Pairing : B'Elanna / Seven
Rating : Mature
Feedback : I took the time to write it, so do me the honour of taking the time to respond when you read it.
Chapter VII : Do No Harm ...
Tuvok's eyes scanned the gun-metal corridors of Voyager with the keenness of a hunter seeking prey in tantalising proximity; phaser and arm outstretched, knees slightly bent and flanked by two of his most senior officers - Mendoza and Canasares.
Only the steady blinking of the tapers, set into the bulkheads and announcing Red Alert disturbed the three officers as they advanced section by section, finding nothing conclusive or suspicious. The Vulcan cautiously glanced at the tricorder held in his free hand - inconclusive readings. A shuddering reverberated through the corridor, causing all three to grope at the bulkhead for support as the section lighting overhead flickered, whined, and died to be replaced by the temporary shadows of the crimson warning lights.
Tuvok regained his composure, with a practised expression of mild annoyance. "Bridge to Security Team Alpha - the intruder has disabled main power on that deck. Force fields are offline."
"Acknowledged; we are proceeding with caution," He replied, nodding at Mendoza and Canasares to continue forward.
Had starbases and refits been free to VoyagerTuvok would have made many changes to the ship's security systems - free-standing power sources for force fields, wall mounted phaser emitters and a multitude of other improvements learned from a harsh and hostile Delta Quadrant. Here, and now, those improvements were schematics and tactical analyses on PADDs in his quarters.
A frantic chase through dark corridors reminded him of their hunt for a member of Species 8472, whilst being hunted themselves by a band of relentless Hirogen. He recalled the attempts at communication between the creature and himself, and ultimately its loss by Seven of Nine. At the time - though he would never have admitted such - and indeed now, he felt her actions reckless but essential to their survival. They would have died for the creature if nothing else had been done.
Putting such thoughts aside, an eyebrow raised upwards to crease his brow as the tricorder that had been passive a moment before began to shriek furiously. Straining his ears, he could hear nothing unusual but the activity on the display passed beyond the scale and above. "I am detecting an extraneous, fluctuating electro-magnetic field."
"Shipboard EPS?" Mendoza replied, without a hint of nervousness.
He was a good officer, one of the many former members of the Maquis who had assimilated into Voyager's crew. Born on one of the many disputed Human colonies within the DMZ, he had seized the opportunity to start his life again on joining the ship and had quickly become one of Tuvok's most valuable officers. Indeed, a possible Chief of Security one day, either on Voyager or if they ever returned, Starfleet at large.
The current Chief of Security shook his head, unconsciously tightening his grip on his phaser. "All power taps have been sealed from engineering; there are no live conduits. The field energy is increasing exponentially—"
A series of sparks erupted from the tricorder, as the delicate control surfaces shattered under the onslaught. Tuvok dropped the burning unit to the decking instinctually, as he became aware of a high pitched whine that did not seem to be emanating from the ship itself. A muted burble and a coil of grey smoke from the hand phaser announced the failure of the weapon; a glance at the officers accompanying him confirmed the same in triplicate.
"Tuvok to Bridge," He began, only to be met not by the chirrup of his commbadge establishing a successful connection, but silence. A second and third attempt by Mendoza and Canasares to reach someone – anyone – likewise failed. It seemed as though the extraneous field detected by his now-neutralised tricorder was acting as a super-charged electro-magnetic pulse; disabling any technology approaching.
It seemed a superb piece of bad fortune … Or a formidable defence mechanism.
Before Tuvok could issue the order to retreat, a single curved blade crept around the junction, glinting in the red lighting and causing him to begin to backtrack instead. With the crumple of indented metal the creature slowly peered around the corner, anchored as it was firmly to the wall. Without obvious eyes it regarded the three Starfleet officers beginning to move away, and cocked its head slightly.
Pausing before the shiny black surface of an LCARS interface, the creature plunged a chitinous blade through the surface, shattering a hole and exposing the electronics within. The high pitched whine on the air increased two-fold, so much so that Tuvok winced in pain as his eardrums ruptured under the sonic assault. The display flickered with Starfleet yellow and blue despite the fact there was no power to the entire deck, let alone the tactile screens or monitors. At first gibberish it displayed gibberish; random characters, sentences and glyphs – a result of energy, but no processing power.
