Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager and the characters associated with it are property of Paramount. This story is a work of fiction written purely for my enjoyment and that of others. No profit is being made and no infringement of rights was intended.
"Will I get to make first contact with the aliens?" Naomi asked excitedly as she walked down the hall next to Seven of Nine.
The Borg looked down at the girl curiously. "You will be accompanying the captain, Ensign Paris, and Neelix as they make first contact with an alien species. You will not be accomplishing that task by yourself, if that is what you're suggesting."
"Could I at least say the first word?" Naomi asked.
"The customary greeting of this culture requires that the leader of the group make first contact," Seven informed her.
"Then can I say the next thing after Captain Janeway?" Naomi asked.
"That is a possibility," Seven said, not wanting to disappoint the girl too quickly. She knew that it wasn't highly likely that the girl would be allowed to have an important part in the mission as the three-year-old wished. "However, your primary role in this mission will be to observe and to learn."
"I do that all the time," Naomi said. "When can I start doing something?"
"I believe that Ensign Paris has allowed you to pilot a shuttle numerous times," Seven said.
"Twice," Naomi told her. "Only twice."
"And I also believe that you were allowed to enter in commands in engineering," Seven told her.
"Only with B'Elanna standing right over me and pointing at exactly which button I was supposed to press," Naomi replied. "I want to do something for real, just like you do when you're in astrometrics or on the bridge."
"I also believe that I have allowed you to operate a station in astrometrics during my duty shift," Seven pointed out.
"I know," Naomi replied. "But I don't want to just help out. I want to have a real duty shift. I should start pulling my weight around here, don't you think?"
"I believe that your presence on this mission is the next step in achieving that goal," Seven informed her.
"Really?" Naomi asked.
Seven nodded. "Once your have acquired an acceptable amount of experience, I am certain that Captain Janeway will allow you to have semi-regular duty shifts."
"You really think so?" Naomi was quite excited now that Seven was actually suggesting that the captain might make her the bridge assistant.
"I believe so," Seven said. "Provided that your duty shifts do not interfere with your studies."
"Oh, they won't," Naomi promised. "When can I start with my duty shifts?"
"You will have to discuss that with the captain," Seven told her.
"Do you really think that she'll let me?" Naomi asked.
"Perhaps," Seven replied.
"Neelix to Naomi Wildman," a voice came from out of nowhere.
"Naomi here!" Naomi called out.
"Are you coming, Naomi?" Neelix asked.
"We're leaving now?" Naomi asked in surprise.
"It's 0900," Neelix replied.
"Oh!" Naomi cried. "I didn't realize that it was that late."
"Well, you'd better hurry to the shuttle bay so we can get going," Neelix suggested.
"I'm on my way," Naomi told him
Naomi looked up at Seven. "I have to go now, or they might leave without me."
"I doubt that they would depart without your presence," Seven told her.
"Well, I should still go," Naomi said. "I'll see you when I get back!"
Naomi ran off down the corridor and Seven stared after the girl curiously. The child certainly was enthusiastic.
* * * * *
Naomi hopped into the shuttle and cried, "Naomi Wildman reporting for duty!"
Captain Janeway smiled at the girl's willingness to come along on the mission and to help out.
"Hey, Naomi, running a little late there, huh?" Tom Paris asked from the helm of the shuttle.
Naomi blushed. "I'm sorry. I was talking with Seven, and I lost track of the time. I didn't mean to be late."
"The first lesson you should learn before becoming bridge assistant is to be on time," Neelix told her.
"I promise I'll never be late again," Naomi responded.
"Well, now that the crew's all here, let's get under way," Captain Janeway announced.
The doors to the shuttlecraft were closed and tom powered up the engine. A rather excited Naomi sat on Neelix's lap. The doors of the shuttle bay opened and they were soon off.
* * * * *
"Are we almost there?" Naomi asked.
"We'll be ready to begin our descent into the planet's atmosphere in about seven minutes," Tom replied.
"Is that the planet there?" Naomi asked, pointing to a large planet with swirling green and blue clouds.
"That's it," Tom confirmed.
"It's pretty," Naomi commented.
"After I give the customary greeting, would you like to greet them as well?" Captain Janeway offered.
