Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Seven's brief childhood, as glimpsed in "Dark Frontier", "The Raven", "Author, Author" and other episodes. Preliminary to Tertiary, a life of Seven of Nine.
Paramount owns their bodies, but their souls are free.
They were a rumor and a byword at the far side of the Romulan Empire, where mothers warned their children that the "Lamne'rau" would get them if they didn't obey. It was under that Rihannsu species name that Magnus Hansen petitioned the Federation Council on Exobiology for permission to skirt the Neutral Zone in his quest for those mythic mechanical men he himself had nicknamed "the Borg."
Perhaps he was less than forthright in his proposals about the security risk posed by the Lamne'rau, though the paper-pushers at Starfleet read danger between the lines nonetheless. Fortunately for Magnus a distant cousin of his, Commodore Hansen, had the final say in such matters. The Commodore was a family man who reasoned that Magnus would not take his wife and small child on a suicide mission, and so approved both the Raven's mission and her initial flight plan.
Erin Hansen knew her husband better than that, but she also knew the Lamne'rau. A cultural exobiologist fluent in Vulcan and Rihannsu and conversant in several other dialects of the Romulan Empire, she had drawn together the threads of rumor and hearsay into the theories and coordinates that had (or, in some cases, hadn't) made it into her husband's report. She looked forward to a pleasant wild goose chase through the desolate reaches beyond the Empire, playing with Annika, eavesdropping on Romulan subspace channels, and not seeing the rare and elusive Lamne'rau.
"Magnus Hansen: field notes, U.S.S. Raven, Stardate 32611.4--"
"Magnus..." Erin's familiar sigh of frustration carried across the Raven's narrow bridge.
He paused the log to answer her. "What is it, dear?"
"It's 29614, that's what it is!"
"I just saw the stardate on the paperwork from the Exobiology Council," he protested.
"That's when the project comes up for review - three years from now. Never mind," she added with another sigh, "the correct timestamp will show up in the computer core."
"Why can't Starfleet use months and years like normal people, or at least local time?" They'd had this argument before, but he was a stubborn man.
"Go ahead, start using the Romulan zodiac sub-dates - if you know them."
"Touche'." He started recording again. "It's about time. The Federation Council on Exobiology has given us final approval. Starfleet's still concerned about security issues but they've agreed not to stand in our way. We've said our good-byes, and we're ready to start chasing our theories about the Borg."
When he paused the log to await his next deep thought, his wife rudely interrupted, "Lamne'rau."
"Do I have to speak Rihannsu now, too?" Magnus asked.
"It wouldn't kill you to learn." Erin started a diagnosic on the comm console as she segued into another familiar argument. "I don't like the sound of 'Borg'. We have no evidence that the Lamne'rau are cybernetic at all. They could be a silicon-based insect colony." That was her pet theory. "If you find them, then you can name them whatever you'd like."
"I'll hold you to that," Magnus said, and started recording again. "As explained in my report to the Exobiology Council, we will be proceeding to the nearest locus of rumors about the Lamne'rau, in sector--"
"Daddy, what's a lamrow?" His four-year-old daughter had slipped onto the bridge unseen.
Magnus smiled down at her. "That's what Mommy wants us to call the Borg, Muffin - the Lamne'rau." He pronounced the word carefully, yet Erin winced at his accent.
"I like Borg," Annika said, and skipped out the door.
Erin frowned after her. "One of us should tell her we're leaving tomorrow."
"I'll do it," he promised, "as soon as I finish this sensor diagnostic."
The security issues with which Starfleet was concerned had little to do with the Lamne'rau and much to do with the ebb and flow of tensions along the Neutral Zone. Erin Hansen had spent the last few years on Tendara Colony mapping those political currents as a civilian analyst for Starfleet. She was inspired not so much by loyalty to the Federation as by scientific curiosity - Starfleet Intelligence had all the latest data on Romulan society. Erin had a beta-1 security clearance.
Erin also had a photographic memory and a head for cryptography that Intelligence, in its infinitely bureacratic wisdom, had completely overlooked when it hired her as a translator (level five). Many experimental Romulan shield and sensor designs had passed across her console on Tendara, often with the original undecoded version attached. She whiled away the long months aboard the Raven by programming her comm system with top-secret Starfleet Intelligence decryption algorithms and using them to eavesdrop on Romulan comm traffic.
Erin looked around at the happy family scene in the Raven's small lounge, trying to put a finger on what was bothering her. "You don't keep personal logs anymore."
"I think a year of logs saying no sign of the Borg are enough." He shifted on the couch, full of energy but short on cyborgs to apply it to. "Did you hear anything on the comm today?"
"The Expansionists are up in arms again."
"You predicted that in your paper for the exopolitics conference, didn't you?"
Erin fiddled with her PADD. "I never submitted it," she confessed. At his curious look, she added, "I have the whole field to myself out here. If I published my results now, it would only attract competition."