After a few moments the display became more coherent and from a distance, Tuvok could see that the schematics of Voyager were now visible, rapidly being decompiled and displayed deck by deck, section by section.
"It's feeding energy directly into the console," Canasares whispered grimly, "Processing the resultant information like the main computer. I don't see any technological components on its body, but it can't be just biological … Purely organic creatures can't interface like that."
Voyager's Chief of Security took in the ensign's analysis, though his eyes were fixed on the constantly scrolling information displayed on the screen and presumably indicating what the creature was analysing. His jaw set as the console paused its frantic progress at deck five, Sickbay. Withdrawing the probing scythe it had manipulated the display with, the creature seemed to exchange a knowing stare despite its lack of facial features with Tuvok .
"Run!" He barked, though the intruder had already thrust another claw into the badly mangled console it brooded over, even as the team spun on their heels. A terrific roar erupted around the three officers as arcs of incandescent white energy tore along the wall, blowing out any fragile component it met en-route and finally escaping in a blast of razor-sharp fragments. Canasares, Mendez and Tuvok threw their arms over their as they fell to the decking under the assault.
Satisfied, the creature skulked back beyond the junction, out of sight and heading for a new destination.
Vorik glanced at the engineering console to confirm the security lock-outs, though only for the sake of completeness and accommodating foreign standards. He had found that humans were often unsettled when observing someone carry out an important task too quickly for their own sense of safety, even when it was an action performed a hundred times before.
He had taken to double-checking his work, if only to keep B'Elanna Torres from her bizarre post-Red Alert dance through every engineering console to make sure her staff had performed their duties to her satisfaction. He doubted it was a personal slight against them – the Chief Engineer seemed to believe instead that the ship itself was somehow constantly trying to outdo, frustrate and fail her.
This evening however, at almost zero four hundred hours, the Half-Klingon would not be checking his station, or any. Indeed the misplaced psyche of the young woman currently co-habituating in the body of a former Borg Drone was preoccupied arguing with the main computer.
"Computer – Secure engineering functions and stations for Red Alert, authorisation Torres-Epsilon-Delta-Delta-Seven-One."
The Main Computer declined. "Unable to comply – voice match and biometric authorisation failure."
B'Elanna-Seven lifted her mesh-encased, artificial hand in a fit of rage only for a voice to stay the limb with a supreme effort.
*This is illogical B'Elanna - The computer is functioning as it was intended to; you do not sound like, or look like, Lieutenant Torres. Your codes will not function.*
"I just want to hit it!" B'Elanna-Seven shouted loudly to the rest of Main Engineering. "Give me the hand!"
*I will not; it is a waste of resources. Lieutenant Carey has sufficient authorisation to secure Engineering.*
The hand hovered in mid-air, alternatively shaking closer to the console and then back in a scene that seemed ridiculous to any watching, but a battle of wills to those understanding. After a few moments of struggle the hand fell to Seven's side, whereupon the blonde immediately sagged visibly against the bulkhead – cobalt eyes narrowing in pain. The slightest trickle of warm crimson dribbled from her nose.
"We won't do that again," B'Elanna thought, in a conversation that was as loud to Seven as any spoken one. The engineer sensed agreement, and silenced the console in front.
The chirruping of B'Elanna-Seven's commbadge gave the duo something else to focus on.
"Janeway to Torres and Seven - We've lost contact with Tuvok and his team on deck Fifteen. Force fields protecting access to a turbolift on that deck have been breached; cut power to the entire lift system."
Seven's hands were quickly across the blue and yellow touch pads sprawled out in front, through a connection that granted her control over every single system - vital or otherwise - throughout the ship. Ignoring the auto-warning from the computer regarding a manual shutdown, she watched the network graphic slowly turn to grey as lifts throughout the ship were brought to a halt.
"We've still got a single lift moving Captain!" B'Elanna-Seven replied with the Engineer's typical incredulousness. "I don't understand; there's no power to the system. Internal sensors are detecting an anomalous EM field in the shaft."