"Me?" Naomi asked in surprise.
The captain nodded.
"Yes, ma'am!" Naomi cried. "I would love to!"
Just then, a massive cloud of swirling gases appeared directly in front of them and the shuttle rocked in response to the sudden appearance of the phenomenon.
"A wormhole!" Naomi cried excitedly.
"Captain, the wormhole's gravity is pulling us in," Tom reported. "I can't fight it!"
"Where did it come from?" Captain Janeway demanded.
"I think it's a randomly occurring phenomenon," Tom replied. "Hold on, it's going to be a bumpy ride!"
"Can't we get out?" Naomi asked just as the shuttle entered the mouth of the wormhole.
That's when the real action started. Lights and alarms blinked everywhere and sirens began to sound. Naomi watched as the three adults did everything they could to correct the problems and get the shuttlecraft out of the wormhole. The shuttle was shaking violently, and Naomi was beginning to get scared.
"What's happening?" Naomi cried.
"The hull's going to breach!" Tom shouted, more to the captain than to the girl, but it certainly answered her question.
Naomi held tightly onto Neelix in fear. She knew what a hull breach would mean. She stared out the window of the shuttle as they traveled through the wormhole. Finally, they reached the other side and they were spewed out into space.
"I'm going to have to make an emergency landing!" Tom cried.
"There's a Class M planet straight ahead," Captain Janeway reported.
"I see it!" Tom cried. "I'll take it."
The shuttle flew towards the planet at incredible speeds as they came into the atmosphere.
"We're coming in too fast!" Captain Janeway cried.
"I'm trying to slow us down," Tom said. "Everybody hold on!"
Naomi hugged Neelix tightly and closed her eyes. She knew that as long as she was with him, she would be safe. Just a few moments later, everything in her world went dark.
* * * * *
Naomi opened her eyes slowly and looked up at the strange ceiling overhead. She was not on the shuttle. And she definitely wasn't anywhere on Voyager. It took her several moments to remember what had happened, but finally she remembered the wormhole and their rapid descent to the surface. Everything past Tom's cry that everyone should hold on was just a blur to her.
"She's awakened," a voice said.
Naomi tried to sit up, but she got an incredibly strong headache and she laid back down. She could feel the adrenaline pounding throughout her entire body. She was incredibly frightened. She did not know where she was or who was in the room with her. All she knew was that she's just been in a shuttle accident and she wanted Neelix or Tom or even Captain Janeway.
A strange man appeared over Naomi with a look of concern on her face. "My name is Kipta, and you are on the planet L'Nor. We found you in a shuttlecraft on the surface. You are all right. Do not be afraid. What is your name?"
"Naomi," the three-year-old replied. "Naomi Wildman."
"Where did you come from?" Kipta asked.
"I live on a starship called Voyager," Naomi replied. "I was on a shuttlecraft and we went into a wormhole."
"A wormhole?" Kipta repeated.
Naomi nodded. "We didn't want to go through it, but the gravity pulled us in. Tom said that there was going to be a hull breach, so her landed the shuttle. I think I fell asleep." Naomi looked around. "Where's Neelix? I want Neelix."
"Neelix?" Kipta said. "Was Neelix one of the people that were with you in the shuttle?"
"Yes," Naomi replied. "He's my godfather. Where is he?"
"I am afraid that no one else from your shuttle survived the crash," the man told her.
Naomi frowned as she realized what Kipta meant. "You mean they're all dead?"
"I am afraid so," Kipta replied.
"I want to go back to Voyager."
"I am not sure if that will be possible. You said you came through a wormhole. Your ship could be hundreds of light years away."
"I can't go back?" Naomi asked.
"We'll try to bring you back," Kipta told her. "I just don't know if we can find your ship."
Naomi Wildman had never felt so alone in her life.
* * * * *
Five years later
* * * * *
"Starfleet?" Chakotay repeated in surprise. "We're still years away from the Alpha Quadrant. Can you identify its registry number?"
"I'm trying," Harry replied, then his grace grew stone cold in amazement, surprise, and wonder. Finally, he recovered from the shock and reported his findings. "Captain, it's the shuttle that disappeared five years ago."
