Stardate 213201.2 (Sun 4 Aug 2374): Voyager finds the last thing they’d expect in the middle of the Delta Quadrant—a Federation starship thought destroyed decades before. Meanwhile, Harry Kim and Seven of Nine begin to bond.
U.S.S. Challenger NCC-2032
Patrolling the Gorn Border
27 August 2310 0751 hrs
It was August 27, 2310, by the Terran calendar. Not that it had very much meaning along the Gorn/Federation border, hundreds of light-years from Earth, but Lieutenant Dan Phillips liked to keep time by that antiquated, anachronistic system.
He walked down the corridors of the Starship Challenger, his shift in the science lab having recently ended. He noticed a familiar face a few meters ahead. "Sir!" he called. "Captain Stern!"
Jason Stern turned, smiling after he recognized Phillips, the only son of his former commanding officer aboard the now-decommissioned Starship Merrimac. "Good morning, Dan," he said as Phillips jogged to catch up with him. "How are you?"
"I got a letter from my dad and T’Maril," Phillips said. "He sends his regards."
"How are they doing?" Stern asked as they made their way to the turbolift.
"Pretty good," Phillips said. "I’d like to thank you for taking me aboard, sir. I realize this is only a temporary assignment, but—"
"Dan," Stern interrupted, "you’re Jack Phillips’ son. Plus, you’re a good scientist. So you’re only here a few months; I’ll get some work out of you yet."
"I won’t disappoint you, sir," Phillips said.
"I’ll hold you to that," Stern said, stepping into the turbolift. Phillips stayed in the corridor. Suddenly, the ship shook, and the alert klaxon sounded.
"Damn," Stern muttered, stepping away from the lift’s doors. "Bridge," he said as the doors closed. The lift began moving, then stopped after a few moments. The doors opened onto the bridge, and he exited the lift.
"Captain on the bridge," a crewman announced from his post near the Master Situation Display at the rear of the room.
"Status," Stern said, taking his seat at the heart of the room.
"A Gorn ship just decloaked at bearing 167 mark 38," said Lieutenant Clark Bowman from his post at the Tactical station. "Shields holding at seventy percent."
"Decloaked?" Stern asked, shooting him a confused look. "Since when do the Gorn have cloaking technology?" He turned his attention to the communications officer on duty, then said, "Hailing frequencies."
"Open, sir," the communications officer said.
"Gorn vessel," Stern said, "this is Captain Jason Stern of the Federation Starship Challenger. Your firing upon us could be construed as an act of war. Please return to your side of the border peacefully, and we can hope to avoid that." The ship rocked again from another volley of torpedoes.
"Damage report," Stern said.
"We’ve lost power on decks three and four," Bowman said. "Long range communications are off-line. Sensors are down, and shields are at forty-five percent."
"Weapons?" Stern asked as another volley shook the ship.
"Phasers at fifty," Bowman began, "correction, forty-three percent. Torpedo bays not responding. Shields down to thirty percent."
"Propulsion?" Stern asked, desperately turning to his chief engineer, who had been on the bridge during the initial attack.
"I can give you warp two," she said.
"Do it," Stern ordered. "Set course for anywhere but here."
"Engaging warp drive," the helmsman said. Suddenly, there was a massive explosion. Bulkheads were ripped apart and thrown asunder.
The communications officer, gravely injured, looked at the carnage on the bridge. Most of the crew died in the initial explosion, including Captain Stern, whose body was mangled between the deck, his chair and a jagged chunk of metal from the bulkhead above him.
"This is the Federation Starship Challenger," the communications officer said. "We are in need of assistance. Does anyone read?" He keyed the message for repeat transmission, then collapsed to the deck, unconscious.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
4 August 2374 1110 hrs
An alarm began to beep at the Ops console on the bridge of the Starship Voyager. Ensign Harry Kim read his display, then blinked his eyes in growing shock and disbelief. He ran a diagnostic program on the communications systems. To be sure, he ran it again. And a third time. This was for real.
"Sir," he called, his voice unsteady, "you’re not going to believe this, but I’m detecting a Federation emergency beacon six million kilometers to port!"
