on the faces of Harry and the Doctor. She offers a rambling apology and rushes out of Sickbay.
Harry finds Lyndsay in her old escape shuttle. It's an even bigger mess than her quarters. "Wow. This place sure is lived-in," Harry observes carefully, shoving some debris aside to find a place to sit.
Ballard isn't in the mood. "If you're here to lecture me about cleanliness--"
"I'm here to ask you to stop the treatments."
Ballard looks at him. "You know what happens if I do."
"You'll look Kobali again? So what? I thought you were cute bald." Lyndsay's upper lip twitches slightly, but doesn't quite cross the threshold into a smile.
"I don't care if you're human, Kobali or Bolian," Harry says. "I just want you to be happy."
That's the rub. "I wouldn't fit in."
"Are you saying Tuvok and Neelix don't fit in?"
"That's different. They got to grow up in their own cultures. They know where they come from, who they are."
"Wherever they come from, they're part of this crew now. Just like you."
"Lyndsay was part of this crew," Ballard counters. "If I stop the treatments, I won't be Lyndsay anymore."
Harry looks sad. "You don't honestly believe that."
But she does. "Since the day I got back here, I haven't felt right. First I thought it was Voyager. Things had changed so much, I thought, if I just gave myself more time I'd get used to it..."
She shakes her head. "But it's me. I've changed." She gives Harry a despairing look. "And the more I try to deny it, the more I feel like a ghost."
Harry has no response.
"I'm sorry, Harry...but I can't keep fighting anymore."
Harry's eyes squeeze shut. Maybe Tom was right; he just can't cut a break. "What about us?"
"The girl you were in love with died three years ago." Maybe. But the woman here now has much to recommend her.
Before Harry can argue further, the shuttle, and Shuttle Bay 5, and all of Voyager, shudders.
Three Kobali vessels pepper Voyager.
"Shield's down to 48%," Tuvok says.
"Target the lead ship's weapons array," Janeway orders.
"Life support's failing on decks six through ten!" Chakotay reports.
"Reroute power to compensate."
"Shields at 20%!"
Ballard and Kim reach the bridge. "Hail them! Tell them you'll surrender me!" Ballard urges.
"Don't listen to her, Captain!" Harry yells.
Janeway thinks fast. "I appreciate the gesture, Lyndsay--but I'm not giving you up."
"It's not a gesture. I want to go. I don't belong here!"
Harry's desperation shows. "She's not well! She doesn't know what she's saying!"
Ballard's eyes flare. "I know exactly what I'm saying!"
"Shields at 13%!"
Harry finds an opening. "I'm detecting power fluctuations in the lead vessel's warp drive. A polaron burst could overload the core."
Ballard's eyes go wide. "That would destroy the ship!"
"They're not leaving us much choice."
"Whatever we do, we have to do it fast," Chakotay says.
Janeway locks eyes with Ballard. "You're sure this is what you want?" Ballard nods.
Harry won't accept that. He walks toward the big chair. "Captain, I can fire that polaron burst myself!"
But Chakotay blocks Harry's way. "Stand down, Ensign," he says, and there's a hard edge to his voice.
Harry doesn't chance it. Chakotay was a boxer; Harry just played Parisses squares. Harry smells what the Rock is cooking. Even so, he keeps up with the war of words. "We can't just let them take her!"
Lindsay jumps in. "Even if you stop them, I can't stay on Voyager."
Kim's voice is desperate. "I don't want to lose you . . . "
Lindsay places her hand on his shoulder. "You already did--but at least this time we've been given the chance to say good-bye." She smiles. She knows what she's doing. She's going of her own free will.
Harry stands down.
Captain's Log, Stardate 53679.4. The Doctor has stopped Ensign Ballard's treatments and her Kobali physiology is already beginning to reassert itself. All but one of us have said our good-byes.
Harry works the transporter room when Lyndsay enters.
Ballard is now fully Kobali again, and is dressed in her alien attire. Harry's right; she's cute bald. She's got that inner core of radiant personality that would make even a Medusan look good.