"The shuttle?" Chakotay repeated. "The one with Captain Janeway and the others?"
"Yes, sir," Harry replied.
"Can we respond?" Chakotay asked.
"I'm trying," Harry said. "I'm not getting any response. But it's been five years. They could have found a friendly planet or ship to settle down on."
"There's no way to tell if they're dead or they're just not around," Chakotay murmured softly. "Can we scan for life signs?"
"Not yet," Harry replied. "We're still too far away."
"I want to know the moment that we can scan it," Chakotay said.
"Yes, sir," Harry replied.
The next several moments were very tense for the entire bridge crew. The prospect of finding the captain and the rest of the shuttle crew after five long years certainly was very exciting and nerve-wracking.
* * * * *
Naomi sat in the grass and looked across the linola flowers to watch her two younger siblings at play, as they tossed a brightly colored ball back and forth.
"Naomi, come play with us!" Ranyo called out.
"Not now, Ranyo," Naomi said. She stared at the small board in front of her. "I'm trying to finish my work."
"Please," Ranyo pleaded.
"Ranyo, I'm a little too old for these games," Naomi said.
"You're only eight," Ranyo told her. "That's just one more than me!"
"Yeah, but I come from another planet," Naomi reminded him. "I age faster than you."
And that certainly was true. Although she'd only been born eight years prior, she looked and acted like she was about fifteen Earth years old.
"Come on, Naomi," Ranyo whined.
"All right," Naomi agreed finally. She found it a little hard to resist her younger brother when he begged with her for anything. He was just simply too cute and too angelic for her to knowingly disappoint him like that.
Naomi got up off the grass and went to play with her brother and sister. As they ran and played together, Naomi felt completely at home and incredibly happy.
* * * * *
"Captain, I'm within sensor range of the shuttle," Harry said.
"Scan it," Chakotay demanded immediately. He'd been on the edge of the seat ever since the distress signal had been detected.
"I'm not reading any life signs in the shuttle," Harry reported. "But the shuttle appears to have crashed on a planet."
"Scan the planet," Captain Chakotay said.
"There are over ten billion people living on the planet," Harry Kim replied.
"Can you narrow the search to detect only human life signs?"
"I'm picking up a half-human-half-Ktarian female. That's gotta be Naomi."
Everyone on the bridge perked up at the news that the girl was safe and sound on the planet.
"And the others?"
"I'm not reading any other human life signs. Or Talaxian."
"No one else survived," Chakotay surmised softly.
"I believe that would be jumping to conclusions," Tuvok spoke up.
"Oh?" Chakotay asked.
"It is possible that the other members of the shuttle crew are on a ship somewhere offworld," Tuvok said.
"Thanks for the optimism, Tuvok," Chakotay said.
"I was merely exploring all the possible options," Tuvok replied.
"Well, I suppose there's only one way to find out. Hail the planet."
"They're responding," Harry Kim said after a few moments.
"On screen," Chakotay ordered.
* * * * *
"What do you mean 'my ship is here'?" Naomi asked, bewildered.
"Your ship is here," Kipta responded. "The one
that you came from. They've come back for you."
Kipta nodded. "But don't worry, Naomi. We won't let them take you away from us. They're demanding to see you, though. Is it all right if we let them take you back up to their ship, just for a little while?"
"You want to know if I want to go back up to Voyager?" Naomi asked, more than just a little surprised and confused.
Kipta nodded. "Just for a little bit."
"Yes," Naomi replied.
"All right. We'll make arrangements for you to go visit them."
"What if I want to do more than just visit?" Naomi asked slowly.
Kipta paused and analyzed what the girl had just said to make sure that he understood what she was suggesting. "We'll think about that when the time comes."
Naomi nodded and turned to stare out a window at the beautiful landscape. This planet had been her home for five years. Voyager had only been her home for three years. If she went back to Voyager, she'd be returning to her first home. But she'd be leaving her other home behind. She didn't know what to do.
* * * * *
Naomi appeared on the transporter pad and immediately looked around. Everything looked so familiar, but still very strange. She hadn't seen any of it since she was a little girl. And then she saw her mother standing there in the transporter room. Naomi immediately felt uncomfortable at the odd situation, but her mother seemed extremely ecstatic.
