By Susan McCrackin

Legal Disclaimer: Star Trek and Voyager belong to Paramount. No infringement intended.

Copyright 2001 by Susan S. McCrackin. May not be reprinted without permission of the author.

Synopsis: An away mission almost turns into a disaster for The Doctor, Seven and Tom Paris.

Tom Paris walked quickly towards the shuttle bay, his hands tinglingwith the excitement he always felt as he prepared for an away mission. Hehad woken early, made a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich, kissed hisbarely awake wife, grabbed a hot cup of coffee and bolted for the door.He wanted a few minutes alone on the Delta Flyer. When he entered the Flyer,he was disappointed to see her sitting in the navigator's seat, workingthe console.

"Good morning, Seven." He slid into the pilot's seat. "You'reup early this morning."

"I wanted to check the sensor calibration before we began."

He nodded at her, understanding her need to check the systems beforebeginning. He started his own checks, working silently beside her. He hadalmost finished going through his checklist when he heard the cheerful voicebehind him.

"Good morning."

He turned to give him a welcoming smile. "Good morning, Doctor."

"And how is everyone this morning?"

"Doing fine, Doc, and ready to take off."

When she did not say anything, the Doctor leaned over Seven's shoulder,looking at the screen in front of her. "I take it you are doing finethis morning, Seven."

She continued to work. "I am well."

"Very good." He stood and gave Tom a big smile. "ShallI take my seat?"

"Anytime you're ready."

The Doctor moved back to an empty seat and watched while Tom preparedthe Flyer for takeoff. His eyes moved slightly to settle on the stiff,straight back of Seven of Nine. He knew she was totally focused on her tasks,almost oblivious to anything else around her. He repressed a chuckle andshook his head. With any luck, he would be able to talk her into a sideexcursion just for fun.

They were on their way to explore an M-class planet they had been studyingvia long range sensors for the last month. He had suggested they consideran away mission. Tom had agreed immediately, anxious for a chance to takeout the Flyer. Seven had been slower to agree, but he knew she had beeninterested. He had finally approached the Captain and had received permissionfor the away mission. The Doctor pulled out his holo-imager and fingeredthe adjustments. Then, holding it up, he said, "Hey, you two, lookat me."

When they turned to look at him, he snapped their images. Seven and Tomgave each other a look, then returned to their work. He grinned and pattedhis holo imager. This was going to be an enjoyable experience.


The Doctor sat in the pilot's seat, humming. He was almost sorry theywere returning to Voyager. It had been a great three-day trip to the planet,and they had spent as much time exploring the rich resources of the planet.He had managed to talk Seven into a picnic beside a river, not even mindingthat Mr. Paris had accompanied them. It had been a fun afternoon. It hadbeen nice to see Seven relax and almost enjoy herself.

And, he had a lot of holo-images of the day. He would enjoy those almostas much as he did the picnic itself. Maybe Seven would agree to anotherday with him. He would see about recreating the landscape in the holodeck.That would probably entice her.

Suddenly something caught his eye and he moved to bring up the diagnosticscreen. Before he could do so, Seven came rushing into the cabin, grabbingfor the sensor controls.

"What is it?"

She did not look at him. Slapping her combadge, she spoke, "Mr.Paris, report to the helm immediately." Her hands continued to workas she explained. "My neural transceiver was activated."

"Borg?" The Doctor's eyes started to search the inky blacknessin front of them. "I haven't seen any indication of Borg." Heturned as he heard Tom Paris stumble into the cabin.

"What's going on?"

The Doctor replied, his voice tense, "Seven's neural transceiverwas activated."

"The Borg?" Tom moved quickly to take his seat. "Great!"Checking his controls, he glanced over at Seven. "Anything?"

She shook her head, her forehead furrowed. "No, not yet. I'm onlyreading some kind of strange anomaly approximately thirty degrees off ourport side and approximately five hundred kilometers. But that...."

Her voice trailed off as the Flyer shook lightly. Involuntarily, allthree looked up. Seven was the first to look at the console, shaking herhead as she did. "I do not read anything on sensors." Glancingout of the window, she started.

Their eyes locked on the ship that slowly started to appear in the topof window. Before any of them could speak, a beam erupted from an openingin the bottom of the ship and the cabin of the Flyer exploded in a brilliantwhite light.

"Oh, man. Am I ever glad to see you!"

The Doctor looked around, trying to get his bearings. It took him a secondto realize he was still on the Delta Flyer. It took him another second torealize that it was Tom Paris who had spoken to him.

"What happened?"

"We were... attacked... or something by that ship. Whateverit hit us with knocked me out and you off-line. It took me a while to evenfind your mobile emitter. Then, I had to work awhile to get you back online. I was starting to worry that your program had been damaged."

