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Seven of Nine adopts a Collective.
Jump straight to the Analysis
For the third week straight, Chakotay, Neelix, Paris and Kim have a scene together. No wimmen, no Doc, no Tuvok. It's Boyz in the Quad, cruising the Delta in the Flyer. Why? Who knows. Who cares.
Nobody's driving. The Fab Four are all in the back playing poker.
"Heart, heart, heart," Neelix mutters, counting his cards. "Just one more heart..."
The three humans groan. "You might as well be showing us your hand, Neelix," Tom says. "This is a game of strategy--deception."
Harry agrees. "Never let the opponents know your hand," he instructs.
"Right," Neelix says, committing the wisdom to memory. He grabs another card--and promptly snorts disgustedly. Not a heart, I guess.
Chakotay plops a chip into the pot. Clink. "Ten."
Harry's turn--and he's grinning. "I see your ten, and raise you 20." Clink, clink.
"Neelix?" Tom prompts.
"I'm thinking..." Neelix throws caution to the wind. Clink, clink. "20..." Clink-clink. "Another 20."
Six eyes widen.
"If I didn't know any better, I'd say we're being hustled," Harry says with a wary grin. Neelix is horrified, but Harry continues the tease. "Oh, I'm not buying the innocent Talaxian routine."
"I don't know what you're talking about!" Neelix protests. "I've, I've...this is the first time I've played...what is it called?"
"Poker," Tom, Chak and Harry say in unison. Wakka wakka. Ah, slapstick.
Paris suggests they make things "a little more interesting. Forget the chips. Let's bet on tomorrow's work detail, all right? Whoever wins this hand gets the morning off."
"I'm in," Chakotay says.
"I'm in," Harry echoes.
"Sounds good to me," Neelix says confidently.
"What have you got?" Chakotay asks.
"Two pair," Harry says, setting down his cards. A modest, but commonly winning hand.
Neelix is next; he lays his cards down, face up. "Does...Does that beat a flush?"
"I knew you were bluffing!" Harry exults; apparently it doesn't even beat two pair.
But it beats whatever Chakotay's holding. "Tom?" the commander prompts.
But Tom says nothing. He's too busy staring out the front window.
Chakotay looks--and understands. "Battle stations!" he yells, and the chips go flying as the four men take their stations to confront the unexpected threat. Clink Clink Clink Clink Clinkity-clink
"And I had a full house . . ." Tom grumbles as he takes the pilot seat.
The 24th century has a few wrinkles on the timeless game of poker. Flush still beats a straight. Full House still beats a flush.
But the Ace of Cubes trumps them all.
The Borg is back and you're gonna be in trouble
Hey now, hey now, the Borg is back!
* * *
As Borg Cubes go, this one looks pretty banged up. But it could be dead in space and still be a danger to the puny Delta Flyer.
And it ain't dead yet. Firing wildly, yes. Connecting only once every three or four shots, yes. But each pulse of energy that strikes its target is devastating.
"I can't shake them!" Tom shouts as the Delta Flyer is pounded once again.
"Return fire!" Chakotay orders.
"Why didn't our sensors detect them?" Neelix asks.
Kim checks the Ops board. "It looks like they used a dispersal field to mask their approach." Clever--but cleverness is not a common Borg tactic. Thewe's something scwewy going on awound hewe...
"Warp drive?" Chakotay asks.
"No luck," Tom reports. "Too much damage to the plasma injectors."
"Harry, get down there and see what you can do." Kim promptly complies with the commander's order.
We get an exterior view. The Delta Flyer, a much more maneuverable ship than Voyager, actually looks like it's conducting evasive maneuvers; it dodges and weaves the slings and arrows of the Collective . . . until one more volley finds its target.
"Shields down 18%!" Neelix yells over the shower of sparks.
"Harry, status?" Chakotay shouts.
Harry is down in one of the Flyer's few Jefferies tubes, waving an instrument around inside an open panel. "I need time to clear the injectors!"
"Sir," Neelix reports, "the cube's power output is fluctuating."
"Then we're still in the game," Chakotay says. "Bring us about. Target their propulsion matrix."
"We've lost phasers," Neelix says. Figures.
"Arm photon torpedoes," Chakotay says at once. "Fire when ready."
The next scene looks like something out of Star wars. The tiny Flyer strafes the surface of the cube at extremely low altitude, flinging torpedoes and causing damage as it goes, swerving at impossible speeds to avoid the sickly green beams of defensive fire. Extremely cool.
"We knocked out their main propulsion system," Neelix reports. Nice shootin', Tex!
"Good. Now get us out of here, Tom."
But where there's good news, there's bad news--and when the ship jolts, it's bad news. "They've got us in a tractor beam--"
The commander's eyes go wide. "Harry! We need warp power, now!"
"We lost two more relays. I can't!"
But Harry tries anyway. He knows the stakes. He sticks his hand into the guts of the ship for one more round of surgery.
The panel explodes. With a yelp of pain, Harry flies backward, where he slams his head against something large and unyielding.
Within seconds, he's unconscious.
"Harry?" Chakotay calls. "Harry?!"
No answer. Neelix and Chakotay share a bleak look.
The ship goes dark, lit only by the green of the tractor beam outside. "Engines are off-line," Tom says, his dread evident.
The familiar voice of the Collective fills the cabin. "We are the Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile."
For once, it's hard to argue with the Borg. 5000 to 4 isn't exactly even odds. If Janeway were here, maybe. The three amigos are shocked to silence by their impending fate.
The Cube fills the screen. Soon, an open port in the Cube fills the screen. Then, the green glow changes to red, as the Delta Flyer is pulled inside.
Then, the screen fades to black.
The lights go up, but it's BorgCam time. Blurred, dim, heavy on the green tint, and on the move through the busy, narrow capillaries of the Hive.
Whichever drone's mind we're in, we hear the machinery whir with each footfall. The other drones ignore us. Left, right, left, another left--and we see a tall, burly man in a Starfleet uniform walking. We approach.
The man stops and turns around. His face is tattooed on the left side--and cybernetic on the right. "Neelix!" He says, mind to mind, without moving his mouth. His glazed eyes stare--the lights are on, but it's a full house in there--
"Neelix!" Chakotay says, shaking the Talaxian.
Neelix jerks awake. "Commander?"
Chakotay stares. In the green wash of Borg lighting, at this angle, for the briefest moment the commander bears a striking resemblance to Q. Whoa.
But the moment soon passes.
"It's all right. You were unconscious, but I don't think you're injured," Chakotay assures him.
"I--was dreaming you'd been assimilated," Neelix says weakly.
Chakotay smiles grimly. "Your subconscious was jumping the gun--but not by much. From the look of this room, I'd say we're in an assimilation chamber."
Paris is here, too, perhaps just waking up--and he's agitated. "Where's Harry?"
"He's not here," Chakotay says.
"Well, we've got to find him!"
"We need to get our bearings first--figure out what's going on." Chakotay is strangely calm--traditionally, he's been about as virulently Borgophobic as anyone on Voyager. But I guess being the ranking officer with a man missing gives him something else to think about.
Tom, though, as a mere ensign and consummate actor who tends to compete with Harry Kim for the honor of First to Suffer, is justifiably panic-stricken--if Harry's not around, Tom draws the short straw by default. And he's been folded, spindled and mutilated often enough to know that he'd rather not go first here. "We're in a Borg cube, and Harry's missing--that's what's going on!"
Oh, great. Once again, it appears, Tom and Chakotay are going to be butting heads in an already tense situation.
But Neelix puts things in perspective by looking over at a table across the room--and loudly gulping. "Sir...?"