"What?" Chakotay asked, surprised, from his seat at the heart of the bridge. "Are you sure?"
"I’ve already run three diagnostics," Kim replied. "There’s no malfunction."
"Mr. Paris," Chakotay said, "bring us within range."
"Changing course, aye," Paris acknowledged.
"Bridge to Janeway," Chakotay said.
"Janeway here," came the reply over the bridge speakers.
"Captain," Chakotay said, "request your presence on the bridge. We’re detecting what appears to be a Federation distress beacon."
"On my way," Janeway said, then cut the transmission. A moment later, she stepped onto the bridge from her ready room doors.
"Captain," Kim said, "I’m picking up a distress call. Very faint, audio only; heavy static and repeating."
"Let’s hear it," Janeway said.
"…Star…….ger. We are in need of assi……oes anyone read? …….is……ederatio…….arship Challen……..e are in need…"
"I’ve just lost the signal," Kim said. "We’ve entered visual range."
"On screen," Janeway ordered. The viewscreen flickered and was filled with the image of a heavily damaged Challenger-class vessel. Half of the ship was open to space.
Janeway turned to Kim. "Can you get any readings on her?" she asked.
"U.S.S. Challenger NCC-2032," Kim said. "I’ve got sporadic lifesign readings. Power is almost nonexistent. She’s in pretty bad shape. Whatever brought her here sure wasn’t gentle." He read the display on his screen, and did another double-take. "Captain, according to our databanks, the Challenger was reported destroyed in battle sixty-five years ago."
"What?" Paris blurted, turning in his chair to face Kim’s station. "How is that possible?"
"Chakotay," Janeway said, "organize a boarding party. It would seem likely they’ve traveled through time. Find out what happened, and what they’re doing in the here and now."
"Aye, captain," Chakotay said. "Tuvok, Kim, you’re with me."
U.S.S. Challenger NCC-2032
4 August 2374 1136 hrs
Chakotay, Tuvok and two security officers beamed into the wreckage of the Challenger‘s bridge. Debris was everywhere. They immediately began sifting through the shattered bulkheads, smashed control boards and burned husk that was once the nerve center of a powerful starship, looking for survivors both manually and with their tricorders.
"Commander!" Tuvok called to Chakotay. Tuvok uncovered a disheveled man in the tattered uniform of a Starfleet lieutenant. His face was bloody and he was obviously in pain, wincing as pieces of bulkheads were pulled off of him. "I am Lieutenant- Commander Tuvok," he said, "from the U.S.S. Voyager. We received your distress signal. Do you remember what happened to your vessel?"
"We," the lieutenant began, "we were in a firefight with a Gorn vessel. I don’t know what happened. There hasn’t been a problem with them in years…" He began to drift into unconsciousness.
"What is the last thing you remember?" Tuvok asked, trying to keep the younger man talking.
"We were going to warp," the lieutenant said. "They fired a volley of photons at us. There was a huge explosion, and then nothing. It’s been three hours, and nothing since."
Chakotay walked up behind Tuvok. "I’ll take over, Tuvok," he said. "See if you can find any other survivors." Tuvok stood, and Chakotay turned his attention to the lieutenant. "I’m Commander Chakotay, first officer of the Voyager."
"Lieutenant Clark Bowman, Security," he said. "I was at my station when the fighting started." He paused, confused. "Sir, where are we? Right after that last blast, my instruments couldn’t get a fix on any of the star systems in this area."
"It’s a long story, Bowman," Chakotay said, trying to avoid the subject of the Challenger‘s predicament for the moment. "I’ll be glad to tell you once the situation’s under control."
"Aye, sir," Bowman said.
Several decks down, Phillips found himself looking into the eyes of a young asian human in a Starfleet uniform with an odd-looking arrowhead on his chest. "Are you all right?" the man asked. "I’m Ensign Harry Kim, from the Starship Voyager. I’m here to help."
"I-I’m OK," Phillips said. "I think my arm’s broken."
"I’ll get you and the others beamed over to Voyager as soon as possible," Kim said.
"Chakotay to boarding party," a voice said. "Status report."
Kim tapped the odd-looking arrowhead. "Kim here," he said. "I’ve found four survivors on deck four, sir."