The Doctor assessed himself. "I seem to be okay. We'll have to runa diagnosis to make certain though." He looked around. "Where'sSeven?"

Tom gave him a strange look. "I don't know."


"I think she was taken."


"She's not on the Flyer. I can only assume that she was taken bythe people on that ship."

The Doctor looked at him incredulously. "Have you contacted Voyager?"

Tom shook his head. "The communication system is down. As a matterof fact, most systems are down. We're pretty much sitting dead in the water."

"We have to do something!"

"I know. Believe me, I know." Tom gripped his shoulder. "Thefirst thing I did was get you on line. Now, you and I are going to get theFlyer functioning. Then...."

"Then we find Seven."

Tom gave him a long look. "First, we get the Flyer functioning.Then, we'll decide what we do next."

The two men stared at each other. The Doctor finally nodded his head.Without another word, Tom turned towards the helm, and the Doctor followedhim.


"Try it now."

The Doctor reached for the impulse control and activated it. "That'sgood, Mr. Paris. We have impulse back."

Tom Paris pulled himself out of small area under the cabin floor. "Anythingon the communication system?"

"No." The Doctor gave him a grim look. "The main communicationsystem is a total loss. Whatever hit us, melted most of the connections.It will have to be totally replaced."

"Wonderful." Tom slid into his seat and spent a few minutestesting the impulse engines. "I think we can limp back to Voyager."

The Doctor gave him a sidelong glance. "What about Seven?"

Tom gave himself a minute before answering, "We don't have a communicationsystem. We barely have impulse engines. Our weapons have been damaged."He lifted his head to look at the Doctor. "At best, we do everythingpossible to get back to Voyager so Captain Janeway can mount a search forSeven."

"The longer it takes, the less our chances of finding her."

"I realize that, Doctor," Tom talked slowly and kept his voicecalm, "but our chances of finding Seven on our own are almost nil.The best thing we can do for Seven is to put our energy into getting backto Voyager."

The Doctor searched for the words to argue with Tom Paris, but even heknew there would not be any. As much as he did not like it, Tom was right.Slowly, he turned his head and went back to work.

Tom's eyes searched the empty space in front of him, hoping to see Voyager.They were almost flying blind. They had managed to bring the sensors on-line,only to have them fail hours later. The impulse engines were functioning,but barely. He was navigating by the stars, moving slowly back towards Voyager.It had been four days since they had been attacked. Four days since Sevenhad been taken.

He glanced over at the Doctor. The Doctor had grown more and more despondent.At this rate, it would take at least another four days to reach Voyagerand they both knew that each minute took Seven of Nine farther away fromthem. Their chances of finding her diminished with each of those minutes.He searched for something comforting he could say, then gave up.

Suddenly, he felt the Doctor jolt. Looking at him, he saw the look ofamazement on the Doctor's face. He followed the Doctor's line of vision,his own eyes widening in surprise. Quickly, his hands moved across the controls,stopping the Flyer. They sat quiet, staring out the window.

"Is that it?"

The Doctor slowly nodded his head. "I think so."

Tom squinted his eyes, peering out at the sight in front of them. "Yeah,I think you're right." They looked at each other, then back to thewindow. There, in front of them, sat the ship. After a moment, he added,"It looks dead."

"I was just thinking the same thing."

They gave each other another look. Tom saw the determination in the Doctor'seyes. He knew there would be no arguing with him. Shrugging, he said, "Okay.I guess we'll go take a look."

The Doctor entered first, scanning as he did. He watched the diagnosticscarefully. Finally, satisfied, he activated the small communication devicehe held in his free hand. "It's safe, Mr. Paris."

The access hatch hissed open and Tom slid through. Even as his feet madecontact with the deck, his eyes were searching. "Have you picked upany lifesigns?"

"No. Not yet, although I'm picking up some strange signature readingsabout three decks below."

Tom hesitated, then asked, "Any sign of Seven?"

The Doctor studied the tricorder, then slowly shook his head. "No."

Tom gripped the phaser tighter as he moved forward. "You keep scanning.I'll lead off." He looked around, taking in his surroundings. "Ithink the best thing for us to do is find the bridge and see if we can figureout a way to send a distress signal to Voyager." He could feel theDoctor's reaction behind him. "Then, we'll look for Seven." Hewaited for a response, but only heard the beeping of the tricorder behindhim. He took the Doctor's silence as agreement and started to lead themout of the bay.

They made their way carefully through the corridors of the ship. Tomrealized the ship gave him the same feeling as the time that he had goneinto a deserted house on land owned by a cousin's family. It was possibleto feel the life that had been in the house despite the emptiness. Therehad been signs in the house of the people who had been there, but thosevery signs, now thick with dust and stillness, spoke loudly that life wasgone. They had called it the ghost house. He decided the name fit the shiphe was on right now. Life had been gone from this ship for a very long time.

