by Christine M. Westing

Naomi Wildman bounded down the hallway on her way to Cargo Bay 2. As she walked along she couldn't help but put a skip in her step and smile brightly. She was going to her first official Kotis Kot tournament with the Borg children, and she was more than just a little excited about the prospect of spending some time playing her favorite game with her newfound friends.

When Naomi burst into the cargo bay, she found the four Borg children and Seven, the official tournament judge, waiting for her with two Kotis Kot boards set up.

"Hi, Naomi," Mezoti called out as Naomi walked over to them.

"Hi, Mezoti," Naomi replied energetically. She then greeted the other children and Seven.

After the greetings had all been exchanged, Seven took the role of the judge. "The proceedings will now begin," she announced officially, making the little tournament seem that much more important and exciting to the children. "In the first round Azan and Rebi will play on the same team against Mezoti. Icheb and Naomi will play against each other on the other board The first round will consist of three games. The participants who won two out of the three games will go on to the second round, which will be held tomorrow. Game rules will be followed exactly. Any other questions?"

The children looked from one another back up to Seven and shook their heads.

"Then the tournament shall begin."

The children immediately sat down next to their assigned boards and began to play. Seven dropped her serious composure for a moment to smile upon the scene. All five of the children, including Naomi, seemed to be adapting to the situation just like the Borg would.

* * * * *

Naomi and Mezoti were both been declared the winners of the first round. The following day, they would compete for the championship while the boys competed against each other for the consolation prize.

"You did a really good job, Mezoti," Naomi congratulated her friend when the first round had been completed. "I was watching you every once in a while when I was playing against Icheb."

"Thanks," Mezoti replied. "You did too."

The second round of the tournament will be held tomorrow," Seven told them. "All the participants have played very well. You must now report to sickbay for a lesson with the Doctor."

"Do we have to go to our lesson?" Mezoti asked. "We're having so much fun."

"You must," Seven said. "Follow me."

Seven left the cargo bay, and all five children followed behind her.

* * * * *

"Team work is an important thing on this ship, which is why you will participate in this group project," the Doctor told the children at the end of their lesson as he handed out their assignment. It was the first group project that any of them had ever done, not including the twins who always did their homework together. "You will divide into two separate groups to work on your projects. You may chose whom you work with."

"I want to work with Naomi," Mezoti stated.

Naomi nodded her agreement with that idea, and the Doctor turned to the twins. "I will assume that you wish to work together." The twins nodded without a word. The Doctor turned his attention to Icheb. "You may pick which group you work with."

Icheb looked down at Mezoti and Naomi on his right and the twins on his left. He stood there considering the possibilities for several moments before finally saying, "I don't think that I can choose between them."

The Doctor seemed to understand Icheb's dilemma. All of the children, especially the twins and Mezoti, looked up to Icheb as a role model. They went to Icheb not only for help but also for praise. If the boy chose one group, the other two would feel as if he had rejected them.

"Then I will assign you to Azan and Rebi's group," the Doctor announced. "Since they are used to working together, it will be good for them to learn to work with someone else."

The door to sickbay opened and there stood Seven, right on time to pick the Borg children up. "Is this lesson over?"

"It will be in just a moment," the Doctor assured her as he turned back to face the children. "Any questions?"

The kids looked from one to another, then back to the Doctor, all shaking their heads.

"You will have one week to complete the assignment," the Doctor said.

"Just a week?" Naomi asked, sounding worried. "But this is a big project!"

"It will be a good test of your time management skills," the Doctor replied, sounding quite pleased with himself that he had come up with a great assignment to test not only the children's knowledge of the material being taught but also their skills in areas that would be useful in life. "If there are no further questions, class is dismissed."

The children turned to Seven to see where she would take them next. Naomi was under no obligation to be led around by Seven, but she enjoyed spending time with the Borg kids, especially Mezoti. And her bond with Seven made her want to be around that much more.

"We will return to the cargo bay so you can begin doing your homework," Seven said, and she turned to leave sickbay as the children followed her.

