Voyager finds a Borg cube controlled by assimilated children who have been separated from the Collective mind.
Commander Chakotay is on an away mission aboard the Delta Flyer. With him are Ensigns Tom Paris and Harry Kim, and Neelix. Passing the time, they sit together playing poker. It is time to compare hands. But when Paris is asked to show his, his eyes stare in horrified surprise at the front windows. The others turn to look; a Borg cube is coming straight toward them. The four men scramble to battle stations. "And I had a full house..." Paris mutters.
The Delta Flyer flees at full impulse, with the gigantic Borg vessel hot on its tail, firing at it. Neelix voices the question all of them have: why did sensors not detect it? Kim supplies a possible answer: a dispersal field was used to make it invisible to sensor scans. This is a worrying development; the Borg have never before employed such clever tactics. Warp speed is unavailable; the Flyer's plasma injectors are damaged. Paris tries his best to avoid the incoming fire, but they suffer a direct hit, causing sparks to fly and degrading the deflector shields.
As Kim tries to clear the injectors, the cube's power output starts fluctuating. This means they still have a chance; they target its propulsion matrix. The tactic is successful; the cube is rendered dead in space, no longer able to chase them. But as they are about to make their escape, the Flyer shudders; the cube catches them in a tractor beam and begins pulling them in. Kim desperately tries to get the warp engines going, but is unsuccessful; then a power surge causes an explosion which knocks him unconscious. Power is lost, and the three awake men hear a chilling, familiar hail, in the emotionless, multi-track resonant voice of the Borg Collective:
- "We are the Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile."
As they watch helplessly though the forward windows, an immense hatch opens in the side of the cube. The Flyer is drawn in, and they are enveloped in complete darkness.
Dreaming that his crew mates were assimilated, Neelix gasps as he is woken by Chakotay. He, Chakotay and Paris are in a Borg assimilation chamber. Kim is nowhere to be found. They look around the room for him and see, on a platform, the horrific sight of a partially-assimilated alien. But the alien is dead; the assimilation apparently went awry. Paris is very agitated, expecting Borg drones to come in and begin assimilating them at any moment. Chakotay tells him to calm down; they are not drones yet, and may find an escape. The three men begin searching for a way to disable the force field preventing them from leaving the room.
Voyager conducts an intensive search for the Flyer. They follow its ion trail to where it ends, but the chief engineer, Lt. B'Elanna Torres, filling at the ops station for Ensign Kim, reports detection of a Borg cube; the same one the away team ran afoul of. Grim-faced, Captain Janeway orders red alert, a course alteration to intercept, and a constant remodulation of the ship's deflector shield frequencies, a standard, albeit, very temporary, defense against the Borg. The cube, however, does not move as Voyager approaches. A perplexed Seven of Nine, the ship's single foremost authority on the Borg, observes that its propulsion system is not that severely damaged; the drones aboard should have repaired it already. Then the ship shudders as the cube targets their warp core.
Janeway orders return of fire. The ship shudders again as the cube again fires, first at their impulse engines, then at their sensor array. None cause Voyager any real damage. Seven is baffled; the attacks, far from being the devastatingly powerful and efficient strikes that are par for the Borg, are very erratic and inefficient. Lt. Commander Tuvok targets and destroys their weapons. It is obvious that something is extremely amiss; this is far too easy.
The away team is detected aboard the cube, unassimilated as yet. Voyager fires on the cube's deflector shield generator, in order to collapse the shield and allow the beam-out of the away team, but that fails. Seven, after further scans of the cube, finds the reason for the cube's unbelievably weak attacks: there are usually thousands of drones aboard a cube, but here there are only five. A hail from the Borg Collective comes through, informing, as it always does, of their intent to assimilate them. Janeway coldly answers by demanding the release of the away team.
The Borg repeat their intention. But Janeway now knows she is dealing with a lion whose teeth and claws have been pulled. "Not today, and not by you." she replies, and threatens to resume firing if the away team is not released. A brief silence follows, during which cube scans them. Then the response comes: an offer to free the away team in exchange for specific technology, namely Voyager's navigational deflector. Seven informs Janeway that the cube's communications array was damaged; the deflector would allow the five drones to reestablish their link with the Collective. This is the last thing Janeway wants, not that she was even considering the offer at all. She stalls, responding that she would consider the exchange if she is allowed to send over someone to make sure the away team is safe. The drones agree; she can send one person. Her obvious choice is Seven of Nine.