"Ayala here," came the voice of the security officer over Chakotay’s communicator. "I’ve found three survivors on deck eleven, commander."
"Ensign Kim," Chakotay said, "beam back to Voyager with the survivors, and inform the captain of our status."
"Aye, sir," Kim said. He tapped his insignia — apparently some kind of compact communicator, Phillips thought — again and said, "Kim to Voyager. Five to beam directly to sickbay."
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
4 August 2374 1613 hrs
Kim and the Doctor were treating a half-dozen survivors of the Challenger who had just been beamed aboard, with Paris acting as nurse. It had been several hours since he had beamed back aboard, and he was exhausted.
"Chakotay to sickbay," the disembodied voice called from the sickbay’s audio system. "That’s the last of the survivors."
"Acknowledged, commander," Paris said, ending the transmission.
"Ensign Kim," the Doctor said, noting Kim’s obvious fatigue, "your presence is no longer required. You’re dismissed."
"Thanks, Doctor," Kim said. Moments later, he was down the corridor and in a turbolift. He wanted to go to his quarters and go to bed, but he knew that wasn’t an option. There was still too much work to be done, and he knew the perfect person on board who could help speed the process.
Kim entered Cargo Bay Two, which had been converted more than a year earlier into Seven of Nine’s makeshift quarters. Along the far wall was a line of Borg regeneration alcoves, but Seven herself wasn’t in any of them. "Seven?" he called.
Seven of Nine stepped out from behind her alcove. "Yes, Ensign Kim?" she asked.
"Uh," Kim stammered, suddenly speechless, "I was just looking for you. I need an analysis of the Challenger‘s quantum signature…" He paused, his curiousity getting the better of him. "What were you doing back there?"
"My alcove was not operating at peak efficiency," she said, matter-of-factly. "I was facilitating repairs."
After a nervous pause, Kim managed to say, "Could you come with me to Science Lab One? I need that analysis before the briefing at ninteen-hundred hours."
"Of course, ensign," Seven said.
"Ensign," Seven said, "recalibrate the sensor array, positive gain .35 megaherz."
"Seven," Kim said, tapping the commands into the computer, "you can call me Harry. We work together all the time, and it’s a pretty small ship."
"Very well… Harry," Seven said.
He walked away from the control panel and sat at a nearby desk. "Well," he said, "we’ve got a little while to wait while the computer calculates the data." He paused. "So, what’s been going on lately?"
"I do not understand the nature of your question, Harry," Seven said.
"I’m just trying to make small talk, Seven," Kim replied.
"Small talk?" she asked, confused.
"Forget it," he said. "Never mind." The computer beeped, indicating the completion of its task.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
4 August 2374 1907 hrs
Janeway was seated at the head of the table in the briefing room. "Doctor," she began, addressing the image of the ship’s EMH on the viewscreen, "how are the Challenger survivors?"
"As you know, captain," he began, "fifty-three survivors were beamed aboard. Of those, twenty-two had minor injuries and have been released to quarters, nineteen had more serious injuries, eight are in serious but stable condition, and four are in critical condition and are currently on life support. Fortunately, there were two nurses and a medical resident among the survivors, so I am no longer the only source of medical care on the ship."
"That will definitely help in the future," Janeway said. Then, turning to Torres, "B’Elanna, how has the salvage effort progressed?"
"The Challenger is dead in space and not much better than scrap," Torres said. "We’ve been able to strip most of the functioning power generators, and we’re preparing to move on to the phaser banks, photon torpedoes, and other primary systems. On a bright note, we discovered the shuttle bay was virtually undamaged, and we’ve gained six new shuttlecraft." She paused. "Captain, we’re not getting anywhere just sitting here. I suggest we take the Challenger in tow and complete the salvage operation in transit. We can then cover ground back to the Alpha Quadrant and get what we need from her at the same time."
"Noted, B’Elanna," Janeway said, "but there may be a wormhole or some other anomaly here that could take us back home. I’m not willing to leave just yet." She turned to Chakotay. "Commander, how has the crew of the Challenger adjusted to the situation?"
