Lorraine Anderson 7324 Words Approx

P.O. Box 463

Three Rivers, MI 49093

BLONDES AND BORGS

By Lorraine Anderson

Sam found himself looking at a small hand-held computer. On it's screen was... what? He brought it closer to his face, puzzled. Pulse, blood pressure, temperature, this he understood, although what they would be doing on a hand-held was beyond him. But what was Borg Implant Telemetry...

He lowered the computer slowly, only now aware of the woman in front of him. Ice-cold blue eyes stared at him out of a face of one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, despite the "jewelry" adorning her face. He lowered the hand-held even further, and noticed the form fitting outfit. "Wow," he said, then blushed.

"Who... are you?" the woman said coldly, frowning.

"Um." Sam broke into a cold sweat. "I am your doctor?"

"You are not the doctor." She shook her head. "I saw a bright flash, the doctor disappeared, then you appeared." She looked away. "The Captain would want me to get security backup." She lifted her hand to the pin on her shirt.

"Wait!"

She hesitated. "Why."

"Because..." He looked at her helplessly. "Because..."

She looked at him and continued her motion to the pin. It chirped. He looked closely at it. The woman looked at him cautiously as she spoke. "Seven to the Captain."

"Janeway here. What's up, Seven?"

Sam flinched back at the sound of the voice, then glanced at Seven, who was now eyeing him curiously. "We have an intruder in Sickbay. He appears to be a humanoid male, approximately forty-five years of age, Terran." He turned back again to look at her talking pin, fascinated, then realized approximately where he was looking, blushed, and looked away. She looked down at her pin, then back at him.

"Seven? Are you all right?"

"He is quite confused. Also, the Doctor is missing."

"Do you need security backup?"

"No." She calmly caught his arm in a painful grip, almost crushing it. He moaned. "I have the situation under control."

"We'll be right down."

#

"The Leaper is where?"

"I had to put him in the Imaging Chamber. He is yelling bloody murder, and if I could get a headache, I would. I would suggest you go in and talk to him, Admiral." Ziggy, the project computer, sounded unbearably smug. "You'll find him interesting."

Al had closed his eyes in frustration. He opened them. "How do you know?"

"You'll see," Ziggy crooned. "You'll see."

Al sighed. He glanced at Gooshie, who shrugged, then at Tina, who looked the other way and popped her gum. With a determined look, he opened the Imaging Chamber Door.

A man in a blue and black shirt was looking away from Al, apparently shouting. Ziggy said, "Oops, forgot the sound, and suddenly, the chamber echoed.

"Tom Paris, if this is one of your juvenile tricks, I swear I'm going to..."

Al stepped into the chamber, walked behind the man, and cleared his throat. The man whirled and glared at him. "And just who are you supposed to be?" he poked at Al, and his hand went through Al's chest. "Rather insubstantial for a hologram, aren't you? Not one of Paris' better efforts."

Al gaped at his chest, then felt of himself. He was fine. He reached a tentative hand out. The man slapped at it, and it went through. "Are we going to play patty cake all day? I have patients to see."

"You're a hologram?" Al squeaked.

The doctor looked disgusted. "I'm not your great-aunt Matilda. Who are you to be calling me a hologram?"

Al turned around. "Ziggy? I need an explanation..."

"He's a Hologram, of course."

"Waddya mean, of course? If he's here, where's Sam?"

"Why don't you ask him, Admiral?" Ziggy purred.

Al glared, then went silent for a moment. "If he's a hologram, Ziggy, then you must be projecting him, which means information on him is somewhere in your tin-plated gizzrards. If he is a hologram and not your idea of a sick joke."

Ziggy was silent.

"Ha!"

"I'm sorry, Admiral." Ziggy said petulantly. "I can't access him."

"And a good thing too," the man interjected.

"What do you..."

"In simplistic terms, his files and mine aren't speaking the same language."

Al rubbed his hand over his face, suddenly convinced that Ziggy was telling the truth.

"If I may put my two cents in..."

Al jumped. He had momentarily forgotten the man. "Oh. Yeah?"

"This conversation is all very fascinating, but I would like to get back to Sickbay." He was silent a second, then a puzzled look appeared on his face.

"What's the matter?" Al said.

"I should be in Sickbay right now," the man muttered to himself.

Al narrowed his eyes. "Ziggy, what is he talking about?"

"Why don't you ask him, Admiral?"

Al regarded the man. The man regarded Al. "Me first," Al said. "Look. I don't care who... or what... you are. What I need to know is where you come from. When you come from. What you do there. What your name is?" He looked the man up and down. "I would guess that you're a doctor in some sort of military service, but which one is beyond me."

"Verbena never recommends the direct approach, Admiral," Ziggy interjected.

"Would you like my personnel number, too?" the doctor said.

"If you have one."

"Nosy little man, isn't he, Computer?" The doctor sighed.