Voyager hovers at all stop, facing the cube. Seven beams aboard and walks through the corridors of the cube. Not a single drone is seen, except for one dead one. The 'Collective voice' tells her to go to a certain area: Grid 63, Subsection 01. She complies, and finds that it is a Borg neonatal unit. She hears something behind her, turns and finds five adolescent Borg at the unit's entrance looking at her; two twin boys, two older boys and a young girl. It is apparent that they are too young to be out as drones serving the Collective; they should still be in neonatal maturation chambers themselves. She identifies herself and asks where the adult drones are. The voice replies: "There are no others; the others were..." One of the children steps forth, the "Collective voice" is replaced by his single voice, and he finishes the statement "deactivated. We are the Borg." Seven cannot believe it; they are dealing with not just five Borg, but five neonatal Borg; in effect, five Borg children.
The five neonatal drones note Seven's possession of a Borg designation. She tells them that she used to be a drone herself and that she will help them repair the damaged cube. The second oldest, who has assumed leadership of the group, loudly objects that this was not the agreement they made. Seven, in a tone that brooks no argument, responds that she is modifying the agreement; she did not realize they were dealing with children. But she is reminded that they hold the away team as hostages. So, when the second oldest shouts at her to comply with the original agreement, she acquiesces, and asks to see the hostages. As she is taken to them, the "leader" menacingly tells the others to assimilate her if she resists.
As she walks with the others, Seven speaks to the oldest, asking about his designation and what makes them think they will survive in their incomplete state on this damaged vessel. The youth calls himself "Second". Their "leader", he says, is called "First". The designations refer to hierarchical position; originally, being the oldest, he was "First" and the other boy was "Second". But he could not maintain order in the group, so "Second" became "First" and he became "Second". He confidently tells Seven that the Collective will come to retrieve them.
They go to the assimilation chamber where the team (minus the still-missing Ensign Kim) is being held, and Seven ascertains they are in good health. She quietly warns them as they gaze in surprise at the neonatals not to judge by appearances; they control the vessel and its weapons. She is disgusted by the horribly botched attempt at assimilation she sees there. Second explains that they were trying to perfect their assimilation techniques. Seven harshly tells him that they failed to do so. The girl matter-of-factly indicts Ensign Paris for attempting to interfere with the force field controls, and punishes him with an electric shock when he tries to do it again under the pretext of denying it and trying to show what he was "actually" doing. Satisfied that they are well, Seven leaves with the neonatals. As she departs, Commander Chakotay pointedly asks her to give their "regards to Harry" as a way of covertly conveying that Harry is missing. Once outside the chamber, Second presses Seven for the deflector array, but she responds that she has to report back on the hostages' condition to the captain. Also, she says she has to take an adult drone's corpse with her to find out what happened to the vessel and the other adult drones. They agree.
Back on Voyager, Janeway and Tuvok walk down a corridor to sickbay, discussing Ensign Kim's absence among the hostages. Janeway tells him to try to contact him using a Borg frequency so the children would not detect the transmission. They enter sickbay.
In sickbay, The Doctor, the holographic chief medical officer, has found something remarkable in the drone corpse that Seven returned with; a pathogen which was responsible for killing it and all the other adult drones. He informs the two officers. Seven tells them that the five juveniles she found were not affected; their maturation chambers protected them. The Doctor answers Tuvok's question as to whether it would only kill Borg in the affirmative, but then is suddenly horrified to realize that the Captain is considering using it as a bio-weapon against the juveniles. She asks Seven her opinion; would they really kill the hostages if their demands are not met? Seven's answer is yes. Janeway orders The Doctor to keep the pathogen as an option, but she will not use it until she has met the drones themselves. She then leaves with Seven.
On the Delta Flyer, Ensign Kim regains consciousness after having been knocked out in the initial attack by the cube. He slowly goes into to the cockpit, bathed in the harsh green light of the Borg vessel's interior, and finds the com signal sent from Voyager as per Captain Janeway's instructions. To answer on the same carrier wave, the computer tells him, significant system modifications have to be made; but he is well aware of this and immediately begins making them, as the Flyer is seen to be held in a colossally vast, cavernous hangar bay within the Borg vessel along with at least two other unidentified craft.
Janeway and Seven are on the cube with the young drones. First angrily demands that she stick to the agreement: the hostages for the deflector. But Janeway offers them another option: come with Voyager and be individuals again. She begins asking the youngsters questions about their homeworlds and lives before their abductions and assimilations, but First belligerently presses his demand for the deflector. Janeway begins to stall again but he forces her back against a wall by the throat. Keeping her cool, she tells him that they cannot have it, and assimilating her will not get it for them. She then offers to help them repair their cube's technology. First sullenly agrees, giving them two hours. Seven is to remain to do the work. As Janeway leaves, First warns her not to return.
