by E. L. Zimmerman


Back aboard Voyager, Captain Janeway did as the EMH requested as they had departed the planet's surface; she met him in Cargo Bay Two. As the doors parted and the captain entered, she realized - perhaps for the first time - that she had never been one hundred percent comfortable with Seven's Borg technology existing on her ship. It was something she had just ... accepted. Tuvok was the first to point out - not long after they had co-opted Seven as a member of their own crew - that the errant Borg circuitry could somehow find a means with which to accomplish that which it was designed for: to assimilate. His security concern was that the Borg alcove and the related circuitry might inevitably attempt to unite on a molecular level - perhaps even in ways they couldn't fathom - with Voyager's complex bioneural gelpacks. 'Once infected,' he cautioned, 'perhaps the Voyager would answer the call of the Borg.' Chakotay and B'Elanna made their opinions known, as well. Thusly, Janeway had considered all of the arguments for days. Ultimately, she determined that allowing Seven of Nine to create an environment that would bridge her two unique worlds was what Starfleet Command would term 'an acceptable risk.'

In the briefing meeting where she announced her conclusion, Captain Janeway couldn't help but playfully tease her Vulcan security officer:

'Besides, if you're nice to Seven, maybe she'll share the secrets behind some of that Borg technology with you. Think what a wonderfully juicy report you could make to Starfleet Intelligence!' She narrowed her eyes at him, smiling, and added, hiding her smile, 'In forty years.'

Captain Janeway glanced around the bay and realized that Seven had efficiently stayed within her prescribed parameters. Very little, if any, of the Borg technology interfaced with the ship's systems, except for the rudimentary supply of power. She found Seven lying on a medical stasis table, one that the doctor had obviously had erected here for the purposes of his research. He stood near Seven, leaning over her, scanning near her forehead with a blinking medical tricorder. When he heard the bay doors in motion, he noticed the captain's approach. Quickly, he closed the scanner and greeted her accordingly.

Then, the doctor told her what he knew.

Next, he told her what he understood.

Finally, he explained his theory.

'I'm sorry,' she replied, leaning closer, acting as if she had misinterpreted what she had just heard, 'but could you repeat that? Did you say ... Seven is receiving a Borg signal?'

Politely dismissive, the doctor shook his head. 'Not exactly, captain,' he corrected. 'I won't pretend to grasp all that could be going on inside her head, deep within the remaining embedded cybernetic mechanisms. We neither have the time nor the inclination to run those calculation. As a matter of fact, that's where I was running amiss! I was trying to get to the bottom of the Borg technology. Instead, upon closer examination, and with some healthy speculation on the part of the ship's computer, I realized that it wasn't so much the fire as it was the individual flames!'

'In English, doctor,' Janeway pleaded, looking tired. 'Please. No analogies. No euphemisms. I have bad news for the Trakill. I have a planet that appears to falling apart from beneath us. And I have a gaggle of Neelixs' whose future I have to worry about. I just want to know, simply, what is happening to Seven?'

Succinctly, the doctor opened his medical tricorder again, activating it. He held it out for her to study, knowing full well that a captain would identify what even any Starfleet cadet could.

'A signal,' he stated, triumphantly.

Janeway glimpsed at the tricorder's printout. 'Through subspace?'

Vigorously, he nodded. 'The Borg transponder, located deep within her cerebral cortex, is receiving a complex data stream, but it isn't on a traditional Borg frequency. While I was trying to understand what made the transponder tick, it came as a complete surprise, when I looked, to find that the transponder was already ticking!'

Scowling, she asked, 'What did I say about analogies? Did I not include or imply metaphors?'

Deflated somewhat, he frowned. 'Apologies, captain.'

She waved him off. 'No, doctor,' she said. 'Don't apologize. It's me. I'm tired. Just ... please ... don't do it again. I'm begging you.'

'Understood,' he replied.

Carefully, she studied the signal playing out on the tricorder's cortical activity monitor. The pattern clearly wasn't brain waves. Simply put, it was communication. It couldn't be anything else.

'What does it say?' she asked.

'That's the dilemma,' the doctor admitted. 'The message is encrypted.'

'Encrypted?' Janeway glanced away from the medical device. 'The One mentioned that the files he accessed in the drones of his Borg Army were encrypted.' With a pleading expression, she turned to the doctor. 'Can you determine if the message is related?'

'I have the computer running diagnostic simulations on the data stream, as we speak.'

'Is it traceable?' she asked, always the scientist, always the explorer. 'Can we determine the source?'

'Again,' the doctor said, 'the computer is considering that as part of the diagnostics.'

'But,' she began, 'you said that this message wasn't coming across any of the known Borg frequencies?'

'Precisely why I didn't initially detect it,' the doctor confessed. 'When I began more than a cursory examination of the transponder, that's when I found it in active mode.'

A message, she mused, in a bottle.

What could it say?

But ... was it directed at the entire Collective, or was it meant for Seven only?

'Doctor,' Janeway theorized aloud, 'the Borg have displayed an incredible propensity to adapt. Quite frankly, it's the key to their ability to rebound after every failed incursion with us. Do you suppose ... could they have just assimilated another frequency for their use?'

Shrugging, the doctor closed the medical tricorder again.

'That is a variable I have the computer considering in the diagnostics.' With no other alternative, he shrugged. 'I suppose, with the Borg, anything is possible, captain. In this scenario, however, if I may be so bold as to offer a guess, I believe it highly unlikely.'