Tom and Chakotay look. Tom, as the lone medic, takes a closer look. They're missing a man; all three pray that this isn't Harry.
"Nobody we know," Chakotay declares. Tom looks just a little relieved that Chakotay is right--but he's sickened by the sight of the alien corpse. Whatever this creature was, it's not Borg. The implants look as though they were attached by an infinite number of assimilated monkeys, following instructions typed up by their cousins in the simian steno pool.
"Some kind of botched assimilation?" Tom asks, lifting the lifeless arm of the alien.
"From the looks of it," Chakotay says, his voice eerily calm.
Tom freaks. "What are they waiting for? They've got three more potential drones here!" he shouts at the ceiling, his panic rising, his hands waving wildly.
"Stay calm!" Chakotay orders, grabbing Tom by the arm.
"Calm?! We're in the chamber of horrors--or haven't you noticed?"
"We're not drones yet! If we keep our heads, maybe we can find a way out." Chakotay grabs an instrument off a tray and hands it to Tom. "There's a force field around this room. Let's try to disable it."
Whether or not it will work is almost beside the point. A busy Tom is a relatively quiet Tom. One less distraction for Chakotay to deal with. Time's all they've got--and time is what they need.
If there's one thing capable of beating the Ace of Cubes, it's the Queen of Redheads. Speaking of whom, Voyager goes looking for the missing Delta Flyer.
"Their ion trail ends directly ahead," Tuvok reports.
"I'm detecting another vessel, bearing 3-0, mark 1-1-2," Torres says. "It's a Borg cube."
In the alpha quadrant, this would be Big News--something to make a movie for. But this isn't the alpha quadrant, and Janeway--no stranger to staring down the Collective--merely sighs. "Red alert. Alter course to intercept. Adjust shields to rotating frequencies."
Janeway walks over to her chair, then looks over her shoulder at Tuvok. "Have they detected us?"
"Unclear. The vessel's holding position."
"As soon as we're within sensor range, start scanning for the away team." Janeway takes her seat. "On screen."
The Cube hangs in space like a burned-out Christmas ornament.
Seven of Nine, in fact, looks downright disappointed. "Their propulsion system is off-line. The damage is not that severe; the drones should've repaired it by now."
"Lucky for us they didn't, or we'd never have caught up with them," Janeway says.
Janeway feels lucky that they caught up with the Borg?
Funny how the Delta Quadrant can jade a crew. Not to mention a certain review boy.
After seeing the Borg get its Collective butt stomped by Species 8472, after taking a joy ride through the impossible vastness of Unimatrix One in "Dark Frontier," the sight of a lone Cube hardly raises the People's Eyebrow anymore.
Perhaps it's because the Borg send their best out to conquer; the drones they keep closer to home may well have ridden the Short Bus to assimilation.
Don't misunderstand; the captain and crew are taking the Borg seriously as a threat. But Janeway's got enough cube- and sphere-shaped notches on her holster to know that running into the Borg is not the end of the world.
"Any sign of our people?" Janeway asks.
boom. The first Borg volley doesn't deserve a single capital letter.
"They are targeting our warp core," Tuvok says. "Shields are holding."
"Return fire," Janeway says. "Aim for their weapons array."
boom. Okay, that was a bit stronger--but not much. If nothing explodes on the bridge, it's just not that impressive. "Now they're going after our impulse engines," B'Elanna says, somewhat confused.
Boom. One capital letter. Barely. "That one was meant for our sensors--they can't seem to make up their minds," Torres says.
Seven is disgusted by her old hive buddies. In her day, by golly, the Collective wouldn't have tolerated such sloppy tactics . . . "Their attack strategy is erratic. Inefficient."
"And finished," Tuvok says. "We've disabled their weapons."
Torres and Tuvok and Janeway and Seven look at each other in confusion. What is this, their birthday?
"That was too easy," B'Elanna says.
"Maybe they're in worse shape than we thought," Janeway says.
"I'm picking up non-Borg life signs," Tuvok says. "One of them is definitely Talaxian."
You can hear the whoosh as B'Elanna's head whips around to give Tuvok a wide-eyed look. The Borg have her Tommy!
It's a small nod to P/T, but hey--it was a close-up.
"It looks as though they haven't been assimilated yet," Tuvok says. Torres breathes a sigh of relief.
"Try to get a transporter lock," Janeway yawns.
"Their shields are interfering," Torres says.
"Target their shield generator and fire," Janeway says, filing her nails distractedly.
"Captain," Seven says, "I believe I can explain the unusual behavior of these Borg. There should be thousands of drones manning the vessel, but I'm picking up only five signatures."
Five? In that big ole Cube? Heck, that many drones could fit in a Borg Hyundai.
The Collective, if you can call them that, come calling. "We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."
"It doesn't sound like they've lost their confidence," Torres says. But I beg to differ; there is a different quality to the voice. Smaller. Weaker. You can almost pick out the individual voices.
But a cube is a cube, and still quite formidable. "Their shield generators are too deep inside the vessel," Tuvok says. "Our weapons can't reach them."
"Open a channel," Janeway growls, glaring at the cube. She stands and strides toward the helm.
"Borg vessel...this is the Starship Voyager. You're holding our crewmen. We're willing to cease firing if you return them." The captain's voice is aural acid.
"Negotiation is irrelevant. You will be assimilated."
"Not today, and not by you," the captain says, every syllable sizzling. "Agree, or I'll resume firing."
"They are scanning us," Tuvok says.
A tense moment passes.
"We will return your crew members in exchange for specific technology."
Torres shakes her head. "Talk about unusual behavior. The Borg negotiating?"
Janeway holds up a warning hand. "What technology?" she asks the Borg.
"Your navigational deflector. Disengage it from your secondary hull."
"Mute audio," Janeway orders. She walks back to the railing near Tactical and looks up at Tuvok.
"If we surrender our deflector, we'll be dead in space," Tuvok explains for the folks playing the home game. "We won't be able to go to warp."
"What would they want with it?" Janeway asks.
Seven of Nine fields the question. "When their communications array was damaged it severed their link to the Collective. They intend to adapt our deflector to regain it."
Janeway walks back to her seat. "And call for reinforcements? That's the last thing we need. We'll have to stall them until we can find another way out of this."
The captain nods to restore audio. "I'll consider the exchange, but first I want to be certain my crewmen are unharmed and alive."
"You have scanned our vessel."
"Our scans were inconclusive. We want to see them for ourselves."
A pause. "You may transport one individual."
Janeway looks around the bridge, and makes the logical choice. Nobody is better suited to assessing the situation aboard the cube. "Seven."
The former drone nods without comment, and within mere seconds is inside the turbolift.
Unlike Neelix's nightmare vision, Seven strolls through the narrow corridors of the Cube with a clear head and keen eyesight. And unlike Neelix's dream, Seven's waking nightmare is not filled with drones moving around . . . but of drones lying dead. The corridors and alcoves are littered with lifeless bodies. Lights flash like paparazzi at a premiere, but the corridors are eerily quiet. The bustle of activity, biological and technological, is nowhere in evidence.
The place is, simply put, a mess. Seven clucks her tongue. Yup, the Collective has gone straight to hell since it lost her . . .
Seven sees a body lying on the floor. Crouching, she scans the body, and frowns. But before she can do a detailed analysis, the Voice of the Collective tells her to keep moving. "Proceed to grid 6-3, sub-junction zero-one."
The only sound is Seven's footsteps. She arrives in the designated location, but finds herself alone.
Well, not quite alone. She sees a Borg maturation chamber, and a tiny figure inside. She walks across the room and peers inside; we see an infant--if that--suspended in a greenish bubbling liquid, with its tiny fists curled and its tiny eyes closed, its first cybernetic implants and Borg umbilical a horrifying reminder of how the Borg do things. This womb with a view is enough to make Seven of Nine blanch.
