Who We Have Become

DISCLAIMER - ::begin transmission:: It has come to the attention of Starfleet Command that civilians are using the characters created by Paramount and Viacom. This is permissible only if those aforementioned civilians use these characters for entertainment and not personal gain. ::end transmission:: Nothing to worry about there. They're not mine and I'm certainly not making any money. 

This is a series of short, sort-of related vignettes concerning Voyager's return to the Alpha Quadrant. There is no particular focus except to get inside the heads of the senior staff as they return. They do not coalesce at the end, but the tenth vignette offers more finality than the previous nine. 

1. Kathryn Janeway 

She stood as she had the last time: shoulders squared, head up, eyes pointed straight ahead. Her hands rested at the small of her back, feet were shoulder-width apart. Looking almost as she had the last time. 
But, there were differences. Older eyes reflected years of hardship and self-sacrifice, lines that had previously been barely there creased her forehead. From frowning. From laughing. From worrying and shouting and crying too little. The hair was greyer now, shorter, a little more controlled. 
They gazed down on her, and she remembered what had happened previously. They assigned her to the mission that had brought her where she was. And now, the final board of inquiry in reference to a three-week mission turned into a ten-year, life shattering, life endowing voyage across uncharted space to the depths of human misery and the heights of possible pleasure. 
But what for her? What could she say to them to justify her decisions? The Borg, the Vidiians, the Kazon, the Ocampa, the Caretaker, the Devore, Species 8472. The names ran together like sour tastes blend to become one. The Malon, the Caatati, their clones left on the Demon-class planet, the Voth, and those that had remained nameless. 
How could she explain what she had long forgotten? How could she justify her choices to remain captain . . . to integrate the crews . . . to make an enemy leader her first officer. And in doing so find the man who would become her best friend. 
Could she justify what she had once barely considered? 
Perhaps a spur-of-the-moment choice made over nine years before had changed their journey, she couldn't argue that. But how to explain that she lead a family not just a crew? How to dig her way out of holes she had created? 
She didn't know. But she squared her shoulders and leveled her chin, and glared at the board of inquiry as if they were one of the countless hostile aliens she had encountered on the journey. 
"Yes, I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager, and I have kept my promise to my crew - my family. We are home." 
And from behind her, those people for which the promise was made cheered their captain, their leader - their friend. 

2. Chakotay 

Cold, warm, comforting. 
Warm, cold, frightening. 
Acoochemoya, I am . . . not so far away now. Yes, we're home. Home. Earth. Home. Earth. Earth. It's Earth to me. Not home . . . not home. My home is still among the stars - yes Father, among the stars. With the dead, with the living. But not on this planet. 
It's been a while, hasn't it? And my perceptions have changed, my loyalties are different. 
Not Maquis, not Starfleet. I am a voyager, a transient - Kes. Kes would understand, but she has been gone for how long? Seven years? Or is it six? A lifetime to someone like her. A lifetime to someone like me. 
Acoochemoya, I am far from the bones of my people. I have left behind lovers, losers, and lost souls. I have . . . fought. I have achieved my goal. I belong now. 
I am not the contrary Kolopac once thought me to be. I belong to a community - I am a leader. When she appeared on my screen that day . . . ten years? Ten years ago, I could not have imagined I would be who I am today. A leader. A friend. A . . . confidante. An officer and a gentleman. 
But in achieving that, I have lost friends. Seska - I spit her name. But there are so many others - those deserving of my friendship. And my heart remains with them, far away in the Delta Quadrant. 
Home is where the heart is, they told me once. 
I cannot argue with the saying now. 
Kathryn calls it home. She calls this whole quadrant home. But my home . . . I left my home on a little planet without a name. I left my heart in the Delta Quadrant. 
Forgive me, Father. 

