NANNY------Part 2-Warmth 2/Scenes from a Mating

Codes: D, f, 7, P/T, K, J
Rated: PG
 

Author's Note: This story actually was conceived almost two years ago, when Kes was on Voyager and Seven was only a dream of Brannon Braga's. While a lot of it has evolved, Nanny's story is unchanged. If Nanny seems to remind you of a certain talk show host who loves Kate Mulgrew from her "Ryan's Hope" days, does commercials for K-Mart, and talks with a Long Island accent, don't be surprised. That's who I pictured when I wrote this.

Disclaimer: Paramount and Viacom own all.
 
 

NANNY
by J.A. Toner
 

::::Paris to Captain Janeway::::

"Yes, Tom?"

::::Our little "project" is done, Captain. Would you care to come to Deck 5 to see it?::::

"I'll be there in a minute. Janeway out." Turning command over to her first officer, Janeway strode off the bridge and into the turbolift. This should prove interesting.

=^=

The small storage bay next to the medical lab on Deck 5 had never been much in use. It had been equipped with holoemitters when Voyager was first built since, technically, it was part of sickbay and the EMH might, upon occasion, need to access supplies kept there. Items of a medical nature had never been in sufficient quantity on Voyager, however, for the storage space to be dedicated solely to this purpose. Instead, it had come to be the depository for items of a decidedly non-medical nature, even though the EMH might have been involved in the events that caused them to be stored there. The storage bay had become the repository for the crates of personal belongings of those who had lost their lives since the inception of Voyager's journey through the Delta Quadrant. There had been plenty of those needing storage there--until now.

As of three days before, the crates, now distressingly numerous, had been relocated to a corner of Cargo Bay One. The storage room was needed for a less morbid purpose. The youngest crew member currently residing on Voyager as an independently functioning organism now required the space.

The room had been vastly altered in appearance by a newly applied, colorful wall coating and with holographic projections on the storage cabinet doors forming a diorama of animals from several different worlds of the Federation. Each animal was identified with a name tag beneath its image. Other words in Federation Standard were distributed on the walls in various areas, and a border consisting of Federation Standard, Klingon, Bajoran, and Vulcan alphabets was available for easy reference all along the ceiling. After entering, the captain examined the walls with approval before approaching the small knot of her senior staff in the center of the room. Lieutenants Paris and Torres, Ensign Kim, Seven of Nine and the EMH were standing with one other individual that Janeway did not immediately recognize, although she was well aware of her identity.

While a new crew member's arrival on Voyager was an extremely rare occurrence, it was even rarer for the captain to come calling on the new addition, rather than vice versa. In this case, it was perfectly understandable. The holoemitters were the key factor.

"Captain," said the Doctor as the group separated to give her room to join them. "I'd like to present Nanny to you."

"Hello, Nanny," the captain said.

The young woman who stood before her, hand extended in welcome, was a pleasingly plump, twentyish woman with dark brown hair, warm brown eyes, and an engaging grin. She had a firm grip when she shook hands. "Captain Kathryn Janeway. So pleased to make your acquaintance. I'm sure our professional association will be long and fruitful." A giggling Nanny took hold of the captain's hand and shook it enthusiastically.

Well, perhaps it was not entirely a giggle. It might be better characterized as a bubbling-over of enthusiasm, always a good sign in any newcomer, no matter how they happened to come into an organization. Certainly, she had come to Voyager under very unique circumstances, not at all unlike the physician who was beaming by her side.

"Isn't she perfect, Captain? She's been progra . . . taught . . . all of the information in our computer banks regarding the tutoring of children of all ages. She's just about ready to meet her new students," the Doctor stated.

"Students? Plural?"

"Why, yes, Captain. We have my son Jeffrey, of course. His Klingon friends K'Kath and Larg . . . "

"Klingons. I see." The captain pursed her lips to keep from smiling. "That should keep the class lively."

"And then, of course, there is our prime pupil. Naomi. She and Ensign Wildman are on their way here now to meet Nanny, too."

Hardly was this said than a small girl skipped into the room. Thanks to the Ktarian half of her ancestry, she looked more like a human five-year-old than one with only two and a half years to her credit. Almost immediately, she skidded to a stop, almost tripping her mother and Neelix, who had been following closely behind her. "Oh, Doctor! This place looks different!"

"Yes, it is, Naomi. This is your new schoolroom. Would you like to have your teacher take you on a tour?"

"Yes, Doctor. Are you my teacher?"

"No, Naomi. I will give you the occasional biology lesson, but my presence is required in sickbay, to take care of the crew's medical needs. We have a new teacher for you who can spend as much time with you as you need. Come along and meet Miss Nanny."

The captain pursed her lips as the Doctor escorted Naomi to the teacher, who squatted down to the child's level and introduced herself as energetically to Naomi as she had to the captain. There was a warmer, more nurturing overtone in Nanny's voice as she spoke to Naomi, however. The captain was glad to hear it.

Glancing at B'Elanna, the captain caught her chief engineer rolling her eyes at her husband, who was smirking back at her. The captain whispered, "Don't you approve of Miss Nanny, B'Elanna? You are one of her creators, aren't you?"

"It's not the holographic teacher I mind. It's that dumb name."

"We can help her choose a new name, B'Elanna," Tom said, placatingly.

"Yeah. Like the Doctor has a name?"

"Well, he does. He's, uh . . . Kenneth to . . . Mrs. Kenneth," Tom responded, reasonably.

"We aren't allowed to call him that!" B'Elanna said, with enough energy that both Tom and Harry hushed her simultaneously.

"Don't worry, Lieutenant Torres, I will immediately begin to research a new, appropriate name for our teacher. Once she's reprogrammed, she won't even know she didn't always have it." The Doctor stepped away from the earnestly chatting Naomi and her teacher, who were busily touring the schoolroom together.

"She'll never know? Doctor, doesn't she know she's a hologram?"

"Not exactly," hedged the EMH.

"But Harry, Seven, Tom and B'Elanna spent so much time working on that spare matrix. I thought the whole idea of dedicating it to a use other than recreating your diagnostic program was to permit our new teacher to be self-aware?"

"The Doc doesn't think that's wise, Captain," Harry sighed. Janeway noticed several exasperated looks being exchanged between her three senior staff members and, to a lesser extent, Seven of Nine.

"It appears that the human members of the design team are not in agreement with your decision, Doctor," noted the captain.

"I don't believe it advisable, Captain. Believe me, it isn't easy being locked up in one small place during every waking hour, knowing you can't move around the ship freely. Trapped, in one location for all hours of the day, ad infinitem . . ."

B'Elanna offered, in a relatively calm, only slightly elevated tone of voice, "Doctor, the two of you could take turns using the mobile emitter until we figure out how the thing works so we can build another."

"But it could be damaged!"

"It could be damaged when you're wearing it, too!" B'Elanna growled back, much louder this time.

The captain swiftly intervened to defuse the rapidly escalating dialogue between B'Elanna and the EMH. "Now, now, there's no need to argue here. I understand your desire to be cautious about how much to tell Nanny about herself, Doctor, but I wish you'd reconsider. She's not an ordinary holographic representation like Naomi's classmates. If there's an attack, she needs to be able to protect Naomi. For that, she must fully recognize her own limitations, don't you agree?"

With a self-satisfied smile, B'Elanna crossed her arms, resting them upon the shelf of her protruding belly. "We've been trying to tell the Doctor that since we began, Captain. Nanny may be programmed with all the knowledge a child needs to learn, but I'm not too sure if her personality matrix will remain stable if she doesn't know what she really is."

"I assure you, Lieutenant, I thoroughly researched everything that was incorporated into her program. I made sure to include ALL kinds of governesses and teachers available from the data banks. From Maria Von Trapp to Mary Poppins. Henry Higgins to Mr. Rogers. Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Indiana Jones, Anne Sullivan Macy, Josephine March Bhaer, M'Gatlh, Anne Shirley, Captain Kangaroo, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lucille Davenport, Anna Leonowens, Socrates . . . "

"You didn't put in the one from The Turn of the Screw, did you, Doc?" Tom asked.

"The problem governesses like that one have been edited or deleted." The Doctor smiled beatifically as he turned his attention back to his new portage. She had finished circuiting the room with Naomi and was speaking briefly with Samantha Wildman and Neelix.

"Glad to hear that," Tom replied.

"I still think you should have included the Flotter and Trevis stories, Doctor. They're really fun--part of just about every kid's background back home on Earth. Naomi should get a chance to learn from them, too," Harry commented.

"There's plenty of time for that, Mr. Kim. For now, Naomi will have the benefit of the best purveyors of education our data base can provide. Later on, she'll be exposed to the advanced logic of Vulcan philosophers, the . . . "

"I'm sure you've done your usual thorough job, Doctor. Please think about that self-awareness element, however. I'd prefer she knew."

"Captain, really . . ."

Any further discussion of the matter was curtailed by the approach of the holoprogram in question and her young charge. The captain asked Naomi, "Are you all ready for your first day in school, Naomi?"

"Yes, Captain. Miss Nanny is nice."

Samantha shook her head. "I can hardly believe this day is here already. Only a few months ago she was running around grabbing things off tables before Tom and B'Elanna's wedding. And now look at how she's sprouted! She's going to school!"

"She's such a big girl. You must be very proud, Ensign Wildman," said Nanny, smiling broadly. "I can't wait for tomorrow when you can stay all morning for class. We're going to have lots of fun."

Naomi nodded her head. Taking her mother's hand but keeping as wide a berth from Seven as possible, Naomi walked out of the schoolroom, waving goodbye to Miss Nanny and the rest of the crew--except for Seven, whom she ignored.

After the mother and her child left, Neelix bubbled, "Isn't she wonderful? You're going to find she's the smartest little girl you ever taught." Realizing what he'd just said, Neelix added, "I mean . . . "

"Oh, I'm sure she will be," Nanny said. "I'm looking forward to working with all of the children here. And the ones who will soon be here, too, of course." She smiled smugly at B'Elanna. "And when is your baby due, Lieutenant Torres?"

"In about two, maybe two and a half months," B'Elanna answered, grabbing the bottom front corners of her engineering smock and giving it a tug before whipping her head around towards her husband, who had mumbled something simultaneously with his wife.