"They were obviously distraught at first, captain," he said. "They realize we’re their only chance to get back home, though, and they’re willing to sign on under your command. The senior officer from the Challenger is a Lieutenant Commander Everett Dyson, from Communications." Tuvok glanced over at Chakotay in surprise at the mention of the name. "I see you’re familiar with Commander Dyson, Mr. Tuvok."
"I served with him aboard the Excelsior when he was a lieutenant," Tuvok said. "I had heard he died sixty-five years ago, but did not realize he was assigned to the Challenger."
"Perhaps you can have a reunion later, Tuvok," Janeway said. "For now, what’s our security status?"
"I have detected three ships approaching at low warp on our long- range sensors," Tuvok said. "They should arrive within ten hours."
"Keep me informed on those ships, Tuvok," Janeway said.
"Of course, captain," he said.
"Mr. Kim," Janeway said, "what have you learned on the Challenger‘s appearance in this point in space-time?"
"Well, captain," Kim said, "their quantum signature didn’t provide too many clues on how they got here. They obviously encountered some type of anomaly, but it was violent enough to cause as much damage as it did. Less than ten percent of the damage to the ship was from the Gorn attack." He paused. "If it was a wormhole, I doubt it was stable. Even if we could reopen it, it’s likely it would tear us apart before we came out the other end."
"I was hoping for some more encouraging news," Janeway said. "Seven, has Astrometrics been able to pick up any traces of whatever it was that brought the Challenger into the here and now?"
"I found a minor fluctuation in the space-time continuum," Seven began, "less than four kilometers aft of the Challenger‘s position. It dissipated rapidly. I believe it was the remnant of an unstable wormhole that was created by the Gorn torpedoes intersecting key points in the Challenger‘s partially-formed warp field. They caused an instability that opened the wormhole, and deposited the ship at this point in the timeline."
"Any possibility we could recreate that to bring us home?" Janeway asked.
"We could recreate a similar wormhole," Seven said, "however, the destination would be a random point in space-time. We could end up at Earth, but it could be Earth seven hundred years ago just as easily as one thousand years from now. There is no way to be certain."
"Very well," Janeway said. "You’re all dismissed."
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
5 August 2374 0457 hrs
Voyager held position a scant two kilometers from the remains of the Challenger. Shuttles flitted between the two ships, collecting debris, parts, and anything even remotely of value for recycling. Janeway was watching the dissection of the Challenger from the windows in her ready room when her door chime sounded.
"Enter," she said. Seven of Nine stepped through the doorway. "Good morning, Seven. What can I do for you?"
"I have noticed," Seven began, "a large proportion of the crew has made a point of avoiding me since I came aboard. I believed at the time it was from animosity toward the Borg, but I have noticed the crew of the Challenger, who are as yet unaware of the Borg, act similarly. Why is this?"
"Unfortunate as it is," Janeway sighed, "many humans are simply afraid of what they don’t understand or find unusual. To the crew of the Challenger, you fit into both of those categories." She paused. "I’ve found that once people have gotten to know you, they’re more comfortable in your presence. Give them time, Seven."
"Very well, captain," she said. There was a brief pause. Seven made no move to leave and Janeway broke the silence.
"Is there something else, Seven?" she asked.
"I have a problem of a… personal nature," Seven said.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Janeway asked.
"I am… attracted to a member of the crew," Seven began, "and am unsure if he would reciprocate the attraction. I am unsure of how to broach the situation."
"Perhaps the best way to handle it," Janeway said, "is to just tell Harry how you feel."
"Captain?" Seven asked. "How… how did you…"
"Seven," Janeway said, "I’m the captain of this ship. It’s my job to be aware of everything that goes on aboard her." She paused briefly. "Now, is there anything else I can help you with?"
"No, captain," Seven said. "That is all." She turned and exited the ready room, leaving Janeway to her thoughts. Within moments, the door chime sounded again.
"Enter," Janeway sighed. Lieutenant Commander Dyson entered the ready room.
"Good morning, captain," Dyson begain. "I’m Lieutenant Commander Everett Dyson, senior officer from the Challenger survivors."
"Good morning, commander," Janeway said. "I apologize that I wasn’t able to see you sooner. Please, take a seat. I trust my first officer has brought you up-to-date on the last sixty-three years?"