"He's always been that way," Ziggy answered.

"All right, if that will get me out of the simulation, then here it is: I am the emergency medical hologram of the United Federation of Planets Starship Voyager, Captain Kathryn Janeway, Commanding. It is the year 2375.I have not yet decided on a name, I am simply known as the doctor.' And no, I do not have a personnel number. Since I am not real, Starfleet doesn't see fit to pay me."

"Ziggy?"

"Yes, Admiral?"

"Is he telling the truth?"

"How should I know, Admiral? I don't have any vital statistics to launch a search. But, considering all factors, there is a 99% probability that the doctor is telling the truth."

Al felt a cold chill. "So... if he's telling the truth, then how in the world are we going to contact Sam?"

"Possibly," said Ziggy calmly. "Through the temporal wormhole in the Imaging Chamber."

"The what?" said both men simultaneously.

#

The Captain strode through the Sickbay doors followed by a dark skinned man with pointed ears. They looked around Sickbay, then at Sam, then at Seven. "Where is the intruder?"

Seven looked confused, then determined. "He has taken the place of the doctor."

Sam felt a surge of hope. "She's delusional," he said quickly.

Seven looked at him sharply. "I do not believe so," she said thoughtfully. "I do not believe the intruder is a hologram. EMH off."

Sam felt a sudden chill, as if a warm blanket was being ripped from his skin. He looked down... he was naked! He moved to grab a sheet of a diagnostic bed, but stopped as he noticed the dark skinned man holding a gun on him. Sam gulped.

"Ok, who are you and what in hell have you done with our doctor?" the Captain growled.

Sam looked at the odd gun and resisted the impulse to figleaf himself. Keeping his hands by his side, he looked at the Captain slowly. "Before I answer your question, may I ask what year this is? And where I am? And what the heck your doctor is?"

The Captain's eyes widened slightly. "You are on the Starship Voyager of the United Federation of Planets. registered out of Earth. The doctor is a computer projected hologram."

Sam turned pale. "And the year?"

"2375."

Sam closed his eyes. "Oh, boy." He opened them again and glanced at the man with the gun. "I'm..." He stopped and gulped.

"Well?"

He glanced at the man with the gun. "I've been told that if I reveal my true identity, I'll never get home. But I assure you... I mean you no harm."

Janeway's face softened slightly. "I'd like to believe you, but we've been in the Delta Quadrant too long to believe every honest looking stranger who comes along."

Sam wrinkled his eyebrows. "The Delta Quadrant?"

"The region of space that we're in."

Sam turned pale. "I heard you say 'Starship,' but..."

"You didn't know you were in space?" He shook his head. "Have you been in space before?" He shook his head. "Where are you from.?"

He gulped. "Earth." He stood and reflected over the previous conversation. "Are you from the sam Earth? Terra. Sol System, Milky Way?"

Janeway exchanged a look with the dark man. "The same. Most of us. Mr. Tuvok is a Vulcan. Seven is also human, but with some... implants. Mr. Tuvok, you can put away your gun."

"Captain," Tuvok said "Do you believe that wise?"

She smiled. "Tuvok, he's a naked man. Where's he hiding his phaser?" She gestured to a bed. "Get a toga," she said to Sam. "You look cold." She touched her badge. "Janeway to Ensign Kim. We need you in Sickbay."

"Right away, Captain."

"We just need our resident Time-Travel expert to guess who you are."

#

"A wormhole?" Al repeated.

"I have never actuaaly sensed one, but as of 23 seconds ago, I established communication with Voyager's computer. She has told me a googaplex of storage items."

"How did you get Voyager to tell you anything?" the doctor demanded.

"I used your voice, doctor."

"So much for Starfleet security."

Al pulled out his handlink. "Do you think you can pinpoint me on Sam?"

"Of course, Admiral."

"Then do it."

A gray, antiseptic room appeared around them - Al could almost smell the antiseptic of a Doctor's office. ahe glanced around. "Sam!"

A man whirled, and Al found himself staring a pointy looking gun down the barrel, so to speak. "Uh." Al crossed his eyes, then slowly brought his hand around to touch the gun. His hand went through it, and he grinned and backed off.

"Captain," the doctor said. "If I may interrupt this little tête-a-tête..."

"Doctor," the captain said. "What in the..."

"Thanks for noticing me."

The Captain exhaled. "Tuvok, put your phaser away. Gentlemen," she said, spreading her hands "... where in the world did you come from?"

The door shooshed open. A young oriental man walked in, then stared at Al. "Admiral Callavici!"

The captain cocked her head, looking bemused. "What?"

"This is the astronaut, Admiral Albert Callavici, Captain. But why are you running..."

"And this man, Mr. Kim?"

Kim shifted his gaze. "Why, that's Dr. Samuel Beckett..." He looked down at the sheet Sam was wearing, and Sam blushed slightly.

"I take it he invented a time machine?" The Captain said.