3. Tuvok 

He stood before her, face as impassive as always. He greeted her with a traditional salutation, inclining his head in a muted nod. She returned the gesture, and held up her hand. He flinched. 
Could he still . . . could he . . . was it possible? 
He brought his fingers to meet hers. 
Vulcan. That is what it was. It was Vulcan. 
Something he had once renounced. Something he had welcomed with open arms. Something he had defended. Something he had wished he was not. 
And it was something he found . . . pleasure? . . . he found comfort in being Vulcan. 
The sensations in his fingers found themselves transferred to his face, and he opened his mind. "My mind to your mind. My thoughts to your thoughts." 
Longing. Emotion. Growth. Change. 
Always missing you. Always missing him. Always . . . knowing he would come back safe to me. 
He opened his eyes and looked into those opposite his, matching his gaze with an equal stare. Another advantage to being Vulcan . . . reading minds, knowing thoughts, knowing . . . feelings. Feelings. He had been told - what was it? Vulcan memory. 
He had been told that Vulcans had feelings. He didn't believe. He didn't agree. He didn't want to consider that below that cold, Vulcan exterior there was . . . a hopeless romantic? He closed his eyes. 
Beneath his eyelids, faces flashed, colors merged with sounds merged with tastes. Leola root . . . Mister Vulcan! I now pronounce you . . . man and wife? Not in the Delta Quadrant. In the Alpha Quadrant. The Alpha Quadrant. 
He was in the Alpha Quadrant. 
It was only logical that after ten years, he would be in the Alpha Quadrant. 
He opened his eyes, and looked down on his wife of many years. She gazed up at him, at ease with his turbulent moods, his discomfort with his place here, now. He raised his gaze - the suns of Vulcan shone hot above, and the desert radiated more heat than he was used to. Controlled environments. 
His long, flowing, blue robe bobbed with his fluid movement as he pulled away from her. And reveling in the familiar atmosphere, he began to speak. "T'Pel, my honored wife. I must tell you a story." 
And he did. It was a story of love, of loss, of laughter. And a stoic, supportive face behind it all, ensuring safety and safe passage. 

4. Tom Paris 

I thought my father would fall out of his chair. Literally. He grabs the rests of his high-backed, over-stuffed, pompous armchair, and goes pale. He shakes his head once, twice. And I smile. 
"You're married," my father states, incredulous. 
I nod, standing at a loose parade rest. At least he's not criticizing - yet. Not yet. Not ever . . . assuming all goes well. 
"Well, where is she?" he demands, scanning the otherwise empty room for the elusive person that he thinks should appear out of nowhere. 
I consider what to answer. The truth? I cannot lie to him - Caldik Prime taught me that. Janeway taught me that. B'Elanna taught me that. Forcefully. 
"She's looking after a friend," I say, and it is the truth. Should I add who that is? Should I add that I'm not the same person I was when Janeway released me, so many years ago? Should I mention that I am actually a certified Class Nine medic? That I can perform surgery nearly as well as I can fly a starship? 
Should I let him know who I am? 
"Any kids?" he demands, eyes narrowed. He hasn't changed, I don't think. 
I cough, my face probably goes red. "No," I allow. Not in the Delta Quadrant. Not when we could be killed any day. No place for a child. Not a logical idea. Tuvok would be proud of me. 
"I see." He looks away for a minute. He doesn't need to know that it also isn't physically possible. He doesn't need to know . . . many things. That I would give anything for a child, someone to call me Daddy. A chance to be the father I never had. 
I . . . when Janeway sprang me from Auckland, I had a reputation as a playboy, a flirt, a womanizer. That is who my father sees when he sees me here, pips of a full lieutenant on my collar, standing at parade rest. My father doesn't seem to see . . . . 
He doesn't see the man I have become. That people tell me I have become. 
Officer. Gentleman. Pilot. Doctor. Friend. Husband. 
I know he thought I would never get tied down to one person. 
"We've been married for three years," I put in, adding another emotion to the mix. Pride. I am proud of me. He should be proud of me. He's never been proud of me. 
Is that all? Just "Hmm"? I don't need this. I don't need him. I don't need any of it. I am proud of me. I am proud of who I have become. I am who I am - with him or without him. Without all but my family. 
He should meet my wife. 
He would fall out of his chair. 

5. Harry Kim 

To an outsider, it would seem that he was nothing but a boy, the features hardly hardened by years of work. The outsider would remark on his easy-going nature, would notice how he embraced his parents just as a small child would. 
That outsider would not see that he was a wanted war criminal on some planets left far behind, that he had gone through several failed love affairs, that he had given the order to fire and smiled as the ship before him exploded into pieces. 
That outsider would know next to nothing about the man before them. 
An outsider watched as this man pulled away from his parents, looking away from them with shame written on his face. Shame? Of what? 
The outsider could not imagine why he would show shame. He should be proud - immeasurably so. His accomplishments numbered in the hundreds. 
Dead - repeatedly. And still standing to see his family see him. Tears came to his eyes, and he tried to blink them away. He ducked his head to his chest. 
Why? The outsider could not understand. Why would he . . . what was it that he was missing? He was home! 
The parents put their hands on his shoulders, offering as much comfort as they could - they understood as little as the nameless observer. Their son stiffened at their touch, but did not pull away. Was it that he had forgotten what intimate contact was? That his friends . . . . They could not think of it. 
Their little boy . . . was no longer, it seemed to them. They had to accept this, and move on. Move on. Was that it? Had he moved on, learned to live for himself, for whatever moments meant the most to him - not his parents? Had he not spent every moment wondering if he would come back to them? 
Perish the thought. 
But they did not know what went on behind the well-masked visage of their only, their one and only son. The baby they had sent to his first mission out of the Academy had lived more than once over. 
Lieutenant Harry Kim, Operations Chief of the Federation Starship Voyager did not understand anything. 
He saw the familiar faces. He saw the familiar smiling, laughing, welcoming faces of his family and was lonely. 
He craned his neck and stared at the sky, hands hanging limply at his sides. 
The sun did not bother him, he sought the stars through the blue of Earth's atmosphere. There . . . and . . . there. 
And he wasn't lonely. 