That, or it gets her thinking about One, her short-lived 29th-century offspring. Her biological (and technological) clock might be ticking.
When Seven turns away from the sight of the assimilated infant, she finds herself staring at a young girl, maybe 9-12 years old, clearly--but not completely--Borg. Her exoskeleton is far from finished. The skin of her sleeveless arms, neck, upper chest and largely unadorned-by-implants face doesn't have that pasty nanoprobe black-and-white pallor. She's got all her hair, and lots of it. Even her alien nose bridge is still intact.
But she's got the blank, drone-like Borg stare down cold.
Silently, the girl walks over to where four other drones of varying height also stand. We see a pair of twin boys in the back, maybe fourteen years old in human years, with short curly hair. In front of them, looking far closer to adult drones--bald, tall, most of their exoskeletons in place, more cybernetic head gear--are two older boys.
"State your designation."
"Seven of Nine," Seven says, a bit haughtily. That's right, nine--count 'em, you pasty little twerps. If you're Borg enough to count that high.
Seven walks toward the five-fingered Collective. "These drones have not fully matured. Where are the others?"
"There are no others. The drones aboard this vessel were de-"
"--deactivated," says the second-tallest of the five, who steps forward, speaking with one voice. "We are the Borg."
Maybe it's the start of then next Trek spinoff. Like Muppet Babies, only assimilated.
Or maybe Pokéborg: Tuidildiy, Tuidildôm, Pikabu, Wakamol, Porisgump.
Check those Happy Meal boxes, kids. This is a limited time offer.
* * *
"Seven of Nine--a Borg designation," the second-tallest drone says.
"She's like us," the girl says.
"Not liiiike us," says the tallest. His voice skips a little, like a smudged CD. "She's damaged. Her infrastructure has be-e-e-en removed." Yeah, like you're one to talk, Chester.
"We could fix her," says the girl.
"You will add to our perfection," says the tallest, stepping forward eagerly. The perv.
Seven rolls her eyes. As if. "You are neonatal drones," she says dismissively. "You should still be in maturation chambers." She walks past the tallest of the youths--who is as tall as Seven herself--to look at the dronelets more closely.
"We've matured long enough," the second-tallest insists.
Seven walks right up to this drone and gives him a measuring gaze. "Doubtful. Your thoracic nodes haven't formed yet." Ouch. The tallest touches his bare, hairless, nodeless chest and sighs wistfully.
"You're incomplete," Seven declares. "You'll continue to malfunction. You must return to your maturation chambers."
The dronelets look at her blankly.
"Comply," Seven says, her voice a command.
"Don't listen to her!" the second-tallest says haughtily.
"We triiiied to go back in," the tallest says, his malfunctioning voice pleasant, almost apologetic. "The chambers were off-line."
"What happened to the adult drones?"
"We don't know," says one of the twins.
"Irrelevant. Don't tell her anything!" says the second-tallest. Apparently he's in charge of this little Collective--or thinks he is.
Drones need designations. The two larger boys will eventually get designations of sorts, but I've run out of patience. Call the blustering one Jack. The tallest, let's call him Ralph. The girl looks like a Peggy.
As for the twins, let's just call them scenery for now. They have that Boy Meets World look about them, but they're the worker bees in this little hive. Well, okay. Call them Sam and Eric.
"This vessel has been severely damaged," Seven tells the brat pack. "You won't be able to repair it alone. I can help you, but first you must release the hostages."
"That wasn't the agreement," Jack of Borg says testily.
"I've modified the agreement," Seven says just as testily. "I didn't realize I'd be dealing with children." Seven was a drone longer than any of these shark biscuits have been alive; she knows how to play the intimidation game. "Your behavior is erratic. I can't be certain--"
"No modifications," Jack blusters. "We show you the hostages; you give us the deflector. Comply."
Seven stares back.
Jack shoves Peggy of Borg out of the way and marches a few steps closer to Seven. "Comply!" he bellows.
Borg or not, Jack is completely up himself. What a jerk. He has clearly mistaken bravado for leadership.
Seven measures her options. Truth be told, she could probably rip Jack's lungs out and take over this ragtag collection of moppets without breaking a sweat. The old Seven might have. But she's matured a little since the early days. She eventually decides to play along . . . for now. "Take me to them," she says.
Peggy leads the way. Seven follows, with Ralph taking up the rear. Ralph has a good long perv at the plum-cozzied Sheila. You can't blame him, really; she's one hell of a spunk. (Don't mind me; I just picked up an Aussie-to-English dictionary.)
If anyone was offended by this, I apologize. I heard from a few Australians about this paragraph--and though some enjoyed it ("Onya, mate!"), others felt I was improperly perpetuating Australian stereotypes.
Granted, thanks to all those Fosters Lager and Subaru Outback commercials and Commander Brumby on JAG (and this month's Movieline where the Australian jargon dictionary appeared), Americans hardly get a comprehensive picture of how the average Australian speaks. But I get plenty of email, and I know .au has vast linguistic variety.
I worship at the altar of author Bill Bryson, who also revels in the global, dizzying variety of the English language. I love doing with words what Chuck Yeager does with aircraft. New words are like new toys on Christmas morning. That's all I'm trying to do--play. English is the lingua franca du jour (ah, irony) of the web; folks from all seven continents drop by to see what's up with Voyager.
But times they are a'changin'. Japanese and Spanish are playing catchup in a big way, and soon English won't be the majority language of documents available online. Start learning your Hiragana and katakana now, because the reviews are going all-Kanji next year.
The twins quietly take over a control panel.
Jack yells after them. "If she tries to resist...assimilate her."
The trio step over the dead drones in the middle of the corridor.
"Do you have a designation?" Seven asks Ralph.
"You were the second to emerge from the chambers," Seven guesses.
"Noo, the first. I could not estaaaablish order." Ralph's speech impediment and relatively docile manner may be hints as to why he couldn't--this muffin ain't done cooked yet. A few more months in the maturation chamber may have done him some good. "I became Second...and heeee became First." There is no need to specify who he is.
"So you've established a chain of command--a hierarchy," Seven says.
"We're a Collective," Peggy says.
"A collective of five on a vessel normally run by 5,000," Seven says dubiously. "What makes you think you'll survive?"
Ralph stops in his tracks and gives Seven a hard look, though his voice remains pleasant. "When weee reestablish our link with the Borg, they wiiiill come for us." The two drones resume their walking--this time both taking the lead. Seven sighs and follows.
Drones. They don't make 'em like they used to.
Tom crouches before an open panel near the open doorway, attempting to short-circuit the force field. He's the first to see the young drones. "Commander, we've got company," he says, standing and taking a step back.
Seven appears a moment later. A barely-perceptible moment of panic washes over the three men of Voyager--the whole galaxy still treats Seven as a Borg rather than as her original species. And here, on the home turf, the once-a-borg-always-a-borg mentality is easy to fall prey to. Especially since they lead the way for her--as though Seven were their queen.
Seven looks at Ralph. "I wish to see if they're injured." Ralph looks at Seven.
The force field drops. Seven steps through, and removes her tricorder.
Chakotay steps forward; she scans him first.
"Seven?" Chakotay asks softly.
"Don't let their appearance fool you," Seven whispers. "They are in control of this vessel--and all of its armaments. Are you injured?"
Seven's eyes are drawn to the dead alien on the table and seems on the verge of a liquid laugh.
"The previous tenant," Chakotay says sadly.
"Weee were trying to perfect our assimilaaation techniques," Ralph explains.
"You failed," Seven says harshly.
