Disclaimer: Don't own them, don't claim to.
Second disclaimer: Don't hate the player, hate the game - this isn't my fault. I didn't kill her, but Seven wouldn't shut up after they did, so here's her ramblings to me, for what they're worth. And this is probably going to be my only acknowledgment of the event in question, so hopefully it's out of my system now. And that's as much of a warning for content as you get.
Rating: K? T? I don't think I even cursed in here. Wow. If this falls under K, and have a nasty suspicion that it might, then wow! Sorry, must be slipping. Never thought I'd see the day...
A simple word. Archaic. Inadequate. It's not the word I would have utilized. Any number of superior selections are available, but the choice of vocabulary is taken from me.
"You're telling me…that Cap–Admiral Janeway…is…dead?"
There is a hitch in her voice, an emotional resonance which must require some acknowledgement on the part of its observer. At once I'm aware of a certain…inadequacy. I wonder if I was mistaken in deciding to bring the news to her in person. The color is entirely draining from the young face before me.
Color is something that takes getting used to.
The Borg do not see color like humans and other humanoids. There is no need. But as she turns to exit the cargo bay, her vivid hair swings over her crimson shoulders, a vibrant distraction from my stubborn resentment, and I'm reminded of something she'd asked me earlier...
It's out of my mouth before I realize I've spoken.
She freezes. Turns to me again, with agonizing slowness this time. I have surprised us both, it seems, with my outburst.
Curious blue irises burn into my cheeks like lasers as she stares, and I grow flustered. I don't know what prompted my sudden outburst. It was impulsive, and I wish now I had remained silent, but I cannot take it back.
She's waiting for me to explain – humans require explanation to understand one another's intimate thoughts, I recall. The excessive verbal communication does not come naturally. Still. But she's waiting, and further delay in my response can only be considered weakness.
Borg are not weak.
"The child you spoke of," I supply, raising my chin in defiance of her challenge. "Her favorite color was red."
Her reaction is not the ridicule I expected. On the contrary, her affect grows increasingly warm. She smiles at me.
Disturbed, I would almost call the result dazzling.
Interaction with Kathryn Janeway often left me disturbed or unsettled. Perhaps it was because, at first, she was the only one who truly seemed to see the child that really lived within the adult body I inhabited.
Her uniform was the first thing noticed, the first strip of color seen through a restored human eye even through the chaos of awakening into this silent world. A most brilliant strip of red fabric, it tugged at my attention, but I ignored the detail as superfluous. Irrelevant. I couldn't hear the others.
I could hear her. Only her. And I resented her for that. As much as I could not help clinging to her, looking to her, for years I never forgot that she was my enemy. That she had been the one to sever me from the collective. She took me forcibly from perfection.
I was her prisoner. She was my captor.
And she wore red. Red was the color of oppression, confinement. Imperfection imposed in enforced isolation.
The color of her hair, they told me, was referred to as red. It was not; it was orange. A false designation. I believed her to be false.
I fought her. Fought her seemingly contradictory sense of values.
"I believe that you are punishing me because I do not think the way you do, because I am not becoming more like you. You claim to respect my individuality, but in fact you are frightened by it."
Her glare does not intimidate me the way it does others. I believe this angers her, as well.
"As you were."
She said nothing in relevant response this time before leaving, and I believed I had wounded her with my accuracy. I took intense satisfaction in it, I remember. I believe the emotion I experience now at that memory would be appropriately termed as shame. I'm ashamed of the way I behaved toward her, particularly in the beginning of our association.
With the foolish rebellion of a human teenager, I resented her authority and her imposition of it over my person. I clung to the superiority of the knowledge that she was a hypocrite, touting individuality, while at the core, the position she reveled in was to limit the expression of that individuality. In my anger, which I know today to have been largely rooted in fear, I was incapable of recognizing the need for authority among a group of individuals as necessary for the survival of the group.
Years passed. The pain of individuality lessoned, as they had promised. And then I found one day her hair had darkened. Eventually, it did become a color that could accurately be classified as red.
And she had changed, as well, I discovered. No longer my oppressor, imposing her specious beliefs where they were not wanted, where they were rejected as false and foolish, I began to give consideration to the Federation's way of life – to the way of life she was so adamant about exposing me to. She was perhaps my unwilling liberator, I considered then, and not an intentional oppressor. Upon investigation into the circumstances of my arrival, the captain had not intended to sever me from the collective. She had done it to defend her crew.
It did not make her actions justifiable, I determined to remember. I was Borg. I did not accept her as perfect, the way we had been – the way others aboard Voyager seemed determined to view her, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Perfection did not exist in humanity. Humanity was weak.