As abruptly as the signal had appeared it winked out from existence, leaving the last lift as inactive as the rest of the turbolift system.
"The field has dissipated Captain – the car has stopped."
Janeway's voice betrayed none of the rising worry in the pit of her stomach. "Location?"
"Deck five," B'Elanna-Seven murmured with dread. Pulling open the storage locker underneath the console and snatching a hand phaser from its mounting, it took only a moment for the two personalities to come to an agreement over how to proceed with one body.
The Doctor nodded as the results of the scan filtered through to the diagnostic console. Meeting the gaze of his patient still kept immobile by medical force fields as her pelvis was slowly reconstructed, he managed a small smile.
"The superior ramus of the ischium has healed quite nicely Miss Nicolette."
"I'm really happy for you Doc," She replied with a sarcastic roll of the eyes. "I hope you'll be very happy together."
"Quite," The Doctor replied absent-mindedly. He handed the young woman the selection of PADDs she had requested, apparently to stave off the dreaded cabin fever inherent to medical bays and hospitals the length and breadth of the galaxy.
Crossing to the far side of the sickbay, the EMH checked on the comatose body of Lieutenant Torres. If her consciousness was not restored soon, he would have to begin electro-muscular infiltration to keep her muscles from wasting away from under-use. The Engrammatic Recorder confirmed no meaningful neural activity – unsurprising.
From somewhere behind the hologram the doors to sickbay parted. "Please state the nature of the medical emergency," He called out dryly.
The Doctor became aware of a high pitched whine that caused him to about turn, setting his eyes on a hulking black shape that did not seem in the least bit friendly or interested in seeking medical advice. The creature seemed to regard him for a moment, before either losing interest or finding something more to its liking and beginning to move towards the central biobed containing Nicoletti.
The young woman's eyes began to widen in horror, as she realised what stalked towards the bed. Her struggles merely added a loud buzzing to the whine, as the restraint fields kept her impossibly still from the waist down. Above the bed the concentric ring of white lighting elements began to flicker, going into spasm as some ethereal force acted on them. The Doctor was across the sickbay in a few moments, presenting himself between the invader and Nicoletti.
Despite the imposing form of the creature, the EMH felt reasonably confident; composed of photons and force fields, he was above the type of damage an organic being could inflict. It was with some creeping fear he realised his position might be altogether less secure, as his readied fists began to dissolve in a jarring flicker of destabilising photons. The phalanges of his fingers simply faded from view and quickly left him without palms, wrists or forearms. His face twisted into a deeply uneasy frown, eyes glancing at the equally fearful Nicoletti.
The creature seemed to pause to analyse the effect it was having on the Doctor, as if it had not expected such an event. It took a few short steps back, its malignant presence on him reducing as the EMH's matrix stabilised and he seemed no worse for wear. Extending a chitinous claw forwards, the invader cocked what seemed to pass for its head as the hologram's hands once more flickered and distorted themselves, finally disappearing from existence.
The Doctor did not like the obvious intelligence at work. The creature rotated its upper body a spine-twisting one hundred and eighty degrees and, with the front of its "head" still fixed firmly on The Doctor, plunged one of its sharpened scythes through the top of the diagnostic console. The unit erupted in a flurry of sparks at such abuse.
Almost instantly all lighting overhead died, plunging the room into darkness save for the emergency beacons and the cascade of bright sparks flying free from the damaged equipment. The EMH's worst fears were confirmed, as he felt his feet leave the decking. A spasm overtook his entire body as his limbs jerked painfully and randomly; his face contorting with the pointless effort to regain control. Deep in the pit of his non-existent stomach, The Doctor felt his matrix probed, prodded and pulled harshly at first, but then with ever increasing refinement and expertise.
The complex memory algorithms, secured with the most advanced protection lock-outs available to Federation holography and computing, were bypassed as the creature now effortlessly located the data he held on the crew of Voyager and removed it for its own ends. All this despite the most confidential and useful records held in his matrix being supposedly impossible to remove, not least without the most advanced understanding of his program.