"You keep telling me to publish, though."
"Maybe if enough people followed us out here, someone would..." Her voice trailed off.
"Find the Borg, yes." He flashed her a wry grin. "If we can't find them, no one can."
Annika's ears perked up at the mention of the Borg. She flew her latest cube, made of some interlocking plastic blocks Magnus had replicated for her, up from the floor into his lap. "Zoom," she said.
He admired her handiwork. When he'd made his first model cube, he'd had nothing to go on but Erin's translation of an audio recording in back-sector Rihannsu. The data had been passed down to Exobiology from Starfleet Intelligence through the usual slow channels. Intelligence considered it to be baseless rumor of no tactical interest - the Romulan equivalent of the yellow press.
"Who lives inside the cube, Muffin?" Magnus asked, grinning at Erin. Even after a year of Rihannsu lessons, their daughter always sided with him in the great Lamne'rau/Borg debate.
Annika answered, "Mommy and Daddy and Muffin."
Magnus laughed. Erin did not.
They celebrated Annika's sixth birthday aboard the Raven, with cake and candles and no other little girls. There were no other children skirting the Neutral Zone, looking for trouble. Annika didn't seem to mind.
"Would you like to visit your Aunt Irene, Annika?"
Magnus frowned at Erin's question, but their daughter looked reasonably interested, considering that the proposal involved no Borg at all.
"Yes, mommy," she said. "May I go play with my cubes now?"
Erin nodded. Once Annika was out of the room, Magnus protested. "We can't go to Rothgar - we'll be seen." For the past year, they had followed Starfleet's advice by maintaining comm silence with both the Romulans and the Federation. The skulking had made them paranoid.
"By the time the news gets back to the the Council, we'll be back at the Neutral Zone again." Thus Erin shrugged off the more legitimate fear that Exobiology would revoke their grant, either for failure to progress or out of the usual Neutral Zone security concerns.
"It's too far." Magnus had a worse head for stellar coordinates than for stardates.
"It's two days at maximum warp."
Then he knew he'd been had. "You planned this. Those broadcasts you said you were looking for..."
"Annika needs to see more people. It's not healthy, living on a ship, wanting to be an insect when she grows up."
Magnus laughed. "She'll grow out of it."
"All you ever talk about is the Bor--Lamne'rau. Why would she be interested in anything else?" Certainly a Romulan child would adopt her father's whims without question, and follow them for the rest of her life as a matter of familial honor. Erin wasn't an expert on human children, but she could extrapolate.
On Stardate 31486 the Raven established orbit around Rothgar, a Federation colony near the Neutral Zone. The Hansens felt a bit land-sick when they beamed down to that huge, impossible sphere hurtling through space without hull or shields. The prairie in which they materialized only compounded the adults' feeling of exposure. Annika herself was fascinated by the open blue sky. She asked if they were home; Magnus explained that Rothgar was her aunt Irene's home.
Irene amused Annika with strawberries, cream and answers to her endless questions about the clouds (cirrus), when it would rain (September), and why the sky was blue (Rayleigh scattering). Magnus and Erin spent several days purchasing supplies on the credit of the Federation Council on Exobiology. Erin was reasonably certain the Council would cover their expenses, once the bill reached them.
Magnus and Erin returned to Irene's farm at twilight on their fourth planetbound night, to find Annika and her aunt fixing dinner in the kitchen. Erin offered to take over the hotpots, but Irene shooed them all over to the table.
"Aunt Irene has been keeping dinner warm for you," Annika informed her parents as she took her own already-customary seat at Irene's right.
"Annika seems to have a good vocabulary for her age, if somewhat... technical," Irene observed, as she dished out the home-grown vegetables.
"I hope she hasn't been talking your ear off," Erin said.
"Oh, no. She was quiet as a mouse when she locked herself in your room."
Erin frowned at her little troublemaker. "She hasn't been separated from us for--I don't think she's ever been on her own." Erin's frown became more general. "I suppose it's not healthy."
Magnus only laughed. "How'd you get her out?"
"I coaxed her out with a strawberry tart. I think she's eaten my whole crop."
"What about dessert?" Annika asked, worried.
"Eat your vegetables first, and you'll find out." Irene watched as Annika carefully loaded up her spork. "What's not healthy," she added to the adults, "is living this close to the Neutral Zone. It gets more dangerous every year. We all ought to go home to Earth where it's safe."
Annika wondered whether Earth could be her home if she'd never been there.
"We should, but we never do," Erin said. She was as addicted to Romulan political radio as Magnus was to wisps of Borg ion trails.
"You're always threatening to leave, Irene," Magnus added.
"This time I'm going. I've already sold the farm."
"Where will you get strawberries?" Annika asked.
"They have strawberries on Earth, dear." Irene smiled at her ignorance. "They're not native to Rothgar."