The Doctor scanned carefully, searching for any lifesigns. Searchingfor the sign of one particular life. He adjusted the scans, trying to compensatefor the shielding in the walls. She had to be here. And she had to be alive.He could not accept that she would not be. He thought back to the picnicon the planet, mere days ago. He remembered how they had sat and watchedthe sun setting, almost seeming to lower itself into the water as it droppedfrom the sky. He had been watching Seven as she had watched the sunset,seeing how the tightness in her body slowly drained away. He watched hershoulders drop slightly and the muscles in her face relax, giving her facea softness he usually only saw when she slept or regenerated. Suddenly,he knew she could feel his eyes on her. He expected her to tighten her bodyin reaction as she usually did when she knew someone was looking at her.It was an automatic reaction on her part -- a protectiveness she was noteven aware of. But he knew. He knew everything about her. He knew everylittle motion and what it meant. He looked for the shoulders to straightenand pull back, for the muscles in her face to tighten and the blank, unimpassionedlook to take over the softness of her features, hiding her feelings andher thoughts. But, today, she had simply smiled softly at him. As the sundipped behind her, he had seen something in her eyes. When he had leanedforward to speak to her, Tom had stood behind them, announcing it was timeto return to the Flyer. Her face had changed immediately. The moment gone,the Doctor had stood, feeling her body tighten and her defenses surroundher again. He had forced himself to smile at her, and they had returnedto the ship.


He looked up quickly, aware that Tom was talking to him. "What?"

"I said help me with these doors."

"Oh. Of course." He quickly closed his tricorder and reachedfor one of the handles of the door. Tom grabbed the other one and they pulled,trying to open the huge doors. Finally, the doors slowly gave way with agrinding, grating sound.

"Whew. These doors have been shut for a long time." Tom leanedhis head forward and carefully looked into the room beyond the doors. Aftera moment, he walked through the doors and entered the bridge. The Doctorquickly followed.

The bridge was still and silent. Tom moved forward, making his way towardthe center of the bridge, his eyes locked on the command chair. He couldmake out the shape of a head over the top of the chair. Phaser ready, heslowly approached. Then, he pulled back the phaser and looked at the Doctorwho had moved forward, scanning the figure with his tricorder.

"He's been dead at least a year."

"Any idea what he died from?"

"No." The Doctor shook his head. "I would need to havehim back in the sickbay and do a full autopsy on him.

Tom gave him a grim nod. "Let's hope you get the chance." Movingpast the Doctor, he sat at the helm, studying the controls. Finally, hereached out and worked the console, his hands moving tentatively at first,then more surely. While he worked, the Doctor continued to study the bodysitting in the command chair, his surprise growing.

"Well, I think I have us headed back to Voyager." Tom stood."I also sent a message to them." He gave the console a doubtfullook. "Or at least I hope I did." He looked up to see the expressionon the Doctor's face. "What is it?" Crossing to him, he asked,"What are you finding?"

The Doctor reached to pick up the hand of the corpse in the chair andTom caught his breath. The Doctor shook his head as he spoke, "Theyhad cybernetic implants."

They were making their way to the third level, less concerned now aboutrunning into crewmembers of the ill-fated ship. They found more bodies asthey moved through the levels. The Doctor scanned each one, trying to adjustthe tricorders to pick up the signatures of the cybernetic implants.

"It appears as if the implants continued to function after the bodiesdied." He gave Tom a grim look. "This ship would have been a verystrange place to be for a few months after whatever happened here happened."

"Zombies?" Tom stepped over another body in the corridor.

"Not exactly." The Doctor stepped over the body behind Tombefore adding, "But it probably looked like it." He stopped toscan the body, then studied the results. "The implants are very sophisticated."

"As sophisticated as the Borg?"

"Very different from the Borg. They are much more manufactured.I also don't see that these beings were infected like the Borg. These peopleshow signs of multiple surgeries, as if the implants were replaced manytimes."

"Ugh." Tom turned, his stomach starting to reel. He walkedaway and took a few deep breaths. "Let's hope Voyager finds us soon.I'm ready to get off of this ship."

The Doctor nodded his head absentmindedly, concentrating on the tricorder.Suddenly, he stopped and turned, holding the tricorder up. He moved it slightlyfrom side to side, then quickly started moving back in the direction theyhad come.

"Hey, Doc. Wait." Tom practically jumped over the body in thefloor as he rushed to catch up with the Doctor. "What did you find?"

"I'm not certain." Tom heard the tenor of excitement in theDoctor's voice. "But I think I might have caught a lifesign."