"Maybe you could come to my quarters to work on the project," Naomi suggested to Mezoti as they lagged behind at the end of the line.

The former Borg drone contemplated this for a few moments. She'd never been to Naomi's quarters before, and the thought of going there was a little exciting. "All right, but we'll have to ask Seven first."

The two girls bounded ahead of the three boys to reach Seven, who stared down at them oddly. "May I help you with something?"

"We're working on our project together," Naomi explained quickly. "Could Mezoti come to my quarters to work on it?"

Seven took several moments to come to her decision. "Will there be supervision?"

Naomi rolled her eyes. "Seven, we don't need supervision."

Seven knew that asking if there would be supervision was absolute nonsense. Of course there wouldn't be supervision; Naomi's mother was on duty. And they most certainly didn't need it either; both girls had shown their abilities to handle themselves in a proper manner.

"All right, you may go," Seven said finally.

"Let's go, Mezoti!" Naomi cried as she turned in the opposite direction.

For the first time, the two ran down the hallway together.

* * * * *

"Have you ever had a sleepover, Mezoti?" Naomi asked as they sat at the computer terminal, trying to decide upon a good project for their biology project.

Mezoti cocked her head slightly while she thought about it. "Not that I remember."

"Neither have I," Naomi said. "Do you want to have one tonight?"

Mezoti seemed a little reserved about the idea. "In your quarters?"

"Yeah," Naomi said. "It wouldn't be too much fun having a sleepover in the cargo bay."

"There is no regeneration unit here," Mezoti said.

"Do you really need to regenerate every night?" Naomi asked.

"I don't know."

"Let's ask Seven," Naomi said.

"Would your mother mind?" Mezoti questioned.

"No, she wouldn't mind. I'm sure she'd love to have you over for the night."

"All right," Mezoti agreed. "Let's go ask."

* * * * *

"No," Seven said flatly.

"Why not?" Naomi asked.

"You have no regeneration unit in your quarters," Seven said.

"Mezoti doesn't need to regenerate every night, does she?" Naomi asked.

"She must regenerate just as you must sleep."

"But if we had a sleepover, I wouldn't sleep. And it wouldn't make much of a difference."

"You would be tired the next day," Seven said. "As Mezoti would be as well if she did not regenerate."

"She can regenerate longer tomorrow," Naomi said. "Please, Seven, let her sleep over tonight!"

"Please, Seven," Mezoti echoed.

Seven looked from one pleading face to the other and knew that she'd been beat. "You have my permission."

The two girls smiled. They'd just been given permission to have their very first sleepover.

* * * * *

"I don't think I like that idea," Mezoti said slowly as the laid on Naomi's bed later that night.

"Why not?" Naomi asked. "It would make the project more creative! And the Doctor said that he wants creativity."

"I just don't like it," Mezoti said. "This is a project, not a game."

"But if we made the project into a game board, it would be more fun!" Naomi insisted.

Mezoti shook her head. "No. We should write a report."

"Reports are boring. The Doctor specifically said that he wants creativity."

"We should write a report," Mezoti insisted. "It will be more informative."

"Fine," Naomi said, finally giving in to her friend. "We'll do it your way. We'll write a report. But we'd better have pictures!"

"Of course we will," Mezoti said as she picked up a padd with data they had downloaded from Naomi's computer terminal. She pressed a few buttons on it and showed it to Naomi. "How about this one?"

"All right," Naomi agreed. "That can go on the first page of the report; it will look really nice."

"Now, what should we say in the report?"

Naomi thought for several moments. Mezoti had picked the topic; she didn't know what to say about it. She stared down at some of the info they had gathered and shrugged. "I don't know. Do you have any ideas?"

"Yes," Mezoti said, and she began to work on writing the report. Naomi peered over her shoulder as she wrote.

* * * * *

"Kotis Kot," Mezoti announced when she had finished making the winning move of the third game.

Naomi looked slightly astonished for a moment; Mezoti had just won the Kotis Kot tournament! The girl slowly regained her composure, however, and she smiled at her friend.