The Chief Medical Officer of Voyager cried out in shock as his matrix was shorn cleanly in half without any external influence; torso tumbling to the decking whilst his legs rocked backwards and collapsed. His waist buzzed angrily, the smooth lines of his uniform degenerating into escaping photons and disrupted imaging lines.
B'Elanna-Seven was through the doors of the sickbay and in a firing position with a single stride of her lanky legs. Rage began to boil inside the former drone, as cobalt eyes fell first upon the twisted matrix of her close friend, and the terrified features of the restrained Nicoletti who had begun to sob as the Doctor mumbled gibberish and groped about the decking for an impossible footing.
The impossible logic of Seven herself acted not to calm the rage, but focus it and make the thing responsible suffer. A high-pitched whine filled the air and would have ruptured Seven's eardrums, were they not synthetic replacement implants. Pulling the inset trigger on the phaser, a ferocious beam of coruscating orange energy leapt from the emitter … Abruptly diminishing to a feeble yellow stream and finally disappearing into nothingness a few inches from the creature's bony carapace.
Apparently angered by this act the creature turned away from the Doctor, focusing its full fury on B'Elanna-Seven. B'Elanna cried out as agony flooded her being, vision swirling as bright colours intersected with reality. From the reaches of her mind she could hear Seven gasp, both women in the throes of the most incapacitating pain seemingly radiating from the Borg implants themselves; both fixed to Seven's flesh and deep within her body.
With a supreme effort of will and overcoming the spasm that had afflicted her meshed hand, B'Elanna-Seven squeezed the trigger of the phaser a second time. The weapon did not even reward the effort with a sound. Falling to first her knees, and then on to her side, the Seven's ocular implant failed and her vision was reduced to the one eye still gifted by birth and not implantation. The creature's "head" was now scant inches from B'Elanna-Seven's own, with no mouth eyes, nose or any facial features that one might expect to find on anything that was alive.
Apparently satisfied and moving away on six powerful limbs that each terminated in cruel, sharpened claws the attacker stomped to the Jefferies tube hatch covering aside the bulkhead and tore it from its hinges. It disappeared into the ship's innards a moment after the sickbay's doors opened to admit a half-dozen security officers led by a bloodied, but unbroken Tuvok.
"Reinitialise The Doctor," Voyager's Chief of Security ordered as he holstered his phaser and stooped over the prone form of Seven.
"Tuvok to Bridge – the intruder has incapacitated the Doctor and Seven and escaped our team. I believe it will attempt to leave the ship; it seems to have obtained all it came for."
The Vulcan's brow furrowed. " … Whatever that might have been."
"Please state the nature of the medical emergency." The words were automated; uttered the moment his matrix came into existence, before his memory algorithms loaded and reminded him of who he was, where he was, what he did and what had gone on with invading alien creatures and holographic dismemberment.
His eyes passed first on Ensign Kim, stooped over the sobbing Nicoletti and then to Tal Celesse, her hand resting on Harry's back. Next he met the slate-grey eyes of Captain Janeway, regarding him with a mixture of compassion and focus that marked her unique brand of command authority and finally, the unconscious form of Seven of Nine upon a bulkhead biobed.
"How do you feel Doctor?" Janeway asked evenly. It took a few moments for the EMH to break from his thoughts and return to the moment.
Shrugging his shoulders slightly, the hologram exhaled though no air entered or exited his non-existent lungs. "Fine, Captain."
Consulting the console in front, she nodded. "Your matrix has stabilised – it seems the creature did no lasting physical damage to your program other than remove the crew's medical file,s as well as your memory engrams of previous experiences and procedures. It downloaded a sizable amount of the ship's database … Almost sixty percent."
"Where is the creature now?"
The Captain's jaw set slightly. "It tapped into transporter control and overrode our lock-outs as if they weren't even there. It transported off the ship, to somewhere or something that doesn't register on our sensors. All we've managed to get from the computer is that it's near the transporter's maximum operational range. We're plotting a search course based on that as we speak."