"I'm not certain." The Doctor stopped at a cross-corridor andscanned again. "It was a little mixed up." He looked up at Tom."But maybe." He turned in a circle, waving the tricorder, searchingfor the best possible signal. Finally, he started moving again. "Here!This way." As Tom started to follow, the Doctor broke into a trot,then started running. "It's getting stronger! Here!" He skiddedto a stop in front of another set of huge doors. "Help me!"

They each grabbed a handle, pulling in opposite directions, strugglingto get the doors to open. As soon as they did, they heard the voice, high-pitchedand unnatural.


They stopped. Tom looked over at the Doctor and whispered, "Canyou make out what she... it is saying?" The Doctor shook his head,still trying to make sense of the scans. Tom asked, "Is it Seven?"

The Doctor shook his head again, lowering the tricorder. Keeping hisvoice low, he said, "I can't tell. The readings are still too strange."He started moving forward, but was stopped when Tom grabbed his arm. "Doctor,you'd better ready your phaser."

"Oh." The Doctor gave him a surprised look. "Right."He pulled the phaser from his belt and set it to stun. Then, he and Tommoved forward, keeping to the shadows in the room, using the objects ascover, hoping to surprise whomever or whatever was in the room.

"Hurryhurrymusthurryhavetogethomehurrynodelay." The voice vacillatedbetween a low murmur and an almost screaming pitch.

Both Tom and the Doctor could hear the panic in the voice. The Doctorput his hand on Tom's back, stopping him. "Let me go first. I'm a hologram.Whatever it is won't be able to hurt me."

Tom hesitated, then nodded his head and allowed the Doctor to take thelead. Holding the phaser out in front of him, the Doctor moved slowly throughthe room, craning his head, trying to see the person in the room. Lookingin the direction of the sound, he was finally able to make out movement,then a figure. Squinting, he tried to make out the person.

The figure had its back to him. The clothes were dark and loose. Themovements of the person were jerky and fast, almost spasmodic. He motionedto Tom to hold his position and moved closer, concentrating on the words,trying to figure out what was being said.


The Doctor stepped out and walked slowly toward the figure, phaser ready.As he got closer, the figure turned, the eyes wild, sweat pouring down theface.


The Doctor stood, shocked, the phaser lowered to his side. Finally, hewhispered, "Seven?" Almost without thinking, he stepped forward,reaching out his hand to touch her shoulder. The figure screamed.


He watched as she jerked away, her body shaking. As suddenly as she hadturned to face him, she turned back to her work, muttering incessantly.He backed up, uncertain of what to do.

"Doc, is that really Seven?"

He nodded his head. "Yes. It is."

"What's wrong with her?"

"I don't know." He pulled the tricorder from his belt and scannedher. "I still can't get a reading on her." He made a few adjustmentsand frowned. "When I adjust the scans based on the cybernetic implantson the bodies, I can pick her up." He studied the results some more,then moved forward, holding the tricorder out as he approached her. Sheimmediately put her hands to her head and jerked away from him.


He quickly pulled the tricorder away and deactivated it.

"What's going on with her, Doc?"

The Doctor put his finger against his lips, indicating to Tom that heshould remain quiet. He had watched Seven react when Tom spoke, her headjerking. He saw that the shaking in her body had increased and that thepitch of her voice has risen. He moved back, encouraging Tom to move withhim. When they were a distance away, he whispered, "She reacts badlyto sounds and sensations."

"Do you have any idea of what happened to her?"

He shook his head, his eyes locked on Seven as she continued to work.He studied her, seeing how jerky her movements were and how her eyes dartedback and forth. It was almost as if she could not move fast enough. He concentratedon her mutterings, trying to make out what she was saying. After a few minutes,he lifted the tricorder and held it toward her. Finally, he pulled it back,keyed in a few commands and waited. He looked up at Tom as Seven's voiceplayed back.

"Too many sensations. Do not stop this one. Must hurry. Get home.Fix the engines. Get propulsion. Get the ship home. Too many sensations.Do not stop this one. Must get home. Must get home. Hurry. No delay. Hurry."

The Doctor looked at Seven, his face grim.

Tom watched the Doctor as he studied Seven. The Doctor had spent the betterpart of the last hour staying close to her, observing her carefully. Tompicked up the bottle from the supply pack he had gotten from the Flyer andtook a sip. The Doctor had wanted food and water close by, hoping Sevenwould stop for nourishment, but she had not. He knew the Doctor was worried.Seven would not let them get close to her and she would not stop her work.Even he could see she was weak from lack of food, but it was almost as ifshe could not stop.

She was drenched in sweat, her hair plastered to her head. Her body wasshaking uncontrollably. She worked frantically, moving around the room,working on the different machines in the room, muttering while she did.Her eyes were wide and wild. Any sound or sensation would cause her to screamand her body to spasm, but she would immediately return to work.

