In which Seven chooses adoption.
The Delta Flyer is out on a mission again, still with Chakotay, Harry, Neelix, and Tom, because they didn’t get enough terrible things happening to them the last time and brought the whole ship into it. So to pass the time, they must play poker, and Neelix is terrible at it. Or he’s setting them up for amazing hustle later on. Such transparent and naked lack of guile would be implausible on anyone but Neelix and I have to hope he’s playing it up. That said, he checkraises, like some sort of animal, until they start betting on chores, and then run into a Borg cube.
The Cube immediately opens fire, and doesn’t seem to be attempting to assimilate or capture them – perhaps the Borg have learned what human tech looks like and not to mess around offering them chances to improvise. But it also looks somewhat damaged – this may also be a wounded-animal reaction. The Flier notices this damage and takes the opportunity to open fire – sometime along the way Voyager evidently got the ability to manufacture more photon torpedoes, as the Flyer is firing them with reckless abandon. Sadly, the Flier is now captured and now the Borg give their speech and bring it aboard.
They wake up alive and unassimilated, but in one of the assimilation chambers. Harry is missing – he was knocked out in a maintenance duct. Also in the chamber is a botched assimilation corpse. Since they’re not drones yet, they set about trying to escape. The good news is Voyager is already looking for them, and has found the Cube. The cube is lightly damaged, such that the repairs should already be complete. Not only that, the cube is not targeting them effectively, and is disabled easily. This is because there are only five drones aboard. Based on this upper hand, Janeway demands the release of her crew, and the Borg find themselves in a bargaining position – they want Voyager‘s navigational deflector in order to repurpose it into a beacon. Janeway holds out for a hostage compromise – making sure the crew are alright, and gets permission to send Seven.
The cube is very empty, except for all the dead drones. What reminds of the hivemind does not seem to want her investigating, but sends her to a creche with five children and a baby in a vat. These are the current collective on this ship, all the others were ‘deactivated.’ They got kicked out of their maturation chambers, which are now offline, and they claim not to know what happened to the adult drones. In light of this, Seven tries to modify the deal, but the kids are forceful, and also not a true hivemind. They have a hierarchy, not a mesh. Seven is taken to the hostages, confirms they’re all right, and then leaves, with a cryptic reference to Harry coming from Chakotay.
On her way out, Seven demands a drone and some data tablets to determine what happened to the cube. Nobody’s found Harry yet. Apparently, the cube went down to a pathogen with total virulence and lethality. The kids were protected in their maturation chambers, and the pathogen is now dormant. Tuvok and the Doctor argue over Janeway’s head about using this cybernetovore pathogen as a biological weapon against the Borg. After seeking Seven’s guidance, Janeway orders the pathogen readied as an option of last resort, and it’s about now that Harry wakes up to an empty Flyer and an incoming comms signal he has to adjust to. Fortunately, he’s got nothing if not time.
Janeway beams over to the cube with a new proposal – an offer to de-assimilate them. One of the kid, their One, is pretty violent and resistant to any modification or cooperation – the rest of them would probably go along if he was dealt with, although it’s hard to tell because they’re all so creepy. Apparently, borg teenagers are just as unpredictable as teens of any other species. With the two hours Janeway bought, Harry is going to make the trek to the Borg shield generator and blow it up.
Seven is working with the borg Two, who expresses curiosity about Seven’s history. Her background is very similar to theirs in many ways. Seven also repairs his ‘borg stutter’ against the predictions of the First, causing more tension. And yet worse, apparently the Collective has already received this cube’s distress call and chose not to bother rescuing them. Too much effort for too little return. A second chance for Janeway’s ‘reform and deconvert’ plan, which Seven argues against, on practical matters.
See, when borg are assimilatd, particularly when assimilated young, they have years in a maturation chamber to be indoctrinated, so that all the icky feelings about having bits of your body scooped out against your will and a vast alien consciousness routed through your brain can be settled down and squished nice and flat. Even in her post-borg days, Seven uses the order structures imposed by that indoctrination in order to make it through difficult mental situations. These adolescent borg do not have those structures completely built out. All they have is Seven, who’s been in that hole before.
Harry has a deck of cards he’s marking the way with, in case he does need to make his way back. While this occurs, Seven sows more doubts within the collective, and about One’s capabilities. During this time, one of the baby maturation chambers starts to fail, One can’t fix it, and Seven gets to take over to fix it. I question her neonatal procedures, but I guess all the equipment on the borg ship is too badly damaged to take care of it, so keeping it in there is pointless. They’re going to need to beam it to Voyager to save it, but Harry just got to the shield generator to blow it up. One of the borg kids has followed him and cleaned up all his cards. He’s stranded there with her.
Seven beamed the baby over to Voyager just in time, and the Doctor managed to save her. He’s probably using this time to make sure Janeway won’t release – yup, the bio-plague. Sadly, he’s forgotten that she hasn’t had real, fresh coffee in like six years, and left quite a lot of sentiment behind with Ransom. I guess she already decided it was a last resort, so if nothing else she has some cognitive distance between the baby she’s holding and killing it with plague even when it poses no conceivable threat. Plus they can save the plague for later encounters with other borg cubes that have babies she hasn’t seen and can pretend don’t exist.
One has found Harry’s plasma charge, and they have severely jacked him up and injected him with nanoprobes. They demand the deflector now, or Harry dies from being eaten from the inside by alien garbage, which at this point is par for the course for him. The Borg kids demand the deflector array (nobody told them yet that the Collective abandoned them deliberately) and when Janeway stalls for more time they try to rip it off the ship. Seven judges this to be the right time to tell One about the abandonment, although it’s anyone’s guess if the Collective would dispatch a ship to take Voyager. Even then, we know what happens when the Collective takes in feralized drones. They’d probably just destroy this cube for scrap.
Voyager is about to tear apart. Tuvok has found a shield breach just big enough to introduce the plague, but Janeway has, indeed, been dissuaded just that little bit more and is looking for her third option. She finds it, as Starfleet captains are wont to do. Seven makes her recruitment offer, Voyager starts breaking free, and in the chaos One can’t maintain control over his collective. One gets injured in the damage and dies. This makes Seven the new voice of authority, and the Cube lowers the shilelds and allows Voyager to rescue everyone. The drone-kids have been mostly de-borged, and although Janeway wants to return them to their civilizations there’s a good chance those won’t take them in. Thus, Seven is going to be their new teacher and guardian. She’s got their names – Ichep, the girl Misate, and finally Azan and Rebe (who never got speaking lines because that way they could keep the guild costs down).