But I was partially human and the Borg no longer held a place for me. I was individual now. And I needed a guide, someone to help navigate the storms of human interaction.
Without conscious decision, her red became that beacon, that anchor I so sorely needed. I sought it out amidst the sea of blues, greens, yellows that took such effort to adjust to. I looked to her for guidance, assuming her the resident authority on humanity. But at times she was painfully imperfect. Her actions deviated from that which she taught. With regard to the doctor, it was disturbing that she would act in such stark contrast to her supposed values.
"I am having trouble with the nature of individuality."
Her light laughter I recognize by now as suppressed irritation. "There's a time and a place for philosophical discussion. Two in the morning in my quarters isn't one of them."
Self determination was to be prized above all else, she had claimed, was the basic right of any individual. And she had ordered Lieutenant Torres to disregard the doctor's autonomy.
That decision was crushing. It was proof that the captain had been lying to me all along. She had never regarded me as an individual, but simply as an asset she had appropriated from the Borg. We were all disposable to her. It was authority she valued most. I had been correct the first time. I was angry to have been so easily misled.
"You say that I am a human being and yet, I am also Borg. Part of me not unlike your replicator, not unlike the Doctor. Will you one day choose to abandon me as well?"
I believe that she might. It hurts me, angers me.
Frightens me. I do not wish to be alone.
"I have always looked to you as my example, my guide to humanity. Perhaps I've been mistaken. Good night."
And then she changed my perception again.
"I'm having trouble...with the nature of individuality."
Upon awakening me from the regeneration she insisted I engage in, she repeats my own phrase of a few hours ago back to me.
I regard her for a moment, attempting to gage her intent.
"You require a philosophical discussion," I gather warily.
"There's a time and a place for it – this is one of them." I refrain from pointing out the negligible discrepancy in her acceptable choices of time and locale as she continues, "After I freed you from the Collective, you were transformed. It's been a difficult process. Was it worth it?"
"I had no choice," I immediately remind her. In part because it has become automatic, and in part because I have no wish to relinquish my anger at her for her deception. Her deception regarding the nature of our relationship.
She is persistent, however. "That's not what I asked you."
"If I could change what happened, erase what you did to me, would I?"
She waits for my response with uncommon tension while I think over my answer.
It's as much a revelation to myself as it is to her. I had not been aware when the moment of transformation occurred.
Though it was an admission of weakness and incorrect judgment on her part, the captain changed her mind. She herself took the most time at the doctor's side through his struggle to reconcile his actions. My vision of her was restored. Not as it had been before the incident, but with greater clarity, somehow. I understood her better. And through that understanding, the significance of color was once again transformed.
Red became the color of humanity. Humanity the way I believed I was beginning to understand it, as a process of continual growth. The journey toward perfection, rather than an assumption of having reached it. Red became compassion, even in the face of potential harm or destruction. Red became nobility. Self-sacrifice and learning. Love – that intangible human emotion I once dismissed as a biochemical process resulting in disease-like impairment – but an emotion I grew to respect the more I studied it.
To me, the admiral was red. And red was always my favorite color.
Her journey has ended now. Cut short by the very entity that so nearly prevented my own evolvement toward individuality – evil intent thwarted only by her interference on my behalf.
Today, as Naomi Wildman indulges in a gesture of youthful vulnerability she has not demonstrated in years and folds herself into me, her slender arms wrapping around my waist, I stare down at her small adolescent head and feel the warmth of her grief soaking into my uniform. I listen to the muffled sound of her sobs, and I note her red hair.
She is the child now. And I understand that it's my turn to provide guidance, and comfort, for her.
In a motion I don't quite understand, I find my own hand, still encased in Borg enhancements that have not yet been removed, stroking awkwardly along gilded red silk. Once, the color brought me comfort, I know now. Too late, it seems.
Today, the color is pain. It reminds me of what I no longer have and perhaps never fully appreciated until this moment. It means loss. A crucial void that will never again be filled in my lifetime. It no longer brings comfort of any kind…
And the child Admiral Janeway spoke of still lives within me. She cries out for what she has lost, in pain and in fear. Fear that she will not be able to go on without the admiral's guidance. Without her mentor – the closest thing to a mother she has known since regaining her identity. And yet she knows that the Admiral would not have accepted this from her. That the admiral would have expected her to be strong. She knows that she must go on, must continue her journey toward regaining her humanity. The time has come for her to stand on her own, completely, and without a safety net. And she will. As much for the admiral's sake as for her own, she will continue striving to find herself in this confusing world of chaos and individuality.
But red is no longer her favorite color.