"Naomi!" Samantha Wildman called and raced to embrace her daughter.
Naomi returned the embrace, although she wasn't nearly as excited as her mother was. Still, seeing her mother after so long of a time did make her very happy.
"Are you all right?" Samantha Wildman asked.
"Yes," Naomi replied.
"I want to hear everything about what I missed in your life," Samantha said. "Where have you been staying?"
"A family adopted me," Naomi replied. "I have a little brother and cute little sister, too. My parents are wonderful to me. I love it on L'Nor."
"You're back home now," Samantha told her daughter lovingly. "You'll never have to worry about being alone like that again."
"But I didn't feel alone," Naomi insisted. "Maybe at first, but not after I'd found a home."
"This is your real home," Samantha said. "And everyone's so excited to have you back. Would you like to go back and see your room?"
"My room?" Naomi repeated.
Samantha nodded. "I took out some of your old things when I found out that we found you."
"I guess," Naomi replied.
So mother and daughter walked out of the transporter room; together once again.
* * * * *
"Flotter!" Naomi cried, racing to pick up the stuffed doll that was laying on her bed. She picked up the blue, shiny doll and stared at it in wonder. "Flotter!"
Samantha smiled. "Do you remember when Neelix replicated that for you?"
"Yeah," Naomi said, searching her brain to retrieve memories that she'd been forcing herself to forget for the past five years. "It was when you were missing, after the shuttle crashed on that planet. He was trying to cheer me up."
Samantha nodded. "We can go to the holodeck and see Flotter and Treevus again, if you'd like to."
"The holodeck," Naomi repeated slowly. "I remember playing with them. But I'm too old for that now."
"You're only eight," Samantha said.
"On L'Nor most people consider me to be a teenager," Naomi said. "I'm not a little kid anymore. Aren't I the equivalent of a Ktarian teenager?"
"Yes, you are," Samantha replied.
"Neelix," Naomi said softly, seemingly jumping from one topic to a completely different one. "He isn't here anymore, is he?"
Samantha shook her head slowly.
"He was on the shuttle," Naomi said. "With me."
Naomi's mother nodded slowly.
Naomi put the doll down quickly. "Is Seven still around?"
"Yes," Samantha replied. "But she'll probably seem different to you."
"She's more human now," Samantha told her daughter. "It's almost like she never was a Borg. Except for a few things, of course."
"Can I see her?"
"I don't see why not."
* * * * *
Naomi stood in the doorway to astrometrics and stared at Seven's back. Either she didn't realize that someone had entered or she simply didn't care. Either way, Seven was not responded to Naomi's entrance.
"Seven?" Naomi asked after several moments.
Seven turned around and looked at the girl. "Naomi."
Naomi frowned and stared at Seven almost as if she was frightened of her.
"What is wrong?" Seven asked.
"Your face," Naomi said. "Seven, where are your Borg implants?"
"The doctor found a way to remove most of my Borg technology," Seven replied.
"You called me 'Naomi'," the girl said. "You never called me 'Naomi.' It was always 'Naomi Wildman.'"
"I speak less formally now," Seven explained. "Would you prefer that I address you using your full name?"
"No, that's all right," Naomi said. "I was just a little surprised, that's all. It's like...it's like you're not you anymore."
"You have grown," Seven commented.
Naomi stepped further into astrometrics to stand next to Seven. "I guess so. Little girls do that, you know."
"You appear to be unlike yourself as well," Seven observed.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Naomi demanded.
"I was just saying that you have changed as well," Seven said.
"Are you saying that's a bad thing?" Naomi asked.
"Were you saying that it's a bad thing that I am different?" Seven asked.
"Point taken," Naomi replied.
There was an odd silence between the two of them for a long time.
"I'm going to head out now," Naomi announced.
"Why?" Seven asked.
"What else am I supposed to do?" Naomi asked.
"I'd like to talk with you more," Seven said.
"Maybe later," Naomi replied.
"Then I will see you later," Seven told her.