Reassured, Annika resumed eating her vegetables.
"I almost forgot to tell you, Magnus," Irene said, "someone from the Federation representative's office came by earlier looking for you. He didn't leave a message, but my neighbor Celia recognized him." Magnus said nothing; Erin frowned. "Are you two in trouble?"
"We should get back to our mission," Magnus replied.
"Oh," said Irene, as he and Erin pushed away from the table. "That's enough vegetables, Annika. You can have dessert now." Irene believed replicated food was a poor substitute for the real item, and she foresaw many replicated meals in her niece's future.
Annika followed her aunt into the pantry to inspect the strawberries at first hand, while her parents retrieved the few things they'd brought down from the Raven. After dessert, she began to protest the unexpected departure in earnest, but Magnus told her they had to get back to looking for the Borg. So she checked that all her Borg cubes had been packed and said goodbye to her aunt.
That was the last time Annika saw clouds, or ate strawberries.
"Raven, this is Rothgar Colony. Please respond."
"Turn that off," Magnus said. Erin, standing beside him at the Raven's comm station, left it on.
"Raven, Starfleet Command requests that you stand down and await new orders. Please respond."
"Why don't you shut it off?" Magnus asked, too busy powering up the shields to reach over and do it himself.
"When do I ever turn off the radio?" Rihannsu political drama was more artistic, but there was something irresistible about being the center of attention. "There's nothing in orbit that can match our speed," Erin added, "just a handful of in-system ore freighters. The Constitution is the closest Starfleet vessel, and she's three days away at maximum warp."
"How do you know that?"
"It's amazing how long people will go on using the same encryption codes."
Magnus smiled. "We'll have to deviate from our flight plan."
"I didn't know we had a flight plan."
Rothgar hailed them one last time: "Raven, you are ordered to stand down."
Erin and her husband locked eyes. "Engaging warp drive," she said.
It was Erin's idea to cross the Neutral Zone. She was reasonably certain the Constitution was still in pursuit, and Magnus, for his part, thought he'd caught a stray Borg reading. So she picked a quiet stretch of the border just before Gamma Hydrae and the Hansens found themselves in the Romulan Star Empire.
Fortunately, Magnus' readings led through an equally empty section of Romulan space in which Erin was hard-pressed to pick up any comm signals at all. With no sign of the Lamne'rau or the Imperial Fleet, she spent the spare time teaching Annika more Rihannsu. She breathed a sigh of relief when they reached the other side of the Empire, though only a computer could have told them that the starry emptiness around them was unclaimed Beta Quadrant territory rather than uninhabited Romulan star systems.
After months spent flitting between the few and inhospitable stars, even Magnus doubted the existence of his elusive quarry, and said so in his field notes: "U.S.S. Raven, Stardate 32623.5: we've been tracking stray readings for nearly eight months now, but there's still no sign of a vessel. I'm beginning to wonder if the Borg are nothing more than rumor and sensor echoes."
"It's 32163.5. And we're running low on dilithium."
"We're getting close," Magnus said. "If we stop now, we might as well just turn around and go home."
"Home? To what?" Erin asked. "We have deviated from our flight plan, crossed the Neutral Zone, disobeyed a direct order to return. Our colleagues obviously think we are insane. We have burned our bridges, Magnus."
Annika peered in, complaining of insomnia, and for a few moments her parents turned their attention to her. Then came the sensor alert Magnus had been waiting over two years to hear - Borg in range - and he told Annika to go to her room.
The cube was huge, and the Raven was small enough to be ignored as it followed. Annika, too, was small enough to go unnoticed as she watched her parents' sudden flurry of activity.
She didn't understand. They had been looking for the Borg forever, and now there they were, a huge cube right there on the viewscreen, just like her models - the trip, in her six-year-old opinion, should be over now. Daddy was proven right, and they could take a holoimage and go home.
But it wasn't over, and Mommy wasn't sure where home was. Annika didn't know, either.
"Magnus, pull away!" Erin was too busy analysing the mounting power curve to take the Raven's controls over from her husband. "Whatever that cube is doing, we don't want to be next to it when it happens."
"I'm not letting them get away this time." Magnus edged the ship closer to the looming cube. "How many times have we tracked Borg readings, just to have them end abruptly in the middle of nowhere?"
"We're the ones who'll end abruptly in the middle of nowhere if you don't stand down." Erin consulted her readings. "Their power output just shot through the roof."
"Look, mommy!" The space around them drained into a glowing green hole that dwarfed both the Raven and the Borg cube.
"Annika, go to your room."
Magnus countermanded Erin's order. "Muffin, strap yourself into that chair. We're going to find out where the Borg live."
"Magnus--" Whatever Erin's protest would have been, it was too late. The cube and the Raven were drawn into the transwarp corridor.