Tom's comment: "Not soon enough, Nanny. Not soon enough."

"Not soon enough for WHAT?" B'Elanna demanded to know.

"Oh, nothing," Tom grinned weakly, rubbing the arm that had just been jabbed by his  irritated half-Klingon bride.

B'Elanna stared at Tom a moment more before turning back to the captain. "I need to get back to engineering--assuming everything is set here for tomorrow?"

Everyone agreed, all was set. After the captain's dismissal, B'Elanna and Tom left the storage area, Tom muttering something about pregnancy hormones under his breath. Harry excused himself, too. Neelix moved off to listen to Nanny's lecture about the characteristics of the animals pictured on the walls. After the EMH began to follow them around the room, observing them with a proud smile on his countenance, Captain Janeway was left with Seven of Nine, the woman who had been severed from the Borg Collective some months before. Severed, but not yet back to being human, not by a very wide margin. Her intent observation of young Naomi had not escaped the captain's notice.

"You seem quite interested in our youngest crew member, Seven."

"I have not had a previous opportunity to evaluate such a young child. The Borg educate newly assimilated children by putting them in maturation chambers. It is a far more efficient method of providing factual data to the young than this . . . classroom."

"Perhaps. Even on a non-Borg vessel, computer programs can educate a child at their own individual pace, but learning facts isn't the only reason for schooling. "

"I fail to see why these individual computer programs are not sufficient for this child, if they are available."

"That's not the purpose of this program. Naomi will receive many lessons directly from the computer. Her afternoon lessons will be given to her that way. But she also needs to learn how to function in society, with other children. The only way we can do that here is by the use of holographic programming, since she's the only child on board. Yet."

"The child Lieutenant Torres has conceived by Lieutenant Paris will also require educational programming."

"Yes, she'll need social skills training. And I'm thinking she's not the only one." Captain Janeway looked speculatively at Seven of Nine again. "You were assimilated at age six, weren't you?"

"I was."

"In some ways, you're very like Naomi."

"That opinion is not supported by fact. I am Borg, and an adult. She is a half-human, half-Ktarian child. We are not at all alike."

"Now that you say that, I would have to agree. Naomi is clearly your superior in social skills, even though she is much younger than you are."

Seven regarded the captain coldly. "Explain."

"You haven't had the opportunity to learn how to interact with other people in social settings any more than you've had a chance to observe young children. I've attempted to help you learn social interaction with recreational programs on the holodeck, but you've resisted much of what I've tried to teach you."

"What you have presented there is irrelevant. If I perform my duties in Astrometrics efficiently, I have no need to interact socially with other crew members."

"No, Seven, that's an incorrect assumption. You may have performed your job function, but interacting with the rest of the crew is also essential. Unpredictable things happen on a Starfleet vessel. 'Weird is part of the job,' I once told Mr. Kim, and it's vital for you to understand that. For truly efficient functioning, everyone on Voyager must learn how to work with every other so that in an emergency, we're able to count on each other without even thinking about it. It's a skill like any other, just as easily learned--and far more enjoyably--in recreational activities. Or in a setting like this one. A classroom."

Seven stared again at the captain for several seconds before saying, "Since I am not a child, it would be inappropriate to learn in a classroom. Students are children."

"Oh, it's never too late to learn," Neelix commented, as his tour of the class ended next to where the captain and Seven were conversing. "I'm a perfect example of that. I'm constantly learning new things on Voyager."

The EMH added, "Mr. Neelix is correct, Seven. Many people who attend classes at universities are adults who have decided to change professions. Some wish to acquire knowledge for its own sake after their primary careers are done. Why, despite the very complete programming provided to me by Dr. Zimmerman, once I was activated I learned there was much more to living than merely performing my duties. I developed interests and hobbies, such as studying opera; and professionally, I found I had much to learn about subjects such as 'bedside manner.' Some of it came from Mr. Paris, unfortunately, but we can't always choose our sources. Our sources choose . . . "

"Yes, thank you, Doctor," interrupted the captain. Tom bashing had become something of a habit with the EMH, which the captain tolerated only because she doubted he meant it. Turning back to Seven, she said, "The Doctor and Neelix are quite right, Seven. While we can't always control the way we learn information, when we are able to do it, we should seize the opportunity. This may be the perfect place for you to learn a few skills you haven't realized you need yet. Nanny, would you mind if I assigned Seven of Nine as an assistant to you? She has an amazing store of knowledge in her brain from her time with the Borg that will supplement your . . . um . . . your extensive training in education."

"That would be wonderful, Captain. I look forward to working with her. Shall we spend some time this afternoon comparing notes about lesson planning, Seven of Nine?"

The Borg woman's expression became somewhat twisted about the mouth as she said, "I must return to Astrometrics to complete my unfinished assignments first."

As Seven turned to go, Janeway said pointedly, "You will appear here again tomorrow at 0800 hours for your teacher's assistant assignment, however, Seven."

Seven halted on her heels and looked back over her shoulder at the captain. After a brief hesitation, she responded, "I will comply."

"Good. Dismissed."

The captain excused herself a moment later. As she was leaving the classroom, she stifled a smile as she heard Nanny say, "I'm delighted to have Seven as an assistant, Doctor. I could use additional information about the education of Klingon students. I haven't any personal experience tutoring them. I'd like your advice about that, too. Perhaps we could meet over dinner to discuss this and some other matters . . ."

Once in the corridor, Janeway allowed herself a throaty chuckle. This was going to be a most interesting experiment.

=^=

At precisely 0755, Seven entered the schoolroom on Deck Five. Had anyone dared to ask her how she felt (and if she had been willing to answer), she would have admitted to feeling a certain amount of apprehension at being assigned to the ship's classroom. Today was the first time Seven would be present at a class when any student other than herself was in attendance.

When she had lived with her parents on The Raven, Annika Hansen had rarely encountered other children. Except for the occasional Deep Space Station stop or even less frequent planetfall, the family had been cut off from any other humans for prolonged periods of time. Her parents preferred it this way. They wanted no interference with their work, especially from Federation officials who might inquire about the nature of their experiments in advanced propulsion systems.

Their work with propulsion systems was so advanced, in fact, that upon the spectacular success of one of their experiments, they would quite literally leave their fellow theoreticians of the Alpha Quadrant far behind in the interstellar dust. Thuse experimentation ended in the Delta Quadrant when Annika was six years old. End was the appropriate term, for their lives as individual entities would cease as well. To the great misfortune of the Hansens, their successful flight would attract the attention of a race as yet unknown to the rest of the Alpha Quadrant.

The Borg could recognize advanced technological achievement when they saw it. The technological distinctiveness that was contained within the brains of the Hansen family quickly was added to that of the Borg--very much against the Hansen family's will.

While her parents immediately became drones, such was not the case with the daughter. For the next twenty-one cycles, all of young Annika Hansen's needs would be provided within the confines of maturation chamber 12805600473. Until she attained sufficient growth for permanent implants to be installed, the future drone was attached by a neural transceiver to the rest of the Hive.

During this time of physical transformation from child to adult, the knowledge gained by the rest of the Borg was fed to her via neural link. She even "participated" in the assimilations of other races cybernetically, though her immature humanoid body was divorced from the physical process, housed as it was in the maturation chamber. That did not matter. Her youthful consciousness had been present at the birth of every new drone to join their cube. She was fully aware of every terrified individual who was absorbed into the vast conglomerate entity that was the Borg, even though she was not yet Seven of Nine. Only when a fully grown Annika stepped out of her chamber to have her left arm fitted with a prosthetic, her left eyeball roughly popped out and replaced by an ocular implant, and the full complement of Borg circuitry installed within her was Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero-One, truly born.

Thus, Seven's entire education had taken place via some form of cybernetic link. She'd had no access to other children with whom to interact--for most of the time, no other people at all. Only during those rare times in her early childhood when her mother or father could spare the time from research to join her at the computer screen for a learning game or two had she even had company.

Seven was perceptive enough to note the supreme irony of the day. The teacher and eight of the nine students scheduled to be present in the schoolroom on this first day of school were also cybernetic in nature. It was the one who was not cybernetic, the three-year old human/Ktarian child, who single-handedly transformed this into an entirely new experience for Seven of Nine.

After leaving Astrometrics the previous evening, Seven had spent precisely forty-three standard minutes obtaining a nutritional supplement in the mess hall. Six hours and twenty-two minutes had been required for regeneration. Forty-seven minutes had been allotted to a visit to the schoolroom to consult with Nanny about lesson plans for the students (all holographic) which Seven was assigned to teach. The remaining hours and minutes had been passed in front of her computer screen in Cargo Bay Two, accessing Voyager's data banks and absorbing all she could concerning classrooms, educational philosophies, and instructional techniques within the time available. Because of her eidetic memory, what Seven perused in the files, Seven remembered.

It did not matter. Seven was still terrified she would fail.

No one must know a Borg--or former Borg, to be more accurate--was terrified of failure. So, Seven of Nine walked into the classroom, shoulders thrown back, bosom thrust out, abdominal muscles sucked into supporting her rigidly upright posture. Confidence and Borg were to be synonymous, if Seven had any control over the matter.

The first eyes to light upon her were the dark brown, fierce orbs of Larg and K'Kath. Jeffrey turned his head in her direction a moment later. The pupils of all three males immediately dilated. One trait shared by Klingon and human alike was that visible sign of sexual arousal. Seven stared coldly at them to dissuade them from making any comment to her. The males, after several more seconds of staring, turned away from her and resumed the conversation that had been interrupted by her entrance.

In another corner, two younger children were present. Seven estimated that these two females were both equivalent to seven or eight-year old humans. One, in appearance, was all human. The other was a Klingon female. These were holographic representations, just as Jeffrey, Larg, and K'Kath were.

When Seven moved farther into the room, three other children materialized behind her. One was a Ktarian male, about the same age as the two female holographic children. The other two were female teenagers, a Klingon and a human in appearance. Seven observed the three teenage males stand up straighter, preening for the "girls." Seven looked for a third teenage female to appear, but none did. The lack of another girl meant that this program contained the potential for a significant amount of adolescent hormone-induced rivalry among the males. Seven wondered if she should blame Mr. Paris or the Doctor for this particular development in the program.

A moment later, Nanny shimmered into existence. "Seven!" she called out. "Welcome! It's good to see you. And who do we have here, arriving now?"