The creature appears to have the innate ability to generate a powerful magnetic field, allowing it to render complex technology in proximity to it useless. Somehow it was able to render phasers, force fields and magnetic locks redundant – it was even able to remotely power a system and process its data even when that component had been isolated from the rest of the ship's EPS. It also showed capability to damage technology."
The Doctor followed the Captain's eyes to the prone body of Seven upon a biobed, and was immediately across the short distance in the time it took to snatch a tricorder from a nearby trolley.
The hum of the flashing probe was joined a few moments later by the silent frown of Voyager's Chief Medical Officer. His eyes narrowed. "Her neural implants are depolarising," The Doctor announced urgently.
"The entirety of B'Elanna's consciousness was stored in Seven's cranial assembly, which is an enormous strain in itself. The lack of regeneration, along with what I'm guessing must have been constant in-fighting between the minds and the body pushed her cortical implants to their limit. The creature's EM field has pushed the situation beyond tolerance … If I do not purge Seven's cranial assembly, she will die."
Tuvok`s brow raised from his position beside the Captain. "Do you believe you can reintegrate Lieutenant Torres' mind with her body?"
The Doctor shook his head as Janeway leaned over the bed. "If you purge the implants, B'Elanna's essence will be lost. Unacceptable Doctor – I need alternatives."
The EMH snapped the tricorder shut, frustration written across his features. His skills, already boosted by the finest medical minds of the Federation and seven years in the Delta Quadrant, were insufficient. Time had finally run out and there could be no miracle treatment this time; he could not save them both. He could not save B'Elanna.
He could not save them both.
Abruptly, the life sign monitor at the head of the bed began to shriek alarmingly. Consulting the readings, the hologram's expression became even grimmer.
"Her cortical node is overloading – she will die within the hour if we do nothing Captain. We are out of time."
Janeway glanced at Seven, and then the comatose B'Elanna occupying the bed further down. Her eyes seemed to battle between them, as if struggling to pick a side to win even though one had no hope of survival, and the other would surely die if she did nothing.
With a long sigh, and a final look at the EMH, the Captain nodded. "Do what has to be done Doctor. I won't lose them both."
"Doctor?" Kathryn added, brow furrowing as she noticed the hologram no longer seemed to be regarding his surroundings. Had he been Human, the Captain would have thought him daydreaming. "Doctor!"
"There may be a way!" The EMH practically shouted, his demeanour brightening at a thought running through his matrix. "We might not be able to transfer B'Elanna back to her body, and she certainly can't stay with Seven, but we might be able to maintain the status quo!"
The Doctor didn't wait for Janeway to prompt him for an explanation. "We need a vessel, a carry-can for the Lieutenant's mind until such time as we can fix this mess. We have all the vessels we need right here, right in this very room Captain!"
Janeway was more than willing to snatch at a miracle, if she understood what it entailed. "You're not making any sense, Doctor!"
The hologram rolled his eyes, gesturing at himself with his hands. "Me, Captain! A hologram! If we carry out a neural duplication, we can digitise B'Elanna's consciousness and upload it into a holographic avatar – it'll be the next best thing to being a living, breathing person."
The Captain turned away, clouded in thought as she ran through the possibilities of an audacious and quite brilliant plan.
A glance towards her Chief of Security elicited a nod. "It may be possible, Captain. I recall a case on-board Deep Space Nine, where a spatial anomaly interfered with a transporter beam and deposited the senior officers' consciousness in a running holo-program. It is theoretically plausible."
The Captain nodded. "Get Lieutenant Carey up here now."
"It's not possible," Carey said finally, dropping the last of the PADDs covering The Doctor's desk and sighing. Pinching the bridge of his nose, the Acting Chief of Engineering glanced towards Harry Kim – requisitioned to the cause given his experience in holographic programming. Harry nodded in reluctant agreement.
"Although the characters on the holodeck and the Doctor are superficially the same," Carey explained. "Namely they're both holograms, they're very much a different proposition, Captain."
"Your average holodeck character is a physical avatar with either pre-programmed responses, an interactive database, or very rarely both alongside your standard personality subroutine. They are incapable of true abstract thinking, realising their own nature, or growing beyond the limits of their programming out with a very narrow number of unlikely possibilities."
