Title: Au Naturel Author: Jemima Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Series: VOY Part: 1/1 Rating: PG Codes: C&7 Summary: That missing second date. Belated C/7 episode addition to "Natural Law". Disclaimer: When Gene Roddenberry comes to me and complains, I'll stop. Date: October 2001
The EMH let out a holographic gasp of excitement. Tom, on duty in sickbay, heard.
"What's up, Doc?"
"It's confidential, medic."
"Is it about fixing Seven?" the perceptive helmsman asked, closing a drawer of medical tricorders and hyposprays.
"No comment." The EMH continued his inspection of the surgical bay.
"You can tell me," Tom said, leaving his inventory assignment altogether to further pester the hologram. "I know all about her cortical node problems." It had taken some effort to worm it out of the old man, but eventually Tom had convinced Chakotay that he needed to know, in order to track just such developments as this.
When it came to gossip, the Doctor rarely disappointed. "She refused to have the sequence of surgeries I proposed, but now I believe I've come up with a quicker, all-in-one approach. Perhaps she'll agree to this one," he concluded hopefully.
"Could you put off telling her, Doc?"
"Why?" His holographic eyes narrowed in a convincing simulacrum of suspicion.
"You have an excellent track record of successes using reverse psychology on the Borg." As Tom did using flattery on the Doctor.
"Indeed," the EMH agreed, proudly recalling the time he'd gotten his patient to accept visitors by claiming she wasn't up for a game of kadis-kot with Neelix. "I'll keep that in mind, Lieutenant."
Tom briefed Chakotay on the development over dinner, and the Commander agreed with his assessment. The more difficult the surgeries appeared to Seven, the more likely she was to consider them. What seemed too easy could also seem dehumanizing - like throwing a switch somewhere among her Borg implants, to remake herself in someone else's image.
"At least the Borg don't have to eat leola stir-fry," Tom said, interrupting his companion's train of thought.
Chakotay stared at the soy substitute blankly for a moment. Then he had an idea. "Tom," he said, in a friendly tone.
"Chakotay," Tom replied, immediately suspicious.
"The Ledosians complained that their tricorders were left behind when you beamed their expedition to the Delta Flyer."
"I didn't know the Ledosians had tricorders," Tom replied.
"Something like them," Chakotay said, waving his fork dismissively. "Their final transmission demanded that we return and reopen the Ventu preserve so they could retrieve their contaminating technology - for the Ventu's sake, of course."
"Of course. What did the Captain tell them?"
"Something about the Prime Directive and not interfering in local Ledosian matters."
Tom nodded and swallowed a chunk of leola.
"Tom," Chakotay said again.
"I want them."
"Why?" the helmsman asked, forgetting to disavow all knowledge of the missing instruments.
"I could work up a holodeck program out of the Ledosians' readings," Tom offered.
"I had something else in mind."
Neelix bubbled over with his usual enthusiasm at Chakotay's idea. With Tom's contribution of the Ledosian's purloined data, Neelix's stock of local foodstuffs from Ledos, and Chakotay's replicator rations, the next day's lunch was quickly transformed into an authentic Ventu meal.
It was Neelix's idea to stack up the tables and chairs in a corner of the mess hall and serve lunch around a simulated campfire in the center of the room. He also publicized his "Ventu Lunch au Naturel" that morning on "Breakfast with Neelix", so the lunchtime crowd was unusually large.
Seven didn't follow "Breakfast with Neelix"; arriving at the transformed mess hall, she was surprised to see the crowd on the floor passing around Ventu dishes and asking the Commander about his experiences on Ledos. When Chakotay had invited her to a meal, she had expected a table and chairs - or at least cutlery. She was about to turn around and leave when B'Elanna greeted her.
"Tom claims this is an authentic Ventu meal," she explained, maneuvering Seven towards the patch of carpet where she'd left her husband and Chakotay. "Neelix and Chakotay put it together."
"Where did they get the information?"
"They won't say," B'Elanna said pointedly, staring down at Tom.
"Commander," Seven added by way of greeting. He replied with the Ventu sign for hello, at which she raised an eyebrow.
With a grunt or two, B'Elanna lowered herself gingerly to the floor. Seven conformed to this new human aberration and helped herself to the food being passed around. With the food came questions about the Ventu from Tom and B'Elanna, as well as crewmen she hardly knew. She was surprised how much she could tell about their primitive culture after such a short stay on the planet.
The lunch crowd eventually thinned and Tom and B'Elanna excused themselves, leaving Chakotay alone with Seven for an awkward moment before Neelix reappeared from the kitchen and broke the tension.
"Seven, what did *you* think about shutting the Ventu back under the energy barrier?" Neelix still had his doubts about the Prime Directive.
"I remain uncertain." What was the intrinsic worth of the Ventu's primitive way of life?
"I thought you believed in technological advances," the Talaxian said. The implied 'because you're Borg' hung in the air unspoken.
Seven glanced momentarily at her own Borg-enhanced hand, wrapped around a clay bowl, and thought of the natives decorating themselves with shuttle debris. "Perhaps one can have too much of a good thing."
Neelix nodded. "Well, I'll let you two get back to your date," he said, and quickly disappeared into the kitchen.
Seven raised an eyebrow. "Did you arrange this for my benefit?"
"Everyone benefitted," Chakotay replied.
Seven was familiar with evasion; she had learned to take everything short of outright denial as an admission of guilt. She moved on to her next question: "Where did you get the information?" There was too much detail, including fruits and vegetable dishes she did not recall from their time on Ledos.
"Let's just say you don't have to worry about the Ledosian expedition's scans of the deflector."
Seven was mentally following this chain of evasion back to Tom Paris when Chakotay changed the subject.
"The hardest decision to make," he said, "is whether to go back to nature. If we hadn't crashed inside the barrier, we would never have considered removing it. But once it was down, it was much harder to put back up again - the temptation to accept a *fait accompli* is strong."
"Entropy is a law of nature."
"Entropy is a tendency. You can resist it."
A hail from Tuvok reminded Chakotay of a meeting he was late to, and he stood to leave. Seven made the sign for "thank you".
Chakotay signed "you're welcome" as he departed. Seven remained sitting on the floor, lost in thought, for some time afterwards.
The end, but there's a sequel: Every Word I Said.