"Congratulations, Mezoti," Naomi said. "You won the tournament."

* * * * *

One week later, the five children marched into their lesson in sickbay. They had turned in their projects the day before and were eager to know what the Doctor thought of them. When they entered, the Doctor looked up at them and smiled.

"How are my five star pupils doing today?" the Doctor asked.

"Good," Naomi said.

"If you'll wait just a moment, I'll go get your projects and tell you what I thought of them," the Doctor said.

He turned around and disappeared into the adjoining room, and the children all took seats on the beds.

"I hope we got a good grade," Naomi said with a worried tone in her voice.

"The project adequately met the requirements," Mezoti assured her.

Naomi smiled at Mezoti's odd way of putting things. Although in many ways Mezoti was a little girl just like Naomi was, the previous Borg drone let her past show through here and there.

The Doctor came back from the other room carrying the two projects ­ the large, impressive 3-D simulation that the three boys had made and the report that the girls had written up. The Doctor began by handing the boys their project.

"This was very impressive," the Doctor praised, being sure to show his pride in his students. "Very informative and very creative. No doubt due to my wonderful teaching techniques."

Naomi and Mezoti couldn't help but giggle from where they sat a few feet away from the boys and the Doctor. The Doctor always seemed to find a way to praise himself while praising others.

"Thank you, Doctor," Icheb said humbly as he took the project from the Doctor.

The Doctor walked over to the girls with a slightly less enthusiastic smile on his face. Naomi knew right from the start that this was a bad sign, but Mezoti hadn't known him long enough to catch the warning signs as soon as her friend did.

"This project was very informative," the Doctor began with a compliment, as he had once learned from Neelix to do, "but it wasn't what I wanted. I wanted you to present the information in a creative and unique way, not through a report. Maybe you misunderstood the directions." He handed the girls their report, and Naomi seemed incredibly depressed when she saw the grade. "I'm sure that you'll do better next time."

Naomi nodded and tried to smile in response. She looked over to Mezoti, who didn't seem nearly as upset as Naomi was about the bad grade. Naomi had never gotten a bad grade on anything. She almost felt like crying. As the Doctor began that day's lesson, Naomi barely heard a word of what he said. All she could think about was the awful grade that she had gotten.

* * * * *

Mezoti had gotten into the habit of following Naomi back to her quarters every day after their lessons, and that day was no exception. When the group left sickbay, the boys followed Seven to the left and Mezoti followed Naomi to the right.

As they walked along, Naomi was unusually quiet, and Mezoti knew something was wrong. Since Naomi was the first non-Borg friend she'd made since she'd been separated from the Collective, Mezoti didn't want Naomi to be upset.

"What's wrong, Naomi?" Mezoti asked as she tried to keep up with Naomi's pace, which was getting faster as they went along.

"I don't remember inviting you to come along with me today," Naomi snapped suddenly.

Mezoti stared at her friend with hurt on her face. Naomi never acted this way. She hadn't known the Ktarian for very long, but she knew that Naomi usually didn't say things like that to other people.

"Naomi, are you mad at me?" Mezoti asked innocently.

"Yes!" Naomi exploded suddenly. She had never yelled at anyone before in her entire life, but now that she was so angry and upset over her grade she didn't know what else to do. "We got a bad grade on this project because of you! You're the one that wanted to just write up a report and because we weren't creative, we got a bad grade. I've never gotten a grade this bad before in my life! It's all your fault, and I don't want to play with you anymore!"

Mezoti seemed incredibly hurt by Naomi's statements. "Naomi, I'm sorry."

"I don't want to talk to you!" Naomi yelled as small, angry tears began to come from her eyes.

Mezoti turned around and ran away, upset that her friend could say things like that to her. Naomi watched her go, and once she was gone Naomi only began to cry harder. She couldn't believe what she had just done. She had never raised her voice like that in her life. She had never yelled at anyone or gotten mad at anyone or told them that she didn't want to play with them or talk with them anymore. Never. She'd never even thought about it. So why had she just done so in the corridor of Voyager? She began to cry more as she started to run to her quarters.