Clinging to the hand of her mother, the intended beneficiary of this holographic wizardry, Naomi Wildman, walked into the classroom to begin her first day of this most seminal of experiences--for her, and for Seven of Nine.

=^=

It had been a long first day for Seven. Although Jeffrey and his Klingon friends acted like Klingons, as expected, Nanny did quite well controlling their more rambunctious behavior during the classes held jointly for all the children, regardless of their ages. Most of the time, however, Nanny stayed with Naomi and the youngest three holochildren. Seven was in charge of the teenagers.

"Have you completed your exercises in the differential analysis of quantum particles, Larg?" Seven asked pointedly when the holographic Klingon's lack of attention to task became particularly noticeable.

"Yes, Miss Nine," he replied. Nanny had insisted Seven be called that, despite the Borg's protests, citing the need to maintain the "necessary degree of classroom decorum."

"There is a substantial error in the results of the fourth problem which would be catastrophic if you were to utilize these calculations in a practical application. Can you find it?" Seven countered severely, after a quick perusal of his PADD.

"I will," he growled angrily.

"If you spent less time contemplating my mammary tissues and more examining the problem at hand, you would meet with more success," Seven stated emphatically to the deflated Larg as guffaws issued from K'Kath and Jeffrey. Fixing the other two males with her intense gaze, Seven added, "From the degree of pupil dilation in your eyes, I surmise your work may be similarly marred by excessive amounts of time wasted ogling my torso. Would you care to show me your PADDs so that I may test this hypothesis?"

K'Kath and Jeffrey both decided their own PADDs needed a bit more work before any hypotheses were tested. The accompanying tittering from the female teenagers was just as quickly quelled by another severe stare from Seven. Afterwards, Seven noted that the exchange had achieved the desired effect of improving the concentration of all five holographic adolescents for the remainder of the lesson. This was to hold for subsequent lessons as well. Whenever her anatomy came to be subject to the regard of the male students, a tilted eyebrow was generally sufficient to return them to the task at hand.

=^=

During the following days, whenever the older students' attention was directed to independent learning activities at the computer, or if the production of research projects required the students to interact among themselves rather than their teacher, Seven spent her free time observing "Miss Nanny's" handling of Naomi and her young classmates. She found it instructive, finding many of the techniques equally applicable to the older students.

One morning, several days after the first day of school, Seven required that her charges produce individually prepared documents to evaluate their absorption of material covered in the lesson concerned with Klingon cultural traditions (the data base had called this type of document a "pop quiz"). With the students engaged on their assignment, Seven was permitted a badly needed "breather," as Nanny had described it during a lesson planning session the previous day. It also afforded Seven another opportunity to watch Nanny working with Naomi and the other three students. Every time a particularly challenging question was answered, Naomi or her classmate received a warm hug from Miss Nanny along with a cheery, "Good job."

//Nanny's personality is well suited to teaching younger children, but hugs would not be a successful technique for me to use with Larg,// thought Seven, her lips twitching slightly to one side. Nanny chose that moment to look in Seven's direction, smiling broadly at her. Seven acknowledged her smile with a nod.

Another head turned around to look in Seven's direction. After a shudder, Naomi turned away. "Naomi, what's wrong?" asked Nanny.

"I don't want to be assimilated by the Borg Lady," Naomi whispered, loudly enough for Seven's aural implant to catch the message.

"Oh, Naomi, Seven isn't going to assimilate you. She's one of us now. It's like we're all part of the Voyager Collective, isn't it, Seven?"

Seven nodded her head. "That is an accurate assessment. While I had not considered such a view of the Voyager crew previously, we do function together, much like a Collective." Seven forbore to omit the rest of what came into her mind. //Only in a much less efficient manner than the Borg.//

Naomi shuffled her feet but said nothing. Nanny admonished, "Naomi, you don't have to worry about Seven, you understand that, don't you?"

The child shrugged her shoulders, but her eyes did not leave the floor. At Nanny's sigh, Seven walked back to supervise the teenaged contingent, whose restlessness signaled that the pop quizzes had been completed.

While the quizzes were reviewed and the next topic of discussion undertaken, Seven had no opportunity to think about what had transpired between Naomi and herself. That afternoon, while completing her regular work in Astrometrics, the subject never occurred to her, either. Later, however, when she was alone in her alcove, preparing herself for her regeneration cycle, Seven had sufficient time to consider the incident. The child was afraid of Seven, and for some reason, Seven found this to be disturbing.

And she had no idea why.

=^=

". . . so, Seven is turning out to be a surprisingly good teacher. Her ability to maintain discipline is especially notable."

"How interesting, Doctor." The captain bit her lower lip; Seven's ability to maintain iron discipline wasn't exactly a surprise to her.

"It was an inspiration to include her, Captain."

"I'm glad things are working out. I had hoped that Seven would get the opportunity to interact more directly with Naomi, however. Couldn't Nanny allow Seven to teach the younger children upon occasion?"

"Naomi is still somewhat nervous around Seven. It's probably best that Nanny continue with her direct lessons for the time being. They're all together in the same classroom, and as time goes by, I'm sure their paths will cross in a natural way."

"In other words, you're counseling patience," the captain replied, with an off-kilter smile.

"Precisely." The EMH agreed.

"So noted," Janeway said. "Is there anything else you want to report about our experiment?"

"Just that I'm also extremely pleased at the way it's turning out. There's one tiny little problem. Nanny feels someone is always watching her in class, other than the students."

"Reassure her, Doctor. I'm sure she's subliminally aware of the log cameras recording her. By the way, have you done that bit of reprogramming I suggested?"

"Not yet, Captain. She's not ready."

"I hope there aren't any problems because of this, Doctor. I'm willing to defer to your judgment for now, but if there's a red alert while Naomi is with her, Nanny has to know she must stay with Naomi. Seven won't be able to. She has her own duty station in Astrometrics during red alerts."

"Don't worry. We've added a new protocol to the program to address your concerns. Both Nanny and Naomi know to go to the designated area between sickbay and the classroom if there's a red alert. That's the most protected area of the ship, and I can easily check on them from sickbay to make sure they're all right."

"We'll see how that works during the next shipwide drill--if something real doesn't happen first. Anything else to report? How is your 'new nurse' doing?"

"Trust Mr. Paris to call himself a nurse. Just the sort of flippant comment he's always making during his duty shifts in sickbay."

"He's not working out, then?" Janeway asked, a wrinkle of worry appearing between her brows.

"Oh, no, I don't mean to imply that, Captain. He's actually coming along . . . adequately. He's shown a special aptitude for gynecology and obstetrics--no surprise there."

Janeway laughed. "That's Tom. If he's interested in a subject, there's no better student. And I guess we can't fault him if that's a subject that's been on his mind a lot lately."

"Hmm. That subject seems to have been on his mind as long as I've known him. Be that as it may, he has absorbed the essentials of the childbirth process and has been a great help to B'Elanna during her labor and delivery exercise classes. He should manage to be a help, not a hindrance, when her time finally comes."

"Glad to hear that, Doctor."

"Oh, and Captain? Please don't tell him I complimented him. Too much praise and I fear Mr. Paris will believe he doesn't require more instruction. He needs to spend a lot more time absorbing the material to be as good as Kes was as an assistant."

An awkward, silent moment passed. Kes. She hree t been much in Janeway's thoughts for many weeks. So much had happened. A transwarp experiment had gone bad, throwing the ship almost ten years journey forward, well out of Borg territory, but almost killing Tom and B'Elanna in the process. Seven's temporary regression into Borgdom had thrown the crew into an uproar when she stole away in a shuttle and discovered the wreck of her parents' ship, The Raven. Aliens had tortured the crew with an array of medical conditions and cost the life of Ensign Mallon, all in the name of research.

So much had gone on lately, it was difficult to just sit back and "smell the coffee." There was seldom time to consider where they'd been because of the need to face the crisis of the week. Add to that the amount of guidance and attention Seven needed at virtually every turn, and it was no wonder that the Ocampan's memory had been too long ignored, even though Janeway missed Kes terribly.

The captain sighed deeply, then caught the look on the holographic physician's face. His expression mirrored hers. Once again Janeway marveled that a hologram could have developed such a vivid and full personality.

"Thank you for your report, Doctor. And think about Nanny's program. Just look how much you've evolved since you first came on line. Doesn't Nanny have the right to enrich her own personality, too?"

"Don't you think Nanny has enough personality, Captain? If you don't, we could do some more research and . . ."

"You've done a marvelous job creating Nanny; that's not what I meant. Now she needs to have a chance to discover her own self, Doctor, just as you have."

"I don't want her to be hurt, Captain."

"Being hurt is inevitable. All beings experience pain. Isn't it one of the things that helps one grow and mature?"

The Doctor reluctantly shrugged his shoulders. "I think there's plenty of time for that, Captain. There isn't any hurry."

"I'll defer to your professional judgment--for now. We'll give her a little more time to settle in."

"Thank you, Captain. If we're done here . . ."

"Of course. Dismissed."

As the EMH walked out of the door of her ready room, freed from the confines of his pleasant sickbay prison by a piece of 29th century technology, Janeway couldn't help thinking about the imperious, sarcastic being who first had inhabited the psyche of the Doctor.

Becoming virtually a full-time crew member instead of an "extra hand" in a crisis had changed him irrevocably. The EMH's ability to function on the holodeck had permitted him to rescue Harry Kim from a Beowulf program gone awry. He'd experienced compassion and love for Denara Pel, the Vidiian doctor whose life he'd saved. His horizons had been expanded by opera lessons and recreational activities taken with the rest of the crew. He'd accepted the responsibility of family life and had, in the process, been taught the passionate fulfillment of marital love, the joys of parenthood, and the tragedy of loss. Thanks to the acquisition of his mobile transmitter, he'd been able to successfully complete away missions. In every conceivable arena, the EMH had exceeded all expectations about what a hologram could accomplish.

Now here was Nanny, imprisoned in a pleasant holoemitter-equipped classroom/prison of her own. Her existence was as limited as that of any other holographic character on the holodeck, despite the potential for growth inherent in her sophisticated holomatrix. What a waste!