"Yes, captain," Dyson said, sitting down in one of the chairs in front of her desk. "Commander Chakotay will be coordinating with the department heads at his next briefing in order to find positions for my crew. We are already studying the tech manuals to bring ourselves up-to-date on the major advances of the last six decades."
"We’ll be putting the Challenger in tow," Janeway said, "in order to complete the salvage operation and resume our course for the Alpha Quadrant simultaneously. We also have three vessels on an intercept course, and they’re due shortly. I’d prefer to be underway by the time they get here."
"Understood, captain," Dyson said. "With your permission, I’d like to check on my crewmen now…"
"By all means, commander," Janeway said. "Dismissed."
Dyson turned and exited to the bridge, and Janeway followed. As they stepped onto the bridge, Chakotay rose from his seat, surrendering control of the ship to the captain. Kim was coordinating the salvage operation with Torres at the Ops station, while Tuvok was busy monitoring the approaching ships. Dyson exchanged glances with Tuvok, flashed a smile of recognition, and continued to the turbolift, exiting the bridge.
"Captain," Chakotay said, "the three vessels Tuvok detected earlier are within visual range. They should be here at any moment."
"Captain," Tuvok announced, "the vessels are arming their weapons."
"Go to yellow alert," Janeway ordered. "Recall all salvage teams and get a tractor beam on the Challenger." The alert klaxon sounded and the bridge lighting deepened.
"Tractor beam is established, captain," Kim said. "All salvage teams will be aboard shortly."
"Hailing frequencies," Janeway said.
"Hailing frequencies open," Kim said.
"This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager," she said. "We are undertaking a salvage and rescue operation. Stand down your weapons; we pose you no threat."
"Incoming response, captain," Kim said.
"Onscreen," Janeway said. The viewscreen changed to the image of an insectile being aboard one of the approaching ships.
"Your authority is not recognized here, Captain Kathryn Janeway," the being said. "You are in Fallistan space. Everything within these borders belongs to us. Leave now and we will not harm you."
"Perhaps I wasn’t clear before," Janeway said. "We are on a rescue and salvage mission of our sister ship. We have her in tow and are preparing to depart."
"I have told you, Captain Kathryn Janeway," the Fallistan said, "the ship in question is in our space, therefore it is ours. Leave it now and you will not be harmed."
Janeway turned to Kim, motioning him to cut the audio. "Audio’s off," Kim said.
"Perhaps we should do as he requests," Chakotay offered. "B’Elanna said the salvage was just about complete."
"No," Janeway said. "The computer cores are still aboard. We can’t risk their accessing that information." She collected her thoughts before continuing. "To leave that information in their hands would be a violation of the Prime Directive."
"Captain," Tuvok said, "I recommend transporting photon torpedoes into the cores and along the superstructure. The resulting explosions would completely destroy any sensitive technology."
"Not yet, Tuvok," Janeway said. "I want to try and talk this situation down, first." She paused, taking a breath. "Reopen communications, Mr. Kim."
"Audio reestablished," Kim said.
Janeway again addressed the Fallistan. "I cannot allow our sister ship to leave our possession. Where we come from, we have strict rules on the matter. I’m sorry, but I’m bound by those rules to keep this ship at all costs."
"You leave me no choice," the Fallistan said. "Prepare to be destroyed, Captain Kathryn Janeway."
Voyager had a tractor beam on the Challenger, which floated, lifeless and very nearly in several pieces, behind the ship. The three Fallistan ships opened fire on Voyager with everything they could throw at her.
Janeway and Chakotay, who had the misfortune of standing when the Fallistans began their attack, were knocked off-balance when the ship was rocked by the explosions against the shields. Kim, Tuvok, Torres and Paris gripped their consoles to steady themselves. The alert klaxon sounded again, and the red alert indicators came to life.
"Captain," Tuvok said, reading the displays at his fingertips, "judging by the strength of their weapons, their offensive technology is approximately one hundred fifty years behind ours. Minimal damage. Shields are holding at ninety-five percent."
"I’m not willing to destroy them over this," Janeway said.
