Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Seven of Nine explores her humanity and encounters a level 10 authorization impediment. How will she proceed?
Voyager and its characters belong to Paramount Pictures. No infringement intended.
The past few days had been productive for Seven of Nine. She had achieved her goal of creating several social interaction holo-programs and had run through a couple of the scenarios. It had dawned on her that if she practiced her skills she might be able to feel more human, to be more human.
The surprise baby shower for B'Elanna Torres was the first full program she ran. She was pleased with her progress. She had been relaxed and had even toasted the unborn offspring.
The next program, Private Quarters Open House, had been a bit more challenging. The Holo-Neelix had given her several decorating tips that not only seemed irrelevant, but consisted of discordant color schemes. The holo-image of Chakotay had brought a gift of a dreamcatcher for the wall about her bed. And before the simulation ended, she had successfully invited him to dinner.
Frustration fought with Seven's innate desire to do her assigned tasks. Earlier she had gone to her weekly medical exam in Sickbay. The Doctor had not only scolded her because she had not regenerated the night before, but he didn't give her much hope that the remaining Borg components in her body could be removed successfully. She aspired to be fully human. When she refused to stay for the hour it would take the Doctor to realign her bi-radial clamp, he was annoyed and asked her what was so important that it couldn't wait. Seven told him that she had research to do and avoided more questions by telling him her personal life was none of his concern.
His parting shot of "I wasn't aware you had a personal life," still stung. However she wasn't sure what she would have answered because at that moment Voyager was rocked by a powerful jolt.
Unidentified warheads had caused two level nine shockwaves that took out the warp drive. After hearing from Engineering that it would take at least 48 hours to create another stable warp field, Captain Janeway asked, "Seven, can you find a way to detect the warheads before they emerge from subspace?"
"I believe so. The weapons create minor gravimetric distortions as they approach the subspace barrier. I'll need to recalibrate the sensors to isolate the effect."
"Do it. Even a few seconds' warning would help us."
"Yes, Captain," Seven acknowledged her orders, and set to work although she could tell her customary level of focus was absent. Her mind kept going over what she wanted to do when her work cycle ended.
Later, Icheb entered the astrometrics lab.
Seven was surprised. "Your duty shift does not begin for another two hours."
"The Doctor sent me to relieve you early. He wants you to spend more time regenerating."
"I see he's enlisted an ally," she said crossly.
"'Don't kill the messenger.' It's Sophocles - 'Oedipus Rex'. I've been studying Earth literature as a part of my Academy training."
Seven ignored his comment as she gave him instructions. "Continue these scans of the subspace barrier for any gravimetric distortions."
Despite the Doctor's orders, Seven did not regenerate when she went to Cargo Bay Two. Instead, she merely retrieved something and proceeded to Engineering with a small box. When she arrived in Engineering, she found it humming with more activity than normal. Harry Kim was there to give Lt. Torres help with warp drive. B'Elanna had just told Harry to run another diagnostic on the injector ports and to make sure they were aligned.
"They're aligned. I checked," Harry protested.
Torres barked, "Check again." Upon seeing Seven, she quipped, sarcastically, "Come to join the fun? We're trying to cold-start the warp core for the fifteenth time."
Having always found Torres' manner of dealing with stress unproductive, Seven decided to overlook the remark and offered her gift. "Perhaps this will enhance your day. It's a belated gift for your baby shower. I apologize for my absence."
Torres began to put the box down, but Seven prompted her to open it. "Proceed."
After opening the gift, B'Elanna pulled out a pair of tiny booties.
"They're lined with bio-thermal insulation. Your infant's feet will be protected even if the external temperature drops below -40° Celsius." Seven informed her, proudly.
"Well, they're certainly unique. Thank you."
Seven wanted to ask B'Elanna something else. She felt uncertain how to voice this query. Seven followed the lieutenant as she carried on with her work. Finally she said, "I wish to ask you a personal question."
"Shoot." B'Elanna hardly glanced up.
"You have an appealing coiffure. What is your grooming regimen?"
Torres, taken aback, asked, incredulously, "You're asking me what I do with my hair?"
B'Elanna swallowed back her laughter before she replied, "Erm, well, nothing too elaborate - sonic shower, a little engine grease. Thinking about a new look?"
"Perhaps. I'll keep you apprised if you'd like." Seven was suddenly uncomfortable as she noticed that Ensign Kim was listening. She wanted to leave as soon as possible.
"Please do." Torres watched Seven until she left Engineering and then turned to Kim. "Was that Seven of Nine?"
"There must be an alien intruder on board," he joked, but he was curious to know what was going on with their beautiful ex-Borg. He had never really gotten over his crush on her, even though he had worked hard at being a friend. He had always known that she needed friendship, and he thought that maybe she was beginning to understand that for herself. There had to be a way to help her to help her, but now he needed his mind fully on helping B'Elanna with the warp drive.
Having managed to get through what, for her, was a difficult situation with Lt. Torres, Seven was ready to proceed to more social interaction scenarios. When Seven entered the empty holodeck, she entered the codes into the controls and then ordered, "Computer, make the following modifications to Seven of Nine holodeck subfile alpha-three Personal Quarters."