//He's being rather overprotective of his holographic protogee,// thought the captain with a sigh. //Much too overprotective! Hopefully, Nanny will get a chance to experience growth of her own, for her sake, as well as for the Doctor's. He needs the company!//

=^=

From the moment she stepped out of her regeneration alcove each morning, her days were full. Classes in the morning. A quick meal in the mess hall. Afternoons and early evenings in Astrometrics, broken up by another ingestion of nutritional supplements. Study of Voyager's data base before slipping into her alcove to regenerate for a few hours before the cycle began all over again.

In truth, Seven appreciated her busy schedule. Routines were comforting to one who had lived as a Borg. Despite her many and varied tasks, there was plenty of time for her to meditate about what was transpiring around her. Behind her seemingly impassive humanoid forehead, the agile brain of Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero-One, was always cogitating.

Most of the time, these thoughts were hers alone, unshared by any other being. Captain Janeway or Commander Tuvok sometimes sought her out to find out what she was thinking. Ensign Kim was frequently assigned to tasks with Seven, and she found his intelligent conversation bearable. Neelix and Lieutenant Paris occasionally asked her how she was feeling, and she would reply, succinctly and efficiently.

And then there was Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres. Voyager's chief engineer made it clear that she found Seven of Nine to be a constant irritant. When forced to cooperate on a project, as they had with the creation of the holographic teacher's holomatrix, they did manage to complete their tasks with only a bare minimum of sarcastic remarks, however. On Seven's part. Lieutenant Torres was quite efficient at uttering sarcastic remarks and needed no assistance from Seven of Nine in that area.

Although Seven would never divulge it to her, there was one aspect of her contacts with Lieutenant Torres that fascinated Seven. The chief engineer's burgeoning form supplied an abundance of topics of inquiry. What was it like to have another being inside your body, yet have no actual neurological link with it--or her, since the child growing inside Lieutenant Torres was of the female gender? Lieutenant Paris mentioned once that the child moved inside the uterus. What would that feel like?

Since the engineer's bare tolerance of "that Borg" was so obvious, Seven did not ask many of the questions she wished to ask about this most basic of bodily functions, even though, in this instance, the information in Voyager's data base was inadequate for what Seven wished to know.

The chain of life was a profound concept. The child gestating within Lieutenant Torres was merely a repetition of what had occurred previously when Lieutenant Torres grew within her own mother. Seven had been carried within her own mother's body. It had occurred with every other biological being on Voyager, with only minor variations. When she was Borg, Seven had been fully cognizant of the process, of course, but to see it in operation at close hand was compelling. When she was alone in her alcove, regenerating or merely resting, contemplating the ramifications occupied a fair amount of Seven's time. It seemed so different from Borg reproduction, yet was it, really?

The Borg assimilated already created beings. It was more efficient that way. Since those beings had been conceived, gestated, and birthed in the manner of the races that were later assimilated by the Borg, however, the Borg ultimately depended upon the same, old-fashioned, single-cell fertilization process. It was simply one step they allowed others to do for them. If the Borg truly succeeded in their goal of assimilating all the races whose technology they desired, and there were no more assimilatable beings for the completion of the Borg reproductive cycle, would the biological components of the Collective eventually wear out, dooming the Hive to the assimilation of inferior species--or extinction?

Perfection might be even more impossible to achieve than Seven thought.

Contemplating gestation also meant contemplating conception and its precursor, courtship.

Now that she was no longer linked to the Collective, single-cell fertilization could become relevant to her personally. Inevitably, Seven found herself considering which males on Voyager would meet her specifications for DNA of sufficient quality to contribute to the creation of a child of her own, should Seven ever decide to reproduce, of course. Only those males who could meet her specifications would be appropriate candidates for the performing of the various courtship rituals she had studied--including those that were on view before her every day in the schoolroom.

After spending a significant amount of time evaluating her choices, she found there were few who were suitable, and some of these, such as Mr. Paris, were unavailable. (The idea that Lieutenant Torres would consider sharing him with Seven was obviously out of the question.) Of those who were available, the one whose qualities seemed the best match for Seven of Nine was Ensign Kim.

Seven knew the story of Ensign Kim's late wife Kes, although she had barely gotten a chance to meet the Ocampan woman before the latter was transformed into another, noncorporeal sort of being. Because Kes' expected life span of nine years had been truncated to less than four, her desire to perpetuate her memory on this corporeal plane of existence by leaving behind children with whom her husband could share his life had been thwarted.

Even Seven, with her meager experience with humanoid emotions, could see that this was a source of great sorrow for Ensign Kim. Indeed, of all those who dwelled upon Voyager, Ensign Kim was one of the few whose pupils did not dilate when Seven's body came within view. He was still undergoing the process of mourning, she understood from the captain and the Doctor. Mr. Kim was always polite and helpful, though--almost suffocatingly so at times. He was always trying to teach her the social conventions, just as the Doctor and the captain were; but somehow, his lessons engendered a much different reaction in Seven of Nine than those given her by the Doctor and Captain Janeway.

It was by studying her students that Seven realized what it was. Hormones. Her own body was responding to Ensign Kim's presence by producing an overabundance of female reproductive hormones.

Although it had become much more surreptitious in execution, Jeffrey, K'Kath, and Larg continued to evince interest in her body. Seven noticed them look at the two teenaged girls, who whispered to each other or giggled annoyingly, in a similar fashion. At such times, blood flushed all five teenaged faces. Their widely opened eyes began to shine brightly. When she consulted the Doctor about it, he curtly dismissed the topic. "Hormones. Reproductive hormones, to be precise. Just ignore them. They'll work it all out on their own if you let them." Because the equation of three into two did not result in a whole number, however, Seven felt the numbers did not promise so easy a resolution.

A quick examination of the parameters of the schoolroom program, which had not been her area of responsibility in the preparation of the program, showed that initially, Nanny was to provide the education for both groups of students. There were supposed to be three females and three males in the older group, apparently so that Naomi could be exposed both to beings from differing cultural backgrounds as well as to the ways adolescents interacted, to prepare her for the days when her own hormone level increased dramatically (and erratically, according to the data base) during puberty.

Seven's inclusion as an aide in the classroom was having unexpected repercussions. Apparently Seven had been interpreted by the program as the third "adolescent" female, an uncomfortable situation for Seven. This appeared to be what Mr. Paris referred to as a "glitch" in the program. Seven resolved to speak to him about it when she had the chance.

Another repercussion seemed to be this unfortunate reaction she was having to Ensign Kim whenever he tried to assist her in adjusting to being a member of Voyager's crew complement.

The most serious repercussion, however, was that Seven of Nine began to experience visions, many of them similar to those she had experienced when she'd fled to The Raven's wreckage. Incidents from her life before her assimilation emerged into her consciousness. Feelings were reawakened as the memories were awakened:

Hugs from her parents, flooding her with the sense of being loved, and loving them back in return.

Happiness at receiving praise from them, when she'd completed her lessons well, or if she'd been a very good girl when she'd visited a planet and quietly listened while her parents talked with people who knew many very important things they needed to learn.

Warm feelings of acceptance, when she remembered the station master who thought her such a smart, clever little girl--so smart that he gave her the most beautiful red flowers twisted into a coronet to rest upon her brow. "They look so pretty on your golden hair." The station master had said that. She remembered it vividly.

Excitement, when the very important invention Daddy was working on worked so well! So well! Can you believe how far we've gone! The conduit theory is right! We will revolutionize warp theory! Travel across the galaxy will be possible! Those Federation scientists don't have a clue, do they, Annika?

So many strange things that she hadn't understood at the time, although somehow, on some level, she understood what her parents had accomplished--and what the Borg had stolen from them.

Stolen from her parents. What a strange thing to think about. All the Borg owned everything together. How could anything be stolen from one Borg to be given to another?

But wait. Something could be taken from you by the Borg if you weren't one of them. Yet.

Agonizing fear. Fright, terror, welling up from her psyche as she remembered racing down a corridor, tall black-clad men walking past her as her mother and father screamed at her to run, run away. Hide, Annika. Hide away.

Hiding, until the tall black-clad men found her, and yanked her out of her hiding place, and locked her away in a tiny cubicle, with only the voices in her head for company. All the voices, none of them familiar. None of them Mommy and Daddy, not really.

Only the strange, faint echo of their voices, in her mind? Or buried in with the other voices? Annika Hansen never could be sure if she'd ever heard them again or not. She only knew that she was alone, in the dark, hidden away for such a long time, with no arms to hug her, no voice to praise her, and no hands to hand her a gift of red flowers, plaited into a crown to rest on her hair.

But in that lonely dark place, the voices were always there. Whispering at her. Shouting at her. Screaming in terror at her.

And then, one day, when the dark lonely chrysalis had become too small a space for her to inhabit without pain, Annika had emerged and been transformed into Seven of Nine. Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero-One. A drone, one of the mighty Borg, whose individual existence mattered not, dedicated as each must be to the advancement of the Borg Collective itself. Individual components had no importance. Only the Hive did.

She remembered something about that time. Feelings. Strange feelings. Angry feelings. Seven of Nine found herself feeling rage, directed towards her own people. The Borg.

Why should she feel that way? Were Naomi's fears about Borg assimilation infecting Seven?

Or was she feeling this way because of her contact with the hormone-flooded youths who confronted her each day?

As Seven stood alone in her alcove at the end of the day, she thought about the child she had been, who had never existed in a classroom such as the one created for Naomi. She thought about the students she saw every day, who interacted with one another and learned things in an open room--a place where the computer screen was in front of your body instead of attached to your skull; where every discovery was an individual achievement, capable of engendering great pleasure from the accomplishment of a goal, not simply a tiny, insignificant bit of data acquired by a collective consciousness.

If things had been different, she might have been one of these students who preened and ogled and flirted with each other, instead of the one boxed away until she was ready to be assigned a niche within the great consciousness of the Borg.

After many nights of such ruminations, Seven realized she did have an inkling about what it had been like to live the childhood that Naomi was living. She had had a chance to experience that herself, for the first six years of her life. What she had no idea of, however, was of later childhood and adolescence. She had lived those years locked away. What would she have been like if she had never become Borg?

On Voyager, when one is curious about something, there is a way to find out if one wishes. A quick lesson from Lieutenant Paris about holodeck programming, some research into the holocharacter data base that yielded up a female which had once been part of a program the Doctor still visited, and a short session identifying programs about adolescent behavior was all she needed to begin a journey into what might have been.