Harry is here in the transporter room to offer his last good-byes. "Vien'ke debala, Jhet'leya."
Harry shrugs and smiles. "I taught myself to say a few words in Kobali."
"That's very sweet of you. But you just told me the comets are tiresome." Snicker.
Harry smiles sheepishly. "I guess I'd better work on my pronunciation. I'm sorry you didn't get to finish everything on your list."
She smiles and walks into his personal space. "I think I took care of what really mattered." She grazes her fingers along Harry's cheek and neck. She leans in, and they share a final, chaste kiss.
Harry returns to the transporter controls. A moment later, she's gone.
Harry broods in the mess hall. He has Lyndsay's hairbrush in his hand, contemplating its meaning.
Mezoti walks up. "That's pretty," she says, rousing Harry from his deep blue funk.
Harry is nice to the little girl. I guess he doesn't hold a grudge from that incident on the Cube, when she stole his playing cards and infected him with nanoprobes.
Harry's always been the long-suffering type.
He smiles and hands it to her to look at more closely. "It belonged to a friend of mine." Then he gets an idea, seeing how fond she is of the brush. "Would you like it?"
Mezoti is pleased, but cautious. "Your friend won't mind?"
Harry's grin widens. "I think she'd be happy knowing I gave it to someone with such pretty hair." Mezoti smiles, and blushes.
"Seven's letting us go to the Holodeck by ourselves," Mezoti says. "She says we can run any program we want. Do you want to come?" Why, the little flirt!
Young Ensign Kim isn't so young anymore, but he does have some unfinished business. "Have you ever heard of 'The Temple of T'Panit'?" Uh oh. Mischief.
Mezoti shakes her head.
"It's a Vulcan program," Harry explains.
"Don't worry," Harry says, grinning. "We'll make a few tweaks." Taking her hand, he leads her out the door.
For those playing the home game, Harry has had a righteous string of unlucky romances. But only once did he date someone as young as eight--and that was in another timeline, when he married the daughter of Kes and Tom Paris. Ocampa grow up fast. They have to; they only live nine years.
Norcadians don't. Mezoti is in the first blush of womanhood, but even Lolita would call her a kid.
So this final scene, while sweet in a way--honoring the memory of a friend, brightening the life of a kid struggling to adjust, picking on a Vulcan by mocking his sacred cultural rituals--is also just the slightest bit disturbing.
Every so often, a character comes along who just comes alive.
Ironic that in this case, it's a dead girl.
Kim Rhodes, one of the stars of the now-defunct daytime soap Another World, is no stranger to breathing life into a role. "Originally hired for a short-term role, [Kim] lengthened her run by 'not being afraid to dig deep into Cindy's damaged psyche, turning a two-dimensional character into a three-dimensional one'." (Intercom)
I don't often research the other roles a Trek guest actor has had. She's an exception. I found, among other things, she's got a master's degree, is a voracious reader, is certified in four kinds of stage combat--too bad we didn't get to see any of THAT--and she's into comic books.
Oh. And she's from Portland, Oregon. I thought I caught a whiff of Stumptown Pride in that snarky attitude of hers.
I can't call it love, but I'm certainly infatuated. Catherine Bell who?
The story itself is nothing special, a new but slight twist on a boilerplate premise. And it was underexplored, at that; they hinted at but didn't resolve some of the issues. And the progression from the return to her old ship to the decision to go back to her (literally) new life is obvious enough for many seasoned fans to follow in their sleep.
And it's about as textbook a definition of a Mary Sue story as you're likely to see. Crewman who sweeps Harry off his feet and flirts with the captain, who wows her colleagues with feats of engineering wizardry, who's funny and well liked--it's Barclay's Holodeck fantasy.
This isn't to slam the episode. The execution actually works pretty well, I think. The performances are strong, and Wang and Mulgrew in particular interact nicely with Rhodes to make this long-dead crewman believable.
It's almost hard to believe that this vibrant character would have been one of the Lower Decks dwellers for nearly four years. I found her absolutely charming, and so did Harry, and the captain. However, it kinda makes sense. We see glimpses when she's out of her element--she stutters, swallows her words, retreats inward, and runs away. At time she's painfully self-conscious.