Voyager continues to sit before the massive cube. Janeway walks onto the bridge, announces they have two more hours, and asks about the pathogen. Tuvok tells her it should be ready by then. Lt. Torres voices her incredulity that they are actually negotiating with adolescent drones. Janeway comments on the drones' unpredictable nature. Tuvok notes that delusions of superiority and contempt for authority are common traits of juveniles of any species. Then a transmission from the hidden Ensign Kim on the cube comes in. Janeway decides to have him get to the cube's shield generator and destroy it. Tuvok is to guide him there by audio signal.
On the cube, Seven works to fix the damage. Second enters with some technology she requested. As she works, they get to talking about their lives, pre-assimilation. Second does not remember his, but Seven's questions begin to bring back memories. She also fixes his sub-vocal processor, letting him speak normally. While Seven is making the simple adjustment, Second reacts quizzically, recalling that First has said that his malfunction could not be repaired until they reconnect with the Collective. Repair complete, Seven simply flashes Second a sly, knowing, look and resumes her work. Intrigued, Second gazes at her intensely, eventually noting that her hair reminds him of his mother's hair. Just then First enters and angrily rebukes him for his "irrelevant conversation" with her. He orders Second to return to his station, then gives Seven a baleful stare as he leaves to return to his.
Seven returns to Voyager and briefs Captain Janeway in her ready room about a disturbing discovery she made in the cube's communication records; the Collective did indeed receive the drones' distress call. But it has no intention of responding; the drones are immature, and damaged due to their premature release from their maturation chambers. They are, therefore, unimportant; the Collective, not interested in retrieving them, permanently severed their link to the hive mind. The drones, who do not have the ability to decrypt the message, are unaware of this.
Janeway considers that they can use this to win them over; once they find that they have been rejected by the Collective, they will have no place to turn but Voyager. They could regain their individuality. Seven is doubtful; they do not have the discipline to overcome their separation from the hive mind. But Janeway is determined to try. But she decides to hold on to the information for now. Seven leaves to return to the cube and finish the repairs.
Ensign Kim carefully walks along the damaged corridors of the cube, guided by Tuvok's voice over the com and using playing cards to mark his way, in case he has to backtrack.
Seven returns to find First inspecting her work. He accuses her of stalling. She responds that she is working as quickly as she can, and shows him a PADD containing the data she is using. He dismisses the data as flawed. Annoyed, she counters that it is his understanding of the scientific theory behind the data that is flawed. In front of the other children, she belittles his ability to ensure their survival. He tells her she has forgotten what it means to be Borg. She quickly proves that false, outlining the tenets of Borg philosophy: the unity of the Collective; common goals; the quest for perfection. But, she insists, they do not have to remain drones to experience these things.
She invites them to return to Voyager with her. But First is unmoved; he tells her she has 38 minutes left out of the two hours he gave her. Just then, an alarm sounds; another maturation chamber is malfunctioning. This one contains a Borg infant; its autonomic functions are failing. First insists that it will adapt, but the girl reports after looking at a monitor that this is not happening. She pleads with him to let Seven help. Seven takes charge. She has them transport it to an incubation pod, but it still shows signs of acute distress. The only option left is to transport it to Voyager. First stubbornly refuses, saying that it is part of their collective, but he is overridden by the others.
Ensign Kim approaches the location of the cube's shield generator. He arrives, and begins planting spatial charges to destroy it. But he is surprised by the Borg girl. He distracts her with conversation while he reaches for his phaser, but she is not fooled; she tells him matter-of-factly that his weapon is useless there; a dampening field is present. He stares at her nervously.
On Voyager, Janeway and Tuvok walk briskly down a corridor, as he reports on losing contact with Kim. The Doctor hails her and asks her to come to the Sickbay. She orders Tuvok to keep trying to regain contact with Kim and goes to the Sickbay while he goes to the bridge.
In the Sickbay, The Doctor shows her the Borg baby, which Seven had beamed there directly. He has stabilized her. Perhaps trying to get Janeway to change her mind about using the pathogen on the juveniles, he has her hold the child, who immediately stops fretting once in her arms. But Janeway is unmoved; if she must take that option to save her officers, she shall; she only hopes that she is not forced to actually do so.
On the cube, First accosts Seven with one of the spatial charges Kim had planted. He accuses her of trying to deceive them. They show him Ensign Kim, lying against a wall. He has been injected with Borg nanoprobes. But, since the young drones cannot yet properly assimilate, the nanoprobes are simply destroying his body instead of assimilating it. First orders Seven to call Captain Janeway; they want the deflector array now. She tries to continue stalling, but First has none of it. Frustrated, she calls Voyager.