Tom looked up as the Doctor walked back to him. "Well?"

The Doctor shook his head. "I don't know, Tom. It's almost as ifshe is on overload." He sat down beside the Lieutenant, continuingto watch Seven. "It's like she can't control herself."

"Or like something is controlling her."

The Doctor jerked his head around towards Tom. After a few minutes, henodded his head. "Yes." His voice was soft. "Like somethingis controlling her." His eyes moved back towards Seven. "Mr. Paris.When you accessed the helm, did you find a database of any kind?"


"Were you able to read it?"

Tom stood. "I'm with you, Doc. And, I'm on my way." He startedwalking for the door. "I'll let you know what I find."

The Doctor stood and moved towards Seven. Once near her, he squattednext to her and spoke, his voice no more than a whisper. "Seven, it'sme, the Doctor. I know you are in there, Seven. You can control this. Lookat me, Seven. I'll help you. Look at me."

Her head was shaking so badly he could not tell if she tried to turnher head toward him. Suddenly, he caught the movement of her eyes as theymoved slowly in his direction. For a brief moment, he saw the look in them.It was the same look he had seen in her eyes as she had watched the sunseton the planet. Then, her head jerked, forcing her eyes back to the work.


Her hands started to work again and her muttering increased. The Doctorsighed and started to talk to her again, keeping his voice soft and low.

Tom worked the console, making his way slowly through the alien programs.Using the tricorder, he gradually decoded the language, gaining a familiaritywith the programs. Finally, he stopped and stretched his shoulders. He reachedfor the hand held communicator, then stopped. The Doctor had told him notto try to communicate with him again. The sounds coming through the communicatorhad caused Seven to go into a seizure. He tightened his lips, stood andstretched again, realizing how sore his muscles were from the long hourshe had spent trying to make sense of the database.

Sighing, he checked the tricorder again, reading the results of the latesttranslation. More navigation records. He shook his head. This ship had traveledover most of the Delta Quadrant. The people on this ship had obviously beenexplorers. The lack of weaponry indicated a peaceful people, but the restof the ship did not indicate a people of high scientific ability -- exceptfor the implants. It appeared as if their entire scientific prowess hadbeen directed at developing the implants. He shook his head. It almost appearedas if they emulated the Borg.

The beeping of the tricorder drew his attention, and he checked the scansagain. Suddenly, he started, then moved quickly to the console, keying incommands and watching the results.

"Oh, man." He keyed in additional commands and studied thedata that appeared on the tricorder. Sitting down at the console, he continuedto work -- keying in commands, reading the new data, moving from programto program, adding to his understanding of the ship, its crew and what hadhappened. Suddenly, the tricorder screen blipped and the display screenscrambled, straightened and finally distorted before blinking out. He resetthe commands and watched as the display straightened, appeared normal fora few seconds, then distorted and blinked out again. Resetting the commandsagain did nothing. He slapped the tricorder against his hand and staredat the blank screen.

"Great." Turning, he started running.

The Doctor thought he was starting to reach Seven. He had been talking toher nonstop, keeping his voice at a whisper. Her movements had startedto slow and her eyes had almost focused on him a number of times. Her bodycontinued to shake almost uncontrollably. He could see the exhaustion inher eyes, but she kept working. The Doctor could see that she could notstop herself. She was losing her manual dexterity, but her body continuedto function. In the four hours they had been on the ship, she had not stoppedfor food or drink. He strongly suspected she had not had either since shehad been on the ship. If it were not for her Borg implants, she would probablybe dead.

Once again, he worked through the options he had thought of, finallydeciding he would try to sedate her. He had been reluctant to do so withoutknowing what was going on with her, but he was starting to think it washis best option. If she went much longer, he was afraid the extreme exertionwould kill her. Reluctantly, he stood. It was time to go for the hypospray.

As he walked toward the doors, Tom came running in. The Doctor immediatelyput his finger to his lips, seeing from the look in Tom's eyes he had informationto share and afraid that his speaking would send Seven into another seizure.Tom stopped, nodded and backed up, waiting for the Doctor to join him inthe corridor.

"What did you find?"

"It's a virus." Tom was panting, trying to catch his breath.


Tom took a deep breath. "It's like a computer virus." He leanedover, putting his hands on his knees and gave himself a moment to recover.Standing, he sucked in a deep breath of air and started talking, "Itseems the Durillians...."


"Yes. This species. Anyway," he sucked in more air, "theDurillians apparently wrote a program designed to increase the efficiencyof their cybernetic implants. They were trying to write a program that wouldallow their implants to work with a minimum of energy input and a maximumof work output. It looks like they accidentally created a program that over-wrotethe existing programs and then ran amok." He glanced into the largeroom, hearing the voice that continued to mutter, but unable to see Sevenas she frantically worked. "They couldn't shut it down. Based on whatI could determine, the program caused the Durillians to literally work themselvesto death. They programmed this ship to try to get back to the home worldto warn them against using the efficiency program."