6. Seven of Nine 

I. I am. I am Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero-One. 
I. I am. I am Annika Hansen, Human. 
I. I am. I am Seven of Nine of the Federation Starship Voyager. 
I. I am. I am Seven of Nine of the Starship Voyager: Captain Kathryn Janeway's ship. 
That is who I am. 
Nothing, no one else. I am not a member of the Federation. I am not Borg. And I am not human. 
I am. I am an individual. I am one with individual thoughts and feelings, an individual with personal needs and personal opinions. 
I. Me. Singular. 
The Borg are not amazed. They will assimilate, and they are not amazed. 
Humans are too easily startled. They will feel, and they will be easily startled. 
I am amazed, but not startled. Human . . . Borg. 
I am amazed that Captain Janeway has again achieved the impossible. She has brought us home. 
I use her word - home - for no reason. It is what I have heard for my many years as a human. That Earth and the Alpha Quadrant is home. Home to the members of the crew that I joined. I joined them. I joined them in body. And . . . in time, I joined in with their longing for a far-off planet, somewhere I had seen only long ago. Something I once considered to be irrelevant. 
I am again part of a collective. I have been assimilated. It was by force, and again, I would not choose to leave. 
I have a choice. I am an individual. In my years as a human, I have learned much that I did not as Borg. 
Human compassion. The unnecessary yearning one person has to help another, even if it puts that one person at risk. 
Privacy. I have my own thoughts, my thoughts are my own. I do not need to know the most intimate thoughts of others to function properly . . . I find there are times at which I am glad I do not know the most intimate thoughts of others. That would prove uncomfortable. 
Love. The feelings exhibited between two who . . . love each other. Platonic, romantic, necessary. There are many kinds of love. I have observed this . . . but cannot claim to have felt it. Not the way - not the way others do. 
Harry would laugh at me. 
I am. I am one who exhibits firm control over my surroundings. I am uncomfortable with where I am. I am. 
After years . . . forever? as a human, I am still uneasy with my place, my person. 
I am human. 
I am Borg. 
I am home. 

7. Neelix 

Talax . . . was left long ago. 
Voyager . . . was sitting high above in spacedock, empty but for a few engineers. 
Earth . . . was amazing. 
Earth. He tasted the word much as he would leola root stew, sloshing it around, trying to get a feel for it. He turned it over and around, upside down, downside up. He liked it. 
Was this to be his new home? He looked around. It was so . . . clean. Some kind of paradise to be experienced only with all five senses. He turned in circles. 
Gaping windows showed panoramic vistas, only recently rebuilt. Beings from over a hundred planets filled the room - he stared at them, they stared at him. 
He marveled that he was the first Talaxian they had ever seen. 
He marveled that he had never even heard of these people, never imagined them. Did that one over there have . . . six eyes? Or was he imagining things? 
And that . . . that must be a full-blown, honest to goodness Klingon! Neelix held his hands around his round belly and laughed jovially, drawing more stares. He wondered about the Klingon. Was he anything like their Chief Engineer? Or was he some kind of strange other-worldly being? Neelix's feet moved him in that direction. 
His voice sounded out, "Hello. Are you a Klingon?" It was a reasonable question; he had never seen a full-blown Klingon before. He wondered if there were any Vulcans around. But . . . what would he call them? Mister Vulcan would be upset if he called other Vulcans by his name. 
The Klingon stared down at the little spotted man. "Yes. I am Klingon. Who are you?" 
Neelix stepped back, his hands still clasped around his belly, and he rocked back on his feet. This was most interesting! Another culture . . . this is why I am ambassador! 
"Neelix. Talaxian. Just off Voyager, in fact I could tell you some wonderful stories . . . ." The Klingon looked down at him. 
"Talaxian. I have never heard of a Talaxian." 
Confrontational. This was familiar, at least. Neelix stared back at the Klingon, matching the fierce gaze with an easygoing smile. "Of course you haven't! I'm from the Delta Quadrant!" 
"Delta Quadrant. Hmm." The Klingon stared down at the little man. "Daj." 
Neelix's eyes widened. He took a step back. "I'm afraid I don't know that word. Nice meeting you, sir!" Hmmph. Klingons and their language. He didn't speak Klingon. He was Talaxian, didn't he get that. Hmmph. 
Oh, there's the assortment of Alpha Quadrant food . . . how bland. Leola root . . . anything was more interesting than this. Alpha Quadrant. 
This was the Alpha Quadrant. 
Bad food, strange people . . . beautiful view. Kes would have loved it here. 
Alpha Quadrant. Earth. 
Neelix turned back to the window, blocking the sounds of the room out of his ears. Kes. Alixa. Welcome to my new home! 
Neelix smiled. 