On Voyager's bridge, First is on the viewscreen. He insists Janeway surrender the deflector immediately. She demands that he transport Ensign Kim back to them first, but he refuses. He threatens to "assimilate" the others (which would certainly kill them) if they do not get the deflector right away. Janeway stares at him and angrily tells him that they cannot simply remove it; it is part of the ship. No amount of threats from him will change that. First's sullen face is replaced by the image of the cube as he terminates the connection. The ship shudders as the cube's tractor beam locks onto the deflector in an attempt to tear it off. Hull stress on the ship increases; Lt. Torres reports hull integrity breaches on two decks. Janeway orders randomization of the ship's shield harmonics to in an attempt to break free, but the beam adapts.
On the cube, Seven, aware of what the drones are trying to do, decides that it is time to reveal what she knows about their awaited rescue by the Collective, and does so. First accuses her of lying, but Seven gives him the encryption code to check for himself. He does not, but Second steps forward to do so. First angrily tells him to return to his station, but he ignores him. His face registers his shock as he sees the message. First insists that Seven is again trying to trick them, but Second responds that the message is authentic. First pushes him aside and looks at it. He insists it is a mistake. Seven reminds him of what every drone knows: the Collective does not tolerate imperfection. They are damaged; thus, to the Collective, they are irrelevant. First stubbornly responds that they will 'assimilate' more species to prove their worthiness.
On Voyager, hull stress is almost critical. But then Tuvok reports a fluctuation in the cube's shield grid; they can use it to release the pathogen. But Janeway is loath to finally take this step, and determinedly seeks an alternative. She sees on the command console that the tractor beam draws power from the same grid as their shield matrix. She orders a feedback pulse be sent through the tractor beam from the deflector; this would disrupt both the beam and the shields.
On the cube, Seven continues to press her point; the children have no future with the Collective, but they do on Voyager. But First refuses to listen. Fed up, Seven turns to the others an appeals to them directly. Then the cube shudders as Voyager begins sending the feedback pulse. Second checks a monitor, sees what is happening and reports it to them. The feedback is overloading the shield matrix; this will soon destroy the cube. First orders them to "Adapt!" and hurries to a console. The other drones do the same.
On Voyager's bridge, Tuvok reports that both the cube's tractor beam and shields are weakening. Lt. Torres reports a successful transporter lock on all of the crew members aboard the cube except Kim and Seven. The three they have, Chakotay, Neelix and Paris, are beamed aboard from the assimilation chamber where they were being kept. But they cannot yet lock onto Kim and Seven; their location is still too heavily shielded. Janeway orders amplification of the feedback pulse.
On the cube, the girl reports the departure of the three hostages. Second reports the weakening of the shields around the room where they are. The drones turn to First for instructions, but he stands there impotently. Seven urges them to drop the shields. Nobody moves to do so. Her urging becomes a command. Still, nobody moves. She goes to a console to do it herself. First rushes up and pushes her away so hard she lands on the floor half-stunned. He desperately tries to stave off the imminent failure of the shields, but fails.
In impotent rage, he grabs two heavy objects and rushes at Seven with an angry scream, intending to crush her head in, but Second intercepts him, takes the objects away and stares at him with a look that says, in no uncertain terms, to back off. First orders him back to his station; he does not move. First angrily orders him to obey. But neither Second nor any of the others are taking orders from him any longer . Seven groggily gets to her feet as the cube again shudders, violently; its induction grid is overloaded. Its destruction is imminent. First runs to a console in a last-ditch effort to try to prevent it. Then consoles begin to explode, including the one he is at, sending an energy discharge into him. He convulses and collapses. Seven runs to him and scans him with her tricorder. But he cannot be saved; his cortical node is going off-line. To his last breath, he calls on the others to continue resisting, insisting that the Collective will come for them. The girl kneels at his side and tells him that they will find a new home. His final words show him as stubborn to the last: "We are Borg."
- "Captain's log, supplemental. Harry's recovering in sickbay and the away team is safe and sound. As for the drones, The Doctor's removed most of their implants, leaving us with four very troubled children."