But Peggy quickly changes the subject. "One of these captives was attempting to disconnect the security field," she says, stepping forward.
Tom Paris tries to charm his way out of it. He leans forward to point at what he was doing--or to reach for some secret weapon. "Actually, I was just trying to--"
Peggy, her head tilted to her left, zaps Tom's hand with an electric ruler; with a grunt of pain, Tom backpedals into Neelix, nursing his wound.
I guess you'd call that folded and spindled. First to fall.
Damn you, Harry. Wish you were here.
"That was unnecessary!" Seven scolds.
"He is not perrrrmanently damaged," Ralph says.
"He learned his lesson," Peggy says, giving the still-smarting Tom a look that says shame on you for touching my stuff. Her hair flies out as she spins on her heels and heads for the door. The smug little twerp.
The two drones are out the door, leaving Seven alone momentarily. "The Borg are prepared to negotiate for your release," Seven says. "I will return for you." She too heads for the door.
Chakotay stops her just after she crosses the threshold. "Give my regards to Harry."
Seven turns around. The force field sizzles into place between them. But she nods at the odd request before walking away.
Ralph and Peggy stand in the corridor waiting for Seven.
"The deflector arraaaay," Ralph says.
Seven exhales loudly. "I'm not authorized to give you technology. I must report back to Captain Janeway."
Ralph shudders at the mention of the accursed name. "Agrrrreeed."
Seven decides to go for broke. "I also need to take an adult drone and a datanode back to Voyager for analysis."
"Why?" Peggy asks.
"Something happened on this vessel that none of us understand. If it happens again, it could endanger all of you."
Survival is most creatures' basic instinct, and this micro-hive is no exception. Ralph tilts his head--the silent Collective is Processing gesture--and then nods.
Janeway and Tuvok walk through a corridor.
"No sign of Harry yet, but there are parts of the cube that we still can't scan," Janeway says.
"Could the drones be holding him in another location?"
"Unlikely. Seven said they didn't seem to be aware of his presence."
"If he ejected in an escape pod we would have detected his beacon by now," Tuvok points out.
Janeway gets an idea. "Try to activate his combadge. Match the carrier wave to a Borg interlink frequency. They shouldn't detect it."
"Aye, Captain," Tuvok says.
Janeway and Tuvok enter Sickbay. The Doctor is examining the corpse of a mature drone. Seven of Nine assists at a nearby research station.
"What have we learned from our friend here?"
"The bigger they come, the harder they fall," Doc says. The Doctor leaves his patient and walks over to a display terminal, where he enters some commands with operatic flourish. "Behold the David that slew our Goliath."
Janeway leans against the terminal and stares at the screen. It's an ugly cluster of matter, designated Micro Cellular Scan 407. "A pathogen?"
"A spaceborne virus that adapted to Borg physiology. It's inert now, but in its virulent state it attacked the drones and killed them."
"Why weren't the juveniles infected?" Tuvok asks.
Seven responds. "The maturation chamber is designed to protect developing drones. Malfunctions caused by the deaths of the adults led several of the chambers to open prematurely."
"Does this pathogen only target the Borg?" Tuvok asks.
"The Borg, and other cybernetic organisms it encounters," Doc says.
Tuvok nods. Janeway stares more intently at the onscreen virus. The silence is deafening.
The Doctor gets a bad feeling. "You're not thinking of using it as a biological weapon?!" He looks at Tuvok, then Janeway, then Seven of Nine.
Janeway places her other hand against the terminal, and leans against the screen as though to shield it from tampering. Her eyes blaze into the camera as it zooms in for a close-up as Tuvok talks off-camera. "If we can revive the pathogen and reintroduce it, we could neutralize the drones without harming the away team."
"Neutralize?" Doc protests. "You mean 'murder,' don't you? Captain, they're children."
Janeway looks briefly at the doctor, then turns away. Her eyes close--then open again, the whites prominent, as Tuvok replies. The offscreen voices of the Doctor and Tuvok, standing on either side of the captain, serve as the angel and devil on her shoulders, suggesting options that she has no choice but to hear.
"Need I remind you that these 'children' have committed murder themselves in their futile attempts to assimilate others." Janeway's eyes grow whiter as Tuvok's words drive home.
The captain walks away from the terminal; the Doctor, protectively, steps in to block Tuvok's access to the killer virus as Janeway approaches Seven of Nine.
"Seven...tell me something," Janeway says. "You saw them, talked to them. Do you think they'll kill the hostages if we don't give them what they want?"
Seven looks at Tuvok and the Doctor--the defender and the healer, the mentor of her mind and the mentor of her heart. Both look back expectantly. Seven then looks at the waiting captain, and gives her assessment. "Yes," she says. Tuvok offers no reaction, but the Doctor blanches.
Janeway nods, then looks over her shoulder. "I want that pathogen as an option, Doctor. But I won't consider using it until I've seen these drones for myself." Doc looks a little less anxious.
Janeway looks up at Seven intently. "Think you can arrange that?" Seven nods. "Then you're with me."
Inside the Jefferies tube of the Delta Flyer, Harry Kim continues to sleep on the job. The red alert light and the wounds on his face and crown are his only--and in this case, sufficient--excuse.
A loud chirping comes from somewhere in the ship, and Harry begins to stir. Half a dozen chirps later, Harry has rolled over, haphazardly put his instruments away in his tool case, and staggered on all fours toward the exit, grunting in pain with each movement.
The door to the main compartment opens a moment later, and Harry--phaser drawn--looks around warily. The Flyer is dark, lit only by that sickly Borg-green glow. The chirping sound is louder here.
He makes his way to the fore of the Flyer, ignoring as best he can the view of all-encompassing Borgness outside the windows. But his best isn't good enough--he spends several seconds gaping at the massive interior of the cube.
But the chirping continues, and eventually Harry gets to work. "Computer, identify the source of this com signal."
Harry exhales sharply with relief and begins tapping the controls like a concert pianist. "I need to respond on the same carrier wave."
"That procedure will require significant modifications."
Harry lets out a humorless laugh as his magic fingers continue to work the keyboard. "Well, don't worry. I'm way ahead of you."
Harry indulges himself in another anxious look upward. The camera pulls back to give us a more complete view. Back, back, back. The Delta Flyer is soon a flyspeck in the cavernous interior, barely the size of the exhaust vent of a much larger alien vessel--which itself fits easily inside the chamber. You could cash out Bill Gates' net worth in pennies, treat this room like a piggy bank, and still have enough room for William Shatner's ego.
A little perspective is not always a comforting thing.
* * *
Janeway finds herself on the Cube, to get a personal look at the situation.
Jack isn't happy to see her. She's a Grup, after all; an authority figure, and therefore a threat to his First-ness. If she can establish order better than he can, he becomes just another teenager. He might not even get to keep the keys to the (transwarp-capable) car.
"Why are you here?" Jack demands.
"I wanted to make a new proposal," the captain says.
"We've already negotiated," Jack blusters. "You've seen the hostages. Now give us the deflector as agreed."
Janeway flips into Mama Kate mode, more for the benefit of the four quiet drones than for the spokesborg. "Maybe it's hard for you to accept, but you don't have to rejoin the Hive. Our Doctor can remove your implants. You can come with us. You were individuals yourselves not long ago--children with families. You were abducted and assimilated."
Janeway looks at Ralph. "I recognize your species. You're Brunali." (That's what Janeway said, though the closed captioning reads "Brenari." Take your pick.) Then she looks at little Peggy. "And you're Norcadian. Do you remember your world?"
"A theta-class planetoid...population: 260 million," Peggy says. "Binary suns." And Tsunkatse. Don't forget Tsunkatse . . .