=^=

"Oh, hello, Lieutenant Paris. How are you today?"

"I'm fine, Nanny."

"And how is your lovely wife doing?"

Tom looked up from the tray of instruments that the EMH had set him to sorting. "B'Elanna's doing great, too. Thanks for asking. "

"Good. Excellent." The hologram hovered expectantly in the doorway connecting sickbay to the schoolroom.

"Is there something I can help you with, Nanny? Anybody need any 'doctoring'?"

"Oh, no. Everything's fine. The children are all on their way home. Miss Nine is off taking care of her astrometrical duties. I was just, uh . . . wondering . . . is the Doctor free at the moment?"

Tom suppressed a smile. "He's due back any minute. He had something to take care of on the holodeck."

"Ah. I see. Let him know I was asking after him."

"I will, Nan . . ."

Before Tom could finish his reply, the EMH swept into sickbay, calling out cheerily, "Hello, there! Is there something I can do for you? Any bumps and bruises from our rambunctious charges in school?"

Nanny giggled and repeated what she'd told Tom. ". . . but what I really need is a little of your guidance, Doctor. With such a wide gap in ages, planning lessons for the entire group can be quite challenging. I wanted to rked ome of my recent ideas by you, to see what you think. Over dinner, perhaps?" Tom rolled his eyes. That was as bad as a lot of the lines he used to use, before B'Elanna. Maybe he even used something like it *on* B'Elanna. Unsuccessfully.

The Doctor walked into his office to consult his schedule before replying, "I don't think I'm free tonight."

"Another time then, Lord Burleigh?"

"Pardon?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. I know you prefer to be called by your title . . . Doctor."

"Yes, of course I do," huffed the Doctor, looking perplexed.

"Well, I guess I'll be off then. I don't want to overstay my welcome. I want to remain on good terms with my employer! There are already just so many dangerous situations and people about, if you know what I mean." Nanny looked over her shoulder furtively, as if someone was lurking behind her.

"Dangerous people lurking about? I don't believe so, Nanny." The Doctor smiled to reassure her.

"If only that were true! There's always someone watching out to take advantage of you! I know! But as long as you keep watching out for me, I'm sure it will all turn out well." Nanny leaned close and fluttered her eyelashes at the EMH. "And if there's anything you want to tell me," her voice got lower, more seductive, ". . . or anything you want me to do, Lord Burl . . . I mean, Doctor . . . you let me know, now! Toodle-oo!" With a sudden happy chirp and a quick gargoyle of a smile, Nanny skipped back into her own area.

Tom had ceased his sorting to watch this unexpected wrinkle in the program develop. While Tom knew he should know who Lord Burly was, he couldn't place him just then. One thing he did know: Nanny shouldn't be calling the Doctor Lord Burly, not to mention fluttering her eyelashes at him.

Tom's reverie was interrupted by the Doctor's casual, "You may pick your mandible off the floor, Mr. Paris. This is nothing new. Nanny's been pestering me 'to stay on good terms' by  'going to tea' or 'having dinner' with her all week."

Concerned though he was, Tom couldn't help grinning. "You're the one who didn't want to let her know that for her dinner, is optional. Sounds like 'just desserts' to me."

"Hrumph."

"Does she always call you Lord Burly?"

"Not always. The last couple of days it's happened a bit more often. Why?"

"I was just wondering. It wasn't anything I programmed her to do. Did you add it in?"

"No."

"I don't recall putting that flirtatiousness into her program, either. Must be you, Doc. If she thinks of you as her 'lord and master,' you must've made a conquest."

The Doctor glared with narrowed eyes at his assistant.

In a conciliatory tone of voice Tom added, "But you know, Doc, it's not surprising she wants a little more attention. Seven isn't exactly the greatest company for Nanny. I think our teacher gets pretty lonely in there until the program hits the automatic shut off point each afternoon."

"You don't have to tell me about how lonely it can be for a hologram, Mr. Paris."

A smile that never quite reached Tom's eyes flickered over his face, as he answered in an even softer tone of voice, "No, I guess I don't."

They held each other's gaze for a moment before Tom said, "And I guess I'd better get back to work."

"That would be a refreshing change."

=^=

"You'll never guess what program she's in, B'Elanna. It's Neelix's Resort!" chortled Harry in amazement.

"Seven? In the Resort? Alone? Are you sure? Computer, which crew members are currently on Holodeck Two?"

::::Seven of Nine is the only crew member present on Holodeck Two:::: replied the calm female voice.

Harry and B'Elanna exchanged bemused glances. "B'Elanna, maybe we should signal her first. Seven is off-duty. Our question about the Astrometrics power relays isn't so vital that it can't wait a little while."

"Aren't you at all curious to see what sorts of activities in the Resort our Miss Nine would find 'relevant'? Maybe she's assimilating the waiters. And this is an open program; she'd better not be having an orgy in there when just anybody could waltz in on her."

"B'Elanna . . ." cautioned Harry, even as the arch opened to admit them, on B'Elanna's command.

Initially, nothing in view was out of the ordinary--certainly, nothing suggestive of an orgy. The holographic waiters and dancers were moving around purposefully, setting up for the influx of visitors expected during and after dinnertime. Harry and B'Elanna had to move well into the program before they caught sight of Seven. She was sitting in one of the far booths which overlooked the Resort's beach.

Seven was not alone. A blonde-haired girl who looked to be in her early teens was sitting with her. The girl was chatting animatedly to an entranced Seven. It crossed Harry's mind that "lecturing to" the woman who had once been Borg might be a more accurate description, for Seven spoke only a few words during the time that Harry and B'Elanna were observing them from across the room.

Involved as he was in watching the two in the booth, Harry did not notice his companion stiffen in shock. When B'Elanna suddenly moved across the room as fast as her pregnancy-swollen body would permit, however, Harry hastened to follow. It was only when they reached the booth and B'Elanna faced him that Harry realized the chief engineer's face was flushed with rage. "How dare you!" B'Elanna hissed. "Of all the characters to use, how dare you use this one!"

"Computer, freeze program," Seven stated calmly. The teenager froze obligingly, her surprised face uptilted towards B'Elanna. "Lieutenant Torres, why do you object to my utilization of this character? Her template was in the data banks for general use, was it not?"

"No, she was not for general use! No one's used her since the Doctor did!"

"B'Elanna, I don't see what your problem is about this either."

"Harry, don't you know who this is? It's Belle!"

Harry's eyes flashed down to the still face of the girl. Belle, the Doctor's daughter from his family program. Now he knew her. With chagrin, Harry replied, "No, B'Elanna. I didn't recognize her. I think you and Kes were the only ones to see her alive. The rest of us only saw her at the memorial service."

"Kes and I--and the Doctor! How do you think he'd feel if he saw her memory being desecrated in this way?"

"Lieutenant Torres, the Doctor is a hologram. Why do you speak of his 'feelings'?"

B'Elanna turned back to Seven with both fists clenched and shaking with rage. "That shows just how little you know about him! Yes, he has feelings! And for you to . . ."

Harry quickly slipped between Seven and B'Elanna, grabbing the half-Klingon's upper arms to steady her and block her from doing something she might regret later--or worse, might not regret. "B'Elanna, you've got to calm yourself. It can't be good for the baby for you to get so worked up over this."

"Leave my baby out of this, Harry Kim," she growled through clenched teeth.

"I think you're a little too close to the situation to be objective. Let me talk to Seven about this, all right?"

B'Elanna seethed in righteous indignation, but Harry's message seemed to be getting through. After taking a deep, calming breath, B'Elanna replied, "Okay, Harry. I'll go back to engineering. But you straighten out the Borg about this. I don't want the Doctor blundering in here and getting upset. You know how he was at the funeral."

"I know how he was. I'll take care of it. It'll be fine. Really. Just let Captain Janeway know what I'm doing here, okay? My shift is over in a few minutes anyway." As Harry's soothing words took effect, B'Elanna nodded briefly before shaking herself out of his hold. After shooting a poisonous glance at Seven, B'Elanna marched off the holodeck as crisply as her baby-filled belly would permit.

Only when B'Elanna was safely through the arch was Harry comfortable enough to return his attention to Seven. She was gazing at him solemnly, not with the belligerence he'd seen from her at other times. The motionless holographic teenager was also still staring at him, as were several of the other frozen holocharacters whose attention must have been captured by B'Elanna's outburst.

Seven broke the eerie silence by saying, "I fail to see why Lieutenant Torres is so agitated by my choice. Borrowing a character from another program is a common practice, according to Lieutenant Paris."

"Normally, it wouldn't be a problem. This is different."

"In what way? According to the holodeck logs, the Doctor borrowed her from an earlier program of the captain's. Why shouldn't I be able to utilize this same hologram for my purposes?"

"Seven, this character was the Doctor's daughter. She died in a tragic accident. He almost gave up his family program after it happened. Tom talked the Doctor into carrying it through to the end, to mourn her, just like he would have done in real life. It wasn't easy for the Doctor. It brought him tremendous pain, so nobody's felt comfortable using this character in their programs since that occurred."

"Why wasn't the character deleted from the data banks if she was not to be utilized?"

"I don't know. Maybe it seemed to be a good idea for her to be available in case the Doc wanted to use her again himself. Modify her into another daughter, or something. I'm not sure of the reason; I just know there's been sort of an unspoken agreement by the entire crew not to use her for anything else."

"I was unaware of this. I will find another face for my character. Computer . . . "

Before Seven could delete the character, Harry stopped her. "Wait, before you do that, could you let me in on what you were doing with her?"

"I am merely exploring courtship rituals--to better understand my students' behavior."

"If that's the case, why don't you have a boy in here, too, so you can talk to both and watch them together?"

"I have ample opportunity to watch the boys and girls interacting in the schoolroom. In this program I am obtaining background data about the life of a girl at this stage of her development."

"I see." Harry noted that the usually phlegmatic Borg became considerably less so during this explanation. "Have you programmed a boy to get an idea about what his life is like, too?"

"I have not."

Harry was on the verge of asking her why she wasn't interested in a boy's life at this stage of development when he thought of a better way to find out what was going on. Clearly, there was more to this than what Seven had admitted. "Maybe it would be better if you ran a little of the program, so I can understand you better."