Naomi left astrometrics with an odd feeling. She knew she'd just had a conversation with Seven, but it sure hadn't seemed like Seven. She'd looked different, acted different, and talked different. It wasn't the same Seven that Naomi had become friends with when she was living on Voyager. As Naomi tried to remember her the last time that she'd seen Seven, she recalled that it had been just before she left on the shuttle. She remembered asking if she could make first contact with aliens. And now, five years later, Naomi realized that that's just what she'd done. Knowing that was an even stranger feeling than meeting a completely different Seven of Nine.
* * * * *
Naomi stood just outside the door to Holodeck Two and tried to get up the nerve to go into the program that she'd just told the computer to run. She wasn't sure if she really wanted to, though, but something told her that she should. Another part of her told her not to go in there.
Finally, one of her two opposing sides won and she stepped through the doors and entered into the holodeck. The doors closed behind her and she stood in the middle of a large, colorful forest. She looked around in wonder.
"It's just how I remembered it," Naomi said softly.
She ran down the path that she knew would take her to the pond. It was just as if she was three years old again. She sure felt like she was a little kid again. Finally, Naomi reached the pond. She stood at the edge of the pond and threw in a rock, knowing that it would wake Flotter up.
"Who's there?" Flotter asked.
"Naomi," Naomi replied.
Flotter rose up from the water and looked at the girl in excited surprise. "Naomi! Long time; no see."
Naomi smiled. "Hi, Flotter."
"You've grown," Flotter said. "Now...how long has it been?"
"Five years," Naomi replied.
"Five years?" Flotter said. "Where have you been, Naomi?"
"That would take a long time to explain," Naomi replied.
"Well, it doesn't matter where you've been. It only matters that you're back now. Come on, Naomi, let's go find Treevus. He'll be so happy to know that you're back."
The two ran off together and Naomi actually found herself laughing as she ran off with the blue holodeck character. She felt like a little kid again; that was for sure.
Naomi stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Chakotay standing there at the entrance to the holodeck. She felt very foolish and very embarrassed.
"Commander Chakotay," Naomi said. "I..I..I was just...um..."
Chakotay smiled. "No need to explain, Naomi. And, actually, it's 'Captain' Chakotay now."
"Of course," Naomi replied. "I guess I forgot."
"That's all right," Chakotay said.
Naomi looked at Flotter, and, feeling incredibly embarrassed that the captain had found her playing in the holodeck, ordered the computer to end the program. The forest faded away and Naomi and Chakotay stood on the black and yellow holodeck grid.
"I was wondering if I could talk to you," Chakotay said.
"Sure," Naomi replied. "What do you need?"
"Actually, I was just wondering how you're doing," Chakotay replied.
"I don't know," Naomi told him honestly. "I thought it would be so wonderful to come back and see Voyager, but I don't know. I can't explain it."
"Can you try?" Chakotay asked.
"Everything's so different," Naomi said. "This doesn't feel like home. It doesn't even feel like Voyager. It's like everything's changed. And some things that should have changed haven't!"
"Mom took me to see my room. She'd taken out some of my old things to make me feel more at home. But when I looked at the things, I just felt disconnected from them. There were dolls and toys and clothes that have been too small for me for five years. It was all little kid stuff. And Mom's still treating me like I'm three years old. I know she's trying hard not to, but I still feel like she thinks I'm just a little kid. I went down to the mess hall and it just didn't feel like the mess hall anymore. Maybe it's just because Neelix isn't there. And I came here to the holodeck to see Flotter and Treevus, but now I just feel foolish for playing in a make-believe forest."
"You looked like you were having fun," Chakotay pointed out.
"Maybe for a little bit," Naomi said. "But I'm older now. This holodeck program isn't for me anymore."
"But we're still the same people," Chakotay said. "Seven's here and I'm here and Harry's here and your mom's here and the Doctor's here. Doesn't that make this 'home?'"
"Neelix isn't here," Naomi told him softly. "And neither are Tom or Captain Janeway. I went to go see Seven and she's just not Seven anymore. I looked at her, and I couldn't even tell that she'd ever been a Borg. All of the Borg implants that used to be on her face and her hands are gone. And she acted different, too. She talked normal and she acted normal. She even called me 'Naomi,' and not 'Naomi Wildman.' She just doesn't seem like Seven any more. At least not to me. And I'm afraid to go see the Doctor. I'm afraid that he'll be different, too. I don't want things to be different. But I don't want things to be the same, either."