"Among other things - including a prototype for our computer and our transporter. He was also a medical doctor, a classical pianist, and knew a number of languages." Sam blushed even further as Kim's forehead wrinkled. "Captain, what is a near naked hologram of dr. Beckett doing in Sickbay."

"That's what I'd like to know," the doctor muttered.

The captain grinned. "Sorry, ensign. I didn't mean to sabotage you. This is the real article."

"The real..." His eyes flicked from Sam to Al, back to Sam again. He blushed. "They're real?"

Sam felt sorry for the young man, and remembered how he felt when he met Stephen Hawking. He walked over and extended his hand. Kim took it nervously. "Good to meet you, Ensign Kim."

"Um..." Suddenly his grip tightened, and he paled.

"Are you all right?" Sam said, grasping his elbow.

Kim stared at him. "Yes... No, Captain, I have to talk to you." He disengaged his arm apologetically. "In private."

Janeway's smile faded. "In the Doctor's office." They moved quickly into his office.

"What the hell is that all about?" Al said, staring after them. He made as if to follow.

Seven, who had sat silent and impassive, moved in front of Al, as Tuvok did the same. "I would not do that," said Seven.

Al looked her up and down, and his face brightened, although his expression didn't change. "Whatever you say, darlin'," he said, "although you realize you couldn't stop me if you wanted to." He reached out to touch her arm, and his hand passed through it. "Much to my regret," he sighed, almost to himself. He looked at Sam. "But what I don't understand is why we are visible here."

"If you had been paying attention when I was talking before," the doctor said. "You would have realized that the Sickbay is what you call an Imaging Chamber, but much more advanced. In here, I am corporeal, so to speak, and can treat patients as if I were real. We show up because although the projectors are apparently not on, your Ziggy's projectors are close enough to show our image."

"Thank you, Dr. Science," Al said, puliing out a cigar."

The doctor looked down his nose. "And you are going to rot your lungs - if you haven't alrady done so."

"I was in Vietnam, buddy." Al pointed his cigar at the doctor. "If that didn't kill me, this won't."

"Vietnam?" the doctor asked, puzzled.

"The Vietnam war?"

"I'm a doctor, not a historian."

Sam saw Al bristle. "Al..."

The Captain and Ensign Kim walked out of the office, grim. "Gentlemen, we may have a problem. Admiral, I need to know your present date."

Al gave Sam a puzzled look. "Later," he finally said.

"Fair enough." She looked around at the crowd. "But we need the rest of the senior staff. If you will follow me to the briefing room, and," she held up a hand for the doctor, "we will set up a link to sickbay for Admiral Callavici and the doctor."

"Captain," the doctor said. "I need Mr. Paris down here for the duration. I can't help anybody if I can't touch anyone."

"True. Mr. Paris will be right down." She started to walk out the door.

"Uh, Captain?" Sam said. He looked down at his sheet.

A small grin started on Janeway's face. "Oh. Yes. Well, I think we can find a couple of minutes to get Dr. Beckett clothed. Mr. Tuvok, if you would..."

Sam would've rather gone with Ensign Kim - something about an alien who stuck a phaser in his face unnerved him. And what does one talk about with a space alien? The weather? They started down the hall, the opposite way of the rest of the crowd. "So," Sam started, feeling dumb, "what's it like where you come from?"

"Unlike the Captain, I do not believe it it wise to let you know too much about the future."

Sam sighed. "Mr. Tuvok, I already know too much about the future. Should I speculate about what I've already heard and seen?"

They walked on for a couple of seconds. Tuvok looked at Sam. "Vulcan is arid."

"Water?"

"We have learned to conserve."

They walked a little further. "Wife? Children?"

"Yes."

Sam decided that finding hen's teeth was easier than engaging in small talk with a Vulcan. He blushed as a crewwoman looked at him speculatively. "Is it much further?"

"We are here." Tuvok stopped in front of a door and psuhed some commands into a panel. "This chamber will take your measurements. Put the sheet in the slot, then stand still until told." He pushed a button, and the door opened. "In order to minimize questions amongst the crew, I have programmed in a uniform of the Science and Medical swections. We will suggest that we rescued off a malfunctioning ship."

Sam nodded and stepped in. He felt a momentary panic as the door closed - he had a sudden memory of s disintegration chamber from "Captain Galaxy." Then he exhaled, dropped his sheet, and stood still until clothing appeared in the slot in front of him. He dressed quickly, then exited, nodding to Tuvok.

As he walked beside Tuvok to the briefing room, Sam worried what had Captain Janeway rattled. She was worried about something; he had Leapt long enough to be an expert in body language. And he had a feeling she didn't scare easily.

"Any ideas about the meeting, Mr. Tuvok?" he ventured tentatively.

"I would not care to speculate."

"Right. You have no idea either."

Tuvok glanced at him, then down the hall. "I believe I said that."