"Captain," Chakotay interrupted, "if we just sit here, they’ll eventually start doing some major damage."
"I have no intention of just sitting here," Janeway sighed. "Tuvok, carry out your plan."
"Aye, captain," Tuvok acknowledged. He began inputting commands into his console as the ship was rocked by more explosions. On what was left of the bridge of the Challenger, a torpedo appeared where the captain’s chair once stood.
Voyager, taking regular volleys of weapons fire from the Fallistan ships every few seconds, released the tractor beam on the Challenger. As Voyager moved away from the remains of her sister ship, the Fallistans disengaged their attack and began to move in. Suddenly, the Challenger exploded in a ball of fire and debris, and one of the Fallistan ships was unfortunate enough to be caught in the blast and destroyed.
"The remaining ships are moving to intercept," Tuvok said.
Janeway turned to Paris as Chakotay took his seat, while Torres made her way to the turbolift and main engineering.
"There’s nothing larger than two meters left in the debris field," Kim reported.
"Get us out of here, Mr. Paris," Janeway ordered. "Maximum warp." She took her seat next to Chakotay.
"They’ve jumped to warp," Kim said. "They’re on a pursuit course."
"The lead ship has fired two torpedoes," Tuvok said.
"They can’t match our speed," Kim said. "They’re falling behind."
"Impact in ten seconds," Tuvok said.
"We’ve lost them," Kim said. "They’re breaking off pursuit."
"Impact in five seconds," Tuvok said.
"All hands," Janeway said, keying the intraship comm channel, "brace for impact!" The bridge crew grabbed their consoles and seat bottoms for support once more. The ship suddenly rocked from the impact of the torpedoes. "Mr. Paris, maintain course," Janeway said. "Tuvok, stand down red alert."
Captain’s log, Stardate 213206.9
It’s been more than twenty-four hours since our encounter with the Fallistan ships, and Voyager has been cruising at Warp seven. There has been no further sign of any hostile craft, and memorial services for those lost aboard the Challenger are scheduled for seventeen-hundred hours.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
6 August 2374 0245 hrs
Kim read "Slaver in a Vulcan Sky" from a PADD while reclining on his bed. The book, a new science-fiction novel, had been sent to him by his ex-girlfriend, Libby, in her last letter. He was so intently drawn into the story that he banged his head against the bulkhead when the door chimes sounded.
"Enter," he said between gritted teeth, rubbing the back of his head as he walked to the doorway. The doors slid open to reveal Seven standing in the corridor.
"Seven!" He exclaimed in surprise. "This is a bit unexpected." He looked around awkwardly for a moment, then realized she was still standing in the corridor. "Oh! Come in!"
"Good morning, Harry," she said. "I… apologize if I have come at an inappropriate time."
"Huh?" he asked. "Morning?"
"It is 0245, by the ship’s chronometer," Seven said.
"Really?" Kim asked. "I must have lost track of the time… What brings you here, Seven?"
"I spoke with Captain Janeway yesterday," she said. "I have been having problems of a personal nature."
"And now you come to me for advice, too?" Kim asked. "Seven, it’s almost three in the morning! Couldn’t you have asked me eight hours ago in Astrometrics?"
She was visibly startled by his outburst. She drew a sharp intake of breath and took half a step back from him. "Harry," she said, "I attempted to speak to you then, but could not articulate my problem at that time."
"I’m sorry, Seven," he said, sitting down in a nearby chair. "I guess I’m more tired than I’d thought. So, what’s your problem?"
"You are my problem, Harry," she said.
"Wh-what?" Kim asked, shocked. "Seven, I’ve done everything I can think of to accommodate your, ah, unusual tendencies! Why am I your problem?"
"I believe I chose an inappropriate term," she said. "Allow me to elaborate."
"By all means," he said.
"I am experiencing," she said, "sensations to which I am unaccustomed; for which I do not yet have words. My memories from the Collective are inadequate. The closest word I can think of to describe what I feel when you are around is… love."
There was a lingering silence, as he tried to process what he’d just heard. "Love?" he asked finally. "You’re in love with me?"
"I believe that is the most appropriate term," she said.
"This," he began, then paused for a moment, "this is a lot for me to take in right now, Seven. I don’t know what to say."