"I think I understand what you're saying," Chakotay told her.
"I doubt it, but thanks for trying," Naomi replied.
"I was talking with one of the people from L'Nor...Kipta, I think he said his name was," Chakotay began.
"He's my adoptive father," Naomi interrupted.
Chakotay nodded. "He said that you wanted to stay on the planet. Is that true?"
"I don't know," Naomi told him. "Honestly, I don't know what I want. Yesterday, I was playing happily with my brother and sister, without a care in the world. I felt like I was at home, and I knew that I was in a place where I was accepted. Everything was so simple. But now, everything's different. Voyager's come back for me and I don't know where my home is anymore. I don't know where I belong anymore. I just don't know."
"I can understand why you'd feel that way," Chakotay said. "But try to remember, Naomi, this was your first home. This is where your real mother is. She loves you very, very much. You loved it here. I remember how you used to say that you didn't want to go back to Earth because you'd have to leave Voyager. At one point, you were absolutely positive that Voyager was your home. If you were to decide that you wanted to stay on L'Nor, it would just break your mother's heart."
"If I decided that I wanted to stay on L'Nor, would you let me?" Naomi asked.
"I'm not sure if I can answer that, Naomi," Chakotay said.
"Why not?" Naomi asked.
"I'd have to talk with your mother about it," Chakotay told her.
Naomi nodded. "Is there anything else you wanted to talk to me about?"
"Not unless you want to try to explain what happened on that shuttle."
"Not right now," Naomi told him. "Maybe later."
Chakotay nodded. "There's an old saying on Earth that says 'Home is where the heart is.' Try to decide where your heart is, Naomi. And that's your home."
"Thanks," Naomi said.
Captain Chakotay left the holodeck and Naomi stood there in the silence. There was so much running through her mind and she just didn't feel like she could handle all of it. She felt a tear running down her cheek, and she tried to wipe it away and stop any other tears from coming. She longed to be back on L'Nor and to never have heard about Voyager coming back for her. She wished that the shuttle had never gone through that wormhole and that she'd lived her entire life safe and sound on Voyager. She knew she couldn't have it both ways, though. And she also knew that she didn't want to give up either one of her homes. But she knew that she'd have to make a decision, and no matter what decision she made, she'd be giving up so much, and she'd be breaking so many people's hearts. And she wouldn't be able to change her mind.
* * * * *
"Naomi, why don't you come home now?" Kipta asked as he talked to Naomi over the communications channel. "You've been up on Voyager for almost six hours now."
"I know," Naomi said. "But there's so much here that I still want to see."
"You can come back tomorrow," Kipta told her. "But it's dinner time now and we want you home."
"Can't I stay here?" Naomi asked. "It's been five years since I've had anything even remotely similar to Earth food. I want to eat some of my favorite things again."
"All right," Kipta agreed rather reluctantly. "You can stay for dinner."
"Can I stay here overnight?" Naomi asked, hoping she wasn't pushing her luck.
"Why would you want to do that?" Kipta asked.
"Because this used to be my home," Naomi said. "I'd like to visit for more than just six hours. Please. I'll come back down to L'Nor tomorrow. I promise."
"All right," Kipta agreed. "Just for tonight. But you must come home tomorrow."
"Can I come back after that?"
"I would assume that Voyager would leave after that."
"They won't just leave just like that. My mom's up here - my real mom. And all my old friends. These people really care about me, and they've missed me. They won't just leave me here after they've visited with me for a day."
"Maybe you're right," Kipta said, "but they'll
have to leave you behind eventually."
Kipta's expression became a frown. "If you decide that you wish to stay on Voyager, I will allow you to do what you decide is best for yourself. But, Naomi, L'Nor has been your home for five years. I just don't see why you'd want to go back to Voyager."
"I haven't made a decision yet," Naomi told him. "But I'm trying to. I have to go now. Captain Chakotay wanted me to come up to the bridge. Naomi out."
Naomi turned off the screen and watched as her adoptive father's face disappeared from her view. She knew that she loved him and she knew that he loved her. But she also knew that she loved Samantha Wildman and that Samantha loved her. She couldn't disappoint either one of them. What was she going to do?
