“I don’t need your help,” Alathea asserted, plopping the scorched gizmo on the makeshift table in front of her ship. The darn training was meddling with her prime repair time. Was she condemned to linger here forever?

Seven stood and eyeballed her. “Captain’s orders. You’ve got to carve out time for the training.”

“You don’t know a thing about our tech.”

“Tech is tech. There’s nothing much there to figure it out.”

Alathea fixed Seven with a skeptical gaze, struggling to fathom what she’d just heard. “Borg never had and never will have a Holzman drive!”

“Good morning.” The captain sauntered into the cargo bay, a massive grin on her face, clutching a cup of coffee.

“Captain, she’s resisting assistance,” Seven reported.

“Oh?” The captain took a leisurely sip of her coffee.

“She’s clueless about our technology. I’ll waste even more time trying to teach her how our gadgets work,” Alathea grumbled.

Captain serenely took another sip. “Seven came to us from a different culture. Much like yours. Oppressive, just like yours.”

“You can’t compare Borg and us. Borg turns their drones into slaves! We are not slaves!”

“Incorrect. Drones aren’t slaves. They’re all part of the collective, contributing equally to the greater whole.”

Alathea scoffed. “Then why do Borg kidnap people and force them into the collective? None of you ever joined voluntarily.”

“Some do,” the captain calmly replied.

Alathea stared at the captain, her comment hanging in the air with no retort. It had to be wrong. No one in their right mind would willingly choose slavery.

“But that’s not the sole reason I paired you two up. Seven, you need to adapt to our society. Alathea, you’re keen on learning about ours. Both of you bring experiences that can aid in your respective journeys. The Federation embraces diversity. Consider working with Seven as a part of your training.”

“We’ve got diversity too.”

“Really? You never mentioned it. What kind of diversity?”

“We’ve built our entire society on it. The Empire’s rule hinges on the 3-prongs: Emperor, Noble houses, and the Transportation Guild.”

“And who’s part of that Transportation Guild?” Seven inquired.

“Navigators and bankers.”

“She meant, how do you recruit for the Transportation Guild? Do they conduct regular tests in the general population to enlist people, or do children inherit their parents’ occupation, or is it something else entirely?”

Alathea fixed her gaze on them, caught off guard. She didn’t know how the Guild recruited their navigators; it was a well-guarded secret. However, admitting ignorance might be taken as an acknowledgment that there was no diversity in the Empire, and that wasn’t a truth she was willing to concede.

“Every planet produces different people. We adapt to the planets; we don’t force planets to conform to us,” she asserted, even though she knew it was a bit of a stretch. They altered planets too, but the captain couldn’t fact-check her statement. “The residents of the Empire are more diverse than any of the so-called aliens here.”

“But they’re all of human origin?” Seven probed.

“Don’t you believe there’s no difference in humans?”

“Well, let us discover that. It’d be a fair way to reciprocate.”

Now the captain was making sense. No one ever gave anything for nothing. Alathea briskly nodded. “I still don’t see the point of training.”

“You’ll assist us more effectively,” the captain stated.

Another nod. It clicked. The training served as her payment for lingering here. Naturally, she wouldn’t bring up the fact that they were overcompensating her by divulging an abundance of information, with no means to fact-check her knowledge.

“So, what’s the function of this part?” Seven inquired, gesturing at the charred component.

“I’m not sure. I know it burns a lot.”

“Do you understand how the machine operates?”

“In broad strokes,” Alathea replied.

Seven’s response was nothing but an intense gaze. Alathea despised confessing her shortcomings in the presence of this stranger, someone she considered beneath her—a being still so heavily laden with cybernetic implants that she barely resembled a human.

“The optimal approach is to create a simulated drive, using yours as a blueprint, to decipher the function of this burnt part. We can employ your ship’s engine as the template.”

“And how do you intend to do that?” Alathea inquired.

“Holodeck,” Seven declared, handing the burnt part back to Alathea. “We can begin with that tomorrow. Now, I need to head to Astrometrics to wrap up some tasks.”

Alathea nodded, observing as both Seven and the captain exited. “Yeah, go ahead. I can handle this on my own.” She placed the part on the workbench and began the meticulous process of dismantling it. If she could get a glimpse of what was happening inside, she could fashion a replacement part.


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