"All possible modifications complete."
Her modified holo-program started. Her quarters had changed from the previous time. The lighting was lower and soft music played in the background. Seven no longer sported her Borg components either; she was dressed in a figure-flattering cocktail-length red dress, and her hair was down in soft waves. Seven was examining her new appearance in the mirror when she heard the holo-Chakotay's voice, "That dress looks wonderful on you."
Seven blushed, but calmed herself with the reminder that this was after all, just a program. She turned to greet to him.
He stood there, holding a covered dish. "Where do you want me to put the dessert? It needs to stay cold."
This had not been in her program. He was to bring a bottle of wine. Had she forgotten that detail in the midst of all the excitement? Shaking her head, she quickly adapted to the new situation by taking the dish and putting it into the small kitchen's stasis chamber.
"Assist me," Seven ordered more than asked as she picked up a knife and several carrots that were lying on the counter. She realized that she had again missed the finer points of social interaction when she saw the surprised look flit across the hologram's face, but true to his real life counterpart, he removed his jacket and walked to the workspace where Seven instructed him, "Slice these vegetables transversely in 5 millimeter intervals."
"Aye, aye," he joked. As he worked, he remarked, "That smells delicious."
"That is our appetizer, braised leeks. The primary course is rack of lamb with wild rice."
"Seven," he said in a soft but firm voice, "I'm a vegetarian."
She had not researched the tastes of Commander Chakotay as thoroughly as she thought. Her face burned with embarrassment as she tried to think of something that she could serve them.
Again the hologram of Chakotay displayed his skills at handling awkward situations by saying, "It isn't a problem. I don't eat much. Add these vegetables to the leeks and with dessert, there will be plenty."
Not knowing what else to do, she turned to check on the leeks, adding the cut vegetables as he had suggested. She stirred silently for a few moments before a thought came to her. Dipping her finger in the sauce, Seven flirtatiously offered it to him and asked him, "Does this contain enough sodium chloride for your taste?"
He ignored her hand and took some on his own finger to taste. "Could use another .6 milligrams, but you're the chef." He smiled, trying to take the sting out of his subtle rebuff.
After tasting the bit on her finger, she agreed, "I concur. More salt." She could barely handle the bitterness she felt toward Chakotay. Simply knowing he was a hologram and not the real person, didn't keep her from feeling rejected.
They finished the meal with Chakotay telling her about his people. The tales helped Seven to remember what she had planned and brought back a little of her confidence.
According to her programming, as she began to clear the dishes from the table the music began.
"Liszt?" he asked as he brought his dishes to the small galley.
"Chopin. I've discovered that classical music has intriguing mathematical properties."
"Do you play an instrument?" Holo-Chakotay looked pleasantly surprised.
Seven nodded. "The Doctor's been giving me piano lessons."
"I'd love to hear you play."
"I require more practice," she demurred.
"You should ask Harry Kim for some help," he suggested. "The two of you could play a duet in the next Voyager Talent Night."
Nothing could have surprised her more. How could she respond when the programming kept changing? She tried to remember her lesson on etiquette.
"Would you care for some tea?"
"I would love some." He smiled as he said, "I see you got the replicator."
She nodded as she picked up the cups she had ordered. "Thank you for getting to it so soon."
Chakotay smiled warmly as he took a cup from Seven as she stood near the counter. "I like to help out a crewmember and a friend." He looked at the couch and asked, "Shall we sit down?"
Hoping to finally succeed at her programmed goal, Seven put down her cup and said, "Remain still," as she stood before the holo-gram, taking his cup and putting it beside her own. With her right hand, she gently traces the contours of his face. "You have an intriguing facial structure."
"Thank you, but I think you are asking for something that I can't give you." And when she tried to kiss him, he gently pushed her away from him. "I'm flattered, Seven, but I'm not interested in you in a romantic way. As clichéd as it may sound, my heart belongs to someone else."
Humiliation and embarrassment rushed over her. She turned her back to him and refused to speak even when he thanked her again. So the hologram said, "goodbye," and left.
She was so flawed that even a hologram didn't want her affection. Tears stung her eyes. This couldn't be happening! She had programmed all of this. What had happened? As her emotions got stronger, she felt weaker. Sitting down seemed the best thing to do since she was not sure she could make it back to her alcove just yet.
Green, vaguely lit images swirled passed her.
Dressed in the red dress, she stood before the mirror, but the face that reflected back at her was that of the fully Borg, Seven of Nine Tertiary of Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One.
She reached her arms out to embrace Chakotay. He was pushed her away. And with a mocking smile on his face, he told her that she would never be human enough for him
The Doctor frowning down upon her, stated, "I wasn't aware that you had a personal life."
Tears streamed down her face. Everywhere the tears dropped, small Borg implants would spring forth to confine the moisture. And a collective voice echoed, "Tears are irrelevant. You are Borg. Human resistance is futile."
"Chakotay to Seven of Nine."
Seven sat up suddenly, waking from her dream alone in her holo-quarters
"Chakotay to Seven. Respond."