Joe gestured to the ship's CMO. "The Doctor isn't so simple. His program has the capability to create its own subroutines based on experiences, and personal interaction. In a purely technical sense, his matrix has experienced so much it has created its own internal code editing tool, allowing it to literally grow. It's impossible to simply cut out and paste – as he learned when he tried to modify his own program with elements from other historical characters."
"We can't create another program that will cope with sentience?" Janeway asked incredulously.
Harry shook his head. "It's not about designing a program that can cope with B'Elanna's sentience, Captain. It's a question of shipboard processing power. We've had other holograms that attained some measure of intelligence, beyond their original design, running concurrently with The Doctor in the past."
"Krell Mosset, the Cardassian scientist that helped remove the parasite that infected B'Elanna is an example. These other holograms have never run for long periods of time, and certainly never full-time like The Doctor."
"The main computer would be pushed beyond what I'd consider safe limits running two sentient holoprograms full-time," Carey continued. "We might create some breathing room by disabling the holodeck and the holographic sensors in Astrometrics, but we'd be sailing closer to the wind than I'd ever like to be. We're talking about a situation that leaves absolutely no spare processing capacity. Putting aside the issue of shipboard operations, the smallest system failure could have serious repurcussions for both the Doctor and B'Elanna."
Janeway glanced at the Doctor, who was crestfallen. Her own disappointment was hidden behind regulations and authority, but it was every bit as painful. Her eyes passed to Seven, the body of B'Elanna, and then the medical sensors above the former drone's head. Her vitals were fading quickly; their miracle treatment had run out of time.
"Delete me," The Doctor said simply.
Tuvok, the Captain, Carey and Kim fixed their eyes on the hologram with a disbelieving look. He nodded firmly. "Restore my program from the database default. All the additions to my program since I were first activated, If they were removed, would mean I'd be as complex as the characters on the holodeck, yes?"
"I suppose," Carey replied quickly. "But your personality would be lost, you're-"
"I understand the proposition," The EMH interrupted. "If I'm restored to my factory settings, so to speak, B'Elanna can be holographically revived. It's the only way to save them both, Captain. It's the only way I can save them both."
Janeway shook her head. "I can't ask you to sacrifice your sentience, Doctor. I won't trade a life, even if it's electronic, for a life. B'Elanna would never expect you to be sacrificed so she could live. She would—"
"I never asked to live!" The EMH interrupted loudly. "I was created at Jupiter Station, I was one of Eight hundred and forty nine copies compiled and organised identically. I was based on the physical characteristics of an existing life and my mannerisms, voice and personality are all derived from him. I was only supposed to suture wounds, heal broken bones and fight infections. Above all else, I was programmed to Do No Harm. I was programmed to save lives."
"Let me fulfil my function!" The Doctor pleaded. "You wouldn't hesitate to lay down your life for your ship Captain, and Commander Tuvok would do the same for any member of this crew. If I can save B'Elanna, I must. I couldn't live with myself otherwise, and to watch her die and remove any memory of her passing would be to mock sentience itself."
"I wish there was the time for you to think about what you are proposing Doctor," Janeway replied in frustration. She glanced at the life monitor. The Doctor pointed at the screen, illustrating his point.
"Our time is up, Captain. Her cortical node is entering end-phase overload. You must let me make my own decision. You must let me be free – to sacrifice myself for the good of another. I did not graduate from Starfleet Academy and I did not take the Oath of Service, but give me this opportunity to fulfil its ideals, and its hopes."
Kathryn felt her eyes tighten, her command mask beginning to waiver and the emotional turmoil within threatening to boil out. Concentrating on keeping her cool in an otherwise critical situation, the she nodded her head slowly at Kim and Carey.
"Give The Doctor all the assistance he requires."
With that she turned and left. It was all she could do to keep control.
"It's nice to visit new places," The Doctor announced with his custom mockery-cum-cheeriness as he regarded the Warp Core with feigned fascination. From his position nearby, Harry Kim smiled as best his mood would allow. Lieutenant Carey did not glance up, his face twisted in concentration. The EMH tapped his mobile emitter thoughtfully as he checked the remote-link from sickbay – the computer informing him that post-surgery medications had been dispensed as per his orders, and that Seven's vitals were quickly strengthening now that she was not required to share.
