The ship groaned and creaked in semi-regular intervals. It was part of the cycle, a given when one took a hollowed out chunk of metal and sent it flying through space. There wasn't a ship out there that didn't have the same problem, though it was more noticeable in some than in others. If there is a good deal of other noise present, like the hum of the engines or the sound of plasma flowing through the warp core, then the creak of settling halls would be drowned out. Lost among white-noise.
It was, then, somewhat unfortunate that the cargo bay happened to be quite far from any such system. On the one hand, silence was terrifying. On the other hand, the constant groaning stood out, adding to the disquieting atmosphere.
Not for the first time since she'd stepped into her regeneration cubicle, she opened her eyes and took in her surroundings. No one there. The act itself was an inefficient use of her time, she was already aware she was alone, and yet she found herself drawn to look anyway.
She closed her eyes.
It was a haunting word, alone. For a long, long time, she'd never been alone, and now she was.
No unified voice of the collective, just her own self. A terrifying prospect to say the least, this feeling of isolation. Just a short time ago, mere months in human terms, there was no 'she,' no 'I,' and no 'me.'
It was always 'we.' We the collective. That towering, perfect pillar of connected minds, bound together like neurons in a single, intelligent, unstoppable brain. She'd been a part of the greater whole, bound in all the comfort and security that entailed. To go from that, to go from order into sheer chaos, it was still something that left her wanting to curl up into some corner and hide, pointless though that may be.
Voyager, though a collective in it's own right, was nothing like the borg. It was disorganized, flawed to the point she found herself marveling that the ship hadn't managed to tear itself apart yet, let alone survive what felt to be an endless battle after battle after battle.
There were social groups. There was a community. But there was no real connection, not in the way that she knew it. They couldn't understand, had no way or hope of understanding what it meant to be tethered to one another. To hear each other's thoughts and to be unified toward a singular goal. They feared assimilation, as did all creatures the borg had encountered.
A part of her wanted them to know what it was like. She wanted them to come into the collective, to have their thoughts join the many, to have their worries and their doubts wiped away by a force greater than themselves.
If they were assimilated, everything they were would be gone. Their personality, their likes and dislikes, their little quirks. They'd be stripped down until there wasn't anything left but the needs of the collective. Many of them would rather die than do that.
That was the thing about individuality. It was so...illogical. So inefficient. If they could connect their thoughts into one hive mind, the ship would run so much smoother than it did. The ever looming threat of destruction wouldn't rear itself at every turn, and when people were lost, their thoughts and knowledge would live on in those who survived.
The cost of such a thing...would be their sense of self.
Seven of Nine was not shy about arguing for the perks of being assimilated. But here, in the not-so-quiet, with the creaking that interrupted what should have been a restful regeneration cycle, she supposed there was something to be said for the individual.
She herself, disconnected from the hive mind, had found scattered parts of her identity starting to resurface. She liked pancakes. She liked Tuvox's logic puzzles. She liked learning about the various star systems. She liked sharing information with the rest of the crew.
She didn't like Neelix's irrelevant conversations, but his innocence had a certain charm to it.
All these little things that she would loose if she rejoined the collective.
To regain that safety net, but to loose those scraps of Seven that cropped up here and there.
A paradox with no answer, because individuality was infectious, intoxicating, and while she was afraid of that isolation, it would be a lie to say that she wanted to go back. Her sense of self, and the thought of loosing that self, both things inspired fear. The collective's hive mind was the easy option, but she didn't want to give up those fleeting, simple, however pointless enjoyments she got out of this imperfect ship with it's irrational people, either.
If anyone asked her, she would continue to praise the borg as the better choice, but if she'd been given the chance...she did not think she would choose to go back.
She'd told the captain once that she would betray her. Now, if only to herself, if only in her own thoughts, she admitted that no. She wouldn't betray Janeway, or any other member of the crew.
A irritable huff of breath left her. This wasn't getting anything done. If she couldn't regenerate, then she'd find something useful to focus on until she could. Stepping out of her cubical, she made her way over to one of the consoles, and banished these thoughts as best she could.