Picking up her commbadge, she pressed it and responded, "Go ahead."
"Report to astrometrics. We've found something."
Seven hastily finished fixing back her hair as she exited the holodeck and hurried through Voyager's corridors to the astrometrics lab.
As she entered the lab, Chakotay greeted her, "Good morning."
"What have you found?"
Chakotay explained. "At first we thought it was another one of the probes. Then Icheb picked up an automated transmission. It's a warning beacon." He signaled the automated message playback: "You have entered subspace munitions range 434. Evacuate immediately."
"Apparently this entire region is an alien testing ground," Icheb added.
"We've been sending out emergency hails but so far no response. Whoever's conducting these tests could be dozens of light-years away. Any progress detecting their warheads?" Chakotay asked.
"Not yet." She was uncomfortable even though she knew that Commander Chakotay had nothing to do with what had happened on the holodeck.
"You seem a little distracted."
"I am fine." Her voice was distant and cold.
"It's not like you to be late for a duty shift. Rough night?"
"Not at all." Turning back to her console, she started her work.
"I'll be on the bridge if you find anything."
As the doors closed behind the commander, a teasing smile crossed Icheb's face as he joked, "'Better late than never.' - Titus Livius 'A History of Rome'."
She was not in the mood for jest. "You are relieved. Get some rest."
When Chakotay arrived back on the bridge, he saw that the captain was in her Ready Room. He decided he would talk to her about Seven's behavior. It might not sit well with Kathryn, but he thought she should know what had happened.
Once inside he wasn't sure if it was the best time after all. His friend and captain looked tired and on edge, probably caused by their current misfortune. Chakotay watched her working behind her desk for a few moments until she looked up.
"What is it, Commander?"
"It's Seven," he stated simply.
"What about her?" He had captured her full attention.
"When I went to Astrometrics to check out that transmission Icheb picked up. I fully expected Seven to be on duty. She wasn't regenerating either." Chakotay could see the news didn't please the captain. Wishing he had merely dealt with it himself but since stopping now wasn't an option, he forged ahead. "She was on Holodeck Two."
"On the holodeck at this time in her shift?" She felt a headache building.
"According to the computer." Chakotay watched Kathryn's eyes narrow as the pain of a headache grew. He knew that she had most likely had merely a cup of coffee for breakfast. He moved to her replicator and ordered her a bowl of diced fruit and wholegrain toast.
When Chakotay placed the food on her desk, she scowled at him. "What is this?"
"You have a headache from tension and no food." He gave her a cheeky grin. "And if you eat it all, I will use my rations to get you a fresh cup of coffee."
Kathryn tried to keep frowning but the sight of his dimples and fragrance of the food made her hungry in more ways than one. She grabbed at the dish with one hand and began to eat while picking up the padd she had been reading with the other. After a few mouthfuls, she smiled. "Thanks, Chakotay, for the food and for the heads-up on Seven. We will need to keep an eye on her. Let me know if there are anymore lapses in her duties." When he nodded, she added, "If promise I will eat everything, will you get me that coffee before you go back to the bridge?"
Chakotay loved to see Kathryn teasingly wheedling, but since he knew that she would keep her promise, he ordered her the coffee and took his leave of her office.
As soon as Icheb left, Seven left Astrometrics for Holodeck Two. When inside she called up the hologram of Chakotay. "Computer, make the following changes to the social interaction parameters of Chakotay Hologram Alpha - 47-Omega..."
Before Seven could define the changes she wanted, the computer intoned. "Unable to comply."
"No modifications to Chakotay Hologram Alpha - 47-Omega are allowed without Level 10 Authorization."
"Who has Level 10?"
"Level 10 is command level. "
Seven took in this new development with a frown. That would explain things. This hologram had a locked program. She could program one of her own, but that would take her more time than she wanted to expend. Maybe she could enlist the help of another holo-programmer.
"Computer, locate Lt. Tom Paris."
"Lt. Tom Paris is in the corridor outside of the Mess Hall."
"Seven of Nine to Lt Paris."
"This is Paris. What's up, Seven?"
"I need your assistance on Holodeck Two."
"I'm sorry, Seven, but I just finished with lunch and promised Doc that I would give him a hand in sickbay for a few minutes. After that, I'm due back on the bridge. Harry has helped me with many a holo-program. He has a couple hours off duty. Give him a call."
Seven was not sure that she wanted to Ensign Kim to help her. However after trying to think of anyone else who might be able to help, she concluded that she could at least see if he might know a resourceful way to reprogram a hologram.
Harry was surprised to receive a request from Seven to meet her on the holodeck. He chided himself for the quickening of his pulse at the thought of seeing Seven. Tom would rib him unmercifully if he knew how he still felt about the beautiful former Borg. It had been a long time since she had been on his mind like this. Something about her actions in Engineering had triggered them. She seemed more human, more vulnerable, and even a little unsure of herself. If nothing else, he was eager to find out why she called him there in the middle of her duty shift.
When he arrived in holodeck, Harry saw Seven working at one of consoles. "Hello, Seven, what can I do you for?"