Sam smiled slightly, and wondered what drove the Vulcan to be so austere.

Tuvok stopped in front of a door. "Please enter."

Sam took a deep breath as the door opened in front of him. Captain Janeway rose and said, "Ah, Dr. Beckett. Please sit beside me, here." He entered and sat beside her, glancing around the room. His eyes widened slightly at the woman with the raised ridges on her forehead and she stared back at him levelly. But his eyes really widened at the sight of the first truly alien looking being in the room.

"Dr. Beckett, I have briefed the rest of the command staff on the circumatnces of your arrival, and I have made introductions to Admiral Callavici." Sam looked at the wall and saw Al, the doctor, and a youngish looking man on a viewscreen. "May I present my second-in-command, Commander Chakotay..." a native American man smiled warmly at him.

"...Lieutenant Torres..." the alien woman nodded.

"...Lieutenant Paris..." the sandy-haired man grinned from the screen.

"...and Mr. Neelix, our expert on this quadrant."

"And morale officer," Neelix chipped in.

"And morale officer," she smiled. "You already know Seven, Tuvok, the doctor, and Ensign Kim." Her smile faded. "Unfortunately, it's a grim problem which brings us here. Harry?"

Kim nodded. "As some of you know, time travel has been an interest of mine since..." he glanced at Sam "... an incident just a short time ago. Since then, I have explored what I could of other incidents, of which Captain Kirk's, of course, was the most famous. However, Dr. Beckett's was the earliest. All his Leaps are listed in report format in the computer - all except the very last, which was visual. We believe that it may be this Leap."

Sam felt a shock He glanced at Al, who looked as stunned as he felt. "Does this mean..." Al said slowly. "that Sam will be coming home?"

"No. I'm sorry."

Al slumped. "Didn't think it would be that easy."

"The last Leap was security coded. Only a Captain or higher could access it, and I doubt that many cared to." He looked at the Captain, who nodded. "When I saw Dr. Beckett, I remembered the last entry and asked the Captain to view this for me." He looked at the Captain again.

"What we found stumped us," Janeway said, taking up the void. She exhaled. "You had better see what we saw. Computer, this is Captain Kathryn Janeway..." she reeled off some numbers. "Play entry 93, Beckett, Last, quarter screen display."

A male voice came out of the screen "On July 15, 2000, a packet came through the electronic mail system with a video file attached. This is what the United States Government officials saw:"

Sam found himself looking at a hallway from the Quantum Leap project. Al was talking to a tall female - Tina? Yeah, Tina.

"Does Ziggy record everything?" Al muttered.

Suddenly, a heavily armoured man popped out of thin air. As Al and Tina gaped at him, he reached out quickly and touched each of them on the neck. Ziggy zoomed in, and Sam saw their expressions go blank and a spider of metal explode out of their cheeks.

"Borg!" The room around him seemed to echo with the shocked whispers of the staff. He looked at Al. He had turned white, but seemed to be controlled. He looked back at the screen. Al, Tina, and the... Borg?... had enetered the control room, and a smallish man... Gooshie!... and another dark haired woman looked at the two, said something, then attempted to escape. Al and Tina caught them easily and held them as the Borg... infected them. They continued room by room, and Sam saw all of his staff turned into zombies. When the last of his Command staff was taken, the first audio started. Sam recognized it as Ziggy: "I cannot let this invasion advance. I am, therefore, on my own cognizance and under indirect command of Dr. Beckett, setting off a thermo-nuclear explosion. May God bless us everyone." The screen filled with a bright light.

Voyager's computer continued. "All attempts to raise communications at Project Quantum Leap were unsuccessful. Quake centers reported that a disturbance of magnitude 7 did shake the ground in the area of Project Quantum Leap, Investigators were forced to conclude that the computer had exploded a device. Because the disturbance was on government land, the United States Government was forced to admit that there was a top-secret project researching self-aware computers. Newspapers reported that the Project computer had set off the computer under no provocation. Laws were set in place forbidding research of self-aware computers."

The doctor was looking distinctly uncomfortable, and Sam remembered that he was a hologram projected by a computer.

"By order of the President, these records were sealed and placed in an unexplained file. In 2005, these files were transferred, due to the..."

"Computer, stop." Janeway stood up and faced the room. "This, gentleman, is the problem."

"Aw, shit," Al said slowly. "I don't even know what I just saw, and I don't like it. What are they?"

Janeway nodded at Seven. "The Borg are an alien race which which expands by conquest and assimilation via nanotechnology. Seven is a human assimilated by the Borg as a child, and is still being treated for her... condition."

"And how are we supposed to fight something like that?" Al said. "Bullets?"

Janeway looked thoughtful and turned to Seven. She shrugged. "That may work once," she said. "But they will learn to deflect them."

"I'll make it count," Al said.