* * * * *
Naomi Wildman stepped out onto the bridge and looked around in awe. When she'd been on Voyager, she'd almost never been allowed onto the bridge and now, after five years of being gone, she was finally back there again. And somehow, it still had the same magical wonder that it had had when she was three. Maybe even a little bit more.
"Naomi," Captain Chakotay said when he saw her, "do you have a minute?"
"I guess so," Naomi replied. "I was supposed to come up, wasn't I?"
"Yes, of course," Chakotay said. "Could I talk to you in my ready room?"
"Sure," Naomi replied.
So she followed Chakotay into the ready room. The two sat down on the couch next to each other. Naomi was reminded of a meeting or two that she'd had with Captain Janeway.
"Naomi, I know that you probably don't want to talk about this right now, but we're trying to find out what happened to the shuttle five years ago," Chakotay said. "Now that we've found you, everyone's starting to ask questions again. And I don't know what to tell them."
"And you think that I do," Naomi surmised.
Chakotay nodded. "You were on that shuttle."
"I was three years old," Naomi said. "It was a long time ago, and I was very little. I didn't understand what was happening."
"Is there anything that you can remember at all?" Chakotay asked. "If you don't want to talk about it, I understand."
"It's all right," Naomi said. "I can talk about it. I just don't know if I'll be much help."
"Naomi, anything you can tell us would be a load of help."
"Well, we were getting closer to the planet," Naomi said. "I remember seeing it out the window. It was big and beautiful. But then a wormhole formed from out of nowhere. I don't know where it came from. I think Tom said that it was a randomly occurring phenomenon. He said that the gravity was pulling us in - he couldn't stop the shuttle from going through. The shuttle was rocking and we went into the wormhole. I don't know what happened, but when we got out to the other side, the engine was out, and Tom had little to no control of the shuttle. He said that we had to find a planet to land on. The first one that he saw that was even within range was L'Nor. We began our descent, and I think Captain Janeway said something about coming in too fast. All I can remember is holding on to Neelix. The shuttle must have crashed on the planet. I must have been knocked out by the impact. The next thing I can remember is waking up in a hospital on L'Nor."
"Naomi, you would not believe how much that helps," Chakotay said. "But, can you remember anything else? Anything at all?"
"It was five years ago," Naomi said, frustrated. "I was three years old. How much do you expect me to remember?"
"I'm sorry," Chakotay said. "I didn't mean to push you too much."
"It's all right," Naomi said. "Is there anything else you need from me?"
"Not exactly," Chakotay replied.
"Not exactly?" Naomi repeated.
"How would you like to sit at the helm of Voyager?" Chakotay said.
"Sit at the helm?" Naomi repeated slowly.
"And operate it for a little while," Chakotay added.
"You can't be serious," Naomi said.
"I sure am," Chakotay said. "Tom let you fly the
Delta Flyer when you were three. He didn't exactly have the best
judgment, but I think you're capable of flying Voyager for a bit.
Besides, we're just in a standard orbit. It's nothing complicated."
"Dreams have a strange way of coming true," Chakotay said.
Naomi's smile widened. She was finally having the chance to pilot Voyager, even if they were only orbiting a planet. It was the chance she'd been waiting her until life to get.
* * * * *
"Can I have some leolo root casserole?" Naomi asked after her mother inquired about what she wanted for dinner.
"Like the kind Neelix used to make?" Samantha asked.
Naomi nodded. "Does someone else know how to make it?"
"I'm sure it's on file in the replicator," Samantha said. "You've got five years worth of replicator rations stored up. I'm sure it won't be a problem."
Naomi smiled. "Great!"
"I never understood why you like that stuff," Samantha told her daughter. "Everyone else hates it. I don't think anyone's had it since you left."
"I just like it, that's all," Naomi said.
"Maybe it's your Ktarian taste buds," Samantha suggested.
"Maybe," Naomi agreed.
"Would you like to eat in the mess hall?" Samantha asked.
"Sure," Naomi replied.
"Then let's go!" Samantha proclaimed.
So the two walked out of their quarters and down to the mess hall as if they'd never been separated at all.