Seven was about to explain when she saw the smile on Harry's face. She could tell that he still reacted to her presence, but he no longer seemed uneasy or distracted. In fact there was something different about him although what the difference was escaped her grasp at the moment. Pulling her attention back to the task at hand, she said, "Ensign Kim, thank you for coming at such short notice. I hope that I did not interrupt your leisure time."
"I was just practicing my clarinet. I can do that anytime."
"I would be interested in hearing you practice sometime. I have found that I am competent on the piano. The Doctor has given me lessons."
This was a pleasant surprise to Harry. Music was such a very important part of his life. "I would love to hear you play too."
Harry's genuine interest in her music sooth much of the irritation that the previous night had wrought. Seven dropped her gaze to the console and paused for a moment before she spoke again. "I asked you here about a problem not related to my music program, but we could run it sometime," she added shyly, "if you wish."
"Maybe we can make short work of the problem and still have a little time for your music program." Harry grinned with delighted enthusiasm. "What's the problem?"
Now that Harry was there, Seven felt reluctant to tell him everything that she had been doing. She grasped for a legitimate reason to be using the holograms without revealing anything embarrassing. "I have been practicing my skills in social situations again. When I wanted to add actual crewmembers to the programming I found many holograms already listed in old files. The files were so old that I almost did not find them. I can find no indication of their authorship or when they had been used last." She wasn't sure why feelings of guilt rose in her mind as she said, "Some of the holograms are locked under Level 10 authorization."
"Oh, that!" Harry nodded, "I'm not sure if you heard about Seska, the Cardassian, who had infiltrated Chakotay's Maquis cell disguised as a Bajoran." When Seven indicated that she had heard of Seska, he continued, "She found an old training program that Tuvok had made early on in our voyage. We didn't know about it until about a year after her death. She programmed it from where Tuvok had stopped and caused a lot of trouble with it."
His face was very serious as he explained further. "We almost lost Tom and Tuvok, maybe all of us, if the captain and B'Elanna hadn't figured out a way to defeat the Holo-Seska. After that Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay, and Tuvok decided to reprogram each of the characters with the help of the crewmembers themselves. The characters were to be as close to the real crewmember as possible. Then they encrypted the coding with a Level 10 authorization. Since it isn't exactly regulation to use holo-characterizations of the crew in your own private holo-program, and since the captain and the others knew that our journey would not be a normal one, they decided that this would be the best compromise.
I can practice playing kal'toh with Holo-Tuvok or Tom and I can play hoverball doubles with our holo-selves, we just can't change their programming to fit our whim." As an afterthought he added, "I've heard through the grapevine that several crew members were disappointed to find that Commander Chakotay has programmed his to discourage advances of the intimate nature. Some think it is just to keep things simple, but most of us think it is because he has it bad for the captain."
Feeling the heat of chagrin rise in her face, she lowered her gaze, and said in a contrite tone of voice, "I should have realized. It was improper for me to use those holo-programs."
"Oh, not at all, Seven." Harry couldn't help but touch her arm; he so wanted to comfort her. "The Seska incident was before you came aboard and the regulations are vague at best about holo-programming. You couldn't know - after all you aren't omniscient -you're only human."
Seven stared a moment at Harry's hand on her arm. She felt a flush of pleasure at the small gesture and his words were like a shower of cool water on the burning of her failure. Finally she was able to smile and say, "Thank you, Ensign Kim. That was an extremely kind thing to say."
"Harry." Seeing the delight in Seven's eyes, Harry squeezed her arm once before he said, "Please, Seven, call me Harry. At least, when we aren't on duty."
She only nodded, but she put her hand over his. "Harry," she said his name slowly and deliberately, "would you care to hear me play right now?"
It was Harry's turn to blush, but he didn't hesitate to accept her invitation. "I would love to!"
"Computer," she commanded eagerly, "run Seven of Nine's Music Lessons - Kappa six."
The computer quietly and swiftly did as it was told. They were standing in the middle of a well-lit room and in its center was a grand piano. A metronome sat on top of the instrument. Everything was just as Harry had expected in a practice room except Seven's appearance. His eyes had to be deceiving him. She no longer had Borg components on her face or hands. Her hair was down and softly touched her shoulders. Her garment was a loose fitting, blue dress that was feminine in a way that her usual jumpsuits never were.
"Seven." Harry spoke her name in a reverent whisper. "You look so..." He was at a loss for words.
She had gone toward the piano when she heard what he said. "If this is inappropriate attire, I can easily instruct the computer to-"
"Oh no, Seven, I didn't mean that!" He caught her arm and turned her around to face him. "I have never seen you look so lovely. I just couldn't find words that could adequately express just how beautiful you look right now. Though I must admit I miss the Borg piece here." As he spoke, Harry caressed the area around her left eye. "And here." His voice lowered as he touched her cheek next to her right ear.
Seven swallowed and closed her eyes as feelings caused by the simple gestures filled her senses. She automatically leaned toward him.