Though Ballard now has a vastly increased mental capacity, and she's occasionally charming as hell, this simply serves to make her out as something of a female Reg Barclay--and that only because of her postmortal alien retrofitting. Torres had set a very low bar of expectation for Ballard; this may hint at Lyndsay's previous performance. That list of hers, though partly a reason to return to Voyager, is in several cases a litany of the Road Not Taken for one of the faceless masses of shipboard extras, one who labors in anonymity in the Lower Decks. I mean, one of the items on her list is to show up for her duty shift on time.
This also raises the question that Ballard herself raised with the captain--why her? Why send her and Harry Kim on an away mission together in Hirogen space? They'd already nearly lost Tuvok and Seven of Nine to the Hirogen a few weeks before. And thanks to the events of "Latent Image," we know that less than a year before, Harry had lost another crewmate on a shuttle mission. He's almost as deadly as Chakotay. (Which is why some folks wonder why they didn't use an existing character who died on an on-screen away mission, like Ensign Kaplan ("Unity"), who actually DID die three years before. I suspect that might have been the original plan.)
The obvious answer is that sometimes your name just comes up. If Harry and Lyndsay were friends, he might have requested her. It isn't mentioned whether they'd gone on such missions before. Maybe Torres wanted her out of her engine room. They could still have been repairing the ship after the encounter in "Hunters," keeping Torres occupied. As for Tuvok, the Hirogen had roughed him up; maybe Doc grounded him.
You get the idea. They never say why Lyndsay Ballard was part of the away mission. We rarely think about it; all we tend to do is separate the regulars from the rest, and figure if they're an "extra" and they've got lines, they're eventually going to be dead meat.
It's Trek. It's tradition.
But rarely do we explore how these Others feel about their primary role as the First To Die.
And I must admit to some disappointment that this episode didn't do more with that. Though I give them points for at least raising the question.
The chemistry between Ballard and Kim was simply a joy. We don't often get to see Harry this way. Sometimes with Tom Paris. On rarer occasions, with B'Elanna Torres. But here's a Harry who actually manages to have an easy, friendly relationship with a woman he cares about. Usually he can be a friend or a suitor, but not both.
I enjoyed watching them tease each other, bringing up their academy days while criticizing each other's relative tidiness. I enjoyed the tensions about the Tough Subject, her relative ease of joking about it, and Harry's ill-at-ease reactions. I loved that scene in his quarters--the way she came in and plopped down on his bed, the way they talked to each other, the way he finally opened up to her about his feelings.
Harry's lousy social life has been a running gag for years. And it's pretty well justified, from what we've seen. But here's one occasion where I was really rooting hard for him.
For long-time Voyager fans, there's a looming question: "Libby," the "girl back home." Although I've brought it up from time to time, I think it's now a non-starter. For one thing, we haven't heard Harry give the Libby excuse since the second-season episode "Non Sequitur." There, he was engaged to and living with Libby. And I honestly couldn't see the two of them together. The way she didn't really support him, I suspect he reached the same conclusion. Before "Non Sequitur," Harry mentioned Libby fairly often, or at least enough to keep the name in our heads. Since that episode, we've seen Harry fall for (say it with me) a hologram (now two), the wrong twin, a glow-in-the-dark rebel from a xenophobic race, a Borg Drone, a few energy-sucking vampire brides, and a dead girl, and we haven't heard a peep about Libby. Not once. When the letters came from home, in "Hunters," he wanted to hear from his family, not from his old girlfriend.
I'd say Libby is no longer an issue. Six years is a long time--particularly in one's twenties. Heck, six years ago I was IN my twenties. That was three states, four jobs, a few side careers, a couple of real-life infatuations and several dozen celebrity crushes ago.
About the only thing in my life that hasn't changed in six years is that I'm still doing Voyager reviews.
Oh. And I'm still a sucker for redheads.