Janeway smiled ruefully. "Better to stop them before they come. We already know the location of the wormhole. We had found it on the way by, determined that it went to 20th century Earth..." she held up her hand "... not to your Project, by the way. We saw it was too small for our purposes and decided it wasn't worth our precious resources to close it. A mistake we won't make twice." She looked at Sam. "We're on our way back right now, but, as I see it, we can't just close the wormhole without stranding both our doctor and Dr. Beckett. There is also the possibility of a backlash on the project end which would be every bit as devastating as a nuclear explosion."

She sighed and laid her hands on the table. "Another part of our problem is temporal. We are commanded that unless the temporal problem affects our present, we should leave the past alone. The Borg attack on Earth did not succeed. We are not obligated to do a thing."

"Why, you cold-hearted–" Al began.

She held up her hand. "But the past has changed, you are aware of the threat and will defend yourselves."

"Damn straight!"

"Since we can't afford the consequences if you lose, we will, therefore, help you." She grinned. "Besides, Ensign Kim begged me." She smiled again. "I didn't take much convincing." She looked at Sam, then at Al. "Do I have your permission to beam – send our people to your project?"

Al looked at Sam. "Do we have a choice?"

"Yes," Janeway said. "We can do all we can at this end and hope. But I think we'll have a better chance of success at your end if something gets through because we know what we're fighting."

Al slumped. Sam could almost hear what he was thinking; he was afraid he would lose control of the Project to these people. Then Al perked up. "Can you send Sam?"

Janeway bit her lip. "No, I'm sorry. We don't dare risk it." She lifted her hand to Al's objection. "I know, technically you have no future beyond this Project, but it's best that we try not to mess with temporal mechanics than we have to."

"I agree," Sam said. Al glared at him, but backed down.

She stood up. "Dr. Beckett, I understand you have a medical degree?" He nodded. "Then you'll work with the doctor in Sickbay when you're not helping Seven, Torres, Tuvok, and myself. Chakotay, you're with Lieutenant Paris, Ensign Kim, and three security people of your choice. Dismissed."

Sam looked at Seven and she regarded him coldly. This was going to be a long Leap.

#"I hate waiting." Paris pulled at his tie. His fingernails tapped loudly on the cafeteria table, and the group at the next table glanced at him curiously. Kim looked around at the people of the Project, and Chakotay studied his mug of coffee.

Al sat back, lounging, and studied his glass of cola like it was the most fascinating thing around. "If you don't relax, kid," he drawled, "then everybody in the Project is going to know something is up." He looked around. "Not that they don't know right now."

Chakotay grinned. "I've been reading some stories about the Project."

Al continued to study the glass, but his face turned hard. "You have the advantage of me, sir."

Chakotay's mouth opened, and he glanced at Kim. "I wish I could apologize, but I'm only following orders."

Al sat up. "I can appreciate that. I don't have to like it, but I can appreciate it." His mouth set. "So is this our plan of attack? Wait in the break room until something happens?"

Chakotay sat back. "At the moment, yes," he said mildly, with finality. "Actually, I'm hoping we see no action at all."

"That would be ideal," Al drawled. "But ideal conditions rarely happen. I know."

Kim nodded. "Your imprisonment." He shut his mouth suddenly.

Al glanced at Kim, then relaxed. "Yeah, kid, there's that, but actually I was thinking of Sam."

"You miss him," Paris said. He looked at Kim.

"Yeah. I see him every day, but it's not the same."

"Well, it could be worse," Chakotay said. "You could be a million parsecs away from your family."

Al looked at Chakotay, a small smile on his face. "Better than a small cage in Vietnam."

"Better than Cardassians," Chakotay countered.

Paris grabbed his drink and leaned forward. "Look, if you guys are going to trade torture stories, I'm going to sit at another table. I'm getting better conversations out of Ziggy."

"Yeah," Kim grinned. "She thinks he's cute."

Paris blushed, and the other two laughed.

The laughter died. "I really hate waiting," Al muttered.

#

"The Borg are quite capable of waiting for a decade," Seven informed Sam. "Or even a hundred years. We may be waiting in vain."

Sam kept his eyes on the Astrometrics Lab screen. It seemed safer than looking at Seven in her skin-tight uniform.

And she wasn't even aware of her sex-appeal.

"So," he gulped. "Do you think the Borg are superior to humans?"

"I didn't say that." She glanced at him glacially. "They are superior in many respects to any individual species. But I would not remain human if I did not consider individualism far more valuable."

"Such as?"

The Borg, as a unit, do not foster creativity. Their advances are leached from the cultures they assimilate. The Borg community offers comfort and union to the individual, but as a race, they are stagnant."

"Would you return if you could?"

"I was assimilated into the Borg as a small child. The Borg was the only family I knew. I was extremely angry with Captain Janeway when she took me from the Borg." Her fingers flew over the keys. "However, I adjusted. Voyager is my family now." Her fingers stopped. "The wormhole is starting to destabilize," she said in the same tone.