Gently pulling her into his arms, Harry kissed her. None of his imaginings came anywhere near to the real thing. Every thought focused on the lovely woman in his arms. If only it could last. He lifted his mouth from hers and began to slowly kiss her face and then her neck.
The strength of yearning that washed over Seven was not like any she had felt before. All she wanted was for Harry to continue the wonderful exploration with his lips. However as she further surrendered to him and the feelings he was causing, she felt sightly alarmed. She stiffened involuntarily.
"Is something wrong?" Harry asked, an expression of concern on his face.
"No, Harry," she answered honestly. "I am just not used to experiencing so many feelings at once. Perhaps we should proceed at a decreased pace." Then with an almost bashful smile, she added, "If we do not, I fear that you may not get to hear me play."
Harry laughed at her flirtatious comment while reluctantly releasing her. "I wouldn't want to miss your recital." With his arm around her waist, he led her over to the piano.
Seven turned on the metronome and began to play. As the song filled the room with beautiful music, Harry watched in amazed admiration. It seemed unreal that he could be sitting next to this beautiful woman, one he had admired for so long. Not only could she play well, but moments before he had kissed her and she had kissed him back.
As the final chorus faded, he clapped and said, "Bravo!"
A pleased smile graced her face as she turned off the metronome. "You approve?"
"Approve? I'm amazed," he said, awe in his voice. "I don't know what I was expecting, but I had no idea you were so good."
"The Doctor is an efficient instructor."
"I can tell that it won't be long before you're giving a recital for the entire crew."
"The Doctor did suggest that I accompany him during his next operatic performance," Seven said, then gestured toward the keyboard. "Your turn."
He smiled as he shook his head, "No piano playing for me. And I don't have my clarinet with me. Besides, I'd love to hear you play more."
"Very well." She leaned over to turn the metronome back on.
Harry prevented her from doing so.
"I thought you wished for me to play." Seven was confused.
"I do," he tried to explain. "You play flawlessly. But you need to put more of yourself into your music. My first music teacher, Ms. Dawn once told me, 'Harry, you're playing too much with your mind and not enough with your heart.' Seven, don't be afraid of feeling the music too."
Seven started to play again but made several errors and stopped playing.
"What are you feeling?" Harry asked patiently.
"My tempo is erratic."
"Not what you're thinking, what you're feeling. Your emotions?"
The answer was tense. "Frustration, anxiety-"
"Okay, stop thinking about the notes, just play." He tried to soothe her.
She stopped playing. "I can't."
But when she reached for the device again, Harry prevented her. "Yes, you can. Don't you understand? That thing will only hold you back. It keeps you on perfect tempo, but it cuts you off from the emotion of the music. Seven, do you remember how hard it was for you went you were first cut off from the Borg hive-mind? You were overwhelmed at times. But look at you now. You've more than adapted; you've grown. Your music can, too. It doesn't have to be perfect. Let yourself enjoy it."
Understanding brought a smile to her face and courage to her fingers. She began to play again with new confidence and clarity.
"Bridge to Seven of Nine." Chakotay's voice came over the commlink.
Seven stopped playing the piano to answer. "Go ahead, Commander."
"We need those sensor calibrations." Chakotay was obviously annoyed.
She stood up quickly. "I'll need a moment to return to my station."
"That would be a good idea," he responded tersely and cut the communication.
Laying a hand on his shoulder, she told him, "I am sorry, Harry. I need to go."
Harry nodded. "You go ahead. I'll shut down the program."
Just as she turned to thank him before leaving the holodeck, the ship was heavily jolted.
Oh the bridge Paris informed the captain, "Hull fracture, deck 12."
"Seven of Nine, report." After a few moments, Captain Janeway's voice sounded over the comm.
Having finally reached her console in the Astrometrics lab, she replied slightly out of breath, "Stand by, Captain.
She worked swiftly at the controls then contacted Paris, "Lt. Paris, isolate subspace band omicron theta."
"Direct your sensors to co-ordinates 178 mark 26." Seven told him.
"Nothing there, Seven."
She looked down again at her console. "Correction: 178 mark 36."
"I see them. Two warheads are about to emerge. Adjusting course," Tom exclaimed.
Janeway barked out, "Full power to the forward shields."
Tom counted down, "Impact in 5, 4, 3, 2...." The ship bucked like a horse with a burr under its saddle, but quickly returned to normal this time.
"Shields are holding."
Annoyance was evident in the captain's voice when she turned to Chakotay and asked, "Why wasn't Seven at her post?"
"Good question. Maybe you should ask her."
Fifteen minutes later Seven stood stiffly before Captain Janeway in her ready room. She knew that her mentor was not happy by her tone of voice and her expression. "It was your responsibility to locate those warheads."
"I succeeded," she returned haughtily.
"Not before we took heavy damage. You told Chakotay you'd have those sensor calibrations hours ago."
Like a child trying to avoid telling the truth, Seven replied, "The work took longer than I anticipated."
Janeway snapped, "It might've gone faster if you'd stayed at your post as you were ordered to do."
"I didn't realize I was confined to the astrometrics lab."