8. B'Elanna Torres 

Memories abound. 
Isn't that what always happens when saying goodbye? You remember the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. You remember exact events as if they were yesterday, and you remember snippets of conversation that you can't place. You remember things you shouldn't have heard, things you wish you hadn't done, and things that you hated yourself for. You remember the things that embarrassed you once, and things that will now make you laugh for hours on end. 
The good, the bad, and the ugly, I think. 
The railing is cold beneath my hands, and the room is dark. The familiar hustle and bustle is nowhere to be seen, and the sound that has filled this room for ten years has muted once and for all. 
And I am here to say goodbye. 
To what? To the place where my demons came to challenge me, to the place where I was most certainly at my worst. To this place, my sanctuary. 
All memories I have of our voyage stem from this place - words may have been exchanged elsewhere, thoughts and feelings were acted upon outside of this room, but it all comes back here. If not for this room, my life would be monumentally different, and those words would not have been exchanged, and I would have nothing to say goodbye to, and nowhere to go after parting. 
I used to laugh at anyone who claimed possession of an inanimate object, and I would laugh harder at someone who claimed possession of something animate. After all, aren't we all our own person, with or without things to claim as our own? 
This, coming from someone who gladly testified that passion was needed in every story, someone who has grown so attached to a room that she is reluctant to leave it. How foolish I was. 
This from someone who could not understand what it was to have someone to call her own - true love can't be found anywhere, anywhen. How foolish I was. 
But I can't bring myself to say goodbye. This place has offered me solace, enmity, and a chance to prove who I am. It has offered me an abundance of good memories, none of which I am willing to part with now. I can't say goodbye. 
How can you dismiss something you love with a wave of your hand? Just, Qapla', so long, it's been fun? I think not. 
Memories abound. 
All stemming back, somehow, to this place. 
I'll spend the rest of my life fighting her. Welcome to the worst day of my life. Careful what you wish for, Lieutenant. I'm going to die - without a shred of honor; and for the first time in my life, that really bothers me. Excuse me if I can't feel terribly sorry for you. I love you. 
I love you. That's something I never thought I would say to anyone. How foolish I was. 
I was married in this room - no one objected. It's right, somehow. My worst memories, my best memories, the happiest day of my life. 
But it's silent now, the constant thrum of the warp core disappeared with nothing but the computer's acknowledgment of my orders. My engineers are no longer gossiping about Harry's latest conquest, or the latest entry in the saga of my love life. All bets are off . . . there are no bets to take. 
Perhaps I am a sentimental fool, perhaps I am acting in a way befitting an engineer bidding the ship of her dreams a final farewell. 
Kathryn Janeway is the captain, it's her ship to do with whatever she pleases. Chakotay drilled that into my hard head long ago. 
Tom Paris is the man of my dreams, the love of my life. I came to that roundabout conclusion long ago. We've been married for three years now. 
This room, as insane and sentimental and wrong as it may sound, is all mine. My place. My . . . home. Engineering of the Federation Starship Voyager has become home to me. 
My hands release the bar around the powered-down warp core. Goodbye. 
Memories abound. 

9. Emergency Medical Hologram 

Is he sentient? 
He's a hologram! 
He's a person! 
He's a piece of machinery with ethical and personality subroutines, he's not a person! 
He's a hologram! 
A machine! 
A program! 
He is like a replicator. I program it to do, it does what I ask! 
Can your replicator heal and teach and make love and argue and hate? 
He was programmed to . . . what did you say? 
You heard me. 
He's nothing! 
He's an advanced program with a complex. 
He is very attached to a piece of very illegal, futuristic technology. What do we do about this? 
Do about it? What can you do about it! 
He's a hologram, a program. You take it away. 
He's a machine. 
A sentient machine? 
Does such a thing exist? 
What would you call an android? A replicator? 
That's different! 
Is it? 
He's a program. There are hundreds like him. 
With different experiences. 
Replicators can't remember what you tell them. 
Mine does. 
You are a technical wizard with a degree from Starfleet Academy School of Engineering. What my replicator and yours do are totally different, I'm sure. 
He's a machine. 
He's a program. 
He's a hologram. 
Perhaps he is all of these. 
Perhaps he is sentient. 
He is nothing but a walking database with ethical subroutines and personality engrams! 
Does he have a soul? 
If he were sentient, wouldn't he have the right to be at these proceedings? 
He's not sentient! He is a machine. There are thousands like him! 
Thousands? Hundreds? Or none? 
He's a machine. 
He's a program. 
He's a hologram. 
He's a walking database! 
He is my friend. 