Sam started. "Huh?" He had a sudden vision of being in the future forever.

"It has stabilized again." She pressed her communicator. "Seven to Janeway."

"Go ahead, Seven."

"The wormhole is fluctuating. I would suggest you watch for Borg."

A short silence. "Understood... They're just coming in on long-range sensor now. Is Dr. Beckett with you?"

"Yes." Seven glanced at him as if she thought he had ran out while she wasn't looking. How could a beautiful woman look so imperious without even trying? Sam decided it must be the implant.

"Send him to Sickbay. There may be casualties."

Seven looked at him. He pressed his own communicator – they had told him that his would link to the nearest open channel. "On my way, Captain." He had a sudden thought and turned back to Seven. "Do Borg even laugh?"

Seven stared wide-eyed at him. He exited, blushing.

Why did he say that?

#

The lights blinked off and on. "Ziggy," Al shouted. "What in the hell is going on?"

No answer. Al glared at Chakotay, then caught himself.

"Ziggy!"

The handlink chirped. "I just about lost it," Ziggy wailed.

"What?" Al yelled.

"The wormhole!" Ziggy said in a quieter tone.

Al paled. Chakotay looked at him, then leaned toward the handlink. "What is the condition of the wormhole now, ziggy?"

"Stable," Ziggy said. "I think you need to take a stress pill, Admiral," she continued silkily.

Al turned red, then swore so eloquently that Paris and Kim stared at him in open-mouthed admiration. Chakotay gave the two an amused glance, then started slightly as his "cell phone" rang. He opened it, holding it to his ear. "Yes, Captain. I know... Ziggy told us." He listened a minute, then exhaled. "I see. We'll be ready. Chakotay out." He glanced at Al, standing up. "We need to implement your fire drill."

Al whipped out his hand-link. "Ziggy, is Sam in the house yet?" he said, giving her the code phrase.

"Yes, Admiral." Al looked at the three Voyager personnel and headed for the door. They fell in behind, heading for their stations.

Al stopped Chakotay. "What did the Captain say?"

"She said the Borg were on long-range sensors."

Al stopped. "They're not even close yet? Then what..."

"You've never seen the Borg approach," Chakotay smiled grimly.

Al started to retort, then stopped. He was probably right.

#

Sam hunched over the view screen. The Captain wouldn't allow him a view of the bridge – too risky, she said – but she had allowed him a view of the outside. The doctor stood beside him, accidentally overlapping him. Sam looked at the overlap, cleared his throat, and looked up. They doctor moved a couple of inches to the right. "Sorry."

"When is something going to happen?"

"How should I know? I'm a doctor, not a..."

"Don't say it."

"...seer."

"Maybe you need to branch out." Sam glared at him.

The doctor looked at him. "You're beginning to sound like me."

Sam stared. "My God," he said slowly. "I'm synergizing with a computer."

The doctor snorted. "There are worse things you could combine with."

"Yeah, well, what do you know about it?"

The doctor looked uncomfortable. "I've had my... moments." He looked down at the screen. "There they come."

Sam looked down. A small cube was at in the middle of the screen. "That doesn't look too threat..."

The doctor interrupted. "Watch."

The cube rapidly grew, one quarter screen, one half screen, filling the screen and then some. Sam looked up. "How big?"

The doctor looked at the screen, then pointed. "See that tiny pin-prick right there?"

"Yeah."

"That's the size of a man."

"Oh." Sam digested that a moment. "Weapons?"

"One of these destroyed an entire fleet of starships larger than Voyager."

"We're supposed to fight that?"

The doctor looked bleak. "Yes. But... the Borg are not active, they're usually reactive. They won't do anything to us until we start making trouble with them."

"So Seven told me." The doctor looked at him. "I was in the Astrometrics lab before I came. Does Seven ever laugh."

The doctor looked at him a second. "I've never seen her laugh. I've seen her smile occasionally." He looked down at the screen.

A call came over the communicator. "Doctor, put up your security screen now!"

"Computer, security screen up." A shimmery sheet appeared in the air. Seconds later, a Borg appeared behind the screen. He looked confused, then turned to walk towards a wall. He kept crashing against it.

The Doctor snickered. "They're intercepting the Borg transporter, then transporting behind a communications damper." He looked at Sam. "The Borg communicate by sophisticated radio waves. Without communication with the Collective, many Borg don't have brains."

"Ah." Sam watched bemusedly as one Borg appeared after another, bouncing against each other.

#

"Al, honey, what's going on here?"

Al jumped and raised his gun when he heard the squeaky voice behind him. "Tina! You're supposed to be on the fire drill."

She shrugged and popped her gun. "I knew it wasn't a real fire drill. Ziggy told me so. And I didn't smell any smoke."

Al closed his eyes for a second. "Tina, honey, I can't explain. But it's dangerous in here. You have to go to the surface with everyone else."

