In which it’s the loneliest number that you’ll ever do, but two can be just as bad.
Seven is invited to join harry and B’Elanna, but she’s not an eater. Instead, she’s trying to learn small talk, and executing it badly. Even Seven can’t possibly believe the point of small talk is to ask questions so quickly your subjects don’t have time to answer them. Harry doesn’t get it quite as fast as Torres, but it turns out it’s all a holoprogram anyway. Man, even the computer doesn’t give Harry any credit. While the Doctor tries to explain the concept of listening to responses without bringing up TCP, she decides she’d rather go get a checkup.
Voyager has encountered a vast nebula too big to go around, and which emits a radioactive field that affects the weakest crewmembers first. So Harry. However, moments later everyone else is stricken with headaches and skin lesions as well. Tom can’t even make it to the console to stop the ship from going further into the nebula. Tuvok barely manages to stagger to the controls. Once they reverse, everyone starts feeling a lot better. One crewan is already dead from the effects.
The nebula is at least a month’s worth of travel to get through, and it’s wider than it is deep. Since five minutes of exposure killed at least one person, though, do we think Janeway’s going to be okay with trying to go around it? Hell no. The Doctor is easily able to figure out why the nebula is deadly, and a way to get around it – put the entire crew in stasis pods, which they’ll surely have to construct for the purpose. The Doctor will stay active to monitor the crew, but Janeway believes in redundancy, just in case the Doctor goes offline – Seven was unaffected by the radiation as well. No pressure, though. The question is, if Seven’s had this much trouble adapting to life with a few dozen people, can she manage being all alone except for the Doctor? And does Janeway have a choice? She makes it clear that Seven will report to the Doctor.
They got those stasis pods up and running pretty quickly. Nobody’s particularly sanguine about it, but Janeway gives everyone a pep talk and until 5PM to get used to the idea of going into cold storage. Chakotay wants Janeway to be sure that leaving Seven in charge isn’t a mistake – again, as if there’s a choice. Also, bear in mind that Seven and the Doctor will be checking on the whole crew four times a day. Assuming that this is literally the only thing the Doctor will be doing for the entire journey, and that he doesn’t need to sleep, that lets him do a six-hour round robin circuit and gives him two and a half minutes to check on each of the 144 crew members, assuming very few deaths since last time we checked in on the crew count. If Seven’s helping, they double that time, but that’s not a whole lot of time for doing things like maintenance and course corrections, plus that’s still not a great time window for a checkup. I’d like to believe that the Doctor can just jack into a computer function and check on everyone simultaniously, but the design decisions in the Federation seem to trend much more toward the analog.
Janway’s the last to be sealed up, and by day ten, Seven has created a routine and settled into it. Nutrient sludge in the morning, in perfect silence. Then checking on their course, the overall functioning of the ship, all that science-y stuff… but today she finds Tom out of his pod, collapsed on the floor, and giving one of the automatic doors a hard time. Strangely, he’s not covered in lesions somehow, but according to the Doctor he might’ve just had a sleepwalking episode.
After ten days of cabin fever, the Doctor demands that Seven do soem brush-up on her interpersonal skills. In fact, she does a pretty good job of engaging two people with some degree of expertise on a subject in their area of specialties, in a tactful and engaging manner. Sadly, this is not sufficient for the Doctor’s liking, so they begin arguing and putting tape down the middle of the corridors. This is interrupted by a shipboard crisis they can come together over – the antimatter is leaking, Engineering is flooding with plasma, and Voyager is about to be crippled. But when Seven gets there, Engineering is fine. Instead, some of the gel packs are degrading, sending false alarms. They’ll need to replace them.
During this procedure, the Doctor starts shorting out, and has to get back to sick bay (or presumably anyplace with holo-emitters) before the Mobile Emitter shorts out and his program risks loss. They do make it, and find out it’s useless now. The Doctor will now have to play Overwatch while Seven runs around doing all the actual stuff. Again, in a crisis, they’re able to buckle down and take this thing on with a minimum of bickering.
During her regeneration cycle, Seven’s dreams have started to become germane to the situation – being stranded alone on the top of a massive ice floe. It’s been 29 days before she’s willing to admit she’s suffering from prolonged isolation. Voyager is also breaking down rapidly, without the crew to give it sufficient maintenance. Course adjustments are no longer obeying voice commands, and the computer indicates that 33% of the gel packs are damaged. But she’s only got a week to go.
Paris is out of his bed again. At least, Seven hears Paris’ voice, but everyone is properly stowed away in their pods. The computer also alerts her to an approaching vessel, asking for trade to help each other get through the nebula. The trader claims not to know the Borg, to be resistant to the effects, and that nobody has ever been able to cross the nebula. He wants to be the first. He’s the Charlses Lindburgh of the Delta Quadrant, except probably less of a Nazi sympathizer. He also gets personal about the loneliness, and now admits to having heard of the Borg. Things are getting weird. He’s propositioning Seven, and hopefully she got the liquid helium before escorting him off the ship at gunpoint. She hears Tom again, and the alien trader disappears down a corridor, forcing her to go after him.
The Doctor can’t find either the intruder or the alien ship. They’re also having more problems with the deuterium tanks, as well as Seven’s morale problems. Fear is irrelevant, apparently. She starts to hear the voices of the whole crew, echoing creepily and begging for help as she paces the empty corridors. But again, they’re all nearly stowed away in their stasis pods.
The trader goes over the comms to taunt her with how he’s planning to destroy the ship, and gives her a hint that he’s in the engine room. However, it was a lie and a trap, all to get her to talk. Instead, he’s on the bridge, apparently decanting Harry and Tom and then setting them on fire. They’d be super dead if they were really there instead of hallucinating. Instead of playing his game, she kills all the oxygen to the bridge. The Doctor is up and walking around again, and on his way. The gelpacks might have a problem, but the Doctor turns out to be the alien, who is also immune to her phasers. At this point, Seven is clearly hallucinating, as the warp core turns Borg Green and the Doctor shows up to find Seven pointing a phaser at the air.
The Doctor’s ‘interesting news’ about the gelpacks is that the nebula is directly affecting them, and could also be affecting her implants to cause ghost impressions, and bringing her back to a time when, as a drone, she was separated from the collective for a few hours. The Doctor offers to bring her back to Sick bay for some antipsychotics as a patch job, but then the Doctor goes out of commission, and Seven is entirely, utterly alone in the nebula.
They’re almost out now. Seven has 17 hours to go, and since she now knows that the dead harry and the borg-green gas filling the corridors is a hallucination, she can…. almost deal with it. Even as a drone avatar of her own self-doubt chases her, she does her best to shut everything out. The propulsion shuts down, and her hallucinations discuss her options to rerout power from ten statis units to get the ship running again. She does this, then rerouts power from life support back to the stasis units. She’ll last longer on the air and residual heat in the corridors than they will in the radiation, though. It’s not quite as down-to-the-wire as they make it out to be.
Then Seven wakes up in sick bay. Once they cleared the nebula, the Doctor came back on line and turned life support back on. Seven saved everyone, and having dealt with this inner insecurity, she’s able to actually make small talk. Turns out the company of others is preferable to total isolation after all. In fact, she’s even able to tell funny anecdotes about Paris waking himself up from stasis, and make a point about their similarities. Look at Seven, connecting to other people like that.