Drawing in a controlling breath, Janeway answered, "You were on duty. This isn't the first time you've left your station over the past few days. Holodeck Two? You've logged a lot of time in there. Mind if I ask why? Well, it must be something important, Seven. Forty-nine hours in six days?"
"I was running a simulation."
Seven hesitated only a minute before she lied, "A new gravimetric array I've been developing. I wanted to perfect the design before I brought it to you."
"I appreciate your efforts to improve our systems." The captain's voice took on a more tolerant tone. "But I can't have you dividing your time right now. When the ship is on alert I expect you to perform your duties. If you need to leave your post, inform Commander Chakotay. Understood?"
"Yes, Captain. I apologize for my lapse in judgment."
"We all make mistakes, Seven." A smile crossed Janeway's face. "I've even been known to make a few myself. It sounds intriguing, your new gravimetric array. When this crisis is over, I'd be happy to take a look. Maybe I can lend a hand."
Seven's answer was noncommittal as she left the room to return to her station.
When Seven arrived back at the lab, Icheb was excited to share his news. "I've analyzed the sensor data from that last barrage. I've refined your detection method. We'll be able to see the weapons 10.3 seconds earlier."
"The Captain will be pleased."
Noticing her sarcastic tone, Icheb asked, "Have I offended you?"
"No. You've done nothing wrong." Immediately, Seven felt remorse for her attitude toward her young friend. She frankly admitted, "I was negligent in my duties. As a result Voyager was nearly destroyed. I was hoping you could provide a quotation to help alleviate my guilt."
Icheb stammered. "I...I can't think of one, but I'd be happy to search the database."
"That won't be necessary." She turned her attention to her calculations.
Kathryn Janeway had a feeling that something about Seven's story didn't ring true. After checking with the bridge, the captain decided to pay a visit to Holodeck Two. When she arrived, she wasn't surprised to find it empty. Most of the crew was working hard on repairs. "Computer, list programs accessed by Seven of Nine in the last two days, the most recent last."
"Human Interaction - beta - three -Torres/Paris Baby Shower, Human Interaction - gamma - one - Private Quarters Open House, Human Interaction - delta - one - First Dinner Date, Music Lessons - Kappa six. "
As she listened to the computer catalog the titles, Kathryn was both pleased and annoyed - pleased that her young protégé was exploring her human side, but annoyed this was the reason that she had been neglecting her duties.
"Computer list holo-crewmembers appearing in each scenario."
"Human Interaction - beta three -Torres/Paris Baby Shower - Captain Kathryn Janeway, Commander Chakotay, Lt Commander Tuvok, Lieutenant P... "
" Computer, the next list." She had heard enough.
"Human Interaction - Private Quarters, delta - one - Commander Chakotay, Neelix." "Human Interaction - First Dinner Date - Commander Chakotay." "Music Lessons - Kappa six - no holo-crewmembers appearing.
Here was one program that made her the most curious. "How long was the 'First Dinner Date' program run?"
"First Dinner Date ran for 9 hours 4 minutes 28 seconds.
"Was the holo-character Commander Chakotay present that entire time?"
"Negative, holo-character Commander Chakotay self-terminated after 2 hours 47 minutes 6 seconds.
"Activate program at the holo-character's termination point."
"Unable to comply. Encrypted access only. Level 10 authorization needed to override.
The captain sighed in frustration. "Level 10 authorization Janeway One Kappa Chi Two."
"Level 10 authorization accepted. Program activated.
The holodeck instantly become crew quarters. Janeway quickly surveyed the room while a selection by Chopin played in the background. The room was neat and sparsely decorated, and obviously what Seven might consider proper living arrangements. She saw a small, framed holo-picture of Annika and her parents.
As she moved to get a closer look at the picture, she noticed that she was clothed in a red cocktail dress. The mirror showed a garment the clung to her curves. It wasn't the kind of dress that she would have chosen for a dinner date with Chakotay, but she admitted that on Seven it would be hard for any man to resist.
Another surprise in the room was the dreamcatcher hung over the bed. Definitely something that Chakotay would chosen. Feelings of jealousy spiked through her.
"Come on, Kathryn, you have no reason to be jealous," she scolded herself. "Even the holo-character Chakotay isn't your exclusive property."
As she finished her short tour of Seven's holo-quarters, she spotted two cooling cups of tea sitting on the counter near the replicator. It was apparent that they never finished the tea.
"Computer, activate holo-character, Chakotay." Kathryn had to find out what happened.
"Seven, I told you..." he stopped mid-sentence, a wide-eyed look of shock on his face.
Then he smiled a full dimpled smile and held his hands out toward her, "Kathryn, I didn't expect to see you here. What happened to Seven? She was still here when I left."
Kathryn hadn't activated this hologram for quite some time. She finally stopped when she realized that she would become involved with him as she had Michael O'Sullivan from Fair Haven. However, unlike Michael, this holo-image represented a real person that she had unresolved feelings for, and try as she might she couldn't allow herself the indulgence of even pretending.
Her heart pounded as he took her hands and kissed the back of each one in turn.
