In which a pretty good mystery falls into place, and also it’s BADGER!
Some science projects are universal. In fact, the twins have cloned potatoes (instead of Naomi), while Misaati has made an ant colony glow and is a burgeoning entomologist. Naomi has made a model-hologram of her father’s planet, which is quite an impressive bit of engineering given how little we know about the UI, and Ichep has built a high-res gravametric sensor. He is, after all, the oldest and most mature, (assuming that physical age has any meaning when your development is dented by Borg acculturation) and right away Torres starts talking nuts and bolts with him. He wants to join Astrometrics, but Janeway has other plans, like reuniting him with his parents.
A mark of Seven’s advancement in relation to where she was last episode when she wanted to abandon them all – this is now a noticably bittersweet bit of news. Seven gives him this news while he’s working overtime in Astrometrics and has found a star forming in a nebula that was formerly out of range of Voyager‘s sensors. He’s a real find, which makes it hard for her to actually give him the news. Instead she diverts to get some homework from Janeway to prepare.
Icheb is still super-enthused about his neutrino-mapping project when Seven gives him the news. He seems exceptionally nonplussed – he doesn’t remember his parents and is conscious of his role as big brother to Misati and the twins. His culture had most of their ships destroyed by the borg and are now mainly agrarian, which will re`ally put a crimp in Icheb’s prospects. Notably, the borg left the Burnali with population – they never became a serious threat-level target for the Borg the way the Federation did and necessitated extinction-level contingencies. That said, they’re under the gun for numerous borg attacks as their planet is right near a conduit endpoint. One wonders why the Borg didn’t just assimilate the planet and have done with it as a supply base. There are two plausible answers: a) they don’t think that way and b) they’re farming the planet for tech and bodies.
This news isn’t going to make the transition any easier, and Icheb is making damn good arguments to the Doctor about the irrelevancy of his gene-donors to his continued welfare. And the planet itself, and its main settlement, is built in a crater. Icheb’s parents are a little wary of his rapid growth (maturation chambers do that, it would seem) and of Seven. His mother and father, Yifay and Leucon, seem nice enough otherwise. They introduce him around, but Icheb just wants to go back up.
Janeway next host the parents in Voyager‘s conference room. The medical needs, the regeneration, the studies in astrometrics – some of these will be easier to meet than others, given the Brunali have devoted most of their science to growing crops in gamma-irradiated blast craters. Seven goes a bit too hard making sure they can provide for all of his needs and gets dismissed from the room so that Janeway can ease the transition. The resulting row in her ready-room brings some parental issues of Sevens to the fore, to which she readily admits. At the end, they come to an understanding – Icheb gets the space to decide for himself, and Janeway gets to eat crow when the decision comes ’round to her.
The Voyager kids discuss are also discussing things when Seven arrives to escort Icheb to dinner with his parents. Notably lacking are any words of encouragement or any sentiment of ‘I know this is dumb just bear with it.’ He arrives at the mess hall and they’re all so awkward, and he’s very obstenate about not enjoying anything they do for him, but eventually he gives it a try. And it is still a favorite.
The planetside tour is a showcase of hard work and also they have a genetic resequencer to modify their crop to survive. With no megacorps to insist that all the plants be sterile so that the famers have to re-buy the crops every year, I bet it works pretty well. It’s also a showcase of efficiency and salvaged parts, but even so there’s no space travel. Icheb would be a prime ‘get’ for the colony, and in a sign of his increasing willingness to go with this, he’s asked to stay the night on the colony and have a regeneration unit installed. This is not pleasing to Seven, and she provides a portable recharge-cell. It only has one charge on it for now. When Seven hands it over, Leucon pulls a face, which may or may not be what prompts Seven to ask for more details about his assimilation.
He was assimilated when a passing cube detected technology that they ususally try to hide, for exactly this reason. Icheb had heard about a ‘fertilization array.’ He went to go investigate it by himself when the Borg showed up, which raises questions about what a ‘fertilization array’ could be – clearly more complex than a sprinkler connected to a miracle-gro tank. My money is on a wide-field replicator that can resequence dirt in-place with the required soil nutrients. Seven reasures Leucon a little in a display of parental commiseration. Looks like the transition might go well after all.
Now that he’s pulling away, Seven’s trying to maintain some emotional distance, and just in time – Icheb has decided to stay with them, losing Seven one of her kids and also the bet with Janeway. As a going-away present, Seven has given him a bunch of reading materials and a high-res telescope. They part ways, with each getting to go home, and this episode was 15 minutes shorter than usual.
Misati can’t sleep that night and wakes Seven up – she doesn’t want Voyager to find her own parents and force her to make the choice. She asks what if Icheb is on a ship and gets assimilated, since he was on one last time. That, of course, conflicts with what Leucon told us. He was on a class-1 transport with one life-form aboard. Seven does some digging to find out the truth of it, and it’s starting to sound a lot like a sacrifice. Other parts of Leucon’s story don’t match up, although Janeway is working just as hard to ignore the factors that suggest child endangerment as Seven is to keep her adopted kiddo.
And with that revelation and a minor string accompaniment, Icheb’s parents are having a loud disagreement about how they need to do something soon before they get attached, because whatever-it-is is what he was born for. That plus genetic resequencer plus alone-on-a-ship-getting-assimilated plus colony-near-a-transwarp-conduit suggests he was engineered as a weapon to take the pathogen back to the Collective and genocide them all. Leucon doesn’t want this, Yifay’s the hardliner here. At least this time they’re explaining it to him. Well, not so much ‘explain’ as ‘drug.’
Voyager shows up shortly after they launched him into the transwarp conduit throwing off false sensor readings that indicate it to be a highly advanced drive system. Candy for the Borg. Voyager must race to rescue him before a Borg ship emerges from the conduit – they get him, but not before a Sphere pops out and tractors them both. They can only beam a poison pill inside the Brunali transport and hope they timed it right. They survive and confirm that Icheb is an anti-borg weapon. Now it’s down to Seven to help him all over again because Janeway wouldn’t leave well enough alone. But hey, Icheb has a new interest in genetics, so that’s something.