The place where the Borg lived was like something out of a holostory - a huge, impossible tunnel that went on forever. The little family watched in silence as it rushed by. Annika saw other tunnels branching off the main one, and wished she could follow where they led.
A pinpoint of black expanded out into normal space in the blink of an eye, and the Borg tunnel was gone. Annika looked up at her parents, wondering if the whole thing had been a dream. Her mother was whispering something to her father, and pointing at the console in front of them.
Daddy laughed, and began speaking in his talking-to-the-computer voice. "Field notes, U.S.S. Raven, Stardate 32629.4: After three months of tracking our Borg cube, the vessel entered a transwarp conduit. We followed in its wake. Our sensors tell us we've traveled all the way to the Delta Quadrant, the Borg's native territory."
"It's 32429.6. I hope Annika hasn't inherited your dyslexia."
"It's hard to tell, when all she'll read is binary."
"How are we ever going to get home, Magnus?"
Erin, feeling a bit trapped in the Delta Quadrant, made a careful analysis of the Borg's subspace traffic and sensor signals. They lacked the panache of Romulan rhetoric, but made up for it in sheer survival relevance. She handed the results over to Magnus, along with a few highly-classified Romulan shield schematics she still recalled from her Intelligence days. He added some design ideas he'd picked up in his scans of the Borg vessel and a few weeks' elbow grease; the result was multi-adaptive shielding.
Magnus called it riding their blind spot. Going further than Erin had intended, he miniaturized the bio-dampener and insisted on transporting over to the cube for a live trial run. As much for her own comfort as Annika's, Erin let her daughter sit on her lap on the bridge during Magnus' ill-fated trip.
"Where's Daddy now?" Annika asked.
"He's on level 12A, where subunit five lives."
Annika pretended to find the spot on her toy cube, now populated with miniature replicated drones. Her father's voice came over the comm, loaded with static, until Erin resolved the signal.
"--following Junior. He seems to be headed for the maturation chamber."
In the ensuing silence, Erin muttered, "I need a visual feed."
"Yes, here we are!" Magnus was clearly enjoying his first tour of the cube. "I wish you could see this place, Erin. There must be fifty neonatal drones alone."
"Magnus," Erin said, in what Annika recognized as her warning voice.
Magnus was too excited to hear the tone. "I think this one is Ktarian. She looks about Annika's age."
Annika shivered in Erin's lap.
"Magnus, I'm bringing you back now." Erin hit a control on the console, letting Annika off her lap to run down to the transporter alcove.
"Mommy!" Annika called from down the corridor, "The transporter is smoking!"
"Magnus, are you all right?"
"I'm fine. What's going on back there?"
She checked the console. "It looks like we fried a power relay in the transporter controls. This could take a while to fix."
"You know where to find me." His chuckle followed her down the hall.
"Field notes, U.S.S. Raven, Stardate 32634.9: the Raven was hit by a subspace particle storm. We took heavy damage and our multi-adaptive shielding went off-line for 13.2 seconds. Unfortunately, it was long enough for the Borg to perceive us as a threat."
"You got the stardate right." Why did that give her a sinking feeling, like she'd just dropped out of transwarp in the middle of a hostile Unimatrix?
She turned her attention back to her console. Like her husband, Erin was looking for a way, any way, to escape the Borg's perception. Unfortunately, she'd used up her bag of Romulan tricks and comm-signal feints. She did find a nebula, which started an argument over their best course of action. Magnus wanted to mask the warp trail; she wanted to hide the whole ship. They didn't stop to think that their raised voices might wake Annika until she called out for her daddy. He left Erin alone on the bridge, looking for an M-class planet they could reach before the closest cube caught up with them.
One hour and counting. Erin turned off the alarms and listened to the soft, inscrutable murmuring from Annika's bedroom. She wondered how the Borg comforted their immature drones. If the Raven escaped this time, where would they go? The Borg, she suspected, were not to be fooled twice. No, not Borg, she reminded herself - Lamne'rau. Lamne'rau wasn't even a noun, but a verb in the acquiescent mood, meaning let them collect. Let us gather together.
"Why did we come here?" she asked her husband, when he reappeared.
"To study the Borg," he said, and set course for the planet she'd found. To the last, he believed they could get away.
Although they remember everything, the Borg think little of the short flight of a crippled ship, drones beaming aboard, parents screaming, half-conscious children transferred to maturation chambers and lulled by the hum of the Collective. The capture of the Raven was notable only in that it was the first assimilation of members of Species 5618, from whom the Borg learned the Standard language.
Erin Hansen became a native speaker of ten thousand languages, though her primary means of communication was binary. To Magnus Hansen was revealed every secret, technical or organizational, of the Borg; in return, he had the honor of coining their Standard designation, just as Erin had promised him. And Annika Hansen, nestled in a maturation chamber, discovered what it meant to come home.