"We could do this in more comfortable surroundings," Harry said aloud. "In the holodeck? Surely there's somewhere you'd rather be, for this … Procedure."
"I'm a Doctor made of light on a spaceship fifty years from home Mister Kim," The EMH replied with mock derision. "This is home. Besides, the colours of the mutual annihilation of matter and anti-matter in the reaction chamber always seemed beautiful to me. It's calming."
The Ensign regarded the warp core's constantly shifting pastel-hues with a warm smile, and nodded. "I concede the point."
"The avatar is ready," Carey announced from his station. "I'm bringing it online."
Taking a moment to materialise into existence, The Doctor stood face-to-face with B'Elanna Torres, or rather, her physical avatar. Collecting a small transport case from the console where The Doctor had linked to sickbay, he carried it towards Ensign Kim, placing it on top of his station and waving his hand towards it.
"It contains isolinear chips – personal messages I recorded a few hours ago, after we had finished the neural duplication. I didn't record one for everyone; a hundred and forty eight people seemed a little overindulgent. There's one there for you Mister Kim, and Miss Nicoletti, the Captain and a few others. I want you to deliver them for me Ensign."
Kim felt his eyes warm, and unlike the Captain he did not have the command mask to rely upon. Tears began to moisten his skin, and all the wrenching of the imminent loss of a friend bubbled to the surface. The Doctor laid a reassuring hand on the young man's shoulders.
"We all die Mister Kim, even holograms. I expect you to make a Lieutenant before you reach Earth, and I want you to promise me a few things. I want you to make Nicoletti your own; I've seen the way you two are, talking and laughing and just saying nothing. She will need a lot of help to get through the rehabilitation still ahead. You're the man for the job Mister Kim."
Harry nodded, clutching the box tightly. "There's one more thing," The Doctor added with his voice dropping to a whisper. "When you get home … Tell them about me."
Harry clasped his own hand upon The EMH's, and nodded. "Take care Doc."
"We're ready Doctor," Carey called from his console. The pair exchanged a curt nod and Voyager's Chief Medical Officer knew that both the Lieutenant and Harry Kim were dealing with identical feelings in opposite ways; the former becoming withdrawn, professional and the latter emotive.
They were both good officers. They were both good men.
The Doctor had spent his final night "alive" trying to revisit every single thing he had experienced in the last seven years, perhaps easier given his computerised existence than the same task given to an organic. Particularly, he had spent many hours in deep pondering regarding his protégé, his friend and his unrequited love.
How he loved Seven of Nine. He had poured whatever might pass as a soul for a hologram into the isolinear chip encoded for the former drone. He had explained that whilst it pained him greatly to have to leave the burden of his love on her and depart for oblivion, the EMH could not stand the thought of never having at least spoken of his feelings. He had spoken of his hopes and dreams for Seven, and that she might finally accept her own beautiful self and personality and find true happiness.
How he had loved Seven of Nine.
"I'm ready," The Doctor said simply, glancing at Carey and Kim with a nod and a smile. Carey drew in a breath sharply and leant his weight against his console.
"Computer execute engineering maintenance program Carey-one; command override for holographic safeguards Carey-epsilon-eleven-eleven-October."
The acting Chief Engineer ignored the computer's acknowledgement, as his eyes remained fixed on the Doctor stood beside the handrail around the Warp Core. He seemed peaceful, though Carey thought he caught the look of regret upon the EMH's face. It was only a thought, as The Doctor's face dissolved into nothingness before Joe could take a second glance.
Force fields deactivated to free the photons from their holographic prison and as easily as he had once been summoned, The U.S.S. Voyager's Chief Medical Officer simply ceased to be.
"Computer begin holographic upload Carey-seven," He ordered, tapping his commbadge with a free hand. "Carey to Bridge – I'm beginning the transfer of Lieutenant Torres' engrams to the avatar."
" … The Doctor's gone."
To Be Continued ...