Janeway gets dewy-eyed as she asks, "And what did it look like when the suns set each night? Can you remember that?"
Jack gets mad. "Irrelevant! The deflector, now!"
Janeway gives Jack a patient look. "We need more time. That deflector array is essential to our--"
"No!" Jack, hyperventilating, launches himself at Janeway, backing her into a wall, pinning her by the throat with his exoskeletal forearm. Seven moves to assist the captain, but a forcefield blocks her way.
"Give it to us!" Jack rages. The two are nose to nose, eye to eye. For a short guy, Jack's got serious attitude.
But Janeway remains calm. "Or what? You'll assimilate me?" Just try it, Junior--and you'll be scrubbing the hull faster than you can say I Will Comply, My Queen. "That won't solve your problem. I can't give you Voyager's deflector. But maybe we can repair your technology."
Jack backs down; his arm drops to give the captain a little more air. "Clarify."
"Seven knows a good deal about Borg systems," Janeway points out, her gaze unwavering.
Jack makes his decision. Continuing to stare at Janeway, he says, "You have two hours."
"I don't know the extent of the damage. It could take longer," Seven says.
"Two hours," Jack says, backing away from the disquieting gaze of the Auburn Queen. "Or your hostages . . . die."
The two leaders continue to glare. Janeway holds her gaze a moment longer, then walks toward Seven.
"Don't come back here, Captain," Jack sneers.
Janeway gives Jack a skunk eye for the ages. You can actually hear the nanoprobes yelp. She then gives a far kinder gaze in the direction of the silent foursome of drones. Then, with a final parting glance at Seven of Nine--they're all yours, babe--the captain exits.
Seven just stares at Jack like the poor sod he is. He doesn't know it yet, but he just signed his own death warrant. He messed with the wrong dang redhead.
The only question now is when--and how painful.
Janeway exits the turbolift and heads for her seat. "I bought us another two hours. The pathogen?"
"It should be ready by then," Tuvok says, vacating the seat and returning to his station at Tactical.
"Did you see the away team?" Torres asks anxiously.
"I'm afraid not," says Janeway, settling into her chair. "But Seven assured me our people haven't been harmed."
Torres shakes her head. "I can't believe we're negotiating with adolescent drones."
"They're not exactly drones," Janeway says. "Mature Borg are predictable. They'll ignore you or assimilate you," she says, waving her hand. "But these...juveniles. They're unstable!"
"They are contemptuous of authority, convinced that they are superior--typical adolescent behavior. For any species." Attaboy, Tuvok.
The Ops panel chirps. Torres fields it. "It's a transmission...From the cube."
"Seven?" Janeway asks.
"No. It's Harry." Torres' fingers fly. "I'm clearing it up now."
"Delta Flyer to Voyager--respond."
Janeway's eyes light up. "We're receiving you, Ensign. Where are you?"
"Still in the Flyer. It's locked up in some kind of hanger bay, along with two alien ships."
"I've isolated his coordinates," Tuvok says.
Janeway springs out of her chair and leans against the railing in front of Tuvok. "How close is he to their shield generator?"
Tuvok checks. "Roughly 800 meters."
Close enough. "Harry, are there any plasma charges aboard the Flyer?"
She smiles. "In that case, how do you feel about going for a little walk?"
"I could use the exercise," Harry says gamely.
"Tuvok will guide you to the shield generator. If you destroy it, you won't have to make the trip back."
Kim nods grimly. "Understood."
The communication complete, Harry puts his tools away, and closes the lid with a reassuring snap.
Ralph finds Seven of Nine hard at work on the repairs. "I haaaaave the technology you've requested."
"Thank you," Seven says, accepting the technology and resuming her work.
"You were a drone for 18 years," Ralph says conversationally.
"I accessed your datafile." A shy smile.
Seven looks at him, half flattered, half disturbed. "Why?"
"IIIII thought it might be relevant." Hmmm. The speech impediment seems to worsen when he gets nervous. Just an observation.
Seven sighs. "What else did you learn?"
"You were aaaassimilated as a juvenile, like us."
Seven clearly doesn't want to talk about it, so she gets back to work. "My parents were scientists studying the Borg. They took me with them. My childhood was short." The muscles in her jaw tense.
"Childhood?" Ralph is unfamiliar with the term.
Seven stops working and looks at the nearly adult drone. "The years between birth and physical maturity, when humanoids adapt to their roles as individuals." Her tone softens perceptibly. "Perhaps you have memory of yours."
Hesitation. "I don't knnnnoow."
"What about your parents? Do you remember them?"
A long pause. "Nnnnooooo. Nooooo memories."
Seven gets an idea. "Your subvocal processor is malfunctioning. I can repair it for you." She picks up a tool and activates it; the wand glows with a flickering red light.
"It's a slight adjustment. It won't be painful." Ralph stops resisting; Seven begins waving it over Ralph's left ear.
"The fiiirst told me my maaalfunction could not be repaaaired until we reconnected with the Collective." But before he completes the sentence, there is a marked improvement in the stability and the quality of his voice. Seven steps away, satisfied with her work--and smug in the knowledge that Jack's just been proven a liar. One more chink in the armor of the First's infallibility.
Now that he has the voice of a poet, Ralph wastes no time putting it to good use. He stares at Seven as though he hadn't seen her before. "This color, he says, reaching out to pat Seven's hair. "My mother's hair...was this color." A fresh memory of the past. A good breakthrough.
Leave it to Jack to ruin a perfectly nice moment. "I thought we agreed--no irrelevant discussions!" the First says, glaring. "What is the punishment for disobeying the protocols?"
Ralph blanches. "Deactivation." He turns his head away.
Seven, though, glares. "I engaged him in this discussion." And I can drop you like a bad habit, you little punk. Ralph gazes wonderingly at his unexpected savior.
Jack backs down from his original threat. "Return to your station." With a final, pathetic attempt to intimidate the unflappable Seven, Jack turns on his heels and walks away.
Seven merely shrugs and resumes her duties. You've got to admire her work ethic.
Though the young drones might not like her priorities.
Seven reports to the captain's ready room and hands Janeway a PADD. "I found some unsettling information. I examined their communication records. The Collective did receive the drones' initial distress call."
Janeway frowns. "How long before they arrive?"
"The vessel was not dispatched." This catches Janeway's attention. "The Collective declared the neonatal drones irrelevant and severed their link to the hive--permanently."
Janeway reads. "They see them as damaged . . . unworthy of reassimilation."
"Are the drones aware of this?" the captain asks.
"No," Seven says. "They don't have the ability to decrypt the message."
"Once they learn they've been rejected by the Hive, they won't need our deflector. They might be willing to release the hostages."
Seven shifts on her feet. "Normally, when drones learn they're irrelevant, they deactivate themselves. But these neonatal drones are . . . unpredictable. They may not adhere to Borg protocols."
Janeway considers this. Then she gets that Mama Kate look again. She leaves her desk and walks upstairs to the cozier part of her ready room. "There is another option. We could invite them to Voyager. When they realize they have no place else to go--"
Seven frowns, and looks uncomfortable. "If you're suggesting transforming them into individuals, that would be extremely difficult."
Janeway rests her hands on the railing, smiles a nurturing smile. "You turned out pretty well, Seven," she says.
Seven hesitates, then shares a secret with the captain. "That's because I was . . . prepared before you encountered me."
Janeway gives Seven a curious look. "What do you mean?"
Seven takes a deep breath. "When I was first captured by the Borg . . . I was young and frightened. I watched my parents assimilated. Then I was placed in a maturation chamber, and the hive mind began to restructure my synaptic pathways--purge my individuality. When I emerged five years later, the turmoil of my forced assimilation had been replaced with order."