"You would not be offended by the use of this holocharacter? The Doctor might enter the holodeck and become upset, if Lieutenant Torres is correct," Seven remarked, her right eyebrow arched.

"Maybe we can change her a little bit so that wouldn't happen. Computer, change the hair color of . . . what did you say the name of this character is?"

"I did not say. Her name is Belinda."

"Computer, change Belinda's hair color to light red. Make her eyes green. And lets give her a whole bunch of freckles, all over her face."  In an eye-blink, the still-motionless girl's coloring was altered. "There, that's better. If the Doc does walk in now, she'll seem like another girl at first glance. You can change her face later. Let's unfreeze her now and continue the conversation B'Elanna and I disrupted."

Seven nodded slowly, and Harry called out, "Computer, resume program."

"Oh, hi!" Belinda said, looking around. "Where's the other lady?"

"She had to leave. I'm Harry."

"Hi, Harry. Are you going to be leaving, too?"

"No, I was going to join Seven and you, if you don't mind."

"Oh, okay." Belinda giggled nervously, flicking a glance at Seven as Harry took a seat next to his crewmate, across from the teenager.

"Seven, Belinda, can I get you anything? A soda, perhaps?"

At Belinda's eager agreement and Seven's cool assent, Harry called over one of the waiters and ordered two "giant" colas and a medium ginger ale for Seven. Once the drinks had been ordered, Belinda asked, "What are we going to talk about?"

"What you were talking about before. Don't mind me."

Belinda giggled again. "I don't think we should."

"Why not? Is it a big secret?"

"No, it's not a secret. But we were talking about school, music, holodeck programs, and sports. And boyfriends." She giggled again. "I don't think you'd be interested in all that. Boys usually aren't. Well, maybe you wouldn't mind the sports or music part."

"But I'm not a boy anymore, so I am interested in all that. Just forget I'm here and go on the way you were before I got here."

Belinda looked over at Seven for confirmation. Seven responded, "It is acceptable. Continue. Please."

Harry sat back against the bench of the booth and listened. It actually was pretty interesting. He'd never had a sister or brother, and he'd been so serious about his classes at this age that a lot of what Belinda had to say about her daily life was a revelation.

But it wasn't as much of a revelation to him as it seemed to be to Seven. He'd never seen the former Borg so absorbed by anything other than the building of the Astrometrics lab, the project the captain had assigned to Harry and Seven after Kes left Voyager. Busy work, he'd thought at the time, although he'd been grateful enough then to be kept busy.

As he watched the subtle changes in Seven's expressions now, he decided he was right about one thing. This program's agenda consisted of something more than Seven's desire to learn about teenage courtship rituals, although certainly that was a large part of it.

After over an hour of the hologram discussing her life with only minimal interruption, mostly requests for clarification from the two adults, Belinda said, "Oh, gee! Look at the time! I've got to go! The parental units will really get sore if I don't get home in time! I don't want to get grounded!"

"Grounded? What is that?" asked Seven quickly.

"I can explain what grounded means," Harry replied, bemused. "I've had experience with that. We don't want to get Belinda in trouble, Seven. She needs to go now." Reluctantly, Seven shrugged her shoulders in agreement.

Belinda jumped out of the booth. "Thanks, Harry. I'll see you again soon, Seven. Bye!"  Waving in farewell, she vanished as she headed out of the exit arch.

Once Belinda had disappeared, Harry moved around to take her vacated place in the booth. "About getting grounded?" he said amiably. "That's what happens when you do something wrong and your parents discipline you by taking away all your privileges. Like talking to your friends over the comm system, or going out to sporting events, or going on dates. All the things that Belinda likes to do."

"I see." A shadow crossed Seven's face at this, and Harry wished he felt comfortable enough to ask her why being "grounded" had such obvious resonance for someone who had lived so much of her life as a Borg.

Instead, he asked, "So, did talking to Belinda teach you what you wanted to know about being a teenager?"

"It served its purpose," she said evasively.

"I, uh, noticed that you had a lot of questions about what Belinda's life was like with her parents. That doesn't seem to have much to do with teenage courtship rituals."

Seven looked away, then answered, "All of my questions were relevant to my investigations."

"That's . . . intriguing."

After a moment's hesitation, Seven commented, "Ensign Kim. I noted that this program made your face change in the way I have learned transmits to others that a subject is painful. One of those times was when Belinda mentioned being on the Parrises Squares team at school. Why would this subject bring you pain?"

"That's how Belle died, Seven. She damaged her brain in a fall playing Parrises Squares. The Doctor couldn't save her. So even though Belinda looked different, I couldn't help thinking of Belle and feeling bad about it. I remembered her funeral."

"I understand. I thought at first that you had been damaged in the past playing this sport," Seven said quietly.

"No, it made me think of mourning. And thinking about that always makes me think about losing Kes."

Seven stared over Harry's shoulders for a moment. "I have lost everything I have ever known, also. I have lost the Collective." She paused. "I believe I have felt pain from this."

//And maybe not just the Collective,// thought Harry. "Seven, all those questions about Belinda's parents . . . are you thinking about your parents, too? Mourning their loss?"

Her expression changed, and she hesitated again before answering. "I do sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had not become Borg."

"That's what this program is really all about, isn't it? Not about courtship rituals at all."

"No," Seven responded, with conviction. "I must comprehend humanoid courtship rituals. The Borg did not practice single-cell fertilization themselves, but now that I am an individual, I need to understand this process. There is a high probability of its being relevant to my future."

The cool equanimity Seven usually projected returned. Harry could recognize someone in denial. He'd seen it up close with B'Elanna and Tom. Maybe sometimes when he'd looked into a mirror, too. She wasn't ready to admit to mourning her lost parents, her lost childhood. Maybe it was enough, for now, for her to admit she even wondered about what it might have been like if she'd never encountered the Borg.

There was plenty of time for further revelations. Rather than push her any further about her parents, Harry decided to ask her about the topic she did seem willing to discuss. "So, are you interested in learning about dating, then? Like Belinda was talking about?"

"Going out for a 'slice of pizza' does not appeal to me."

"Depends on how good the pizza is! Neelix's isn't very good. There's other kinds of dates, though. There are some holonovels you could try. There's places you can visit, too, like the Ktarian moonrise simulation. It's beautiful. Would you like to try something like that sometime?"

"Would copulation occur during these simulations?"

Harry, aghast, cried, "No! Dating and copulation don't mean the same thing!"

"They are related."

"Sometimes they are, but not always."

"You would not be interested in copulating with me?"

Gasping, Harry replied, "I'm not saying that. But I'm not asking you to copulate when I'm inviting you to experience a simulation together. Sometimes dating leads to copulation, but usually not right off the bat. It takes time for two people to learn how to trust each other . . . to develop mutual feelings for one another. Friendship really should come first."

"I understand that you and Kes did not have many dates before your marriage."

"That's true, but we'd known each other for three years as friends. And because we knew she wouldn't live very long, we decided not to wait once we knew we wanted to get married. I guess that was a good decision, the way things turned out. We didn't have as much time together as we expected. A lot less, in fact." Harry looked down at the table, at his hands. Reflexively, he had clenched them at Seven's mention of Kes.

"Does speaking of this bring you pain, Ensign Kim?"

"Some," Harry answered honestly. "But it's good for me to talk about her, too. I have to accept I've lost her so I can move on with my life." Seven was drinking in all of what he had to say as intently as she had Belinda's recitation, he saw, and he continued, "That's the way it is with any kind of loss. Talking about it makes it better, somehow. So, what you were doing here with Belinda wasn't really a bad thing."

"I simply chose an unacceptable character."

"Maybe you didn't. I'm not sure how the Doc would respond if he knew what you were talking about with her. I'm sorry B'Elanna got so upset about it. But maybe . . . "

"Yes, Ensign?"

"Talking with one of the crew instead of a holodeck character would be an even better idea. That way, B'Elanna can't get upset again because you picked the wrong character."

"Not many on this vessel wish to speak with me."

"I wouldn't mind speaking with you." Looking around at the chairs and tables of the Resort, which had begun to fill with their fellow crew members, Harry paused and checked the time. "In fact, it looks like I have lots of time to talk now. My shift is over. Let me check with the bridge. If they don't need me, we could get some dinner. Isn't it time for you to eat, too?"

"It is."

"Do you want to go to the mess hall?"

"I would prefer to ingest nutrients here. The smells in the mess hall are often unappealing."

Harry laughed. "I can't disagree with you about that! I've got the rations, so if you do, too, here is fine."

As he signaled for the waiter, Harry became aware of Seven's eyes fixed upon him--such pretty blue eyes. When he realized whose eyes they reminded him of, he felt another pang beneath his breastbone.

The waiter came, and Harry forced himself to push away memory and pain so he could order meals for his companion and himself. While they waited to be served, Harry was finally able to ask Seven the question about the Astrometrics power relays he'd needed answered when he'd come looking for her a couple of hours before.

Tonight, when he was alone in his quarters, Harry would take the time to reminisce about his lost love. Someone else was in need of his help now, and he was glad to give it. Kes would have wanted it that way.

=^=

". . . all right, B'Elanna. I'm sure Harry will find out what Seven was doing with the Belle character. The power relays can wait. Harry's right, though. It's not good for you to get so upset like this."

::::I'm fine. The baby's fine. I wish everyone would stop obsessing about the baby every time I get a little aggravated about something I've got good reason to be aggravated about! Is Tom there obsessing, too, Captain?::::

Tom rolled his eyes at Captain Janeway as he answered, "Yes, I'm here, B'Elanna. I have something to tell the captain, and then I'll be off the rest of the night. How long will you be in engineering?"

::::As long as it takes me to figure out a way to jury-rig a bypass around the blasted Astrometrics power relays! If we could have consulted with the Borg about it, I'd probably be off already!::::

"Ah. Okay. Maybe I'll wander down to engineering as soon as I'm done here, see if I can help you with anything. Just take it easy."

::::'Just take it easy.' You *are* obsessing, too, I take it.::::

"No more than usual. I'll be there in a little while. Paris out."

As the communication ended, the captain allowed her laughter to be heard by her helmsman-cum-nurse. Tom sighed, "It's not so funny when it happens every day, Captain. I'll be glad when this is over, and I only have to worry about a baby screaming all night long."

