Author's Note: For the purposes of this story, Chakotay and Seven never happened as a couple. I know that will disappoint so many people, right?
Commander Tuvok, Head of Security for the Federation’s Vulcan Headquarters, began his day as he did every other. He first walked through the building, observing it and noting any changes on his padd. He then proceeded to read the incident log to inform himself of anything that might have happened since he left. Were there any serious incidents, he then read the report on those. On this particular day, the only new incident involved an inebriated Tellarite, so he progressed to his next task: reading the list of expected guests.
He raised one eyebrow slightly at the final name on the list, and noted the time of arrival. The visitor was due to arrive shortly, and he wanted to greet her personally.
As he expected, she arrived precisely on time. “Ensign,” he said to the woman showing her around, “I will escort Ms. Hansen to her room.”
“Yes sir,” nodded the ensign before walking off.
“Commander Tuvok. It is pleasant to see you.” He noted that, while she was listed as Annika Hansen, Seven of Nine had changed little in outward appearance. She looked exactly the same as he had last seen her at the reception for Voyager’s long-lost crew.
He nodded in acknowledgement. “What brings you to Vulcan?”
“I am speaking at the Vulcan Science Academy tomorrow evening.”
“You use your given name now,” he observed. The question was there, but not spoken. It was the proper Vulcan manner to ask a personal question of an acquaintance.
“I have found that it engenders less hostility than my Borg designation,” she answered. “Do you find your assignment agreeable?”
“Yes. After seven years in the Delta Quadrant, I am content to find my wife at home when I return in the evening.” He stopped in front of a door. “This is your room. If there is anything you need, do not hesitate to contact me.”
“Would you like to join my family for our evening meal tomorrow?”
“It would be my honor,” she replied.
“I will be on duty during the conference, but my daughter Asil will be attending as a student. She can bring you to our home. I must warn you, however, that Asil is quite inquisitive, and it is highly probable that she will wish to ask you many questions about astrophysics.”
“Then I will prepare myself to answer them.”
“I will see you tomorrow evening.”
Asil was indeed quite inquisitive, but her questions were intelligent and discerning. Annika saw great potential in the young Vulcan woman. She answered questions carefully, weighing the suggestions Asil mentioned and considering her theories. When Asil set down the hovercraft, she realized that they had arrived. The trip had passed quickly with their discussion.
Tuvok appeared in the doorway wearing a blue robe. “Welcome to our home. This is my wife, T’Pel.”
“It is pleasant to meet you.”
“You as well, Ms. Hansen,” replied T’Pel. “Asil has anticipated your visit to the Science Academy for some time.”
“I believe that she will influence the study of astrophysics,” Annika said. “Asil, I would like to read your thesis when you have completed it.” She had been intrigued by what Asil had told her about it.
“It would be an honor.”
Tuvok led them inside. Their house, like the entire planet, was warm. Orchids and plants representing a dozen Federation worlds were spread throughout the dwelling.
As was customary, they ate in silence. Annika was not selective when it came to her food, so long as it had nutritional value. She saw no purpose in the desserts that her human crewmates had been so fond of. Feerik salad and plomeeksoup were nutritious, and T’Pel prepared them well.
After dinner, she found herself looking at the oasis that was Tuvok’s greenhouse. Plants, with orchids especially well represented, grew in various stages of development. Several experimental strains were particularly interesting to her.
“I have been offered a position at the Vulcan Science Academy,” she said suddenly. “I will consider it further, but accepting it has many advantages.”
Tuvok raised an eyebrow slightly. “Your lecture must have met with great success.”
“I believe that it did.”
He looked at a Betazoid rose without speaking for a moment, then carefully snipped off a branch. “I wish to show you something,” he said. “We will need to travel to the transport station.”
She observed the terrain as they flew over it. Tuvok piloted the hovercraft expertly. It was a short trip to the transport station, but in contrast to her earlier trip with Asil, both Tuvok and Annika were silent. In short order they were getting off the transporter pad and walking down a desert path.
They were the only ones on the path that led into the Forge. That was not surprising, as entering the Forge at night was not a wise idea, and few journeyed to the Forge simply to look at it.
Tuvok intended to do precisely that. He stopped, and Annika stood beside him. “This,” he began, “is the Forge. Even with advanced technology, much of it remains impenetrable unless one physically enters it. The region is harsh and inhospitable, yet it is where Surak fully embraced logic. Most Vulcans follow a desert journey now; many chose the Forge for it. The Forge is dangerous, and contains little of interest. The caves that once contained the Kir’shara and other artifacts are the only attraction the Forge has, and few would endure the journey to see caves that have long been emptied of all artifacts.”
For a moment Tuvok was silent, and they watched as the sun slowly set over the Forge until he continued. “Surviving the desert challenges all who enter, but it leaves them better for the experience. The Forge is entered not because of the destination, but the journey.”