* * * * *

Samantha Wildman walked into her quarters and was immediately greeted by Naomi's tears drifting from her room. Samantha dashed into her daughter's room to see what was wrong.

"Naomi, are you all right?" Samantha called out when she saw her daughter crying into a pillow. She rushed over to sit beside her daughter, and she gently touched the girl's shoulder. She had never seen Naomi cry like this before. She was such a happy girl; why would she be sobbing into her pillow? "Naomi, what's wrong?"

"I yelled at her," Naomi said, grief coming through strongly in her voice.

"You did what?" Samantha asked, not understanding what Naomi was talking about.

"I yelled at her!" Naomi cried.

"Naomi, honey, sit on up and let's talk about this," the girl's mother suggested lovingly.

As Naomi began to sit up, Samantha helped her. Once up, Sam wiped off the four-year-old's tears. It was useless, though, because more tears continued to come.

"Naomi, tell me what's the matter," Samantha urged gently.

"I yelled at Mezoti," Naomi sniffled. "I yelled at her and told her that I was mad! I made her really upset, and she ran away. I didn't mean to hurt her, Mom."

"Of course you didn't mean to hurt her," Samantha said as she hugged Naomi and rocked her back and forth soothingly. "Sometimes people say things that they don't mean when they get mad."

"But I was so mean!" Naomi cried. "She'll never want to even talk to me again."

It was then that Samantha realized that Naomi was having her first childhood fight. She took in a deep breath to consider how to handle this. Naomi was about the equivalent of an eleven-year-old human girl, and she was just now experiencing her first fight with a child her own age. She should have experienced her first fight with a peer when she was an infant whose toy was stolen by another small child. The concept of having a small disagreement with a friend and then making up with her was completely alien to the child. How could Samantha explain to her daughter that this was only natural?

"Naomi, you've been experiencing a lot since Icheb, Azan, Rebi, and Mezoti arrived. It's been a big change, and you've had to adapt a lot to no longer being the only child aboard the ship. Now you're experiencing a lot of things for the very first time that other kids get a chance to do long before they get to be your age. Things that kids do all the time seem new to you now. And fighting is one of those things that kids do all the time. Everyone fights with their friends. It's just part of growing up."

"I don't think everyone yells at their friends like I did today," Naomi said.

"When I was a little girl, I got mad at my friends a lot," Samantha told her. "And I yelled at them really loudly too."

"You did?" Naomi's eyes got wide at this idea.

"I did," Samantha confirmed. "We fought over silly little things, like cheating in games or name-calling. And I would yell at them and tell them that I never wanted to see them again. But you know what? Even after all that I said to them, we always made up and were friends again. After we made up, it only took a day or two for us to completely forget what had happened."

"I don't think Mezoti could ever forget what I said to her," Naomi said sadly.

"I think she could," her mother insisted. "Maybe you should go tell her that you're sorry for what you said."

"She wouldn't want to listen to me after how I yelled at her."

"You'll never know until you try," Samantha insisted.

Naomi thought about this for several moments, and then she knew what she had to do. She had to go and make up with Mezoti. She just couldn't let her friendship with the girl go.

* * * * *

"Is something bothering you, Mezoti?" Seven asked when she noticed that the girl's attention was wavering.

"No," Mezoti said slowly.

Seven stared at Mezoti with her motherly look that told the girl she knew that something was wrong. "Tell me what is bothering you."

"It's nothing," Mezoti insisted, her voice soft and her eyes staring off into space.

Seven did not know exactly how to proceed. The little girl was obviously upset by something, but she was not being very forward with what was distressing her. What was Seven supposed to do?

"If you tell me what is wrong, I may be able to help," Seven offered as a last ditch resort.