Seated on her ready room's sofa, Janeway speaks to Seven about the children's future. They have sent out hails to any ships in the area from two of their respective races: The Brunali for Second, and the Norcadians for the girl, but they have gotten no responses, and as for the twin boys, they do not even know what species they are from (they are later identified as Wysanti). Janeway puts Seven in charge of them. Seven is uncertain about this; she cites Neelix as being a much better choice, given his experience with children.Janeway, however, insists that Seven is the right one; she has already bonded with them, and only she could understand what they are going though as former drones. Seven muses that she could help them avoid some of the pitfalls she faced when she was first severed from the Collective. With a deep breath, steeling herself, she leaves and goes to her quarters, Cargo Bay 2. This is where her alcove is located. There are five alcoves in all; she uses one, and the children, who of course will need to periodically regenerate as she does, will use the other four.
She meets the children there, now de-assimilated and clad in clothing instead of covered in Borg exo-plating. Like her, all of their implants have been removed except for those tied into their vital functions, and external traces of implants are on their faces. Seven gives each of them PADDs containing limited biographical data she had downloaded from the cube. Second's name is Icheb, the girl's is Mezoti, and the twins are Azan and Rebi. She then puts them "to bed" – into their alcoves. The regeneration cycles kick in and they close their eyes, silent and still as they engage in the Borg equivalent of falling asleep. Seven has the computer dim the lights and exits the cargo bay. Before the doors close, she turns around in the corridor and has a final look at them.
"Does that beat a flush?"
"I knew you were bluffing."
"That beats me. Tom?" (Tom stares at a Borg cube dead ahead) "Battle stations!"
"And I had a full house..."
- - Neelix, Kim, Chakotay and Paris while playing poker in the Delta Flyer
"We will return your crew members in exchange for specific technology."
"Talk about unusual behavior. The Borg negotiating?"
- - Borg Collective and Torres
"You will be assimilated."
"Not today and not by you."
- - Borg Collective and Janeway
"They're not exactly drones. Mature Borg are predictable. They'll ignore you or assimilate you, but these juveniles, they're unstable."
"They are contemptuous of authority, convinced that they are superior. Typical adolescent behavior for any species."
- - Janeway and Tuvok on the juvenile drones
- - Seven of Nine, to the regenerating ex-Borg children
- It is never revealed what became of the Borg infant. When asked in 2000, Brannon Braga stated the infant had been returned to its people off-screen. "The baby was returned to its people, which you did not see depicted in an episode. We considered showing it on-screen, but decided it would be best to focus on the remaining Borg kids. They have given us some great story material so far." 
Continuity and trivia
- This episode marks the first appearances of Icheb, Mezoti, Azan, and Rebi on the series.
- The Borg on the cube demand the USS Voyager's navigational deflector to reestablish communication with other Borg in the region. This is an allusion to Star Trek: First Contact, where the Borg tried to construct an interplexing beacon on the navigational deflector of the USS Enterprise-E to contact the 21st-century Borg in the Delta Quadrant.
- This episode features the first poker game to be played by the main crew (on-screen) since TNG.
- Mezoti's dress in the last scene is a reuse of Isabella's from TNG: "Imaginary Friend". (citation needed • edit)
Video and DVD releases
- This volume came with a reversible sleeve: the standard Voyager layout, and a "Special Edition" layout, with a prominent image of Seven from "Tsunkatse" as the cover image.
- As part of the VOY Season 6 DVD collection
Links and references
- Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
- Roxann Dawson as Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Ensign Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Lieutenant Commander Tuvok
- Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
- Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim
- Ryan Spahn as First
- Manu Intiraymi as Icheb
- Marley S. McClean as Mezoti
- Kurt Wetherill as Azan
- Cody Wetherill as Rebi
- Andrew English as a security officer
- Tarik Ergin as Ayala
- Erin Price as Renlay Sharr
- Unknown actor as Dead Borg
assimilation; assimilation chamber; assimilation profile; autonomic nervous system; Brunali; Borg cube; Chamber of Horrors; confinement beam; cortical implant; dampening field; data grid; data node; David; decryption protocol; Delta Flyer; dispersal field; emergency power; escape pod; feedback pulse; Goliath; Hansen, Erin; Hansen, Magnus; haunted house; impulse engine; incubation pod; induction grid; interlink frequency; ion trail; Jefferies tube; Kim, John; Kim, Mary; Leucon; maturation chamber; medical tricorder; meter; nanoprobe; navigational deflector; Norcadian; Norcadia Prime; photon torpedo; plasma charge; plasma duct; plasma injector; playing card; poker; power coupling; propulsion matrix; quadric field theory; red alert; resonance field; respiratory system; second name shield generator; shield harmonics; shield matrix; spaceborne virus; stasis field; subvocal processor; synaptic pathway; Talaxian; theta class planetoid; thoracic node; tractor beam; transwarp conduit; tricorder; warp core; warp plasma; Yifay
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