But that brings up yet another issue. Harry and Lyndsay were on board Voyager all this time, for three or four years. At some point before "Hunters," Harry had had several relationships with other women. Libby was, I say, of the list. So why didn't he ever consider "opening that door" again? One suspects he closed it in the first place because of Libby. But once he left Libby behind…
This is one pitfall of retrofitting backstories. Paris/Torres, we've pretty much seen become a couple in real time. On DS9, we saw that with Odo/Kira and Bashir/Dax. Bashir/Dax is probably the better analogy, since it took the death of Jadzia to end the Worf/Dax relationship and give Julian that much-hoped-for second chance.
Had we known "Lyndsay Ballard" before--say it had been one of the Delaneys who died and came back, or an Ensign Kaplan or other dead crewman who had previously been shown as a friend of Harry's from the academy days--this would have been a truly beautiful bit of continuity.
Not that this story doesn't work as is--it does. Emotionally, I was held from beginning to end. But this is just the sort of stuff I think about from time to tiem.
The logistics of this episode are kinda squishy.
Ballard gives the stardate of her death that corresponds to the gap between "Hunters" and "Prey," which occurred two years ago. But she, and everyone else, said that she died "three years" ago.
The two year timeline is necessary to believe that the Hirogen were involved.
The three year timeline is necessary to believe the "months of transition" and "two years with the new family" and "six month escape." It's also necessary if we want to believe that she was surprised by Tuvok's promotion to Lt. Commander.
And neither timeline adequately explains how a shuttlecraft manages, in six months, to catch up with Voyager--which has made thousands of light years of assisted leaps homeward. If the Kobali have that kind of transwarp or slipstream or space wedgie technology to speed the way through the galaxy, it's a shame they didn't share it. Ballard, in particular, could have insisted as a term of her return to the Kobali, to help Voyager get its people home.
Anyway. There was a B Plot, and it was pretty good.
We got a second look at the Children of the Borg that Voyager picked up in "Collective." The child most likely to get the lion's share of the attention is (so far) the best actor in the bunch, the only girl--Mezoti. She acquitted herself well, playing both the recovering drone and the child aspects of the character in appropriate measure. She's a good foil for Seven of Nine, and she has a good feel for subtlety.
Seven of Nine as the leader of this motley crew of ex-drones was pretty amusing. She knows her limitations. So do her crewmates, who seem to be enjoying her obvious discomfort. My favorite scenes were when Seven announced, "Fun will now commence," and when she showed Chakotay that she had scheduled plenty of time for "Fun." She has an awareness of the need--itself a sign of progress--but no concept of how "fun" actually works. In this case, the expected mini-arc with the kids should help Seven do a good deal of growing herself. As Mezoti will likely be the greatest challenge, she'll also present the greatest opportunity for growth. (She's already learning. "Continue your disorder," indeed.)
I approve of the casting choice. Marley McClean is batting 2/2 in my book.
Next week appears to be Icheb's turn. Should be interesting.
All in all, I enjoyed this episode. Generally strong performances, some nice dialog, and a story that, while predictable, built well--when Ballard decided to leave, you could see that she wasn't just trying to be brave. She was discovering that what she'd expected to find on her return simply wasn't there.
Could she have stayed? I think so. I think she gave up a bit too easily. Seven of Nine certainly had a more arduous struggle to find her place on Voyager. But, I do have to say that it seemed to fit her character that she returned to the Kobali. The person who let a "little" thing like getting stared at for using alien words when solving a tricky problem, who was nervous enough to jump out of her own skin in the presence of captain Janeway, couldn't deal with the many Little Things.
Her favorite dishes no longer taste the same. The final destination of Voyager is a home and family that she no longer remembers. Part of her wants to stay--it's the former life she had a hard time letting go of, and there's much of Voyager worth holding onto. But after spending six months trying to return to Voyager, it's hardly the Heaven in Space she was anticipating. Some might even call it Hell. (oh, hey, not me.)
All in all, I’m calling this (* * * 1/2) out of 4. It's funny and touching and I cared about the characters this week.
Next week: Icheb gets returned to his parents, but they seem determined to ship him off to Borg Boarding School.