"I made Naomi mad," Mezoti said finally. "I wouldn't let her do the project the way she wanted and because of me, we got a really bad grade on our project. I didn't mean to do it; I didn't know that we were going to get such a bad grade. But Naomi got really upset, and she yelled at me in the hallway. She was really mad, Seven. I didn't mean to make her mad."

Seven digested this information for several moments. Since being separated from the Collective, Mezoti had certainly had a quarrel or two with Icheb, Azan, and Rebi; however, their arguments had never been anything major. Mezoti's relationship with the twins and Icheb was more of a sister to her brothers than of a girl to her friends. This little dispute with Naomi was the first full-blown fight with a friend that Mezoti had had since before she had been assimilated. Seven wished she could draw on her own childhood experiences to help Mezoti out, but Seven's childhood had been short-lived and she hadn't spent much time around children her own age. So she had to proceed based on her observances of other children's experiencesand that didn't amount to much either as the only child aboard the ship other than the Borg children was Naomi. But maybe that was enough.

"I am sure that Naomi did not mean to make you so upset," Seven said. "She enjoys the time that she spends with you."

"But she was so mad," Mezoti said, her face showing her sorrow in her loss of a friend. "I'm sorry for what I did, Seven. I didn't know that this was going to happen."

"It is often easy to look into the past and see our mistakes," Seven said, trying to remember every motherly piece of advice that had ever been given to her. "I am sure that both you and Naomi can forgive each other for what you've done."

"She was so mad," Mezoti repeated, seemingly stuck on that moment in the hallway when Naomi had been yelling at her. "I don't think she could ever forgive me."

"You will not know unless you try to speak with her," Seven said.

"What if she yells at me again?" Mezoti asked.

"She won't," Seven assured her, even though she wasn't sure of that. It was so unusual for Naomi to get mad at any body, so she hoped that it had just been a one time deal in the heat of anger. "She is your friend. She will not yell at you again."

Mezoti hoped that Seven was right, and she left the cargo bay in hopes of making up with Naomi.

* * * * *

Naomi hurried down the hallway to Cargo Bay 2 nervously. She hoped that she wasn't too late to ask for Mezoti's forgiveness. She felt so ashamed of herself after having said what she had said to Mezoti in the hallway. How could she ever be forgiven for what she had done?

Naomi quickly rounded a corner, too worried about her upcoming confrontation with Mezoti to be too careful about watching where she was going. Before she knew it, she had completely slammed into another person coming around the corner at a quickened pace as well.

"Sorry," Naomi said quickly before she even realized who she had bumped into. When she saw Mezoti staring back at her, Naomi gasped. She hadn't been prepared to bump into Mezoti like that. Once she had recovered from the shock, Naomi began to talk to her friend. The words poured from Naomi's lips rapidly, and she hoped that Mezoti would listen. "Mezoti, I'm sorry for what I said earlier today. I didn't mean to yell at you like that. I know that what I did was wrong."

Just as Naomi opened her mouth to begin talking, Mezoti began talking just as quickly and nervously as her four-year-old friend. "I didn't mean to make us have a bad grade, Naomi. I'm sorry that I wouldn't let you do things the way you wanted, and I never meant to make you upset."

Both girls stopped their ramblings simultaneously and stared at each other in awe. Neither had expected such a reaction from the other.

"Then you'll forgive me?" Naomi asked slowly, hoping that Mezoti would say yes.

"Forgive you?" Mezoti repeated. "You should forgive me for making us get a bad grade."

Naomi smiled. "Then you're forgiven."

"And you are two," Mezoti said.

"How about a game of Kotis Kot?" Naomi suggested with a smile. "Maybe the Kotis Kot champion could give me a few tips on the game."

"Well everything I know, I learned from a master," Mezoti said.

"Really? Who's that?"

"You," Mezoti said with a sweet smile as the two began to walk down the corridor.

Both of the girls had to adjust to the new challenges that they faced. Mezoti had to adjust to her life as an individual; Naomi had to adjust to sharing the ship with other children. But they were going to face those challenges together. For the first time Mezoti and Naomi held hands as they walked down the corridor.


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