The Doctor shut his eyes as he heard Tom talk. An efficiency program.An efficiency program that would literally drain its energy source dry,destroying itself in the long run. He stood quietly, thinking through everythingthey had learned, trying to find a solution to the problem. After a fewmoments, he asked Tom, "Do you think you could write a program to counteractthe virus?"

Tom snorted. "I could try. But the Durillians couldn't do it. Idon't know that I would fare much better. Plus, I'd be working in an alienprogram, in an alien language. My chances of success are pretty slim."

The Doctor nodded, still thinking. "Can the computer system on theFlyer help?"

"Maybe, but I don't think we want to connect the Flyer's computersystem to this one." When the Doctor gave him a questioning look, Tomheld up his tricorder. "The virus infected my tricorder when I connectedit. Burned it out."

The Doctor exhaled sharply and looked into the room where he knew Sevencontinued to work. "Do your best, Mr. Paris."

"I will, Doc." He turned, then stopped. "Is there anythingyou can do for her?"

"I don't know. I was going to try to sedate her. Now, I don't thinkthat would do any good." He looked at Tom. "I don't think puttingher body to sleep would stop her working. The implants in her body wouldkeep it working. I think her mind is still functioning and maintaining amodest amount of control over her actions. If I sedate her that controlwould be lost. She might do even more damage to herself." He put hishands on his hips and continued talking, almost to himself. "I thinkI managed to get through to her a little while ago. Maybe the best thingI can do is keep talking to her. Maybe I can help Seven find a way to stopthis thing."

"I'll go get started. I'll also see if I can find another way toget a message to Voyager. B'Elanna would be a lot better at writing a programto counteract this virus than me."

The Doctor nodded and Tom took off at a run. He could see from the lookon the Doctor's face that they did not have a lot of time.

Seven worked. The Doctor watched as she made repairs and programmed theship's computers in a language he could not begin to decipher. He watchedas she rushed frantically from machine to machine, making adjustments andcorrections to machines that he did not recognize. He listened as she muttered.He took every step she took, all the time whispering to her. Her eyes wouldmove toward him, sometimes lingering on his face, trying to focus on hiseyes until they would be pulled away and back to the task before her. Shewas listening. He knew she was listening. When he would pause, she wouldgroan. As soon as he started talking again, she would stop groaning andstart her muttering. Her words and phrases were the same, but they werenot her words. They were her commands, the orders under which she worked.He watched and knew they were killing her.

Suddenly, he heard a rumbling deep inside the bowels of the ship. Then,he felt the vibrations begin and knew that Seven had repaired the engines.He stopped talking and looked around. He gave Seven an apologetic look andactivated his communication devise. She cringed when it beeped. He startedtalking, knowing what the sound of his voice would do to her.

"Mr. Paris." She screamed. He winced, but continued to talk."Can you tell what is happening?"

Her hands came up to her head, the words now rushing from her mouth,so fast he could not make out any of the syllables. He concentrated on Tom'sresponse.

"It looks like the main engines are online. I'd say Seven is preparingto set the controls for maximum speed." The Doctor heard the hesitationin Tom's voice. "We need to get off of this ship and quickly, Doc."

"Mr. Paris, do you have any idea of how much time we have?"The Doctor listened impatiently to the silence that followed his question.Finally, he heard the reply.

"I'd say we have about twenty minutes max until the engines achievepeak efficiency."

"Have you come up with anything?"

"I think I have something, but...." His voice trailed off.

"But what, Mr. Paris?"

"But I don't know how to... download it into Seven."

The Doctor looked at the figure in front of him, hands pressed tightlyto her head, her body shaking. How would they get the program downloadedinto her cybernetic systems? He could not shoot it into her with a hypospray.The obvious answer would be for her to inject a tricorder with her assimilationtubules, but that would require her both hearing the command to do it andfollowing those orders.

He sighed and said, "Just get it here, Mr. Paris."

"On my way, Doc."

The Doctor grasped the tricorder in his hand. Looking at Seven, he said,"Mr. Paris, I suggest you go get into the Flyer and prepare to undockimmediately."


The Doctor turned to look at him. "You should go ahead and get intothe Flyer. If I can get this downloaded into Seven, we'll follow."

"And if you can't?"

"You shouldn't be trapped on this ship, Mr. Paris."

Tom stepped closer to him. "Doc. Listen, can't we just grab herand force her onto the Flyer?"

"With her strength? I don't think so. She would fight us. Even withboth of us against her, I don't think we would be able to subdue her."He glanced back at Seven. "Go ahead and get everything ready for us."He looked down at the tricorder. "How long for the programming to work?"