She spoke for the first time since they arrived. “That is similar to Lieutenant Kim’s toast before we engaged the Borg.”
“Indeed. Mr. Kim’s remarks showed notable insight.” A gust of wind swept Tuvok’s robe to his side, and a small sand dune began at his feet. He considered his next words carefully. They would most likely be considered improperly forward by polite Vulcan society. Polite Vulcan society, however, had never attempted to counsel a former Borg drone. Such a task required one to be forward. “Earth is your Forge. If you chose to forgo the experience, you will deny yourself knowledge.”
“You do not believe that I should accept the position at the Vulcan Science Academy.”
“While they have honored you with the invitation, one cannot learn to be human on Vulcan.”
“A few humans have chosen the Vulcan way of life,” she countered.
“That is true; however, they had experienced human society before making that choice.”
“You believe that I would choose to live on Vulcan to avoid the hardships of living among humans?”
One eyebrow rose at that. “I do not presume to know your motives. I am merely observing the effects of the action.”
“Did you journey through the Forge?”
“Yes. As a young man, I made the traditional passage.”
“Was the experience worthwhile?”
“I learned a great deal about myself in the Forge. It is understanding that I find valuable. There is no other single experience in my life that has taught me as much as that journey.”
She did not respond, so he continued. “There is a significant difference between the Forge and your experience, however. The Forge is traveled alone. You will not be alone.”
“Admiral Janeway has offered to assist me in any way she can.”
“I am certain that she will do anything in her considerable power to aide you. In addition, Lieutenant Commanders Paris and Torres have both accepted Earth-based positions.”
“Their daughter is doubtlessly occupying the majority of their time.”
“Do not underestimate the human bonds of friendship. They are complex and appear volatile, but are remarkably resilient. Both of them would help you.”
They were silent again, watching the sun sink into the horizon. In the distance a dust storm raged.
“You are correct. If I chose to remain on Earth, I will not be alone. However, I find the prospect daunting.” A strong gust of wind carried her words away as though they were heading into the setting sun.
“The Forge is daunting,” replied Tuvok. “If it were not, the journey would have less worth.” He turned and began to walk along the path they had come by. “It is unwise to remain longer, as the sehlats will come out shortly.”
She followed him back to the transporter station, and shortly they were back in the hovercraft, flying to the Federation’s Vulcan Headquarters.
“Thank you for your advice. I will consider what you have said.”
“You are welcome.”
“The evening was enjoyable.”
He nodded and expertly landed the hovercraft. They got out and stood, facing each other.
“I do not know when I will see you again, but your hospitality will not be forgotten.”
Tuvok raised his hand up and saluted her. “Live long and prosper.”
“Peace and long life, Commander.”
A month and a half later, Tuvok received an incoming transmission from Earth. He activated the screen and saw Annika. Her hair was different, he noted; it was worn in the style commonly referred to by human females as a “ponytail.” That, he thought, was a likely indicator of embracing her humanity.
“I am now living on Earth, and I wished to inform you of my new communication code.”
“It is only one digit different than Admiral Janeway’s,” he observed. “Are you living in close proximity to her?”
Something that wasn’t quite a smile came over her face. “I am living in the same house as her. I found few “landlords” willing to accommodate a Borg alcove, and the prospect of living alone was…disconcerting. As you know, Kathryn recently acquired her ‘dream home.’ She invited me to stay in her house until I feel comfortable living on my own.” Annika paused for a moment, then added, “In many ways she is a maternal figure.”
“It seems as though you have a pleasing arrangement.”
“Yes. In addition, I have begun working at the Graviton Project.”
He thought for a moment. “I have not heard of this association.”
“It is a venture to analyze astrophysical phenomena of the galaxy. My expertise was welcomed. I wish to thank you for your advice when I was on Vulcan.”
“You are welcome for any assistance I may have provided.”
“Your comments were insightful, and I have found them to be correct.”
“I am pleased to have aided you.”
She nodded. “Please tell Asil that I await her thesis.”
“It is almost complete. She will appreciate any suggestions you have.”
“I look forward to reading it. Be well, Commander.”
Once she had signed off with Tuvok, Annika turned to her cat. Kathryn had strongly suggested that a pet of her own might aid her understanding of humanity. So in addition to Sarah, Kathryn’s dog, their home now had a cat. They had gone to one of Earth’s remaining animal shelters and Annika selected a cat. It seemed fitting for her to care for an unwanted animal, and in short order the cat had grown attached to her.
Her pet purred as she stroked his back. “Commander Tuvok is indirectly responsible for your home here as well,” she informed him. He continued to purr with contentment. “Therefore, I have decided on an appropriate name for you. You will now be called Seleya, after the Vulcan mountain.”
The newly-christened Seleya, who would have followed her to Vulcan, began to rub his chin against her other hand. She stood up. “Come, Seleya,” she said. “We must tell Kathryn of your name.”
The cat followed her out of the room, purring loudly.
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