"I'm sorry, Tom. I shouldn't have laughed."

Tom grinned ruefully. "I'm sure it's a lot funnier when it's happening to somebody else."

"I'm sure it is. Go ahead and make your report so you can rescue B'Elanna--or maybe rescue engineering! Let her relax a little before the next crisis occurs."

"Thanks, Captain. I needed to talk to you about Nanny. The Doctor has his hands full dealing with her. She's been putting the moves on him. While I was in Sickbay today she came in three times; and each time, she was fluttering her eyelashes and invading his personal space and . . . well, Captain, I've flirted enough myself to know when someone is trying to seduce somebody. And she is. Trying to seduce the Doc, I mean."

"Hasn't the Doctor told her he's 'married'? Jeffrey is one of her students, isn't he?"

"Actually, no, I don't think he has told her. The Doctor hasn't mentioned Charlene that I know of, and I don't know if it was put into the student data base. We put most of the emphasis on Naomi. That wasn't my area to program. I'll look into it, now that you mention it. And there's one other thing . . . "

"Yes?"

"I've noticed that Nanny has a tendency to be a wee bit paranoid. Okay, a lot paranoid. She worries about everything. People are watching her and following her around--they want to do evil things to her--that sort of thing."

"The Doctor mentioned that to me before. I thought it was simply a matter of her being able to sense the general log cameras. Perhaps it's something more, if she's thinking that someone is out to get her."

"Between her worrying about everything and coming onto the Doc, buttering him up by calling him 'Lord Burly,' I don't think he is . . ."

"Did you say Lord Burleigh?" the captain gasped.

"Yeah, that's what she's been calling him. Lord Burly."

"Oh, God! You didn't use my Victorian governess holonovel for her program?"

"Let me check." Tom leaned over the captain's desk to access her computer. After several deft movements of his fingers, he had the screen filled with the data he was looking for. After a few "uh-hmms" and "okays," he looked up at the captain. "Yes, Captain. We eliminated The Turn of the Screw, Jane Eyre, and several other teachers we thought could cause problems from Nanny's matrix, but Lucille Davenport, the governess from your holonovel, was included."

"Well, that explains it all, then. Lord Burleigh was supposedly a widower, but Lady Burleigh was still alive and dangerously crazy."

"That sounds a lot like Jane Eyre."

"It is, in some ways; but there were a few unusual twists, so I decided to be Lucille Davenport instead of Jane. I'd pretty much forgotten about it. Compared to daily life on Voyager, it got to be boring after a while."

"And Leonardo might get jealous."

Despite her concern, the captain laughed. "The DaVinci program is much more entertaining. Such a great mind!"

"I'm sorry we put Mrs. Davenport in to the matrix without realizing the deficiencies in her character, Captain. I should have checked her out instead of leaving it to the Doc."

"It's all right. Now that we know about it, it's easy enough to fix. But before we do any more fiddling with her personality, the first thing we need to do is be honest with her."

"Absolutely, Captain. I wanted to do that from the beginning."

=^=

"Hello! Nanny? Are you still here?" Captain Janeway called out as she entered the schoolroom,  with Tom close on her heels.

Nanny shimmered into existence. "Yes, I'm still here. I haven't had a chance to go home yet, what with all the lesson planning I have to do. I was expecting Miss Nine to stop by this afternoon, but I haven't seen her. Have you?"

"No, but I know why she didn't come. She had something she needed to discuss with Ensign Kim."

"Oh, Captain, I hope there isn't any problem! No one's following Miss Nine about wanting to do her harm, is there? There's so many disreputable people hanging around. You just never know what they'll do!" Nanny's brow crinkled in dismay.

"No, nothing like that, Nanny. Just something she and Mr. Kim needed to talk about."

"I'll get the Doc," Tom whispered to the captain at a pause in her dialogue with the teacher, while Nanny was muttering to herself about Miss Nine being in danger, too.

A minute later, Tom followed the Doctor into the schoolroom.

As soon as the Doctor arrived, the captain began, "Now that I've got the two of you together, I have to ask you about what's been going on in here. Tom expressed concern about some things he's observed in sickbay. Doctor?"

The EMH stood up a little straighter, then deflated visibly. "There do seem to have been a few little problems lately. Nothing I can't handle."

"Tom tells me that Nanny has been flirting with you. Inviting you out to dinner--that sort of thing."

The Doctor stabbed a look in Tom's direction, but before he could answer, Nanny chimed in, "Oh, Captain, it's true! I can't help it. He's such a wonderful man. I've always had a weakness for my employers; I confess; it's my Achille's heel. If you don't favor my attentions, Lord Burleigh--I mean, Doctor--I'll understand if you need to terminate me."

"No one's going to terminate you!" cried the Doctor. "Oh, you mean fire you?"

"That's what she meant, Doc. It wasn't like she expected you to 'terminate' her, like she was a program, or something," Tom explained pointedly. "Then she wouldn't be paranoid about somebody being out to get her, would she?"

"Tom . . ." the captain warned, then turned back to the teacher. "You're saying you've fallen in love with your employer, the Doctor?"

"Yes, desperately." Nanny, starry eyed and smiling, glanced lovingly at the EMH.

"Nanny, the Doctor isn't your employer. I am," said Janeway.

"You're my employer? Oh, no, that clearly can't be. Why, you can't be Lord Burleigh. You're a woman! Aren't you?" Nanny looked nervously at the captain.

"Yes, of course, the captain is a woman, but that doesn't mean she can't be your employer! I'm not your employer, Nanny! I'm the chief medical officer of this ship, but the captain runs the ship! She's the 'employer' of us all."

"I don't understand!" wailed Nanny.

Taking Nanny by the hand, the captain sat her down in the chair behind her desk, perching herself on the desk's edge, before continuing, "You see, Nanny, you've been programmed to have a predisposition to fall in love with your employer. Since the Doctor has been so involved with you, it's understandable that you interpreted him to be your employer, but he isn't. He's really your crew mate and co-worker."

"I've been programmed? I've been brainwashed, you mean? You see! Someone is out to get me! Oh, what have I done to deserve this?"

"No, Nanny, that's not it at all." Sighing, the captain turned to the Doctor. "It's time, Doctor. Will you tell her, or shall I?"

"Tell me what?"

The Doctor met the captain's firm, not-to-be-disobeyed, Janeway stare. Shaking his head slightly and sighing, the Doctor turned to Nanny and declared, "Nanny, you and I aren't humans, like the Captain, or even Mr. Paris here. We're sophisticated computer programs who interact with the humanoids on Voyager via a holographic interface. We're holograms."

Nanny gaped at the Doctor, gagged, and began to laugh hysterically. "Holograms! Computer programs! Oh, my, Doctor! You really had me going there for a moment! This is just too funny!"

"I'm not in the habit of joking abyou as serious a subject as this one!" cried the EMH.

The captain tried to get Nanny's attention, but it was Tom who walked over to her, brushing by the captain as he knelt before the teacher and reached out to grasp her hands. "Nanny, access Zeta-Tau-Alpha-Two, Holographic Matrix Program Directory, Matrices One and Two. It's all there. All the specs for the Emergency Medical Hologram and the Holographic Head Teacher programs. The EMH and the HHT. You're the HHT."

Abruptly, Nanny stopped laughing and gazed up at Tom with a faraway look in her eyes. When her eyes again were fastened on Tom's sympathetic ones, she gulped a small, "Oh," before looking at Captain Janeway. The captain gazed at the HHT, her eyes filled with the same sympathetic warmth that Tom's had.

Nanny looked up at the ceiling. "The holoemitters are up there?"

"Yes, Nanny," Tom replied. "They're housed in the ceilings in here. Also in Sickbay, in the medical labs, and in two Holodecks that have their entrances one deck below us, on Deck Six. You can go anywhere where there are holoemitters. You can transfer down to the Holodecks without having to go out into any corridors, but we've been talking about fitting holoemitters in some other rooms, too. Maybe a corridor or two. That's for the future, though. Until that's done, these are the only places you can go."

"But how do you get around on those away missions you've told me about, Doctor? Don't you need holoemitters to . . . to be?"

"That small badge I wear on my arm sometimes is a mobile emitter. It's very handy. I can go anywhere when I'm wearing that."

"Can you make me one?"

"I'm sorry, Nanny. That technology is from the future. It's a long story, but the brief version is that we only have the one." The Doctor took a deep breath. "Of course, we can share the mobile emitter. There are bound to be times when I'm going to be needed in Sickbay, and you can use it then. Perhaps when we get to a suitable planet, your program can be loaded into it so you can take Naomi on a field trip."

"Naomi, but not the other students? Oh. They're holocharacters, too, aren't they?"

"Yes, they are. My son Jeffrey and all the teenagers. All the children, except for Naomi."

"And Miss Nine is a holocharacter, too, of course."

Tom chuckled, "Well, no, actually. Seven is a human being. "

"Really! If you'd told me just one of the others was a hologram, I would have guessed Miss Nine."

Captain Janeway smiled. "An understandable mistake. She's led a rather unusual life up to now. One could say she's been programmed, too, in many ways."

Nanny smiled sadly at the captain. "So, my only true student is Naomi."

"And Seven. She needs just as much instruction on how to be a human being as Naomi does. More, probably. That's why we assigned her to work with you. I'm sure you'll be able to help her develop in many ways she can't anticipate yet. I'm looking forward to seeing how you do with her," the captain said encouragingly.

"So, I'm a computer program," Nanny repeated. "Is that why I thought everyone was out to get me?"

"No, it was the way you were programmed." Captain Janeway explained. "You've been having problems because elements from my old holonovel contaminated your personality files. They didn't work well with the rest of your subroutines. Don't worry. I'll have Tom, B'Elanna, Harry and Seven work on taking them out tomorrow."

"No, Captain. I think I'd rather you left them there. Now that I know what I really am, I think I'll be able to get around them. And if I can't, then you can take them out."

"Sure, Nanny. That should work. B'Elanna will be keeping your program tuned up regularly anyway. You just let one of us know if you need any help in between, and we'll fix you right up." As Tom finished, he noted that Nanny had become very quiet and disturbed. "Is there still something wrong, Nanny?"

