Kes had been shocked when the Doctor explained to her that, in the Federation, people had to train for many years to be doctors. She was fascinated to learn that it took four years just to get through Starfleet Academy.
Everyone on Voyager was so impressed by her memory, the way she could read something once and know it forever, the way she could recall in perfect detail the flora and fauna of a planet she had visited, or the taste of the meal Neelix had made for her three weeks ago, or the precise specifications of the photon torpedo guidance system.
'I don't even remember what I had for breakfast!' Tom joked, when she asked him about it.
She frowned at him. 'Honestly?'
He pondered. 'Well… ok, I think it was eggs. But if you asked me what I had two days ago… no idea.'
Kes had thought about this.
She supposed at first that it had to do with her people's short life span – when you only lived for nine years, you couldn't wait until you were five or six to start living your life. Doctors on Ocampa took less than a year to qualify, and most of that was practical training. The part where they read books and learned names of bones and organs, well, that was easy. Remembering was no problem.
After she had been on Voyager a little longer, Kes had another idea.
Every day she saw something new, something none of her people had ever encountered before. Every day, she was surrounded by ideas and impressions and colours and experiences each different from the last, universe without end – a life seemed shorter once you knew just how big everything was, and how small you were.
Tom could afford to forget what he'd eaten for breakfast – he might have a hundred years of memories to choose from. Kes only had nine years worth of memories to make, and she intended to keep every single one.