"It should be immediate. I tried it on the main computer program,and it seemed to fix it the efficiency programming without any problems.I even downloaded the programs from the main computer into a number of tricordersand didn't have one burn out."

"Good." He nodded his head toward the door. "Go ahead,Mr. Paris." He smiled. "We'll be right behind you."

Tom stood uncertain for a moment, then glanced over at Seven. He openedhis mouth to argue when the ship suddenly lurched, throwing them off-balance.

"You don't have much time, Mr. Paris. Go."

Tom shook his head and grimaced, but started heading for the door. "I'llhave the door open and ready for you, Doc. The two of you hurry."

The Doctor did not respond, but moved toward Seven. Keeping his voiceat a whisper, he started to talk.

"Seven. Listen to me. I need for you to inject this tricorder. Thereis programming in here that will help you. Please, Seven, listen to me anddo what I say." He saw the eyes move toward him slightly, then jerkaway. "Seven, if you do not do this, we'll be stuck on this ship."The eyes jerked toward him. "Yes, Seven, I said we. I will not leaveyou on this ship. If you do not leave, I do not leave. I will never desertyou. If you stay here, so do I." He saw the pained expression in hereyes. "If you cannot do this for yourself, then do it for me. If youcannot save yourself, save me." He held the tricorder out to her. "Saveus both, Seven. Inject this tricorder. The programming in here will saveus both. Do it, Seven, please."

He stood still, watching her eyes. He saw her fighting for control. Heheld his ground and did not move. He maintained eye contact and tried togive her strength. Finally, he was aware that her arm was moving in fierce,jerking motions toward him. He tightened his grip on the tricorder and willedher to connect with it. He felt it when she did.

He saw it immediately. As her eyes rolled back in her head, her kneesbuckled under her and he reached to grab her, pulling her tightly to him,holding her up. "Good, Seven. Good. But, we have to move, Seven. Helpme. Walk with me. We have to get off of this ship." They started tomove, him holding Seven and she stumbling beside him, her head drooping.He could feel her fighting to stay on her feet, could feel the strengthsliding from her body. "Come on, Seven. Stay on your feet." Hisvoice was strong, commanding. "Don't give up, Seven. Fight. We haveto get to the Flyer. Stay with me. You must comply, Seven. You must comply."

He kept her moving, forcing her, commanding her. The ship rumbled andshook beneath their feet. He knew they were running out of time. He lookedup to see the docking port and was relieved to see Tom standing inside theaccess point, grateful when he reached to grab Seven and help pull her intothe Flyer. He realized he was barely aware when the Flyer separated fromthe ship. It was only when the Flyer was buffeted by the turbulence of theship jumping to its maximum speed and he fought to protect her that he realizedthat Seven had passed out in his arms.

"How's she doing?"

The Doctor looked up to see that Tom had joined him. He shrugged. "She'simproving. She's very dehydrated, suffering from lack of nourishment andquite physically exhausted." He gave the scans another worried look."I'm going to have to bring her out of her regeneration and get herto eat and drink."

"I still can't believe you managed to get her to download that programjust by talking to her. What in the world did you say to her?"

The Doctor smiled at him and shook her head, but did not answer the question.Instead, he said, "You saved her, Mr. Paris. Your work on that programsaved her life."

Tom blushed slightly, his eyes focused on the figure lying on the biobed.He reached out and checked the controls on the portable regeneration unitattached to the biobed. After a moment, he said, "Well, I might havefigured out a way to fix the efficiency program, but I obviously did notfigure out the communication system." He gave the Doctor an apologeticgrin. "I don't think I got a message to Voyager."

The Doctor raised his eyebrows, then gave Tom a weak smile. "So,we keep limping toward home and hope they decide to come meet us?"

"That's about the best we can hope for."

"Well, Mr. Paris, at least we are able to limp home." He reacheddown to place his hand on Seven's arm. "It could be worse." Aftera moment, he asked, "Did you find out any more about the Durillians?"

"Actually, I did. They appeared to be an ancient race, pretty peacefuland committed to deep space exploration. The implants were designed to assisttheir bodies during their long journeys -- slowing down the aging process,enhancing strength, mental acuity, and so on. The efficiency program wassomething they argued about for a long time before they implemented it.It seems there was great concern that the program would cause problems."He gave a short ironic laugh. "Their concern was justified."

The Doctor nodded in agreement, still concentrating on his scans.

Tom watched for a moment, then said, "I hope Seven was able to fixthings so the ship could get back home and warn the Durillians."

"Were you able to discover how Seven was recognized and taken?"

"Not really. I couldn't get deep enough into the efficiency programto figure out exactly how it worked, but I suspect it had some adaptiveprogramming written into it."