Seven purses her lips, then continues. "You may not be aware of this, Captain, but that order continues to be a source of strength for me. I could not have regained my humanity without it."
Janeway looks fondly at the young woman she rescued from the Collective. "I appreciate your insights." Janeway walks back downstairs and nears Seven. "But just because they didn't have the benefit of your Borg upbringing doesn't mean we're going to turn our backs on them. There has to be another way."
There is sadness in Seven's voice. "Not all drones can be saved, Captain."
Janeway knows Seven well enough to know not to press the point when the time is not right. The voice of command returns. "Continue the repairs aboard the Borg cube. We'll hold onto this information. For now."
"Yes, Captain." Seven heads for the door.
Janeway stops her in the doorway. "They do have one thing going for them. You. If there's anyone who can reach them, it's you."
Seven, looking uncomfortable with that thought--as though she doesn't have enough to worry about at the moment!--nods stiffly as the door closes.
* * *
Commander Tuvok monitors from Astrometrics as Harry Kim works his way through the back alleys of the Borg cube.
"Three of hearts on a transwarp conduit," Harry says.
"Ensign?" Tuvok asks, confused.
"King of clubs...on a power coupling," Harry says, slipping the card onto a piece of equipment. (darn--I didn't even say "Foreshadowing..." in the teaser.) "I'm marking my route with playing cards in case I have to come back the same way."
"You shouldn't distract yourself, Mr. Kim."
"I need a little distraction. This hike is bringing up some baaaad memories." With all the mist and the dead drones littered about, it's hard to blame him.
"An earlier visit to a Borg cube?"
"No, a haunted house my parents took me to when I was six."
"Borg vessels may be forbidding, but they are not haunted."
Harry reaches a juncture and is unsure where to go now. "Tuvok?"
You can practically hear the eyebrows rise. "Turn left, Ensign."
Harry heads left. "Nine of diamonds on a data node . . . "
Seven of Nine and the five drones work in the same room. Well, four of the drones work; Jack just supervises.
And not well; he keeps interrupting to complain that they're not working fast enough.
"The resonance field collapsed. It'll take an hour to reinitialize," Seven of Nine announces.
Jack is in her face in a nanosecond. "These delays are intentional!"
"I'm working as efficiently as I can," Seven counters. "Examine my work for yourself if you have doubts."
Jack does, but it's evident he hasn't got a clue. "This data's flawed," he growls.
"More likely it's your understanding of quadric field theory that's flawed." Seven was perfecting the art of haughtiness before Jack was goldang BORN. He's out of his league.
The other drones perk up at the exchange. Weakness, imperfection, in the fearless leader? Jack picks up on the thoughts of the microcollective and stares the others down. "Ignore her. She's trying to divide us!"
"They rely on you," Seven points out. "Yet you lack the skills necessary to ensure their survival."
"We've managed so far," Jack says defensively. "We're Borg. You've forgotten what that means."
Shyeah, right. As if. "The unity of the Collective. Common goals...the quest for Perfection. I have not forgotten." She addresses the others more than Jack. "But you don't need to remain drones to experience those things. Come back with me to Voyager."
Jack plays his best hand to change the subject. "38 minutes. You're wasting time."
But the subject changes again without warning. An alarm goes off. Ralph is the first to detect the problem. "Another maturation chamber is malfunctioning."
Seven of Nine notices the infant she saw when she first entered this room, and sees it in acute distress. Jack reaches the chamber first, but Seven is close behind.
Jack works the controls in an effort to stabilize the infant, but he's not up to the task.
"Its autonomic nervous system is failing," Seven says urgently.
"It's Borg. It will adapt," Jack insists, still pounding away at the controls.
Peggy looks up from the readouts. "It's not adapting. Let Seven help."
A moment later, Jack concedes defeat. Reluctantly, he steps aside, and Seven steps in. She works the controls just as furiously--but she also delegates in a way that Jack could not. "We can modulate the stasis field to stabilize its functions at least temporarily. Assist me!" she orders Ralph, who complies instantly.
"The field is degrading," Seven says a moment later. "We need to transport it into an incubation pod--quickly!" Sam and Eric instantly jump on another control panel.
Seconds later, the baby disappears from the maturation chamber and materializes in an incubation pod--which promptly begins to make the wrong noises. Seven pulls it out immediately, and with a worried look, carries it across the room. The baby gasps weakly.
"Why is it doing that?" Peggy asks, approaching cautiously. The twins do as well.
"Its respiratory system is impaired. And this incubation pod is malfunctioning. We must transport this infant to Voyager."
"No!" Jack says. "The drone is part of our Collective!"
In case Jack hasn't noticed, he's all alone on his side of the room. Peggy, Ralph and the twins stand by Seven and the gasping child.
"Not if it dies," Ralph says.
Peggy gingerly touches the baby's head as the twins look on in wonderment. Jack is ignored.
Harry presses forward, though he's breathing a little harder now. "Tetrion levels are rising. I'm getting closer."
"The field generator should be directly ahead."
"I see it," Harry says. He pulls out the first plasma charge and attaches it to the wall. "The first charge is in place."
He's answered by static. "Tuvok?"
Harry hears a banging noise. Those haunted house memories return.
But when Harry looks around, what he sees is a little girl. Yeah, she's a Borg, but she's kinda cute. Hard to be too frightened by a drone that small. "Hello?"
Then the girl does something really scary. "You left these." She shows him the playing cards.
Harry's eyes bug out. So much for the breadcrumbs.
Peggy singles out the Queen of Hearts. "I like her. She looks like Seven of Nine."
"Is Seven your friend?" Harry asks, starting to hope--but reaching for his phaser, just in case. "You know, she's my friend, too; maybe someday, we could--"
She might like Seven and that infant drone, but she's also the one who shocked Tom Paris for messing with her force fields.
"Your weapon won't work here. Dampening field."
Harry gulps. This is not good.
Janeway and Tuvok take another walk through the corridors.
"How long has it been since you lost contact?" the captain asks.
"Four or five minutes."
But before she can get an answer, the Doctor calls her to Sickbay. "On my way."
Janeway gives Tuvok some parting orders. "Keep looking for him."
"What's the emergency?" Janeway demands.
"I thought you should see for yourself," Doc says, walking her over to a medical crib. "Somebody left a bundle on our doorstep. I turned around and there she was, lying on a bio-bed."
The infant is breathing easy now, gurgling the way babies should. It's bundled up in a fluffy purplish pink blanket.
Janeway looks at it wonderingly. "Seven must have beamed her here." Life with Seven is never dull, that's for sure.
"Good thing, too," Doc says. A few more minutes and I wouldn't have been able to do anything for her." Doc leans in close, sighing sadly. "It's hard to believe she could grow up to be a drone."
The baby begins to fuss. Doc picks it up, and offers it to Janeway. "Hold her for a moment while I take some readings." The baby stops crying shortly after Janeway takes it.
"Oh. I guess she just wanted to be held." Doc's acting kinda funny. He completes his scan, eventually, giving Janeway a moment to become enthralled with the child.
Then he holds up an ugly brown tube. "Oh. The pathogen. I finished synthesizing it."
Janeway glares at the Doctor. She doesn’t like being manipulated. Not at all. "Start working with Tuvok on a way to deploy the virus," she says.
Doc is horrified. "Captain! You don't seriously plan to use it!"
"If I have to."
Janeway looks at the child in her arms. "Let's just hope your brothers and sisters don't force my hand."
Seven is summoned by the micro-Collective, and she's not happy about it. "You complain of delays," she says as she enters the room. "Then you interrupt my work."