"No. If you're in danger, I'm staying here."

Al closed his eyes and started to count to ten in Italian. Tina was a genius, but sometimes she had the sense to match her looks and demeanor. But what looks! He sighed. "Tina..."

A high pitched whine filled the air. Al stopped suddenly and looked around, raising his borrowed phaser. Where? There he was! He shot the Borg, who disappeared without a sound, its wrist phaser raised. Al looked at his phaser and quickly changed it to another setting, as Chakotay had told him to.

Tina let out a little shriek, then stood silent for a second. "Al, honey, what was that?"

Al smiled grimly. "Long story. We're being invaded by aliens from Outer Space."

"Huh?"

Another whine. Al shot again. "It would be better for them if they didn't telegraph their arrivals."

"Um–- Yeah."

They heard footsteps in the hall and Al raised his phaser. Chakotay trotted around the corner, and Al lowered his gun.

"What's she..." Chakotay stopped. "Never mind. How's it going?"

"I plugged two," Al said. "And she's here because she smelled a rat."

Another whine. "Mine," Chakotay said. He shot at it. It kept coming. Al pulled out his pistol and shot5 its head. The back of the head exploded, and the Borg body turned towards the wall, bounced off a couple of times, then collapsed, arms and legs still twitching.

"Damn," Al said. Tina paled and pressed closer to Al, but stayed her ground.

Chakotay phasered the body, then turned to Al. "You're taking this rather calmly."

"I'll have nightmares later." Al pointed at the communicator Chakotay had put on. "How're the others doing?"

"Holding their own – so far. Voyager is catching all the beam-ins they can, but they're being overloaded." Chakotay shook his head. "I don't like the looks of this. Only one came through, last time." He looked at Al. "There may be only one solution."

"Last time?" Tina squeaked.

"Never mind," Al said. Tina raised her eyebrows indignantly and turned towards Al. They heard footsteps in the hall. Chakotay looked around the corner. "Borg. Three of them." He aimed his phaser around the corner. "Two."

Al quickly changed settings, ducked around the corner, and another disappeared. Down the end of the hall, another two appeared. "Shit!"

He ducked back, as Chakotay fired again. He thought quickly – he didn't like the odds. There was only one way – Chakotay's way – that he could think of to stop the invasion – and he didn't like the idea one bit.

"I could get reinforcements," Chakotay said.

"No." Al pulled out the handlink. "Ziggy. Can you shut down the wormhole?"

"I've been experimenting, Admiral..."

"Yes or no!"

"Yes, Admiral, but..."

"I know what it means. Shut down the wormhole. Now."

Chakotay took a deep breath and nodded.

"Just a second," Ziggy said. "Just a second... done. The wormhole is closed, Admiral. I also took the liberty of sending the doctor back through to the Sickbay and attached a message."

"It worked," Chakotay said, gesturing to the hall. Al followed. There were three Borg out there, all looking confused. One started moving and ran into another. The third looked down at himself, then looked up with tortured eyes. "Chakotay. I'm Phillip McCabe from the Academy. Let my mother know, then please, kill me. Don't leave me with the Borg."

Chakotay walked up to him and grasped his arm. "I remember you, Phillip. I will try to contact your mother. I'm sorry." He stood back.

"God bless you," Phillip said.

Chakotay phasered Phillip first, then the other two. He then looked at Al. "If it helps your nightmares, consider it a coup de grace."

Al ran his hand over his face. "I will."

Chakotay looked around. "We'll have to clear the compound before we let the rest back in."

"Yeah." Al was just realizing what he had done. He had lost Sam. He had saved the world, but Sam was gone forever. He shook his head. He'll cry later.

#

Sam and the doctor were watching, with sick fascination, the Borg run into each other. "What did you say was being done to them?" Sam murmured.

The doctor muttered to himself. "That's more than a communications blackout, that's some sort of scrambler. If Seven's not behind it, I'll eat my tricorder." He moved toward the force field and ran into Sam. "Sorry," he said, then looked down at his arm. He grasped Sam's shoulder. "I'm back in Sickbay."

Sam moved away in sickened anticipation. "They lost? Ziggy sent you back?"

The doctor held up a hand. "Wait," he said, eyes turned inward. "Ziggy's attached a crude subroutine." He strode toward the computer. "Computer, play subroutine Ziggy."

"Doctor Beckett. Doctor. Please inform the Captain to wait at your present location for a week or two. I will attempt to reopen my connection to the wormhole. Hopefully the danger will be gone at your end."

Sam sighed. "I'm not stuck." He looked at the monitor. "The Borg are gone."

"Makes a sick sort of sense," the doctor said. "Their opportunity was closed down. They had bigger fish to fry, other planets to conquer." He toggled his communicator. "Doctor to Captain Janeway. I have a message for you."

"Doctor. You're on ship? Dr. Beckett is gone?"

"Not exactly..."