"That dress looks even better on you than it did on Seven." His voice was low and husky. The hologram guided her to the couch and said, "Come let's sit down for a few minutes and you can tell me why you're here."
The whole thing seemed surreal; Kathryn Janeway sitting on the couch of Seven's holographic quarters with a hologram of Chakotay, his arm draped around her shoulder. Ironic that all she wanted was to be in this position in her own room with the real Chakotay, but she had never allowed it.
"Kathryn, what is it? Won't you tell me?"
"I came to see what has been occupying so much of Seven's time the past week." Even to Kathryn, her voice sounded accusatory.
"I was invited by Seven to an informal open house." He squeezed her shoulder as he went on. "It was good that you were able to quickly arrange these quarters for her since she doesn't need to regenerate now that all of her Borg implants have been removed."
When he saw the dubious look she gave him, "I know that this was only practice for her, but I think I may have hurt her feelings."
"What happened?" Kathryn wanted to know despite the nagging of her captain's conscience at invading Seven's privacy.
He brushed his free hand through his hair, showing agitation. The gesture was just one of the many gestures that mirrored his real life counterpart. Then he sighed, "It seems that Seven has developed a crush on him."
Kathryn always found it a bit disconcerting for the hologram to speak of Chakotay as if he were a different person. Of course, that was another reason why she felt more open with the hologram. This hologram and several others had been involved in the holo-insurrection first programmed by Tuvok and turned ugly under Seska's evil hand. Janeway had agreed with Chakotay and Tuvok that the only way to save these holograms from this kind of tampering was to give them semi-autonomy. The holo-versions of herself, Chakotay, and Tuvok were programmed by their flesh and blood equivalents and encrypted with a Level 10 Authorization. The characters could be used but not changed without the proper approval. Even she couldn't change even one of this individual's algorithms without clearance from Chakotay himself.
Mistaking her silence for disapproval, he said, "I tried to spare her as much as possible when I stopped her from kissing me. I think that is what he would have done."
Blanching at the lack of conviction in his words, she said, "You don't sound all that sure."
"Kathryn, I won't lie to you. I'm not sure how he would respond anymore." He shook his head. "He originally programmed me to respond to only one person. And I have never wanted to stray from my programming, but he is flesh and blood and Seven is beautiful."
With a sigh she leaned against his shoulder and pondered what he had just said. It felt so good to be open like this. "I wish I could be this open and relaxed with him," she told him in a moment of honest insight.
As he pulled her closer into his embrace, he whispered against her hair, "I don't think it's too late. He has loved you for a long time. And I have no reason to think he has stopped."
Suddenly she pulled out of his arms, stood up, and began to pace. What if it was too late? What if Seven decided to try her blonde charms on the real Chakotay? He might have given up on waiting for his captain to come to her senses and take the ex-borg up on her offer.
When she turned back in his direction, the hologram stood in her way and put his hands on her shoulders. He gently but effectively prevented her from continuing her course around the room. "Listen to me, Kathryn. I know you well enough to know that you are beating yourself up again about him. You think that he deserves the happiness that you feel you can't give him." For a moment his hands tightened their grip, then he tenderly moved them down her arms and took her hands again. "I don't mean to be harsh, but he will never be truly happy without you. And with Seven? Just think about it, Kathryn. That's just all wrong."
Kathryn didn't protest when he pulled her into a gentle hug. Her eyes burned with unshed tears. He made it sound so easy. Even the regulation that she so often quoted to herself in times of weakness like this didn't help her now. Part of her even knew that those regulations didn't fit out here in the delta quadrant. She had wasted so much time.
Pulling back slightly, she looked up. She struggled to speak around the lump in her throat. "What if I'm too late?"
"You'll go on and be happy for him." He cupped her right cheek with his hand. He caressed her lips with his thumb as he persisted, "However, I'm sure that he hasn't."
He chuckled at the disbelief on her face. "He always reprograms me when he's made a change in his life. The last time he reprogrammed me was after Voyager left Quarran space. I think he'd hoped that you'd come talk to me about it if you felt you couldn't talk to him."
This time a tear ran down her face, and she wrapped her arms tightly around his waist. "I don't deserve him."
"You know he would argue with you about that." Reaching down to lift her chin, he looked straight into her eyes as he said, "But, Kathryn, don't waste any more time. Let him get past your damned parameters - as he calls them."
Kathryn's smile was crooked as she stood on her tiptoes and kissed the hologram's cheek. Ending the program she walked out of the holodeck with her shoulders back and her face steeled with resolve.
"Kim to Seven of Nine."
The sound from the commlink startled Seven. The events of the past hour had made her tense. "Go ahead, Ensign Kim."
"Great job grabbing that detonator with our transporter!"
A pleased blush stained her cheeks. "Thank you."
After a short pause, Kim asked, "Would you like to join me for dinner? I hear that Neelix has something special planned in honor of our escape from the warheads."
"I must finish my duty shift and I have one thing to attend before I am free." Seven was eager to meet Harry for dinner but knew she needed to do something first. "I will arrive in the Mess Hall at 1930 hours.
"I'll be there. Kim out."