* * * * *
Naomi Wildman woke up after a long night's worth of restful sleep. She sat up in her bed and for just a brief moment didn't know where she was. Then, everything came back to her and she smiled. She was on Voyager again, in her room. Even though there was a doll or two laying around, it felt wonderful to be back.
"Hey, Naomi," Samantha said as she popped her head into her daughter's room. "Did you sleep well?"
"Wonderful," Naomi replied. "Just wonderful."
"Great," Samantha replied. "Glad to hear it."
"Mom?" Naomi said after several moments of thought.
"Yes, honey?" Samantha said.
"I've been thinking for a long time, and I've made my decision," Naomi said. "About where I want to stay, I mean."
"And?" Samantha prompted after several moments.
"I want to stay here," Naomi said after a long time.
"Oh, Naomi, I'm so glad," Samantha said as she hugged her daughter.
"Now all I have to do is tell my family back on L'Nor," Naomi said quietly. "They're not going to like it. Not one bit."
Samantha sympathized with her daughter. "Do you want me to help you tell them?"
Naomi shook her head. "No. I can do it by myself. Can I beam down to L'Nor and tell them myself?"
"Sure, honey," Samantha replied. "I know how much they mean to you. Take as long as you need."
* * * * *
"Naomi, I won't let them take you away," Kipta said.
"Take me away?!" Naomi cried. "I want to go! This is my choice; Voyager's my home!"
"L'Nor is your home!" Kipta replied angrily.
"Naomi, don't you like us?" Ranyo asked.
"I love you, Ranyo," Naomi said. "I love all of you. You've been so kind to me. You've made me feel at home. But being back on Voyager has been like a dream come true. At first, it seemed so different, but now it just seems like home again. It's where I want to be. It's where I was meant to be."
"Naomi, I won't let you," Kipta repeated.
"You have to!" Naomi cried. "That's my mom up there! My real mom!"
"And what about me?" Naomi's foster mother demanded.
"I love you very much, but you're not my real mom," Naomi said. "This isn't my real home. Voyager is. Please, let me go. You have to."
"Naomi, don't go," Kipta pleaded.
"You said that I could make my own choice," Naomi said. "You said that I could decide where I wanted to live. I want to live on Voyager. Please."
Kipta's eyes filled with sorrow and he nodded slowly. "I did say that you could make your own decision. And I just want you to be happy."
"I'll be happy on Voyager," Naomi said. "I swear it, I will. And, we'll be able to communicate with each other for a while, until Voyager's too far away for us to send messages. But I've been away from Voyager for five years. It's where I was born. It's where I grew up, at least for a little while. I want to live there."
Kipta nodded. "You are a teenager now. At least, you look and act like you're a teenager. And I now that's how mature you are. If this is your decision, then I respect that, and I'll let you go back to Voyager."
"Oh, thank you," Naomi said. She embraced her adoptive father and held him tightly. "I'll always love you and I'll never forget you, Daddy." Naomi felt her eyes well up with tears. It was horrible saying good-bye to her family and her home. But she knew that her real family and her real home were waiting for her on Voyager.
* * * * *
Naomi strode the hallway of Voyager with a smile on her face. She was finally home again, for good. And while she was there, she intended to set things straight. She entered the mess hall and paused for a moment as she stared at her designated target. For a split second, she thought about turning around and going back to her quarters. But she knew what she had to do, and she intended to do it.
Naomi walked up to the table and stood there for a moment until Seven of Nine looked up at her quizzically.
"I...I'm sorry for acting a little bratty before," Naomi apologized.
"That's all right," Seven assured her. "You were confused and not thinking correctly. That is understandable."
"I was wondering if I could make it up to you," Naomi said.
"How?" Seven replied.
"Well, it's quite obvious that both of us have changed a lot," Naomi said. "So, I was thinking that we might want to get to know each other again."
"How would you suggest doing that?" Seven asked.
Naomi almost smiled. She could still detect a hint of the Borg personality that had once shown through so clearly in Seven. "I was thinking maybe we could play Kotis Kot. My quarters, 1700."
Seven smiled. "I think I'd like that."
"See you then," Naomi said.
She walked out of the mess hall with an even wider smile than the one she'd walked in with. She was finally home again.
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