The door shooshed open and Seven walked in. She looked at the teeming mass in sickbay, stared, and a noise escaped her. Immediately, she was sober again.

"What was that?" Janeway demanded.

Sam grinned widely. "Seven just giggled."

"I did not. That was a... a..." She shook her head.

"That was a giggle." He looked at the teeming mass of Borg wandered around in the force field. "Well, if you like that, have I got some things for you to look at."

Seven looked slightly shocked. "I will not."

Janeway's voice came over the communicator. "Well, I don't know what you're looking at, but, Sam Beckett, if you can get Seven to laugh, you have my blessing. Now what was the message?"

The doctor told her. The trio could hear the relief in her voice as she answered. "Understood. Well, I think we can wait around here a while..."

#

"You can what?" Al said. Chakotay grinned. Chakotay, Paris, Kim, and the rest of the security team were gathered in the break room, along with Al and Tina. The Borg were gone, and the team were exhausted, drinking coffee and looking at each other with tired eyes. After Ziggy's announcement, however, all eyes were on the Admiral.

"I said," Ziggy repeated calmly. "I can open the wormhole whenever you wish."

"Why didn't you tell me before?"

"You were ridding the project of our little infestation, Admiral. You were busy."

"But won't that let more..."

"Not if I open it a week later. I discovered that I can control the other end. I think."

"You think."

"There are not certainties in this life, Admiral."

"What do you know about life, you tin-plated..."

Chakotay held up a hand. "Please open up the wormhole, Ziggy."

Ziggy sounded petulant. "The Admiral has to tell me, and he's too busy insulting me."

"Open up the wormhole!"

A second. Two. "Done. That was harder than I thought."

Al looked pained for a moment, then sputtered. "You can control wormholes, but you can't retrieve Sam?"

Ziggy was silent. Al rolled his eyes. "Never mind!"

Chakotay grinned and pulled out his communicator. "Chakotay to Janeway."

"Janeway here. Good to hear you, Chakotay."

A cheer went around the break room.

"I see you're having fun."

"Not really," Chakotay said. "Can we hitch a ride?"

"Any time you want, boys."

"Just a second," Chakotay said. He went up to the Admiral and shook his hand. "It's been an honor working with you Admiral."

"Um... yeah." Al said. "I'm sorry I was being such a bear."

"Don't worry about it. I know what you were going through."

Al looked at Paris and Kim. "Protect this guy. I didn't get to know your captain too well, but you got a great commander here."

Paris and Kim grinned at each other. "We know," Kim said.

Al had a sudden thought. "Before you go, let me get to the Imaging Chamber. I don't want the wormhole to close before we get Sam."

"I think we can give you ten minutes."

Al pulled Tina out of the break room and down the hall to the control room. "Al," Tina said. "When am I going to get my explanation?"

"Later, Tina, doll," Al said. He entered the room and went for the chamber, not breaking step. "Ziggy, open the Imaging Chamber doors!"

"Yes, Admiral." They opened in front of him. He stepped in. "Center me on Sam."

A moment of dizziness, and Al looked around. He grinned. "Oh, Sam. You're showing a beautiful woman the Three Stooges? In the Sickbay, yet?" He shook his head sadly. "Not what Ilike to do with a beautiful woman."

Seven looked at Al. "Beauty is irrelevant."

Sam rolled his eyes and grinned. "Luckily, this woman doesn't take offense at your crude comments." He looked Al up and down. "It's good to see you, Al"

Al sighed. "It's good to see you."

"This means I'm supposed to leave?"

"I suppose."

Janeway walked into Sickbay. "Sam, you can... Ah. I see you know."

Sam looked at the Captain, then at Seven. "Thanks for everything. Both of you."

"No. Thank you." Sam looked puzzled. "You've brought Seven another step closer to being human."

"Ah."

Sam waited a moment. "Al, why haven't I Leapt."

Al pulled out his handlink, bopped it on the side, and looked slightly surprised. "Ziggy said that she never did get around to telling you your mission here. She said you were supposed to make Seven laugh." He looked at Seven doubtfully. "Did you?"

Sam smiled. "A couple of times. Wait a second, though... EMH on."

The doctor appeared. "What is the medical..." He looked at Al. "Oh. You're back. Well, that outfit you have on could be considered a medical emergency." He looked closer. "Is that blood?"

Al pursed his lips. "Not mine."

Sam shook the doctor's hand. "It was nice to meet you."

The doctor smiled. "My pleasure. I've learned a couple of things this past week, too." He looked at Seven, then at Sam.

"What..."

"I'm ready to Leap now..." Sam waited a second.

Al looked around. "Maybe you have to click your heels together three times and say 'there's no place like home...'"

Sam clicked his heels together. He started to disappear. "Oh, my God," the Voyager crew heard Al say, just as he blinked out. "It worked!"

Seven snickered, then put a blank face towards the doctor, who raised his eyebrows at her.

End