The Doctor's head jerked up. "Adaptive programming?"

Tom laughed lightly. "Yep, Doctor. Just like you, it somehow managedto adapt to what was happening around it." He reached to grasp theDoctor by the shoulder. "And sometimes, that's a good thing."

The Doctor gave him an appreciative smile. Checking the scans again,he said, "Well, I think it's time to terminate her regeneration andget her to eat and drink something."

Tom stood by while the Doctor adjusted the controls. As soon as the regenerationunit was deactivated, her eyes opened. She looked around, trying to focuson the faces around her, then struggled to pull herself up.

"Take it easy, Seven." The Doctor reached to support her, asdid Tom. The Doctor could feel her trembling beneath his touch. He was surprisedwhen she shivered.

"I am cold."

Tom moved quickly to grab a blanket. Together they wrapped the blanketaround her. Seven fumbled with the blanket, making a feeble attempt to pullthe blanket to her. The Doctor reached forward, taking the blanket in hishands and wrapped her tightly in it, holding it closed as he continued tosupport her. After a few moments, her shivering slowed. Without lookingup, she asked, "What happened?"

"Well, you were taken from the Flyer." The Doctor spoke ina comforting tone. "We're not exactly certain how it happened, butyou had a program downloaded into your implants. Do you remember anythingabout your time on the ship?"

She sat quietly for a moment, then raised her eyes to the Doctor's. Hecould see she could not remember anything. He started to speak to her, tosay something comforting, when he saw a flash of memory. She looked at him,her look growing more amazed. When her forehead furrowed, he suddenly knewwhat she remembered. Quickly, he said, "Mr. Paris, do you think youcould get Seven something to eat? I think we need to get some nourishmentinto her and let her regenerate some more before we try to talk about whathappened."

Tom had seen the look that passed between the two of them. Backing up,he said, "Of course. Be right back."

As Tom left, Seven looked at him. She tried to speak, her voice breakingas she did, "Doctor...."

"No, Seven. Not now. Let's get some food and water in you first."

She sat quietly, her head drooping. In a couple of minutes, Tom returnedwith a tray of food and the Doctor helped her eat her meal while Tom helpedsupport her on the biobed. Finally, she pushed the tray away. "I cannoteat any more right now."

"Very good, Seven." The Doctor handed Tom the tray. "You'llprobably need to eat again in a few hours. But, right now, I think you shouldregenerate."

She nodded numbly, but did not speak.

"I am going to head back to the helm." Tom put his hand onher shoulder. "I'm glad you're back with us, Seven." Her eyesmoved toward him, but she did not speak. He gave the Doctor a look and left.

The Doctor reached to help Seven lie down, but she reached up and caughthis arm, her eyes locking on his face. He saw her expression and slowlylowered himself to sit next to her on the biobed. "You really shouldregenerate."

"I will. In a minute." She pulled in a deep breath and continuedto hold to his arm. After a while, she said, "You would not leave me."

"No, Seven, I would not."

"You would have stayed with me."

"Yes, I would have."

She did not look at him. "How did you know that would reach me?"

"I can't say that I did know. I just knew I would not leave you."He stayed quiet a moment. "I also did not think you would do anythingto hurt me. Something told me that you would not be able to do anythingfor yourself. I was just hoping you would protect your collective."He gave her a weak smile.

She gave a short laugh. "The lingering benefits of Borg programming."

He shrugged, but did not speak.

She sighed, then continued speaking, "I remember thinking aboutthe sunset on the planet."

He turned to her with a question in his eyes and waited for her to continue.

"It was the most peaceful memory I had. I could feel myself losingmy sanity, and I was holding onto that memory. I believe that that momenton the planet was the greatest calm I have ever felt." She looked athim, and he saw the look in her eyes again. It was that look that she hadhad on the planet. It was the same look she had briefly given him on theship.

"What, Seven?"

But she could not tell him. She could not find the words. She did notknow what the words were. She did not understand what she was feeling.

But he did. Smiling gently at her, he reached to take her wrist withhis free hand and pulled his arm away from her grasp. Then, he lifted hisarm, inviting her. She started at his movement, the look in her eyes changingto a slight fear. He waited. Finally, the look relaxed, and she slowly movedher body to allow him to wrap his arm around her shoulder and pull her tohim. She lowered her head to his shoulder. After a second, he rested hischeek against the top of her head.

He felt her body relax and rest totally against his. He felt her shiveringslow and finally stop. He listened to the rhythm of her breathing as itdeepened and knew the second she dropped into sleep. He closed his eyes,concentrating on feeling everything about this moment there was to feel.He knew then, this would be the most peaceful memory he would ever have.


© 2001 by Susan McCrackin. All Rights Reserved. Reproduced on the OfficialRobert Picardo Home Page with permission of the author.

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