10. The Voyagers 

Walking the familiar corridors with even steps, hands skimming the tired bulkheads, they say goodbye. Standing at their consoles, eyes resting on the blank viewscreen, they pay a last visit to their ship. 
The captain sits again in her chair, arms resting uneasily on the rests, back ramrod straight. She stares at the screen, but quickly averts her eyes to glare at her feet. Her features are drawn together, she tries to avoid showing any emotion. 
But those around her can see it - she's hurting. 
They watch her, her pain reflected in their faces. For once, finally, each of them agree on something. This should not be happening. 
The Federation Starship Voyager, having spent ten long years under the watchful eyes of one crew and one captain, is going to be decommissioned. Taken out of active service. 
Leaving her crew vagabonds, travelers now without a home. 
It was the one thing they had never thought to imagine. Even as they had cleaned out their quarters and shut down specific systems, finality had been far from their minds. The idea was that they would come back sometime in the future. After a two year long refit, perhaps, but they had always thought they would return. 
The last dream had been dashed into oblivion. She was being decommissioned. 
Was it that important? Thousands of dreams had been made reality with their journey - hell, they were home, weren't they? So, why is that last ideal the one pressing on the minds of Voyager's intrepid captain and crew? 
Their home, the one place they had known, was being taken away from them. To a museum, perhaps. Spare parts, scientific testing. Computer cores removed, data analyzed for years to come. 
It became important. Years before they had been transplanted against their will, taken by force from their families, their children, the places they had found dear to their hearts. And it happens again. The vicious circle. 
Why? The thought echoes through the minds of the bridge crew and their dearest friends. How could Starfleet, the organization they had held in so high regard for so long, take the one thing held dear to their hearts? It was something they couldn't fathom. 
But it doesn't matter. 
The captain slowly moves her face back to stare at the viewscreen, the blackness reminding her of times before. She rises at her place, hands at her side. 
And she begins to speak. 
"Captain's Final Log. 
"Starfleet has made the decision to decommission my ship, and I must abide by that decision. She was designed as an exploratory vessel, a prototype meant to stay within the range of Starfleet's iron grasp. Explore she has, far beyond the reaches of any other Starfleet ship. They have many things to say about her, and me, but I don't mind. 
"I mind that they have decided to remove me from command of this vessel. She has served us as a home, a safety preserver, and a source of unending work and entertainment. There is not a soul on this ship to disagree with me, for if there was, I would have heard the complaints long ago. 
"So, in my final log as captain of this starship, I must commend my crew. Without their support, I would not be here today. I commend spectacular repair jobs, invaluable advice, and quick thinking that brought us out of more conflicts than I care to count. But, above their accomplishments as officers, I must commend their advancement as members of society. Each one of them has accomplished more than I could have ever imagined. In my crew I have found friends and family. We have become a family. 
"So, it is with great regret that I sign off for the last time as captain of the Starship Voyager. Her final voyage was her first, and for that I am sorry. I wish there could be many more adventures to come, but if this journey has taught me one thing it is that my demands cannot always come first. 
"I commend my crew. I thank them from the depths of my human heart, knowing my misgivings and mistakes may be overlooked in favor of the victories and championships we have won. 
"This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. End log." 
Tears have come to her eyes and those around her. She looks around her bridge one last time, noting the ease with which her crew stands together. 
"You're dismissed," she intones with finality. What else is there to say? 
They slowly rise, and she cannot help but notice how hands linger on consoles, caressing them for the last time. Was this it? 
They slowly file out, her last order as captain of Voyager obeyed without question. 
She watches them go, tears falling freely down her face. The bridge is empty and quiet, and she turns in a circle, remembering how her life had changed within the confines of these walls. Oh, so much. 
They were calling her crew the Voyagers. A fitting name, she muses. A fitting way to end a journey - remembered forever as a collective whole. 
The last of the Voyagers slowly approaches the turbolift with a sad smile on her face. 
This is it. 
Goodbye, my friend. It has been fun.

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