For the rest of the shift, Seven impatiently checked the chronometer often and even verified that it was correct with the computer. The seemingly long period gave her time to experience the eager excitement at meeting Harry for dinner and the frightening dread at the task she had set for herself.
Finally when someone came to relieve her, she asked the computer the whereabouts of Captain Janeway.
"Captain Janeway is in her Ready Room."
As she walked to the turbo-lift, Seven tapped her commbadge, "Seven of Nine to Captain Janeway."
"What is it, Seven?"
"I require a few minutes of your time."
There was a hint of indulgence in her voice when the captain said, "Very well, Seven. Come to the Ready Room."
Seven had faced her mentor before after making errors, but this time it seemed more personal, more difficult for her to admit. But she knew she must. She stood tall as she rang for admittance.
"Captain Janeway," Seven began formally, standing as stiffly at attention as the most eager-to-please ensign could ever hope to do. "I have a confession to make."
When Kathryn saw the earnest expression of guilt on Seven's face, she was sure she knew what Seven's confession would be. "Go on."
"I gave you false information as to the reason I was on Holodeck Two. It was not simulations of a new gravimetric array which caused me to neglect my duties." Seven couldn't look the captain in the eye so she stared at a spot just above Janeway's right shoulder.
"You lied to me?"
"Affirma..," she began to give the stiff Borg response, but said instead, "Yes, I did. And I apologize for my lapse."
Although she was still upset by Seven's falsehood, Janeway knew that she was closer at that moment to full humanity than she had ever been. The fact that the captain knew what the young woman had done before she came to set things right shouldn't keep her from forgiving her. "Seven, look at me." Her tone was stern. With Seven's full attention, she continued more warmly, "Seven, you are human. There is a part of our natures that causees us to try to appear infallible in the eyes of others. I accept your apology but may I ask what you were covering up?"
Seven thought for a moment. She took a breath before she spoke. "I am gratified that you are so understanding. I allowed my personal desires to distract me from my duties. I ran several personal holo-programs and became too immersed in them." A question came to her and she decided that possibly Captain Janeway would be the person to ask. "Captain, may I ask you a personal question?"
"You may ask," she said a faint smile crossing her face, "although I may not answer."
"Why do you accept my emerging humanity, yet you will not allow youself and Commander Chakotay the same expression?" Seven realized that she had surprised her mentor and knew that she wouldn't answer, but she continued anyway, "I admire you. Commander Chakotay has many admirable qualities as well. One of my experiences on the holodeck helped me to see that perhaps it is not always easy for a person see what is nearest to them. I am not an expert on being human, but I can tell that you both are trying to deny what nearly everyone else onboard sees." Seven moved toward the captain's desk and held out her hand. "Thank you for your time. I have an engagement in the Mess Hall that I do not wish to be late for. So if you will excuse me, I will take my leave."
Dumbfounded, Kathryn nodded and Seven left the room.
She plopped down on her couch in a very uncaptain-like manner. Did Seven just accuse her of being less than human in relationship to Chakotay? This day was a very stressful one. First the warheads with Seven neglecting her duties, then the discovery of her programs on the holodeck. Holo-Chakotay's prompting that she should drop the regulations and "parameters" tore at her heart. She admitted to herself she loved Chakotay. "I love Chakotay," she spoke out loud, waited, and then burst into laughter. What had she expected? She hadn't died; the ship hadn't run into a stray asteroid; no admiral had suddenly arrived to throw her into the brig. The only thing that had happened was that her heart had been freed.
She joyfully slapped her commbadge. "Janeway to Chakotay, please join me in my ready room."
"Aye, Captain." He was surprised by the sudden call.
As the door swooshed closed behind him, he asked, "What can I do for you, Captain?"
Kathryn stared at him for several moments, smiling but not saying a word.
Chakotay figured that nothing was wrong, but he began to feel uneasy as the time passed and she still didn't speak. "Kathryn?"
Still smiling, she patted the sofa beside her.
He pulled on his ear, but obeyed. As he sat down, he didn't know what to expect but it certainly wasn't what happened next. The woman he most admired in the world, the woman he still loved, the woman who told him years ago that there were lines she couldn't cross, reached out and put her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly on the lips. He only hesitated for a nanosecond before he lost himself in the kiss.
Slowly Kathryn pulled away, going back often to kiss him again before she put her head on his shoulder, and stated, "I love you, Chakotay!" She began to chuckle again. "I love you! I love you! I love you!"
Chakotay felt like he had been thrown into an alternate universe. "Kathryn, what happened to you?"
The look of concern on his face sobered her. She reached out and touched the worry lines on his face. "I visited him on the holodeck today."
Chakotay knew immediately who she meant by 'him.' "You haven't visited him in ages. Why today?" He took her hand in his.
"I can't tell you why but I am so glad I did. He told me that it wasn't too late for us. That you still love me." She squeezed his hand tightly. "Was he right? Do you still love me, Chakotay?"
"He was right," he whispered, "I love you, Kathryn Janeway."
She smiled broadly before she kissed him to try to make up for lost time.