In which Seven faces down death.
Today, Voyager is unloading the borg twins, Rebe and Izan, as well is Mizati, to a good home. Hopefully for real this time. Icheb isn’t coming, leaving Seven with one final charge, and if these kids are about to be sacrificed to destroy a Borg cube, we’ll never know it. Never one to admit to sentiment, Seven next moves to the practical concerns of shutting down the extra alcoves, but she is also leaking from the eyes – clearly an ocular implant malfunction.
The Doctor starts on the assumption that Seven is overreacting to her emotions, but the results bear Seven out – her cortical node is glitching, and she’s been having headaches that she didn’t report. Indeed, she’s trying to keep the Captain out of the loop now as well.
On regular duties, Icheb is bored of Astrometrics and wants to take the Starfleet entrance exams, take classes from Tuvok, and become a bridge officer. Seven is agreeable but curt, because her implants are still malfunctioning. The firmware is broken, and she can’t regenerate, either. Morning finds her drinking Soylent in the Mess hall, then passing out with her skin splitting open over her bog substructure as her body starts to reject implantation. The glitch is causing her major implants to shut down, including the ones that regular her vital functions. She insists that she’ll self-repair, but the signs are against it and they can’t replicate a replacement. In the Collective, the Borg wouldn’t have bothered attempting to repair the node, because that would be futile. Instead, they’d replace it. The great news is that Voyager has just been involved in a lot of borg ships blowing up, so they’ll divert to a junk cloud to see if they can find a replacement.
The Borg often return to their debris to collect salvage, but Janeway is willing to risk herself, if not Voyager. She’s taking the Flyer – evidently it’s been long enough that Tom and B’Elanna rebuilt it after the Borg blew up it up. Now, the designs are surely on file, so the design phase shouldn’t take too terribly long assuming they’re not making any improvements. And if they’ve kept on top of firmware backups the performance tuning of the new one should be pretty quick too, but there’s still the actual manufacture – a warp drive has a lot of complex parts and that’s a lot of matereal, so if building this the second time took less than a month then I don’t want to hear about Voyager being low on replicator rations or spare parts for a while.
Janeway’s bridge crew insist on joining again – is this a possible acknowledgement of her increasingly erratic, risk-seeking behavior and a desire to manage upwards to stop her from going over the edge?
Icheb meets up with Janeway to ask how his entry exam is coming, and once he finds out from Janeway that she’s sick he asks to help, then when rebuffed goes to see her. She’s mad about being sick in front of him.
The away mission has found a chunk of debris containing, according to Tuvok, body parts that add up to about 37 drones, which is a tad gruesome and specific. When they beam over to this debris segment (without MOPP or environment suits, of course) Janeway successfully finds a drone with an intact cortical node and extracts it. Makes me wonder if the 2367 edition of Operation includes stuff in the head simply because brain surgery is a lot less tetchy. She’s got the node, and also a patch of drone skin, when some almost-Kazon come aboard to claim the salvage as theirs. This leads to a fight in which Tuvok is shot, but not too badly, and Tom beams them out to help out in the dogfight. The Flyer’s borg-inspired tactical systems stand it in good stead.
Neelix shows up to keep Seven company, and the Doctor helps keep her away from strenuous activity by implying she’d lose to Neelix. Fortunately this farce doesn’t have to continue, because Janway’s back with the node. The Cortical Node is a very important piece of hardware – even swapping out the old one requires transferring her functions to the ship’s computer, and that won’t work for more than a few seconds. Once they put in the new node, Seven’s body rejects it and she flatlines. But it was all a simulation. The salvaged node is broken, so Janeay’s next plan is to go hunting live borg.
Neelix is being trounced at a child’s game while they wait for the simulation to end, and the surprising thing is that he’s managed to win two. When Janeway comes back with the bad news, they present various options – again, repairing faulty nodes is futile, so Seven has to accept that she’s living on borrowed time. All she has is the work that Icheb brings her… oh, and the ability to dactivate the Doctor and slip out. When Icheb brings him back up, he’s in mid-shout, which makes me wonder just how his save states are supposed to work. He used to come online with always the same “please state the nature of the medical emergency” but that was before all his customizations, and also usually when the social interaction he was involved in was done. Usually. Seven has also removed her commbadge and slipped out to Engineering, where Torres is willing to keep her secret, and to engage in a little talk of mortality.
They discuss Sto-Vo-Kor and the afterlife, which the Borg don’t have a concept of, except insofar as any given drone’s memories live on in the Collective. If Seven dies (or, taking the long view, when) she’ll lose everything she’s accomplished since leaving the collective, except insofar as her deeds and accomplishments will live on in the much looser collective of the ship and crew of Voyager. And honestly, although the script isn’t as elegant, anything that reminds me of Roy Batty’s Tears in the Rain speech can only be positive.
Since the Doctor doesn’t have a new treatment, Seven refuses to go back, since it’s a waste of time that she could spend strengthening her legacy of being useful. Finally, she goes to Icheb and gives him the news about his starfleet entrance exam, and helps him out with a study guide. He’s determined not to let her die, although everyone’s going to refuse the obvious solution of giving her his cortical node unless he can convince them his implants can somehow repair one of the old ones. If he even bothers to broach the topic. Which he does.
In fact, he has a pretty good argument – he thinks he can survive the removal of his node, since he was’t fully assimilated within the maturation chamber and not all of his autonomic functions are dependent on the node. He even has a plan for regenerative genetic therapy to keep him from being handicapped afterwards. During this time, Seven is worried that her reliance on Janeway to fill out her individuality will make her own death harder for Janeway to accept than everyone else – and to reassure Janeway that she did a good job, And on that note, Icheb’s plan has passed first muster.
Seven refuses, of course. How much of that is a legitimate refusal to accept the risks at the stated probability of success, how much of it is her having given in to fatalism and not wanting to pull out, and how much is that they still have eight minutes to fill is an exercise left up to the reader. She says she’ll only accept if there’s zero risk to Icheb. Once she’s back in Sick Bay, Icheb calls the doctor to Cargo Bay 2, where he’s turned off his own node, forcing them to try his procedure to make him no longer rely on it and freeing it up for Seven. And he refuses treatment if Seven won’t take the node, and turns all her arguments around on her.
Some tense surgery later, including the Doctor’s continued reliance on tweezers when he’s pretty much by definition exactly as sterile as anything else on the table, and Seven is eventually able to regenerate, sleep for six days, and wake up healthy. Icheb had some pain in his own recovery, but is probably going to be fine. This time when Seven cries it’s due to regular old humanoid emotions. How sweet.