'And that's because?' she asked.

'That's because of the encryption,' he answered.

She raised an eyebrow at him. In over the five years she had known him, she couldn't imagine a time that she was more pleased with his performance. Granted, his bedside manner still occasionally made for some interesting mess hall chatter, but the doctor had truly made strides in his abilities to logically deduce problems outside the spectrum of medicine.

'Doctor,' she admired, 'I have to admit ... I'm impressed. While the rest of the crew have been hammering away at the Besarian power problems, you've made some astounding progress here.'

If a hologram could, he would've blushed. He looked away, glancing down at his holographic feet, smiling. 'Why, thank you, captain.'

Flatly, Janeway ordered, 'Wake her.'

If a hologram could, the EMH would've flushed from a combination of shock and anger.


'Doctor,' she began, 'unless I miss my guess, the planet Besaria may not have much longer to survive. In less than one hour, Tuvok and I will be addressing the Besarian people in the Grand Hall, letting them know what we believe the threat is that's facing their planet. Now, if this encoded message that Seven is receiving is somehow linked to these events, I need to know it.'

'But,' the doctor protested, 'I told you! The message is encrypted!'

Risking his feelings of protection, she pointed straight at the former drone. 'Perhaps that signal is encrypted for us,' Janeway countered, 'but perhaps Seven knows exactly what it says.'

Softening, the doctor stood firm. Eventually, he mumbled, 'I hadn't thought of that.'

'Now, I'm asking you to wake her.'

'I could protest on medical grounds,' the doctor counseled. 'Seven's never been put through this traumatic series of examinations, at least not this thoroughly -'

'Your objection is so noted,' Janeway replied. She stared at him icily. 'Wake her, doctor. Now.'

He sighed heavily, a gesture unnecessary physiologically for his well-being but rather displaying an adopted, effective human gesture. Turning to his instruments, he reached for a hypospray. Shifting around some of the tubes, he found the stimulant he was looking for, and he affixed it to the hypo. Then, the doctor calmly pressed the inducer to the porcelain skin of Seven's neckline. She stirred instantly, her head shaking briefly. Then, fluttering her eyelids against the light, Seven gradually awoke.

'Captain,' she said.

'Relax,' Janeway offered, leaning over the patient. 'That's an order.'


Immediately, Seven glanced up at the EMH. 'Doctor, have you been successful in isolating the encrypted files?' she asked, her voice perfect, as if she had been awake the entire examination.

Grimly, he shook his head. He returned the hypospray to the bedside table. 'Unfortunately, no,' the doctor answered disappointedly. 'You're proving to be an even greater challenge than imagined. I have, however, located an active area of your cerebral cortex -'

'What do you hear?' Janeway interrupted.

Turning from the doctor, Seven inquisitively pried, 'Captain?'

The captain repeated, 'What do you hear?'

Innocently, she replied, 'The doctor was just explaining -'

'Not the doctor,' the captain stated. She reached up and tapped her forefinger to her own right temple. 'Up here. In your head. Seven, what do you hear? In your cortical implants. Don't think about the question as it might only distract you from the intended message.'

Apparently confused, Seven exchanged glances with her captain and the doctor. 'I do not understand.'

Janeway stepped closer to the table and leaned down. 'The doctor was successful in locating your Borg transponder,' she explained. 'He's determined that you are receiving a message, a complex data stream, from somewhere in subspace.'

Seven remained silent.

'The doctor has the ship's computer working on translating the message,' the captain continued, 'but I want to ask you personally ... what do you hear?'

Quickly, Seven's eyes darted around her field of vision. It was clear to them that she was trying to make some sense of the whole affair.

'Captain,' she finally answered, 'I hear nothing.'

'It's encrypted, Seven,' Janeway elucidated, 'but it's not on traditional Borg frequencies.'

At that, Seven raised an eyebrow. 'Curious.'

'Would the Borg adopt a new frequency ... perhaps one that we're not aware of ... for defensive purposes?'

Again, Seven's eyes moved around as she considered the options. 'While not impossible, that would be ... unlikely,' she concluded. 'Borg frequencies are embedded into the Central Communications Regulator, which serves as the primary component to the Collective's transmitter.' She paused as she ran a few variables through her mind. 'To adopt a new frequency, the Borg would be required to adapt millions of drones simultaneously.' Undoubtedly finished with her analysis, she stared directly at Captain Janeway. 'While the flexibility to adapt, even at that magnitude, is certainly not out of the realm of Borg capability, such a transition would be deemed ... impractical.'

'So,' Janeway tried conclusively, 'you're not hearing anything?'

Seven shook her head. 'I'm sorry, captain. While I do sense activity in my individual transponder as I have in the past, I am hearing nothing.'

Showing concern for his patient, the doctor interrupted, 'The signal must be precisely coded to her subconscious. Or ... perhaps it's coded to specific command drones. At this juncture, any guess is just that: a guess. Given the fact that we've, in effect, isolated Seven from the Collective, the message may have absolutely no effect whatsoever on her well-being. That said, captain, and based on the complexity of the transmitted encryption, I believe that there is no means in which Seven would be consciously aware of the message's content.'

So ... that was that.

Smiling at her Borg crewmember, Janeway offered, 'Get some rest.'

'Captain,' Seven tried, 'how are things on Besaria?'

Janeway sighed heavily.

'We'll know as soon as I get back,' she said and briskly left.

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