The five stand together. "Can you identify this?" Jack asks, holding up the plasma charge.
"It's a plasma charge," Seven says, though she has no idea where it came from.
"You tried to deceive us," Jack says, his anger mixed with triumph. Nothing like a bit of good old fashioned paranoia to get the drones back in line.
The drones part, revealing an unmoving Harry Kim. Half of his face is peeling away, revealing metallic stuff underneath.
"Nanoprobes were injected into his bloodstream," Jack says. "He won't survive without medical attention."
Ah. So that's why they held Ensign Kim back. Tom got hurt first, but Harry got hurt worst. Seven rushes over to check on her occasional groupie.
"Call your Captain," Jack says. "Tell her to give us the deflector."
"That won't be necessary," Seven says. "I only need a few more minutes to repair--"
"No more delays! No more deceptions! The deflector."
Seven opens her mouth to protest.
Jack steps forward. "Resistance is futile!"
Oh, boy. Not again. Seven's lip begins to curl like Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show.
You're in for it now, drongo. Now you've gone and pissed off the wrong blonde.
* * *
On Voyager's bridge, the face of Jack of Borg stars righteously at Janeway from the main viewscreen.
"Return Harry Kim; then we'll talk," Janeway insists.
"We've talked enough. Your requests are irrelevant! Comply--or we'll assimilate the others."
Janeway shakes her head. "It'll take us at least an hour to dismantle the deflector and transfer the components--"
"I can't give it to you now," Janeway says testily. "It's complex technology that's part of our ship. We can't simply remove it and no amount of threats from you is going to change that."
Jack glares. Then he cuts the signal, replacing his face with the full-screen shot of the cube.
Which promptly shoots out a green burst of light towards Voyager.
"They've locked a tractor beam onto the deflector," Tuvok reports.
"They're trying to tear it off!" Torres says. "Hull stress is increasing. Breaches on decks ten and 11!"
Janeway takes her seat. "Increase shield strength and randomize the harmonics."
"They're adapting," Tuvok says a moment later.
While Seven tends to the damaged Harry, the five drones do their level best to acquire the deflector.
"Even with Voyager's deflectors your efforts to return to the hive will fail," Seven says. Uh oh--she's whipping out the trump card . . .
"They'll come for us!" Jack insists, though there is uncertainty in his trembling voice.
The others notice--and stop working. All eyes turn to Seven. They sense another power struggle.
"No, they won't," Seven says. "The Borg received your message but chose to ignore it. They consider you irrelevant."
Peggy abandons her post and walks up to Seven. "Irrelevant?" She asks, slightly hurt.
"We are damaged," Ralph explains. "They don't want us."
Jack feels the order slipping away. "Ignore her! It's another lie."
Seven spikes it right back. "Their reply is in data grid 426. Use decryption protocol theta three."
Ralph decides to check it out. Jack blocks his way. "Return to your station!" Ralph, the taller of the two, stares him down, and looks up the message.
The Collective sees what Ralph sees. They all know what the message says.
"It's another deception! She's manipulating us!" Jack yells.
But Ralph double checks. "The transmission is authentic."
Jack pushes him aside, does his own verification. Can't believe his eyes. "It's a mistake!"
Seven rubs it in. "The Collective does not tolerate imperfection."
But Jack isn't done yet. "Then we'll assimilate more species...prove we're worthy."
I'll give him this: he's no quitter.
The tractor beam continues. The deflector is getting tugged in earnest.
"Hull stress is reaching critical levels!" Torres reports.
"Reroute all emergency power to structural integrity," Janeway says.
"That'll buy us another minute at most," Torres grumbles, but another minute is another minute.
Tuvok makes good use of it. "Captain, I found a fluctuation in their shield grid near a plasma duct. It's too intermittent to beam out the hostages, but we could use it to deploy the pathogen."
Decision time. Vulcan says use it; Doctor says don't. Kirk's been here any number of times.
She's held the baby. She knows that if she deploys the pathogen, Seven's got enough Borgstuff inside her to seal her doom. She doesn't know that she'd doom Harry as well, but it would only add to her hesitation.
Janeway reaches for her computer terminal and begins typing away.
"Captain..." Tuvok prompts.
"There is no alternative."
"There's always an alternative," Janeway says. "We just need to find it."
And so she does. Janeway flies out of her seat. "Their tractor beam draws power from the same grid as their shield matrix. If we use the deflector to send a feedback pulse along the beam it could disrupt their shields--do it."
Torres complies. "Rerouting more plasma. If this doesn't work it'll damage us more than the cube."
"It'll work," Janeway assures her. "Prepare to fire," she tells Tuvok.
Tuvok doesn't object. What the heck--blowing stuff up is good too.
"You have no future with the Borg," Seven tells the tiny tots of technology. "But you do with Voyager--a chance to reclaim your real lives."
"What do you know about real lives?" Jack counters.
Seven looks at the others. "Does he speak for all of you? You should make your decisions yourselves, as individuals."
But just as Seven seems to be making some progress, the folks of Voyager complicate matters. The cube rocks from a massive jolt.
Ralph checks the readout. "They are sending a feedback pulse through our tractor beam. It's overloading our shield matrix."
Jack takes the lead. "Adapt!"
But Janeway adapts better.
"Their tractor beam is off-line. Their shields are dropping," Tuvok announces.
"I've got a partial lock on the away team," Torres says instantly. "Boosting the confinement beam." A second passes. "I've got three of them!"
"Confirmed," Tuvok says. "Chakotay, Paris and Neelix are in transporter room two." Torres breathes easier for the first time since she found the cube. Tommy's safe.
"What about Seven and Harry?"
Torres is halfway to the turbolift. "Who gives's a rat's--"
Wait, that can't be right.
"What about Seven and Harry?"
Torres checks. "They must be in a section that's still shielded."
"Amplify the feedback pulse," Janeway says.
Question--how do they amplify the feedback pulse when the tractor beam is down?
Peggy slams her hands against the controls. "The other captives are gone!"
Ralph has more bad news. "The shields around this chamber are failing. Instructions," he demands, looking at Jack.
But Jack is coming up blank.
Seven jumps into the power vacuum. "Lower your shields."
Jack's too busy panicking, and the other drones seem frozen in place.
Seven repeats: "Lower the shields!"
Still, everyone's stuck in place. So Seven tries to take them down herself.
This wakes Jack up. "No!" He runs over, grabs Seven, and pushes her away from the controls. He tries to keep the shields up, but the combination of Janeway's pounding and Seven's stirring up mutiny leave him completely alone--and he can't do it alone.
With his face twisted with rage, Jack reaches for something heavy, and screaming, raises it high to crush Seven's skull.
Ralph stops him. "Leave her alone!" Ralph is bigger, and more fully developed. Attitude alone would not be sufficient for Jack if Ralph decided to reclaim his Firstness.
But Jack is still a bit slow to catch on. "Get back to your station!"
Ralph simply stares.
"Do what I say!"
Ralph isn't impressed. "What you say? I thought we were a Collective."
"One mind, one voice," Peggy reminds Jack.
"I protected you...gave you order!"
"Your order," Ralph counters. "Your rules."
Jack tries to use the new crisis--the threat to their lives--to regain his control. "Their feedback pulse is overloading the induction grids!"
Seven has a Plan B. "This vessel will be destroyed. We must evacuate!"
"No!" Jack screams, rushing over to a set of induction coils. "Assist me!"
But Seven sees the dangers that Jack cannot. She pulls Peggy away from a panel just before it explodes. A set of induction coils explodes.
And Jack, who happens to be standing in front of them, gets electrocuted
On the bright side, he'll soon be the lord of the flies . . .