She shook her head sadly. "No, Lieutenant. Nothing you can do anything about. It's just that I'm . . . I'm only a program."

Tom squeezed her hand again. "No, you aren't, not to us, Nanny. You're your own, distinct personality. Now that you know exactly what you are, you'll be able to develop it even more, on your own. Like the Doc has. One thing you've got going for you is that it's easier to fix your personality when you need to. You don't need a counselor, something we don't have and desperately need! You've got B'Elanna to help you through. A little reprogramming to get rid of that glitch . . ."

"I'm not really alive. I'm not real," she said, hollowly.

"That's not true. You're real to us. The Doc sure is," Tom said, with a sincere smile.

"No, I'm not. I'm only a projection of light and energy."

Janeway gently patted Nanny on the shoulder. "You know, Nanny, humans are made up of atoms. And what does an atom consist of? Positive charges of electricity in the form of protons and negative charges--electrons. With a few neutrons here and there thrown in for good measure. Essentially, matter is made up of energy. So maybe 'a projection of light and energy' isn't a bad description of us all, not just you."

"It doesn't mean I'm a life form. You can turn me on and off."

"They certainly can," grumbled the Doctor. "Any time they want."

Tom coughed suddenly and got up in front of Nanny, rubbing his knees as if they were sore. "I don't know if being capable of being turned off and on negates your being a life form."

The captain transmitted a withering look at her helmsman, certain she did not wish to address at the moment what had crossed his mind to prompt that comment. She had a pretty good idea what that thought might have been. Instead, she said, "Now, Nanny, sentience is another matter--you are sentient, as far as we're all concerned. Now that you know who you are, you are self-aware, too."

"Me, sentient? A computer program?" sputtered Nanny.

"That you may be, but you're self-aware, able to think, even to reproduce in some manner. You and the Doctor fit the definition of sentient being to me."

Nanny looked in confusion at the Doctor, who opened his mouth as if he wished to say something, without a word escaping his lips. Returning her attention to the captain, she said, "I may know who and what I am, but can I think? And how can I reproduce?"

"You've shown your ability to use reason and to problem solve while teaching Naomi. That sounds like thinking to me. And you are the same sort of being as the Doctor, who, in a sense, has reproduced by helping to create you."

Tom agreed vigorously. "He did, Nanny. The Doc was very involved in creating you. And he's been very protective, too. Almost fatherly."

Nanny's eyes turned inward as she considered Tom's remark. Finally, she sighed, "That's all very nice of you to say, but this is the Delta Quadrant. What will Starfleet say about this when Voyager returns to the Alpha Quadrant?"

The Doctor found his voice again. "If you examine the Starfleet databanks you'll see there's an android, an artificial life form, who has become a member of Starfleet--he was a lieutenant commander when we left the Alpha Quadrant, as a matter of fact. His right to choose his own fate has been decided in a court of law. As far as the law is concerned, he is not a machine, but a living being. Yet, like a machine, he has an on and off switch."

Tom interjected, "You know, when humanoid species are asleep, you could say they're 'off.' And when they're awake, aren't they 'on'?"

"An excellent example, Tom." The captain caught his sly grin. That wasn't what he'd been thinking about earlier, she was willing to bet, but it was close enough.

"Well, maybe . . ."

"And we're only talking of species that have bodies. There are beings we accept as 'real,' such as the Organians, who have evolved beyond having bodies. We've even had a member of this crew leave us by transforming herself into a non-corporeal life form," the EMH began to warm to the subject.

Janeway smiled and said, "There, you see? I think we have an excellent argument that you and the Doctor are a kind of life form, too, just of another type. Perhaps we should call you an intermittent life form? You may have bodies like ours only when you're 'on,' but when you're 'turned off,' you continue to exist inside our computer core."

Tom added, "When you and the Doc are asleep, you kind of become Organians. No bodies, but your consciousness can be called up any time we need you."

Janeway nodded in approval. "Exactly. What do you say, Nanny? Can you accept that?"

"I'll try," she sighed, glancing down at her lap. When she raised her eyes again, there was a tiny smile lurking there. Janeway smiled warmly at her. From out of the corner of her eye, the captain could see Tom's grin of encouragement, which Nanny answered by straightening her posture. Clearing her throat, Nanny turned her attention back to the Doctor. "I think perhaps I owe you an apology, Doctor. You didn't seem to want my . . . attentions. I guess I'm not the kind of intermittent life form you'd want to date."

"Oh, you'd be a lovely intermittent life form to date, but I'm not free. I have Jeffrey's mother Charlene--my wife. She isn't self-aware, perhaps, but I've made a commitment to our family. We have two sons. You know Jeffrey, and then there's our new little bouncing baby boy hologram. We haven't decided upon a name for him yet, but . . ."

Tom groaned, "Doc, don't you think you need to do something about that soon? I mean, can't you hold a 'name that holographic baby' contest or something?"

"Mr. Paris! I can just imagine what B'Elanna would say if you suggested to her that the crew have a baby-naming contest for your anticipated offspring!"

"Don't have to, Doc. We've already got her name picked out. You're the one who's got the history of waffling on names."

"Now, Tom . . . " cautioned the captain.

"I'm sorry, Captain. Doc, I guess I did get a little carried away," Tom apologized, backing up a step, with both hands raised to signal his retreat.

The EMH turned back to Nanny. "Anyway, as a family man, I wouldn't feel compfortable about dating. It simply wouldn't be acceptable, as desirable as you are. Besides, if Mr. Paris and the captain are correct in their supposition that I've reproduced you, it wouldn't be right. I'd be your father, more or less."

"My father? My FATHER! MY FATHER! Oh, no! I don't want to even think about dating my father! No, no, no. Oh, dear, no!"

"Calm down. It's all right, Nanny," Tom said. "No harm done! You never did get around to a date with him, so there's no need for screams of horror." The Doctor glared at Tom, who continued without missing a beat, "And if you want a boyfriend, I can program a much better one for you than the Doctor."

"Why, thank you, Mr. Paris, for your vote of confidence. Charlene doesn't seem to hold that opinion, fortunately!"

The captain rested her hand upon her brow. She felt a headache coming on. A very nasty one.

Nanny came to the rescue. "Before I even think about getting a boyfriend, I'll need a real name. I wonder which one I should pick?"

The Doctor eagerly replied, "Your name needs to be something that communicates something to the world about you! It can honor an important personage from the past or express some of your hopes for your future. There are so many wonderful ones to choose from, I've had trouble narrowing the list of possibilities . . ."

"Here we go again," muttered the captain, as Tom groaned loudly.

The Doctor glanced over at the captain and sighed. "You're right, Captain. I haven't even picked my own name yet. I'm not one to talk about making a decision about names."

"I can't think of a better person to give me a name . . . Father." Nanny smiled at the EMH, eliciting a half-smile from him.

Tom scratched up his hair and said, "Maybe he already has then."

"What are you jabbering about now, Mr. Paris?" the Doctor grumbled.

"Maybe I know her name." Tom paused, as if suddenly reluctant to say that name. Shrugging his shoulders, he said, "Maybe it's Belle."

Not noticing the sudden change in the Doctor's expression, Nanny replied, "Like your wife B'Elanna? After her?"

Tom's eyes never wavered from the Doctor's face. A vulnerable expression had come over him at Nanny's innocent question. When he saw the EMH give him ever so slight a nod, however, Tom responded softly to Nanny, "No, not after B'Elanna. Belle was the Doctor's daughter in his family program. She's not around any more, but you could be her, all grown up."

Seeing the Doctor's wistful expression, Nanny looked quizzically at the captain, who was unable to add anything to what Tom said. Tom advised her, in a very gentle tone of voice, "You can access the Doctor's family program if you want to know more, Nanny."

Nanny's eyes went out of focus as she accessed the part of the computer memory that Tom had suggested. As her eyes again came back into focus, she leaned towards the EMH, took his hand in hers and murmured, "I'm so sorry. I didn't realize . . . "

"It's quite all right. You couldn't have known, really. The way I'd set up the program before, you wouldn't have been able to see it, even if you'd known where to look."

Silence fell over the entire group. The two holograms continued to clasp hands. A bit of holographic mist might have come into their eyes, but Janeway wasn't quite sure. Her own eyes seemed to go blurry for a moment, and she couldn't even see Tom's. He was looking away from them all.

When Nanny cleared her throat importantly, all eyes returned to her. After a short pause, the holographic teacher stated, "Captain Janeway, please let everyone know that, like any member of the crew, I may be called by my job title. Nanny. But those who wish to call me by name should call me Belle. I might not be that same hologram, but I'd like everyone to call me that, in memory of the Doctor's brave little girl."

Tom swiftly looked away again. This time the captain didn't bother to hide the tears that sprang into her eyes as she replied, huskily, "I'll make sure they all know."

After a short pause, the EMH said, "Mr. Paris, don't you think now would be a good time to load Nanny's program . . . I mean Belle's . . . into the mobile emitter? It's about time she had a chance to get out of the schoolroom and Sickbay, don't you think?"

"Sure, Doc. And I need to get down to engineering before Joe Carey and the rest of the staff are driven crazy by a pregnant half-Klingon. She's probably got them scrubbing every Jefferies tube on Voyager. Let me get the emitter." Tom sauntered into Sickbay.

The captain said, "I think I'll go along with you. I have a feeling Mr. Paris will be spending more time in engineering than he anticipates, and I want you to see more of Voyager than just engineering. How would you like a tour of the ship?"

"A tour of the ship. That sounds exciting," bubbled Belle.

"While you're gone, I'll get home to Charlene and let her know that Jeffrey's teacher will be coming for dinner. You do want to come for dinner, don't you?"

"Of course, Doctor. Umm. Doctor?"

"Yes, Nan . . . Belle?"

"Do you think your wife would mind if I called you Pops, or something? 'Doctor' doesn't sound right any more, somehow. And 'Father' seems so formal."

The Doctor beamed. "Pops. I rather like that."

"Pops?" asked Tom as he returned, mobile emitter in hand.

"Just load her program into the emitter, Mr. Paris," the EMH groaned.

As the bantering continued, Kathryn Janeway leaned back, crossed her arms, and thought, not for the first time, nor the last, //Weird is definitelypart of the job.//
 

=^=End=^=
January, 1999
 
 

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