"Do you not reciprocate my attraction?" she asked.
"Oh, I definitely feel something for you too," he said, "but I don’t know…"
"Is it not customary for two beings who are attracted to one another to copulate," she asked, "much like lieutenants Paris and Torres?"
"Well, I suppose…" He began, but was cut off when Seven pinned him against the wall, kissing him. He broke off the kiss, pushing her away.
"Is this a rejection?" she asked. "Are you not attracted to me?"
"No!" he said. "No, I am definitely attracted to you, but that’s a little too fast for me." He paused, trying to find the words to best describe to her what he was feeling, but he couldn’t even describe it to himself. "Seven, I… I really need some time to think about all this. I’m on duty at oh-eight-hundred. I really need to get some sleep." He walked her back to the door.
"Very well, Harry," she said. "I will see you this evening."
"I’ll see you then, Seven," he said. She stepped into the corridor and the doors closed behind her. He walked back to his bed and collapsed onto the mattress.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
6 August 2374 0732 hrs
Paris, Torres and Kim were getting their breakfast from Neelix, who was trying his hardest to keep his finger on the emotional pulse of the ship. About two dozen other crewmembers were in the mess hall that morning, either showing the new additions to the crew around the ship, or attempting to sample Neelix’s latest attempt at culinary greatness.
"It seems Tuvok is catching up on some old times with Mr. Dyson over there," Neelix said, pointing across the mess hall in the direction of the table where the two officers in question were sharing breakfast.
"That’s one way to put it," Paris said.
"You look a bit tired, Mr. Kim," Neelix said, noticing an attempt to stifle a yawn. "Would you like a cup of coffee?"
"Sure, Neelix," Kim said, then yawned again. Neelix handed him a steaming cup of the black liquid, and the three took their seats at a nearby table and began eating.
"Long night?" Paris asked.
"You have no idea," Kim said.
"Spit it out, Starfleet," Torres said. "What happened?"
"Seven came to my quarters at a 2:45 this morning," Kim said.
"Harry," Paris said, grinning broadly, "I never thought you had it in you!"
"Tom, nothing happened," Kim said.
"I don’t buy it," Torres challenged. "You’ve got that look on your face.
"She said she’s in love with me," Kim sighed.
Paris threw a lopsided grin in Torres’ direction. "That sounds familiar."
"Not now, Tom," she said. "Did she say anything else?"
"Apparently," Kim said, "she’s tried to tell me before, but couldn’t articulate it."
"She’s never been in love before," Torres said.
"She said it was a sensation she only felt around me and that her experiences in the Collective didn’t prepare her for this."
"Way to go, Harry!" Paris exclaimed.
"bIjatlh ‘e’ yImev!" Torres snapped. "Be careful, Harry. She’s at a point where you could do some major psychological damage if you’re not."
"That makes me feel so much more confident," Kim muttered.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
6 August 2374 1615 hrs
Kim stepped into the Astrometrics Lab, where he saw Seven hard at work on the sensors. "Hi, Seven," he said. "How are you?"
"I am… fine, Harry," she said.
"I got off duty a little while ago," he said. "I came down here to see if you were still working."
"My duty shift ended fifteen minutes ago," Seven said. "I was completing my calibration of the long-range sensors when you entered."
"Need any help?" he asked.
"No," she said.
He struggled with what would be the best thing to say at the moment. After a few moments of silence, he said, "Do you have any plans for this evening?"
"I intend to familiarize myself with traditional courtship rituals," she said, "so as better to interpret your reactions to me and to expand my own understanding of the concept of ‘love.’"
"I think I can help you with that," he said.
"Do you have a suggestion, Harry?" she asked.
"I have two hours reserved this evening in Holodeck Two," he said. "I was hoping we could try a program Tom suggested this afternoon."
"That course of action is acceptable," she said.
"Great!" he said, his heart beating six times faster than normal.
"I am finished here," she said. "Lieutenant Phillips should return momentarily."
"Well, to the holodeck, then," Kim said as they exited the room together. A few heads turned as they noticed the ship’s resident ex-Borg walking down the corridors, hand-in-hand with Harry Kim.