Jack gasps and lies still. Seven runs over and examines the gasping drone with her tricorder. "You're damaged. Lie still."
"We have to resist," Jack gasps, pleading with his fellows. "The Collective will come for us."
But the other kids aren't biting.
Seven reads the bad news. "His cortical implants are depolarizing. I can't help him."
Peggy kneels beside Jack. "We'll find a new home. You'll see."
Jack stares blankly at Seven. "We are Borg."
"Yes," Seven agrees. "We are Borg."
Satisfied, Jack breathes his last. The mechanical implants of his body wind down. The green light of his ocular implant dims to blackness.
"Lower the shields," Seven orders.
The twins just stand around. But Peggy and Ralph hop to it. In seconds, the danger is past.
But the ordeal is just beginning.
Captain's Log, Supplemental. Harry's recovering in Sickbay, and the rest of the away team is safe and sound. As for the drones, the Doctor's removed most of their implants--leaving us with four very troubled children.
Janeway reclines on her couch in her ready room, giving Seven an update. "We've sent out calls to any Brunali [closed captioning: Brenari] and Norcadian ships that might be in the vicinity, but we haven't gotten any responses so far--and we're still trying to figure out where the other two came from." She gives Seven a meaningful look. "It may take a while."
"They could use the time," says Seven. "They have a great deal to learn."
"It might help if they had someone around who knew what they're up against," Janeway suggests.
Seven gulps. "I've never been responsible for children. Mr. Neelix would be a wiser choice."
Janeway beams wickedly. "From what I've seen, you're the one they've established the bond with. They'll be looking to you for guidance."
Seven knows she has little choice. "Perhaps I could...help them avoid some of the obstacles I've encountered."
I assume the infant is being cared for in Sickbay. Janeway didn't include it among "the troubled children" but it's still young enough to have a fighting chance of growing up normally.
But for the others . . .
Cargo bay two has four alcoves. And there are four kids.
Whoa--this may be a major milestone. Seven's been displaced from the alcove, and apparently booted from her cargo bay. Where will she sleep now?
Oh, put your hand down, RussDog, that's not what I meant . . .
You'd hardly recognize the kids. New clothes, no implants, only a bit of scarring. Even the hair is different. Doc must be practicing his "form and function" again.
"Do we have to regenerate now?" Peggy says.
"Yes," Seven says. "But first..." she holds up four PADDs, and hands them out. "I was able to salvage your assimilation profiles. They include your names and some limited biographical data."
Ralph reads up on his past life. "Icheb. My name was Icheb."
"Your name is Icheb," Seven corrects.
"I remember now. It was my father's second name."
"My designation is Mezoti," Peggy says. "It's a pretty name."
"Yes, it is...and it's all yours."
Seven looks at the enigmatic twins. "Azan and Rebi...I'll tell you more about them tomorrow." They take this news the way they take most things--silently.
But they've all got something new to sleep on, and something new to sleep in. The kids pile into the alcoves.
"Computer," Seven says. "Decrease ambient lighting by 60%."
Lights out. The kids, one by one, lock into sleep mode.
"Good night," Seven says to them. Then she heads for the door.
She stops in the corridor and looks back. "Sweet dreams."
Okay--so it's not Lord of the Flies. It's more like a Bill Cosby sketch: "Children are Brain Damaged." This isn't exactly a secret; kids are young, goofy, vicious, booger-faced playground gladiators; feed them enough Jell-O Pudding Pops and eventually they grow out of it and become productive members of society.
"Collective" Is a variation on a fairly common tale. Kids, forced to fend for themselves, form their own community. More often than not, it's dysfunctional, because--as the adults are wont to point out--without grownups, kids will screw up eventually. The loudest and meanest usually wins for a while, until he goes too far or until someone bigger comes along. We saw another variation of this them on DS9, in the sixth-season episode "Valiant." TOS did it several times, with episodes like "Miri" and the hideous Friendly Angel episode ("And The Children Shall Lead.")
The wrinkle in "Collective" is that it deals with "neonatal" drones in varioius stages of development. By Borg standards, until a drone is fully cooked, it's just not worth bothering with. And these drones, spat out of their malfunctioning maturation chambers, have simply been written off as damaged goods. It's hard to blame the Collective, since the cube is infected with that killer virus. The Collective doesn't care about them, but they care about the Collective. Meanwhile, Voyager's crew frets about the four individuals trapped on the Cube, and Janeway--always on the lookout for more strays to add to her collection of service projects.
If last year was the Season of the Tee-Shirt, this is the Season of the Hitchhiker. First the surviving Equinox crew, then a Bajoran ex-drone from "Survival Instinct," then--it's safe to say--the holographic township of Fair Haven, since Janeway's main squeeze lives there . . . and now, a quintet of troubled kids.
I've seen the schedule, so I know it's not the last we've seen of the adolescents. We'll get more of Fair Haven next week, and the promos at least look interesting. Harry kisses a cow? Hilarity ensues. Janeway's boyfriend "malfunctions?" Maybe it's a very special episode; I'll look for a Bob Dole cameo.
I have very little to say about this week's episode. I wasn't all that fond of it. The guest stars were about up to the standard of "Blink of an Eye," and too much of the story felt like setup for things to come.
There are several loose threads here, several of which involve the children. There's the search for their native species. There's the inevitable growing-pains issues as the kids learn to cope outside of the hive mind. There's the hint of a crush the oldest seems to have on Seven, and where it might lead. Related to this, that drone looked up information about Seven of Nine that may well be new to us, so who knows what else we may discover about her. There's the question of how Seven will adjust to life outside of Cargo Bay Two; no more alcove regeneration. There's the question of how she'll cope as the mama hen to her little brood, and who else might get involved.
And there are others. Where did that virus come from? Now that they've got it, will they ever give in to the temptation to use it? One blitzkrieg on an unsuspecting Cube, and Voyager could sweep up enough transwarp coils to coast home in weeks. For that matter, what happened to the cube the kids came from--did Janeway manage to salvage anything useful? Did she blow it up? The thing "isn't that damaged"--it would be a tempting target for any species.
I did like the poker scene in the teaser and the way the cards were worked into the rest of the episode. I enjoyed the special effects--the holding pen where Harry found himself with the Delta Flyer, for example, and the brief chase and battle scenes with the Delta Flyer. The girl could be interesting--about Naomi's age, so we can probably expect more cameos from Scarlett Pomers. The Doctor's scene with Janeway and the infant and the vial of death was effective; Doc can be quite the moral crusader when he wants to be. On the other hand, when Tuvok told Janeway "Four or five minutes" in response to a question from Janeway, I wondered if he'd lost his Vulcan mind; that kind of imprecision would make Spock's katra roll over in its . . . whatever it's kept in.
All in all, this episode was pretty darned dull. There are good uses of the Borg--but this did nothing for me. There wasn't any real suspense concerning the hostages, and the tiny shock the girl gave Tom Paris got zero follow up. There was pretty much zero relationship commentary from either Paris or Torres; Tom seemed more concerned about Harry. The lead drone annoyed me; I found myself begging the television for them to get it over with and kill him already. It wasn't even all that entertaining or meaningful as demises go.
And don't even get me started on the science.
Anyway. Call it two and a half stars (out of four).
On second thought, call it two stars. Maybe this was TPTB's attempt to appeal to the nurturing side of the audience...but for my money, I'd rather rewatch "Tsunkatse." For those griping about the violence in that episode, I point out that NOBODY DIED last week, but we had a couple of fairly gruesome deaths this time out. I know I'd rather get smacked down in a blue match than humiliated, alienated, and finally electrocuted....
But maybe that's just me.
Next week: Fair Haven may not survive the upgrade to Windows 2000.